Friday, September 30, 2016

The Ace of Her Heart

Thought for the day:  Not all heroes wear capes. 

[Flame, superhero of the 1930s and '40s-  wikipedia]

It's true. It's fun to read about cartoon superheroes, and to see them come alive on the screen, but the real heroes in life don't need... or want... a spiffy outfit or cape, because they generally don't want to draw attention to themselves.

One definition of hero is someone who risks personal harm to protect and serve others, like firefighters, police officers, and members of the military. As you know, we're losing more and more World War II veterans every day, so I think it's important to share some of their stories from time to time, so we can remember their places in history.

I'm gonna tell you about one such man today. His name? Louis Curdes, and he didn't  need no stinking cape,  because that hero man was a brilliant aviator. Matter of fact, he was an ace, and he also bears the rather unusual distinction of being the only person who has ever been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for shooting down... his girlfriend.

[Louis Curdes, with his plane Bad Angel]

Good. That's the idea.

Curdes was already an ace with a ton of war and flying experiences, including being shot down and escaping from an Italian POW camp, when our story opens. Following their mission to attack Japanese positions on the island of Bataan in the Philippines, one squad member, low on fuel, had flown back to base, one had been shot down, and was floating in the water on a rubber dinghy, another was flying at a higher altitude, trying to summon a rescue plane by radio, and Curdes was flying a low-altitude pattern above his fallen friend, prepared to protect him, and provide cover, if need be.

[C-47 transport plane- wikipedia]

Another plane approached from the distance, and as it got closer, Curdes could see that it was a C-47 transport plane, AKA jungle jumper, bearing U.S. markings. It lowered its landing gear, clearly signalling its intention to land on the Japanese-controlled island. Curdes had heard horrific stories about the fate of people captured by the Japanese, so he simply couldn't  let that plane land. He tried to contact the pilot via radio, but to no avail. He dove in front of the plane several times, but the C-47 continued its descent. He fired a warning burst of machine gun fire across the other plane's nose, but that didn't work, either. So what could he do?

[50-caliber machine gun in  Bad Angel's wing]

The only thing he could do. 

He shot it down. 

First, he took out one engine... and then the other. The C-47 pilot had no choice but to ditch the plane into the ocean, where it settled close to the other fallen aviator's dinghy. Soon, all twelve occupants of the C-47 were floating beside him on life rafts. Curdes dropped a note down to them, saying, For God's sake, keep away from shore. Japs there. 

Only three WWII flying aces shot down planes of all three Axis powers, but only one of them, Louis Curdes, also shot down an American plane, thereby saving everyone on board.

Two of them were nurses.

One of the nurses was his date from the night before.

They later married.

 I guess you could say she really fell  for him... like a shot outta the sky.

Curdes' plane, as she appears today, at the Pima Air and Space Museum, in Tucson, Arizona. 

Indiana native Louis Curdes retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1963. In his twenty-two years of service, he earned many medals,  including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and numerous flying awards. When he died in 1995, Senator Richard Lugar delivered a fitting tribute  on the Senate floor. In the senator's words, Curdes was truly an example and inspiration for all who follow him.

 Okay, so maybe this song isn't the perfect choice to go with this post, but it's stuck in my head, so in an attempt to get it out, I'm gonna share. Besides, it's never a bad time to listen to something that makes your toes tap and your heart sing...

You know, there are things other than danger that can define a hero. For example, I find it bordering on heroic for someone to work a job (s)he hates, day-in, day-out, without complaint... because that's what (s)he has to do to support a family. Maybe your husband or wife? Your parent? You? Appreciate their efforts, and value your own.That kinda love makes the world go around.

 Love doesn't make the world go 'round. Love is what makes the ride worthwhile. [Franklin P. Jones]
                                                              Okay, I sit corrected.                                   
                                   Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other. 

NOTE: Next week's post will be on WEDNESDAY, in conjunction with the monthly Insecure Writer's Support Group confab. If you've been thinking about signing up, it isn't too late. Go ahead! You know you wanta... so do it right here

Friday, September 23, 2016

Summer Re-Run

Thought for the day:  The healthiest response to life is joy. [Deepak Chopra]

According to the calendar, yesterday was the first day of autumn, but evidently, nobody bothered to let Mother Nature know, because around here, it still feels and looks like the middle of summer. Sooooo, why not go with a (ta-DA!) summer re-run? Not that I'm (ahem) lazy or anything, but it's been more than five years since this post ran first time around as Rhymes With Dreams, and most of you haven't seen it. So you could say I'm re-running it out of sheer laziness the goodness of my heart. Yeah, let's go with that. With a bit of editing, here ya go. I hope you enjoy it.


Thought for the day: Why do people pay money to go to the top of tall buildings, and then pay again to look down at the ground through binoculars? 

One of the few good things I can say about growing up in a neighborhood of row homes is that there were always enough kids around to initiate just about any kind of game you can imagine: games like curb ball, dodge ball, red rover, Mother may I, spud, seven up, and of course, tag. A little convenience store down the alley from our house served as our meeting place, and the big metal pipe at its front corner served as home base for our tag games. Tag games always started by everyone yelling "Not it!" Whoever was slowest, WAS it, and would have to cover his eyes and start counting at that pipe while everyone else ran.

It's been 55+ years since I played that version of tag, but thanks to a very sweet fellow blogger, now I can play a different (more age-appropriate) version. She tagged me IT, so now I get to answer some questions, before tagging some other bloggers. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Here we go:

1.  If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?

It'd be that moment I spotted my husband at the airport when he finally came home from Vietnam. It was sheer magic.

2. If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

The airplane spent an interminable hour and a half sitting on the tarmac in Atlanta, and should have already landed in Baltimore by the time it finally got off the ground. My sister-in-law and her husband picked me up at the airport and we drove straight to the hospital, but my mother died twenty minutes before we got there. So, if I could change one thing, I'd make that plane leave on time.

3. What movie or TV character do you most resemble in personality?

I have no idea. Maybe a cross between June Cleaver and Lurch?

4. If you could push one person off a cliff, who would it be?

Geez, I'm boring. Can't think of anyone I hate, and even if I did, I'm not a push-somebody-off-the-cliff kind of person. I'm more of a guns or poison kind of gal.

5. Name one habit you want to change about yourself.

I need to exercise. Unfortunately, owning exercise equipment and a pair of spiffy running shoes doesn't do the trick. You actually have to use the darned things. Doesn't hardly seem fair, does it?

6. Describe yourself in one word.


7. Describe the person who named you in this meme in one word.


8. Why do you blog?

It started out (reluctantly, I might add) as a means to establish a "platform" to benefit my writing future. Now, I do it because I truly enjoy it, and because I've come to care about the people I've "met".

Okay, I'm going to deviate from the original post here, and instead of naming anyone in particular, I'll let all of you guys and gals who are interested snag the blog tag from the top of this page and answer the questions on your blog, and either pass it on to three other bloggers, or throw it up for grabs, like I'm doing. Kinda like a chain letter, but better. No body parts will turn black and fall off if you don't do it. (I don't think so, anyway. Personally, I wasn't willing to take the chance.)

Did you notice that word meme in question number seven? Familiar with it? In answering these questions on her blog, the gal who tagged me said, "What the heck is a meme? I never heard that one before." Since the only meme I'd ever heard of before was the French word, which rhymes with hem and means same, I decided to do some investigating.

It turns out that meme, which rhymes with dream, can best be described  as a basic building block of minds and culture, similar to the way a gene is considered a biological building block. Just as genes transmit biological information, memes transmit ideas and belief information, like catch phrases, melodies, the latest fads, and fashion trends. By extension, an Internet meme would be a concept that spreads via the Internet, like viral videos, tweets, and ... games of blogger tag.

So now we know.

On an earlier post, I told the funny-but-true story of my grandfather using most of my grandmother's clothes as diapers during their long voyage to America. Turns out, my brother acquired a copy of their ship's manifest through and informed me that their ship didn't sail into Ellis Island, after all. The S.S. Columbia left Glasgow on April 28, 1923, and actually arrived in Boston Harbor eight days later. Eight days. When Mom-Mom described the voyage, she made it sound like so much longer than that, but eight days of seasickness must have felt more like eighty.

Now that I know they entered via Boston, I've been thinking about another story my grandmother told me. She said they lived in New York City for a while before moving on to Baltimore, which is why I thought they'd come into the country through Ellis Island, but maybe I misunderstood. Maybe they actually lived in Boston. Still, wherever they lived, the story was hysterical.

My grandmother could wax poetic about Scottish heather.

She said the temperatures were hot, hotter than what they'd ever experienced in Scotland. And the bugs? They were absolutely horrific, and also something quite new to them, she said. According to her, they didn't  have such annoying bugs in Scotland. So, picture this: they're in a cramped hotel room in the sweltering heat one evening, and the flies and mosquitoes are flitting and buzzing around the room, and about a hair's breadth away from driving my grandfather completely insane. So, Pop starts chasing them around the room with a fly swatter in hand. Bouncing on the bed, swinging the flyswatter like a baseball bat, and cussing as only an irate Scotsman can cuss. And oh yeah, because of the heat, he also happened to be naked. When my grandmother looked out the window, a small crowd was gathered below, pointing up, and having a jolly good time. Seems they found my grandfather's shenanigans quite entertaining.

Now whether or not that story's entirely true, I can't say, but she certainly told it to me often enough. One part of the tale doesn't mesh, though. That part about Scotland not having any annoying bugs? I did a google search to see if that's true. Not even close. There's a wee bug called the Highland midge that is so annoying, it's been known to make grown men cry. Those miserable critters not only bite, but they swarm. Not talking little swarms, either. I'm talking swarms of hundreds, and even thousands, that attack all at once. They've been called the scourge of Scotland.

Still, why ruin a good story with facts, right? My grandmother chose to remember Scotland as a perfect place, with fields of heather and nary a bug in sight. Works for me. I love good dreams. (rhymes with memes)

 rainbow above the highlands

                                  Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Oddities and Endings

Thought for the day:  What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare? [W.H. Davies]

There's no end to the number of things in this world that are worthy of a little staring and studying. We can never know or understand it all in one lifetime, but that's no excuse for not trying. For not questioning. For not appreciating.

Today, we're gonna consider a handful of little-known facts that simply struck my fancy. Mental odds and ends, I guess you could call them.

If there's only one thing in your junk drawer, what do you call it... an odd or an end...?


This first one is about an ending. Everyone's familiar with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, but did you realize what a vital role engineers played that day? What sacrifices they made? Of the twenty-five engineers on board, not a single one survived. That's because they manned the pumps, and kept the electricity running for as long as possible, so the lights and radio remained operational... so others could escape and survive.

The disaster was not of their doing, but they died heroes, trying to correct the mistakes of others; knowing their own survival unlikely, they died so that others might have a chance to live. [ F.J. Blake, White Star Engineering Superintendent]

[Daily Knowledge Newsletter]
This one is more of an ending, followed by a shiny new beginning. In 1999, Australian Bill Morgan, 37 years old, was involved in a serious truck accident. While being treated in the hospital, an allergic reaction to a medication caused him to have a heart attack. A fatal heart attack. The guy actually flat-lined for fourteen minutes before doctors could revive him... only to spend the next twelve days in a deep coma. With no expectations of a recovery, doctors advised his family to pull the plug. But nope...  this guy wasn't done yet. He not only woke up, against all odds, but he was fine... all of his faculties were intact. With his new miraculous lease on life, he proposed to  his long-time girlfriend, and when she accepted, he bought a lottery ticket to celebrate. He won a new car. A Melbourne TV station, intrigued with his tale, asked him to re-enact buying and scratching off a lottery ticket for their news segment. So he did... and he won again. Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Dontcha love stories with a happy ending and a bright new beginning?

[RIA Novosta]
This picture shows people lining up to get water during the WWII siege of Leningrad, a 900-day period of oppression and deprivation that lasted from September of 1941 until the spring of '44. Many people died during that time, and among them, nine Soviet scientists who starved to death while protecting... the world's largest seed bank.

Created in 1926 by scientist Nikolai Vavilov, Pavlovsk Station contained four hundred thousand seeds, roots and fruits, and was established with the goal of ending world famine. When the Germans took over their city in 1941, the Pavlovsk Station scientists starved to death rather than eat any of the food they were protecting, because they considered it to be their country's hope for the future.

The fictionalized retelling of this story can be found in the novel Hunger, by Elise Blackwell. It is also immortalized in the song When the War Came, by the Decemberists.

In 1947, boxer Jimmy Doyle challenged welterweight champ Sugar Ray Robinson to a title bout. Robinson initially agreed, but then tried to back out after he had a vivid dream in which he'd killed his opponent in the ring. The promoters stood to lose a lot of money if they had to cancel the fight, so they got a priest and a minister to convince Robinson that it was only a dream, and the fight should go on as scheduled. It did go on, but in the eighth round, Doyle hit the canvas, and never regained consciousness. He died seventeen hours later. Following his death, boxing rules were changed, so that fighters who suffered serious head injuries (as Doyle had in several previous bouts) wouldn't be allowed to fight again. The twenty-two year old had promised to buy his mother a house with his winnings, a promise he was unable to keep... but Robinson kept it for him. He donated all of his money from his next four fights to Doyle's mother. Robinson retired in 1965, was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in '67, and founded the Sugar Ray Robinson Youth Foundation for inner-city children in '69. Ironically, his foundation never sponsored a boxing program.

Rhythm is everything in boxing. Every move you make starts with your heart, and that's in rhythm, or you're in trouble. [Sugar Ray Robinson]

[Australian Red Cross]
Back to Australia for the last story. Meet James Harrison, AKA the man with the golden arm. When he was fourteen years old, he had major surgery, in which he received thirteen liters of blood, He swore that as soon as he turned eighteen, he'd pay it back by becoming a blood donor. He was a man true to his word. Matter of fact, he's been in the Guinness Book of World Records since 2003 for the most blood donated by one person. And his donations have saved more than two million babies.

That's because he has a rare antigen in his blood that can cure Rhesus disease. Research based on his blood led to the creation of RhoGAM, which is administered to women whose blood may be incompatible with their babies because of Rh factor. (Like me!) By donating on the average of every three weeks for fifty-seven years, Mr. Harrison reached his one thousandth donation in May of 2011. He reached 1106 as of June of 2015, and he's still going strong. Why? Because he still sees it as a duty and a way to pay it forward. What an amazing man. He gave the gift of life to millions of people. Including my children.

[David Gray/Reuters/Landov]

                             On that happy feel-good note, I'll say adieu for now.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.