Friday, May 28, 2010

Remember Those Who Sacrificed Therir Lives

A few weeks ago when I called attention to VE Day the first comment I received was that there are too many dates to remember.  Very true, but whether you remember VE Day, VJ Day, or any dates of wars or significant battles, or your birthday, your wife's birthday, or your wedding anniversary, please  give a thought to those who died so we can have freedom.   Memorial Day is more than the unofficial first day of summer but is to honor and commemorate those who gave their lives in defense of this nation.  Men and women are still giving their lives; the death toll in Afghanistan has just reached l,000.   Take a moment to remember them and to pray for their families. I accept that there are many opinions as to how and when the observance began, but Congress established the last Monday in May as the official day  and this year  that is May 3l.

If you will pardon a personal note -- some years ago when I was elected commander of the local American Legion post, I committed to myself that the post would remain a l00 per cent post in membership and that all programs would be continued. One of these was Memorial Day, and we had a simple service with music and an oration by a local minister.  When the service was concluded some Gold Star mothers came by to thank me for the service, saying they appreciated it.  One lady had tears in her eyes  as she said, in almost these exact words, "Please continue this every year, it means so much to us who lost a loved one."  I have never forgotten that.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Kindergarten Graduation Stirs Thoughts

Attended kindergarten graduation of grandson Kyle last week.  Five teachers were in charge of more than 200 boys and girls.  I was thinking -- I hope these children will enter first grade this fall with some knowledge of the magic of numbers and the ability to read.  Most important, will they have an enjoyment in reading and a burning desire to learn.  

Babies are born with the ability and eagerness to acquire knowledge in a hurry.  That enjoyment in learning must be kept alive.  It is distressing to hear a first grader say he doesn't like school.  Someone has failed him. The most important teacher is not the algebra teacher in high school nor the physics professor in college; it is the kindergarten, first grade and second grade teacher.  These are the grades where the joy of learning is inspired and nourished or, sadly, discouraged.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Retirement System Problems

The Times- Picayune reports that Sally Clausen, commissioner of higher education, retired one day in 2009 so she could receive $90,625 plus a $12,212 monthly pension starting August l.  Sally Clausen taking advantage of the retirement system is symbolic of the problems with government employment -- federal, state and local. The job Sally has done with the educational system could have been done as well by a part-time McDonald worker making l0 dollars an hour.  Some of  the salaries paid to political state officials are obscene, but that happens when  politics is involved. Apart from that, retirement systems  all over the nation are dealing with with unfunded liabilities in the billions, and.  Louisiana is among the seven states in the worst condition.

The day is coming when private sector workers, who have only a shaky social security retirement to look forward to, will refuse to vote more taxes and those exorbitant benefits will be in trouble.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cabbages and Other Things

I have written comments on several current events but have not finished them so of course have not posted them.  I find it difficult to keep interested in writing if no one  is reading  what I write, or at least not commenting.
Well, it's not all bad. I learned today that I am entitled to the FOS military commendation, an award I earned more than 65 years ago but did not realize it.

I was watching  an episode of the British comedy, "As Time Goes By," when Lionel and Jean were involved in a fracas with some thuggish snobs (or snobbish thugs) in the town Li and Jean visit on weekends. The affair was about to get physical when Jean said, in a threatening way, " Lionel served in Korea where he earned a KBM." As they left Lionel asked what she meant. Jean explained it meant Kicked By Mule.  A light came on for me as I realized I had earned the FOS, Fell Off Ship. Maybe it will be presented to me along with the Philippine Liberation Medal.  I can wait.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Missionary Trip and Other Remarks

Immediately after church services today l3 men left for Dulac where they will work a week repairing two houses. It us remarkable and admirable that a church of this size could have l3 men who are committed, have the time, and are physically able to engage in this mission activity. Some others are expected to join them in this work.

Tom Howe's sermon this morning was on place, a word that can  be used in a good way, as "There is a place for you at my table," or in a bad way, as "There's no place for you here."  He related the  often told story of someone taking a seat in an almost empty church and having a person coming by and say, "Move, you are in my place."  That brought to mind an incident about 20 years ago when I went into a Burger King on Hearne Avenue, got a sausage biscuit, and sat at a table that had two places.  Only three or four customers were in the restaurant when a man walked over to me and said, "Move, that's my place. I've been coming here for years and  I always sit there." I was so surprised, yet amused, that I got up and gave him what must have been  the only reserved seat in any hamburger joint anywhere.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Making Ribbon Cane Syrup

Opened a fairly costly bottle of syrup recently that boldly proclaimed itself to be Pure Ribbon Cane Syrup.  I know what ribbon  cane syrup is and this  stuff  more resembled black strap molasses used on horse feed. When we used to open a bucket of ribbon cane syrup the underside of the lid would have drops of a golden elixir free from impurities.   It brought back my memories of growing cane and making syrup.

One of the hardest jobs on the farm, for man and beast, was making syrup, but it was fun and in a way an enjoyable social occasion.  First the cane had to be harvested.  We grew ribbon cane, a thick purple stalk with stripes running down the cane.  The stalks were stripped of blades (leaves), cut down and hauled to the syrup mill.   Our mill was situated on a bank of the Bellevue road half way between our house and that of  Uncle Perry. The mill consisted of  heavy metal rollers attached to a beam pulled by teams of mules and horses. Juice extracted by the rollers ran into one end of a copper pan, which was some three feet wide by l2 feet long.  The pan had baffles, which allowed the juice to be moved along as it cooked, coming out as syrup at the far end.  The pan was over a  brick structure open at both sides to allow wood to be fed to keep the fire burning. Dad said the secret to making syrup was keeping the temperature right and constantly skimming.  We made syrup for other farmers, some who brought  cane  while others brought sorghum. We collected a toll and when I found that we charged a higher rate for sorghum I asked why. Dad explained that sorghum syrup wasn't worth much and was hard on the mules.  He would be amazed if he saw  the price that sorghum syrup in cute little jugs sells for today. 

We got out of the syrup business and even quit growing cane a few years after Uncle Perry was killed in a crash with a train.  Dad had bought an expensive new copper pan but  he let it go for scrap, seeming to lose heart after his brother died. They had a long history of making syrup together. (I have a copy of a postcard which shows Dad and Uncle Perry and three hands harvesting cane and is inscribed as taking place in 1905 on T. T. Lowe's farm at Waldo, Ark.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Watermelon Story

Farm families during the depression faced this truth -- if you don't grow it, you don't eat it.  We grew almost all of our food except for a few essentials like flour, for which we traded eggs.  We had goals of when we expected certain foods to be ready, including new potatoes and English peas by Mother's Day and watermelon by the 4th of July.  A priority crop for Dad was watermelons and a close second was cantaloupes. Preparing the ground for watermelons included spreading a wagon load of  fertilizer in early spring.  Rows were plowed about six feet wide to allow room for the vines to spread.  When cultivating the melons, vines were moved from one side to the other (a job for the youngsters) until watermelons became too large to move.

We were generally successful in growing both watermelons and cantaloupes and enjoyed them daily during July and August.  Some years Daddy would hitch a mule to a sled and about dawn would visit the patch, returning with a load of large and small melons.  The smaller melons were fed to the pigs but not until they were  broken opn and the hearts eaten.  As soon as he arrived from the field, the back porch screen door would go bang, bang, bang, as first one and then another and another of the younger kids would  join Dad in a pre-breakfast of watermelon.  

One year as usual our watermelon patch was located out of sight of any roads and paths through our fields, watermelon and sugar cane being too tempting to passers-by. This particular season we were keeping watch on one large melon that would be ripe and ready for eating on July Forth.  Alas, when we went to pick it, there was no melon, only the mark on the ground where it had lain.  A thief  evil beyond understanding had beaten us to it.  No melon for July Forth but a few days later we selected several promising melons. We eagerly cut one only to find it was no good, then a second and a third and they were all the same. Apparently the seed company, a reputable one still in business, had allowed watermelons to cross with citrons. A season was lost. We had one consolation; imagine the disappointment the thief had when he opened his stolen melon.Thankfully for us; we had a later and smaller patch to carry us through the summer.

One year we had such an abundance of watermelons, we decided to try to sell some.  A load of our largest melons was left on consignment with a store west of Minden on Highway 80.  The merchant would have no risk, paying us only for watermelons that he sold.  A few days later we visited the merchant and found he had sold every melon, but we didn't collect a dime. He said every person who bought a melon claimed the melons were not good and asked for his money back.  We knew the melons were good but we did not know who was lying, the merchant or the customers, or both. 

As far as I remember we never tried again to sell watermelons; people just did not have money.  I remember
a time we loaded the Model  A with watermelons and delivered them thoughout the community.  If no one was at home, we left the melons on the porch or by the front door.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Louisiana Medals for World War II Veterans

Why or when Louisiana legislators decided to award medals to the state's World War II veterans, I don't know. I do know that some veterans have been presented medals in ceremonies with the governor.Nationally, World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 800 per day.  If the state wants to honor veterans before they all pass away, then award the medals to all veterans now. There is no need to drag the program out to give Governor Jindall photo opportunities, if that is what is going on.  Surely, the governor is a better man than that.

Personally, medals mean very little to me.  I wouldn't have any if my wife had not forged my name on an application. I might feel differently if I was entitled to a medal of real significance, such as a Purple Heart or a Silver Medal.  I'm still waiting for my Philippine medal, and I'll wait longer, because the veteran has to apply to the Philippines for it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Thomas Sowell Talks Sense on Slavery

Thomas Sowell in his column today said that it is being taught in school history classes  that whites have always been the slavers and Africans have always been the slaves, which is totally wrong.  North Africans enslaved Western Europeans and treated them much worse than slaves in America were treated, including sentencing men to lifetimes on galleys.  The historic truth is that most people, especially Americans, have ancestors who were slaves and other ancesters who were slavers.  Slavery exists now, particularly in Africa, but kidnapping and enslavement of girls for prostitution goes on in many places, even in the United States, to our shame.

Visiting Veteran Talks About Okinawa

Met a fellow World War II veteran at church today.  He lives close by the church and came on his motorized scooter.  Jack ( I did not get his last name) served on a Coast Guard cutter at Okinawa where his ship shot down four or five kamikaze planes, and, he regrets, an American plane when control red was called and ships shoot at all planes.   We agreed that Okinawa was probably the most important battle of the war, although the 65th anniversary of the battle passed with little observance.  Jack said  several times that Truman saved his life, referring to the dropping of the atom bomb, which convinced Japan to surrender, thus making an invasion unnecessary.  Okinawa was the only battle in which United States had more casualties than did Japan.  Many Okinawan civilians lost their lives, also.  Jack does craft work, including making bird houses.  I'll probably drop in on him in a few days.