Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"FOR WHOM DOES THE BELL TOLL?" by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"


I don't see too many "SUPPORT OUR TROOP" stickers anymore. They're not really selling, except mostly on-line, and then only families and friends of those serving are buying them—the Law of Supply and Demand at work. As far as American Flags go, "I mean fuggedaboutit." The neighborhood houses are all flying their Seasonal Flags.

Then again, who among us will dare to peep through the Keyhole on the Door of Apathy we've erected, trying so desperately to insulate ourselves from the "Great War" and to block the "Great War's" view of us?

In my "Spiritual Experience" (for want of a better name) where I saw the maddening, horrific violence at the Experiential Boundary where "Infinite-Force Existence" and "Infinite-Resistance Existence" meet, i.e., where Immortality is locked in Eternal Conflict with Itself, I "felt-knew" that the further one is removed from the "Front Lines," so to speak, the more blissfully unaware one is of what it is that is actually maintaining the structure-function relationships we perceive as Reality.

We are unmindful of the Heroic Warrior Beings on either side of "The Clash of the Titans," who are as on conveyor belts moving toward a ravenous, insatiable, fiery, all-devouring Mouth that is the Furnace of Hell. That "Meeting Place," that "War Zone," is the Destiny that patiently awaits all of us.

We have become as corpses on a ghost ship, lulled into complacency and indifference by the tintinnabulation of the bells on some unknown distant shore. Our tranquil sailing upon the River of Time's Cool Waters will soon turn into a nightmarish, desperate "Shooting of Molten Lava Rapids," as we are rushed headlong toward the Falls of Annihilation.

As we near the Brink, we will find ourselves no longer asleep, but awakened as Warriors, because that faint "tintinnabulation" which delighted us so long ago, will reveal itself as the Clanging Bell of Hell inexorably calling us to fight for our Being.

"Therefore never send to know for whom the Bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY FATHER: A Fathers Day Tribute To "Dad"


"Tell us what lesson it is your father taught you that has influenced your life and helped you to become the man or woman you are today."

Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"
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A SON'S TRIBUTE TO HIS FATHER, STEVE SAVAGE "KING OF THE BEASTS'
by your son, Dan

(I did this as a poem to honor the poet.)


The lessons you taught me are too numerous to mention
So I’ll start with a few that came to my attention

As a young boy I knew I had
The strongest, smartest, most handsome Dad

Who carried himself with dignity and pride
I was lucky to have as my coach and my guide

You made sure if I stumbled I got back up
Because in order to succeed you have to be tough

Strength and Intelligence, Wisdom and Courage
You always taught me the power of these words

You encouraged me to do my very best
In everything I do and nothing less

A supportive father in all that I did
It meant so much, especially as a kid

Thank you for being at every game
Even the practices cheering my name

I learned what it is to be a great man
By watching you write your daily plan

Praying to God for my actions each day
For Guidance and Understanding to show me the way

So that I could live an honorable life
Good to my children and kind to my wife

Now I can see what I have become
Because the son is in the father, and the father in the son

When I am a Father I hope I can be
As great a Dad as you are to me

The greatest Father a son could have
Thank you so much, I love you Dad


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MY FATHER
by Jaci Anton

YOUR LOVE HAS TAUGHT ME RESPECT AND STRENGTH FROM ALL YOU'VE HAD TO GIVE;

YOUR LESSONS OF LIFE AND DAILY STRUGGLES HAVE TAUGHT ME HOW TO LIVE.

YOU'VE BORNE SO MUCH THROUGHOUT THE YEARS AND STILL YOU STAND YOUR GROUND;

THROUGH MY TIMES OF NEED I AM THANKFUL JUST TO HAVE YOU AROUND.

YOU'VE SHOWN ME HOW TO DEAL THE CARDS WHEN LIFE PUTS ME TO THE TEST,

AND ALWAYS KEEP MY HEAD UP HIGH AND NOT SETTLE FOR SECOND BEST.

THE YEARS HAVE MADE ME INTO WHO I AM TODAY,

I THANK YOU FOR THE LOVE YOU GAVE AND HELPED TO LEAD THE WAY.

I WISH YOU ALL THE LOVE MY HEART CAN HOLD,

BEYOND THE DAYS WHEN I, TOO, GROW OLD.

HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO MY FATHER, DONALD G. ANTON.

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MY FATHER
by Matt Anton

My Dad taught me the powerful lesson of not letting others influence your life.

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MY FATHER
by April Doring

My father; Walter R. Winston served in the United States Army for twenty one years. Throughout his service he accomplished great feats and endured many experiences.
Walter R. Winston was living in Syracuse, NY at the age of eighteen, before he entered the United States Army in 1949. Unlike in today’s military, he didn’t have his GED until after he was signed up into the Army. Winston went to basic training at Fort Knox in Kentucky. During the Korean War; Walter volunteered to go over to Korea twice, but his request was never accepted. Instead; in 1950 they sent him over to Germany, where they were still recovering from World War II. Walter was assigned to a post at the iron curtain; which he had to patrol. While patrolling, the first people to crash through the iron curtain came through. They took these people to their post where they stayed, soon more people came through. After a while Walter and his fleet couldn’t even eat at their own mess hall because of all the people who came through the iron curtain. For his first four years in the military he was in Germany. In 1953, his father was pressuring him to get out of the military and come and work with him and his company. He got out of the Army for one year to work with his father; painting. In 1954 he re-enlisted back in to the Army and was sent to Iceland, but not before he met my mother, Yvonne. Yvonne and Walter didn’t marry until 1956; after his year tour in Iceland. When he returned to the states to marry Yvonne, he got assigned to Fort Dix as a drill inductor for the basic military training. During his time as a drill instructor in 1957, Yvonne had their first child - me. He was an instructor for one year, and then re-enlisted out of the infantry and into electronics. He was sent to Fort Monmouth for electronic school for nine months. He graduated top in his class and they gave him his first choice of station; Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, they couldn’t use him in Massachusetts so he was sent up to Loring Air Force Base in Maine. While in Maine; Walter and Yvonne had their first son in 1960. After their son was born they left Maine and went to Fort Heath, Massachusetts, and stayed there for four years. Then in 1964 the whole family went to Germany; where it was more restored at this time. They stayed in Germany for two years, and in 1966 they went back to Fort Monmouth. Walter was assigned as an instructor for the basics of electronics. He developed a program and put the lessons on IBM cards that were then inserted into computers. By developing this, students were able to come in and learn the lessons on the computer. In 1971 Walter retired and then joined the post office for twenty two years. He is now officially retired and resides in Neptune, New Jersey.

The story of my father’s time line through his military career is both interesting and intriguing to me. My father has accomplished a lot in his life, and during an important time in history. The two most important tasks were the patrolling of the iron curtain and the development of his program on the computers. Not every one in the military gets to witness people crashing through a wall built by the government.

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MY FATHER

by Hank Fey

I guess the greatest thing I learned from my father, Henry Fey, Sr., was how to be a decent person and being able to make friends easily. Something he could not do. He was an extremely intelligent man who gave his knowledge out in little pieces as though he was giving away his life. I learned most of what I wound of doing for a living in the basement of our west Philadelphia row house. Watching him make toy trains out of tin cans or building radios and playing with his lathe when he was not there. Most jobs around the house he would start, than become supervisor as he showed me how to put down a porch floor or thread some pipe. I guess I will never forget how great the anticipation of setting up the Christmas tree and trains were every year. Something everyone in our family still does. As I look back now I learned a hell of a lot more than I thought I did, My father passed away just after I got out of the service a time when we were just getting to really know each other.He had to be doing something right to raise four kids who all turned out to go on to good careers and have children who turned out fine and have his very creative mind right down though the great grand children.

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MY FATHER
by Joe Gillam

My Dad was a storybook guy. A WW II vet who went back to college after the war. Supported us and put himself through The Ohio State University School of Vet Med by cutting wheat in the west in the summer. He took his mustering out money and bought a couple of trucks and combines and headed west. He got school permission to be back late for the fall quarter so he could finish the season.

He would start in Texas, then follow the harvest north all the way to Canada. His half way point would be Cheyenne, WY. He plotted his route so he would be there for the big rodeo, "Cheyenne Days". And, to tighten up his purse a bit he did calf roping and bronco busting. Always walking away with some prize money.

He graduated, but never practiced Vet Medicine a day in his life. His love was farming. He took his funds, and along with the help of both of my grandfathers he bought a farm.

We grew up on the farm in a small Ohio farm community. Didn't even have keys to the house in those days. Old skeleton key locks and the keys had been gone for many years.

He was 5-09 but tough as nails. In those days we had house to house deliveries. The laundry man, about 6-04, got out of line one day with my mother. Dad told him to leave and the fool drew back for a swing. When Dad was done with him we carried him to his laundry truck, threw him in, and it sat there for over an hour until he came to.

The big event in those days was high school basket ball. My Dad had been on the state champ team in school but was too short for OSU. We would go to the games and as the teams warmed up us kids would hang around the foul lines waiting to catch a ball and throw it back when the team was warming up. Dad hollered to me from his bleacher seat about 10 rows up to throw him the next ball I caught. I tossed it up to him and he did a swish shot from a good sixty feet. My hero.

We were looking at some cattle to buy one time and a steer broke and across the field. Dad jumped on some guys horse, chased the steer and jumped and wrestled it to the ground. Just for the hell of it!

He taught me to drive, balance a check book, do math, read and work on the farm. We didn't have three cross words in our whole life

I still don't know if he was my Dad or my partner. I think of him every day, and father's day is so special to me. Not for what my kids do for me, but I will take a long walk alone and relive those years when I was Oh So Lucky.

Thanks for letting me live it again............Joe

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MY FATHER
by John Gonzales

I wish I could send something, but in all actuality I'm like many of the others whose fathers were non-existent. In all my life I lived with my father for 5-6 years. Even as an adult I tried to learn something from him but found that he was a self centered person who only thought of himself. His sole words of encouragement that I can ever recall were, "You're young, good looking, born here, speak English, you have it made." So he was never someone who I could look up to.

Like many others I took the experience of not have a positive role model to become a good, proud father to my own kids in spite of what I lacked as a child. I take the time to talk to my son and daughter, tell them I love them and to let them know that I may not be perfect but I will always be at their side. I've often thought of influential people in my life and I can honestly say that no one person stands out. I've been an observer to see the type of behavior I would want to emulate. Fortunately I've observed good examples that I was able to learn from, and the bad examples that I had the foresight to discard.

That is a good way of looking at things and it lends to my own philosophy of learning from others mistakes. That was the lesson that I did learn from my father, to be the best father as humanely possible to my own children. You're right, I didn't say hate, because I don't hate him. Hate is too strong an emotion to toss around carelessly. That is one emotion that only serves to destroy oneself and those that should be truly loved. In spite of everything, a person has to look at themselves and ask, "what difference can I make in this world and with the ones I love.

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MY FATHER
by Don Hardy

My Dad passed away in 2000. I'd like here to relate a few of the ways he not only influenced me but also everyone who knew him.

Robert Dale Hardy grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming but migrated to the Rio Grande Valley of Texas when he graduated from High School. Shortly after arriving he managed to find a job as a ditch digger with the Power Company. He was soon promoted to apprentice lineman but was unable to go further as he was drafted for WWII. He met my Mother around this time and they were wed before he left for the Army.
Dad spent a short time in the Infantry and then was accepted to OCS. He spent time in the China Burma India area and rose to the rank of Captain. By 1944 he was back in the U.S. and assigned to the Signal Corps School at Fort Monmouth, N.J. I was born while he was there. (Twenty Eight years later I was also assigned to the 241st MP Company at Fort Monmouth as a Staff Sergeant)

My earliest memories were of him after he was discharged and back working for the power company. During the war, the power company was unable to get material so in the early '50s they went into a total rebuild mode, tearing out all the old poles and cross arms, etc. He made a deal to get several loads of poles and cross arms dropped on an acre of land he bought and from them he built our house. His normal day was up before the sun, walk to work, climb poles all day then come home, eat, pick up his hand tools and lantern and walk to the house. He built that house by himself with hand tools. The poles and cross arms were cut with a cross cut saw. He'd do this every day, six days a week and would have worked on Sunday if Mother hadn't objected. He was in a hurry because he was certain that he'd be recalled for Korea because among other things he was a Chinese linguist. He wanted Mother and I to have a house to live in if he had to go.

When I was about ten or so, the men in town decided to build a little league ball park. One fine Saturday morning we drove in his pickup over to the site and found several young engineers from the power company and Highway Department, all wearing white shirts and ties, sitting on the partially constructed bleachers with slide rules out plotting how to stake the fence. The fence was to be built in an arc, 400' from home plate. Dad got out of his pickup, looked at the suits with disgust and grabbed a steel stake, eight foot two by four and a coil of wire plus a bundle of wooden stakes and mallet. He then proceeded to drive the steel stake in the center of home plate and tied the end of the wire coil there. He'd measured out the wire so we uncoiled it out to 400' and using it as a huge compass began to drive stake at eight foot intervals along the proposed fence line using the two by four as a spacer guide. It took us less than an hour to finish and as we walked back towards the suits one of them said, "Oh, Bob! Here's the plan for where to stake the fence." He said he'd already taken care of that chore and suggested that they go dig post holes. Of course they all figured out somewhere they needed to be out of the sun and we dug two foot holes and set 4X4s all day. Dad went on to become an electrical engineer by taking ICS courses and sitting for the state board exam. He stayed with the power company for 40 years retiring as Distribution Superintendent for the Laredo, Texas District an area about the size of Oklahoma.

Throughout his life he continued to amaze me with his grit and intellect and I learned many, many life lessons from him.

In 1996 he was diagnosed with a form of fatal cancer and they told him they could keep him alive for a year or so with chemo treatments. (He actually made four more years) He drove home and started work on a three room addition to his house in San Antonio. The chemo made him feel like he had the flu for ten days out of each month and he had very little energy but he got a lawn chair and set in the middle of his last project. He only felt like working about ten or fifteen minutes out of each hour but he use the rest of the hour trying to figure out how to make his work minutes more effective. I offered to help but he wouldn't hear it. He said the project was keeping him alive and in fact died within a year after he finished.
I couldn' figure out how to fit this in but still wanted to tell the story. In '67 I was an MP Platoon Sergeant in Asmara, Ethiopia. My platoon was alerted that we needed to prepare to go to Aden to assist the American Embassy folks evacuate. This was about the time of the Seven Days War and we evidently were the nearest troops with a Combat MOS.

In the midst of packing our combat gear and loading magazines for our weapons mail call came. To my surprise I got a letter from him. I'd been in the Army for a while then and never received a letter from him. It just wasn't his way. I knew nothing was wrong as back then you got bad new from the Red Cross so I wondered what the hell was going on. When I got the letter opened out came a note in his scrawl, "Boy, get yourself circumcized, they are heading your way".
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MY FATHER
by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"

There is no Birth Record of my Father, DAKOTA JIM. At the age of one year, in 1912, He was abducted from His Father by His Mother. He was then abandoned by her in Hill City, South Dakota, in the Heart of the Black Hills (Paha Sapa); the Mystical Badlands of the Great Oglala Lakota Sioux Indian Nation, to someone my Father referred to only as "Uncle Harry."

Although He was of Welsh-English descent, it was here, in the sacred tribal lands of the Black Hills, that He was initiated in the Ancient Ways of the great Lakota Sioux Warriors whose ancestors include the Legendary Warrior Chiefs: Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake), Red Cloud (Makhpiya Luta), and Crazy Horse (T‘aĊĦunka Witko).

The middle initial "F" in His name stands for "Frieborn," but it could just as well have stood for "Fear," because he was Fear incarnated as a Man. He had a Fierce Countenance, a powerful arresting stare, that caused whomever it was that fell into his gaze, to cringe in submission like a dog before an Alpha Wolf.

The whole house would shake from his presence whenever he entered it. I, and whoever it was who was there with me, at the time, shook in resonance along with everything else around us that cowered before Him, not daring to look up at Him lest, God forbid, our eyes should meet.

No one ever dared to challenge Him or disrespect Him in any way. He was a Dangerous Man; a Living Cage of Flesh and Bone whose Prisoner was a barely restrained Ferocious Beast, the Spirit of the Great Wolf. Everyone knew it was there, but it was revealed to no one but me. He did not like to be touched, and especially would not allow anyone to put their hands on Him with intentions to do harm. If anyone dared to do so, I don't believe He would have allowed that Disrespecter to live — knowing my Father as I do.

He was the Strongest, most Intelligent, Moral, Principled Man of anyone I've ever known. He was the Unwritten Law.

He loved my Mother and was faithful to her.

The last enemy on the Path of the Warrior is Aging; the unyielding, unrelenting desire to quit, to give up. In its War of Attrition against the Warrior, it tragically robs Him of His Substance, His Dignity, His Grace, His Power, His Magnificent Presence, until only the virtual image of who He was remains as a projection of His Self Remembrance.

I visited Him in the hospital the night He died, in 1981, the last of our family to see Him conscious. He was 69 years old. It was late and the last train was to leave at midnight. When I told Him I had to leave, to go home to Anna and Danny, and that if I miss the train, the next one wouldn't be until morning, He said to me, "You can go now. You've done your duty."

I don't know why I was unable to accept the Final Scene that was being played out before me or why I insisted to Him, as I prepared to leave, that it was not a "duty;" that I was there because He was my Father and wanted to be there with Him.

Before leaving, I told Him I loved Him, words that I had somehow, in recent years, summoned the courage to begin saying to Him, kissed His forehead, and left.

He must have known that His time was at hand and didn't want to openly ask me to stay; though I see now, through today's eyes, that was the choice He hoped I would make - the choice I so regret for not having made.

That decision to leave weighs very heavily upon me to this day.

He lost consciousness soon after I left that night; His body kept alive, His Spirit shackled, by a life support system that fought to keep Him in His Past. I was alone in the room with Him before they removed the respirator. Because hearing is the last sense to leave the Body, I bent down, kissed His forehead, and whispered in His ear that if He wanted to continue to live within me or my sons, he could — and He does.

I was unable to stem my flow of tears at His wake because that Chief of Chiefs, who was my Father, who taught me the Master Lesson, solely by His Example, had died. I was now the senior male of our kind.

That Master Lesson I learned is:

"Honor thy Father in all thy ways; remember Him before the silver cord is broken and the golden bowl is crushed, the pitcher by the well is shattered and the wheel at the cistern is crushed."

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MY SIX FATHERS
by Roger Whiles

June 24, this year I will be sixty-one years old, older and wiser than when I came into this world. My father was fifty years old and my mother was forty-one the year I was born and by then they had moved the family to Cincinnati. The family consisted of my four older sisters, who were all married except one, when I appeared on the scene. Mom and Dad were from a spot in south central Kentucky called Bethel Ridge. Not long after I was born my Dad slipped on some ice while carrying me into the house. Turns out this was the start of his fight with multiple myeloma, or bone cancer as it’s more commonly known. Dad fought this battle until I was in my sixth year. He was in and out of the hospital, going here and there for treatments and doing his job as a life insurance salesman. Dad was also part of a gospel quartet that sang at our church each Sunday and also on the radio each week. He kept me by his side as much as possible; always introducing me to everyone he met. Then that day came in 1954, when my oldest sister tenderly took me in her arms and told me that our Dad would not be coming home. He was now in a place of no sorrow or pain, he is with God. When I was in my late thirties one of the elderly ladies of the church told me that she remembered listening to my Dad sing on the radio. What a blessing that was thirty years after his death. Don’t feel sorry for me, because I have been blessed with five other men that included me in their families.

There was the gentle giant, as I like to call him, Thomas Ranshaw. A Marine who saw battle in the pacific during the big war, he could make you shake in your boots with just his voice. Yet he had the gentleness to comfort a six year old boy that had a nightmare about his deceased father. He had the kindness to include me when he bought his two sons baseball gloves. He had the willingness to work with me and teach me how to throw a baseball. He also had the compassion to take me to church with him. By now I understood more and, as a result, accepted Jesus into my heart as my Savior. This giant went on to be with the Lord in 1980, but not until he touched many more souls through his Sunday school lessons and activities.

There was the business one, George Frentsos, who married my youngest sister shortly after our father passed. He was very different from the others; he had a college degree and was of Greek descent. What a different view he had of events. My mother and I lived with them in a duplex home for several years after Dad died. From him I learned the value of things, how to save money, and how to cut the grass of a big yard quickly, how to work. He took me to my first professional baseball game at the old Crosley Field. He went on to be with the Lord in 1989, leaving behind six great boys; I mean young men, some of who held world records in swimming.

There was the one I call the Good Samaritan, Jack Klette, who was married to my third sister. He came into my life as I was hitting my teens. It was a time when I needed to develop respect and character, which I was not doing, even as a saved individual. He was the voice of understanding and guidance that I needed. He taught me a trade, he showed me how to be understanding, and he taught me by example how to be a loving person. He taught me the game of golf and some day I will beat him. When he went on to be with the Lord in 1983, there were as many young people at his funeral as older because he was always willing to listen not only to his children and their peers, but to all of us.

This brings me to my only surviving brother-in-law, George Kessinger, the quiet one. He retired to Florida after driving Roadway trucks for twenty years in Ohio. He has led by example all of these years, as my other brother-in-laws have passed he has been there for support. When my “Good Samaritan,” Jack Klette, became ill with cancer George helped him get around and they became a golfing twosome to beat. When he retired they allowed my mother to move with them. When she passed he was there providing her care and attention. He taught me to shoot trap or skeet when I was a teenager. He, like my other brothers-in-law is a veteran, a man who in his late teens and/or early twenties served this country in a war for mankind. He continues to show me how to live my life on a daily basis.

There is one more father I must identify, a person that I have only known for my last thirty-seven years, my father-in-law, John Hood. He has taken me into his family, worked with me on home projects, and provided me with day-to-day advice. He has been with me at the birth of both my children, and helped me give my daughter away at her wedding. He has shown me how to garden and how to do house repairs.

So, you see I truly have been blessed by having the “fathers” that I have had. There is a little of each of these men in me and I’m proud of it. My biggest hope is that these men are as proud of me as I am of them. Yes, I would have loved to had more time with my father, but that is not the hand I was dealt. I believe that God dealt me a great hand, a hand that let me share in some great men’s lives.

It does take a family to raise a child and you my never know the impact that your actions will have. I believe that memories are made with actions, and without any action there will not be memories. Happy Fathers Day to all that read this, and God bless you.

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MY FATHER
by Bob Young

My Dad, Harold Young, was a farmer for most of his life and worked for Shell Oil repairing and installing service station equipment and bulk plants. Not a very big man in height, but a strong man anyway. He was a very gentle man who liked to play catch in the yard on a summer day to wind down. He worked hard all his life and had little to show for it other than our home which he paid off. Back in the fifties we went through the recession but he always provided for us.

One day when we were working together, he got to talking about someone who had cheated him on a job he had done for them. He wasn’t happy about it by any means, but took it rather stoically.

He told me to treat everyone as I would want them to treat me. To treat my elders with all the respect that an elder deserved. To treat a man with the respect I would want him to show me and to treat a lady like a lady. Of course he added, you would learn from this, not all elders were truly worthy of your respect, not all men were trustworthy, and not all ladies were really ladies. But, until you found out differently, you treated everyone, with the respect and kindness you yourself would want. And never blindly accept anyone just on first appearances.

He also told me it was not hard to be that type of person, but it was easier to fail to live up to be that person.

So all my life I have treated people like I would like to be treated until they gave me a reason to treat them otherwise or to be leery of them. As a cop of 34 years, I tried to up hold that and when I was a sergeant with the Sheriff’s Office I told the Deputies who worked for me that that was what I expected out of them.

I found I didn’t have to be condescending to others, just treat them like I would want to be treated by them. It has gotten me through all these years, and when I meet up with the Ould One soon, I want to tell him I remembered what he told me and did my best to live by it.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Letters of Despair from American Families Who Suffer and Hunger in Cold Silence by Steve Savage "King of the Beasts"


Since the current (Bush) Administration has been in office, 5 million Americans have slipped into poverty, 8 million have lost their health insurance and 3 million have lost their pensions. Yes, in the last seven years median household income for working-age Americans has declined by $2,500. Our country, for the first time since the Great Depression, now has a zero personal savings rate and, all across the nation, emergency food shelves are being flooded with working families whose inadequate wages prevent them from feeding their families.

In his concern for the collapse of the American middle class, and in order to try and break through the complacency and isolation inside the Washington Beltway, United States Senator, Bernie Sanders from Vermont, read e-mails he had received from throughout America on the floor of the Senate. They describe the decline of the American middle class from the perspective of those people who are living that decline.

They speak about families who, not long ago, thought they were economically secure, but now find themselves sinking into desperation and hopelessness. They tell the stories of working families unable to keep their homes warm in winter; workers worried about whether they’ll be able to fill their gas tank to get to their jobs; and seniors, who spent their entire lives working, now wondering how they’ll survive in old age. They describe the pain and disappointments that parents feel as they are unable to save money for their kids’ college education, and the dread of people who live without health insurance.

We have at times had to choose between baby food and heating fuel.

"We have two small children (a baby and a toddler) and felt fortunate to own our own house and land but due to the increasing fuel prices we have at times had to choose between baby food/diapers and heating fuel. We've run out of heating fuel three times so far and the baby has ended up in the hospital with pneumonia two of the times. We try to keep the kids warm with an electric space heater on those nights, but that just doesn't do the trick."

By February we ran out of wood and I burned my mother's dining room furniture.

"I am a single mother with a 9 year old boy. We lived this past winter without any heat at all. Fortunately someone gave me an old wood stove. I had to hook it up to an old/unused chimney we had in the kitchen. I couldn't even afford a chimney liner (the price of liners went up with the price of fuel). To stay warm at night my son and I would pull off all the pillows from the couch and pile them on the kitchen floor. I'd hang a blanket from the kitchen doorway and we'd sleep right there on the floor. By February we ran out of wood and I burned my mother's dining room furniture. I have no oil for hot water. We boil our water on the stove and pour it in the tub. I'd like to order one of your flags and hang it upside down at the capital building...we are certainly a country in distress."

We also only eat two meals a day to conserve.

"My husband and I are retired and 65. We would have liked to have worked longer but because of injuries caused at work and the closing of our factory to go to Canada, we chose to retire earlier. Now with oil prices the way they are we cannot afford to heat our home unless my husband cuts and splits wood, which is a real hardship as he has had his back fused and should not be working most of the day to keep up with the wood. Not only that he has to get up two or three times each night to keep the fire going. We only drive to get groceries or go to the doctor or to visit my mother in the nursing home three miles away. It now costs us $80.00 a month to go nowhere. I have Medicare but I can't afford prescription coverage unless I take my money out of an annuity, which is supposed to cover the house payment when my husband’s pension is gone. We also only eat two meals a day to conserve."

The pennies have all but dried up….Today I am sad, broken, and very discouraged.

"I, too, have been struggling to overcome the increasing costs of gas, heating oil, food, taxes, etc. I have to say that this is the toughest year, financially, that I have ever experienced in my 41 years on this earth. I have what used to be considered a decent job, I work hard, pinch my pennies, but the pennies have all but dried up. I am thankful that my employer understands that many of us cannot afford to drive to work 5 days a week. Instead, I work three 15 hour days. I have taken odd jobs to try to make ends meet. This winter, after keeping the heat just high enough to keep my pipes from bursting (the bedrooms are not heated and never got above 30 degrees) I began selling off my woodworking tools, snowblower, (pennies on the dollar) and furniture that had been handed down in my family from the early 1800s, just to keep the heat on. Today I am sad, broken, and very discouraged. I am thankful that the winter cold is behind us for a while, but now gas prices are rising yet again. I just can't keep up."

I don't go to church many Sundays, because the gasoline is too expensive to drive there.

"As a single parent, I am struggling everyday to put food on the table. Our clothes all come from thrift stores. I have a five-year-old car that needs work. My son is gifted and talented. I tried to sell my house to enroll him in a school that had curriculum available for his special needs. After two years on the market, my house never sold. The property taxes have nearly doubled in 10 years and the oil to heat it is prohibitive. To meet the needs of my son, I have left the house sit and moved into an apartment near his high school. I don't go to church many Sundays, because the gasoline is too expensive to drive there. Every thought of an activity is dependent on the cost. I can only purchase food from dented can stores… I am stretched to the breaking point with no help in sight."

At the rate we are going we will be destitute in just a few years.

"Due to illness my ability to work has been severely limited. I am making $10 an hour and if I am lucky I get 35 hours a week of work. At this time I am only getting 20 hours as it is "off season" in Stowe. It does not take a mathematician to do the figures. How are my wife and I supposed to live on a monthly take-home income of less than $800 dollars? We do it by spending our hard earned retirement savings. I am 50 and my wife is 49. At the rate we are going we will be destitute in just a few years. The situation is so dire that it is all I can think about. Soon I will have to start walking to work, an eight-mile round trip because the price of energy is so high it is that or go without heat. As bad as our situation is, I know many in worse shape. We try to donate food when we do our weekly shopping but now we are not able to even afford to help our neighbors eat. What has this country come to?"

I am just tired….I work 12 to 14 hours daily and it just doesn't help.

"I am 55 years old and worse off than my adult children. I have worked since age 16. I don't live from paycheck to paycheck, I live day to day. I can only afford to fill my gas tank on my payday thereafter, I put $5, $10 whatever that I can. I cannot afford to buy the food items that I would. I am riding around daily to and from work with a quarter of a tank of gas. This is very scary as I can see myself working until the day that I die. I do not have a savings, no credit cards and my only resources are thru my employment. I have to drive to work as there are no buses from my residence to work. I don't know how much longer I can do this…. I am concerned as gas prices climb daily. I am just tired, the harder that I work the harder it gets, I work 12 to 14 hours daily and it just doesn't help."

Some nights we eat cereal and toast for dinner because that's all I have.

"I am a working mother of two young children. I currently pay on average around $80.00 a week for gas so that I can go to work. I see the effects of the gas increase at the grocery stores and at the department stores. On average I spend around $150.00 per week at the grocery store and trust me when I say I don't buy prime rib- I buy just enough to get us through the week and I can't afford to make sure we have seven wholesome meals to eat every night of the week - some nights we eat cereal and toast for dinner because that's all I have. My family has had to cancel our annual trip to the zoo, and we make less trips to see our families in another town due to the increase of gas. The price of gas has created a hardship for most average Americans. We have less money to pay to living expenses which have also increased. It seems as if it's just a rippling effect. I am really scared of what the future holds for me and my kids because I just simply cannot afford to live from day to day. I am getting further and further in credit card debt just trying to stay afloat."

I am now living out of my car.

"As a student and a part time employee working for just above minimum wage I have found it more and more difficult to survive under these conditions. The drive to school and work require me to use roughly 30 percent of my paycheck just to go where I need to, to make it through my day. When school is in session I am lucky to get about 170 dollars a week and with gas prices at their current all time high I am continually finding myself under hardships because of it. Recently I had to vacate my apartment because I could not afford to pay rent and I am now living out of my car. This too seems like it may not be able to last that much longerbecause I am encountering difficulties in making my car payment. I can remember when gas prices were a little over a dollar and I dream about life taking that turn once more. Because of the gas prices I have found nothing but an extremely low budget for food, I was forced out of my home and now I might lose the one thing that is allowing me to continue my schooling and keep going to work – my car. I am struggling to understand why prices continue to rise and I see no end in sight."

My mortgage is behind, we are at risk for foreclosure, and I can't keep up with my car payments.

"I am a 31 year old wife, mother of two. How has this affected me? My husband drives 35 miles to work, that is a one-way trip. He is putting an average of $80 a week into his gas tank. No, he doesn't drive an SUV or a half-ton work truck. It's a small pickup truck that he needs as he builds houses. The kicker is that he never puts more than half a tank in, because we can't afford to fill it. I drive 15 miles one way, and put about $40 a week into my 30-miles-to-the-gallon car. Again, I never fill the tank - ever! We have even contemplated having my husband quit his job because he isn't making much more money weekly than he spends on gas! We could move to an area that is closer to our jobs, but because of the market, we cannot sell our house fast enough, or for a fair price. Meanwhile, my mortgage is behind, we are at risk for foreclosure, and I can't keep up with my car payments. My parents, both in their 60's, are back to work so that they can make ends meet, and struggle to come up with enough gas money so they can get to doctor's appointments. They are opting to close their house up for the winter, and stay with my uncle so they don't have to put oil in their furnace. I can't tell you how many times we had to fill our little gas tanks with kerosene or diesel because we ran out of oil and couldn't afford the $380 it would cost us to put a mere 100 gallons in. Needless to say, we are way behind on all of our bills, we are still playing catch up with our winter expenses. People that I know that have never struggled with money, are now frequenting our local food shelf so they can feed their families staple foods!"

We are barely staying afloat.

"My family has been hit so hard by this economy, we are barely staying afloat. We have remortgaged the house 4 times in the last three years to pay credit card debt. Now we are trying to tap into our annuity to pay more credit card debt. The debts on the credit cards are all for bills. Mostly grocery, oil and the mere cost of living. My husband is a union carpenter and they just changed our fantastic insurance plan to a terrible one with barely any coverage. I have none of my doctors on it and I suffer from painful nerve damage. I am not eligible for social security disability and I am unable to work. We had a dream to own our own home, and that dream came true seven years ago. I am afraid our dream is slipping through our fingers and it won’t be long before we lose our home, the way things are going."

Does anybody have a solution? Does anybody in Washington care?

"We are retired, 70 and 65 and living on Social Security and some savings. We use wood to offset the price of being warm. Our last oil fill up was nearly $700. How can we continue to make ends meet? My gasoline cost $239 last month. Food and everything else we buy is going up every week because of gouging from oil companies. We are worried about the national debt and the trade deficit. What can be done to bring them down? Does anybody have a solution? Does anybody in Washington care?"