A Woman of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton-Porter) by Ray Boomhower – Selection 5 of #DealMeIn2020

The Card: ♥Eight♥ of Hearts. (Picture at left found at worthpoint.com.)

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2020, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for “stories” from books I picked up at the 2019 Holiday Author Fair a the Indiana History Center. This week’s selection is by one of the authors I talked to at the fair.

The Author: Ray Boomhower – the second time in three weeks one of his cards has turned up! A prolific author of books about all things Indiana, particularly history and biographies. I’ve read several of his books in the past, including biographies of Gus Grissom, General Lew Wallace, and Ernie Pyle.

The Story: “A Woman of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton Porter)” from the volume “Indiana Originals” – short non-fiction pieces about famous Hoosiers. For Deal Me In 2020, I included four selections from this book that featured notable Hoosier women. (Two weeks ago I learned about May Wright Sewall.)

BUT…what is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list I’ll be reading in 2020. 

A Woman of the Limberlost (Gene Stratton Porter)

“When I am gone, I hope my family will bury me out in the open, and plant a tree on my grave. I do not want a monument. A refuge for a bird nest is all the marker I need.”

Even the most voracious of readers, I’m sure, still have certain works or authors that they’re embarrassed to admit they’d never read. This embarrassment is felt even more often by mere “avid” readers like myself. Being an Indiana native, I’ve heard about Gene Stratton Porter throughout my life, and have purchased the book that the title (“A Girl of the Limberlost”) of this essay refers to, but I still haven’t read it. As Gomer Pyle would say, “Shame, Shame, Shame!” Maybe Deal Me In 2020 will be just the kick in the pants I needed to finally read her work.

The Limberlost Swamp originally encompassed a vast stretch of land in Indiana’s Adams and Jay (not named after me!) Counties. I learned from this reading that the swamp got its name from “Limber Jim” Corbus, who “…went hunting in the swamp and became lost for some time. When local residents asked where Jim Corbus had gone, the familiar answer was “Limber’s Lost!” The wetlands that comprised the swap drained into the mighty Wabash river, that flows southwest from eastern Indiana, later enjoying the status of the state’s western border until it joins the even mightier Ohio at the extreme southwest tip of my state. These wetlands supported a great biodiversity which, from an very early time in her life, fascinated Porter and led to a lifelong love of nature and to writing brilliantly about that love, selling millions of books over her lifetime.

Later in life she also wrote articles for McCall’s (a monthly column called the “Gene Stratton-Porter’s Page”), and Good Housekeeping (“Tales You Won’t Believe.”) It would be a fun rainy day project for me to look up some of these old works. One example appears below, with Gene Stratton Porter on the right. She also realized a dream of founding a motion picture company that created film versions of some of her novels.

♫♫ Personal Notes: My grandparents on my Mom’s side of the family lived at the edge of ‘wilderness’ land in the mountains of West Virginia, and our frequent trips there while I was growing up instilled in me a love of the natural world, further nurtured by my Granddad, who was quite a keen observer of all things found in those mountains. Reading about Porter in the book and also in some of the ‘research’ I did preceding writing this post made me feel like she and I would have gotten along just fine. 🙂

What about YOU? Have you read any of Stratton-Porter’s work? Have you visited the Limberlost Swamp (or at least its remnants) in Eastern Indiana. Should I take a road trip up there this Spring?

Up next in Deal Me In 2020: it’s back to fiction with “Kiss Me Again, Stranger” by Daphne Du Maurier!

(Yeah, but does she have an historic marker?  Of course she does!)

 

 

A Voyage Against War (May Wright Sewell and the Ford Peace Ship) by Ray Boomhower – selection 3 of #DealMeIn2020

 

The Card: ♥Nine♥ of Hearts.

The Suit: For Deal Me In 2020, ♥♥♥Hearts♥♥♥ is my Suit for Books I picked up at the 2019 Holiday Author Fair a the Indiana History Center. This suit is also the only suit where I have  some short non-fiction pieces (4 of them). This is one of them.

The Author: Ray Boomhower – a prolific author of books about all things Indiana, particularly history and biographies. I’ve read several of his books in the past, biographies of Gus Grissom, General Lew Wallace, and Ernie Pyle.

The Story: “A Voyage Against War (May Wright Sewall and the Ford Peace Ship)” from Boomhower’s book “Indiana Originals,” which contains essays about 40 luminaries of the Hoosier state. For Deal Me In 2020, I picked four of the stories that were about famous Indiana Women.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list I’ll be reading in 2020.

A Voyage Against War (May Wright Sewall and the Ford Peace Ship)

 “I was particularly interested in the university students,” she said, “who, although it was their holiday week, called in great numbers. I was amazed by both the intelligence,and by the lively interest in serious subjects of these young people, whom I was mentally comparing with my young countrymen and countrywomen of student age to the distinct advantage of the latter.”

I like it when my Deal Me In reading leads me to learning new things. Last week, it was the discovery of Russian Mathematician, Sophia Kovalevsky. This week, I learned about the “Ford Peace Ship” (I don’t recall knowing about it before, unless it was one of those cases of hearing about something in passing and not remembering). Organized by automaker Henry Ford and including roughly 60 delegates he invited, the Peace Ship (the Scandinavian-American Line’s “S.S. Oscar II” pictured at left) was an effort to strengthen the dialogue for peace and help move Europe – embroiled in war between the Allied powers and the Central powers – toward ending World War I (which the U.S. hadn’t even entered by the time the voyage took place). When reading about this event, I admit my first thought was, “Well, that’s certainly a naive enterprise!” and you can imagine that many of their contemporaries saw the voyage as a waste of time (see also, for example, the political cartoons at the bottom of this post).

The voyage first stopped in Oslo, but spent considerable time in Stockholm, where they had apparently a busy schedule, and later the Netherlands.  I’m not sure if the voyage can be counted a success in tangible measures, but Wright Sewall and others disagreed, saying “To have advanced its (peace’s) arrival by one hour is adequate compensation for the the cost in money, time and sacrifices of the the Expedition if multiplied a thousandfold.” I think their best success probably was in “initiating dialog” and so forth, which regrettably often moves change forward more slowly than other factors.

What about you? Had you heard of this episode of early 20th Century U.S. History? If YOU could dispatch a ship on a Peace Voyage today, for what destination would you set its course? It just occurred to me that perhaps young climate activist Greta Thunberg’s recent voyage is a kind of a modern day Peace Voyage. What do you think?

Deal Me In Coincidence of the Week? This week marked my home state of Indiana’s 100th Anniversary of Women (finally!) gaining the right to vote – another cause which May Wright Sewall was deeply involved in.

Next week for Deal Me In 2020 – Larry Sweazy’s “The Prairie Fire”

Below: The subject of this essay also helped found the Indianapolis Propylaeum, about a 30-minute walk from Deal Me In Headquarters. (I was going to walk over there today and take a picture, but with sub-zero wind chills this morning, I found a google image instead 🙂 )

During my internet ‘research’ for this post, I also stumbled upon this puzzle, which I now want. 🙂 (Suffrage puzzle sold by Uncommon Goods.) 

Below: Henry Ford. Unfortunately, poor health led him to turn around and come home just after the peace ship reached Europe. 

If I investigate this event in history further, it may be via reading the book below:

Political cartoonists had a field day with the voyage, seeing what they believed to be an easy target for ridicule.