My great American buddy

by Cantinker Moss

Here is my good buddy. This guy has single-handedly (-pawedly?} changed my opinion about felines. Yes, there are cats with nasty dispositions, but they probably have their reasons.  And really, all animals have their particular traits. Wolves and mountain lions kill to eat, and even pit bulls are trained to fight, unfortunately.

But this guy…well, he’s definitely low maintenance. A can of Nine Lives, and he’s content.

So I want to introduce you to Gumball as he is known around the house. (Gumball is a popular cartoon cat) But to me, he’s known as Sgt. Rock—leader of Easy Company, otherwise known as the Combat Happy Joes. If he isn’t eating, you’ll find him on a chair in the living room…sleeping on my son’s bed…on a table next to me and my easy chair…or a bean bag chair in my den.  You’ll also find him stalking around the house in the middle of the night.  I guess he’s probably on one of his patrols looking for enemies.  Yep, you’ll find him in any of these places—that is if he isn’t in my lap when I’m not using my laptop.

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That’s my buddy—my little puma.

(I had to revise the photo of Sgt. Gumball because I lost it on a previous manuscript)

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From an American poet: Oh, Cheryl Sing

 

by Cantinker Moss

 

This poem was probably started more than thirty years ago, either just before or after I married my wife, Cheryl.  No matter how hard I tried, I never could get something of a finished product.

But after thirty-five years, I began to learn an array of things about my wife:  things she didn’t have to tell me…things I just saw.  And with this discovery, I came to learn some things about myself:  and many of them weren’t pretty.  I’m not so sure she wasn’t going through this herself, even though she never ever seemed the type to be guilty of much.  But she assured me that she was not perfect, and that she was also a piece in the Master’s grand puzzle.

So after many years we both came a little closer to understanding who each of us was;  so much that we found it would be very difficult to live without each other…whether we wanted guidance, consolation, or physical intimacy.  Even two tired shoulders to cry on.  Little did we know that a commitment that we made to each other in 1982, with some work from each of us, would yield something akin to a harvest.

Enough introduction.  Here is the poem and I am going to let it speak for itself.

 

You are my guardian angel,

My dear, forever friend,

A mother of our two sons,

A lioness for them.

But you have always been there,

Through storm, and less, and doubt,

Yet this is what my heart will say

When hope, we seem without.

 

Chorus:

Oh Cheryl sing!  Oh Cheryl sing!

I want to hear you sing!

Oh Cheryl sing!  Oh Cheryl sing!

I want to hear you sing! 

 

I saw you in the park one day,

Your voice rang out so true,

With an instrument of twelve strings,

Telling the story that you knew.

About the One, your truest friend,

And what He did for you.

The smallest voice seemed to make me

Want to be your friend and His friend too.

 

Chorus:

 

Oh barefoot girl on a riverbank,

With your father’s fishing pole,

Missouri sand pines and Kentucky bluegrass,

Feed heaven’ward praise aglow,

But I will never forget your deep, dark eyes,

And the smile that rings with life,

A long-haired angel in purest hues,

For eternity all, you are my wife.

 

Thank you.

 

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American celebrations: Derby Day

by Cantinker Moss

 

This will be short.  I want to get this down before the final odds are determined.  I’ve seen a lot of picks, and my, what a field of horses!

I am no professional odds-maker, and you may not subscribe to my amateur style of handicapping, but I am evaluating this race from the point of view of a casual observer.  And this is what I have come up with from observation over this last month of the racing season:

WIN  Mendelssohn  I simply cannot forget his victory in Dubai a month ago.  He’s “Irish,” he’s beautiful, and whenever he races, I hear the beginning of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s Italian Symphony—so free and exhilarating, and it fits this horse’s soundtrack.  I’ve had him from the first time I wondered who might win the Derby, and there he stays.

PLACE  Magnum Moon  I’ve heard too many good things about Magnum Moon to ignore him.  And they have all been very good.  I might’ve picked him to win if not for my affinity for Mendelssohn.

SHOW  Justify  Given his track record, you just have to give him his due, and besides, he’s a Baffert horse.  The problem is I just like Mendelssohn and Magnum Moon more, and still a favorite doesn’t always win the race.

 

Here are the post positions and odds for each of these horses according to Jason Frakes of the Louisville Courier Journal updated today (May 1, 2018) at 12:04 p.m. ET:

Justify  Post Position 7;  3-1 odds

Mendelssohn  Post Position 14;  5-1 odds

Magnum Moon  Post Position 16;  6-1 odds

 

Okay, that’s it from where I’m sitting.  I’m going to keep these picks for the Preakness Stakes, but I may make some adjustments for the Belmont.  I’ll be tuning in Saturday to hear the call on NBC.  Post time is 6:34 p.m. ET, and they should be off at 6:46 p.m. ET.  I hope all have a great time with their bourbon, juleps, and hot brown.  And may the ladies look fine in their hats.

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From an American poet: Big Red

by Cantinker Moss

Around this time each year, I begin to get excited about horse racing…thoroughbred horse racing.  In fact, a few weeks ago my wife and I headed down to central Kentucky and checked out the horse country around Lexington.  The sweeping vistas of grass, known scientifically as anything from Poa trivalis (rough bluegrass) to Poa pratensis L. (Kentucky bluegrass), and the white fences of Calumet Farm near Keeneland animated a kind of idyllic impressionism found on calendars and postcards.

If you look at the history of thoroughbred horse racing, you find many names that stir the emotions, particularly those who have won any race of the Triple Crown.  These include the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes.  Even more so are the names of the horses who have won all three races of the Triple Crown.  This includes perhaps ten or twelve in the over one hundred years of American competition.  One of the greatest of all racehorses is Man O’ War, who oddly did not win a Triple Crown, but was still the equine great of the golden age of sports in the 1920’s.  He won twenty of twenty-one races, and one by one hundred lengths.  It has been said that no other horse had a stride equal to his: twenty-eight to thirty feet.  Possibly equal to Man O’ War is Secretariat, winner of the Triple Crown in 1973.  In the troubled times of Watergate and Vietnam, Secretariat was a horse to gladly behold.  He won all his Triple Crown races decidedly; the final one at Belmont Park, New York, by thirty lengths.  And though the margin for victory for Man O’ War was higher, his was a match race (two horses) and that against an inferior challenger.  Secretariat raced against the greatest horses of his day, and under the greatest pressure and scrutiny.  Though purists may disagree, in my opinion, they both were the greatest in history.  They were also both known as “Big Red.”

Almost twenty years ago I wrote the following poem under a different name, close to the thirtieth anniversary of Secretariat’s Triple Crown triumph.  (Actually, I wrote it as a song, in the American folk tradition, and I would sing it accompanied by my five-string banjo, and my wife on guitar.)  In approximately two weeks, the Triple Crown season will begin with the Kentucky Derby:  a glorious celebration with hot brown, mint juleps, and ladies with beautiful big hats.  I have a good feeling about whom I would pick to win the Derby, though I have never bet on the race and probably won’t this time.  But this time of year has a way of reminding me of the greatest racehorse of my generation.  It is little wonder that they call it the “Sport of Kings.”

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Big Red

by Cantinker Moss

When you’re down ’round Bourbon County in that old Kentucky home

Where the fence posts frame the big sun as it sets,

There’s a big colt in the pasture up the road on to the west—

Faster than the rest—ol’ Big Red!

Chorus

Big Red, Big Red, Virginia-born and bred,

Running on ahead!—ol’ Big Red.

Big Red, Big Red, that is what they said:

Running on ahead!—ol’ Big Red.

Well, they talk of all the legends in this bluegrass land of lore:

Tenbrooks, Molly, and that Sea Biscuit.

And they raise ’em, and they train ’em so the folks will come and bet,

But seems they just admire that Big Red.

Chorus

And he traveled up to Louisville, the roses for to run,

In Baltimore, the doubts were laid to rest.

When Sham made his challenge near the sidewalks of New York

By thirty lengths he beat “em—ol’ Big Red.

Chorus

He was buried one October before the falling snow,

Though his big-hearted story isn’t dead.

And the papers wrote the praises of a Secretariat,

But we all knew him as ol’ Big Red!

Chorus

An American sweetheart: Ida Lewis

 

by Cantinker Moss

 

The other day it hit me.  It’s March!  No, I’m not thinking about the national college basketball tournament known as March Madness, but rather National Women’s History Month.  I got to thinking about women who have inspired me, and of course, first on my list is my wife, an RN for almost forty years.  What that woman has gone through to care for—or as is rightly implied, nurse the infirm and less fortunate should inspire anyone.  And if it were up to me, every nurse in history—from candy-striper (if they still exist) to nurse practitioner—should have people fall at their feet (not to mention receive a hefty pay increase), and then we all should confess what the world would be like without nurses.  To put it candidly, and let your imagination drift back to the Civil War, the world would literally be a bloody mess.

But my theme is not about a nurse.

It is about a tiny “slip” of a woman, as one person put it, barely over 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighing in at about 103 pounds.  She may have had compassion equal to any nurse, the courage of a Spartan warrior, the strength of a beast of burden, and the eye and resolve of any ship’s captain.  Scores of people in and around the harbor of Newport, Rhode Island were indebted to her.  As a result, she achieved rock star status for her time, received dozens of marriage proposals and entertained the company of notables such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Gen. William T. Sherman,  and President Ulysses S. Grant.

The woman is Ida Lewis, lighthouse keeper at Lime Rock, in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island.  Born in 1842, she was barely a teenager when she had to take over lighthouse and rescue duties from her father, Hosea, who had suffered a debilitating stroke.  An excellent swimmer, she also mastered the skills needed to turn a rowboat into an effective rescue craft.  She rowed everywhere:  her siblings to school and back to the island they knew as home; trips into Newport no doubt to acquire supplies because her mother was needed to attend to her invalid father; and of course, when necessary, to conduct a rescue.

It was not unusual for her to attend to victims larger than she was, and not getting the public attention that perhaps she deserved.  However, on March 29, 1869, with the help of her younger brother, she rescued two soldiers.  These men had hired a young man to row them to and from their destination.  The high winds and dangerous seas capsized the boat and drowned the man who rowed.  The soldiers might have met the same fate had not their rescuers been prompt, persistent and resourceful.  They were brought safely to the lighthouse.

Because these men were part of the military, official reports needed to be filed, and this led to a story about the rescue in the New York Tribune.  Though the rescue was extraordinary, Ida was humble enough to chalk it up to “another day’s work.”  The visitors began to come to Lime Rock—up to more than ninety a day, and yet Ida consistently kept to her work.  She had dozens of suitors and even married.  At this point, she left Lime Rock to live on the mainland with her husband,  Two years later, though, with the news of her father’s death, she moved back to Lime Rock never to leave again.  In 1881, she earned the United States Life-Saving Service Medal, and it is estimated that she may have saved between eighteen and twenty-five lives until 1911 when she, like her father, suffered a fatal stroke of her own.

Though distinguished for her life-saving career, Ida was on Lime Rock for another prominent reason.  Her attendance to the lantern in the second floor window of her house, could equally mean safety as any grip of her hand stretched out from her skiff to a drowning victim in the surf.  She referred to the lamp as her “child,” and twice a day she maintained the lamp reservoir with oil, trimmed the wick, and cleaned the glass necessary for a full brilliance so mariners could safely navigate into Newport Harbor.  In the morning, she would put out the light.


 

In 1971-75, I was a member of the United States Coast Guard.  During the last year of my active service, I was assigned to a light station off the coast of Massachusetts.  I knew nothing of Ida Lewis at the time.  But as a young twenty-two year old, I confess that I probably knew little of the purpose, which I shared with Ida Lewis.  I stayed up all night watching Charlie Chan and Boston Blackie movies, not to mention the early morning news-talk show.  I did yard work hoping that the property would not catch fire and plaster our throats with poison ivy residue.  We had a dog– part Lab and part Newfoundland who loved to stand at the bow of our Boston Whaler when it was underway.  We kept a radio—possibly VHF for communicating with the outside.  Our dock was actually a ramp, and it took skill, which our engineer definitely had, to aim the bow full throttle, and pull the outboard engine back lest we tear up the ramp planks as we slid the boat up to the boathouse.

These had nothing to do with Ida Lewis.  Well, maybe the boat did, but I never remember rescuing anybody while I was on “my island.”

However, there was the light.  We had a foghorn which needed maintenance because we would sustain intense fog in the vicinity, and a boater would be helpless, especially at night without the sound of the horn.  I understand that keepers would blow horns (literally) back in the day—horns that you held like a bugle.  I don’t know if a horn was ever blown from Lime Rock one hundred and fifty years ago.  So Ida and I in a sense are still in separate worlds.

But then there was the light.

I was on a Coast Guard Light Station that at one time used two light towers, going back to the eighteenth century.  By the time I got there, only one functioned.  But like Ida Lewis, I had to climb stairs to get to the lamp.  About one hundred of them.  And though I never looked at my light as “my child,” I worked with an attitude somewhere between keeping the C.O. out of my hair, and knowing that a job had to be done.  That didn’t mean I was the best cleaner of windows in the tower.  But if I did a sufficient piece of work, the view could be breath-taking.

At night, I could go outside and see the light in action.  It sent a beam far into the New England night.  In fact, it blinked with a distinctive signal for sailors to recognize and consequently sail by peacefully.  Never had any shipwrecks when I was there.  Ida would have been proud.

 

 

Material for this article comes from:

“Ida Lewis Keeper of the Light” by Michelle M. Fortunato, History’s Women, The Unsung Heroines   

http://historyswomen.com/moregreatwomen/idalewis.html

and

Newport, Rhode Island, C-Span’s American Cities Tour, on C-Span3, hosts:  Ashley Hill, Producer and Marian Gagnon, Documentarian   C‑SPAN   

https://www.c-span.org/video/?438467-1/life-legacy-ida-lewis

 

 

Above image courtesy of Library of Congress  (Digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3b22436 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b22436)

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An American joke: Texas and Alaska

by Cantinker Moss

 

Someone I know posted this cute joke on Facebook the other day.  My only worry is that I might offend some Texans as I relate it.  But most Texans are pretty good-natured, and seriously, I really can’t picture this in the category of hate speech.  I don’t think many Texans would either.

Actually, the joke presents a certain logic if you think about it.  And the embellishments in my paraphrase really could be the color of any conversation in any drinking establishment by any two people until you get to the punchline, which illustrates a logic that is unique for the situation.  “If you do it…it is true!”  Do what?  Well, here goes—all in good fun!

 

…A certain Texan walked into a bar in Juneau, Alaska.  He was about 6’2″ and weighed about 250 pounds.  He wore boots and spurs, had on a range coat with fur about the neck, and of course the obligatory ten gallon hat on his head.

After a few Olympias, he began to mutter, then talk loudly.  Two bar stools to his right he noticed a short Eskimo who had just come down from the North Slope, and had just finished his beer.  He was not up for much conversation with anyone.

The Texan, one foot on a railing just above the floor, one elbow leaning on the bar, and the other extending an arm and hand holding another glass of beer, turned to the Eskimo and said,

“Hey, little feller…don’t you know everything is big in Texas?”

The Eskimo wondered what the statement really had to do with anything.  But then he again heard the Texan say a little louder,

“Hey, don’t you know everything is big in Texas?”

The Eskimo began to wonder if he should have another beer, or for that matter, buy the big fellow a beer.  But he remained silent until suddenly the Texan turned, fully facing the Eskimo, and shouted so loudly that the bar crowd turned quiet.  At the top of his lungs he said,

“Hey mister, I’m talking to you!  Didn’t you hear me say everything is bigger in Texas!  Whaddya think ’bout that?!”

It was a scene perhaps from the Old West.  The Texan could have been Wes Hardin, ready to draw a couple of Colts from his holster.  But the Eskimo decided to let his wit be the better part of valor.  Because the place was silent as patrons waited to see what the native would do, the Eskimo could speak in a calm, measured tone with the right amount of volume.  He said for all to hear,

“Sir, if you don’t be quiet, we’ll cut Alaska in half and make Texas the third largest state in the union.”

The crowd erupted in laughter.  The Eskimo went out into the snowy street.  And the Texan was still leaning against the bar when the establishment was ready to close.

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From an American poet: Here (Walking With the Master in the Isles of Alexander)

by Cantinker Moss

 

On a summer’s day

In the Midwest,

I thought

Or dreamed:

 

Side by side we walked

In the Isles of Alexander.

And I said, “What about this?”

And He said,

“My hand carved the sides of the hill called Saint Elias.

The breath of My nostrils made the course of the Yukon.

My voice charged the sun beyond the Near Islands.

And I watch over them now.”

 

Side by side we walked

In the Isles of Alexander.

And I said, “What about these?”

And He said,

“I smile at the birth of the blacktail in the forest.

I shout with the raven, and I sing with the eagle.

I hold in my hands the spruce and the hemlock.

And I watch over them now.”

 

Side by side we walked

In the Isles of Alexander.

And I said, “What about them?”

And He said,

“I made the stars to guide the Tlingit and Inupiat.

I cautioned Pastor Duncan by the shores of Metlakatla.

My face turned grim at the soldier and the shaman. 

My heart hears the cries on Northern Lights Boulevard.”

 

“But son,

Make no mistake:

I told your poet,

‘They also serve, who stand and wait.’*

Serve me wherever

Or whatever date.

And remember, I am yours, and you are Mine

Here.”

 

*John Milton (1608-1674):   They also serve who only stand and wait (1655)

 

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