My Dad, My Hero

Dad and me by the Horseshoe Court
Dad and me by the Horseshoe Court

I’ve shared various stories regarding my Dad – (The Story of Dick, Harold and the Snake, Musical MemoriesMedical Practitioners and Master Plumbers) but today, I’m hoping the Universal Wi-Fi cafe is open and he may be able to log in and get a message from me.


Good morning, Dad.  How are you doing?   I’m not doing so hot today, because I miss you so much.

I finished watching the Civil War documentary series by Ken Burns again recently as well as The Revolution and Founding Fathers.   Wish you were here to watch them with me.

Early trip to Colorado
Early trip to Colorado

You would have to laugh – my new neighbor has a St. Bernard called A.P. after Confederate general Ambrose Powell Hill Jr.   They were impressed that I knew who he was – turns out, they are fifth generation relations.   You probably would have enjoyed chewing the fat with her.

So much has happened since last Father’s Day.   Me and the boy really love our new little home and though I struggle to learn all I need to in order to upgrade the place, I wanted you to know I fixed the toilet from clogging up, the kitchen sink from leaking and avoided disaster when the pipes froze last December, all because of what I learned from you.

You always made me laugh
You always made me laugh

I’m building a perimeter fence and garden beds from old tires.   I also have slated a solar outdoor cooker plan for this year.   I hope it works – I designed it after reading all the books you left me.

I got to visit a Earthship built home last year – Mikey is really nice and if you get a chance, take a gander at his home. I imagine it’s rather like what you would have built if you had had the chance.   And if you have the ear of the Big Guy, can you ask that Touch the Earth ranch be spared from the Black Forest Fire?   Thanks.

You taught us early and well
You taught us early and well

It’s hard, this living in town.   But it gets the boy close to activities and gives Mom and I both our own little space.   She’s doing good and I’m close by to help with what she needs and have a place for her when the snow gets bad – so not to worry, she’s not driving in blizzards!

Remember the gas station we used to stop by after work when I was little?   I’d have a candy bar and you two would visit over a beer?   He’s still alive and kickin’.   He stopped by the other day and we had a nice chat, over a beer and he gave me loads of gardening advice.

There are days when I would give anything for you to be here, just for an hour or so.   There are so many things I know you could answer for me – is the sloped grade from the house I built adequate?   Is the outdoor hydrant really leaking underground or not?   Would it be okay to tie into the main kitchen water line to install an external water spigot? What would be the best short-term solution for the roof?

What are these nifty little iron thingees I found in the little shed out back?   Is that chain hanging from the rafters an engine hoist or butchering hook?  Will whitewash work on the tire fence?   What’s the safest way to chainsaw down the dead tree in the yard?  The previous owner used caulk on the tile work in the bathroom – can I just re-caulk, or should it really be done with grout?

When the Homeplace was new to us.
When the Homeplace was new to us.

There are folks showing up in my world that help with these things.   You’d be amazed at how many people it’s going to take to fill the knowledge gap you left behind.   And I’m grateful they are arriving.

But they’ll never be you and I can’t wait to be with you again.   Did you, Uncle Bob and Morgan get my solar house and green house built already, just waiting for me to arrive?

Well, enough about me.   Ask the barkeep at the local watering hole if I can start a tab – if he says yes, please treat yourself and the others to a beer on me.    I’ll settle up as soon as I get there.



Your Last Plumbing Job - It's Still Working Great!
Your Last Plumbing Job – It’s Still Working Great!

Human Sacrifice

My mind has returned this morning to the valiant efforts by 500+ average citizens after the 1960 Chilean earthquake.

If you’re not familiar with this heroic story, here’s the recap:

Saturday, May 21 – Small earthquake affects Arauco Province.  Holiday celebrations are canceled and emergency relief efforts organized.

Sunday, May 22 – The most powerful earthquake ever recorded affects all of Chile between Talca and Chiloe Island.  Some coastal villages simply disappear.  Mayhem and Chaos rule.

Tsunami waves start testing the mettle of survivors and continue to make their presence known for the next 22 hours.  Some individuals report being tree bound during the night, helplessly listening to cries for help from those they cannot see or reach.

Resulting landslides affect mostly sparsely or unpopulated areas.   However, one blocks the outflow of Rinihue Lake.

Tuesday, May 24 – Cordon Caulle begins to erupt 38 hours after the main shock of the Valdivia earthquake.   Preoccupied by earthquake damages and emergency efforts, the eruption that lasted until July 22nd received little media attention.  For those affected, yawning earth and destructive water is now joined by fire from the heavens.

Heavy spring rains coupled with dammed mountain lakes result in threats of flooding from  above for those who have climbed to escape tsunamis.

Emergency efforts to channel overflow to the ocean ensue.   27 bulldozers get mired in the mud, unusable and ineffective.   Dynamite blasts result in mud showers for all, but no lowering of water levels.

Early one morning, a bevvy of men show up with shovels.   Step-by-mud-sucking-the-boot-off-your-foot-step, they hand dig the lake’s escape route to the ocean.


When I first heard this story, my heart swelled with pride in the human spark we call ‘spirit’.   Contemporary and subsequent interviews indicate many individuals, both Polytheistic and Catholic,  believed the world to be ending.

Men who had lost some or all of their family, friends and possessions, whose current reality resembled nearly every scenario touted in any tale of Armageddon, chose to show up and dig anyways.


Amazingly, many books and articles that report on the Human Sacrifice of this period in history do not wax eloquent on the details of these laborers.

Instead, they focus on sporadic, rare reports of a return to the ancient practice of shedding human blood in order to satisfy the gods and restore order to the universe.

In my opinion, those writers missed the boat.

The true Human Sacrifice was those who put body and soul on the line, stubbornly digging through mud when everything around them said, “The End is Here.   Prepare to meet your Maker.”


I’ve been unable so far to round up much info on these individual heroes.  I did learn an engineer, Raul Saez, is best remembered for leading the effort.

He died on November 24, 1992, a week after being awarded the National Prize for Engineering and one day after being awarded the National Prize for Applied and Technological Sciences.

Wikipedia doesn’t tell me if those prizes were attached to his efforts in 1960.  I am happy he was given some kind of recognition while still alive to receive it.

Historically, we often fail to recognize and acknowledge greatness during the lifetime of an individual.


End of the world scenarios don’t bother me much.

I figure either I won’t be around to suffer or everyone, myself included, will be blessed with Second Winds and we will dig through mud, even while the world around us indicates, “Give Up!”.

I may not know their names, but I’m inspired by those who shoveled when Armageddon appeared.

Chiune Sugihara

In 1940’s Lithuania, a Japanese diplomat did the unthinkable: in direct defiance of orders, he signed over 6,000 travel visas for Jews, who were either refugees from German and Poland, or Lithuanian citizens, to travel to safety in Japan.

He put his own career, safety and the welfare of his family on the line.

To help people he didn’t have much in common with.


“Desperate times call for desperate measures” you may say.  But according to Philip Zimbardo, Chiune was used to disobeying orders. He was also a thoughtful, cautious man.

Here’s Mr. Zimbardo’s perspective:

“For example, he (Chiune) did not follow his father’s instructions to become a doctor, pursuing language study and civil service instead; his first wife was not Japanese; and in the 1930s, Sugihara resigned from a prestigious civil service position to protest the Japanese military’s treatment of the Chinese during the occupation of Manchuria. These incidents suggest that Sugihara already possessed the internal strength and self-assurance necessary to be guided by his own moral compass in uncertain situations. We can speculate that Sugihara was more willing to assert his individual view than others around him who preferred to “go along to get along”.

Also, Sugihara was bound to two different codes: He was a sworn representative of the Japanese government, but he was raised in a rural Samurai family. Should he obey his government’s order to not help Jews (and, by extension, comply with his culture’s age-old moré not to bring shame on his family by disobeying authority)? Or should he follow the Samurai adage that haunted him, “Even a hunter cannot kill a bird which flies to him for refuge”? When the Japanese government denied repeated requests he made for permission to assist the refugees, Sugihara may have realized that these two codes of behavior were in conflict and that he faced a bright-line ethical test.” (Full original text)


My dad was a big fan of Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story”.   And Robert Fulghum.  I decided today, while I engage in the non-productive and non-useful (writing), I shall at least attempt to share stories you may not be aware of.

I thought Chiune’s story a good one to start the Heroes section with.