Posts Tagged ‘character’
Posted in AIDS, Christianity, DK's Journal, History, Inspirations, Life, Living, Things to Ponder, tagged an old man does technology, blogging, character, dklevick, life, Thanksgiving on November 27, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Posted in AIDS, DK's Journal, Inspirations, Life, Living, Persecution, Things to Ponder, Uncategorized, tagged character, God, life, overcoming, peace, Thanksgiving, veterans, veterans day on November 7, 2013 | 1 Comment »
It’s the time of Thanksgiving!
The harvest is full – creation is vibrant, overflowing with a bounty of blessings. The scent of crisp apples – fills the air while field after field of corn, soybean, cabbage and potatoes - fill the silos…
Large, orange pumpkins are magically being transformed into spicy, sweet pies…
Turkeys run in fear – knowing their time is short…
And we rejoice in the richness of blessings our God has provided for us.
Yes – it’s Thanksgiving and we have much to be thankful for, and from all of us at
- we extend our sincerest wish that you and yours have a…
Joyful – Enriching – and Happy Thanksgiving 2013.
And while we are thankful - let us never forget those who are hurting…
…those among us who have suffered setbacks and huge financial and personal losses from fires, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, mud-slides and natural disasters of all sorts and types creating tragedies, loss of property and most of all – loss of loved ones.
Our hearts go out to you and we feel your sorrow and your pain – but we also feel your strength.
And let us not forget that…
Monday – November 11th is Veterans Day –
No – it’s not a bargain shopping day – it’s a day for us to show honor – appreciation and to give thanks for those who, across the years, from one war zone to another, heard and answered the call – paying the price – for the freedoms we hold, enjoy and cherish so dearly. Freedom doesn’t come without a price. To those who fought the fight yesterday and to those who continue to fight the fight today – across the oceans – on foreign soil…to those who returned home whole and well – and to those who returned home not well in body or mind, and…lastly…to those who didn’t return home….
…we honor you!
Thank you veterans – you men and women who heard the call – who felt the need and who said:
“Here am I – send me.”
May God bestow a special blessing upon you and your families.
And we must not forget, in our prayers and in our hearts, those who are persecuted…
locked up against their will, away from their families, who will see no Thanksgiving dinner – no pumpkin pie – feel no hugs or kisses. Those who are beaten, abused and left in a dark, disease ridden hole – those who are tortured, gunned down and murdered for nothing more than what they think, believe and hold dear.
Each of us must always stand against tyranny and against those who work to destroy the human mind, seeking to kill that human spirit that thirsts after truth. Whether it’s our own belief or others – we must never allow the freewill to be stomped on. God gave us that gift and once we step over onto that slippery slope – then there is no belief that is safe.
And let us never forget those who simply have nothing to be thankful for – and never have had.
Those millions upon millions of helpless victims of AIDS, starvation, malnutrition and inhuman treatment by their fellow man. Those countless children born into misery – born into death – having no hope for joy in life.
We must never forget them – for they only have – those who remember them.
It is only through our compassion and love for our fellow men and women that we can bring joy to others but also find that inner peace that comes with finding our own purpose and happiness.
When the final rolls are called – we must be found vigilant and working diligently for those who cannot do so for themselves…
…until that day when all will rejoice!
Yes – we are thankful at FAWN for what we have and who we are.
We are thankful we are able to respond to our fellow man.
And we are thankful for you.
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are
Posted in clocks, DK's Journal, Inspirations, Life, Living, Things to Ponder, tagged an old man does technology, blogging, character, creation, dklevick, God, life, minute hand, peace, power failure, radio clocks on October 13, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
All my life I’ve had trouble with clocks…
…Trying to keep them running – wound up – on time – not stopping… seems like clocks and me… well…kinda like oil and water.
It’s been an ongoing battle. One I don’t think I’ve ever won for more than a few minutes (hmm… with out having a working clock I’m not sure how long actually…).
I tried the wind-up ones that I could never “wind-up” quite properly. They were always in need of winding or I was over-winding.
Electric? Every time I had one of them and set it right – there’d be a power failure.
Going digital didn’t help – I’d come home to a house full of flashing digits! Not only ‘clock – clocks’ – but television clocks – radio clocks – microwave oven clocks – dryer – washer clocks you know what I mean – you’ve been there.
Going battery-powered didn’t help – clocks either ran slow or stopped, and I never had the right battery on hand. When I did…well changing the battery was usually the end of the watch…
I don’t know about you, but personally, I don’t like wristwatches – they always seemed confining and heavy (I know, I know – they only weigh a couple of ounces, but when you don’t want or like something – doesn’t it always get heavier and heavier?) They have those tiny little knurled knobs to pull out and spin around in your fingers making the hour and minute hands dance across the face (I always have trouble with those little knobs. They seem to get lost in my fat fingers all the time.) The digital ones weren’t any better – I don’t know about you but I need a pin to push those little buttons!) I use a watch that clips onto my pants. Yeah – same knurled knobs – but bigger. Have a hard time keeping them – I think my Dry Cleaner has a collection of them.
Anyway – trying to keep one working – and staying within +/- 24 hours of actual time – has been a losing battle for me.
Well the other day – I was given an…
ATOMIC CLOCK -
You ever see one of this things?
There is a battery – but it’s charged by solar power – and there are no adjustment knobs - only one switch (a big one too!) on the back, that says “ON” and “OFF”. Hey I like this already!
Well – getting it home, I flipped that switch to “ON” and hung it on the wall.
WOW! It was something to watch (pun intended).
At first it didn’t do anything. Then it moved around in a half circle – stopped – moved backwards a quarter circle – then stopped again. I shrugged my shoulders and began walking away thinking “yeah, just like all the rest”, when I heard a whirring sound and turned back. The minute hand was moving around the face of the clock – fast – then faster and faster. The hour hand followed trying to catch up.
The darn thing is demon possessed!
It traveled around covering every hour of the day, until it came to the hour it was and the hour hand stopped like it hit a brick wall. The minute hand began slowing down, slower and slower until it ticked its way to the actual minute it was! (How do I know, you ask? Well, I turned on my trusty cell phone and -Yup! Right on the money!)
The giant, solar-powered computer in the sky was keeping it on track!
I went around the house and set every clock to it.
“Okay, so what?” you say?
Well, I got to thinking – it’s kinda like me, isn’t it?
I try to keep myself powered up and adjusted to the place I think I should be, and I either ‘forget to wind’ myself, ‘overwind‘ myself, can’t manage those little knobs and buttons of my life and personality and end up broken. Inaccurate – stalled – or experiencing a power failure, ending out of control, flashing mindlessly and useless to anyone needing me!
I found that I’m not good at being my own power source – can’t really wind my own controls or set myself.
But, by allowing the ‘solar-power’ in the sky to power me and to adjust me – spinning my hands around – clearing out all the inaccuracies in my heart and mind – until I’m powered up, accurate and running “like a clock”.
The Master Clock is in control and I get the proper instruction and after spinning my gears round and round, I run precisely and perfectly.
I just needed the right power source and the right master clock and I’m running in sync with life.
Kinda feels cool to be in sync with the master clock – wouldn’t you think? Give it a try – you may like it.
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are
Posted in Christianity, DK's Journal, Life, Living, Persecution, Things to Ponder, tagged character, christianity, dklevick, God, life, middle east, overcoming, peace, persecution on September 26, 2013 | 1 Comment »
“I want to welcome you all. Joining us today on our panel, we have…
…from our Nation’s Capital – Senator Puff N’ strut;
…from the National Mis-Media Association we have Anchor person “I Tell it my Way”
…and our returning champion, straight from the heart of America, Prosperity Pastor, ‘Ain’t I Righteous!”
“Okay, let’s get started then.
For our first category, the answer is:
“The one thing Syria, Iraq, Libya, Turkey, Pakistan, Eritea, Tanzania, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and many other countries throughout Africa and the Middle East, have in common.”
“Senator Puff N’ Strut rang in first.”
“Receiving billions of American dollars to support and promote corrupt, deceptive terrorist governments?”
“No, while that may be true Senator, that’s not the answer.”
“Anchor woman ‘I Tell it my Way’.”
“Oppressive governments overturned by democratic patriots spreading freedom.”
“I’m sorry but that’s not the right answer.”
“Pastor ‘Ain’t I Righteous!’ did you want to ring in?”
“Would someone nudge Pastor Righteous please?”
“Huh? What? Oh, sorry, was counting my blessings. Would you repeat the answer please?”
“The one thing Syria, Iraq, Libya, Turkey, Pakistan, Eritrea, Tanzania, Egypt, Kenya , Nigeria, and many other countries throughout Africa and the Middle East, have in common.”
“Oh yes! Hallaleulah! The question is: “Name countries we can gain funding for. Now you can donate on my website and I’ll send you a handkerchief dipped in the River Jordan and …”
Do you know what the question is? Here, I’ll tell you:
“Where are people, having a common belief, being systematically killed or driven out of their homes, while the world looks the other way?”
- A Catholic priest was killed outside a church in Egypt.
- In the town of Arusha last May an attack left one person dead and 40 injured.
- The body of a Christian merchant was found decapitated in a cemetery.
- A Coptic Christian priest was shot by gunmen in an outdoor market.
- Muslim extremists in southern Egypt burned dozens of Christian homes and stabbed four believers to death.
- A suicide attack on a historic Christian church in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 75 people.
- Eritrean authorities arrested 39 high school students because of their faith in Christ. Morning Star News reported that the students have been detained and suffer beatings. They face a long imprisonment unless they renounce Christ.
- An estimated 1,200 Christians, mostly Protestant, are currently incarcerated in Eritrea because of their faith.
- A brutal public murder of three Catholics in Syria, was attended by a cheering crowd.
- Muslims in southern Egypt killed two Christian men for failing to pay them money.
- A Christian Alawite girl was pulled off a public bus by armed jihadist and was beheaded in broad daylight.
- Muslim extremists in Somalia burned dozens of Christian homes, raping, stabbing and hacking to death those Christians who resisted fleeing.
- More than 130 churches have been burned and destroyed along with hundreds of people murdered by machetes in Egypt.
- In the Sinai, a young Coptic priest was shot dead, while the body of Magdy Lam‘i Habib, a Christian, was found mutilated and beheaded.
- In the town of Arusha an attack left one person dead and 40 injured.
- Al-Qaeda linked terrorists initiated one of the bloodiest church attacks in Baghdad with nearly 60 Christians hacked and slaughtered to death.
- In the recent mall attack in Kenya, Christians were signaled out and killed.
- Thousands of fathers, mothers, pastors and citizens are imprisoned, tortured and being brutally mistreated, because they won’t recant their faith.
The list goes on and on and on and…
…and the world – yawns.
The greatest persecution in history is occurring right this minute – right before the world’s eyes. Over 100 million Christians are being persecuted for their faith across the earth. Entire communities and villages are being erased off the map. Children are slaughtered in front of their parents or taken away to serve as ‘sex slaves’ for the very people doing the killing.
A global religious cleansing is underway, with the full support and blessings of religious and political leaders. It has become difficult in the last few months to keep up with the attacks—so many and nonstop are the reports emanating from around the world. Grizzly stories of murders, rapes, and beheadings are increasingly appearing in the news. It seems everywhere Christians and their churches are under attack. As a result, ancient Christian communities are collapsing before our very eyes and the Christian population in the Middle East has shrunk from 20% in 2007 to 5% in 2012 – that’s a 75% decrease in population!
In the face of this humanitarian mega-crisis, the world has been shockingly silent.
Don’t look to our panel for help.
Oh …Okay…if you insist…let’s look:
Let’s see, who was our first contestant? Right – Senator Puff N’Strut – government…right.
There was a time when our government – we the people – would stand up and say “That’s enough! No more!” But, that time is not today. Actually, our government is part of the problem. Consider:
- The president supported the take-over by the (now ousted) Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt against the will of the majority of Egyptians. Morsi’s misrule of Egypt included the persecution and execution of Christians, the collapse of the tourism industry, a government on the verge of bankruptcy, and a crackdown on democracy-promoting organizations.
- None of these conditions existed before the President helped force former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak out of office. Instead of using the over $1 billion in foreign aid the U.S. gives the country as leverage for improving conditions in Egypt, the President handed the money (our money) over with no strings attached.
- Since then, not only have Egypt’s Christians and churches come under intense attack in ways unprecedented in modern history, but Al-Qaeda’s black flag has been raised on many of them.
- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., says the United States should stop funding the enemies of Christians across the Middle East. Paul said Christians in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt are on the run and are being persecuted, and America should stop helping “the people who are chasing them.”
“There’s a war on Christianity not just from the liberal elites here at home, but worldwide,” he said. “And your government, or more correctly you, are having to pay for it. You’re being taxed to send money to countries that are not only intolerant to Christians but openly hostile,” he charged. “Christians are imprisoned or threatened with death for their beliefs.”
“It angers me to see my tax dollars supporting regimes that put Christians to death for blasphemy against Islam, countries that put to death Muslims who convert to Christianity, and countries that imprison anyone who marries outside their religion. I say no more money to countries that are doing that to Christians,” Paul said.
Hey! Maybe there is hope from the government after all!
- Defense officials announced that U.S. aid to Egypt would continue, with a delivery of F-16 fighter jets.
- President Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have been pushing Congress to allow the United States to help the Syrian rebel movement, which includes al Qaeda terrorists.
- Christians are killed and churches are burned in Egypt; Christians are either killed or systematically driven out of the country in Syria, Turkey, Nigeria, Iraq, etc. etc., and the President has decided the major humanitarian issue is homosexual rights in Russia.
- On NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” Jay Leno asked the President about the new Russian law. The president gave his sternest look —somewhere between the “al Qaeda is on the run” look and his “Iran will not be allowed to have nuclear weapons” look — and he said he has “no patience and will not tolerate countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”
Gee – I don’t recall any transgenders getting publicly beheaded. Wouldn’t it be neat if he was equally as impatient with countries that kill Christians?
- Next door in Syria, the President is planning to train and arm the rebels fighting Bashar Assad. These are the rebel known for the public beheading of a Catholic priest and the burning Christian churches and Christians.
- Libya is another war-torn state that had the dubious benefit of the President’s ”leading from behind.” You recall Libya right? There, our ambassador and three American heroes were murdered as part of the festivities in connection with a 9/11 anniversary celebration in Benghazi. Our leaders said it was because of a video. Not only was that not true – but who cares what the cause was – right? Well, a year later the murderers are still, not only free but unidentified and there’s been so many lies and distortions that the President’s pledge to bring them to justice is as hollow as his Secretary of State’s denial of wrongdoing .
Meanwhile the killing and displacement of Christians continues without constraint.
Whoops! I guess there’s no help there.
Our second contestant is National Mis-Media Association’s, anchor person ‘I tell it my way’.
Do we need to even say anything?
The average joe citizen on the street has no knowledge of the things mentioned above. You see, the press has already decided what’s important for the average joe to know, even before the news is made. Besides the average joe doesn’t want to know.
He’s too busy texting – playing Candy Crunch – getting high or watching his 401k.
What’s happening in America’s newsrooms is not a slippery slope – it’s an avalanche of misinformation. no information or useless information, while ignoring any and all the news of the world that is changing all around us and the average joe has his head buried in the sands of ‘self’. It’s a perpetual whirlpool, sucking the willing and unwilling alike down into an abyss of nothingness.
And that brings us to our third and final contestant – Prosperity Pastor, “Ain’t I righteous’.
Surely, he cares and will stand up for his ‘brothers and sisters’ across the world. After all, there are thousands of churches and millions of ‘Christians’ spread across the country.
They love Jesus and Jesus was all about love of our fellow men – and these are his brothers and sisters – who better to care – right?
Ah, at last, we find a champion for the world’s persecuted Christians. Let’s all stand up and shout with joy!!
Let’s demand our government – our corporations – our banks and organizations of mercy and humanitarian aid rise up and make their voices and muscles heard for justice.
Let’s march – protest – shout out our voices to the world!
Hello? Is anyone out there?
Oh, he left?
What’s that? He left us a message? Great! What is it? He said:
“Ain’t I blessed!”
I have a question for you: Tell me – will America wake up or is it too late?
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are
Posted in DK's Journal, Grief, Inspirations, Life, Living, Things to Ponder, Uncategorized, tagged bible, character, dklevick, God, grief, life, mystery, overcoming, peace on September 17, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Overcoming Tragedy is never Easy – And sometimes – it doesn’t happen.
Everyone is familiar with the Biblical story of Terah – hearing the voice of God telling him to leave his home and find the Land of Promise (Canaan).
It’s a great story. Terah became Teraham and is called the “Father of Israel”. It’s a story that inspires each of us to persevere and keep our vision in sight.
Oh! I’m sorry – that was Abram – wasn’t it? Yes, that’s right – Abram, who became Abraham and is called the “Father of Israel”.
But, then who was Terah?
How many of us know the story of Terah?
Hmmm – would you like to hear it? Ok. I’ll be short.
There once was a man called Terah. He lived in the land of Ur or the Chaldeans (that’s an ancient land over by Mesopotamia – what we’d call the Middle East today). Here, you can read the story yourself - you’ll find it in the Book of Genesis (that’s the first book in the Bible).
“Now these are the records of the generations of Terah..Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran; and Haran became the father of Lot. Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans. Abram and Nahor took wives for themselves… Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans in order to enter the land of Canaan; and they went as far as Haran, and settled there…and Terah died in Haran.” Genesis 11:27-32 NASB
Well that’s it. That’s the story. What do you think?
Oh – you didn’t get it? Missed it? Here – let me help.
You see, in the first verse of the next chapter Abram hears the voice telling him to leave and go to the land of Canaan.
Terah was Abram’s father and he heard the voice first! He took his family and left the land of Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan.
But he didn’t make it. He died in the land of Haran.
Look at what happened – Haran, “died in the presence of his father…” Something happened that caused Terah’s son – Haran – to die right in front of him. We don’t know what it was, but, knowing the times it was then, there’s a good chance it was something violent – something bad – that gave Terah enough grief and pain, that when the ‘voice’ came telling him to go to Canaan – he left.
But, whether bad luck – or an evil presence – or whatever you may think it was, he journeyed through the land of Haran!
Did you get that? A land having the same name as his dead son had! And, it was too much for him to get over! It brought back all the pain and grief and he couldn’t leave. He settled in the land of Haran – he settled in his grief – in the memories of his dead son – and he died there.
He couldn’t get over the grief inside and because of that he never reached the land of Canaan. He never became the “Father of Israel”. The “call” went to his son, Abram, and he became the “Father of Israel”.
And tragedy and grief will find each of us at some time in our journey through life – and it’s a guarantee that somewhere – somehow – sometime – we’ll find ourselves in the land of Haran and forced to face it again.
Will we give up and die there?
Or will we gather ourselves together, face it and move on – and reach our vision – our land of Canaan?
Just remember – when you’re in the land of Haran – there is a land of Canaan. It’s waiting for you. You can reach it.
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are
Posted in DK's Journal, Inspirations, Land, Life, Things to Ponder, Uncategorized, tagged character, community, creation, dklevick, life, mystery, nature, peace, Redwoods, trees on September 10, 2013 | 7 Comments »
The glory and splendor of a tree is an awesome sight.
You know what I’m saying. We’ve all been there, standing in awe, gazing up, marveling upon a tall, straight, full tree as it sways in the breeze, gently singing its soothing song of peace and goodness to the land. The creatures of the earth and birds of all sizes, designs and colors finding refuge in its thick, life-sustaining foliage.
We look upon the Maple – the Beech – the Sycamore and the mighty Oak as they rise upwards – 60 – 80 – even a hundred feet towards the light, and we marvel at their strength and beauty. They stand firm and steady against the winds, rains and hails that batter them. Their roots go down deep into the ground, 20 -40 even 80 feet to anchor them securely to the earth, holding them tight against the storms of life.
They stand alone – firmly and confidently.
But, even with such strength and depth, sometimes, under the power of the assault, they bend and give – their roots slowly breaking apart from the earth and when the storm blows hard, even those deep roots cannot bear the strain and they pull up from the earth and a mighty tree falls, crashing to the ground in a loud, agonizing roar of despair. And the world groans.
Towering above all other trees, straight and majestic, rise the Sequoia Redwoods. They stretch upwards, reaching high into the heavens. Not 80, not a 100, not even 200 feet, but over 300 feet they rise! Greater than the length of a football field! Imagine laying a single tree across the entire length of the Super Bowl and then raising it up to reach into the sky.
Some reach into the heavens taller than the Statue of Liberty, exceeding heights of 375 feet. They obtain massive circumferences with diameters in excess of twenty feet; laden with heavy, coarse bark 20 inches thick that defies modern engineering by miraculously pumping over 250 gallons of water a day upwards into the heights to feed its rich foliage in the heavens.
Not only are they the tallest trees in the world – they are the largest living things in the world, and they live for hundreds – even thousands of years.
When the storms come, they are the first and the last to be battered. Rising above all those below, they receive the strongest attack – feel the harshest assault as the winds and gales toss and rip at their crowning heads, bending them to the power of their might. Smaller trees, far below, bend, crack, snap and break, pulling out from the earth, not able to withstand the rage and fury of the storm.
When the storm subsides – the Redwood stands firm and proud, rejoicing in its glory.
Why does this giant of the earth not succumb to the storm?
How does it remain standing two – three – even four times taller than those that could not bear the storm’s fury?
The answer can only lie in its roots – which must go deeper into the earth than all the other trees. Ah! There is a lesson for us here! In order to become strong we must reach deep into the earth, clinging hard to withstand the storms of this world.
But – upon examination – we are in awe – we are dumbfounded – we are aghast!
The roots only go into the earth four – five – six feet. They are shallow – This massive monster of nature, towering over 300 feet and weighting over 3,000,000 pounds – is anchored to the earth by a mere five feet! How can this be? It defies logic – physics - engineering – and life as we understand it.
What is its secret to survival and majesty?
So we look closer and we find the secret – it was there all along.
The roots, although not deep, spread out hundreds of feet around the tree. They intertwine, tangle, knot and lock with the roots of the other trees around it, that are doing the same thing, until for miles it’s a single woven mat of thick, living roots. They support and hold one another firmly in place. If one weakens, the others grab and lock themselves around it to hold it and keep it upright.
But there’s more. The roots actually begin fusing together, forming common roots that share, feed and give life to one another.
Once established – the Redwood tree is not solitary – stand-alone but is part of a community – united – bound together – supporting and sustaining one another. Only internal decay within a tree can destroy it.
I wonder – what would our world be like – if we were Redwoods?
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies : thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Psalms 23 verse 5 KJV
We each face those times.
You know the ones. Where we go through some very difficult times and it’s very easy to allow those times to pull us down and push us deep into a quicksand of despair and despondency…
…there’s also a time to get over the gloom and doom and hold our heads up high!
And That’s a SHOUTING MOMENT!
God is pictured as caring for us so much that in the midst of the forces of evil that attempt to destroy our life and soul, He is preparing a table for us!
In the very presence of our enemies!
They can’t see what is happening right in front of their eyes. They think we’re done in– washed up – down and out.
But a table is being prepared – right in their presence!
They only see the process we went through to get here and they think it’s all over.
Our faith in God tells us otherwise.
The Pharisees and Sadducees only saw the crucifixion – they didn’t see the Ascension into heaven!
“Eyes have not seen and ears have not heard….”
There is an anointing coming on our heads. This means God’s blessing will be poured out on us by the Holy Spirit, and a cup that runneth over will be given to us. This refers to the shepherd’s cup, that was a hollowed out stone and held 30 to 50 gallons of water and which the sheep drank.
This is a shouting moment!
So lift your heads and rejoice in the Lord!
Rejoice – rejoice – rejoice
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are
Posted in Historical Trails, History, Inspirations, tagged adventure, blondin, character, daredevils, gorge, hermit of niagara, historical fiction, Journeys Across Niagara, life, niagara, niagara falls, river, stunts, tightrope, wallenda on June 19, 2012 | 4 Comments »
This past Friday, June 15th, the great Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls.
He is the first person to ever walk across Niagara Falls, but there is an exciting and sometimes tainted history of men and women who have challenged Niagara over the years.
In tribute to Wallenda’s feat, I’ m posting a short history of them that I had written a year ago.
Sit back and Enjoy the trip!
Ahhh – Niagara, nature’s majestic triumph,
God’s glorious gift to humanity,
Home of those….
CRAZY MEN AND WOMEN IN TIGHTS!
For strange – unknown reasons, NIAGARA has been (and remains) a mystic magnet, pulling in people who have thoughts of fame and fortune or just plain weird and crazy thoughts about becoming a part of the drama of the mighty cataracts – and some fulfill their dream and remain forever in Niagara’s lore (and depths).
“The pictures we liked the best (meaning those we argued the most about) were of those daredevils who’d done those bad-ass tricks and stunts over the Falls. While those pictures were exciting, they made us feel cheated as well, because the cops didn’t let anyone do cool things like that anymore.” Kevin; ‘Journeys Across Niagara‘
Beginning in 1827 (see “the ‘Pirate’ ship, the buffalo and the loss of innocence”) and right up to the present, people have challenged Niagara. Whether it’s the surging brink itself, the powerful whirlpool, the steep walls of the gorge above or the raging rapids below – there’s been a steady stream of human fodder offering themselves to the water god in exchange for a moment of glory. Cowabunga!!
The age of the Niagara stuntmen had begun!
And Niagara would never be the same again as men attempted to shrink Niagara to mere background to their feats of daring and danger. But did they? Since 1827 there are at least 81 documented ‘Niagara Daredevils’ with hundreds of individual feats of bravery – valor or sheer stupidityy, since that time. Have they demeaned and shrunk Niagara?
Let’s take a look at a few of them:
When the mighty ‘pirate’ ship “Michigan” was sent to its destruction over the Horseshoe Falls in 1827, standing in the crowds was a diminutive, young man of 20, named Sam Patch. Sam was intrigued by the thousands of people come out to witness the massacre of the ‘animal‘ crew and he shaped his destiny to become Niagara’s first stuntman.
On the 17th of October, two years following the ‘Michigan’s‘ destruction, the 22 year old jumped off a platform, 130 feet high, set up below Goat Island, into the base of the Horseshoe Falls.
He survived. (Too bad, if he would have failed perhaps it all would have stopped there and then - not!)
Having to make the same decision all men face (to work for a living or not) Ol’ Sam chose the ‘not‘ and toured the country with his hand out. The cyber-age having not arrived yet, there was a shortage of digital cameras, websites, and IMAX screens, leaving him with only his mouth to promote the mighty leap. In 1829, most people didn’t know what Niagara Falls was yet (actually Niagara wasn’t labeled yet but was the ‘great falls by the City of Falls‘, now there’s some great imagination at work).
Just a month after his jump into Niagara, on November 6, 1829 he attempted a shorter jump of 100 feet from the Genesee Falls in Rochester, New York.
Of course there’s the ‘Hermit of Niagara’ - but that’s another story for another day. He wasn’t a daredevil – he was just crazy is all. Let’s jump to…
…Captain Matthew Web - the first person to swim across the English Channel in 1875. Oh, how the English press raved! He could swim anything, anywhere, anytime. Niagara? Phefff – what’s a Niagara?
Born in Shropshire, England in 1848, he was the recipient of a gold medal from the Royal Humane Society of Great Britain for jumping off the steamer “Russia” to save a sailor who had been washed over board.
Webb came to Niagara Falls during the Summer of 1883 boasting to challenge the Niagara River. He had been promised a $2,000 reward if he swam the Niagara River Whirlpool Rapids.
On July 24, 1883 he was rowed from the Maid of the Mist landing and he slipped into the water downstream from the thunderous Falls to begin his swim through the Whirlpool Rapids. He made mighty strokes and showed the form that conquered the English Channel as he swam through the rapids in just two minutes. He truly was a great swimmer.
From there things didn’t go too well. At the vortex of the Whirlpool - he disappeared.
His body surfaced four days later between Lewiston and Youngstown
“Some of those pictures were of men and women who had gone over the Falls in contraptions they called “barrels” but which usually didn’t look anything like a barrel. Just some old fart standing next to some gizmo called a barrel, staring at the camera with bug eyes in his long underwear like a zombie. Big deal—bo-r-ring.” Kevin; Bridges – a Tale of Niagara
In 1886, Niagara Falls witnessed its first barrel stunt. Carlisle D. Graham, an English cooper (that’s a barrel maker for you generation ‘Xers). Graham had made a five and a half-foot barrel of oaken staves and handmade iron hoops he planned to house himself in for a trip down the rapids.
On Sunday July 11th 1886 Graham began his trip from what is now the Whirlpool Bridge through the great gorge rapids and the whirlpool. Graham stood six feet tall had to stoop over once inside the barrel to allow the water tight lid to be screwed into place (why didn’t he make a six foot barrel?).
The initial trip took 30 minutes. Graham survived but had become extremely ill from the ride.
Carlisle Graham made a second trip on August 19th. Graham survived but sustained serious hearing loss. The next day, James Scott, of Lewiston, New York attempted to swim the rapids and lost his life.
Graham made three more trips through the rapids in a newly designed seven foot long barrel. He nearly suffocated after getting caught in a whirlpool in his last trip.
On September 6th 1901, Graham loaned his barrel (was there a waiting line?) to Martha Wagenfuhrer of Buffalo, New York. Miss Wagenfuhrer became the first woman to successfully navigate the rapids and whirlpool alone.
On September 7th 1901, Graham arranged a double performance with friend Maude Willard of Canton, Ohio. Willard would ride the barrel through the rapids to the Whirlpool and then both she and Graham would swim the rest of the way to Lewiston.
Ms. Willard entered the barrel with her pet dog for the journey through the rapids. As the barrel reached the Whirlpool it became stranded for six hours. When recovered, Maude was dead. Her pet dog jumped out of the barrel uninjured. The dog survived the ordeal by putting its nose to the only air hole the barrel had allowing the dog to breathe which resulted in Maude suffocating to death.
(As a side note, in 1886, Carlisle Graham offered $10 to anyone willing to retrieve his barrel from the Whirlpool following his daredevil stunt ride. James Scott accepted the offer. Scott made a practice jump into the water at the Whirlpool. Scott failed to resurface.)
And so, in October 1901, the 63-year-old school teacher did just that and was the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel (canoes don’t count).
After exiting the barrel, she said, “No one should ever try that again.”
She didn’t and she didn’t make any money neither. While she made some meager dollars posing for photographs and selling pieces of her barrel, her manager took her for everything she owned and left her ‘high and dry’.
Bobby Leach On July 25, 1911, became the second person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. As he went over he was heard singing, “Anything you can do, I can do better….”
Bobby Leach was a circus stuntman in England. He announced his intention of becoming the first person to complete the “triple challenge” of Niagara: (a triple-dog dare)
1.) making a barrel trip through the rapids to the whirlpool,
2.) parachuting from the Upper Suspension Bridge into the river upstream of the rapids. (Did they invent parachutes before airplanes?)
3) going over the Great Falls in a barrel.
On July 1st 1908, Leach jumped off the Upper Steel Arch Bridge using a parachute - 1 down.
In 1910, Leach returned to Niagara Falls to ride the barrel through the Great Gorge Rapids to the Whirlpool. Leach had attached an anchor to his barrel (?) but it got stuck in the rocks (duh!) and was cut. Leach’s barrel bounced from rock to rock through the rapids before becoming stuck in an eddy in the Whirlpool. William “Red” Hill Sr. (more about him later) risked his life swimming to Leach’s barrel and dragging it into shore. Leach was removed from the barrel unconscious.
Liking the limelight, ‘Red’ Hill climbed into the barrel and rode it through the lower rapids to Queenston.
During that summer, Leach made the successful trip through the Whirlpool Rapids. - 2 down – 1 to go.
Riding inside an eight foot steel drum, on July 25th 1911, Bobby Leach took eighteen minutes to reach the brink of the Horseshoe Falls before going over. The barrel became stuck in the river at the base of the falls before Fred Bender tied a rope around his waist and swam to the barrel and tied a rope to it. Leach was removed from the drum and rushed to the hospital suffering from two broken knee caps and a broken jaw.
He spent six months in the hospital recovering and then went on a publicity for his mighty deed.
In New Zealand (of all places?) he slipped on an orange peel.
Go figure – he died.
THE TIGHTROPE WALKERS
There seemed a special attraction for watching those daring souls venture across the gorge on a thin wire rope. It was a nonstop stream of ‘rope walkers’ doing crazy things over Niagara.
“The good pictures were of those guys who walked across the gorge on tightrope. Of course, they weren’t ropes at all but wires (why didn’t they call them “tightwires”?), and everyone always said those guys walked across Niagara Falls, but I’d never seen a picture of anyone doing that. It was always the gorge they walked across, away from the Falls. No matter, these guys were amazing. They did everything out there on those wires, suspended over the middle of the gorge with that wild river below them.” Kevin, Journeys Across Niagara
(Well, now we know that’s no longer true – on June 15, 2012 Wallenda ‘tightwired’ across Niagara! Let’s trace his forerunners.
Jean Francois Gravelot, better know as “The Great Blondin” was the most famous of them all. He was born February 28th 1824 in St. Omer, Pas de Calais in Northern France.
Blondin came to Niagara in early 1858. He was obsessed with crossing the Niagara River on a tightrope and on June 30th 1859, he successfully walked over the river. He utilized a 1,100 foot long – 3 inch diameter manila rope stretched from what is now Prospect Park in Niagara Falls, New York to what is now Oakes Garden in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
During the summer of 1859, Blondin completed eight more crossings. He crossed carrying his manager, Harry Colcord, on his back.
During the summer of 1860, Blondin returned to Niagara for a second successful year of tight rope walking across the Niagara River for hundreds of thousands of sightseers. His acts included pushing a wheelbarrow along as he crossed and cooking breakfast on a stove, lowering it to guests on the Maid of the Mist below.
Thousands jammed the shores and climbed the trees - hoping to see him fall.
He never did.
The crowds actually became despondent and upset with him that he didn’t fall. What’s the matter with him – didn’t he know how to entertain?
Blondin died in 1897 at the age of 73 years.
William Leonard Hunt was born Lockport, New York in 1838. During the early summer of 1860, a young 22 year old Hunt watched intently from the shore of the Niagara Gorge as the Great Blondin made his way across on a wire. Hunt turned to his girlfriend and boasted that he could do that too. She laughed. That night, Hunt gave notice to his employer (his girl friend’s father!) that he was quitting to pursue a career as a rope walker in order to challenge Blondin. His girlfriend immediately broke off their engagement (think daddy had anything to do with that?).
William Hunt changed his name to Signor Guillermo Antonio Farini (couldn’t go wrong now) and he left his home in Port Hope after his father accused him of being a disgrace to his family by becoming a circus performer (“whats the matta for you?”).
He joined the Dan Rice’s floating circus on the Mississippi River and was reunited with his family after buying his father a farm (he made him an offer he couldn’t refuse).
He issued a series of challenges to Blondin but they went unanswered. Blondin was a polished acrobat however ‘Farini’ was a much more powerful performer and a much better businessman. Blondin usually took a collection at the end of each performance while ‘Farini’ marketed and ticketed his performances to ensure financial success.
His first performance at Niagara Falls occurred on August 15th 1860. ‘Farini‘ began the tightrope walk while carrying a balancing pole and an additional coil of rope strapped to his back. When he reached the mid-point he tied the pole to the tightrope and using the coil of rope he carried with him, Farini lowered himself to the deck of the Maid of the Mist boat 200 feet below.
Getting down was relatively easy. On the deck of the boat, he drank a glass of wine before ascending back to the tightrope above. This task was much more demanding than he had anticipated and he was near total exhaustion and nearly fell on several occasions. But he did make it back to the tightrope, and continued to the shoreline. After a brief ten minute rest, he made the return crossing blindfolding and wearing baskets on his feet. He would quickly become known as “The Great Farini”.
Blondin did not try to equal this feat.
In the weeks that followed, Farini matched or surpassed each of Blondin’s performances. He balanced himself on his head, hung from the tightrope by his toes and carried a person across on his back. On September 5th 1860, Farini carried an Irish washer woman across the gorge on his back.
Farini had a passion (but still no girlfriend).
Farini performed at Niagara Falls twice each week. Although his acts were more daring and drew larger crowds, he never received the attention and press coverage that Blondin received.
For Farini, tightrope walking was but one of his many interests throughout his life. During his life he was an inventor, an explorer, writer, secret service agent, painter and sculptor. During the American Civil War, Farini was a member of the Secret Service for the Confederate Army.
In 1864, Farini attempted another death defying feat. Wearing a pair of specially made stilts, he waded out into the cascading water just above the American Falls. Farini planned to walk to the brink of the Falls on the stilts but one of the legs got caught in a crevice in the riverbed causing it to break. Farini suffered a badly injured leg but was still able to reach Robinson Island which is nearest the Luna Falls. Here he was rescued. Farini left Niagara Falls defeated, deflated and de-dollared.
The Great Farini retired to Canada in 1899 where he took up the art of oil painting.
William Leonard Hunt, aka: The Great Farini died in January of 1929 at the age of 91 years. The Great Farini was one of the worlds greatest tightrope walkers ever, but to this day remains hidden behind the mystique of Blondin.
And of course – let’s not forget Maria…..
“There was one picture that Chuck didn’t like at all. It was another picture of a daredevil walking on a tightrope, just like the others, but that’s where the similarities ended. Two things made this picture different. First, the daredevil had a wooden bucket on each foot. As unbelievable as this way, it was the second difference that outraged Chuck to no end—the daredevil was a girl.” Kevin, ‘Journeys Across Niagara’
Signorina Maria Spelterini (also spelled as Spelterina) was a buxom, beautiful woman of Italian descent, famous for wearing outrageous costumes. Her stunts included walking with her feet in baskets and performing wearing shackles and chains.
She was the first woman to ever walk cross the Niagara Gorge (as far as I know, she was the only woman too).
Many of her stunts were done at the age of 23, as part of the celebration of the United States Centennial in 1876. Her final crossing was on July 26th 1876.
Her personal life remains a mystery. The date and place of her death are unknown.
Note in the pictures above that in one she is wearing a hat and in the other she is not – obvious proof that she walked across at least twice with buckets on her feet.
Also note the Suspension Bridge in the background, jammed full of people watching. This is the bridge that ‘Lizzie’ and her ‘mammy’ escaped across to the:
“lan o’ plenty – where the colored man be free.” Mother Moses, ‘Journeys Across Niagara
An exciting, yet relatively unknown feat was done in 1846 involving the famous ‘Maid of the Mist’. The first Maid of the Mist was launched on May 27th 1846 and was not a joy ride but was a ferry, being the only method to cross the border. In 1848, when the first suspension bridge was built, the ferry was no longer required.
What to do? Fold or change?
The Maid of the Mist ferry boat service became a tourist boat attraction.
And it was so popular, on July 14th 1854, a larger boat, the Maid of the Mist II was launched. It was a single smoke stacked 72 foot long steam propelled paddle wheeler. But alas, in 1861, due to the impending American Civil War, the Maid of the Mist was sold at public auction was sold to a Canadian Company. That is, providing the boat could be delivered to Lake Ontario. The Maid of the Mist would have to be navigated through the Great Gorge Rapids, the Whirlpool and the Lower Rapids prior to delivery.
The thought was mind boggling and terrifying. Who would do it?
On June 6th 1861, 53 year old Captain Joel Robinson along with two deck hands, began the perilous journey. His engineer, James Jones tended the boiler, ensuring maximum power was available. With the shores lined with people come to watch and with a short blast of the whistle, Captain Robinson and crew rode the Maid of the Mist through one of the world’s most wild and dangerous white water rapids.
The first giant wave, threw the men to the deck of the wheel house and ripped the smoke stack from the boat. Engineer Jones was thrown to the floor of the engine room and the boat was now at the mercy of the mountainous waves crashing against and over the tiny boat. Carried by the water at 39 miles per hour through the rock strewn rapids, the Maid was propelled into the Whirlpool. The tranquility of the Whirlpool allowed Captain Robinson to regain control of his boat.
Captain Robinson struggled to break the Maid from the grip of the Whirlpool before challenging the dreaded Devil’s Hole Rapids. The Captain Robinson did the best he could to steer through the channel with his damaged vessel.
Being motivated by a five hundred dollar reward, the Captain and his crew had accomplished something no one had done before and thought impossible. But at a price – the frightening experience caused Captain Robinson to give up a career that he loved. He retired into near seclusion and died two years later at the age of 55 years
Stephen Peer was born in Stamford Township and was 19 years old when Blondin performed his first tight rope walk in Niagara Falls. He signed on to become an assistant to Henry Bellini (another ‘wire walker’) by helping Bellini string the rope across the gorge.
Peer made his first public appearance using Bellini’s equipment but without obtaining Bellini’s consent - not cool.
Bellini tried to stop Peer by trying to cut the rope, with Peer on it.
Bellini was chased out of town.
Peer became famous enough to begin performing under his own billing. But on June 25th 1887, Stephen Peer was found dead laying on the bank of the Niagara river directly below his wire cable. It is speculated that Peer tried an unscheduled night crossing, on a dare, after an evening of drinking.
On May 30th 1930, a crowd estimated at twenty-five thousand lined both sides of the Niagara River to witness a spectacular feat performed by legendary river man “Red” Hill. Born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, now at the age of 42, Hill was going to fulfil his promise to run the Great Gorge Rapids and the Whirlpool from the docks of the Maid of the Mist.
Hill Sr.’s barrel was of steel construction, six feet long and three feet in diameter with a manhole for entry. There were air holes on the sides of the barrel with were plugged with cork to allow them to be opened in an emergency. It was weighted by a steel keel consisting of a section of railroad track. The barrel was painted bright red with gold lettering with “William Red Hill, Master Hero of Niagara” inscribed on the sides.
On May 30th 1930, Hill climbed into the barrel and set off on his journey. It took one hour and forty minutes caught in the back eddies before the river released his barrel, allowing it to enter the rapids. In ninety seconds he was through and in the whirlpool, where it became stuck in the vortex. It was three and a half hours before his friends were able to free the barrel so he could resume the journey through the final set of rapids.
He suffered a few minor bruises and the next day went back to work driving a taxi.
This was actually Hill’s second trip through the rapids. His first trip occurred in 1910 using the barrel of Bobby Leach. On Memorial Day 1931, he made a third trip using the barrel of George Strathakis, who had died in the barrel while attempting to go over the Falls.
Red Hill Sr. had officially been credited with saving the lives of twenty-eight persons from drowning. He received more lifesaving awards from the Canadian Government than any man before or since.
Red Hill Sr. was the foremost expert in the knowledge of the rivers treacherous tides, undertows, whirlpool and eddies. He had grown up near the gorge and it was his playground. During his lifetime, Red Hill Sr. recovered the bodies of one hundred and seventy-seven persons who had died from accidents or suicides.
Hill Sr. spent the waning years of his life showing off his barrel and selling pictures of himself in a souvenir store. On May 14th 1942, William Red Hill Sr. at the age of 54 years, died of a heart attack.
William “Red” Hill Jr. felt compelled to fill the shoes of his father.
He had helped on most of his fathers twenty-eight rescues. He helped his father in the recovery of 117 of 177 corpse recovered. On his own Red Hill Jr. pulled another 28 dead bodies from the river. He twice made the strenuous and dangerous swim from the base of the American Falls to the Canadian shore and he twice rode the Great Gorge Rapids and Whirlpool in a barrel.
Red Hill Jr. acquired fame but the fortune eluded him. A month after his second ride, a bailiff seized all of his goods, to include the three famous barrels of the Hill family, for sale at a public auction in order to satisfy his creditors.
On the last Saturday of July 1949, Hill Jr. decided it was time to restore the legend and the financial status and so he challenged the Great Gorge Rapids once again in a torpedo shaped steel barrel. The journey garnered little media coverage and no financial gain and Hill Jr. had to be hauled up the gorge in a basket and hospitalized.
But his dream for a memorial to his father weighed heavily and he planned a ride over the Horseshoe Falls.
Oh, how fickle are the winds of fortune! On August 5th 1951, Red Hill Jr., with no funding, built a cheap ‘barrel’ called “the Thing”. It wasn’t a barrel at all, but rather was a contraption of thirteen large heavy duty inner tubes lashed together with canvas webbing. These were encased in a heavy gauge fish netting.
“The Thing” was launched on the Canadian shoreline approximately three miles upstream from the Horseshoe Falls. With Red Hill Jr. inside, ‘the Thing’ rode through the upper rapids and went over the the Horseshoe falls, was caught under the falls and the pressure of the falling water broke it apart. It was long minutes before pieces of ‘the Thing’ began to surface. There was no sign of Red Hill Jr. Above the thunder of the Falls, Red Hill Jr.’s mother, wife and children frantically called out for him.
The vigil lasted through the night.
His body was found in the morning near the Maid of the Mist dock.
Following a public outcry over his death, a special order to the directors of the Niagara Parks Commission was issued to arrest anyone who commits an act of stunting upon the properties of the Niagara Parks. Since that day, no permission has been granted to allow any stunting within the park.
But, of course, that didn’t stop them…they continued to evade the police and challenge Niagara, some over the brink, some running the rapids, some …. well, you take a look….
There’s few pleasures in life as soothing as a quiet ride in a kayak down a peaceful river with the birds chirping and the fish jumping.
On June 5th 1990, the 28 year old bachelor from Ocoee, Tennessee and an experienced kayaker, attempted to ride over the Horseshoe Falls in a twelve foot long, thirty-six pound polyethylene kayak. Having planned the trip for three years, he brought a crew to video tape his journey.
He confidently had made dinner reservations at the Queenston Park Restaurant, as his plan had been to continue riding the Niagara rapids after he successfully went over the Falls.
Sharp was never seen again.
His body was never recovered.
On October 1st 1995, Robert Overacker, a 39-year-old man from California, went over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls on a single jet ski. Entering the Niagara River near the Canadian Niagara Power Plant, he started skiing toward the Falls. At the brink of the Falls, Overacker ignited a rocket propelled parachute that was strapped to his back. His plan was that the rocket would quickly deploy the parachute allowing him to safely land in to river below the Horseshoe Falls where he could be rescued. Overacker did ignite the rocket which deployed the parachute as planned. Unfortunately as the parachute deployed it fell away from Overacker to the ground below. Unknown to Overacker the parachute was not tethered to his body. The parachute was not packed by Overacker prior to the stunt and he was unaware of this fatal error. His step-brother and a friend witnessed this unfolding tragedy as Overacker fell to his death to the water below the Falls.
Robert Overacker was married and had no children. Overacker became the fifteenth person since 1901 to challenge the Falls.
He paid with his life. His body was recovered by staff at the Maid of the Mist.
So – what do you think?
From jumpers to barrel riders – from rope walkers to skiers – Niagara Falls has attracted them all for almost 200 years. Officials say that they recover an average of 20 people per year who chose Niagara Falls to commit suicide, but there are those who choose to go over the Falls in the name of adventure or fame or fortune.
The Niagara daredevils of today can’t compare to those of years gone past. The power of the mighty Falls has been sucked dry – bled away from the brink to power the unending thirst for electricity. Technology has removed the gadgetry of the daredevil and replaced it with scientific analysis and design. The odds of failure have been greatly reduced.
Daredevils can be best summarized as persons who wish to take conscious risks with their lives. It’s all a question of odds. Some risks are so great that the odds of survival are so little that they become suicidal in nature.
It may be a thin line between being a ‘daredevil’ and being ‘suicidal’. The definition of a daredevil is success. Fail and you’re suicidal – succeed and you’re a daredevil.
The public doesn’t really care – they want to SEE it and hopefully SEE it FAIL! Most spectators come in the anticipation of a deadly outcome. Successful stunts are actually boring.
Want to know more?
‘Google’: ‘Niagara daredevils’ and you’ll find more than enough information and pictures to fill a scrapbook.
or view more pictures at the Historic Niagara Digital Collection
or Read: ‘Niagara Daredevils – Chills and Spills over Niagara Falls ’ by Cheryl MacDonald
or go down and have some ‘dare-deviling’ adventure of your own riding the:
Well – there you have it, all the thrills and chills and kills!
Niagara is a wonder – and it has and always will beckon to the daredevil.
Are you ready?
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are
Posted in Comedy, DK's Journal, Life, Uncategorized, Writing Reflections, tagged adventure, character, fishing, gorge, hermit of niagara, Journeys Across Niagara, life, nature, niagara, niagara falls, outdoors, river, river rat, smallmouth bass on June 8, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Recently, I was asked, “Just what is a river rat, anyway?”
In the fly-leaf of ‘Journeys Across Niagara’, I describe myself as growing up on the Upper Niagara River, as a ‘river rat’—(I didn’t think anyone actually read fly-leafs anymore.)
Well, let’s go to the source for the answer—Wikipedia:
“…a large, herbivorous, semiaquatic rodent and the only member of the family Myocastoridae. Originally native to subtropical and temperate South America, it has since been introduced to North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, primarily by fur ranchers. Although it is still valued for its fur in some regions, its destructive feeding and burrowing behaviors make this invasive species a pest throughout most of its range. There are two commonly used names in the English language for Myocastor coypus. The name “nutria” (or local derivatives such as “nutria- or nutra- rat”) is generally used in North America… In Italy the popular name is “nutria”, but it is also called castorino (“little beaver”), by which its fur is known.”
Quoting from Elvira Woodruff, The Christmas Doll (2000):
“To her horror, she discovered that the rope she was holding was not a rope at all, but a tail. And attached to the tail was a large river rat that scrambled frantically in midair, thrashing to get away.”
Whoa – let’s just wait a minute there fella– ‘a large rodent’?– ‘an invasive pest’? - that ain’t a gonna do it. ’A semiaquatic rat’ called “little beaver”? That’s not what I want on my tombstone. What do they know? Who reads the lousy Wikipedia anyway? And,we all know how shallow internet research is, — don’t we? (see ‘Research-the Writer’s Mantra’).
Let’s check another source – one that understands real people. How about the Urban Dictionary?
“Someone who either lives or represents El Rio, California. Usually low life wannabe gangsters who frequent Wal-Mart stores and attempt to steal sh_ _ only to be caught and think they are bad ass mofos. They start fights only to run away from it.”
Say what? I’m either a hairy wet rodent or a Wal-Mart wannabe gangsta?
Well—how much can a dictionary that calls itself ‘urban’ know anyway? Bet they never even seen a real river.
Ok – let’s go to the master book of definitions itself – Webster’s Merriam Dictionary.
Nothing. No entry – it’s not in the dictionary.
They’re kidding right? Now, I don’t even exist? Wait – here’s something in the Expanded Webster Merriam (so, I do exist – I’m just rare):
“…one who spends his leisure time on or along a river.”
Ok, that’s getting closer, but, it’s rather bland, isn’t it?
Wait a minute…what do we have here? This looks more like it:
“Trademark Search > Trademark Category > Clothing Products > WHAT IS A RIVER RAT? DEFINITION OF A RIVER RAT (RI-VER RAT) N. Mammal, Unique and rare breed. Thrives best on or near water. Usually travels in groups, but may be spotted alone. Capable of consuming mass quantities of adult beverages. Peaceful by nature, respects others, loves life. Heavily concentrated in Louisiana, but can be found worldwide. WARNING: APPROACH WITH CAUTION IF PROVOKED.” Legal Source
Now we’re getting somewhere, or as Betty Bryant wrote in ‘Here Comes the Showboat!’ (1994):
“While other children were learning how to walk, I was learning how to swim, and I knew how to set a trotline, gig a frog, catch a crawfish, and strip the mud vein out of a carp by the time I was four. Dad called me a river rat.”
That a girl, Betty! Ride that boat!
Being a ‘rat’ on the Niagara River (actually it’s not a river at all, but a ‘strait’, see ‘The Niagara River – a Wonder of Creation’) I wasn’t in wonder of the mighty Niagara Falls, located downriver. I feared it greatly, viewing it as a threat—as the ultimate and final judgment for my escapades. More than once, I found myself fighting to escape the swift current, carrying me to that huge, misty cloud ahead, as various capers went astray. Rather than captivating me, like it did the crowds of ’ohhing‘ and ‘ahhing‘ tourists, it scared the living daylights out of me. I’d look downriver and loath that huge cloud on the horizon, knowing that while I tinkered and toyed along the length of the river, it was always there, beckoning and calling to me with open arms to enter its eternal embrace.
Not that I ever did anything stupid, you understand. Things just seemed to happen for no reason of my own. It was the ‘river gods’. They were out to get me. It’s true. I’ll give you an example and you’ll see what I mean. How about an ordinary Bass fishing trip?
The current along the island is fast, around 8 to 12 miles per hour, picking up speed as it approaches the abyss ahead. It’s also home to one of the best Smallmouth Bass drifts in the entire river (some great Musky fishing too). Get in a boat, shoot to the upper tip of the island, put the motor in neutral and drift the length of the island and you’ll tangle with some of the most beautiful three to five-pound smallies anywhere. Great fishing – if you have a boat, but make sure your motor is running - you wouldn’t want to stall here! The picture below shows the downriver end of Grand Island, with Navy Island off to the left and the Falls above it.)
Well, at the time of this fishing trip, I was 16 years wise and did, in fact, have a small, 12 foot aluminum Jon boat with an old, beat up 18 horse outboard on it. It was dinged up pretty bad and wasn’t much as far as boats on the Niagara go, but it worked, and to me it was the Queen Mary luxury liner. Unfortunately, at that time, it was sitting on the bottom of Lake Erie at a place called Sturgeon Point, after a Coast Guard Officer emptied a full clip of .45 hollow point bullets into it (but that’s another story).
Meanwhile, it was the peak of the Smallmouth bite and I was determined not to be left out. I managed to get possession of a 10 foot inflatable rubber raft that had a 3 ½ HP motor on it, a friend used on a small, inland lake. I tested it out – the raft didn’t leak and the motor ran good – so I was going bass fishing.
At daybreak, on the shore of Grand Island, I pumped up the raft with a foot pump, fastened the motor to the mount, loaded up all my gear, and pushed off for Navy Island. It was slow going, cutting across the swift current, to cover the half mile to the upper tip of Navy Island, but I finally made it and was elated and feeling quite pleased with myself that I was going to get in on the fishing. I cast out a chartreuse Mister Twister, topped off with a live crawfish, and got ready for the action as I started the first drift.
It didn’t happen.
Unless I was trolling for birds, the drift was too fast for the lure to sink as it skipped across the surface. I put on a half ounce drop sinker—no go. One ounce – no good. Two ounces – still not working. The inflated raft, riding on top of the surface, having no hull friction below the waterline, skimmed across the surface – like a surfboard catching a wave at Maui. By now, I’d drifted down to the end of the island and it was time to motor back up to start another drift. Those 3 ½ horses barely moved me against the current, but after enough time to read “Crime and Punishment” a couple of times through, I arrived back at the head of the Island, ready for another drift, and – I had a plan. The slow journey back up the river had given me plenty of time to figure out a solution. I untied the anchor rope from the five-pound mushroom anchor, and strung the rope through the hole of the anchor. I then tied one end of the rope to one side of the back of the raft and the other end to the opposite side, with the anchor riding free in the middle. Ready to start the drift, I tossed the anchor overboard. It quickly sunk and I could feel it bouncing along the bottom of the river as the raft drifted.
It worked great! The dragging anchor slowed the raft down to enable the perfect drift, and if the smallies cooperated, it was going to be a great fishing day!
I had boated (rafted?) a nice three-pounder and was setting the hook on a second one, when all hell broke loose. The anchor snagged the bottom of the river and didn’t bounce – but held fast. With the raft anchored firm on the river’s bottom while being pushed hard by the current on the river’s surface, the ten-foot raft instantly became a five-foot raft as it buckled in the middle, with the back half going completely underwater – motor and all.With half the raft underwater, and the river claiming the rest, inch by inch, everything that was in – went out – into the river and either sunk or floated, carried off by the current. Tackle box, rods, lunch – everything. When the bait box of crawfish went down, I had a fleeting thought of seeing the largest smallie in Niagara inhaling it and flipping me a “Thank you” with a smirk on its face.
But I was losing the raft fast. In a panic, I began sawing through the anchor rope with my pocket knife. When the last strand finally let go, the back of the raft popped up out of the water, like a jack-in-the-box. Whew—tragedy averted! Everything was gone, but the motor was still mounted on the back of the raft. Thank God!
Yanking on the starter cord, it didn’t start. Again – nothing; and again—and again. Nothing. Not a purr. Not a putt. Not a cough. Water ran out of the housing. Looking around, no boats were anywhere in sight. The shore of Navy Island was only about 70 feet away, but the raft was surfing by it and would soon be past the Island. Again I panicked—once past the Island, there was nothing between me and those thundering cataracts downriver. Looking ahead, I could see that ominous cloud on the horizon and I swear it was grinning.
Holding the rope in one hand, I dove into the river and began swimming for Navy Island. I knew if I didn’t reach the shore before the current carried me past the Island, I’d be fish food. I swam as hard as I could. But swim like I did, I was losing ground. The raft was flying with the current – and was taking me with it. I let go of the rope and swam like the devil for the island (believe me, the devil can swim).
Nothing in my life ever felt as good as when I felt ground under my feet as I was about to past the end of the island.
Pulling myself onto the shore, I sat there, watching the raft skimming along the surface, until I couldn’t see it any more. After fulfilling my need to scream and kick a bunch of trees and rocks, I started waving and hollering for help. Finally, another fisherman came along (having a real boat), who gave me a ride back to Grand Island.
I never did know what happened to the raft.
So you see, it wasn’t anything on my part that caused me to fear and dislike the Falls – it was those river gods that didn’t like me and were out to get me. You can see that—right?
Later in life, I made amends with the Falls. Upon going down into the gorge below the cataracts, I was in wonder of the great canyon, the awesome rapids and the lush beauty of this glorious place that was right under my nose all these years. I was consumed by the mystery of it. I realized Niagara was actually two rivers, the “Upper” and the “Lower” Niagara, and they were as different as night is from day. One is an open faucet, emptying the ‘Great Lakes’, with a roar and thunder in a cloud of mist. The other is a living monument, craving across the earth, leaving a trail of beauty and attitude.
Much has been written about Niagara over the years, most about the mighty cataracts—little about the Niagara Gorge. This is truly amazing, when one considers the beauty, the challenge and the extensive, exciting history that engulfs the lower river .
Regardless of where on Niagara – Upper, Lower or the Cataracts themselves, my heart resides in the River, watching—listening to the “water”. When the time comes for me to depart this life, my ashes will finally fold into those beckoning arms of Niagara, and like the ‘Hermit of Niagara’, I’ll be ‘one with the water‘…
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are
Posted in DK's Journal, Historical Trails, Original Fiction, Writing, Writing Reflections, tagged blogging, character, dklevick, historical fiction, internet, investigation study, library, literature, On-Writing, research, technology, writing on May 2, 2012 | 9 Comments »
As the saying goes “the devil’s in the details”.
When, writers of historical fiction, put words to paper, they bear the responsibility to transpose their readers to the time period their story relates to. This doesn’t mean telling them it’s 1776 – it means transporting them to 1776, making them feel it, live it, and be a part of it – having them jump up and march along with the fyfe and drum.
If only done on the macro level, the characters are superficial and transparent. The reader doesn’t feel authenticity and sees through the ruse. To lift the characters off the pages and bring them into the minds and hearts of the reader, the writer must work on the micro level—down in the trenches – with the details. And, here he must tread carefully, for it can easily be overdone. Too many details are overpowering and will bog a story down quicker than a hippo wallowing in molasses. Inserting a few carefully selected details, in a natural way, so as not recognizable as being inserted, will unconsciously, allow the reader to live them. This is where the writer’s art comes in to play, weaving the facts and substance of the era into the spirit and essence of the story, putting the reader into the story’s setting as witness to the action.
For every word of detail the writer puts to paper, a hundred words were researched, reviewed and revised. Each sentence represents hours of background investigation, study and learning about the times, people, environment and cultures of the era.
If a writer’s passion is the blood flowing through his veins – then research is the muscle that forms his flesh.
During the writing of ‘Journeys across Niagara’ (formerly ‘Bridges – a Tale of Niagara’), I traveled down many roads of research. Not so much for the main story line of Kevin and his friends living in Niagara Falls during the ‘60s, (having lived that era myself – I was my own research), but for the historical stories embedded in the novel. Encompassing four actual events, covering over 200 years of history in the Niagara Region, and crossing lines of culture, nations and habitat, each story required separate journeys of research and investigation. The stories are separated by many decades, in a rapidly developing part of the New World, undergoing major political, societal and cultural change. The world of the English drummer boy and the Iroquois brave in 1763 was a different world from the world of slavery and abolition found in Lizzie’s story of 1859. Conversely, The Hermit of Niagara lived on top of Niagara Falls in 1831, while the only instance of Niagara Falls stopping was in 1848, a mere 17 years apart, yet significant changes had occurred in the Niagara Frontier, due to the advent of the Erie Canal and the introduction of the railroads along with a spreading population, radically affecting the culture of the people. (See “Was there a Hermit of Niagara?” post on the right hand side.)
Research is the mantra of the historical fiction writer. It is hard work and takes considerable time but it’s as crucial to success as the reentry heat shields are to the space shuttle. I often wonder how earlier writers researched their subjects and eras. (hmm, could be a story there in the making.)
“To where do we go?” the writers asked. They went to the libraries and to building personal acquisitions of books and writings. Yes, long, hard, tedious work, not to mention, costly but worth the effort and cost.
Today, all that’s changed, writers have the advantage of the internet. Call up any subject or key word and information is immediately at your fingertips. Images, words, histories, background, essays and opinions—lots of opinions. This is a huge advantage for the modern writer, but I also see a snare lying in wait for us. As wide and as deep as the internet is, it only coughs up what someone has put in it. And those things are repeated – over and over. The internet fools us into thinking we can click on any subject and then, magically and instantly, we are ‘well informed’ and ‘all knowing’ about that subject. It has the potential to ‘Wikipedia’ an entire population, on a global scale, with a ‘one-click’ mentality, regarding any particular subject.
That’s one scary thought! The same, singular knowledge and information is put out and repeated to all who punch in a keyword or subject and most inquiries stop at that level. Much of this information has already been filtered and is steeped in ‘opinions’, before we ‘surf’ through it, filtering and discarding along the way. We, too easily, fail to genuinely dive into the heart of the matter, as true research demands. With enough repetitions and enough people reading the same things without rebuttal and opposing views and insights, we begin forming a global community of keyboard punchers who think along the same lines. And we then put our faith in it – “I read it on the internet, so it must be true.” There is a great risk of an unconscious ‘dumbing down’ of the entire world concerning any given subject of history – like-minded regurgitating with like-minded. Understandings about people and events can easily become condensed down to a singular ‘common’ or ‘general’ opinion, and we all know, there is nothing ‘common’ or ‘general’ concerning people. People are unique, diverse and always at emotional states with one another, whether loving or hating one another. And history is nothing more than a reflection of those people and those emotions. And make no mistake about it, we must fully understand and know all the details of history or the past will overtake the future.
Think for a second, what power true censorship would have over this medium. The world’s understanding of history would be revised and reshaped to conform to the political or social designs of those doing the censoring. This isn’t fantasy or paranoia talk, for we know all too well that such things have happened down through history by governments, religions and organizations burning, rewriting and revising history for their own purposes and agendas. It’s not inconceivable or preposterous to think it could happen with the internet and we mustn’t be complacent– for there are governments, around the globe, imposing censorship and monitoring the internet as I write.
True research goes beyond the internet and dives into the heart, fiber and cellular DNA of the matter. We, as writers, owe it to our readers and to those who went before us, to embrace research with both arms wide open, welcoming the joy of bringing history to life.
“To where do we go?” the writers ask. We go to the libraries and to building personal acquisitions of books and writings. Yes, long, hard, tedious work, not to mention costly but worth the effort and cost.
Gee – I guess not all that much has changed after all.
Until Next Time:
Embrace Life’s Bridges – For they Define Who You Are