Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Murder and Mayhem: When In-Laws are Out-Laws


Jube Lee Whitson (left) and unknown person,
location unknown, before 1935. (Courtesy of Ed Mason).
From a young age, my great-aunt's brother-in-law was a criminal. In time, Jube Whitson would be convicted of murder and sent to prison, then eight years later escape from prison, and two years later, be killed rather than be taken prisoner again.

Early life

Jube Lee Whitson was born July 20, 1888. At age 16 he was working at the Harley Pottery in Nashville, Tennessee, where my great-grandfather, William Woolsey Lacy, also worked. Jube was only 17 when he married Sallie Rawley in Jackson County, Tennessee. Justice of the Peace John P. Mayberry, a neighbor and Confederate veteran, officiated. And by age 19, Jube was a young father on the run from the law. My great-grandmother (Martha Jane Lacy) wrote in a letter to her son, Edward Jackson Lacy, in January 1908:

"Jube Clinton Jim Flat is [illegible]. Well tha say the government has ofered hundred dolars reward for Jube. But I tell Alvin [Lacy] the sed about Jube is the best for he is mean. He come over here to see if he cood get Alvin to take him to the [Cookeville] depo. He sad he had him to the place where you are. He sed you coud go thare on the train to where you are [Eureka, California]. If Jube ever comes out thare dont hav now use for him. Tha say that have teliphone to ever station so he cant pass but he may slip thru."

A week or two later, Thomas H. Byers, a cousin to Jackson Lacy who lived in San Francisco, wrote Jackson, saying:

"I got a letter from F. D. Byers the other day. He was teling me all a bout Jube Whitson. It would be a good thing if tha could cetch him and stop his way of geting a long in this world."

In June 1908, Tom Byers' brother, W. A. Byers in San Francisco wrote Jackson Lacy, saying

"Jub Whitson cut a gut [expression derived from when a hunter or farmer does a poor job of dressing an animal] dident he? I told Anderson Byers when he was here that Jub was dangeres and I was a fraid of him."

Little is known about Jube's service in the "Great War" (World War I). He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, while he was in Denver, Colorado. A year later he shipped out as a private in the 46th Engineers, Co. C, leaving from Hoboken, New Jersey aboard the Sierra. Four months later, the war ended. Whatever self-discipline Jube might have picked up in the military was not enough to keep him out of future trouble.

Earning a reputation for ruthlessness

Even when Jube was in the neighborhood, people were reluctant to turn him in. They were probably afraid of what he'd do to them once he got out of jail. One time Jim (James Isaac) Flatt was taking a wagonload of railroad crossties to Cookeville when Jube stopped him to catch a ride. Jim began to tease Jube, saying he could turn him in and collect the reward. In response, Jube cut Jim's throat and threw him off in a ditch, leaving him for dead. Jim's brothers got their guns and went after Jube but failed to find him.

Jim Flatt recovered, but from that day on, folks called him "Cutthroat Jim."

Convicted and sent to prison

By the early 1920s, Jube Whitson had divorced his first wife Sallie and moved to Oklahoma. Whitson's crimes have never been completely chronicled, but the one that sent him to prison was the murder of his second wife, Ada. (Adah Larkins Whitson.)

Jube and Ada had moved to Muskogee in the summer of 1925. Pauline Binkley, age 28, had worked as a housekeeper for the Whitsons while they lived in Tennessee, and she accompanied them when they moved.

The killing of Ada Whitson took place on September 20, 1925, a few miles east of Muskogee. Jube and Ada were sharing a picnic and hunting in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, when, as Jube claimed, he tripped and fell and his gun went off, killing his wife. Investigations began immediately. On the evening of September 30, Pauline Binkley confessed to officers at Tahlequah, the county seat for Cherokee County, that she knew Jube wanted to rid himself of his wife. Pauline said she helped Jube obtain the gun he used to kill his wife, knowing what Jube planned. Jube denied this, of course.

But Ada's family was not buying that explanation. They pressed the law for justice.

While Jube Whitson remained in the Cherokee County Jail, officials grew nervous. The jail was not considered a particularly secure one, and they feared Whitson would try to escape.

The Cherokee County court worked feverishly to clear its docket before the Christmas holidays, holding nightly sessions to make that happen. Jube's murder trial only took a few days. The prosecution claimed that Jube was accused of slaying his wife Ada to marry Pauline, and to collect the life insurance on Ada. Counsel for both sides in the case finished their closing arguments at 3 AM on a Tuesday morning. Jube was convicted of first degree murder, and Pauline was convicted of being an accessory to the crime. Each of them were given life sentences and sent to the maximum-security state prison in McAlester, Oklahoma. New Year's Day, 1926, would be Jube Whitson's first full day in prison.

Escape!

For some reason, after the lovers had served several years of their sentences, someone pressed for more details on the murder. Pauline Binkley was brought before the Pardon and Parole Board at the state prison. She was told the Board was inclined to consider clemency for her if she cooperated in providing details about the murder. But all Pauline could say was, "I don't know anything about the shooting of Mrs. Whitson except the things I was told." Parole was denied.

Parole was highly unlikely to be a part of Jube Whitson's future. The only way he would see the outside of a prison would be by escaping. It took some time for Jube to find a way to break out of prison. With the help of his son, Fred, Jube planned his escape. 

Jube's escape took place on September 11, 1933. According to Ray Flatt, after serving eight years of his life sentence, Jube was outside the prison on a work detail one day when he got down on his knees, pretending to look at something. When the guard knelt to see what Jube was looking at, Jube hit him over the head and ran. Fred was waiting, and when he got the signal from his father, he drove by and picked him up. The two returned to Middle Tennessee.

In 1932 and 1933, the U.S. Bureau of Investigation began publishing personal details to help in finding and identifying fugitives. Jube Whitson was described as being about 5'10" in height, 151 1/2 pounds, medium build, gray-black hair, green eyes, and a medium complexion. He had three vaccination scars on his upper left arm, while on his right arm he sported tattoos of a nude woman, a sailor, an American eagle, a flag, and a wreath. His residence was listed as Muskogee, Oklahoma; his occupation, florist; and nationality, American.

Jube spent the next two years in hiding, but people would still see him in public. One person who saw him was my uncle, Wesley Flatt, a great-nephew to Cutthroat Jim. Wesley was only a young boy when he and his father, Ermon Flatt, were walking in the woods one day after Jube's return. As they came around the curve of an old wagon road, they met Jube walking the other way. As Jube approached them, he brought his shotgun down from his shoulder, perhaps as a precaution, but perhaps to intimidate whomever he encountered. But when he saw it was Ermon Flatt and his boy, he said, "Good morning, gentlemen," and put his gun up again. Some folks believed Jube might have been hiding out in one of the big caves nearby.

Jube Whitson is killed

In June 1935, Jube met his end. Acting on a tip from someone living in the countryside of Putnam County, Tennessee, the law caught up to Jube.

Early on a Friday morning, the transfer agent for the Oklahoma prison and two deputy sheriffs from Putnam County waited beside a corn field seven miles northwest of Cookeville. Jube had been living with Ras and Hazel Rippetoe. Hazel was a cousin to Jube. Jube always carried a semi-automatic pistol, for, as he had told relatives on more than occasion, he would never be taken back to Oklahoma alive and any officer attempting to arrest him would have to beat him to the draw. 

The lawmen had left Cookeville at 1:15 AM and silently made their way to the Rippetoe farm, where they concealed themselves in the tall grass. They were prepared to wait all day, if necessary, for their chance to apprehend Whitson. But the day had just begun when they were presented with an opportunity.

At 6 AM, Jube and three of the Rippetoe children--Doyle (age 16), Audrey (age 14), and Willard (age 11)--were chopping out corn. Working this early in the morning was easier than working in the heat of a summer day. When Jube came near enough, the officers leapt up, demanded his surrender, and told him to raise his hands. Jube wasn't about to be captured, though. He tried to draw his gun, a German Luger. The transfer agent fired two blasts from his shotgun. One of the deputies fired his shotgun into the air over Whitson's head, and took another shot at Whitson's hand, hoping that would prevent Whitson from drawing his pistol.

Whitson fell, mortally wounded in his left breast. The officers sent the Rippetoe children to tell their parents what had happened. The children also watched over Whitson's body until an ambulance from Cookeville could arrive to recover the body. Whitson was buried in the Morgan Pippin Cemetery on the Gainesboro Road in Putnam County.

Ironically, Jube's death certificate showed him as "widowed." (True, but he was responsible for becoming widowed.)

Some different details of a desperado's demise

As with many examples of oral history (and even with "eye" witnesses) details will differ. In 2001, Dennis Rippetoe's father, Willard (Bill) Rippetoe, was an eye-witness when Jube Whitson was killed. Bill told Dennis that while Jube was in prison he became a "trustee" and was allowed to go to town for supplies. It was on one of these trips to town that Fred came along and helped him escape. (To me, the idea that a convicted murderer serving a life sentence would be allowed to go to town for supplies doesn't sound very plausible.)

According to Bill Rippetoe, Jube had raised his hands when the lawmen opened fire. (Perhaps Jube raised his hands, then went for his gun.) Eneloit Smith (great-niece of Cutthroat Jim Flatt, and niece of Bert Flatt and Earlene Lacy Flatt) had heard that Jube was shot in the back. Perhaps he had started to run. As an escaped murderer, Jube Whitson may very well have been wanted dead or alive.

A final word

As I grew up, I often heard my mother quote from the Numbers 32:23 from the Bible, "Be sure your sins will find you out." Jube Whitson's sins finally caught up to him, but he had left behind him a trail of malice and tragedy.

A special thank-you to Ed Mason for research materials.

More details surrounding Jube's murder of his wife can be found in Fireworks: The Lost Writings of Jim Thompson (see books.google.com search results here).


Sources

  1. Lacy family letters, 14 Feb 1905, 18 Jan 1908, 20 June 1908.
  2. State of Tennessee, Jackson County, Marriage License for Jube Whitson and Sallie Rawley, 23 Feb 1906.
  3. WWI Draft Registration Cards, Fold3.com.
  4. U.S. Army WWI Transport Service, Passenger Lists, Fold3.com.
  5. Records for Adah Larkin Whitson, Findagrave.com.
  6. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri), 1 Oct 1925, page 11.
  7. Times-Democrat newspaper, 4 Nov 1925.
  8. The Democrat-American (Sallisaw, Oklahoma), 25 Jun 1926, page 12.
  9. Fugitives: Wanted by Police. Vol. 1 and 2. Washington, DC: United States Bureau of Investigation, 1932-1933. Vol. 2, No. 11, pp. 19-20, 1 Nov 1933.
  10. Miami Daily News-Record (Miami, Oklahoma), 4 Apr 1935, page 3.
  11. State of Tennessee Certificate of Death #13703, Jube Lee Whitson, 14 Jun 1935.
  12. Cemetery marker, Jube Lee Whitson, Findagrave.com.
  13. The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee), 15 Jun 1935, page 2.
  14. Putnam County (Tenn.) Herald, June 1935.
  15. Email from Eneloit Smith (Doyle Eneloit Williams Smith), February 2001.
  16. Conversation with Wesley Flatt, October 2001.
  17. Email from Dennis Rippetoe, November 2001.
  18. Email from Bettie Sue Goolsby, June 2003.
  19. FamilySearch information for Hazel Whitson Rippetoe, retrieved July 18, 2021.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Marching to the Beat of a Different Drummer

My Alesis Nitro Mesh expanded set.
My wife professes to be weird. Sometimes she claims I'm weird too. I try to tell her neither one of us is weird -- we're "unique." Each of us is a statistical outlier in various ways. The old cliche, "marching to the beat of a different drummer" comes to mind. 

But the cliche is about to become literal! After a wait of about fifty years, I've started down the path of learning to play drums as I once wanted to do. The path to get here was a circular one.

"Paper" drums and "plastic" guitars

In my teenage years, when I began to listen to rock and was exposed to it at school dances, I wanted to play drums. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford a set of drums, and I had no room in our little house to set some up. And, it would be too noisy. I made do for a while by laying out pieces of paper on my bed to represent the different drums and cymbals and practicing with a couple of "real" drumsticks. When my parents bought me a cheap snare drum (one step above a toy) one Christmas, I had visions of going on to slowly build a collection somehow.

But it didn't happen. Instead, I got interested in guitar. It started with a plastic body acoustic guitar my sister had, that only had one string. I made up a song on it, and called it "Twenty-two Man." It involved playing only two notes on one string, and throwing in some lyrics I made up. It was awful. (The guitar, the song, my skill level ...) 

Graduating to "real" guitars and loud amplifiers

The following Christmas, I started down a path that would last me for decades. I progressed from a cheap guitar and a "baby" guitar amp to a larger and better guitar, a semi-acoustic Silvertone with a Bigsby tailpiece. (I couldn't yet afford the guitar of my dreams, a Gibson SG.) I graduated to a small but larger amp to play through. My father made me play through headphones so the neighbors wouldn't complain, and so he could get some work done in his office. Next, I secured a loan from my grandmother to purchase a 300-watt (125 watt RMS) Peavey 240 Standard solid-state amp with a speaker cabinet holding two 15" speakers. It was appropriately loud -- I seldom turned the volume control higher than 2 1/2. Once, in college, I plugged in a high-frequency horn and I was told people a mile away were able to hear me.

Alas, the Big Whoppin' Amp was not easy to transport back and forth to my dorm room. When it came time to buy a train ticket to travel to upstate New York and marry my first wife, I sold the amp and downsized.

Eventually I found a used Gibson SG I could afford. I purchased and played 6- and 12-string Ovation acoustic/electric guitars. I picked up a Yamaha bass guitar and learned to play it. I experimented with various synthesizers (a Casio CZ-101, a Yamaha DX7, a Kawai, a Roland, a KORG KROSS2). I played, off and on, with friends; did a few one-off gigs with people I knew; and contributed to praise bands in different churches.

Moving on to drums

Many years later, I decided I could afford some drums and I had room to set them up. Volume would be a problem, though, so I opted for electronic drums. I recently purchased an Alesis Nitro Mesh expanded (10-piece) set.  Modern-day mesh drumheads are quiet enough that if I'm listening to the drums through headphones, the tapping on the drumheads is almost inaudible. (Although the tapping noise from the electronic cymbals is another story.)

My current gear includes the Alesis electronic drums and cymbals, a Behringer Xenyx Q1202 mixer to blend instrument input as well as music from an Amazon Echo, and an inexpensive Sony receiver with output to some old Bose bookshelf speakers.

It took many years to get here, but I have now returned to my percussive "first love".


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Defoliation in War, Herbicides in Peace

The Bombing of Vietnam

In 1968, our eighth grade Civics teacher, Mr. Henry, assigned debate topics to our class. Our group of four included two teams of two students each to debate whether the U.S. should pull out of Vietnam. My partner and I were to take the position that the U.S. should pull out. 

Everyone in the class had to research their topics in the school library. I quickly learned the relative liberal/conservative stances of the major news magazines. TIME Magazine seemed biased toward withdrawal. U.S. News and World Report leaned toward staying in the war. Newsweek seemed to take a more neutral stance. The only statistic I can now remember having dug up to support our position on withdrawing from the war was this: that one ton of bombs had been dropped by the U.S. for every man, woman, and child living in Vietnam. (Fifty-three years later, I'm unable to verify this statistic. But according to this article, the same statistic held for the bombing of Laos between 1964 and 1973.) 

A few years later I learned there was something more insidious taking place in the natural world of Southeast Asia. It was something that didn't leave craters in the jungle floor. It was something that didn't strike with the sudden flare of a stream of napalm laid down across a verdant jungle. 

Defoliation in Vietnam, and Sherman's "March to the Sea"

Even as the first Earth Day was being celebrated in April 1970, American forces were executing a scorched-earth policy in Vietnam, a policy with echoes of Sherman's destruction of the South during the Civil War.* Bombs and napalm were only one part of waging war in Southeast Asia. Defoliants were dropped from planes, withering every living crop, plant, or tree they touched. These herbicides were sprayed on rice paddies and other agricultural areas to deprive the Viet Cong of food, just as Union troops burned fields and crops as a means of depriving Confederate forces (both regulars and guerrillas) and their supporters of food and livestock. Defoliants were also sprayed over jungle areas with the hope that stripping the foliage would reduce the number of hiding places for the Viet Cong.** 

Agent Orange was the defoliant used in Vietnam. It contained two compounds (2,4-D and 2,4,5-T) that mimic plant hormones, and tetrachlorodioxin, and a contaminant caused by the synthesis of 2,4,5-T. Dioxin is known for being highly teratogenic (developmentally toxic, causing birth defects), much more so than the infamous morning-sickness drug, thalidomide. Sadly, a large number of citizens in Southeast Asia were born with birth defects subsequent to the defoliation campaigns during the Vietnam War. For this reason, Agent Orange is no longer used and 2,4,5-T has been banned as an herbicide since 1985.

Peaceful uses of herbicides

In the years since the Vietnam War, herbicides based on the compound glyphosate have become the world's most widely used herbicides. Glyphosate's major use is in agriculture, where it is sprayed on crops that are genetically modified to resist glyphosate, inhibiting the growth of weeds among the crops. As one would expect, because of the extensive use of glyphosate, a great deal of attention has been focused on safety concerns. Regulatory agencies around the world, as well as organizations within the United Nations, have examined data regarding glyphosate's effects on not only human health but the environment as well. Unfortunately, while glyphosate is considered safe in many instances, there is a great deal of controversy. This may be due to the huge number of different formulations of glyphosate-based herbicides. Some studies have suggested particular components in herbicide formulations -- other than the glyphosate itself -- may be significantly less safe than glyphosate.

If you want to kill a plant, one way is to inhibit, as glyphosate does, an enzyme that plants depend on for growth (and animals do not have). That is an example of an intervention in a botanical system. As the development of herbicide resistance is more frequently seen, intervening in two places in a botanical system could be a more powerful way to kill plants. The likelihood of plants circumventing two interventions through development of resistance is very small. This is the rationale behind new herbicides that use both glyphosate and 2,4-D in their formulations.

Not surprisingly, the companies that market glyphosate-based herbicides also market seeds for crops that have been genetically modified to resist glyphosate.

Many government agencies have looked at, and continue to look at, questions of toxicity for glyphosate. We can only hope that as time goes on, we will have more answers than questions.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Celtic Rock, Appalachian Stories, and Knowledge Maps

Six Degrees of Separation

Most people know of the "six degrees of separation" concept because of the popularity of the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" game. On average, any two actors in the world can be connected through a chain of movies in which actors have co-starred. 

More broadly, network science tells us that any two people in the world can be connected through social connections by no more than six jumps. Here are a few examples of my own:

  1. I am one degree from the deceased actor Vincent Price -- I once shook his hand at a college event. Anyone he knows, or starred in a movie with, is only two degrees from me. (Admittedly the social connection was not a remarkable one. LOL)
  2. I have met two Nobel Prize winners, which places me one degree away from each of them, and two degrees from the King of Sweden, who hands the prizes to each winner. 
  3. I have a relative who was a campaign manager for Senator Bob Dole years ago, which places me two steps from Dole and three steps from everyone Dole knew in Congress and Washington, DC. 
  4. Thanks to my father, who got Project Mercury astronaut Wally Schirra's autograph in 1964, I am three degrees from just about everyone in NASA's early space program. 
  5. Sadly, I am one degree from at least three people who took their own lives, and only two degrees from a political assassination in Venezuela.
Connections

Six degrees of separation is a social phenomenon. Work at digging up who is connected to whom, and you can wind up with a huge network of connections. Then, you can follow the network from one point to the next and uncover connections you didn't know about.

But what about other networks? A clever programmer could "scrape" (as they call it) book recommendations from Amazon's website and come up with a map of related books that might show you recommendations that were two or three or four steps away from a book you're looking at, instead of only one step away.

Still, these examples are only focused on connections between the same kinds of things (people with people, books with books). There's no a priori reason why we can't derive a network connecting different kinds of things that are related. A more sophisticated example using Amazon recommendations would include authors as well as books. Each author could be connected to every book that author has written, books could be connected to co-authors, and authors within a certain genre could all be connected. This would be useful if you wanted to use authors for recommendations, and not just books.

Discovery and knowledge

To take this one step further, consider an example network I created that connects certain authors, books, musicians, genres, and influences on musicians. The example network, shown at the bottom of this post, is something I developed using the yEd and yEd Live network drawing software, both of which are free software products from the software company yWorks. (An interactive version of this network, which includes hyperlinks, can be accessed via this link.)

At the top of the diagram are three authors, including J. R. R. Tolkien, Alex Bledsoe, and Sharyn McCrumb. (For more on Sharyn McCrumb, see this recent post of mine.) Beneath each author is an icon showing something that author has written. The Lord of the Rings is fantasy, of course, as are Bledsoe's "Tufa" stories, set in a modern-day part of the mountains of Tennessee. Many of Sharyn McCrumb's novels are set in the Appalachians.

Below that part of the diagram is the musician Dave Brons. Brons, who composes and performs progressive rock with a "Celtic symphonic twist", found inspiration in The Lord of the Rings. Bledsoe's "Tufa" novels inspired a group of musicians known as Tuatha Dea, also shown on the diagram, who compose and perform what they call "Appalachian Rock." Both Brons and Tuatha Dea have been influenced by Celtic culture. (And, Tuatha Dea has also been influenced by "steampunk.")

Final Remarks

The diagram I created is a small example of a knowledge map. It captures a set of connections I thought were interesting, that I can share with others, and that may lead others to consider artists or authors or works they might not realize were connected. As a knowledge map, it can be extended to include as many connections as I would like.


Knowledge map created using the free tools, yEd and yEd Live. See text for link.
Copyright Mark E. Lacy, 2021
.


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Bugs Bunny: Teacher and Mentor

Exposure to a Mischievous Cartoon Rabbit at an Impressionable Age

My wife likes to remind me to turn off the lights in a room when I leave it. So when I turned off our kitchen lights this evening, I said "Click!"

I didn't think about it, when I said "Click!", but I was alluding to a trick with a light switch Bugs Bunny plays on the Big Bad Wolf in the cartoon titled, "The Windblown Hare." Because I watched Bugs Bunny religiously during my formative years, it's not unusual for me to repeat something I learned so long ago from a cartoon.

From 1940 to 1964, Warner Bros. produced 170 cartoons featuring this iconic cartoon character. I grew up watching Bugs Bunny cartoons as well as many others produced under the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies labels. Thursday nights, when I was little, we watched "The Bugs Bunny Show." My father enjoyed watching Bugs almost as much as watching the Pink Panther. When Bugs moved to Saturday mornings, it was the centerpiece and main course of all the morning cartoons.

Bugs is a culturally-recognized example of the "trickster" archetype. On one hand, he's a friendly character who doesn't go looking for trouble. But on the other hand, once someone brings trouble to him, they better watch out! He is quite adept at devising clever tricks to play on those who have wronged him.

Time to Get Serious, and Make a List

Several years ago, I decided to apply my inherited and inordinate fondness for making lists by constructing a list of all the Bugs Bunny cartoons, drawing on information from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Bros. Cartoons by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald. One by one, I checked off the ones I had watched. When I needed a few more to watch to complete the list, I found them on YouTube.

Going back to watching many of the old cartoons was spurred in part by a trend that concerned me. Many of the old Warner Bros. cartoons, including Bugs Bunny, were being censored before being shown on Cartoon Network. A shotgun blast to a character's face would be deleted, for example. I surmised that some group of concerned parents were influencing network executives to edit the cartoons for anything that might -- as these parents believed -- have a negative influence on their children's behavior. As I looked into this, I found there were entire cartoons featuring Bugs Bunny that have been banned because they depicted not just violence but racial stereotypes. These cartoons are not shown on TV but can be found on some DVDs or on YouTube. The DVDs released as the "Looney Tunes Golden Collection" are compilations that include, among many of most famous cartoons, some of the more controversial ones. Each DVD begins with a message explaining that while some cartoons on the disk depict unacceptable behaviors such as racial stereotypes, they are included for historical reasons. But then, cartoons such as "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips," a World War II-era feature, can now only be found on YouTube. At the time this short originally came out, its treatment of the Japanese as our enemies was dehumanizing, an almost universal sociological factor in wartime. (This cartoon, as well as many others released in wartime, were intended as entertainment for adults, not children.)

What Bugs Bunny Has Taught Me

So what have I learned by watching cartoons like Bugs Bunny over the years? I've learned it's good to have sense of humor and not take oneself too seriously. I've learned that being clever is better than being out-and-out mean. I picked up various expressions (like Yosemite Sam's "Ya' durn idgit" and "Whoa, mule [camel, elephant], I said whoa!"), some of which have become so embodied in my day-to-day conversations that I often don't realize I'm quoting a cartoon character. (As when I say "click" when I turn off a light.) 

Other fans of Bugs have been educated in other ways. One person commented on Twitter that Bugs had taught him that "revenge on my enemies should be quick, clever, and brutal.")

What did I not learn? I did not learn that shooting someone in the face simply turns their face black with gunpowder. Nor did I learn to think in racist terms. And enjoying the antics of an anthropomorphized rabbit who some have labeled a "cross-dresser" has not harmed me.

Like many others, I miss the "golden years" of animated shorts.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Tackling a Mystery Almost One Hundred Sixty Years Old

The disappearance of Lt. Andrew Jackson Lacy

As I have detailed in my book, MISSING IN ACTION, 1863: Lieutenant Andrew Jackson Lacy and Tennessee's Confederate Cavalry, my great-great-grandfather disappeared in the middle of the Civil War and was never seen again. He disappeared after resigning his officer's commission. The most likely explanation for his disappearance is that he was bushwhacked by the enemy on his way home in Jackson County, Tennessee. The evidence strongly suggests this took place sometime in the beginning of August 1863, within twenty-five miles of home.

The companion volume to MISSING IN ACTION, 1863, titled Battlefront and Homefront: The Lacy Family's Civil War Documents, includes annotated transcriptions of all the family letters, to and from Lieutenant Lacy, during the Civil War.

Imagine my surprise and excitement when I learned that transcriptions were published in someone else's book, with A. J. Lacy's photo on the cover!

A collection of Confederate diaries and letters

In 2006, Professor Howard Lytle Givens (who I believe is now deceased) published a collection of various letters and diaries of Confederate soldiers titled Tennesseans in the Civil War: Confederate Narratives from Battlefield and Home. While waiting for a copy of this book that my cousin Coby Lacy had sent me, I fantasized about discovering letters we'd never seen before. Or perhaps letters from other soldiers in Lieutenant Lacy's regiment that might shed light on the mystery of his disappearance.

But with the book finally in hand, my fantasies of learning something new about Lieutenant Lacy were dashed.

  1. Lieutenant Lacy's photo on the cover of the book is not a new one. It's actually a photo I had included when I had a website for Lacy many years ago.
  2. Chapter Eight includes Lacy's letters, with no annotation or discussion. Professor Givens reprinted the transcriptions of these letters, donated by my father to the Tennessee State Library & Archives, that are found on microfilm at TSLA. None of the other chapters include anything relevant to Lacy, his commanders, or his regiment.
  3. A short introductory paragraph for Chapter Eight mistakenly claims that Lieutenant Lacy served in Baxter Smith's Eighth Cavalry, instead of Dibrell's Eighth Cavalry. This mistake (one I've seen before) could have been avoided had the author done a little research.
  4. There is little to no evidence of any research on the part of the author except for some information gathered on the internet.
The Shawneetown letter - did Lieutenant Lacy survive the war as a Union officer?
(extracted from Battlefront and Homefront, copyright 2020 by Mark E. Lacy)

Lieutenant Lacy's only child, William Woolsey Lacy, was one of the first who tried to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance.

In the years since the end of the Civil War, W. W. Lacy, grew up, married, and had children of his own. But he must have entertained doubts that his father was a casualty of the war, and so he began asking questions.

We don't know how the two men got in touch with one another, but in the spring of 1893, thirty years after his father's disappearance during the war, W. W. Lacy received a letter from D. H. Jones of Medley, Missouri. This was not the first correspondence between the men. Jones had learned somehow of W. W. Lacy's search for his father, and passed along some information.

"... I think I made a mistake in the address of Mr. A. J. Lacy it is at Shoney Town Ills. I know thare is a man up thare by the name of A. J. Lacy for I am well acqanted with him. He marred a girl that was raised in the same neighborhood of my self. Her name is Miss Eison but she is dead now and he is a widower iff he has not marred sece last spring. He is a man of a bout 50 years of age 5-8 in hi lite complexion blue eyes and and was an officer in the Union Army and is from Tenn but I dont know what part."

No one knows that W. W. Lacy might have done with this information. But using modern tools and data unavailable to W. W. Lacy, it is clear that there are no records of a Union officer named A. J. Lacy in this timeframe (1890s) living in Illinois. Jones seemed to have confused A. J. Lacy with Royal R. Lacey, a former Union officer in the same area in southeast Illinois who had married a woman with the maiden name of Eison.

Final remarks

The mystery is still that: a mystery. A cold case to beat all cold cases. But I hold on to a hope that someday the right information will turn up to shed light on this mystery, if not to actually solve it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Productivity Tools: Evernote vs OneNote - Both/And, not Either/Or

In virtually any kind of environment where people have a choice in what computer hardware or software they use, they will divide into camps. PC vs Mac. Microsoft Office vs OpenOffice. Google Chrome vs Bing. Personal productivity is indeed that: personal. Two of the most popular productivity tools on the market are Evernote and Microsoft OneNote. I have chosen, after years of using both tools, to claim dual citizenship in their respective camps: I use both tools.

OneNote

When Microsoft first introduced OneNote, I was immediately sold on the notion of having a place on my computer where I could save notes, documents, photos, files, and more, organized in a convenient fashion and easily accessible. OneNote allowed me to mix note types, organize them in a way I could quickly get to them, and begin eliminating paper files. For several years I was a OneNote zealot. It cost me nothing, since I had a corporate license, and later it was part of Office 365 so I didn't have to pay for it separately.

But one thing I found, over time, was that I needed to access my notes across multiple platforms: web, laptop, tablet, phone, etc. While Microsoft has since made progress in making OneNote less platform-dependent, I was anxious to find a tool I could use anywhere, under any circumstances.

Evernote

Evernote was the solution I needed. When it was first released I gave it a try and found it to be much more in line with my work habits than OneNote. But when I learned that, in order to take full advantage of the tool I would have to pay a yearly subscription fee, I decided to stick with OneNote. Eventually, using the free version of Evernote, I realized paying a yearly subscription fee for Evernote was well worth it, and I moved to using only Evernote.

Evernote vs OneNote

OneNote and Evernote each have their advantages and disadvantages. Some of these include:

  • Attachments. I like how Evernote handles attachments better than how OneNote does. 
  • Responsiveness. OneNote feels "snappier" and much more responsive (as long as I have syncing with OneDrive turned off, because that seems to slow things down).
  • Embedded links. In Evernote you can embed links to other notes. OneNote goes one better and allows the user to embed links to particular paragraphs in other notes.
  • Tagging. In my experience, tagging in Evernote is hands-down better than in OneNote. But then tags aren't that important for me in my writing. 
  • Hierarchy of notes. A deeper hierarchy of note organization with OneNote is a beneficial trade-off. (Neither product allows for an unlimited hierarchy of notes, for some reason.)

But what if I could get the best of both worlds somehow?

OneNote AND Evernote

Evernote, over the past year, has harmonized the user experience across multiple platforms. It has not, for many people, been a comfortable experience moving to the latest version. Whatever their software management strategy might be, Evernote is listening better to its user base and is turning out improved versions and updates at a much more rapid pace.

Because of the negative user experience during this transition, many Evernote users have switched to other platforms, like OneNote. I considered this possibility myself, since I had experience with both platforms. But the process of porting 13,000 notes (no, that's not a typo) from Evernote to OneNote would likely cause me multiple panic attacks.

So I compromised: I decided to use both platforms. I have moved all my writing work to OneNote because that kind of work felt better on OneNote. In particular, the ability to collapse part of an outline and then expand it back comes in very handy when one wants to manage a large and complicated story. I continue to use Evernote for everything else, including bills and receipts and family information of various kinds.

Recommendation

If you've not tried either one of these products, you should give it a try!