The History of Food, 1850-present

One of the best business books Mary and I have read in the past few years is, The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America. There have been huge improvements in food production and distribution during the last 150 years, chronicled well in this book. A&P was a much larger company than Wal-Mart 50 years ago. I excerpted two passages.

Canned goods, like cardboard boxes, were an old idea that became economical only in the 1880s. Canned goods were first used to feed Napoleon’s army in 1795, and the first U.S. canning plant was established in 1819. But cans were expensive: each was made of tin pieces individually cut with shears and then soldered together, with a skilled can maker turning out a hundred cans per day. The industry got a boost from military orders during the Civil War and the start of salmon canning on the Pacific coast in 1864, and by 1870 the United States had over a hundred plants canning fruits, vegetables, fish, and oysters. The key inventions came in 1874, when two Baltimore men, A. K. Shriver and John Fisher, found alternative ways of controlling temperature to avoid explosions during the canning process. A new machine to cap cans was introduced in the mid-1880s, reducing the need for skilled cappers, and the first successful labeling machine was invented in 1893. Automation made canning cheap: one man could cook five thousand cans of tomatoes a day in 1865 but four times that many in 1894, at a lower daily wage. More than a thousand canneries were operating in 1890, and expansion was so rapid that by 1900 food processing accounted for one-fifth of all manufacturing in the United States. Cheap canning provided grocers a wide assortment of branded merchandise to sell.

Like many successful companies, A&P was constantly harassed by the government.

The cold financial details revealed in days of such testimony presented a compelling yet simple story. Firm orders from a retailer with the size and national scale of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company enabled grocery manufacturers to lower their production costs and promote their products in ways that would otherwise have been impossible, and in return the chain expected a share of the manufacturers’ gains. But while business school professors saw such testimony as evidence of economic rationality, the anti-chain forces read it precisely the opposite way. A&P’s prices were “close to 10 percent” below his own, testified the grocer Harry Wadsworth of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, “and if I had their discounts and allowances, I could meet them easily.”

In any event, evidence about efficiency would never address the underlying concerns of Wright Patman and millions of others, who feared the demise of a society in which personal relationships were all-important and hardworking men had the opportunity to rise through their own efforts. Where experts pointed to scientific management and consumer benefits, Patman saw “the huge chain stores sapping the civic life of local communities with an absentee overlordship, draining off their earnings to his coffers, and reducing their independent business men to employees or to idleness.” The disagreement concerned worldview far more than economics, and it could not be bridged with explanations about the cost of advertising yeast.

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Gerry Spence on Freedom

One of my favorite writers is Wyoming trial lawyer Gerry Spence, best known for his work on the Karen Silkwood case that was made into the film, Silkwood. I enjoyed Seven Simple Steps to Personal Freedom: An Owner’s Manual for Life, excerpted below.

As I look back, the most fortunate events in my life, although deeply painful, were the rejections I suffered. They proved to be immensely liberating gifts. I shudder to think what would have been my fate had I become a congressman or a professor or a judge. Had any taken me—the voters, the dean, the governor—I would surely have been irretrievably enslaved. Had I been elected to Congress, I would have become enslaved to backroom politicians, to corporate money, and to the fear that one day my decisions might not be pleasing to the voters, without regard to whether or not they might be pleasing to me. One can only imagine the stultifying environment of a law professor in a small Wyoming law school. And imagine the likes of me sitting on the bench as a judge enslaved to the structured life and mentality of the sitting jurist. All along what I failed to recognize were the forces that had always been at work within. Though I had been born into slavery and taught to follow the rules of a good slave, I had an irresistible longing to be free. Certainly it would be expected that one who had suffered so much rejection during his lifetime might have learned along the way to conform, to make himself more agreeable, to become less offensive, less intimidating, less outspoken, less spontaneous, more predictable, and more structured. I had not yet understood that freedom finally meant I must take myself, accept myself, own myself, be myself, value myself, discover myself, nurture myself, and reject all that violates, imprisons, diminishes, or tends to capture the self. I had not yet learned that, in the end, we are our own slave masters.

***

On the underside of freedom lurks the sense that we are as puny as a particle of dust at sea. We stay imprisoned in bad marriages because we are afraid to be alone. We endure every manner of indignity and outrage, every agony and tedium, because we are afraid—afraid to throw off the traces and experience the naked terror that so dominates the idea of freedom. We kiss our shackles. We stay at home with the old folks, or never leave the farm or the neighborhood. We linger on in daddy’s business or hang on to the old job until we have worn a track around it like the knee-deep trail of the old gristmill horse, because we are too frightened to march out into the wilderness alone.

***

I remember when one simply bought one’s ticket and hopped on the airplane. Today we have constructed new cages in old zoos. Today we are terrorized by terrorists. Yet there are probably no more than a few score people in the entire nation whose madness would cause them to plot the willful destruction of hundreds of innocent passengers. As a consequence, these few, whoever they might be, control 260 million people. Today we take it as an unquestioned part of travel, as the way of things, that we must identify ourselves with an official picture identification—the precursor of tattoos on our wrists. Today we accept as the way of things that our bodies must be searched mechanically, that our luggage must be inspected, that once aboard, we must behave in numerous purposeless ways that have little or nothing to do with our safety but control us perfectly like cattle run through the chutes. We know that if someone wants to manufacture a bomb and blow up the plane and its passengers, all of the endless procedures we have endured will have proven to be only the known landscape over which any terrorist can travel with ease.

***

Slavery provides a special kind of security—security from making one’s own decisions, security from thinking for one’s self, security from being responsible for one’s acts, and security from experiencing one’s life. A strange security persists—the security against being free. Only the dead are utterly secure. The struggle between freedom and security is eternal. The American colonists, by wresting their liberty from the king, gave up the security of his protection, of his armies and his powerful navy. They gave up the security of his laws, and of his exchequer. Yet there is no security under the yoke. The chicken in the chicken house is not secure. Saved from the coyote, the chicken will be eaten by the farmer.

***

It’s especially telling how young people, today, deal with their debts. So many debtors just seem okay about it. No one, of course, likes his or her debt, and everyone, of course, wants it gone, but among many debtors there is a curious lack of urgency. They exhibit an almost brazen indifference about owing tens of thousands of dollars, or going into forbearance, or having hundreds of dollars taken from their monthly incomes. Most are fine with going on the twenty-year repayment plan, as if nothing was at stake. They thought of their debt as some annoying, inevitable bill like car insurance, not the steel bars that kept them confined to lives of everlasting obligation.

***

The worker who seeks security cannot exhibit the free mind necessary to spring ahead on his own. He requires an overseer, a time clock, rules of work, rules of vacations, rules of sick leave, rules about having babies, rules about rules. He requires laws to protect him, and commissions to hear his complaints and representatives to represent him. It takes endless paper and energy, and the ugly wrestling deadens the spirit of both master and slave and leaves them both weary and both full of hate.

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Biking in Pueblo, Colorado

I rode my bike yesterday in Pueblo, Colorado, the second largest city in Colorado in 1960, and saw some interesting buildings and houses.

James Poole

New Courthouse

Old House

Rosemount Museum

Semicircle House

Treed Stone House

Union far

Union close

Courthouse

WW Memorial

Big Stone House

Bike rack

Carriage House

Hill House

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Venus Climbs Texas Cliffs

One of our most memorable days with Venus was when Dave and Gina Edrich took us to Pedernales Falls State Park near Austin, Texas in May 2004. Venus was 3 years old and could ascend a vertical rock face as fast and easily as a goat!

Pedernales Group

Dave Ascent

Venus Jumping

Mary Ascent

Gina Ascent

Venus Ascent

Venus Descent
Water Dogs

Dave Venus

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Music Using Marbles

I found an interesting musical instrument using marbles via Quip.it, a video sharing platform.

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I’ll See Venus in My Dreams

In dreams Venus is always near to Mary and me. My favorite funeral song is, “I’ll See you in My Dreams” by Joe Brown for George Harrison.

We bought Venus when she was 8 weeks old from breeder Linda Eklund of Windsor, Colorado.

We bought Venus when she was 8 weeks old from breeder Linda Eklund of Windsor, Colorado.

Venus was a terrible puppy, peeing everywhere for nearly a year. If we ever get another dog, it will be potty trained and at least 12 months old.

Venus at age 5 months tied to the dog run in our yard, November 2001.

Venus at age 5 months tied to the dog run in our yard, November 2001.

Venus loved people but not dogs with a few exceptions such as Asner, who she met in Vail in the summer of 2003.

Venus loved people but not dogs with a few exceptions such as Asner, who she met in Vail in the summer of 2003.

Venus and Asner often played in the yard. Asner was a mix of pit bull and Labrador Retriever and was stronger than Venus.

Venus and Asner often played in the yard. Asner was a mix of pit bull and Labrador Retriever and was stronger than Venus.

I tried to wear down the excess young energy of Venus at the Black Lakes at the summit of Vail Pass. It backfired, making her stronger.

I tried to wear down the excess young energy of Venus at the Black Lakes at the summit of Vail Pass. It backfired, making her stronger, but I gained strength, too.

We spent 3 summers in Vail, often at the Black Lakes.

We spent 3 summers in Vail, often at the Black Lakes.

Carol visited us in Vail in summer 2003 so we walked up the mountain.

Carol visited us in Vail in summer 2003 so we walked up the mountain.

Mom and Venus at the flower garden in Ford Park in Vail, summer 2003.

Mom and Venus at the flower garden in Ford Park in Vail, summer 2003.

Venus met a twin at Vail in the summer 2003.

Venus met a twin at Vail in the summer 2003.

Venus Rapids

Venus Mark River

Venus River Climb

Venus Wading

Venus River Shore

Venus Mud

We terrorized downtown Fort Collins on Halloween 2003.

We terrorized downtown Fort Collins on Halloween 2003.

I taught Venus to fetch the paper in the morning, a trick that required several months.

I taught Venus for several months to fetch the paper in the morning. Working was one of her joys.

Venus stayed with Dave and Gina Edrich for a week in Austin, April 2004.

Venus stayed with Dave and Gina Edrich for a week in Austin, April 2004.

Gina Dave Venus

Gina Venus

Mom Venus Couch

Venus and I at the opening of the Centerra Mall in Loveland, Colorado 2005.

Venus and I at the opening of the Centerra Mall in Loveland, Colorado 2005.

2008 BajaCalf_112

2008 BajaCalf_138

Venus bone chew_320

Venus was the only dog with her own boat at the Costa Baja Marina in 2007, La Paz, Baja California Sur.

Venus was the only dog with her own boat at the Costa Baja Marina in 2007, La Paz, Baja California Sur.

Venus enjoyed our Catalina 27 when it was docked but frightened easily and hated tacking and heeling.

Venus enjoyed our Catalina 27 when it was docked but frightened easily and hated tacking and heeling.

Venus Girls

Venus Girls 2

Venus with Cameron and Jordan in Austin, 2012.

Venus with Cameron and Jordan in Austin, 2012.

Brophy Edrich

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Winter 2014

No snow has fallen lately in Colorado but we had plenty in the 2014 winter.

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Pictures of Venus in Her Final Year

Mary Venus Flagstaff

Stately Venus

Sue Venus Thanksgiving

Sue Venus Xmas

Venus Bear

Venus Cameron 1

Venus Chew

Venus Horsetooth

Venus Mark Cameron

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Videos of Venus in Her Final Year

Venus knew last year that her time was limited so she went to Cameron Pass, Colorado in August, Lake McConaughy, Nebraska in September, and in October to Arizona at Saguaro Lake, the gorge between Sedona and Flagstaff, and the Virgin River. Thanks to Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and Chet Whitley for the video recorder.

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Venus Memories

Venus is gone, the happiest animal I've ever known.

Venus is gone, the happiest animal I’ve ever known.

Venus died yesterday after 14 years and 7 months of a full enjoyable life. I’m glad we were able to spend a few days at home with her for final memories and goodbyes after our 2 week vacation in Mexico. Mary and I were very lucky that she lived so many years. Her closest brush with death was when she was 10 years old, living in the town of Bucerias north of Puerto Vallarta. Venus loved to eat garbage and litter, a dangerous habit in a tropical climate. She contracted bronchial pneumonia and refused to eat or drink, a bad sign for a lean dog that greatly enjoyed food. Mary carried Venus three blocks to the vet when Venus refused to walk. The veterinarian warned Mary that she was in danger of dying.

Her health quickly deteriorated for a few days until she was so sick that she couldn’t walk. We lived a couple of blocks from a veterinarian who saved her life. Venus received four different antibiotics, most intravenously. Earlier, Mary saw a dog wretching in the arms of the veterianarian; the dog soon died of poisoning. Upon returning for Venus 6 hours later, the other dog has died a tough death while Venus recovered. Later, Mary saw the veterinarian administering to a dog laying in the back of an open bed truck.

I started rollerblading with Venus when she was about 12 months old. Although it was hard to teach her to do things like sit and stay, I didn’t have to train her to follow me from a distance, as she always wanted to be with me. I could skate 100 yards ahead and rely on her to follow me.

I enjoy being in water and Venus always wanted to be with me so I decided that one of her jobs was to follow me when I went swimming, belly boating, or kayaking. I often strengthened her swimming muscles for long distances across ponds, lakes, and beaches such as Watson Lake in Laporte, Colorado; Black Lake at the summit of Vail Pass; and Playas Balandra and Tesoro in La Paz, Baja California Sur. Last September, I enjoyed my dream of kayaking Lake McConaughy, Nebraska for a few days with Venus 6 months before she died. She was healthy but not as strong and enthusiastic as when she was younger.

I went kayaking with Venus during the month we lived at the Costa Baja marina in La Paz, Baja California Sur; she was the most famous dog in town because I built a custom boat for her. Mary often asked me whether Venus was following me to be dutiful or if she was enjoying it. I didn’t know but one day we were on our cruising yacht in La Paz and Venus answered the question after I left them in the boat while I paddled my kayak to the only other boat in a secluded bay; she cried and moaned inconsolably like a baseball pitcher removed from the game by the manager in the 8th inning of a no-hitter. Working was her greatest joy so after that incident I allowed her to follow me as long as it wasn’t dangerous.

Venus always wanted to be a useful animal with a job; she constantly reminded me of the inhumanity of incarcerating children in schools rather than allowing them to work and earn money. I subscribed to the Wall Street Journal, delivered to the driveway 150 feet from our house, so I patiently taught Venus for several months to fetch the paper, her morning task for years. She understood the job so well that when we visited Dave Edrich in Austin, she fetched the paper of one of his neighbors and brought it to the neighbor rather than Dave or me.

Venus was never a hunting dog but she loved to chase animals when she was young. One day we skated on a trail in a field of prairie dogs. Usually, they were smart enough to run for their burrows when we approached but we surprised one as we crested over a hill, and Venus caught it in her mouth. The prairie dog fought fiercely for life, scratching Venus in the face, and Venus, not knowing what to do with her prize, dropped it after about 10 seconds. A few years later we again surprised a rabbit after cresting a hill. Venus came within 3 feet so the rabbit knew that it was in deep trouble and fled at maximum speed. Venus ran 25 mph but rabbits can run 40 mph so the rabbit ran in an evasive diagonal pattern. Venus ran straight, covering a much smaller distance, but the rabbit’s huge speed advantage still kept it ahead of Venus, the most amazing display of running I’ve ever seen.

Mary didn’t see Venus chase that rabbit but they were together without me when Venus encountered a red fox while walking in a field near our house. Venus quickly took chase as the surprised fox sprinted away. They ran atop a long, thin grassy mound, the pair equally matched in grace, beauty and speed. Slicing a path in the warm wind, their tails floated behind and parallel to the mound. In the distance, Mary saw Venus slow as the fox apparently found a hole for cover.

Venus was ferocious but not as ferocious as the Santa Monica cat, Mr. Kitty, who greeted Venus by jumping on Venus’s face, then neck, then for the back of the neck as we moved into sister Carol’s second house. The cat repelled all invaders but Carol pulled her off to prevent injury. On two later occasions, Mr. Kitty drew blood from other invading dogs.

Venus loved to goad other dogs into chasing her at dog parks. They usually gave up quickly after realizing that Venus can’t be caught. However, one day she met a greyhound in Santa Monica. Venus was about 3 feet from the greyhound when she sprinted away at top speed. As Venus hoped, this goaded the other dog into chasing her. The greyhound caught her in less than a second so Venus immediately assumed the submissive position on her back. I wish I could have communicated to her that a bigger head start is necessary to outrun a greyhound.

Venus was curious when she was young and took advantage of every opportunity to escape her leash and explore the town, costing us $75 for the dog catcher bill several times in Fort Collins, while passing motorists caught her several other times. One day when we lived in La Paz, Mary and I were inattentive so Venus escaped to explore the town. Mary was terribly worried but I assured her that we had done well as parents and that if Venus wanted to be free, we should be happy with her decision. Venus returned about 5 hours later to Mary’s great relief. We are fairly confident that she wandered into the open unlocked houses of our neighbors; Mexico suffers a reputation for high crime but it wasn’t a concern for people in downtown La Paz. Venus never disappeared again for an extended time; during her last few years as an old dog, we even let her outside to pee without a leash knowing that she wouldn’t leave home.

Every day was joyful for Venus as long as she met somebody new. She stood outside stores and restaurants staring at people until they noticed her, and she’d respond by wagging her tail, and when someone approached her she would shake hands like a human. On hot summer days when she found a puddle in a grass field, she’d make a running start and dive into it head first like Pete Rose stealing second base.

Venus was resilient, allowing her to overcome many challenges. Fireworks in downtown La Paz, Baja California Sur frightened her most. Moving whitewater river rapids and windy weather in our yard with branches falling from cottonwoods and elms was scary, too. One day Venus and I were in a canoe that capsized and she clung to my neck as if I were the safest man in the world. Thunder also frightened Venus so she always came to me because I was her hero.

Other than her brush with death in Bucerias, the most frightening time for her may have been the 5 days she spent in Mazatlan while Mary and I were in San Diego attending the wedding of Dave and Gina Edrich. A torrent of rain and hail fell within 3 feet of Venus for several days while she was alone and leashed under a plastic dining table under a covered outdoor deck. Even though the rain and hail didn’t pelt her directly, she was still soaked.

The stupidest thing I ever did to Venus was bring her in the special dog boat that I made for her to upper Glenwood Canyon while I floated in my belly boat. I mostly kept us afloat but we went over a huge rapid, fell over, and righted ourselves after a complete soaking.

Venus and I enjoyed our greatest adventure in a river a few miles from Walden, Colorado on the Fourth of July when she was young. I was wearing a wetsuit and navigating my belly boat while she swam and wore her wetsuit. I told Mary to meet us 10 miles down the river and we floated for a long time through many whitewater rapids, including a very fast one called The Narrows. The weather grew colder until it snowed, surprising me because I didn’t know snow fell in Colorado in July. It seemed like we were floating forever and we were very cold and tired so we stopped at the shoreline to rest and shiver for a few minutes. We were only one mile from Mary waiting at the end but I didn’t know that so when a woman and her daughter offered to warm us at their campsite, I gratefully accepted and enjoyed her fire and ramen noodles, and she drove us back to town. Meanwhile, Mary called the police because she had assumed that we might have been injured or drowned. There is only one street in Walden and a man in a wetsuit carrying a belly boat and walking a dog stands out so the police saw us immediately and informed Mary that we’d made it back to town.

The happiest time for Venus was the day we rode dune buggies on the beach of the small surfing town of Todos Santos, a few miles north of Cabo San Lucas. She wore the wetsuit I built for her and I strapped her to the buggy using the D-rings on her suit. We started by riding a dirt path and I left her off when we reached the beach. When I reached the maximum buggy speed of 25 mph, she was running alongside at her fastest, too. We enjoyed watching the huge waves crash into the rocks. Venus alternated between soaking in the ocean and running on the beach without a leash.

Venus and I loved Mexico because it is such a free country. Not only did a Mexican allow Venus to ride on a dune buggy at Todos Santos but another allowed her to ride in the panga with us in Magdalena Bay with Mary, Carol, and I when we visited the whales. I think Venus understood that we were there for the rare chance to see one of the most magnificent creatures in the sea.

We drove the Baja California peninsula many times with Venus and one of my favorite places was a big windy steep deserted sand dune outside the farming town of San Quintin. Mary stood at the top and I was at the bottom, repeatedly asking Venus to ascend and descend until she was exhausted. She slept soundly in our van for a few hours after those runs.

Venus was also overjoyed several times to visit Fiesta Island in San Diego during the month we lived in our travel trailer at Campland By the Bay. The island is large and sparsely used on weekdays, allowing her to run free and chew on charcoal that people left behind after weekend barbecues.

If you are one of the thousands of people whose day Venus brightened, please share your memories in the comments.

I close with Steely Dan’s Deacon Blues:

I cried when I wrote this song, sue me if I play too long.
This brother is free, I’ll be what I want to be.

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