Well, hello there. Aren't you kind to not give up on me even though I've been gone so long. The truth is: I am just like you, crazy busy. In particular, I have been super busy with work and also learning how to be a better college instructor. I would tell you all the wonky good stuff I've learned, but I have a feeling that it would bore you. Instead, I am going to tell you a story. I swear to you, I am not making this up.
A long time ago, around the time of the American Civil War, I had this great-great-great-great-great uncle (I might be off a great; don't shoot me). His name was Raphael Pumpelly. His father was named William and his mother was named Mary, and all his relatives and even siblings were of the George, James and Harriet variety, but he was named Raphael, and I have to think that the name itself emboldened him to set his own path.
His parents (who were kind of big wigs in their little town of Owego, New York), wanted him to go to Yale, but he was all, "No. I want to see the world." So he went off to Europe, studied in Germany and became a mining engineer, which was sort of a good profession if you lived in a country where mineral resources were largely unexplored and the industrial revolution was just getting underway.
After traveling around Europe with his pet ram, he returns to the US and gets a job exploring the mineral resources in Arizona. So he takes a coach to Arizona and finds himself embroiled in basically a race war. According to Raphael, bands of Native Americans--whose plight he is very sympathetic to and who he says whites have driven to violence and extinction--are basically killing every white person they find. His colleagues turn up dead or running for their lives at every turn. Meanwhile, according to Raphael, Mexican "peons," who are horribly exploited miners, are waiting around for him and another guy to melt a bunch of silver ore down into silver coins so that they can kill Raphael and his work partner and steal the silver. And, of course, there are also a bunch of white outlaws that are also running amok trying to kill and rob everyone they see--including Raphael, who survives just barely and only by running off in the dark of night with another engineer.
They ride by horseback frantically to this one fort, only to find everyone dead, killed by Indians. Then they ride some boat down to Mexico and somehow they hire this white body guard who turns out to be this horrible and notorious outlaw who killed a priest, and then the outlaw meets up with one his outlaw friends, and the outlaws decide that they are going to steal the silver and kill Raphael and the other engineer guy. But somehow, I don't know, they escape the outlaws and end up in Colorado and finally realize there is a Civil War going on. But they still have their silver to deliver so they go on to Los Angeles, where, everyone hates him because he is from New York and they are former southerners, and finally they take a ship up to San Francisco and deliver the silver.
And this is where Raphael's story gets interesting. I'll tell you more next time.
PS: No good reason for the picture of my cute dog Scout, except that I wanted a picture and my computer is being weird so this is the best I can do for now.