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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Can Ants be Trusted with the Crown Jewels? by Jodi Lea Stewart




If you grew up without television, you’d probably think watching chubby red ants bringing treasures home to their anthills was loads of fun too.

Luckily, we had tons of anthills to scope out on our Arizona ranch. If I stood or squatted on a rock beside the mounds and didn’t wiggle very much, the ants considered me scenery, which was okay by me. 

Some types of ant attention can be painful, you know.

The ants carried bits and pieces of sticks, weeds, rocks, dead insects or their wings *especially beetles and wasps* and flicks of flint back to their mounds without a word of complaint. Invariably, they took their gleaned goodies straight into the mysterious hole leading into the central parts of their colony. 

Can’t you just see a couple of sweating ants lugging a crystalized wasp wing into the throne room? I can!

I never actually witnessed the ants placing items on the outside of their pebbly hills, and I’m sure they had to obtain Queenie’s orders before they did any outside decorating. 

Unless they were rebels.

I don’t think I saw any rebel ants, but I thought I saw one wearing a teeny little leather outfit once. Or did I imagine that?





My favorite anthill pickings to take home with me back then were the tiny hollow-bone beads, little bits of ancient pottery, fragments of flint, and obsidian. Less often, I found miniature arrowheads fashioned centuries earlier for hunting small animals and birds. 

What I never found was an Arizona pyrope garnet—an anthill garnet.


Reportedly, most of the anthill garnets (silicates) are mined by ants from beneath the earth in the Navajo Nation. The gems are not only rare but also known to be some of the brightest reds of the entire garnet family. Arizona pyrope garnets were used to make bullets by the Navajos in the 1800s. Rumor has it the Navajos believed the dark red color helped produce fatal wounds. I haven’t asked any of my Navajo friends if that’s true, so I mention it here only as a point of interest.

One myth I’m happy to squash is about the two- and three-carat size “anthill garnets” touted on infomercials and in ads. Though sources vary widely about how much weight an ant can carry (from ten to fifty times its own weight and I lean toward the latter), it’s doubtful an ant can carry much more than a garnet about the size of an English pea.



Because I had heard garnet dust is used for cutting metals, I consulted with Michael Castaeda, a water-jet professional who daily works with garnet dust in his line of work. 

  • Garnets are a 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. To compare, diamonds are about a 10 on that scale. 
  • Since garnets are 1) generally inexpensive, 2) rate high on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, and 3) are easy on the equipment used, they are preferred for use in cutting metal, plastic, and stone when using water-jet cutters. 
  • A water jet uses garnets in granular sand 50-, 80-, and 120-grit sandpaper manufactured in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. 
  • Two hundred hours of use is possible from one mixing tube of garnet sand grit versus only thirty minutes from a mixture of aluminum oxide.

Over the centuries, ants have been used as examples of diligence and sacrifice. Most famous people had at least one or two things to say about their work ethic. 

Thoreau said it wasn’t enough to be busy like ants, but that “we should also know what we are busy about.”



I think Thoreau would agree that ants mining little red jewels from the earth is both resourceful and intriguing. Just think, they do all that work with no pickaxes, pullies, or hard hats!  

As usual, I love to hear from you! Have you ever found any treasures on an anthill? 







Blackberry Road is published by Sundown Press and is available on Amazon.
Trouble sneaks in one hot Oklahoma afternoon in 1934 like an oily twister. A beloved neighbor is murdered, and a single piece of evidence sends the sheriff to arrest a Black man that Biddy *a sharecropper’s daughter* knows is innocent. Hauntingly terrifying sounds seeping from the woods lead Biddy into even deeper mysteries and despair, and finally into the shocking truths of that fateful summer.





 The Accidental Road, Sundown Press, debuts September 2019.
A teen and her mom escaping an abusive husband tumble into the epicenter of crime peddlers invading Arizona and Nevada in the 1950s. Stranded hundreds of miles from their planned destination of Las Vegas, they land in a dusty town full of ghosts and tales, treachery and corruption. Avoiding disaster is tricky, especially as it leads Kat into a fevered quest for things as simple as home and trust. Danger lurks everywhere, leading her to wonder if she and her mother really did take The Accidental Road of life, or if it’s the exact right road to all they ever hoped for.
   
Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas to an "Okie" mom and a Texan dad. Her younger years were spent in Texas and Oklahoma; hence, she knows all about biscuits and gravy, blackberry picking, chiggers, and snipe hunting. At the age of eight, she moved to a vast cattle ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona. As a teen, she left her studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love, and exactly what she DIDN'T want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised three children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional Western articles, and served as managing editor of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter. 
She is the author of a contemporary trilogy set in the Navajo Nation and featuring a Navajo protagonist, as well as two historical novels. Her current novel, Blackberry Road, is available on Amazon. Her next historical novel, The Accidental Road, debuts in September 2019. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, her delightful 90+-year-old mother, a crazy Standard poodle named Jazz, one rescue cat, and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants.











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Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Military's Best-Kept Secret: The Code Talkers by Jodi Lea Stewart




Imagine serving during wartime in a covert undertaking that you 
swore to keep secret, even unto death.

Imagine that your family had no idea what you did while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, and even though your efforts literally turned the tide of two major wars, your contributions went unnoticed and unrewarded for nearly sixty years!

That's what happened to the Code Talkers of World War II.


How Code "Talking" Began


Using the unique languages of the Choctaw, Cherokee, and other Native tribes to transmit battle messages by telephone started in World War I. Matt Reed, curator of American Indian Collections at the Oklahoma History Center, says,"The (Choctaw) language flabbergasted the Germans." 

Strange theories began to circulate about how these sounds were produced, he explains. "There are stories that they thought the U.S. had invented a contraption to speak underwater." This involvement of the Native Americans in World War I resulted in helping win several wars in France. 

In later years (around 1940), as trouble again erupted around the world, the army began eliciting the help of Comanches, Choctaws, Hopis, Cherokees, and others to transmit secret coded messages. They sent out special recruiters to Oklahoma to enlist the help of the Native Americans. 


Philip Johnson -- a World War I veteran and son of a missionary who grew up on the Navajo Reservation -- had an ingenious idea . . .


In 1942, he suggested to the U.S. Marine Corps that the diverse and difficult Navajo language would be perfect for transmission of secret information. He promised no one would be able to decipher that language unless they had grown up using and hearing it.

He talked. They listened. 

Soon, they were recruiting and enticing young men, some as young as fifteen who, uh . . . hedged about their ages, into the service of the United States Government Armed Forces. Eventually, there were members from sixteen different tribes in the Marines, Army, and Navy who served as Code Talkers.


The Awesome Navajo Code Talkers

Let's look at a  WW II RECIPE you won’t find anywhere else . . .

Find:

  • Twenty-nine brave and brilliant Navajo men fluent in both English and Navajo who are willing to join the U.S. Marine Corp.

Add:

  • An extremely difficult Athabaskan language, not yet written.
  • A major world war.
  • Seven hundred phonetically created and memorized code words.
  • Four hundred more willing Navajos who want to follow in the footsteps of the original twenty-nine Navajos.

Mix: all ingredients until they turn into well-trained platoons.
 

Bake: in the Jungles of Guadalcanal.


Simmer: in the black sands of Iwo Jima.


Spread: into every major battle in the Pacific Theater from 1942-1945.


Re-Use: all INGREDIENTS again in Korea and Vietnam.

This recipe produced one the world’s first and only indecipherable code, as well as war heroes who were the military’s best-kept secret until 2001. Where did these outstanding Navajo Code Talker candidates come from?
The Rez!
Fort Wingate, New Mexico. The First 29 Navajo Recruits.
 From the sometimes cruel and insensitive government-run boarding schools came the Navajo Code Talkers, the only men in all of history to create a code so magnificently ironclad that the best code crackers in the world couldn’t touch it. 

The recruits had to meet age, weight, health, and language requirements and went through the standard Marine boot-camp training. 

It is said that drill instructors and other recruits were in awe of the physical endurance of the Navajo men.


After boot camp, the initial group of Navajo Code Talkers was charged with creating 211 military code words. The words were memorized and never written down. Before it was over, the secret code words numbered more than 700, thus marking the end of constant interception and sabotage of U.S. military communications from our enemies.




Major Howard Conner, fifth Marine Division signal officer, said that were it not for the Navajo Code Talkers, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima. 


According to the Navajo Code Talkers World War II Fact Sheet, six Navajos were in Iwo Jima working around the clock non-stop for the first two days of the battle. 

They sent and received more than 800 messages, ALL WITHOUT  ERROR!


The strength, tenacity, and passion of the young men of the Navajo Nation are worthy of great honor. Many attributes of the Native American warrior culture, in general, contributed to their unusual "work ethic" and their desire to sacrifice for what they believe. 

Their patriotism was indisputable.  

The Code


Exactly how the code was conceived and implemented is nothing short of breathtaking. 

The men not only used their own language but made up names that could never be identified. For example:

Hitler was: He Who Smells His Mustache.
Mussolini was: Gourd Chin. 

The intricacies of how the first twenty-nine men developed the Navajo Code can be examined here. 

The Navajo code was declassified in 1968, but the Code Talkers were still under wraps until much later. Some of the Code Talker’s own families had no concept of how their relative had served in the wars in which they participated.



In 2001, the Navajo Code Talkers were, at last, honored and recognized by this country as heroes. 

President George Bush awarded Congressional Gold Medals to the original twenty-nine code talkers. Of the original twenty-nine, only five were alive, and four were able to travel to Washington D.C. to receive their medal. 


Later, in Window Rock, Arizona – the capitol of the Navajo Nation – silver medals were bestowed upon the other men who later qualified as Navajo Code Talkers. Because recognition was so slow to come, most of the medals were handed off to survivors.






Cherokee and Choctaw Code Talkers


More than 12,000 Native Americans served in World War I—about 25 percent of the male American Indian population at that time. 

During World War II, when the total Native American population was less than 350,000, an estimated 44,000 Indian men and women served.



Per Capita, they had more military participation than the general population.

 ~ Just for fun ~ 

In the Codes Within the Codes devised by Code Talkers:

Machine Gun (in Choctaw): Little Gun Shoot Fast
Battalions (in Choctaw) were indicated by numbers of grains of corn.
Ships (in Navajo): Houses on Water 




It is stunning and sad to realize that the Native Americans who sacrificed everything to serve their country in both World Wars and the Korean War were not allowed to vote in U.S. elections until . . .


Arizona – 1948 *three years after the end of World Wars I and II*


New Mexico – 1953 *eight years after the end of the both World Wars and the Korean War*


Utah – 1957 *many years after the end of both World Wars and the Korean War*

Thank God, as a Nation, we have matured into realizing that patriots come in all sizes, sexes, ages, races, and places. We all bleed the same red blood, and we all serve under one flag of the United States of America.

In case you want to read about the Code Talkers in their own Navajo language, be my guest, and good luck!

If you are familiar with our Code Talkers and their contribution to United States history, do you think the movie Windwalkers with Nicholas Cage accurately portrayed their story? I lean toward a resounding no. 

As usual, I love to hear from you!


Chester Nez (1921-2014) was the last of the original WWII Navajo Code Talkers

“All I thought when I went in the Marine Corps was they were going to give me a belt of ammunition, a rifle, a steel helmet, and a uniform. ‘Go and shoot (the enemy).’ That’s what I thought; but later on, they told us differently–different style, purpose of why they got us in.”   

—Chester Nez, Navajo Code Talker, National Museum of the American Indian interview, 2004








Blackberry Road is published by Sundown Press and is available on Amazon.
Trouble sneaks in one hot Oklahoma afternoon in 1934 like an oily twister. A beloved neighbor is murdered, and a single piece of evidence sends the sheriff to arrest a Black man that Biddy *a sharecropper’s daughter* knows is innocent. Hauntingly terrifying sounds seeping from the woods lead Biddy into even deeper mysteries and despair, and finally into the shocking truths of that fateful summer.
 




 The Accidental Road, Sundown Press, debuts September 2019.
A teen and her mom escaping an abusive husband tumble into the epicenter of crime peddlers invading Arizona and Nevada in the 1950s. Stranded hundreds of miles from their planned destination of Las Vegas, they land in a dusty town full of ghosts and tales, treachery and corruption. Avoiding disaster is tricky, especially as it leads Kat into a fevered quest for things as simple as home and trust. Danger lurks everywhere, leading her to wonder if she and her mother really did take The Accidental Road of life, or if it’s the exact right road to all they ever hoped for.
   
Jodi Lea Stewart was born in Texas to an "Okie" mom and a Texan dad. Her younger years were spent in Texas and Oklahoma; hence, she knows all about biscuits and gravy, blackberry picking, chiggers, and snipe hunting. At the age of eight, she moved to a vast cattle ranch in the White Mountains of Arizona. As a teen, she left her studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson to move to San Francisco, where she learned about peace, love, and exactly what she DIDN'T want to do with her life. Since then, Jodi graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Business Management, raised three children, worked as an electro-mechanical drafter, penned humor columns for a college periodical, wrote regional Western articles, and served as managing editor of a Fortune 500 corporate newsletter. 
She is the author of a contemporary trilogy set in the Navajo Nation and featuring a Navajo protagonist, as well as two historical novels. Her current novel, Blackberry Road, is available on Amazon. Her next historical novel, The Accidental Road, debuts in September 2019. She currently resides in Arizona with her husband, her delightful 90+-year-old mother, a crazy Standard poodle named Jazz, one rescue cat, and numerous gigantic, bossy houseplants.