My “Gorilla” Story


As a child growing up in Lindenhurst … on the south shore of Long Island … we had a dog … a mutt, really … named Ranger.

Ranger near Hamilton Avenue mid-1950's adjusted & corrected

Ranger, Lindenhurst, mid-1950’s

Ranger’s mother … Lucky … wasn’t. She was hit by a car and killed not long after Ranger’s litter was born … and they weren’t even weaned yet … my mom had to hand feed them until they got big enough to eat on their own.

I was five at the time … and given my choice of which of the puppies we would keep … I picked the runt of the litter … and named him Ranger, after the lead character of a children’s TV show that I liked to watch … Ranger Joe.

Ranger became my faithful companion from then until I left home to go to West Point 13 years later … other than school, he went pretty much everywhere with me … and particularly enjoyed loping along next to my bike when I did my paper route … and running along with me when I did laps around the block as training for cross-country and track.

Eventually, he got too old to do the running … instead, he would lie on the grass in front of our house … and follow me with his eyes as I ran by each time.

Despite his small size, Ranger was fearless … too fearless, as it turned out. One day in March of 1964, he was with my mom and two younger sisters as they walked to the neighborhood grocery store. A much bigger dog came out of the Narrangansett Inn, a local restaurant and reception hall … thinking the dog was coming after his humans, Ranger ran to intercept him … and got into a fight which resulted in injuries so severe that he had to be euthanized.

Mom called me at West Point to give me the news … and I cried myself to sleep that night.

But, that isn’t the main point of this story … which is really about the dog I fell in love with three years later and who was going to be my next “Ranger”.

My Aunt Ethel and her family lived in West Babylon, not far from where we lived in Lindenhurst … and I visited there frequently after my family moved to California in mid-1964, shortly after Ranger’s death. They had a female dog named Queenie … and, coincidentally, she had a little of puppies in April 1967 … just a couple of months before I was due to graduate from West Point.

In my journal for May 6, 1967, I wrote that I had picked up Jessica Poulson, who I was seeing at that time, and then … “we drove out to Aunt Ethel’s. Queenie had her puppies. I picked out one for me — it’s all black with 4 white feet, a white-tipped tail, a white ring around its neck and a white face.”

Yurochka Standing in Grass

Yurochka

I had just that week also finished reading Boris Pasternak’s book Doctor Zhivago … and Jess & I went to see the movie based on the book that same night. I decided that I would name the puppy Yurochka … the affectionate name that Larisa Antipova calls Yuri Zhivago … and then ended up calling him Yuri for “short” (even though in Russian Yurochka is the diminutive of Yuri).

On Saturday, June 3rd, Jess and I were back on Long Island … and I picked up Yurochka …

Yurochka & Jim

With Yuri, June 3, 1967

… to take back to West Point with me for a few days. In retrospect, he was probably a bit young to be separated from his mother … but he enjoyed the visit … particularly sleeping with me on my brown boy (our plush comforter). Needless to say, it’s a good thing no one in authority saw him there in my room!

We graduated on June 7 and I spent the first three weeks of graduation leave hanging around with family on Long Island and visiting with high school friends and teachers … while Yuri was back at Aunt Ethel’s with his mom.

Yurochka on So Rare Too smaller

Yuri had the run of my Corvette

On June 28th, I finally left New York … driving to Washington DC, where Yuri and I stayed at a Holiday Inn. The next day, I visited the Pentagon and confirmed that I would have a few weeks temporary duty at the Pacific Mine Force headquarters before going to the Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, in the fall … then on to Saigon, Vietnam, in November.

While driving, Yuri would sit in the passenger seat … or, if I had the top up on my Corvette, would lie on the convertible top cover, just behind the seats. When in the passenger seat, he was too small to see over the doorframe or hang his head out the window … so I usually turned the vent window in so that wind would blow on him while driving.

The third day of our trip, June 30th, Yuri and I visited my high school track teammate George Brown in North Carolina … then went on to Merritt Island, Florida, to visit with my best friend from high school, Jim Clark. We spent five days there, then on July 5th started the drive across the South … headed for Memphis, Tennessee, to visit with my West Point roommate & best friend, Jim “JO” Vance.

On Friday, July 7th, JO and I had dates with two sisters who lived in the Whitehaven section of Memphis … my date that evening was Sandy Douglas … and, as they say, the rest was history …

… regarding which, see…

https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/could-i-have-this-dance/

After two days in Memphis, Yuri and I headed to Oklahoma, where I hoped to see my former girlfriend … Candy Sayes (ah, yes, a whole other story for another time). I was able to visit with her and her fiancée, Joe Davis, for about an hour … then drove down to Lawton, where I planned to see another of my West Point friends, Norm St. Laurent, at Fort Sill.

After visiting with Norm, I decided to drive straight through from Oklahoma to California … in part because I didn’t have any friends living between the two. On Tuesday, July 11, I got on the road about 8:00 am and drove until 3:00 … slept on the side of the road for about an hour … then hit the road again.

I stopped again about 10:00 and called home, then decided to continue driving until I got home … which I expected to do about 2:30 or 3:00 am. For most of the trip from Oklahoma to California, I was driving on either I-40 (which was not yet complete) or the old Route 66 … which connected the completed sections of I-40 at the time.

Shortly after midnight, I stopped in Barstow, California, for gas … I had the top up and Yuri was sleeping on the convertible cover behind me … I pulled up to a pump, got out and began pumping gas.

Perhaps a minute later, a woman from another car at the station asked me, “Is that your dog?”, while pointing toward the highway. I turned to see where she was pointing and saw Yuri … just as he was hit by a car speeding along the highway.

I immediately ran out to Yuri … and when I got to him, knew instantly that, although not yet dead, he would be soon … I picked him up and carried him back to the car … by the time I got to it, he had died.

I wrapped him in my lightweight West Point grey jacket … borrowed a shovel from the gas station attendant … and took Yuri out into the desert to bury him. I dug a hole about three feet deep … laid Yuri in it … and filled the hole. The driver of the car never even stopped.

The rest of the drive home took about two-and-a-half hours … during the entirety of which I was crying so hard that I had trouble driving … and which makes me cry even now thinking about it. My mom had stayed up, waiting for me to arrive, and I fell completely apart when I got there.

To this day, I do not know for sure how Yuri got out of the car … the convertible top was up … and the windows were up high enough that I don’t think he could have wiggled through the opening of either window. The only thing I could … or can … think of is that he must have awakened as I opened the driver’s door, then jumped down onto the seat and out the door behind me as I closing it.

However he did it, it took just a matter of seconds … no more than two or three … and, because I was concentrating on pumping gas, I never saw that he was out of the car until it was too late.

It is nearly 49 years since Yuri was killed, but the guilt I feel over his death burns my heart every time I think of it … which is still often. My journal entry for that day ends with the comment, “He trusted me so & I let him down in the worst way possible.”

—–ooooo—–

I was motivated to write about Yurochka by the incident at the Cincinnati Zoo which resulted in the death of the silverback gorilla Harambe … and the resultant outpouring of animus and vitriol toward the mother of the child who got into the gorilla enclosure.

To the Christians among the vocal critics of the mother, I commend Matthew 7:1-3, King James Version (KJV):

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

In other words, clean up your own act before you judge the actions of others … and once you do, perhaps it would be best to help those others, rather than judging them.

Or John 8:7 (KJV):  He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

In the context of the gorilla discussion, it is a certainty that everyone, without exception, has at one time or another, been distracted in such a way as to lose track of a child … even a small child … for a short period of time. Most people are lucky in that nothing untoward happens during that momentary distraction … the Cincinnati mother … and I … were not so lucky.

Apparently, the Hamilton County, Ohio, prosecutor will announce tomorrow whether or not he is going to file criminal charges against the boy’s mother. The legal standard in Ohio for filing charges is whether or not she acted “recklessly” or created a “substantial risk” to the health and safety of her child.

Factual circumstances likely to play a part in the prosecutor’s decision include the child’s background and any history of dangerous behavior, risk factors at the zoo, and … perhaps most significantly … the length of time that the child was out of the mother’s direct sight and why.

—–ooooo—–

A few more pictures of Yuri

Yurochka & Little Caruso smaller

Yuri (in the bushes) & his brother, Little Caruso

Yurochka Little Caruso & Little Queenie smaller

Yuri, Little Caruso & their sister, Little Queenie

Yurochka Bath 1 smaller

Bathing Yuri

Yurochka Bath 2 smaller

Drying Yuri

Yurochka & Suzie 1 smaller

My sister Suzie & Yuri

Yurochka & Suzie 2 smaller

Suzie & Yuri Snuggling

—–ooooo—–

Three Dot … 127

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“We Forgot Jimmy!”


Most of my first day as a West Point cadet … July 1, 1963 … is a complete blur in my memory.  About all I can say for certain is that I still consider it one of the most miserable days of my life … so, I wouldn’t normally blog about it … except for one thing.

Because we lived in Lindenhurst, on the south shore of Long Island, I was one of the fortunate New Cadets who was taken to West Point by family … and the whole crew made the trip … Mom & Dad, Larry Jr., Jerry, Luanne and Suzie (who was then just four years old and with whom I was particularly close).

Once I left the family to “report to the man in the red sash” and begin my life away from home, the rest of the family participated in various activities designed to help them understand what their now departed sons (no women yet at West Point then) would be doing for the next four years.

Eventually that day, the upper class cadre trained the 800+ newest cadets well enough for us to march in our first parade … and to be accepted into the Corps of Cadets.  And then it was time for the families to leave … which mine did, beginning the drive back down to Long Island.

It wasn’t long, however, before Suzie realized that I wasn’t in the car … and she cried out, “We forgot Jimmy” … when told that I wasn’t coming with them, she cried most of the trip home.

Little did she … or I … or any of the rest of the family know that by the next time I would visit home, in June 1964, Dad (a Navy Chief) would have been transferred to Long Beach and they would have moved to Garden Grove, California … and that I would not again set foot in my childhood home until invited in by the current owners when I visited the old neighborhood nearly 46 years later in March 2010.

————————————

Three Dot … 112

December 11th … A Shared Birthday …


.

My Mom, Marion Thomas Reilly, and my fiancée Candy Davis’ Dad, Thomas Havard Sayes, Jr., shared the same birthday, December 11th, albeit 8 years apart (Col. Sayes 1917 and Mom 1925).  See Note 1 below.

Yesterday was therefore a somber and reflective day for both of us.

Candy’s Dad, a retired U.S. Army colonel, died more than 30 years ago (May 1, 1982) in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he and Candy’s Mom, Margaret “Mimi” Sayes, had moved after his retirement.  They had just returned from a visit with Candy’s family in Houston when Col. Sayes suffered a heart attack.

My Mom, on the other hand, has been gone just a little more than a year, dying November 30th last year in Syracuse, NY, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. 

Candy & I are both fortunate in that we each have a long-lived, surviving parent.  Mimi Sayes will be 88 the day after tomorrow and my Dad, Lawrence John Reilly Sr., will be 90 on June 18, 2014.

Col. Sayes was a combat veteran of World War II …

Thomas Havard Sayes -- WWII Soldier

Thomas Havard Sayes — WWII Soldier

… Korea and Vietnam, who also served peacetime tours of duty in Japan and Germany.  As result, of course, Candy and her siblings (my West Point Classmate Thomas Havard Sayes III, Morgan Sayes & Summer Sayes Purvis) enjoyed the peripatetic lifestyle typical of Army brats.

I met Candy and consequently her father while he was attending the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA, in 1963. 

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Havard Sayes, Jr.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Havard Sayes, Jr. —– Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, PA — 1963-64

I was, at the time, a plebe at West Point and colonels were the next best thing to divinity (otherwise known as generals) in my world at the time.  For a young man, the prospect of meeting any new girlfriend’s father is always daunting — for me, the prospect of meeting Candy’s Dad was terrifying!

The actuality proved less intimidating than the expectation, as the colonel accepted my felicitations for his daughter with equanimity.  Truth be told, I ultimately discovered Mimi to be the more daunting of Candy’s parents!

Near the end of our plebe year … and upon completion of his War College studies … Col. Sayes was re-assigned to Fort Sill, OK, and he moved his family there in the Spring of 1964.  I saw him on only one occasion thereafter — during a brief visit to Oklahoma in December 1964 while I was on my Yearling (sophomore) year Christmas leave.  He was somewhat nonplussed to discover that, despite being 19 years old, I did not as yet have my driver’s license and therefore could not drive Candy anywhere while there.

Mimi & Col. Sayes -- December 1971

Mimi & Col. Sayes — December 1971

The move of the Sayes family from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma was the second of two major transitions in my life that came only a few months apart.

In March of 1964, my Dad, who was a Navy chief at the time, was also transferred to Long Beach, CA, and my family moved from my childhood home in Lindenhurst to Garden Grove.

Despite the fact that Dad, like Col. Sayes, was career military, my Mom had a radically different life as a military wife than did Mimi Sayes.  Dad had split service, doing six years during and after World War II. 

Mom & Dad Wedding Portrait -- January 17, 1945

Mom & Dad Wedding Portrait — January 17, 1945

Mom & Dad married in January 1945 and while he was overseas during the remainder of the war, Mom lived with her parents in Ozone Park, NY.

After the war, Dad had relatively brief assignments in Bremerton, WA, and San Diego, CA, and Mom moved to each of those cities with him (and their first born).

Dad left the Navy in 1948, rejoined as a reservist in the mid-1950’s, and his ship was called to active duty during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.  He then decided to remain on active duty and once transferred to California in 1964, he was thereafter assigned to ships home ported in or Naval facilities located in California.  For the rest of his career, his overseas assignments were always sea duty, meaning that his family could not accompany him.

This, of course, meant that Mom continued living in the family home, which after a year in Garden Grove, was in Costa Mesa, CA, until Dad’s retirement.

All in all, Dad was away on sea duty or training assignments, cumulatively, for years … years during which Mom was essentially a single parent.  And, by 1962, that meant five of us kids for her to care for … and four still at home after the move to California.

And yet, for the most part, Mom was undaunted by the separation, the anxiety and the difficulties attendant to being a military wife and periodic single parent.  I never saw her feeling sorry for herself and while I know she worried about Dad when he was overseas (worry which was, as things turned out, all too justified), she rarely showed that, either.

Mom

Mom

In short, my Mom was a strong woman, capable of doing what had to be done, loving us kids unconditionally, disciplining us when necessary, and defending us fiercely if she felt we had been wronged by others (see Note 2 for an example of this).

She was also extremely proud of her children, grandchildren and great-children.  She liked to recite the numbers … 5 children, 12 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren … and, as she always concluded, “Not a loser in the bunch”.  (See Note 3 below.)

As her first born, I of course knew her longer than anyone in the family other than my Dad.  She was particularly proud of my appointment to and graduation from West Point and sometimes expressed her pride, to my embarrassment, by calling herself “Mother of Jim”. 

Mom & I in 1946

Mom & I in 1946

Dad even had a special California license issued for her car:

MTR MOJ California License Plate 080517 cropped

Which of course, stands for “Marion Thomas Reilly, Mother of Jim”!

The mental decline of her final years was heart-breaking as her memory failed and she lost the vitality which had always characterized the mother I knew.

Mom & I in 2010

Mom & I in 2010

Looking back now, Candy & I each love & miss our lost parent, but take pride ourselves in their lives well-led.

________________________________

Note 1:  The fact that two of our four parents shared a common birthday is a serendipitous coincidence, albeit one which has a precise mathematical probability, a probability which is actually the same as the likelihood that two people out of any group of four will share the same birthday.  That likelihood, taking into consideration leap day every four years, is 1.64% (I’ll spare you the mathematical calculation, which is straightforward, but involves a lot of division, addition and multiplication, topped off with one subtraction!)

Note 2:  https://jimsthreedot.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/take-off-those-red-pants/

Note 3:  Sadly, she will not know that the number of great-grandchildren has continued … and is continuing … to grow … and that there’s still “not a loser in the bunch”.

_____________________________________

LTC Thomas Havard Sayes Jr.

LTC Thomas Havard Sayes Jr.

Marion Thomas Reilly

Marion Thomas Reilly

Talking about how we talk …


… and where we came from …

… I ran across this intriguing website today …

… the North Carolina State University Dialect Survey Maps

http://spark.rstudio.com/jkatz/SurveyMaps/

… the self-description of which says, “Dialect maps by Joshua Katz based on data from the Harvard Dialect Survey conducted by Bert Vaux, Department of Linguistics, University of Cambridge.

The site contains a quiz which you can take to see what how you talk … your dialect … says about where you live … or came from …

… the quiz is here …

http://spark.rstudio.com/jkatz/DialectQuiz/ …

… and can be taken in about ten minutes.

I took it today … and found that how I talk really does say a lot about where I came from …

… as shown in the correlation map produced by my responses to the test questions:

Slide1

Slide2

Apparently, at least in my case, where I grew up had a much greater impact on how I talk than where I have lived for the 46 years since I graduated from college …

… and moved away from New York.

As you can see in the map, my “most similar” range of dialect locations is a very narrow band of locations in New York and New Jersey

… and the four “most similar cities” are within a relatively short distance of where I spent most of my childhood …

… in Lindenhurst, New York, on Long Island.

Slide3

And, somewhat oddly, my “less similar” range of dialect locations covers all of California

Slide4

… where I have lived since 1969!

__________________________

For the website of Joshua Katz, which contains a lot of information about regional dialects and his “Beyond ‘Soda, Pop or Coke'”, see:

http://www4.ncsu.edu/~jakatz2/project-dialect.html

Lindenhurst High School Graduation 1963


Didn’t have time to get to this yesterday … which was the 50th Anniversary of my graduation from Lindenhurst High School, Lindenhurst (Long Island), New York.

Some pictures from Lindy — the school itself:

Lindenhurst High School

Lindenhurst High School

Our class was the last to graduate from this venerable old building (circa 1920’s).  A new high school opened the year after we graduated and this school became entirely a junior high school.

The cover of our 1963 yearbook “Bulldog” (which was also the school mascot):

Lindenhurst High School Bulldog 1963 Yearbook cover

Lindenhurst High School 1963 Yearbook

I was boys sports editor of the yearbook and wrote the boys sports reports …

… ran on the cross-country team … which finished second in the Suffolk County Class A championship meet … and I qualified for the New York state championship meet, along with teammates Ed Quigley and Ed Hertel …

Lindenhurst High School Bulldog 1963 Yearbook Cross Country

… was co-captain of the indoor track team …

Lindenhurst High School Bulldog 1963 Yearbook Indoor Track

… and ran outdoor track (though I missed most of the 1963 track season after injuring my left ankle playing pickup basketball) …

Lindenhurst High School Bulldog 1963 Yearbook Track & Field

… I was also a member of the  Varsity Club …

Lindenhurst High School Bulldog 1963 Yearbook Varsity Club

… having won 8 varsity letters (3 in cross-country, 3 in indoor track and 2 in outdoor track) …

… was on the school’s Math team …

Lindenhurst High School Bulldog 1963 Yearbook Math Team

… that’s me in the plaid jacket …

… and ran for “Mayor” in our Youth Week elections at the head of the “Rei-bel” party ticket …

Lindenhurst High School Bulldog 1963 Yearbook Youth Week

… losing to my friend Bob Schroeder (who was the captain of our county championship football team).

I have fond memories of my four years at Lindy High … and the two of my teachers who were most influential in my life … Coach Carl Greenhut, who was both my PE teacher and my track coach … and Angela Hughes, my English teacher who taught me many of the language and creative writing skills on which I have relied ever since.

Lindenhurst High School Bulldogs