Monday, February 28, 2011

The Last To Go

Frank Buckles died yesterday. He was the last surviving American veteran of World War I.  Mr. Buckles lied about his age and enlisted in the Army at 16 to fight in the War to End All Wars.

It was hard to spot the news about Mr. Buckles in most papers. It seems news of the passing of a hero is less important than some actress dropping an F-bomb at an awards ceremony.

Here’s a picture of some of Buckles’ comrades from our neck of the woods:

I wonder if we knew any of the guys in the picture? They would have been in their seventies about the time we came of age. I wonder when this picture was taken. Was it before these soldiers went to war? Were they coming home? If they were leaving, how many boys in the picture would be lost? If it was a victory march, whose mother couldn’t bear to watch because her son wasn’t in it?

To me, today, the picture is very apropos. Its graininess gives the soldiers in it a ghost-like appearance. It’s as if they are an honor guard for all the Americans who fought The War to End All Wars.

By the way, if any journalists/editors read this – that actress is an F-bomb amateur.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

One Horse Town?

We spent the 2009 Fourth of July weekend in Watseka. It was great! There were tents in the downtown parking lot for live music, food and beverages. A portion of Third Street was shut down for various activities. A whole lot of Americana was packed into one city block.

My dad got us assembled and led us to the celebration. Once there, we were all standing right outside the firefighters' tent near Third Street.

I told my Dad that Watseka had a great “little” celebration. I’m not sure if he thought I was taking a shot at small towns but he responded: “Watseka has everything Des Moines has!”  My Dad barely finished spitting that out when a gentleman on a paint horse rode up behind him.

I pointed and my Dad looked over his shoulder. He turned back and without missing a beat said: “Well . . . maybe this is a one horse town!”

Of course, the Bomber and his cousin Gracie thought, at that moment, there couldn’t be any better place to be a kid.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively in the United States. Big cities are great places to visit.  But, for me, home has to be near rural America. It's because I grew up in a small town.

I've eaten at fancy big-city restaurants but I’m convinced that the best food in the world is served at rural roadside (not interstate-side) cafes. I can appreciate the beauty of a New York Philharmonic violinist’s solo – but I’d rather hear a fiddle played in a small town square. Threshers' conventions in small-town Iowa and Illinois get me more excited than the Chicago auto show. I enjoy literature and music about rural life and small town people’s “doings.”

I’m not likely to discuss social, religious or political issues in this forum. This little strip of the information highway is just a personal Route 66 for things related to, or somehow stemming from, my Midwestern small town upbringing.

You might be interested in this blog if you: drank out of a horse trough in your hometown; can remember getting lots of candy for a quarter at a main street “Variety” store; grew up where your local J.C. Penney’s wasn’t in a behemoth mall; can remember your town’s veterans carrying The Flag in every local parade; can drive on gravel or dirt without gripping the wheel extra tight; were known by everybody in your town; went to a school that had tractor and livestock days; went to your county fair every day it was open; had several classmates in FFA; rode with the rest of your fourth grade little leauge or softball team in the bed of a pickup to get root beer after a game; and/or went to a basketball game in a school building that could have been the set in “Hoosiers.”

I hope you enjoy this. I’m always looking for anecdotes and memories of small town life so feel free to comment.