Izzy Bird, mythic figures

About that horseman who joined Isabella just outside of Fairplay:
“He was a picturesque figure and rode a very good horse. He wore a big slouch hat, from under which a number of fair curls hung nearly to his waist. His beard was fair, his eyes blue, and his complexion ruddy. There was nothing sinister in his expression, and his manner was respectful and frank.*
“What was unusual was the number of weapons he carried. Besides a rifle laid across his saddle and a pair of pistols his holsters, he carried two revolvers and a knife in his belt, and a carbine slung behind him. I found him what is termed to be ‘good company.’”
When Isabella stops for the night, her companion keeps going. She spoke to the woman who ran the cabin where she is spending the night. “I am sure you found Comanche Bill** a real gentleman,” she said.
“… my intelligent, courteous companion was one of the most notorious desperadoes of the Rocky Mountains, and the greatest Indian exterminator on the frontier — a man whose father and family fell in a massacre at Spirit Lake by the hands of Indians, who carried away his sister, then a child of 11. His life has since been mainly devoted to a search for this child, and to killing Indians wherever he can find them."
* This will be important in a minute.
** There is a book about him. The title leaves nothing to the imagination: Comanche Bill, or, Black Wolf's scalp! : being the truthful history of a western hunter, who lived on rattlesnakes, had his ten finger-ends pounded off, but lifted ten Indian scalps for the ten finger-ends, and, finally, tore the scalp from his mother's murderer

Izzy Bird, 12,000 feet

Isabella is having a rough go of it. She’s at 12,000 feet and “the light is too dazzling, the sun too fierce.”

“The sky was a different and terribly fierce color; and when I caught a glimpse of the sun, he was white and unwinking like a lime-ball light,* yet threw off wicked scintillations. I suffered so much from nausea, exhaustion, and pains from head to foot, that I felt as if I must lie down in the snow.** It may have been partly the early stage of soroche, or mountain sickness.”

Isabella and Birdie plodded on for hours, mostly because there was no other choice. The snow grew deeper and “Birdie fell 30 times…She seemed unable to keep up at all, so I was obliged to get off and stumble along in her footmarks. By that time my spirit for overcoming difficulties had somewhat returned, for I saw a lie of country which I knew must contain South Park., and we had got under cover of a hill which kept off the sun.”

Worry not. Isabella will trudge through South Park, where “the rarefied air produces great oppression on the lungs, accompanied by bleeding. It is said you can tell a new arrival by seeing him go about holding a blood-stained handkerchief to his mouth.”*** She continues on through the Breckenridge Pass on a good road. She is joined by a horseman shortly before the Pass… but more about him tomorrow.


* I’m thinking this is a reference to limelight, which was a type of theatrical lighting instrument during the mid-1880s. It was, essentially, a long-lasting combustion event in a fixture. There was a reason a lot of theaters burned down but lime light was a step up from candles.

** Pro tip: if your brain tells you the best idea is to lie down in the snow and maybe close your eyes for a minute, do not do that.

*** I suspect this isn’t in the brochures.

Izzy Bird, swop meet

After a cold, wet, and snowy ride, during which Isabella wonders if she missed the cabin she was directed to, she saw a light a little way from the track she is on. It is where she intended to be.
This cabin is owned by the Links’ daughter. Her husband is away but she and their two infants are “living there in perfect security.” The other two guests of the evening are two peddlers* who had just come down from the mines. They continuously and suspiciously offer to swop cash for Birdie. Isabella goes to bed late and wakes up early to make sure they don’t touch her pony.**
“The peddlers were Irish Yankees, and the way in which they ‘traded’ was as amusing as ‘Sam Slick.” They not only wanted to swop my pony, but to ‘trade’ my watch. They trade their souls, I know.”
The peddlers displayed their wares for an hour with “much dexterous flattery and persuasiveness.” The woman of the house is untempted; Isabella bout a handkerchief.
The next morning, in what is becoming the normal routine, an intense discussion broke out about Isabella’s route. A storm is coming. If she gets caught, she could be detained for weeks in the mountains; however, if she can make it to the Denver wagon road before nightfall, she will keep to her timetable. The peddlers insist she cannot get through in time. The woman of the house thinks she can do it and advises her to try, so she saddles up Birdie and rides away.
* or, as Isabella writes it, “pedlars”
** and I do not blame her.

otter pants

My beloved husband just had a birthday. And I faced the same problem I've faced for a few years now: when you've been married for a very long time, you run out of unique-and-heartfelt-and-just-right gifts to give. What he most wants, I suspect, is a trip where he can golf someplace new.* But circumstances being what they are ....

Said beloved husband also loves otters, which is a much longer story but, seriously, who doesn't love otters? Otters are the best. When I spotted this fabric** at Hart's, I knew I needed to make something for him out of it. My sewing skills are decent enough to make big rectangles and the occasional sleeveless top. He does not need a sleeveless top. I did briefly ponder a pillowcase but, I mean, does a pillowcase really say "I love you. Please have more birthdays?" NO. No, it does not.

Then the light bulb when off: we are entering prime comfy pants season in a year of wearing comfy pants three-quarters of the time. Beloved husband needs otter pants. And, lo. Otter pants would be made.

So I found a pattern on the internet -- please don't tell me lounge pants are super easy and no one should ever buy a pattern for them because I cannot just freestyle sewing -- and ordered it. Only I didn't absorb all of the details of it before I started to cut the fabric. It was way more complicated than I'd anticipated.


It had a real button-fly with drawstrings and elastic -- and I'd never before sewn two of those things.


And a new-to-me type of pocket. 

But it all seems to have ended well enough:


(Beloved husband had just come in from mowing the grass*** and wasn't prepared for a photo shoot)

Hopefully, he'll be able to go away for his birthday next year. The upside of this year, however, is that I had the time to spend stretching my brain to learn some new skills. Are these particularly useful skills? Not really, given that I spent twice as much time and money than I would have had I just bought comfy pants for him. However, it's good to test the old gray cells every now and again. 


* (not code)

** now if I can find an otters-and-golf fabric, I'll have Christmas sorted.

*** (still not code)

Izzy Bird, damn beautiful

Isabella is deep in the mountains still. I’m just going to share this passage* as is, because she is 100% smitten with the scenery:

“I rode up one great ascent where hills were tumbled about confusedly; and suddenly across the broad ravine, rising above the sunny grass and the deep green pines, rose in glowing and shaded red against the glittering blue heaven magnificent and unearthly range of mountains, as shapely as could be seen, rising into colossal points, cleft by blue ravines, broken up into sharks’ teen, with gigantic knobs and pinnacles rising from their inaccessible sides, very fair to look upon — a glowing, heavenly, unforgettable sight, and only four miles off.

“Mountains they looked not of this earth, but such as one sees in dreams alone, the blessed ranges of ‘the land which is very far off.’”

“They were more brilliant than those incredible colors in which painters array the fiery hills of Moab and Desert, and one could not believe them for ever uninhabited, for on them rose, as in the East, the similitude of stately fortresses, not the gray castellated towers of feudal Europe, but the gay, massive, Saracenic** architecture, the outgrowth of solid rock.”

Reader: I want to go there.


* which I dare you to diagram

** “Islamic architecture consisting chiefly of mosques and tombs and characterized by decorated surfaces, bulbous domes, and horseshoe, pointed, and multifoil arches”

Izzy Bird, fatigues of another day

Isabella is writing from Hall’s Gulch and recounting her trip through the snow-beclothed mountains.

“It was another cloudless morning, one of the many here on which one awakes early, refreshed, and ready to enjoy the fatigues of another day.* In our sunless, misty climate** you do not know the influence which persistent fine weather exercises on the spirits. I have been ten months*** in almost perpetual sunshine, and now a single cloudy day makes me feel quite depressed.”

She left the Link’s cabin in the mid-morning. She saw man riding a little ahead of her and caught up to him. They rode eight miles together, “which was convenient to me, as without him, I should several times have lost the trail altogether. Then his fine American horse, on which he had only ridden two days, broke down, while my ‘mad, bad bronco,’ on which I had been traveling for a fortnight, cantered lightly over the snow.”

The track, she agrees, deserves every horrible thing said about it at the Link’s.

“I have not seen anything hitherto so thoroughly wild and unlike the rest of these parts.”


* I love this phrase, btw.

** I presume she is referring to Britain here. If so, can confirm.

*** She was in Australia, New Zealand, and the Hawaiian Islands before the Rocky Mountains.

Izzy Bird, men are arguing


Screen Shot 2020-10-07 at 4.24.23 PM

Isabella is in the Link’s cabin. It is dinner time.

One of the ways people pass the time in these parts is to talk about roads and weather.* The folks around the table — Mr Link, an old hunter, a miner, and a teamster — are in a heated discussion about the route Isabella should take in the morning. Even after everyone goes to bed that night, the discussion kicked back up before she left “with increased violence, so that if my nerves had not been of steel I should have been appalled.

“The old hunter acrimoniously said he ‘must speak the truth,’ the miner was directing me over a track where for 25 miles there was not a house, and where, if snow came on, I should never be heard of again. The miner said he ‘must speak the truth,’ the hunter was directing me over a pass where there were five feet of snow and no trail.”

The teamster weighed in, of course, and advised her to “take the road into South Park,** which I was determined not to do. Mr Link said he was the oldest hunter and settler in the district, and he could not cross any of the trails in snow. And so they went on.”

They did agree on part of one route, which contains “the worst road in the Rocky Mountains.” It has two feet of snow on it — but a hunter had jus hauled an elk over park of it so maybe it wasn’t so bad?

“The upshot of the whole,” she tells her sister, “you shall have in my next letter.”

* This is how humans pass the time in many parts. Glad to see it’s not a new phenomenon.

** same place as the show? Anyone?

Izzy Bird, 150 miles

In the last five days, Isabella has ridden 150 miles.
Shortly after she left the lovely cabin near Hayden’s Divide, she spent a “quiet Sunday with agreeable people” at Colonel Kittridge’s cabin.* Her one comment about the place was that it “was very small and lonely, and the life seemed a hard grind for an educated and refined woman.”
The view, however, contains three peaks of Pike’s Peak and is agreeable.
When she left the next morning, she slid off of Birdie’s back to open a gate, turned around, and Birdie was gone.** “I spent an hour trying to catch her, but she had taken an ‘ugly fit,’ and would not let me go near her; I was getting tired and vexed, when two passing trappers, on mules, circumvented and caught her.”
The pair rode on. They crossed the headwaters of the Platte River and found a ranch owned by “a great hunter named Link, which much resembled a good county inn.” They had a splendid if rustic supper. “While Mrs Link was serving us… she was orating on the greediness of English people, saying that ‘you would think they traveled through the country only to gratify their palates’; and addressed me, asking if I had not observed it! I am nearly always taken for a Dane or a Swede, never for an Englishwoman, so I often hear a good deal of outspoken criticism.”
*Remember him?
** I KNOW.

many things make a post

  • I had the honor to see a couple of these pins in person. These women endured so much for something we take for granted.
  • An answer to a question I didn't know I had.
  • This diorama scared the bejeezus out of me every time I visited the museum as a kid. Maybe I was just picking up on the bad vibes?
  • How gender (and race) shape our politics (and everything).
  • I had the honor of logging my miles with a team of BAMRs.
  • A friend from Knoxville sent this link to a short doc about Kentucky state legislator Attica Scott, who is leading a fight to pass a bill decriminalizing natural hair. Attica and I both wrote for the same newspaper back in the day (but never met each other in person) and it is so great to see what she's doing now.  
  • When the minimum wage doesn't ever change, this is exactly what will happen. Don't even say these people should pick themselves up by their bootstraps. They don't even have boots.

Izzy Bird, 11 miles and a dead mule

Isabella is in Hayden’s Divide, which she calls “a hideous place.” During her passage through this “weary expanse of deep snow 11 miles across,” she sees nothing of interest save a dead mule.* She briefly wonders if she’s lost the trail but can spy Mount Lincoln** and knows she’s on the right path.
Things pick up even more when she comes out of the forest and finds her stopping place. It’s a clean log cabin where “a truly pleasing, superior-looking woman placed [her] in a rocking chair.” The only labor Isabella must do to earn her stay is rock the cradle nearby.
“The room, though it serves them and their two children for kitchen, parlor, and bed room, is the pattern of brightness, cleanliness, and comfort. At supper, there were canned raspberries, rolls, butter, tea, venison, and fried rabbit, and at seven I went to be in a carpeted log room, with a thick feather bed on a mattress, sheets, ruffled pillow slips, and a pile of warm white blankets! I slept for 11 hours.”
In the morning, she shows the adults of the house her proposed route. They declare it impassible because of the snow and warn her that another storm is on the way.
* FWIW: we might be in the Hayden’s Divide of 2020.
** the “King of the Rocky Mountains”