Current Events

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Memorial Day is a different kind of day, because it is not a holiday of celebration, but rather a day remembrance. We cannot celebrate this day, because it is about honoring those soldiers who went to war and didn’t make it back. It was the ultimate sacrifice. As the saying goes concerning soldiers, “all gave some, but some gave all!” When a soldier goes to war, they know. They are very aware that the possibility exists that they will not come back home. They know that their sacrifice might be the ultimate sacrifice. They want to make it home, but they know it may not be. Today is about those soldiers who did not make it home.

I doubt if there are many families that can say that they have never lost a soldier in battle, but while I don’t specifically know of any in my family, I’m sure there are some back there a way. There have been many wars, and with each one examined, comes the increased chance of having a relative who dies at war. It doesn’t matter anyway, because Memorial Day is a day to honor those who gave all, whether they are related to us or not. Their sacrifice is what makes us free today. They fought for people they didn’t even know, gave up time with the family they loved, and died in a place they didn’t want to be. That is the epitome of bravery and courage.

Some of them, including my uncle, Jim Richards’ brother Dale Richards never left the place they died. Dale fought in Normandy, France, and that is where he is to this day. The people of France are so grateful for the soldiers who fought and died over there, that they keep the graves looking beautiful. It’s nice to know that there are people who continue to show their appreciation for those men who “gave all” for them. Their sacrifice should never be forgotten. Their families can certainly never forget. They have had to go forward with their lives without the love and support of the soldier that went to war and never came home. That soldier had potential. They could have been anything they wanted to be, but instead, they chose to give their life to ensure the freedom of other human beings. Today, we honor all of those men who “gave all” for us and so many others. We thank you for your service, and we honor your memory. God bless you all, from a grateful nation.

There are days when I find myself thinking more than normal about one or both of my parents, Allen and Collene Spencer, than normal, and May Day is one of the days that reminds me a lot of my mom. Mom loved the holidays, and while May Day isn’t a holiday, per se, it is a special day, and mom loved it. It was a day that she could give her girls something fun to do, while doing something fun for neighbors and friends too. Mom helped us make May baskets, fill them with candy, and told us to take them to the neighbors’ houses, hang them on the door, knock, and hide. It was the tradition of May Day, and Mom wanted us to know about it. We had so much fun making those baskets, but the real fun was in the giving of the baskets. There wasn’t a lot of candy in them. Just a few pieces, but our neighbors knew that we had left them a little bit of sweetness to brighten their day.

My mom was such a giving person, in so many ways. It wasn’t just May Day, or some other holiday, but really, every day. Mom gave of herself, in the kindnesses she showed, and if someone had a need, she did her best to supply that need. That was how she was raised. Her parents, George and Hattie Byer were givers, helping anyone who had a need. Their children saw that growing up, and it left a lasting impact on them too. Mom not only felt compelled to give, but she truly liked giving…from Girl Scout cookies to church to different causes she came across, Mom was a giver, and I know that she was always blessed because of it. Dad was also a giver, and they were always in agreement of these things. They taught us to be givers too, and we are all grateful for their teachings.

While May Day traditions have rather become a thing of the past, I will always remember them fondly. I think it is sad that the May basket tradition has for the most part ceased to exist, and that makes me sad for the younger generations. Of course, with a few exceptions, most of us don’t often know our neighbors well…unless we have lived in an area for many years. Even then, people come and go, and it isn’t so easy to accept a basket of candy left on your door, unless you know for sure where it came from. It is an unfortunate side effect of the times we live in. I am thankful to have grown up in a gentler time, when May baskets could be given and received without worry about their contents, or the child giving them. Happy May Day everyone.

My nephew, Jason Sawdon finished last year with a very nice promotion. Jason was a sergeant with the Wyoming Highway Patrol. His position was that of Sergeant of Equipment and Technology. In that position, Jason trained men on the equipment and technology. The position took Jason and his family from Casper to Cheyenne, but it was a good move, because it also took Jason off the street and into a Monday through Friday, day job. That meant he was home at night, and that was best for him and his girls, wife Jessi and daughter, Adelaide. That move took place on June 5, 2021. Now, just two and a half years later, Jason is “movin’ on up” again, and we are so pleased and so happy for him.

On December 16, 2023, Jason was again promoted…this time to Lieutenant. That promotion also promoted him to Support Services Supervisor of Equipment and Technology. Basically, the job is similar, but now he supervises the men doing the training. Jason is such a great member of the highway patrol. It doesn’t matter which position he is in, because he always excelled. No wonder the highway patrol wanted to take advantage of that talent by promoting him to positions where he could use his skills to improve the patrol base of skilled men. To top it off, Jason has such a great personality, that people simply like him. Whether it is his bosses, his coworkers, and even the people he dealt with on patrol. Jason is respected and very well liked.

Today, Jason had his promotion ceremony, and it was a great ceremony. His wife Jessi had the privilege of pinning his lieutenant’s bars on, and many of the family members attended. Jason’s coworkers and family had many nice things to say about him, listing his accomplishments…that he was Trooper of the year in 2015 and his Meritorious Service Award. He was skilled in Crash Reconstruction and worked the 1-80 pileup crash a few years ago to reconstruct it. Then there was a wonderful reception at Paris West restaurant. It was a beautiful day…one that Jason has worked hard for. It wouldn’t surprise me to see more promotion days in Jason’s future, because he is so good at his job. Congratulations Lieutenant Jason Sawdon on your promotion!! We are so proud of you!!

As we move into the new year, we begin to think about how long the year seems…until we look at the year’s end speedily approaching. Then, we realize just how short the year really was, but what if there was a strange “time paradox” that disrupted the “space-time continuum” that we were told about in the movie, Back to the Future? Well, I don’t know if such a “time paradox” could really exist, but in the year 46BC, Julius Caesar did cause a type of disruption in the “space-time continuum” when he decided to revamp the human calendar. Of course, the days went on as usual, but the names of things and the way we looked at them changed. Now, for those of you who hate the whole biannual time change thing…well, this would really blow your body’s natural rhythms out of the water.

It seems rather pretty egotistical to just randomly decide that you needed to change up a whole year, and then name the whole thing after yourself to boot, but the Julius Caesar truly thought of himself as a sort of god, I think. It’s not that the pre-Julian Roman calendar didn’t have its problems, because it did, and maybe Caesar thought he was doing a good thing. Still, in the end, the whole maneuver that occurred in the time frame progressing from 46BC to 45BC (note that until Jesus was born, the time was listed as BC, Before Christ and basically went backward. After his birth, time began to go forward, 1AD, 2AD, 3AD, etc. The term anno Domini is Medieval Latin and means “in the year of the Lord” or the year Christ was born.) caused a good bit of confusion…the kind of confusion that would make the time change seem totally insignificant.

The calendar the Romans used were not without fault. The Romans had to periodically add a leap month every few years to keep the calendar year in sync with the solar year. Unfortunately, they had missed a few with the chaos of the civil wars of the late republic. Now if you think the time change is odd, imagine having July suddenly be in the middle of winter in the northern hemisphere. That’s what was happening due to the missed additional leap months that were not happening. The calendar was obviously not well planned. So, to fix things, Caesar chose to take one year, and make a number of drastic changes designed to “get things back on track” once and for all. Nicknamed “the Year of the Consulship of Caesar and Lepidus” or the year of confusion, 46BC had two extra leap months inserted by Julius Caesar. This was in order to make his newly formed Julian Calendar match up with the seasonal year. In the end, 46BC was 445 days long and is the longest year in human history. Julius Caesar added Mercedonius (23 days) and two other intercalary months (33 and 34 days respectively) to the 355-day lunar year, to recalibrate the calendar in preparation for his calendar reform, which went into effect in 45 BC. Of course, the actual planetary orbit-year remained the same. He couldn’t change that. There were still problems with the calendar, but they probably weren’t quite as significant as the old Roman calendar, which required a manual reset of the year periodically.

The Julian Calendar would remain the standard in the western world for over 1600 years, until superseded by the Gregorian Calendar in 1582. The Gregorian calendar that is still widely used today. It is a solar calendar that was first introduced in 1582 by the Catholic Church and replaced the Julian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is used for non-religious administration around the world and has been adopted by 168 countries as their official calendar. The principal change was to space leap years differently so as to make the average calendar year 365.2425 days long. For church functions, the church calendar is in place, and the Jewish people use the Hebrew calendar. I’m sure there are nations that use some other form of calendar, but the Gregorian calendar seems to keep the seasons aligned with the calendar pretty well.

Where would a nation be without its soldiers? In deep trouble. Our world, at this time in history is at its most volatile. To top it off, being in the service has been voluntary for a long time now. That means two things. First that fewer people might be entering the service; and second, that the ones who join, want to be there and will work harder. Being in the service is an often-thankless job with long hours at times, and months or even years away from family when necessary. Our soldiers are at the beck and call of the commander-in-chief. It would be nice if our world could live together in peace and harmony, but that has never and will never be…until the end of time. Until then, we need them.

There are several types of soldiers, and I don’t mean branches of the military, although there are those too. We have Army, Navy, AirForce, and Marines, as well as Coast Guard and National Guard, but the types I am referring to are Killed in Action, active duty, and Veterans and retirees. With that, there are also special days of remembrance for soldiers. For those killed in action, there is Memorial Day. For active-duty soldiers, there is Armed Forces Day, and for veterans and retirees, there is Veterans Day.

For those who are veterans, we take this opportunity to thank them for their service and their sacrifice, because they did sacrifice. They left their families at home and went out to fight for people they don’t even know, and probably never will. We, here at home, have no way to really repay them for their acts of selflessness, so all we can do is thank them for their service. Somehow, it just doesn’t seem enough. How could we possibly repay them? We can never give them back the lost time with family, the memories, the births of children, and the multiple firsts that go with them. Those things are gone forever for the soldier, because they chose to go out and protect their country, and the people in it. It is a debt that we, as mere citizens, can never repay. All we can do is be grateful, because our lives are what they are because of a soldier. Yes, we are grateful to the active-duty soldiers currently protecting us, and we pray every day that they will get to come home to their families one day, and become a veteran or retiree, but today is for that special group. The ones who served, and then went back to their lives and tried to pick up where they left off, or at least start the next step. To you I say, Happy Veterans Day, and thank you so much for your service. We are forever grateful!!

George Washington was not just our first president, but he was also an incredibly intelligent man. Normally, when George Washington spoke, people listened. Maybe his leadership was a big part of what made our system of government work so well, but there was one thing that everyone decided to ignore…his warnings about political parties. George Washington was against them, you see. He wasn’t just against one side of the political party system. He was against having political parties at all. He was so adamantly against them, that he remained nonpartisan throughout his entire presidency.

In his farewell address, President Washington said the following about partisan politics, “It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus, the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.” Any of this sound familiar? Of course, it does. It is exactly what we have going on today.

I agree with President Washington, who worried that political parties would become too powerful, rob the people of their control over their own government, and distract everyone from what they should really be focusing on. In today’s political arena, that is exactly what is going on. People are being indited as a way of weaponizing politics. If someone doesn’t agree with the other party, or can’t be controlled, they are very likely to be politically ostracized and attacked. Since George Washington spoke those words, 250 years have passed, and there are people saying that they don’t trust either political party. I am one of those. I suppose some people would wonder how we would elect our leaders. To them, I say, “How about electing them on their merits!!” There are people out there who will simply vote for the party they are affiliated with, no matter what their candidate stands for. They vote the way they vote, simply because the candidate they choose is from their party. What a horrible mistake that is. Isn’t it time that we find out what our candidates really stand for, and then vote our conscience? Isn’t it time we hold our politicians accountable for their actions? I think it is, but then we would have to find a way to get the correct information, and we already know that we can’t trust the media!! But that is another story.

Recently, I took a trip to Ferndale, Washington to visit my daughter, Amy Royce, her husband, Travis, and kids Shai and Caalab. While I was there, Amy, Shai, and I took a side trip to Lopez Island. Amy had been looking for things to do while I was there, when she came across Spencer Spit. A spit is a narrow coastal land formation that is tied to the coast at one end. Spits frequently form where the coast abruptly changes direction and often occur across the tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream.

Spencer Spit was of particular interest to me, because it was owned by a Spencer family, up until 1967 anyway. It was then that Raymond Spencer who decided to sell the land to the state of Washington to be a park. The area had been owned off and on by the Troxell and Spencer families since the 1880s, but the details are a bit sketchy. The two families apparently traded the land back an forth for a while. In 1886, the Spencer family took possession of the land, and it was there that their son Raymond was born a year later. In 1888, Franklin Troxell came to the land and received a land grant under the Homestead Act. He built the house that stood until 1979. He also built a stone and timber shed in the early 1950s. Those structures still stand today. There was also a guest house built out on the spit where friends and family stayed. It was later torn down. A picnic shelter stands in its place now.

From 1918 to about 1922, Ramond Spencer captained a kelp harvester ship in the waters around Lopez Island, called Harvester King. They harvested kelp for the Kelp Plant. Then in 1922, the ship was reconfigured to ferry cars. It was the first ferry to serve the San Juan Islands, but after one season, it was decided that the ship was not really suited to the job of ferry boat. The ride was just too rough, so it was beached in Olympia until she was ultimately scrapped. Apparently while kelp is used to make fertilizer today, it was not as successful back then. I guess that Harvester King was simply ahead of her time. Maybe if she had been built a few decades later, she would still be operating today.

While my husband, Bob and I were in the Black Hills last week, we were having breakfast at the Hill City Cafe, when we overheard a waitress telling another table the story of how the Hill City High School came to have Smokey Bear as their mascot and be renamed the Hill City Rangers. I had no idea that anyone used Smokey Bear as their mascot, nor did I know that no other school was allowed to do so. That caught my interest, so we listened to the story, and then I had to research it further to get the whole story. And quite a story it is.

It all started around noon on July 10, 1939, with one of the worst forest fires in the history of the Black Hills. It was located just ten miles northwest of Hill City, and that’s too close for any wildfire to be to a city. Overnight, the fire burned through six of those ten miles, jumped the Mystic Road, the C.B. and Q. Railway, and was headed directly for Hill City. These are areas my husband, Bob and I have hiked, and hearing about the fire raging through them really hits home for me. The C.B. and Q Railway (Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad) was later abandoned and became the Mickelson Trail, which I have hiked from end to end, twice!! Not in one trip, but over about 10 years, one section at a time. The whole area is a place I love, and to think of it burning…well, it tears at my heart.

By noon on July 11, 1939, the fire was within three miles of town. That was when the wind changed and carried the fire further North and East. Still, Hill City and other towns were not safe, winds shift all the time, and the fire had to be stopped. The weather that year had been hot and very dry, unlike this year, plus a high wind repeatedly “crowned” the fire. The firefighters were in constant danger. They had already called in all of the Civilian Conservation Corps boys in the area, who had been immediately put on the fire, and now the forest rangers called for more help. You know that the situation is desperate, when they call for untrained volunteers. Shockingly, one of the first crews to respond was a group of 25 schoolboys from Hill City. These were high school kids…kids!! The crew of 25 included the entire basketball squad, one eighth grader, and several boys who had recently attended or graduated from the Hill City High School. Their foreman was Charles Hare, President of the Board of Education. This whole story of bravery and selflessness brings tears to my eyes and puts a lump in my throat.

The inferno raged throughout July 11th and into July 12th and utilized over four thousand firefighters, laboring together to bring the fire under control. The fire often isolated the crews, who went without food and water for a number of hours. Heat, smoke, and the danger of being trapped hampered the firefighters, but the blaze was brought under control on July 12th. The people of Hill City had spent many anxious hours watching the smoke and direction of the fire. Many had packed their belongings and were ready to move, but the order to abandon the town was never given. The schoolboys crew from Hill City was at the fire every day. The US Forest Service was so grateful to them that they were later recognized by officials as one of the best crews!! The McVey Fire burned over 20,000 acres.

To get back to the story the waitress was so proudly telling, “The name ‘Rangers’ was given to them in honor of their good record. Because of the work of these schoolboys back in 1939, Hill City Schools became the ONLY school district in the United States to have the privilege of using ‘Smokey Bear’ as its mascot. The school colors are Green and Gold which also represent the National Forest Service Theme, and Hill City is the ONLY school with the honorable privilege of having their graduation ceremonies held at Mount Rushmore. The staff, students and teams representing Hill City Schools hope to continue the traditions of the splendid group of men that our boys so ably assisted, The United States Forest Rangers.” It’s a proud tradition to own, and an awesome goal to reach for. I’m sure they will be able to achieve their goal, and as an annual “tourist” in the area, who loves the Black Hills, I want to thank all the brave firefighters in the Black Hills-Hill City area…past, present, and future (one of which was my niece, Lindsay Moore, for a summer) for all their hard work keeping the area safe, and mostly for their bravery.

Since the earliest beginnings of Israel, the Arab community has been protesting its existence and trying to remove it from the face of the Earth. I don’t particularly understand what their problem uis. Given the tiny size of Israel compared to the vastness of the Arab nations, why is it so hard to allow them to live in peace? It is, of course a Holy War situation that is unlikely to go away for as long as time continues.

Israel had been a nation way, way back, but when they were taken into captivity, they were scattered to many nations. Once they were freed, they traveled to Israel (I think most people know the Exodus story). Of course, their existence was fought over again and again, finally leading up to the Holocaust. When World War II ended, many of the Jewish people again moved to and populated the Israeli land, but it wasn’t until May 14, 1948, that David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. United States President Harry S Truman recognized the new nation on the same day. Since that time, there have been multiple wars and continuing conflicts that have threatened the existence of the Israeli state.

One such war was the Six-Day War, also called June War or Third Arab-Israeli War or Naksah. It was a short-lived war that took place from June 5, 1967 to June 10, 1967. It was the third of the Arab-Israeli wars. The first took place almost immediately after they were declared a state. The Israeli people have learned to fight for survival all their lives, vowing never to allow another Holocaust to be carried out. Israel’s decisive victory in the Six-Day War included the capture of the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Old City of Jerusalem, and Golan Heights. Of course, things didn’t end there. The fact that these territories belonged to Israel has been a major point of contention in the Arab-Israeli conflict sin that time.

The Six-Day War had precursors, as most wars do. Prior to the start of the war, the Palestinian guerrilla groups based in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan randomly began attacking Israel, basically lobbing missiles at them, leading to costly Israeli reprisals. Then, in November 1966 an Israeli strike on the village of Al-Sam in the Jordanian West Bank left 18 dead and 54 wounded, and during an air battle with Syria in April 1967, the Israeli Air Force shot down six Syrian MiG fighter jets. Soviet intelligence reports in May claimed that Israel was planning a campaign against Syria, and although these claims were inaccurate, the accusations further heightened tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

During this time, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser had come under sharp criticism for his refusing to become involved with Syria and Jordan against Israel. He was accused of hiding behind the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) stationed at Egypt’s border with Israel in the Sinai. Under pressure, he moved to unambiguously demonstrate support for Syria on May 14, 1967. Nasser mobilized Egyptian forces in the Sinai on May 18, 1967 and formally requested the removal of the UNEF stationed there. On May 22, 1967, he closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping, thus instituting an effective blockade of the port city of Elat in southern Israel. On May 30, 1967, King Hussein of Jordan arrived in Cairo to sign a mutual defense pact with Egypt, placing Jordanian forces under Egyptian command. Iraq joined the alliance shortly thereafter.

As Israel became aware of the mobilization of its Arab neighbors, early on the morning of June 5, 1967, Israel took preemptive action and staged an air assault that destroyed more than 90 percent Egypt’s air force on the tarmac. A similar air assault incapacitated the Syrian air force. Without cover from the air, the Egyptian army was left vulnerable to attack. The domination in this war became apparent right away, and within three days the Israelis had achieved an overwhelming victory on the ground, capturing the Gaza Strip and all of the Sinai Peninsula up to the east bank of the Suez Canal.

Israel warned Jordan’s King Hussein to stay out of the conflict, but they disregarded the warning, and eastern front was also opened on June 5, 1967, when Jordanian forces began shelling West Jerusalem only to face a crushing Israeli counterattack. On June 7, 1967, Israeli forces drove Jordanian forces out of East Jerusalem and most of the West Bank. By June 10, 1967, the war was over and Israel was the obvious winner. It seems to me that the Arab nations should heed the warnings of history, and leave Israel alone, but I suppose that is unlikely. Nevertheless, Israeli land belongs to the Jewish people by the promise of God and they would do well to let it go.

As I was sitting in church yesterday morning, waiting for the service to begin, I looked around me at the people in the room. Most of them I have known for years…them and their parents. Then, I realized how many of the parents are no longer with us. It has happened over time…one here and one there, until suddenly, my generation was the new patriarch and matriarch generation in the church…the elders if you will.

I felt a wave of sadness, as I thought about my parents, and the parents of so many others who have gone home. Of course, the sadness was accompanied by the joy for each of them, who were now living every day in the presence of God. How glorious that must be!! They left this Earth, as well as their children and grandchildren, hoping that they had given us the training we would need to go forward in life and follow God in the way we had been trained. They left this Earth standing on the promise in Proverbs 22:6, that says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The people around me had all come up the way I had…going to church with our parents, and so the promise held true.

While I was happy that the people around me, were there to carry on their parents’ legacy of raising their own children in the church, I was sorry that so many of our parents and mentors were no longer there with us. Nevertheless, while we aren’t all queens like Esther was, the verse in Esther, 4:14 holds true, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” It occurred to me that while our parents were no longer with us, the truth was that this wasn’t their time in life…it is ours. We were born for this era, and it is up to us to carry on now. It is up to us to make our parents proud of the people we have become, the people they raised. I left church after the service, feeling a little melancholy, but also a little encouraged, because the people around me, who are carrying on with what their parents taught them, are making their parents proud…we all are. And while this era will have its own issues, the fact remains that each era has its own troubles, as the Bible clearly states in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Our parents carried their day, and now it is up to each of us to carry ours, until our era is up, and then, prayerfully, we have trained up the next generation of warriors to take up the tasks of carrying their day.

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