Flight has always been an obsession with humans. In the early 11th century, an English Benedictine monk named Eilmer of Malmesbury, attempted a gliding flight using wings he had made. The “flight” went pretty well. It is said that he “flew” about 220 yards, before crashing and breaking both his legs. I suppose you could call that a flight, thereby making it the first winged flight in history, but the reality is that it was quite likely the first “crash” instead. Apparently, this “flying monk” made his maiden flight.

As the story goes, Eilmer of Malmesbury built himself a pair of wings around the year 1005. He then climbed up onto a tower and proceeded to jump off. He managed to glide into a headwind for about 220 yards. Unfortunately, the headwind was quite strong, and combined with a bit of a panic on the part of the “flying monk” he began to descend rapidly…ie crash. He ended up veering off to the side and crashing. I hardly thing what he did could be called a flight. To me it couldn’t even be called a controlled crash. Basically, he jumped off a roof and after the few seconds it took to travel 220 yards, he dropped like a rock. It’s very possible that he found himself at the mercy of his own rash decision to take on such a venture.

Eilmer of Malmesbury, survived the “crash landing” but with both legs broken. He survived the crash and his broken legs healed, but in those days, the setting of his legs couldn’t have been good, and most likely wasn’t done at all. With that working against him, Eilmer of Malmesbury walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Eilmer used a bird-like apparatus to glide downwards against the breeze. Unfortunately, he was unable to balance himself forward and backwards, as does a bird by slight movements of its wings, head and legs. He would have needed a large tail to maintain that equilibrium. While, Eilmer could not have achieved true soaring flight, he might have glided down safely with a tail. Eilmer said he had “forgotten to provide himself with a tail.” I guess every endeavor has its flaws, and this was no exception.

Fidel Castro was a thorn in the side of the United States and many other countries for many years. The CIA has long been rumored to have planned a series of assassination attempts against Castro using elaborate means, from using exploding cigars to poisoned pills to putting thallium salt in his shoes. Castro’s inner circle estimate that there were some 634 attempts to take his life including, giving Castro poisoned cigars, gifting him with a scuba suit lined with a skin-eating fungus, and stabbing him with a poisoned needle hidden inside a pen. There were also a number of plots to humiliate him as well, including the plot to spray Castro’s broadcasting studio with an LSD-like substance so he’d trip and fall while giving one of his speeches and (hopefully) sound very silly too. And they wanted to dust his shoes with a substance that would make his beard fall out. Those didn’t happen either.

But the document officially reveals some of the schemes focused on Castro’s love of skin diving, hoping that he would pick up the beach shell and trigger an explosive, and another that considered giving the revolutionary a contaminated diving suit. That of course leaves a lot to chance and makes the beach unsafe for anyone else there, or that the wrong person might pick up the seashell. These ideas for assassination attempts, whether real or rumored, were wild and often crazy, but at the very least, they show just how frustrating a man Fidel Castro was. When people consider booby trapping a seashell, you know they are grasping at straws. Still, such an attempt wouldn’t work on just any “mark” because not every mark would possibly pick up a seashell.

In each of these attempts or imaginary attempts, Fidel Castro walked away unscathed. It wasn’t that attempts weren’t made it was just that Fidel Castro wasn’t killed in the attempts. I don’t know how he escaped, and many people wish he had not. His reign of terror was far too long and far too horrific. In the end, Castro, who overthrew US-backed Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista in 1959, died of natural causes on November 25, 2016, at age 90, leaving power to his brother Raul.

Serious accidents happen, and they are almost always due to negligence on the side of one party or the other, but when two automobiles, planes, ships, or trains hit each other head-on, someone was seriously in the wrong place and going the wrong way. On May 14, 1991, two diesel trains carrying commuters crashed head-on, near Shigaraki, Japan, killing 42 people and injuring over 600 others. This was the worst rail disaster in Japan since a November 1963 Yokohama crash, which killed 160 people.

Shigaraki, a town near Kyoto, is famous for its ceramics. On that May 14th, the World Ceramics Festival was being held in the town. That put many more people in town than normal. It also filled the passenger trains with people on their way to the event. At just after 10am, passengers filled a train in Kikukawa, which was to run along a 9.1-mile single-track rail line away from Shigaraki. When the train was loaded, the However, workers on the Shigaraki Kogen Railways (SKR) line prepared to depart, but they could not get a green signal indicating that the track was clear so they could depart from the station. The system showed that a train was approaching. The workers believed the signal was malfunctioning, and so they overrode the system and sent the train out, 11 minutes late.

Sadly, they were to find out too late that the system had been correct and a JR West commuter train carrying passengers toward Shigaraki for the festival was speeding toward them. The only mechanical failure that day was when a faulty-departure detector failed to work correctly, sending the JR West commuter train out on a collision course with the SKR train. The resulting crash derailed both trains and cost 42 people their lives. Very seldom does the fault in an accident lie with just one person. A subsequent investigation faulted the SKR workers for allowing the train to depart without a green signal, an action found to be dangerous and illegal. A signal engineer was also blamed for the defective wiring that led to the failure of the faulty-departure detector that should have prevented the collision. A 1999 civil trial resulted in a 500-million-yen (3,196,500 US dollars) award to the victims against SKR and JR West jointly. JR West pledged safety improvements (after the Shigaraki accident), but it again had an accident in Amagasaki. The Amagasaki rail crash was a fatal railway accident that occurred on April 25, 2005, at 9:19am local time. Of the roughly 700 passengers (initial estimate was 580 passengers) on board at the time of the crash, 106 passengers, in addition to the driver, were killed and 562 others injured. Each year, since the disaster, the victims of the Shigaraki Head-On collision are remembered in a ceremony in Shigaraki.

My niece, Andrea Beach has always had a passion for the culinary arts. She also has a heart for helping people. Those two things don’t always go together, but Andrea has figured out a way to do that. Since moving back to Casper, Wyoming from Rawlins, Wyoming, she has been working at Mountain Plaza Assisted Living. She doesn’t really have close contact with any of the residents, but Andrea has been working to make their mealtimes special for almost a year now. She loves creating meals that make the residents feel like they are eating in a high-end restaurant, and yet they are getting good nutrition and amazing taste too. Before Andrea started working there, the meals were great, but now they are spectacular!!

Andrea loves being back in Casper and around all the family. She and my niece, Jenny Spethman have grown so close. They really are best friends, and they love to do lots of things together. Cousins should be close friends, I think, and these girls really are. They hike together and hang out together. It’s really very nice for them, since there are only three girls in the two families, out of eight people. Those girls are outnumbered!! They have to stick together!! I’m happy for the girls. All too often, as we reach adulthood, our friend become fewer and fewer, or at least that’s how it seems to me. I realize that may just be me, but these girls are extroverts, while I am an introvert. Plus, what better friend is there in the world than sisters and cousins. They share common bonds that just aren’t shared with a friend. I’m not knocking friends, but sisters and cousins are with you, no matter what.

Andrea has always had a flare for the artistic. She has done some paintings, and they are really excellent. Recently, however, she had the opportunity to capture some of God’s artwork, which is beyond compare, as we all know. Nevertheless, it takes a good photographer to capture the Auroras in the dark, and without shaking the camera. Andrea and her son, Chris stayed up well past midnight to she could capture these shots for her mom, Caryl Reed and stepdad, Mike Reed, who just couldn’t stay awake for it. Sorry Caryl and Mike, I had to tattle!! Andrea and Chris got an amazing show, and amazing shots of it. Today is Andrea’s birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great Day!! We love you!!

Motherhood is such a complex occupation. Your actual title might be mom, mommy, momma, or some other version of the name, but you are so much more. You are a nurse, teacher, nurturer, referee, maid…well, you get the picture. A mother is the wearer of many hats, and we wouldn’t even be here without her. I have been blessed with two moms, Collene Spencer and Joann Schulenberg; two daughters, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce; and two granddaughters-in-law with children, Karen Petersen and Athena Petersen. Babies are such a blessing, and then they grow into wonderful adults and the blessings continue for years to come.

Mother’s Day becomes something different wen you mom or mother-in-law are in Heaven. While they aren’t really gone, they are gone from our view, and that makes us sad. I’m sure that, like me, you probably thought your mom would always be there with you. We never expect them to leave us until they are gone, and then we realize just how much we will miss them. Those moments when we would love to call them, to say Hi, or to ask a question, or talk about our day, or even to cry on their shoulder. The day our mom leaves us is one of the hardest days we will ever have.

When we become moms, we find out how rewarding motherhood can be, but also, just how hard it can be too. Things like diaper changes, formula, and spitting up, soon give way to school days, school supplies, school clothes, and of course, the dreaded homework help. Still, watching them grow and mature is among the most rewarding things we will ever experience. Then, before our very eyes, they are making us into grandmothers, and the cycle of life continues. Our babies having babies and before we know it our grandbabies are having babies. Time just doesn’t stand still. It is always marching on.

Today is a day when we get to celebrate our mothers, our daughters who are mothers, and our granddaughters who are mothers. We celebrate, because they have made us so happy. They are among the most special people ever to walk the face of the Earth. Today is Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day to the mothers in my life, and the mothers in yours. Have a great day, ladies!! We love you so much!!

My uncle, Larry Byer was just 20 months older than his little sister, my mom, Collene Spencer, who was followed 24 months later by their little brother, Wayne Byer. The three of them being as close as they were tended to try their mother, Hattie Byer’s patience at times. Boys being boys, and my mom being in the middle made for triple trouble. If you know anything about double trouble, I’m sure you can imagine what triple trouble was like. It was a good thing my grandmother was a tough lady…small but mighty, as they say. When her triple trouble kids got under her skin, she had no trouble handling their antics.

After high school, Uncle Larry went into the Army. This was during the Korean War, but he was stationed in Germany. and he also spent some time in Austria. He said he wished he had been in Korea, but I’m not so sure he really would have. My guess is that he felt like he should have been there with so many others. After the war, he married my Aunt Jeanette, and together they had two children, Larry Wayne Byer and Tina Grosvenor. They also have six grandchildren, three granddaughters, including a set of twins, as well as three grandsons, and a number of great grandchildren. They were happily married for 55 years until Uncle Larry’s passing.

Uncle Larry worked for a number of years for Texaco Refinery, and when they closed down, he was not at retirement age, so he took the transfer, and they moved to Louisianna. The split up their land here, outside of Caser and gave it to their kids. It must have been strange to move to a hot climate after living their whole lives in Wyoming, where we have more months of cold weather than we do warm weather. They remained in Louisianna until Uncle Larry was ready to retire, then came back to Wyoming where his lived out his life. Uncle Larry died of a heart attack on December 22, 2011, and we were very saddened to see him go. Today would have been Uncle Larry’s 90th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.

When I first came home from the hospital, after I was born, I found my sister, Cheryl Masterson waiting there. She has always been in my life. My first blessing of a sister, and I was hers. We would later go on to have three more sisters; Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock…three more blessings of sisterhood. What great blessings my sisters have been to me, and I know they all feel the same way.

Cheryl is a strong woman. She may not realize just how strong she really is, but I see it. She raised her five children, Chantel Balcerzak, Toni Chase, Rob Masterson, Liz Masterson, and Jenny Spethman, by herself. She was a single mom with an absent ex-husband. She didn’t sit and cry, she got up and went to college to become a Legal Secretary and is now one of the most valuable and indispensable employees at the firm where she has worked for many years. In addition to that, when our parents needed care, Cheryl lived with them and took every “night shift” helping them. She came home from work and cooked, cleaned, and gave them their medicines. She helped with their evening and weekend needs. We couldn’t have handled it without her. Of course, she didn’t do it alone. We all helped, but her living there gave us the evenings off to a degree, and that was a huge help, and we will be forever grateful to her.

Cheryl is a strong Christian woman. These days she spends many of her evenings reading her Bible and other Christian book. She takes the position of family matriarch, when came to her as the eldest sibling, when our parents passed away, very seriously. Of course, there is more to being the matriarch than being the spiritual head of the family. “A family matriarch is a woman who is the head and ruler of her family and descendants. She is usually older and powerful and has authority over family matters.” Of course, she doesn’t practice her position to the fullest extent of its meaning, because we are all grown and have families of our own. Nevertheless, she does try to be a spiritual guide, which is definitely what our parents would have wanted…a kind-hearted, loving Christian voice to keep the family on the right track.

Cheryl is an amazing cook and holds gatherings with her family just about every week. With five children, her family has grown quite large, and that’s the way she likes it. There is nothing that pleases her more than to have all of her children, children-in-law, and grandchildren, and great grandchildren surrounding her and enjoying a good meal and good conversation. And she especially love having all the babies around. These days, Cheryl’s family consists of five children, three sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, fifteen grandchildren, seven grandchildren-in-law, and eight great grandchildren. All that makes for a rather large gathering…provided they can all make it over. People are all very busy. Today is Cheryl’s 70th birthday!! Happy birthday Cheryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Our aunt, Charlys Schulenberg has been through a lot in the past year. She began having some Neuropathy in her legs and feet. Uncle Butch took her to several neurologists trying to find out if there’s a cure for her. The doctors all say they know of none when it gets that bad. One doctor believes that it all started a couple years ago when her red and white blood cells dropped to a seriously low level. She was very weak. They put her in the hospital and found out that she had no cooper in her blood. So, they gave her copper via IVs. This brought her blood back up, but not high enough. They believe the low copper caused her Neuropathy. They also think that there was too much Zinc in the vitamins she was taking. Apparently, too much Zinc can deplete the copper in your system. So, they got rid of all vitamins that had Zinc in them. Meanwhile, she was home waiting to go back to Billings for another week of IV copper infusions. While she was home however, she, being a very determined lady, refused to take this lying down. She was getting around with a walker, but she was really shaky.

Because of all that, she wasn’t supposed to be cooking. Uncle Butch was doing the cooking. They were going to have spaghetti, but they needed French bread and other groceries, so he went down to store. When he came back 45 minutes later, Aunt Charlys was laying on the floor. She had decided to start the spaghetti, and as she was boiling the spaghetti, her feet went out from under her. She hit the pan of boiling water as she fell, and the pan fell on her, spilling the boiling water and hot spaghetti in her lap causing 3rd, 4th, and 5th degree burns from her knees to her chest. Uncle Butch called an ambulance, and they got her to the hospital, and then, she was flown to the University of Colorado Burn Center. While her burns must have kept her in excruciating pain, Aunt Charlys never lost her sense of humor. She joked with the nurses, even though she was the one in so much pain. She has proven herself to be one tough lady.

After a month in the burn center, she was transferred to the hospital in Forsyth, Montana where they live. She spent another month in the Forsyth Hospital. While she was there, she continued joking and just being herself…always positive and happy. I’m sure that like me, the nurses, doctors, and other staff couldn’t believe that this lady, who was in obvious pain was so cheerful and positive. She has never lost her positive attitude. Her burns soon healed and all that’s left is the scars. Uncle Butch is very proud of her, and so is the rest of her family. Charlys is such a sweet, loving person, and I am so thankful that she is still with us.

Because the Neuropathy in her legs is so bad, she came home in a wheelchair. She couldn’t walk. Uncle Butch got the house set up so she can do things herself. They pulled the carpet up and installed posts by the bed and in bathroom and grab bars in the shower area. When she first came home, Uncle Butch had to help her with bath and bathroom needs, but in true Charlys style, she was determined to do things herself. She worked very hard to make a way for herself. Now, with help of a special chair and the bars on wall, she does many things by herself. All Uncle Butch has to do is stand by to make sure she’s alright. She can pull Herself up out of wheelchair and get things out of the low cabinets. She has one of those two wheeled walkers with solid back legs, and she gets a little further walking with it each day. Uncle Butch says that at times her feet and legs just jump all over the place.

They were scheduled to start copper treatment a couple days before the accident, but they had to cancel that. Meanwhile, their daughter, Andi Kay got a hold of the doctors at the burn center and told them about her copper deficiency. They didn’t want that to continue, so they placed a tube in her nose, that went to her stomach, and fed her copper and drugs straight into the stomach., finally bringing her copper and her red and white cells to normal, Praise God!! With the excellent treatment she was given, she was very soon back to being her old spunky self. Unfortunately, they don’t believe that the damage is done in her feet and legs from the Neuropathy, is reversable. So, she’s in a wheelchair or walking a little with her walker. Meanwhile, being the culinary expert that she is, she has the up the task of “teaching” Uncle Butch to cook, with her supervision, of course. She makes sure to tell him what to do next, even if he probably already knows, but that leaves her basically running the show, and that what is most important. She has been struggling with Macular Degeneration in her eyes, so Uncle Butch reads her the recipes, as well as a lot of articles from papers, a true mark of his love for her. She also has a magnifying glass, that has a small light, and she uses that a lot too.

Their grandson, Christian is living with them and working as a CNA at the Forsyth Hospital. That has been such an amazing blessing. He has been a great help to them. He loves his grandma “to pieces” and gives her all his attention, and the love is “reversed” to him too. Uncle Butch thinks that she wouldn’t be as happy, if Christian wasn’t there. Uncle Butch thinks through all that has happened these last few years, it has only served to bring them closer to one another. They got Aunt Charlys a small electric wheelchair that folds down and is real light. I didn’t know they made folding electric wheelchairs, but it is awesome!! It slides into a trunk or a pickup. She can go shopping with it now. They went to Walmart in Miles City last week, and she had a blast!! Uncle Butch says that you have to watch her, or she’ll run over your feet…kind of like a fifteen-year-old with a driver’s permit, hahaha!! The good news is that now that she has it, she can get out more. Charlys is full of life yet, even with all the problems. Uncle Butch says, “She’s a fighter and she dang sure doesn’t give up.” It’s a miracle that could only be God and the excellent people He placed at the hospitals and at home to care for her. Today is Aunt Charlys’ 82nd birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Charlys!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When Elizabeth Jane Cochrane was born on May 5, 1864, there were things that women couldn’t do. It was a man’s world, after all. Not much had changed by the time she was eighteen years old. She was living in Pittsburgh when the local newspaper published an article titled “What Girls are Good For” and according to the article, the answer was having babies and keeping house. These days such an article would have brought immediate outrage, protests, and the author practically strung up. Due to the times, the author would have gotten away with it, but in this case, Elizabeth Cochrane saw it and was very displeased. She was displeased enough, in fact, that she wrote an anonymous rebuttal.

Strangely, the paper’s editor was quite impressed with her rebuttal. He immediately ran an ad in his paper asking the writer to identify herself. Boldly, Elizabeth contacted him, and he hired her on the spot. I’m quite sure that she was not expecting that at all. Still, in this “man’s world” she could not really let anyone know that she was the writer…and maybe that wasn’t exactly a bad thing. Going up against the men is such an argument using her own name might bring some unwanted attention. After all, things were in the very early stages of women’s rights. At that time, most women were still housewives…or schoolteachers, librarians, seamstresses, and such, if they had to work outside the home. So, it was customary at that time for female reporters to use pen names. To top it off, she wasn’t even allowed to pick out her own pen name. The editor gave her one that he took from a Stephen Foster song…Nellie Bly, and it would actually make her famous…as Nellie Bly anyway.

Bly’s passion was investigative reporting, but once again, she found herself stumbling over the whole “man’s world” concept. While she was given work, the paper usually assigned her to more “feminine” subjects…things like theater and fashion. Still, they couldn’t keep her under their thumb very well. After writing a controversial series of articles exposing the working conditions of female factory workers, and after again being relegated to reporting on society functions and women’s hobbies…at age 21 Bly left for Mexico on a dangerous and unprecedented (for a woman) assignment to report of the conditions of the working-class people there. It didn’t take long for her reporting to get her in trouble with the local authorities. Wisely, Bly fled Mexico, but didn’t give up on her story. She later published her dispatches into a popular book.

By the time Bly was 23, she had established a reputation for being a daring and provocative reporter. This drew the attention of Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, where she was hired to basically work under cover. It was the assignment that made her famous. In order to investigate the conditions inside New York’s “Women’s Lunatic Asylum,” Bly took on a fake identity (not really a new concept for someone using a pen name to write), checked into a women’s boarding house, and faked insanity. Bly was so convincing that she soon found herself committed to the asylum. I would personally find that a scary situation, but Bly was dedicated. The report she published of her ten days there was a sensation and led to important reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill.

Nellie Bly was a woman to be remembered. When she was 24, she undertook her most sensational assignment yet: a solo trip around the world inspired by Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Ready to go at the drop of a hat, Bly was given only two days’ notice, before she set out on November 14, 1889. She packed a travel bag with her toiletries and a change of underwear, tied her purse around her neck, and she was off. Pulitzer’s competitor, the New York Cosmopolitan, took that as a challenge and immediately sent out one of its reporters, Elizabeth Bisland, to race Bly, but traveling in the opposite direction. As Pulitzer had hoped, the stunt was a publicity bonanza. Readers gobbled up the regular reports on Bly’s journey and the paper sponsoring a contest for readers to guess the exact time of Bly’s return. The winning guess would be awarded an expense-paid trip to Europe.

Bly made her triumphant return just seventy-two days later, four and half days ahead of Bisland. She had successfully circumnavigated the globe, while traveling alone almost the entire time. It was a world record…the fastest any human had ever made the journey. Suddenly, Nellie Bly was an international celebrity. I still wonder if there was some regret that she was still using the pen name, or maybe it gave her a degree of anonymity, until people recognized her, that is.

After leading an almost insanely adventurous life, Bly decided to retire…so to speak. When she was 31 years old, Bly married industrialist Robert Seaman, a 73-year-old millionaire. With her marriage, she left behind her journalism career and her pen name and became Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman. She helped run the Seaman family business. While working as an industrialist, she patented two inventions, but she knew that business was not really her forte, and sadly, under her leadership the company went bankrupt. I’m sure that with all her life successes, that was a devastating failure for her. With the outbreak of World War I broke out, she returned to journalism, becoming one of the first women reporters to work in an active war zone. I have no doubt that Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) could have done so many more remarkable things in her life, but sadly, her remarkable life ended on January 27, 1922, when she died of pneumonia in New York at age 57.

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