Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sandhill Cranes of Nebraska

On Thursday of this past week I had the pleasure of seeing a natural wonder that I had always wanted to see. I drove to Kearney Nebraska to give a presenation to the Mutual Insurance Association of Nebraska (which I gave yesterday). Between Grand Island and Kearney, I was able to witness the migration of the Sandhill Cranes through the Platte River valley.

On each side of the I-80, I was able to see cranes in the fields. I had always wanted to see this annual miracle of spring, but the timing had never been right to drive over to Nebraska to see it.

The cranes starting arriving in the Platte River valley in early March and generally stay for around a month. They are on their way back north. They winter in Texas (generally on the golf side). On their way back north, they fly as far north as Nebraska and then spend a few weeks there resting and replenishing themselves. This has been going on for thousands of years.

The cranes go as far north as Alaska, Siberia and the Artic Cirlce to nest and spend the summer months. I visited the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary ( at Gibbon Nebraska. It was a really neat place. While there I visited with one of the rangers, he told me that that the migratory route of the birds from Texas to their summer nesting grounds range from 5000 to 6000 miles. During my visit, they were estimating there were up to 400,000 cranes in the Platte River valley.

Cranes are some of the oldest known birds in existence. Fossils dating back 9 million years have been found in Nebraska, putting them there long before the Platte River was born (a youthful 10,000 years ago).

There are 6 species of Sandhill Cranes (three of which are migratory). The cranes that I saw generally weigh around 5 to 8 lbs. During their stay in Nebraska, they will gain up to addtional 10% of their body weight. They feed on left over corn in the fields, but they also feed on earthworms and other grubs/insects they find in the fields. It has been estimated during the monthly long stay in Nebraska, they consume up to 1600 tons of left over corn in the fields.

During their stay, it is common to see pairs engaging in mating dancnes (which I observed). They will dance around and spread their wings, hopping up and down. Sometimes they will pick up a corn stalk and throw it high in the air. Generally, two eggs will be laid once they get up to their nesting grounds. Generally only one survives to adulthood.

These cranes have been known to live up to 25 years of age. Sexual maturity is generally between 3 to 5 years of age.

The red piece on their heads is not feathers, but is actually bare skin. I suppose since they are always pecking away in the fields, that over time they have simply developed to not have feathers there.

This was a really neat site to see. As I said it was something that I had always wanted to see and finally the timing was right. Go out and look at the website for Rowe Sanctuary. They have a webcam and you can actually see birds out there.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Masonic Impressions

Last Thursday evening we had our March stated meeting in my lodge. One thing that I have been doing this year to stimulate attendance and bring back some of the guys that have not been there for awhile is to send them cards on the anniversary of their raising. I invite them up to the stated meeting in the month when they will be celebrating their Masonic anniversary. I think it has been working. Each month we get two or three to come who have not been there for awhile. I usually also get at least one email or note in the mail to read from a brother who lives away from here.

This month we had a father and son come up who are both observing their Masonic anniversary in March. Dad is 60 years and son 20. The dad is a retired funeral director and son is currently an active funeral director so it has been hard for them to come over the years due to the nature of their jobs.

We had one brother come up who was observing his 3rd anniversary. He is a busy young man, drives over 50 miles to his job each day as a electrician. He has a couple children who are busy with various activities. Jared is a nice young man and I always enjoy seeing him.

My issue was with our Worshipful Master and how he responded to him. I know nothing was meant by his comments, but on two or three occassions I heard him say to this young Mason, "well it's been awhile since you've been here. We weren't sure you were still alive". As I said I know nothing was meant by the comments, but stop and think before you say things! Our young Masons are busy people. Although we wished they would come and be with us more often, sometimes it is just not possible. Welcome them when they do come and make them feel that you are glad that they are here.

This young man did inquire about our street clean up project and when we were going to do it this spring. He remembered helping with this a couple of years ago. Despite his busy schedule, he was showing interest in the lodge and it's projects and was offering to help.

That is what is important, keeping people connected to the lodge. Maybe a brother can only come to one meeting a year or help with only one project a year, but everybody needs to feel a part of the brotherhood and be allowed to participate as their schedule permits.

Stop and think my brothers before you make comments to your brothers. Our best intentions sometimes don't come across to others as we want them to, despite our best intentions.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Observance

This morning I drove up to Marshalltown to attend the Easter Observance of St. Aldemar's Commandery #30 Knights Templar. This was my second year of attending this observance and I must say it is always enjoy. I have dual membership with the Marshalltown York Rite Bodies, so I must say I always feel right at home.

It was so nice to see a full contingent of officers in their uniforms and chapeaus. We had a nice crowd of sideliners, around 30. Sir Knight David Dryer was the Prelate and read a very nice Easter message. Collene Benge was at the organ and played "Onward Christian Soldiers" as we entered the asylum.

After the formal observance in the asylum, we adjourned to the dining room and enjoyed a delicous breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and eggs. All the donations went to the Knights Templar Eye Foundation. This was a nice way to start the day and the Easter weekend.

Easter is a beautiful time of the year as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ and also the return of spring.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Pinewood Derby

Newton Lodge #59 hosted a really fun event yesterday! We hosted Cub Scout Pack #354 in our lodge room for their annual Pinewood Derby. There were 28 Cub Scout "racers" and I know we had probably close to 100 adults in attendance.

I was one of the judges, along with John Billingsley and John Pohlman. It was a blast. It brought back a lot of memories for me from my Cub Scout days.

We had the track set up in our lodge room. What a track, lots more sophisticated than those old wood ones. This one was a alumnium and even had a laser at the end of the track to show which car was the winner. The den leader told me the track cost them $1200.

The kids really had a good time. It was organized confusion most of the time, but I think everyone enjoyed themselves. After we finished with the races, we fed them hots dogs, chips, and ice cream in the dining room. We even had Al Jensen up there dipping up the ice cream. We told Al that he couldn't be smokin' and dipping at the same time!

All of the parents were so complimentary and seemed to really appreciate us inviting them up. I think we really did ourselves proud.

The bottom line is this is what Masonic Lodges are meant for...invite the public in and have activities. What better sales tools do we have. The Masons have for too long rode on their reputation...we need to be out in our communities doing things. By our obligations, this is what we should be doing in the first place. Participating in community activities will help us also. Let people find out who the Masons are and what they do.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Legend of the Robin

Last Thursday night, Bro. David Dryer was our speaker at the Friendship Night that was hosted by Newton Lodge #59. He concluded his talk with this little "legend"..the Legend of the Robin. I had never heard it before. I really enjoyed it and it gave me thoughts of spring. I want to share it with you. Hope you will enjoy and think thoughts of spring.

The Legend Of The First Robin

One day, long ago, a little bird in Galilee saw a large crowd gathered around a Man carrying a heavy wooden cross. On the Man's head was a crown made from a thorn branch. The thorns were long and sharp. The little bird saw that the thorns were hurting the Man. It wanted to help Him, so it flew down and took the longest, sharpest thorn in its tiny beak.

The bird tugged and pulled until the thorn snapped from the branch. Then a strange thing happened. A drop of blood fell onto the bird's breast, staining it bright red.

The stain never went away. And so today the robin proudly wears a red breast, because it helped a Man named Jesus.

May God bless you today,
And keep you all year through.
May God give you all the faith it takes,
To make your dreams come true.
May His love and wisdom always help,
To guide you on your way.
May His light shine down upon you now,
To bless your every day.

~ Author Unknown ~

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Freemason

What Freemasonry Means To Me
The Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, 33°

I recently received a letter in which the writer asked: "Why are you a Freemason?" The question caused me to think and reaffirm my feelings about Masonry.

At first I thought about my own forebears. My grandfather was a Mason for 50 years, my father for 50 years, and I have been a Mason for 60 years. This means that my tie with Freemasonry extends back to 1869 when my grandfather joined the Masons.

My feelings on my first entrance into a Masonic Lodge are very clear in memory. I was a young man and it was a great thrill to kneel before the altar of the Lodge to become a Freemason. This must have been the same feeling my father and grandfather experienced before me. And it must also have been identical to the one that many great leaders of America and the world felt as they became Masons. Prominent among this select group are George Washington, Harry Truman, and 12 other Presidents as well as countless statesmen and benefactors of humanity.

So I found myself thinking: "What does Freemasonry mean to me?" Of course Masons say that Freemasonry actually begins in each individual Mason's heart. I take this to mean a response to brotherhood and the highest ideals. I recall the story of a man who came to me once and said: "I see that you are a Freemason. So am I." As we talked, he told me of an experience he had years ago. It seems that he joined the Masonic Fraternity shortly after he became 21 years old. When he was stationed in the military, he decided to attend various Lodge meetings. On his first visit to a Lodge in a strange city, he was a bit nervous. One thought was constantly in his mind; could he pass the examination to show that he was a Mason? As the committee was carefully examining his credentials, one of the members looked him squarely in the eye and said: "Obviously you know the Ritual, so you can enter our Lodge as a Brother Mason. But I have one more question. Where were you made a Mason?" With that he told the young visitor to think about it because when he knew the answer the examiner would not have to hear it. He would see it in his eyes. My friend told me that after a couple of minutes a big smile came to his face and he looked at the examiner, who said: "That's right, in your heart."

Shrine Past Masters at Scottish Rite Park

Last Friday night (February 29th) the Shrine Past Masters' degree team had a really special event at the Scottish Rite Park in Des Moines.

After a delicious chili dinner in the dining room, we adjourned to the penthouse to raise Bro. Daryl Dursham to the sublime degree of a Master Mason. Bro. Daryl currently works at Scottish Rite Park and actually works there. He is probably there youngest resident (I would guess in late 20s).

Daryl petitioned Operative Lodge #308 in Polk City and took his first two degrees at the lodge in Polk City. Since he works at Scottish Rite Park, the brethren of the lodge asked for a dispensation to move their charter down to S.R. Park for his third degree. The brothers thought that many of the residents who are Masons would enjoy coming to the degree. I'm sure several of these brothers have not been to lodge in a long time due to age and health reasons. We had one brother who was there who was 101 years young! It was a great turnout. I think we had about 20 Shrine Past Masters members there and overall a crowd of around 70.

M.W. Bro. Donald E. Mosier, Grand Master and R.W. Larry Shears, Jr. Grand Warden came so that made the evening even more special. M.W. Bro. Dean Johson, PGM conferred the first section and Bro. Mike Aves conferred the second section.

The lodge room was set up in the "penthouse". The view of the Des Moines skyline at night time was so beautiful. Actualy our floor in the "lodge" room was the shuffleboard court and someone had brought down a cedar chest to use for our alter.

Operative Lodge has several bagpipers in their lodge and we were even treated with bagpipe music.

The older guys really loved it. They were telling several of us afterwards, that this should be an annual event.

Bro. Mike Aves told me an interesting story last night at Bro. Davis' reception. He said he went down to Scottish Rite Park on Saturday morning to pick up the paraphenalia that he had brought down from Polk City. He was talking to our newly raised brother. Daryl told him that one of the residents (who is a 50 year + Mason) came down early on Saturday morning and gave Daryl a gift, a Masonic ring that this brother had been wearing for many, many years. Brotherly love and friendship in action! It was a great event, I'll remember it for a long time.

Grand Lodge Reception

After I was finished with the Grand Commandery School in Ames, I scurried on down I-35 to Southgate Lodge #657 in Des Moines for the reception honoring R.W. Bro. Craig Davis, Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Iowa.

I first got acquainted with Bro. Craig when he served as Junior Grand Deacon for M.W. Bro. Alfred L. Jensen back in 2001-2002. Craig is a good guy. He takes a lot of teasing about his "shiny" head, but he always has a come back. He is a good natured person and always has a smile on his face.

Craig's grandfather was M.W. Bro. Carol Cremer. I still think of Bro. Carol when we have Scottish Rite Reunions. He was head of the class marshals. He had a way about him of just making you feel special. He was a great guy and truly exemplified what Masonry is all about. Carol did a lot for not only Masonry but also his community. He was a tireless worker on behalf of the Central Iowa Blood Bank.

Somehow, I think Bro. Carol was probably sitting up there last night in the Grand Lodge Above and smiling at his grandson and all of the festitivities at Southgate Lodge #657. It was a great reception. Craig said he was going to have an "old fashioned" reception with all of the trappings and he did. It was nice to see a little formality back in things!

Grand Commandery School of Instruction

Yesterday afternoon I drove up to Ames to participate in the Grand Commandery Knights Templar School of Instruction. Sir Knights Eugene Aldrich PGC; Butch Zummak PGC; and Bryce Hildreth, Grand Captain General and members of the Board of Instruction were our instructors.

We had a good crowd, I believe there were about 20 Sir Knights there. St. Aldemar's Commandery #30 of Marshalltown was the best represented, with 5 in attendance. Gene went through a power point presenation on proper uniform etiquette and attire and also how to hold the sword. It was very informative. When then adjourned to the asylum and practiced the 10 man opening. Luckily I was a "sideliner". It has been awhile since I took the part of the Commander for opening (though I have done it several times)! Gregg Anderson was the Commander for the opening practice.

David Baker and Frederick Killian from Ascension Commandery #69 were great hosts. I'm hearing some good things about the Ames York Rite Bodies. They are showing some revitalization up there. That is great! Kenny Smith (P.I.G.M.) was there. I always enjoy seeing Kenny. Mel and Mildred Sickels were also there. Mel is somebody I really truly admire in Freemasonry. He is one of those guys that is a "Masons' Mason"! I truly respect and admire him. We missed you Companion Jay.

I always enjoy going to these annual schools. I always pick up a couple good points, the trick is remembering them. Thanks Gene, Butch, and Bryce for a great afternoon of Templaary instruction.