Posts Tagged ‘ PSYCHOLOGY ’

NAVAL/MARITIME OFFICER REMEMBERS THE HELL OF WAR

THE RING OF LIFE

 

COMBAT STORIES RECALLED BY U.S. NAVAL/MARITIME COMMANDER

     In 1989, then Mayor Katy Geissert told me about a 78-year-old Naval veteran whose American flag autographed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stolen from a convalescent home. At the time, I was working as a free-lancer writing everything from human interest stories and essays to light poetry.

     Katy was serving as the first female mayor for the city of Torrance, Calif. What began as a brief interview with retired Naval/Maritime Commander Lloyd Jasper Ellis, stretched into days. I saw his credentials, believed his words, and wrote this story. It was carried on the front pages of a few newspapers, including The Daily Breeze, a Copley paper. Although I didn’t work

at The Breeze, I was there when his wife, Maureen, brought him into the newsroom on a wheelchair. In full uniform, he struggled to his feet and stood proudly for a photo that made the front page of The Breeze.

     Although I edited the feature slightly, meet the crusty old U.S. war veteran whose wife said she “rescued” him from the convalescent facility where she had cared for him, married him, and finally brought him home where he recalled his wartime adventures.

     Believe it or not, here’s the story he told me during a surprisingly long interview which I wrote about the ancient warrior:

 

     Birth is a gift. Life is an adventure. Death is a tragedy that even the courageous might welcome with open arms.

     “Many times,” retired Naval/Maritime Commander Lloyd Jasper Ellis admitted wishing “the sun would never come up, at least for me.” Not while serving his country during World War II, Korea and Vietnam, but over the decade he was being shuffled from one hospital to another, winding up at society’s last stop: a convalescent home in Torrance, California.

     When a bomb explosion blew him off the bridge of a cargo ship as it headed down the Saigon River in 1971 during the Vietnam War, Cmdr. Ellis suffered a serious head injury.

     “I was in a coma for months,” he told me. “When I finally came to, I couldn’t talk, think, and my legs were paralyzed. The surgeons must have left a couple of loose wires in my head.

     “When I was younger, I felt that a man who’d commit suicide has gotta be a coward. I was wrong,” said he sat in a wheelchair with his caretaker-wife, Maureen, 48, at his side.

     What I had anticipated to be a brief interview stretched into hours. Although dates escaped him, the stories he’d recall was far more than a old seaman’s yarn. For Ellis, with memory fading and a body that was anything but shipshape, hell appeared hard for him to forget.

     I first learned about the commander from Torrance mayor Kathy Geissert who told me about an elderly man in a convalescent home where his American flag which was personally autographed for him by President Franklin D. Roosevelt was stolen.  

     The second eldest in a family of 5 sisters and 4 brothers, Ellis grew up on a fruit farm in Garfield, Arkansas. In 1928, right out of high school, he enlisted in the Navy. Following his discharge, he remained in the Naval Reserve and went on to college studying mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland.

     The day after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, he was called back into active duty. Eight months later, serving aboard the USS Edgar Allen Poe during the invasion of Guadalcanal, a bomb struck the ship, rupturing steam pipes in the engine room severely scalding the young engineer.

     Months later, he was aboard another ship that was sunk by German torpedoes in the North Atlantic. “This was early in the war before they started using convoys,” he said. “We floated around for four days before a Dutch trawler picked us up.”

     He described the feeling of watching your ship sink as “helpless, sad and depressing. Your ship is your home. Down with it goes all your personal belongings, your letters, uniforms, pictures of loved ones, and some of your shipmates.”

     Ellis vividly remembered the nine invasions he participated in during The Big War: Guadalcanal, North Africa, Sicily, Anzio, Naples, Normandy, Toulon (a seaport in southeast France), Marseilles and Okinawa.

     After the death of his younger brother, Harold, a B-17 pilot who was shot down over Germany, Ellis described himself as “bitter.”

     That, combined with experiencing the loss of shipmates with the sinking of the USS Poe, caused Ellis to volunteer “to make the first wave of any invasion the military cared to send me to.”

     In 1943, off the western coast of Italy, Lt. Com. Ellis was aboard another troop carrier, the USS Georgian. “They had bombed us pretty heavy and we lay dead in the water,” he recalled. The Germans boarded the ship, captured five officers, including Ellis, and transported them to a prisoner-of-war camp in Czechoslovakia.

     “Every morning the Germans would come by and say, ‘You goddamned Yanks, this is the day you’re going to get it!’ One day they loaded us into wooden boxcars. We were jammed together. There was no velvet seats in those cars. We knew we were headed for the gas chambers.”

     As the train sped along the tracks, Ellis and a chief petty officer, Felix Bond, broke a hole in the side of the boxcar and jumped off “in the middle of nowhere. My arms, knees and face were badly scraped up and Bond broke his leg.”

     The two men hid in the brush during the day and, using the stars to navigate, traveled at night. “We didn’t want to go west. That led to Germany. If we were captured we knew we’d be murdered.”

     A distant light led them to a small farmhouse where a Czech

couple and their teen-age daughter lived. “The girl spoke almost fluent English. They had no love for Hitler so they hid us in the stable, fed and doctored us as best they could. They were scared but very brave. They knew they’d be killed if they were caught harboring allies.”

     Although Bond was too injured to travel, Ellis somehow had to get to Prague, which was about 10 miles from the farm. He claimed he had to locate the underground by reciting the code word, “Mickey Mouse.” The problem was how could a 200-pound Yank, who didn’t know a word of Czech, find that needle in the haystack?

     “The woman shaved my head. She cut off her long hair and glued it to my head. They gave me an old dress, a hat and a walking stick. Oh, and two shoes that didn’t match. I was some sight.

     “They put me on the road and pointed me to Prague. I hitched a ride part way on a horse-drawn wagon. But most of the way I walked. I spent hours on the streets. My feet were killing me. I find somebody and whisper ‘Mickey Mouse.’ Most of them thought I was a crazy old lady.”

     Finally, he said, a man responded with another code name which Ellis no longer remembers. “He took me into a cellar, dressed me in a French uniform and got me to the French border.”

     When he made it back to England, he volunteered to participate in “commando-type missions to help evacuate Jewish and Slav refugees across the English Channel.” Months later, Ellis found himself on another mission aboard the SS Benjamin Contie, a troop carrier which was wired with high explosives.

     On June 6, 1944, the Contie was part of the first wave to hit Ohama Beach during the massive allied invasion of Normandy. He claimed it was the sixth invasion he participated in.

     “We pulled up so close to shore we scraped bottom; unloaded our troops, blew out our hull, turning the ship into a permanent bunker,” he recalled. “There were four other ships in that invasion just like us.”

     Two battleships, the USS Texas and USS Arkansas, were firing their big guns from a distance so close to the Contie “the concussion would knock some of us down. I lost my helmet and my right eardrum because of those damned 16-inchers.”

     He recalled a grisly memory aboard the Contie during the invasion: As an Army sergeant was supervising the debarkation of troops, a cable snapped, decapitating him. “He body took a few steps then fell forward into the arms of two soldiers.

     “A soldier picked up the head. I’ll never forget. The G said, ‘Look, he’s trying to say something.’ I looked. The eyes were open. The mouth was moving. I said, ‘Let him talk. Maybe he’s talking to God.'”

     Listening to the old commander, I was convinced that he was telling what he remembered was the truth. Hard to believe, it was not a yarn designed for Hollywood and John Wayne.

     But his adventures continued.

     Expecting to be transported to a hospital ship on the second day of the invasion, Ellis climbed onto a British minesweeper. In less than ten minutes, the sweeper was struck by a bomb, split in two and sunk. He was knocked overboard. Soon an amphibious landing craft plucked him out of the ocean and carried him into the thick of the invasion.

     That same day, he said, a jeep driving past him hit a landmine and Ellis suffered serious injuries, losing part of his stomach and chalking up a second Purple Heart for his war chest. After spending time in an English hospital, he traveled aboard the Queen Mary, which had been converted into a hospital shop, to New York where he was discharged from the Navy and re-enlisted in the Merchant Marines.

     As a Maritime commander, he returned to the wars. Following the invasion of Sicily, he transported Gen. George S. Patton and his Third Army troops on a few occasions. During that period, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited him to meet her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt at a hospital in Warm Springs, Georgia.

     “He was very sick,” recalled Ellis. “But he was sitting up in bed puffing on that long-cigarette holder. That’s when he shook my hand. The president, said Ellis, tried to write a brief tribute

on presidential stationary. His handwriting was illegible, prompting his wife to write the note. In part, it read, “…

knowing your military history, I consider you a brave man and a great credit to the United States.” Right then I told him that the real heroes are the men who never make it back. I still believe that.”

     The president managed to autograph an American flag, which he presented to Ellis. After it was displayed in Torrance, Calif. on Memorial Day 1988, the flag was stolen from the convalescent home where he was being cared for.

     On May 13, 1989, dressed in his Maritime uniform, Ellis married Maureen Buckley Kerger, who had “rescued” him from the same convalescent home where his American flag was stolen. Thus began another chapter in the life of an Arkansas farm boy who went to war so many years ago and had seen his share of hell on Earth.  

               END

    NOTE: Tomorrow, July 4, 2015, (Independence Day), I’ll tell Ellis’ story about the day the commander refused to allow Gen. George S. Patton to bring his pit bull terrier aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, a troop carrier. It was in the midst of World War II.

 

 

THANKS TO MOM, THERE’S A ‘HAPPY FATHER’S DAY’

THE HUMAN RACE

DADS WILL NEVER KNOW THE FEEL OF IT

 

Mommy, mommy

soon to be,

oh such fun

is pregnancy.

It takes nine months

to meet fruition.

That’s when daddy

lacks intuition.

When he watches

mom deliver,

chances are his

lips will quiver.

If men could feel

what labor’s like,

quick as a wink

they’d take a hike.

Carrying life for

all those months,

isn’t the same as

having mumps.

Experiencing life

inside the womb

is one ordeal he

can’t presume.

When breasts expand

with life’s nectar,

guys go stupid with

this conjecture:

Giving birth’s

like passing plumbs,

one painful roar

and out it comes.

So for all your dads

out there (including me),

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

 

Boots LeBaron

CAFE SERVER’S MEANINGFUL VIEW OF THE HUMAN RACE

THE HUMAN RACE

MEET THE BALLERINA OF THE KETTLE COFFEEHOUSE.

     With the grace a ballet dancer, Linda Marie Lauckhardt, balancing heavy plates of food on one arm, glided across the floor side stepping customers, and snake-hipped her way around a maze of tables to deliver her cumbersome cargo.  

     It was a performance that the statuesque green-eyed waitress repeated literally thousands of times during a career that spanned 37 years. It ended rather abruptly after thirteen years of toting culinary freight at The Kettle, a popular 24-hour restaurant/coffee shop in Manhattan Beach, Calif.  

     Linda told me that she had quit the serving profession because she couldn’t keep up with the physical demands of “being the best I can be.

     “I’m the kind of person who runs, not walks,” she said. “My body just couldn’t take the beating.” In many restaurants, she noted, “the attitude of management toward waiters and waitresses seems to be apathetic. The truth is, good waitresses are NOT easy to find.

     “I’ve never been the kind of person who’d just as soon pick up their money and run. When I clear off a table, the last thing I think about is the tip. If they don’t leave a tip, I figure they can’t afford it. When they come back, they get the same care as anyone else. When they run across an exceptional waitress, customers know.”

     Linda, in her late 40s when I interviewed her, had been serving people most of her life. When she was a 4th grader in San Pedro, she dropped out of elementary school to help support her family which included 11 brothers and sisters.

     At the age of ten, her brothers and sisters, many of them parented by different fathers, were split up and Linda began living in a series of foster homes. At 12 years old, she lied about her age to get a job working 10-hour shifts as a “steamer” in a Chinese laundry. When the owner learned she was under age, she was fired.

     From the day she was born to a waitress in a Sweetwater, Texas hotel, adversity was her nemesis. “My mother,” she said, “wasn’t the kind of mommy who’d sit you on her lap and hug you.” So when most little girls were playing house, Linda “was playing mother” in real life trying to keep her family together.

     When other little girls were playing with dolls, Linda made her doll out of a Coca Cola bottle. “We had a lot of mouths to feed and for a time we couldn’t afford the luxury of toys.”

     Perhaps that’s why for more than two decades, her advocation has been making dolls. During that time, she has made and sold more than 150 antique Jumeau French doll replicas and 400 Teddy Bears. Her home in Big Bear, Calif. where she lived with her husband, Rich, who was an avionics technician, was filled with dolls, cats, stray dogs and neighborhood children.

     She and Rich were married when she was 14 and he was 16. They had no children. When she retired, Linda was about turning her avocation into a full-time profession. Authentic Jumeau antique originals at the time, she said, sold for more than $6,000. Her replicas which she made from scratch, took three months to create. She’d pour her own porcelain molds and sew the clothes by hand. Her replicas were selling for as much as $475. Her handmade Teddy Bears were going for $50 to $75.  

     The only fantasy she rememberd as a teenager was wanting to be a singer like Ella Fitzgerald or Kaye Starr. But when there’s “mouths to feed, clothes to buy, and diapers to change, a young girl’s dreams can somehow get lost in reality.”

     Despite the difficult early years of her childhood, the girl from Sweetwater found love rather than bitterness, pride rather than self-effacement, compassion rather than anger with the human race she waited on throughout the years.

     “I loved being a waitress,” she said, then confessed, “I’ve run across my share of hateful customers. They’ve managed to slither out from under a rock somewhere determined to ruin my day. You learn to handle the bad apples. But I’ve been fortunate to have served too many caring people in life to worry about the stinkers.”

     When she approached one “stinker” while working at The Kettle, he snarled, “Get away from here; I’ll let you know when I want you!”   Early in her career as a server, working a graveyard shift at Norm’s, a long established restaurant chain in Los Angeles County, a customer screamed profanities at Linda causing her to break down crying. Then, she recalled, “He predicted: ‘You’ll never make it as a waitress because you can’t take it!'”   

     Of course, the other side of the coin is much brighter. After serving a two-dollar breakfast to a “regular” at Norm’s restaurant in Torrance, Calif., he tipped her with a jar containing $100 worth of Mercury-head dimes.

     At The Kettle, one satisfied woman customer gave her a gold-antique cameo that belonged to her dead mother. A bank president would bring her roses regularly.

     “I believe that every day, if you do something for somebody — on the job or in the streets — you’re doing something for yourself. You can never be too giving or too kind-hearted.”

     — Boots LeBaron

SURVIVING LIFE’S INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS!

 

THE HUMAN RACE

TRUTH BE KNOWN:  THERE’S NO COUPON FOR MIRACLES

It’s the words that meld together

creating thoughts and fears reflecting

every person’s ongoing struggle to find

a semblance of peace of mind in an

over-populated world compacted by greed,

violence, desperate naivety, and a

a message of faith that inexcusably

guarantees the kind of miracles that will

fulfill our hopes, dreams and schemes.

In every conscience, such declarations

scour the most intimate corners of our

mind — not always in an enlightening sense.

To reach Valhalla, we must somehow find

strength as individuals to ignore our

fears and human flaws to reach that final

destination when Odin welcomes us to his great

hall. No matter how painful or debatably

misleading the promises, they are

convincing enough to satisfy any doubts

that linger before Odin’s final embrace.

All we need is a shred of truth

to fulfill our hopes and dreams

and fuel our trip to Valhalla.

Actors as well as other celebrities,

bless their charismatic and

artistic hearts, are members of a talented

gang of theatrical creatures capable of

articulating believable messages

that provoke self-examination.

Even Odin’s disciples must be capable

communicators. Otherwise, these

artists will anger the gods by not

bringing home the bacon.

The precious delivery of descriptive

observations, visual expressions, the

use of metaphors and similes, reach the

mind of those who are open to reason.

No person is honestly content with

what lurks in the dark regions of another

person’s mind. We all come equipped with

guilt as well as joy glands that

need massaging. Bullshit exists

in every member of the human race.

Literary craftspeople, essayists,

poets, TV talking heads or office moguls

who paint glorious promises they never

keep have been known to preach rewards,

then deliver nothing.

That’s their talent. They come armed

with words. And you are the target.

Never lose faith in strangers.

But be skeptical. Purity might be

believable, but is not always

attainable. Despite our self-disparaging

selves, the adventures we experience

en route to Odin’s palace, make life’s

challenges worth the aggravation.

Must we agonize over our questionable

wisdom? Should we ride with the anguish

we are spoon fed with daily doses?  

It’s up to you. Go figure!

 

— Boots LeBaron —

HITTING AN ABUSIVE BOSS WITH TRUTH WAS A SOUL SAVER

THE HUMAN RACE

OFFICE OGRES  DESERVE TO SUFFER  EXASPERATION, TOO!

 

Even bosses are not immune to exasperation.

Subjected to bullying from abusive bosses,

guys and gals who vent their own wrath against

such higher-ups,should think twice before

they perform  the honcho pounce .

For any working stiff,  uncompromising honesty

could result in political suicide.  Here’s my story:

Although I had a family to support and bills

to pay, I had no alternative than to leave a bitemark

on an office executive’s conscience. When my boss

invited me into his Century City office, closed

the door, sat me down across from him  and asked,

“What do you think of me?” my guard was down.

The corporate vice-president had taken

me to lunch several times and had confessed 

his personal woes.  So innocently I crawled into his

ring, dropped my dukes, and naively asked if he wanted

the truth? When he shot me smile and shrugged

disarmingly, looking more like Jimmy Stewart than

Godzilla, I gave him a dose of honesty:

“You are a sonuvabitch, Jake.

You mistreat employees. Throw tantrums.

Slam your office door so hard that pictures

fall off the wall. You phone your secretary at

five sharp every afternoon. For fear of losing

her job, she can’t leave even three minutes early.

You have her bring in Starbucks in the morning,

lie to clients about your availability.

On her own time, you have her pick up your

laundry and buy gifts for your wife.”

Although he didn’t bat an eyelash, the veins in his

neck looked like they were going to explode.

Jonathan didn’t speak to me for several weeks.

Finally, he fired me. A few days later, I was told,

the president of the company sent him a memo

telling him that he couldn’t attend a showbiz

conference in New Orleans because he was needed

to make a new business presentation. In a tizzy fit,

Jake marched into the president’s office,

 tore up  the memo, and tossed the shreds into the

secretary’s face. “Tell the boss,” he snapped, “this is what

 I think of his memo!” When the supreme commander

returned that afternoon,  Jake, his irreplaceable

vice president, offered: “I’ll give you four weeks

to replace me.” Almost instantly, he fired

Jake, which wasn’t his real name,

and rehired me. The object of this true

 story is: In any business environment,

think before you reveal a painful truth to any

workplace superior who is capable of

suffocating you professionally. If the ogre is leading

with his chin like Jake did, you have

a couple of options: Think defensively, be creative and

polish your self-assertive candor. Only then will you be capable of

delivering a verbal punch that might knock some

ruthless, intimidating, egotistical

taskmaster on his egotistical butt .  Always keep

in mind that stark truth may  land 

you in the unemployment line.

Like my actor-stuntman dad used to say,

“Never telegraph a punch unless

you’re sure you can knock your

opponent out of the ring.”

Quite often, such  has

no clout in the workplace.

Yet, if intrepidity — strength of

mind to carry on in spite of danger,

that kind of fearlessness reveals that

you’re mentally fit to tangle with any

fire-breathing dragon who thinks

he’s invincible.  But equip yourself

before going into battle.  Remember,

no matter how sharp your tongue,

come equipped with integrity

and the heart of a warrior.

As the bumper sticker warns,

SHIT HAPPENS!

— Boots LeBaron —

DESPITE WWII BATTLE WOUNDS, U.S. MARINE LIVED FULL LIFE

THE HUMAN RACE

 

WAR NEVER ENDED FOR CHIEF ‘TALL SUN’

     Despite a day of living hell and an adulthood surviving as a wounded World War II veteran with an atrophied right arm and a brace on his right leg, Chief George (Tall Sun) Pierre stood tall and courageously unrelenting against the unmerciful winds of life.

     The fiercely proud full-blooded Okonogan Indian and a longtime friend of mine, died in 2011 (suffering from prostate cancer). He was the hereditary chief of the 11 Colville Confederated Tribes, a 1.5 million-acre reservation on the Columbia River near Spokane, Wash.

     Our last conversation was on the phone. George, 85, told me he had prostate cancer. He was living in a condo in Redondo Beach, Calif. What troubled him more than the thought of death was that because of his disability he feared he would never return to the heavily-timbered reservation where he grew up and for many years visited frequently.

   Like his father Chief Edward Joseph Pierre, the stoic-faced George had always been a warrior at heart. When he was only 16-years-old he enlisted in the Marines. “I wanted to be like my ancestors,” he said, “I wanted to be a hero.”

     On November 23, 1943 (two days after his 17th birthday), he was the youngest member of the U.S. Marine’s 2nd Division assault forces. Against the Japanese-held Tarawa, a heavily fortified atoll in the northern Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific, he was one of thousands of leathernecks that stormed the beach.  

     “For most of us,” he recalled, “it was our first taste of battle. Bombs were exploding everywhere. Heavy machine-gun and rifle fire was tearing us apart. Bullets hitting the sand sounded like a hail storm. We were dangerously bunched together, pinned behind a seawall.”

     As George moved away from the group a bullet ripped through his helmet penetrating his brain. “I fell to the ground, conscious but completely paralyzed. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t even blink my eyes. I could hear my buddies say, ‘Pierre got it!'”

     Had it not been for a Navy corpsman who “noticed tears in my eyes and dragged me to safety,” George would have been left for dead alongside his comrades whose bodies were scattered along the beach and floating in the water.

     “Here I was, a youngster, no different than the men and women fighting in Afghanistan today. A good kid. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Yet, God took away the use of my leg and arm for the rest of my life. It’s very difficult to rationalize.”

     Death on the battlefield, he had told me, “is a tragedy not only for the soldier but for their families. But when you have to live with wounds like this, that calls for a different level of courage.

     He was opposed to the “unjust” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where “our kids were being killed and wounded. “The older I get, the more often I pray for our combat troops. Young people never think about being physically handicapped.

     “Maybe it was God’s will that I was struck in the brain, because I never experienced pain. Even lying there on the beach, I knew something was terribly wrong. So I learned early in life that nobody is invincible.”

     Since that fateful day in 1943, George has faced life like a true “Nez Perce Warrior” (the title of one of several books he has written and self published).

     “I love my country,” he said. “I’m proud to be a wounded veteran of World War II. But life has been painful. When I walk or ride in my wheelchair, sometimes people think I’ve been crippled by a stroke. There have been times when I’d like to wrap my body in an American flag.”

     It has been many years since George had worn his ceremonial war bonnet, ringed with black-tipped eagle feathers, and the white suit of leather stitched by his late mother, Mary Teresa, a medicine woman and tribal matriarch who played melancholy songs on a willow flute.

     Chief Pierre, a former Congressman (1964-67) from the State of Washington, a lawyer with a master’s degree in political science from USC, was never without a battle.

     One war he was constantly waging was against the silent prejudice he is intimately familiar with.

     “Our society has a tendency to discard broken toys,” he said. “Many give money to help the handicapped. Yet those same people find cripples grotesque and have problems coping with the reality.      “If people could look beyond our physical imperfections they might be surprised. Life is tough enough for a person with two hands and legs, let alone, a guy like me,” he said, a faint smile crossing his chiseled lips.      

     “In any war where the enemy is fanatically suicidal, our soldiers are all potential targets. They know they’re facing death or some form of mutilation the minute they step outside of a secure compound. That kind of inner-strength is hard to describe.”

     When Pierre was 12-years-old, he was sent out alone in search of his manhood into the Bonapart Mountain Range, a wilderness in North Central Washington. During the ritual, he was supposed to survive for two days, then return as a man.

     When he failed to return on schedule, his mother and uncle went searching for him. At high noon, they found him sleeping on a branch in a towering tree. Thus, he was given the Indian name Tall Sun.

     With a hint of whimsy, he proudly proclaimed that he was “the last living Native American warrior chief.” His niece, Dr. Tracey Pierre of Seattle, Wash., said that George, who was divorced with no children, was given a military burial on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, at Arlington National Cemetery.  

     About 25 years  ago made me an “honorary chief” of the Colville tribes and his mother, Mary Teresa, a medicine woman and tribal matriarch blessed me and gave me a tribal name:  Walk in the Clouds.  With pride, I cherish the memory of that day.  The reason I ran this story about my friend is tomorrow is Armed Forces Day.

     — Boots LeBaron —

BOTSWANA: A PARADISE FAR FROM THE HUMAN JUNGLE

THE HUMAN RACE

BOTSWANA: A HALF-A-WORLD-AWAY

 

I sit on the veranda

a half-a-world-away

watching the golden sun

in its last breath of day

filter through silhouetted leaves

of the ebony and acacia trees,

then quickly fall beneath

the silent Chobe River

leaving nothing but stars

guarding Venus

and her lantern moon.

And not too soon,

I marvel at the distance

I’ve traveled to get

where thoughts run free,

a half-a-world-away

from what is home to me.

To reach this

untamed place,

was such a human race.

After an eternity of soaring

on man-made wings,

I found this hideaway

where elephants

rule as kings.

IMG_1973

Where lions make love

for hours on end,

where pythons

coil, constrict and bend.

Giant Tuskers trumpet

and hippos bellow

in this

wild-animal bordello.

Leopards hunt,

warthogs grunt.

Zebra,  giraffe,

Cape buffalo,

they all play host

on this fertile land  

that has no coast.  

As eagles work the breeze,

scores of vultures

perch high

on limbs of trees.

Mosquitoes sting.

Myriad birds sing

in glorious cacophony.

They hoot and caw and chirp

in their inimitable

high-pitched harmony.

Crickets

tuned just right

play their

Stradivarius legs

throughout the night.

For those who must return

to their civilized encampment,

where plastic reigns

and torment gains,

Botswana is

enchantment.

A visit

permits a glimpse

at secrets we’ve been

blind to.

A moment just to ponder

was well worth

the wander.

Flying half way

round the world

aboard a 747,

proved to me,

at least:

It takes time

to get to heaven.

 

Boots LeBaron

 

(Overlooking the Chobe River,

a tributary of the Zambezi River

in southern Africa’s Botswana)

 

POACHERS KILL THOUSANDS OF ELEPHANTS FOR IVORY TUSKS

THE HUMAN RACE

WOULD YOU KILL DUMBO OR MAGILLA THE GORILLA FOR CASH?

     What if poachers in Africa and other countries of the world killed Dumbo, Ruby the Rhino, Tony the Tiger, Smokey the Bear, Simba the Lion King, Magilla the Gorilla, or Peter Potamus the hippopotamus?

     Of course, they’re all mostly cartoon characters. But what if they were real-life animals? If Dumbo, Walt Disney’s adorable little elephant, and the others were slaughtered for cash and body parts? Wouldn’t that  piss you off?

     Let’s focus on Dumbo. Imagine that today he was a full-grown mountain bull with massive ivory tusks roaming the jungles of Africa’s plush Botswana or the tundra in Northern Kenya. He’s the same precious little rascal with the big heart we all remember as kids. He’s just grown up.

     Now picture this: Animal assassins armed with automatic weapons and poison-tipped spears are stalking him, earning as much as $2,500 a kill. They hack off his massive tusks and leave his rotting carcass for the vultures and other predators. Loads of ivory tusks are shipped to China and other Asian countries where they are carved into small ornamental knick-knacks, jewelry, priceless chess pieces, and religious symbols earning fortunes for their remorseless marketers. Are you going to buy one?

     Since premeditated murder of innocent animals for profit is a sin, how can those who worship various Supreme Beings explain why they are making fortunes selling or buying religious artifacts made from the tusks of endangered pachyderms or horns of rhinoceroses?

      If they were knowledgeable and truly cared about the brutal massacring of such innocent animals, why in hell would God-fearing customers purchase such religious items carved from elephant tusks? I guess you can chalk it up to a classic case of ignorance, pomposity or an unsavory act of spiritual apathy.    

     By now, an adult Dumbo would have his own breed of babies and leave behind a grieving widow — for elephants do grieve just like humans. Experts on the subject report that in Africa alone, about 30,000 these magnificent mammoths are slaughtered annually.     

     The reason I used Dumbo as a metaphor is to make this point: How many of you know of feller named Sato? Not many, I’ll wager. The renowned 6-ton pachyderm who roamed Tsavo East National Park in Kenya was killed by poachers on May 30, 2014. Some reports say he “died a painful death” caused by poison-tipped arrows or spears. Another news story reported that he died suffering eight bullet wounds fired from automatic weapons.

     Since you might not know who Sato was, I substituted Dumbo’s name. The information I gleaned from a variety of sources: CBS-TV’s Sunday Morning News, National Geographic and The Los Angeles Times, among others.

     Paula Kahumbu, a Kenya-based wildlife conservationist for Wildlife Direct, said that Sato was a celebrity in his own right; that he was highly respected not only as a “magnificent pachyderm but as major tourist attraction.”

     A National Geographic story quoted Kahumbu saying, “All the killers wanted was his tusks so somebody far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece.”

     The question to those who have never witnessed such an atrocity is: How deeply would you care if you learned that an elephant named Sato was slaughtered for his tusks? After all, Sato was only one of an estimated 100,000 elephants ruthlessly assassinated across Africa in recent years. decades. If Sato’s mutilated carcass turned out to be an adult Dumbo, once revered by children as well as adults, wouldn’t that leave an emptiness in your soul, a painful feeling of remorse in the pit of your conscious? I hope so.

     I realize that our violent society breeds its own stalkers, killers, drive-by shooters as well as domestic and foreign terrorists like ISIS. So who is truly concerned about some big old thick-skinned pachyderm named Sato in an African reserve tens of thousands of miles from our shoreline.

     After all, there are an estimated 690,000 African elephants alive today. That’s a lot of Dumbos compared to 5 million such giants roaming free back in the 1930s and 1940s. Now their severed tusks, each with a monumental price tag, are shipped to places like China, Thailand, Korea and Vietnam. Foreign criminal organizations with sophisticated weaponry kill viciously, reported CBS-TV.    A horrendous incident reported in a 2012, an estimated 300 elephants were gunned down inside a national park in Cameroon, a republic stretching from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad in West Africa.  

     In recent years, says one report, “dozens” of rangers were killed fighting to protect wildlife from poachers in Africa. Is waging such a war against those who kill animals for profit so horrifying when humanity is hard at work killing its own kind by the millions? For God sakes, we’re even decapitating the heads and burning people alive to make a political point; stoning women to death because they refuse to obey the demands of the ruthless males who dominate their lives.

     Since we’re talking about cartoon animals, let me ask one last question: If you were a poacher, how much would you charge to kill an adult Dumbo for his valuable tusks and his sturdy legs used occasionally for coffee tables, Ruby the Rhinoceros whose horns are made into dagger handles or ground into power used for medicinal purposes as well as an aphrodisiac, Peter Potamus the hippopotamus for his cute ears and big toothies, Maguilla the Gorilla using his powerful hands and feet for trophies, Tony the Tiger for use as a throw rug which includes his handsome head and sharp fangs, Simba the Lion King for his mane and mandibles, Smokey the Bear for his huge paws and claws?

     I feel so helpless writing this story. Helpless!! All I can say is: Think of these defenseless animals being killed by poachers. For their sake, please don’t buy ivory!

 

     — Boots LeBaron —

LOVE IS ROMANTICALLY NUTS!

THE HUMAN RACE

 

LOVE: LIFE’S UNPREDICTABLE, NEVER-ENDING COMEDY

LOVE IS NUTS!

Have you ever been lonely in a world

jam-packed with humanity? Have you ever

wondered about your destiny in a society

that frequently seems senseless?

Have you ever searched for the being

behind the face, behind the smile,

behind the whispered words of promise

and found emptiness? Ouch!

The quest for love can be painful.

Like buying a used car. To get the feel

of it, you’ve got to drive it for a while.

Love is a word, so fragile, an angry breath

can destroy it. It can break a heart,

sooth a soul, rattle a psyche

or give a weakling Herculean strength.

For the sake of it, Romeo and Juliet

croaked. For most, a love affair is

an erratic maiden voyage.

Whether it’s documented at the

license bureau or stored in the heart,

every relationship encounters

tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis

or at least turbulent sprinkles

that test steadfast durability.

Everybody talks about love,

frets about it, writes about it

and sings about it. Nobody, even

Shakespeare, can fully explain it. Why?

Because love is nuts! Yet we’re all

scrambling in search of it.

The divorce courts are full of people

who’ve had their fill of it.

When viewed from a casting couch, a

watering hole, spiritually, or through the

eyes of a marriage counselor, love is one

never-ending soap opera that

stars everybody. Including you!

Boots LeBaron — 

TRY A LITTLE FANTASIZING AT YOUR LOCAL LAUNDROMAT

THE HUMAN RACE

A TIDY PLACE TO TWIDDLE LIFE AWAY

 

Sitting in the laundromat

watching the Speed Queen

tumble-dry your clothes

can be a monotonous thing.

 

You may pass the time gawking

at the scrumptious honeys,

or occupy the boring hours

twiddling your thumbies.

 

You can play a game of solitaire,

if by chance you have a deck.

Like waiting for your socks to dry,

it’s one tedious trek.

 

If you’re the type of person

who can slip into a trance,

a visit to the laundromat

might allow your brain to prance.

You may fly away to Paradise

on gossamer wing,

take a lover, become an NFL star,

rule the world as queen or king.

 

But for those who have a passion for

a life jampacked with washing machines,

somewhere in your ancestry

there’s gotta be some screwed up genes.

 

— Boots LeBaron —

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