Monday, April 21, 2008

Region Still Rumbling with Minor Aftershocks

We're on our 18th aftershock since Friday's morning 5.2 magnitude earthquake up near Mount Carmel, Illinois.

I was in a recliner this morning at writing down some ideas for a screenplay when I felt the chair underneath me begin to move. Ironically I had just started a scene with the word "rumbling" to indicate the start of a roof fall in an underground coal mine.

The U.S. Geological Survey's website isn't the easiest to navigate, but here's the page that lists all of the
Check out this aftershocks as well as Friday's earthquake.

Friday, April 18, 2008

80th Anniversary of Birger Hanging Saturday

Tomorrow, April 19, is the 80th anniversary of hanging of Charlie Birger, Southern Illinois' most famed gangster.

He was the last man executed by hanging in Illinois and by all accounts most deservedly so. Officially he was sentenced to death for his role in the conspiracy to murder Joe Adams, mayor of West City, Illinois, but was responsible for a number of other deaths, including that of Lory Price, the first Illinois State Policeman to die in the line of duty.

I grew up hearing the family stories about Birger and his hideout, Shady Rest. My grandmother's family, the Angels, lived less than a half mile away from the site to the northwest.

There were stories of gangsters passing counterfeit money in my great-grandparents' store, of Birger offering my grandmother and another friend a ride into Crab Orchard, the offer of medical help for my grandmother's baby sister, and the plaster dog my grandmother and her future husband won at the grand opening of the barbecue stand Birger had established right along the hard road between Marion and Harrisburg.

It wasn't until junior high did I learn about Paul Angle's book, "Bloody Williamson" and Donald Bain's "War in Illinois" since republished as "Charlie and the Shawneetown Dame".

None of the books included my family's stories, but they proved to me there was something real to them.

There was a cheesy western song written after the hanging. Southern Illinois' "original, caustic acoustic band", The Woodbox Gang, has resurrected it and made it sound cool. Here's the video from their performance last fall at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.