Tuesday, July 31, 2012

It's Tuesday so this must be Colorado

As I write this I'm sitting in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Since my last posting...

Tuesday July 24th, I took Jeff, Jacob and Kylee to fly out of Kansas City International Airport. Jeff went back to Long Beach, Kylee to Rialto, and Jacob to San Jose.

On Wednesday my dear friend, Karen Brundridge came to KC to visit with me. This came about because of Facebook. I posted an album on Facebook of old high school pictures that mother gave me when I was in Paola in May. Many were of Karen and me, in our baton twirling outfits. I, of course, tagged her. These started a conversation that went something like, "I miss you", "It's been too long", "We should get together", "I'll be in KC in July", "I'll be there!” As it turns out, we were staying, 1/2 mile from her oldest daughter's apartment. Here's the pic: Karen, Me and Tammie.
I can't exactly remember the last time I saw Karen, I think it was around the time Mom and Dad moved away from Galena (our hometown). That would have been 21 years ago!!! Karen and I were best friends in high school. She married right after high school and stayed in the area. So while I was in college, I saw her every time I came home. She was one of my bridesmaids (right after my sister). Her daughter was only a few weeks old at my wedding. Even after we moved to Arizona, we talked on the phone regularly. I can't really say why we lost touch after that. I think we both, got VERY busy with children, changed land lines to cell phones and moved a few times. We found each other again on Facebook recently.

Anyway, we spent Wednesday evening catching up and all day Thursday, doing lunch and shopping on the plaza. It was so much fun! I am still a little amazed at how it didn't seem like we had been apart that many years. Actually, it felt more like last week. Afterwards, I was telling her how funny it is that our lives are so similar and we still just "click" as friends. She said, "Not really, there was a reason we were best friends all those years ago." She's right, some friends are for life whether you're around each other or not. Here's a picture of us at 2am after a full day of shopping AND talking into the wee morning hours!
On with my journeys! I was so wired and wide awake that I decide to throw my suitcase in the truck and head for Minneapolis at 3am Friday. I needed to be there early on Friday and I knew I wouldn't be getting to sleep or getting up, in time to make it. I did get tired in the northern part of Iowa and pulled in a rest area and slept for 2 hours. Here is where I slept; it was the NICEST rest area ever!
I left Jared in KC with John. He got to help John and Uncle Bob (my brother) with some barbeque. Jeff flew into Minneapolis on the Thursday night red eye and landed at 5:30am. When we got in the hotel room we took a long afternoon nap! We were up in time for the evening workshops.

We were in Minneapolis for the "Nelsen Family Reunion" which is a business convention we attend every summer for our Amway business. It was a great weekend, with so much good information. We are so excited about the mobile apps and the technical upgrades to our business website. Plus, we got to hang out with some friends we hadn't seen since last year's event and as always meet some new friends, with all of us having the chance to share ideas and information.

Sunday night, Jeff and I got a bite to eat and then headed back toward KC. We stopped in Des Moines, Iowa and got a hotel room.

Monday morning, July 30th, I drove Jeff back to the KC airport and he flew back to Long Beach. I then drove back to John's hotel. That evening we did some laundry, joined Bob and Cheryl for dinner and packed up.
Tuesday July 31st, John headed back to Phoenix; Jared and I headed to Colorado Springs. John is stopping in Tucumcari, NM. I finally was able to unpack my truck COMPLETELY! The crockpot and boxes of food that I have been hauling from state to state finally will be put to use. This is the last leg of the travels. Tomorrow morning I head to Denver to pick up Jacob, his coach, Deb and other skaters from the airport. Then it is 10 days of skating for Outdoor Nationals! I'll keep you posted...

I'm living on the eighth day, right now!

Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Monday so this must be Kansas

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we have crazy summer travel plans. It started shortly after I returned to Arizona.

June 15th, 2012
I have been home a week and the pool is looking good! Jeff flies into Phoenix.
June 16th, 2012
Jeff, John, Jared and I drive north to Camp Verde to attend the wedding of a dear family friend, Derek Hinkle! Tom & Kris Ann Hinkle (Derek's parents) were our next door neighbors for years. We raised our kids together. When I first met Derek, he and John (my oldest) were both in diapers. It was a beautiful wedding, despite the heat and it was so wonderful to spend the day with Tom & Kris Ann and other longtime friends, Doug & Jeri Lynn Thompson and Sharron (Tom's sister).
June 17th, 2012
Jeff, Jared and I drive to Long Beach, CA to spend a week at the beach.
June 19th, 2012
John takes off driving for Kansas. When my Dad was in rehab, John had asked if he would be any help around the farm. Dad thought that would be wonderful. Mom and Dad live on a farm however, they don't farm. They rent out the farm land. The immediate property around their house is constantly in need of something, i.e. mowing, repairs to out buildings, fence repainted, trees trimmed etc. When we were back for the funeral, there was discussion about, "what now?" John had already arranged for the time off. He decided to go ahead and come back; even if he didn't do much around the farm he could help my brother with his Barbeque business. That is exactly what he has been doing.
June 22nd, 2012
Jared and I drive to San Jose, CA for Jacob's Speed Skating Trophy Meet. Jeff flies in that night. The meet goes really well. Jacob wins 1st overall for Novice Sr Men for the meet and the season. He also finishes 2nd in the Sr Open for the season!
June 24th, 2012
Jeff, Jacob, Jared and I drive to southern California. We drop Jacob off in Valencia, CA where he meets up with longtime friends, Andrew, KJ and Josh. They went on a, "Graduation Road Trip" starting at Six Flags and going up the California coast. They dropped Jacob back in San Jose. We then drop Jeff back in Long Beach, CA. Jared & I continue on to Phoenix, AZ.
June 25th, 2012
Jared and I arrive home in the early morning. The pool is green AGAIN!!! I drive directly to Mesa in order to help Jordan (#2 son) pack up his apartment to move back home. His apartment contract was up mid-June and he will be going away to school in mid-August. So he is home for 2 months, which worked out well because he can take care of everything while we're gone the rest of the summer. Yes, our summer travels haven't even begun yet!!! At the time, I actually get to stay home for 3 weeks. I de-greened the pool, planted grass on July 4th, Jordan had his wisdom teeth out on the 13th and we had a "Breaking Bad" marathon... all of seasons 2, 3, and 1/2 of 4!
July16th, 2012
Jared and I take off driving for a 4 week trip! First, Lincoln, NE, Jacob is already there watching the World Class and Standard divisions at Indoor Nationals.
July 17th -20th, 2012
Lincoln, NE - We get to watch Jacob skate Indoor Nationals. Thursday afternoon while Jacob had practice, I drove 2 1/2 hours down to Holton, KS to pick up my niece, Elle. I brought her back to Lincoln. On Friday my niece, Sarah, came to watch her cousin skate too! Jacob really enjoyed having his cousins there to cheer him on. They really enjoyed seeing him skate for the first time.
July 19th, 2012
Jeff flies to KC, John picks him up from the airport.
July 20th, 2012
Jeff and John drive to Junction City, KS for the Daniels Family Reunion. Jacob skates his individual events all day. Jacob, Kylee (Jake's girlfriend), Jared and I leave Lincoln at 12:30am for Junction City, KS and the reunion.
July 21st -22nd, 2012
DANIELS FAMILY REUNION! It was a great reunion and it was so fun to have almost all my family together, Jordan had to stay in Phoenix, AZ due to work. :( At the end of the reunion we all drive back to KC.
July 23rd, 2012.... One week down... three to go... It's Monday so this must be Kansas!!!
I'm living on the eighth day, right now!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In His Words - by William A Reynolds

My niece Alice Faye Cunningham, daughter of my sister Mildred, asked me to write of my experiences in World War II, so that she could include it in a book about the Reynolds-Cunningham families.
I hesitate because I know very little about proper sentence structure, much less how to spell all the words that may appear throughout. I'm just an old retired mechanical engineer that knows a little bit about things mechanical and nothing about writing.
When I came home on furlough from the hospital, the community (Plum Creek Methodist Church) held a dinner for me and Cecil Prentice. During the meeting, I was asked what it was really like in the war.
My answer was - Everything - hurry up and wait, boredom, hilarity, fear, anxiety, fatigue, cold, wet, rumors, both good & bad, no letters from home, helpless, upset at things around you and on & on. Everyone agreed that war is bad. When you advance in the face of the enemy you realize how helpless you really are. Good luck is better than superiority because you know someone will be killed.

February 1943 - I graduated from Paola High School when I was 17 years old, to be 18 in July 1943. At that time the Selective Service was drafting boys that were 18. I reported to Fort Leavenworth but was told I was deferred for 1 year because I was working with Dad on the family farm. I was to report back to Leavenworth the second week of July, 1944.

July 1944 - Right on the day - July 21, 1944, my 19th birthday, I was sworn in and took the oath of loyalty to the army of the United States. For the next 2 weeks, I spent taking tests, indoctrination of army ways, how to salute, when and why etc. I guess the army decided they got a bad deal when they drafted me because I was made a lowly private - the lowest of low. My registration No. 37735630.

August 1944 - About August 1st, 1944, I was put on a troop train to Camp Hood, Texas. The first thing I discovered was that Kansas may be hot in August but Texas is even hotter. In fact, the drinking water was even hot. From this point it was up early, chow, calisthenics, marches, how to field strip & clean the M-1 rifle, Rifle range (target practice), bazooka practice (shooting at an old junk tank), bivouac, and finally the 25 mile walk back to camp while carrying full gear. This amounted to about 80 pounds - including a backpack - a shelter half, tent pins, sleeping bag, steel helmet, helmet liner, trench tool & rifle. This ended my basic army training about the middle of December 1944. I was in "pass in review" parade and given my private first class stripe. I was also given a 10 day furlough.

About January 3rd, 1945 - When I arrived at Fort Mead, the first thing they did was make me take another physical exam, including a complete series of shots. They called them "booster" shots. I don't know where they got the term "booster" because I certainly did not feel boosted.

About January 7th, 1945 - I boarded ship at night - New York was blacked out as well as the top deck of the ship. I was shown below deck to my bottom bunk and given a life jacket. The bunks were three bunks high, with a ladder at one end. They were about 18 inches apart, barely room to walk between them. We were told not to go up on deck at night and never without our life jacket. The ship was a H.J. Kaiser Troop ship. As far as I can remember it had no name, but rather a number painted in 3 foot high white numbers on its bow.
The toilet (latrine) had about 20 toilet stools along one wall & wash basins to match on the other wall. The room was long & narrow. We left harbor at night, about January 9th, 1945, when some of the guys detected the ship movement, they became sea sick immediately. They would sit on one toilet stool and vomit in the other. From this point on across the Atlantic, life below deck was not pleasant. The smell and stench was almost unbearable, as a result I and others spent as much time out on deck as possible. We were in a large convoy of ships. We tried to count them, but soon discovered it to be impossible because there were ships ahead and behind us as well as out to the side, and they kept changing position. I think there were more than 30 ships in the convoy.

About January 17th, 1945 - We landed at LeHarve, France. The docking facilities had been bombed, so in order to get off the ship the army engineers built a floating ramp from the side of the ship to where the dock used to be. It was a gang plank with rope hand rails to a scaffold where you turn 90o and go down steps to the dock. I was able to negotiate the gang plank O.K. but when I turned to go down the steps, I missed the first step. I turned and did a backward somersault over the rope hand rail to the floating platform about 10 feet below. I landed on my pack on my back. As I was getting up the sergeant came up and said, "God, soldier, you're supposed to go up front to get killed, not here!" It seemed everyone was laughing but me. I saw nothing funny about it!
We boarded trucks with tarps over the top. It was cold and we were beginning to feel it. We went for about 2 hours when we stopped on a narrow mountain road. Of course, we all looked out to see another open truck loaded with dead soldiers stacked like cord wood. Not a word was uttered as the truck crept by on the narrow passage.
Things got real quiet & sober, and we all agreed that we were going to the Belgian Bulge as replacements. We crossed the Meuse River to the town of Givet on the Belgian side of the River. We took our packs into a big warehouse (I think) and was told we were to get new rifles the next day. We sure did get new rifles - all packed in crates wrapped with heavy paper and cosmo line grease. Each rifle had to be field stripped, cleaned & inspected. The next day, each of us was given a rifle and marched to a rifle range where we fired them and "zeroed in" the sights. We were then told, it was your rifle and to take care of it and keep it clean because where we were going we will need it to work. Things got real quiet and there were no smiles, just sober faces.
Again, we boarded trucks but went a short distance (maybe 20 miles) to a completely devastated town. The buildings were all bombed out with just some walls & chimneys standing. In the distance you could hear artillery firing - both singly and in barrages. It gave me a funny kind of feeling, like a story book I was reading. The smell was burning wood with garlic, really hard to identify. It was not pleasant at all.
We formed a single file and "walked" or "climbed" around & over rubble a short distance to what used to be a train station. There on the tracks was a train made up of these funny little 4 wheeled box cars. I learned later that they are called 40 or 8 cars. Meaning their hauling capacity is 40 men or 8 horses. We boarded the train with 4 men to the car and sat there all day. That evening the troops from the front began to arrive. Eight ragged, cold tired men joined us in our car. I believe one man was a sergeant. He said that they were told not to scare the new guys with war stories, but we probably had some good stories from the states. We did our best to tell about the various camps we were from as well as the closest towns. We also told them about our civilian life. It wasn't long before half of them were asleep. I immediately became known as "Kansas".
The next day we were told that we were going to Alsace Lorraine in France to push the Germans (Jerry) out of Colmar. The trip would take about 3 or 4 days; so make the best of it. The 8 men that joined us rolled out their blankets, "I'll kill the first guy that wakes me up!" The sergeant explained that this was to be their rest & recovery (R&R), so they would try to keep warm & sleep.
At this time all I knew was that these men were members of the 75 division. They were from different companies D, E, C of the 289th Battalion.

By now I lost track of the date, but I think it was about February 1st, 1945. It was night when we left the train in some town - somewhere near Colmar. We went into some building (a barn I think), and given more bandoleers of bullets, and something I didn't expect - each of us were given two hand grenades. To me this meant house to house fighting, and that the Germans were not running. I wasn't thrilled at the thought.
We formed up in a line for the advance against whatever Colmar had to offer about 6:00am. In front of me was an open field, about one half mile to what looked like a forest with a church steeple sticking up above the trees. Suddenly, there was machine gun fire behind us over our heads. We all fell flat and waited. When I looked back I saw maybe 10 American tanks shooting over us. This is called "covering fire". The idea is to keep the Germans so busy hiding that they can't shoot back. I think it worked. As we neared Colmar one of the tanks shot its cannon at the church steeple. It completely demolished the steeple; you could hear the bell falling and hitting things on the way down. About now a horse came galloping at full speed with his harness flapping out behind. Also, someone started up a Volkswagen and went out the other side of town - really fast. Suddenly two Germans came from behind a bunker. They each had a white flag in their left hands and their mess kit in the right. They admitted to being very hungry. They also said they had been out of supplies for fighting for about a week. They were taken to the rear. My squad leader said we could not lower our guard because of what they said, because some die-hard might try to be a hero.
The first thing I saw when I got into town was a big Holstein cow lying in the street dead. The walk through town was uneventful. I did hear some shooting, but not much. When we got to the other side of town we stopped and company D went past (or through) us, continuing after the Germans. I was assigned a guard post & to watch for Germans that may be trying to make a flanking counter attack. I watched all day but saw nothing. The Germans did lob one or two mortars back into town, but they hit the roofs of building and were no threat to us in the streets.
I was finally relieved of my guard duty and told to get some sleep because we were shoving off early in the morning. Near the guard post was what appeared to be a pen where a horse or calf was kept. It had a rock all about 3' high on 2 sides and the building on the other 2 sides. It looked like a pretty good foxhole to me; so I climbed over the wall only to discover it had been a hog pen. Being and experience Kansas hog farmer, I knew that one of the corners was where the hogs slept, while at least one of the others should smell like a hog pen. I found the corner where the hogs slept, sat down with my back against the wall, ate some c-ration, sipped some water from my canteen and went to sleep.
I suddenly woke up in what to me seemed like a few minutes. I was itching and it felt like I was being eaten up. I was crawling with hog lice. The guard that relieved me told me where to look for the Aid Station. I found it in a few minutes. One guy was asleep while another was writing something, probably a letter home. If I got included, I hope the censor & his folks had a laugh or two over my painful experience. I was lucky; the medic had DDT powder and a pump just for the purpose of ticks, fleas & lice. He blew the DDT down my back, around my waist, up both pants legs and sleeves. Relief was almost immediate. He then told me to stay away from animals and the local people. I was then surprised to realize that I had been in the hog pen almost four hours.
We formed up by squads (10 men) to move out about 5:00am.  My squad and I walked on a road, while others on each side – slogged through mud & water from the rains.  It was cold mud.  It was miserable.  Along the way, I saw two dead GI’s and one dead German.  I was surprised when I realized he looked very young & small.  He couldn’t have been more than fourteen years old.  To me it meant that the Germans not only were short of ammunition & food but also good manpower.
We moved along the road about three miles and came to some little village and Company D. Company E was behind us yet. We moved through D into a forested area, probably a half to three fourths of a mile. We stopped and were told to dig fox holes. By noon I had mine deep enough to sit down in, and with the dirt packed around the outside, I couldn't see out without getting on my knees. I got back and ate the rest of my c-ration and sipped a little water. I still had a couple of candy bars with my dirty socks around my waist. I changed socks, putting on the dirty dry ones which felt warm and good. The ones I took off, I flattened and put around my waist on top of my shirt tail, to be used again when dried out. I dug again perhaps another six inches to a foot deeper. The Squad leader came by and said, "Boy, I'll let you dig mine next time." He picked up my rifle and said, "Come with me. We have to report front & center to the Lieutenant." By now I was totally confused, so I shut up.
When we got to the command post (a tent with a table and two chairs) the lieutenant was there. After the round of saluting, he asked me if I was Wm. Reynolds. I said "yes sir" with all authority I could. "What had I done to get called up?" By now I was sure I was being court marshaled for something. He laughed and said, “You didn’t do anything here, but rather what you did at Camp Hood, Texas. It says here on your ability report that you shot expert on the rifle range and more importantly you and some others developed the method of squeezing off only three shots at a time with the Browning automatic rifle”. The Germans look upon the “BAR” rifle as a machine gun, because it shoots like one. If you hold the trigger, it will shoot twenty rounds without stopping. Two other men were assigned to be ammunition carriers for the BAR. They also were to provide covering fire for me if the BAR jammed or something.
So I went back to my hole carrying a very different rifle. It weighed almost fifteen pounds with a bipod on the barrel. The magazine had twenty rounds as compared to my M1 rifle that weighed nine pounds & the ammunition clip held eight rounds. Soon the two ammo carriers came over and started digging foxholes by mine. They were told they were not only riflemen, but a part of the automatic weapons team. We were to stick together at all times.
About dusk the artillery behind us began firing over head at the Germans. They kept it up all night and most of the morning. We were told to form up in single file to march (walk) on a road to a point where we were to wait for company E. When E arrived, it was late (about 5:00pm). They appeared to be well prepared, because there was a column of perhaps 25 tanks behind them. They were joking about how it took that many tanks to herd them (E company) to the front. The tanks fanned out across a field to the left of the road. We were told to get on the tanks. We (4 of us) took the last one, hoping they would run out of tanks before they would get to us. The rest of E and G companies would scatter out about 100 yards behind and follow the tanks in.
Riding on a tank was a new experience for me. It rocked fore & aft as the tracks moved over rough muddy ground. After some distance (maybe a mile), the Germans began lobbing mortars at the tanks. We decided this was not safe, so we ran into the woods to our right. As I think back, I believe the Germans must have seen us, because a barrage of mortars began hitting in the trees all around us. Finally, one hit in a tree behind me. I was lying down, but a piece of shrapnel hit me on the inside of my right thigh. When I realized that I was hit, I was numb with no feeling in my leg except it quivered and drew up against my chest. My squad leader was also hit, I think he died, because he became quiet and I didn’t hear him again.

I looked at my watch; it was about 6:30pm (I learned later February 5th 1945). In about 15 or 20 minutes the captain came and said he’d get a medic. The medic came; he took a quick look and went to work. He gave me some sulfa pills and water. He then gave me a shot, saying, “This will make you feel better.” He was right – I began to feel warm and sleepy. From this point, I slept most of the time. I woke up when the medics put me on a stretcher and loaded me in an ambulance. When I woke up again I think I was in the vestibule of a church. There were a number of other wounded guys there. When I woke up again, I had no clothing on and was lying on a hard, cold table. They told me to lay still because they were x-raying my wounds. I don’t remember any doctors or surgery, but I suddenly realized I was in a ward with 200 or more guys in a church – or at least a building with tall stained glass windows. It may have been a church that the steeple was blown away by our tanks.
About an hour after I woke up, a nurse came with some “V” mail and a pencil. She said, “You will write to your parents or wife. You have a deep flesh wound with no broken bones. The doctor will explain how they will treat your wound later today”. I didn’t feel like writing any letter, so I went to sleep. I suddenly awakened looking at the face of an irate nurse telling me that I hadn’t written my letter home yet. About then the doctor came by and explained how they planned to treat my wounds. He explained that the very thing that saved my life could kill me if not treated with penicillin. The shrapnel took a big wad of about 4 layers of wool clothing and at least half the mud of France into the wound; so I didn’t bleed to death. But now we must fight infection by keeping the wound open with five or six drainage tubes, and massive doses of penicillin. I took 3000 units of penicillin once every three hours for twenty two days. At that time I began to show signs of allergy, so they stopped the penicillin shots. By now I had been moved to a hospital in Nancy, France, then again to Luneville, France. Sometime they closed the wound.

It was now about the latter part of March, 1945. I was told that I would soon be sent to the evacuation hospital in Marseilles, France to go by hospital ship ‘Acadia’ to the US. I was able to stand now, so when the ship went through the strait of Gibraltar, I looked out the port hole to see the Rock of Gibraltar. I wasn’t sure I saw it because what I saw was a big mountain. It didn’t look like the picture I’d seen before. The trip across the Atlantic was really smooth. It was really different from the Troop ship that bounced & rocked all the way. On the ‘Acadia’ I got the first glass of milk since leaving home in December 1944.

I think we arrived at Charleston, South Carolina about April 10th, 1945. I remember hearing that President Roosevelt had died.  From the time I was wounded until my arrival at O’Reilly Hospital in Springfield, Mo, I was not allowed to walk. Every move I made, I was carried or pushed on a litter clear to my bed at O’Reilly.
My first question to the doctor was, “When do I get to go home?” His answer to me sounded simple enough. “When we feel you’ve mastered the crutches or even better, have to use a cane.” So I went to physical therapy to show them that I could do crutches. Boy was I wrong. I found out they are not easy to use, but can be dangerous. Going down stairs, they can vault you out into space and you land at the bottom in a heap. Going up stairs they can vault you backward with the same result. Crutches are a never ending nuisance – where do you put them when you sit down to eat or get in a can or go fishing in a boat? They seem to always be where other people can trip over them. So, I continued in therapy and mastered the cane.
From the time I left home in December till my arrival at O’Reilly I got no mail. One day shortly after my arrival, a WAC came in with a big box of mail, all addressed to me. She said, “I’ve got some advice for you big boy. Any girl faithful enough to write a letter a day since March, deserves your most sincere attention.” I took her advice, and that is how Alvera became my wife. Of course there were several other letters from my sister, Mildred and some from Mom.
The doc came in and gave me a train ticket & a 30 day furlough. “You should exercise every day and eat all the farm cooking available.” When I was in Fort Mead I weighed 166 pounds. When I arrived at O’Reilly I weighed just under 130 #s “You are 135 pounds now, it would be most helpful if you could put on another 10 or even 15 pounds.” They planned to operate when I came back from furlough.
While I was home I tried to walk without a cane. I found out that in the home on a level floor I could walk almost normal as long as I kept my right leg straight when it was supporting my weight. Outside, where the ground was a little bit uneven it was a different story. I fell several times while trying to master the rough terrain. The worst was going down a stairs that had no bannisters like the old farm house we lived in. I took Alvera to her Paola High School graduation.
By the end of the thirty day furlough, I was battered & bruised and my right knee was swelling and hurt. I was ready and willing to accept anything the hospital had to offer to help me walk.  I woke up after the operation to find myself in a body cast. That is, the cast went from my arm pits to my hips. My right leg was pulled up 90o with the cast continuing on to my right knee. They imbedded a 1 inch diameter wood brace between my knee & right chest. For some reason I found it hard to breathe. At dinner time I couldn’t eat more than one bite of food. This got the attention of the doctor, because he came and made some pencil marks on the cast. Almost before the doc left, came a litter with 3 guys. They told me that I was going back to casting. I thought, ah boy, they’re going to take this thing off. I was wrong again!
When we got to casting, one of the guys said, “Look who we got.” Someone said, “Who?”, “The guy that stole two of our towels yesterday.” They got long forceps and reached up under the cast by my left leg, grasped the towels one by one, and pulled them out. Boy, was that a relief. I could breathe freely again & eat.

From this point it was four weeks in the cast, physical therapy in the form of walking, social dancing and furloughs home and to Manhattan, Kansas. On one of the furloughs, I went to K-state to take Alvera to the Home Ecc. Snow Ball and dance. I also got to meet all the girls in her house, along with the house mother. I learned later that I received complete approval plus one or two volunteers to take over if she (Alvera) should change her mind. We were married August 25th, 1946, at the Paola Methodist Church.

Thanks to the GI Education Bill, we graduated from K-state in 1950 & 1951. Later attending K-state were our children, Bob, Vivian, Paula and their spouses, all of them earning 5 BS degrees and 2 master’s degrees.

Later while I worked at Zenith TV in Springfield, MO, Alvera got her master’s degree from Missouri State University and taught there until I retired in 1990. We came back to the farmstead in Paola, Ks in 1993

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More about Dad - Words attempting to describe Dad!

My father was an amazing man. He had so many aspects to his life. We tried to capture that in the end of his obituary, "The words husband, father, grandfather, uncle, engineer, designer, inventor, storyteller, teacher and perfectionist best describe Bill Reynolds". Here are some more words to attempt to describe my dad.

Dad was a war hero. In 1943, he was drafted in the army at age 18 however he was given a one year deferment because of being the last son working on the family farm. He went in the service in 1944. He was wounded in the Battle of the Colmar Pocket, February 5th, 1945. He should have died in the Ardennes. His femoral artery was severed by mortar fire however the wool uniform and mud packed the wound and kept him from bleeding to death.

Dad was a student, duh, what teacher isn’t also a student. After two years of rehabilitation he married my mom and went to college on the VA bill. They had children, a boy and a girl. He graduated with a degree in Agriculture Education and a minor in Engineering. After graduating, he and my mother, who had her degree in Home Economic Education, went to teach school in Hope, Ks. They lost children (my sister Carolyn was killed in a car accident at 1 year old). They moved to Kansas City and my dad went into engineering, he was the guy who designed production lines, because of people like him; we have "how it's made". They had more children, my sister and four years later me.

Dad was an entrepreneur and started his own business, Fire Electric Safety Demonstration Kits. Still the teacher... they were purchased by fire departments and school districts to teach fire and electric safety i.e. how to put out a grease fire. We moved to Galena, Mo, this is where I remember growing up. Galena is a small town, pop 300, on the James River near Table Rock Lake. My brother was already in college and never moved to Galena with us.

Dad was an avid fisherman and golfer. As I talked about in my previous post, dad was a story teller. After all what's a fisherman (or golfer) without a tale to tell! There were too many fishing stories to even begin to share them all!! Add in the “almost hole in ones” too.

Dad was a jokester. He loved the stories that ended in laughter. He would talk about growing up on a farm in Kansas... flying model airplanes off of John Brown's Lookout... getting into mischief with his best friend Durbin... Boot camp at Fort Hood Texas, catching an armadillo and putting it into an annoying guy's tent... Being on guard duty one night in Alsace, France and reporting to the CO that there were spies in town because two women were speaking German. (The area was bi-lingual)... His engineering experiences... He designed a chicken packing plant in Arkansas. Frozen chickens were difficult to process because the frozen legs and wings would break off when they would try to wire them. However, if the chickens weren't frozen bacteria would grow before they could get them processed. His solution was to put the whole plant under pressure. The chickens were supposed to be held by the leg, when they first turned on the production line it was on too high of speed. The chickens were flung around the plant at such a high rate they couldn't get to the off button! Dad would howl with laughter every time he told this story, mimicking dodging and weaving to try to get to the off button while being pelted by chickens.

Dad was a history maker. Because of that factory design, dad invented vacuum sealed cans. It was for a product call "Spreadables". Basically, tuna salad in a can, again to prevent spoilage he put it under pressure. Spreadables were on Apollo 13 and after the disaster and the water tank blew, it was the only food the astronauts could eat. (I haven't called Tom Hanks yet to ask why that fact wasn't in the movie) Just think of how many "shelf stable" foods we now enjoy because of vacuum sealed cans! That was my dad!

Dad was a genius and taught me the simplicity of genius. There was a time in TV between vacuum tubes and microchips, TVs used crystals. They were man made crystals and they needed to be sawed and sanded into thin slices. The saw blade was 3 times the final thickness and then the cut was so rough that they had to sand 2 times the thickness off. So for every crystal slice they wasted 5 times as much crystal. That's if it went perfectly but about every third crystal would crack or catch on the saw tooth and fly off. Dad's solution came from watching his mother make cinnamon rolls. Any baker knows what I'm talking about, once you roll up the cinnamon roll pastry, you take a thread wrap it around the log and slice off the individual rolls. Dad designed a similar machine to "slice" the crystals, using fine piano wire. Not only was it much thinner than the saw blade but the crystals needed little to no sanding and there were no cracked or destroyed crystals. Simply genius!

Dad was a constant tinker. I don't know how many patents dad has his name on, not to mention, his home rigged inventions. Every time we visited, there were simply things around the house that just made every day easier. When he was in rehab, he showed his physical therapist his "chair exerciser". He had designed a couple of devices out of rubber tubes and wood blocks which basically made a bow flex out of his easy chair. The physical therapist said, "Wow, you should patent that!" He just chuckled, I'm sure dad can't even count the number of times he's heard that one!

Dad was a craftsman. His last couple of projects included a replica of a Canadian fur trader's canoe and wood flower pots. He has built so many beautiful and practical wood projects and furniture. My son's bedroom furniture includes a desk and dresser that dad built for my brother's nursery in 1948.

These words don't even begin to scratch the surface in describing my dad. He would have said he was simply, "just ol' Bill"!

I'm living on the eighth day, right now!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Moments with Dad

I am the youngest of three children, a "late in life" kid. When I was 13 my sister went to college and I was left as an only child. My mother went to work as the night auditor of a resort. I was my dad's fishing buddy and to get me out of the house, so mom could sleep during the day, dad and I would go fishing.
That first summer we found a perch spawning bed. Dad and I would get up early and head to the lake. We would put in at Cape Fair and I would ski to our fishing hole. In the early morning there was usually fog still sitting on the water which was as smooth as glass. We would fish all day. We filled a freezer with fish that summer! In the evening, mom, dad and I would eat dinner then mom would go to work. Dad and I would sit at the kitchen table and talk. Actually, he would tell stories and I would listen, for hours! We'd sit there so long, that we would get hungry for a snack. Dad always had sardines with saltine crackers. YUK! My dad was a genius and a bit of a jokester so he was always fascinating to listen too. Plus he lived an amazing life (I'll write more about that in another post).

The day I was traveling to the hospital was touch and go. I talked to my brother while I was at the Phoenix airport. He said that they had turned off the defibulator and had him on a med that regulated his heart. They were planning on taking him off of it when I got there. Basically, they were trying to medically help him hang on until I could get there. I arrived and everyone was weeping around his bedside. He heard me come in and said, "There’s Paula, we've been waiting for you." He held out his hand and I went to take it. We all circled the bed and thought it was his last moments. He looked at all of us tenderly and said, "You're a funny lookin' bunch!" My sister said, "Well, we're your genetics." Which made dad laugh, "suppose so", he said. The in-laws in the room quickly piped in, "not us!" The tears had turned to laughter.

They took dad off the med and his heart regulated itself. The doctors were a little stumped as to why but attributed it to the fact that the rest of his body was so healthy. He was a little restless Thursday night and had a bout of his heart going a little wonkers. We thought, "This is it" and his heart regulated itself again. Dad slept most of Friday.

Friday evening, my brother's wife Cheryl, brought Smokin' Bob's Barbeque (my brother's business) in for dinner. It was a mini family reunion. Dad had some ham and was visiting with everyone. Later in the evening local people went home. Those who stayed bedded down on various cots and couches.

I sat with Dad. He had switched his night and day. He wasn't uncomfortable, just awake. We sat and talked or I should say he talked and I listened. I said, "This reminds me of that summer when we would sit and talk in the kitchen." He said, "ya, just you and I" We reminisced about that summer, skiing and fishing. He tried to tell me how to get to that fishing hole. Finally, he gave up and said, "I can take you right to it but I can't tell you how to get there." I told him that I still haven't ever eaten sardines. I actually love the smell because it reminds me of dad but I can't bring myself to eat them. He said, "They’re not really that good and the aluminum from the cans leaches into the fish and is bad for you."

I can't really remember the last time dad and I sat and talked into the night like that. It's was probably the summer before I got married (1983). Medically, he shouldn't have been so wide awake and talkative. I chose to believe that God gave me one more night of listening to my Daddy. I will always treasure those hours. What a difference a day, a few hours or even a moment can make!

I'm living on the eighth day, right now!