"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Well, Hush my mouth

Never to old to learn, but I should have know that Deo Vindice was the motto of the Confederacy. Thus it was on the soldier's grave in Purcell I posted 2 days ago. . "God will vindicate."
It was on the Great Seal of the Confderacy. Here's the story:

   The Great Seal of the Confederate States of America was engraved in 1864, by Joseph S. Wyon, of London, England, predecessor of J. S. and A. B. Wyon, chief engravers of Her British Majesty's seals, etc., and reached Richmond not long before the evacuation of the city, April 3, 1865. It was of silver, and in diameter measured nearly four inches. At the evacuation it was overlooked by the Confederate authorities, and  fell into the possession of Colonel John T. Pickett, of Washington, D.C., who, after having a number of electrotype copies in copper, silver and gold plating made from it, presented the original to Colonel William E. Earle, of Washington, D.C., who on December 27, 1888, formally presented it to the State of South Carolina.

Okies on parade, a salute!

The day before the Honor Flight...reception and ceremony with more than 500 people present.









That's friend Ben Blackstock on the right.

And the next day,  more photos
Former Governor George Nigh talking with a member of the Air National Guard going up the steps to the aircraft. Security station is below. Each vet was escorted or helped onto the plane.
Oklahoma newspaperman Ed Livermore Sr.

And another Okie..Lookit that hat!
The Welcome Home crowd
The tail end of the tale

Living American and Oklahoma History

The Honor Flight gathered in front of the Memorial building for a group shot.
Each of the pillars carries a state's name. 
That's the POW-MIA flag flying under Old Glory.
They gathered for photos under the Oklahoma pillar.
First stop at Arlington was at the U.S. Marine Memorial
They are always Marines.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
And the Changing of the Guard
Watched by our veterans.
And, across the green grass of Arlington, the graves of the well known
and not so well known. And the sound of Taps.

Veterans' stories--an adventure to and from Washington



"Harry Truman was the best friend I've every had," a WWII veteran told me earlier this month.

He was sitting in the Reed Convention Center in Midwest City not too far from a captured Japanese flag, getting ready to go on the first Oklahoma Honor Flight.  "He dropped that bomb, and I got to come home."

Oh the stories I've heard on one of the best adventures I could have. Thanks to Mark Thomas and Oklahoma Press Association, I went along for the ride, taking photos and writing a story for Oklahoma's newspapers, May 17.

There were glitches--like the rain that forced everyone to wear ponchos and kept me from identifying all the veterans for their hometown newspapers, and my notepad was still wet three days later.

More of that and photos in the next post. Above is the photo of a Tulsa veteran, Mr. McCormick, the oldest member of the flight at 94. He volunteers three times a week at the Tulsa VA center. The hats tell such stories.

Here's the story OPA sent to member newspapers this past week.

By Terry M. Clark

Ninety-nine WWII vets from across Oklahoma left on a chartered jet by the dawn’s early light for a one-day whirlwind tour of war memorials in Washington D.C.
They were guests of the inaugural Oklahoma Honor Flight organized by volunteers in Midwest City to honor them.
They toured the WWII Memorial, the Marine statue of the flag raising at Iwo Jima, and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The stories that should be told are endless. There were survivors of the Battle of the Bulge and Pearl Harbor, former POWs, Purple Hearts and men who witnessed the flag raising on Iwo Jima. Oldest vet along was a 94-year-old Tulsan.
Then they flew home, arriving at the Air National Guard hangars at Will Rogers World Airport at 10:30 p.m.
Starting last fall, the group raised $95,000 to cover all expenses and it’s making plans for more flights, including one in October. Chairman Steve Coleman of Midwest City said there were another 230 WWII vets on waiting lists. 
There were about 200 people on the jet, as each veteran who needed help had an assigned guardian. In addition, Oklahoma Press Association was represented, and Channels 2 and 8 of Tulsa and OETA.
Each of the vets wore a light blue T-shirt with the Honor Flight logos. Guardians had red T-shirts. All had blue caps with American flags.
The celebrations began the Sunday before the trip with a reception and ceremony at the Reed Convention Center in Midwest City, attended by more than 500 people, including the vets.
The vets marched into the reception hall to the drum cadence of a military drum and the standing ovation of the crowd. The Governors Honor Guard presented the colors. Master of Ceremonies was Rep. Gary Banz of Midwest City, a former government teacher who helped organize the events.
Each vet was presented a copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Then in came the school children of the Mid-Del district with commemorative coins for the vets, exchanging them for the copies of the American documents. The school kids had raised $25,000 of the total project cost.
 Keynote speaker was Lt. Gen. Loren Reno, former commandant at Tinker AFB. The vets spent the night at the adjacent hotel and were up by 3:30 a.m., for the mile-long escorted bus convoy to the airport. Before leaving the hotel each bus passed under the arch formed by the Del City fire truck ladders, a salute from the firemen.  Highway Patrol motorcycles and police cars, lights flashing in the darkness, took the buses to the airport where the vets were met by uniformed members of the Air National Guard.
They went through a makeshift security scan set up by TSA and then the service men and women helped each vet up the stairs on the tarmac to the waiting jet.
The jet began moving as the sun came up, as the uniformed military stood at attention and saluted. Base fire trucks sprayed the plane with water.
Two and a half hours later the jet landed in Baltimore and a group crew of volunteers was there to welcome them with cheers and smiles and help them onto buses for the ride to Washington.
It was drizzling but it didn’t dampen the crowd getting off the buses. Provided rain slickers, and several of them in wheel chairs, they toured the WWII Memorial, congregating at the Oklahoma pillar and taking in the newest of Washington’s monument. The American flag, with the black POW-MIA flag flew nearby.
Honor flights began in Ohio about five years ago and the idea has spread. Oklahoma is the 31st state to have the program. So far, about 40,000 vets have made the trip. The priority is to get any WWII vet who is able to get on a jet to go see the memorials. Only about three million WWII vets are still alive. Those vets are in their 80s and 90s, and time is taking the toll that the Japanese and Germans didn’t in WWII. Eventually, the priority will shift to Korean vets and then Vietnam.
Before they landed back in Oklahoma, each veteran answered “Mail Call,” with a packet of about a dozen letters. One was from the vet’s representative. The rest were from the school children, handwritten notes thanking them for their service. At the airport, the Air Force was waiting again to help them off the plane, and flag waving family members were also there.
The Oklahoma program began when a Midwest City veteran, Al Willoughby, USAF-Ret., went to Texas to take part in an Honor Flight. When he came home and  told the Midwest City Rotary about it, his fellow Rotarians started work, wanting a program for Oklahoma veterans.
For more information—www.oklahomahonorflights.org



Sunday, May 30, 2010

Writing for food--reporter's journey

Two of five reporter's notebooks I filled in a month...Yes, my handwriting is getting worse.

This has been my slowest month of blogging since I started. But I have been writing, for food, at the daily business newspaper in downtown Oklahoma City, Journal Record.

I added it up and had 30 stories of differing lengths in 19 days, plus one editorial column.
I learned about oil company production and financial quarterly reports, and a lot more. The staff does two stories a day, minimum, and I got close, but missed two days be cause of the OPA sponsored honor flight I took May 17 to DC.

Most fun were longer articles interviewing John Belt about his Paseo projects; Bob Blackburn about historic buildings, features on Fort Reno and the Guthrie Masonic temple., interviews with a green cleaner and a Paseo artist, the tornado storm story, and attending meetings on Devon's building sale and a hearing on building demolitions--plus two brief posts on the web on deadline.

Lessons--I got faster the more I did; I can still make deadline; the morning commute through interesting neighborhoods (I avoided Broadway Extension), I still enjoy the atmosphere and humor of the newsroom, and I'm thankful for copy editors who save me. It's fun to hold a reporter's notebook in your hand, take notes and interview people. And, there's nothing like a byline on page 1.

Here's the list of other things I wrote: Energy company quarterly financial and operational report stories: Devon, SandRidge, Panhandle, Evolution, Enterra, Gulfport. Others: Medical building sale, FSB architecture story, Freede tower, Texadelphia, Arpin movers, OCCC speaker, Lake gasoline leak, KCSC, Unhealthy City, Habitat for Humanity move, Oklahoma home foreclosures.

And on Friday, it's great to head home with a sense of accomplishment.

Thanks to all the folks at the JR.

-30-

Memorial Day--Uncle Mike and the U.S. Navy

My last surviving uncle, Michael Henry Clark--after whom I have my middle name, lives in Santa Fe, as I've told you.
Mike is 87 now, and while his sea legs are failing, he's in good health. Here's something I wrote just a couple of  years ago...


He stood at the iron railing on the balcony of his apartment, the morning sun in his eyes, facing the dark blue-green Sangre de Cristo mountains.
He looked like a sailor on the bridge of a ship, watching the rolling blue green ocean in front of him.
“I think I’ve got my sea legs back,” he called, as I waved goodbye to my favorite uncle.
Between him and the mountains sprawled the US National Cemetery and then the city of Santa Fe. In a few years he’ll be buried in that cemetery for American veterans.
For now, he can see it every day, and hear taps playing at 5 p.m. as it caresses the white gravestones marking in perfect rank order over the green hills.
Petty Officer Second Class Michael Henry Clark  served on a sub chaser in World War II and on a LST in Korea, including the Inchon Landing.
Fourth son of dirt poor parents in the Oklahoma Depression, Mike fled the state, lied about his age to get a job in Virginia, joined the Navy, and saw the world.
After the World War he earned two degrees and then survived combat in Korea. He came to New Mexico to visit us when I was still a kid and I gave him the mumps. He taught high school English, spent the summers in Mexico teaching himself Spanish.
Then he landed jobs with the US Information Service teaching English in Peru, Iran, Libya, Tunisia, Timbuktu.
He came back to New Mexico and taught in the Indian Arts Institute for 20 years, teaching real Americans from tribes all over the country. Today, he is welcome in many pueblo homes on feast days.
In his apartment, a short-wave radio links him with the rest of the world, its antenna stretch across the ceiling and out the door and balcony. He spends the winter months listening to broadcasts from Britain, from Spain, from the Middle East.
Still traveling the world, he stands at the bridge of his ship in Santa Fe, looking over the cemetery to Santa Fe and the mountains beyond.
He never lost his sea legs…never will.
An American veteran.
Many like him are buried in that National cemetery, and in others around the country.
On Memorial Day, I’ll think about my Uncle Mike. Who will you remember when you see the flags at half mast?


 The white headstones of the National Cemetery in Santa Fe, with the Sangre de Cristos in the background and the Taos highway in front.
My uncle Mike and my grandmother Cuba John Miller Clark Reasor many years ago.

It's about living--the back porch

The presence of death makes you value life.
Dinner last night with Chef Susan on the back porch, herb garden in the background.
Menu...Rib eye, roasted tomatoes with fresh sweet basil, salad of butter and Romaine lettuce with avocados, fresh parmesan, olive oil and balsamic from Sicili, Italian parsley for garnis and sweet basil  for fragrance.

And my Herb garden...










Gone and forgotten

Cemeteries are somber places, especially old ones. The phrase "Gone but Not Forgotten" appears a lot on headstones all over America.

But at the Old Johnsonville cemetery yesterday, I found this grave. I call this, "Gone and Forgotten." Oh the stories that disappear when someone dies.
And these...









But then, someone remembers...

Memorial Day--Confederates and veterans

You don't have to go to National Cemeteries, as impressive as they are, to get Memorial Day in your blood.

First called Decoration Day, the holiday has become a ritual for Americans of decorating graves not just of veterans but of family members.

I toured graves in south central Oklahoma yesterday with wife Susan, her sister Sarah Kaufman  and her father Jay Henry, visiting Purcell and the back roads and two cemeteries where once there was a settlement called Johnsonville--one of the earliest in what is now Oklahoma, and driving past one for a long-gone community once called Box.

Lots of stories to tell, and in the Purcell cemetery, funeral services were underway for a U.S. Navy veteran, American flag draped over the coffin, and a white-clad Navy bugler standing by to blow "Taps."

I love old cemeteries and always manage to find Confederate graves, even in remote parts of Oklahoma. While flags fly at other veterans' graves, these usually go neglected. I find myself wishing I had small flags to honor these Americans also.

This Confederate veteran, Sgt. Miles Keener,  from the Arkansas cavalry, died in 1893 in Purcell. I wonder about his stories.
So did this veteran, Sgt. J.E. Barrow of the Mississippi cavalry.
I found this grave fascinating because of the iron cross at the foot of the grave and repeated on the headstone. More stories.
With the dates of The War on each side, it bears the inscription "Deo Vindice," which must be Latin for "God Will Vindicate You." That's a Confederate for you.

And then at the Old Johnsonville Cemetery, just down the road from The New Johnsonville Cemetery, was this grave, with an American flag flying there.

I wandered over to it, and while the name is illegible, I could make out "Missouri cavalry."
Then the volunteer caretaker of the old cemetery came up, a disabled Vietnam veteran who does this because he lives next to the cemetery and because he's a veteran, and he tells me it's a Confederate grave.

I told him I wished I had a Confederate flag to put on it.

His response was the they used to, but people kept stealing the Stars and Bars, and now the American Legion can't get them any more. But he went ahead and put this flag by it. I told him  I thought the Missourian would be pleased that Americans still honor him, because he was a veteran. The caretaker agreed. A veteran is a veteran.
 Nearby was this grave plot, the only area the caretaker hadn't mowed the day before, and a veteran's grave was marked with the flag. 
Another view...and for reference, the Confederate's grave is in the background.

Memorial Day gravesites...Chapter One

I didn’t know Buster, but I wish I did.
BUSTER E. WILLIAMS
OKLA
CPL 501 PRCHUTE INF
101 ABN DIV
JUNE 30, 1922 SEPT. 24, 1944
I don’t know how he died, but this 22-year-old Oklahoma paratrooper with  the Screaming Eagles of the 101st Airborne fell in Europe not long after D-Day, fighting for freedom. His name is etched in marble on one of the headstones in the U.S. National Cemetery at Fort Smith, Arkansas.
This Memorial Day there will be speeches and flags and flowers  and 21- gun salutes and prayers and Taps at this cemetery just across the border from Oklahoma, and in hundreds like them across the country. There will be similar services in other cemeteries all over America, saluting the veterans.
Roses the color of blood grow on the fences, as about 9,500 grayish-white headstones of veterans from frontier days to the Gulf War sweep over the grassy green hills, like the white stripes on the American flag, gently rippling in the free breeze.
JOHN HERBERT MAYBERRY
PFC USA
KOREA
JUNE 2, 1932
NOV. 28, 1950
Most of the headstones are uniform, 24 inches out of the ground, 15 inches wide, gently oval at the top, 3 feet from the next gravestone to the side, 10 feet from the ones above and below it. On some there are small crosses above the names, the service, the dates. Simple. Sparse, Military. The precision is perfect and from any angle the headstones maintain perfect rank order--marching like rows of men going into battle--only here there are no more gaps where comrades are cut down by enemy fire. Here the ranks march on forever, into eternity. 
WALTER WAYNE POGUE
2LT USAA
JUNE 16, 1919 APRIL 13, 1944
PURPLE HEART
KILLED IN ACTION
The cemetery office doesn’t have biographical records on how all the veterans died, but some stand out. Like Lt. Pogue of Fort Smith, missing in action since April 13, 1944 over Europe. German historians and the pilot who shot down Lt. Pogue’s P-38 fighter recently located his remains. They were buried with full military honors on Dec. 21, 1996--52 years later. His widow, who never remarried, couldn’t attend because she was in a Ft. Smith hospital, and she’s since died. But his son, Walter Wayne Pogue Jr., who probably never met his daddy, received the folded American flag with triangle of stars showing as his father was laid to rest with 21-gun salute.
WADE HALTON COTTONHAM
USN WWII
JUNE 29, 1920 JAN. 1, 1945
There is a section where men who were buried at sea, and those whose remains were never recovered, are buried. Those graves are closer together, clustered for companionship. They may have died alone, but they’ve joined more than a million other American veterans who’ve died in the defense of their country.
C. COLDER WHITMAN
CO A 14TH KAN CAV
1834 SEPT. 11, 1863
This is one of the few national cemeteries where Union soldiers are buried alongside Confederates, because the South occupied the Fort in the War. Most Southerners are buried in Confederate cemeteries or in thousands of private cemeteries. More Americans died in the Civil War than in any other, and people still put flowers on those graves.
NORMAN DEASON
PVT WWII
1924 1986
About 350 graves a year are added to the Fort Smith cemetery. Any veteran may request burial in a national cemetery, and the surviving spouse, or a child who dies under 21 years of age, may join him. Every veteran receives the regulation tombstone, and the folded flag for survivors. Retired veterans and those who were killed in action receive full military honors, including the 21-gun salute. A fresh bouquet of red carnations was placed at Pvt. Deason’s grave recently. People remember a long time in a national cemetery.
UNKNOWN
U.S. SOLDIER
And there are more than 100 Unknowns in the ranks of these headstones--no stories, no names, no dates--of men who died and are forgotten, except for a marker in a graveyard of heroes, ordinary men who fought and died in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Air Corps, Coast Guard. All are equal in the cemetery--officers rest beside enlisted men.
The cemetery is quiet but not deathly silent. Meadowlarks and mockingbirds add their songs to the air. The sky is hazy. There is the smell not of bodies cut down, but of fresh-cut grass. Life. A riding lawnmower drones on, moving over the gentle swells, up and down the long ranks of graves,  past the etched names of states--Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma--past the years--1819, 1864, 1918, 1943, 1950, 1969--the rider like an officer preserving the order of march, marshaling his forces for a final charge.
I wish I’d known them all. Don’t you?
At the two-story brick house that serves as cemetery office and headquarters, a plaque carries President Lincoln’s words as he dedicated a national cemetery at Gettysburg 147 years ago. Hallowed ground. Above, the Stars and Stripes wave in the breeze over the grass patterned with headstones.
Every day at 5 p.m., the haunting, plaintive notes of Taps echoes across the green hills, caressing each white gravestone.
Goodnight, Buster. Goodnight, Lt. Pogue. 
And thanks.



Thursday, May 27, 2010

Memorial Day

Coming this weekend..."I wish I knew Buster." Memorial Day essay. And more, from Honor Flight to DC with WWII vets.

Been busy writing for the Journal Record in OKC. Pretty Well written out, but I'll make up for it. Also start teaching my blogging class on Tuesday.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Deadline writing!


Me in a meeting in OKC city hall, lower right corner, back pew, with small bald spot blue-gray shirt and note pad--photo courtesy Zach Nash

Geezer can still do it!

3.5 hour meeting out at 5:25. City Hall, OKC. Walk back to Journal Record, post blog lead--3 paragraphs, by 5:50. Deadline was 5 p.m. Complete story, 290 words, by a little after 6 p.m. at the Journal Record, daily business newspaper in OKC. Copy Editors bugging me, and then they call at home and save my ass.

It's fun being a journalist!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Max the Man!

Grandson Max, home after skin graft surgery on his left hand after 3rd degree burns.  Update from daughter Dallas after a week and a half:  Happy boy: riding around the house on his "hobby moose," wearing a cowboy hat, shouting "Woo Ha!" (Translated that means Yee Haw!)! Max is doing well! :) This kid is 100,000 percent boy. Thanks for the prayers

By the dawn's early light

Back, after 22 hours on the road and in the air...with 99 WWII vets and almost 100 more in the inaugural Oklahoma honor flight to DC, touring the WWII memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Covering it in the rain for the OPA and smaller papers,. Also present were Channel 2 and 8 in Tulsa and OETA. No OKC station covered it. And as usual, I was the only print guy.

Up at 2 am. We left the tarmac at the Oklahoma OKC air national guard after 6  am, and returned there at 10:30. Home at 12:30 am. Oldest vet was 94. Vets I knew were George Nigh, Ben Blackstock and Ed Livermore, Sr. Others from all over the state.

So many stories to tell and write. Organized by the patriotic--in deeds, not words--of Midwest City. No vet paid anything, and the trip cost $91,000--including a chartered non-stop flight to and from Baltimore.

You would not believe what I've experienced today, but I'll try to post it soon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Oh the stories

Coming articles: The caps worn by WWII vets...Pearl Harbor Survivor, Combat Engineer Division Battle of the Bulge, Iwo Jima, Patton's Third Army, POW, Order ofthe Purple Heart, 339th P-51 fighter squadron, USS Mosely, New Guinea,and most of all, gold embroidering on the caps "WWII Veteran."  oh, the stories, oh the photos.

The First Oklahoma Honor Flight to DC tomorrow to see the was memorials, with 99 vets--reception and program at Midwest City this afternoon

First story, briefly, ...Duncan vet shot down in a B-24 Liberator bomber over Holland March 8, 1944. Four months with the Dutch underground until caught by the Gestapo. Spend the rest of the war in POW camps. His white cap says POW...the escape and evasion society.

He was shot down when I was three months old.

Roads...

Country roads, and the urge to travel them and the blue highways and any other roads as well. wondering what is over that next hill.
And sometimes you find
Mulhall
The Guthrie depot
And relics of other roads and times, in Shamrock, Texas