In every branch of service, and every war, the US servicemen are given a handbook. The book is filled with useful information, meant to make the transition from civilian to soldier a successful one, even if it is not an easy one. No young civilian preparing to go to war really has a good idea of what they are getting into. I suppose more of them do these days, than their World War and prior wars era counterparts. Nevertheless, each of them is proceeding head on into a massive reality check. The handbook can be a sobering little book, especially when the new soldier reads the chapter that recommends the writing of a will. The need for a Last Will and Testament will become crystal clear when the soldier sees his (or her) first battle. The sight of dead bodies takes away any misconception the soldier might have of their own mortality, and the possibility that they may have been given a one-way ticket to this battle.

While many of the things contained in the handbook are sobering and even quite scary for the soldiers, there are some things contained therein that have a much more practical usage, and a few that looking back, anyway, are just a little bit funny. One such tidbit contained in the US servicemen’s World War II handbook was the simple statement that, “The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea—it’s an even swap.” I suppose that statement is true, at least as it pertains to the fact that British “bad coffee” is an even swap with US “bad tea.” I don’t think they US government was trying to “bad-mouth” the Brits, but rather that they were simply stating a fact. If the men were in a British camp, they simply shouldn’t ask for a cup of coffee, because they would be sorely disappointed in what they were served.

Like the warning labels of items these days, like not to shower with a running blow dryer, or to shut off the engine before trying to remove the fan belt on your car, the point was to make the reader aware of the ramifications of making such bad choices. Still, some “warnings” make more sense than others…or do they? While the electricity problem of the wet running blow dryer and the finger removal outcome of putting one’s hand out to touch a fast-moving fan belt, seem like rather stupid wisdom (is there is such a phrase), the idea that a person would automatically make a bad cup of coffee, simply because they are British, seems equally ridiculous. Nevertheless, the US servicemen were warned to expect “bad coffee” from the British, so that they were prepared to either drink tea with the Brits, or swallow down the offending coffee so as not to offend the Brits. I’m sure that much of the rest of the handbook contained valuable information, but it is possible that the most valuable information contained in the World War II US servicemen’s handbook, was intended to avoid the notion that the Brit might have poisoned them with the British coffee.

grandpa spencer060_editedMy dad loved camping. For him, camping and spending time with his family was the best thing to do in the world. I think that if he could have spent his entire life camping with the family, he would have totally loved it. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows in the evening, and of course, my personal favorite, having that morning cup of coffee. Coffee made over an open fire, is so good, and the smell of bacon and eggs cooking, mixing with the scent of pine trees and fresh mountain air…well, I can smell it right now. Those mornings were so relaxing, because my parents were never in a hurry to get going in the mornings. We were, after all, on vacation. I suppose most people, and I would have to include me and my family now, want to get going in the mornings, and so sleeping in and relaxing with a cup of coffee by the morning fire, are not common things anymore, but our family sure enjoyed it back then.

Those days spent camping and traveling around the country bring back such sweet memories. In fact, sometimes the memory of camping in the Black Hills is so vivid that I can almost see my dad standing around that campfire. It was a scene I saw so many times. We have always been a family of coffee drinkers, and I think we all agree that coffee around the campfire is some of the best coffee around. I don’t know, maybe the coffee is the same, but the atmosphere is what makes all the difference. I don’t know for sure, but I can say that there isn’t a one of us that didn’t love to sit and relax around that campfire.

Everyone has those old memories of days gone by. They are the ones that can be triggered by grandpa spencer021something simple that we might do every day…such as having our morning cup of coffee, the smell of wood burning in a fireplace, or thinking about going on a trip. Suddenly that memory is there, and you can see it all again, and for me, even taste that great cup of coffee. Life just doesn’t get any better than that, does it? Our lives are so hectic sometimes, and often, we forget to stop and smell the roses. Before we know it, the people most precious to us are either in Heaven, or too busy with their own lives to spend much time with everyone else. All we have left are memories. People need to slow down sometimes, and enjoy life a little, because really, there is nothing’ like a good cup of coffee by the campfire on a cool mountain morning.

It is tradition in our family, as in many families, to get up at 3:30 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving, and head out to the stores for the Black Friday sales. I know that many people think we are crazy, but if you want some really good deals on all the things you want to get your family for Christmas, then Black Friday is your day!!

Our morning starts out with a trip to the local convenience store for cappuccino and donuts. We stuff down the donuts, and sip our coffee as we shop. We usually go with our kids, and that is helpful for buying for the grandkids, but this year the grandkids wanted to go as well. I did amazingly well in my purchases this year, even with the kids there. We had to dodge them a little bit, so they didn’t see the things we had purchased, but it all worked out.

I’m not so sure all the grandkids thought shopping so early in the morning was a great idea, but you never know until you try, right. I was surprised, however, that it was my granddaughter who thought the whole thing was a waste of time. My three grandsons seemed to have a great time…or at least I didn’t hear any complaints.

Our shopping day ends around 8:00 in the morning, and when we break for breakfast. We sit around the table at Johnny J’s Diner, and discuss what great deals we got, and try to figure out what things we need to get next, eat good food, and drink a little more coffee, to get woke up, then we head home to relax and probably take a nap for a while, before deciding if we should venture out for one more shopping trip before Black Friday is history for this year.

When my nephew, Barry was just a little boy, he and his mom lived with her parents. As far as Barry was concerned, his grandpa was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Barry was determined to be just like his grandpa!! My father-in-law was building a house on their land when Barry was just about 1 year old… just old enough to want to help. When my father-in-law was doing the preparatory work Barry wanted to be with him. He wanted to know all about the cool things his grandpa was doing, especially since he had no intention of going to school or anything like that. He was going too be far to busy being Grandpa’s partner.

In building a house, you have to have the right tools for the job. You can’t expect to build a house with a nail file, or paint with a toothbrush. The right tools are vital to the success of the entire project. A good carpenter has tools that are well fitted to his hands and to his
way of working. He has a team of workers who know their job and work together to get the job done. Each person helps the others to do the job right. That said, Barry had his own tools. He had the little wooden hammer he used on one of his toys, and since some of his other toys included tools, I’m sure he had a little toy saw, shovel, pliers, wrench, and many other tools that he figured might come in handy in this endeavour. Barry put his tools to work whenever he could find someone to lift him up to the work area so he could get at it.

The home plans will always include plenty of storage space, because everyone knows that storage space is vital. Barry considered himself the Foreman of the storage areas, I think. He had to make sure they were the right size, because a storage area that couldn’t hold it’s foreman was…well, simply too small. There are lots of times that a guy needs to get into those cupboards, and cramped space in there is just not acceptable. So Barry was the Foreman and also the Inspector of the storage areas.

Yes, building a home is a big job. Being the foreman on such a job usually means plenty of stress, so one final thing that Barry learned from his grandpa about the right way to be a carpenter, was that you have to take time out for occasional breaks. So, every once in a while, Barry would find a cupboard to hide out in for a while, and the most important item to have in that space was the thing we all know helps with the stress of any job…the Folger’s Coffee!! It can be the only thing that lies between a man and his sanity.

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