Thursday, March 11, 2021

Light shines upon the hard path

You may remember this young lady, my cousin Elisa. We share a birthday. She has Cystic Fibrosis. She was three years old when I participated in a CF hike out in Salem, Oregon, where she lives. Many of you kind readers supported the DF research cause, and your thoughts, prayers, and dollars made a real difference. Many lives have been and continue to be improved and blessed with promise.

Elisa is seven now!

The 5K hike you readers and I participated in was fun and cool. On July 10 it will be time for me and other hikers to embark on an adventure in an effort to bring awareness and dollars to the ongoing battle against CF. The Oregon CFF Chapter has challenged us with an Xtreme hike. Can I do 30 miles in one day across the Wildwood Trail in Portland?

Why yes. Yes I can.

I've started training. I'm Team Elisa. The team may expand to include other hikers; it's a work in progress and we're just getting started. I'll post more details here I continue the adventure.


In the movie The Shootist John Wayne's character J.B. Books takes a small town tram ride on a sunny and warm January morning. "It's what we call a false spring," he remarks to a bubbly young girl on the tram.

According to the calendar and more significantly to the Earth's location in her solar orbit it's still winter and will be until 0337 Juliet (Tango/MDT) on Saturday, March 20.

When it's winter in this part of the world we often experience very nice weather days. Warm sunshine, balmy air temperatures, and little if any wind. Delightful hints of the springtime sure to follow and ultimately the season of easy living.

But these nice weather days are what J.B. Books was talking about.

False spring.

Of course it's not really false spring. It's early March. The days are getting longer, which means the sun has more time to warm the air mass and warm the ground. As the sun shines down and we are enveloped in late-winter warmth, it becomes popsicle weather. Kind of.

Nature responds with a slow waking of grasses and forbs. You have to look beneath the prairie's shaggy coat of dried leaves and stems, but when you do the greening blades of future cow food are evident. Therefore, what would have been false spring on a January day is now in March a neonatal spring day. Lovely and well worth the effort to embrace and enjoy.

There's more cold and snow in store for us. The weather man correctly predicted a return of freezing air temps, snow, and cutting wind. A slow moving weather system has been spitting snow and returning s morning skim of ice to Tommy and Nona's water dish. The next car in the weather train is predicted to bless us with a winter storm this weekend.

This is all as it should be. I relish excursions into false spring, but I also relish winter's return and even winter's unavoidable encroachment into calendar/celestial spring.


I am in a very odd place. Odd but good.
NAS Oceana SH-3G on the ramp at Cecil. I learned hard and beautiful lessons in this pig.

I'm not the only one.

Pri-Fly, USS Midway. Smell that?

SH-3A/D, USS Midway Museum, June 2017

SH-3A/D, USS Midway Museum, June 2017. This one flew Apollo recoveries.

Countless hours spent in a treatment room just like this one on Midway.

This ladder-bottom pharmacy on Midway instantly made me think of HMC Roundtree. Really old dude, pushing 40 as I recall. His morning routine was to power-slam two pots of coffee while simultaneously smoking two cigarettes and chewing two pieces of nicorette. He was a cool cat after that, but woe betide the sailor who even glanced at him before.

I used to could sneak up this ladder and steal cereal and toast or bread when it was too busy to justify standing in a chow line. On Coral sea of course; this is Midway.

Main entry to sick bay was/is down this second deck ladder. Medical was on the third deck to keep it a little more protected. On later carriers they put medical on the second deck.

Emergency medical supply chest or locker. Whenever I wanted to firetruck off for a few hours I'd grab a clipboard and pen and "Inventory" these things.

There was always a medical locker needing inventoried near the gedunk.

Knee-knocker, yay!

Queer. Yes, it's a queer. Sometimes (but rarely) called the EA-6B Prowler.

She looked good back in 2017. Probably covered in wuhandromeda today.

A great deal of life happened for me here. What a strong connection to livin' a warship represents to a sailor.

I can't get Post Malone's Circles out of my head.

If you have to have a song stuck in there, Circles might be the best option. Love the song, love the video, don't know why.


We're at the seven month mark. Over the last 30 days the acute shock of the thing has faded. It feels like the shock was a roaring, consuming flame. The flame has guttered out now, having burned all there is to burn. So what remains of me? Am I nothing more than a burned out husk? While that certainly could have happened, it didn't. With God's help and my conscious decision to actively live life the flame forged rather than destroyed, What remains is clean and spare and case hardened. The forging process continues though, for as the shock departs it is replaced with a more complete understanding  of how utterly smashed I am.

Smashed, exploded, strewn across a metaphorical/metaphysical landscape.

The clean me that's left can look at the devastation, accept it, and soldier on.

It feels... good. Right and proper. I suspect that doesn't make much sense.

Over the years I've learned through trial and error and hard, hard lessons that the best path is the hard path, that actively living and walking with God is the proper place to inhabit. In that place the choice to give up and quit is ever present. The hard and proper thing is to eschew quitting, stand tall, and soldier on. Which is impossible, save for the power and grace of God.

So I go on. I've left the furnace behind now, and as a fundamentally changed man I have a life to actively live. On with the show.


Kind reader Tom shared this with me, written by his son. It's a good read. It's a good read to be read and re-read, considered, and savored. I don't and can't know the whys and hows of this life-adventure. I do know that God's grace shines on me when I walk the spiritual path, and that path is heaven on earth.

Be well and embrace the blessings of liberty.



  1. Loss is a hard thing to deal with, as you well know. I think you've handled it as well as could be expected. I fear that your experience would have broken me.

    Although I'm not a Navy man, I understand the connection a sailor has to the ships he/she served aboard. FWIW, my youngest granddaughter was baptized aboard the TR. Her name is inscribed within the ship's bell. I have photos of my other grandkids at the time (for I've gained two more since then) standing on the flight deck, on Catapult #2 as I recall, all standing together having a chat. A really precious moment. Son-in-law served in TR's air wing, got to spend a lot of time quarantined on Guam, a not-so-precious time.

    Connections I get that.

    Great post my friend.

    1. Thanks Chris. Such a cool connection to TR. I had no idea you even existed when I went to sea in her. The interwebs make for cool stuff.

      I know that losing Alex would have killed me were it not for God's grace. And I never would have met or loved her were it not for God's grace. I don't get it, but then, I don't think I'm supposed to.

      Sailors, their shipmates, their ships. Always chasing adventure in and on a sea which will kill them on a whim. But it's the only way to be a sailor!

  2. Even though I rarely made my up from the depths of Forrestal's to the flight deck, your mention of the smell broad back a vivid memory.

    As Sarge mentioned, ship and sailor are connected, the ship is our home, and provides for almost our every need.

    Healing will continue, the scars remain forever, and the scars are good reminders lest memories fade.

    1. That was supposed to say, "....Forrestal's engineering spaces to the flight deck..."

    2. Every warship I've sailed on has had a very similar smell, and when I go aboard Midway it hits me with amazing force. It's neither good nor bad but is astonishingly evocative.

      You're correct, the healing will continue. Or perhaps the learning to go on will continue. The broken places will be forever broken, but that's okay since it's part of life and God lets me lean on him.

    3. No fun if you get everything typed correctly!

      Thanks John in Philly!

  3. Yup, memories are important, and we shall never forget them- good or bad. We learn from them all.

    Just the other day I was thinking of my former ships and shipmates. The ships are all gone, scrapped, ashes to ashes, dust to rust, armor plate to razor blades, etc. Still, their smells, sounds, vibrations and motions remain alive after their physical presence are long gone.

    On a YewToob video on a ship, a retired RADM was talking about the ship, and I instantly recognized the name, and eventually the much aged face. The old geezer there was the LTJG on USS First Ship who taught me as a young Enswine to be a decent Officer of the Deck (Underway- fleet operations). So it goes, we learn from others, and hopefully add a bit as we pass the lessons on to younger folks.

    We also learn from those we never met, such as Lex, and even the fictional personages Sarge brings to life in his writings. And from Shaun and his experiences. All part of the Big Guy's plan, I guess.

    Best get on with executing the Plan of the Day instead of jabbering here.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Memories are interesting. The me that I was would be shocked to see how the me that is looks back at that dumbass and how much I still learn from him thanks to recollection.

      Two of my ships remain in commission, each older today than CV-43 was when I relished her last deployment. I miss that leaky old rust bucket, long since repurposed into smaller bits of metal stuff. Sure am glad they preserved Midway. Be nice if they could museum Nimitz but pretty unlikely that'll happen.

      I've seen a few shipmates go from youngster to geezer in just a few years. Thank goodness that hasn't happened to me! So lucky and blessed to have known and learned from so many great people.

      All part of the Big Guy's plan, as is executing the Plan of the Day.👍

      Thanks John.

  4. March is a hard month for my sister and I. Died in March, our parents, her husband, my son, and a cherished cousin. Still, three days ago the blackbirds returned to the wetland along my walking path; a reminder that nature does what nature has always done. Their singing lifted my spirits.

    1. Nature and her cycles are indeed lifting and spiritual. Even the pending blizzard of ought twenty-one.😉

      Thanks Frank.

  5. “Over the years I’ve learned...”-that whole paragraph is spot on, and the following sentence as well. Out of destruction comes healing, beyond our comprehension but from the loving hand of our God Who Heals. Mind-blowing!! Glad to see you’re doing well, even when it sucks...(which isn’t always, thankfully!)
    Speaking of the “pending blizzard”, we (in Anchorage) got a full foot of cold white fluffiness yesterday/last night. Woohoo! I’ve loved watching it snow since I was a kid, lo those many seconds ago. Shoveling doesn’t excite me quite as much, somehow. Something about the impending fun. Ah, well, in a few days it’ll be almost 30° again-sweet! Usually no false Spring here; Winter just drags on..and on..then in April it might get into the 40’s. Well, better (this) weather than no weather!

    1. Thanks JLM. There really are no human words to adequately describe God's grace.

      I've always loved watching it snow too. It's fun to watch through the window while I'm warm and snug inside. It's also fun to watch from inside the snowfall, out in nature's world, even though that can often be uncomfortable. Moving snow by hand can really suck but as with most hard things the payoff usually makes it all worthwhile.

      Spring is certainly a time to enjoy and I'm looking forward to it. I'm also looking forward to the big blizzard predicted for this weekend. Total snow accumulation of 2-30 inches. Just gotta smile and shake my head sometimes.

      Thanks again!

    2. You are totally welcome!
      It’s weird how (OK, I know it’s weather, but still weird) some years it’ll start to warm up in March and Spring slowly arrives in April, and then there are years like this one, where we’re going back to below-zero temps for days in a row-or nights, anyway. Normally (ha!) it would be in the thirties in the day and upper teens/twenties at night. A few years ago it snowed well into May. I’ve seen it snow here in every month except August, which might mean I just haven’t been here long enough. Well, I guess I’ll stop grumbling about the cold now...sigh. Otoh, it was -10° this morning and is now...22°!! Woohoo! Much better! (I’m serious!)

    3. Yeah, that difference between negative and positive temps feels significant. We were at -22 one night back in February and +35 the next day. A 57 degree rise in air temp sure felt good. Right now we're at 32 with heavy snow. And the snow itself would be heavy spring rain if it were only a degree warmer. If there was more wind it would be a real blizzard.

  6. "It feels... good. Right and proper. I suspect that doesn't make much sense."
    I makes sense to me, but I am six and a half years removed and was somewhat forewarned.
    At eight months I was finally doing a "normal" thing or two.
    We each deal with such things in our own way.
    With God's help and mercy I have many good memories and the sadness has passed.

    I spent some time chasing 14, 19, 41, and 43 around both sides of the Pacific doing plane guard.
    Chasing submarines was more fun.
    We didn't have nearly as elaborate medical facilities, not even a baby doc to assist the HM, and no gedunk, just a miniscule ship's store that was open after noon and evening chow, but the knee knockers were there in spades.
    One plus is we didn't have aircraft landing on the roof.

    The early fruit and nut trees showing blossoms all over the valleys and the beekeepers have hauled their hives to the orchards.
    Now the hope is that there's no disastrous hail.
    I'm looking forward to planting some tomatoes.

    Keep on keepin' on!

    1. As with everything else in livin' life, the experience is intellectually interesting. That sounds odd too I imagine. I've always tried to understand my own mind as best I can. I try to step back when I can and look at me as a disinterested observer. With the shock wearing off I can begin to do that a little bit. I'm astonished to see how the deeply shocked me was so completely off the rails yet able to operate quite well. I've no doubt that God was ensuring that I could do the deeply important stuff correctly and well. The shocked me couldn't have dressed himself. God carried me. He showed me his will and gave me what I needed to carry out the Plan of the Day. I am so very hurt yet i can begin to see what a miracle my path represents.

      Ticonderoga, Hancock, Midway, Coral Sea. Names to conjure with. I think you've told me before but what ship? Was it a WWII FRAM Can? We had it good on the carriers when it comes to creature comforts. Civilians would be shocked, but a gedunk makes quite a difference. Too many sailors though -- stinky dudes everywhere, like an infestation, and catapults shivering to boat with howling aircraft slamming onto the roof 24/7. Glorious.

      This morning it's drizzle, mist, and fog. The world is hushed and hunkering down for the snowstorm moving in. It's going to be quite interesting I think.

      Thanks so much my friend, and I shall endeavour to keep on keepin' on! :)

    2. Wiltsie (DD 716), a FRAM 1, with undersized evaporators, so everybody, except for those wearing khaki, stank after about three days underway.

    3. I went down the rabbit hole reading about Captain Wiltsie and USS Liscome Bay. That's an interesting and inspiring bit of naval history I'd never known about. Those Gearings were interesting ships. I remember seeing German Gearing FRAMs operating in the mid- to late-1980's. If whackomedia is right Wiltsie is still in service with the Pakis though she appears to be welded to the dock.

  7. We went out and stocked up on a few items earlier today. Yes, the 60's were nice while they lasted. Mother Nature giving us a little tease.

    We're expecting anywhere from 24" of snow up to 30". The NWS says this storm has the potential to exceed the March 2016 storm, which we just happened to catch the tail end of on our last trip to visit here before we moved here.

    You served on the Midway, too, Shaun? I've been on her many times since she became a museum. Their radio guys came up and gave us a lot of help getting things figured out on the Iowa when she first came to L.A. Since turnabout is fair play, a bunch of us from the Iowa would go down and help them when needed some help or test equipment.

    Be safe out there the next few days!

    1. I think the pending storm will be interesting. I'm hoping for lots of moisture because the thirsty soil needs a drink. It's fun on an intellectual level to think that a tiny difference in molecular velocity is the only difference between rain and snow. The lazy me would prefer rain, the grass farmer me doesn't care how it comes so long as it comes, and the silly tough guy me wants lots of heavy snow to dig out.

      I did a det to Midway when I first joined CVW-13 in preparation for joining Coral Sea. My new Airwing and I were transitioning from essentially brand new nuke carriers, so about 60 of us were sent to learn how they did things in the real navy. Culture shock! I thought those rust bucket garbage scows were awful at first but they quickly wormed their way into my naval aviation heart.

      Tell me about Iowa! She's special in my heart too though I only trod her decks twice on a single special day at sea in the stormy spring Atlantic.

      We'll stay safe here, never fear. You do the same!

      Thanks drjim.

    2. Ooh, the Iowa! I remember seeing her in the mothball fleet near Benicia, amongst a bunch of old Liberty ships, and a couple of AGRs back in the mid '70s. All those ghosts are gone now. I'm glad that all of that class has been preserved as museum ships.

  8. I was a volunteer on the Iowa from when she came to L.A. in July of 2012 until we moved here in September 2017. I started off helping with getting an Amateur Radio station set up in the FACCON area, and then got involved with restoration work on other parts of the ship. I helped rebuild the CEC, got the original radio transmitters back on the air, helped restore the Weather Office, acted as tour guide, and helped do a lot of infrastructure work for the IT department, like running Ethernet cables all over the ship.

    The best part was meeting and working with the Veterans. We'd see 90-year old Vets coming up the brow with their walkers, and once they stepped on the deck, they snapped off a salute, stood a little straighter, walked more briskly, and looked like they were 20 years old again.

    The one thing that gobsmacked me was seeing the hand painted map on the starboard side of the forward bulkhead in the Wardroom. It was a map of the South Pacific Theater of Operations, with all the 1940's names on the countries. I saw the names that my Mom and Dad had mentioned when I was little, and all of a sudden things got real. VERY real. Here I was, onboard a ship that had "Been There, Done That", and the sense of History almost overwhelmed me.

    The next thing that floored me was seeing the table top on a bench in a space off the Machine Shop. It was a hand-stamped list of names of everybody in that Department, and it was done in commemoration of V-J Day while the Iowa was anchored in Tokyo Bay handling communications for the surrender proceedings.

    Some people don't "get it", but I do. To this day, the time I spent on the Iowa will always be remembered as an honor bestowed upon me to be allowed to help with her.

    1. That's really cool drjim. Slipped my mind earlier but I was also on Iowa in '89, providing medical support when turret two blew up. Iowa's SAG was attached to Coral Sea's battle group. That was a pretty shitty day. I'd watched Iowa shooting her big guns (and secondaries iirc) only the day before. Those four BB's had an amazing run and it's such a great thing to have them preserved.

  9. The Turret #2 explosion was a tragedy. The guy who was my "Boss" on the Iowa was onboard that day, along with several of the other volunteer crew who had served aboard her. His duty station was somewhere way aft, and he said he'd never felt so helpless as when it came over the MC1.

    Every year we had a memorial service on that day, and it was very somber. They have a Turret #2 section of the museum below the main deck.

    Turret #2 is still off-limits, while Turrets #1 and #3 have limited access to select groups.

    1. It was a tragedy, and compounded by a nasty, frenzied press corps and their special hidden naval sources of utter crap.

      Those guys at the breeches had a risky job. Shooting arty ashore or at sea is dangerous and there's precious little margin for error. In a way it's like fixed-wing operations on the flight deck; when everything goes right it's a wonderful system. But the physics is real, and the enormous kinetic forces in play can wreak utter havoc if their vector wanders into disasterland. With the big guns the forces are huge. When everything is sealed up tight and strong and the energy is contained inside a strong breech and barrel those 2,000-2,700 pound missiles charge out time and time again. Release even part of those energies into the turret and no human can survive the pressure and temperature.

      The flight deck crash I saw and worked early in my career was handled appropriately and objectively by the press. Their reporting often stung, but it was objective information which America needed to hear, ponder, and process. The frenzied garbage that spewed forth almost exactly eight years later was horrible.

      And it keeps getting worse.

      Not that I feel strongly about the subject! ;-)

    2. Besides the loss of 47 crew members, the Navy bungled the investigation badly. I have the book "A Glimpse of Hell", and I've read the reports, and it was one screw-up after another, evidence was destroyed, they washed out the turret and repainted it before they returned to shore, things were thrown overboard, it wasn't properly photographed, the whole thing just stunk to high Heaven.

  10. the smell... of the flight deck? or the ship's P-way? I've heard/read that the flat-top's flight deck has a unique smell of jet fuel, jet exhaust, burnt i dunno... My time spent on an active flight deck might not even be 15 minutes in March 2009 somewhere out in the Persian Gulf. (it even MIGHT have been TR... I'm sure it was a Nimitz class, but not too many different options in 2009!)

    Ship's internal P-way on the otherhand. I wonder if it's a mixture of paint fumes and trace fumes from wiring insulation, etc, WHO KNOWS? Brand new warships. WW2 museum ships. Returning onboard after a LONG 4-day weekend. Ah yes, THAT smell. And talking about iowa... I live in that state right now...sorry...trying to add extra connection to this posting???

    I didn't realize Post Malone sings that song "circles" a catchy tune indeed, but an odd looking fellow...

    Here's another catchy tune you might enjoy, several different versions on the u tub, but i like this "world of warships" version the best! Blinding Lights. weeknd. (maybe you've seen it already?)

    1. The odor in the Iowa has diminished some, but it has the same smell that the Civvie ships I worked had. Combination of Marine Diesel #2, paint, sweat, food, lube oil, hot electrical equipment and many other aromas combine, and if you've ever smelled it, it's unique.

      My wife used to tell me I "Smelled Like SHIP" when I got home....

    2. Pretty much the whole carrier. The flight deck has a unique smell but it's out in the open and exposed to the elements so it fades quickly. The interior of the boat smells like an aircraft carrier, which to my nose is different than other ships. I think it's the admixture of fixed wing aviation and good ol' USN ship smell. The Midway has boat smell even though she's a museum now.

      And by the way, that song and video are AWESOME! Paddles never looked like that in my day! Great tune and great fun video. Thanks for sharing that cT!

    3. Those nautical smells are powerful and bring a wave of memory to the fore whenever I encounter them. In my experience Brit, French, Italian, German, and Dutch ships have a similar smell, but each is also uniquely (to my nose) different. Fun to think about why that is.

      Thanks drjim.

  11. Welfare check, shipmate.

    If the muse escaped the pasture, there are always CC reruns. Surely by now something must have sprung on the panhandle (albeit winter may briefly poop on your parade this week). Bet there are calves dropping all over your place. Widgets to be made, fitness records broken, etc. Your imaginary friends really do care about all that, along with the ongoing travails of family life.

    Hope all had a joyous Easter, mindful of the blessings it represents.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Thanks John. I'm alive and well. The muse is a bit twisted of late, bouncing between OCD and firetruck it. I'm in a very interesting and hard growing place where Alex's kids and her family are performing miracles upon my heart and soul. I am unspeakably blessed by those people, and by all of you kind readers.

      I'm also training my ass off and working on spring ranch chores. These things keep me grounded in reality. That's another major blessing.

      Thanks again!

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