Thursday, 13 November 2014

Git Them Bastards Out of the Daffodils!

    When Norman Workman collapsed at home, his doctor told him his blood has been poisoned by the chemicals in the dye factory where he worked. Of course, these days this would be the beginning of a massive lawsuit, but as far as I can establish this was just after the end of World War II, and nobody thought like that in those days. Instead, he and his wife, Gladys decided to move from California to the Umpqua Valley of Oregon which, like most out-of-the-way places, was just crawling with "characters", and newcomers lived on sufferance.
     What to do for a living? Norman was over 50, his wife aged 46. On impulse he went out and spent $3,000 - which was a terrible lot of money in those days, and practically everything they owned - on three tons of daffodils. Then, because he knew absolutely nothing about farming, he put an ad in the paper for a manager. Obviously, he didn't deserve to succeed, but we don't always get what we deserve, and the business thrived. All of this is a background to the following anecdote, as told by Gladys:

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Burning Ground of Siberia

     On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers. Who could resist buying a book with that title? No even my wife, who is a slow and perfunctory reader. It turns out the original edition was published in 1892, the year after the events described, and the year the author, Kate Marsden became the first woman elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society. She presents as an upper crust English spinster with a strong Christian vocation to help the needy. As a girl of 19 she served as a nurse in 1878 in the Russo-Turkish War, where she first witnessed the ravages of leprosy. When she heard of a mythical herb used to treat leprosy which grew only in the Yakutia, she was determined to find it, and in late 1890, armed with referrals from Queen Victoria and the Empress of Russia, she set out on a 3,000 km journey into the heart of Siberia in order to locate the plant, to report on the condition of the lepers, and to otherwise lend assistance to them.