Water Closet for September 26, 2014

Teddy rowed and sailed with his children on Oyster Bay; Franklin and Eleanor looked out on waters from Hyde Park above the Hudson River to Campobello, New Brunswick.  After stints as Assistant Secretaries of the Navy the men were indirectly involved in sea wars.  Cheered on by hawkish supporters TR’s was a contrived war against Spain.  FDR’s was a more honest war.  His navy went after Nazi U-boats in the Atlantic and from carriers and islands in the Pacific chased the forces of Imperial Japan.  Good Eleanor cheered on the sailors during the war.  For three decades she flew over the world’s waters to people needing help in one way or another.  We old timers, children during WWII, were reminded vividly of all this last week upon watching Ken Burn’s latest documentary “The Roosevelts” on public TV.  The cousins Roosevelt sent their fleets around the world.  TR’s great white fleet was meant to impress and intimidate, in Manila Bay, it did much more than that.  Admiral Dewey’s ships quickly sank much of the Spanish fleet without losing a man.  The Filipinos suddenly had a new ruler.  FDR’s WWII armadas in both the Atlantic and Pacific were at first on the defensive.  After American shipbuilding gave them the upper hand they went on the offensive and ended the war.  Teddy, Franklin, and Eleanor were progressives and activists in foreign and domestic affairs.

To Stream Teamers both presidents were heroes as conservatives, not in the present political sense of the word, but rather as in conserving our country’s natural resources, lands and waters.Republican and Democrat both were radicals through and through in the sense of innovation and action.  As political geniuses and charismatic leaders all three were effective.  Their smiles and those of enthusiastic supporters warmed the documentary’s fourteen hours of mostly black, white, and shades of gray film footage.

Burns and his documentary makers proved again that colors aren’t necessary.  The black silhouettes of destroyers were dramatic.  The bleached, holy stoned, wooden decks of the cruisers on which Churchill and Franklin conferred gave hope and encouragement in a black uncertain world of war.  We viewers of course knew the ending.  Hitler, sycophants, and storm troopers were gray and menacing.  The footage of the trenches and treeless fields of WWI were pathetic in their madness.  The charges up San Juan Hill in Cuba by courageous TR leading his “Rough Riders” in Brookes Brothers’ uniform were almost comical.2

Dried blood appears black on the hideous wounds of the casualties visited by seemingly tireless Eleanor in island hospitals in the Pacific.  In contrast she without rest, sometimes for days, seemed a glowing white to the damaged men and to us viewers seven decades later.  Admiral Halsey, a hero of the Pacific War, who had dreaded her “busybody” visit, changed his mind and praised her highly.

The Roosevelts’ country was larger than that of us landlubbers.  They thought globally, their boldness extended across the seas.  They had money, ships and planes at their disposal.  On vacations Teddy rowed away worries and excess energy in the waters near his mansion at Oyster Bay, Long Island.  Franklin was happily buoyed off his immobile legs in the healing waters of Warm Springs, Georgia, his polio recovery camp.  Eleanor and friends sailed on the Hudson River when not crossing wider waters. These visionary American leaders and the British had long been well aware that three fourths of our planet is covered with water.  The latter’s fleet lost its dominance to America’s during the Roosevelt reigns.  The British had long “ruled the waves”.  The United States of America now rules the sky, the waves, and the deep.

We’ve learned again through another of Burn’s good documentaries that old pictures can vividly tell us much if properly selected, arranged, and accompanied by good narrators.  Like a Bacall-Bogart movie color isn’t needed.  The same holds true, only more so, for those colorful Roosevelts so long on the world stage.  Their legacy still sails strongly with us in the 21st century.  President Obama may wonder if this is a good thing as he struggles with very different kinds of wars.  President Theodore Roosevelt liked the expression “speak softly and carry a big stick”.  Obama is accused by hawks of speaking moderately and carrying a small stick.  Might not Obama’s be a wiser motto as we start the new millennium with a stick 10,000 times the size of Roosevelt’s?

1  Brinkley, Douglas. The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America.  2009.  We recommend this exhaustive 900 page tome on TR’s accomplishments as a taxidermist, naturalist, environmentalist, hunter, nature writer, and most of all a brilliant politician who set aside millions of acres for us all.  Brinkley’s not uncritical enthusiasm and awe for his genius subject makes for easy reading. 

2  Thomas, Evan. The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898.  2010.  Thomas, a reporter and author of several biographies, takes much of the phony drama out of a short newspaper driven war.  If you want a modern overview of our war with Spain we recommend this lively account.




Precipitation Data* for Month of: June July Aug Sept
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 3.95 3.89 3.37 3.77
 2013 – 14 Central Watershed Actual 2.03 7.26 2.20 1.5 as of 9/23*


Ipswich R. Flow Rate(S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):

For Sept 23, 2014  Normal . . . 7.4 CFS                      Current Rate  . . . Unavailable 

*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru Sept. Normalsdata is from the National Climatic Data Center.

THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584

Featured Photo: Mayflower – The private yacht of Theodore Roosevelt

– photo credit: amphalon via photopin cc