We don’t often think of generals feeling anguish over men lost in the battles they are sent to fight. It’s not that we don’t realize that they feel bad for sending these men into battle, to their possible deaths, even to their probable deaths, because we do. Still, they are the generals, and far above the rank and file…the little guys. Generals, Admirals, the President…could they even realize the consequences of their decisions in the lives of the people under them? I think most of us somehow think that the generals and even the president have no idea how many people they are condemning to death by the orders they give. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
General Eisenhower, known as “Ike” was the one with the final say in the D-Day attack that could potentially take the lives of more than 160,000 men, as well as the possible destruction of nearly 12,000 aircraft, almost 7,000 sea vessels. The attack was supposed to take place on June 5, 1944, but the weather was not cooperative. For the attack to work, several factors had to be optimally in favor of the Allies. Nevertheless, these were factors that could not be controlled by humans. Things like the tides, the moon, and the weather. They needed low tide and bright lunar conditions, limiting the possibilities to just a few days each month. The dates for June 1944 were the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh. It was a very small window, and then the weather on the fifth didn’t cooperate either. If the attack was not launched on one of those dates, Ike would be forced to wait until June 19 to try again. Not only did that mean more deaths because of the German occupation, but keeping the attack secret was harder, the longer they had to wait.
Finally, it looked like June 6, 1944 was going to cooperate. All of his advisors told him that their part was a go. Finally it was time for the final decision…one that belonged only to Eisenhower. He labored over the decision. It was not one where he could decide from his lofty position and never think about it again. He knew that he was sending men to their deaths…to certain death. He couldn’t pass the buck. He couldn’t call a dozen people to see how they felt about it. He had to decide. And so he did. History has argued what his exact words were, some said, “Ok, let ‘er rip.” or “Well, we’ll go” or “All right, we move” or “OK, boys, We will go.” or “We will attack tomorrow.” I don’t suppose it really matters what he said exactly, but rather, it mattered what happened after. We now know that the Allied casualties on June 6 have been estimated at 10,000 killed, wounded, and missing in action. Among those were 6,603 Americans, 2,700 British, and 946 Canadians. It ended with an Allied victory, but it was not without cost…the loss of lives was great. Eisenhower could not “celebrate” the anniversary of D-Day, thinking that it would be like patting himself on the back, but I think that the biggest picture of the weight that the attack placed on Eisenhower was when he was going to a reunion with the 82nd Airborne Division. Upon seeing him, the men stood, cheering and whistling. Reporter Val Lauder had spoken to him, and later watched the news broadcast of the reunion, when her mother noticed something odd. Says Lauder, “My mother, watching with me, said, ‘He’s crying. Why is he crying?’ I said, ‘He’s looking out at a roomful of men he once thought he could be sending to their death.'” That says it all. Ike didn’t just pull the plug and send those men to their deaths…never giving it another thought. The decision haunted him for years, and quite likely the rest of his life.
My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg is a sweet girl, who is a great mom. Her children may have had some difficult times in their lives, but they can always count on their mom to be their biggest supporter. I don’t think any child lives their whole life without some difficulties, some bigger than others, but all difficult. Without the support and encouragement of their parents, some of those times can destroy the life of the child. Rachel has spent at least part of their lives being a single mom, at least until she met my brother-in-law, Ron. Now they work together to be a support system for their kids. I won’t go into all the ways Rachel has been a support system for her kids, because anyone who knows her is aware of all that has transpired.
For Rachel, her three children are her treasures, as are her two grandchildren. She loves being a mom and grandma. And of course, she loves being married to Ron. They are very compatible, and I believe that each of them is just what the other had been looking for all their lives. They have like interests and goals and they are both heading in the same direction. And they both have a great sense of humor. They love to goof off. Ron was never truly happy until he met Rachel. It was a match made in Heaven and one that will last a lifetime.
One of the favorite things for Rachel and Ron to do is to go camping. They would probably stay in the mountains forever, if they could. It’s just not something most of us can manage, and so we go to work. Ron and Rachel have a place north of Casper with about 5 acres. Living on 5 acres in the country is nice most of the time, but not so much when the weather causes the roads tend to turn into a mud pit. Nevertheless, it’s home an they have built a happy life there. Rachel loves the home she and Ron have there. She and her son, Tucker love to make specials welcome home things for Ron…or at least Rachel helps Tucker make special welcome home surprises for Ron. They both love Ron so much and they love the life they have built. Today is Rachel’s birthday. Happy birthday Rachel!! Have a great day!! We love you!
Before scientists learned how to predict the weather, and before the weather predicting equipment came into being, people often found themselves outside, without any place to get under cover, during some really bad storms. Such was the case on Monday, April 13, 1360…later dubbed Black Monday, when a hail storm killed approximately 1,000 English soldiers in Chartres, France. England and France were in the middle of the Hundred Years’ War. The war began in 1337, and by 1359, King Edward III of England was pushing forward to conquer France. In October he sent a massive force across the English Channel to Calais. The French wouldn’t fight back, but rather stayed behind protective walls that Winter, allowing the King Edward’s men to pillage the countryside.
Then in April of 1360 King Edward’s forces burned the Paris suburbs and marched toward Chartres. The night of April 13, while they were camped outside the town, planning a dawn attack, a sudden storm developed. Lightning struck, killing several soldiers, and hailstones began pelting the men, and scattering the horses. One man described it as “a foul day, full of myst and hayle, so that the men dyed on horseback” Two of the English leaders were killed and the troops panicked…they had no shelter from the storm. They were at it’s mercy. King Edward’s forces suffered heavy losses that some of the men saw as a sign from God, that they should not be fighting against France. King Edward was convinced that they needed to negotiate peace with the French, and on May 8, 1360, the Treaty of Bretigny was signed, marking the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years’ War. King Edward renounced all claims to the throne of France, but he was given control of the land in the north of the country. Nine years later, fighting resumed when the King of France claimed that King Edward had not honored the treaty. the last phase of the Hundred Years’ War finally ended in 1453.
Hailstones have long been known to be very deadly. The larger the stone, of course, the more deadly it is. Some have been known to crush the roofs of cars. The largest hailstone recorded in modern times was found in Aurora, Nebraska. It was seven inches in diameter, about the size of a soccer ball. Hail typically falls at about 100 miles per hour, which explains why getting hit with one can really hurt you, no matter how small the stone might be, and why huge hailstones would mean instant death.
As we sit here, with an early Spring upon us, I find it an odd thing to think about another year that had been rather balmy too. The year was 1888, and things were about to get serious along the northern East Coast. The day began with rain, but as the storm really came at around midnight, the rain turned to snow, and the area began to become a nightmare right before the very eyes of the people in the area. Snowfalls of between 20 to 60 inches were seen in parts of New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The winds howled…sustained winds of more than 45 miles per hour producing snowdrifts in excess of 50 feet. The area railroads were shut down and people were confined to their houses for up to a week. The difficult thing here is that people didn’t have some of the weather predictors that we have these days, so many of them had no idea what was coming their way, and so had far k=less time to prepare for it.
Areas of northern Vermont received from 20 inches to 30 inches in this storm, with drifts reported from 30 to 40 feet over the tops of houses from New York to New England. There were also reports of drifts covering 3 story houses. The highest drift…52 feet was recorded in Gravesend, New York. A total of 58 inches of snow fell in Saratoga Springs, New York; 48 inches in Albany, New York; 45 inches of snow in New Haven, Connecticut; and 22 inches of snow in New York City. With the snow came severe winds, with gusts up to 80 miles per hour, although the highest official report in New York City was 40 miles per hour, with a 54 miles per hour gust reported at Block Island. Central Park Observatory, in New York City, reported a low temperature of 6 °F, and a high temperature of 9 °F on March 13…the coldest ever for March. These days Winter Storms have names, but they didn’t then. Nevertheless, the storm was named the Great White Hurricane. It paralyzed the East Coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine, as well as the Atlantic provinces of Canada. The Telegraph was disabled because of all the downed lines, isolating Montreal and most of the large northeastern United States cities from Washington DC to Boston for days. Following the storm, New York began placing its telegraph and telephone lines underground to prevent destruction. From Chesapeake Bay through the New England area, more than 200 ships were either grounded or wrecked, killing at least 100 seamen.
In New York, all transportation was at a standstill for days, and drifts across the New York–New Haven rail line at Westport, Connecticut took eight days to clear. Partly because of the transportation gridlock, it was decided that they needed a better system, and the first underground subway system in the United States, opened nine years later in Boston. The New York Stock Exchange was closed for two days…something that almost never happens. Firefighters were unable to get to the fires, and property loss just from the fires was estimated at $25 million. Severe flooding occurred after the storm due to melting snow, especially in the Brooklyn area, which was more susceptible to serious flooding. Efforts were made to push the snow into the Atlantic Ocean. More than 400 people died from the storm and the cold that came with it, including 200 in New York City alone. Among them was former United States Senator Roscoe Conkling. The blizzard also resulted in the founding of the Christman Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary located near Delanson, Schenectady County, New York, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
Yesterday’s rare tornado on Casper Mountain while not scary, because I didn’t know about it until it was over, did take me back a in time a bit, however. A number of years ago, my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim Wolfe were at my mom’s house visiting, we were under a tornado watch. No one was worried about it because it was only a watch, and we didn’t expect anything to come of it. I think we were under the mistaken assumption that we would never have a tornado here…at least I think I was. I’m sure the adults knew that a tornado could happen anywhere, but I was a kid, and I still wanted that cushion of protection. It’s a lot more comfortable to a child to think that these bad things can never come here, and you don’t want your dream world shattered. All too soon you reach an age where you know that storms like these are possible anywhere, and you become watchful, just like my Aunt Ruth was.
As we were visiting, no one was really paying attention to the weather. Suddenly, my Aunt Ruth jumped up and ran to the back door. She looked out the window and said, “There is a tornado somewhere!!” I remember thinking, “No way!! We don’t get those here!!” She insisted that there had been one, but with no way to confirm it right then, they went back to their conversation. I, on the other hand felt a little apprehensive for the rest of the evening. I kept thinking, “Tornados don’t happen here, do they…or do they? Is it save to be here? Should we be going somewhere to hide r something?” Still the adults didn’t seem too concerned, so I went back to what I was doing too, but the memory of that moment has really never left me. I can still vividly see my Aunt Ruth standing at the back door, looking at the sky for clues as to the location of the tornado. I can still hear her voice, clearly saying that there was a tornado somewhere. She was so sure of it
Later that night, as we were watching the news, the weather man said that there had been a tornado on the mountain. I was a little shaken up by that report. The memory of that moment has lived in my memory files for all those years. I don’t know exactly how she knew it that day, but she did. I think I was a little bit in awe of her knowledge of storm systems. I suppose that was because she had been right about it. Now, of course we have things like radar, and rotation patterns to tell us ahead of time that something is coming, but I am here to tell you that those systems don’t always do exactly what they are supposed to do. Yesterday’s tornado on Casper Mountain did not set of any of the warning systems. I wondered how that could be, until I found out that the tornado was called a Land Spout Tornado, and apparently those don’t show a rotation pattern that can be picked up by radar. So even with all the warning systems we have, no system is fool proof, and there can be the rogue storm the goes against everything known to man concerning storms. Still, they happen. I suppose that then the only warning system is a person to can feel the weather, like Aunt Ruth.
Every year on October 31st, kids all over the country take to the streets, knocking on doors to collect a bounty of candy…whether they need it or not. My kids and grandkids are all beyond the trick or treat stage now, but that doesn’t stop some of them from dressing up for work and parties they have been invited to. My nieces and nephews have a great time each year, and the costumes are as varied as the imaginations of the people wearing them. My niece Jenny and her husband Steve always have a party on Halloween, so that all the family can gather and enjoy each other’s company. Jenny and Steve have come up with a variety of costumes over the years…from Indians to cowboy and dance hall girl. And then there’s my niece, Kellie, who uses the workplace to create a costume…I guess writing insurance for Progressive has it’s perks…I should have thought of that, since my daughter Amy and I write for Progressive too. My granddaughter, Shai has told me that she is planning to dress up for work tonight too, at Outback Steakhouse. I think she should go as a Bloomin’ Onion, but I don’t expect her to take my advice.
When I was a kid, Halloween was pretty much a kids game, and while Dad always took us trick or treating, the night belonged to us. My parents never dressed up, nor did any other adults I knew. We didn’t bother with a little Jack-O-Lantern basket for our candy, because that didn’t hold enough…just take a pillow case. It was sure to be full by the time you got home. Dad was always a good sport, taking us out as long as we could stand it, which was quite a while if the night wasn’t too cold. We didn’t go to places like the mall…we didn’t have one anyway…or other businesses, because there was very little worry about tainted candy. It was just a very different time. These days people must be much more careful, and maybe that is why there are more parties, and less trick or treating.
Halloween will always be a kids game, I suppose, but these days it’s not just for kids, and the people I am around that dress up are not kids…or maybe they are. They say some people never grow up, and it could be that the ones that dress up just have a little bit of a kid still living on the inside of them. Here’s to childhood, and never growing old!! Happy Halloween everyone!!