Two days of constant meetings have melted my mind, and the only sounds I can hear over the drone of voices are my brain cells screaming as they leap to their deaths. As I sit in my office in an attempt to recover, I can’t think of anything clever or interesting to write about. Therefore, I am going to take the easy way out and describe what I see – my office.
My office has turned into a popular hangout on campus, and I sometimes describe it as the El Paso train station. People are always coming and going. Students and teachers drop by to visit on a regular basis, and they often comment on the things I have scattered about. Of course, that is once they get past the darkness of it all. I keep all lights off except for one desk lamp. I have been accused of being a vampire; of trying to be mysterious; and of being a cave-dweller. I usually reply that I do my best work in the dark, but the truth is that the bigger lights hurt my eyes. Whatever the complaints and smart comments, people must like my office because someone is always in it.
With that in mind, I am going to attempt this blog experiment to test my descriptive skills. I am going to sit at my desk and describe the things I can see. We will do this in categories.
Category 1 – Wall Hangings
As I look to my left, there are four things hanging on the wall.
1. An old print of a cattle drive that I stole out of one of the classrooms. The teacher in that room is a Native American, so I figured he didn’t want cowboys in there anyway. Two cowboys are riding hard to stop a stampede that began with a lightning storm.
2. A photograph of Ulysses S. Grant. It is an iconic photo of the general as he leans against a tree. The best part is his original signature that is matted underneath.
3. A collection of Confederate money. There are six Confederate bills – One, Two, Five, Ten, Twenty, Fifty – matted and framed. There are a lot of Sons of Confederate Veterans members around here who wish the money was still good.
4. A photograph of Adolph Hitler and a Nazi arm band. It is a typical picture of the tyrant in civilian clothes. Like the photo of Grant, the most interesting part of this item is the document included with his original signature. I explain to everyone that I am not a Nazi. I simply think it is a remarkable piece of history.
Now, I move to the wall in front of me.
1. Above the door, there hangs a panoramic of the Tennessee Maneuvers. When the U.S. entered World War II, the military believed that troops needed to be seasoned with war games before going to Europe. Tennessee is geographically similar to where they were going, and the area was selected for that purpose. My university was chosen as the headquarters, as troops fought battles; liberated cities; and built bridges across rivers.
2. A plaque given to me after serving as honorary coach for our men’s basketball team. It was a resounding victory.
3. A plaque given to me in recognition for serving on the community council of a local bank.
4. A plaque given to me as the “Most Outstanding Faculty Member” for last year. I was proud of this because I beat my mentor before he retired. He had won the award a million years in a row.
5. A certificate honoring me as a Colonel Aide de Camp for the governor of Tennessee. They pass these things out like candy. It is the same certificate given to Harlan Sanders in Kentucky. He wasn’t a real colonel. He was a fake one like me.
6. A drawing of the old county courthouse. It was consistently voted the ugliest courthouse in Tennessee and was demolished before I was born.
I hope this is not getting monotonous. On to the wall on my right.
1. My favorite plaque. It reads, “On This Site In 1897 Nothing Happened”. I got it at the Longwood Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi. Some of you may know it better as the home of the king of Mississippi in “True Blood”.
2. A license of prostitution given to Rosita del Oro in 1876. This probably attracts the males to my office because it is included with a photograph of a nude woman playing a harp.
3. The next item covers a lot of the wall. I took a lot of pictures of the Dumas Brothel when I researched it in Butte, Montana. Upon my return, I had a local artist paint a few of the photographs. This one depicts the interior of a crib, a one room shack that prostitutes would work out of. A woman is sitting by the window in an attempt to draw customers. I will blog more later about the women of the cribs.
Finally, the wall behind me.
1. Another painting of the Dumas depicts the outside of the building. It is a two-story brick building that the artist placed in a Victorian setting. I am not real happy about the woman in the window. She looks a lot like Morticia Addams.
Category 2 – Filing Cabinet Decor
1. A magnetic fish with legs and Darwin written inside of it. I picked it up in Santa Fe and have to hide it when my parents come around.
2. A sticker of George Washington with a dialogue bubble that says, “I grew hemp.” I believe he was the largest producer in the colonies.
3. A magnetic voodoo doll that I bought in New Orleans. I haven’t tried it out yet, but people better watch out.
4. A bumper sticker with an alien on it that says, “You Don’t Scare Me. I’m A Teacher!” It came from the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico, one of the greatest museums ever.
5. On top of the cabinet sits an original World War I German helmet – the kind with the spike on top. They would jab it into the ground and use it as a cooking pot. They used it as another got of pot as well. You can use your imagination.
Category 3 – Bookshelf Without Books
Top shelf first.
1. A miniature of the Roman Coliseum. I got it in Rome.
2. A candle from the San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, Arizona. An ex-girlfriend got it for me, and I finally visited the site last year.
3. A model of the Mayflower, the boat filled with pilgrims searching for religious freedom. Ugh. The real story of the Mayflower is a lot more interesting.
4. Two bobbleheads. One is a sheik wearing sunglasses. The other is a Muslim woman wearing an abaya. This is not an attempt at a political or religious statement. They were given to me by an ex-girlfriend who moved to the UAE. They sold them. She bought them. I displayed them.
1. A textbook on Western Civilization. This is very outdated.
2. A book called, “Pauline’s: Memories of the Madam on Clay Street”. It was given to me by the university president and chronicles the life of a madam in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
3. Another book titled, “Life of Tom Horn”. He was a prominent figure in the cattle wars of Wyoming. Bad ending, they hung him.
4. And another book called, “Intimate Papers of Colonel House”. I have not read this. It is an old book gifted to me by a professor who passed away.
5. A little set of nuns and priests playing poker. This is from the same ex-girlfriend who gave the candle to me. These little guys came from Italy. I wouldn’t want to sit across the table from any one of them.
5. Along side those things is my Masters thesis about prostitution in mining camps of the American West. I don’t have much to say about this, except that I finished it.
The bottom shelf (I know. Thank God!)
1. A replica of a statue on campus. It was built to honor the laborers who built my building during the Great Depression. It is meant to symbolize the New Deal and other aspects of the era. Unfortunately, it is out of proportion and looks like a midget.
2. A brick from this building that was dislodged during renovation. It was originally laid in 1936 and looks like it.
3. A beer stein decorated with John Wayne pictures. I can’t help it. John Wayne is my all time favorite actor. Inside the stein, I placed glass sunflowers that a weird female student once gave me. Don’t ask.
I suppose this should end, but I can’t describe a historian’s office without listing a few books. We all have to have books. So, I will name the first book I see on each shelf.
Category 4 – Books
1. “Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West” by Anne Seagraves
2. “The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico” by Andrew L. Knaut
3. “Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government” by Catherine Allgor
4. “Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, and Other Stories of the World’s Greatest Unexplained Phenomenon” by M.V. Ingram
5. “Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People” by Jon Butler
6. “Mining Town: The Photographic Record of T.N. Barnard and Nellie Stockbridge from the Couer d’Alenes” by Patricia Hart and Ivar Nelson
Thankfully, that’s it. Oh, you may be wondering about my desk. Classes haven’t started yet, so there is nothing on it except sunglasses and a lamp.