Sunday, April 1, 2018

Editor's Corner

April 2018

"The Hallmark version of Easter is not the real deal. The real story is as manly as manly gets. " -–Michael Burns, Easter: Beyond the Bunny
Do you recall Easter ever being on the first day of April? To have April Fool's Day on the same day seems somehow sacrilegious. At any rate, this issue we are reprinting the article "All About Lent, Easter Dates" by the late Leo C. Helmer (1924 - 2013) which explains the way Easter is scheduled, a long and complicated process, but interesting.

We are also carrying "Cincinnati Chili" from one of his cooking columns as Rod Cohenour our current cooking columnist, has been busy attending to the health and well being of his wife (your editor's baby sister) who just had cataract surgery.

 Therefore Melinda Cohenour's column "Armchair Genealogy" is a reprint of the first genealogy type story she ever did for Pencil Stubs Online, an extremely well researched piece, "The Fate of Abraham Josselyn aboard Ye Good Fame of New Yorke."

Thomas F. O'Neill's column "Introspective" from China discusses the problem of 'sound alike' words when teaching English to his students.

 "On Trek" by Judith Kroll, aka Featherwind, tells how being with her father in his declining days was a blessed together time for the two of them. His acceptance of his status was eye opening and a heart warming solace for her.

Mattie Lennon's "Irish Eyes" delves into various literary offerings as only Mattie can, as he encourages his readers to check into different stories, books, and plays.

Dayvid Clarkson's "Reflections on the Day" features a pic with words also by him in addition to a selection of daily reflections.

LC Van Savage's column "Consider This," wonders how she escaped all the maladies people are warned about now when they camp out or go hiking. Her article asks "Were You There?"

Bruce Clifford's poems for April are "He Left Her," "A Distant Memory," and "Up in The Clouds." Bud Lemire submitted these three: "Michigan's Beauty," "The Spit," and "Grandma's Funeral." John I. Blair poems are "Squirrels Climbing," "Planting Wood Phlox," "Hello Quince," "Strangers on A Path," "What A Trip It Has Been," and "God's Image" for this issue.
See you in May !!!

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Armchair Genealogy


The Fate of Abraham Josselyn aboard 

Ye Good Fame of New Yorke

Added by mecohenour on 15 May 2009 /for Column April 2018.
Abraham Josselyn is noted by many historians as having lost his life aboard the ship Ye Good Fame of New Yorke sometime between the making of his Will on 16th March 1669 and the proving of that Will on or about 17th April 1670. His Will, as recorded in the records of the Surrogate's Office of New York, indicate he was "very sicke & weak" at the time of the making of the Will. It is doubtful he survived long after rendering and signing it.
Long fascinated by the rather romantic place of dying ("seventeen miles off the coast of Virginia, aboard the ship Ye Good Fame of New Yorke"), my research has disproven many of my favorite theories as to the cause of his death: 1) that the ship was capsized by a storm; 2) that the ship sank after colliding with an obstacle at sea; or 3) that the ship was fired upon by Dutch sailors and Abraham Josselyn lost his life as a result of battle. Thus, my research into the history of the ship itself.
The history of Ye Good Fame is enmeshed with the history of the State of New York . New Netherland, as New York was called by the Dutch in 1664, was taken by the Englishman mariner, Colonel Richard Nicolls. It was the opinion of the Crown of England that the Dutch were "encroaching" upon the land which belonged, by right, to England . Although Col. Nicolls' personal account of the retaking of New Amsterdam ( New Netherland ) was lost at sea, other versions have survived. One of those documents was entitled Original Papers (penned by the Duke of York who later became King James II) and provides the following history of this event:
"The Duke of York, borrowing of the king two ships of war, sent Sir Richard Nicholas, groom of the bed-chamber and an old officer, with three hundred men to take possession of the country; which the Dutch gave up on composition, without being blockaded..., Colonel Nicholas remained there in peaceable possession of the country; and then called it New York and the Fort of River Albany. All this happened before the breaking of the first Dutch war." [Autobiographical notes of James II]
Colonel Nicolls was named first Governor of New York for his troubles. The son of a lawyer, his mother was a daughter of Sir George Bruce. He was "splendidly educated" and spoke Dutch and French as well as he did English. He served the Crown well in settling disputes among the various nationalities, including the Dutch and English settlers; and quieted unrest among the Native Indian tribes; established the first laws and organized the colony so that ongoing discussion could be had to settle new disputes. It is said of Nicolls:
"Nicolls was just then reconstructing the government of his province along English lines; and, laboring more conscientiously, more intelligently, and with more patience, cheerfulness, tact, and good-will than could have been expected of a soldier charged with a civilian's tasks, an Englishman set to govern Dutchmen, a courtier not yet forty years of age exiled from Whitehall to the edge of the world, he had almost finished the work before he heard that war had been declared in Europe."
Although he served the colony and the Crown well, he became tired and frustrated at the entanglement of rules that drained not only his mental and physical energies, but his pocketbook as well. One constant complaint: the little colony needed ships to maintain commerce among other colonies in order to sustain itself. The Crown, not wishing to provide too much freedom among these independent and tough-minded colonists, resisted. Those ships which did sail between the colonies were, ultimately, forced to sail to England with their cargo, permit inspection, pay the fees and taxes levied, and only then deliver their goods to the intended colonial port. New York merchants, eager to find markets for their goods, determined to build their own ship(s) to this end. The first ship, the King Charles, was followed shortly by a ship whose name was not noted and is lost to history. A bit of history concerning the King Charles helps to understand the plight of those merchants:
Jacob Janse Schermerhooren was commissary to the General Privileged West India Company, and was also one of a court of three commissaries (magistrates) at Beverwycke and Fort Orange ( Albany ), in 1652, 1654, 1656, 1657, 1664, 1666, 1674, and 1675." The records of this court also show that in 1654 he visited Amsterdam , where his father, Jan Schermerhooren, was then living.' He again visited his native land in 1668, and there loaded the ship "King Charles" with goods for the Colony. The ship was prohibited from sailing to New York, and on December 11, 1668, Schermerhooren petitioned King Charles II for his permission to depart with his ship from the Trexel, " where it hath lain many days ready to sail, and now lies there at great hazard on account of the season of the year." The permission was subsequently granted by the orders of the King, through the Duke of York, Lord High Admiral of England . [Genealogy of a part of the third branch of the Schermerhorn family in the United States, Author, Louis Younglove Schermerhorn, 1840.]
The colonists also resisted a plan by the King to permit two Scotch ships to sail into their harbors, fish in their seas and carry cargo bound for their markets.
Ultimately, Nicolls was permitted to step down from the position of Governor. His successor was one, the "Right Honorable Colonel" Francis Lovelace. Lovelace was about 38 when he accepted this post. It was believed he was, like Nicolls, a single man but history has shown he may have married "beneath his place" and been forced to leave his wife in England . He brought with him two of his brothers. It is recorded that, "although in every way a weaker man than Nicolls", Lovelace attempted to maintain the double thrust of Nicolls' success: "mingled conciliation and firm justice." Lovelace is reported to have served his post well, all in all, as he was both an amiable and intelligent leader.
Appointed in 1668, he
"interested himself in better ferriage, roads and transportation by land and water, and the regulation of trade and extension of commerce. He instituted the first merchant's exchange and the first haven master of the port. He promoted shipbuilding and himself owned a fine ship, The Good Fame of New York. He extended settlements and laid out new villages and townships, and by purchase for the Duke, freed Staten Island from Indian control."
Lovelace continued the work begun by Nicolls in fortifying the settlement by strengthening of the fortifications themselves and by raising foot companies and troops of horses which were constantly in training. His last effort on behalf of his growing settlement was to establish a continuous post road between New York and Boston , thus instituting the first postal service as well as setting forth the means for management of the system: a postmaster with a small amount of monies raised to pay his salary.
Unfortunately, this last effort on behalf of the young settlement cost Lovelace the respect of the Crown, in fact earning him a trip to the Tower of London and dishonor. For, during Lovelace's trip to Boston in 1673 to cement the final arrangements for that fledgling postal service, the Dutch moved into New York , overtaking the settlement in his absence. He was granted full blame. He contracted dropsy after lengthy incarceration in the damp and drafty Tower of London and died two years later in full disgrace, penniless and wrongfully blamed.
It is Lovelace's efforts to provide the merchants of infant New York with a means to conduct commerce that we will now explore. He entered into a joint venture with sixteen merchants to have Ye Good Fame built, at a very dear cost for that time and place. One Samuel Maverick had been enticed to settle there by Nicolls who induced the Duke to gift Maverick with a house confiscated as part of the property of the West India Company. It was on 'the broadway' as the former Heere Weg was then called. After Nicolls' return to England , Maverick wrote to him of newsworthy events, including the building of the Good Fame.
"The governor with some partners is building a ship of 120 ton by Thomas Hall's house...another of 60 or 70 ton is building at Gravesend ."
A few months later, Maverick reported to Nicolls that the governor's ship had been recently launched and named The Good Fame of New York and that it was a "very strong and handsome vessel, but costly." Used initially in continuance of the West India trade routes, the ship was sent to Virginia and then to England . (*)
It may be assumed that it was during this trip to Virginia that Abraham Josselyn met his Maker aboard Ye Good Fame of New Yorke. The timing would be right and it is documented that the Good Fame was taken by Dutch privateers in 1673 after this voyage:
The last of the Anglo-Dutch wars put a temporary stop to Lovelace’s involvement in foreign trade, when Dutch privateers took the Good Fame at either Trexel or Sandy Hook in 1673. That same year Steenwyck lost his ship James; Thomas Delaval lost the Margaret, and Frederick Philipse lost the Frederick . But these and other losses, including the surrender of the city to the Dutch for one year, only underscored how vital the Dutch trade could be for supplying the city. Indeed, many of the city’s Dutch paused long enough with English residents to consider which mother country was, as Capt. John Manning put it, the greater “enemy in our Bowells.“ [The Hollander Interest and Ideas about Free Trade in Colonial New York : Persistent Influences of the Dutch, 1664-1764 by Cathy Matson, History Department, University of Delaware .]
According to “THE JOCELYN-JOSLIN-JOSLYN-JOSSELYN FAMILY”, Compiled by Edith S. Wessler, Produced by Charles E. Tuttle Company of Rutland Vermont and Tokyo , Japan , copyright in Japan , 1961. Library of congress Catalog Card No. 61-11559. First edition 1962.
Page #81, family #35 reads as follows:
"Abraham was largely interested in commerce, and probably owned several ships sailing between Plymouth and England . He was a proprietor of Black Point (Scarborough) Maine ; a member of the Grand Jury there in 1659, the year he sold his property and went to Lancaster , Mass. , where his father lived.
“Abraham, Scarborough, with his wife, sold 200 acres of land 27 October 1659; deed witnessed by Henry and Margaret Joselyn; removed to Boston with wife Beatrice; sold land at Scarborough which had been in his possession for “divers years past.” This land was sold to Mr. Scottow, 8 June 1660. It included “Josselyn’s great hill, later known as Scottoway’s Hill.”
By 1663, Abraham had rejoined the rest of the family in Lancaster , where he maintained his residence until his death. He was a man of enterprise and some wealth, and evidently a daring and hearty mariner, considering the size of the ships of that day. Sloops and ketches measured more than fifty or sixty feet in length, and ranged in size from forty to sixty tons."
It is not known whether Abraham Josselyn shared in the ownership of Ye Good Fame, but it is doubtful since his Will makes no mention of it. However, one other assumption may be made concerning Abraham's position aboard the Good Fame. Considering the level of education which may be assumed by Abraham's delayed trip to the New World in order for him to complete his education, coupled with the social position he and his father Thomas Josselyn (the Immigrant) enjoyed, it may be assumed he was no common mariner. Those facts and other common sense suppositions indicate that Abraham Josselyn was probably the Captain of Ye Good Fame of New York. This assumption is bolstered by the following notation found in a study of the Joslin, Joceline, Josselyn, Joslyn family which, in a footnote, includes the following:
14 "My Great Grand-Father Capt Abraham Josselyn was Born in England in Essex . . . Uncle Joseph took this acount from his Cousin Rebecca Clark Octr. 18th 1759." Diary of Thomas Josselyn, 1743–1775, Mss C3489, NEHGS.
The cause of Abraham's death may never now be determined. From the section of the Will where he indicates he is both "very sicke & weak," indications are that he had contracted a fatal illness. It is known the New York colony was wracked by epidemics of unidentified fevers in both 1668 and 1669. Gov. Lovelace proclaimed "days of humiliation" on September 8 and 22, 1668, to atone for the sins he believed had caused the epidemic to be visited upon the populace. In a letter from Samuel Maverick to former Governor Nicolls in October of 1669, he noted, "The flux, agues, and fevers, have much rained, both in cittie and country, & many dead, but not yett soe many as last yeare." Some historians believe the 1668 epidemic may have been caused by an outbreak of yellow fever. Abraham Josselyn was 54 years of age when he died aboard his ship, Ye Good Fame of New Yorke.
(*) Based upon calculations by Francis Turner which are contained in a separate story here, Francis Lovelace and his sixteen merchant partners paid a dear price for this "strong and handsome vessel." One Egydius Luyke, a Dutch merchant who participated in the joint venture documented his indebtedness to Lovelace with a debt instrument which has been preserved among the historic papers of the State of New York . The debt instrument, although the manuscript is torn in a number of places, is in surprisingly good shape such that Luyke's one-sixteenth share of the cost may be read. Assuming the tears in the manuscript are minute (which appears to be the case, given the balance of the text), Luyke's 1/16th share cost him "Six thousand, three hundred and nineteen Guild (manuscript torn here) Stiv's Seaw't or the Equivalent Value thereof" (manuscript torn here). In 1632, one Guilder would be equivalent to $36 US Dollars. That would make Luyke's portion equivalent to $227,484 and the full cost of the ship, assuming equal portions for each of the sixteen, would be equivalent to $3,639,744 in today's currency. [MEC note.]
Copyright 16th May 2009, Melinda E. Cohenour
1) History of the City of New York in the Seventeenth Century, Vol II; by Schuyler Van Rensselaer; published by The Macmillan Company 1909;
2) History of the city of New York ; it origin, rise, and progress by Martha Joanna Lamb, Burton Harrison, published by A. S. Barnes, 1896
3) The Hollander Interest and Ideas about Free Trade in Colonial New York : Persistent Influences of the Dutch, 1664-1764 by Cathy Matson, History Department, University of Delaware .
4) Original Papers, Duke of York, later King James II, autobiographical notes;
5) The Genealogical Advertiser: A Quarterly Magazine of Family History, edited by Lucy Hall Greenlaw; published by Lucy H. Greenlaw, 1901;
6) Wikipedia: Col. Francis Lovelace, with Annotations;
7) State of New York , Historical Papers, Surrogate's Office, compiled.
8) “THE JOCELYN-JOSLIN-JOSLYN-JOSSELYN FAMILY”, Compiled by Edith S. Wessler, Produced by Charles E. Tuttle Company of Rutland Vermont and Tokyo, Japan, copyright in Japan, 1961. Library of congress Catalog Card No. 61-11559. First edition 1962. Page #81, family #35.
9) Money and exchange rates in 1632 by Francis Turner.

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Reflections on the Day

March 30 -
On a cold crisp night, I look to the stars, even in the dark, you can see the remnants of navy blue. The crystalline stars seem to define Father Sky as Grand Mother Moon has yet to make her entrance. Contemplating time, it seems we never have enough, always governed by the clock. What if we understood that we are eternal, that we truly have all the time we require? No time during your past was wasted. This journey is like reading a book, once read another book will appear. If we could learn to read and enjoy without the compulsion to skip over parts and read the last chapter to see how it ends. Enjoy each chapter and relish the storyline. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid

February 26 at 9:46pm ·
The eve time approaches and we prepare for rest. What an incredible act of faith to enter into sleep time. We have no assurances we will awake in the morning. We release our consciousness and our ego. We are relieved of the Monkey Mind for a period of time. We have no idea what is going to happen or where we will travel. We rarely consider the outcome. And after we arise everything fades away for the most part. Mayhaps we should apply the same leap of faith to our awake time? Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid.

February 25 at 9:45pm ·
There are some evenings when a sweet melancholy permeates my soul. The feeling when you have been away from home for a while and you cherish the time you will return. The feeling when you have said goodbye to a friend and you yearn for the time you will meet again. It’s not really a negative feeling and I find it somewhat serene. I am enjoying the journey yet that melancholy seems to embrace me every now and then. The serenity is I know I am on my way home and I know we will meet again. The old adage that there are no strangers just folks on their way to meet me whispers. I am grateful for all that are sharing my journey and I look wistfully to our reunion. Sleep well, dream deep my friends. Humble bow, Dayvid

February 20 at 9:55pm ·
It was a surreal sunset this eve, indistinguishable from a summer evening, in the middle of February. It seems confusing. I sense there are great changes coming. At times it is like a great storm is coming and I left one of the doors open. Not scary per se, more like an adrenalin rush. Grand Father Sun and Father Sky combine to draw my attention, Mother Earth in early fertility, and Grand Mother Moon soothing the waters. There is something afoot. Yet I feel serene. Many I know are coming through or have come through great challenges mayhaps it is now their turn. As you rest this eve, seek the sacred circle and listen closely, inhale the wisdom. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid.

February 17 at 9:39pm ·
It starts as a clear night then the mists gently roll across the lake. I sit in contemplation of the familial bond that unites us by blood. We might not have it all together but when we are together we have it all. Even in the most stressful of situations, one can find blessings. Moments that affirms the kindness and compassion that surrounds us. These small miracles might go unnoticed as you journey through the valleys, breathe and pay attention. Ease your burdens by seeing what is right with the divine comedy rather than what is wrong. Care for those around you and you will be cared for. May the Great Spirit give us rest this evening rekindling the pure fire of the soul. Awakening refreshed and restored. Sleep well, dream deep my Friends. Humble bow, Dayvid

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Irish Eyes


       I have, in the words of Churchill, “a lot to be humble about” but I have one boast. Our family burial ground, in Baltyboys, is situated on the highest, bleakest and coldest site in Ireland. I would pity any unclad female who had the stand there, even on a summer’s day.

      And what, you may ask, prompted that paragraph? You are probably asking “Has that fellow lost the plot?” (Pun intentional.) Read on. When I read in the Global Times that the authorities in China are clamping down on the increasingly popular event of striptease artists at funerals I contacted China's official Xinhua News Agency and they confirmed that authorities have, indeed, announced a new crackdown. An attendee at a village funeral in Cheng'an County in Hebei Province said mourners of all ages, including children, enjoyed the raunchy performance at a recent send-off. But he said “I felt something wasn't right. The performance crossed the line. I had heard about hiring strippers to dance at funerals but had never seen it myself. I was shocked when I saw the strippers." He went on to say that, “the villagers were not surprised by the erotic display at all.”

       China’s Ministry of Culture have released a statement, which detailed two cases. They say the practice distorted the "cultural value of the entertainment business" and such acts were “uncivilised". In both cases, in north China's Hebei Province and east China's Jiangsu, strippers were “invited to stage obscene performances, “it said. The organisers and performers have been punished. The ministry added it will continue to work with the police to stamp out the practice. The crackdown will involve residents being offered a financial reward for tip offs made to a hotline that divulge “funeral misdeeds.”

      Chinese state media has often condemned the erotic shows as “low culture” and a “toxin for public morality.” However, some experts claim stripper performances at funerals also honour reproduction and fertility. "According to the interpretation of cultural anthropology, the fete is originated from the worship of reproduction," Kuang Haiyan, a media professor, told Global Times. "Therefore the erotic performance at the funeral is just a cultural atavism."

      The above information prompted me to wonder what, if any, legislation governs such a practice on this island. I wrote to the Department of Justice but I didn’t get a reply. I then contacted the office of the Attorney General Seamus Woulfe asking for information on the subject ( I half expected to get a reply from him describing my request as a "Dog's Dinner"!). A communication from his office by Christine O’ Rourke, Advisory Council, informed me, “. . . this Office is unable to assist with your query. “ So I don’t know where we stand, (that is not a double entendre), with regard to the legality of strippers at funerals here.

      I was in Boston on Saint Patrick’s Day. Some wouldn’t see it as a Big Deal? But it was a big deal for me.

       While our Minister, Michael Ring, was chatting to the great and good in Boston City Hall I fell into conversation with Mr. Haakon Doherty, Professor of genetics at a Swedish University. He had been giving a lecture at the department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. When I found out what field he was in I started to do a bit of showing off. I pointed out to the good professor that the Wicklow mountain hare has two short legs on the right side of his body. He has evolved this adapted feature through following the sun around the Wicklow hills for millions of years. I claimed that our hare is the only animal in the world to have this genetic advantage.

      The great man wasn’t long taking the wind out of my sails. He quoted chapter and verse and explained to me that the Canadian hill badger is evolving in that direction and is only a few thousand years behind the Wicklow mountain hare in this race. Professor Doherty has found evidence in human feet of the evolution of “wheels.” He agrees that it took millions of years for legs to evolve from fins but he has claimed in a recently published paper that he has discovered a process to accelerate the rate of human evolution to such an extent that as early as the year 2100 it will be possible to have humans traveling on their own “wheels.” I asked him two questions;

      “Where did you get the surname Doherty”? And “Why have species millions of years older than us not grown wheels”?

       He told me that his Grandfather Hugh Doherty was Irish; Editor of the Barnasmore Bugle newspaper in Donegal and when the paper ceased publication in 1903 he went to work for a newspaper in Stockholm where he married a Swede.

      In answer to my second question he said, “We didn’t grow wheels because there weren’t any roads or flat surfaces until a few thousand years ago, which is the blink of an eye in cosmic terms. He explained that when biology was facilitating travel the terrain to be negotiated was catered for by legs, fins and wings. Evolution adapts us to suit our environment and may cause either the gain of a new feature, or the loss of an existing feature. He said “If there were motorways a hundred million years ago we would be moving around Quincy Market on our own “flesh-and-blood roller skates” .

       He went on to explain that, “The larvae of the mother-of-pearl moth when startled, will roll itself into a round shape and roll away and he mentioned a bacterium. I can’t pronounce the clinical term but it moves by spinning filaments called flagella like tiny propellers which rotate at a speed of several hundred times per minute.” Seeing that I was taken aback he went on, “if those are not wheels they are fairly bloody close.” He told me (without giving any detail) that his formula to accelerate human evolution can be employed to enable humans to grow such things as “ear lids” within a few generations but for now he is concentrating on the “wheels.” The human castors, according to Professor Doherty would have an outer re-generating “tyre” of hard tissue and the centre would be cartilage- like I was wondering about the blood supply to the “inner tube” but didn’t dare ask the question. The professor read my mind, and said “The flesh-and-blood wheel could use the umbilical connection similar to that used on merry-go-rounds”.

      Seeing that his erudite instruction was falling on barren ground he gave me a practical demonstration using a CD and one of my shoelaces.

      Back in my hotel The Boston Plaza Park, maybe it was my imagination, but when I checked each foot I think I could detect the beginning of little stub-axles below the ankle bone but I would like a second opinion.

       “I am a hoarder of two things; documents and trusted friends.”

      I can identify with Muriel Spark on that one. But I am also a hoarder of less useful things. That’s why the title of Jess Kidd’s second novel The Hoarder jumped out at me. When award-winning Kidd decided to write a sit-com set in a funeral parlour. She applied for jobs working in one but didn’t get one, even when she told funeral directors she’d do work experience for them.

      Like that other great writer on death, Kevin Toolis, London born Jess had a Mayo parent. Her mother would regularly bring her to wakes and funerals. So death was more familiar to her than to her London friends.

      When she was researching this multi-layered and novel she visited many hoarders; some of whom wouldn’t let her in. If she had called to me I wouldn’t have refused her admission. But I would have emphasised that I don’t want to be “cured.” Of course there are hoarders and hoarders. The hoarded, Cathal Flood, of the title is different. Not many hoarders have in their collection, a tray of glass eyes or a shrunken skull. This hoarder also has a violent past and an alleged connection to a disappeared schoolgirl.

       Whether Kidd is describing the gurgling of a rusty toilet cistern or “the Pidgeon shit on Nelson’s column” the prose are pure purple. Her main character whatever his past has some philosophical lines, “. . . the loveliest eyes are found in the heads of women who have suffered.”

      The Hoarder is published by Canongate Books Ltd and I couldn’t possibly do it justice in those few words. The reviewer in the Sunday Express summed it up in two words, “Utterly unputdownable” Buy it. (See cover pic below.)

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Encore: Cooking with Leo

(1924 -2013) 

A Chili Recipe

Somebody Called This Cincinnati Chili, but Don’t Ask Me Why
Don’t rightly know who or what Cincinnatian or Ohioan, for that matter, invented this recipe. But, it deserves a little recognition for being fairly decent stuff. The original recipe called for beans (how awful) and water (yuch). But, with my superior knowledge and improvisational culinary skills, whatever, I came up with reasonable substitutes for the yuch stuff and cooked the beans on the side not in.
OK, let’s get cookin’.
Grab up your big heavy cast iron pot with the tight lid. Pour in two tablespoons of Olive Oil. Heat the pot and coat the oil all around. Dump in 2 ½ pounds of good, lean, coarse ground beef and brown it. Dice up two brown onions and toss them in. After the meat and onions are browned lower the heat and dump in the following:

  • 1 - 6oz can of tomato paste, don’t toss out the can yet.
  • 1 - 12 oz can of Mick or Bud, use some of this to clean up the tomato paste can then toss the can out.
  • 2 oz red wine vinegar.
  • 1 tblspn Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 - 12 oz can of Coke Classic.
  • 1 chopped up clove of garlic.
  • 2 tblspn Chili Powder
  • 6 Bay Leaves.
  • 2 tspn ground Cinnamon.
  • 1 tspn Allspice.
  • 2 tspn Cayenne Pepper.
  • 1 tblspn Hershey’s Unsweetened Cocoa (not chocolate drink mix).
  • 1 tblspn very fine ground Coffee (don’t use instant stuff).
  • 1 tspn coarse ground Black Pepper.
  • Simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours and stir so that nothing burns or sticks to the bottom of the pot. Toss out the bay leaves and serve in 5 different ways:
      One Way - Plain Chili
      Two Way - Chili on Spaghetti
      Three Way - Chili on Spaghetti, with grated Cheddar Cheese on top.
      Four Way - Chili on Spaghetti, with grated Cheese and diced Onions on top.
      Five Way - Chili and Kidney beans, on Spaghetti, with Cheese and Onions.
    (If you want beans for your chili, read on).

    Side Orders

    Frijoles Negros Exquisitos
    Just in case you don’t know what the heck I’m talkin’ about, don’t sweat it. When you start readin’ and fixin’, you’ll figure it out real fast.
    This is what you’re gonna need:

  • 2 LB’s Black Beans (dry bulk beans, - don’t go huntin’ for cans)
  • 2 - large onions - chopped
  • 4 - cloves garlic - chopped
  • 2 or 3 dried New Mexico Chilies (2, if you ain’t used to ‘em, or 3, if you are) crumble them up.
  • 1 or 2 bay leaves (don’t rightly matter)
  • salt
  • Other stuff, if you want to get fancy: a side dish of raw chopped onions; cilantro; Jalapeno; grated jack cheese; sour cream; fried tortillas.
  • This is how you do it:
    Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover by about 3 inches.
    Next morning simmer the beans with onions, garlic, chilies and bay leaves about 1 ½ to 2 hours.
    Just be sure they’re tender without cookin’ em so much that they split open. If you cook ‘em gently, they won’t split. Don’t add any salt until the beans are done. And, you can pitch out the bay leaves when you’re done.
    These beans are good side dishes with Chili (I didn’t say in Chili, I said with Chili) and you can get fancy if you sprinkle some chopped onions and jack cheese over them, or serve with the other stuff I mentioned. And, don’t worry if you got too many, they’re better when they’re warmed over another time, or you can freeze ‘em, too.
    Anything Else?

    Consider This


    My Forest

           Were there no mosquitoes in the 40s and 50s? No Lyme Disease? Rabid attacking coyotes? Salmonella infected turtles? Swarms of killer bees?

           Apparently not, because I spent most of my free time in the woods in all seasons, in every kind of weather. It was never too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry for me to be exploring in the woods.

          I came from a rather dysfunctional family. There was constant Cut With A Knife tension in the air along with thick clouds of blue Lucky Strike smoke, all accompanied by the loud pleasured exhalings after the day’s first swig of Cutty Sark. Thus it was prudent for me to come home from school, feed my face, do my homework, call my beloved Springer Spaniel, Punch, and get outta Dodge. And I did.

           I was fortunate enough to have been raised in a home surrounded by acres of thick forest, enormous old trees, rocks, streams and everything a woodland loving kid could want. I roamed without fear throughout those miles of forest and often think if I went back today, and if those woods were still there and not buried beneath a parking lot, I know I could still walk everywhere in complete familiarity and safety. Every single thing there welcomed me. And to be honest, there are times, not many but some, when I still sort of yearn to do that.

          One time, when my imagination and fantasies really grabbed me, I dug a huge hole in the side of a hill and covered the opening with many woven pine branches, leaving a space for my face to peer through. It was where I decided I’d live forever, dining on foraged meals, and I knew if I stayed very still in my safe cave, I’d be able to see wildlife at work. Birds flew by, woodpeckers, owls, hawks, bluebirds, jays, crows, songbirds, and eventually a couple of chickadees actually landed on my outstretched hand that happened to have a few broken Saltine pieces in it. Shiny black and orange salamanders waited for me from under all the rocks in my forest when I bothered to crawl out of my cave. I once saw a beautiful opossum staggering comically toward the nearby stream’s edge. She had just risen from hibernation, glanced at me, I didn’t move, shook herself and continued on her way. Deer and pheasant, rabbits, racoons, red and grey squirrels passed my home in the hole, and once a family of sweet faced skunks. I watched an enormous snapping turtle lumbering through the woods looking for soft earth in which to lay her eggs. These wonderful animals all looked at me and I looked back but did not move, and in time they walked around the forest near me, fearlessly ignoring and accepting, my presence.

           I used to fantasize that I could live in the woods and totally sustain life if I just gathered lots of skunk cabbage and wild onions, birds’ eggs, frogs’ eggs, (yucko), the chewy insides of acorns. I knew how to suck the nectar from the honeysuckle blossoms and how delicious clover was, and I even knew certain leaves and grasses were lush, tender and edible. I knew these things because I used to own a treasured book that taught wanna-be back-to-nature folks how to dine on certain blossoms, wild berries, seeds, nuts and mushrooms, and even identifiable insects for protein sources. My book showed pretty accurate photos of the poisonous things to be avoided if one did not wish to drop to the floor of the forest after eating them to spend hours screaming in agony until death mercifully decided to stop by. I sure wish I still had that book but it’s been lost somewhere between my youth and old age. Not that I’d ever go out in my current back yard and begin foraging around for the evening’s salad, but back then, it was a magic book to me.

          And yet there was something enthralling about dying a dramatic and back-to-nature death while lying on the soft forest floor and staring up through the old, swaying trees. After all, I’d happily fallen asleep countless times while gazing up through the branches of those tall trees, and still to this day believe that trees have their own seductive, siren call as their leafy or piney branches reach and bend and undulate in the wind. Trees can sing you know, and for me it was and still is a spellbinding sound, distant and enchanting, like woodland harps.

           I knew how to make a fire in the wild because my father, a mighty hunter, woodsman and business geek taught me, but I always carried a small magnifying glass with me to use to start fires, with the sun’s help of course, its magnified rays aimed at a few dry leaves. That never failed to give me a small fire to warm my hands and feet during my early spring or fall meanderings.

          How dearly I wanted to be an all-nature-girl and to rely on the forest to supply me with all I needed to survive, but I also wasn’t entirely cray cray. I was always at least smart enough to carry a few packs of matches, and a lot of those big wooden ones that would strike on any surface. I mean if I was going to coddle those birds’ eggs in an old pot I’d had the foresight to hide behind a pile of rocks along with a couple of old tin plates, a cup, fork and big salt shaker, I did not want to spend too much time making fires when a couple of matches did the job in a few seconds. All that string and wood and flint nonsense to achieve one tired spark was far too labor intensive for me.

           And yes, fear not, I always stomped out all my fires and drowned them in spring water because I was also smart enough to do my forest thing next to a good water source. And oh my, that water was clear and cold and sweet and I did not ever even think about creatures doing whatever creatures do in streams. It just didn’t matter, and I never got sick.

          But how come I have zero memory of being bitten by mosquitoes? Touched by poison ivy? Stung by bees? Attacked by lurking carnivores? Bitten by anything? Looped at by evening bats? Chased by Bigfoot? Today I can’t walk to my mailbox without swatting countless mosquitoes or dive-bombing flies, and yet I cannot remember ever being assaulted by those beings as a kid. Was I that oblivious back then? When I go back there in memory (and I’m doing that a lot lately) I just can’t recall swarming mosquitoes or any other biting beasties when I walked all those miles through those quiet, beautiful, singing sighing woods. Weren’t they there? Or were they kind, and stayed away from me as I meandered? I do wonder about the wonder.

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    On Trek


    The Other Side of the Immortal Coin

          When a loved one passes over to become a spirit, invisible, in the realm of the universe, something we should keep in mind is their thinking is now very different than ours.

          My dad built his home and loved his property, his neighbors, and living there for 48 years gave him love and fulfillment of his life. You could say he was very much attached. It was like he was planted there with roots just like all his beautiful trees he adored. He loved his John Deere tractor,sooo much, I often thought he would have wanted that for his headstone!

          Daddy loved life, living, laughing, and he was connected to all in such a wonderful way. He passed in 2015. I wondered how he would react leaving his home to move into hospice. My brother walked him to the car, they were talking, Dad got in the passenger seat, and they drove out of the driveway, for my dad's last time, and daddy never looked back Russ said.

          Later,I was with dad in hospice, and he kept saying, I just want to experience the whole journey. Which he did.

          Watching and being with Pop till the end, I had observed a lot, and wanted to share how they truly feel on the other-side. Being a medium, I have talked to many that passed over, and their thinking is so different than ours here in the physical

          We constantly beat ourselves up over our own thinking. For example; We might say I know Dad is upset with me because I didn't do this..or that.. On the other side they don't think like that. When leaving here it is like the curtain dropping after a play. The play is over..,time to go home.

          Everyone played their parts well, it was great. Moving right along with the flow of the universe.

          At one point he asked me what I thought it was like after he passes, I said, “Dad, what do you think?”

          He said, very clearly, “I will become one with the universe." He raised his arm, twirled his hand around a few times with his finger pointing upward, and said, "ZIP..." moving his arm upward as he spoke. I couldn't have said it better myself.

          Those that pass with a healthy attitude of life, don't fear anymore. That in itself is huge. No fear. Wow. They no longer worry. They do think about their loved ones here in the physical, but they let us live our lives. They want us to know they are OK, they love us, and to enjoy our days here on earth. Find your joy and happiness, that is what makes the light glow brighter on the other-side of the Immortal coin. Love never fails.

          Judith 3-4-18

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    Squirrels Climbing

    I’m amazed
    At the sheer skill
    Of squirrels

    The tallest trees
    With ease,
    One paw at a time,

    Leaping from
    Bough to bough
    With no regard
    For gravity.

    On the feeder pole
    They place one leg here,
    One leg there,
    Clinging like a squid

    While rustling
    Breakfast, brunch,
    And supper

    It seems silly
    To admire them
    Just for being squirrels,
    But I did.

    ©2018, John I. Blair, 3/14/2018

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    Michigan's Beauty

    Michigan's Beauty, is seen everywhere
    Especially when, you're living there
    Upper and Lower Peninsula, it's a beautiful scene
    Water so blue, and land that is green

     Sunrise to Sunset, the colors dance around
    Captured by our camera, the sky and the ground
    Whether above or below, the Mackinac Bridge
    Summers are warm, and Winter is like a fridge

    Michigan's Nature, is a sight to behold
    Got to see it yourself, it won't work if you're told
    Experience the beauty, firsthand
    The birds and other creatures, across this great land

    The scenes that change, with every season
    To take in Michigan's beauty, is the very best reason
    Bring along your camera, take a great shot
    Sometimes the summers, can get pretty hot

    Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior
    Lakes of this land, the outdoors exterior
    Talk a walk in Michigan, on any day
    You'll see the beauty, in every way
    ©Feb 28, 2018 Bud Lemire
    Author Note:
    No matter where you live in Michigan, the
    beauty is amazing to see. Sunrise and sunset
    on the water, lighthouses, the creatures that
    live here, the sky, the weather and its changes.
    The Autumn colors, the Winters snow, and so
    much more. Anyone living here, can appreciate
    the beauty of Michigan.

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    What A Trip It Has Been

    What a trip it has been,
    Growing older every day,

    Enjoying spring and summer,
    Fall, and winter sun,

    Watching wrinkles spread
    And hair go gray,

    Seeing the boy I used to hold
    Cherish children of his own.

    I know full well
    This journey has its ending

    But feel blessed in every way
    To be on it, not yet done.

    ©2018 John I. Blair, 3/24/2018

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    Grandma's Funeral

    They came to her Funeral, for the final farewell
    She's gone to Heaven, after going through hell
    The one person she loved, just wasn't there
    She didn't realize, she was unaware

    How could she know, her Grandma never died
    Her soul is in a universe, that is very wide
    Although in physical form, she wasn't here
    If she listened closely, to the whisper in her ear

    “Dear sweet Granddaughter, if only you knew”
    “I'm with you often, the afterlife is true”
    “Shed those tears, that I see are falling”
    “The Angels guided me, and I heard them calling”

    “How can I make you, understand this”
    So the Grandmother in spirit, gave her a kiss
    She looked around, but didn't feel any fear
    As she wondered about, what had happened here

    It was a strong tingle, she felt it all at one time
    But she knew for sure, she wasn't losing her mind
    As she looked around, without even a word
    “I'm always with you” was what she heard
    ©Mar 22, 2018 Bud Lemire
                            Author Note:
    When our loved ones pass away, we miss their
    physical presence. But they are always around
    and know exactly what we are going through.
    Their love for us never ends, just as our love for
    them never ends. We have their love for an eternity,
    just as they have ours.

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    Planting Wood Phlox

    Today I planted wood phlox,
    My promise to the future
    That spring will come again.

    There’s a vacant lot along a street
    I drive several times a week
    Where wood phlox bloom.

    They’ve bloomed each March
    Ever since I moved to Texas
    Half a hundred years ago

    And bloomed no doubt
    Before I came,
    Will be blooming when I’m gone.

    They’re not native to this place
    So someone must have planted them
    On a sunny day like this

    In hope of pleasure for themselves
    And maybe for their children
    In future Springtimes.

    I wonder if they guessed
    That I’d be getting joy
    From what they did that day,

    That in another century
    I’d be planting wood phlox,
    Remembering their act of faith.

    ©2018 John I. Blair, 3/24/2018

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    He Left Her

    He left her counting reasons
    He left her sipping wine
    He left her on sinking floor boards
    He left her not knowing why

    He left her eyes like diamonds
    He left her falling apart
    He left her in fading emotions
    He left her in the dark

    Can she climb out of this
    Or is she in too deep, and so over it
    He left her close to the wire
    He left her tears in her eyes

    He left her willing to conspire
    He left her not willing to try

    He left her eyes like diamonds
    He left her in the dark
    He left her counting roses
    He left her with a broken heart

    ©3/3/18 Bruce Clifford

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    Hello Quince

    Hello quince,
    Hello daffodils and pansies,
    Dandelions, henbit,
    Wild plums,

    I hail your grit
    That blooms each spring
    For endless years
    Despite the cold
    The night,

    True as long
    As genes allow
    To celebrating life
    And the holy writ
    Of its survival.

    ©2018 John I. Blair, 3/1/2018

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    A Distant Memory

    She had a hard time waking up
    Remembering the night when she fell in love
    A love that never ran too deep
    Now a distant memory

    She had a hard time seeing the light
    Years gone by trying to get love right
    A heart that never skipped a beat
    Now a distant memory

    Now it seems so long ago
    When the wind was in her hair
    The chaos in her mind
    Reaching out beyond each cloud
    Beyond the point of endless doubts

    She had a hard time believing the truth
    Memories of missing latitudes
    A kiss she thought would never fade away
    Now it’s an everlasting scar of being betrayed

    A love that never ran too deep
    When everlasting love seems out of reach
    There was once a place for you and me
    Now its a distant memory
    Now a distant memory

    She had a hard time waking up
    Not knowing if she had a chance at love
    A love that runs so deep
    Now a distant memory

    ©3/2/18 Bruce Clifford

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    God’s Image

    I surmise that when god made
    Each animal, plant or planet,
    Virus, fiery star, bacteriophage,

    God whispered to it then
    (In a way each understood)
    “I made you in my image”

    And that surely was the truth
    As god revealed it.

    ©2018 John I. Blair, 3/28/2018

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    Up in The Clouds

    Up in the clouds
    On her way to unknown things
    Thinking out loud
    Wondering what this day will bring

    Figuring this out
    Approaching a fork in the road
    Whatever’s not allowed
    She was always told

    Up in the clouds
    On her way to unknown things
    The past covered in a shroud
    Tomorrow a new song sings

    ©3/6/18 Bruce Clifford

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    Strangers on A Path

    We are two strangers
    Meeting here upon our path,
    One going west,
    One going east;
    Likely we won’t pass again.

    But there’s no good need
    We should not at least
    Give each other smiles
    And friendly greeting
    Ere we part.

    ©2018 John I. Blair, 3/2/2018

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    The Spit

    Let's do The Spit
    There's nothing to it
    Just move your head
    And get out of bed

     Cough it all up
    A little is not enough
    Let's see that phlegm fly
    Let's see it go bye bye

    When you're feeling sick
    And it's all yucky and ick
    Why don't you spit a gob
    Have some tissue, so you're not a slob

    Get it all out, so it's not there
    When it's all gone, breathe the nice air
    Easy it will soon be
    When the thick snot is gone from thee

    With head over the toilet, or a spittoon
    Spit up the mess, and it will be gone soon
    Just move around, let's do The Spit
    It's easy if you try, there's nothing to it
    ©Mar 15, 2018 Bud Lemire
                            Author Note:
    Spit up all that phlegm and soon you will
    feel much better.

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    All About Lent, Easter Dates


    All About Lent, Easter Dates
    Such Things You May
    May Not Want to Know
    I'm Letting You Know Anyway

    How come Lent, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday all fall on different dates every year, you wonder.

    Well, after looking in Catechisms, Lists of Movable Feasts, and all sort of Christian/Catholic literature, and finally the Naval Observatory, I found the answer. And, WOW, is it complicated!

    Easter Sunday is the Sunday following the Paschal (pronounced PAS' KUL) Full Moon. That was a new one, even I, being a seminarian (for a while, way back when) never knew about. Of course the Pope and Cardinals really never let me in on that one. So as I grew up, Ash Wednesday, fast-days, meatless Fridays, all the Lenten stuff, and Easter (including the bunny) just, more or less, showed up each year without much thought.

    So, let's start with that thing called a Paschal Full Moon, PFM for short, and I am glad they put in the word 'Full' which indicated PFM had nothing to do with any sort of syndrome, whatever (see Christian prayer books for proof of this concise definition). This particular kind of Moon, is the first Full Moon that follows March 21 or the equinox. And, the first Sunday after that occurrence is Easter Sunday. Now that was fairly easy, right?


    We also know, or think we know, that Lent has 40 days. Well, it does in a way, but if that were so, how come Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, falls on a Wednesday? A good question, and here is the answer to that one. For one thing the church says Lent ends on Holy Thursday at the Mass of the Last Supper, not on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Well that didn't bring us back to a Wednesday either, so a simple way to get to the date for Ash Wednesday is to count back 40 days from Easter Sunday, without counting the rest of the Sundays in between and you will end up with Ash Wednesday falling on Wednesday actually 46 days earlier.

    See how easy that was. Well, actually way back in the early church Sunday was a sort of holy day where nobody did much of anything, so Sundays were not counted as regular days.

    So, now that we got that cleared, Easter Sunday is the Sunday following the (PFM) date for the year and Ash Wednesday is actually 40 days earlier than Easter if we don't count the Sundays. And, if we follow all those directions we see that Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday. Now we have 3 dates established.

    But, you ask, "How in hell do we find the PFM every year?"

    The answer to that is that way back in the early church, before telescopes, before astronomical mathematics, and yes, even before such things as general science was not required to graduate high school; the so called 'learned men' of the church sort of looked up at the sky and found the first full moon after March 20. Of course the reason for at first being March 20 is that at the time 325 AD (which at that time was not known as 325 AD) the equinox fell on March 20. when they started to figure all this nonsense out.

    In June 325 A.D. astronomers approximated astronomical full moon dates for the Christian church, calling them Ecclesiastical Full Moon (EFM) dates. From 326 A.D. the PFM date had always been the EFM date after March 20.
    From 1583, after Pope Gregory and his henchmen changed the calendar to make up for all the days it was off since Caesar did it over 1500 years earlier, we find that each PFM date differs from an Astronomical Full Moon (AFM) date usually by no more than 1 day, and never by more than 3 days. (Each AFM is a two-dates event due to world time zones. Each PFM is a one-date event worldwide) Ya'll are gettin' this so far I hope, 'cause. I ain't doin' this again next year.

    The rule is that Easter is the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon (EFM) that occurs on or after March 21. And, if we find Easter we can find everything else, I hope.

    So, now that I found out all this, I wondered how to really figure it all out for next year or for that matter any year. Well for that I looked around at all sort of Astronomy stuff and found the Naval Observatory (wow are they smart folks). They had a formula for all this nonsense. And, the guy who figured it out says it will work at least up till 4099 AD just in case you want to plan on future festivities, whenever.

    The lunar cycles used by the ecclesiastical system are simple to program. The following algorithm will compute the date of Easter in the Gregorian calendar system. All variables are integers and all remainders from division are dropped. The algorithm takes the year, y, and yields the month, m, and day, d, of Easter.

    The symbol * means multiply, this symbol / means divide:
      C = y / 100,
      N = y - 19 * ( y / 19 ),
      K = ( C - 17 ) / 25,
      i = C - C / 4 - ( C - K ) / 3 + 19 * N + 15,
      i = i - 30 * ( i / 30 ),
      i = i - ( i / 28 ) * ( 1 - ( i / 28 ) * ( 29 / ( i + 1 ) )
      * ( ( 21 - N ) / 11 ) ),
      J = y + y / 4 + i + 2 - C + C / 4,
      J = J - 7 * ( J / 7 ),
      L = i - J,
      m = 3 + ( L + 40 ) / 44,
      d = L + 28 - 31 * ( m / 4 ).
    So lets try it out:
    For example, using the year 2010, y=2010, c=2010/100=20 where we dropped the remainder. n=2010-19x(2010/19)=15, etc. with Easter on April 4, 2010.

    The algorithm for computing the date of Easter is based on the algorithm of Oudin (1940). It is valid for any Gregorian year, y. All variables are integers and the remainders of all divisions are dropped. The final date is given by m, the month, and d, the day of the month.

    Now, I know ya'll ain't mathematicians, or for that matter brain surgeons either, so in order that ya don't use up all of Lent trying to figure days out by the above formula there is a page to go to that does it for you. See how nice I am. Go to this page (DATES) and you will find the dates for the next few thousand years.

    Ya'll have fun in Lent with your spare time and now that you know when Easter is gonna' be even in your ol' age, ya'll can sit back an' relax for the next several years. For me, I guess I will have to spend the next 10 or 12 months figuring out something new to write about February, Lent, Easter or whatever.

    Leo C. tha's me.

    Editor's Note: Reprint of the excellent article by the late Leo C. Helmer telling how the date for Easter is determined. Other works by him including his cooking column can be accessed by clicking his byline at the top of the page.

    Were You There?

          Here we go again. What is it about us, not all of us of course, but some, what is it that makes us insist when we learn about people who are in nearly impossible predicaments, that after our initial shock and concern, we begin to start acting tough and judgmental, insisting that the victims “could have escaped their problem if they’d just tried.” Really? You know this? You were there?

           We’re doing it again with those 13 Turpin kids in Perris CA who were discovered chained to furniture, starved for both food, humanity and knowledge. Everyone has heard of them, and what their parents did to them. Can any of us imagine what their lives were like? And yet typically, at first we’re horrified about what happened to those precious young people, so starved for good food they were thin and stunted in too many ways. Now that our sympathy button has been pushed, we’re over it, and right on cue, we start to say, “Well, in all those years, at least one of them could have escaped. One of those kids even went to college and yeah, his mother drove him and picked him up. But he could have told someone and saved his siblings. He was in class. He should have told his teachers.” Oh? No kidding! How smart we are. What a perfect solution to a problem about which we know absolutely nothing. Do any of us have a clue what that young college student was told would happen to him if he tried to escape, or to tell anyone what was happening at home? Were you there? I wasn’t. He was clearly so brain-washed he likely thought all kids were raised the way he was. And yes, eventually a sister did make it out and told, and she was believed, and those kids are now saved, if years of adjustment, building up their physical bodies, and therapy, can even begin to save them.

           Remember Patty Hearst? I do. Yes, we were all sympathetic and horrified at the time of her kidnapping by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 from her apartment in Berkeley, CA when she was 19. The kidnappers had big plans for Patty who was the granddaughter of the mega wealthy William Randolph Hearst. And right on schedule after a respectable period of time, short, we started again with the, “Oh she could have escaped. She had plenty of opportunities. She just didn’t want to.” Really? She “could” have escaped? Do we know what those people told her while she was chained to a toilet for weeks? Do we know how they bent her mind? Do we know how she suffered? Do any of us know the psychology of why captured, tortured and tormented people often bond with their oppressors? Is it that these victims come to utterly depend on them for survival, food, shelter, protection and friendship? Do you actually know these things? I don’t. Were you there?

          Let’s not forget young Elizabeth Smart, from Salt Lake. Remember her? Kidnapped at knife point at age 14 from her bedroom, raped every single day by a low-life monster whose wife was complicit, and yet I’ve heard and read people saying, “Oh please, she had plenty of opportunities when she could have run. That couple let her walk freely everywhere with them. She was in plain sight, for God’s sake. All she had to do was shout or run. I sure would have. She could have escaped dozens of times.” Seriously folks? You know that absolutely? Impressive. Do any of us have a clue what that poor, terrified and debased child suffered? You were there?

           And let’s consider the Jews and all the other millions murdered during the Holocaust. I’ve lived a long time and I’ve heard people, after they expressed the obligatory horror of course, say stupid things like “Well, after all, there were only a few guys, OK Nazis, with guns and there were countless thousands of people being marched to the gas chambers. No one could have run? No one could have stepped up?” Really folks? Would you have? A few did, many of them died, and not easily. Who of us can possibly even begin to know how it feels to be shoved into a railroad car stuffed with far too many people, starving, thirsty, terrified, cold, eventually to be gassed, murdered along with their children, their beloved family members? I can’t even begin to imagine it. And that was just the beginning of the horrors awaiting them. Would I have taken a stand and attempted to rescue thousands of people from a few Nazis with guns? No. Would you? I seriously doubt it. I was not there. Were you?

           Now let’s talk about young people who murder their abusive parents. How many times have you heard people say, “there is never an excuse for killing. Sure, maybe things were bad but he/she could have told someone, a school counselor, a teacher or priest. I know I’d have done that. I’d never have killed my father just because he got a little rough with me.” No kidding? Really? Are you quite serious? Hey people, maybe they did tell. Maybe they were not believed. Sometimes people who hear these things react by saying “Oh yeah? Well if this so-called abuse is happening to you, then prove it!” And the abused of course, is deeply afraid and cannot ”prove it.”

           News flash folks; sometimes, some extreme times, killing is the only way to escape and survive lives of unspeakable violence. You say you’d never do that. Are you absolutely sure? Do you positively know that? If we would only just hear these kids and even better, believe them, when they describe the horrific things family members did and do to them, and what their honored parents promised would happen if they told, but we so often don’t, or won’t, hear. It’s a whole lot easier that way. We decide they’re making it all up and so we punish them for finally protecting themselves, even when we have all the gruesome facts of the abuses heaped upon them. We say it’s an over-active imagination. We say they’re doing it for attention. We say crazy things like, “Oh I’ve known those parents for 30 years and there is no way they could possibly be doing those things to their kids, no way! We’ve had barbeques at each other’s homes, for heaven’s sake. No, not possible. They are lying,” forgetting yet once again that what happens to people behind closed doors is often at polar opposites to what happens in public. Tell me, were you there when a parent was routinely beating his child half to death on a daily basis for some stumbling shortcoming? I wasn’t. But I believe them. Why can’t we do that?

           Those powerful words --- should, would, could—folks, we weren’t there. Why can’t we get that part? We don’t know what indescribable things were forced into the minds and hearts of these desperate victims. It is clear I am not a therapist but I wonder if it somehow soothes us and makes us feel a lot better when we hear of these horrifying atrocities inflicted on often helpless people, even very young children, if we convince ourselves that the fault lies with the victim, that “all he had to do was run/shout/call someone/send a note/flag down a cop, anything,” etc. etc. Maybe that’s it. Maybe blaming those foolish, short-sighted victims lets us not have to deal with what happened to them. Maybe it’s easier for us to think and say, “It’s their own fault.” So many of us will drone, “Well, if that happened to me, I’d have escaped. I’d have run. I’d have fought back. They would never have known what hit them. There’s no way they’d have gotten away with that if they’d done those things to me. No way.” Does blatting out all those big tough swaggering words make them true? Not in my world. Disbelieving these victims can make them valueless, and they are anything but. Yeah, we’re all armchair heroes.

          But again, tell me, do you really know the answers? Were you there? I wasn’t.

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