Saturday, May 29, 2010

Honoring The Living On Memorial Day ...

In Retired Major General Logan's proclamation of Memorial Day he declared the following ... "The 30th. of May, 1968, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country and during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit."

Now allow me to honor one of America's true 'living' heroes ... Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last known living, American-born veteran of World War I.

"I had a feeling of longevity and that I might be among those who survived, but I didn't know I'd be the No. 1," the now 109 year old said at a ceremony to unveil his portrait two years ago.

During that ceremony, his photograph was hung in the main hallway of the National World War I Museum, which he toured for the first time, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States presented him with a gold medal of merit ... he was later presented with an American flag which was flown outside the memorial.

Buckles, who now lives in Charles Town, W.Va., has been an invited guest at the Pentagon, met with President Bush in Washington, D.C., and rode in the annual Armed Forces Day Parade in his home state since his status as one of the last living from the "Great War" was discovered nearly four years ago.

Federal officials have also arranged for his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Born in Missouri in 1901 and raised in Oklahoma, Buckles visited a string of military recruiters after the United States entered the "war to end all wars" in April 1917.

He was rejected by the Marines and by the Navy, but eventually Buckles persuaded an Army captain that he was 18 years of age, convincing him that Missouri didn't keep public records of birth he was permitted to enlist.

Buckles sailed for England in 1917 on the Carpathia, which is known for it's rescue of Titanic survivors, and spent his tour of duty working mainly as a diver and a warehouse clerk in Germany and France. He rose to the rank of corporal and after Armistice Day he helped return prisoners of war to Germany.

Buckles later traveled the world working for the shipping company White Star Line and was in the Philippines in 1940 when the Japanese invaded. He then became a prisoner of war for nearly three years.

Buckles gained notoriety when he attended a Veteran's Day ceremony at the Arlington grave of Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, who led U.S. forces in World War I, said his daughter, Susanna Flanagan.

He ended up on the podium and became a featured guest at the event, and the VIP invites and media interview requests came rolling in shortly afterward.

"This has been such a great surprise," Flanagan said. "You wouldn't think there would be this much interest in World War I. But the timing in history has been such and it's been unreal."

Buckles spent much of his museum tour looking at mementos of Pershing, whom he admired. He also posed for pictures in front of a flag that used to be in Pershing's office and retold stories about meeting the famous general.

While Pershing claims most of the fame, Buckles now has a featured place at the museum.

"This is such an extraordinary occasion that we here at the museum decided that the photo of Mr. Buckles should be permanently installed in the main hallway here," said Brian Alexander, the museum's president and chief executive.

The above story is an annual re-post ... please remember all of America's fallen heroes this Memorial Day ... my heart's desire is that all have a safe and peaceful holiday weekend.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shakespearian Mule ...

Grandpa DooLittle's old mule named Clyde had gotten so old that he wasn't physically able to plow the fields as he had done for many, many years ... and Clyde had been in the DooLittle family for so long that it seemed like he was part of the DooLittle family, almost as much as Grandma DooLittle was ... thus Grandpa just didn't feel morally sound trying to compel his old friend to exert more effort than he may be inclined to put forth ... he decided to put ol' Clyde out to pasture and bring in a young mule that a fellow had advertised for sale on a farm at the far end of the county ... so he grabbed his checkbook and drove over there in his cattle truck to enquire about the possible purchase of this animal, which according to the ad was a stout, hardworking beast ... his only concern was that the ad also stated that this mule was "Shakespearian" at times ... now Grandpa had no idea what "Shakespearian" meant, but figured it could most likely be remedied with a diet of fresh oats, sweet feed and cold spring water.

Grandpa found the farm where the mule was and asked the fellow if he still had the mule for sale ... he did, and so Grandpa followed the man into the barn where the mule was ... there stood a fine looking specimen ... tall and wide and muscular ... this mule looked capable of working from dusk 'till dawn and then some ... Grandpa wanted this mule ... but what did "Shakespearian" mean? ... so he asked the farmer who replied "well sir, this is the hardest working critter a fellow will ever come across ... his only shortcoming is that he truly enjoys Shakespeare, and when he gets to yearning for some verse or prose he locks up tighter than a rusty cog and won't move a muscle until he hears some ... so I keep this book on William Shakespeare close by for when he gets to feeling all Shakespearian, then I just read a few lines to him from this book and he moves right along ... if you take the mule, I'll throw in the book on William Shakepeare for free ... Grandpa figured that was a fair deal, so he wrote out a check for the mule and asked the farmer to load the big critter onto the back of his truck ... the farmer led that mule out of the barn and across the lot to the back of Grandpa's truck ... then it happened, that mule froze right there in his tracks as if petrified ... the farmer then calmly retrieved that book on William Shakespeare from his hip pocket, flung it open and began flipping through the pages until he settled on the following as he read "journeys end in lovers meeting, every wise man's son doth know" at which the young mule relaxed and stepped up onto the back of the truck without further prodding ... "see what I mean" said the farmer "just read a few lines from this here book on William Shakespeare and that there mule will move right along!"

Well, Grandpa got the mule back home and over the next several weeks was amazed at the amount of work he could do ... and just as advertised, that mule did get "Shakespearian" on a couple of occasions at which Grandpa simply pulled the book on William Shakespeare from his hip pocket and read a few lines which always seemed to get the big brute moving right along once again ... the first instance occurred one night as Grandpa was attempting to put the mule in the barn for the night, he stopped just outside the door and refused to budge ... Grandpa grabbed the book and read "captain of our fairy band, Helena is here at hand, and the youth, mistook by me, pleading for a lover's fee ... shall we their fond pageant see? ... Lord, what fools these mortals be!" as that mule strolled on into the barn ... another time that mule wandered down to the lower pasture to visit with Clyde and refused to return ... again Grandpa read from the book "we that are true lovers run into strange capers; but as all is mortal in nature, so is all nature in love mortal in folly" as that mule immediately ran back to the barn.

The first real glitch happened one morning when Grandpa heard the weatherman on the radio say that a heavy rain was imminent ... he still had two acres of bottom land that needed to be plowed before that rain arrived ... so he hurried out to the barn and hitched up the plow to that mule ... he then led that mule down to the field and dropped the plow ... I reckon you know what happened next ... yep, that mule suddenly got all "Shakespearian" ... Grandpa felt around his hip pocket for that book on William Shakespeare, but it wasn't there ... so he ran back up to the barn, but that book was nowhere to be found ... in desperation, Grandpa raced back down to the field and pleaded with that mule to plow the field, promising extra oats and sweet feed if he did, and that he would read to him all afternoon from that book on William Shakespeare if they got finished before the rain arrived ... but that mule still would not move ... now a bit angry, Grandpa quickly returned to the barn, retrieved his double-barreled shotgun and walked angrily back down to where that mule was standing as stiff as an hickory stick ... Grandpa DooLittle pulled back both hammers on that shotgun, stuck it right up against the side of that mule's head and said "to be or not to be, that is the question?!" ... those two acres of bottom land got plowed before the first raindrop fell!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Daydreaming ...

On a crisp, autumn morning as I watched the waking sun spraying golden bands of light just above the distant horizon, I caught my mind drifting back in time with fond memories of my beloved grandfather ... reminiscing how, as a young, impressible boy sitting at his feet on an overturned wooden crate, as he rhythmically rocked away the idle hours in his favorite creaky chair telling me stories of exotic and faraway places of which he had visited, and of the scores of intriguing people he had encountered throughout his many travels around the globe.

With wry grin and piercing eyes that grand adventurer told of sailing the boisterous inlets off the Gulf of Alaska as majestic Blue Whales swam playfully alongside the boat launching frothy mists of water high into the briny air ... of observing pairs of bald eagles feeding their young eaglets along the sand bars and cottonwood trees as he fished for King Salmon on the Chilkat River ... of big game hunting on the plains of Zimbabwe in pursuit of Black Rhino and Cape Buffalo, and a host of other dangerous big game animals ... of going after trophy Bighorn Mountain Sheep and gigantic Brown Bear in the vast and remote wilderness areas of Alaska and British Columbia ... he told of hospitable tribesmen who dwelt near the cliffs of the Nile Valley that took him rafting down the treacherous Nile River ... of touring the immense Pyramids, viewing the Great Sphinx of Egypt and seeing ancient Egyptian mummies ... of climbing expeditions on Mt. Sinai and treks across the immense and geologically diverse Sinai Desert ... of strolling along the bustling streets of great cities such as Paris, London, Rome, Bangkok, Munich, Cape Town, Sydney, Singapore, Istanbul and countless others ... he had left behind footprints on every continent ... set sail on the seven seas ... beheld the seven wonders of the world ... had dined with rich and poor ... and so much more.

Each time my grandfather recounted one of his marvelous adventures I would express to him just how much I wished that I too could have been right there by his side at each and every instance ... his riposte would always be that "I had always been right there with him 'in my imagination,' and that was just as good" ... one lazy afternoon I asked him if there was anyplace that he desired to visit of which he had not yet been ... he began to slowly rock his old chair back and forth as he gazed toward me with those beguiling, blue eyes, then a rare tear began to inch slowly down his weathered cheek as he softly replied "well boy, about the only place I ain't been yet is to the Emerald City where my Father sits on His beautiful throne ... I sure would like to stroll down those golden thoroughfares ... fall down on my knees before my precious Lord and offer praise and thanks for all He has done ... then maybe just sit in my chair and rest for a bit 'neath the tree of life, and watch that pure river of water of life flow by clear as crystal ... yes indeed, I sure would like to go there."

One cold, winter evening I received the sad news that my grandfather had passed away ... the old man had made his way outside to sit in his chair and after a few short minutes the sound of his rocking abruptly ceased ... he had embarked on his final journey ... then just recently to my shock and surprise I learned that Grandad had never ventured beyond a fifty mile radius of the mountain homestead where he was born and had ultimately lived out all his days ... he had spent the majority of his existence thousands of feet beneath the earth's surface crawling on his hands and knees, his strong, calloused hands gripping pick and shovel digging coal by the dim light of a carbide lamp strapped to his head ... when work was scarce in the mines he fell timber with a crosscut saw and heavy double-bitted axe atop the steep ridges that surrounded the grassy valley below ... he raised livestock and tended crops on that rocky farm in his 'spare time' earning just enough money for basic necessities ... he could neither read nor write beyond third grade level ... nor could he 'legally' drive the old flatbed truck which he nervously wrestled to the feed mill in town every Saturday afternoon.

How could this possibly be true? ... all those wondrous stories of fantastic and faraway places ... then it dawned on me as I once again recalled Grandad's words ... "I had always been right there with him 'in my imagination,' and that was just as good" ... he had been clearly illustrating to me by telling those remarkable tales that I had no limits as to what I might become ... or where I might go ... or what I might achieve with mere imagination ... and I must now say that I too have traversed the four corners of the globe and experienced many incredible things ... all while strapped in the passenger seat peering through the windows of my mind ... and I know with certainty that as the waking sun sprays golden bands of light just above some distant horizon, Grandpa is slowly rocking away idle hours in his favorite creaky chair ... in the midst of the Emerald City ... 'neath the tree of life ... watching that pure river of water of life flow by clear as crystal ... while at his feet ... awaits an overturned wooden crate ...

"To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few." ...
poem by Emily Dickinson(1830-1886)


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weather Radio ...

Uncle Virgil Hunnicutt used to tell a story about how folks got their weather reports back when he was just a boy, so you know techniques for acquiring accurate weather information wasn't all that sophisticated or advanced--not unlike modern-day reporting I reckon ... back then many weather forecasters often relied upon weather watchers, or weather observers to formulate general weather predictions ... such as Grandpa Beauford Delaney and his rheumatoid rain knee, which would start aching two days prior to a good soaking rain ... or Aunt Tiny Flounder's bursitic elbow, which cracked, creaked and snapped when she moved it any time the temperature dipped below thirty-two degress Fahrenheit ... and last but not least was Grandma Hunnicutt's barometric stutter, that's right, when the barometric pressure dropped below a certain level Grandma would stutter like an old Tin Lizzie ... weather prognosticators also based their forecasts on observations of the sky, animals and nature ... such as "rainbow in the morning gives you fair warning" ... "the higher the clouds, the finer the weather" ... "clear moon, frost soon" ... "when clouds appear like towers, the earth is refreshed by showers" ... "ring around the moon, rain real soon" ... "rain foretold, long last, short notice, soon will pass" ... "red sky at night, sailors delight, red sky in morning, sailors take warning" ... and then there was the Indians down on the reservation.

Uncle Virgil often told about how folks in his neck of the woods would gather around the radio at night and listen to old radio shows such as Amos & Andy, Avenger, Charlie Chan, Hopalong Cassidy, Buck Rogers, Death Valley Days, Gene Autry or Benny Goodman--it was the highlight of the day ... right before the radio station signed-off for the night ... radio stations did that back then ... the radio feller would give the local weather forecast as best he knew it ... folks back then took heed to those weather reports too, because it must be true if it came from the radio, right? ... what folks didn't know is that the feller giving the weather forecast each night on the radio was getting his information from observing the indians on a reservation he drove past each morning on his way to the radio station ... but he didn't want his listeners to know that ... he wanted them to think he was gleaning his info from highly scientific and technical methods ... now those indians had been gathering firewood like there was no tomorrow, they had firewood stacked anyplace they had room to stack it and were as busy as bees trying to find even more firewood ... so that radio feller figured those indians must somehow know that the area was in for an extremely severe winter--considering that huge amount of firewood they had amassed ... so that radio feller had been telling his listeners that a bad winter was most assuredly on the way--be sure to gather plenty of firewood.

Virgil Hunnicutt's daddy had been listening intently to that radio feller's weather forecast each night ... subsequent to that weather forecast he had Virgil working from daylight to dusk each day gathering firewood ... they too had firewood stacked wherever they could find space to stack firewood ... just to be sure, Virgil's daddy would call that radio feller on the telephone each morning and ask that radio feller if he was absolutely certain about his weather predictions, to which that radio feller would assure Virgil's daddy that his forecast was precise, accurate and dependable having been obtained by extremely scientific and technical methods ... so the Hunnicutts continued to gather firewood at a frenzied pace, and so did those indians ... and that radio feller kept on observing those indians gathering firewood, so he kept on telling his listeners that a bad winter was coming--be sure to gather plenty of firewood ... one day right after hanging up from his daily telephone conversation with Virgil's daddy, that radio feller got to thinking and feeling a bit guilty, folks had been gathering an awful lot of firewood ... was that much firewood really needed? ... do those indians really know what they're doing? ... he began to wonder just what methods those indians used to obtain their weather information ... so he got in his car and drove over to the reservation, and without introducing himself politely asked the Chief why they had been gathering so much firewood ... the Chief replied without hesitation "well sir, we've been listening to that radio feller's weather forecasts each night on the radio ... he's been predicting an extremely severe winter for quite some time now ... and that folks should gather plenty of firewood!!"


Monday, May 10, 2010

The Legend Of Beauregard ...

One hot, muggy afternoon Grandpa DooLittle was making his way down the dusty road out of DooLittle Hollar to meet up with Uncle Virgil Hunnicutt for their usual relaxing, albeit fierce game of checkers at the General Store ... a shiny, new pickup truck came up the road from the opposite direction, eased alongside Grandpa and ground to a halt ... in the bed of that truck was all sorts of shiny, new fishing gear: rods, reels, tackle boxes, lures, fishing vests, hip waders, lawn chairs, ice chests and other stuff ... in the cab of that truck sat what had to be a shiny, new city feller, a fishing license pinned to his shirt pocket and wearing a Panama Jack hat stuck full of fancy flys and fishing hooks ... "excuse me sir, does this road take one to the local fishing area?" he asked ... "it sure does, I reckon it'll take as many as wants to go!" quipped Grandpa, who then enquired "what kind of fish are you fishin' fer?" ... the angler proudly replied "catfish, it has been widely and commonly reported in many circles that the catfish in this general area are of legendary proportions and plenteous in number" ... to which Grandpa declared "I don't know about none of that, but we do have lots of big catfish around these parts, but only one of them big catfish is legendary ... that would be ol' Beauregard" ... only mildly interested the man said "well just because you happen to have a particularly large fish existing in these local waters is unremarkable in the overall scheme of things, I'm certain there are much larger catfish in other parts of the country!" ... Grandpa countered "oh Beauregard ain't legendary just because he's nearly big as a grown man ... Beauregard is legendary because he can talk! ... upon hearing that it dawned on the fisherman that the old man must assuredly be senile, crazy or both, and after attempting to demean Grandpa DooLittle with a sarcastic belly laugh, he waved then drove off in the direction of the fishing hole ... now just to clear things up a bit, we all know that catfish can't talk, well most of us know they can't, however, as a defense mechanism catfish often make a stridulatory sound either by forcing air through their float bladder or by rubbing the base of the pectoral spine against the pectoral girdle, kind of like what a cricket does when it chirps ... and Beauregard was known to rise to the surface of the water and "talk" to folks as they fished from the banks of the river.

The anxious fisherman finally came upon the infamous fishing hole and quickly unloaded his gear from the truck ... before he had time to even bait his hook he noticed something moving beneath the swirling water right next to the river bank causing bubbles and debris to rise to the surface ... right beneath the "NO FISHING NEAR THE RIVER BANK" sign ... must be one of them big catfish he thought! ... so he grabbed his best rod and reel, retrieved a chunk of raw chicken liver and jammed it onto a huge treble hook, let out some line and dropped all that mess right down directly into the water where all that commotion was ... no sooner had that bait sunk to the bottom than he had something hooked ... he gave the rod a jerk, set the treble hook and the fight was on ... man it was a big one! ... that feller tugged and pulled and yanked on that rod for what seemed to be an hour or more until finally the beast on the other end began to wear down and ease toward land ... all of a sudden the line went slack and up out of the water that thing came "can't you read mister? ... 'no fishing near the riverbank'! ... I know you saw me swimmin' around down there!!" ... that city feller was so scared he left all his fancy fishing equipment lying right there on the ground, jumped in his truck and left out of there like a scalded rooster on a Sunday afternoon ... thinking that a giant snapping turtle had snatched hold of him minutes earlier, Lester DooLittle stood there in the river in a state of total befuddlement as he carefully removed a freshwater Eagle Claw treble hook from the back side of his wet suit ... he had swapped two sacks of seed potatoes for that wet suit, a pair of flippers and snorkel which he had been using to dive and search for coins lying on the river bottom tossed there by passersby wishing for good luck ... Lester figured that he might have been a bit overly-harsh with that feller what hooked his wet suit considering his hasty exit ... but the legend of Beauregard lives on!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Dueling Dimwits! ...

As you well may know, Lamar Beefeater and Luther DooLittle were lifelong friends ... as with all such relationships there are those times when mild spats and disagreements do occur ... such was the case for a stretch of several days during one particular summer ... Lamar and Luther had been at each others' throats over first one thing then another and threatening to fight at the drop of a hat ... their behavior was so bad and annoying that folks around those parts had begun to take notice.

One day the boys had gone over to the General Store to pick up a tin of Days Work snuff for Grandma DooLittle, and as usual they broke out in a boisterous argument which appeared to be coming to a head ... now the worst thing about it was that Lamar Beefeater didn't even have a dog in this fight, literally ... the argument was over who had the best coonhound ... Luther DooLittle firmly insisted that his Redbone hound "Leon" was the best coondog east of the Mississippi River, while Lamar Beefeater adamantly declared that Grandpa DooLittle's Bluetick coonhound named "Blue" was the better hunter by far, on both sides of "Ojibwe" ... Luther claimed that Leon was so good that he knew before hand which tree a coon was likely to climb when being pursued, so the old Redbone would casually stroll to that tree and patiently await the coon's arrival ... not to be outdone, Lamar made the asseveration that Blue was such a relentless tracker that all the coons in the woods realized that they didn't have a chance of escaping once the big Bluetick got on their scent, so Grandpa DooLittle would simply station the majestic hound on top of his pickup and coons would walk right up and jump into the truck bed and surrender ... and on and on it went.

Now Ansel Poteet and Uncle Virgil Hunnicutt were sitting as usual on the front porch at the General Store playing checkers ... you probably already know that Virgil Hunnicutt is almost deaf and nearly blind, being way over one hundred years old and said to be a near genius with an astronomically elevated IQ ... when Uncle Virgil heard the commotion between the loud-mouthed Luther and Lamar it irritated him to no end, he was tired of listening to their interminable pettifogging ... he had to think of something to silence that pair of earsplitting dimwits and restore peace and tranquility ... so he summoned the bickering lads over to him and informed them just how ridiculous and childish their arguing back and forth had become, especially out in public ... that they should settle their differences once and for all, and go on about their business while conducting themselves as grown men should ... "how?" they asked ... without even blinking an eye or looking up from the checkerboard Uncle Virgil replied "with a pugilistic duel!" ... "a what?" asked Lamar ... "a bare knuckle fist fight" answered Virgil ... "great idea, but how?" enquired the now wide-eyed Luther ... Uncle Virgil went on to say "I want you boys to stand back to back ... when I say go you start pacing ... when you start pacing I'll start counting ... when I'm done counting I'll say stop ... when I say stop you boys turn and begin swinging your fists  ... now git to it!" ... the boys looked at each other and simultaneously nodded in agreement, then proceeded to stand back to back ready to commence dueling ... Lamar reckoned there was just one more detail in question "just how many paces are you going to count to Mister Hunnicutt?" ... a wry grin crept up the corners of the ol' man's mouth as he raised his head for the first time and retorted with a chuckle ... "'bout a thousand!"