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Don Locke: Looking Through Bifocals

For sometime now I've wanted to tell you about Earl Rudder, a small-town boy from Brady, Texas---that's only two or three wagon-greasins' from San Angelo. I've never been to Brady; I've flown over it lots of times from an Air Force base near there---it had a large race track near the edge of town---the race track made Brady easily identifiable from the air.

C.S. Lewis said, "Too often when the most important things in life are happening to us, they get by us, we don't recognize them for what they are." I only met Earl Rudder briefly, very briefly. Hold that thought.

D-Day, June 6, 1944: Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder led an Army Ranger battalion up the vertical face of a wide, solid rock, cliff at Omaha Beach at Normandy, France to begin the invasion and liberation of Europe. The Germans poured withering fire down at them while they attempted to scale the heights. There were terrible losses. But with the help of ropes and grappling hooks fired out of mortar tubes, and long ladders borrowed from the London fire department, those gritty men finally clawed their way to the top of that terrible edifice, with death and destruction raining-down from above, Colonel James Earl Rudder in the lead . . . the first man up the cliffs. Miraculously the young colonel lived to come home.

A side-bar here, if you please. Two young Navy men came ashore there that day many times, they were coxswains (drivers) on the Higgins landing crafts that brought the troops ashore. They too suffered heavy losses . . . from enemy mortar and artillery fire. They had to make several trips back and forth to the troop ships. Both lived through it . . . you may recognize the names: Ferlin Husky, country music star  (now deceased), and Yogi Berra of baseball fame.

As I indicated at the onset I didn't know then, when I briefly met James Earl Rudder for the first and only time I was, for a moment, in the presence of greatness. He went by just plain Earl Rudder then . . . well not plain . . . He was President Earl Rudder . . . President of Texas A & M. In 1963 he shook my hand and handed me my diploma.

If you look closely, sometimes even nursery rhymes tell us more than is on the surface. You take, "Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?" "I've been to London to visit the Queen." "Pussycat, pussycat what did you do there?" "I frightened a little mouse under her chair." Here was the Queen of England in all of her splendor and glory, yet, the cat could only see the little mouse under her chair. Sometimes we miss the woods for the trees.

Kindest regards . . .


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