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Poem: My Sidewalk

Sidewalk

My Sidewalk

In my neighborhood
there is a sidewalk.
It’s greets me every day.
In front of my house,
It goes to the east
Toward the sunrise
And it goes to the west
Toward the sunset.

I can get on my sidewalk
and walk to the end of the street.
There it is met by another sidewalk.
It provides a path
pointing toward other destinations.
My sidewalk is old.
It is cracked, wrinkled, broken and uneven.
It is aged by both weather and time.

My sidewalk has allowed
children to roller skate,
ride their scooters,
and their skate boards, and
girls and boys to play hopscotch,
but mostly girls played it.
Boys and girls painted pictures
On its surface with colorful chalk.

Bicycles are ridden up and down the sidewalk.
Families walk on it together
pushing babies in strollers.
Teenagers hold hands
learning of life.
Old men and women hold hands
as they walk together
sharing their life.

Policemen walk down it brining bad news.
The parson walks on it
bringing comfort after the bad news.
My sidewalk takes me everywhere
Like to my library
Where I meet a world without care
It may be just cement to you,
But my sidewalk is my friend, true and true.

Jimmie A. Kepler
2008

My Sidewalk was originally published in:
Words…Rhymes…Poetry & Prose

April 6, 1862

Battle_of_Shiloh_Thulstrup152 years ago today the Battle of Shiloh in the US Civil War began. My great-great grandfather Jacob Kepler fought in the Battle of Shiloh. He was a private in the Company C, 53rd Indiana Infantry. He was one of the older soldiers. He was born in 1820.

He served in the Army of the Tennessee under General Ulysses S. Grant. My great-great grandfather’s regiment joined the Army of the Tennessee in March 1862. They marched from Indianapolis where they had guarded prisoners. On March 15 they were ordered to Savannah, Tennessee where they took place in the Battle of Shiloh which is just south of the town of Savannah. Next they advanced on and and took part in the siege of Corinth, Mississippi from April 29-May 30, 1862. The unit’s next movement was a march to Memphis, Tennessee via Grand Junction, LaGrange, and Holly Springs, Mississippi between June 1-July 21, 1862. They were on duty in Memphis until September 6, 1862. While at Memphis my grandfather passed away from illness as did so many soldiers during the Civil War. He is buried with the Union soldiers in Memphis.

Here is my direct relationship. My father is Jimmie Kepler, grandfather Thomas Aaron Kepler, great-grandfather Emery Hall Kepler, and great-great grandfather Jacob Kepler.

Jacob joined the Army at age 41 to keep an eye on his son James K.P. Kepler (born 1843) who had enlisted. James is my great-great-great uncle. James survived several weeks following the Battle of Shiloh before dying. His date of death was May 27, 1862. Official US Government internment records show: Kepler, James K.P. Private, Co C, d.o.d. 27 May 1862, Section F, Grave 1408, O.I. Savannah, Tennessee. This is the official Shiloh National Cemetery. The online record is at: http://www.shilohbattlefield.org/cemetery/results1.asp?LASTNAME=Kepler&Submit2=Submit

For those that don’t know, The Battle of Shiloh was a major battle in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, fought April 6–7, 1862, in southwestern Tennessee. A Union army under Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had moved via the Tennessee River deep into Tennessee and was encamped principally at Pittsburg Landing on the west bank of the river. Confederate forces under Generals Albert Sidney Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard launched a surprise attack on Grant there. The Confederates achieved considerable success on the first day, but were ultimately defeated on the second day.

Photo credit: Chromolithograph of the Battle of Shiloh, American Civil War. The date is 1888. The Author of the picture is Thure de Thulstrup (1848–1930). It is in the Library of Congress.

Dream On …

Today is Monday, March 31, 2014. It is the 90th day of the year. There are 275 days remaining until the end of the year.

“The world stands aside,” said David Jordan, “to let anyone pass who knows where he is going.” This applies to those, who learn where they are going late in life as well as for the young.

At age 40, James Michener published his first book. He authored more than 50 titles – 26 historical fiction novels, 31 nonfiction books, and 13 of his works were adapted into TV mini series or made into movies.

At age 53, Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister.

At age 65, Winston Churchill became British prime minister for the first time and started the epic struggle against Hitler. Churchill received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 at age 79 for his many published works, especially his six-volume set The Second World War. He wrote the six volume set when he was in his 70s without any assistance or ghost writers. The photo is of Sir Winston Churchill.

At age 69, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. He served two terms. He was 77 years old when he completed his second term in office.

At age 70 and again at 80, former President of the USA George H.W. Bush parachuted out of an airplane.

At age 72, Golda Meir became prime minister of Israel.

At age 75, Ed Delano of California bicycled 3100 miles in 33 days to attend his 50th college reunion in Worcester, Massachusetts.

At age 80, Grandma Moses, who had started painting in her late 70s, had her first one-woman exhibit.

At age 80, Winston Churchill returned to the House of Commons as a member of parliament and also exhibited 62 of his paintings.

At age 81, Benjamin Franklin skillfully mediated between disagreeing factions at the U. S. Constitutional Convention.

At age 96, George C. Selbach scored a 110-yard hole-in-one at Indian River, Michigan.

On his 100th birthday, ragtime pianist Eubie Blake exclaimed, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

How about you? Have you slowed down, packed it in, given up, and checked out? Have you given up on your dreams? Don’t give up. Dream on!

I know the Heavenly Father has something wonderful still in store for you! It’s never too late. Why don’t you call God up and ask Him what that might be. His number is found in The Bible in Jeremiah 33:3. It reads, “Call upon Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know!”

Picture Source: Churchill V sign HU 55521.jpg This artistic work created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain. This is because it is one of the following: 1) It is a photograph created by the United Kingdom Government and taken prior to 1 June 1957; or 2) It was commercially published prior to 1961; or 3) It is an artistic work other than a photograph or engraving (e.g. a painting) which was created by the United Kingdom Government prior to 1961.

March 26, 2014

Way back in 1969 I was in the eleventh grade. Let me share an experience I had with the school counselor.

“Why can’t I be a writer or author?” Those were words I spoke as I mustered all the manhood I had as an eleventh grader to keep from crying as my high school guidance counselor told me that becoming a writer or author wasn’t an acceptable vocational option for a man.

The school counselor answers, “Jimmie, you’re a guy. You’ll need a trade or college degree in engineering, accounting, or teaching to support your future wife and children. You need to forget that silly notion that a man could ever support a family writing. It’s okay to have writing as a hobby, but you’ll never earn a living doing it. You’ll need a real job.”

The words broke my heart. My parents had raised me to believe I could do anything. My Sunday school teacher and youth pastor had taught me God had an amazing plan for my life. Up to this point, I believed it. After the counselor’s words, I wasn’t so sure.

Several years later, I was a seminary student. One day in chapel, I heard a sermon about a man with an unusual name, Mephibosheth. He was lame in both feet. He had a disability, an affliction. I learned he faced many challenges, sorrows, and problems. In spite of this, he didn’t know the king of Israel was about to bless his life. The most powerful man in all of Israel, King David went out of his way to bless someone others viewed as unworthy. Our King of kings, our great Lord Almighty desires to do the same for us.

Have you been told your dream of writing is just that a dream? Maybe you’ve been told you haven’t experienced life enough to write, that you’re too young to write, or that the competition is too great? You may be dealing with feelings of doubt, think if only you had a MFA or if your family or spouse supported you more, or maybe you think it’s too late – you’re just too old. If only … Let’s face it, at times we all face challenges and difficulties in our lives that make us feel unworthy to serve the Lord. As Christian writers, we serve the Lord with our writing.

We may feel there is no way God could use us. We dwell on negative thoughts. We focus on why we can’t. We feel it’s too hard or the chances of getting published are stacked against us. I want you to stop those I cannot do it thoughts. Think about the things you and God can do.

Remember, God doesn’t look at our exteriors, our limitations, or our failures. He looks at His flawless creation – that’s you! God says, “I can use you; I want to use you.”
We should live in this truth. Don’t let anyone or anything including self-doubt stand in your way of serving our great King of Kings and Lord of Lords! If he has called you to write, He will provide the platform, publisher and audience/readers. He’s also a big enough God to take care of your financial and emotional needs.

My name is not a household name as a writer. I do not support myself writing. Thirty years ago last month my first magazine article was published. I was paid 2½ cents a word. Since I sold the first article in 1981, I have had many articles and poems published. You can see a partial listing of my work at http://jimmiekepler.wordpress.com/publications-and-poems/. I have have hundreds rejected. I have had a nonfiction book initially accepted and then killed when an editor changed. I have a historical fiction book that’s been rejected a couple of times and yet I keep on submitting while writing the next book. I am a regular contributing book reviewer for a national magazine.

What can I say? I love to write and read. I writing is your thing, ignore the negative thinkers, and trust God and write!

Road Trip to the University of Texas McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory

McDonald Observatory

In October 1974, I made my first trip to the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. It was 500 miles one-way from the campus of the University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington) to Fort Davis, Texas. I went to do the required astronomical labs for my physics class in astronomy.

The trip was a caravan from the UT Arlington campus to far west Texas. We departed about 2 PM on Friday, October 4, 1974. We headed from Arlington west on Interstate 20 (yes it was built way back then). We drove to Lake Colorado City State Park about 3 miles south of Interstate 20 just southwest of Colorado City, Texas. I pitched my tent. I shared the tent with 4 young women and one young man that were fellow cadets in the UT Arlington ROTC program. Three of them were prior service (US military veterans).

The next morning we got up early and headed west. We stopped at a Stuckey’s (remember them?) getting two scrambled eggs with toast and bacon or sausage plus coffee for under a dollar. The journey continued to Pecos, Texas. There we left Interstate 20 and headed south on Texas Highway 17. We crossed Interstate 10 at Balmorhea, Texas and head south to Fort Davis. We camped at the Davis Mountains State Park.

That weekend the park also hosted a retreat for the Odessa, Texas Jaycees. Some of them were concerned that we had males and females staying in the same tent. I got a strong morals lecture from a Baptist deacon. It mattered not we were all of legal age.

That Saturday, October 5, 1974 a very good top five ranked Texas A & M football team was upset by Kansas University loosing 28 to 10. We listened to the game on the radio as we explored the city of Alpine, Texas and toured the Fort Davis National Historic site. I’ve actually been there more times than any national park or historic site with the exception of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Why more to the Smokeys? My brother-in-law is a retired Great Smoky Mountain Park Ranger.

We drove to the McDonald’s Observatory in the early afternoon to check-in and get ready for the night’s observations. We returned that night for one of the most memorable evenings of my life.

The McDonald Observatory is an astronomical observatory located. It is located just northwest of Fort Davis, Texas, on Mount Locke in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. It is the property of the University of Texas at Austin.

The McDonald Observatory was the first location on earth to bounce a laser off a reflector left on the moon by Apollo astronauts. I learned this on my road trip.

I also learned the high and dry peaks of the Davis Mountains make for some of the darkest and clearest night skies in the region and provide excellent conditions for astronomical research. It is one of the darkest places on earth at night. I can vouch for it being dark and more stars being visible than you could count in a lifetime.

UT McDonald Observatory

I have been back many times since that first trip in 1974. I took my two sons there on dad-son vacation when they were 13 and 10 years old. Since then they have built an excellent visitor center.

The trip back to the University of Texas at Arlington was a long one. We drove back on US 67. It was 500 miles on a two lane highway. On the return trip I stopped and visited my parents at their ranch northwest of Brownwood, Texas.

McDonald Observatory

It was on the 1974 trip I decided to ask Benita Breeding to marry me. I proposed the next week and we married on December 28, 1974.

Photo Credits: Jimmie A. Kepler took the photographs in May 2007. The photographs are available for use under the Creative Commons License listed below.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Last Time I Hitchhiked

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking

Spring break 1974 was the last time I hitchhiked. By then it was going out of vogue. Drivers viewed picking up a stranger as a risk. It was in the mid 1970′s that we learned some people picked up hitchhikers to do harm to them. They would rape and kill them. Had I know that I would have never stuck my thumb up and hitched a ride, but I did. Here is that story.

The story of the last ride I hitched is straightforward. It was spring break 1974. The effects of the Arab Oil Embargo that was put in place during the Yom Kippur War of late 1973 were taking effect. Due to shortages, cars and their drivers lined up at service stations to get gasoline. The traditional full service station became extend during this period. Sometimes you had to wait days to fill up your car’s tank.

March of 1974 found me completing my junior year at The University of Texas at Arlington. Fortunately, I lived adjacent to the campus. This meant I could walk or ride my ten-speed bicycle to class. More and more frequently, I opted for my ten-speed as my preferred method of transportation.

During this same time, Interstate 20 (I-20) was under construction across south Arlington, Texas. Lake Joe Poole was a future development dream.

I was dating my future wife. She was a senior in high school. She lived in DeSoto, Texas 25 mile away. The Tuesday of her spring break, I decided to ride my bike to her house. I left the campus of UT Arlington and head south until I ran into the construction on the future I-20. There I go on the new concrete roadway and headed east several miles until I got to Belt Line Road in Dallas County. There I again headed south. Belt Line Road in just a few short years would be under Lake Joe Poole’s water. There was a huge mountain to go up. My ten-speed zipped up with great ease. As I continued riding past all the television broadcast towers in Cedar Hill, Texas, I quickly crossed the then two lane US Highway 67. Belt Line Road intersected just east of US 67 with Texas Farm Road 1382.

The ride on my ten-speed from Cedar Hill to DeSoto was only five miles. Unfortunately, about hallway between the two towns the rear axle on the bicycle broke. A broken rear axle is bad. It meant I could not ride a bike because the rear wheel would no longer turn.

I had to car the ten-speed the last two plus miles. It was a hot March day with temperatures in the middle 80 degrees. I was not very smart in my travels as I had only one one-quart canteen of water with me. It soon was gone.

I arrived at Miss Benita’s house. She was happy to see me. Her eleventh grade sister was not happy I had invaded their space. They could not believe I had ridden my bike 25 miles. They were even more concerned, well at least Miss Benita was, about how I would get back to college. I remember making a fist with my right hand and extending my thumb.

The girls were afraid of hitchhiking. I seemed very scary to them. From 1967 to 1972, I thumbed many rides. It was still an accepted method of travel.

Well, I chained my bike to their chain-linked fence. I walked down to the Fina gasoline station. Joe Castle owned the business. He asked where my car was. I told my sad tale. He carried me to Cedar Hill and wished me luck. He made sure I had a cold Dr. Pepper.

At Cedar Hill I no more than got out of the Castles old American Rambler station wagon and took my place at the side of Farm Road 1382 (FM 1382), thumb extends this time trying to go north than a Jeep stopped and gave me a ride.

It was a machinist headed for his swing shift at Ling Tempco Vought (LTV) Aeronautics in Grand Prairie, Texas. He let me out where FM 1382 crossed the Pioneer Parkway that was also called Spur 303. He used to be in the US Air Force. That is where he learned his trade of building airplanes. He tossed me a Coca Cola as they left me at the side of the road.

I was not waiting even two minutes when a Chevrolet Camaro stopped. As they rolled down the window, two girls about my age greeted me. “Hey, aren’t you in our English class?” were the first words they said. They followed with “You’re one of those ROTC guys, aren’t you?” The both had an open can of Old Milwaukee beer. The hollered for me to get. The girl who was riding shotgun got out, had me get in and them just sat in my lap. They replaced my Coca-Cola with a beer. We zoomed down Pioneer Parkway until we got to Cooper Street in Arlington. We turned north and head to the campus. They took me to my apartment. They didn’t drop me off. They came in where we listened to the stereo and did what college kids did.

The return trip to my apartment took me about 20 minutes less time than riding the ten-speed t my girlfriend’s house had taken. I still am amazed.

I haven’t hitched a ride since that March day in 1974.

March 20, 2014

church fireThis Day In Texas History:

Today is Thursday, March 20, 2014. It is the 79th day of the year. There are 286 days remaining until the end of the year. Typically, the first day of Spring begins as March equinox falls on this date, marking the vernal point in the Northern Hemisphere and the autumnal point in the Southern Hemisphere, when both day and night are of equal length.

Church on Fire:

I wrote this piece twenty-six years ago. I was associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Jasper, Texas at the time. I had just been to Beaumont, Texas making hospital rounds where I visited sick church members.

My ultimate goal was to drive north on Texas Highway 92 until it intersected US Highway 190 just west of Dam B. There I would turn east and drive home to Jasper. I had just left Silsbee, Texas heading toward Fred, Texas when I first saw it in on the horizon.

From more than fifteen miles away, the smoke could be seen rising nearly ten thousand feet above the tall pine trees and dogwood. It’s gray-blue plum acted as a beacon saying something is happening here. But what? But exactly where?

Was someone burning trash? No, the amount of smoke was too great.

Was it a raging forest fire? Possibly, but if so it was only in an embryonic stage.

Was the smoke the signal of a controlled burn by one of the timber companies? Possibly, but yet the signals just did not look correct.

As I continued driving for miles. As I was leaving Fred, Texas a number of vehicles were assembling in the distance. The closer I got, the more recognizable the cars and trucks became. The wind changed and the smoke pushed its deadly midnight momentarily across the highway.

As I got nearer, I saw no flames. Smoke was gushing out the doors and windows of a small framed building. It was erupting in a deadly, black, thickness through the roof.

The Church in the Pines was dying from fire and smoke inhalation.

Winner Very Inspiring Blogger Award

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BOOKS BY JIMMIE A. KEPLER
The Prairie Dogs Have Coal Miners' Helmets with Lights and Other Stories
by Jimmie A. Kepler
Short Story Collection: Available on Amazon

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