Friday, November 27, 2009


I happened across the blog of a certain, 60 year old angry white police officer in California and he said that he was gripping "his freedom". And I thought to myself "this is so sad that certain people are having such a hard time with who the president is now. "I personally think he is superior to his precursor, but history will make the ultimate judgement on that. Like or dislike Obama, really, how much power does he really have? As Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2) said , there is "No fate but what we make".

I'd like to show you all a picture of my freedom:

Instead of a Smith and Wesson snub nosed .38. mine is a pair of Atomic Metron3 skis.

How many magical places that they have transpoted me to. Like this 2.5 mile run in Bristol Mountain, NY.

Or to this magical place in Colorado along the Continental Divide...

Or amongst the "Land of the Giants" at Aropahoe Basin...

Or maybe it's just at the local ski hill with my son, who is growing up to be twice the man I ever was, when school was cancelled because it was 25 degrees below zero...

Yes, there are those who will hate and sow discontent. Hopefully, there are many, many more like myself who love and appreciate the wonderful gift that living in this place and time offers us. I have so much to be thankful for in this holiday season. God bless us all!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Buffalo Bill

As I returned from skiing in Arapahoe Basin last May, I stopped at Lookout Mountain, the gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody and his wife Louisa. Like Custer, Cody had a storied life in the Old West, and also like Custer, was adept at promoting his exploits into greater fame and fortune.

Cody left home at the tender age of 11, working in Utah and other western territories in various jobs until the outbreak of the Civil War including being a rider in the storied Pony Express. In 1863 he enlisted in the Union Army as a private and was discharged at the end of the war in 1865, After the war Cody held various jobs, among them hunting freelance for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, he killed over 4,800 American Bison in less than a year. He also served as a hunting guide for well heeled tenderfoots from the east and overseas. He also was a freelance scout for the Army, and was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1872 for "gallantry in action" while scout for the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. This medal, along with over 900 others was revoked by Congress in 1917 as not meeting a high enough standard for such as prestigious award. It was re-instated in 1989 (probably more because of Cody's fame than for the actual deeds surrounding his getting it).

Buffalo Bill's greatest legacy of course was not anything that he accomplished in the Old West, but in keeping alive the image of the Old West with his Wild West Show that toured the country and later the world. Sort of a Western Circus with staged battles between the Indians and the Cavalry, and feats of marksmanship by the likes of Annie Oakley. He also fought for conservation of the near extinct American Bison, Native American rights, and the rights of women.

This is the view of the Rockies from Lookout Mountain. Only a few hours earlier I was skiing there and now, several thousand feet below it is 80 degrees.

To the east, the city of Denver. Possibly my future home someday?

 A plaque with some background information on the site.

 Bill and his wife Louisa at rest. It is an Indian custom to throw coins on the graves.

Monday, November 16, 2009

General Custer

Recently I was down in Monroe, MI and took some pics of the statue of Gen. George Armstrong Custer. Custer has long been a hero of mine. His flamboyant style, reckless bravery, and the fact that he hails from my home state are all factors in my admiration of him. Yes, he miscalculated and was killed along with his entire command at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, but was instrumental in the Union victory at Gettysburg.
Although he was not a gifted student at West Point, he never the less was appointed to the rank of second lieutenant at the outbreak of the Civil War, and was attached to the Second Cavalry during the Battle of Bull Run. During the Peninsular Campaign, he was reassigned to the 5th Cavalry where he got his first chance to lead four companies of the 4th Michigan Infantry in a successful attack across the Chickahominy River. Although a minor skirmish, Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac, was made aware of it and personally congratulated Custer. McClellan took a liking to Custer, and he was attached to his staff as an aide-de-camp. Custer then began to network with fellow officers of higher rank and embarked on a campaign to secure higher rank and eventually attained his own command. Although he had a penchant for over elaborate, showy uniforms, Custer won the respect of his men for his willingness to lead his men at the front of cavalry charges, never hanging back to avoid being wounded as other officers did.
At 23, Custer was promoted to Brigadier General.
Although many feel that Custer was reckless, meticulous planning preceeded each action that he led. As Marguerite Merrington explains in The Custer Story in Letters, "George Custer meticulously scouted every battlefield, gauged the enemie's weak points and strengths, ascertained the best line of attack and only after he was satisfied was the 'Custer Dash' with a Michigan yell focused with complete surprise on the enemy in routing them every time."
At Gettysburg, Custer and the first Michigan Cavalry thwarted an attack on the rear of the Union Army led by J.E.B. Stuart, breaking the back of the Confederate assualt.
Near the end of the war, Custer blocked the retreat of Robert E. Lee near Appomattox Court House, and received the first flag of truce from the Confederate forces.

The facts of the Battle of the Little Big Horn have been widely explored, and yes, Custer recklessly split his forces while facing an enemy that outnumbered him by at least two to one. I have to wonder if in the fog of war Custer's scouts provided him with faulty intellegence. In this day and age it is popular to view Custer's life through the lens of this one engagement without giving him credit for his deeds in the Civil War.

In his biography of Custer Son of the Morning Star , Evan Cornell wrote: "These days it is stylish to denigrate the general, whose stock sells for nothing. Nineteenth-century Americans thought differently. At that time he was a cavalier without fear and beyond reproach."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The U S Coast Guard forgotten on Veteran's Day

This is a letter that I emailed to the Detroit Free Press ( They have seen fit to neither publish or respond.

Date: Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 9:22 AM

This letter is to inform the Free Press that it neglected to mention the fifth branch of the military on Veteran's Day. That is the United States Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard is very active in our state and throughout the Great Lakes Region. Unlike the other branches of the military, the Coast Guard performs a daily role right here in our community by enforcing maritime laws, maintaining the aids to navigation in all coastal waters, preventing smuggling, and engaging in life saving search and rescue missions.

Although I have nothing but goodwill and respect for our brothers in the United States Navy, the Coast Guard is a separate branch of the military. You would never dream of lumping in the United States Marine Corps (which actually is under the Department on the Navy, and trains its officers at the United States Naval Academy) as you did in your Sunday editorial chart outlining the deaths in each branch of the military in all of the wars fought by the United States ( in very small print "* Navy totals includes Coast Guard").

Every lighthouse, channel buoy and vessel tracking station on the Great Lakes is maintained by the Coast Guard. Icebreakers like the Cutter USCG Mackinaw (which I proudly served on in the 80's) keep the shipping channels open during winter.

Let us also not forget that during the botched federal response to hurricane Katrina, the Coast Guard was the only federal government entity that "got it right".

"Of the estimated 60,000 people that needed to be rescued from rooftops and flooded homes, Coast Guardsmen saved more than 33,500, including rescuing from peril 24,135 lives and evacuating 9,409 medical patients to safety. The rescue and the response efforts were some of the largest in Coast Guard history, involving units from every district as well as a total of 5,600 Coast Guardsmen" (source: USCG official website).

So next Veteran's Day, I humbly ask you not to forget to include Uncle Sam's Can-do Group.

Semper Paratus

Tim C. Gasco (Coast Guard Petty Officer 1980-1984)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bird Hunter

I'm starting to get the drawing bug again. This drawing is of a bird hunter from the 1930's in Idaho. It was inspired by an old photograph. Done on drawing paper with a no.2 lead pencil, the same kind that school kids use. I was initially going to do a pen and ink rendering, but liked the way it was coming along in pencil that I decided to stick with that.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Berlin Wall 1984. An Orwellian Adventure

On the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, I'd like to share my memories of this place. As a young man of twenty three, I journeyed here as part of a three month holiday to celebrate my impending separation from the US Coast Guard and see some of the world before starting a career in civilian life. I had been all over West Germany, Austria and Switzerland at the time and wanted to see Berlin, the cradle of German civilization. West Berlin at the time was a cosmopolitan western city that was miles behind the Iron Curtain. On the train ride from western Germany I was struck by the desolation on the eastern side of the border. Miles of empty landscape as far as the eye could see. Upon arriving at the border, our train pulled into a checkpoint that looked like something out of Stalag 17. Dozens of East German soldiers (some holding the leashes of very large German Shepards!) surrounded our train and asked "papieren, bitte!" (papers, please! they did NOT have a pleasant manner about them at all). Eventually our train proceeded to West Berlin.
West Berlin was an island of freedom and prosperity amid a sea of totalitarianism. I snapped several pictures of the Wall and took a tour to East Berlin. My pictures there were extremely limited by our official "minder" that accompanied the tour bus.
These graves were near Checkpoint Charlie, the American sector entrance into East Berlin.
This small stone is engraved with "For Freedom" in German...
This sign is explaining to you that "you are not in Kansas anymore"
Checkpoint Charlie
Using a piece of broken glass, I etched my name into the Wall. It was totally approachable on the western side. On the eastern side it was separated from the public by barbed wire and a deadly "no man's land" patrolled by soldiers with dogs and machine gun towers...
Me, pointing to a portion of the wall. This photo gives you an idea of the scale of the wall...

This was taken from the third floor of a building on the western side. You get a clear idea of what a person wanting to cross from the east would be up against...
Peeking "over the top" at a guard tower"...
Seeing these photos, it's hard to get my head around the idea that this structure has been removed...

This is the Soviet war Memorial at Treptower Park . It is an impressive installation, constructed by the East Germans to thank their Soviet overlords for freeing them from "Militarism and Fascism". Although Nazi Germany was an evil empire I doubt the East Germans felt "liberated"...
This is the Monument to the Liberating Soviet Army. Guarded by two Red Army soldiers.
The trip into East Germany was surreal. It was as if upon waking, you realized that you were in an alternate reality where everything had been changed the night before. No billboards that say "Drink Coke" but ones that said "Support your leaders!", "Honecker and Chernyenko- two for peace!", "Increase industrial production together!"
No happy faces on the street. Everyone looking at the sidewalk and avoiding eye contact with the AK-47 toting, jackbooted police/soldiers that seemed to be on every street corner. I asked one of these soldiers if I could take his picture and he looked at me like I was insane and yelled "Nien! Raus!" (No, Leave!).
As our bus left to go back to the west, I could see some East Germans looking longingly, probably thinking "I wish I was on that bus".
These are my recollections of that time and place. Hope you enjoyed reading them.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Mackinac Island, MI

Two weeks ago my wife Chris and I went to Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw ) Island to run in the Great Turtle Half Marathon and 5.7 mile Race . We participated in the 5.7 mile race. It was a nice time and we did a little sight seeing (and of course bought some of the delicious fudge that the island is famous for).

This is Fort Mackinaw. It was built by the British in 1780 to protect the lucrative fur trade route of the straits. In front is a statue of Father Jacques Marquette, whose arrival predated the British presence on the island by over 100 years. Native Americans are believed to have settled the island around 900 AD. the Ojibwa tribe considered this place to be the home of the Great Spirit ( Gitche Manitou). Motor vehicles of any kind are not allowed so your only choices are foot, bicycle, or horse drawn carriage. This is St. Anne's Catholic Church.

This is Round Island, which forms the "tail" of the Great Turtle.

Post race celebration.
On the way back, we passed the channel buoy, you can see the fort on the island. You can also see the Round Island Lighthouse.
I went topside for the ride back. It was wonderfully bracing. Cold air 30 mph winds, 8 foot seas and plenty of spray. It made me miss my Coast Guard days. Chris thought I was crazy.
The recently retired USCGC Mackinaw (WAGB 83). My home for much of 1981. Now a museum. Sadly, she was closed for the season two weeks earlier. To stand on her decks once more...