July 2016. Eleven years since we were in Hartford Hospital with acute necrotizing pancreatitis! We have truly been blessed beyond any expectations we might have had entering this chapter of our lives. Even though Lea’s medical expenses left us financially devastated, the Lord’s provisions for us has been constant and steady. Along the way we have found a much better relationship with Him, with each other, and with our service in a local church body. We have also had our challenges, of course, and try to use them to continually give our testimony about His truth and grace.

Early Recovery Days

When we were released from Hartford Hospital in January of 2006, we had to fly home on a commercial airline because her lifetime insurance benefits had been exhausted, and there was no hospital back home in Indianapolis that would accept her as a patient. She was still draining clear body fluids from a small hole in her abdomen that required a change of her dressing every few hours along with the application of a protective ointment to the affected area to protect her skin graft. She, of course, couldn’t walk, being only barely able to stand for short periods, so she was very weak, and got exhausted quickly.

We moved, temporarily, into an assisted living facility, since our home and all but one vehicle had to be sold to cover expenses while we were still in the hospital. Lea’s employment had been terminated, disab‎ility income had not yet started, savings were gone, with only her retirement account still in place. I was her full time caregiver, and had taken leave from my position as a career counselor to devote my time to her needs.

We later moved to a very nice house purchased by my brother for us to stay in as long as we needed it. Lea was very feeble, still using a wheelchair, later a walker, to get around. We had been told that her abdominal drainage holes might eventually heal and close up, causing pockets of fluid to accumulate internally. They would have to be drained as needed. Praise God, that didn’t happen! You can read more about our daily experiences in the hospital by following this link.

Broken Hip

Lea misstepped, fell, and broke her right hip in November of 2006 while we were recouping during a visit to our older son’s family in Hawaii. It was five months before she regained enough strenth to be released by the surgeon to fly back home to Indiana. We both had gotten cabin fever, becase she couldn’t get out and do much of anything, as she was still in a wheelchair.

We were able to be involved in some church activities, and some social events, but we were very limited in mobility since, at that time, the Kailua-Kona area was largely not handicapped accessible. A few months later, back in Indiana, she was able to stand well enough to get around using a walker with a seat for periodic rest breaks, then, for a period of time, a cane.

Knee Replacement

But, by early spring of 2007 her right knee had begun deteriorating to the point that she was going to have to return to using the walker for fear of the knee collapsing entirely. We were referred to a surgeon that was willing to accept her special condition and replace her knee. We began preparations in late June, with pre-surgery consultation, an orientation session on what to expect, and lab tests to make sure she was healthy enough to undergo surgery. Her knee was then replaced in mid-July, just two years after her near fatal illness, and she took her first steps on the new knee the next day. She had a rough night or two during the next couple of weeks, some of which was caused by her need for a large brace to give her knee side support until it could recover lost strength.

Move to Texas

In November of 2007, eighteen months after our release from Hartford Hospital, and four months after her knee replacement, Lea was still not able to stand completely upright, tired very quickly, and was emotionally unstable. We moved from Indiana to Texas that month to be close to my younger son and his family, which had just expanded to include their first son. She couldn’t travel far before having to get out of the car to straighten up, stretch and rest.

It took us two full days of traveling in this manner to make the trip, arriving mid morning on the third day. We had rented a three bedroom ranch-style home with a single floor, easy access to the garage, lawn, and a back deck. It was perfect for her continuing recovery. She spent many happy hours there with our grandson, who nurtured her as much as she did him. He gave her purpose again, which was just what she needed.

We were blessed with the arrival of another grandson in 2010, and a third bundle of joy in 2012. The three brothers have been such an important source of joy, rejuvenation and purpose for her that she anxiously awaits the next time she gets to be with them. They give her that sense of importance that is so critical to seeing oneself as valued.

By 2012 she had continued to progress with improvement of her sense of balance and agility. She had many more good days than bad, and had been able to resume driving herself when she felt she wanted to get out of the house for a while. We also began cooking meals for our church’s fellowship dinners on Wednesday evenings. We both like to cook, and had a joke between us that we had to careful to do a good job of food preparation so we didn’t get “Chopped,” a reference to getting cut from TV cooking competition. When we plan our menu, our standing joke is that we have “four hours and $200 to cook a five-course meal for fifty people,” from another TV series we enjoyed watching.

When we first started cooking those church dinners, Lea wasn’t mentally able to handle the stress of the kitchen, so I had to take the lead. But, as the months went on, she began to regain her interest in meal planning and execution, and then improved to the point that she often took the lead right from the meal planning process through the shopping.

It was wonderful to see her recapture her abilities, and put her sparkling personality into the meal preparation. It was also during this time that she began assisting our church’s decorating committee by making beautiful handmade bows for Christmas decorations, flower arrangements for various rooms for each change of the season and “freshening” up the church with new centerpieces and decorative touches. The Lord showered us with blessings well beyond what one might hope for, and we rededicated ourselves to serving Him, and sharing the Good News that God Is Good, All The Time.

Celebrating Fifty Years

In 2014 we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with a short ceremony and reception with many friends and family present at the church. Our sons organized the entire event, handling all the details, so that we were free to enjoy socializing and celebrating the love we shared all those years. The description of our love had matured over the years. As I stated in my testimony to the church, recorded live, before Lea’s illness, I had always thought of her in terms of her physical body . . . her physical attractiveness to me. It wasn’t until she was in that coma for so long, and I was tending to her every day, bathing her, washing her hair, reading to her, that I realized that although I did, indeed, love her body, it was her spirit that I had really bonded with all those years. I was merely tending the vessel her spirit lives in. As I looked at her lying helplessly there, kept alive with drugs and machines. “She” was gone. I prayed continuously for her return.

Later in 2014 Lea felt that her right hip was hurting her quite a bit, and returned to using a cane to relieve the pain. We consulted with a hip surgeon who ordered an MRI, and then reported that she needed to have her right hip replaced. Lea asked if she could just get an injection in the hip to reduce the pain and put off, or maybe completely avoid, having to replace the hip. He doubted it would work, but wrote her a script, and told her she could use it any time she wanted to. She put it off for over a year, and the injection worked for about two weeks, but the pain eventually just got to be too much, and she knew that the hip was going to have to be replaced.

Fainting Spells

In mid-December of 2014 Lea passed out while heading to bed for the night, falling backwards like a piece of timber, cracking her skull and creating a palm-size hematoma on the back of her head. X-rays revealed that she had cracked it at the base of the skull just above the spinal column. No treatment was required, as it would heal on its own. It took several weeks for the hematoma to dissipate, and she had some hair loss at the site, but, otherwise, didn’t suffer any pain.

She had four more incidents of that type over the next year, although she didn’t bump her head nearly so hard. The last fall was in Hawaii November 23, 2015 as she was getting out of the swimming pool. She bent over to put her sandals on, and when she stood up, she just kept going backwards. She again smacked the back of her head, causing a hematoma to well up, and again, some hair loss at the site.

We were later told by a physical therapist that she needed to pause for a moment after straightening up, because the blood pressure drops dramatically when you stand up from a sitting or bending position. She hasn’t experienced another fall of that type since then.

Gall Bladder

In the spring of 2015, almost ten years after the onset of the pancreatitis, and eight years after her hip and knee surgery, she had begun to experience persistent pain in her lower right side that might not be associated with the hip joint. She was uncomfortable riding in a car because every bump in the road caused pain in her right side.

She had already given up driving herself, because she felt she needed to hold onto the overhead grab handle to lessen the jolts of pain. Our family doctor scheduled her for a CT Scan and an ultrasound to check her gall bladder. The CT Scan didn’t reveal any problems, but the ultrasound found gallstones.

In June we pursued getting the gall bladder pain resolved. After two or three minutes of examination, the first of three surgeons we consulted told us that she is “very high risk” for any kind of abdominal surgery, and that he would not recommend any procedure unless it is an emergency. After more imaging tests, gentle probing, prodding, feeling, the other two surgeons concurred. Surgery is not advisable.

So, she was given a prescription for a medication that isn’t hardly used today because removal of the gall bladder is so easy, normally. It is a condition that she will have to manage as best she can by taking her medication, and avoiding foods like bread and pasta that swell in the stomach and cause it to squeeze the gall bladder, creating the pain which spikes after a meal.

Her pain became so constant that she couldn’t stand to travel any but the shortest distances, which forced us to give up cooking for the church. After a few more weeks, she hurt so badly all the time, we had to give up traveling to church services.

Hip Replacement

With the gall bladder under better control, it was time to return attention to her hip, which was more uncomfortable now that the gall bladder pain was under better control. In Mid-March 2016 she had a full hip replacement, and was up and walking the next day with assistance. Her recovery from the surgery itself was uneventful, and she went into physical therapy after two weeks of in- home therapy.

She has had a difficult time regaining her balance, still leans a little to the right when she walks, and has periods of pain in the left hip, probably due to putting more weight on it to protect from pain in the right side. Her therapy has been extended a couple of times because she is having some periods of dizziness.

She is still walking with the use of a cane, doesn’t drive because of the discomfort caused by the gall bladder, and often experiences light dizziness. We have been able to attend services a couple of times at a church closer to where we live, and she has been able to sit through a service, although she sometimes has to sit down during the worship music portion. But, we continue working toward improvement and a better quality of life for her, appreciating the continued blessings granted to us during this late chapter in our lives.

We are firm believers in the love our Father has for us, and that He is always at our sides. We know that He will always rescue us from every evil attack, and that He works in all things for the good of those who love Him. We also know that much of our ministry obligation is to simply testify to how He worked so miraculously in giving healing to Lea in the face of disaster after disaster.

Father, bless your name! Glory to You, Father, for the many workings of faith that You delivered through Lea’s illnesses! We ask You to bless those who are reading this message. Minister to their spirit at this very moment to reveal Your love and power as You blessed us in Lea’s recovery. Amen.

Integrity is keeping a commitment even after circumstances have changed. ~ David Jeremiah

This is the right time for me to give a little testimony that, hopefully, will have meaning for you. I recently loss my employment as a content writer due to downsizing, and immediately went into damage control mode. Double checking our debts, liquid and fixed assets, and how long we should be able to “make it” until the Lord opens the next employment door for us.

We had run into dry spells before, where we felt a financial crunch, and had to adjust our budget. I had always abstained from reducing our tithe, because I told myself, “That’s God’s money.” We have conciously been living beyond our means in order to provide Lea with the lifestyle that makes her comfortable. Occasionally we would draw down on our savings to make up for the shortfalls.

Now, with only one more paycheck coming in, I felt I had to take drastic action. One of the things I did to control our situation was to stop the drafts on my checking account for my tithe. We then headed out for a long-planned visit to our oldest son’s home. The night after our arrival, he had a mid-week church function, and asked if we would give a five minute testimony. The audience was made up of young married couples, many with children, who had just finished a series of studies entitled, “The Art of Marriage.”

I gave a very high level explanation of the trials Lea and I went though in Hartford, and one of the revelations God gave me during that test; that there is a difference between the body and the spirit. I had always thought I was in love with Lea as a beautiful woman, and thought of that woman as a beautiful body. But, when she was in a coma for several weeks, I discovered that while her body was there in that hospital bed, and tended to it everyday, Lea wasn’t there. She was gone, and wasn’t back in that body until weeks later. It took the Lord beating me over the head, but I finally got it; It is her spirit that I am in love with, and her body is how I can love on her spirit.

That weekend, while attending services at their church, the pastor spoke on “control,” and how we try to take control instead of trusting in God to care for us. I felt a little twinge of guilt, because I had just stopped my tithes. He then stung me again, because he talked about our tithes being “first fruits,” and that we should give to the church first, so God can do his work, and that he will provide for us. Ouch! He stung me again! He said that we need to be able to trust in the Lord, step back, continue in our faithfulness, and let the Lord have control.

This reminded me of one of my favorite verses in times like this; 1 Samuel 12:24 – “Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.” If you’ve read our journal pages here on the site, or listened to our testimony on our church’s website, you already know what great things he did for us in Hartford, and there have been many more blessings since then, as well. Praise God! Amen.

Our pastor, Dr. Ken Baldwin, says, “One of the ways for us to measure commitment is by what it takes to make us quit. There are some things we should never quit. Our commitment to Jesus…to His Church…to His work…to our family and our marriage…to telling others about Him; and, many more. Integrity is being the right person and doing the right things. Never quitting on both of those is true commitment. We each have weaknesses, but God is our strength. Is today the day that we start again to be and do the right things? God has never quit on us. We should keep our commitment to Him.”

The Lord put all these things in front of me just after I stopped the automatic tithe deposits. I got the message! I reinstated the payments, just as it should be, and now wait patiently for the Lord to open the next door.

Lord, you gave your all for me; can I do any less for you, and call myself a committed Christian? Thank you for showing me the error of my ways. Forgive me my shortcomings of commitment and faith. Use me according to your will. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Shoreline Lunch

Lea, Tim, Jenifer, Larry

I was working as a scriptwriter and producer for a custom film and video production agency in the early 1990s. I got to do some interesting things while there, like trying to direct our sandbagged camera operators as we captured the arrival of an EMS helicopter on the roof of a hospital, while hanging on for dear life so the prop wash didn’t blow us asunder!

On another occasion we acquired access to the Indianapolis 500 race track to film television commercials using two of the bright yellow Corvette pace cars for that year. I took advantage of the opportunity to drive a number of the laps needed during several video takes from a variety of camera angles. You gain a lot of respect for professional drivers as you pick up speed and the centrifugal force begins to edge the car toward the outside of the track!

Another commercial we produced was with an actor portraying Indiana Jones as he hacked his way through an artificial cornfield our prop crew assembled in our indoor studio. The studio was equipped with a cyclorama, or type of backdrop, that was a floor to ceiling concave wall with no apparent edges. The “cyc,” as we called it, created the illusion of infinity, and on this occasion was painted to look like the entrance to a large cave in a jungle setting.

The owner of the production company was a very talented man of my approximate age, named Tim, who had started his business as a commercial product photographer. He expanded into film, and later into video. He was very generous to his employees, and often surprised staff with a catered lunch brought to the studio during production days, and hosted frequent parties at his posh bachelor home.

He had divorced several years before in an apparently bitter battle that he said cost him over a million dollars to settle. He declared himself a bachelor, and vowed that he would never let himself be hurt like that again. He always had a woman friend, it seemed, but none of them were around very long. I always figured they were looking for a commitment, and not finding any, moved on.

Kaypro II Word Processor

Kaypro II Luggable

On one occasion he called mid-week and invited me to bring my wife, swim gear, and Kaypro Word Processor to his cabin a few hours south where he was vacationing. He said he had gotten an idea for a potential project and wanted to get me started on drafting a script. He thought we could work on the initial draft and have some fun, too. So, Lea scheduled a couple days off work, packed a suitcase, and we jumped in the car and headed South to the great Smokey Mountains near Dandridge Tennessee. That area offers beautiful mountain retreats and the wonderful Lake Douglas.

When we arrived, we found that he had a girl friend that he had brought on vacation with him. It became obvious to us over the next couple of days that we had been invited to join them to give him a buffer from her. She kept asking, incessantly, if he loved her. When he continued ignore her questions and gave no response, she changed tactics and asked if he at least “adored” her. This went on and on as she tried to get at least some little endearment from him. Lea and I grew weary of it pretty quickly, so I know he already had. Lea and I never did see or hear of her again after that extended weekend.

We did get to go back to Tennessee a few times to that general location over the next few years. Each time Tim had a different girl friend with him, and we enjoyed meeting each of them and being friendly for a week or so. We did a lot of boating, skiing, tubing, and cruising to dockside dinners in the evening. We always enjoyed the dockside eateries, and experienced some surprisingly delicious snacks and meals during our explorations.

One day, while Tim and I were in his office reviewing the script for an upcoming film production, he said that he was thinking of doing something different for next year’s summer vacation. He had always wanted to traverse the Lake Okeechobee “shortcut” across Florida, but was hesitant to do it alone. He wondered if I would be interested in doing a couple of weeks on the water. He thought we could start out at Tampa, cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway, do some diving and spearfishing along the way, cut across Okeechobee, and down the Intracoastal on the other side to Fort Lauderdale.

That sounded fun to me, but I knew nothing about the Okeechobee waterway. I later researched it and discovered that it extends from the Atlantic Ocean at Stuart, Florida, through Lake Okeechobee, America’s second largest freshwater lake, (Lake Michigan is biggest), to the Gulf of Mexico at Pine Island Sound near Sanibel Island. The waterway has a series of 5 locks which help boats through the 154 mile long waterway.

The lake is shallow, though, averaging only about nine feet deep. On anything other than a perfect day, the winds can kick up a 3 foot choppy sea very quickly, making navigation challenging and uncomfortable. For that reason, rather than cutting directly across Lake Okeechobee, most recreational boaters take the more protected waterway, called the Rim Route, along the south edge.

Lake Okeechobee Routes

Illustration 1: Navigation chart, Lake Okeechobee FL

Meanwhile, the Intracoastal Waterway extends along the coasts skirting behind islands, crossing natural inlets, saltwater rivers, bays, sounds and canals. It provides shelter for pleasure boaters from many of the hazards of travel on the open sea.

Lea trying on flippers

Lea with Flippers

As we talked in more detail about the adventures we might encounter, the more excited we became. We fixed a date for the next spring, and began planning. Tim was going to take care of reserving a cabin cruiser months in advance, which committed us to those dates, and I was going to research activities and locations of interest.

Meanwhile, I took a couple of advanced scuba diving classes to get certified in Wreck Diving and Boat Diving, both of which had excellent content on safety practices for deep water dives. I also did quite a bit of online research into dockside restaurants, marinas and local entertainment venues along the planned route. Back then much of the research had to be done by U.S. Mail and motor club travel kits, as the Internet was not yet as prolific as it is today.

As the date approached, we started gathering items we would ship to the dock ahead of our flight date, so everything we needed would be ready to load on the boat. Among them were underwater spear guns, something I had no experience with at all, but Tim had purchased a pair for us to use “to catch dinner.” I took one of them home to assemble and test. Once assembled, it was time to try it out, just to get a feel for how it worked.
Spear guns shoot arrows underwater

It was a metal gun that came with a pinky-finger-size single rubber band that you stretch from where it is attached at the tip of the gun all the way back to above the trigger area where the back end of the spear is located. There is enough resistance in the band that the gun has a butt at the rear that you can rest against your body as you use both hands to pull the rubber band back into the loading notch. It took quite a bit of effort to stretch it that far, and it was quite obvious that it would provide plenty of power to fire the spear.

I was going to test it in my home, and figured I had about thirty feet clearance through a doorway in front of me, and to the next wall. I was fairly sure that the spear wouldn’t reach the other side of the room I was in, but I wanted a little margin for error, so firing through the open doorway into the next room seemed like a good idea. The spear was attached to the spear gun by a braided cord so it could be retrieved after shooting, so I knew it couldn’t go any further than the cord length. I made sure everyone knew what I was about to do, and that no one could walk unexpectedly into the doorway I would be shooting through.

I stood with my back to the outside door and faced the open doorway to the next room. I spread my feet slightly, to steady myself, aimed at the center of the open doorway, and pulled the trigger. There was the silent launch of the spear, the slap of the rubber band recoiling against the front of the gun, a bit of a pull as the spear reached the end of the braided cord, and before I could blink an eye, the spear hurled straight back and stuck in the door behind me, right between my knees! Needless to say, I gained a lot of respect for the gun right then, and I was not going to be doing any more firing outside of the water!

 Tim & Lea Packing Crates

Tim & Lea Packing Crates

We were planning two weeks of vacation with ten of those days being on the water, and two days of flying out and back. Finally, it was three days before our flight to Florida, and we had packed up half a dozen large storage tubs and shipping cartons with everything we thought we would need for the first several days . . . clothing, fishing, scuba and snorkeling equipment, food, books, and whatever else we wanted handy. We all went together to ship them ahead, so they would be waiting for us on the dock.

On the day of the flight, Lea and I had met with Tim and his girl friend, Jennifer, at the production studio and drove to the airport together from there. We knew Jennifer from one of the more recent vacations on Lake Douglas. She was a Type A corporate attorney who worked with one of the large medical research companies in town. She was pleasant enough, and she and Lea struck up conversation easily, since Lea was vice president of a large mortgage firm and could easily talk “corporate-speak.” We had vacationed together previously, so she was able to “let her hair down,” relax and enjoy herself around us.

Waiting for a Shuttle

Waiting for a Shuttle

Our flight into St. Petersburg-Clearwater International airport was uneventful, marred only by the late season chill, gray overcast skies and a very light mist of early morning rain when we arrived. We had to wear our jackets and sweaters with trousers the first couple of days, but, by the third day we were in short sleeves by mid-morning. You notice the sky in our photos were pretty constantly overcast, and it wasn’t until the third day that we saw any amount of Florida sunshine for any length of time.

Our plan was to spend the rest of that first afternoon in Tampa meeting the yacht club rental agent, Marti, with whom Tim had been making arrangements for several months. When Tim had first contacted the club months earlier, he learned that he had to have a Coast Guard approved Captain’s License to navigate in some of the waters we planned to travel. He also had to become a member of the yacht club to be able to rent a vessel for a trip as long as we had planned.

The boat rental agency was located on the North end of South Harbor Island, right under the Boulevard Bridge, across from the Tampa River Walk. So, we met there with Marti that afternoon, and Tim finished up details of registering his license with her. We each also had to provide personal identification for Coast Guard background checks, and the financial details for the rental had to be completed. Once the paperwork was finished, Marti took us out on the dock to the boat, named Island Dancer, so we could get a look at our home for the next few days.

Docked across from Tampa Riverwalk

Docked across from Tampa Riverwalk

I was, honestly, a little disappointed with the boat. It looked to me like a large inboard boat, similar to the ski boat Tim had at home. Just larger. I was expecting (hoping for?) something in the coastal cruiser class with a fly bridge up top and more creature comforts below, so when it gets too hot up on deck we could slip down into an air conditioned cabin. This one wasn’t equipped with air conditioning. But, I wasn’t financing the trip, so I had no room to complain. Tim and I climbed on board to get a look at the control panel while Marti pointed out the features; dual compasses, speedometer, tachometer, battery and fuel gauges.

Island Dancer had berths for four, a very small galley, tiny shower, and a head. It had large amounts of storage space under the berths, some overhead cabinets, a closet, and storage in every conceivable space that could be used to batten anything down. It reminded me of the interior of a camping trailer; just on the verge of too cramped, but sufficient if you’re willing to give up your normal level of comfort. I was a little concerned because Lea generally doesn’t much care for camping or roughing it. It was certainly going to be cozy, but workable, with no time pressures to worry about. After all, it was an adventure, right?

Tim invited Marti to join us for dinner at Bern’s Steak House in gratitude for all she had done to get the rental set up over the past several months. The plan was to spend the next day obtaining required licenses, renting scuba tanks, getting Tim checked out on captaining the boat, and getting our gear stowed on board for an early morning departure the third day.

Bern's Steakhouse in Tampa

Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa

Dinner at Bern’s was amazing! The broiled steaks were juicy, tender and flavored perfectly with salt and pepper. We got a tour of the wine cellar where they stored more than 10,000 bottles of wine. After dinner we went to their upstairs dessert restaurant which offered over 50 desserts and more than 1,000 after dinner drinks, cordials and dessert wines. The chocolate section of the dessert menu that had so many choices we had a lot of fun discussing various offerings while we browsed the menu!

South Harbor Island Boat Rental Dock; Checking Controls; below in the cabin

South Harbor Island Boat Rental Dock; Checking Controls; below in the cabin

The next day, Tim moved ahead with completing the rental details with the yacht club, which was largely verifying that he is who he said he is, and running a record check on each of us. Marti brought Island Dancer out of its indoor slip and tied up alongside the South side of the dock so Tim could take his check ride. Meanwhile, the gear we had shipped was stacked up on the dock next to the boat,

After getting the gear stowed, Tim headed upstairs to the rental office to tell Marti that he was ready for his check ride in the boat. This was his first deep water experience as a Captain, although he had rented cruisers in and around Florida in the past, and he owned a freshwater ski boat back home. None of us gave any thought to what is required to be safe on this type trip, we just trusted Tim. The three of us went to a nearby cafe where we could have coffee and watch for them to return to the dock after the check ride. We planned to go to dinner nearby and retire early, check out of the hotel after breakfast, and get to the boat so we could get started on our adventure by nine o’clock.

We watched Tim and Marti take off from the dock, Marti at the helm, and they cruised out into the channel between Harbor Island and Davis Islands and headed toward the Hillsborough Bay area. Soon the Island Dancer was back at the dock, although they had returned from the North, having circled Harbor Island, and we were watching for them to return from the South. We went down to the dock to meet up with Tim, but he just gave a little wave and hurried upstairs to the office.

As soon as he was out of earshot, Marti turned to me and asked, with a stone cold glare, “Do you know what red-right-returning means?” I responded, “No. What is it?”

Red, Right Returning

Red, Right Returning

She said, “It is the navigation rule boats use to avoid running into each other. You have to know what it is to be able to go out there, and Tim doesn’t know it either. I’m afraid I may not be able to let him take the boat out. Where did he get his captain’s license?” I replied that I didn’t know, didn’t even know that one was required, and Jennifer chimed in with, “A friend of his.”

Marti asked Jennifer, “Do you know if he took any classes?” Jennifer replied, “Not that I know of.” Marti stared at the ground and shook her head. I asked her, “What does he need to know to get to go?” She replied, “A lot! He doesn’t even know how to read buoys, and you have to know that, or you’re going to run aground. There are a lot of islands right under the surface that you don’t see. You have to know how to navigate!”

I asked, “Well, I am a licensed pilot, and I know how to navigate using radio beacons, a map and a compass. Can that be useful?” She replied, “It might. But, you would have to know a lot more.” I asked, “Can you show me what to do, and I’ll map out a safe course tonight, and if my prep looks good to you in the morning, would you be able to let us go?” She replied, “You already know how to navigate from a map, and figure headings, so it’s worth a try. Let’s go up to the office.” We all followed her, and found Tim sitting in a side chair by her desk. He didn’t look real happy.

Tampa Bay Navigational Wall Chart

Tampa Bay Navigational Wall Chart

Tampa Bay Navigational Wall Chart[/caption]Marti pointed to a large map of the Gulf of Mexico that hung on the office wall, and instructed, “This is a nautical chart for this area. You can see the deep water and the shallows by the dark and light blues. The lighter blue it is, the shallower it is. The white areas are deep water channels maintained by the Corps of Engineers.”

She pointed at a green dot on the water, and continued, “The green dots mark one side of a channel, and the red ones mark the other side. You always stay between the markers, because that is where the safe water is. Returning from sea, the red markers should always be on your right and the green are on your left. (red-right-returning) It is just the opposite going out. Every one of the markers has markings and numbers to help you navigate safely, and always be able to find your position on a map.”

“Floating Red markers are called “nuns” and are triangular in shape,” she continued. “They are numbered with even numbers. Floating Green markers, on the other hand, are called “cans” and are square or shaped like a large can and carry odd numbers. Those numbers can be used to tell someone where you are. The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) markers, when you get there, also have some portion of them marked with yellow.”

Illustration of Bouys and Waterway Markings

Illustration 2: Bouys and Waterway Markers

She concluded, “Yellow triangles indicate that the markers should be passed by keeping them on the starboard, or right, side of the vessel. Yellow squares indicate aids should be passed by keeping them on the left side. A yellow horizontal band simply identifies aids as marking the Intracoastal Waterway.” She showed me a booklet with examples of the types of markers and markings, along with numbering systems in use.

Dual Purpose Navigational Markers

Illustration 2: Dual Purpose Navigational Markers

She gave me some buoy illustrations, similar to those shown above, to study. They were encased in plastic so they could be used on board the boat, which made me happy. She also loaned me some marine charts of the Gulf area, a protractor for figuring headings, a couple of manuals, and a marine radio so I could listen to radio traffic and get familiar with the jargon. It was clear that I was going to be the navigator on this trip, if it happened at all.

Charting the Trip Using Magnetic Headings

Charting the Trip Using Magnetic Headings

Fortunately, the navigational process isn’t all that different in principle. Channel and buoy markings are critical to understand, of course, but the navigational process is similar. This trip took place in 1993, two years before GPS became available to the public. Navigation at the time was done by compass headings. I had to figure the heading from each marker position to the next on the chart, and plotted out the whole trip in a couple of hours. When I finished, the chart looked rather like the one above left with lines drawn in from one buoy to the next, with compass headings written in at each turn. I spent a big part of the evening, and into the night, plotting the map, reading and learning as much as possible about marine navigation.

Sea Tow Vessel Underway

Sea Tow Vessel Underway

The next morning, when I presented my material to Marti, she was satisfied that I had an understanding of what is involved in basic navigation, that I had selected good routes that helped us merge with, or avert, the commercial traffic, and avoid those islands that lay just under the water. She gave us some additional instructions on using the radio; we were instructed to call her, using the call sign “Harbor Yacht,” when we reached the end of Davis Islands to let her know we had reached that point. After that, if we needed anything, we were to call “Sea Tow,” which is a boat towing service which also serves as the radio “go to” resource in times of need.

Marti Bids Farewell

Marti Bids Farewell

Marti wished us a great journey as Tim backed the boat out and turned down Seddon Channel, which runs along the West side of Harbor Island. There were commercial buildings lining both sides of the channel at our launch site, along with restaurant umbrella patios, marinas filled with power and sail boats bobbing lazily up and down in the light wakes of passing vessels. Pleasure boats intermingled with cargo ships working into or out of their docks. It reminded me of the river tour in Chicago, where you pass through downtown’s commercial district with skyscrapers right up to the water’s edge. But, here, you also have the commercial boats pulled up to refineries and other types of industry lining the shorelines. As we progressed slowly down the channel we began to see dozens of private residential slips lining the sides of the channel between the industrial ports of call, with attractive neighborhoods along each shore.

South Harbor Island Lighthouse

South Harbor Island Lighthouse

Ahead of us we could see the South Harbor Island lighthouse, and beyond that was a heavy commercial area, including a lot of oil facilities. We were approaching the entrance to East Bay, and falling in behind a cruise liner that was coming out of port and heading to sea. Also off our left side tug boats were turning a large cargo ship and maneuvering it into position. We had really calm water while in the channel between Davis Islands and Harbor Island, and now, out in the Hillsborough Bay, we were experiencing a little bit of light chop, but nothing uncomfortable. The ladies had gone below to get out of the early morning chill.

 Tugs Turning  A Cargo Ship

Tugs Turning A Cargo Ship

As we passed the end of Davis Islands, about two nautical miles from where we launched, I radioed “Harbor Yacht” to let Marti know that we were entering Hillsborough Bay and that everything was proceeding as planned. Tampa International Airport and Seaplane Basin on the south end of Davis Islands was to our right, and Pendola Point ahead and to our left. With the shallow-draft of island Dancer, we could easily parallel the main shipping channel, taking in the coastal scenery, all the way to the Intracoastal Waterway without having to interact with the commercial boats to any degree.

Our plan was to quickly steam over to the Intracoastal and then take our leisure the rest of the trip. I had laid out our course on the charts and knew where to look for the buoys we wanted to use, and the compass headings to the next one. In most cases we could stay completely away from the commercial vessels while staying in deep enough waters. We had to be aware of man made islands the Corps of Engineers are making. Some are just under the surface and being filled with sand and silt they are constantly dredging from the shipping channels.

Planned Tampa Bay Route and Detour

llustration 4: Planned Route in Yellow. Detour in Red

I marked the shipping channel in yellow-gold on the chart from where we launched at South Harbor Island (top right), to the Intracoastal entrance, and the unexpected diversion we took is marked in red. As you can see on the map, from where we launched until we passed McDill Air Force Base, on the Interbay Peninsula, the bay is protected on three sides by land, and only about two-and-a-half to three miles wide, which keeps the water fairly calm. As we passed Pine Key, however, the expanse from one shore to the other is about twelve miles, and we began experiencing heavier seas.

The waves were initially fairly small, like on an inland lake, but quickly increased to one-and-a-half to two feet high as we got out into the shipping channel. As we proceeded southwestward the waves became heavier yet, with an occasional one that jolted the boat pretty well.

When we hit one of those taller waves, we would hear the ladies, down in the cabin, laugh or shriek with surprise as the bow of the boat rose and fell with the wave. As we took up a West-Southwest heading in the shipping channel, we were doing some rolling back and forth as we bobbed and weaved, taking the waves at an angle to lessen their impact on the boat.

We continued on that heading for about three and a half miles, then turned more toward the South again, and the farther we went the choppier the seas became, and the time between waves was only a few seconds now. We were heaving up the front of a wave to the top, and then the bow would slam down into the water. Tim continued steaming, but soon we heard screams from the cabin. Lea was shouting something, but we couldn’t understand her because Jennifer was also screaming. Tim slowed the boat to drop down off plane, and I went below to see what had happened.

Jennifer and Lea had been laying down on the beds just ahead of the middle of the boat, so they wouldn’t be thrown around the cabin so badly. Those beds are pretty narrow and have raised wooden trim on the outside edge which holds the fitted cushion in place so it, and you, don’t slide out of your berth when asleep on a rolling sea.

Blue Water Wave

Blue Water Wave

The sea was very choppy now, with the bow of the boat slicing into the front of the waves, flying sharply to the top like a fishing bobber, then slamming down into the valley between waves. One of those big waves had tossed the girls into the air, and when they came down, Jennifer landed on her hip on the berth’s raised trim and knocked her hip out of joint! On the next wave, she was tossed in the air again, came down on the same hip and forced her hip back into the socket! She was crying and screaming wildly because of the extreme pain and the fright of not understanding what had just happened to her.

We knew she had to have medical attention right away!

I hurried topside and told Tim what had happened and that we needed to get her to the hospital. I glanced at the navigation chart quickly, but it doesn’t indicate facilities on shore, so, it was no use for locating a hospital. The boat was idling, bobbing up and down on the waves, which was painful for Jennifer, but at least we weren’t slamming the hull into the water.

Lea was trying to keep her balance as the boat bobbed and swayed, trying to find a pain killer tablet for Jennifer. It would be only a little help, but might reduce her pain somewhat while we took further action to get her some medial attention. I decided to call for help, keyed the radio microphone and said, “Sea Tow, Sea Tow, this is Island Dancer.” A man’s voice quickly came back, “This is Sea Tow, Island Dancer. How’s it going?

Coast Guard Cutter and Helicopter

Coast Guard Cutter and Helicopter

I explained what had happened, that Jennifer was in a lot of pain, and she needed medical attention. He then said, “Do you want to declare an emergency?” I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I think I went into a bit of shock as images flashed through my mind of that being like, “May Day, May Day.” I shuddered at the thought of Coast Guard rescue helicopters and cutters rushing to the scene, divers jumping into the water, and extricating Jennifer from the cabin! I couldn’t imagine how much that would cost, or if you would have to pay for it, but I was pretty sure I didn’t want to declare an emergency!

After a moment. I replied, “Sea Tow, we just passed Green Marker One Charlie, headed toward Niner-B-Boy, is there somewhere close we can meet an ambulance? I’m sure we can get her to shore” He responded, “Bradenton is off to your left, and St. Petersburg right behind you starboard. Your choice.”

I glanced at the chart and could see that navigating to St. Petersburg was going to take a few minutes to plot my course due to the barrier islands, but, on the other side, to our left, Port Manatee has a nice, wide, channel cut right to it. We could get started there right away, without having to do any plotting. “Sea Tow,” I said, “Can we use Port Manatee? I can get us over there pretty easily. It’ll probably take us twenty minutes or more.” “Port Manatee it is,” said Sea Tow. “We’ll dispatch the ambulance and notify the Port. Good luck.”

I gave Tim the next heading we needed to take to change our course, and recommended that we stay off plane. Even though that is slower and consumes more gas, the slower speed would be easier on our passengers in the cabin below. Sure enough, as we moved slowly toward the deep water Port Manatee Channel, we bobbed up and down uncomfortably on the passing waves, but at least we weren’t crashing the bow or tossing the girls around. We had to go about three-and-a-half miles to get to the Port, which seemed to take forever, but soon we could see the ambulance, and other vehicles, parked at the end of Apollo Street at the Port.

Medical Team Prepares to Hoist Jennifer

Medical Team Prepares to Hoist Jennifer

As we idled up to the cargo ship docking area, which was a few feet higher than our deck level, we heard one of the paramedics say, “Well, we could cut the top out of the cabin and hoist her out.” Jennifer shouted, “Oh, no! I’ll get out of here!” I think I was too shocked at the thought of cutting into the boat to even respond! I just tossed the fenders out to protect the boat from the concrete wall, grabbed a rope thrown to us, and snugged the boat up close. Also on hand were the harbor master and a member of the harbor security department, who were graciously allowing us to use the Port for our emergency. There was no cargo ship in dock at the moment, so the deep water port worked out well for us.

Meanwhile, Lea helped Jennifer hop over to the doorway of the cabin on her good leg, where Tim met them and helped Jennifer find a seat where she could be tended to by the paramedics. Lea sat next to her on the deck, and Tim stood by to mind the helm, while I climbed the short ladder up the side of the concrete dock to explain the situation to the waiting officials.

 Jennifer & Paramedics Scale the Wall

Jennifer & Paramedics Scale the Wall

The paramedics quickly examined her and determined that her hip was, indeed, back in place, and she could wiggle her toes, though it was still very painful. After talking with her for a few minutes, they asked if she was ready to try to get up on the dock. Replying that she was, two of them had her put her arms around their shoulders, and use her good leg to help move up the ladder, with them lifting most of her weight.

She remarked that she felt so silly about getting injured like that, but they responded that this type injury was very common in that area because of the mighty waves coming into Tampa Bay from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

As she was being situated on the ambulance stretcher, Marti drove up! She had been monitoring the Sea Tow channel and heard us discussing our predicament, and headed right out to make the 40 mile drive to the port. She made the trip much more quickly than we had by water! Jennifer asked the paramedics if Lea could ride with her to the hospital, because Tim and I would have to stay behind to help Marti secure the boat, and would drive to the hospital later.

Jennifer, Tim, Marti, Larry

Jennifer, Tim, Marti, Larry

As the ambulance drove off, Marti gave us driving directions to a nearby private dock where she could tie up and secure the boat prior to taking it back to South Harbor. She handed me a marine radio, and said, “Just in case we need it.” As she took the boat out of the port, Tim and I drove her SUV to meet up with her, and then she drove us to the hospital, where we found Jennifer in better spirits after an injection that helped relieve most of her pain.

Resting in Bed

Resting in Bed

After a couple of hours of rest, she was given a pair of crutches, released, and advised to take anti-inflammatory medications to reduce her discomfort as needed, and that it would be several days before all traces would be gone. She was also advised that she should stay off the boat for a few days as the motion of the boat would be painful. Tim rented a van to carry us and our baggage, got us checked in to a nearby motel, and made arrangements with Marti to pick up our gear from the boat the following day.

Unpacking Island Dancer

Unpacking Island Dancer

As Tim and I unpacked the boat the next day, we discussed what we might do with the remaining days of our vacation, what gear we should keep with us, and what we would ship back home. We decided that we would mostly do touring along the coast to explore some of the islands along the Gulf Coast, but none of the planned water sports, since Jennifer was out of commission. We thought perhaps a day at Disney World might be a nice respite, since Jennifer could use a wheelchair, and we could take in some of the entertainment.

So, we sorted through the gear, repacked, and shipped several of the crates back home. The rest we loaded into the back of the van and transported it to the motel.

Medical Team Prepares to Hoist Jennifer

Jennifer in wheelchair

We made a day of it at Epcot Center the next day, taking in some shows, exhibits, eating at the Biergarten Restaurant, and just enjoying some people watching. Jennifer wasn’t up to doing anything strenuous, but was a good enough sport to tolerate her pain and tough it out in a wheelchair. The Disney fireworks and parade that night, of course, were outstanding productions.

We spent the next few days of vacation driving around the Tampa and Sarasota areas just taking in the sights, enjoying the beautiful white sand beaches, and admiring the lovely the sunsets. We drove down to the Venice area to check out some available land in which Tim was interested.

Jennifer on Crutches

Jennifer on Crutches

By this time Jennifer was able to get around on crutches, and said it actually felt better to get out of the van for a few minutes every once in a while. The land had just been opened for development. There were a large number of lots available that already had channels and boat slips, and many had “sold” signs already posted on them.

We had a good time seeing the variety of lots that were available, and Tim took a large number of photos of ones that particularly appealed to him. We wandered for a couple of hours, discussing the pros and cons of the various locations, and as we looked at one lot, Lea noticed that there was a large alligator up on the bank in some short grass. After she pointed it out, we became aware, that even though it was some distance from us, it kept repositioning itself so it pointed at us whenever we moved. We decided it was time for lunch, so we left, and laughed at Jennifer as she quickly hobbled her way to the van and alligator safety.

Beaches of sea shells

Beaches of sea shells

We drove on down the coast, visiting Cape Coral, another area Tim was considering for a land purchase. We spent the biggest part of one day just driving around the area, enjoying the scenery, and looking, from the curb, at houses for sale. We had some great food and a lot of laughs just seeking out those “homey” little pubs, cafes and restaurants along the way. We visited several spectacular white sand beaches with gentle waves lapping the shoreline and shells and prehistoric shark’s teeth galore.

Jennifer at Port Sanibel Marina

Port Sanibel Marina

Then we drove over the causeway to Sanibel Island, and stopped at the Port Sanibel Marina just across from the lighthouse. The marina was the center of activity, with boats coming and going, shoppers browsing through the merchandise, or heading to the Lighthouse Hole restaurant upstairs. on the to drive through the wildlife preserve, stopping many times along the way as we spotted wildlife of all kinds. The waters in the preserve are beautiful coves surrounded by tall palm trees and mangroves. The view from the observation tower was breathtaking, and thanks to the handicap ramp, Jennifer was able to make it up there and enjoy the views.

Bubble Room Grins

Bubble Room Grins

Later, we drove to Captiva, and stopped at the Bubble Room Restaurant for dinner. The Bubble Room decor is outlandishly tongue-in-cheek to the max, with so-old-its-funny-again pranks like the Tunnel of Love and gorilla cage, both of which provide memorable photo ops, as does the hilarious outdoor seating. The menu is very similar to any Americana restaurant, but their claim to fame is their extensive and decadent dessert menu, with elegant temptations for every sweet tooth.

"Tunnel" of Love

“Tunnel” of Love

The sunset that evening was stunning! Bright red-orange skies low on the horizon highlighted the Azure blue evening sky above and blended dramatically with the sun’s reflection on the tops of foamy waves as the gently rolling Gulf surf surged along the sandy shoreline. After the sunset we drove back to the motel to plan our next day’s activities.

A few days later, with the end of vacation approaching, and Jennifer feeling quite a bit better, Tim rented a small inboard boat for the afternoon. We moseyed around the protected waters around Venice where the wave action is more like the lakes we were used to back home. We soon pinpointed the beach where we had found shark’s teeth a couple of days before, and enjoyed taking the time to greet fellow boaters and take in the beauty all around us.

Cruising with Jennifer & Tim

Cruising: Jennifer & Tim

We cruised lazily down the Intracoastal taking in the sights and just enjoying some time on the water, cruising by sparkling white beaches with their abundant and beautiful shells surrounded by exotic palms and lush vegetation. The area along the south side of Venice has grown tremendously in the years since that trip. Whole new parcels of land have been created by land developers and the Corps of Engineers as they continuously dredge shipping channels to keep them open, and sometimes create barrier islands to facilitate commercial and leisure boating and often reshape harbors.

Marker Restaurant,  by Larry E Vaughn

Marker Restaurant, by Larry E Vaughn

During our outing we spotted some pretty umbrellas grouped together off our port side, so we headed over that direction, and cruised right up to the Marker restaurant, which sat on the water’s edge. It looked like just the right kind of understated eateries we liked to discover, and it proved to be intriguing enough that we decided to have lunch.

There was no dock or slip available, so we just tossed the anchor up on the sandy beachfront. It turned out that we were on the “back side” of the restaurant, and the umbrellas were for their outdoor dining area, which suited us just fine.

The menu at the Marker was quite informal, just photocopies on printer paper, with deep fried seafood of all types available. The day’s special was scratched out on a chalkboard above the order counter. Just what we liked! The food was very tasty, and served up home style in unpretentious paper plates and plastic forks wrapped up in paper napkins. As of this writing, the Marker restaurant is now fine dining, and that whole area has built up, with a 55+ community within walking distance. That’s a far cry from what we experienced on that first trip when there was an aging sail boat loaded on a trailer right next to the umbrella tables!

Intercoastal 1 Oil on Canvas loresWe cruised slowly on down the bay after lunch, just enjoying the scenery, tropical lifestyles, and seaside activities that are so different from those back home in the Midwest. As low tide approached, we could begin to see some of the islands that are under water during high tide, and decided to anchor near one and do some snorkeling. We also collected some shells on a low tide island about the length and width of a football field, with nothing on it but seashells and our footprints.

Intercoastal 2 Oil on Canvas loresOn the whole, the Tampa-to-Ft. Lauderdale trip went bust, and turned from an intricately planned adventure to impromptu and impulsive experiences. Sometimes those are the most fun times, when nothing is planned ahead, and you just do whatever comes to mind. If you look closely at the Tunnel of Love photo above, the tee-shirts Lea and I are wearing are titled “Impromptu Tours,” which Lea designed on a whim with tongue-in-cheek, to poke fun at all the planning and preparation we had done.

Reflecting on that well planned, but ill fated trip, I think we are probably very fortunate that our course was changed. We were well outside our comfort zone over deep water in rough seas. Our captain was not experienced in deep water boating, improperly acquired his Captain’s license, and I was foolish to think that just because I could navigate correctly, that we would be alright. The sea quickly proved us wrong. We are fortunate that nothing any more serious than a dislocated hip is what we have to write about.

The moral of the story? Don’t blindly trust that a person can do everything they claim to be able to do. Check it out. Before you put your life, and in this case, the life of my spouse, into another person’s hands, make sure that they are qualified to protect you with knowledge and experience.

November 22 marks the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, TX. Many of us felt that day a tragic trauma so horrible we wouldn’t experience it again until September 11, 2001.

Larry at KWRT Boonville MO 1963

KWRT Studio, 1963

I was a young man, a recent graduate of the Carolina School of Broadcasting in Charlotte, North Carolina, working as an announcer-reporter for a radio station, KWRT, Booneville, Missouri on the day of the assassination.

The station was owned by William R. Tedrick (the WRT in KWRT), and his wife Audrey. Sharon Stoecklein was the office manager. The station’s chief engineer was Don Shepard, who also worked the sign-on shift as announcer. I came in at nine weekdays to relieve him, and handled the daytime shift until five o’clock.

Serving in my first full time job, I felt privileged to receive the title of news director. I didn’t mind that the title brought with it responsibility to attend city council and other night time meetings, checking the police blotter each morning before going in to work, covering weekend events, and keeping up on all local area news. After all, I was grossing $65 a week!

News ID Signed by W.R.T.

News ID Signed by William R.Tedrick

It was a much simpler time. 1963 was before wireless. The White House and Moscow had just earlier that year agreed to have dedicated hard-wired telephones installed to provide fast communication between the two world leaders.

Reporter Larry E Vaughn covers City Council Meeting

Reporter Larry E Vaughn at City Council Meeting

The average cost of a new house in the U.S. was $12,650. Average annual income $5,807. A new car averaged $3,233, and gasoline cost 29 cents per gallon. A loaf of bread was 22 cents, and a six-bottle carton of soft drinks was 33 cents, including the bottle deposit. The Viet Cong Guerrillas had now killed 80 American Advisers. Civil rights was big news. Alfred Hitchcock and Paul Newman had hit movies. Gunsmoke, Bonanza and Petticoat Junctions were popular TV programs. Ladies fashions included fur boots and towering hair do’s. Beatlemania took hold when they released I Want To Hold Your Hand, I Saw Her Standing There and Meet the Beatles.

KWRT subscribed to the Associated Press news service, which is how we obtained current news to broadcast to our audience. AP reporters in far-flung news bureaus around the world could send text through teletypewriter machines connected continuously by telephone lines to printers used by local reporters, approaching real-time reporting of breaking events. The AP service included an hourly national news summary, periodic regional news reports, weather, and human interest summaries.

Associated Press News Printer, 1963

Associated Press News Printer, 1963

The AP printer at KWRT was located in a nearly sound proof wooden cabinet just outside the broadcast studio door. The cabinet had a door that lifted and swung back so the printed news could be reached and torn off at the printer carriage. Below the printer, on the floor, sat a large rectangular cardboard box with hundreds of feet of fan-fold newsprint paper that fed up into the carriage and under the letter keys. A few minutes before the top of each hour, we would rip off the newsprint and read through it to select stories for our 5-minute “local, regional and national” newscast. The printer was equipped with a bicycle-like bell that could be remotely rung to signal a special bulletin then being printed. The alert bell was ringing almost constantly that early Friday afternoon as one of the greatest tragedies in American history unfolded.

Student Rioting in Maryville Mo

Student Rioting in Maryville, Mo

It had started out as a normal news day. We were more focused on events in Maryville, Missouri, where the Governor had just ordered the State Highway Patrol to enforce a strict curfew on the campus of Northwest Missouri State College. For two consecutive nights more than 1,000 students had marched on downtown Maryville in noisy, stone-throwing demonstrations alleging that the college was serving poor quality foods.

Jackie & Jack Kennedy, 1962

Jackie & Jack Kennedy, 1962

We had reported that the president was in Fort Worth with his wife, Jacqueline, America’s sweetheart. A light rain was falling there, but a crowd of several thousand stood in the parking lot outside the Texas Hotel where the Kennedys had spent the night. The president made some brief remarks to the crowd, and the presidential party then left the hotel and went by motorcade to Carswell Air Force Base for the thirteen-minute flight to Dallas. Arriving at Love Field, President and Mrs. Kennedy disembarked and immediately walked toward a fence where a crowd of well-wishers had gathered, and they spent several minutes shaking hands.

Texas Governor John Connally and his wife, Nellie, were already seated in the presidential limousine as the Kennedys entered and sat behind them. Since it was no longer raining, the plastic bubble top had been left off the convertible. As was proper protocol, Vice President and Mrs. Johnson occupied another car in the motorcade distanced from the president. The procession left the airport and traveled along a ten-mile route that wound through downtown Dallas on the way to the Trade Mart where the president was scheduled to speak at a luncheon. Crowds of excited people lined the streets and waved to the Kennedys.

Associated Press staffer James Altgens was photographing the presidential motorcade, and became an eyewitness when President John F. Kennedy was shot just after noon on November 22, 1963. The limousine turned off Main Street at Dealey Plaza around 12:30 p.m. As it was passing the Texas School Book Depository, gunfire suddenly reverberated through the plaza. High powered bullets struck the president’s neck and head and he slumped over toward Mrs. Kennedy. The governor was also hit in the chest. Altgens’ quick phone call to the AP’s Dallas bureau became the first news bulletin about the shooting distributed across AP’s teletype circuit. Hours of frantic reporting followed, supplying local reporters with information as events unfolded.

Milton Wright was a young Department of Public Safety State Trooper in 1963. He was driving the “Mayor’s Car,” also called “Dignitary Car #1,” a 1964 white Ford Mercury Comet Caliente 2-door convertible with red interior, in 4th position behind the Presidential Limousine when the shots rang out. Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell was in the front passenger seat, his wife, Elizabeth Cabell in the left rear seat, and Congressman Raymond Roberts in the right rear. Separating him from the Presidential Limousine were Dallas police motorcycles, Presidential secret service follow-up car, the Vice Presidential car, and the Vice Presidential secret service follow-up car. Behind him were press pool vehicles and other VIP cars and police escort motorcycles.

Secret Service agent Clinton Hill shielding the occupants of President Kennedy's limousine.

Clint Hill Shields the Kennedys

A few moments later, Secret Service agents frantically waved the motorcade to go ahead. The Vice Presidential car and protection detail peeled away to protect the Vice President, leaving Wright directly behind the Presidential car which Wright closely followed to Parkland Hospital. When they arrived, he helped lift wounded Texas Governor John Connally out of the limousine’s jump seat.

Wright was quoted as saying, “As soon as we got the Governor out (of the car) a secret service guy ran right up in the car and pulled President Kennedy over to one side,” said Wright. “I could see the side of his head was partially gone.” Wright helped put the president on a gurney and then stood guard outside while a medical team worked to save him and Governor Connally.

Little could be done for the president. The bullet was well placed, and the damage too extensive. Last rites were administered, and at 1:00 p.m. U.S. President John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead. I recall clearly the horror I felt when that report came in. There were many questions to be answered. There was, and still is, much speculation about the assassination. The president’s body was quickly taken to Love Field in a hearse and placed on Air Force One. Before the plane took off, a grim-faced Lyndon B. Johnson took the oath of office, administered by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Hughes at 2:38 p.m. Though seriously wounded, Governor Connally did later recover.

If you aren’t familiar with the rest of the story, just a few minutes earlier, police had arrested Lee Harvey Oswald, a recently hired employee at the Texas School Book Depository. He was being held for the assassination of President Kennedy and the fatal shooting of Patrolman J. D. Tippit on a nearby Dallas street, as Oswald tried to escape the scene. On Sunday morning, November 24, Oswald was scheduled to be transferred from police headquarters to the county jail under heavy security.

Bob Jackson Photo Jack Ruby Shoots Lee Harvey Oswald

Bob Jackson Photo

The transfer was being broadcast on national television. Viewers across America, still in shock from Friday’s events, suddenly saw a man aim a pistol at Oswald and fire at point blank range. The assailant was identified as Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner. Oswald died two hours later at Parkland Hospital. A Dallas jury found Ruby guilty of murdering Oswald, and Ruby was sentenced to death. Later, he appealed his conviction, had it overturned, and was granted a new trial. Before the new trial took place, Ruby became ill and died of a pulmonary embolism due to lung cancer.

As I was approaching the end of my shift on that fateful day, I knew that there would be many folks leaving work and wanting more details of the day’s events. I arranged with the station management to do an extended newscast at the 5:00 hour, putting aside our normal “drive time” programming. Audrey and Don were planning a special talk segment following the report so they could accept phone calls from the public. I gathered news bits from the various Associated Press reports of the day and put together a stack for Audrey and Don, and another for me to use in the newscast. I selected 31 full or partial pages of news stories for my extended report, and after delivering the newscast, decided to keep the pages, rather than discarding them, as was the usual practice for news that had already been delivered.

Those 31 pages wound up going into some storage device at home that I no longer remember. But, 52 years later, while searching for and cleaning out things that no longer were worth keeping around, I came across a “Larry’s Papers” box that my wife had assembled. In the box were those 31 pages of news from the Associated Press. Reading through those pages recently, and recalling anew the dread and horror I felt that day, I am happy they got
preserved because, for me, they bridge time to when America really admired their President and First lady, popularized by most Americans as “Jack and Jackie.” We also came to a whole new appreciation for the Secret Service Presidential Detail. There was much heroism displayed in those days by people from all walks of life, including the law enforcement officers at the scene and the medical team at Parkland Hospital.

Below is a scan of the first page of the report made at 5:00 p.m. Friday, November 22, 1963. These 31 pages are now kept in a special notebook in safekeeping to, perhaps, someday, be of interest to my grandchildren who might have more than just a passing interest in an historic event of long, long ago.

Leading news story 5 p.m. 11/22/1963

Leading news story 5 p.m. 11/22/1963

When Wrong is Deemed Right: Fallacies do not cease because they become fashions. G. K. Chesterton

Proverbs 14.12; 16.25: There’s a way that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell.

When a person or a society feels they can change an unchangeable like the institution of marriage, then someone is sorely mistaken. Laws of our land
do declare what adherence is expected from citizens. The Law of God trumps all laws of man. Jesus said He did not come to destroy the Law of God, but rather to fulfill it. And He did fulfill it Perfectly!

No one or no law can undo what God has spoken and created. If we are not going with God, then we are going against Him. That’s not the way to win in life. Turn around in thinking and actions, go with Him, and life becomes not only bearable, but beautiful.


Lord, you have told each of us that you will make a way for us to escape the darkness of this world as we walk in The Light of the world. Thank you for the Grace you have showered upon us. Use us to be a light unto the world, according to your will.

In Jesus Name, Amen

It has been a blessing not to have to post updates on Lea’s condition for the past several years. We have been blessed with relatively good health, just enough family activities to keep her feeling useful, and activities at church that helps her feel valued. Now, I’m afraid, some of our activities may be reduced or coming to an end.

Many years ago, before Lea’s hospitalization in Hartford, Connecticut, she was a vice president at Irwin Mortgage Corporation and supervised a staff of about forty persons. She was very well respected by her peers, and was often sought out for advice and guidance by other company officers. At the same time, she and I were operating a bed and breakfast, the Asher Walton House, and I was operating Rail Line Services, a business through which I trained and certified short line railroads.

She was also experiencing infrequent flare-ups of pain in her right side during that time. We had one episode of such intense pain in 1998 it dropped her to the floor in a hotel bathroom. We were on a company retreat in Nashville, had taken the river boat dinner cruise and returned to the hotel for a social hour at the atrium waterfalls, when she hurriedly excused herself to go to the bathroom.

When she didn’t return after too-long, I went to find out what was detaining her. I discovered her passed out on the floor, covered in sweat. She revived quickly, and was about to stand, when a paramedic on duty at the hotel checked her out. There was nothing obviously wrong, so the paramedic let her return to the social, where she was fine the rest of the night. She didn’t know what had happened, other than she had broken out in a heavy sweat.

Six years later, on occasion of our 40th wedding anniversary, our sons hired a limousine to take us into downtown Indianapolis for a nice dinner at St. Elmo Steak House. We shared a bottle of champagne during the forty-five minute ride, and had a delightful time just chatting and catching up. We were looking forward to a great steak dinner preceded by St. Elmo’s world famous shrimp cocktail, with sauce so hot you really have to concentrate on timing your breathing.

During the appetizer course, Lea quickly excused herself and went to the ladies’ room. We guys finished out shrimp cocktails, and had the table cleared in expectation of our steak dinners arriving. Since Lea hadn’t returned to the table yet, we ordered another round of drinks and were just visiting, when our waiter came to the table and asked if he should put the order in for our dinners, or wait longer for Lea to return.

I went to the ladies’ room and called to Lea, to see if she was alright. She didn’t answer, so I called again, a little louder, and this time thought I heard a mumbled reply. I went in to see what was going on, and found her again lying on the floor, broken out in a heavy sweat. I lifted her up into a sitting position, and though seemingly dazed, she became alert pretty quickly.

She didn’t remember passing out, but had some pain in the lower right side of her abdomen. This time she associated drinking alcohol with the episode, and didn’t drink anything for many years afterward. Meanwhile, she had occasional flare-ups of minor pain in the right side of her lower abdomen, and finally mentioned it to our physician, who ordered an ultrasound to check the gall bladder. The results showed some “sludge” in the gall bladder, but not enough to indicate that surgery was needed. He told her, “Some day the pain will get bad enough you’ll come back and ask to have it removed.”

A couple of years later we wound up in Hartford Hospital for six months while she was being treated for acute pancreatitis. She was largely pain-free after being released, although usually uncomfortable due to having to wear the elastic binder to hold everything in. Now, almost ten years after the onset of the pancreatitis, she has had persistent pain in her lower right side for the last eight to nine weeks.

Our family doctor scheduled her for a CT Scan and an ultrasound to check her gall bladder. The CT Scan didn’t reveal any problems, but the ultrasound found gallstones. Our doctor referred us to a surgeon, who met with us, and said to her, “I have just read your file, and am amazed at what you’ve been through. Why didn’t they take out that gall bladder while they had you open?” Of course, we couldn’t answer that, and he didn’t expect us to.

He asked the usual questions about what caused the episode, and Lea replied, “Well, they told us that it could be caused by a scorpion sting, alcohol, or high triglycerides, but, they didn’t really know.” The surgeon added, “And, gallstones.” Lea and I said, in unison, “Gallstones?!” He replied, “Yes, it’s very common.” We were both amazed at this new discovery. Lea then went on to tell him of the tests she had performed a couple of years before getting ill, and that the doctor had only found sludge.

The surgeon stated, “That’s what caused your pancreatitis.” He asked her to get on the examination table so he could examine her surgical wound (ventral hernia) which is covered with only a skin graft. It is quite easy to see the stomach and intestines moving as they go through the digestive process, because the only thing between them and the world is that thin cover of skin. Lea and I both saw his expression of surprise when he first saw her abdomen.

After two or three minutes of examination, he told us that she is “very high risk” for any kind of surgery, and that he would not recommend any procedure if it can be avoided. He has scheduled her for a two-hour imaging test that will create a much more detailed picture of the bladder so next steps can be determined. The test is scheduled for the middle of the month, and we’ll go back to see the surgeon when the results come back.

Meanwhile, we are anticipating that she will be put on a pretty bland diet, so we are doing our research to see what foods to avoid (the good tasting ones) and which she can have (the boring ones). We may ask the doctor to set us up with a nutritionist to help us get on the right path to reducing her pain.

We have been extremely blessed to have had this ten-year chapter of our lives. We have had a great deal of selfless loving from our immediate family, found great friends at our church, and have been blessed with the birth of three grandsons. These have been a tremendous boost for her rehabilitation and general moral. And, now we have a great-granddaughter on the way!

Lea doesn’t complain much about her condition, and bears her burden quite well. She had a pretty sleepless night after learning that surgery is not possible, and that she is likely to have to live with the pain from now on. But, she arose the next morning with a new resolve, and started taking steps to help herself get pain free.

Like the surgeon told her after the examination, “They (the doctors at Hartford) saved your life! Look at you now! You’re up, and getting around! Compared to this, (gall bladder pain) that’s pretty huge!”

Thank you Lord. Bless our care givers. Amen!

It’s hard to believe we are almost ten years after our stay at Hartford Hospital! It will be a decade on July 15, 2015! So much has happened, and we are so happy to be together! We praise the Lord, and give thanks every single day for the blessing of another day together. Every day is special!

Since we returned to Indiana after six months in the hospital, we moved into an assisted living facility, since our home had to be sold while we were still in the hospital. We then moved to a house purchased by my brother for us to stay in as long as necessary. Lea was very feeble, still using a wheelchair, later a walker, to get around. We were told that her abdominal drainage holes might eventually heal and close up, causing pockets of fluid to accumulate internally, and they would have to be drained as needed. Praise God, that didn’t happen!

In 2007, eighteen months after our release from Hartford Hospital, our youngest son and his dear wife arranged to have us relocated to Austin, Texas, to help with the raising of their newborn son. It was a big step for us. Lea was still not able to stand completely upright, was very weak, and emotionally unstable. She couldn’t travel far before having to get out of the car to rest and stretch. It took us two days of travel to make the trip, arriving mid morning on the third day.

When we drove up in front of the house rented for us by our son, the next door neighbors were doing some yard work and greeted us warmly. In the ensuing discussion they invited us to their church, and we gladly accepted. We have now been members of that church for seven years. Lea was still so weak at that time that she couldn’t sit in a pew for more than an hour, and needed help to stand up and sit down. Eventually she was able to sit longer so we could go to adult bible study followed by church, but, recently has begun to slip back into only being able to do church.

We have been cooking for fellowship dinners once or twice a month, and that had been a great boost for her, helping her use her logic skills. But again, she is starting to find it to be more of a challenge lately, so we don’t know how long we’ll be able to continue that ministry. We will continue as long as she finds it more rewarding than challenging.

What has been the biggest boost for her, mentally and physically, is the grandson, and his brothers. We now have three grandsons here in Austin, and we get to sit with them frequently. Those boys have been a God-send! They have brightened her outlook, given her motivation to improve her condition and her physical strength so she could care for them. It has also helped her emotionally as she strives to interact with them at their own level . . . ages six, four, and two. Actually, now that our oldest is starting to read, I’d better state that correctly . . . ages seven (barely), four-and-a-half, and two-and-a-half.

Lea struggles with her blood sugar suddenly during the night, some mornings dropping as low as 30! When that happens, she gets very confused, dizzy, and hot. So far we have been able to get her stabilized, but it is very unsettling, as you might imagine. We have truly been blessed to be here with family, and praise God every day for our shower of blessings, knowing that it is all temporary, and the end of this life draws near. We love what he has worked in our lives, and we work to share the joy of his love, and the wonderful shower of blessings for our family. Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Amen!

We all trust software with our daily lives, finances, safety, government, communication, business, and general happiness. But, how far should that trust extend? The Society of Rugged Developers is wading into the topic of ruggedness, because when it comes to software, it needs to be so much more than just secure. It has to be ruggedly reliable and defensible against attack. Software ruggedness is going to become increasingly important to applications, and enterprise systems, in the future.

CabForward bulb 2014The Society has a podcast initiative hosted by James Wickett and Lance Vaughn, Austin software developers, to define and refine the concept of Rugged as it applies to software. In the series of podcasts, they explore application security and the various attributes of rugged. In Episode 5 they chatted with Jeff Williams, co-author of the Rugged Manifesto. Jeff explained that “Rugged” came about as a result of his interactions with Josh Corman and David Rice, all of whom were frustrated that Application Security was not improving in an organic manner, and that they wanted to make a difference in that sector.

In setting the groundwork for discussion in the podcasts, James and Lance began exploring how to clearly define “Rugged Software,” and how the Rugged concept can be applied to the Minimum Viable Product with the Rugged Manifesto in mind. DevOps is also going to be very important in the future of ruggedness. Once the foundation has been established, and the MVP can be built ruggedly, the rugged attributes will naturally scale as the product grows in scope.

While security of the software is at the heart of the rugged discussion, there are other factors to consider. The security industry has a lot of very good, proven, rules, but they tend to be too broad; they need to be distilled down into software security principles and practices. Rugged organizations operate as cross functional teams that value collaboration, seek out threats and build processes to protect themselves. The same principles need to be applied to software in the future.

What is Rugged?

Here is how James and Lance have posited the attributes of Rugged Software:

Attributes of Rugged Software

Security Reliability Maintainability
Defensibility Availability Longevity
Sensibility Recoverability Portability
Survivability Observability
Predictability Controllability

How would you define “Rugged Software?” Any suggestions you have are very welcome. The podcast website is currently undergoing development, and it will become the location for ongoing discussion of everything rugged when launched. In the meantime, we invite your comments, suggestions, and other thoughts in the response section below.

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Mobile Is Changing Everything. The first thing many people do when they start their day is check their phone for messages, social network updates, and email. The easy mobile access we enjoy is changing how the business world reaches customers, and how customers find businesses. This presents interesting challenges for businesses, as much of the enterprise technology ecosystem will continue to go mobile to keep up with the growing mobility of the workforce, and increasingly mobile consumer.

Technology is rapidly changing to a “mobile first” mentality as businesses address the changing customer landscape. Since a mobile interaction is frequently the first exposure a person has with a company, it is important to think about the times you had frustrating mobile experiences and make sure customers don’t experience that frustration with your application.
Mobile Search
If a person is searching for a business from their mobile phone, they may be on the go, and have less patience with the limited keyboard and interface of the device than if they were sitting at a desktop. Understanding this basic difference in a user’s perspective on desktop versus mobile is one of the many reasons technology for business is so rapidly advancing. We have already seen the World Wide Web evolve from “the Internet” to Web 2.0, and mobile 2.0 is just around the corner.

The mobile first approach is also forcing business technology to move towards greater scalability, connectivity, and useability. We see this very clearly in social media, where users are flocking from one platform to another that provides expanded space to share specific audio content, upload longer videos, or post new types of content they can share. As technology continues to develop as a result of our individual mobility, ease of use will remain a major focus as will stability and future scalability.

One of the challenges facing business is that many of the attractive widgets and gizmos of the website just won’t work on a mobile device. The mobile screen is too small, and the circumstances of mobile use demands a quick, straight-forward, productive experience from start to finish. You and I no longer have the patience to sit and wait and wait for a web page to load. I have, many times, simply gone to a different provider’s site when I felt I had waited too long for a page to load. Most consumers expect to wait no more than five seconds! If your page doesn’t load quickly, <em>blip!</em>, they’re gone! The easier your mobile app is to use, the more functional its capabilities, the more customers are likely to come back.

Visuals are very important in getting the message across, but the mobile platform will continue to force alteration of theWVRR25 way in which our information is presented to the end user. Visuals can be processed by the mind much faster than text. That’s why we see so many websites loaded up with visual material from photos to graphics and animations. But, we can’t structure a mobile app with all those visuals, because it bogs down the page-loading process, and can cost us return visitors.

The mobile first approach is also forcing business enterprise technology to move towards greater scalability, connectivity, and useability. We see this very clearly in social media, where users are flocking from one platform to another that provides a new place to share specific audio content, upload longer videos, or post new types of content they can share. And, all of this, predominately, on a mobile device!

Now is the time to prepare your business for mobile, or your business can be left behind. But, make sure you’re not just going mobile, but that you’re going mobile with an application that is quick, scalable, stable, and encourages connectivity.

Our children are uniquely created gifts of God, and are living memorials to our influence in their lives.  Parenting is never finished. We have to teach our children, and grandchildren, about Jesus Christ, and then live our lives showing them how to live as believers. The journey of life is filled with tribulation, problems, roadblocks and temptations that challenge our resolve to reach our final destination.

The problems teach us to be a better traveler, and encourage us to share what we learn about making the journey easier with others who are walking the same path.God places some people in our lives to plow and plant, while others water and fertilize. God will grow your faith, give you challenges to help you mature, and will also test your faith. The mark of a true Christian is not that have have been merely saved, but rather, that you share the story of your salvation with others.  For new readers, you can hear my testimony here. You can also read the daily dispatches during Lea’s 6-month hospital stay. This link takes you to the condensed timeline, but you can read the entire dispatch by clicking on the date link to the left of the comments.

Lea and I have had an incredible life journey together, and will celebrate 50 years of marriage next year. I particularly thank God for the last few years, because he gave her back to me after showing what it would be like to live without her. We have been so richly blessed! His provision for us has been remarkable. Both our sons made multiple trips to be with her during her hospitalization, and have assisted us financially well beyond our expectations. He has provided us a loving church family to serve in, and given us both the health we need to be active servants. Even more remarkably, He has given us wonderful grandchildren to love on and share our love of Christ.

The life worth living is rooted in sound teaching. We, as parents and grandparents, are responsible to teach our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren about God’s love, His benevolence, and how he works in our lives to shape us into the servants we need to be. We strive to be knowledgeable about His rules and His laws, so we can be the kind of teachers our grandchildren deserve.


Experience the Miraculous Healing and Recovery of Lea Vaughn, and the incredible spiritual journey of her husband during 180 days in Hartford Hospital. Read his original daily emails in "Hartford Letters" above. ____________________________

In “Prayer,” above:

For Dave
Praise: Lea
For Bill and Jane
For Megan
For Charlotte
For Marnita
Praise: Gary
Praise: fellowship
For Herb
Praise: Joe
For Lea
For Unnamed


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Quiet Family Day 2015


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