Archive for June 2015 | Monthly archive page
Folks who work with their hands will often donate blood to the project they are working on. Farmers, ranchers, craftsmen, carpenters…all have this in common. The left hand of a right handed craftsman takes a lot of abuse, and occasionally the right hand gets in the way of danger as well. I chuckle when I remember the story of Betsy Ross…the seamstress who made the first stars and stripes back during the early days of our republic. She is said to have sewn until her hands bled. What many folks don’t realize, is that she was only one needle prick from seeing her own blood.
I showed up at the Red Cross blood drive this week, as I do about every eight weeks or so. This always presents a dilemma for me, and since I come from a tradition where confession and absolution is kind of a big deal, I have to say that I lie on the questionnaire every time. They ask me a battery of questions to try to determine if my blood is safe, one of which is whether I’ve had an accidental needle stick in the last twelve months. If I were honest I would say yes and then have to explain myself and run the risk of being sent home. I wonder if running a French edger into my left thumb counts, or slipping with my round knife and slicing off a chunk of that thumb. What about an awl stick, or the many times my left hand was in the line of fire when using my little scalpel or straight knife? Do puncture wounds count? I remember when I skewered my middle finger with the needle on my Champion sewing machine. A couple times I impaled my left hand with a tool I use to stuff bucking rolls.
Donated blood…it’s a reality of life and one of the contributions we make to our customers and you can donate without having to lie at the blood drive.
So it’s TCAA time in the saddle shop these days. Every year I promise that I’ll get started sooner on my projects, but life seems to have a way of co-opting my plans. Our deadline for having our pieces at the museum is early August and I’ve got a running start on a saddle, but also have to try to keep up on customers who’ve waited patiently. This year’s saddle will be an effort at channeling a certain stock detective from the late nineteenth century by the name of Jack Davis who worked for a cattlemen’s grazing association in southern Idaho. Davis, who later became known as Diamond Field Jack, was accused of murdering a couple sheepherders near their camp in the hills south of Twin Falls. I’ve heard about Diamond Field Jack my whole life, having grown up near where all this took place so long ago. I’ll try to tell the bizarre story of Jack Davis here over the next few months, but for now I’m thinking about the wild roses that littered the high desert back then, as they do now. This year’s saddle has a bunch of them on it, in fact by my count, there are 250 on just the fenders and the skirts alone.
When you take on a project like this, you figure on weathering a certain amount of brain damage before you’re finished. I will try to keep you apprised of my deteriorating condition as the days fly by this summer.
Thoughts return to that day in 1944 when President Eisenhower and his planners decided to pull the trigger on the largest military invasion in the history of the world. In order to crack Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’, it was decided that the US would release large gliders that would silently penetrate into the French interior at Normandy. These gliders would scatter thousands of paratroopers that would land in the pre-dawn hours of June 6. The plan to reunite soldiers (101st Airborne and the 82nd Airborne) with their outfit was made possible with small, handheld ‘clickers’ that each paratrooper would use as he approached unknown personnel in the dark. If there was a reply with the same clicking sounds, the soldier knew that he was in friendly company. Some of the gliders had jeeps in them that military planners hoped could be used by the Airborne forces. Often, the gliders would more-or-less crash land in open fields with the contents of the aircraft rendered unusable. The Third Reich knew that the Allied forces were planning an invasion…they just didn’t know when and where. The great Erwin Rommel was in charge of fortifying the ‘Atlantic Wall’ as it were, and one of the things he did was to bury posts upright in the open fields in the interior. Somehow he devised that the Allies would try to land aircraft in these open fields during an invasion. These posts scattered about in the fields were called ‘Rommel’s Asparagas’ as you can imagine what these looked like from the air.
I think often of the courage of those young airborne soldiers jumping out into the darkness over Normandy. Very few of these men had ever fought in battle before and had little knowledge of what to expect as they bailed out into the unknown. Many were gunned down before they landed, and many landed in deep water in the coastal marshes and swamps of Normandy with 100 pounds of gear. But many survived, were reunited with their outfit, and continued their sweep to Berlin, liberating towns as they went. What remarkable, true heroes they were!