Posts Tagged With: heroes

SUPERIOR, WISCONSIN

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Leaving Ashland, we stopped at the Northern Great Lakes Visitors Center. They were celebrating the grand opening of a new exhibit about Aldo Leopold and the docent teasingly said this fall basket of mums matched my clothes and I should have my picture taken with it. The building is quite impressive but I found the displays rather plastic. A voices about Native Americans film was poorly done. The see-through lighted-from-behind screen was shadowed by the exit sign lights and other invasive light made it difficult to see.  The exhibits are designed to play with and press buttons and the story and pictures, except for a 75 foot tall mural, just didn’t give me a satisfied feel, or peak my curiosity, except for this sign:

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Just the sign, then very little about people settling here and struggling to make it. Duluth is in Minnesota, maybe that is why. But, Highway 2 is on a direct line to Duluth. I guess I’m jaded. I’ve seen so many wonderful visitors centers that give you a strong feel for where you are.

The Leopold exhibit was sparse. Aldo Leopold was one of America’s foremost conservationists.  He is renowned for starting the national wilderness system, founding the field of wildlife management and ecology, and writing the conservation classic A Sand County Almanac. He devoted his life to the question, “How do we live on the land without spoiling it?”  A question we are still asking today.  But, no counterpart of what Wisconsin has done to fulfill that goal. I asked the docent where I could see some big sugar maples, some huge hemlocks and pines and birches. She said there are a few stands here and there, on an island, or a park. Except for a nice garden in front of the center, it is surrounded by grass. A beautiful viewing tower to look at twigs for trees and grass. It makes me wonder, is this state way behind in recognizing the very lessons that Leopold brought to American consciousness? I was truly disappointed.

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This map is suggesting that climate change is a reality and this is what could happen. While we travel around the country we hear people everywhere, say:  “This is unusual weather. It isn’t usually like this.” At Ashland, a storm blew up like a veritable tornado. Campers commented at how unusual it is to get so many violent storms. In Michigan, the humidity and weeks on end of higher than normal temps? people were shaking their heads, “don’t know, this weather. My barley heads are bigger this year, but my corn is destroyed,” etc. etc.

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The center had an artists rendering  of the extinct American Carrier Pigeons that were so important during WW1. I was amazed at how beautiful they were and wonder how our society let them die out. It bothers me still that these things happened. In fact, one poster of a former Wisconsin governor claimed, “We have enough great forests to last our population forever.”  If only they knew what greed could do.

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When we reached Superior, we spent the night at the Richard Bong Veterans Historical Center. Richard Ira Bong above was a WWII fighter pilot who surpassed Eddie Rickenbacker’s record for downing 27 enemy planes. Just a young kid of 18, his  first battle netted 6 kills. They stopped him at 22 kills thinking their new, young hero would make a better emissary for selling war bonds.  He got bored with that and asked to go back to battle. Then they stopped him at 40, for fear they’d lose their hero as the war just about over. This center is unusual in that it is mostly devoted to this one man’s exploits with a lot of war statistics and memorabilia to fill a huge three-story building. It is located here because Richard Bong was born and raised in Poplar, WI, just  a few miles away from this center. His control of the Japanese air attacks made a huge difference in the outcome of the war. Many battle plans rested on his ability to perform and he is fittingly a great American Hero. Well worth a visit. This visit came as a positive, in one way because I’d just finished reading In Harms Way, by Doug Stanton, about the horrible shafting the Navy dealt Major McVay, the commanding officer of the Indianapolis when it was sunk by a Japanese sub. It took until 2001, 56 years after the sinking, to exonerate McVay.

And, a negative because I am so anti-war. Not that WWII wasn’t necessary, it was. But most wars are over American expansionism, our corporate interests in foreign countries, intervention in foreign countries leadership, ideology, religion, lack of tolerance for other nations culture, oil, business.  Look at these statistics of World War II:

Of a global population at the time of 2.3 billion people, 85 million served as soldiers. Sixty million died, 38 million of them civilians.

2/3 rds of the Jewish Population was annihilated.  The Soviet Union lost 27.5 % of their population. 17% of Poles died. 19.4% of Germans died. 3.67 % of Japanese lost their lives.  All countries lost some.

I read here General MacArthur’s  statement after the war:

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We do have a better world. But we don’t have freedom, tolerance or justice. We give our freedoms away, piece by piece. We are at war on our city streets. Tolerance and justice are still unmet goals as a nation.

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Protesters then were women and had I been old enough, I’d have been there with them.  I do appreciate that I had the right to protest, a freedom much diminished, narrowing and threatened as I write.

Amen!

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SAVANNAH. TENNESSEE- RIVER TRAIL

As we move up the Tennessee River, through the river towns, signs explain we are traveling the Tennessee River Trail and much of that trail has to do with the Civil War. We spent an hour at the Savannah Museum and it was very comprehensive and well done. Well worth a visit for anyone passing through. It is divided into prehistoric history and early Native American history. Both of which I skimmed through except to say that flat Tennessee was an alluvial plain and shells and fossils are only 15 to 30 feet deep in their soil. Also from Tennessee 450 Chickasaw families were rounded up and made to follow the infamous Trail of Tears to Oklahoma Territory along with 16,000 Cherokees.

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Along  the river, and nearby Savannah are some old Indian Mounds if you like archaeology. They are just mounds of earth but once resembled the photo above; ceremonial altars, honorable places for a chief to live.

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All river towns have a steamboat history which was pretty exciting. Savannah has a steamboat logo for the town stamped in the sidewalks and on every sign and letterhead.

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Joshua C. Stoddard invented the Calliope and every steamboat on the river had to have one. Made of from 8 to 56 graduated steam whistles the music could be heard for miles in every direction. Children squealed and screamed, dogs barked and grownups smiled and held their breath with excitement as all made a mad dash to the river to meet passengers, pick up their mail or goods.

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The graceful old paddle-wheelers like this one were made on the Ohio river. It is obvious from this museum that rivers were the major roads of the day, with danger, excitement, and goods  traded up and down the river.

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Steamboats came before train bridges. They carried trains across the river to the tracks on the opposite side. The displays explain the dangers and disasters that happened to them, hitting snags, or boiler fires, accidental rammings, and running aground on sandbars.DSC05166 (Copy)

A steamboat needed a compass, whistle and a list indicator. I don’t know why that amused me, it is so simple.

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And those speaking pipes we saw on the old movies with submarines?  They were first used on steamships. You can whisper down this tube and your partner can hear it on the upper or lower deck.

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Then there was war. The Iron Clads had six cannon per side and could guard the banks, deliver men and supplies to the battle. Many forts were built along rivers and the ships  played a vital role in the Civil War. Before the Iron Clads were built, regular steamers were outfitted with rail road iron three-quarters inch thick above the water line and special protection for her boilers.They were called Tinclads..

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On land, within 300 yards, cannon were very effective. They could shoot two rounds per minute and a station of six cannon could pour about 9,700 balls at the enemy in two minutes. The balls could mow down small trees and expose soldiers cover. The history of this area cannot be told without the horrors of the Civil War.

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A gruesome task made real.

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Bedford was a hero. (Click to enlarge)

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The City of Savannah has this to say about heroes posted on their war memorial near City Hall.

We visited City Hall, and drove by the River Park. More about that tomorrow.

After asking three people about where to enjoy good food, we got the same answer all three times:  The Hickory Pit for barbeque and Hakes for fish. Hakes wasn’t open on Tuesday and since chicken was served at “The Pit” we enjoyed a great lunch.

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Hickory smoked chicken and green fried tomatoes for me. Fried potato skins  served with REAL bacon,cheesse,  green onions and ranch dressing or sour cream and half a smoked chicken. Delicious. I asked was there a local specialty in the area. The waitress said no, but the menu was definitely a mine of specialties that may not seem special to her.

Deep fried dill pickles, green beans, mushrooms, mozzarella sticks, and corn nuggets. You can get chicky  and pig frys, which are french frys with pulled pork or chicken on top. And neon frys with cheese and meat on top. They offered nine different vegetables with okra, slaw and just about anything else you can think of.  And, the tomatoes and potato skins are nicely flavored, not over dependent on salt, home-made, delicious and all given with excellent service. Stop in and enjoy this very southern restaurant. (The southern accent is a bonus.)

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HOT DAY ON CAPE COD

The weather was a real brow roaster, so we decided to stay along the shoreline, just look around and stay cool. Our first stop was Chatham lighthouse, beach and harbor. It was still early and the plien air painters were out in numbers, kind of fun to watch them.

This lighthouse is the sixth one on this point. The first and second ones were smashed in storms. The the third and fourth ones were made of brick and the sand eroded around them until they were allowed to fall into the ocean. The fifth was a stationary light and replaced by this “cookie cutter” steel affair. It sits far enough back on the point to be safe. The double white light flashes every two seconds.

The beach here stretched for miles in both directions. Shark and rip tide warnings kept the bathers to a minimum. A monument to several major disasters that took the lives of sailors stands here as does the propeller of the Coast Guard Lifeboat Chatham 36500 that rescued 32 men in 60 foot waves during a ferocious nor’easter in 1952. The tanker Pendleton broke in half. The little rescue boat was too small to make it. No one expected them to rescue anyone, or make it back if they did. All were wrong about the 36 foot lifeboat and its courageous crew, who did it without a compass and with most of their rescue gear washed overboard. The crew received the gold medal for valor and the little boat is on the Historic Register. (Picture below.)

The Chatham Harbor, further up the road, colorful and beautiful, also had its share of plien air painters.

If I painted I’d choose the cluster of boats below.

We moved on and explored a number of little inlets. We just followed roads like Old Wharf Rd, Cow Pasture Lane, Landing Road. Actually it was hard to find a right turn that didn’t eventually lead to water. It was fun and we just poked around. Stopped at a couple of Thrift Stores and Antique places. Visited a cultural center and viewed some fantastic pastels, a juried show of real quality. Two that I liked especially, Sand Dune Light by Susan Hollis.

And this painting by Susan Kotler. It tickled me because I used to own one of those penguin ice buckets.

We moved on to Nauset Beach where you pay a toll to swim. The sunbathers were out in numbers, few in the water, though.

The walkway up protects the dunes.

We tripped on to Rock Harbor.

Rock Harbor was a fascinating place. Its home to mostly deep sea fishing boats, with lanes that keep swimmers separate from boats, and boats coming in separate from boats going out. The lanes are planted trees with radar plates on them to assist navigation in the fog.

We talked to a guy who had a beautiful 1930 refurbished Ford. A friendly guy, he offered to take our picture in it, but I was slathered with sun screen and declined. He explained what bad shape it was in before he had it done. He looked at the Bronco when Jim offered to trade, and he said, “Maybe…”  for the right price was implied.  The Bronco is a 1986.

Our parting shot was this buoy covered building.

Then we went to eat at Cookes in Orleans, voted by islanders as the best fried clams and lobster roll on Cape Cod. We ended up eating the seafood platter with fried clams, shrimp, scallops and cod. Delicious? You bet! (Fat city.)

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FREDRICKSBURG, ADMIRAL NIMITZ AND WWII

In war, ordinary men become heroes. To give your life for your country, to put yourself in harms way for others, is heroic.
We find ourselves in Fredricksburg, Texas where one of the best WWII Museums in the U.S. surrounds the accomplishments of Admiral Nimitz who was born here. He was a modest man, from a small community who gave up his high school education to study for entrance into Annapolis. He rose to great heights in the Navy and was admired by his peers and the enlisted men as well. He was against the bomb; he always wanted peace before killing.
He refused lucrative jobs after his retirement from the Navy and chose to serve his country in other ways. Alameda County, CA has a freeway named for him and I always wondered about this man’s accomplishments. Now I know.
This unusual looking building was the Nimitz family hotel that is now part of the National WWII Museum complex. This is a thorough and excellent presentation of his career and the war. He was raised here by his mother and grandparents. His father died when he was 5 months old. It takes about 5 hours to get through the exhibits in the 33,000 square foot complex.
Early in his career, midshipmen Nimitz met Heihachiro Togo and was very impressed with the Japanese leader. In the end, he was part of the surrender group and signed the papers with the Japanese on behalf of the United States.
In the Presidents Plaza, I couldn’t help but admire Dwight Eisenhower’s statement about war: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.” It is an ugly truth that the past indicates war is a constant among tribes, communities and nations and always will be.
Nimitz instructed that all men who served under him and gave their lives for us be remembered on this memory wall. It is in reality many walls that stretch for a block. It also encloses a peace garden built by the Japanese after the war.
The town is historic and quaint with many wonderful old buildings and shops. We found people here friendly and fun. Today we expect to taste some authentic, old style German food at Lindenbaums.
They have a brewpub here where I got to sip my favorite porter while Jim tasted that weak looking little glass of “horse piss.” Well, not everyone is perfect.
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