Papa Report #6


Sacagawea: In 1803, Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, bought a huge tract of land west of the Mississippi River from France's Emperor Napoleon. In a single pen stroke, the President doubled the size of the then-United States. The next year, Jefferson sent the famous explorers, Lewis and Clark, to map the new land, called the Louisiana Territory. It was my pleasure and privilege to have acted as their guide and interpreter for this historic expedition. Now, it is my pleasure to be your guide.

University of Missouri:
Mary and her husband, Marty, visited the University of Missouri on June 13, 2001. Marty is an alumnus of this venerable school, and he was very eager to show us around.

Missouri was admitted to the Union in 1830, one of the first territories from the Louisiana Purchase to do so. At the same time, the U.S. Congress granted two townships "for the use of a seminary of learning." The University was formally founded in 1839; thus, it became the very first land grant college to be established west of the great Mississippi and in the lands of the Louisiana Purchase. I like to feel Sacagawea played a small part in this college's founding.

I have sent you several photographs Marty took on our visit. The first one shows Abe, Robert E., Ulysses, and myself seated before Jesse Hall and the famous Columns located on the University's Quad. The Quad is so beautiful and historic it is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The six Ionic Columns are all that remain on the original Academic Hall that was built in 1840. The building burned to the ground on January 9, 1892, leaving only the Columns standing. Each year the graduating class walks through the Columns as a part of a century old tradition.

Ulysses: There is also a tradition that ivy will only grow on five of the six columns. There is a legend that says two soldiers during the Civil War dueled for the love of a beautiful lady. One soldier shot the other one dead at the base of one of the Columns. Ever since that time, ivy has refused to grow up that Column. Nowadays, all the Columns are stripped of their ivy to preserve the very old stonework.

University of Missouri's Mascot:
Robert E.: Speaking of the War Between The States, the University's mascot, the Tiger, was chosen in the 1890's as a remembrance of Missouri's Southern homeguard who called themselves the Missouri Tigers. Though the young militia were never called upon to defend the town of Columbia and their campus from attacks by bands of guerrillas, the reputation of the fighting Tigers grew. Today, the University's striped mascot is present at many of the Sporting events. He is known affectionately as Truman, named after President Harry Truman, a Missouri citizen.

Homecoming Tradition:
Abe: Speaking of Sporting Events at the University of Missouri, it was in 1911, that the Homecoming tradition was born at the University. Chester Brewer, who was the director of Athletics that year, pleaded with alumni to "come home" and support the Missouri football team when it played against the University's arch-rival, the University of Kansas. More than 9,000 Alums returned. This idea quickly caught on at other colleges, and that is how the Homecoming tradition got started. Today, practically every high school and college in the United States celebrates a Homecoming weekend.

Beetle Bailey:

Sacagawea: Thank you, Mr. President and worthy Generals. Allow me to explain the next series of photos. We are seated on the bronze life-size statue of Beetle Bailey that is a beloved landmark on the University of Missouri's campus. Beetle Bailey is the cartoon creation of artist Mort Walker, a member of the class of 1948. The statue was erected in memory of a favorite "hangout" called The Shack that once sold to the hungry students many delicious hamburgers with its own secret sauce and gallons of beverages.

Ulysses: Sounds like my kind of place.

Sacagawea: To continue, if you please. Built during the 1930's, The Shack finally burned down on Halloween Night, 1988, but not before generations of students had carved their names in the restaurant's tables, benches, walls, and even ceilings. In 1992, Mort Walker designed and produced this statue. You see Beetle, as a college student, dreaming in The Shack. He is holding a mug of frothy drink while his open penknife lies on the table. Many alumni have their names "carved" in the bronze table and bench just as they were in the real Shack. Among these honored few is Marty.

The plaque next to me reads: "Come sit with Beetle Bailey, Mizzou's famous comic-strip character created through the genius of Mort Walker, AB '48 Humanities. Beetle relaxes in the re-creation of a booth from The Shack, a hangout frequented by Walker during his student days. Walker started drawing the laid-back Mizzou student and Army private in 1950. With his son Neal, Walker designed and produced this bronze statue as a gift to MU. It was installed in 1992. The statue was financed by donations from Walker, King Features Syndicate and alumni, whose names are carved on the bench and table. The statue is located near the site of The Shack, which was destroyed by fire on Halloween 1988."

Robert E.: It was nearly 100 degrees when we visited the University that day so sitting on that bronze table was HOT. From the looks of the photo, Mary seems to agree.

Tiger Stripe Ice Cream:
Abe: Ah, but afterward, we visited the campus ice cream parlor called Buck's, where we ate large dishes of the University of Missouri's signature treat -- Tiger Stripe Ice Cream.

Ulysses: Mmmm! Rich French vanilla ice cream with large swirls of dark chocolate fudge. Just the thing to keep a General happy.

Robert E.: In this, we do agree.

Abe: Highly recommended for the State of the Union and heated discussions.

Fort de Chartres:
Sacagawea: Thank you, Mr. President, for that most profound observation. Since you spoke of the heat, it put me in mind of a trip to Fort de Chartres that Marty and Mary made two weeks earlier when it rained without ceasing and the temperatures were much colder. We did not accompany them since rain is very bad for plush coats. But Mary and Marty didn't seem to mind that their feet -- and everything else -- got soaking wet. They were enjoying the 31st Annual Rendezvous.

Ulysses: What's that? Sounds French.

Sacagawea: It is General. You remember I said President Jefferson bought the Louisiana Purchase from France? That was because the French claimed Canada and the whole of the Mississippi-Missouri River valleys, so French was often the language spoken on the western frontier. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, French and English trappers from up and down the Mississippi River often met to trade and exchange news at prearranged sites and times. These meetings were called Rendezvous. Many tribes of Native Americans, especially the Ottawa, the Illini, the Fox, and the Saulk, joined them to trade for blankets, knives, kettles, glass beads, and guns.

Since 1970, modern-day re-enactors of these trappers and Native Americans have camped at Fort de Chartres on a weekend in June. They dress in furs and buckskins, just as the trappers of old did, and they live in tents. During the weekend, the men participate in competitions of black powder rifle target shooting, archery, and hatchet throwing. The women and children cook delicious food over their campfires and shop for many interesting wares among the many vendors. This year, it rained a great deal so many of the competitions were canceled. But the music was very good and the vendors sold many goods. They were the ones with the driest tents.

In the photo of the teepee, you can see the occupants have tied closed their smoke hole to keep out the rain. This teepee is an example of the many different kinds of tents that were erected at the Rendezvous. Mary liked this one because of the bells outside their tent say, "Welcome to our teepee."

Robert E.: Tell us about this Fort. I am always interested in the study of fortifications.

Sacagawea: With pleasure, General. Fort de Chartres was constructed out of limestone by the French, beginning in the 1720's. It is located a few miles below the city of Saint Louis on the Illinois side of the Mississippi. It was built "about a musket's shot from the river" -- meaning about 500 yards from the riverbank. The river often flooded the fort during the Spring, so the fort was soon relocated a mile inland near the present-day town of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. De Chartres was the headquarters for the French colonial government, administrating the Illinois area, until all the French possessions east of the Mississippi were ceded to England in 1763, at the end of the French and Indian War. Today, the Fort has been reconstructed. However, the powder magazine is the one original building on the site. Since it was built in the 1750's, the magazine is now considered to be the oldest surviving building in the State of Illinois.

There is a picture of Mary eating one of our native dishes -- roasted corn ears. My people have been dining on corn for many centuries. Mary is holding one of her purchases from a trader. It is a real turtle shell rattle, wrapped in soft buckskin and decorated with feathers. It is the work of a Sioux craftsman who lives in Iowa. Rattles such as this one were shaken during celebrations and dances to bring good luck.

The turtle is the symbol of longevity and perseverance. Behind Mary is the Fort's reconstructed garden featuring the plants and vegetables that the French colonists would have grown two hundred years ago.

The final photo is a portrait of me together with the turtle rattle and a Navajo wedding vase that Mary bought at the Cahokia Indian Mounds. I will tell you about this fascinating place in my next report.


Papa Was A Boy in Gray Book Tour

with Prize-Winning author Mary w. Schaller


Report #6 from Sacgawea:  June 19, 2001

Land of Praries and Rivers