“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official.” 
–Theodore Roosevelt

Join me Monday, July 10 at 5:45 pm.  We’ll write for an hour. That may be an hour you would not have otherwise used for writing….   an hour to think about the landscapes in your stories and how that informs the tale, the characters, the feel of the place.

I’ve been transcribing my great grandfathers journal from 1901. He joined the US Navy as a 15-year-old Apprentice Boy and his first cruise was aboard the Monongahela pictured here. It’s a meditative process and slow going. I often have to stop and look up new words or place names: canned willie, plum duff, mizzen sail, reefing, Villefrenche. And the casual use of the N word stopped me in my tracks, a word used to describe the young boys on bum boats (another word I had to look up) in Barbados.  It actually hurt to type the word but I’ve committed to transcribe the journal as it is without commentary or corrections.

I can’t help but feel for the young boy that was my great grandfather who struck out for an adventure and seen a world so different from his Wisconsin life.  His commentary involved mostly the weather, the wind an integral part of life aboard a full sailed barkentine.  And the food. “Well I would not mind it if they would only feed us,” he wrote. “We only get a quarter of a bowl of soup which tasted like worms and 2 small pieces of bread for breakfast and supper and for dinner we got only hard tack. You can’t imagine how a small piece of rye bread and a piece of meat or cheese would of tasted. The meat we got stunk so. It smelled like a dead cat does when it lays about a week.”

Beyond transcription, I don’t know what I am doing with his writings, but it is fun getting to know this old salt that I only met a few times, who worked his way to Commander, and had tattoos over his entire body, including the bottoms of his feet where he had inked the Katzenjammer Kids.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Katzenjammer_Kids