Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Parable

One of the unique benefits of belonging to Toastmasters is the opportunity to leave with more than you brought in. The inspiration for a particular thought often comes from the most unlikely speaker. In this case the speaker was not the best I have seen. However, the task they faced is one of the most difficult for any speaker.

The speaker had to present a famous speech, and present it as the original speaker had. The speech they chose came from a speaker that had not been recorded. So, interpreting the emotion, phrasing, and proper inflection would be extremely difficult. The speaker did a decent job. However, that is not what caught my imagination. In this particular case it was the message.

The original speaker had used a parable as the center piece of their message. It is a parable that has value today. So, I will interpret that parable as it was presented to my mind. May God have mercy on your soul.

"A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal,“Water, water; we die of thirst!”

The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.”

A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.”

And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.”

The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River."

In our present times it is easy to feel adrift and lost in a sea of confusion, frustration, and anger. Fear is a word that is thrown around like it is candy. We see our leaders in Government making decisions that are certain to doom us to an inevitable destruction. If that sounds dramatic...good...that is what I intended.

There has been and will certainly be times in American History in which our country will need all of its Patriots to respond. This time is in no way different. But how do we do respond..what should we do?

We feel that the only way to take control is through large media outlets..or large gatherings. This causes confusion, frustration, anger, and most sinister of all Fear to grip our hearts. At no time should we act from the point of emotion. It is not only counter-productive, but exactly what "They" want us to do.

History teaches us some lessons about how to deal with large sometimes insurmountable tasks. Lets look at one issue that makes us feel small. The Main Stream Media. How do you defeat this large ugly monster?

Lets face it, they have the bucks, the faces, and control of what goes out to the masses. So, who else faced this challenge? The answer to this problem comes from a freaky dude in Russia. V.I. Lenin faced this very challenge. How could he possibly get his message to every corner of such a huge country? How could he fight the strength of the Czar?

"Cast down your bucket where you are!"

There was no way Lenin could possibly get his message into the hearts of the Russian people all on his own. Instead he built he built a network of people that went to each town, hamlet, and settlement throughout the empire. He got neighbor talking to neighbor. Who are you going to trust, a talking head, or your neighbor?

"Cast down your bucket where you are!"

Tea Parties are a great idea...good place to get information..get pumped up. But when you return home it does no good to talk to the world about it. Get up off your ass and walk next door. Talk to your neighbors, talk to your family, talk to your friends, talk to strangers, talk to your town. Do it often. Do it intelligently. Get others to do the same.

"Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are!"

You can slay the mass media with a single presentation. The mystery of the man behind the curtain, the facade of the slight of hand tricks can all be exposed by you! One person at a time. The exponential growth of truth can overwhelm the slick presentation of a trained spin clown in mere moments just by talking to someone. Don't fight them...just tell them...and move on. Be Clear. Be Persistent. Be Truthful.

"Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are!"

Note: The phrase "Cast Down Your Bucket Where You Are" comes from Booker T. Washington in his 1895 Atlanta Compromise speech. Long before Rev. King, Mr Washington understood the vast and alienated workforce that the south was ignoring. Had the south heeded his advice there is no telling where this nation would be today. His parable holds the key to our growing success.

References: "Atlanta Compromise" Booker T. Washington

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fort Benton. My History Trivia

My first contact with Fort Benton, Montana was when I was first stationed in Montana. I always thought of it as the town in the hole. Literally it you have to drive down a pretty steep hill to reach it. As we would pass by on our way to missile sites you could just barely see it. I always thought to myself, I should stop in and visit it one day.

Flash forward 6 years. I had been subscribing to a history magazine, and one issue (which I need to find) had an article about the Mountain Howitzer. The Mountain Howitzer was a small cannon that was intended to be easily transported, and as the names suggests used in mountainous terrain.

Designed in 1839, and redesigned in 1841, this small cannon was used during the Mexican-American war, the American Civil War, and the Spanish American War. One soldier had joked that it was too small to call a cannon, and too big to fit in a holster.

At the end of the Civil War the United States turned its attention to "settling the west." This brings us to Fort Benton. Fort Benton is known as the "Birth Place of Montana." This name is rightly deserved. Before the trains connected the west you could jump on a paddle wheeler and sail from St. Louis to Fort Benton. From Civilization to The Rugged Frontier on a floating bar and casino.

A Mountain Howitzer found its way into the hands of the Military Unit in Fort Benton.* Like all military personnel someone was looking for a way to make using the weapon more efficient. They had proposed the idea to their commanders..and it was accepted.

The Black Feet Nation could have wiped Fort Benton off the map if they had so chose, but the Military Commanders, and citizens did their best to stay on good terms with the Black Feet. The military commander had taken to inviting the Black Feet leaders to meet with them from time to time. So they invited the Black Feet to a meeting, and the military commander would show off his new cannon. The Black Feet were not naive. They had seen cannons before, and were fully aware of the capability of a cannon, as well as, its short comings.

The problem with Cannons is you have to use horses to pull the cannon, horses to pull the ammunition, and have an entire pack train available to keep them supplied. Setting up a cannon requires you to unhitch the horses, block the cannon so it does not jump all over the place, load it, and sight it. Until the weapon becomes 'seated' it is not that accurate or fast.

The Black Feet were some of the most skilled horse fighters the world has ever seen, they were aware they could avoid the cannon. This is where the new tactic comes in to the picture.

As the various Black Feet leaders gathered, an Army mule was brought out to the edge of the river. Strapped on the back of the mule was the disassembled Mountain Howitzer. An Army officer explained how the new cannon could be transported by just one mule. In fact, it can even be loaded and fired while still strapped to the mule.

With that two soldiers held the mule, butt end faced toward the river, and an officer lit the fuse.

Whether it was the hiss of the fuse, or the mule realized what was about to happen, no one will ever know. The mule began to rear up and buck. All the while the muzzle of the cannon was swinging wildly. The soldiers decided this was a bit much, and ran for cover.

When the smoke cleared the mule had gone to that quiet pasture in the sky.

As the Black Feet dusted themselves off, one Chief commented that "there are easier ways to kill a mule." They left the meeting unimpressed. Thus ended the U.S. Military's first attempt at a mobile cannon system.

A simple lesson can be drawn from this, always practice your presentation before you actually present it.

A second lesson would be "Think things through." I am not a mule expert, but using a mule as a platform for a cannon is not that good of an idea.

President Obama is pretty good at practice. Thinking things through...not so much. I direct your attention to Iran and the Soviet Union.

* I have been unable to find out what Military Units were stationed in Fort Benton..if you know I would love that info.

Fort Benton History
1841 Mountain Howitzer
U.S. Military History Magazine (still trying to find it).

NOTE: A visit to Montana is not complete without a visit to Fort Benton. It is along the wild and scenic portions of the Missouri River, and the fishing can be very good. Thanks to my international and U.S. Friends for requesting I write this. More to come later.