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04/05/21 09:23 AM #9244    

 

Michael McLeod

Better late than never.

A touching Easter essay:

 

My father died, of melanoma, 35 years ago on the 30th of March. It was Easter Sunday.

At the hour of his death, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was playing on WFLN, in Philly. It had always been his favorite piece of music. I heard church bells ringing from the Presbyterian chapel down the street — St. Johns, in Devon, Pa. I stood there by my father’s body, listening, the bells pealing over the muffled music of the symphony.

Years before, when I was in college, my mother used to send me a hyacinth on Easter. I would stumble out of my dormitory room to find the flower sitting on the floor in the hall before making my way to Wesleyan’s Memorial Chapel, sometimes so hung over that standing up straight was itself an Easter miracle. One Sunday, the college chaplain just looked out at us all and said, joyfully, “He is not here!”

He was quoting Matthew 28:6, the verse where the angel speaks to the grieving Mary Magdalene: “Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. He has risen, just as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

I had grown up practicing a strange mash-up of atheism, my mother’s Lutheran faith and the Catholicism my father had abandoned as a teenager. Then, in my 20s, I started going to Quaker meetings. One Easter Sunday an elder stood up and said, “What does this day mean? Did Christ really rise from the dead?” He smiled, and shrugged.

 

“We weren’t there, so who knows? All we really know of God is what we can see in the eyes of our fellow men and women. But today is the day we think, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if it were true?’”

That very particular interpretation of Easter stayed with me. Since then I have tried, now and again, to look for God in the eyes of my fellow humans. Wouldn’t it be nice if the story of the resurrection were true? It would.

But a lot of times, when I look in strangers’ eyes, instead of God I just see fear and anger.

That is not all I see there, of course. Lately I see other things, too — signs of longing, signs of hope. After a year of worldwide death and despair, something new may be finally beginning. Like the song we hear as Dorothy and company make their way to the gates of the Emerald City: You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night. Step into the sun, step into the light.

The title of this song, I recently learned, is “Optimistic Voices.”

Easter is about rebirth: life from death, spring from winter, hope from despair. I am uncertain and skeptical about much of the Bible. I call myself a Christian, but even now I cannot honestly tell you if I believe an actual man named Jesus was resurrected. Certain parts of the story feel sketchy.

But my faith is less about that than the power of love: like the love my mother had for me, sending me a hyacinth when I was far from home; like the love my father had for Beethoven, and for my mother and sister and me; like the love that we could all have for each other if we were only less full of fear.

 

Twenty years to the day after my father died, I was sitting on top of a volcano on Easter Island, the most remote inhabited island in the world. I’d been sent there to do a story on the way tourism was transforming the island, a place famous for its moai, the iconic stone heads carved from volcanic rock. On my final morning on the island, I arranged to be driven to the quarry where the heads were carved, in order to be on the volcano’s rim at the moment of sunrise.

I had somehow forgotten that it was the anniversary of my father’s death. As I moved alone through a thick fog up the side of the volcano I felt like I was being watched.

Suddenly, I heard footsteps in the dark. One of those big stone heads suddenly loomed out of the mist; it was a particularly huge one that my guide the day before had told me was called “grandfather.”

I never met my paternal grandfather; he died when my own father was 12. But I had a sudden flash of him as I looked at that statue. “Oh papa,” I thought. “Just let me pass.”

The footsteps grew closer. My heart pounded. I had no idea what was drawing near.

And then a wild horse stepped out of the fog. The horse looked right at me. For a long moment, we stared at each other, the horse and I. Then he turned and disappeared back into the mist.

A half-hour later, I was on the rim of the volcano, watching the sun burst above the Pacific. As the sun drew higher in the sky, the morning fog burned away.

That was when I remembered that it was the anniversary of my father’s death.

The place where I was now had been called Rapa Nui by its native people, but Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen called it Easter Island, after the day he first arrived in 1722.

 

Did Christ rise from the dead? I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But I know that I am here on earth because my father loved my mother. There are hyacinths rising in my garden. I know what it is like to be loved.

He is not here. But his spirit is all around: in the music of Beethoven, in the pealing of church bells, in the rays of the sun rising above the ocean. And in our reckless, inexplicable hope for this banged-up world, a place so beautiful and so sad.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, a contributing opinion writer, is a professor of English at Barnard College. Her most recent book is “Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs.” Her Op-Ed essays publish on alternate Wednesdays. You can follow her on Twitter:  @JennyBoylan


04/05/21 10:59 AM #9245    

 

Mary Margaret Clark (Schultheis)

Mike, thank you for sharing a most poignant and thought-provoking essay for this Easter season. On a similar note, I was particularly struck by the authenticity of one of the readings for Easter Sunday on this very matter taken from Acts:34   

Peter proceeded to speak and said:  “You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

I have always been a great lover of history, as the written words of the events that have been recorded throughout the course of thousands of years of human existence. Obviously, as we have not been eyewitnesses to these events, it is left to us to rely on our reason, wisdom and faith to believe in the veracity of the authors' words. So it is with the matter of the Scriptures and what they reveal to us of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the risk of making this a much longer post, I offer this as food for thought as well as the link at the end which provides more food for thought on any number of culure and faith topics.  Additionally, for anyone interested there is currently available your choice of either a widely acclaimed podcast or a book titiled, The Bible in a Year.

Christianity stands or falls on the miracle of the Resurrection. St. Paul addresses this very question in the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians:

I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. . . .

[I]f Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile (1 Cor. 15:3-8, 14-17).

Put simply, if Christ is not raised from the dead, then the whole Christian religion is vain. It’s all or nothing, and all depends on the evidence for Easter. While five philosophical proofs are useful, arguments about the existence of God should really begin with the Easter argument.

Did the first-century Jewish preacher Jesus of Nazareth rise from the dead or not? If he did, then miracles are possible, and God exists.

Christians claim that the historical human being Jesus of Nazareth was executed then physically rose from the dead. He was seen alive by many people and then was seen to vanish into the invisible realm. Here we have the most revolutionary and radical question of human history: Did it really happen?

There are only three options: that Jesus rose from the dead as Christians contend; that Jesus of Nazareth didn’t really die; or that he died but his body somehow disappeared, and his disciples came to believe that he had risen from the dead. The first question therefore is, “Did Jesus really die?”

Did Jesus really die?

After his trial, Jesus of Nazareth was tortured by flogging. The Romans flogged a criminal with whips that had pieces of glass, pottery, and metal tied into the cords. Not only was Jesus flogged to within an inch of his life, but his executioners were professionals whose jobs depended on them doing a thorough job.

His flogging public was public, and so was his execution. He was taken through the city streets and crucified in a public place. Furthermore, his enemies themselves were present to make sure the job was done. This is recorded in the Gospels, and the basic facts match what we know of Roman customs of the time, so there is no reason they should be doubted.

Taking Hume’s idea that we must believe the option that is easiest to believe, to believe that Jesus was not killed on that dark afternoon is more incredible than to believe he was. If he was not killed, then the disciples made up the story of his execution. But why would devotees of a religious preacher make up the story that he was executed as a criminal and that it was a public event? Many people saw it take place. We must conclude that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified.

Nevertheless, some theorize that it wasn’t really Jesus who died. It was perhaps his brother James, who resembled him; or it was Judas, or a celebrity lookalike who stood in for Jesus. Again, it takes more credulity to believe these theories than the simple truth. The reason Judas kissed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was to confirm his identity, and in the courtyard of the high priest Peter was certain who he was denying. An impostor or a stand-in? Surely when things became deadly the patsy would have denied that he was Jesus Christ.

Jesus only fainted

Another theory is that it was Jesus on the cross, but he didn’t really die. Perhaps he was drugged and simply passed out. The Gospel says a soldier offered him painkiller, but he refused it. If Jesus only passed out, we must believe that the man was flogged so that the torture ripped great chunks of flesh from his body. After dragging the heavy cross through the city streets, he was nailed to it by professional executioners who, instead of breaking his legs to hasten his death, stabbed him with a spear through the heart. Water and blood came from the wound, and modern medical experts testify that this happens only after death.

But we’re to believe that he only passed out or went into a coma? Again, this is more difficult to believe than the reported story. And it gets more difficult.

Let us suppose that Jesus did somehow survive the flogging, the crucifixion, and the thrust of the spear. After he was taken down he was buried. Now we have to believe that he woke up in a freezing tomb on a chilly spring morning. Having suffered a huge blood loss, terrible wounds, a spear in the side, and unspeakable shock and trauma, he stops to unwrap his own tightly wound shroud and head cloth, and he takes care to fold them neatly at the foot of his bed. Then (from the inside) he rolls back a stone from the entrance of the tomb that weighs a couple of tons.

He then stumbles out, naked, and limps up to the disciples on his bloody feet, with his back looking like a butcher shop. His head is covered with puncture wounds and contusions. His side has a gaping wound. He shows the disciples his hands, and gasps out a greeting.

What would you have done? You would have shrieked in horror and realized that your friend had somehow survived a most terrible ordeal, and then you would have taken him home, called the doctor, and put him to bed. Instead we are supposed to believe that the disciples said, “He is risen! Alleluia!”

Again, it takes more faith to believe such an outrageous theory than to accept the simple events as they were related. Hume was right. We must believe the option that is most probable.

Something strange happened to his body

The next category of Resurrection deniers say Jesus really did die, but something else happened to his body. Consequently his disciples came to believe that he had risen from the dead.

Was his body thrown in the dump to be devoured by dogs, as was the Roman custom for crucified criminals? We know from other evidence that the Jews were very careful about burying the bodies of their loved ones, and the details of the story are there in the Gospels. His friends took the body to bury it. If the body had not been buried, why did Jesus’ enemies ask Pilate for guards for the tomb?

Maybe the disciples stole the body. Shall we believe that the eleven men who fled in terror when their leader was arrested suddenly got back together and planned a heist worthy of a Mission Impossible film? Why would they do that? They were as surprised as everyone else by the Resurrection. Would they really plan such a heist to perpetrate a hoax? Is this the sort of hoax anyone would believe? No. You only plan a hoax if the hoax is something people might just fall for.

Did they perpetrate the hoax to start a new religion? Why would they do that? What was in it for them? There was no such thing as starting a religion to be a prosperity preacher back then. As history proved, the only thing they got out of it was the loss of all their worldly goods, persecution, imprisonment, torture, homelessness, and eventually for many, martyrdom.

Did the disciples go to the wrong tomb? If they had, would they have drawn the conclusion that Jesus had risen from the dead? No. They would have said, “Whoops, wrong tomb. Hey, we messed up again!” Had Jesus been in another tomb, his enemies would have produced the body and pointed out the disciples’ mistake. Once again, to believe the alternative theory is more difficult than to believe the traditional account.

The “spiritual” explanation

Then we have the modernist theologian’s answer: The Resurrection was not a crudely physical event but a “spiritual reality.” In other words, in some sort of wonderful way the teachings and example of Jesus continued to live in the hearts and minds of his followers and this, if you like, is what Resurrection is really all about.

The problem here is that the simple meaning of the word resurrection is that a body that was dead came back to life. There are spiritual meanings to be derived from this fact, to be sure, but if there were no physical fact, then the spiritual meanings would be meaningless. Saying that the Resurrection was not a physical but a spiritual event is something like a woman on her wedding night denying her husband the consummation of their marriage by saying, “We needn’t be quite so crudely physical as to have sexual intercourse. Marriage is, after all, simply a beautiful spiritual idea.”

The modernist theologian’s reductionist explanation doesn’t account for the simple facts of the whole story. Shall we believe that the apostles went on to follow lives of hardship, suffering, and deprivation, finally being tortured and killed for what was merely a “spiritual meaning” or a “beautiful theological idea”?

When faced with the slow torture of crucifixion or being flayed or boiled alive, don’t you think they would have said, “Hold on! All that Son-of-God-resurrection stuff? You misunderstood! It didn’t really happen! It was only a spiritual meaning. It was a metaphor! A theological construct!”

Finally, we have some biblical scholars’ theory that St. Paul and the Gospel writers invented the Resurrection story to bolster their new religion. There are too many implausible details to go into at this point, but the main obstacle to this conspiracy theory is that St. Paul died only thirty years after the death of Jesus himself, and he reported that the stories he had about the Resurrection were facts he himself had received from others. If Paul or the Gospel writers had made it all up, there were still plenty of eyewitnesses alive who would have corrected them—not least the murderous enemies of the new religion.

The fact of the Resurrection is a good starting point for the debates about God’s existence. Arguments with atheists can move forward in an intriguing way, because the arguments surrounding the Resurrection are more concrete and literal than philosophical arguments. They bring the argument about God down to earth—which is what the Christian religion is all about in the first place 

 

ttps://media.ascensionpress.com/category/ascension-presents/fr-mike-schmitz/


04/05/21 12:02 PM #9246    

 

Michael McLeod

Well, mm, that's appropriate for the season. Those two posts cover the waterfront. To some, spirituality is a mystery. To others, it's fact-based, as avowed in the last paragraph of the essay above, though he'd probably prefer to call it a mystery based on fact.

However you parse it I'm happy to live in a country that respects both sides. More accurately, many sides. If there is a God, I'm sure she's proud of us. Sometimes.


04/05/21 04:13 PM #9247    

 

Mark Schweickart

Jim – I just want to say that I love your photography. Really beautiful work. Thanks for sharing these.

Since I, unfortunately, have had a couple of deaths in the family this year, my wife and I have been going through old photos, and pulling out ones to have digitized for the sake of putting something together family memorabilia booklets. In doing so, it became quite apparent that my own photographic compulsions in the past were perhaps not unlike your own, or as Maddy would say, "Damn Mark, there are never any people in your shots!" And it is true. I was always looking for interesting physical compositions, and spent little time documenting family gatherings or even her and myself at our vacation locations. Although my photos may not be as good as yours, nonetheless,  I certainly appreciate the impulse to capture natural objects, just as you do. By the way, speaking of making your photos into book-form, we have had success using the on-line site,  Shutterfly. Their tools are easy to use, and the pricing very reasonable. (Actually, I can only assume the tools are easy to use, but don't really know first hand. Maddy takes charge of that chore, and seems to handle easily the putting together of photos in various formats.)


04/05/21 04:21 PM #9248    

 

James Hamilton, M. D.

Folks,

It seems that this Forum has begun to tackle the realm of theology. I am no theologian. I am a simple man who has strong beliefs and faith in certain things. 

I think MM presented some good arguments that a man named Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. Scripture gives us good arguments to support the Resurrection. Since none of us were actually there during those events, it comes down to us as to whether we have belief and faith.

Here are a couple of questions:

     Can one have faith in something that he or she does not believe?

     Can one have belief in something that he or she does not have faith?

Think about it...

Mark,

Thanks, Mark. Shutterfly works for a lot of people and Janet and I have nieces who make up yearly calendars and other booklets on that medium. There are some other sites that are perhaps better for landscape images but I am still undecided as to pursuing them yet.

Actually, I do a lot of "people" photography at family gatherings as I have become the "dedicated photographer" for those functions. Yearly Christmas photographs of the ever enlarging family back in Ohio (Janet's side) is often like hearding cats but with a good tripod, using bounce technique flash, a remote release (so I can be in the picture) and some tricks I use so everybody's eyes are open have paid off over the years. These are images I don't print except for those involved and, on my Zenfolio website, are password protected for individuals privacy.

Jim


04/05/21 09:58 PM #9249    

 

Michael McLeod

So touched by the first segment of the Hemingway bio. His persistence, his complexity, his scope, his delicacy - (though I know that's a word that countradicts the stereotype), his place in American history and letters, and his triump turned to tragedy -- there's no equalling it. I'm also fascinated by that time period -- America, as full of itself as a bright, cocky adolescent, coming into its own and taking its place for the first time as a leader on the world stage. Hem kinda led the way. 


04/06/21 11:49 AM #9250    

 

Joseph D. McCarthy

Can at least one of our English majors please explain to me how or when the pound symbol ( # ) became the hashtag ( # ) symbol?   Just wondering.

Joe

 


04/06/21 02:04 PM #9251    

 

Michael McLeod

Apparently the copyright ran out.


04/06/21 06:20 PM #9252    

 

Michael McLeod

My take on the perils of teaching online:

https://winterparkmag.com/2021/03/31/its-bumpy-but-also-enlightening/

 


04/06/21 06:41 PM #9253    

 

Joseph D. McCarthy

Time for some space filler, or something few will be interested in - At First.

I just finished reading the November issue of Car and Driver (my brother-in-law saves them for me until we get together for dinner).  One article in particular stood out.

George Poteet was attempting to drive the "SPEED DEMON", the fastest Piston driven vehicle in the world at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2020 in an attempt to set a new world record for Piston Driven vehicles. His goal was to set one over 450 mph.  Poteet has gone faster than 400 mph more than 50 times while setting more than 20 records in land speed racing.

On the first day's fastest pass was 447.709 mph - followed by a crackle on the radio that the car was on fire.  Unfazed Poteet asked if it was bad enough that he needed to climb out of the vehicle; it's hard on his knees.  The answer was "It's on fire.  You have to get out".

They worked all night rewiring and putting in the spare engine.

Over the next few days he made multiple runs over 400 mph.  Then culminating in two runs fast enough to average a NEW AA Blown Fuel Streamliner class record of 470.015.

George Poteet was 72 years young when he set the new record.

Dave, have you ever thought of .......

Joe


04/06/21 11:01 PM #9254    

 

David Mitchell

NO!


04/07/21 12:08 PM #9255    

 

Joseph D. McCarthy

You didn't have to be nasty about it.  A simple NO  would have sufficed.

 


04/07/21 12:21 PM #9256    

 

Lawrence Foster

Four photos of my neighbor's tree as I was heading out earier this morning to go swimming. 

Regarding photos I remember Jim Hamilton's advisce about what is the best camera to use.  Jim said, "The one you have close at hand."  So these were taken with my cell phone.  I have also posted these on FB so this may be a duplicate for some of you.  Hope you don't mind.

As I look at them I remembered a few lines from a Cat Stevens song from the early 1970s, "Morning Has Broken."  So I went and looked up the lyrics.  The song originally appeared as a hymn in the second edition of Songs of Praise (published in 1931), to the tune "Bunessan," composed in the Scottish Islands.

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rains new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
   


04/07/21 02:19 PM #9257    

 

James Hamilton, M. D.

Ahhh... Spring! Beautiful pics of flowering trees, Larry. No flowers here yet; they would freeze at night as our temps are down in the low 30's after dark and it spit snow again last night. 

As for cell phone cameras, they have become quite sophisticated in the last 6 or so years. On that last gallery I linked a few posts ago, I had several images made with my cell, including the wide angle shot of Maroon Lake with the Maroon Bells in the background.

Besides yours and Janie's does anyone else have some April spring shots to post? Please do!

Jim 


04/07/21 03:51 PM #9258    

 

Michael McLeod

Lately I have been friending people on FB just because I like their names.

My latest is a guy who lives in Aleppo, Syria named Durga Durga.

No lie. Welcome aboard, Durga Durga. 

Allow me to introduce you to Poom Poom.

She lives in Thailand.

I am not making this up.


04/07/21 07:10 PM #9259    

 

Michael McLeod

that's a hell of a cell phone Larry

 


04/07/21 09:37 PM #9260    

 

Mark Schweickart

Mike – Your Thai friend's name. Poom Poom,  brought back a similar funny memory for me. I used to go to a Thai restaurant that was called The Poo Ping Palace. Maybe the name did them in, because they went out of business, although they did last  a few years.

Also, in response to your urging us to check out the new Ken Burns documentary on Hemingway, I thought you might like this silly send-up done by Jimmy Kimmel. It is not a send up of Hemingway, or of a Ken Burns documentary, per se, but rather it is a send up of Ken Burns himself. Even though I am a huge fan, it is something I feel has been long overdue. The clip below is almost six minutes long, which includes a lot of normal interview stuff before you get to the parody, which starts at 3:25, if you want to skip to it.




04/07/21 09:53 PM #9261    

 

Mark Schweickart

Joe – It doesn't take an English major to answer your question, and even though I was one, I still had to cheat. Here's what I found on Google about how the "# " symbol went from the pound sign to hashtag.

It all started back on Aug. 23, 2007 with a tweet by San Francisco techie and former Google developer Chris Messina. He wrote on Twitter, “How do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?”

“It was one of those things where I had so many haters in the beginning that I thought this thing would never pick up,” he said in a recent interview with WCCO-TV. “But, secretly, I sort of felt like, Come on, guys, this is the simplest thing that could work.”

At first, Messina said he was dismissed by most in the tech community, including Twitter.

“People were like, that’s weird, that’s kind of dumb. You do whatever your things is, and we’ll keep complaining about the problem,” he said.

He came up with the hashtag to find an easy way to bring together people discussing the same topic online.

He chose the # symbol because it was an easy keyboard character to reach on his 2007 Nokia feature phone and other techies were already using it in other internet chat systems.

“I didn’t need to invent something new,” he said. “This is good enough. I’m going to go with this.”

Two days later, another techie, Stowe Boyd, suggested the # symbol be called a hashtag.

“It just sounds catchier,” said Messina.


04/07/21 11:10 PM #9262    

 

David Mitchell

I had a story that I was going to share back at the end of the year (Dec 31) because that would have been the  anniverary date of the story as it broke to all of us at Vinh Long Airfield. But it seemed so much other stuff was occuppying our Forum conversation that I decided to save it for a quieter time. 

It is a remarkable story and it occurs to me that maybe it fits better as a sort of "Easter" story - that is to say a story of rising from the dead (metaphorically speaking).

Part One:

I had only been one week at my new home at Vinh Long Airfield, still not yet on flight status which would come any day as I waited for my various pills (malaria and anti-diarrhea) to take efffect. It was New Year's Eve day and something had just happend. I wasn't exactly sure what at first, but the buzz going around the airfiled made it seem big. As we learned the details, I realized it was really big!

That afternoon, the C.O. of one of our two sister companies - "Dutch Master" Troop, was flying as the Air Mission Commander (AMC) of his Troop and had made an incredible rescue while flying their mission deep in the southern Delta near the edge of a really dreaded area known as the "U-Minh Forrest". The "U-Minh" was the only section of real dense jungle in all of the Delta (yes, jungle existed abundantly further in the North, but not much in the Delta) - which was mostly vast open areas of rice paddies laced by thousands of large and small canals. The "U-Minh" was a relatively minor portion of the Delta that ran along the south-western coast of the Delta - maybe 10 miles wide by about 60 or 70 miles north and south along the edge of the gulf of Thailand. 

When I say thick jungle, I mean thick!  So thick that our squadron was rarely given an assigent to fly our search mission (the low-level "Hunter-Killer" teams) which I have described. There were two reasons; first our mission was a visual search, and the dense canopy of the U-Minh was just too thick to see anything through it. And secondly, If one of our "Scout" ships (the Loaches) had gotten shot down (a not infrequent occurance), there would have been absolutely no chance of us getting down in there to get the crew out.    

(Nevertehless, we did "work" the "U-Minh" a few times. In my 18 months, I believe I flew a search over the U-Minh about three nerve-wracking days, which was about three days more than I wished I had, as those three days ranged from  uneventfully boring, to quite bad.)

 

So much for setting the scene.  On this day, "Dutch Master" Troop was flying their mission, and after one of their searches the AMC (air Mission Commander) was turning back to the nearby staging and refueling area at Ca Mau ("Cuh Mow" - the southern most staging area we ever used - and a fairly large city today). 

(my maps again - see U-Minh Forest in lower left - about 45 minutes southwest of my home in Vinh Long)

 

As they flew away from the area they had just searched, one of the door gunners yelled out on the intercom that he could "see a guy running in the open back there!" He thought the guy looked different - maybe American. As they turned around and headed back toward the guy it was clear that he was taller and whiter than any VC or NVA soldier. He was running alone across an open rice paddy, waving his arms. They went back to get a closer look at him, but they went in "hot" - weapons ready - as they approached - not sure of what they were getting into. 

He was an American, with a beard, in black VC pajamas. They picked him up and began gathering information as fast as he could talk. (I assume they gave him one of the door gunners helmets so he could speak over the intercom to the pilots.  

They had picked up Special Forces (green beret) First Lt. James Rowe, who had been a prisoner of the VC in the U-Minh forest for over 5 years!  Moments before the pickup he was being transferred from one prisoner holding area to another and escorted by two small VC guards that he had overpowered and broken free of, where the "Dutch Master" door gunner had sighted him running in the open.

At first the crew could hardly imagine how crazy important this was, but they soon made radio contact with someone who knew exactly who he was. He had been a prisoner of the VC, moving about the "U-Minh" and held in bamboo cages (about 4x4x6) for all of those 62 months! And he had been a nusisnace for all 5 years - escaping and being caught about 5 times.

 

I would remind you that there were POW's held not only by the NVA in prisons up north, but also by the VC right in our back yards in the "South".

*And on one of those three days that I worked over the "U-Minh", we sighted what appeared to be an empty camp, just evacuted, with several of those very same bamboo cages - empty. We think we might have just missed someone by perhaps just minutes. A tiny campfire appeared still hot.

 

Rowe was the only survivor of several guys who were taken in an attack in which they were overrun. He survived multiple diseases, malnutrition, torture, horrible food, and the repeated witnessing of his 3 or 4 buddies giving up the will to live, and dying one at a time. 

This is the first photo taken of him after the recovery as he was getting off the Dutch Master ship (Huey) at the helipad at Ca Mau.


04/07/21 11:41 PM #9263    

 

David Mitchell

Part Two

I believe Lt. Rowe was brought to the large "Binh Thuy" Field EVAC Hospiital in Can Tho (where I "enjoyed" three days recovering from Shigella Dysentery with a "bottle" hooked to my arm). I seem to recall they took a photo of him eating ice cream on his bed at the hospital. They put that on a small paper flyer with a message on the other side about his perserverance, and that they would be treated well if they would "Chu Hoy" (surrender). They then dropped thousands of those leaflets over the "U-Minh" Forest.  I had a couple but I lost them years ago.

(* they put that same "chu hoy" promise on every piece of propaganda that they ever dropped)  

He was immediately promoted two ranks to Major and returned to the States to be reunited with his family. He left the Army and then went back in, where he was put in charge of a special program (I think) about surviving captivity. 

I remembered that story for years and eventualy discovered that he had written a book about his ordeal.  He had come to Denver on a national book signing tour. I could have gone over to "The Denver" (Denver's 100 year-old semi-famous department store) at nearby Cherry Creek shopping cnter to meet him and have him sign my copy but I was too lazy.

But I did buy the book and read it. I was mezmerized! The book is long (too long in parts) but gives the brutal details of what their captors put them through - complete with his inner most thoughts and the awful psycological aspects of the ordeal. What I seem to recall most noteably was his determination to live when he was so physically weak and depressed.

The story begs the question - How does a story like this NOT become a movie?  

The book is titled "FIVE YEARS TO FREEDOM". Quite simply, an incredilble story.  

This is my old dog-eared copy. 


04/08/21 12:10 AM #9264    

 

David Mitchell

Part Three

I wish the story ended there. But I'd be lying to you if I withheld this last part. 

Major Rowe later returned to the military and became a military laison to the Phillipine Government. He was involved in gathering intelligence, and had come upon information about Communist insurgent forces in the Phillipines. One morning in April of 1989, while being driven in his armored limousine to his office in Manilla, a couple of guys, paid by those Communist Party elements, followed his car on a motorcycle with an M-16 and shot him and his driver through an opening in the armored glass. I read somewhere that their air conditioning was malfunctioning in the car and they had some windows rolled down slightly.   

I was watching the news in Columbus when this story came over the air.  I was dumbstruck!


04/08/21 10:52 AM #9265    

 

Janie Albright (Blank)

Mark, the Ken Burns parody is hilarious! Thanks! Love a person with a good sense of humor! 


04/08/21 10:59 AM #9266    

 

David Mitchell

Me too Mark. Thanks for a good laugh.


04/08/21 11:27 AM #9267    

 

Michael McLeod

Holy Poom Poom, Dave. Helluva yarn! And speaking of depressing part threes.....

I thought I was hip to Hemingway and I've read many of the biographies over the years but there were numerous things that Burns turned up in that three-parter that stunned me. I knew when it came to sex he was..., um, experimental, bordering on bi  - "fluid" is the euphemism Burns used - ; that he went through depression and mental illness that may have been tied to numerous head injuries over the years; and that anybody who gets divorced three times has some issues. But I was unaware of the extent of his cruelty and bitterness and dishonesty towards the women in his life. It's hard to see that side of someone who's been such a hero to me. It doesn't cancel his genius - but it's a reminder that genius isn't everything. If he'd put as much effort into his relationships as he did to his writing.......


04/10/21 10:10 PM #9268    

 

David Mitchell

More on a story I have mentioned several times lately. This whole thing about human trafficking has really grabbed my attention over teh last several years. It is MUCH bigger than any of us realized. There is a heroic story here and I hope the video comes through. 

Google up the heading

"A hidden army of 'very brave' nuns fight child trafficking".



And watch the whole video in the article about the nuns and their herroic efforts around the world. Listen all the way to the end and hear the interesting translation (from Scripture, in Aramaic) as to their group name "Talitha Kum". 

 

 

Note:  Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz actually voted against funding a bill to fight Human Trafficking back in 2017. He was the only member of Congress to do so.  Hmm?


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