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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

March 2015

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, but You Can't Make Him Take a Bath

I've been deeply engaged in research  about 19th-century marriage  customs all day today, and my head is swimming. So instead of offering  you something pithy and meaningful, or coming up with an elaborate hoax for April Fool's Day, how about settling for a few more weird laws from the State of South Carolina.


  • Horses may not be kept in bathtubs.
  • It is illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on Sunday, unless you own a private club.
  • A permit must be obtained to fire a missile.
  • It is illegal to give or receive oral sex in South Carolina.
  • When approaching a four way or blind intersection in a non-horse driven vehicle you must stop 100 ft from the intersection and discharge a firearm into the air to warn horse traffic.
  • It is perfectly legal to beat your wife on the court house steps on Sundays.
  • Every adult male must bring a rifle to church on Sunday in order to ward off Indian attacks.
  • It is a capital offense to inadvertently kill someone while attempting suicide.
  • A person must be eighteen years old to play a pinball machine.





  • Another Reason to Celebrate "Hug a Medievalist" Day

    1,000-year-old onion and garlic eye remedy 'kills MRSA'

    Scientists have recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow's stomach.
    They were "astonished" to find the 1,000 year old treatment almost completely wiped out staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA.
    Their findings will be presented at a national microbiology conference.
    Scientists recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow's stomach.
    They were "astonished" to find it almost completely wiped out staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA.
    Their findings will be presented at a national microbiology conference.
    The remedy was found in Bald's Leechbook - an old English manuscript containing instructions on various treatments held in the British Library.
    Anglo-Saxon expert Dr Christina Lee, from the University of Nottingham, translated the recipe for an "eye salve", which includes garlic, onion or leeks, wine and cow bile.
    Experts from the university's microbiology team recreated the remedy and then tested it on large cultures of MRSA.
    Tom Feilden, science editor Today Programme
    The leechbook is one of the earliest examples of what might loosely be called a medical textbook
    It seems Anglo-Saxon physicians may actually have practiced something pretty close to the modern scientific method, with its emphasis on observation and experimentation.
    Bald's Leechbook could hold some important lessons for our modern day battle with anti-microbial resistance.

    In each case, they tested the individual ingredients against the bacteria, as well as the remedy and a control solution.
    They found the remedy killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria and believe it is the effect of the recipe rather than one single ingredient.
    Dr Freya Harrison said the team thought the eye salve might show a "small amount of antibiotic activity".
    "But we were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was," she said.
    Dr Lee said there are many similar medieval books with treatments for what appear to be bacterial infections.
    She said this could suggest people were carrying out detailed scientific studies centuries before bacteria were discovered.
    The team's findings will be presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology, in Birmingham.
    Here’s the recipe:
    Equal amounts of garlic and another allium (onion or leek), finely chopped and crushed in a mortar for two minutes.
    Add 25ml (0.87 fl oz) of English wine - taken from a historic vineyard near Glastonbury.
    Dissolve bovine salts in distilled water, add and then keep chilled for nine days at 4C.

    Shared article courtesy of the BBC.

    The Sporting Life in South Carolina

    How do you feel about sports, now that March is almost over and the "madness" is winding down?  Are you tired of having sports on TV every evening and all day and night on weekends?  Does your jaw tighten a bit when you hear the people we entrust with our lives --  teachers and nurses, policemen and firemen  -- talk about needing to moonlight just to pay their bills? And do you get even more irritated when you hear the salaries sports figures get paid to catch or throw or chase a little ball?

    Well, maybe you ought to consider moving to South Carolina. Did you know that they don't have a single major professional sports team in the state?  NO NFL, NHL, NBA, MLS, or MLB. How on earth do sports fans survive? The University of South Carolina  and Clemson try their best to fill the gap, but only succeed during football and basketball seasons.

    So what's a fella supposed to do with his time? It’s illegal to fish with a yo-yo or dynamite in the fine state of South Carolina. Of course he could always drop by Hell Hole Swamp. It has its own yearly festival complete with a tobacco spitting contest and a 10k Hell Hole Gator Trot, also known as the Redneck Run.

    No, there's only one answer for the sports enthusiast who comes to South Carolina. Myrtle Beach is the Golf Capital of the world, and South Carolina has more than 300 public and private golf courses in total. Of course, they are usually full of tourists wearing seersucker pants and giggling at the "PLEASE DON'T FEED THE ALLIGATORS" SIGNS (which is actually no laughing matter). 

    South Carolina turns out to be one of those places where you have to make your own fun, and that's OK.


    The Most Famous Tree in South Carolina


    Angel Oak on John’s Island is thought to be the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River. It’s believed to be more than 1,500 years old. 

    Where? John's Island lies just across the Stono River and west of James Island, the location of the battle of Secessionville, which plays an important part in both A Scratch with the Rebels and Beyond All Price .

    I've visited the tree and marveled at its size.  I can't find a picture of it with a human being standing by its trunk, but if there were a figure beside it, the person would be about an eighth of an inch tall.


    I first planned to post this picture  as just a space filler while I'm busy producing a few more chapters of "Yankee Reconstructed."  However, when I started to post it today, i saw something much more important in it.  I am a member of a small Facebook group of older women who refuse to act their age. All are active, thoughtful, funny, and creative. And this tree reminded me of them. In fact, I intend to publish this post on our group website in their honor.

    So what's so special about this tree, and why does it deserve to be an honorary member of the group? Well, if you look closely, you'll see that some of the larger branches have sagged until they are flat on the ground. (I know the feeling well!). In one spot a taller branch has been propped up by an iron pole (which reminds me of a clothes pole that my mother used to hold up the clotheslines of laundry back in the day before dryers.) And don't we all need propping up now and then?

    Look closer still and you'll see that the iron pole is bending under its weight. Metal is no match for the enormous mass of this tree, Right next to the pole, someone has shoved a block of wood to help hold this branch off the ground. Similar blocks of wood can be seen under other branches, lifting them only a few inches above the ground, but high enough to prevent ground rot from seeping into the branch. Help is welcome, and it does not distract from the tree's amazing strength. The blocks say someone cares.

    The trunk is wrinkled. The branches are gnarled and twisted. Leaves grow only at the very ends of the branches, where they can catch a bit of sunshine, rather like the fringe around the bare crown of a bald man's head. Moss grows in the shadows. Few acorns litter the ground around the tree. It is well past the age of producing little oak trees. 

    But still it stands. This oak tree and the rest of its woody friends in the surrounding area have been ravaged by more than one hurricane. The on-shore winds batter it, but they are never strong enough to cause this tree to bend and break.

    I would not set foot on one of these branches for fear of damaging them -- or, more likely damaging me, since I'm well beyond the age of tree climbing. But the Angel Oak reaches out for me, beckoning, calling, offering its shelter and protection. It sets an example of strength and courage -- a reminder of the great dignity that can accompany old age.










    Be Careful What You Do in South Carolina

    I have too many irons in the fire this week. Meetings scheduled: Katzenhaus accountant on taxes, financial advisers, an LCI pilot project (started by husband; passed down to me); two lunches with friends. Chores: a closet to clean out, groceries, post office, bank. And hanging over my head-- a book contest to enter, four book chapters outlined and ready to be written, and the pressure to keep up with occasional blog entries. 

    Being busy is good; it keeps me from feeling sorry for myself. But there's supposed to be some time in there for me to relax. Until I find it, I'm going to fill  up this blog space with some silly stuff about my literary favorite state, courtesy of various websites luring tourists to South Carolina.

    Here are some of my favorite South Carolina laws that remain on the books. I used to point out to students that people do not pass laws unless the proscribed behavior is already so widespread as to cause a nuisance. You might want to try your hand at guessing what prompted some southern lawmakers to pass the following:


  • It is illegal to display a confederate flag on a courthouse.
  • By law, if a man promises to marry an unmarried woman, the marriage must take place.
  • Railroad companies may be held liable in some instances for scaring horses.
  • A railroad my not remove itself from a town of more than five hundred people.
  • Fortune tellers are required to obtain a special permit from the state.
  • Dance halls may not operate on Sundays.
  • No work may be done on Sunday.
  • Musical instruments may not be sold on Sunday.
  • Performing a U-turn within 1,000 feet of an intersection is illegal.
  • It is considered an offense to get a tattoo.


  • Read more: