The first time I ever heard of the Kensington Stone I was around 10 years old. My Uncle mentioned it in conversation one day and the sound of the two words strung together, "Kensington" and "Stone" in a single phrase sounded like magic to me --- it was almost as though I had floated off into another world. The Kensington Stone as my uncle explained it, or more accurately the Kensington Rune Stone, is a fairly flat 200 pound rectangle-shaped hunk of rock about 30 inches high, 16 inches wide, and 6 inches thick that was found by a Minnesota farmer while clearing his fields in 1898. The stone was buried in the ground and according to the farmer all tangled up in the roots of a tree.
Now, while a farmer clearing his fields and finding a 200 pound stone that had to be moved may not have been unusual or remarkable, the stone itself was. All over one side and all along the edges of another was a whole series of almost letter-like inscriptions carved or chiseled into the surface. The letter-like inscriptions turned out to be an ancient runic script that was actually translatable. The problem was that the script was traceable back only to medieval Europe. Not only was the script hundreds of years old, the stone was thousands and thousands of miles away from Europe. The original or most traditional translation reads:
8 Goths and 22 Norwegians on an exploration journey from Vinland to the west. We had camp by 2 skerries one day's journey north from this stone. We were [out] to fish. One day after we came home [we] found 10 men red of blood and dead. AVM Save [us] from evil. [We] have 10 men by the sea to look after our ships 14 day's travel from this island [In the year] 1362.
The most current generally accepted english translation of the script on the front face of the stone reads:
"Eight Gotlanders and 22 Norwegians on (this) reclaiming/acquisition journey far west from Vinland. We had a camp by two (shelters?) one day’s journey north from this stone. We were fishing one day. After we came home we found 10 men red with blood and death. Ave Maria. Save from evil."
The script inscribed on the side of the stone reads:
"There are 10 men by the sea to look after our ships 14 days journey from this island. Year 1362."
The Kensington Stone came up in conversation with my uncle in a sort of round about way. In those days, long before I turned to making Heathkit shortwave radios, I was always making razor blade radios, sometimes called 'foxhole radios' or POW radios and crystal sets, all kind of primitive or rudimentary devices that just "run on air." Never satisfied with the one I just made I was always trying to make bigger and better ones to pull in farther and farther away stations. Because the signals of far away stations were always weak and the sound low I decided I needed the best pair of earphones I could get. So saying, my uncle took me to the giant Palley's Surplus Store off Alameda Street and Vernon in Los Angeles to pick out a pair of super-good war surplus earphones with a full set of large foam rubber ear pads. Palley's had everything and we used to go there often with me always returning with a bunch of World War II army surplus stuff --- canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks, army M43 folding shovels, and my favorite an Army Signal Corps J-38 hand key with a leg-band for sending Morse code. Anyway, as I was scrounging through the acres and acres of military items I ran across a whole bin of World War II ESM/1 emergency signaling mirrors still in their original packaging and still unopened. Since they were only a buck I had to have one.
A couple of days later when I was going through the instructions on the signaling mirror my uncle told me about the Kensington Stone for the first time. In those days, when all of this was going down, my uncle had most graciously moved from Santa Fe to Los Angeles to oversee me per the request of my Stepmother. However, years before he moved to L.A., after he first showed up in New Mexico back in the mid 1920s, he grew into an avid explorer of the flora, fawna, and history of the desert southwest, in the end becoming a highly accomplished biosearcher who would eventually have several plant species named after him.
In the spring of 1934 he was exploring in the then backcounty 35 miles south of Albuquerque, New Mexico about 16 miles west of the small community of Los Lunas, when he came across a huge stone covered top to bottom with strange inscriptions. He had traveled in and around the desert long enough to know they were not petroglyphs or other Native American ideograms. As he asked around in the general Los Lunas area only a few people seemed familiar enough with what he was talking about to give him specific information. Some people told him that it was an already known fact that the inscription existed at least as far back as when New Mexico became a territory in 1850, but no one knew who to attribute the markings to. It is reported local Indians told the then landowner Franz Huning in 1871 that the inscribed stone predated their tribes arriving in the area and that they had long called the place where the stone was located --- translated into english --- The Cliff of the Strange Writings.
A few days into his snooping around my uncle was approached by a young graduate student attending the University of New Mexico by the name of Frank Hibben. Hibben told my uncle he had been to the site as well, having been taken there by a guide who had seen it as a boy sometime back in the 1880s. In discussion Hibben told my uncle he thought the inscription was ancient Phoenician or Hebrew possibly old as or older than 2000 years. As it turned out the rock was what would eventually be called the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone and Hibben would become one of the stone's most ardent supporters.
It was during his discussions with Hibben that my uncle first heard of the Kensington Rune Stone. Having already seen the inscriptions in the desert he had to see and compare the inscriptions on the Kensington Stone --- so off he went to Minnesota to search down the stone. After my uncle told me the story I had to see both of them myself. Seeing the inscriptions on the stone in the desert was relatively easy and was done during one of our excursions into the desert southwest we were always going on. The Kensington Stone presented another problem, however, since at the time it was no longer in Minnesota but on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
Before I saw either of them my uncle showed me why the Kensington Stone had any sort of importance to him in the first place --- and of all things, it involved my newly acquired signaling mirror. As I was tearing open the package the mirror was wrapped in my uncle was going through a bunch of sketches and drawings he had in a rather large portfolio that he brought with him from Santa Fe. Eventually he pulled out a piece of paper that had on it what I would call nothing more than a fairly nondescript pencil rubbing. When my uncle placed the paper on the mirror, what appeared to be some sort of unrecognizable letters created by the rubbing could be seen centered half way between each of the corners. To me it was a huge "so what moment," that is, until he told be what it was all about.
A few years before, in August of 1945, he was out in the middle of the desert doing some biosearching on BLM land not far from the little town of San Antonio, New Mexico, when a huge object of an unknown nature, seemingly made of metal, flew over the top of him at a fairly low altitude traveling at an extremely high rate of speed. The object, apparently not being able to maintain even the slight height advantage it had above the undulating and rough terrain, after what appeared to be one last grasp at regaining altitude, slammed hard into the ground some distance away. By the time he reached the crash site it was getting dark so he waited until morning to climb down into the arroyo where the object ended up. The next morning on the way down, in the subdued pre-dawn light, he slipped and got his leg stuck in some rocks --- so much so he was unable to free himself. Sometime later he noticed a few people had shown up at the object, but were not able to hear his yells for assistance. He attracted their attention using the signaling mirror he carried with him. In the process of one of the men freeing him he sat the mirror down then simply went off and forgot it. A few weeks later when his leg was well enough he went back to see the object, which, upon arrival he found was no longer there, having either been repaired in some fashion and taken off and/or hauled off somehow. He did, however, find his mirror almost where he had left it. Seems it had tumbled down from where he had placed it and in the fall the rocks must have scratched the surface. The following is what is written about the event at the source so cited:
"When he returned, although the mirrior had fallen down a little ways into the rocks, it was basically where he left it. While he saw no apparent signs of anybody having been there since he left, on the mirror were what appeared to be an attempt to scratch or etch half dime-size markings on the surface that bore a strong visual resemblance to runic script he had seen years before on the Kensington Stone. Although the rune-like etches could have possibly been caused by falling against the rocks, if you held the mirror in the intended fashion, the marks were located perfectly at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock (or held flat or overhead, the Cardinal points North, East, South and West) positions."(source)
In that the signaling mirror had a see-through crosshair sighting or viewing device in the center and the rune-like scratch marks were at the four Cardinal points my uncle thought, if they were not accidental but somehow intentional, the markings could possibly be astronomical in nature. He contacted the noted astronomer, mathematician and meteorite hunter Dr Lincoln La Paz, who had questioned him earlier about the object, and told him he had gone back to the crash site and what he had found. La Paz said not to show or tell anybody about the mirror and to bring it to him immediately. Which my uncle did, except for one thing. Unknown to La Paz or anybody else my uncle made a pencil rubbing of the markings off the surface of the mirror, the same pencil rubbing he showed me. Now, while it is true I did not have the pencil rubbing with me when I visited the Los Lunas site I did have them with me when I saw the Kensington Stone. And, while the script on the Kensington Stone and the rubbing did look alike and have a strong resemblance to each other as my uncle said, they were not the same. Like Chinese and Japanese writing look similar or resemble each other in an offhand sort of way, they are not the same. But to say they do not resemble each other would miss the point.
WORLD WAR II ESM/1 EMERGENCY SIGNALING MIRROR
Although I am personally predisposed toward both the Kensington Stone and the Los Lunas stone being "real," especially so the Kensington Stone, the fact that either one or the other or both are authentic or hoaxes, does not enter into our discussion here. The point being made is that upon seeing the script-like marks on the surface of the mirror they reminded my uncle of the rune-script he had seen on the Kensington Stone. The same is true for me.
VIKINGS OF THE DESERT SOUTHWEST
BUDDHISM IN AMERICA BEFORE COLUMBUS
THE WANDERLING AND HIS UNCLE
Their Life and Times Together
RALPH A. MULTER
GUNNER'S MATE 3rd CLASS, U.S. NAVY
As to the subject of donations, for those who may be so interested as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
As a kid it seems like a large portion of almost everything I learned came from reading comic books. Over and over, even today in the stuff I write I often refer back to something I read at one time or the other in a comic book. One example circulates around my uncle and I on a road trip across the desert and coming to the Colorado River. No sooner had we reached the river than I started telling him about a Gene Autry comic book and an Uncle Scrooge comic wherein both had stories of Spanish Galleons that had been discovered stranded in the middle of the desert hundreds of miles inland from any ocean, both related to the the Colorado River overflowing its banks. In a matter of minutes we were off on a new adventure in search of lost ships in the desert.(see) Another example shows up in Riding the Cab Forwards that relates to me, my stepmother, and the famed aviatrix and stunt pilot Pancho Barnes when my uncle and I flew to Sacramento from Pancho's ranch to 'save' my older brother and cousin from the clutches of a railroad bull.
On that trip, after a slight detour leaving Sacramento or our way home, we flew over the High Sierras to a remote dirt airstrip on the east side of the mountains to pick up a mysterious woman that had to be transported covertly and without fanfare under the cover of darkness from Reno to Las Vegas.
Around 9 or 10 o'clock we could see headlights coming across the dirt road toward us. A Chevy panel truck pulled up and a woman got out of the back climbing right away into the co-pilot side without saying a word while my uncle squeezed into the back with me. The woman had a long black full-length coat on, white scarf wrapped completely around her head without revealing the length or color of her hair and showing very little face. She was very pale, had big round sunglasses on and no make up. She also wore gloves and carried no luggage. To me, although I was personally never able to see her clearly she carried a certain ambience about her that reeked of being a movie star. My uncle, who had seen the woman up close, when asked told the pilot, that to him the woman looked a lot like June Lang, a known movie star of the era. The following appears at the June Lang link:
"In those days, since I was still a kid, except for possibly western movie star Dale Evans --- and maybe Veronica Lake for reasons unknown --- my knowledge of female movie stars ran kind of thin. However, while I may not have known female movie stars per se' I did know comic book characters, and one of the ones I remembered was Lana Lang, the female lead in Superboy comics and the protagonist to Lois Lane in Superman comics."
And there it was, Lana Lang, Superboy and comic books. Which brings us back to 'foxhole radios' or as they are sometimes called POW radios or 'razor blade' radios.
The time period we are talking about me staying at my ex-stepmother's ranch during the summer months while I was in high school started circa 1953. Now, I do not recall specifically when I made my first foxhole radio or crystal set, but I know it was well before I started high school, maybe even before I reached age 10. However, between those years, and I am sure it was an influence in continuing or advancing my interest, in Superboy issue Number 6 with a cover date February 1, 1950 and an in-store on-sale date of November 09, 1949, the following appeared:
FOXHOLE RADIOS: THEIR HISTORY AND CONSTRUCTION
WESTERN UNION STANDARD RADIO TELEGRAPH SIGNAL SET
If you discount any outside inexplicable forces driving me to do so, I built fox hole radios because they could be put together and used at practically no cost, being made up mostly of readily available already laying around parts that were cheap, easy to build, or free. I built crystal sets pretty much for the same reasons and in the same way, except for one or two I made from actual purchasable commercial over the counter products. If I bought the first one new or traded something for it from another kid I don't recall, but one way or the other I ended up with one. I remember the set well to this day, a Philmore Crystal Radio Detector. It came in a box with instructions just like in the photo below:
(for larger size click image then click again)
"As a kid it seems like a large portion of almost everything I learned came from reading comic books. Over and over, even today in the stuff I write I often refer back to something I read at one time or the other in a comic book."
If you remember from the above main text my uncle had taken me to the giant Palley's Surplus Store in Los Angeles and as I was scrounging through the acres and acres of military items I ran across a whole bin of World War II ESM/1 emergency signaling mirrors still in their original packaging and still unopened. Since they were only a buck I had to have one. A couple of days later when I was going through the instructions on the signaling mirror my uncle told me about the Kensington Stone for the first time.
At the time the Kensington Rune Stone was on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC., being exhibited there starting February 17, 1948 through to February 25, 1949, after which it was going to be returned to its owners in Alexandria, Minnesota. My uncle was concerned that it might not be put back on public display where it could be seen in real life after being returned. Hence, because my uncle thought it was important for me to see it in real life, he arranged for our trip to Washington D.C.
When we went to Washington D.C. we did so by train, leaving the week before the regularly scheduled school year Christmas vacation in December of 1948, returning home the day before Christmas. No sooner had I returned and finished what was left of my vacation and started school in the spring semester than on January 8-11, 1949, all of downtown Los Angeles was hit with snow. The storm was so bad that on January 11 the Los Angeles Unified School District shut down and declared its one and only district-wide Snow Day.
Except for one brief episode in the summer of 1952 the trip to Washington D.C. with my uncle was the last of our adventures together prior to me reaching adulthood. As far as I know I finished the school year through to summer going to whatever school I was going to at the time. Although it is possible I may have moved during the spring semester, I know by the fall of 1950 I had started a new school under the auspices of a new foster couple, with my dad and stepmother having left for South America and my uncle long gone, he having returned to his old stomping grounds around Santa Fe, Taos New Mexico.
For me, in all of the above there were any number of major implications, but, although it seems minor, what is relevant here is that for me specifically there was no more going to Palley's. The thing is, even though my uncle was gone and Palley's was out of the picture, in an interesting turn of fate, just at the same time all of the above was going down, a semi-childhood-miracle happened.
In the opening quote at the top of this footnote I write that as a kid it seemed like a large portion of almost everything I learned came from reading comic books. Below is an ad from a comic book that just happened to start showing up for the first time around August 1949, just at the exact time my family was breaking up. On top of that, not having the unfettered cash resources that had been provided me so freely in the past, before I moved in with the new foster couple my stepmother arranged for me to get a job, if I wanted it, at a place where she knew the owner called the Normandie Club so I could pick up some extra money. With that money and the comic book ads like the one below I was never without all the Army surplus stuff I wanted.
Anybody who is familiar with or has read any amount of my online works knows that as a kid I was big on box top and the like offers, especially radio premium offers such as Ovaltine's Captain Midnight Code-O-Graphs. So, for me as I viewed it, comic book ads were a quick jump, falling into a similar or like category. Matter of fact the first comic book ad I ever answered was for me to become a Junior Air Raid Warden, of which the ad appears just below the Army surplus ad. I don't think I was even in kindergarten when I sent for the Air Raid Warden kit. Please notice the two smaller versions of the surplus ad below the Air Raid Warden ad, although similar to the color ad above, both offer signaling mirrors for 35 cents. Remember from the main text, every time I went to Palley's I always came back with a bunch of World War II army surplus stuff like canteens, pistol belts, parkas, infantry backpacks and Army M43 folding shovels. The comic book mail order made it a lot easier. Notice too, in those days a kid could order knives, machetes, and axes if one was so predisposed.
(please click image)
It seems like during the time I was being overseen by my uncle under the ever watchful eye of my stepmother and her then never ending supply of money, there wasn't anything we didn't do or anyplace we didn't go as long as she deemed it in some respects, educational --- and I didn't miss any school. The only time I did miss any amount of school in our travels involved the Kensington Stone. When it first came up that I (we, my uncle and I) had to see the Stone it was on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. It was being exhibited there from February 17, 1948 through to February 25, 1949, after which it was going to be returned to its owners in Alexandria, Minnesota, and replaced at the Smithsonian by a plaster cast. Concerned that it might not be put back on public display where I could see it in real life when it was returned to Minnesota my uncle convinced my stepmother he and I should go to DC and see it. Which we did.
I took the week off before the regularly scheduled school year Christmas vacation started, returning home the day before Christmas. We went by train using the southern route through Yuma, El Paso, Sanderson, San Antonio, New Orleans, then to Atlanta and on up to Washington. The whole upper tier of the U.S., and especially so the upper midwest, was covered in the worst snow anybody had ever seen, some places so deep locomotives and whole trains were completely buried with tracks covered for hundreds of miles with so much snow they couldn't even be plowed. A good part of the remaining rail service was shifted toward the southern part of the country and I remember we were caught up in it all both coming and going. No sooner had I returned and finished what was left of my vacation and started school than on January 8-11, 1949, all of downtown Los Angeles was hit with snow. The hills all around the civic center, the Hollywood Hills where the sign is, even Griffith Observatory. The storm was so bad that on January 11 the Los Angeles Unified School District shut down and declared its one and only district-wide Snow Day. It was bad enough the rest of the country was zapped by snow, but Los Angeles? I remember being totally amazed by it all as well as my uncle saying the last time it snowed like that in L.A. he had just met Albert Einstein.
Although not falling under the auspices of my uncle and well before my stepmother coming into the picture, it should be noted that I did in fact miss a whole bunch of school previously --- more specifically the entire second half of the 1943-1944 school year --- from Christmas of 1943 through to the start of the summer 1944. During those years, as my mother became more and more ill and it became more and more difficult for my father to care for three young boys, he placed me with a couple who expressed a desire to assist. Me missing school came about because almost immediately upon me going to live with them, and apparently without my father's consent, the couple took me to India. They belonged to or at least followers of a quasi-religious organization called the Theosophical Society. They attended the Society's 67th International Convention held December 26 to 31, 1943 at their International Headquarters in Adyar, Madras, India and took me with them. After the convention we went to the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Maharshi Sri Ramana for several months --- which ended for me with somewhat startling results. I did not return home until the 1943-1944 school year was for all practical purposes over.(see) How that was made up is not clear as my overall forward academic progress did not seem to be adversely impacted in any fashion. For more regarding me being taken to India and ending in the aforementioned somewhat startling results please see:
THE LAST AMERICAN DARSHAN
THE BRITISH MOTOR MERCHANT TULAGI
Going back to the trip to Washington DC with my uncle, on our return home to California, and while sharing a table in the dining car with a couple we didn't know, after having passed through Sanderson, Texas, my uncle, who usually didn't relate stories about himself flippantly with familiars let alone strangers, felt compelled for some reason to pass on a story between himself, the town of Sanderson, and a Texas Ranger by the name of Rufus Van Zandt. The story going thus:
"Back in the mid 1920s or so my uncle was traveling the same route with a friend of his, the soon to become famous western authorLouis L'Amour, to New Mexico from New Orleans after having been there for the Mardi Gras. When the train stopped in Sanderson, Texas, a half a dozen heavily armed Texas Rangers along with two U.S. Marshalls got on board and started going through each of the passenger cars looking for someone. They made six men, all with beards, of which my uncle was one, get off the train. They took all six into the station and questioned them one by one. Apparently not finding who they were looking for they told everybody they were free to go. All well and good except that in the meantime the train left, stranding him and the other five men in the middle of nowhere. Not only that, the Rangers had made them get off the train without allowing them to take anything with them including their luggage --- and it was the dead of winter and freezing outside. He followed the Rangers out just as they were getting into a couple of cars and asked what were they supposed to do now. One of the Rangers stuck a rifle in his face and told him it was not their problem unless he wanted to make it their problem. My uncle just backed away and the cars drove off." (source)
L'Amour apparently got off the train after watching my uncle through the window being paraded into the station by a half dozen armed Texas Rangers in the dead of winter. With my uncle thinking L'Amour left when the train left they somehow missed each other and it was the last time either of them saw each other until the meeting I am writing about here. For the most part, lawmen were usually presented fairly favorably by L'Amour, and again, I do not know if any of anything that happened in Sanderson ever made it into any of his novels, but for my uncle, as he recalled the situation, although memorable, was not the best experience he ever had. The events did however, make it into L'Amour's autobiography Education of a Wandering Man.(see)