Heart of a Hero

On my recent vacation I visited two wartime heroes. Inanimate, mechanical heroes carrying men of great courage.

The first one was born in 1943 in Oyster Bay, New York. With a full US Army name and designation of tug LT-4. She (I was taught to think of ships as female) crossed the Atlantic in early 1944 under tow. She traveled with  others of her class. I prefer not to think of the dangers that lurked under ocean waves during that voyage.

Soon she worked out of an English port and participated in the D-Day invasion. Unlike many of the ships in Operation Overlord, she did not transport troops. In a support role, like a sturdy assistant, she towed ammunition barges across the English Channel.

Think on it. You are one of twenty-six men on a tug 115 foot in length. Your protection from enemy strafing is two 50 caliber machine guns. And you tow ammunition toward a battle zone!

Heroes all – the men who served – and the heart of the ship.

She’s retired now. After military discharge she served faithfully in the Great Lakes towing work and derrick barges for harbor improvements. You may see her under her civilian name, Tug Ludington, up close and personal in Kewaunee, Wisconsin.

The Heart – Engine – of a Hero

Seasonal Ritual

Chill air enters the open window. I rub my arms and stare at the calendar.

Fall. Autumn. Transition from the heat of summer to the cold of winter. Ahhhh. The great American Midwest!

I think the temperature caught up with the calendar this morning.

Now where did I put that sweater?

Seek. Shake. Wash. One by one the long sleeve tops, sweatshirts, and jackets are located and prepared for wear during this season.

How long will it be this year? Fall can have some glorious days. Crisp mornings with a light jacket for the sunrise walk. Clean, friendly clouds in a bright blue sky at noon. A warm afternoon when students leave sweaters and jackets in the classroom or on the bus.

Acorns shed from majestic oaks occupy the squirrels and other untamed creatures.

Maples give a final shout of color with yellow, golden, or crimson leaves.

The Bradford Pears add their dash of burnished red to the fall melody.

Human responsibilities fill too many daylight hours. Certainly I can find some yard or garden task and pretend to play among the leaves for one brief hour.

Winter is coming. Enjoy these days before boots, coats, scarves and gloves are required for that brief noon walk.

Autumn Glory

The Whole Thing

Do you want to own an entire island?

Did you think sandy beaches? Sparkling water? Tropical breezes?

Aside from the final item one family had the dream. Finances changed. Problems arose. Reality intruded.

It’s not a large place. And a reasonable size boat could find anchorage. But it’s not for the faint of heart for a year round residence. For this pleasant little island with a portion of sandy beach is located off the Door Pensisula of Wisconsin, up where the Green Bay wants to mingle with the main body of Lake Michigan.

We climb a structure known as Eagle Tower for a summer view. As I’m not an Eagle, or even a Hawk, but a tired & retired Chicken — this is from the two thirds mark of the entire height.

Horseshoe Island
Summer Paradise


The surgeon visited.  Not the one with MD or DO or even DDS behind his name.

This team – he never works alone – makes yard calls.

Tree service. Tree trimmer. Arborist. They arrive with a truck, a chipper, and a crew of men (or women) with varying amounts of experience and expertise. Ropes, safety harness, climbing. This is a job for the nimble and alert.

With great care they take their positions. Start the saw. Make their cut.

The ground crew collects the fallen and feed the chipper.

After the men and the equipment depart a quiet descends on the patient.

The wound weeps, coats the raw area with fine tree tears. Time is a great healer here as in many aspects of life. Year by year the edges will change, creep inward, and leave a less obvious scar where once a branch grew too close to a human creation.


Guiding Light

Vacation!  New sights!  Water!

Not every vacation involves large bodies of water, but this year I visited along the shore of a great inland sea – Lake Michigan.

One item grabbed my attention and demanded a visit. A visit to one of the many lighthouses that have guided shipping, fishermen, and recreational boaters for decades.

I studied the literature, found one accessible by auto, and shared the news when the words “tours available daily” appeared at the end of a paragraph.

Perched on a bluff within a current State Park the lighthouse and grounds are well kept and managed. Late on a pleasant morning we began our tour outside, moved in to the small portion of the house build first to house the construction workers for the main living area and the light tower. Built in 1868, the house has never received the modern conviences of electricity or indoor plumbing.

Sturdy to withstand the wind and weather. Isolated for function. The house is furnished much as it was when a family raising seven sons lived in it. Their father was the second resident light keeper. The youngest son, still living when the house attached to the now automated light restoration began, furnished much information and some precious family items.

Water – for drinking, washing, and farm animals – came from the lake.  Not by means of pipe and pump. No, by young man power up steep wooden steps along the bluff. Imagine a wooden yoke, a bucked of water on each side, and a slow climb up wet, icy steps in a Midwest winter.

Free from that chore the tourist enjoys a peek at life more than a century ago.  A chimmney at 45 degrees to the roofline to better accomodate four wood burning stoves – one on the second floor. Metal spiral stairs with an exit to second floor bedrooms before they continue to the actual light. Kitchen utensils, musical instruments, and books of an American family.

And what a view!

House and Light
The View

Birthday Cake

Let me take you back in time, to a farmhouse in the Midwest with many children, much work, and scant money in the middle of the Great Depression.

The oldest in the family, the big sister, brought her college friend home to stay overnight and carry out special plans for the next day.

Her father is home, working the fields. Her brothers and young sisters are busy with house, garden, and farm chores typical of early September. The only person not home is her step-mother. She has gone to visit relatives sixty miles away.

Big sister and her friend fix supper on the wood burning stove, supervise the clean-up, and talk about the future in the upstairs bedroom before exhaustion claims them.

The next day begins early. Along with fixing breakfast and morning chores involving water and wood big sister mixes a cake and slides it into the oven. Wash dishes, send the students off to school, tidy the house, and ice the cake claim portions of her time.

Finally she and her friend make the time to wash, change into new dresses, and join the oldest boy buttoning his Sunday suit.

The birthday cake for seven year old Erna rests on the table.

Bert arrives driving his car, wearing his best clothes and a smile. “Are you ready?”

“Yes,” Grace, the big sister replies.

Minutes later they drive off to the parsonage for the wedding of Bert and Grace, my parents.


Sixty-six years later Aunt Erna enjoyed another piece of cake – from the final one baked by her big sister, Grace.



Fine old buildings hold history of many flavors.

One of my personal favorites of public buildings in St. Louis is know as the Old Courthouse.

Are you fond of tracing the history of US Supreme Court Justices?  Louis Brandeis was admitted to the Bar in the restored West Courtroom.

Are you more interested in cases? The first two decisions regarding the free or slave status of Dred Scot were argued in this building.

Is it the architechture that intrigues you? The dome is a story all of its own.

And the East Staircase? In daily use since prior to the Civil War, this iron stairway reaches from the basement to a viewing balcony on the third tier. All without any vertical supports! It follows the graceful curve of the wall, supported entirely by being embedded in the same.

Climbing is not a favored activity in my family – and like most of my relatives I need to talk myself into certain experiences. This one was worth it. Up close to see the detail of carving in the rotunda decoration. And worth one whimisal backward look at the next generation.


How Do You See It?

Front?  Back?  Up?  Down?

Do you remember the children’s book where the small bear walks into a box that gets loaded on a truck?

Page after page we get a feel for his view.

What about another bear standing on the sidewalk? What did they see?

And the bear wheeling the box on the handtruck up the ramp. What viewpoint did he experience?

Some days I think of public art that way.

Perhaps I see a sculpture as confusing. The next person sees whimsy. Or a life lesson.

Is one person right? Did the artist intend only one perspective? Or does he want our imaginations to stir and fly to new places.

Just for fun invent a caption.