My Mom’s three brothers and one of her three sisters served in the Army during World War II (1941-1945). Aunt Betty was a nurse, Uncle Bud, who was a rodeo cowboy, was in the cavalry, Uncle Buck flew close air troop support over Europe and Uncle Bill killed and saw killed way too many men from Anzio to Germany. Mom sent any extra we had, and some not so extra, to support her siblings and their comrades.
My Mom’s Mom’s Mom’s father, my great-great grandfather immigrated with his parents from Bern, Switzerland in 1852 when he was fourteen. His father served as a career soldier in Switzerland for 21 years. They settled in LaGrange, Indiana.
My great-great grandfather, John Giggy, enlisted in Company H, Forty-Fourth Indiana Volunteer Infantry on August 28, 1861. His first major battle was Fort Donalson then he was wounded at Shiloh and sent to the military hospital in Evansville to recover.
After a short furlough he rejoined his regiment in Murfreesboro then at Chickamauga was wounded in the hip on September 19, 1863, after which he walked back to Bridgeport, Alabama using a bed slat for a crutch and having nothing to eat for 3 days but 3 crackers. He was then ordered to the hospital in Nashville before being furloughed again until he rejoined his regiment at Chattanooga on December 31, 1863 (Happy New Year?)
He continued fighting and marching, marching and fighting until mustered out at Indianapolis in October 1865. He became a farmer and a stone mason and fathered 9 children including my great grandmother, Agnes (Giggy) Vulgamore.
Thereafter he simply went about his life without thinking his country owed him anything more than a fair opportunity to raise his family and be left alone.
I never had the chance to meet him but I am confident his toughness helped buy me and my siblings a better life. Thanks to Grandpa, Aunt Betty, my uncles and all the other tough and non-assuming veterans who did their duty so the rest of us could do things they could not have dreamed of.
Some of you may have noticed I have been a judge for awhile. And, although I know it may surprise you, not everyone of my thousands of decisions has been met with universal acclaim. Occasionally someone may actually disagree with my fair and objective legal analysis and have the bad form to say so. Well, my friends, not if we were in Egypt.
According to a report in the Palm Beach, Florida Sun Sentinel of Sunday, December 31, 2017 a court in Cairo convicted 19 people of making public statements, “[t]he court found to be inciting and expressing contempt toward the court and the judiciary”. If you are wondering why I was reading the Palm Beach paper in sweltering 80 degree weather while some of you may have been enjoying a cool and exhilarating Indiana Christmas season there is no truth to the rumor it was because Peg and I felt compelled to be near President Trump’s Mar-A-Lago winter White House. We did not even receive an invitation to his $750 per person New Year’s Eve party. It may have been lost due to the holiday rush at the post office. Anyway, back to Egypt and the injured dignity of the judiciary.
The newspaper reported that the heinous criminals insulted the judges by making statements that were aired on TV, radio, social media or in other disfavored publications. Now the court did not deign to ignore these demeaning comments or to call for the miscreants to tug vigorously on their forelocks. Oh no. The defendants received 3 years in prison and were fined up to one million Egyptian pounds ($56,270 US).
Each defendant was also ordered to pay one million Egyptian pounds to each of the judges of the powerful union known as The Judges Club. Now I would never advocate for such a response against anyone who had the temerity to publicly disagree with my rulings. However, a few hours in the stocks on the courthouse campus might be considered or parading around the courthouse wearing sackcloth and ashes or maybe a few public recitations of “Judge Redwine is Solomon” or, well, you get the idea.
Actually, it is events such as those in Egypt that truly show what a blessing it is to be in a country where CNN, MSNBC, The NY Times, The Washington Post, FOX News, Breitbart and many other publications can spew their invective against anyone from the Supreme Court to even a court in Posey County, Indiana without fear of being jailed.
Instead of just worrying about the current protestors in our enemy Iran perhaps we should address the draconian pronouncements of offended judges in countries such as our friends in Egypt and elsewhere. The injured sensibilities of some pompous plutocrat may lead to far greater harm to the public than their unfair judgments that get publicly condemned.
Before the scales fell from my eyes my big sister would use me as a test subject for her early cooking experiments. In the summers before I started first grade Janie would order me to sit at an imaginary table and eat what Janie imagined to be food. The table was actually the sun-baked Oklahoma dirt and the food was pies she mixed up using that same dirt, water from a garden hose and bird eggs she stole from furious sparrows. Actually the mud pies tasted about as good as some of our neighbor lady’s homemade lye soap Janie also told me was fudge.
As I matriculated to grade school Janie was involved in Home Economics in high school. Now her cooking was for credit and as she was always our parents’ favorite I and our other two brothers were expected to test her culinary concoctions and rave about them. This was hard to do when most of what she tried to feed me got slipped to the dog under the table. I particularly remember being force fed something Janie called orangey coated biscuits. The dog had a problem for three days.
Now before you conclude I blame my sister for my addiction to packaged foods let me say Janie somehow managed to make herself into a fine gourmet cook – after she left home! Her erstwhile mud pies are now delicious brownies and her ghastly orange biscuits are now wonderful home baked breads. Of course, since I only get her current creations as Christmas gifts, she has quite a bit more to atone for.
This Christmas Janie sent Peg and me an assortment of Grandma’s sour cream fudge, Mom’s peanut brittle and Janie’s own original chocolate chip cookies. She had carefully packaged them and sent them to us via FedEx. We could tell Janie had filled the offerings with labor and love. Unfortunately, the FedEx driver went beyond the call of duty when he delivered the box to our rural home. He pushed it through the pet door of our garage in an effort to protect it from the elements and varmints.
When I got home from work I pushed the button to raise the garage door that also contains the pet door. I was looking straight ahead when I felt the left front tire roll over an object on the garage floor. Naturally I backed up and ran over it again. The contents of the box I ran over twice reminded me of those happy days of childhood. However, the mashed up goodies tasted a great deal better than the scrambled sparrow eggs. Janie need never know!
Is there a better time than Christmas? I think not. For those of us fortunate enough to remember Christmas as a feeling of warmth and joy produced by a loving family it simply does not get any better. The strength and confidence those feelings engender when times get rough often provide the difference between success or failure or even survival.
When we are tossed by the waves of ignorance or malice we can reach back to those times when love was not only requited but unconditional. Hot chocolate and Christmas carols shared with family and friends over the years provide an unshakable foundation when the world treats us cruelly or worse, indifferently.
As one who has often observed a parade of people whose Christmas experiences are of abuse and separation, I spend a lot of time thinking, “There but for fortune.” When I reflect on Christmas past my memories include generosity, security and sacrifice for others or for me. But generations of people who have been brought before me in court this time of year often reflect a profound hopelessness. Frequently they include children whose only sin was to be born into the wrong family.
I realize my thoughts are neither rare nor new. One does not have to be a judge to see great heartache or to empathize with those who live it. In fact, at Christmastime the very best in people often rises to the surface as giving to others increases greatly. We know, of course, we should act this way year-round. However, it is still better to do so now than never.
As for me I know I was simply lucky to be born into a family where Christmas Eve meant gathering at Grandma and Grandpa’s then singing carols with Mom, Dad, my sister and brothers on the way home before experiencing the joy and excitement of Christmas morning. That is the rock upon which much of my life has rested. I wish a similar foundation, regardless of one’s beliefs, were true for everyone.
Americans rushed to California in 1849 seeking gold. Most found what the little boy shot at. But now there is gold to be found by college football teams heading to California, and Florida, Texas, etc., etc., to play in one of the college bowl games. It is estimated that in excess of half a billion dollars will change hands between the first bowl game on December 16, 2017 (The Celebration Bowl played between Grambling and North Carolina A & T in Atlanta, Georgia) and the National Championship Bowl to be held January 08, 2018 in the same place.
My alma mater, Indiana University, will not be among the 80 colleges participating. We will, however, share in a portion of the bowl revenues that other Big 10 universities will rake in. Maybe we can use the money to help fund the one event I.U. students always get to play in, the Little 500 bike race. Okay, enough sour grapes. Let’s move along with the main topic which is the college football bowl season.
Less than forty years after the end of the Civil War (1902) the first college bowl game was held between the University of Michigan (representing the east) and Stanford University (representing the west). America’s Civil War wounds were still too raw to pit a northern team versus a southern one. The game was conceived as a fundraiser to help Pasadena, California defray the expenses of the Rose Parade that was always held to celebrate the New Year. Unfortunately, Michigan beat Stanford so badly that Stanford walked off the field and quit in the third quarter (49-0). This was so embarrassing the Rose Bowl game was not held again until 1916.
However, due to the financial success of games from 1916 up to the time of the Great Depression other communities jumped on the bowl bandwagon. Miami, Florida started the Orange Bowl in 1933, New Orleans added the Sugar Bowl in 1935 and Texas started the Sun Bowl in 1936 and the Cotton Bowl in 1937. A true gold rush was in full swing.
The 2018 Rose Bowl will be held New Year’s Day between The University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia. Each school’s conference will be paid $40 million dollars and each of the two schools playing will get paid over $2 million as “compensation for expenses”. My guess is each university will use the money to snag five star recruits and build evermore state of the art practice facilities. I say we should not expect the money to be invested in each university’s academic needs. On the other hand, Peg and I have not seen fit to buy any tickets to watch the exciting lectures on physics at I.U. instead of the moribund football games!
President Trump has decided to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Administration’s two main stated reasons for doing so are: (1) it simply acknowledges the reality, i.e., the Jews of Israel already say it’s their capital; and, (2) America’s decision will promote peace among the Jews, Christians and Muslims who live there. Of course, many of the residents of Jerusalem are sectarian and do not ascribe to any religion. However, none of them can escape their own or their neighbor’s cultural heritage.
According to the Old Testament people were already living in the areas we now call Palestine and Israel when the Hebrews migrated there. And according to the Torah, the Bible and the Quran, Arabs and Jews have the common founder, Abraham. They are genetically half-siblings at their origin.
This makes some sense to me as science has established all humans arose from one source in Africa and the Middle East is geographically connected to that source. We are all connected genetically, although it seems unfair I cannot understand nuclear physics nor run a 4.3 forty.
It is our elected federal government’s function to set and execute our foreign policy. I am good with that. But I would like to respectfully suggest to President Trump that if we want to truly recognize the reality on the ground in Jerusalem and promote peace as an honest broker, we should also recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, just saying.