Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas 1942

For many years now my family has had a tradition of having a celebration on Boxing Day. We have a dinner complete with crackers and plum pudding. This year's plum pudding is shown in the picture below. After dinner everyone must perform a party piece. You can sing a song, play an instrument, show some of your handiwork or tell a story.

A few years before he died my father wrote out in long hand and told the story I am about to relate on Boxing Day for his party piece. This year while we were preparing for Boxing Day my daughter found the story he had written in a drawer with some other things we often use on Boxing Day. The story follows with a little editing on my part.

In November,1942 my father made the invasion of North Africa as part of an automatic weapons battalion. By Christmas they were still in the Casablanca area, charged with the antiaircraft defense of the harbor and the airfield. What follows is his story:

“After leaving one of our 40mm gun crews at about 10 PM I was traveling to my bivouac area to go to bed. No lights on the Jeep-war time-no-no at night. We did not need the lights. The moon was putting on a bright, bright show. It was Christmas Eve. As we were slowly moving on, we came to a scene out of Biblical times. There in a field on the side of the road was an Arab guiding a plow pulled by a camel and a donkey. We, of course, stopped to look and watch. With the Christmas star so close and the moon so bright, with an Arab, donkey and camel performing the same as in the days before Christ, I felt very close to what the birth of Christ should mean to all people. We sat and watched the three plow the field for a few minutes. About midnight German bombers operating from Seville, Spain sprinkled the harbor and airfield with bombs. One gun crew was mud splattered from an exploding bomb but there were no injuries.

I continue to recall the North Africa scene and believe more than ever the wonderful message and meaning of the birth of our Savior.”

I am so glad to have found this. He was not a person who expressed his religious beliefs vocally very often, so it is doubly good to have this written in his own hand. Thanks Dad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree......

Some years ago I found myself stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico courtesy of the US Army. Christmas rolled around and I discovered that the Forest Service was allowing personal Christmas tree cutting in one particular area east of the city. Being a long time desert dweller I had never cut my own tree but had always purchased one pre-cut from a Christmas tree lot. These lots always sprang up like weeds around Thanksgiving. I decided it would be fun to cut my own tree. Accordingly I took axe and saw,jumped in my pick'em up truck and headed for the mountains. The area they were allowing cutting was some 20 or 30 miles east of Albuquerque on what is now I-40, and then off on a side road a few miles.

I got to the area alright and tromped up a hill to where the trees were. I looked at a number of trees before finding the perfect tree—nice shape, no sparse areas, big enough—just right! I cut it down and wrestled it down to the pickup and loaded it in the back. It took up the whole bed and then some. It was a great tree! Got back on the main highway and headed for home. A few miles down the road at 60+ miles an hour I looked in the rear view mirror and horror of horrors! The tree had flown out of the back of the truck and was bouncing along the highway all by itself. Fortunately no one ran into it. I went back, got it back in the truck and managed to get it back to my quarters without further incident.

Then the fun really started. As an officer I had a sort of duplex, plenty large enough, sort of like a small house.I unloaded the tree and tried to get it inside. The bloody thing was huge! There was no way it was going through the door. I tried surgery, top and bottom, to no avail. I then discovered a number of limbs had broken in the fall on the highway. As I remember I scrapped it and visited a local Christmas tree lot.

Several years later Christmas and New Years were over and it was time to take down our Christmas tree lot purchased “fresh” tree. We had a burning pit on our ranch and I took the tree out and placed it in the pit. I then touched one match to a small branch. The tree seemed to explode in flame, top to bottom. I've never seen anything quite like it.The tree had been cut in Oregon sometime in October or November, been on a lot, been in our house and it was now early January. It still gives me a chill to think we had that torch standing in our living room. From that day to this our tree comes in a box, which we assemble and decorate. And lovely it is.