After being honorably discharged from the Navy, my niece, Gaby Beach, who married my nephew Allen Beach on September 24, 2014, started working while Allen when to college to get his degree. Once he was finished, the plan was for Allen to work while Gaby went to school to get her degree. It was a good plan, because it allowed each of them to study hard, without having to work. They could devote themselves to their studies. While Allen now works as the department manager over referral, communications, ambulances, Gaby is getting ready to begin her second year of nursing school. Having worked as a corpsman in the Navy, nursing is a perfect next step for Gaby, who was a very good corpsman.
These days, when she’s not studying, Gaby has become very interested in house plants. She has a green thumb, and loves plants. She has decided to complete the “Let’s Grow Together In 2020” initiative. I looked over the program, and it would be really a cool thing to do…if I didn’t have a decidedly brown thumb. Unlike me, Gaby has a real knack for plants, and for arranging them. I know that her plants will beautify their home, and make it a healthier place too. Plants a good to have in the home…as long as you can keep them alive, that is. Gaby can do just that, and her plants are thriving. Her day 8 plant…the fastest grower was the Epipremnum Pinnatum or “Cebu Blue,” names I wouldn’t have known, had Gaby not posted them. I may not know much about plants, but I have enjoyed seeing Gaby’s posts about her adventures with them, and I look forward to the future posts as well.
Gaby ability to raise plants isn’t surprising, because she has a real knack for all living things. I am reminded of her work with therapy dogs during her Navy years. I’m ok with dogs, but I can’t say I’m “comfortable” with dogs. Cats yes, dogs…not so much. Gaby, on the other hand, is a natural. Dogs just instinctively love Gaby, as much as she loves them. And I think everyone in our family can understand that, because we have all come to love Gaby too. She brightens our world every time we see her. Today is Gaby’s birthday. Happy birthday Gaby!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Natural disasters happen all the time…every day for that matter. Many of these disasters cannot be predicted, or can only be predicted a few minutes to hours before the disaster arrives. That was not the case with the Limnic eruption that happened at Lake Nyos in Cameroon, on August 21, 1986…or was it. A Limnic eruption is a eruption of gas rather than lava or ash, and the gasses can be deadly.
The eruption of lethal gas came from Lake Nyos at 9:30pm on that August day in 1986, took the lives of 2,000 people in the nearby villages, including Lower Nyos. The eruption wiped out four villages too. Carbon Dioxide, while natural to the earth, and even a part of the life process, becomes deadly if there is too much of it. Because Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun are crater lakes, the possibility exists for gasses to escape from the volcanos below them. The lakes are both about a mile square, and are located in the remote mountains of northwestern Cameroon. The area is beautiful with great rock cliffs and lush green vegetation.
Prior to the eruption, there were signs of impending disaster. In August 1984, 37 people near Lake Monoun died suddenly, but the incident was largely covered up by the government. The remoteness and lack of services made the incidents easier to cover up. Since there is no electricity or telephone service in the area, it was not difficult to keep the incident under wraps, and the 5,000 people who lived in villages near Lake Nyos simply had no idea that there was a very real danger of their own lake producing the same dangerous gas. I’m not certain why they would want to keep the matter a secret, other that to avoid causing a panic, but the plan was fraught with disaster. Had the people known, maybe they could have left the area and survived.
When scientists first began to be able to predict natural disasters, they were afraid the tell people that there was a problem. Then, after many people lost their lives from what could have been an avoidable disaster, most governments began to see the value of early warnings. The 37 people who lost their lives had no chance of a warning. There were no signs of that eruption, but if the government hadn’t hidden the facts, the 2,000 people who died when lake Nyos had its eruption, might have had a chance. At the very least, they could have made an educated decision about whether to stay or to go. Of course, with two years between the eruptions, they might have ignored the warnings too.
When the rumbling noise from the lake began at 9:30pm, and continued for 15 to 20 seconds, followed by a cloud of carbon-dioxide, and a blast of smelly air, it was too late for those people. The cloud quickly moved north toward the village of Lower Nyos. Some people tried to run away from the cloud, but they were later found dead on the paths leading away from town. The only two survivors of Lower Nyos were a woman and a child. The deadly cloud of gas continued on to Cha Subum and Fang, where another 500 people lost their lives. The carbon dioxide killed every type of animal, including small insects, in its path, but left buildings and plants unaffected, because plants use carbon dioxide as part of the growth cycle.
Reportedly, even survivors experienced coughing fits and vomited blood. Outsiders only learned of the disaster as they approached the villages and found animal and human bodies on the ground. The best estimate is that 1,700 people and thousands of cattle died. A subsequent investigation of the lake showed the water level to be four feet lower than what it had previously been. Apparently, carbon dioxide had been accumulating from underground springs and was being held down by the water in the lake. When the billion cubic yards of gas finally burst out, it traveled low to the ground–it is heavier than air–until it dispersed. Lake Nyos must now be constantly monitored for carbon-dioxide accumulation. Hopefully that will prevent further disasters like these from happening again.
Last June while my husband, Bob and I were walking on the path near our home, we noticed a friend’s vegetable garden. Since it had gone from plowed dirt to medium sized plants, virtually over night, we knew that they had put in plants and not planted seeds. This conversation brought a memory to Bob, about his childhood years. The garden that they had on the land that his parents, Walt and Joann Schulenberg shared with his grandparents, Robert and Nettie Knox was quite large, and Bob remembers checking the garden almost daily to see if the seeds they had planted had begun to sprout. He and his grandpa would go out into the garden and young Bob would see something green in the places where the seeds had been planted. He would immediately ask, “Is that a plant Grandpa?” Only to be disappointed when his grandpa said, “No, that’s a weed.”
I was struck by the memory of my husband’s grandfather, who wasn’t really a social person most of the time, but when he was in the garden…well, he was really in his element. I could picture Grandpa and young Bob out in the garden, while he worked to educate his grandson on the finer points of gardening. Grandpa knew how to do many things, but it was in the garden that he really seemed at home. As a younger man, he worked on several ranches and so being in the outdoors, working with his hands makes sense. I don’t suppose that many men seriously enjoy gardening, and I don’t know if I can really picture Grandpa in a flower garden, but when it came to a vegetable garden, he took great pride in it and in the food it supplied to the family.
When the vegetables were ripe, he would pick them and the canning would commence. I remember, after I joined the family, the canning taking place. It took all day, but when we were done, there were vegetables to last for the year. I can’t say that canning was always one of my favorite things to do, but there was always a certain satisfaction that came from opening those vegetables to serve for dinner, and knowing where they came from. The nice thing about having Grandpa handling the garden was that truly, he did all the hard work, and we reaped the benefit. I say that because I am not really a green thumb, so gardening and especially weeding are not my idea of a pleasant afternoon. Nevertheless, that was most certainly Grandpa Knox’s idea of a pleasant afternoon, ad it was a very nice memory of him. Today would have been Grandpa’s 109th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandpa Knox. We love and miss you very much.
During the Great Potato Famine of September 1845 in Ireland, the leaves on potato plants suddenly turned black and curled, then rotted, seemingly the result of a fog that had rolled across the fields of Ireland. In reality, the cause was an airborne fungus named Phytophthora Infestans. It was originally transported in the holds of ships traveling from North America to England. The resulting loss of the potato crops, put the people of Ireland in dire straits. Many people decided that it was time to immigrate to America. In fact, more than a million people immigrated to America and most settled in the coal regions of Pennsylvania. Many of the Irish Catholics immigrants were routinely met with discrimination based on both their religion and heritage. They often encountered help wanted signs with disclaimers that read, “Irish need not apply.” These days, that practice would have met with harsh retaliation due to anti-discrimination laws.
I know that a number of my ancestors came from Ireland, and I would not be surprised to find that a number of my ancestors were among those immigrants that came to America to find a better life. The unfortunate thing was that the few people who would hire them, and the few places that would rent to them, were corrupt people. The immigrants finally accepted the most physically demanding and dangerous mining jobs, just to have work. The men and their families were forced to live in overcrowded housing, buy from shops, and visit doctors all “owned” by the company. In many cases, workers wound up owing their employers at the end of each month. The Irish immigrants were in a very tough situation, but they had been there before, and they were not going to continue to be victimized.
The abuse triggered a period of violence in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, between 1861 and 1875. The violence which included assaults, arsons, and murders were blamed on a secret society of Irish immigrants known as the Molly Maguires. The group originally emerged in northern Ireland in the 1840s, as a branch of the long line of rural secret societies including the Whiteboys and Ribbonmen, who responded to miserable working conditions and evictions by tenant landlords with bloody vengeance. When the Civil War broke out, the Irish immigrants were drafted to serve, and they rebelled by sending out “coffin notices” threatening death, because they perceived the war to be a “rich man’s war,” and they wanted no part of it. The notes were alleged to have been written by the Molly Maguires, because they didn’t want to lose their jobs to scabs. Threats were actually carried out 24 times when foremen and supervisors were assassinated.
In 1873, the president of the Reading Railroad, Franklin Gowen hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to infiltrate and destroy the Molly Maguires, because their union activities were impeding that railroad’s ability to increase profits. The detective, James McParlan, used the alias, James McKenna to infiltrate the group. Oddly, he was an Irishman himself, but I guess money was more important to him. Franklin Gowen served as the chief prosecutor, even though his railroad holdings made his participation a conflict of interest. Based almost entirely on McParlan’s testimony, 20 men were sentenced to death—10 of whom were executed on June 21, 1877, also known as Black Thursday. The men declared their innocence right up to the end. Although the existence of the Molly Maguires as an organized band of outlaws in America is under debate to this day, most historians now agree that the trials and executions were an outrageous perversion of the criminal justice system. In 1979, more than 100 years following his hanging, John Kehoe, who was the supposed “king” of the Molly Maguires, was granted a full pardon by the state of Pennsylvania.
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.