Monthly Archives: December 2017

My great grand niece, Izabella Siara Harman is a sassy little two year old…and that information comes straight from her mom. Belle as we all know her is the middle child of my grand nephew, Jake Harman and his wife, Melanie. She is the image of her daddy, and her mommy tells me that she is a sassy girl. At two, kids are learning to talk and repeating everything the adults around them are saying, and Belle is no different. In fact, it is the new words and phrases that she is saying these days that have totally convinced me that this is a sassy girls for sure. Belle’s latest sayings are things like please, thank you, no, sissy, and brother, of course, but then you get to the sassy things, like “are you kidding me,” “shut up,” and my favorite, “don’t freak out.” Yep, she’s a sassy girl!!

This little girl is a girl after my own heart…and the hearts of her grandmother, Chantel Balcerzak, and her aunt, Jenny Spethman, because she loves shoes…all shoes. Now if you ask anyone who knows the three of us, they can tell you that we love shoes too…boots, sandals, tennis shoes, heels…shoes!!! That’s our little Belle to a tee. For anyone who has ever loved shoes, Belle’s love of them seems perfectly normal. Seriously…this little girl could grow up to be a girly girl.

Belle loves being a big sister, and she is very helpful to her mom, with her little brother, Jaxx. She feeds him his bottle, and gets him toys, and doesn’t even mind helping with diaper changing. I guess if you start a kid out early, they don’t get grossed out by stuff like that. Of course, Belle lets her big sister, Alice help too, when she gets home from school. Belle thinks Alice is a great big sister. They play together and they love to laugh, and be entertaining to their parents. There really is nothing like the laughter of children to get the whole house laughing. Belle and her siblings are great friends, and I know she can’t wait until Jaxx can get old enough to really play with her. It’s fun to take care of baby, but in the end, it’s lots more fun to run around the house and play with your little brother. I’m sure Jaxx feels the same way too. It’s hard for a baby to watch his older sisters running and playing, and all he can do is sit there getting excited. My guess is that Belle will be instrumental in getting her brother up and crawling, and then walking…simply so he can keep up with the fun.

Belle is growing up so fast, and I love watching all the changes as she grows. She is a sweet little, feisty girl, who doesn’t give up on what she wants. She is sassy, indeed, but with an engaging twinkle in her large blue eyes. When she looks at you, you instantly love this little sweetie. It’s impossible not to. Today is Belle’s 2nd birthday. Happy birthday Belle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As the youngest brother, sometimes it seems that my grand nephew, Isaac Spethman feels the need to be the wild, adventurous type. His big brothers always seem, to Isaac, to be ahead of him, which is, of course, normal because they are his older brothers. Nevertheless, to Isaac, saying that flag football isn’t as tough as regular football, feels like being called the baby. Isaac couldn’t wait to play football with the big boys. This was his first year of getting to do that, and he did great. He was so happy to be playing real football…finally!!

Isaac’s wild side goes beyond football, however. Isaac love the feel of riding a motorcycle with his dad, Steve Spethman. As far as Isaac is concerned, faster is better. Riding is something Isaac can share with his daddy…when his mom isn’t riding with his dad anyway. Isaac gets along well with all the guys. His brother, friends, and his dad and other relatives. He loves hanging out with the guys and playing airsoft wars. Of course, Isaac was raised around guns. He knows about guns…how to be safe with one, and how to shoot one…well. I suppose that skill would come in handy when playing a game called airsoft wars. Isaac and his brothers love all games that bring out their tough-guy side.

While Isaac is a tough-guy, all boy kind of kid, he also has a softer side, although I don’t think he would admit that to just everyone. When it comes to helping a little mermaid named Aleesia down the dock, gentleman that he is, Isaac takes his little sister’s hand to make sure that she always gets safely to wherever it is that she is headed. Aleesia is the baby of the family and the only girl, so her brothers take really good care of her, while letting her know that she is a little princess in their minds. Isaac, being the child closest to Aleesia in age, seems to understand what it’s like to be the little one, and he just instinctively takes his sister protectively by the hand. I’m sure it made Aleesia feel very safe. And really, what are big brothers for, after all. Today is Isaac’s eleventh birthday. I can’t believe that he is so grown up. Happy birthday Isaac!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I always knew that my uncle, George Hushman served in the United States Navy during World War II, but like many of the men who fight in wars, discussing what happened during their deployment is something that few want to talk about. My family spent quite a bit of time with Uncle George and Aunt Evelyn, who was my mom’s sister, and their family, but in all those visits, I never heard my dad, Allen Spencer, or my Uncle George ever talk about their time in the war. In fact, had it not been for an old picture of the two couples going to the Military Ball, I don’t think I would have even known what branch of the military Uncle George was in.

Recently, while researching my family history, I came across some Muster Rolls for the United States Navy, for one USS Gurke. The USS Gurke was a DD Type destroyer whose mission was to provide anti-submarine and anti-surface defense to other surface forces. The Gurke is one of 103 Gearing Class destroyers that were built at 8 different shipyards. It was originally laid down as USS John A. Bole in October of 1944, but was renamed USS Henry Gurke (DD-783) prior to her launching on February 15, 1945 at the Todd-Pacific Shipyards, Inc, in Tacoma, Washington. The ship’s sponsor was Mrs. Julius Gurke, mother of Private Gurke, for whom the ship was named. The destroyer was commissioned 12 May 1945, under the command of Commander Kenneth Loveland. It was to this ship that my Uncle George was assigned beginning May 12, 1945. Prior to that he had been a S2c V6 on the USS LCI (G) 23, which was a transport ship.

On the Gurke, Uncle George had a rating of S1c V6. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I’m sure that any navy veteran would know. A V6 is a person who volunteered in World War II. As a V6 they had to be discharged by six months after the war was over. An S1c was a seamen first class. So now I knew what my uncle did during the war. Seaman first class was the rank right below a Petty Officer. The Seaman did a variety of jobs onboard the ship and could have worked anywhere on the ship. I suppose it would be a rank similar to the private, or in non-military verbiage, a laborer. That was the rank that many men went into the navy with, but a seaman first class was no longer a trainee. He had been trained to do his duties, and didn’t have to be told.

After a shakedown along the West Coast, the Gurke sailed for the Western Pacific August 27, 1945, reaching Pearl Harbor on September 2nd. From there she continued west to participate in the occupation of Japan and former Japanese possessions. Returning to home port of San Diego, in February 1946, the Gurke participated in training operations until September 4, 1947, when she sailed for another WestPac cruise. Two further WestPac cruises, alternating with operations out of San Diego, and a cruise to Alaska in 1948 aiding the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Yukon gold rush, filled Gurke’s schedule until the outbreak of the Korean War. Of course, I assume that upon Gurke’s return to her home port of San Diego, my uncle was either assigned to another ship, was at home port, or discharged. I am very proud of his service. Today is Uncle George’s 93rd birthday. Happy birthday Uncle George!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Michelle Stevens is an artist in every respect…including being an art teacher. I have watched her progression from the time she was a little girl, and have always found myself amazed at her abilities. Being an art teacher is not just taking a few art classes and getting an education degree. There are so many forms of art that her schooling took several years longer than most degrees, but I think it was well worth it. This has been a big year for Michelle. She graduated from Black Hills State University with an Art Education degree in May of 2017. After graduation, she and her boyfriend, Matt Miller moved back to Casper, Wyoming from Spearfish, South Dakota. The economy isn’t great for teachers right now, so she took a job at Casper Rental Agency as an assistant to her former boss at Lai Thai Restaurant.

While saving money and job hunting, she and Matt lived at his parents house in their camper for four months. When winter arrived, the camper was no longer an option, so they decided it was time to find a place of their own. Since Michelle works for a rental business now, she was able to get a nice big town home on the east side of Casper, and they are happily settled in and comfortable. She will continue to work at Casper Rental Agency until something opens up in the school district for Art teachers. That is her dream, and she is not willing to give up on it. Her parents, Alena and Mike Stevens are glad to have her and Matt back in Casper, because they missed them terribly, and the rest of the family agrees with that too.

These days, Michelle has branched her creative endeavors out a little bit, to the area of crafts. I was never really a crafty person, but I have always envied those who were. She has started making wreaths for her friends and family, and would like to see her wreaths turn into a side business. She makes wreaths for every season, so people are not just limited to Christmas. I really think her wreaths could sell easily, and I think that she needs to set up a website to promote them, because upon seeing them, people will buy for sure. Her Mom, my sister, Alena Stevens has been one of the special loved ones who has had the privilege to receive several of the beautiful wreaths. It is my hope that her wreath business really takes off. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

On December 13, 1972, peace talks with North Vietnam broke down, and President Richard Nixon announced that the United States will begin a massive bombing campaign to break the stalemate. Nixon was furious, and order the plans drawn up for retaliatory bombings of North Vietnam, and Linebacker II was the result. The bombings began on December 18, 1972 and continued until December 29, 1972. Beginning with American B-52s and fighter-bombers dropping over 20,000 tons of bombs on the cities of Hanoi and Haiphong. The United States lost 15 of its giant B-52s and 11 other aircraft during the attacks. North Vietnam claimed that over 1,600 civilians were killed. After eleven days of the massive pounding, the North Vietnamese agreed to resume the talks.

A few weeks later, the treaty was finally signed and the Vietnam War ended. This also ended the United States’ role in a conflict that seriously damaged the domestic Cold War consensus among the American public. The impact of the so-called “Christmas Bombings” on the final agreement remains a question. Some historians have argued that the bombings forced the North Vietnamese back to the negotiating table. Others thought that the attacks had little impact, other than the additional death and destruction they caused. Even the chief United States negotiator, Henry Kissinger, was reported to have said, “We bombed the North Vietnamese into accepting our concessions.” The chief impact may have been in convincing America’s South Vietnamese allies, who were highly suspicious of the draft treaty worked out in October 1972, that the United States would not desert them. Despite the forced return to the table, the final treaty did not include any important changes from the October draft.

I believe that the bombings were instrumental in bringing the North Vietnamese back to the table, but I sometimes wonder what the emotional impact was on the men involved in the bombings. It’s hard to wage war at anytime, but when you think of the Christmas season, and all it stands for, I must have been terribly hard to drop those bombs and end the lives of so many on what should have been a joyous holiday. I’m sure the men thought of their own families and children too. Of course, I don’t know what the North Vietnamese did about Christmas, or if it was anything to them at all, but it was to our men, and it seems to me that it would be very hard to take lives on that day…especially when, in times past it seems like it was common practice to have a cease fire on that day, but then I guess that can’t always be the case. Someone somewhere would insist on breaking the day of peace, because that is what war is all about, after all.

We have all heard about volcanic eruptions, seen photos or video of one, or maybe even seen one in person. They are an event that makes it hard to take your eyes off of the scene. There are volcanos that erupt often, and there are those that haven’t erupted in hundreds of years. And, there are volcanos that erupt under the ocean. But…there is a rare type of eruption, that is, in fact so rare that it has only been observed twice, although it may have happened elsewhere. It is called a Limnic Eruption.

A limnic eruption, also called a lake overturn, is a rare type of natural disaster in which dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) gas suddenly erupts from deep lake waters. The eruption forms a gas cloud that can suffocate wildlife, livestock, and humans. It can also cause tsunamis in the lake as the rising CO2 displaces the water. Scientists believe earthquakes, volcanic activity, or explosions can be a trigger for such an explosion. Lakes in which limnic activity occurs are known as limnically active lakes or exploding lakes. Some clues as to limnically active lakes include: CO2 saturated incoming water, a cool lake bottom indicating an absence of direct volcanic interaction with lake waters, an upper and lower thermal layer with differing CO2 saturations, and proximity to areas with volcanic activity, all of which are possible indicators of a limnic lake.

After a Limnic explosion the water left in the lake is filled with debris and massive amounts of dissolved CO2. To date, this phenomenon has been observed only twice. The first was in Cameroon at Lake Monoun in 1984, causing the asphyxiation and death of 38 people living nearby. A second, deadlier eruption happened at neighboring Lake Nyos in 1986, this time releasing over 80 million cubic meters of CO2 and killing around 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock, again by asphyxiation. When the explosion occurred in Lake Nyos, a geyser of water shot out of the lake reaching a height of 300 feet. A small tsunami rushed over the land, followed by a carbon dioxide blast that asphyxiated people up to 15 miles away. Scientists believe limnic explosions are caused by pockets of magma under lakes, which leak and cause carbonic acid to form. In an effort to prevent future explosions, degassing tubes were installed in Lake Nyos to allow the gas to leak at a safe rates.

A third lake, Lake Kivu, on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, also contains massive amounts of dissolved CO2, and it is believed that Limnic eruptions have occurred there too. Sample sediments from the lake were taken by professor Robert Hecky from the University of Michigan, which showed that an event caused living creatures in the lake to go extinct approximately every thousand years, and caused nearby vegetation to be swept back into the lake. Limnic eruptions can be measured on a scale using the concentration of CO2 in the surrounding area. Due to the nature of the event, it is hard to determine if limnic eruptions have happened elsewhere. The Messel pit fossil deposits of Messel, Germany, also show evidence of a limnic eruption there. Among the victims of that eruption are perfectly preserved insects, frogs, turtles, crocodiles, birds, anteaters, insectivores, early primates and paleotheres.

The birth of your first child is always an exciting time. Your life is forever changed, because you are no longer just you or just a couple, you are a parent…you are somebody’s parent…forever. December 14, 2017, was that day for my grand nephew, Keifer Balcerzak and his wife, Katie, when their beautiful baby girl, Reece Victoria Renae Balcerzak made her grand, two month early entrance into the world. Little baby Reece was not supposed to arrive until about February 20, 2018, but as babies sometimes do, she got in a bit of a hurry. Nevertheless, the good people at Presbyterian Saint Luke’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado were able to delay her arrival by two weeks to give her a little bit more time to grow. And she did a pretty good job of it, weighing in at just 3 pounds 11 ounces, which I think isn’t too bad for a baby who is two months premature. Reece is 17¾ inches long, and she and her Mommy are doing well.

For Katie and Keifer, the love was instantaneous. In fact, Katie put it in such beautiful words that no others are really necessary, when she said, “And at last I see the light, And it’s like the sky is new. And it’s warm and real and bright and the world has somehow shifted…All at once everything is different, now that I see you. Now that I see you…” I think truly does change your life for ever. It is a wonderful miracle…a precious gift from God, to bless your life.

Little Reece is no bigger than a minute, but she is a fighter, and she is going to do just fine. The nurses tell her parents that she is a “feisty handful” and she keeps them busy. That isn’t a bad thing for a preemie baby. The doctors have said that she will likely be moved out of the Level 1 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, to the Level 2 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit next week. She won’t be able to be home for her first Christmas, and in reality, her first Christmas was supposed to be next year, but she is a sweet Christmas gift to her mommy, daddy, grandparents, and the rest of her family, all of whom are very excited to meet her. But for now, Reece has some growing to do, because they don’t send babies home when they are no bigger than a minute. So eat hearty baby girl, you have family to meet. Congratulations Keifer and Katie on your tiny bundle of joy.

img_6017Many years ago, anyone suffering from a communicable disease in Superior, Wisconsin, who wanted to save other family members from becoming ill could be treated at the Isolation Hospital. Superior’s twenty six room Isolation Hospital was located at 2222 East 10th Street, in Superior, Wisconsin. The hospital treated such diseases as smallpox, scarlet fever, diphtheria, and meningitis. Each of the diseases were treated in separate wards of the building, in an effort to isolate on illness from another. The hospital was managed by Mr and Mrs Peter Roe. The hospital always had a registered nurse on duty and patients could hire a private nurse as well, if needed. Mrs Roe cooked all the meals for the patients under the direction of their attending physicians. To help the patients pass the time while they were confined, “The Evening Telegram” and Superior citizens raised money for a radio. The hospital was under the supervision of Dr George Conklin. Because it was harder to cure diseases in days gone by, people might find themselves confined for some time, even the rest of their lives.

Smallpox was probably the most widespread medical terror in our past. Smallpox outbreaks occurred in 1894 and 1872, and the state was swept by cholera in 1849. The same disease had decimated the troops at Fort Crawford in August 1833, taking down 23 soldiers and killing six. But the most notorious epidemic in our history was surely the Lake Superior smallpox outbreak of 1770, when the British deliberately introduced the disease among the Ojibwa Indians in revenge for the death of a fur trader. At least 300 people around modern Duluth-Superior were killed in this early act of bioterrorism. In August of 1895, smallpox had swept through the south side of Milwaukee where the traditions of recent Polish immigrants clashed with modern public health practices. The first patients were segregated at the Isolation Hospital outside the neighborhood, even though the residents preferred caring for their own sick in their own homes, as they had in the old country. When hospital patients began dying, the residents came to see it as a slaughterhouse where they would never send their loved ones. This only increased the spread of disease, of course, and soon thousands were affected. But when city health officials or ambulances attempted to remove patients to protect the uninfected, they were met by barricaded doors and armed uprisings.

Eventually Saint Mary’s Hospital replaced the Isolation Hospital. The new hospital was finished in 1911, but it was the smallpox outbreak of May, 1915 that really put it to the test. The outbreak in Madison filled the hospitals and even took down the staff at Saint Mary’s, including the nurses and nuns. Smallpox was a terrible disease, for which there was no immunization in early years. Now with much hard work, and scientific research, it is considered a disease of the past. It also bears mentioning, that today, every time there is an outbreak of a contagious disease, doctors, nurses, staff, as well as friends and family wear protective gowns, gloves, and masks, in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. Medicine has come a long way since the days of the 1894 Smallpox epidemics. There are many ways to help people fight and win their battle against disease.

They were a part of an elite group…the men who walked on the moon. They had the privilege of going somewhere that few humans would get to go. It was a small group of just twelve men, but only three of the twelve got to walk on the moon twice, and only Captain Gene Cernan got to be the last human being to leave a footprint on the lunar surface. The final words he spoke on the Moon on December 14, 1972 represented everything the Apollo missions stood for. He said, “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

Captain Gene Cernan was the third man to walk in space, one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface…the last one!! How amazing is that? Some things are almost to big to imagine, and walking on the moon is one of them for me. The really shocking thing for me is that the last man walked on the moon 45 years ago today…and no human has been there since that day. I wonder how much Captain Cernan has thought about that fact over the last 45 years. I’m sure he has had to tell people about it more times that he can count, too. I suppose it would be strange to have your whole identity to the world be that you were the last man to set foot on the moon, but then again, I think it might be extremely cool too. Now, consider what his wife was thinking those two times her husband was in space and walking on the moon. Well, she has been quoted as saying, “If you think going to the Moon is hard, you should try staying at home.” Yes, I imagine that would be a tough job too, especially after Apollo 13 almost didn’t make it back to Earth.

As for Cernan, he has been said to be sad that the American space program has dwindled into nothing. All the hard work they had done, and all the accomplishments, now seemingly not important. He was quoted as saying, “It was if someone took Columbus’ Santa Maria and said: It’s history – you guys discovered America, let’s take it out and scuttle it. It’s over, you’re not going to go anywhere. To think of what we were capable of doing and now we’ve been told [in a tweet by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin] that if we want to go to our own space station, we’d better get a trampoline – that statement hurt. It hurt me personally.” Yes, it hurts me too, and I have never been to the moon. So how much did it hurt for those twelve men who walked on the moon…Neil Armstrong – Apollo 11 July 21, 1969, Buzz Aldrin -Apollo 11 July 21st, 1969, Pete Conrad – Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969, Alan Bean – Apollo 12 November 19-20, 1969, Alan Shepard – Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971, Edgar Mitchell – Apollo 14 February 5-6, 1971, David Scott – Apollo 15 July 31 August 2, 1971, James Irwin – Apollo 15 July 31 August 2, 1971, John W. Young – Apollo 16 April 21st to 23rd, 1972, Charles Duke – Apollo 16 April 21-23, 1972, Harrison Schmitt – Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972, and lastly Eugene Cernan – Apollo 17 December 11-14, 1972. It’s like having your life’s work thrown away.

When the colonists came over to the new world, they really didn’t know how they were going to make a living. They were most likely planning to raise their own crops, along with hunting and fishing, but the reality is that those things were only going to take them so far. They were going to need other things. In 1620, Plymouth Colony was founded in present-day Massachusetts. The settlers there had planned to make a living with cod fishing, but that wasn’t going very well. So, within a few years of their first fur export, the Plymouth colonists began concentrating entirely on the fur trade. They developed an economic system in which their chief crop, Indian corn, was traded with Native Americans to the north for highly valued beaver skins, which were then sold in England to pay the Plymouth Colony’s debts and buy necessary supplies.

In November 9, 1621, Robert Cushman a deacon and captain of the Fortune arrived with 35 new settlers for Plymouth Colony…the first new colonists since the settlement was founded over a year earlier. The plan was to drop off the settlers, and then a month later, head back to England with a cargo of furs to pay for supplies and to pay debts the colony owed to England. On December 13, 1621, Robert Cushman and the Fortune set sail back to England, but theirs was not to be a good voyage. During Cushman’s return to England, the Fortune was captured by the French, and its valuable cargo of furs was taken. Cushman was detained on the Ile d’Dieu before being returned to England. The capture was due to a navigation error. About January 19, 1622, Fortune was overtaken and seized by a French warship, with those on board being held under guard in France for about a month and with its cargo taken. Fortune finally arrived back in the Thames on February 17, 1622.

The Fortune was 1/3 the size of the Mayflower, displacing 55 tons. The arrival of the vessel sent by the English investors, who had funded the Mayflower colonists, should have been a cause for celebration. But for the Pilgrims, Fortune was poorly named. The ship brought 35 new settlers, but none of the expected supplies. With new mouths to feed, rations were reduced by half. Worse, the investors demanded that the ship return immediately to England, stocked with trade goods. The Pilgrims complied by loading Fortune with “good clapboard as full as she could stow” and two hogsheads of beaver and otter skins, only to have them lost to the French, which the English investors did not seem to care about.

After the Mayflower brought the Plymouth settlers, they struggled under the demands of their English investors for seven years. The investors also sent a letter criticizing the settlers because the Mayflower arrived back in England with an empty hold, and demanding that the Fortune return immediately filled with valuable goods. The colonists complied. For the next six years, they sent sizable shipments, especially of furs, back to England. But the goods yielded far less profit than the investors expected, and as the seven year mark approached, the colonists were still in debt. Finally, 27 of them pooled their personal resources and paid off the debt. Once free of the requirement to live communally and hold all property in common, the original settlers divided the land into private lots, and the era of the “Old Comers” was over.