Roots, Place, and Identity

A friend and I were batting around a question that’s puzzled both of us: What happened to the town we used to know? I didn’t see the change as sharply as he did, because 1) I’ve been here during the gradual shift and 2) when I came back from Grad School, some of the larger cultural differences matched what I’d been around at Flat State U, so the “fish in water” effect was present. But we agree that something changed and not for the better, at least to us.

After talking things over, and chewing on the idea for a week or so, I think it’s the problem of roots. If a place forgets or chooses to ignore its roots, the culture changes. Add a large influx of people who never knew those roots, or who prefer certain aspects of their home culture to what they find here, and you get more change. Federal influence might also play a role in some city policies that seem to have encouraged anti-social behaviors among part of the population, but that remains a large unknown. Without roots and a memory of the past, what gives a place an identity? Cultural features? Is New York City* nothing other than the Met, concerts, Wall Street, the Natural History Museum, and Broadway? OK, in that case, the Village as it used to be, perhaps?

I admit, there’s an element of nostalgia for me, not so much for my friend. He was looking at the rougher side of the city, one I only knew by reputation. Everyone knew about That Bar, the one where they frisked you for weapons and if you didn’t have one, you could rent one. (I kid, but just a little). If you wanted trouble, you went to these neighborhoods, or to that one area after about eight PM. During daylight and before eight it was happening and cool, and the bars kept things lower key. After eight? All bets were off. And everyone knew it. Crime happened elsewhere, to be sure, but there was “the bad side” and the rest of town. Today? Very different.

When I grew up, roots were part of the local identity. Ranching and the west were close at hand, and celebrated. Rodeos, pow-wows, cattle drives, ranching heritage, all played a huge part in how things worked. Local magnates were ranchers, bankers, some oil and gas men (and That One Guy, who eventually left town for greener pastures and was not missed.) Today . . . We’re supposed to be finding a new identity, bringing in lots of young people from Elsewhere (“if they come, they will build it” was the city government’s motto for a while. Thus far that hasn’t really happened that I can see.) Calls rose to spend more time talking about Hispanics and African-Americans, both their role in building the region, and the discrimination they suffered. They had a role in history, and certainly should be recalled in the city’s roots. But history is not a 0-sum story. We should be able to include all the area’s pioneers without kicking out any. This region was ranching and cowboys and farmers and oil patch and proud of it. And because of that, certain things were expected – civic participation, self-reliance (we’re relatively isolated and had to be self-reliant), helping neighbors, church participation, and self-governance.

Things are different now. “Bomb City” is supposed to be the new nickname for the largest city. Um, that should be Albuquerque or Los Alamos, in my opinion. There are still rodeos, but they’re not what they used to be. Native Americans are included in the history, but we don’t have many pow-wows, if any. There’s less about the good people of the past and more about the sins of the past. A lot of people from outside the region, state, and country have moved in, bringing new ideas and some serious challenges. What had been off-beat local shops are now variants on coastal boutiques, with more of a coastal vibe. The older western-ranching-cowboy past is not something the new people know about, or honor the way older people did and do.

What is the local/regional/state/national culture? Human geographers have begun talking about the negative aspects of “cosmopolitanism,” of being “a citizen of the world.” Citizens of the world don’t have roots, and they bring what they like to wherever they go – London, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, Ft. Worth, Denver. That’s not entirely a bad thing, but neither is it a purely good thing. A sense of place, of common culture, provides strength when tough times happen, and gives younger people an identity to help support and sustain them. Americans are an idea people. We are based on a culture of ideas and shared heritage. Not blood, not soil, not common religious denomination, but an idea and shared heritage and mythology.

Who are we? What is $PLACE$? It’s not something most of us sit down and try to define, but perhaps we should. What makes the place you love, or like, or want to live in or near, what it is? The physical environment? The people? The culture? Yes?

I’m not sure we as a city/region/state/country have done that often enough, deeply enough. Mayhap we should. But how do you put roots into words? How do you get a community to say clearly, “This we are, this we believe, this we like. If you want to change it, you first must understand why we have kept it, and only then ask us to change.” I don’t have an answer, nor do I know how to go back to “the good-as-I-remember-them days” even if it can be done.

*I know that the boroughs and neighborhoods are different from Manhattan. I’m grabbing Manhattan because it is what most people think of when I say “New York City.”


Knights Without Ladies?

This is going to be one of my muddled mental musings, in part because of sorting out timelines for characters and motivations, historic and modern. If the ideal of the medieval knight and of the best of chivalry was/is something for men to aspire to, what does it mean when there are very few if any visible ladies for the man to respect and honor and even love?

As I drove back from a meeting of the North Texas Troublemakers (pilots, writers, retired military, writers, skilled craftsmen and women, writers, and generally creative, competent people), I thought about some of the stories, and what didn’t need to be said. The general approbation that met an account of some blue-collar guys who took it upon themselves to remonstrate with the abusive boyfriend of a coworker was part of the catalyst. The way other men went “on point” when a lady commented that she’d been propositioned and hadn’t caught on at first, and had witnessed a would-be purse-thief was another element in my thoughts. The gentlemen would brook no harassing or abuse of “their” ladies. Now, in the second case, the lady in question is able and willing to fend off unwanted attentions, so that wasn’t part of the equation. The men want to protect her. That’s their job, and woe betide the predator who thinks the men’s friend would make easy prey.

So, if the rising generations of females balk at being ladies in the traditional sense—polite, honorable, skilled in a trade or craft, able to assist men and to make a home or just be a good companion and friend, what is the reason for being a knight or gentleman? Back in the day, some men dedicated themselves to the ultimate Lady, the Virgin Mary, serving Her as clergy or knights (Templars, Hospitallers, Teutonic Order, and others). That’s not really an option for most today, and it was not a common calling even back then.

Why not be a slob who indulges in whatever impulses push him? If there’s no lady to reflect the knight and mirror his ideals in a womanly way, why bother? Some young men are raised with personal ideals and standards, but it helps to have help and encouragement – been there. It’s not easy to hold true to beliefs and ideals when no one else does. The military used to provide encouragement, as did organizations like the Boy Scouts. If those are weakened, what remains? Gangs, but their philosophy is more anti-society than pro. And the less said about the role of women in urban gang culture the better.

I’ve said before that I try to be the sort of woman – and general person – that is worth befriending and helping if it comes to that. I try also to be a person who befriends and helps when I can. I’m not as ladylike as my great aunt or mother, but I try. That means encouraging boys and men to be the best they can be, somehow.

So what moves a man to be a gentleman when no one is watching? What inspires him when society doesn’t provide a lady and warps the very idea into something negative? In Jude’s case, his faith, and finding a lady (or perhaps ladies) to help and protect. And his Lady. In a way he’s a bit of a knight, and it would not surprise me at all if Fr. Antonio Manfredi isn’t watching him as a potential deacon and perhaps eventually seminary material if Jude shows any signs of a religious vocation. Or perhaps not, since the good father has experience with other shadow mages. But that’s fiction. In our world? I don’t have a good answer.

In Hoc Anno Domini

Every year, the Wall Street Journal publishes this editorial in the issue closest to, or on, Christmas Eve. I have a copy, carefully cut out and put away. Christian or no, the warning about other Caesars and the return of darkness still holds.

The opening of the editorial is below:

“When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression—for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.”

For the rest of the editorial:

Life Without Hope?

The question, because it is a question, came to mind when I was mulling over some reader comments about a character, and trying to suss out motivations and what drove him. Something motivates him, otherwise he’d be dead twice over. But I’m not sure he knows, which makes character development tricky. What is his reason for living? Well, his faith takes a dim view of suicide unless it is for very, very specific reasons, but “you’re not allowed to kill yourself” doesn’t fit his personality, at least not at the moment.

Pig-headed determination can be a heck of a motivator, especially when linked with, “I’ll show him/them!” People who live decades after doctors told them to go home and die, military personnel and other warriors who survive terrible odds out of pure spite (often tied in with getting even, or avenging someone else.) Those are both examples, as are the people who keep going out of duty. I’ve met one person like that, and she was . . . different. She could not let herself die, or even step back and rest, until she got four children raised and out into the world on their own feet. They were not her children, but she’d promised to take care of them no matter what, and so she was. As far as I could tell, she wasn’t a believer in any religion. it didn’t matter. She’d given her word, and had taken up the duty, and was raising the children as best she could. I was in awe, and somewhat uncomfortable. I suspect that when the last child became independent, she would follow her late husband and other family members to the grave.

This character, though . . . duty fits, duties that he’s been assigned by his culture, and those he’s taken upon himself. He has faith, strong faith, but that’s not his only motivator, nor will it keep him going through the years. He’s not called to be clergy. He lacks hope, other than hope for a better life in the next world. He plans for survival, but it’s just that – survival. Nothing more, not where he will be in X years, not looking for a wife or making close friends.

People can live without hope, perhaps, if they have a strong enough goal and personality. Some thinkers say that hope is the cruelest thing, because it raises expectations and leads to dreams of better times and happiness that are then destroyed, crushing the spirit. That’s true. We’ve all had hopes dashed, be they hopes for neat Christmas stuff, or hopes that the dream date will be as good as anticipated, or that the cute guy will accept an invitation to the dance, or that a scenario will turn out right and the world will improve. And it doesn’t happen. Prayers are not answered in the way we want, the cute guy turns out to be a cad (or has a family commitment that night), the band cancels the concert, the politician isn’t as advertised, the serpent lied about the taste of the fruit . . . Hopes collapse, leaving bitterness and ashes behind. Been there, felt that, and it hurts. Duty replaces hope, or wrath and the desire for revenge replace hope, and the person pushes through.

That doesn’t work in this instance. The character has to grow, to enjoy life and to look ahead to a future with hope and dreams in it. How to get him there . . . I’m still grappling with, in part because it means looking inside me and asking some questions.

I hate it when characters make me do that. 🙂

The Tree of Jesse

The idea of the tree of life is found in lots and lots of traditions, be they “organized religion,” animist, environmentalism-as-religion, neopagan, or just people who see certain trees as having special personal, spiritual significance.

The concept of the Jesse Tree comes from the book of Isaiah. In 11:1, it says, “But there shall come a rod forth of the stock of Jesse, and a grass shall grow out of his roots.” (Geneva Translation) More common is “and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Either way, medieval artists depicted this literally, showing the sleeping figure of Jesse, father of David, with a tree growing from him. This ties back into the Genesis account of the Tree of Life vs the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Tree of Life comes from Jesse.

The above was the only Jesse Tree I found in Scotland. It is in the National Museum, on a panel from woodwork associated with Mary Queen of Scots. Since the reformers in Scotland took a dim view on “idol worship” as they described it, a lot of the visual imagery from the medieval period in lowland Scotland vanished in the 1500s-1600s. It remains in the German lands, however.

From Limburg, Germany. This and the above photo from Swabisch Hall are author photos.

Ceilings are also a tad unusual.

This is another tree of life, the only one I’ve seen thus far on the ceiling of a church. It is inverted, so you can follow the order. Adam and Eve are on the bottom, then Jesse, David, and on to Jesus.

The cross on which Jesus was crucified was called the Holy Tree, or Holy Rood (rod) in Anglo-Saxon and Old English. One of the first surviving hymns in “English” is the Dream of the Rood, where the tree that became the cross talks about what happened. A modern depiction from York Minster that takes the idea literally is below.

Modern art seems to have gotten away from the idea, although I have seen some attempts to reclaim the neopagan tree of life images for Catholicism in particular. That one . . . doesn’t quite work for me, although I can’t pin down quite why. The Latter-day Saints use the image of the Tree of Life, taken from the vision of Nephi, in their faith, sometimes literally as in the case of Mack Wilburg’s song “O Tree of Life” and the dance setting that used it during Christmas a few years ago.

Most Protestants hear the text once a year, during Advent, but don’t see it depicted. We might, rarely, get to hear the song, “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.” Although not directly about the Tree of Jesse*, it is often done around Christmas.

*Oddly enough, what I think of with the Jesse Tree is “Behold a star from Jacob shining” by Mendelssohn.

Role Models

Besides my parents and a few other adults, I’m not sure who my role models were when I was growing up. Han Solo, perhaps? Then I locked onto military history, and while there was not one single individual I declared, “I want to be like that person,” I found a lot of values and ideas I tried to live up to. Ditto in certain fiction, because I was in a place where I needed inspiration along the lines of, “If she can survive that stuff, then I can get through High School.” If William Slim could reorganize and rebuild an army and then start fighting back, I could survive High School. And so on. Reading about Marie Curie and other women in medicine and science was interesting, and I remember all the big news about Sally Ride, but the fact that they were women wasn’t so important to me.

Later, I also had someone serve as a horrible warning as far as how not to treat coworkers and associates. He was an anti-role-model of sorts.

None of my role models looked like me. None were nerdy, overweight girls growing up in the Midwest or High Plains. Perhaps Lessa of Pern and Talia from Valdemar might have been close. William Slim certainly wasn’t, neither was Admiral Chester Nimitz, nor “Pappy” Boyington. Nor Erwin Rommel, not all the submarine commanders whose books I devoured. But there was something about what they did, and their approach to the world, that made sense and that made me want to behave like them, even though my circumstances were very different from theirs. The fact that they were military men, or fictional characters, didn’t matter to me. It wasn’t important that I have a role model who looked like me. Since my Mom was in a science field, I knew that girls could grow up to do science, or anything else.

I was thinking about this as I read a new military biography of Prinz Eugene von Savoy. His private life was . . . private, much to the frustration of later historians and writers. He didn’t have any flamboyant affairs. His wife was not well known (too well, in the end) in the royal court like John Churchill the Duke of Marlborough’s, in part because Eugene never married. He might have had a mistress, or he might have looked at his mother’s adventures in the court of Louis XIV and have decided that power and military campaigns ranked far higher on his list of interests than did physical intimacy*. No one knows. However, since his enemies accused him of, to use today’s term, being gay, he has been lauded and praised as “the first great gay general since Alexander the Great or Richard the Lionheart.” Except Richard has been dropped because he was an icky crusader. Funny, no one claims that Tilley, the great general for the Habsburgs during the Thirty Years War, was gay even though HE never married.

The argument seems to be that “because this historical figure never married, and was accused of being [whatever], therefore he/she/it is the role model needed today by young people who might be [whatever].” Role models are people who accomplished a great deal, not people who accomplished a great deal and look just like or act just like [characteristic]. At least in my world. If kids are told “Oh, no one like you can be a pilot,” well, the adult is to blame unless there is a solid, physical reason for the denial. For example, anyone who still tells girls, “No, you can’t fly the plane, but you can be a flight attendant if you want!” should be thumped with a wing spar, or landing gear leg.

I grew up in the benighted years of the patriarchy, and Reganonomics, and it didn’t matter that I was a girl. I’ve had people turn me down for a job because I’m too small (valid in one case, not so in another), and in one case because they couldn’t take the legal risk of hiring another women after a Spectacular Horrible Warning soured the chances for a whole lot of people. [No, I was not informed officially, but tell-a-pilot and the flightline grapevine are very effective. I wasn’t surprised, just peeved at the Horrible Warning.] Girls, poor kids, kids who don’t look like their heroes, it doesn’t matter – kids need role models who can inspire and encourage, who show how to do it. That’s what society needs to be teaching and showing.

*The more I read about his childhood, the more convinced I become that Eugene von Savoy preferred power, wealth, and military success to marriage. Once he made a name for himself, his mother trying to match him up with various noble women in order to advance her own position probably just iced the cake.


Thanksgiving dates to 1620-21, and the harvest festival celebrated by the Plymouth Separatists and their Indian neighbors after both groups managed to survive a rough year. The Separatists were not the rigid, stereotypical “Puritans” that most people associate with New England. Those folks arrived later. The first group were more mellow in their understanding of religion and tolerance, and the group included Strangers as well as “Saints.” Miles Standish, for example, was a Stranger, who worked as hard as anyone and helped nurse and protect anyone who fell in the disease outbreak that winter. Giving thanks for the harvest and the One who provided it was natural, and an English as well as Indian tradition.

“Harvest Home” is not longer something most people in the US, Canada, or elsewhere do unless you are part of a farming community or follow a certain cultural tradition. If you are in a city, you probably don’t farm, so it doesn’t apply. “Harvest Home” was the bringing in of the last sheaves of grain or sacks/baskets of root crops. It led to a community celebration, or at the very least to the land owner treating his workers to a good meal and good beer/ale. The work wasn’t over, not at all, but the time-critical harvest was done and the grain and other things had been brought safely home. “All is safely gathered in/ Ere the winter storms begin.”

Today, Harvest Home means grain is in the bin or at the elevator, the root crops are gathered, and the combine or digger can be put away for a while. No more working from can’t see until “so tired I’m hallucinating” in order to save what can be saved. Farm wives no longer have to shuttle meals out to workers at all hours of the day and night while taking care of the kids and running into town for parts and supplies if needed. There’s time to breathe, to rest, to prepare for cleaning equipment ahead of winter, to take inventory of the harvest and the crop year.

Today, in the US, we give thanks for food and shelter, for health and well-being, and for the opportunity to give thanks. Some of us are with family of blood, or family of choice, or are working so that others can have a little time away. Giving thanks reminds us that we are not the center of the universe (unless you are a cat, in which case I congratulate you on your good taste in blog reading). Other people make the good things in life possible for the rest of us – farmers, power-company employees, physicians and EMTs, soldiers and sailors and airmen, the folks working at the grocery store . . . Whether you believe in a higher power or not, stopping to give thanks is a good way to keep a proper sense of proportion about the world.

I hope you have something to give thanks for, and that today is a good day for you and yours, wherever you are.

“What Is the Meaning of Life?”

My first two answers were “A Monty Python movie” and “42.” Neither of those where what the speaker had in mind, so I kept my trap firmly shut. I can act like a grown-up, on occasion. If there are a sufficiently large number of witnesses.

Then me being me, I ran through three of the catechism answers that I remembered (none of which apply to the church where I currently sing. Of course.) Personally, I’d argue that meaning is personal, not collective. The speaker went along the chosen topic and my mind wandered off into the weeds, then over the river, through the woods, down the primrose path, past the Slough of Despond, and drifted back toward the official topic when the phrase, “What were his last words,” came along.

And again, my mind wandered, this time to Randall Thompson’s “Last Words of David.” David’s last words were a command and testament, in the sense of testifying about something. “He that ruleth over men must be just; ruling in the fear of G-d” That’s the charge, the command. And if the ruler is just? “He shall be as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, even as a morning without clouds when the tender grass riseth out of the earth after rain.” The obedient man will be blessed and will prosper. During the middle ages, someone’s last words were very, very important and people gathered to hear them.* Often, final disposition of property happened at that point, and the individual was thought to be closer to the divine, and so might offer a warning or revelation. If the person was dying in public (i.e.executed), then it was anticipated that he or she’d have a speech, sometimes humorous, sometimes dramatic, occasionally a confession “Yes, I was terrible and I deserve this and don’t do what I did.” And of course we have modern jokes about “Here, hold my beer!” or “What could possibly go wro—” and so on.

Death used to be a community matter, too important to happen in solitude, if possible. The meaning of life used to be a community matter as well, although I suspect the majority of people wouldn’t phrase it like that. Having relatives in the church yard meant that you belonged to the place. Going back much farther, having relatives in the chamber tombs and mounds surrounding Stonehenge also meant that you and your people belonged. The ancestors watched as the transition from life to death concluded for the individual, and the community feasted to honor the dead and the living. Life was family continuity, blood-kin or faith-kin, and the meaning of most people’s lives was to ensure that another generation or two had property and a good model to build upon.

What is the meaning of life? What is a good life [insert Conan quote and all it’s myriad variations here]? No idea, but a lot of other people have ideas about it, some I agree with, some I boggle at, some that make me want to take a long shower after I apply automatic weapons fire to the idea.

*No, it was not good for public health when infectious disease was involved. But germ theory hadn’t been invented yet.

Why Follow Someone?

Granted, sometimes it is a case of following someone out of morbid curiosity to see what disaster is about to ensue, so that either plausible deniability may be ensured, or to see just how bad it could possibly be . . .

[Speaking of which, NO POLITICS! Please.]

I was thinking more about “What motivates the Hunters to follow a certain leader?” When you have a generally merit-based society, what causes some people to start turning to a particular individual and treating that person as a leader? I do not think of myself as a leader, but other people do. I freely admit, I’m not entirely certain why, save for the “morbid curiosity and entertainment value” aspect of things. But why do the Hunters follow Skender and Arthur? Why do they follow Danut Adrescu? What motivates people to follow, when other options are available?

In Danut Adrescu’s case, blood ties play a role. He’s the clan leader, descended from clan leaders (or their sisters, depending on who was born first and who outlived whom) going back a long way. He and his half-brother have been trained to be leaders, and the others in the larger group have a set of expectations about what the clan chief is supposed to do, how he’s supposed to behave, and how he will reward virtue and punish vice. Adrescu’s going to have to do a bit of the latter, assuming he survives whatever the Ottomans seem to be hatching, assuming that Codrin’s vision is truly precognitive. Radut has also earned the respect of the other men and women, in his case partly because he refuses to allow a crippling injury keep him from doing what needs to be done. His skill as both a horse trainer and horse rider also play a role. Kinship as a tie of military service was found in feudal Japan as well as other places. When in doubt, follow your kindred, circle around the center of the larger family’s property, and protect those related to you – that’s one of the oldest loyalties in the books, literally.

There’s not as much opportunity for loot with the Hunters as in traditional armies. You could argue that the Fruits of the Hunt are loot, and it’s true that the Hunters in Adrescu’s time were not averse to confiscating the goods of people who were proven to be getting into mischief, be it mundane or esoteric. Should Adrescu have to face the Ottoman Turks, his soldiers and Hunters will grab what they can if they win. It’s tradition, and a good reward. In our world, even into the early modern era, there were people who fought with, oh, Prince Eugene of Savoy, because he had a record of winning and rewarding his men very well. Or of letting them reward themselves from the enemy. When the monarchs and princes couldn’t pay their hired soldiers, the men found loot on their own – see Rome, 1527, and Charles V’s problem with losing control of his troops. In Eugene’s case, it also tied into charisma. He took care of his troopers, even when he considered them swine. He tended to win more often than he lost, he ended up with loot at some point during most campaigns, and he tended to be impartial when it came to discipline.

Skender and Arthur proved themselves to the Riverton clan as Hunters first and foremost. Then Skender began quietly taking on more and more duties, especially the lesser duties of the senior Hunter. The then-leader was old, in poor health, and couldn’t do those things. Skender showed that he had the needed skills, sense of duty, and training to lead, should the opportunity arise. Arthur supported his brother, and may have on occasion dealt with other Hunters who might have posed threats to Skender. Perhaps. Maybe. No one ever admitted to doing such, and Skender could more than take care of himself. So when the old clan leader died, the Elders and Hunters agreed that Skender was a reasonable choice. It wasn’t without challenges and fights, as series readers have probably surmised. And every so often a Hunter would push things, leading to injuries.

Now? Skender and Arthur have both proven themselves, and no one is suicidal enough to take them on as a pair. Arthur served as head of the Hunters, overseeing training and ensuring order more-or-less. The other Elders and retired Hunters knew about Arthur’s injuries and how hard he pushed himself, and admired him. The younger Hunters respected him profoundly, feared him, and occasionally challenged him. Once or twice, a younger Hunter went to Arthur for counsel, and he provided it without demeaning the younger man or telling others. When it appeared that he’d been mortally wounded on the Hunt, it hit the “puppies” hard. Skender was the senior Hunter, true, but Arthur was their leader. At the same time, when Skender took full responsibility for his brother’s injuries, Skender gained more respect as well (although it didn’t stop some of the youngsters and Elders from growling about it, well away from the rest of the clan.)

Why follow? There are a lot of reasons. Experience, family ties and tradition, the hope of reward, the desire to be present when the dreadfully creative disaster unfolds (because great stories sometimes start with, “Ya’ll won’t believe what Bubba did this time.”) Me? I like a leader who gives me a long leash and who states clearly what needs to be done, what is being done, and why (when possible), and who supports subordinates when the chips are down.

Veterans’ Day, Armistice Day, Martinmas

On the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour, the guns fell silent on the Western Front of WWI. It would take far longer for the African and Eastern fronts to quiet down, and one could argue that the war continued with some pauses until 1945. In Europe and the Commonwealth (England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, other nations), this is a day of solemn remembrance. In the US, we save that for Memorial Day (or used to), and today we honor all veterans who served in the US armed forces.

I raise a glass to Dad Red, Uncle Red, Grandpa Carl, Uncle W., Uncle K., Jim E., Dr. M., Peter G., Carl R., Fr. Martial, Fr. Gonzales, Old NFO, Tom R., Jon L., John v. S., LawDog, Fox and Mr. Fox, and all my readers who served in militaries around the world.

Thank you, G-d bless, may your Martinmas goose come out of the oven perfectly roasted, and may today be as wonderful as possible. Prost!