Some of today’s written word

Colonel Washington stepped out of his tent barely avoiding a cascade of rainwater running down the flap.  ‘Bloody rain; will it ever stop,’ he muttered to himself glancing up to the silver-gray sky.  April had been living up to its reputation; this being the third day in a row of a constant rainfall.  Washington, who had his aide clean his boots nightly, felt a little guilty after taking only a few steps in the thick mud that now covered the camp.  It was his habit to walk around the camp after his breakfast though he skipped the last two days because of the pouring rain so despite that it was still raining he was determined to make his rounds today.  He was not surprised to see Sergeant Mulhern drilling a squad of recruits and a smile came across his face when he heard the sergeant dressing them down, ‘Aye, but you’re naut but a bunch of gombeens.  If any of you mogs had two brains he’d be twice as stupid.’  He continued his walk having stopped to have a word with his quartermaster and was passing by the cabin that Henry and Liza had been living in.  They, along with Joseph Clarke and Pierre, left for Albany a couple weeks ago and now the cabin was being used by Lieutenant Colonel Williams.  Washington, much to his surprise as he was ordinarily an optimist, was looking forward to Williams leaving to go back to Colonel Johnson.  It was almost a daily event that Williams would find fault with just about everything but most especially Parliament and the state of his lodgings.  As he made his way back to his tent he saw Daniel, Timothy and Markus heading out, probably hunting he thought.  He was glad that those three were staying but he felt keenly the loss of Liam, Henry and most especially Teeyeehogrow.  Not for the first time Washington had to fight back the sorrow that lived within him.  When he reached his tent he noticed that the rain had stopped.  He took another look at the sky and saw the sun starting to break through. ‘Things are looking up,’ he said to his aide, ‘Now if those chancers in London ever get off their collective arses maybe we can start fighting again.  Good God, I’m beginning to sound like Williams.’

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Braddock

Chapter – Braddock

General Braddock’s headquarters was a hive of activity as was the camp surrounding the headquarters and the temporary village of traders, taverns and whores.  Everyone was preparing to pack up for the long march to the western frontier to confront the French at Fort Duquesne.  Colonel Gordon Doherty brushed the dust from his uniform as he strode to Braddock’s command post.  It was time for him to apprise the general of the state of readiness of his regular army troops.  ‘Well Sgt. Mulhern, I hope the general is in a good mood though I suspect he won’t be after my report.’  Sargent Glyn Mulhern glanced up from the roster of the troop he had been going over, ‘Aye Major Sir, I mean Colonel.  I’ll wager a large whiskey he won’t be liking it at all.’

Major Gordon Doherty had been assigned to Braddock’s command after a successful career with the Scottish Highlanders and promoted to Colonel and was given the task of training this newly formed army.  Sargent Glyn Mulhern had been with the colonel for the last six years and was his right hand man in the effort.

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Chapter 1 – Clash of Empires

CHAPTER 1

The Journey West

1749 – Autumn

Thomas Mallory stopped chopping and took a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow.  ‘Saints preserve us,’ he sighed, ‘it will take more wood than this to see us through the winter.’  He gazed about and took in the sights of the small lease held farm he worked with his family.  His wife Abigail was baking bread in the outdoor oven. His eldest son Daniel was over in the field harvesting the last of the squash and pumpkin. His only daughter Elizabeth was spreading feed for the ducks and chickens.  Liam, the youngest son was nowhere to be seen as he was out hunting.  ‘Aye and what about the spring?  What will they think about my plans for the spring?’

Thomas never did much like farming.  The plot of land that he leased from a wealthy member of the Philadelphia merchant aristocracy was barely sufficient to feed his family and make a profit.  For fifteen years he toiled, saving up every last farthing so that at last they could move West and begin a new life.  He had met William Trent, an adventurous woodsman and one time officer in the Virginia militia a few years back when he stopped by the farm looking for a place to bed down for a few nights.  He regaled them with his stories of the frontier, about his trip down The Ohio and the opportunities waiting for men with vision and courage.  ‘This is only the beginning’, said William, ‘but I plan on opening a trading post along the Allegheny River.  If I’m any judge of events then it won’t be long before the frontier will be teeming with them that’s looking to make their fortune.  Hunters and trappers at first and then with settlers.  Once things have settled there it will be back to The Ohio to start another trading post.’

The seed of adventure and profit was duly planted in Thomas so when William asked him to be his partner in a recent letter he quietly accepted to himself.  The time to tell the family would come soon enough.  All he needed to do now was to convince his wife Abigail that the move would be more than worth the risks involved as the area in question was in dispute between the British, the French and the various tribes of Indians, some of which sided with the British and some with the French.

‘Pa?’ exclaimed Daniel as he gazed off to the woodland that bordered the tilled soil, ‘Here comes Liam, looks like we’ll be havin’ venison for supper.’  ‘Aye that it does,’ replied Thomas.  ‘He may not help out much here but I am glad he’s such a fine hunter and with bow and arrow no less.  S’pose I shouldn’t complain about that, arrows is cheaper than powder and lead.’

‘Okay Pa, can I ask Pierre to join us, he’s in need of a good meal as well and it’s him that taught me to shoot.’

Shrugging his shoulders and smiling, Thomas replied, ‘Don’t see why not.  Least we can do to repay him for teaching you to shoot so well.  Besides, I was going to suggest you bring him along.  My news may interest him.’

Liam finished the butchering, hanging some of the venison in the smokehouse and bringing the rest to his mother Abigail.  ‘Here you are Ma.  We’re having company for dinner tonight.  I’m just leaving to fetch Pierre and the Clarkes.  Pa says he has some news to tell everyone.  Wonder what it is.’

‘Your Pa can be secretive but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with that letter that he got the other day.  He doesn’t know that I know about it.  I do know that it has him talking to himself.  Ask Daniel to bring me another bucket of water, need to make more stew if our guests want to eat.’

After relaying his mother’s request to Daniel, Liam headed down the path at a slow trot on the farm’s draft horse.  It was only a couple of miles to the Clarke’s cabin on the other side of the village and Pierre was in the village so that is where he stopped first.  ‘Liam, my young friend, what brings you out of the woods and into civilization today?  Is there an emergency at the farm?’ inquired Pierre washing his hands and arms in the basin he kept outside, cleaning off the guts and blood of a young fox he found dead yesterday and had been dissecting.  ‘No emergency, unless that’s what you call a dinner invite,’ replied Liam, ‘Pa has something he wants to tell us and asks if you can come over.  I’m off to ask the Clarkes the same.’  Pierre nodded his head and said, ‘I’ll head over as soon as I get cleaned up.’

The Clarke cabin was situated on a plot of land that was for all intents and purposes a peninsula as the river at that point formed an upside down U.  The landlord, a wealthy Virginia aristocrat, had supplied the village with the means to build a small mill and with a forge for blacksmith work.  It was on this piece of land that Joseph set up both.  When Liam arrived with the dinner invitation, Joseph was repairing a wagon wheel, the sound of hammer on anvil echoing off the dense forest across the river.  Henry was cleaning a raccoon hide with the fur still attached, a task he was having difficulty with as it was his mother who used to take care of these sorts of things.  Martha Clarke had been a very industrious woman with many talents and was sorely missed by her husband and son.  She had contracted a fever the year before and died despite the ministrations of her family and Pierre.

Joseph saw Liam first and so after one last clang of the hammer he put it down, wiped the sweat from his face and walked over to the cabin.  ‘Well howdy there young Mallory,’ said Joseph as he extended his hand in greeting, ‘What brings you to our bend in the river?’  Liam slid off the back of his horse and accepted a cup of cool water from Henry and said, ‘My Pa asks if you and Henry would come by tonight for dinner.  Got me a fine buck today and Pa has something he wants to talk about.’

‘Can’t say no to some fresh venison and fine company,’ answered Joseph, ‘Besides it will save me from having to eat the less than savory stew that we two cook up.  By the crowning glory of the Holy Trinity I surely do miss my wife.  I’ll have Henry hitch up our wagon and while he’s doing that I’ll grab a couple jugs of ale to add to the festivities.’

Rather than ride home on the broad, saddleless work horse, Liam hitched him next to the Clarkes’ horse and climbed into the back of the wagon.  ‘What’s that you’re working on Henry?’

Henry tossed the raccoon hide to Liam, ‘Trying to stretch this out for a winter hat.  Thought it would be a nice present for your sister Elizabeth.  If I trap a couple more of these critters I can make her some mittens as well.’

Tossing the hide back to Henry, Liam said laughingly, ‘I’m sure she’ll be pleased.  Just the other day she said to me that she hoped handsome Henry would make her a raccoon cap and mittens.’  It was no secret that Henry was in love with Liza and had been since they were old enough to talk.  Liza was fifteen now and had grown into a very beautiful woman and while she wasn’t exactly leading Henry on, she did occasionally drop hints about other boys in the village being desirable when she felt Henry was acting too complacent about their relationship.

The rest of the trip to the Mallory farm was taken up mostly with talk of a hunting trip they were planning when the first snowfall came.  When they arrived, Pierre was helping Liza set up a spit of venison over the outdoor fire pit.  Thomas and Daniel were setting up some roughhewn stools for sitting on while they enjoyed one of the last warm September evenings.   Soon it would turn bitterly cold and snowy, at least it would seem so as the woolly caterpillars had a thicker coat than usual and as if on cue a flock of geese passed overhead, their V pointed south.   As they clambered off the wagon Liza turned toward them and said with a mischievous grin, ‘Welcome Mr. Clarke.  I see handsome Henry has accompanied you.  I thought he may have left the village as he has not been by to see me in at least two weeks.’  While Henry tried to sputter a reply they all sat down and started passing the ale jug chuckling at Henry’s discomposure.  Liza went back to the cabin to help her mother and the menfolk settled into talking between sips.

Thomas, eager to learn more about Pierre, asked him to relate his tale of how he came to be in Rivertown.  Pierre gazed into each one’s eyes and gauged that the time was right for telling the whole story and so he began, ‘When I was a young boy growing up in Southern France, my parents would take me traveling.  My father was a trade merchant and did very well by it and would take the family on some of his trading expeditions to Spain and North Africa.  I would invariably find a way to lose myself in the towns and villages while my father and older brother were busy with customers and my mother was too involved dealing with my two younger sisters to notice my absence.  I have always been a curious sort and was fascinated by other cultures, how they lived, what they believed, and their languages.  One day I found my way to a small enclave of Moors just outside of Cadiz.  As I was sitting by the well listening to the women talking, an old man sat next to me and started speaking to me in French.  His name was Hasam and was the leader of this group of Muslims, a very much diminished people since most of the Moors had been driven from Spain along with the Jews over the course of the last few hundred years.   I spent the next four days with him and learned much of his religion and the history of his people.  I also learned their language; in fact I have a God given talent when it comes to languages.  I can speak Arabic, Spanish, German, Latin, Huron, Mohawk and of course French and English.  I do not say this as a boast; it is just the way of things.  Some men are born warriors, some are born to be kings, I was born to not just learn but to absorb.’

‘Naturally I was raised as a Catholic and was as devout to The Church as any 13 year old boy could be, I must admit, however, that when sitting around the various village wells I wasn’t just listening to the women talk if you know what I mean,’ he said with a mischievous wink of an eye and a sly smirk, ‘so to learn another’s view on God was an eye opening experience.  Hasam told me too of the Jewish religion and after pondering over these thoughts through the years it still astounds me that the God of the Catholics, the God of the Muslims and the God of the Jews are the same God and yet through blindness and a lust for power these religions claim God as their own to the utter damnation of the souls of unbelievers.’

Pierre paused in his telling to take a sip or two of his ale.  For a few moments he was silent as he just seemed to stare off into nothing.  Finally with a shake of his head and another sip of ale he resumed his tale.  ‘You must forgive me if I drift off now and then. Telling my tale brings back memories and I like to savor them while they last.  As I was saying, I had learned quite a bit from Hasam and that has stayed with me. Still and despite my doubts on the nature of God, when the time came for me to decide on my future I chose to become a Jesuit monk, a Black Robe as we came to be known.  I was eventually ordered to join the already established mission with the Mohawk.  My superiors saw this as a just reward for my somewhat lax attention to the daily rituals.  They were more than happy with my ability to translate and copy text but finally came to the conclusion that I would be better off somewhere else.  The priest in charge of the mission, Father Colon, didn’t have too much time to keep track of a wayward monk as he was trying to keep the Mohawk tribe from splitting up.  Seems that the godly Black Robes had been successful in the converting of many to Christianity but they took that success too far by constantly haranguing those that refused to believe with the promise of hell awaiting them.  I did not want to get caught up in that rancorous dispute so I spent much of my time learning the language and talking to the older Mohawks about their spiritual beliefs.  My fellow Black Robes were not unaware of my unorthodox ecclesiastical thoughts as I often engaged them in debate.  A couple of them became so enraged at my attitude they began to spy on me looking for a way to renounce me to Father Colon.’

At this point Abigail appeared from the cabin and announced that the stew was ready so with a promise that Pierre would continue his story later they headed to a meal of fresh venison and a bean stew.  At this beckoning call the six men rose from the logs they were using for seats and headed to the cabin.  ‘Henry,’ said his father Joseph, ‘Bring along that jug.  Eating and talking are thirsty work.’  ‘Right, Pa.’ Henry answered.  Like his father, Henry was tall and wiry and both were endowed with an adventurous spirit.  When Joseph’s wife Martha died, he gave up on the farm and became the village ‘jack-of-all-trades’; part time blacksmith, part time miller and part time butcher.  Henry was following in his father’s footsteps though he spent as much time as he could roaming the countryside with Liam, hunting or gathering specimens for Pierre.  As he grabbed the jug he said to Liam, ‘Pierre sure has led an interestin’ life.  I hope I get to have some adventures.  Not likely to happen while living here though.’  ‘That’s for sure,’ replied Liam, ‘The more I listen to Pierre the more I wanna get away from here.  He’s never told me much about his past, only that he was asked to leave the Jesuits.  I think tonight we may hear the whole of it.’

‘I swear Liam, this is the best venison I have ever eaten.’ said Thomas as he sliced off another hunk.  ‘That raises a question in my mind.  I wonder if the deer taste this good further west.  Now the reason for this question is because I received a letter a few days ago from William Trent.  When he was with us last year he hinted at needing a partner for his trading post out by Fort Duquesne, well he has asked me to be that partner and after mulling it over I’ve decided it is time for us to move west to the frontier.  I know it will be hard and I know there will be dangers but I also know that I cannot remain a farmer forever.  We have enough saved to pay off the landlord and to procure what we need for the move.’

Abigail was a strong woman not only physically but mentally as well.  She knew that no amount of argument was going to dissuade her husband from this course.  She was actually surprised that it took so long for something like this to happen.  The clues, subtle as they were, to Thomas’ longing had been evident for quite some time.  One of the ways she saw through his dream was in the way he handled their sons.  Daniel was the oldest, and at nineteen years of age was more attuned to the land, more of a farmer than his father.  Daniel never faltered in his duties around the farm, indeed he took on more than his share of the toil.  Liam on the other hand was never much help other than to feed the livestock or to help with the harvest.  Abigail would often complain to Thomas about Liam and his lack of help and Thomas would chide Liam and for a few days he would pitch in more vigorously but only for a few days.  Thomas, being of much the same mind as Liam would often feel a little envious of Liam and his freedom to explore.  ‘Well, husband, I do not know why it took you so long to arrive at this decision.  I have known ever since William filled your head with dreams of a better life, one that doesn’t involve tilling the soil.’  At this little jab everyone chuckled.

‘Have you had any news from Trent regarding the French and their Indian allies?’ asked Pierre.  ‘They can’t be expected to just let an English trading post thrive in their territory.’

‘He did write that things were certainly in some turmoil between the English and French but he has found a spot on one of the feeder creeks to the Allegheny that is well secluded and defensible.  He plans on keeping things slow trading wise until the situation improves but he is sure that it will.  I get the sense from him that he knows more than he is letting on regarding the future of the area.  So, yes there will be an element of danger involved but so far, the French have left him alone.’  Thomas put down his fork and gazed at the faces of his family and friends.  Liam was smiling from ear to ear; Daniel on the other hand seemed a bit more apprehensive.  Joseph glanced at his son Henry, raised his eyebrow, shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘The boy and me have nothing keeping us here, might you want a little company on this venture?’  ‘I was about to put it to you,’ replied Thomas, ‘I would welcome most keenly your company and your help.  What about you, Pierre? Is there anything or anyone keeping you here or would you be willing to join this crew?’

‘Perhaps it would be best if I finished my tale before I answer.  You may not want me along after hearing the rest of the story.’ replied Pierre with a sly grin on his face.  ‘One thing you must understand.  I did not join The Church or The Jesuits in order to serve God.  No, I did it as it was the best way to get an education, to learn and to think.  This may help to explain my disinterest in the rituals and vows required of me.  I did enough to keep from being thrown out but was always being watched and judged.

As I said earlier, I was being spied on so I began to exercise caution.  Took more responsibility for the daily tasks laid before me even to the point of saying Mass on occasion.  This went on for a couple months and then some visitors arrived from the Oneida.  One of their important warriors, Mendoah had come to talk to the Mohawk chief Donehogawa about recent incursions into the Oneida’s territory by a band of Shawnee led by a ruthless brave, Chogan.  With Mendoah, was his daughter, the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.  Her name was Suitana and she had come along in order to spend time with a Mohawk woman gifted in healing.  That is how I came to know Suitana as I too was a student of Onatah.   During our time with Onatah we took many walks in the woods and fields gathering plants, goose down and whatever else Onatah said were good medicine.  Upon occasion our hands would touch as we reached for the same plant or bit of bark and each time we would let our hands linger together a little longer until we were both sure that we each desired the other.  I have said that my vows were not the most important thing to me especially the vow of chastity.  Indeed I was not the first Black Robe to run afoul of that prohibition including the two priests that were intent on destroying me.  Mendoah, along with my best friend among the Mohawk, Donehogawa and a handful of Mohawk braves left the village to deal with the Shawnee.  It was then that my Jesuit brothers struck.  Suitana and I would meet at a beautiful spot on Schoharie Creek; a place canopied by elm trees and under the flowing leaves of willows for our love making.  Usually we were careful not to be followed but on this day I was expected to say Mass though I had not been advised of that.  When one of the other priests saw me heading away from the village he followed me.  When he saw our intentions he raced back to the village and told Father Colon.  When the good Father and my Brothers arrived I was asleep in Suitana’s arms.

I am always shocked when whites bitterly complain about the savagery of the Indians when after all we whites are just as cruel if not more.  I was beaten with club, fist and booted feet to the cries of “blasphemer, spawn of Satan, fornicator.”   I was dragged from that lovely spot unconscious into the creek and left for dead.  Suitana they dare not touch out of fear and rightly so.  Mendoah would have killed them without hesitation if they had.  As for me, I was now an outcast, for as you can readily tell I did not die that day.  When Suitana returned to the village she told Onatah that I was near death.  Onatah gathered up her medicine pouch, made her way to the creek where I was still breathing but barely.  She was able to pull me from the water where she then began tending my many wounds.  I was unable to move from that spot for two weeks.  When I was finally strong enough I said a tearful goodbye to Suitana and Onatah, gathered up the supplies they brought to me and headed away from the village to where I did not know.   I worked my way south stopping at the few farms and villages I encountered to work for food and a place to stay until I was ready to move on.  I arrived in Rivertown and when I learned that the village needed a doctor decided to stay to render what help I could.  I am, however, ready to move on and will join you if you will have me.’

With that said Thomas took one last gulp of his ale, wiped his mouth on his sleeve and said, ‘That settles it then.  I think you’ll all agree that the time to leave will be in the spring.  We can use the coming winter to prepare.  We need to stock up, hell, we need to bring practically everything we’re gonna need out there.  Let’s go back outside and enjoy a relaxing evening; one last time before we get too busy.’

They all did as Thomas suggested and soon the sounds of laughter and light hearted banter filled the night and no one noticed, at least not outwardly, that Liza and Henry had snuck off to the other side of the cabin.  When she was sure they were out of sight Liza grabbed Henry and pulled him to her and kissed him softly, ‘When are you going to marry me Henry?’ she said when their lips finally parted.  ‘In two years Liza, you know your Pa said you couldn’t marry until you turn seventeen,’ replied Henry as he stroked her hair and gazed longingly into her eyes, ‘This is hard on me too you know but now at least we’ll be together more often.  We better get back to the others before they start talking about us.’  ‘Oh my handsome Henry,’ Liza replied with a big grin, ‘they’ve been talking about us for years.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Writing I Will Go

8/11/14 – started the chapter that will be about Braddock’s defeat at Battle of the Monongahela..not much yet but it’s a start:

Chapter – Braddock

General Braddock’s headquarters was a hive of activity as was the camp surrounding the headquarters and the temporary village of traders, taverns and whores.  Everyone was preparing to pack up for the long march to the western frontier to confront the French at Fort Duquesne.  Colonel Gordon Doherty brushed the dust from his uniform as he strode to Braddock’s command post.  It was time for him to apprise the general of the state of readiness of his regular army troops.  ‘Well Sgt. Mulhern, I hope the general is in a good mood though I suspect he won’t be after my report.’  Sargent Glyn Mulhern glanced up from the roster of the troop he had been going over, ‘Aye Major Sir, I mean Colonel.  I’ll wager a large whiskey he won’t be liking it at all.’

Major Gordon Doherty had been assigned to Braddock’s command after a successful career with the Scottish Highlanders and promoted to Colonel and was given the task of training this newly formed army.  Sargent Glyn Mulhern had been with the colonel for the last six years and was his right hand man in the effort.

 

7/30/14 – added two new characters for a chapter later in the story – the battle for Fort Ticonderoga..here’s an excerpt:

Chapter ???

Liam, Daniel and Wahta gazed down upon a small homestead noting the smoke rising from the chimney.  ‘Looks like we’re in luck,’ said Daniel, ‘From what I heard the Fords are more likely to be out rather than in.’ Oliver and Mary Ford managed a comfortable life out of a rugged environment.  Oliver was known for his hunting ability and his all-around woodcraft, while Mary was not the typical stay at home and tend the crops type of woman.  She accompanied Oliver most of the time, was an excellent shot and an expert trap setter.  Together they always had furs and meat to trade with their Mohawk neighbors for corn, beans and medicinal herbs.  They were also part of William Trent’s network of watchers and as such were keeping an eye on the comings and goings at Fort Ticonderoga.  Liam and company had been sent by Colonel Washington to find out what the Fords had learned, if anything.  As they walked down to the cabin, Oliver came out from around the corner where he had been butchering a deer.  ‘Ahh, let me see,’ exclaimed Oliver as he greeted the trio, ‘you’ve come from Trent or Washington else I’m the King of England.  I ‘spect you’re hungry as well.  Fresh venison do ya?’  Patting them all on the back as they walked by, he chuckled and yelled, ‘Mary, darling!  We’ve company for supper.’

After a refreshing meal of venison, boiled potatoes, bean stew and ale of the finest quality, Oliver pulled out a map of Fort Ticonderoga.  Wiping his mouth with his hand after a satisfying drink Oliver remarked, ‘Yeah, that’s just about the last of it.  I picked up this ale on a trip to Albany some time back.  Bought it off a fella name of T. E. Winslow.  Best brewer I ever met, though I heard tell he joined the militia and was sent down to join Braddock.  I hope he survived that fiasco, waste of a good brewer if he didn’t.’  He took another swallow and exclaimed, ‘Mother’s milk, oh, excuse me for my crude remark gentlemen.  Now I suppose you want to know about Fort Ticonderoga?’  ‘Yes sir,’ replied Daniel, ‘but first let me set your mind at ease about our acquaintance, the good brewer, Timothy Edward Winslow.  He is indeed still alive, in fact he is part of Liam’s scout troop.  He even saved Liam’s life during that battle.  He shot and wounded a Shawnee brave named Huritt who had Liam in the sights of his musket.  Ordinarily he would have been with us on this trip but Colonel Washington decided he needed Timothy’s skill as a brewer for the time being.’  While everyone else was smiling and chuckling with Daniel’s telling, Liam slunk back further into his chair with an angry scowl on his face.  Oliver noticed the change in demeanor but decided to hold his tongue, for now.  ‘Wonderful news and that’s a fact,’ continued Oliver, ‘this too is a fact.  Fort Ticonderoga had been real quiet for a while, just the normal routines of drill and patrols, until a couple of weeks ago when a band of Shawnee came in and set up camp just outside the fort.  At first there were only 10 or 12 braves but as the days went by more and more trickled in and then yesterday a band of 30 warriors led by the Shawnee, Huritt arrived.’

At the mention of Huritt Liam flinched and banged his knee on the table.  Daniel reached over and grabbed Liam by the shoulders and eased him back into the chair.  When Liam seemed to have calmed down Daniel let go.  Liam immediately and before Daniel could react sprung to his feet and hastened toward the door.  Turning around as he was about to cross the threshold he stammered, ‘Thank you for the meal ma’am,’ and then continued out into the night.  Mary started to go after him but Wahta stopped her, placing his hand over hers as she arose from her seat.  ‘Let my brother go.  He has a rage burning inside and is best left alone while he seeks to control it.  He will be back soon.’  Mary sat back down and asked, ‘What is this burning rage?  Has it to do with Huritt?’  ‘It has everything to do with Huritt,’ responded Oliver stroking his beard as he thought, ‘or I miss my guess.  I think I’ve pieced it together.  A while back we heard of a massacre at Trent’s post near Fort Duquense and that a Mohawk woman was brutally murdered by a Shawnee named Chogan who if I’m not mistaken was killed later by Thomas Mallory who was in turn killed by Huritt, Chogan’s closest friend, some say they were brothers.  Further, the woman was Liam’s wife, when you add all that up you can understand the bad blood between them.’

 

 

5/5/14 – A wilderness wedding:

Despite the mood of the territory things were going well at what was now being called The Mallory-Clarke Trading Emporium.  Trapping and hunting was the best anyone had ever seen over the last year and a half and that was music to Phil’s ears as he now owned the transport end of the business and had two routes for his wagons, one going to Albany and the other to Philadelphia.  Love was also reaching new heights when Liza turned eighteen and was dropping not so subtle hints to Handsome Henry that it was time to get married but Henry always came up with an excuse or just said they should wait until the time was right.  It was the arrival of Stan McNeil, a trapper who was also a Methodist minister, that left no doubt in Liza’s mind that the time was right, so on a warm September afternoon, Handsome Henry and Liza were wed.

The wedding was as grand an affair one could make considering the remoteness of the post.  Liza had ordered material from Jimmy Two Birds months in advance in order to make her dress and veil.  Abigail gave Liza her grandmother’s ring to wear while Henry was given his father’s ring.  Everyone pitched in to decorate the post and to dig three more fire pits for the roasting of venison, a couple of pigs, a few turkeys and a huge cauldron of rabbit and vegetable stew.  Timothy outdid himself both in the baking department and in the quantity and quality of the ale he provided and Jimmy Two Birds arrived with three barrels of French wine to add to the festivities.  Stan McNeil, known to his friends as Old White Collar because of the collar he kept in his saddle bag just in case his preaching duties were needed, and having sampled the ale and the wine beforehand preached on the story of the wedding in Cana claiming that even Jesus would have been hard pressed to outdo the beverages on hand.  The happy couple having been pronounced man and wife were feted by an unruly but pleasant nonetheless group of trappers, hunters, woodsmen and a few Mohawk.  Music filled the night sky as no less than three fiddles, two guitars, a harmonica or two and Joseph surprising all with a fine tenor voice contributed to the merriment.  As the party gained momentum and hilarity so too did the party goers become less inhibited in their commentary and the good natured barbs about the wedding night could be heard from every corner of the grounds.  Phil announced that he was letting the newlywed couple use his tent for the next few nights and that he would sleep in the bunkhouse and that set off a flurry of comments.  ‘Why Phil my old friend,’ replied Stump Nose, ‘you’re going to give up that comfort and all and dwell with the unclean?  How will you survive?’  Phil, staggering a bit as he made his way back to the campfire from an ale keg said, ‘My plan is a simple one.  I’m going to hold my breath all night.’  At this point Phil let loose a tremendously loud and especially smelly fart.  Rob Carter who was next to Phil and downwind as well almost fell off the log he was sitting on, ‘Damnation.  If you add to the air anymore of that then we’re all gonna die in the bunkhouse tonight.’

 

5/1/14 – The beginning to chapter three:

The trading post was finally taking shape.  When they arrived two months ago, the only building was the storefront.  Since that time living space for Thomas and Abigail had been added to the store and a bunkhouse built large enough to accommodate 20 or so workers or traders spending a day or two in civilized company and comfort.  The site was situated along the Kiskimientas River on a peninsula in the bend of the river.  A canoe landing sat right outside the rear door of the store.  The rest of the post consisted of a large vegetable and herb garden, a brew house for Timothy, stable and corral, out house and Phil’s tent.  This was no ordinary tent as it more resembled Caesar’s campaign tent complete with ceiling to floor length curtains that portioned off the space into three distinct rooms.  The front room was furnished with a large wooden desk and a couple of comfortable chairs.  The bedroom contained a four poster bed and matching nightstand.  The third room held the woodstove and a small kitchen area.  Having never pitched this particular tent before Phil had little idea as to how to do so.  With the help of Stump Nose and Rob Carter, the tent was eventually completed though it took five hours, many tankards of ale and a dictionary’s worth of profanity. Naturally Phil took quite a bit of ribbing for his comfy living arrangements and while taking it all in a well natured manner, he did explain that, ‘I don’t have them fancy things solely for my comfort although that is a factor, but no, the real reason I choose my tent over the bunkhouse is my health.  The smells that issue forth from none too clean bodies of a dozen men are not meant to be inhaled.’

 

4/29/14 – I pulled the hammer back on my .44 Magnum and none to gently poked my slumbering muse. ‘Wake up my dear. Time to end your hibernation. Now, start inspiring me or I will blow your muse arse back to Pixie Hollow and start looking for inspiration from the comic strip Pearls Before Swine.’ Having made my point in a convincing manner, my muse did indeed wake up and I am adding words to the novel…whoohoo..#amwriting 

4/6/14 – Wow…3 months later and I have not added anything to the novel.  This can be attributed to a couple things…have read and reviewed eleven books since the end of 2013 plus I have encountered a slight problem with my book – nagging and persistent doubts as to whether the effort is worth it.  My dream is that it actually make money, something I am in sore need of but the likelihood of that happening is rather remote in the least.  While I have these doubts, my Muse remains silent.

12/30 – have not written anything in a few days…been busy doing a beta read of Marius Mules VI plus finishing The Gates of Troy…done with both now including their reviews so now is time to get back to the writing…so wake up Muse, or as Gob would say in Arrested Development, ‘Come on!’

12/19 – still plugging away.  Finished chapter 4(subject to change, of course)…currently working on chapter 2 which is the move to the frontier.  I thought I was doing okay and then I had an idea for another character to add into the mix…problem was that this character needs to be somewhere else when events in chapter 4 take place and I already have plans for everyone else at the trading post so cannot spare anyone to leave the post to escort the new guy back East…solution? – create a second new character – one thing I’m learning is that a novel until it is published is a pretty fluid thing…at 19,000 words now – still on track for 25,000 at year end.

12/4 – well my 2 weeks off of work end tonight…I had a goal of 10-15,000 words by now and I have reached 14,962…what does this mean in terms of percentage done, you ask?  Going on the basis of 75-90,000 words as a good length novel, I am 16-20% done…my goal by the end of the year is 25,000 words – now to see if anyone is reading these updates…if you would like to read the first two chapters let me know…I have gotten some good feedback on them from a couple people so far and am encouraged by that.  A small tease from chapter 5:

‘Colonel George Washington looked up from his camp desk as a tall, lean Negro entered his tent.  He was dressed as a Mohawk warrior for that is what he was.  Teeyeehogrow was the name he went by now that he was an adopted member of the Mohawk.  Rufus had been his name as a slave on a tobacco plantation outside of Baltimore on Chesapeake Bay.  In a voice that bespoke of much intelligence Teeyeehogrow said, ‘You wanted to see me Colonel, Sir?’

11/27 – Have reached 10,000 words…whoohoo!!  The following is from Chapter 2:  comments welcome and encouraged….

It was indeed a tempestuous winter weather-wise.  Heavy snowfalls and bitterly cold temperatures made for hard work preparing for the move.  The village was especially quiet as everyone sought to stay indoors as much as possible.  Though even in these frigid conditions some still moved about; after all business and daily life doesn’t stop for the weather.  Phil Burke was a moderately successful businessman from Philadelphia where he had a fleet of three ships and a lumber mill.  Nearing 40 years old and starting to go a little portly from the sedentary nature of a business office, Phil was beginning to tire of this part of his life.  So despite the frigid conditions he made a rare, for him, trip to Rivertown to purchase a load of lumber.  Needing a place to stay he stopped in the village inn for a room, a meal and to get warm.  Phil stood in the entrance letting his eyes adjust from the brightness of the day to the darker atmosphere of the inn not thinking that he was also letting in the frigid air.  Thomas and Joseph were enjoying a pint of ale while they discussed how things were shaping up when they were hit with an arctic blast.  ‘Aye!  Sarding hell, would you be closing that door, stranger afore you turn us all into blue-skins?’ asked Thomas as he pulled his hat down further on his ears.’  Phil with a look of disbelief closed the door behind him and walked over to Thomas, ‘Sorry about that, I just wasn’t thinking.  Cold air must have frozen my brain.  Phil Burke is my name, from Philadelphia,’ he said extending his hand in greeting.

‘Thomas Mallory and Joseph Clarke at your service.  Please join us won’t you?’ said Thomas as he caught the innkeeper’s attention and motioned for another tankard of ale.  ‘What in the name of all the saints in Ireland are you doing wandering the streets of this frozen village when you could be basking in the warmth of a fine home in Philadelphia?’

Joseph reached across the table and shook Phil’s hand and said, ‘Phil Burke eh?  Might you be the owner of the lumber mill?  I have done business with you if you are he.’

‘I am and that’s partially the reason I am here.  There’s a supply of lumber I need to pick up though I wish I had sent one of my drivers instead.  I cannot remember when I have felt so cold.  Excuse the vulgarity but I believe my arse is frozen shut and my gonads are stuck together frozen to my right thigh.  Joseph Clarke you say?  Now that my brain is working again I recall hearing from one of my teamsters that you are preparing to move to the frontier.’

11/21 – Have reached 5000 words   – a brief snippet – comments most welcome:

Liam was tracking a wild turkey when he heard a rustling of leaves behind him.  He dropped to the ground and crawled behind two large oak trees.  As the Mohawk brave crested the small rise and came into view, Liam pulled an arrow from his quiver and drew back his bow and took aim.  Donehogawa froze when he saw the movement up ahead and heard the unmistakable sound of a bowstring being drawn tight.  The warrior held out his hand, palm facing forward in a gesture of peace and said in broken English, ’Put bow down little white man.  Mohawk not hurt you.’  Liam stood his ground smiled and replied in perfect Mohawk, ‘Tell your braves to put theirs down and I will put down mine.’  Donehogawa was startled by this unexpected response but did as he was asked and soon there were six Mohawk braves advancing on Liam with weapons no longer at the ready.  Liam, his fingers and arms began to tire from the strain and tension so he too lowered his bow but kept the arrow nocked.

11/13 – one more week til an extensive writing period is planned.  Currently at 2800 words – added a new scene, first one with violence involved…pretty sure there will be more – goal is to have 10-15,000 words by end of next week…

11/1 – decided I need more info on the culture of the Native Americans involved so have purchased another research book to read :  At the Edge of Empire: The Backcountry in British North America (Regional Perspectives on Early America) …current plans have me diving into the actual writing in a couple weeks..I am taking the week before Thanksgiving off for this …

10/22 – Have finished reading Empires at War,an historical account of The French-Indian War…excellent book for my research.  Thinking I may have to take a road trip to western PA to the site of Ft Necessity and Braddock’s defeat.  Firming up locales…ideas for plot etc…hope to do some actual writing this week as well.

10/14 – not much done word count-wise but am plotting locations and figuring what characters I need and how to portray them..have historical figures in mind as well as fictional ones…for example George Washington plays a significant role…General Braddock…William Trent…lots to do..hope I can make time…

10/9 – wee hours of the morning.  Have moved base of operations from uncomfortable writing situation on living room couch to one more suited to the task….the ManCorner – my bit of the house that is mine alone.  I have done some work on the story this morning as I am not babysitting the grand daughter later today.  That is one of things that is going to make this writing a novel take a bit of time.  I only work three nights a week- 12 hour shifts – of the four days that I do not work Saturday is mainly a lost cause due to lack of sleep the three preceding days and I watch Kaedyn for a good portion of Sunday-Tuesday.  That leaves Wednesday as my best shot at getting anything accomplished…have a working title now…The Mallory Saga – A Novel of The French-Indian War…at least I can call it something other than ‘the story’  :-)

Due to unprecedented support by my ever growing network of adoring fans, I have decided to take laptop in hand and finally write a full length novel.  I am going to set this historical fiction story in the context of The French-Indian War, a war that has been called the first world war.  The main characters(at this point of the early ruminating process) will center on two frontier families and their trials and tribulations during this time period.  My idea is to use the Prologue as a means to explain the circumstances leading to the conflict on this continent and to introduce the Mallory and Butler families.

So far I have begun a list of characters and am doing research on the period while my Muse conjures up a plot line.  This is a part of the writing process that will be different for me…up til now I’ve only written short stories etc and haven’t really done the whole plot outline/draft process.  Instead I just let the words flow from my head to my fingertips and while I’m sure there will be some of that in this story now I have to look at the big picture and make sure everything fits….this will be challenging but necessary I think.

I’ve also got kicking around, perhaps way too prematurely, the idea of expanding this into a series of stories following the Mallory family through The Revolutionary War…the settling of the frontier…War of 1812…and The Civil War…heady stuff eh?

BTW I chose Mallory as my main family as it is my great grandfather’s name on my Dad’s side and the Mallory family did come from PA which is where a good portion of this story will take place.  

I may call upon some of you to peruse a chapter or something to garner advice etc…thanks in advance.

PB

Periodically I will update on what is hopefully some progress in this venture.  As of now on 10/7 I have begun the Prologue and Chapter 1.  An idea for the ending popped into my head a few minutes ago so now that I have a beginning and an end all that is needed is to fill in the middle….no worries…  Hardest part is making myself sit down and do the work in the limited time I have…must persevere…must get it done.  :-)

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Return of the Mahunna

11/4/2012 At Da Muni..

Well dear followers of Ocho and other assorted Hoovers….yesterday we were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of the mythical Hoover known as The Mahunna.  I say mythical because just as in the case of Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster, sightings of The Mahunna on a golf course have been rare the last couple of years.  Yet there he was, ragged old golf bag thrown across his ancient shoulders, his rugged face caught up in a series of cackling laughter, the trickling of competitive juices coursing through his veins.

Some may think(more fool them) that two years on the disabled list would necessarily mean a drastic reduction in the skills needed to propel a golf ball from point a to point b in as few strokes as possible.  The first three holes provided a glimpse of the demise of The Mahunna as he struggled mightily to three straight double bogeys…no matter that the other three Hoovers were faring no better…we could tell that The Mahunna was weak, ready to be taken down like a drunken wildebeest by the ravenous pack of Hoover hyenas.  Too long has this grizzled veteran lorded it over his fellow Hoovers, too long has he ground us into pulp with his uncanny shot-making ability…time to bring him down.

Well, the wounded, drunken wildebeest apparently had more in reserve than the hyenas anticipated.  While the rest of us were muttering curse words at our ineptitude(I was so bad on the par 5 4th that I picked up my ball when I got a 100 yards from the green, tossed it to the green only to see it roll into a bunker), The Mahunna rediscovered his game…what a shock, I know.  He finished with 2 pars and 4 bogeys and once again blew us away just the same as it ever was….Meet the new boss/same as the old boss.

Welcome back Mahunna…you magnificent bastard!!

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THE 2012 BUCKET LIST REUNION

THE BOYS WERE BACK IN TOWN

JUST LIKE BACK IN ’72

 

THE 2012 BUCKET LIST REUNION

poker_Ricks house

 

Prologue

            It had been a long two days, although not quite as long as the gap in time between getting together.  Aside from seeing Jim($6) a couple times in the last 10 years and having breakfast with Tracy and Mark on the way home from my golf trip last year, I have not seen my boyhood/young adult/coming of age buddies in about 35 years.  The catalyst for this ‘bucket list’ reunion was finding each other via the internet which seems a bit ironic given the fact that our philosophical approach to life  when young was modeled after the wisdom of the intellectual Stooge, Larry Fine, who so brilliantly captured the essence of the quintessential male in this statement, “We can’t help it, we’re morons.”  Not that any of us is actually a moron, not even Chuck, but for this time together we were freer to be who we were.  A sort of three day pass away from the realities of life. 

As we gathered to say farewell after a day of basketball in Rick’s driveway, a few games of pool in a local bar and the time honored tradition of playing poker, Mark, who seems to only speak when profoundness is needed, stated, ‘One thing I noticed about this weekend, none of us has changed a bit.’  That bit of insight dominated my thoughts the next day as I drove the 850 miles back to Salem, MA.  I’ve come to the conclusion that he was right, at least in the context of us being together.  In the intervening years since our group split to live like adults, we have forged careers, reared children and in most respects lived normal, productive American lives.  However, during our brief two day incursion into the past, we were able to recapture the silliness of youth, albeit in a much slower mode especially  on the basketball court, in such a fashion that it seemed as if there had been no 35 year gap in our group dynamic.  Physically, we all have changed, some with new body parts, some with missing, maimed or just plain achy body parts but the essence of us all is still there awaiting the opportunity to come to the fore.  I was pleased with results.

 

THE REUNION CAST:

Tracy Justice – erstwhile-self proclaimed leader of this motley crew…can still shoot the daylights out of a basketball even with the mobility of drunken hippo…philosophical successor to Luster Justice of Greasy Creek, KY…You Are My Sunshine

Charles LeFurge – rambunctious, contentious right wing enthusiast can still pour cheap beer down in prodigious amounts…aka LaFong as in “I don’t know Charles LaFong and if I did I wouldn’t admit it!”…part of a nightclub standup comedy act featuring Bubbles the Clown.

Jim Irvine – $6 Man is now 66 but still going strong…still the King of cheap under the basket scoring has augmented his boxing out technique with pointier elbows.

Mark Winningham – in his youth a softball pitcher who couldn’t hit…has translated those skills into mind boggling basketball ability…profound and erudite, he hit the nail on the head at the end of the reunion, “One thing I noticed about this weekend, none of us has changed a bit.”

Rick Prince – still has the quickest hands around whether he is intercepting or deflecting a pass or just giving you a subtle but effective shove in the back as he goes by…has not lost his impish mischievousness.

Jim Shields – has learned to say the word “none” so has avoided any more stomach pumpings…on the court photographer for the first day – great job, by the way.

Dave and Tom Thielen – cousins to Chuck…welcome additions to the festivities as they helped keep Chuck in line the first day.

Paul Bennett – showed flashes of brilliance with his new moves on the basketball court and is still limping because of them…gold glove infielder in his youth, still has those reflexes as he gathered in at least half the bounce passes that came his way.

The Breakfasts

The start of my participation in this monumental event began at 3:30 a.m. in Manistee, Mi. as I headed east down M-55 after a four day golf hiatus in the upper Lower Peninsula, toward a breakfast rendezvous with the guys at a Clinton Township eatery.  I admit to a bit of trepidation at the thought of us getting together after all these years.  After all, what if it turned out that we couldn’t stand each other anymore?  I arrived at what I thought was half an hour before the planned arrival but after calling Tracy realized that I was an hour and a half early.  Fortunately, I had things to do and  most of the others arrived shortly thereafter, well, except for Mark.  In what became a breakfast theme, we would propose a time to meet and then without malice or forethought would start earlier.  A vexing problem for Mark who would get there at the original time slot and find us eating, or worse. The second time we had already finished, not well thought out on our part and rude to boot but the even tempered, resilient Mark eventually forgave us and proceeded to take most of our money at poker later…revenge is sweetest with a full house against a measly three of a kind.

The Basketball – Day One

When we were young and limber, the Eastside Kids practically lived on one form of athletic field/court or another.  You must remember that there were no attractions to keep us inside, unlike the couch potato activities that exist today.  Whether it was Tuesday night roller hockey at Knox Church or a touch football game in the street, we honed our skills and hopefully learned our limitations.  As time went on we entered the world of organized sports, mostly softball(fast and slow pitch) at Knox.  I believe it was in 1966 that the Knox Boy’s Team won our league championship and was invited to a city wide tournament to be played under the lights.  This was the year of Mark’s incredible duel achievement as he pitched that team to the championship while at the same time(and he admits this freely), going zero for the season as a batter.  Like I said, we not only got better but learned our limitations.

Because of this affinity for sports, this ‘bucket list’ weekend needed to have some sort of sporting activity.  Personally, I had not touched or shot a basketball in at least ten years and most of the others were in the same condition when we hit the outside courts at Masonic and Harper in St. Clair Shores on Friday.  Before departing for this trip I received a crucial bit of advice from my MA friend Rick, who had recently shot some hoops after a long layoff.  He said, and I quote, “The baskets are higher now”.  Undaunted and fueled by the email trash talk of the last few months(I in particular had been boasting of the new moves I had developed in the ensuing years, to which Tracy quipped, “You didn’t have any moves in the old days!!”), we hit the court with a verve and desire only a bunch of sexagenarians can muster.  Now it is important to realize that we were not as young and limber as before and therefore we issued the following edict:

  • no diving for loose balls
  • no diving for balls going out of  bounds
  • excessive running is discouraged
  • jump at your own risk
  • defense is optional

Another important pre-game item I should mention.  There were those among us who brought a ready supply of Advil or other pain killers.  Mark took it to the next level as he brought aspirin, a vial of nitroglycerin and his jumper cables….”CLEAR!!”

The combatants in this attempt to recapture old glory were, Tracy, Jim($6), Chuck, Mark, Tom, Dave and me.  Jim Shields(because of recent shoulder surgery) did not play but was our roving photographer, an important job as now we can prove that we played and mostly survived.  To warm up and to test muscles that haven’t been abused in this manner in decades, we started out with a game of 21; a sort of free for all/everyone against the shooter game.  I figured if I survived that then all would be okay when the real games began.  What I learned from this exercise was that I could sustain enough momentum for maybe two plays in a row at which point my strategy was to play defense by shouting ‘boo’ to whomever I was covering in hopes that would be sufficient.  My offensive strategy during these periods of recovery was to miss any pass that came my way so that the ball would go out of bounds enabling me to gather enough strength for the next two plays.

We had a time honored tradition of choosing teams by shooting free throws…first three to make were teammates so that’s what we did.  Of course, we would still be there if we had taken the shots from the actual free throw line, so we moved our shot line up about three feet which sped up the process….just another fine example of knowing our limitations.   Teams chosen it was now time to see if any of us could stay the course without needing emergency medical intervention.  The pace was more brisk than I had thought it would be given the sedentary nature of our lives in recent years.  At first we were mostly content with letting whoever had the ball shoot uncontested but as we went along things started to heat up and get competitive.  All of a sudden shots were being blocked, picks were being set, rebounding became a dogfight, vertical leaps were attempted and fouls were being committed.

We ended up playing at least three games.  The scoring rules were simple:

  • 1 point for a basket
  • first team to 11 wins but you had to win by 2.
  • check the ball beyond the free throw line on each change of possession
  • and what became apparent early on –  don’t let Tracy shoot uncontested(not that it mattered anyway as he sank everything he threw up there.)…he always was our Jerry West/Oscar Robertson.

There were seven playing participants so that meant we had a ready substitute, should the need arise, for any who were winded beyond immediate recovery or for anyone foolish enough to try to defy gravity by jumping and pulling a calf muscle, though after looking at the 233 pictures taken by Jim S. all of us were that foolish upon occasion(I am writing this 10 days later and my calf is still sore).

The most memorable game that day went to overtime because of that miserable rule about winning by two.  I believe my team (Dave,Mark and me) came back from a considerable deficit to tie the game at 10 and then went on to actually win.  We had an impeccable strategy that involved Dave and I wearing ourselves out as Dave harkened back to the old days and was leaping and shooting like a man possessed and I finally broke out my “new moves” and dazzled my unbelieving foes by driving to the hoop and unleashing my deadly scoop shot.  Mark, meanwhile, was sort of on the fringe of the activity refusing to tussle under the basket or to even attempt getting any air under his feet, came alive at a crucial juncture when Dave ran out of energy and my scoops began to be returned to me by a no longer fooled defense.  Mark was never very good at basketball and in the old days wasn’t really involved with the innumerable games that we played over the years but on this day he was Mr. Clutch as he hit three or four baskets at the end to seal our hard fought victory.

A brief interlude into the mind of Tracy Justice

Tracy, looking over the tenacious defense as he prepared to throw the ball in, suddenly noticed

a throng of very beautiful women getting out of on oversized van parked next to the basketball court.  It seems that there was a special photo shoot going on involving Kate Upton, Bar Refaeli and a bevy of Hooter’s Girls dressed up in provocative cheerleader’s outfits.  When they noticed us, they set up and began a rousing cheer promising intimate and carnal knowledge for the winning team.  I was guarding Tracy at this point and was concerned for him as he had this goofy look in his eyes, a big grin and just a dollop of drool running down his chin.  Afraid he may be having a stroke or something I said, “Tracy?  Are you all right?”  At which point he shook his head vigorously, looked over at the sidelines and groaned, “Damn, they’re gone.”  “Who?”, I asked.  “Oh never mind”, responded Tracy, “I must have seen a mirage…but what a mirage!”

 

            Having left it all on the basketball court it was time to recoup.  So we said farewell to Tom and Dave as they needed to head back to Lansing to prepare for a golf tournament on the morrow(this, in my opinion, is the only excuse for bugging out that was acceptable) while we repaired to our home for the next two days, the Microtel in Roseville.  Lounging in the room that Chuck and I shared we talked and laughed and then laughed some more resembling the protagonists in Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Glory Days’ with our “boring stories of glory days.”  During this respite a recurrent theme for the rest of the weekend arose  when Tracy asked Chuck if he ever blew bubbles when he was a kid.  The punchline for this seemingly innocent query is rather crude to say the least so I will not divulge it here in writing.  Suffice to say that the correct answer is NOT yes.  Despite the crude and shall I say lascivious nature of this joke, it took on a life of it’s own as we adapted it to suit our silly purposes, indeed as I write this, the topic is still being bandied about on Facebook and in emails.  It will undoubtedly follow us to our graves and may turn up in various eulogies. – Thanks Tracy.

Dinner that night was eaten at one the more elegant establishments in the area.  In fact, I have often wondered why this place has yet to be feted on such TV shows like Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations or Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods.  I am, of course, referring to Hooters.  This world class dining emporium features mostly mediocre food served up by mostly unclad beautiful women which by the way makes up for the quality of the food.  In most restaurants you are served by the same person throughout your meal but here at Hooters we were subjected to the cleavages of at least five lovely ladies.  That burger a little overcooked?  No matter, the results of that girl’s push-up is a wonder to behold.  So we gorged ourselves on wings, burgers and the like while quenching our thirsts with a couple pitchers of an American Industrial beer-like substance(more on the subject of beer later) while enjoying the finer points of the ambiance exuded by tight shorts and the aforementioned cleavage

 

Poker

Not all of our activities back in the day were relegated to the outdoors or on an athletic field.  From time to time we engaged in all night poker games so it was appropriate and necessary for us to do the same during this halcyon weekend.  The proprietor of The Microtel graciously allowed us the use of the breakfast room for the first night’s game.  The only stipulations were that we couldn’t get too rowdy, always a possibility whenever you mix quantities of beer with Chuck in the group and that the game break up at a reasonable hour.  The stakes were small so none of us was in danger of losing a whole lot but that did not deter Chuck from his main goal for the weekend which was to beat Tracy in poker.  This was important to Chuck because he never won when we were in our twenties, in fact, we dubbed him “Beautiful Loser” from the Bob Seger tune of the same name.  The games we played were dependent on the dealer and in the main were the normal ones like, 5-card stud or draw, 7-card follow the Queen and so on.  Except when it was Jim($6)’s turn to deal.  He has gathered a plethora of weird permutations of the game over the years each one with more rules and regulations than the U.S. Tax Code.  Not that they weren’t fun but  it took time to explain them to our slightly inebriated group.

The second night’s card games were played at the house of Rick Prince.  He was unable to attend Friday’s activities and volunteered his place as the focal point for Saturday’s fun and frolic.  The downside to having Rick join in was that Jim($6) had to explain the Tax Code rules all over again.  Fortunately there was, as usual, a quantity of beer-like substance on hand to keep us focused.  In the end it was Mark who was the big winner to the approximate sum of $20, however, and more important to Chuck was the fact that he won more money than Tracy did over the course of the two nights.  This rendered him happier than a Republican Senator on an all expense paid lobbyist junket to Macau.  No matter that the total he won was $1.15 as opposed to Tracy’s breaking even.

Towards the end of our game, Rick’s family arrived home to find that they had been invaded by a bunch of geezers intent on pulling every facial and abdominal muscle they had by way of continued, raucous laughter.  The mirth and merriment in our last few hours together as a group was not only an acknowledgment of the strong bond between us but also was just plain fun.

The Beer

“Mabel, another Black Label, Carling’s Black Label Beer.”  For those of you who can remember  that far back, this was a popular beer of choice for us back in the 70’s.  Nowadays that worthy brew is only available, according to a Google search, in Canada and South Africa so in lieu of an old favorite, the group settled on some of the various American Industrial lite concoctions.  These were ever present at the basketball games, the poker matches and at the pool hall we invaded on Saturday afternoon.  While this arrangement was fine with the majority of the group, Mark and I have developed a more, shall we say, snobbish palette in regards to the beer we drink.  Finally, at the pool hall we rebelled against the imbibing of American Industrial beer-like liquids and purchased a pitcher of Killian’s Red to satisfy our growing need for a beer with taste and substance.

The Basketball – Day 2

When I awoke on Saturday morning, the pain and stiffness of my legs made the thought of playing more basketball seem highly unlikely.  However, by the time we finished breakfast(once again I apologize Mark) the Advil had kicked in sufficiently to fool the brain into thinking it was a capital idea.  Rick has a nice basket/backboard combo situated at the top of his driveway so that is where we once more entered the fray.  It seemed like a good place to play as the size of his ‘court’ was a little smaller than the regulation one we were on the previous day meaning less running or what passed for running.  So much for appearances as the weather rendered that a moot point as the temperature and humidity rose to higher degrees than the day before meaning our stamina was taxed just as much if not more.  Friday we lasted three hours, Saturday not so much, though we did manage an hour and a half before we succumbed  to the heat and retired to the shade while Rick supplied us with cold/wet towels to alleviate the ravages of the sun’s punishment.  Since Rick was unable to play on Friday, I was curious to see how he had fared the past three decades.  He was a pest on defense and hit shots from everywhere whether there was anyone covering him or not.  Some things never change, I guess.

The Pool Hall

Another of our favorite activities when we were young was shooting pool.  Why I enjoyed this exercise in futility remains a mystery.  I attribute my lack of skill in this sport to my ingrained lack of success in mathematics, particularly geometry but I played anyway despite the nuisance of this handicap.  We played stripes and solids in two man teams with the winning team retaining the table.  Amazed at how well the others were playing I decided that I needed to make some sort of statement anent my lack of proficiency with a pool cue.  My time came when I was left with absolutely nothing to shoot at….all avenues to the holes were blocked ….all of my team’s balls were in such positions that I could not possibly sink anything.  Hah!!!  I showed them all by taking an impossibly angled shot that sank three balls….unfortunately two of the balls were our opponents and the third was the cue ball, but oh what a magnificent shot it was anyway.  If memory serves, the team of Tracy and Rick(oh yeah, the choosing of teams was not a democratic process but rather the autocratic decree from our leader, Turtle the First), dominated the proceedings followed by Jim($6) and Chuck.  Mark and I never won a match partly because we sucked but also partly because we finally had some decent beer to drink and felt it necessary to guard our pitcher of Killians against the depredations of the unwashed barbarians drinking swill.

Epilogue

They say in song and story that ‘all good things must come to an end’ and while that was true for this epic Bucket List Reunion it is not really the end of the story.  While we all were of the same mind, it was Jim($6) who stated the true and obvious that we need to do this again, maybe even annually because we may not have many more chances.  Our ties of friendship have withstood the ravages of time, distance and an overlong period of disconnect.  So, while it is too early to plan next year’s event, the seed has been planted.  We will not allow another protracted period of separation, indeed, we don’t have time enough left for that to happen.  This group has discovered that our youthful bonding is stronger than ever even as we reach the twilight of our lives.  Next year the “Boys are Back in Town just like Back in ’72” will reconvene, perhaps somewhere other than Detroit.  I know from experience that The Rockies are a beautiful sight, so perhaps it will be Jim($6) who hosts the next gathering of geezers.  His wife Janet will be pleased at that prospect, I’m sure.  :-)

To sum up the weekend I turn to Gaius Julius Caesar from his Gallic Commentaries as I paraphrase his oft quoted, ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’, I came, I saw I conquered.  My version is thus:

‘Veni, Laffi, Ibuprofeni’…we came, we laughed our asses off, we took pain relievers.  Until next year, my brothers from the Eastside.

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Thoughts on the Importance of History – A Personal View

Ever since I was a young boy I have been fascinated and drawn to the study of history.  This article is some random thoughts on the importance of studying history.

My earliest recollection of my interest in the subject is the talks I had with my Dad concerning WWII and The Korean War.  I was probably about 8 or 9 years old so the time frame was around 1959.  We used to discuss some of the important personages involved in those conflicts, Hitler, Eisenhower and General MacArthur for example.  My Dad was too young to be in WWII and was deferred from Korea due to my birth in 1951 as back then they didn’t draft you if you had a family.  Still, he was well versed in the history of those times and this led to my curiosity of those momentous events.  In particular I remember his telling me about MacArthur’s desire to carry the Korean conflict across The Yalu River to confront the Chinese directly.

I can’t recall when I started learning history in school, whether it was in Elementary school or Jr. High.  Regardless of when it began the seed of curiosity was firmly planted and as time went on History classes were always my favorite ones.   I do remember that I spent a lot of time reading books from the library that dealt primarily with the military and the weaponry possessed by America at the time.  You must understand that this period was the Cold War era and was punctuated by events such as The Bay of Pigs, The Cuban Missile Crisis and the like.  It was a scary time living with the threat of atomic bombs and the creation of fallout shelters..

My desire to learn history was also driven by some of the movies I saw as a kid.  Movies like Bridge Over the River Kwai fed my interest in the recent past while ones like Spartacus opened my mind to the distant past.  It was during this time that I read about Heinrich Schliemann and his exploits looking for Troy.  Thus began my journey to learn how mankind has come  to be what it is.

High School history was confined in the main to learning American history out of a text book; names and dates driven drivel with little or no exploring the why.  This approach is what I feel is one of the reasons that kids are bored with learning history.  Fortunately when I reached my senior year I was allowed to start taking elective classes.  Two of them stand out in my memory.  One of them was an advanced American history class where the emphasis was focused on the causes….no text book in this class.  One of the sources we used was Arthur Schlesinger’s Rendezvous With Destiny.  The other class led by my favorite teacher of all time, Jonas Segal, was History of Western Thought.  There I was introduced to the ancient Greek philosophers such as Heraclitus, Anaxagoras and of course Socrates/Plato/Aristotle.

Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. my Alma Mater where I spent 5 years garnering 3 years worth of credit.  Partially because I only went part time for the last couple of years and partly because I enjoyed too well the hearts and pinochle games with my comrades in books and consequently missed a few too many classes.  Not quite on track for that PhD.  This was a time of great discoveries for me in a number of ways not the least of which was beginning to see things differently from my Sunday School upbringing.  It was in my Freshman year that I was introduced to ancient history.  The class was taught by one of the most entertaining and informative teachers I ever had,  Dr. Milton Covensky.  The class text was a book called ‘The Ancient Near East Tradition’ and was written by, yeah you guessed it, Professor Covensky.  He didn’t just teach the history of the Tigris-Euphrates and Nile Rivers, he breathed it.  He would be bouncing around from one end of the front of the classroom to the other exclaiming something or other when he would stop and say, ‘Oh this is important write this down word for word.’  The man was a joy.

Another major foray into the unknown was a class on Greek Mythology, a large lecture hall class led by a professor who we dubbed Zeus.  As this was a  large lecture we also had small classes or lab.  Mine was led the assistant prof, Tom.  Now Zeus and Tom were not that much older than me and we developed a rapport not only scholastically but socially as well.  A little time period context I think is in order here.  The early 1970’s as most of you are probably aware were years of tremendous social and global upheavals and for me a lot of changes.  Anyway, I used to party with Zeus and Tom, indeed that time period is best seen through a smoky haze if you know what I mean.  But I digress, after completing the required classes, I went full tilt into history.  I was taking anthropology, geology, and even an advanced  class learning Ancient Greek.  The last class I took before dropping out was a high level class on life in ancient Greece and Rome.  If I had actually matriculated it would have been with a Major in Classical Civilization and a Minor in Anthropology.  Alas, I have remained an amateur.

Thus ended my formal education.  In the years since that time I have done a lot of reading about history.  My desire to learn about mankind’s past has not dissipated as I have gotten older.  In fact it has probably grown along with me.  My views on history, however, have changed.  In my youth I was inundated with the thoughts and ideas of a Judeo-Christian tradition which colored my views of the world.  A Biblical world view if you will.  A literal interpretation of the stories told in the Old Testament, the idea that Manifest Destiny was God’s Will for America, that our Founding Fathers were upright Christians; and so on, this mindset was gradually being chipped away as when a river slowly erodes away the narrow valley walls and broadens the channel.

Going to skip ahead to my present day mindset as the previous 30 years was mostly taken up with raising a family and putting food on the table and while I was still an avid reader I was still wrestling with man’s place, indeed God’s place in the cosmos.  What I have become in my 60’s is basically a cynic.  A cynic regarding big business, a cynic regarding American government, a cynic regarding mankind’s ability to live together in peace, a cynic regarding religion, a bonafide, card carrying cynic.

I am a firm believer in the tenet expressed below to wit; history does repeat as mankind does it’s best to ignore any lessons learned.  I know the source isn’t what you would call scientific but I like this quote from The Princess Bride, “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders – The most famous of which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia”   How many times has that nugget of advice been ignored?

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So what does all any of this mean, boys and girls?  What is so blasted important about history?  My cynical mind screams ‘just look around and see the shape of the world we live in’.  The effects of our past are made manifest daily in the here and now.  This is why I feel that the study of history is important as long as it is taught without bias.  Learning American history through the mindset of ‘Manifest Destiny’ doesn’t qualify.  In the end, I’m afraid, we’re probably doomed to repeat the same mistakes.  Mankind has always shown the ability to justify nefarious deeds, indeed there has rarely been any reluctance to do otherwise and I suspect that will continue.  The ‘powers that be’, the moneyed interests who exist behind those who rule wouldn’t have it any other way.

Told you I was a cynic.  :-)

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