Tuesday, December 21, 2021

There Is Always Hope

Penelope and Santa

Before I start this story, let me just say to all of you that I'm sorry for not writing and posting anything new lately. Frankly, my friends, between my volunteer positions, taking care of my horses, maintaining our property, fulfilling my responsibilities at our local American Legion post, and helping Santa, this time of year is a little hectic. 

For those who didn't know, I've acted as Santa's helper for many years. And as most of you know, we here in tiny rural Glencoe, California, with our population of 189, only have a small Post Office and American Legion post. Our American Legion hall acts as our community center for everything from celebrations of life to baby showers, and much much more. It is a place where everyone is welcome and we really have a great time. That's especially true when Santa comes to visit us.

Santa decided to visit our tiny American Legion post here in the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills in 2009. He takes a few hours out of his busy schedule to return ever since. And yes, since we are at an elevation of 2,720 feet, give or take a few feet, we do have the chance of snow at Christmas. 

Each year, Santa arrives at the rustic hall to meet well-wishers and enjoy the greetings from neighbors and friends who have also brought their children. The children here are always amazed and joyed that Santa made it back again. This place is a berg that is a little more than a blink on the two-lane state highway. Most see Glencoe as a place they passed on the way to somewhere else. 

Frankly, many here are glad they are not stopping and want them to keep going. Many like how Glencoe has refused to conform to the hustle and bustle of cities. This bastion of rural America in California refuses to be something we are not. This is a place where a handshake still means a lot. It's where your word still means something. It's where who you are as a person is a lot more important than how much money you have in the bank. 

Of course, while the sportscar you would drive in the city may turn heads, up here you may get more of a nod of approval if your truck had a load of hay or your jeep looks as if you decided to play in the mud. And while dressing in expensive name-brand clothes might impress some in places like San Francisco, up here one's more impressed if they find out you filled your tag this deer season. Of course, unlike life in the city, we have our discussions about what makes the best all-around self-defense carry pistol. As for talking about who prefers what deer cartridge? Some will say it's the .308 while others will always believe that the tried and true .30-30 is the way to go. 

As for the local 4H Club for the kids, that's always of interest. When Santa gets to Glencoe, he hears a lot of requests for pigs, goats, horses, a lamb or two, a steer, and of course puppies -- preferably a good cow dog. As for asking the children up here if they "help at home?" The answer is always yes. Of course, if Santa has the time, he may be told exactly what chores are being done and by which sibling.

That was the scene at Glencoe's American Legion post this last Friday. Santa arrived. Yes, to the joy of all and the amazement of the children, he shook hands with neighbors and old friends who still couldn't believe that Santa had made it one more year. 

As he made his way to a chair positioned especially for him to meet the children, he lifted one child and then another, looked at Moms who took pictures with their cell phones, and then finally found his chair. 

Surprisingly, there were a lot of people there. And yes, many were new faces. As for children, Santa was surprised at how many were waiting for him. As for those hesitant to meet Santa, even 2-year old Penelope stepped forward with all smiles once Santa winked and asked, "Who's my pumpkin?" 

Her outstretched arms were a relief to Santa who saw the possibility of hysterics. That's not to say that the night did not have a couple of children who simply didn't want anything to do with Santa, his beard, red suit, or jingle bells. There were those who made their discomfort known loud and clear. Others who were not at all intimidated by Santa came forth happily. 

That was not the situation for a teenager who was coaxed by friends to take a picture with Santa. I watched as her friends encouraged her to come over to where Santa was sitting in front of a Christmas tree. Finally, she sat on my knee. 

Over the years, Santa has found that some children are comfortable talking to Santa while others are not. In the case where the latter is the situation, he tends to go directly to the big question. And yes, I was there when I heard him ask her, "So, what would you like for Christmas?" 

Remember, this is a place where country kids ask for dirtbikes, quads, or maybe a new saddle. It's a place where 4H kids want goats, pigs, horses, a lamb or two, and of course puppies. Instead of any of the above, the teenager said, "I want hope. There's just no hope these days." 

I listened and heard Santa tell the teen, "There's always hope. Always." 

Her reply was to simply look at him and shake her head no. 

For the rest of his visit, Santa met with the children and their parents but couldn't help but wonder why a teenager would feel so despondent about the future. Wanting to know why a young person would feel so bleak about life, he asked to talk to someone who knew her. And yes, it was then that he found out how the teen had recently experienced a tragedy in her family. She suffered a horrible loss that made her feelings of despair so understandable. 

Many there came because they wanted their children to see Santa. Most all were there with family and it made all feel good to see so many fill their hearts with the feeling of Christmas. All there were filled with joy. That is, except for one. That's what Santa was thinking about when he stood up and walked across the room and up to the teenager. He told her that he heard what happened. It was then that she hugged him.  

It was then that Santa told her, "We are all tougher than we know. God made us that way. We endure because that's what we do. What helps us endure and prevail is knowing that we're loved. Yes, just as you are loved by more than just those who are here tonight. And remember this, through hard times and sorrow, love gives us hope. Since we are loved, there's always hope. There is always hope."

She nodded yes, smiled, and said, "Merry Christmas, Santa." 

He nodded and said, "Merry Christmas to you too. You are loved."

As for me, while I watched this unfold, I thought about what I had seen. So now, believing that he is right, I wish for all of you, my readers, "A very Merry Christmas! May God Bless you and yours. May God grant you a Merry Christmas filled with love  ... and hope." 

Tom Correa

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Poem: A Logger’s Christmas Gift

For every logger out there, it’s Christmas every day
If you think about it…we drive a different kind of sleigh
Each day we cut down trees, it’s not just once a year
And as we limb them up it fills our hearts with cheer

Chokers are the garland, and bells, we have them, too
The guys out in the rigging are the decorating crew!
As they’re lifted in the air, they make a music all their own
The whistles from the yarder give out a cheery tone
 
The truckers gift wrap them with binders good and tight
Some trucks arrive real early, before the morning light
Loggers are a tough breed; we don’t get too sentimental
But with the trucker’s lights, it all looks so ornamental

We feel like Santa’s elves as we all do our fair share
To bring some Christmas spirit to your home throughout the year
If you think about it, loggers are gift-givers, for sure
New trees are planted quickly, so our forests will endure

With gratitude, we harvest this crop from the timberland
Providing packages of yuletide cheer for our fellow man
We wish you a “Merry Christmas!” as another one hits the ground
In the heart of every logger, the spirit of Christmas can be found.

Poem by Kala Cota

Wishing all you loggers and truckers out there a Very Merry Christmas and a safe and productive New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2021

An 1871 Christmas Poem

To My Young Folks in San Luis  

Great Santa Claus his missive thus doth send 

To Pepperman, his tried and trusty friend: 

Go thou into that part of my domain, 

In California’s land of gold and grain, 

San Luis named, his chosen bishopric, 

(And go about it on the double-quick), 

There have you my permission to dispense, 

On due return of dollars and of cents, 

To my young people, fair girls and bright boys, 

Unending store of deft and beauteous Toys; 

Dolls that can lisp out “mamma” and “papa,” 

And could, if needed, finger the guitar; 

Children of wood, who walk like flesh and blood, 

Arks such as Noah used in the Great Flood; 

Carts, Buggies, Phaetons, an endless train 

Such as, once lost, will not be seen again. 

Watches that twice a day, at least, are right, 

Swords, Guns and Pistols, good for boyish fight. 

Tools, Building Bricks, Boxes that hold a town, 

And Jacks, in boxes, that go up and down. 

Kaleidescopes, whose bright an beauteous hues 

Enchant the sense and drive away “the blues.” 

Whips, Tops, Drums, Balls and Bugles for the boys, 

Fit to make music, or to make a noise; 

Horses that go on rockers and on wheels, 

And Lady Dolls with chignon and high heels; 

Cups, Plates and Saucers from far-famed Cathay; 

And Yankee notions from the Break of Day; 

Chromos and Lithographs and Mouldings rare, 

And Looking-Glasses for the infant fair; 

Steamboats and Carriages and Railroad Cars, 

And many kinds of Statuette and Vase; 

Knives, not intended to cut youthful love, 

And animals, from Elephant to Dove; 

Helmets and Cradles, Birdcages and Baskets, 

Card Cases, Necklaces and Jewel Caskets; 

And let the Precious Metals there be seen, 

Mixed with the Diamond’s bright and glittering sheen, 

In endless form of Bracelet and of Ring, 

Of Button, Stud, of Earring and of Pin. 

Let not the Ruby nor the Emerald pale, 

The Jasper, Jet, nor Pearl nor Onyx fail, 

To lend their charms my CHRISTMAS TREE to grace, 

In that far off but still delightful place; 

For there, though cheerful snow forgets to fall, 

And ice responds not to the skaters call, 

Yet mirth and ease live out the live-long day, 

Eternal sunshine cheers the traveler’s way, 

And generous men and matrons join to plan 

With my best friend and subject, Pepperman, 

How best to pleasure every lad and lass, 

And glad the heart of good SAINT NICHOLAS. 

He will be there on Christmas Eve to see, 

The young folks gather round his Happy Christmas Tree. 

-- written by Max Pepperman

This poem was published in Max Pepperman's Christmas advertisements in California's San Luis Obispo Tribune in 1871.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Every Day's A Holiday, And Every Meal's A Feast.

When I was much younger, it seemed that I was always working in jobs that always took me away from my family on special days like Thanksgiving. When I was in the Marine Corps, there were a few Thanksgiving Days that I spent with other Marines instead of being at home on leave with my family. There was one particular Thanksgiving when I was an Instructor at Correction Custody ("CC") that I spent Thanksgiving with my training platoon. 

I'll never forget how we observed a "Holiday schedule" of allowing the prisoners, which we called "confinees," to write letters home, read their Bibles, work on their gear, attend church services, and of course, later have Thanksgiving dinner. I remember marching them to chow that day. I purposing gave them a little leeway that day since it was Thanksgiving. No, marching 85 prisoners to their Thanksgiving meal was not the time to jump down their throats for being too out of step. That sort of thing could wait for a little while until marching back from chow.  

We had two platoons of more than 80 prisoners each at Correction Custody. It was a "Re-motivation" facility, a place where bad attitudes could be adjusted and brought back into line with the needs of the Marine Corps. It was the place where Marines who had gone astray were "rehabilitated." 

It was a tough place where Marines regained discipline, again found their sense of pride, and again found the bearing that they needed to be Marines. And yes, the men sentenced there were already Marines. Most were there because of minor violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. At the time, all were non-violent offenders who got 90-day sentences. And frankly, it was 90-days of Hell for the most part.

I remember one senior Instructor joking once about how we were in the "salvage business" to see if we could help those who the Corps could salvage instead of simply booting them out with Bad Conduct Discharges. With the classes in essential-subject, close order drill, almost daily inspections, physical training, and personal counseling, it was an effort to see if they could be salvaged as Marines. Some called Correctional Custody a "Boot Camp" refresher for Marines already in the Corps. All in all, looking back on those days so many years ago, I really believe that it was a successful program.

I became an Instructor there in February of 1976 just a few months after coming home from deployment overseas. As with all Instructors, I started out as a Section Leader under a Platoon Sergeant. As I said before, we had only two platoons at "CC" which were made up of an average of 85 men each. We had one Platoon Commander who oversaw operations of both platoons. Of course, the facility did have a staff of senior Staff NCOs and an Officer in Charge. But for all intense and purposes, the Platton Sergents was responsible for the training and rehabilitation of the men in their platoons. I became a Platoon Sergeant in April of that year. And for the next year and a half, because of long hours and strain, it would be the toughest duty of my time as an active duty Marine. 

As for Thanksgiving of 1976, when we got to the Chow Hall, I remember turning the platoon over to a Corporal so that I would be able to check on progress in the Chow Hall. My platoon stood at attention waiting for me to tell them to "Enter," as I walked into the Chow Hall ahead of them to check to see if the Chow Hall was ready to serve them. 

One of the aspects of being an Instructor at "CC" was that all of us were trained to have a keen eye, for attention to detail, to notice overt acts, suspicious movements, anything out of the norm. On that day, I remember seeing the cooks and servers behind the chow line take food such as turkey and mash potatoes off the serving line. I watched as they replaced the "Holiday Meal" with cold spam and beans. 

By my watch, I needed to get my platoon into the Chow Hall by then. So yes, I gave the signal to my Corporal to bring them in. As my platoon entered, I stopped them at the point where they would pick up their meal trays. 

I then walked up the serving line and looked at each Marine serving on the line. I found a Corporal and asked him if he was in charge of the Chow Hall? He said that he wasn't, but there was a Gunnery Sergeant who was. I asked to speak to that Gunny. 

Knowing that the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge) of the Chow Hall was a Gunny and that he out-ranked me made me watch my words as I spoke to him. I certainly didn't want to be hit with "disrespect" charges, so I measured my words as I spoke to him. Yes, always be courteous.  

I still remember what I said to him. I first, very politely, asked him why the hot turkey and mashed potatoes were removed from the serving line? He told me it was none of my business. I then asked if there was a reason that my platoon was being denied a "Holiday Meal"? 

He was very straightforward and didn't beat around the bush with his answers. He first told me that I needed to remember that I was just a Sergeant and that he was a Gunny, and that I should not question how he runs his Chow Hall. He then said, "Sgt., your prisoners don't deserve turkey and mash potatoes on Thanksgiving. They get spam and beans!"  

I remember nodding to acknowledge that he outranked me. I remember saying, "Yes, Gunny. You are obviously right in the fact that you outrank me, Gunny." And yes, I watched a smile appear on his face when he heard me say that. 

Then I watched that smile disappear when I informed him, "You do know that there is a Marine Corps order specifically regarding 'Holiday Meals' for prisoners?"  

My men waited and later I found out they witnessed my encounter with the Gunny. I didn't know until later that they overheard me asking that Gunny for his name so that I could make a report of who refused my platoon of their prescribed "Holiday Meal." I found out later that I was overheard telling him that I witnessed turkey and mashed potatoes being purposely removed from the serving line -- so as to intentionally deny them their Thanksgiving meal. And yes, I learned later that the Gunny did not like the fact that I went to bat for my men -- prisoners or not. 

After calling me a few choice words, he then told me that he would speak to my NCOIC about my behavior which he called "borderline disrespect." I nodded and informed him that that was his choice. I also informed him that I had a responsibility to my men -- prisoners or not. It was then that he told his Corporal to bring back out the turkey and mashed potatoes. 

After the turkey and mashed potatoes replaced the spam and beans, I told my men to proceed and side-step through the chow line. I also had my Corporal follow suit and also get his meal. He ate while I "walked the floor" to maintain order. 

It was a very memorable Thanksgiving for me. For one reason, I later found out that my going to bat for my men actually motivated them to work harder, march better, and want to follow orders. Of course, later I found out they all had a laugh about it as well. Their laugh was not about my going to bat for them. It was about what happened after my Corporal finished his meal and relieved me on the floor so that I could get my dinner. 

You see after my Corporal relieved me, I went up to the chow line to get my meal. The Gunny Sergeant in charge of the Chow Hall waited until I had my tray in my hand before he told his Corporal to remove the turkey and mash potatoes from the serving line. I watched as he had them remove pans of food just so his men could give me a single dried piece of spam and some cold beans. 

I will always remember how that Gunny smiled at me as I put my tray out for each server to plop a spoon full of beans on my tray. I still remember how he smiled when he had the bread rolls taken off the line. He seemed especially content when he was able to tell me that he hoped that I enjoyed my Thanksgiving dinner. 

I also remember saying "Thank you. Every day's a holiday, and every meal's a feast." That was a saying that we had in those days, especially when things turned a bit sour. We would simply remind ourselves that things could be much worst than they were at that moment. We Marines did that by jokingly saying, "Every day's a holiday, and every meal's a feast." And yes, it's something that folks will still hear me say today for all of the same reasons.

So now, looking back on those days, it was probably one of the most memorable Thanksgiving meals that I've ever had. And yes, because I was taught as a kid that I should be grateful for all that I have even if it is a piece of spam and a spoon full of cold beans, I gave thanks to God for all of my blessings.  

I still do. 

Tom Correa

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Democrats Again Attack Thanksgiving

Why do Democrats have such hostility toward Thanksgiving? Is it simply a matter of their same problem with Christmas which stems from their whole Atheist Communist view of how society would be better off without any Christian observances? Are they really threatened by Thanksgiving when it's simply about being grateful to God for all we have? 

Thanksgiving is an American tradition, as one president put it, Thanksgiving is "rooted in a story of generosity and partnership." It is a day that "offers an opportunity to us to express our gratitude for the gifts we have and to show our appreciation for all we hold dear." He went on to say, "Today, as we give of ourselves in service to others and spend cherished time with family and friends, we give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us." 

Today's Leftist dialogue doesn't agree with what he said when he reminded America of how "Our modern celebration of Thanksgiving can be traced back to the early 17th century. Upon arriving in Plymouth, at the culmination of months of testing travel that resulted in death and disease, the Pilgrims continued to face great challenges. An indigenous people, the Wampanoag, helped them adjust to their new home, teaching them critical survival techniques and important crop cultivation methods. After securing a bountiful harvest, the settlers and Wampanoag joined in fellowship for a shared dinner to celebrate powerful traditions that are still observed at Thanksgiving today: lifting one another up, enjoying time with those around us, and appreciating all that we have."

He was right when he said, "Carrying us through trial and triumph, this sense of decency and compassion has defined our Nation. President George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving in our country's nascence, calling on the citizens of our fledgling democracy to place their faith in 'the providence of Almighty God,' and to be thankful for what is bequeathed to us. In the midst of bitter division at a critical juncture for America, President Abraham Lincoln acknowledged the plight of the most vulnerable, declaring a 'day of thanksgiving,' on which all citizens would 'commend to God's tender care' those most affected by the violence of the time -- widows, orphans, mourners, and sufferers of the Civil War. A tradition of giving continues to inspire this holiday, and at shelters and food centers, on battlefields and city streets, and through generous donations and silent prayers, the inherent selflessness and common goodness of the American people endures. In the same spirit of togetherness and thanksgiving that inspired the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, we pay tribute to people of every background and belief who contribute in their own unique ways to our country's story. Each of us brings our own traditions, cultures, and recipes to this quintessential American holiday -- whether around dinner tables, in soup kitchens, or at home cheering on our favorite sports teams -- but we are all united in appreciation of the bounty of our Nation. Let us express our gratitude by welcoming others to our celebrations and recognize those who volunteer today to ensure a dinner is possible for those who might have gone without. Together, we can secure our founding ideals as the birthright of all future generations of Americans."

How can anyone not agree with that? Well, believe it or not, those words which I have quoted came from former-President Barrack Obama. And today, his view as he stated in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 2015 is in complete contrast with several American universities and the Left that controls those schools. So now the question becomes more than simply why don't they agree with Obama since they laid so much adoration upon him while he was president. The question becomes why is it that the spirit of thanking God doesn't sit right with American universities? 

Right now, the alumni associations of the University of Maryland, Florida Gulf Coast University, Washington State University, University of Central Arkansas, Hiram College in Ohio, and California State University at Long Beach, all want Americans to "reconsider" our Thanksgiving holiday? They want us to consider renaming Thanksgiving, "National Day of Mourning."

While the vast majority of Americans think the Left is "full of shit" and will certainly honor European explorers like Christopher Columbus, a man who never in his lifetime set foot on North American soil, by giving him his day of recognition, the Left wants to call that day "Indigenous Peoples Day." The Left, those who loath everything about America, believe that changing such days and bringing down statues "reflects our national mood." Of course, as usual, they are wrong.

Today, those Leftists ask if "Thanksgiving should be rededicated as a 'National Day of Mourning'"? Yes, as if to dedicate Thanksgiving Day as a day of reflection, as they put it, "on the centuries-long displacement and persecution of Native Americans." According to the Democrats, we should not celebrate Thanksgiving because "it represents the colonization of Native Americans, the theft of their land, and the genocide that was committed against them." 

Of course, whenever I read something like that, I immediately ask myself why is it that those on the Left know neither history nor the facts of life in pre-contact America. Granted, many horrible acts were perpetrated against Native American tribes by various European groups. Not all, but there were some who were ruthless. That's true and it's important that we acknowledge that fact. 

But if are to paint our European ancestors as murderous criminals, let's be fair about things -- so were the Native Americans since tribes waged war upon each other to the point of genocide long before the first European ever stepped foot on North American soil. It is also important that we acknowledge that fact as well. Does that negate what the Europeans did? Of course not. But wouldn't it be honest to acknowledge that the tribes suffered as greatly under siege from other tribes as they did from Europeans in pre-contact America? It would if one were trying to be real about what took place instead of depicting pre-contact America as some sort of place where war, slavery, and genocide did not take place. 

Europeans did not introduce the concepts of war and genocide to the Americas. Just as Europeans did not introduce the concepts of war or genocide, they also did not introduce the concept of conquest. In fact, pre-contact tribes waged bloody wars of conquest that pushed others off lands and slaughtered them to the point of genocide. 

Also, the false claim that America was stolen from Native Americans is a lie that has been perpetuated over the years. But it is false. The fact is, even experts on Native American Indian law admit that the United States federal government has never eliminated a tribe's title to lands. Let's not forget that the federal government paid for lands while also providing reservations. It's true, even after the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase from France, the federal government still had to buy the lands from the tribes that occupied them. But then again, no one usually mentions that fact.

Did creating this nation go smoothly? Not hardly. And yes, the Indian Wars prove that out. But in fact, there were attempts to make things go smoother. For example, The Nonintercourse Act is the collective name given to six statutes passed by Congress in 1790, 1793, 1796, 1799, 1802, and 1834 to set "Amerindian" boundaries of reservations. Those various Congressional Acts tried to regulate commerce between settlers and the tribes. But it also criminalized land purchases between settlers and tribes in order to protect them from land swindlers and other crooks. Does this sound like theft? Does it sound like what tribes did to each other in pre-contact America with their wholesale slaughter of their enemies, revenge killings, human sacrifice, and taking of slaves as the fruits of conquest?

So really, when the Left says they want to rename Thanksgiving and call it "National Day of Mourning," are they talking about what the federal government did -- or what the tribes did to each other? And as for teaching all of history, both sides, before and after arrival, sadly the history lessons taught in most universities are pathetically political and don't reflect the truth of what took place.

As for my quoting Obama earlier, I'm not going to be a hypocrite here. I didn't agree with very much of what that president said when he was in office. In fact, I hated his domestic and foreign policies, just as I hated how he seemed to work to divide us across racial lines. 

But yet, just as my grandfather said that "Even a broken clock can be right twice a day," and yes Obama was correct when he spoke about how Thanksgiving is about, "lifting one another up, enjoying time with those around us, and appreciating all that we have." Most will agree that Thanksgiving is a day when we give thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us.

As for the Left's disdain for America, their latest attack on Thanksgiving? It has gotten old. As a friend recently said, if we were to say that something "never gets old" then we are talking about something in an extremely encouraging, energizing, something very positive in nature. In contrast, the Left's constant attacks on America have gotten boring, monotonous, extremely tedious. Frankly, the same old attacks that Democrats come up with are always the same old saw of how they hate us. 

And as for what comes out of universities these days, there is nothing new about American universities attacking American traditions and values. It's simply expected. And really, maybe that's why most universities today are viewed with less prestige and importance than brothels are in Nevada. As one college instructor wrote to tell me recently, "Brothels were once seen as places that fulfilled a need in the Old West. While today their social status is not as endearing, even Nevada's brothels are placed in higher regard than American universities these days."

I agree, and understand why that's the case.

Tom Correa

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Irish Potato Famine, 1845 to 1852

'Emigrants Leave Ireland,' engraving by Henry Doyle (1827–1892),
from Mary Frances Cusack's Illustrated History of Ireland, 1868

Most know it as "The Irish Potato Famine." But in fact, it was also known as "The Great Hunger" and "The Great Famine." It was, all in all, a horribly painful period of mass starvation and disease in Ireland that started in 1845 and lasted into 1852. In the end, it is believed that at least a million people died as a result of the famine while another million fled the country. 

Believe it or not, the potato was not native to Ireland. It is believed that England's Sir Walter Raleigh brought it to Ireland from the New World (America) around 1570. When it arrived in Ireland, it was found easy to grow, produced a high yield per acre, and absolutely thrived in Ireland's damp climate. Because of those factors, the potato was described as being almost "Heaven-sent" and a "gift from God." 

As a result, during the period from 1780 to 1845, the potato is responsible for helping to double the Irish population from approximately 4 million people to 8 million. With the population explosion also came an increased demand for land. Because Ireland was a British colony at the time, the British solution was to divide the available parcels into ever-smaller plots for each succeeding generation. With that, the smaller plots of land farmed by tenant farmers meant that planting potatoes became the only crop that could produce a sufficient enough yield of food grown on such limited acreage.

What created the potato famine was a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora infestans that spread rapidly throughout Ireland. Brought to Ireland aboard ships, the infestation blight spread almost instantaneous to the potato fields where it quickly destroyed the crops. In reality, in no time at all, the infestation ruined up to one-half of the potato crop during that first year. This escalated to a loss of three-quarters of the crop in each of the next seven years. And of course, as one would think, smaller tenant farmers were immediately impacted and suffered the worst. 

Why did the potato have such an impact on the Irish? Well, it is said that by 1840, over one-third of the Irish population was totally dependent on the potato for its nourishment. Because the tenant farmers of Ireland, were so dependent on the potato as a source of food, the infestation had a catastrophic impact. Because of the Irish dependency on the potato, the blight created starvation combined with increased susceptibility to diseases such as typhus, dysentery, and cholera. All of which devastated the population. 

An Irish newspaper announced the arrival of the blight on September 13, 1845. By 1848, the British government tried to say that the worst was over. But in fact, the devastation lingered for years. 
 
Of course, from 1570 to 1845, no one could have imagined how the potato would be responsible for a disaster that would devastate the Irish economy, kill at least a million people, and create the Irish Diaspora of the 1800s -- a period when the Irish people would be scattered around the globe. In fact, by 1890, 40 percent of Irish-born people lived somewhere other than in Ireland. And by 1911, Ireland's population had dropped to half of what it was in 1845.

Tom Correa

Monday, November 8, 2021

Gen. Lejeune's Marine Corps Birthday Message



On November 1, 1921, Marine Corps Order No. 47 (Series 1921), regarding a Marine Corps Birthday Message was issued by Major General John A Lejeune, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. The annual reading of General Lejeune's Marine Corps Birthday Message is a tradition that is near and dear to the Marine Corps and has been upheld for 100 years. 

Marine Corps Order No. 47 (Series 1921), Marine Corps Birthday Message, reads as follows: 

The following will be read to the command on the 10th of November, 1921, and hereafter on the 10th of November of every year. Should the order not be received by the 10th of November, 1921, it will be read upon receipt.

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date, many thousand men have borne the name "Marine". In memory of them, it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world's history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence, the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation's foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long eras of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres and in every corner of the seven seas, that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term "Marine" has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the corps. With it, we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of the Corps.

John A. Lejeune,
Major General, Commandant
United States Marine Corps

Ever since Gen. John A Lejeune released the first official Marine Corps Birthday message on November 1, 1921, this same birthday message is read at each Marine Corps birthday celebration in whatever clime and place Marines are deployed. It is one of our traditions as Marines. It is part of what gives Marines our sense of esprit de corps. It is part of what forms our sense of pride, honor, fellowship, solidarity, and loyalty to our Corps and our fellow Marines.

Happy Birthday, Marines! 

Tom Correa


Sunday, November 7, 2021

The Incalculable Cost of One F-U

by Kelly Brothers
News 93.1 KFBK
December 17, 2020

As Covid descended on California in March and April of this year [2020], economies began to shut down and the debate raged over what businesses were deemed “essential.” There was a rather public dialogue between Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, and Alameda County authorities regarding the forced shutdown of the Tesla plant in Fremont.

This dialogue was punctuated by a pithy tweet from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez who describes herself as a Progressive Latina Democrat, "F*ck Elon Musk."

At that time, we had no idea how much that tweet… and attitude… would cost us.

Elon Musk threatened to leave the state. The Governor was dismissive, saying "Elon Musk isn't leaving California anytime soon."

Six months later, Elon Musk has left California. He has sold (or is in process of selling) all his personal real estate in the state. He is now a resident of the state of Texas. He has moved his philanthropic foundation to Texas. One of his companies, Space X, is based in Texas and Tesla is building a new plant outside of Austin, TX.

Consider the unfathomable irony of progressive democrats forcing Elon Musk to give up on California. Musk came to this state as an immigrant and proceeded to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through Solar City and Tesla than all the "progressive" politicians in the state combined. Anyone can make a proclamation or talk about climate change. Musk didn’t talk about it. He simply brought products to market that benefitted the consumer, the environment, and his shareholders. He should have been the "poster boy" for the green agenda, but instead, they turned on him because he refused to buckle to arbitrary regulations based on flimsy medical data. (By the way, automobile manufacturing is now deemed “essential” in CA.)

There is no way to know for sure what Mr. Musk will pay in California state tax this year, but it would surprise no one if he paid the most of any individual resident. Next year, he will be a resident of another state.

The damage goes much deeper than the tax revenue of one person. Musk didn't just leave the state. He "turned" on the state. It is now his mission to get other innovators to leave as well. According to the Governor of Texas, he is on the phone with Musk once a week, strategizing about how to get other CA companies to relocate to Texas. In the last few weeks, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Oracle have moth announced they are moving their HQs to Texas, with other potential moves in the pipeline.

That is not to say this was all caused by one tweet. Plenty of other factors are in play:
  • Companies are realizing they don’t need a highly centralized HQ, with their employees being productive from wherever they choose to live.
  • The high cost of living in the bay area.
  • Government's inability to deal with highly visible issues like homelessness. Executives have grown tired of stepping over syringes and feces in the streets of San Francisco.
But the fact remains, CA state income tax is the highest, CA's ranking for "business friendliness" is lowest, and we have elected representatives who would lob crass, vulgar f-bombs at the people who are paying the freight.

Half the tax in this state is paid by the top 1%, and many in that category are realizing they can make their living from anywhere. Try to add up the lost tax revenues of having the second wealthiest man in the world and the executive teams of great companies like HP and Oracle depart the state. We’re talking billions of dollars in lost revenue. Not to mention the philanthropy, which is gone too.

Any Progressive agenda only has value if someone can pay for it.

The next time the state raises your taxes to make up for the taxpayers who have left CA, try not to use the language employed by Ms. Gonzalez. But no one would blame you if you did.

-- end of story which originally appeared in The Afternoon News with Kitty O'Neal

Kelly Brothers Op Ed on Elon Musk Leaving California
By Kitty O'Neal, News 93.1 KFBK
December 17, 2020

KCRA-TV website states Kelly Brothers bio as follows: 

"At various points in his 30-year broadcast career, Kelly Brothers has anchored the No. 1 evening newscast in Sacramento on KCRA 3 and the No. 1 morning news show on News 93.1 KFBK. He is currently a Principal and Advisor for CAPTRUST in Sacramento, an independent RIA with more than $500 billion under advisement.

Kelly has a BBA and MBA from the University of Notre Dame. He also did post-graduate work at the London School of Business and earned his Certified Financial Planner designation, as well as holding multiple security and insurance licenses. 

Kelly is a lifelong resident of Sacramento. He and his wife Augusta have four children and live in Carmichael. Kelly’s passion is helping KCRA viewers "make sense" of global markets and their own personal financial planning."

In December of 2020, Kelly Brothers took on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez on her reaction to Elon Musk leaving California. This story is presently making the rounds on social media in an effort to show just how infantile and out of touch the Democrat Party really is in California. 

Tom Correa




Thursday, November 4, 2021

The Girandoni Air Rifle -- Something From The Gods


I was very surprised when I was handed an air rifle that a friend showed me the other day. Besides showing me how out of the loop I've become when it comes to modern technology and guns, especially air guns, I was extremely impressed by what I saw.

My friend showed me his .50 caliber Umarex Hammer air rifle. And no, the Umarex Hammer is not just another air rifle. It is high-tech, ingenious, and has a very large .510 caliber barrel. But, unlike firearms that use gunpowder, its use of compressed air puts out 3,000 psi behind its projectiles. This innovative, patent-pending system has the capability to propel a .510 caliber 550-grain lead slug at a muzzle velocity of 760 feet per second and a 250-grain slug at over 1,000 feet per second. 

While I did not fire it, I was told that its recoil is more like a strong push instead of a kick as would be expected from a long bore rifle. And really, for a "big-bore air rifle designed for hunting big game," that's all very impressive. Of course, the very modern Umarex Hammer air rifle isn't the same as the Benjamin air rifle that my grandpa gave me when I was a kid. And no, it's surely not the .46 caliber Girandoni air rifle. 
The 1780 Girandoni Air Rifle
So what was the Girandoni air rifle? 

Using fairly large calibers, pneumatic weapons are said to have been used in Europe by the very wealthy to hunt large game such as wild boar, deer, and even bear back in the 1700s. By 1780, an Austrian gunsmith named Bartolomeo Girandoni developed a revolutionary air rifle in .46 caliber. 

The butt of the Girandoni air rifle was an iron flask that could be detached, pumped full of air, and then reattached to the weapon. Each rifle was issued three air reservoirs, was four feet long and weighed 10 pounds. That meant the Girandoni air rifle was about the same length and weight as a musket of the times. Of course, unlike a conventional musket, the Girandoni air rifle had advanced features that muskets and rifles would not see for decades. 

Those features were why the Girandoni air rifle was adopted by the Austrian military. One feature is the use of a tubular magazine. In fact, it was one of the first rifles to use a tubular magazine. And with that, it was able to be loaded with 22 lead rifle balls that were propelled out of the weapon individually by controlling each burst of compressed air. 

So yes, believe it or not, the Girandoni air rifle is considered one of the first "repeating rifles" invented. It was used in the Austrian military from the 1780s to 1810. And that makes it the first "repeating rifle" used in military service. With the 22 lead rifle balls fed into a tubular magazine built alongside the barrel of the weapon, these rifle balls were loaded into the weapon individually by a simple steel block. The block slid back and forth at the base of the breach. As a shooter held the muzzle of the weapon upright as the bullets rolled down toward the breach, the rifle balls were fed into the breach using gravity. This also meant that a shooter could actually lie on the ground and simply hold the weapon up vertically to reload. No, he didn't have to stand. 

And think about this, during a period when a contemporary musket was considered accurate to only about 50 yards, the Girandoni air rifle and its muzzle velocity of 1,000 feet per second could put a lead ball through a one-inch pine board at 100 yards. And remember, since it was a "repeater," its full tubular magazine could be completely fired in less than 30 seconds. 

There is something else. Unlike muskets that produced a great deal of smoke, the Girandoni air rifle shots produced no dense smoke. That means the rifle used on the battlefield would not lend to the gunpowder fog that obscured battlefields of the time. And also, since it was an air rifle and did not have the explosive report of a musket, the position of a soldier using the Girandoni air rifle was not exposed to enemy fire. Of course, one of the features that endeared the rifle to shooters was the fact that the rifle was also limited by rain. After all, let's remember that rain makes gunpowder ineffective when using a musket.

Sounds great? Well, even with all of those positives, believe it or not, it was not the perfect weapon because of what it took to operate. Let's remember, those were the days when it took about 1,500 strokes of a hand-operated air pump to fill each air canister. As for its military use, this meant that wheeled air pump carts were placed behind the lines. Along with this, specially trained gunsmiths were a necessity. In fact, I read where the military needed one gunsmith for every 100 riflemen equipped with the Girandoni air rifle just to keep those rifles in operation. And since they needed specialized spare parts such as mainsprings, replacement seals, and extra air flasks, they became a pain to maintain. 

Think about this. In a time with soldiers were mostly uneducated peasants who couldn't read nevertheless have an understanding of technology, they were responsible for keeping the Girandoni air rifles in working order. And yes, it's said they were very difficult to keep in operation. Mechanical problems and seal leaks plagued the air rifles and the troops at the time were not capable of fixing them. So all in all, it is said that despite the deadly accuracy and firepower provided by the Girandoni air rifle, it proved to be technological that was too far ahead of its time. Because of problems pertaining to maintaining them, by 1810, the Girandoni air rifle had been entirely phased out of the Austrian military. 

What did the Austrian military do with all of their surplus Girandoni air rifles? Well, it is said that a few were saved as museum pieces. Many were sold to civilians by the Austrian government. The military gave some to militias. Many were lost or destroyed. And then there is that one that history tells us made it across the Atlantic Ocean to a brand new country known as the United States of America. 

Of course, when most of us think about Mountain Men and expeditions to explore America, we don't usually think of air rifles. We might think about Kentucky and Pennsylvania long rifles, but the Girandoni air rifle is not what usually comes to mind. And no, it's surely not the .46 caliber Girandoni air rifle that Lewis and Clark took along with them on their 1803 expedition. Yes, even if most believe that it was in effect the secret weapon that enabled the Lewis and Clark expedition to accomplish its mission. 

As most know, the Lewis and Clark Expedition took place from 1804 to 1806. It was the first overland expedition from the East of the United States to the Pacific coast and back. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Its official mission, the expedition was to explore and to map the newly acquired territory, to find a practical route across the western half of the continent, and to establish an American presence in this territory before European powers attempted to establish claims in the region. 

It did in fact have a secondary objective which was both scientific and economic. That meant that the expedition was to study the area's plants, animal life, geography, natural resources, and to establish trade with local Indian tribes. Initiated by President Thomas Jefferson, he hand-picked U.S. Army Capt. Meriwether Lewis to lead the expedition. Captain Lewis picked Second Lieutenant William Clark as his second in command. 

The Lewis and Clark Expedition had about 40 soldiers who were all skilled in various trades. The unit was designated a Corps of Discovery and all were volunteers. They left St. Louis in 1804 and traveled up the Missouri River into present-day North Dakota. From there they sketched and documented everything imaginable about what took place and who they came in contact with during their exploration through the new Louisiana Purchase. 

After wintering in present-day North Dakota, they left the next spring. To assist them, they hired Toussaint Charbonneau and his Indian wife, Sacagawea, who served as guide and interpreter. It is said that they "traveled through Montana and by horse over the Continental Divide to the headwaters of the Clearwater River. They built canoes to carry them to the Snake River and then to the mouth of the Columbia River, where they built Fort Clatsop (later Astoria, Ore.) and spent the winter. On the journey back the group divided, then reunited to canoe down the Missouri River to St. Louis." 

They returned to a great celebration in September 1806. All but one member of the expedition survived. The journals kept by Lewis and others documented Indian tribes, wildlife, and geography and did much to dispel the myth of an easy water route to the Pacific.

Before leaving, it is believed that Captain Meriwether Lewis obtained his Girandoni air rifle between May and June of 1803 at a supply house outside of Philadelphia. The story goes that Capt. Lewis was headed to Pittsburgh when he found the air rifle in a shop. As for how it arrived there, no one knows for sure. It is possible that it was one of the surplus rifles that had been phased out of the Austrian military. But really, no one knows for sure. 

We do know that on the very first page of Capt. Lewis' personal journal, he recounts how he took every opportunity to demonstrate his Girandoni air rifle's capabilities to the Indians that he encountered. He wrote, "The Indians considered the rifle something from the gods."

For that Girandoni air rifle, it came into its own whenever a new tribe was encountered. In fact, it's said that Lewis and Clark would stage an extravagant entrance all meant to impress the local tribe. And if you don't think it was extravagant, think again. All of the party were said to have "donned their most colorful military uniforms." With their frock coats, shined swords, formal headgear, polished muskets, and gleaming bayonets, all with flags blowing in the wind while fifes played, they would march boldly into each meeting with a new tribe. The explorers greeted the assembled tribesmen with formal gravity and then proceeded to hand out gifts such as bolts of colored cloth, beads, and commemorative medallions. 

If you think that such pomp and ceremony would help to dissuade potentially hostile actions by a tribe, that was what they were betting on while trying to do their utmost to impress the tribesmen. Of course, it was during this time that Capt. Lewis would produce and confidently demonstrate the remarkable power of his Girandoni air rifle. 

One member of the Lewis and Clark party was Private Joseph Whitehouse. In his journal, the Private described how Capt. Lewis demonstrated his rifle. That took place on August 30, 1803, at a Yankton Sioux village located along the Calumet Bluffs of the Missouri River. 

Pvt. Whitehouse wrote, "Captain Lewis took his Air Gun and shot her off, and by the Interpreter, told them that there was medicine in her, and that she could do very great execution. They all stood amazed at this curiosity; Captain Lewis discharged was done the Air Gun several times, and the Indians ran hastily to see the holes that the Balls had made which was discharged from it. At finding the Balls had entered the Tree, they shouted aloud at the sight and the Execution that surprised them exceedingly.”

During the expedition, Capt. Lewis repeated this demonstration for every tribe the group encountered. And yes, there are 39 separate entries in the expedition's journals noting the Girandoni air rifle leaving all there amazed at the power that those men possessed. 

Capt. Lewis' Girandoni air rifle played a major role in what can be considered a pivotal period of American history. And while that rifle was initially thought lost to history, it was discovered and today is on display at the Pentagon.

Tom Correa

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

First, I want to wish you a Happy Halloween! 

The story below is The Tell-Tale Heart. It is a short story by writer Edgar Allan Poe. In it, an unnamed narrator tries to convince readers of the narrator's sanity while at the same time describing a murder that the narrator committed. The victim was an old man, and the narrator emphasizes the careful calculation of the murder. 




True! — nervous — very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Now this is the point. You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded — with what caution — with what foresight — with what dissimulation I went to work! I was never kinder to the old man than during the whole week before I killed him. And every night, about midnight, I turned the latch of his door and opened it — oh, so gently! And then, when I had made an opening sufficient for my head, I put in a dark lantern, all closed, closed, so that no light shone out, and then I thrust in my head. 

Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I thrust it in! I moved it slowly — very, very slowly, so that I might not disturb the old man’s sleep. It took me an hour to place my whole head within the opening so far that I could see him as he lay upon his bed. Ha! — would a madman have been so wise as this? And then, when my head was well in the room, I undid the lantern cautiously — oh, so cautiously — cautiously (for the hinges creaked) — I undid it just so much that a single thin ray fell upon the vulture eye. 

And this I did for seven long nights — every night just at midnight — but I found the eye always closed; and so it was impossible to do the work; for it was not the old man who vexed me, but his Evil Eye. And every morning, when the day broke, I went boldly into the chamber, and spoke courageously to him, calling him by name in a hearty tone, and inquiring how he had passed the night. So you see he would have been a very profound old man, indeed, to suspect that every night, just at twelve, I looked in upon him while he slept.

Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door. A watch’s minute hand moves more quickly than did mine. Never before that night had I felt the extent of my own powers — of my sagacity. I could scarcely contain my feelings of triumph. To think that there I was, opening the door, little by little, and he not even to dream of my secret deeds or thoughts. I fairly chuckled at the idea; and perhaps he heard me; for he moved on the bed suddenly, as if startled. Now you may think that I drew back — but no. His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness, (for the shutters were close fastened, through fear of robbers,) and so I knew that he could not see the opening of the door, and I kept pushing it on steadily, steadily.

I had my head in, and was about to open the lantern, when my thumb slipped upon the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up in the bed, crying out — “Who’s there?”

I kept quite still and said nothing. For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down. He was still sitting up in the bed listening; — just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall.

Presently I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of mortal terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief — oh, no! — it was the low stifled sound that arises from the bottom of the soul when overcharged with awe. I knew the sound well. Many a night, just at midnight, when all the world slept, it has welled up from my own bosom, deepening, with its dreadful echo, the terrors that distracted me. I say I knew it well. I knew what the old man felt, and pitied him, although I chuckled at heart. 

I knew that he had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise, when he had turned in the bed. His fears had been ever since growing upon him. He had been trying to fancy them causeless, but could not. He had been saying to himself — “It is nothing but the wind in the chimney — it is only a mouse crossing the floor,” or “it is merely a cricket which has made a single chirp.” Yes, he has been trying to comfort himself with these suppositions: but he had found all in vain. All in vain; because Death, in approaching him had stalked with his black shadow before him, and enveloped the victim. And it was the mournful influence of the unperceived shadow that caused him to feel — although he neither saw nor heard — to feel the presence of my head within the room.

When I had waited a long time, very patiently, without hearing him lie down, I resolved to open a little — a very, very little crevice in the lantern. So I opened it — you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily — until, at length a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell upon the vulture eye.

It was open — wide, wide open — and I grew furious as I gazed upon it. I saw it with perfect distinctness — all a dull blue, with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones; but I could see nothing else of the old man’s face or person: for I had directed the ray as if by instinct, precisely upon the damned spot.

And now have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over acuteness of the senses? — now, I say, there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the beating of the old man’s heart. It increased my fury, as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.

But even yet I refrained and kept still. I scarcely breathed. I held the lantern motionless. I tried how steadily I could maintain the ray upon the eye. Meantime the hellish tattoo of the heart increased. It grew quicker and quicker, and louder and louder every instant. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder, I say, louder every moment! — do you mark me well? 

I have told you that I am nervous: so I am. And now at the dead hour of the night, amid the dreadful silence of that old house, so strange a noise as this excited me to uncontrollable terror. Yet, for some minutes longer I refrained and stood still. But the beating grew louder, louder! I thought the heart must burst. 

And now a new anxiety seized me — the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man’s hour had come! With a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leaped into the room. He shrieked once — once only. In an instant I dragged him to the floor, and pulled the heavy bed over him. I then smiled gaily, to find the deed so far done. But, for many minutes, the heart beat on with a muffled sound. This, however, did not vex me; it would not be heard through the wall. At length it ceased. The old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, stone dead. I placed my hand upon the heart and held it there many minutes. There was no pulsation. He was stone dead. His eye would trouble me no more.

If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismembered the corpse. I cut off the head and the arms and the legs.

I then took up three planks from the flooring of the chamber, and deposited all between the scantlings. I then replaced the boards so cleverly, so cunningly, that no human eye — not even his — could have detected any thing wrong. There was nothing to wash out — no stain of any kind — no blood-spot whatever. I had been too wary for that. A tub had caught all — ha! ha!

When I had made an end of these labors, it was four o ‘clock — still dark as midnight. As the bell sounded the hour, there came a knocking at the street door. I went down to open it with a light heart, — for what had I now to fear? There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police. A shriek had been heard by a neighbor during the night; suspicion of foul play had been aroused; information had been lodged at the police office, and they (the officers) had been deputed to search the premises.

I smiled, — for what had I to fear? I bade the gentlemen welcome. The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country. I took my visitors all over the house. I bade them search — search well. I led them, at length, to his chamber. I showed them his treasures, secure, undisturbed. In the enthusiasm of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room, and desired them here to rest from their fatigues, while I myself, in the wild audacity of my perfect triumph, placed my own seat upon the very spot beneath which reposed the corpse of the victim.

The officers were satisfied. My manner had convinced them. I was singularly at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerily, they chatted of familiar things. But, ere long, I felt myself getting pale and wished them gone. My head ached, and I fancied a ringing in my ears: but still they sat and still chatted. The ringing became more distinct: — it continued and became more distinct: I talked more freely to get rid of the feeling: but it continued and gained definitiveness — until, at length, I found that the noise was not within my ears.

No doubt I now grew very pale; — but I talked more fluently, and with a heightened voice. Yet the sound increased — and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound — much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath — and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly — more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased. Why would they not be gone? I paced the floor to and fro with heavy strides, as if excited to fury by the observations of the men — but the noise steadily increased. 

Oh God! what could I do? I foamed — I raved — I swore! I swung the chair upon which I had been sitting, and grated it upon the boards, but the noise arose over all and continually increased. It grew louder — louder — louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God! — no, no! They heard! — they suspected! — they knew! — they were making a mockery of my horror! — this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! — and now — again! — hark! louder! louder! louder! louder! —

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed! — tear up the planks! — here, here! — it is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Written by Edgar Allan Poe
January 1843

"The Tell-Tale Heart" is considered a classic of the Gothic fiction genre, also called the Gothic horror genre. The story was first published in James Russell Lowell's literary magazine The Pioneer in January 1843. It is probably Edgar Allan Poe's best-known short story. It became very famous in its time. 

The story is one of the first attempts in American literature to describe what the writer believes is the "perfect murder." Something that we all know does not exist. 




Monday, October 25, 2021

A Winter Horse Care Plan Would Be Nice

My Barn

I want to answer a letter that I received from a reader regarding caring for horses in the winter. She wrote asking me why I don't write more articles about ranching, guns, and horses. But also wrote, "Even though you would be late doing so, an article on Winter horse care would be nice." 

She then went on to tell me about her plan. All in all, she was asking my opinion of her Winter horse care plan. She also wanted to know if I can suggest other things to do for her horse? 

She wrote to say her plan at the moment includes the following: 
  • Make sure my horse has shelter to get out of the weather. 
  • Give her a little additional hay during times of extreme cold.
  • Keep her water clean and fresh
  • Make sure she is in good condition.
So, as she said, even though I'm late doing so, an article on a Winter horse care plan would be nice. And with that, I first want to say that I think her short to-the-point to-do list for a Winter Plan is on the right track.

The fact is, from what I've learned about Winter horse care, it's a two-part proposition. First, we have what needs to be done to get ready for Winter. The second is what we have to do as routine maintenance during Winter.

Allow me to explain what I'm talking about. Starting in the Spring, I begin preparing for the next Winter. What that means is that I get motivated to remedy all of the problems that seemed to pop up during the last Winter. Let me say that again, I get motivated to get ready for next Winter. The reason that I'm repeating myself is that I've found that I start out with a bang but then fizzle out. 

What really happens is that "Life 101" gets in the way and I postpone things. If you're a regular reader, then you know that I usually get more research and subsequently more of my writing accomplished when I'm not so bogged down with other aspects of my life. Such is life. 

What do I do with my time some of you have asked? Well, I do a lot of research. Yes, especially researching old notes for articles that I want to write. I have this blog to write. I'm also finishing my second book which I'm trying to make bigger and better than the first. Along with that, I also have our local American Legion post to manage. I'm a member of a Marine Corps League detachment. I put in as many hours that I can as a Calaveras County Sheriff's volunteer. And yes, I really do try to make time for my family. 

In fact, my wife and I go to lunch or dinner with my mom every week. After lunch, we take a ride and go sightseeing with no destination in mind -- or we return to her house and play cards. Frankly, I always accuse my mom of cheating at cards just to get her going. I know she doesn't, but that hasn't stopped me from pulling her leg. My friends, my wonderful mom will be 87 on November 6th. She is still going strong, but I've been around long enough to know that that can change in a blink of an eye. Because of that, I make sure that we get together as often as we can. That is if her schedule can fit me in.  

Of course, besides all of that, I try to spend time with our horses and keep up with the chores that need to be done on our small piece of property. And yes indeed, folks with small acreage like mine will certainly agree with me when I say that it feels like chores seem to never end. And no, I can't imagine being so wealthy as to hire hands to maintain large properties. 

That's why my Springtime plans fall apart and I usually find myself, as I did again this year, prepping for Winter during late Summer and Fall. That's also why I've been so busy cleaning and prepping for Winter up to a week or so ago. 

Before I retired from my first job and traveled around the country working, I used to see horses out in the snow in places like Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Minnesota for example. I found out over the years that while some horses are better acclimated to cold temperatures and actually do better outdoors when the temps drop, that's not the horse that my wife and I own at all. While they do grow out their Winter coats faster than horses that are in lower elevations, our horses seem to get cold easily and seek out shelter pretty quick. 

That's why over the last few months, I've cleaned stall mats, repaired waterers and feeders, tried to store more hay, I've gotten my turn-out area ready, and much more. I try not to wait until Winter to clean and replace stall mats, so I try to get that done early. As for cleaning feeders, water troughs, and my hay storage area, I hate waiting until I need to put a horse in my barn before I get busy fixing or cleaning something that I could have done weeks ago. 

This year, I purposely made the time to fix two broken water troughs, re-do some pipes, and repair a feeder that needed it. And, I've even made sure to replace the extra floats that I used two years ago. Yes, those floats that I needed on the spare of the moment and used that were never replaced to keep on-hand for emergencies are now back on the shelf.  

Since I live in California, most folks think I live near the ocean or a big city. Well, that's not the case at all. As you've heard me talk about before, where I live here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is what is commonly known as the California Gold Country. This is where the 1849 Gold Rush took place. And while some folks reading this might find it strange, we get snow here. Granted, it's not a large amount of snow like folks who live further up the mountain -- but we do get snow. 

So, with that, I have to prepare water troughs and pipes for freezing temperatures. That means that besides fixing broken water troughs, I've also been able to wrap pipes so they don't freeze and break. And by the way, since clean and fresh water is always a priority for horse care, I do make sure that I'm ready for the colder weather. While some people think horses can lick the ice or eat snow, that's just not the case. And of course, my knowing that our horses can get colic if they don't get enough water, I've placed their water troughs in spots where they won't freeze. 

As I said before, from what I've learned about Winter horse care, it's a two-part proposition. First, we have what needs to be done to get ready for Winter. The second is the maintenance during Winter.

If you're wondering if I have ever used electric waterers during Winter, I haven't needed to and still don't because their water troughs are located in areas where they can't freeze. And by the way, I've heard stories about horses that have gotten shocked from poorly ground electric de-icers. Frankly, I've never faced that problem. But, if you are in that situation, it's recommended that you test the water troughs out yourself so that your horse won't get shocked. I've been told that horses that are shocked will not use that waterer and refuse to take in water. And of course, that's not good.

Also, maintenance during Winter means we have to check our horse stalls, waterers, and horses more often. As for having horses confined to stalls and using waterers, it's important to check the waterers periodically and remove any old hay that's in those waterers. Old hay in a water tank will build up and can make your horse sick. So yes, it's very important to check it now and then. Believe it or not, it is said that horses need more water in the Winter in a barn than they do in a pasture during the Summer.

According to experts, "an adult horse that weighs a thousand pounds needs at least 10 to 12 gallons of water a day. If they get that, then that will help prevent dehydration and colic. During the Summer, pastures contain 60 to 80 percent moisture. This contributes to a horse's water intake requirement. In contrast to that, it's said that dried Winter feed such as hay and grain contains less than 15 percent moisture. So if our horses don’t drink enough water during cold weather, they may eat less and be more prone to impaction colic."

Again, according to experts, "even if we provide quality feed, horses will consume less if not drinking enough water. If horses eat less feed, they might not have enough energy to tolerate the cold. Also, water intake maintains a horse's fecal moisture level. If fecal material becomes too dry, intestinal blockage or impaction may occur. While a horse won't develop impaction in one day, they can over several days to several weeks of poor water intake." That's why our horses require more water in the Winter.

As for their turn-out areas, I am very happy to report that I remembered to fix areas where drainage needed to be addressed in their turn-out areas. Some of their turn-out areas ended up with a lot of standing water a few years ago. Last year, because we didn't get much rain, it wasn't that big a problem. But this year, I'm praying for more rain. And because I did address the drainage problem early this year, I think I'm ready. 

Because we've seen some high winds that have brought down a lot of branches, it's something that has to be addressed around here. If there is one thing that we have here in Glencoe, we have a lot of trees. Yes, a number of different sorts of oak, pine, cedar, and more. Because of the high winds, a lot of the loose debris that I have to deal with around here has to do with loose tree branches and that sort of thing that tends to get scattered about.  

This year, I re-did my main corral, re-built a turn-out pen, and replaced a lot of old fencing that wasn't doing the job. It was one of those things that simply needed fixing but I just never get around to it. Well, this year I did. I also put in a few new gates that I wanted to replace. I was also able to get some things done to practice what most call "good barn management."

What that means is that I got rid of what ended up being a lot of junk like old pallets, stacks of boards, old tin sheeting, and even some fencing wire that I haven't needed for the last 15 years or more. And because I used my breezeway for a few construction projects this year, I took a very large magnet and scanned the whole area where I was working in an effort to look for dropped nails, fence staples, screws, and so on. I was surprised by what I found. In reality, I hate to admit that there was more on the ground than I thought I had dropped.

As for shavings, I store bags of shavings to try to get a head start on Winter. But frankly, I never get enough for the whole Winter. So really, I just try to keep enough on hand to get me through a storm or two until I can get more. And here's a tip that has always worked for me, I never let my supply of shavings get so low that I don't have any on hand. I hate running out of shavings. 

This brings me to doing regular hoof care. Being out in the mud and possibly standing in wet pens can bring on thrush. As most horse people already know, in some cases sadly too well, thrush is an infection of the central and lateral sulcus of the frog of the horse's foot. It is most often a bacterial or fungal infection. Thrush is a huge problem this time of year. 

Good stall management is one of the best ways to prevent thrush. It is also a great way to treat thrush. Horses that are affected by thrush should be moved and kept in clean and dry stall conditions so that the frog can be cleaned and treated regularly until the infection is controlled and the tissues heal.

Good stall management, and regular foot care and inspection are what's needed as part of any Winter care plan. Horses in clean dry conditions will help keep the frog healthy. And from everything that I've experienced over the years, with early treatment and good stall management, complete recovery for cases of thrush is real good. 

Checking your horses' feet, maintaining good hoof care, goes along with the maintenance during Winter. We have to assess our horse's condition on a regular basis. So besides making sure that your barn or stable has adequate ventilation, that the waterers work well, and things stay dry, we have to assess how our horses are doing. For me, I watch their weight a lot this time of year. If they are not getting enough water or are too cold, they will lose weight. Because of that, I make sure that their waterers are going well. That's also the reason that I feed our horses some grain and additional hay during extreme cold.

I give them a little more hay and grain to keep their weight on. A healthy layer of fat provides insulation against the cold. Cold temperatures will in general increase the number of calories horses need to maintain body weight and function. I don't feed corn to them to stay warm because I learned a long time ago that corn does not cause a horse to become warmer. Instead, a little grain with hay releases more heat for them to maintain their heat and body weight. 

Experts say, "feeding high-quality hay and an additional one-quarter pound of grain per 100 pounds of body weight daily to non-working horses can provide adequate calories during cold weather. Working horses may require up to an additional one-half pound per 100 pounds of body weight per day, depending on workload, to maintain weight during cold weather."

So as you can see, even after all of the planning and preparing, it all comes down to having them inside instead of out -- and us keeping an eye on them. When that happens, the biggest thing that we can do for Winter is to check our horses every day. For me, that means rotating them to dry stalls. It also means that I spend a little more time with them to check their condition. 

So now, how about what's good for me? For you, you ask? Yes, for me. You see while I know that it gets cold in my barn, I actually enjoy putting on layers of clothing, my big winter coat, and going out to my barn to check on our horses. Frankly, it's as good for me as it is for our horses. 

I look forward to Winter because it's a time for me to take my coffee out to the barn and spend some time enjoying them while I'm checking on them. And while I check each one, one at a time, it's my time to bond a little more with them. It's also time for me to enjoy my little barn. You see I love the sound of rain hitting its tin roof because it reminds me of being a youngster on my grandfather's ranch. And as for my taking in the snow outside, it is something that I have come to enjoy. 

So yes, for me, Winter is a time for me to enjoy my time alone with my horses. Ornery, stubborn, jealous, cantankerous as they can be at times, they are among the greatest souls that God has gifted to us. And yes indeed, I really enjoy their company.

Tom Correa




Friday, October 15, 2021

Give Christopher Columbus The Credit He Deserves


If there is one sure thing that someone can say about history, something which is pure speculation but almost a sure bet, it is that someone would have sooner or later found the Western Hemisphere. Could it have been someone other than Christopher Columbus? Absolutely. And really, could it have been over something other than Spain's desire to find a shortcut to Asia? Yes, it could have been.

On October 15, 2021, vice president Kamala Harris gave a speech a day after Columbus Day, which some now recognize as "Indigenous Peoples' Day." During her speech, Harris said, "Since 1934, every October, the United States has recognized the voyage of the European explorers who first landed on the shores of the Americas. ... But that is not the whole story. That has never been the whole story. ... Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations — perpetrating violence, stealing land, and spreading disease."

Not once in her speech did she mention the fact that Columbus was not looking for America, for peoples of another land, for land, or wanted to "spread disease." Not once did she say the truth is that Christopher Columbus did not travel west because he was attempting to discover a new land or was looking for slaves. It didn't matter to Harris that Africans had been selling their people into slavery to Muslims for over a thousand years by the time Columbus set sail. It didn't matter to her that tribes in the Americas had slaughtered each other for a few millennia before Columbus landed in the Bahamas, or that tribes waged genocidal war on each other longer than we know, or that tribes stole each others' lands, or that they made slaves of those who they did not butcher. She, as the Left does, conveniently neglected to talk about the horrors of war and human sacrifice that took place in the Americas for centuries before Europeans ever arrived. 

To Harris and her ilk on the political Left, Christopher Columbus has become a symbol of mass slaughter that has been idolized by White Europeans for centuries. To her and the Left, Columbus set out to intentionally do harm to others. Of course, as with most of the uneducated on the political Left whose agenda is to divide and create animosity amongst Americans, it does not matter to Harris that she misrepresented the basic reason why Columbus arrived in the Americas in the first place. 

Spain's arrival in the Caribbean and subsequently the Americas, and later in California, was all about looking for a shorter route to Asia. That's what their arrival was all about. They were trying to get to Asia. In fact, a route to the riches of Asia kept the Spanish looking for well over 200 years.  

What was Christopher Columbus looking for when he reached the Caribbean? Asia. Some folks simply don't understand that Columbus was not looking for a new continent. The "known world" did not know the Western Hemisphere, the geographical term for the half of Earth, actually sat between Europe and Asia. Map makers and scholars did not know that landmass was there. Columbus was simply trying to find a shortcut to Asia so that Spain would be able to better cash in on the wealth that Asia held.

Did Christopher Columbus fail in his quest to find that route? Yes, because he never did find what he sought -- and what Spain needed. While he, like many explorers of that age were truly fascinated by the works of Marco Polo and believed the earth is round, it is a fact that Columbus stumbled into the Bahamas purely by accident. It's true. Christopher Columbus, the man who was the son of an Italian wool maker, a man who went to sea and later ended up studying navigation and mathematics in Portugal, found the Caribbean island that he named Hispaniola by accident.

The Spanish monarchy provided him with crews for three ships -- the NiƱa, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. On August 3, 1492, he set sail from Spain. On October 12th of that same year, his ships found land. But it was not the East Indies, which is the lands of South and Southeast Asia.

When Columbus made landfall, he really believed that he had reached India. In fact, that's the reason why he called the natives who he encountered "Indians." He believed he had found the land that he was looking for. In reality, it was not the land of spices and riches that he had hoped for. But that didn't stop him from believing that he found Asia. He really believed that he found Asia and no idea where he was or what he stumbled upon.

Columbus sailed from island to island for months in what we now know as the Caribbean, all the while looking for friendly trading ports that he knew were already established in Asia. What was he in search of? He searched for "pearls, precious stones, gold, silver, spices, and other objects and merchandise whatsoever" found in the East Indies to take back to his Spanish benefactors.

Disappointed, by January of 1493, he returned to Spain after leaving dozens of men behind in a small settlement on an island which they named Hispaniola. That island is present-day Haiti/Dominican Republic. He returned to Spain after failing to find riches or Asia. He would sail west again later in 1493, 1498, and in 1502. Again and again with a determination to find a direct ocean route west from Europe to Asia. He died never knowing that he had discovered two continents which were to be called the "New World." He died believing he found Asia.

For some reason, people have this idea that Columbus thought he found a New World and that was the prize. That wasn't the case. Asia was the prize because of the riches that Asia held. In the 1400s, reaching Asia from Europe was considered nearly impossible. The land route was not only long, but it was also seen as filled with all sorts of danger including all sorts of hostile bands and rogue armies.

Portugal was an empire at sea and had solved the land route problem by sailing south along the West African coast and around the Cape of Good Hope. Portuguese conquistadors colonized the African coast and would later meet African Chiefs wanting to sell their own people into slavery. African Chiefs sold their people to Muslims as slaves for centuries before meeting Europeans. Muslim armies having black and white slaves was not unknown to the Portuguese and the Spanish. After centuries of war with the Muslim Moors starting in the 8th century, the Moors were finally expelled from the Iberian peninsula in January of 1492. That was when the Catholic Monarchs defeated the last Moor stronghold of the Kingdom of Granada.

The war with the Moors was costly to all, but especially for Spain in its last ten years in the war for Granada. Because of that, Spain wanted its explorers to find riches to rebuild their coffers. Portugal was seen as a power from the early 1400's and had already established a sea route around the Horn of Africa by the late 1400s. To say the Portuguese explorers didn't get around would be a real understatement since it's believed that a Portuguese explorer arrived in Newfoundland in North America in 1472. Yes, twenty years before Columbus arrived in the Bahamas.

When Columbus presented his plan of sailing west instead of south and around Africa to reach Asia, both Portugal and England were not interested in bankrolling his expedition. That wasn't the case with Spanish monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile who were sympathetic to his idea. To them, Columbus' plan made sense considering the world was believed to be smaller at the time. To the known world, if the earth is indeed round, then Asia lay to the west.

Why not sail west across the Atlantic instead of heading south and around Africa to go east to get to Asia? His logic was sound, even if his math wasn't. Remember, he incorrectly argued that the circumference of the Earth was much smaller than it is in reality. He believed that a journey to Asia would be possible by going west. All he needed to do was prove it. Needless to say, that didn't happen even though Spain backed his efforts for four attempts. And no, Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella did not get any of the riches that were promised them by Columbus.

After Columbus failed to find his new trade route to Asia in 1492, and instead landed in the Caribbean, there was all of a sudden a whole new set of continents that were completely unknown to every mapmaker in the known world. 

So frankly, I say let's give Christopher Columbus the credit that he deserves for changing the world. Whether Columbus knew it or not, he did in fact make every map of the known world completely obsolete, completely wrong, in 1492. While he didn't know that he didn't get to Asia, his accidental find of the Western Hemisphere changed the way every power in Europe and Asia viewed the world. 

Think that's some small feat? Can any of you imagine a map without the Western Hemisphere on it? Imagine all of the mapmakers throughout the "known world" of Europe, Asia, and Africa needing a name for lands that no one ever knew about. No one even knew what it looked like, nevertheless what to name it. Remember, what would later become North and South America was completely uncharted. No one knew how big it was, if it was simply a small chain of islands near Asia, if it was a part of Asia, or if it were islands near a landmass as big as Europe and Asia and Africa, or all combined. No one knew.

All they knew at the time was that an Italian explorer commissioned by Spain to find a shortcut to Asia accidentally found lands where they should not have been. They were lands that no one thought existed. And by finding them, even though by accident, Christopher Columbus changed the world.  

Tom Correa