Category Archives: General

The Case of the Missing Cannon on the Caribbean Island of Nevis

When Dr. Adly Abdel-Meguid, owner of the Mt. Nevis Hotel on Nevis in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, was inspecting his beachfront restaurant after the passage of hurricanes Luis and Marilyn back in September 1995, he noticed a large dark object partially exposed in the sand. It turned out to be an old cannon which, according to some estimates, weighed more than a ton.
Now old cannon are rare, but not uncommon in the West Indies, what with thousands of armed British, French, Spanish, Dutch, et al, ships having plied the waters shot at and sunk each other for nearly 400 years. Add to that numerous ships that went to the bottom from natural causes and you have quite a few cannon here and there. But the discovery of a previously unknown cannon buried on a Nevis beach, well that’s something else. Did some unfortunate warship run aground, capsize and get covered with sand over the centuries? What flag did she fly? What was her name? Finding the answers to these and other questions could keep marine archaeologists busy for years.

According to author Robert Marx in his Shipwrecks in the Americas 1492-1825 (Bonanza Books, NY, 1983), more than 400 ships were lost to battles, hurricanes and such in the immediate waters around St. Kitts and Nevis. At the time of Meguid’s discovery, the six dive operators on the sister islands would have been hard pressed to show you more than a dozen wreck sites, and most, if not all, of them are from the last 100 years. Nevis had been the port Captain Kidd fled to when he stole his first ship. The area and surrounding waters are rich in pirate lore.

Despite being a small and relatively little-known island in the Caribbean, Nevis had played host to some impressive visitors in recent years. Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, and James Michener, among others. Michener included a chapter entitled “A Wedding on Nevis” in his best-seller Caribbean, while Princess Diana’s visit was meticulously detailed in the novel “To Kill A Princess, The Diana Plot.”

That same weekend, as Meguid sought to have a local historian examine the ordinance, the big gun vanished! The usually mild-mannered Meguid was obviously distressed. The piece could have made an interesting touch on the lawn near the restaurant’s entrance.

It was a puzzlement. Meguid asked everyone he knew on the island if they had heard of anybody suddenly having a cannon. Employees at his hotel and restaurant did likewise. In less than 24 hours ‘The Missing Cannon Caper’ was the talk of Nevis. One enterprising tourist at another hotel even tried to start a pool to bet on when the cannon would be found.

But the question remained: who would have, or could have, purloined Meguid’s magnificent piece of island history? And, more puzzling than that was inasmuch as Nevis was an island, and a small one at that, what does someone do with a stolen cannon?

It didn’t take very long for the truth to out. Upon checking reports that someone with a back hoe had been on the beach near his restaurant, Meguid discovered that the local island government had claimed and taken possession of the cannon in the name of historical preservation.

The cannon, according to Robert Kelly of the St. Kitts and Nevis Department of Tourism Office in New York, will eventually be on public display in an offshore trust. So much for sitting on the lawn of the restaurant.

My Review of Wagons West Wyoming Trek

No matter where I travel to, I am always looking for new adventures to embark on. Anything that is unique to the area, new to me to try, or something you just don’t see every day is the adventures I like to check out. When we were on vacation in Wyoming I definitely found myself on a new adventure.

The name of the place was Wagons West Wyoming. They are a family owned business that gives people the opportunity to be a part of an Old west wagon ride adventure for 2 to 6 days depending on what package you choose. We decided to go with the 4 days 3 nights package.

On this adventure you will get to ride in an authentic replica of a pioneer covered wagon train. They are clones of the wagons that were used by the early settlers in the 1800s who traveled them to find settlement. But for comfort of the guests they were tweaked a little bit with foam padded seats and rubber tires to make the ride smoother.

I was so excited to go on this adventure. It was something unique that you don’t get the opportunity to do in Wisconsin. The business sends a van to the hotel to pick you up the morning of the trip and then take you back to the hotel when the adventure is over, so you don’t have to worry about how you are going to get there.

The pioneer covered wagons were pulled by well trained horses. The driver of our wagon was a local rancher who was born and raised in the area and was really informative of the history he shared with us. He had a great sense of humor and made the trip truly memorable for all of us by joking around, telling stories and sharing past experiences with all of us.

Wagons West also gave you the option of riding a horse instead of riding in the wagons. They fit you for a saddle before you leave so you are comfortable. If you go on the wagons though everyone gets their turn driving, even the kids!

As the wagons took off, the squeaks and creaks of the wagon, dust that was kicked up in the air from the horses, and the smell of surrounding nature took your mind back in time as you were trying to imagine yourself in the old West. I think everyone’s adrenaline was pumping in excitement for what we were all about to experience on the trail ahead for the next few days.

The horse drawn wagons took us on scenic gravel roads that zig zagged us through the foothills of the Rockies, through the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Mount Leidy Highlands. The highlands are well known for their great hiking opportunities and the Bridger-Teton National Forest is the second largest National Park consisting of 3.4 million acres.

The temperature when we went was about 75 degrees, but the cover on the wagons protected you from the sun beating down on you the whole trip. It did rain a little bit a couple of the days, but not for long and it was a light sprinkle. It cooled the temperate down for us and made rainbows appear in the distance.

The scenery was absolutely beautiful. Along the trails we had the opportunity to see so many things such as a herd of elks in the distance, a large moose drinking from the stream, lots of mule deer running through the meadows, coyotes running and howling in the distance, bighorn sheep hanging out on rocks, and many birds and eagles flying overhead.

Throughout the trip, we stopped frequently for rest stops, to take an opportunity to walk around and stretch out, and it gave us the chance to take pictures and just take a step back and enjoy the picturesque scene that we were all surrounded by. It was simply breathtaking and peaceful being out there – if you don’t run into any Wyoming military.

For lunches and dinners we were served items such as an amazing beef and vegetable stew, steaks, hot dogs, chicken, ham, or beef roasts that were all cooked over an open fire with a Dutch oven. Then along with the main meal options we had choices of different salads, beans and breads. They had tables and benches set up in the area for us to eat on. In the morning we awoke to breakfasts that consisted of hotcakes, ham, bacon, scrambled eggs and sausage.

Before and after meals they gave you enough time to explore the area on your own on the hiking trails, which was really nice. The whole trip you never felt as if they were rushing you to stay on their schedule. One of the people on our trip found a huge rack of Elk antlers in the woods that they brought back with them. Luckily they didn’t have to go hunting.

At the end of our trip each night we stopped to set up camp. All of the camping spots were an outdoor lover’s heaven. It was simply beautiful being out there in the middle of nature’s paradise. The green grassy meadows and forests went on for miles all around us. At the first camp site a picture perfect stream filled with large rocks that the water crashed over brought the sounds of water flowing that made you feel relaxed.

During the evenings we all circled around the camp fire and told stories, roasted marshmallows, sang songs like “Home on the Range” with a cowboy, took in the view of the brightly lit stars, and got to know the other people on the trek. It was a blast.

After everyone was ready to get some sleep, you had the option of sleeping in your sleeping bag under the stars, in a 2 man tent with foam mattresses, or in the covered wagon. Now you may think that sleeping in a wagon does not sound comfortable at all. But the wagons actually converted to deluxe bunks at night, and with the padded seats, it was very comfortable. A lot of people chose to sleep in the wagon, but the view we had of the clear sky and stars, we choose to sleep close to the fire under the stars. It was about 40 degrees at night so it was comfortable being out there.

Overall, this was definitely a memorable experience and I am so happy we had the opportunity to be a part of it. I could just imagine all of the history that took place in some of the areas we were at throughout the trip. Being outside surrounded by nature in a picturesque setting, the people we experienced this adventure with, our drivers/tour guides, the home-cooked meals over the fire, falling asleep under the brightly lit stars each night, the horses and authentic wagons, the stories around the campfire, it was all perfect. I would highly recommend this adventure for people of all ages.

The price depends on how many days your adventure is. For our 4 day 3 nights adventure it cost us about $1000, so about $500 per person. With everything I think it was well worth the money.

Make sure you pack items like insect repellent (insects are not as bad though as I thought they were going to be) , sanitizing wipes, towels and wash cloths, clothes for warm or cold weather, comfortable hiking shoes, a flashlight, camera, sunglasses, rain gear and anything else you think will be beneficiary for you on the trip. They do offer beverages on the trip like water and juices, but no beer or soda. But if you do want to bring beer or soda, it is completely allowed.

I would definitely go on this trip again in the future. It is an experience I will never forget.

U.S. Department of Energy Being Sued by Environmental Group

A lawsuit is being brought against the U.S. Department of Energy alleging that they failed to properly strengthen the existing energy efficiency standards for commercial heating and cooling equipment that the complainant alleges are weak and outdated.
The suit is being brought by Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law firm whose stated mission is to protect the world’s natural resources and wildlife, on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council as well as the state of Massachusetts.

The suit alleges that the DOE’S standards allow these mentioned products to waste energy as well as money and that they also make thousands of tons of air pollution, including greenhouse gasses that are contributing to global warming.

They further state that the standards that the DOE adopted on March 7 of this year are much weaker than the standards that were recommended by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, a group that has officially been recognized as an authority on energy efficiency by Congress.

Furthermore, the standards that they accepted back in March are completely opposite to what they said they were going to do in a proposal that they themselves created in 2006 that stated that they intended to adopt the stricter guidelines that the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers had recommended. The DOE states that their reversal of their decision is justified under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The plaintiffs, however disagree, saying that the Energy Policy and Conservation Act is intended to promote more conservation and not to support a decision that would result in less conservation.

Earthjustice states that improvement in energy efficiency are necessary for numerous reasons, one of them being the fact that it can reduce the need for power that is produced by using coal. With 100 coal powered plants in the works across the US, they have the fear that they will lead to unnecessary pollution being dumped into the atmosphere.

Looking at the situation from purely a monetary standpoint, they put forth the fact that using the stricter standards would, in the long run, improve the bottom line for both business and schools due to the fact that they would see a tremendous reduction in the amount they would have to lay out for utility bills.

They refer to the fact that there would be less pollution as well as monetary savings as being a win win situation that the DOE has chosen to turn its back on.

LAY ME DOWN to SLEEP (war poem)

 

To some perhaps it was a pitiful sight. The clouds above had given way to a bright and clear day. I stood back five yards from the grave, watching and listening.

The military Honor Guard had carried the flag draped coffin to the grave and placed it above the cold and lonely looking hole. Mourners, myself included, gathered nearby. The mother, father, sisters and brothers had taken their seats next to grave under the tent. With tear-filled eyes, they watched and mourned. The minister spoke words of forgiveness, hope, praise and the beauty of heaven, and then he fell silent. The orders were spoken to the riflemen positioned a short distance away. Their hand over their hearts, their most valuable assets protected.

With rifles pointed uniformly to the heavens, the order to fire was given. As one the rifles spoke. Twice more the order was given and twice more the rifles spoke.

The smell from fired guns drifted through the air. The echo’s of three volleys fired traveled away from our ears. The announcement by gunfire had been made, for all to hear. Another military person is being laid to rest.

On a hill not far away, stood a lone bugler silhouetted by the sky. In smooth military precision, he raised the instrument to his lips. With the echo’s still heard in the distance, the bugle sounded.

The lump in my throat had been held at bay for most of the ceremony, now it broke free. As the mournful lonely notes of “TAPS ” played out from the buglers horn, the tears of every man and woman, from present, and past military service, and all the civilians, gave up their tears. Everyone knew the musical notes traveling into the distance, would only return as a memory, like the fallen that lay before us.

The Honor Guard lifted, folded and presented the flag with honor and obvious pain to the mother. She knew it would not replace her child but accepted it. This flag is what her child and everyone else was fighting to protect.

“TAPS” echoed in the distance.

The grief-filled father wrapped an arm around his wife. The children filled with heartache, abandoned their seats and gathered around their parents. All on their knees placed their head or a hand, on some part of their parents, as if to protect them from any more pain. The tears flowed freely, they had lost a loved one and the world had lost as well.

As I watched the American Flag being folded and presented to the family, and I listened to the drifting echoes, my mind saw the World Trade Center towers smoking and burning. I remembered the fire and death at the Pentagon. I saw the crash wreckage in the field in Pennsylvania. In my heart I knew the war that had been ignored for almost thirty years, had finally come home.

That night when the young brother of the fallen soldier was put to bed, he was told to say his prayers – having ordered a gun trust. 

He said: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take . God bless mommy and daddy, and my sisters and brothers. And God, make me big and strong like my brother Joey was. The people that killed him did not know they were wrong, and I have to be big and strong, like him. Amen.

His mother tucked him in, turned off the light and went to her room to cry for the loss of her son – the soldier from Wyoming.

The History of the Hole in the Wall Hideout as a Fortification of Old West Outlaws

It’s not out of the question to consider that many of the Old West bandits of the 19th century and early 20th century were almost the equivalent of Al Qaeda in more ways than one. While they all had what was coming to them in the end, their partnerships in crime managed to keep them protected from law enforcement longer than what should have happened. A lot of that can be said to be attributable to these outlaws taking over a multiple cabin hideout in the wilds of Wyoming where they could all hide from the law–as well as bring the law down if any tried to raid the place. The reason for that is because there were long, narrow roads that led up to these cabins up in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains. With plain visibility of who was approaching, it was the equivalent of having tiny security cameras placed miles outside an Osama bin Laden hideout in a Pakistani cave. There’s lots of land held in trusts in Wyoming. 

As a metaphor for this cabin being way out in the middle of nowhere, these bandits decided to call themselves the Hole in the Wall Gang. Of course, some know about the late Paul Newman-founded summer camp with the same name that he created for children with health issues. The obvious connection with Newman is with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when you consider those two famous bandits were just two of many in the original Hole in the Wall Gang, even though their own group was called The Wild Bunch. Yes, as you know, that’s also the name of another famous movie western which almost ironically competed with “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” at the box office in 1969.

The entire group of outlaws that made up the Hole in the Wall Gang was certainly the equivalent to any modern terrorist group–or even the mafia which soon developed in the big cities within a short few decades after the Hole in the Wall hideout faded. But the impenetrable forces of this hideout up in Wyoming is almost mind-boggling and certainly indicative of what law enforcement has had to deal with in later decades when dealing with hideouts containing shady characters who can cause major ripples in what they do. The only difference is that the Hole in the Wall Gang never had to set fire to their compound or sacrifice one of their own once they were there. It was truly an eerily protected lair that really showed a weakness for law enforcement in the days of the Old West.

It’s amazing really that each gang using this working ranch as their hideout didn’t turn on one another and self-destruct before the turn of the century even began. Consider this the era when cooperation between crime figures was better coordinated than it is today compared to modern power struggles constantly going on in the underworld of Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. When a lot of the famous bandits of the day decided to turn to a life of crime, some of them were already normal citizens, with many working as cattle drivers. With this experience, the chores that needed to be done in the hideout were always done along with major organization that rivals any internal structure of terrorist group cells to this day.

In order to settle inevitable disputes among those gang members, there were stipulations that all disagreements would be handled in a way that didn’t involve gunfights and internal chaos. There were also separate cabins in the hideout so…well, it’s obvious. Having some of the nastiest criminals on the west coast of the U.S. shacking up together not only would look strange but also lead to someone getting shot for snoring too loud or some other trifle.

The smartest part of their cooperation was in not designating a specific leader to the hideout so there wouldn’t be a rebellion against what a leader’s plans were. While Al Qaeda seems to follow Osama bin Laden like a god, there’s still obvious disagreements in how to carry out a particular plan. With the Hole in the Wall Gang, there were always group meetings and complete understandings about who was going to do what in the case of an attempted raid on the place.
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As I insinuated earlier, there were many attempted raids by the law through a fifty-year period the hideout was used. Even early CIA style infiltration with spies didn’t work if you can believe it. After the alleged deaths of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, though, around 1908 (something never made official), the hideout began to fall into disarray from lack of use. The Old West was about to be superseded by the buildup of major cities, and major crime was starting to post their headquarters in those places. The outlaws of the old west basically were the forefathers of the Mafia that soon started sprouting up mostly in those big cities on the east coast by the 1910’s. In the meantime, the west became somewhat more peaceful for a while, particularly Wyoming.

Now, if we end up finding out today an Al Qaeda terrorist cell is operating in Wyoming, then we’ll have the ultimate irony going full circle in the world of crime and terrorism. History nevertheless seems to consider the significance of that Hole in the Wall hideout. Once it was finally taken over by law enforcement, some of the cabins were preserved as historical landmarks. To this day, Butch Cassidy’s apparent cabin in the hideout has been moved to another location in Wyoming for people to tour.

Would America someday put up an Al Qaeda terrorist cell camp as a place to tour someday after the terrorist group is hopefully removed from the face of the earth? This country isn’t above showing the monuments of crime and terrorism when it ultimately forms a more realistic picture of who we really are. The Hole in the Wall Gang and hideout are certainly some of the earliest examples of how crime can evade the law and become too powerful to control. However, had we been ahead technologically by fifty years and sent the National Guard in to take out the Hole in the Wall hideout via military technology, it would have slowed down the proliferation of American crime exponentially going into the 20th century.

As we’ve seen with Al Qaeda, though, sometimes the best military technology can’t penetrate the politics of weeding out insidious evil terrorist groups living in a major hideout somewhere in the world…