A Historian’s Office

6 Jan

Two days of constant meetings have melted my mind, and the only sounds I can hear over the drone of voices are my brain cells screaming as they leap to their deaths. As I sit in my office in an attempt to recover, I  can’t think of anything clever or interesting to write about. Therefore, I am going to take the easy way out and describe what I see – my office.

My office has turned into a popular hangout on campus, and I sometimes describe it as the El Paso train station. People are always coming and going. Students and teachers drop by to visit on a regular basis, and they often comment on the things I have scattered about. Of course, that is once they get past the darkness of it all. I keep all lights off except for one desk lamp. I have been accused of being a vampire; of trying to be mysterious; and of being a cave-dweller. I usually reply that I do my best work in the dark, but the truth is that the bigger lights hurt my eyes. Whatever the complaints and smart comments, people must like my office because someone is always in it.

With that in mind, I am going to attempt this blog experiment to test my descriptive skills. I am going to sit at my desk and describe the things I can see. We will do this in categories.

Category 1 – Wall Hangings

As I look to my left, there are four things hanging on the wall.

1. An old print of a cattle drive that I stole out of one of the classrooms. The teacher in that room is a Native American, so I figured he didn’t want cowboys in there anyway. Two cowboys are riding hard to stop a stampede that began with a lightning storm.

2. A photograph of Ulysses S. Grant. It is an iconic photo of the general as he leans against a tree. The best part is his original signature that is matted underneath.

3. A collection of Confederate money. There are six Confederate bills – One, Two, Five, Ten, Twenty, Fifty – matted and framed. There are a lot of Sons of Confederate Veterans members around here who wish the money was still good.

4. A photograph of Adolph Hitler and a Nazi arm band. It is a typical picture of the tyrant in civilian clothes. Like the photo of Grant, the most interesting part of this item is the document included with his original signature. I explain to everyone that I am not a Nazi. I simply think it is a remarkable piece of history.

Now, I move to the wall in front of me.

1. Above the door, there hangs a panoramic of the Tennessee Maneuvers. When the U.S. entered World War II, the military believed that troops needed to be seasoned with war games before going to Europe. Tennessee is geographically similar to where they were going, and the area was selected for that purpose. My university was chosen as the headquarters, as troops fought battles; liberated cities; and built bridges across rivers.

2. A plaque given to me after serving as honorary coach for our men’s basketball team. It was a resounding victory.

3. A plaque given to me in recognition for serving on the community council of a local bank.

4. A plaque given to me as the “Most Outstanding Faculty Member” for last year. I was proud of this because I beat my mentor before he retired. He had won the award a million years in a row.

5. A certificate honoring me as a Colonel Aide de Camp for the governor of Tennessee. They pass these things out like candy. It is the same certificate given to Harlan Sanders in Kentucky. He wasn’t a real colonel. He was  a fake one like me.

6. A drawing of the old county courthouse. It was consistently voted the ugliest courthouse in Tennessee and was demolished before I was born.

I hope this is not getting monotonous. On to the wall on my right.

1. My favorite plaque. It reads, “On This Site In 1897 Nothing Happened”. I got it at the Longwood Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi. Some of you may know it better as the home of the king of Mississippi in “True Blood”.

2. A license of prostitution given to Rosita del Oro in 1876. This probably attracts the males to my office because it is included with a photograph of a nude woman playing a harp.

3. The next item covers a lot of the wall. I took a lot of pictures of the Dumas Brothel when I researched it in Butte, Montana. Upon my return, I had a local artist paint a few of the photographs. This one depicts the interior of a crib, a one room shack that prostitutes would work out of. A woman is sitting by the window in an attempt to draw customers. I will blog more later about the women of the cribs.

Finally, the wall behind me.

1. Another painting of the Dumas depicts the outside of the building. It is a two-story brick building that the artist placed in a Victorian setting. I am not real happy about the woman in the window. She looks a lot like Morticia Addams.

Category 2 – Filing Cabinet Decor

1. A magnetic fish with legs and Darwin written inside of it. I picked it up in Santa Fe and have to hide it when my parents come around.

2. A sticker of George Washington with a dialogue bubble that says, “I grew hemp.” I believe he was the largest producer in the colonies.

3. A magnetic voodoo doll that I bought in New Orleans. I haven’t tried it out yet, but people better watch out.

4. A bumper sticker with an alien on it that says, “You Don’t Scare Me. I’m A Teacher!” It came from the UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico, one of the greatest museums ever.

5. On top of the cabinet sits an original World War I German helmet – the kind with the spike on top. They would jab it into the ground and use it as a cooking pot. They used it as another got of pot as well. You can use your imagination.

Category 3 – Bookshelf Without Books

Top shelf first.

1. A miniature of the Roman Coliseum. I got it in Rome.

2. A candle from the San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, Arizona. An ex-girlfriend got it for me, and I finally visited the site last year.

3. A model of the Mayflower, the boat filled with pilgrims searching for religious freedom. Ugh. The real story of the Mayflower is a lot more interesting.

4. Two bobbleheads. One is a sheik wearing sunglasses. The other is a Muslim woman wearing an abaya. This is not an attempt at a political or religious statement. They were given to me by an ex-girlfriend who moved to the UAE. They sold them. She bought them. I displayed them.

Next shelf.

1. A textbook on Western Civilization. This is very outdated.

2. A book called, “Pauline’s: Memories of the Madam on Clay Street”. It was given to me by the university president and chronicles the life of a madam in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

3. Another book titled, “Life of Tom Horn”. He was a prominent figure in the cattle wars of Wyoming. Bad ending, they hung him.

4. And another book called, “Intimate Papers of Colonel House”. I have not read this. It is an old book gifted to me by a professor who passed away.

5. A little set of nuns and priests playing poker. This is from the same ex-girlfriend who gave the candle to me. These little guys came from Italy. I wouldn’t want to sit across the table from any one of them.

5. Along side those things is my Masters thesis about prostitution in mining camps of the American West. I don’t have much to say about this, except that I finished it.

The bottom shelf (I know. Thank God!)

1. A replica of a statue on campus. It was built to honor the laborers who built my building during the Great Depression. It is meant to symbolize the New Deal and other aspects of the era. Unfortunately, it is out of proportion and looks like a midget.

2. A brick from this building that was dislodged during renovation. It was originally laid in 1936 and looks like it.

3. A beer stein decorated with John Wayne pictures. I can’t help it. John Wayne is my all time favorite actor. Inside the stein, I placed glass sunflowers that a weird female student once gave me. Don’t ask.

I suppose this should end, but I can’t describe a historian’s office without listing a few books. We all have to have books. So, I will name the first book I see on each shelf.

Category 4 – Books

1. “Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West” by Anne Seagraves

2. “The Pueblo Revolt of 1680: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico” by Andrew L. Knaut

3. “Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government” by Catherine Allgor

4. “Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, and Other Stories of the World’s Greatest Unexplained Phenomenon” by M.V. Ingram

5. “Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People” by Jon Butler

6. “Mining Town: The Photographic Record of T.N. Barnard and Nellie Stockbridge from the Couer d’Alenes” by Patricia Hart and Ivar Nelson

Thankfully, that’s it. Oh, you may be wondering about my desk. Classes haven’t started yet, so there is nothing on it except sunglasses and a lamp.

12 Responses to “A Historian’s Office”

  1. booksnob January 7, 2012 at 04:00 #

    Gahhhh, so many things to comment on! I have to open a word document so I don’t have to keep scrolling up.

    Category 1

    I laughed really hard at your comment about why your colleague probably didn’t want the picture of the cowboys in his office.

    That’s pretty cool that you’re a fake colonel. If they pass them out like candy, I don’t understand why I didn’t get them while trick or treating this year. [sad face]

    What the hell is wrong with Morticia Addams?! She was hot!

    Category 2

    I had this Darwin emblem on my first car (a ’78 subaru station wagon, if you must know – it was named the Flintstone Mobile because there were holes in the floorboards)

    I used to have a friend that owned a hemp shop, and he had a little stamp that he’d use on every dollar bill that came through his store so that everyone knew ol’ GW was a pothead.

    A friend of mine from Luxembourg (that is currently studying in Germany) just sent me a voodoo doll in the mail this week. Weird.

    Is the pickelhaube real, or a reproduction?

    Category 3

    You will have to post about the Mayflower some time. I will read it. 🙂

    I thought I was going to choke laughing about the midget statue. Is it only the replica that looks like a midget, or does the real thing also appear to be a little person?

    Don’t tell me not to ask about the glass sunflowers! That means I have to! So…what’s the deal with the glass sunflowers?

    Okay, I think I’m done now. Thanks for sharing!

    • Tennessean-Historian-Blogger January 7, 2012 at 05:11 #

      I am not sure many people got through this one to get the humor. I am glad that you did. Let’s see if I can reply to all of your replies.

      Cat 1

      The Native American teacher’s biggest problem is that he is surrounded on each side by Jacksonians. I’m the only one that doesn’t give him crap.

      I am not sure why you didn’t get one for Halloween. Perhaps you did not wear the correct costume.

      You are correct about Morticia. She was definitely hot. I go for the Goth look. I mis-wrote. I should have said it was a cross between Morticia and Gomez. I think Lily Munster is hot too.

      Cat 2

      Did your station wagon have wood paneling? Fred only had rock siding.

      I wish I had a friend who owned a hemp shop. I bought the sticker at a hemp shop in Santa Fe. You have cool friends. Hemp guys. Cartoon makers.

      Have you tried the voodoo doll? I did not realize they had voodoo in Luxembourg.

      The helmet is real. It belonged to another professor, and he gave it to me when he retired. Sadly, one of my students wanted to use it in a WWII presentation.

      Cat 3

      The Mayflower story requires an entire post. However, it was more about searching for gold than searching for God.

      The real statue looks like a midget. Additionally, when it was “erected” the president at the time wanted it taken down because she thought the bulge in his pants was too prominent.

      The glass sunflowers were a gift from a student that wanted more than a good grade. I must admit that she wasn’t a temptation. However…never mind. That information should not be put on the internet.

      I think that covers all of your comments. I was afraid that post might be too tedious, but I honestly had not other ideas. Did you ever get that massage?

      • booksnob January 9, 2012 at 04:07 #

        Guess what? I’m lame! I totally read your response on my phone the other night and said “Eff this, I can’t reply like this…using just my thumbs like a barbarian!” and resolved to comment the following day. I then completely forgot about it because…I’m lame.

        I no longer remember the things I originally wanted to say, but I do remember this. Don’t knock Gomez. I had to dress up as him for Hallowe’en at work one year.

        I haven’t been to the spa yet. I keep meaning to go, but husband’s work hours are wonky lately and haven’t figured out a time that will ensure he’s home with the younglings (we home school).

      • Tennessean-Historian-Blogger January 9, 2012 at 05:27 #

        I must say that a Gomez Addams costume is very original. I am disappointed because I expected some great responses. Home schooling sounds interesting. One of my fellow History faculty does it with his kids. Does it get overwhelming?

      • booksnob January 9, 2012 at 05:45 #

        Absolutely, it’s overwhelming!

        I’ll bring my A commenting game tomorrow, I promise.

      • booksnob January 10, 2012 at 06:04 #

        Pippi was the best costume ever!

        I’m up to 44 now, and posted earlier today. Was working earlier on the post for tomorrow’s Trashy Tuesday, but I’m too tired to finish it tonight.

      • Tennessean-Historian-Blogger January 10, 2012 at 06:07 #

        I missed today’s. I’ll check it out.

  2. booksnob January 10, 2012 at 05:34 #

    Have I told you that I absolutely love that you don’t say an historian? I hate when people do that. THE H IS NOT SILENT!

    On to the promised comments!


    I didn’t wear a costume at all this year, that must explain it.

    The Gomez costume was awesome. The whole group of us that dressed up as the entire family looked great. My ‘wife’ was super hot.


    No wood paneling. Just a sandy coloured station wagon. It was old when I got it, which explains the holes, and the speakers were blown out on the stereo. I took a boom box with me with mix tapes everywhere I went because not having music was not an option.

    I do have a lot of cool friends. I haven’t spoken to hemp store guy in at least 15 years, though. I do have a friend that is a novelist now, though, so maybe that makes up for it?

    The voodoo doll is still in the box it came from. I’m a little afraid to take it out.

    I am jealous of your pickelhaube.


    I am still laughing about the midget statue…and the sunflowers.


    • Tennessean-Historian-Blogger January 10, 2012 at 05:43 #

      That’s a lot better. However, my eyes are blurry from the Justified Season 2 marathon I have been on. I appreciate the fact that you love that I don’t say an historian. You would be surprised how many historians say it. It is not hard to speak and write correctly. More people should try it. You didn’t wear a costume? Hmmm. Is Gomez your best costume? Mine was a cross between Jesse James and Wyatt Earp. I still have the fake moustache. Maybe I should break it back out.

  3. booksnob January 10, 2012 at 05:52 #

    No, best costume ever was when I was Pippi Longstocking my senior year of high school.

    I was just talking to Meg about ‘an historian’ earlier. We agreed that only British people get a bye on that one. Everyone else is just saying it wrong.

    • Tennessean-Historian-Blogger January 10, 2012 at 06:00 #

      Pippi? I am sure that was a wonderful costume. You haven’t posted in a while. Did you get past 42?


  1. Things on the Dresser « surroundedbyimbeciles - March 13, 2012

    […] a person by the things they have lying around. That’s the reason I created a post about the things in my office. Well, that’s not the only reason. I was sitting in my office trying to come up with a […]

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