RALPLH MOODY’S “LITTLE BRITCHES” [OR “THE WILD COUNTRY”]

BLOG #44, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
DR. JOE’S BOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB #35

RALPH MOODY’S LITTLE BRITCHES [OR THE WILD COUNTRY]

October 29, 2014

If you’ve been searching for a wonderful true book to read aloud to your children and teenagers during your daily story hour, search no longer: This is your book.

I was a teenager when I first read the book—and it has warmed my heart ever since. It is one of those rare books written in First Person that really works. Just as is true with The Little House on the Prairie books, once you’ve read the first book in the series, you’ll rush out to buy the sequel, and then the rest of the series.

The real-life story of the author is almost as fascinating as the book.

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Ralph Owen Moody (1898-1982) was born in East Rochester, New Hampshire. When he was eight, his parents moved the family to Colorado so that Ralph’s father might, in the dry climate of the Front Range, be healed from tuberculosis. In those days, thousands of tuberculosis-sufferers moved to Colorado and sister states in hopes they’d be healed by the move. Many were, but many were not. One of Ralph’s uncles told his brother that ranch life in Colorado was so heaven-like that he’d hardly have to work at all to get rich. You’ll note by a book illustration that the reality was far different.

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The shack they moved to

Three years later, Ralph’s father died, and the eleven-year-old boy was forced to become man of the house, the mainstay of his mother and siblings.

But, even though the boy had yearned to be a writer almost as soon as he learned to read, the tough business of making a living and, marrying his sweetheart Edna, precluded that. In fact, he was fifty years old when, in helping a daughter with a high school writing class, he honed his own craft. Upon reading his first story, his teacher suggested he expand it into a full-length book.

Because Moody had grown up listening to his mother read out loud to him and his siblings, when he had the opportunity to tell his life story, he avoided formal writing and instead just told the story in common everyday language that children would both understand and appreciate. Little Britches (what he was dubbed after his boyhood arrival in Colorado) was published in 1950. In that serene Norman Rockwell Era of strong family values, Little Britches took the country by storm.

After his father’s farm had failed, he moved his family to Littleton, and shortly afterwards his father died of pneumonia. In Man of the Family (1951) and The Home Ranch (1956), Moody tells the story of those action-filled Colorado years. Mrs. Moody subsequently took her three sons and three daughters back to Medford, Massachusetts where Ralph completed his formal education through the eighth grade. This part of his story was published in Mary Emma and Company in 1961. Later on, Ralph joined his grandfather on his farm in Maine. This period was covered in The Fields of Home in 1953. In Shaking the Nickel Bush (1962), poor health results in Ralph moving west again in the midst of the Great Depression. Tough times are covered in The Dry Divide (1963) and the concluding eighth book of his life story, Horse of a Different Color (1968). When he was 83, he returned home to New England; he died there on June 28, 1982.

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The family in midst of a tornado.

But not before chronicling one of the most gripping, moving, and inspirational autobiographies ever written. By the time you finish reading it to your family, none of you will ever be the same you were when you began.

Moody also published nine other books: Kit Carson and the Wild Frontier (1955), Geronimo, Wolf of the War Path (1958), Riders of the Pony Express (1958), Wells Fargo (1961), Silver and Lead: The Birth and Death of a Mining Town (1961), America Horses (1962), Come on Sea Biscuit (1963), The Old Trails West (1963), Stage Coach West (1967) and one play: The Valley of the Moon (1966).

There are many editions of Little Britches and its sequels. Most were published by W. W. Norton. They were also published by Reader’s Digest; People’s Book Club; Harcourt, Brace & World; and in paperback by Bantam.

Walt Disney Productions (released by Buena Vista Distribution) filmed Little Britches as The Wild Country in 1970. It starred Steve Forrest. Jack Elam, and Ronny Howard; co-starred Frank deKova, Morgan Woodward, and Vera Miles. The screen play was written by Calvin Clements, Jr., and Paul Savage; produced by Ron Miller, and directed by Robert Totten. In 1971, Bantam published Little Britches as The Wild Country.

Happy reading to you and your family!

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MAKING MEMORIES WITH GRANDCHILDREN – PART 3 -TAYLOR’S 2011 REWARD

BLOG #43, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
MAKING MEMORIES WITH GRANDCHILDREN
PART THREE
TAYLOR’S 2011 REWARD

October 22, 2014

At the front of Taylor’s journal, I had written in:

“The world is a great book—
and those who do not travel
have read only one page.”
—St. Augustine

In a way, Taylor’s cruise was a trial-run for Seth’s three years later, for Taylor’s re-introduced us to the minds, habits, and speech of a thirteen-year-old. I’d forgotten, for instance, how short a time instructions remain in their mental silos, and how constantly those instructions have to be reinforced. For I should have remembered from Charles Schultz’s immortal Charlie Brown movies how adult talk is received in their minds as so much “wah wah wah.” I mistakenly assumed that once I had thoroughly planted in Taylor’s mind the necessity of writing in his journal each day, he’d faithfully remember. Hardeeharharhar! Three years later, when I scrutinized his journal for the first time, I ruefully discovered that he quit after only five days! Even though I reminded him to write in it several times during the cruise. Of course, when even college freshmen have to be constantly reminded of such things, it was stupid of me to assume thirteen-year-olds would be any different…. Only belatedly did we realize we had taken so many photos of places we visited that we failed to realize how few of them featured Taylor himself!

_MG_0120  Visiting one of Gaudi’s Architectural Wonders  in Barcelona.

 

* * * * *

Finally, the big day arrived. By mastering the geography of the world, during the twelfth year of his life, Taylor had earned his personal dream Mediterranean cruise. But for us, the proverbial moment of truth had arrived. Connie and I now had a duly signed and witnessed power of attorney to be solely responsible for Taylor’s life during the two weeks he was with us. Such a responsibility is more than a little daunting. Much more so than having one’s grandson with us in the United States where most people speak English. For should he get lost in a foreign country, where the native language is not English, in great cities, often teeming with millions of people, and streets and byways our grandson has never seen before—what would we do? More frustrating yet, what would he do? What if some unscrupulous person should lure him away—and we’d never see him again? How could we ever have faced his parents with this perceived dereliction of our duty?

Since our son Greg, an advertising copywriter from Fort Lauderdale, would be with us, and would, from time to time, have Taylor alone with him, what if he’d be lost then?

That this is no light problem, let me share with you one of the scariest moments of the entire trip that took place at Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia. Millions of people live in Barcelona, and over 25,000,000 people from all over the world come here each year to see this almost mythical church [it’s not an operational cathedral] over a century in the making. It takes hours just to get inside its gates. Well, while inside, Greg and Taylor went shutterbugging in a different direction than Connie and I did. When I circled back and found Greg, Taylor was nowhere to be seen! Had this been San Francisco, Dallas or New York, I wouldn’t have been nearly as apprehensive. Initially, I assumed I’d find him quickly; when I failed to do so, each additional minute—each seeming like years!—that passed, my stress level skyrocketed. Here, there, inside the teeming edifice, I raced, then outside, but inside the gates, and everywhere masses of people—and no Taylor. I think I must have aged years during the mere minutes it took to find him, nonchalantly taking pictures. Oh the unutterable relief! And, at this juncture, the trip had not even started yet!

At the Monastery at Montserrat.  _MG_0358

Later on, I thought of the parallel in Holy Writ, when twelve-year-old Jesus was lost in the great metropolis of Jerusalem—and his frantic parents searched three interminable days before finding him.

With that preamble, let me back up a couple of days.

ALMOST MISSING OUR PLANE

Up until this day of departure, we’d kept Greg’s joining us on the cruise a secret. Taylor had not even an inkling that his beloved uncle would be sharing the two weeks with us.

On July 27, we were scheduled to pick up Taylor in Annapolis, fly out of Baltimore to Philadelphia, where we’d change airlines and meet Greg at the gate of departure. That was the schedule; the reality proved far different! The reality was that not one, but two Baltimore to Philadelphia planes proved defective, thus placing our connecting flight to Spain in jeopardy.

We, along with some other travelers in a similar plight, were rushed to our already checked-in luggage, then rushed to a waiting van, then a veritable Jehu of a driver risked traffic tickets by racing down the freeway to the Philadelphia airport. Surreptitiously, Connie texted Greg so that he and the gate attendants could keep track of our whereabouts and likely (if no traffic slowdown) projected time of arrival. With bare minutes to spare, we reached the vast Philadelphia terminal and were propelled post-haste through security. We just made it! And the look of disbelief on Taylor’s face when he saw his Uncle Greg waiting for us in line was absolutely priceless! Worth every minute, week, and month of subterfuge it took to pull it off.

We were next crammed into an oversized US Air jet like so many tightly-packed sardines. Very little sleep for any of us during the long trans-Atlantic flight.

On July 28, we arrived in Barcelona, checked in at the Regina Hotel and, because we could not get in our rooms until afternoon, we took our pre-arranged bus trip to the mountaintop monastery of Montserrat. Believe me, when we returned from this jaunt, we found something to eat and we went to bed early, trying to catch up on the missing night’s sleep plus the missing eight hours on the clock.

Following is our itinerary:

July 30 – We board Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas and sail out to sea.
July 31 – Nice, French Riviera, Monaco
August 1 – Livorno, Pisa, Florence
August 2 – Citaveccia and Rome
August 3 – Salerno, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast
August 4 – At Sea
August 5 , 6 – Venice
August 7 – Split (Croatia)
August 8 – Dubrovnik
August 9, 10 – At Sea
August 11 – We dock at Barcelona
August 12 – We board our plane and arrive in Philadelphia in the afternoon.

* * * * *

It is fascinating to see the world (in his journal entries) from the eyes of a thirteen-year-old!

July 30 – “We were caught in a huge storm. It thundered, hailed, and blew a couple of chairs off the boat. That was real cooooool! Then one of the staff let us inside or made us go inside.”

July 31 – “This morning we arrived at Nice. It was cool. We had to get up early though. Dang! We have to get up even earlier tomorrow. When we got to Nice we had to take a tender to shore. It was pretty cool but we didn’t sit up top which would have been even cooler.

“Our tour guide took us to a place called Eze! It was really cool, there was an amazing view and there was this castle, church, or whatever. I think it also could of been a house and a hotel. Maybe all of the above.

August 1 – “Today, we arrived at Florence. We went to Pisa and got a few pictures but the thing that sticks out the most was our guides. Especially Dilleetta! Aghaa! She didn’t tell us anything and she wouldn’t shut up. She would be like the sky is light blue which is a light blue but it isn’t quite blue, it’s kinda light or white but not quite. It’s a blue or a medium blue with white. But it’s not a dark blue white. Then it would be too dark blue. When we first got to Florence she took us to a leather shop for an HOUR. She said it was free time. G R R R R! . . . . We eventually go to Pisa and did all that and having Poppy running away.”

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 Visiting the Colosseum in Rome

My face is still red from that Pisa experience. I had drummed this message [to stay together at all times—and never to separate one’self from the group] again and again into everyone’s head—except, obviously, my own. At Pisa, inexcusably, I wandered off, taking pictures. Some time later, when they were getting extremely apprehensive—had I experienced a heart attack or stroke? —, we found each other. Boy, did I ever get a verbal thrashing! Taylor will probably chortle about the difference between Poppy’s talk and Poppy’s walk until the day he dies!

* * *

A little while after we returned, I asked Taylor if the cruise had made any difference in his life.
A far-away look came into his eyes, then he said, “The world seems so much bigger now.”

His parents tell us, “Ever since his cruise, it’s clear Taylor has been badly bitten by the travel bug.”

In retrospect, when asked to come up with his ten favorite places or experiences, in order of preference, this is what he wrote:

1. The Amalfi Coast [he was overwhelmed by the corkscrew road leading down through mist to the incredibly deep blue sea below].
2. Venice.
3. Monaco [he especially reveled in seeing the exotic Lamborghinis, Bugattis, Rolls Royces, Bentleys, etc.].
4. Eze. [An ancient hilltop village in France].
5. Strawberry virgin daiquiris [his favorite pool-side liquid extravagance].
6. Soft-serve ice -cream machine [no small thanks to near constant visits to it, he gained over five pounds during the cruise].
7. La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
8. Food! All the different food at all the different stops.
9. The storm [as we were leaving Barcelona and heading out to sea, a terrific Mediterranean storm blew out of nowhere, blowing deck chairs, people, and everything not nailed down, hither and thither. Taylor enjoyed most the sheer violence of it; got out in the open so he could take the full brunt of it. The authorities were not amused; they unceremoniously pushed him back under cover].
10. Dubrovnik

Next week, we’ll break from Grandparenting in order to get to Dr. Joe’s Book of the Month October selection. We’ll get back to Seth’s 2014 story on November 5.

Photos by Greg Wheeler.

Making memories with Grandchildren – Part 2 – Master the Geography of the World Before You are 13

BLOG #42, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
MAKING MEMORIES WITH GRANDCHILDREN
PART TWO
MASTER THE GEOGRAPHY OF THE WORLD
BEFORE YOU ARE THIRTEEN

October 15, 2014

The years flowed swiftly by, as years have a way of doing. I married Connie, the golden-haired love of my life; over time, we were blessed with two children: Greg and Michelle. Michelle grew up and married Duane Culmore. Two sons were born to them: Taylor and Seth (three years apart).

In today’s society, all too few intergenerational families live close to each other. Sadly, the same is true with us: our grandchildren are half a continent away from us. So we see them all too seldom. But there are no easy answers for what to do about it. In our case, Connie’s folks moved half way across the country to live near us, in Texas. Some years later, we moved away and left them there. One has to go where the jobs are.

So how could we spend quality time alone with our grandsons? Some years ago an idea came to me, born of Grandpa Leininger’s love of National Geographic maps and from my own fascination with geography and travel. We shared it with Michelle and Duane first, then with Taylor and Seth while they were still young.

Here is how we phrased it: “If you master the geography of the world before your thirteenth birthday, Poppy and Grammy will take you anywhere in the world you’d like to go.”

Well, the years rolled along and Taylor reached eleven. No apparent interest in the challenge. We began to breathe easier: there would not be big-time draining of our bank account after all. About a year later, just before Taylor’s twelfth birthday, our daughter Michelle phoned us with the news that Taylor was seriously interested in holding us to our promise. “So, Dad, how will it work? What are the requirements? We’ve only twelve months left, and Taylor will have to fit it in against school, sports, music, etc.”

I told her he’d have to know all the countries of the world, capital cities, major cities, mountain ranges, major rivers and lakes, deserts, and islands; also oceans, seas, bays, gulfs—and any unusual geographic features. She would have to be the hands-on instructor and pre-tester; only when he was ready with a country or region would Taylor phone me and the three of us would test him on it together.

And so it began. At first we waited until he’d mastered entire regions; but that proved too difficult to retain in his head, so gradually we reduced the testing areas to a more humane level. Because of his many other involvements, and Michelle’s and mine, it proved to be a long, slow process. Michelle became the taskmaster on that end. The U.S. and Canada (states and provinces too) proved relatively easy since Taylor already knew a lot about them. But after that, it got harder. Harder yet when we tackled European, Asian, and African areas of the world.

Once in a while Taylor would pleasantly surprise me: learning more about a country or region than I required of him. Michelle and Duane reported in to us that Taylor had already experienced a serendipity: when his history teacher referred to a certain Latin American country, Taylor was the only one who knew where it was. More and more, during class discussions, Taylor’s would be the lone-hand raised.

Another problem now surfaced: If Taylor didn’t master the geography of the entire world before his thirteenth birthday, he’d forfeit the promised reward. However, in order to get good booking rates, we couldn’t afford to wait. Yet another problem came in tandem: If he didn’t yet know the world, how could he then choose where he most wanted to go? We finally concluded that we’d need to rephrase the original question so it now read: “Where are three places in the world you’d like to see?” and we would select one of them and book it. Which resulted in yet another problem: Because of Taylor’s busy summer sports program, the available time-frame before school re-started provided us with only a small window of time.

One of his possible choices had to do with the South Pacific, but the time frame and distance to get there and back precluded our booking a destination there. Another two choices: central Italy and Venice worked better. So we booked a 12-day Mediterranean cruise that would feature both locales. But we didn’t tell Taylor because until and if he completed the challenge, we could still cancel the booking. To take him on the cruise without his completing the task would be a travesty and set a terrible life-precedent for him.

Meanwhile the remaining time interval was shrinking alarmingly and his progress towards his goal proved erratic. Our daughter knew she could push him only so far and so fast.

And something totally unexpected had come up: our son Greg had decided he wanted to go along! Many years earlier, when he was about Taylor’s age, I had mandated that he master the world’s geography, promising only to give him a nice reward when he finished. Well, he did complete it, and his munificent reward was only a train trip from Fort Worth to Cleburne, Texas—all of forty miles! Unbeknownst to us, Greg had been sulking about this ever since—and to add insult to injury, here we were promising a European cruise to his nephew for the same task! So, we now added Greg to our already full room in our cruise booking. But we didn’t tell Taylor for Greg wanted it to be a surprise. Naturally, we had to keep Michelle and Duane up to date—and that was tough given all the secrets involved.

The last month came, then three weeks, two weeks, and then there was only one week left—and still Taylor was not done. Needless to say, there was a lot of tension for all of us. Finally, only hours away from his birthday—Taylor tested out on the last piece in the jigsaw-puzzle of the world.

At last, we could send him a journal for him to write in during the cruise which we could now detail for him.

* * * * *

Next week: Taylor’s reward.

Making Memories with Grandchildren – Part 1 – A Grandfather Who Never Got Old

BLOG #41, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
MAKING MEMORIES WITH GRANDCHILDREN
PART ONE
A GRANDFATHER WHO NEVER GOT OLD

October 8, 2014

Many years ago, I was privileged to spend my eighth-grade year with my maternal grandparents in Arcata, California. That one year proved to be pivotal in my own life journey. Pivotal because my grandfather, Herbert Norton Leininger, was a Renaissance man whose passion was truly global: encompassing everything that was going on in the world. Tacked to the walls of the entire second-floor living areas were National Geographic maps, so that Grandpa could keep track of everything that was happening in the world, and the people who made them happen.

Never can I forget Leininger Christmases, when all six daughters and their husbands and families, one by one, arrived and gradually overflowed the big rambling three-story home. Once assigned quarters, everyone gravitated to the second floor where the action was. We kids were tremendously impressed by how little time it took for Grandpa to subjugate these authority figures, our fathers. Grandpa gave hem no time in which to claim any turf for themselves, but instantaneously dominated his second-story stage, vigorously showing his cowed sons-in-law where world events were taking place, lashing out at world leaders who failed to live up to Grandpa’s high and rigid expectations, and occasionally praising the few who passed muster. All the while like a stage actor, he’d vigorously stride back and forth from map to map.

Periodically, Grandpa, with an impish look in his eyes, would glance around to see if those guardians of our morals—his daughters—were listening, then launch into the opening lines of what many in that semi-Victorian Age considered rather “naughty”: Rudyard Kipling’s “And I Learned About Women from Her.” At least that’s what we kids thought it was called, because of that recurring line in each stanza.. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered the poem is simply titled The Ladies.” In it, the persona, obviously—to our mothers at least—a womanizer in then British-run India and Burma. The opening lines run thus:

“I’ve taken my fun where I’ve found it;
I’ve rogued an I’ve ranged in my time;
I’ve ‘ad my pickin’ of sweethearts,
An’ four o’ the lot was prime.
One was an ‘arf-caste widow,
One was a woman at Prome,
One was the wife of a jemadan-sais [head-groom]
An’ one is a girl at ‘ome.”

In essence, in this poem, Grandpa was teaching his grandchildren about the birds and the bees—specifically this fascinating creature we call “woman.” Each stanza having to do with a specific woman the persona in the poem had learned from. But long before Grandpa reached concluding stanzas such as this:

“I’ve taken my fun where I’ve found it,
An’ now I must pay for my fun,
For the more you ‘ave known o’ the others
The less you will settle to one;
An’ the end of it’s sittin’ and thinkin’,
An’ dreamin’ Hell-fires to see;
So be warned by my lot (which I know you will not),
An’ learn about women from me!”

Yes, long before his daughters had vainly attempted to quench the orator, we kids—perhaps because our mothers were so upset with their father—were inwardly enthralled that we’d been permitted to listen to such a wicked poem. Not that we understood why it was supposedly wicked: it was enough that our mothers thought it was.

Grandma Josephine, who’d long ago learned that when the Lord of the Manor was on a roll, he never stopped for breath (for, perish the though, that momentary pause might enable one of his squirming sons-in-law to launch a contrary opinion), consequently, Grandma immediately took the stage in a much quieter manner) with her daughters, discussing family personalities, foibles, idiosyncracies, etc., and the daughters giving as much as they took, there was much laughter.

We kids sat enthralled on the floor taking in both tracks. The experience reminds me of certain contemporary TV interviewers who continually interrupt their interviewees who attempt to answer their hosts’ questions; and when these interviewees interrupt other discussion participants—all these individuals talking at once—, the hubbub is indescribable. In retrospect, I’m convinced that those holiday gatherings were one-of-a-kind. The age of large cohesive families, print-driven education, patriarchal family structure, and children-are-to-be-seen-and-not-heard [we were the last such generation], is no more—and will never come again.

Then, one by one, each car-load would disappear to much hugging, kissing, and waving, each one leaving the house lonelier. And, before long, it would be just us left. Early next morning, religiously at six o’clock, I’d hear the sonorous radio voice of Gabriel Heater (with a fair amount of static) downstairs, and know that Grandpa was once again setting his inner sails for the day.

Only in retrospect do I realize the impact of that one year with my maternal grandparents. How Grandpa’s persona seeped into my own goals and philosophy of life. Nor can I forget Grandpa’s late-life soaring. When he reached the age of 75, he announced that for 50 years he’d pleased the world and his wife—now he was going to please himself. He purchased a snazzy Lincoln hardtop, grew a goatee, and, with the help of a fellow conspirator we knew only as Mr. Smith, he constructed the first camper I ever remember seeing: such a long body grafted on to a Studebaker truck that it was a miracle the front wheels didn’t lift off the ground! Grandpa then found enough bargain paint—the most hideously ugly shade of pea-green I’ve ever seen—to complete the job; loaded it with supplies and grub, and headed north. Only when they reached the last road separating them from the North Pole did they turn around.

When they returned, they didn’t stay long, but headed south into the jungles of Mexico.

But even that wasn’t enough: Grandpa next announced that he was going to explore all of California’s western rivers from their headwaters to the sea. Never can I forget one of those expeditions: the day I joined family members waiting for Grandpa’s outboard-driven rubber raft to round the bend; sometime later that day, here he came; veered in to shore, bequeathed his garbage to us, noblesse obligedly accepted our grocery contributions, restarted the outboard, and he was once again heading down-river. A jaunty last wave—and he disappeared from sight.

Nor can I forget the times he regaled us with Shakespeare—especially Hamlet, which he knew by heart. He was Prince Hamlet when he treaded the attic boards of his house.

His was the only funeral I can remember where all the “mourners” could do was laugh. In my eulogy, I did my best to recreate his unique persona.

* * * * *

Next week I’ll continue this series of blogs about this thing called grandparenting.

HAS AMERICA REACHED ITS TIPPING POINT?

BLOG #40, SERIES #5
WEDNESDAYS WITH DR. JOE
HAS AMERICA REACHED ITS TIPPING POINT?

October 1, 2014

Unbelievable that we could even be discussing such a thing, but recent events in Colorado are serving as not only a state-wide but national groundswell of concern on the issue. Might it be that we as a people have become so complacent about our 225-year-old democracy that we have missed the ominous cracks that are only now being taken seriously?

In history, rare is the great nation that remains great long-term. We, as a people, however, have blithely assumed we’re an exception to the rule in that respect.

IS COLORADO A WAKE-UP CALL?

This is a question many people across the nation are beginning to ponder. Since we locals are in the eye of the storm, so to speak, we tend to take for granted that most Americans are aware of the raging debate over Colorado’s Jefferson County School Board. Permit me to fill you in on the story:

An unusual situation developed during the last six months when three of five board member positions became open at the same time. Since many local citizens felt strongly that they had little voice in how the district was being run, three centrist locals decided to run for those seats. In spite of being greatly outspent media-wise by union supporters, all three were swept in, giving them a three-fifths majority.

What disturbs so many people is what followed: The media regularly categorizes the three new board members as “Christian extremists,” and passes up no opportunity to disparage or discredit them. The teachers’ union orders district teachers to storm the board meetings, along with union operatives from all over. Without defenders, these board members tremble as hecklers turn their deliberations into virtual lions’ dens. One of the new board member’s own children has been so viciously harassed that the parents were forced to pull the child out of a local school and transfer to a charter school some distance away. Teachers have so openly maligned and discredited these board members that many of the 85,000 students in this large district are now seething with hatred against them. So much so that these board members dare not even step foot in any of the classrooms they are legally in charge of.

At first, the storm of media negativity was general: in essence, trying to make life such hell for the new board members that at least one of them would resign. And daily life for each of the three has become just that. “Daily discouragement” a mild term for how they feel from day to day—and unpaid positions at that!

They were first attacked for hiring a new district superintendent [the original one resigned rather than work with the new board members] who was empathetic to the desire of ordinary citizens to have a say in the running of the district.

They were next attacked for their attempts to tie pay-increases to excellence in teaching. The two original board members voted against it. The union unleashed a storm of outrage that the poorest-performing teachers wouldn’t get the same salary increases the best-performing teachers would.

Then there is the latest storm of outrage over the board decision that some form of positive patriotism in the teaching of U.S. history be encouraged. Deconstructionists raged: How dare they encourage patriotism when so many terrible things have been done in the past!

During the last week, teachers have been disrupting family-life by staging sick-ins; by not showing up for classes, parents are forced to stay home with their kids.

Well-founded rumor now has it that as soon as the fall election is over, a massive recall of the three new board members will be organized and funded.

All this is making many people, not only in Colorado but across the country, wonder what has happened to our nation that such things can be? That such tactics of intimidation and poisoning the well against an opponent can be condoned. Indeed, locally and nationally, Republican candidates are blistered in a media frenzy of attack ads for their right-to-life stances (which is in essence an attack on all American Christians who believe in the sanctity of life).

Woven through all this is a nation-wide tide of ridicule and scorn directed at all conservatives, Christians, and people who still dare to defend traditional marriage and family. One of the new board members’ cars had a Defense of Family bumper sticker depicting stick-figures of a man, woman, two children, and a dog defaced during the last week: defaced by the addition of a painted-on meteor on collision course with the family.

I’m in a personal quandary here because I have wonderful relationships with area teachers and administrators in five area elementary schools, where I’ve worked in tandem with them for eleven years now, as we together try our best to get more elementary students into reading. There are so many individual teachers who continue giving their all each day.

Reflecting national concern over one aspect of this controversy is a September 27-8, 2014 Wall Street Journal major opinion essay titled “Democracy Requires a Patriotic Education” by Donald Kagan (Yale University historian and professor emeritus), in which he weighs in on the issue in observations such as these:

“Our schools have retreated from the idea of moral education, except for some attempts of what is called ‘Values Clarification,’ which is generally a cloak for moral relativism verging on nihilism of the sort that asserts that whatever feels good is good.”

“Just as an individual must have an appropriate love of himself if he is to perform well, an appropriate love of family if he and it are to prosper, so, too, must he love his country if it is to survive.”

“Neither family nor nation can flourish without love, support, and defense.”

“Assaults on patriotism are failures of character. They are made by privileged people who enjoy the full benefits offered by the country they deride and detest, but they lack the basic decency to pay it the allegiance and respect that honor demands. But honor, of course, is also an object of their derision.”

“The encouragement of patriotism is no longer a part of our public educational system, and the cost of that omission has made itself felt. This would have alarmed and dismayed the founders of our country.”

“The story of this country’s vision of a free, democratic republic and of its struggles to achieve it need not fear the most thorough examination and can proudly stand comparison with that of any other land.”

* * * * *

So, my question is this: What can each of us do to help avert further cracks in the foundational structure of our republic? Is our current culture of disparaging, discrediting, and ridiculing conservatives, Christians, right-to-lifers, defenders of traditional marriage, and defenders of traditional family, irreversible? If it is not, what can each of us do to help fix it?