Americas Iconic Log Cabin Has a Dark and Dirty Side Too

Americans want to hear no evil and see no evil so far as log cabins are concerned, proclaimed historian C.A. Weslager in 1969.

That probably strikes some people as odd. The log cabin, that beloved American icon, is above reproach, right? Its the humble, honest abode of American greats like Abe Lincoln. Its the revered home of brave pioneers like Daniel Boone, a romantic retreat for harried urbanites, the quintessential escape for blocked writers and a rustic backdrop for fashion shoots featuring lumbersexuals and pioneer women living like yesteryearthis is all great, right? What, pray tell, could be evil about the log cabin? Well, (setting aside the moralistic undertones of the e-word), plenty.

The lionized log cabin is not as quaint as it appears. In fact, it has a very ugly, grotesque underbelly. But thats also part of its beauty, thats what makes it the ultimate American icon.

One thing to know right off: Log cabins werent always adored here in America. Originally brought over in 1638 by settlers of short-lived New Sweden, not Pilgrims or Puritans, the log cabin was spread across the American colonies primarily by German and Scots-Irish immigrants, mostly dirt-poor folk looking for new lives in the New World. Log cabins therefore spent most of their early existence here disdained and dismissed, described as miserable and wretched. And the people within said cabins werent beloved, either. Benjamin Franklin spoke for an entire generation when he told his grandson that there are two sorts of people: Those who are well dressd and live comfortably in good houses who are respected for their virtue. And then, The other sort poor, and dirty, and ragged and ignorant, and vicious, and live in miserable cabins. In other words, log cabin living was not enviable and the people within were even less so. But that all changed around the late-1820s, when the United States started going through the national version of puberty.

It took the still-new nation a bit of time to find its post-colonial self. Though independent for decades, Americans still compared themselves to sophisticated England, and it took a minute before Americans embraced what made them special: their rustic country sides, the people therein, and their cabins, too. Once seen as miserable and bug-infested, the cabin was now portrayed as key to Americas westward expansion, thanks in large part to Romantic artists: Author James Fenimore Cooper made the cabin quite catalytic in his 1823 novel The Pioneers, and artists like Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, and Jasper Francis Cropsey did the same in oil paintings that depicted cheery frontier families living in optimistic cabins.

Where Franklin and others dissed the cabin, now American leaders were praising it, as in famed orator Dr. Daniel Drakes 1834 speech lauding the cabin as a launching pad to tomorrow: When an individual from the depths of a compressing population, builds his cabin in the West [he is] speedily released from the requisitions of the society he left behind. The log cabin was now portrayed as essential to Americas institution-breaking modus operandi. But more than that, the log cabin was increasingly presented as a proxy for a persons character, especially after the 1840 election that saw wealthy William Henry Harrison run as the log cabin candidate, setting the stage for Abraham Lincolns rustic White House run two decades later. In both cases, and many others, the log cabin was cited as evidence for a humble, honest background, of all-American honor and valor. Like President Harrison, Mr. Lincoln has spent about one third part of his life in a log cabin, blared one of Lincolns 1860 campaign biographies, ignoring the truth: prototype Harrison didnt live in a log cabin; that was a marketing gimmick. And, like all gimmicks, it obscured the truth: The cabin, bringer of freedom for white men, was also a tool of oppression.

You see, while newcomers to the New World saw the log cabin as key to freedom, it was nothing but repression for the othered others. Take, for example, American Indians. The cabin to them didnt represent freedom, as it did for Dr. Drake and other white men. Rather, it a harbinger of white incursion, a symptom of foreign invasion. The log cabin in this context is an outgrowth of Europeans gentrification of the New World. And this became especially true once white folk began supplanting traditional Indian housing with log cabins. Though log cabins were still sneered at by people like Benjamin Franklin, far too rough for any upstanding white person, they were still fine replacements for savages hovels, and even became a part of what George Washingtons administration described as durable tranquility: a policy in which native customs were supplanted with American ways. (As early as 1745, Cherokee Chief Skiagunsta remarked that his people were suddenly and involuntarily dependent on English overlords, My people cannot live independent of the English.) And so it would go for decades: the log cabin supplanting Indian traditions, right up through the Trail of Tears, at the end of which survivors were installed in log cabins and told to stay put on reservations. The log cabin here isnt a way to break through institutions, as Drake suggested; it was an institution, one of oppressionand so too was it elsewhere, on plantations.

Just as cabins were the instruments by which whites maintained control over Indians, so too did they keep millions of black people in their place. And these werent tight and tidy cabins, like the ones Cole and other Romantics painted with such flourish. These slave cabins were crumbling, crusty, and crowded crap shacks.

Booker T. Washington, the slave-turned-educator who established the Tuskegee Institute, describes his childhood cabin in his groundbreaking 1901 memoir, Up from Slavery: The cabin was without glass windows; it had only openings in the side which let in the light, and also the cold, chilly air of winter. There was a door to the cabinthat is, something that was called a door [but] it was too small In addition to these openings there was, in the lower right-hand corner of the room, the 'cat-hole' a square opening, about seven by eight inches, provided for the purpose of letting the cat pass in and out of the house at will during the night. In the case of our particular cabin I could never understand the necessity for this convenience, since there were at least a half-dozen other places in the cabin that would have accommodated the cats. There was no wooden floor in our cabin, the naked earth being used as a floor.

Arranged in rows, with a central cabin for the white overseer, slave cabins were a way for white men to keep black people under their thumb. These arent the quaint cabins modern Americans flock to on weekends. These are overcrowded prisons, pure and simple.

But human suffering is only part of the log cabins titular dark side. Theres also the environmental damage wrought by the log cabin. Well, not by the log cabinan inanimate object, the log cabin couldnt do actual damagebut the facilitating structure was more often than not accompanied by ecological destruction.

Americans desperately wanted tostill want tobelieve that the log cabin has been around since our very beginning, because such a scant start made the nations improbable rise even more impressive.

Alexis de Tocqueville offered this general description of frontier cabins surroundings in 1831: Cut branches cover the paths, trunks, half charred by fire or mutilated by the axe, still stand along our way. [We] come to a wood in which all the trees seem suddenly to have perished Beyond this field, we see the owners cabin. And the same wretched scene was replayed on a larger scale when lumber, mining, and oil companies adopted log cabins as outposts for their increasingly far-flung conglomerates.

Just as the cabin was a cheap and reliable home for early immigrants and pioneers, so too was it a cheap and reliable HQ for companies mining the nations resources. (Not incidentally, and quite ironically, the wealth extracted during this era fed a new generation of ultra-rich millionaires who built massive log cabin country homes, which inspired poor people born in log cabins to strive to achieve log cabin mansions; people wanted to go from one log cabin to another: a logs-to-luxury mindset born from the nations greatand relatively rarerags-to-riches myth.)

Of course, all of these unsavory details were willfully overlooked when American historians began hyping the cabin anew in the 1860s and beyond, when industrialism and the Civil War spawned a desperate push by historians to concoct and perpetuate a unified and cohesive national narrative. Even the most respected and influential historians erroneously place log cabins in Americas earliest days, acting as if the English colonists invented it and used the cabin to create the great nation. Esteemed historian John Palfrey asserted in 1860 that Jamestowns colonists made themselves comfortable in log- houses, of construction similar to those which are still scen [sic] in new settlement; Edward Atwater insisted in 1881 that log cabins were in colonial New Haven. Yale bigwig Noah Porter made the same claim about Massachusetts in 1883. And David B. Scott, illustrator of childrens histories, placed log cabins on early Manhattan. Each and every one of them was wrong. Not that they can be blamed for perpetuating these apocrypha. They grew up saturated in log cabin-shaped propaganda. They had heard the log cabin legends for so long that they simply assumed all the stories they heard growing up were true.

But even after long-held cabin myths were debunked in books like Harold R. Shurtleffs seminal 1939 work The Log Cabin Myth and C.A. Weslagers 1969 The Log Cabin, Americans remained willfully and blissfully blind to the truth. Contemporary historians still pretend that log cabins were prevalent in colonial America: A 2006 childrens book that shall remain nameless came complete with anachronistic illustrations, guaranteeing a new generation a false history.

As Hunter S. Thompson once wrote, Myths and legends die hard in America We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most mens reality. Americans desperately wanted tostill want tobelieve that the log cabin has been around since our very beginning, because such a scant start made the nations improbable rise even more impressive. The juxtaposition between dreary log cabin and shining city upon a hill was too grand to resist.

Now, none of this is meant to diminish or demean the log cabin. And Americas ascension is impressiveunprecedented evenand the log cabin without a doubt played an essential role in making that happen, but we must also acknowledge the ugly bits too many histories purposefully ignore. Our nation would never have grown to such great heights without the log cabin, but it wasnt because of Pilgrims and Puritans: It was unwanted immigrants who did the job. Nor is the log cabin the shining beacon we all imagine: the structure was a tool of cultural decimation, too.

Understanding and emphasizing these impugning aspects of American history, and the log cabins role therein, gives us a fuller understanding not only of the seemingly unimpeachable structure we so blindly love, but of the country itself. While the trials and tribulations log cabin-living on the frontier ingrained in Americans some great traitsgrit, determination, and adaptabilitythe structure also exemplifies some of the nations more negative characteristics: persistent discrimination, racial entitlement, and ecological ravaging. The log cabin was essential in making the nation grow, but it wrought plenty of devastation along the way.

The log cabin is in this way the most comprehensive of all American icons. It embodies the good and bad of our nation. In one scenario it offered endless opportunity, in another it was, simply, the end. Held one way, its symbolic of the nations tenacity and can-do spirit; held another, its a reminder of the racial and ethnic violence that cleared the way for European settlers. And all these angles, good and bad, are essential to shaping our nations future, too.As the nation navigates fresh layers of nativism and xenophobia, we must ask ourselves, do we want our nation to live up to the myths weve written, or to continue repeating hideous mistakes of the past, passing problems onto revisionists of tomorrow?

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Gloomy Portraits Of Dogs That Seem To Fade Into The Paper

According to the Chinese zodiac 16th February will mark the start of The Year of Dog.

Penovac is world-wide renown for his paintings of black cats that you can see here and here.

What may be less known is his obvious love for dogs. He has 3 dogs so he is intimately acquainted with the nature of ’man’s best friends’.

Although simplification is very important in Endre’s art he is able to capture perfectly the true identity of dogs. He brings them to life with his breathtaking technique in these pencil drawings, watercolor and ink paintings.

His dogs so instinctively and lovingly stroked that you can feel their wet noses, the softness of their messy fur and the warmth of their bodies just by looking at them.

He has prints and originals available through Saatchi Art.


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American International Toy Fair 2018: Holograms and more

Fidget spinners, Fingerlings, Hatchimals; the U.S. toy industry has gotten some serious play over the past few years.

In 2017, the industry grew to a whopping $21 billion in sales, according to the NPD Group’s retail tracking service.

Every year over 30,000 toy enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and industry insiders from over 100 countries descend on the Big Apple, New York City for the annual American International Toy Fair.

“You got media people, analysts, smaller companies trying to sell their products to larger companies and you got buyers,” Chris Byrne, content director of Toys, Toys, Pets and More, told FOX News, “…lots of retailers all over the country and they want to stock up for the year.”

What’s the next big thing for retailers and consumers? 

Byrne gave FOX News a behind the scenes tour of the industry-insiders exclusive event pointing out some of the coolest toys and games to look out for in 2018.

Run out of things to ask your Amazon Alexa? “When in Rome” by Sensible Objects Voice Originals turns your smart home device into a tabletop game for the whole family.  “It’s a great trivia game where you can learn about different countries,” says Byrne.  

Move over emojis and make way for shareable holograms.  Seemez Virtual Friends by RedwoodVentures lets kids can use their tablets and phones to collect and play with a menagerie of cute virtual critters and turn them into holograms.  “My favorite thing is you can actually create a hologram of yourself… and share them with other people,” says Byrne.

You may have seen photos on social media of families adopting dogs or cats from shelters and pampering them back to full health.  Now kids can jump in on the action with Moose Toys’ Scruff-a-Love.  Kids take a little, uncared for ball of fluff and washing them in water, drying them off and fluffing up their fur, children get to rescue their very own stuffed animal.  

Be sure to check out the video about as Byrne nurtures one little Scruff-a-Love and all of these cool toys in action.

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FDA Warns Of Possible Euthanasia Drug In Major Dog Food Brands

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory on Friday warning pet owners about the possible presence of pentobarbital — a barbiturate commonly used to euthanize animals — in some canned dog food products.

The J.M. Smucker Company is voluntarily withdrawing shipments of several of its dog food brands, including Gravy Train, Kibbles ’N Bits, Ol’ Roy and Skippy. You can view a full list of the affected products here.

The announcement comes after a Washington, D.C., news station investigated the company. WJLA-TV sent samples of wet dog food from more than two dozen brands to an independent lab to be tested for pentobarbital.

The investigation found that “one brand repeatedly came back positive for pentobarbital” — Gravy Train.

Amazon/Gravy Train
Gravy Train 13.2 oz. with T-Bone Flavor Chunks is one of the varieties J.M. Smucker is withdrawing.

“In total, we tested 15 cans of Gravy Train,” WJLA said in its report. “Nine cans — 60-percent of the sample — were positive for pentobarbital. And while the levels detected were not lethal, under federal law they are also not permitted at any concentration.”

The FDA wrote that its own “preliminary evaluation” of Gravy Train samples suggests that the drug is not present at high enough levels to pose a health risk, but food containing any amount of pentobarbital is considered adulterated.

“The presence of this substance at any level is not acceptable to us and not up to our quality standards,” Gravy Train said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize for the concern this has caused.” 

A spokeswoman for the J.M. Smucker Company told HuffPost that the company’s withdrawal of certain products does not constitute a “recall.” By FDA definition, a market withdrawal is when a company removes a product over a “minor violation that would not be subject to legal action by the FDA.” In contrast, a recall involves a product being removed from the market over a reason that would spark legal action by the FDA.

The spokeswoman added that only Gravy Train samples have tested positive for pentobarbital. The other products have been pulled “out of an abundance of caution,” she said.

Pentobarbital is commonly used for euthanasia, as well as for other medical purposes for both animals and humans. It’s also used to execute inmates sentenced to death. Possible harmful effects of pentobarbital in pet food include drowsiness, dizziness, nausea and — at high levels — coma and death. Last year, a pug in Washington state died after consuming pentobarbital-contaminated dog food made by pet food company Evanger’s.

The issue raises the question, how is any pentobarbital getting into pet food in the first place?

Evanger’s linked its product’s contamination to a beef supplier and subsequently terminated the relationship. Gravy Train also said it traced its problem to a single source — though the statement did not elaborate on what that source was.

“We have narrowed the focus of our investigation to a single supplier and a single, minor ingredient, used at one manufacturing facility,” the Gravy Train statement said. “We will take the appropriate steps to ensure this does not occur again.”

The brand also explicitly said that its products do not include meat from euthanized animals, including pets.

The company likely felt compelled to address that point, because pentobarbital in pet food often fuels speculation over whether cat and dog food may contain the bodies of euthanized cats and dogs. That’s because some pet food companies source ingredients from rendering plants, which grind up animal carcasses from an array of sources that can include farms, slaughterhouses, veterinary clinics and animal shelters. According to fact-checking site Snopes, the presence of dead cats and dogs in pet food has not been definitively proven.

Language has been added to clarify that J.M. Smucker’s withdrawal of products does not rise to the level of a “recall.” The FDA’s own statement calls it a withdrawal.

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Junior ROTC leader shocked that Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz was his cadet

Although some students said they weren’t surprised by the alleged gunman of last week’s Florida shooting massacre, Jack Ciaramello was.

He said he knew suspect Nikolas Cruz was troubled and had a thing about guns — but he’d never suspected Cruz was capable of this kind of savagery.

Cruz had been one of Ciaramello’s cadets in the school’s tight-knit Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

Officials have accused Cruz in the Wednesday shooting rampage that killed 17 students and staff.

When Cruz was arrested, he, too, wore ROTC gear: a maroon polo shirt emblazoned with the corps’ crest.

In the days since, reports of Cruz’s violent, threatening behavior have flooded mainstream and social media.

Ciaramello, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High senior, said he found Cruz a bit odd but didn’t consider his cadet dangerous.

Brothers Jack, left, and James Ciaramello survived the Parkland, Fla. massacre last week. Jack was in the same Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps company as Nikolas Cruz, who is charged with gunning down 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.  (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

“He liked hunting. He liked fishing. And me, being a guy and liking that kind of thing, you know, military, ROTC … it seemed normal,” the 17-year-old senior told The Associated Press. “Obviously, it wasn’t.”

As Cruz’s leader in Company E — “Echo Company” — Ciaramello tried to instill discipline, pride and a sense of camaraderie in Cruz.

The 350 or so cadets at the Parkland high school in Florida are issued uniforms and T-shirts — with the motto “WHATEVER IT TAKES” over the heart — and they’re required to show the colors as much as possible, or risk demerits.

But last year, Cruz reportedly stopped wearing his JROTC gear. As leader, Ciaramello took notice.

He said Cruz always had an excuse for being out of uniform. Worried Cruz would get kicked out of the corps, Ciaramello asked what it would take to get him to wear his gear.

His request: a Snickers candy bar.

“So I went out to the store, I bought him it, and the next day, there on after, he came in with the uniform every day — T-shirt, uniform, everything,” Ciaramello said.

When the fire alarms rang out Wednesday, Ciaramello was on the drill field behind the school when he heard the unmistakable sound of gunfire.

Teachers screamed at him and other kids to get back inside to the classrooms.

“Nope,” he said to himself. “I don’t want to be stuck in a classroom if there’s an armed shooter on the campus.”

As he hopped the fence and began sprinting down the road, he thought about his 14-year-old brother, James — a sergeant, the highest rank he could attain as a freshman.

Ciaramello fought the urge to go back and find him.

“Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t do anything. So I knew I had to run.”

The family previously had lived in Newtown, Connecticut — they left about three months before a former student shot and killed 26 students and teachers there.

This time, the boys were both there, in Parkland, for the rampage.

Nikolas Cruz made his first court appearance Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. (AP)

James Ciaramello was in geography class when the alarm sounded. Then came the pops. Having fired both an AR-15 rifle and 9 mm pistol, he knew the sound.

The teacher rushed the kids back into the classroom. After 40 agonizing minutes huddled against a wall, there came a pounding on the door.

“We didn’t know if it was just a ploy to get us out of the rooms, so we could be shot,” he said. “But my teacher went over and checked and, thankfully, it was the police, and they opened the door.”

He made it out of the building — but not all his JROTC comrades did.

Cadet Carlos Gutierrez, 14, was in a study hall when police came to rescue them. On his way out of the building, he saw several bodies — including one with the blue pants and distinctive shiny shoes of a JROTC member protruding from a covering.

They’d soon learn that of the 14 students killed, three — Peter Wang, Martin Duque and Alaina Petty — were JROTC members. Witnesses told Wang’s family that the 15-year-old was last seen in his uniform, holding open a door for others to escape.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Survivor Winner Jenna Morasca Arrested For DUI & Drug Possession!

Life after reality TV isn’t always pretty…

According to a police statement obtained by Jenna Morasca Runs With Mickey!

Allegedly, the former CBS star was found unconscious in a running Chevrolet SUV parked at a stop sign in Washington, Pennsylvania.

After Morasca was treated for an apparent overdose, she was taken to the ER via an ambulance where she allegedly bit a policewoman on her right forearm.

While in the SUV, the Fear Factor contestant was with a female passenger who was allegedly seen placing a bag of syringes in her purse. Although the companion denied carrying the paraphernalia, officers eventually removed her bag, which allegedly contained a burnt spoon with a string and cotton balls, and an additional syringe inside her wallet.

The passenger was detained on suspicion of possessing drug paraphernalia, but was released as she will receive charges via summons.

[Image via WENN.]

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