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Old Friends

Above:  Jake, one of my football-throwing college colleagues from the University of Wisconsin.  He's now a Professor of Geography at Syracuse.

After spending some time with Don and Debbie in Manlius and getting introduced to "Iron Chef," I spent a few days driving around Syracuse while visiting Jake, Marilyn, and Mike, three friends from my grad school days at the University of Wisconsin who, by coincidence, all happen to live in the Syracuse area now.


I met Jake in August of 1982 during my first day of grad school in the University of Wisconsin's Geography Department in Madison.  Jake and I were Teaching Assistants for the same geography class for several years and, since he was a year ahead of me, I learned a lot from him, such as why rivers meander.  And why the sky is blue.  And how to make good chili.


I also learned from him that you should never drive across the Great Plains in the middle of winter if you plan to sleep in the back of your truck.  We did that in 1983, driving from Wisconsin to see our families for Christmas on the west coast:  mine in Portland and his in the Bay Area.  Too cheap to spring for a motel room, Jake and I slept one night in the back of his Nissan pickup truck in a deserted Rest Area on Interstate 90 in frigid South Dakota.  The temperature dropped to 25 below zero that night while we shivered in our thin sleeping bags.  That, as I discovered, wasn't a good idea and my left foot is still a bit numb from the experience but hey, we saved $30 on a room.


I also learned from Jake why it's important not to throw a football near the UW Geography Building.  Or, if you're going to do that, at least be sure that you're throwing the football with your Advisor.  I'm still not sure who paid for that broken window:  Jake or our Advisor, Tom.  Jake is now a Professor of Geography at Syracuse University and frowns on students who throw footballs near his building.



Above left:  Syracuse University has a pretty campus, and an enrollment of about 18,000 students.  Somebody please tell me, though, what's an "Orangeman"?

Above right:  Here's Jake in 1983 giving a "thumbs-up" before our drive from Madison, Wisconsin to Portland, Oregon in sub-zero temperatures.  I described this rather humorous trip in Previous Roadtrips, 1980 - 1984.

In Search of Comanche

Marilyn was another good friend of mine in the University of Wisconsin Geography Department.  She and I met after my first year and we soon discovered that we had a lot of common interests.  Perhaps more than anyone I know, Marilyn shares my fascination with American history and traveling, and we often have long discussions about such disparate topics as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, underrated National Parks, and the 1970s television show, "The Waltons."


Back in our college days, Marilyn introduced me to the wonderful music of folk singer Mary McCaslin.  Here's Mary singing Old Friends.


Marilyn works at the Syracuse University hospital while her affable husband, Mike, teaches art in a nearby elementary school.  Marilyn is very sweet and Mike is so affable it's laughable.  I've visited Marilyn and Mike throughout Wisconsin and upstate New York over the past 15 years and always enjoy getting together with them.  The thing is, though, I never know what's going to happen when I visit them.  Every time it's something different.


I arrived at their house in the late morning and the three of us headed down to the nearby town of Skaneateles.  First, though, Marilyn had a special treat.  Knowing that my last name is "Leu," she showed me what is probably the only "Leuville" in the world.  Actually, it's just a house with a "Leuville" sign posted outside, but I got a kick out of it nonetheless.


After eating a delicious seafood lunch at a busy lakeside restaurant in Skaneateles, the three of us decided to drive up to Auburn and tour the home of William Seward, President Lincoln's Secretary of State.  I didn't realize it, but the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865 was actually part of a conspiracy by Confederate sympathizers to kill several U.S. politicians that night.  One rebel was supposed to kill Seward but managed only to wound him. 


Above:  I spent most of a day catching up with Mike and Marilyn.  Here they are outside the William Seward house in Auburn.  Seward was Abe Lincoln's Secretary of State and was injured by a knife-wielding assassin the same night Lincoln was killed. 

The sheet from Seward's bed, in fact, is still on display in the Seward House.  The blood stains are now faded but certainly discernable.  It's a good thing the guy didn't succeed, because two years later Seward managed to buy Alaska from Russia for only 2 cents an acre.  At the time, the deal was widely criticized by most Americans and was known as "Seward's Folly," but today, of course, most Americans feel very differently about it except for the handful of people who live in Angle Inlet, Minnesota.  That's because, up until 1959 when Alaska became a state, Angle Inlet had the unique distinction of being the northernmost point in the United States.  That distinction is now cherished by the small community of Barrow, Alaska.


By the way, I wanted to take a picture of Seward's faded bloody sheet and post it on my website, reflecting my interest in morbid historical sites (recall that, when I visited Austin, Julie and I had tried to visit the infamous UT Tower).  However, I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside Seward's house, so you'll just have to go there and see it for yourself (if you're into that sort of thing).


After visiting Seward's house, the three of us dropped by the house of Harriett Tubman.  After that, Marilyn suggested that we visit the nearby, um, cemetery.  Like I say, Marilyn and I are history buffs and she was certain that the horse "Comanche" was buried in the cemetery.  Comanche, of course (or maybe not), was the only survivor of "Custer's Last Stand" in 1876 and was ridden by one of General Custer's officers, Captain Myles Keogh.  After extensively searching the cemetery, we found Keogh's grave but never found that of his fabled horse.  I learned later that Comanche was stuffed and put on display at Fort Meade, South Dakota ironically, where my grandmother had worked in the 1950s. 


On the way back to Syracuse that evening, and never lacking for interesting things to do, Marilyn and Mike drove by the notorious prison in Auburn, New York, where I got out of their car and snapped some pictures.  The guards there shoot to kill, though, so we didn't linger outside the walls too long.


Visiting Marilyn and Mike reminds me of the movie "Forrest Gump" because I never know what I'm going to get.  As I drove back to my brother's house late that night, I thought about what a great time I had seeing them again.  If nothing else, the treasured memory of that bloody sheet will be with me forever.



Above left:  Here's Marilyn in 1985 ready to smash a softball at the end-of-the-year Geography Department picnic in Madison, Wisconsin.  Some people always look the same, don't they?

Above right:  Marilyn during my visit to Syracuse in 1986.  She's standing in a cornfield that she doesn't own, with a baby that's not hers.



Left:  Here's their real baby.

This is Lucy, one of their affectionate guinea pigs.




Above left:  Marilyn and Mike showed me what is quite possibly the only "Leuville" in the world. 

Above right:  We also visited the Harriet Tubman house in Auburn.  Harriet was a slave from Maryland who escaped to the North in the years before the Civil War.  She secretly returned to the South several times and guided over 400 slaves north to freedom with the help of the "Underground Railroad."



Above left:  We stopped by the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn to look for the grave of Captain Myles Keogh, a casualty of Custer's Last Stand in Montana in 1876.  Keogh's horse, Comanche, was the cavalry's only survivor of that battle and Marilyn (left) was sure that Comanche was also buried in the cemetery.  The skeptical Mike (right) tried to convince Marilyn that they don't bury horses in cemeteries.

Above center:  We never found Comanche but we did find Myles' grave.  Marilyn is still convinced that Comanche is buried there somewhere.

Above right:  After they took me to the cemetery, they showed me the Auburn Prison.  Cemeteries, prisons, blood-stained sheets it's always interesting to visit Marilyn and Mike!

This Old House

After visiting my friends, it was back to work:  on my website and on Don and Debbie's house.  Don, Debbie and I worked on their house quite a bit, getting it fixed up to be sold.  Here are some shots of my final days in Manlius. 



Above left:  More house repair work.  Don is fixing the front step.

Above center:  Don and I all brains but no brawn (or is it the other way around?).  Their dog Cappy is in the house giving us directions.

Above right:  Another day, another project.  Going to Home Depot to get new carpet for the back porch.



Above left:  Cutting the carpet...

Above right:  Loading the carpet...



Left:  And laying the carpet. 

Don can't figure out why it's too long (har, har).




Above left:  Another barbecue...

Above center:  ...and some more work.

Above right:  Then it's dinner time.



Above left:  Getting my truck ready for the drive back to Oregon.  Note my foam bed and 12" subwoofer, which I usually put on the passenger side floor.  It may be an old truck, but the 11-speaker stereo system sure sounds great!

Above right:  Debbie by my truck before I hit the road.  It's always great to visit Don and Debbie and I really enjoyed my 12 days here, even (and especially) with all the house project work.  Being so far from the west coast, their house is like my "home away from home."



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