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A sporadic account of my reaction to life.
Over the years I have sporadically attempted to keep a journal. Each attempt has failed miserably. I think they expired because I established rules that were too ridgid for them. So, this attempt will bring with it very few rules.

There are many incredibly kind and thoughtful people in WDC. One of them is Sarah . Out of the blue she sent me this flower gift. It reminds me of the Bluebonnets of Texas. Thanks, Sarah. And, I must not forget the very talented katherine76 who created the flower...thank you.

Well, it appears that my blog is going to the dogs. It aslo seems as if folks have gotten me pegged as a dog lover....they're right. Our very own Anyea has gifted me with this Valentine card. Now I ask you, "How sweet is that?" Thanks, Anyea *Heart*

I have been fortunate to encounter many generous and kind people during my tenure in WDC. Debi Wharton is one of them. She gifted me with the following sig. It shows how sensitive and caring she is. It also shows that she read some my entries. She'll never know how much I appreciate the gift and the attention to my blog.

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December 13, 2018 at 10:25am
December 13, 2018 at 10:25am

         Her name is Para Lee England and she is my great aunt. She was born before the turn of the Twentieth Century and has been long gone for over a half-century by now. I’ve always been captivated by her photograph. She was a total mystery to me. I had only that one image and no details other than her name and the fact she was my grandaunt or my grandmother’s sister.
         I have long been captivated by the photograph. She presents a natural beauty which is often lost in those old photos. This one has long been one of my favorites. Recently, I determined to write about Para—to attempt to bring some life to the still image on the photograph which has for so long captivated me.
         I found her first mentioned in the 1900 US Census. She is shown as the two year old daughter of Benjamin and Mollie England, my great grandparents. She is listed as Para L England, possibly the last time I would see the spelling in that form. As I attempted to track her through the records, I was conscious of the variations of her name. There was Para Lee, Clara Lee, Kara Lee, Dora Lee and just plain Lee. Once you get used to the name scrambling it gets easier to follow.
         I discovered her listed on a cemetery site, where her life was condensed into two dates as bookends for her life—1898-1952. Very little else was provided, except for the name of her husband. Oscar Lee Whitmore had married her in 1933 and she was listed as Para Lee Bolles-Whitmore—strange. Now where did that name “Bolles” come from.
         Well, a little more digging and I discovered a first marriage to Edward Marcus Bolles, in 1922. Interestingly, that marriage record informed me Para Lee was six years Edward’s senior. I rarely find an older wife in first marriages. Just as interesting was that he was eighteen and she was twenty-four--seems to fit the photograph. The photo shows a young family with a less than one-year-old child. That would make her about twenty-five in the photo and Edward near nineteen. Something was not right about that. That couple seems to be much closer in age and perhaps both in their early twenties.
         That photograph had to be not of Edward and Para Lee, but rather Oscar and Para Lee. But that did not work either, for Para Lee and Oscar were married in 1933, which would make the couple in the photo to be in their mid-thirty’s, and that just did not appear to be the case. Again, something was not right. So, I continued to dig until I discovered a new marriage certificate for Oscar to Ethel Haskett. Eureka! The photo is not of Oscar and Para Lee but rather Oscar and Edith.
         My image of Para Lee was destroyed. Another name had usurped her in the photograph. A stranger had taken her place. I felt betrayed and strangely wanted my fantasy of Para Lee back. I found it difficult to to transition my attachment to Para Lee over to Edith, even though the beauty of the image was rightfully hers. Fortunately, my disappointment was only momentary—a fleeting attachment. I recovered as I reminded myself this is not the first time a certainty in my family history turned out to be other than what it was thought to be. It happens with some frequency, in fact. The only difference is I usually haven’t formed an attachment to the person like I did with Para Lee. But that’s what happens when we pick up the gauntlet and the challenge to unravel the myriad mysteries of our family history. I have over 4,500 ancestors in my family tree. There are many more mysteries to solve and so little time to do it.

December 11, 2018 at 12:43pm
December 11, 2018 at 12:43pm
         My study of family history has recorded many Boutwell men serving in the military during their lives. Some served briefly, some a long time, and some served often. Such is the case of my great-great-grandfather Mark Jackson.
         The first record I have of Mark is a Company Muster-in Roll issued on June 30, 1846. Eighteen-year-old Mark enlisted in Captain Patrick’s “C” Company of the Mounted Regiment of the Arkansas Infantry. He enlisted at Washington, Arkansas, for a twelve-month tour of service to fight in the War with Mexico. He was charged $75 for a horse and $10 for the necessary equipment. Mark was born in Georgia, so I’m not sure as to why he was in Arkansas at that time. One family researcher maintains he was there because he had fled Georgia to escape viciously assaulting a slave for disparaging his father. While that provides a plausible explanation the story, it lacks records to establish credibility. In any case, Mark was in Arkansas and he was presented with the opportunity to join the Army, as many did when running from troubles.
         Mark fought in the Battle of Buena Vista, on February 22 and 23, 1847, near Puerto de la Angostura in the State of Coahuila, Mexico. The US Army engaged a much larger Mexican Army, repulsing them and carrying the day. Records indicate Mark lost a horse during the battle and was resupplied but was not remounted at that time. Perhaps that was because he was discharged three months later on June 20, 1847.
         At the time of his discharge the Army gave his company of one hundred men the choice of returning home by boat or on horseback. Being then located at Camargo, Mexico, just south of the Rio Grande River, about half-way between Brownsville and Laredo, Texas, they chose the horse. Each man was given fresh a horse. They chose to travel as a company across country all the way back to Arkansas. On their way home they encountered hostile Indians; however, the men with their carbines were never attacked, as they presented a formidable force. Some of the men dropped out along the way and resettled in Texas, as did some of my other Boutwell ancestors. However, Mark continued on, eventually returning to Clarksville, Arkansas where he married eighteen-year-old Malvina Jane Swagerty in Horse Head, Arkansas on January 18, 1848, a mere eight months from the day he began his journey home from the Mexican War. Over the next fourteen years Mark remained in Arkansas were he and Malvina raised a family of seven children.
         The War Between the States began when Rebel forces attacked Fort Sumter in 1861. In spite of the fact that he had left his boyhood home in Georgia for a new life in Arkansas, Mark appears to have retained a deep loyalty to the South. As such we find he enlisted in Talladega, Alabama, into the Confederate Army. I have no idea as to how or why Mark chose to enlist in Alabama instead of Arkansas. In fact, were it not for the grave-marker placed on his grave, I would discount that fact as an error. However, the inscriptions on the grave-marker leaves no doubt as to the fact that Mark served the Confederacy as part of the Alabama Volunteer Infantry.
         There is little documentation to account for the role Mark played in the Civil War. This is an area where, once again, family accounts take over, which is always a dangerous happening in the course of genealogy. However, according to family researcher D.W. Melton, material associated with Mark’s family Bible indicates he was wounded in battle on July 1, 1862 and subsequently furloughed home. The only account of an engagement on July 1st by the Alabama Volunteers, in which Mark may have sustained wounds, was the Battle of Malvern Hill, which was one of several engagements associated with the Seven Days Battles fought near Richmond, Virginia.
         His wounds evidently were significant enough to send him home for recuperation. Often, wounded soldiers would return to the battlefield after recuperation. I have no indication that Mark returned to further service in the Civil War, but rather suspect he did not, remaining home to recuperate and tend to a family tragedy. As such, it may have been he was not officially discharged from service at the conclusion of his service at the end of the War. The Confederacy was in shambles and records were lost or destroyed. In addition, there is no indication that in later years his widow attempted to receive any type of pension from the government for his service, as she did for his service in the Mexican War.

         The Civil War ended in the Spring of 1865. Robert E. Lee surrendered the last major Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865. The last battle was fought at Palmito Ranch, Texas, on May 13, 1865. Mark’s first wife, my great-great grandmother Malvina, died never to see the end of the nation’s great conflict. She and their eight-year-old son, Sidney, were recorded as dying on the same day, April 25, 1864. In fact, the record is so specific as to record the deaths as being on a Monday evening at one-o’clock and ten-o’clock respectively. There is no account as to their death. Disease, accident and homicide are all possible. It is also curious that there is no record of their burial, other than an indication by a family researcher that they were buried in an unmarked plot (at least no headstone was provided) in the Old National Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas—a very strange and mysterious conclusion for Malvina and her son.
         Mark would live on, taking a second wife named Trecy Jane Durham. He would raise a second family consisting of eleven children from Trecy. Counting the seven children he had from Malvina, he would father eighteen children, extending the family tree substantially. Mark would die of old age at 72 in Poolville, Oklahoma and be buried next to his second wife Trecy. I can't help but wonder about his first wife, my great-great- grandmother Malvina. It is sad to me that she seems to have been misplaced and forgotten, a final casualty of the Civil War, at least for Mark.

December 10, 2018 at 1:28pm
December 10, 2018 at 1:28pm
Sir Anthony--My Ancient Brush with Nobility

         My people, those folks from whom I am descended are for the most part very common folk. They are dirt farmers, preachers, lawmen, and a few outlaws; consequently, I am not wrong when I profess that my family’s core is from the common working class of this country. Therefore, I was somewhat surprised and a tad bit amused to find nobility lurking in one of my family lines—my mother’s paternal line actually.
         Sir Anthony Jackson lived on the other side of the pond (Atlantic Ocean) and, although there are several of my ancestors who were born on the other side, he is the first of which I have any significant accounting of history there. By no means was he a common man. He moved in the strata of the nobility, associating with the kings of England. In 1650 he was knighted by King Charles II of England for his bravery during the Battle of Breda in Holland. He was awarded land holdings in England and was an associate of the King’s court.
         Sir Anthony lived at a pivotal time in the history of England. We Americans are familiar with our Civil War. What few of us Americans realize is that England also had a Civil War. Sir Anthony lived in the midst of that conflict, playing an active role. He was an active supporter of King Charles II during this period, and if you know your English history you would know he came out on the losing side, which had dire results for him and his family. So much so, that eventually his descendants would leave England and begin anew in the fledgling Colonies.
         He was born in Yorkshire, England in 1599, the son of Richard Jackson and Ursula Hildyard, whose family ancestry through convolutions includes lords, kings, and eventually even King Charlemagne. Nevertheless, Anthony was born into the gentry, just a small step beneath the nobility. As such he received the privilege that was accorded to his status. He became a member of the Bar in 1635, and advanced through the ruling medium to become a Bencher (the rough equivalent of a judge.) He was also a gentleman in the Privy Chamber of King Charles I of England. After the death of Charles I, he served as the Herald proclaiming Charles II as King of England in 1650.
         In the mid-17th Century, England endured a Civil War to establish who would rule England. Would the monarchy headed by the Stuarts (Charles I and Charles II) or the Parliament led by Oliver Cromwell govern England and its commonwealth including Ireland, Scotland, and Wales? Those who fought for the King were known as Royalists and those who favored the opposition were known as the Parliamentarians. Anthony Jackson’s allegiance was with the King and the Royalists. His commitment to the Stuarts found him participating in the Battle of Breda and the Battle of Worcester. In the earlier battle he acquitted himself quite well and was knighted by the King for his bravery. In the second battle he was taken prisoner. It was this second battle that sealed the fate of the monarchy, for Charles II was defeated and exiled to the Isle of Wright. Anthony managed to escape from his captors only to be recaptured and committed to the Tower of London, where the charge against him was treason “for invading the nation with Charles Stuart.”
         In 1658 Charles II, who had been exiled in 1651, was reinstated as King of England. His father, Charles I, had been executed following the Battle of Worcester—the same battle in which Anthony had been captured. Soon after Charles II’s reinstatement, Anthony was released from the Tower (1659.) He was given fifty pounds at his release—however, his property and wealth were gone. Although penniless and without means, he apparently was not without influence. In 1660, a mere year after he was released from the Tower of London, Sir Anthony became a Bencher, having the equivalent prestige of Federal judge, for it was an appointment for life. He died six years later and was buried at the Temple Church on October 14, 1666.
         Sir Anthony’s descendants remained in Ireland, where he retreated during the war, with the exception of Isaac Joseph Jackson. It is Isaac who took the family from England early in the 18th Century and settled in the Colonies in the vicinity of North Carolina. Soon after their arrival in the new land, the Jackson family would again fight in a war with England. And, again England would lose the war and the Jackson family would come out on the winning side. Out of this loss the United States of America would be born, leaving our titles and our claims to nobility back in England

December 9, 2018 at 2:10pm
December 9, 2018 at 2:10pm
         I was reading the news today and ran across an article on Terrance Gamble, who is currently serving a sentence in prison for using a gun during a burglary. The interesting thing about this case is that Terrance was tried twice for the same crime—once in an Alabama Court and once by a Federal Court. It seems his attorneys feel that is unconstitutional and places him in double jeopardy, which for untold years the courts have said is unconstitutional. I mean, the guy is guilty as hell and deserves the punishment doled out to him. But, do the authorities have the right to try him twice for the same crime?
         Well the question is before the US Supreme Court now and should be heard in the next week or so. This would usually be of little interest to me if it were not for the political implications it bears on todays volatile climate in Washington DC. With Paul Manafort being due for sentencing for his part in Mueller’s investigation of all things collusion and Trump, the question looms to the foreground if Trump were to give Manafort a Presidential pardon, could another State Court try Manafort again and send him to prison. I don’t know and will have to watch like the rest of you to find out.
         The question of double jeopardy is of interest to me for another reason. It has historical basis in my family. Yup, it happened to us. Well it was a long time ago in 1889; and was chronicled in United States vs. Robert Boutwell as heard by the US Supreme court. Robert W. Boutwell was my second cousin twice removed. Millard Ball, John Ball, and Robert Boutwell were arrested for the murder of an old man named Tom Box. There is no doubt about it; they did the dastardly deed. A Texas newspaper gave this account 129 years ago:
[the three men] are charged with the assassination of an old farmer, 75 years of age, named Tom Box in his own cornfield near his home, which is also near Burneyville, some time late Tuesday night. Box was a citizen of [the Chickasaw] nation by right of marriage, he having married a Chickasaw woman, and thereby was the possessor of a large tract of valuable property. A short time ago, Filmore [Millard] Ball, a young [man] of that section, married a daughter of Box, which made him a citizen of the Chickasaw nation also. Ball, it is claimed, did the deed to get possession of Box’s property. The three narrowly escaped lynching.

         According to the researchers the men were arrested and tried in the Federal Court, in Paris, Texas, where they were found guilty and sentenced to death. However it took two trials to get the job done and created an abundance of confusion and a quick appeal afterward. This case is significant in that it set legal precedent upon its appeal to the US Supreme Court. As a result of the Court’s decision, Millard Ball was found not guilty and released because of a technicality related to double jeopardy status. John Ball and Robert Boutwell were found not to share the same status and were found guilty and remanded to custody to await sentencing. The court record does not stipulate the sentences given the two men; however, the original sentences of death were overturned and jail time was given. Thirty years later, Robert was released from prison. He returned to Oklahoma to live a quiet life until his death in 1931.
         I sit today reflecting on the fact that in some small way, the tragic actions of my ancestor helped to define the laws of this land, which are again being examined for further refinement.

December 8, 2018 at 11:10am
December 8, 2018 at 11:10am
         It is somewhat satisfying for me to realize that my heritage extends back to the American Revolutionary War—that my people were kicking clods and throwing rocks at the Redcoats at that place and time. History seems a little more personal when you are tied to it by real events and real people. James Boutwell was one of the men who stepped forward and volunteered to serve in the Continental Army...and not for one month or three months, as so many did, but for the duration. He enlisted for three years. It was America's first three years of history.
         James served with the 1st Virginia Foot Regiment, which was formed on July 17, 1775 as a state militia. The unit later saw service in General George Washington’s Continental Army, participating in several engagements, including the Battle of Great Bridge, the New York Campaign, the Battle of Trenton, the Battle of Princeton, the Battle of Brandywine, the Battle of Germantown, the Battle of Monmouth, the Battle of Stony Point, and the Siege of Charleston where most of the Regiment was captured by the British on May 12, 1780. The regiment was disbanded on November 15, 1783.
         It's very interesting to me, that among James’ stations for service, as shown on his muster records, were West Point and Valley Forge, which are two of the great icons of our Revolutionary War. His service at West Point was historic in that it was the first time West Point had ever been commanded by American forces; and James was there. And, we all know the legends of George Washington and Valley Forge, where Washington was encamped as he desperately haggled with the Continental Congress to fund and support his army. It is documented that from 1,700 to 2,000 men died from disease at Valley Forge, most likely complicated by malnutrition. On one of the muster cards of James Boutwell it is noted that he was sick at Valley Forge.
         James’ last Individual muster record, which I have found, is for Feb 5, 1779 and he was at Camp Middlebrook. That's in New Jersey. Although this was George Washington's army, he was not in the field with James and his buddies at Middlebrook. No, Washington rented out the Wallace House in nearby Somerville for four months for $1,000 while his troops constructed crude huts for protection from the elements...so much for sleeping in the huts with the men. In any event, Camp Middlebrook closed in June of 1779; and Washington moved his army elsewhere. James traveled with him, at least for a few more months.
         It appears James entered service for the duration of the War because I found a couple of muster cards indicating he enlisted “for the War,” which usually means for the duration of the War. Additional muster records exist for the 1st Virginia Regiment in the form of the muster rolls for the company in which James served. The last one on record I found with James listed as a member of the company was for November 1779. Interestingly, this roll is accompanied by a summary page that gives the “Proof of Effectives” of the company. Interestingly, it relates the company was comprised of one captain, one lieutenant, one sergeant, two corporals, three drummers, and twenty privates. At the time eight individuals were absent, reducing the company effectiveness to a total of twenty soldiers—much less than what was present when originally formed. The attrition suffered in the war was certainly evident. It is significant to note that five-and-a-half months later the company was captured by the British in the Siege of Charleston. One wonders what thoughts were mulling through the mind of this young man. We have no further record of James.
         It is pure speculation on my part that James probably did not survive the War. In addition, he was likely not married. More likely, he was a young man of eighteen or nineteen years who simply had not had time to build a history that is recorded by documents. As a young man he was drawn to the noble idea of joining the army to serve with General Washington for a goal such as independence from King George. Remember, I’m speculating. Young men of all ages have entertained the idea of glory and honor won on the battlefield. I suspect James was no different. He delayed forming the social ties of marriage and family. Possibly entertaining a fantasy of returning as a hero and courting the ladies who were waiting for someone just like him. For the duration of the War he would not do much courting. There’s not much opportunity to meet and court when you are encamped with an army.
         It’s telling that there was no future claim from a soldier in advanced age, a wife, or dependents regarding a claim for Revolutionary Pension for his military service to his country; of course, there likely was never a family to do so. It is common to find aging Revolutionary soldiers making claims for pensions for service which is far less significant than that of James.’ It is almost inconceivable to believe that an aged James or his heirs would not do the same. Of course, had there been any heirs, a widow, or even an aged James they would certainly have done so.
         There are no clues as far as where he was born or raised before he joined Washington’s army. Usually, men joined the forces from within the region in which they lived. It is not typical for them to leave their home and travel a great distance to join the army. That is, I suppose, unless you wanted to join a particular army. It is pure speculation on my part, but I suspect James may very well have wanted to serve under George Washington; and, therefore traveled whatever distance was necessary to make that happen. Therefore, even if he served in the 1st Virginia Regiment, that fact alone does not mandate he was from Virginia. In my opinion from history of this family, likely choices for his origin would be North Carolina, South Carolina, or Georgia where other Boutwell families had settled.
         All my findings and conclusions regarding our Revolutionary War soldier, James Boutwell, can be reduced to these basic premises. I don’t know from where James originates. Nor do I know who the direct members of his family are. What I know for certain is he is an American hero of our country’s first generation. And, I know he is one of mine. He is a Revolutionary Soldier. He is a Boutwell.

December 7, 2018 at 11:17am
December 7, 2018 at 11:17am
         Today is December 7th. To many folks it is remembered as a day that will go down in infamy. To most of this generation it is just another day, forgotten and grouped with the other mundane days of the calendar. I remember Pearl Harbor. Oh, don't get me wrong. I was not there on that Sunday morning when the Japanese aircraft poured from the sky and ravaged the American Pacific Fleet. No, It was years later before I would be born. But, I remember it because my father and my mother remembered it. In fact every person of their generation remembered exactly where they were when over three-thousand of our sailors, soldiers, nurses, and civilians died as a result of a vicious attack on an unsuspecting peaceful people.
         "Remember Pearl Harbor" would be the battle cry for a nation which was dragged into war. It was the cry which awakened a sleeping giant and forged its resolve to pick up the gauntlet and defeat the Axis tyrants of the Second World War. As a son of a Marine who fought in the battles of the Pacific and a nephew of an 82nd Airborne Sargent who received a Bronze Star for gallantry during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, I was fully conscious of the gravity of that battle cry as I grew up. Years have come and gone and other battle cries have usurped it.
         It appears this new generation has no emotional or patriotic tie to that old battle cry. Japan and Germany are our allies now. And that is how it should be; and it is that way by design. After the War, the US had no interest in reprisals and retribution on those who attacked us on that December 7th so long ago. We learned our lesson from the Treaty of Versailles, where angry and revengeful victors stripped the German people from their pride and ability to recover from the tragedy of World War I. On the contrary, we put all the resources of that sleeping giant to work rebuilding and establishing new and independent nations of Japan, Germany, and Italy. And, so it is that we forgave them their horrendous actions and worked tirelessly with them to build a new future.
         Unfortunately, along with forgiveness we seem to appear to have also forgotten their transgressions. I contend that 'to forget' should never have been a part of the deal. We should never forget the battle cry, "Remember Pearl Harbor!," because of the price we paid in lives which were lost over the War years. I can forgive them, but I will not forget the cry. The reasons why we should remember have nothing to do with revenge or restitution. I remember the steadfastness of a people working together in the midst of crisis. I remember how we rose to the occasion and did what it took to assure victory. I remember the loyalty that each American felt for the flag and country. We should never forget. Whether it is "Remember the Alamo," "Remember Pearl Harbor," or "Remember 9/11" we should remember who we are and that we are a united people--united through experiences, crises, and victories. Sometimes, as I look around me today, I wonder who this generation will remember, if anyone.

December 6, 2018 at 11:03am
December 6, 2018 at 11:03am
         Beatriss Jane “Barbara” McDONALD, my great-great grandmother on my mother’s side, was born in Alabama on February 17 in the year 1866, the daughter of Alexander McDonald and Lydia Ann Walden. She lived in the aftermath of the US Civil war in the heart of the Old West of Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, giving birth to eleven children and losing two of them at young ages. Her life was not easy. She died at the age of forty-four, never to hold any of her grandchildren. At least she was buried near two of her children in a grave in Wingate, Texas.
          Apparently, Beatriss’ parents migrated from Alabama amid the aftermath of the Civil War to make a new home in Texas. It was in Hill County, Texas, where I found my first record of Beatriss in the 1900 US Census. By that time, she had married Robert Denson, at age eighteen, and proceded to bear children, eight of whom were all still living when the Census was taken in 1900. One child was recorded as being an infant, Floyd, appears in subsequent records as Joseph. Her last child, Edna, would follow four years later in 1904. She would lose a child in 1902 and another in 1906. It is interesting to note that the census records show a child being born on two-year increments from her first child, Thomas, until Edna. My grandmother Stella was her oldest daughter born on July 8, 1890. The two census periods of 1900 and 1910 reveals to us almost all we know about Beatriss.
         Although many researchers list her parents by name, there is no reasonable documentation to identify them. An ornate headstone sits on Beatriss' gravesite memorializing her existence. Unfortunately, the headstone would, by today’s standards, be considered sexist and offensive to women. And, I suppose it is. Maybe it is because I have researched her family that I look upon her life and accomplishments with both affection and sadness. She deserves to be remembered with more dignity than with what was shown, however absent-mindedly it was done. I am sure is was the sign of the times.
         Her headstone does not give her full name. It appears in only a small script as Beatriss, as if that is all that is necessary for one to know. At first glance one would take the headstone to be her husband’s, for his name is the most prominent on the stone. She is identified as “wife of” as if it is that position which fulfilled her purpose in this life. It is only the inscription at the bottom of the marker that give one the clue that it is in fact a woman who is buried therein and not a man. And, even then the inscription itself ties her to her husband and her children, which appears to the expected position of a woman of that era. The inscription simply says, “She was a kind wife and affectionate mother and friend to all”
         It is sad to me that this woman has been left to find her identity and worth solely through her connections to others. A lot of history can be created through nine offspring. To be sure I owe my existence to her. However, she was a person in her own right capable of making her own history; and she deserves to be remembered as such. However, it does not appear that history will remember much about Beatriss Jane McDonald. But, so it was for women at the turn of the Twentieth Century. We really have come a long way since then. At least I hope so.

December 5, 2018 at 11:46am
December 5, 2018 at 11:46am
         In light of the heightened attention given in this country today to immagrants, both legal and illegal, I introduce you to one of my own. Ernestine FREISTHALER, was my wife, Linda's, great-Grandmother who was born on 16 Apr 1867 in Germany, at least according to a delayed birth certificate issued in 1948 to her daughter, Annie. In addition there are multiple listings on censuses recording her birthplace as being Germany. Her parents were Daniel and Kate Freisthauler, at least according to her Iowa marriage record. However, her father's name is questionable since her Oklahoma death certificate lists J Feisthaler as being her father. Of course, there is a possibility that both are correct, and his name is Daniel J Feisthaler or J Daniel Feisthaler. Her mother’s maiden name was not given; only the name Kate was provided, which seems to me to be more Irish than German.
         Ernestine has been a mystery. Searching for the existence of her family in the censuses or other public documents have proven totally unproductive, causing one to doubt if they were in fact in the United States at any time. A total assumption is that they did not immigrate to America with Ernestine, which causes one to assume that she possibly immigrated as a child with another family member or under a different name.
         Known facts are that her name was Ernestine, she was born in Germany on April 16, 1867, and she at one time lived in Des Moines County, Iowa. Using those facts as parameters for a search, I discovered an Ernestine Filter who lived in adjacent Hancock County, Iowa. The Iowa State Census for 1885 lists her as being a member of the David Bonar household, consisting of four members. Ernestine was listed as a single female, eighteen years of age, of German birth, and living with her sister and husband in Madison, Iowa. Of the several Ernestine’s possible, this was the only one who fit all the parameters. The only conflict was the name Filter. Nevertheless, realizing the frequent confusion often associated with names and the censuses, I am inclined to accept this as our Ernestine.
         On August 9, 1886, Ernestine married William Yeager in Bloomington, Iowa. The marriage record indicates that both parties were residents of Des Moines County, Iowa. Four years later she appeared in the 1900 US Census as living in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) as William Yeager’s wife and the mother to three female children. She was shown to have had three daughters: Anne (12), Katie (6), and Sarah (2). She had been married fourteen years, which would put her at being 19 years at the time of her marriage. Her husband, William, is ten years her senior. According to 1910 Census record, he immigrated to the US in 1873 from Switzerland. According to these records it confirms that William and Ernestine did not immigrate into the US as a married couple but rather separately, finding each other in this new country, both coming originally from Euroupe.
         The 1910 US Census does not enumerate Ernestine; she is missing from all census accounts. Her husband, William, is recorded as living in a household comprised of two people, consisting of himself and his brother. Ernestine’s children are shown as living elsewhere with other family members. The 1910 US Census indicates seventeen-year-old Katie was the wife of William Gustafsen, who was thirteen years Katie’s senior. She was indicated as being married for less than a year with her nine-year-old sister, Josie, living with her. Ernestine’s oldest daughter, Annie was married and in the household her husband Oscar F. Echols. Her twelve-year-old sister Sarah was living with her and Oscar. This accounts for Ernestine’s children. However the whereabouts of Ernestine is unknown.
         Ernestine apparently was terminally ill with tuberculosis. It appears it was sufficiently severe to require her separation from her family. Most of the last decade of her life was lived under the shadow of the disease. Eventually, she died of tuberculosis on 2 Feb 1917 at the age of forty-nine in Osage, Osage Co., Oklahoma. She preceded her husband, William, in death by eight years. Ernestine and William were buried next to each other in Osage Cemetery, Osage, Osage Co., Oklahoma--a very long way from Germany and Switzerland.

September 29, 2017 at 2:48pm
September 29, 2017 at 2:48pm
My Deepest Respect to FLOTUS

         I am a little more than disappointed with the manner in which some politically motivated people/groups have viciously and vindictively attacked our First Lady, Melania Trump. I personally believe she is an amazing lady. She is a classy, quite beautiful, dedicated to her husband and child, and clearly loves this country. After all, it was her choice to be an American—unlike most of us, who because of an accident of birth and dumb luck were born into it. Of all the places on earth, she chose American to which she pledged her allegiance.

         Her detractors, which include the media as well as the Hollywood elite, have claimed she is shallow, opportunistic, and morally tainted because she is a ‘porn’ queen. They claim she ruined Donald’s marriage to his wife by sleeping with a married man and therefore not respecting the institution of marriage. Melania did not meet Donald Trump until after the divorce was initiated. He was in the final and later stages of the divorce with Marla Maples when they had their first date. It certainly was not the case of shattering a happily marriage—not in the least. In addition, the claim of “homewrecker” is particularly curious when coming from the hills of Hollywood, where infidelity and promiscuity run rampant.

         Her detractors would have us believe her to be an uneducated female coming from a third rate country—someone who is not up to the same standard as those who graduate from Wellesley, Yale, and Harvard. They ridicule her accent and claim she can’t even speak our language, when in fact she does quite well. Most Americans butcher the language in which they were born, being unable to read proficiently and unable to construct a complete sentence correctly in English. And yet Melania has managed to be comfortable with five different languages with varying degrees of proficiency. Recently, in both Italy and France, she conversed with hospitalized children in their native languages. In Germany, while seated next to Vladimir Putin, she was seen carrying on a conversation with the Russian. He speaks little English, she speaks some Russian. But, Putin also speaks German, and, of course, so does Melania. As indicated, her language of birth is Slovenian, of which she is teaching her son Barron. She also speaks the closely related Serbian tongue. In summary, she undoubtedly has a much better command of other languages than most Americans, and surely more than her detractors who ridicule her language proficiency.

         As for her education, it is certainly different from what most Americans receive. But, of course it is, it was earned in a foreign country. And, we must grant that other countries around the world educate their people differently, most of them at a much more demanding level. We as Americans cannot boast to have a superior education system when most high school graduates fail to read at an acceptable level. In 2013, “according to a study conducted in late April by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults in the U.S. can't read. That's 14 percent of the population. 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th grade level, and 19 percent of high school graduates can't read.” Before we throw stones at an immigrant to this country who functions among us at a standard of high level, utilizing our own language instead of the one into which she was born, we need to consider our own accomplishments.

         Melania’s formal education in higher learning, something that many Americans fail to have, began in Slovenia at the University of Ljubljana. Entrance into the university required that she reportedly pass a “notoriously difficult” entrance exam, which she did. All likelihood is many of our American student candidates would not have even passed the test. It appears she attended college for only a single year, due to her success as a runway model. It is true that as an 18 yrs-old kid, she left school to pursue her modeling career. It was a tactical move which vastly improved her life and the lives of her family. And, before her detractors point fingers and sneer at her as being a dropout, perhaps they should consider the status of many Americans today, where only 70-percent of high school graduates even attempt to go to college and where 30-percent of those who do drop out end up working in vocations of lesser potential. Melania, on the other hand, greatly enhanced her life by utilizing her talents as a model. Most people would call that being smart.

         Among the most vindictive and vicious attacks, are those which besmirch her moral character, claiming she is little more than a porn star. Perhaps this is one of the most heinous of lies. Her detractors are quick to point to the Internet which records a nude photoshoot of a young Melania in her twenties. These photos in fact do exist and are available for the world to view. However, also available on the Internet are numerous fakes and photoshopped photographs which are truly pornographic and falsely and maliciously claim to be the First Lady. Fakes and photoshopped photos such as these can also be found of countless other female celebrities. Among others, are fake photos of Sarah Palin, Hillary, Michelle, and even Nancy Pelosi. They are truly pornographic and all equally disgusting and inappropriate. However, no one touts Palin, Hillary, and Michelle as being ‘porn stars.’

         Nevertheless, a nude photoshoot is not unusual for top models. In fact it seems to be a typical occurrence for the profession. Top models, including Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Tyra Banks, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, and Cheryl Tiegs have all had professional nude photo shoots. By anyone’s standard they were not considered as being pornographic. They are not even considered to be what is known as soft porn. Melania’s photos were solo shots with no males in the scene, and they left much to be imagined. That cannot be said of many Hollywood actresses who have performed nude sex scenes on film—particularly, Among the myriad list are some of the most vocal actresses condemning Trump--actresses such as Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Ashley Judd, and even Barbra Streisand. Even the popular celebrity comedians have had nude moments captured on film, including Ellen DeGeneres, Amy Schumer, Kathy Griffin, and Lily Tomlin.

         Melania, by all reports was never into the ‘party girl’ crowd of the professional model. Accounts by those who managed Melania share that her commitment was to modeling and was focused on the runway. Stane Jerko, the photographer who discovered her at age 17 stated, “She kept to herself, she was a loner. After a shoot or a catwalk, she went home, not out. She didn’t want to waste time partying.” She was then and is now a ferociously private person.

         It is quite unfortunate that Melania’s detractors are missing out on an opportunity to get to know a fascinating person. By furthering the discord of lies about her, they miss the unbelievably heart-warming story of a small town, immigrant, Slovakian girl who followed her dream and became the First Lady of the United States. What a sad statement that is for them.

July 14, 2017 at 11:23am
July 14, 2017 at 11:23am
         I miss him, my dog, Max. I never ever intended to get so emotionally attached to him. It just happened over a matter of time. After the first year together we had formed an eternal bond with each other. He did a myriad of things over his lifetime with me that endeared him to me. And, I suppose, if he could talk he would say the same for me. We were and are soul mates. It’s a closeness that cannot be shared with humans. No, I have a much different soul connection with Linda, which goes just as deep and even more meaningful than what I ever had with that black dog. But my affection for that dang dog is real, true, and extremely personal. It can’t be explained.

         He has been gone from my life a couple of months now, and the day of his death still haunts me. The pain he must have endured is troublesome to me. I’ve never felt more helpless than that night. I never want to experience it again. But, as life goes on I realize that that is not in my control. The depth of my sense of loss because of the passing of my canine friend is profound. But, out of that deep sense of loss is the realization that I experienced love, joy, and fulfillment by his devotion and love to me. I will thank him for being in my life for my remaining years and will revel in the good memories which far outnumber the few bad ones. Max you were my friend and buddy for years. I will always miss you and will hold your memory dear in my heart.

March 9, 2017 at 1:22pm
March 9, 2017 at 1:22pm
One of the few joys of retirement is being present in the house when the mail is delivered. Along with my bustling schedule of official retirement activities, trekking out to gather the mail, even as the mail truck disappears over the hill, is a special treat for me. I suppose I am seeking validation of the fact that I am still breathing, confirming someone out there still desires to communicate with me. By the way, I wish the person going by “resident” would change their address; I’m tired of getting their mail.

So, this morning, as the mail carrier puttered off in their cute little truck, I assaulted my mailbox and was delighted to see I had indeed received mail. Unfortunately, “resident” had the majority of the mail along with my grandson, who has not changed his mailing address while sojourning afar off on academic activities at the University of Texas in Austin. To my delight, one oversized envelop, very officially addressed to me, sort of, remained.

In fancy script the address on the face of the envelope said “Boutwell Household.” That’s close enough for me. A glance at the return address revealed it had originated from the office of the President of the United States. Silently, I assumed it was a response for the pithy twitter comment I sent to my friend Donald. “Certainly,” I thought, “a returned twitter response would have been satisfactory.” An official response on White House stock was way more than I ever expected. I hurried inside with my special correspondence, excited to tear open the envelope and reveal the contents therein.

Examination of the contents left me honored, bewildered, and concerned. I am honored that the Donald would send me anything. I mean, how often does one receive correspondence from POTUS. I was bewildered because it was an invitation to the Inaugural Event in Washington D.C, which if you recall was a big deal held on January 20th of this year—a full two months...60 days ago. I was concerned because the tardy invitation is glaring evidence that someone, somewhere totally missed the mark. Is this a testament to the efficiency of our postal system, or is it an omen of the efficiency of days to come.

I have no rational explanation. I can only offer conjectures. Perhaps my invitation was delayed by haphazard handling of postal employees—misplaced accidentally and sent on its way after being discovered on the floor behind a paper shredder. Perhaps since the crowd of participants was expected to be so large it was purposefully delayed, making room for others crowding into the mall, as is evident from the myriad photographs taken of the inaugural crowd. I am confident that each person who received a tardy invitation was surely counted as being a participant of the crowd. Lastly, and most probable, the invitation was hacked by the Russians and was delayed in its journey to my mailbox by a nasty Russian operative.

Nevertheless, I am thrilled to have my tardy invitation to the event. My only concern now is if I should respond and explain my reasons for not being in attendance, for I am certain my absence was noticed. Well, don’t worry; I’ll figure it out. That’s what us retired folks do—figure out stuff….and of course, check the mail.

February 25, 2017 at 2:45pm
February 25, 2017 at 2:45pm
The apparent urge for some people, learned as well as not, to liken President Trump to Hitler is a disjointed comparison, totally without merit. The only explanation I can imagine is the shock of those Trump-haters, who desperately cling to some lifejacket on which they may grasp, as they attempt to sink Trumps credibility as President. Therefore, they lash out with the vilest accusations they can summon, even branding him indiscriminately as being a Hitler.

They call him a sociopath and a psychopath, which, granted, is certainly fueled by the outlandish things he sometimes does. Hitler was certainly a psychopath who was surrounded by psychopaths. The only comparison that Donald has to that is possibly his enormous ego, which is fueled by the brash way he sometimes behaves. However, having an expanded ego does not disqualify him from holding the highest office in the land. Please show me a president that has not had a tremendous ego. Teddy Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Bill Clinton certainly come to mind. Have you noticed that every football coach in the National Footall League (NFL) are men with greater than normal egos. I think the comparison to Mike Ditka or the legendary Vince Lomardi would be a much more accurate comparison to Trump. These were men used to winning and were not hesitant to "get in your face" if they saw the need was there.

Hitler rose to power out of the desolation of a wasted economy caused by Germany’s loss of WWI, which was exacted through a vengeful retribution by France and England. From within that environment, a desperate and hungry populace was easily molded by Hitler’s twisted sense of nationalism. And, although Trump can certainly be credited with embracing a national spirit, it certainly does not rise from the ashes of a humiliated people, a defeat government, or a collapsed economy. Rather Trump's nationalism comes from the very success of capitalism, which powers the most powerful economy in the world. In addition the ultimate goals of the two men are strikingly different. Hitler sought to isolate Germany from the world, reconstructing it as the dominant power in Europe, much to the disregard and detriment of all others. Trump seeks to reclaim the position America has already earned in the world by establishing partnerships with the other nations, but doing so from a position of power, much like Teddy Roosevelt.

Hitler was most assuredly a racist and proud of it. He embraced Arian attributes as the favored qualities for Germany, and he did so to the detriment of any other race, person, or nationality, most certainly principal among those was the Jewish people. He was humiliated and incensed when an African-American, Jesse Owens, won a gold medal in the heart of Germany in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. And, he was the evil mind behind the Holocaust, which sought to exterminate the Jews and other minorities. President Trump has long been a proponent of excellence among every race, placing the strongest and most qualified persons in places of authority in his companies, whether they be white, black, or brown, regardless of gender. In 1986 Trump stood alongside Rosa Parks, Mohammad Ali, and others as he received the Ellis Island Award, given to those who “preserve and celebrate the history, traditions and values of their ancestry while exemplifying the values of the American way of life, and who are dedicated to creating a better world for us all.” Martin Luther King’s niece, Alveda King and rights activist in her own right, has continually supported Donald Trump, as has many leaders of the African-American community.

In addition, any accusation of Trump being anti-Semitic is ludicrous. His daughter is Jewish, as is his grandchild. He placed his son-in-law, a Jew, in a position of power within his inner circle. It is apparent his strongest friend and ally among all the leaders of the nations is Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel. Therefore, there is no standing for any comparison to Trump to Hitler along this line. Trump may be a lot of things, but a racist is not one of them.

Adolph Hitler, during his rise to power methodically carved away at the democratic process as well as the authority of the judiciary, which brings us to the main comparison between the two by some. Hitler sought to silence the free press. Trump has consistently challenged the media to report fairly and balanced, granted his manners and methods are often crude and harsh. Nevertheless, he supports a free press. He has often stated that a press which is critical of him, although it may be painful personally, is a good thing--worthy of it’s constitutional right to exist. However, the media must be fair and balanced. The argument with Trump is not if the press should exist, but that it exist in the manner provided for free speech by the constitution, regardless of whether or not one agrees with it. In addition, rather than eliminating the constitution, as Hitler would surely have done, Trump's goal is to strengthen it, holding it in prominence regarding all actions within our country. The rule of law is critical.

Now, one may not like president Trump. He certainly may not have been their choice for president. In fact, initially he was not my choice either. But, any comparison to him and his administration to Hitler and the Nazi organization is simply ludicrous. I have no problem with arguing the difference in positions of the conservative right and the liberal left, but I prefer to do it from an accurate perspective of the two groups, without name-calling. After all, both positions are distinctly American.

January 4, 2017 at 10:39am
January 4, 2017 at 10:39am
The Do-Over

In golf there is a name for it; it’s called a ‘Mulligan’—a do-over. Golf legend has it that in the 1920s golfer, David Bernard Mulligan, created the loosely applied policy of getting a do-over on the first tee of a golf match. It seems that Mulligan was the only member of his regular foursome who had an automobile large enough to carry everyone to the course. Remember, this was during the age prior to ‘power steering’in automobiles. The primitive roads were so rough and his drive to the golf course was so stressful from gripping the wheel that, once on the tee, it took a first stroke to acclimate his fingers to the grip of the golf club. As compensation for his disadvantage, Mulligan’s fellow golfers allowed him to take a ‘do-over’ if his first shot was poor. Thus, the Mulligan was born.

Now I dare say that there is not a one of us who at some time during our life have not wished for a ‘do-over’—an opportunity to correct something. In my experience of six decades I must admit to having many more than one. How many conversations begin with, “If I had it to do over, well I’d….(fill in the blank.)”

Unfortunately, we don’t get any ‘do-overs’ in life. Once a moment is spent, it’s spent…gone. No amount of wishing will change the history of our lives. Therefore, there is no sense in mulling over the thing. There is just going forward. We pick up our lives and take a step forward. The past is still there and may haunt us somewhat, but the damage has been done, so the manner in which we proceed is what is important.

Now, although it is true that we get no ‘do-overs’ in life, we are fortunate to occasionally get a ‘start-again.’ The wonderful thing about a ‘start-again’ is they are unlimited. Every time we have a bad shot in life, we have the opportunity to ‘start-again.’ So, I guess the simple message of this little dialogue focuses around starting again. Although we can’t get a ‘do-over’ in life, I suppose we just have to be grateful for what we have—for all the ‘start-agains’ we’ve been given; and we must be thankful we’ve made it this far. Stay warm folks; and have a very happy New Year.

August 19, 2016 at 12:45pm
August 19, 2016 at 12:45pm
Remembering Christmas in August--For the Last time

We have finally sold our big house, which means we now return our attention to finishing renovation of the little one. We close on the sale of the big house this Monday, already scheduled, done deal.

We begin Phase II of the renovation of our "tiny home" (actually smaller home) the very next day by contacting our contractor and setting up a meeting for the next efforts...ugh, construction while we live in it.

Anyway, after eighteen years of living in our big house we say goodbye to it and cherish all the memories we gathered while we were there, of which are eighteen Christmases. We purchased a large Christmas tree for the eighteen foot ceilings in the house. Since we can't move the tree with us to the new eight foot ceilings in the tiny house, we are leaving it behind--like an old friend. The new family will get to use it, if they wish.

Along that line, I have prepared an instruction sheet for the new owner of our big house and the ten-foot Christmas tree. Thought you might just want to see what I told them:

We purchased this tree the year we moved into the home (1998). It is a little over ten feet in height, with the topper on it. It is prelighted and has approximately 1,400 lights woven into the branches. It has served us well over the years and brought us much joy. It is far too large for our new little house. It is a ‘bear’ to assemble but when it is finished, it is awesome. One of the sockets along the wall (behind the couch pictured here) is operated by the light switch next to the powder-room bathroom. It makes it handy to turn on and off.

Components: 1) Three sections of tree, a top, center, and bottom, 2) three brace rods with wing nuts on each end (the longer bolt goes on the bottom at the stand) 3) metal tripod base.

Assembly suggestions: You may want to wear a long sleeve shirt while assembling the tree. The tree needles will make it look like you were in a cat-fight. It is awkward getting the tree out of the closet, but just yank it out, don’t worry about the branches bending. They never have. IMPORTANT: When handling the center and bottom sections, hold it by the pole NOT THE BRANCHES. If you pull on the branches they will slide right off the pole, and then it is very difficult to get them back on. In fact you need to push them back down in place on the pole occasionally (you’ll understand when you get it out.).

You will need a ladder, no way around it. You also need help assembling the sections. The center section is awkward and heavy and you need to thread it into the bottom pole. We’ve tried putting it together laying flat on the ground and then just tilting it up. But, usually we just grunt and lift it into place. The top piece is easy, just high up there.

Each section needs to be plugged into the electric cord running in the middle, they piggy-back into each other. Once all the decorations are on the tree and it has its light on, the cord becomes invisible. You will want to check to see that all the series of lights will come on. They won’t. Every year we have a string that refuses to shine. Sometimes a couple of strings. The cord is kind of sensitive and when you jiggle it around a little the things pop on. If it doesn’t, like on several occasions, just turn that section to the back (like in the photo above.)

You will need to attach the braces to the tree to give it stability. This is not easy because it is difficult to weave it through the branches.You gotta just keep working at it and give it a little pressure, they always fit in. IMPORTANT: Hold on to the wing nut when you are trying to thread it on the bolt. If you drop it into the branches, it is gone. We have found it a time or two a Christmas or two later when we were assembling it. Just don’t drop the thing.

Usually takes us about an hour to get the thing assembled. Then the fun comes when you begin decorating it. Hope you enjoy it and it brings as much joy to you as it has us.

The Boutwells

July 30, 2016 at 11:01am
July 30, 2016 at 11:01am
We Need Some Phone Booths

I hear more and more people complaining, or being downright worried, about the condition in our country today. The blatant disrespect for our police by hateful self-interest groups has become tragically dangerous. The sales of handguns and weapons for self-defense is going out the roof. I admit I have a loaded and ready .45 Cal handgun near my bed. Don’t even get me started on the angst spewing from both political parties. And, as a topper, we have the most populace religion on the planet screaming Jihad and trying to kill Americans. The times, well, they are not good. Never have we more needed a superhero to come in and save the day. But, the last I looked there was nary a one to be found.

A longtime high school friend, Beverly Dunham, who I just happened to recently connect with on Facebook, offered a suggestion the other day as to why they, the superheroes, have disappeared. I laughed when she first suggested it, but on further thought I believe she has something there. We have no super heroes because we have no phone booths. Think about it, when was the last time you saw a phone booth? Sure, maybe there are a couple in England for the tourists to gape at, but in the ole U S of A, you’ll be hard pressed to find one.

Now, everybody knows, phone booths are a principle place for super heroes to change into their world saving uniform. You can’t have superman charging off as Clark Kent. Nope, that just will not do at all. We have divested ourselves of our heroes when we fully embraced the thumb sucking iPhone. Without a place to change into superman, he is fettered to the earth as mild manner Clark Kent, while all the time the bad-guys of this world run rampant, growing in hostility and boldness.

Somehow we have to find a way to provide our heroes with the mechanism to become such. Perhaps, if we believed in them more openly it would help. Perhaps if we decided to respect the authority of our laws and stop being confrontational with those people who we hire to protect us, it would encourage our heroes to find a way to change into their colorful pajamas which sets them apart from just regular people. Perhaps some of our best and brightest cyber minds could spend a little time on a 'phone booth app' that superheroes could download, enabling them to do their thing.

Now, I don’t know about all this. Perhaps it’s just a bunch of silliness—maybe so. All I know is that I could use a super hero about now. Especially, since so many people don’t recognize the super heroes we have now in our military and our first responders. We need some phone booths…I’m just sayin’.

July 17, 2016 at 12:26pm
July 17, 2016 at 12:26pm
A Time When, In Our Ignorance, We Didn’t Know

The opportunities we now have in this world of cyber-technology to be creative is amazing, as is the ability to continually be in-touch. At the touch of a finger more information than we had ever imagined floods us, satisfying our insatiable appetite to be connected—to be in the know. This ability to communicate instantly anywhere in the world is mind-blowing. I often chat with friends in England, South Africa, Australia, and Texas in a single sitting, with, I might add, the option to view them on the screen in real time through the magic of Skype.

There was a time when, in our ignorance, we just didn’t know. There was an age when time and distance were insurmountable barriers to communication—to the ability to be current and know. Knowledge of the happenings in our world were limited to how far we could ride a horse in a day, how long it took for a letter to travel across country, or the availability to communication devices such as the telegraphs, radios, and eventually telephones. Stuff changed somewhere along life’s journey.

Before, in our previous lives in the cyber dark-ages, it took a letter two weeks to arrive at a destination, and, in my youth a phone call was the quickest way to get hold of someone. We were content in our limited state of ignorance; we just didn’t know any better. We simply lived with our communication limitations. We gave it little thought since that was just the way it was. Thinking back on how much simpler life was in the age before cyber-technology, I wonder if today’s age of instant global-communication is as much a blessing as we think it is.

I’m not sure we humans have adjusted well to this age of instant communication. Today our children’s access to the world isn’t limited only to the world within their sight—the world they can touch. It extends beyond their fingertips in the form of hand-held smart phone devices, which seem to be universally attached to every human’s thumbs. With those phones and the other tools of technology such as our lap-tops, there is no need to ever be separated from the world again—never do we need to be alone, unless of course our battery is dead.

The quest for data and human contact is no longer limited to the physical limits of our personal space. Rather, it reaches world-wide through the tangled maze of cyber data, which includes social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, in the uncensored universe of cyber-space, rumors and vile accusations have the ability to travel at warp speed, inciting ignorant and susceptible minds, producing and even encouraging unbelievable responses and attitudes. Unfortunately, unlike the age before when we just did not know, people just don’t seem to take the time to digest ideas and concepts which assault us in rapid fire succession. We seem to lack the ability to digest these myriad ideas, to discard the bad, and hold fast to the good—not as we did when living in an age where information came to us at a much slower rate.

After the horrific shooting of police officers in Dallas, the Black Lives Matter Twitter sites filled the cyber-thoroughfares with a venomous rhetoric of hate, directed to the impressionable and ignorant. I watched, horrified, as thugs ran in the streets holding their phones up to capture the mayhem, feeding it into the preferred social cyber-site to be spewed to the ignorant rabble hungrily waiting to be feed. In this rapid fire cyber-age is seems there is no time spent to register the terrible meaning and consequence of tragic events like Dallas and this morning Baton Rouge—no, not in this age of instant communication.

When I was a young man, my long distance communication was best achieved in the form of a telephone, which was tethered by a cord to our kitchen wall. A trip out of town meant that we would be totally cut-off from others for the period in which it takes to travel the distance, until we reached another tethered telephone. And, for some unknown reason, in my ignorance, that was good enough for me. Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely reassuring to know that a child of mine, who has just driven away, will not be out of touch as long as they have their smart phone tucked securely near them. However, although you may not be young enough to remember it, there was a time when we just did not know—not until we heard their voice on the other end of the line upon arrival at their destination.

A politician once said, “Never let a good tragedy/scandal go to waste.” And so, as the Dallas police officers were fighting for their lives on the operating tables, the cyber-monster was active. Even our President was quick to issue a statement condemning the attack and offering solace, but at the same time taking advantage of the sound-bytes to place the political blame on guns. There is no doubt that the implements use during the attacks in Dallas and Baton Rouge were guns. But, guns are not the issue. Color is not even the issue.

The issue is found in the hearts of men. That applies to our neighborhoods as well as world-wide. We can disarm the world and it will not stop the carnage. Those who hate will use whatever is available at hand, be it knives, sticks, or rocks. The issue is one the heart--of character. How can I keep someone from hating me? Politicians will never be able to legislate laws to change the hearts of men. There is no law to make one man respect the life and liberty of another. Respect like that only comes from the heart. In my own personal case, it involves a deep spiritual faith in God. In others it may be rooted in other positive sources.

I remember seeing character like that in my family and the families of my friends. I learned respect from my father who was taught by his father. Of course, I was a member of an intact family unit. But, I have seen inspirational character in single parent families too. However, that was at a time before the disintegration of the family overwhelmed society. It was in a time where communication was slower, where learning took a lifetime and wasn’t thrust upon young minds through mass cyber-communication. It was in a day and age where it was par-for-the-course to just not know. Humanity will hopefully work through this dilemma—either they will, or they will destroy themselves.

Our experts, leaders of government and society will certainly make stands supporting their own personal agendas, as they condemn the travesty in Dallas, and they will likely offer their own personal solutions/agendas. I have little faith their planning and programs will have any success unless those plans and programs touch people and teach our children to respect each other. It’s a slow process, which was much easier done in an age where we didn’t know, an age where we were permitted to grow into it, at our pace, under the influence of caring mentors and not influenced by the mass onslaught of a cyber-multitude who indiscriminately encouraged and promoted mass murder.

There was a time when we didn’t know. I suppose, in that other time, we were simply ignorant of a deep problem that needed attention. The problem was still there and still needed careful attention. However, it seems to me it was a safer time and place.

July 6, 2016 at 11:54am
July 6, 2016 at 11:54am
There’s a place Linda and I frequent early in the morning. We don’t get a chance to get there every day, but do it as often as possible. Elk’s Diner is tucked into a corner of an old strip shopping center in a small Texas city. Our town is growing up. It has blossomed from the nine-thousand people when we first arrived here to almost fifty-thousand souls. It’s on the cusp of transitioning from the slow-moving redneck town we first discovered into an urban center. That’s a little sad, because many of us will miss the small town flavor of the past. But, I suppose that’s how it always is. The old-timers are always looking back to the good-old-times.

And, I suppose that’s what draws me back time and gain to Elk’s Diner. Well, that and the biscuits, sausage-gravy, and strong black coffee. Elk’s Diner gets the early morning crowd—the guys working construction who stop to get a bite of breakfast before working out in the sun the rest of the day, the farmers in town to pick up feed or seed before it gets hot and busy, and old retired farts like me. I pull my truck into line with the other trucks scattered in the parking lot, every one of them has a trailer hitch and a few have gun racks in the back window--although I've noticed there aren’t as many gun racks as there used to be when I was a boy.

The dress code at Elk’s diner is country-casual, including overalls with bibs, and lots of faded jeans—faded because they’ve been worked in not because of some fancy designer. There’s always a smattering of western hats and ball caps, which are most likely covering grey hair and bald heads. You’ll find men wearing boots galore and even some dirty jogger/walking shoes. A few wives will be scattered among the hungry diners, but usually at this time of day it’s mostly guys.

Linda and I have been there enough times that we always sit at a particular table, if someone hasn’t trespassed and seized it before we get there. The waitress is used to us sitting there and usually has Linda’s water and my cup of coffee waiting at the table by the time we sit down. She politely holds her order pad and pen at the ready, but knows we will order our regular.

She asks, “What can I get you, Sugar?”

“The senior biscuits and gravy,” I respond.

To which she knowingly smiles. The “senior biscuits and gravy” comes with one scrambled egg and hash-browns. While I wait for breakfast to be served, which is never very long, I notice the other regulars sitting around the tables. There’s a round table that seats about six. I suppose that’s what you could call a philosopher’s table. All the issues and concern of the world are solved at that table. And, the solutions are definitely not always the most politically correct or expected course of action. Coffee is mostly served at the table; breakfast was gobbled down earlier at home. It’s the debates, editorials, and lies which have drawn the group of old-timers to the philosopher’s table. The price of hay, oil, and cattle are often discussed, and the worth of a dollar is always lamented. Through numerous references to the old-days, the sorry state of affairs of modern life will be contrasted and condemned—although, truth to be told, each man has a smart-phone and air conditioner in his tractor cab.

When my breakfast is served, I pay little attention to the other folks, for I am busy inhaling my serving of sausage-gravy, biscuits, and scrambled egg with hot salsa. I’m usually good for a couple of fill-ups of my coffee cup before Linda and I push back from the table, grab the check and shuffle through the aisle past the other diners and philosophers to the front to pay the bill.

At the register one of the waitresses wanders up, takes my bill and credit card, as she asks, “How’s your breakfast, darlin?’”

“Just fine ma’am, thanks.”

She smiles at us and returns with, “That’s what we like to hear. Y’all come back—ya hear?”

We will. We will return to Elk’s Diner because, even though the biscuits and gravy are “to die for”, we feel at home.
March 1, 2016 at 12:19pm
March 1, 2016 at 12:19pm
         We are in the midst of the political season. Here in Texas it is time for me to trek to the polling place and cast my vote. I don't mind; I consider it an honor to do so. This morning I saw a posting on Facebook that proclaimed a person has no right to complain about the results of an election if they do not vote in that election. At face value, that seems to be a reasonable statement--one I have used myself over the years.

         But further consideration has convinced me it is a flawed statement. After all, we are talking about a matter of rights. Our political system is founded on the collective voice of the people and the right of every man, woman, and child to add their own voice to the collective. It is a matter of personal responsibility for each person to exercise that right. However, in the event one does not, it in no way removes the right of free speech from the individual. Every man, woman, and child has the right to speak his own mind, regardless of whether or not they cast a vote.

         Therefore, no matter how annoyed I become regarding the loud proclamations of those who have not voted in the process, I must indeed respect their right to voice their concerns. It matters not if they have voted or not; they still have the right to shout. But, rest assured, I am secure in the knowledge that, if they continue to refrain from voting in future elections, their voice--as loud and obnoxious as it may be--will not be a party to the decisions which are made. We, the voting public, will continue to direct the political process, above the din of their protestations.

         So, excuse me if I cut this entry short. I have something to do. I must go to the polling location and vote.
January 4, 2014 at 11:59am
January 4, 2014 at 11:59am
         You get as old as I am and you naturally lean in one direction or another politically. It is no secret that my lean over the years has been to the right. That’s just the way it is. I continue to have dear friends who are left-leaning, which I respect totally. And so, over the years I have refrained from making too much of an issue on my right-leaning tilt. But, sometimes it just comes out. Such is the case for the Affordable Health Care Act—or Obamacare as it has been commonly tagged.

          Now, to be sure, I am not a fan of Obamacare. I am, however, a great proponent for the goal of the Act. I also believe that, unfortunately, the document itself is truly as Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont) has stated a “trainwreck.” Obamacare is the product of partisan political sausage-making, of which no one knows the content—as evidenced by Nancy Pelosi’s comment, “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.” The principles and ideals intended in the Act have been shoved and molded into a hodge-podge of regulations which rather than reforming healthcare is simply attempting to redistribute benefits to accommodate a one size fits all approach to universal health care, according to Holman Jenkins, Jr. of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ-Sat. Jan. 4, 2014.)

          I firmly believe Obamacare will never be repealed. The Tea Party and zealous conservatives might as well give up and direct their attention to other political battlefields. It is with us forever. However, it is not with us as originally presented. As it lays on the carving table of the US Congress, it is already going through transformations to whittle it into something that is acceptable to all of us. One piece at a time the elements of the Affordable Care Act will be massaged and refined to make it more palatable to the voting public. Even now it is a different law than what was originally passed. Nancy Pelosi was right. We looked at it after it was passed and determined it was a trainwreck. And so we did what we always do. We set about changing it.

          Through Executive Order President Obama has already initiated several refinements to the bill which certainly alters its impact. The House is loaded with proposed bills to cut and hack at offending parts of the bill—the Senate not so much. Even the Supreme Court is systematically addressing elements which will inevitably be changed due to the application of law. After an extended period of time, when all the forces finish with the bill, it will likely not resemble the 2000 page monstrosity which was passed, but rather a working document probably resembling the compromise bill which was originally submitted by the GOP and slapped down by the Democrats.

          Everyone will be a big winner. The Democrats will proclaim victory because they passed the landmark healthcare legislation of our generation. The GOP will be pleased because they whittled it into a compromise that they wanted in the first place. And, hopefully, the people will be served with some sort of healthcare provision that takes care of those who can’t take care of themselves or who were denied the care they needed. But, make no mistake, what we finally get will look nothing like what we were promised or thought we were getting. But that’s how government works, isnt’ it?

          This whole thing reminds me of the old Johnny Cash song, One Piece At a Time, where he assembles himself a Cadillac over a number of years from pieces taken here and there from the factory. In the end, he had a Cadillac automobile, but it looks nothing like anything ever built before. And it didn’t cost a dime. Hmm…that sounds familiar.

December 2, 2013 at 11:59am
December 2, 2013 at 11:59am
         There is a scene near the end of the classic movie, Dr. Zhivago, where Zhivago and Laura escape to a wintry refuge to find peace with their renewed love. The broken down but still stately family home is open to the winter elements and snow falls or filters into the rooms. Nevertheless, in one room they manage to kindle a magnificent fire in the fireplace and settle in together in warmth and intimacy.
         In the night while Laura is sleeping, Zhivago stirs, wraps himself in a wonderful Russian fur coat, and then wanders to his old writing desk, which is located in a colder part of the home. He sits there with lighted candle and pulls out a blank piece of paper, picks up a writing pen, and an ink-well that miraculously is filled with ink. Once again Zhivago begins to write as he once did. In that frigid Siberian isolation, warmed by love and the unquenchable hope of a future with Laura, Zhivago finds his inspiration. He writes with abandon, freeing thoughts and ideas that were weighted down by circumstances and tragedies of his former life. He writes all night, possessed with a creativity that comes with true inspiration. In the morning Zhivago presents to Laura a bundled manuscript of his writing, seemingly ready for publication.
         I am somewhat jealous of that scene. First because he got to spend the evening with Julie Christie, who in 1965 when the movie was made was quite a looker. Second reason I’m jealous is because of the voracious inspiration that overtakes Zhivago as he writes. And lastly, the fact that his manuscript was handwritten and seemed to be publish-ready at sunrise.
         I ask you, does one really need to go to frozen Siberia with a beautiful woman to find inspiration? Regardless of the beautiful woman, it seems to be a stiff price to pay. Can’t inspiration be found in the upstairs study of an American suburban home? The best I could do to mimic the situation was to sit next to the north widow in my short sleeves. Yeah, I know it’s not the same. Well, the measure of my inspiration wasn’t the same either. I managed only to punch out a weakly constructed chapter which needed lots of work.
         And, what’s with this handwritten publish-ready manuscript? How does one produce copy that is handwritten. My longest handwritten work is signing Halmark cards. Virtual cut and past, delete keys, the wonders of spell check, and computerized editing have much simplified writing. Okay, who cares if it isn’t as romantic as pens, quills, and a jar of ink? I tried the handwritten manuscript thing. My pages were scarred with mark-throughs, write-overs, micro written sentences down the margin, and arrows directing the flow of sentences that were in the wrong place. The pages were disastrous. Oh, how I’d love to take a peek at Zhivago’s pages. But, that would probably be depressing with its lack of scribbled out errors and the like.
         So here I sit in my study. Ready to be inspired like Zhivago. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be in the plan. Instead, I hear over and over again in my mind, the sound of balalaika playing “Laura’s Theme” (Somewhere My Love.) No doubt it’s a beautiful piece of music to be lodged in one’s mind. I mean, it could be worse. It could be that obnoxious barking dog “Jingle Bells” I heard yesterday. Oh, my goodness, the barking dogs. I forgot all about them. Oh, no, what’s that I hear? Is it Jingle Bells?

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