Pump Nine and the Lamb Lady

A couple of nights ago, I stepped clear of the automatic sliding doors at a local convenience store and back into the darkness of the evening. It wasn’t late, but as everyone knows, darkness comes early in the soon to be winter months. I had taken only one step toward my car when I was stopped by a middle aged man. He spoke to me, but I didn’t understand what he said. His face was lowered toward the pavement and his voice was low.

“I’m sorry; I didn’t hear what you said.”

He looked up at me and I could see the pain I caused him, simply by asking him to repeat what he had said. He took a deep breath and managed to look at my knees. I bent forward and between the two of us we managed to communicate.

“Excuse me,” he stammered, “I hate to ask you this, but I need a little help. Can you let me have a few dollars to buy some gas? I’m parked right there, next to the pump, but I ain’t got any money.”

I looked in the direction he motioned and sitting under the weird lights of the gas pump island was a four door sedan that had more than one color. Most of it appeared to be a shade of dark blue, but the right front fender was a lime green and the front bumper was white. It had seen better days.

“How far you going?”

“I’ve got to get home, I live in Bolivar.”

I nodded understanding. The town of Bolivar was only about thirty miles away. I thought the car could make it that far, with some gas, of course.

I removed my wallet from my back pocket and opened it. I had five one dollar bills. I looked at him. It was my turn to take a deep breath.

“Look, I only have five bucks. It’s not going to help much, but I’ll split it with you.”

He smiled a small and still embarrassed smile as I counted out three for him and I kept two. He seemed overly grateful.

“I hope it helps and I hope it will attract a little more for you.”

“Thank you,” he said, “Most people have just ignored me, told me a flat “No,” or told me to go away.”

“Best of luck to you.”

“Thank you, again.”

He turned to return to his car and almost bumped into a man advancing toward the store from the gas island. I had not moved, as I was pocketing my wallet. The man looked at me with a glare as he passed.

He was shorter than me by a head and he resembled what a wooden barrel would be if it had arms and legs. He wore a cowboy hat, with a stockman crown, a western shirt, boot slacks and brown boots. His hair was extremely curly and formed a wreath around where the hat sat on his head. It was the color of dry cement. I don’t know why, but as he passed, I thought, “he’s not a cowboy, he’s a sheep farmer.” I was just amusing myself.

The sliding doors opened and he stopped and called to the two clerks at the register, “There’s some guy out here begging for money. He hit me up and after I told him no, he pestered everyone at the pumps.”

In that moment, my mind took me on a time travel trip. I was no longer in Springfield Missouri on a cool October evening, I was in western Wyoming and the year was 1971.

It was a week before the Fourth of July, a Sunday, and two friends and I decided to cross the border into Wyoming. We went in search of the good firecrackers; the ones illegal in Idaho. We took one of my friend’s Camaro. It was orange and ran like a scalded dog, as they used to say. I rode shotgun in the front passenger seat and the other friend had the rear seat to himself.

We scored the firecrackers and bought a few dozen cherry bombs and M-80’s. We were set and headed back to Idaho, when the political realities of the time hit us.

My driving friend turned to me and said, “I don’t think we have enough gas to get home.”

Due to the instabilities in the Middle East, the majority of gas stations didn’t sell gas on Sundays and in that part of Wyoming, gas stations open or closed, were in short supply.

“No sweat,” I proclaimed, “we’ll just stop at one of the ranches and buy a few gallons. We have the money.”

If you have never been there, Wyoming, between Kemmerer and Little America does not have many trees. What it has is sheep. We pulled into the driveway on the first ranch we came too. The house was big, made of brick and the outbuildings were all made of the same materials and the same colors. It was an impressive place. I got out of the car, walked to the door, and rang the bell.

A man came to the door, scowled at me and asked what I wanted. I told him our plight, pointed in the direction of the gas tank on stilts next to one of the shields and asked if we could buy a few gallons.

“No. I need the gas for my own use.” He closed the door. I won’t write what I mentally called him and returned to the car.

We stopped at four other ranches and were starting to get a little concerned as the needle edged closer and closer to empty. Two of the ranches flatly told us “no,” one didn’t answer the door and the last threatened to call the Sheriff on us. We were past desperate when we spotted a small, run down house about a hundred yards off of the highway.

We pulled over next to the dirt road that served as a driveway and parked next to the mailbox, which was one of the oversized tin ones. We debated if we should go down there as by all appearances, the place could be deserted. We got out of the car and heard lambs bleating.

We left the car where it was and the three of us walked the hundred yards to the house. We were so low on gas we didn’t want to use it to go where we could just as easily walk. As I said, the house was small; I’d guess maybe four or five rooms and small rooms at that. Some of it was covered with the black tar paper that was used back then, some of it was just faded plywood. The windows and their sills were a mixed lot, a few windows had white sills, but there were others with brown. It was obvious the house was made out of what was available. The outbuildings were mostly made of plywood with sheet-metal roofs. Two of the buildings were rolling stock box cars from the railroad with the wheels and axles removed. They sat on small stacks of railroad ties. Next to one of the converted boxcars stood a fifty-five gallon drum with a hand pump inserted and attached.

We tried the door, no answer. We walked toward the sheds and there must have been close to fifty lambs; all of them looking at us, all of them bleating and not one of them with a docked tail.

We were discussing taking some gasoline and leaving a note and some money on the drum when an old woman walked around from the back of the house. She had a board across her shoulders and at the ends, slightly swinging from half inch cotton rope were two large tubs. She reminded me of the statue of justice, except she wasn’t blindfolded and she didn’t hold her burden with an outstretched arm.

In the tubs were dozens of glass soda bottles. I think every major brand of soda was represented; Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, RC, Dr. Pepper and a few not so widely known. Each bottle had a rubber nipple stretched over the mouth and each bottle was filled with milk.

We startled her, but she smiled, “Hi, you’re just in time to feed the babies.”

We all smiled back and asked how we could help. That was to only invitation she needed, each of us was given five or six bottles and told to go to it. All of us were raised around baby animals so we knew what we were in store for, but those little lambs almost knocked each of us over.

After we finished, she climbed over the plywood fence, removed a leather glove and offered us her hand, “Hi,” she said, I’m known around here as the lamb lady.”

As we shook hands, our expression asked why, and she told us that when the big farms had lambs that the mother sheep would not accept, for whatever reason, they gave the orphans to her.

It wasn’t until after the feedings, when we were talking that I had a chance to really look at her. She was small framed, hunched over a little bit and her skin, what little we could see, was leather brown. She wore an old felt hat that allowed some grey hair to show. I’d still bet money she had wadding of some kind taking up some of the size. Her eyes were happy and when she smiled, she showed us a few places where teeth had been. She lived alone and didn’t tell us if she had ever been married; in her world it was just her and her lambs.

We had been there close to an hour when we finally told her why we had stopped. Before we had even finished our tale of woe, she interrupted and said, “Of course you can have some gas. It’s right there in the drum. I don’t have a five gallon can, but you can use five of those gallon milk bottles.”

She pointed to a pile of glass milk bottles and I asked why she was keeping them.

She looked at me, smiled and with pointed finger for emphasis told me they were worth a nickel a piece and she planned to collect, once she remembered to take them to town.

We filled five one gallon bottles and offered to pay her. She refused to take it. We picked up a brick and used it as a paperweight to hold some bills on the top of the drum. She told us to leave the empty gallon bottles next to the mailbox, saying she would pick them up the next time she checked her mail. After we had emptied the gasoline into the Camaro, we put the bottles in the truck and drove them back to where we had gotten them. She was busy feeding more lambs when we drove into her yard, so when we waived, all she managed was a smile and a nod of her head, as her arms were full of soda bottles. She was there when we pulled back onto the asphalt that would soon become Interstate 80.

Over the years, I have driven through that part of Wyoming and every time I remember the lamb lady. This past summer, I told my dad about her was we travelled east bringing him out to live with me. Her place is gone now, of course. I couldn’t find where it was if I had a week to search. The new interstate changed the terrain along that route, but I still remember her and think of her from time to time.

Life is amazing. Every once in a while we are offered a chance to be the one person another needs to get through their day. I’m afraid that all too often, because of the pressures of our own lives, we fail to recognize those times.

I watched the man with the concrete colored hair walk passed me back to his vehicle. He had a superior smile on his face as he looked at me and muttered something about how the clerks should call the police. I looked at the man who had asked for help. He was standing next to his car, waiting for another customer to pull in. I pointed at him and loudly asked, “What pump are you at?”

He said, “Me?”

“Yeah, what pump are you at?”

He looked at the pump and then back at me, “Pump number nine.”

“Stay there, I’m sending gas to you.”

I stepped inside the store and looked at the two confused faces of the clerks. I removed my debt card from my wallet, and gave it to one of them.

“Send ten dollars of gas to pump number nine.”

“Pump nine?”

“Yeah, pump nine and don’t call the cops. He’ll be on his way in a minute.”

The clerk ran the transaction and returned my card, “Ten dollars’ worth of gasoline at two dollars a gallon,” he said. It dawned on me I bought the man five gallons.

I stepped through the doors once again, waved with a fully outstretched arm and pointed at the pump. “Coming at you,” I called. Even with the weird lighting over the pumps, I could see his grin. “Thank you,” he called.

I got into my car, but I wasn’t thinking about the man, I was remembering the lamb lady and I thanked her one more time from the three of us.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. We all have a chance to help another. All of my books now support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Now would be a good time to buy one. Thank you.

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Road Trip – Sort Of

road tripIn the days before eBooks and blogs, when an author wrote a book, the first task was to garner attention and hopefully book sales. Authors were known to stake out shopping centers, book stores and anywhere else they thought they could slow down the pedestrians long enough to tell them about their book.

Today, new authors don’t have to do that. Today, thanks to the internet, the blogosphere, social media and all the other ways to “reach out and touch” someone, we get to pester all our friends, family members and contacts, in the attempt to increase sales.   I have been asked several times, “What is the hardest part of writing a book?” My answer is always the same, “Letting people know I wrote it.”

Enter the newest avenue, the blog tour.

A blog tour is a digital and electronic trip the book makes across the blogosphere stopping to visit several blogs and make an appearance hoping to arouse the interest of the blog followers. Kellynch is in the middle of such a tour at this time. Over the past couple of weeks the book has stopped at several blog sites for introductions. It has been a lot of fun for me to tag along, and see the increased attention.

A couple of the blogs have done reviews:

“It’s brave to write a sequel to a Jane Austen book, and Kwen D. Griffith doesn’t only take on the task, he succeeds at it too. He managed to make the characters believable, both as a continuation of the characters in “Persuasion” and as people living in the 1800s. The settings are described in detail, the writing is solid, and overall, it’s a very enjoyable experience to read this book.” – Majanka, I Heart Reading blog.

“We start the story with Anne and Fredrick living in her family’s estate, happily married and in love after years of not being able to be together. The story then goes on with intrigue, betrayal, and a new family bond forming. When Fredrick rejoins the royal navy rumors fly that he has left his beloved Anne and she has to face the choice of believing the ugly rumors or trusting her heart. The story started out a little slow, but it quickly picked up and was an overall great read. My only real complaint about the story is I felt it ended too soon. But with a good read that is usually the case.” – nik, Paranormal Romance and Authors that Rock blog.

Publishing a new book is much like sending a child to their first day of school. As a parent, you believe your child is smart and talented, but suddenly they are thrust into the world where they will be compared, graded and reviewed. As we see them off on the bus, we hope the other children will be nice to them, the teacher will be patient with them, and they won’t run into bullies.

I believe “Kellynch” is holding its own.

If you have not read my latest book, I ask you to give it a try. It is a great story. If you have, I ask you review the book on Amazon (with an honest review).

The road trip continues for another week or so. It’s been a fun ride.

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First Review

 

report card

My phone rang a couple of mornings ago. I was busy and didn’t focus on the screen.

“Hello,” I said.

“You made me cry.”

“I what?” I’m focused now. “I did what?”

“You made me cry.”

“How? When?” I was confused and flustered, “Who is this?”

A chuckle, “Its Colette, your friend.”

“Oh, Colette,” a friend from church, “How did I make you cry?”

“I just finished your book, Kellynch. It’s great.”

“Thank you. I didn’t know it was listed yet. I just submitted yesterday and it normally takes Amazon about a day to convert the files. When did you get it?”

“I bought it last night at ten o’clock and I had it finished by six this morning.”

“You were up all night?”

“What can I tell you? I couldn’t put it down.”

It was my turn to chuckle, “That’s amazing. You read it in one night. Is it alright if I assume your cry was a good cry?”

“Oh, of course. The book was so much more than I expected. I thought it would just be a retelling of the original book, but you took the characters to new places. I really liked the growth you showed with Elizabeth.”

“I always felt bad for her. She’s the prettiest sister and she’s the one who can’t find a husband. I’m really glad you liked the book.”

“Liked it? I loved it. You added so much to the story. I really liked the part about the ships and the attempt made by the British navy to stop the importation of slaves.”

“Historically accurate. They committed one sixth of the British navy trying to stop it. Besides, I had to add stuff for the guys. I mean, this is a story that has sword fights, muskets, bird dogs and even pirates in it. I am surprised you got it so quick.”

“I knew you planned to release it before the end of this month, so I’ve checked Amazon a couple of times a day for the past week.”

“Thank you Colette. You’re a good friend. You’ve been a wonderful supporter of my work.”

“Hey, what can I tell you, I like your books.”

“See you at church.”

I’m counting this as the first review of my new book “Kellynch.” I think this one would be a five star rating. The book is now available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Thanks again, Colette.

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Welcome To Kellynch

Kellynch Book coverIt is done.  I made the deadline.

Think of me, as the head gatekeeper and I have swung open the gate, doff my hat, and bid you to enter.

“Welcome to Kellynch,” I proclaim.

Kellynch is the name of an imaginary estate used by Jane Austen in her last novel, “Persuasion.”  She died shortly after it was finished and never got to see it published.  I know most of the world is nuts over “Pride and Prejudice,” but “Persuasion” and “Mansfield Park” are mine.  Miss Austen worked on the two of them together and I think they are her best work, without question.

The cast of “Persuasion” is rich with personality and conflicting points of view.  It truly was fun to borrow her characters for a short period of time.  I endeavored to add depth to them but maintain the balance given them by their creator.

You, the readers, will tell me if I have succeeded or not.

So, I say again, “Welcome to Kellynch.”

Find your favorite place to read, grab your best beverage or snack, and enjoy a good book, if I do say so myself.

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“I am what I am,” Popeye

silhouette-7In Hamlet, Shakespeare tells us, “to thine own self be true.”  Today, we crudely say, “do your own thing.”

As I get ready to release my seventh book, a sequel to Jane Austen’s work, “Persuasion,” I have been pondering the advice of the Bard and have decided it’s time to “come clean,” as they say.

I need to become honest with what some of my readers have suspected for some time and, in truth, my characters have known all along.  I have no doubt some, who do not know me as well as they thought they did, will be surprised and maybe even disappointed.  I can only reply to them with, “Shakespeare didn’t say to others be true.”  We must be true to ourselves.

To my family and friends, who are shocked by my revelation, I offer no apologies.  In the words of that famous sailor, Popeye, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.”

Therefore, in advance of my newest book, “Kellynch,” I say it loud and I say it proud,

“I am a romance writer.”

There, I said it, I admitted it, and I came out of the closet.

“I am a romance writer.”

I am proud of it.  Romance is the choreography of our lives.  Romance is not just the showing of affection between a couple, though that is what most of us think of.  Romance is much more powerful than that.

We spend the better part of our lives either looking for romance, trying to keep romance, or lamenting the loss of romance.  Romance is all around us.

Have you ever watched a grandparent play “itsy-bitsy spider” with a grandchild?

That’s romance between generations.

Ever wakened on a camping trip and step outside your tent to find dew settled on every blade of grass and it looks like diamonds have been seeded across the meadow?

That’s romance with nature.

I am a romance writer and I will continue to write my books.  Some of them will be “historical,” some will be “murder mysteries,” and some will be “science fiction,” but all of them will be “romance.”

It’s who we are.  It’s what I am.

For those of you who have been waiting, “Kellynch” is going through the final processes, and unless problems are found, will be ready the end of this month.  I hope you read it and I hope you like it.  By the way, it’s a fan fiction regency period romance.

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Jane Goes To War

Jane at warToday, around the world, there is a large number of people, primarily women who identify themselves as “Janeites.”  They are the disciples of an English author who died more than 200 years ago.  Her name was Jane Austen.

Austen was the daughter of an English Victor and she lived adjacent to the society of gentry.  The gentry were the wealthy landowners of massive estates and they relied upon the tenant farmers for income.  An extensive and well-trained domestic staff provided for every need or want a member of this class could desire.  Many times, the staff outnumbered the family members.  It was known as the Regency era and it was the sunset of the gentile English life style.  In just a few years, world events and technology would usher in World War 1.  It was a blessing, Austen and her companions did not know of the future waiting just a generation away.

Six novels was all she was able to finish in her short lifetime.  She died when she was but forty-one.  Those six novels set the standards and expectations for the Janeites.

It would be and could be easy to make fun of and tease this dedicated group.  Many people do.  However, like many who read Miss Austen, they miss the point and ignore the depth of the stories.  They are more than just “boy meets girl” romances.  They talk of personal expectations and social obligations.  If we will but allow them, the books can serve as examples of how we can live fuller lives.

Truthfully, comparing Austen’s works to some of the fifty shades of crap written today and packaged as art can be more than a little nauseating.

However, it is more than just stories.  During the closing years of the First World War, droves of soldiers had given up and quit fighting.  They suffered from what was called; “Shell Shock” and they had seen too much carnage and destruction.  They had forgotten why the war was being fought.  Part of their treatment was the reading of Jane Austen novels.

Most people today do not know this, but thanks to the writer Rudyard Kipling, most of the first generation of Janeites were not only men, but soldiers as well.

I find it comforting that a writer, who is known for her dedication to the gentile life of the English gentry, answered the call when her country needed her.

Yeah, I know, she was long dead and it was her novels that served, but its more romantic to think otherwise and isn’t romance what it is all about?

brit soldier

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Welcome To Kellynch

Somewhere, somehow, at a particular moment, as I go through my day, I notice a sight, I hear a sound or an odor catches my attention.  Without warning, the idea of a story is born.  At first, it may take the mental shape of a daydream, fantasy or just a passing thought.  Sometimes, the image has the strength of a tsunami rushing toward me, collapsing buildings in the process. Other times, the image pesters me and teases, like a dented Styrofoam cup being kicked down an empty alley by the breeze.

No matter how it happens, the end result is that I am sent scurrying to my lap top and if that is not available, I can be found scribbling on the closest sheet of paper.  I have been told that J. K. Rowling started writing the first draft of Harry Potter on napkins in the diner where she was a waitress.  I don’t know if that is true or not, but I can say this, “It should be.”

Once the story starts to take shape, it can be likened to many life experiences.  I have heard it compared to pregnancy as well as the growth of a boil.  The one solid fact is, the story has to come out, one way or another.

So, in a couple of weeks, I will introduce you to my newest work, “Kellynch.”  The story is the continuation of the Jane Austen book, “Persuasion.”  Miss Austen created some of the most beloved characters in the history of literature. Only a handful of us would not recognize the names of “Lizzy Bennet” and “Mister Darcy.”  Equal, in my mind, is the story of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth.

For those few who do not recognize the names, allow me to introduce you.  Anne, is a member of the English gentry and Frederick Wentworth, a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.  He proposes and she accepts, only to be persuaded to change her mind and reject him due to his lack of future.  Their story is one of being reunited several years later and discovering they still have feelings for each other.  Miss Austen’s book ends with the idea of a happily ever after.  My story, “Kellynch” picks up their story three years later.

For the Jane Austen purists, allow me to state, here and now, I remain true to the characters created by Miss Austen.  The couple does not become vampires, nor do they fly to Jupiter or travel through time.  Recently, I saw a movie in which the Lizzie Bennet character was seen riding a Moped.  Artistic license aside, that’s just wrong.

Miss Austen completed the writing of Persuasion in August of 1816.  It was published in December of that year, but Jane didn’t live long enough to see it hit the bookstores.  She died shortly before it came out.  In recognition of her work, “Kellynch” will be available on Amazon, in both Kindle and paperback editions the end of this month.  I hope you will give it a read.

For the time being, examine the cover I intend to use and feel free to comment or critique it.

I am grateful for the support many of you have shown me over the years and hopefully I will not let you down.  If I may ask one favor, if you have read any of my books and you have not posted a review on Amazon, please do.  Amazon likes it and it truly helps a new writer.  All I ask is that you be honest.  Thanks, see you in a couple of weeks.      Kellynch Book cover

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Dad Died Today

cowboy_hat_and_boots_by_pocketdreams-d2z57cz

 

Dad died today.

I had sat with him most of the morning, but he didn’t talk much. Had other things on his mind, I guess. A few days ago, we had talked about the books I have written and he asked me about a character named Samuel Moses Cardiff. I told him I developed much of the character based on him. He smiled, “Not the mean parts, I hope.”

“No dad, not the mean parts, just the horse sense parts.”

Dad was a horseman and if a “horse whisperer” really exists, he would look like my dad, not Robert Redford. He raised and bred quarter horses for more than fifty years and not long ago, the American Quarter Horse Association rewarded him with a statue of a horse. He never had any money, to speak of, but his horses were rich in talent and they competed, and won, on all levels and in many different events.

Over the next few days, things will be said about my dad. Much of it will be good, but some will not. My dad was ornery and cantankerous long before he got old. He was also caring and loving, though he didn’t show that side of him as much as many would have liked. He lived the life he chose and he lived it on his terms. He has the scars to prove it. Many of his decisions costed him dearly but he didn’t complain. He accepted the good, as well as the bad.

He was tough, hard-headed and opinionated. He always thought he was right. He lived his life like a John Wayne character. Like the image of “The Duke,” dad believed in this country and believed in the ability and promise of the young people. He was an active leader in Boys Scouts, 4-H Clubs, and high school rodeo. He was more than willing to help a young cowboy or cowgirl train a horse, learn to throw a rope, or tighten the braid of a lead rope.

I’ve written before that he and I did not get along very well. Either we were too much alike, or not enough. Who knows and at the end of the day, who cares? He was my father and I am proud to be his son. Even before he knew me, he gave me his most valuable possession, his name. I am Kwen Delos Griffeth Jr. and my dad died today.

I will miss him.

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Prettiest Lady at the Dance

buntingShe was born on the fourth of July 1776 but not christened until the twenty-first of June 1788.  She was the world’s first Constitutional Republic and while she was the prettiest girl at the dance, her survival was anything but certain.

She nearly died an infant’s death during the winter of 1777-78.  Even with nursemaids as talented as Washington and Jefferson, Adams and Franklin, or Madison and Hancock, she would not have survived if not for the sacrifices of hundreds of patriots, most who are long forgotten or never known, who courageously gave her transfusions of their own blood at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

She survived and not only did she live, she defeated, with the help of the French, the most powerful nation on earth at that time.

As a child she was little more than a skinny string of communities that stretched the length of the eastern coast.  She turned her face westward as she looked for room to grow.   She took, bought or negotiated territories as she crossed the continent.  By the time she was an adolescent, her curves had been formed by the oceans to her east and west; her stature by neighbors to the north and south.

She struggled with her colors and nearly succumbed to self-inflicted wounds in the last half of the 19th century.  She was blessed to have a nanny named Lincoln to see her through the worst of it.

She hasn’t done everything right, like most young ladies, she made her mistakes.  I never said she was perfect, only the prettiest at the dance.

She came of age and her debutant ball was held on June 26th, 1917.  Europe had been at war four long years and had bled itself to the brink of death.  With the words, “Lafayette, we are here,” US General J.J. “Black Jack” Pershing led the American First Infantry Division ashore onto French soil.  The lady’s debt would be repaid.

It was “The War to end all wars,” they said, but it proved not to be true.  Throughout the 1930s a gang of three bullies appeared on the scene.  In Asia, the war started on July 7th, 1937 when Japan invaded China; September 1st, 1939 Hitler, with Mussolini in his pocket, invaded Poland.

The lady tried to stay out of the fight, but after being assaulted on December 7th, 1941 she brought her full might to bear.  The lady was angry.  She kicked butt and cleaned house.

The lady is a mother now.  She has given birth to a diverse family.  Some used to call her the melting pot.  That was never true, a jar full of jellybeans would be more accurate and I am not referring to the colors.  She reinforces the basic diversity that makes one person different from another.

Some celebrate by raising the flag above their heads and cheering.  Others spit on it, stomp on it and set it afire.  Not only is the lady strong enough to tolerate both actions, she protects them with her First Amendment.

Some call her a shining light on a hill; some call her the great Satan.  She can be brash and she stumbles from time to time.  She is as natural as a summer rain on the wheat fields of Kansas.  She is as glorious as daybreak over the Tetons in Wyoming.  She has the energy of a wave breaking against the rocks in La Jolla and she is as sexy as opening night on Broadway.

She remains the prettiest at the dance.

Happy Birthday America

 

Copyright © 2015 by Kwen D. Griffeth

Sharing is not only permitted but encouraged

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Francis, Charles and Jane

Francis Austen

Francis Austen

In 1786, a twelve year old boy named Francis entered the Royal Navy Academy in Portsmouth, England.  He was called “Fly” by his family and his intellect and hard work soon impressed the staff of the Academy.  As many as 97% of the boys who entered the school were placed aboard ships and served as midshipmen as they completed their studies.  Because of his academic abilities, Fly was allowed to stay at the school the entire four years in order to complete his training before being ordered aboard a ship.  He graduated at the top of his class.

Francis would die at the age of 91 and at the time of his passing he held the rank of Senior Admiral of the Fleet; the highest rank in the British Navy.  During the years separating those two events, Frank proved himself as capable on ships as in the classrooms.  He fought in the wars with Napoleon, the War of 1812 and was captain of several ships.

His greatest single achievement may have been when he commanded a 16-gun sloop, the HMS Peterel into action against two French merchant ships and captured them both.  After ordering prize crews aboard to sail the ships to British waters and therefor being shorthanded, he was attacked by three French war ships.  He out maneuvered two of them and forced them to ground themselves and then he captured the third, a 14-gun sloop named the “Ligurinne.”  He fought in the War of 1812, where he captured an American privateer, “Swordfish.”  During the Mexican-American War he was a fleet commander stationed in Jamaica where he protected British commerce and disrupted the slave trade.

Francis was known as the “Praying Admiral” as he was a deeply religious man and he used naval regulations to provide for his crews.

Five years after Francis entered the Academy, another young man, Charles followed him.  Charles was Francis’s younger brother.  He had been born in 1779.  Not as studious as Francis, Charles soon found himself at sea where he was expected to continue his studies while also serving aboard a British war vessel.  He proved capable of the expectations and excelled at both.

Where Francis was stoic and hard to approach, Charles was laid back and easy going until the action started.  As a young officer, he took four other men and a small boat.  Under the cover of night the men rowed the boat alongside of a French sloop, the 18-gun Scipio and captured it, holding the 149 member crew at bay until the following dawn, when they signaled their ship, the HMS Indian, to take possession.

His ability to command crews and his understanding of tactics allowed Charles the opportunities to command several ships of the line.  He commanded the 36-gun HMS Phoenix, the 46-gun HMS Aurora and the 74-gun HMS Swiftside.

Like his brother, Charles rose to the rank of Admiral but he died young of cholera.

These two men with such commonalities also shared another part of their lives.  They were the brothers of the writer Jane Austen.

I smile when I think of the times these two accomplished warriors, these two high ranking officers and leaders of men were introduced by, “…He is the brother of the writer, Jane Austen.”

Charles Austen

Charles Austen

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