Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Pegsus, the winged horse takes form throughout 42N country and surrounding latitudes. In Duluth, Minnesota (46.79°N 92.1°W) is a Pegasus Mobil Oil design which is located near the aerial bridge area. This red sign is attached to a restaurant building's exterior and at night the glow of neon outlines the iconic logo.
Meanwhile 358 miles away in Galena, Illinois, (42.43°N 90.41°W) a weather vane atop the Flying Horse restaurant points to the way of the wind. Both the Duluth and Galena examples are associated with eateries. Perhaps the potential for eye catching graphics and ideas of flights of fancy lures customers to these restaurants. Know that.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Some seven degrees of latitude north of 42N country, the Paul R. Tregurtha makes her way out of Duluth Harbor on June 23rd under the aerial lift bridge. The lake freighter is the longest vessel on the Great Lakes measuring in at 1,013’ 06” - that's 3.37 football fields long! On this day the harbor horn sounded indicating the bridge lifting. That event was followed by the sighting of the departing vessel by people near the canal wall. Within minutes the stupidly-long ship silently glided past the crowd and onto Lake Superior.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
A colorful treatment for an abandoned rail station located in Keokuk, Iowa. This station may have seen President Theodore Roosevelt arrive and depart while on any of three historic stops in Keokuk in the early 1900s. Except for rail car storage this area is now off limits to the public. Bully. Know that.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Operation Overlord commenced on June 6, 1944 as Allied forces came ashore in Normandy, France, against Hitler’s Fortress Europe. In 2010 debate still exists over the invasion’s casualty figures with no official number or list available. One estimate is that more than 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded, or went missing during the battle including more than 209,000 Allied casualties. Roughly 200,000 German troops killed or wounded, the Allies also captured 200,000 soldiers. French civilian casualties during the Battle of Normandy are estimated to be between 15,000 and 20,000.
Today the site of one of the fiercest fights of the invasion, Pointe Du Hoc is under attack of a different kind. The bluff itself is suffering from natural erosion and the stress of up to 500,000 visitors a year. Preservation efforts are currently underway to shore up the bluff and save it for generations.
Pointe Du Hoc is a cliff rising west of Normandy’s Omaha beach. American Ranger soldiers under tremendous enemy fire landed on the beach, scaled the cliffs and eventually took out the Nazi howitzers aimed at the landing area.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Last October after travelling the roads of northern Virginia all day we stopped for the night in Winchester before winding back to 42N country in Iowa. In a town filled with George Washington, French Indian War, Revolutionary War and Civil War monuments we found a seafood restaurant to try one more east coast dinner before heading back to the plains. Along with the lobster and crab dinner we ordered a wine from the Fess Parker Winery. That was our first time to see the vineyard product offered anywhere so we just had to try it. Very good. Months later I learned that Winchester, VA was the birthplace for Rebecca Bryan, the wife of Daniel Boone. Fess Parker played the Daniel Boone character on TV during the early 1960s.
In February 2010 while at a local thrift store I found a 78 rpm record of Fess Parker singing the Davy Crockett theme song from the Disney movie series. I posted the record being played as a video on March 20th following the death of Fess Parker.
And so on Monday (Memorial Day 2010) while visiting the Keokuk National Cemetery, we also stopped at a local antique store. Somewhere in the 40-some dealer booth complex I found an official program from the 1966 Tri-State Rodeo in nearby Fort Madison, Iowa. The Tri-State Rodeo, part of the Rodeo Cowboys Association, regularly brought in big star names and entertainment acts for the three day event. While flipping through the program booklet that featured Fess Parker as Daniel Boone on its cover, I found a slip of paper tucked inside. The paper contained Fess Parker's autograph - yes, the real McCoy. He appeared at the rodeo along with the Boonesvilles, a New Christy Minstrels-like singing group.
I don't know why these Fess-centered coincidences continue to happen but I'll be on the lookout for a coonskip cap or a meeting with Ed "Mingo" Ames.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Ten service personnel who have Iowa connections were recipients of the country's highest military decoration - the Medal of Honor during World War II. The award celebrates valor in action against an enemy force which is bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
At the Keokuk National Cemetery, among the 4,000 war dead, the grave of one soldier carries the special distinction. U.S. Army Private First Class John F. Thorson was awarded the Medal of Honor (posthumously) following his sacrifice during World War II.
Thorson's offical citation reads, "He was an automatic rifleman on 28 October 1944, in the attack on Dagami Leyte, Philippine Islands. A heavily fortified enemy position consisting of pillboxes and supporting trenches held up the advance of his company. His platoon was ordered to out-flank and neutralize the strongpoint. Voluntarily moving well out in front of his group, Pvt. Thorson came upon an enemy fire trench defended by several hostile riflemen and, disregarding the intense fire directed at him, attacked single-handed He was seriously wounded and fell about 6 yards from the trench. Just as the remaining 20 members of the platoon reached him, one of the enemy threw a grenade into their midst. Shouting a warning and making a final effort, Pvt. Thorson rolled onto the grenade and smothered the explosion with his body. He was instantly killed, but his magnificent courage and supreme self-sacrifice prevented the injury and possible death of his comrades, and remain with them as a lasting inspiration."
According to the Iowa Medal of Honors Heros section of the Iowa History web site John Thorson, Sr., accepted his son’s Medal of Honor in a ceremony at Fort Crook, Nebraska, presented by Brig. Gen. Paul X. English of the 7th Division. The Women’s Army Corps band from Fort Des Moines played a concert before the ceremony. A newspaper report about the ceremony reported that, “The father clutched the medal tightly in hands gnarled by a life-time of work on the farm as he walked back across the parade ground after the ceremony.”
A year after the war ended, a Red Cross club in Korea was named in John Thorton's honor, and a U.S. Navy vessel (cargo ship) was also named for him. To locate Pvt. Thorson's grave, visit the cemetery in Keokuk and proceed to section D, grave 71. He is buried in a World War II section. Know that.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Iowa's only designated national cemetery is located in Keokuk, at the extreme southeastern tip of the state, on the Mississippi River. The town served as a staging point for upper Midwest Union soldiers massing for transportation south during the Civil War. During that era, Keokuk hospitals were built to serve the wounded from the Union and prisoners from the Confederate States of America (CSA.)
When soldiers of either side died at the medical facilities their bodies were interred at what became the Keokuk National Cemetery - one of twelve original national cemeteries designated by the U.S. Congress.
During this Memorial Day weekend US flags and a couple dozen or so CSA flags were placed at Civil War era soldiers' graves. The cemetery serves as the final resting place for some 4000 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel from other military conflicts (Spanish American War, World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War and Iraq) and peacetime service. Each grave received a US flag also.
A ceremony honoring all veterans was held yesterday near the Civil War area of the cemetery. Sunday was the original Decoration Day meant to honor Civil War dead, then later changed to a Monday and called Memorial Day to honor the American military fallen from all eras.
Today's warm weather brought people to pay respects to their military family members and friends.
Many visitors walked to a particular grave or along the long rows of identical white marble markers to get a sense of who fought for this country's freedom.
While the Keokuk National Cemetery represents a formal resting place for the nation's military dead and their spouses there was yet another location nearby that brought the idea of sacrifice and service into immediate focus.
Just a couple of miles to the east of the cemetery is the Mississippi River. A massive bridge spans the river connecting Iowa to Illinois. Under the bridge on the Iowa side is the George M Verity River Museum just a few feet from the mighty Mississippi. Along the rip-rap rocky shore are places where people fish or sit to watch the river.
By the museum I spotted a small vinyl American flag and went to investigate. Anchoring the flag is a square wooden piece of driftwood. On the board, was a message written in pencil from a daughter to her father, who passed away ten days ago on May 21st in Utah.
The daughter's father was a three time World War II ace pilot who served in Europe flying P-51 (Mustang) against Germany. He was shot down twice and was rescued by the French and Belgium underground. He returned to the States following the war, completed college, and went on to invent and improve processes in the commercial sector of construction. He will be buried in Utah.
Whether a grave marker is made of white marble and is part of a dedicated military cemetery or a memorial tribute constructed of simple materials, the sentiment is the same - honor those who protected this country. Know that.