Today is Memorial Day in the United States, when we remember those men and women who fell in the service of our country. I’ve been fortunate that all my close relatives who went off to war came home again, though not all of them were unscathed. My grandfather, who served in the Army Air Corps in World War I had his arm shattered and nearly removed by a biplane propeller. Because of his service and his injury, he received a veteran’s benefits. Sadly, during the Great Depression when those benefits were sometimes his only source of income to feed and house himself and his three children, members of his own family accused him of taking handouts from the government.
I really didn’t know much about my grandfather while I was growing up. He died when I was only three-years old. Just about ten years ago, my mom came for a visit and wanted to see the town she grew up in. It’s a small town called Des Moines, New Mexico, in the far Northeastern corner of the state near Capulin Volcano. We walked through town and then went out to show my daughter the volcano. We discovered the ranger manning the desk actually knew my grandfather when he was alive, and she told us several stories about him. It turned out to be an unexpected treat!
Afterwards, images of the real-life horror that would result if a volcano like Capulin erupted today haunted me. They swirled around with stories of my grandfather, and I wrote a story I called “Cherry Blossoms in the Springtime.” About a year later, it was picked up for an anthology called This Ain’t No Rodeo edited by Carol Hightshoe. This was a benefit anthology to raise money to assist injured rodeo bull riders. I’ve given a few stories to benefit anthologies over the years and I rarely know how effective they proved to be. I just discovered that the anthology raised $700 for it’s cause. I’m proud to have helped with that and I’m pleased that it happened through making a closer contact with my grandfather through the power of stories.
In the story, I imagine a veteran of World War I who happens to be a champion rodeo rider who fell on hard times due to the Great Depression. To make matters worse, a geologist arrives, announcing Capulin Volcano is about to erupt. The veteran enlists a friend to help save the town. The solution was based on a story my graduate advisor used to tell about saving a town by venting a volcano through explosives. My grandfather wasn’t a rodeo rider, nor has Capulin Volcano been active in recent memory, but I think it was a fun story. I’m sorry to say This Ain’t No Rodeo is out of print, so I may have to find it a new home.
At any rate, the story was intended not only as a way to remember my grandfather, but as a way to honor the bravery of those men and women who have served in the armed forces. Of course, many of those men and women made the ultimate sacrifice and never made it home. Memorial Day is often considered the unofficial start of summer, which includes fun and games. Sports like rodeo may not be limited to summer, but can certainly be part of the season. Before we dive into the fun, let’s take a moment and remember those folks who made that ultimate sacrifice and have given us the freedom we enjoy.