My wife reminded me this morning that it’s time to comply with a family tradition—the First Robin Party! The tradition is, when the first robin of the year is seen, we have pizza. My wife  saw two robins in our neighbor’s yard this morning. Pizza for supper.

This family tradition started when my daughter was small. A friend of hers said her mother made a cake for their First Robin party. After a bit of consultation, my wife and daughter decided to substitute pizza for the cake.

Works for me.

Families follow and create traditions all the time for various reasons. Following those traditions help build family cohesiveness and solidarity.

When I was in college, the guy across the hall from my dorm room was an orphan. I can’t remember his name after all these years. We, in the dorm, called him Baby Huey after a cartoon character. He stood well over six feet and weighed accordingly. He had a twin sister and they were raised together in the same orphanage. She lived in another dorm across the street.

In Illinois, at that time, they were both wards of the state until they reached age 21. In practice, once they graduated high school, they were on their own. These two managed to acquire rull-ride scholarships so they could remain together. While still living at the orphanage, they decided they were a family and decided to create a family tradition…their common birthday party.

They both had full-ride scholarships, but the scholarships didn’t cover a lot of expenses. As wards of the state, they were allowed to live in the college-owned dorms at 25% of the standard rate. The two of them still had to cover the remaining 75%, plus the usual expenses for clothes, laundry, and personal items that aren’t free.

That meant they had to work. They opened a common bank account, both deposited their paychecks and they both created a budget and shared the costs. It was preparation for life for they knew in a few years they would be separated. It was the time of the draft. He knew he would have to enter the military on graduation…or skip off to Canada, an unrealistic choice.

One common expense both agreed upon was their birthday party. They called it their Family Day. Both were well known and liked. If I remember correctly after all these years, they decided to have a large party for their 20th birthday because it was likely to be the last one before graduation and the military for him.

They had been saving for some time. They hired a hall from one of the local churches, ordered a large cake and sent invitations to a hundred close friends including the Chancellor of the University, in whose office she interned, and the Deans of both their colleges. She was working towards a degree in government and history, he in accounting.

I was invited but didn’t go. My mother was terminal with cancer and I had obligations at home the weekend of their party. I did see photos in the college paper the following week and stories from those who were able to attend.

The Chancellor and both Deans attended the party. The invitees filled the hall. People talked about the party for months. The two of them, sole members of their family, affirmed a tradition to last their lifetime.

They graduated that year and I lost track of them. Baby Huey, as expected, entered the Army. His sister became a staffer for a local Congressman. I’ve often wondered what happened to them.

Traditions are important. I expect Baby Huey and his sister still celebrate their common birthday together. It was a tradition they created when all they had was each other. I wouldn’t be surprised if their family has grown in the last fifty years, and still celebrate Family Day, a foundation tradition  created by a pair of orphans.

Happy 238th Birthday, United States Marines

I wasn’t a Marine, I was an Airman, a member of the United States Air Force. Our service doesn’t have the history of the Marines, nor the traditions. That does not mean we don’t honor the Marines for their fidelity to the nation.

Happy 238th Birthday, Marines.


Thanksgiving Remembrance

I hope you all are having a great Thanksgiving. As I am known to do, I repeat some selected posts on Holidays. Some Holidays trigger particular memories. Thanksgiving always triggers one for me about an older cousin of mine. My Grandmother’s nephew actually.

Here for your enjoyment is a tale of Heinie Mueller. I hope the story may trigger some memories of yours of those who have gone before us and left a memorial mark on our lives.


Heinie (Henry) Mueller was Grandma’s nephew. He served in the US Army during WW1 though most of the battles on the front lines. He was gassed twice, received two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star plus some French medals.

Heinie was a character. He walked with a slight limp and cussed every third word. He didn’t care who he was with nor who heard him. If somebody didn’t like his language, it was just too bad. Usually, Heinie would send them on their way with a few choice words and phrases.

After the war, he married a lady named Irene and moved to Woodriver, IL. They would drive down to visit us every few months—more often after we moved to the farm. Heinie liked to hunt squirrels, rabbits, and geese and he would frequently appear during hunting season. He, Dad and I would go hunting while the women-folk visited.

I don’t remember Heinie ever shooting much. He seemed to just like getting outdoors and walking in the woods. When we flushed some game, he would more than likely let Dad or me have the shot.

One year, Heinie and Irene came down for Thanksgiving. They arrived on Wednesday and Irene brought makings for oyster dressing. She and Grandma would fix Thanksgiving dinner the next day while Mom went to pick up my sister who was attending college. Heine, Dad and I planned to get up early Thanksgiving morning and go goose hunting.

We left the house early Thanksgiving morning, about an hour before sunup, and drove down to the Muddy River bottoms where Dad share-cropped corn on a ten-acre field. Dad built some hunting blinds along the edge of the field when Heinie announced he was coming.

The blinds were set up along a tree line with an open view across the corn field. The field had been picked late in the season and there was a lot of corn spillage to attract geese and an occasional deer.

It was cold. Ice had formed on the surface of the field and crunched as we walked across it towards the blind. It had been built out of salvaged two-by-fours and scrap sheet-metal for the roof with a covering of corn stalks for camouflage. Across the front was a tarp that would be dropped to allow us to step forward to shoot.

For whatever reason, the wind, or low hanging gray clouds or just general cussedness, the geese didn’t appear that day. Heinie had brought a hip-flask and would take a nip every so often. Dad was a Baptist and didn’t drink, but Heinie didn’t care.

By 11 o’clock, we decided that we’d give up hunting for the day. Dad started a fire to make some coffee and to fix a quick lunch hoping to sober Heinie up a bit before we went back to the house.

Heinie had been nipping steadily since we arrived and was feeling good. While the coffee was perking in an old coffepot, Heinie started talking about when he was in the Army. He had joined the US Cavalry in 1912 at the age of 17 and had gone down into Mexico with Black Jack Pershing after Pancho Villa.

After a bit, he talked about going to France to fight the Germans. Heinie was a Corporal by that time and had transferred from the Cavalry to the Infantry. After Mexico, he said, he didn’t want to ride or see another horse for the rest of his life.

Heinie was promoted to Sargent on arriving in France and took over a rifle platoon. He fought in a few battles and managed to survive with only some minor wounds. He was lightly gassed with chlorine a couple of times when his British-made gas mask leaked.

After we had finished our coffee and the fried egg and bacon sandwiches Dad had warmed over the fire, Heinie was silent for awhile. Then he began to talk about the Second Battle of the Marne and tears started flowing.

Heinie had been in charge of a rifle squad when they had left the US, first as a Corporal and then as a Sargent. Not long after arriving in France, he was made a Platoon Sargent and Company interpreter. Heinie had known many of the men in the platoon for several years, some from the excursion into Mexico.

Heinie’s grandparents had immigrated from Hesse, German in the early 1880s. They spoke both German and French. Heinie, born in Illinois, didn’t speak English until he entered school and retained a slight German accent the rest of his life.

Heinie’s company was in the front line trenches and preparing for battle. The Battle of the Marne had been going on for some time and the allies were preparing counter-attacks. An hour before the company was scheduled to attack, Heinie was sent back to the battalion headquarters. It had been decided that all interpreters would be held back and would not attack with their troops because they would be needed to help translate for all the prisoners that would be captured—so they assumed.

Heinie paused several times to blow his nose and wipe his eyes before continuing. The whistles blew and the troops attacked. After several hours, survivors began filtering back through the battalion headquarters area. It was later determined that out of Heinie’s company, he and seven others were the only survivors. None were from Heinie’s platoon.

Later, Dad told me that every year Heinie would get a bit liquored up and start talking and remembering. One of my uncles, Dad’s older brother, joined the Army just before WW1 but had spent the war in the Cavalry patrolling the Mexican border out of El Paso. Usually Dad wasn’t too tolerant of drunkenness but Heinie was different. Dad said it was a small thing to give Heinie an audience. It quieted his ghosts.

Heinie is long gone now. But every Thanksgiving, I remember him.

Continuing on the theme

I wrote about Culture Clashes yesterday. The struggle for supremacy between the “traditional” American culture, the statist/dependency culture and the invading islamic culture.  The expansion of that last culture is being actively aided and abetted by the statists.  They believe they can use islamics against the traditions that built this country.  So far, they have been successful because we, the members of that traditional culture have been complacent.

Continuing with this theme, I bring you a column written by Dr. Milton Wolfe, Obama’s cousin.  The subject? Control Freaks and how they attack our traditional culture.

WOLF: Is this still America?

Control freaks assault the land of the free

New Years Eve Tradition

I’m recycling some old posts.  Last week, on Christmas Eve, I spoke of my old family traditions.  This New Years Eve, I’m recycling another about New Years Eve on the farm.  This one was fairly common where I grew up. I expect it was more widespread than I know, but today?  

Heh!  Somebody’d call the cops!

A Family Tradition

Every family has traditions.  You may not think of them in that manner, but traditions they are. 

I grew up in a large extended family, mostly from my mother’s side.  Mom was the oldest of four. My Grandfather Miller was one of eight. I had cousins scattered over four states but the largest group was in southern Illinois.  The Clan, as it was known to many, had a Christmas tradition. This is my memory of that time of year.

The Gathering of the Clan        

Friday Morning at the Pentagon

I came across this story from William the Coroner’s blog. It needs to be spread far and wide. Michael Yon writes of a little known ceremony held in the Pentagon to honor Army wounded.

Published: 27 November 2009

McClatchy Newspapers

Over the last 12 months, 1,042 soldiers, Marines, sailors and Air Force personnel have given their lives in the terrible duty that is war. Thousands more have come home on stretchers, horribly wounded and facing months or years in military hospitals.

This week, I’m turning my space over to a good friend and former roommate, Army Lt. Col. Robert Bateman, who recently completed a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq and is now back at the Pentagon.

Here’s Lt. Col. Bateman’s account of a little-known ceremony that fills the halls of the Army corridor of the Pentagon with cheers, applause and many tears every Friday morning. It first appeared on May 17 on the Weblog of media critic and pundit Eric Alterman at the Media Matters for America Website.

“It is 110 yards from the “E” ring to the “A” ring of the Pentagon. This section of the Pentagon is newly renovated; the floors shine, the hallway is broad, and the lighting is bright. At this instant the entire length of the corridor is packed with officers, a few sergeants and some civilians, all crammed tightly three and four deep against the walls. There are thousands here.

This hallway, more than any other, is the `Army’ hallway. The G3 offices line one side, G2 the other, G8 is around the corner. All Army. Moderate conversations flow in a low buzz. Friends who may not have seen each other for a few weeks, or a few years, spot each other, cross the way and renew.

Everyone shifts to ensure an open path remains down the center. The air conditioning system was not designed for this press of bodies in this area.

The temperature is rising already. Nobody cares. “10:36 hours: The clapping starts at the E-Ring. That is the outermost of the five rings of the Pentagon and it is closest to the entrance to the building. This clapping is low, sustained, hearty. It is applause with a deep emotion behind it as it moves forward in a wave down the length of the hallway.

“A steady rolling wave of sound it is, moving at the pace of the soldier in the wheelchair who marks the forward edge with his presence. He is the first. He is missing the greater part of one leg, and some of his wounds are still suppurating. By his age I expect that he is a private, or perhaps a private first class.

“Captains, majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels meet his gaze and nod as they applaud, soldier to soldier. Three years ago when I described one of these events, those lining the hallways were somewhat different. The applause a little wilder, perhaps in private guilt for not having shared in the burden … yet.

“Now almost everyone lining the hallway is, like the man in the wheelchair, also a combat veteran. This steadies the applause, but I think deepens the sentiment. We have all been there now. The soldier’s chair is pushed by, I believe, a full colonel.

“Behind him, and stretching the length from Rings E to A, come more of his peers, each private, corporal, or sergeant assisted as need be by a field grade officer.

“11:00 hours: Twenty-four minutes of steady applause. My hands hurt, and I laugh to myself at how stupid that sounds in my own head. My hands hurt… Please! Shut up and clap. For twenty-four minutes, soldier after soldier has come down this hallway – 20, 25, 30…. Fifty-three legs come with them, and perhaps only 52 hands or arms, but down this hall came 30 solid hearts.

They pass down this corridor of officers and applause, and then meet for a private lunch, at which they are the guests of honor, hosted by the generals. Some are wheeled along…. Some insist upon getting out of their chairs, to march as best they can with their chin held up, down this hallway, through this most unique audience. Some are catching handshakes and smiling like a politician at a Fourth of July parade. More than a couple of them seem amazed and are smiling shyly.

“There are families with them as well: the 18-year-old war-bride pushing her 19-year-old husband’s wheelchair and not quite understanding why her husband is so affected by this, the boy she grew up with, now a man, who had never shed a tear is crying; the older immigrant Latino parents who have, perhaps more than their wounded mid-20s son, an appreciation for the emotion given on their son’s behalf. No man in that hallway, walking or clapping, is ashamed by the silent tears on more than a few cheeks. An Airborne Ranger wipes his eyes only to better see. A couple of the officers in this crowd have themselves been a part of this parade in the past.

These are our men, broken in body they may be, but they are our brothers, and we welcome them home. This parade has gone on, every single Friday, all year long, for more than four years.

“Did you know that?

The media haven’t yet told the story.”

Division Chief for ODO
HQDA, G3/5/7

A fitting tribute to those who have paid a price to defend our nation.