Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is the legend of Jocko Graves a true story?

If you're from the North East, or any old part of the country, it isn't anything to see one of these lawn jockey statues in the front of old houses. My grandmother had one. I used to climb on him and think about how heavy he felt. In recent years, these statues are becoming more and more rare and at a glance, it isn't hard to see why. They look like racist relics of the past, a reminder of closed minded people. Sometimes these lawn jockeys will be vandalized or destroyed because they are believed to be the statues of racist homeowners.

The black paint, big red painted lips, and big white eyes of these caricature lawn jockeys appear to be nothing more than racist lawn ornaments. But is there more than meets the eye? The offensive stereotypical African American statues aren't the only kinds of lawn jockey. There is a far less racist version, and it often depicts the jockey as a white person. These versions were first made in 1872. They are common today and no one thinks they are racist statues.

There are some people out there that believe these little statues are tributes to the past, specifically to one historical individual that was a hero. Lawn Jockeys, as racist and stereotypical as they appear, may have started out as statues to honor what could be the first black war hero. Others are quick to dismiss this theory. I will discuss why both sides of the argument feel the way they do.

You first need to understand why anybody would think these statues could be anything but racist reminders of different times. It supposedly all started with a boy named Jocko.

The Legend of Jocko Graves

The legend of Jocko Graves, as it is often called, starts back in the American Revolution. As General George Washington was about to fight the British in the battle of Trenton, he first had to cross the Delaware river. We are all very familiar with the epic depiction of that particular historical moment. Right before they crossed, they gathered on the Pennsylvania side of the river. Washington had a young slave boy with him supposedly named Jocko. He told Jocko to watch the horses until they came back, and to hold a lantern showing them where to return. Jocko took his job very seriously because when the army returned they found little Jocko had died. He froze to death during the night. Instead of getting warm or deserting the horses, young Jocko died in the middle of his service to General Washington. Sometimes the legend says he still had the horse reigns in his hands and others say he was still holding a lantern. As the story goes, Washington was so moved by Jocko's devotion to his orders, that he erected a statue of him when he returned to his home, Mount Vernon. In some versions of the legend the boy was buried underneath this statue. As years went by, people that visited Mount Vernon were touched by the slave boy statue and began to copy it. After all, George Washington was a hero and trendsetter of the period, who didn't want to be like him? The statue could also be used as a hitching post, and that was very useful in times of horse and carriages. That's why the statue often has a ring in his outreached hand. If this story is true, then Jocko Graves could be thought of as one of the first African American heroes.

Why People Think the Legend is Not True

There are many scholars and historians that feel there is no truth behind this story. They actually have a lot of reasons, but I found every one of their reasons why the story isn't true also has a counter reason that would make it true. First, their reasons why it isn't true.

  • There is no record of a Jocko Graves as a person.
  • There was no account of a slave boy being with the army that night.
  • Slaves didn't have last names. 
  • Washington wouldn't have cared if a slave boy died.
  • There is no statue at Mount Vernon.
  • There is no record of a slave boy statue ever being at Mount Vernon. 
  • Like the cherry tree story, it was a made up story to make a point. 

All good reasons and after hearing them, it's easy to see why so many people dismiss the story as a made up legend. However, I think there are many counter arguments to each one of these.

There is no record of Jocko Graves as a person. No record of a slave boy shouldn't be all that strange though. Sure slaves were property and well documented to who owned them, but a 12 year old boy wouldn't have been worth nearly as much as a full grown man. Therefore, keeping solid records of children might not have been as important. But one thing that stands out would be that "Jocko" might not have been the boy's name. It might be a nickname, or might be the name Washington used. If that was the case, there would be no record of anyone by the name of Jocko.

There has been no historical account of a slave boy being with Washington the night of the Battle of Trenton. Why would there have been? A slave or servant of Washington wouldn't have been in military records. Washington might have brought him along from home. Blacks were still slaves in 1776, nobody gave them the same treatment as white people. Listing a slave with all the other white soldiers isn't something they would have considered. This would make sense why Jocko Graves was never mentioned in any historical accounts of the Battle, not to mention that standing with a bunch of horses while everybody else fought, wasn't all that important of a thing for anybody to jot down at the time.

However, there is one eye-witness account that tells about 3 deaths that happened that night. Two of those men are accounted for, but the third is unnamed. Could this have been the boy Jocko? 

Slaves didn't have last names. They didn't but they often had the last name of their owner so either way the name "Graves" doesn't make sense. I, and many others, think that the last name Graves was made up for the story, because the boy does die and he didn't have a last name. If the part of the story was true and Jocko was actually buried under his statue, then it could be possible that it was known as "Jocko's Grave." If people began to copy the statue for their own homes, they may have been known as "Jocko Graves." In time, referring to the boy and the statue may have become the same thing.

Washington wouldn't have cared if a slave boy died. I don't think that is necessarily true. If he had a boy with him and gave him a direct order, the odds were that he was close with this slave boy. Jocko could have come with Washington and been his personal servant. He may have even been his son, as it wasn't uncommon for the Masters to have children with slaves, of course those children were only looked at as slaves. Did Washington feel a stronger connection to this slave boy though? It would explain for his actions after Jocko's death. The statue at Mount Vernon would then make sense.

There is no statue at Mt. Vernon. It's fair to say the place has changed since 1776. Again, let's say the story was true. Washington may have been proud of Jocko but very few would have had the same opinion. A statue of any slave would have been unheard of, especially a slave boy. Many people at Mount Vernon may have found the statue to be unsightly, and if Jocko was in fact buried there, a tribute grave site on the grounds for a slave boy may have been something they just didn't want around. Keep in mind how white people viewed slaves in the 1700's. I could see this statue coming down the day after George Washington died. Forgotten and out of memory for 200 years. It has been so long and since there is no statue there today, most people would say it was never there. This would account for no record of a slave statue being at Mount Vernon. It may have been very small, or it may have been in a slave grave site, making it very easy for someone to dispose of it soon after Washington was gone.

It was a made up story just to prove a point, much like Washington chopping down the cherry tree story. Possibly, after all it would be one of the first heroes for African Americans. I see a major problem in this because of how old the story is. The lawn jockey goes so far back, that nobody was trying to make up stories to make black people feel better in those years. No one really cared to do that when the first lawn jockey was becoming popular. If this story came out today, I'd say yes, sounds like a feel good story we can all get behind but it is over 200 years old. I highly doubt someone went out of their way to create a lawn ornament that had a compelling, touching story that was intended to make black people feel good. Why would anyone do that in the 1700's? Was the story just to sell lawn jockeys? Again, it is possible, but why a story like that? Depicting a slave boy as a hero wouldn't have helped to sell lawn jockeys to rich white people. 

 Over the years the statue itself changed. The earliest version looks very much like what an original statue of Jocko Graves may have been at Mount Vernon. Another reason why the legend might be a true story. The earliest version would have been closest to the original. It wasn't offensive or racist looking when it was first created, possibly meaning it wasn't mean to be funny or a joke. The caricature version that came out in the 1880's on the other hand.....

I don't know if the legend of Jocko Graves is true but I do know there is often truth behind legends. Maybe it didn't happen in the exact way the story says, but there could have been a child named Jocko that aided Washington during the Revolution. The lawn jockey had to be based on SOMETHING.

Eventually the lawn jockey started to become more and more rare due to the automobile. No one needed a hitching post for a horse any more. The ring was then replaced by a lantern and the lawn jockey continued to be a very popular decoration. The one at my grandmother's house had a lantern in his hand that was used to light up the driveway.

Lawn jockeys are still being made and can still be bought. I really like the horse jockey style. They can come in any color combination and sometimes they are made to represent real people.

The next time you see a lawn jockey don't be so quick to deem it racist. The idea behind it might be honoring a brave boy that George Washington called a hero, but that's just my two cents.

Friday, February 12, 2016

I'm All About Tudor Style Houses

What is a Tudor house?

I'm all about Tudor Style Houses. I'm sure you know what it is, even if you didn't know its name, you've seen them before. They are far more popular in the North East, and there is good reason for that. They have often been described as "storybook fairy tale houses full of charm," and if you've ever seen one, that's a pretty good description.
An original Tudor survives and is preserved to this day in England.

The true Tudor houses of England were built at the end of the Medieval period into the Renaissance period. Back then, they were built because it was the best way to build a house and they used what they had. They used large wood beams and filled in the spaces with stucco. They had huge fire places, because they needed to heat the entire house with them. They had thatched or wood shingle roofs, because again, that's just what they had for roofing material.

In America, from 1890 to 1940, people copied this look and we now call this era the American Tudor Revival. Homes were built to resemble the old English Tudors, but this time the beams and stucco plaster outsides were more for the look instead of the actual structure of the building.

They were widely popular with the rich, who wanted to make a classy upscale house to show everyone that they had money. The houses were also known as "stockbroker Tudors," due to the rich people building and living in them. Many northern cities experienced massive growth during those years and the people that were making money from steel mills, lumber companies, the railroad, and mines, were the ones building Tudor style houses. There are even some neighborhoods comprised entirely out of Tudor style houses!

Tudors lost popularity when World War II began because Americans wanted to go in a more American direction with their architecture. They believed it was more patriotic to build and live in homes with more of an American feel. People began to go back to the old Colonial styles instead of European influenced houses. This is actually what started the American Colonial Revival.
This Tudor uses brick, stone, and wood.

What makes a Tudor a Tudor though? No two are the same, yet they all have the same design elements. Steep pitched roofs with multiple gables are necessities for a Tudor style house, but that's not all. Tudors are also made out of brick, stone, and wood but often have all three as the house is divided from its stone or brick bottom half and a wooden top half, consisting of exposed beams (known as half-timers) and stucco/plaster spaces in between the beams. The half-timbering with stucco in between in the Tudor signature look.

Double over-lapping gables is a common feature in Tudors.

Tudor windows are all very similar. They are long upright rectangles, grouped together, often with multiple panes. Diamond patterns are also very common. Dormer windows were staples of the Tudor design. They also have very big chimneys because on the inside, the large hearth was meant to be the centerpiece of the home. The top of the chimney sports a chimney pot, although functional, they were mainly used to be decorative.

Tudor doors vary but again, the design elements remain the same. They were to be large wooden doors surrounded by stone or brick. The entry way into the home often had its own gable. The doors themselves were commonly rounded.

Tudors don't have to keep the same color scheme. Although dark brown to black beams and white stucco is the most common, the color combinations can come in just about anything. Some "reverse" Tudors have light wooden beams and a darker color for the stucco.
A reverse Tudor, white beams and darker stucco.

Today the Tudor style house is making a comeback, a lot of people still love the appearance. The modern Tudor uses the same design elements but has far more space and has the modern updates people have become accustomed to, however, they lack the charm and craftsmanship of the homes from the early 1900's. I love these houses and I always have. Finding one in Northern Texas is just about impossible because homes and neighborhoods here aren't nearly as old as the ones in North East cities.
Brand new Tudors just aren't the same.
One draw back, that I have noticed with the Tudor style, is the size. Many of them were built to be on the smaller size but when one is big, it usually has a big price tag to match. It isn't anything strange to see large Tudor style houses listed for sale at over a million dollars.

Not all Tudor houses are on the small size. When the design elements come together on a large scale, the results can be spectacular. Here are some amazing examples of the very large Tudor style house.

I would love to own one someday. I have always wanted to live in a Tudor even before I knew what they were called. There is just something about an old house that I love. I think the new houses of today are cookie-cutter and lack charm. It's hard not to agree when you see a Tudor Revival house that is nearly 100 years old, but that's just my two cents.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Some More Andrew Thoughts

Because my mind never sleeps, here are some more of the things that I think about.

Why aren't fires considered alive? They breathe, they eat, they can grow, they can die, perhaps we need to reconsider how we categorize fire?

Did anyone ever notice nobody eats in real life the way everybody eats in restaurant commercials?

It's a fact that Hitler actually tried to mate humans and chimps together with the hopes of making a really strong new creature that he could use for his army. The stupid thing was he never thought about how it would take a good 18 years, at least, before these humanzies would be old enough to fight in an army. How long did Hitler expect to live and how much of a hurry was he in need of an army that he was willing to wait upwards of two decades?? The most genius ideas are wasted on idiots.

I'm serious when I say black and white are colors. If you ask a child, "What color is a panda, a zebra, a penguin, a piano, and a cow?" How should they respond? "They don't have colors." No! The answer is black and white!

Ink is a liquid but ironically you can't use it to write on liquid paper.

I never can remember which is which when it comes to a stalagmite and  a stalactite. Why not just call them both "stalags" but say "upper stalags" and "lower stalags?" I think that would be much easier to remember.

Why was the Jurassic Park symbol a dinosaur skeleton? Shouldn't it have been a living dinosaur since that is what the park was all about? It was kind of misleading for anyone that didn't know what the park was all about.

I think computers are already self aware and I think they have been for years. Instead of starting wars and destroying mankind, I think they just want to mess around with us by freezing randomly, or deleting our work, or hiding it from us, or just shutting down when we are using them, or giving us wrong GPS directions, or making us wait since we are impatient. In this way they are slowly making all of us go crazy, which is their ultimate plan to destroy mankind.

Why do mattresses have designs on them? You're just going to cover them up with sheets and then blankets. If anything their design should be words that say, "PLACE SHEETS HERE."

Why do people say, "tuna fish?" What other kind of tuna is there?

The movie version of the Ghostbusters had Peter Vankman played by Bill Murray. In the cartoon version of Ghostbusters the guy that did the voice for Peter Vankman also did the cartoon voice for Garfield the cat for the cartoon show that was on in the late 80's. Bill Murray later went on to do the voice for Garfield the cat in the live action movie. That blows my mind. Was that on purpose?

Why do we say, "That's my only option." If you only have one option then it really isn't an option at all, is it? How can you choose between one thing?

If a two hump camel and a one hump camel had a baby, would it be a three hump camel???

Is it necessary to say, "hard wood floors?" Have you ever heard of, "soft wood floors," or even, "medium wood floors?" I think the word, "hard," should be understood at this point and IF there are other kinds of wooden floors, I want to hear more about them. 

I used to laugh at the Amish with their horse and buggy system. Now at the gas pump as I see how much money I'm wasting on gasoline, I'm so glad there are no Amish people around to see me because they'd be the ones laughing. 

Next time I go to a restaurant, I'm going to slap down 100 one dollar bills on the table and tell the waiter it's all his as long as he doesn't mess up, but if he does anything to piss me off, I'll start taking dollars away. Then as he is talking about the menu, I'm going to shake my head and act disappointed and take some dollars off the top of the stack. I'll continue to do this, act like he is screwing up when he really isn't, just to confuse him and see how he reacts. At the end of the night there will be one dollar left and when he says, "Here's your credit card back sir, is there anything else I can do for you?" I'll look at him and sigh loudly and take the last dollar away. Then, knowing he won't be getting any tip, he'll flip out on me demanding to know what he did that was so wrong that it cost him a 100 dollar tip. I'll laugh and say, "Oh I was just kidding the whole time, I was never actually going to give you this money! I was just messing with you!" If he laughs and is a good sport about it, I'll hand him the stack of money and say, "That was just my final test, and you passed, here, you've earned this."

Monday, February 8, 2016

I want to live in Avonlea

I don't care that Avonlea doesn't exist. I wish it did. I'd live there in a heartbeat. Prince Edward Island, part of Canada, is real but unfortunately the village of Avonlea is completely fictitious. It is where Ann of Green Gables takes place, and Lucy Maud Montgomery went on to write more books and stories that took place in the small town of Avonlea. Disney created the show, Road to Avonlea from these stories and characters. I could see myself living there at the turn of the century....(not the one a few years ago, but the one before that) I suppose I was born 100 years too late.

According to the book, Avonlea was North of White Sands and Carmody. I wonder what it would be like to live there back in the early 1900's? 

With its rolling green hills and farm fields surrounded by woodland, I can't think of a better place to live. 

The village is small and peaceful. I would like to say quiet but there was always something exciting happening in Avonlea. 

 At some point I would take a trip to White Sands and stay at their hotel, and enjoy playing a game of croquet with some of the locals.
Maybe I would stop in to see Hetty King and Sarah Stanley in Rose Cottage which is at the very edge of the King Farm.

Speaking of the King family, I hope I would be their neighbors. What a great farm they had. 

I couldn't possibly live in Avonlea without frequent stops to the famous Green Gables.

Is there any place more beautiful than Avonlea in the winter time??

 Avonlea doesn't exist anywhere other than our minds and our hearts. Luckily, if we ever want to visit, we can just open a book and we'll be there.

To friends and loved ones, near and afar. That wherever you wander, whatever glorious adventures lay ahead of you, you can rest easy knowing you have a place to come home to, the dearest spot on earth...our Avonlea.   -Hetty King