How to Cook Farm-Raised Quail

September 14, 2020

When I moved to Georgia during 1976 there was a beautiful old field between my neighborhood and a fishing pond.  We lived in the Cedar Creek subdivision located in Athens, Georgia, and I don’t know who owned the land with the pond we often trespassed upon.  Sadly, that land has been transmogrified into a shopping center parking lot.  Clarke County should have purchased the land and made it a park.  Back then, it was hilly and covered in tall yellow grass and within sight of a bottomland forest that grew alongside a chain of beaver ponds.  The outlet of the pond was a small waterfall that led to pools where large catfish often became trapped.  Crayfish and claw-less freshwater shrimp abounded in the creek, and signs of raccoons-their hand-like paw prints and discarded crayfish shells–could be seen all along the sandy creek side.  An otter slide led to part of the stream.  Deer darted into plum thickets.  One side of the 4 acre pond was bounded by a thick growth of alder; centuries old oaks shaded the other side where we usually fished.  Every Saturday morning while my friend and I headed toward the pond for another fishing adventure, we were frequently startled by the sudden drum-like explosion of a quail covey.  They could have stayed hidden in the tall grass and we would have never known they were there, but apparently we crossed a danger zone for them.  The explosive sound of a quail covey launch probably scares predators too.

Bobwhite Quail Covey by Lynn Bogue Hunt | eBay

Covey of Quail.

Populations of northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) currently are in decline, and I have not heard its 2 note call in several years.  Quail prefer old fields, grasslands, and open pine savannahs–habitats that have been replaced by 2nd growth forests, pine tree farms, subdivisions, and urban sprawl.  Bobwhite quail survived population declines during Ice Ages.  A study of bobwhite quail genetics determined their populations declined during the Last Glacial Maximum about 20,000 years ago but stabilized at the end of the Ice Age ~10,000 years ago.  Subfossil remains of bobwhite quail dating to the late Pleistocene have been excavated from 8 sites in Florida, 3 sites in Virginia, and 1 each in Georgia, Alabama, and Texas.  Quail remains along with those of ruffed grouse were the most common bird bones found in Kingston Saltpeter Cave in Bartow County, Georgia, dating to ~13,000 years BP.  Predators such as owls and hawks likely carried them into the cave.

Bobwhite quail belong to the New World quail family (Odontopharidae) group that is related to Old World partridges.  There are 32 species of quail in the Odontopharidae family, but the northern bobwhite quail is the only species native to eastern North America because this region has more continuous homogenous habitats.  They are a sister species to members of the quail family in the Callipepla genus which includes California, scaled, and Gamble’s quails.  Most other species in the Odontopharidae family are found in Mexico and South America.  The family likely originated there.

Meadows Quail Farm, Georgia Giant Bobwhite Hatching Eggs for sale

Photo of the inside of a quail farm in Georgia.  Nestlings like heat.

Kroger’s Supermarket sells a box of 4 dressed quail for $6.49.  Most other stores, if they have it at all, are double the price. These quail come from a farm in Greensboro, Georgia about a 90 minute drive from my house.

The best way to cook quail is to broil or grill them.  Unfortunately, most restaurants deep fry them–a culinary crime.

Farm-raised quail is readily available in supermarkets, and they are easy to prepare.  The best way to cook them is to sprinkle them with lemon juice, salt, and pepper; then stick them under a broiler for 15-20 minutes.  They can also be grilled.  Marinate them in your favorite marinade, and charcoal grill them for about 5 minutes per side.   (Wild quail may require a different cooking method.  I never cooked wild quail.)  Quail tastes a little better than chicken, but they don’t have much meat.  At least 2 birds per person should be served.  Deep-frying quail is a travesty, and they should never be cooked that way.  The breading covers up the delicate taste of the meat.

Reference:

Halley, S. ; et. al.

“A Draft De Novo Genome Assembly for the Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) Reveals Evidence for Rapid Declines in Effective Population Size Beginning in the Late Pleistocene”

Plos One March 2014

A Pre-Historic Sloth-Eating Monster

September 7, 2020

A real monster inhabited the wetlands of South America during the Miocene between 20 million years BP-6 million years BP.  Purussaurus brasiliensis, an extinct 34 foot long caiman, preyed on everything from fish to giant ground sloths.  No complete skeleton of this giant caiman has ever been found, but the size was estimated from several skulls.  It weighed over 10,000 lbs. and was more than a match for any beast living in South America during the time it existed. The few marsupial carnivores that lived then didn’t offer much competition.  It was almost as large as Deinosuchus rugosus, a 39 foot long crocodylian that ate tyrannosaurs during the late Cretaceous.

Purussaurus

Purussaurus was a 36 foot long caiman that lived in South America during the Miocene and preyed on giant ground sloths.

Illustration of purussaurus preying upon a ground sloth.

Recently, scientists examined a fossil arm bone of a giant ground sloth (Pseudoprepothenum) and determined it had 46 tooth marks made by a purussaurus.  At least 6 other species of caiman and crocodiles lived then in South America, but purussaurus was the only species large enough to attack and subdue a giant ground sloth, though this particular specimen was estimated to weigh about 100 lbs. The sloth specimen was found near Iquitos, Peru along with many other fossils of fish, reptiles, and mammals.

Reference:

Pujos, F. and R. Salos-Gismonde

“Predation of the Giant Miocene Caiman Purussaurus on a Mylondontid Ground Sloth in the Wetlands of Proto-Amazonia”

Biology Letters 2020

Trump-Supporting Christians are a Bunch of Full of Shit Hypocrites

August 31, 2020

I have no respect for the stupid pieces of shit who voted for Donald Trump.  Their gullibility is astounding.  They believe every word this clownish con man says, no matter how ridiculous or easily fact-checked and debunked.    Indeed, they disregard facts and reality as “fake news” and would rather live in an alternate reality where they think Trump is carrying out orders directly given by Jesus.  Deep down, they may not actually believe everything Trump says, but they like the way he re-affirms their hidden and usually not so hidden racism.  They just love the way he demonizes brown-skinned people.  80% of white evangelical Christians support Trump, making this group his most steadfast supporters. They are colossal hypocrites.  During the Clinton impeachment hearings 60% of evangelical Christians thought poor moral character disqualified a candidate from being president.  Now that Trump, the most immoral man on the planet, is president, only 20% think poor moral character disqualifies a candidate from being president.

On NPR a few days ago, a journalist was interviewing wavering Trump supporters about their reaction to the Republican National Convention.  Some jerk from North Carolina said Trump won him over again when Trump invoked God as the savior who would solve all the current world problems.  (Incidentally, this jerk said he was to the right of the Republican Party which would classify him as a fascist.)  What?  Trump doesn’t believe in God.  Trump has broken at least half of the 10 Commandments.  He’s committed adultery with Stormy Daniels and numerous beauty queens and porn stars, and over 50 women have accused him of sexual assault.  He’s regularly broken the commandment against stealing, and he currently is still breaking that commandment.  He ripped off college students with his phony university, and he often didn’t pay the construction workers who built his buildings.  His entire family used a charity as a campaign slush fund.  And currently he is using the White House to enrich his business in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution by continuing to own hotels used by diplomats and lobbyists attempting to curry favor with him.

Trump also violates the commandment against idolatry when he names buildings after himself, and laughably he asked how he could get a graven image of himself added to Mt. Rushmore.  Trump bears false witness on a daily basis–he’s told over 20,000 documented lies since he’s been president.  This is an astonishing number, even for a politician.  Trump has indirectly violated the commandment not to kill.  His incompetence has led to the deaths of over 180,000 people from Covid, and his policy of de-regulating environmental protections will lead to the premature deaths of tens of thousands more people.  When Trump invokes the name of a God he doesn’t believe in, he is using the name of the Lord in vain.

Thank you, Jesus" - Extreme Donald Trump fans - CBS News

Look at the fanatical cult-like support Trump has among evangelical Christians.  Note also the sea of white faces.

I’ve been unfriended on Facebook by a few of my peers that I graduated from high school with because of my criticism of Trump and their support for that pig.  I’m sorry to say most white suburban men my age (I am 58) still support Trump, despite his obvious incompetence, failures, and inability to handle the job of presidency.  These Trump supporters are evangelical Christians who constantly post biblical scripture on their Facebook pages–it is “Praise Jesus this and Praise Jesus that.”  Their hypocrisy is disgusting.  Trump goes against just about all of Jesus’s teachings.  Jesus said it is easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.  Trump’s tax cuts benefitted the rich and increased the tax burden (especially in the long run) on the poor working class people.  His recent proposal for a payroll tax cut will bankrupt Social Security in 3 years.  Rich people don’t need Social Security, but poor people sure do.  Trump also wants to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act which would take health care away from tens of millions.  What would Jesus do?  Deprive poor people of health care?  Would he be for separating children from their parents and putting them in cages?

Trump deliberately incites strife, pitting groups of people against each other–certainly another action Jesus would not approve of.  Instead of working with big city mayors to quell civil unrest, Trump is blaming them and sending thugs in unmarked vans to abduct peaceful protestors, thus pouring gasoline on the fire.  Instead of a plan to bring police and protestors together to discuss their differences, Trump openly sides with police brutality, encouraging them to slam car doors on protestors heads.

One of my former Facebook friends told me he likes the way Trump is working to block illegal immigration because he doesn’t want them to bring drugs across the border.  This is another example of hypocrisy.  I enjoyed doing drugs with this Trumpanzee in college, he once bird-dogged a drug deal for me, and he was arrested by the DEA on a college campus where he was doing drugs in the open.  But now, he wants to stop undocumented people from crossing the border because a tiny minority of them might be drug dealers.  The bible says we should welcome immigrants whether they are legal or not.  In Hebrews 13:2 it says strangers shall be welcomed and even entertained.  And in Malachi 3:5 it says God will pass judgement on those who turn aside strangers.  My ex-Facebook pals probably think that only applies to white immigrants.

Trump’s following is cult-like.  I think he literally could shoot someone on 5th avenue and his support would not fall below 40%.  The absurd Qanon conspiracy theory is spreading most rapidly among evangelical Christians, and this is not surprising.  Shmucks dumb enough to believe in a bizarre end of the world cult are dumb enough to believe Trump is battling a secret deep state group of cannibals and child molesters.

I’m confident Biden would beat Trump in a landslide, if the election was fair.  Trump’s presidency has been an embarrassing failure, and thankfully enough smart people can see through his re-election strategy of blaming Biden for the civil unrest occurring during Trump’s presidency.  No president has ever been re-elected with an economy that includes a tripling of the unemployment rate, and Trump should have already been removed from office for asking a foreign leader to interfere in our elections.  However, I’m afraid the seeds of sabotage have been sown.  An overwhelming number of mail-in ballots sent in by Democrats just won’t be delivered in time because Trump’s crony is now in charge of the postal service.  Instead of a crushing defeat like Trump deserves, there will be a disputed close result, and it will be up to the Supreme Court.  I don’t really believe in prayer.  Nevertheless, I’m praying for John Roberts to side with decency.

 

Wilderness Rebounded Following the Black Death

August 24, 2020

The recent ill-advised lockdown that failed to stop the spread of the coronavirus reduced human activity for several months, and the wildlife noticed.  Deer and coyote, normally more active at night, began roaming big city streets in broad day light.  It doesn’t take long for wilderness to rebound when the presence of humans is diminished or eliminated.  The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is now 1 of the greatest nature reserves in the world, thanks to radiation fallout which makes the area an unpopular place for people to reside.  Past epidemics have led to the rebound of wilderness.  Europeans introduced many infectious diseases to the Americas, resulting in an 80% reduction in Indian populations.  Many Europeans then mistakenly believed the Americas had always been a sparsely populated segment of the world.  They collectively forgot their own past history with the bubonic plague.

The bubonic plague is believed to have originated in the Gobi Desert, possibly in the gerbil population.  Fleas spread the dangerous bacteria (Yersinia pestis) to the Mongolian raiders descended from Ghengis Khan who then carried it to Europe during hostile invasions and through free trade.  During 1347 a merchant ship with an 100% infection rate arrived in Venice, Italy and soon the plague spread throughout Europe in fleas carried by rats.  People slept on straw mats, crowded together in unsanitary condition, and bubonic plague outbreaks exploded.  In addition to being flea-borne the bacteria could be transmitted through the air between people in close contact with each other. The plague is an horrible disease, killing people in 3-4 days, and the victims die in agony–their lymph glands literally burst with toxic bacterial waste and white blood cells.  The victims turn back, hence the name “Black Death.”  50% of the population died.  Not enough agricultural workers remained alive to harvest the crops, and combined with bad weather from the onset of The Little Ice Age, famine soon followed the plague.  Wild animals and wilderness soon took over much of rural Europe.

Fast and lethal, the Black Death spread more than a mile per day

Bubonic plague, originating in Asia, decimated European populations for 2 centuries and wilderness areas rebounded.

Aspen Glow. A Limited Edition Fine Art Print from Peter Lik. – LIK ...

Birch and aspen trees quickly sprouted in abandoned fields that were soon replaced by oak forests with trees that eventually grew 150 feet tall.

Białowieża

Huge oak trees like this grew on abandoned agricultural land following the Black Death.

Grass growing in abandoned grain fields fed herds of wild cattle and horses recently freed from their dead human masters, and these escapees interbred with their wild cousins.  Bison expanded their range.  Soon birch and aspen forests sprouted in the fields, and moose invaded the new natural areas to feed on the saplings.  Brown bears enjoyed the fruits of long neglected orchards.  Eventually, oak trees shaded out the birch forests, and they grew to enormous size–the acorns feeding wild boars and roe deer.  Lynx and wolves reclaimed land they’d lost in the previous centuries.

The Significance of Aurochs | borderslynn

The aurochs, the ancestor of modern cows, along with cattle that went feral roamed the European countryside in the years following the Black Death.  The Black Death likely delayed the extinction of the aurochs by centuries.  They didn’t become extinct until 1527.

The Odd Couple!! (Wild Red Deer Stag & Horse) | Horses, Animals ...

Red deer and horse populations increased when human populations decreased.

King Jagiello escaped an outbreak of the plague in 1426 when he retreated to an hunting manor in the Bialowitza woods.  No roads or bridges penetrated this vast wilderness.  Royalty protected this wilderness for centuries, and today it is just a partial remnant of the post Black Death rebound of nature.

Author Mimi Matthews

Wolf packs took over when humans disappeared from large areas of Europe.

Spotted Lions

August 20, 2020

Vast areas of Africa remained sparsely inhabited until well into the 20th century, and I think this is why more megafauna survives on that continent than any other.  Some quite large African animals were unknown to Western science until the 1900’s, including mountain gorillas, bonobos, and okapis. A rare big cat, probably extinct now, could be added to that list. Last week, I wrote about post speciation hybridization events in big cats, and following the completion of that article, I recalled reading about reports of spotted lions in Africa.  I wondered if a population of leopard/lion hybrids might recently have existed on the dark continent.  I researched everything I could find about spotted lions on the internet, and the verdict is inconclusive.

Spotted lion, illustration

Photoshopped image of a spotted lion.  

A pelt of a spotted lion killed by a Kenyan farmer in 1931.  This is the only proof they ever existed.

During 1931 a Kenyan farmer shot and killed a pair of spotted lions that were stalking an herd of buffalo.  A few other locals had also seen spotted lions, and the natives knew this animal as the marozi and distinguished it from a leopard.  Later, Kenneth Dower led an unsuccessful expedition to find spotted lions.  Lion cubs often have spots that they retain through sub-adulthood, but reports of spotted lions hunting suggested these were adults.  Spotted lions were reportedly intermediate in size between lions and leopards.  There are 3 possibilities.  The marozi may have been a distinct species or subspecies of lion adapted to living in a forested montane habitat.  (All of them were seen at high elevations in the mountains.)  They may have been a population of lion/leopard hybrids.  Or they may have been a population of lions with a mutation for a spotted coat.  Scientists could answer this question with a DNA analysis of the pelt from the specimens shot by the Kenyan farmer, but so far no one has attempted to do this.

Lions share a close evolutionary relationship with leopards, but presently the physical appearance and behavior patterns of the 2 species are much different.  Lions live in prides and hunt in open habitats, while leopards are solitary and prefer environments with more trees and bushes.  The common ancestor of both likely had a spotted coat.  Lions lost their spots when they began occupying tawny-colored savannahs and deserts where a plain coat offered better camouflage.  It’s a curious possibility that a population of spotted lions, closely related to the ancestor of all lions and leopards, may have continued to exist until the 20th century.  I’m convinced they are extinct now.  They may have been a relict population killed off by farmers.

Post Speciation Admixture in Big Cats

August 13, 2020

12 million years of evolution separate the domestic housecat from the African lion.  A recent study used the genome of the housecat as an outgroup in their examination of the evolutionary relationships between big cats in the Panthera genus which includes the lion (Panthera leo), jaguar (P. onca), leopard (P. pardus), snow leopard (P. uncia), and tiger (P. tigris).  The ancestor of all species in the Panthera genus diverged from its now extinct relatives 4.58 million years ago.  The common ancestor of lions, leopards, and jaguars diverged from this early lineage 3.65 million years ago.  The common ancestor of tigers and snow leopards diverged from the rest of the Panthera lineage 3.47 million years ago.  Leopards and lions diverged from each other 2.57 million years ago.  (The chart below simplifies this history.)  However, genetic evidence suggests after these species diverged from each other and became separate species they occasionally interbred with each other.   Lions interbred the most because they had the widest geographical range and overlapped with more species.  Lions formerly lived from the southern tip of Africa across Eurasia and to the east coast of North America, and they came into contact with more species.  Jaguars originally evolved in Eurasia and were common there during the late Pliocene/early Pleistocene.  After jaguars crossed the Bering Land Bridge and colonized the Americas they became extinct in Eurasia.  Jaguars periodically interbred with lions during the early Pleistocene.  Snow leopards and tigers also interbred with each other during the early Pleistocene.

Chart showing speciation divergence within the Panthera genus and later hybridization events resulting in admixtures of certain genes that were positively selected for survival of the species. From the below reference.

Leopon (male leopard & female lion hybrid) - Apparently a leopard ...

Lion/leopard hybrid.  Lions and leopards diverged over 2 million years ago, but rarely did hybridize in the wild following this divergence.  Lions interbreed with tigers, jaguars, and leopards in captivity, but currently are not known to do so in the wild.  

Genetic evidence indicates some of the hybridization events benefitted the descendants and were a positive force in naturally selecting characteristics that helped the species survive.  The trait that gives jaguars a large skull and powerful bite originated from when a jaguar mated with a lion.  This characteristic later helped jaguars survive the megafauna extinction event because they could prey on heavily armored caimans and turtles as a substitute.  Interbreeding between snow leopards and tigers was also important.  The characteristic that helps snow leopards thrive at high altitudes originated from the pairing of a snow leopard and a tiger.  Populations of cats in the Panthera genus fluctuated during the Pleistocene and the authors of the below study believe hybridization events facilitated the survival of these species.

Reference:

Figueiro, H. etl al.

“Genome-wide Signatures of Complex Introgression and Adaptive Evolution in the Big Cats”

Science Advances July 2017

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700299

Vacation in a Shady Forest

August 6, 2020

I let my daughter choose our vacation destination this year, and she picked the mountains of southwestern North Carolina.  My wife and I readily agreed to this choice as an escape from the horrible heat of Augusta, Georgia.  On the way we stopped at the Georgia Guide Stones just outside Elberton, Georgia.  40 years ago, a mysterious organization paid to have these monuments erected.  Each stone is inscribed with 10 rules that society should live by.  The rules are written in 9 different languages including English, Spanish, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Russian, and Swahili.  Among my favorite rules are a suggestion that earth’s population should be limited to 500 million people, and more room should be left for nature.  The Guide Stones are located in the middle of a cow pasture not far from soybean and sorghum fields.

The Georgia Guide Stones.

Before we checked into our hotel we visited Whitewater Falls.  It is wheelchair accessible, but I had to push my wife up a steep half-mile incline for her to get a view of the falls.  Bystanders were impressed with my feat of strength.  The woods around the falls consists of maple, tulip, locust, rock chestnut oak, rhododendron, hemlock, and white pine.  Bear foot, a yellow flower with unusually large leaves, was in bloom.

Bear foot also known as leaf cup (Polynmia uvedula)

Whitewater Falls.

We stayed at the Mt. Toxoway Hotel, a mom and pop operation with 8 rooms and maybe half a dozen cottages.  They still use old-fashioned room keys.  Toxoway is the Cherokee Indian word for red bird which in this region could mean either cardinal or tanager.  The air smelled sweet here–the hotel is located in the middle of the woods, though busy route 64 is 30 feet from the rooms.  The traffic does die down between 11 pm and 7 am.  I heard several species of crickets, frogs, tufted titmice (or cardinals imitating tufted titmice), and rufous-sided towhees.

That night we ate at a golf course pub, about the only place open on Sunday in the area.  They serve $14 hamburgers and $6 beers.  We sat on a deck with a nice view of the golf course and nearby mountains.  The view likely explains the inflated prices.  After we finished eating I was ready to pay our bill, and I went looking for the waitress because we were in a hurry to get back to the hotel to watch the season finale of Naked and Afraid XL.  Our waitress wore a mask when she served us, and I saw a woman who might’ve been her, but she was standing behind the bar and not wearing a mask.  I wasn’t sure it was her.  I decided to go behind her to see if I could recognize her ass, but luckily she saw me and took the money, and I didn’t have to resort to that awkward method.

The next morning we visited Gorges State Park.  The trail goes through a shady maple-dominated forest with some shortleaf pine, hickory, and rhododendron.  Maple is a shade-tolerant tree, but oak is not, and I think I saw just 1 oak tree.  Some areas of the forest are really dark, even during the middle of the day.  I could smell a skunk that walked along the trail, probably a few hours earlier, but I saw no wildlife, other than an horsefly that kept biting me whenever I stopped to take a photo.  There were lots of people on the trail.  We walked for an hour but didn’t quite make it to Rainbow Falls before we experienced a lightning storm.  It rained all afternoon, and I stayed in the hotel room and read a fictional biography of Sherlock Holmes.

Patch of Ferns in Gorges State Park.

View of the Gorge in Gorges State Park.

Moss-covered boulder.

We went to eat supper at a pub with more reasonable prices than the establishment we patronized the previous night.  The pub is named the Ugly Dog Cafe` in honor of their signature chili dog topped with cheese and jalapenos.  I ate a gyro, my daughter had a salmon BLT, and my wife enjoyed a portobello mushroom sandwich.  We slept good that night because it was nice and cool.  The temperature dropped to below 60–20 degrees cooler than Augusta mornings during summer.

On the way back home we stopped to take a stroll through part of Clemson Experimental Forest.  The University purchased worn out farmland decades ago, and the woods have grown back.  The trail we followed went through an open woods of shortleaf pine.  Somebody planted pawpaw trees by the sides of the trail, and 1 specimen was 20 feet tall, but none bore fruit.  A powerline right of way was a welcome respite from the shady forest we hiked through the day before.  I saw a couple deer here.  I prefer rural piedmont fields and woods over shady mountain forests.  They host a greater variety of landscapes and hold more wildlife too.  On the road we passed farms where bison, longhorn cattle, Brahma bulls, horses, and goats were pastured.  Seeing a beautiful black bison in South Carolina was the biggest surprise of the trip.

Trail in Clemson Experimental Forest.

Look how red the soil is at Clemson Experimental Forest.  Farming eroded all of the top soil at this site decades ago.

Butterfly Pea. Legumes grow well on poor soils.

Power line right of way at Clemson Experimental Forest.  I prefer the mix of fields and woods in the piedmont over shady mountain forests.

 

Don’t Go

July 27, 2020

My father was born in Buczacz (pronounced Buchach), Poland where soccer was the most popular sport.  The town soccer teams were split along ethnic lines, and they often played against each other.  The Poles were supposed to be the best, the Ukrainians 2nd, and the Jews the worst.  In reality the opposite was true.  Though the referees would cheat excessively for the Polish soccer team, the Jewish soccer team would invariably defeat them anyway.  After beating the Poles, the Jewish fans and players fled the stadium because if the Poles cornered any Jew following their humiliation, they would beat them senseless or possibly even murder a trapped Jew.

Hitler broke his treaty with the Soviet Union in June of 1941, and Germany invaded Soviet-occupied Poland where Buczacz was located.  As soon as the Germans took control of the town, the Gestapo issued an order for all Jewish male heads of households in Buczacz to report to the town soccer field. My Grandfather Isadore vacillated over whether he should go or not.  His first wife, my Grandmother Regina, urged him not to go.  Years later, she often recounted how she told him “don’t go, don’t go.” My grandfather didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot with the German authorities, but on the other hand he did not trust them.  In the end he decided not to go.  That night, they heard the sound of a machine gun coming from the direction of the soccer field.  My father, then 11 years old, knew immediately what had happened–the Germans had murdered all the Jewish men gullible enough to follow German orders.  His parents assured him that his fears were baseless, but a Jewish track athlete had managed to run away and escape, and he came to their house that night and confirmed my father’s fearful assumption.

Simply ordering Jews to report to their execution was a common tactic Germans used to liquidate a town or city of its Jews.  The executions were called Actions.  With most of the male leadership gone, Germans found it easier to intimidate the remaining population, moving them to ghettos or shipping them off to labor camps.  Jews who managed to escape these mass shooting were often attacked by gangs of Poles or Ukrainians during their escape. The natives killed Jews for their money, jewels, or houses.  They were quick to take advantage of a Jew’s misfortune.

10,000 Jews lived in Buczacz before World War II, making up about half the population.  7,000 were killed directly in town and most of the rest were shipped off to concentration camps.  There were a total of 3 Actions or mass shootings; but Germans, Poles, and Ukrainians murdered many Jews in individual incidents.  From a 2nd story window my father’s family witnessed a German officer shoot a teenaged girl in the head.  Her blood flowed in the snow.  The German ceremonially put gloves on before the shooting and removed them after.  Germans began rounding up Jews to send to concentration camps, and my father’s family hid in the septic tank when the Germans knocked on the door and shouted, “Jew, come out.”  My grandfather knew this was not a tenable situation–eventually the Germans would enter the house and conduct a thorough search and drag them out because their Polish neighbors would tell them Jews were inside. So he went to the countryside and found an Ukrainian farmer who agreed to hide his family in an hayloft in exchange for gold.  My grandfather gave the man some gold and promised more after the war was over.  My father and his brother hid in an hay wagon on the way to the farm and were later joined by their parents.  Still later, my Uncle Haskell stayed with them after his wife and children were taken to a concentration camp while he was at work.  The 5 of them stayed in the hayloft for 2 years, and they suffered from cold, hunger, and thirst.  The farmer gave them each 1 piece of bread a day and the water from boiling potatoes, and on Christmas he gave them butter.  During summer the farmer provided all the dandelions, cucumbers, and cherries they could eat.  The relationship was not harmonious, however.  Whenever the Germans won a major battle the farmer threatened to kick them out.  The Russians liberated Buczacz in 1944, and my father’s family was able to leave the hayloft.   My father’s family were among the 100 Jews in Buczacz who survived…~1% of the Jewish population.

Buchach - Navigator Ukraine

Buchach, Ukraine where my dad was born and grew up.  It was part of Poland when he lived here.

My Grandfather Isadore Gelbart with his 2nd wife, Ilsa.  He lost his parents, 5 brothers and sisters, and many uncles, aunts, and cousins during the Holocaust; but he saved his 1st wife, sons, and brother-in-law. Photo circa 1976. Isadore owned a shoe store until WWII.  He became a lawyer after the war at age 60.  His father was a beekeeper who made mead and sold it to bars.

My Grandmother Regina grew up in nearby Nadworna before she married Isadore. 2,000 Jews lived in Nadvorna and they suffered the same fate as the Buczacz Jews.  Shortly after occupying Nadvorna, the Germans were looking for a convenient location to mass execute as many Jews as they could.  The Ukrainians pointed out a trench used to store ammunition during World War I.  Unlike the first Action in Buczacz, most of the victims in this mass execution were women and children, killed while their husbands and fathers were at work.  Over 1000 children were shot here.  Pious Jews in Nadworna were especially persecuted.  Rabbi’s beards were set on fire, and some had their eyes poked out while being taunted about how their God was not protecting them.  Some Germans justified the executions with bizarre mental gymnastics.  Shaje Shmerier, one of the very few Nadvorna survivors, relates how on a cold winter’s day he was using an iron bar to break the ice on top of a well when a German soldier came up to him and said, “we only killed the communist Jews.  The good Jews are safe.”  Schaje thought of telling him children are not communists and don’t even know what communism is but didn’t want to stand and argue with the German.  He avoided them and had been using that particular well (which was off the busiest route) in the hopes of not running into any Germans.

Ukraine - Ukraine Poland, Nadvirna Nadwirna Nadvorna Nadworna ...

Nadvorna, Ukraine.  When my late grandmother grew up here, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, then after WWI it was Poland.  It was a popular resort town during the early 20th century.  Most of the 2,000 Jews who lived here were killed during the Holocaust.

A very brief history of Galicia since 1500 when the Jews arrived.

Location Galicia in Europe.svg

The province of Galicia is half in Poland and half in the Ukraine.  It was all part of Poland when my father lived there.

Polish noblemen owned huge estates in Galicia during the feudal ages.  They started inviting Jewish merchants onto their estates because they wanted to improve their local economies.  Jews, persecuted elsewhere, were glad to live on these estates, and they started arriving in Galicia about 1500.  Eventually, prosperous towns like Buczacz and Nadworna started popping up on these estates. Jews became part of the newly emerging middle class artisans and merchants who stabilized the economy.  Cossacks, descendants of Ghengis Khan’s hordes, and Turks repeatedly attacked Galicia and occasionally laid ruin to some towns, murdering and terrorizing the Jewish population along the way.  But the towns were always rebuilt.  By the early 18th century the Austro-Hungarian Empire drove the Turks away, and it controlled the province until World War I. (My grandfather served as a cavalry officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the war.) Poland gained independence after World War I, and Galicia became part of Poland.  After World War II the Soviet Union swallowed up the province.  The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the Ukraine declared its independence.  Galicia is now split between Poland and the Ukraine.

Reference:

Nadworna

Numerous authors

Landmanshaft of Nadworna in Israel and America 1975

Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song” is Like a Tribute to Howlin’ Wolf

July 20, 2020

My wife told me she would play “The Lemon Song” at my funeral, if she outlived me, but when I reminded her of this statement the other day she had a different memory. She claimed told her to play that song at my funeral.  I think my memory is correct because I’m pretty sure I won’t care what song anyone plays at my funeral.  Our memories differ over other (and more) important  events as well.  The first time we ever made love I remember we employed the reverse cowgirl posture, but she refutes my memory and says it didn’t happen that way.  How could our memories about such an important event be so different?  No matter which one of us chose “The Lemon Song” to accompany my burial, it is my favorite Led Zeppelin Song.

“The Lemon Song” is Led Zeppelin’s version of an old Howlin’ Wolf song known as “The Killing Floor” first released in 1964.  Howlin’ Wolf whose real name was Chester Burnett released at least 2 different versions of “The Killing Floor.”  In 1 version a brass section plays a prominent part and in the other there is no brass section.  The brass copies Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar playing in the former.  The version without a brass section is almost 1 minute longer.  “The Lemon Song” is the 3rd song on Led Zeppelin II released in 1969.  Led Zeppelin II was the best selling rock album of that year.

Howlin' Wolf. "Where the soul of man never dies," no less a figure ...

Chester Burnett aka Howlin’Wolf  influenced rhythm and blues rockers of the 1960s and 1970s.

Led Zeppelin - Official Website | News

Led Zeppelin is one of the most popular and successful rock acts of all time.  John Paul Jones (top) and from left to right the late John Bonham, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant.

In “The Lemon Song” the rhythm guitar and bass open at a slower tempo than in “The Killing Floor,” but John Bonham’s drum beats are heavier and louder.  To be honest I don’t even notice the percussion in “The Killing Floor.”  Then 1:30 into the song, Jimmy Page plays a fast guitar riff that imitates the brass section from “The Killing Floor” for exactly 1 minute.  This is my single favorite guitar riff of all time, and it sounds superior to the original.  After the riff the song slows down again and there is an interplay between Robert Plant’s jazzy blues singing and Jimmy Page’s guitar playing.  Plant interpolates the lyrics “The way you squeeze my lemon, I’m gonna fall right out of bed.”  These lyrics were sung in an earlier song by another blues artist, Robert Johnson, who likely in turn stole them from some unknown blues singer.  The name of the song is a metaphor for a man’s penis, but I suppose they couldn’t name this song “The Dick Song.”  The song is basically raw sexuality.  In the final 30 seconds of the song Jimmy Page repeats his fast guitar riff.  “The Lemon Song” is twice as long as “The Killing Floor,” and Led Zeppelin almost gave it the same name.

This is the version of “The Killing Floor” that has the brass section imitated by Jimmy Page using his electric guitar.  Another version is 30 seconds longer and does not have a brass section.

In this version of “The Killing Floor” Howlin’ Wolf uses his guitar to play what the brass plays in his other version.  His guitar playing is more subtle than Jimmy Page’s interpretation.

My favorite Led Zeppelin song.

While I was researching this article I came across this version of “The Killing Floor” that predates “The Lemon Song” from a group I had never heard of–Electric Flag.  It sounds pretty good.

Jimmy Page says he was paying tribute to the old blues artists when he transformed their work into Led Zeppelin songs.  However, on some occasions Led Zeppelin has been rightly accused of plagiarism, and other artists have successfully sued them for credit and money.  On behalf of Chester Burnett, Arc Records sued Led Zeppelin for their tribute to “The Killing Floor.”  Chester Burnett received a settlement of $45,123 in 1972, and Led Zeppelin added his name to the songwriting credits.  In my opinion I don’t think Jimmy Page stole these songs from malice or greed.  I believe he honestly thought he was paying tribute to these artists by making their songs sound even better.  Page was a drug-addled hippie without a clear understanding of copyright law.  He may have mistakenly believed these songs were part of the public domain (like many old folk songs are) or simply didn’t care.  He was a musician…not a lawyer.  Moreover, when he recorded these songs, he had no idea how popular and financially successful Led Zeppelin was going to be.  He didn’t know they were going to make so much money.

Led Zeppelin did not steal “Stairway to Heaven” from a group called Spirit.  A recent lawsuit claims “Stairway to Heaven” is a rip-off of Spirit’s “Taurus.”  There is a vague similarity at the beginning of the 2 songs, but Rick Beato, a music professor, says they both use the same line cliche` found in at least 25 songs dating back to at least 1938.  “Stairway to Heaven” has a melody over this line cliche`, while “Taurus” does not.

Rick Beato, a music professor, explains how “Stairway to Heaven” is not ripped off from the Spirit song “Taurus.”

The Clarendonian Land Mammal Age

July 13, 2020

Many science writers often describe the Pleistocene of North America as resembling the modern day African Serengeti.  I debunked that notion 7 years ago in an article I wrote for this blog (See: https://markgelbart.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/the-faunal-diversity-of-pleistocene-north-america-was-less-than-that-of-modern-day-africa/ ) In terms of biomass Pleistocene North American might have been as impressive but not when it comes to biodiversity.  Africa has almost twice as many species of mammals as Pleistocene North America. However, there was a time period during North America’s natural history when it was biologically more diverse than modern day Africa.  The Clarendonian Land Mammal Age during the middle Miocene lasted from ~13 million years ago to ~9 million years ago.  The age is named after the Clarendon local fauna based on fossils found from 24 sites in Donley County, Texas.  Scientists are aware of 34 mammal families that lived in North America during this age.  This includes 8 genera of artiodactyls such as camels and llamas, peccaries, deer, and pronghorns.  There were 15 genera of horses plus tapirs and 2 species of rhinoceros.  1 species of primitive oreodont still clung on, though they were formerly more diverse.  Bear-dogs (Amphycyon sp.) also still survived but were headed for extinction.  4-tusked gompotheres, kin to elephants, entered North America by crossing the Bering Land Bridge and colonized the continent.  Predators included 8 genera of canids and 11 genera of weasels, and there were 9 genera of rodents.  River dolphins and dugongs swam in the waters.  The bone-eating dogs (Borophagine), ancestors of saber-tooth cats (Nimravides), and false saber-toothed cats (Barbourofelis) were the dominant large predators.  Fanged cats and cat-like animals came in all sizes.

Among the amazing diversity of mammals were some remarkable morphological convergences with modern day species of African fauna.  There were giraffe-like camels that evolved long necks to feed on the tops of trees, aquatic hippo-like rhinos, and fast running gazelle-like horses.

Teleoceras | Animal of the world Wiki | Fandom

The hippo-like rhino Teleoceras.

Aepycamelus | Extinct animals, Ancient animals, Prehistoric animals

The giraffe-like camel Aegypcamelus.

Nannippus sp. by Dinogod.deviantart.com on @DeviantArt

The gazelle-like nannihippus.

Climate over most of North America during the middle Miocene was warm and mostly non-seasonal.  Before the Clarendonian Land Mammal Age tropical and sub-tropical forest covered most of North America, but the uplift of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain Ranges caused increased aridity.  Warm savanna grassland and open woodland replaced the thick forest, and this resulted in a greater diversity of mammals, taking advantage of this more productive habitat.  Grazing herds of ungulates and burrowing populations of rodents in deep grassland soils thrived in this environment.  Climate change brought an end to the Clarendonian Land Mammal Age.  Conditions became even more arid and seasons became more pronounced.  Warm savannahs and open woodlands were replaced with steppe grasslands where  winters started to trend toward sub-freezing temperatures.  Many species of mammals could not adapt to harsher winters and simply went extinct. By the end of the Miocene and beginning of the Pliocene large mammal diversity was much reduced, but new cold-adapted species from Eurasia (crossing the Bering Land Bridge) and new immigrants from South America (crossing the newly emerged Isthmus of Panama) helped replenish biodiversity in North America. Though large mammal diversity never again approached that of the Clarendonian, it was an healthy cavalcade until the end of the Pleistocene when man wiped most of them out.