Feeling the performance – Riverdance!

If the theory of DNA Memory is true, that we genetically carry the footprints of our ancestors, shadows of their cultures, then there are sub-conscious rumblings in my soul and echoes of flutes and drums in my veins that connect me to Ireland .  I close my eyes and see green hills and Maureen O’Hara.

No?  I don’t believe the DNA thing either.  It just sounded good.  According to my European heritage is all of Europe.  Lines weave backward through myriad shire and kingdom finding root through Troy to Goshen back to Abraham himself.

Yet, I feel so much more Irish than say, Prussian or Italian.  That could have something to do with growing up with the surname of Murphy and listening to Dad talking about his Murphy line, who was the immigrant, etc.  Mom also spoke of her Dutch line of sailors.  I just wasn’t that fascinated.  Sorry, Mom.  But, aye now, the Irish, the twinkling eyes, the roguish smiles, the castles, the green shutters and stone fences, the dancing and drums …  much more fun than say, wooden shoes.

We’re watching the Best of Riverdance.  When I emerged from the Celtic store in Gatlinburg last week proudly waving my purchase, my son-in-law chuckled and said “as opposed to the Worst Of?”  After viewing of the Best Of and remembering my experience of the live performance in Minneapolis, I’ve concluded that the Worst Of would look the same.  There is no Worst.

It can only be described as an experience.  You watch, you feel, you meld with it and believe all you have to do is put on the tap shoes and you are one of them.  That night my friend Lisa and I persisted 65 dark miles through winter wind and snow, and froze our fingers and cheekbones walking to the old Minneapolis Theatre.  The stage was wooden, the floors were wooden, the seats creaky and packed close together, barely room to peel off the parkas.

Lisa educated me all the way there on theater behavior.  She studied theater, there is protocol.  There is prescribed pattern.  By first curtain, if theater is a verb, I knew how to.  Then the thunder of steeled toes and heels vibrated through the stage, the floors, the seats and penetrated the bodies.  At the first opportunity to do so, the whole of the audience flew to their feet, shouting, whistling, applauding hard enough to wear on the tendon and joint.  Lisa must have been in theatrical shock but she too rose to her feet eventually, commenting later that she thought she was at a hockey game after a double overtime.

You too can buy the DVD in Dolby, set up the surround sound, crank up the subwoofer, and swim in the magic of Riverdance.  But …. until they’re in front of you on a wooden stage, passionately stomping out their heritage, until you’re watching “by the seat of your pants,” you haven’t felt Riverdance.  If you have that opportunity, you just may hear some Irish in your blood.


Where does this road go?

Forget the compass.  Just don’t even buy one.  Once upon a time we had one of those floaters hanging from the rear view mirror much to Honey’s embarrassment.  That’s the kind of thing my dad had on his dashboard. So if Dad was a geezer with a car compass, and Honey has a compass on the dashboard, he must be…. oh no, not a geezer in a pa-paw Buick!  At that point, we didn’t have the Buick … yet!

For Dad, it had as little purpose in Illinois as ours did in Tennessee only in reverse.  Dad knew which direction he was going anyway.  In Tennessee, the poor thing was spinning back and forth so much it didn’t stop long enough on any compass point to tell us which way was up let alone east, west, north, south or anything even close.  If it was a cat, it would be car sick and hurling on our laps.

Follow the yellow double line but do stay on the right side of it at all times unless turning off.

Tonight on the way home I drove past my turnoff to a known route and chose instead the road not just less traveled, but one I was only suspicious of where it came out.  I was already headed easterly and hoped I would continue as easterly into this stretch of not-so-sure.  My goal was twofold.  First, I wanted an alternate route that I knew wouldn’t get me lost on the way to work for blossom/fall color appreciation.  Second, it helps to know how to go around traffic backups.  Okay, there’s a third reason — impressing out of state flatlanders without looking foolish.

When we were all at home, a family of two parents and 3 girls, we took a lot of road trips.  If two kids have an imaginary line down the middle of the back seat, you know from painful experience whether as a parent or one of the two that there’s constant line crossing and the inevitable “Make her stop touching me! Stop touching me! M-AH-M!”  With three, somebody’s sitting on the line making the space even smaller.  In this case, the middle one is the victim surrounded by conspirators eager to torture her purely for the noise, noise which drives both parents out of their skins.  Therefore…..

Dad takes this golden opportunity to teach directions.  “Which way are we going now?  We just left the house and we’re heading for Monmouth.  What direction is that?”  If your first clue wasn’t the setting sun blinding you, you just have to know that Monmouth is due west of Cameron typically with no turns or curves, so you answer “west!”  You’d better answer “west” soon if you want him to stop.  But he won’t.  “Which way would we be going if we turned left?”  But, we’re not turning left between Cameron and Monmouth, Dad, or we wouldn’t be going to….  “Tell me which way you’d be going if we turned left!!”  (eye-roll)  “South?”  Yay, I get a point!

This was an easy game since all the roads were one of only 4 directions.  In our local tri-county area, there was one road that went diagonally for any significant distance which was known as The Diagonal Road.  All the rest, paved, gravel, or dirt, were North, South, East or West.  Not only that, if you were driving through farm land, the next available turn was exactly a mile from the last available turn.  The fields were divided into sections, a mile each. No need to look at the odometer if you were keeping track of how many cross roads you’d driven past.  Handy, huh?

I grew up on a checker board, a flat and square checker board.

So, why Dad had to know from his dash which way he was going was an unnecessary hobby, fun, but unnecessary especially when the sun was shining.  Flat, straight and mostly treeless as well, therefore there was nothing to block said sun, and just that much to not block natural navigation.

My new navigational discovery was typical Tennessee side road, not back road — those are deeper in the hills and not wide enough for lines.  I even figured out that if I’d turned left I’d have ended up on my more traveled route behind our house but I turned right and wound my way further south than I needed to be yet at a recognized intersection.  I am comforted to know I can still “smell” my way on an unfamiliar side road as I can in a new shopping mall.

Tonight I gently swayed and swerved homeward, not too fast, not too slow, with much the same feeling as swinging on the rope swing Dad made for us on the big oak branch in our back yard.  Dad’s voice asked me which way I was going.

“Home.   Eventually.”

Veterans Day

vet·er·an      [vet-er-uhn, ve-truhn] Pronunciation KeyShow IPA Pronunciation


1. a person who has had long service or experience in an occupation, office, or the like: a veteran of the police force; a veteran of many sports competitions.
2. a person who has served in a military force, esp. one who has fought in a war: a Vietnam veteran.


3. (of soldiers) having had service or experience in warfare: veteran troops.
4. experienced through long service or practice; having served for a long period: a veteran member of Congress.
5. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of veterans.

[Origin: 1495–1505; < L veterānus mature, experienced, equiv. to veter- (s. of vetus) old + -ānus -an]

I appreciate #2 of the definition above, pulled from, that illustrates a military veteran as a “Vietnam veteran.”  All too often our focus ends with a WWII veteran.  We’ve just about run out of WWI vets and the WWII vets, now called the Greatest Generation, are dying at the rate of about 1000 a day.  In the flurry to honor them while we still have them, we can lose sight of the men who fought in Korea because that was a police action headed up by the United Nations.  Our Viet Nam vets often take a back seat.  Those are the men who were spat on when they came home.  They are the ones who sometimes don’t tell people that they are veterans who were fighting to keep communism at bay and were trashed by a generation of college students whose motives are still under debate, many of whom themselves embraced Karl Marx’ communist socialist policies.  At least one of them is currently running for president.  Personally, I believe their politics were wrong then and they’re still wrong.  Enemies don’t stop fighting and back down because we yell “peace.”

Honey’s great-grandfather, George Wesley Brock, at the age of 16, volunteered to preserve the United part of USA in the War Between the States.  Geo.Wesley’s grandfather, also a George, fought in the War of 1812, the “second revolution” against Britan’s attempt to recapture us, was himself captured by Indians sympathetic to Britain and survived a gauntlet because he said, “I’m half Indian.”  My father wore the army uniform in WWII to defeat two nations who would destroy our freedoms.  His great, great grandfather, John Murphy, Sr, fought to create a free nation in the Revolutionary War at Valley Forge as did his father-in-law, William Cooke.

So, which veterans are we honoring and if you say “all” are you limiting the celebration to those who served in combat in WWII, Korea, Viet Nam, The Gulf War, and Iraq?  What about Bosnia? Afghanistan?  What about the desk jockeys, and those who put in duty in Germany in peacetime?   Anybody who’s worn the uniform, whether he or she is shooting a gun or working at the PX, signed a contract that committed them to following orders, giving up their right to free speech, and going wherever and whenever, even at the cost of their lives.

Honey enlisted in the Navy in 1968 while Viet Nam was still in full swing.  He signed the contract, put on the uniform and boarded ship.  He’s a veteran by definition #2.  This morning he had the privilege of honoring men and women in our congregation as well as veterans in general.  This is what he wrote:

Today on the Veterans Day we gather together around the Lord’s table to give a tribute to our forefathers who paved the way for the freedoms we so richly enjoy today.  But more importantly, we come here today to honor a savior who died for our eternal freedom.

Today, we salute the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel for their mission.

We remember the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

We honor the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat, but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and then teaching them how to watch each others’ backs.

We salute the barroom loudmouth, dumber than a box of rocks, whose overgrown fratboy behavior is outweighed a hundred times by four hours of exquisite behavior near the 38th parallel.

We remember the parade riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

We remember the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket–palsied now and aggravatingly slow–who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife was still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

We remember our Navy signalman who still holds close a tear stained picture of a best friend who lost his life in the line of duty.

Yes, we honor the ordinary, yet extraordinary human beings who offered some of life’s most vital years in the service of their country, and sacrificed all of their life’s ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

Most importantly, we honor and remember the greatest soldier of all, Jesus Christ our Lord, who came to earth to fight the Good Fight, Who took up the sword of righteousness on behalf of all mankind and became the greatest testimony this world has ever known for the greatest promise ever given.


Being Father’s Day, it’s a natural assumption that I would honor my dad, Russel Murphy, known to many as Poppy.  I’ve written about Dad before, mentioned him in passing, and have not run out of material yet.  But today, ol’ Pop will step aside. Continue reading

Conscientious objector

So how did Dad avoid overseas duty in WWII? He didn’t go AWOL, he didn’t protest and land in the brig, neither did he talk anyone into giving him a transfer or special treatment. Military service in his day wasn’t big on individualism let alone political correctness. They put on the uniforms and followed orders. Period. And Dad had already made up his mind he would go Against the Flow (Across the Flow is second generation) of standard procedures during wartime, which is to shoot the enemy, and instead try to make friends one enemy at a time. His sarge said if he were facing an enemy who was about to kill him, he’d shoot.  Nope.  Dad would have laid down his gun just like he said he would, and not only would I, and my children and grandchildren not be here but neither would my sister Margaret, and all of her family.

Twice he was scheduled for deployment to Europe, twice the Army screwed up.

From what little I remember, Dad was a truck driver. His experience and talent in the world of auto mechanics made him a natural. I do remember him saying he was a driver in the convoy that rolled into The Soo in early 1942. I  vaguely remember him saying that he spent a large portion of his Army career stationed there.

Dad grew up in Cameron, Illinois, a tiny rural community barely qualified for the word village. If there was a doctor ever living there, I don’t know. I can assume that in those days, especially in a town like Cameron, doctors serviced a large area and accepted payments in chickens, eggs, and garden produce as well as money once in a while. I know as fact that my widowed grandmother didn’t have much to trade for medical services. Taking in ironing didn’t pay well. Osteopaths were the Murphys’ physician of choice on most occasions, things like a bad back, sore neck, and maybe more. They also could have been significanly cheaper as they weren’t and still aren’t the widely accepted medical authority that MDs are. So while stationed in The Soo , Dad slipped off the curb, twisted his back, headed straight for the osteopath, had his back treated and then told the sergeant about his injury. He immediately popped Dad into the Army hospital where they put him to bed and according to Dad, pretty much ignored him. In the meantime his company of men was shipped out without him.

He had another opportunity to see action soon enough. This time he shipped to New York to await orders for Europe, apparently close to the end of the war.

When his company arrived at the barracks, the guys rushed to claim a bunk. Dad and another soldier, being a little older and more patient waited until the “kids” calmed down, intending to settle for what bunks were left over. There were none. The sargeant placed them in a barracks just the other side of a small hill that had some bunks available. Dad said he would walk over to his company every morning to visit his buddies during the time they were there. One morning they were gone. Evidently, there were two Muphys in the group. When they shipped out, the guy checking off the names must have thought it was an error and crossed off both of them. Before Dad was reassigned for deployment, the war ended and he was sent home.

And his worn out guardian angel slumped in a chair and said “Whew!”

Daddy, what did you do in the war?

"Russel! She’s too young to watch that and it’s time for bed! Russel!!"
"Mom, I’m ok.  It’s ok."  I always wanted the details, still do.

Q: Where have we heard the phrase "The Greatest Generation" lately?
A: Like, all over the place?

My dad was one of the Greatest Generation.  And he was, in 60’s terminology, a "Peacenik." Unlike the demonstrators of the 60’s, he was in total support of staying the course to victory.

Born in 1907,  he was 34 when he signed up with the Army.  It was peace time and The Depression was still going so money could have been the motivator.  At any rate, he was pretty proud of himself, having been an amateur body builder of sorts, that he left "those kids" in the dust during basic training.  When Pearl Harbor was attacked, it didn’t take him long to approach the sarge and ask for a desk job.  He didn’t qualify without a high school diploma.  He then informed the sergeant that he would not kill the enemy but instead lay down his weapon and extend his right hand in friendship.  "Murph, if you come face to face with the enemy, you’ll shoot."

I think that if my dad had killed a man, even an armed enemy, he would have been messed up beyond repair if he indeed decided to continue living with it. You only have one chance to experiment with a statement like that, and if he’d kept his word, I believe my sister Sharon would have been his only child.  The circumstances that kept him out of combat are another story.

Despite his personal moral convictions, he supported the war and supported the concept that "totalitarian, anti-Western ideologies that cannot be appeased" had to be dealt with.  Winning was an absolute.  Japan’s extreme ideologies were why the extreme bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were required to shake down Emporer Hirohito , a man his people considered to be a god.

Looking back in 20/20 hindsight, there were clear indications of Japan’s intentions.  At the time, they were not that clear.  It would have been impossible to present those cloudy hints to the US Congress and Senate and prepare for war.  We’ve been demoralized by a 10 year depression, what are you talking about?!?  Pearl Harbor was a brutal sneak attack.  Instead of cowering or negotiating … again, (Japan’s diplomat was on his way home from a peace agreement when his country hit us!) or whining; instead of discussing anything, we declared war with only one dissenting vote and stepped up to the plate.  You want to play?  Bring it on.  That attitude is the America the Greatest Generation protected with their lives.

Guadacanal :  1942. A bloody fight to control an airfield in the Pacific, pivotal, crucial to the outcome.  Through 6 long months we lost over 6000 of  60,000.  Japan lost 24,000 of 36,000.  The fierce tenacity and continued losses indicates to me that the enemies’ ideologies mattered more than a 65% loss of life.  These numbers only reinforced America’s efforts to continue to prevent a culture like that from taking over.  Our men on that little jungle island were also spurred on to fight harder rather than be intimidated into quitting by seeing their fallen comrades’ heads on posts.

Does any of this sound the least bit familiar? US was attacked first, no negotiation, ideology, heads? When you hear of an average of 1,000 dead young men per month in only one of the two theatres of global war, do you think "quit"?  Of course.  We all do until we analyze the consequences of laying down our weapon and extending a hand in friendship.  It’s then logical that we pull out all the stops and charge.  When you refuse to defend yourself, you’ve surrendered.

Mom was afraid I’d have nightmares.  Dad knew I needed to know what the previous generation did to make sure I lived, and that I lived as an American with all the freedoms.  Sometimes you have to fight and fight dirty when it’s required to win.  Be the nice guy after the enemy surrenders.  Try war criminals as war criminals, not vandals, in a military tribunal setting, not civil courts, after a winner is declared and not before. America was the nice guy.  We didn’t devastate their landscape and go home.  We cleaned up after ourselves and everybody else.

America won through sacrifice, publicity, unity.  Oh sure, there were dissenters.  There were also laws against sedition.  Even the dissenters understood that any discouragement of our troops caused more losses by encouraging the enemy, enabling them with more incentive to destroy us.  Ever hear of Tokyo Rose?  She was an American of Japanese descent, and was convicted of treason.  Ever hear the phrase Loose Lips Sink Ships?  It’s true again.

Like it or not, we are at war.  Like it or not, the enemy will not negotiate.  Like it or not, they intend to destroy us leaving us few choices but to thwart their plans with every means possible.  In the movie Independence Day the president asked the alien "What do you want us to do?"  The answer was "Die."  The alien was immediately eliminated.  After we absorb that, what’s our next move?

Maybe this will clarify our situation:

(1) You are driving at approximately 60 miles per hour.  An oncoming
vehicle has crossed the center line and a collision appears imminent.
Your response is:
A. Discuss it with a friend on your cell phone
B. Change radio stations
C. Apply fresh lipstick
D. Attempt to avoid a collision

(2) Your house is on fire.  Big time.  Do you:
A. Balance the checkbook
B. Take a shower
C. Look for the hammer so you can rehang that pesky picture straight this time.
D. Run out and dial the fire department

Don’t let the Greatest Generation of the 1940’s be the last great generation.