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Syd Garner (2)

Today, I have the honor of posting an article from a guest author. The author of this piece is none other than my 90 year old father, Sydney Garner. As you all know, unless you have been sleeping under a rock, this year marks the 70th anniversary of WWII D-Day, the invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.

My father was serving as a Navy Signalman on board an LCT that landed at Utah Beach. An LCT (Landing Craft, Tank) was a small vessel designed as an amphibious assault ship for landing tanks on beachheads. These LCT’s were transported across the ocean on larger ships known as LST’s (Landing Ship, Tank).

My Dad belongs to an association of servicemen that served on the LCT’s during WWII. Their numbers are sadly dwindling. Their service to our country is immeasurable. My Dad’s article was chosen for publication in the association’s quarterly newsletter commemorating the event. It is his recollection of his experiences during the weeks and days leading up to the largest amphibious landing the world has ever seen.

I am very proud of my Dad. He is a remarkable man in so many ways. He is not a writer, this is only the 2nd article he has ever written. I think he has done an outstanding job and it is a firsthand account of one of the most significant battles in history. His recall of the places and events that happened over 70 years ago is amazing to me.

I hope you enjoy his story.

Daddy in Navy Uniform

Beachhead and Beyond
by Sydney Garner

The night when we left Halifax, Nova Scotia, it was very cold and snowing. Our LCT 594 was lashed to the upper deck of LST 283. We joined the convoy and began a long, rough winter crossing of the North Atlantic.

LST’s have a flat bottom and in a rough sea, they rock and roll a lot. After many days, we arrived at Milford Haven in Wales, south coast of England. There unloaded a group of coast artillery men that we had brought aboard at our earlier stop at Norfolk, VA.

The next day, we left for Falmouth where we slipped our LCT from the deck of the LST at the mouth of the Fal River. We spent two or three weeks in Falmouth getting our craft ready for duty, then we moved up to Dartmouth where we joined the rest of our flotilla. While there, we spent time doing various exercises out in the English Channel. Sometimes, we spent time up the river from Plymouth at a small town called Saltash. Mostly, we were killing time waiting for the invasion plans to be made final.

Photo of an LCT, courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo of an LCT, courtesy of Wikipedia

When the DD tanks (Double Duty) were loaded aboard, we proceeded to a cove with a sandy beach and a village named Slappton Sands. Since those tanks were considered to be top secret, the residents of the community were ordered to leave their homes while we conducted practice landings of these tanks. After these exercises, we knew that the invasion was on a short string.

A few days later, a couple of army officers came aboard and explained what we were going to do and then told us that we were, as of now, restricted to our ship. The tanks with their crews were brought aboard and the tanks were covered with camouflage netting. A couple of days later, we were underway to Weymouth where we joined several more LCT’s. We began a crossing of the English Channel to the coast of Normandy.

Due to foul weather, we were called back to Weymouth. The next night, as the weather improved, we began again to cross the channel. This time for real. It was June 5th, 1944.

Overnight, the seas made it a rough, bumpy night. As we came near to the landing sites, we put on clothing that was treated to protect us from poison gas if the Germans might use it as a last resort, but thankfully, it was not used.

As we neared Utah Beach, our guide, a small British patrol boat, struck a mine. That caused us to miss the designated beach for almost a mile. We proceeded to the beach, when LCT 593 stuck a huge mine. I was told that no one, neither army nor navy, survived.

The sea was too rough to launch the tanks at sea, as the plan was to have the tanks swim ashore and surprise the German defenders and smash the sea wall to aid the infantry as they came ashore. We were required to bring the tanks close to the beach.

While the tanks were being discharged, a German pill box with an 88 mm cannon, began to fire at the oncoming landing crafts. An LCT equipped with rockets began to fire over our heads, making us anxious to get away from the beach.

We, along with the five other tank carrying LCT’s, withdrew and began to proceed to the anchorage where the cargo ships were waiting to be unloaded. Then LCT 596 stuck a mine. I never knew about survivors.

We proceeded out to the anchorage where the cargo ships were at anchor and began to unload them and bring the material to the beach.

On the second day, a lone German plane made a strafing run down the beach. One of the rounds struck our catwalk, creating shrapnel that struck one of our men, giving him a serious injury. He was sent to England for hospital treatment. He was returned to us a few weeks later, hale and hearty.

A few days after the invasion was secured, decommissioned ships were towed across the channel and sunk off shore to create a breakwater and safe haven for small craft as protection from strong channel storms. A few days later, a very strong storm developed. We were late getting off the beach, and by the time we reached the breakwater, (called Mullberry), there was no room for us. We moved away from the breakwater and dropped anchor. As the storm grew stronger, we decided the anchor would hold and ate our evening meal and turned in for the night.

The watch was set, and I drew the mid watch (12:00 – 04:00). Out of nowhere another LCT appeared. There was a call from them for me to take their line so as to tie up to us. I replied that we could not hold them and refused to take their line. One of their crewmen jumped from their bow over to our bow and began to secure his line to ours. A huge wave hit our stern, and our anchor cable, with the strain of the other ship, caused us to lose our anchor.

I woke the skipper and informed him that we had lost our anchor and were adrift. By the time that the crew was awake, and the skipper was on the bridge, we had drifted into a small water barge. As we pulled away from the barge, someone using a flashlight began to signal SOS. We had our ship under control by then and we returned to the barge and 4 or 5 men scrambled aboard our ship just before the barge sank. Those men were Norwegian sailors who managed to get to England before the Germans occupied Norway.

Months earlier, we had built a wooden food locker above the galley to store mostly canned goods. Before the storm struck, the cook had brought down from the locker, a case of Spam and another of canned spinach. There was other food stored in the galley: flour, sugar, coffee and the like. Sometimes we had fresh meat in the refrigerator.

During the storm, a giant wave broke over the galley and took away our food locker. Our Norwegian guests and our crew ate a lot of Spam and spinach. They thanked us profusely when a couple of days later, we turned them over to the British.

There were times when we would have a cargo that required us to dry out (let the tide recede so that the ship is on a dry beach). Then we would have a few hours of down time. My buddy and I would take advantage of the free time to rove the countryside. On occasion, we would hitch a ride with a driver who could assure us that he would be returning to the beach.

Once we caught a ride with a driver who assured us that he would be coming back to the beach for another load. We rode for what seemed like a couple of hours and arrived at an apple orchard where a large congregation of combat soldiers were eating their lunch. Our driver gave us a box of K rations and while we were eating and conversing with the soldiers, an army officer came by and he was astonished to find two swabbies among his troops. Our driver explained that he had brought us from the beach and would return us there. The officer ordered us to leave ‘as of now’. Later after the battle for St. Lo, we realized that we had been near to the front lines. That battle was a victory for our troops and opened the route to Paris.

In late August, we had used all of our spare parts and could no longer repair our engines or generators. Our compass was no longer reliable. We had one out of three engines in use.

Along with three other LCT’s in our situation, we departed Utah Beach for Dartmouth for repairs. We were the last in a column of four and continued to fall further behind. With night coming on, we soon found ourselves alone. About an hour after darkness, a boat out of nowhere challenged with a red signal lamp. Though I was a signalman, I could not read their signal. They came closer and hit us with a flood light for a second or two, then veered away and were gone.

Sometime later a large vessel came out of the dark and challenged us for our identity using a megaphone. We made ourselves clear and asked who they might be. That ship was a British corvet. We advised them of our situation. We asked for our position and a heading to Dartmouth. They gave us our position and put us on a heading saying we should see land by day light. Day light came and all that we could see was sea and sky.

An hour or so later, we saw a small vessel, but did not know the nationality. We had aboard a battery powered signal lamp (Aldis Lamp) and I used this lamp to signal the small vessel and they replied in English. I asked for our position and was informed that Portland was to our port side. We turned in that direction and after several anxious minutes, we could see land. Later we could see the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor. They gave us permission to enter and told us where we should tie up.

The next day, with a small ship escort, we finally arrived in Dartmouth. The LCT’s that we had left with from Utah Beach were glad to see us.

A week later, we were repaired and returned to Utah where we resumed our routine of unloading ships until the beaches were closed in October.

We returned to England where we had a lot of down time. We were given some leave and the day after Christmas with our LCT lashed down to LST 524, we took the South Atlantic route to the USA…New York. We were given 30 days leave. I reported back to Pier 92, N.Y. and was assigned to another crew going to the Pacific, and the invasion of Okinawa.

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light at the end of the tunnel

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Twin Creeks is on the lookout for a suspected peeping tom. Footprints and fingerprints as well as hair samples were found at the scene of the crime. The incident which occurred on or around April 15, 2013 has prompted detectives to seek the public’s help in identifying the suspect.

A witness account indicated the suspect was pressing his face to the front window of the Peacocks house, locally known as the Pea Pod.

PeaPod

He left a clear handprint on the window screen.

SONY DSC

The suspect is described as a stocky male, standing approximately 4 feet tall with abundant dark, coarse hair. His hand print indicates he has fat little fingers with untrimmed fingernails. A sketch artist has produced a drawing based on the evidence and witness reports. If you have information that would help investigators, please leave a comment below.

Bear Sketch (2)

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On Words

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Boys flying kites haul in their white-winged birds;
You can’t do that when you’re flying words:
‘Careful with fire,’ is good advice we know,
‘Careful with words,’ is ten times doubly so.
Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead, …
But God himself can’t kill them once they are said.    Will Carleton

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Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.    Carol Burnett

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When we spotted 2 geese on the pond a couple of weeks ago, we rounded up our two dogs to try to shoo them off. Mayzie and Baylie are great at flushing the geese off the ground, but when the geese swim into the middle of the pond, the dogs are useless. Mayzie, the Bearded Collie, gets waterlogged with all her long hair, and Baylie, the goldendoodle, who should love the water, is still a puppy, and hasn’t yet discovered the joy of swimming.

So after a great flurry of wings, the two geese settled down on the water and I’m sure I distinctly heard them say, “Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah, Nyah.”
My DH and I started hurling rocks into the water with the objective of creaming them making a big splash near the geese to frighten them off. My underhanded girly lob is not accurate or strong enough to land a rock more than about 30 feet from the shore, so the geese were quite at ease and amused, I am sure. Finally admitting defeat, we headed back to the house to order a couple of slingshots.

As luck would have it, Saturday, we were rewarded with an opportunity for some target practice. Rounding up our roustabouts, we headed down to the shooting gallery. Mayzie and Baylie once again raced around the bank to where the geese were resting, the male standing next to the prone female.

As soon as the geese were safely settled on the pond, we saw several little yellow balls bob to the surface, pop pop pop. The geese had 5 little goslings.
These must be the pair that I saw nesting on Gooney Creek last week and they were on a walk about with their new little family. Hopefully they aren’t planning on moving in.

Disclaimer: No geese were harmed in the making of this blog. We actually love the geese, we just don’t love having them on our pond. We would never do anything to harm the geese, we just want to aggravate them enough that they don’t want to stay.

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15 Minutes of Fame

Fiddle-dee-dee and Golly Gee–Little ol’ me has been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award. Hard to believe, but thanks so much to Heather at “The Homestead at Spring Creek” for seeing something worthy in my blog and nominating me for this noteworthy award.

I don’t consider myself a writer. I’m always amazed when friends tell me how much they enjoy reading my stories and compliment me on my writing style. Several years ago, I started compiling little llama stories based on the antics of my small herd of llamas to amuse our patrons on my web page: www.twincreeksllamas.com

Then a year ago, practically to this day, I was made redundant. This is the Brits clever way of saying that one has been laid off, is no longer necessary. How deflating and demoralizing! With more time on my hands, I decided to start writing about the many interesting and humorous things that happen around our farm; the llamas, our dogs, the chickens, peacocks, and various and sundry wildlife that abound on our acreage.

Primarily directed to my Facebook friends, my blog was getting a handful of hits daily and I was plodding along in relative obscurity and anonymity. Then one day last week, my email inbox was flooded with comments on my blog. I was perplexed until I read a comment congratulating me on being “Freshly Pressed”. For a whole day I felt like a celebrity. I had a few thousand views on my blog, and several hundred complete strangers read my story and said they liked it. I had scores of new friends that subscribed to my blog and then a few days ago, one of my new friends kindly nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. But this award doesn’t come without some obligations. There are rules to be followed.

First I am to thank the person that nominated me. Second, I am to tell you 7 things about myself. And Third, I am to nominate 15 of my favorite bloggers to receive the Versatile Blogger Award and to notify each of them that they have been nominated.

Heather, once again, thank you for enjoying my blog enough to nominate me for this award.

Now 7 things about myself:

1. I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and own and operate a llama trekking business. We do day hikes in the state park and the llamas carry a “trail gourmet” picnic lunch. Best of all, you get to lead a llama along the trail and pour out your innermost secrets. They are great listeners and very non-judgmental.

2. I am nearly 60 years old and just recently decided to come out of the closet. About playing the accordion, that is. I majored in music in college, and accordion was my first instrument as a child, but from college on, I was embarrassed to admit that I was an aficionado of the squeeze box. The stigma was best exemplified by Gary Larson in one of his “Far Side” cartoons. The first frame was a picture of the pearly gates, and a new arrivee was receiving his harp. The second frame was a picture of hell, and the newly damned was receiving his accordion.

3. I mow a lot of grass. We have about 15 acres that I keep cut, and it takes me about 20 hours to cover it all. I equate it to painting the Golden Gate Bridge. By the time I have made one circuit, it is time to start over again.

4. I do some of my best thinking while riding around on my mower. While listening to classical music on my iPod, I do some amazing writing on my brain’s note pad. But then when I sit down to put my genius to paper, I can’t remember all those perfect phrases.

5. I love animals with a lot of hair. I’ve already mentioned the llamas. We have 2 dogs, a bearded collie, and a new Goldendoodle puppy, both with lots of long hair. My husband even felt the need to conform, and several years ago, grew a beard.

6. I enjoy doing crafts. After achieving redundancy, I decided to devote my full time to the farm and needed something else constructive to do and to hopefully bring in a little extra income at the same time. I like using the llama fiber in various projects and am knitting scarves, needle felting animal sculptures and have signed up for a crochet class.  I also make jewelry and polymer clay figures. I sell my designs on my Etsy shop.

7. I enjoy target shooting. In fact, earlier today, we attended the Nation’s Gun Show where I purchased a Smith and Wesson .22 revolver. I can’t wait till the rain stops so that I can try it out on our shooting range.

And the 3rd rule is that I nominate 15 of my favorite blogs to be nominated for the VBA. Now this is tough for me, for as to date, I haven’t taken the opportunity to read or follow many blogs. There are just a few that I have discovered recently that I have really enjoyed and think that they are deserving of the nomination.  So I will list them here. Now I just need to let them know that they have been nominated.

1. Creative Procrastination

2. The Simple Life of a Country Man’s Wife

3. WoolyWarm’s Farm

4. Becoming Cliche

5. Katie’s Camera Blog

6. Kicked, Bitten, & Scratched

7. Donald Reese Photography

This has been fun. Now, time to feed the llamas.

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I’ve never been big on cooking Thanksgiving Dinner.  Number 1, I’m not overly fond of Turkey. I mean, it’s great for the Thanksgiving meal, but then you’re left with all that leftover Turkey that you have to creatively use up over the next few days. I’ve always been a dark meat person myself, but the leg is extremely fraught with tendons and tiny bones. And the thigh just goes too fast. Then you’re left with that dry, stringy breast meat that you have to smother with gravy in order to chew and swallow. As I said, I’m just not a big fan of it.

When we first married, Tim was a 2nd lieutenant in the USAF, and our first assignment was 1800 miles from our home. So it was impossible to go home for Thanksgiving. But as most young families in Tim’s squadron were in the same situation, someone would volunteer to prepare the Thanksgiving Dinner and invite 2 to 3 other couples over to join.

So in that manner, I managed to skate through the first 5 years of our marriage without ever having to do battle with a turkey. I had reached 28 years of age, and had never cooked a turkey. But having recently moved to Oklahoma and made a new bunch of friends, I decided I would like to try my hand at hosting my own Thanksgiving Dinner.

We invited friends for a mid afternoon meal. The menu was a given. I would cook all the traditional dishes that I had growing up for Thanksgiving Dinner.  Having grown up in the South, all foods came fried or in the form of a casserole dish.  Imagine our glee when we discovered Fried Turkey, many years later.

One of our favorite traditional Thanksgiving dishes was the Million Dollar Squash Casserole. It was made with yellow crooked neck squash, sour cream, mushroom soup and Pepperidge Farm Cornbread Dressing Mix.  So what started out as a healthy, nutritional vegetable was transformed into a calorie and fat laden “heart attack on a plate”.  But, after all, what is Thanksgiving Dinner, if not a day for over indulgence.

I grew up in the lower part of SC where rice is the staple starch rather than the potato, so we always had rice with giblet gravy, and the requisite sweet potato soufflé (casserole) and my Grandmother’s recipe for cornbread dressing, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and of course the turkey. Now, I knew how to make everything else, I was not concerned with any of the side dishes; however, I knew absolutely nothing about a turkey. So I consulted my cook books that I had received as wedding gifts and opted for one of the new fangled turkeys that had the pop up doneness indicators.

It seemed relatively straight forward.  Baste the turkey-put it in the oven at the correct temperature- cook for about 4 hours. Dinner was planned for mid afternoon, so I put the turkey in at the appropriate time, allowing for the resting time before carving, and began preparing the delectable squash casserole.

The squash that I was familiar with from my childhood is a yellow goose necked squash with a smooth, thin skin that when sliced and boiled will puree by simply mashing with a fork. The squash I found in the grocery in OK looked similar, but not exactly the same. It didn’t have a crooked neck, and the skin was rough and bumpy. But it was what they had, so I went with it. After boiling, I tried to mash it, but the skin was tough and would not break up. I put it in the mixing bowl and ran at high speed—still lumpy. So I elevated to the next level of maceration, and put the squash in the blender.  This would definitely take care of it. But, as there was not a lot of liquid in the squash, it didn’t swirl well, and the squash escaped the blades by clinging desperately to the sides of the pitcher while the blades whirred ineffectively in the center.  So in an attempt to force the squash back into the center of the blender, I used the handle of a large fork to poke along the sides of the pitcher, and inadvertently proved a law of physics.

Newton’s law of motion. an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

When the blades came in contact with the fork, the blades came to a screeching halt, but the squash, which was in motion at a gazillion revolutions per second, continued at the same velocity, but changed direction to a vertical trajectory and stopped abruptly when it made contact with my ceiling.

Around about that time, my husband, Tim, came into the kitchen in an attempt to be helpful. He peeked in at the turkey and then examined the control panel on the front of the oven. We had just recently moved into our rental condo, and it had really glitzy appliances. It even came with a trash compactor, which was quite sophisticated for a young, impoverished, Air Force couple like ourselves.

The oven had lots of buttons, but no user’s manual, so I had never used any of the advanced settings. I heard Tim idly comment on the functionality of some of the controls, but I ignored him as I continued to scrub squash off the ceiling.

Preparations went on with no further incidents until about 3 hours later when I opened the oven door to check on the turkey. The oven was stone cold. The turkey was raw. Dinner guests were due to arrive any minute. Tim will deny it even to this day, 40 years later, but when he was marveling over all the buttons on the oven, he pushed the button for timed bake and put the oven on pause. Effectively, dinner was on pause.

Our guests were quite amused by the tale, and we spent the afternoon drinking and playing games until the turkey finally made its grand entrance. All in all, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving. But that’s what Thanksgiving is really all about, isn’t it. Sharing the day with friends and family and giving thanks for what really matters in life: health, happiness, sharing and caring.

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