Columbus Day is sometimes called Discoverers' Day. In the spirit of discovery, take some time to learn about the world as it was in the days of the European explorers. You can make a compass, learn about the stars, read about other explorers and discoverers, and find how even our way of eating has changed since the Europeans came to the Americas looking for gold, glory, and, yes, tasty cooking spices.
More than 150 years ago, life was turned upside-down for residents in our communities. Stafford County was occupied by Union troops. Fredericksburg changed hands many times between Union and Confederate and was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Spotsylvania County had the battles of Spotsylvania Courthouse, the Wilderness, and Chancellorsville. Thousands of men encamped and fought here. Many died here. Our state—even just our own area—has some of the most fought-over ground in the country.
It takes three sets of people—the president, the judges, and the Congress—to make our government work. If the president does something wrong, it's up to the judges and Congress to hold him accountable. If laws are made by Congress that people think are not really fair, the judges can strike them down, or the president can choose to veto them before they become laws. Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president, but they usually stay on long after the president has left office, so as time passes we have a mix of different political views.
How does rain happen? Long ago the Ashanti people believed that Anansi, the Spider, brought the rains that would put out fires in the jungle. In old Britain, the legendary Green Man was supposed to have rainmaking powers, and Zeus brought the rains for the ancient Greeks.
Today, we know that when warm, wet air rises into the sky and cools off, its water condenses out of the clouds as rain. Rain and snow can also happen when a batch of warm air meets a batch of cool air. The two kinds of air usually do not mix. The warm air is less dense than the cool air and will slide right over it. As the warm air goes higher, it cools off, and the moisture separates or condenses out of the cooled air and falls as a slow, steady rain.
One morning, the old wooden dam on the Rappahannock River went up in clouds of smoke. It was a huge thing—ancient and strong, built in layers to tame the river so that the power of the water pushing against it could provide electricity for the town. But it had been years since anyone tapped that power. Now, the dam was falling apart, and it was decided that it had become dangerous. So the Army Corps of Engineers blew it up one morning, and the river was flowing freely again—just as it had in previous centuries. By getting rid of the dam, the river had a chance to go back to being more like it once was. There would be more fish which would mean more birds, and, really more of everything.
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