A D-day thought

On the seventieth anniversary of D-day I thought I’d share a war story.

My dad was on Normandy beach so long ago. He rarely spoke about it, but I remember him telling that the waves crested pink with blood. In his Higgins boat of the 49 soldiers he was the only one to reach shore alive.

But the story I have is one about sugar and cake. Just before the invasion, my dad was stationed in Torquay. Just 19 years of age, he and his fellow soldiers in a strange country were a confused mixture of amazed and homesick. England at that time was under harsh rationing, and the Americans had money and access to supplies that were rarely seen.

One day my dad is leaving the base when a Brit approaches him saying “sailor, sailor, have you got your ration ?”

Dad warily replied he had when the fellow offered “If you’ve got sugar, we have the rest. If you just come home with me my wife can make us a cake.”

I don’t know if they were young or old, but I recall Dad telling us how excited they were, and how she mixed things up and soon that had a cake to share.

This is one of my favorite war stories, where in the shadow of a great darkness people find comfort in a shared piece of cake.

Some day I think I’ll take a trip to Torquay and maybe have a piece of cake.


Hidden Treasure I&M canal mile 58-83

Farther from the city the canal trail is not so well maintained. One of the aqueducts has collapsed leaving the canal a “tadpole puddle”. Some places it’s full of sediment, and trees 30 feet high grow there or people mow the grass in the canal behind their homes like it’s a play-ground for their kids.

Some places just a tadpole puddle.

Some places just a tadpole puddle.

It’s hot, over 90 degrees ( 32 c ) and the trees give shade, but the large waterfowl are gone. We hear birds singing around us, but they are deep in the trees. At one section, the sticks ahead of us suddenly wriggle away, turns out they are snakes sunning.

This is like where I grew up, small town America – wave at everyone, don’t have to lock your doors. Kids smile and wave at us, and one family is playing with their pet goat. We meet a guy who has ridden many trails, over a thousand miles all with his two buds.

Two little guys for company, they've logged over a thousand miles in their milk crate

Two little guys for company, they’ve logged over a thousand miles in their milk crate

We pass Seneca, a little town where a brick making company is still going strong after starting in 1835. They sit right on the canal and I wonder how many of Chicago’s fine brick homes were build on bricks fired there. During the potato famine in Ireland over two million people died or left the country in a great diaspora. Many found their fortunes here, and many their ruin, for malaria and dysentery claimed a toll. The workers believed that whiskey would prevent malaria, and so held out to ensure that their weekly pay included a ration of whiskey.

It’s too hot for snow, but the cotton-wood seeds drift down like snow and later we pass a golden meadow.

cottonwood seeds are like snow in June

cottonwood seeds are like snow in June

the golden treasure given to those who travel

the golden treasure given to those who travel

We ended at mile 83 in Ottawa, the Indian word for trade, at the conflux of three rivers the French had been trading for furs since the 1600’s. Ottawa hosted one of the Lincoln presidential debates, but now is just a quiet place. When Illinois was nearly broke in the 1840’s they had to borrow 1.6 million from investors to finish the canal. What’s was a dollar worth in those days? The workers digging by the canal by hand received one dollar a week and their whiskey ration.

We were left to turn around and head back the 25 miles, once more moving through time and we returned to the car. One more ride ahead of us to get us to mile 96 and the end of the I&M canal.


bullies

I read with sadness that a six foot five inch tall three-hundred and twenty-five pound professional football player was bullied. It got so bad that he just left the team. Of all men offensive linemen are powerful almost indestructible. Maybe he just wanted to belong, be part of the group, but the cost was too high.

Sifu Mohr used to tell us that when martial artists cross hands the consequences will be severe, even to death. What happens when these giants of men do so? The player in question walked away, maybe from the game forever.

Long ago I worked with one of the meanest SOB’s I have ever known. I was young, he some years older than me. His cubicle sat right next to mine. He rode me hard, unmercifully criticizing and demeaning me. One day he said something that crossed the line. I walked away.

I composed myself then walked over to the HR director, stuck my head inside the door and said: “You can handle this however you like, but if he ever speaks to me like that again, we are going to duke it out until only one of us gets up.” She never said anything to me, but the next day they moved our cubicles and I got a window view.

Soon after that, I left and became a consultant. One day years later I heard that the SOB had been fired for stealing from the company. I laughed out loud.

Let’s hope this football player laughs last too.


graduation…

My favorite oldest daughter, not to be confused with my favorite youngest daughter, graduated yesterday. Read the rest of this entry »


little things…

Once, my brother in law and I rode horse back 1/2 a day from our cabin bordering the national forest and hiked up to the wilderness area planning to overnight just above the tree line, ( 11,000 feet ). Read the rest of this entry »


from kbytes to petabytes

In 1975 I took a job as a computer operator at Chi Corporation. Read the rest of this entry »


who has your back

Today is my birthday, well past halfway to one hundred. Read the rest of this entry »


take february off

My dad learned to drink in World War II. He left a young boy and in the combat of Germany and the Pacific Islands he became a man.

After the war he taught, and while I don’t recall him drinking on school nights, when he drank, he drank hard. Each year he would give up the sauce for a month, just to prove he could do it. It was always February, the shortest month.

May you get through the hard times as lightly as possible. Sometimes that’s were change starts.


applied history

The bus trip from ninth grade to senior high was more than just distance. Read the rest of this entry »


celebrating

Been through more than a few new year celebrations. Read the rest of this entry »