Living History – “Ceres-iously” Cool

The Jefferson City News Tribune alerts readers about  Ceres’s descent from the Capitol dome

The ascent of Ceres to the Capitol dome

On October 29, 1924, a statue of the Roman goddess Ceres – goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility & motherly relationships – became the tallest object in Jefferson City, Mo.  Per an article in the describing that endeavor 94 years ago, “crews tied a wench to a tree and hoisted her in three pieces using a pulley system to the top of the Capitol.”   For those sticklers regarding the use of the English language (like my brother who pointed out the incorrect word use), the proper word was “winch”.   

“I hope, in 1924, they tied a ‘winch’ to a tree as opposed to a ‘wench’ as the article states.  That was probably illegal even back then” noted my brother.  

Ceres making her original ascent in October of 1924

On November 15, 2018, Ceres was scheduled to be removed from the Capitol dome and transported to Chicago for a make-over.

I planned to be there on the historic occasion of Ceres return to earth from her perch overlooking beautiful Jefferson City.

The morning of November 15th, 2018, dawned clear and cold.  I donned warm clothing and made my way downtown under a bright blue sky.  Shortly before 9:30 am I filled a parking meter with enough quarters for the maximum 2 hours of parking and walked the two blocks to the steps of the Missouri Supreme Court building.  It was a perfect vantage point to watch the operation.  

In lieu of a “wench tied to a tree”, Workers in 2018 used a 550-ton crane to safely lower Ceres back to terra firma

When I arrived, I was so excited about witnessing history, I barely felt the cold.  After two hours, my cold feet began to compete with my excitement for my attention.  Though Ceres lift-off was originally planned for shortly after 10 am, technical difficulties forced a delay.

Shortly after 11 am, employees from Jimmy John’s came down the street passing out free sandwiches.  Thank you, Jimmy John’s!  My turkey sandwich was delicious.  Not wanting to sound ungrateful, next time please bring some free napkins as well to avoid the unappetizing sight of diners with frozen mayonnaise on their chin.

At 11:30 am, the time on my parking meter expired.  Should I risk missing the main event of Ceres being lowered by walking the four block round-trip to replenish my parking meter?  Purely for the sake of witnessing history, I decided to take a walk on the wild side and risk getting a parking ticket rather than possibly miss Ceres descent.

Good thing I did.


At 11:45 am, following three sharp blasts from an air horn, Ceres was slowly lifted off the perch where she had rested for the past 94 years.

Within 15 minutes Ceres had been lowered to a roped-off area where she would recline on a flat-bed trailer for a couple of hours of public viewing.
Ceres at rest.

Ceres was originally created by New York sculptor Sherry Fry.  The statue is thought to be modeled after Audrey Munson.  Munson is sometimes referred to as “America’s first supermodel.”

Audrey Munson, the face atop the Missouri Capitol dome

After seeing the face of Ceres, it made me wonder who modeled for the Statue of Liberty, which came to the U.S. from France in 1886.


The stern face of the Statue of Liberty as it was being installed.

As near as I can tell, the face on the Statue of Liberty was modeled after the mother of the statue’s sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.   In my imagination, I can envision that face saying to a misbehaving Frederic Auguste Bartholdi as a child, “God help you if you ever do that again!”

Though probably not in the “supermodel” catagory, Charlotte Beysser Bartholdi’s son, Frederic, did her no favors in the portrayal of her face on the Statue of Liberty.  Instead of “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses . . . ” the face on the Statue of Liberty would seem to be saying something more like “If you get on my lawn again you are going to be sorry!”

Ceres is now safely in Chicago.  

Or at least as safe as an inanimate object can be in Chicago.

She will return, all gussied up and shiny, in about a year.  I plan to be there to watch her once again ascend to the tallest perch in Jefferson City where she will once more preside above the beehive of activity that is the Missouri State Capitol.

As I neared my truck to head home, I strained my eyes to see if Jefferson City’s parking enforcement division had deposited anything under my windshield wiper.  Though the meter was frantically flashing an alert that I had exceeded the two-hour time limit, my windshield was free of a parking ticket.

Thank you, Jefferson City.

It won’t happen again.  At least until next fall when I return to once again witness history as Ceres again ascends to the Top of the Capitol Dome.

I’ll try to remember to bring my own napkins.

Honestly, It’s Not For Everyone.

Nebraska State Line
Nebraska’s slogan when we visited in 2008.  It has been replaced (the slogan, Not Nebraska) twice since our 2008 visit.

The State of Nebraska recently made the news.  Nebraska Tourism officials paid a Colorado firm $450,000 to come up with a new State slogan.  They were discontented with their old slogan “VISIT NEBRASKA, VISIT NICE” after Nebraska came in dead last on a list of states tourists were interested in visiting.

They came up with . . . DRUM ROLL . . .

“Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

In these days when everything is over-hyped, I appreciate and admire honesty.

But my wife and I really enjoyed our visit to Nebraska, a great state to visit for people who love American history.

In 2008, my wife and I followed the Oregon Trail from Independence, Mo. to Oregon City, Oregon.  Night three found us in Hastings, Nebraska.  When we travel, I always try to negotiate to get the very best room rate possible when searching for a motel.  After the desk clerk in Hastings quoted me a price, I asked if that was the best she could do.

“Are you here for business or pleasure?” she asked.

“Pleasure” I responded.  “My wife and I are here on vacation.”

“SIR” the clerk responded without hesitation.  “NO ONE comes to Hastings for pleasure.”  I may have lied to an innkeeper a time or two in my life (nope, no pets) but this was not one of them.  She gave us the business rate anyway.

Though we traveled mainly off the beaten path, my wife and I enjoyed visiting the historic sites in southern and western Nebraska.  After leaving Missouri, Oregon Trail emigrants turned right at Gardner, Kansas and headed north to Nebraska.  In Nebraska, they turned left and followed the Platte River most of the way to Wyoming.  Along the way are some amazing historic sites, including (but not limited to) Fort Kearny, Chimney Rock, Ash Hollow, and Scott’s Bluff.   I had no idea western Nebraska was in the Mountain Time Zone before that trip.  (Possible new slogan: Nebraska – There is so much to see, it takes two time zones!)

Our first stop was in northeast Nebraska at Rock Creek Station, famous for being the site of James Butler “Bill” Hickok’s first gunfight.  On July 12, 1861, Rock Creek Station employee “Bill” Hickok took offense when local bully Dave McCanles proposed the nickname “Duck Bill” for Mr. Hickok.  That was a reference to Bill’s rather large nose and protruding lips.  Mr. McCanles also made ill-advised observations about Mr. Hickok’s “girlish build and feminine features.”  This peeved Mr. Hickok a great deal.  Mr. McCanles and two of his companions, James Woods and James Gordon, all died of wounds received in the ensuing gunfight.  There is no record of anyone else ever suggesting a derogatory nickname for Bill after that.

So, there’s that, Nebraska!

How about:

“Nebraska: We put the “Wild” in Wild Bill Hickok.”

Wild Bill Hickok
Wild Bill Hickok – What are you looking at, punk?

On July 21, 1865, Wild Bill had what is thought to be the nation’s first one-on-one quick draw gunfight.  It occurred on the public square in my home town of Springfield, Mo. after Wild Bill had a run of bad luck in poker. Though warned not to, Dave Tutt had the temerity to go out into the public square wearing a pocket watch he had won from Wild Bill in a poker game.  Mr. Tutt became an early resident of Springfield’s Maple Park cemetery as a result of his poor decision-making in that matter.

Seems Wild Bill never got over being a little touchy about being disrespected.

He could take a lesson from Nebraska.

He Never Met a Man He Didn’t Like

Will Rogers

On November 4, 1879, a man who would join Mark Twain to become one of the two people I most often quote was born in Indian territory near what is now Claremore, Oklahoma.  Not known as a dedicated student, William Penn Adair “Will” Rogers dad sent him to Kemper Military Academy in Boonville, Mo. as a teenager to help instill discipline in him.  Though he didn’t excel at Kemper either, he did go on to become Kemper’s most famous alum.  Will always downplayed his education and often claimed “all I know is what I read in the newspaper.”

A talented trick roper who appeared in wild west shows under the name “The Cherokee Kid”, Will soon learned that audiences enjoyed his off-the-cuff comments on current events as much as his roping.  One of Will’s favorite subjects was politics.  “I don’t make jokes” said Will.  “I just watch the government and report the facts.”  When Will had the opportunity to meet President Calvin Coolidge, nicknamed “Stoneface”, an associate bet Will he couldn’t make him laugh out loud.  The outcome wasn’t in doubt for long.  When Will was introduced to President Coolidge, he responded with “Pardon me?  I didn’t catch the name” causing even old stoneface to laugh out loud.

No matter how famous he became, Will clung to his Oklahoma heritage.  “I have been eating pretty regular and the reason I have is, I have stayed an old country boy.”

Will was a prolific writer.  In addition to his other accomplishments, Will wrote over 3000 newspaper columns.  Some of his favorite words when discussing current events were “cuckoo’, “baloney”, “hooey” and “applesauce”.  His philosophy on writing newspaper columns coincides with my philosophy on writing this blog: “When I write ‘em, I’m through with ‘em.  I’m not being paid reading wages.  You can always see too many things you wish you hadent said, and not enought that you ought.”  The spelling is Will’s.  Will once observed “When I first started out to write and misspelled a few words, people said I was plain ignorant. But when I got all the words wrong, they declared I was a humorist.”

Will Rogers & Wiley Post cropped
Will Rogers (L) & Wiley Post (R)

When I travel or I’m just out and about, I carry a small notebook to record details I might otherwise forget.  When Will traveled, he always carried a small portable typewriter.  Will died in a plane crash with one-eyed pilot Wiley Post on August 15, 1935 near Point Barrow, Alaska.  Though Will died in the crash, his typewriter survived.  The last word he ever typed was “death”.  It is rumored that the last words he ever spoke were “Wiley, I think you’ve got that patch over the wrong eye!”

Will once said, “When I die, my epitaph is going to read ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like’.  I am so proud of that I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”

You can visit Will’s grave, “I NEVER MET A MAN I DIDN’T LIKE” engraved on his tombstone, at the Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, Okla.  You can also visit the ranch where he was born not far from there at Oologah.  The typewriter that was recovered from the site where he and Wiley Post crashed is on display in the museum.

Happy 139th Birthday to Will Rogers, who once summed up his philosophy on humor as “Everything is funny as long as it’s happening to someone else.”

Will Rogers Museum
Will Rogers Museum in Claremore, OK