Tag Archives: history

A Parting Shot

I didn’t learn about the possible connection between “a parting shot” and “a Parthian shot” until just a few years ago. It seems that the Parthians who lived in a region in the northeast of what is now Iran, had a sneaky technique that worked very successfully for them in battle. They might be outnumbered four to one, but as long as they had a constant supply of arrows (which they always brought along to the battles), they could put their horsemanship and archery skills to good use.

Their tactic was to fake a retreat, understandable when they were outnumbered, and as the enemy fell out of their organized formation and pursued them, the Parthians turned to shoot at them with their large supply of arrows, and ended up winning many a battle this way.

This one (and many more) last shot as they (supposedly) fled, came to be their trademark “Parthian Shot,” and some believe that our modern expression “parting shot” derives its origin in this Parthian tactic.

Well, winter has taken a page from the Parthian history books and given us a Parthian shot this morning. After several warmish, springlike days, we woke up to this early morning scene.

Emma jumped up to her usual seat on the back of the couch to watch her favourite nature show of passing rabbits and eagles, and was dumbfounded. I heard her say, “What the …?”

The valley was socked in with a snow cloud.

But when the sun rose, a promising pink glow said, “Don’t worry, I’ll melt the snow off that willow in the front right of your picture. The pussywillows will still be there, unharmed.”


The birds are so happy that I refilled the feeders yesterday before it snowed.


Hang in there. Spring will come one day. I’m not going to be taken in by winter’s Parthian shot and go out there to shovel snow that will melt by tomorrow.

Vida Vintage

I happened to pass by the little town of Vida the other day. (And I do mean “little.” Blink and you’ll miss it.) I was intrigued by the sign on one of the buildings on the main highway through town. “Bar, Dancing, Food.” Sounds like fun. If I run out of ice, I know it’s available because it says so on the outside wall of the building. But what I keep wondering is: What was in the top advertising space on the big sign, just above “Bar”? I know that no one will be able to spy on me if I’m dancing my heart out, because there are almost no windows. I also know that I’ll be quite comfortable because they have air conditioning. I can see the contraption stuck in what might have been a window at one time.


In case things get too rowdy at the bar, there is a community church only a block away. Not sure what’s in those big round containers at the back. Are they some kind of grain silos? I’m not much of a farmer, but I’d guess they store something in there. As I took the photo, I heard a lot of yipping and ky-yi-ing from the back of the building. It was probably a litter of puppies but they sounded like a dozen coyotes at midnight.


This building might have been a school once, but that’s just a wild guess. It also may have been the home of someone who gave up living here, or someone who built a more modern house in another part of town. I have no idea. I was interested in the style of the building and the history that came with it.


The car I saw across the street might have belonged to the same times. I think it’s a Chrysler, but what year? I’m guessing around 1943, but maybe there are some car experts out there who can help me pinpoint the year.

043Maybe you’d prefer a truck. My guess is a 1975 Ford F150. Help me out if you’re a car buff, please.


Here’s the Chrysler again. If you thought it was old vintage, take a guess at the age and make of the tractor. I have no idea.


One thing they all had in common was their patronage of the B.F. Goodrich garage  that specialized in tires and batteries across the street.


Before you think I’m only seeing the old history of Vida, take a look at the modern grain operations on the go just outside of town.

054No, the people of Vida don’t live in those abandoned homes or drive those broken down old vintage cars or tractors. They live in modern homes and run huge farms with modern machinery. But I couldn’t help being attracted to the history I saw on display in the center of town. It was like a walk back in time.

Mystras – Near Sparta

In our travels through Greece, we took a drive from Kalamata, city of the famous olives that go so well in a Greek salad, to Sparta. The road was often a maze of switchbacks where you would not want to meet a bus. In order to prevent collisions on the sharp U-turns of the winding road, vehicles honked their horns to warn of their approach. We laughed at the funny sound of the Greek auto horns – a quick musical “doodle-oo-doodle-oo-doodle-oo.”


Along the way, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we saw Greeks selling baskets made of what I think were pine cones. Once we reached Sparta, we visited the museum for 25 drachmas. I see that I wrote in my journal that we felt ripped off. We must have expected more, but Sparta was only a small town (so we shouldn’t have expected a big museum) and when I checked now to see how much 25 drachmas was at the time, I’m embarrassed to say it was only about 75 cents.

I took a picture of one of the ancient busts and was told that no photos were allowed. I guess that’s probably normal in a museum, but I didn’t know it at the time. Here is the one photo I had already snapped before being told not to.

It seems I unwittingly captured a well-known bust, probably that of Leonidas, of 300 Spartans fame at the Battle of Thermopylae.


Down the street from the museum we found a butcher shop and stopped in to buy something for our supper. It was another scorcher of a day, so we thought a frozen chicken might be a good idea. It would be thawed in no time and ready to cook that evening. Freshly killed chickens hung on hooks in the meat shop and we asked the butcher if he had any frozen ones. Our command of Greek was minimal but we pointed at the chicken and said, “Frio?”

He nodded eagerly, motioned to the hanging chickens, and said, “Frio!”

We shook our heads and made shivering motions as if we were cold (difficult to do when we were sweating from the 90 degree heat), pointed again at the chicken and repeated, “Frio.”

The butcher must have thought we were idiots. He took a chicken off the hook and bashed it on the counter two or three times and said, “FRIO!” And it definitely was “frio,” like a block of ice.  We bought it and left the store quickly. We had a preconceived idea that a frozen chicken had to have its wings and legs neatly tucked in and then be presented, shrink-wrapped on a styrofoam plate, Safeway style. It certainly shouldn’t look like a freshly killed chicken hung by the flabby skin of its neck with its legs all dangling down-oh.

Fast forward to the next morning when we were up early to visit the ruins of Mystras before it got too hot. Foiled again! The Greeks don’t feel the need to get up early. They prefer to stay up late. We waited at the gates of the ruin for over an hour before someone came to open them to let in the tourists.

In ancient days ethnic groups fought each other almost constantly. Not much has changed in the last few thousand years except weaponry and communication systems. We no longer have marathon runners who carry messages  and are then killed for being the bearer of bad news, and we no longer fight with swords, spears, and arrows. Let’s go back only about 800 years and take a look at the defences of a Greek city.

In the 1200s the town of Mystras was fortified to present a strong defence. The high walls on one side backed onto a cliff that made an attack extremely difficult. Notice the thickness of the walls.


You can see how inaccessible the walls are as they seem to continue up from the sharp incline of the escarpment. In the photo below you can also see how the fortress looks out over the plains. An advancing army could be spotted three days’ march away. No surprise attacks here.


The various levels of the city lie in ruins but one can only imagine how impressive the site must have looked at one time when the buildings were intact.



When we toured Greece in 1977, the ruins of this castle/fortress at Mystras (only 8 kilometers from present day Sparta) had not yet been declared a World Heritage Site (1989). I’m happy now that we went to the trouble to visit this famous site when the pace was slower.