Friday, November 12, 2010

Maine Minutiae: North Pole or Bust!

One of the most celebrated explorers of the 20th Century was Admiral Robert Peary, a resident of Fryeburg, Maine, near Portland. On April 6, 1909, Peary claimed to be the first man to reach the geographic North Pole. This amazing accomplishment had its detractors at the time, and is widely doubted even today. No matter the claim as accurate or not, a feat of this magnitude is simply amazing just considering the "technology" of the day. I realize that a dog sled is a dog sled is a dog sled, but modern technology in just the clothing alone as compared to the clothing worn by Admiral Peary in 1909 and before, is like comparing the Wright Brothers' flight to the space shuttle. I don't know how many of you have spent any time at altitude, but it can be damn cold. I have experienced, live and in living color, 32 degrees BELOW ZERO, with 40 mph winds. What Admiral Peary and his crew experienced at or near the North Pole in 1909 is something that escapes me. Those SOB's were COLD. The navigation equipment in the early 20th Century was a compass and the North Star. Today, GPS devices can pinpoint your exact location to within a foot or so anywhere in the world (!), thanks to satellites orbiting the Earth.

I am not writing this post to debate whether or not, Admiral Peary reached the exact location of the geographic North Pole, but to show that what the man and his crew accomplished is nonetheless historic. They made it to the Top of the World with the hand that was dealt them. The Admiral and his comrades exemplify the Spirit of Maine and of America - the innate urge deep inside the human soul that somehow spurs us to seek and understand the unknown. I believe that urge to explore and discover is something that bring us closer to God. He created this world for the benefit of Man and left it to us to endeavor to understand it so we can understand Him. Otherwise, I think, we would lead a lonely existence on this big blue marble and we would have an empty place in our souls. And God would be irrelevant to us. But He had a much better plan than that, and He gifted us a magical place. A place where our discovery and exploration of such wonders as the North Pole, would give us pause to think and marvel at what we see around us. When we observe the seemingly ordinary things in the world, I think we should look at them through the eyes of a child - with wonder and amazement at how things "work". How does something as innocuous as an acorn create something as majestic as an oak tree? Or how does a seed smaller than the eraser on a pencil evolve into the magnificence that is a tomato.

 I think that is how men like Admiral Peary see the world. For example, the North Pole doesn't represent the top of the world, it represents something much more than that. It's a challenge waiting to be met. An obstacle waiting to be overcome. An army of sorts waiting to be conquered. Simply put, the adventurer that is part of the character of men like the Admiral, seek the most arduous task to complete's there.

Texas Tidbits: A P B & J Experience

Grape Jelly and Smooth Peanut Butter
I was goofing around looking for a subject to post about this morning and actually came across a few neat things quite by accident, so I figured what the heck, go ahead and do a story about one of them?

Small towns in East Texas always have the best local festivals anywhere. We have previously talked about the East Texas Yamboree in Gilmer and today we'll check out another local festival in rural Texas.
  • Our stop will be a place I visited a thousand times as a kid - Grand Saline. And, yes, the "saline" part of the name means salt. There's a huge salt deposit in the area and it is currently being mined by Morton Salt. This year the inaugural  The Great American Peanut Butter Festival will be held in Grand Saline and the featured attraction will be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich being put together by area residents. This is no ordinary pb and j, however. By the time all is said and done, this sandwich will weigh more than 950 pounds! A new World Record! From the festival's website we get a little inside information on what it takes to build a 950 pound pb and j, "We expect the process to take most of the day", says sandwich builder Keith Parsons. "We'll have to wait for the dough to rise, bake the bread in a large oven and then finally we'll spread the peanut butter and jelly onto the bread with long boat oars". And what would a Peanut Butter Festival be without naming a Peanut Butter Queen? Fear not! A Peanut Butter Queen will be named! I just wander if they'll name a Jelly Queen, too?
Community events such as the Great American Peanut Butter Festival make me realize how much I miss living in East Texas. This festivals may seem to be a little silly to some folks, but not to me. I participated in literally thousands of local events like the PB & J Festival when I was a Radio Guy and I always took something home with me after being a part of the festivities. Things that stick out in my mind are: 1)  How much time and effort goes into putting together an event such as this one. Countless hours are put in by people volunteering their time to do something beneficial to the community. Then there's the sigh of relief when the whole thing is over with. Once the festival is over, these same people immediately start thinking about how to make it better for next year. Now, that's dedication. 2) The sounds of children echoing throughout the town square. You can't beat that. 3) The write up in the local newspaper. Whoever reviews these hometown events has the best job in the world for a few days. First, there's the big build up to the event itself. Then the event. And finally the recap of the happenings themselves. The pride and excitement of the event are chronicled with such excitement and pride, you'd think the local baseball team just won the World Series. 4) The aftermath. The local citizenry huddle in groups at the local diner for breakfast and/or coffee on the Monday after the festival to relive their favorite memories and to brag how their child/grand child won the pb & j sandwich eating contest in his/her age group. A good time was had by all.

I think I'll salute the Great American Peanut Butter Festival by slappin' together a pb &j and sharing it with Bailey the three year old. A good time will be had by both.  :)

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