by Ron Roizen
Callahan’s home up Nine Mile Canyon (Source: Spokane Chronicle, 11 Sep 1915, p. 5)
The life of miner James Francis Callahan (12 August 1858 – 12 June 1921) — more usually known as “Jim” – affords, at the same time, one of the most heartening and most disheartening tales in the annals of the Coeur d’Alene Mining District.
Callahan labored tirelessly year after year at a prospect located in Nine Mile Canyon north of Wallace. Local mining wisdom regarded his enterprise as hopeless and misspent effort. He was variously known for this venture as a fool, a “queer character,” and the “Crazy Man of Nine Mile Canyon.”
Callahan discovered the site into which he invested his hope in 1885, he placed his claim in 1887, and he completed the construction of his nearby cabin by the end of the following year. Yet, the first ore from his mine wouldn’t ship out until 1906, two decades after beginning work at his site. Continue reading
by Ron Roizen
The tall tale is a revered part of the American West’s cultural fabric. Wyoming’s notorious jackalope and the outlandish 19th-century prevarications of fellow journalists Mark Twain and Dan de Quille, at Virginia City, Nevada’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper, may serve as outstanding examples. The Coeur d’Alene Mining District had its share of yarn spinners, too. The best known among them was doubtless Jim Wardner, founder of two towns that still bear his name – one in Shoshone County and the other in British Columbia, about 25 miles southeast of Cranbrook and nestled alongside Canada’s Kootenay River. “Of course, as a promoter I am compelled to do a good deal of romancing [i.e., gentle lying],” Wardner reportedly once remarked, “but I tell the truth sometimes.”
His most memorable hoax involved cats and a tiny island in Puget Sound. In the early 1890s the always enterprising Mr. Wardner let it be known that he was launching a business called The Consolidated Black Cat Company, Limited on Eliza Island in Bellingham Bay. There, management would feed free-range black cats via seine fishing and the cats themselves, as was their habit, would freely multiply. Every month about 500 would be harvested for their skins, which would be sold and soon turned into parts of fashionable ladies’ garments and accessories. “Cats’ fur,” commented one contemporary observer, “makes up elegantly into muffs and capes, and I see they are beginning to be quite popular.” The enterprise’s island venue would eliminate the problem of interbreeding with non-black cats, thus maintaining consistent color. Wardner’s project was to be capitalized to the tune of $200,000 and shares were available to would-be investors. Newspapers across the country glommed onto the story like felines to catnip. Continue reading
by Ron Roizen
Cable news has been decrying the state and national shortages of coronavirus testing capacity.
But I’m not convinced the shortage is as problematic as it’s touted to be.
Why are tests important in the first place?
Testing’s chief purpose is to distinguish the Ps (positives for the disease) from the Ns (negatives).
Distinguishing Ps from Ns makes possible sequestration, thus in theory protecting Ns from infection.
In the case of coronavirus however transmission of the virus most often originates with asymptomatic people. And people not experiencing symptoms don’t usually seek out medical testing. Most transmission, in turn, will derive from Ps not tested and not identified as such. Continue reading
by Ron Roizen
As of today, some big numbers are being suggested for the novel coronavirus’s potential death toll in the United States – ranging from 100,000 to 240,000. These are merely projections. And yet they lack, when presented by themselves, appropriate historical or statistical context.
Every year roughly 2.8 million people pass away in the U.S. In a population of 325 million, 2.8M deaths represents a little less than 1 percent of the total population. In recent years the U.S. death rate has varied between 0.8 and 0.9 percent of total population per year.
If 240,000 “extra” deaths were in fact to result from this new virus, then total deaths would rise to a little over 3M, an increase of 8.6 percent over the “normal” U.S. mortality count. Continue reading
Below, one more sample chapter from my booklength MS, The Rossi Murder, which is nearing completion but still in search of a publisher. Very soon after his Shoshone County jury acquitted him for the murder of his young wife’s paramour, Clarence Dahlquist, on October 14, 1916, Herman J. Rossi filed for divorce. Mabel, in response, filed a change of venue motion with the district court, seeking to have the case heard in Kootenai County, where her husband had relatively less influence and fewer business associates and friends. Rossi contested her motion. The documentation associated with this battle provided ample material for the writing of this, the book’s 16th, chapter. Enjoy!
MABEL’S CHANGE OF VENUE REQUEST AND THE FINAL DIVORCE DECREE
Although newspaper editors near and far doubtless hoped that their divorce would provide yet another salacious and riveting courtroom drama, actual events took a less public course. The conflict shifted to behind-the-scenes legal wrangling to which the newspapers were largely not privy. Mabel’s change of venue (COV) request, made to Judge William W. Woods in Shoshone County’s First District Court, argued three main points: (a) that she was now a resident of Coeur d’Alene, in Kootenai County, and therefore the place where the plaintiff’s action should be brought; (b) that Herman Rossi had grossly misstated his wealth, his indebtedness, property holdings, and the extent of the couple’s community property; and, finally, (c) that Judge Woods himself had heard too many discrediting things said about her at Herman’s murder trial to allow him to avoid bias against her in the divorce proceedings. Mabel noted, in particular, that Judge Woods had heard her husband’s testimony saying she was chronically intemperate, that she was “a demon” while intoxicated and frequently assaulted her husband, that she committed adultery with Dahlquist, and that she committed numerous other alleged acts of impropriety and improper relations with him. And although Mabel had “the utmost respect and consideration” for the honorable judge, “both as a man and as a Judge,” she felt that what Woods’ exposure to these allegations would inevitably become “unconsciously and unintentionally prejudiced against her.…” She surely had a case. Continue reading
Note: The author has, for the past year, been writing a book about Herman J. Rossi, five-time mayor of Wallace, and his notorious murder of his young wife’s lover in June of 1916. The following was adapted from Ch. XXI of this draft volume.
Herman Rossi and the City of Wallace in syndicated article, 26 Aug. 1930
Miss Mabel Price, who was 15 years younger than her groom, married Herman J. Rossi on March 16, 1906 at St. Thomas Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Herman was, at the time, the sitting mayor of Wallace. Ten years later, Mabel – while husband Herman was away on a political errand in Boise — engaged in a drunken and heedless encounter with musician Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist at the Rossi home in Wallace. Herman’s shattering discovery of her adultery upon his return home, on June 30, 1916, led to Rossi’s murder of Dahlquist that same evening at the Samuels Hotel in downtown Wallace. After a weeklong trial, in October, 1916, Rossi was readily acquitted by a Shoshone County jury. The trial and its dramatic verdict were frontpage news all over the Northwest. By the time of Rossi’s own death however — 20 years later, on March 12, 1937 — newspaper tributes said nothing of his 1916 murder trial and instead recounted the more the recent courtroom dramas springing from Rossi’s violations of the National Prohibition Act in 1929, for which he was once again ultimately exonerated.
Rossi in 1929 – by now long divorced from Mabel and happily remarried – was once again Wallace’s sitting mayor. In that capacity he’d participated in an unorthodox taxation scheme that drew revenue for the city’s treasury from liquor sales, prostitution, and gambling in Wallace. Nearby Mullan’s city government had developed a similar scheme. In both towns, such taxation was justified on grounds that large populations of young, male, work-parched miners imposed policing and other expenses that required tax revenue from somewhere. Since city officials did not pocket the money themselves, this reasoning went, taxing the steady and unabated flow of illicit liquor during Prohibition offered a pragmatic solution and as good an idea as any they could come up with. Continue reading
Okay. I think I get it. In 2016 a significant portion of the American electorate voted to roll a grenade into the Washington, D.C. establishment. They wanted to destroy the liberal consensus, broadly defined, that has exerted some sort of hegemony in the federal government, and the national consciousness, since (let’s say) the 1960s. They wanted to terminate coastal elitism, turn back the regulatory clock, undo almost everything Obama accomplished, seal the nation’s southern border, overrule the rule of PC, and turn their backs on established expertise, whether scientific or otherwise. And Trump was the man to do it. Fortunately for him, he had an opponent, in Mrs. Clinton, who symbolized many aspects of this kind of elite entitlement, even down to her implicit claim that it was time for a woman in the Oval Office.
Given this framing of the reasons for Trump’s election, it was not surprising that he, in turn, would leave a trail of broken norms behind him once he assumed the presidency. He ignored divesting himself of business interests or revealing his income tax returns. He continued to tweet in an undignified manner – for instance, damning and insulting his political adversaries. He attacked the mainstream press calling anything he didn’t like therein “fake news.” He more or less ignored the emoluments clause, sending even military personnel to his hospitality properties and (gasp!) inviting the G-7 to stay at his Florida resort for their next meeting. And on and on and on it went. He didn’t care. Sometimes he didn’t even seem to know or realize that he was violating longstanding rules or codes. When he released the summary notes of his fateful call with the new Ukrainian president he called it “perfect” and didn’t seem to understand that the “favor” he was requesting represented a violation of American election law. Continue reading
by Ron Roizen
NCAA football’s commemorative “150” patch
When does something “begin,” anyway?
NCAA football is celebrating its 150th anniversary this season, marking the occasion with a “150” patch worn, collarbone-high, on uniform jerseys. By implication, the patch recalls an inaugural contest and an exemplar of the sport – in this case a contest staged between teams representing Rutgers and Princeton on Saturday, November 6, 1869. The game began at 3 p.m. at the commons between College Ave. and Sicard St. on the Rutgers’ campus in New Brunswick, NJ – now the site of a big gym and a big parking lot. Yet the game shared very, very little with today’s American football. Wikipedia’s page for the contest notes that it resembled soccer more than today’s sport. Even the NCAA’s commemorative page for the game concedes that this contest, and the rematch that followed seven days later at Princeton, “looked nothing like what we see Saturdays these days.”
About 100 supporters gathered around the field on that autumn afternoon. Each team comprised 25 players. The game’s spherical ball could not be carried or thrown, only forcefully kicked or “dribbled” forward by foot, soccer-style, or batted by the hand or by other means. There were vertical goalposts at either end of the field but no crossbars. The goal of play was to kick the ball through the goalposts, thus scoring a single point. The first team to accumulate six points won. Following a kickoff, the team with the ball formed a protective shield around the player footing the ball forward. Defensive players tried to penetrate the shield and, on regaining the ball, formed their own defensive shield. A score initiated a new “game” or “inning,” with a new kickoff. Continue reading
by Ron Roizen
The Carter Family
Mr. Burns’ new documentary, “Country Music,” has aired on PBS TV over the past three evenings, each installment running a full two hours. Five more installments are still to air. Last night’s (on Sept. 17th) dealt with a period up to the early 1950s, ending with the premature death of Hank Williams, at age 29, on January 1, 1953. I’m thoroughly taken in by the program so far. One of its little surprises for me has been the familiarity of many of the compositions the show recalls and celebrates. I didn’t expect that because I’m not what you’d call a true devotee of country music, although over the years I’ve certainly put in my time listening to, say, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton. Another surprise has been the poetry lodged in – like a secret in plain sight – the lyrics of many country songs.
My own modest familiarity with C&W music came down to me via two main routes. The first was my father. He used to love singing C&W favorites on the long weekend drives he’d take our family on. Incidentally, watching the Burns’ series has newly acquainted me with how many of my father’s favorites were Hank Williams’ songs. But he was an unlikely C&W fan. He said he’d learned to love C&W while test-flying Helldiver planes fresh from the production line during World War Two. Tests were flown out of Montreal but there was a C&W radio station in Virginia, he said, with a very powerful signal that could be used to zero the plane’s compass. Once locked in, he just let the music play on. Continue reading
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gisela “Doris” (Holl) Roizen, born September 9, 1919 at Cologne, Germany. She passed away on May 5, 2006, here in North Idaho. Her life left only the barest traces of documentation in the usual sources — Ancestry.com, Newspapers.com, etc. One item I found just this morning is a manifest showing her travel by ship from Antwerp to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada — from the Old World to the New — in October, 1931. She, age 12, sailed with her mother, Anna, 38; her brother, Hans Joachim (Fred), 9; sister, Susanne, 6; and brother, Manfred, 3. Their ship was the S.S. Lapland, which, according to Wikipedia, was nearing the end of its oceanic service by 1931. Tough times lay ahead for the family, of course, including the continuing Great Depression and World War II. However slight her documentary record, she was responsible for the creation of a not inconsiderable flock of descendants. We pause to note this anniversary of her birth today.