Uncle Jack

I read that Google was going to archive 10-millions Life Magazine photos from the 1860’s to the present. I clicked on the link and found an astounding number of photos already in a categorized collection.

I sifted through some from the Civil War and into the 1880’s, but then the 1910 category caught my attention and I remembered that my Uncle Jack fought in World War One with a Canadian infantry regiment.

I don’t know much about him accept he was a stepbrother of my Father. He was ten years older and certainly a great influence on my Father. I never met Jack; I just heard stories about him.

The picture above was taken in April 1917 and is a photo of Canadian troops climbing out of their trenches and “going over the top” during World War One.

Notice the artillery shells bursting in air over the trench. The soldiers are carrying British Lee-Enfield rifles, which were issued to virtually all British Commonwealth soldiers on the Western Front. The Lee-Enfield, with its ten-cartridge magazine, was well suited to rapid fire; a soldier could expect to fire twelve shots a minute.

It is possible my Uncle Jack is in this picture. I don’t know, but I can imagine he had similar experiences. Jack survived the war, but like too many of our returning combat veterans from the Gulf and Afghanistan Wars, he could not survive coming home. He committed suicide sometime after the war ended.

War does things to those who are asked to fight it. Perhaps it’s because it is an unnatural condition in which to live. Some make it through OK and go on to lead productive lives. Others like my Uncle Jack could not let go of the pain, the fog, and the psychological wounds of battle with images of dead buddies and slain bodies and no bandages to heal for the future.

I am going back to look at the picture again and wonder about the Uncle I never met, and I’ll also wonder why we haven’t learned very much in nearly a hundred years.

Joachimsthalern


Some thoughts on the Joachimsthalern.

Yep! The Joachimsthalern.

If things had been a little different we might be saying bet your bottom joachimsthalern or shopping at the Joachimsthalern Store. Believe it or not we get the English word “dollar” from Joachimsthalern.

Back in the 16th century a little valley in Czechoslovakia called Joachimsthal established a mint and made silver and gold coins. They were widely distributed and eventually the Joachimsthal truncated to the “Thaler.”

Over time other European countries patterned their currency units after the “Thaler” and the name evolved to “Taler” and eventually “Daler” in the Nordic cultures.

When we declared our independence from Great Britain, Thomas Jefferson was against tying American currency to the British pound so he wrote that our currency should be patterned after European currency, not the British Pound and the unit would be called the dollar.

Now you know.

The War Prayer


Once again I had the pleasure to watch actor Hal Holbrook’s portrayal of American humorist and raconteur Mark Twain. It was in a large theatre in a small city. All 15-hundred seats were filled.

At one point Holbrook goes into Twain’s “The War Prayer”. Twain wrote it around 1905. It was rejected by his publisher and then found after his death among his unpublished manuscripts.

Twain apparently wrote it as an opposition to the Philippines War of 1899-1902.

The whole story is too long for this post, but its essence is not. The story is a messenger from “The Throne”, shows up in a small church that had been praying for victory and safety for their young who are going off to war. The messenger says God wants them to know the unmentioned results, the unspoken part of the prayer, that must follow victory in war.

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(*After a pause.*) The messenger says, “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”

Twain ends the story with this line. “It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

California Fires

Dear Friends,
There is fire’s devastation again in California. I have friends in the area and though their homes were sparred, others were not.

A house for some and home for others
Families, friends, sisters and brothers.
Gone! Vanquished in the force of flame.
Nothing left! No photo! No frame!

We cannot know not being there
The loss, the ache, for hearts to bear
And minds to seek a place called home
Where hopes can rest and memories roam.

We’re oft surprised by nature’s rath
That brings the wind and chewing path
Of flames and shakes and hurricanes
Into our solace causing pains.

The valiant fought with hose and pail
Extinguishing? To no avail.
The pros came in from near and far,
But could not hold the fire’s char.

A table and some chairs in flame.
What is the cause and who’s to blame?
Did laughter, love, once languish there
Upon the deck, without a care?

What do we say to stranger’s pain?
“I’m sorry”, said as prayer, seems lame,
But there is healing in the thought
When we, but view, what nature wrought.

Photo’s by Dan Steinberg AP, Mark Terrill AP, and Andrew Gombert EPA.