History on a Shirt
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Odd, Unusual, and Different History

History on a Shirt posts

History is funny, says Ewan Tallentire. Especially Colorado history, with Zebulon Pike, who decided that Pike's Peak couldn't be climbed, mainly because he started in Pueblo and thought it would be an afternoon hike. (Now it is the only 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado with a restaurant at the top.) Then there's the time Pike explored what turned out to be the Royal Gorge and went in a loop without realizing it and mistook their own campsite for another party exploring the canyon. And he got captured by the Spanish for raising the American flag in what he thought was American territory. He died in Toronto, standing right next to an ammunition dump while the fort was being evacuated. The British were being driven out, but as they left, they fired the powder stores. 

That's not even the tall tales, such as those told about Pike's Peak by Sergeant O'Keefe, who was a real, historical person stationed on top of the peak where he had lots of time to think up stories and how to tell them. So he told stories about the giant mountain rats who killed his baby daughter and would have gotten his wife too if he hadn't wrapped her in sheet metal. People climbed the peak to look at the grave he marked, not noticing that he wasn't married and there were no giant mountain rats and if there were they wouldn't have been living on a gum excreted from the volcano since Pike's Peak is not volcanic. 

Then there is the history of the train in South Park that got off the tracks because of ice that made the tracks level with the ground, and the first the engineer noticed was when a haystack appeared directly in front of the train.

Ewan collects stories like these and sometimes illustrates them, especially if he can help a museum tell its story by doing so. 

History, he says, should not be just a series of names and dates, but the dates themselves can be interesting when you realize that Beethoven died only about a decade before the attack on the Alamo. So things we see as the primitive and uncivilized Old West were in the same time period as the height of classical music, just in a different part of the world. Yet there was communication between the Old West and Austria; their histories aren't that separated.

For instance, there is a connection between Napoleon and why Pike was trying to climb the "unclimbable" peak in 1806. Pike was surveying the land France had sold the US to fund their military expansion through Europe under Napoleon. In that same year, Ewan's ancestor joined the British Army at the age of 13, and would have been at Waterloo except that he fell and dislocated his hip, which was a permanent injury in that day.

If you enjoy odd history, you will find it in the art of Ewan Tallentire.

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