One spun a time…

Back in the days before streaming services, before the internet, before TV, before radio, before rural electrification, we had to entertain ourselves on long winter nights.

Back then we also made our own clothes. Folks in these parts raised sheep, sheared those sheep, cleaned and carded the wool, and then spent those long winter nights spinning, weaving, knitting, and crocheting.

Most families had only one spinning wheel and spinning was a shared task. Therefore, the family would sit about the living room (or perhaps live about the sitting room), coming in out of the cornstarch to warm their mukluks by the cellophane on a cold winter’s night. One would spin wool into yarn while spinning yarns, while the rest of the family would listen.

“One spun a time” was literal – while one spun, that same one would tell a story. [And you wondered why storytelling is known as “spinning yarns”.] When electric lights and central heating came about, and families no longer had to stay in one room for light and heat, people forgot the origin of that phrase. Time took its toll and people began to start tales with “Once upon a time…”. (This type of mis-hearing is known as a Mondegreen, from the mis-hearing of an old Scottish ballad line “They hae slay the Earl of Murray/And laid him on the green” (but heard as “And Lady Mondegreen”, which now makes it sound like two people were killed.))

It is in that vein that I share with you one of our tales of ancient history.

Wisconsin’s heritage is thought of as mostly German, Norwegian, Finnish, Polish, Ho Chunk, and Ojibwe, depending on what part of the state you’re in.

Less well-known is our Pacific Island heritage. We all know that Pacific Islanders explored vast tracts of the Pacific by outrigger canoe. We know of far-flung inhabited islands and marvel at how people got there. But did you know about the town of Kaukauna, WI? Most of us pronounce it as “Kuh KAW nuh”, but it’s really “Ka OOH ka OOH na” and means “Big portage”. How did that come to pass?

Ancient peoples exploring the Pacific were caught in a strong westerly and blown to what is now California. Landfall was believed to be just north of San Francisco. They left their canoes at the shore and began to explore inland, figuring they would explore this island and return for their canoes when they reached the other side. If the island were big enough, they could build new canoes on the other side. Little did they know what they had stumbled upon.

They made their way across the land, marveling at the size of this island. Long discussions ensued about the wisdom of continuing the trek. After much debate (and much more walking) they eventually arrived at the Mississippi River near its confluence with the Wisconsin River (now the town of Prairie du Chien). They built canoes (outriggers being unnecessary here) and began to explore the old-fashioned way. They made their way down the Mississippi to the Wisconsin River and from there to the Fox. At this point, mutiny was imminent. Had they continued a bit further, they would have discovered Green Bay and perhaps found their way to the Atlantic Ocean. The group decided to settle in the Fox River Valley in what we now know as Kaukauna, WI. Exhibiting their wry sense of humor, they named this place for the “Big portage” of over 2000 miles required to get here.

In case one has any doubts as to the veracity of this history, we refer you to Brief of The Onion as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioner.

I was going to save this post for a cold winter night, but everyone is now referring to the case for which the brief cited above was written. By “everyone” I am specifically referring to my favorite Washington Post columnist.

Future archeology

Turtle Island 06053023

We have long known of the mound building civilization that existed some 2000 years ago in the center of the Turtle Island land mass. Recent discoveries have unearthed another mound-building society some 1000 years later in the same region.

We have had difficulty understanding this latter society, as they had abandoned prior forms of record-keeping for primitive electronic storage using systems that changed every few years and which were irreconcilable with each other. We have unearthed a plethora of different and incongruent storage devices and a myriad of incompatible operating systems. This society apparently thought they were creating long term storage solutions, but creating new ones constantly. We found mounds of discarded computing devices, each with infinitesimal differences, but enough to make them discordant. As a result, it has taken us years to decipher their history.

Only recently have we been able to uncover the history of these strange people. They subjugated the peoples of Turtle Island with a rapidly expanding imperial society based on the premise (that would be quaint were it not barbaric) that only humans with light-colored skins were actually humans. After the genocide of the native peoples, they “imported” darker skinned people as slaves. Once they ended abject slavery, they continued the process of subjugation of normal-toned people until the collapse of their civilization during the realm of King Trump III. They called themselves “white” and considered white to be associated with purity. Everything with color was considered inferior. Since very little of the natural world was white, the entire planet was considered inferior and ripe for subjugation.

The society was built on the exploitation of Gaia’s resources, discarding goods as rapidly as they made them, only to replace them with new goods. They apparently worshiped their discards. We recently uncovered a vast temple in the western portion of Turtle Island. The temple was built on a mountain of trash and is estimated to have held upwards of 10,000 people for their religious fests. The ground was said to burst into flame with the intensity of their rites, or perhaps from the release of methane from the decaying filth. Our translation of records reveals they referred to it as “Shoreline Amphitheatre”.

We have found smaller mounds on individual homesteads. Archeologists first thought these were burial mounds in emulation of the previous society of mound builders. They were almost exclusively long, narrow mounds, rectangular in shape, located near their dwellings. They contained vent pipes to the surface. At first, scientists hypothesized that this was how they buried their dead, and that the vents were placed in the belief that the souls of the dead were still alive and needed air to breathe. When we analyzed the contents of these vaults, we found them to be almost exclusively decayed fecal matter and a primitive paper. Current thinking is that these people literally worshiped their own shit.

Euro-American burial mound. Note white vent pipe at right.

The society collapsed during the reign of King Trump III. While they generally worshiped whiteness, images of the Trumps depict them as a bizarre orange-hued people. Perhaps this is why they were worshiped. During the Trump reign, all of the excesses of the “white people” came to a head. Extraction of minerals from Gaia came at breakneck pace. Huge pipelines were constructed to transport their primitive and filthy fuels. The trash piles grew more rapidly than ever before. The waste from their extraction of minerals piled higher and higher. The planet’s waters were defiled at a record pace. While they no longer enslaved their darker-skinned peers, they now locked them in huge warehouses, whose purpose has not yet been definitively discovered.

Gaia’s wealth was held by a tiny oligarchy. The majority of the populace seems to have had no purpose beyond consumption of the goods produced. As the goods were produced primarily by robots, the people could not afford them, lacking jobs and income. Greater numbers continued to be warehoused in an apparent effort to stave off rebellion. Finally the system could not sustain itself and the society, as it were, collapsed. Rivers were fouled in some regions, dried up completely in others, and overran their banks in still others, inundating the cities. The climate varied wildly, with droughts and floods simultaneously in different regions. The irreplaceable minerals, the very flesh of Gaia’s body, ran out.

In a last-ditch effort to save themselves, they attempted to colonize other planets. Their transport systems were so slow, and carried so few people, that most of the would-be colonists died en route. The rest apparently killed each other soon after arrival.

A society based on consumption had consumed all it could see, all it knew how to use. The planet was gashed, horribly disfigured. This ushered in the dark age, as Gaia healed its wounds. Only recently have humans once again come to recognize that we are part of the web of life. While this seems blatantly obvious to any five year old, the Trumpians (as we’ve come to know the dominant society of this entire era of mass exploitation and consumption) held themselves above Gaia and separate from the web of life; their inferiority complex manifested in a false aura of superiority, which nearly destroyed our home.