The Lunar Eclipse and Blood Moon

Like many of you, Trudy and I recently stayed up late to witness the lunar eclipse and “Blood Moon.” Received spectacular pictures of this from Bruce Frels, brother to good friend and retired Dentist, Buddy Frels. Bruce is a professional photographer and captured these images. This is what the night sky looked like over Medicine Spirit Ranch.
Hope the quality shows up for these really amazing photos. Here goes!

 

I hope this provides you with the same sense of awe I experienced. One advantage of living out in the country is very little light pollution. It makes witnessing such scenes as this really speccial. Hope you enjoy the sight.

My Friend: The Great Blue Heron

Okay, okay calling the Great Blue Heron a friend just might be an overstatement, but developments of late have made me wonder.

Great Blue Heron in flight

Over the last few years I’ve written several times about a Great Blue Heron that frequents our stock tank and how he waits patiently for me to toss out fish food. I’ve referred to this as my “chumming for heron.” After I retreat a safe distance, the heron flies in on magnificent wings and and crouches waiting for a fish to swim by, or else dives from five to ten feet into the pond to retrieve his meal.

In this almost daily feeding ritual, the heron is used to my presence. I can now get within twenty yards or so of the Heron before  it with its stiff legs struts away or flies away.

For the last several weeks, to my surprise, when I arrive at the large stock tank at our other ranch a mile or two away from the heron’s haunt, the Great Blue Heron flies in to meet me up with me there. He picks a spot to perch on a ledge, the bank of the pond, or on top of a tall tree while I go about throwing out fish food. Again the heron uses my fish feeding as a hunting opportunity.

A strange feeling overcomes me when I see the giant bird circling languidly above. He clearly seems to  monitor my terrestrial progress. Previously I’ve written of the many heron myths, all of which indicate the heron predicts good luck. He is almost like a ancient Greek god who follows my actions with interest or at least with mirth. I find myself wondering what he sees from the great heights achieved in his flight. I suspect he has wonderful eyesight, as he can spot a fish several feet below the surface of the pond. While I am pretty sure about his good eyesight, I have no idea about his hearing. Also I’ve never heard him utter a single sound. He is my silent watcher on land, water, and in the air.

The heron shows adaptation, I suppose. He has learned that fishing is more productive after I summon the small fish to the surface of the ponds. Perhaps its behavior is really no different from the cows who carefully attend my coming and will draw near for my spreading of the tasty range cubes. Also the horses on spotting me will actually gallop behind the pickup when they see me heading for their feed trough.

The relationship with the heron represents symbiosis, that is a mutually beneficial relationship between the Great Blue Heron and his human rancher/fish feeder. I know that I sense wonder from the magnificent bird and feel strangely comforted, knowing he silently watches over me, even if  just for reasons of hunger. The benefit for the heron is obvious and can be seen by its ample girth.

Whereas privacy remains a concern for many, and people feel they are being watched in public; I sense something different. I sense a benevolent and silent watcher, looking after me. Thank you Great Blue Heron, but leave a few fish for me.

Carrying the Black Bag book

My book is in bookstores or online (or contact me and I’ll send it). If a speaker is needed for your event, contact me as I love to share these stories with others either via print or in person. Keep the book in mind for birthday presents or other gift occasions where you wish to present a positive view of dealing with health issues.

 

 

Wrong Way Tom and Trudy

In reflecting on 2018, I’ve concluded that Trudy and I must have gone the wrong way or must have taken the wrong path in our lives. Let me explain.

At the beginning of the 20th century 90% of the population of Texas lived in the rural areas and only 10% lived in the cities. By the end of the 20th century these percentages had reversed with 90% of the population of Texas living in urban areas and only 10% living in the country. This trend toward urbanization goes unchecked thus far in the 21st century.

Meanwhile Trudy and I left behind our former homes in the cities (Dallas-area, Lubbock, Houston, Minneapolis, even Moscow and London) where we had lived our entire lives. Instead we went the wrong way and adopted a rural lifestyle living in the countryside outside Fredericksburg ,Texas. Clearly we moved counter current to the usual demographics, but why.?

Moreover, we chose to live on a cattle ranch and raise cattle at a time when the cattle industry has  swooned from the greatness of earlier times when cattle allowed Texas to become a wealthy state. We certainly don’t claim the same lifestyle as the frontier ranchers in Texas who lived in fear of marauding Indians, struggled against nature using primitive tools, and made their ranch rounds via horseback rather in a pick up. No, our experiences don’t compare to the difficult frontier days that were depicted in the western movies, but that doesn’t mean our lives are without challenges as this blog has at times depicted.

Buddy and Bella: “No way is this the wrong way. This ranch life is what we were bred for.”          Photo by Ramsey

Little Jack: “Hey Pick Up Man, had you not gone the wrong way, I wouldn’t have lived out my story at Medicine Spirit Ranch”

 

And while some would argue the western myth with its exciting cattle drives and western heroes springs more from Hollywood fantasy than reality, it still fills a void, a yearning, if you will, for a simpler life of raising and moving stock, enjoying good neighbors, and experiencing a simpler, less hectic lifestyle. These are the activities we have enjoyed since moving to Medicine Spirit Ranch.

Perhaps springing from the innate narcissism common in writers, I’ve chosen to share our experiences on this blog. I’ve shared earlier stories of caring for remarkable people who developed neurological disorders, and, in so doing, shared extraordinary experiences that reveal much of what is good about human nature. These stories are in my book, Carrying The  Black Bag: A Neurologists Bedside Tales.  

Carrying the Black Bag book

available online or favorite bookstore

I am proud to say it has won several awards:

In a way writing books in the digital age also runs counter culture. Nevertheless, i can think of nothing more pleasing than sharing stories  in the hope my readers will gain a modicum of benefit from them.

I am working hard on a second book that time will tell whether it sees the light of day. I have tentatively titled it, Hitler: Prescription For Defeat. In it I’ve tried to bring my medical skills (retired though they may be) to bear on Adolf Hitler’s little known, but serious health issues. Too little attention has been devoted, in my opinion, to how his poor health impacted his leadership in World War II, inadvertently affected the great battles, and assisted the Allies in defeating Nazi Germany. Hopefully 2019 will see me finish the book and move forward toward publication. I’ll soon the manuscript to several wonderful folks willing to serve as my beta readers/ Any encouragement you might offer would be appreciated, or else any advice to move onto other subjects.

Looking forward to 2019, “wrong way Tom and Trudy” will continue to live our rural lifestyle. We’ll continue to enjoy our “wrong way” lifestyle” as well. Also Tom will continue to blog about his observations and experiences at the ranch and elsewhere. And in the meantime from Views From Medicine Spirit Ranch, I extend to you my fondest wishes for your personal successes in 2019. Happy New Year!

Buddy’s Place In The Sun

Many years ago I read The Good Earth. Pearl Buck wrote this magnificent book in the early 1930s and won a Pulitzer prize in 1932 for it and received a Nobel in 1938. The story covers multiple generations of a Chinese family- a family that had to struggle against all types of external and internal challenges. Particularly vivid in my memory is the book’s ending where the old Chinese grandfather, who having run his race, retires to his comfortable chair, occupying his richly deserved place in the sun. He sits remembering and enjoying a deep sense of satisfaction from his long efforts.

I am reminded of this daily when I observe my thirteen-year-old Border collie, Buddy, and his aging behaviors. Due to infirmity he wisely retired from herding cattle over a year ago. I wrote the story, Buddy- The Slacker early on but did not get around to posting it until March 30 of 2018. In the story Buddy is only a half-grown dog but amazingly manages to break up a ferocious fight between two huge bulls. After so doing, he ran the neighbor’s bull off and then returned our bull unassisted through a forest and around rocks and streams to our ranch. This proved to be the single best herding achievement by a dog that I’ve ever witnessed. After witnessing this event, I no longer referred to the half-grown Border collie as Slacker.

One days several years later I was unaware of a Longhorn cow sneaking up on me while I fiddled with a difficult gate. Buddy saw the approaching cow and easily could have sped off. Instead he stood his ground, short canines against very long, heavy horns. The cow thumped me many times before Buddy helped to drive her back. I can think of no better example of Buddy’s loyalty.

While Buddy no longer herds, he still enjoys riding around the ranch in the back of my pickup. I must lift Buddy up and into the bed of my pickup to gain his rightful place of honor. His old gray snout becomes animated when riding in the back of the pickup and surveying his ranch. His ears perk up, his dull eyes become livelier and dart from object to object, and he stands erect and proud as if for a few moments his joints no longer pain him. He points his nose into the air and listens as intently as his old ears allow.

It’s my ranch and I still look out for it.

Because of his advanced age, Buddy has largely stopped going on walks with Bella, Little Jack, and me. He will usually await our return while waiting patiently beside my pickup that in the driveway. The effort to take a walk on his painful limbs must have simply become too great, I suppose, and he has taken this commonsense approach.

Buddy has multiple beds in the house which is only appropriate because the majority of his day is spent napping. He has a doggie bed in the study where he keeps track of me while I distractedly click away on my computer. Buddy has another bed “in his office” located in a corner behind a screen where he monitors the goings on in the living room. Buddy also has a doggie bed in our bedroom where he catches many a daytime nap.

Enjoying the warmth of the sun and a good nap

Buddy frequents all of his sleeping spots at various times during the day. These spots have something in common; each allows him to soak his aging bones in the warm sunlight streaming through nearby windows. Buddy migrates from spot to spot to capture the healing sunlight. I like to think this warmth provides pain free rest periods. These doggie beds, I believe, are Buddy’s places in the sun.

Hey, don’t forget I also like to lay in the sun.

I sometimes observe Buddy dreaming with his legs making running movements. His whiskers shake and shiver. I, of course, have no idea what he dreams about, but I hope Buddy is reliving his best herding memories and summing up his many adventures. I know that at age 13 (or 91 in dog years), Buddy won’t be around much longer. i can hardly bear to think about losing him.

Buddy was born on the ranch (actually in my bedroom closet) and has barely left the outer reaches of the ranch. He models stoicism and provides more unconditional love than we can ever hope to return.His loyalty and desire to protect his people goes beyond question.

During this wonderful holiday season, the thought occurs to me that God’s love for all his creatures is, in small part, represented by our dogs love for their humans. For this let us give thanks and offer in return unconditional love.

Dream on Buddy, my loyal companion. You’ve earned your place in the sun.

Something Old

Nostalgia is comfort food for the soul. It is as present during the Holidays as are Christmas carols and tinsel. My awareness of how much I enjoy all this tradition got me to thinking as to why this might be.

I know I enjoy old Christmas carols, traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, vintage Christmas movies, and decorating the tree and house. What about you? What are your favorites?

What got me to thinking about this was an incident recently with Little jack Kerouac, our Texas Brown Dog, and his old, but lost collar. Trudy and I noticed one day that Jack was without his collar. Whether it came off in a tug-of-war with another dog, or whether i took it off to give him a good brushing and failed to put it back on, I cannot say. In any event, one day both we noticed that Jack stood naked without his Double T dog collar.

Jack wearing his transitional collar before earning his Double-T collar

You see, our dogs after reaching an acceptable level of training and decorum receive their Texas Tech Double T collars. This is their reward from their proud human companions. The collar is distinctive with its red and black colors and signifies their graduation to full acceptance into our dog/human pack.

By the time  Jack had he lost his collar, he been the proud owner of his Texas Tech collar already for several years. Now, I might have surmised that Jack would have found wearing his jingling collar an overall negative aspect. But I would have been wrong. Jack is quite the hunter of squirrels and armadillos, and I can’t believe his jingling collar makes his hunts any easier.

One day recently our ranch hand, Juan, found Jack’s lost collar and returned it to me. When later I held it up later for Jack to see, I was amazed at how excited he became. Jack must have been mourning his loss of his collar based on his reaction. Jack began to shake all over, as if having a rigor, and repeatedly jumped up and down. He became so excited he began to squeak! You would have thought we had just returned to claim him after a very long absence.

I then approached Jack for the purpose of placing his collar around his neck. Jack immediately stood as still as the Sphinx, and I carefully replaced his collar around his blotchy brown, furry neck. He developed his happy face- a look of satisfied contentment.

I suppose old and familiar objects and traditions provide joy and happiness for us all. As humans we have many examples that can provoke nostalgia. For dogs their possessions are limited with Jack’s collar being his only one. I don’t think Jack is materialistic, so much as he likes familiar objects and his people. His familiar pack and his collar provide him comfort. I think objects like an old dog collar may relate to interactions we have had with loved ones (pack-mates) which create the good feelings that are nostalgia. Nostalgic memories are, after all, only good memories, it seems to me. Nostalgic memories are like comfort food for the soul, be they for humans or dogs.

What do you think? Do you think your dogs are nostalgic? Are you? Would love to learn your experiences.

Wishing all readers of this blog the happiest of Holidays and a wonderful New Year. Along with your eggnog, I hope you enjoy lots of nostalgia and loving interactions this Holiday season.

Great Blue Herons Are Adaptable

I’ve written about Great Blue Herons in this blog previously and have been especially impressed with their legends and natural beauty. Pleasingly our ranch has again been graced by several Great Blue Herons that create in me a sense of awe both by their size and striking beauty.

Each morning I’ve spotted  a Great Blue Heron in the top of a tall tree on the other side of our stock tank, watching me. My procedure has been to throw out feed for the duck and  fish. I always throw some feed near the shore to attract fish for the heron that I know will soon arrive. The feed  attracts fish and the Great Blue Heron arrives as soon as my back is turned. I’ve written of this previously in a blog post “Chumming for Heron”.

A Great Blue Heron. Not my heron but representative

The heron’s technique in the past has been to make himself small by curling itself up, hiding in the weeds, and at the right instance, launching itself at an unsuspecting  fish. Lately the fish seem to have caught onto the heron’s fishing ways and avoid swimming close to the bank of the pond. Nevertheless, many fish surface for the food just out of the heron’s reach.

Successful fishing. This is not really my heron but a look alike. Mine is too camera shy to allow me to snap a good image of it.

I’ve witnessed the heron missing meals of late due to this adaptability by the fish. To my surprise and in response to the change in fish behavior, I’ve also noticed a change in the heron’s fishing tactics. The heron  has begun landing on the surface of the water and swimming around like a duck. Upon spotting a fish in the shallow water, the heron suddenly turns tail to heaven. Soon it surfaces with a fish in its beak.

Also I’ve witnessed a second change of tactics. The heron flies across the tank at low altitude obviously searching for fish and then suddenly plunges into the water head first. The heron submerges itself, but sure enough on regaining the surface it has a fish in its beak. It then swims to the bank where it  enjoys its breakfast.

Such adaptability in herons as well as fish, I find interesting and surprising. I assume  in the game of life for herons and fish, adaptability benefits both just as adaptability has great value for us humans.

I trust the heron will enjoy a nice meal for Thanksgiving, as I hope readers of this blog will as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

Requesting Thoughts on “Prescription for Defeat: How Adolf Hitler’s Poor Health Led to the Defeat of Nazi Germany

My lack of posting of late in no way indicates my reduced interest, only a lack of time, as I have been writing extensively on the above noted book.

Recently I put together a synopsis of my book, and I would welcome your input. For example, does the topic generate interest? What questions arise that require answering? Are there any World War II historians out there in the blogosphere who would wish to be beta readers on the manuscript?

Below is the synopsis. I look forward to your thoughts.

Prescription For Defeat: How Adolf Hitler’s Poor Health Led to Nazi Germany’s Defeat in War II

A Synopsis:

On the 20th of April 1889 in the small, bucolic Austrian town of Braunau am Inn, Adolf Hitler was born. No one could have predicted the depravity the cherubic, blue-eyed child would one day unleash upon the world. Adolf with his father, Alois Hitler, an austere, alcoholic 52-year old minor customs official, and his mother, Klara, a 29-year old, socially adept, second cousin to Alois, resided for three years in the modest boarding house in Braunau.

One hundred years later the mayor of Braunau am Inn placed a telling Memorial Stone at the site of Hitler’s birth, eschewing forever the scourge of Fascism. The building where Hitler was born was later razed to assure it could never become a shrine to Hitler or Nazism.

What affected this child’s personality development such that Hitler could carry out such evil deeds? Which factors led to Adolf Hitler committing strategic blunders, leading to the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II? This book explores the impact of his poor health and personality and how they worked in concert against Germany’s success in World War II.

One day the rebellious and abused adolescent, Adolf Hitler, resolved to run away from home. His father learned of his plans and to prevent this locked him in an upstairs room with bars on the windows. The slightly built Adolf tried unsuccessfully to wriggle through the bars. He then took off his clothing and re-attempted his escape. Just then he heard his father’s heavy footfalls clomping up the stairway. Adolf jumped to the floor and hid his nakedness by wrapping himself in an available tablecloth. On entering and seeing the strangely garbed boy, Alois gleefully shouted for Klara to come see the ridiculous appearing “Toga Boy.” Alois harshly belittled Adolf then and for weeks thereafter. Such scorn from the man whom Adolf most craved affection and recognition harmed his sensitive, artistic personality more so than the frequent thrashings he received from his father. Years later Adolf Hitler in a moment of self-reflection mentioned this “Toga Boy” humiliation and that it took him many years to recover from it.
Adolf received stubbornness, grandiosity, violent temper, and penchant for scapegoating from his father. He may also have inherited Jewish blood from his father. From his mother he gained unconditional love along with a charming social demeanor that would serve him well in politics. All four siblings of Adolf died young, prompting the distraught mother to place all her long frustrated aspirations for a purposeful life onto her sole remaining child, Adolf.

“My little Adolf, you will become such a great man,” she would whisper in the boy’s ear.
Such fawning contributed to the development of Adolf’s messianic complex as shown later when he determined that only he, and he alone, could lead Germany from the economic and military morass in which Germany found itself following World War I.

Adolf’s failure on two occasions to gain admission to the Vienna School of Art crushed his sensitive ego and vocational plans. Worse, his denial came from a largely Jewish faculty that along with unsettling experiences in multicultural Vienna ramped up his anti-Semitism. Adolf also refused his proud Austrian father’s wish for him to join the Austrian army in World War I and instead joined the German army. There he acquitted himself honorably, receiving not one but two Iron Crosses. The army proved important for his development and for the first time in Adolf’s life, he felt a part of something greater than himself.

Emotionally aimless and embittered following Germany’s defeat in World War I, Hitler drifted to Munich where for a time he spied for the Weimar Republic on politically suspect groups. His work included reporting on the nascent Nazi Party. Therein Hitler found affirmation for his own expanding anti-Semitic and pan-German viewpoints. He soon quit his work for the government, joined the Nazi party, and rapidly moved up within the party’s organizational structure. His rapid ascent resulted from his remarkable oratorical skills and the tumultuous Great Depression, conditions providing fertile soil for the rapid growth of his political ambition.

Adolf had always been a frail but healthy boy. While a tendency toward excessive dwelling on minor ailments existed, he maintained generally good health into the 1930s other than for the residual of of minor war wounds.

Interest still exists today regarding Hitler’s sexuality and the possibility of his having a Jewish ancestor. Although extravagant claims have been made about Hitler’s sexuality, most likely in reality Hitler had diminished heterosexual urges but was sexually potent. Evidence for and against Hitler’s Jewish grandfather is presented and this narrative leans toward a conclusion that some truth likely exists for this claim. In any event Hitler felt considerable unease as shown by his ordering both an SS investigation and another performed by his private attorney. His deep-seated concern gave rise to an overwrought defense mechanism, contributing to his anti-Semitism as well as increasing his hatred for his presumed half-Jewish father.

This narrative also analyzes the contention that Hitler suffered from advanced syphilis (the so-called Jewish disease). But following a review of the neurological and laboratory evidence, this supposition is largely debunked. Better and convincing evidence exists from both historical and medical records for coronary artery disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Adolf Hitler always assumed he would die young. His belief stemmed from the early deaths of his siblings and mother. Hitler also had moderate high blood pressure and received a diagnosis of coronary sclerosis from Dr. Hasselbach in 1936 or 1937. By then Hitler had learned not to climb up to the Kehlstein House that lay at 6000 feet and nearby the Berghof, his Bavarian retreat, as the combination of vigorous exercise and oxygen-thinning altitude aggravated his symptoms of coronary artery disease.
A clear-cut episode of angina pectoris occurred in the summer of 1941 when Hitler became enraged over his foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, questioning his attack on the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa). Suddenly the color drained from Hitler’s face, he clutched his chest, and collapsed into a nearby chair. Following the episode Hitler attested that he had thought he was having a heart attack. A series of electrocardiograms are reported here and demonstrate the telltale signs of coronary artery disease. Theodor Morell, his private physician, prescribed digitalis and nitroglycerine, both heart medicines.

Coronary artery disease shortens life expectancy, a fact especially true in the early part of the twentieth century. Adolf Hitler likely understood that he could not be expected to live beyond 1944 or 1945. Furthermore Hitler’s second major illness, Parkinson’s disease, likely began even earlier in 1933 or 1934 based on videotape evidence. Historical, contemporaneous reports along with video and photographs provide convincing evidence (stooped posture, hand tremor, abnormal hand positioning, loss of facial expression, handwriting difficulty, and slow movements) for Hitler’s Parkinson’s disease. Hitler demonstrated the classical findings and belatedly Dr. Theodor Morell assigned the diagnosis and began treatment with two minimally effective medicines. Parkinson’s disease (so-called Paralysis Agitans in those days) like coronary artery disease shortened life expectancy such that Hitler predictably would likely not have survived beyond 1945.

Hitler’s limited life expectancy likely caused him to prematurely launch Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, in June 1941 despite not having fully stockpiled the necessary armaments, having established a pact with Japan, having defeated Great Britain, and not yet having his super weapons (due out in 1944 or 1945) that included V-1 and V-2 rockets, sound activated torpedoes, and jet airplanes. Nevertheless, his lifelong dream of Lebensraum for the German people coupled with his belief that he alone could lead Germany drove the plan rashly ahead.

The behavioral changes that accompany chronic Parkinson’s disease are presented, most noteworthy of which are mental inflexibility and difficulty in concept formation. These symptoms in Hitler are well described in contemporaneous reports and exemplified by his dithering and recalcitrance in June of 1944 at the Battle of Normand and during December 1945 and January 1945 at the Battle of the Bulge.
While other factors most certainly including the Allied military might and intelligence operations greatly influenced the outcome of World War II, too little attention has been paid to Adolf Hitler’s poor health and restraining personality traits. Better understanding of these features assists in understanding why Hitler prematurely launched Operation Barbarossa and demonstrated during decisive battles an inability to change his mind in the face of new and compelling evidence.

It needs to be stressed that Hitler’s illnesses in no way reduce his culpability. His abnormal and long-standing personality flaws consisting of genocidal anti-Semitism, violent inclinations, scapegoating, and failure to accept blame preceded his illnesses by many decades. His poor health in no way mitigates the evil that Hitler unleashed upon the world.

A full understanding of Adolf Hitler’s depravity is required so that such wickedness never again will be loosed upon an unsuspecting world.