Summing Up 2010

The year 2010 was all about the ground under our feet: from the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and China to the Deepwater Horizon explosion that spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and the dramatic rescue of 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days.

Then there was the political groundswell that forced incumbents out of office and gave rise to the Tea Party. There was also a lack of high ground in Pakistan where more than 15-hundred people died and a million were left homeless due to unprecedented flooding.

January’s quake in Haiti was centered in the capital of Port-au-Prince where 230-thousand people in the poverty-stricken nation were killed. The rebuilding effort has been slow and communicable diseases like cholera now threaten to claim even more lives. Celebrities rallied to help earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

A George Clooney-led telethon helped Wyclef Jean’s charity. “Hope For Haiti Now” posted a multi-million-dollar intake. Participants included Bono and Justin Timberlake.

Speaking of Jean, Haiti’s search for a new president inspired him to make a bid for the top post. Even though the rap star announced his campaign plan in his homeland, he soon found out he was not eligible.

An explosion on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico was instantly seen as a tragedy when eleven workers lost their lives.  However, it would take weeks and even months before the full scope of the disaster was realized.  The Deepwater Horizon oil spill tested the limits of American technology and exposed the dangers of deepwater drilling as crews rushed to cap a leaking well that spewed oil into the Gulf for 86 days.

Live images of BP’s broken pipeline were shown on cable news as the seafood and tourism industries watched their businesses collapse.  An estimated five-million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf and the government says most of it evaporated while controversial chemical dispersants helped limit the devastation.  Environmental experts say the true impact of the disaster could take years to evaluate.

Continued high unemployment also headlined business news this year, hovering in the nine to ten percent range.  Jobless benefits were extended by Congress as the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve kept trying to jump-start the economy by pumping money into the public and private sectors.

A lingering effect of the high jobless rate is the continued crisis in housing, with foreclosures still dogging the market.  Three-million foreclosures during 2009 paled in comparison to the more than four-million this year.  A government program aimed at helping those millions stay in their homes became an admitted failure, with only about 170-thousand people helped with mortgage modifications.

While Main Street didn’t bounce back this year, Wall Street did.  The Dow Jones Industrials climbed from a low 96-hundred in July to above eleven-thousand this month. Early in December, both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 Index hit two-year highs.

The backbone of American manufacturing, the auto industry, also staged a slow recovery this year.  While Chrysler’s sales figures remained depressed, vehicle sales by Ford and General Motors registered well above those of 2009 as consumers returned to showrooms.

In West Virginia, 29 men were killed in a coal mine explosion, making it the worst disaster in decades.  Other deadly accidents were reported in New Zealand and China but the most inspirational story came out of Chile where 33 men survived underground for 69 days.

President Obama’s agenda got off to a rough start early in 2010 when Republican Scott Brown was elected to succeed the late Ted Kennedy in the U.S. Senate.  Obama’s administration would take more political punches as the president made health care reform a top priority.

Opponents labeled it a “government takeover,” giving rise to the Tea Party movement.  Health care reform legislation was signed but later the GOP would win back 63 seats and control of the House of Representatives and take six seats in the Senate.

The president was able to reach a new nuclear arms treaty with Russia and he declared an end to combat operations in Iraq, however thousands of troops still remain there while the war in Afghanistan has gotten even more dangerous.  In fact, 2010 was the deadliest year for U.S. forces in Afghanistan with more than 475 confirmed fatalities.

And last spring, Stanley McChrystal, the Commander in Afghanistan, was fired after giving an interview to “Rolling Stone” critical of how the war was handled. He was replaced by Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command and architect of the Iraq surge.

The year was also marked by government efforts to halt future financial disasters.  President Obama signed into law the Financial Reform Act on July 22nd.  The legislation was aimed at more transparent regulation of banks and brokerages as well as the products they sell, such as derivatives.  The law also set up a new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose funding  was still a political football in Washington at year’s end.

Around the world law enforcement agencies worked closer than ever to try and stop terrorism.  A plot using toner cartridges to hide bombs in cargo planes bound for the U.S. was foiled with hours to spare and a street vendor was credited for alerting police to a poorly-designed car bomb that nearly detonated in New York’s Times Square.

Sometimes, however, terrorists hit their mark.  Like the suicide bombers in Russia who targeted subways or in Iraq where an Army recruiting office was destroyed.  Dozens of people died in each attack.

Even the man who flew his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas was accused of committing an act of terror.  Fear of terrorism sparked a protest by a Florida preacher who threatened to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11 until he was convinced it would put American troops at risk.

Late this year, the founder of WikiLeaks was called a terrorist by some for releasing classified military and state department communications. So far all Julian Assange has been arrested for is suspicion of rape.

Other events making 2010 memorable include the volcanoes in Iceland that disrupted European air travel, the controversial immigration bill singed by Arizona’s governor, and a decision overturning California’s ban on gay marriage.  Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted on one of the 24 corruption charges he faced and a SeaWorld trainer was killed by a killer whale.

Then there were the passings, including soul singer Teddy Pendergrass as well as J.D. Salinger, author of “Catcher In the Rye.”   And it was farewell for “Easy Rider” Dennis Hopper as the cancer-stricken actor wore a brave face at his Hollywood Walk of Fame honor.

Rocker Ronnie James Dio and Slipknot’s Paul Gray were among those we lost.  There was also Lynn Redgrave, Art Linkletter and former child star Gary Coleman, who passed away at 42.

A third “Golden Girl,” passed away withthe death of Rue McClanahan. The world also lost county music star and sausage king, Jimmy Dean. This was followed by the passing of two former teen-idols: Eddie Fisher at  82; Tony Curtis, who was 85.

The Beaver’s mom, Barbara Billingsley died, as did the Tom Bosley, the father in “Happy Days.” Also pass was Bob Guccione, the founder of “Penthouse” magazine.

Finally, there was the death of actor and funny-man Leslie Neilson. Surely he’ll be remebered for such spoofs as “Airplane,” but don’t call him Shirley.

Lately though, tensions have been mounting between North and South Korea and in Europe austerity measures have triggered demonstrations in France and England while the E-U has put together bailouts for several member nations. Unemployment, however, remains the biggest obstacle her and abroad, to achieving growth for 2011.


Between the Posts

A winter storm had blown in and Dave Barber and I were on our way back to the base after being downtown. Somehow I managed to miss the turn for the main gate and we ended up on I-80, which runs in front of the base.

There is an overpass that is situated in front of the main gate and I knew that there was also an exit jus’ beyond the overpass. The exit circles back to the main gate and we’d be on base in no time.

The vehicle I was driving was a ratty old 1971 Datsun B-210. I had purchased it a few months before as way of getting around Cheyenne and not having to depend on others for transportation.

As I drove up onto the overpass, I could see the snow blowing sideways partially blocking my view of the road. However, what roadway I could see had started to freeze over with a thick layer of ice.

The wind slammed into the car and due to the icy conditions, we found ourselves sliding out of control. In an instant we were heading backwards and to the right as we slid along the overpass.

Since I had no control and couldn’t see where we were going, I released the steering-wheel and let gravity do its thing. In seconds our wild ride was over with and we found ourselves stuck in a snow drift off the side of the road.

It was struggle to get out of the car, since the doors were jammed by the snow. But we had help as a Wyoming State Trooper had been right behind us when we started to slide out of control.

But before he started digging Dave and me out, he was standing in front of my Datsun, arms raised over his head like a referee during football game. That’s when I realized my car had passed between the upright posts of the city limit sign without touching them.

Portrait of Barry

It was my first day off in nearly two-weeks.  I was going to Lander’s down the street and have a big bowl of chili and scrambled eggs.

“Finally I can do something fun”, I said as I got out of my truck.

But in order to get there, I had to walk past the Antique Mall and this was hazardous for me.  I have an eye like a raven, meaning shiny things catch my attention.

I walked past the window looking at the antiques in it.

“I’ll jus’ go in and have a quick look,” I said, “Then I’ll go get something to eat.”

Slowly, I wandered up and down the isles.  There was this thing to pick up and that one to touch.

An old rocking chair in the corner looked inviting so I sat in it. And as I did, I wondered, “How many babies have been rocked asleep in this chair?”

As I rocked back and forth, I scanned the room. Across from me was an aging portrait of a Calvary officer with a sign reading, “Portrait of Barry.”

I got up and walked over to the portrait.

The uniform was that of an officer — a Lieutenant Colonel in the light Calvary.  It was also a post Civil War uniform.

The man’s face was familiar to me, but I couldn’t recall where I had seen him before. So I walked away to continue my browsing, hoping to allow my brain to relax enough to remember who the man in the picture was.

It suddenly dawned on me and quickly walking back to the portrait, I removed it from the wall.

“How much is this?” I asked of the woman behind the counter.

“A hundred and fifty bucks,” she answered.  Then she added, “But I’ll knock ten percent off it if you buy it right now.”

I nodded my head and reached for my back pocket.

The cash register was an antique as well, and it rang loud and hard as she pulled the lever back.  The gears ground against one another and banged as they came to a stop.

“You do know who this is, don’t you?” I asked the lady at the register.

She squinted through her bifocals, “It says ‘Portrait of Barry,’ whoever Barry is.”

Chuckling, I replied, “No, Barry’s the photographer.”

The lady looked at me skeptically.

“I knew I had seen the face before,” I stated, “In real life this man had deep blue eyes.”

The lady walked over to where I was standing.  She looked at the picture, then up at me.

“How can you tell that from an old sepia tone?” she asked.

“Because I know my history — and I seldom forget a face,” I answered, “This man died in 1876 at the Battle of Greasy Grass.”

“What?”  The antique lady countered.

“Greasy Grass,” I answered, “But we know it better as the Battle of the Little Big Horn.”

“I’m not following,” she replied, sounding a bit frustrated with me.

“This is Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, Regiment Commander, C Company, 7th Calvary, United States Army,” I stated.

The lady stood there with her mouth agape unable to say anything. She knew she had jus’ unwittingly sold a little piece of history.

The Body of Salmon Brown

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had an interest in my family’s history. While researching Mom’s branch of the family tree, I tripped over a bit of history I had no idea existed.

My mother’s family is directly linked to the most famous abolitionist in U.S. history. It came in the form of a marriage between Thomas M. Burns and Minnie E. Brown, granddaughter of John Brown, January 14, 1883.

One of their two sons, Edwin M. Burns married Mary Elizabeth Hufford, my Grandma Leola’s sister.  Edwin’s uncle, Salmon Brown was the last of John Brown’s son’s to die.

The widow of John Brown, Mary, brought her three daughters and son Salmon to Rohnerville in 1870. Salmon went into the sheep business with a 128-acre ranch at Bridgeville and by 1890 he had 3,000-acres and 14,000 sheep.

Salmon left Humboldt County around 1895 after he lost 8,000 sheep during the winter of 1890-91. He committed suicide May 10, 1919, in Portland, Oregon after being an invalid for five years following a fall from a horse.

The Portland Journal reports: “The last chapter of the old border days, when strife was stirring for the break of the Civil War, came to a close yesterday with the funeral service for Salmon Brown of 2024 East Couch Street, son of John Brown of Harper’s Ferry, crusading abolitionist and sworn foe of slavery.”

A Close One

One early morning as I was enjoying breakfast with my sister Deirdre’s family, when I received a phone call from my bride. She was literally crying into the phone saying something about an accident.

It took her a couple of tries to finally explain what was happening. She had slammed her brand new vehicle into another car at nearly 70 miles an hour while heading to Susanville from Reno on U.S. 395.

She told me that the car had simply pulled out in front of her and though she tried to stop, she struck the car broadside. Furthermore she had broken her glasses (which for all intent and purpose left her unable to see very well,) bloodied her nose, received burns from the airbag during deployment and had strap bruises across her chest from the seatbelt.

Fortunately she didn’t suffer any broken bones or other major injuries despite the engine being shoved up under the fire-wall and into the passenger compartment. Furthermore, the two people in the car that pulled across the highway in front of her, walked away without a scratch.

Since the bride wasn’t at fault, the California Highway Patrol didn’t cite her. Plus our insurance covered the loss of the car and her examination at the hospital after the accident.

Good thing she wasn’t driving any faster than her guardian angel could fly.

To Watch and Wait

“Turn off the light,” I demanded as I covered my face.

We had been asleep, or at least I had been, but now my brother Adam had turned on the overhead light. I demanded he turn the light off again.

When he didn’t, I removed the pillow from my face. I was frightened by what I saw — it wasn’t Adam playing with the lights — it was a tall man dressed in a skin-tight, shiny body suit.

I quickly looked over the edge my bed to Adam in the bunk below — he was still sound asleep.

“Don’t be afraid,” the man spoke.

I was too frightened to say anything so I jus’ laid there with my covers bunched up under my chin for protection.

“I’ve come to tell you that you are being misled by science and popular culture,” the man said, “And in years to come, the information you hear will be even more misleading than now.”

Slowly, I lowered the covers and raised up on my elbow to look at the man more directly. Somehow I had the feeling I need not be afraid of him because as I reasoned, had he wanted to hurt me or my brother, it would have already happened.

“What?” I asked as I tried to shake the sleep from my brain.

“You are being misled,” he repeated.

I wrinkled my forehead as I asked, “About what?”

“There is a battle occurring in the heavens and you among thousands have been witness to this battle,” he continued.

“I’ve seen this battle?” I asked.

He smiled kindly and answered, “Yes, as you’ve laid in the field and looked into the night sky.”

“Huh,” I questioned, “Are you talking about us watching the UFO’s the other night?

“Yes, Tommy,” he said, “I am.”

I was startled by the fact that he knew my name and I sat up fully in bed.

“How do you know my name?” I asked in a panicked voice.

“I know much about you and your brother,” he responded.

Fully awake now and feeling the rush of adrenaline, I asked in a demanding tone, “How’d you get the house?”

“I appeared,” he answered, then added, “I am an Angel of the Lord.”

“That’s it,” I said, “I’m getting Dad!”

As I made my threat, there was sudden burst of light. I jumped back from it and covered my eyes.

When I finally looked at the man, he had grown taller than I remembered and behind him were wings, finer than an eagles, that spread from one side of the room to the other. I laid still against the wall, next to my mattress, transfixed by the sight of this human-looking creature and his shimmering wing span.

“What’s your name?” I asked in a half-whisper.

“It is a name you cannot pronounce,” he answered.

I felt my head nod up and down, accepting on face value what he told me.

“I’m here to tell you that the lights you’ve been watching are not UFO’s or alien spacecraft,” he started, “They are Heavenly host and fallen ones doing battle as we have been doing since the start of what you know as time.”

“Are you saying angels and devils?” I asked.

“Yes, to put it simply,” he answered, “I have been instructed to tell you that in times to come, you’ll see the coming of UFOs and aliens. They’ll bring with them what they call technology and science. It will offer amazing opportunities for the human race.”

“Technology and science,” I repeated.

“Yes,” he said, “For instance Tommy, in the bible’s book of Revelations it reads: “Man will seek death and not find it.”

“I don’t get it,” I responded.

“One day, aliens will offer longevity among other things,” he explained, “That longevity will come with a terrible price, costing the man who accepts it his soul.”

“How?” I asked.

“You have heard of the mark of the Beast, no doubt,” he responded.

“666,” I said.

“Yes,” he nodded, “One day aliens will offer a piece of technology that will give the man who accepts it a life span as long as Noah’s life.”

“This’ll come from the Beast?” I asked

“It will,” he said, “Think about the story of Adam and Eve and how Eve was tempted by a serpent. That serpent is still here and I am part of an army sent to do battle with him.”

Puzzled by this I asked, “You mean to tell me, humans are going to become advanced after being visited by snakes?”

“No,” the visitor answered calmly, “You will be tricked into believing they are here to help, to bring peace, but in the end they’ll bring misery and destruction.”

“How will I know this is happening, when it does?” I continued to ask.

“Soon, you’ll be able to watch television shows and hear radio programs telling how man came from an ancient race of aliens, who travelled the heavens creating beings much like themselves,” he added.

“We already have stuff like that,” I said.

“Yes, I know,” he countered, “However what I speak of is far more than the science-fiction shows you’ve seen. The information you’ll be given will be presented as the truth and many will believe, which will lead to the loss of their soul.”

“What do you want me to do?” I finally asked, adding, “I mean I’m jus’ a 12-year-old kid.”

“Use you’re God-given talents — write about our meeting one another and share it,” he instructed.

“Yeah, you’re kidding me, right?” I shot back, “Everyone thinks I’m a weirdo already and if anyone were to learn I had this conversation with you, they’d confine me to a nut-house.”

“Tommy,” he started, “What is worse? The loss of your and other people’s soul, or confinement and hardship?”

I knew the answer, but said nothing.

“Please, heed my words, they come directly from God!” he said.

As he spoke, the light surrounding his body and wings grew into a brightness, until I could no longer bear to look at him and had to hold my pillow tight over my face. Suddenly the brightness was gone and I dropped my pillow down to find myself engulf in the darkness of my room.

Rolling over, I looked at where Adam lay, still sound asleep, and concluded I had been dreaming. However as I rolled back, I thought how real it all seemed and wondered why I was wide awake.

Unable to return to sleep, I slid out of bed and found my Red Chief tablet, a pencil and a flashlight, and returned to bed. I decided to write down what had happened and the conversation with the winged-man as he had instructed.

Once finished, I tucked the tablet, pen and light under my pillow and slipped off into a dreamless sleep. I’m glad I did write it down, because by the time the sun rose, I had forgotten most of what I had dreamed.

Adam and I were sitting at the breakfast table, eating, when he asked, “Why did you have the bedroom light on, last night?”

I nearly choked on my Cheerios.

“I didn’t have the lights on –in fact,” I replied, “I thought it was you.

“Nope,” he comment, shaking his head sideways, “Wasn’t me.”

That’s when I recalled the tablet under my pillow. I quickly retrieved it after breakfast and retreated to the bathroom, where I could lock the door and read what I had written.

My body shuttered and my skin developed goose-bumps as I poured over the words. I immediately took the pages and hid them inside the foot-locker Dad had given a year before.

From that point on, every time I look into the nighttime heavens I remember what I have concluded was a very detailed dream. In the meantime, I continue to watch and to wait.

A Christmas Passing

Christmas morning went fine for the family. However the telephone rang jus’ a few minutes after noon causing Dad and I to race out the door, towards the Yurok Volunteer Fire Department.

We were soon en route to an emergency in the Klamath Glen. Once Dad told me what sort of emergency we had, I quickly moved my stethoscope and blood pressure cuff from a side pocket on my first-out bag to the top of the bag.

Inside the home, I quickly located the victim. I could tell right away that there was very little anyone could do for the man, but I proceeded to make a cursory check anyway.

The man, in his late-70s or perhaps early-80s, had passed away quietly in his sleep. I gently pulled the blankets up around him, without covering his face and went outside to await the arrival of the county coroner, while Dad remained inside with the man’s wife and a neighbor couple.

Needless to say, the remainder of that Christmas day was rather subdued for me and Dad.