May 29th Memorial Day

All sacrificed some, some sacrificed all. This is the day we should remember all those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country free, preserve our human rights and allow America to still be that beacon on the hill.

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It started as Decoration Day following the Civil War.  As families began to recover from the death of loved ones they began to decorate their graves with flowers blooming from the spring as the summer months began to approach. It was the first time in American history when graveyards had been separated for the fallen soldiers as there were simply too many to be sent back home to be buried. It didn’t matter what side they had fought on, all the graves would be decorated.

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In 1882 the name was changed to Memorial Day, remember all those who had fallen in the name of America, and across the world. Families would gather, share a meal near the gravesite and then decorate the graves of their fallen loved ones, friends and even the occasional stranger.

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It seems the least we could do for all they have done, and given, for us. No one wants to be forgotten when they are gone. Unfortunately the list continues to grow. World War 2 created many heroes from men and women that might have lived relatively quiet lives otherwise.

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And Vietnam, while not popular, created a longer list with many more heroes many Americans seemed to try and forget. Like the war or not, the men and women who fought it are to be remembered just as in any war America has fought. In 1971 Congress set Memorial Day to the last Monday in May.

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There will be more wars. There will be more death. Their will be more graves to decorate and more heroes to be born. It is up to us to remember them because you can bet your life, they remembered you.

How to celebrate – Decorate a soldiers grave today. Remember any in your family who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. Be truly thankful for those who have served, not just because you think you should but because you know you should.

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April 22nd National Jellybean Day

Made from sugar, corn syrup and either pectin or starch, the jellybean has become as much a part of American tradition as, well, any candy ever made.  It is believe that the jellybean may have been invented by a Boston confectioner, William Schrafft.

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What is known is that advertisements appeared during the Civil War that suggested jellybeans be sent to the troops fighting the war as a treat and to help keep up the fighting spirit.

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They were mentioned again in 1905 in the Chicago Daily News, and regularly advertised for sale after that. It’s popularity grew when it became egg shaped and assumed a roll in Easter.

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Today companies have figured out how to add flavoring to the jellybean and make it taste like practically anything. Even somethings that aren’t so good! Ah, give mankind long enough and he can find a way to ruin anything!

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1/26/1981 President Reagan with jellybeans with Alexander Haig and Richard Allen during a meeting with Interagency Working Committee on Terrorism in the Cabinet Room

Even the Gipper loved his jellybeans. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone who did not enjoy jellybeans. While they are an Easter favorite, they can be enjoyed any time of the year and they are a candy treat meant to be shared.

How to celebrate – Buy some jellybeans! There is a new game popular among those who eat jellybeans, a taste test of sorts, including jellybeans that are purposely meant to taste really bad. Get a party together and do your own taste test encounter. Try this recipe to make your own jellybeans.

February 12th Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the 16th president of the Untied States, better known as “Honest Abe”. Born in Kentucky, 1809, Lincoln lived an interesting life before he became president.

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He educated himself, did practically every job there was, led military units in the Black Hawk War (Though they never saw action) and loved a woman (Ann Rutledge) who died before he could marry her.

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He never truly wanted to run for president but allowed himself to be talked into it. He was opposed to war but found himself leading a nation during the Civil War. He was opposed to slavery but initially did not fight to remove it, hoping to keep the states together. To keep England, and the rest of Europe, out of the war he wrote the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves only in the states rebelling. (It was later proclaimed slaves should be free n every state)

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He gave perhaps the greatest speech ever given, the Gettysburg Address lasting a little over two minutes after Edward Everett had spoken for over 2 hours (Which was the fashion of the day). Lincoln thought his speech was a failure when no one in the audience responded. He had actually left them speechless.

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Sadly Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre on April 14th, 1865. As president he did a lot of good, he also made mistakes. Whether he was a great president or not is open to opinion . No doubt he did he bast he could considering the circumstances and was, no doubt, the right man at the right time.

How to celebrate – Read a book about Lincoln. Watch a movie about Lincoln. Get a opy of the Gettysburg Address.

December 20th Mudd Day

We all know that John Wilkes Booth shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln on April 14th, 1865. Most of us also know that he jumped from the presidential box onto the stage at Ford’s Theater and broke his leg before making his exit.

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What may not be known is that he traveled south, thinking he would be a hero but found things drastically different. His leg hampered his progress so he stopped at a local doctor’s. known to have been a southern sympathizer. That doctor was Samuel Mudd.

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Mudd was no fan of Booth’s either. By 1865 everyone was tired of war and knew that assassinating the beloved President would only cause the south to suffer even more. Still, Mudd did not report setting Booth’s leg and was arrested on April 26th as a co-conspirator. He escaped the death penalty by 1 vote and was imprisoned for life.

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He was sent to Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, then a prison for many southerners and deserters. While there, he became the prisons doctor when yellow fever broke out among the population. He treated the prisoners with little help and won a pardon from President Andrew Johnson in 1869.

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Mudd was born on December 20th, 1833. No one knows for sure whether Mudd was in league with Booth or not. It would appear he was not, but he never said one way or the other. Today is name is the source of saying someone’s “name is mudd”. Though it isn’t used much anymore it has kept Mudd’s name in front of the public longer than Booth’s.

How to celebrate – Read a book about Mudd and determine for yourself if he was guilty or not. Visit Fort Jefferson just off the coast of Florida. Mudd’s home in Virginia is a historical site, open for viewing.

 

July28th Buffalo Soldiers Day

One of the most famed cavalry units of the old west was the 10th US Cavalry, an African-American Regiment formed on September 21, 1866.

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The term “Buffalo Soldiers” was given to the 10th Cavalry by the Native Americans. Though we don’t know the exact reason for the name, there are a couple of tales on how they received the moniker.

The first story tells of a private named John Randall coining the term. He was sent out to protect 2 hunters who quickly came under attack by 70 Cheyenne Warriors. The 2 hunters fell quickly but Randall continued to fight, armed with only a pistol and 17 rounds of ammunition. He was rescued when troops from a nearby fort found him with 1 gunshot wound and 11 lance wounds. Private Randall survived and was described by Native Americans on the scene as fighting like a trapped buffalo.

The next story tells of a Colonel laying claim to the name – Benjamin Grierson, a hero in the Civil War who was one of the commanders of the 10th. He clams the term was given to his troops by Apache Warriors in 1871.

It is also noted, that while the term “Buffalo Soldier” originally referred to the 10th Cavalry, it eventually was a term used to encompassed several Regiments during 1866, the 9th US Cavalry, the 24th and 25th US Infantries.

However the name came about, by 1877 “Buffalo Soldier” was firmly ingrained into the Native American language.

They honored the soldiers for fighting so well.

The job of the 10th Cavalry was to protect the settlers moving west, the mail lines, train lines, and to break up gangs of outlaws and raiders, including Mexicans who threatened the US territories.  When war broke out with Spain in Cuba, they were among the first to be sent to fight and continued to serve in the Philippine-American War in 1899. They served in the Mexico Expedition in 1916 and in the First World War in 1918.

They fought the last Native American uprising in Arizona at the Battle of Bear Valley in 1918 and served as peacekeepers during the Johnson County War in Wyoming.  They were among the first forest rangers to serve the US, Smokey Bear actually being patterned after the World War 1 Buffalo Soldiers.

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Originally the “Buffalo Soldiers” were led by white officers. As time passed, they were also led by black officers, including the first African-American to graduate West Point, Henry O. Flipper.

In the 40’s and 50’s, the US Army decided to integrate black and white units. This did not mean everything was equal but it was a start.

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July 28th, was established as a day to honor the Buffalo Soldier by the US Congress in 1992. A monument was built to commemorate their service to this country and stands in Ft.Leavenworth, Kansas, dedicated by Colin Powell.

These men were true heroes in every sense of the word. The last of their unit, Mark Matthews, lived to be 111 year old, dying in 2005 and being buried in Arlington Cemetery.

How to celebrate – Read about the “Buffalo Soldiers” and their accomplishments. Visit their monument at Ft. Leavenworth. Study the service of the African-Americans in defense of America.

July 23rd National Day of the Cowboy

When the American Civil War came to and end the west opened up to all sorts of people. Many were settlers, some miners, many just looking to start life over again. A lot of men, and women, came west with some unusual skills. Some of them joining the cavalry during the Civil War, learning how to ride hard and long, a skill the Old West could use.

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Texas was overflowing with cattle and the northern states were craving beef. The problem was getting the cattle to the people who wanted to eat. Thus, the cowboy was born. Vaqueros had long been in use in Mexico, driving cattle to the markets since 1519, but there had never been a particular need in the US until after the war. So many of those unable to find work in the east moved west and proceeded to drive over 5 million cattle north.

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A cowboy’s life was hard work, starting before sun up,  and more often than not stopping only after the sun had set. Food was bad, the weather brutal, and at times it was the loneliest job in the world. Constantly in the saddle with no real place to call home, a cowboy’s imagination could run wild.

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Many grew tired of the trail and decided to look for a better way to make a living.  Since the army had taught them how to move fast and shoot, it seems only natural that they often turned to lawlessness. The cowboy, turned outlaw, would roam the west spending what they had stolen on wine, women, and song. If they lived long enough, without getting caught, most would look for a home to settle in. At that point, what better job was there for a cowboy turned outlaw but that of the local town sheriff or marshal. After all, they new what the outlaw would do since they had done it themselves, and they knew the cowboys that would turn to the outlaw life since they had done that themselves as well.

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Oh and I mentioned women. Well, many outfits hired women to drive their herds north. In many ways they were more reliable and honest. Since most of them had been abandoned by the men in their lives they had to learn a trade of their own. If they could ride a horse, throw a rope and read a map, they were qualified. Shooting and fighting wasn’t all that important on cattle drives. Native Americans normally did not bother the cowgirls and their war had turned further northwest.

The 4th Saturday in July was designated the National Day of the Cowboy by the National Day of the Cowboy Organization. It was begun in 2005 and is celebrated in 11 states currently.

How to celebrate – Dress up like a cowboy and ride around the neighborhood on your bike rounding up cats. Watch an old cowboy movie. Serve beans for dinner tonight.

May 13th Frog Jumping Day

First, before anything else, Happy Friday the Thirteenth!

Today we celebrate Frog Jumping Day, whatever that is. In fact, though it is a national holiday, no one seems to have ever defined exactly what it means!  Nor has anyone ever revealed who created it!  So the next question is… does it really exist?  Well, I’m writing about it and you are reading about it so let’s pretend it does.

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Perhaps it’s to celebrate the game of Leap Frog? Though I am not sure why anyone would celebrate jumping over someone. in fact, it’s hard to imagine celebrating this game since it normally isn’t too long before someone falls and the other falls on them.

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Or perhaps the Day really is for those who enjoy watching frogs jumping?  Sitting out by a pond just waiting for that frog to jump on to that lily pad.  Come to think of it, I think I’d rather play Leap Frog!

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Or maybe the Day has something to do with Mark Twain’s 1865 “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” (better known as “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”). Samuel Clemens was a riverboat pilot in St. Louis before the Civil War. When the war broke out he joined the Marion County Rangers, a Confederate company, where he was elected 2nd Lieutenant. This adventure ended promptly two weeks later when Clemens decided war was not his thing. To escape any retribution Clemens moved West and started writing under the name of, Mark Twain. Mark Twain, is actually a depth call on a Riverboat. He moved from Nevada to California in 1864, where he wrote for newspapers and ultimately wrote the short story,”Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog”.

How to celebrate:  Read Mark Twain’s short story. Go to a pond and watch a frog jump. Or play Leap Frog with someone you know really, really well.