#9 A Day in the Park

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” ~ John Muir

The sun gave us a glorious greeting the morning we drove into Glacier National Park. I had cried when I first saw the mountains from the distance yesterday; I cried when we drove Highway 2 around the south side of the huge park; and I cried when we entered the park this morning. All cries of delight.

Ron and I talked about our parents, four wonderful people, who have all passed now. We knew they would love this vast mountain range we were entering, but for whatever reasons – various reasons – life itself – they had never made the long trip. We decided we were doing this for them, as well, and it felt as though our souls were a bit fuller this morning.

As much as we enjoyed the drive thus far – the green forests of the Upper Peninsula, the south shores of Lake Superior, the vast fields of wheat and hay and canola, the buttes, and the prairies themselves – this day seemed to be the peak – no pun intended of this part of our trip.

West Glacier welcomes the visitor with the touch of Alpine one could only hope for. The line of cars and the number of people are significant but not crowding. It is the true northwest, and tradition and history of generations of nature and of people penetrate the atmosphere like a mist. Again, I’m listening to a story – told by nature itself and the people who have heard it and now share it. It’s a story to which I eagerly listen.

We drive past Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the Park, and certainly the longest, spreading nine miles – nine miles of sheer beauty. This road is lakeside, and we are looking across the aqua blues of its enormous depth, viewing various ridges once destroyed by wildfire but now rejuvenating themselves and teeming with life – continuing life – just as Ron’s and my parents’ lives continued in us and are reflected in our children and grandchildren.

We see trails and lookouts and we sense the presence of first nation peoples who walked this land and lived off this land.

We pass the beautiful Lodge, the structure and design unchanged since its beginning. And we begin to slowly ascend the sides of these mountains, each turn in the road revealing plush green valleys with turquoise rivers running through them, some of which we drive beside. Water flows from streams on the edge of steep green mountains, snows still melting, glaciers slowing dying. We stop as often as we can to capture each mural scene, trying to embed it in our minds, as my 12 Pro Max is unable to digitally duplicate.

The water flows in streams beside us. The water is turquoise. I would love to drink from these rocky, cascading streams.

https://youtu.be/cx3hvbtLffY

A pull off allows us to stop and take in such beauty as I have not seen since I visited the Swiss and Austrian Alps so many years ago.

Water streams the mountainside from thousands of feet above. A deer wanders close by. This deer is more golden than those in Michigan.

We climb. And we climb. And we climb. The pressure builds and our ears pop.

We have travelled all this time on “Going to the Sun Road,” but now we read a sign: No passing for the next 12 miles in the Alpine Area.

At one pull-off, Ron has spotted a white Mountain Goat on the rocks quite near. The mountain goat stares. We stare. We feel blessed to see this wild creature so closely. I take many pictures and a video or two.

At another pull-off, we stop and look. Gaze. 360 degree views. I see people moving very high up the mountain on my right. I can’t imagine how anyone could ever get up that high. They’re on the edge of what appears to be a trail. I tell Ron, “I hope that’s not where we’re going!” But as you can imagine, we are going there! We will later look down from that spot to this.

I love the red bus. It is nostalgic of days gone by. Because  the sun is shining, the top is uncovered, like a convertible. I wonder if these people are holding on for dear life like I am.

The road becomes narrower. The rock mountain is so close to my open window, I think I could touch it. The pull-offs are now all on Ron’s side, at the edge of the mountain. The manmade rock border is only one rock deep in spots. Sometimes maybe 8 inches high. I am so glad we are on the mountain side of this steep winding road. We never know what is around the next hairpin curve. It is always beautiful, always displaying more and different mountains, sunshine from varied angles – always more of God’s glory. Even these mountains praise Him, I am reminded. It is quite humbling to be amongst these bits of creation.

Suddenly we encounter what they call a switchback. Now, we are driving on the outer lane of these vast mountains and the signs reveal the greatest distance is yet to come. I often grab the hand support of the door beside me, pulling so hard I wonder if it will loosen the inside panel. I look to see my seat belt is fastened knowing it doesn’t make one bit of difference. The viewing pull offs are always on the outside lane, as they could never be in the rock mountain wall, so we avoid stopping at most of them, although we had agreed to stop at each one!

We want to stop at Logan Pass – there is a Visitor Center there, and by this point, we’d like to step out of the truck and take some deep breaths. It is the only open, large area on this road. It marks the Great Continental Divide. But the parking lot is full. No more cars are allowed. Disappointed, we continue, nonetheless; I know that we are only halfway through this 50-mile road and this middle Alpine stretch. I know that we make the entire descent on the outer lane. I ask Ron to drive as though we are just creeping along. Well, sometimes I slightly scream, asking him to creep along and slow down, although he is not going fast. Our entire lower bodies are both needled with the fright of height. I wish we hadn’t drank so much coffee earlier on the route.

Still in the area of the pass, we are able to stop for a slight waterfall. We see the Weeping Wall, where water steadily drips off the mountain.

A wolverine crosses the road in front of us and lays flat, kerslpat, on the rock border rail. Later, we learn it’s quite rare to see a wolverine. This might have been a young one, yet unafraid of predators.

A family has stopped, their young teens standing on glacier on the side of the road. I am frightened for them.

The road further narrows. We enter a tunnel.

When I cannot bear to look out the side window, I aim the lens of the phone camera to the directions of the valleys below me so I can look at the view later! As I take videos, the view in my camera, draws me to the edge and makes me feel as though we are edging off the mountain.

It is frightening but it is glorious to be on this road! Once we have completed the Alpine section, the remaining ascent is relaxing, and I breathe easier.

We drive past St. Mary Lake and I photograph its beautiful Wild Goose Island. The wild flowers and green plants of this beautiful National Park capture me. I want every scene, every moment to be embedded in my mind.

.

We have travelled from West Glacier to St. Mary. And the first thing we do is head for the rest rooms in the visitor center!

We have lunch at a mountain lodge restaurant with huge logs constructing the walls and a true grizzly encased in glass, with a printed story of her demise some years ago as she had been hunted because of killing numerous cattle and chickens!  I purchase a cute little stuffed wolverine for my grandson, Luke, who like the wolverine, is quite a fighter in this life.

We rejoice in our experience of crossing this vast mountain range on the road made years ago. Now we head further north and enter the park road to Many Glacier. This road is gravel and rough, under repair. We have many delays when we simply shut the motor off and wait, along with a dozen cars ahead of us and another dozen behind. Finally, the small road crew moves us forward. This continues a few times as we travel beside a mountain stream. Then the road opens up and we see Salamander Glacier ahead and a large lake with some kayakers and canoes. It’s a beautiful scene with an Alpine Lodge set in one corner. 

We drive the area and realize we are not prepared to hike here late in the afternoon. Unlike the state parks in which we have hiked, the trails here are not clearly marked, and I have not prepared us by researching trails, so we choose not to venture out at this time, and begin the drive back the gravel road. The traffic is stopped.

Two bears are browsing the meadow for food. It is a beautiful site, and I think I might cry with delight. The ranger tells everyone to pull off the road. I take a dozen photos and several videos. I estimate they are 50 yards from us. One is black and one is brown – both Black Bears. I have learned to differentiate Black Bears from Grizzlies.

Further down the road, we stop for the repairs, and we see a beautiful fox. He seems to be sunning himself in the last remnants of today’s sunshine. He is larger than any fox I have seen in Michigan.

We finally reach the end of the road, so very satisfied with our day, feeling a sense of accomplishment, but the most frightening, stressful stretch of our day yet lay ahead this early evening. . .

Click here to read my next post, #10 Mountain-Size Fear

If you haven’t read my Travel Posts, Click here to start at the beginning! You can read all my posts on “Home Sweet Home” window.

Click here to read the next Post, #10, Mountain-Size Fear. Before you read “Mountain-Size Fear,” you might want to see this lovely video, and be sure to see the map of Glacier below: 

#2 Where you go, I will go . . .

My postings throughout this month of July and early August will vary from the typical, as Ron and I take a lengthy adventure. The northwest has called us, and I invite you to come along!

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

~ Rachel Carson

June 30 – We drove north about 6 hours today, crossing our favorite bridge in the fog.

Spent the night at the little Welcome Center – first right over the bridge. I’ve written about driving north in a recent post. Click here to read it.

July 1 

 This was our true first day: July 1. Day 1. 

We woke to sunny skies; had pancakes on the gas stove and French Press coffee. No electricity needed! Left St. Ignace and drove west on Highway 2 – our main road for the next ten days! Oh how we love the U.P. It was Thursday before the big weekend, and people were pulling campers and boats, yet the roads were not crowded. There’s room for all in the Upper Peninsula, and we relish in it! The birch, whiter than white with deep black veins, catch my eyes as we travel. We are blessed to call Michigan home. I can never get enough of it.

Across this stretch of road in Michigan, a Biden/Harris sign still remains in front of someone’s cute little red ranch home  Dozens of faded Trump 2020 signs and flags, are still posted in yards, and on barns, posts, and vehicles throughout this westward trek. On one wayside saloon, an owner had printed “My _______ governor is a wit wit.” Today, I reached the conclusion that Yoopers in this area are not at all timid!

We paused two times today – first for lunch and rest at a wayside park. Quiet contemplation at that shaded picnic table was my favorite time today. It has become a rarity. Seems I must force myself – think I always need to be accomplishing something. I’m slowly learning that resting and listening to God “is” accomplishing something – something He wants to accomplish!

We paused again late in the day, briefly leaving Highway 2, traveling 20 miles north to see Agate Falls, one we had missed in our 2020 trip north. I wanted to recreate my 3-year-old photo at the base of that falls (I missed it last year – click here to read the post). We walked a viewing boardwalk (was unrewarding) and attempted to hike the deep gorge to the actual base of the falls, but my shoes didn’t quite meet the criteria for such a venture today. Seems a lot has changed in the area in the last 66 years. A placard conveyed that the original 125 steps to the bottom of the falls, on which my daddy obviously carried me at the time, burned in the early 1970’s, along with a motel on the property. Only a treacherous hike could get one to that location today. It’s a hike we’ll once again have to save for the future!

We stayed at an RV site at Northern Waters Casino tonight, a first for us and we were very pleased with this first come, first served opportunity. For only $16, we had electricity, water, and internet connection! Was peaceful, and very likely the quietest night we’ll have on this lengthy trip!

It’s odd – sleeping in this trailer the middle of nowhere, but it doesn’t take long to relax in the quiet darkness of this wooded north, a cool breeze tickling my face with scents of pine and cedar, and the man beside me who inspired the theme of our little “home away from home.”

Click here to read the next post, #3 My Pink Earplugs

I admit it. I wonder . . .

Do you pray – and pray – and pray – and wonder if the Lord is hearing your prayer? And if He is, why He isn’t answering?  

You’ve grown in your faith. You trust in His Word. You believe His promises. But you’re still praying. And wondering. I admit. I am.

You’re not alone.

I’m right there with you.

And David, the Psalmist, whom God loved tremendously, is with us also. He knows grief. He knows distress. He knows waiting.

He comes right out and asks God. I’m asking right along with David:

How long, Lord, before you answer me? It seems like you’re turning your face from me. How long must I struggle with this agony, anxiety, and sorrow in my soul? It seems that the enemy is winning this battle . . . Oh, Lord, turn and look at me and answer me. Give light to my eyes – restore the sparkle I once had. Don’t let my enemy think he has won.

Then, as David does, we too need to recognize God. This is where we must go. This is what we must do. We must respond to our own distress by recognizing who God is. David’s example of recognition is perfect for us, as well:

But, I trust in your unfailing love, Lord God. My heart rejoices in the salvation you have given me and continue to give me. You have been good to me. 

You have been good to me. Oh how this causes me to remember God’s goodness. Over and over. A lifetime of it. He has been good to me.

Now I’m trusting more. He knows me. More than I know my own soul. Now I must strengthen myself in the Word.

I read more about God, learning more about myself, as I do:

 

Lord, You know everything about me. Everything. You know where I am, what I’m doing. You know my thoughts and my words – before I even speak them. You place Your hand of blessing on my head. You are always with me. Always. You’re in front of me and behind me. You hem me in as my Grandmother hemmed each piece of clothing. Securely. Snugly. Safely. If I choose to go up toward the heavens, You are there. If I go down into the depths of the Earth, You are there. If I fly toward the dawn of the morning or toward the farthest oceans, Your hand is there to guide and support me. It’s impossible for me to hide in the darkness. You still see me – because You bring light into my darkness.

There it is my friend – He brings light into my darkness. He brings light into your darkness. Just as He brought light into David’s darkness.

And so I close my eyes and I see His hand of blessing reaching toward me, guiding and supporting me. He places His hand upon my head.

And I am blessed in the waiting. And in His presence.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

From Psalm 13 and Psalm 139

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More than I can ever imagine!

I must admit, I had some anxiety about it – our lengthy trip planned across the northwest states. I’ve struggled others times, such as the first few days when we arrive in Florida for the winter. It’s an uneasiness about being so far away from the kids for a length of time.  (For those of you who don’t know – our three kids are grown up, happily married, unbelievably responsible and self-sufficient, blessing us with eleven grandchildren and one great-grandchild due, as I write this. But, once again, although my anxiety might be unwarranted, I’m just being truthful!)  This trip – planned for the month of July – is farther yet. About twice as far. Anyway, it’s an admission. Don’t judge. You have anxiety over certain things, too!

I had tried  various Trip Planners (five to be exact), but after hours of using the mouse to move the route to the roads we wanted to take (which do not include expressways) and “losing” the entire plan, I opened the Atlas and started the tedious job of my own “Trip Planning.” Days of effort. Pleasant effort. But time consuming, nonetheless. Finally, the route was finished. Our 31 allotted days of travel, including five National Parks, over 4000 miles, numerous state parks and RV Parks, and a few Walmart parking lots!

Then I started doing some research. I wanted to be prepared to see all that we could within the locations we would travel.

Oh my word! That research changed everything!

The first discovery was Multnomah Falls. I’ve seen pics of it for a few years now – pics taken in each of the four seasons. I’ve always thought it must be the most beautiful waterfall in the country. Little did I know it was on the Columbia River Gorge, in Oregon, just a “hop, skip, and a jump” from Viento State Park, where I had booked two nights camping. (I love how the Lord works all that out!) I just can’t express what this knowledge did to – and for – me. I literally “choked up.” I thought, I am going to see the most beautiful waterfall in the country! Thank you, Father God.

And that’s when things suddenly changed. All my anxiety about the trip was gone. God gave me peace and joy and tremendous appreciation and thankfulness for what Ron and I were about to see and experience.

And with my continued research, I began to wish we had planned two months instead of one!

Thor’s Well – don’t you know, we’ll drive right past it on the Oregon Coast.

 



  Seals! I didn’t realize there were seals on  the coast, as well, did you?   

One photo after another – of prairies and streams, of mountains and glaciers, of wildflowers and waterfalls, of mountain goats and grizzly bears – filled me with excitement. It is so much more than I ever expected! And I’m going to see it and live it for a while!

And so it is with heaven. I can’t begin to realize how great it will be. For you, it might be a quiet setting you desire. Or a mountain top.  Or a home beside the world’s best shopping center! Jesus said He’s preparing places just for us! We can’t begin to realize how amazing it will be.  Unlike our trip out west, which is for just a short time, heaven will be for eternity! And instead of anxiety about it, we can have peace – total peace! He alone gives that peace. It comes with trusting Jesus Christ as Savior. Only then can we look forward to His plans for us! Click here to learn more about becoming a Christ follower.  

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Memories renewed by a simple “Honk”

Walking through the house this morning, I heard a car “honk.” I didn’t know if it was on TV or a car going by. But it brought back some memories. Perhaps you can relate.

Growing up, we lived in the country – a gravel road. Few cars went by during the day. When a car came down the road, one of us would often say, “There’s a car coming.” We stared as it went by. It was notable!

If the passerby knew us, sometimes even if he didn’t, he or she would most often “honk.” It was a “hello.” Of course, my dad and mom did the same thing as they drove. Travel was much slower in those days. Rarely did Daddy ever drive 50 mph and that was only on a big road, a “highway” like US 27 or US 12. No, he drove slowly, commenting along the way on wildlife, farmers in their fields, discussing various changes in the scenery with my mother. I learned much during those drives. Landmarks, not addresses, marked our travel. “Culps Hill”; Clarendon Pond . . .

Travel was limited. Of course, Daddy drove to work every day. He worked at Federal Mogul, and he left the house shortly before 7:30 am. The office opened at 8. He arrived home at 5:19 pm every day. Mama drove, too, when she worked. Those were the rare times we had two cars. We didn’t often make trips to town. Errands were written on paper, along with grocery lists (usually on reused, back sides of envelopes), and our rare trips to town included buying groceries, going to the laundromat (during the times Mom didn’t have an automatic washer), sometimes a trip to J.C. Penney, and occasionally a fun trip to Otto & Sons where Daddy shopped the hunting gear and we kids browsed the massive toy department.

We jumped in the car every Sunday – after church and a quick Sunday dinner – and took the long drive from our home on Quincy Grange Road in Butler Township to Grandpa and Grandma Nutt’s house on Grass Lake Road, northwest of Kinderhook. Daddy occasionally honked the horn when we arrived. There, we spent the afternoon – oh, the stories I could tell would fill a small book. But for now, I’ll only share the memories of the long drive. After hours of visiting and investigating the old barns, sheds, empty silo, and garden areas with my brother and cousins, we once again hopped in the car and drove the long route back to Butler Township, to the even narrower graveled Bidwell Road to Grandpa and Grandma Locke’s house, where Daddy “tooted” the horn a bit louder, drawing our Locke cousins out from their places of play around the yard and out buildings. We spent the remainder of daylight with our Locke cousins, playing outside until the familiar whistle of the theme song of “Lassie” drew us into the living room.

My childhood travels to and from our graveled Quincy Grange Road residence centered around a vehicle, filled with a family of five, a bushel of love, and touting a horn that spoke a friendly “hello” to all. Occasionally today, I hear it – if only in my memories.

Photo is taken Summer of 1959. Mom at the wheel. Becky, my little sister and I in the back of our new yellow and white Ford Fairlane.

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By her right hand . . .

I joined Mama in those last steps of her dying. As much as I could. From the outside looking in. This was Mama’s dying, not mine. I was very much alive and it made it all the more difficult to accept this separation that death was about to force upon us.

I love you every step of the way

She turned her head and looked at me. She spoke. soft. single. syllables, but I couldn’t hear her. I couldn’t understand.

I’m tired,  I thought. I’m worn. I don’t like this. I want to go backward – to yesterday – to last week – to last year. I want to hear my Mama’s voice. I want to listen closely to her. I want to soak up her every word.

Then no more movement. Eyes closed. She lay perfectly still. Not in sleep. But in the stillness that sometimes comes before death. This was a stage of death – one I’d witnessed in my Daddy, just one month prior – one I did not want to face again. A double-edged blade was stabbing the most tender place of my heart. She would never look at me again. She would never speak to me again. I yearned to hear her voice, even those soft. single. syllables, once more. I wanted to place my ear close to her mouth and listen closely. Please God, can we go back.

But there was no going back because this awful parting that was coming about between a mother and a daughter, was death, and this awful death had been compounding itself in my Mama’s life for many years. It had been initiated and implemented in a beautiful garden, and it had ruined every life since. It was aging and suffering, cancer and illness, war and killing. It had parted many mothers and daughters, and it was strong – stronger than I could any longer fight. And so I sat beside Mama and watched as she lay still, her body dying.

Suddenly, the stillness of those hours was broken by an occurrence that became a ritual of the next hours: she opened her eyes and turned her head, facing up, looking toward heaven; lifting those, purpled, bruised hands straight from her elbows, toward heaven, toward her Savior. I watched this sacrament in amazement throughout these next hours, each time understanding more about death and feeling its wicked sting. Please, God, let Mama’s body die so she can go to You and to Daddy.

I had prayed for a visible sign of Mom’s soul leaving her body. It would be such a simple thing for You to do, Lord God. I didn’t need a sign to know that my Mama was going to the Lord Jesus. I simply wanted it! And so I prayed.

Now she dwelt in this last state of her physical being, one I had not yet observed in these days of watching her die—or in the weeks of watching her struggle to breathe—or in the years of watching her vibrant body deteriorate into the old woman who now lay before me. Mama simply turned her right hand away from the sterile white sheet and raised her palm toward her Savior as she took her last breath.

I opened the Bible – the Word. I went to the Psalms and discovered that Mama had lived the Word in her death:

“Yet I am always with you,” [my Mama said],”You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory . . . earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:23-26 NIV)

He had held her by her right hand and had taken her to glory. And He had answered the simple prayer of a simple daughter.

And I knew that the Word would help me face life without her, that God was the strength of my heart and would be my portion forever, and I understood a bit more about death and felt a bit less of its sting.

Letters from War

Marion L. Nutt

May 18, 1920 – April 28, 1943

I never knew my Uncle Marion, yet my throat tightens, and tears roll down my face whenever I look at pictures of him, read his letters from war, or place a flower on his grave.

Perhaps it is because he reminds me of my father. They shared such a resemblance. Or perhaps it is because sometimes I try to place myself in my Grandma’s shoes – having five sons in the war at the same time and dreading that unwanted telegram. But most definitely it is because of my love and appreciation of a man who gave his life for a country and the freedoms I enjoy every day – a man I’ve always known as my Uncle Marion.

In memory of my Uncle Marion, a true patriot, a recipient of the Purple Heart issued by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and forever a loved member of my family,  I write these words.

Marion (left) and Wayne (right) July 1931

Marion grew up on a black dirt farm in Kinderhook, Michigan, the seventh of twelve children. The large family was poor but honorable, honest, respectable citizens of the community.  In the early 1940’s, Marion was the first of the “older” boys to enlist to serve his country in what became known as WWII. Soon thereafter, Paul, Clifford, Earl, and Wayne followed suit. During the war, the five sons served throughout the world, including the Pacific Arena, the European Theatre, and the North African Campaign.

Marion (top row – second from right) with Ethyl My parents, Wayne and Margie, bottom right
Young Marion goes off to war.

One of my mother’s best friends was a vibrant, lovely woman named Ethyl. Years later, as I grew up, I simply knew Ethyl as my neighbor and friend.  She and her husband Frank had two daughters. I never realized until I read Uncle Marion’s letters from war that Ethyl had once had a very special place in Uncle Marion’s heart, and I have every reason to believe that he had a very special place in her heart, as well. I discovered this in one of the letters Uncle Marion had written to my mother.

(To my mother)

Ethyl, my Uncle Marion’s “one & only.”

Sept. 20/42

Ireland

Dear Margie,

Well Margie, today is a rainy Sunday as that is nothing unusual in Ireland. Say, Wayne’s letter came the same day as yours. He said to give you 7734 for not writing to me before. . . . What is this I hear about you & Wayne planning to marry? . . . Ethyl writes a lovely love letter. I think she is the one & only for me. We could be so happy together as I love her so much and miss her as we are made for each other. She most likely thinks I run around with other girls.If so she should be here and witness what I do. Then it would be different. . . . Talk Wayne out of joining the army. Please if you can. . . . Must close for now for time is short.

Marion and Ethyl On furlough before shipping off to the fighting.

As ever, my sister-in -law to be. Care if I stamp this with a kiss for you? S.W.A.K.

As ever, just a soldier,

Marion L. Nutt

The “soldier away from home”  was revealed in Marion’s letters to his brother Clifford who had not yet enlisted and was living with his wife Velma and two young children in Michigan. Knowing Velma would undoubtedly read the letter, Marion included a line to Velma, as well.

(To his brother, Clifford)

June 10, 1942

Dear Brother,

Received your letter today. Was sure glad to hear from you. Would have liked to see you with the mumps. Ha. Ha.

Went to the city for the weekend . . .  the air raids. It was worth the trip just for that. The trip was educational as well as fun. Wow, is whisky & drinks ever high. Bass, which here means beer,is twenty cents a bottle. Whisky $8.00 a quart. Women cheap, two shillings a frig or a pound for all night. That’s what the boys say. I don’t know myself.

P.S. Velma, don’t let this shock your modesty.

Sept. 13/42

Ireland

Dear Brother,

Hi Cliff. How are you and the family?I am fine as can be. Get a little lonesome sometimes, but try to make the best of it.

Received your ever so welcomed letter this week so will answer it with the best of my ability.

Most of the soldiers fish at night . . . I am going to Belfast next week to fish … and raise 7734.  These fish are so much different than ours at home . . . a few trout

A little army life would do Earl good, just like Paul.

Write soon.

Your brother,

Marion N.

Shortly after he wrote these letters, Marion was sent to the North African Campaign. The rainy, somewhat peaceful days in Ireland suddenly became cold, turbulent days at the front of  “Operation Torch,” at Algiers – then later at Tunisia. A fierce battle had been taking place for over two years. At stake was control of the Suez Canal and access to oil from the Middle East – vital to mechanizing the armies. Marion was one of 65,000 troops commanded by General Eisenhower. Just one of many men, but the one we loved.

(Letter to Clifford and family)

Algeria, N. Africa

Dec. 28/42

Dear Cliff & Family,

Hello kids. How is everyone around home? I am fine although have a slight cold. Shaved my head – then it turned off cool so of course it had me . . . The old mail is just catching up with us. This one I just received is dated Oct 5th, . . .

. . .  as far away as I am and can’t talk to anyone. Boy that is hell. Especially with these beautiful babes parading around like flies and can’t even as much as speak or talk to me.

Just one thing there is her is plenty of wine, about like you said they had in California when you were on the bum. It is cheap. 10 francs a bottle. That is about 1.34 a quart. Variety of each kind. Must be a hundred different brands. Banana wine is strong along with muscatel, grape, orange, even cactus. Whoa. Has that ever got a kick.

What is Olen’s address? . . . He is in the tank core, right? Boy that is hell on the front lines. . . . Where is Fay? . . . I often wonder if I might accidentally run into them. A fellow here met his brother just the same way. . . .

Good night all. As Ever,

Marion Nutt

His next letters  reveal the increasing peril he faces. They also reveal his desire to keep news of that danger from his dear Mother. His body is in Algeria, but his heart is at home.

Mar. 7, 43

Dear Kids,

Hello, how is the old place ticking? It has been 48 hours a day for me. At least that is the way I feel. But am still able to kick. Those Germans can’t get us. At times I wonder,at that. Sure came close this last time. Anyway, the days come & go just the same as ever even if it is hard to tell one from the other. Sure have been good for the past five weeks. No drinks or girls. Just soldier from day to day.

Have seen enemy tanks & heard those machine guns spray lead. . . .

How is Dad doing? Does he take it hard?

Write often.

As Ever. With love

Marion Nutt

(To Wayne, my father)

Mar. 20, 43

Marion with the locals.

Dear Wayne,

Just a few lines to say hello and let you know that I am still alive & in the best of health. Hope you are the same.

Although I haven’t written often, I still think of you just the same. It keeps me busy writing to Mom, Ethyl, and Clifford.

But of course I don’t write anything to them about my hardships, never would I do that, not even if I was dying. Cliff is the only one that knows the score about myself. He can keep it under his hat so that Mother will not worry too much about me.

What I write to you of my doings in N. Africa, please for Mother’s sake, don’t ever mention anything to Ethyl or even to Margie for it would leak out. Then Mother would age 20 years more. So on your word of honor, please do as I say. Please!

Oh, say, how is Margie? I know Ethyl’s morale gets pretty low at times. Her letters tell how she feels. Never sent her a Christmas gift but a money order of 20 bucks, which served the same purpose. There is not a damned thing overseas that we saw that is worth a hoop.

. . . Did you ever wake up in the morning, shivering, peek outside and see it snowing like the dickens? Have you ever slept in a cemetery where you can look into the graves & see skulls, bones, & ribs of Arabs? Then go to sleep & dream & hear them kicking underneath. It gives me the creeps.

Snakes, lizards, scorpions, & rats, all deadly poisonous, crawl about your head while sleeping. Sure is a morale builder, but nothing to worry about.

Visited the city of Algiers the hard way. Wow! What beautiful babes are there, along with some homes that would make California’s look like shacks.

Artillery goes over our heads, makes me jump, although it is friendly. It is very frightening at times. Those foe machine guns sure spray wicked lead. Saw a German destroyed tank. Didn’t even get a souvenir from the old thing.

. . . Well Wayne, my furlough days are over. Am only looking forward for that thing they call discharge.

Instead of me writing to Paul & Earl, just forward this letter on to them. Tell them to do the same. The last one will keep it. Don’t send it home. Remember, keep it under your hats & tell Paul & Earl to do the same. . .  That will save me time and per along with a backache in this cramped writing position that I am in.

Your Brother,

Marion Nutt

(Marion’s last letters – to Clifford & Family via “V-Mail”)

Apr. 6, 43

Just a few lines to say hello & let you that I am still able to fight. Wow! Have I ever had some hair breadth escapes. Can’t tell any, but you can imagine. Listen to the news & just picture me out here fighting for my life. I am not bragging for I am no hero or ever care to be, but anyway I have been the closest to the enemy lines in our company. . . .

Tell Velma her last letter gave me a date. It was about that dream about me & her, also Wayne. I was on a mission that night which was not the pleasantest thing in the world. Too many fireworks & walking. . .

Well Cliff, I have a worried mind so this is all I can think of.  . . . If I come through the next scrape, I will write again so until then, so long & the best of luck.

Apr. 12, 1943

Hello. . . I am still able to breathe & enjoy life and boy is it ever great after being in one of North Africa’s major battles. Will tell more later in my letters. Was nearly a prisoner of war. The old boy was saying & motioning, “Come. Come.” But I turned ass to lead & made my best track time for life.

Paul is lucky to be back home with no more worries of being in hell like I have. Fay is lucky to be able to get home occasionally. Maybe I will have time to write to the boys. It is good to get letters. . .

My space is getting small so will close. Hoping this finds the home from much quieter than this one has been, so keep them going. Seven to one. That is the way they fled from here. Write soon.

Your Brother

Marion Nutt

April 19, 43

Hello Cliff & Family,

Just a few lines to say howdy and let you know that I am fine & still able to write. Although several times I found myself pinching my body to make sure it was not only a dream. Anyway, our mission is now accomplished and trying to rest up a bit, even though there is not a minute of time left for idleness.

Our visiting time is limited although I do go to see  Van occasionally. He is just as swell as ever with blood curdling experiences of this last mission. Of course you wouldn’t care for any of that B.S.

Stokes brings me the Coldwater Daily Reporter, and I scan the headlines for news of the boys in the service. . . . Just hope Earl & Wayne don’t have to leave, because I’ve been through enough hell for them both.

Must give the Jerries credit. They sure know their onions about warfare & such. Boobie trap professionals, along with mines & bouncing babies. But when the drop is on them, they run like mad.

Received a letter from Aunt Mossie saying that everything is going swell & that she received a letter from Mom stating that she would like to go up to their place again. Think I’ll go along the next time. Would have before, but I didn’t know then what I do now.

Our Lieutenant called some of the boys together & said, “I want to congratulate you on your promotions to corporals.” But now I am in doubt until the reports come back on the wounded NCO’s. I wrote Corporal on a letter that I wrote Ethyl before I knew the truth. Now I don’t know. Will say in my next letter to you so until then, just . . .

Pvt. Nutt

Of all the letters, the one that I love (or hate) most is one sent in April of 1943 from my father, Wayne, to his brother, Marion. It was also written on V-Mail stationery – from one brother who has finished training and is heading to Europe (My father, Wayne) –  to another who is in the midst of hellish warfare (my Uncle Marion).

Dear Marion: Will write to tell you everything is fine. Everyone is well. I hear from Mom quite often. Paul is home as you may know. Less worry for Mom

I have one stripe now. So feel good about that! Ha! I’m still in Kansas. Quite hot here. But I like it. Earl is still in Oregon. . . . Ethyl, the darling, is very happy. I’m glad for her and for you, too.

The headlines in papers seem very good. I know you boys are really giving those Germans hell. Keep it up! Write to Mom when you can.

I hope you & Earl Stokes are still together. I bet you two can really pour it on. Will close for now. Good luck.

Love, Wayne

The letter isn’t what’s disturbing – it’s the envelope: “Killed in action”

Signed by a Captain.

Returned to the sender – my father.

How many envelopes were pounded with that red stamp?

“RETURN TO SENDER. THIS ITEM COULD NOT BE DELIVERED AS ADDRESSEE HAS BEEN REPORTED KILLED IN ACTION.”

Seventy four years pass. The year is 2017. Ethyl grew old and has passed away. Her daughter brings me a gift. She found it in her mother’s belongings where it had been tucked away for more than 70 years. It is a brown Bible – a New Testament – given to Servicemen during WWII. An inscription is found inside the back cover: 

Being a believer in Jesus Christ, I had always wanted to trust that Uncle Marion, too, was a believer. I thought of my Grandma, his mother, whom I knew was a Christian. I pictured her praying for her sons at war and praying for her children to also know Jesus Christ. I found comfort and consolation in this little New Testament. It fell open to a spot where all those years before, Uncle Marion had placed a four-leaf clover. As a Christian, I know I don’t need to hope or trust in the luck a four-leaf clover brings, but I also know we have a Heavenly Father who understands our whims and knew that someday Uncle Marion’s placement of that clover would lead me to the Word of God – the true hope of our redemption in Jesus Christ. The pages were slightly stained by the clover, which for 77 years lay upon blessed words of our Lord. I read, “And the son said unto him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.’ But the father said . . . ‘my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry.”

I thought of my Grandma and her answered prayer for her son, Marion – that he was a son who had died but was alive again!  My heart began to be merry. And I thanked God for His Word and for the little country church that gave that Word to my Uncle Marion.

The final “letter” is actually a lengthy, detailed report titled “Phase IV History of 135th Infantry Regiment.” It describes the final battle for Hill 609 in Tunisia, which began the 27th of March, 1943. It is a disheartening account of Uncle Marion’s last days – those very days of his last letters – the letters that had shown me his true heart. Now I knew a bit more of those many days leading to taking Hill 609.

The report is bitter reading:

“Most of the infantry attacks were not coordinated.”

“Communications at best were poor . . . slow and uncertain”

“The artillery was not used to its fullest extent.. . . Many times the artillery barrage would come down on our own troops, insuring a lot of them and it took a lot of the aggressive spirit from the men.”

“Hill 609: It is interesting to note the difference in terrain . . . this terrain was to be the stage and the scenery for one of the most important battles of the campaign to drive the Germans from Africa; the battle which rates as one of the outstanding combat feats of the Regiment – The Battle of Hill 609.”

“A large percentage of officers and men were  ill for reasons not definitely known. . Although  physical exhaustion was probably partly responsible, it is believed Atabrine tablets were largely the cause.”

“On the 2nd of May, 1943, the battalion occupied the entire north slope of Hill 609 in addition to the ground already held.”

The battle was over. The mission was successful. The Hill was conquered. But it was four days too late for our family:

Uncle Marion was killed in action, in the battle for Hill 609, on April 28, 1943. The Hill was successfully taken on May 2. Officially, the North African campaign ended May 13, 1943.

The list is lengthy at the end of the 47-page report: Wounded in Action; Killed in Action.

In the report, he is simply number 36160539. But in reality, he is our son, our brother, our uncle.  He is the small town dirt farmer who left his large family to serve his country. He is one in a  huge family of patriots – of citizens who love this country, the United States of America – of people who stand in respect for the flag, the pledge, and the National Anthem – one of dozens in this family who served and continue to serve in the armed forces and within their communities. He is an example of honor.

Now, as my throat swells with pride and wet drops of love roll down my cheeks, I know the reason. It is because I am an American and a piece of a great family that loved a hero named Marion.

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Marion’s grave. East Gilead Cemetery Coldwater Michigan
 

Our local WW2 Veterans are remembered at Oak Grove Cemetery. Uncle Marion is just one local man who was Killed in Action but one of thousands – one of tens of thousands who gave their lives for our country during that war. 

 

My prayer was for all women assaulted by the enemies known as abuse and neglect

. . . we prayed and then drove to the court house. I was worried, “keyed up.” My soul was encased with weeks – months – years of prayer. The anxiety caused me to be somewhat “punch drunk.” I wanted to glorify God no matter the outcome of this sentencing.  Family and friends filled the courtroom. I felt blessed. Our daughter and son-in-law sat at the front of the courtroom, waiting to be called up before the judge. But we waited a length of time while others stood before him. Some offenders were being arraigned. Others were being sentenced. As we heard those sentences, my physical gut tightened and my mind became frightened. The judge was giving harsh sentences for seemingly minor offences. When these “criminals” went forward to be sentenced, their family members shuffled in and out of the courtroom. Sometimes one or two family members observed. Sometimes none. None of these people, these “criminals” or their family members, had the support our daughter and son-law and Ron and I had. We waited. And watched.

A young woman, crying, sat alone at the side of the courtroom.

I went over, sat beside her, and put my arm around her, hoping to console her. She told me about her sister who would be arraigned on this day.

Her short story was filled with hopelessness – a background of abuse and hate, a story of drugs, a child taken from her mother, no money for bail. I asked if I could pray for her and her sister. She allowed me to.

Although I prayed for her sister by name, my prayer was for all women invaded by the enemies of abuse and neglect, deceived by the demons of a myriad of drugs. My prayer was also for their crying and neglected children, entwined in the lost cycle of it all, people for whom I now had a greater empathy and a sincere concern. “Christ,” I said. “We fight under your banner. Lead us.”

Soon her sister, handcuffed and dressed in orange and white stripes,  stood before the judge. The arraignment was stated. The officer led her from the courtroom. The young woman with whom I had spoken smiled a thank you through her tears as she left the courtroom. I returned to my seat and waited our turn.

I thought of the first time, nine months ago, when I had entered this court house. I remembered seeing my daughter and her husband in shackles. I recalled the many court appearances speckled throughout the months between then and now, during which I had seen other women and men shuffling down the halls of the court house, in the faded striped coveralls, shackled hand and foot.

Some hung their heads in shame; some were frightened; some smirked. No matter their demeanor, my heart had ached for each one; my hate for the deceitful enemy who had caused it all was fueled on those days and refueled today.

But on this day, my awareness of the Father’s great love for all and the saving grace of Jesus Christ was foremost in my awareness. Now I looked at my daughter, her beauty and health returning to her once-addicted body, and at my son-in-law, now a true man in every sense of the word, and I thanked God. They sat together, knowing that most likely, they would be separated from this day forward, and separated from their children, as well, for a lengthy time. But they faced the consequences of their sins and crimes, thankful that God had saved them out of their depression and addiction, thankful that they had a bright future in Him.

The judge had stepped out after the young “sister’s” sentencing – then had reentered the courtroom. “All stand,” the court assistant instructed . . . Then called our son-in-law forward …

Continue reading in my book, When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers  Click here to order: https://kathiwaligora.com/blog/

I’ll send it out to you asap!

The Last Waterfall of the Trip – And I Missed It! Post 9 – From “The Getaway . . .”

Daddy bought a new Kodak 3 mm in 1955, so my family, including my brother and sister, inherited a plethora of photos, most preserved in slide format. Some years ago, I transferred these slides to digital form, saving them on disks for my family.  I’m nostalgic, to say the least. I thrive in a mid-century décor shop. Program my TV to record 40’s and 50’s  movies on Turner Classic. So when I view those digital photos or browse through my mother’s photo albums, I seem to “go back in time.” And I love it! You’ve read my posts about times past, I’m sure.

On this getaway trip, Ron had been gracious to help me revisit and recreate scenes and moments from 1955, when as a little girl, I had first visited these sites in the Porcupine Mountains and the surrounding areas of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with my family. For instance, in a recent post, you might have seen photos of my family at The Lake of the Clouds in 1955 and Ron and me in the same location on this trip. So now on this last day at the campgrounds, we packed up and hooked up our little “home away from home.” As we left the Porkies, we stopped one last time at the Welcome Center to pick up a souvenir in their gift shop. We encountered two young women who had just entered the park, coming from the two waterfalls to which we were headed: Bond Falls and Agate Falls. I showed them the photo on my phone – the one I wanted to “recreate,” taken of me at Agate Falls 65 years earlier!

Little Kathi at Agate Falls – 1955. Photo taken by her Daddy.

“Oh,” one of the young women said, looking at my photo. “That’s not Agate Falls – it’s Bond Falls. We were just there.”

“Oh thanks!” I replied, thinking I must have incorrectly marked the photo. 

“Ron, we need to be heading to Bond Falls,” I suggested.

So we left the memorable Porcupine Mountains en route to one of the most beautiful falls in Michigan: Bond Falls, discarding our plans to also visit Agate Falls.

It was a lovely drive. The parking area was full. Even during this time of dreadful Covid, people ventured out – eager and desirous to seek beauty in nature. It took a bit of time to find area to park our vehicle and trailer, but we found shade on this hot summer day!

We discovered the turbulent waterfall just a short distance up the trail, where we began our effort to find the exact location of the 1955 photo my Daddy had taken of me.

Back and forth, up and down the old cement steps along the shaded east side we hiked, stopped, and photographed, always looking for just the “right spot” from 1955. But it just never seemed right. Had the direction of the water changed in all those years?

We followed a trail over a footbridge and across the river to the opposite side – the west side. On that west bank, I stepped down to the riverside and placed my feet on what I hoped might be the exact ground upon which I had stood as a tiny girl in 1955. I hoped the scene was recreated, but it just didn’t seemed right.

By this time, as you can imagine, after days of hiking in search of waterfalls, Ron and I were nearly “waterfalled out.” Bond Falls was beautiful. We had seen it, the mosquitoes were swarming us, and now we were ready to trek back to our pickup and travel trailer and continue our venture. But still, in my mind, the recreated scene just hadn’t seemed right! 

The sun was lowering when we left Bond Falls, and having no purpose to visit nearby Agate Falls, we instead drove on to L’Anse at the base of the Keweenaw Peninsula, to visit more once-familiar sites and recreate yet more photos from those years ago.

It wasn’t until weeks later, in making the final revisions to this article that I reviewed online photos of Agate Falls and suddenly realized my mistake: The original photo was indeed taken at Agate Falls – not Bond Falls. My childhood pic and another photo of Agate Falls reveal the obvious:

Little Kathi at Agate Falls 1955
Agate Falls Today

I had missed the true waterfall – Agate Falls, a most important memory. I realized my mistake:

I had quickly taken the advice of a well-intentioned, kind young woman, rather than double-checking my own photos and plans. I had accepted her statement instead of following my own instinct and knowledge.

I was saddened but not surprised. It wasn’t the first time I had practiced poor judgment and had been unwise in my decisions! And of course, it brought about regrets. Once again on this “Getaway – Seeking Sounds of Silence, the Secret Place, and Wisdom,”  I had learned a lesson about wisdom in a most unexpected manner.

Proverbs speaks much about wisdom:

There is a way that seems right . . . (But it isn’t!)

He who walks with the wise grows wise. (Obviously the young women weren’t wise regarding waterfalls)

. . . and perhaps most important or applicable to my situation, in Corinthians:

my faith must not rest upon the wisdom of others, but upon God’s power. . .

Of course the lesson is much greater than finding the correct location, the correct waterfall. It’s in finding God’s will, in following God’s plan instead of following people. People will never have the answers for me, but God will. He will lead me, if and when I seek Him. And I can always seek Him in prayer and through His Word.

The good news for me regarding Agate Falls is that there’s a possibility that Ron and I will be in the area again next summer. It will be our first stop on our journey. As we walk the path to Agate Falls and hear the rush of water, my eyes will feel a bit of rush, as well, and a mist will roll down my cheeks,  knowing I’m finally in the right place. Ron will hold the camera. I’ll step close to the water’s edge, the beautiful falls in the background. I’ll  squint a bit, looking at Ron but seeing my Daddy holding his Kodak 35 mm.

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And, thank you for reading my writing! Click here to read the next and final post in this series: Post 10.

I Hate Bats! Post 6 – From “The Getaway. . .”

I had looked at photos and articles in the brochures, pamphlets, and travel guides of the park, considering which sites Ron and I might want to see. Much to my distress, one article had a photo of a bat, which I immediately covered up by folding the corner of the paper over it. I hate bats! Repeat – I hate bats! Please don’t try to convince me of all the good things about bats. It won’t sway me. They remind me of demons. I hate bats. 

You see, the Porkies (Porcupine Mountains) have many old, abandoned mines – copper and iron ore. The article and photo I covered in a brochure, so as not to see, described a strategy conservationists of the Porkies are taking to keep bats from getting some white-nose disease. As you can imagine, I didn’t read the article. (I kept it covered – out of sight.)  So anyway, I said, “This is one site here in the Porkies I don’t care to visit.” End of story. 

It was not really the “end of story” because as we were driving up the mountain to the Lake of the Clouds (Click here to read my last Post 5), we stopped at a beautiful site where there was a small spot to park and to look out over the beautiful Lake Superior from quite a height. We walked to the lookout point. I took a pic of Ron and of the nearby sign.

It was lovely, BUT, on the opposite side of the narrow road, dug into the side of the mountain was an old abandoned copper mine, and – you guessed it – was the very site, placard and all, about the story of the bats. Evidently thousands come out of that mine shaft at night . . . you know the story. Another reason they remind me of demons – there are thousands, and they love to work at night.  – in the dark. Well, we “hightailed it” out of there!

Have you ever tried so hard to avoid something, like I tried to avoid the bat cave, but you run right into it? Sin is like that. Your intentions are good, but that devil just keeps chasing after you.

He’s dark – the prince of darkness.

His work is dark.

His intentions are dark.

His actions are dark.

My sin is dark.

Your sin is dark.

But Jesus came, and Jesus is light.

I just have to repeat it! Jesus came, and Jesus is light. He is the Light of the World. He brings light into our sinful lives – if we let Him.

The Bible tells us to submit ourselves to God and to resist the devil, and he will flee from us. Resist him, just like I “hightailed it” away from that bat cave. (Well, not really just the same – but you get the idea.) I’ve lived in the darkness of sin before – and you have too. I’ve come out of that darkness and into the Light: Jesus! Have you? If not, it’s time you do!

Learn more about how Jesus takes our sin away and makes us “children of light” at this link: www.kathiwaligora.com/become-a-believer

And you can find more about submitting to God and resisting the devil if you do some further reading, starting with James 4:7 in the New Testament.

Click here to read the next post, Post 7, in this series.