was personal. Captain James Ward sighted down the barrel of his
flintlock musket at the Shawnee warrior making a dash for better
cover behind a fallen chestnut. He fired his musket. The Shawnee
brave lurched forward, clutching his chest. He fell short of the
relative safety of the toppled chestnut tree never to rise again.
Ward wasn't satisfied though. The death of one Shawnee brave was not
going to atone for twenty two years of hate and a longing for
vengeance. He would not be appeased until every Indian north of the
Ohio was dead. This was personal.
date was October 10, 1774. The place was Point Pleasant in, what is
today, West Virginia, at the confluence of the Ohio and Great Kanawha
Rivers. In 1774, this was all part of a wilderness frontier people
referred to as the "Middle Ground" - a mysterious land west
of Fort Pitt along the Ohio, where few white men ever went and
returned to tell about it. Men like Daniel Boone, David Duncan, and
Simon Butler were exceptions though, and were largely responsible for
opening up the Ohio for settlement. Soon, wilderness settlements
started springing up between the Cumberland and Ohio Rivers in the
sacred hunting grounds the Indians called "Can-tuc-kee".
Here, anyone could come to hunt, but no one, red or white, could take
up permanent residence.
more and more settlers pushed deeper into the sacred hunting grounds,
establishing wilderness outposts like Harodsburg, Boonesboro, and
Logan's Fort, hostilities escalated between the Indians and the
whites. Eventually, a frontier militia was formed to deal decisively
with the problem. It is this militia, composed of approximately eight
hundred men under the command of Colonel Andrew Lewis, that, on
October 10, 1774 is now engaged in a point blank confrontation with
about one thousand Shawnee warriors led by Cornstalk, the principal
chief of all of the Shawnees.
our story is not so much about the battle of Point Pleasant as it is
about two of it's participants. So, let's get back to Captain Ward.
said, this was personal. With each flash of powder in his flash pan,
fifty four year old James Ward thought about that terrible day twenty
two years ago when Indians raided his homestead, burning it to the
ground, killing his wife and stealing his young son John. The memory
of his lost family is probably what motivated Captain Ward to
distinguish himself so well during the battle, as he exacted his
revenge against one Shawnee brave after another. It was probably also
the memory of their faces that was the last to float across his
consciousness. Poking his head up over the log behind which he was
concealed, a well aimed rifle ball caught him right between the eyes.
Two days later, Captain James Ward departed this life with his
far away, White Wolf, a thirty three year old Shawnee brave, reloaded
his musket. He had built up a reputation among his people as being
deadly accurate with a flintlock, preferring that particular weapon
over his tomahawk or bow and arrows. He was very calm in battle.
Every action was precise and deliberate, and every shot either killed
or wounded an enemy. He would patiently wait until one got careless
and exposed himself, sticking his head out from behind cover. Then
White Wolf would shoot and that would be the end of the careless
White Wolf, this was also a personal battle. For as long as he could
remember, the white man had been stealing the land, killing off the
game, breaking treaties, and pushing the red man farther and farther
more", thought White Wolf, as he aimed his musket and fired
again. Too many bad memories, and for White Wolf, memories are what
bothered him the most. Particularly, vague memories of his childhood.
Memories that were more like a dream than anything else, and a bad
dream at that. Foggy. Unclear. Uncertain. A dream of people with no
faces. A dream of names and places that meant nothing to him, but
which he felt must somehow be important to him. A dream of a time
when he was very young. A time before he was a warrior. A time even
before he was a Shawnee. A time, long ago, before he was called White
Wolf. A dream of a time when he was called by another name - John
kinds of decisions were always difficult to make. A man’s career
was on the line and it was up to him, Colonel James, to make the
final decision. As commander of the eighth Army Air Force bomber
squadron, he had been called upon to make quite a few difficult
decisions. You do not become command pilot, flying combat missions
over Europe, without having to call some tough ones, and this was a
young Sergeant under Colonel James’s command, was not really a bad
soldier; he was just a bit of a discipline problem. His latest
infraction, however, could get him a dishonorable discharge. The
other officers wanted the Sergeant shot, but that was probably a bit
drastic. Colonel James wasn't sure what to do. Maybe there was
James had never considered the command aspect of Army life. When he
was a boy growing up in his hometown of Indiana, PA, where he was
born on May 20, 1908, he dreamt of flying someday. He even
constructed a homemade plane in which he nearly broke his neck. But
he hadn't planned on a career in the Army Air Corp. He was leaning
toward a career as an architect, having graduated Princeton
University with a degree in architecture in 1932. He pursued various
interests for the next few years, spending time in New York and in
comes W.W.II. With his interest in flying, the Army Air Corps was a
natural choice. He enlisted in 1941 as a private. After learning to
fly, and being commissioned as an officer, he began flying combat
he was now, holding the fate of a man in the palm of his hands.
Sending a good man home wouldn’t help the war effort at all. But
keeping a bad man in the Army could put a lot of other men in danger.
James made his decision. He issued the order. Sergeant Walter would
not be sent home. He would be given detached duty instead. Perhaps
the rigors and discipline necessary for detached duty would do the
young Sergeant some good. Colonel James believed that there was a lot
of potential in the young man, and hoped that by putting his trust in
him, Sergeant Walter would someday soon discover his real calling in
James never regretted that decision. It's for certain that Sergeant
Walter never regretted it either. The Sergeant managed to make it
through the rest of the war without getting shot - by either side. He
even earned a number of commendations and decorations, including six
being discharged at the end of the war, Walter even manage to find
his true calling, and he found it in a place called "Hollywood".
Sergeant Walter, although you probably never knew about his close
call with a dishonorable discharge. You have seen him in such hits as
"The Odd Couple", "The Bad News Bears", and
"Grumpy Old Men". That's right - Sergeant Walter Matthou.
also be interested in knowing what happened to Colonel James. He flew
a total of 25 combat missions as command pilot. He earned a number of
medals of recognition for his service to his country, including the
Distinguished Flying Cross. After the war, he spent 20 years in the
Air Force Reserve, retiring as a brigadier general.
If you are
wondering if Colonel James ever ran into sergeant Matthou after the
war, the answer is "yes". They actually became good
it's funny the way things work out. It seems that the army wasn't
Colonel James true calling either. He made a few movies himself.
Actually, he made more than 75 of them. He won one Academy Award and
was nominated for three others. But don't look for "Colonel"
anywhere in the movie credits. You will find him listed under James -
People often ask me, “Mike, how does a person with your tremendous intellect and verbal prowess keep his mind sharp and focused?” I always respond with, “Huh?” After having them repeat the question several times, I finally begin to understand what it is that they are trying to ask me, and… where was I going with this? Oh yeah… sharp and focused…
Like Plato, Descartes, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, I have found that the best way to exercise the brain is to ponder some of the great mysteries of life. To aid you in your own quest for knowledge, I have listed below some of the weightier matters that have occupied my own intellectual pursuit. I have, in the past, come very close to solving some of these perplexing inquiries, but invariably, my wife will start pounding on the bathroom door and I will lose my train of thought. (Note: each generation of great thinkers must suffer the inquisition of the anti-intellectuals.)
At any rate, this list is not exhaustive. It is merely a sampling of the mysteries to be found in the universe. If anyone can think of any others that deserve our attention, Feel free to leave it in the comment section below.
do we have interstate highways in Hawaii?
do forest rangers go to “get away from it all”?
do we park in driveways and drive on parkways?
aren’t “hemorrhoids” called “asteroids”?
they ship Styrofoam peanuts, what do they pack them in?
you throw out your back, where does it go?
is the speed of dark?
are there Braille signs on drive-up ATM's?
women wear a pair of pants and a pair of glasses, why don't they
wear a pair of bras?
come you never hear about “gruntled” employees?
someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it
considered a hostage situation?
does sour cream have an expiration date?
people from Poland are called “Poles”, why aren’t people from
Holland called “Holes”?
we are here on earth to help others, what are they here for?
isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?
do you need a driver's license to buy liquor when you can't drink
are Preparations A through G?
do we play in recitals and recite in plays?
isn't “phonetic” spelled the way it sounds?
a cow laughed, would milk come out her nose?
is it that when you transport something by car, it’s called a
“shipment”, but when you transport something by ship, it’s
olive oil comes from olives, and peanut oil comes from peanuts,
where does baby oil come from?
there seeing-eye humans for blind dogs?
is it when a man talks dirty to a woman, its sexual harassment; but
when a woman talks dirty to a man, its $3.95 per minute? (Don’t
ask me how I know.)
are they called “apartments” when they are all stuck together?
this is a country of free speech, why are there phone bills?
much deeper would the ocean be if sponges didn't live there?
vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?
Superman can stop bullets with his chest, why does he always duck
when someone throws a gun at him?
happened to the first 6 "ups"?
an orange is orange, why isn't a lime called a green or a lemon
called a yellow?
does your nose run, and your feet smell?
do we put suits in a garment bag and put garments in a suitcase?
do we wash bath towels? Aren’t we clean when we use them?
do we wait until a pig is dead before we “cure” it?
doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
Lipton employees take coffee breaks?
do they sterilize the needles for lethal injections?
do kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
do sheep count when they can't get to sleep?
you choke a smurf, what color does it turn?
they have reserved parking for non handicap people at the Special
do they call it a TV set when you only get 1?
it's tourist season, why can't we shoot them?
nothing sticks to Teflon, how do they stick Teflon on the pan?
you throw a cat out a car window, does it become kitty litter?
you shoot a mime, should you use a silencer?
do women wear evening gowns to nightclubs? Shouldn’t they be
do “overlook” and “oversee” mean the opposite?
lawyers are disbarred and the clergy are defrocked, then doesn’t
it follow that electricians are delighted, musicians denoted,
cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry
I hope that this provides fodder for thought, and that your pursuit
of knowledge brings you enlightenment and a really buff cerebral
It was the 1930's and everything had changed. Hollywood was not the same town it had been only a few short years earlier. The reason for all of the changes was the advent of "talkies" - motion pictures with sound. What a difference it made! Sound stages were going up all over studio production lots, and actors and actresses who previously had only to concern themselves with how they looked on film, were now taking elocution lessons, trying to rid themselves of an accent or a nasal tone. Many new people appeared on the Hollywood scene in the thirties, making the natural transition from Broadway to the talkies.
Sound productions not only made it possible for the fans to hear their favorite stars speak their lines, but now they could hear them sing their favorite songs as well, so the musical developed into the most popular movie genre. The first all music, all dance talkie was the 1929 Academy award winner Broadway Melody. Musicals soon became so popular, that some of the movie veterans, who otherwise would have never even considered singing and dancing, were persuaded (by virtue of their contracts with the major studios) to hop on the musical band wagon.
The undisputed ruler of the musical was Metro-Goldwyn Mayer, who produced somewhere in excess of 200 musicals during their first fifty years. Although no other studio came close, there was competition.
A rival studio - 20th Century Fox - had a young star named Shirley Temple who was becoming America's sweetheart, and MGM was obsessed with her! Oh, to be sure, MGM had its own child actors, but none of them had achieved the type of popularity, nor brought the studio the notoriety, that Miss Temple and Fox were enjoying.
MGM was obsessed. They desperately wanted her contract. They approached Fox executives. MGM had an idea for a movie that would be just right for little "Curly Top". Could an arrangement be made?
"No deal", said Fox.
MGM tried again. "How about if we throw a couple of our actors into the deal - two of ours for one of yours?"
"No deal", said Fox.
"Fine", said MGM, stomping off.
"Fine", said Fox.
They went their separate ways and there were no more negotiations.
Well, MGM went ahead and made the movie anyway - without Shirley Temple. They gave the part to one of their own actresses, Frances Gumm, a sixteen year old that they had had under contract now for about four years. She had played in a couple of bit parts. Nothing big. Could she handle the lead role in a new musical? That was the question that they were asking themselves at MGM back in 1939.
For over seventy-five years now, generations of movie goers have answered that question with a resounding "YES". You know the movie. You have seen it time after time. The movie that MGM originally planned for Shirley Temple. The movie about a little girl from Kansas and her dog Toto. The Wizard of OZ, staring Frances Gumm - whom you know better as Judy Garland.
But wait. There's more...
Remember the two actors that MGM was willing to trade to Fox for Shirley Temple? The first one was actually another actress - the beautiful and talented Jean Harlow, who stared in such films as Hell's Angels, Platinum Blonde, and Red Dust. In 1937, she became the first actress to appear on the cover of LIFE magazine.
The second was an actor you may have heard of as well. He also made a movie for MGM in 1939. His name was Clark Gable. The movie was the 1939 Academy Award winning best picture - Gone With the Wind. SDG
“We don't read and
write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members
of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine,
law, business, engineering - these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain
life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love - these are what we stay alive for.” -
Robin Williams in The Dead Poets Society
I have always loved that quote by Robin Williams, ever since
seeing the movie The Dead Poets Society a number of years ago. It does a
pretty good job of expressing in a nut shell what many poets feel is the
impetus behind their writing. Poetry takes us beyond mere existence into the
realm of living; into the experience of the stuff of life. Poetry is an
expression of that experience, and poets, like writers of prose, have an innate
need to express themselves. Where does this driving desire come from…this
sometimes overwhelming passion, for writers of poetry and prose alike, to place
their thoughts and feelings down on paper?
As a writer who is also a person of faith, I believe that
this desire to express ourselves creatively through the written word comes from
God. The answer to the question, “Why do we write?” can be found by looking at
the nature of God.
GOD IS A CREATOR
GOD… In Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, in the very first
sentence of the first chapter we learn an important lesson about God. The verse
starts out, “In the beginning, God created…” God could have started the Bible
in any way that He wanted to, but it would seem as though his desire was to
teach us from the very beginning of His special revelation that He is a
“creator” God. In the rest of the first two chapters of Genesis we are
introduced to God’s creative process as He brings the heavens and the earth,
with all of its varied life forms into existence.
WE ARE CREATED IN
GOD’S IMAGE… In Genesis chapter one, we are made privy to an ancient
conversation between the three members of the godhead as they discuss the
creation of man. In verse twenty-six God says, “Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness.” We are created in the image of a creator. The desire to be
creative and productive is hard-wired into who we are. Look at the verbs that
are used in verse twenty-eight. After God created man (and woman) and blessed
them, He told them to be fruitful, multiply, replenish, subdue, have
dominion – all commands which require man to exercise a degree of
GOD IS A WRITER…
Aside from the theological and historical value of the scriptures, the Bible is
considered one of the greatest literary works of all time. Great literature
expresses universal human experiences, and the Bible communicates these
experiences in a variety of literary forms and genres including poetry,
narratives, epistles, proverbs, parables, satire, and visionary writing. God,
as the ultimate author of the Bible – through the instrument of his apostles
and prophets – is arguably the bestselling author of all time. The Internet
Public Library estimates that there have been over six billion copies of
the Bible in print in over two thousand languages and dialects.
GOD IS A POET…
From the book of Job to the Song of Solomon can be found some of the most
beautiful poetry ever penned. It is in the book of Psalms that we get the
clearest and most intimate picture of the heart of God. John Calvin, in
commenting on the Psalms, said, “…all grief’s, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes,
cares, anxieties - in short, all those tumultuous agitations wherewith the
minds of men are wont to be tossed - the Holy Ghost hath here represented to
It is in the book of Ephesians, however, where we find the
most profound and intimate example of God’s poetic nature. In verse ten of the
second chapter of Ephesians we read, “For we are his workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus unto good works…” The word that we translate “workmanship” is the
Greek word “poiema” from which we get the word “poem”. Scripture tells us that we
are Gods’ poems! Anyone who has ever written a poem can tell you that you don’t
just throw a bunch of random words together and call it a poem. Poems are
painstakingly and lovingly crafted. Each element is carefully chosen and fitted
together in order to best represent the heart of the poet.
Why do I write? I write because I am created in the image of
a creator God…because the passion to create is inherent within me. Why do I
write poetry? I write poetry because my heavenly father is a poet, and I
delight in being one of his poems.
In high school, I was an introspective, pensive person and a
bit of a loner. I remember one day being in the school library. I pulled a
volume of Robert Frost off of the shelf and started paging through it. I had
never read him before, but now I couldn’t put it down. I planted myself in the
middle of the isle, between the rows of book shelves, and read. I missed my
last class while I was transported back to New England. I climbed birches and
chopped wood; I went out into the meadow to bring in the cows and I cried over
the death of the hired hand. It was that day that I learned the power of words
to move people; not only emotionally, but to move them in their imaginations to
other places and times…into experiences that were new and exciting. From that
day forward, it was impossible for me not to be a poet.
Language is said to be arbitrary. That is, there is no
natural relationship between words and the concepts that they
represent. So any discussion about poetry must first start with a
definition of what we mean when we talk about poems and poetry. Poetry seems to
have about as many different definitions as there are poets. Kahlil Gibran
said, “Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the
dictionary.” Percy Shelley said, “Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that
which is distorted.” And my favorite poet, Robert Frost, had this to say about
poetry, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has
Poetry is a lot of things to a lot of people, and trying to
answer the question, “What is poetry?” is like trying to answer the broader
question, “What is art?” We know it when we see it…when it comes shooting out
of the gate; but it is kind of hard for us to toss a loop around it so we can
wrestle it to the ground.
I remember seeing a photograph once of people in an art
gallery staring intently at a painting that hung on the wall in front of them.
The “painting” was nothing more than a blank canvas. There was no way of telling
from the photograph just what all of those people thought about that
“painting”, but I know what I would have thought. I will be the first to admit
to a level of unsophistication equaled by none – except perhaps Larry the cable
guy - but I just don’t get it! I feel that way when I read
some poems too. I just don’t get them! But that’s ok. Even
Carl Sandburg said, “I've written some poetry I don't understand myself.”
So what exactly is poetry? As they say, "If it walks
like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it must be a duck.” What
“they” don’t tell you is that there are between 150 and 200 different species
of “ducks” in the world. Some of them look nothing like others of them. The
same is true of poetry. There are numerous different poetic forms: sonnet,
acrostic, blank verse, ballad, haiku, limericks and on and on… A sonnet looks
nothing like a limerick which looks nothing like blank verse.
You should begin to see the difficulty in coming to a
concise definition of “poetry”.
One way to define poetry is along the lines of its technical
characteristics. That said, a definition I like to use is, “words arranged
in a rhythmic pattern with regular accents (like beats in music), words which
are carefully selected for sound, accent and meaning to express imaginatively
ideas and emotions.”
But why do we write poetry? And what does poetry have to do
with the one whom Robert Browning called “the perfect poet,” our heavenly
father? For that discussion, come back Thursday to read part two - Why I Write Poetry.