A CROSS IS NOT A CRUCIFIX

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I was sitting in one of my favorite watering holes a few years ago. Next to me sat a young man in his twenties. We had known each other for a few years. We met in this pub, and had no relationship outside of it.

We often enjoyed talking about all kinds of things. The list included life in general, politics, sports, women, religion, history etc. We disagreed on most everything except sports and women.

That’s quite interesting, now that I think about.

One subject we are very far apart on is religion. He knows I am a Christian. How does he know this? In the midst of one of our discussions he asked me. I did not announce it, I simply confirmed what he thought. Actually, now that I recall it, his question was as much an accusation as a question.

I enjoy talking to people about politics, religion, love and marriage and such. Most people become emotional about these subjects, especially if you disagree with them. That’s no doubt why it is said, that you should not speak about them in bars.

Now I have called the same building a watering hole, a pub and a bar.

This goes along with why I disagree with the premise, that you should not talk about these things in bars.

There… I’ve decided on a name. It’s a bar.

Knowing a little bit about the history of our Country causes me to take this stance.

In the 18th and 19th centuries there were buildings that served as bars, hotels, restaurants, stagecoach stops, hardware stores, and more. They were even used as courtrooms, and people were married in them.

It was these types of buildings where community affairs took place. In the 18th century much discussion took place about how our new Country should be structured. The Military even used them to recruit.

Many people could not read or write, so these gathering places served as a communications center, where people learned what was going on in the world.

Sure there were misunderstandings and arguments. Andrew Jackson was supposedly often involved in such behavior.

Well, for some reason we’re not supposed to do that today. We do it anyway.

The young man and I were deep in discussion, enhanced by the big head start he had on me in the beer drinking contest. We weren’t having a contest, but he didn’t seem to know that. The subject was religion. Once again it wasn’t my idea.

I don’t even remember what year it was, but I do remember that he kept insisting, that he didn’t believe in God, and that he was an agnostic. I tried to explain to him that if he truly did not believe in the existence of God, then he was an atheist. I told him that an agnostic didn’t believe it was possible to prove the existence of God. He was having none of it, and like anyone who has no basis for his position, he changed the subject. In his mind he probably didn’t think he did, but he did.

He pointed at a Crucifix hanging just to the left of the bar mirror.

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Why does almost every bar have a mirror? Is it so you can see what you look like when you are drunk? Maybe it’s so you can see what other people look like when they are drunk. Actually, I think it’s so you can check people out, without having to interact unless you choose to. It’s kind of like electronic social media.

At any rate he said,”You probably like that cross, don’t you”? He’s one of those people who think the word God should be erased from our money, and buildings, and I guess our entire culture. I’ve told him simply not to look, but that’s not good enough.

“Joe”, I told him. “That’s not a cross, it’s a Crucifix.

“Cross- Crucifix, what’s the difference?!”

“I told him a cross is a shape, and a Crucifix is a cross with the body of Christ on it”.

This banter went on for a while, and the people within earshot probably thought we were stupid for even getting into this discussion.

He never could get my point, and I left soon afterwards. I’m sure he won the beer drinking contest.

The odd thing is, the bar owner bought the bar from his family. He was raised Catholic. The Crucifix was left over from that era. He’s an atheist now, and I’m surprised he hasn’t taken it down, since he once told me that the word God and all religious symbols should be removed from money, and buildings, and all public places.

I have reminded him, that our ancestors etched that name, and those symbols in stone, and forged them in bronze, and other materials,  strongly implying that they were very important to them. It would also be a very difficult task to remove them all.

Did you ever hear of the Reformation?

I never did ask him if he knew the difference between a cross and a Crucifix. The question would make him angry.

Psychologists tell us, anger comes from fear.

Why is he so afraid?

Picture credits go to Wikopedia

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THE BATTLE FOR GUAM

THE BATTLE FOR GUAM

Guam is a territory of the United States of America.

It is the largest, and southernmost of the Mariana Islands.

Guam was first populated over 4,000 years ago. Ferdinand Magellan landed there on March 6th 1521. It was controlled by Spain until 1898, when it was surrendered during the Spanish – American War.

As the largest island in Micronesia and the only U.S. – held island in the region before World War Two, Guam was captured by the Japanese on December 8th just hours after the attack at Pearl harbor.

Guam is about 28 miles long and four to eight miles wide.

19,000 Japanese defended the island. They had an extra month to prepare the defenses, due to the prolonged time it took to secure Saipan. They created inland barriers that would be their trademark for the rest of the war, while at the same time preparing to take on the Americans on the beaches as the invasion began. This was the last time they would try to defend the beaches in any significant way for the rest of the war.

D -Day for Guam had been set for June 18th 1944. Since Saipan took longer to control than anticipated D – Day was moved to July 21 1944.

The island received air and naval bombardment, including a thirteen day continuous naval bombardment, the most prolonged of the war to date.

20,000 3rd division Marines landed on July 21st. Altogether over 30,000 Marines participated. 1,082 were killed, 125 missing, and 4,582 were wounded. More than 17,000 Japanese were killed.

The 1st Batallion 4th Marines,{Former Raiders}, repulsed a banzi attack by 5,000 “Japs” on July 22nd and, between the 25th and 27th of July the enemy took heavy losses, and the 38th infantry was destroyed.

The Fourth Marines were the first to reach both the north and south ends of the island during the campaign.

The 1st and 2nd War Dog Platoons as well as the Navajo Code talkers were integral in taking the island.

Guam had been in the hands of the Japanese for two years, seven month and ten days.

This was a great morale booster since it was the first American land taken back from the Japanese.

In spite of how difficult the fighting was, the American Flag was raised eight minutes after landing on July 21st. Guam was declared under control on August tenth 1944.

27 years later in 1972 sergeant Soichi Yokoi was found living in a cave. He finally surrendered when convinced the war was over.

Prior to this epic battle, the 1st Marine Raider Regiment was disbanded, with most Raiders being given the honor of reforming the historic 4th Marine Regiment that fallen in the early days of Corregidor in the Philipine Islands.

The story of “The Battle of Guam” was taken from the book, REAL BLOOD REAL GUTS By James Gleason. He gets all credit. I have edited for the sake of brevity.

I met him in Sandiego years ago, and he signed the book with a generous dedication to my father. I dwell on the 4th Marines, and the Raiders because that’s where my father was.

Doc Gleason, {as they called}, him was a humble and amazing man. He gave me a lot of his time, and didn’t care that I carried a note book, and wrote down so many thing he told me.

We spoke in the hospitality room, where he did his book signings, and had a couple meals together, and drank beer with other Raider who were ready to open up at this point in their lives.

My plan is to from time to time tell the story of these brave men and women, and yes… the Dogs.

Never forget the Dogs!

A GRANDMOTHER AND HER SOLDIER

A GRANDMOTHER AND HER SOLDIER

This a picture of my father and his grandmother. It was taken in the spring of nineteen forty three.

He had just completed boot camp, and somehow made his way from Sandiego California to Arthur Indiana for a brief visit.

They had no way of knowing, that they would not see each other again for over three years.

He was about to be sent to Guadacanal, Guam, Saipan, Peileiu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and eventually Japan.

He would be chosen for the First Marine Raider Battalion. They were Special Forces trained to do things, I will write about another time. I bring this up, because this week is his birthday. He was born at midnight February nineteenth. Because of this he always said his birthday was February nineteenth and twentieth. Even his obits couldn’t get it straight, so he pulled it off all his life and even afterwards.

My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow the seventeenth. She almost held out long enough. They never got to meet. She was conceived within days of his death. In our family we always say they passed each other on the way up and down.

That would be just like my dad. ” Once a Marine always a Marine”. He would have made sure someone took his place on the Battlefield of life to fill that void.

Where did he learn to be that way?

A lot of the credit goes to that little woman standing next to him. She raised him for much of his early childhood.

She was born in 1868, but I knew her. I was thirteen when she died. I miss her.

Happy Birthday Dad! I miss you.

Happy Birthday Daughter. I miss you too.

The Beech Tree Caper

The Beech Tree Caper

Uncle Buddy probably ran across this tree while squirrel hunting, since he lived a short distance from the Patoka River In Winslow Indiana, and the tree was several hundred yards north of the river. He and we, often walked those banks during squirrel season, since the hunting there was good.

This is not the tree you will be told about,since that tree fell victim to certain circumstances. I was fourteen years old when these circumstances occurred, and that was very long ago. Try to imagine fifty years ago. I know most of you can’t. Now try to imagine remembering every detail from that long ago. I will do the best I can.

The tree was behind a ball field that was just north of the river.

Do know why they call them ball fields? It’s because long ago not every baseball diamond had a fence to knock the ball over. They were lucky if they had a backstop. If a player could hit the ball between the outfielders then they had a good chance for an inside the park home run. I’m not sure if you could call that inside the park, since there wasn’t anything inside. It was just a field. Well, anyway that’s where ball fields got their name.
I dwell on the ball field so long, because it is the place of my very first memory.

I was two and a half years old, and sitting on the hood of a nineteen forties something Dodge. My dad came to bat, and hit the ball between the outfielders, and being quite fleet of foot hit a home run. I remember my parents questioning me about this later in childhood, when I brought up the story of dad’s home run. They very much doubted that I could remember something at such a tender age, but when they grilled me on the details they were convinced that I most certainly did remember the event.

Uncle Buddy discovered a bee hive in a big hole in the tree. As I recall the hole was shaped almost exactly like the picture. It was in a most precarious position, in that it was too high to reach from the ground, and we were unable to reach it with the feeble ladder we had available especially with the threat of bee stings, if we were so foolish as to reach in to steal the sweet nectar the Bees were willing to die for.

Beech trees have very thin bark and are easily scarred. That’s why young lovers use them so often to carve art work to express their eternal love.

The problem is the scars make the trees prone to disease and such. This one looked like it may have lost a limb during a storm. A bad thing for the tree but an opportunity for the Honey bees.
Now, just how do we harvest this plentiful bounty?
Well, Uncle Buddy; half uncle and half brother because of age proximity always had a plan. These plans usually led to conundrums of one kind or another. The posse, as we called ourselves, were as usual oblivious to these conundrums. The posse was made up of boys ,thirteen and fourteen and fifteen, and Uncle Buddy who was closing in on thirty, so what could go wrong?

The plan was to cut down the seventy five or so foot tree. It would land perfectly with the honey bee hole pointing straight up toward the sky, and we would then work our woodsman’s skills.

Our tools as I remember were two axes. We started in the early afternoon.We took turns each until they were exhausted, and were just about to call it a day when we heard the crack of wood.

It was just about dusk and visibility was a problem. Uncle Buddy explained to us which way the tree would fall and where we were to stand, and a signal was given for when to take off running, since all Lumberjacks took off running when a tree was about to fall.

Somehow, a chop or two before things were supposed to happen a scary loud crack rang out, and we ran in four different directions. That big old tree came down fast and loud, and taking smaller vegetation in the way like it wasn’t even there.

I was certain I was going to die. When the quiet sat in, and I was still alive, I knew for sure, someone else had been crushed.

From the quiet came Uncle Buddies voice.” Everybody O.K.? Where are you?”

One by one we answered giving our position and announcing that we were alright. My cousin Steve was the slowest runner of us all, but announced he was about a hundred and fifty yards away. Turned out he was. Go figure.

Now we approached the tree, only to find that it had landed with the bee hive hole in exactly the wrong spot. It was flat against the ground.
Exhausted and dark coming upon us we decided to come back tomorrow with a new plan.

We didn’t get there as early as we had planned, since Uncle Buddy drank quite a lot of beer, and stayed up to the wee hours doing it. Uncle Buddy Liked his beer.

When we arrived a little after noon we had all the tools needed to complete our task. We had both axes from the day before and two splitting wedges and I think a maul.

The plan was to chop our way down from the top into the hive. It was Uncle Buddy’s idea, and since no one else had a better one, then that was the plan.

As we chopped and split and slowly made our way through the hive Uncle Buddy gave us a tutorial on honey bees and, how we would get the honeycombs out without being stung to death.

It seems that his expertise in beedom had taught him ,that there were different types of bees we would encounter. Most he said were worker bees and were harmless. There was a Queen bee that ruled the hive and was much bigger than all the others. The only ones we had to worry about were the fighter bees. I had never heard of fighter bees and was a little apprehensive about this news.Uncle Buddy of course had a plan to handle them.

Once we had chopped our way far enough to confirm we were approaching the hive, we would start a fire under the tree right where the hole met the ground. This would rile up the fighter bees, and draw them out of the hive in their effort to protect it.

Once we thought we were close enough, we lit the fire and carefully continued chopping and hacking, and all that other real careful stuff we had been doing to get us to this point.

Soon we reached the hive well enough to consider removing some of it. At the same time the smoke was so thick that we could hardly see, and were coughing and hacking. The bees didn’t seem to like it much either as scores of them began to leave the tree in all directions, causing some commotion and waving of hands and questions for Uncle Buddy. I don’t know if these were fighter bees or not, but they really weren’t much of a problem. I think they just wanted to get out of there. I sort of did too.

Then Uncle Buddy did a most amazing thing. He stuck his whole arm into the hole we had created, and grabbed a big chunk of honeycomb. He did this bare handed, and was immediately covered all they way up to his elbows with bees. ” See”, he said. “These are worker bees. They won’t hurt you”.

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My cousin Steve was the first one of us brave enough to imitate Uncle Buddy. The result was the same. He was covered all the way to his elbow, and if either one of them was being stung they were not letting on at all.

So now, because of the age pecking order it was my turn to show bravery, of which I was totally lacking. I still remember the eerie feeling of hundreds of bees covering my hands and arms. It was the same for me, in that I felt no stings at all. After a while we got more cavalier about the whole thing and only an occasional ouch would be heard. I remember I was stung three times. Each time it was because I swatted at a bee on my ear or mouth or some sensitive spot. If you left them alone they wouldn’t bother you. Near the end we could even brush them off slowly and gently and they fell off like so much sawdust or some such thing.

We placed our bounty in a couple small buckets, and started across the ball field towards Uncle Buddy’s house.

When Aunt Nina saw how little we had after two days she laughed until she hurt. When she placed it all on the stove to work her magic and turn it into honey, only two four quart pans were needed.

It really didn’t taste as good as I had hoped.

But we did it , by God.

That’s the story of the Beech tree caper.

My Dog and History

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It’s a New Year now, and time to come clean about some things.

I have often written about my best friend Little Bear. She has been used in several posts. A couple times without her permission, I must confess.
I have even misrepresented her gender; a venial sin at least in this time of over kill political correctness.
You must admit though, that she is very photogenic. If I had used pictures of myself I’d still be waiting for my first view.

Here’s the thing though. Her name is not Little Bear. It sort of is, but not exactly. Bear with me here. I know that was terrible, but desperate world famous writers, must do desperate things to wade through their own delusions.
Her real name is…… {drum roll here}…. Uschi!
Uschi? Are you serious right now? Is that Japanese, or Chinese or American Indian, or what? Surprise! Surprise! It’s German.
Here’s how it all happened.

Someone in our house got Dog fever real bad. You can probably guess, it wasn’t my wife. She’s somewhat younger than me, and her immune system is stronger, so she was able to fight it off. She loves dogs, but wasn’t ready for a giant new baby in the house. I was oblivious to the ramifications of such a project, and that’s why I spelled Dog with a capital letter. I didn’t want a dog, I wanted a Dog.
In order to entice my wife to go along with a new pup, I offered her naming rights. I held onto veto power though, just in case she came up with something like… like…., well I don’t know exactly, but just in case.
She came up with a brilliant idea. She doesn’t know me much better than I know myself.
When our daughter was an undergraduate student, one of her professors was from Germany and named Uschi. She was an extraordinary woman, and gave my daughter advice that changed her life and as a result ours also.
Uschi is a diminutive of Ursala which means little girl bear. Ursala is diminutive of the Latin Ursa meaning little bear. How can a larger word be a diminutive of a smaller word? I have so much to learn.
The picture of Uschi taken about a week after we first met, shows the cutie factor I had to deal with. One of my friends said, ” shes going to be pretty big when she grows into those ears.

The beautiful Picture is of the martyr Ursala around four hundred A.D. I don’t remember what she died for,but because of her fame her name became popular from that day forward.
That’s how my best friend Uschi became a part of history.

I took this first picture tomorrow, since all the bad weather coming our way will make it unpleasant to go out side. I just wanted you to see what Uschi will look like after the great storm hits.

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