Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Some are gone, but none is forgotten

Memorial Day has come and gone for 2019 and Veterans Day is not until November 11.
Too late for one; too early for the other.
Maybe; maybe not.  
I am not certain why, but the thought of "young ladies" serving in the United States military and sometimes dying in defense of this country has been drifting around in my mind the past few days. So, I decided why not arbitrarily choose today -- August 20 -- to personally say thank you to them and to wish them and their loved ones well.
The photograph shows a few of the more than 14,000 women currently serving in the Marine Corps being administered the oath of acceptance to their new role. Many thousands more are in the Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. Each has her reason for being where she is, and I sincerely hope the experiences of each will form some of the most satisfying years of their lives.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

One tent for me, one for the bears

Not too very long ago, Anita mentioned a dream and a photograph of me. My reply was to the effect that it is not unusual for me to include a photograph of myself with a post, but my face generally is hidden or blurred or not visible for some unconvincing reason. I tried again with this shot, but when I saw the results it appears that I must have looked down at the wrong time. I will blame this one on me and the camera timer being out of sync. Is that a good excuse or another ineffective one? Whichever, here are two more photographs recently taken sort of northwest of Denver in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Nice lake, but rather boring from my point of view .... I prefer ones like Lake Superior for canoe jaunts and, to me, the mountains will never compare to "big water" for allure and fascination. I enjoy the mountains and being in their midst provides a break from the routines of life, but I will never have a love affair with them.

I went the easy way and picked John Denver's, "Rocky Mountain High," for the musical piece. Denver met his first wife, Annie Martell, while performing a concert at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota, where she was a student. She is the girl for whom he wrote, "Annie's Song." They lived in Edina, a suburb of the Twin Cities, from 1968 to 1971 before he "discovered" the Rockies.

By the way, there have been grizzly bear sightings in the area, but none by me.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

"Nothing we can't handle"

Half a league half a league,
 Half a league onward,
 All in the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred:
 'Forward, the Light Brigade!
 Charge for the guns' he said:
 Into the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred.
It is my assumption most would recognize those words as the opening verse of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's epic poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade." It was written to memorialize a suicidal charge by British light cavalry over open terrain at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. Of the 637 men in the charge, 247 were killed or wounded. There is no written account of casualties among the Russian troops defending the hilltops. For the record, the "scrap" took place on October 25, 1854, and Tennyson wrote the poem before the year had ended.
It also is my assumption I would not have to specify that the valley in the photograph is not the site of the charge in the Ukraine, but I will so specify anyway. This valley, more-or-less in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, is about forty miles west of Denver.
Incidentally, I have blocked comments for this post and here is a link to a wax cylinder recording of Tennyson reciting this poem: https://youtu.be/MkqUq26z1CE
Actually, the reason Tennyson's poem came into my mind is because this valley looks familiar to me. Once upon a time long, long ago and far, far way, I stood looking down a valley much like this one watching the steady advance of a few thousand "other guy" troops. There were 13 of us watching and we took a vote whether to stay or to go. To a man, it was stay.
During the next scheduled radio check-in, we reported we were expecting enemy contact before the next morning. When asked if we wanted reinforcement, the reply was: "Nothing we can't handle."
Since the reply was sort of non-specific, someone with a higher pay grade ordered a flyover to determine exactly what the situation might be. After learning what was happening, that someone made another decision and before nightfall there were a few hundred Marines on that hilltop looking down into the valley watching aircraft attempting to blast the "other guys" to hell.
It really was not all that easy. It took three days before the episode ended and those still standing among the "other guys" broke off contact.
At some point during the course of those three days, I began to wonder if any of the "other guys" read Tennyson.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

On the trail of Lewis, Clark, Custer, McCall ....

The opportunities are few and far between these days, so I took advantage of a recent chance to drop a canoe into the Missouri River. My "weather-luck" was with me. The day was bright and sunny and mild. The excursion took me by these Dakota cliffs where, not too many years ago, I frequently stood atop practicing pistol- and rifle-craft at targets hurled into the flowing waters .... nothing plastic, I might add.
The region abounds in history. Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lieutenant William Clark and their compatriots went past these cliffs both ascending and descending the Missouri on their 1804-1806 expedition of discovery. Bluffs on the opposite side of the river, now Nebraska, were the site of a "meet and greet" for the expedition with local Indian tribes, and an island, now submerged since the building of dams, was a campsite for a few days.
George Armstrong Custer, his wife, Elizabeth, and troopers of the Seventh United States Army Cavalry endured a ferocious blizzard here on April 14, 1874, while en route to Fort Abraham Lincoln in what is now North Dakota. The troopers made an encampment and the Custers stayed nearby in a rented, half-finished cabin which "Libbie" described in her memoirs:
"The place was equal to a palace to me. There was no plastering, and the house seemed hardly weather-proof. It had a floor, however, and an upper story divided off by beams; over these Mary (a servant) and I stretched blankets and shawls and so made two rooms.
"It did not take long to settle our few things, and when wood and water were brought from a distance, we were quite ready for house-keeping, except that we lacked a stove and some supplies."
John "Crooked Nose Jack" McCall, the man who murdered James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok, in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, in 1876 was tried, hanged and buried in an unmarked grave here less than a year after the murder. There is some dispute and a few myths surrounding the execution and burial, but there is no doubt he was hung by the neck until dead on March 1, 1877.
More recently, fighter pilots practiced strafing runs here during the early years of World War II, and it is not uncommon to find a .50-caliber round in the ground.
By the way, I did a bit of shooting and a bit of swimming, too ....
Yep .... a canoe on a historic river with beautiful weather in a place where the past flourishes and mingles with the present is a perfect way to spend a day .... wish you would have been there, baby ....

Something special ....