Thought For Today

I am so glad that you have found this site and I hope you will find encouragement and joy as you read through my thoughts on God, family and life.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Growing Up During The Nuclear Threat Era

Living Through The Soviet Threat

Until the later part of the 1940s, the United States was the only super power to possess the atomic bomb, but that was about to change.  The Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949. Fearful as that was, the United States felt that they could deter any Soviet threat through the use of its military.  This all changed though when the Soviets altered the course of human events on October 4, 1957 when they launched Sputnik, the first spacecraft ever into space.  Our military was horrified at this event since they knew that it was only a short time before the Soviets would be able to launch their nuclear weapons into space, and drop them on the United States or for that matter, anywhere in the world.  And with this threat, fear would lead both countries to the brink of nuclear war.  

Could things get worse?  The world would soon discover that indeed they could.  The Communist threat was spreading extremely quickly in the world, toppling many existing governments.  Because of the Communist domino belief, (one government falls to communism, causing many others to soon follow) led many people in  democratic nations around the world to think that there was a Communist around every corner in their country, all trying to topple their government.  Along with this, every military event seemed to have millions of Americans and many others in the world glued to a new form of media called, television.  These events would finally lead us to the brink of nuclear war on October 1962.  Millions of Americans watched their televisions as President Kennedy began telling them that nuclear missiles were seen on the Island of Cuba not far from the United States’ coastline.  Our president followed by giving the Soviet leader, (Nikita Khrushchev), an ultimatum to get his missiles off Cuba or face a major military confrontation. It finally came to the breaking point when a major sea battle was about to take place.  

The U.S. and Soviet navies were facing a head on collision that would soon bring the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation.  Near the coastline of the U.S. in the Caribbean Sea, both navies would meet for the first time.  American ships were first to spot a Soviet submarine near Cuba, and were given orders to use non-lethal depth charges to force the Soviet submarine to the surface.  As the sub was being depth-charged, the Soviet officers and crew aboard their ship thought war had in fact finally broke out.  Knowing that their sub had been discovered by the U.S. Navy, the Soviet crew realized that it would be just a matter of minutes until their sub would be crushed by the depth charges falling on them.  Unknown to the Soviet submarine crew, the U.S. Navy sent messages to the sub informing them that the charges were non-lethal, but for some unknown reason, the Soviets never got their message.  Meanwhile, the captain of the Soviet sub was preparing to fire his nuclear torpedo against an American carrier. But first, according naval protocol, 3 officers on board the Soviet sub had to all agree to fire their nuclear torpedo, and it was down to one man, a Soviet submarine officer named, Vasili Arkhipov.  Out of the three officers needed for the firing of the torpedo, Arkhipov was the only officer that would not agree to fire it.  If they had indeed fired upon the Americans, the radiation would have been felt by many on the southern coastline of the United States, which in turn would most likely have led to a nuclear response by the U. S. It was this one man who saved the world from nuclear annihilation.  And so, it came to this moment of history that I write this story of how a little boy was going to save his family while the world was heading towards nuclear doom.  

In the 1950s, our elementary school was having nuclear fallout drills on a regular basis.  Our techniques would not go down as inspirational, or for that matter, repeatable for future generations.  It wasn’t a complicated process to learn, when we heard the bells ringing, we would hide under our desks until told that the drill was not real.  That was the scary part, not knowing if it was a drill or not.  Sometimes during these exercises, when I was trying to look unafraid, I would glimpse over at the girls in my classroom, and I could see that they too were terrified over the idea of being bombed. During those frightening moments, I thought if it really did happen, I knew which girl I would protect first. Though she didn’t know I even existed, or even breathed the same air as her, I was determined to protect her with all my heart, that is, if the bombing did in fact start.  I just knew at that moment I could be her hero and she would think of me as her prince in shining armor coming to protect her from all the devastation caused by the nuclear blast.  

In looking back at those times, we as children were in fact constantly frightened over the possibility of a nuclear war and the devastation that would ensue.  In my own way, I wanted to protect my family from such calamity, so one day I acted in a bold move to keep them safe.  Sitting in the moonlight of my yard, I came up with my most daring plan yet.  I was going to build a cave for my family.  The next day when carrying out my gallant plan, I first had to scale a cliff overlooking the Des Moines River, right next to a 60 foot
drop off and it was straight down.  My thoughts were that if we were bombed by the Soviets and overrun by their armies, we would have my cave to protect them from the blast, and hide them from their advancing armies. As I was digging my tunnel, I kept thinking, “This has to be better than my school desk!”  So I dug and I dug, day after day without telling anyone.  

After about a week I had the cave done and I was very proud of myself.  The next part of the plan was to tell my brothers, and then with much pride, my dad and mom.  But, before that, I needed to show (Mike and Ken), my brothers my cave and see what they thought of my engineering feat.  The next day I led my them to the cave, but first we had to dare the cliff with much reservation, and after many near falls, we made it to the area close to the cave entrance.  As we neared the cave, I could almost feel my shirt buttons bursting from my monumental accomplishment.  Next, I  turned around and faced my brothers with my back to the opening of the cave, and with much pomp and ceremony I addressed them by pontificating in as serious a tone as possible, “I can hide at least 7 people in this cave.“ There faces by now were
glazed over in amazement, at the same time bobbing their heads on either side of me in an attempt to see my masterpiece. With a somewhat cocky attitude, I turned around to face my greatest magnum opus.  But, what I saw next was not what I had hoped to see; the whole cave was not there.  Spinning around looking at my brothers, I said, “It’s gone, someone found my secret spot and caved it in!”  They looked at me and then at each other with stunned looks.  At that moment, recognition dawned on our collective faces and we knew that no one had collapsed my cave; it came down all on its own. In our slow retreat home, and after escaping the death-defying cliff, I found myself totally deflated, but somehow trying to save my dignity as we walked back home.  Following my two brothers I made one last effort in salvaging my pride by telling them, “You know guys, that was our best hope in hiding our family if the Soviets decided to drop a bomb on us, or for that matter, come for us.” As I trailed behind them, I looked intently at their collective reactions to my last statement.  Silence was their only response as we walked along through the woods.  I knew in my heart though that they were making every effort to keep from snickering as I saw their clinched jaws tightening.  

As I trailed further and further behind my brothers I began to think, "Walking can help one think!"  It then came to me as I went past a badger entrance, “I could have been in there when my cave had collapsed.”  As small as it was, I had accomplished that, saving myself!

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Allure of Fame

The Allure of Fame

In looking back at those whimsical years of my youth, I realized that some of my best ideas came to me when sitting on the steps of my parent’s sidewalk.  These thoughts just flooded over me while watching the beautiful moonrise over Jackson’s Des Moines River Valley. On one particular evening of deep contemplation, I had a major flash of inspiration, something that I had never thought of before.  “Why do I need all these expensive lures and test lines to get the big prize fish that always seemed to elude my grasp?”  This thought came to me like I imagine it did for people like Henry Ford with the automobile, or Thomas Edison with the light bulb; I had in that moment the idea of the century, “I should throw away my fishing equipment and keep the process of catching fish as simple as possible.  All I needed was to use my dad’s garden rake to catch fish!”  When heading back to the garage for my tool of enlightenment (dad’s rake), floods of uncertainty came over me.  Honesty of mind followed me with each step that I took, all the while pricking my conscious as I recalled some of my past ideas that needed more work in the developmental phase. 
 But I had to be honest, some of my dreams worked wonderfully, while others would not go down in recorded history as being confused with Professor Einstein’s, shall we say.

Not daunted by my past near successes, I thought this new idea was going to be my best one yet.  Spear fishing the big anglers with the garden rake was going to be revolutionary, and perhaps many others would use this method in the future.  After all, it was easier than using a fishing line that might very well get snagged under some boulder, or sunken tree branch as happened to me and others so many times in the past.  

So with much excitement, I rose early the next morning, and as I neared the dam, I could see the early morning mist rising from the water as it went over the 10-foot drop to the foaming froth below.  The river was now at the perfect level to see giant pike swimming between the rocks.  I knew at that very moment, it was the day for my premier path to success.  Realizing that these monsters of the deep would swim away if I made too much noise, I crept down to the water’s edge with all the stealth I could invoke, all the while l softly tip toed over the slippery boulders to the spot where the water was churning the least.  As I watched the spotted monsters leisurely making their way between the rocks, I could tell that my plan was going to work out perfectly.  I knew that just as a big game hunter pauses to get the most opportune shot, I too raised my rake very slowly, and just at the right moment, I would swing down to my target below and success would be mine.  But my fortunes were about to change. Without warning, my opportunity was stolen from my grasp.  At that dreadful moment, my foot flew out from underneath me.  As my world was turning upside down, literally, I could see as if in slow motion, the slimy green moss covered bolder beneath where my feet once were. In that disastrous point in time of divine comedy, I saw my life flash before my eyes as I flipped upside down.  I landed on my side with a great thud, At that moment, I began feel cold icy water rushing into my pants and underwear, and I knew at that precise moment in time that,  “This is why I hadn’t seen the “Old Timers” doing this very thing.”  As the icy waters flooded over my body, I knew that I needed to find a dry rock in order to regain my mobility, but more importantly, my dignity.  But first, I quickly looked around to see if anyone was watching me.  I was safe, but the cold water did not help take away the pain on my bruised ribs that I felt at that moment.  I limped to the shore holding my side, and began tending to my wounds.  As I sat there looking at my battered and bruised body, I looked up only to see several huge Pike and Walleyes slipping from my grasp in waters right before me.  All the while, they seemed to smile at my misfortune, but all I could do was to respond by wincing in pain.  

After about an hour of warming in the rising sun, my wilted spirits were beginning to be rejuvenated.  I now felt that I was ready for another round of spearing with my new invention.  This time I watched each rock and boulder as I stepped cautiously making sure that I didn’t repeat my prior miscalculations.  Just before reaching my previous point of defeat, I first got a firm footing and then stood perfectly still not wanting to ruin my one chance at success. As I stood their waiting, my thoughts wondered to my prospect at glory.  I could just see all the “Old Timers” licking their collective lips as I hauled in the giant that they could only dream about. 
 At that point, my thoughts went wild, I saw myself in the paper with my giant Pike in hand, smiling at the camera, chest puffed out and people from near and far asking me what my secret was in catching such a large trophy fish.  I would then be the envy of old and young anglers alike.  Maybe even someone from the Minneapolis Star would come down from the Twin Cities to interview me and ask me what I did to catch this giant fish.  In looking back now after many years have gone by, I still remember that day so very well.  It will be forever ingrained in my memory as the day that went down in the books.

Recalling that decisive turning point, out on the rocks, I knew at that moment, I should not make a move or a sound.  So, in order to remain as still as possible, I held my breath until I felt my head started getting light from the lack of oxygen, but I didn’t want to lose my chance at glory, it was here in front of me, I just knew it!  Then it happened, the largest Northern Pike I had ever seen was sliding through the rocks before my very eyes.  It was here, my chance at being famous.  I waited until I could stand it no more, I let out my breath and at the same time I came down hard with my garden rake, and it indeed met its mark.  Time stood still; nothing seemed to move during that epoch moment.  After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, there appeared to be no movement from my trophy fish.  I somehow knew that it was dead by the deep thrust of my rake into its back.  I then began to relax my hold on this colossus from the underworld.  But then, all of a sudden the giant pike decided to move and move it did.  I grabbed hold of my rake, and I then realized that it was moving up stream very quickly, and I unwillingly began traveling with it.  Looking down at my feet at that moment, I quickly understood that if I took one more step, I would be standing on the green slime that nearly ended my life just a few minutes before.  I jerked back with all my might and I could feel the monster starting to give up in its effort to move upstream.  Slowly, with much excruciating effort, I agonizingly pulled the giant towards the shore.  Every muscle in my body ached as I slowly hauled my prize away from my own potential doom.  As I was slowly dragging the giant inch by inch to the shoreline, I felt my strength slowly ebbing from my body, and I knew that I didn’t have the fortitude to make it to the shoreline.  I realized that I needed to tap an unknown source of strength from somewhere in my being, and just like Edison, a flash of light came to me.  I remembered the story of an old man who fished for a giant whale from my grade school reading class. I couldn’t remember the story’s title; it might have been “Mautly Dick” or something like that.  I do though remember the fisherman’s name, it was “Ahab”.  He too had to fight with his white giant of the depths.  As I tried to remember more of the story, my mind began fogging over.  I soon started to feel weaker and weaker as my thoughts began escaping me as soon as they entered my brain.  Somehow I had to remember how it turned out for Ahab.  This is what would give me the will and strength to go on.  Nothing seemed to come to mind though, so at that critical moment in time; I decided to write my own conclusion to the story.  This is how it would end, “Ahab would be successful in catching his fish, and so I too was going to do the same.”  He didn’t give up, and neither would I. I strained with all my might giving one last great heave; I now felt my legs having renewed strength as I neared the shore. With my one last ounce of effort, I heaved the giant that I now called “Mautly,” to the shoreline.  I knew that I was now going to be famous and admired by the world, just like Ahab was.  

As I lay there gazing down at my prize of a lifetime, I imagined myself on the front page of many different newspapers with my giant pike hanging behind my equally giant smile.  But, as with many great successes, there can be great failures as well.  As I was smiling at my trophy fish, I noticed my brother Ken approaching from downstream.  He arrived I noticed carrying his fishing pole and all his many lures in hand.  Looking at all his expensive gear, I thought to myself, “I will not have to spend another dime in the future to catch lesser prizes.”  Refocusing my eyes to my brother once again, I looked up to see him gazing thoughtfully at my prize, not saying a word.  I now expected him to be in somewhat awe over being the brother of a famous person to be, but that is not was happened.  Instead of gleefully congratulating me, he instead, took all the wind out of my sails by saying, “You know brother, I think that it is illegal to fish with a garden rake.”  Then, at that very moment in hearing my brother's words, my future glories came crashing down on my head.  Instead of joy, guilt swept over me and I could only get mad at myself for not checking out the laws on this first.  I remember seeing in the rulebook a picture of a spear, but no image of a garden rake.  Since I didn’t know for sure at the time, it definitely was too late to find out now.  I had already caught the fish and I use the term “caught” rather loosely.  Ken then patted me on the shoulder with a look of consolation.  He then started home.  As he climbed the riverbank, I noticed something hanging from his stringer.  It was two very large Northern Pike that he was trying to hang onto.  I could see that he was struggling with their weight, so I called to Ken and said that I would help with his catch.  

As I was walking with Ken in silence, we both were lost in thought.  For myself, my reach for glory was not to be.  With some far reaching desire for consolation, my thoughts went to Edison, (my childhood hero) once more, being a positive person that he was, I remember reading about him being asked by a rather negative reporter about his 1000 attempts at finding the right filament for his light bulb, “How did it feel to fail 1000 times?”  By which Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1000 times.  The bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.” So with the same conviction, I reevaluated my recent endeavors in a positive outlook as an attempt in finding the easier way to a rather hard task of fishing. Upon further reflection as we walked up our driveway, I wondered, “Did Ahab have to let go of his fish that he speared?”

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Trials of Fishing

The Trials of Fishing

Fishing as a young lad can be very exciting in the Spring-time.  Walleye and Northern Pike are seen working their way up the river to spawn, and they are hungry for any food that comes their way.  Fishermen of all ages get excited over the possibility of catching the really big one to take home as a trophy, as well as enjoying the scrumptious meal with the family.  Young boys are often seen watching the older more experienced fisherman.  These elderly gentlemen are observed working their trade with their special lures and certain kinds of casting techniques that they effortlessly pitch into the swirling depths of the river before them.  Watching these gentlemen fish as a youth was one of my greatest experiences that I could have as a young lad.  These elder fishermen somehow knew where the best spots were, and the best time of day to catch these trophy fish.  If a boy chose not to learn from these older anglers, he might walk home disappointed with no fish to show for his efforts.   Then again, there were days where dumb luck entered into the scene and some kid walked home outshining the older fellows, but these times were few and far between.  Overall though, fishing was a lot of fun with all its ups and downs.  

Each day when heading to the dam I would first check out the people that got their before me. If they had full stringers filled with wonderful fish, then I knew that it was going to be a good day for fishing. If their stringers on the other hand were empty or had bullheads on them, then it would be better for me to head home and pursue some other endeavor.  Perhaps I would ride my bike, or play in the park, and if I had bean-walking money in my pocket, I would head to my great uncles’ pool hall and play Snooker or Eight Ball.  Either way, I wasn’t going to sit on some riverbank and swat mosquitoes the rest of the hot afternoon and get nothing to show for it.  

At times though, events bare fruit in different ways other than fishing, even when you are trying to catch the big one, and it gets away.  One day in particular I was on the bank fishing and some boys stopped by to see how it was going.  I told them of the many fish I had caught (at the time I had an empty stringer that I had  hidden in the water) and the different fishing techniques that I used. They seemed impressed, so I continued on with my oration.  As I paused with my dissertation of my vast skills, they asked me if it was hard fishing.  I looked up into the air as if relaying my extensive knowledge to a much larger invisible audience, and at that crucial moment, I saw myself as a font of wisdom, so I went on with my lecture, “Well boys, a man named Confusion once said “If you love what you do, you will not work a day in your life” They seemed overly impressed with my skills, my vast vocabulary and knowledge, so much so that they wanted to take up fishing as well.  Just then, the noon whistle went off and they headed home to eat, but I could see from the expressions on their faces that they were sufficiently inspired.  For myself, I waited until they were out of sight to pull my empty stringer out of the water and quickly head home to dinner as well. 

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Horse Riding Adventures From My Childhood

Horse Riding Adventures From My Childhood

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s children like myself watched many westerns on T.V.  It was the adventure of the unknown that sparked every child’s imagination while cowboys led their horses and cattle into unfamiliar territory.  There were cattle rustlers, gunslingers, and wild cowboy towns filled with wild women and rowdy men.  Marshalls were trying to keep the peace all the while cowboys who had been on the cattle trails for months were seen blowing off steam, sometimes with too much enthusiasm.  Young lads from every strata of society watched movies like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and The Rifleman religiously.  Filling this frenzy for more, boys asked for 6 gun shooters (cap guns) along with chaps, holsters and of course the white and black cowboy hats.  When not being able to afford the plastic headed horse with a broomstick attached, one just “borrowed” mom’s kitchen broom that is until she saw that it was left in the yard near our imaginary buried gunslingers on “Boot Hill.”  Endless days were spent playing into the twilight hours when mother’s throughout the neighborhood collectively hollered for their young cowboys to head back to the ranch for supper and bed.  

It was not uncommon for homes to have hats and pistol belts hanging from the boys’ bedroom doors.  This of course was needed in case any desperado was found slinking by in the middle of the night. If you could afford it, and your trail bosses (mom and dads) would let you get them, caps for your 6 shooters were the “Cats’ Meow”.  After purchasing them at the Ben Franklin Five and Dime stores, they usually lasted a young cowboy about two days, or until an unknown varmint needed shooting in the middle of the night.  After the midnight shootout rendezvous, pets in the household usually hid under the bed for the rest of the night while little cowboys had their arms or (six shooters) taken away until morning.  

In our house we had a Chihuahua that thought she was a German Sheppard.  She was fearless until something like another dog, regardless of size ventured too close, and then our courageous canine would head under the bed and shake.  Someone needed to protect the area under the bed, why not our little dog. She would guard my brothers and sisters fearlessly, that is, until pretty much anyone or anything came by. And when that happened she would advance to the underside of the bed, which she thought desperately needed defending at the time.  

Westerns had become so much the fabric of our lives as little boys growing up, that we ate, slept, and thought of cowboy life pretty much during every waking hour.  Our parents patiently waited for this phase to pass, but they were also the ones who joined in on the western shows on T.V. as well.  During the day, when our father was at work, we would invent the wild-west not only in our imagination, but also in our neighborhood as well.  Behind our home Mr. E. (another neighbor) had an area fenced off for his private zoo.  It encompassed many acres of woods, ravines and exotic animals he collected. As young boys we would not only venture into this area, but we would be cowboys out on a roundup, but instead of horses, there were peacocks, Japanese deer, antelope, and of course lions as well.  We felt that if we had our cap guns with us, nothing could harm us.  Now as an adult, when looking back at this time, I now know that the lions that Mr. E. had were pretty tame.  I was told that one day he rode one to work for the others to see and enjoy. I was also told that he would occasionally let a lion out when a salesman drove into his place. This would for some reason would discourage the most of energetic of salesman from exiting their cars when the lion would jump up against the window of his vehicle.  Later I would learn that the salesman would drive away never to return again to Mr. E.’s place.  

As in the old west, the sheriff would play a major role in keeping the peace in these tumultuous times. Our town too had a sheriff, and he happened to live next door to us.  Sheriff Benjamin was a very kind man and he seemed to understand children very well.  Like in the old west, we had railroad tracks going near our home. And like what happened in the old west, Hobo’s would ride the rail and come to our town as well.  When entering our town, they would need a place to stay and food to fill their empty stomachs.  Sheriff Benjamin being kind and feeling sorry for them, he would let them stay in his barn in the back and his kind wife would give them food to eat.  After having a couple of days gone by, I would discover that they were no where to be found. They had left early in the morning, our temporary neighbor had taken the next train out heading west. Boxcars were plentiful during this time and they made ideal places for hobos to ride in.  Sometimes though the boys in the neighborhood would sneak out at night and we would meet at the Benjamin’s barn, all with intent of listening to the hobo’s telling us about all the places in the world that they had seen. While they spoke, visions popped into our heads of riding with them on the rail, our holsters filled with fresh caps and cowboy hats hanging from our necks as we would ride west into cowboy territory, seeing the wild west in all its excitement that it would bring our way.  As we sat around the hobo’s campfire, our eyes would bulge with all the tales they would tell us, and later, we would head home to bed with all the makings of wonderful dreams to come.  

I remember when I was 7, we moved to another part of town that was near the river and near the woods, as well as pasture land that belonged to our neighbors, the Olsons. The Olson’s had two horses. They were not ridden much in the winter months and when spring came, they (the horses) had it in their collective minds not to let anyone ride them.  Toby was a Shetland pony and Ginger was a rather large mare. Wanting in the worst way to finally ride a horse, I asked our neighbors if I could ride Ginger.  They reluctantly said yes, but they put the stipulation that she hadn’t been ridden in months and most likely would buck me off.  I accepted the challenge and readily jumped on to her back.  Riding bare back with no reins I thought would be easy, after all, the Indains in the old west did it all the time.  That was a fatal error in judgement on my part. Upon getting on Olson’s horse, the neighbor boy let Ginger go and her eyes almost seemed to come out of her head with horror.  All of sudden she stood back on her hind legs and I thought she would fall back on me and I would be only recognized by a cowboy belt as they put me in the casket all flattened into mush with two eyeballs popped out of my head and a stupid smile on my face.  As Ginger reared back I instinctively grabbed tighter on her mane and that only make it worse.  She really got upset at that point.  I could only imagine what she was thinking, “Who does this little upstart think he is, pulling on my mane and trying to ride on my back!” Ginger instantly came down on all four legs and then broke into a full gallop racing down the gravel path at full speed.  Making a sharp right turn I barely managed to hold on all the while Ginger was bellowing out screams that I thought a horse could not make.  I have to say that I too was getting pretty excited at that moment. Holding on for dear life, I then realized maybe Ginger would calm down, she then stood in one place, let out a growl of anger and then proceeded to run at a full gallop.  Trying to hold on with just her mane to grab hold of, I found my body bouncing in the air as if in slow motion as the horse began to pickup speed.  At that moment I thought that the rest of the neighborhood boys were probably in awe over my abilities with horse riding.  Just then though, Ginger put both front hooves out in front of her and stopped abruptly.  She skidded to a quick halt all the while I found myself sailing past her head as if in slow motion.  But, in reality I was flying very fast into the air as I glided down to the level of the ground, skidding across the gravel past my friends, chin first.  The boys watching broke out in hysterical laughter while I on the other hand was trying to get my lungs working again by gasping for any air that I could muster after having the wind knocked out them.  

My friends picked me off the ground, but as I was being led away, I looked over at Ginger and I swear I could see her smiling and nodding at me as she slowly turned
away to continue her breakfast.  

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Push Karts, A Childhood Story

Many times when testing out new items in their lines, manufacturers will hire special people to test their products to the limits of their endurance.  This in turn produces goods that will handle the worst of punishments and yet remain intact. The outcome leads to customer satisfaction, and that is what determines product sales in the long term.  Children pick up on these cues as well when constructing their inventions which leads me to my story. 

I remember one time my two brothers, Mike, and Ken were planning to build push karts and when I heard of it, I asked to join in on their project.  They generously granted my request and a great adventure began.  Mike, being the older brother and filled with more wisdom and experience, was our leader.  He said that our “karts” must be strong and be able to handle the worst of punishments.  Ken and I respecting our big brother’s logic, agreed. We wanted to make our race vehicles strong, sleek and yet light enough for speed.  Yet it was in the design phase that we soon found that we had to air out a few bugs along the way.  Not wanting to plan to far ahead, we stuck with the idea of having fast push karts and the rest we would figure out later.

Before purchasing our building materials, we first had to earn the money, check!  That was accomplished by picking rocks for the farmers who never were in short supply of these.  One day while working for a local farmer, I looked over the area in front of me and I sighed at the thousands of rocks that had yet to be put on the wagon.  I thought, “I just picked these rocks up a year ago, how is it that they are here again? Does the farmer just dump them on the hill in the fall because he runs out of space on his farm, or is it some other unforeseen event that causes this to happen year after year; I was definitely perplexed and wanted an answer in my tormented anguish.  I then sought the wisdom of the hired man whom I thought was much smarter than myself.  I asked, “How is it that these rocks keep reappearing each year Mr. H.?”  He thought for a good many minutes, then scratching his chin this towering figure of strength and wisdom said, “Well let me tell you Augie, it is the Chinese that keep pushing them up every year!”  Bitten with intense curiosity, I got closer to hear his wisdom.  “You see they are on the opposite end of our Earth and that is how they get rid of them.”  Being a somewhat skeptical 8 year old I said, “Are you sure?”  He responded by putting on the most serious look possible on his face, he then bent over to my somewhat short stature and said, “Of course I’m sure!”  Not wanting to create more puzzles for myself than I had to, I left this dilemma for another time. I now needed to concentrate on more important things, how I was going to construct my awesome pushcart.

The three of us having worked very hard for our money, now a month later, had enough to purchase the items that we needed for the pushcarts.  We went to our local hardware store, (Bob’s Fleet Supply) and bought six lengths of rods for the axles, 12 wheels to fit over the axles and cotter keys to hold the wheels on.  Next, we  went to our local lumberyard to buy the 2/4’s for the frame and axle supports.  The next challenge hit me was when I was starting to walk home.  How was I going to walk four 8’ long - 2”x4” two miles across town? This was going to be one of my biggest challenges that I faced up until this point.  Then it dawned of me; “Why not just float them on the river!” Since the river went through town, by floating them rather than carrying them such a long distance seemed like a world-shattering thought? But, when walking down to the riverbank I discovered that the current was going the wrong way.  I lived up river and the current was heading the opposite direction. I would later be forever grateful for not exercising that not so thought out plan.  I could just see myself floating down river with 2/4’s on either side of me heading to Iowa, never to be seen again.  Many years later, I thought of that not so bright idea when the Army had us doing just about the same thing in officer training at Fort Lewis, but instead of 2/4’s it was with rifles, ponchos, and another guy helping me to hold on to our collective gear all the while we were cascading down some very cold glacier rapids. After bouncing off rocks and swirling around in the frigid currents, my river rat friend and I wondered if we would ever survive, and if our blood would ever return to their collective homes in our legs again.  At that low point in my life and seeing my world flash before me, I derived some aggravated comfort in knowing that I was not the only one with stupid ideas. 

Next, we needed more goods from Bob’s Fleet Supply.  It was our next stop in providing us with the necessary items for our steering. We needed to purchase 4” long bolts that were to fasten the 2”x4”s, and the steel axles to the steering mechanism that would pivot back and forth allowing us to steer our push karts.  Along with the steering mechanisms, we needed to purchase braces for the axle supports as well as 12 penny nails (about 3” long) for the glue that was to hold our frame together. While heading home with our wares we walked with proud struts by the encouraging steps in our plans that we made, and we were on our way to having the greatest push karts in the city.  

The next part of our strategic plan was to go next door to Hample’s Repair and ask Roy Hample if he would drill the holes in our axles for the cotter keys that would hold the wheels on.  Roy was always kind to us and I am sure he did not charge us the full price for his labor. Overall, the construction process was somewhat hurried at times with steps being skipped, due more to expedience than caution.  We realized when assembling the axles for instance, that they needed to be attached to the 2/4’s somehow.  When reasoning further, I thought that we could go back to Bob’s Fleet Supply and perhaps they would have the perfect supports for our metal axles.  It was a great idea, but that would mean that we would have to pick more rocks for the money to buy them.  At that moment, my thoughts wondered to the hill of a thousand stones.  I sighed with deep remorse over going back to that place where the Chinese were having so much fun in torturing me by having me pick up all their rocks for them.  I then said to my brothers, “How about we just take our nails and bend them over to hold the steel axles on!”  Many minds make a job possible and sometimes, not so possible.  Now looking back at those moments of discovery and invention, I can see sometimes we as adults make expedient moves as well, that do in fact cost many extra dollars to a project and sometimes more importantly, lives as in the Challenger space project.  In the Challenger case it was a small O-ring that was the item in question. Sitting in my graduate class we discussed the dilemma of speedy time lines, cost overruns, and deadlines that create a dilemma called, “Group Think”.  This is when those in the decision-making groups pressure others to forget about safety standards into believing it can be fixed later.  If an individual in the group protests and stands alone in the group, they are pressured into conforming to the group’s consensus. In our case, it was the belief of Mike and I that bending the nails that was the best option.  Ken though had some reservations about the ability of our nails holding the axles on.  We quickly reminded him that the alternative was to head out to the rock pile and work another day to earn enough for the axle supports. Going through the agonizing moments with Ken, convincing him that it was more important to get the job done than in facing the hill of a thousand rocks again.  It seemed to make more sense to us in bending the nails over the axles versus every minute facing the trials on the rock hill.  After what seemed like an eternity, Ken saw that the nails were not such a bad option!  Later, I wondered if Ken agreeing to let his brother into Mike and his kart building plans might have been a mistake.  Oh well, I found that being 8 years old, it isn’t good to dwell on such ideas.  They can get in the way of progress.

The next challenge was that of safety, how could we go down our steep hill that lied before us and not end up flying out of the carts when reaching nearing what I thought was the speed of sound?  But more importantly, it was when turning at a sharp 90-degree angle at the T section at the bottom of the hill that was our greatest concern. None of us wanted to think of what it would look like being propelled at ultra high speeds into Mr. Carlson’s Super Fair’s rear store entrance or worse yet, his dumpster in the back.  Our budget was now exhausted and we had to use the resources at hand, but what could we do?  As perplexing as this next hurdle was, it dawned on me, ingenious thoughts come when needs are the greatest, or as I strained to remember at the time, some Geek or Greek (I’m not sure) philosopher once said, {Plato I think}, “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” and in a flash I saw the solution, “Nail my Sunday church belt to the cart’s seat!”  After all, we reasoned that I will only used it once a week, and who would notice a small nail hole in the back of the belt. One quickly realizes that it is relatively easy to overcome guilt when there is consensus in the group. We were soon discovering that a guilty conscience is an easy load to carry when shared with others.  

The next dilemma that we faced was making the cart as light as possible, how to do that was the question.  As we were looking at the possible trajectories that our bodies might fly by not having the necessary restraints, Mike noticed peach crates piled up in a dumpster. Ingenious, Mike was the thinker and he solved our problem. After consulting with Mr. Carlson, he gave us his peach crates and his only payment was that we give him a smile.  With that payment processed we headed on our way to victory.  

What one sees in the mind sometimes is greater than the sum of one’s thoughts.  But I wasn’t going to let road blocks enter into the scheme of things.  If I did that, I wouldn’t get anything done.  Ken’s idea of dismantling the walls of the peach crates and then layering them on the floor of the kart was very clever.  Together, they were very strong and yet light weight. I was glad in having such great thinkers for brothers.  Our dream was taking flight and I could now see the shape of a very sleek kart before my eyes.  As I looked it over I wondered how safe it would be if indeed it decided to roll over while speeding down the hill.  I knew that we couldn’t even afford helmets that would protect our heads, but what was the solution of protecting all of our body parts?  I could now stay in the kart with my Sunday belt, but it wouldn’t help me from banging the rest of my body when I was catapulting through the air without some form of protection.  Reasoning over this for sometime, I finally found it was my moment to shine.  I suggested to my brothers that we needed to enclose the cart for maximum protection.  Mike stood there rubbing his chin and Ken sighed and went, “hmm”.   We cogitated over this for some minutes and the light of inspiration once again struck, I said, “How about we put one peach crate the long way to protect the legs and two upright crates to guard the head from any injury!” Both of my brothers thought further and said that it might work, but it had to be with my kart that we experimented with.  I readily agreed to the terms and we hastily set the crates on the kart.  The next hurdle was how to fasten them to the frame? We had no glue, staples or small nails, the only fasteners that we had were the 12-penny nails.  Oh well, it will have to do I told my brothers, “We can make this work!”  When looking at the finished product, “from a distance” it looked not to bad!

With every challenge that comes in life, I believe that there is a way to overcome it.  I believed that we did meet the obstacles head on and we did indeed triumph over them.  I looked at my sleek pushcart and knew that brains and determination went behind its every round of development.  No man or boy could have been more proud of one’s creation than I was.  As I was gleefully walking around this product of formidable claims, I saw the culmination of man’s finest feat of ingenuity. But before my head was about to explode with pride, Ken said in low tones, “We still need to try it out and see how safe it really is.”  I looked at him with great misgivings and perhaps some disdain for trying in what seemed to me as an attempt to halt my monument to mankind.  I then said in a sullen voice, “Do you have any thoughts on how to do that?”  He said that rolling it down sideways on the gentle slope of our grassy hill would be a good way to test it.  And with that suggestion, I readily agreed to the plan.  I was at that point eager to take away any misgivings on his part and prove that my idea was good.

Getting into the upright peach crate proved to be more of a challenge than I had first anticipated. First of all, the opening was from the front and my body had to contort every which way to squeeze into the small space.  After about 5 minutes of bending my legs and extremities in ways that I thought previously impossible, I sat proudly down in my brand new pushcart.  My brother Ken noticed the smile on my face and said in a questioning voice, “Hope it holds together?”  I stared back at him with undaunted determination and responded in as positive voice as I could muster, “It will hold together, but thank you much!” Not letting Ken see my nervousness, in reality though, I was sweating bullets.  The first thing I noticed was the 12-penny nails sticking out towards my head.  The last thought that went through my mind was, “I should have bent them over!”  But I didn’t get a chance to halt the proceedings because of the vigilance of my siblings.  They were definitely in their test modes.  I raised a weak hand in protest to stop the proceedings, but my voice got stuck somewhere in my throat and the words wouldn’t come out. The last things I remember was one of my brothers pushing me hard down the grassy hill and the other pushing my cart sideways.  The next thing I realized in what seemed like the force of 10 gees grabbing a hold of me and all of sudden my body went limp as the force of the tumbling kart caused my head to bang from one side of the peach crate to the other. Flashes of large shiny nails went past my face at what seemed like the speed of light.  When I thought my life was about to end, the top of the peach crate went flying off in one direction and my upper torso went in the other. Fortunately for me, the gravel driveway slowed my decent and all I could feel was the grinding of gravel against my cheek.  The cart finally stopped with me being pinned in the remains of my dream.  Refocusing my eyes, I could now see that the crate that covered my legs was left halfway up the hill, and the enclosure that went around my head for protection was lying next to me.  At the same time I could feel the warmth of something running down my cheek.  Undaunted by a little blood, I felt my limbs, they all seemed to be working and in order, and not the worse for wear.  But then I looked near my face and I saw the glint of raw steel next to my eyes jutting out from the remains of the peach crate.  All that I could think of at that moment was that I was truly in trouble with my guardian angel.  He probably will show me all his puncture marks and scrapes when he escorts me to my heavenly home, and I imagine he will not be smiling.  

While getting out of the kart I could see one brother laughing uncontrollably while the other saying, “Hmm, didn’t think it would hold up, but it was worth a try!”  The one thing that did work though was my Sunday belt, it kept me in the kart.  I realized though that I would somehow have to ask for forgiveness since the nail hole in my Sunday belt was about the size of a dime.  No hiding that, and no hiding my guilt for ruining a perfectly good belt.  Though, in further thought, “It did save my life and that in itself I deemed as a very successful experiment!”

 Though my younger brother Curt was not born yet when these events took place, he had no less of a racing spirit than his 3 older brothers.  Here is Curt as an adult racing his Sprint Car.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Let Us Not Forget

One day recently I was talking to a Jewish friend of mine. She told me how she lost individual family members to the concentration camps. I was so overwhelmed by this that it was all I could do to keep from weeping. I found myself apologizing for what had happened to her family. She looked at me quizzically and asked why I was apologizing. I could only respond by saying that someone needs apologize, we must all take the blame for what happened, otherwise it will happen again.

My thoughts went back to World War II and that of my father who was in the war. His best friend at the time was Jewish. Dad had black curly hair and looked much like his Jewish friend. My father told me of the insults thrown at his friend and just because he was Jewish, my father received the same insults. These were Americans acting this way. I was deeply saddened to here of this.

Later when in college, I concentrated my Master's degree on World War II. I read of many accounts of war criminals at Nuremberg who sat in the docket. When asked why didn't they do anything about what they knew was going on around them, their response to the prosecutor was pretty much uniform with all those convicted, "What could I have done, I was only one person!" 6 million Jewish lives were taken, men, women, and children. I could only imagine what Hitler was thinking when he ordered this to be done, "Civilization will soon forget and at some point, they may even deny that it ever happened. They will forget because they do not want to remember this horror." I began to realize that the first stage in forgetting is to say, "What could I have done, I was only one person!"
Let us not forget! Remember what has transpired so that we will not allow it to ever happen again.

Sunday, April 28, 2019


When looking out at the snow falling here in late April, I’ve become discouraged at the seeming desire of winter to reassert itself, even while spring is in full bloom. Instead of looking at the beauty of new life forming all around, I find myself looking at the snowflakes instead. 

How many of us do just that when difficulties come our way.  There is good in our midst, but we have is a tendency to only see the snowflakes instead.  With prayer and surrender, when seeking God during these difficult times, we allow him to help us to see through his eyes of faith.   We then begin to see that there is a divine purpose for all things that come our way.  Some challenges cause us to grow, while others redirect us toward our Father’s purpose for our lives, and away from areas that might cause us greater pain and loss later on. In the end, God wants us to be at peace with ourselves by being filled with “his” love and purpose.  We then find that we can grow in this love not only for Jesus, but also for his children and the world around us.  

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Letting Go

When reading in Acts 21 this morning, I saw that Christians whom the Apostle Paul had visited on his way to Jerusalem warned him not to go there.  This was so, because the Holy Spirit had revealed to these Christians that Paul would be imprisoned in Jerusalem.  These warnings were not only revealed to the Christians in Tyre, but also in Caesarea as well.  In both cities it was revealed to Paul that his imprisonment would definitely take place if he visited Jerusalem. 

Obviously this made Paul’s decision that much harder to make, “Do I save myself and do what my friends want me to do and not carry out God’s plan, or do I go through with God’s destiny for me?”  For Paul, it only solidified his decision to go where God was calling him, even if it meant imprisonment, or for that matter, death.  The decision was ultimately Paul’s to make, and his friends knew that, even though they saw a different direction they themselves would go if in Paul’s place. 

Why then even when his friends saw God’s destiny for Paul did they not want him to go?  I believe, feelings of love and compassion were ruling their hearts; they wanted to save Paul all the suffering that was awaiting him and they did not want to lose him.  I think that it is much the same for us as parents as well.  We want to spare our children suffering and pain over the potential dangerous and/or not so thought out choices they sometimes plan to make. 
We though as parents realize that their choices are what they must indeed make for themselves alone. At times, the harder we try to dissuade them from the direction they are heading, the more they go against us. It is not that they want to make bad choices, but they desire to make the decisions for themselves.  Loving them is a process of letting go and allowing our loved ones to venture out and discover for themselves life and all its many directions that it may take them.  Being a source of council when they ask for it, and loving them in spite of our difference of opinions is sometimes difficult to say the least, but we must trust God to protect them and for him to carry out his plan for their lives, as he sees fit.  Ironically God sees us the same way that we see our children, with love, total acceptance and always allowing us to make our own decisions, but always being there for us when we call on him for directions, advice and unconditional love.  

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Stress vs. God

The wood pile is about gone and the new roof is being tested. It seems that we as humans either show our best when under pressure, or we reveal our hidden cracks and flaws.
It is during these times of testing that God can help us to grow by seeking him, as well as trusting God for his guidance. 
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29:13 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Reflections of Life

Sometimes in life we accept situations as real, but they are, at times, only reflections of reality. God helps us to see past the troubles that paralyze us at times. All we have to do is ask him to give us his eyes and heart to see things as he does. Ephesians 1:18 "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. . ."

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Honoring Those Who Serve Us

No words can express my love for this little girl God has given me. About four years ago at Disney World we were eating in the Land at Epcot. Abby saw a hard working college intern cleaning tables. Abby went over and spoke with this lady who was working so hard and who was unnoticed in a crowd of people. I could see the young lady signing something (the young lady's autograph). I watched earlier Abby doing this same thing with Micky/Minnie and the various princess'. For the rest of my life I will remember this photo of Abby making a young lady feel like a princess. A couple of days later I saw this same college student picking up waste that others had dropped in the fairway heading to the attractions at Epcot. Abby and Anne were walking ahead of me when I noticed this very same young lady stopping her work and smiling at Abby as she passed. I have a feeling this one little act of kindness will be remembered by this young lady for the rest of her life. I know that I will never forget it. Children can teach us so much.  
Romans 12:10
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

In The Midst Of The Storm

Recently on a trip back from southern Texas to Minnesota, we ran into heavy rain for two straight days.  Before returning, we as a family prayed for safe travels on our 1,500 mile return trip.   I told God in my prayer that day that we trusted him for our safety, but God had something else in mind, he was going to help my faith to grow.

While driving back, we had to take alternate routes in avoiding heavy traffic around major cities, this would normally prove to be non-eventful, but with the storms coming through, it was anything but normal.  Many of the streets of the small towns we went through had limited gutters for the excessive rain that was coming down, and so, at times, we found ourselves going through streets that turned into small rivers of water which consequently pulled our vehicle to one side of the road or the other. This was more than challenging when traveling at higher speeds when the out of town roads in the country were barely visible.  The water in the dark of the night was the same color as the asphalt service that we were driving on, which made the heavy water streaming across the rain soaked roads very much a major hazard.  As I drove I tried to keep calm not wanting to make my family nervous, so I gave an air of serenity, but inside I was wondering if God was in fact keeping us safe.  I found myself praying for our safety as I drove all the while showing my loved ones a peaceful smile.  

During a time of darkness while still south of Dallas, we got weather reports of heavy rain coming our way.  I wondered to myself, “Heavier than now, how could that be?”  And at that moment our electronic road guide said that we had to take an unforeseen left turn up ahead and this road would take us to the interstate.  I thought, “God is blessing us now!”  Anne was driving at the time when we promptly came to a railroad crossing out in the middle of nowhere and the lights started to flicker on the crossing arms.  I looked both ways and I barely spotted a lone train traveling at a walking speed.  I thought, “What now!”  My thoughts became vocal before I realized it and concern showed on Anne’s face.  We watched the train move painfully slow past us and the only consolation was that it looked like a very small train with only a handful of cars trailing behind the engine. Abby confirmed this when she said, “Dad, it is only a small train, this won’t be a long wait!”  I was relieved at that, but it seemed when looking through the heavy rain, that the train was producing cars out of thin air. I thought, “How could that be?” Then to make matters worse, the engine stopped right on the railroad crossing that we needed to drive over. It sat there and it sat there. It was about this time that we switched drivers and I found myself drumming the steering wheel with my fingers and Anne could see the frustration mounting in me.  It had been a very long drive in heavy rain and I was so looking forward to a bed with warm sheets enveloping my tired body.  Finally after waiting for the train to move, which it seemed an eternity, Anne suggested that we plot a new course.  Anne typed in another route and the navigation system plotted the new directions.  I turned the car around and we began a new route.  After a few miles my frustration began to cool, but I still wondered why God was not hearing our prayers.
No sooner than this thought left me when Anne said that she
discovered that the same road that we were about to travel on, (train blocked our way route) was flooded over and was very dangerous to travel on.  I was humbled by this news and I found myself asking God for forgiveness for doubting him.  I then realized that God had indeed a plan for us, and for our safety as well.  He planted the train where it was his design to stop us, as well as the other vehicles waiting behind us from a possible tragedy. I remembered a few years earlier of how when a bad rain storm back home in Winona caused creeks to turn into raging rivers and how an elderly couple traveling down the road in front of our home drove unsuspectingly into the washed out road and into the raging river and consequently to their deaths.  Shivers went up and down my spine at that moment realizing that could have been us this night.

God proved again to us the next day that his guiding hands were upon us when a large Red Tail Hawk decided to fly perpendicular across our front windshield.  The hawk’s wingspan was around 4 to close to 5 feet across.  A Red Tailed Hawk’s eye- sight can see a mouse ten stories from up above, but it obviously didn’t see our vehicle.  I saw it take off from the grassy median up ahead, and it hadn’t gained much take off speed before turning toward our car.  In a split second I could just see it crashing through our front windshield with disastrous effect.  Then all of a sudden when its talons were level with our glass windshield, it went straight up like some giant hand had picked it up out of our way. It happened all in a split second, but time seemed to slow down to a fraction of its normal speed, all the while we were holding our collective breathes, waiting for the huge impact to occur.  Anne and I just looked at each other with mouths hanging open in surprise trying to absorb what had just happened.  We once again saw God’s hand delivering us from danger.  Again, we could only thank our Lord for his divine protection.  It was a time of trust and growth for me, and a time of being thankful for His mighty provisions.