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black sheep

I was enjoying The History Blog’s article on President Wilson’s White House lawn sheep-keeping as part of the war effort. While the gesture was well-intended and fleece from the sheep raised did go on to win prizes, the article noted President Wilson’s ram was an ornery, tobacco-chomping terror who frequently butted White House visitors, and that ‘interestingly, he wasn’t the first vicious ram to roam the White House lawns. Thomas Jefferson brought a large flock with him from Monticello…The leader of the flock was a four-horned Shetland ram who took aim at anyone attempting to take a short cut through the property…The ram actually killed a child.


Thomas Jefferson’s ram straight up murdered a kid?! How did no one tell me about this until now? Can you imagine the furor and Weekly World News (R.I.P.) cover if this happened anywhere near today? The History Blog’s source cited an article from The Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, and if  you want to learn all about President Jefferson’s obsession with the exciting world of sheep-breeding, I recommend reading it in full. That’s not sarcasm either – President Jefferson refused most gifts of wealth from other countries, the exception being sheep –  the availability of which depended on the American Colony’s relation with the rest of Europe at the time. Countries clashed, personal snubs were made (Jefferson’s prized ‘merino’ ram turned out to be nothing but a ‘common country sheep’ and high society pointed and laughed), smuggling abounded and fortunes were made and lost. Merino sheep’s soft and silky wool was the pride of Spain at the time, and they guarded the breed with extreme caution. If you were a king they liked, maybe you got a sheep.

If you can’t bother to be drawn into the heady swirl that was Colonial sheep-breeding, here’s the particularly juicy bit about Jefferson’s murder-ram:

“By the spring there were almost forty presidential sheep grazing on the square in front of the White House. If it had been the year 2000, there would also have been a flock of lawsuits. Several unsuspecting pedestrians tried to take a short cut across the square, met the Shetland ram, and were vanquished in their encounter. One William Keough wrote Jefferson that “in Passing through the President’s Square  was attacked and severely wounded and bruised by your excellency’s ram-of which [I] lay ill for five or six weeks.” Another of the ram’s unfortunate victims, as we learn from the diary of Jefferson’s friend Anna Maria Thornton, was “a fine little boy killed by the Ram that the president has.”

Unfortunately, the only available online record of Anna Maria Thornton’s diaries seems to be this excerpted collection from the Washington D.C. historical society, which though an informative historical read, includes no further details about the ‘fine little boy’ straight up murdered by a Presidential ram. Did children die with such frequency at the time that a deadly ram-butting on the White House lawn didn’t even warrant mention by the papers? Who was the little boy, and were any reparations made by Jefferson to his family?

What is known is the ram’s fate – returned to Jefferson’s farm, he was put down 4 years later after escaping his pen and murdering two Barbary rams and his own son.

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This week’s pattern took a little extra time to set up because it had to be dug out of an enormous pile of miscellaneous vintage paper goods. Somewhere in that massive stack sat an absolutely patriotic salute to this great land, and consarn it, it would be found if it took all night. And it did! And here it is, the Americana, in all its star-spangled glory. The directions don’t come right out and say it but you can only knit it while listening to John Phillips Sousa marches.

Speaking of directions, apparently I have to come right out and state the blindingly obvious: THESE PATTERNS ARE FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. DO NOT TAKE THE IMAGES AND SELL THEM, DO NOT PASS THEM OFF AS YOUR OWN. Linking to them is totally fine; printing a copy out for your own use is fine, but anything that involves you taking them and making money off of them, STOP. DO NOT PASS GO. Fellow free-pattern sharer Bex recently alerted me that an Ebay seller stole images from our websites and sold (is selling) them in her store. On the downside, this is extremely rude, lazy and annoying. We post these patterns FOR FREE, buying or digging through archives for the originals, spending time scanning and cleaning them up, not to mention maintaining a website where people can find them, all for the sheer love of vintage knitting goodness. So when someone comes along and snags the images to make a quick buck, it hurts.

On the upside, this is the first time it’s happened in my several years of sharing, and in a rare burst of good mood I shall take that as a general sign humanity, or the chunk of it that enjoys looking at vintage patterns, generally understands what theft is and avoids it. Now, onward to patriotic knitwear!

Let the Eagle soar!

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Maybe you think you’re a patriotic citizen of the greatest country in the world. Perhaps this weekend you’re planning a barbecue, possibly with some fireworks after, in honor of the birth of the land of the free and home of the brave. Maybe you even went that extra mile and made a Jell-o cake in the shape of the Stars and Stripes. YOU MIGHT AS WELL PAINT YOURSELF PINK, COMMIE, because NONE OF THAT comes ANYWHERE CLOSE to the greatest tribute to the American spirit ever seen.

That’s right. Today, Wednesday, June 30th (AHEAD OF SCHEDULE in showing love for the country, by the way) is Mile Long Hoagie Day. “Hoagies aren’t patriotic!” you feebly cry. SHAME ON YOU! Let’s count the ways in which Mile Long Hoagie Day reeks of sweet Americana:

1) The actual hoagie will be a mile and a quarter long (ostentatious foodstuffs!)

2) It begins at the Rocky Statue… (America loves an underdog!)

3) In front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (disdain for foofery and book learnin’!)

4) Firefighters and police are involved somehow!

5) It’s in Philly, home of the Liberty Bell and other historical stuff! This also means there’s a likely chance of drunken rioting and car-flipping, and what’s more American than that?


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Hello again all; I have ventured forth into our good country and found it to be awesome. America is a very large place, something easily forgotten when you live in a dense urban area. Driving across it for 2 weeks is a solid reminder of its size and majesty.

The road trip left from Milwaukee (Algonquin for “the good land”), through the Badlands, down Mormon country right into Las Vegas, a two day stop over in Anaheim for Disneyland, zipping through Arizona up into Monument Valley, over the Rockies in Colorado, onward to Idaho, and back to Milwaukee. Woo. The longest stretches of driving were from Milwaukee to a KOA campsite past the Badlands (KOA is a chain of campgrounds for RVs and tents, of which we were the latter), and an all-night drive through fog and mountain from Moab, UT to Montour, IA. That one covers 4 states and included 6 hours of fog from Nebraska through Iowa.

Below is but a small selection; you can see the rest at my Flickr page, should you so wish. Let’s start with South Dakota, since stupid Flickr cut off all my Badlands photos!


How large, you ask?

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I’d like to petition Fox Broadcasting to get ’24”s name changed to ‘Jack Bauer Singlehandedly Saves America From Terrorism’. If you don’t believe me, check out his kill count. Kicking ass, taking names (but usually kicking ass), the American Way.

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