“In the world of Elmore Leonard, people are defined not by good and bad but by whether you’re a jerk or not.”
— Timothy Olyphant, NY Times, 8 January 2012

“Jerk” might not be the word Elmore Leonard himself would use.

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Net Used to Catch Passenger Pigeons

Net Used to Catch Passenger Pigeons

From the Tompkins County Museum in New York and WHCU870:
“Now extinct, passenger pigeons used to migrate by the millions from one feeding ground to another. They flocked to wheat field and buckwheat fields. Sometimes a single tree held as many as one hundred pigeon nests. The passenger pigeon was larger than the dove, and of a bluish color on top, with reddish brown underneath. The birds were long and slender with small heads and strong wings. Farmers considered them to be a nuisance.

Inhabitants had several methods of getting rid of these pests. Some shot them, or knocked them down with poles. Others stifled them by burning sulfur in pots underneath trees, and then cut down the trees to bring them down. The birds could be eaten fresh, salted, or fed to hogs to fatten them up.

People believed that there were so many pigeons that there was no danger of them ever becoming extinct. Pigeon slaughter was a legitimate industry. Some towns even set up ten dollar fines for anyone who damaged nets or attempted to set birds free from them. Unfortunately, over time the birds became scarce. Farmers saw less and less of them. The last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. They are now completely extinct.

This net, donated by Court Bellis, was used by his father, Charles Bellis. It measures sixteen by twenty-four feet. Charles Billings made it in 1850, to replace one that had been damaged by the birds themselves. Bellis remembered going out with the net and catching at least 500 birds at once. The birds migrated in such large numbers that they cast a shadow on the ground, as if a large dark cloud was passing over. David Quigg, Ithaca’s first merchant, used to ship the pigeons by the barrel to New York City by horse express. Those that were not killed were examined and saved for stool pigeons.

Source: Interview with Court Bellis (in accession file 35.01)”

Nice Pants.

Banana Republic used to sell real army surplus items in its catalogs. The “NATO fatigues” had everything you could want: Olive drab, warm wool flannel, functional cargo pockets. Helped me win “best dressed” award on one dig. Dry clean only, I think, but you didn’t need to wash them because if they got covered in mud, you just let it dry naturally. The mud would magically fall off, leaving the pants looking like new.

There is, of course, a site devoted to the vintage Banana Republic catalog: Abandoned Republic, where we find those pants were only $18 in 1986:

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Recent Archaeology in Southern Quebec

Gates St-Pierre, Christian.  2009.  “A Critical Review of the Last Decade of Prehistoric Archaeology in Southern Quebec” in Painting the Past with a Broad Brush: Papers in Honour of James Valliere Wright, edited by David L. Keenlyside and Jean-Luc Pilon, pp. 103-141. Mercury Series Archaeology Paper 170. Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau.

In a festschrift for Canadian archaeologist J.V. Wright, Gates St-Pierre looks at the recent (c. 1995-2005) literature on the archaeology of southern Quebec. For some reason, he deliberately “tried to avoid research presented in the grey literature” (p. 105) – i.e., CRM reports. This makes no sense, and calls into question how comprehensive his survey is. It’s interesting that the most informative archaeological sites almost all were excavated decades ago. Gates St-Pierre highlights as a good thing (which it is) how valuable old curated collections can be when subjected to new analysis, but I wonder whether equally informative archaeological sites have been excavated more recently by cultural resource management firms. Continue reading