The Revolutionary War

The more distant in time the more we forget, and tend to think of the war for independence as a skirmish between people in funny looking clothes shooting muzzle loader rifles so primitive that they probably only got off a shot or two before the battle was over.

Reality: Approximately 25,000 America soldiers killed. Thousands more injured for life or whose lives were shortened by their wounds.

Personal Application: Harry Golden, in his Washington based newsletter “The Carolina Israelite,” and in his book Only in America noted that for years we clucked our tongues in disapproval over the statistic of six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. But humans can’t personally identify with a statistic. It was not until a 13 year old girl described her life, as a statistic of one, that we felt the horror of the holocaust.

Likewise the Revolutionary war. Here is a statistic of one, one family.

The Jacob Brawler family from South Carolina sent twenty-two sons and their father to fight for freedom. They were all killed in battle except one who was seriously wounded and died a few years later.

Let us remember Jacob Brawler, his sons, and the thousands more who gave much, and those who gave all that we might be free to shoot fireworks, hold parades, stuff ourselves at barbecues, pursue our happiness, and live lives that most people in the world can’t even dream of.

Restoring Crystal

As a child (but old enough to know better) I was lying on my stomach on the floor of our living room idly swinging my feet from the knee joint when I idly kicked the curved glass front panel out of the china cupboard, one of the few nice pieces of furniture we owned. Glass shards rained down on the carpet. At the noise Mother came running, stopped at the doorway and stared at the destruction. I remember she was sad, but not mad. More resigned that she had chosen to have boys over fancy furniture. It was only a matter of time before one of them became the bull in the china closet.

“Can we fix it?” I hoped out loud.

“No. It’s curved glass you can’t replace it, she sighed.

We sadly moved our solitary show piece into the corner of another room. It was functional but no longer displayable.

She never punished me, but I punished myself. Then I forgot about it; at least I think I did. But it may have floated to the surface as I wrote this little bedtime story.

Picture yourself as a parent.  You have a beautiful home, well-furnished and pleasant to live in.  In fact it is just perfect.  You also have a child.  The child is not perfect.  But you love this child with the unfathomable love of a parent.  One day the child walks through the perfect living room.  The child decides to stop and touch a beautiful crystal vase on the table.  This is against your instructions, but children will be children.  The vase crashes to the floor.  You hear the crash, rush to the door and see your beloved child trying to put together the pieces of your precious vase.  It is a pathetic sight to see the little awkward hands trying to undo the damage and restore the shattered crystal.

As a parent you have a problem.  You could be merciful and ignore the event, sweep away the debris, sweep your child up in your arms and say, “It’s all right.”  This might relieve the child’s feelings.  But it would not be true.  It’s not all right.  The vase is shattered.  The room and the home are now less than perfect.  This is not the standard you have set for your home.

More important, the child might never learn that there are consequences to doing forbidden things.  So on the other hand you might exact justice.  Demand that the child either restore the vase to its original beauty or buy an exact replacement for it.  But this is not practical.  The vase is very expensive. The child has no money.  And to repair shattered fine crystal is impossible.

Perhaps a third alternative is to simply pretend the accident didn’t happen.  But as a parent you know that if the problem is not corrected it will happen again and probably get worse.  If your child doesn’t learn and practice correct rules of conduct he or she will probably fail in life and you will fail as a parent.  Your work which is to bring to pass the happiness of your children will never be accomplished.

Another person enters the room.  You smile when you see him come.  He is such a joy to you.  He is your oldest son.  Your son comes to the child, kneels down and takes the child’s tearful face in his hands.  The son asks, “Do you need help?”  The child can only nod.

“I can help you. Would you like me to?”

The child nods again.

This kindly brother with incredible dexterity picks the delicate shards of crystal from the floor.  The glass cuts his hands.  He bleeds, but he continues to work.  He replaces the crystal pieces in their exact previous arrangement.  The warm glow from his hands melds the broken fragments into perfect integrity again.  The beautiful vase is as it was.  No, there is a luster and glow about it that make it sparkle as it never did before.

The child finds a few words in its limited vocabulary and stammers out, “I can’t pay.”

The older brother says simply, “Come.  There is no charge.  Just follow me.  Do what I do and someday you too can work miracles.”

The older brother takes the child’s hand and they both come to you the parent.  You embrace them both.  All of you rejoice in one another’s presence and in being again in your perfect home.

Life on the high wire without a net

Many of us in our fantasy moments would like to be bold and adventurous, living on the edge.

But going over the edge while piloting a plane that is about as air worthy as a loaded cement truck would probably not be on our to do list.

But then we are not Dr. Keith Hooker. We’ll get back to that scene. On a previous occasion Keith scattered another plane, over a considerable portion of the real estate just outside Montrose Colorado. Fortunately Keith’s “co-pilot” Wid Tolman, built the plane including seat belts and harnesses. But who could foresee a mini tornado blowing up on them just as they took off. It flipped their plane upside down. An emergency belly landing is tricky enough. A back landing isn’t even covered in the manual. Fortunately Keith and Wid were able to eject. Unfortunately the ejection wasn’t on purpose. They just got flung out.

Miraculously they walked or staggered away. The plane was SMOA, Scrap Metal On Arrival. Their scratches, cuts and bruises, were featured in the local newspapers, but fortunately not on the obituary page.

Years earlier Keith baptized himself, a plane and his two passengers, in an Alaska river. It was a chilly swim and wade to shore for Keith and his wife Phyllis. It was a typical day floating in warm water for their almost newborn baby inside her.

The empty gas tank, and emergency landing, within spitting distance of the Spanish Fork Utah airport are hardly worth mentioning. The bent propeller memorial of that event standing in Keith’s back yard could be just an artistic sculpture. Keith was an excellent pilot. He just had this edge thing.

He came down from other heights in a similar robust fashion, rappelling off cliffs, hiking into slot canyons and occasional caves. And he also went up in like manner. He climbed North America’s highest peak Mt. McKinley, and challenged the world’s tallest Mt. Everest. Bad weather beat his party back down, but they were pushing the last stages to the summit.

Dr. Hooker was a connoisseur of survival “foods” including rodents, bugs, and worms. Some of these delicacies he got his children to enjoy, or at least eat with him. Would that I had such persuasive skills with our children.

Not surprisingly, his medical specialty was emergency treatment. He was head of that department at our regional hospital. I suspect Keith would have been most happy striding through life in a loin cloth with only a knife stuck in his belt.

Except that he was also a conscientious husband and father, church leader, civic contributor, and a good neighbor to me and others.  I was having a well dug. It looked like I would run out of money before we ran into water which would be when we tapped into the Yangtze river in China. Keith said he wanted to invest in the project. Eventually we reached a modest water source. I never would have made it without his help.

He freely gave medical service and supplies that would have made him money but instead made him many friends. He also made a few enemies. You don’t live with such gusto on the edge without bugging a few people. But among them were not the folks in Alaska, and later southern Utah to whom he brought his services by airplane. Nor our city police and fire departments whom he served for many years.

And so it came to pass that one warm summer morning his son announced to the gathered friends of Dr. Keith Hooker, “Today we are witnessing a sight I thought I would never see, my father lying in an open casket. I was always certain we would be sweeping and scooping up the remains of his last adventure, dumping them into a box and battening down the lid for his funeral.”

There was no disrespect in his description. We all smiled knowingly.

I know some well-organized people who have prepared the program for their funeral, but Keith took it one step further. He introduced the final song himself by way of a recording which starred the flying “cement truck” we started this story with. I’m paraphrasing here, but I think I have it pretty close.

Keith’s voice said, “This song is special to me. Once on a visit to a small clinic in southern Utah we flew out right after a pretty good rain. The landing strip was dirt, or in this case mud, at the top of a high mesa. I opened up the engine to full power and headed down the strip. The muddy ground, and the mud the wheels were throwing on the plane slowed us down way below take off speed. We went over the edge of the mesa and dropped like a rock. I went into a power dive to try and get enough airspeed to pull out of our fall before we hit the bottom of the canyon. Above the screaming wind and the roaring engine I heard a strange sound. Like a screeching banshee on steroids. I glanced over. It was my friend singing and hollering out the hymn, “How great thou art.”

The ball of mud with wings slowly began to level out, then climb. We pulled slowly up and above the nearby cliffs hoping we were not in a box canyon. A few minutes later we had enough altitude to start breathing again. For some reason a few minutes later planning my funeral seemed like a good idea, and I thought, ‘That song my friend was murdering would be a nice closer.”

The recording stopped. A young man with a guitar came out and announced, “Keith asked me to sing this song. I’ll be singing it loud because his last instructions to me were, ‘Sing loud because I’ll be in the box.’”

He sang loud.

Volunteers from the police force had kept an honorary sentinel watch over his casket the night before. The fire department crossed the flag-draped long ladders on their trucks to make a tall inverted V for the hearse and procession to pass through on their way to the cemetery.

At the graveside service we were respectfully somber. We would miss our friend, and perhaps we were even sad for him that his life didn’t end with a flourish. Cancer doesn’t lend itself to high action drama.

But our hearts were comforted. We knew Keith was launched on his greatest adventure ever.