Happy 100th Dad

My Father, George Hanbury Smith, would have turned 100 years old on July 2nd. Obviously he is not around these days for achieving the age of 100 is a monumental accomplishment. Many people do and so many more people do not.

So why do I write about my Father’s would be 100th birthday? It’s probably more because I am old enough to see what a victory life is over the alternative. If you look at it with just numbers my Dad was born when the United States was only 132 years old.

And when I think of all the technological achievements humankind has accomplished in those 100 years I am flabbergasted.

In 1908 the Wright Brothers were hardly known for flight was so new. The Model T was new. The North Pole was about to be reached. Teddy Roosevelt was about to leave office. Famous people born that year were Betty Davis, Amy Vanderbilt, Edward R. Murrow, Estee Lauder and Jimmy Stewart.

And then I look at the achievements of humankind in just my lifetime. Television. Global air travel. Space flight. Cd’s, DVD’s, cell phones, satellites of all kinds, the Internet. But back to 1908, how about that fact that the population of the United States today is 302.2 million and in 1908 is was only 90-million.

One hundred is not a very long time. Perhaps we need to think about that as we consume and waste and as we warm and pollute the environment, perhaps to the point of destruction, for our children’s children.

My Father’s children’s children are now in their forties. Seems to me we have a lot of thinking to do and the changing of our modern and wasteful ways.

July 4th

Way back when, long before the time of today’s conscious memory, an idea became the child of freedom and democracy. At its birth, on this day in 1776, they named her Independence.

It was a hard pregnancy. The energy of violence was prevalent until the last British ships sailed out of New York Harbor. Then came the task of tolerance and the faith of forgiveness for 4-thousand, four hundred and 35 new American citizens died before the birth of Independence was possible.

Independence was a normal child, with endemic growing pains and problems. She fought against others in 1812 and deep within her own family in 1860 as she struggled to keep herself together.

Through the years into maturity, Independence traveled many paths. Old tired ones of war and new jubilant celebrations of peaceful success. Along the way there was boon and bust in the quest for comfort and the persona of independence made its share of friends and enemies, but she always carried the olive branch of reconciliation.

So congratulations Independence on this your birthday. May all your other names of Liberty and Freedom be forever tied to virtue, to tolerance, to honor, and to the God We Trust.

California Fires

There is nothing anyone can do to change it, to stop it. We can fight it and the fire fighters do so with skill, daring, courage and a danger to themselves, but still it chews the dry brush into a soft ash.

Lightening starts most of them. The drought too hurts and so does an ill wind called Santa Ana. It flows quickly from the mountain tops and reminds us of our vulnerability. The tears of loss and smiles of safety on the same face parallel our conflict and appreciation of nature.

The stories of neighbor helping neighbor, confirm our desire for community. There are hundreds of stories not only of crushing flames and charred places, but stories of hopes and wishes, shattered dreams and shock.

In times of such destruction values change rapidly. The acquired stuff of daily living is no match for the loss of a treasured family picture or the ache of not knowing if a pet survived.

There is never a quick end to tragedy. No easy answers to the wailed questions of why and no relief when cries have run out of tears.

It is not possible to hold each hand of so many so hurting from these fires. All we can do, in this human family, is to be aware and to care. There is something powerful in that and it heals.

Things Are Not Alway As They Seem

There was this guy named Bartholomew Masterson. He was born on a farm in Quebec, Canada. He was also known as William Barclay. He was a respected journalist and a leading authority on boxing.

At one time in his life he was a deputy US Marshall for the southern district of New York, appointed by Teddy Roosevelt.

In other times he had other careers. He was a buffalo hunter, an army scout, a saloon owner, and a professional gambler.

Bartholomew or William Barclay went by the nickname of “Bat.” Bat Masterson, sheriff of Dodge City, friend of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and Wild Bill Cody.

History tells us Masterson was a gun fighter. He may have had a couple of gunfights, but more correctly he knew a lot of legitimate gunfighters. Masterson’s friend and writer Alfred Henry Lewis wrote a book called the Sunset Trail, where he embellished Bat’s adventures with the famous gunfighters of the west and the legend increased. How many current urban legends are out there with little truth in their telling?

Bat Matereson died in New York City in 1921 from a heart attack while sitting at his desk. He was sports editor for the New York Morning Telegraph.

Things are not always as they seem.