The Irish Catholic Hajj Lived

The trek towards Middle America is daunting in an Econoline van, 700 miles and 11 hours long.  Yet the draw for a 17-strong contingent of Philadelphia area products from the Roman Catholic Church and school systems is irresistible, as witnessed by a core group that has made the South Bend trek to University of Notre Dame football games 17 times now.  

The underside of an obscure card table, inscribed with the names of past participants documents the participants from year-to-year.  Those making the Hajj for the first time dutifully add (R) to their names to signify their rookie status.  We also made habit of marveling at the precision organization, courtesy of Major General (Honarary) Edward Brady (Father Judge ’74), and execution.  Staying out of the way – unless called upon – for fear of ruining the mojo.

The group was not nearly as rowdy as might have been – and probably was – years ago.  Then again most of use are on the downhill side of 50 or below sea-level of 60!  It does seem to mute the wackiness.  The one exception being the call to “Huddle up!!” by Staff Sargeant (Hon) Lenny, a call to imbibe shots of intestinal fortitude.

You learn to celebrate Life more managably as you grow older.

Friday was for a tour of the Notre Dame campus, steeped in history not limited to football.  As a Philly guy, never quite bitten as badly by the ND bug, hearing the story of John Cardinal O’Hara (former Philadelphia Cardinal of the Archdiocese and President of Notre Dame) next to his marble crypt is one example.  The Battle of Gettysburg story of Reverend William Corey, steadying New York’s Irish Brigade in the hours before their date with Destiny at Little Round Top and the wheat field, is quite another.

As for the football experience, the pageantry and loyal following the Fighting Irish inspire is evident at every venue.  For me, the excitement generated by the Notre Dame Band of the Fighting Irish, on Friday particularly with the horn section warming up the crowd inside The Rotunda was simply spectacular!


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Saturday, the focus was FOOTBALL … not to be overshadowed by perhaps the nicest stretch of weather shining down on the Best Tailgating Experience ever!  (OK … Honestly the guy with the satellite dish and 40+ inch screen might have an edge here.)  It’s difficult to imagine a better day.

The Miami of Ohio – Notre Dame game was anticlimactic, given the obvious talent gap and the Irish’s ability to step on Miami’ s throat in the 1st Quarter (Final: ND 52 – Miami 17).  But the highlight truly is that there’s much, much more to enjoy at the Notre Dame Football experience than just a lopsided victory!

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View of our rental’s backyard in the vicinity of the University of Notre Dame

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The Irish American Hajj

Sixteen men, one determined young lady, two Econoline vans (bench seats), 700 miles, 11 hours … A journey meant for the die-hard fans of The Golden Dome, The Fighting Irish, Knute Rockne, The Four Horsemen, and other Legends of the Gridiron ….

An American Hajj (Commitment)

A two-decade tradition expanded to include wannabes and hangers-on.  The planning intricate, resourceful, learned … Leadership the envy of military staffers ….

We depart at zero-dark-thirty for the University of Notre Dame with kisses from the women folk left behind. (Admittedly some of which are not all that worried about more spacious beds, cooking for one, and quiet evenings curled up with Netflix.)  The assault vehicles are loaded; GPS devices homed in; coffeed up and leisurely fed by one weekend widow, we are Oscar Mike!

The Summer of Orange Discontent

Description=ab23638.jpg AB23638 (RM) Traffic cones along side of road Taxi

Official Flora of Orange Summer

Many have heard the lame joke, made at times like these … “What’s the State flower of (fill in your favorite State/Commonwealth in dysfunction)?”  The punch line is pictured to the right.

It’s been one of those Summers in my little slice of Heaven on Earth.  Seems every week I am running into large rectangular announcements that “This road will be closed beginning on (month-date.)”  The amount of road work going on is enough to set commuters’ neck hairs a quivering!

My guess is that the Silver Lining in all this traffic disruption this Summer is a good sign for The Economy as a whole; but it truly wreaks havoc with the rate-of-productive-effort vs. travel time ratio.  And for some reason this Summer has seen much more infrastructure investment than any other Summer I can remember.

img_0036Summer’s tend to be most beneficial to blooming orange cones; but this one might set a record, not just for orange cones but also for orange detour signs (announced weeks in advance) and the deployment of the Flagger Forces of Evil.  I have joked recently that any hostile power, looking to pose damage and mayhem to American society would – as their first step in subversion – invest heavily in Flagger Force franchises.

Those guys are EVERYWHERE.  And even though they might seem innocuous, they control the smooth flow of American auto society.  Too perfect a cover for a nefarious force looking to nonchalantly position themselves at numerous strategic venues and choke points.  Reminds me of German efforts to sabatage the Allied response to the Nazis’ World War II offensive in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge).  They sent commandos to infiltrate behind Allied lines, disrupting communications and responses by – among other things – changing routing and destination signage!

img_0035It’s getting to the point where I am recognizing Flagger Force operatives moving from one choke point to another.  That cannot be a good thing!

My work commute is generally a non-invasive, relaxing commune with Nature along the secondary and back roads of eastern Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (Hatboro, Upper Moreland, Abington, Cheltenham).  No stress, relaxing scenery, manageable traffic …

Until this Summer anyway …

On any given morning, I can find two or three of my favored secondary roads impassable due to construction or repair work.  From the all too obviously needed bridge rework to road re-paving to power-line tree trimming to sewage and water line installations to God only knows what, it has been a particularly active Season of Infrastructure!

Terwood Road (closed since July 5) has been a real kick in the commute, a direct route slicing east-southeast through bucolic settings guaranteed to settle the most nervous commuter.  Worse yet, the popular route’s closure in an area not exactly brimming with non-invasive alternative routes, throws other east-west secondary routes in the area into complete disarray, forcing me to use primary routes (e.g. Route 611) where the driving is closer to Mad Max: Fury Road than psyche-settling leisure.

UPDATE:  Just days after posting this, Welsh Road (Route 63), another rather vital East-West commuter link, particularly for PA Turnpike access in eastern Montgomery County, had two sections narrowed to one lane (one for bridge work crossing over the Turnpike); had another stretch east of Washington Lane completely closed for God-only-knows-what, and is being resurfaced!!

It’s both maddening and reassuring in the “Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure” way of thinking.

  1. Roads – and the utilities running along and below them – are essential.
  2. Roads take a beating.
  3. Roads require maintenance and semi-regular investment to maintain long-term utility.
  4. Maintenance and Investment Time sucks when moving from Point A to Point B!

There’s NEVER a good time to do it.  And when it’s being done, it’s never a good time for anyone … other than the good people (so far as we know) of Flagger Force!

Just shoot me already … (That was sarcasm, FF!)

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

In 1966 I was 10 years-old; and as 10 year-olds are wont to do I was infatuated with sophomoric behavior and attracted to silly comedy on TV and The Big Screen.  In May of that year a comedy hit the silver screen, starring Alan ArkinCarl Reiner, Brian Keith, and Jonathan Winters.

Editors-Pick-The-Russians-are_-Coming-The-Russians-are-Coming

The movie was called “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!” in an oblique reference to the Ride of Paul Revere when the British were on their way to Lexington and Concord.  The synopsis of the movie on IMDb reads as follows:

Without hostile intent, a Soviet sub runs aground off New England. Men are sent for a boat, but many villagers go into a tizzy, risking bloodshed.

Apparently, little has changed when it comes to the reaction of “the villagers” whenever we spot someone from Mother Russia!

OK … It’s really the Media that’s largely having apoplectic seizures over Russians, Russians, Russians.

As we slog through yet another so-called Trump “scandal”, I am having much difficulty in understanding where all the hubbub is about.  So allow me to summarize what I know with the hope that someone can make better sense of this confusion than I am able.

  1. lead_960Donald Trump, Jr. is approached by a long-time friend of his father’s, who happens to be connected to the Russian entertainment industry, requesting a meeting on behalf of a Russian lawyer with dirt to share on opposition candidate, Hillary Clinton.
  2. Said points-of-contact could very well have “connections to the Russian Government” – though that’s certainly up for interpretation – in the same way that many in the Legal and Entertainment industries in the U.S. of A would know and interact with US Government officials in the course of professional duties.
  3. A meeting is arranged, and it quickly becomes apparent that the source really has nothing of value related to Clinton and the meeting devolves into a discussion of Russian adoption programs, discontinued by the Russian government in response to sanctions imposed by the U.S Congress in the Magnitsky Act, which seized assets and denied visas to Russians suspected of corruption and human rights abuses.
  4. The meeting lasts all of 20 minutes; does not result in any valuable information on anything; and no future contact between the principles occurred afterwards.

Now that appears to me to be a rather thin basis for all the clamoring about collusion and treason.  I will attribute my inability at being shocked to my pragmatic way of looking at all things.

lead_960-1If one looks at collusion as something akin to a contract, you would need to see some form of consideration or value passing between the principles.  So what was that thing of value?  Even if one can argue that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskay had acknowledged connections to the Russian Government (She denies it.), what was the benefit to them?  Much was made today about the man who accompanied Veselnitskay to the meeting … until it was noted that he was actually an American citizen!

Or let’s look at the definition of Treason, which requires the witnessing of overt acts against the Country or in aiding and abetting the Enemy.  So what exactly was the overt act that accomplished either of those circumstances.  Some argue that Russian operatives may have been dangling the Clinton information to draw out one of the Trumps.  Maybe they did.  But simply looking at the dangle, but not taking the bait in full is nothing to get the villagers running around like beheaded chickens.

Now indulge me as I surmise what might have been the reaction in the Hillary Clinton camp had the same “dangle” been made to them for dirt on Donald Trump, Sr..

  1. Clinton Gives Speech On American Global Leadership At Washington Conference

    John Podesta with Hillary Clinton

    John Podesta is approached by a long-time friend of Bill Clinton’s, who happens to be connected to the Russian entertainment industry, requesting a meeting on behalf of a Russian lawyer with dirt to share on opposition candidate, Donald Trump.

  2.  A meeting is arranged, and it quickly becomes apparent that the source really has nothing of value related to Trump and the meeting devolves into a discussion of Russian adoption programs, discontinued by the Russian government …. etc., etc.
  3. No damaging opposition research results, yet The Clinton Foundation obtains a $2.35 million donation; the Russian atomic energy agency, Rosatom, takes over a Canadian uranium mining firm; and Hillary’s husband, Bill is paid $500,000 to give a speech – on Russian adoptions perhaps – to the Russian investment bank with links to the Russian Government that is promoting stock in the aforementioned Canadian firm.

Now THAT would be an excellent example of Consideration passing from one party to the other!  If it ever actually happened …

But it did!  Every single overt act described above happened in a common thread … Russian interests to corner uranium mining and the Clintons’ interests in building up their political war chest!

hillary-stateHillary Clinton was Secretary of State when that happened, serving in an official capacity at the highest level of U.S. Government, supposedly representing the interests of Americans and National Security.  No way does a Canadian uranium mining firm wind its way into a Russian Government asset portfolio without the tacit approval of the U.S. Government!

You really have to admire the Clintons.  They only do they know how to collude; they have the Treason thing down cold too!

Donald Trump, Jr. and company are guilty of being naive, even stupid … but not criminal.

As political neophytes, the Trumps could learn a lot of bad habits from the Clintons.

Peeves of Grass by W.Whitman*

(* Waldo Whitman, long distance third cousin of renown poet Walt Whitman, was a noted turf-ologist and local laureate to the Bronxville, NY organic lawn movement.) 

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Peeves of Grass

They gird their loins upon mechanical beasts.

Concern for your Lawn? Not in the least …

Their job is but the turf to mow,

On swaths of green in an endless row.

The call to them is “Mow it short!”

Should Weather their next visit abort.

 

Of consequence is the Heat of Summer

Working to render your backyard a bummer,

Baking grass roots to the color of Lumber.

 

Another lawn threat is an obscure little pest,

Whose potential for damage to grass – no jest.

Existing in stealth and snug as a bug,

Sheltered all Winter by your grass turf rug.

Spring brings cravings for roots to devour,

Leaving your Lawn unfit for a Schnauzer.

 

To know Milky Spore, you need not worry.

But if beetles you see, best move in a hurry.

For the future of dear lawn could become quite gory!

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Nothing brings a tear to the eye like a good Ode to Lawn!

And though Waldo’s words paint a moving portrait, his flowery expressions have more simple, straight-forward messages.  For one, the guys and gals riding those professional lawn mowing services prefer to leave your lawn short as a Masters Tournament fairway.  If they miss an appointment for weather, the lawn less cumbersome to mow quickly the next time out.

And a lot of homeowners like that close-cropped fairway look …

But that’s not good for strong, sustained grass growth as the following pictures illustrate.

 

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Tale of Two Lawns:  Can you tell the difference between the professional short-cut vs. Cranky Man’s pillowy mow?

Analysis (above):  Verdant greenery on the left, roughly at least 2-2.5 inches longer.  Note browning already occurring on the right despite rather moderate temps and plenty of rain!  What will it look like in August???

img_1113

Which side looks healthier, richer, more likely to survive the Summer?

Remember the words passed down to us from past generations …

A Lawn that looks like a country club fairway in June will resemble an airport runway in August!

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BEWARE THE BEETLE!

In southeast Pennsylvania we tend to see the mighty ugly grub beetles around the 4th of July.  I usually see my first ones (and lately the only ones) on a golf course … while conducting turf research of course!

images-13You can pre-treat in March (Too late now …) or wait until you see beetles.  But don’t lolligag once you do see them.  Grub treatments are intended to keep grubs from entering the lawn.  Once they get in there, it may be too late to keep them out!

If you want to live grub-worry-free, get to know the milky spore.  Yeah, it’s a pain in the hinterlands to apply; but it will give you up to 10 years of grub coverage!

Read more here:

Let’s play microbiological warfare!

Help your lawn beat the heat

 

 

So many never came home …

(This blog post is not intended to damper your Memorial Day weekend or the enjoyment of beaches, barbecues, parties, and activities.  Cranky Man’s sincerest wish is simply to take a few minutes this holiday weekend to reflect on the ultimate sacrifices made on our behalf!)

4483264_origAs is my challenge, Cranky Man will prod his readers into reflecting on the REAL meaning of our more sacred National Holidays.  This weekend kicks off the official start of Summer 2017.  But the true reasons for celebrating the coming three months of Summer – Memorial Day – has a much, much deeper meaning than beaches, water sports, vacation travel, and the wonders of the National Parks system.

That Meaning is the recognition of those thousands upon thousands, who left the safety of Homeland and Family to preserve and protect both, and in that Service gave the Last Full Measure of Devotion.  In many cases, they did so not for the People they left back home, as they did for those in foreign lands unable to preserve and protect those concepts of Homeland and Family without our help.

The Meaning is recognition of those sacrifices and appreciation for the loss pressed upon those who loved them.  Such meaning can be severely clouded with emotion when a Loved One never comes home from War.  The “more fortunate” families might wait for DECADES to recover the remains of fathers, sons, uncles, and brothers.  The truly Unfortunate never know the peace of bringing them Home.

As of 19 May 2017 the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) lists 82,547 Americans still missing just since World War II.  Here are a few of their stories …

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a Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim went off to War …

On May 11, 1969 – the before his son’s 1st birthday – LT William C. Ryan climbed aboard his F-4 Phantom as Radio Intercept Officer (RIO).  His aircraft was on a bombing run along the Laos-Vietnam border when it was hit by ground fire and crashed.  The pilot ejected, but Ryan did not make it out.

Rhino

LT William “Billy” C. Ryan

Luck in the form of Ryan’s aircraft seat was found in 1990, but the politics of searching a border region; being limited to 45 days of searching at any one stretch; and the treacherous terrain prevented finding LT Ryan’s remains and positively identifying them until 2016.  Billy Ryan’s son was now 48 years old!  And in a strange, unforgiving twist of fate, Ryans’ wife, Judith, was informed of her husband’s positive identification on the very same day she was diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer.

LT William C. Ryan was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on 10 May 2017.

1611 Americans are still listed as MIA from the Vietnam War.  Over 58,000 Americans perished.

IWO JIMA

CPL Freddie Lee Henson enlisted in the U.S. Army on 19 January 1949 at 18 years old out of Klamath Falls, AR.  Serving in the 57th Field Artillery, 7th Infantry Division Henson was deployed to South Korea in 1950.

In November 1950, as U.S. and South Korean forces came painfully close to pushing the North Korean forces across the Yalu River into China, 1 million Chinese troops jumped the river and overwhelmed the Allied forces.  By December the largely American United Nations force was pinned down at the Chosin Reservoir, deep in North Korean territory.

Freddie-Lee-Henson

CPL Freddie Lee Henson

On December 6, 1950 CPL Henson was declared missing-in-action.  Very little was known as to the details of Henson’s death in the confusion and suffering that was the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.  Henson’s unit was one of many suffering from shortage of supplies and sub-zero temperatures.

Despite long-term tensions over a war that was never officially a “war”, which also meant that peace was never declared, several collaborative efforts between North and South Koreas and the U.S. began to yield the remains of soldiers long dead but never returned home.  In 2004 CPL Henson’s remains were among 5 sets recovered on the east side of the Chosin battlefield.

On 3 April 2017, CPL Freddie Lee Henson’s remained were officially identified after 67 years.  His family never found out he was brought home.  Freddie’s brother, Kenneth – his last known familial survivor – had died in 1980.  Henson was interred with full military honors on 4 May 2017 at Fort Sam Houston in Houston, TX.

Over 33,000 Americans died during the Korean War.  The DPAA lists 7,747 still missing.

memorial-day.

Sometimes the tragedy of never seeing a loved one return from war is worsened by the circumstances of their forever absence.  One such example was resolved in July 2015 with the return of 40 U.S. Marines, who perished on Tarawa Atoll during the Allies World War II island-hopping campaign.

Tarawa was mistakenly viewed as a push-over outpost among the many occupied by Japanese troops in the Pacific.  The invading Marines came ashore on November 20, 1943 in rubber boats and amphibious tractors.  Little did the invaders know, the Japanese had an extensive network of concrete bunkers, proudly proclaimed by the Japanese commander as requiring a million man a hundred years to overcome, that survived the intense aerial and naval bombardments.

Aerial

Tarawa Atoll

It took U.S. Marines all of three days to subdue the atoll’s defenders, but at the cost of heavy casualties.  1200 Marines died on Tarawa; many of them hastily buried as the Allies persistently worked to push the Japanese out of the central and western Pacific.  Hundreds of the dead still lay buried there, some of them buried under yards, trash pits, even pigsties.  They may well have remained there if not for the efforts of Mark Noah, founder of History Flight, a non-profit dedicated to bringing the remains of lost Americans home.

Thanks to these efforts a long-forgotten burial ground, containing the remains of 40 U.S. Marines, was discovered on the atoll.  After 70 years laying in an inconspicuous plot thousands of miles away from Home and family, 40 Americans were disinterred and returned to Hawaii for potential identification and return to families long resigned to never gaining closure to unspeakable loss.

Among those 40 American heroes was 1st LT Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor.  In no way to diminish the sacrifice of all 40 of those men, below lies the MOH citation for LT Bonnyman, Jr., provided here as a tribute to all 40.

180px-Alex_BonnymanFor conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of the 2d Battalion Shore Party, 8th Marines, 2d Marine Division, during the assault against enemy Japanese-held Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands, 20-22 November 1943. Acting on his own initiative when assault troops were pinned down at the far end of Betio Pier by the overwhelming fire of Japanese shore batteries, 1st Lt. Bonnyman repeatedly defied the blasting fury of the enemy bombardment to organize and lead the besieged men over the long, open pier to the beach and then, voluntarily obtaining flame throwers and demolitions, organized his pioneer shore party into assault demolitionists and directed the blowing of several hostile installations before the close of D-day. Determined to effect an opening in the enemy’s strongly organized defense line the following day, he voluntarily crawled approximately 40 yards forward of our lines and placed demolitions in the entrance of a large Japanese emplacement as the initial move in his planned attack against the heavily garrisoned, bombproof installation which was stubbornly resisting despite the destruction early in the action of a large number of Japanese who had been inflicting heavy casualties on our forces and holding up our advance. Withdrawing only to replenish his ammunition, he led his men in a renewed assault, fearlessly exposing himself to the merciless slash of hostile fire as he stormed the formidable bastion, directed the placement of demolition charges in both entrances and seized the top of the bombproof position, flushing more than 100 of the enemy who were instantly cut down, and effecting the annihilation of approximately 150 troops inside the emplacement. Assailed by additional Japanese after he had gained his objective, he made a heroic stand on the edge of the structure, defending his strategic position with indomitable determination in the face of the desperate charge and killing 3 of the enemy before he fell, mortally wounded. By his dauntless fighting spirit, unrelenting aggressiveness and forceful leadership throughout 3 days of unremitting, violent battle, 1st Lt. Bonnyman had inspired his men to heroic effort, enabling them to beat off the counterattack and break the back of hostile resistance in that sector for an immediate gain of 400 yards with no further casualties to our forces in this zone. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

Over 405,000 American soldiers, sailors, and pilots died during World War II.  The DFAA still lists over 73,000 Americans as missing-in-action.

Again … These stories are not intended to damper a glorious pre-Summer weekend, so much as to encourage a moment or two of reflection on the true meaning of Memorial Day.