Thursday, 23 March 2023

Roots by Alex Haley

This novel begins in 1750 in a small African village, located in what is now Gambia.  A boy child is born to Omoro Kinte and his wife, Binta.  It is a Muslim community, with strong African and Muslim traditions.   The women live separately from the men, with strict rules about how women and men act and work.  

Kunte, the young child grows up being trained for the roles he must fulfill as a man.  He gets an education from the Muslim priest of the village so he can read Arabic.  He strongly adheres to the Muslim beliefs and the cultural practices of the Village.  He finally reaches the stage of life where he has his own house and is expected to take a wife, but then, at age 17, he is kidnapped by slavers, and his life takes a severe turn.

He is stripped and branded, then shackled into the hold of a slave ship, shoulder to shoulder with other kidnapped Africans.  It is hell; lying in the stench of bodily wastes and vomit, unable to change positions in the tightly packed hold of the ship for over a month as the ship crosses the Atlantic to America.  He can’t communicate with the other slaves, who speak different tribal languages.  

     Finally, having survived the voyage, the ship lands in Maryland, where he is sold at a slave auction.  During all of this time, everything from Kunte’s previous life disappears, he is totally confused and has no understanding of what is happening to him.

Once Kunte was purchased and carted off to a farm, his one goal was to escape and make his way back to his village.  This of course was impossible.  His three attempts at escape failed, due to the bloodhounds and trackers that found him.  After being caught a fourth time, the trackers cut off half of his foot, to put an end to his escape attempts.   

Mercifully, Kunte then ends up in a farm run by a more humane master.  Kunte, who still had trouble communicating, felt contempt toward his fellow slaves.  He hated them for being so passive and accepting of their abuse.  He tried to adhere to his Muslim beliefs, keeping to himself, but slowly, he accepted that he could never return to his family, and succumbed to his new reality, integrating himself with the other slaves on the farm.

        Kunta became the driver for his master and married Bell, a slave who was the master’s cook.   Bell had learned to read at a previous plantation, something that was prohibited in slaves.  Reading enabled her to keep her fellow slaves informed about what she had secretly read in the master’s newspapers and what she overheard during their dinners.  This eavesdropping on their master’s private conversations and newspapers about the historical events that were happening, was an effective way for the author to show the passage of time in the lives of his characters.  I would assume that otherwise, the constant mundane work of the slaves would give no indication of historical time.

Kunte and Bell had a daughter, Kizzi.  Kunte told Kizzi about his life in Africa, teaching her words from his language.  This information about his origin was remembered and further passed down to each generation of the family.  As Kizzi grew up, she learned how to read, while being the “student”, playing “school” with the master’s young niece.  

As a teen, she fell in love with a field slave who was set on escaping.  He talked her in to writing out a “road pass”, but he was caught in his escape attempt and confessed that Kizzi had written the pass.  As a result, Kizzi was sold, never to see her family again.  This was a shock to me, having been so throughly immersed in Kunte’s struggles, but the complete disappearance of family members was a common occurrence to slaves.

Kizzi’s new owner, immediately raped her, giving her a son, George, who plays a prominent part in the book.  Their master had been a “cracker,” a poor, white trash farmer, who had risen in status after winning a very good fighting rooster in gambling bet at a cock fight.  Cock-fighting then enabled him to greatly improve his economic situation allowing him to buy land, a nice house, and slaves.  

Young George was assigned to work with the aging, black man who trained the fighting roosters.  George immediately took to the job, gaining expertise, and also became besotted with cock-fighting.  He slowly established a good working relationship with his master, who was also his father.   He was given a small percentage of the winnings.  The goal of the whole family was to raise enough money to buy their freedom, but they were never able to achieve their freedom until after the Civil War, but even then, their opportunities were restricted by racism.

The storyline of Roots continues on through four more generations of the family, each being taught about Kunte, his African story, and his African words.  In one of the last chapters, a boy child was born to the family and his name was Alex Haley, the author of Roots, who, after much research, wrote the book about his family’s saga.  

Using Kunte’s African words, Haley was eventually able to pinpoint which tribe Kunte, his ancestor, belonged too, and after traveling to Africa, he found Kunte’s small village where, with translators, he listened to an old generation-keeper, whose task was to remember the generations of local families, give the ancient line of the Kinte family.  In the old man’s oral history, he confirmed Kunte’s existence, which inspired Haley to write Roots.

Roots was a Pulitzer Prize winner, which was made into a popular mini-series.  I was aware of the book and mini-series, but didn’t know the story until now.  It is a compelling story, based on the struggles of a real family.  It is certainly a story that needed to be told.


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Wednesday, 22 March 2023

Scary Wood

     Yesterday, I carried four pieces of wood from the dead tree I bucked up, out of the bush and onto the pasture.  They were, of course, still sitting there in the snow this morning when I went out to walk Kona around the pond this morning.  Kona spotted from a distance, the wood sitting there in the snow, and totally freaked out.  She erupted into a loud barking fit and refused to walk any further into the pasture.  

    Because I wanted to continue the walk, but couldn’t convince Kona to move, I walked over to the the wood and sat down on one of the rounds.  Finally, when Kona saw me peacefully sitting on the scary wood, she slowly and cautiously made her way over to where I was sitting, and sniffed at the wood.  Seeing the wood was harmless, we were then able to continue our walk around the pond.

    We have had about a week of really beautiful clear sunny weather, with temperatures getting above freezing during the day.  Below is a shot of the endless blue sky as we began our morning walk around the pond.

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Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Getting Ready For Next Year

    Winter is such a dominant season in Canada that I spent yesterday, the first day of spring, preparing firewood for next winter.  It is always one of my major tasks in the spring, so that the wood can dry out over the summer, and ready to burn in the winter.

    I am always on the lookout for trees that I can use for firewood.  I spotted this dead Spruce snag in the grove of trees beside my pond.  Although dead, it hadn’t really started to rot yet and it was leaning in a good direction for falling.  It fell beside a pool which was frozen, so I thought I’d better fall it now, so I could buck up the pieces before the ice on which it fell, turned into water.

    This firewood is going to be a lot of work, because of its location.  I will have to carry the heavy chunks of wood through about 40 yards (36 meters) of bush to the path beside the pond to stack it.  Then I will need to use the wheelbarrow to wheel it to my pasture, where, once the snow all melts, I can put it in the truck to haul up to my shop.

    Once I get it there, I can split it using the electric splitter.  Once split, I can wheel the pieces of firewood down closer to the house, where it will be stacked.  Whew, I’m worn out just thinking about all of that work.

    Luckily, I still have quite a bit of birch firewood left over from last year, so I will only have to get find about two more trees to complete what I need for next winter.

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Monday, 20 March 2023

It's Spring !

    Some of the fields in the Robson Valley are bare, but we still have at least a foot of snow covering our yard.  Nevertheless, today is the Spring Equinox, so officially we are now into spring.  I have even seen two Robins and a Junco, which does help to make the seasonal change feel real.  Now if we can only get rid of this snow on the ground, it would complete the feeling that spring has finally arrived.

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Sunday, 19 March 2023

Zion National Park

     In March of 2005, we took a trip down to the US Southwest.  One of the places we stopped was Zion National Park.  I have always enjoyed dramatic geological areas, and certainly Zion is one of the most spectacular.  I find its massive dark-stained red sandstone formations a thing of beauty.  To me, they represent Earth in a beautiful, timelessness.  

    When we toured there eighteen years ago, the valley was already bumper to bumper with tourists, so I expect it is much worse now.  To bad, Nature needs solitude to really give the observer the peace and wonder that it can provide.

    Springtime Zion was full of spectacular waterfalls, as the snow on top melts and the water plummets to the valley below.  Here are two shots of one of the waterfalls that we saw.

I am currently painting an image of a tree I saw at Zion, you can see the painting by clicking 
"Current Work" at

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Snowy Prince George

    Prince George is our closest urban center.  It is 135 miles (220 kms) away, but we have to periodically drive up there in the winter for appointments and shopping.   Once we get up there, I am usually surprised at how much snow they get.  McBride is located smack-dab in the mountains and so everyone figures that we get a lot of snow, and we do, but surprisingly, not as much as Prince George, which is located on a plateau, not in the mountains;

    During the winter all of the store parking lots start to shrink as the parking lots are plowed and the snow is stacked in high piles at the edges of the parking lots, and those snow piles start taking up more and more parking lot space as the winter progresses.   The parking lot in the photo has probably shrunk to half its size, due to the snow piles.  The piles are 10 feet (3 meters) high and like mountain ranges stretch out, along the edges of the parking lots.

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Friday, 17 March 2023

Trying ChatGPT


    There has been a lot of media coverage of AI (Artificial Intelligence) lately, largely because of an amazing program called “ChatGPT”.  It is an internet site that anyone can use.  You go there, tell it to write about some topic, and almost instantly it gives you an essay, an description, a poem, or whatever you asked it to write.  It scans the internet for information then writes out what your ask.  It is scary because it is the future, and many a job will be lost as AI takes over.

    A week ago, a nephew of mine went to the ChatGPT site and typed in:  “Write a rap song about the queen of Brioche knitting.”   

    (My sister, Nancy is a very talented and well known knitter, who has creatively expanded and taken Brioche knitting to new heights and has been called, “The Queen of Brioche”.)

    Although her name wasn’t mentioned in my nephew’s request, ChatGPT figured it all out and in twenty seconds, produced the requested rap lyrics.  I won’t write out the whole rap, but here is the chorus it produced:

    “She’s the queen of brioche knitting, nobody can deny

    Her designs are straight fire. they’ll make your needles fly

    She’s got style, she’s got grace, she’s got technique for days,

    Nancy Marchant, the queen of brioche knitting, always slays.”


    While it not the greatest lyrics in the world and could certainly be tweaked and improved, it is amazing that it was created in 20 seconds, and provided information that was not input with the command.

    I was inspired to try ChatGPT out myself, and so went to the site and typed in:  “Write lyrics about the Village of McBride in the style of country music.”   

    Within seconds, ChatGPT gave me the lyrics you see at the top of the blog.  Again, they are not the greatest lyrics ever produced and certainly need tweaking, but I was amazed at how quickly it gathered information from the internet and created lyrics.

    Like I said at the start, AI is going to be the future, like it or not.  It is a brave new world we are entering.

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