Patriotic Musings

May your unfailing love come to me, Lord, your salvation, according to your promise; then I can answer anyone who taunts me, for I trust in your word.  Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws.  I will always obey your law, for ever and ever.  I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.  I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them.  I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees.

–          Psalm 119:41-49


The Scripture illustrates the paradox of freedom.  We talk a lot about freedom comes at a cost.  Many soldiers have died defending our freedom.  But we are not free to do anything that pops into our heads.  The Devil would have a field day with that notion.  No, God has given us His law.  Any truly ‘free’ society is only free within limits.  For the Christian, those limits are to glorify and praise Jesus and do our best to live our lives as Jesus did.


But on to a lighter subject.  The following includes bits and pieces of memories and such.


Independence Days that I Remember

1963 – I could remember this one for it being the first outside my home town.  But there are two other memories.  The Mississippi governor announced that it was the 100th anniversary of the fall of Vicksburg.  It was now time to stop flying the flag at half-mast.  To be honest, I had never noticed.  The other memory is that I heard fireworks on the Fourth.  It might not have been my first time hearing fireworks that day, but I remember that it was noteworthy.


1969 – My Dad had a job at a chicken processing facility in Lethbridge, Alberta.  The family always called them “chicken pluckin’ plants”.  I learned the joys of alliteration early in life.  He took my mother and I along.  On Canada Day (July 1), we were in Glacier National Park in the US.  On the Fourth of July, we were in Banff National Park in Canada.  I mentioned this fact to my parents as an oddity of our trip, but they were not impressed.  But, it marked the first Fourth of July I had spent outside the US.


1973 – I was at Army ROTC summer camp.  We had a big picnic and a break from the tough training for a few hours.  I guess it was my first Fourth of July away from family. The picnic marked the first time having a large gathering of virtual strangers for a picnic (a few hundred – there were a few picnics for the 1000+ officer candidates that day).


1978 – NATO declared an alert for all military forces in Europe.  At the time, many of us thought that the non-US members of NATO called for the alert just to mess with the US forces on their holiday, but I would not have put it past the Russians for moving tanks around on their side of the border just to mess with the US forces on their holiday.  It was especially memorable for me in that we could not be released from combat readiness until everyone had reported in, a company by company requirement.  I had a young electrician in my platoon that had a German girlfriend.  Since he had the day off, he went to one of her relative’s houses in the Black Forest.  Instead of everyone else in the company having hot dogs and apple pie, we sat wearing all our combat gear while the electrician’s friends and the MPs searched for my missing soldier.  The alert had started in the middle of the night that morning.  We had missed breakfast and lunch.  Dinner time was approaching.  One of my other guys finally got in touch with a neighbor of the girlfriend (It wasn’t a German holiday. – They were at work.) who knew where he was hiding.  After making a few more calls, it then took him an hour to get back to the barracks and report in, but at least we knew that this horrible day would come to an end.  And to think, this young electrician, who had kept about 180 people waiting on him that day, became a Sergeant-Major, and now, in military retirement, owns his own electrical contracting company.


2005 – Instead of celebrating the Fourth of July, I was flying to Kolkata, India.  I had just been diagnosed with Grave’s Disease, and I wasn’t used to my medications yet.  Now, I would spend two weeks in Jamshedpur, West Bengal, India, about twelve hours off from my usual time zone.  A few of my new medicines said, “Take at the same time every day.”  But I don’t think that figured in having your nights as days and your days as nights.  In hindsight, it was my last trip to India.


2017 – I had just started this blog the day before.  I was near Omaha, Nebraska.  We went to the College World Series Home Run Derby with the Omaha fireworks display immediately afterward.  It was a fun time with our older son and his family and a few of their friends.


Now you may wonder about special times with my wife.  She always made any holiday special, but those all run together.  The ones spent somewhere else, or without her, become the exceptions that are remembered.


Singing the National Anthem to a Hippie

During my senior year of college, I was the lucky ROTC officer candidate picked to command the color guard at all football games and that year, for the first time, at all basketball games.  All home games, that is.


On one occasion, after the National Anthem had been played for a basketball game, I had an odd incident.  As the commander of the guard, I carried the American Flag.  After marching the guard off the court and through the tunnel, I was helping the sergeant put away the flag when a hippie grabbed me by the shoulder.


My first thought was ‘How did this guy get past all the security?’  After all, we were still inside the colosseum.  He demanded that I sing the National Anthem.  For about twenty performances of the color guard, I had focused solely upon being as still as possible and keeping the flag absolutely vertical.  (The state flag, and any other flag, is dipped.)  I had sung the National Anthem all my life; I knew it.  So, I started to sing, and halfway through, I forgot the next line.  To this day, I cannot remember the words.  I attest that an axion in my brain died at that moment.  The hippie said, “I figured,” and he walked off.  By the way, the words of the first verse are:


O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there; O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

–          Francis Scott Key, The Star-Spangled Banner


Thumping Watermelons

What does this have to do with the Fourth of July?  It is American, as much as baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie.


Some people thump watermelons and have no idea what they are listening to.  Here’s the science, so put on your heavy thinking cap.  If you need one, I have extra hats.


You want to hear a resonant “doy-ing”, a tiny echo.  That means that the water in the watermelon is vibrating and that the skin is thin.  It works like sonar.  You thump the watermelon, and the vibrations bounce back from the far side of the melon and are picked up as a reverberation type noise, or “doy-ing”.  This means it is probably ripe and juicy.  If you hear a “thud”, the wall is too thick to transfer the vibrations and/or there isn’t enough juice to transmit the vibration to the other side of the melon.  A “thud” means that the watermelon was picked way too soon.  It will be tough and tasteless.


While on that note, fresh cut watermelon looks great in the store, but if chopped into bite size morsels, be sure that you can trust the grocery store.  Some stores buy green watermelons to cut into pieces.  They use food coloring to make the flesh look bright red.  And they add water.  The high class rip off stores use sugar water.  It looks good, but the bite size pieces are harder to chew than cardboard and there is no flavor at all.  You just don’t know that until you get the watermelon home.


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