Tag Archives: brother

King and Porky

Who am I, really? Introspection is but one feeble method for seeking an answer. Tracing of tracks on the ground known as personal history is another. I shall attempt to combine the two with a spirit of the Quest to generate some answers. Join me if and when you may be so inclined.

NOTE: This blog series is dedicated to the quest for understanding who I am and how I came to be me.

My mind is a mosaic of memories, snapshots of experiences—or, more honestly, homemade records of perceived experiences. Early memories and memories of traumatic times are especially suspect of fidelity; but they are all the memories I have of these times.

I remember my fourth birthday party. Well, specifically, I remember that there was a party, that it was a celebration of my becoming four years old, and that I got some small red trucks as presents.

One particular toy tractor is a clearer memory, a plastic scale model of a Farmall H with real rubber tires and a rubber steering wheel. It was one of my favorite toys of all time. I cannot remember receiving it but I remember it being taken away once.

It seems I got angry at my sister and threw a fork at her. My dad didn’t seem to think that was appropriate behavior and took my tractor away and set it up high, on the cook stove I believe, where I couldn’t reach it. I learned early that I had a volatile temper.

My older brother had a metal scale model of an Allis Chalmers C, but it was not to the same scale as my H. So, even though a Farmall H is bigger than an Allis C, his toy was bigger than mine. Even so, I played with both. I liked my H best.

In the 1970s, I owned a real H for awhile. My brother has owned lots of tractors on the farm including about a hundred accurate scale models, some in original boxes. I never have, although I gave a true scale model of an Allis Chalmers 190XT to my oldest daughter.

I learned to drive our real Farmall H when I was about four. More specifically, I learned how to start it in low gear and steer it straight while somebody loaded a wagon behind, then kick the switch off to stop.

Our neighbor’s Ford 8N or 9Nwas more fun for me to drive. I could use the clutch because it was horizontal so I could step on it. This one I could really drive like the big boys. I now own a Ford 9N which I use on our land and road in Wisconsin.

I never owned working horses or even learned how to drive them the way my dad did. He farmed with horses until I was about four. That’s when he bought the Farmall H and, I expect, my toy model of it.

Not all important memories are primary, meaning some were told to me. One story is how my dad got started farming with horses after being a hired hand. The only team he could afford was one so rank that nobody wanted them. He had very specific training methods that, in his words, would not break a horse’s spirit. To convince these horses that he was boss without beating them, he threw them each to the ground with a rope (a technique I never learned) and sat on their heads. Horses cannot get up without throwing their head up first. It is basically the same thing as the puppy submission training hold.

I can still remember our two working horses, draft horses we called them, King and Porky. They were huge, filling their stalls near the front of our barn, but I do not remember ever being afraid of them. I’ll have to check with my brothers to see how accurate my memory might be.

King being appropriately regal was a tall and lean golden chestnut with a blaze of some sort on his forehead. Porky was darker, bay I believe, with dark mane, tail and feet. In my mind, the memory created when I was three to four years old, King was sort of the boss, the serious one, but Porky was the steady muscle with a sense of humor.

I do not know who I was before these memories, but I am certain such early experiences contributed to the person I have become. I still have a powerful connection to the land, love animals, and would often rather drive tractor or garden than fish. Perhaps more importantly, I still admire my dad. I was a lucky boy.

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Low D

On a topographic map, there is a symbol marked by a closed loop representing a contour of equal elevation with hash marks inside. This is a depression, an area of land lower than all the land surrounding it.

One in ten older American Veterans suffers from depression (VA)http://www.va.gov/health/NewsFeatures/20110624a.asp

Last week at Dr. Hart’s Combat Veteran Aftercare Group, I heard him tell a brother that most Veterans with PTSD also have another condition and that his was depression.

Depression is like being lost in a cedar swamp on a moonless night in the fog. Pitfalls surround you between the roots of tall trees that shade you even from starlight. One wrong step could drop you into a hole in the bog, into cold, dark water. You know there is higher ground somewhere, but even your imagination has lost sight of it. There is no light, not even in your mind. Darkness enveopes you; purpose escapes you; hope echoes like a cruel joke.

NOTE: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD and other past stresses. May aspires to Hope.

Eleven (11) percent of our older Veterans suffer from depression. The number seems low to me, but I expect that is because a lot of Veterans do not live to be old. On an average day, twenty two (22) American Veterans commit suicide.

Depression kills.

It lies there, waiting, between the anger and acceptance of a grieving process.

But, there is Hope.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things…” (Shawshank Redemption)

A line from a movie, yes, a story written by an author of horror. I find that amusing in a way.

If you are a Veteran, or if you love a Veteran, please recognize anger as an alternative to depression. Anger is a lifeline to higher ground, to life, to rescue from depression.

Yes, acceptance is a goal, the state of conclusion of grief. Yes, acceptance is possible and desireable. But, it is over there, on the other side of that chasm or swamp of depression. Will we survive the journey?

Some of us will. Many, too many, of us will not. Like combat, itself, even the survival of PTSD carries a sense of survivor’s guilt. Now, ain’t that depressing?

Anger management in the customary sense is dangerous for combat Veterans because it makes us vulnerable to depression. It strips us of our lifeline. It casts us into the swamp of despair.

So, where is the Hope, already?

Here it is: Brotherhood. Nothing helps a Veteran like another Veteran. We don’t need to sit around and talk about our PTSD. We do need to sit around and talk. We need each other. I don’t know why, the psychology of it, but I know it works. And at some point one brother shares with another an experience of Hope, an improvement in conditions through application of strategies, a psychologist that can be trusted. Trusted, yeah, that’s it.

And service. There is a blessing to feeling useful in service to your brothers. You feel a purpose, again, to share your experience with the Veteran in pain. I have witnessed it, experienced it.

If there are tracks of depression in your heart, get help. Reach out to a brother and ask him how he does it. You will find them at Veteran’s organizations, VA hospital or clinic waiting rooms, or VA Centers dedicated to serving combat Veterans and their families.

May your tracks follow you to help.