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Papa and the Rough Riders April 17, 2006

Posted by Kim in Florida, History, Railroad, Tampa.

Transports loaded with soldiers ready for the Spanish-American war - Port Tampa, Florida

(…click here for more photos.)

Growing up, we kids used to listen to all sorts of “Railroad” stories from Papa (our grandfather). Papa was a retired railroad engineer who had worked much of his adult life for the H. B. Plant Railroad which later became part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. One such story concerned an incident he said took place in 1898 at Port Tampa. As you may or may not know, Port Tampa was the debarkation point for troops and equipment leaving for Cuba and the Spanish American War in June of that year. Papa had a regular run out of Port Tampa and one evening, his freight train loaded and ready to leave, he looked up from the paperwork he was completing in the station-house and saw his train leaving the station without him. Unable to catch the train before it cleared the yard, Papa commandeered a horse & buggy to chase it down and was able to catch the train near Plant City just east of Tampa. It seems that a slightly impaired group of “Rough Riders” had decided to take his train for a joy ride. Papa had been able to catch them due to their lack of knowledge on how to keep the engine properly fired. He would conclude his story with a description of the joys of having to back his train back to the station with the help of these good-natured drunks.

Now Papa was known to embellish a tale from time to time and I recently read an excerpt from one of Teddy Roosevelt’s writings I found on Floripedia that made me wonder about this one.

… [camping in Tampa]
It was the evening of June 7th when we suddenly received orders that the expedition was to start from Port Tampa, nine miles distant by rail, at daybreak the following morning; and that if we were not aboard our transport by that time we could not go. We had no intention of getting left, and prepared at once for the scramble which was evidently about to take place. As the number and capacity of the transports were known, or ought to have been known, and as the number and size of the regiments to go were also known, the task of allotting each regiment or fraction of a regiment to its proper transport, and arranging that the regiments and the transports should meet in due order on the dock, ought not to have been difficult. However, no arrangements were made in advance; and we were allowed to shove and hustle for ourselves as best we could, on much the same principles that had governed our preparations hitherto.

We were ordered to be at a certain track with all our baggage at midnight, there to take a train for Port Tampa. At the appointed time we turned up, but the train did not. The men slept heavily, while Wood and I and various other officers wandered about in search of information which no one could give. We now and then came across a Brigadier-General, or even a Major-General; but nobody knew anything. Some regiments got aboard the trains and some did not, but as none of the trains started this made little difference. At three o’clock we received orders to march over to an entirely different track, and away we went. No train appeared on this track either; but at six o’clock some coal-cars came by, and these we seized. By various arguments we persuaded the engineer in charge of the train to back us down the nine miles to Port Tampa, where we arrived covered with coal-dust, but with all our belongings.

The railway tracks ran out on the quay, and the transports, which had been anchored in midstream, were gradually being brought up alongside the quay and loaded. The trains were unloading wherever they happened to be, no attention whatever being paid to the possible position of the transport on which the soldiers were to go. Colonel Wood and I jumped off and started on a hunt, which soon convinced us that we had our work cut out if we were to get a transport at all. From the highest General down, nobody could tell us where to go to find out what transport we were to have. At last we were informed that we were to hunt up the depot quartermaster, Colonel Humphrey. We found his office, where his assistant informed us that he didn’t know where the Colonel was, but believed him to be asleep upon one of the transports. This seemed odd at such a time; but so many of the methods in vogue were odd, that we were quite prepared to accept it as a fact. However, it proved not to be such; but for an hour Colonel Humphrey might just as well have been asleep, as nobody knew where he was and nobody could find him, and the quay was crammed with some ten thousand men, most of whom were working at cross purposes…

Excerpt from: Theodore Roosevelt. “The Rough Riders.” 1899.

I see some similarities between these two stories and wonder if they could be related. If so, which version is the more accurate? I know Papa’s was certainly exciting to the ten year boy I was when I first heard it. I don’t think the latter version would have had the same punch.

If interested, you can find a series of short movies taken by Thomas Edison in Tampa and Port Tampa during the debarkation in 1898 here.


Train at Port Tampa April 17, 2006

Posted by Kim in Florida, Railroad, Tampa, Train.
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South Florida Railroad’s Port Tampa facilities. From the University of South Florida Special Collections.

Blog – It’s Only a Name April 14, 2006

Posted by Kim in Blog(ing), Names.
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“You should change the name of your web site (then named Kim’s Blog). The word Blog has such negative connotations associated with it.” A friend told me this when first viewing my new WordPress Blog. Negative Connotations? What’s negative about it? ”Don’know, I just don’t like the sound of it,” he answered. It got me to thinking, is this attitude pervasive? Is it a generational thing? If so, why? In the case of this particular person, I suspect it has more to do with his associating “Blog” with “News Blog” and the perceived inaccuracy (justified or not) of the latter. Even so, should "not liking" one member of a group be cause for disliking the entire group? I.e., say I don’t like the “Enquirer” and other gossip newspapers should I dislike the use of “Newspaper” to identify any periodical? Perhaps this wasn’t the reason. Maybe it’s just the sound of the word “Blog”. If so, I could understand not liking its sound, but negative connotation? Hmmm!

What’s in a name?

The term blog is a blend of the terms web and log, leading to web log, weblog, and finally blog. Authoring a blog, maintaining a blog or adding an article to an existing blog is called blogging. Individual articles on a blog are called "blog posts," "posts" or "entries". A person who posts these entries is called a blogger… A blog site typically contains a list of links, or blogroll, of other blogs that the blog author reads or affiliates with. [Wikipedia]

A Blog by any other name… Perhaps we should request a name change to something like… “Rose”? Oops, maybe not… seems that one’s already taken. Like it or not, I think “Blog”, and all its derivatives (blogging, blogger, blogroll, blogosphere, etc.), is here to stay. As the saying goes, “the horse is out of the barn.”

How pervasive are Blogs?

In February of 2004, The Pew Internet study estimated that about 11%, or about 50 million, of Internet users were regular blog readers. According to Technorati data, there are about 70,000 new blogs a day. Bloggers — people who write weblogs — update their weblogs regularly; there are about 700,000 posts daily, or about 29,100 blog updates an hour (emphasis mine). By the way, if you are unfamiliar with Technorati or with the term “Tags”, as it applies to searching out Blogs of interest, make the jump and give it a try.

Is there a “Best of” list of Blogs?

I’m not sure about “best of” (a relative term) but there is sort of a “most popular” list maintained by MIT’s Media Lab Blodex project.

Blogdex is the creation of 24-year-old PhD student Cameron Marlow. It's an index of more than 10,000 weblogs, the often idiosyncratic online journals that typically combine personal musings with commentary on web sites the weblog's author, or "blogger," considers interesting.

A good general discussion of Blodex, plus a list of some caveats, can be found at Search Engine Watch. Also see Blog popularity dynamics on Wikipedia.

Final words

From my own personal observation, I have found that if you locate a blog written by someone with similar interests to your own, it can be great for discovering content that might otherwise be difficult to find in printed/broadcast media, on a traditional media web site, or even by using a search engine.

Howling to a Full Moon Rising April 7, 2006

Posted by Kim in Camping, Travel, Wildlife.
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Last year, my cousin, his wife and I traveled to northern Utah to fish the Flaming Gorge section of the Green River… the subject of which I will reserve for a future post. However, on that trip, we camped for several days at a campground in a burned out area near the river. We did not select this site for its beauty, but because it was close to the boat launch and take-out areas. A major forest fire several years earlier had been responsible for the devastation and our initial intent was to remain for one night then search for a more attractive campsite. It was our observations that first night that caused us to remain several days and prompts this post.

At first observation, the area around the campsite was bleak. Every direction one looked there was a forest of blackened remnants of the juniper and pinion pines that once flourished here… under them a carpet of golden grasses. In the distance could be seen a backdrop of rolling hills and ridges themselves like attired. We set about collecting wood (no lack of that…) noticing patches of wildflowers still remaining even though it was now early summer. As the sun disappeared, and the dusk intensified, a full moon appeared over a distant ridge. And with it came the haunting howl of a lone coyote. Now this is something that might not seem exciting to many of you out there, but to this Florida boy, it was attention grabbing. It was to be shortly followed by an answering bay coming from a distance ridge in another direction. What followed was a series of answering calls… many animals singing their greetings to each other and to the rising moon. This exchange continued for ten minuets or so before coming to an end for the night. It would repeat every night we were there occurring later each night awaiting the moon’s first appearance above the ridge. We never saw the coyotes, but we heard them every night.

Mother Nature often provides compensation when something of hers is altered. Had we been camping under a blanket of a lush, thick forest, I feel certain we would have missed the essence of this image; Howling to a Full Moon Rising.

A Night to Remember (or Forget?) April 1, 2006

Posted by Kim in Camping, Fishing, Old Photos.
Anclote Key Camp

Anclote Key Campsite...

It was sometime in the mid 70’s, as I recall, that some friends and I planned a camping trip to Anclote Key located in the Gulf of Mexico near Tarpon Springs, FL. The camping party consisted of five adults, three children, three German Shepherds and enough camping gear and other supplies to provision a small army. It was to be a week of fishing, swimming and relaxation. When we left the dock in our two nineteen foot boats… with only inches of free-board above water, I am certain anyone observing would have had serious doubts about us getting to our destination without sinking. However, as it was one of those beautiful calm summer days we have here in Florida, we had no problem reaching our destination. (This calmness will have a significant impact on the outcome of this story.) While we had spent many day trips to the key to fish and swim, this was our first overnight trip. The north end of the island had a large grove of Australian Pines and we chose this area to set up camp. It was a beautiful camp site with dense shade that would help protect us from the fierce Florida sun. As it was high tide, we were able to navigate the boats into a shallow bay behind the island and beach them within 50 yards or so from where we would set up the tents. Life is good.

Once the camp was in order, Mike, James and I grab our rods and head for the shallow sandbar extending from the north end of the island in hopes of finding supper. The girls and kids decided to stay behind and do the beach thing. It was probably about 3 hours before sundown when we set out. Fishing was good as I recall… each of us catching several large speckled trout; keeping a few for supper. The sun was below the horizon as we made our last casts and headed back to camp. As we approached the camp (it’s almost dark now), we see everyone, dogs included, in the water. We expected to find them in camp preparing supper waiting for the fish. It was not a happy crowd we see as we approach. Before we reached them, they were yelling something about mosquitoes and sand gnats (no-see-ums). They said they couldn’t remain in camp… even for a few minutes. It seems most of the pests were under the trees where we had set up camp. Thinking they were being a little over sensitive, we go into the camp and find they had not been exaggerating. Imagine your body itching and burning (all over), with your brain yelling at you that you MUST scratch every inch of your body RIGHT NOW, and you might get some idea of our situation. Why not try insecticide? We did. We had probably brought a gallon of the stuff with us. We used what we had in short order with little or no effect. It might have helped keep most of the mosquitoes at bay but had no effect on the sand gnats. Someone suggested they had heard that kerosene would work so we even tried smearing some of that on our bodies. Didn’t help… and now we smelled like a petroleum distillery. What to do! We certainly couldn’t stay there under those conditions. We could leave, but checking the boats, we find it is now low tide and they are high and dry as is the bay. Using them is out of the question. It is better on the beach but “they” are there too. The best solution seems to be in the water… neck deep in the water. Did I say it was a completely calm night? Not a breath of breeze and a full moon rising. A breeze would have kept the sand gnats at bay, at least on the beach. Four adults, three kids and three dogs spend the night neck deep in water. James elects to bury himself in his sleeping bag under the sand on the beach.

With the dawn, the bugs are gone and the tide is up. Imagine five adults and three kids , with dogs under foot, going through the camp grabbing “stuff” and marching to the boats throwing it in and returning for another load. (Was that whimpering I heard as I passed others going to-and-fro? I certainly wasn’t doing that was I?) So ended our camping trip to Anclote Key… What a night to remember!