The History of the MKT Railroad

Posted on Friday, May 17, 2019 by JessB

Photo of Missouri, Kansas, Texas Railroad Heritage Locomotive
The Missouri, Kansas, Texas Railroad Heritage Locomotive on display at Kansas City, Missouri Union Station for the 2018 Katy Railroad Historical Society Convention.
Photo by Tyler Silvest Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

If you enjoy some of the wonderful trails that Columbia has to offer, the letters “MKT” might sound a bit familiar. Long before it was a recreational trail, the MKT was actually a railroad line that spanned the states of Missouri, Kansas, and Texas – hence the name MKT. On Wednesday, May 22 at 7:00 pm, the Columbia Public Library will host John Wilke from the Mid-Missouri Rail Fans organization for a program about the Columbia branch of the MKT Railroad and how it connected Mid-Missouri to the rest of the country.

The MKT railroad, also known as the “Katy”, started in 1865 in Kansas and was a valuable link between the Midwest and Texas. It is known for being the first railroad to pass through Indian Territory, what is now the state of Oklahoma. The line actually began as the southern branch of the Union Pacific Railway and was intended to run from Junction City, Kansas to New Orleans, Louisiana. However, those ambitions were never quite realized and the MKT line ran from St. Louis, Missouri to San Antonio, Texas at it’s peak with stops in Kansas City, Topeka, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Galveston, among other
towns. Continue reading “The History of the MKT Railroad”

The Therapeutic Effects of Journaling

Posted on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 by Alyssa

Life can be a lot sometimes. Simply being a human comes with so many responsibilities, stressors, and heartache that it can be hard to process. There are many tried and true habits for maintaining good mental health such as exercising, meditating, and getting enough sleep, but there is one that often goes overlooked.

Cover of How to Keep a Sketchbook JournalTime and time again, behavioral health experts have reported that journaling can help people cope with anxiety, stress, and depression. What makes journaling so effective? It gives you a chance to process your emotions and put your thoughts and feelings on paper. Like Dumbledore’s Pensieve, you get to pull the troubling thoughts out of your head and set them somewhere else. You get to be creative without fear of scrutiny. Continue reading “The Therapeutic Effects of Journaling”

A Cyc-List (List of Reasons to Love Bikes)

Posted on Friday, April 26, 2019 by Chris

In honor of Earth Month,* please allow me to pay tribute to the humble bicycle. There are many reasons to love bikes. Here is a far-from-exhaustive list of reasons to love bikes.

  1. They are super fun to ride.
  2. Biking can improve cognitive function and your mood.
  3. They are a low impact way (easy on the ligaments and whatnot) of burning calories and building muscle.
  4. They are great for the environment. (CO2 emissions from a gallon of gasoline: 8,887 grams CO2/ gallon. The average passenger vehicle emits about 404 grams of CO2 per mile.)
  5. While providing much of the same fun as a horse or mule (wind in your hair, the sensation of speed) you need never share your oats with a bike.

    Earth Relay for Climate Action- Brunswick
    “More bikes and trams, leave the car at home – Earth Relay for Climate Action Brunswick” Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  6. When the weather is beautiful, you get to enjoy it. When the weather is bad, you get to be smug about how tough you are for biking anyway.
  7. When you go on a long ride, you have to eat a lot in order to maintain the energy required to power your bike. It’s a glorious thing to be REQUIRED to eat a few thousand extra calories in a day, and still be fitter than you were when the day started.
  8. When people wish you a “Happy Earth Day,” you can respond, graciously, with “Each and every single day is Earth Day to me,” and then gesture emphatically at your bike, or, should your bike not be in your line of sight, pantomime riding a bike. 
  9. You’ll enjoy the friendly nods you’ll exchange with people who appreciate your biking even if they are unable or unwilling to do the same.
  10. The air inside a vehicle is worse for you than the air outside of it.
  11. They are great for our roads. (Despite the frustrations felt by many motorists when they are forced to slow down for upwards of a few seconds while in proximity to a cyclist, bikes ease traffic and cause nearly no wear on our roads when compared to a motor vehicle.) While I understand it is natural to be frustrated when you must decrease your speed and delay your arrival by several seconds, please only pass bikers when you can give them at least a three-foot buffer. This may mean waiting until the other lane has cleared and you can cross into it. The biker will be grateful, and you will have made the world a better place even while contributing to the decline of the atmosphere :).
  12. You can learn about bikes at your local library.
  13. They are just so dang fun.
*”Earth Month!” the reader exclaims incredulously, I imagine. But, yes, allow me to enumerate the reasons:
  1.  As I said, as a devoted biker and someone who always makes sure to get every last drop of food or beverage out of its container, every day is Earth Day to me.
  2. In a few decades, when the descendants of the absurdly wealthy are living in an artificial atmosphere on Mars or the moon or deep inside the earth’s crust, they are likely to dedicate a whole month to remembering their home planet. They will celebrate with, respectively, Mars bars and Moonpies and pie crusts. They will bemoan their forebearers’ greed and shortsightedness. They will long for the developed ecosystems and prevalent housepets their ancestors had access to. “Oh, sweet Earth,” they’ll wail, cuddling their robot for comfort, “if only dear grandpappy had cared more about sustaining livable conditions on your surface rather than hoarding wealth, perhaps now we’d be enjoying diverse fauna and domesticated animals.”
  3. I didn’t write this post in time for Earth Day. However, I did write it in time for the Columbia Area Earth Day Festival where you can see our Book Bike in person.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Personhood

Posted on Monday, April 15, 2019 by Cap'n Ludd

book cover age of dignityFor several years now, folks from the Alzheimer’s Association have partnered with us at DBRL to host informational sessions on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. With these events coming up again, I began lookingand I didn’t need to look far— for narratives of those experiencing Alzheimer’s, whether first hand or in a loved one. Case in point, while progressing through The Sopranos as quickly as I can stomach, my favorite character has developed the symptoms between disorientation, muddled memories and straying far from home. With this content all around, I’ve realized how commonly writers draw on their own experiences to take up this heavy subject. Alzheimer’s looms large over our society, especially as we are living longer in what Ai-jen Poo calls an “elder boom.” It can bring some of our worst fears of impermanence to head, so we may find solace in stories that help us share the load and reckon with this social reality.

When authors write Alzheimer’s and dementia narratives, they often confront core questions of identity, transition, and loss. In his New Yorker essay, A Place Beyond Words, author Stefan Merrill Block asks,

“How do you locate the personhood in someone who is, for neurobiological reasons, no longer the person you knew? Is there a way to be true to medical fact and still find something that is transcendently human?” 

Continue reading “Alzheimer’s Disease and Personhood”

Bee Positive!

Posted on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 by Alyssa

A bumble-bee examining a tagetes flower.
“A bumble-bee on a flower,” Christian Bauer [CC BY 2.0 (]
I personally owe bees so much. Without their pollination, we would not have coffee, a substance on which I am wholly dependent. All of my favorite fruits (apples, peaches, mangoes, bananas, melons, and cherries) depend on bees, as well as my favorite flower – sunflowers! As someone who can’t have dairy, I rely on almonds, cashews and coconuts for essentials like ice cream and coffee creamer. What would I even eat without bees?

Aside from being helpful, bees are fascinating creatures. They are amazing communicators. Whenever worker bees return to the hive, they perform a dance composed of figure eights and waggles to indicate where food sources are. Bees can beat their wings 200 times per minute. The average worker bee lives around five to six weeks and produces 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in that time. Despite their short life spans, bees typically manage to produce 2-3 times the amount of honey they need for the Winter. Continue reading “Bee Positive!”

Spring Break and Learn

Posted on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 by JessB

Spring is a great time to travel and enjoy a change of scenery. With Spring Break quickly approaching, many students and families are planning trips or deciding how to make the most of the upcoming break. Whether you are traveling for a change of scenery or warmer temperatures, consider learning something new on your trip. There are many destinations where you can explore a new culture, learn the local history of an area or engage in fun activities!

Daniel Boone - Lofaro, Michael A.

As an archaeologist, I love getting to explore the prehistory and history that Missouri has to offer. You can explore Graham Cave State Park in Montgomery City, Missouri where artifacts were discovered in a cave occupied by prehistoric people between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago. The park is also a great spot for hiking, camping, and fishing with over 300 acres including the Graham Cave Glades Natural Area. You could also check out the petroglyphs at Thousand Hills State Park in Kirksville, Missouri. Petrogylphs are prehistoric rock carvings that were made by intentionally pecking, incising or carving to remove part of the rock’s surface. At Thousand Hills, you can also enjoy camping, hiking, biking, and fishing in the beautiful Forest Lake. You can also visit Defiance, Missouri to see the historic home of Daniel Boone, an early pioneer who eventually settled in what is now St. Charles County. The Boone home is part of a county park that includes a general store, a schoolhouse, and a gristmill. If you want to learn more, the library has several biographies of Daniel Boone including “Daniel Boone: An American Life” and even a compilation of interviews from his son Nathan Boone! Continue reading “Spring Break and Learn”

Climate Reality Project Event and Resources

Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 by Ida

An Inconvenient TruthWe’ve been aware of climate change for quite a while now. The documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” — chronicling former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s efforts to educate the public on the urgency of the issue — was released way back in 2006. A book by the same title was published that year, as well. As of 2017, humanity hadn’t yet solved the problem of our warming planet, so we got a reminder notice in the form of a new documentary and a new book, both titled “An Inconvenient Sequel.” Continue reading “Climate Reality Project Event and Resources”

Cool Season Gardening

Posted on Friday, February 15, 2019 by Larkspur

Although nowhere near the Master Gardener level, I’m a somewhat seasoned gardener. In fact, I’ve sown many vegetable/flower/herb seeds after the danger of frost has passed in the mid-spring of early May, planted through the summer months, and also well into mid-fall, when I annually bed down garlic cloves to slowly grow into harvestable bulbs by the following June. Recently I decided to indulge my love of milkweed, the host plant for Monarch butterflies, and purchased eight of the possible hundreds of varieties of milkweed seed. Upon their receipt in February, I will scatter them on the winter ground, so they will get the freeze they need to germinate this spring. It’s truly satisfying to grow some of my own food, and help tend a happy habitat of eye-catching, perennial wildflowers for birds and insects of all sorts, all the while being intimately engaged with the natural cycles of the seasons here on Mother Earth. Continue reading “Cool Season Gardening”

Social Activism: Boone, Callaway and Beyond!

Posted on Friday, February 1, 2019 by Alyssa

Martin Luther King Jr quote on wall

Regardless of your political leanings, we all want to make the world a better place. Still, it’s so easy to feel powerless. From global issues to local issues, problems seem impossibly big and completely unchangeable. Where do you even start?

Luckily, people experienced in the field have offered advice. “Rules for Revolutionaries,” authored by the senior advisers of Bernie Sanders 2016 Cover of Road Map for Revolutionariespresidential campaign, provides 22 rules for “Big Organizing” to magnify a small grassroots movement into a large force for social change. In a similar vein, “Road Map for Revolutionaries” offers practical advice on attending protests, calling your representatives and leveraging social media for a cause. The book also gets into the grittier aspects of activism, such as what to do if you are arrested or tear-gassed. The layout features helpful charts and graphics, which make it easy to get the information you need with a quick glance. Continue reading “Social Activism: Boone, Callaway and Beyond!”

The Horseback Librarians of the Great Depression

Posted on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 by Alyssa

Horseback librarian ascends difficult terrain

Some facets of American history are heavily romanticized, and some are unjustly forgotten. For example, mention of the Pony Express conjures images of daring men racing westward, braving the elements to deliver important messages and join the two coasts of America. In actuality, this male-driven, short-lived business venture lasted a mere 18 months and served only the wealthy. Infinitely cooler and yet barely remembered are the horseback librarians (know colloquially as “book women”) who braved long, treacherous mountain routes to deliver books to the poverty-stricken Appalachian community during the Great Depression. Continue reading “The Horseback Librarians of the Great Depression”