Sunday, November 30, 2014

In The Mind Of The Beholder

I was sitting in the porch swing earlier today, enjoying the quiet of the woods before me, when the big bird sailed gracefully over the head of the hollow beside the house. I was instantly transported to a distant place and an earlier time. My wife, my mother, a couple of my mother’s friends and I had signed up for a train ride into a gorge of our lovely state during prime leaf-peeping season. It turned out to be a rip-off with the “antique rail cars” looking like converted cattle cars and “supper on board” being a couple of lousy hotdogs which we had to pay extra for. Also, the staff acted like they’d been trained in the gulags, but the scenery saved the day.

We were still on a steam train beside a rushing river with beautiful mountains of autumn color all around us. It was then that some folks noticed the eagles circling high overhead in a thermal. They seemed to be curious about the strange vehicle and its riders, as they began to follow us down the gorge and gradually dropped closer as we traveled.

Probably, Adam and Eve were the first of our race to watch such birds in flight and envy their grace and freedom. I suspect no-one ever lived who, at least as a child, didn’t dream of sailing through the sky with only his “wings” to lift and guide him. Even today, I have to admit that the ability would be both frightening and thrilling.

And so, the crowd watched the eagles, and oohed and aahed as they circled and swooped through a clear but slightly breezy sky. As they grew closer, some folks commented on the rarity of seeing a pair of the few eagles living in the canyon and at our good fortune at being this close. I held my peace and waited for the inevitable.

Finally, someone with binoculars realized that we were watching turkey vultures, instead of eagles. The oohes and ahhes turned to ewws and yucks as everyone quickly lost interest in the still graceful fliers. I raised my bottle of soda pop in a silent toast to the two birds that had put on a beautiful performance. I couldn’t help but look with disgust on the fickle crowd that now pretended to never have been so foolish as to admire a pair of vultures.

In my mind, they were no better than pretentious idiots who went from cheering a ballerina for a flawless performance to booing her, when they noticed a wart on her nose. Such is mankind. © 2014

Their Brother’s Keeper

The O’Dares (not their real names) were simple people—salt of the earth farm folks, and honest, hard-working Christians. They lived just a few miles across the county line headed south out of Stone County on the road to Charleville. There in McClellan County, they were well known and liked as just another set of neighbors that could be counted on to help others when the chips were down, whether it was gathering in the crops of a man with a broken leg or cutting firewood for some widow-lady up the holler. They weren’t well off, but they had a good farm with a lot of bottom-land for crops, hillsides for cattle, and hilltops for hay. Hillsides too steep to be mowed as pasture grew trees for lumber and firewood. Their eggs, meat and vegatables all came from the farm. Mr. O’Dare loved his farm and treated it as well as he knew how to do. It repaid his efforts bounteously. Like many of their neighbors, they had a coal stove in their parlor and a wood cookstove in the kitchen. There was no other heat in the house, but sleeping two to a bed atop one feather tick and under another kept them warm on the coldest night. In summer, the extra tick would be put on another bed so they could sleep separately through the sultry months.

As a result of the hard work and frugality of him and his wife, the O’Dares had saved enough to send their oldest son, Sherman, to college. He’d be the first person on either side of the family to take his education beyond high school at a time when many people didn’t even finish high school. There was just one problem; they could afford to send Sherman to college, but not his brother and two sisters. So they got their kids together and laid out a plan. After Sherman graduated, he would pay his parents back by sending the next oldest to college who, in turn, would send the one just below him, to be repeated down to the fourth and last child. The plan would be slightly easier than it would have been by the fact that there were a few years between each child. The children all agreed.

It took a little longer than it might have, since the first two boys went to medical school and became doctors. However, they stuck to the plan and both boys and the girls all ended up with college degrees. By each paying back to their parents some of what they’d spent on the eldest son, the parents had an easier retirement than they would have otherwise, also.

If it were a perfect world, or a made-up story, I could tell you what happened to the two girls, but I honestly don’t know. The boys had their medical practices in my hometown and I met them both as a child (had them both as my doctor then, in fact). Neither forgot their farming roots and ended up with farms that seemed to mean as much or more to them as their practices. The eldest used to go out to my future in-laws and discuss farming with my future father-in-law, so my wife actually knew him better than I did. The plan that the parents had was a good one and it worked. I wonder, though, how many young people today would make such a commitment and stick with it. © 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Good Little Emergency Gun

I bumped into a former coworker the other day. After catching up on jobs, families and so on, the conversation turned to guns, hunting, farming and prepping. He was telling me about a little project that he’d just completed. He’d wanted a hidden gun to put meat on the table with, should the feds get all paranoid and steal all the ones they know about. He bought one of those little Cricket kid’s rifles at a swap meet and made a couple changes in it to suit him better.

The first thing he didn’t like was the safety. It wasn’t designed as a safety you use when the gun was loaded, but you aren’t quite ready to shoot at the critter out in front of you. It was designed to keep the gun from even being loaded, when you’re teaching a kid to shoot at a range. When the safety button is pushed in, a brass rod comes up between the bolt face and the chamber, not allowing the bolt to be closed on a round. It then takes a separate key to make the gun “fireable” again. Not a good thing if you’re trying to hunt with it and accidently bump the easily “all-too-bumpable” safety button. The solution? Take a hacksaw blade and saw the rod off as low as possible when it was in the up position. Problem solved.

Then, he didn’t like the fact that it took a special screwdriver to remove the barrel. So, he replaced the barrel screw with one that took a regular Phillips screwdriver. He said he always carries at least one multi-tool, so if he is ever that unprepared, he doesn’t deserve to get the barrel off.

The next thing he did didn’t involve a problem. He removed the plastic butt-plate from the hollow plastic stock and filled the cavity with .22 shells. He estimated that the hole held 100-150. He then replaced the butt-plate and sighted the gun in for 20 yards, with shells from the same box. He said it shot minute of squirrel for him, though an expert might have done better. At that point, he put it in a container designed to protect it and buried it on a neighbor’s property next to some land he owns out in the country. (He never told the neighbor.)

He said it wouldn’t be his first choice for any purpose, but the price was right and it would sure beat hunting with a stick. Since I never saw the rifle, I couldn’t get a picture of it, but here’s a link to the manufacturer’s site: © 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I Guess I’m A “Hill Person” (w/pics)

My wife lived in the Midwest for six years and said it was like living on the moon. She came home to West Virginia at the first opportunity. I know that folks who grew up there feel the same about their flat land as my wife does about her hills; home is always home, after all. I’ll side with my wife on that one, though. I’ve never been in a situation where I felt it was necessary to leave my home state, and can’t really imagine what it would take to make me feel that way. I have no desire to live in a land where no place is safe from flood, where I can’t wander up a holler, or climb a hill and look in awe of the panorama before me.

I hate to see the beautiful hills destroyed, unless it’s to save the rich farmland below, but saving farmland for its farming value happens only in a couple foreign countries. Here, the fertile farmland is developed (ruined) first and the hillsides last. But, the hillsides eventually get bulldozed, too. The sad thing is that my job requires that I be a part of that destruction. The local developer that I’ve alluded to before has a hill that he’s currently working on at the south edge of town, and my bosses’ company often goes there to get fill dirt for its customers. This week, I was hauling dirt to a site only about three miles away to fill in behind one of our local gambling dens (video type).

I may have posted a photo of the hill before, but I’ve included another today. I’ve dubbed the place “Mount Shrinkmore,” since every time I see it, it’s a little bit smaller. Eventually, I suspect that it will be a series of about three terraces, to be developed into retail locations like they did lower on the hill. While much larger than it appears in the photo, it’s not particularly large as hills go. Still there’s a nice view from near the hilltop, while it remains. A road goes through the valley below, past Kohls, Lowes, WalMart, Tractor Supply, several other businesses, a couple churches and many houses. When I was a kid, it was part of the road that led to the state capitol from our town. Back then, it was a four hour drive. Now, the interstate on the far side of the hill across the valley can take you there in less than two hours. Back then, the valley was only a lovely and peaceful-looking collection of farms. (Sigh.)

I console myself some about being part of the destruction by reminding myself that I’m getting a look at the hidden history of that patch of earth. I’ve mentioned before that had I gone to college in my youth, it would have been to learn geology. Today, I noticed that the hard dry rock-like red clay where the hoe was digging had grain to it that sat at about 30 degrees off level. I knew it wasn’t hoe marks, as there were no arcs in the lines; all were straight. Strangely enough, the clay was topped by a perfectly level layer of blue shale (with layers of other rocks and soils above). It looked like the clay had been sheared off level and the shale laid down carefully atop it. For the grain of the clay to be on an anticline, it would require upheaval at some point. The only thing that I can think of that would have sheared off the clay, though, would have been a glacier, unless it was eroded and ground level by flooding. I guess I’ll never know. The photos below can be enlarged by clicking them. © 2014

Mount Shrinkmore - The roadway from which this photo was taken actuallyn crosses part of the hill, and the gravel road is far from level. It's probably nearly a half-mile to the very top of the hill that you see.

Part of Pettyville, West Virginia, as seen from Mount Shrinkmore. A series of dairy and beef cattle farms in my youth, only a handful of green fields remain.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Aggravation And Speculation

I was told to report to work 30 minutes later than normal today. That means a little less money in my pay, but it also means that the days of shorter hours are approaching fast. Even then, it was another 30m minutes before they had a load for me. As I was ready to go out the door, they changed my destination to that of another job. I then spent the day traveling between the mine and the job site, which was fine, but I had waits on each end. The mine was working with only one loader-man, rather than two, because one was on vacation deer hunting. I can’t believe they didn’t fill his position. At the job site, our drivers had to wait a few minutes each trip, while they were shuffled between outgoing trucks hauling excavated dirt and a dozer spreading the new limestone. Poor management by their bosses cost my bosses money. That sort of thing always trickles down somehow, eventually, even though we’re paid by the hour.

I can’t wear a watch, since they always quit working within a month, so I use my phone to check the time when I need to know. Unfortunately, my latest phone has a battery that lasts well, but dies quickly, when it goes. So, today, my phone died long before lunch. The truck has a clock, but it doesn’t work. So, I stopped at an auto parts place along the route and got a phone charger that uses the cigarette lighter. Something good happened for a change! Since it’s only using 12 volts, it can be used to make calls and show the time, even when it’s charging. It has a built-in safety feature that won’t allow that when you’re charging with house current.

For convenience, though, I also picked up a stick-up digital clock for the truck. Unfortunately, it was too technical for me to figure out, so I waited until after work and had the dispatcher (a young guy) set it for me. My eight-year-old granddaughter could probably have done it, too, but naturally she wasn’t available.

The wind was strong and gusty today. It tried blowing me around on the four-lane even when my dump truck was loaded. I can only imagine how much fun the semi-drivers were having. I saw one apparently empty box truck nearly get blown off the road by a gust. Sometimes the sun shone today, sometimes it rained, and sometimes it did both at the same time. The temperature was comfortable, though.

Being the first day of gun deer season here, there were a lot of cars parked along the roads and, of course, the law was out in force hoping to write some tickets. Not nearly as large a percentage of folks hunt that did when I was a kid. I think several things have caused that. One, guys have gotten more antler obsessed and less meat obsessed, lowering their success, and turning some people off deer hunting. Two, manufacturers have convinced many hunters that they need all the bells and whistles, raising the cost above what some folks can afford. Three, the DNR has gotten so greedy with their license fees that the poor, who need the meat most, can no longer afford the licenses. Fourth, fewer and fewer people actually live country lifestyles, which always included hunting, though many people still choose to live in the country, Fifth, as much as I hate to admit it, the bunny-huggers have had some success in brain-washing a couple generations of kids into thinking ill of hunting. There may be other influences as well, but these came quickly to mind. And then there are guys like me who just don’t get around like they used to when they were younger! Oh well; such is life! © 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

11-22-14 – Riding Shotgun – Central Station, West Virginia

The earliest record in my postcard collection of Central Station, West Virginia, is the postmark on a card from a teenage girl named “Lulu” to another girl who would later become my grandmother. The card was mailed in 1906, and the recipient married my granddad three years later. I can’t be sure without looking through the collection, but I think he mailed a few cards to her from there, when he was working in nearby oilfields as a rig-building contractor.

Since there basically WERE no roads back then, most folks went as far as possible by rail before renting a horse. Central Station was on the main line between Washington, D.C., and Parkersburg, West Virginia back then, and it seemed that every third hollow had a post office and a whistle stop train station. The government allowed the subsidized railroad to close that line 30 years ago or so, and then let the company, which owned the right-of-way, but not the land, to illegally sell the land to the state to make a bike path for yuppie tourists. Ah, “progress!”

Recently, I hauled a load of crushed limestone to a compressor station near the little town. The outlying “suburbs” had been a smattering of dilapidated farms, house and buildings with junk and trash scattered about everywhere. The age and size of the rusting vehicles and machinery indicated that there had been some prosperity there at one time, but that time was well past. Occasionally, a neat, clean, and/or more modern house showed that some folks were still getting by okay. All-in-all, it looked like many other dying West Virginia communities that the railroad and/or the big highways have discarded. I suspect that most residents live on either welfare, due to lack of work, or social security, due to old age. The more industrious young folks leave such a place to chase their dreams, thus putting another nail in the town’s coffin.

I missed the practically hidden sign for the compressor station, and took my 14.5 ton truck, with its 22 ton load, across the 15 ton bridge and into the town proper. The houses there looked much like the ones outside the main town—just closer together. Most looked as if they hadn’t had a coat of paint in over a quarter-century, if then. Still, some of them were obviously lived in, and some LESS obviously lived in. A teenage girl came out of one house as I passed through, walked a few doors down the street, and entered another house without knocking. Typical behavior in a neighborhood where everyone knows one another.

There were various business buildings still standing, but none appeared to be in use as businesses. There was a Pentecostal church and a community building, neither in great shape, but usable. A couple small business buildings appeared to be lived in, while a few houses sat vacant. Some houses were in decent shape, some not, but nearly all the houses that appeared in use had clutter around them. It looked like a little town that, having been abandoned by the world, simply gave up expecting anything from life. I say this not to offend the residents, but to express my sadness at seeing the place, since I could tell from the buildings that it had once been a prosperous enough little town, as full of hopes and dreams as the next place.

I came across Depot Street—all 200 feet or so of it. Streets aren’t long when they cross a town built in a hollow. The train depot was long gone, probably even before that line was closed by the railroad. In my mind’s eye, I could see my granddad standing there at the station a century ago, not in his work clothes, but in his suit and derby hat, his overcoat over his arm, as he waited for the train to carry him home to his family for the weekend. At the moment, I almost envied him, having seen this little town when it was full of life, with working men and businesses, and with multiple trains passing through every day. I had my camera, but I felt it disrespectful to take a picture of the town in its current condition. It would have seemed like kicking a man when he was down.

I turned my truck around, recrossed the suspect bridge, finally found my delivery site back an angled driveway within a stone’s throw of that bridge, and dumped the stone. Going past the suburbs once again, I prayed that the current oil and gas boom in the area might provide work for some of the locals, and that the community might once again where fulfilled dreams and hopes seem like real possibilities. Only time will tell if Central Station will be there in the next century. © 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Highway And Home-Front (w/pics)

It’s been a mixed bag this week, as far as good and bad experiences at work. It was nice to spend Monday afternoon with the dog and my wife, but it really hurts to have that much money missing from my pay, since it cost me overtime. I can only imagine how tight things will get when we go to 40 hours or less this winter.

Despite being a “southern truck” (no block heater), my work truck has been starting even with the 16 degree mornings we’ve been having. When I think of all the diesels that don’t want to start in people’s driveways, I think that quality must be lacking in them. Interestingly enough, some of those vehicles are made by Mercedes, but the engine in my Mack is also made by them.

I saw a new pad (oil/gas well site) this week and enjoyed some of the experience. The view from “Maddie Mae,” (Yup, that’s what the oil company named it!) was as nice as any hilltop vista in the countryside, with farmland in the valley and forestland on the hills. I hadn’t driven across a low-water bridge for a while (a type of manmade ford, actually), but did the first day that I delivered there. It was made of oak timbers submerged in the stream and was none too wide for the size of trucks using it. The second day, though, they had the new concrete bridge completed.

The climb up the switch-backed gravel road was all the truck wanted to do with 21 tons on my little tri-axle, and steep enough that I put both rear axles in gear and in positive traction, though they call it something else these days. Coming down was the “hairy” part, of course, since it allowed you to see the imminent death awaiting you if you lost control. The hardest thing for most folks to learn is to quit braking and even maybe give your vehicle some “gas” if your wheels start skidding downhill. That allows the tires to regain traction; then you can start braking again SLOWLY. I learned that from watching it up-close and personal on the farm, driving farm tractors in slick weather.

Decking sections, waiting to be installed on Maddie Mae.

A closer view of the decking sections. They're probably about six inches thick, and appear to be oak, surrounded by steel. They place them as tight as floor tiles on a bed of crushed limestone.

With all of the oil and gas activity in the region, rent prices are skyrocketing. That’s good for the landlords, but bad for the working poor who aren’t making big bucks in the oilfield. Even the campgrounds, normally only in heavy use from Memorial Day through hunting season, are staying pretty full, with some workers trying to save money by going “rustic.” Unfortunately for them, I’ve heard of some lots with full hook-up going for $800 A MONTH!

My concern for the working poor, which is MOST of us these days, also includes the homeless. It really gets me to see houses and cabins going to pot, while some families live on the street, or in their cars. I realize that some people would tear up a concrete bungalow, but not everyone. Below is a nice little house going to pot not far from Pennsboro, West Virginia. It’s small, but you can tell that it was nice at one time, and could be again, if someone would catch it before things go any further.

The little house isn't easy to see as you approach it, despite being right by Rt. # 74 heading north from town.

View out my window as I pass (literally taken on the move, as I had a car behind me).

At my own home, the weather and my work hours have discouraged me from getting some corn fodder put on my compost pile. My wife had some for making wreaths, which didn’t pan out due to mold, and had put the pieces in a garbage bag on the porch. A couple days ago, she found crows on the porch sorting through the corn looking for any remaining ears. I guess I should give any corn to them; life probably ain’t easy for a crow. I suspect they’d learned elsewhere that garbage bags can contain food (since we never put trash out except in cans), saw the bag and reasoned there might be food there. Ironically, they were right! I hope they don’t start hanging out here TOO much, they can be awfully noisy.

Well, I think I hear the living room floor calling my name, so I better go. I hope you folks had an good week! © 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

When It Snows, It Pours

I was expecting a larger paycheck last week, since I’d worked the Saturday before. The extra day must have put me into a higher withholding bracket, though, because it wasn’t that much bigger than normal. Since then, a couple of unexpected expenses came up that took the extra and more besides. Before I left work Friday, I called my wife and she told me she’d just learned that her oldest brother had died the day before. Cold winds and snow caused a lot of cancelled hauls today (though there was no accumulation), so the dispatcher sent about half of us home after trying for three-and-a-half hours to drum up some business. Looks like a short pay this week, since we may have more bad weather yet.

We’ll slide by with what funds we get, since we have no reserve and became pretty good at pinching pennies during my long stint of having no work. I used the time off today to go get my winter tires put on the truck. At least they were already paid for and in storage.
My wife isn’t going to her brother’s funeral, since funerals are really for the living and most of the living siblings have decided that they don’t like her Christianity. They’ve been giving her a hard time about it lately—trying to make themselves feel safer in their own beliefs, no doubt. I’m sure that the fact that they were raised by an abusive father, who professed to be a devout Christian, had no small influence in them adopting atheism over the years.

Her deceased brother supposedly accepted Jesus when young, before losing his right mind, the latter due either to having a nervous breakdown from the abuse (my suspicion only) or from lack of blood to the brain during a surgery for a bleeding ulcer. He died twice on that operating table, when a teenager. The bright, pleasant, artistic protector of his little sister became a mix of schizophrenic and autistic. He became ill-tempered and unpredictable, and that’s how he’s remembered by the siblings younger than my wife.

She, on the other hand, recalls the times that the two of them arose before daylight to run barefoot around the farm and through the woods on childhood adventures. She prefers to remember him during those times, and as the brother who once saved her from being gored by a mean dairy cow, though he was little bigger than her, despite being two years older. She very much regrets that he wasn’t able to lead a normal adult life, but she believes that he’s with the Lord and that she’ll see him again, when the time is right. I hope she’s right.

In the meanwhile, we’re enjoying a rare normal-length evening together with the dog and the TV. © 2014

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Peeing In A Cup

!!!! WARNING !!!! – If you are a good, decent, God-fearing person, do NOT read this post under ANY circumstances!

Life ain’t easy for fat folks. First, you have all the snide remarks, disgusted looks, deliberate disrespect, lack of normal compassion from others and general prejudice to deal with. Then, you have to deal with the fact that excess weight causes a lot of inconveniences in your life. Cars, clothes and furniture are uncomfortable. Aisle ways, turnstiles, restrooms and even some tools and appliances just don’t seem “user friendly.” Life can get really aggravating when the inconvenience of being fat is made worse by the stupidity of people who think that EVERYTHING in life falls into the “one size fits all” category. One of those situations occurred recently for me.

I and another “big” guy at work were “randomly” chosen for drug and alcohol testing. Translated, I think that means that they didn’t have a load for us just then. We were given our paperwork and then went down to the testing facility behind the local mall for the “piss test.” Unfortunately, I’d been handed the papers immediately upon exiting the restroom, so I requested a wait for more ammunition. Eventually, I felt that a sufficient volume had accumulated to give it a shot.

 Now, for any of you who’ve never done the dirty deed, you must first empty all your pockets to prove that you haven’t snuck in a vial of urine from someone else, so you could hide your habit. THEN, you have to LEAVE all your stuff, including your wallet, in an unlocked box on the nurse’s counter, where OTHER victims may walk past it. I suppose they think that these inanimate objects can produce urine, but they never did request that I turn my pockets inside-out to PROVE that they were empty. Foolishly, I even took my multi-tool out of its belt pouch and put it with the other stuff as a sort of wasted bit of sarcasm.

Skinny folks have no way of knowing this, but asking a really fat person to pee in a little plastic cup isn’t much different than asking them to lick their elbow. Things can only stretch and strain so far. When you have a normal length arm, a humongous belly, and a short…..well…I won’t go there, you are working blind to say the least. Also, you can’t just hold the cup with your thumb at the top and your longest finger at the bottom, as you would expect. No, you must pinch the rim between your thumb and finger, which is a tenuous hold at best, to get every fraction of an inch of length that you can to get near the “dispenser.”

You would think that you could align the cup by feel, but experience has taught me that’s not the case. You, instead, operate by sound. Straddling the john, so you won’t get anything on the floor, you listen for the sound of liquid hitting the water in the bowl; that means you need to adjust placement of the cup. Even that sounds easy, but trust me, it isn’t. More urine ends up running down the outside of the cup than inside, so a sizeable volume is required to get enough for the sample. Since I’d recently used the john at work, I couldn’t corral enough of the golden, tattle-tale liquid the first time, AND THEY WON”T SAVE IT TO LET YOU ADD TO IT IN A LITTLE WHILE! I guess they think that it will magically change chemical composition in a half-hour’s time.

So, they offered me the option of staying there and trying again within the next three hours, or rescheduling for another day. I chose to stay. They lead me back to the lobby, but left all my personal items in the open box in the back room. They offered me a cup and suggested that I drink some water from their water cooler to build up ammo faster. A few minutes later, a nurse stuck her head out the door and asked in a panicky voice how many cups I’d drunk. When I replied that I was on my fourth, she asked that I not drink any more. Apparently, you can weaken the sample if you drink TOO much. If I’d known that, I’d have drunk TEN cups for sheer spite!

I waited not until I thought that I MIGHT have enough ammo to do the job, but until I grew DESPERATE to drain my tank! I told them then, that if they’d give me a bucket or a bedpan, I’d give them more “sample” than they’d know what to do with, but no, they gave me another little plastic cup. Most of it STILL went outside the cup, but the sheer volume overwhelmed the odds and I got a more than adequate sample. Then the nurse poured some of it into two little vials and threw the rest away! So much effort WASTED! I think they should have had to test anything up to ten gallons after all that effort!

I’ve got it figured out though. Next time, I’m going to hide that multi-tool in my sock. Then, at least I can use the folding pliers for a handle on that @%#$&^*)$# little plastic cup! In the meanwhile, I suppose no-one notices that one of my coworkers often smells as if he drank a really huge supper the night before. © 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Anti-Love Laws Already On The Books

My first thought, when the “hate laws” began to appear, was that hate is a bad, but natural, human emotion. Trying to do away with hatred is saying that people don’t have the right to emotions. How long will it be before they outlaw love, I wondered. Not long, it seems.

Twenty-one cities in America have already passed laws making it illegal to feed the homeless. Recently, a 90-year-old man was arrested for doing what he felt was his moral duty by breaking such a law in his town. Our local mayor, with no prior discussion with the citizens, recently posted signs at panhandling sites around town asking people NOT to add to the drug and alcohol problem by donating to the homeless. I was glad to see one homeless veteran still panhandling with a sign that said, “Drug and alcohol free – and I have PROOF!”

I know that many panhandlers DO have drug and alcohol problems, but not ALL of them do, and they don’t deserve to be painted with the same brush. ALSO, these are OUR OWN PEOPLE that we are expected to turn our back on, after all, illegal aliens get help that our own citizens are denied!

34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35h For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’40i And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ “ Matthew 25:34-40

© 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Souvenir

From earliest times, it seems that people have sought some reminder or piece of a place or event to save for themselves or posterity. One somewhat macabre reminder of the gore of World War II resides in my basement. It is a small Japanese flag designed to be rolled up and worn around the waist of a soldier. I assume that each soldier, sailor and airman had one. It was to serve as a reminder of what the soldier was fighting for—his emperor, his homeland and his friends and family. In a pinch, it could be used as an actual flag to designate a camp or something, I suppose, but that’s only my own thinking.

Before the soldiers went off to war, many of them took their flag around to their family and village members and asked them to sign it. Many people added prayers, or wishes for a safe return, or calls to great valor. The flag that Dad brought home from the war has such writing. I wish there was some way to get the flag back to the soldier’s nearest living relative, if there are any.

This flag was found on a dead Japanese soldier, lying in a hand-dug “cave” in the Philippine Islands. Many of their troops were ensconced in such hard-to-see shelters, which is part of what made some of the fighting there so difficult. Nearly always, during “wipe-up” of each area, one or more wounded Japanese soldiers would be found alive but wounded, lying in their cave. If they could not rise and crawl out under their own power, they were shot in their bed. That sounds cruel, but many would booby-trap themselves, so that if they were moved, a grenade would kill whoever was trying to save them. That sort of fanaticism can be believed, after seeing so many suicide bombers among present-day muslims. I think they were later pulled out with a rope for burial. I assume that if an explosion ensued, they were considered buried already. Apparently, the soldier wearing this flag wasn’t booby-trapped.

The flag has what appear to be rust stains on it, but they aren’t rust stains. The iron in blood turns the stains rusty-colored after a certain amount of time. All the tiny holes in the flag seem to indicate that he died from wounds inflicted either by shrapnel, or a shotgun blast. (Shotguns WERE used by a few troops in certain situations. I imagine they would be quite handy in jungle warfare.)

Dad never harbored ill-will toward the Japanese as some did. He realized that while a few were animals, most were probably just average Joes doing what they considered their duty. I remember his telling about seeing stacks of dead Japanese soldiers on a beach awaiting burial. As he looked at the horrible waste of life, he said that he remembered thinking that each one was some mother’s son.

I think that we should return to the days when those who declared war, or ordered a charge, had to lead it. Unfortunately, there were still many wars even then, for never in history has there been a shortage of human greed or inflated egos. © 2014