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Dog Days

Bertha Lindsay and Penny

Bertha Lindsay and Penny

With National Dog Day (Aug. 26) recently past, here are a few items in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives collections of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections that feature appearances by man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

Bertha Lindsay (1897-1990), an eldress of the Canterbury, New Hampshire Shaker colony and a friend of WKU Shaker scholar Julia Neal, had a silhouette made with her golden retriever, Penny.  Bertha played Frisbee with Penny until she (Bertha, that is) was well into her 80s.

Jiggs

Jiggs

While on vacation in 1945, WKU librarian Margie Helm received a long report (no doubt at her insistence) from her dogsitter in Bowling Green.  “Now Jiggs is fine,” she assured Margie.  Despite a bout with fleas, and once scampering to the door when he thought he heard Margie’s car horn, the little fox terrier was content with his temporary family, sharing their meals of corn bread, muffins, baloney and chicken, and displaying some jealousy when the household’s children got a greater share of attention.

In letters from Alaska, gold prospector Abram H. Bowman of Louisville took a more utilitarian view of his dogs.  “Anyone coming into this country should bring lots of dogs as you can always sell them for a good price,” he wrote his uncle in 1898.  “You have no idea what a tremendous load these little dogs can pull,” he added.  “But they are like lots of people.  When you want to hitch them up you better not have the harness in your hand or you will never catch them.”

And for WKU art professor Ivan Wilson, dogs were both helpmates and beloved members of the family.  Enduring a long hospitalization in 1927, he dreamed of roaming over the countryside with his colleague, English professor John Clagett, and their favorite hunting dog, “Boy.”  Wilson’s papers also include a eulogy for his Irish setter “Rufus the Red,” better known as “Poody.”  Warning: readers should have a hankie ready when they peruse this tender tribute.

Ivan Wilson, John Clagett, and "Boy"

Ivan Wilson, John Clagett, and “Boy”

Click on the links to access finding aids for these collections.  For more on dogs and other pets, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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Absquatulate!

Muster notice to Andrew Kellis, 1847 (SC 98)

Muster notice to Andrew Kellis, 1847 (SC 98)

In 1849, 26-year-old David Barclay Campbell and some other young Warren County, Kentucky men were out west trying to strike it rich in the gold fields of California.  David’s family and friends wrote from Bowling Green to update him on all the local gossip, but one of his pals (the torn letter has obliterated his name) was particularly chatty and irreverent.  He even found something to snicker about when recounting the city’s cholera outbreak of 1850, which “swept away several of our inhabitants to that last resting place in which there is no return.”

Writing jauntily of efforts to avoid the scourge, he declared that “Never in my life did I witness such confusion [as] a great many of our citizens vamosed or absquatulated to parts unknown.”  Unfortunately, the contagion occurred at the same time as a scheduled drill of the county militia, and David’s correspondent mirthfully described the outcome: “[A]s the military gentlemen armed and equipped as the law directs, would come riding in squads & sections and approach the main plaza or square of the city & hear of cholera, they would wheel to the right about face in double quick time, and homewards antelope without waiting [for] orders.”  And so, he concluded, “the glittering steels and toploftical plumages” of the citizen-soldiers “remained unsheathed,” and gone were the “conspicuous field officers parading up and down the streets on their high headed war nags.”  But no matter.  The gloomy summer plague soon passed, business and social life revived, and our correspondent resumed his youthful pursuits.

Letters to David Campbell during his sojourn in California are part of the Garvin Collection in the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives section of WKU’s Department of Library Special Collections.  Click here to access a finding aid.  For more collections, search TopSCHOLAR and KenCat.

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