I love a good meteor shower.  And I once stayed up with the kids to watch the Russian Mir fly over.  Pretty cool.  I missed Friday night’s sky show here, but it put me in mind of a story which circles around to broken potsherds.  Well, I guess all sherds are from broken pots, and Forrest has a slew of them in his backyard and at San Lazaro.

According to Alan Eckert in The Frontiersman, the night Tecumseh was born, March 9, 1768, a brilliant meteor flashed across the sky.   This shooting star was, according to the old tales, The Panther, a great spirit passing over seeking a home in the south and it was a good sign.  The Shawnee newborn was, therefore, named Tecumseh,  The-Panther-Passing-Across.

English: Possibly a painting of Tecumseh, the ...

English: Possibly a painting of Tecumseh, the Shawnee Indian who tried to unite all Native Americans to defend themselves from the growing Unites States of America. (Photo credit: Wikipedia 


Tecumseh’s brother was called the Prophet, but according to the author, Tecumseh himself foretold the coming New Madrid earthquake several years before the event.  In addition, another great meteor blazing across the sky  would be a sign for the tribes to begin the countdown to the earthquake, which was itself the sign for them to gather as one to defend their land against the Americans.

Tecumseh had given each tribe a slab of red cedar with symbols on it and a bundle of red sticks.   Each month they were to toss one stick away.  When there was one stick left, they were to watch for the sign.

Just before midnight on November 16, 1811, the flash of light came out of the southwest and crossed to the northeast.   The chiefs were to cut the last stick into thirty pieces when they saw the meteor.

At 2:30 am on December 16, 1811, the earth shook, from the south of Canada where the Great Lakes sloshed,  to the western plains where bison stampeded and earthen vessels shattered.  And those tribes that kept their pledge headed for Detroit.

An observer in Louisville recorded 1,874 separate quakes between December and March.  The diary of George Crist is compelling reading:

16 December 1811 —“It was still dark and you could not see nothng.  I thought the shaking and the loud roaring would never stop…..I don’t know how we lived through it….”

23 January  1811 —“What are we gonna do?  You cannot fight it cause you do not know how….We lost our Amandy Jane in this one…. A lot of people think the devil has come here…..”

8 February 1812  —  “If we do not get away from here the ground is going to eat us alive….”

20 March 1812  —  “We still have not found enough animals to pull the wagons and you can not find any to buy or trade.”

14 April 1813  —  “We lived to make it to Pigeon Roost…..From December to April no man…would dare to believe what we lived through.”

Another great eyewitness account was written in March 1816 and published in 1849:  Lorenzo Dow’s Journal.

Can you say, “Teremoto“?

But, back to the pottery.  I’ve been digging deep in the chapter of Too Far To Walk, the one where Charmay and Forrest are doing archaeology at San Lazaro.   Not to put too fine a point on it, I was going to email Forrest about another rabbit trail I was on.

Now, I’ve always been a bit cryptic about my ideas, even when emailing him.  Not that I didn’t trust him.   I do.    I just figured  some 12-year-old whiz kids could tap into people’s communications, if they so chose.  Have I been cryptic enough?   Too cryptic.  Hmmm.



You read all this way and it’s a dead end.  No clues for you.

No.  Really.  Sorry.

Fade to music:  Gordon Lightfoot singing “If You Could Read My Mind, Love, What A Tale My Thoughts Would Tell…..”

From Forrest Fenn’s Collection See more at Old Santa Fe Trading Co dot com

Or, Kermit, the Frog, singing “The Rainbow Connection”

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English: USGS map of Yellowstone Caldera showi...

English: USGS map of Yellowstone Caldera showing earthquake locations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first earthquake I experienced was the Yellowstone event in August of 1959.  Maybe I was 5.  All I remember really is seeing my mother upset in the middle of the night.  We had passed through Yellowstone that day and were in a motel room just west of there.  She thought a semi had rumbled off the road just outside but couldn’t see anything.

Morning Glory poolWe returned to Yellowstone when I was ten, camping in our brand new Nimrod tent trailer.  I do remember that trip, especially the bears banging the trash cans outside in the dark.  We climbed our first mountain, Mt. Washburn.  Gazed in marvel at

Morning Glory pool. I took some shaky black and white photos with a small square camera.

The Mountain That Fell

The Mountain That Fell

The devastation from the earthquake was apparent.  A highway disappeared into a lake.  A house/cabin sat half-submerged.  Giant boulders rested across the valley from the mountains where they rolled down from.  Huge.

Rolled down the mountain, across the valley and up the other side

Rolled down the mountain, across the valley and up the other side

In time, I made sure our kids saw the park, too.  Our youngest was ten. I just looked at the photos;  there’s a camera around her neck.    I used to hear them whine about being the only kids who’d never been to Disney World.  I pointed out that they had climbed a mountain, camped on an ocean beach, and seen every waterfall and cave that we’d ever been close to.  They got it.  I still don’t think they’ve been to Disney World.

My second earthquake (4 of the 6 have been in Illinois) was in the 70’s when I awoke in the night with my bed bouncing up and down.  No.  I didn’t do drugs.  {And now, #7.  Italy again.  Poolside.}

The third was in the 90’s.  I was sitting in the car during Intrepid’s dance lesson when the car started a slow up and down, very subtle bounce.  Sustained.  I looked at the railroad tracks:  empty.  Hmmm.  I listened to the news that evening.  A deep quake had occurred in South America but had been felt in skyscrapers as far away as Toronto.  I was excited so I called the US Geologic guys out in Colorado to report it.  I’m not sure if they made a note of it, but I thought they’d want to know.

The fourth was ten years ago north of Bologna, and the bed was flying sideways in the dark.  Giant headlines in the paper: TERREMOTO.  (I learned a couple other words that trip, including “andiamo”–what John Wayne yelled every time he jumped on his horse to go chase the bad guys–and “basta”–what the waiter kept asking.  I thought he was saying “more pasta?”    “No, no.  I’m stuffed.  No more.”   He just wanted to clear my plate.

The most recent two were in central Illinois.  Again, a bed shook, but first the windows rattled.  Then, later that morning, the aftershock.  I was in the upstairs of a barn.  It swayed.

New Madrid fault and earthquake-prone region c...

Interesting that the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-12 rang a bell in Philadelphia.  An eye witness said the land rolled so much that trees rocked horizontally.  The Mississippi was re-routed.  They say the fault is due to slip again.  Maybe overdue.  The VA  down that way took the top six stories off its Hospital and reinforced the lower twelve stories.  Just in case.

There is chatter about how the Yellowstone caldera is heating up/acting up/lifting up.  Last time she blew, there was ashfall all the way through Nebraska.  If my search for Forrest Fenn’s TheThrill of the Chase treasure takes me out that way, maybe I’ll tarry scant  if the earth moves.

English: "At Yellowstone and some other v...

English: “At Yellowstone and some other volcanoes, some scientists theorize that the earth’s crust fractures and cracks in a concentric or ring-fracture pattern. At some point these cracks reach the magma “reservoir,” release the pressure, and the volcano explodes. The huge amount of material released causes the volcano to collapse into a huge crater—a caldera.” From (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like Jimmy Buffet sang, “I don’t know where I’ma gonna go when the volcano blows.”