DECORATIVE TOWELS: THE FARCICAL CUSTOM

Posted: August 18, 2014 in Humor

There’s a custom in America, and I suspect a few other countries, to place useful things on a useful space in a useful room and then to issue an edict throughout the house, stating that such things are hereby off-limits, rendering those things useless.

The custom of placing decorative towels on a hook or a rack or upon a shelf next to the dried flowers or above the wicker basket that holds the decorative soaps that we are not allowed to use has been going on for at least three generations, testing the self-discipline of children — and grown men — since the end of the depression.  

decorative towels

Look, but don’t touch… and by God, keep your damn hands off my flower, too.

In my house, such towels often become the magnet for the toothpaste left over after tooth-brushing regimens, the streaks of white or blue evidencing the failed self-discipline of a teenager living under this roof.  I, as a grown man, would certainly never do such a thing.  I always wait until three or nine months of dust has accumulated on my decorative towels before deciding to wash them.  I wouldn’t even think of forcing the issue by wiping the corner of my mouth with one of them.

I’m thinking of installing a second toilet in my bathroom.  It’ll be right along side the other one, but I’ll put a pretty purple bow upon it and then I’ll issue a new house rule:

“No pooping in the decorative toilet.”  

I mean, really… look how beautiful it is.

Photo courtesy of Bestdesignersresources.com

TEARS AND SORROW EMBEDDED IN MYTH AND SONG

 

“Thirteen hundred died that day…

It took ten good men just to dig the graves.”

There’s an old song that tells the legendary tale of an American Civil War battle fought a week after the war’s end.  “Dry Run Creek” has been played perhaps ten thousand times by over a thousand artists,

“They buried them shallow, they buried them deep…

They buried them next to Dry Run Creek.”

The song has long been a favorite of bluegrass fans and civil war enthusiasts alike, but is there any truth behind the lyrics?

“Well, they weren’t just blue and they weren’t just gray,

Death took no sides when it came that day.

They laid them down side by each

They placed no stones at their head or feet.

And their mommas cried…

Oh my Lord, how their mommas cried…”

Dry Run Creek runs through the Ozark Mountains, spurring from the gorgeous Norfolk Lake, which is constantly drawing tourists and fishermen to the town of Mountain Home, Arkansas.  The creek boasts beauty, clarity, and, if you’re mobility impaired or under the age of 16, an amazing trout fishing experience.  What it does not boast is a civil war cemetery with 1300 unmarked graves.

Dry run creek

Dry Run Creek, Arkansas

There is also a Dry Run Creek in Iowa and a “Dry Run Creek Cemetery” in Boise, Idaho.  Need we even discuss these?

The song “Dry Run Creek” is often credited to the McPeak Brothers Band, or, more directly, to bluegrass legend Larry McPeak, one of the original VW Boys.  A fine version of the song, covered by “The Seldom Scene,” can be found here:

http://grooveshark.com/#!/search/song?q=The+Seldom+Scene+Dry+Run+Creek

But the McPeak boys were Virginians, not Arkansans… so any motivation for local legend can be ruled out.  Some believe the song’s title is from a combination of the Battles of Bull Run and Wilson’s Creek.

“The war’d been over for about a week

But word hadn’t gotten to Dry Run Creek.

They fought and died right to the end

A battle that should have never been…”

Wherever you might believe the origins of the song came from, the number “1300” should give a clue as to the validity of the story.  Although 1300 is not a high casualty amount for a civil war battle, it would be an extremely high number of killed for a battle fought after the surrender at Appomattox.

By comparison, the battle fought at Palmito Ranch, considered to be the last major engagement of our civil war, is well documented and known by anyone who claims to be a true civil war buff.  It was fought in Cameron County, Texas on May 12th and 13th, 1865, more than a full month after Lee surrendered to Grant in Virginia.

The casualty count at Palmito Ranch?  Four killed, 18 wounded, 104 captured.

Likewise, the Battle of New Orleans is submerged in legend and folklore for being fought more than two weeks after the War of 1812 had ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.

How many died during the Battle of New Orleans?  440 or so, depending on your source.

A battle that saw 1300 die would see at least twice that many wounded, another gross or two captured, and if it had been fought after the end of a war it would be forever seared into the minds of generations to come.

Still, it’s a darn good song.

Thank you to my new friend and fellow blogger, David Zethmayr, for inspiring this topic.  You can find his blog here:

http://earfirst.wordpress.com

SOURCES:

Arkansas.com

Bluegrasstoday.com

Grooveshark.com

Ibluegrass.com

Cedarwoodslodge.com

Encyclopedia Britannica

YOUR VENTING RECEPTACLE

Posted: August 9, 2014 in Life

I can be your lightning rod

Life is full of ups and downs, certainly.  Those around us, in the physical world as well as the virtual world, have an uncanny knack for making us feel small.  Sometimes we all need an emotional piggy back ride to get us through an event, a day, an hour, a moment.

trixienirma

Irma the schnauzer, supporting her friend, Trixie

 

What’s got you down today?  Is something eating at you?  Who went and made you feel small?

Go ahead and tell me.  I’ll be your sponge, your receptacle, your lightning rod, your schnauzer.  Go ahead… you may feel better for the effort.

THIS BLOGGER LIVES!

Posted: June 18, 2014 in Blogging
Tags: , ,
Schlehlein offers no apologies for his absence

 

This blog is being written to acknowledge the fact that I haven’t blogged for more than a month.  I’m sure you’re all very disappointed.  Shame on me.

I’ve noticed that when other WordPress bloggers don’t write for a while they tend to apologize to the public for their absence, explaining away their lack of attention with such excuses as work, family, writer’s block, vacations, medical emergencies, etc.

Do you care why I haven’t blogged for more than 30 days?

I, too, have been tempted to apologize to my followers for not giving them something to read over their breakfast.  While constructing this post in my head over the last 24 hours most of my opening sentences have begun with, “I’m sorry for not blogging lately, but…”

I won’t do it.  I find apologizing for not blogging to be among the most pretentious actions that an amateur writer can do.  I have no delusions that anyone would deem what I have to say to be so important that an apology would be necessary for the absence of writing.

That said, I hope you missed me.  I’ll try to do better in the future.

CHAPTER 28

An excerpt from an unpublished novel of our civil war
SUBJECT TO SOME MAJOR EDITING

 

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

          July 1, 1863

             10:30 am

 

 They’d been ordered to lie down in the field by Lt. Colonel Dawes, who was in command of the regiment, as Colonel Bragg had been kicked in the foot by a horse a few weeks back and was recuperating in Washington.  The regiment was being held in reserve as the rest of the brigade went into action against the Rebel line in the woods ahead of them.  The brigade had hurried forward on the run, the Sixth Wisconsin being the last regiment in the order of march for the day, rushing to gain a position on the left flank of the brigade, which was hastily moving en echelon into the woods to the west.  They ran into the trees and disappeared into the undergrowth, no longer visible to the men of the Sixth.

Suddenly, an aide galloped up to Dawes and had spoken hurriedly to him, causing the commander to order the regiment to lie down in the field as they were now.  Gunfire erupted in a tremendous crash from the woods as the rest of the brigade ran headlong into the rebel line.

“Something’s wrong.” Arlis said, lying prone in the field.

Bath, who lay to the immediate right of Arlis, said, “Why?”  His head flailed from side to side, franticly scanning the scene before them.  He was wide-eyed.  “What’s going on?”

“That aide that rode up to the colonel is Lieutenant Marten, one of Doubleday’s aides,” Arlis said, loud enough for most of the men around him to hear.  “Something must have happened to Reynolds if Doubleday is giving the orders.”  Reynolds, a very competent Pennsylvanian, commanded the First Corp.  He was in command of three divisions, containing seven infantry brigades and a brigade of artillery.

  Arlis watched as the commander of the brigade guard, which consisted of about one hundred men, briefly met with Lt. Colonel Dawes and then split the guard into two, fifty man companies, ordering each to lie down on the flanks of the Sixth, one company per side.  This strengthened the regiment to 340 men and officers, which was less than thirty-five percent of the strength that they’d mustered in at Camp Randall two years prior.  The Sixth Wisconsin was now the only regiment that was not yet engaged in all of Wadsworth’s division, consisting of the Iron Brigade and Cutler’s Brigade, which was made up of four New York regiments, a Pennsylvania regiment, and an Indiana regiment.  Cutler’s Brigade was already in action on the right flank of the Iron Brigade.

“We’re in reserve?” Bath asked, irritation in his voice.  “Why the hell don’t they let us in on the left of the twenty-fourth?”

“Relax, Tubber,” Arlis said, using the nickname that the company had bestowed on Bath.  Bath… Bathtub… Tub… Tubber.  He looked sideways at Bath, “Usually they use the regiment that’s in reserve to plug the line where the action is hottest.  Be careful what you wish for, Private.  You’re gonna see action today.  The whole damn Rebel army is out there somewhere.”

Another aide approached the mounted Dawes on horseback.

“That’s Lieutenant Jones,” Arlis said.  “He belongs to Doubleday, too.”

“How do ya know,” Bath bellowed, attempting to be heard over the gunfire.

Arlis spun his head wildly toward Bath and yelled angrily, “Because I pay attention, Bath.  Open your eyes and shut your mouth now!”

Dawes turned and passed the order down the chain of command.  Captain Ticknor, now the commander of Company K, passed it to his men.

“On your feet, men…”

 

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Soldiers of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry Regiment

According to “Wisconsin losses in the Civil War” compiled by Charles Edward Estabrook, 1915, 275 of the 1203 soldiers of the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment died while serving. 105 were killed in action; 62 died of wounds; 62 died from disease. One died in a fall less than a month before Gettysburg. Other sources differ slightly, but most are comparable. Wikipedia says the regiment saw 315 total deaths.

These numbers do not include those who were wounded and survived. They also don’t show those that were wounded multiple times, perhaps as many as three or four, before finally succumbing or being no longer fit for duty and sent home.

In a war that saw one soldier in ten killed in action and one soldier in three die of disease, the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment suffered 3.4 soldiers killed for every one that died of disease. It was through their blood that they forged their iron.

Included among the deaths from disease is John A Thompson, who is listed in the roster as being simply from “Wisconsin.” Thompson was murdered sometime in March of 1864. If anyone has more information on that story, please share!

THE LAW, THE CONSEQUENCES, AND ENTITLEMENTS

 

Oh hell, cherries on the car behind me.  He can’t be after me, can he?

Yes, he can… and is.  He’s definitely coming after me.

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Last February, and for the first time in sixteen years, I got a speeding ticket.  A deputy for the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department pegged me doing 51 in a 35 MPH zone while I was delivering pizzas.  He pulled me over and wrote me a citation.  Bummer.

I was guilty, no bones about it.  I was speeding and deserved to be punished in whatever fashion my community deemed necessary.  In this case, the community demanded $119 and 4 points.  Fair enough.  Most communities would want more.  I paid the ticket two weeks later — well before the due date — and withheld any rights I might have about fighting it or getting my punishment reduced.

As a long-time member of our local fire department, I have almost daily contact with the police in my local village.  Although I would consider a couple of them as friends of mine, I have no expectations about what might happen should I get pulled over by one of them.  I would never ask any of these officers to let me off just because of my job… even as I would be hoping upon hope that they would do so without any asking (begging) or prompting by me.

Sometimes, while responding to ambulance calls that are outside of my village, I have contact with county deputies who respond to the scene to assist EMS.  I know quite a few deputies by name because of this.  I don’t claim to know any of them well.

I had never before met Deputy M_______ before he pulled me over last February.  If I had, perhaps he would have recognized me, told me to slow down, and let me off with a verbal warning.  Deputy M_______ was professional, kind, and polite even as he was explaining that he was giving me a citation. He wrote me up and I drove back to the pizza store, ready to continue in my quest to deliver hot, fresh food to hungry customers.

I would have (nearly) forgotten about this whole episode by now, and I certainly would have no reason to blog about it, if something unusual hadn’t occurred just four days after my contact with the deputy.

I ran into him on an EMS call.

We went about our business, doing what each of us was expected to do.  Ten minutes later, I approached him.

“Hello Deputy M______,” I said.  “I’ll bet ya didn’t expect to see me again so soon.”

This sentence was carefully calculated.  I was testing him on whether or not he’d remember the pizza guy in a different environment.  Shamed as I am to admit, I wanted to knock him off-kilter.  As much as I respect cops, it was still “too soon,” I guess, and when I sensed his discomfort in not remembering me, I felt smug.  *Smirk*

“So soon?” he asked, “I haven’t assisted (your department) in a long time.”

I stared at him for a moment, pretending to be in a state of disbelief.  Then I said, “You wrote me up for speeding a few days ago.  You remember… the pizza guy…”

What I wanted to say was, “You haven’t tested for detective yet, have you?”  I was hoping that my face was conveying that very question to him at that exact moment.  Shameful, I know.  If I had been in his place, and he in mine, I wouldn’t have remembered me either.  Still, it was in my blood that day to be bitter.  I bit my tongue.

“Oh, sure,” said Deputy M_______.  “You didn’t tell me you were on the fire department.”

Pause the story right here.

You know how you have moments in your life that you re-live over and over, brainstorming on all of the things that you might have said, could have said, should have said, but you didn’t say them because you didn’t have enough time to think things through?

“You didn’t tell me you were on the fire department.”

Image

This is a “MATRIX” moment, where everything stops and I have an infinite amount of time to dwell upon everything that is wrong with that statement and then an equal amount of time to set Deputy M______ straight in how he sees the world.

 Instead, I said, “Would it have made a difference?”  Shit.  Lame.

“Maybe,” he said.

Last I checked, he and I didn’t know each other.  I was completely annoyed.  How many things were running through my head at that moment?  Not nearly as many as I would have liked.

Why didn’t it make a difference that I was delivering pizzas instead of running EMS?  Did it make a difference that I went 16 years without a traffic violation?  Would it have made a difference if I’d have told him that I have two girls at home that I’m trying to feed and clothe and put college money away for?  Would it have made a difference if I said the rent was a month late because we’re trying to put $7,200 toward a Disney World trip later this year?

“I’ll pay the damn ticket,” I said.

Do all writers lose their minds?  Surely not, but if such a high number of the famous ones go mad, I’m guessing that an even higher percentage of the lesser known writers tinker in madness.

Way before I even dreamed of writing professionally I had a certain fascination with the lunacy of the world’s great writers.  Talents like Petronius, Pound, Hemingway, and Nietzsche, who, for valid reasons or not, descended into madness, shortening their lives and their portfolios, forever robbing the world of what might have been.

Woolf.  Mayakofsky, Pavese.  Berryman.

It’s no secret that writers are susceptible to severe depression.  There are even surveys and studies that say so -

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/dec/13/writers-depression-top-10-risk

http://www.elizabethmoon.com/writing-depression.html

Hans Christian Andersen. Truman Capote. Charles Dickens. Henry James.

Does one need to be depressed to be a writer, or does writing merely lead one into depression?

Celan.  Sexton.  Plath.  Brautigan.

In the publishing world of today, writer’s often find themselves spending more time in selling themselves to the public than they do in producing written material.  Blogging, queries, synopses, bios, blogging, queries, synopses, bios. Rejection, rejection, rejection.  All of this leads to more self-evaluation than is necessary for most people.  It is easy to see how one’s self-image gets tanked through the 21st century publishing process.

This leads me to believe that the problem writers face with depression may be greater than ever before.  Writers of past centuries were not nearly as exposed to criticism and rejection as the writers of today.

Gray.  Wallace.  Thompson.  Kane.

It is important to keep your perspective as a writer.  It is important to keep your perspective as a human being.  You are just one tiny element in a grandiose world of mortal objects.  We want to feel important, yet what we do is really not all that important, except to those that are closest to us while we’re here.

Sometimes, for perspective, I like to stop what I’m doing and spend a moment with one of my pets.

Image

Ashes, the EMS Cat, at age one.

Ashes doesn’t care if I get published.  She doesn’t care what I say as long as I’m not yelling at her.  She just wants me to feed her and stroke her fur once in a while… and she wants to be able to crap in a clean box of litter, too.

Sigh.

I’m still sane, at least for the moment.

Stay sane, writers.

Image

Capt Rufus R Dawes, CO K, 6th Wisconsin Volunteers

Mr. Dawes is quite a remarkable man. Forever cemented in the histories of the Iron Brigade, the affections of Mauston, WI natives, the leadership of the 6th Wisconsin, and the spirit of the “Lemonweir Minutemen,” Dawes wasn’t even a Badger by birth.

Like everyone else in early 1861, Dawes got swept up in the excitement of Lincoln’s call for Volunteers. Dawes, who happened to be in Mauston, Wisconsin with his father on extended business at the time of the firing on Fort Sumter, chose to raise a company of volunteers right there, rather than return to his home town of Marietta, Ohio to do so.

In a letter to his sister dated May 4, 1861, Dawes writes: “I have been so wholly engrossed with my work for the last week or I should have responded sooner to your question: ‘Are you going?’ If a kind Providence and President Lincoln will permit I am. I am Captain of as good, and true a band of patriots as ever rallied under the star-spangled banner.”

He’d get to lead them under that banner, too. At 2nd Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, and while covering the retreat of the Army after Chancellorsville. All the while, he lead from the front while enjoying an uncanny ability to come through battles unscathed, bringing to mind suggestions of the fortunes of Wyatt Earp and Captain Richard Winters, who had both had plenty of opportunities to die in fire fights but had escaped all of them unharmed.

“My Dear Mother,” he wrote home after Antietam, “I have come safely through two more terrible engagements with the enemy, that at South Mountain and the great battle of yesterday. Our splendid regiment is almost destroyed. We have had nearly four hundred men killed and wounded in the battles. Seven of our officers were shot and three killed in yesterday’s battle and nearly one hundred and fifty men killed and wounded.”

By Gettysburg, Dawes was a Lt. Colonel, leading the 6th Wisconsin in the absence of Colonel Edward Bragg, who was convalescing in Washington after being kicked in the foot by a horse. Here, he’d lead the regiment in the famed railroad cut charge, escaping unharmed while leading the 6th in capturing the entire 2nd Mississippi Regiment.

On July fourth, the day after the third day of Gettysburg, Dawes wrote to his fiance’, “The Sixth hast lost so far one hundred and sixty men. Since the first day we have lost only six. O, Mary, it is sad to look now at our shattered band of devoted men. Only four field officers in the brigade have escaped and I am one of them.”

Examining this last statement, there are typically three officers per company: a Captain, a 1st Lt, and a 2nd Lt. There are ten companies. 30 officers, ranked Captain or lower, plus the Colonel, Lt. Colonel, Major, and the Adjutant of each regiment. Since there were four regiments in the brigade, we’ll multiply the numbers by four and come up with 136.

Out of 136 field officers, the Iron Brigade had only four that were fit for duty on July 4, 1863. It would be most interesting to see what was going on in Lt. Colonel Dawes mind while he was drinking his coffee and writing his report in the rain on that day… which happened to be his 25th birthday, by the way.

Whether or not Dawes believed that he was being spared for higher purpose or not is not chronicled, but he certainly gave Providence credit for his survival. He’d lead the regiment again and again and again, at The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor.

To his wife, June 8, 1864, he wrote: “We came down here today, and are located on the left flank of our army, and we are at last out from under the fire of the enemy… it is impossible for one who has not undergone it, to fully understand the depression of spirits caused by such long, continued, and bloody fighting and work. Colonel (Edward) Bragg said yesterday: ‘Of all I have gone through, I cannot now write an intelligent account. I can only tell my wife that I am alive and well. I am too stupid for any use.'”

Dawes’ three year enlistment came up soon after. He would indeed go on to big things… including a stint in congress representing the 15th Ohio District.

In August of 1865 Dawes’ son, Charles G Dawes was born. He’d serve as Vice-President of the United States during the Coolidge administration


Source: 

“Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers,” by Rufus Dawes, 1890

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Today I’m grateful for reaching 1000 followers on WordPress, an experience that I find delightful and humbling. Thank you to each and every one of you for becoming a part of my writing life.

Peace and love to you and yours!