I’m Afraid It’s Frayed

Frayed flag Old Salem Church Cemetery

In May, when I was confused about what month it was, I started going through my archives for flag photos. There were plenty of beautiful, uplifting pictures of backlit American flags that made your spirits soar.

Then, I started running across flags that looked like this one flying in the Old Salem Cemetery near Millersville.

I let a month go by

Frayed flag at Sears 02-12-2019

By the time June came along, I felt like I had been thrust back in the late ’60s, except with a pandemic mixed in. On top of that, the economy was taking a nosedive.

Sears was still open on February 12, 2019, but you could have fired a cannon down the aisles and not come close to hitting anyone. The tattered flag flying somewhere between half mast and full mast captured the feel of the place. It has since closed.

Storm clouds gather

Jackson gas station 4/29/2017

I was excited when gas prices at this Jackson station hit $2.10 – I think they might have gone below $1.50 for awhile – but storm clouds were gathering.

The Occupy Wallstreet movement died out because of a lack of focus, leadership and widespread acceptance. Tactical blunders played a part, too: you don’t launch sit-ins with winter coming on.

The protests that are hitting the street today have legs – literally and figuratively. The Black Lives Matter slogan has been adopted by blacks, white, young and old. It’s about more than race. It’s a general dissatisfaction with government.

The marches aren’t just in big cities, they are taking place right here in Southeast Missouri, an area not known for political activism.

I can live with this flag in this context

Bloomfield Confederate Memorial 01-27-2013

I’m not a fan of the Confederate flag, but I don’t have any problem with it flying over the Confederate Memorial Cemetery in Bloomfield. I take every visitor there when they come to Cape.

I DO wish someone had fixed the American flag so it didn’t look like the international signal for distress.

Both flags were in bad shape my first visit

Bloomfield Confederate Memorial Cemetery 04-13-2011

The memorial contains tombstones representing all of the Stoddard county Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. It’s a sobering display, particularly when you read the last words of Private Ladd, who was chosen at random to die to revenge the death of some Union soldiers who were executed.

A tattered flag caught my eye

North County Park 11-11-2010

I’ve spent a lot of time admiring the flags on major holidays at North County Park. Each of the hundreds of flags represents a deceased veteran who served in a war era or in combat.

On one of my first visits, I was disappointed to see one of the flags was a bit yellow; it had a few holes, and the edge was fraying. Just then, a gentle breeze stirred the flag and I saw a square field of stars. This was a 48-star flag. Alaska gained statehood in 1959 and caused the rows of stars to be staggered. This flag could be as much as half a century old. I’d love to know the story behind it

I stopped being concerned about the condition of the cloth.

I don’t have any right to criticize other flags

Frayed Steinhoff flag 05-14-2020

Three or four years ago, if not longer, I decided to fly a lighted American flag in front of the house 24/7. I wanted to demonstrate that it was MY flag, too. You’re welcome to salute it, kneel in front of it, honk at it, or ignore it. I’ll be cranky if you try to burn it, but I’m kind of protective of all my things that way.

I told Road Warriorette Shari, who takes care of my gardening duties since I take a scorched earth approach to them, that the rose and other bushes in the planter beneath the flag needed to be trimmed back. She’s been social distancing in St. Louis, so they’ve grown tall enough that they sometimes snag the flag.

It’s happened enough that there’s a hole in the fabric. I’m afraid I’m going to have to retire it.

I hope we’ll be back to bright flags and blue skies before long

Veterans Day flag display North County Park 11-11-2016

Unfortunately, I’m afraid we’re going to see more deaths from the COVID-19 virus, more economic woes, and more people taking to the street. Let’s hope my fears are groundless.

Here’s a collection of flag pictures from happier times.

Louis K. Juden – Died ‘Crushing the Huns’

Louis K Juden monument 05-23-2020

I was fighting off mosquitoes while walking around New Lorimier Cemetery in Cape this week looking for graves of people who died in the 1918 flu epidemic, while also keeping an eye out for military graves.

On my second or third pass down a row, I spotted a familiar name on the back of a stone. It had a strange inscription: “REMAINS REINTERED AND BURIED HERE JULY 24, 192?” (I can’t be sure from the photo what the last digit is.)

The name was familiar because the local American Legion Post 63 has taken his name. (Although, I was surprised not to find any of his history on the post’s website. Maybe I missed it.)

The front of the stone tells the story

Louis K Juden memorial 05-20-2020




BORN AUG. 11, 1890

DIED OCT. 28, 1918






Nurse who was with him wrote his grandmother

The nurse who cared for Lieut. Juden in France wrote a letter to his grandmother, Mrs. L.F. Klostermann. Unfortunately, the microfiche copy of the letter is almost illegible in The Missourian’s archives.

Parents visit grave in France

Mr. and Mrs. Juden visited their son’s grave in France in 1920.

Biography in The Fort Sheridan Association History

The Green Fields of France

While editing the photos, a song, The Green Fields of France, came up in my playlist. These words hit me hard when I looked at the portrait of a young man.

Well how do you do, young Willy McBride?
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside
And rest for a while ‘neath the warm summer sun
I’ve been walking all day, and I’m nearly done
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great fallen in nineteen-sixteen
I hope you died well
And I hope you died clean
Oh young Willy McBride, was is it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drums slowly?
Did they play the fife lowly?
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play the Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

Did you leave here a wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some faithful heart is your memory enshrined?
Although you died back in nineteen-sixteen
In that faithful heart, are you forever nineteen?
Or are you a stranger without even a name
Enclosed then forever behind a glass pane
In an old photograph torn, battered, and stained
And faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?

Should Cape to Jackson Calls Cost a Dime?

November 1944 Phone Book Cover

I was browsing through the November 18, 1918, Southeast Missourian when I saw there was a big controversy brewing. The phone company was petitioning the state utility commission to allow them to either raise rates on all users, or end free calling between Cape Girardeau and Jackson, and make it cost a dime a call.

Darned students are hogging the lines

Pay telephone booths near Scott Quadrangle in Athens, Ohio, c 1967

Cape Girardeau Bell Telephone said that from 500 to 700 calls a day are handled between the two cities daily. Their records show that at least 75 percent of the calls are for “social purposes. Students are frequent users of the line. Young people get much enjoyment talking to friends in the other town. Much visiting is done over the phone.”

Business calls were being blocked

The phone company complained that the 25 percent of the calls going to “essential business” has to wait until the 75 percent of social business is taken care of.

“Every businessman knows that not once in a hundred times can he get a prompt connection with Jackson, but must wait from a few minutes to a few hours.”

What’s the problem?

One of nine telephone system rooms at The Palm Beach Post

The phone company manager said there are only six lines between the two towns. If the free service is continued, he claimed that he would have to put in seven more lines to take care of the business that has grown through the free rate.

He estimated that the calls would drop from 600 a day to about 100 a day if the ten-cent toll was approved.

[In comparison, my old paper, The Palm Beach Post could handle more than 300 phone calls at once. I was on vacation when I was offered the job of telecommunication manager. As I was driving through Old Appleton, I thought, if I take this job, I’ll have a bigger phone system than most of the towns in SE Missouri.]

Missourian was vexed

Long distance rates from Cape in 1944

The Missourian editorialized that it “is not fully enough advised regarding the facts in the case to offer any suggestions for a solution, but it knows from its daily vexation that something should be done to clear the Cape-Jackson lines in order that essential business may be transacted with a little more promptness.”

The dime charge must not have been approved because this table of long distance charges doesn’t show one for Jackson.

I vaguely remember Jackson as being long distance when I was a kid, but I could be wrong. Anybody know for sure?

Looking for Ghost Houses

Pocahontas 03-20-2018

When I was driving around the Bootheel a few years back, I kept running into what I call “ghost houses.” Those are places where you can tell by the way the trees are spaced or cleared that a house probably lived there long ago.

In the spring, there’s another clue: yellow flowers that someone planted years and years in the past.

I didn’t shoot many of them

Dutchtown 03-20-2018

I didn’t shoot the ones I encountered in the Bootheel because I was searching for things that were there, not things that were missing. I learned later, that the ghost houses would have been the perfect metaphor for counties that lost as much of 80% of their population when mechanical cotton harvesters came in.

I’ll look harder next spring

Delta flowers 03-20-2018

I’ll make a broaden my search next spring. These were spotted in one afternoon’s drive in 2018. None of them convey exactly what I wanted to show.

Who planted the flowers?

Stoddard County 03-20-2018

I have to wonder who planted these flowers so many years ago that they outlived the gardeners and the buildings they surrounded.