Thursday, November 11, 2010

Listen to a Veteran today

My father served as a Radar Operator on a Patrol Craft, PC1198, in the Atlantic Ocean during World War 2. Thier responsibility was to provide security against submarine attacks for cargo vessels travelling between Cuba, New York City, and Spain.
I used to feel kind of underwhelmed by the nature of his service , I am asahmed to say, because it just didnt seem very "glamorous". But then I really began to study World War 2.
They say that more than 80 percent of High School Seniors in the United States today can't tell you who won WWII. I read an article a couple of years ago about how many college students have learned a new way to look at history, and therefore dont pass judgment on people, and in essays and papers will talk about how Adolph Hitler was a misunderstood, complex man and we should not judge him without taking into account his life experience and upbringing, and should not assume he was evil.
If you dont know who won World War 2, and dont feel comfortable calling Hitler Evil, I would sugest you study up a bit. I wont go into the details of the how and why of this, as I would hope that the people I am reffering to arent people I would know who would read my puny blogs, and a recounting of the details of the War is not my peurpose in writng this today.
Suffice to say, the man had to be stopped at all costs.
As I have been studying the European Theatre of Operations lately, one reoccuring theme that has hit me is that one of the primary factors in our victory there is this: Despite the fact that the German Army was often only two or three hundred miles from thier scource of supply, while ours were thousands of miles away across an ocean, for the most part our troops were better supplied. This was only possible because thousands of ordinary people, including a kid from Rexburg, Idaho, who loved hot coccoa and was called "Westy" by his shipmates, put his life on the line to make sure those supplies got over there to supply our troops.
I cant tell you in person now, but, thanks, Dad.
I have been saying for years that I would love to do World War 2 reenactment, but I would not because I felt it was a dishonor to the few remaining vets who are still with us today. Last week I changed my mind.
The men and women who fought in WWII were heroes, each and every one. Then they came home and tried to make a good life for thier families.
People often make fun of how people were in the 50's. You know, like Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It To Beaver, because everyone seemed so "boring and conformist". But guess what, the reason they all seemed to act and think alike was because they had been part of the same team once. That generation of Americans all had to pull together, whether you were sleeping in a foxhole in Belgium, flying a B24 over the Marshall Islands,working at a shipyard in Washington , collecting grease and scrap metal for the war effort or singing with the USO. Pulling the entire nation together as a team was the only way they could do what needed to be done to stop evil.
And one common trait that these men and women seem to share, is that for the most part they werent after glory and they would not blow thier own horn, they were just giving everything they had to do what needed to be done.
Seems to me that Amercia should all be on the same team again now. But the problem is, America is at the mall.
I guess what I am trying to say is, I feel that thier story has to be told, but they wont do it themselves. For me, reenactment is one way to tell thier story and make sure that it is not forgotten. When General Eisenhower heard about the discovery of Jewish Concentration camps, he told the troops to take photographs and collect evidence, because "someday people will deny this ever happened". And people are denying it happened everytime some "progressive" college professor engages a discussion of why we shouldnt judge Hitler.
Make sure these stories are told and remembered. Not just those of WWII, either. Spend some time with a veteran and just listen to him., whether he is one of the few surviving World War 2 veterans, or Korea, or Viet Nam, or the War on Terror. Just shut up and let him talk awhile. And dont be surprised if he dosent want to talk about battles or combat. The memories will not be pleasant and these folks just dont blow thier own horn. Let him tell you about his grandchildren, his carreer, his church callings, his garden. I would give anything to listen to "Westy" for five minutes.
Even if they dont talk about the fighting, they are telling you what they were fighting for.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

People in your LDS Ward

I recently had the chance to take a road trip with two good friends of mine. One of them is a young man who was days away from submitting himself to the Missionary Training Center. The other is an apostate. Needless to say, the long hours driving through Necbraska and other vehicular forms of Limbo provided opportunity for discussions ranging from surviving the soon to occur zombie apocalypse, the Louisiana Purchase, the relative merits of crunchy versus soft tacos, and the LDS Church.
In the midst of these conversations I got to thinking about some people that I have known in the various Wards that I have attended. Maybe you will recognize some of them. Maybe one of them is you. If it is, maybe you should talk to your Bishop.
Just dont tell mine, ok?

The Know It All Doctrinal Expert- This is the guy who can expound at length about the Adam-God theory and reads his scriptures in the original Hebrew text. He is either found teaching the Gospel Doctrine class, or in the hall during Sunday School, because it seems that everyone I have known like that cant seem to tolerate sittting through a doctrine class taught by anyone else. He is usually also the first to stand and bear his testimony on Fast sunday and all of his Facebook status updates are of a religous nature.

The Good Scoutmaster- this guy is the Saint in Latter Day Saints. He is the one who the boys in the ward probably love more than Nintendo. He sacrifices all of his vacation time from work to take your kid camping. At missionary farewells he is rarely asked to speak, but probably has more to do with that young punk ending up on a mission than anyone else, except maybe the kid's Mom.

The Bad Scoutmaster: This guy has been Scoutmaster for about four months, with maybe one more to go. He has not attended any Scout training for leaders because he already knows how to play basketball.

The Porter Rockwell: This guy probably scares the crap out of most of the Ward members. He is the one who has a very strong testimony of food storage, but not much else. And, he can quote scripture and conference talks on that very subject for hours. He offers to teach the Scouts how to shoot and hunt because most pansy fathers cant be bothered with such essentials. He talks about the mobbings in Missouri and the Massacre at Haun's Mill with a far-off look in his eye, and you kind of get the idea that he wishes someone would try something like that on his watch. Yes, people in the Ward are kind of scared of him, but at leat 73% of them have his address memeorized in case they ever need to run somewhere for food.

The newlyweds- These kids are hilarious. When asked to talk in Sacrament meeting, the husband will basically give a talk he had left over from his mission, and the wife will tell everyone the story of how they met and dated. it is usually as nausiating as the part in Saturdays Warrior when those two people meet and sing "The circle of our love" while waving thier hands in a circle. THe Bishop will soon call them to be Nursery leaders together because they just cant stand to be apart. Gag.

The Crumudgeon: This is the old guy (Or sometimes Sister) in the ward who faught the Nazis, and don't you forget it. He is usually a widower (or widow) but is keeping his options open and has probably had a crush on Sister so and so since the Johnson administration. He walks to church becasue he cant drive anymore and has had a surgery in recent months, but when someone needs help with a service project he is the only one to show up. Little kids love him despite his grumpiness, but as they grow older he really freaks them out becasue of the hair growing out of his ears.

The Prozack Poster Child: This poor sister does everything, or at least thinks that she should. Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, PTA, neighborhood watch, you name it. She has a painted on smile almost as creepy as the Joker's, and usually dimples, too. Whenever you go to a Ward activity, she is involved somehow. She never rests until finally she snaps and either moves quietly out of the neighborhood or takes hostages.

The Politician: everyone knows this guy. He is always there smiling and shaking everyone's hand, and most new members of the ward assume he is the Bishop untill told differently. he signs up for every service project but never shows, and is usually at his best when arguing with the Know It All about the Apocrypha.

The Token Liberal: Every Ward seems to have one. He's the guy with the pink shirt on Sunday and the only Obama sticker in the parking lot. He and his wife will usually have only one child (gasp) and send it to private school. He seems to make good money but drives an older volkswagon.

The Fundamentalist Mormon- Also known as the Sterotype- eleven children, and has never seen a PG 13 Movie (even the Book of Mormon Movie). Drives a mini van with more cheerios under the seats than in a General Mills Factory. Can often be heard muttering "Flipping" ths or "Fetching" that. Makes his kids play with Scripture Hero action figures on Sunday and in his own way is more repressed than the Prozac Poster Child and is scarier than the Porter Rockwell.

The Decent Guy- This is the guy that gives all members of the LDS faith a good name. He returns phone calls and shows up when hes supposed to. He genuinally seems to care about you and spends time with his kids. Hes not out to convert the world, but many people have joined the Church because of his example. Likely as not he is married to the Relief Society President and takes up the slack when the Elders Quorum President or High Preist Group Leader drop the ball again.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Don't be lame!

Cool: Hand forged ironware
Lame: Cast chinese pot metal

Cool: Faded Levis and leather bomber jacket
Lame: Capris and fleece vest

Cool: Historical reenacting

Cool: Glocks
Lame: Hi Point

Cool: Iron Man
Lame: Steel Magnolias

Cool: 1968 Mustang
Lame: Prius, any year

Cool: Chef Gordon Ramsey
Lame: Rosie Odonnel

Lame: Nancy Drew

Cool: Red Dwarf
Lame: Dr. Who

Cool: Lewis and Clark
Lame: Zebulon Pike

Cool: Bonsai trees
Lame: Macrame' plant hangers

Cool: Whopper
Lame: Crustable

Cool: Brain-tanned buckskin
Lame: PETA

Cool: Casting lead bullets
Lame: Making paper footballs

Cool: Lost
Lame: Lost

Cool: Road trips
Lame: Waiting for a bus

Cool: Lightsabres
Lame: Numchucks

Cool: Brian M.' girlfriend
Lame: Dave W.'s ex wife

Cool: War and Peace
Lame: Crime and Punishment

Cool: Dogs
Lame: Cats

Cool: Wheel of Time
Lame: Twilight

Cool: Ronald Reagan
Lame: Barrack Hossein Obama

Cool: Top hats
Lame: Derbys

Cool: A magician that can make the Statue of Liberty dissapear
Lame: A magician who can pull a quarter from your ear

Cool: Ripping off a Las Vegas casino a la Oceans 11
Lame: Shoplifting

Cool: Harleys
Lame: Vespas

Cool: Flintlocks
Lame: Tasers

Cool: Food storage
Lame: Food stamps

Monday, March 29, 2010

My love affair

I have been married for just over 18 years now, but since 1998 I have also been having a torrid affair. Her name is Clio.
Now hold on, if you are gasping in shock or shaking your head judgmentally. Clio is a figure from Greek Mythology, she is the Muse of History.
I didnt know I loved history untill 1998 when I attended my first Mountain Man rendezvous, and I was instantly hooked.
I think that I would have discovered this about myself much sooner in life if I had ever been under the care of a good History teacher, but unfortunately I never was. In my opinion a good history teacher is someone who loves, lives and breathes history, but is also engaging enough to keep young minds interested. I vaugely rememebr Mr. Barker in Jr. High tring to get us to memorize the Mayflower Compact but his horrible toupe was just to distracting. Mr. Thomas in High school seemed a nice enough sort but his heart just wasnt in it, I think he was really a wrestling coach or somthing.
I think the seeds of my obsession were there early on, if only I'd had a teacher recogninze it and help me see it, too. In the sixth grade I formed the "Crooked Arrow Archaeology Club" with two other classmates and we wrote a letter to President Carter asking for the Government to fund a trip for us to visit the ruins in Mesa Verde, Arizona. I told the other two members that we were a shoe in, because Carter seemed to be giving money away to everyone, after all they were saying the country was broke, werent they? I even told them that we would be provided with machetes to hack our way through the jungles of Arizona and New Mexico just like Indiana Jones.
Jimmy sent us a letter telling us the gob'ment didnt have a program like that, but he did send us a really nifty autographed photo of himself. The photo was not as interesting as machetes so the other two members drifted away and quit the club.
Anyway, once I realized where my passion lay I was already married with two children, and by now its probably way to late in my life to persue a degree in my field. But nontheless, I still consider myself a historian. When you spend as much of your life as I do studying the subject, is hard not to.
With me, history has actually become something of an obsession. I somtimes feel more connected to people who lived 200 years ago to people I know today.
The famous historian Stephen Ambrose, author of Undaunted Courage and Band of Brothers,among others, once camped out next to the grave of Meriwether Lewis. In the middle of the night a police officer arrived and told him he would have to move on. He is reported to have said "Officer, you've got to understand; I'm in love with this man." The cop let him stay.
Now some people, in particular a certain venerable yet crumudgeonly cabinet maker I happen to know, may say that this is further proof that Lewis was gay;(Even though there is no historical support for this popular theory), but I simply see it as proof that Ambrose might just understand where I am coming from. There is a "Creed of Living History" that says is part, "I cannot seperate what has happened in the past from my own life, because to me it seems as though it just happened last week.". I get that. These people are as real to me as anyone that I might bump into at work today, some of them more so.
History just isnt something I do, it's what I am.
To seperaste me from history would be like cutting off my arms and legs. This might seem freakish to some of you, but I know quite a few freaks just like me who like nothing more than to dress, talk, and live as though we were in another time. At some public "living history" events I have attended, I have seen the public walk thorugh with a confused look on thier face, as though they are wondering why in blue blazes these people are acting like it is the year 18something. Well guess what, public? We on the other side in old, smoky smelling clothes, with bacon grease on our fingers and black powder on our lips, are just as confused about you. We are wondering why in blue blazes you don't do it?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lewis and Clark

As those of you who know me are aware, I am a big fan of Lewis and Clark. I like history in general, in particular the Utah War, World War 2, the Mormon BAttalion and Western Fur Trade. But more than any of the others, Lewis and Clark just really floats my keelboat. ( A little Lewis and CLark humor there, heh heh heh).
Someting about it is so interesting. There are things in the expedition that blow me away, for example:
They took 40-some-odd people across a continent through unmapped wilderness in the face of starvation, disease, travel by foot horse and water, and unknown indiginous peoples. Through all this, only one man died, of a burst appendix.
The Spanish Government actually sent two brigades of soldiers north from Mexico to intercept and capture the Corps, they never found them
They identified 170somthing plants and 120somthing animals for science.
The men never knew that the "captains" were actually not equal in rank. Although promised the rank fo Captain if he would agree to go, the War Department felt that two Captains was not acceptable and instead gave him a commision as a second luitenant under Lewis. Even though he had previously been Lewis' commanding officer in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, they agreed to act as "Co-Captains" and to keep this tidbit from the men. Nobody knew untill years afterwards.

So anyway this morning on the john I was struck by a thought, which has kind of evolved into the folowing for your consideration:

1. Always pack plenty of blue beads
2. Never let a blowhard man the rudder
3. Keep your powder dry
4. That iron boat might be a great idea, but if its not sticking together, let it go
5. Let everybody vote
6. Take time to write down what happens
7. Keep track of your men
9. Keep the receipts
10. Dont take the blind guy hunting
11. Never assume that because everyone thinks there are unicorns and an easy one day portage out there, dosent make it so.
And the most important thing of all:

12. Wherever the journey is taking you, make room in your life for a dog.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Mom

Fot the past few weeks I have been remodeling my Mom's family room. Rippewrd out the panelling, mudding and painting the walls, etc. I probably wouyld have been finished some time ago except that I can only seem to find an hour here and there to get over there and work on it.
But spending time around my mom is kind of like a box of chocolates that should have been thrown out some time ago. You see, my mother grew up during the Great Depression (They call it that to distinguish it from the crappy one we are in now). As a kid, the philosophy at large was somthing like "Eat it up, wear it out, use it all or do without".
As a consequnce, she never throws anything away. Well, not much, anyway. She isnt one of those that you see on reality TV with banana peels and disposable diapers piled to the roof. but here are a few things we have seen her "saving" over the years
A small plastic baggie, tied with a twistie, containing 4 popcorn kernals
every utility bill she has ever gotten since she and my Dad bought the house in the early 1950, organised into binders chronologically
the plastic tree that held the parts to a model truck i tried to build in junior high, rubber banded to a few plastic drinking straws
some of those "punch in the letters" label tapes that had the names of all the kids in a family that used to live in the ward years ago
Rather than throw it out, she once poured a jar of pickle juice into a pitcher of Kool Aid. She said it tasted good, we took her word for it.
Every empty perfume bottle that she and my sisters have ever owned
Every disposable pen that has ever been in her possesion, still is. She claims that if you put them in the oven for a few minutes they will work again, but she just hasnt gotten around to it
And my own personal (very personal) favorite...a couple of years ago she presented me with a small ring of white plastic about 3/8 of an inch in diameter. I asked her what it was, and then came the horror....It was the little band used to hold the bandage on my hoo haa after my circumcision as an infant. YIKES!
Growing up during that period of time seems to have taught that generation how to make the best of thier rescources. But hey, they beat down the Nazis, right? Maybe that skill helped them do it. As you may know, our resources were streched pretty thin throughout World War Two, but they still pulled it off. Maybe they know something we dont. In fact, I am sure that they did. We live in a society where most things we buy come from overseas. Have you seen those HUGE container ships that come over from China? They sail back home empty. We dont make many things here anymore. ANd we certianly dont know how to fix anything anymore, whether its radios or cars. Back in the day if your radio (Which was a major investment) blew a tube, you took off the cover, replaced the tube, and went back to listening to Amos and Andy. Nowdays, when your radio blows a "tube" (Yes, I know they dont use them anymore) we throw it out.
I really think that we as a people need to learn how to fix things and make do. If something breaks, open it up and figure it out! If you dont think you can, try anyway. Its part of being self reliant.
Worse times are coming, folks. Learn how to take care of yourselves, strech your resources.
"Eat it all, wear it out, use it up or do without."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Vegans and Aliens Part Dos featuring more Porter Rockwell, and zombies

Lets talk about alien invasion.
In the course of my wacked out life I have known two induviduals who are scared to death of aliens.
The first was one of my blacksmithing teachers. He no longer lives in Utah so I can talk about him with impunity ( I think)...
His name was Daniel and aliens really freaked him out, so much so that he didnt even like to talk about them. Not at all, not even to tell poeple he didnt like to talk about them. If the subject came up, he would leave the room faster than a Mo walking out of an R rated movie.
Once on a late nate drive through the deserts of Western Utah where we had been searching ghost towns for Wrought iron, I got to talking about a couple of strange things I had seen in the sky while driving through the deserts of Utah at night. He really got upset and kept telling me to shut up. I finally got him to tell me the whole sordid tale. It seems that once as a child he was playing hide and seek in some abandoned houses in New England somewhere, and thats the last thing he remembers. He woke up two days later in the woods 10 miles from home with a small incision like cut behind his knee. He dosent remeber how he got back home or how his parents reacted or anything really, but he knows that he still has a scar and claims it bleeds on occasion for no apperant reason. He is convinced he was abducted and taken on some form of intergalatic joy ride or reality show. His biggest fear is that if he talks about it or even thinks about it too much he will trigger some kind of alarm somewhere and the aliens will say something like "Oh, hey and by the way, we havent looked in on subject H66387289U6767338.9/2233 lately, lets swing by and grab him and see how his LDL level is doing" and the next thing he knows he will wake up in Branson, Missouri or something.
I found his story interesteing, but Daniel also believes in, and claims to have seen, both dragons and fairies as well.
The other Person I will allow to remain annonymous, but for the sake of the story I will call him Jake. Jake is a really good guy and one of the funniest people I have ever known, hes wicked smart, too. Jake is also freaked out by aliens. The difference is that Jake likes to talk about aliens, and likes a good alien flick, which makes for some fun discussions, as well as inspiring me to fantasize about kidnapping him and driving through the desert at night to drop him off in Roswell, New Mexico. It would be hilarious.
Something that Jake and I share is a love of zombie movies. I am obsessed with zombies for some reason. And no, its not because I have been abducted by zombies. (I think.)
Anyway it got me to thinking- wouldnt the tactics for fighting an alien invasion pretty much be the same as fighing a zombie outbreak? For your consideration:
Step 1: Put down the remote and realize that something is very worng before its too late and you are eaten or vaporized
Step 2:Arm yourself
Step 3: Figure out what the enemie's weakness is. For zombies it is the head, you have to destroy or severly damage the head. Aliens is anyones guess, but I would probably try the head first and by process of elimination determine whet the best part to shoot is. I hope it is something hilarious like the kidneys or the butt.
Step 4: Continue to shoot them in the head or the butt, depending on which it is, and gather a team of fellow survivors to load up tons of gear and head for the hills.
Step 5:Establish base camp, secure your perimeter,a nd get the power on in time to watch Hell's Kitchen on Friday night.

I kind of think that maybe Porter Rockwell would be the ultimate Alien/Zombie fighter. That guy took zero crap from anybody, am I right, whether the problem at hand was a pod of worker bees from Sigma 5 looking to colonize or a pack of the walking undead with a messed up nervous system trying to have a Porterhouse Steak Tartar, (I know thats lame but its the best I could some up with) ,for brunch. I think he would win. I can see him riding off into the sunset on the alien spacecraft like Slim Pickins did in that movie where he rode the Nuclear Bomb- I cannever remember the name of that movie. WHat a great ending.
And since I mentioned Vegans in the title, hey Vegans, you dont look so healthy. Seriously. Have you seen the lead singer from R.E.M. lately? he looks arange and bumpy.Eat some meat, dagnabbit.