My husband’s Uncle Eddie Hein was a man of integrity. He worked hard in everything he did. When he decided to take on a job, schooling, family and family projects, or anything he did for other people…he did it with integrity. People always knew they could count on Eddie to be there to help them out of any jam, or just when they need a little bit of assistance. Eddie built the additions to the family home, that gave it enough room for all of them.

Eddie lived most of his life in Forsyth, Montana, with the exception of the years he spent in Casper, Wyoming working at Rocky Mountain Pack and going to night classes at Casper College to get his degree in mechanics; and the years when he was in the US Army, where he served his country during the Vietnam War. He was honorably discharged in 1966. That was when he met his future wife, Pearl Krueger. They got married on July 15, 1967…the happiest day of their lives. Their marriage was blessed with two children, Larry Hein and Kim Arani. They also had three grandchildren, one of whom, Destiny Hein, was born on Eddie’s birthday, giving them a very special bond. They were best friends.

Eddie worked at the Forsyth Standard Station until he was hired at Peabody Coal on May 4th, 1970. He worked for Peabody Coal until 2005, then he went to work for Western Energy Coal Company, retiring in 2010. Eddie was a respected worker at all of his jobs, and I’m sure they were sorry to see him move on to other jobs. Uncle Eddie had a presence that made people feel good. He had a smile that made you smile too. Uncle Eddie was always a working man, and I know it was very hard when he had the stroke that really slowed him down. It was hard on him, Aunt Pearl, their kids, and grandkids. They worried about him and wondered if he was going to come out of this, but he did come out of it. He did walk again, and he was able to walk Kim down the “isle” on the beach, when she and her husband, Mike Arani were married. I suppose that it was his strength to come back from the stroke that made his heart attack, and subsequent passing on October 16, 2019, so hard to believe. I still can’t believe he is gone. Today would have been Uncle Eddie’s 77th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Eddie. We love and miss you very much.

Probably because of the smaller cost of the materials and the ease of transporting material to the site, there are many earthen dams today. I suppose they were properly packed down, and with the addition of vegetation, they seem to hold up well…for the most part. The Toccoa Falls Dam (later known as the Kelly Barnes Dam) was constructed ninety miles north of Atlanta, Georgia. Toccoa is a Cherokee word meaning beautiful. The dam was built across a canyon in 1887, creating a 55-acre lake 180 feet above the Toccoa Creek.

R A Forrest established the Christian and Missionary Alliance College along the creek below the dam in 1911. It is said that he bought the land for the campus from a banker with the only $10 dollars he had to his name, offering God’s word that he would pay the remaining $24,990 of the purchase price later. I guess that the banker either trusted Forrest’s ability to pay the balance, or decided that a Christian college would a good gift to give, whether Forrest was ever able to pay it off or not.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance College had been on the site for 66 years in 1977. On November 5, 1977, a volunteer fireman inspected the dam and found everything in order. A few hours later, in the early morning of November 6, the dam suddenly gave way. With a great roar, water thundered down the canyon and creek, approaching speeds of 120 miles per hour. Still, the residents of the college had no time to evacuate. Within minutes, the entire community was slammed by a wave of water. One woman, a mother of three daughters, managed to hang onto a roof torn from a building. The wave carried her for thousands of feet. She survived, but her three daughters, were among the 39 people who lost their lives in the flood.

The investigation that followed, cited several possible or probable causes for the disaster. The failure of the dam’s slope may have contributed to weakness in the structure, particularly in the heavy rain of the previous four days. The rain swelled Barnes Lake, which normally held 17,859,600 cubic feet of water, to an estimated 27,442,800 cubic feet of water. When the low-level spillway collapsed, it exacerbated the problem. A 1973 photo showed a 12 foot high, 30 foot wide slide had occurred on the downstream face of the dam, which may have also contributed or foreshadowed the dam failure. Basically, the dam was in poor condition and the design was poor and outdated. It was a disaster waiting to happen.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been thinking about the Wampanoag Tribe, who helped the Pilgrims survive that first winter in the new world. It was a tough winter, and both the Wampanoag Tribe and the Pilgrims lost a lot of people. Many in the Wampanoag tribe, as well as the entire Patuxet Tribe, had died of smallpox. In fact, the Pilgrims might not have made it in this new country at all if the Wampanoag Tribe hadn’t helped them. The Wampanoag had fed the colonists and saved their lives when their colony was failing in the harsh winter of 1620-1621. The name Wampanoag means People of the First Light…isn’t that beautiful? The two peoples shared their knowledge. The Wampanoag Tribe taught the Pilgrims to hunt and fish, and the Pilgrims taught the Wampanoag Tribe to plant corn and beans.

A man named Squanto, who was born about 1580 near Plymouth, Massachusetts, also known as Tisquantum, is best remembered for serving as an interpreter and guide for the Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth in the 1620s. The details about how Squanto got to Europe and back have been disputed by historians. He was a Patuxet Indian born in present-day Massachusetts, who is believed to have been captured as a young man along the Maine coast in 1605 by Captain George Weymouth, who had been commissioned by Plymouth Company owner Sir Ferdinando Gorges to explore the coast of Maine and Massachusetts, and reportedly captured Squanto, along with four Penobscots, because he thought his financial backers in Britain might want to see some Indians. Weymouth brought Squanto and the other Indians to England, where Squanto lived with Ferdinando Gorges, who taught him English and hired him to be an interpreter and guide. Now fluent in English, Squanto returned to his homeland in 1614 with English explorer John Smith, possibly acting as a guide, but was captured again by another British explorer, Thomas Hunt, and sold into slavery in Spain. Squanto escaped, lived with monks for a few years, and eventually returned to North America in 1619, only to find his entire Patuxet tribe dead from smallpox. He went to live with the nearby Wampanoags. Squanto’s life was truly not easy, but he still wanted to help others. Nevertheless, Squanto was the first person the Pilgrims met. He spoke to them in English and acted as an interpreter and guide to the Pilgrim settlers at Plymouth during their first winter in the New World. Squanto was born in about 1580 near Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Squanto’s assistance in connecting the Pilgrims with the Wampanoag Tribe was vital for the preservation of the Pilgrims. There were many reasons to be Thankful on that first Thanksgiving. They had survived the winter, and smallpox. They weren’t starving or dying of starvation. They had new friends, and they had learned new skills. It is believed that the first Thanksgiving is generally believed to have occurred between September 21 and November 9, 1621.

Today, my little grand niece, Laila Spethman would have turned ten years old…she still has, but all of her birthdays have been sent in Heaven. We only got to have her here for 18 days. While her time here was short, her impact on the lives of her family was huge. Laila was the waited-for girl, in a family with three boys, Xander, Zack, and Isaac. She was also to be the big sister to her parents, Jenny and Steve’s second daughter and rainbow baby, Aleesia. Laila’s homegoing was a sad day for all of us, but we have continued on in the knowledge that Laila is living in Heaven, getting to know her great grandparents, who have gone to Heaven too. She lives on with Jesus in the most beautiful place ever…Heaven.

Of course, the arms of her parents and siblings, as well as other family members, ache to hold Laila, and those empty arms will continue to ache until we get to see her again in Heaven. Laila was and is a beautiful little girl, with a wonderful smile and a kind heart. I know that because she has grown up in Heaven, that she is filled with God’s love and grace, and she gets to spend time in the presence of God. Heaven is never the sad choice, but it is hard on loved ones, because we miss them so much. And in the case of a baby, we wonder each birthday, who they would have been.

That is the case with Laila. We wonder who she would have been at 10 years old. Would she have been like her mom…very stylish and sweet? Would she be like her little sister…a girly girl, mixed with a little bit tomboy…the result of having three older brothers? She may have become a little bit of both. No matter who she would have become, we would have loved to watch her grow up, and we would have loved her very much. We will miss her until the day we see her again in Heaven. Laila left us for Heaven on November 22, 2010, and we were all very sad, but she is very happy in her Heavenly home. Today would have been Laila’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Laila. We love and miss you very much.

Now that Election Day is here, our thoughts have turned from campaign speeches, fact checking, and stressing out over the polls, to getting out and voting, and then sitting back to watch the election night coverage…unless you are so tired of the whole political process, that you just want the whole thing to be over with!! Even if you are very intent on the election, you are most likely very tired of the political process. Still, the elections are very important…especially this year.

This year isn’t the only critical year we have ever had either. The November 3, 1948 Presidential election was really an important one too. President Harry S Truman was the incumbent, running against New York Governor Thomas Dewey. Truman was very much pro-Israel, and whether people realize it or not, that is important. That fact isn’t always considered important in an election, but in 1948, I believe it was, and that it made the difference. Nevertheless, many of America’s major newspapers had predicted a Dewey victory early on in the campaign cycle. A New York Times article editorialized that “if Truman is nominated, he will be forced to wage the loneliest campaign in recent history.” Maybe that was true, but it was not a deterrent. In fact, that may be the reason Truman chose not to use the press to get his message across. Truman decided in July 1948, to head out on an ambitious 22,000-mile “whistle stop” railroad and automobile campaign tour. Truman’s message was simple…”Help me keep my job as President.” As time went on, things looked worse and worse for Truman. The polls were against him. Nevertheless, the common voters warmed to his simple message, and although he was a political “underdog,” and at the end of one speech, the crowd could be heard yelling “Give ’em Hell, Harry!” It didn’t take long for the phrase to catch on and become Truman’s unofficial campaign slogan.

Then came the Chicago Tribune’s issue stating that Dewey had won the election. In reality, the Chicago Tribune severely jumped the gun. I’m sure the final outcome of the brought with it as much confusion as did the mistaken prediction of a Dewey win. Be that as it may, the “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline was a serious “egg on the face” moment for the Chicago Tribune. On Wednesday morning there was a new headline showing a picture of re-elected President Harry S Truman holding the Chicago Tribune issue that had wrongfully predicted his political downfall. In the end, Truman beat Dewey by 114 electoral votes. All I can say is beware of those early predictions.

Sometimes when a vehicle accident occurs, one or both vehicles catch on fire. It is almost to be expected periodically, but it is almost never expected to be catastrophic. Nevertheless, on November 2, 1982, such an accident occurred in the Salang Tunnel in Afghanistan, and it cost 3,000 people their lives. Most of the victims were Soviet soldiers traveling to Kabul.

The entrance into Afghanistan by the Soviet Union that year was disastrous in nearly every way, but possibly the worst single incident was the Salang Tunnel explosion. At the time of the crash, a long army convoy was traveling from Russia to Kabul through the border city of Hairotum. The route took the convoy through the Salang Tunnel, which is 1.7 miles long, 25 feet high and approximately 17 feet wide. The tunnel is one of the world’s highest at an altitude of 11,000 feet. It was built by the Soviets in the 1970s.

As was common in those days, the Soviet army kept a tight lid on the story. It is believed that an army vehicle collided with a fuel truck about half way through the long tunnel. When the fuel truck exploded, about 30 buses carrying soldiers were immediately blown up. Fire in the tunnel spread quickly and the survivors of the blast began to panic. The ensuing chaos made the military stationed at the ends of the tunnel believe the explosion was part of an attack. As per protocol for terrorist attacks, the military stationed at both ends of the tunnel stopped traffic from exiting. If the fire wasn’t enough, the idling cars in the tunnel caused the levels of carbon monoxide in the air to increase drastically, The fire continued to spread as well. Exacerbating the situation, the tunnel’s ventilation system had broken down a couple of days earlier, resulting in further casualties from burns and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Rescue and recovery was slow due to the lack of safe working conditions for rescue crews. It took several days for workers to reach all the bodies in the tunnel. To make matters worse, the Soviet army limited the information released about the disaster, so we may never know the full extent of the tragedy. While the fire and carbon monoxide poisonings were tragic in and of themselves, the fact that the military thought the accident might be a terrorist attack, really caused the massive amounts of death. The people in the tunnel were trapped, and there was no ventilation. They couldn’t get away from the death enveloping them on all sides. I’m sure there was panic and screaming, making the chaos even worse. The very thought of all those people trapped in that tunnel makes me feel nauseous, and I’m sure that if the Soviets kept it under wraps, there were families who never knew what happened to their loved ones.

It was a long time coming. An actual house for the President of the United States was a long time coming. Prior to establishing the nation’s capital in Washington DC, the United States Congress and its predecessors had met in Philadelphia (Independence Hall and Congress Hall), New York City (Federal Hall), and a number of other locations (York, Pennsylvania; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland; and Nassau Hall in Princeton, New Jersey). Then, it was decided that our government needed a permanent home. Washington DC was selected.

The first president who would have an actual government-owned home in Washington DC was President John Adams, and he would only live there for the last year of his only term in office. President John Adams, in the last year of his only term as president, moved into the newly constructed President’s House on November 1, 1800. The President’s House was the original name for what is known today as the White House. Adams and his wife had been living in temporarily at Tunnicliffe’s City Hotel near the half-finished Capitol building since June 1800, when the federal government was moved from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington DC. When Adams first arrived in Washington, he wrote to his wife Abigail, who was still at their home in Quincy, Massachusetts, that he was pleased with the new site for the federal government and that he had explored the soon-to-be President’s House and liked it.

Although workmen had rushed to finish plastering and painting walls before Adams returned to DC from a visit to Quincy in late October, the construction was still unfinished when Adams rolled up in his carriage on November 1. However, the furniture from their Philadelphia home was in place and a portrait of George Washington was already hanging in one room. It was a decent start. The next day, Adams sent a note to Abigail, who would arrive in Washington later that month, saying that he hoped “none but honest and wise men [shall] ever rule under this roof.” I wish that had always been the case, and of course the idea of good and bad presidents are often a matter of opinion.

The President’s House though new had its issues. Adams was initially very pleased with the presidential mansion, but he and Abigail found it to be cold and damp during the winter. Abigail wrote to a friend saying that the building was tolerable only so long as fires were lit in every room. She also said that on a funny note, she also said that she had to hang their washing in an empty “audience room,” which is the current East Room. Now, that’s quite a thought. During the War of 1812, the White House was set on fire by the British, and had to be repaired.

Anyone who finds Winter and the shortened nights depressing, can understand how a person can crave the sun. There is even a condition known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that comes out of the limited or even lack of sunlight. People in Alaska and other areas near the pole regions often suffer from it in the dark winter days. The polar regions aren’t the only ones with the problem, however.

There is a tiny town in Norway, called Rjukan. For hundreds of years, the inhabitants of this tiny Norwegian town went without direct sunlight for almost half the year. It’s not because this town is situated near the North Pole, because it isn’t. Nevertheless, the place Rjukan is situated is the problem. Rjukan is wedged at the bottom of a steep east-west valley in southern Norway’s Telemark region. It’s surrounded by mountains, including the 6,178-foot-high Gaustatoppen.

Rjukan is a company town, founded for the employees of Norsk Hydro, an aluminum powerhouse that is still going strong today. At first the town built an aerial tramway, Krossobanen, to give employees and their families access to the winter sunshine. Sam Eyde, the founder of the town, began to consider building sun mirrors on the mountain as far back as 1913, but the tramway was built first. It was the first such system in northern Europe, and still functions today. The tramway served a purpose, but really didn’t solve the problem.

Still, the desire for the kind of direct sunlight first shared by Eyde never went away. Then, more than 90 years later, a local resident and artist, Martin Andersen took up the idea from the history books. He began to think that maybe the idea was a good one. So, on October 30, 2013, almost 100 years to the day when the idea was first presented, the Rjukan sun mirror officially opened. For the first time in the town’s history, the sun actually shown on the town in the winter months. The people were elated. At first, not everyone was on board with Andersen’s plans. Many locals criticized the $750,000 project, believing the money could be better spent elsewhere, but when they saw how excited everyone was with the day, it was hard to continue to be negative. The people put on sunglasses, and basked in the sun’s light and warmth. It was like a big party. The sun mirrors continue to be a big hit in the town, oddly in the summer, as well as the winter.

Local residents now enjoy an approximately 6,500 square foot ellipse-shaped beam of sunlight into the town square. Between 80% and 100% of the sun’s light is transferred down into the town. The mirror system has helped the tourism industry. It’s said, “This summer there were several tourists who turned their backs on the real sun, and sat instead with their faces to the sun mirror.” Locals and tourists can even hike to the mirrors. As unusual as it may seem, Rjukan’s sun mirror system is not a world first. The small town of Viganella, in Italy’s steep Antrona Valley, celebrated its own day of the light in December 2006, as a sheet of steel was installed to reflect sunlight into the town square from November to February. The system in Rjukan is significantly more advanced, however. Each of the three 182 square foot mirrors are controlled computer-driven motors called heliostats. They track the movement of the sun across the horizon and constantly reposition the mirrors to keep the reflected light as consistent as possible. What a cool idea for a town and its people who can’t get easy access to the sun.

My niece, Michelle Stevens met her future husband Matt Miller when they were both in 8th grade. They became friends for life, and that hasn’t changed. That is not something you see every day, but it is their story. Michelle said that Matt reminds her a lot of her grandpa, my dad, Allen Spencer. I don’t know if my dad was the class clown, but she says Matt certainly is. Both Matt and my dad love to tease their love ones, and make people laugh. It’s a great trait to have.

It’s amazing sometimes, that two people can like each other for a long time, but are not “brave” enough to take the relationship to the next level…one of being a couple. I suppose they worry about the friendship ending if things don’t work out, but for Matt and Michelle, that needn’t have been a concern. They have been a couple now for nine years, and are engaged to be married…when the pandemic allows. They had planned a tropical wedding, but that is on hold, and they might just decide to do something different too. They don’t want to wait for the pandemic forever, after all.

Matt works at the North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in Gillette, Wyoming. It is owned by Peabody Energy. Matt has worked there a little over three years. Matt works long hours driving some of the biggest equipment in the world. He likes his job very much, and other than the long hours, Michelle does too. I know just how she feels, because my husband worked at a uranium mine early in our marriage. It’s tough, especially since several hours of their day are spent just getting to work. Nevertheless, you do what you have to do, and you make it work. Shift work is especially hard.

When Matt is not working he’s all about hunting, fishing, and his toys! He’s a typical outdoorsman. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, as long as it in the woods, by a stream, or at the lake. Matt even broke a record in deer hunting with a bow. I have never been able to figure out how these guys could be so accurate with a bow. Still, Matt is accurate. From water sports in summer to snow sports in winter. Matt likes it all. He also loves to watch movies. Star Wars is his all-time favorite, and that would explain the names of their two precious dogs…Obi and Leia!! The dogs are 2½ years old, and they are sisters. They fell in love with the puppies the minute they saw them. They are very happy with their little fur babies. Today is Matt’s birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Absaroka…have you ever heard of it? No…I hadn’t either, but it was of some importance to the United States, and it would have been of some significance to me and my family had it not been a temporary situation. You see, when President Franklin D Roosevelt put “The New Deal” in place, there were a lot of people who didn’t think it was such a good deal…much like “The Green New Deal” of today. “The New Deal” was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939. The idea was to “help” by responding to needs for relief, reform, and recovery from the Great Depression. The plan created major federal programs and agencies, including the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). They provided support for farmers, the unemployed, youth, and the elderly. The New Deal included new constraints and safeguards on the banking industry and efforts to re-inflate the economy after prices had fallen sharply. The New Deal programs included both laws passed by Congress, as well as presidential executive orders during the first term of the presidency of Roosevelt.

The New Deal failed because Roosevelt misunderstood the cause of the Great Depression. When a doctor misdiagnoses the symptoms that present themselves, the doctor cannot prescribe the right medicine to cure the disease of a patient. Similarly, Roosevelt prescribed “The New Deal” to cure the economy of the United States from the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s “medicine” did not work because his administration failed to recognize the true causes of the Great Depression and therefore prescribed the wrong medicine. Roosevelt assumed that the free market, and not the government caused the Great Depression. Roosevelt believed the Great Depression was partly caused by poor investments and stock manipulations by rich people. To complicate matters, he blamed the Great Depression on bankers, speculators, and journalists. In reality, the causes of the Great Depression boiled down to three major causes…which explain why there was a banking crisis, why the stock market declined, why exports vanished, why trading partners were upset, why major industries collapsed, and why there was uncertainty on the administration’s policies. These three explanations of the causes contrast with Roosevelt’s assumption that the private, not the public sector caused the problem. First, the negative consequences of World War I, increasing debt from less than $2 billion to over $20 billion, while at the same time, US loans to Europe amounted to over $10 billion. Second, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act…the highest tariff in US history, which affected over 3,000 imported items and even increased taxes on some items. As a result of those high tariffs, foreign goods became less competitive and similar domestic goods more competitive. Third, the Federal Reserve did not prevent a banking crisis, but rather helped cause one. It was argued that the economic contraction was exacerbated because of the bank failures and the massive withdrawals of currency from the financial system while the Federal Reserve did not provide the necessary liquidity that the system required.

As people became more and more agitated about the unsuccessful New Deal, an idea began to form…secession. One of the leaders of the secessionist movement was A R Swickard, the street commissioner of Sheridan, Wyoming, who appointed himself “governor” and started hearing grievances in the “capital” of Sheridan. The new state was to be called Absaroka, which means “children of the large-beaked bird.” They planned secession in 1939. This region largely belongs to the Crow people and the Sioux, according to the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851). Absaroka is also the namesake of the Absaroka mountain range. The area involved was the entire northern part of Wyoming, the western part of South Dakota, including the Black Hills, and the southeastern corner of Montana. Increasing tourism to the region was a motivation for the proposed state because Mount Rushmore (constructed 1927–1941) would be within Absaroka according to some plans.

The region’s complaints came from ranchers and independent farmers in remote parts of the three states, who resented the New Deal and Democratic control of state governments, especially the government of Wyoming. In preparation for state secession, state automobile license plates bearing the name were distributed, as well as pictures of Miss Absaroka 1939. The movement was unsuccessful and fairly short-lived. The chief record of its existence comes from the Federal Writers’ Project, which included a story about the plan as an example of Western eccentricity. Oh those eccentric Westerners!! Imagine wanting to limit government, high taxes, and strict laws and mandates!! What were they thinking? Freedom, limited government, capitalism vs socialism…yep among other things, that’s what they were thinking.

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