My Photo
Location: Clearwater, South Carolina, United States

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

KS - homeward bound

I’m not sure of the date we got back to the U.S. as one set of orders has 5 July 1962 and my discharge has 9 July 1962, but whichever – I was out of the army! I had already told the buddy I came back with that I would drop him off at his home in Ohio, so the two of us wandered around till we found the car shipment place, picked up my little VW, tossed in the duffel bags and headed out for his home state.

We drove straight through to his home and somewhere down the road all the events of the past several days and the lack, dearth, scarcity and shortage of sleep on the boat started catching up with me. After it got dark, I really started getting drowsy and my friend had keep talking to me to keep me awake. By the time we got to his place I was one exhausted ex-soldier.

He wanted to visit all his friends and run around town, which we did some and then I collapsed on one of their beds. I went to sleep lying across my sleeping place still in my clothes and don’t think I moved all night – someone pulled some cover over me after I zonked out.

After reassuming consciousness the next day, I was off to Georgia and my hometown of Augusta! Drove that one straight through as well, I believe I stopped once for a nap beside the road – that wasn’t quite as dangerous to do back then.

It was still in early morning darkness when I passed through a town about 20 miles from home and out of nowhere a large dog, possibly a great Dane, came across the road in front of me. It was a small car – big dog collision – actually more of a small car – nudging big dog out of the way situation. Don’t think the dog was hurt but it sure did put my nerves on high alert.

It was about four in the morning when I started getting really close – and darkness was still ruling when I came through North Augusta. This town is in South Carolina but just across the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia – the center of the river being the state line.

Due to upgrades and changes in the highways, I suddenly realized I was headed back north. This was corrected posthaste and I crossed the Savannah River into Georgia, arrived home about 4:30am and woke everybody up. They were glad to see me, but I don’t remember anyone doing cartwheels – this due to the early hour no doubt.

TBC - ec

Monday, May 29, 2006

KS - USNS Rose

14- At long last the paper I had been waiting for was handed to me – orders for separation processing – I was going home! The orders were dated 13 June 1962 and said I was to report 29 June 1962 to the Troop Staging Area, Bremerhaven, for departure from Europe. My transportation was to be aboard the USNS ROSE – they flew me over, got all out of me they could, then they were sending me back on a slow troop ship. It didn’t matter – I was going to CONUS (Continental United States)!

Also contained in the file is a certificate of appreciation from SHAPE for my tour of service over there. General orders #16, dated 28 June 1962, awarded me the Good Conduct Medal for my three years in service. Application for shipment of household goods was another form contained – dated 27 June 1962 - and this was for shipping my non-military “stuff” home, since we were only allowed one duffel bag and one canvas bag on the ship. Also a customs declaration with the same date was with it.

A week or so before leaving I drove my car over to the port for shipment back to New York, to be picked up when we finally got back. I don’t remember how I got back to base, seems like I took a train. The last few days seemed to take an eternity to pass by. Of course anytime I was greeted in any way my answer was always “short!!” Obnoxiousness may have reared its ugly head in that respect, but you were expected to act that way just before you went home.

My last day was worked, everything that needed to be turned in was turned in, everything was packed and we were on our way. The other part of “we” was a workmate that went home at the same time. We were taken to the train by another workmate in an Army vehicle and we were off to the port. At the ship, we were lined up according to the alphabet – as was the Army way. As we stepped off the gangplank onto the ship, the people in charge counted us off to be on their work crew - we were chosen before we could get away.

For the whole voyage back I was “honored” with the job of working in the ship’s bakery. The ones farther down in the alphabet mostly just lounged around on deck all day – maybe I should have spelled my last name starting with a ‘Z’. The bakery crew had to get up in time to prepare the bread and stuff for breakfast; of course noon chow and then the evening mess followed this.

A real weakness of mine – then and now – would be fruit pies and fresh baked bread, and we had all we could eat. The KPs and the bakery crew always ate first, got what and how much we wanted. Even though we worked long hours, all the good food added up, and by the time I got off the ship, my tailored uniforms were uncomfortably tight. Between tasks, I did get to see the lady with the torch when we came into New York Harbor – beautiful sight!

TBC - ec

Sunday, May 28, 2006


At times in my Christian walk I have been very unimpressed with myself. Not with the talents or the mind God has given me, but the way I use or don't use these and react or fail to react in given situations. Afterward I have felt so unworthy, unreliable, useless and unnecessary, searching subconsciously for a scriptural reference to remain in this murky condition - because I deserve it - and wallow in pity because of my self proclaimed good-for-nothingness.

Almost unbelievably finding no weapon to use in my mission of self-flagellation and/or condemnation, I search deeper still through my stored mental files of the Bible for other avenues of punishment. Finding only love and forgiveness of a complete and perfect nature, my mind struggles to understand something beyond human comparative reasoning. How could One that I have failed so miserably at times still love me, be willing to forgive and even desire the very best for me?

So which of the many choices do I choose? Do I continue to wear the painful thorns of guilty remembrance in a band around my head? Will I walk barefoot up that long hill paved with the broken glass of unworthiness when something good happens to me? Will I allow my hands to be affixed to the solid wood of do-nothingness because someone else seems to have more talent? Will my feet be immobilized by not knowing which way to go? Will I choose that my heart be thrust through by the hopelessness I see all around?

The light of love sends the answer ringing back through time - NO!! Someone else suffered so we wouldn't have to - died to give us the choice of life, forgiveness and freedom - but will I choose to continue to walk in those or will I be hindered or side tracked by my own thoughts and feelings - unwilling to forgive myself? Jesus loves us enough to set us free, not only spiritually but mentally, emotionally and even physically - and that in a continuing fashion - IF WE SO CHOOSE! ec

Saturday, May 27, 2006

rough boys

An exasperated mother, whose son was always getting into mischief, finally asked him "How do you expect to get into Heaven?"

The boy thought it over and said, "Well, I'll run in and out and in and out and keep slamming the door until St. Peter says, 'For Heaven's sake, Dylan, come in or stay out!'"


A little girl asked her mother, "Can I go outside and play with the boys?"

Her mother replied, "No, you can't play with the boys, they're too rough."

The little girl thought about it for a few moments and asked, "If I can find a smooth one, can I play with him?" ec

Friday, May 26, 2006

BBH report 395

Blueberry Hill report 395.

A fair portion of my yard is infested with wild blackberries and while they do produce some few berries, the plants most often grow in all the wrong places. They are irritating enough in the edges of the yard but they want to overgrow my main blueberry patch and sneak over into the garden. It is really a pain – literally – to keep them ripped out of the good soil – I don’t use chemical killers.

Several years ago I purchased two thornless blackberries and planted them on the garden end of the yard over next to the house. These have grown well and have produced a fair amount of berries for the last couple of years. They have put on more berries this year than they ever have. The fruit is still green and about half-sized but they are growing and starting to get a bit of tint to them.

Just in case you are not aware of the growing habits of blackberries, they grow their canes one year – this is what the stalks are called – then they bear fruit the second year and the cane dies. The thing that is recommended is to cut all the fruiting canes as soon as you pick the last berry so the new canes for the next year can grow more freely.

These store-bought blackberries have canes that grow somewhat upright but I need to put up some wire to keep them from drooping as the berries get bigger. They are tied to a couple of metal stakes at the moment but are getting too big for them.

In addition to many flowers the family received at the time of FIL’s funeral, there were a dozen or so potted plants. One of these was a gardenia and I planted it at the corner of the house just down from the blackberries. Said gardenia seems to be having trouble making up its mind as to whether it will live or not. Maybe it is just not tough enough to live on the neglect it gets.

Sometimes we humans neglect our spiritual side, our soul, and this is detrimental to a person while alive and certainly when passing into eternity. Jesus made it possible for us to decide where we will spend the after-life – will we make the wrong choice by not choosing? ec

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Okra (also known as gumbo) is a tall-growing, warm-season, annual vegetable from the same family as rose of Sharon and hibiscus. The immature pods are used for soups, canning and stews or as a fried or boiled vegetable.

Gumbo is Swahili for okra. The recent upsurge in the popularity of gumbo (the soup) has also brought renewed attention to okra. Okra was brought to the new world by African slaves during the slave trade.

Okra is a powerhouse of valuable nutrients. Nearly half of the pod is soluble fiber in the form of gums and pectins. Soluble fiber helps to lower serum cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease. The other half is insoluble fiber, which helps to keep the intestinal tract healthy, decreasing the risk of some forms of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.

Okra exudes a unique mucilaginous juice, which is responsible for its thickening power in the famous Louisiana Creole gumbo dish. Aside from gumbo, okra compliments tomatoes, onions and corn, shellfish and fish stock. Okra has a subtle taste, similar to the flavor of eggplant.

The preceding information came from selected portions straight from the www. It seems that I have eaten okra in one form or another as far back as I can remember and have grown this veggie since I started having a garden – back in 1971 or so. Our family most often eats okra breaded and fried or the small pods in boiled form. The boiled is the easiest to eat; it just slides down with hardly any effort.

This subject was brought up to tell a true story about an odd okra producing method. At least 20 years ago a friend of mine and member of a large family raised a big garden every year and always grew several long rows of okra. One year she was having a hard time getting the plants to bloom, and as you know, if they do not bloom one does not get the okra pods.

An old black woman of her acquaintance told her that she had to ‘whip’ the okra to make it produce. She was ready to try anything because she supplied her whole family with okra. She cut a small tree limb for a switch and went down between the rows of okra and whipped them good, cutting up the leaves and shocking the plants to a fare-thee-well. That year she had more okra produced than she ever had. Thereafter it was a regular practice – after the plants got up to a certain size – to go out and ‘whip’ the okra.

Now in case you are concerned about me whipping my okra and maybe getting reported for being cruel to plants, this is not one of the methods I use – just thought it was very interesting. Sometimes toward the end of the season I will cut off the top of the plant to encourage it to branch out but nothing worse than that.

As the plants start to produce, I do rejoice greatly with each veggie I pick and am awed greatly by these and other plants of God’s creation that produce things for us to eat. God is good, all the time. ec

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

BBH report 388

Blueberry Hill report 388.

It was a bad day for the tomato row in the garden. Of the 15 plants, 3 had picked up some sort of viral or fungal type disease. Since I am the caretaker of the garden it became my sad duty to remove these infected plants before the ailment spread to the others. I’m not sure if there is a difference to the plant as to whether it is gently pulled from the soil or just ripped out, but since they were not weeds, they were gently pulled from the soil. Sadder still was that I had not named them as yet.

The three were tenderly carried to the refuse/burn pile to be reduced in bulk by rapid oxidation. As you may or may not know, if you handle healthy plants after touching diseased ones it can pass the infection on to them. This necessitated going inside and washing up – I wouldn’t want other plants to get some sort of ick from the very one that is supposed to be caring for them.

The remaining tomato plants will produce gracious plenty of the red fruit to supply our family and several others of our kin and acquaintance. What is needed now is straw for mulch and then to place the support baskets. The straw mulch holds down the weed growth and helps retain moisture in the soil.

This was also a sad day in my newest blueberry patch when one of the small struggling plants ceased to be a living entity. It was gently tugged from its earthy residence and carried to its final resting place. A plant dug from my main patch replaced the dearly departed. Even though this is not the normal season for transplanting, if I am diligent on keeping the new plant watered it may survive.

After a good rain the day before, the garden veggies are glowing in their vigorousness and seemed to be anxious to produce their produce. This was the day for the final thinning of the okra plants. The okra seeds are saved from year to year in the freezer and so there are always plenty. Because of this, when I plant this veggie, many seeds are placed in each ‘hill’ to make sure at least one will germinate and grow. This necessitates thinning the plants after they sprout. It is a bit like playing god when I have to decide which plant to pull up and which to leave.

I’m more content with letting God be God because, unlike me, He is good and always loves. ec

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

KS - Belgium

On or about 15 June, 1962, I traveled back down through Belgium to visit the site of the “Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles – Avril – Octobre 1958” or so says the small map of the area that I still have – basically it was the site of the World’s Fair of 1958. Working my way back southward, I continued making snapshots of any interesting building I saw. There were still a lot of damaged buildings not completely repaired from the bombings of WWII.

All the way through Belgium and Luxemburg was a time that I felt more alone than I ever had before – and maybe since. Went back through Germany and touched base with the family there that had been kind to me and then back to my base of residence near SHAPE. The trip wasn’t what I had planned, but it worked into a very interesting excursion – would have been better with a companion – Jesus would have been a great one, but I didn’t seem to think so at the time.

An event left out of the time line was a cross-country race I participated in – must have been the fall of 1961. A friend of mine talked me into entering an event in which I had never been involved – in fact, I had never run a race of any kind. In high school I was too occupied with my paper route and its early hours to be involved in any kind of sports.

The big race day finally came and I picked out one of the British guys about my size and determined to tag along with him. Unknown to me was the fact that this particular guy had played soccer most of his life and could run half the day without a rest. The start signal sounded and I proceeded to stay with him – for about a quarter mile (the race was over six miles, up and down hills), then my legs insisted – no – demanded that I walk a while. My own crew came by trying to encourage me to keep going, which I did – at a much slower pace.

Out of 70 plus entrants, I finally finished about 48th and was a much wiser, yet much more tired individual. Later I was to become a jogger for many years and learned how to pace myself – a lesson that started with that race! I was also running life’s race at the time, but I was running in circles – spiraling downward.

TBC - ec

Monday, May 22, 2006

KS - The Netherlands

13- While in Germany visiting my friend in the Air Force, we discussed old times and the hunting and fishing we used to do together. He asked me what I was going to do when I got out of the Army and I tossed out the casual comment that I would probably go home and marry Miss C. – this young lady and I had previously dated but we were not a hot item at that moment. Of course this was just one-on-one chitchat not meant for discussion with others – especially not with Miss C.

He went back to the states to get married and it so happened that his sister and Miss C were best friends at the time, and what do you think he mentioned to her the first time he saw Miss C? Of course it was the statement I made – to which she replied that she wouldn’t marry me if I were the last man on earth! We will come back to that statement somewhat later in these missives.

The next saved document was leave permission from 0001 hrs 12 June 1962 till 2400 hrs 16 June 1962. This was another subject my friend and I had discussed, me coming back up there – so I went back. As it happened, this was the time he had gone back to the states to get hitched, and either didn’t think to contact me or didn’t know how to do so in time. He had a one-time girlfriend in that location that I had got to know on the last trip, and she informed me about what had happened.

My first two days of leave was spent with this young lady’s family, this according to an old postcard I sent my Mom. This family had a typewriter and I did the no-no of adding several more countries on my leave and took off on a multi-national tour – right by myself. The postcard states that my route was north along the Rhine – taking photos of any castle, church or any other large, odd or old building I saw. It also mentioned that I stopped in Bonn to eat and then went into Holland – or the Netherlands.

Went through Amsterdam for a quick tour and on to Rotterdam where I spent the night in something like a bed and breakfast – nice place. Toured the area and remembered being fascinated by a barge in the harbor. It had a crane mounted on it and was moving around in the water by paddling with the bucket on the crane (must have been a dredge). Also saw many ocean going vessels docked in the harbor at that location.

TBC - ec

Sunday, May 21, 2006

grumpy bear

There is an old descriptive phrase “as grumpy as a bear”, and I believe I have discovered another reason that it is true – besides the several obvious ones. As you may or may not know, bears are pretty much omnivorous – this according to the list I saw. One of the foods listed was berries – and blackberries would certainly have to be one of these.

The vast majority of wild blackberries have thorns and since bears don’t have hands, deductive reasoning causes me to believe that they pick them with their mouth. When a bear is “as hungry as a bear”, it would follow that the animal is none too careful about the abundance of thorns surrounding the berries.

It would then seem to me that this type eating would tend to be at least somewhat painful, unless the bear’s mouth is much tougher than I think it is. It would again follow that being constantly pricked by the thorns would make the bear grumpy – hence the saying.

Perhaps you are wondering where all this is going and the reason for all this wonderful information. In other missives I have mentioned the plethora of wild blackberries in and about our yard. Most of the time my only dealings with these plants is to rip them up with gloved hands. Today I decided to try something different and see if I could pick enough of these wild berries to make a cobbler.

Several factors were involved in the picking of the berries. They could not be picked with gloved hands – their thorns, though small, are very sharp – not all the berries were ripe and had to be searched for – the berries were small – and this plant has a ‘trailing’ growth pattern. This last phrase of the sentence means that they grow along the surface of the ground and one has to lean over to pick them. One could always kneel on the ground to pick the berries but it is not happy time to kneel on thorns.

After about an hour of this struggle and having only picked about a pint of berries, I decided enough was enough and called a halt to my misery of fingers and back. Several things were learned – whether a person is good or bad, thorns still puncture skin – we need to decide when to call a halt to non-productive activity – if we are doing something that causes us pain, we are also the one that has to decide to quit before we get “as grumpy as a bear”. At least a couple of these can be used in a spiritual sense as well. ec

Friday, May 19, 2006

BBH report 381

The BBH in the title stands for Blueberry Hill, which is what I have taken to calling my place here.

The day had arrived for the cleaning out and cutting back of the shrubbery. They indeed were looking very scraggly and unkempt, plus the Spice of my life had mentioned in no uncertain terms that I needed to do something before the house became overgrown. Last year I had just hit them with “a lick and a promise” but now major work was necessary.

To make this situation worse, the front row has very prickly leaves – some type of holly I think. The green leaves of these are bad enough but the dried ones are like needles, going right through my gloves if they are grasped wrong. Wild blackberries had invaded also and had to be dealt with on top of all this. The handling of the residue brought to mind the scripture about having a thorn in the flesh – in a literal sense – in my case it was a multitude of punctures.

It has been stated that nature abhors a vacuum, and although none was apparent, several things besides shrubs were in residence in the bed. There was no way of telling how the seeds got there, but I had to dig up a mimosa, an oak, a sweet gum and one I was unable to identify that reminded me of a crabapple. Thankfully all these were still fairly small or it really would have been a major earth-moving project.

Around the corner was a small wild cherry (or Carolina cherry) that had to be dug out as well. This tree is good for nothing except producing berries for birds and for making a mess on driveways and sidewalks. Also dug up was a muscadine vine and various other briars and brambles. It took three loads in my large garden cart, full to the brim, to carry away the cuttings, trimmings and up diggings.

It makes me wonder if I need some spiritual trimming and pruning – I need to ask Someone about that. ec

Thursday, May 18, 2006


For some strange reason the word ‘lithe’ caught my eye recently and as I am wont (custom; habit; practice) to do, I looked the word up in my trusty Webster’s. Somewhat as I suspected, it means: bending readily; pliant; limber; supple or flexible. Now I have seen folks to which this definition could apply but I no longer seem to be one of them myself – if I really ever was.

Lithe is something I see in the movements of a cat and some, but not all, people when they dance. Years ago, when loosening up for a jog with my sister-in-law, I was bending the old back and stretching toward the floor – didn’t reach the floor, but was stretching toward it. I glanced over at my SIL and she had not only reached the floor but had her hands wrapped around her feet, that is lithe – and discouraging to me, I guess one has to do that sort of thing more than once or twice a year.

Another word I stumbled across and gazed at longingly was ‘slender’. One meaning was: having a circumference that is small in proportion to the height or length, such as a slender post. That could even apply to people but the main one for us was: thin or slight or light and graceful, such as slender youths. Looking back in my past, I don’t remember ever being called slender. Back then the horribly descriptive term was skinny or even worse, scrawny.

One of the meanings of the word ‘muscular’ is having well-developed muscles or brawny. The thesaurus supplied other words that mean mostly the same thing: strong, husky, powerful, burly, brawny, tough, strapping, well-developed, fit, athletic and sinewy. After much consideration and tough realization I arrived at the cold hard fact that if any of these words applied to me at all they would have to be prefaced with the words semi or slightly or the phrase ‘maybe used to be’.

Then there is the word agile – meaning quick and well-coordinated in movement or nimble, also active or lively. I’m not sure that I have ever been agile on purpose, at least not in the full meaning of the word. A few times I have been accidentally agile, like dodging something either thrown or self-propelled. Of course it could just as well have gone the other way, I could have dodged INTO the path of the aforementioned objects.

The word agile also encompasses mental areas as well and means to be marked by an ability to think quickly and/or be mentally acute or aware. I’m just not sure if this part of the meaning applies to me and to what extent. I’m reasonable sure that I can think quicker than the common amoeba and I am aware when things swat me in the face. This may leave me not looking like very much in the eyes of the world, but I know, that I know, that I have a Heavenly Father that loves me very much, and that is enough for me. ec

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

entre nous

Just between you and me, I like canned tuna - the small flat cans that are bought in bulk at Sam's. This product is usually mixed with a condiment or two and consumed in sandwich form. It has also been mixed into various soups and eaten in that manner.

The love of my life (in human form) does not share in the delight that I take in this fishy culinary article. In fact, it's just the opposite, she detests the odor given off by this ex-swimmer when I open the can. This dislike necessitates self-preparation of this particular meal. She has long past the screaming and running out the door stage - lacking the energy - she simply lights one of those scented candles until the ordeal is over.

My wife follows that old quote, "It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness" - or the tuna. ec

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

KS - army pay

A military pay voucher tells the amount of cash I received on 5 June 1962. My base pay was $150.00 for that month and a few extras brought it to $192.35, minus taxes and allotments my final draw was $124.00 – again, that was for the whole month, but it was probably my highest payday in the Army! This was not a profession in which to get rich, even though that amount would buy much more back then than today.

Talking about pay reminds me of what cured me of gambling, that and the two old containers of poker chips on my study shelf – now used in made-up games with kids. It seems that a group of us used to play poker with these chips and someone of the group would run a tab for the month and would collect on payday. This went OK for a couple of months, until I came up owing $52.00 one month – back when I was making about $80.00 for that period of time – and I was cured! Never tried it again in any form or fashion.

Normally I was fairly frugal and was able to make my funds last for the whole month, even though at times I was only left with enough cash for the on-base movie – admission was one French franc – about 20 cents. Sometimes we had to supply one or two of our “pauper” buddies with the entrance fee at the end of the month.

This little movie-house was frequented quite often, especially before I achieved personal transportation. Many movies were seen there, but the only one I really remember was “One-Eyed Jacks” starring Marlon Brando – back in 1961. The bad guy was Karl Malden and Brando’s love interest was Pina Pellicer. Will never forget the opening scene in which Brando was sitting on a counter in a bank that he was helping rob, stuffing his face with a banana – always thought that scene was cool but weird, and so very Brando.

When we had a couple of months left in service everybody called it getting “short”. I was now getting very “short” and most ready to see the good ole USA, most certainly the Southern part of it, and the home folks. What would I do then? One thing I knew that I didn’t want to do was to re-enlist in the Army!

TBC - ec

Monday, May 15, 2006

KS - VW bug

12- One of the letters written home spoke of my request for Dad to borrow enough money for me to buy a VW automobile while there and repay him when I got back. Even with the added expense of paying to ship it home when I came back to the States, it would still be cheaper than buying it in Georgia. One of the postcards I sent Mom from Spain had a PS that told of receiving the requested check just before I left SHAPE to go on leave.

In my file there is a “Request to Purchase and Register a Vehicle” form dated 2 May 1962 – it was approved. It lists the vehicle to be bought as a VW, 1962 and the color blue. On the bottom it lists – “Driving Record” - excellent - they didn’t mention hitting the back of the Renault. Then “Off Duty Habits and Conduct” – excellent - it’s a good thing they didn’t count morals or spiritual values. Under “Disciplinary Record” – excellent - that was true to a point, but it was fear that kept that area mostly straight. Then it had my date of leaving France: July 1962.

Next paper was a “Certificat De Vente” from Diffusion Automobile in downtown Paris saying I had purchased the car – dated 11 May 1962. In a letter dated 15 May, I told my Mom that I had picked up the car and had got some insurance on it – just enough to last me while over there. Still have a receipt for the insurance payment as well. If my memory serves, the total price of the vehicle was $1,420.00.

The letter also mentioned that I had been seeing a British girl – this was the only other decent girl I had contact with while in Europe. It was quite a switch – someone that could speak English and of decent character too – what a concept! We did a lot of sightseeing together in those last couple of months. She was employed as an au pair for a wealthy French family.

The letter also mentioned that I was planning to go see a friend I grew up with – he was stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany – in the Air Force, naturally. I also still have a map, given to me by the VW people, and it shows all the places in Germany that had a VW dealer – most every town of any size.

Next paperwork was that for a three-day pass to Germany to go see my friend there. It was from 1700 hrs 31 May 1962 till 1700 hrs 3 June 1962, and the trip there and back was uneventful. While there was a different story – he worked as a bartender at the NCO club on his off time, and I proceeded to impress him and his squad mates with my inability to hold my liquor. It was not pretty – it seems that he had to do some cleaning up behind me. Old times were not the only things we talked about the next day. Was that what “really living” was all about?

TBC - ec

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Today was the day I have been dreading – the day of no more blueberries. The last few of these frozen delights saved from last year were used to enliven my cereal this morning, to give pep to a sometimes-slow part of my day. Now they are gone and a replacement will have to be found to spice up the morning blandness of my cereal. It’s not that I’m totally against blandness, but in the morning I do need more than that to really awaken this ancient physical frame and mind of mine.

Bland is not great in food but that can be flavored or spiced up and made acceptable to the palate. But when a person’s life in other areas, especially the spiritual, is considered bland there is more of a problem. A non-existent spiritual life is a horrible thing but in some ways the bland spiritual life is even worse. The ancient Book of Truth says that folks living like this are those “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.”

Some know just enough about the Bible and God to make them miserable and they know nothing of the real love, forgiveness and vibrant joy that God meant for us to have. The Scripture speaks of the bland spiritual ones like this – “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”

The genuine church and believer should have the power of God in evidence in their services and lives. This power should change lives for the better, bring peace, show love and make the world a better place to live. Why have so many people given up on church? Because many churches have just become social organizations and have no real lasting effect for the better in the cities and towns in which they are located.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” ec

Friday, May 12, 2006


In today's environment of safety seats and straps, even the very young can have the thrill of swinging. This is in contradiction to the "old days" and having to be old enough to hold on to the ropes or chains that held the swing seat. Of course, if you didn't hold on, the gravity of the situation took over and you usually wound up with abrasions and/or contusions - this creating incentive to hold on next time.

Memories of my much younger years are a bit murky, but I remember having trouble learning how to propel myself on a swing - as opposed to being pushed by someone else. The older kids were swinging without being pushed, but somehow I had difficulty with this self propelling action. After finally grasping the principles, I found it as easy as falling out of a swing.

This great knowledge has now been passed on to others, including the two grand ones that are old enough to know to hold on. The swing seats of today seem to be more of a large pouch rather than the hard wooden ones of the past. These older seats were much easier to jump out of at great height, thrilling oneself, other watchers and maybe even the medical personnel that came to pick you up and put you back together.

Another type of swing is the rope in a tree with an auto tire tied on the end of it. One of these is relatively simple to make, yet offers many hours of fun time swinging. More simple still is just a rope tied high in a tree. This is done many times near a body of water to make it possible for the swinger to drop off at the point in their outward swing that would enable them to splash into a creek, river or even a mud-hole.

Problems involved in this latter activity is letting go the rope at the wrong time and falling on the bank or not letting go at all and crashing back into the tree. These mistakes in judgment can cause loss of portions of outer epidermis and/or colorful bruises and/or necessitate stitches in the skin - with the additional possibility of bone fractures.

The decline in popularity of the old-fashioned porch swing is lamentable but was bound to happen because these instruments of relaxation took much too much time. These swings had room enough for two or three people and were places that real conversations could take place - what a concept! This seat of movement was also a place where many romances were started - or continued.

These swings of old were hung by chains to hooks that were firmly embedded (hopefully) in the support wood of the ceiling of the porch. The weight of the swing and swingers would usually cause a slight squeak-squawk when it was in operation, thereby having the effect of calming the nerves of the swingers. Today most folks don't take time to calm their jangled nerves in such a fashion and seem determined to emotionally run themselves into the ground.

A swing substitute would be some sort of rocking chair, plus this is not as dangerous for us older folks. My personal preference is the glider rocker, even though it doesn't have the calming squeak-squawk noise when in operation. The chair of this type in my possession is the one given to me for Christmas 1996. This gift coincided with my return home from hernia surgery and was my favorite and only seat for several weeks.

This chair is still my favorite and my most often one of occupation - and not just because it has all the remotes in the side pockets. Many times I just sit and rock, sometimes even in the dark, thinking about the affairs and complexities of life. Times of prayer happen there as well, having the effect of giving peace and the proper answers to the questions in my life. ec

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

back porch

The phrase ‘back porch’ feels very relaxing to me, even if the back porch of reference is in Cookeville, Tennessee. We are still here for a few more days and as I let the dogs out in the back for a while, I decided to just sit there on the porch, relax and take in whatever sights and sounds that were available.

For a back porch to really be what it ought to be, several conditions should be met. First, the porch should be situated on the house so as not to get the hot afternoon sun. It should only be on the evening sun side of the residence if it is entirely shaded by a huge oak or magnolia tree.

Then the porch needs to be open enough to be available for any breeze that happens along. This would satisfy the near primal need for wind in the face – even if it only is a slight waft of air. But there are those hot steamy evenings, for which the Deep South is noted, in which a breeze wouldn’t dare raise its sweet head. This is the time to go inside and turn on the air conditioner, if one is available.

Another thing necessary for a proper back porch is something to sit in that rocks or swings. This could take any of several forms, an actual swing attached to the ceiling of the porch by chains, a glider rocker or one of several types of rocking chairs.

The present porch of my occupation – or pre-occupation – contains these necessary basic elements. My backside is resting in a wicker rocker as I gaze out with eyes, mind and emotions at the back yard of my older daughter.

Their basic swing/gym set is quietly resting in the growing shadows of evening. This set is of wood and was built from plans and material obtained from the local Lowe’s. It was constructed by my SIL and my daughter’s favorite Dad during a visit several years ago; it still looks in pretty good shape. The trampoline is also in repose, its young bouncers being otherwise occupied at the moment.

The dogs, usually inside, are having a wonderful time of exploring their yard. Because of his age, Bogey doesn’t range very far from the back door and is busy sniffing the scent history of his little corner of the world. Jasmine is the daring wanderer and it seems that she has found something sufficiently smelly in which to roll – and is so doing.

The back yard neighbor is shooting hoops at the end of his driveway, winding down from his work day. A mockingbird just chased a rival away from its chosen turf. Other birds are making their best effort at a natural concert – and doing quite well. A gentle breeze is making the leaves on their trees do a slow dance and all is well in my world – thanks, Father God. ec

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

KS - Geneva

The date was either the 21st or the 22nd of April 1962 and we were generally following a Shell touring guide of Northern Italy – still contained in my file – showing tourist information sites and giving travel phrases in six languages. We went through Milano and on toward the mountains to get into Switzerland. The passes were still closed due to snow and we had to back track to go through a tunnel. This was a railroad tunnel and to get through we had to pay the fare, drive up on a flat bed train car and ride this through the mountains.

After getting off the railroad car, we still had a bit of a journey through the mountains to get to Geneva and there was plenty of snow along the roadway. We stopped to make some photos and when I stepped off the road into the snow, I sank up to my backside. That was chilly to say the least, considering I was not really dressed for that – nor expecting it.

One of the photos taken along this route showed us heating a can of soup with a container of Sterno – a sign that we were nearly out of money. We just pulled off the side of the road and cranked up our small heat source for a bite to eat. These were our emergency rations; we were probably starting to miss army chow by that time.

A receipt dated 23 April 1962 indicated that I stopped in a bank in Geneva to exchange some currency from one type to another more usable kind. This city was situated on a large beautiful lake. We toured the area for a while and eventually headed back to Paris. Our leave was until the 25th, but if memory serves, I believe we got back at least a day early. As much as I was letting the military bug me, it was still good to get back into my regular army bunk.

This bunk, with my wall and footlocker, was my own little corner of the world for most of the whole time I was over there. If memory serves, it was an eight-man room and my space was in the right far corner next to the windows. When getting into bed, I never un-tucked my covers, but slid in from the top and slept like a caterpillar in its cocoon.

I always slept well, but it was a wonder, considering the bruising I was giving my conscience. Why did it seem to take so many scars to gain even a small amount of wisdom? This included some lessons that had to be relearned on several occasions.

TBC – ec

Monday, May 08, 2006

KS - Rome

11- The vacation/European tour saga continues. Three post cards from that time trace our tour route through Cannes and Nice on April 18, 1962. We then went through Monaco and Monte Carlo and on into Italy that same day. The writing on one card did mention that the weather was too bad for photos – rainy and cold.

The narratives on the cards were not nearly as exacting as I now would have had them to be. We continued on into Italy, passing through Genoa (spelled Genova in that country) and Pisa – the location of the leaning tower of the same name. The photos I had seen in school and otherwise couldn’t compare with being up close and personal with history.

Then it was on to Rome with its traffic and mass confusion. The traffic was something like rush hour Atlanta without the Interstates, except the cars were smaller and much louder – their horns were anyway.

The three of us visited the ruins of the old city and got many photos of these crumbling remains of ancient times. When viewing the Coliseum, I was amazed by the thought of its history and the remaining portions still standing. This from the small amount of its history I knew at the time – my real interest in events of the past didn’t happen until years later. I wonder how many lives – animal and human – were sacrificed for the entertainment of others in that arena.

We went by the Vatican for a look-see – I don’t remember the name of the Pope back then, but we didn’t see him anyway. I do remember a lot of pigeons, but I don’t remember if I saw them then or in a movie since that time. We did check out the buildings and the way they were constructed – this was a rather large complex.

One town in which we spent the night was a place on the sea called Civitavecchia. Then on the way back North we stayed the night in Pisa on the 20th. The card from that location said that we ate supper at an American military base just outside of town. It also said we took a dip in the sea and mentioned how cold it was.

My memory file contains a stub from the Automobile Club D’Italia from the Pisa area that cost 100 lira, but I can’t remember how much money that translated into or what it was all about – possibly for parking. My brain might as well have been parked for all the good I was doing for others or even myself at that time in my life.

TBC – ec

Sunday, May 07, 2006

the last time

This is possibly the last time we will visit this location in Tennessee. This town of Cookeville is the present residence of OD (older daughter) but all that is about to change. They have officially informed us that SIL is being promoted and they are moving to Freeport, Texas. This is a good opportunity for him but will increase the miles between us from about 380 to an almost even 1000 miles. This move is to take place for SIL starting at the end of June and the family is to move in early July.

As you might have gathered, we are here in Tennessee for a visit. The purpose of our trip is to take care of young ones while OD and SIL take an anniversary junket out west that was already planned before the big news. We left semi-early on Saturday morning and arrived around noon to their place of abode. Our charges are GM2 and GM5 – of course the GM is for grunt monkey and that is the same as grandchildren.

OD and SIL got away in the early pm on Saturday and so for the next few days it will be the Spice and I with the young ones and two dachshunds. These two canines think they are the actual owners of the place and that we people are just here for their convenience. The older, short-hair, usta-be male is Bogey and he is not quite up to par. The younger, long-hair, usta-be female, Jasmine, is the much more energetic one and always in Bogey’s face – not vicious, just almost intolerably friendly.

Then I thought about the phrase ‘the last time’ and pondered about what a melancholy saying that was – sad at times and yet very memory evoking at others. ‘The last time’ I saw Paris, France was the summer of 1962, I was single, 21 years old and should have been very happy to be there. Such was not the case because I had already been there 22 months, was very homesick and had had enough of Europe in general and France in particular.

There was a time that I ran on a regular basis and for many years, ‘the last time’ I ran is listed in a personal record book in my study – I always kept a record of time, date and distance. Because of the stress on my lower back, I am now relegated to speed walking – and am very happy to still be able to do that.

The date was July 1, 2002 and this was ‘the last time’ I reported to work for BellSouth Telephone Company. This retirement ‘adventure’ has not been regretted but I still have trouble getting myself in a daily routine. My propensity is to do just exactly what I want to do, but this doesn’t lend itself to a lot of preventive maintenance. This in turn tends toward, no, demands, reactive maintenance and this in turn doesn’t evoke happy faces from Spice.

Some day we will each have a time that will be ‘the last time’ we breathe. But this is not a real problem from an eternal perspective if we have taken care of the “sin problem”. God offers forgiveness and cleansing from any wrong we have ever done but we do have to make the choice to accept it. ec

Friday, May 05, 2006

in the middle

One bad thing about being a middle of the road type person is that it's easy to get run over out there. I've seen some middle of the road type animals, namely the possum, and then usually just the squashed corpse thereof.

This makes me wonder (see how one thing leads to another) what percentage of possums that start across the road actually make it to the other side. I don't think the kill rate is 100% because I have missed a few of them myself, unless they went back across in front of another car.

Possums fall into the category of animals that are omnivorous to even the eating of animal parts that have long ago reached ambient temperature. My eating habits tend to be somewhat in the direction of omnivorous-ness, but I do draw the line at road kill, at least if I'm aware that it is.

I do have some food allergies though, and if I eat too much of certain foods, I will break out – in fat! The word fat reminds me of pigs and since one thing leads to another, the question comes to mind – is hogwash and sheep dip the same thing? Sometimes one part of my post relates to the others and sometimes not.

Here's a word for you - inextinguishable - I would use it to describe the joy that comes from God. Even satan can't dampen this joy; much less put it out - unless we allow him to do so. Usually he tries to fool us into believing that we are in such dire circumstances that we then loosen our grip on the very joy of the Lord that is our strength. God made joy available to us, but it is our choice as to whether or not we make - and keep - it a part of our lives. ec

Thursday, May 04, 2006

the goats of Acryl

The label in the sweater said 100% Acrylic - Made in Hong Kong. Given the fact that wonderful sweaters are made from wool, cashmere, mohair and alpaca - and these come from animals - I couldn't help but wonder what kind of animal acrylic came from.

After much research (several minutes) throughout my animal library facilities, copious amounts of deductive reasoning and a few SWAGs, I have narrowed it down a bit, but as yet have not come up with a single mention of this animal anywhere. But the manufacturing location of the sweater leads me to believe that it is from somewhere in the Far East.

The total lack of information tells me this animal is a closely guarded secret, but probably is a very hardy sheep or goat from a high mountain range. The name of the material tells me it must be a small country guarded by inaccessible, altitudinous terrain whose name almost has to be Acryl, because everything from there is Acrylic.

Evidently the acryl animal is a very prolific hair grower because this type material is seen throughout cloth-dom and more specifically, sweater-dom. The people of Acryl have to be a very caring, careful people, for if they sheared too much from the animal, it would freeze in the terrible temperature extremes that I assume their home country must have and the whole Acrylic economy would collapse.

The material has a feel of springy plasticity causing me to farther conclude that the Acryl animal must be a goat and omnivorous to the point of consuming not only grass and other plant material but also the plastic waste of this tiny country, showing us recycling's finest by-product.

The search for and the saga of this animal will continue until all the facts are out. If any of you know anything about this creature or its country of origin, please let me know. ec

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

abs of paper

Well, here I am again, wandering through the dictionary, admiring the words along the way. I noticed that ab inito was Latin for ‘from the beginning’ and I also took note that ab ovo likewise means ‘from the beginning. Latin is mostly Greek to me but it seems to me that there are, or at least should be, subtle differences in those meanings. The first of these is possibly leaning toward the beginning of an action and the second toward the start of a living thing of some sort.

How was I to know without word exploration that abaft meant to the rear of or toward the stern. I was a bit abashed that I didn’t know that an abatis was a defensive obstacle formed from rows of tree branches, with an end of each branch facing outward toward the enemy. Nor did I know that an abat-jour was a device for diverting light into a building, such as a skylight or reflector.

One of the meanings of an abecedarian is a beginner in any field, which is what I sometimes feel like in the field of language – even my own native tongue. The word abracadabra is any charm or incantation using nonsensical or supposedly magical words – it also means meaningless talk, gibberish or nonsense.

To abscond is to depart in a sudden and secret manner, especially to avoid legal prosecution. The person doing this action is usually taking something with them that does not belong to them, like money or someone else’s wife, husband or other person. Many times the ‘take with’ person is abetting them – which is to encourage or support by aid or approval, usually in wrongdoing.

The word absolute has several meanings, not the least is: viewed independently; not comparative; ultimate. Many folks in our world do not believe in absolutes, especially in the moral sense. I’m not exactly sure why some otherwise very intelligent people believe that everything is subjective and in so doing place excessive emphasis on their own moods, attitudes or opinions. The problem with this is that right and wrong can change definitions even several times in a day.

There are absolutes, things that are always right or always wrong. This is according to a Book I read daily and it is always the Truth. And the Truth does not vary because men forget, ignore or traduce it.

To absolve is to free from guilt or blame or their consequences. This is what God will do for us when we have done something that is absolutely wrong. This absolution was paid for by the death of Jesus and is eternal because of His rising from the dead and it is ours for the asking.

The phrase ‘a bientot’ is French for see you soon or so long. ec

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

KS - Barcelona

I have an old post card that Mom saved, depicting Zaragoza and also a couple more from Barcelona. We spent about three days in Barcelona - one of the cards said we got there on the 13th of April 1962. Still in my possession is a business card from the Hotel Villa Madrid - where we stayed - and a map of the city of Barcelona.

We went to a bullfight on the Sunday we were there – it was packed out, something like our pro football games. I still have a booklet from the event, telling some things about the proceedings – in fact I just noticed at this writing for the first time that it was also written in English. Inside were pictures of their usual bullfighters, with descriptive photos of the happenings in the ring.

It was a bad day for the bulls – none won that day, even though they put up a good fight – I think it was fixed. They tried to let one of them win, but he wouldn’t have any part of it and they finally allowed him to assume ambient temperature – with a little help. Then he – like the rest – was very unceremoniously dragged from the ring by a team of mules – probably to a nearby fresh meat market.

According to another post card, we headed back north on the 16th of April, crossing back into France. Our route took us along the French Rivera, but it was much too cold – and wet – for doing anything at the beach except for admiring it from a distance and a couple of damp, windblown photos. This card was from Marseille, dated 17 April 1962 and stated that we had slept a few hours in the car before arriving there that morning. Three full-grown guys snoozing in a VW bug was a bit crowded, to say the least. On the way there we passed through Perpignan, Narbonne, Beziers and Montpellier – all in France.

Our tour of Europe took place in peacetime, but there was an unseen war going on. The prize of this war had nothing to do with gold or possession of land – it was for the control of my soul. What made it all worse was the fact that I was aiding and abetting the enemy in his quest.

To be cont’d. ec

Monday, May 01, 2006

KS - Lourdes

10- The next document of note in my military file is an international driver’s license with the validation date of 24 March 1962. This was obtained to be able to drive in several countries on a leave coming up in April. This “Permis International de Conduire” is of special note because it has my picture – back when I still had hair!!! A lot of hair has gone under the bridge (or down the drain) since then.

Also contained is the paperwork for a 15-day leave in the countries of France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. Applied for on 19 March 1962, the extent of the leave was from 0001 hrs 11 April 1962 until 2400 hrs 25 April 1962. Then there are individual papers to enter the different countries also dated 19 March 1962.

There is a stamped and signed approval form for a supplementary gasoline ration of 280 liters – this because without that, gas would have cost more than two dollars a gallon - with the ration it was about 30 cents per. It even lists the car – a 1962 Volkswagen sedan – that two other guys and I had rented for our sweeping, international tour of a large part of Southern Europe.

On 11 April 1962 the three of us piled our stuff into the little VW and headed south. We had obtained a map of Europe – which I still have – and I noticed that we marked our route as we went. Cities we went through in France were: Chartres, Tours, Poitiers, Limoges, Perigueux, Agen, Tarbes and Lourdes. This latter city was visited because of its importance to Catholics, which both of my companions were.

We spent the most of a day visiting the church there, the grotto and the Stations of the Cross nearby. Looking back, I think I subconsciously envied their devotion, as I had pretty much turned my back on my own religious training. We spent the night and started out next morning, passing through Pau and on to Bayonne and Biarritz, still in France. Crossing into Spain our first town was San Sebastian on the Atlantic coast. Then to Pamplona – no, the bulls were not running through the city that day – on through Zaragoza, Lerida and to Barcelona on the Mediterranean.

TBC - ec