Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Relay For Life Funds Cancer Fighting Research

This is my article as published in the February 19, 2015 issue of The Mena Star.

Do you know a child who survived leukemia? Do you have a mother, sister or aunt whose breast cancer was found early thanks to a mammogram? Do you have a friend or coworker who quit smoking to decrease their risk of lung cancer? Each of these individuals benefited from the American Cancer Society’s research program funded by Relay For Life.

Every day scientists supported by the American Cancer Society work to find breakthroughs that will take us one step closer to a cure. The Society has long recognized that research holds many answers to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

As the largest source of non-profit cancer research funds in the United States, the American Cancer Society spends approximately $130 million each year on research. Since 1946, the Society has invested a total of $4.5 billion in research. The investment has paid rich dividends: the five-year survival rate has almost tripled since 1946, and diagnosis and mortality rates have declined each year since 1990.

Investigators and healthcare professionals in universities, research institutes and hospitals throughout the country receive grants from the American Cancer Society.  If the Society had more money available for research funding, nearly 200 more outstanding applications considered outstanding could be funded.

You can help fund more of these applications by participating in the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. More funding means more cancer breakthroughs and more lives saved.

Teams from around Polk County are busy raising funds for this important cause.  The Relay For Life of Polk County will be held on Friday, May 29th starting at 6:00 P.M. in Janssen Park.  Volunteers from Polk County will join with more than 5,200 communities across America who host their own Relay For Life events.  Since 1985, Relay For Life has raised more than $4 billion for the fight against cancer. It is the most successful not for-profit event in America.  Don’t miss out on the opportunity to be a part of the amazing community event.

To sign up for this year's Relay For Life of Polk County or for more information on the local event go to www.relayforlife.org/polkar

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

I love history and learning.  Many things we learn about history are a bit uncertain, but it is always a little frustrating when you can't find out with any certainty the history of someone or something. The origin of St. Valentine and Valentine's Day is one of those topics.

Who was Saint Valentine?  According to the website Catholics Online, The origin of St. Valentine, and how many St. Valentines there were, remains a mystery. One opinion is that he was a Roman martyred for refusing to give up his Christian faith. Other historians hold that St. Valentine was a temple priest jailed for defiance during the reign of Claudius. Whoever he was, Valentine really existed because archaeologists have unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.

It is unclear how the modern idea of celebrating Valentine's Day by giving gifts to your romantic partner started and evolved into the commercialized holiday that it is today.  According to market research, Valentine's Day sales reached $17.6 billion last year; this year's sales are expected to total $18.6 billion.

The first time Valentine's Day is associated with romantic love is in the poem titled Parlement of Foules, written in 1382 by Geoffrey Chaucer. Chaucer wrote: "For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate."  This poem was written to honor the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. When they were married they were each only 15 years old.

Valentine's Day is mentioned by William Shakespeare in the play, Hamlet:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.

It became very popular for young men to write verses of poetry on a card and give them to their lovers.  As early as 1800, companies began mass-producing cards for those who had poor poetry skills.  In the United States, the first mass-produced valentines of embossed paper lace were produced in 1847.  The U.S. Greeting Card Association says that 190 million valentines are sent each year in the US. When you include the valentine cards exchanged by school children, the figure goes up to 1 billion.

A Senior in High School

This is My Valentine!

The best decision I have ever made was to marry the girl who stole my heart when she walked into Mr Brost's History class the beginning of my senior year of high school.  I was too shy to talk to girls, so it was almost a year before she had any idea that I was interested.  I think that the good Lord knew that I needed all of the help I could get so he made it so that our paths crossed in a number of ways that year.  Mr. Brost selected five students to work together each week producing learning packets for History class.  Gina and I were both in the group. We both worked at the Harris Pine furniture factory.  I worked on the dresser jig, and she made drawers.  I would spend my breaks back with the drawer makers, but she still didn't catch on.

It came time for our High School graduation and I still had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out.  Finally I mustered up every ounce of courage I could find and asked her if she would march with me when we graduated.  She told me that she would like to but she had already told Russell she would march with him.  If I would talk to Russell she would march with me.  Once again summoning up every bit of courage I had I talked to Russell.  He was very gracious and bowed out.  I was on cloud nine.


The rest is history. After a year of a long distance relationship, five hundred miles, we were finally in the same place at the same time. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this girl. On June 15, 1975 we were married in the Denver First Seventh-day Adventist Church. The last 40 years have been an interesting and very fulfilling time.

I know that high school romances are not supposed to be forever and that when kids get married when they are in their teens the marriages aren't supposed to last, but we have proven those things wrong.  It is still awesome to go through each day with my best friend, My Valentine!  I can't wait to see where this journey leads.

Here is an awesome song written by my friend Paul to My Valentine.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Young Photographer

Last weekend my daughter and her family met us in Uncertain, Texas for the weekend.  We had a great time at Caddo Lake, taking a boat tour of the lake.  We spent Sunday afternoon in Jefferson, Texas attending the Mardi Gras parade.  While some of our group were shopping the antique stores in Jefferson, the rest of us took a walk on the nature trail along Big Cypress Bayou.

My seven year old grand daughter loves to take photos with my camera. As we were walking on the nature trail along Big Cypress Bayou I let her use my camera. I am a proud Papa, but I really think she has an eye for photography. All of the photos in this post were taken by her.

I can't wait to see more work from this budding photographer.  I think she has a great future.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Caddo Lake

We spent last weekend in Uncertain, Texas on the shores of Caddo Lake.  It was so eerily beautiful and relaxing.  We rented a lovely house on the lake shore called Hoot n Holler.

Caddo Lake is on the border of northeast Texas and northwest Louisiana.  It includes one of the best examples in the southern United States of a mature bald cypress forest, and is one of the largest cypress forests in the world.  The moss-draped cypress groves makes it look like a Louisiana swamp.

The lake is a maze of bayous and sloughs, and is the only natural lake in Texas. It is the largest natural lake in the south, approximately 33,000 acres of water.

Before 1800 the Caddo Lake area was a series of bayous, creeks, ponds and low lying areas that flooded often and held water for sustained periods of time during the rainy seasons. Around 1800 a chain of natural events changed the landscape of the cypress valley and became what we know as Caddo Lake.

A huge log jam on the Red River that was called The Great Raft created the modern Caddo Lake. The Big Cypress Bayou is the main tributary that feeds Caddo Lake. After it leaves Caddo the Big Cypress Bayou flows into the Red River where they merge in North Louisiana. The point where these two tributaries meet was blocked by this huge log jam known as the Great Raft and Caddo Lake was formed.

The US government commissioned Henry Shreve to remove the huge log jam. Shreve was a steam boat captain and builder. Many of the government engineers did not think that the removal of the Great Raft was feasible or even possible. Shreve took on the challenge and by 1835 had removed enough of the log jam that it opened up the way for steamboats to enter into the Cypress bayou and then into Caddo Lake and beyond.

Various ports and landings were soon established along the waterways along the Big Cypress Bayou and Caddo Lake. Cotton became an important commodity and was shipped by boat to New Orleans and other destinations. In 1845 some businessmen got together and decided to establish a port as far up stream on the Big Cypress Bayou as could be possible for navigation, to be known as Jefferson Texas. Jefferson flourished and quickly became the second busiest port in Texas.

In 1873 the log jam that created Caddo Lake was finally and totally removed. With the removal of the log jam the water levels slowly fell to a level that made steamboat passage impossible. With the removal of the log jam and the arrival of the railroad, Jefferson and the Caddo Lake area were no longer a transportation hub.

Although Caddo Lake never went totally dry, it did get very low and was not navigable by larger boats. In 1914 a crude earthen dam was built on Caddo Lake that help raise the water back to levels near where they were at when the log jam served as the dam. It is now a large maze of interconnected waterways, with over a hundred miles of clearly marked boat roads and more primitive boat roads that are not so easy to navigate.

While we were staying at Caddo Lake we met Dale who lived next door. He is a paraplegic who has lived in a houseboat on Caddo Lake for the last 17 years. He took us out on the lake in his pontoon boat. It was an amazing experience and Dale is one of Caddo Lake's most knowledgeable guides. It was too cold to see alligators, but we we able to see a mink running along the shore.

My daughter and her family we able to spend a day with us while we were at the lake.  My grand daughters loved it.

The sunrise from over the lake from the boat shed was amazing.  It was as beautiful as any sunrise that I have ever seen.

I'm looking forward to the time we will be able to return to Caddo Lake.