Saturday, April 18, 2015

Fate is as gentle with men...

Photo source

Down by the water tower on the Navajo River there was once a
small settlement.....Nothing much, half a dozen rectangular wooden
buildings   none of them measuring more than 12'x12'....The men
worked keeping the track free of rocks and making sure the tower
was filled with water.

A steam locomotive needs a tank full of fresh water in its tender
to make steam....If there is no water, the train can't move.  There
were women and children here as well....I used a big magnet to
probe the drinking water well that was  near the town. Fragments
of toys, metal hooks from ladies underwear fasteners, even an
occasional heel from a shoe.....The metal nails that allowed it
to be fastened to the shoes attracted the magnet.

All this attested to a family environment, but there wasn't enough
to date the relics....I had to find something with a date on it   Here
the power of  an educated guess came into play.  Perhaps the ladies sold food or beverages to the passengers.  After all, railroads did not pay track crews much, and a couple of cookies
sold to a passenger might bring as much as the lady's husband
made in an hour.  Multiply that by half a dozen sales and the family income could be improved.. Did it happen?   Well there was one way to find out......I borrowed a metal detector from the
school's science lab.  Then allowing for the fact that the locomotive had to be under the water tower, and the cars were
about 30 feet long, where would that place the passenger cars?

I was right!  I found, after a while pennies (I presumed these would be the most common)   and a couple of dimes.  these ranged in date from  1896 to 1910......There were half a dozen coins in all.  These were all "in the Ballpark" datewise. These
weren't dropped later on after the town had been abandoned.
Okay, so it isn't "Iron Clad Proof", but it beats an educated guess
by just a bit.

I knew, from my research, that the tracks were lain in September
of 1880, and the town was called "Navajo Tanks" and that it was
abandoned in May of 1927......The tracks were pulled up in June
of 1956.  That was my time Frame.......A coin minted after 1956
would not fit these parameters.

Having exhausted my search for coins at the passenger site,
I started sweeping the area around the water tank with the detector.

I found two coins with square holes in the middle....Chinese?
It took a trip to the library in Albuquerque to find out for certain.
They were Chinese!  Minted  in Yunan Province in 1742 and 1756.
Before the American Revolution.

Back came the old guessing cap!   What kind of men came from
China in 1880? ......Guess:  Track Laying Crews....They would be
from poor families, and the early coins would have been handed down from generation to generation.......The young man would have been given every coin the family had for his trip to America.

The coins are called "Cash" (that's the origin for our word cash.)
they would be carried on a cord  strung through the square hole.   They, of course, would have no value in America, but likely the
Chinese workers used them when dealing with other chinese.

It made sense....Every now and again the cord would break, or
coins would be lost........These two parted company wih their
owners back in September of 1880. Surmise?  Speculation? Well,
Yea, I guess so, but just as I can not prove the theory, neither
can anyone disprove it.

As a parting thought, I wondered then, and still do, whether these
poor people from Yunan province in South China ever saw their
home again.....I wonder what happened to them.....I doubt anyone
will ever know.

That brings up the title for this story, A genuine old Chinese
proverb. "Fate is as gentle with men, as a mongoose is with a
cobra."  Perhaps, all the poor Chinese laborers found was a grave
in some far off American frontier town......Not many would have
been fortunate enough to be able to pay for a trip home to the land of his birth.......And how many mothers wept for the son they
would never see again?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Stepping out of times past...

Civil War Reenactors
Photo sourc

There, along the banks of the Navajo River on the
Jicarilla Apache Reservation, down by the old railroad
R.O.W. (That's Right Of Way).....I cut a striking figure.
I was wearing grey trousers with a yellow stripe on each
leg, Mid-calf length black military boots, and a pistol
belt  with a full flap holster, cap box, and  cartridge
box...In my full flap holster  was a Model 1851 Navy Colt.
(replica, of course)   I had on a butternut colored bib
front western shirt and my Kepi on my head....

In short, based on the theory that the Confederate Uniform was almost anything but uniform. I cut a pretty
good image  of a Rebel Soldier of  1862.....

Oh you could find flaws with its authenticity, but, there,  miles and miles from any critic, it would pass

I left my spurs at home....They tear up a car's upholstery, and my saber....Too danged tough to drive
a car while wearing it.

Now, why would a normal, late 20th Century  male be
dressed up in such an outlandish outfit?   Boredom!
Pure and simple......

Mary tolerated such nonsense....We had a kinda unspoken
agreement...I tolerated her trips to visit her relatives in Castlerock, and her  trips with Brenda, and she tolerated my preference for my grandparent's war over my
own  war in far off Asia. Maybe it was even a healing
experience, who knows?

In a little while, I saw the dust thrown up by an automobile.  A car was coming.....9 chances out of 10
it  was Tony Pena taking the short-cut to Pagosa Springs,  or maybe it was Mike Duran going in the same
direction.  We were all part of the Teacher's Colony
called the "Teacherage" up in Dulce.....

Nope, I could see glimpses of it....It was  a Pontiac
sedan, blue colored, and pretty recent in vintage.

Well, Dog My Cats, if it weren't a passle of bluebellies.  Genuine Yankees, from a place called Ohio.

I waved at them, and they slowed down, then, upon closer
examination of my uniform they stopped and fumbled for
what I presume was a camera......

They were typical yankees.  Middle aged, the woman was
homely and she acted as if one smile would make her face
fall off. The man, her husband, I guessed was short, a
little too liberal with the vittles, and bald headed.

"Hi-die Folks," I chirped in my best Texas accent, "You
folks ain't seen a sorrel horse hereabouts, has Ye?"

The man shook his head but said nothing....His traveling
companion stared straight silent as he was.

The man stammered, "You in some kind of movie they're
making, or something like that?"  I painted a dumbfound
expression on my face and replied, "A Whut?" then, "Naw-suh, Ah jes got some Dispatches fer Captun McLaws frum
Genrul Sibley, an ma horse run off. a rattler spooked him."
The fellow was obviously flustered and was measuring his words carefully before he spoke....So, I took the lead,
"Y'al best be kerful, our boys has a battery up on them
hills a mile er so up th road, an yer thingamabob thar
you is drivin being blue, Y' might draw some fire."

The car window went up, and there was a hail of small gravel as Mister Ohio an his prune faced wife "Plum Skedadled" right up the road.

The whole episode proved a point...Remove people from
the environment they are used to, expose them to illogical scenerio's and they  panic.  In half an hour
or so, Mister Ohio would be telling this whole bizarre
experience to the first highway patrolman he met...Why,
he might even get his Yankee behind locked up for psychiatric evaluation......

In any case, it was time to get in some target shooting
with my Colt Navy an get on back home.....After all,they just might call out the SWAT team.  My MG was a hundred
yards or so up the branch of the road that paralled the
river....Nestled in a grove of fir trees. Why, I'd even
take the river road home....It was about 5 miles longer,
but driving along a mountain stream, with mountain birds singing, and the aroma of Christmas Trees everywhere was not too terrible a fate......

I never heard a thing about the prank....As the nearest
town was 50 miles up the road....Well, live town. several others there were ghost towns....Maybe Mister Yankee finally calmed down enough to realize he'd been
a source of amusement for a tired old teacher in a
little Reservation town.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The End of the War

It is late in 1944, but there is no Christmas
joy in Germany.....Her cities are little more
than heaps of rubble....The allied bombers
come 24 hours a day....The British by night
and the Americans by day.....100,000 civilians
are dead in Hamburg, Germany's second largest city from  fire bomb raids....Desolation
is everywhere.

V-1 and V-2  Reprisal weapons rain down
on allied cities, but without a guidance system there is no way of controlling what they will hit.  Again, it's a race to see who can kill the most women and children, and
Germany is losing.....

At sea,  the much vaunted U-Boats are much
the same as they were in 1940.......80% are
the little 750 ton  Mk VII boats another 15%
are the larger 1,200 ton MK IX boats. The
Fatherland's hopes lie in three new types.
The MK-XVI boats with the experimental
Walter   closed cycle Hydrogen Peroxide engines......There are problems with them.
They simply explode without warning, and the 6 boats they built have become 3 boats.

The large MK XXI boats are larger than the
American Submarines, faster than them, and they can dive is complete.
7 more are under construction.   They could win the war, but Germany will need a 100 of them, and with the allies pounding the shipyards,  It may be impossible to complete
the 7 that are unfinished.  U-2511 is undergoing sea trials off Norway, but she is
the only complete MK-21 Boat.

The MK-XXIII boats are small.  Their range is short, and they are all electric. Much beyond the coast of Europe and they are useless.  Hitler had them built to defend the
Baltic Sea from a seaborne Soviet naval threat that never materialized.

In short, the German response to the Allied
invasion of Europe is  too little and too late.

The first combat patrol of U-2511 the Nazi
"Super-Sub"  occured  the day before the war ended.   Her captain made a dummy attack on a British Cruiser but did not fire
a torpedo......He knew the war was lost and
simply couldn't stand the thought of useless
bloodshed .....He couldn't resist the chance to make  the British look foolish....He made his dummy attack, then sped away at a speed no submarine could manage up until that day.  The next day it was all over.  Most of
the advanced MK-XVII,  MK-XXI's, and MK-XXIII were studied by the British and Americans then given to the French.  The
MK-XVII lasted a week before it blew itself out of the water taking 35 Frenchmen with
it......The French operated the MK-XXI Super Subs until 1979....Including the U-2511.   Nobody wasted much time on the little  MK XXIII electric boats.......

The Japanese got a copy of the blueprints
for the MK-XXI's and built 2 ,  7/8 scale copies   neither was finished by the end of the war. They were the first ships in the Imperial Japanese Navy to employ all electric welding.......U.S. Navy sources that
examined the Japanese copies of the MK XXI's  said they compared favorably with
the German originals......The Navy Scuttled them in deep water......Relieved, no doubt,
that they never entered active service.