Thursday, May 30, 2013

Little Farm in the Ozarks

Little Farm in the Ozarks by Roger Lea MacBride is the second title in "The Rose Years" series of sequels to the classic "Little House" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, following Little House on Rocky Ridge. The series follows Rose Wilder Lane, the only child of Laura Ingalls and Almanzo Wilder, as she grows up in Mansfield, Missouri.

Little Farm in the Ozarks covers the Wilders' second season at their new home at Rocky Ridge Farm after leaving drought-stricken South Dakota behind for a new life. Having survived their first fall and winter, optimism begins to bud with the spring. Isolated in their little log cabin outside of town by cold weather and all the work involved in establishing a new farm, the Wilders finally begin to move beyond day-to-day survival. Their young orchard has been planted and they can look forward to apple harvests in a few years. In the meantime, the first crops are in, the little house has been repaired, and new friends are being made.

For the first time since they moved to Missouri, eight-year-old Rose can be spared from farm chores to attend the summer session at the school in town, where she meets many new children. But Rose has been so well taught by Laura that she is ahead of her peers in the Third Reader class academically, but her teacher considers her too young to promote her to the Fourth Reader class, even though she has already read both the Fourth and Fifth Reader. Unchallenged, she quickly becomes bored and would have become totally discouraged if her teacher had not recognized her dilemma and arranged for her to borrow books from the library in the advanced class. Losing herself in literature and almost always ending up at the head of the daily spelldowns, she is able to survive the short summer session.

But not without a brush with mortality. Rose's seat-mate at school, Irene, came down with diphtheria, the same dreaded illness Laura and Almanzo had battled in De Smet when Rose was small. Other than her baby brother, whom she really didn't remember, Irene was the first person Rose had known that died. Now Rose began to wonder what would happen if she got diphtheria herself and died. Her parents had never been able to have any more children after their illness. She couldn't bear the thought of Mama and Papa all alone. Who would help them on the farm?

Then the term ended. The last day of school, Rose hurried home to do her chores, then dressed in her best calico and walked back to school with Laura and Almanzo, Rose and Laura carrying their shoes and stockings, to keep them from getting dirty, until they were almost there before they put them on. In the class end-of-school spelldown, and Rose is able to spell down all the other students in front of all their parents, winning a plush red autograph book for her prize. By offering to share the prize with her only academic rival, who had been distant with her the entire term, and then asking her to sign it when she declined, Rose opens the door for a possible friendship with Blanche, the town girl whose father owns the drug store, when school begins again in December after the harvest.

Little House on Rocky Ridge and Little Farm in the Ozarks very much parallel On the Banks of Plum Creek. Little girls of similar age journey to a new home where their family can start over after prior difficulties. There is a new farm to establish, a new school, a new town to become a part of, even a snobby town girl merchant's daughter as a rival, although Blanche is no Nellie Olsen. If you liked On the Banks of Plum Creek, you will like these novels.

As in Little House on Rocky Ridge, I am amazed that Roger Lea MacBride managed to be so very "Laura" in his narrative. It didn't seem quite as spot on as in the first novel, but he still managed to capture the tone and rhythm of  Laura Ingalls Wilder, and I could easily have imagined Laura writing Little Farm in the Ozarks herself. MacBride successfully managed to capture the perspective of a little girl almost as well as Laura captured her own in On the Banks of Plum Creek, and before that in Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie.

Return to my review of Little House on Rocky Ridge.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

Debbi, here are two photos you'll remember from the Air & Space Museum. The B-17 is a painting on the wall but the Messerschmitt 109 is a real plane. That's the type of German fighter that shot down his B-17.

Four in One by Bill Craton

For Memorial Day, I thought I would share something by a very special guest blogger ... my dad.

Several years before he died, Daddy wrote this account of the day he was shot down and taken prisoner during World War II.

Daddy's B-17 crew in January 1943. Daddy is standing at left.


Four in One
by Bill Craton


July 5, 1943 found me flying my 26th combat mission on B-17 bomber aircraft. Our target was a German airfield on the eastern end of Sicily. We were in a formation of 24 B-17 bombers. I was the flight engineer and top turret gunner.

We were attacked by well over 100 German fighters. We shot down at least 11 Germans. We were one of three B-17's shot down.

Nearing the target, the first of four miracles happened. We had lost three engines and were descending when the last fighter made a pass at us. I shot at him but didn't hit him. I saw his 20mm gun open up. One shell hit the radio room, one in the bomb bay, and the last one hit my turret just under my left gun. My turret was destroyed, but the miracle was that the only wound I received was a fragment of the 20mm shell to the back of my head. One inch to the left would have blown my head off.

Miracle #2 came quickly thereafter. As I was getting up from the cabin floor, the pilot was yelling, "Bail out, bail out!" There was a jam up at the door, so the pilot asked me to open the bomb bay door so we could bail out there. When I opened the door to the bomb bay, the whole bay was on fire with the bombs still there. The flames were trying to enter the cockpit, so I closed the door and told the pilot we had to go to the escape hatch.

I couldn't wear my parachute in my turret, so I grabbed by parachute and started putting it on. I had just gotten my right leg strap buckled when I heard the bombs blow. Two years and three months later while processing out of the service, the people there were saying that it was impossible to be that close to 2,500 pounds of bombs when they exploded and survive. I agree, but I did.

Miracle #3 followed immediately. The bombs sounded a long way off but I felt myself rising and my head hitting something. There was an awful pain and I lost consciousness. My right leg strap had been the only part of my parachute fastened to my body, yet when I came to, I was still in the parachute, holding on with my arms holding the chest straps and the right leg strap holding on. Two years and three months later, they were telling me it was impossible to stay in the parachute. I agreed, but with God all things are possible.

Miracle #4 came while descending in my parachute. I heard a machine gun firing, then suddenly felt a burning sensation in my right leg and realized that a fighter plane was shooting at me. Within a few seconds, I landed on the same airfield the group had bombed. I was unconscious for about two and a half months and woke up in a German naval hospital in Naples, Italy. There I saw the wound on my right leg. The bullet entered on the right side of my kneecap and proceeded about four inches towards the middle of my stomach, then made a sharp turn to the left and missed my stomach. I had nothing in my flight suit pockets but my New Testament that I always carried. The paper and leather in the New Testament would not have deflected the bullet. I believe God reached down His hand and deflected it.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Air Force Memorial

The Sunday morning memorial service was again broadcast from the memorial site to the Pentagon parking lot.

The morning sun bursts off one of the stainless steel spires.

There was a Lockheed F-35 on display in the parking lot. Daddy retired before this plane,
but as a methods engineer he had a hand in many previous Lockheed models.

Daddy with the AF Memorial visible over his shoulder.
Following the memorial service, the Air Force Memorial was opened to the public. A shuttle bus was provided to ferry the audience to the site.

Standing at the base of the monument, it's difficult to grasp the vertical magnitude of the structure and practically impossible to capture in one frame--and it was way too crowded to lay down to take the shot without getting stepped on.
The spires are 201, 231, and 270 feet high.

A section of Arlington National Cemetery is visible from the hill the monument sits on.

The three spires stand for:
  1. The three core values of the Air Force: integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do.
  2. The bomb blast maneuver.
  3. Three of the four planes performing a missing man maneuver.

Notice the ray of sunlight streaking down to the base of the left spire.

Missing Man Formation: A Final Salute to a Fallen Comrade
(look carefully to see the four planes etched into clear glass, three beneath while the "missing man" pulls up)

From the other side.

The Honor Guard

I just couldn't get the whole thing in the frame from on site.

The scale is so massive, it looks like there is a crowd of ants around the base.

and its Combat Campaigns &
Expeditionary Operations
Created September 18, 1947

The reflection of the base of the monument and the honor guard statues in the campaign panels looks amazing, but photographing something readable in the bright sun is tough.

There were a good number of veterans my dad's age present.

Three unfinished campaigns

Created June 20, 1941

Touching the spire.
(Photo by Bob Craton)

(Photo by Bob Craton)

(Photo by Bob Craton)

Daddy's campaigns
(Photo by Bob Craton)

... until Sicily.
(Photo by Bob Craton)

Air Force Memorial Dedication

As a donor to the Air Force Memorial, my father was able to secure tickets for us to attend the dedication of the monument October 14, 2006 and the memorial service the following day. There was a limited amount of space for seating at the memorial, which was reserved for the dignitaries, but jumbo screens were set up on a stage a short distance away in the Pentagon parking lot where we could see both the action on the memorial stage while we had a view of the entire structure off to our left. Like the Washington Monument, the spires are so tall they really need to be seen from a distance to grasp the complete design.

The Air Force Memorial from the Pentagon parking lot.
It sits in front of the Navy Annex beside I-395 in Arlington, Virginia.

Parade of planes during the ceremony:

My dad was a crew member on both the B-29 (left) and B-24 (right).



Stealth bomber


President George W. Bush on the jumbo screen.

The audience at the memorial site.

The USAF Thunderbirds performed at the Air Force Memorial Dedication, ending with a "bomb blast" maneuver:

Bomb blast maneuver