Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Memorial Day Visit

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

                           For The Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon

When I was much younger and fresh out of the Marine Corps in the late 1970s, I remember driving by a cemetery full of American flags and what looked to be a Memorial Day observance taking place. The sight, the color, the breeze, the movement atop every grave, the sight of the people gatthered, all grabbed me for a second. I pulled in and stopped. After getting out, I found that I just missed the ceremony.

For some reason, I started walking the graves, reading the stones, the names, the dates, seeing which were veterans, from which war. Of course wondering if there were those my age when they died.

A few rows over from where I was, I saw an old woman sitting on a stone bench just looking at a headstone. She said quietly just taking in the moment. Though there were many others there that day, for some reason, she looked over at me and nodded with a small smile. I smiled back and nodded my hello. In her hands was a rosary and what looked like some tissue.

I have no idea why, but for some reason I found myself slowly making my way over to her. I don't know if it was curiosity and my wanting to see the stone she was looking at so peacefully. I don't know if I just wanted to see what branch he was in, that is assuming that he served. For whatever reason, I found myself drawn to the old woman side.

She looked up at me, then she said, "He's my husband."

I nodded looking at the stone, seeing his name, his rank, his branch of service, his war, and the date he passed. The sentiment on the bottom. I noted the empty space on the stone, and figured that it was for her.

"He died after being home for only a few months," she sighed. "He was wounded and shipped back to the states. We all thought he would be fine. At least that's what we told ourselves. That's what we kept telling him to give him hope. You can't lose hope."

I listened, and didn't say a word.

"He was overseas. Almost thirty, he was older than most of the others. He was a good Soldier." She smiled still very proud of him. "He was a good man. He liked the service. He did his job. He did his part. We all did in those days. We did what was needed."

She took in a breath and slowly sighed again, "We were married for a few years when the war broke out. We were happy to have jobs again. Times had been so tough. And we had so many plans. Of course, one day, well one day we'll be together again. But until then."

I listened and simply nodded in agreement. I looked at her, and watched the years in her eyes as a tear streamed down her cheek. She shook her head a little as if shaking off a regret and reached over to squeeze my hand. Here was this old woman who I didn't know. And for a moment, she seemed so frail and worn beyond her years. It was as if she were tired from waiting. And she needed to be there and tell a stranger their story.

"After he enlisted, we had only a short time together before going overseas. I was a real camp follower because we knew he might not come back, and we wanted as much time together when we could. We didn't talk about that. But of course, that didn't matter. I understood why he needed to go. He wasn't a shirker. No, not him. When he was needed, he went. He was gone for two years. Then when he came home. Well, so many surgeries later, he still died."

She reached up to wipe a tear. "He died for me, our daughter, our grandchildren. For all of us I guess. He is still the man of my dreams. He's still my hero. After all of these years, I still miss him."

I said. "Lest we forget. He should not be forgotten. There's nothing wrong with being always faithful. It's just right."

Her eyes met mine and she smiled hearing what I said. Again she reached over and this time clutched my hand, and said, "Thank you for that." Then she slowly stood. "God bless you. Thank you for that."

Her grandson who was over talking with some friends came over to help her. He said, "Thanks," and shock my hand. Then said, "She still misses grandpa. Especially today. It's their anniversary."

As they walked to their car, I thought about what the day is all about, those who were killed overseas, those who passed away after returning. I also thought about her love for him. Her pain of missing him still. Her missing him after so many years.

Things seemed to stand almost at a still while she reminisced for those few moment and tell me of her love. Soon, I again looked at the small flags caught in the breeze. It was Memorial Day, and in the distance I watched flag bearers and a civilian honor guard still present from a ceremony which must have ended just before I arrived.

I couldn't help but think about the honor guards that I've been a part of while in the Corps. For a moment, I thought about the funerals, the ceremonies, and how the speakers always talked about love of country and those who make the ultimate sacrifice. They talk about the history of Memorial Day and why it's so important for us to observe those who made sure our freedoms are intact -- about how it's our responsibility to not let their deeds nor their sacrificed be forgotten, how we should not forget them.

That was more than 40 years ago. I still remember the woman in her late-sixties who seemed older than her years. The loving wife who still wept for her beloved husband gone more than 30 years before. I remember how she missed him still.

She held on to the promise that we will again be united with those we love. While I believe that those who are dear to us do not stop loving us just because they die, we must do the same and not stop loving them because they have gone before us. While I have no idea if she's still with us, I believe her husband knew how much she loved him, how proud of him she still was, and how she still saw him as her hero.

For me, every once in a while, when I pass a graveyard on Memorial Day weekend, I'll see the flags and wonder if there is another loved one missing their hero. After all, they should not be forgotten. And frankly, there's nothing wrong with being always faithful. It's just right.

Lest we forget.

Tom Correa

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Message From Merced County Sheriff Warnke

Merced County, California, Sheriff Warnke
It has come to our attention that there has been some rumors about a letter sent to the State of California and if it was actually authored by Sheriff Warnke. Well, we are here to tell you IT WAS and you can read it below.

My “Official” stance regarding this is explained as follows;

When this Pandemic first came to light and our nation took the stance to “shelter in place” I was skeptical but supported any effort to protect our citizens from this disease. This included having to deal with a local church pastor who defied his order.

As time marched on, it became very apparent that decisions were being made on what “could happen” but hasn’t come close to the “predictions” that are being fed to our citizens. “We are going to peak within the next two weeks!”

This has been the battle cry for two months. I even went so far as to secure equipment to house all the bodies that were to overrun my county due to COVID based on what was being reported out of the Governor’s Office. Guess what, it still hasn’t occurred.

You know what “could happen” each day? Car crashes, airplane crashes, food poisoning, LE getting ambushed, and I could keep going!! But we as citizens continue to face these “could happens” each day. The world is a very dangerous place and we face it daily knowing the risks. But here in America, we decide what chances to take based on any risk factor and that includes going to work as a cop for the last 41 years.

The Constitution gives us that right. I doubt that the Governor would ever take a job where the dangers are as constant as they are in my CHOSEN profession. But I, along with millions of men and women do this every day knowing the risks.

Nobody has the right to dictate what risks I’m going to take when I leave my house and this includes an elected governor. If I go to a business and I feel that the risk is to high, I can make a choice whether or not to do business there. And this includes getting a haircut or getting a routine dental checkup.

When Governor Newsom took to the airwaves and then singled out a county because they didn’t follow his orders and treated them differently, it became obvious to me that this whole lock down was based upon him being able to have control over the citizens of this state.

He is treating this state’s counties as he has claimed to be treated by the President in the very recent past. That statement also pointed out that different counties have different issues and should be treated independently and not covered under one blanket. That statement is a fact whether or not there is a pandemic.

He is using the Public Health director as his authority in an attempt to maintain control over the citizens based solely on what “could happen” keeping in mind that the PH Director reports directly to him. Governor Newsom now threatens the different local jurisdictions regarding funding if they don’t follow his orders.

Didn’t he sue the President for holding funding due to him defying the President’s orders?

Our current situation is reflective of a short statement I recently read that seems to fit here; “If the barn yard were to hold an election, the cows, chickens, pigs and horses would vote for the hand that feeds them. Even though that same hand will eventually lead them to slaughter” Hmmm. That’s what is happening here in this state and possibly other states.

Economic slaughter is what we are facing because of his continuous behavior to keep this nation’s greatest state economy from thriving. The majority of the citizens are on the verge of a state wide revolt because they are losing the possibility to regain their businesses because of the tremendous financial loss they suffered.

I truly believe that Governor Newsom’s motivation is to have the majority of the citizens (and illegal residents) dependant on governments assistance so he could maintain this control once this “pandemic” is declared over. This is being caused based upon a crisis he himself has caused in this state based on a declared pandemic on a virus that should have been dealt on a completely different level. The CURE should not be worse than the disease.

So, the answer you are looking for is this. I WILL NOT be taking any enforcement action in this county for any of the COVID-19 “violations”.

As the Governor has also directed the Sheriff’s to release felons onto our streets and LE in general to completely disregard the safety of our citizens by not allowing most felons from even being booked but then wants us in LE to arrest people for standing closer than 6 feet or worshiping their religious beliefs in a building.

My decision is based on the Constitutional Rights afforded our citizens and I as the Constitutional Law Enforcement Authority in Merced County, I am here to uphold them. The citizens themselves can make informed decisions on how to proceed and protect their lives and livelihood and not the Governor of a state.

Remember that the people elected a governor, not an emperor.

Sheriff Vernon H. Warnke
Merced County, California

Editors Note:

I'm posting his message here because Merced County Sheriff Warnke represents all freedom loving Americans who have we the people's best interest in mind. Of course, let's keep in mind that the dilemma for most officers is keeping their jobs and feeding their families while knowingly enforcing orders to arrest Americans who have not committed a crime -- orders from mayors and governors who would not hesitate firing an officer who refuses to carry out their edicts.

While police chiefs are political appointees and the state police agencies like the California Highway Patrol answers to the governor, county sheriffs are voted into office by we the people. I truly believe that's the reason sheriffs departments aren't "just following orders" while other department are when it comes to enforcing the edicts of the mayors and governors. 

Remember this, their edicts are not laws. Kings, Queens, Emperors, and Dictators issue edicts, proclamations and decrees. Edicts are not laws because laws are passed by legislatures. If governors are concerned about our safety and upholding their oath to protect and defend our rights, they would call for sessions of their legislatures and passed laws. Laws can be challenged in court. 

Instead, Americans are now in a position of being arrested for challenging the edicts of governors and mayors no differently than what takes place in dictatorial nations. And sadly, there are law enforcement agencies who are enforcing those edicts just as if laws are being violated when no crimes are being committed. Thankfully, the majority of America's county sheriffs are not.   

It's great Americans like Merced County Sheriff Warnke that should give us hope for our future.

Tom Correa
The American Cowboy Chronicles

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Our Dog Holly Has Passed Away -- I Will Miss Our Pretty Girl

About 8 years ago, I wrote about how my dog Jake died suddenly. Yes, very suddenly. I pulled up that day and my father-in-law said, "I think Jake is dead."

He was right. My big very healthy looking dog that I had for a couple of years had simply died after playing with my in-laws' dog Oliver. It was a shock to my system. I think the reason that it was such a shock has to do with my being retired and having so much time to spend with him. Though my wife also loved the brute, he was really my big brown dog. He kept an eye on me late into the night while I sat here writing, and then he was gone.

About a year after losing Jake, my wife and I talked about getting another dog. Again, we went to the pound looking for a dog to rescue. Since I have a liking for a basic brown dog, we found a smaller version of Jake.

We were told she was two or less when she was picked up. And when we first saw her, my wife and I saw she was just a sweetheart looking for a home. We gave her one. We called her Holly. And I really believe she loved her name. 

That was seven years ago. And today, well today Holly passed away.

Over the last two days, she acted as if she picked up a bug. She wasn't moving as fast and she wasn't taking her treats as she would. And friends, she lived for treats.

This morning, my wife woke me up telling me that Holly was wobbly and couldn't stay on her feet. Immediately, we decided to get her to a Vet. We called our Vet located in San Andreas to see if she could fit us into her busy schedule. We arrived before 11am and immediately the Vet ordered blood work and tests. She told us to go grab lunch and be back at 1pm.

When we returned, she told us that she believed Holly had Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia. She then explained that autoimmune hemolytic anemia is an immune system disease in which the body attacks and destroys its own red blood cells. In dogs with autoimmune hemolytic anemia, their red blood cells are still being manufactured in the bone marrow -- but once released into the circulation, they simply don't stay around like they should.

What causes autoimmune hemolytic anemia? Frankly, I'm still not clear on that. I do gather from talking with the Vet and looking it up, that there are two types of autoimmune hemolytic anemia.

One is "primary" while the second is "secondary." In the case of primary autoimmune hemolytic anemia, the dog's immune system is not working properly, and it incorrectly makes antibodies that target its own red blood cells. It's estimated that about three-quarters of cases of autoimmune hemolytic anemia are considered primary.

With secondary autoimmune hemolytic anemia, the surface of red blood cells actually become changed by some underlying disease process or by way of a toxin or poison. The dog's immune system then recognizes the changed red blood cells as "foreign invaders" that must be destroyed.

Secondary autoimmune hemolytic anemia might be triggered by cancer, some sort of infection, blood parasites, reactions to drugs, chemicals, toxins, reactions, snakebites, or even bee stings. Cancer is the most common cause of secondary autoimmune hemolytic anemia.

The biology behind all of this says that the targeted red blood cells are either destroyed within the blood vessels or when they circulate through the liver or spleen. In both situations, hemoglobin will be released. When that happens the liver will attempt to break down the excess levels of hemoglobin. This actually has the effect of overloading a dog's organs.

What are the symptoms of autoimmune hemolytic anemia? Well, dogs with autoimmune hemolytic anemia have severe anemia, and their gums will be very pale rather than the normal pink to red color. Dogs with anemia will be listless and tired or will get tired easily. The reason for this is that the dog doesn't have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues. Because of that, a dog may actually appear wobbly and disoriented due to low oxygen levels in the brain. To compensate for the lack of oxygen to the tissues, their heart rate and their breathing increases.

As things go along, excessive levels of bilirubin will build up within the dog's body. Excessive levels of bilirubin cause the skin, eyes, and gums to appear yellow and jaundiced. The dog may vomit, and lose it's appetite. If a dog's autoimmune hemolytic anemia is so severe that it is life-threatening, then a blood transfusion will be needed. Understand, blood transfusions can cost $2,000 or more depending on where you take your dog.

Our Vet recommended a blood transfusion. I was on the phone talking with a few places regarding a blood transfusion for Holly when she died tonight.

We got her from the pound and we were gifted to have her as a part of our family for the last seven years. She was a great companion. She was great around strangers, children, and other dogs. She was a lover dog, a wonderful friend, a dog that would lick you to death.

She loved being told she was pretty. Her tail would wag even faster when she heard us say that. She loved to go on rides and would jump at the chance to jump in my truck to go get our mail or run others errands. All I had to do is say "Let's go for a ride" and she instantly became the happiest dog in the world. Though sick, tonight I took her for a ride. The reason, I wanted her to because it could be her last. Sadly it was.

Over the years, she would watch over me when I went out to feed the horses. She actually looking forward to it, and when I'd say "Let's feed horses" she run to the door. And as for her telling us what she needed, she would let us know what she needed by pawing us to get up from watching a television show -- or for me to get away from my keyboard.

Most always, it was either to let her out to do her business or she'd want a treat. Sometimes, my wife or I would get up and she would then sit down facing the kitchen, That was her way of saying she wanted a treat. If we opened the door to let her out, and she wanted out, she scratched on the door to let us know she needed back in.

I buried Holly on our property near where Jake and my horse Murphy are buried. Tonight, I dug a grave for our lover dog. It was something that I really wasn't looking forward to. I am not going to say that I didn't know that this day would come. I just wish it was a few more years down the road.

No longer will I call out for my Holly girl. No longer will she give us love on a bad day, or make the world a better place. I can only hope that I will be with her again. Until then, I will miss her scratching at the door. I will miss our pretty girl.

There are reasons why I cried while I buried her tonight. Simply put, she was a love. And as for me, my one comfort is that I really believe she knew she was loved.

Tom Correa

From Private To General -- Samuel Emerson Opdycke

Union General Samuel Emerson Opdycke
As for regular General officers in the Union Army during the Civil War, like the Confederate Army, there were many. As for "brevet" Generals, it's said they were dime a dozen during that war. In fact, there were hundreds of brevetted Generals in the Civil War on both sides. While many were for valor, that wasn't always the case.

For example, it's said that the majority of career senior officers did receive some form of brevet promotion within the final months of the Civil War. If that sounds strangely political, that's the other part of brevet promotions. Doling out brevet promotions as political paybacks was nothing new in that war, especially since doling out military officers commissions to political friends during the war was common place on both sides. So yes, in some cases, those promoted as a brevet General were done so just because they knew the right people. In those cases, it was about politics and money.

Of course one of the most famous "brevet" Generals is George Armstrong Custer. In any discussion of such promotions during the Civil War, Custer's name is usually mentioned. Custer was in fact seen as a practical joker, known as a "class clown" and "prankster," while attending West Point. He actually finished last in his class at West Point. 

But please, don't think that something like graduating last in your class will stop those destined to rise through the ranks. Fact is, even though that was the case, Custer did go from 2nd Lieutenant to brevet Brigadier General of the Michigan Calvary Brigade Volunteers within four years during the Civil War.

Then there's the story of Samuel Emerson Opdycke who went from mere Private to Major General during the Civil War. Yes, from the rank of Private to the rank of Major General. He was born on January 7, 1830, on a farm in Hubbard, Ohio. While his family were farmers, his father fought in the War of 1812 and his grandfather was an officer with the New Jersey Militia during the American Revolution. Young Samuel was educated in the Hubbard common schools.

He was in his late teens when the California Gold Rush took place, and he left Ohio for a few years to see if he too would strike it rich. By his mid-twenties, he was back in Ohio working various jobs. Just before the war, Samuel worked in Warren, Ohio, as a merchant selling horse equipment and supplies.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Samuel's older brother Henry went off to Kansas and served in the Union cavalry there for most of the war. As from Samuel, he was 31 years old when he heard the bugle call. And like many, he enlisted in the Regular Army as a Private.

Because of his valor at the First Battle of Bull Run with the 41st Ohio Infantry, he received a commission to 1st Lieutenant on August 26, 1861. So yes, since Opdycke joined the Army as a Private in April of 1861 and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on August of 1861, he went from the rank of Private to 1st Lieutenant in less than four months.

Samuel Opdycke was promoted to Captain in March of 1862 just before the Battle of Shiloh. By that September, he resigned to return home so that he would be able to organize and form the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. To do that, he was made a Lieutenant Colonel on October 1, 1862.

By January 14, 1863, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and given the command of a regiment. His regiment is said to have earned a great deal of fame in the defense of Horseshoe Ridge at the Battle of Chickamauga. Soon he was in command of a brigade, and his men were at Missionary Ridge during the Battles for Chattanooga. The fighting during the Battle of Missionary Ridge was brutal, but 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry were still able to push Confederate General Braxton Bragg's men out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, by November of 1863.

In the spring of 1864, Col. Opdycke and the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry joined General William Tecumseh Sherman's Army in his Atlanta Campaign. And at the Battle of Resaca, Opdycke was badly wounded. It wasn't the first time he was wounded, but it was then that no one thought he'd pull through.

Actually, he did recover and led an assault in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought in June of 1864. It was the largest frontal assault launched by William Tecumseh Sherman's Union Army against the Confederate Army of Tennessee which was commanded by his old opponent Gen. Joseph E. Johnston. It's said that it ended in a defeat for the Union, but the fact is it didn't stop Sherman's advance on Atlanta. As a result of what happened there, Confederate Gen. Johnston was replaced with Gen. John Bell Hood.

Colonel Opdycke's brigade fought at the Battle of Jonesborough which was meant to draw the Confederate's Army of Tennessee commanded by Hood away from their defenses in Atlanta, Georgia. All so Sherman could burn it to the ground. It worked and Sherman did just that.

Colonel Opdycke's brigade is said to have pursued Gen. Hood's troops to Nashville, Tennessee. And from there, his brigade fought in the Battle of Franklin to secure the Union Army's victory at Nashville. It is no wonder that the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry gained a reputation as fierce fighters among Confederate forces.

During the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, Col. Opdycke distinguished himself at the Battle of Franklin. It was there that he achieved the status of a legend among his men. The story behind that has to do with the approach of Confederate troops under Gen. Hood. Opdycke's division commander was Gen. George D. Wagner.

Wagner ordered Opdycke along with two other brigade commanders to take up hasty defensive positions in front of the Union fortified line. Opdycke assessed the situation and actually challenged this wisdom of that order. It's said he argued with Wagner, and then took his men into a reserve position behind the fortifications.

As Col. Opdycke suspected, the Confederate assault broke the Union's line near the Columbia Pike. Seeing that was taking place, Opdycke sent his men into the battle. His men blocked the road at first. But then, Opdycke's Ohio troops straddled the road to allow retreating Union troops the ability to pass.

Col. Opdycke ordered his brigade forward to block the pursuing Confederates. It was about that moment when Union corps commander Gen. David S. Stanley arrived to observe what was taking place. Stanley later wrote, "I saw Opdycke near the center of his line urging his men forward. I gave the Colonel no orders as I saw him engaged in doing the very thing to save us, to get possession of our line again."

Opdycke's counterattack is said to have turned the tide of that battle, and secured an important victory for the Union Army. Opdycke's decision to defy orders and pull his brigade behind a fortified position ultimately led to a Union victory. It was for his action at the Battle of Franklin that he was honored with a brevet appointment to Major General of volunteers. He was promoted to a full Brigadier General of the Regular Army on July 26, 1865.

Brig. General Opdycke resigned from the Army in 1866. After the war, he moved to New York and helped establish the dry goods house Peake, Opdycke, Terry & Steele. Old soldiers are supposed to fade away, live out their live dealing with their wounds while writing their memoirs. He actually wrote several articles about what took place during the war. He was also very active in veterans affairs.

Sadly, it's said that on April 25, 1884, his wife and son heard a gunshot coming from his bedroom. Rushing to see what happened, they found the General with a bullet hole in his abdomen. He lingered in pain for a few days before finally dying. But before doing so, Brigadier General Opdycke managed to tell the doctor treating him that he accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. He was 54 years old when he passed.

The 54-year-old General was transported by train to his hometown and buried there in Oakwood Cemetery in Warren, Ohio. On that day, The St. Paul Daily Globe wrote, "With the death of Gen. Opdycke, passes away one of the most gallant and distinguished soldiers which Ohio sent into the Civil War."

While he was certainly a brave man, Brigadier General Samuel Emerson Opdycke is not the only soldier to make the incredible journey from Private to General during the Civil War. There were others. And while some are amazed at how George Armstrong Custer who was a West Point graduate could go from 2nd Lieutenant to brevet General in pretty quick time, his feat pales in comparison to what happened to America's "Boy General." No, George Armstrong Custer was not the original "Boy General."

That deserving distinction was given to Uriah Galusha Pennypacker in newspaper around the country long before Custer's men started calling Custer that. Fact is, the man known as America's "Boy General" is believed to be the youngest General in American history. And yes, the Valley Forge-native is believed to still holds the record for being the youngest General in the history of the United States Army. 

Thought born in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, it's said he was raised without having any memory of his parents. His mother died when he was still a baby, and his father was adventurer who left for California where he supposedly founded a newspaper and then sold it. The 1880 Census had his father living in Oakland, California. Uriah Galusha Pennypacker was raised by his grandparents. 

After enlisting with the 9th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment in 1861 at the age of 16-years-old, he was a Private assigned to the job of Quartermaster Clerk. Believe it or not, it was there that he earned a commission to the rank of Captain because of his organizational skills. Not a brevetted rank, but an actual commission. 

When he was 19-years-old, be was promoted to the rank of Major because of his valor at Cold Harbor. Because of his bravery in battle at the Siege of Petersburg, he was promoted to full Colonel. And at the Second Battle of Fort Fisher in early 1865, Col. Pennypacker was not only wounded while leading an assault -- he was awarded the Medal of Honor because of his valor and promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. 

He was only 20-years-old. It was an unheard of achievement that made him an instant national sensation. His story was carried in newspapers throughout the Union, with of course the exception of those newspapers which were owned by Copperhead Democrat Confederate sympathizers. 

And think about this, while he was the youngest person to hold the rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army at the age of 20, he is also the only General who was ever too young to vote for the president who appointed him. General Uriah Galusha Pennypacker retired from the U.S. Army in 1883, and died of natural causes in Philadelphia in 1916 at the age of 72.

Where Uriah Galusha Pennypacker was as good a man as they come, on the other side of the spectrum is one who is said to have been pure evil. Nathan Bedford Forrest began his military career as a 40-year-old Tennessee cavalry volunteer with the rank of Private. Shortly after enlisting in the Confederate Army, he used the wealth which he accrued from his own very large slave-trade fortune to outfit a regiment. 

It was because of his wealth that he was given the commission of Confederate Lieutenant Colonel. He ended the war as a Major General. After leaving the Confederate Army, he went into Democratic Party politics and was instrumental in creating the Klu Klux Klan.

Another Confederate who rose from Private to General is Irish immigrant, and former British soldier, Patrick Cleburne. He was a native of County Cork. In 1846 at the age of 18, he dropped out of Trinity College Medical School. He then joined the British Army assigned to the 41st Regiment of Foot.

After leaving the British Army as a Lance Corporal, Cleburne moved to the United States and settled in Arkansas. It was there that he became a pharmacist and newspaper owner. He joined the Democratic Party and was a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party endorsement of keeping slavery in place.

When the Civil War broke out, the very prosperous 33-year-old Cleburne volunteered as a Private for a local Arkansas regiment. Because of his wealth and past military experience, along with his political ties, he was soon "elected" Captain. He rose to the rank of Major General. His comrades called him "The South’s Fighting Irishman."

Confederate Gen. Cleburne was killed in action at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864. Some say he was shoot dead by Brig. General Opdycke's men at that battle.

Tom Correa

Friday, May 1, 2020

The John Coffee Hays Club's 2020 Annual Roundup -- Guest Speaker Tom Correa

Here I am signing books before speaking 
at the John Coffee Hays Club Annual Fundraiser
Photograph by Troy Ellis

Dear Friends, 

Well, here's the rest of the story about my first speaking engagement with the John Coffee Hays Club . This is about how it all came about. And frankly, you might find this interesting. My subject was "Vigilantes in the Old West." As for the overall message of my speech, it was a simple one: As Americans, we are the law.

Below is the backstory! 

It all started, if I remember right, in May of last year, 2019, when I was contacted by Dan Terry, who is one of the board of directors of the John Coffee Hays Club. He invited me to speak at their annual dinner, which was supposed to be held later in October 2020. Along with the invitation to speak at that event, he advised me that his organization would cover my transportation costs, and he even offered me an honorarium. He also asked me to become a member of the John Coffee Hays Club.

Before going on with how I ended up speaking at the dinner, let me just say that since starting my blog The American Cowboy Chronicles in December of 2010, there have been several groups who have invited me to attend and speak at their events. All have requested me to speak to them about some subject or another, but surprisingly not every group has wanted me to talk about my favorite subject which is Old West History. Surprising as it is to me, some groups have wanted me to talk about my Conservative views. Well, either way, history or Conservatism, I've always politely declined.

Please understand that all of them have been very gracious. All have been very respectful. But, even though that has always been the case, I have not accepted any invitations to speak to any other group. Again, please understand, that's not to say that I haven't been flattered to have been invited. And that's not to say that some groups haven't made some very enticing offers of compensation for me to do so. It's just that I haven't been very comfortable talking to a group of people who I don't know.

Let's be frank here. I don't mind talking to the folks here in our small rural community. I don't mind standing up at our Americans Legion post during our local Memorial Day observance or when I've had to officiate the funerals of friends. In those cases, folks know me. And besides, a few minutes of talking with a group where everyone more or less knows everyone else, and a few good words and prayers are needed to comfort those there, that's a lot different than giving a speech in front of people who I don't know. 

Since Dan Terry said he was familiar with my work, I decided to look into the John Coffee Hays Club almost immediately after getting his invitations. The group's website says it is "a private, fraternal organization, with a selective membership." 

Their website also states, "We organized a club through which we, as free men, may unite: to address the responsibilities we have to defend, protect and promote our shared American heritage, American culture and The American Way.

To educate the members and the public at large as to what The American Way has contributed, contributes in the present and will further contribute to the security of free men and the promotion of ordered freedom as defined by Natural Law and the Greco-Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Hebraic-Christian deposit of social capital here in the United States of America – the crowning glory and zenith of milenia of Western Civilization.

We advocate and support the timeless truths of the Natural Law, the triumphs of Western Civilization, and the supremacy of The American Way.  This organization promotes our American heritage generally, the cultural legacy of the American West more distinctively, and the patrimony and ideals of northern California specifically."

Yes indeed, they say, "We, as free men, may unite: to address the responsibilities we have to defend, protect and promote our shared American heritage, American culture and The American Way." How can anyone not like that? 

So yes, I immediately liked what I read including when they said, "John Coffee Hays was an American icon who lived by, respected, and honored the heritage of the American firearm."

The mission of the John Coffee Hays Club is "Defending The Republic." Their motto is "Virtuti, Honor, Traditio" which is Latin meaning "Virtue, Honor, Tradition."

The event which I was being invited to was their second dinner. By the way, their first dinner, their founding dinner, had a very prestigious speaker who is a world-renown author and scholar. The previous speaker at their founding dinner was the famous Dr. Victor Davis Hanson. Friends, I'm a great admirer of Dr. Hanson and enjoy hearing his views on Fox News. I couldn't see myself following him for their second year. We are cut from two different types of cloth. Dr. Hanson is a very polished brilliant speaker. I'm just Tom.

While that's all the truth, to my absolute surprise, 12 hours after receiving Dan Terry's email, I accepted his invitation to join his group as a member and to speak there. I found out later in an exchange of emails that the event was actually a fundraiser for a charity that they sponsor. In fact, the charity which they sponsor is the Happy Trail Children's Foundation started by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

My Book & A Glass Of Whisky
Photograph by Troy Ellis

So now, I replied to Dan Terry, and in my reply, I let him that I did know a little about John Coffee "Captain Jack" Hays. From what I know about him, Capt. Jack was really an impressive individual. He is a legend among Texas Rangers, a man who was also the first Sheriff of San Francisco County, and he was a die-hard Indian fighter. 

If I remember right, I think I let Dan Terry know that I've been working on an upcoming book that may have a story about Capt. Jack's relationship with the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1851. When I say "may have" --  it's only if I'm satisfied and feel I do justice to the Captain.

Since I accepted his offer to become a member, I let Dan Terry know that I would set up a back-link so that my readers can visit The John Coffee Hays Club website. Yes, that's why I now have a back-link to The John Coffee Hays Club website on my blog. I put it there so that my readers can read more about the famous Texas Ranger. As for my speaking to the John Coffee Hays Club, I did ask Dan Terry if there would be other speakers? When was it being held? And of course, I wanted to know what topic they wanted me to cover? 

I later learned that I was the only speaker scheduled. It became very obvious to me that I had no idea what took place at such events. And yes, my friends, it was then that I realized that my habit of avoiding such functions, and worst not speaking at them when I have been asked, had caught up to me.

As for the club covering my transportation costs and any sort of an honorarium, I turned it down. While it was a very gracious offer, the fact is I wasn't interested in letting them do that. You see, besides liking what I read about the group on their website, I didn't feel right about taking an honorarium since I'm obviously not a professional speaker. Also, after finding out that it was to raise money for a charity, I figured that whatever they wanted to spend on me would be better off sent to their charity. After all, as I said before, it was a charity fundraiser. That's a good cause. 

Instead, if the club did really want to do something, then I suggested the club simply buy my wife and my dinner. Friends, the dinner was held at one of the best steakhouses in Northern California -- the Back Forty Texas BBQ Roadhouse & Saloon in Pleasant Hill. From everything that I heard about the Back Forty Texas BBQ, those folks know how to Bar-B-Q. That was enough by itself. 

So okay, a few months go by and I hadn't heard from them to confirm a time or date. Frankly, I started to wonder if the invitation still held. Then, after a few emails, they let me know that they had some bad news. Their dinner had to be postponed until January or February because of scheduling with the folks at Back Forty Texas BBQ. 

By the way, when I was informed of the date, they also let me know that there was an initiation to the club that I needed to do. Yes, an initiation. Imagine that.

I was informed that the initiation was going to be held at the grave of John Coffee Hays himself. Yes, at his grave.

When I told my wife about that, she asked me what sort of initiation? When I told a couple of close friends about it, they laughed and wanted to know if it included booze. Two of my very close friends who wanted to go to the dinner also wanted to go to the initiation just to see what that was all about. Trust me when I say that I was very curious.

So yes, my wife, my close friends Kevin and Brett Haight, and I arrived at the grave of John Coffee Hays in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland at about 2pm on February 8th. It was there that I had the pleasure of meeting part of the club's board of directors, Dave Yuers, Dan Terry, and Keith Schwartz. 

I met the rest of the board, Chuck Baumann and Daryl Chilimidos, later when I arrived at the Back Forty Texas BBQ.

Among the very famous people buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland are railroad magnate and banker Charles Crocker, J. A. Folger who was the founder of Folgers Coffee, Domingo Ghirardelli who was the founder of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, and Austin H. Hills who founded with his brother, R. W. Hills, Hills Bros. Coffee in San Francisco in 1878. 

Also, Henry J. Kaiser is buried there. Many know Kaiser Hospital, but some might not know that he's considered the father of modern American shipbuilding. Besides such industrialists and businessmen, a large number of California governors and military men whose deeds are found in history books are also buried there. Many are Medal of Honor recipients.

As for those who are greats of American History who are buried there, of course, there is none other than Texas Ranger legend John Coffee "Capt. Jack" Hays. The first time I visited Capt. Jack's grave was in 1980. I would have never thought that I'd be drinking outstanding whisky at his grave some 40 years later. But frankly, that was the situation in a nutshell. 

My wife Deanna, along with my friends Kevin and Brett, witnessed my initiation. Yes, it did entail booze. Dave Yuers, Dan Terry, and Keith Schwartz presented me with a whisky glass embossed with my name. They poured drinks all around and I took the oath. After that, we toasted Capt. Jack! And then, we poured a little bourbon on the grass near the three flags that sit atop his grave. The three flags represent his being a Texas Ranger, a California Pioneer, and the American Patriot that he was. 

It was a good thing all the way around. These are good men. Very fine Americans. 

Talking with Keith Schwartz, Daryl Chilimidos, and Chuck Baumann
John Coffee Hays Club Annual Fundraiser

February 8, 2020
Photograph by Troy Ellis

When we arrived at the steakhouse, the club had set up a table for me to sell and sign books. This was also my first time doing a book-signing. I can report that everyone I met was all very nice and interested in the Old West. 

Believe it or not, some said they had already bought my book The American Cowboy Chronicles Old West Myths & Legends: The Honest Truth Book 1They bought it online when they heard that I was going to be the keynote speaker.

We took pictures at the bar, we had a few drinks, then we had dinner. Soon enough, I was introduced. David Yuers is the president and he gave me a very nice introduction. He opened by telling those there that I might explain where the 3-7-77 comes from.

The 3-7-77 was a vigilante group in Montana. I sort of decided to stick to my notes and pass on that. The reason that I did so has to do with the 3-7-77 itself. I felt that since no one knows exactly where the numbers originated or really meant, and it is a real Old West mystery, explaining all of the different theories as to where that came from might have been too time-consuming. 

Looking back on it now, I could have simply told those there that the accepted version of what the 3-7-77 means really has to do with the dimensions of a grave back then. And frankly, I wish I had. 

Below is the link to the video, I hope you enjoy it: 
John Coffee Hays Annual Roundup - Speaker Tom Correa 

Tom Correa speaking at the John Coffee Hays Club Annual Fundraiser
February 8, 2020

Photograph by Troy Ellis

It was my first experience as a public speaker. They say we're all our worse critics. For me, that's always been the case. I admit that I was sort of nervous at first and I did lose track of time. And besides not addressing where the 3-7-77 is believed to have come from, my only regret as far as my talk goes is that I had so many great stories about vigilantes that I wanted to tell, but time got away from me. 

As for the video, I cannot thank photographer/cinematographer Troy Ellis enough. He did such a great job making me look better than I felt by the end of the night. As for the sound, I think I sound horrible. 

My friends who've seen the video say that doesn't sound like me. But there may be a reason for that. And yes, that goes to my coming down with the flu. That morning, my throat was killing me so I loaded up on flu medications. So while that night was great, I felt horrible and fought the flu for the next three weeks after that. 

Brett & Kevin Haight
As for the dinner, it was outstanding. The food and drinks were simply outstanding. But more than the great meal and drinks, the sense of camaraderie was wonderful. Frankly, it made me think I should leave the farm more often. 

As for my friends who were there, besides Kevin and Brett, my friends Rudy and his wife Paula showed up, so did my in-laws Tom and Fran Prickett. All seemed to have had a very good time. 

I have to say that the people who attended the dinner were very nice. And as for the John Coffee Hays Club's board of directors, folks would have a hard time finding a nicer group of guys. 

After the dinner, my wife and I were surprised when Dan Terry's wife presented my wife with a bouquet of roses. Dan presented me with a Bowie Knife. It caught me by complete surprise at that. 

I was touched by their graciousness and class. Little did they know that I have a small collection of Bowie knives, bayonets, my old K-Bar from my days in the Marine Corps, and such. So yes, it was very much appreciated. I enjoyed it a lot.

After my talk, a few people came up to me to ask questions. All said they enjoyed what I had to say. Which frankly, surprised me since I thought I was rambling. A couple of people who I spoke with asked where and when would be my next speaking engagement. They said they wanted to learn more. I told them they were very nice to say that, but that I don't usually do public speaking even though I've been asked to in the past. I told them that I'm a lot more comfortable writing. 

So now, with all of that said, I have to admit that I left the door open to do it again for the same group simply because I like the guys who are the board of directors. They are some of the nicest guys I've ever met. While it felt like they were going out of their way to be gracious, I think it just comes naturally for them.

Every once in a while I get to meet a person who impresses me. Sometimes it's because of their craftsmanship, skills, or maybe because of their fighting the good fight. Sometimes, every blue moon or so, I'll meet someone with truly exceptionally good character. Well, I've never met a group that impresses me as much as Dave Yuers, Dan Terry, Keith Schwartz, Chuck Baumann, and Daryl Chilimidos, did that day. They are truly exceptional.

Dave Yuers, Keith Schwartz, Tom Correa, Daryl Chilimidos, Chuck Baumann, Dan Terry
Me with the John Coffee Hays Board of Directors

February 8, 2020
Photograph by Troy Ellis

Because of who they are and how they treat others, they impressed me. They treated my wife and me as welcomed friends. They treated my friends and in-laws wonderfully to the point that my friends still talk about how nice they were that night. Yes indeed, these are guys who I'd ride to the river with.

My grandfather once told me, "When telling a story, always to tell the truth while remembering that people won't believe it anyway." My favorite Gunny Sgt. put it this way, "When telling a fish story, always keep the fish the same size. Just try to make the catching sound better."

What do those quotes have to do with my speech? Well, it goes to the heart of my telling stories about what took place in the real Old West -- when I tell real stories about what took place in American History. While some people like fiction, I believe the truth about what took place in the Old West is much more fascinating and enjoyable than the tall tales and fabrications Hollywood and fiction writers come up with.

As a writer, as a storyteller, I enjoy telling stories about life in the Old West as it really was. Or better put, as close to being how it really was with what I've learned over the years. I like telling folks what I've learned about our heritage. I like telling others why we need to celebrate our history as Americans. And while some will not believe it, it will be the honest truth.  

Tom Correa