the wind and i just come and go

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Listen closely . . .

Often, the boldest statements come in the form of silence . . .

Hate the war, not the warrior . . .

Recently, I offended one of my veteran friends with an anti-war statement. I think we patched things up, but it is so easy for any and all of us to react first and consider later, but I can understand that having people shoot real bullets at you in an environment where needed medical care might be wanting is really traumatic.

Killing one another makes no sense to me. That the powerful have the leverage to send the (mostly) unknowing into battle for a dubious cause still strikes me as a wonder of the modern world. In high school, in California, I had a teacher who really challenged us to think through the justifications that were being made for the increasing involvement (67-68) of the US Military in Southeast Asia. In short order, it became obvious to me that Ho Chi Minh was little or no threat to Orange County. It also became obvious to me that the North Vietnamese and their (mostly) Russian allies had created a killing machine that was, in its own element, brutally effective.

Racial and cultural differences were obvious and easy motivations that created superficial reasons for going to war. As a country, we have for 240 years expected every population to be a mirror image of our democratic marvel. War is just dumb. And I don’t excuse the bad guys who seem to make it impossible for the good guys to have to fight. We need to take note of a few things:

  1. We need to be vigilant and we need to be ready.
  2. We need to maintain a reasonable level of preparedness
  3. We need to keep in mind that our country had 150 years as a colony 3000 miles from the mother country to figure things out on our own before we embarked on our big democratic (really republican) adventure.
  4. We need to stop sticking our nose in where it doesn’t belong.  More than once the neighborhood bully went home with a bloody nose when he tried to stop my brothers from fighting.
  5. We need to stop making snowballs for others to throw.  Arming everyone without knowing where the guns will end up isn’t the best idea.
  6. We need to learn to play better with others.  It seemed for a while that we could call the shots.  It was a short period of time, in the grand scheme of things.  Less than 50 years.
  7. We need to be able to admit being wrong.  It’s not a sign of weakness.  This America right or wrong stuff has got to stop, because it blurs us from seeing when we’re wrong.
  8. We need to do better by our troops when we send them off to war, and when they come home all messed up.  If we do it right, they don’t have to go, and they don’t get messed up.
  9. We need to tone down the “hero” talk.  Soldiers, in my experience, consider their service doing their job as they see it.  They’re usually pretty humble.  If they went “over there” did their job, great.  If they raced into a burning building and brought out  a bunch of kids, I’ll buy the hero label.  According to some of the young guys, the whole “thank you for your service” stuff just makes those who stayed home feel better about missing the call.
  10. We need to make our schools gardens of critical thought.  They need to learn history – in a way that admits there can be a discussion about whether what we did among the family of nations was right or wrong.

Never hate the warrior.  Nobody goes anywhere to get their ass shot off for fun.  They do their duty as they see it.  They are only slightly more valuable than the small voice that says, “Let’s give this peace thing a chance”.

I am a simple man . . .


I am a simple man.  I probably owe an apology to both Graham Nash and Ricky Van Shelton, who recorded different songs under this title. Van Shelton’s lyrics probably have more immediate parallels in my life, but the Graham Nash song from the Songs for Beginners album (Crosby Stills & Nash) reaches out and speaks occasionally as well.  I don’t spend alot of time on me.  My haircut is pretty much the same as when Leo the barber cut my hair for 50 cents and a 25 cent tip in the 50’s.  It was on East Wisconsin Avenue, on the north side, so it was on the far reaches of my range. (park your bike in the alley, not on the sidewalk) I took a sabbatical from haircuts in the late 60’s and early 70’s, but that was political.   It was my sister’s bike.  It was the reason I walked to school.  It was a blue Schwinn balloon tired bomber – a GIRL’s model.  Another reason I was an outsider.  My mustache is about the same since the cuts first healed and the stitches were out after my altercation with the ice fishing shanty in 1971 – on Fowler Lake – on a very similar track that I had followed a few years earlier on a far more innocent trek across that wonderful little lake. The damage to my face was and is a mess no one needs to see. If it works, and it feels good, I am content to let well enough alone. I am a simple man.  I become complex only when people think I should be something else.  I left home early, went to college, quit, got married, went back, finished, went to work

I spent 35 years in an industry I neither understood or cared for, initially.  The insurance industry has alot of rules, most of which are understood only by the number crunchers who live far (physically and intellectually) from the people they are supposed to serve.  The numbers generally win.  I was fortunate, in that I worked for a mutual insurance company most of those years.   I also was successful enough to have access to the decision makers, and could usually drink enough to impact some decisions – or maybe I just drank enough to think I did.  My boss for most of those years frequently told me that I needed to have an avocation, that wasn’t for money, that I could be good at and find escape, satisfaction and personal rewards.  He even put this in writing at times when he thought I was taking the business too seriously.  I did that.  There were fast cars, bicycles, training hunting dogs, real estate,  woodworking, and a pretty long list of minor interests, as well.  I even coached my daughters’ basketball teams for several years.  The girls were also a great source of  escape, satisfaction and personal rewards.  I still love fast cars, try to ride the bike occasionally, love my dogs and tinker with a few other interests, but the wood working has stuck.  The girls are long gone to their own lives and families, but proffer the greatest satisfaction, when we can stand back and look at their successes and state unequivocally that the heavy lifting is done.

The woodworking has stuck.  It is confounding, yet incredibly satisfying.  I love the silence of hand work, can get lost in it without realizing it.  I also love the action and noise of the CNC router that I built from the ground up and has opened up a whole world of things I haven’t done before.  Turning is a drug – the incremental removal of material that results from the scraping of tools against a rotating project, revealing itself progressively – carrying with it a hope that it can be what we planned.   I’ve never been much for rules, especially rules that I didn’t understand or made no sense.  The wood doesn’t seem to care what I think.  It will change on the whim of a percentage of moisture content or a few degrees in temperature.  It forces me to adjust, anticipate, and sometimes just grow weary of its stubborn demands to remain as it was Created.   When I asked a chairmaker friend from Tennessee why he had no electrical power in his shop, I got more of an answer than I anticipated: “Mistakes happen faster with power tools.  With hand tools, I can fix a slip or gash, make it look like it belongs there.  With power tools, it is usually too late.  If it is too dark to see in the shop, I am either there too early or it is too late and I belong in the house with my family.”  I got the feeling he had worked on that answer for a time.

I am a simple man.  I could easily get along with a bowl, a spoon and a cup.  (we would still need to keep a plate, fork and knife around for the occasional rib eye or sirloin).  When something wears out, I look hard for an identical replacement, because I don’t want to fool around with adapting to something less functional.  When I find what I want, I usually buy two.  A good pair of boots (Red Wing 8″ 899 13M) suits me fine, as does a pair of jeans (wranglers – relaxed fit) and a long sleeved t-shirt (Hanes 2XL tall beefy T with a pocket),  an LL Bean 2XL tall flannel shirt (or a Pendleton if it’s a formal occasion).  On a cold day,  my Wolverine vest (2XL tall) takes the chill off.  But I’m not particular.

It’s time to move…

Corporate income taxes amount to somewhere around 10% of the total revenue of the federal government (so I have read and heard). I don’t know, and don’t think we can know how much corporations spend on political campaigns. There’s no question in my mind that a constitutional amendment is required to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Along with that, we need to END the corporate income tax, because that is just passed through to consumers as a tax on top of other taxes. Why end the corporate income tax? For the same reason this country’s agitation for a break with Great Britain began – no taxation without representation! This is the ONLY way we get back to the value of the individual vote. Corporations are not people in the founders sense of the word, only in a technical legal sense that has nothing to do with our constitution.

A RADICAL VIEW – You shouldn’t be surprised

Most people who know me know that I spent 35 years in the insurance business – mostly involved with selling insurance to business owners.  I’ve never been able to figure out the whole health insurance nonsense.  I was never really too involved with it – our company did little of it and when they did, they weren’t very good at it.

Hillary took a run at fixing it in the 90’s, and she botched the job.  She made no friends in the process and probably set a solution back 25 years – I know, I was in one of the meetings in Washington, and she’s a scary woman.  My mother was scarier, so she didn’t scare me much.  As I have gotten closer to the “magic” numbers – 65 for Medicare and something more for Social Security, one fact has become pretty clear to me.  We have two things that the government does reasonably well:  Social Security and Medicare.  I have talked to many of my friends on Medicare as I approach the magic age, and without exception, their reaction has been something close to “you’ll love it”.

So why can’t we agree to do for the rest of America what Medicare has done for our seniors?  Because we are led by greedy and people, and because they are leaders because we are lazy citizens and gullible to boot.

On the outside, but not always looking in . . .

I admit to not being who I was twenty five years ago – I’m just not.  I haven’t reinvented myself. Just maybe, I have, in my older years, figured out who the heck I am, and gone with it!  My late brother Tom left home at 18 – when I was born.  When I left the crib in Mother and Dad’s room, it was time for him to go.  There were still three others at home, and apparently, he was, as they say in baseball, out of options.  Tom was one of my guardian angels, though – growing up in that house was tough – I was the youngest, born late in life into a marriage that wasn’t exactly made in heaven.  Even after he and Joanne married, he was there on birthdays, to bring me something, take me fishing, or just take me for a ride.  Long into adulthood, in one of our more serious conversations, (Tom was possessed of that goofy Lindsay sense of humor) I asked him what I had been like as a little kid.

His answer surprised me; he said I was a shy, sensitive little boy who wanted other people to be happy.  That was it.  In those few words, he helped me to start to understand myself.  So, instead of “reinventing” myself, I have spent the last twenty five years revealing myself to myself.  Adapting to my shortcomings and starting to exploit my real talents, such as they are.  Another thing that I have done is to keep a list of those people I could have done better by:  First and foremost my wife and kids, nieces and nephews, old friends, loyal business acquaintances – no reason, really, just a reminder that, well, sometimes that shyness, sensitivity and outright fear of life sometimes got the better of me.  Sometimes it caused me to quit on myself.  I have apologized to myself profusely for that.  I quit less now.  I don’t struggle as much.  Still work hard, but I don’t know any other way.   At the end of the day, though, I’ve always been an outsider – but I also realize it has been by my choice in most of the cases, and I’ll say this about being on the outside looking in – the view is sometimes pretty good.

Skeletons in the closet III – ah, here it is…

John B. Lindsay – Junior.  born in Iowa, about 1846-1848, depending on which document you believe.  His father went west when he was young.  The judge who oversaw the care of the children after their mother died called him “a sickly child”  so his care was for some years relegated to the poorhouse in Muscatine, Iowa.  The second of two known John Lindsay’s in our genealogy, it is unlikely he had any recollection of his father, or mother for that matter.  The fact that he is a tragic figure did not keep the family from seeing him as a disgrace.   Sometime between 1856 and 1859, he was “claimed” by his aunt, Susanna Lindsay Johnston, and taken to the city of Rockford, IL.    His sister Susan was likely already there, while Lizzie and Thomas Hamilton Lindsay stayed in Iowa, working in farm homes.

We know nothing of John B. Jr.’s life before October of 1863, when he enlisted in Capt. Witt’s company B of the 2nd Illinois Cavalry.  His enlistment papers list him as having sandy hair, hazel eyes being 5′ 7″ tall and of average build.    He served without distinction, guarding railroads and bridges and pretty much doing mop up operations after Grant had gone east, Sherman was starting for the sea, and Custer was cutting a wide swath across Louisiana and Mississippi.   The second (later combined into the fourth) Illinois Cavalry may have been involved in the Red River Campaign, as their final posting was at Waco Texas, as an occupation force.   It should be remembered that as a three year enlistee, he was obligated until October of 1866, unless released sooner.  Officers, on the other hand, mostly resigned their commissions and went home when the war was over.   When there was a muster on January 1, 1866, he was listed as a deserter, to be “stopped” for a variety of equipment including a Spencer Carbine, two swords, one dress and one battle sword – and two army ponies.  Thanks to my nephew Rich, I have the battle sword, rescued from a pile of items being prepared for a rummage sale.    It should be noted that in 1888, there was a general amnesty for this class of deserter, since there was no one to pay them or drill them, generally they just started walking.   Being stopped with a couple of army ponies was an entirely different matter.

Eventually, he arrived home in Illinois.  By 1870 he was living in Byron Illinois, with his cousin Thomas L. Johnston, also a civil war Veteran.  It’s not likely that the welcome was  a very warm one.   He was a soldier in a pacifist family, and it is likely that by this time, he was drinking at least regularly, another trait that would not have gone over well.  He worked with his cousin, (who had been widowed by the death of his cousin Susan in 1864)  They worked as plasterers and painters in southern Ogle County in the area of Byron and Stillman Valley.  Thomas L. Johnston is buried in Stillman Valley Cemetery.

John B. eventually left Illinois and found his way to Arizona, where he worked, at least for a time for the family of a Robert Anderson, who were sheep ranchers on Canyon Diablo, near Chavez Pass, near Flagstaff.  John was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, Flagstaff chapter, which was headed by a lawyer with the auspicious name of J. Guthrie Savage.  John B. had a short correspondence with my grandfather, Samuel Jacob Lindsay.   By 1892, the drinking had become more problematic, and when his horse was found wandering the streets of Flagstaff one morning, the sheriff, apparently tired of trying to dry him out, ordered him to the insane asylum in Phoenix. (104 miles away, according to one of Savages letters to my grandfather.)  The plan, apparently was to transport him to Prescott by stage, and then to Phoenix by train.   Here, the story breaks down.  One account is that he was briefly left in the care of the stationmaster,  whereupon he grabbed the pistol of a passerby and mortally wounded himself.  The other account, was that he hung himself in a cell.  But then, dead, then as now, is dead.  “John was his own worst enemy, but none could have known him so close to his own end,” wrote Savage to S.J. Lindsay in April of 1892.

A brief newspaper clipping sent to S.J. Lindsay by Mrs. Anderson simply said that he died by his own hand and was buried in a paupers grave in Prescott.  As of this writing, there are no records of unmarked graves, and no real hope of gaining any more details.  My dear sweet Aunt Etta upon being confronted with this information, acknowledged that she knew of the story, but was unsure of the details.  My dad, after allowing me to dig on my own for many years, finally gave up the brown envelope containing the correspondence from all players.  His justification: “Just wanted to make sure you weren’t just diggin’ up dirt.”

Bill’s Boots

I have referred previously to Bill’s boots. Susie was my seventh grade English teacher and Homeroom czarina.  I admit, I was probably an acquired taste for her husband Bill, but over the years, Bill became as much a mentor and friend to me as his dear wife.  As we progressed in life, the relationship changed and grew, the difference in our ages became less important.  The low point was probably a day in about 1963 or 1964 when he got really angry with me for throwing snowballs at him while he was standing on a ladder changing light bulbs on the used car lot.  There are a lot of good memories, but the one that, while ironic, will always remain with me, was the day that I walked into Susie’s kitchen for my occasional Saturday morning cup of coffee.  Bill poked me in the gut and said, “Johnny, you need to go on a diet”  I had “grown” to about 250 as the result of a shoulder injury that put a stop to my regular exercise of biking and racquetball.  

He patted his middle and said, “you need to go on my diet – I’ve lost 18 pounds”.  I had already been on every “diet” known to man, so I probably paid less attention than I should have.  He did look trimmer, and at that point still had that goofy smile, and twinkle in his eye.  The son of a furrier/farmer Bill loved hunting, fishing, his family, UpNorth and horses.  Well, Bill’s “diet” turned out to be colon cancer,  and after a long battle, it was thought he was cured, but they decided on one more round.  It seemed to work.   Only a few months later, as I recall, he had a massive stroke, lingered a couple of days, and the call came from his son, Billy, that his dad was gone.

At Bill’s funeral, in place of a casket, there was a small pine tree and his hunting boots at the front of the Presbyterian church. it  was hard to grieve, but I did.  in the past decade, I had lost my dad, my father-in-law, my “second dad”, Clarence “Peg” Koeppler, my close friend Don Wright, Clancy the best bird dog I ever owned, and my brother Sam and couple of other friends and mentors.  I was shell-shocked. there had been so much hope for his recovery, and now death came at him from another direction.  

It was several months later that Susie called me.  “I have some things of Bill’s that I think he would have liked you to have.”  I rolled that conversation over in my head again and again, and finally worked up the courage to go over and face her – I wondered what the Bill-less Susie would be like.  I wondered what she had in mind, because any little memento of Bill.would be a treasure to me, not to mention the fact that there were two grown sons in the picture, that would certainly trump me.  I barged in the kitchen door, as I always do.  A few minutes later Susie appeared.  we had a little conversational sparring, as I couldn’t be sure what she was feeling, and as always, shared a cup of coffee, which always pulls everything together.  

Eventually we migrated to the basement where all of Bill’s hunting gear and footgear were neatly positioned on a shelf.  I was shocked, because what ever Bill was, I had never known him to be all that neat, but then most of my time had been spent in his shop, looking for stuff.  She pointed to “those” boots.  “Try them on…”   I froze.  A pair of old school insulated Danner High Countrys.  I also noted a pair of run-over insulated pull-on boots.  “you can have those too, I was just going to toss them.”  I knew Bill loved the Danner’s – any cold weather hunter would be happy to have them.  “Try them on.”  They were a perfect fit, and I’m pretty particular about keeping my feet comfortable, and have been ever since my paper route days when boots weren’t “cool” and I was just as likely as anything to wear leaky hand laced loafers without regard for the weather.   As I pulled them off, the emotion gripped me – for an outdoors guy, his boots are right up there with his favorite shotgun and a good dog.  “I can’t take these, you have two sons who should be in line for these, why me?”  I was hoping to infuse a sense of duty into this to resolve my conflict.  In her typically Susie way, and  now she was talking as gently as she would have to a troubled seventh grader, “Because, Johnny, you’re the only other person I know that wears size 13 Boots”.  

The Danners sit on a similar shelf, worn more than a few times, late season hunting trips to South Dakota, a few field trials in late season in places like the Colorado grasslands and the west face of Utah’s Wasatch.  It has been subtle, but although Bill and I never got to take the hunting trip to Alaska we always talked about, but his boots have been on some good ones since he left us.  As for the run down, insulated pull-on boots that look worse than they wear, I wore them every morning to take care of the dogs when we had enough dogs to have outside kennels, and now I wear them any time I need to go outside and am too lazy to put real shoes or boots on.  

The Creek

No words required

Skeletons in the Closet. . . . maybe – Part II

John B. Lindsay and Margaret Norman had five children together: Mary Margaret, the infant who died in May, 1850 in Muscatine, Iowa, John B. Lindsay Jr., Born about 1848 in Iowa, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Lindsay, Susanne Lindsay, b. Harrison County, Ohio, c. 1845., and Thomas Hamilton Lindsay B. 1842 in Harrison County, Ohio.  When John B. left for Oregon, I think it is pretty safe to assume that the intention was for him to send for his family when he became established.  Margaret died in the Spring of 1850, her daughter a couple of months later.  This left the other four children to the care of the county.  All were eventually placed in foster homes, with the exception of John B. Jr.  The judge referred to him as a “sickly child” who was kept at the county orphanage.  I have the original court documents on this thanks to a sharp eyed librarian at the Muscatine public Library who salvaged them for me after the county donated them to the Library for microfilming.  Nice save!

The court pressed John B. for money.  The only record is of him sending $40 at one point.  Although we assume there was correspondence with the family, none of it has survived, and as might be expected, the relatives who wound up in IL were pretty upset.  At some point, John B.’s sister Susanna Lindsay Johnston retrieved the children from Iowa and took them into their home in Rockford, IL.  (Hence the Illinois connection)  Thomas indentured to a William Lawrence in Muscatine County until 1860 (18 years old) and was likely the last to join his siblings in Illinois.  Lizzie also stayed with a family in Iowa through at least 1860, working as a seamstress.  Thomas and John B. jr. worked on various farms in Ogle county South and West of Rockford near the village of Adeline.  John B.Jr.’s  life could be the subject of a book, but we will deal with that later.  

ImageThe only photo known to exist of the siblings of John B. Lindsays first family.  On the right is Elizabeth Lindsay Wortman (Aunt Lizzie).  The woman on the right is my grandmother, Nellie Mariah Ward Lindsay.  This photo is believed to have been taked about 1887.  Nellie was introduce to S.J. Lindsay by Lizzie.  (her nephew) They were married the following year.