Friday, September 25, 2015

A Brief Opinion Of An Observed War

For considerable time I have promised myself to do this, being held back and intimidated by a strong concern that I could not express it with the solemnity it deserves.

I was almost half a year from being six years old when our country entered the last real war. Ten years later, when that war was behind us, I was living in Hawaii during the "police action" to which my veteran father had been recalled.  A classmate mentioned, "I remember Pearl Harbor"...and I know that he really did.

But I digress after a fashion. I really meant to say a few words about the last war in which we were the winners.

When the time after December 7, 1941 could still be measured in days and weeks, Uncle Charlie and family stopped by our duplex apartment in Bay City on the way home from spending Christmas in Mexico.  For a couple of days, young Charlie and I played on our front porch while a USO building was already being built directly across the street.  Wouldn't you guess it, we played WAR, with some brand new really neat toys that Charlie had gotten for Christmas.  He had a bomber that represented a machine larger than any real airplane at the time, and it carried a military tank beneath each wing, a technology that has not been done even yet.  We were encouraged to use our imaginations at play.

That building was deeded to the city after the war, and still, after nearly three quarters of a century, serves Bay City under the name Service Center, although many of my generation still call it "The USO".

We had a German war prisoner internment camp in our little town, and we could drive past any time and see the prisoners playing sports games in the yard.  I did not know any of the prisoners personally, but I heard from the old folks that many of them had expressed a desire to come back to the US after the war as immigrants.  They liked our country and the treatment they received in their "prison".  (For any who are obsessed with those well known negative aspects of this war, discussion is welcomed, but the primary function of this observation is to show a difference between the last real war and the later "wars" of opportunity.)

We had weekly air raid drills, and sometimes blackouts, in which a warden from the neighborhood would come around and inspect for any lights which anyone may have left on.  I remember once the warden instructing my dad to turn off the pilot on the gas stove.  They wanted to be able to see NO LIGHT WHATSOEVER! Imagine that in todays world of indicator lights and lighted numbers on virtually all electronic devices.  

Pilot training planes and observation blimps could be seen flying over our heads on a regular basis.  In a week in Galveston at Cousin Charlie's Aunt Mickie's house after the war, we spent a little time each day at the beach, where the deserted concrete structures built to defend the coast were still in place.

My roommate's father did not actively serve in the military, but moved his family to Galveston, where he was employed by the military in the repair of damaged aircraft.

We had rationing, and rationing stamps had to be presented in order to purchase virtually anything that might be useful to anyone.  I have a humorous memory of Mr. Naizer, the service station owner who spoke with a heavy accent, trying to get my mother some "EmmaGency" rationing stamps for our trip to San Francisco (at 35 mph to conserve gas and tires) to spend the summer and see my dad off to the Pacific.

Some very elderly people may have faint memories of slogans like "The slip of a lip may sink a ship" and patriotic songs like "The Yanks Are Coming" (Over There).

Many Hollywood personalities served overseas in the military, and we all know of some who did not serve overseas, but whose skills were used for propaganda films and radio programs to promote the public's contact with the war effort.

My mother knitted sweaters, and we school kids took coathangers to school for contributions to the Red Cross.

Everyone, not only kids, but adult citizens of modest means,  bought savings stamps to be pasted into books to eventually be redeemed for US Savings Bonds...our contribution toward "financing the war".

We youngsters would work into our busy schedules games of "war" as well as the usual "cowboys", with the traditional requirement of eventually being killed and continuing to play as "another guy".

Although not directly tied to the war effort, but contemporary with the war, the citizens were enlisted to contribute dimes to the common cause of research for the elimination of infantile paralysis, now most often called poliomyelitis, or "polio", "off the face of the earth".

I won't bother to mention the temporary engagement of automobile and aircraft manufacturers to switch their production to implements of warfare.  That is well documented without the added benefit of my observation. I am merely describing personal experiences. Capitalism seemed to have its shining hour in cooperation with, rather than enmity for, our tax and spend gu'ment.


After the real war was ended, and military had been returned to our country (transportation of personnel was mostly by ship in those primitive times), Mom drove us to Camp Hulen, over near Galveston to pick up my dad after his discharge was completed.  As a family again, we frequently would visit friends that Dad had served with in New Guinea and The Philippines, and they would come to visit us. They would always converse with a sense of pride and adventure. I am sure there may have been s little survivor's relief involved, but I really believe they felt that what they had done for our survival was worthwhile.

Later, even after we had returned to "war" and gone to Hawaii, returning in 1952, we got visits from guys my dad had known during his traveling days before 1940, and they would still be telling "war stories" about WWII.

There are many reasons why President Johnson's "Guns and Butter" war which finally became President Nixon's war was a failure, but I think that the foremost reason, and the difference between WWII and all subsequent wars is that since the successful war, The Gu'ment has not brought the people together for a common cause, but left them to bicker among their separate widely diverse selves.  In the real war, we were all involved in the war effort.

Monday, September 9, 2013


An old memory on the subject of 'possums and how our perceptions grow as we grow older.  We have not entertained a cat at our house for almost six years now, and have decided that life without a cat is not so bad.  Therefore, 'possums never come to the door looking for a meal.  I'm sure they're out there, but they are not OUR 'possums.


When I was eight, I used to walk every Wednesday after school to Mrs. Mellie Sims Lecky’s house for my piano lesson.  She lived right at the edge of that area of town where the colored folk lived (remember, this was 1944).  I remember being amazed once when a black man came to the front porch, and “Miss Lecky” went out and talked to him for some time.  She actually called him by name and everything.  I was really impressed.  When I was eight, I didn’t know that you could tell black people apart.

When I’d grown up and started reading Jane Goodall’s work, I was somewhat pleasantly surprised to find that each of the chimps she spent so much time with was easily recognizable after you had looked at their pictures for awhile.  They were not all cast in the same mold, as I had previously thought.  They had their own faces and personalities, and each had a name.

Now we have, for some time, been visited in the early evening by a number of ‘possums, who take turns coming to the back door to eat the cat food that the cats almost never completely finish.  Who woulda thought it, but as an old guy I find that ‘possums not only can be distinguished by size and color, but each has its own  unique, expressive face.  They don’t all look alike.  We always know which ‘possum (or sometimes two or more) is paying us a call.

Last Saturday, as we were heading toward Austin, we saw a large beige colored ‘possum lying dead in the road.  My wife immediately announced that it was not OUR big beige ‘possum.  Then she went on to say that we should name our visitors.  My response was that since we only name our cats because the vet needs a name for his records, why would we name ‘possums?  But the more I think about it, the more attractive seems the idea.  We have come to know these animals.  If we call them by name, it will be a lot easier to talk about them, and keep track of who’s come around the most, who seems to have moved on, or when a newcomer drops in.

I’ve decided to start taking a closer look at the minnows in our garden pool.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Call Of The Wild

I fear that our old friend Verne has taken heed to the call, and will no longer dominate the lower pond.  I certainly could be mistaken, but somehow I cannot help but feel that our relationship has slipped into history.

This afternoon, Verne's adopted mama, my lifelong roommate, was making a trip out to the mailbox.  I heard her call out, and made it to the door as quickly as possible, to hear her say, "There's a turtle across the street, and it's just about the right size to be Verne!"

At our age, it's hard to actually keep track of such trivial things as years, but I think it has been about two and a half years since tiny Verne was discovered by Lauren and Jameson in our middle pond.  I reached in and plucked the little fellow out using two fingers, in order to confirm its identity as a snapping turtle.  We have no idea how he came to be there, but he was somewhat less than two inches across, and not much longer than that, including his tail.

We did not expect the creature to linger long.  We once made an effort to actually introduce turtles into the pond system, but they would never hang around long.  After a few days or on rare occasions, a few weeks, they would be gone, either wandered away or gone for some other reason.

The snapping turtle, however, lingered on.  He made his home in a grotto I had built into the pond long before I anticipated that there would ever be Verne, and would spend most of his time there.  In the months when the trees were bare, we would never see him.

Then, as we began to feel as if springtime was close at hand, Verne would gradually begin to favor us with his presence yet again.

Today, I walked across the street and into the neighbors' driveway, and bent over to pick him up and return to his home.   I must say that Verne had grown considerably more robust since that first time I lifted him with two fingers.  I used two hands, and he was not willing to be lifted.  Having just recovered from a couple of weeks of careful attention to a puncture wound in my hand from a broken tree branch, I was not interested in confronting those flailing claws and risking further damage.

It was exactly at that time when the partner showed up and we made the mutual decision that if Verne wanted to go to the river, there was nothing we could do to stop him.  If we took him back across the street, he would probably leave again during the night or tomorrow.  The Wild has called, and Verne has gone.  Farewell old friend, you gave us much pleasure, and if you should ever wish to climb back up to the river's ridge, we'll welcome you.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Number of Things

The world is so full of a number of things,
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.~Tusitala

I fancy myself a happy malcontent, since the number of things of which the world is so full continues to remain beyond my reach.  While I am so often contented with my "status quo", there is always something new awaiting me, and I will never know it all.  I may never be as happy as a king, but from what I have learned about kings and their history, I will never be assured that kings are exceptionally happy.  
Kiwi and an egg

Today I saw that a Facebook friend had posted an image showing the relative sizes of a kiwi and its egg.  Of course it started me thinking of guinea pigs.  When Sifu Donna was a young lady in college, she had a pair of guinea pigs.  Somehow the female began to show signs of becoming a mother.  When our instincts let us know that the blessed event was due, young Donna and I kept the mother-to-be company, anticipating developments.  We had substantial experience with hamsters, and we expected something similar.  

After we had sat around for a while, the guinea pig disappeared behind a painting that was leaning against the wall, and we left her alone, sitting and waiting.  After a while, curiosity overcame my daughter, and she took a peek, exclaiming, "There's GUINEA PIGS!"  And there were!  The two youngsters were scampering around each appearing to be nearly half the size of their diminutive mama.  Nothing at all like the little pink rubber erasers we were expecting from our past experience with hamsters.

Wikipedia tells me that guinea pigs were domesticated in South America as early as 5000 BC, thousands of years after the domestication of the camelids of South America.  Whether or not this is correct information, how could it not incite further curiosity???  The history of so called "Native Americans" has been very exciting to me since the mid-'40s, when I became attached to a book belonging to my piano teacher.  How long have there really been human beings in the western hemisphere, and what is the history of their migrations?  I doubt that we know even close to what will someday know about them.

I was enthralled by stories of Sandia Man in my early years, and, in 2006, subconsciously inspired to take a "short cut" around the rush-hour traffic of Albuquerque on a trip to Chaco Canyon, I went past Sandia Cave, and began to realize that my expectations had been somewhat exaggerated.  Later research informed me that Sandia Man had been debunked some time ago.

Chaco Canyon itself has become a decidedly different place from the way it was presented when I was in my twenties.  I think there is much more to learn there, and there are questions which surely will never be answered.

The world is so full of a number of things, and I only wish that I could know them all.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Old Guy's Rambling Remembrances #39

6/19/03  (There is nothing new under the sun)

It’s now official.  The once Democrat, now Republican  Governor of Texas has called a special session of the legislature to reapportion the state for the express purpose of securing the dictatorial authority of the Republican Party in Texas.

I can remember when I voted for any Republican who managed to make it onto the ballot, because I believed that Texas needed a two party government.

I remember when, in the days of Governor Mark White, I had my “Gee, I miss Governor Clements” bumper sticker proudly displayed on my pickup.

In retrospect, I can’t help feeling guilty.

Tom Delay says that this reapportionment, having no connection whatsoever with the census, is necessary, because most of the major offices in the state have gone to Republicans, and that we need to change the voting boundaries to reflect the “will of the people”.

When my co-worker Chuckie said, back in the aborted election of 2000, that “the person with the most votes should win the election”.  That would have made Al Gore president.   I strongly disputed that concept, although as everyone knows, I would much rather have seen Al Gore as President.

When we have finally become a single party Republican state, I will remember that many of the politicians who were Democrats in the seventies are now Republicans, and that little has really changed in Texas.

I sometimes wonder what Thomas Jefferson would say about his United States of America if he could see what we have done to it, but I also sometimes wonder what Jesus would say about Christianity if he were to speak out about what we have done to it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Old Guy's View Of Mankind

Many years ago, I'm thinking it was when I had children yet to be born, and when TV was mostly black and white, some news program I was watching had dug up an "old philosopher"...a fellow with strong opinions, a person, I suppose, very like me, except he was much older and seems not to have had much formal schooling.

Among the things he said, the one (and the ONLY one) I remember is, "Man ain't got no business going up around "Sput-Nick" and stuff like that.  He ain't powerful enough!"

Believe me, if the old feller had said "He ain't SMART enough", instead of, "He ain't powerful enough", I might have become a loyal fan.  Mankind is powerful well beyond the ability to reason.  We are so willing to think that we can do anything with no concern for the consequences.

Sitting among the flints on the lakeshore can inspire dreams...One can sit for hours fantasizing about the diminutive worlds they represent.  What were the dreams of the first homo sapiens who sat among the flints and said, "Hey, I think I can use this!.  I can make tools and weapons to make my dreary existence better!  I can invent technology!"...?

We can never really know, can we?  We can only guess, and continue to study, and have dreams of our own as we try to imagine.

Then, we can look up from this primitive dreamworld and see where we are now.....  
To me, this expanse of liquid sustenance is full, but those who are supposed to know such things say "only about half a foot to go".

It almost brings a tear to my eye that soon it may be overflowing, or may be much depleted.  If the forces of nature do not provide more, it could easily be very, very low by the end of summer.  Such is the need for water to sustain our lifestyle today.

My wife's mother would  tell the story of when she visited her grandmother as a girl, grandma would hand each of the kinder a teacup of water in the evening with orders to "take a bath".  My dad's Uncle Fred owned a house in Rosenberg, but he also had a few farms in different places, and when I was about six, Uncle Fred and Aunt Annie were living on a farm near Kenedy.  Even now, whenever I pass through Kenedy, I find myself looking down roads that we pass, wondering if I could spot a landmark that could give me a clue to the location of that long ago farm.  Uncle Fred's lights were powered by electricity produced onsite with an Aermotor windmill generator connected to 6v storage batteries.   In those days, people often needed no more electricity than required to power lights and a family radio.  Imagine, if you will, how little that could do for us today.  Uncle Fred's water came from a shallow well through the power of a hand pump.  Of course, by the time I was nine, he was back in Rosenberg, with all the comforts of big city life, but that's somewhat irrelevant to this tale of what we've done  to ourselves.

From before I was born until I was approaching middle age, a cap on the price of gasoline was enforced by our Federal Government.  I feel pretty sure that it was because of this, that citizens gradually moved from public transportation to a "family car", to households where everyone "required" his own automobile.  The once valuable public transportation became intolerable to the "average" least here in Texas it has.

I also think that it was this gasoline subsidy of the twentieth century that stifled the development of electric and steam powered vehicles, and even some of the more adventurous alternative fuel vehicles that we're slowly trying to figure out nearly forty years after our addiction to gasoline became something to consider.

There are so many things besides petroleum and water that we have come to squander, with little thought other than our own "immediate needs" of what we're doing to ourselves.  I can't begin  to consider them all.

I'm very fond of living in comfort myself, but when "the city" tells us we need to turn up our thermostats, turn out lights we're not using, and limit our lawn watering to avoid their having to build more facilities they can't afford, I'm happy to say, "Maybe I'm smart enough to give it a try."


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Crispy's B'n'arrows

Our granddaughter Christa is twenty-five now, but she once was much younger. I'm thinking that she may have been about the age or our youngest granddaughter, who is five, when she became interested in a "bow'n'arrow". We first selected a twig from the brittle japanese varnish trees which grow so fast and prolifically around the grounds.

Later, I set about to make a nicer bow, using a technique I'd read about which was reputedly used by some Native Americans, using a much springier and nicer wood, I think I remember from the flowering quince. I was quite proud of it.

Lately, my wife has become interested in "divesting", and has tried (with a little bit of success) to clear out some of the clutter from the attic. I applaud her efforts, but I'm not sure it's a task that will be easily or soon accomplished.

When I found these ancient relics among the trash, I was struck with a fit of nostalgia (with me, It's so easy to incite a fit of nostalgia). Crispy was always more fond of the old brittle one, while Papa would gaze fondly on the prettier one and wonder, "why?"

I record them here on Flickr, knowing that they now may rest in peace in the landfill.

In the year that I was four, I craved two things. One was a swing, and the other was a "bow'n'arrow". My dad and granddad made me a swing, suspended from a tree in the front yard.

I was immediately skeptical, because it was a singlerope swing. I had thought a swing needed two ropes that you sat between instead of straddling the single rope.

I found right away that a single rope swing could be even more fun than the traditional, until an overnight shower one day shrunk the rope beyond my reach. Of course, the swing eventually returned to normal, and I learned something about ropes in the year that I was four.

One day, I was over at granny's house when my granddad came in with a substantial hickory stick, which he'd found in the woods. (Granddad was a logger, and the woods was where his work was). I was never able to see a bow in that stick, which was probably about 7/8" thick. It stood in the corner untouched until a short time later, my dad found a potential job down on the coast, and we moved away.

I think I was a teenager when someone showed me a beautiful bow he'd made using an ash hoe handle, and I saw for the first time, a drawknife. It was then I realized that granddad and I had visualized a "bow'n'arrow" differently. I became certain that he had planned to MAKE a bow out of that hickory stick, not just to fasten a string to it, the way I had it pictured.

It was not too long after we left East Texas that granddad hurt his leg in the woods and moved his family to Houston, where he worked as a night watchman. I'll never know what became of the hickory stick.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Rambling Remembrance Of The Future, Actually Written From Memory

The cusp between April and May of 2004 caught us in Las Vegas!  (The real Las Vegas ... Nuestra SeƱora de los Dolores de Las Vegas Grandes, on the eastern base of the Sangre de Cristo in New Mexico.)

Shortly before Christmas in the preceding year, my wife suggested that we were getting up in years, and should probably be thinking about relocating to a pedestrian town, in anticipation of the declining abilities.  She suggested Las Vegas, and I became so excited I could hardly breathe!  We could go to Heaven, perhaps well in advance of our inevitable demise.

We went to scout out the place for my birthday at the end of April.  Although we'd been there several times before, this was to be a critical appraisal.

One of the things I really wanted to do while there was to follow the Gallinas River up to El Porvenir.  I had seen the name on maps for a long, long time, but did not know what to expect.  I was surely expecting a little mountain village at the very least, and we were on the way up there on the narrow paved road State Route 65 beyond the village of Montezuma when my wife suddenly asked, "Did you know that El Porvenir means 'The Future'.."?

OMG!  I'd never thought of myself as fluent in Spanish, but the simple combination of por (for) venir (to come) should have certainly been recognizable!

When we reached our goal, we hardly knew we were there.  El Porvenir is not a village.  It is a Forest Service campground at the base of Hermit's Peak, which provides a trailhead to the cave where John Augustani, the Italian hermit who hung around Las Vegas for several years selling hand carved Santos before finally moving on, and who was the inspiration for the name Hermit's Peak.

I wrote this originally on my wife's iBook at the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, and somehow it escaped me, and has been lost forever.  Therefore, this slightly inferior account is recaptured from an old guy's memory, and seems to leave out some of the most exciting details of John Augustiani.  Maybe Google might help both the reader and me to fill in these details.

For now, I'll simply close by mentioning that we've seen The Future, and I would someday like to go "Back to The Future", but for now, I'll simply say that my excitement eventually faded after my wife decided that we really shouldn't go so far away from our daughters and their families, all of whom now live nearby.  I can't argue with that kind of logic.