Sunday, July 28, 2013

A World War II Novel

I've been reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, who died in Auschwitz in 1942. A Russian, she emigrated to France with her family when she was about 14 years old. The edition I'm reading is a 5"x8" paperback published by Vintage International, a division of Random House, Inc., the 16th edition.

This fictional story tells about some families and single people living in Paris when the Germans invade and  they leave like many of the other Parisians and head to various towns and cities in the south thinking that the Germans would soon be bombing the Hell out of Paris.  They find themselves in various difficulties, some traveling by auto, some by train, and some on foot with all their belongings on their backs. Some families run out of petrol (gas) and none is available; they are forced to leave their vehicles and join the hordes of people walking along the roads, hungry, tired, and not really knowing where they are going. The German aircraft sweep through the skies over some of them and drop their bombs, injuring and killing some unfortunate souls, and the French Army appears not to be very effective at all in pushing back the invading troops. A yhoung teenager named Hubert takes off to join the Army and declare his patriotism and the family thinks he has been killed. They arrange a funeral service for him and his grandfather who passed away from natural causes, and Hubert shows up as the family is headed for the church. Another family member, a Priest was also included in the funeral, he was stoned to death by his young charges as they bread into an abandoned house and the Priest actually jumps into a lake to get away, but the rocks thrown at him does him in.

Some of the people return to Paris where they find their houses have not been damaged at all by the German bombs and are pleasantly surprised.

I'm about halfway through this book and find it very interesting even though it is fiction, because it portrays the actual happenings of the war with the Germans, where many innocent people are killed or injured and the futility of the French soldiers, many of whom had terrible memories of the First World War of 1914-18. Ms. Nemirovsky's writing style appears to me to be similar to the Russian writers, Tolstoy, etc., in that she follows a statement by one, two, or three descriptive phrases in the Russian or European style. It sort of drives me up the wall, but then again it makes it more poetical or rhythmical. The book opens with two pages of accolades from reviewers such as, "Stunning, remarkable, astonishing, extraordinary," and on and on. My French girlfriend told me that she and her parents lived in the countryside during the War and this is another reason why I wanted to read this book. I could see what the family went through with the lack of food and necessaries and it makes it more personal to me. You may want to pick up a copy and see for yourself what I'm talking about.   


Thursday, July 25, 2013

National Day of the Cowboy

The National Day of the Cowboy is July 27, 2013, this Saturday. Jim Olson is having his monthly Western Heritage show at the Old Trading Post in Casa Grande, AZ, with Nancy Ruybal and John Messenger performing. If you can't make this one (and I can't), celebrate the day in any old cowboy way that suits your fancy even if it's just putting on a pair of cow boots and a cow hat to show your Western Heritage and maybe eat a cowboy steak in a cowboy steakhouse.

Jimmy Carter's essay on John Wayne is published in the American Cowboy magazine for Aug-Sep 2013 to commemorate a new book on "The Duke" entitled John Wayne: The Genuine Article by Michael Goldman and Insight Press.  Take a peek at the magazine to see what a President says about John Wayne.


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Old Movie Time

I thought this movie was Tarzan the way John Wayne swung through trees and whatever else was handy. But it was only Mr. Wayne grabbing onto a low-hanging limb and climbing into the tree only to launch himself onto an outlaw. And there he is fighting another outlaw in a wagon as it is pulled along through the countryside with the driver shot. The wagon eventually crashes but the horses were freed just seconds before it flies over the cliff. And there is Big John again climbing to the balcony of a hotel and "duke"-ing it out with another outlaw. This movie was made in 1935 when Mr. Wayne was a young man and I could see the potential star that he was to become in some of his traits even back then, you know the walking and the way he stood with a hand on his hip.

In this one John Mason (Wayne) returns just in time to see his father shot in an Express Office holdup and he takes off to chase the outlaws, but gets shot a couple of times. He recuperates at home with the help of his pretty neighbor, Alice (Marion Burns), and falls in love with her. But, wouldn't you know it, her dern brother is the leader of the outlaw gang and the one who shot his father. Shucks, love interrupted. She begs him not to go after her brother, but he does anyway. It's his father's ranch boss who actually shoots the brother, and John ends up marrying Alice.

The name of this flick is The Dawn Rider. I don't know why, because it was full daylight throughout the movie. Other actors in it were Denny Meadows, Reed Howes, Joe De Grasse, Yakima Canutt, Earl Dwire, and Nelson McDowell. It was on tape and had a few pauses that were black. Overall I enjoyed this 56-minute movie that had plenty of action and a young John Wayne.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Just Thinkin'

Was just thinkin' about that little cafe in the mountains. Every time he made the trip to Salt Lake, he had to stop for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. It was the only place between Duchesne and Heber that sold ANYthing. You entered through the old wooden door into a room that had a counter running from one side to the other and a few tables by the front wall. Most of the customers were male and sat at the bar drinking a beer. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, etc., were available, but he was never hungry enough for anything but a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. It didn't make any difference what kind of pie. If they didn't have apple or cherry, he would eat what they had, even banana cream one time when he was desperate for pie. He was not a very big man, skinny and about five-foot-nine was all. Soaking wet, he might weigh a hundred thirty pounds in Levi's, plaid shirt, cowboy boots, and Stetson. But don't let his size fool you. He was tough as nails with rough, leathery hands from working his cattle and building fences, plowing the ground, planting crops and all that familiar stuff that ranching requires. Most times, he was in good humor and would laugh right along with you at the jokes everyone laughed at as if he were hearing them for the first time. His laugh was as honest as he was and full of enjoyment.

That was back in the 1930's and -40's when he had that old Dodge sedan. The Dodge wasn't old then. In fact it was practically new and went lickety-split when he put the pedal to the floorboards, and he'd argy with anybody over how good a car it was. You can't beat it, the way he would carry on over the eight-cylinder engine and how fast it would go.

Well, there ain't no pie anymore. He died a few years ago and that cafe closed up, too. Every time I go back to that country, I can't forget the way he used to buzz around in that old Dodge and all the dirt roads it had traveled over during its lifetime. There ain't nothing left to his place except a pile of rocks and more rocks scattered around the ranch. It seemed like every time he moved a rock out of the way another one would take its place. He always said that he'd seen all the rocks he ever wanted to see in his lifetime. So the wife one time packed up a few of the little rocks in a small box and sent them to him. I can hear him now, swearing up a storm, "Damn your hide! I don't need no more damn rocks! What you send them damn rocks to me for?" But, as mad as he was, he put them in a prominent spot on top of the fireplace ledge where everybody who came to visit would be sure to see them and he'd tell them, "That damn wife of so-and-so sent me those damn rocks from Arizona, as if I didn't have enough of 'em around here. Damn her hide!" and he'd start laughing along with everybody else. "She's a pistol, she is!" he'd say.     

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Old Movie Time

Well, what do yo know? This film was a surprise when I ran across it in a thrift shop. Entitled The Corral it has both Gene Autry and Roy Rogers in it along with Lon Chaney Jr, Smiley Burnette, and the Sons of the Pioneers. The surprise was that Roy Rogers plays an OUTLAW.

It starts out with a murder in a big city back east (Chicago) witnessed by a female singer (Irene or Hope Manning) who runs off and heads West to Turquoise City, Arizona. She catches a bus that is on its way to Arizona and the bus gets caught behind a buggy carrying Gene Autry who is the Sheriff, and a crook he is taking to jail, and of course, Gene is singing a song as they ride along. The bus runs the buggy off the road and the buggy finally crashes, but Gene and the outlaw are unharmed. A man tries to make points with the singer on the bus and tells her he runs a number of clubs and he wants her to be the lead singer at the Blue Moon in Turquoise City. Gene and the outlaw and every one else climbs back on the bus and they don't get far before they are held up by Roy Rogers and his gang. After the holdup, the bus continues into Turquoise City where Gene locks up the crook in the jail. Smiley Burnette is a deputy and his first scene has him playing the harmonica, a guitar, and with his feet a xylophone serenading with a song a crook already in jail.

The man who had been trying to woo the female threatens her by telling her he will turn her in to Scarlotti, the murderer, if she doesn't take a job at the Blue Moon, which she does. Gene and Smiley go after the bus robbers, who he knows as the O'Keefe (or Keefe) brothers (who are actually the Sons of the Pioneers) and held up the bus to get publicity to put on a show on the radio. Gene brings most of them back to jail where they prepare for the big celebration by singing songs to the crooks in jail.

Scarlotti shows up in town to get rid of the witness to the murder, but Smiley interrupts them and Gene and Smiley take off after them and round them up after capturing Roy Rogers and his partner. Gene locks up the Carlotti gang and lets the Sons of the Pioneers and Roy out of jail to sing at the big town celebration and everyone lives happily ever after as justice is served.

This movie was a kick to watch and enjoy with the mix of the singing, horses and cars and the bus as a lot of those old movies did during the transition to the modern era. It was filmed in 1936.    

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Arbuckle's Coffee

The American Cowboy Magazine for Aug/Sep 2013 has a short article on the History of Arbuckle's Coffee, which I found interesting. For one thing, I didn't know it was still being made, and in Tucson, AZ, of all places. The Organic Happy Trail Blend is priced at $17.00 per package. That's a pretty high price to pay for coffee, not even Starbucks charges that much, but, if you want the real thing, it's going to cost you.

The article notes that Arbuckle's started up around 1864-65 by the Arbuckle brothers, John and Charles.
Folgers came along in 1850 and Maxwell House in 1892.

My father used to drink "cowboy coffee," not necessarily Arbuckle, but Folgers and Maxwell House when I was growing up, before he started using the percolator at my Mom's urging. I was too young to drink coffee of any type, which was frowned on by our religion, the Mormons. I've made up for it since as have about everyone in the family. To me it's a necessity, not a luxury and not a sin.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Revolutionary War

Richard Cutler, General Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and French Admiral DeGrasse are on the way to the seige of Yorktown, VA. General Cornwallis and his British troops are holed up there waiting for the British Fleet to  arrive from New York as I approach the end of this book, the first in a series about the Cutler family. The book is A Matter of Honor by William C. Hammond and published by Cumberland House of Nashville, Tennessee.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel as I read about the life of Richard Cutler, who was selected by Captain John Paul Jones of the ship Ranger to be one of his midshipmen. Jones and crew set out to wreak havoc among the Brits by raiding one of the English coastal towns and disrupt shipping from the port. The raid was a success, but some of the men didn't make it back to the ship and were captured, Richard among them. The British  threw the prisoners in jail to wait out the war. Richard and his fellow prisoners hatch a plan of escape, but the day before they were to put it into effect, Richard is freed in the custody of his uncle, a sugar and shipping magnate in which Richard's father is a partner. They have sugar plantations in the Caribbean and that's where Richard obtained his experience as a sailor as a crewman on his father's ships at a young age.

The escape plan from the prison was a success and one of the escapees shows up at the house where Richard is supposed to be confined. The two men escape and sail to France where they make contact with Captain Jones again, who is outfitting the ship Bonhomme Richard for sea.

In many ways this war reminds me of the American Civil War where brother fights brother and cousin vs. cousin, etc., since the Americans have close relatives on the other side. Anyway, Captain Jones sets sail and runs into a fleet of British ships. He attacks the ship Serapis and rams him and this is where he says "I have not yet began to fight," and the fight is on at close quarters on both ships, with the "Bonnie Dick" being successful and in the process Cutler saves a Brit by the name of Jamie Hardcastle, his girlfriend's brother. Jamie dies from his wounds, but Richard gets points for his heroic act and they take the Serapis captive.

And the plot moves on to Richard in Barbados, now married to Katherine Hardcastle, and life is idyllic until they sail to Tobago and the island is captured by the French. Richard is taken on board the ship of Admiral DeGrasse as a Lieutenant and they end up on land in Yorktown where I began this post.

The next book in the series is For Love of Country, followed by The Power and the Glory and A Call to Arms. Mr. Hammond is a fine writer and does a great job with A Matter of Honor..

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Another Movie

First of all, before we get into the movie, I would like to wish everyone a HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY, and if any of my readers who are not American citizens, I say, "Celebrate with us!"

Now, on to The Lone Ranger, the movie with Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. We took our great-grandsons to see it yesterday and we all give it a thumbs up overall. Two thumbs up for the comedy in it and one thumb down for the excess violence. As the CBS This Morning movie critic said, "They could have easily cut out a half-hour of it [and still made a good movie]. It was 2-and-a-half hours long and had plenty of action along with the gory violence. The bad guy was a heavily made-up Johnny Depp as Tonto, er, a County Prosecutor, Armie Hammer, er, an outlaw that was scheduled to be hanged by name of Butch Cavendish, er, no it was the head of the railroad, Latham Cole, er, uh, you pick him out. They all seemed to be outside the law until Tonto and the Lone Ranger get to riding, looking for this Butch feller, who had killed the Lone Ranger's brother and ate various parts of him. Butch was an ugly and mean, loutish killer with no conscience. Throw in a silver lode and a greedy railroad magnate, several chase scenes, and guns a-plenty, and we're off to a romp in the sand. Oh, yes, throw in some Comanches, who buried Tonto and The Lone Ranger up to their necks in the sand, and the cavalry to their rescue - or not, and the plot moves along fast and furious and comical. And throw in the local brothel owner with her wooden leg and the shotgun built in and the good woman, the Lone Ranger's brother's wife, er - widow for the SEX in this one, chuckle, chuckle. 

This movie was funny and full of action scenes and beautiful scenery - Monument Valley it looked like and other parts of Utah, although it is set in Texas. It was well worth the entrance fee and the theater was not crowded in the middle of the day.