Family Genealogy: Anthony Cooke and the Photo of BFD Ladder 10

When it came to me, it was a copy.  It was probably a copy of a copy.  At some point, my maternal great-uncle, Edward O’Connell, sat down and drafted several pages of notes on the Cooke, Boyle, O’Connell, and Kelly families. I am not sure what his motivation for doing this may have been.  When my mother gave me a copy of it years ago, I stashed it in a file folder with some other family documents.

I don’t know if Uncle Ed intended to leave a trail for future generations.  When I began to do genealogical research, I dug out Uncle Ed’s notes and started following his breadcrumbs.  I had no idea how accurate the information was, but it was a critical starting point for my labors.

uncle ed map

Uncle Ed’s map of significant family sites in Brooklyn, NY from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The twelve pages of notes are handwritten in his precise printing, I call the font “Uncle Ed.”  There is a lot of basic family information scattered on the pages that allow me to open the doors to the Boyle, Cooke, Kelly, and O’Connell families who have branches in my mother’s family tree.  He included a hand-drawn map of what is now known as the “Boerum Hill” neighborhood of Brooklyn with annotations of locations of key family sites from the 19th and 20th centuries.  The other pages contain such gems as renderings of FDNY Badges for my maternal grandfather (more on that in a future post), a few grainy photos of ancestors, and copy of a 19th century drawing of the family church, St Paul’s Church at the corner of Court and Congress Street, where many of my ancestors had their baptisms, weddings, and funerals.

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One of the photos that intrigued me was of the men of Hook and Ladder Company 10.  The “Xerox” copy of the photo was splotchy and had a couple of holes in it. The men in the photo were barely distinguishable.  My 2X great-grandfather, Anthony A. Cooke (25 May 1856 – 19 April 1928) is in the photo, perched on top of the horse-drawn “truck.”

I researched the photo to try to find a better copy and to determine its origin and date.  I started with the New York City Fire Museum,  but the image predates the consolidation of all the fire companies in New York City into what is now the FDNY.  This was a Brooklyn Fire Department (BFD) photo. The email response from the museum recommended that I get with the Brooklyn Historical Society for more information.  An evening of online research yielded the source of the photo, a book titled Our Firemen: The Official History of the Brooklyn Fire Department on the Cornell University Library website.  The book, published in 1892, is a comprehensive history of the BFD “compiled from the records of the department.”  I was able to get my hands on a reproduction of the book done by The New York Public Library.  I found the photo on page 227.

ladder 10 bfd

Hook and Ladder Company No. 10, Brooklyn Fire Department, circa 1892

I was thrilled to have this photo in the best condition for which I could reasonably hope possible.  When I turned the page, I found something more interesting.  The book contains small biographies of the firemen and anecdotes about the companies.   This short blurb added to what little I knew about Anthony Cooke.

Anthony Cooke was born on Hamilton Avenue on May 25, 1856.  He was the son of Owen Cooke and Mary Quigley, both were immigrants from Ireland.  On the 1860 census, Owen’s occupation was listed as “Carriage Driver.”  Anthony grew up around horses, and when he joined the BFD on February 18, 1887, he was an equipment driver.  Between 1887 and 1892 he was “the driver for Engines Nos 3 and 26, and Trucks Nos 1, 5, and 10.”

turn of the century ladder company

An example of a “Hayes” Truck similar to the truck used by BFD’s Hook and Ladder Company 10. (FDNY photo)

BFD’s Truck 10 was an “improved second-class Hayes Truck” pulled by “three of the handsomest and quickest working horses in the Department”. “Larry,” Billy” and “Dick,” the team pulling Truck 10, also had brief biological information included in the book along with the firehouse cat, Patsey.  The cat does not appear on the official roster, but he was reported to have arrived two days after the formation of the company and made himself at home at the firehouse.

Hook, and Ladder Company No. 10 was designated as ready for active service on 1 August 1891. They protected a district bordered by Johnston Street, Nevins Street, First Place, and Smith Street and on the west by the waterfront. It was quartered in a two-story structure on State Street, near Boerum Place.

On 22 February 1892, an article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (on page 4) lead with a dramatic headline: “DEATH AT HAND.”  The article goes on to chronicle the ordeal of the Goodman Family at 395 Fulton Street. David Goodman lived on the fourth floor of the building with his wife, Sarah; his infant daughter, Mamie; his mother, Etta, and brother-in-law, Jacob Michaelson.  The lower floors of the building housed a tavern, a dentist office and the Sullivan Bros. Company,  an awning manufacturer, occupying the third floor of the building as a factory and storage facility. As the firemen of Engine 5 from the house on Pierrepont Street and Truck 10, with Anthony Cooke at the reins, reached the scene the five occupants of the top floor were crowding the front windows as the three floors below them were consumed by the rapidly spreading fire. Much to their horror, the firemen realized that their ladders would not reach the trapped family.  The firemen forced their way into an adjoining structure and made their way to the roof.  While Anthony Cooke held a rope from the roof,   another fireman (identified as Fireman Lester Roberts) was lowered to the window to assist the terrified family. He secured them, one by one, to the rope and lowered them to a ladder that was raised from the sidewalk to meet the end of the rope anchored by Anthony Cooke up on the roof of the burning building.  As the Daily Eagle Article described the scene:

 The aged Mrs. Goodman was first rescued and then the baby was lowered down in a blanket. The child fell out of the improvised pouch in transit, but luckily dropped on to the shoulder of a fireman who was on the ladder ten feet below. He caught it in his arms and the baby was carried into a neighboring restaurant, where it was found to be half unconscious from smoke suffocation. While all of this was going on an ambulance had been sent for, and Surgeon Duggan was there to attend to the baby and the other sufferers.  The younger Mrs. Goodman was next rescued, almost paralyzed from fright, and Mr. Goodman last.  Michaelson escaped by climbing to the roof and in doing so his hands were severely burned.  The mother, child and husband were taken to city hospital, where their injuries were dressed. Mrs. Goodman and the baby were in a fair way to recover this afternoon, and Mr. Goodman was around looking up his loses.

After the rescue, the firemen focused their attention on fighting the fire.  I will assume that Anthony Cooke and the other firemen scrambled down from the burning structure through the adjacent building from which they had originally made it to the roof.   Firefighting efforts were hampered when the nearest hydrant was found to be “hopelessly out of repair.” The fire was under control after 2 o’clock. Later, it was ruled to be an arson.  It was started in the hallway on the third floor.

The article goes on to discuss the police investigation of the suspected arson and a vague description of the alleged arsonist.

Once again, a hint from Uncle Ed and a grainy photo yielded a fantastic story from a generation of our family that had been lost for over 100 years.

A final note for my siblings and “Kelly Cousins”:  Anthony Aloysius Cooke was the father of Nana’s mother, Ellen.  Ellen (1877-1940) was the eldest daughter of Anthony Cooke and Mary Boyle.  Anthony and Mary’s youngest child to survive to adulthood was Gertrude (1889-1978).  We knew her as “Aunt Gertie” (our second great-aunt).

 

 

 

 

Scrabble, The “JANITOR” Tale

scrabble tilesOn those occasions when I find myself in the company of Jeanne by the Herb River, Scrabble games often break out.  The board appears on the screen of her iPad, and the tiles are doled out in the flash of a byte.  I must admit that I miss the sensation of retrieving seven wooden tiles from a bag that has been shaken, not stirred. I’m very tactile!

We have our way of playing.  There is much needling and teasing as well as the occasional exasperated comment about the collection of vowels devoid of consonant companions or vice versa. One of our playing requirements will remain between her and me.  (Keep it clean, people!)

Last evening’s match was particularly daunting.  Early on in the game, I played the letters J-A-(blank)-I-T-O-R on top of the word MAZES with the A above the M.  The Blank tile standing in for an “N.”  Because of the placement of letters on score multiplying spaces, my “JANITOR” swept up a tidy 95 points after collecting the 50 point bonus for using all seven tiles in my electronic rack.  An insurmountable lead, right?

Wrong!  Down by more than 100 points early on in the game.  Jeanne began to masterfully navigate the board as I sat back on my ridiculous, comfortable lead.  “DELFT,” “AVOW,” and “FURRY” are but a few examples of how a well-placed tile can eviscerate a ridiculous point gap held by an overconfident speller working that part of the board that does not multiply the values of numbers.

By the time we were down to our last tiles, Jeanne had easily attained over 300 points, and I was not going to come close to clearing that hurdle.  She had administered a master class, and we had a lot of fun while she was doing it.  In the end, I was 22 points astern of my partner.

I can’t wait to play again.  It is things like this, shared, that make time with Jeanne stand still.  I know a word played between us each day.

Love Scrabble

 

 

Whamageddon

Author’s disclaimer: There is no link or blog trick that will play the song “Last Christmas” by Wham anywhere in this post.  I give you my word that, if you are still in the game, you are not taking a risk of being Whammed by reading this post.  I swear on my reproduction first edition of A Christmas Carol, so help me Dickens!

It all began when we saw Christmas appearing everywhere on November 1st.  The remnants of Halloween candy wrappers still played in the breeze on Musket Court when the sounds of Christmas music began to assault our ears.  It was more than I could deal with.  We were not even through the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas was pushing in the door.

WHAMMy sons take part in an annual game that is lovingly referred to as “Whamageddon“.  It is an international sensation with a huge following.   (It must be legit if it has its own website and a Facebook page!) I am convinced this is an international attempt to hold off Christmas until mid-December, where it belongs. The concept is simple.  You do whatever you have to in order to avoid hearing the song, “Last Christmas” by Wham. That is not an easy thing to do if you are paying attention. The contest runs from 1- 24 December. Once you recognize the music as the original version by Wham, you are out.  You have gone to Whamhalla. You self report and you are done.  It is just a matter of time before those who you love join you.  Covers of the song don’t count!  It has to be the original, by Wham (George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley).

I was all in on November 30th as I boarded a flight to Savannah.  My first year in the competition and I was ready to go, my Wham senses on full alert.  On December 1st, the first day of the competition, Jeanne wanted to go get wreaths for her house and pick up her decorations from her storage unit.  We set out down the Harry S Truman Parkway with her “to do” list.  At the first Christmas Tree tent by the Home Depot, she ran into a friend and they started chatting.  I was lost in my thoughts and mindlessly humming the barely audible Christmas tune playing above the din of holiday shopping, tree selecting and parking space jousting nearby when, on the second verse, it hit me.

Once bitten and twice shy
I keep my distance
But you still catch my eye
Tell me, baby
Do you recognize me?

Yeah, I recognize you… Damn it! At just before 11 a.m., Eastern Standard Time in Savannah Georgia, I had been Whammed.  Done, out, game over.  I had made it barely eleven hours into the competition.  Jeanne apologized for putting me in Wham’s way with a sly grin on her face.  It was over almost before it started.  I texted the boys with the bad news.   I returned to Virginia a few days later knowing that I could listen to any station on my satellite radio without fear of a Wham induced incidence of road rage.

Alex, who initially thought he was eliminated over Thanksgiving weekend, actually was Whammed by Pearl Harbor Day when some Zeros from the 1980s took him out.  Within my Whamily (I stole that from Nancy) my sons Matt and Scott, Nancy (Matt’s wife) and my ex were still in it to win it.

Scott was powering through the home stretch of exams and papers for his final semester at Old Dominion University.  Because of this I was delaying decorating the house and getting a tree. Setting off the Christmas bomb, as we call it in our house.  With his last paper submitted and his final exams in the books on Friday, 14 December we decided to go get a tree.  Alex, Scott and I piled into my Cherokee to head out into a light mist to find a tree.  As I started the car, Scott immediately questioned my choice of Sirius stations.  It was on a contemporary Christmas Channel.  He glared at me and uttered one word, “REALLY?!” I pressed the button on the steering wheel and landed on the “’80s on 8”.  Another incredulous glare.   “And what song was released in 1986?” is all he had to say. (He knew the year of release, I’m impressed) OK, we may be just a little hardcore about this year’s competition.  Pressing the button on the wheel again to go to “’70s on 7”,  Wham does not exist in that universe. Unfortunately, Disco does. We were able to get in and out of the tree lot on South Battlefield Boulevard without having George Michael as the ghost of Christmas Past appear before us.

Let me say right here that to intentionally play “Last Christmas” (Whamming)  to take out a player or players is considered bad form.  Is it allowed? Yes.  Is it a dick move? Absolutely!  If you can no longer take the pressure of the game (I don’t understand the stress, I was collateral damage at a tree farm stand in Georgia barely into day one), you should commit Whamicide quietly, preferably on sound canceling headphones in the privacy of your own home.  No need to make a big spectacle of it.

On Saturday, December 15th, Scott graduated from ODU, Magna Cum Laude (Yeah, I did that, I just bragged about my son destroying my undergraduate GPA.  I am sorry, not sorry.)   The plan was to have a big family dinner, including my ex, on Sunday evening at The Butcher’s Son in Chesapeake to celebrate my son’s accomplishment.

Around the large round table, clockwise to my left were Scott, Melissa, Nancy, Matt, and Alex.  Somewhere in the lively conversation, between the french dip spring rolls and the main course, I polled those present as to their status in Whamaggedon.  Four hands went up indicated that they were still very much in the mix.  Everyone except for Alex and myself.  The conversation drifted back to Melissa’s new digs, and Matt & Nancy’s planned NYC run on the infamous Chinatown Bus later this week to see the Harry Potter exhibit at a museum in New York.  Under the sultry gaze of the over-sized portrait of Hedy Lamarr on the wall by the bar, we were having a grand old time.  Scott was enjoying himself, which made me a happy papa.

Dinner was served and by the time the plates were cleared, I was ready to declare this a  successful evening.   The waiter pressed once again about dessert and coffee.  Scott was wavering on cheesecake.  Melissa and Nancy were discussing teaming up on a creme brulee. It was settled.  A slice of cheesecake appeared before Scott with “Congratulations” written across the plate in a raspberry reduction.  The girls had their spoons at the ready for the assault on the confection before them.

It was the sudden movement that caught my attention.  Nancy straightened in her chair, shoulders back, eyes widening.  She looked at me, something was amiss.  I scanned the dining room, nothing out of place.  Hedy’s portrait still kept vigil.  Then it hit me, they had changed the music. What was that drifting over the din of diners at nearby tables? Nancy had joined me in Whamhalla.  This was too much fun!  I was about to witness a group whamming.

It doesn’t surprise me
(Merry Christmas!) I wrapped it up and sent it
With a note saying, “I love you, ” I meant it

Matt had it next. As he realized what he was listening to, his eyes grew wide, an expletive may have passed his lips.  That triggered Scott, dropping his fork.  Finally, Melissa realized that they had been taken out in one Whamtastic swipe of The Butcher’s Son sound system.  Groans, and complaints from all at the realization that all had found Whamhalla.  Except, apparently, from me.  According to a post on Facebook from Nancy, I had a good, heartfelt laugh as the realization washed over the table.   Matt and Alex confirmed that I was not shy about showing my enjoyment.  To be fair, Alex thought it was pretty funny.

I owned it and the check for the evening. It was great fun while it lasted.  A silver lining, as pointed out by the fair Nancy, there is no more stress from listening to Christmas Stations on the radio, walking into Harris Teeter, MacArthur Center or a random 7-Eleven.  If you hear the staccato electric organ lead-in or if you stumble on the YouTube channel you can rest assured that you are already impervious to Wham.

Now that this is all over I can settle down to watch a nice family Christmas movie.  Any takers for Die Hard?

Last Christmas 1

OK, in my youth I was weak for Kathy Hill, the girl in the video. Sue me!

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

I am getting back to work here

I have not posted on the blog since last summer.  In the interim I have been working on my other blog.  If you know about that blog, you know about it. If you don’t,  let’s just say I do not want to cross contaminate between the two blogs.  This is the lighter of the blogs, where I am going to put out family histories or stories that I want to tell.  You can contact me if you want to know about the “dark” blog.  But for now I am going to tell you what I am going to focus on projects here for a while.  I am doing this not only to give you an idea of the things I uncovering or rediscovering, I am also doing it to put myself on the hook to complete the unfinished posts in my queue.

Grow Old

Photo from promo materials from the film “They Shall Not Grow Old” by Peter Jackson

Last night, Matt (the eldest of the “sons”) and I attended a screening of the film “They Shall Not Grow Old”.  One Hundred years have passed since the end of the Great War (World War I).  This film is about the ordinary British/Commonwealth Soldier along the Western Front from 1914-1918.  This was not meant to be a discussion of significant battles or a rehashing of the geopolitical implosion of Europe in the wake of the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Hapsburg heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1914.  This is a story, told through the film archive of the Imperial War Museum in London,  using over 100 hours of film shot along the Western Front from 1914 -1918 and over 600 hours of audio files of Veterans of the Great War telling their stories.  It was not a Ken Burns style documentary, but it was a powerful piece of film making.  I know this is not everyone’s “cup of tea”.  But I was all in.  Thanks to Matt for inviting me to attend one of the screenings here in Norfolk, Virginia with him.

 

At the end of the film, after the credits had run, Peter Jackson discussed the techniques used to restore and make the film more natural to watch.  It was really fascinating.  One of the things he said resonated with me.  He pointed out that as the generations pass these stories are lost.  He encouraged people to preserve those family connections to history.   I am going to do just that.  I have been researching the service of my great-grandfather, Ensign Sidney J Kelly, USN and two of his sons during the war.  His youngest son, my grandfather, was too young to serve in the war.  I have Sidney Kelly’s service record from the National Archives and information on his sons through unit histories that I will share.

I am also working on Bernard Kelly (my maternal grandfather, Sidney’s youngest son),specifically his service with the Fire Department in New York.  I recently acquired a copy of his service record and I am working with sources in New York to get more information on his house assignments throughout his career.  I have completed his chronological list of assignments from 1928 through 1960. I am trying to fill in details.

Finally, I am working on a post about the Baumanns of Red Hook in Brooklyn. I have always been curious about my father’s family so that is a labor of love and curiousity.  Along with all this family history,  I may throw in some funny stories and adventures to Savannah into the mix.

I think I have given myself enough of a homework assignment for the moment.    Stay tuned…

Flopping

I purchased my current mattress after the break up of my marriage.  It was not supposed to be my forever mattress, only my transition mattress.  After eight years and even more lumpy spots, it had to go!

After weeks of procrastination, I went shopping.  The first few stores were not doing it for me.  In each, I was met by a sales associate who appeared in front of me as if dropped by a pneumatic tube associate dispensing system activated by opening the door of the store.  With each salesperson came a big toothy grin and a clipboard with sale flyers, credit applications and, no doubt, a list of everything the manager wanted the staff to sell.  The associates in each store stayed in close formation, chatting me up, looking for personal details to bond with me so I would make a purchase, preferably on my new store credit card.  The only thing they needed to know was that I was shopping for a mattress, I was there to flop, lay still and sort through the selection on my back.

mattress

The last store was different.  I slipped into the vast showroom unnoticed by the staff.  Perhaps their pneumatic associate delivery tube system was down.  The last time I was here, the mattresses were way in the back of the building, so that is where I headed, weaving through the confusing galleries of bedrooms, dining rooms, leather recliners, and couches.  When I finally arrived in the back, I was dismayed to find the former mattress gallery full of beach house offerings.  “Wicker (shuddering), so much wicker!”

I plotted my escape from the store.  Did they stop selling mattresses?  To find that answer I would need to talk to an associate. No, it was better to locate a way out as stealthily as possible.

20180818_122327As I weaved my way out it happened, a desk caught my eye.   I wanted a new writing table. It had to be hardwood, at least 60 inches wide, and a close match for the furniture in my bedroom.  As I was examining it, a strange feeling came over me, perhaps a feeling a wildebeest experiences when they sense a lion, with a clipboard, sizing them up.  I moved away, picking my route through the maze of galleries, increasing my pace as I went. I was using my peripheral vision to track the predator associate as I moved ever closer to the front door.

I moved left and stumbled on the entrance to the mattress gallery.  I darted around a half wall and there, in front of me, a sea of mattresses.  I flopped on the first one.  Wow, not too firm, not too soft.  The lioness approached, but the half wall obstructed its view.  She moved off slowly. There were more wildebeest to be had.

I checked out the selection and returned to the first mattress I had tried during my escape.  We have a winner!  Now I need to find an associate.  They are never around when you need them!

This is a blog post written for a class, Blog Writing I, I am taking with Gotham Writers Workshop

My Kingdom for a Low Beam

Cherokee 001

I made an appointment for Saturday, 5 May 2018, at Southern Chrysler Jeep Greenbrier in Chesapeake to have a low beam replaced on my 2014 Jeep Cherokee. I was told, while making the appointment, to show up at 7 a.m., and they would get to it and get me out the door. I had another commitment on Saturday, so time was of the essence. (At this point, with this dealership, the thought “I should know better” crept into my mind)

I arrived at 6:45 a.m. and was the 4th car in line in the maintenance lane. The service advisor checked the Jeep in. I thought this was a straightforward job of changing out the low beam bulb on the right side. That is what I was here for, and that was all I wanted. A little over an hour later I was called to the service desk.  The service advisor informed me that the low beam was expensive, around $70 (In fact, it was $55). I must have had a curious expression on my face.  I needed the low beam, I was aware of the cost involved.  What I did not understand was why the bulb was not already installed or why I was standing here.  The job should have taken 15-20 minutes at the most.

The service representative then started telling me about the 23 point inspection completed on the car. Excuse me? I was here for a simple (I thought) bulb replacement. Why were they wasting my time doing a 23 point inspection? Was it just like the one they did on 21 April 2018 (2 weeks earlier) when I was in for an oil change and tire rotation? I had that report in my maintenance file, and there was nothing to cause concern. He then mumbled about brake fluid color and how much it would cost me to have the work done. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I came in for a BULB REPLACEMENT!   Was I missing something?  Southern Jeep seemingly was taking this opportunity to try to make a little more money off of me.

I asked how long it would take to change the bulb. I was told by the annoyed service rep who was failing to sell me on another service, that it would be another 30-45 minutes. And an hour for the brake fluid, one more attempt to up-sell me. After repeating that I did not want the brake fluid service, I asked the service desk to do only the work that I had scheduled. That work could have been completed by this point had they not wasted time on the inspection that I did not authorize.

Almost 40 minutes later I was called to the cashier to settle my bill and get my keys. The paperwork I was given did not include the inspection report. Next time it will be Autozone and a YouTube video. I will do it myself.

img_1708

2001 Cherokee Sport

I have owned three Jeeps over the years.  My first was a 1988 Cherokee. I had to give that up in 1994 when I transferred to Japan.  My second was a 2001 Cherokee Sport that I put over 270,000 miles on before buying my current ride in 2014.  The first two Jeeps ran reliably and only needed standard maintenance, brakes, and tires. I loved both of those Cherokees.  In fact, I regret selling the 2001 Jeep after buying the 2014 version.  My current Cherokee had 11 factory recalls in the first few years, ranging from computer updates to wiring harnesses. I also have had to replace a bad alternator and battery and had performance issues with the 9-speed automatic transmission.  Compared to the performance of my first two Jeeps, it has been a disappointment   I may have purchased my last Jeep product.

Southern Chrysler Jeep Greenbrier continues to set the customer service bar low and then fails to reach it.

 

The Cat, My Nemesis

IMG_3621

Misty

We are rivals for the affection and attention of the same woman. That is where our commonality ends.  I am not a “cat person.”  My feline aversion has everything to do with allergy and very little with to do with animosity.  I think Misty, the cat, somehow knows this and is using it to her own advantage.

It all started a few years ago when I visited Jeanne on Dutch Island for the first time.  I knew I had an allergy to cats and I knew she had a cat in her house. It is her daughter’s pet. I figured that I would just avoid contact with the cat and all would be fine.  Besides, Jeanne is a doctor and would be able to head off any ill effects if they popped up.  What could possibly go wrong?

During the second day of the trip, I started sneezing and feeling a little itchy. But I was cool about it.  The crush I had on this woman all those years ago was manifesting itself into something more significant, and I was trying to avoid complaints or whines about the cat. That evening we were in her kitchen preparing dinner.  I was sitting at the counter while she was prepping something on the granite surface near the sink with her back to me.  The cat was surreptitiously perched on the stool next to me, presenting herself to be petted and looking annoyed that I had not already commenced that activity.  As the conversation progressed, Jeanne turned around. The look on her face changed immediately when she glanced at me. “OH, DEAR GOD!”  The shocked look and sudden exclamation were not exactly what I was going for in the “wooing my dear friend” plan.  In the few moments that it took for Jeanne to finish the task in front of her and then turn back to me, my face had swollen to the point where my left eye was almost completely shut.

What followed was a bit of a blur.  A search for Benadryl, checking drawers for allergy remedies, mutterings of “I am a doctor, and I have nothing to help you in the house.”  I was getting a little loopy.   We hopped in a car and went to the store for allergy meds. It was about 10 p.m. on a Saturday evening as we pulled into the Walmart parking lot. The sideshow that can happen at a Walmart anywhere in the U.S. was in full swing in Savannah.  I realized that my swollen face was a part of the act.

Now, when I prep for a visit to Savannah, I start popping Claritin D like M&Ms for a week before I go.  An uneasy truce between Misty and I exists, but not without the occasional reminder that while I am on Dutch Island visiting with Jeanne, I am in Misty’s world.  I avoid contact with her because not doing so will lead to hives on my forearms, watery eyes and an increase in the frequency of sneezing fits.

DSCN2264When I arrive, you can almost sense that the cat is looking at me and thinking “Back for more, little man?”.  She still presents herself to be petted.  I always ignore her.  She sometimes pays me back for the slight by nipping at me.  While I am there, Jeanne will close the cat out of the bedrooms. Those rooms are Misty’s favorite place to sleep at night after napping all day.  My nemesis does not appreciate the appropriation of sleeping spots by the interloper from Virginia.

If I am up early in the morning to walk Bella, Jeanne’s Vizsla, Misty will be waiting for me when I am done with the dog.  Mewing like she has not been fed in days she will follow me around, rubbing against my legs until I make my way to the kitchen to feed her.  If I am wearing shorts in warm weather, I am dancing to get out of the way of the feline contact.  Once her dish is full, she will harass me for treats.

Book

I laugh at your literature!

She has stepped up her campaign to get me out of the house and ensure she has access to her favorite sleeping haunts.  She will walk across the keyboard on my laptop or just lay upon it staring at me as random letters rush across the screen.  She seems to be almost taunting me to pick her up and move her off.  She will rub all over my computer bag, lay on my coat.  At Christmas, she seemed to be ridiculing me by using a book on cat training as a pillow. It was a gift for Jeanne.

While sitting with Jeanne watching TV, Misty has been known to walk across the back of the sofa and start forcefully rubbing her head on the back and top of my head.  I do so love hives on my scalp!

I have been told that the allergy may resolve itself over time with more exposure to the cat.  I think, if Misty had a vote, I would have been dispatched from my intrusions into her world long before any allergy was overcome.

IMG_4637On the last two trips, she has violated our truce by urinating first near and then on my shoes after I came back from walking the dog. A small rivulet creeping away from the stain on top of the slip-on and running along the grout in the front hall tile. Nearby, she sat on the stairs, cleaning her fur and occasionally glancing in my direction.  I think she is throwing down the gauntlet.  I have challenged Misty to a final battle in the marsh along the Herb River behind Jeanne’s house.  It is still in doubt which one of us would emerge victorious after such a clash.

For now, I will start the Claritin D a week before heading to Savannah.  I will continue to avoid direct contact with Misty, as far as I am able.  Shoes or anything else I bring along with me will not be left out to be insulted by my catty antagonist.  I can only wonder what Misty has in store for me on my next trip south.  I know she is waiting for me.

cropped demon cat

Rivulet

Finding Modoc Stash or How I Detoured Three Hours For an Old Geocache

Before I tell you my story, I should take a moment and explain that I am a Geocacher.  Geocaching is a hobby in which people use multimillion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods. That may be a flip oversimplification. A little more of a concise definition for Geocaching may be: hunting for and finding a hidden container, location, or event using GPS coordinates posted on a website. There are over 3 million Geocaches hidden, worldwide.  There are apps that you can use depending on what kind of phone you have. I use a Garman Oregon 450T, handheld GPS for most of my Geocaching trips.

GPSThe hobby became possible May 2, 2000, when the government turned off “Selected Availability” from the geospatial constellation of satellites that enable the Global Positioning System (GPS) to function.  On that May day, civilian use of those satellites became 10X more effective.  On 3 May the first “GeoStash” was hidden in Oregon to test the accuracy of the newly released satellite capability.

If you are not familiar with Geocaching, you can watch a quick Geocaching 101 video.

Now that you are caught up, I will tell you about my adventure.

I had planned a weekend trip to Savannah to see Jeanne in early April.  The weather has been a little crazy since March with some unseasonably cold weather; I was looking forward to a  warmer climate and some quality time with Jeanne.  I had taken a day off on Friday the 13th and planned to drive south.  Jeanne was going to be working; my goal was to arrive in Savannah for dinner.

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National Forest Map, South Carolina

While planning my trip, I was looking to see if there were any challenging Geocaches along the way to break up the seven-hour drive.  I have had my eye on the oldest cache in the State of South Carolina.  Modoc Stash (GCF4) was placed in December 2000 in the Sumter National Forest.  I have thought about coming here before but have had to change plans because of weather, hunting season or a lack of time.   The other issue is that an attempt to find this Geocache would take me over 135 miles out of my way, roughly a three-hour detour off my usual run to Savannah.

Why would a reasonably intelligent man drive 135 miles out of his way to find an ammo can in the woods? If you don’t have the Geocaching bug, you may not get it.  There were several draws for this hike.  First, it is a Y2K hide.  There are less than 175 of the original caches hidden in 2000 still active worldwide. On top of that, it is one of the rare remaining Y2K caches with a four place alphanumeric serial number.  Second, it helps me fill in some challenges.  I add a new county (McCormick) in South Carolina, fill in a new page for the South Carolina DeLorme Challenge (Page 42). This find qualified me for the April 2018 GeoChallenge of the Month.  Yes, I am a geek.

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The Trailhead along South Carolina Route 23

I left my house in Chesapeake just after 7 a.m. and began the trek south and west.  When I came upon the I-95/I-20 interchange in Florence, South Carolina, I went west on I-20 and started the detour hoping to get past Columbia, South Carolina’s Capitol, before Friday afternoon traffic became problematic.  Just after 3 p.m., I exited I-20 west of Aiken and worked my way along country highways until I arrived at the trailhead.   There is parking at this location and a geocache, Modoc Trailhead (GC7B2YZ),  is very close to the parking area.

I had a backpack with me with water, a couple of Kind bars, and some of my usual Geocaching gear.  I also had a walking stick. I usually do not use the Geocaching app on my iPhone for hikes like this one.  Instead, I had loaded my Garmin Oregon 450T with the coordinates for the caches along the trail.   I had the trailhead marked with the first cache that I mentioned in the previous paragraph, another along the path and finally the goal for the day, Modoc Stash.

I have some recommendations for this hike.  First, sturdy hiking boots.  Flip flops or sandals are not going to cut it on this trail.  Second, be aware of your surroundings.  This trail is shared with mountain bikers. You will want to keep a lookout for them.  There is also wildlife in the national forest.  There are over 48 species of mammals including bears, bobcats, beaver, and deer as well as a variety of venomous and non-venomous IMG_4623snakes. Finally, you need to stick to the trail until you get within about 200 feet of the cache location.  At the parking area, you will be about 1/3 of a mile from the target geocache.  That is a straight line reading.  You will not be able to do a straight line land navigation quickly.  Stick to the trail.  I know that switchbacks are a pain, but there are a few elevation changes and water obstacles to cross. Two of those water obstacles do not have bridges.  They are not difficult to handle. If you stick to the trail you will come on a geocache, Eclipsed in the Forest (GC7B2ZG), about halfway to Modoc Stash.  The hike to the old geocache is about 1.1 miles. One last point, I marked a waypoint where my Jeep was parked.  While I used the trail markings, I like to know the distance to the car on the way out.

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Stevens Creek

 

water crossing Modo

The first crossing point

 

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Modoc Stash in hand!

The hike was fun.  Early spring in South Carolina with the trees budding and some species of wildflowers in bloom is lovely. If you are interested in birds, there is no shortage of variety from songbirds to the big raptors and wild turkey.  The cool temps, in the low 60s, with a breeze kept the bugs to a minimum.  Once I was within 200 feet of the cache location, left the trail to head to “ground zero.”  Going off trail here is not a difficult bushwhack.  Once I was within 20 feet, I switched from my handheld GPS to my eyes and my “geosenses.”  Within a minute of getting to the general area, I had the ammo can in my hand. I traded some trackable items and signed the log.  It was time to head back to the Jeep and get back on the road to Savannah.

 

 

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The trail on the hike out.

 

I took a little over an hour to complete the hike and find three Geocaches.  I actually had a strong signal on my iPhone that enabled me to do a preliminary log for all the caches and document the trackable items exchanged at the old cache.

From the trailhead parking area, it took about three hours to complete the trip to Savannah.  I was at my destination around 7:30 p.m. in time to get cleaned up and go out for dinner.

The next Geocaching road trip for me will be to collect a group of Y2K Geocaches in northeast Georgia.  One will require a boat to get me out to an island in Lake Lanier.  A friend of mine completed that grouping a couple of weeks ago.  That trip will have to be more than just a detour on the way to Savannah! Perhaps I can convince Jeanne to partake in a little Geocaching adventure with me.

Click here if you would like more information the trails in the Sumter National Forest.

Partake

 

The War At Home

My daily routine during the work week is pretty well established. I commute 22 miles from my home in Chesapeake, Virginia to my office on a Navy installation in Norfolk. I occasionally vary my route because of traffic reports or time of day to avoid congestion. If you are familiar with this part of the country, you will know traffic can be a challenge. Because of the river systems feeding the estuary that is the Chesapeake Bay, people around here are doomed to deal with a system of bridges, tunnels, and bridge-tunnels. Bottlenecks abound!

While I am maneuvering my ride along Hampton Boulevard in Norfolk as I approach the bridge over the Lafayette River, I stay focused on what is ahead of me and what is overtaking me from behind. I don’t notice the scenery or anything off the road if it does not have an impact on traffic. As a result, I am not aware of changes in neighborhoods, especially when it comes to the installation of art on public land.

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Larchmont Branch Library, Norfolk

On a Sunday morning, not too long ago, I was out indulging a hobby of mine. A friend with the same hobby pointed me in the direction of a new art installation around the Larchmont Branch Library in Norfolk. Located south of the bridge over the Lafayette River on Hampton Boulevard, it is a place I pass almost every day. Because it was early in the morning, no one was around, and the rising sun was casting long shadows on that brisk morning.

What I found was an installation of steel plates standing upright on bases positioned on the west and north sides of the library. On each one of those plates, an outline of a veteran was cut out. These were not random cutouts; the veterans represented here are among those who have committed suicide. The installation is called “The War at Home“.IMG_4450 (2)Mission 22, a veterans organization dedicated to combating veteran suicide is responsible for the installation of these memorial plates. Each is an outline of a specific veteran, a dog tag with the name of the lost veteran is placed at the bottom of each plate.

A plaque by the installation states:

This memorial is meant to remind us of our loss, to amend the past, honor the present and prevent this from happening in the future.

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On average, 22 Veterans take their own life each day. That is 22 too many. According to the Mission 22 website, “These memorials remind us of the sacrifice, honor those we’ve lost, and help tie civilian to soldier.” They want to thwart the epidemic of suicide.

The War at Home is a “temporary” installation. If you live in Norfolk or plan on visiting, I would recommend you come down and walk among the plates, among the lost. Over the last 15 years, we have asked a great deal of our volunteer force. They have been going into harm’s way more so than any other generation in American history. Perhaps installations such as this will serve as a reminder that more must be done to engage veterans and help them to live. Mission 22 is looking to find permanent homes for these installations.

If you want to help or get more information, I invite you to go to the Mission 22 website.

Like those steel plates, our nation is weaker because of what is missing.

 

Thwart

I love a parade… usually

President Trump has announced his intention of conducting a grand parade to honor the Armed Forces of the United States. His inspiration comes from the Bastille Day Parade he attended in July 2017 in Paris. The French have been conducting this parade on the morning of July 14 every year since 1880. I will note here that the Germans marched the same route during their occupation of Paris during World War II. The parade passes down the Champs-Elysées from l’Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde. At the end of the route, the formation marches in front of the President of France, his government, and foreign ambassadors. It is a French tradition.

WWII Victory Parade NYC

82nd Airborne marching in the WWII Victory Parade in New York City (Library of Congress)

But I am an American. I am a Veteran with 24 years of military service. The United States does not have a current tradition of an annual military parade on a national scale. We “parade” after significant historical events. For instance, after winning a war. The Grand Review of the Armies was held in Washington, D.C. on 23 and 24 May 1865 to the cheers of those viewing along the route.

After World War I, General Pershing marched the American Expeditionary Force down 5th Avenue in New York. In 1946, the 82nd Airborne Division in “Operation Homecoming” marched, 13,000 strong, with their equipment through the streets of New York representing the combat forces of World War II.

1991 Victory Parade DC

The National Victory Celebration in Washington, DC following the Gulf War in 1991 had representatives from the Active and Reserve Components (8,000 military personnel) and the equipment that won that conflict. The price tag for that parade was approximately $8 million. Of that, $3 million was paid for by the taxpayers. The rest came from private donors.

Military commands are regular participants in patriotic parades and presidential inaugurations. Military Bands and small units march in ceremonies across the country on the 4th of July, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. There are ceremonial units in the Washington D.C. that have the specific mission to represent the Armed Forces at official state occasions. You also see the Old Guard maintaining vigil at Arlington National Cemetery. We march and represent all the time.

Why does President Trump insist on having a full-blown U.S. Military Parade? And what would it cost? I don’t know the answer to the first question. I will tackle the second.

Right now, the Secretary of Defense is preparing options for President Trump. Secretary Mattis will go in with some scenarios to conduct an event ranging from a large-scale parade on par with the National Victory Celebration in 1991 down to small-scale events.

An event with the scope of the 1991 parade would include marching units, bands, vehicles, tanks, self-propelled artillery, and missiles. Expect 8,000 uniformed personnel to participate. There will be flyovers by fixed winged and rotary aircraft along the route, most likely moving down Pennsylvania Avenue. Accelerating the cost from 1991, this parade would probably cost over $40 million.

Stepping down from the mother of all parades, a medium sized event with 5,000 troops, their equipment, and aircraft, just less of it, would run in the price range of $20 Million. This parade would be comparable to that of a Presidential inauguration event.

An event with only 1,500 to 2,000 service members and limited amounts of equipment could be sized to a parade similar to a large scale 4th of July event and carry a price tag of around $10 million to $15 million.

The logical time to run a parade, in whatever form it would take, would either be on the 4th of July or on Veteran’s Day, 11 November 2018. Veteran’s Day this year will mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice that ended World War I. That may be a reason to honor the service of the men and women of this country that helped, in conjunction with our allies, bring a close to that conflict. I think a small, relevant event would be appropriate to mark that occasion.

A Military Times poll posted on their website (as of 2/10/18 at 5 p.m.), showed that an 89% majority favored not having a parade at all. I live near and work in Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk is not only a Navy town, but it also sits in the middle of one of the most significant concentrations of military bases in the country. The buzz I am hearing is that a tiny group of people see the idea of a National Military Parade as a good idea. Most of the people (a high percentage are veterans) I have spoken with don’t think the country needs this kind of event. Why? We don’t rely on parades to showcase our military might. We don’t need to march like the Russians in Red Square or the North Koreans in front of their “great leader” (don’t get me started). I really don’t like the optics of that with President Trump reviewing the troops. We can demonstrate our military acumen, when needed, with great effect. I think we need to respect the might of the armed forces of the United States of America, but I also believe we should appreciate the humility of the men and women in the uniform of this country and not put them in the bullseye of an unnecessary political storm.

If I may be so bold as to offer a fourth option to those outlined before, do something small and respectful on the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I. Let’s just not make it a date every year. Mr. President, I am sure you can book a room and watch the parade in Paris on July 14, 2018. I hear that it is a beloved national tradition there.

Doughboys

Insist