Yellow Ribbons Heartfelt Reminders
Pontotoc is no different than most County Seat towns throughout Mississippi in that she has sent a goodly number of sons and daughters to join the cause to liberate Iraq from it's cruel dictator and remove whatever threat to our freedom the Iraqi leader once posed. I don't need to remind readers that while the war of liberation is over, our troops continue to die not in great numbers as counted in the Vietnam Conflict but by most often single digits each day. The media treats us to a daily diet of death in headlines like, "Two Soldiers Dead - Roadside Ambush Injures Sixteen Including Five Iraqis," or "Helicopter Crash Kills Nine."
The U. S. death toll in the yearlong conflict has risen to more than five hundred. As wars go the body count is small, but from a human perspective, the loss of even one life is tragic. No community, no family, no friend counts the death of one of its own as insignificant. Pontotoc and Pontotoc County are thankful in that none of their own has been killed in the war and occupation of Iraq.
Dr. Kevin Koehler came to live in Pontotoc around the time of the tornado of 2001. He's a Family Physician, but he's also a Major in the United States Army Reserve. He and his family built a house about two hundred yards from my house, as the crow flies, but it's closer to a half-mile via automobile. Dr./ Major Kevin Koehler left Pontotoc a couple of weeks ago with a ticket to Iraq courtesy of Uncle Sam. He'll have to spend about a month stateside prior to leaving for Baghdad, and once there he expects a tour of duty between one year and sixteen months.
Family Physicians are hard to replace, and Dr. Koehler will be missed by his patients. His wife and two little girls will miss him the most as they strive to adjust to a life, temporarily, without their husband/ father. His friends at First Baptist Church and those in the larger community will also miss him, as will those of us who call him neighbor.
Yes, his neighbors will miss him, but we've also taken steps to insure we don't forget him while he is away serving our country. From the entrance to Woodland Hills Subdivision, along Ridgewood Drive, around Dogwood Circle, every home has at least one large yellow bow tied to a tree, lamppost, utility pole, or other suitable object. The ribbons were the brainchild of Tami Montgomery, wife of Dr. Steve Montgomery, whose home fronts both Dogwood Circle and Ridgewood Drive.
On the Sunday afternoon prior to Dr. Koehler's departure from Pontotoc, the doorbell chimes of our front door roused me from my nearly-asleep-in-my-chair position. Barbara answered the doorbell, greeted someone, and then walked outside, closing the door behind her.
Several minutes later, after I had regained my senses, she came into the living room holding a large yellow bow and asked, "Do you know where some wire is?"
Any good handyman worth his salt has some wire, but knowing where it's kept is not always readily recalled, especially when this handyman doesn't have a shop, at least a shop in the real sense. I've a small storage cabinet in the carport, and I keep my main toolbox in the utility room. I also have two organizers full of nuts, bolts, utility blades, nails, and other metallic objects that were once easily accessible in our house on 8th Street, but have found a new home in our attic.
"Tami Montgomery gave us a yellow ribbon to tie around a tree for us to remember Dr. Koehler, but the limb we were going to tie it to is bigger than this," she said, holding the separated ends of the wire intended to secure the bow to a tree, post, or whatever.
"A coat hanger would probably do, but I think I have some bailing wire in my tool box," I muttered, getting up out of the chair.
There's good reason the place one finds something he or she is seeking is in the last place looked, but I won't go into that right now. Suffice it to say, the bailing wire was not in the toolbox in the utility room but was finally found in the bigger of the two organizer boxes in the attic.
Barbara and I walked to the maple tree in the front yard. It's almost dead center between the two oaks, and while the yellow ribbons made famous in song were tied to oak trees, I agreed the ribbon should be on the maple. After securing the ribbon, I paused to soak up the beauty of the moment. The maple looks pretty drab in winter, but suddenly it was emblazoned in color once more. Not only did the tree look better but also the front yard and the front of the house even looked better, a bit cheerier I thought. The afternoon sun made it difficult to see the ribbons across the circle, but they were there, waving in the strong breeze.
Before Barbara and I left to make our nursing home rounds, we drove through the neighborhood and were pleased to see all the yellow ribbons. Tami, her daughter, Shannon, and Tami's father-in-law, Billy Montgomery, were placing the last ribbon on the brick entrance to our subdivision. I felt a sense of community pride as we passed them. By the smiles on their faces, it was obvious they were proud, too.
Every day I pass several yellow ribbons as I leave for work and return home. I'm reminded every day that one in our community will soon be standing on foreign soil, where his uniform will identify him as an American, and as such he represents the enemy to a small group of insurgents. To them, he's not the husband, father, neighbor, friend, or Doctor we know and love; instead he's a target. Thus, he needs all the prayers we can muster that he be kept safe and be able to return to those who love him. My family will keep him and his in our prayers, and we ask you to do the same.
If you, the reader, have access to the Internet, you are encouraged to post a message or prayer for Dr. Koehler on Ridge Rider News RRN Online. Here's the link to the site, http://www.rrnews.org/msgboard.mv. A selection of photos of Yellow Ribbons may be found at http://www.rrnews.org/04ribbon.htm.
RRN'S 400th Measuring Success
As numbers go, 400 is a small number, but then numbers in and of themselves (apart from theoretical exercises) are meaningless unless they are associated with something. In terms of money, 400 pennies are only four dollars, but then 400 dollars is a tidy sum. With respect to linear measure, 400 inches is roughly 11 yards, but 400 thousandths of an inch is less than one-half inch. 400 days is little more than a year, and 400 years are only four centuries. So, 400 is relative. It's bigness or smallness is determined by its association.
When I stop to consider that this is the 400th issue of Ridge Rider News, the number seems really large .(Updated 11/29/2004 - Discovered two uncounted issues, making this the 402nd issue.) That's because I associate one issue with one week of time, and 400 weeks is a long time. In fact 400 weeks is more than seven and one-half years, and seven and one-half years is roughly one-eighth of my lifetime. Had someone told me in 1996 that I'd still be cranking out a weekly newsletter in 2004, I probably wouldn't have believed it.
I keep asking myself, "What's a good stopping point? Should I wrap things up after 500 issues or go for ten years, or should I continue until I die or am unable to write?"
After all, one of the main reasons I began writing was to give my descendents a window for viewing my life and the times in which I lived, and I have to wonder, "How big a window will they need?"
Perhaps, I've fulfilled my original goal already and RRN has taken on new life and a new meaning. In the early days of my writing, I discovered writing was good therapy for my troubled mind, and the same holds true for today.
I have often told folks I would quit the newsletter business when it got to be a chore or was no longer fun. Well, it got to be a chore several years ago, but it's a chore I enjoy. Plus, there is often enough positive feedback from readers to pull me through the weeks when subject material is scarce and the future of RRN looks bleak.
Cooper Boyles, a SUPERVALU retiree, recently shared, "I told Alyene the other day, 'I reckon Wayne Carter could write about a bird sitting out there on a fence post.'"
"I'm sure I could, if it interested me," I responded, assuming he was being complimentary and not sarcastic.
Lou Ramsey, a master of dry wit, caught my ear last Sunday and said, "I enjoyed
all the articles in this week's newsletter, except one."
In light of Lou's comment, I was left wondering what Lee Gordon meant when he stated, "By the way, I enjoyed all the articles," referring to the same issue.
After explaining to Lee, I had decided on surgery rather than radiation or other form of treatment, he reasoned, "I know, you didn't want your hair to fall out!"
I've always found it more pleasant for my friends to make fun of me than for anyone else to do so.
In addition to my enjoyment of publishing this newsletter, I also enjoy my professional career, which is a chore as well. I think that says something about who I am, and if I like my work and my hobby, I suppose I'll continue both of them until circumstances don't permit me to do either. However, I can't promise another four newsletters, let alone four hundred.
Surgery Scheduled February 17, 2004
If all goes as planned I will enter North Mississippi Medical Center on Tuesday, February 17th to have a radical prostatectomy. I'm told the normal stay for such a procedure is two or three days. I am also told that while it's reasonable to accomplish light office work after two weeks, I probably will be unable to resume travel duties for at least a month. My family and I covet your prayers for both the surgery and the recovery.
Bodock Beau Two Chuckles
It seems everyone wants to lose weight these days. Some of us need Divine assistance.
The Parking Spot
An overweight business associate of mine decided it was time to shed some
excess pounds. He took his new diet seriously, even changing his driving
route to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he arrived at work
carrying a gigantic coffeecake. We all scolded him, but his smile remained
Works For Me
The man approached a very beautiful woman in a large supermarket and asked,
"You know, I've lost my wife here in the supermarket. Can you talk to me
for a couple of minutes?"
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