Monday, January 28, 2013

A Very Special Man

Anyone recognize the man with a cigarette in his mouth offering a smoke to a buddy?

Nobody I ever met, but a man thousands of World War Two veterans knew and had deep appreciation for. His name was Ernie Pyle, and his newspaper articles about the average GI told
an amazing story of privation, courage, and sacrifice. He didn't spend time extolling the greatness of senior level commanders - instead he shared foxholes with everyday fighters for freedom. In the end,
like so many heroes of the fighting fields, ashore and at sea, he lost his life in a far-off battlefield..

Ernie Pyle was an extraordinary everyday kind of a person. A Hoosier from eastern Indiana, he had the gift of writing about the guy down the street who responded to the call of his country and did it to reflect the sacrifice of ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances.

One thing I never knew about Ernie Pyle was that before the war he wrote newspaper columns about everyday Americans. Like John Steinbeck in 'Travels With Charlie', Ernie traveled all over the United States. His company, rather than a canine, was his wife who was called, for lack of a better description, "That Girl." Actually, her name was Jerry, but we all have our pet names for our mates.

Ernie's travels have been locked into book form in a volume titled "Home Country" which I found in
a shop selling clothes, furniture, electronics, old 33 RPM records, and yes, a lot of cast-off books.
Looking at the flyleaf of "Home Country", I see printing dates between 1935 and 1940. So, what could this book have to do with our life in the twenty-first century?

First, it reflects a potpourri of history as it was. Built around everyday people of the time, it colorfully reveals life back in the thirties. But at the same time, in a lot of ways, it reflects life today. In a very positive way it reveals human nature in a variety of situations. And it expresses the life of both ordinary and extraordinary people in a way that tugs at the heartstrings and at the same time reflects the beauty of our nation as well as the humorous side of people. In short, I loved the book may well keep it to read again and again.

Interestingly enough, it's not just a book out of someones closet or attic --  it is still available in different printings, even a reprint in the 1980's, from Amazon. I thoroughly enjoyed it - and commend it to your bookshelf. It goes to show that an ordinary guy from Indiana has had an enduring ability to not only put himself in the shoes of men called to battle, but also in the shoes of everyday people whose lives have not faded away but live on in many ways today.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Flying High

It has always been traditional for dad to get shirts and ties and sweaters  for Christmas.I couldn't believe, this past Christmas that there wasn't the usual emphasis on clothes. Not that I didn't need apparel - I can always use things like socks and skivvies - but this year was different. Lots of goodies, and, unfortunately, not a lot that fit the diabetes regime - but that worked out well for others - what wasn't necessarily good for me was good for them.  But the most unique gift was a radio control helicopter (shown above).
Now, at age 85 I don't often get toys for Christmas - but it did not take long for me to learn that this was not a toy - it did not want to respond to my commands. Oh, it hopped around a bit, and it skittered across the floor to crash into one piece of furniture or another. It seemed to have a mind of its own - and, to say the least, it did not take long for me to begin to wonder why anyone would give a helicopter - supposedly controllable, to an octogenarian who had lost a lot of coordination. So the helicopter remained as shown, on a living room table.
Some three weeks later I ended up at Tawas St. Joseph Hospital with what was diagnosed as a heart attack, and which involved transfer to the cardiac ICU at St. Mary's Hospital in Saginaw. Dosed up with morphine, I was advised at first that I would go by ambulance for an hour and half ride - and then minds changed and they said I would go by - you guessed it - helicopter. My past experience of not getting my model off the ground went through my mind and I became a little concerned. I even asked the pilot how long ago he had gotten his 'drivers' license. Loaded aboard, off we went and I was afforded great care and a nice nighttime view out the real clamshell windows of the Lake Huron shoreline, Bay City, and eventually, Saginaw.
During the time in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit I underwent EKGs, Xrays, echocardiograms and a heart catheterization and got visited by medicopter crew members. During these visits I mentioned my Christmas helicopter gift and my inability to get my copter off the ground. They laughed and told me about actual helicopter pilots (including a U.S. Marine Corp pilot) who had the same problem with radio control models like mine. I was relieved to know I wasn't alone.
Once past my medical crisis, I was released and took a much longer ride back home. Almost as soon
as I got home I tried my R C copter out again and would you believe, it FLEW! Up to the ceiling and back down. Amazing. I could make it go up and down. But I couldn't make it go left or right, forward or back. But it flew. And thankfully, so did the medicopter that took me to Saginaw.
As for me, I'm feeling great - in fact,flying high. And thankful for today's blessings. At least till the bills start coming in.