Pirates, as we know them, are criminals who hijack ships to rob them of anything of value on board. Sometimes however, a “pirate” can actually be working for the government, or at least on behalf of the government. Such was the case on April 10, 1778, when Commander John Paul Jones and his crew of 140 men aboard the USS Ranger set sail from the naval port at Brest, France. They headed toward the Irish Sea. Their mission was to begin raids on British warships. This was the first mission of its kind during the Revolutionary War. These missions weren’t called piracy, but when we compare the two acts, they pretty much were piracy. They just weren’t for personal gain, but rather for the good of the country and the war effort. No one was safe, not passengers and certainly not the crew.
Commander John Paul Jones, will always be remembered as one of the most daring and successful naval commanders of the American Revolution. John Paul Jones was born under the simple birth name of John Paul on July 6, 1747, in a small cottage in Arbigland, Scotland, to John Paul Sr and Margaret Paul. His dad was a gardener, but Jones found his calling not in gardening, but at sea. He earned an apprenticeship with the British Merchant Marine at the age of 13. His seafaring adventures would eventually take him to America and, like many other sailors before him, Jones got involved in the slave trade. However, the realities of human trafficking repulsed him, and he returned to shipping cargo duties.
1773 found Jones in a very difficult situation. He murdered a mutinous sailor on the island of Tobago in self-defense…which is not really murder, but maybe in those days things were different. Whatever the case may be, Jones believed he wouldn’t receive a fair trial, so he fled to America. It was there he added the last name “Jones” to conceal his identity. Jones needn’t have worried, because the American colonies were too busy stoking the flames of war with the British to have noticed his past. When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, Jones who remembered Britain’s cruel treatment of the Scots, decided that he would side with the colonists. He joined the new Continental Navy.
Jones began skillfully attacking British ships off the American coastline and expanded his operations from there. He first captained the USS Providence, set sail to Nova Scotia, and started capturing British vessels. Next, he took command of Ranger and set course to France, where his vessel was saluted by the French Admiral La Motte Piquet. It was the first American vessel ever to be recognized by a foreign power…pretty good for a new country. In 1779 Jones made history as one of the greatest naval commanders of the Revolutionary War. His shining moment came when, while En route to raid British shipping, Jones’ warship, Bon Homme Richard, came head to head with the more powerful English warship HMS Serapis off the North Sea. The battle went on for three hours between the two vessels. At one point, Jones slammed Bon Homme into Serapis, strategically tying them together. As the story goes, when the British asked if Jones was ready to surrender, he famously responded, “I have not yet begun to fight!” Inspired by Jones’ bravado, one of his naval officers tossed a grenade onto Serapis. The severe damage caused the British to surrender in the end. Jones’ became an international hero. After the war ended, the Continental Navy dissolved due to lack of funds. Jones was dubbed the father of the United States Navy.
Jones retired to Paris, but his health took a turn for the worse. On July 18, 1792, he was found dead in his apartment at the age of 45. He was laid to rest in a French cemetery, but the plot of land was later sold and forgotten. Over one hundred years would pass before the United States was able to recover Jones’ remains with the help of French officials. After much research, his body was located and exhumed, and to the surprise of French pathologists, Jones’ body was excellently preserved. His initial autopsy concluded that the cause of his death was kidney failure, with later clinical studies believing his condition was exacerbated by a heart arrhythmia. The United States received Jones’ remains and buried them in a tomb inside the chapel of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
When we think of war heroes, civilians seldom come to mind. The reality is that there are many, many civilian heroes in any war. Each of those civilian heroes has their own reasons to take the actions they take. The one similarity is that most of them simply cannot continue to support a government that is committing the atrocities they commit, and so they have to take action, or they can’t look themselves in the mirror again. Sometimes, a change of heart comes because they see the cruelty of the country they live in. Other times, the change comes when they see that their countrymen are not even safe from their own government. Finally, completely disillusioned, they find themselves without alternative options, when they come face to face with the enemy within their own boarders.
Matvey Kuzmich Kuzmin was born on August 3, 1858 in the village of Kurakino, in the Velikoluksky District of Pskov Oblast. He was a self-employed farmer who declined the offer to join a kolkhoz or collective farm. He lived with his grandson and continued to hunt and fish on the territory of the kolkhoz “Rassvet” (Dawn). He was nicknamed “Biriuk” (lone wolf).
During World War II, the area Kuzmin lived in was occupied by the forces of Nazi Germany. In February 1942, Kuzmin had to help house a German battalion in the village of Kurakino. The German unit was ordered to pierce the Soviet defense in the area of Velikiye Luki by advancing into the rear of the Soviet troops dug in at Malkino Heights. Kuzmin had to do what he had to do…like it or not. On February 13, 1942, the German commander asked the 83 year old Kuzmin to guide his men to the Malkino Heights area, and even offered Kuzmin money, flour, kerosene, and a “Three Rings” hunting rifle for doing so. Kuzmin agreed, but he knew that with information on the proposed route, he could make a difference. He sent his grandson Vasilij to Pershino, about 3.5 miles from Kurakino, to warn the Soviet troops and to propose an ambush near the village of Malkino.
The plan was for Kuzmin to guide the German units through straining paths, through the night. He lead them to the outskirts of Malkino at dawn. When they arrived, the village defenders and the 2nd battalion of 31st Cadet Rifle Brigade of the Kalinin Front attacked. The German battalion came under heavy machine gun fire and suffered losses of about 50 killed and 20 captured. In the midst of the ambush, a German officer realized that they had been set up and turned his pistol towards Kuzmin. He shot him twice. Kuzmin died during the fight. He was buried three days later with military honors. Later, he was reburied at the military cemetery of Velikiye Luki. He was posthumously named a Hero of the Soviet Union on May 8, 1965, becoming the oldest person named a Hero of the Soviet Union based on his age at death.
It was a big move for a Milwaukee, Wisconsin girl, but in the end, it would be her undoing. Mildred Fish was born in Milwaukee in 1902, and upon her high school graduation, she studied and then taught English at UW-Madison. It was there that she met Arvid Harnack, a Rockefeller Fellow from Germany. They soon fell in love, and were married in 1926. Because she was a progressive woman and proud of her name, Mildred chose to hyphenate her name, and became known as Mildred Fish-Harnack.
A few years later, she and Arvid both moved to Germany, where she taught and also worked on her doctorate while he worked for the German government. It was during those years that Fish-Harnack became interested in the Soviet Union, where women could choose where to work and also had other rights that women in the United States did not have…a situation which would very soon sound absurd. Nevertheless, at that time, it was so. Throughout the 1930s, Mildred and Arvid, who became increasingly alarmed by Hitler’s rise to power, began to communicate with a close circle of associates who believed communism and the Soviet Union might be the only possible stumbling block to complete Nazi tyranny in Europe. As the Hitler and the Nazi regime began to come into power, Fish-Harnack and her husband joined a small resistance group, which the Nazi secret police…the Gestapo…would later call the Red Orchestra. This resistance group smuggled important secrets about the Nazis to the United States and Soviet governments and helped Jews escape from Germany. When war was declared in 1941, she did not leave with other American expatriates.
Of course, their activities were espionage and would eventually cost them their lives. For his part, her husband, Arvid was hanged in December 1942. Mildred was given a six year sentence, but Hitler refused to endorse her punishment and she was retried and condemned on February 16, 1943. She was beheaded by guillotine. Because of her connection to possible communist sympathies and post-war McCarthyism, her story is virtually unknown in the United States. She was the only American woman who was ever put to death on the direct order of Adolf Hitler for her involvement in the resistance movement. Her last words were, “And I have loved Germany so much.” In the Cold War years after World War II, Fish-Harnack’s name and legacy were not honored in the United States, because she and her husband were believed to have been connected with Communism. For a time they were hated by both of their home countries. Once the truth came out in 1986, that changed and Mildred Fish-Harnack Day was established in Wisconsin. It takes place every year on her birthday, September 16th.
The Vietnam war was many things, but I don’t think anyone really expected Operation Ranch Hand…at least not the general public. Who would have expected such a heinous act to be carried out by the government. Operation Ranch Hand was a United States military operation during the Vietnam War, lasting from 1962 until 1971. The operation was largely inspired by the British use of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (Agent Orange) during the Malayan Emergency in the 1950s. It was part of the overall program during the war called “Operation Trail Dust.” Ranch Hand involved spraying an estimated 20 million United States gallons of defoliants and herbicides over rural areas of South Vietnam in an attempt to deprive the Viet Cong of food and vegetation cover. Nearly 20,000 sorties were flown between 1961 and 1971.
It’s hard to say if the government knew the consequences of the chemicals that were used. It’s possible that the chemicals were thought to just kill vegetation, and not to hurt people. The people involved were known as Ranch Handers. I seriously doubt that at some point they didn’t wonder if what they were doing could possibly be harmful to the people they were spraying it on or near. Nevertheless, the “Ranch Handers” had a motto, “Only you can prevent a forest.” It was a take on the popular United States Forest Service poster slogan of Smokey Bear. During the ten years of spraying, over 5 million acres of forest and 500,000 acres of crops were heavily damaged or destroyed. Around 20% of the forests of South Vietnam were sprayed at least once.
The herbicides were sprayed by the United States Air Force flying C-123s using the call sign “Hades.” The planes were fitted with specially developed spray tanks with a capacity of 1,000 United States gallons of herbicides. A plane sprayed a swath of land that was ½ mile wide and 10 miles long in about 4½ minutes, at a rate of about 3 United States gallons per acre. Sorties usually consisted of three to five airplanes flying side by side, and 95% of the herbicides and defoliants used in the war were sprayed by the United States Air Force as part of Operation Ranch Hand. The remaining 5% were sprayed by the United States Chemical Corps, other military branches, and the Republic of Vietnam using hand sprayers, spray trucks, helicopters and boats, primarily around United States military installations…meaning that the majority of the chemicals were exposed to the Untied States Military. Many of the Vietnam veterans have felt betrayed by their own government. Many have felt that the government was well aware of the dangers of the chemicals they were spraying. I don’t know if they knew or not, but it seems like they should have suspected something. Years later, the effects of Agent Orange are well known and it was vicious.
During World War II, the Germans began a bombing campaign, during the Battle for Britain, that was known as the Blitzkrieg, which means lightning war. The name was often shortened to the Blitz. The Blitz began on September 7, 1940 and would continue until May 1941. During these bombing raids, London was especially badly hit. At the start of the campaign, the government did not allow the use of underground rail stations as shelters, as they considered them a potential safety hazard. However, the people of London took the matter into their own hands and opened up the chained entrances to the tube stations. In the Underground they were safe from the high explosive and incendiary bombs that rained down on London night after night. With one or two exceptions, their confidence was rewarded. The City tube station was hit when a bomb went through the road and fell into it. Over 200 were killed, but for the most part the tubes proved to be good bomb shelters.
One eyewitness to the tube shelters said, “By 4.00 p.m. all the platforms and passage space of the underground station are staked out, chiefly with blankets folded in long strips laid against the wall – for the trains are still running and the platforms in use. A woman or child guards places for about six people. When the evening comes the rest of the family crowd in.” To start with the government underestimated the potential use of the underground stations. The government estimated that 87% or more of people would use the issued shelters…usually Anderson shelters…or spaces under stairs, and such. They assumed that only 4% of the population would use the underground stations. However, each night underground stations played host to thousands of families in London grateful for the protection they afforded. On November 8, 1940, a request went out for blankets to aid the people sleeping in these underground tunnels. Times were hard in many areas of the London, and many Londoners spent their winter nights in the underground tunnels and shelters. Supplies of any new or old blankets that could be spared were called for in order to provide additional warmth for these people.
London went into mandatory blackouts every night to try to be invisible to the bombers. Despite the blackout restrictions, the Luftwaffe had a relatively easy way of getting to London. They simply followed the route of the River Thames, which also directed them to the docks based at the East End of the city. Each night, the bombers first dropped incendiary bombs designed to give the following bombers the most obvious of markers. After the incendiary bombs, came the high explosives. The government used its control over all forms of the media to present a picture of life going on as normal despite the constant nightly attacks. I suppose some would call this fake news, but it was the governments way of making it look like the Germans weren’t making any headway. They did not show photos of people known as trekkers, the families who would spend the night away from their homes, preferably in local woodland or a park where they felt safer from attack. Such photos were censored. An American film called “London can take it” presented the image of a city devastated by bombs, but one that carried on as normal. The narrator makes the point that “bombs can only kill people, they cannot destroy the indomitable spirit of a nation.”
However, we know that in reality, life was not quite as easy as propaganda showed. Indeed, London could take it, but only because there was little else they could do. Under wartime restrictions, people could not simply leave their homes and move elsewhere. The poorest in London lived in the East End, and it was this area that was especially hit hard by bombing because of the docks that were based there. However, most of the families there could do little else except stay where they were unless specifically moved by the government. These families developed what became known as a war-time spirit. They adapted their lives to the constant night-time bombing. By May 1941, 43,000 had been killed across Britain and 1.4 million had been made homeless. Not only was London attacked, but so were many British cities. Coventry and Plymouth were particularly badly bombed but most of Britain’s cities were also attacked, including Manchester, Glasgow, and Liverpool. Nevertheless, they were not broken.
These days, being connected to the internet is commonplace. We connect from our computer, laptop, tablet, and even our phone. Many occupations, including the one I am in could not really function without the internet. When the computers go down, we are shut down too. For most of us, the internet is so much a part of our lives, that we simply cannot imagine life without it. Nevertheless, the reality is that until quite recently, there was no internet. I know people who think that might have been a better time, but I disagree. In fact, I think the people who say they think that, really have no idea just how bad that would be, and if they tried it once, they would change their minds quickly. People don’t realize how many things depend on the internet.
The first real idea of information available at our fingertips began to form on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched the world’s first manmade satellite into orbit. Known as Sputnik, the satellite did not do much. It tumbled aimlessly around in outer space, sending blips and bleeps from its radio transmitters as it circled the Earth. Nevertheless, to many Americans, the one foot diameter Sputnik was proof of something alarming. Up to this point, scientists and engineers in the United States had been designing bigger cars and better television sets, but the Soviets had been focusing on…less frivolous things, and they were going to win the Cold War because of it. Americans saw that information could eventually be transmitted back to the Soviets concerning American military and government secrets. It was the dawning of the age of spy satellites.
Sputnik’s launch, brought about the era of science and technology in America. In an effort to keep up, schools began teaching subjects like chemistry, physics and calculus. The government gave grants to corporations, who invested them in scientific research and development. The federal government formed new agencies, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), to develop space-age technologies such as rockets, weapons and computers. Of course, the computer didn’t do nearly as much as it does these days, and it was the size of a small house. In 1962, a scientist from M.I.T. and ARPA named J.C.R. Licklider proposed a solution to this problem. His proposal was a “galactic network” of computers that could talk to one another. Such a network would enable government leaders to communicate even if the Soviets destroyed the telephone system. Then came “packet switching.” Packet switching breaks data down into blocks, or packets, before sending it to its destination. That way, each packet can take its own route from place to place. Without packet switching, the government’s computer network, which is now known as the ARPAnet, would have been just as vulnerable to enemy attacks as the phone system. At least now computers did more, but they were still big.
In 1969, ARPAnet delivered its first message. A “node-to-node” communication from one computer located in a research lab at UCLA, to the second located at Stanford. The message “LOGIN” was short and simple, and it crashed the ARPA network. Wow!! Things really are different today. The Stanford computer only received the note’s first two letters. By the end of 1969, just four computers were connected to the Arpanet. During the 1970s the network grew steadily. In 1971, it added the University of Hawaii’s ALOHAnet, and two years later it added networks at London’s University College and the Royal Radar Establishment in Norway. As packet-switched computer networks multiplied, it became more difficult for them to integrate into a single worldwide “Internet.” By the end of the 1970s, a computer scientist named Vinton Cerf had begun to solve this problem by developing a way for all of the computers on all of the world’s mini-networks to communicate with one another. He called his invention “Transmission Control Protocol,” or TCP. Later, he added an additional protocol, known as “Internet Protocol.” The acronym we use to refer to these today is TCP/IP. One writer describes Cerf’s protocol as “the ‘handshake’ that introduces distant and different computers to each other in a virtual space.”
Cerf’s protocol transformed the Internet into a worldwide network. Throughout the 1980s, researchers and scientists used it to send files and data from one computer to another. In 1991 the Internet changed again. That year, a computer programmer in Switzerland named Tim Berners-Lee introduced the World Wide Web…an Internet that was not simply a way to send files from one place to another, but was itself a “web” of information that anyone on the Internet could retrieve. Berners-Lee created the Internet that we know and use today. Since then, the Internet has changed in many ways, and will likely continue to change as time goes on. In 1992, a group of students and researchers at the University of Illinois developed a browser that they called Mosaic, later known as Netscape. Mosaic offered a user-friendly way to search the Web. It allowed users to see words and pictures on the same page for the first time and to navigate using scrollbars and clickable links. Then Congress decided that the Web could be used for commercial purposes. Companies developed websites of their own, and e-commerce entrepreneurs began to use the Internet to sell goods directly to customers. These days, social networking sites like Facebook have become a popular way for people of all ages, including me, to stay connected. Today, almost one-third of the world’s 6.8 billion people use the Internet regularly.
As Americans began to expand to the West, new territories had to be opened for settlement. Of course, this was not always met with approval from the Indian nations who were living there at the time. Nevertheless, the settling of this nation would not be stopped, and while it was handled wrong in many ways, it was inevitable. Nearly two million acres of land in Oklahoma Territory had been preciously deemed unsuitable for white settlement, and so were given to the Native Americans who had been previously removed from their traditional lands to allow for white settlement. The relocations began in 1817. By the 1880s, Indian Territory was home to a variety of tribes, including the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, Cheyenne, Comanche, and Apache.
By the 1890s, with the improvements in agricultural and ranching techniques led some white Americans to realize that the Indian Territory land could be valuable, so they began to pressure the United States government to allow white settlement in the region. In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison agreed, making the first of a long series of authorizations that eventually removed most of Indian Territory from Indian control. To begin the process of white settlement, President Harrison chose to open a 1.9 million acre section of Indian Territory that the government had never assigned to any specific tribe. I suppose it was a way to ease into it without taking land from any specific tribe…initially anyway. However, subsequent openings of sections that were designated to specific tribes were achieved primarily through the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887, which allowed whites to settle large swaths of land that had previously been designated to specific Indian tribes.
On March 3, 1889, Harrison announced the government would open the 1.9 million-acre tract of Indian Territory for settlement precisely at noon on April 22, 1889. Anyone could join the race for the land, but no one was supposed to jump the gun. With only seven weeks to prepare, the land-hungry Americans quickly began to gather around the borders of the irregular rectangle of territory. They were referred to as “Boomers,” and by the appointed day more than 50,000 hopefuls were living in tent cities on all four sides of the territory. At precisely high noon, thousands of would-be settlers make a mad dash into the newly opened Oklahoma Territory to claim cheap land. I can only imagine the chaos. The events that day at Fort Reno on the western border were typical of the entire process. At 11:50am, soldiers called for everyone to form a line. When the hands of the clock reached noon, the cannon of the fort boomed, and the soldiers signaled the settlers to start. With the crack of hundreds of whips, thousands of Boomers streamed into the territory in wagons, on horseback, and on foot. All told, from 50,000 to 60,000 settlers entered the territory that day. By nightfall, they had staked thousands of claims either on town lots or quarter section farm plots. Towns like Norman, Oklahoma City, Kingfisher, and Guthrie sprang into being almost overnight.
An extraordinary display of both the pioneer spirit and the American lust for land, the first Oklahoma land rush was also plagued by greed and fraud. Cases involving “Sooners,” who were people who had entered the territory before the legal date and time overloaded courts for years to come. I’m sure that the Indians weren’t pleased either, and I would imagine that there was periodic trouble over the whole process too. The government attempted to improve the operations of subsequent runs by adding more controls, finally adopting a lottery system to designate claims. By 1905, white Americans owned most of the land in Indian Territory. Two years later, the area once known as Indian Territory entered the Union as a part of the new state of Oklahoma.
Imagine living in a country where you could only go places and do things that the government allowed you to. Communist countries are that way, but in East Berlin things had taken a much more sinister turn. Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s, thousands of people from East Berlin crossed over into West Berlin to reunite with families and escape communist repression. The Soviet Union had rejected East Germany’s original request to build the wall in 1953, but with defections through West Berlin reaching 1,000 people a day by the summer of 1961, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev finally relented. The residents of Berlin awoke on the morning of August 13, 1961, to find barbed wire fencing had been installed on the border between the city’s east and west sections. Days later, East Germany began to fortify the barrier with concrete. Construction began on August 12, 1961. The Berlin Wall was actually two walls. The 27 mile portion of the barrier separating Berlin into east and west consisted of two concrete walls between which was a “death strip” up to 160 yards wide that contained hundreds of watchtowers, miles of anti-vehicle trenches, guard dog runs, floodlights and trip-wire machine guns. Overnight, people who had family on the other side of Berlin were no longer able to see them. There was no recourse, and no warning. At first people could see their loved ones across the fence, but when the walls went up that ended too.
For almost 2½ years those on one side of the wall were lost to those on the other side of the wall. What the Communist regime didn’t anticipate was the fact that people would still find a way to escape. There were 39 deaths at the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1963, and a total of 139 between 1961 and the wall’s demolition in 1989. That might not seem like so many, but when you take into account the fact that the people inside East Berlin were so closely watched, that it was almost impossible to get to supplies they needed to plan and carry out their escape attempt. Nevertheless, some people did make it safely across. No one knows for sure exactly how many people reached the western part, but some estimates claim that 5,000 East Germans reached West Berlin via the Wall. Men, women and children snuck through checkpoints, hid in vehicles and tunneled under the concrete. They used hot air balloons, diverted the train, crossed the river on an air mattress, by swimming, and even by zip line and tight rope. These people really wanted their freedom.
Finally, on December 20th through 26th or 1963, the Communist regime decided that if they issued 1 day passes to those in West Berlin, maybe it would stop the escape attempts. The East Berliners were not allowed to leave, but the West Berliners could come in and see friends and family members. I can only imagine how the people from West Berlin felt. They wanted to go and see their friends and family, but would they be allowed back out, or was this just a trap? Nevertheless, it was Christmastime, and it had been so long since they had seen them. So, nearly 4,000 West Berliners crossed into East Berlin to visit their relatives. It was all part of an agreement reached between East and West Berlin, over 170,000 passes were eventually issued to West Berlin citizens, each pass allowing a one day visit to communist East Berlin for the Christmas (Passierscheinregelung) season that year.
The day was one filled with moments of poignancy and propaganda. Tears, laughter, and other outpourings of emotions characterized the reunions that took place as mothers and fathers, sons and daughters met again. They were so happy, if only for a short time. Cold War tensions were mixed in too, however. Loudspeakers in East Berlin inundated visitors with the news that they were now in “the capital of the German Democratic Republic,” a political division that most West Germans refused to accept. Visitors were also given a brochure that explained that the wall was built to “protect our borders against the hostile attacks of the imperialists.” They were told of how the decadent western culture, including “Western movies” and “gangster stories,” were flooding into East Germany before the wall sealed off such dangerous trends, and that made it “necessary” to build the wall. West Berlin newspapers berated the visitors for being “pawns” of East German propaganda. Editorials argued that the communists would use these visits to gain West German acceptance of a permanent division of Germany. The visits, and the high-powered rhetoric that surrounded them, reminded everyone that the Cold War involved very human, often quite heated, emotions. East Berlin allowed these similar and very limited arrangements in 1964, 1965 and 1966. In 1971, with the Four Power Agreement on Berlin, agreements were finally reached to allow West Berliners to apply for visas to enter East Berlin and East Germany regularly, however, East German authorities could still refuse to honor the entry permits. Finally in 1989, at President Ronald Reagan’s insistence, the Berlin Wall came down, and this inhumane treatment of the East German people ended.
For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Bill Spencer was a gun dealer. He went to gun shows, had every kind of gun imaginable, and every accessory for them. Uncle Bill is a patriot, and he hated anything that remotely resembled an infringement on our Constitutional rights…especially the 2nd Amendment. Not only did he sell guns, but he talked to people about the importance of fighting for our Constitutional rights. That’s not surprising really, my dad, aunts, and uncles on both sides of my family, grew up in a time when America was strong and people understood what it took to keep it that way. Of course, there are still patriots today, but there are also far too many Americans who have forgotten the reason behind our freedoms. And that government should not be allowed to infringe upon those rights.
My Uncle Bill, and my dad, Allen Spencer, who was two years younger than his brother, were around guns and dynamite most of their lives. The dynamite shocked me when I first heard about it, but after they finished their story, it all made sense. For anyone who has ever tried to get rid of a tree stump, dynamite makes sense at some point. However, these boys were just a little bit crazy with their dynamite antics, from sinking the gate post while their mom was in town and then fixing it before she got home, to blowing up dynamite to celebrate the fourth of July, I don’t think their mom ever knew what to expect from them. Nevertheless, they were both safety conscious too…even as kids. They knew what could happen if you weren’t safe.
One time my dad heard that Uncle Bill was going to be in Rapid City for a gun show. Dad had been growing a beard for a centennial, and so didn’t look exactly like himself. We showed up at the gun show without telling him we were coming. Mom and Dad sent us girls ahead to just look around Uncle Bill’s table. Dad’s plan worked. When Uncle Bill finally realized who we were, he was both pleased and stunned. It was such a great prank to pull on him, and he was totally fooled. Then we had a wonderful visit with him afterward. Uncle Bill has always been so special to me, and I missed him a lot. I think we had a lot in common. Our interests run along the same lines, and that made our visits special, and our partings tough. I’m thankful that we still have Uncle Bill in our lives, but I wish we could see him more often. Today is Uncle Bill’s 94th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Opinions vary on the matter of child labor, and who can legally have their child work and at what kind of job. Some people take it to the point of saying that children shouldn’t even do chores around the home, which is, in my opinion, silly. It is my thought that children need to be helping out around the house, but beyond that I suppose the water gets a little bit murky. In the distant past, children were farmed out to spend their days working at a job that should have been done by an adult, and the kids really had no childhood to speak of. That is cruel treatment, and the current child labor laws prevent that from happening…unless people are so illegal that they do it without the knowledge of the government.
That said, there is a group of kids…even today that do work every day, and it is not illegal at all. These are the children of farmers and ranchers. I don’t know of any of those kids who don’t help out around the farm or ranch. There are stables to be cleaned, and cows to be milked, and animals to feed. There are also crops to be cared for and planted. These kids work and there is nothing illegal about it. Of course, their parents do have to be careful on a few matters. The children must get their schooling, and they have to be working on the parents farm or ranch.
Such was the case for my husband’s great uncles and his grandfather. Many people owned farms when those boys were young, and the kids helped out with just about everything. Most families back then really couldn’t afford to hire the amount of workers that it would take to run the place, so they hired what they had to, and the kids learned to work. I really can’t say that I think this is a bad thing. The kids often like the work…especially taking care of horses…since they often get to ride them too.
If you look back on the lives of our parents and grandparents, you will find that many of them grew up on a farm or ranch, and most of them were working to help out on the place at a very young age. Really, what a wonderful way to bond with the parents. Running a ranch or farm is a big job, and most kids like to do the things their parents are doing, because they want to be just like their parents. If a child is interested in doing the same kind of work their parents do, or take over the family farm, they need to know how to do this from the bottom up. What better way could there be, than to help out as a child.
Of course, not every family owns a farm or ranch, and while they may live in the country, they don’t have that kind of work to do. Still, the kids can and should help out with things. My nephew, Barry Schulenberg, loved helping his grandpa split firewood. He ran the splitter while his grandpa loaded the wood into it. Barry was about 4 years old, but you couldn’t have pulled him away from that job for anything. He was the one who did that, and that was all there was to it. Maybe some people would think he was a bit young, but there was never a single accident when he worked the splitter. I think sometimes we don’t give these kids enough credt. They can often do more than we think they can. They just need to be given a chance.