Evening Song

30 06 2014

 Look off, dear Love, across the sallow sands,
And mark yon meeting of the sun and sea,
How long they kiss in sight of all the lands.
Ah! longer, longer, we.

    Now in the sea’s red vintage melts the sun,
As Egypt’s pearl dissolved in rosy wine,
And Cleopatra night drinks all. ‘Tis done,
Love, lay thine hand in mine.

Come forth, sweet stars, and comfort heaven’s heart;
Glimmer, ye waves, round else unlighted sands.
O night! divorce our sun and sky apart
Never our lips, our hands.

Sydney Lanier

Atlantic beach

Woodcraft 3: My Cowboy Name

29 06 2014

For a time as a child I went by Bart, which is short for Bartholomew, my middle name. The time I went by that name was short, too. 

I was a student of television cowboys, having become one even prior to the start of my public schooling. You’ve heard it before. Those were the thrilling black-and-white days of yesteryear, when household televisions had a selection of three or four, maybe five stations.  We accessed the stations by physically approaching the set and manually turning a heavy, clicking knob.  That after turning the set on and waiting a minute or two for the vacuum tubes to warm up. 

As for the thrilling days of yesteryear depicted in the television westerns, one was not supposed to notice that the programs usually lacked historical authenticity, that the westerns were more mythic than realistic.  It was sit down – usually with everyone else in the family watching the one set in the household – enjoy the show, and be glad that all did not have to go to a theater and pay to see it. 

Many TV cowboys existed back then…. 

Something may need to be noted before I continue. Here in the United States, we have a well-known and often debated right to privacy. Less well known is the right to celebrity. People who have become so famous or infamous that they can earn money because of their celebrity status have a legal right to do so without infringement. They and their officially-designated heirs or trustees can enjoy something similar to copyright and trademark protection so that they can continue to earn as much money from their status as possible, and so that others cannot do so in any way, shape, or form without a selected celebrity’s permission. 

Discerning the difference between infringement and fair use these days usually requires the services of an entire law firm, so I’ll avoid mentioning the names of actors or their fictional characters. 

As I said, many TV cowboys existed back then.  The list can start with the likes of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Wild Bill Hickok.  These people, who really did exist in history, didn’t give permission for their names and likenesses to be employed in profit-making enterprises because they had died long before. 

The starting list can also include one female figure from history: Annie Oakley.  I didn’t watch the show unless I was sick and couldn’t do anything else. 

Cowboys.  Now that I think about it, relatively few of the guys who starred in TV westerns actually worked cattle. There was the father and three sons who ran a huge ranch on the shore of Lake Tahoe in Nevada, though they were rich enough not to have to do much of the dusty work. There was the father of the one son who had a smaller spread in New Mexico; he was the guy who used a custom-made rifle and not a pistol. There was the outfit that went by a title derived from the name for untanned bovine leather. 

Many of the other TV cowboys were lawmen.  One was a bounty hunter.  Another wanted to be a lawyer.  Still others were drifters who did odd-jobs. 

I thought that the name Bart had a cowboy sound.  It helped when a character appeared who was named after a stray and unbranded calf or colt.  He wore the hat and the six-gun of a TV cowboy, but he was more of a roustabout who gambled his way into making a living, just like his brother and his cousin.  

Of all the TV cowboys, however, I preferred those less prodigal, those characterized by more probity.  

I liked the man in black who liked chess, and especially the piece called a knight.  Never mind that he was homely.  That nifty outfit more than made up for it.  And he was really smart. 

The ex-Confederate soldier was a loner with something of an attitude, but he also had a certain independent integrity about him. 

The big guy whose character was named after a famous tribe of Great Plains Indians? Now there was a real man.  As a friend of mine would say, “He’s a moose,” and he didn’t mean the famous, funny cartoon character that appeared a bit later.  Reportedly, the actor was as chivalrous off-screen as his on-screen character.  I liked his hair, which he wore rather long.  He kept it combed, of course.  Somehow, TV cowboys typically didn’t have to worry about their hats messing up their hair. This guy’s hair was long enough, though, that it couldn’t be kept from falling out of style if his hat was off and he was in a wind or in some kind of strenuous activity. 

I liked long hair and sideburns because of TV cowboys. My mother did not. “Too coarse and crude,” she would say.  “Not clean-cut enough.”  She liked crew cuts, a style that reminded me of a brush for currying horses.  My father didn’t wear his hair in a crew cut, and I was glad.  It wasn’t long, and it wasn’t short.  It was just there, blond and wavy. 

Wild Bill Hickok, in my mind, really had the look, though.  He wore a fringed leather shirt and a white hat.  (At least it looked white on black-and-white TV.)  He rode a distinctive horse having a spotted rear end called an appaloosa.  And, for some reason that evaded me at the time, he holstered his two shiny six-guns backwards. 

I had a shiny six-gun made by one of the most famous toymakers of the time.  It looked very much like the Colt Peacemaker M1873 revolver of the Old West.  And it wasn’t a cheap, easy-to-break, throw-away thing, either.  It was metal: stainless steel and chrome.  Of course, Samuel Colt didn’t have stainless steel for use back in the 19th century.  The toymaker mimicked the look of nickel plate.  The pistol grip was pretty good plastic made to look like stag horn. And the gun fired exactly six shots, not the fake fifty shots contained on the standard roll of caps.  The toymaker provided brass cartridges containing tiny springs, and into those one could press lead-gray plastic bullets.  On the butt ends would go single caps manufactured with adhesive backings. 

The gun did actually shoot.  The bullets weren’t lethal, of course, but that didn’t keep my father from saying, “Check your gun at the door there, pardner.”  That was anytime I entered the house or the woodshop. 

My grandfather and grandmother – my mother’s parents – had given me the pistol, complete with leather belt and holster, plastic hunting knife, and cardboard bad guy, as a birthday present.  My mother approved.  She figured, “Boys will be boys.” She also figured that boys must become men, and men should be chivalrous, valiant, and puissant.  My mother taught me that last word and saw to it that I understood the definitions of all three, especially with so many Communists loose in the world. 

My father was a man.  He served with the United States Marine Corps in the Pacific theater during the Second World War.  He approved of chivalry, too, but he had come to take seriously “Blessed are the peacemakers….”  Pistols and missiles might force the peace; they might enforce the peace.  But they do not really make peace.  The various other aspects of chivalry, as Bernard of Clairvaux might explain it, are necessary. 

I liked my revolver.  I liked TV cowboys.  I thought it would be manly for me to go by my name of Bart.  But as I said, not for long. 

One year, at the start of my 4th grade, the teacher began school by taking the roll.  She asked, in the process of going through the list of formal names, whether we had any personal preferences.  William or Bill?  Cynthia or Cindy?  John or Jack?  Cassandra or Sandy?   I said Bart. 

The other kids hadn’t heard me go by that name before, not in 1st grade, not in 2nd, and not in 3rd.  And just a few weeks into the school year, the lack of chivalrous behavior on the part of certain pupils put an end to that.  Children can be uncannily cruel and creative at the same time.  They mutated Bart into Brat in a hurry.  Then, they married Bart to the rhyming word for flatulence, and that was enough. 

Too much, actually.  Children can be stubbornly steadfast in their cruelty.  I dropped the name, but that didn’t matter. They kept on.  Before September was out, I had punched my way out of the public schools of Port Edwards and into a parochial school.  

“Never mind that it’s a Lutheran school,” my father said to my mother, who was Baptist.  “Never mind the cost,” he said to himself, referring to the addition of tuition and fees to the burden of supporting the public schools through his property taxes.  “The cost of his fighting his way through the next nine years for nothing but pride is too much. Fighting for pride is the genesis of murder.” He referred to Cain killing his brother Abel. 

Cowboys fought a lot.  At least, the ones on TV did.  That was the manly thing to do.  My father told me, however, that I lived neither in the television set nor in the so-called Wild West. 

woodcraft 7

The Rose

27 06 2014

Before man’s fall the rose was born,
St. Ambrose says, without the thorn;
But for man’s fault then was the thorn
Without the fragrant rose-bud born;
But ne’er the rose without the thorn.

Robert Herrick

yellow roses

His Holy Name Revere

24 06 2014

O give the Lord whole-hearted praise,
To Him thanksgiving I will bring;
With all His people I will raise
My voice and of His glory sing.

His saints delight to search and trace
His mighty works and wondrous ways;
Majestic glory, boundless grace
And righteousness His work displays.

The wondrous works that God has wrought
His people ever keep in mind,
His works with grace and mercy fraught,
Revealing that the Lord is kind.

God’s promise shall forever stand,
He cares for those who trust His word;
Upon His saints His mighty hand
The wealth of nations has conferred.

His works are true and just indeed,
His precepts are forever sure;
In truth and righteousness decreed
They shall for evermore endure.

From Him His saints’ redemption came;
His covenant sure no change can know;
Let all revere His holy Name
In heaven above and earth below.

In reverence and in godly fear
Man finds the gate to wisdom’s ways;
The wise His holy Name revere;
Through endless ages sound His praise.

Psalm 111 as rendered in the 1912 Psalter of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches of America )


Woodcraft 2: What’s In A Name?

21 06 2014

My name – Kurt – is a short form of the name Konrad.  That’s the form that’s official, the form to be seen on my birth certificate, school forms, military and government documents, and such.  The English version Conrad is more commonly seen, but the original Old German is Kuonraet.  That old version reveals how the nickname Kurt comes from Konrad.  Take another look: Kuonraet.

The name means bold counselor.  It refers to someone who is not afraid to advise others of the truth.  More on that later.

Many people in our nation name children after members of the family.  Sometimes, they name children after friends.  Occasionally, they name children after people they admire, after celebrities.  Many people in our nation choose a name simply because they like the sound of it.

As for my people – my parents – they not only listened to a name’s sound, but thought also of its sense.

My mother and the members of her family favored names found in the Bible.  That would be the English forms of those names as found in the Authorized Version of the Bible, also known as the King James Version.

The original texts of the Bible weren’t written in English, of course.  Almost all of the Old Testament was written in classical Hebrew many centuries before English evolved into existence.  There are a few portions written in Aramaic, which was a trade language spoken in common by the peoples of the Middle East for hundreds of years.  The New Testament has a few words in Aramaic, but its language is Hellenistic Greek.

My mother’s people didn’t use names in their Hebrew or Greek versions since they would often be hard to spell or pronounce.  For example, my sister received the middle name Joanna.  The original is more like Y-hohhanan.  Outside Israel and other Jewish communities, that’s a little strange.  Joanna is not as English as Jane, but in English-speaking communities, it’s better recognized.

My father and the members of his family favored German names.  Real German names, that is, with regard to how they were spelled and even how they were pronounced.

As I have said, my name is Konrad, not Conrad.  I went by the nickname of Kurt, not Curt.

My sister’s first name is Kristel, not Christine.

My father’s name was Georg, not George.  He was named after an ancestor who lived in the Fatherland, as my father’s people said it.  As my mother’s people said it, he lived in the old country.

My grandfather’s name was August.  A few of his old friends could get away with calling him Gus, but nobody in the family could.  Ever.  Within the family, it was August.  If not that, then it was Father or Grandfather.  Father – not Papa, not Pa, not Pops, and not Dad.  Grandfather – not Granpa or Grampa, and not Gramps.

Holzgerecht.  That’s the name behind my father and grandfather and their people.

King is the name that had been behind my grandmother.  King is English, but my grandmother was German.  Her maiden name would have remained Koenig if certain Americans at the time of the First World War had not pressed her people to make a change.  This because the United States was at war with Germany.

At the time, Germans composed perhaps the single largest ethnic group in the nation.  Milwaukee was one of the largest German cities in the world.  And yet, right here in the middle of America, in Wisconsin, one of the then-48 United States, too many people expressed enough fear and anger and vanity to force fellow Americans to become more American.

Smith is the name that had been behind my mother.  Smith is English, but my mother was German.  Pennsylvania Dutch is the term commonly used, but that last word is actually mispronounced.  Dutch should be Deutsch.  Many of Pennsylvania’s original European settlers were not Dutch, but German, and my mother’s original family name had been Schmidt.  It, too, over time became more American.

And yet, who hasn’t had such trouble?  As I think about it, I can’t think of one ethnic group in this great nation that has not, from some group either in the majority or minority, at some time in some form suffered discrimination, persecution, oppression, and misperception.

One cannot forget entire Aboriginal-American nations and their displacement, even in some cases virtual genocide.

One cannot forget ever so many African-Americans and their enslavement, followed by Jim Crow apartheid.

One must remember the Mexican-Americans of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.

The Chinese-Americans of California.

The Irish-Americans of Boston and New York City and Buffalo and Chicago.

The Scots and Irish Americans of the Appalachians and the Ozarks.

The Polish-Americans, Norwegian-Americans, and Portuguese-Americans of so many jokes.

The list does not end.  Jews.  Hawaiians.  Italians.  Japanese.  Puerto Ricans.  Hmong.  Arabs.

The list may now include Christians of any ethnicity.

As I said, I cannot think of one ethnic group in this great nation that has not at some time in some form suffered discrimination, persecution, oppression, or misperception – except perhaps the English.  And yet perhaps also the English.  They would remind us of their problems back in the 1760s and 70s with the Crown and with Parliament.

My father continued the Holzgerecht custom.  He, too, preferred German names.  He wasn’t opposed to Bible names or to my mother’s preference for Bible names.  While she was Baptist, and he was Lutheran, they were both Christian.  Therefore, first names selected for my sister and me were German: Kristel and Konrad.  Middle names selected for my sister and me were English Bible names: Joanna and Bartholomew.

Moreover, even the German names selected had Biblical meaning.  In my case, my mother referred to a passage written by Paul the Apostle to the ancient church at Ephesus, which was located in the nation we now call Turkey.

Here it is, in the King James English my mother loved.  It sounds strange today, and it may be hard to understand.  At the time of its publication in 1611, it was supposed to be plain and simple English.  The vocabulary of the King James Bible had been limited to ten thousand words.  By contrast, the vocabulary of William Shakespeare, who may have helped with the book’s English, was thirty thousand words.  Every citizen of the British Isles was supposed to be able to read it, regardless of class.

Ye are called in one hope of your calling;

One Lord,

One faith,

One baptism,

One God and Father of all,

Who is above all,

And through all,

And in you all.

But unto every one of us is given grace

according to the measure

of the gift of Christ…

till we all come in the unity of the faith,

and of the knowledge of the Son of God,

unto a perfect man,

unto the measure of the stature

of the fullness of Christ:

that we henceforth be no more children,

tossed to and fro, and

carried about with every wind of doctrine,

by the sleight of men,

and cunning craftiness,

whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

but speaking the truth in love,

may grow up into him in all things…


Rustling Steps

20 06 2014

The frog half fearful jumps across the path,
And little mouse that leaves its hole at eve
Nimbles with timid dread beneath the swath;
My rustling steps awhile their joys deceive,
Till past, and then the cricket sings more strong,
And grasshoppers in merry moods still wear
The short night weary with their fretting song.
Up from behind the molehill jumps the hare,
Cheat of his chosen bed, and from the bank
The yellowhammer flutters in short fears
From off its nest hid in the grasses rank,
And drops again when no more noise it hears.
Thus nature’s human link and endless thrall,
Proud man, still seems the enemy of all.

John Clare

Genesis 9:2

Lexham English Bible (LEB)

“And fear of you and dread of you shall be upon every animal of the earth, and on every bird of heaven, and on everything that moves upon the ground, and on all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they shall be given.”


19 06 2014

O cover me, long gentle grasses,
Cover me with your seeding heads,
Cover me with your shaking limbs,
Cover me with your light soft hands,
Cover me as the delicious long wind passes
Over you and me, green grasses.

‘Tis of your blood I would be drinking,
To your soft shrilling listening now,
And your thin fingers peering through
At the deep forests of the sky.
O satisfy my peevish thought past thinking,
My sense with your sense linking.

Already are your brown roots creeping
Around the roots of my mind’s mind,
Into the darkness hidden within
The rayed dark of unconsciousness;
And your long stems in a bright wind are leaping
Over me uneasily sleeping.

O cover me, long gentle grasses,
As one day over a quiet flesh
You will shake, shake and dance and sing;
And body too still and spirit astir
Will hear you in every firm bright wind that passes
Over you, loved green grasses.

John Frederick Freeman


And you shall see and your heart shall rejoice,
    and your bones shall flourish like the grass,
and the hand of Yahweh shall make itself known to his servants…

Isaiah 66:14 (LEB)