Animals have been used in most wars for different purposes. Some animals were messengers, like the carrier pigeon. Some were for warning, like the dog, which also served as a soldier in a fight situation. They are very loyal, and will do their best to save their master. These types of animals were to be expected to a degree, but during World War II, there was a certain cat, named Oscar, also known as Oskar, and ultimately known as Unsinkable Sam, because this cat managed not only to serve in both the Kriegsmarine, but also the Royal Navy. The cat’s original name is unknown, but the name “Oscar” was given by the crew of the British destroyer HMS Cossack, when that crew rescued him from the sea following the sinking of the German battleship Bismarck. The name “Oscar” was given to the cat, and was derived from the International Code of Signals for the letter ‘O’ which is code for “Man Overboard” (the German spelling “Oskar” was sometimes used since he was a German cat). For Oscar to survive the sinking of the Bismarck was amazing, but it was not the end of his story.
As you know, war is a tough time to be on a ship. There is no guarantee that the ship will make it through the war, and if a ship goes down in a battle, it usually takes some, if not all of the crew with it. A cat would usually have little chance of survival on a ship that is sinking, but someone forgot to tell Oskar that. Oskar was a black and white patched cat. It is thought that he was originally owned by one of the crewman of the German battleship Bismarck and was on board the ship on May 18, 1941 when the ship set sail on Operation Rheinübung (German for Rhine Exercise). It was the Bismarck’s only mission. On May 27, 1941, the Bismarck was sunk after a fierce sea-battle. The sinking took with it most of the crew. Out of a crew of 2,100 men, only 115 from her crew survived…and one cat. Hours after the sinking, Oscar was found floating on a board and picked from the water by the British destroyer HMS Cossack.
The crew of the Cossack decided that since Oscar was used to being on a ship, he could just stay with them. So, Oscar “served” on board Cossack for the next few months as the ship carried out convoy escort duties in the Mediterranean Sea and north Atlantic Ocean. On October 24, 1941, Cossack was escorting a convoy from Gibraltar to Great Britain when she was severely damaged by a torpedo fired by the German submarine U-563. The surviving crew were transferred to the destroyer HMS Legion, and an attempt was made to tow the badly listing Cossack back to Gibraltar. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative, and as it worsened, the task became impossible and had to be abandoned. On October 27, a day after the tow was slipped, Cossack sank to the west of Gibraltar. The initial explosion had blown off one third of the forward section of the ship, killing 159 of the crew, but Oscar survived, and was taken to Gibraltar. To say that a cat has nine lives is almost an understatement when it came to Oscar.
Following the sinking of Cossack, Oscar was given the nickname “Unsinkable Sam” and was soon transferred to the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, which by coincidence was instrumental in the destruction of Bismarck, along with Cossack. This assignment was not going to prove safer for Sam, and one might begin to wonder if he should be given another shore assignment…for the sake of the ships. When the Ark Royal was returning from Malta on November 14, 1941, it too was torpedoed, this time by U-81. Again they attempted to tow Ark Royal to Gibraltar, but they were unable to stop the inflow of water, so the attempt was futile. The carrier rolled over and sank 30 miles from Gibraltar. The good news was that due to the slow rate of the sinking, all but one crew member were able to be evacuated, along with, of course, Unsinkable Sam. The survivors, including Sam, who had been found clinging to a floating plank by a Motor Launch and described as “angry but quite unharmed,” were transferred to HMS Lightning and the same HMS Legion which had also rescued the crew of Cossack. Legion would itself be sunk in 1942, and Lightning in 1943. The life of a ship in wartime was not a safe one.
After the third ship sank under Sam’s paws, it was decided that maybe he shouldn’t be on a ship, so he was transferred first to the offices of the Governor of Gibraltar and then sent back to the United Kingdom, where he saw out the remainder of the war living in a seaman’s home in Belfast called the “Home for Sailors.” I think Sam had earned his place there. Sam died in 1955. A pastel portrait of Sam, which was titled “Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat” by the artist Georgina Shaw-Baker is on display in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
Of course, as with all war stories, some authorities question whether Oskar/Sam’s biography might be a “sea story,” because for example, there are pictures of two different cats identified as Oskar/Sam. It is my opinion that whether it is true or not, it lends a lighthearted note to the otherwise tragic stories of war, and therefore, I choose to believe it is true.
My grand-nephew, Topher Spicer is a great kid, but he’s not really a kid anymore. At 16 years old, he is really a young man, and I really can’t believe we are there already with him. I shouldn’t be surprised, because Topher is in his second year as a tour guide at the Wyoming Frontier Prison. I love that he has chose a job in history for his first job. It is very unusual for a young person to decide that they want to share a unique time in history with other people, by guiding them through the actual place where so much history took place. Topher is the youngest guide at the prison, and it’s cool that he gets to work with his best friend Zach too…the character lying under the bench, beneath Topher, which made me laugh…once I noticed him hiding there.
Of course, Topher isn’t all about history. He has a great group of friends that he likes to hang out with. He and his mom, my niece, Andrea Beach is one of those people he considers a good friend, even if she is his mom. When he is not working or going to school, Topher can often be found at home with his mom and their dog, Butter Cup Topher has a way with animals. I have seen that in how he was with my mom, his great grandma, Collene Spencer’s cat. That cat doesn’t really like kids much. He finds that most kids play a little too rough, so he will usually go and hide when there are any kids around, but he likes Topher, and my grand-niece, Raelynn Masterson. Both Topher and Raelynn are calm people, who don’t feel the need to “bounce off the wall” all the time. They would sit there and pet the cat gently and that made Lewie very comfortable with them, and very happy with all the attention.
The third annual Black Hills trip with his grandma, Andrea’s mom and my sister, Caryl Reed is coming up, and Topher is very excited. The trip has become a wonderful summer vacation for them…something our whole family can relate to, since we all take at the very least a weekend there each year, and many of us spend a week there. The Black Hills has so much to see and do, and it just never gets old. Topher likes the Black Hills so much, that he is considering Black Hills State University for college. That would be great. Its not too far from home, and the scenery is amazing. There is a lot of history there too, so my guess is that he could get a part time job in any of the historic sites in the area. They are always looking for people with some experience. We are so proud of the young man Topher is growing up to be. Today is Topher’s 16th birthday. Happy birthday Topher!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My niece, Liz Masterson, doesn’t realize what an inspiration she is to a lot of people, or if she does, she is just so not conceited, that she would never acknowledge that she knows. She is a journalism teacher at Kelly Walsh High School, and as such, she also teaches English, and puts out the yearbook. Her younger English students may or may not realize how much she does for them, but her journalism students, and the students she works with on the yearbook, know very well, how special she is. The friendships she has made with those students, and yes, I say friendships, have and will last for as long as they live. How many people keep in touch with and even spend time with their teachers after high school? Not very many, if any, but Liz is special. She treats them like the amazing people she knows they can become, when they are still students, and later when they start out in their lives, they remember that she was always there for them…cheering them on. There is no greater tribute a teacher can receive than to have a student say that if it wasn’t for this teacher, I might not have lived to my full potential. Liz has been that teacher to her students, and they have told her so.
Another part of Liz’s job as the journalism teacher, is photographer, and she is an amazing photographer. She captures such precious moments in the students’ lives. Everything from sports, to team pictures, to dances, and other functions, have been captured by Liz’s lens…and in perfect detail. She has also taken many of the Senior pictures for the yearbook, including the family members who have gone through the ranks of high school. She has also taken many other family pictures, and recently, the pictures for our church’s website. Her photographic talents are endless and ever expanding. Liz stays up on techniques and styles, and so her photography changes with the times…becoming more amazing.
Liz has many interests, not the least of which is traveling, and of course, her babies…puppies, Luka, Scout, and Buffy, and her cat, Piper. She mothers those babies just like you would a child, and they love her like she is their mom. It is a beautiful relationship. They love her as much as she loves them. Liz has a well rounded, happy life, and she is an amazing inspiration to all who know her. Today is Liz’s birthday. Happy birthday Liz!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My nephew, Tucker Birky loves school, and learning in general. He is in advanced classes and doing very well. He is bringing home advance homework, and is a year ahead in Math, and two years ahead in Reading. I’ve always said that a child who can read well, can pretty much write their own ticket in this world. Tucker also plays the piano, which is a skill I would love to have, but I would have to cut my fingernails, and that’s not happening. Tucker doesn’t have that problem, so he’s in good shape. Tucker also has a desire to go into politics. He wants to be president of his student council. That is a great aspiration. He is kind and helpful, and that has made him popular at school too, so it’s quite likely that he could be elected the Student Council President. All I can say is, “Tucker, if you run for President of the United States someday, please be a Conservative. We need more Conservatives.”
Like a lot of boys, Tucker loves to ride his 85 Dirt bike. And he loves to shoot. For his birthday this year, he got an air gun, and his face literally lit up. Tucker loves the outdoors and camping, and all that goes with it. Which brings me to his step-dad, my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg, who is his dad, as far as Tucker is concerned. Ron is his very favorite person, and his mom, Rachel Schulenberg tells me that if Ron is around, she has to fight for Tucker’s attention. They might be out in the garage working on something, or outside riding, or just hanging out, but when Ron is there, Tucker wants to be with him. And then there’s the cat, Jack Jack…yes, that’s two Jacks, and Tucker dearly loves Jack Jack. So, if Ron isn’t home, I guess Rachel has to compete with Jack Jack. That doesn’t sound like a win/win situation at all, but it seems to be the way with kids. When you get them grown up to some size, they suddenly have too many other things to do to spend much time with you. It is the way it is, but the parents don’t like it.
Tucker has set some future goals for himself too, which is somewhat unusual for a boy of just nine years. Tucker has decided that he wants to join the armed forces, and serve his country. In this day and age, when many people have lost their patriotism, it’s heartwarming to see that Tucker has not, and that he will someday be in a position to make a difference in this world. I don’t think he has decided what branch of the service appeals to him, but there is time for that. His step-dad was in the Army, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Tucker follow in his footsteps. For now, he is enjoying life and his favorite things. Today is Tucker’s 9th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Apparently, I am a little bit behind the times, because these days people set up their own YouTube channel to record everything from the songs they sing, to the games they like to play, to their daily life. My grand nephew, Topher Spicer has a YouTube channel, and he is very serious about the things he puts on there. He doesn’t like to have his recordings messed up because someone walked into his room in the middle of things, so the biggest thing on his current wish list is a sign that says Recording In Process.
Topher’s favorite game is Mine Craft, and that really must be the game of choice for most kids, because it seems to be the game all my grand nieces and grand nephews play. I’m not into games, so I suppose I just don’t get the draw. Of course, that isn’t the only game he plays, because like most kids, Topher loves all things iPad. Now, I can’t blame him there, because I am very tech serious, so all things iPad, iPhone, or computer are very cool. Keep it up Topher, you can go a long way in business with a technological mind.
Topher’s mom, my niece Andrea Beach, tells me that Topher is really showing all the signs of “teendom” and she kind of wishes he wouldn’t…especially in the area of his moods. I can relate to that, as can every parent. Nevertheless, like most mom’s she realizes that Topher will alwys be her little baby, and like most mom’s she will just have to hold onto that thought as he spreads his wings in new areas of life, because time waits for no man, and Topher, like all kids is growing up very quickly.
Topher loves to hang out at the Sinclair Recreation Center with family friends, Nikki Vigil and her son Marcus. They go to the rec center three days a week. It’s always cool to go play and have some fun, and the rec center is a great hangout for kids. Topher really loves to play soccer too. He was on a team for the first time this year, and he has discovered that he is a very good defender. His team was the Sinclair Dinos. I’m sure he will continue to play, and of course, get better and better. He will be key player for his team, I’m sure. Topher likes all things boy, including comics, which is pretty typical, but he is also able to interact with people and animals alike. In fact, I have noticed that when he is at my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s house, her cat Lewie love sitting by Topher…and since he doesn’t like kids much…that’s amazing. Today is Topher’s 11th birthday. Happy birthday Topher!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
A couple of weeks ago, a baby bird fell out of it’s nest into our front yard. Our neighbor Mary Sanchez saw it first, and was careful not to disturb it when she mowed her lawn. The next day, when Bob and I came home and parked out front, we heard a commotion. I walked toward the hedge that separates our yard from Mary’s, and was surprised to see a squawking baby crow standing in the grass. It’s mom was nearby, warning me to stay away from her baby, so we backed away and left the situation alone. We weren’t sure if the mom was taking care of her baby, or what, so we watched closely. Very soon, there was no doubt that she was a good mom, and in fact there was also a good dad in this situation. A few days went by, and while we worried about cats, this little baby bird continued to thrive…miraculously.
The day did come when we were forced to intervene. Our little baby bird decided to go and stand in the middle of the street…and it was a hot day. We debated on what to do about this situation, and determined that if we didn’t move it, a car was going to hit it, or the hot asphalt would kill it. So my brave husband donned a pair of gloves, picked the bird up, and moved it back toward our back yard…dodging the dive bomb attempts of the mother. All we could do then was stay away and hope the parents continued their great care of their baby. The baby continued to get bigger, and the parents were always around, so we decided that our bird rescue had been successful.
Of course, like all children, the day came when our little bird again decided to go into the street, and so began bird rescue take 2. Once again dodging the dive bombs of the mom, Bob picked up the bird and put it back near our back fence. That turned out to be to best plan, because the bird decided to check out the back yard, and we began to worry less. The baby has stayed in the back yard, and out of trouble for the most part. We had to chase off a cat twice, and now the parents are a little bit more tolerant of us…at least when the cat shows up. In fact, I think she likes us then.
I have had the opportunity to get some great close up photos of the baby, and finally today, I was treated to the chance to observe lunchtime. Flying lessons have begun, but this is a big baby, and it’s wings aren’t long enough yet. Nevertheless, it’s parents know that it needs to build up its muscles so that when its wings catch up with its body, it will be able to fly. This has been a wonderful things to watch, and while we know that our little baby is still not out of danger, we have high hopes for it. One thing I can say for sure, this job of raising baby at 60+ years old is a lot to take on. I know now, why we all have kids when we are young.
When we think of standing guard over someone or something, we think of a security guard, police officer, or even a guard dog, but seldom do we think about a family pet, such as a dog or even a cat, but that doesn’t mean that pets can’t stand guard, because many do, and in ways beyond being a watch dog at the house. When I was little, and truly, all my life, I loved cats. Now I know that a cat would have a hard time doing anything to protect or help it’s owner, or as I have always thought…it’s pet, it still stands guard. It’s not about it’s ability to do anything, but rather, it’s loyalty. That’s how it was with my cats. And how it was with my mom’s cats too. I suppose mostly it was because they liked being near us, but when my mom fell at home, her cat Quincy was right there standing guard over her. He refused to leave her side until someone got there to get her up and safely in her chair. I don’t know what my cats did to protect me exactly, but they liked to sleep in my crib, and watch over me while I slept too. They liked being with me, and I loved being with them too. I guess we were like best friends, and while they couldn’t do anything to protect me, maybe they kept me out of mischief, because as every cat lover knows, they demand lots of attention.
I know that lots of dogs are trained to be guard dogs, drug sniffing dogs, and police dogs, and I know that they are very loyal to their owners, even to the point of killing for their owner. It could be their training, but I think it’s also their love for their master. Pets are that way. They get very attached to their owners, and they will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Their training helps them protect their master, of course, and they are very good at what they do. When they are on duty, they are working…no messing around, but when they are home with their master, they are as loving as they can be, because that person is family to them. That is when the love of their master kicks in…that and anytime that their master is in trouble on the job. In reality, they are always standing guard.
Sometimes the guard dog is on duty for a different reason. Such was the case with my in-laws dog, Brownie. My sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg was developmentally disabled, and sometimes it was hard for my mother-in-law to watch her all the time. In the house, she was relatively safe, but outside there were more perils to consider. Still, they never worried really, because when Marlyce went outside, Brownie went with her. Brownie made it his job to stand guard over Marlyce to keep her safe. No one had to tell him, he just understood that Marlyce needed special care. When Brownie was on duty…standing guard…the family knew she was safe. Aren’t pets amazing?
I have always loved cats. I like dogs too, but for the most part, I like cats better. I love to watch them play, and love it when they want to cuddle and purr. Maybe it’s because we had some cats when I was very young, but then we had the one dog I can say I truly loved too, King. For the most part, dogs annoy me a little bit, I guess. They are always sniffing and licking you. Cats, on the other hand, might lick you once in a while, if you have something tasty on your hand, but for the most part, they want you to be their slave. You are to pet them, or they will stick their head under your hand so that you are reminded of your job. They are unashamed concerning their plan too. If you have the nerve to leave them alone for longer than they think you should, then you will be subjected to the cold shoulder. How long depends on how quickly you begin to make amends, but know this, they plan to hold out a while.
Most cats feel like their owner is not really their owner, in fact, cats are sure they are the owner. I know that’s how both of my mom’s cats felt about her. Every time we took Mom out of town, they would practically ignore her upon her return. Nevertheless, whenever Mom needed them to be there…they were, whether her little knights in shining armor could do anything to help her or not. They were able to stay right there beside her, with a look of concern, until help arrived. Even though the cats couldn’t do anything for her, her loyal cats stayed by her side, because whether she was the owner or the cat was the owner, her cats loved her very much. I know that dogs have been known to do the same things, but I just found it so sweet that her cats tried so hard to be her super hero.
Maybe that is the reason why I love cats so much. Their cuddly, purring ways, and their need to be with their human, even if it is just to make their human pet them, That may be a bit selfish on the cat’s part, but it is loving too. Cats have, not only the ability crave love, but they are also capable of giving love. The cats my girls had when they were little put up with so much. Our daughters, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce, were little and rough, but the cats never scratched them intentionally, because they loved them. All they wanted was to be near the girls.
That’s how one of our cats was with me, when I was a little girl. I know that I was probably not a perfect human for our cats, but it didn’t matter. The cat wanted to be with me. It didn’t matter what I was doing, the cat adapted. And I’m quite certain that I felt the exact same as the cat did. I’m not sure how often my cat slept in my crib, but my guess is that it was more than once. It was such a sweet gesture. I expect that it happened often, because, my parents thought it was sweet enough to capture on film. And…I am glad they did.
When we think of family, we don’t always think of pets, but to pet owners, their pets are as much family as their siblings, parents, or kids. My daughter, Corrie Petersen and her family have two dogs and two cats. With four people in the family, it would seem that each one would have a pet that was their own, and in most ways that is exactly what happened. Molly is totally my grandson, Josh’s dog. If Josh isn’t there, Molly isn’t happy. Missy is my grandson, Chris’ cat…period!! Zoe, the cat, is the most flexible of all the pets. She likes my daughter, Corrie and son-in-law, Kevin, and Katie is totally Kevin’s dog. For the most part, Katie and Zoe do pretty well if Corrie and Kevin are there or not, but Molly and Missy are two very different stories.
Basically, Molly thinks she should never have to walk anywhere…at least not if Josh is around. Josh is pretty much the “she needs me to carry her” type of kid. He loves his dog and packs her around everywhere. She sleeps on his bed, and even goes to visit family with him. And if Josh goes somewhere, like camping and doesn’t take Molly, you had better believe that Molly is mad at him for a while when he gets back. There are rules to this whole game you know, and Molly can’t seem to figure out why we don’t understand that Josh is missing, and we should find him. Then when he comes home, she figures he had deserted her for a while, so maybe he just needs the cold shoulder treatment for a while so he learns not to do this again. Molly even gets a birthday gift, because she is…special, after all!! And by the way…today is Molly’s designated birthday. They weren’t sure of the exact date, so they picked the 6th of September, because it falls half way between Kevin’s and Josh’s birthdays. So Josh made sure I knew that this was Molly’s day.
Missy…my grandson, Chris’ cat…is having a very difficult time right now. She is suffering from depression and grief, and quite frankly, she is just a little bit stunned that no one else in the family seems to realize that Chris is missing. Missy knew something was going on in the days preceding Chris’ move to Sheridan for college. She was confused about all the boxes, and tried to pack herself up to go too. Unfortunately, Chris couldn’t take her. Their goodbye was hard on everyone. At one point Missy put both of her paws on Chris’ chin as if to say, “I love you so much!! Please don’t leave me!!” Nevertheless, he had to go. After Chris left, the whole family was quite sad, but Missy went and hid to suffer through her grief…alone. When she finally came out early yesterday morning, Kevin tried to pet her, but she kept backing away. He tried again, and she backed away again. In the end, she led him to Chris’ room and got on the bed. She looked at him as if to say, “Don’t you know he isn’t here?” I think she somehow thought that they had not even noticed that her person was missing, and that they needed to go find him. She misses Chris so much. I never really saw a pet in grief before, but Missy is definitely there, and that breaks my heart. Yes, Missy…believe me we know he is missing, and we are sad too.
I had hinted toward a story a few days ago, and I think today is a good day to take that one further. My niece, Ashley is a very good mom to her daughter, Reagan, and to her little animal children. Everyone needs to be cleaned up and polished. Ashley was this way even before Reagan was born. So every so often, the puppies and kitties must have a bath. Now we are all used to puppies having a bath, but I had never known anyone who gave their kitties a bath before. In fact, thought that was rather dangerous…for the one bathing the cat. I mean, cats have sharp teeth and claws.
In fact, that danger is something Ashley found out periodically, when her cat scratched or even bit her for doing something the cat didn’t like. I have to say that Ashley is a brave woman to keep coming back. I think that after a cat bit me, I would most likely be too nervous to stick that cat back in the tub, but Ashley and Eric want the cat to be a well rounded kitty. Once again, ok, but I think I would probably find a different way to round him out. Ashley is a very brave girl.
I would expect the cat to not like her very much after, what he might consider such mistreatment, but somehow the cat, as well as all her other animals, love Ashley to pieces. They somehow look at the cat bath as…well, maybe just an Ashley-ism, and so even if their cat friends don’t have to take a bath, it’s ok, because they know their mommy loves them, and maybe their friends are just not loved quite as much as they are. On that, I would have to almost agree. Maybe their cat friends are loved as much, but they certainly are not loved more than Ashley loves her cats, dogs, and horses, because that would be impossible.
Ashley has been an animal lover all her life, and every animal she has ever been around knows that very well. She cuddles, and pampers, bathes and then dolls up her pets, until they are among the most handsome you have ever seen. They look and feel very loved, because they most certainly are.