The real reason to celebrate July 4th

D.O.G. Street by Bruce Stambaugh
Many of the tenets of our democratic republic were formed in Williamsburg, VA along D.O.G. Street.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Watching starbursts of fireworks from five miles above the earth was an unexpected treat.

My family and I were flying back from vacation late on July 3, 1988. Our hour-long flight path took us along the southern shores of Lake Michigan and Lake Erie. Shortly after we were airborne, the sky began to pop with burst after colorful burst of fireworks.

Parade by Bruce Stambaugh
Parades are just part of the annual Fourth of July celebrations in the United States.
All along the route towns large and small expressed their jubilation for America’s Independence Day holiday with pyrotechnic displays. From high above I imagined the various sparkling bursts reflecting the broad diversity of folks that comprise this great country. Necks craned skyward, people from many cultures, races and religions in urban parks, county fairgrounds or on their own back porches had to also be admiring their local kaleidoscope of explosions.

As the last sparks flickered, I had to wonder then, as I wonder now, if the real meaning behind the celebratory fireworks is fully understood. As they picked up their chairs and folded their blankets to return home, what were they thinking? Was it just another fireworks display or did they truly comprehend the meaning of the day?

Those are questions that needed to be asked then just as they need to be asked today. Remembering our historic roots helps us to focus on where we are now and where it is we need to be going tomorrow.

Fourth of July decorations by Bruce Stambaugh
Homes like this one in Lakeside, OH will be decorated for the Fourth of July all across the U.S.

As we celebrate another Independence Day in the United States, here are a few historical facts that cannot be changed, though some have tried to distort the truth. The Continental Congress actually declared its independence from Great Britain on July 2, 1776. The revolutionary document, penned by Thomas Jefferson, was signed July 4, 1776, making the radical pronouncement official.

At great risk to their fame, fortune and reputations, these bold men, and they were all men, set down the groundwork of a new nation. That foundation was based on one essential notion, freedom.

A few years later that central idea wove its way into the heart of the U.S. Constitution in the form of the first 10 amendments commonly called the Bill of Rights. They itemized specific freedoms, including the freedom of religion, the freedom of speech, and the freedom to gather, among others.

British flag by Bruce StambaughThe people of the American colonies wanted to shake the hold of Great Britain’s rule and run their own lives. This great document announced a new form of government for all peoples. Without it, anarchy would have ruled.

Since its initial adoption the Constitution of the United States has been amended to appropriately represent rights and freedoms for all of the country’s peoples, regardless of gender, race or creed as the population and society’s mores have evolved. To be sure, that evolution has had its civil rough spots to say the least.

From our present perspective, it can be easy to think that some things always were. “In God We Trust,” for example, was added to our coins and currency in 1864 at the end of the Civil War. The phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance was not added until 1954 during the McCarthy communism scare era.

The altitude at which we enjoy the July 4th fireworks isn’t terribly important. The attitude of appreciation and a clear understanding and application of how and why our basic freedoms exist, however, are essential for appropriate social discourse.

As the fireworks explode in honor of this July 4th, what will you revere about Independence Day?

Amber waves of grain by Bruce Stambaugh
Religious freedom was the primary moving force for Amish immigrating to the United States, where their amber waves of grain still roll today.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Mountains of fun on the beach

Sunset Beach NC by Bruce Stambaugh
The pier and beach at Sunset Beach, NC.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’m not a sun worshipper. I prefer an exhilarating hike in the cool, refreshing mountain summer air where the views are spectacular and the flora and fauna inspirational.

How did we end up vacationing on a North Carolina beach? When our daughter asked my wife and I to join her family on their beach vacation, we didn’t hesitate. It’s what grandparents are supposed to do. It’s what grandparents live to do.

Watching our grandchildren’s initial reaction to being on the beach was alone worth the eight-hour drive from their Virginia home. After getting things settled for the week in our rental home, we walked to the beach with the intention of simply taking a look. The three grandkids, ages eight, five and two, had other ideas.
First encounter by Bruce Stambaugh
At low tide, the impressive sandy beach served as a gradual launching ramp into the soft, rolling tide. With their parents’ approval, all three grandkids dived right in fully clothed sans shoes, laughing and giggling away.

The adults kicked off their shoes and waded in as well. The water was unusually warm for mid-June.

For a week, save for one rainy day, the weather was absolutely perfect. The morning air warmed enough that we could hit the beach before 10 each day. Steady ocean breezes kept down the humidity and the sweating while we played with the grandchildren both in the gentle, silvery surf and on the sandy shore.
Empty beach by Bruce Stambaugh
Arriving early at the beach had another advantage. We nearly had the expansive seascape to ourselves. At that time of day, beach walkers and runners easily outnumbered the swimmers.

Boogie boards by Bruce StambaughThe kids enjoyed the boogie boards they had borrowed and brought along. The two boys ventured out into waist high water to await waves sufficient enough to carry them gently onto the moist sand. Of course they didn’t always make it that far, which made it all the more enjoyable. Either way they jumped and shouted and repeated the playful process.

Breaking water by Bruce StambaughTheir sister, the two-year-old, took a more delicate approach. She marched to where the water lapped the shore and laid down atop a little boogie board facing the ocean. Apparently she reasoned that with the tide coming in why not simply let the waves come to her. That way she didn’t have to face the force of the rolling water head on.

Her plan worked. Once the water reached her, she raised her head, pushed back her blond locks and enjoyed the gentle saltwater buffeting.
Bicycles by Bruce Stambaugh
Between interplays with the sun, sand and the waves, the children and their parents enjoyed bicycle forays around the small island. The two-year old rode in the bicycle trailer. The combination of the bumpy roads and the arduous times at the beach took their toll. She returned to the beach house sound asleep.

Toward the end of our stay, the kids turned more toward plying their sandcastle construction skills than they did dips in the ocean. The relentless waves served as an excellent cleanser for their sand-plastered skin.
Sandcastles by Bruce Stambaugh
The last full day of the vacation, the two-year-old already had on her swimsuit before breakfast. With arms stretched wide, her excited “Ta Da” entrance and her big smile summed up the entire week.

We may have been at the beach, but we all had mountains and mountains of fun.

Marsh sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
Sunset over the marsh at Sunset Beach, NC.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

A father who loved life, sometimes too much

Stambaughs by Bruce Stambaugh
My older brother, Craig (middle), and I accompanied our father, Richard H. Stambaugh, on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12, 2009.

By Bruce Stambaugh

My father loved life and his family, sometimes with reckless abandon. He seldom realized the latter. Dad chose to express his affection through actions rather than words. He enjoined his family in whatever he enjoyed doing, and Dad had a wide range of interests throughout his long life.

Dad especially had an affinity for all things outdoors. My brothers, sisters and I learned much about nature and sportsmanship. We also learned about safety, although I don’t think that was the primary lesson Dad had in mind.

Dad’s uninhibited fervor occasionally overrode practicality. The tricky tandem of affability and naiveté resulted in some memorable if not scary situations.

Parents by Bruce Stambaugh
Dad and Mom on their 66th wedding anniversary.
Take the time my older brother and I nearly drowned while Dad was supposed to be watching us. I was too young to remember this incident, but I heard the story so often, I can visualize it in my mind. Craig was six. I was two. We lived on a channel that connected two lakes.

My brother and I wandered on to the boat dock behind our house. According to the neighbor, the next thing she heard was plop, plop. When she no longer saw us standing on the dock, she assumed the worst, jumped in the water and pulled us both to safety. I understand our mother gave our father a good going over, and with that fearful incident firmly ingrained in my psyche I never learned to swim.

My first actual memory of my father is less dramatic, although it, too, was problematic. Dad handed me a bottle of soda. That gesture certainly was tame enough. Problem was I was only three and at the time sitting on the ceiling rafters of the house in which I grew up. Dad and my great uncle Elmer built the brick bungalow together. Dad wanted his family to see the progress to date.

There I was a toddler dangling over what was to be the dining room, Dad proudly smiling, handing me a Coca Cola from the floor below. Either they had nailed me to the 2 x 6 or they were overly trusting that I wouldn’t fall.

Sometimes the unsettling consequences weren’t necessarily Dad’s fault. Dad signed up the family for a special all day passenger train excursion from our hometown of Canton, Ohio to Cambridge, Ohio and back, a distance of about 120 miles roundtrip. The only problem was the train’s locomotive had so many mechanical issues we were gone for 24 hours. No food service or sleeping quarters were available on the train. We arrived home at 6 a.m., and once again Mom was not pleased.

Clendening by Bruce Stambaugh
Over the years, Dad spent many enjoyable days hunting and fishing with family and friends in the Clendening Lake region of southeastern Ohio.

On a family outing to Leesville Lake, Dad rented a boat with a capacity of four for a family of seven. Dad thought two kids counted for one adult. The boat patrol officer thought otherwise.

Should I even mention the time Dad left Craig, our cousin and me in a drenching rainstorm 40 miles from home? In honor of Father’s Day, let’s just say that it all worked out in the end. Mom, of course, had the last say.

Certainly not all of our experiences with our gung-ho Dad were harrowing in nature. We had many, many good times together. I do believe that our vicarious adventures with Dad taught my siblings and me to both enjoy life and to do so responsibly.

Dad was a loving, lovable guy who at times simply couldn’t help himself. I am forever grateful for his headlong dives into life.

Headstone by Bruce Stambaugh

The reality of being a forlorn Cleveland Indians fan

Field box seats by Bruce Stambaugh
The view from our seats keeps you in the game.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I have always been a fan of the Cleveland Indians. It must be the masochist in me.

Cleveland was and remains geographically the closest city with a major league baseball team. It was only logical that I follow them. Loyalist that I am, I have remained a true fan through thick and thin. Believe me, there have been a lot of lean years in my lifetime.

In part, that’s why I was a bit taken aback by the recent remarks of Indians’ closer Chris Perez. The young relief pitcher, not one to be shy with his words, vehemently chastised the Cleveland fan base for not supporting the team. At the time, the Tribe, as they are affectionately known, was in first place in the standings and last in attendance in the major leagues. That displeased Perez.

Roommates by Bruce Stambaugh
One of my college roommates met me at Progressive Field for an Indians game.

In a sport where clichés are the standard, it’s not how well you start the season, but where you end it. After winning 30 of their first 45 games last year, the Indians finished the season with a losing record. Like so many seasons before, their fast start melted with the summer heat.

Although I understood Perez’ point, I don’t think he comprehended the perspective of lifetime Indians fans. We have seen it all before. I doubt Perez knows about Max Alvis tripping over third base, turning a routine popup into a double. Or watching Tony Horton crawl back to the dugout on his knees after striking out on a blooper pitch. Or the embarrassing fiasco of “Ten Cent Beer Night.” More to his point, the Indians have been in this position time and time again.

Pick off by Bruce Stambaugh
Over the years, the Cleveland Indians have done about as much diving out of first place as they have diving back to first base.
Take 1961. On Father’s Day weekend, the perennial powerhouse New York Yankees were in town for a four game series. I watched the first two games on black and white television, and had tickets for the doubleheader on Father’s Day.

Cleveland won Friday’s game and then came back in dramatic fashion to beat the hated Yankees on Saturday 10-9. This was in the old Municipal Stadium, a cavern of a place that held 80,000 people. The Sunday games were standing room only. In those days, you could see two games for the price of one, which made doubleheaders so popular.

Fans stood five and six people deep behind the chain-linked fence, which arched the parameters of the outfield from foul pole to foul pole. The meshed fence then was not padded, which allowed the fans to see the action. Cleveland handily won both games, sweeping the series from the mighty Yankees.

Choo at bat by Bruce Stambaugh
Over the years, the Indians have had many good players like Shin-Soo Choo, only to lose them to free agency or trade them.

In the traffic jam outside the stadium, people were nearly delirious with joy. They were already celebrating as if the Indians had won the American League pennant. That proved slightly premature. By season’s end, the Yankees had won the league with the Indians far down in the standings.

In the off-season, the manager was fired. Players were traded, and that pattern was repeated for the next 30 years with no better results. Try as they might, the Indians always fell flat. The reality for the Indians fans was first place at the 4th of July, last place by September 30.

Verlander by Bruce Stambaugh
Late in a recent game vs. Detroit, Justin Verlander was still throwing 102 m.p.h., possibly out of frustration. The Indians won 2-1.
Of course that all changed in the 1990s when the Indians built a new stadium, spent big bucks acquiring free agent stars and grooming outstanding players in the farm system. Tribe fans were hysterical when the Indians went to the World Series in 1995 and 1997, only to lose both times.

The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. Only the beloved Chicago Cubs have had a longer dry spell. And yet, there is no stigma to being a Cubs fan like there is cheering for the Indians.

I won’t let that deter me, however. It’s not yet July 4th. There’s always hope, and of course, if this season goes as previous ones, always next year.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

More delicious reasons to visit Ohio’s Amish country

Strawberry pie and ice cream by Bruce Stambaugh
The delicious homemade strawberry pie and ice cream will again be offered free to all those who attend Homestead Furniture’s Strawberry Summer Fest, June 14-16 at Mt. Hope, OH.

By Bruce Stambaugh

People visit the world’s largest Amish population for many reasons. Nostalgia for the way things used to be, the friendly, plain folks, the delicious, affordable food, and the neat, quilt-patch farm fields often top the list.

Free pie and ice cream by Bruce Stambaugh
This youngster was pretty pleased with his free homemade strawberry pie and ice cream.

On June 14, 15, and 16, two more reasons will emerge. Visitors can enjoy free homemade strawberry pie and ice cream made on the spot at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, Ohio.

The expansive furniture store, which specializes in customizing hardwood and upholstered furniture, will hold its 12th annual Strawberry Summer Fest on those three days. On average, the store serves up 350 pies and 150 gallons of machine-cranked ice cream over the three-day gathering, which draws hundreds of people from several states.
Strawberry pie by Bruce Stambaugh
The Strawberry Summer Fest is held each year to help welcome in summer. According to Homestead Furniture’s sales manager Todd Reese, the store chose strawberry pie and ice cream as symbols of the season to share with customers old and new.

Cortona dining table by Bruce Stambaugh
The Cortona dining room table is just one example the exquisite furniture design and built by the craftsmen at Homestead Furniture.
Besides the free food, Homestead Furniture will also hold a drawing for gift cards to the store. Prizes total $1,750. Of course, Homestead Furniture will offer special sales prices on all of its hardwood, upholstered, and leather furniture, excluding custom orders. Their only other sale is in October.

In fact, the Mt. Hope merchant’s annual Sundown Sale will be held on Friday, June 15. Most businesses in town, from the hardware store to the fabric store, will be open until 8 p.m. The merchants also have a special drawing.

Homestead Furniture by Bruce Stambaugh
Homestead Furniture, Mt. Hope, OH is a busy place during its annual Strawberry Summer Fest.

Homestead Furniture will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 14 and 15, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 16. The store is located at 8233 SR 241, just north of Mt. Hope.

Mt. Hope is located 35 miles southwest of Canton, 50 miles south of Akron, and 75 miles south of Cleveland in the heart of Ohio’s Amish country.

Ice cream by Bruce Stambaugh
Employees at Homestead Furniture in Mt. Hope, OH make homemade ice cream five gallons at a time over the three day event.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

Humbly accepting the Illuminating Blogger Award

Sunset by Bruce Stambaugh
By Bruce Stambaugh

Illuminating? I am not sure that term has ever been applied to me until now, unless you count the glare off of my baldhead. To me, sunrises and sunsets are illuminating. That said, I am both humbled and honored that this blog has been nominated for the Illuminating Blogger Award.

Illuminating Blogger AwardI am also a bit surprised, mostly because the nomination came from a food blog, Food Stories. Kindly check out that blog and you will discover that it is more than about food. I am not a foodie, and but I do enjoy food, although I do have to follow a special diet. I have written about that on this blog, too.

As part of the condition of acceptance of the award, I have to reveal one random fact about myself. You may find this hard to believe, but when I was young I had long, blond, curly hair. Look at me now.

I also need to nominate five other worthy bloggers. With so many excellent bloggers in the blogging world, that is a daunting task. I recommend these five bloggers:

If you want to be personally illuminated, visit Carrie Craig’s blog. Without a doubt, her words will inspire you.

Even at her young age, Hannah Karena Jones sheds some light on the art of writing at her blog. Waiting is important for writers.

Niki Fulton illuminates life with artsy photography and to the point descriptors. You can find her blog here.

For serious writers, Anita Nolan has the inside track on both information and inspiration. If you write, her blog is a must.

Finally, I thought it only appropriate to nominate a well-written and illustrated food blog. The Gourmet Wino does both.

I’m sure you’ll find these bloggers even more worthy of this nice award than me. Nevertheless, I do appreciate the kind gesture. It’s nice to know others appreciate your creativity, whether it’s revealed through writing or photography.

Thanks, again, to the kind folks at Food Stories.
Foggy sunrise by Bruce Stambaugh
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012