Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas
from the Association of Temporal Anthropologists
(and me, Dr. Archibald Cocker, T.A. in training)

This is a copy of the last Christmas card I received from my mentor, Dr. Wendell Howe, before he disappeared. He was a Temporal Anthropologist studying the Victorian Age, associated with the University of Cambridge.

Maybe it is only a coincidence but the gentleman on the card has a bit of resemblance to Dr. Howe. Was he fantasying what it would be like to actually have a family in the past, instead of forever being a lone observer, never allowed a relationship of any kind in the Field?

Or perhaps Dr. Howe just liked the deer in the background. I know he was an animal lover.


I Nearly Get Caught by Sherlock Holmes

First published 23 April 2656
by Dr. Wendell Howe
Temporal Anthropologist with the University of Cambridge
Specializing in the Victorian Age

My last project for the University of Edinburgh was a dream come true. I got to meet Sherlock Holmes! Yes I know Holmes was a fictional character. I got to meet Holmes creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as his inspiration—Dr. Joseph Bell.

Dr. Joseph Bell
I have recently returned from 1877 where I attended and recorded the lectures of Dr. Joseph Bell. He not only lectures at the medical school there at the University of Edinburgh but also worked as a medical doctor at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. He published several medical textbooks and was the personal physician of Queen Victoria when she visited Scotland.

In that year, one of his students, a certain young Arthur Conan Doyle, served as his clerk a.k.a. assistant and gofer. I asked the lad where the library was so I could record his voice and face at eighteen. Doyle will later admit that Bell was his major influence in creating Holmes.

Arthur Conan Doyle - a few years later
Bell also acted as a sort of consulting detective to the Edinburgh Police. On several occasions Bell was called in by the police to investigate a crime scene or victim of a case which had baffled them. While I was there a constable approached him after a lecture and I believe I caught the word “murder.” Bell is considered one of the pioneers of forensic science. (I understand he was even called to try to solve the case of Jack the Ripper.)

Besides resembling Holmes in build and facial features, Bell has one other trait of the consulting detective. Bell believes that observation is a physician’s greatest tool. Patients are brought into the lecture hall, willing to put up with the embarrassment of being publically displayed to get medical treatment they can’t afford. Bell will look them over and then to prove how important observation is, he will tell the class the patient’s occupation and recent activity (something Holmes loved to do.) I had to cut my visit short when I discovered just how good Dr. Bell was at this!

I have been trained to fade into the woodwork, to be unnoticed. Truth is I think I was just born boring. People will often run into me, apologizing that they didn’t see me. And so I attended Joseph Bell’s lectures every day, standing in the back row, ignored by others. The lecture hall had no seats in those days, just rails to lean on. I believe it was a clever ploy to keep students from falling asleep.

On my eighth day of this project at the end of class, Dr. Bell approached me. He said he had noticed me there all last week. That in itself surprised me. He said I seemed a bit old for a student. He could tell though by my dress and mannerisms that I was a scholar and appeared to travel a lot. He also noticed I seemed to be studying him. He wanted to know why.

I mumbled something about I was studying his teaching style, but I don’t think he bought it. Dear Lord! If he had known there was such a thing as time travel and temporal anthropologists, I think the dear fellow would have guessed my occupation! This made me nervous. If I continued this assignment, coming in everyday, how much would he construe about me? I decided aborting the project was the safest option.

I felt bad that I had only recorded a week and a day of lectures from one of the University of Edinburgh’s most famous teachers. The University however was ecstatic. Not only did I record Bell in action, I had caught him on vid nearly deducing my own profession! They couldn’t have been happier.

As for myself, once I got over the shock and worry of it all, I have to admit upon rewatching the vid that it is rather thrilling to be nearly “caught” by “Sherlock Holmes” himself.

Sherlock Holmes by Sidney Paget


The Man Who Taught a Nation to Read

First published 12 November 2641
by Dr. Johnny Blue Jacket
Temporal Anthropologist with the University of Oklahoma
Specializing in the Native Peoples of southeastern United States

Oh-seh-oh! One of the greatest honors and joys of being a temporal anthropologist is being able to meet one of your childhood heroes. Every Cherokee has heard the name Sequoyah, whose fame in his own lifetime reached beyond the United States. Sequoyah was not named for the giant redwoods--they were named for him. Sequoyah is the only man in recorded history to devise a working alphabet for an non-literate culture, when he himself could not read or write any language.

Sequoyah with his alphabet
Sequoyah’s early life is surrounded by so much speculation that even he isn’t sure of the details. He was born in Tennessee around 1770 to a Cherokee woman named Wuteh. His father was named either Gist or Guess and we are not sure if he was Cherokee, English, German, or Scots. His father either left or died before Sequoyah was born, so he never knew his father. His mother never remarried and raised her only child while running a general store and small farm.

Sequoyah became lame at a young age and found hunting and farming too difficult. Instead he learned silversmithing and became so good, people traveled from miles away to buy his wares. Some of his customers were whites. From them he learned of a strange thing called “writing.” Since Cherokee did not have a word for writing, Sequoyah called them “talking leaves.” Unfortunately the English alphabet could not be used for Cherokee which was too different. The only way for a Cherokee to learn reading and writing was to learn English first.

Sequoyah saw no reason that the Cherokees could not have their own “talking leaves.” His friends and family told him he was crazy or he was meddling with witchcraft. Many thought the whites writing was a form of sorcery. Undaunted Sequoyah sat down and started creating a symbol for each word. After a year of sitting around doodling on bark and neglecting his crops and business, his frustrated wife tossed all his work in the fire and told him to quit this black magic nonsense. Sequoyah took his young daughter Ayokeh by the hand and left.

Instead of giving up, Sequoyah realized he had been on the wrong track anyway. A symbol for every word would be too difficult to learn. He listened to people and soon came to realize there were only 86 syllables in the Cherokee language so he only needed 86 symbols. He used the English alphabet for inspiration, stealing some of the letters, modifying others to be more attractive. Cherokee letters had no relationship to the English letters, having whatever sound Sequoyah attached them to.

No one wanted to learn this sorcery, so Sequoyah taught it to his six-year-old girl, Ayokeh. He went to the Cherokee Tribal Council to announce his new system of writing. They doubted him so he had Ayokeh leave the room so she couldn’t hear. The council dictated some words to Sequoyah who wrote them down in his new alphabet. Then they had his daughter come back. When she read exactly what they had dictated, they knew that Sequoyah was not crazy. In 1825 the Cherokee Nation officially adopted his system of writing.

The Cherokee alphabet with the syllable sound beside it
Now convinced the alphabet was neither black magic or a joke, people came to Sequoyah offering to pay him to teach them to read and write, too. Sequoyah refused to take their money. He meant the alphabet to be available to all and some Cherokees were to poor to pay, and too proud to accept charity if he taught them for free. So he taught everyone free. Even a slow student could learn the alphabet in a few weeks. Since every word was spelt the way it sounded, once you learned the alphabet, you could read and write.

The system was so simple that once learned the student could become a teacher to his own friends and family. Within a few years nearly all Cherokees could read and write. Their literacy rate became far higher than their white neighbors.

The Cherokees were clamoring for something to read. The special printing press was built to print with the new letters. A newspaper called The Phoenix was started. It was printed in both Cherokee and English to show the white this was not just gibberish. Subscriptions were sent as far away as Europe, as linguistic experts marveled at Sequoyah’s genius. The Bible has been printed in Cherokee. Someone even wrote a novel. Adventurous Cherokees will travel far away just so they can write letters back home.

I met Sequoyah sitting in front of his cabin in Indian Territory in 1831. He was smoking a clay pipe and wore a turban-like scarf that is fashionable among the Cherokees now. Sequoyah was a quiet, humble man. However he is justifiably proud of his accomplishment. The Cherokees Council back east had awarded him a silver medal for his gift to his people. He was wearing it when I found him. I’m told he never takes it off.

The forced removal of the Cherokees from their homelands is still six years away. Sequoya, as well as many other Cherokees, realized they were doomed and traveled east to what would become Arkansas and Oklahoma as early as 1817. Sequoya moved to Arkansaw Territory in 1825 and then to Indian Territory two years ago.

I asked Sequoyah about his alphabet. He said he is currently working on one that all the tribes can use. He has traveled as far as Arizona speaking with various native nations. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the various languages were all too different for his alphabet to work for everyone. I think he was already discovering that. However he will inspire others to create their own systems of writing to preserve their languages.

Sequoyah told me he feared the government would force his people back east to come out west. He said the removal of the Choctaws from Mississippi has already begun. John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokees, has been using his law degree to fight it, but Sequoyah said he feared the worse. The whites want the fertile farmlands of the Five Civilized Tribes, so called because they are peaceful farmers. He didn’t think it was fair, but what can one do?

The Trail of Tears
the forced removal of the Cherokees where thousands died
Sequoyah spoke of his dream to reunite the Cherokee people. They are now scattered in the old territory in Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas as well as Alabama, Arkansaw Territory and Indian Territory. He had hear rumors that some even migrated to Mexico to get away from the U.S. Government.

In the next decade an elderly Sequoyah will pursue that dream with a expedition into Mexico to find the lost Cherokees. He will die in the pursuit and be buried by the party in an unmarked grave. Several have been found reporting to be the site. I secretly did a DNA scan of Sequoyah to see if we can solve that mystery.

I thanked Sequoyah for teaching our people how to read and write. I told him he was a great honor to meet him. He just nodded and said he was glad to meet me, too.


The Middle Ages’ Renaissance Woman

First published October 2, 2651
by Dr. Matilda Warwick, University of Melbourne
Temporal Anthropologist studying the Middle Ages

Most of the great female artists and scholars of the Middle Ages found their way into the convents where they became anonymous and forgotten. One name that survived into the modern world was not only one of the great women of that time, but one who can stand toe to toe with any great man of any period--St. Hildegard of Bingen.

Hildegard with her secretary Volmar
Hildegard was a brilliant composer, writer, philosopher, mystic, healer, public speaker and social reformer. Her written work include not only theology but hagiography (saints; biographies), natural history, medicine, cosmology and poetry as well as music. She even invented her own language with a corresponding alphabet. (One wonders if this did not inspire a certain medieval literature scholar named J.R.R. Tolkien to invent “Elvish.”)

Hildegard's alphabet for her invented language
One must remember women of the time were denied any real formal education. Her teacher was Countess Jutta von Sponheim, an anchoress (hermit) who had walled herself into a hut next to the monastery on Disibodenberg. Jutta then proceeded to whip, starve and torment herself for God. It was decided the 14-year-old needed a companion to distract her from this self-mutilation, so they gave her the 8-year-old Hildegard. Jutta taught her to read and write and play the ten string psaltery. When Jutta had taught Hildegard all she knew, Volmar the monk, taught her Latin. Other nobility heard reports of how brilliant Hildegard was. They decided Jutta must be a remarkable teacher and sent their daughters to be taught by her, too. The girls grew up to become Jutta’s nuns. When Jutta passed away, the other nuns unanimously elected Hildegard as their new abbess.

Although the one room hut had been expanded, the twenty ladies soon found the place too crowded. There was no more room on monastery property for a larger convent. After much cajoling and going over his head, Hildegard finally got Abbot Kuno’s permission to move. And when I say she went over his head, I mean she went to the Top. She fell sick with paralysis, insisting God sent this as a punishment for her not moving the convent as he had commanded. Kuno dare not argue with God.

Hildegard's vision of God and the Angels
(God is the white light in the middle)
I visited Hildegard in the year 1152 at her new convent at Rupertsberg. Abbess Hildegard moved here with her nuns just two years ago. Hildegard has overseen the building of the convent after convincing Dean Hermann of Mainz and Count Bernhard of Hildesheim to donate the land along with money for the construction.

The convent church has been finished and Archbishop Henry of Mainz came here to consecrate it. For the ceremony Hildegard has composed the Ordo Virtutum (Order of the Virtues), a piece containing 82 songs. The plot is the struggle between the virtues and the devil for a human soul. All parts are sung, except the devil’s. Hildegard explained the devil is incapable of harmony and must grunt or yell his replies. The contrast is brilliant and makes the devil seem even more repulsive. The Ordo Virtutum is the earliest known morality play and the only medieval musical drama to survive intact. In fact Hildegard has one of the largest repertoires of all medieval composers.

The Ordo Virtutum is based on a collection of songs at the end of her first great work, the Scivia (Know the Ways.) The Scivia was finished just last year and has already received accolades from Pope Eugene III himself. This ten year project is based upon the visions Hildegard has received since the age of three. Helping her was her secretary and former tutor, Volmar. He is also the one that talked her into writing her visions down. Volmar also played the part of the devil into the play. A great editor, but a terrible singer, Volmar knows his strengths.

Hildegard having a vision
(and a migraine headache)
The Scivia is also decorated with illuminations of Hildegard’s mystic visions. While she did not create the drawings, she did supervise them. These visions are often accompanied by bright lights, severe pain and even paralysis. From her descriptions, modern physicians recognize it as severe migraine headaches! What most would consider a debilitating illness, Hildegard has turned into divine inspiration.

This is just Hildegard’s first book. She will also write hundreds of letters to religious leaders and rulers, many of which will be carefully preserved. She will even write a letter to Henry II of England and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Her advise is already being sought out by both the high and the lowly. In an age when women are considered inferior to men, they listen to Hildegard. Indeed they will come for miles to hear her preach when she begins giving public speaking tours in eight years time. Hildegard insists that being just a stupid woman, her insights can only come from God, a clever argument no medieval man can dispute. So when she later calls for social reform against church corruption, they will be afraid to condemn this prophet of God. One wonders what a gifted brain like that could have achieved in another age with a better education.

another of Hildegard's visions
(That is her in the bottom left corner)
Perhaps the strangest thing about St. Hildegard is that while she was declared a saint after death, she had not been officially made one. It was just that everyone assumed she had been canonized. It wasn’t until centuries later that someone actually checked the records. She had been beatified but somehow got lost in medieval paperwork and had never been officially made a saint. Not that that stopped everyone from calling her Saint Hildegard. Pope Benedict XVI rectified the problem in 2012 by not only having his fellow German canonized but declaring her a Doctor of the Church, a title only given to saints of particular importance for their contribution to theology or doctrine. No one could argue with his including such a brilliant mind in this exclusive club. I am sure if one could bring those Doctors of the Church together with a time machine, they would all sit in awe of Hildegard of Bingen.

Hildegard’s “musical” Ordo Virtutum 

Revd. Prof. June Boyce-Tillman lets Hildegard “tell” her own story

Hildegard's music updated with a few instruments she wished she had


The Woman Who Laid the Foundation of Seattle

Originally published December 11, 2657
By Dr. Tobias Leach
Temporal Anthropologist with the University of Oxford

Some years ago I, Dr. Tobias Leach, narrowed my focus of study to the forgotten world of the Ladies of the Evening of the Victorian World. This subject has propelled my books to the top ten list, making me the best selling Temporal Anthropologist in history, even outselling my great uncle, Sir Albert Leach. Other jealous Temporal Anthropologists call my work porn, but I think history should remember those memorable forgotten ladies.

The Victorians had a split personality when it came to vice. They would start great campaigns to abolish it, and then pretend it wasn’t there. The biggest problem was job opportunities were limited for women, and prostitution was the only one that really seemed to pay. It’s not as cushy a life as it might sound, but desperate women were willing to give it a go. For all it’s dangers it was far safer than working in most factories of the time.

Out of this army of street walkers would occasionally arise a woman of such talent and intelligence that she would become a force to be reckoned with. One of those was Madame Lou Graham of Seattle.

Lou Graham
Lou Graham was born in Germany as Dorothea Georgine Emile Ohben. (I’m not sure where she got “Lou Graham.”) She was short and plump and no great beauty, but she did have an air of confidence about her that made her very alluring. When she arrived in Seattle in 1888 she found a town in ruins. You see four years before the Washington Territory had given women the vote. They promptly cleaned up the place, outlawing liquor, gambling and prostitution. The city fathers were not just upset for personal reasons, the fines and licenses from these vices were the city’s main source of income! The city budget dried up. They had no choice but to revoke the vote for women and try to repair the damage.

Lou Graham approached the leading businessmen with a decent proposal. What Seattle needed was a brothel, but not just any brothel. This would be a first class establishment with fine furnishings and beautiful intelligent women who could discuss the news of the day. The men could gather here for drinks to discuss business and if they wished for a more active entertainment, the ladies had rooms upstairs. And of course all government representatives would get free drinks.

The men loved the idea. They loaned Graham the money which she quickly paid back. When her establishment burned down in the Great Fire of 1889, she built an even grander place in stone. Graham was making money in more than just her business. She was investing in stocks and becoming one of the richest people in Seattle.

Graham's 2nd Brothel
(later it housed the Mission)
The local banker, Jim Furth, who had been one of the gentlemen to help Graham get started, sent business her way. No, not customers for her ladies. Occasionally an entrepreneur would come to him with a great idea that the rest of the Board of Directors would reject. He would send them to Graham. She would make them the loan they needed at a little bit higher interest thus making her and her loan clients richer. She repaid Furth later during the Panic of 1893 when there was a. bank run. Everyone was pulling their money out of Furth’s bank, so Graham made a huge deposit thus keeping him afloat. She also made loans to others facing bankruptcy during this crisis and saved their businesses.

Graham was a generous woman, giving to local fund raisers. Here pet charity was establishing local schools. When she died in 1903 at the young age of 42, she left her entire fortune to the King County School District. Can you believe not one school was named in her honor?

It was great privilege to meet Lou Graham. She was indeed a most charming and fascinating women--and very talented in her profession. However I think her real talent is business and investing, the fruits of which she so big-heartedly shared with her city, helping this fledgling community thrive. One can truly say that Madame Lou Graham made Seattle--in more ways than one.


The Man Who Broke the Sound Barrier

Originally published April 10, 2635
by Dr. Susan Marras
Temporal Anthropologist with the University of Chicago

I am Dr. Susan Marras from the University of Chicago and I have spent the last ten years studying the early twentieth century, the 1910s and 1920s primarily. This was a time of great technological and social change.

One of the technologies that fascinates me the most is motion pictures. Many don’t know it is in fact a Victorian invention. Dr. Wendell Howe, one of our temporal anthropologists who specializes in the Victorian Age, has brought back examples of these earliest films. These were usually less than a minute of grainy picture, and were little more than sideshow entertainment. Photography itself was only decades old, and now they had photos that could move! However, most expected the novelty to wear off, but others saw a future in moving pictures as a major source of entertainment.

Georges Méliès conducting himself in One Man Band (1900)
Thomas Edison was not happy with his very short films and went back to the drawing board. His company released The Great Train Robbery in 1903, a twelve minute movie that tells a story of bandits in the Old West. Meanwhile in France the magician Georges Méliès was inventing the art of special effects using not only stage tricks but film editing to create cinema magic.

Film studios and movie theaters began to spring up around the world. By the 1910s motion pictures were becoming a million dollar industry. There was one huge obstacle though--no sound. To counter act this upright pianos were used to improvise a “sound track.” In time pianos were replaced with booming Wurlitzer organs. Movie studios eventually composed musical scores to be played with their films. Some even experimented with putting sound on a phonograph record to be played with the film, but that was difficult to synchronize.

Lee DeForest
All the history books will tell you that the “sound barrier” was finally broken in 1929 with the first sound movie The Jazz Singer. Not true! Ten years earlier Lee DeForest filed his first patent for sound on film, the DeForest Phonofilm. By 1922 he had worked out all the kinks. Now the silent films had become “talkies.”

You would think the Hollywood movie studios would be beating down his door. They didn’t seem the least bit interested. In 1923 DeForest created 18 short films featuring famous vaudeville acts of the day to demonstrate his invention to the press. Again Hollywood snubbed him, saying they didn’t do vaudeville acts but filmed stories with plots. Why would their audience pay to see vaudeville acts when they could just go to a vaudeville theater? The Phonofilm Company went bankrupt in 1926.

Here is one of those films made by DeForest featuring Eddie Cantor. Ironically Cantor became one of the biggest movie stars of the 1930s performing in musicals where he sang all those vaudeville songs he had made famous. (My favorite is “If You Knew Susie” for obvious reasons.) Hollywood was wrong. Movie audiences would pay big bucks to see Vaudeville acts on the movie screen.

As for DeForest, his most famous invention the Audion, a vacuum tube that ampliphies relatively weak electrical signals, made the first ship to shore radio broadcast possible. This also created the birth of public radio broadcasting and later made television possible. Although DeForest has been called the “Father of Radio and Grandfather of Television,” as well as “Father of the Talkies,” he was largely ignored in his lifetime and is forgotten by history books. He died in 1961 with $1,200 in the bank.

Considering the impact movies, radio and television had on the culture of the twentieth century, we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Lee DeForest.


High Stakes Poker on the Mississippi

9 May 2663
by Dr. Isaac Franklin
Temporal Anthropologist with the University of New Orleans

This is an original, never before published article by the last temporal anthropologist to work with Dr. Wendell Howe in the Field.

2660 to ‘62 were a horrible years for all Temporal Anthropologists. Losing one of our own is always hard, but losing nine in a couple of years--that was down-right horrific. What made it even harder for me was I lost two “brothers” and good friends in that time.

Dr. Henry Darrell was my mentor. He was the one who went with me on my first time trips into the past. He came from a long line of cowboys, so he had decided to study 19th century America. I remember him in that Stetson hat of his. I think he slept in it. He was always eager to help me if I had a problem. You couldn’t ask for a better mentor.

Dr. Wendell Howe studied the Victorian world. He posed as a gentleman scholar of independent, if modest, means. He had an easier time portraying someone higher on that social scale, rather than down. Wendell came off as rather stuffy, even snobbish, but in truth he was kind-hearted and patient, and had a dry sense of humor.

It’s Dr. Howe I want to talk about. I could never tell this story without getting him in trouble, but now that he’s gone, I feel I have to tell you all. This is the real Wendell Howe no one knew.

Maybe I should tell you who I am first. My name Dr. Isaac Franklin. I’m a Temporal Anthropologist with the University of New Orleans. My family has been musicians for longer than anyone can remember. Is it any wonder I am fascinated by the roots of jazz, blues and rock? The fact that much of that history is missing makes it all the more mysterious and alluring.

It’s why I became a Temporal Anthropologist. I knew it would be dangerous, but I had no idea how dangerous. I mean I had read about the racial prejudice of the 19th and 20th centuries, but it’s hard to comprehend when you were raised in the 27th. The “color” lines were very distinct back then for people actually believed there was more than one biological race among humans! My complexion is dark enough that I am accepted by musicians of African descent, but it makes me an outcast in the dominant “white” society of the time.

That really hit home when I decided to go to Missouri in 1859 to record the work songs along the docks on the Mississippi. The work songs and the spirituals of the slaves were the roots of the blues. Even though I was posing as a freeman rather than a slave, that offered me no safety. One night, a couple of ruffians kidnapped me and took me “down river” and sold me to a plantation!

I kept protesting I was a freeman and they had no right, but I was beaten for complaining. I realized my only recourse was to play along. I knew when my time machine returned to the Institute of Time Travel without me in it, the Enforcers would come looking for me and rescue me--if I could just stay alive.

While I waited I took the opportunity to study the songs the slaves sang. Since I had lost my recording equipment, I had to memorize them. It might be genetic, since I do have musician’s blood, but I have always had an ear for picking up tunes and memorizing words.

The days went by slowly. I had suffered some injuries and was sicker than a dog. I needed medical attention, or I wasn’t going to last much longer. The overseer were indifferent to my suffering. The other slaves tried to help me, but they were untrained and had no medical supplies.

Just when I began to fear the worse, the Institute of Time Travel Enforcers came to my rescue, but not in the manner I had expected. Rather than a covert midnight breakout, they wanted to try something less apt to effect history. They had enlisted Dr. Henry Darrel to pose as a bounty hunter and Dr. Wendell Howe as a slave owner. He could pull off the rich plantation owner better than Henry could have. Their story was Henry had traced me to this plantation and Wendell wanted to buy me back. He told my enslavers I was a birthday present from his "mum" and had sentimental value.

My “master” was all too happy to sell a sick slave at top price. I was rescued without a hitch. They took me back to the 27th century and a decent modern hospital. My family is pretty tight, so needless to say they were there by my bedside. I had heard horror stories of how some families reject family members who become Temporal Anthropologists. We just get changed too much, so we can fit into the period we study. I might have been turned into a “primitive” 19th century man, but my family still loved me. After all I was still a musician and kinfolk.

When Henry and Wendell showed up to check on me, my family immediately adopted them for saving their own. I used to tease them after that, calling them both “bro.” Henry would call me “bro” back, but Wendell never did. Instead he called me “little brother” in that formal tone of his. I’m sure this was in reference to my age, and not to the fact that I was a couple inches shorter than him.

After that the Institute refused to let me go to America until after the Civil War. That was a real blow to my project. Finally we reached a compromise. I could go if I took another Temporal Anthropologist to pose as my master, thus offering me some protection from kidnappers. I wasn’t real happy about being babysat, but saw no other choice.

I went back with Henry. The cowboy could hardly pose as a rich plantation owner, so posed as a farmer with a slave farmhand. Problem was Henry was looked down upon as “white trash” so our mobility in society was limited.

I traveled back with Dr. Tobias Leach, whose persona is a Victorian English gentleman of leisure. Tobias is studying brothels, which allowed me access to recording early “honky-tonk” music played by forgotten black musicians. However I think he enjoyed having a slave a little too much. He’s not well liked by the other Temporal Anthropologists, and he knows it. He commented it was nice having a Temporal Anthropologist wait on him, and it was a pity I wasn’t an English butler. At first I thought he was insulting me, but I think he was just wishing it was Dr. Wendell Howe that was waiting on him. I’ve no idea why he dislikes Wendell.

The best man for the job was Wendell. He could come off as a higher class than Henry and he was easier to live with than Leach. Wendell however was hesitant. He said he didn’t like having servants. I pleaded with him that it was him or Dr. Leach. Wendell reluctantly agreed if only to save me from having to be any more humiliated than need be.

Wendell would pose as the youngest son of an Earl who came to America to try his hand at cotton farming for his brother’s English cotton mills. I was to be his slave valet. On this trip we traveled by riverboat down the Mississippi so I could record the songs of the dock workers. Wendell said the University of Liverpool was also interested, since it is believed these work songs had an impact on sea shanties. There were a lot of “negro” sailors in those days.

The incident I’m thinking about happened only a few days into our trip. Our riverboat stopped at a small town to load cotton from the local plantations. Wendell leaned on the railing, watching the slaves carrying the sacks of cotton. He had that usual poker face of his, but his eyes looked sad.

A steward walked by yelling out. “Port call. Please disembark. We will be spending the night here.”

There was still plenty of light, but we both knew why they stopped here. Next port was probably too far away to reach before dark. The Mississippi River meanders, literally, its bed shifting and sandbars forming quickly. Navigating it was tricky enough during the day. Only a fool captain would take a steamboat out after dark.

“Let’s go, Isaac,” Wendell told me.

I picked up his tea chest and my flour sack that served as my luggage in one hand. I picked up his carpetbag with my free hand. “Yes, massa.”

Wendell looked at me and winced. He knew this act was necessary in public, but I knew he didn’t like it. “I have you loaded down like a pack mule,” he whispered. “Let me at least take the tea chest. I’ll say it’s too valuable and I don’t trust you not to drop it if anyone says anything.”

“That ain’t necessary, but all right, if it will make you feel better.”

“It would.”

I let Wendell take it, just like I let him wait on me at night when we were alone. I’m sure I was the only “slave” that ever had his own English “butler.”

We disembarked like everyone else and got a hotel room where we dropped off our luggage. The town wasn’t much more then a couple of hotels and a few eating establishments. It was obvious this place would be gone tomorrow if the wharf moved up river.

We came out of the hotel and Wendell looked around. “Are you hungry, Isaac.”

“No, I’m fine,” I said.

“It’s a pity we can’t eat together. They make you eat in the kitchen while I sit at a table.”

“The kitchen help are all ‘black,’ bro. I probably eat better than you do.”

Wendell fought back a smile. “I could hardly blame them if they spit in my plate.”

“Nah, I tell them you’re a decent master.”

“If I was decent I wouldn’t be a slave owner, now would?” Wendell raised his eyebrow. “Would you like to go down to the wharf and record some songs?”

We went down to where a couple of riverboats were docked. The plantations’ wagons were bringing in sacks of cotton.

“I thought they were suppose to be in bails?” Wendell asked.

“Probably take them down to New Orleans to be ginned and then bailed. From there they ship them elsewhere.”

“I wonder if this load will wind up in some mill in England?” Wendell said. “Brits abolished slavery and yet we are still prospering from slave labor.” Wendell looked down at his shirt. “This shirt was made in England, but it probably started on a slave plantation. How can we turn a blind eye?”

“Why are you saying we? This is another time. The Britain you were born in ain’t around yet.”

“These Britons are my ancestors. Their blood runs through my veins.”

I was hoping to record some work songs, but no one was singing. So much for the romantic illusions. All you could hear was overseers yelling and cussing.

Suddenly, there was a crack of a whip behind us. I knew the whip wasn’t for me, but it made me feel sick. I had the doctors back home leave the whip scars on my back from the time I was kidnapped, using my own body as a historic record of this sick practice.

Wendell turned around like it took a lot of effort and pulled out his glasses. I knew he had his camera in them. He just stood, his face stony.

“Why you want to watch that?” I whispered.

“For their children’s children.” He whispered back. “The folks back home need to see this. We have to show the good and the bad. If anyone ever decides to enslave another people we stumble upon, I want them to see this and know it is evil.”

I noticed Wendell said “another people” instead of “aliens from another planet,” but I know that’s what he meant. Temporal Anthropologists have to be careful what we say, least we be overheard.

Luckily, the overseer was only cracking the whip as a threat. However, by the reaction from the slaves, he was not all bluff. I wondered if any of those weary, hopeless men were my ancestors. I wanted to go over a take away the whip and beat the overseer with it. Of course, I couldn’t. That was against the rules of the Institute of Time Travel.

Then the overseer looked straight at me. “What you looking at, bo-wah?”

Wendell stepped in front of me. “Isaac is my man-servant. He is attending to me.” Wendell gave the overseer that imperious look he used on low-class ruffians. The 19th century was still a class society, even in America.

The overseer looked to be on the bottom rung of white society. He took out his frustrations on those a notch beneath him. Shoot, my servants clothes were much nicer than his tattered and faded outfit.

Wendell stared the man down. The humble Englishman could make himself look as haughty as a Duke when needed.

The overseer took off his beat-up hat and clutched it to his chest. “Begging your pardon, sir. I can see you are a gentleman of high standing. Can I do anything for you, sir?”

“No, thank you.” Wendell said curtly, then turned on his heels. “Come along, Isaac.”

I followed after Wendell. He deflated down to his normal humble self, but seemed deep in thought. He walked along on auto-pilot, then stopped and looked about. “I say, we seem to have run out of town.”

“Not much town here. Blink and you miss it.”

Wendell gazed down the dirt road lined with oak trees draped with Spanish moss. “Shall we go for a stroll?”

“Yes, massa.”

He frowned at me. “Go somewhere where you can drop the act,” he whispered.

We walked down the road a piece, getting away from the people. When we were alone I grinned at Wendell. “Whoa, bro, you sure had that cracker fawning you.”

“Yes, I don’t like doing that except to bullies. If you act haughty enough they think you’re rich and powerful in this day and age.”

“Acting haughty would get me killed, most likely.”

“Yes, you have to have the right skin tone and accent for it to work.” He gave me a sad look.

“I wanted to thank you, Wendell. I appreciate you coming with me. I know you aren’t enjoying this.”

“No, I don’t enjoy playing master. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would. I understand the plantation owners sleep with pistols under their pillows, living in fear of their slaves, who have every reason to see them dead. The slave owners are slaves, too--slaves to their own greed. They don’t have to live like that. Those very people that hate them, would love them if they did the right thing.”

It was hard watching your ancestors being abused, but it must be even harder watching your ancestors as the abusers. “I’m sorry I dragged you here.”

Wendell looked over at me, and gave me a crooked smile. “And leave you to the wolves, little brother? Like I said, we have to record the bad, too. I’ve seen child labor, exploited workers, filthy slums, beaten women, abused animals. I have to keep telling myself that we will grow up and this will all be a bad dream. Fortunately, this is the age when people are starting to wake-up and try to do something about the suffering and injustice. I just wish I could be a part of it.”

“We can’t get involved, but you know that. We could change history, probably for the worse.”

“Yes, we can only watch.”

A wagon rolled by, kicking up the dust. I closed my eyes and covered my mouth and nose with my sleeve. Wendell, ever the gentleman, produced a white handkerchief with an “H” embroidered on it, to cover his.

“I say, let us get off the road.” He pointed at a path into the woods.

We followed the track. Soon we found ourselves surrounded by marshy pools. The place wasn’t a full blown swamp, but it would have taken way too much work to turn this into any proper sort of farmland. Being this close to the river, it probably got flooded a lot.

We at last came to a little shack about ten foot square. It was obviously abandoned, too dilapidated for anyone to live in. Probably built by a naïve homesteader who quickly realized his mistake.

Always curious, Wendell opened the door hanging on one hinge and peered in. He immediately closed it like he had seen a ghost.

“What’s in there?”

“Nothing. Just a dead opossum. Quite grizzly.”

I heard the sound of distant dogs baying.

Wendell spun around and yelped. He sat down and grabbed his ankle.

“What’s wrong?”

“I appear to have twisted my ankle.” He rubbed it.

The sound of hounds got louder. “Listen.” I cupped my ear. “That sounds like hunting dogs. I wonder what they are hunting?”

“Haven‘t the foggiest.”

“I think the hounds are getting closer,” I suggested. “Maybe we should head back. We don’t want to get shot accidentally by hunters who have had too much moonshine.”

“No, I don’t wish to try walking on this ankle just yet. Please, let me rest for a little bit.”

I shrugged and sat down on the lower step.

Wendell suddenly stood up, and took a pouch from his frock coat. He took a few steps and sprinkled the contents on the ground. Then, he limped back and sat down.

“What did you just sprinkle on the ground?”



“Libation to the local spirits to cure my ankle.”


“Fairies. Victorian England is big on fairies now. Not sure if it’s part of the Spiritualism Movement or the Celtic Revival.”

I was about to ask Wendell if he really believed in fairies, when we were interrupted. Out of the underbrush crashed a couple of men with bloodhounds on leashes. They carried rifles and something else--they had chains slung over their shoulders. They wasn’t hunting possum. They were hunting runaway slaves!

The hounds sniffed the ground until they came to where Wendell had sprinkled his libation to the fairies. They started sneezing, then snuffled some more and sneezed again. The dogs mournfully raised their heads, looking confused.

“Goll dang! Hounds lost the scent!.” The biggest of the men yelled.

“Maybe they went down this trail.” His partner pointed.

“Maybe, or maybe they’s hiding in this here shack!”

Wendell hadn’t moved or shown any surprise at this rude interruption. He had lifted his head and taken on the arrogance of the King of Calabogie himself.

The two men walked up, doffing their filthy, shapeless hats. “Begging you pardon, sir, but might we look in that shack.”

“No.” Wendell’s voice was quiet but firm.


“No, I turned my ankle.”

“I am right sorry to hear that, sir, but we is tracking down some runaway slaves.”

Wendell turned to me, looking very stern. “Let that be a lesson to you, Isaac. If you ever run away I shall hire these diligent fellows to hunt you down!”

“Yes, massa.” I bobbed my head. I decided to follow Wendell’s lead. He had been a temporal anthropologist for fifty years after all and this was only my sixth.

The slave hunter looked confused. “Uh, thank you, sir, but what I was trying to say is they might be hiding in that there shack you is sitting on the stoop of.”

“No, I can assure you they are not.”

“Well, they might be.”

“No. Not more than three minutes ago I looked in this building. Only thing in there is a dead opossum. Trust me, there are no slaves in there.”

The ruffian nodded. “I’ll take your word for it, sir.”

“Maybe they were headed for the river.” His scrawny partner scratched his neck.

The redneck nodded. “Or they is going to stow away on a steamboat headed up river.”

“Yeah, using a back trail to get there rather than the main road. They could follow this path to the river, then follow the bank back into town. They’ll probably try and sneak on tonight.”

“We’ll be waiting for them darkies. Come on, Jeb.”

The two headed back down the path. The sound of the barking hounds and the cursing men faded away. It was then I heard what sounded like a muffled sob come from the shack. I turned to Wendell. “Okay, what was that? That didn’t sound like a dead possum. Do you have slaves in there?”

“Of course not. Do you see any plantations around here? Most likely just an estranged wife and her lover meeting where the jealous husband would never think to look.”

“Then why didn’t you get up and let those crackers look?”

“Racists like that think all people of African descent look alike. Besides you know too well they would have had no qualms about dragging freemen into slavery.”

“You were helping the people hiding in here. You know we can’t help people when we are in the Field.”

“I did no such thing. I simply did not help the bounty hunters. It was probably us that led the hounds here. The noise we made attracted them. We would be the cause of these innocents folks being hauled away into slavery and changing their history. I, of course, could not allow that. That would be against the rules.”

“You never turned your ankle. That was a ruse to block the door and keep me out. Why didn’t you just tell me what was in there? I wouldn’t have told the slave hunters.”

Wendell studied me a moment. “You know we are not allowed to change anything. We need to make split-second decisions as to how we should proceed to have the least impact. If our ‘travel agents’ did not agree with my decision, I wanted you to be completely ignorant and innocent of any perceived poor judgment on my part.”

I stared at him with my mouth open. “Why, you were protecting me as much as these people, weren’t you?”

“That’s why I’m here, little brother. Besides I would hate to tell your mother I got you into trouble. She is a very nice lady, but I think she would thrash me to an inch of my life if I let her little boy come to harm. Big brothers have to look out for little brothers, now don’t they?”

A couple of months later, Dr. Wendell Howe would be the first temporal anthropologists to disappear. I don’t dwell on that. Whenever I think of Dr. Howe, I remember him leaned against that rotting door, with that poker-face of his and twinkle in his eye.