There are all kinds of records, but some are just stranger than others. Switzerland actually holds a strange record…for attacking its neighbor, Liechtenstein. This is particularly odd in that Switzerland is a neutral nation…very opposed to war!! In fact, Switzerland is the longest standing neutral nation in the world and has not taken part in a “war” since 1505. Its official stance of non-involvement had been decided during The Congress of Vienna in 1815, in which major European leaders met to discuss the nature of Europe after the defeat of Napoleon. Nevertheless, they do have an army.
Diplomatic and economic relations between Switzerland and Liechtenstein have been good. In fact, you could say relations were very good, with Switzerland accepting the role of safeguarding the interests of its tiny next-door neighbor. Liechtenstein has an embassy in Bern, Switzerland, and Switzerland is accredited to Liechtenstein from its Federal Department of Foreign Affairs in Bern and maintains an honorary consulate in Vaduz, Liechtenstein. The two countries also share an open border, mostly along the Rhine, but also in the Rätikon range of the Alps, between the Fläscherberg and the Naafkopf.
With all that “good will” between the nations, you would never expect conflict, but apparently, Switzerland has attacked Liechtenstein three times in 30 years. Of course, it was by mistake each time! How does that happen? Nevertheless, it did. The first time was probably the only “aggressive” accident of the bunch. On December 5, 1985, during an artillery exercise, the Swiss Army had launched munitions in the middle a winter storm. The wind took the munitions way off course, into the Bannwald Forest of Liechtenstein, and started a forest fire. No one was injured and the Liechtenstein government was very angry. Switzerland had to pay a heavy penalty for the environmental damage caused. The second attack took place on October 13, 1992. The Swiss Army received orders to set up an observation post in Treisenberg. They followed the orders and marched to Treisenberg. What they didn’t realize was that Treisenberg lies within the territory of Liechtenstein. They marched into Treisenberg with rifles and only later realized that they were in Liechtenstein. The last attack was on March 1, 2007. A group of Swiss Army infantry soldiers was in training when the weather took a bad turn. There was heavy rainfall, and the soldiers were not carrying any GPS or compass. Eventually, they ended up in Liechtenstein! Switzerland apologized to the Liechtenstein government for the intrusion, yet again.
Thankfully these “accidental” attacks were not of a deadly nature. They were really more a “comedy of errors” than an attack. Thankfully, the people of Liechtenstein saw the “attacks” for what they were, and tended to care for their “intruders,” rather than fight back. Of course, that would have been difficult too, since Liechtenstein does not have an army of their own, and so depended on the “protection” of their neighbors…when they didn’t accidentally attack them.
Sometimes we do things for no real reason…we just feel a need somehow. When my dad’s family was living in Holyoke, Minnesota, the family liked to go down to Oak Lake to fish. The lake is located about 15 miles southwest of Holyoke. The lake was a family favorite location. In fact, the whole area was beautiful. The kids, my Aunt Laura, Uncle Bill, my dad, Aunt Ruth, and their friends, went fishing at the lake as often without their parents as they did with them. The lake became an escape from the boredom of everyday life in a small town.
At some point the kids came across the Fire Warden’s house. You see, the area was very wooded, and there was enough fire danger to warrant not only a fire warden, but a fire watch tower in the area. Of course, the summer season in any wooded area presents a high fire danger, as the summer heat dries out the area. Over time, in their hikes through the area, the kids became friends with the fire warden, and were eventually invited to climb up in the fire tower to check out the view from far above the forest floor. It soon became a tradition. When the kids and their friends went fishing at Oak Lake, they also stopped by the tower, and climbed it every time.
Yes, they loved visiting with the person in the tower, but they also climbed the tower when it was unmanned. I suppose it was partly the challenge of climbing up the high tower. Or it could have been the beauty of the view from the top of the tower. Maybe it was the visit with the watchman in the tower. Somehow, I don’t really think that any of those were the real reason the kids and their friends climbed the tower, every time they went by it. I think they had a very simple reason that they did it…because it was there. And sometimes that is all the reason you need.
We have watched with great sadness as our beloved mountain burns. The burned area has grown to 18,000 acres and 37 lost structures. The fire crews have done an awesome job of fighting this fire. The winds in our area and the lack of rain could have made this fire a much more catastrophic event than it has been, in that at one point they thought the winds could possibly shift and the fire come back down the face of the mountain heading West. Prior to that point of concern, it had been mostly on top and headed East. Many people do not fully understand the gravity of 18,000 burned acres. Until you see all those dead trees standing where lush green trees used to be, you just can’t fully picture it. Looking through the burned areas that suddenly have far too much light for a forest, I get an extreme sense of sadness…even a sense of dread…because it will take so long to regrow that forest, and there is no quick and easy solution that could change that fact.
I was looking through some old pictures and came across one of Bob’s family having a picnic up on Casper Mountain in May of 1960. The picnic table was made of wood, of course, and I don’t think any of them are now. Even though the picture is in black and white, you can see the green trees in the background, and you know that everyone was having a wonderful time, as is normal on Casper Mountain. I don’t know of one person who has ever lived in Casper, who did not love the mountain. Whether you preferred to go to the lake or the mountain, you loved the beautiful backdrop it created. And truly, I don’t know of anyone who didn’t love going up there…even just for a picnic. The peacefulness and quiet are so relaxing and the birds, especially the hummingbirds that most people are thrilled to watch, always put me at ease. I feel especially sad for all the animals and birds whose homes and food have been lost to them. Yes they can migrate into other areas, but the food source will take a definite hit.
I remember throughout the years of my childhood, when our family would go up on the mountain, even if just for the day, and just hang out enjoying the beauty of it, the quiet, and the birds. Then in the evening, we would sit around the campfire roasting marshmellows and dodging the smoke that always seemed to be coming right into your eyes. We almost made it a game…laughing at the person who was getting bombarged with the smoke at any given moment. That always seemed so funny to us, but in the face of the current fire, it takes on a different meaning. The amount of smoke and ash that has been rolling off of our mountain is simply dangerous to be breathing. When I think about the firefighters who have worked tirelessly to try our beloved mountain, I feel a deep sense of gratitude. Our mountain will never be quite the same, but it will come back eventually to some degree. Insurance policies will help pay for repairs and rebuilding of structures, but, our minds will probably never forget those horrible pictures of the fire on the mountain.
For a number of years, we went with my father-in-law and the guys in the family, to the Shirley Mountains to cut up downed wood to bring home for firewood. Sometimes the girls got to come with us. When they came, we tried to turn things into an adventure. If you wander around the woods long enough, you are bound to find something that is unusual. Sometimes trees and other plants can take on unusual forms. While exploring the area around where we were working, the kids found a tree that was so totally deformed that it went up a ways and bent straight over and then curved back up again. I suspect that it may have been struck by lightning or maybe the wind partially broke it, and then persevered to continue growing. It was, to say the least, a very strange sight…and one tough tree.
What happened to it didn’t really matter to my daughters. Corrie and Amy were completely thrilled with this tree. When it swung down to the ground, it came down quite low, and it made the perfect, goofy tree chair. They spend the rest of the day playing around it and having a great time. They liked the tree so much that they wished they could take it home. Of course, we all know that was impossible, so we took a picture of it so they could always remember it. They talked about that tree for quite some time, and have looked in other places we have camped to see if they can find more of them.
Kids can make an imaginary world using lots of things. My girls loved to play house and clubhouse, so having a chair appear out of the middle of a forest, made out of a tree, was very cool to them. It was a like a whole new way to play. They imagined living in the forest, the mountains in the old west, or maybe a tree house. I can’t say as I blamed them for coming up with so many ways to imagine their lives to be. We have all have wanted to live an adventure, and maybe…just for a minute, my girls got to do just that.