‘Orphan Train Rider’ A Great Short Nonfiction Read

orphan-train-riderIf you are looking for a short read (about an hour) on a subject you likely have not heard about — read Orphan Train Rider by Andrea Warren.

The book covers the life of Lee Nailling who rode the train from New York to the ‘West’ (the Midwest) with two of his brothers — after their mother died. The story tells what happened to each of the boys as well as the siblings that were not considered orphans.

Included in the book are data and stats about orphans and how children were generally treated up through the 1920s. For example, in the 1850s, a 7-year-old child could be tried as an adult. This meant that some orphans, like those who had committed petty theft — often to eat, were houses in jails with adults.

Orphan trains ran in the United States beginning in 1854 and the last one departed in 1930. More than 200,000 children were sent to find new homes this way. It represented the largest migration of children in our history.


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‘Tower’ Tells Story Of First Mass Killing By Gunman On U.S. Soil

It’s a story many Americans do not know — the 1966 mass murder on the University of Texas campus. A gunman climbed up to the top of the University’s signature tower and began shooting down on the students. Shortly after the sniper opened fire, a local TV station had a reporter on the scene — so a lot of the shooting is captured on film. Although film director Keith Maitland uses some of that footage, his decision to use animation to tell the story makes it fresh — and oddly enough — somewhat hopeful.

I won’t review the film to prevent revealing his storytelling method other than to say that the film is built around interviews with victims, bystanders and the officers involved that day. Their words become the backdrop to the shooting that left 14 dead and 31 wounded.  As the roughly hour-long ordeal unfolds, ‘average people’ become real heroes on that hot August day. The action of one young woman is simply astounding.

Although some critics say Maitland tells an incomplete story (warning: review does give movie details) I disagree. I feel Maitland tells a very interesting and engaging story about the event that, unfortunately, ushered in the mass-shooting era that still exists today.

Rated 5 out of 5.

Categories: American History | Leave a comment

Mark Twain On The Hypocrisy Of Prayer

374px-twain1909Although I agree with the premise presented in The History of Prayer in America by James P. Moore Jr. that prayer has been a very common thread among Americans throughout our history, at times the book overplays the importance of public prayer by politicians by ignoring the politics behind the act.

Not every politician that prays is a believer — some are just exploiting those who are. And, some politicians offer prayers that are woefully (intentionally?) naïve of the societal ills (and their solutions) that exist in their own communities. These individuals often oversimplify complex problems — expecting God to solve everything without any intellectual, spiritual or humane work on their part.

Prayer For Our Soldiers (But Not Theirs)

When it comes to dealing with America’s hypocrisy, few did it better than American humorist and satirist Mark Twain.

By the end of his long literary career Twain had grown very tired of America’s imperialism, patriotic fervor and, in general, the gullibility and hypocrisy of the Chosen. Around the time America went to war with Cuba in the late 1800s, Twain wrote a short story for Harper’s Bazaar called War Prayer, but, as Moore reports in his book, the story was rejected because Twain’s publisher feared the work would impede the sales of his other books.

After Twain’s death, though, Moore notes, the story was published in Harper’s Weekly (1916).

In Twain’s story an old man interrupts the prayer service of the patriotic saints — as the minister is beating the war drums. This old man wants to teach the saints how to pray more honestly, because as he explains, when a farmer prays for rain for his crops, that same rain may destroy his neighbor’s harvest.

But, his most pressing goal is to teach the church the most effective way to pray about our wars — brutally honest. Get rid of all political correctness and cut to the chase. Part of the old man’s prayer goes like this:

O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags …

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

In the original version of the story the old man’s words are typed in red ink.

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