Thursday, May 26, 2005


Working on a Mississippi River Towboat

I've often thought that it would be interesting to work on a tow boat (barge) on the Upper Mississippi. From reading Calvin Fremlings book "Immortal River - The Upper Mississippi in Ancient and Modern Times" I've learned about the crew, and it's work. There are 12 members on a tow boat, more or less.

The tow is operated 24 hours a day in which each crew member works 2 six-hour shifts. They can't leave the tow except for emergencies. There is no alcohol and no drugs. They work for 28 days and then get 28 days off (with pay). The captain and pilot who operated the boat alternate 6 hour shifts.

So, for all you barge watchers, that's how it goes. Still sound interesting? It does to me. I'll bet Mark Twain would have liked working on a tow or barge. But he'd want to be the pilot.


Much Better Ham and Bean Soup

This is a hearty ham and bean soup. Easy to make and a perfect way to use that left over ham bone. In addition it has lots of vegetables. (Not veggies! Thats a disgusting word.) Prep time about 30 minutes. Cook time about 2 hours 30 minutes or until you can't stand to wait any longer. Makes 4 - 16 bowls-full depending upon the size of the bowl.

1 pound dry Great Northern Beans. You can use the pound package of 15 bean soup. It has that nice flavor packet included.
8 Cups of water. I use some Ham Base with the water.
1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste. Depends on the ham bone.
1 ham bone or hock
1 Cup chopped carrots. Good job for the food processor.
1 Stalk of celery, chopped. Put it in with the carrots above.
1 Cup chopped onions. You know what to do now.
1 teaspoon minced garlic. More if your social life is on hold for a while.
1 teaspoon mustard powder.
2 Bay leaves. Remember to take them out at the end. Bean soup should not crunch.
2 Cups of chopped ham. Some will be left from the ham bone. Add more!
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper. Same as black but you can't see the specks.


1. Rinse the beans, sorting out any broken or discolored ones. Sometimes stones are found. Put the water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add beans and salt. Wait on the ham base if using. Put it in at the end. Remove from heat. Let the beans sit in the water at least 60 minutes but better if beans soak all night.

2. After the soaking, return to high heat and add the ham bone (hock), carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard and bay leaves. Stir well and simmer for 60 more minutes.

3. Remove ham bone and discard. Maybe Rover would like to chew on it for a while. Stir in chopped ham and ham base if using. Check seasoning. Did you remember the bay leaves? Add the white pepper. Done.


I like to take about 1/4 of the beans out of the pot at the end and mash them and return them to the pot. Thickens the soup a bit.

The soup gets better as time goes on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Pretty Good Ham and Bean Soup

The U. S. Senate restaurant is famous for its bean soup. It seems to have been there longer than anyone remembers and it's recipe was a guarded secret. One day, as the story goes, Minnesota Senator Knute Nelson went to the restaurant to get a bowl of bean soup. He was disappointed to find that they didn't serve it that day. As any Norwegian Senator, or was he Swedish, would do was to make a wrong a right. He went back to the Senate floor and introduced a bill mandating that the soup would be served every day and that the recipe be printed on the menu. So, here it is, just as printed on the menu:

The Famous Senate Restaurant Bean Soup Recipe

Take two pounds of small Navy Pea Beans, wash, and run through hot water until Beans are white again. Put on the fire with four quarts of hot water. Then take one and one-half pounds of Smoked Ham Hocks, boil slowly approximately three hours in covered pot. Braise one onion chopped in a little butter, and, when light brown, put in Bean Soup. Season with salt and pepper, then serve, Do not add salt until ready to serve. (Eight Persons)

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Kilroy Was Here

The World War II memorial in Washington DC has an interesting piece of graffiti. No, it’s not the painted tags that we see in our cities and railroad yards produced by drug using gang members who in their delusions think they are artists. This is the drawing that turned up all over the European theater of WW II.
There are many stories about where the cartoon character and the words “Kilroy Was Here” came from. What seems to have happened is that an event in Quincy, Massachusetts and another event in England merged when our soldiers were stationed in England in 1940.
First the American part:
The theory that seems most plausible identifies James J. Kilroy who was an American shipyard inspector as the man behind the signature. Women were working as welders in the shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts and apparently were paid by how much work they completed. Inspector Kilroy would draw a chalk line along their weld for the day to distinguish it from tomorrow’s work. The women would erase the line part way so that it would look like they got a lot more work done the next day. Mr. Kilroy caught on to this and began signing “Kilroy Was Here” which stopped the cheating. Other bulkheads were added and later may have been removed for repair or refurbishing and “Kilroy Was Here” was found. Since Kilroy was being found in impossible places, our US troops had the beginnings of an idea. When they arrived in Europe and moved into the French villages, they would leave behind their graffliti, claiming that it was there before they arrived. It would confound the enemy and provide encouragement for the troops that would follow.

Now the England part:
Maybe the slogan, “Kilroy Was Here” happened some other way but the origins of the cartoon have more solid evidence. It almost certainly originated as “Chad” in the UK before the war. It was the creation of the cartoonist George Edward Chatterton. We can guess that in 1940 when US troops arrived the two merged. The “Chad” cartoon was very popular in England and was found everywhere as a social or political commentary with the slogan “Wot, no (…)?” underneath where the blank was filled with what ever what currently rationed or was a shortage. ie. “Wot, no butter?” or “Wot, no Spam?” Some one reported sighting on the side of a British 1st Airborne Division glider in Operation Market Garden someone had written “Wot, no engines?”
As the war continued, Kilroy became the US super-GI who always got there first. Soldiers were drawing him but never admitting it, pretending the he was there before they arrived. It was not so much as Kiroy being there but that it became a challenge to put him in some unlikely place. It’s been said that he can be found underneath the Arch d Triumphe, on the Statue of Liberty’s torch and even written in the dust on the Moon.
A restroom was built for the use of Truman, Stalin, and Churchill who were there for the Potsdam conference. It seems that Stalin was the first to use the privy. We he came out he asked in Russian “Who is Kilroy?”
As a war baby, I saw Kilroy in many places in Minnesota. He’d appear on bridges, railroad overpasses, and water towers. I even saw it once on a Harvestor silo somewhere in Iowa. It seems Kilroy is still around. The last time I saw him he was a plastic fellow attached to a bug shield on a pickup.

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