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Photos Speak


Photos speak to us…. especially the old photos that most of us have tucked away.

When I was researching source material for my book, The Horse Whisperers from Anaconda, I went through the many old photos I have from my family. While some date as far back as the Civil War, I focused on those that told the story of my mother’s family which migrated from Missouri to Montana. There were many to choose from but the one that stuck out the most in my mind was the above photo which pictured a simple morning’s hunting outing with a father and his two sons.

Simple? Some would say extraordinary when counting the number of rabbits that are displayed with the three men. But in our family, such a morning’s hunt would have indeed been just ordinary. These were people of pioneering stock who hunted not for pleasure but for the nourishment of their large extended family. The scene in the photo depicts a rabbit hunt on the Allen farm in Louisiana, Missouri in 1912. The Allen family had returned to their farm from their new home in Anaconda, Montana to attend a family funeral.

It was a cold morning that foretold a bit of the family’s future fortunes. Proudly displaying the morning hunt of 39 rabbits was a family bonding between men that would soon be shattered. After their return to Montana, the family would move to Fresno, California. James E. Allen, on the left, would enter the world of commercial art only to be caught-up in World War I as a pilot in Belgium. The father, William Allen, would lose his wife. Elmer Leroy Allen, on the right, would join his brother in war and fight in the Argonne Forest. Lives, livelihoods and family bonds would be altered forever…. but never broken! All three men would survive their misfortunes and go on to help put their brand on the American West.

For a moment in time, three men stood in the frozen morning as the pillars of the Allen family’s pioneering spirit. At the moment that the shutter clicked, all was well in the world.


For a full account of the Allen brothers and their family, read The Horse Whisperers from Anaconda.

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Cretino Oppure Maleducato?


Domenica scorsa Io andato colla moglie a Senale in Val di Non per una festa. Era proprio bella! Incontrato molti amici della zona e mi sembrava un giorno straordinario.

Dopo siamo entrati un negozio vicino la chiesa dove abbiamo comprato regali e vestiti fra i anni. Il proprietario arrivata con una faccia brutta. Ci ha chiesto, “Cercate qualcosa?” Io detto, “No, ma guardiamo…. grazie.”

Lui diventata subito cattivo e diceva, “Sempre venite in mio negozio… vattene in un altro negozio. Vi non mi piace!” Ho pensato, “Perché?” Ero imbarazzato e con niente di dire, uscito la porta con un “fan cullo” al’labbra.

Ma perché dopo 15 anni quel’uomo mi tratta cosi? Forse un cretino che non piace stranieri? Forse solo un maleducato? Non lo so ma sicuramente lui aveva un grande problema con i Americani. Volevo parlare con il sindaco di questo paese ma mi sembrava inutile. Niente di fare senza questo blog. Ma se diventiamo tutti noi come questo uomo di Senale, dove arriviamo?

Cretino oppure maleducato? Chi sa! Ma per me un altro ragione per non fare turismo in Italia. Mi sembra che ci sono tanti che odono Americani in questi giorni. Peccato. Ma forse sempre cambiato mondo per male. Alle fine, troveremmo un altro negozio ma anche troveremmo un altro paese più bene. Cretino oppure maleducato? Non lo so, ma con un comportamento cosi peggio, sicuramente lui chiusa la porta fra poco. Meno male!

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Ode To Hillary


(Normally I try to stay away from politics on this blog. However, the “devil” made me do it!)

Ode To Hillary

Oh Hillary, must we believe
You and Bill won’t decieve?
A thief, a liar, an arrogant ass:
Should we believe all this will pass?

Is it Hillary or Billary now?
The skinny finger or the old cow?
Is it the conspiracy of the right
That makes you bark instead of bite?

What happened to your imaginary stroke?
Will the press now ask or poke?
We doubt it because they never do.
They give a pass to Bill and you.

Enlighten us if you will,
Why should we vote again for Bill?
He’s transferred all his villany
Into the person of old Hillary.

Tell us again it doesn’t matter
That Benghazi’s blood will ever splatter.
Tell us again there is no reason
You should be charged with high treason.

A computer server in your home?
Never the truth, the same old tome.
There’s something fishy in your every move,
Like a record stuck in a groove.

White Water and your Midas touch
Really don’t reveal all that much,
Except that you are certainly a crook;
Your life of crime could fill a book.

What’s the deal, tell us Hill?
Or should we speak with sleezy Bill?
Hillary or Bill, which is newer?
They both crawled out of the sewer.

Vince Foster’s ghost tells it true:
There scammy one? It is you!

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Blackfoot Moccasins


For many years I have been in possession of a pair of moccasins that were given to my grandfather as a 5-year-old child in Anaconda, Montana. They were made by a nearby Blackfoot Indian tribe in 1899. The story is detailed in my book, The Horse Whisperers from Anaconda.

I have recently been researching the design on these moccasins and their meaning. I would also like to know their exact origin. The moccasins are ankle high, made of deer leather and crafted for a five-year old. There are what appear to be inter-joined flowers in blue, yellow and green used in the beaded design. The tongue is scalloped as is the overlap that hides the laces. The likely location of the tribe that made these is somewhere between Missoula and Butte, Montana. The most likely the location is Deer Lodge, Montana. Recently an expert in moccasins suggested that they may be of Cree or Blackfoot origin. I am hoping that the description and photo can help pinpoint their exact origin.

Is there anyone out there who can help?


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Custard’s Last Stand

Sweet dessert, caramel custard with syrup

I went to the market the other day for a little shopping. While I was there, I thought it would be nice to try some custard. I haven’t had it in a while. I guess it’s going to be a while longer; they don’t sell it anymore. At least it’s not the custard that I remember. It is now yuppie instant custard, a concoction that does not resemble its distant relative. Disappointed, I turned to see if the market carried polenta. No, apparently even in the ethnic section, polenta doesn’t exist either. Puzzled, I went home hungry.

It seems that I lot of the things I knew from years ago are no longer available in local supermarkets. Times have changed and so have tastes. The American diet now seems largely fat driven; I’ve noticed that 40 percent of local markets is now devoted to frozen foods, fast foods, or pre-prepared foods. I honestly wouldn’t know what the hell to do with pre-cooked bacon; it sounds about as appetizing as pre-frozen leftovers. Where have we all gone astray?

On a return visit to the market, I was elated to find that I could still buy a pear, an apple and a half-gallon of milk. The staples have survived, albeit modified greatly from the days of my childhood. The milk now comes in so many varieties that I get a bit confused. I settled on two percent chiefly because I’m not sure what the other varieties even mean. An apple is not just an apple any more either. There are more than 10 varieties hereabouts. Damn, I just wanted a red one.

I suppose I’m a bit old-fashioned (and not 400 pounds like so many of my brethren). I would still prefer to make my own pasta sauce from fresh ingredients. Prego means you’re welcome – I prefer to say no grazie to jarred pasta sauce. If I must eat bacon, I sure as hell want to see it in the flesh so to speak before I cook it. The pre-prepared salads don’t do too much for me either. I guess I’d rather cut my own tomatoes so at least I know what month they came from.

Custard’s last stand? Yep, I think it was lost in the Battle of the Little Bloat-Horn.

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A Novel Idea


If you’re like most Americans, you probably encounter some part of our failing infrastructure on a daily basis. You are likely to hit at least two potholes with your car on your way to work or to the market. You’ve probably also noticed that our bridges are literally crumbling. Let’s not forget our out-of-date utilities which include gas pipelines which seem to explode with increasing regularity. In fact, if you look around, you’re apt to see most of our public works in disrepair. What to do?

Years ago, we had a similar problem combined with huge unemployment. There was a thinky little fellow named Franklin Delano Roosevelt who came up with an idea. It was called the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and it got America back in shape in terms of infrastructure repair and employment. Out of the 10 million jobless men in the United States in 1935, 3 million were helped by WPA jobs alone. It’s an idea that might just justify repeating:

WHAT IF welfare recipients were required to earn their monies through such a program?

WHAT IF unemployed citizens could participate in this program voluntarily to gain employment?

WHAT IF our government saw this ready pool of labor as an opportunity and figured out that the cost of materials to rebuild roads, etc. is a lot less than welfare and unemployment?

WHAT IF we all got together and constructed a solution to our massive infrastructure problem?


If you think this might just be a good idea, write your congressman and let him or her know. Let me know as well.

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What Is Your First Memory?


What is your first memory? I mean your very first memory, the very first thing you can recall from your past.

Our minds are capable to remembering things from a long, long time ago. However, everyone’s memory seems to have different limitations on how far back they go. Some can remember things from their infancy and others only recall their lives beginning at various ages in childhood, often in grade school. Still others seem to block everything out before a certain point. Where do you fit in?

Personally, I can recall quite vividly stomping on cockroaches in Des Moines, Iowa when I was very, very young. How young? According to my mother, I was six months old and just learning how to walk. I recall the basement of the house where we lived. It had a grated drain in the middle of the room where an old washing machine was located. I remember that machine as well. It was one of those hand-cranked roller affairs that disappeared all together in the late 1950s. Around the grate, I would see cockroaches. Being a barbaric toddler, I would try to crush them with my little Buster Brown shoes.

My father claimed to have remembered his older sister changing his clothes on a granite table in Austria. In fact he remembered the incident vividly, including the surroundings in the room at the time. However, his sister died when my father was six months old. His memory too must have extended into the first few months of his life. It is interesting that his memory of such an early event stayed with him for over 88 years.

In checking with others, I have found that memories usually coalesce about the time of kindergarten. Some are fuzzy and some are crystal clear. Again, I remember spilling soap on a young girl’s dress when I was in the first grade. Her name was Sandy and I was reprimanded for being sloppy. On the other side of the memory scale, I have spoken to many childhood friends and they recall nothing that I remember from over 60 years ago.

Take a minute and think back as far as you can. What is your first memory? Let us know here on this forum.


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Villa Gustavo


At the border between the towns of Meran and Algund in the South Tirol, there is a house located at 66 Via Goethe Strasse. It was built between 1860 and 1880. It stands adjacent to an AGIP gas station and in front of the Tappeiner Hospital of Meran. It looks like many of the old period houses which occupy Meran and suggests better times. Indeed, years ago, those better times surrounded our family there in that house, the Villa Gustavo.

The property was once a well to do villa on the then outskirts of Meran. The many acres that now occupy the hospital were in fact a large vineyard in the years preceding World War I. My grandmother Anna Rizzi lived there for some years after the death of her husband in 1913. The house, or villa, was the property of Anna Rizzi (Flor) and her brother Valentino Flor between the years of 1913 and 1921 and was once a lively center for entertaining the large family. The house was originally purchased along with two others on Via Monastero near the center of town after Anna had returned from the United States with her husband in 1912. There in the far away coal mines of Wyoming, her husband Eugenio had mad a considerable amount of money.

My father, also Eugene Rizzi remembered having his clothes changed there as a baby by his older sister Rosalia on top of a slate or marble table. Rosalia died in 1913, shortly after her father and coincidentally in the same house in nearby Tret in the Non Valley. After years of trying to locate this table or perhaps a person with a distant memory of it, the effort was finally given up and the secret grudgingly given back to time.

When the first World War came to this part of what was then Austria, Anna’s brother Valentino suggested that Anna put all of her money into German war bonds. Because Valentino was a powerful attorney reporting directly to the Austrian government, Anna willingly put all of her considerable money into the German war bonds. After the war, obviously she lost all of her money. After a few years of struggling in Meran, Anna left her native Austria for good in 1921 as the South Tirol had become a part of Italy. She never returned and never looked back. The flush years in Meran were soon exchanged for tough times in the United States as her expatriation was soon followed by the Great Depression.

After 1918, Meran and all of the South Tirol became part of Italy. Overnight, the official language was changed from German to Italian and in places like Meran, an identity crisis and resentment of Italy grew.  On the left side of the Villa Gustavo there remains a portion of what Valentino Flor had painted on the outside wall after the fall of Austria to Italy in World War I. It has been covered many times by many coats of paint, but the blunt block letters remain, oblivious to time. They read:

L’Italia non farà piu una politica di rinuncia e di viltà.

Italy won’t do (any) more politics of renouncement and cowardice.

These simple words illustrate some of the complex feelings that left with the family as most exited their new country, Italy. Better had it been written, “Dieses Land und Leute sind immer unter Sudtirol und Gott!”

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The Pending EU Breakup


We will all be forced to deal with the eventual demise of the European Union. The so-called Brexit was just the beginning.

The UK was barely in the EU to start with. Their exit clearly demonstrates the will of the people and will pave the way for others to go, namely Italy, Spain, Croatia and Austria. Referendums are already being planned in several EU countries. Eventually, after riding awhile on flat tires, the EU will simply go down a dirt road never to return. The idea of the EU was a pipe dream to start with. Countries can not be successfully joined if they refuse to learn and respect each other’s language, culture and ways of doing business. A common currency does not make a union onto itself.

The post downturn economic problems in Europe as a whole, Merkel’s insistence on importing thousands of unskilled refugees into the EU and EU members’ distrust of Germany dictating policy has all but doomed the EU. The EU has never had popular support with the middle class and older citizens. Individual countries, while claiming to support the EU, have been suspicious of one another from the start. Basically no country wants to give up any of their sovereignty and be told what to do. The European Central Bank has rankled many of the EU’s citizenry and the matter of national borders has recently come under attack with the migrant crisis. Squabbling between the UK and France and between Austria and Italy are only the tips of huge icebergs.

Consider Italy. A pizza cost 10,000 Lira in the year 2000. After the introduction of the Euro, the same pizza cost 10 Euro. When you consider the initial conversion rate (roughly two to one), you are talking about a doubling of price. This has never bothered the politicos (they don’t buy their own pizza) but it has stuck in the back like a knife with most regular Italian citizens. The same examples can be found in every EU country. While most prices were propelled upward, earnings, pensions and the like were not. What has resulted is a disgruntled middle class that is being squeezed from all sides. The escape valve from such pressure? Exiting the EU and returning to a Europe comprised of sovereign countries and currencies.

Will the EU’s collapse affect the rest of us? Of course! The international consequences have not yet been articulated but will surely include everything from international cooperation on trade, defense and human rights. Like it or not, we are all aboard the Titanic as it goes down.


Numismatists should start collecting Euro coins. They will be in the same category as ancient coins very soon.

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Italy, Pick-Ups And Smart Phones


We bought a house in Etowah, North Carolina a few years ago after moving from Italy where we had lived for some years. Being new to the area, we timidly explored our new surroundings in our first few months in an attempt to learn about our new community. We visited our new local supermarket, Ingles, and talked with some of the locals. One young girl stood out as our newest of contacts. We explained that we had just moved to Etowah from Italy. With a totally amazed look on her face, she exclaimed, “You moved to Etowah from Italy? What’s the matter? People only move to Etowah to die!” Ouch! Had we made a wrong decision? The mortician probably thought not.

Some months later, we were busy buying furniture for our new home, We ventured down to South Carolina in an attempt to find a few new items. Specifically, we were looking for book cases. After locating acceptable book cases, we paid the cashier and she said, “If you’ll pull your pick-up around, we’ll help you load.” I explained that we didn’t have a pick-up truck but that I was sure the furniture would fit in out Subaru. Her eyes became wide and vacuous. “Your don’t have a pick-up?” The emphasis was on the word have. I sheepishly explained that no we did not in fact own a truck. “Sheesh!”: She just shook her head in disbelief and said, “Whatever!” We loaded the book cases into out Subaru and went merrily on our way back home to North Carolina. On the way back, I noticed that indeed almost every pick-up I saw had a South Carolina license plate. Hmm.

Years later, I was forced to have an operation to save my life. It seemed that my carotid artery was severely damaged and need to be replaced with an artificial graft. It was a harrowing experience, performed under a local anesthetic, in which the artery that supplies my brain was removed while I was conversing with the surgeon. (Yeah, a little scary.) When all was done, I returned to the surgeon’s office for a follow-up visit. He mentioned that he had a photo of my damaged artery which he had removed. Would I like the photo? Of course, I’m a curious guy, not given to being squeamish. He said he could text it to me. I replied, “We don’t have a smart hone…. could you email the photo?” An incredulous look overcame his face. Finally, he asked. “You don’t have a smart phone?” The look on the poor man’s face was priceless. I explained that we still lived in the Dark Ages and he agreed to email the photo.

Italy, pick-ups and smart phones: They fall together as if out of a can of pick up sticks but as they land they start to make a little sense.

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