Space: Going Nowhere Slow

Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 4:42 pm
By: Doug Lund

malaysia11I don’t mind telling you, this shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over the Ukraine killing nearly 300 people is not only an enormous tragedy to the victims and their families but it has raised some old personal fears about the possibility of nuking it out with the Russians that I haven’t felt in decades. I don’t pretend to understand much of what goes on in that part of the world or why a significant number of people living in former Soviet Communist states are now rebelling against the very independence they craved in 1989 and are now siding with Russian premier…excuse me, “President” Vladimir Putin” the longtime KGB guy who sure seems as though he’d like to get the old Soviet gang back together. How some idiot could possibly think that firing a surface to air missile at a civilian jetliner and bringing it down in a ball of fire would help their cause, is beyond belief. Instead, what we have once again is a world on the brink.

We better not get too mad with the Russians though..or they with us. We could lose our only ride into space.

At about the same time Americans were celebrating the 45th anniversary of Neal Armstrong’s first steps on the moon this past week, NASA was announcing that it intends to buy six more seats, at 70 million dollars a pop, on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry American astronauts to and from the International Space Station for the next four years.malaysa astronauts

NASA is funding development of a couple of commercial space craft:  SpaceX’s Dragon and Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Cygnus. Both have made successful supply missions to the station but won’t be ready to carry actual astronauts until 2017 so we continue to hitchhike with the ruskies.   The United States hasn’t sent a manned vehicle into space since NASA scuttled the shuttle in 2011. The Soyuz is one of only two operational orbital manned spacecraft in the world, the other being China’s Shenzhou which until a couple years ago was still sending up test dummies  meaning its working out bugs we solved decades ago so  nobody outside of China is lining up to ride with them just yet.

Outer space used to be so exciting. I vividly remember that day in late July of 1969 watching history unfold on television with my young family. Two year old Patty was more interested in her toys than TV, but I do recall holding 4 year old Suzan in my lap during the moon landing and again later when Neal Armstrong first set foot on the surface. I was hoping to make sure she would have these historic moments imprinted on her brain. It wasn’t long, though, before she lost interest and squirmed free to join her sister at play.

malaysa neal

I’ve  loved and followed every tidbit of news about space exploration from Sputnik to the Mars rovers but, I’m afraid, like my daughter so many years ago, I’ve lost interest in launching astronauts into orbit and would rather just play with my toys.   This isn’t to say the universe has no appeal. On the contrary, it is fascinating beyond measure to see close-up images from Mars and other planets and moons in our solar system and beyond but, let’s face it, we were hoping to discover life and haven’t and likely won’t. The pictures from space telescopes have opened our eyes to how mind-blowingly vast not only our galaxy is but revealed that ours is just one of billions of other galaxies; all of them impossibly out of reach to humans unless aliens come by and give us a lift.  (Watched the last third of Close Encounters of the Third Kind last night. Looking at it now, they could have easily cut the movie length by a third shortening those dragged out reaction shots at the Devil’s Tower landing site and John Williams’ crescendo-filled score. But it’s still a fun flick.)   The problem is, everything in space is so far away. Voyager 1, launched 30 years on an exploration mission is the fastest man-made vehicle ever built and has reached a top speed of 36 thousand miles an hour. It has only recently slipped out of our solar system. Light travels at 186 thousand miles a “second” and it would take 490 years traveling at the speed of light to reach the closest planet detected so far by astronomers that could sustain life as we know it.

I guess there are plans for another manned (and womanned, presumably) mission to the Moon in 2018. The idea would be to set up a base for future missions to Mars and elsewhere.

Future Moon base? meh.

Future Moon base? meh.

I hate to be a pessimist but I’ll believe it when the rockets roar. Americans love a challenge and discovering new things. But we also have short attention spans and get bored after objectives are achieved (The Moon and Mars) and other agendas ( Space stations and shuttles) aren’t so exciting.  I can already hear the outrage over NASA wasting money on building vehicles to go where we’ve already been.  What about health care, they’ll say, and the homeless and global warm…er, I mean climate change?

It’s human nature to desire the exploration of new worlds in the heavens but, I’m afraid, until somebody figures out how to get there through wormholes or alternate dimensions, we’ll have to fill our space fantasies through the courtesy of Hollywood and 3D.

One of the great thrills of my professional life was getting the chance to meet and interview Wally Schirra..one of the original seven Mercury Astronauts and the only one to fly in all three manned space flight programs; Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. He was in Sioux Falls speaking at Augustana, I believe, and agreed to visit our Keloland Early News show.
He talked about working alongside Walter Cronkite during television coverage of Apollo 11 and how both tried rather unsuccessfully to maintain their composure on-air during those critical moments before and after the moon landing.

Walter Cronkite (left) and Wally Schirra (middle) react after "The Eagle has landed" on the moon.

Walter Cronkite (left) and Wally Schirra (middle) react after “The Eagle has landed” on the moon.

After our interview, he needed a ride to the airport which I was more than happy to provide. During that short trip I asked if he would have liked to have flown aboard the shuttle in later life like John Glenn. I’m sure he said yes but added he wasn’t a big fan of the shuttle program reflecting on it like most Americans, I think, saying he didn’t see how it was challenging our imagination for space exploration.

Wally Schirra used to get on his bosses nerves at NASA saying things like that. It made me like him all the more.

Keeping An Eye On The Road

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm
By: Doug Lund

 

Steve Hartman (top) Charles Kuralt (bottom)

Steve Hartman (top)
Charles Kuralt (bottom)

I’m Facebook friends with Steve Hartman. I doubt if  Steve is aware of that because he has tens of  thousands of friends and FANS.. not only on the internet but all over America thanks to his “On The Road” features aired each Friday on the CBS Evening News. His reports..mostly about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, are not only loved by viewers but admired by reporters in newsrooms across the country who are constantly having it hammered into their heads by consultants that viewers want hard news..not fluff.   Yet, I remember when Steve Hartman was in Sioux Falls a few years ago and agreed to stop by the KELO newsroom, it was like a rock star was coming and he had our news staff mesmerized. I’ll admit, I wasn’t a big fan at first. I thought he was too young to try fill the legendary Charles Kuralt’s shoes.  But his amazing talent for discovering and telling the hidden story in everyone..eventually won me over and I do believe CBS was right in not only bringing back “On The Road” but in making Hartman the rightful heir to Kuralt.

It’s been 17 years now since Charles Kuralt died on the Fourth of July.
My colleagues at Keloland  knew how much I idolized him and that we actually..kind of, sort of, knew each other; so they showed up at my house with a camera and reporter that day for a reaction to his death. I have no idea what I wound up saying. All I remember is fighting back tears when it suddenly sunk in during the course of  the interview that he was actually gone.
We first met in Sioux City where he was the featured speaker at a regional news media gathering of some  sort. Keloland TV has always been a well respected affiliate of the CBS network and managed to pull a few strings to get me a half hour exclusive interview. I tried not to appear as nervous and star struck as I was but I’m sure it showed. I had written out a list of, what I thought were,  profound questions hoping to  impress him but as it turned out, we just sat there and talked as the camera rolled. He really was just like he appeared to be on television; accommodating, friendly and humble almost to a fault.  When I asked for advice on writing he said, “Doug, what I try to do is begin each story with a sentence or two that will get people’s attention; arouse their curiosity so they’ll want to read on. I like to end a story the same way, perhaps with a turned phrase or touch of irony that will leave the reader with a smile or at least with something to think about. Oh, yeah..I like to remind myself to keep it simple, stupid.”

Before long the time had flown by and I’d hardly gotten to any of my notes.  I thanked him for our visit and as I was leaving he asked if I had a card or something.  He probably did that to every young reporter he spoke with but at the moment it was to me like Mean Joe Green throwing a sweaty towel to the kid who gave him a Coke.

It’s not that Charles Kuralt couldn’t do hard news. When first  hired at CBS he covered uprisings, politics and wars including Vietnam.  But he didn’t like competing with fellow correspondents and hated the daily deadlines. Eventually, amid  the turmoil of the 60′s and 70′s  he managed to convince CBS to let him just wander around the country for three months chronicling the lives of everyday Americans in search of something positive to report; to show that it wasn’t all protest marches, gas lines and hate filled political rhetoric. Well, that experiment turned into “On the Road with Charles Kuralt” and lasted for 25 years. He and photographer, Izzy Bleckman logged thousands and thousands of miles crisscrossing the country in a motor home looking for stories and finding them at every turn. Each were beautifully shot and brilliantly written. But the magic happened because of Kuralt’s narration. He played his folksy voice like a master violinist; always at an unhurried pace and with just the right inflections to create moods of  joy, reverence, patriotism, whimsy, or sadness.  He could read the book of Genesis and hold an audience mesmerized..even with all the boring begats.
Here’s a case in point that is one of my all time favorites.

YouTube Preview Image

We met again when Keloland sent Steve Hemmingsen and me to New York to do some promos with the network personalities. While on the set of  CBS Sunday Morning I thought about asking him if he still had my card..but didn’t.
Then in 1986, during the height of the farm crisis, Dan Rather decided to take the CBS Evening News on the road for three days. The network set up shop in our Keloland studios. After just one day, though, Rather had to leave so they called in Charles Kuralt to anchor the broadcasts. Not only did I get a chance to watch my hero on the job but after the news we actually got to hang out together. He asked Steve and me bring our wives along and join him along with CBS Evening News Executive Producer, Lane Venardos,  for dinner. He asked what’s a good place? We said..the Lafayette.   Linda still loves to talk about how Charles Kuralt himself actually hopped in the back seat of our car for a ride to Sioux Falls’ only French restaurant with CBS picking up the tab.  It was a magnificent evening filled with cigarettes, cocktails, great food, laughter and the unforgettable stories especially with Charles spinning yarns of his travels..becoming more animated with each scotch.

Linda and I posing with my hero at a Sioux Falls reception in 1986

Linda and I posing with my hero at a Sioux Falls reception in 1986

I think it would have been great fun to have Charles Kuralt for a friend but he was a pretty private guy; a master at finding out everything about other people but equally masterful and keeping his personal life to himself.
That’s why shortly after his death so many of us were shocked to find out that he’d been leading a double life..keeping time with a woman in Montana, who wasn’t his wife, for nearly 30 years.  How could this gentle self-effacing poet of the common man who warmed our hearts with so many stories extolling the virtues of honesty and good character in the American people, be, himself, dishonest and flawed? I don’t know and can’t say I care all that much. What I do know is how he influenced my life and career and how I still put everything I write to the Kuralt litmus test.

I wonder if Steve Hartman ever met Charles Kuralt and if the master asked the disciple for his business card too.

I’m Going Bald

Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 8:19 pm
By: Doug Lund

Yup..you read that right.  Ol Lund is watching hairs die and fall to the ground  quicker than an old fashioned Jackrabbit hunt. Okay..bad joke; misspelled hare. But look, I have to find something to smile about because one of the few things I’ve had going for me all these years is a full head of hair and now that is hightailing it faster than the five Supreme Court guys after the Hobby Lobby vote.

I think I was already on my second haircut here at about six months.

I think I was already on my second haircut here at about six months.

 

Unfortunately, my mom (propping me up here) and my sweet aunts were great knitters and crocheters and felt the need to cover my ample locks with an odd assortment of head wear

Unfortunately, my mom (propping me up here) and my sweet aunts were great knitters and crocheters and felt the need to cover my ample locks with an odd assortment of head wear

I’ve been pointing this out to my barber, Steve, over the last several visits. By the way, you should not blame Steve for me sporting the same hair style for the last 40 years. He’s often done that delicate dance of trying not to offend while still encouraging me to try different looks. The reality is, though,  there has been only so much that can be done with my formally thick growing, low-brow wire-like follicles; a butch cut which, with my ginormous ears, would only bring shame upon the house of Lund, or leave it like what you have been seeing over the decades; glued into lock position with copious clouds of spray. I was always dubious about making any type of radical change to my on air appearance fearing the viewers would let me have it as they so often did with my poor female colleagues who frequently had to endure a lot of callous commentary from clods who didn’t care for a hair style or outfit.

In the 80’s I did succumb to pressure and allowed myself the embarrassment of letting Steve give me a perm. I think he was really anxious to claim victory over my long term self conscious objections to change…until he started unraveling the curlers and my mighty locks proved too tough to tame. The best he could muster was a little wave which nobody noticed and disappeared within a few days. Anyway, Steve is more familiar with the top of my head than anyone and, aside from God..who according to scriptures, knows my exact hair count.. should be able to tell if any of those once mighty dark brown strands, which have since turned grey as a January sky, have deserted their post.  But, Steve is such a nice guy, I really can’t bank on his honesty to the question, “Am I going bald?”

He  knows that being a good barber is not always enough to keep the customers coming back; you’ve got to be part psychologist, bartender and diplomat too. So, he’s not going to come right out and tell me, “Yeah, Doug it won’t be long before you can dress in white, wear an ear ring and start peddling cleaning products.” No, he says something like “Well, we all can expect to lose some hair as we get older but you’ll be fine.”

He means well, but he lies.

Every time I scratch my head, dozens of hairs get wedged between my chubby fingers and give up without any kind of serious struggle. I combed out my brush yesterday and it looked like a huge wisp of cotton candy made from rocky road ice cream.

I now wonder if my decision to grow facial hair last Christmas was a subconscious compensation to this mass exodus occurring just a few inches above my lips.

Sure you may not notice it here but in the sunlight you can see my scalp through the thinning grey forrest of hair.

Sure you may not notice it here but in the sunlight you can see my scalp through the thinning grey forrest of hair.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve been abusing my hair for years.  In my adolescence, all those gobs of Brylcream glopped onto my skull allowing me to use a comb and sculpt great waves of hair in front and and duck tails in back all to impress the girls couldn’t have been good.  Then, when the wet head was officially declared dead, I, along with millions of other would be Rock and Rollers, got the ball rolling on ozone layer destruction by spraying can after can of Aqua Net  onto our heads and into the atmosphere.

I just wonder how I’m going to handle this going bald thing;  with matter of fact acceptance like my pal, Vernon? Will I seek out the finest toupee makers in the land like Myron and Mitch? Will I have Steve shave me shiny like Shaq?

All I know is that in 15 years I’ll probably be done shedding; , there will be no hairs left upon this head for God to count.

Oh, wait a minute..in 15 years I’ll be into my, ahem..fourth score and probably trying to work up enough energy to yell “Bingo” loud enough to be heard above the other bald guys  at the Center for Active Generations.

By then, being on the grassy side of the dirt will probably be more important than a full head of hair anyway.

Global Warring

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 2:22 pm
By: Doug Lund

 

Bright and sunny outside today but I’m not buyin’ it.  Even though the radar is echo free at present, I fully expect the skies to darken into faux night time again by early afternoon followed in order by that familiar rumble from above then endless relentless waves of rain creating rivers of water gushing through overflowing gutters onto ground that was already way over saturated from previous record breaking downpours. Then, of course comes the telltale tick, tick tick of hailstones; oblong frozen spheres that look like the eyeballs of a goat, banging into the windows threatening breakage with each thwack.hail eye

Worst of all, of course, is when something even more devastating than rain and hail descend from the black clouds which happened in Wessington Springs where a tornado tore through town ripping up dozens of homes but, thanks I believe, to plenty of advance storm warnings through the media, lives were spared.

So, what’s the deal with all the weird weather we seem to be having more of  every year..big snows..no snows..ice storms..floods..droughts..tornados by the dozen one year..none the next?

Well, after this latest deluge, it hasn’t taken long for the experts to offer their learned explanations such as Kasey Abbott who made this Facebook comment on my friend, Mike Henricksen’s timeline: “ Unfortunately, it is not at all surprising that we are seeing this. 9 of the 10 warmest years on record since 1880 have occurred in the last 10 years. People can argue all they want about what is causing this warming, but no one can dispute the fact that this additional heat energy causes more evaporation, and that the amount of moisture that warmer air can hold increases dramatically. This moisture has got to come down somewhere. A review of the weather data shows a considerable increase over the last 60 years in torrential rains.”

Except when it’s dry and there’s drought…or “drouth” as my Norwegian uncles used to call it.  Last year, the Midwest did see more precipitation than normal but darned if it didn’t result in the largest corn crop and third largest bean harvest on record.

weather extreams tempweather extremes

When the ditches and fields dry up, like they will, I wouldn’t be surprised if this disastrous rainfall will be just a memory come October..provided we get a good rain in late July and a couple nice showers in August.

Okay, I realize that those of us who have a few questions about all this panic over what’s happening to the planet’s climate are, in the mind of most scientists, misinformed lunkheads too  stupid to grasp the reality about what CO2 emissions are doing to the earth’s protective ozone layer. Why, we probably go out and club baby seals to death  on the weekends so the wife will have something nice to wear around her neck at the NRA convention.

Well, here’s a shocker: I’m not denying that the planet is getting warmer but I’m sure as hell at a loss as to what I’m supposed to do about it. To me, it’s just irresponsible to scare the bejesus out of people saying millions upon millions world wide  are doomed as the ice caps melt causing the oceans to rise and city’s to flood then blame us without offering a workable realistic solution. Oh, I see all the P.S.A’s about how we can drive less, put more air in our tires for better fuel efficiency, recycle, change light bulbs to those squiggly kind, use less hot water and plant trees but I don’t think that’s going to do it.

Half the homes in the country get their electricity from coal fired power plants. There are over 600 of them and they shoot a lot of carbon dioxide into the air; even more than the methane from farting cattle that environmental/vegetarians have been trying to eradicate. President Obama recently announced the EPA is cutting those coal plant emissions by 30% by 2030 and any new coal fired plants must be built to run cleaner. It may just be lip service though. Experts (including several former EPA heads) say the move won’t have any significant effect on CO2 pollution unless countries like China, Brazil and India agree to play along.

So, perhaps it’s a P.R. problem.       I’ve come up with a few suggestions.

Rather than making movies about it being my fault that polar bears are running out of ice chunks to float upon, we get our best government promotional people to approach the heads of those major polluting countries, who depend on America for much of their livelihood, and tell them we’ll be shopping elsewhere if they don’t clean up their act like we plan to do….and mean it.

Back on the home front, we have to know for sure if big oil companies actually do put roadblocks in the way of fossil-fuel-free vehicle development. If the world as we know it is going to end unless something is done to stop CO2 emissions, those companies have to be made to see the big picture or put out of business. How do you do that? I would suggest the government offering a major financial incentive to the first auto manufacturer to successfully develop an affordable electric or hydrogen-powered vehicle that meets public demands both stylistically and from a performance standpoint. I know this sort of thing has been tried before but..hey, Armageddon is coming so the stakes are pretty high this time  It has to be a sizeable prize.  This is still America though..so once the reward is given, the blueprint must be shared with other auto makers and then pollution-free production of all kinds of different cars and trucks can begin in a spirit of competition much as we have now which will not only hold prices down but offer consumers the variety they desire. An added bonus would be sticking it to the Arab oil producing countries who’ve been sticking it to us for a century and been the cause of way too many wars.

Nobody’s going to pay attention to this, of course. We’ll continue to be bombarded with partisan B.S. as if this was a political problem. Environmentalists will continue to group all of us Americans into one big stinking pile of CO2 violators hoping that guilt will convince us that wrapping our water heaters in a blanket is going to make a global warming difference. Maybe, like my friend and former Keloland News colleague, Steve Hemminsen recently wrote, it’s time to stop trying to stop spinning..beginning with the latest terminology.

Climate change is one thing, global warming is another.  Of course we’re having climate change.  We always have climate change.  Lake Hendricks wasn’t here until 10 thousand or so years ago when there was “climate change” and the glaciers melted, probably some cosmic or natural cycle.  Man sure had nothing to do with that one.  Do our  last couple of winters represent global warming?  Hard to make that case.  Do they represent climate change?  Maybe, although a lot of us remember a lot harsher winters and hotter summers in our youth than we’ve had until the last couple of years. 

Linda and I won’t live to see how any of this turns out, I suppose. But our grandkids and their offspring likely will.. and we naturally want them to experience earth’s joys and challenges too.

I only hope the next generation gets their noses out of their phones long enough to figure out ways to make it possible.

 

Give It To Me Strait

Posted: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at 9:57 am
By: Doug Lund

Sports Radio guy, Dan Patrick, always asks his listeners to call-in to his show on Mondays with their best and worst of the weekend. The subject should be sports related; I suppose but if I’d have called this might qualify. AT&T stadium, the sports palace Jerry Jones built for his Dallas Cowboys, was filled to absolute capacity Saturday night by just ONE cowboy; a cowboy who plays guitar not football. That would be the best of the weekend. Unfortunately, it would also be my worst because it was the last time that cowboy, George Strait, would ever be seen again on tour.

Sold Out AT&T Stadium

Sold Out AT&T Stadium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Strait walks to stage for the final time.

George Strait walks to stage for the final time.

It’s too bad because country music needs George Strait out there to keep the pop influenced pretenders aware of what is real. So far as I know, George Strait never entered the stage flying on a wire or amid exploding fireworks. He just walked out there wearing his hat, boots and Wrangler blue jeans..strapped on his acoustic guitar and, with a nod to his “Ace in the Hole” band just started singing “Pure Country.”  No flash except for an occasional smile. No stage gymnastics. Just this gifted singer with a knack for interpreting songs that can make you think, laugh even cry standing up there holding the audience under his spell on every note.

I have gone hot and cold on country music over the years; cold on most of the real old stuff where all you needed to get attention was knowing how to play a couple chords on a guitar, a rhinestone suit and the ability to rhyme words like “love-above” “heart-apart” “beers-tears” “truck-luck.” Carrying a tune was optional.

Hot on Buck Owens, Patsy Cline, Charley Rich, Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell, Charlie Pride, Tanya Tucker, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and a bunch of others whose sound was and is unique. Merle Haggard never needed electronic harmony dubbing on any of his records.

That’s what has set George Strait apart from the hundreds of empty hats that dominate the country music awards shows these days.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of talented people working in the industry; Brad Paisley and Vince Gill come to mind but no one can touch George Strait for long term success; a bona fide country music legend with a legacy that spans forty years of performing..chalking up 60 number 1 singles. Nobody in the history of the music recording business has done that.

I think, besides the wonderful way he sings his songs, the thing people love about George Strait is the way he carries himself..on stage and off. At 62, he hasn’t changed much at all. He’s still fit as a country fiddle, still married to the mother of his children and still uncomfortable talking about himself..much less bragging about his accomplishments.

strait singing

With dozens of musical friends on the rotating stage (a reluctant concession to show biz in order for all 104 thousand people in the building to get a glimpse of him) Strait told the emotional  crowd toward the end of his final concert that he will remember their cheers forever.

I don’t go to concerts (although I can’t wait to spend over 100 bucks for a ticket to see 68 year old Cher appear in that fish net body suit at the Denny Sanford Premier Sioux Falls Events Center next fall) but I would have liked to have been in Dallas for that one last Saturday night just to be a part of history.

Musical history that’s not likely to be repeated.

Ray’s Longest Day

Posted: Friday, May 30, 2014 at 4:12 pm
By: Doug Lund

ray d day 70th

 

I’ve been watching quite a few of the television documentaries about D-Day over the last few days, with more to come this week, I suppose, as we close-in on the 70th anniversary of the event next Friday June 6th.    Even 88 year old Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, 92, who rarely travel these days,  are taking part in special ceremonies at Normandy commemorating the allied invasion of France during World War II aimed at finally bringing an end to Hitler and his Nazi reign of terror across the world.

We all know the huge numbers of men, ships and equipment needed to pull it off..not to mention coordinating everything down to the last detail without tipping off the enemy.. We also know the enormous cost in human life that would eventually be required for Operation Overlord to succeed.

I’ve mentioned here before about a family member who witnessed the whole thing first hand.

ray closeup

At the age of 35, my uncle, U.S. Army Private  1st Class Raymond Lund, would have been considered the old man of his outfit, Company C. of the 357th infantry.
Most of the soldiers who climbed over the side of their ship and down the rope ladder to waiting landing craft below on D-Day, were 10 to 15 years younger than he was.
I wonder if those scared boys, huddled together in their battle gear, looked to him for reassurance as the diesel-powered Higgins Boat pounded over the waves towards the beaches of Normandy that June 6th morning in 1944.

Was he saying the Lord’s Prayer in Norwegian, like he’d been taught as a child, while German shells exploded all around and bullets from machine guns made a loud clanging noise as they slammed into the still closed ramp?

Was he saying the Lord’s Prayer in Norwegian, like he’d been taught as a child, while German shells exploded all around and bullets from machine guns made a loud clanging noise as they slammed into the still closed ramp?

Uncle Ray survived what’s been called “The Longest Day” only to have his hand nearly blown off in combat a month later.
Ray’s war was over.
After receiving a Purple Heart in a field hospital, he was sent home to spend the next 15 months recuperating from his wounds and be reunited with his pretty young wife of 6 years, Lorraine.

Ray and Lorraine Lund 1945

Ray and Lorraine Lund 1945

But no sooner was he doing better and the war was finally over..there was no time for celebration. Lorraine, the popular owner of the beauty shop in Volga, became ill. She was taken to Rochester in hopes of getting help but she died on December 7th, 1945. One can only imagine the grief my uncle went through but within a few years, Ray met and married Carol. Son, Mike and daughter Renae came along and, and he went about a long career working for the highway department.

ray woundLike so many other veterans of battle, Uncle Ray never talked about the war.  As a kid I couldn’t help but stare at his scarred-up hand with the missing little finger but of course I’d never dared ask details about how it happened.
And now it’s too late.
Ray took his memories and nightmares of Normandy to his grave in 1986. But the reporter in me wasn’t satisfied and so, some time ago, I went searching for answers to so many questions about my quiet, self-effacing uncle and the role he played in the invasion but, like many other World War II vets, his service record was lost in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in 1973 so, aside from his discharge papers, its been pretty much dead ends.

I do remember asking my dad (Ray’s older brother) about serving in uniform during a war and he almost sounded disappointed that he was too young for the 1st World War and too old for World War II. I wonder if Ray felt that same sense of patriotism; the need to answer your country’s call; a call strong enough for him to enlist at 33 leaving a lovely young wife behind.

I know that each June 6th I think about Uncle Ray and the hundreds of thousands of others who have laid their lives on the line for the United States of America and I am humbled and so very grateful. 

Crazy Horse Redux

Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 2:45 pm
By: Doug Lund

Ruth Ziolkowski…the beloved matriarch of the family responsible for carving the Crazy Horse monument out of a Black Hills mountain near Custer, has died just a month shy of her 88th birthday.

ziolkowski ruth alone

She’s being eulogized by people not only in South Dakota but all over the world as an inspiration to millions; a living example to never forget your dreams.   But, believe me, it hasn’t always been that way. More about that in a sec.

I’m not sure why, but 1953 must have been a pretty good year financially for my dad because it was the only year we bought a brand new car; a two tone green Mercury at a dealership in Estelline and I got to go along when he picked it up and drove it home. We also gave it a good breaking- in that following summer with a trip west that included a tour of the Black Hills.

This is about how we looked at the time of our Black Hills trip. I'm on the left, Brother Tom is in the middle and Brother Denny is on the right.

This is about how we looked at the time of our Black Hills trip. I’m on the left, Brother Tom is in the middle and Brother Denny is on the right.

I mention this because it was the first time I’d ever heard of the Crazy Horse Monument..or, more specifically, this crazy “Pollack” (sorry, but that’s what a lot of people called Korczak Ziolkowski)  trying to carve a likeness of the Indian leader who killed Custer out of a mountain located right next to the town that bears Custer’s name.

Well, as best as a kid can remember, we had a fun time in the Hills on  that vacation from Dinosaur Park in Rapid City to Mt. Rushmore to Evan’s Plunge in Hot Springs and while heading back on 385 we spotted a homemade sign pointing to Crazy Horse Carving and dad turned in. I don’t remember how far we drove on the gravel until we came to a turnaround and a small parking area and shelter with a view of “Thunderhead Mountain.”  We were met by a rather plain but attractive young woman with long blonde hair. She was holding a bunch of pamphlets. I remember her distinctly because I had never seen a grown woman without make-up and wearing blue jeans before.

This is the way I remember how Mrs. Z  looked.

This is the way I remember how Mrs. Z looked.

We all looked at this big empty rock of a mountain and listened to her answer my dad’s questions and explain (probably for the zillionth time) why her husband was doing this; something about dreaming big and leaving a legacy for Indians who had their heroes too. I remember seeing the familiar model of the sculpture on display which Korjzak had carved for the tourists to visualize the finished product and then dad asking the inevitable question, “When will it be done?”  Her now famous non-committal reply was frustrating and, when dad tried to pin her down, I’ll never forget her saying “It could be fifty years or more” and all I could think about was how long a time that was to wait and I’d be an old man by then. I don’t recall if dad gave anything when she asked for a donation and I’m sure the brochure is long gone but you’ve got to hand it to that woman’s tenacity and dedication to her husband’s ambition.

This picture was taken five years after we were there. Still a lot of imagination required.

This picture was taken five years after we were there. Still a lot of imagination required.

Can you imagine all those years when the only progress on Crazy Horse people ever noticed was in the size of the Ziolkowski family..eventually growing to ten; five girls and five boys. Oh, there were the occasional explosions on the mountain but most of the activity seemed to be in building roads, museums and stuff for tourists at the monument’s base. All the while, Ruth Ziolkowski, the ever loyal disciple to her husband and his dream has faithfully and cheerfully fielded the same questions from doubters and skeptics and critics who claim it’s all a scam to bilk tourists. She calmly has asked us to be patient, use our imaginations; the image is there it just takes time.  She was determined to follow the last wishes of Korczak who, on his death bed in 1982, said Crazy Horse must be finished but to work slowly to do it right.  Sometimes, though,  even the dreamers must face reality and so it was with Ruth Ziolkowski who knew that if people didn’t start seeing something besides piles of blasted rock on that mountain soon, they’d have to shut the whole operation down and prove the critics right. So she made the wise decision in 1987  to shift focus on the carving from the horses head to the Warrior’s face and before long we didn’t need to use our imagination any longer as  Crazy Horse himself began to appear from deep within the stone.

Mrs. Z in 1987 after making the decision to finish the face first.

Mrs. Z in 1987 after making the decision to finish the face first.

By 1993, the astonishing appearance of Crazy Horse's eyes.

By 1993, the astonishing appearance of Crazy Horse’s eyes.

Face dedication 1998

Face dedication 1998

I’m convinced that exposing Crazy Horse’s face helped save face for the entire Ziolkowski family. Everybody knew they worked incredibly hard but nobody, except for them, really could be sure that the glorious image imagined by Korczak, was really in there until we could all see for ourselves.

Since the dedication in 1998, donations to and interest in the monument have increased considerably but still nobody’s projecting a completion date.  I, like Ruth, likely won’t live to see it but I now have no doubt it will get done eventually.

One of her last interviews was with Keloland News from her hospital bed last month in which she was still talking about daring to dream big.

“I think the memorial is proof that Korczak was right.” she said. ” He thoroughly believed and he taught all of us that nothing is impossible. You can do absolutely anything in this world you want to do if you’re willing to work hard enough and to pay the price.”

RIP Mrs. Z    Pleasant Dreams.

.

XP Exasperation

Posted: Friday, May 16, 2014 at 11:48 am
By: Doug Lund

windowsXP_end-of-life

Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and gazillionaire: “Hey, Terry, How long have we had Windows XP on line now?”

Terry Myerson, Exec. VP Microsoft Operations: “Well, let’s see, going on 13 years now I guess.”

Gates: “Geeze,  that long? Time to get rid of it don’t ya think?

Myerson: “Well, sir, we tried that with Vista as you recall and that went over like a fart in church so we’ve been counting on Windows 8 to win the public over.”

Gates: “Yeah, so why hasn’t that happened?”

Myerson: “Well, sir, the dadgummed XP still works like a champ. People love it and, as long as we continue to support the operating system, they see no reason to upgrade.”

Gates: “We can’t make money that way, Terry. How do you suggest we convince those satisfied customers into buying our new stuff?”

Myerson: “Well, it’s a little underhanded, sir and I almost hate to use the word.”

Gates: “What word?”

Myerson “Blackmail, sir.” Ya see, we could just stop supporting the XP operating system with anything new and convince customers that in so doing they’ll be vulnerable to all kinds of viruses and malware rendering their beloved computers diseased and useless. The only sure cure is to buy a new computer loaded with Windows 8..or Windows 7.”

So that’s how I, Doug Lund, once proud owner of not one but two Windows XP computers; a desktop purchased in 2005 and a laptop given as a gift upon retirement in 2006..have been forced into a technology filled room I had no need or desire to enter.

After considerable pondering and advice seeking, I finally decided to make the easiest transition and, after not finding one for sale anywhere in town, I ordered a new HP Windows 7 laptop from Amazon. (I tried to buy locally folks but even the stores are only carrying Windows 8)

I didn’t have a choice really. My old laptop, in fact, did contract a virus on the final day of our Texas trip at a Super 8 Motel in Perry, Oklahoma. It’s been sitting in the Keloland I.T.’s office since we got back and I began the search for a replacement. I’ve been assured that Adam will be able to retrieve my old data but that’s about it. That old HP has been mighty good to me..faithfully uploading blogs, photos and audio files from all over the world. She deserves better than what is likely to happen; removal of her hard drive which is then smashed to smithereens with a hammer so nobody can ever retrieve credit card numbers or other personal stuff and then unceremoniously dropped off at the hazardous waste disposal site.

So, I’ve been a long time without a laptop and must admit to being anxious for my new one to arrive on Thursday.  Thanks to the same technology that I discounted earlier I was able to track my UPS shipment to within an hour of its delivery. So, there I was sitting on the front porch rocker looking up and down the street very much like little Ronnie Howard in that wonderful scene from The Music Man where he excitedly waits for the Wells Fargo Wagon to bring his new coronet.

YouTube Preview Image

Well, sure enough, right on time the big brown truck came rolling down our street..and then rolled right passed our house; stopping to make a delivery at the neighbor’s.  But, it was only a tease because the lady made a yooee and came back my way with a package and a grin.

I just found out that Microsoft is going to begin procedures to stop support of Windows 7 in January of next year. I think I may have been re-Gatesed.

I just found out that Microsoft is going to begin procedures to stop support of Windows 7 in January of next year. I think I may have been re-Gatesed.

I had my brand new $650 HP Windows 7 up and running in short order and I must say that I absolutely lo….I really li…it’s just wonde….It’s okay.

I’ll get used to it.. I guess.

Worm Food For Thought

Posted: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm
By: Doug Lund

Did you ever think when the hearse rolls by

That  you might be the next one to die?

They wrap you up in a clean white sheet

And bury you down about six feet deep.

The worms crawl in the worms crawl out

The worms play pinochle on your snout.

They eat your clothes they eat your hat

They crawl in skinny and crawl out fat

The last time I sang that song was when I was about 12 or 13 years old sitting around an evening bonfire at Boy Scout camp. We all laughed at the words just like we all pretended to be scared when the counselor, with a flashlight held under his chin, told the obligatory ghost story in the glow of the fading campfire. Oh, I admit I may have jumped a little when he looked at me and screamed “You stole my golden arm!”  And, maybe I did have a little trouble falling asleep in our tent that night thinking about worms crawling in and out and ghosts looking for missing limbs. But isn’t that what scout camp is all about..to make men out of little boys by scaring the snot out of them?

I was reminded of that experience recently when my cousin Grouse and I were sitting around having a couple glasses of his favorite boxed wine. Somehow the conversation turned kinda morbid..important but morbid. “Have you decided where you’re going to be buried when you die?” I asked.

“Of course, he said, the cemetery in Volga. Haven’t you and Linda made arrangements for a plot someplace?   “No. The few times we’ve talked about it ended in kind of a standoff  followed by silence.” My brother is talking about being cremated.  I’ve spent my whole life hoping to avoid the burning fires of Hell..I certainly don’t want the funeral director to jump start the process. This chardonnay in a box isn’t half bad..what vintage is it?”  “The middle of last month,” Grouse said with a laugh. “I dunno, he said, maybe being cremated isn’t a bad idea. Better than being planted like a petunia. Those caskets eventually leak..you know and then you’re nothing but a feast for the night crawlers.”

“I was thinking about being buried above   ground in a mausoleum like they have over at Hills of Rest. That’s what our friend Alona plans to do.”I said.

“Yeah, but isn’t that awfully expensive?” said my cousin as he headed back to the refrigerator to unscrew the dispenser on the bladder of wine inside.

“I suppose so, I would just rather not have to think about any of this stuff, you know?”

“Well, said Grouse, you don’t what to leave these tough eternal decisions for your kids to have to figure out do you?”

“No, I guess not.”

“If  I were you, he said with the confidence that only a fine boxed white wine can provide, I’d get it done as soon as possible and  have it over with. Oh, and be sure to include that decision in your will.”

“Will??”

Helen Kogel’s Secret War

Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 1:59 pm
By: Doug Lund

Imagine Moses tapping you on the shoulder saying to follow him up Mount Sinai and bring along your hammer and chisel because he has a really important job requiring your engraving skills. This is Moses, for Heaven’s sake, so you obey without question and soon find yourself involved in the most important, history changing, event the world has ever known and when it’s over, Moses says to you, “Now don’t ever tell anyone that you had a hand in chipping out these tablets of stone.. understand?”

Okay, that’s a little far fetched but it’s not far from the experience of a young female U.S. Army corporal from Woonsocket, South Dakota who just happened to find herself on the staff of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II, when plans were being made for the D Day invasion in 1944.

helen young in uniform

Helen Kogel grew up with five brothers and two sisters on the farm homesteaded by her grandfather near Woonsocket. She loved and respected her family but she also wanted more for herself than to be a farm wife so after high school, she went to business college..then, in part because eligible men were kinda scarce due to the war, she and a friend decided to join the WAC’s (Woman’s Army Corps). After basic training, her superiors soon recognized Helen’s skills and, after a stint as a recruiter, she volunteered and was selected to serve on General Eisenhower’s staff in London working as a secretary-typist. After a four day ocean voyage aboard the Queen Mary, she arrived in England during the height of the blitz..set up in a hotel room with a few other girls ..then taken to a secret location where for the next two months she sat in a closed room up to nine hours a day typing Ike’s orders for “Operation Overlord”…the detailed plans for the invasion of Normandy (D-Day.) and the liberation of Europe.

Ike and his generals going over plans for the invasion. Plans likely typed up by Corporal Helen Kogel of Woonsocket, South Dakota

Ike and his generals going over plans for the invasion. Plans likely typed up by Corporal Helen Kogel of Woonsocket, South Dakota

She’d been ordered to forget everything she typed but that, of course, was impossible. Instead, she concentrated on doing her work absolutely mistake-free to avoid slow-downs. At the end of each session, a Military Policeman would gather up all carbon copies and typewriter ribbons and toss them in the burning fireplace..then escort all of the female staffers back to their hotel on Barclay Square where they’d try to sleep. A difficult proposition as V2 German buzz bombs exploded around the city leaving them to wonder if the next one might have their name on it.

During those eight weeks, Corporal Kogel had seen and saluted the General many times but never met or spoken to him. That all changed when finally the invasion transcribing was complete and she was invited to hand the papers over to Ike in person. He asked, “Corporal do you know what you’ve typed here?” She said, “Yes sir. These are the battle plans that you will use for the invasion of France.” He stressed the importance of secrecy and then did something that caught Helen totally off guard. He said, “You have a brother, Jerry, over here don’t you?” “Yes,” she said. “I haven’t seen him in three years.” That’s when he produced a weekend pass and told her to go and visit him.  (Jerry Kogel survived the war serving with General George Patton’s Tank Corps.)

Although it was dangerous to venture out in London, Helen and 14 others did take a tour of Windsor Castle and while exploring the portrait room… in walks King George VI along with the queen and princess daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. Seeing Kogel in uniform the king approached her and asked her name and what she did. The 23 year old girl from Woonsocket, South Dakota later said didn’t know whether to genuflect, bow or kiss his ring..instead she just shook his hand and identified herself saying she served on General Eisenhower’s staff. The king then gestured to his eldest daughter and asked if she knew her. He said Elizabeth is going to be driving some of your officers around. Helen looked at the future Queen of England and said, “Oh, I hope to see you around some time.”

The royal family and British Prime Minister during World War II

The royal family and British Prime Minister during World War II

Not long afterward, the group stopped at Number 10 Downing Street and were surprised when the housekeeper invited the tour group in for tea. Before long, the living room door opened and in walked the British Prime Minister who grabbed a beverage and scone then left without saying a word. Later when Helen wrote her mother about the experience she couldn’t help but tease how she had tea and scones with Winston Churchill.

She knew the number of  ships, planes, weapons, personnel and major objectives. She even knew the allied plan to fool the Nazi’s by taking the long way across the channel.  The only thing Cpl. Helen Kogel didn’t know about the invasion was the exact date it would happen and didn’t find out until she heard the roar of planes overhead flying east in the early morning hours of June 6th, 1944.  Even after it was obvious the invasion was underway, Helen never breathed a word about her role in it to anyone including her fellow WAC’s on staff. They were all sworn to secrecy and that was that.

General Eisenhower wanted to move his headquarters to France as soon as possible so Helen needed to send a  telegram home to let her family know she’d soon have a new address; Paris! That’s when her luck dodging buzz bombs ran out. One struck the telegraph office. She woke up covered in dust and glass being  shaken by someone telling her she’d be okay. Years later, Helen told an interviewer that she still had nightmares about that day; hearing the V-1 whistling above..then going quiet and the explosion which followed. “I was lucky to have gotten out alive,” she remembered.

The move to France was on the exact same route as so many thousands of others had made weeks earlier but without the bullets and bombs. Cpl. Kogel and her 29 female colleagues crossed the English Channel aboard a Navy transport ship then had to climb down a rope ladder into a landing craft which took them as close as possible to Utah beach then dropped the ramp requiring everyone to wade ashore in waist high water.

Sgt. Noel Denton whom Helen met and fell in love with on Utah beach.

Sgt. Noel Denton whom Helen met and fell in love with on Utah beach.

It was while waiting in the mess line along the beach..still dripping wet..that she met her future husband, Sergeant, Noel Denton, who offered to retrieve the WAC’s personal bags. With the sound of battle in the background, Helen and the staff spent 6 weeks camped on that beach in a special holding area; sneaking a few moments with Noel at every opportunity. Finally Paris was liberated and Cpl. Kogel rejoined the General’s staff and remained there until the end of the war.

Helen had promised her father that she wouldn’t get married while in the service so, after Noel was also discharged and had been rehired to his former job with Southern Bell in Atlanta, he made tracks for South Dakota to ask for Helen’s hand. The two were married in the Woonsocket Catholic Church; a marriage that lasted 36 happy years until Noel’s untimely death of a heart attack in 1982.

Helen in later life surrounded by images of her past. In spite of tragedies, one of her favorite sayings was "I'm a very lucky woman..a very lucky woman."

Helen in later life surrounded by images of her past. In spite of tragedies, one of her favorite sayings was “I’m a very lucky woman..a very lucky woman.”

In all that time. Helen never told a single sole including her beloved Noel about her contribution to history during the war.

To deal with..not only Noel’s passing..but the accidental death of their adopted son, Jon, a few months earlier, Helen immersed herself in volunteer work receiving countless honors and awards for her efforts with the Red Cross, March of Dimes, United Way and just about any organization that needed someone to get a job done. That included serving for many years as both post and district commander of the Riverdale Georgia Chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

But, it wasn’t until the 50th anniversary of D-Day in 1994 when a friend asked if any women were involved in the invasion, that Helen finally broke her silence. When the friend heard her amazing story she couldn’t wait to call the local TV station and from that day until Helen’s passing last December in Fayetteville, Georgia at the age of 91, she spoke to hundreds  of groups from school kids to veterans and gave dozens of media interviews leaving everyone a bit slack jawed not only for the vital role she played in Operation Overlord but in keeping mum about it for a half century.

Corporal Helen Kogel was one of thousands of U.S. Military personnel to march in Paris on Victory in Europe Day.

Corporal Helen Kogel was one of thousands of U.S. Military personnel to march in Paris on Victory in Europe Day.

October 05.indd

 

I managed to get in touch with Helen’s nephew, David Kogel who still lives in Woonsocket. I was curious if his aunt was actually that good at keeping secrets. “Oh, Yeah,” David told me. “None of us heard about it until 1994 and we were all amazed.”

David Kogel  Helen's nephew.

David Kogel Helen’s nephew.

David says he’s not surprised that Helen would join the WAC’s adding that five of the Kogel siblings were in the service at the same time. “Patriotism runs pretty deep in our family, I guess” he said. And that includes David himself who served in the Army infantry during the thick of it in Vietnam. He’s a long time member of the Woonsocket Post 29 and, like his aunt Helen, has served in a number of elected positions including post commander. Also like her, David Kogel works tirelessly volunteering on behalf of veterans and other causes including the American Cancer Society.

“Any idea why Helen kept her secret well beyond what anyone would consider a reasonable time?” I asked. “Well, she said she was afraid that the FBI might still be keeping tabs on her and could end up throwing her in jail,” David laughed.

I’m sure glad she finally got over that fear.     Me too.

Helen gets special recognition from President Obama at the National VFW convention in Phoenix.

Helen gets special recognition from President Obama at the National VFW convention in Phoenix.

helen obama kiss