El Galeón Andalucía

This is another re-cap of “what we did this summer”. At this rate, I’ll cover Labor Day Weekend by Thanksgiving…


July 26th, 2015 – This was a real treat visiting El Galeón Andalucía, docked in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I’ve long enjoyed stories of trans-oceanic exploration, sea battles, pirates and privateers during the 15th through 18th centuries.  So getting to tour El Galeón, and walk her decks was a real thrill.

This is the only galleon class vessel in the world sailing today. Construction of this ship began in 2009, and was built entirely in Spain. Over 150 men and women worked 16 months to create this exact replica of an ocean going galleon from the second half of 16th century. The results are simply astounding.Galleon15










Technically, it isn’t an “exact” replica. It has modern bathroom facilities – though designed to match the ship – and of course it has an engine room.

It is currently crewed by 22 men and women, and is completing a 5-month, 16th Century Ship Tour, stopping at 10 different ports along the U.S. coast.  She will winter in sunny Fort Lauderdale, before setting sail for home port in Spain.

This galleon class vessel was originally built and use for transport and trade of goods, but was also besieged by rival states and put into military service.  It was also the target of pirates for looting or to add to their own attack fleets.

Galleon16 Galleon14 Galleon10 Galleon4





As we came aboard the ship, Loly was amazed that such a small vessel was able to cross the vast Atlantic in the times of antiquity. Having read about this period extensively I was not surprised, and knew the Mayflower was a lot smaller!

El Galeón Andalucía is 170 feet long and displaces about 495 tons. The Mayflower was only 106 feet long and displaced only 242 tons. There were 130 passengers squeezed onto that tiny ship when it left England to cross the Atlantic for the New World. Like I said, a lot smaller, but it still made the voyage to Plymouth.

Man, I was the proverbial ‘kid in a candy shop’. My eyes went everywhere, taking in all of the details. I mean not only did the construction of the ship feel authentic, but even the small details like the handmade ropes and all the pulleys, block and tackle, the sails, the cast anchors, the wooden capstan, the netting and even the few pieces of furniture.  It was all so cool. There was so much to see and inspect.

Galleon12 Galleon11 WP_20150726_049







It was easy, at least for me, to imagine being on a cross ocean voyage, with full sails set into the wind. That romantic vision lasted but a moment as I remember tellings of the hardships, the hard work, and the oppressive heat and humidity of the Caribbean sitting for days on end in becalmed waters. I like the romanticized picture better…



Jaws – The Summer of ’75’

JAWS‘ the movie was a phenomenon 40 years ago.


It started right in the beginning of the summer, in June, 1975.

Steven Spielberg never expected the movie to become as big a hit as it did, but right from that first week, it was wildly popular. It played in theaters all over the U.S. for months! It was all over the news almost daily during that summer, and suddenly every shark sighting became newsworthy.

The movie was based on the best-selling novel by Peter Benchley, and was rated PG, This was in an era when theaters actually enforced the ratings guide. If you could not prove you were over the age of 13, and showed up without a parent or person who could prove they were at least 18 – you were not let into the theater.

I was 13 and I wanted to see the movie – badly. My Mom wouldn’t allow it. The same was true of a few other kids who also wanted to see it.

We would not be deterred. My best friend at the time, Joe Danaher, was the youngest of 8 children in a traditional (at least in them days) large Irish-Catholic family. All of his brothers and sisters were over 18. We hatched a plan.

First we got Joe to recruit a couple of his siblings to drive a bunch of us kids to the theater to see the movie. His brother Gerald and sister Pam wanted to see the movie anyway and agreed to take us.

Now to account for all of us kids being out late on a summer night, we had to ask our parents’ permission to camp out in the Danaher’s backyard.

Since everyone knew and liked the Danaher family, and it was right in the neighborhood, parents let us do the “camp out”. We had to make it look good because the Danaher back yard was easy to look into – and they also lived right next door to me!

There were six of us kids, and we set about borrowing a 10-person camping tent, from one of Joe’s older brother’s. We struggled with that monstrosity of canvas, screen and aluminum poles for good piece of time. We managed to finally get it set up, but it was sketchy and we didn’t dare touch it or go into it.

We were going to catch the late showing, so we made it look good. We went swimming in the Danaher pool. We knew our parents would be thinking, “Those kids are having a good time. They’ll sleep well tonight,” and “Thank goodness they’re at the Danaher’s…instead of here!”

We even toasted marshmallows over a fire pit. When it was late enough, we made it look like we were going to turn in – just in case any of our parents were watching.

We cut through some bushes in the back of the yard and met Pam and Gerald a block away as we had arranged. We split up into two cars and went to the once magnificent Bayshore Theater (now long gone).


Since it had only been out in theaters for 5 days when we went, the line outside was long. Even for a 10 PM showing, the line stretched down the block and we were at the end of that line. I didn’t think we’d get in.

As we finally made our way to the ticket booth, I could hear the movie beginning. I was in a panic. They were almost out of seats. The 8 of us got the last seats. The problem was they were all in the very first row (note the white backed seats in the picture above), which the usher called “Chicken Row” as he guided us to our seats with a flashlight. Yes, they actually did do that at one time.

Excited, we took our seats mere feet from the giant screen and craned our heads back to take it all in. The screen was so close it encompassed the entire field of our view. The stereo sound was crisp and loud.

In the first scene where young Chrissie went skinny dipping, and that now famous deep bass theme music began to play, I was already tense. When she was attacked, I was horrified by the sounds that came out of her as she was dragged through the water. She screamed begging God to save her, and then was yanked beneath the waves for the final time. That scene haunted me. Still does…

As the movie unfolded, and we met Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), then Oceanographer Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and the very salty Captain Quint (Robert Shaw), to say was I hooked and drawn in was an understatement. I was there baby!

Jaws Cast

I know every scene of that movie by heart, but there’s one scene I always associate with shock and pain. It’s the scene where the crew of the Orca was trying to find the giant shark, but wasn’t having any luck. They were adrift, bored and whiling away the time.

Brody was tasked with chumming the water with chopped up mackerel to see if they could attract the shark. Brody was tired of flinging the stinking, bloody concoction and wanted to drive the boat. He shouted up to Hooper, “…Why don’t you come down here and chum some of this shit!” At that moment the huge shark made his first appearance, popping his head out of the water.


Startled, Brody shot to his feet, cigarette dangling in his slack jaw. Never taking his eye off the spot where the shark had appeared, he backed slowly into the cabin where Quint was, and Brody said his famous (ad-libbed) line, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”


The first time I saw that scene I couldn’t appreciate it as much. When the shark popped out of the water, the theater audience released a collective scream, including my friend Colleen.

She was so frightened; she swung her arms out wide, smacking Joe in the face to her right and hitting me in the throat with her left. All at once I was sputtering for breath and at the same time realizing why the usher called this “Chicken Row.”

I recovered quickly and absolutely loved the rest of the movie.

Over the last 40 years, I must have seen that movie at least 100 times – and I still love it. It reminds me of the Summer of ’75’ – hot summer nights looking up at the stars, good music, fun with my friends, and a deep fondness for my childhood.

Those were damn good times…


Going Back In Time In Newport, RI

August 1, 2015 – Newport, Rhode Island

Loly and I took a road trip to Newport, Rhode Island. A place I had always wanted to go.

Since I was a teen, I wanted to tour the mansions of the “Gilded-Age”. They were built during the late Victorian period of America when industries of all types grew at a rapid pace, transforming the country and making some people immensely wealthy.  With that wealth, they built colossal mansions all over the place.

I first learned about the “Gilded Age” mansions when I was a kid growing up on Long Island. I also learned the North Shore of the Island was called the “Gold Coast” during this period. At one time there were as many as 500 mansions along the “Gold Coast”. Today fewer than a dozen survive.

In Newport, Rhode Island, some of the wealthiest magnates and industrialists built summer homes here. They constructed colossal estates with upwards of 70-rooms, to stay for 10-12 weeks a year. These magnificent homes survive now only through the efforts of the Preservation Society of Newport. They saved these places and give tours to raise money to continue preserving these grand mansions from a bygone era.

I was surprised by a few things: 1. How much traffic there was to get onto what I now know is an island and not a peninsula. It took a long while waiting on the bridge before we were able to get into the main town district (see touristy). 2. How crowded and busy a place it is. 3. That you can’t park anywhere for pretty much less than $20, and 4. How attractive the town is.

We crawled through the main tourist district and found our way onto the famed Bellevue Avenue, where most of the mansions are.  We stopped at the first mansion we saw that had a Welcome flag on the fence. It was the Isaac Bell house. A tour was just letting out and we parked in a side yard of the estate. We climbed the steps to the huge wrap-around porch and approached the front Dutch door. The bottom half was closed and at the open top half we were greeted by a kindly older gentleman who filled in these newbies on what to do.

The man let us into the empty house to buy two, 5 House Tour tickets, which never expire until they are used up. I knew right away I wanted to see the biggest and most famous of the mansions first, “The Breaker’s” where the Vanderbilt’s once lived.

But first, since it was on the way, I wanted to go to “The Cliff Walk,” but that wasn’t happening as there was not one available parking spot.

After a short drive up the road and we pulled into The Breaker’s parking area. To enter the grounds you pass through a 30-foot tall iron gate and walk up the white pebble driveway and are presented with a brilliant view of the mansion. Just standing there in awe of the place, the only words that kept playing through my head were, “extraordinary opulence.” That phrase would play through my head again and again during the tour.


The Breaker’s was built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II. He was a railroad tycoon, and grandson to Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt – the man who began the empire. Construction began in 1892, and was completed in 1895.

This is how it looked in 1895. Note that spindly little tree in the right front is now huge!



Breakers tree

The mansion sits on 13 acres of manicured grounds. The mansion itself is a massive 62,000 square feet in size. It boasts 70 rooms, 15 bedrooms for family and guests, 20 bathrooms, and used to have a staff of 40 servants and maids. Mr. Vanderbilt was able to enjoy the fruits of his labor for only one year before he suffered a stroke in 1896, at the age of 52. In 1899, he suffered a brain hemorrhage which killed him. He was just 55.

Cornelius and his wife Alice had seven children together. After her husband died, Alice continued to run the business and raise her children. When Alice died in 1934, their daughter Countess Gladys Széchenyi inherited The Breakers.  As the family fortune began to dwindle, she could no longer afford to staff the mansion to properly care for it.

In 1948, she leased the mansion to the Preservation Society with the stipulation she could maintain an apartment in the house.  With the Society’s help, Gladys opened the mansion to paying tourists to help maintain the building and grounds.

Her daughter Sylvia took over the care and management of the home when Gladys died in 1965. Sylvia was also granted life tenancy until she died in 1998. The life tenancy is still in place. There are Vanderbilt descendants living on the third floor of the mansion – which of course is not open to the public.

First we walked the beautiful grounds of manicured lawns and mature trees. The back of the property is treeless, remaining open to the breathtaking ocean view of the waves breaking against the rocks…

Breakers Namesake

The back of the house is no less impressive than the front. There is a terrace the size of a modern professional basketball court. The space was covered by a large party tent, as it was rented out for a wedding reception.

Breakers Patio

As we walked back toward the house I looked up at the building, feeling completely comfortable, like I belonged there. I wondered if Cornelius walked this same path, looking at the house he and Alice had designed and had built, and marveled at the majesty of how their plans and ideas stood manifest and magnificent.

Loly Terrace

I strolled about with a familiar ease. Along the side of the house was another stepped terrace with a rounded wing jutting out. We were to learn, this was the music conservatory where there were many musical gatherings and parties both in the wing and on the terrace. I could almost hear the classical music playing on a cool New England summer evening, people dressed for the occasion and enjoying themselves.

side view


music room

We entered grand foyer where we picked up headphones connected to an mp3 player for a self-guided tour.

The first place you enter is the immense Great Room. Here there were soirees and dances, and dinner parties. The room is adorned in all manner of opulence, constructed completely of limestone and Italian marble. There are statues, carvings, tapestries, portraits and even a fountain under the grand staircase.

Grand Staircase

In one of those dinner parties, on September 14, 1962, right at the base of the grand staircase, sat President John F. Kennedy, and his wife Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy.

Kennedy and Jackie

The grand staircase was even designed with shorter steps to allow women wearing gowns to appear as if they were gliding down the stairs. On those stairs, much to the chagrin of the butler, the young Vanderbilt children would use serving trays to slide down the stairs. Chips in the stone steps bear witness to these trips. They also took many a ride down the stair banister.

From there room after room was an amazing array of exotic woods, imported stone, sculptures, statues, paintings, and gold is everywhere. In one room the custom wallpaper displays the 9 Muses of Greek Mythology spread out in the corners of the room. The wallpaper itself is inlaid with platinum!


Among my other favorite rooms were the Music Room, and the wood paneled Library. Man, I could have spent some time there.


Then there was the Billiard Room, where I could have spent many a long evening with the gents, over cigars, good drink and lively conversation.

billiard room

While all these rooms were beautiful given their era, I thought two of the absolute coolest rooms were the massive Kitchen, and the Butler’s Pantry – the operations center for the entire estate.

The kitchen has a 21 foot long stove and ovens, heated by coal. There is a zinc-topped work table about the same length and there were solid copper pots of every size. Some are big enough for Loly to sit in.


The very cool Butler’s Pantry is a two story affair where the Butler would be on the open air second floor selecting plates for the right occasion, loading them onto the dumbwaiter to the work area below. The silverware was kept in a large safe in the room. This was also the central operation room to which the speaking tubes, and later the intercoms funneled.


I thoroughly enjoyed The Breakers and its rich history.


We went to the much smaller Chateau-sur-Mer, but I think we were mansioned out. We began the guided tour, but very quickly grew bored. By the third room we were done, and ducked out.

The best part is we know we’ll be back in Newport. This will be a great place to visit in the peak fall season, and then again around Christmas to take in the grandeur of how they dress up the town for the holiday.

We headed back into the main part of town and were able to get into a parking lot for $20. We stopped for a late lunch at the Barking Crab. The food was pretty good, but it didn’t warrant the prices they were asking. I’ll admit their New England clam chowdah is as good as they boast, but I’d never go back. I felt they were way overpriced because of where they are.

We took a long walk along Thames Street, and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells, but it was evident it was all set up for tourists. There were no stores we were interested in spending any time in. I did, however, guide Loly into a large antiques store. It was one of the largest and best I had ever seen. I could have easily spent a bundle in there with some of the things they had relating to maritime, art, WWII collectibles, and old photographs. I managed to leave empty handed, and my bank account intact.

We left afterward, and took a too long route home. I know the next time we go, we’ll be better prepared. We know someone who grew up in Newport, and he’s going to give us a personal tour. He’ll show us alternate ways to get on the island, and better places to eat, shop and park.

Newport Bridge

We are very much looking forward to that trip!

A Perfect Autumn Day

Bird song in the woods
People playing tennis
A pair of men practicing Tai Chi on the shady side of the basketball court
Dozens of men and women playing simultaneous games of flag football
Others practice throwing on the sidelines
A pleasant earthy smell in the air
Coats come off and are flung over shoulders and draped over arms
People walking slowly, smiling, enjoying the warmth of this late season sun
Squirrels and chipmunks rustling among the leaves
Scores of Canadian geese floating languidly in the pond
A mild breeze caressing faces, ruffling hair and fluttering leaves of fiery reds, brilliant gold’s and toasty browns
Simply a perfect autumn afternoon

Werner Meyer
October 28, 2014

9-11 The 13th Anniversary

The images, sounds and experience still feel fresh, but not as raw as it once felt.

I still get sad and angry when I think about it, but no longer filled with melancholy and rage.

This year I have absolutely no interest in seeing the pictures and videos of the buildings burning, the plane hitting, the people jumping, the buildings fall and people running in stark terror. Those images are branded indelibly in my mind.

I prefer to see the World Trade Center how they looked, how I like to remember them. Like the clear blue skyline picture of Manhattan on my desktop at work.


I also prefer to see the pictures of the stunning Freedom Tower and the beautiful and touching memorial park and reflecting pools in the footprint of the original towers.



I’ll never forget the victims of that day. They were everyday, ordinary people like myself, my family and my friends.

I’ll never forget that Guy managed to escape the North Tower, just before it collapsed. He also experienced the bombing in 1993, but 9-11 changed him forever.

I’ll never forget the man who was talking to his very pregnant wife as she stood in her office. Her final utterance suggests she saw the jet just before it hit the tower right where she was standing – completely obliterating her and their unborn child.

I’ll never forget watching the man trying to shimmy his way down from the upper floors of the burning tower between the structures framing the windows. It wasn’t shown, but there is no doubt he eventually fell to his death.

I’ll never forget the desperate faces of hundreds of people hanging from broken windows attempting to breathe in life-giving air as superheated smoke billowed through the opening behind them, trying to build up the courage to jump before they burn to death.

I’ll never forget the sound of Kevin Cosgrove with a 9-1-1 dispatcher. He and a few others were trapped on the top floors of the South Tower. It was hot, they were choking on thick smoke. In utmost fear and panic he demanded that first responders rescue them. The dispatcher did all she could to keep reassuring him. I’ll never forget Kevin’s scream as the building collapsed and the line went dead. Kevin’s wife and children were fortunate his body was recovered, to give them closure, where the remains of over a thousand victims have never been recovered.

No, I will never forget. I can’t…I don’t want to.

How to Write Fiction In Five: How Long Should A Book Be?

When writing your fictional stories, they will take shape in one of the following basic forms, each varying in length/word count:

  1. Novels
  2. Novellas
  3. Short Stories
  4. Flash Fiction

The obvious difference, for the most part, is their word count/length. There are subsets of each of these, but these four are the main types. However, at a deeper level there are other differences – just as there are differences between bourbon and Scotch whiskey.



Novels and Novellas

The main distinction of the novel is the breadth of its scope. Novels contain multiple characters, incidents, settings, and moods. It’s really an entire world. If you’re writing a novel, you need enough “stuff” to sustain reader interest through hundreds of pages.

Novels traditionally run between 150-300 pages in published form. On occasion they run as long as 1,000 pages. For those counting, the average traditionally published novel is at least 80,000 words, which are 320 double spaced pages in a 12 point Times New Roman font. A novel can run as low as 40,000 words which is about 160 pages.

With the ever evolving ebook format, the standardization of novel lengths, a formula established by the increasingly obsolete traditional publishing model, is changing. It’s becoming more subjective. The importance is more about telling a compelling story from beginning to end – regardless of whether it’s done in 150, 350 or 1,050 pages.

A shorter version of the novel is the Novella. It contains all the elements of a novel, but in shorter form. Some of the best literary works in history are novellas. The word count typically runs from 15,000 – 40,000 words.


Short Stories and Flash Fiction

The key to a Short Story is focus. Short stories usually stay focused on one or more of the following:

  • A single character
  • A single incident
  • A single time
  • A single place
  • A single mood

Short stories usually span 1,000 – 15,000 words, which is 60-70 pages double-spaced in a 12 point font. Short fiction was once very popular in most mainstream magazines before interest waned. But as ebook popularity grows, combined with time-pressed readers with short attention spans, Short Stories are enjoying resurgence.

Flash Fiction has also become very popular as of late. It has the same elements as a Short Story, but now you need to be laser focused, and grammatically economic to tell a complete story in 300 – 1,000 words.

If you’re just starting out as a fiction writer, short stories and flash fiction are the best entry point. It’s not that they’re easier to write than novels and novellas; in fact, most agree the extreme economy makes them more challenging to do well. But when writing a short or flash story, you’ll spend less time drafting and revising the piece, and this will give you a chance to get the hang of the whole process.

A good analogy is learning to pilot a boat. It’s much easier to learn all the basics going across a bay than going out into the open Atlantic Ocean to sail down to the Caribbean. Your short or flash story can serve as a warm-up to a novel. Or if you find your short story really needs to expand, you can always take it into a longer form. Another idea is to collect a series of relatable short stories into an anthology.

For the purposes of this series, it’s recommended you begin writing in the short fiction form.


How to Write Fiction In Five: What Is Fiction?

Fiction by definition is a lie – something made up, a fabricated story invented to entertain.

Simply put, writing fiction is the skill of telling true lies.


Fictional stories are born with the full intent to deceive the reader into suspending disbelief, but the cool thing is there’s a smattering of truth woven into the fabric of the story reflecting the way things are in real life.

You, the fiction writer are God of your story world. You are the creator of the characters in the story and engineer of the world in which their story takes place.

That’s pretty freakin’ empowering stuff ain’t it? You are God of every story you create, and as a fiction writer you are obligated to lie.

Good fiction portrays a world so convincing, and so real the reader is tricked into believing that world really exists. Even if a story deals with an alternate or fantasy reality. Just talk to the raving fans of Game of Thrones or Star Wars. When you talk to them, you could see something going on behind their eyes saying, “Oh those worlds are real alright, they  are  real!

This is what your goal as a story teller is – to fabricate the most convincing “true lies.”



How to Write Fiction In Five: Short, easily digestible to-the-point articles covering the basics of writing fiction stories. Each article will take five minutes or less to read, but provide you with the core understanding to the subject matter.

Mary Rowlandson’s Tragic Story

In 1675, King Philip’s War raged in New England. On February 10th, 1675, Native Americans attacked the town of Lancaster, Massachusetts. As the Indians went from house to house slaughtering or capturing the colonial inhabitants, Mary Rowlandson recounted what she saw and experienced on that day, and her subsequent 11-week captivity, in her narrative, The Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

On July 5th, 2014, – almost 340 years later, Loly and I visited the site where Mary Rowlandson’s nightmare journey began.

The site where the garrison house once stood is amazingly and thankfully still pristine. It is a recognized historic site and has never been developed, remaining a pastureland.


This marker briefly describes the events of that day at this site. As we entered the field, we were taken by how beautiful it was, and on this fantastic summer day it was hard to imagine the savagery and desperate fight to survive which took place here.


Though not obviously marked, I went by Mary Rowlandson’s description of where the garrison house was located, The house stood upon the edge of a hill…


Sure enough at the top of a small hill in the field, was the stump of an ancient oak tree which had at one time marked where the garrison house stood. A garrison house was specifically built to protect against Indian attacks and was a central gathering place for several families during such an event. This is what a garrison house from that era would have looked like:


It was from this spot which Mary witnessed a house across the way being attacked by the Indians, “There were five persons taken in one house; the father, and the mother and a sucking child, they knocked on the head(this is a 17th century way of saying they had their skulls crushed and brains dashed out by a tomahawk or stone hammer); the other two they took and carried away alive. “

She then witnessed this taking place at an adjoining garrison and people trying to escape to their garrison, “There were two others, who being out of their garrison upon some occasion were set upon; one was knocked on the head, the other escaped; another there was who running along was shot and wounded, and fell down; he begged of them his life, promising them money but they would not hearken to him but knocked him in head, and stripped him naked, and split open his bowels. Another, seeing many of the Indians about his barn, ventured and went out, but was quickly shot down. There were three others belonging to the same garrison who were killed; the Indians getting up upon the roof of the barn, had advantage to shoot down upon them over their fortification.”


“…some of the Indians got behind the hill, others into the barn, and others behind anything that could shelter them; from all which places they shot against the house, so that the bullets seemed to fly like hail; and quickly they wounded one man among us, then another, and then a third.”

This is the view from the top of the hill where the garrison house stood; and the vantage point from which Mary Rowlandson saw the Indians begin their attack on their home.



“About two hours they had been about the house before they prevailed to fire it, and there being no defense about the house, only two flankers at two opposite corners; they fired it once and one ventured out and quenched it, but they quickly fired it again, and that took.

The Last Desperate Struggle

“Some in our house were fighting for their lives, others wallowing in their blood, the house on fire over our heads, and the bloody heathen ready to knock us on the head, if we stirred out. Now might we hear mothers and children crying out for themselves, and one another, “Lord, what shall we do?” Then I took my children (and one of my sisters’, hers) to go forth and leave the house: but as soon as we came to the door and appeared, the Indians shot so thick that the bullets rattled against the house, as if one had taken an handful of stones and threw them…”

“But out we must go, the fire increasing, and coming along behind us, roaring, and the Indians gaping before us with their guns, spears, and hatchets to devour us. No sooner were we out of the house, but my brother−in−law (being before wounded, in defending the house, in or near the throat) fell down dead, whereat the Indians scornfully shouted, and hallowed, and were presently upon him, stripping off his clothes, the bullets flying thick, one went through my side, and the same through the bowels and hand of my dear child in my arms.”

“One of my elder sisters’ children, named William, had then his leg broken, which the Indians perceiving, they knocked him on [his] head. Thus were we butchered by those merciless heathen, standing amazed, with the blood running down to our heels. My eldest sister being yet in the house, and seeing those woeful sights, the infidels hauling mothers one way, and children another, and some wallowing in their blood: and her elder son telling her that her son William was dead, and myself was wounded, she said, “And Lord, let me die with them,” which was no sooner said, but she was struck with a bullet, and fell down dead over the threshold.”

“…the Indians laid hold of us, pulling me one way, and the children another, and said, “Come go along with us”; I told them they would kill me: they answered, if I were willing to go along with them, they would not hurt me. Oh the doleful sight that now was to behold at this house! “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he has made in the earth.” Of thirty−seven persons who were in this one house, none escaped either present death, or a bitter captivity, save only one.”

“There were twelve killed, some shot, some stabbed with their spears, some knocked down with their hatchets. When we are in prosperity, Oh the little that we think of such dreadful sights, and to see our dear friends, and relations lie bleeding out their heart−blood upon the ground. There was one who was chopped into the head with a hatchet, and stripped naked, and yet was crawling up and down.”

“It is a solemn sight to see so many Christians lying in their blood, some here, and some there, like a company of sheep torn by wolves, all of them stripped naked by a company of hell−hounds, roaring, singing, ranting, and insulting, as if they would have torn our very hearts out; yet the Lord by His almighty power preserved a number of us from death, for there were twenty−four of us taken alive and carried captive.”



So this is where is happened…on this beautiful spot and the surrounding area, 12 people from this garrison and another 9 from another house and garrison were slaughtered, stripped and left amidst their burning homes. This is where her nephew William, with a broken leg, had his head bashed in, where her older sister was shot to death on the threshold, and where a wounded man begged for his life and was tomahawked, disemboweled and stripped.

Mary, shot in the side, was taken captive with her gravely wounded six-year-old daughter Sarah, and forced to march into the wilderness toward New Hampshire and the Connecticut River. Little Sarah suffered in agony for 9 days before dying from her wounds. She was buried on a lonely hilltop in the woods.

Mary was with the Indians for 11 weeks before they sold her back to her husband. Her surviving two children were also sold back to them not long after.

After her release Mary met her brother-in-law. He asked where her older sister was. He and a contingency of militia had gone to Lancaster after the attack. There he had helped bury the mutilated and charred bodies, never even knowing his wife had been one of those burned bodies.

As I stood on the site of the garrison, near the stump of the old oak, trying to imagine the house, and the attack, an item in the rotting remains of the stump caught Loly’s attention. It was a brick. She lifted it from the decomposing wood and dirt and held it up.


It was a hand-made brick, which would have been part of the center chimney of the garrison house. She replaced the brick where she found it and picked up another for inspection. These bricks are all that remain of the garrison house and a tangible reminder of that day. These bricks had been in place when those colonists fought for their lives, and here is where those bricks will remain.




It was an altogether far different time, one I can hardly fathom no matter how much as I study this era.

I am fully aware the slaughter of Native Americans and Colonists took place on both sides, with the Indians suffering far worse in the end, but this is not that whole story. This is just the story of a Puritan wife and mother, what she saw, and what she experienced. To get a full account of the entire experience just click the link to a PDF copy of Mary’s complete narrative: The Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson



100 Years Ago Today Archduke Francis Ferdinand was Assassinated.

One Hundred Years ago today, June 28th 1914, a presumptuous, idealistic young man of 19, Gavrilo Princp shot and killed the Austro-Hungarian  Archduke Francis Ferdinand, and his pregnant wife Sophie, in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. This singular act by a Serbian nationalist would change the world forever. It set events in motion leading to a World War, which in turn eventually precipitated a Second World War. In the end some 100 million people would lose their lives.

Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, shortly before they were assassinated.

The assassination sparked a pointless world war which killed over 16.5 million people and injured another 21 million. The worst part? Nobody knows the real reason why World War I happened. Even well-established historians can’t decide exactly why the war even started in the first place. At the time Europe was a complex network of Imperial alliances. The continent was a powder keg ready to blow and the Archduke’s assassination provided the spark. Here’s how it unfolded:

  • Austria declared war on Serbia.
  • Russia declared war on Austria.
  • Germany declared war on Russia — and immediately invaded France(?)
  • Great Britain declared war on Germany, and Canada, being part of the British Empire, was automatically at war as well.
  • Eventually a total of 25 countries got sucked into this conflict

The U.S. didn’t enter the fray until 1917. We were in it for 18 months – over 117,000 were killed and another 200,000+ injured. Can you imagine those sort of casualties today? Unfortunately The War to End All Wars, didn’t live up to it’s name… Werner

D-Day + 70 Years

June 6th, 2014

During the 70th D-Day Commemoration, I looked upon these old men, these veterans of World War II.

The camera shows their faces softened, rounded, and wrinkled by time. Their hair is white and sparse, and the head and hands of some shake subtly and uncontrollably. They wear medals earned in battle on their tired, sagging frame. None are able to stand for very long, most use hearing aids and almost all have canes. Their eyes, however, their eyes look sharp with remembrance.

I see beyond what the camera shows. I see young men in their teens and twenties, with hard angular faces, and lean, hard bodies standing erect, proud and prepared for battle. They have heads of thick, rich hair, and eyes of stone, quick and ready. The things they experienced and did, formed their character, affected their lives and stayed with them always.

To me these young-old men are heroes. As much as those who gave their all during the war, and the ones who have since passed on. This The Greatest Generation, saved the world from tyranny in the greatest conflict mankind has ever known. With luck, it will remain that way…


CNN did a segment on a man named Jim “Pee Wee” Martin. On June 6, 1944 he parachuted into Normandy with the 101st Airborne, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Company G.


His company landed right in the middle of German reinforcements heading for the coast. He said it was a “slaughterhouse”. To commemorate that historic day, at the age of 93, Pee Wee suited up, boarded a C-47 Dakota and jumped out of a plane over Normandy one last time.


One of the things I took away from that segment was when Pee Wee said after the jump, “I just wanted to show everyone you don’t have to sit and die just because you get old.”

Jim is a Certified Bad Ass!


The other thing that stayed with me from the segment was when they were giving Jim a tour of a D-Day museum. In one display they had an American helmet with a hole in it. The correspondent said, “This was the helmet of Don Francis, he was right next to you…” and Jim finished, “When he got shot.”


I wanted to know more about the young man who wore that helmet

At 4:30 am, on their way to secure a couple of bridges, Cpl Donald B. Francis and Jim found themselves pinned down in a field near the River Douve. Their only cover was tall grass. In the dim light of the early morning, a German soldier saw the white painted ace on Don’s helmet and used that as an aiming point. The bullet entered the left side of his head and exited through his right forehead. Don Francis never regained consciousness and died in the Fortin Farm Aid Station on June 7th.



Donald Francis grew up in Rochester, New York. When he died he was not married and had no children. He was only 23. This is the house in which he grew up. I imagine that one day he gave his worried mom a hug and a kiss, said goodbye to his family, walked out that front door, across the porch, down the steps and into history – never to return.


When the telegram about his death arrived a few days later, it’s hard to imagine what the Francis family went through.

Don was the same age as Jim. One got to go home fall in love, raise a family, have a career and live to be an old man. All the hopes and dreams of the other ended on a field in a foreign country, 70 years ago. Don never got to know what it was like to fall in love, and know what it was like to have a family of his own and experience life to the fullest.

Now Corporal Donald B. Francis, G Co 506th PIR, forever lives in Plot E, Row 17, Grave 18, Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, Colleville-sur-Mer, France


It’s good to see that someone still remembers young Don Francis.

It’s my hope that we never forget the young men who gave their all to defeat a tyranny we never had to know.