Saturday, July 31, 2010

Just another battlefield day

My day started with the sound, and sight, of a two-seater flying lawnmower in the sky above my yard.  Very curious.

Upon arriving at the battlefield I was very nearly spritzed by Ike as he watered the flowers.  A very close shave.

Securing my lunch in the breakroom, I saw a black rat-snake emerge from behind the refrigerator.  Utterly unexpected.

Then I watched as Ranger Holly quite fearlessly (though gently) relocated the snake to a more appropriate habitat.  How hugely humane.

Later, I swore I saw Union soldiers once again at Burnside Bridge.  Evocatively ethereal indeed.

Finally, I went spelunking in the very secret and very much off-limits "Lost Ranger" caverns deep beneath the visitor center.  How singularly suspenseful. 

Only to be chased out by an enormous hornithopter bee (hornithopterious hymenoptera).  How incredibly...


 Actually these last two pics are of the interior of groundhog holes, in case you've ever wondered how our subterranean battlefield friends live.

Every day's an interesting one, just north of Sharpsburg.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Safety First!

Sometimes, a Ranger just has to end the tour early.

Our record-breaking heatwave, as well as yesterday's tour, both came to an abrupt end as this thing came rolling through the valley:

Keeping a weather eye, just north of Sharpsburg,


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Antietam Secrets - Revealed!

Ever wonder why the cicadas around the Battlefield are such good singers?

Its 'cause they carry their own sheet music!

Enjoying the music, just north of Sharpsburg.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Landscape Turned... Chrome!

The Packard club rolled through the battlefield yesterday in a nostalgic parade of the days when Detroit was still a dynamo of production and a city of such global importance that it simply went by "Detroit USA"

The Packards spanned several decades of production and were a visual picnic.

About twenty of these classic rides showed up in the morning.  The owners watched the film, visited the bookstore, and mobbed (in the good way) Ranger Hoptak's orientation talk.

I have a real soft-spot for the heyday of Detroit as the motor city.  I was raised in a GM family, my father, mother, and eventually, my sister all worked for Chevrolet in Saginaw.

As I was growing up it was simply a given that all of my classmates and playground friends had at least one parent who worked in "the shop".

Ask a kid where his dad worked and the answer would seem cryptic to an outsider:

"Grey Iron"



"Parts Plant"

"Steering Gear"


We all knew exactly which was which.

We knew at which kids' houses you had to be quiet during the late morning as it was the home of a second shift worker, and third shift?  forget about playing over there, you can come to my yard.

This parade of vintage cars brought something else to mind for me.  Generally, I ask visitors if they've ever been to Antietam before.  Now, at the risk of anthropromorphizing these classic automobiles, I'm inclined to wonder the same thing about them.

Chrome-rich, sheet metal beauties, with functional bumpers, vent windows, and powerful (powerful!) engines.  Sure, these cars are emblematic of many things that may be wrong with our consumerist society, but still...

they are so evocative of the prosperity that once upon a time was so accessible to many in my former home state of Michigan,  and the labor of both of my parents which helped to get me, eventually, to where I am today...

just north of Sharpsburg.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Three Amigos

Today I had a very pleasant visit with Judy McCaffrey's son-in-law Tom and his lovely wife Barbara, an old pal of mine from teaching days back in Michigan.  Barb teaches at a Middle School in Kentwood Michigan, the same school, and department, where I was a student teacher many years ago.

(me, Barbara, Tom)

I returned to that school in 2002 as an employee of Grand Rapids Public Access Television, 
the project manager for an educational program called MoLLIE, and Barbara was one of our most loyal clients and biggest boosters.  (You can learn more about MoLLIE, see Barbara, and hear my distinctive voice by going here).

Barbara and Tom stopped by Antietam to take my tour and visit over lunch on their way to the Outer Banks.

It was a real treat seeing them both again.  With Barb, we pretty much picked up the conversation where we left off five years ago.  They're great folks.

When I tell people to "stop by and say hi"  I actually mean it.

Catching up on old times, just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Musings from...

a rare Sunday off.

Hoping you are enjoying yours as much as I am mine.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Taking notes...

A year ago this past spring I spent one of my days off with two ranger friends and traveled to the Library of Congress to attend the Lincoln symposium.  I went simply because I seldom pass up a road trip with pals.

What I came away with, after a full morning of prestigious speakers, was this caricature of historian William Lee Miller:

Good grief, and to think my seat could have been given to a history-starved child from China.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

Obscure Artillery of the American Civil War

"Water Batteries"  You've heard of them, notably at Forts Henry and Donelson, well, many people are less aware of their existence at the Battle of Antietam, and the park has recently been fortunate enough to have acquired a fully-restored, and original to the battle, twelve-pounder "drinking fountain gun".

Used to quench the thirst of artillerymen in the heat of battle, these water batteries never really caught on as they were very temperamental in adjustment and tuning, as often as not delivering merely the slightest trickle...

or overshooting the mouth or canteen of the parched gunner entirely!

 (click on pic for a larger view)

Nonetheless, we are happy to have such a rare piece, and I am happy to share my vast artillery expertise with all of you.

Pulling your leg, just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Morning After

They leave so little behind.

Salute to Independence 2010

For twenty-five years people from all over have been coming to celebrate their independence as Americans at there Antietam National Battlefield.

The Maryland Symphony Orchestra sounded great!

35,000 people relaxing and enjoying a beautiful day and great music makes for a delightful afternoon.


Then it got dark, but only for a moment...

Ranger John Hoptak enjoys the fireworks...

and a big finish by the Maryland National Guard (hit the play arrow)

Today the battlefield lay awash in the detritus left behind by our 35,000 visitors...

pretty tidy isn't it?,  we the have nicest friends and neighbors.

Hope to see you out here next year.

Just north of Sharpsburg,
Ranger Mannie

Saturday, July 03, 2010


Salute to Independence

C'mon...I'm saving you a seat.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Get Ready...

Salute to Independence, Antietam National Battlefield, July 3, 2010