Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Some people say all these MISSISSIPPIAN MOUNDS in the US region were influenced by travellers and traders that came and went from the Aztec, Mayan and Olmec civilizations. Those civilizations were rising and growing a few hundred years ahead of the Mississippian cultures. About the only ones still thriving by the time the Europeans arrived near 1500 .. were the Aztecs in Mexico. The Mississippians were gone or fragmented by then as well as the others. The INCA in South America were still thriving.

Presented by Vic Campbell - 12ponder.com AUG 2018


I’ve wanted to go see these mysterious mounds in MOUNDVILLE, AL for a long time. I’ve seen the mounds at ETOWAH in Georgia and some other mounds in the South, including the one at Fort Walton Beach, FL. I’ve read up on them and wondered how these people came to be. How they decided on the “mound culture” and the civilizations they founded …. And LOST.
Over thousands of years, the native peoples of America adapted and transformed their societies from archaic era hunters to woodland farmers and hunters to urban chiefdoms that controlled vast areas of land and people. But for whatever reason, by about 1450 the strong central mound cities were disbanding and breaking up. Warfare? Loss of a belief system? Drought? Disease? Who knows? Nobody has anything written down to describe the history at the time. 

When the Europeans arrived about 1500 there were remnants of these great cities but a wider and multifaceted set of tribal allegiances had taken their place. The “modern” tribes had begun to coalesce and perhaps from a small population base of survivors, gained a great deal in population by 1800. And then a whole new set of issues were set before them. The European and African infusion. No longer would tribes have to ally with other native tribes to fight their NATIVE enemies. They would now also ally themselves with the Europeans for power and territory. But that did not turn out so well either,

What is with the EYE In the HAND? This is a mystery to the 
archaeologists. It must have been something special to just this culture on the Black Warrior River. Other places don’t have this. There are zero hints of what it means. I can make up a great story and so could you. But … what?

AND a very special it seems - Stone shield carving with the mysterious HAND and entwined rattlesnakes It has become an official seal for the Park here at Moundville.

We made a short two night trip into Alabama to take all this in. After Moundville, we visited OLD Cahawba the first Capital of Alabama (not counting the pre historical capital centers for the Indians)


There is a wonderful museum there. It is near Tuscaloosa, the home of The University of Alabama. There are many studies on these mounds and this era of civilization in North America.


Sunday, August 12, 2018

Uncle Vic's Tomato Gravy (and biscuits) RECIPE

OK ... Here goes a try..... I've never measured ...

The goal is about a quart of tomato gravy out of a blender about that size.

ADD .......
2 cans of chopped/diced tomatoes
 (somebody told me recently it is great to add in about 2-4oz of tomato JUICE - hey what about v8?)

Roy Allen recently canned some tomatoes and I want to try those. They are delicious out of the jar. 


add about one or two TBSP of black pepper 
(depends on taste . I've liked it both ways even spilled a gob in once and still great)

add about 1 tbsp of garlic salt.  
(add a little more garlic if you want - garlic is great. dried garlic is fine)

add about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of chopped dried onions (this adds a little texture plus the taste - they soak up the moisture pretty quick)

Blend about 5-10 seconds. More gets it to a creamy state.  You can  work out your own preference. I like mine just a bit chunky but not much.

HAVE a LARGE DEEP "fry" pan ready. Heated to very low, enough to melt butter.
Add 1/2 stick butter and get the butter melted.
NOW - add about 2 heaping TBSP FLOUR or 3 ...
 up to 4 depending if you have more or less butter.

............ stir this in to make your RUE.  It should not brown.  Just buttery paste is the goal. Thick enough to ooze with a little consistency. Not stiff .. not watery..............  when this is ready... next step.

Pour the mixture from the blender into the pan (big pan remember).
MIX it well with a spatula - to get the Rue and the Tomato mix all mixed in well.

Now bring the heat on up to medium and watch it. Stir as you watch. Just a little now and then. Move it to keep the rue and all mixing.
Probably in 3 or 4 minutes of slow cook low heat it will be steaming. and it is READY.

Now standby to add to your biscuits and savor the tomato gravy !

It all tastes great whether you used more onions or less or more butter and flour or less.
But you might find a happy wonder point and lock that in memory.

...............  Happy eating !

Earline Smith Crews variant from Barnett's Crossing, Alabama, on the Little Escambia River.

Vic, I start with a heaping tbs. of bacon grease, a tbs. of flour, a dash of salt, a shake of black pepper. Stir it all into an iron skillet on medium heat until the roux gets peanut butter brown. Add in a can of chopped tomatoes and some water if it is too thick. Cook on med/low for a few minutes..........biscuits, cornbread or rice. Lawdhammercy!

CREDITS:  MY MOM - Myrtle Gertrude Carswell Campbell
Mom was NEVERknown as a great cook.  But she managed to lock in a few fantastic recipes that always worked if everything else failed.   Collard Greens, Flat Cornbread, Eggs aLa-Goldenrod, and TOMATO Gravy !    Those memories are preserved in the recipes we carry forward. My sister recently had a breakfast for we siblings and it was classic .... Just like mom made -- .  The recipes we WANT to remember !   Thank you, MOM ! 

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Capt. Marvin "Jack" Smith - USN - A leader

Karen and I visited a cousin in Montgomery and then spent a couple days enjoying Alabama.  In Prattville, we had breakfast with my old (95 year old) Navy Commanding Officer, Capt. Marvin “Jack” Smith.  He joined us with his daughter, Karen (in photo below), who married a Spaniard and lives and teaches in Spain while raising her family there. I encouraged her to tell her students about the great Spanish influence on our Gulf Coast - like DeLuna and Galvez. Karen helped me recall the Family Moto for Galvez that says "I ALONE" in Spanish. Well, after all she teaches English for the Spanish students at her school. "YO SOLO" she said. Few realize that what Galvez did at Pensacola had a direct affect on the American victory at Yorktown ! She and her husband are both educators and love where they live in Spain. Close to France - the sea and the Mountains.
It is always a pleasure to catch up with Capt. Smith.  His daughter’s family was home on vacation for the summer. Jack and Martha enjoy the grand-kids. Martha is facing health issues that keep them close to home and family is always a grand comfort.  Jack met Martha when based in Montgomery in the late 1960’s after a tour in Vietnam - in-country with an RVN Vietnamese propaganda unit.

As he tells it in the video interviews, He volunteered for hazardous duty with an eye to ending his pain over the loss of his wife, Joan Merriam Smith to an air crash.  He was actually very near to retirement at that time. He is a WW2 veteran after all.  The Smith’s had a plan to start up a lucrative “time-share” corporate aircraft business.  All was roses. Joan had just completed an Around The World solo flight on the path of Amelia Earhart.  She was famous. Financial backing was a done deal.

Then --- tragedy.  While flying over the Sierra Range in California, Joan and a writer who was doing a book on Joan Merriam Smith the Aviatrix - both died when the plane lost a wing in turbulent air.

The granddaughter of the writer who died in the crash, Trixie Ann Schubert , is Tiffany Brown. Tiffany was doing research on her grandmother and Joan Merriam Smith with hopes to complete her grandmother’s book and tell the rest of the story. In her 2017 research, she discovered the videos I made of Jack.  Contact was made. Jack had a lot to add to the story. He and Tiffany are in touch - meeting goals to find information needed.

One book that exists on the topic is “Racing to Greet the Sun: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith Duel to Become the First Woman to Fly Solo Around the World" . Her  rescued book will focus more on the Joan side of the story (by her grandma). Tiffany transcribed some of her grandmother’s tape recordings into a book -  Before and Behind the Iron Curtain available as an E-Book. The recordings had a purpose and Tiffany rescued them.

Life began again for Jack.  At first with a dismal outlook.  Then Vietnam. Then Washington DC, and Montgomery and he met Martha. She gave him hope and purpose. They were virtually newlyweds when he took command of USS O’Callahan, which is where I met him in late 1971.  As a very green Ensign. At that point I think they had one very young child. They also have a son.

Jack had already taken the ship into combat supporting troops ashore and his next task was to get the ship refitted with upgrades for the next deployment, and the next C.O.  

He was a commander at that point with over 20 years service. He began his Navy career in WW2, enlisted and worked the entire war without combat - working with a team to develop drone bombers.

Having command of a ship and engaging the ship in combat filled a gap inside him that existed from WW2. My own combat deployment followed in 1972 with Capt. Bill Dunham as Commanding Officer. Jack had a few more years with the Navy and consulting with shipbuilding in Pascagoula, MS. His children were raised mostly in MIssissippi. His daughter Karen, is a graduate of Ol' Miss.
Jack and Martha retired to Prattville, AL.

My Karen and Jack's Karen with Jack at IHOP in Prattville

Karen and I remembered Martha as the genteel Southern Lady, a young mom, whom we met at the Smith’s home in San Diego.  Karen especially appreciated the “sound of home” since Martha spoke the same language of the South
as she. It tugs the heart to see Martha struggle now with frailties.  The children and grand-kids are always up for a visit - even from Spain - and bring comfort to a Southern Mom.

Besides savoring visits from family, Jack is an active volunteer builder for Habitat for Humanity. He does this several days a week. One or two days a week he plays golf. He is deeply involved with his church. He and a group of men have been meeting for a prayer breakfast in Prattville for over 30 years now. He actually missed the breakfast this time to share breakfast with Karen and I and his daughter, Karen. We did have a blessing. And we had a short prayer to commission a few copies of our ship's crest on a coin.
(see below)

 All that -- And he cares for Martha.  For someone who ran into so much tragedy in life, he is an example of pushing through.

I and my shipmates who served with him recall him with the greatest admiration.  We can only hope his shadow that we served in, has given us the resolve to be better.  That is what leaders do.

Karen and I enjoyed the breakfast and then motored on over to see Moundville, AL where civilizations came and went in the centuries before Europeans found this paradise.

Here are Jack and Martha a few years ago when Karen and I stopped in for a visit. It was 2011, I think. It was the first time I has seen Capt. Jack since early 1972.

How often can you photo-bomb your C.O?

OK.  I won’t do it again.

The coin .... with the ship's logo and crest of cross and shamrock for Fr. O'Callahan, is used in passing along a prayer for a veteran or anyone who needs a bit of hope.  The "Irish Blessing" is bestowed on the person who says the prayer.  It all connects with a tradition of remembering the USS Franklin and Fr. O'Callahan, since they are tied to the heritage of the USS O'Callahan.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Loyce Deen Tribute


These numbers are tremendous. We can be proud of our nation.  It should be noted that the Allies in this conflict were sorely tested - far more than the USA.  It is a blank part of our history to understand the total effort from so many nations.  If we count casualties.... Russia is by far and beyond the most affected.  Obviously great losses and efforts by Britain and France and Canada and ANZAKS and more.  But this chart is an indication of the powerhouse of industry our nation contributed to halt the AXIS.  We can be very proud of our country.

Seems Impossible
 Carefully study this artwork. Then, read what we did. 
Not only is the picture awesome, but so are the statistics!
 During the 3-1/2 years of World War II that started with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 and ended with the surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, "We the People of the U.S.A." produced the following:
            22 aircraft carriers
              8 battleships
            48 cruisers
          349 destroyers
          420 destroyer escorts
          203 submarines
            34 million tons of merchant ships
   100,000 fighter aircraft
     98,000 bombers
     24,000 transport aircraft
     58,000 training aircraft
     93,000 tanks
   257,000 artillery pieces
   105,000 mortars
3,000,000 machine guns and
2,500,000 military trucks
 We put 16.1 million men in uniform in the various armed services, invaded Africa, invaded Sicily and Italy, won the battle for the Atlantic, planned and executed D-Day, marched across the Pacific and Europe, developed the atomic bomb and, ultimately, conquered Japan and Germany.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Cousin Virginia Finds Comfort

Our Cookie Tradition
My local cousin group who are mostly in our mid-late 60's made a trip to see Virginia Kilpatrick whose odometer rolled over 92 this year. She relocated there a couple of months ago from Pace, FL to an assisted living facility. It's a glorious place. Lots of space and great staff and in a very nice part of town.  Some of her Mullins family relatives live in the area and are frequent visitors.  
Jim phones happy birthday 

Karen and I joined in the trip and continued to visit more of Alabama over the next couple of days.  We visited my 95 year old former C.O. of USS O'Callahan and saw Moundville, AL and Cahawba, AL before we came home.  It's refreshing to take off for a few days and learn some new things.  I'll post some photos and insight from that trip after this post.

Kittye Norris, L, Jim, Me Karen and V in Middle

 I presented Virginia with a star cut out of an American flag to share our appreciation of her long and patriotic service to the country she loves.   It also reflects the service of her deceased husband, Rogene
Flag Appreciation
Kilpatrick, who served in the Marines in Korea.  He was with the embattled forces that fought out of the famous trap at the "Frozen Chosin" reservoir at the border of China. This was before Wal-mart.

Joe Howell Family 1910 - Horse is "Jolly"
Rogene's mom was a Howell - from Chumuckla. The old home-place was on Howell Pitt Road a couple miles north of the Chumuckla Crossroads.  His mom was my grandma's sister.  She is the little girl in the middle, in front of her mom, Mary Elizabeth Haynes Howell. This is about May or June, 1910 and Mary is pregnant with her last child, Joe.  Prudence, Rogene's mom hides her condition by standing in front.

MY grandma is the tall young woman toward the right. Dessie was 20 that year. Dessie actually outlived every single person in this photo, including Joe.  As she grew older, her stories of the family became jewels for recording and listening to.

Virginia is a retired nurse.  She is healthy but slowed a bit by age. A couple of years ago she gave up her car because she was having problems with the controls.  Limited mobility nearly ended her social life including her regular involvement with her church and other friends.  Older friends have the same issues and eventually the network of visitors and social interaction fade off . She realized the problem as isolation grew. Occasional visits from cousins or other local relatives was insufficient to be safe and feel a part of a world that keeps moving.  So, her nephew and she came to the conclusion to sell the home in Pace and move to Montgomery where, at Oak Grove Inn, she will find the social atmosphere and the safety of trained staff.

Rogene's old Marine Barracks foot locker was recovered from his belongings after he died. It is now on display at the JAY MUSEUM.  Included int he trunk are COLD WEATHER socks.  He never wanted to be without THOSE in his kit after Korea -- and the Chosin Battle.

Marine Footlocker inclueds COLD WEATHER Socks
Rogene - a hero to his kin

This poem was written by Rogene. It was found deep under his effects after he died. I imagine he wrote this as he worked through the Korean War experience and especially Chosin. 

Lonely. Cold. Words that are repeated often. This choked up the Marine that found it (I saw a tear).
Choked me up too and I am a Navy Vet (caught that tear) .

I remember him first as a very sad man among the happy family. By the time I was a teen, he was recovered and became a big brother to many of his nephews. Fossil hunting. Rock hounding. We idolized him. 
 Fortunately for him, 
he found Virginia. 
And he found God.

I think those two steps were critical.


While visiting in Virgina's room the topic of  small world and "what ever happened to so and so" came up and I thought I'd relate one of my great car stories for a few laughs.  We got a bit loud laughing and were afraid we would be thrown out of the Oak Grove Inn which is a very dignified place and our noise went far beyond the walls of Virginia's room .


It was in 1957 and I had just entered the last half of second grade at CHUMUCKLA elementary school.  The family had just moved back to Dad's roots there after some years of military transfers.

Out on the playground the dirt under the old oak trees there was perfectly ground to a course but manageable base to build roads for toy cars. But we had no toy cars.  So we substituted thumb sized rocks and drove them all over the magnificently engineered roadways.

My car was quite powerful. It had a V-8 engilne and emulated my dad's 1955 Ford sedan. VROOM, chuck (gear change) zoom zoom, rowwrrr and vroommmm to a stop...eeerrrrchhhhkk!

My buddy Jimmy had a second or third hand rock  car and it could only go slow and in fits and starts. It went ... fluppopp  pop , pudenanny pudenanny pudenanny, clang- crunch curhucnk (gear change) and then pop pop pudenanny.....   phhhaeee zzzerp (stop). 

I've always remembered Jimmy and wondered  if he ever got a better rock in his life.  He was from a poor family that lived down near the cotton gin.  Sometimes, especially in cold weather, he came to school with clothes and hair that smelled of firewood and smoke.  Those old clapboard houses by the gin were built long before the invention of insulation and a fireplace would burn all night and likely the breakfast was cooked on a wood stove.  Those old houses are long gone. Only one of the era remains and it was one of the nicer ones occupied by a foreman - probably.  Its refurbished now and makes a great cottage.

But back then.... not much left over to even have a decent rock.

I do wonder what ever happened to Jimmy.

What kind of rock does he have now?


The above story was sparked by a memory from Kittye who related an incident from her sister, Faye.

Faye and her husband were at a church adult camp where people learn all kinds of new things to be distracted by.  She was talking to a lady at her craft table and the lady mentioned she had lived in Athens, Ga.  Faye said, well, me too ! " I lived there when I was in the first grade."

Both remarked how much they loved that time in their lives.Then the other lady said she always wondered whatever happened to a little girl who was her friend there in first grade.
Wondered whatever happened to a little girl named "Faye Campbell".

At this .. Faye Campbell Westfall was astounded.
A truly small world moment.
And a mystery 60 years old solved.
Recovered friendshlps.

So ... that is what got me going on "whatever happened to Jimmy?"

and we laughed and laughed.