I hate milk. Which I blame on my mom.
When I was a kid, we had a silver box at the back door where a uniformed man in a jaunty cap deposited four glass bottles of milk on a regular basis. (Yes, youngsters, that was a thing.) Now, I never minded that milk. It was those dreaded days when Mom would crack open the fridge and discover we were out of milk that caused my aversion to the stuff.
My brother, sister, and I would stare at the dry cereal in our bowls and ready ourselves to run, because we knew what was coming. Powdered milk. Ugh! My mom would mix it with water and, as we all complained, she’d grit her teeth and yell, “In the Depression sometimes all we had was powdered milk!” Then she’d dump the stuff in our bowls.
Now, if you never had the pleasure of old-fashioned powdered milk, note that it was rather thin and blue. Not sure how that’s chemically possible, but that’s what I remember. And it was awful. So, I got out of the habit of drinking milk. I rationalized that my love of cheese and ice cream surely filled my bones with the appropriate amount of calcium, but recently I’ve begun to think I may have missed the milk boat.
“I’ve never broken a bone,” my 96-year-old mom says to me periodically. “That’s because I drink my milk.” Then she waits for my response, which makes me calculate the number of times I’ve broken bones: my wrist twice, my elbow, my right fibula, a vertebrae, and recently my ankle where I suffered both a broken fibula and tibia.
“You don’t drink milk,” she’ll say. “That’s why you’ve hurt yourself.”
“You ruined it for me when you made me drink that blue stuff,” I counter. “And I was involved in sports, so most of my broken bones are explainable.”
“I love warm milk!” she says sounding like she’s fanaticizing about a bottle of fine Champaign. The whole idea makes me gag.
But I will admit that milk can be useful, something I learned from that party-animal Genghis Khan and his fun bunch of pony-riding warriors who terrorized the locals and created the massive Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century. He and his men faced a Chinese army that outnumbered them 10-to-1. And they beat them thanks to…milk. Really. It seems that Genghis and the boys had a gene that made them able to digest milk. The Chinese soldiers did not. So, the Mongols never needed to carry much food. They just milked their horses, slurped it up, hoped on, and conquered much of Asia and Eastern Europe in a relative flash.
Some of us can thank good old Genghis and his men for spreading that milk-digesting gene around. Genghis himself was said to have six wives and over 500 concubines, so there was an awful lot of gene-sharing going on. It’s said that 16 million men today–scientists have tracked his Y-chromosome–are genetic decedents of the emperor himself. Here in the US, 90% of adults can drink milk without issue, no doubt thanks to our milk-digesting ancestors, while in the rest of the world, 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. If Genghis were alive today, we’d owe him a big thank-you card for all that cheese and ice cream and, yes, milk, that we consume with regularity.
Knowing that, I can’t say I like milk any more than I did. But I can see milk has some pretty magical powers. After all, milk forged an empire that covered about nine million square miles of land and, at its peak, ruled over 110 million people, which was about 1-in-4 individuals living at the time. So, go ahead and grab a glass of milk. I’ll join you after I dig in the freezer for some ice cream.
The past and present collide when a tenacious reporter seeks information on an eleventh century magician…and uncovers more than she bargained for.
February 2, 2022
In 1939, archeologists uncovered a tomb at the Northern Arizona site called Ridge Ruin. The man, bedecked in fine turquoise jewelry and intricate bead work, was surrounded by wooden swords with handles carved into animal hooves and human hands. The Hopi workers stepped back from the grave, knowing what the Moochiwimi sticks meant. This man, buried nine hundred years earlier, was a magician.
Former television journalist Kate Butler hangs on to her investigative reporting career by writing freelance magazine articles. Her research on The Magician shows he bore some European facial characteristics and physical qualities that made him different from the people who buried him. Her quest to discover The Magician’s origin carries her back to a time when the high desert world was shattered by the birth of a volcano and into the present-day dangers of archeological looting where black market sales of antiquities can lead to murder.
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