Wednesday, December 22, 2010



Martha was sitting in her living room watching television this Christmas Eve, alone as she had been for the last five years. All of her children had married and moved to the four corners of the nation, her youngest, a surgery resident at the Vet School across the state had planned on coming home, but had been assigned to work the emergency clinic and couldn’t find a replacement. Martha told herself that having Sally working to help the sick and injured animals this Christmas Eve was worth being alone, besides, Sally would be driving over for Christmas dinner the next afternoon.

All the animals had been fed and now were safely in either the kennel building or lazily laying around the house. Martha had to stop to think how many dogs she had at her house this Christmas, she sighed when she realize there were 16. She did rescue and the number of dogs was always changing with some dogs being adopted, and new abandoned dogs coming in. Feeling overwhelmed by the number of dogs she had and all the dogs still left in shelters to die because there was no room for them in rescue, Martha seriously wondered if she should stop working rescue. If she didn’t have all these dogs, she could have flown to any of her other children’s homes for the holidays to be with family. Besides, the heartbreak of seeing each dog in such need was beginning to really weigh on her.

Tonight she had a new dog, brought home that day. Martha didn’t really plan on adding another dog but on her way home from the store she saw a dog lying on the side of the road. Certain the dog was dead, Martha stopped, to pick up the body and take it home for a burial. As she got closer, she recognized the shell of an Alaskan Malamute, the breed she rescued. Covered by cuts and festering wounds, what fur was left was matted and filthy, it was so skinny that laying there you could see each rib and its hipbones were the widest part of his body.

With tears in her eyes, mourning for what once had been a majestic animal now reduced to almost a skeleton she reached down to give the poor dog one last pat on the head. “Oh, you poor boy, what a way to end your life. Well, at least I can name you and give you a decent farewell.” As her tears fell on the dog’s head, one eye slowly opened and the tail gave a single wag.

“You’re alive! Everything will be OK now, I’ll take you home and you will have a soft bed and food tonight.” She said, tears streaming down her face, this time from happiness.

The rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning the dog’s wounds and making sure he was able to eat and drink water. Martha set up the large run in the kennel building for him. A soft blanket and a thick foam pad were to be his bed, fresh water and food beside him. Papers for his ‘necessary functions’ were placed at the far end of the run. He laid there watching every move she made.

Martha left the dog resting on his bed, somewhat surprised at the reaction of the rest of the dogs in the kennel. Pandemonium usually broke out with all the other dogs wooing and barking when a new dog was brought in, tonight all the other dogs just stood and silently watched as Martha cared for the new dog. Thankful the other dogs were not disturbing the new boy, Martha went to the house to finish preparations for tomorrow’s dinner.

Later that evening Martha went down to the kennel to check on the new boy and feed the other dogs. As she walked in the door the new boy shakily stood to greet her. As she was straightening up the kennel after feeding and exercising the dogs, she saw her microchip reader. “Well, this will be a waste of time” she thought as she ran the reader over the dog’s body.

BEEP! The reader had located a chip! Writing the number down, she hurried to the house to call the chip registry and report the found dog. As she suspected on Christmas Eve, all she got was a machine.

Very late that night, the phone rang. Martha answered and a strange voice was on the other end. “Did you find a dog with a microchip?”

“Yes, are you the registry needing more information?” Martha asked.

“No, the registry called us and told us you found our dog!” and then the man broke down crying. After composing himself, he continued.

“The dog you found is BISS AM/CAN/INT CH Wasilla’s Ice Sculpture, WPD, WTD, WLD, TT, CGC but to us he is our heartdog, the love of our life, Icy.

Three years ago Icy was stolen from his exercise area in our back yard. We did everything we could think of to find him, but lately we had almost given up hope of ever seeing him again. This is a miracle. We are leaving now to come pick him up. We are about 14 hours from you so we will see you and Icy in the morning.”

Martha was crying, indeed it was a miracle! And the new dog now had a name, his own name and his people were coming for him. What a wonderful Christmas gift.

Martha hurried down to the kennel to let Icy know that his humans had been found and they were on their way to take him home.

As Martha walked up to Icy’s kennel he stood to greet her, “Icy, yes, I know your name and I have spoken to your people…they’re coming to take you home.” As she was taking to Icy, she heard the old clock in the building strike Midnight.

Much to her amazement, Icy said “Thank you.”

Martha thought, Now I am sure I have been around dogs too long, I could swear I heard Icy speak.

Icy continued “Martha, yes I am talking to you in human language, you see at the stroke of Midnight on Christmas Day, all animals can speak. Let me tell you what happened to me today.”

“I have been kept in a dark barn for a long time by some very mean people who beat me and often forgot to feed me. Two days ago I found a loose board on the barn and was able to escape. I walked as fast as I could, looking for my people, or at least for some kind person to feed me and give me a warm place to sleep before I died. I was in the middle of a big field when I couldn’t walk or even crawl any more, I lay down, knowing I was about to cross to the Rainbow Bridge. As I stepped onto the Bridge, an Angel came towards me.”

“Icy,” the Angel said “If you agree, He has a job for you before you cross the Bridge. There is a very kind human who needs you today to restore her sprit.”

“Of course I agreed to help a human -- that is what Malamutes do. The Angel picked up my body and carried it to the side of a road and laid it down. The next thing I remember is you were scratching my ear and talking to me and your tears were falling on my face. You have cared for me this day.”

Martha heard a chorus of voices all about her. To her amazement she was surrounded not only by her dogs, but dogs she had rescued and sent on to forever homes, all voicing stories how Martha had cared for them and restored them to health and loved them, thanking her for her love.

The first Malamute Martha had rescued many years ago stepped to the front of the gathering and said, “Martha, you took us in to your home, cared for us, healed us both in body and spirit then, even though it broke your heart, sent us on to our new forever families. This gave us a life we would never have had without you. Others of us here, never were adopted and lived out our lives with you, loved and cared for as if we were your own dogs. In our hearts we are your dogs. Thank you.”

Then one small mixed breed puppy stepped forward from the back and said, “Miss Martha, you never held me nor fed me, you see I am speaking for all the shelter dogs and cats gathered here for which you did all you could. We understand that you can’t save us all, but you read our shelter stories, knowing we would cross the Bridge without knowing a home of our own, and you cried for us. We thank you for that. You see, we knew you cared and loved us, too. And that love helped us as we crossed. We thank you and all the other Rescuers for that small act of love.”

Icy looked at Martha and told her, “It is getting late and you will have many people here tomorrow to celebrate Christmas. And you have your rescue work to continue. Our time to be able to talk to you is growing short, but always remember what happened tonight. What you do for the animals is a gift to us and to Him, the Father of us all. Each of us, animals of every species, needs people like you. Please keep on helping. You are doing the work of Angels.”

At that point all of the dogs in unison said, Thank You and their voices blended into a joyous howl which echoed from the heavens to the ends of the earth.

Humbly offered as a Christmas Gift to all who love animals. Christmas 2007, 2010

©DustMusher 2007, 2010
Alaskan Malamute Assistance League

Icy, the ‘spokesdog’ for this story is portrayed by Wildpaw's Magical Merlin (Merlin) 6-14-1998~3-27-2009 waiting at the Rainbow Bridge for his loving owners, Vicky and Mark.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

BLACK RIBBON: Representative Edmund Kuempel

Representative Edmund Kuempel (Texas District 44) has died at the age of 67 in Austin from a heart attack. Rep. Kuempel was a kind man always ready with a smile and a kiss on the hand for the ladies, a true TEXAS GENTLEMAN.

His death is a great loss to the State of Texas, his District which I am in, and to animal lovers across the state.

Condolences and prayers are going to his family. Arrangements are pending.

Below are links to some of the news:

Godspeed, good and faithful servant.

Following is his official Biography from the State Website.

Edmund Kuempel has served his constituents since 1983, when he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. From 1983-1990 he represented Kendall, Comal and Guadalupe Counties as House District 46. When the 1990 redistricting was complete, population dictated that Representative Kuempel represent only Comal and Guadalupe Counties as House District 45. The 2000 census and redistricting currently have him representing Wilson, Gonzales and Guadalupe Counties as House District 44 in the 2007 & in the 2009 Legislature. (editoral addition: He was re-elected, unopposed to the 2011 Legislature.)

Edmund Kuempel has been an active legislator for nearly 26 years. He has been named Chairman of three committees during previous sessions - the Committee on Retirement and Aging, the Committee on House Administration and the Committee on State Recreational Resources. At the time Representative Kuempel was the Chairman of the House Administration Committee, the extension to the Capitol was being built, allowing him to be a part of the decision-making process on the massive undertaking to expand legislative office space while not disturbing the Capitol's historic integrity. Representative Kuempel currently serves as the Chairman of the Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee and is a senior member of the Calendars Committee and the Culture, Recreation and Tourism Committee.

Representative Kuempel has been a recipient of numerous awards - the Texas Municipal Retirement System John Traeger Award, Man of the Year Award from the Texas County Agricultural Agents Association, Career Achievement Award from the Texas Chamber of Commerce, Leader of Excellence Award - Free Market Committee, Texas Chamber of Commerce Legislative Leadership Award, and others too numerous to mention.

Not only has Representative Kuempel served as Chairman of several important committees, he has also served as a member of numerous other committees. He is a dedicated lawmaker, taking his elected position seriously. Although Texas has a "part- time legislature", Representative Kuempel does not consider his job part-time. He is constantly in contact with constituents and can be seen at as many functions as his schedule allows. Edmund Kuempel cares, he loves people and he enjoys being among the people of his district. He relies on his constituents' input to make the best decision possible when voting on issues that will affect their lives.

Edmund Kuempel was born and raised in Austin, graduating from Austin High School. He received his B.A. in Business from Texas Lutheran College in Seguin. Edmund is married to the former Roberta "Birdie" Blumberg. They have two adult children, John Kuempel and Margaret Brady. Edmund and Birdie also have a granddaughter - Rose Brady who was born in September, 1998, and twin grandsons - Will and Sam Kuempel who were born in 2004. The Kuempels are active members of Faith Lutheran Church in Seguin.

In 2009, Rep. Kuempel was awarded the National Legislator of the Year Holt Award by the American Kennel Club, and was presented the award by Responsible Pet Owners Alliance at the San Antonio Kennel Club Dog Show March 2010.  Full article at:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Black Ribbon: CW Singin' Chris Mac Dusky, CGC (Mac) 1996 (?) to 9/13/2010

Today, I had to say good-by until we meet again to my heart dog, Mac. Mac was adopted in 2000, pulled from a kill shelter on his last day by Betty Christianson in Dallas. As far as we could tell by the many dog-fighting scars that most likely Mac had been used as a bait dog for a Pit Dog Fighting Ring. If this was his past life - he left it far beind, never again to show any agression to man nor beast. As his Aunt Florence described him, Mac was a perfect gentleman.

Mac 'worked' for many years attending Dog Shows, pet events as a breed ambassador, and four Malamute National Specialties, being in the Rescue Showcase in 2002. He and his lady friend, PatsyCline traveled the nation with Tom and me and later Aunt Florence on our many trips in the RV. He loved going to events and would lay on the floor with an ear to ear smile as half a dozen kids crawled all over him.

His Aunt Lynne has said he was a perfect Malamute, at lest as far as his temperament and personality and inteligence was concerned. Conformation - well - he was a well put together 'Old Style" dog. Large - and the biggest part of him was his heart. Mac earned his ILP (now PAL) registration with the AKC the 'hard' way - by a in person inspection by AKC judges at one of the Houston Dog Shows, then earned his Canine Good Citizen title the frist time we took the test, at an RPOA event.

We have no idea how old he actually was - when I got him in 2000, he was at best guess, at least 4 years old - but until the last few days was happy and active. When his back legs gave out on him and could not walk he happily spent his days watching TV and eating treats. That is not to say he could not get around - he would scoot around the RV and let his needs and wants clearly known to any and all humans in his sight. (Including the fact he did NOT like football games.)

Mac would not bark - he lived with me three years until I heard a sound out of him - and then it was a howl responding to a Malamute 'singing' on my computer. After that, he only barked about 4 times, and NEVER if you were looking at him. That is except for the night Ashley and Jason brought fried chicken over to the house- he KNEW they brought the food for HIM - to the point I put him in the next room behind a baby gate so he wold not steal the whole box of food. He let us know loudly, and incessantly that chicken was HIS! He managed to con us out of several pieces. Food was Mac's favorite thing in life - tonight Jason and I went to a local BBQ place and we saved Mac some of the BBQ's beef and sausage and bought him an order of french fries. Mac did share a small taste for Patsy, but enjoyed his BBQ dinner more than most of us would a dinner at a 5 Star Resturant.

The greatest gift Mac brought to me was JOY, a pure love of life - whether it was taking trip in the car of RV, a walkabout when he found a weak point in the fence or just sunbathing on the cement driveway in the 100 degree Texas heat.

A very special soul who arrived at my house so skinny (less than 60 lbs- literally skin and bones) that we were not sure he was even a Malamute - healed to a glorious well conditioned 115 lb true Mal in all respects. The highest praise given by mushers to working dogs - and even though Mac never pulled a sled - or ever earned any working titles -my weaknesses not his - Mac deserves the highest honor one can bestow - he was an HONEST dog.

I have to give a special thanks to the entire staff of County Line Animal Hospital, in Adkins, TX who have been my vets for many years. They are truly caring people and not only love animals, but care about the owners. Dr. Joseph Miga took care of Mac. Three months ago when Mac was loosing the use of his hind legs, the day I brought Mac to the clinic to be put to sleep, Dr Miga really did pull out a magic wand - powered by an amazing amount of knowlege, mixed with the ability to 'think outside the box', always with the best interest of the animal in mind. And Dr. Miga was there today helping Mac across the Bridge. For the rest of the staff--you will never know how much the hugs and the kind words helped me get through the day. The little things you did, are VERY big. Thank you all! Mac left this world, surrounded by me and family and LOVE.

My heart breaks tonight, missing my Mac-man, but I am comforted knowing he no longer is in pain, and again runs free and restored to health at the Rainbow Bridge.

We will be together again, my baby boy.


A Legend:


Welcome. I am Wolf Stout Heart, Seventh Year Resident of the Rainbow Bridge.

This is your introduction to the Rainbow Bridge. I have been a resident here for a little over 7 years and am a member of the Welcome and Orientation Committee, Wolfdog and Northern Breed Division. I have the extreme honor of escorting you North of the Rainbow Bridge where those of our kind wait.

You have already received your Silver Harness, and it looks so good on you. Now, let us begin our journey.

As you see there are fields of sheep and cows for the herding dogs, and over there are the lakes, marshes and fields for the hounds and sporting dogs to play. Oh; And here are Beau and Sam, the Goldens we lived with -- we visit often, after all we all have loved and are waiting for the same Humons. {This is CW Singin’ Chris MacDusky, CGC. Also known as Master Gunnery Sgt. Mac MacDusky. OGP, of the MRM, Marine Recon Division, Texas Contingent. See ya later, guys. We are on our way North.}

Oh, look! The agility games are going on. And here is one of the newer areas at the Bridge and they have just finished the Rally field--this time with the directions for each station written in Dog.

All the areas at The Bridge are for all the animals here and we have a lot of fun together. I have even seen some of the cats at the swimming ponds.

See that area over there? Where the sun shines bright and warm all the time and there is a gentle mist for a few hours each day? That is where all the reptiles and amphibians are. They all have nice tree limbs and warm rocks to lounge on.

But let's continue North.

Oh, check out those hedges and trees – that is where the bunnies and the mice, rats, gerbils and ferrets are. I like to come down and watch them play; they just have so much fun –the flurry of activity and squeaking for joy when one of their Humes is coming is a treasure.

Now watch your step, this is the Large Animal area. Occasionally all the horses, mules, donkeys, even the cows and goats get a little carried away with the Herd Running Game and can give a smaller critter like us quite a surprise as they break the hill at full gallop. Even the pigs and chickens take part.

As the hills get a little steeper and woods a little thicker it is so much fun to run full speed, up and down the hills dodging the trees. Here you will see the ‘exotic’ animals. The tigers and lions and bears and wolves, all the animals thought of as wild but have hearts shared with humans. They, too, will cross the Rainbow Bridge with their special person.

But our journey carries us further to the North.

You feel the air getting crisper? And look, your coat is fuller and your Silver Harness shines brighter. We are getting close.

Now, step carefully, we are crossing the Crystal Bridge. Here, the weather is always clear, the snow just the right depth and the trail, perfect.

Since we have arrived during the afternoon, I can show you some of the activities we have. The Northern Breeds have many interests and enjoy many different games. I know you are used to having a Hu-mon to hook your harness to the sled or cart but your Silver Harness has magic and will hitch to what ever you want.

Over here is the Weight Pulling arena. We have both wheeled carts and sleds. And yes, there are a lot of other breeds up here pulling. The cart always has just the right weight and you always complete the pull. Even though the Humes aren’t there to cheer you on we all gather around and woo you on to victory.

The Sammies are over there herding reindeer, and there are open streams for the Inuits and Greenlands to fish for salmon.

The Malamutes came up with a great idea that has now become a tradition with all the breeds. Each year during that Breed’s National Specialty there is a Rainbow Bridge Specialty Show. All the dogs who had show careers and those who just wanted to be a show dog enter the show ring and go around one more time. The Malamutes have gotten permission to have visitors from Heaven during that time. Humes who have no dog with them are allowed to come visit and watch the show. Judges and Stewards come and take part. And the old breeders come to see how the breeds are developing and visit with their great-great grandpuppies. All the dogs participating the first time get their Silver Rosette. You see, every dog here is perfect.

If you look around you see not only are there warm straw beds to rest on, but houses with soft sofas and fireplaces to just lounge on and swap stories. Many of the residents wait here for the night.

That is the time all of the Northern Breed dogs assemble. Each night the team is formed up and they run. They can be seen from earth as the Northern Lights and now we are getting members from the Southern Hemisphere, they run to the South Pole of earth to give them lights, too.

Each March is a special run. That is when the Iditarod is run on earth and all the dogs who have raced team up together for a special display. Many of them are cheering on their Humes who are racing. Many of them have family members on the trail. It seems that the Alaskans and the Sibes work their hardest to see who can make the most spectacular light display. However, always are the Malamutes - led by the '94 Storm Kloud Team - the only all AKC Malamute team to enter the Iditarod, but joined by all of the Malamutes from the past thousands of years.

Well, I think you are pretty well acquainted with the Rainbow Bridge and North. There are just a couple of other things you should know.

You are able to see your Humes when you miss them most. They may have gotten a new dog. That is good. It means they have started to heal from the loss they felt when you left. But remember, a part of your heart remained with HER to replace the part of her heart she gave to you.

Now, occasionally, your Hu-Mom may be particularly sad and missing you. You are able to send your love to her any time. She will feel your love. It may be as a shadow in the corner of her sight, or the soft sound of your woo, or a gentle breeze caressing her cheek. And it will bring her comfort.

And there is one special night, Christmas Eve. All the animals waiting for a special person gather together and send their gift of love to their persons. That night we are able to speak to your person's heart and if she looks closely there is a star shining particularly bright. Just for her from you.

Oh, I see the sun is setting and you are looking at all the dogs gathering in team. Go, and run. It is your night.


Bilinda Marshall
December 2003

Associated links:
And Pictures of tonight’s Aurora

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I do have a BIG problem with most victim advocacy groups and those who run them -- starting with the name -- VICTIM.

The general tone of the “groups" is to verify the victim status which has a LOT of psychological and psycho-social baggage hung on it - not the least of which is an attitude that the 'victim' will always be victimized and the only way to cope with life is to just give up or become an aggressor. The whole ‘once a victim, always a victim’ mentality.

Ask someone who has been raped - the vast majority will FOREVER class themselves as a rape victim.

Victims can easily be manipulated. Victims can be convinced they will never really be able to be in charge of their own life again. Victims are told they really are only the effect of what happens in their world. Victims in a group therapy situation almost always are trying to convince each other that they are the most damaged. Whatever they do for the rest of their lives - it is ALWAYS shadowed by the fact they are a victim.

Victims are convinced, that to 'get better' they need to learn to strike out first and hard and that because they are victims, they know better than anyone who is not a victim how the world should be, and just what is right and proper. It is the right of the victim because they know suffering they MUST prevent suffering of anyone or anything which is too weak to protect themselves. Victims live a life of. . . well a professional victim. Seldom do they ever become a survivor.

Survivors are living life as productive forward looking people with a positive view of the future and capable of making positive changes or preserving the good in society. Whatever trauma which could have become the vehicle of being a victim is faced and learned from. To the survivor that episode is still a part of their life, but the strangle hold is gone and that episode is just another of the bad things which happen in anyone’s life, to be learned from and from the healing process makes the survivor stronger. No longer the center of the persona, the survivor moves on and continues growing, looking on the episode rarely, but views it as a positive force, much as fire is needed to strengthen steel and refine gold.

The power seeking manipulators of the world seek out victims, and work at convincing all they come into contact with that they have been victimized. It is a power game. In totalitarian or utopian groups or societies these follower victims are referred to as 'useful idiots'.

I am not speaking from theory - I am a survivor. I have had many episodes which could have convinced me I was a victim. I hit a deer riding a motorcycle - messed up my knee and had a serious fib-tib fracture of my leg - several operations and many months of therapy later, I walk mostly normally. I have been raped. I have had my husband die much too young after 5 years of knowing he could die any day. I have had my home foreclosed after loosing the ability to practice nursing in a hospital ER following an auto accident when I was hit while sitting at a stop light. I am technically homeless.

What makes me a survivor? These and many other episodes have refined me by fire. I learned if you want to kill a deer - a rifle is much safer. I practice situational awareness - and listen to my gut feelings about people and situations. I know how to defend myself from violent attacks - physical and non-physical - in many ways ranging from avoidance through lethal force. I am a survivor - but that is not my 'profession' - I have made the decision to be a helper - to teach others how to be a survivor.

Situational awareness makes me stay as far as possible from the professional victims and their users.

I guess there is no point in this post, except to maybe be able to recognize the personality types I mentioned. And to let anyone know that becoming a SURVIVOR is a conscious decision the person must make; then work at integrating that episode into your life to extract the lessons learned and to let go of it.

Becoming a professional victim is not learning and letting go - but you do get a lot of sympathy and encouragement while you are being used. It is so much easier!

Thanks for hearing me out. . . I will now go back in my crate and be a nice quiet doggie. I do have a quote which is part of my being as discussed in my blog entry named Touchstones and Wise Words which I remember in any confrontation and should give fair warning to me any who may threaten me: "The problem with small furry creatures in a corner is that, just occasionally, one of them is a mongoose."

Friday, July 9, 2010

CIRCUS MEMORIES-not the normal go see the elephants

I got an email from a friend who told some tales of their life with the cIrcus leading me on a trip down Memory Lane.

When I was very young, I had a special love for the circus - that was in the day of the Big Top. One of my mother's high school friends had married the Train Master for Ringling’s and we would visit Mr. & Mrs. Milton every winter when we went to Flordia over Christmas school break. Most years they would have a party to which we were invited. I had the honor of meeting some of the nicest people and claim the 'Doll Family" as family acquaintances and have visited their home. As a 3 to 5 year old I LOVED going over there -- the whole house was MY size.

When the circus was in town we would always go and would visit the Sideshow to see the Dolls - I remember standing and watching their 'show' and, as the rest of the crowd moved on to the next show in the tent, we stayed as Mr. Earl called out to my mother by name - and then came down to the edge of the stage and as he and my parents had a conversation and they would send someone off to find Mrs. Milton to let her know we were there. One year Mrs. Milton took us backstage and between shows were invited to their quarters and then she decided I needed to see a real circus - that day was magical! We got seats front row, center ring, and Mrs. Milton sat with us and explained to me what was going on and pointed out when someone I had met was performing, some in many acts - she had preformed for many years, at least as an Elephant rider, Aerial Ballet, and Iron Jaw - I remember her saying, “no one gets a free ride with the circus - we all work”.

A couple years later was the last year that Ringling's came to town under the Big Top, and my parents took me down and I got to stay up all night (at least in my world) and got to watch them set up. And I was invited to eat with the crew in the food tent. I was able to meet the elephants and hug an elephant leg, tossed treats to the big cats, and pet a lion, fed carrots to the Liberty Horses and generally got a full tour of back stage, meeting people and animals. Met Emmett Kelly AND Weary Willie - and was able to wrap my head around person/persona - a concept which has served me well though my life.

That was the year the Michigan State Champion Woman's AAU Basketball Team (1929?) had a reunion organized by my mother - date chosen because 2 of the team members were in town with the circus - the other lady ran the cotton candy concession on the Circus Midway. I really regret that I was not able to attend, as the Champion Athlete was one facet of my Mother I never really got to know except in photos, newspaper articles and some stories, mostly retold by my father who was as proud of Mom's achievements as his or the teams he coached.

One evening at the Milton's home several of their friends (mostly performers but some of the support crew) were over, and somehow, they began reminiscing about the years on tour. . . I wish I could remember all of that evening - at that age I had NO idea how much history was sitting in one room - and how open they were with 'outsiders' present. Somehow, the conversation drifted into the sadness -- Mrs. Milton had ridden an elephant in the Grand Parade at the beginning of the show and she sat there with tears streaming down her face when she told how 'her' elephant had died during the menagerie fire (must have been the '42 fire because they were on tour).

The discussion turned to the '44 Hartford Big Top fire - it turned into a therapy session - each and every one telling their view and experiences of that disaster and retelling the acts of heroism they witnessed by other members in the Circus - never mentioning their own actions. Most of them told how the performance had been routine. Then they heard the band start playing the Stars and Stripes Forever - in the Circus world, called the Disaster March. (Recalling that memory, I now understand WHY every time I hear that song, which I love by the way, I cry - I relive the emotions in that livingroom in Sarasota on that night.)

All of them agreed that the real unsung heroes were the Big Cat trainers (Court and Tovars) - the Cats were in the ring when the fire started and though the cats were beginning to panic - the trainers kept them under control and got the cats out of the tent and safely secured in their cages before they could harm anyone.

The Wallendas were on the high wire doing their act (I had to check this on line to confirm my memory of the names) and first saw the fire, calling the alarm - but that was the only nice thing I ever heard about that family. From what I remember hearing, they came down their ropes (?) left the tent and hid in their trailer for the duration of the disaster.

My Friend - I thank you so much for your post which triggered these memories which laid dormant for so long - and again made me realize how blessed I was from childhood for parents who provided me with experiences far beyond that which most kids growing up in the late 40's and 50's in a very small town in rural Michigan could even dream of doing.

The greatest lesson for me was to judge people on WHO they are not what persona they project or what job they have or any of the other outward appearances -- it is what is inside the person that counts.

One of the more comprehensive sites on the ’44 fire. The reprint from WHITE TOPS MAGAZINE (linked at this site) is very interesting to Circus buffs:


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Patriot's Voice from the Past

On this day as a President who has stated his goal is to 'Fundamentally change America" signs the Health Care Bill, I believe that we all should remember a speech which was given to the Virginia House of Burgesses 235 years ago on this date.

As a teen I stood in the House of Burgesses and heard this speech. For the first time in my life, I UNDERSTOOD why and how the Patriots would be willing to sacrifice all they had and Fifty-six men would " ". . . mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor." to bring forth this Great Nation.

May God continue to bless America and return us to the basic principles it was built upon. As Samuel Adams said:

A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue then will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.
(Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, February 12, 1779)

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death
March 23, 1775 By Patrick Henry

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the house. But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve. This is no time for ceremony. The question before the house is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at the truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the numbers of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth, to know the worst, and to provide for it.
I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House. Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received?

Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss. Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging. And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication? What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted? Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on. We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament. Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation.

There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free--if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength but irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable--and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

To hear the recording of the speech as presented within the House of Burgesses in Colonial Williamsburg by Richard Schuman, who interprets the character of Patrick Henry for The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Click here:
Watch this Youtube The Sons of Liberty