Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Battle of New Orleans

In the early 1800s, New Orleans was populated by French, Spanish, African, Anglo and Creole people, pursuing economic gain and a joyous life.

In 1803, Great Britain became embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars with France.

Since the end of the American Revolution in 1783, the Americans had been irritated by the failure of the British to withdraw from their territory and declared war on the British Empire in June of 1812.

It would later be called "The War of 1812."

In 1812 and 1813, the United States had suffered several defeats.

In August of 1812, General William Hull surrendered Detroit to the British.

In October of 1812, U.S. Forces lost the Battle of Queenston Heights.

In November of 1812, U.S. forces withdrew from Lake Champlain.

In 1813, U.S. Forces were unsuccessful in a standoff at Niagara.

Finally, in October of 1813, British Forces were overtaken by U.S. Forces under the command of William Henry Harrison. The War of 1812 raged on.

In 1814, the Great Britain defeated Napoleon's France and began to transfer a large number of ships and troops to America. The British plan of attack called for operations in three areas -- New York along the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, in Chesapeake Bay (as a diversion), and at New Orleans to block the Mississippi River, considered to be a vital strategic location.

To capture New Orleans, the British Navy sent 50 ships with 10,000 troops.

In the fall of 1814, Major General Andrew Jackson, also know as "Old Hickory," arrived in New Orleans and immediately prepared to defend the Crescent City by forming a militia. One of those who volunteered his services in the militia was Jean Lafitte, a local pirate, and his band of outlaws. In addition to some regular U.S. Army units, Jackson also filled his militia forces with a sizable number of Haitians (former black slaves) and frontiersmen from Tennessee and Kentucky with long rifles.

On January 7, 1815, the Battle of New Orleans would take place on the Plains of Chalmette, an easy one-day march south of New Orleans.

Jackson's Forces consisted of 4,000 men -- the British Forces were more than twice that number.

In 1959, the song of the year at the Grammy Awards was "The Battle of New Orleans" -- written by Jimmy Driftwood and performed by Johnny Horton (1929 - 1960). It was a historical ballad, memorializing this major turning point in American history.

"In 1814 we took a little trip...
Along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip....
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans...
And we caught the bloody British in the town of New Orleans."
(lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood)

On the Chalmette Plantation, Jackson's Forces built a fortified mud rampart about a half mile long. On one side was the Mississippi River and the other side was a cypress swamp. As the portions of the British Force were making their way north, Jackson launched a nighttime surprise attack. This caused the British to delay their advance until they could gather more troops from the ships, allowing Jackson's men more time to fortify their position at Chalmette.

"We looked down the river and we see'd the British come...
And there must have been a hundred of'em beatin' on the drum...
They stepped so high and they made the bugles ring...
We stood by our cotton bales and didn't say a thing."
(lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood)

After the surprise attack, Jackson's ambushers retreated three miles back to the Chalmette fortification and waited to defend their position. The main assault began at dawn on January 8, 1815. British Forces marched toward the rampart. When they were within 100 yards, militia muskets were readied. At 50 yards, some 3,000 long rifles and squirrel guns exploded.

"Old Hickory said we could take 'em by surprise...
If we didn't fire our muskets 'til we looked 'em in the eye...
We held our fire 'til we see'd their faces well....
Then we opened up with squirrel guns and really gave 'em hell."
(lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood)

The rampart fortification was built to form a natural bottleneck whereby the enemy would be forced to charge or retreat. After the first volley of gunfire from the militia, the British charged into a hailstorm of bullets often tripping over those who had fallen before them.

"We fired our cannon 'til the barrel melted down...
So we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round...
We filled his head with cannon balls, and powdered his behind...
And when we touched the powder off, the gator lost his mind."
(lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood)

Soon, the British gallantry waned.

"Yeah, they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles...
And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go...
They ran so fast that the hounds couldn't catch 'em...
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico."
lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood)

Ironically, the War of 1812 had officially ended when the Treaty of Ghant had been signed in Europe weeks earlier. It was the last war between the United States and Great Britain, who soon resumed normal trading relations and later became allied in subsequent major conflicts.

American casualties -- 8 killed, 13 wounded.
British casualties -- estimated at 2,000 killed or wounded

Don't mess with the Big Easy.

"We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin...
There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago...
We fired once more and they began to runnin'...
Down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico."
(lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood)

Andrew Jackson (1767 - 1845), the commander of American Forces at the Battle of New Orleans, became the seventh President of the United States.

He is the only president in U.S. history to have paid off the national debt.

A hero is someone who understands his personal responsibility in life and acts accordingly.

Quote for the Day -- "Elevate those guns a little lower." Old Hickory

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where hickory nuts don't fall too far from the hickory tree.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Historical Events of December 25

The following events took place on December 25 -- among many Earthlings, this is commonly referred to as Christmas.

336 -- In Rome, the first recorded celebration of Christmas took place. Even though the Catholic Church believed Jesus Christ was born in the spring, they chose December 25 as the official birthday (called Christ's Mass) in order to coincide with the winter solstice and compete with the Pagan practices of worshiping the Sun.

800 -- Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as heir of the Roman emperors.

1066 -- William the Conqueror was crowned King of England.

1621 -- William Bradford, Governor of the new Plymouth Colony outlawed newcomers to America from playing cards. The new country across the ocean was intended to become the Land of the Free. But human nature often compels those in charge to curtail freedom in the name of security or purity.

1642 -- Isaac Newton, scientist, was born in England.

1776 -- General George Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River for a surprise attack during the Revolutionary War. It was quite cold and the grunts did the rowing. "Government is a force -- like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." George Washington

1799 -- In France, Napoleon's new constitution went into effect, giving him powers to make laws, control finances and conduct relations with foreign powers. He stood 4' 10" and had an urge to conquer the world -- today, such folly is referred to as a Napoleonic Complex. "A Constitution should be short and obscure." Napoleon Bonaparte

1837 -- U.S. Forces defeated the Seminole Indians in the Battle of Okeechobee. On the positive side for the Indians, there would later be a college that would adopt "Seminoles" as the team mascot name.

1868 -- President Andrew Johnson granted an unconditional pardon to all Southerners who participated in the Civil War. "If I am shot at, I want no man to be in the way of the bullet." Andrew Johnson

1899 -- Actor Humphrey Bogart was born in New York City. "You're not a star until they can spell your name in Karachi." Humphrey Bogart

1925 -- Writer Carlos Castaneda was born in South America. "The only thing that is real is the being in you that is going to die." Carlos Castaneda

1926 -- Hirohito became Emperor of Japan.

1941 -- In Lithuania, some 400 Jewish women were killed by police.

1950 -- Scottish nationalists stole the Stone of Scone from the British coronation throne in Westminster Abbey. It was recovered four months later. Scottish people are a rebellious tribe of redheaded brawlers, whose hobbies include stomping on anything offensive, such as the Irish or the British.

1962 -- The Bay of Pigs captives were released (ransom) and vowed to return to topple Fidel Castro.

1977 -- Comedian Charlie Chaplin died in Switzerland. "A day without laughter is a day wasted." Charles Chaplin

1978 -- Vietnam invaded Cambodia, ending the mass genocide referred to as The Killing Fields.

1979 -- Soviet Airborne Forces landed in Afghanistan, joining ground forces in the Soviet War against Afghanistan. Of very little strategic value, Afghanistan is a desolate country with a scattered rural population of rednecks toting AK-47s. It's a bit like Alabama with Camels.

1991 -- Soviet President Mikhail announced his resignation as the leader of the USSR. He was ousted by Boris Yeltsin, who had an affinity for vodka and dancing like a drunken bear.

1993 -- A 59-year-old woman gave birth to twins in London, after being implanted with donated eggs.

1995 -- Singer Dean Martin died in Beverly Hills. "You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on." Dean Martin

1997 -- Comedian Jerry Seinfeld announced plans to discontinue his NBC sitcom at the end of the season. "That's the true spirit of Christmas -- people being helped by people other than me." Jerry Seinfeld

2001 -- In Afghanistan, U.S. Forces celebrated Christmas with touch football and turkey dinners. I played touch football when I was in the U.S. Army in 1966-68. Macho dudes in combat boots generally "touch" with great vigor.

2004 -- President Bush urged Americans to help the neediest among them through volunteerism. "Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called 'walking.'" George Bush

2007 -- Russia's military successfully test-fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads, a weapon intended to replace older missiles.

2009 -- An attempted bombing on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit by a Nigerian Man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (age 23) failed. The bomb was sewed into his underwear and his brain was made of saw dust.

2011 -- I got two apples and a lump of coal for Christmas -- it's the thought that counts.

Happy Holidays, Earthlings.

Quote for the Day -- "The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live." George Carlin

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee, and the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Great Successor

Those who are anointed as supreme leaders from birth are rarely tempted to be thoughtful human beings.

Another anointed supreme leader of North Korea has emerged this week to continue the great works of his father and grandfather.

Japan occupied Korea during World War II. When the war ended in 1945, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel with the USSR controlling the north and the USA controlling the south. The Koreans were not consulted.

While the Korean people were happy to be liberated from the Japanese, they objected to foreign rule being imposed over the peninsula. To make matter worse, the Soviets and Americans were unable to agree on a joint trusteeship over Korea. Thus, in 1948, separate governments were established in the north and the south.

Tensions and border skirmishes eventually led to the Korean War in 1950 when the North Korean Army stormed across the 38th parallel in an attempt to reunify the country under their communistic political system.

In 1953, an armistice was signed by North Korea, China and the United Nations thereby ending the conflict. A demilitarized zone was established at the 38th parallel, separating North Korea and South Korea ever since.

North Korea was led by Kim Il-Sung from 1948 until his death in 1994. He had delegated domestic matters to his son, Kim Jong-Il.

In 1997, Kim Jong-Il was named General Secretary (leader) of the Korean Worker's Party.

According to the official North Korean news agency, "The Korean people regard it as their most worthwhile life to uphold Secretary Kim Jong-Il and live in perfect harmony with him. He is the great teacher who teaches them with the noblest political integrity and a tender-hearted benefactor who brings their life into full bloom. As they are in harmonious whole with him, they are enjoying a life based on true conscience and obligation."

Gee whiz, North Korea sounds like a wonderful place to live. It's too bad they had to kill an estimated two million civilians and imprison 200,000 "dissidents" in slave labor camps, where they are tortured, starved, raped and murdered, in order to create a perfectly splendid environment.

In a closed-society, adhering to universal truths and seeking individuality become acts of treason. Such is life in a harmonious whole.

Officially, North Korea is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). However, it's anything but democratic. It's a totalitarian state, dominated by the Korean Worker's Party which embraces Marxism-Leninism.

Elections are held every five years for members of the People's Assembly. To avoid confusion, in every district voters are offered only one candidate.

Kim Jong-Il had been the leader of the DPRK ever since his father died in 1994. He stood 5'2", but wore platform shoes and whipped his hair skyward to make himself appear taller.

While building the fifth-largest military in the world, he ravaged the economy with political mismanagement -- creating famine, fuel shortages, lack of electricity, etc. To make up for it, mass "performances" involving throngs of people participating in parades or choreographed dance routines were introduced to foster national unity.

To generate income, the DPRK encouraged opium cultivation and invested $10 million in an intaglio printing press, the same type used by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produced $15 million per year in counterfeit U.S. currency. The drugs and counterfeit currency were passed through foreign nations via diplomatic pouches.

As the leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-Il had amassed a personal fortune of $22 billion. Although his people were dying of starvation, he dined on fresh lobster shipped in from Japan and enjoyed fine cognac. He also loved children's cartoons, especially Daffy Duck, and had one of the largest collections of pornography in the world.

While grooming one of his sons to take his place, he seized and confined all triplets born in the DPRK in special state facilities to be closely monitored because he believed a triplet may someday topple his regime.

Kim Jong-Il was an arrogant, creepy, delusional, paranoid, deranged lunatic. On December 17, 2011, he died of heart failure at age 69.

Soon thereafter, Kim Jong-Il's youngest son, Kim Jong-Un, in his late 20s, was introduced by the official North Korean news agency as their new supreme ruler, calling him "the outstanding leader of our party, army and people" and have named him "the Great Successor."

Perhaps he will also inherit his father's Daffy Duck cartoons and extensive collection of pornography.

When delusional fanatics are at the top, there is no limit to the oppression.

Quote for the Day – "One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution -- one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship." George Orwell

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where the only cure for cynicism is counter-cynicism.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quote Quiz

1) “The world is more like it is now than it ever was before.”
A) George Carlin
B) George Bush
C) Arnold Schwarzenegger
D) Dwight D. Eisenhower
E) J.D. Salinger

2) "A boy's best friend is his mother."
A) John Lennon
B) Bugs Bunny
C) Luke Skywalker
D) Norman Bates
E) Jack Nicholson

3) "Solutions are not the answer."
A) Richard Nixon
B) Groucho Marx
C) Vladimir Putin
D) Hillary Clinton
E) Captain Kirk

4) "I'll be back."
A) Sitting Bull
B) Gypsy Rose Lee
C) Frank Sinatra
D) Jane Fonda
E) The Terminator

5) "To improve is to change -- to be perfect is to change often."
A) Greta Garbo
B) Muddy Waters
C) Willie Mosconi
D) Tiger Woods
E) Winston Churchill

6) "Talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much."
A) D.B. Cooper
B) John Wayne
C) Herman Melville
D) Johnny Carson
E) Elmer Fudd

7) "Always take hold of things by the smooth handle."
A) Thomas Jefferson
B) Hank Aaron
C) Erma Bombeck
D) Jasper Lamar Crabbe
E) Daniel Boone

8) "Sometimes I feel like a fire hydrant looking at a pack of dogs."
A) Daffy Duck
B) Joe Namath
C) Bill Clinton
D) Buddy Hackett
E) Lady Gaga

9) "As long as you're going to be thinking anyway, think big."
A) Donald Trump
B) Brittney Spears
C) P.T. Barnum
D) W.C. Fields
E) Madonna

10) "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."
A) Cool Hand Luke
B) Lois Lane
C) Blanche DuBois
D) Batman
E) Boris Karloff

11) "You can't process me with a normal brain."
A) Barack Obama
B) Dan Quayle
C) Bob Dylan
D) Fox Mulder
E) Charlie Sheen

12) "A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me."
A) Mick Jagger
B) Abraham Lincoln
C) Jerry Lewis
D) Jerry Lee Lewis
E) Davy Crockett

13) "Death is not the worst that can happen to men."
A) Jerry Seinfeld
B) Vlad the Impaler
C) Wonder Woman
D) Geronimo
E) Plato

14) "You can't trust anybody with power."
A) The Lone Ranger
B) Newt Gingrich
C) Mahatma Gandhi
D) John the Baptist
E) John Quincy Adams

15) "I'd just like to be treated like a regular customer."
A) Elvis Presley
B) Hulk Hogan
C) Johnny Depp
D) Eleanor Rigby
E) Pee Wee Herman

16) "I have high expectations for the future because the past was highly overrated."
A) Carl Sagan
B) Bart Simpson
C) Barbara Walters
D) Jay Leno
E) Sylvester Stallone

17) "Until you're ready to look foolish, you'll never have the possibility of being great."
A) Oprah Winfrey
B) Sid Caesar
C) Cher
D) Shirley MacLaine
E) Joe Biden

18) "It is better to be alone than in bad company."
A) Minnesota Fats
B) Kim Kardashian
C) Carl Jung
D) George Washington
E) Jeremiah Johnson

19) "The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground."
A) Buddha
B) Johnny B. Goode
C) Doris Day
D) Dr. Phil
E) Rhett Butler

20) "The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have."
A) Vince Lombardi
B) Hugh Hefner
C) Lindsey Lohan
D) Crazy Horse
E) Teddy Roosevelt


ANSWERS: 1-D, 2-D, 3-A, 4-E, 5-E, 6-B, 7-A, 8-C, 9-A, 10-C, 11-E, 12-B, 13-E, 14-B, 15-A, 16-E, 17-C, 18-D, 19-A, 20-A

20 -- You are either a liar or a cheater or incredibly lucky
16-19 -- You need to get a life
10-15 -- Very good
5-10 -- Not bad
4 -- Random answers yield the same results
3-0 -- You are below random (a.k.a. a loser)

Quote for the Day -- "He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he is asked." Voltaire

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where hypothetical questions get hypothetical answers.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Spring Break Adventures

When I was a student at the University of Minnesota in 1969, I decided to hitchhike to Miami over spring break.

On a Tuesday morning, I called my friend Scott in Miami and told him I'd be there by the time he got off work on Thursday. He bet me $20 I wouldn't make it in time, adding extra incentive to my idiotic plan.

I packed a small suitcase, made a sign with "MIAMI" on it and had my father he drop me off on a straight stretch of highway 12 just east of the Twin Cities at about noon.

A half hour later, two guys in a beat-up Ford picked me up. We crossed the river into Wisconsin and exited the freeway a couple of miles later at River Falls.

Very few cars entered this particular ramp so I walked back onto the freeway hoping to make it to the next interchange, about a mile away, before the highway patrol grabbed me. As I was marching up the next exit ramp, a truck driver pulled over, picked me up and gave me a ride all the way to the south side of Chicago.

I had intended to head south on highway 41 but the truck driver inadvertently dropped me off one exit too early. I was now stuck in Hammond, Ind., in a predominantly minority area, carrying a suitcase, just as the bars were closing. Incredibly, a local police patrol car pulled up and gave me a ride over to highway 41.

I stood in the rain, along highway 41, in the dark, staring at a deserted road. I had driven to Miami years earlier on highway 41, but now that the interstate freeway system had been completed most of the through traffic went down I-65 instead.

Lucky once again, a truck driver picked me up out of the downpour.

At daylight, I found myself on I-24 near Paducah, Kentucky, far from highway 41. A young girl in a Volkswagen picked me up and gave me a ride two miles down the road. She left me at such a bad location I was forced to walk the two miles back to where I started.

Eventually, a state trooper came by and chased me off the freeway.

I hiked over to a state highway and stood there for a couple of hours. There was a car full of rowdy young punks that had gone back and forth past me many times, always giving me the evil eye. Just as they were about to come by again, a uniformed Army captain in a Triumph convertible pulled up and gave me a ride.

The captain dropped me off at the entrance to Fort Campbell and pointed out where I could catch my next ride, which came along shortly thereafter. I was now seated next to a young man with an open case of beer in the front seat between us. We shared a couple of beers and he dropped me off in the middle of Nashville.

A fellow wearing a neck brace picked me up in Nashville and we made it into Atlanta where we were rear-ended in a freeway pile-up.

After much delay, I drove the injured fellow to his friend's apartment and made it to highway 41 where I caught a ride with a hillbilly in a pickup who talked continuously but I never understood a word he said. At about 4:00 a.m., he dropped me off at a truck stop on a rural road in South Georgia where I eventually got a ride to an on-ramp on I-75 from a trucker who was very reluctant to take on a passenger.

A preacher in a Cadillac pulled up and drove me down to the Boca Raton exit in Florida, trying to convert me all along the way.

Next, I got a ride with hippie couple in a clunker Oldsmobile, but they were short of money to exit the turnpike tollbooth so I gave them two dollars and had them drive me within a block of Scott's place.

I found the key under Scott's mat and let myself in. Before I could open one of his beers, he showed up from work. It had taken me 53 hours to get there and I literally made it by less than 10 minutes to collect the $20 bet.

I was young and adventurous and stupid. I'll never hitchhike again, not even for $20.

The following year, I headed down to Miami in my new Gremlin during spring break. I had a collision with a deer and spent spring break in a motel near Beloit, Wis., waiting for a radiator to be delivered from Milwaukee.

Spring break is for the young at heart and feeble of mind -- if you need a break, take it close to home.

Quote for the Day -- "Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's Party.'" Robin Williams

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where April showers bring mud.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

High School Reunion

I was recently contacted by members of my high school 50th reunion committee, whereby they requested that I write a piece for the reunion booklet.


In 1962, I was a senior at Robbinsdale High School in Minnesota, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. The following events took place that year.

Jan 1 -- The University of Minnesota Gophers beat the UCLA Bruins 21-3 in the Rose Bowl football game in Pasadena, California. The temperature at game time in Pasadena was 72 degrees. The temperature outside our house in Brooklyn Center was 13 below zero. Whatever I was going to do with the rest of my life included outdoor temperatures that would not be prefixed with a minus sign.

Jan 3 -- Pope john XXIII excommunicated Fidel Castro.

Jan 10 -- A volcanic eruption in Peru destroyed 7 villages and killed 3,500 people.

Jan 23 -- Jackie Robinson (1919 - 1972) became the first black man elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jan 26 -- The USA launched a missile (Ranger 3) to land scientific instruments on the moon. It missed the target by 22,000 miles. Apparently, the target wasn't big enough.

Feb 3 -- President Kennedy banned all trade with Cuba, except for food and medical supplies.

Feb 7 -- President Kennedy ordered a blockade of Cuba.

Feb 10 -- The USA exchanged captured American U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers for a USSR spy held by the USA.

Feb 14 -- First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy conducted a televised tour of the White House.

Feb 18 -- Robert F. Kennedy declared that U.S. troops would stay in Vietnam until communism was defeated. Goody, goody. I would be drafted in April of 1966 to help defeat global communism and spent 8 fun-filled weeks of basic training in Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri, learning how to stand at attention and clean toilets. There were 7 graduates from Robbinsdale High School in my basic training company, including Eric "Buzzard" Fermstad, David Lamey and one of Pat Digatano's brothers.

Feb 20 -- John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. The flight lasted 4 hours and 56 minutes. "I don't know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four beautiful sunsets." John Glenn

Feb 26 -- The U.S. Supreme Court disallowed racial separation on public transportation.

Feb 28 -- The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved a plan to "lure or provoke Castro into an overt hostile reaction against the USA." Paranoia will destroy ya.

Mar 2 -- Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors scored 100 points against the New York Knicks. He was very tall.

Mar 2 -- President Kennedy announced the USA would continue above ground nuclear testing. No big deal. It simply makes a loud noise, vaporizes anything near it and sends a toxic cloud of radioactive debris into the atmosphere. But not to worry -- the prevailing winds blow toward Utah.

Mar 6 -- The USA promised Thailand assistance against communist aggression.

Mar 9 -- The U.S. military Advisors in South Vietnam officially joined the fight against the communists. The prevailing (incorrect) assumption, almost always when it comes to war, was that it would be over soon.

Mar 10 -- The Philadelphia Phillies moved to a motel during spring training in Clearwater, Florida, because their hotel refused to admit black players.

Mar 17 -- The USSR asked the USA to pull out of South Vietnam. Apparently, we declined.

Mar 21 -- A female black bear was ejected from a B-58 bomber over Edwards Air Force Base in California, in a special capsule with parachute, and survived. No big deal -- Doug Deeble, from the RHS Class of 1962, would have done it for free, twice.

Mar 29 -- Jack Parr hosted the NBC TV Tonight Show for the last time, to be followed later by Johnny Carson. Parr was occasionally erratic and highly emotional, much like my ex-wife during full moons. "Looking back, my life seems like one long obstacle race, with me as the chief obstacle." Jack Parr

Apr 9 -- WEST SIDE STORY was named best picture at the 34th Academy Awards. Sophia Loren and Maximilian Schell won the acting awards. In the late 1970s, I studied screenwriting in Hollywood. Ernest Lehman, who wrote WEST SIDE STORY and many other prominent movies, was one of the instructors I was blessed to study under.

Apr 16 -- Walter Cronkite became the new anchorman on the CBS Evening News. "And that's the way it is." Walter Cronkite

Apr 20 -- The New Orleans Citizens Committee gave free one-way rides to blacks to move north. By the way, I write monthly articles for a magazine in the New Orleans area.

Apr 24 -- The first satellite relay transmission of a television signal.

Apr 25 -- The USA performed a nuclear test on Christmas Island. It was one of 105 nuclear test explosions the USA conducted in 1962 and 1963. The residents of Christmas Island, who had been relocated elsewhere, were not pleased.

May 9 -- A laser beam was successfully bounced off the moon for the first time. The residents of the Moon, who were not relocated, were not amused.

May 11 -- The USA sent combat troops to Thailand.

May 15 -- U.S. Marines arrived in Laos.

May 19 -- Marilyn Monroe sang happy birthday to President Kennedy at Madison Square Garden. "It's all make believe, isn't it?" Marilyn Monroe

May 19 -- Stan Musial broke the Nation League record for hits with 3,431.

May 31 -- Adolph Eichmann, Nazi war criminal, was hanged.

Jun 3 -- A CIA memo from a briefing with Attorney General Robert Kennedy revealed that $150,000 was offered to U.S. mobsters to assassinate Fidel Castro. They would have done it for free since Castro closed their Havana gambling casinos.

Jun 6 -- On high school graduation day, 620 highly educated souls received their Robbinsdale High School diplomas on the new football field. The more adventurous ones boarded a passenger train soon thereafter for the annual train trip to Waseca. Those in charge, laughingly referred to as responsible adults, assumed if we were all confined on a moving train it would lesson the trouble we could get into. Many of us, including me, had smuggled a flask of liquid spirits aboard to ease the tension and celebrate our escape from mandatory schooling.

Jun 11 -- Three federal prisoners escaped from Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

Jul 6 -- The USA tested a 104 kiloton nuclear device in Nevada. It blew a hole 1,280 feet wide and 320 feet deep. If the world ever needs instant large holes, give the USA a call.

Jul 10 -- Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested during a demonstration in Georgia. "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live." Martin Luther King, Jr.

Jul 18 -- President Kennedy installed an audio taping system in the White House.

Aug 5 -- Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her Los Angeles home. It was ruled a suicide (overdose of drugs). "Dreaming about being an actress is more exciting than being one." Marilyn Monroe

Aug 5 -- The USSR set off an atomic bomb as part of a new series of tests.

Aug 10 -- My birthday. I am now 18 years old. I had a piece of chocolate cake and later celebrated with a Lucky Strike. I would give up the cigarettes in a couple of years but still have a chunk of chocolate on birthdays.

Aug 16 -- The Beatles dropped drummer Pete Best and took on Ringo Starr. "Everything government touches turns to crap." Ringo Starr

Sep 1 -- The United Nations announced the world population had now reached 3 billion people. Today it is 7 billion. But that's okay because we're all broke anyway. Turn out the lights, the party's over.

Sep 1 -- In Iran, 10,000 people died in an earthquake.

Sep 10 -- I enter the University of Minnesota, home of the mighty gopher, as a math major, trying to decide between becoming an architect or a mining engineer. Ironically, I become neither. I would spend a couple of future decades as a computer programmer and manager, followed by another couple of decades as a professional bum (wandering adventurer, independent computer contractor, mountaintop hippie, gold prospector, novelist, desert rat, newspaper columnist, college instructor, reclusive hermit, etc.) while trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

Sep 11 -- The Beatles record their first single for EMI, titled "Love Me Do."

Sep 17 -- The U.S. Justice Department filed the first federal suit to end public school segregation.

Sep 24 -- The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the University of Mississippi to admit its first black student, James Meredith.

Sep 25 -- Sonny Liston knocked out Floyd Patterson in the first round of the world heavyweight boxing championship in Chicago.

Oct 4 -- Crayola Crayons changed the name of the color "Flesh" to "Peach."

Oct 16 -- The Cuban missile crisis began. The USSR was sending ships to Cuba (containing ballistic missiles). The USA set up a naval blockade. The standoff lasted 13 days. Part of the undisclosed reason it ended was a private communication between Kennedy and Khrushchev, whereby Kennedy proposed to remove USA missiles in Turkey in exchanged for the USSR removing their missiles from Cuba.

Oct 17 -- The New York Yankees beat the San Francisco Giants in 7 games to win the World Series in baseball.

Oct 20 -- The Chinese Army invaded northeast India during a border war in the Himalayan Mountain region. Some 3,000 Indian soldiers were killed. It lasted about a week.

Oct 25 -- John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in literature. "Any man who puts his intelligence up against a fish and loses had it coming." John Steinbeck

Nov 6 -- Saudi Arabia abolished slavery.

Nov 10 -- A folksinger from Hibbing, Minnesota, named Bob Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan. "All I can do is be me, whoever that is." Bob Dylan

Nov 29 -- France and Great Britain embarked on a joint venture to build a super sonic passenger jet called the Concorde.

Dec 2 -- The first appearance of the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones) at a London nightclub.

Dec 5 -- President Kennedy, Secretary of Defense McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor discussed plans for stockpiling nuclear weapons to deter the USSR. The USA will have oodles of them, then the USSR will have oodles of them, then the world will be at peace forever. Brilliant idea, pinheads.

Dec 26 -- Eight people from East Berlin escaped to West Berlin by breaking through the gates with an armored plated bus. Live free or die.

Dec 31 -- USA military spending rose to $55 billion in 1962.

The top 10 songs from 1962 were:

1) Stranger on the Shore -- (Acker Bilk)
2) I Can't Stop Loving You -- (Ray Charles)
3) Mashed Potato Time -- (Dee Dee Sharp)
4) Roses Are Red, My Love -- (Bobby Vinton)
5) The Stripper -- (David Rose)
6) Johnny Angel -- (Shelley Fabares)
7) The Loco-Motion -- (Little Eva)
8) Let Me In -- (The Sensations)
9) The Twist -- (Chubby Checker)
10) Soldier Boy -- (The Shirelles)

For most of the Class of 62, it was a year to start life over once again. And for many of us, it wouldn't be the last time we start life over once again either.

If you are still alive, your mission in this life is not finished.

Quote for the Day -- "Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names." John F. Kennedy

Bret Burquest is the author of 7 books, including THE REALITY OF THE ILLUSION OF REALITY and ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS (available on Amazon). He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee, and the ghosts of Ron Dickerson and Jerry Anderson.