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Monday, March 31, 2014

A Private Truce

Have any of you ever had seeming unrelated, random thoughts pop into your head? You know the type; while gazing at an early Spring snowfall, the memory of the grilled bologna and Swiss cheese sandwiches, with spicy brown mustard, served by the local bar back in the old college town pops up.
Where did that come from???
A similar experience took place the other day. Actually, two such experiences took place, if one counts the above bologna sandwich example. 
Many of you may be nodding your heads, thinking; “Yes...yes... this does indeed explain a lot.”
But, I digress.....
For some reason, I find myself doing some of my best thinking while in that last bastion of male-hood; the shower. I have also found this to be a wonderful time to pray, as there are no interruptions. The other day, while contemplating the immensity of God, I experienced on of those “Huh??” moments.
For some unknown reason, a completely unrelated story arose in my head. I sometimes wonder if this is not a result of being folliclely challenged. There is very little hair to serve as a filter for random thoughts bouncing around in the air.
Allow me to relate....

My Dad was a WWII veteran. He served in Europe as a tank platoon commander. (For more details about some of Dad's service, see the June 6,2013 entry “D-Day”). He was in the Third Armored Division of the First Army. He saw action from Normandy to the Netherlands to Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge.

At one point, he and his tank crew found themselves a few miles outside of Liege, Belgium. For whatever reason, there was a lull in the fighting. Having concealed their Sherman tank in a woodlot, the five crewmen were enjoying some quiet relaxation outside of their machine.
Before long, the bawling of a cow could be heard. Some of the crew advocated butchering the bovine for a supply of fresh meat. Others were noncommittal. Dad, having grown up on a farm, recognized the sound for what it was; a dairy cow in great need of milking.
Following some debate, and the fact Dad was the Commanding Officer, he and 2 others set off in search of the source of the mooing. .
Before long, the band of GIs came upon an abandoned farmstead. There, in a small barnyard, stood a lone cow, greatly engorged.
Rummaging in the small stone and beam barn, they found a bucket. Being the only farm-boy in the group, Dad crouched beside the grateful animal relieving her of her burden while the others stood guard.
That night, as darkness crept over the Belgian country-side, five American soldiers luxuriated in the heady delight of fresh milk.
Shortly after sunrise the following day, Dad sent another country boy off with the bucket for their morning treat. The man returned much sooner than he should have, with a bucketful of air. Dad asked what happened to the milk, and the man sheepishly replied; “Sir, there was a squad of Germans milkin' her.”
Incredulous to learn they had bivouacked so near the enemy, Dad and two others set off for the farm.

Creeping stealthily through the woods, weapons at the ready, the little band approached the edge of the barnyard. Through the brush and undergrowth, they saw a German infantryman crouched beside the cow, milking while two others stood watch, Mauser rifles in hand. Silently, Dad motioned for his men to withdraw. Three rather glum soldiers returned to their area. No milk with C-rations this morning.
When evening came, Dad and two of his crewmen set off once again with the bucket in hand. Seeing the barnyard vacant, the GIs approached the cow, and soon began to milk her.
For an inexplicable reason, Dad lifted his head to look across the cow's back. As he did so, a coal-scuttle helmeted head popped up above a mound of hay. Both adversaries' eyes locked upon one another. One of the tankers turned to see the German soldier. As the man was raising his M-1 carbine, Dad quietly said “No. Wait.” All the while he kept milking the cow while looking at the German.
After what seemed hours, the young German soldier raised his hand. Dad raised his hand in reply. The three Americans watched as the young man turned to walk away, empty pail swinging at his side.
The following dawn, the tankers slipped out of the tree-line to find the same German soldier and 2 friends already at work in the barnyard. Tentative, nervous waves were exchanged across the barnyard, and the Americans withdrew.
The cow, being completely unconcerned with Geo-political events, followed the twice daily course Nature had prescribed for her. When the afternoon shadows lengthened that day, once again the tankers crept toward the barnyard. The found the cow, patiently awaiting milking. The Germans had given her fresh water and feed. No where was a German soldier to be seen. Upon completion of milking, the soldiers watered and fed her, as well as rubbed her down with some old burlap sacks they had found.
The next morning found the tank crew sleeping in, allowing their recent adversaries  free access to the cow. Again, at evening, the Americans milked her in solitude.

For six days, this unspoken truce held. Then, Dad's unit was called upon to move out. The tankers would never know if they ever met their fellow dairymen upon the field of battle.
They only knew, and were eternally grateful for, a period of time when guns were silent while opposing combatants observed a private truce, built upon the daily needs of a lowly Belgian dairy cow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Wonder.....

The other evening, my Lovely Bride and I enjoyed an informal dinner party with four of our closest friends.  Being a more hectic Saturday than usual, LB asked if I wouldn’t mind putting away the groceries we had gotten and “make a nice salad”. She could then set off to a make-up dog-training class with Ike.
My initial response to putting away groceries was quite enthusiastic until LB clarified I was to “put away the groceries” in the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, not my stomach.
It was while assembling the sundry components for the salad my mind began to wander.
Does anyone else get seeming random, off-the-wall thoughts? No?? Hmmmm….that doesn’t sound too good.
Regardless, I had an illuminating moment while slicing mushrooms. Maybe not a epiphany, it was more of an “I wonder….” From this germinal thought sprang others, like, well… mushrooms in the Spring. Allow me to share some with you
Who was the first person to look upon a weird shaped, speckled thing growing in a field or under a tree and thought; “Gee that looks pretty tasty. I think I will give it a whirl!”
Did they choose wisely, to go on telling the tale? Or, did they choose unwisely, to henceforth be referred to in the past tense?
Assuming that Kroog left a good-looking widow, a nice split level cave, and a fine collection of hand-crafted clubs, who in the world was the second person to try one? Was it voluntary, or was it on a foolhardy dare, egged on by peer pressure?
“Haaa…Haaa…. Rooj is a Neanderthal! He is afraid to try one of Kroog’s Thingies of Doom! Haaa”
While pondering these possibilities my mind jumped to another culinary puzzler.
Who was the first person to eat a hot pepper? What in creation ever compelled them to try it? Was it the bright shiny skin? Could it have been the enticing, subtle curves? Although, enticing subtle curves have gotten more than one guy into trouble.
A better question is:  who was the person, upon witnessing the first hot pepper being consumed, opted to try the second one?
Soon, I found myself pondering the origins of the drinking of coffee.
Sure, we have all heard the legend of a goat herder observing the effects of little red berries upon his charges. Shortly after consumption, the critters would cavort and gambol about the hillsides. Perhaps not having had a good old-fashioned gambol for some time, our anonymous hero picks a handful of berries and proceeded to munch.
Soon thereafter, while pre-occupied with tossing his pitas, the luckless fellow’s buddies asked him what he had eaten. While in mid retch, he gestures with a trembling hand toward the bushes decorated with red berries. Trying to speak, all he can emit was a gasping “Kaaa-feee!” before being overcome again. Since that time, the little red berries have been known as “coffee”.
Not to be undone by a bunch of berries, our hero takes out his wrath by tossing a copious number of the blasted, miserable things upon the family fire. He smiles inwardly while watching them take on a darkened patina.
His anger still burning, he then scrapes the little things from the coals. Placing them upon the stone hearth, he proceeds to smash and grind the crunchy remnants under a rock. Satisfied, he relaxes. Suddenly, he remembers his wife will soon be home! Oh No!! He sloshes hot water on the mess….hey! That smells pretty good!!  Tentatively, he dips a finger in the steaming liquid. While jumping around due to having stuck his finger in hot water, he sticks the injured digit in his mouth.
And….a new taste sensation was born.
Before long, he is operating a little walk-through fresh kaaa-feee business. Doing a brisk morning trade, he also caters to the evening intellectual crowd discussing such heady topics as “is the earth really flat?” and “How much further can technology go?”
Soon, he sells out to a guy in a place called See-at-all, and retires to the sunny Adriatic coast.
On and on my feverish mind went.
Did you ever wonder why anyone would consider taking something that fell out of a bird’s backside, and eat it? Does that even make sense?
Take milk for example. What would compel anyone to grab hold of one of those dangling things under a cow, give a squeeze, and drink what comes out? Had they gotten into some special mushrooms?
Similar thoughts about onions, caviar, chocolate and other foods wandered through my mind.
Later that evening, while gathered around our friend’s table, convivial conversation flowing, I glanced at LB as she took a sip of iced tea.
I wonder….who was the first person to think about soaking a bunch of dried leaves in hot water???

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lone Goose

The other night while taking our older dog Mimi (her name is Miacha, a Cheyenne word meaning “little fire”) outdoors I reveled in the softness of a late winter’s evening.
Temperatures had been mild; some observers had noted 60 degrees on their thermometers. The earth, once frozen iron hard now yielded slightly with each footstep. The eight inches of Wednesday’s snowfall silently vanished in the areas exposed to sunlight. There was little doubt; Spring is indeed in the offing.
Our home looks from a bluff upon a minor tributary river of Lake Erie. The now barren ash, walnut, and cottonwood trees permit an unimpeded view of the river and the low-lands dotted by marinas below. Much like the calendar, the river has her seasons. They are far too complex to discuss at this time; perhaps some other time.
Mimi would pause, lifting her now gray muzzle to the fresh, warm breeze. Faintly, I could detect the rich fragrance of damp earth, the unique damp freshness only the newly thawed river can emit, and grilled beef drifting from the kitchen of the restaurant on the opposite riverbank.
Perking her ears forward, Mimi looked toward the darkening sky. Then, I heard it….the plaintive, lone “ree-honk” of a solitary Canada goose winging over the river.  Apparently it was separated from the flock (for you nit-pickers out there, geese in the air are called a “flock”, while a group of geese on the ground is a “gaggle”), I could sense the anxiety the poor bird must have felt. Straining my ears, I could not detect any welcoming call in reply.
We stood in the increasing darkness, silently listening as the lonesome goose flew further up-stream, unanswered for all we knew.
I felt, more than saw Mimi turn toward me. Looking in her direction, I could make out the gray of her once black face as she gazed my way. I sensed her deep appreciation for a loving family, a cozy place to sleep, and never having known the pangs of hunger or thirst; as only a dog can express.
I don’t know the circumstances surrounding the bird’s separation. Had it been dawdling when the others left? Had it determined to venture on its own? Had it become weary, only to drop far behind the V formation? Or, had its way been lost due to wind and storm?
Bending, I stroked Mimi’s ear, our signal meaning “Okay, let’s go in.”  Slowly, she turned to dotter along beside me with her age stiffened hops. Slowing my pace to match hers, we took our time; there was no need to rush.
I bent to give her a boost up our front stoop. As I leaned close, she turned toward me, planting a light, gentle lick on my cheek.
And…..we once again heard the lonely call as the goose passed over the river.  From the darkened school yard across the road from our home came two, three, and then four answering calls. The lone goose’s call immediately changed from mournful to joyous as it flew directly overhead. I smiled and patted Mimi upon hearing the noisy welcoming chuckles upon its arrival.  Glancing at Miacha, I am certain there was a smile on her face, dimly illuminated by the post light.
Later, I lay awake, waiting for sleep to come. How many times are we like that lone goose? We tend to go our own way, relying upon our own devices. We believe we have an unerring sense of direction for our lives; usually to discover our internal compass is a bit out of whack. And, we tend to minimize the importance of family and personal relationships.
With a sigh,  I rolled over, stroking my Lovely Brides flowing hair. Mimi’s snoring provided a comforting lullaby. While offering silent thanks for all I have, a soft, contented goose call sounded in the darkness. I smiled, and drifted off to sleep.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Momentous Day

Monday the 10th is a momentous day.
Nothing of tremendous historical importance took place. No Cleveland team won a championship. No child or grandchild was born this date.
No, none of the above occurred.
Rather, my Lovely Bride and I began our journey through life together 41 years ago on this date.
I know, I know… I can hear you already. “How can this be? You look so youthful, so young!” The fact remains; I was a child-groom.  Actually, I was barely out of my teens, and Cindy was yet in her teen years.
Yes, we were a couple of crazy kids. Yes, all the odds were against us.  But, we deeply loved each other. We were committed to one another and to the vows we took before God.
No, it wasn’t always easy. Nothing worth having is easy. It took work, it takes minimizing of self in order to encourage the other.
Can we state we have this “Married thing” down pat? Good Heavens, no! Anyone who claims they do is either a liar, or an arrogant fool.
I think back upon the years, the ups and downs, the laughter and the tears. Would I do it all again? Without question.
Would I do some things differently? Again, without question.
Our experience is no different than any other couple.
I can picture Adam sitting in his back yard, staring at the now inaccessible Garden of Eden, trying to relax at the end of a tough day pulling weeds, lifting rocks, running from snakes. Cain and Able are racing around, making all kinds of noise, one saying farmers are better than hunters. Eve is in their little post-Paradise bungalow trying to make a dinner out of leaves, nuts and berries.  It is not difficult to imagine him thinking; “By golly, I sure wish I hadn’t eaten that lousy piece of fruit. It wasn’t that great to begin with. If I ever see that no-good snake again, I’ll smash him one with a big stick!”
It is easy to picture Eve looking out the kitchen window, muttering to herself; “Look at that goof! All he had to say was ‘Eve! Get away from that snake! Here! Let me get it with this big stick!’  No, he has to say ‘Well, I don’t know. That piece of fruit isn’t all that appealing. I can take it or leave it. It’s up to you. I don’t care; either way is fine with me. What’s for dinner?’  Of all the men in the World, I get stuck with him! Wait…. He is all the men in the world. Nuts! Why me? At least I don’t have a Mother to say ‘I told you not to get involved with that Adam person.’ “
Moving forward in time, we can picture Antony heading off to rendezvous with Cleopatra on her river barge. He is all duded up; shiny brass and gold accessories, freshly pressed little skirt thing they wore, his servant even polished his sandals. Here he is, off to meet the most beautiful, wealthy, influential woman of his time. Thoughts race through his mind; “Man, I can’t wait to see Cleo again! Talk about a hottie! WOW! But, why does she have such a thing for that stupid barge? First of all, it is kinda slow. How can you water ski behind something that is just being poled along? That leads to the issue with the crew…they are always hanging around! Come on! How is a guy supposed know.. when there are all these servants and slaves hanging around? Geez, it isn’t as if we can tell them to take a walk for a couple hours.  Oh No!! I forgot my seasick pills!! Great, just great… another weekend spent leaning over the side. Man… that is a real chick turn on. Way to go, Tony ol’ boy.”
Imagine Josephine’s thoughts upon receiving Napoleon’s letter he is on his way to visit her to sooth his nerves after the debacle at Waterloo. She is primping in the mirror, listening to the latest baroque tunes being plinked away on the harpsichord downstairs…”Oh, I am so excited to see my Little Nappy again! He is such a serious little man! Heeee… all that talk about conquering Europe! How many times have I told him to stop trying to compensate for being so…ahem… little?  I don’t mind; he is my Napoleon. I just wish he would ditch that stupid hat when we are alone.”
Mark Twain is reputed to have said a young man marries hoping his bride never changes, and a young woman marries hoping her groom will change. Both parties end up being disappointed.
I look over the years, and see my Lovely Bride is as beautiful as the day we met. She has the same wonderful sense of humor. Still, I am thrilled to see the strong, wise, determined, well-respected woman she is today.  Disappointed?  Not by a long shot.
As I close, the only thing I can say is:

Happy Anniversary, Cindy!
I am looking forward to many more!