Monday, February 26, 2007

"Oh, Hello...I didn't see you standing there". Can one blog in isolation?

Randy has pulled the plug on his fine blog "The Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War" ( That's a loss.

Randy cited a number of reasons why he's shutting down, including the lack of input from his fellow bloggers as well as a perceived lack of interest from the folks at Civil War Interactive.

This causes me ask myself, "just who is my audience?" Is it me, the people who know me, the great random ethersphere, or a select group of fellow bloggers?

I admit that it's all of the above.

The main reason I keep these blogs is to satisfy my desire to write and to send up a flare to friends and strangers alike. That flare says "Here I am!...Over here!..Listen! A collateral benefit is that people (you people) often respond to my postings. That's very gratifying, though not the driving force behind why I do this.

It was a good six months into my efforts with this blog before I even happened upon Joe Avalon's "This Week in the Civil War Blogs". How thrilling to find that someone was talking about me! (for as "high school" as that sounds).

Comments are delightful and welcomed though I remind myself that I blog to satisfy an internal need to write rather than an external need of being noticed (however nice that is).

When I blog I try to remain true to my goal: "My Year of Living Rangerously" is a celebration of the best year in my life (so far) as a ranger at Antietam National Battlefield.

My Helmet blog is the closest thing I'll come to writing a combat helmet reference,

and my cartooning blog allows me to give old cartoons new life in an exciting medium.

If people are watching and reading my blogs, and perhaps measuring me against others, that's just fine.

But in the words of that great American, Dom Deluise, "The first rule in Italian auto racing is, throw away the rearview mirror!"

If you don't like what I have to say, or draw, or photograph, that's swell. If you like what I have to say...that's even sweller, I can't pretend that outside approval isn't important to me or that disapproval doesn't sting, but that's not why I write or shoot photos, or draw cartoons, or collect helmets.

My Civil War blogroll includes some individuals that I really enjoy reading. Dimitri Rotov (who does not permit comments) provides outstanding taskmaster-like tutorials on what is and what isn't good CW scholarship. John Hoptak and Steve Soper excel in their laser-beam like focus on individual regiments. And Steve Soper again, for his role-modelling as the consummate multi-blogger. He has half a dozen blogs now, all of them outstanding.

I have three blogs, and one in the on-deck circle.

With each I hope to share some aspect of my life.

My Point? Let us all be able to joyfully share what it is that we have to say, with or without the input or feedback of others. We all, individually, have something of value to add.

Soon I'll be posting a new blog about my life as a sailor during the early 1970's.

I was a radioman sending out signals like:

CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ CQ (that's radioman talk for "seek you").

Do you read me Randy?

Ranger Mannie

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Full Circle: Spring is on the way

Now, I'm not kidding myself, they are forecasting a major winter storm tonight and the park has already scheduled a three-hour delayed opening for tomorrow, up to an nch of ice is expected. but nonetheless...

Look what I encountered poking its head up in front of the visitors center today. This is the first crocus of the spring of 2007. Now this upstart may be in for a very rude awakening come tomorrow, but still, we've got our harbinger. A hint of spring has come to the battlefield. Can the real thing be far behind?

Here's hoping.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Out sick

I haven't posted much this week, heck , I've hardly even been in to work this week. Some low-grade virus or something has laid me low. I feel much better now, and gosh, its nice to have a job that I can look forward to returning to.

Ranger Mannie (in the bathrobe)

The Museum of the Discomfortcy

I understand that the Museum of the Confederacy is not only moving (maybe), but also considering changing its name and leaving out the word "Confederacy".

That's like when Kentucky Fried Chicken changed over to KFC to get that nasty word "fried" out of its advertising as well as the public consciousness, though not, perhaps, its arteries.

Now "Confederacy" has become a word to be banished.

I'm an unreconstructed Yankee from the wilds of Michigan, but even I think this idea of losing the "C-word" is a little goofy.

By the way, I think I just coined the phrase "C-word".

It behooves us, the Civil War enthusiasts, scholars, and hangers-on, to come up with a new name for the former Museum of the C-word.

I'll start the list.

1. The Lee's hat museum

2. The museum of a strangely uncomfortable disconnection with the past.

3. The museum of Stuart and Lee's hats

4. The museum of some stuff that we found over there that we are strangely uncomfortable about.

5. The Lexington Convention and Visitor's Center wayside exhibit of some of our noteworthy former residents.

6. The museum of staunchly ambivalent feelings toward...hey, look at that bright shiny thing!

7. The spooky UDC lady shrine.

8. The black Confederates and their more upwardly mobile comrades-in-arms bookstore.

9. Kentucky Fried Chicken

And gosh, the whole idea of "naming rights" just popped into my head.

how about the "Citibank/Toyota heritageplex"?

Your turn.

Make my history extra crispy please.

Ranger Mannie (it's the fever talking, not me)

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A Day of Brilliance: part two

Three days after the big snow and sleet storm the Battlefield is covered with a thick crust of polished ice. If one was so inclined, one could easily slide an eighth of a mile while seated on an empty pizza box, that is...if one were so inclined (especially prior to the arrival of any visitors). I'm just saying... y'know.

Caution, walk may be icy.

Stay warm,

Ranger Mannie

Friday, February 16, 2007

It was a day of such brilliance

Three inches of drifted snow with a heavy glaze of ice visited the valley two nights ago. Today the sun came out and the combination was pretty spectacular.

For most of the day half the park was inaccessible and the wind and very low temperatures made venturing outside pretty unpleasant but if you were armed with a camera it was irresistible.

The moment the sun emerged everything was thrown into high relief.

As I walked I left no footprints as the snow was glazed over with a thick layer of ice. This made for difficult footing but incredible lighting.

The Mumma farmstead was beautiful but unreachable except by snowplow.

Braving the elements for pictures.

Bundle up!

See you at the park.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Antietam National Battlefield: a world class attraction

I once upon a time worked at a Museum which fancied itself a "world-class" wasn't. I gotta tell ya, Grand Rapids Michigan is a wonderful "hometown" but certainly not a world-class town. Now, however, I do find myself working at a place of such renown that people from all over the world come to visit.

Here's a picture taken two weekends ago on Burnside Bridge with me and the Mayor of Lauren the Netherlands. A really nice guy.

Man, this is such a cool place.

Come visit Antietam, from your part of the world.

Ranger Mannie

Friday, February 09, 2007

Prescribed burn at Antietam: So Hot it's Cool!

Every day is remarkable at Antietam National Battlefield.

In a recent entry I showed our Natural Resources folks clearing brush above Burnside's Bridge. The natural question is...what happens to all of that brush? Thanks for asking.

Today ocurred a "prescribed burn" at the park. As I crested the "Final Attack" trail ridge toward the Otto Farm lane the smoke was already billowing into the 14 degrees above zero sky.
As if being a park ranger isn't cool enough, Our Law Enforcement and Natural Resources rangers are also fire fighters! And this burn was their show, to which they graciously invited me to take these pictures.

Zeke, Ed. and Joe are calling the shots as three brush piles are to be burned. Brush piles include: a large brush pile, a huge brush pile, and the mother of all brush piles. I'm glad I brought an extra battery.

This is the huge brush pile being torched. Law Enforcement ranger Eric with the drip torch coaxes the fire in the right direction. This fire was across about a 300 foot front.
A very cool flaming arrowhead on Zeke's ballcap.

One of our redoubtable college interns fueling the fire with brush.

Here, the drip torch applies it's flame to a three year accumulation of brush and...

viola! instant and intense oxidation.

Lindsey and Ed feed brush into the fire, and as it dwindles they change position to...

...the mother of all brush piles. This pile towered ten feet over my head. There was an enormous accumulation of fuel here. This pile was about fifteen feet tall and and hundred feet wide.

Two fuzees and a gallon of fuel oil turn it into a thundering conflagration towering 40 feet over our heads.

As Eric adds fuel...

...the heat grows in intensity. Suddenly this very cold morning becomes particularly warm.

Rangers look on as the flames jet into the frigid morning sky. These are, by the way, the same rangers you read about who fight the great fires in the western states. Whether they are fighting big fires or small fires, they approach all of them with a cool professionalism in which training and safety are the key components.

Eric, with his morning's work behind him.

Michelle briefly turns away from a blast of hot wind and ash, on this otherwise very chilly day.

These are the men and women of the U.S.National Park Service. I am very proud to call these professionals my colleagues.

By springtime this scorched patch where a brushpile once stood will be green with new, native growth.

This is the kind of work that occurs every day to restore Antietam National Battlefield to its 1862 appearance.

All of us work very hard, every day, to provide our visitors with the very best National Park experience of their lives.

Come visit, just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

My new helmet blog (click here)

In addition to my new cartooning blog, I've also started a new one regarding helmet collecting (the first post you'll recognize). Do let me know what you think.

Stay warm,


Sunday, February 04, 2007

A study in contrasts

Low Contrast: the New York monument as I left work on Friday evening.

Robert E. Lee. Maryland Objectives:
a. Persuade Maryland to secede (not achieved)
b. Meet and defeat General George B. McClellan (not achieved)
c. Secure European recognition for the Confederacy (not achieved)

High Contrast: the Pry house as I drove to work on Saturday morning.

George B. McClellan. Maryland Objectives:
a. Drive the Confederates from Maryland (achieved)
b. Protect Washington D.C. (achieved)

...and McClellan is the one who was fired.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Time for a change(click here)

Is it February already? Note my archives and you see it's been a year since I started this blog.

I know that many blogs fall by the wayside within that critical first year. As events and happenings at Antietam are on such cyclical calendar, the danger exists that my postings could get repetitive.

"Hey! Did he just recycle Artillery weekend '06 instead of making a new one for '09?"

I won't do that. Instead I'll limit my entries to one per week and have them be as interesting as possible.

At the same time, I've launched a new blog at:

This blog showcases the cartooning that I've been doing over the last 40 years, specifically the work that I did in the 1980s for a monthly cultural arts publication in Grand Rapids Michigan entitled "On-the-Town" (originally "Downtown").

Although its not related to the Civil War, I did manage to sneak an occasional reference to the ACW between its covers.
This cartoon, like many that I'll be posting still has the photo-safe blue sketch lines as well as some original "cutting and pasting"

I invite you to check in from time to time. Let me know what you think.

And do scroll down for an update on the Burnside Bridge vista (part two).