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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fourth of July, 1940s Style

Why is it that many of the most pleasant memories we have are those when we were young? Well, I could ruin the nostalgia of the moment and stay it’s because psychiatrists say our brains weed out the bad from the good, but I won’t.

Let’s just say we remember them because they were they way we want them to be.

And that’s how I remember the Fourth of July in the little town of Wheeler up in the Texas Panhandle.

The small town was home to eight hundred and forty-eight people, counting sixteen Indians camped just inside the city limits on a small creek north of town.

The only reason I know the last little tidbit is because Dad did the census.

The Fourths most vivid for me were around the mid-forties. I was ten and going into the fifth grade.

For a month ahead of time, along with my best friends, Donald and Jerry, I hoarded every penny I could scrape up for fireworks. To us boys, the Fourth was fireworks. Black Cats, torpedoes, baby giants, and rockets. The spray type fireworks were too tame for us.

We wanted noise and excitement, which we achieved by seeing who could explode a can highest into the air. We mangled every can on the premises, and some we shouldn’t. But, the truth is a ten-year-old boy with firecracker in hand can come up with some far-out ideas.

We even tried tying a string of Black Cats to the tail of a kite, but could never manage to get it airborne before the string blew itself out.

And then we’d play ‘naval war’ by tying a rock to a box of Rit Dye, stick a baby giant in the box, light it, and toss the whole conglomeration in the pond.

When it exploded underwater, the dye swirled to the top, just like oil from enemy submarines did in the Hollywood movies. That was great fun.

Black Cats would not work in the submarine trick. Their fuses were not waterproof like the baby giants.

Now all of this was usually going on around the periphery of the family or community get-together, a feast with every imaginable sort of goody from fried chicken to chocolate meringue pie. And Mama Conwell always included a couple of her bean pies.

I know, I know, ‘Bean Pie!’ Ugh.

Well, you can say ugh all you want. Just let me have your portion. They taste
somewhere between sweet potato and pumpkin pie. Absolutely delicious.

One of the most spectacular fireworks events I ever witnessed was the Great Watermelon Explosion. At the moment of the event, I regretted not thinking of it, but when I witnessed the retribution given to one of my chums, Donald, I thanked my lucky stars I had no part in it.

There were about sixty or seventy folks down at the park, which consisted of a meandering creek, thirty or forty giant cottonwoods, two croquet courts, and about a half acre of freshly mown grass.

Folks were sitting in clusters; kids were running around and laughing; some of us boys were chasing each other with torpedoes; everyone was having a good time.

I had stopped for a glass of iced tea when I spotted Donald with his family gathered around a could split watermelons. Without warning, one melon exploded, sending red chucks of melon flying in every direction.

Curses broke through the startled exclamations. Donald took off running. His older brother took off after him.

Now, Donald was small but fast. Unfortunately, his brother was bigger and faster. He caught Donald at the creek, and to everyone’s encouragement, grabbed him by the shirt and seat of his pants and tossed him into a deep pool, after which he jumped
in and held Donald under water, not once, but half-a-dozen times.

Old Donald came up coughing and gagging, but his ordeal was far from over. His brother dragged him back to the destroyed watermelon and made him pick up the pieces and eat them.

He ate most of it, then threw up. He threw up a second time when his brother told him if he threw up anymore, he was going to eat that. Somehow Donald kept it all down.

Now those are memories.

They just don’t make Fourth of Julys like that anymore.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Legal Truth About Anchor Babies

I had an interesting response a few weeks back in regard to an article I’d written concerning the president’s birth certificate.

The writer presented a very intelligent and insightful look at the ‘natural citizen’ requirement set by the constitution for the office of president. There is a simple citizen requirement also, but that counted only back at the time the constitution was adopted, 1789, and there ain’t none of them folks walking around now. That means a natural (born here legally) citizen is the one citizenship requirement for the presidency.

Now, all of us know that the Fourteenth Amendment states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

If foreign diplomats and like persons give birth to children while in this country, the child is not an American citizen because the parents are subject to laws of their own country, not ours. That’s what the ‘jurisdiction thereof’ means.

Now, that is pretty simple to understand. (except in Washington and by many judges who render culturally biased decisions)

Countries around the world use various methods to determine citizenship. The U.S.A. uses jus solis, which means citizen-by-location, location meaning within American boundaries. Japan on the other hand uses jus sanguinis or right-of-blood, which means only children whose parents are citizens can acquire Japanese citizenship. No naturalized citizens. In the U.S., just being born here gives babies citizenship.

Or does it?

Not in every case, and here is why.

Raoul Berger, the Charles Warren Senior Fellow in American Legal History at Harvard University, wrote “that for a better part of a century the Supreme Court has been handing down decisions interpreting the Fourteenth Amendment improperly, willfully ignoring or willfully distorting the history of its enactment.”

Now, that is pretty strong stuff, but he happens to be right. Here’s what took place.
In 1898, The Supreme Court in United States v. Wong Kim Ark 169 U.S. 649, in a 6-2 decision, rejected arguments that the petitioner was not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States because the phrase meant to exclude children born to foreign diplomats and children born to enemy forces engaged in hostile occupation of the country’s territory.

The Court held the petitioner, a child of subjects of the Emperor of China whose parents were lawfully living in the United States where he was born, was a U.S. citizen by birth. His citizenship status could not be revoked just because his parents were not American citizens at the time of his birth.

In simple language, the 1898 decision said if foreign parents are lawfully living in the U.S., their offspring are born citizens. But, you ask, if the parents are not citizens, how can they be lawfully living here? Simple, they came legally and are in the process of becoming citizens.

The other side of this sword obvously is that if parents are unlawfully living (i.e. illegal aliens of all cultures) in the U.S., their offspring cannot be citizens.
This is Raoul Berger’s point. A pretty simple one.

Illegal aliens’ offspring cannot become automatic citizens.

The 1898 decision became law, yet for over a hundred years, court decisions have ignored it.

Deeper research into the 14th Amendment also reveals that, as Mister Berger stated, “the authors of the amendment . . . intended only to protect the freedmen from southern Black Codes that threatened to return them to slavery."

It does not protect anyone who sneaks into the country at night to drop an anchor baby. (I said that, not the authors of the amendment)

Now, don’t go expecting lawmakers in Washington to do anything about the situation. The majority are too busy working on their next election or covering their indiscretions.

Oh the other hand, a few lawmakers and activists have proposed abolishing jus soli in the United States.

That might not be a bad idea. From jus solis to jus sanguinis.

Simply put, children whose parents live lawfully in the U.S. can be granted citizenship according to the 1898 Supreme Court decision. That includes parents who are natural citizens and parents who are here legally.

If the current Supreme Court refuses to support the Constituion which strangely enough happens to be the Law of the Land, what next?

Just more of the following.

Parkland Hospital Dallas is the second busiest maternity ward in the U.S. In a recent year, 70% of the women giving birth were illegal aliens. For the 11,200 babies, Medicaid paid 34.5 million to deliver, the feds 9.5 million and Dallas taxpayers 31.3 million.

Makes a gent want to cuss, don’t it?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Letter to My Father

Dear Dad,

Well, it’s been twenty-five years. And never a day goes by that I see something and have a thought that reminds me of you. The good stuff, you know. And, perhaps a few incidents that weren’t so good.

But that’s life.

And if I had it to do over, you’d be the father I’d pick to make sure I grew to be a man meeting the responsibilities that a man will face in this world today.

You know, when I was in elementary school in Wheeler, I never could figure how you always knew when I got in trouble. It was years before I realized that you didn’t have magical powers, but that you and the superintendent often visited.

Carrick? I think that was his name. I was grown when you revealed that you had specifically requested he contact you whenever I broke any school rules.

One thing you should know is that I would have taken five paddlings from him than to get one from you.

As a Dad, I never could match your skill and finesse with a leather belt. Now, if you were here today, you’d be cussing the namby-pamby discipline many parents pass on to their children.

I have no question there are very few problem kids today that you couldn’t handle. Remember the old spanking merry-go-round?

I’ll never forget you holding my arm, me screaming and trying to run from the belt.

All I succeeded doing was running in circles while you just pivoted on your feet and flailed away at my legs with your belt. If you only knew how many times I considered making that leather strap disappear. But then, you would have known who did it.

Today, some bleeding heart would claim such discipline was child abuse. Nonsense. It’s child abuse not to discipline kids, but the idiots can’t see it that way. And they’re always wondering just why kids are so much trouble today.

Spankings weren’t the only way you managed me. I was mischievous, sneaky, lied if I thought I could get away with it. I had so many things wrong with me only a hard-headed Panhandle boy with the nickname, Nubbin, could have kept me straight.

You always were one step ahead of me like the time the Haltom City police stopped me for reckless driving. I was only fourteen, so they called you and tossed me in jail. I was scared witless. For the next fours, it was all I could do to hold back the tears. Then they took my license away from me.

Remember that?

It was all of fifteen years later out on your patio listening to a Texas Rangers baseball game that you laughed and revealed you had asked them to throw me behind bars and you were the one holding my license.

Well, you sure made your point.

And who can ever forget that Christmas when Mom and Sammy came down with pneumonia out by Lubbock and you and I went back to Fort Worth for—well, I don’t know why we went back, but I remember you telling me to pick up my trumpet.

You mentioned that night many times in the years to come. There we were in a 1947 Nash speeding through small towns shut down for the night, and I’d stick my horn out the window and blast out the cavalry signal for ‘charge’. Then we’d laugh as lights popped on.

You were always there for me, even when your work took you out of town. I’ll never forget the second year I boxed in the Golden Gloves. That was about ’51 or ’52. You were on the road back from Houston listening on the car radio. When the announcement was made that I forfeited the bout, you stopped at the first house and paid them to use their telephone.

Gosh, Dad, there’s so much I’d like to talk to you about.

I’d like to sit around a campfire like we did on our deer hunting trips and shoot the breeze. I’d like to go fishing up in Oklahoma with Mo and Mae. You and Mo always had such a great time together. Mo passed away. So did Mae. But you already know that. You and Mom have probably already gone fishing with them.

There’s a lot I’d like to do with you. I can’t, but I can do it now is with my children and grandchildren.

You understand what I mean?

I can’t say exactly when it came about, but somewhere in the mid-sixties, we became friends, good friends.

The most rewarding moment of my life was not long before I moved down here to Port Neches. You and I were on the patio with Jim Beam and talking about what lay down the road as well as a lot of other philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Just before I left, I hugged you and said for the first time, “I love you, Dad.”

You simply hugged me back and replied. “I love you too, Boy. You take care now, you hear?”

I heard, Dad. And thanks for everything.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What's in a Name, Old Glory?

June 14 is Flag Day, first proclaimed such by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 and by an act of Congress in 1949.

Our flag is sometimes called the ‘Stars and Stripes’, sometimes ‘The Star Spangled Banner’, or sometimes ‘Old Glory.’

The first two nicknames are obvious. The third, ‘Old Glory’ has a story that personifies the core of those beliefs that makes America the country she is—to be what you choose and do what you wish.

Now, I’m a sucker for the American flag, for what it symbolizes-a free country that guarantees its citizens the inalienable rights God intended for every human being. I’m one of those throwbacks who actually folds a worn flag properly and takes it to the nearest military office for proper disposal. I revere it, just like the old sea captain who gave her the name.

Captain William Driver was born on the morning of March 17, 1803. One Sunday in 1817, fourteen-year-old Bill set out for Sunday School in his home town of Salem. Instead, he went down to the harbor.

By sheer determination and persuasion, he talked himself into the position of cabin boy and was on the high seas by nightfall. He sailed to Calcutta, Gibraltar, Antwerp and Gothenburg. His next voyage took him to the Fiji Islands, and then on, his career centered in the South Seas.

Seven or eight years later, Bill sailed back into Salem harbor as captain of his own ship, The Charles Doggett although some sources say it was The Seawood.

As a birthday and farewell gift on an 1831 voyage, his mother and several young ladies in Salem, Massachusetts, sewed him a large American flag twenty by twenty-four feet.

When the flag was unfurled in the sea breeze, Captain Driver was asked what he thought of it. He replied, “God bless you. I’ll call it Old Glory.”

The 1831 voyage was his longest. He sailed the Charles Doggett to the South Pacific. During a port of call at Tahiti, he met some of the descendants of the H.M.S. Bounty crew. They had moved to Tahiti from Pitcairn Island where the mutineers who had taken control of the Bounty had marooned them. They wanted to leave Tahiti, so they asked him to give them passage back to the island. During the return trip, Captain Driver slept on the deck of the Charles Doggett so the women and children could
sleep in the bunks below. Altogether, “Old Glory" and Captain Driver sailed twice around the world and once around the continent of Australia.

Six years later, he retired to Nashville, Tennessee, taking with him his flag from his days at sea. By the time Tennessee seceded from the union years later, everyone in the city knew of the elderly sea captain’s ‘Old Glory.’

The story went that Rebels were determined to destroy the flag and its symbolism, but despite numerous intense searches and threats, no trace of Old Glory was ever found.

No one knew what had become of the flag, not even Driver’s own family for they were all southern sympathizers. He could not afford to share the secret of where he had hidden it.

And then on February 25, 1862, Union forces captured Nashville and raised the American flag. It was a small flag, and immediately, citizens asked the aged captain about ‘Old Glory’. Did she still exist, or had he destroyed her to keep her from the Rebels?

Accompanied by Union soldiers, Captain Driver went upstairs to his bedroom, which had been searched dozens of times by frustrated Confederates. He began ripping at the seams of his bedcover. As the batting of the quilt top unraveled, the soldiers looked inside and saw the twenty-four stars of the original ‘Old Glory.’

Although Captain Driver was sixty years old, he gathered the flag he had so jealously guarded and loved for the last thirty years and hoisted it to the top of the tower to replace the smaller ensign. The Sixth Ohio Regiment cheered and saluted, and later adopted the nickname, ‘Old Glory’.

The captain is buried in the Nashville City Cemetery. His tomb is one of three sites authorized by Congress where the Flag of the United States may be flown twenty-four/seven.

Think of what he risked to save the flag, and then ask yourself what that irascible old sea captain would say to those protestors in Arizona desecrating the American flag by spray painting ‘deport Arpaio’ and ‘impeach Brewer’?

I imagine it would have been too blistering for delicate ears.

Old Glory today? In the Smithsonian, courtesy Driver’s granddaughter.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

D-Day- A Name to Remember

Within the military ranks, the terms D-Day and H-Hour are routinely used for the day and hour on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. They designate the day and hour of the operation when the day and hour have not yet been determined, or where secrecy is essential. The letters are derived from the words for which they stand, "D" for the day of the invasion and "H" for the hour operations actually begin.

Such protocol meant nothing to a small town in the Texas Panhandle on June 6, 1944. The day was the first Tuesday after school was turned out for the summer in Wheeler, Texas. It meant nothing to any of us. We had never heard the term ‘D-Day.’

We had no idea D-Day was just a common name routinely given to the date of every planned offensive during World War II, or that it was coined in World War I before
the massive U.S. attack at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in France.

We kids in that little Texas town far up in the Panhandle knew nothing of such procedure. For us, it was summer, free, joyous summer. As every summer, the first couple weeks, we’d ride our bikes along the hard-packed roads, through the forest the community called a park, jump the creek, rumble over ancient, wood-plank bridges, and lie in the shade after dinner (our noon meal) staring at the fluffy clouds drifting by in the sky as blue as robin’s egg. If you used your imagination, you could spot every animal on Noah’s ark.

After all these years, my memory’s sort of shaky, but it was either Wednesday or Thursday of that week that to my chagrin, I learned had had to chop corn the next couple days instead of a carefree ride around town on my battered but trusty New Departure bicycle.

Dad was overseas, and Mom had planted five acres of corn that she planned on us selling in nearby Pampa and Shamrock to earn some extra money.

So I wasn’t in a good mood, and I probably chopped more corn stalks than I did weeds until she caught me. The third time she yelled at me, she started looking around for something to switch my legs.

To my relief, Papa Conwell drove up about then. My brother, Sammy, was just a toddler, so Mom picked him up and we hurried to the end of the row to see what Papa wanted. I was hoping he wanted to take me out to his lake, but that wasn’t why he was there.

Wartime in a small town back then was much different than it would be today. Everyone was caught up in it. Radios were always turned to the news. Of course most of the news was weeks old, but for the last month or so, rumors had been thick and heavy that something big was going to happen. All the grown-ups speculated as to what might take place.

From the old boys down at the pool hall to the local preachers, everyone thought he knew what the Allied Forces had up their sleeve. Now, let me point out here that there was never any doubt in anyone’s mind that America would win the war. No matter how long it took, we would prevail. I wouldn’t want to repeat in mixed company what some of those old-timers back then would think of us today.

Anyway, back to my story.

When we reached Papa’s car, he didn’t even say ‘hi’. All he said was ‘We invaded Normandy.”

The only thing I understood in his statement was we. I wasn’t really sure what invaded meant, and I certainly had no idea what a Normandy was. I guessed it was a nearby town back south around Shamrock although I’d never heard of it.

Mom was excited, and a bit frightened.

For the next few days, our little town didn’t come to a standstill, but it came as close as it could and still keep functioning. Crops had to be looked after, animals tended, mail delivered, and such. Everything else was just about shut down. Folks were glued to the radio while others frequented the newspaper office.

Over the next few days, we learned more. There was happiness and joy in our little town, and unfortunately as the news came in, with it came some grief.

The Invasion of Normandy was epic, a savage battle that lasted for eleven months until May 1945 when Germany capitulated.

And then we turned the Lions of War loose on Japan.
Within a few months, it was over.

The nearest train station was in Shamrock, sixteen miles to the south of us. I’ll never forget that day we drove over and waited on the platform for Dad to step off the train.

The Greatest Generation had brought peace back to America and pulled a common name from military obscurity and held it up for the world to forever recognize.