Riders of the Pony Express by Ralph Moody
The Pony Express was how people in the West used to get and send letters from people in other parts of the country. The territory could be dangerous. There were outlaws and sometimes there were still pockets of hostile Native Americans. A rider had to be fast and he had to be able to depend on his horse. He carried mail in a bag, riding for long periods of time, sometimes as fast as he could. There were races between riders sometimes. Some riders went down in history.
When the United States finally got a more regular mail system, the Pony Express riders weren’t needed as much, but for a while, they were the communication lifeline between people who lived out in the western frontier and their families and friends.
What I liked
The Pony Express is actually something I would like to know more about. My family lived out west for a while, but it’s not the frontier anymore. I first expected this book to be a short western novel about the Pony Express riders, but it’s actually a more factual story about what the Pony Express was.
It put things in perspective a bit. We can get communication almost anytime we like. We have phones. We have the internet. People who lived out west back in the 1800s, probably didn’t have phones and they definitely didn’t have the internet. The mail system hadn’t exactly expanded out west yet. The best that could be done were the riders of the Pony Express. One man would ride across hundreds of miles to deliver that letter from your aunt who was telling you about her new grandbaby and the garden she put in. The Pony Express was the sole communication line for a lot of people for a while. It’s a scary thought and an impressive thought. It’s scary because that one rider could die or be captured and that important document someone was trying to send to you is just gone. It’s impressive because one person took it upon themselves to make sure your mail got to you. This makes mail carriers a little more bad***, not that any of my mail people have ever ridden around on a pony to deliver mail, although, it would be kind of neat.
What I didn’t like
Like I said, I would have liked to have known more. Sometimes, some of the best non-fiction books follow one historical figure around and retell their life and the world around them at the time. I think this book could have been something like that at one point.
Get on your horse and go deliver the mail. People are waiting on their Amazon boxes.
Wouldn’t it be so much cooler if mail people delivered the mail on horses?
What if Amazon had a fleet of horses that delivered mail instead of UPS and FedEx?
A Boy of Heart Mountain by Barbara Bazaldua
Shigeru and his family lived in California, but then the war came. Some people treated Shigeru differently, even though he was an American. His parents had to put signs up in their laundry shop window saying they were loyal Americans. Soon people told Shigeru’s family that they had to leave their home and go to the middle of the United States. People even came into their house and took their radio. They had to sell their things, which people offered them very little money for. Shigeru even had to give away his dog, Skippy.
The family got on a train and left. Where they arrived was nowhere. There was nothing around. They had to live in a small room, which was nothing more than a shack. The room was shared with strangers. The food was awful.
After a time, the family was moved to Heart Mountain which was marginally better. There was a school and Shigeru made some friends. He even got a pet bird that learned to talk. The camp became a new life to Shigeru. One day, it came time to leave and return to a normal life; the war was over.
What I liked
I’ve read books about the Japanese concentration camps before. It’s a sad thing, but ultimately very important. We have to remember what we did so it doesn’t happen again.
Shigeru was a real person, which makes this book much more real. These things happened to a real person.
It seems Shigeru did not let the experience of living in a concentration camp taint his life or his experience of America. That’s a very optimistic view of the whole thing.
What I didn’t like
Why did this happen? Why were innocent Americans imprisoned for no reason? It all seems like an overreaction. We don’t have any right to treat an entire people with suspicion because one person did something bad. Granted, we are talking about more than one somebody doing something bad, but it was still a very small percentage of an entire people.
The good thing about American concentration camps, if you can ever say there are good things about concentration camps, was that they weren’t like the German camps. People can say they were imprisoned by the American government, but they mostly can’t say that they were murdered or exterminated. It’s a wonder Japanese-Americans who were in these camps found it in their hearts not to hate the United States for what happened.
I hate that anybody had to go through something like this just because of their ancestry.
Let’s be glad this is over.
Do you think these concentration camps prevented any war?
If you were imprisoned by a government because of your ancestry, do you think you could look favorably on that government afterwards?
Letters of a Woman Homesteader by Ellinore Pruitt Stewart
Ellinore left her life as a washing woman and decided to go homesteading in the West. It never struck her that she couldn’t do it because she was a woman. She just went. The traveling was not easy.
Ellinore got herself work on a homestead and then ultimately go her own homestead. The claim office man thought she was there selling books; she had to kick over a chair to get him to take her seriously.
Time went on and Ellinore even got married and started her own family. She helped plan weddings and she buried babies. She was never afraid to go out on an adventure into the mountains.
The whole time Ellinore was a faithful correspondent to her former employer.
What I liked
Ellinore sounds like she was a very interesting person. She’s one of those people in the past that would be fun to meet. Her writing is impressive for someone who didn’t really get a formal education.
Ellinore apparently had a very difficult life. Her parents died when she was young. She had to help raise five of her eight younger siblings. She worked for a railroad. She married a much older man and then he died. She trained as a nurse and she worked as a washer woman. It’s impressive that she did so well for herself.
What I didn’t like
The stories about the Mormon settlers are sad. I think polygamy is just awful. At this point in history, the church had left polygamy behind, but those who had been practicing it, continued to practice it. There just weren’t additional marriages arranged that were polygamous.
Ellinore saw, first hand, how these marriages were awful when she found fellow settlers who were Mormon. These were not happy circumstances, nor did they make sense to anyone on the outside. If these marriages make people so unhappy, I don’t understand why anyone would follow through with it. I know they think their eternal salvation depends on it, but the whole situation is lopsided in the first place. The whole thing reeks of someone just wanting the ability to have sex with more than one person and say that God was OK with it.
I think Ellinore is great.
Would you marry a man if he already had a wife?
Could you have gone out west by yourself and homesteaded? Regardless of gender.
The French Revolution in a Nutshell by Neil Wenborn
If you’ve ever wondered what all this business about people getting their heads chopped off and eating cake in France, but you don’t have time to take an entire class on the French Revolution, this might be the book for you.
It all started with some unhappy people. Things were changing in the world. Governments were changing. The crops were bad. Nobody had any money, except some of the nobles, and even then, a lot of the nobles didn’t have much money either. Countries around the world were ditching their monarchies, America being the foremost, and other countries wanted the common man to have more of a say in the government. They wanted republics.
Louis came along and married Marie Antoinette, who supposedly said, “Let them eat cake,” in reference to the people saying they wanted bread, which actually didn’t happen. The French people stormed the Bastille, a prison. They cornered the royal family. They started chopping heads off with a Guillotine, including the heads of their kind and queen.
With all of this said and done, France didn’t quite get the government it wanted for a while. There were political dissenters and Napoleon to deal with.
What I liked
I know quite a bit about the French Revolution, so I’m not sure why I read this. It’s still interesting though. Really, if you don’t know a whole lot about the French Revolution, this is a good place to start.
What I didn’t like
I think this book is fine for what it intends to do.
“Off with their heads!” … you thought this was just an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland reference.
Are short books that condense historical events interesting?
Would you have eaten some cake?
The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
The united States wanted to beat Russia into space. It was after WWII and into an entirely new decade. Some of the finest fighter pilots would be chosen to start the United States’ space program. There were originally seven men and seven wives. The Astronaut life lacked the structure of military life, so the wives decided to become friends. They had monthly coffees and when each man went up into space, the women surrounded the wives left on the ground.
The US was not the first country to put a man in space, Russia beat them to it, but it was the first country to put a man on the moon, which came years after the first man went into space. Meanwhile, Americans were fascinated with the astronauts and their wives, so much so that the government had to get involved with an official publicity deal with Life magazine. The press was granted an all-access pass to the lives of the wives, even in very personal moments.
After the first men went into space, the wives got to meet presidents and first ladies. At home, the Astronaut wives had typical, and atypical, home problems to deal with, all while being in the public eye.
To the additional astronauts was added many more. There came to be conflict between newer astronauts and older astronauts. Death also came to the astronauts. Several deaths happened in practice exercises and the wives were often left without official support and what support there was came from the wives.
Many of the astronauts and their wives ended up divorced. There was a lot of time away from home for the astronauts, but there were also a lot of Astronaut groupies that hung onto the men, which apparently made it difficult to resist, even though there were wives and children at home.
Some of the wives went on the become very prominent people in US society, while some never recovered from the experience of being an astronaut wife.
What I liked
I never really wondered about the astronauts or their wives. I know that the whole thing was this big power contest between Russia and the United States, but I never really thought About the people involved. Their lives were certainly interesting, but I don’t hold the astronauts up to the same shining standard that I once did.
I never knew about the media deal that was made in regards to the astronauts and their families. Who would have thought that astronauts were that big of a deal, but in the 1960s, I guess it was; they were rockstars in their time.
What I didn’t like
It really seemed as if infidelity was condoned by the government and NASA in regards to the astronauts. I am already if the opinion that the military complex in the US asks and takes too much from its military members and their families, without giving enough back in return.
It’s hard to comprehend that these men we hold as American heroes, couldn’t keep it in their pants with the entire country watching.
The book got to be a bit difficult to follow. There ended up being so many women that the whole thing wasn’t as personal. I feel bad for these women, being in the public eye through such emotionally fraught moments.
You’ll never look at the moon the same again.
Would you go into space?
Do you consider the first men in space heroes?