Sunday, March 31, 2013

What a day! What a weekend!

A hailstorm led off Saturday, with a heavy rain following.  The internet went off on the computer and, as far as we know, stayed off all night and Sunday morning.

We  visualize Easter as being warm and sunny with flowers in bloom.  It wasn't that way Sunday. Rains came falling heavily and then at about five minutes before church was to start the lights went out. Later we learned some 9,000 Shreveporters were without power.  When we got home at 12:30, we found we were among them.

But let me get back to church. Utilizing small battery powered candles, the choir opened with Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.  Services continued with more Easter music and sermon by the pastor.  The Easter egg hunt was relocated from the lawn to Fellowship Hall.

We required no artificial light for an excellent lunch for the family and guests, including Brighton Wayne Lowe.

How am I writing this?  The lights came back on at 6:30.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Less than two days from Okinawa

This day in 1945, the USS Pickens was in a convoy of 2,000 ships of  various sizes and capabilities, headed for Okinawa and whatever action that would bring.  We had taken on board Marines from the Second Division, completed training with them and on March 27 left Saipan for Okinawa.  At this time we were less than two days away from perhaps the most important battle of the war.

I have no memory of some activities described by Mark  White, pharmacist mate and ship photographer, but he was writing shortly after the events so I take his word. He said that while on the way we had "regular song fests, music hours, boxing matches and other recreation."  He points out, though, we were in constant danger from suicide planes and boats.

Happy Easter, all

Happy Easter to you and your families as we join in celebrating the risen Christ. 

Easter, which falls on March 31 this year, can come as early as March 22 and as late as April 25.  At the first Council of Nicaea, called by the emperor Constantine in 325 AD, Easter was established as the first Sunday after the first Paschal (spring) full moon.  The date is unimportant as we as Christians believe Christ's death and resurrection freed us from sin.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

News I would prefer to miss

IRS (don't you love 'em) projects the cheapest Obamacare plan to cost $20,000 per family.  Of course, it will not cost some 9 million families; Obamacare  will force them to lose their health insurance.
More than 110 million Americans have a sexually transmitted disease, according to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control.  (Some body has had a lot of unsafe sex.)     
President Obama and family take lavish vacations more than once a month.  (If the president would stay in one of those countries, the money would be well spent.)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Remembering the Ben Franklin

As the anniversary of the battle for Okinawa approaches, my thoughts include the attack on the  Franklin aircraft carrier.   On March 19, 1945, a single Japanese plane managed to bomb the Franklin, setting it afire. Casualties were high, 724  losing their lives, but enough crew remained on board to get the ship moving and on to Brooklyn.  The ship was 50 miles from the Japanese mainland when attacked.

We on the Pickens were stunned with news of the attack.  It was especially sad for us radarmen when we learned that 45 of the 48 radarmen aboard lost their lives. We were acquainted with some of the radarmen.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

That's not the solution, school board

Caddo parish school board has apparently decided to make that common mistake -- take the same action over and over again while expecting different results.  The board will employ a high-cost head hunter to search for a school superintendent, pay him or her a big salary and expect that to result in  failing schools
  getting  well.  So far, that has not happened; 20 schools are graded F and could be taken over by the state.  That is no guarantee the schools will improve.

Why are some schools succeeding while others similar in student bodies fail miserably?  Why do we not make a serious effort to find the answer?  We know that some teachers are capable and dedicated while some are incapable, disinterested or lazy.  Some students will learn no matter how bad their school is while others are incapable or disinterested.  Some parents care and some could care less.

Knowing all this I continue to ask -- why are some schools good and  others so bad?  Paying superintendents big money is just not enough action to solve our school problem.  The answer is not that easy.

Monday, March 25, 2013

When 15 cents meant more than money

When I attended LSU years ago, I got rides home with other students and sometimes took the train, but most of my trips from Baton Rouge were by hitch hiking. I've talked about some of my experiences, some good and some not so good.

Almost always I found rides easier to get on Highway 7l to Shreveport and on Highway 80  east.  Once, and only once, I found myself leaving Alexandria on Highway 167.  As expected, rides were difficult to get but finally late at night I reached Minden.  I entered the bus station and asked for a ticket to McIntyre.  The lady tore off the ticket, handed it to me and said "15 cents."  I searched my pockets and could not find even one cent.  I have no inkling why I was traveling without any money but I gave the lady an embarrassed smile, handed the ticket back, picked up my bag, and left the bus station.

While walking down the hill toward Highway 80 and thinking I would probably have to walk five miles to reach home, I heard the sound of someone in high heels running after me and calling "wait, wait."  I stopped, turned around and saw the lady from the bus station.  She handed me the ticket and said, "Don't ever say I never gave you anything."

Random acts of  kindness are not something new.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Celebrating Palm Sunday

Some expected him to come into Jerusalem   as a military leader riding a big horse, but he entered the city on the back of a lowly donkey.  That did not matter to the common people; they greeted him waving palms and tossing flowers, shouting "Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!" Bad things were ahead for Jesus, but today was a time of triumph as the people showed their love for him.

He would take the Passover meal with his disciples, charging them to remember him as they took bread and wine, symbolizing his body to be broken for them.  He would be tried, condemned and nailed to the cross, but victory would follow as he would arise from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Jessica to go to Michigan church

Jessica this week learned that her summer assignment will be with First United Methodist Church of Birmingham, Mi.  She will have a variety of duties and will preach at least four sermons.  She requested and will be permitted to attend the Methodist annual conference at Centenary which will result in her first Sunday in Birmingham being June 2.

Birmingham had a  population slightly more than 20,000 according to the last census.  It is some 20 miles from Detroit.

First Methodist Birmingham is a large church and is involved in many activities and benefits.   Traditional services are held at 8:30; 9:30 and 11, with contemporary services also at 11.  A picture on the church web site indicates the choir is very large.

This assignment places Jessica even farther from home. She presently lives in Durham, N.C., while attending Duke.  Birmingham is about 14 hours distant from Durham and much farther from Shreveport. Thank goodness for cell phones.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Damn the torpedoes

give me the range on the ship ahead."  One of our radarmen changed Farragut's supposed demand to reflect our frustration with those  serving as Officer of the Deck who annoyed us with that request every minute or so.

The USS Pickens was second behind the Hinsdale in our column of  troop ships loaded with Marines and headed for Okinawa.   We were just one week away from that Japanese island and knew that we were getting closer and closer to danger from attacks by suicide planes.  We were watching our radars intently, knowing that  by the time a blip on the radar screen indicated a plane was headed our way the plane would be only seconds away.

I cannot recall how much we members of the crew knew officially, but I remember Tokyo Rose telling us that our losses would be high.  A number of islands had been wrested from the Japanese, but Okinawa was the first that was part of the home land.  If the Americans took this island, Tokyo Rose said, Japan would keep fighting but would have no possibility of winning the war.

Our leaders in DC must scrimp to get by

Yep, the country just doesn't have enough money to support our leaders in the way they deserve.  Poor VP Biden;  his hotel bill in London amounted to  $ 459, 388.65, while a night in a Paris hotel was $585,000.50. The country couldn't afford to allow common folks to tour the White House and the Easter egg hunt on the grounds will likely not be held -- country just doesn't have the money. However, do not worry; Barack and Michelle can take  separate  vacations spending money lavishly.  This is what some of you voted for.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Story of the four cats

Yeah, I know; this is not original with me and can be told more than one way. But here goes:

   The four cats -- T-Square, Spreadsheet; Measure, and Coffee Break

Four men were bragging about how smart their cats were. The first man was an engineer, the second an accountant, the third a chemist, and the fourth man was Obama's government employee.

To show off the engineer called his cat, "T-Square, do your stuff."  T-Square pranced over to the desk, took out paper and pen, and drew a circle, a square, and a triangle. Everyone agreed that was pretty smart.

But the accountant said his cat could do better. He called his cat and said, "Spreadsheet, do your stuff."        Spreadsheet went out to the kitchen and returned with l2 cookies. He stacked them into four piles of three cookies each. Everyone agreed that was pretty smart.

But the chemist said his cat could  do better.  He called his cat and said, "Measure, do your stuff."  Measure got up, went to the refrigerator, took out a quart of milk, got a 10-ounce glass from the cupboard and poured exactly 8 ounces without spilling a drop.  Everyone agreed that was pretty good.

Then the three men turned to the government employee and  asked, "What can your cat do?"  The government man called his cat, "Coffee Break, do your stuff."

Coffee Break jumped to his feet.

He drank the milk, ate the cookies, and then beat up the other three cats. Later, he claimed he injured his back while doing so, so he filed a grievance report for unsafe working conditions, put in for welfare Compensation and went home for the rest of the day on sick leave.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring is here

Today is the first day of spring, March 20, although it has felt like spring most days of the month.  I've had two gladiolas blooming all of February.  Jen took over my usual job of preparing flower beds and setting out the plants.  We also planted a satsuma tree and a blackberry vine.  Jen has a lemon in a pot, planning to bring it into the house if a freeze comes this winter.

I remember one first day of spring over 40 years ago when several inches of snow fell. I took a picture of the McKenzie home, a large two story building far back from the street, with Redbud trees in full bloom over the snow and the sun shining.  It ran of the first page of the Guardian-Journal.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Only 89.5 billion dollars

89.5 billion dollars -- that's the wealth of  six inheritors of the Walmart empire. It requires all of the wealth of the bottom 41.5 per cent of all American families put together to equal that. The Walmart heirs together with George Soros, Warren Buffet and a few others have a large part of America's wealth. How they use it is what's important.

Would they follow the advice of Andrew Carnegie, one of  our great philanthropists; he used his wealth to create jobs and do great things of the people of the United States. Carnegie, in what has been termed "The Gospel of Wealth,"  spoke about the peril of large sums being passed on to  people or organizations not equipped to handle them.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Saddened by Homer's problems

As a former citizen of Homer, as a former mayor, town councilman,  and as an individual who was deeply involved in civic and school affairs, I have been saddened as more and more poor decisions are made by the present town governing body.

The bad publicity began with the attempt to abolish the police department. From articles in the Guardian-Journal and letters to the paper, we learn of actions taken that were at the least ill-advised.  For example, I was shocked to learn  that the mayor and council were seeking to extend their terms. The amount of money spent by the mayor on travel was another shocker.

My sincere hope is that everything that's wrong can be corrected.  In the meantime I would urge the mayor and council members to submit their resignations.

(I was puzzled to learn that instead of the local newspaper serving as official journal for the town that the out-of-town paper, the Haynesville News,  was selected for this service.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Those poor federal employees.

Peace had arrived and we had a future as civilians, some very soon, others several months away.  The topic of conversation was "What are you going to do when you get out?"   Most of us had grand ideas but little idea of how to realize them.

One of my friends was certain about his future.  A native of  St. Louis he was absolute committed to getting a civil service job and enjoying its benefits plus early retirement.  When I think of him I am reminded of one of the stories he told us.  He had a step-sister with whom he got along very well.  One day she was hosting a luncheon and asked him to go the drug store nearby and pick up some napkins.  When he gave the druggist the order, informing him they  were for his sister, the druggist asked, "Does she want sanitary napkins?"  He said, "I guess so" and took them home not knowing of his mistake until his sister was setting the table.

I hope he got that civil service job and is still living and enjoying retirement.  The point of this tale is the benefits federal employees receive --l0 holidays, 13 sick days, and an average of 20 days of vacation, plus job protection. We are  asked to make sacrifices and  reduce expenditures but the federal government continues to hire.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pickens gets ready for Okinawa

As the anniversary of the battle for Okinawa approaches,  questions come to my mind.  When did we ( the crew) learn that we were to attack Okinawa?  Did we have any idea of what awaited us, how many casualties the navy would suffer?

I remember isolated events and have written about many of them, but I can't put them in context, that is I don't always know when they took place, which came first.  We  did our job at Iwo, landing the Marines and their equipment, taking the wounded that we  treated on our ship to a base hospital, and returning to Saipan.

According to Mike White's journal, we cleaned the ship, entered a rest period, and devoted a few days to training a new group of Marines.   I remember going to an uninhabited island with two cans of soda and two of beer but no water or ice.  White  said that these visits, where we swam, played softball and touch football,took place about once a week  during this rest period.

I have previously told about playing touch football where we faced a team that had the entire backfield from the 1942 Holy Cross team that had upset Boston College.  I was charging in and tagging the man with the ball when two blocked me on the thighs, totally against the rules.

Another unpleasant memory is of the chief  quartermaster and his  buddy catching me alone and attacking me, breaking the middle finger of my right hand.  A splint to protect the finger was tried but I had to remove it in order to operate the radar.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the visits to the island.  I would like to hear from other veterans their memories of this time and later their memories of the attack on Okinawa.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I can't enjoy this beautiful day

The sun is shining; the pear tree is blooming beautifully; I have plants ready to set out, and one bed that is ready for them.  But when I bend my back I cannot straighten up, and no matter how little I do I am out of breath.

Still, I will keep trying; my mind  cannot accept my inability to accomplish some thing as easy as planting flowers.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Grandson born today

Brighton Wayne Lowe was born at 6:20 this morning March 12.  His parents are Matthew Lowe and Crystal Tereece.  Brighton weighed in at 5 pounds, 15 ounces, and 19 inches long.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Jessica home for spriing break

We have Jessica at home a few days during spring break at Duke.  When she returns she will have five more weeks of school to complete her first year at Duke Seminary.


Our church had a welcome-back honor ceremony for two servicemen who recently returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.  One saw his   twin boys, born just weeks ago, for the first time.                                                   

We went sort of crazy Saturday, acquiring lemon and satsuma trees, blackberry and grape vines, plus some plants to set out.  The idea was to take advantage of  everyone  here Sunday afternoon to prepare the flower beds and get the plants into the ground.  Well, it rained, and rained so our plans fell apart.  I had also planned to spray the pear tree to prevent blight.  Hopefully, threre's another day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Go west young man (and woman)

Yes, go west for jobs but this is a different west.  With 89 million people (including retirees) out of the labor force this nation urgently needs to create jobs. Correct that -- our government must change its policies that act against job creators.  Let's look at the states with the lowest unemployment rates:

North Dakota 3.2;  Nebraska 3.8; South Dakota 4.3; Vermont 4.9; Wyoming 4.9; Iowa 5.0; Hawaii 5.1; Oklahoma 5.1.  Neither of these states has been known as an industrial, manufacturing area.  Several, especially the Dakotas, owe their prosperity to oil and gas development. If our government would commit to develop our large resources of oil, gas and coal, we could become self-sufficient in energy and boost the economy.

I agree that the figures are from the government, known for twisting numbers to favor the administration, but they are relatively true.  That once time glorious economy of  California has an unemployment rate of 9.9. For a comparison, Louisiana is at 5.6.

Friday, March 8, 2013

This may be the last---

Received an invitation a couple of days ago to the "Biggest and best WWII, ex-POW/MIA  and Purple Heart Luncheon in Our Nation"  which will be at Barksdale April 19.  Nothing unusual about that but the message from  Steve dePyssler, retired Air Force colonel, was different, to say the least.  Let me quote part of it:

"Warning.. This may be the last luncheon you will ever be able to attend, either because you cannot attend because of health or just being old...or it may be the last for me as I am 93 years old and putting on these luncheons is getting harder and harder each year."

That statement caused me to think that it applies to everyone whether you are 26 or 86, young, old, male or female.  We can only live one day at a time. Remember Aesop's fable about the old man planting a  tree and young men making fun, that he would not live to enjoy the shade.  Turned out, the young me died while the old man lived on to enjoy the tree.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My first paying job

My aunt hired her son Terrell and me  to saw and deliver stove wood at a salary of 50 cents a day, three dollars for the six days. Now, I was accustomed to hard labor but being paid was totally new. We were what people then  called "half grown" but we had no hesitation in accepting the job.

We selected a beautiful and large pine and felled it without difficulty.  Sewing the log into the right length took awhile but we had six days.  Splitting  the sections into slabs was not a problem although this took quite a few hours.  Our problem was cutting the slabs into sticks the proper size for the stove.  I had seen dad chop  the slabs right up to his fingers.  We found this to be difficult, being barely able to handle the axe with one hand.. We adjusted, standing each slab upright and using both hands to swing the axe.

Once while we were taking a break, two large king snakes came toward  us, changed their direction slightly, and confidently passed us by.  I marveled at how fearless of us they  were.

We finished the first tree and sawed down another, soon cutting it up into stove wood.  We finished the job by  hitching a team to a wagon and delivering it to her house. Not only did I earn money, but I look back on it as one of the most enjoyable weeks of my youth.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Just two pennies but so much pain

The temporary two per reduction in the payroll tax is over, cutting your take-home pay by that two per cent.
So, what do you do?  You send the kids to bed every night without supper and on the other hand you max out your credit cards buying stuff you have no us for.

Of course, you don't act that way, bu your federal government does.  The sequester (don't they just love that word) reduces government spending by 85 billion dollars. Sounds like a lot of money but not when compared to what Obama spends. It's two per cent for departments affected but social security, medicare and other "entitlements" are unaffected.

The idea for this action was promoted by Obama but the administration wants to make people hurt and blame Congress.  While trying to make two per cent as painful as possible,like more delays at airports along with longer lines and more harassment of  passengers.  They tell lies like 100 teachers in one county being fired while the TSA spends 50 million on uniforms and other departments advertise to hire more workers.

Do they think we are stupid to believe two per cent can do much harm?  Yes, they are convinced we are just that stupid.  Maybe we are; we re-elected Obama.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Time, you are fleeting

Time is relative, so they say.  I know that as you get older time gets away at a rapid pace. That is, in the context  of days and months whizzing by, while at the same time time drags in the little waiting room at the doctor's office.

What brought this to mind?  Where did January and February go?  One sixth of this year has gone by and I ask myself what has been accomplished.  I find it best to not worry but do as the song says and ask for one day at a time.

Why don't you know him?

Where was I to spend the weekend?  I had spent Friday in Hanover, Germany, at the world's largest industrial show, calling on my friend Rainer Bauer of Bauer Gear Motors and other companies that I had appointments with. Six two-man teams were spending two weeks in Germany trying to persuade companies to locate plants in Louisiana.  My partner and I had different schedules for Friday and would re-join on Tuesday.  Monday was May 1 and would be celebrated as May Day, adding to the crowds.

There were no rooms available in Hanover and all planes to West Berlin were full so I took the train to Hamburg.  Upon arriving at the station and taking a seat at the counter in a cafe, I got into a conversation with an English speaking man.  He told me he had a friend in Detroit and asked if I knew him.  When I said I did not, he said, "You should know him, he works at (some company)."  He then described his friend's appearance and was very disappointed when I continued to deny knowing him.

I did get a place to sleep, at a famous hotel  across from the train station.  When I asked for a room with a bath, I was called a stupid American but I was given a room near the bathroom.

I feel almost like the German.  Why can't we find some one who remembers us?  After all, the ship's crew was only about 500 and we have a list of everyone who was on board when the ship was commissioned.
However,  it has been nearly 70 years and not many of our shipmates are  living.  Like most veterans, we gave little thought to our service; we had to build our lives.  Twenty years ago, even ten, we would have located many more shipmates.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Battle with slingshots

A favorite toy was a slingshot, something easily made and a lot of fun to use.  Rubber from inner tubes was always available and the slingshot was easily made from a fork of a tree branch, sawed out of a board,, or by attaching the rubber to a single stick.  That last is the kind we used to shoot arrows so high in the sky the arrow would go out of sight.

At one time or another most boys got in trouble  with a slingshot, breaking a window or, much worse, hitting some one with a projectile, not always accidentally.  I can still remember one such time.

Revival was in progress at our country church, and the visiting preacher had a son about the age of my cousin and I.  They came to the house to play and we soon engaged in a war, my brother, who was three years younger than I, on one side and the preacher's son and my cousin  opposed.  We were using china berries as ammunition, far less dangerous than rocks but they would sting and bruise. My brother and I were being outgunned and took shelter in part of the barn. The others charged us and we fired back, almost simultaneously hitting the preacher's son and my cousin in the eye. They left rubbing their eyes and crying.

I felt bad but mostly I dreaded what was to happen to me at church that night.  It was bad enough hitting my cousin in the eye, but,  my gosh, hitting the preacher kid in the eye!  So fearing my life was over I went to church and there saw my cousin and the preacher's son, both with beautiful black eyes but both laughing about what had happened.  I don't have any memory of who that minister was but he must have remembered being a boy one time.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lyrics by van Dyke in 1907; music by Beethoven -- what a great hymn

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (Ode to Joy) with Lyrics