Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sgt. Floyd Monument, The Biggest Gravestone in Sioux City

 This is an article from The Sioux City Journal. The Floyd Memorial is just one of the historical monuments in the area.

Sgt. Charles Floyd got very sick in the summer of 1804. 

On July 31, 1804, Floyd wrote in his diary: "I am verry sick and has ben for Sometime but have Recovered my helth again." 

Floyd's improved "helth" would not last, however; he had only three weeks to live. 

The explorer, a member of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, was stricken with what was described as "bilious colic." His condition was consistent with what is now known as appendicitis. There was no doctor available in this uncharted spot, at the time part of the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. 

He was probably just as well off without a doctor. Medicine in that era was primitive and unscientific at best, and often cruel and counterproductive.

Floyd died Aug. 20, 1804, in the area that is now Sioux City. He was the sole member of the Corps of Discovery to die during the hazardous journey. William Clark wrote in his diary that "We buried him on the top of the bluff 1/2 Mile below a Small river to which we Gave his name, he was buried with the Honors of War, much lamented," according to the Sioux City Public Museum. 

Fellow Corps of Discovery explorer Patrick Gass described Floyd's burial as being conducted "in the most decent manner our circumstances would admit."

A cedar post was used as a grave marker, inscribed: "Sergt. C. Floyd died here 20th of August 1804."

Fifty years after Floyd died, a city sprang up in the area near his grave. By 1857, according to the museum, the grave itself had fallen into disrepair; Sioux Cityans gathered what remained of his remains and re-buried them in a walnut coffin. 

By the 1890s, a decades-long, nationwide historical monuments craze was intensifying. In the eastern states, scores of monuments were built to commemorate the Civil War.

In 1894, Floyd's journals from the expedition were rediscovered, according to the Sioux City Public Museum. In an era when community leaders everywhere itched for something important to immortalize in stone and bronze, the memory of Charles Floyd sprang back to life. 

Unfortunately, in the decades since his 1857 reburial, cattle had trampled the grave and (as was common practice in those days) souvenir seekers took whatever they could get from the gravesite. Eventually nothing was left above ground; no one knew where exactly the grave was. 

On Memorial Day, 1895, after a lot of searching, Floyd's grave was rediscovered. His remains were placed in two earthenware urns and reburied again on Aug. 20, 1895, according to the museum. A special re-interment service was held, and a more-permanent grave marker was installed -- a four-foot-by-eight-foot marble slab over the grave. 

That same year, the Floyd Memorial Association was formed to see that Sgt. Floyd would get an even more substantial grave marker. 

A decade earlier, the Washington Monument -- which had been under construction in fits and starts since 1848 -- was at last completed and dedicated. An enormous Egyptian-style obelisk was used to honor the first president; obelisks, and Egyptian-inspired decorative arts in general, were very popular at the time. 

Sgt. Charles Floyd would also be honored with an obelisk. Floyd's obelisk, however, would be less than one-fifth the height of the 555-foot Washington Monument. 

Help poured in from all around: $13,400 was secured from the federal government, the state of Iowa, Woodbury County and from private sources of funding. Colonel Chittenden with the United States Engineer's Office in Sioux City offered his services, according to the museum. Materials for the monument were transported free of charge by the railroads. 

The foundation of the monument was laid May 29, 1900. On Aug. 20, the cornerstone was ceremoniously laid, 96 years to the day after Floyd died. The obelisk's capstone was placed on April 22, 1901, and the finished monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1901. Thousands of people attended the ceremonies. 

Sgt. Floyd's remains are entombed inside the Floyd Monument, in its concrete core. The exterior of the monument is built of Kettle River sandstone; like the Washington Monument, its pointed cap is made of aluminum, a relatively innovative element at the time.

(The aluminum tip, depending on the ambient light, doesn't always have the shiny, bright appearance of other aluminum objects; often it has a rather darkened appearance. This likely contributed to the "big pencil" moniker the monument eventually garnered, as the darkened aluminum point does bear some resemblance to the graphite point of a wooden pencil.) 

In 1960, the Floyd Monument would become the first-ever National Historic Landmark in the U.S. 

Though the monument outwardly looks like the sort of thing that lasts forever with little or no maintenance, it is in fact showing its age. For more than a year, the Sioux City Parks and Recreation Department has been keeping an eye on the monument's condition; spalling, a phenomenon wherein pieces or flakes of material break away from a larger body, has been noted on the south part of the landmark. 

The obelisk last underwent repairs in 1998. 

Visitors can see the monument at 2601 S. Lewis Blvd. Also, details about the Lewis and Clark expedition can be found at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, 900 Larsen Park Road, at the Sergeant Floyd River Museum, also at Larsen Park Road. 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

What To Do If Someone Has A Seizure

It has been a long time since I have reminded people of what to do if you see someone having a seizure. They are awful to see and worse to experience. Do you know what to do if someone has a seizure? Read further and you will.

When I was 16 I took a summer job babysitting. It was a family of 5 children. They lived in a trailer park on a lake. Their trailer was a very large nice home.

They had four boys and one daughter. I would sleep in the same room as the daughter because I would stay there all week. On weekends I would go home.

Both parents worked so they needed someone who could take care of the children, do light housework, and cook at least two meals each day. No problem. Remember I have six younger brothers and sisters.

The children also had an aunt and uncle only a few trailers away. The aunt was only a few years older than I. I was asked to never leave the children alone with her because she had epilepsy. She had been in a car accident and there was a bruise on her brain that caused seizures.

She was a very nice person and we got along very well. She would come down a couple of times a week just to visit while her husband was at work.

One day she had a seizure. She was just sitting and quietly watching television when she began to act strangely. She yelped a couple of times and slapped her leg repeatedly. It took me a few beats to realize what was happening but I had no idea what to do for her.

I had promised the children I would make Johnny cake for breakfast one day. What I call Johnny cake is just hot cornbread with sugar and milk poured over it. It is delicious if you want to try it. So one Monday morning I got up early to start baking.

I did not know that the parents had broiled steaks the evening before. They decided to leave the oily aluminum foil on the broiler and clean it after work Monday.

I lit the oven and started making cornbread batter. The oldest son of the family came in rubbing his eyes and trying to wake up. As we were talking we saw the flames flare up from the broiler.

I am good in a crisis so I was going to go out and turn off the fuel tank. When I got to the door I suddenly felt myself turning to the left and spinning uncontrollably. (I was not. It only felt that way.)

Then I was waking up on the couch with the mother of the family hovering over me and the children looking so frightened. She wanted to know if I was okay. I felt fine. Maybe just a little sleepy.

The oldest son had the good sense to run outside and turn off the fuel. Then he ran down and had his aunt come up. She called the mother who came right home. It was about a 45 minute drive.

The mother decided to take some time off work so I could go home. My parents had me rest and stay calm even though I felt fine. After one week I went back to take care of the children again.

I was there for about a week and a half. I was up before the children once again. As I moved through the living room toward their rooms to wake them up I turned and saw myself walking slightly behind and to the left of myself!

Once more I woke up to see the mother there as I was lying on the couch. This time my mother was with her. I was still so scared from what I had seen. The mother of the children of course needed someone who was not passing out all the time. She had made arrangements for a friend of mine to finish out the summer. That was fine with me. I wanted my mommy.

Mom took me home and we were relaxing again. That same day I passed the television as I was walking to a chair. Mom was in her bedroom folding clothes.

There was some sort of art program on television. The program was flashing from one painting to another and the lights changed with each painting.

I felt dizzy and was able to sit down. Then I felt myself reach up and tear the whole left side of my face, jawbone, teeth, and all, completely off. Then I felt that same hand reach down and tear the muscle from the top of my left leg. Of course that did not happen. I passed out.

Mom said she heard a funny noise and came into the living room to see me sitting in a chair with everything on my body trying to fold into itself. I am not a limber person. She said my hands were sort of palm up with my fingers almost touching my wrists.

I went immediately to the doctor. I do not remember much about the doctor visit. He admitted me to the hospital.

I had never been in the hospital before. I thought it was kind of cool to be served my food in bed. I did not like the testing they did as most of it involved drawing blood.

The second or third day I was there (I do not remember how long my stay was) I was lying there and I began to think about epilepsy. I remembered hearing my grandmother talk about two sisters in town who had "fits". That and the aunt of the children I had taken care of was the limit of what I knew on the subject.

My parents came in that morning and stood at the foot of my bed. They told me that the doctor thought I might have epilepsy. I said, "I thought that might be what it was."

When I got the chance I asked the doctor what this would mean for me having children. He said not to worry about it. But I did worry about it. So he assured me that the chances of my children having seizures was not even 1 in a million.

I was put on the medications that they used to treat seizures at that time. Now I am not a medicine taker. Two aspirin will knock me out. The medicine that I was taking made me so sleepy all the time. I do not know how I got through my senior year of high school that year. And with my A average to boot.

I have grand mal seizures (now called something else). Those are convulsive seizures. They are extremely painful. Each one a person has is a bit worse than the one before until they can be so bad that a person can die from a seizure. In fact I have almost died three times. I feel very fortunate to be here.

I am also very fortunate that I am very well controlled with medication. It has been so many years since I had a seizure that I cannot remember when the last one was.

I am still taking the original medications that the original doctor prescribed. One of them is a controlled substance. After sixty years I am physically addicted to it. That means without it I will go into withdrawal and the classic symptoms that accompany withdrawal. It does not mean I am constantly craving more. I just need it to live.

A dear friend of mine was on the city council of the big city we lived in. She was on President Carter's epilepsy commission. She asked me to go through the information she had and give her a synopsis. No problem. Until I saw the research. It was five books. Each one was about four inches thick except the last one. It was about three inches.

What I read was a real eye-opener for me. While epilepsy, like many other maladies, is not inherited the predisposition is inherited. That means that my children might have a weakness that they inherited from me that would make them more disposed to having seizures.

Also they used an example of a parent with four children (I have four children). If one child has seizures the likelihood of another having seizures multiplies (not adds up, multiplies). If three children have seizures the fourth will have seizures.

I learned that an uncle of mine had epilepsy. He died before my father was born. He was in a home for juvenile delinquents. My father always thought his brother was "bad" because that was better than being "defective".

My mother suffered terribly from migraine headaches. They are a first cousin to epilepsy. Many of the workings of the brain are the same in both.

Two of my sons had migraines when they were about 8 years old. Testing showed some brain activity but I would not allow them to be put on medication until there could be a definite diagnosis. Neither has had any further problems. My daughter is fine. I recently discovered that my other son has been having petit mal seizures for about three years. He did not want to worry me so he kept it to himself.

Two of my grandchildren have migraine headaches. So does their mother, my daughter-in-law. Two of my grandchildren have had seizures. One was placed on medication for a year. The seizures stopped and the medication was also stopped. He has been fine for several years now.

If anyone needs to know anything about seizures feel free to ask. I am almost an expert. And if I am not certain I have the right answer I can probably guide you to the place to find it. In the meantime I am going to tell you what steps to take if you are with someone having a seizure.

1. If they are upright, lower them safely to a prone position. That will help keep them from injuring themselves in a fall.

2. NEVER, EVER, EVER, try to force anything into their mouth. Fingers have been bitten off. Tableware and wooden sticks are either broken or cause damage to teeth.

3. The human tongue is a muscle. It sits in a particular spot in the body. It is physically impossible to swallow your tongue. However the tongue like any muscle can fall to the back of the mouth and block the air passages. Gently position the person on their side. That way the tongue falls to the side instead of the back of the mouth.

4. If the seizure lasts for more than three minutes or if there are repeat seizures call for medical help immediately.

5. When the seizure is over often the person will lose consciousness or maybe just be confused. When they awaken the body and brain are busy trying to re-establish connections. They have no time to answer questions like "Do you know me?" Leave that for professionals. Simply say, "hi, (insert name, it is important). I am (insert name, it is important). You just had a seizure. You are safe and I am right here. Everyone is taken care of. You need to rest so go to sleep. I will be here when you wake up." If an ambulance is on the way or the doctor is on the way let them know that too. That way they can let their body heal itself without wondering what is going on.

In the beginning  I was up and full of energy after a seizure within a couple of hours. As time went on it took me at least two full days to be able to even get out of bed and stand on firm feet. Each person is different.

Epilepsy is nothing to be ashamed of. No more than diabetes, heart disease, or asthma. If you were ever to see the list of famous people and world leaders throughout history who had seizures you would be amazed.

But it must be treated. By a doctor who knows what he is doing. Not many do. Most of the "maladies" are only mentioned in medical school in passing. I hope I have enlightened you a bit. I hope you never need the information. But if you are confronted with a situation you now know what you can do.

Saturday, May 13, 2023


 I love to read. What other activity provides you with adventure, knowledge, travel, personal interaction, and the ability to know other people?

When I was a child the town we lived in had library. Each person in my family had a library card. We all checked out 3 books at a time because that was the limit. Sometimes we went a couple of times a week.

Eventually we read all the books in the library. I did not read them all because not all were age appropriate. But as a family we read them all.

Periodically the library would order new books. When they were delivered the librarian would call us to let us know. We read all those new books before most people knew they were available.

I read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I read almost anything I could get my hands on.

I do not want it to sound like we stayed in the house all the time. We were normal active children. But we all loved to read.

I still do. For the last few years my passion is biographies. I really enjoy knowing what people felt about the times they lived. I have learned why our country was founded. I have learned about the reasons for our Civil War from both sides. 

So read a book. If you want to go to Rome a book will take you there and show you the sights. What an adventure.