Marching with Marshall

Marching with Marshall
Sam Houston National Forest Ranger Station

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The March Day 3 and 4

Marchers and Interested Parties,
Day 3 was a good day, but the end of Iron Cody. Cody had been with us since Day 1, and had suffered with blisters, and chewed up feet. I had bought him some tennis shoes at Wal-Mart, and he stated they brought some relief, but we never heard him complain. We did see him roll on the cool dirt road to get some relief form the heat, and he did learn Thomas' name, so he could tell him to keep off his feet, but that was all there was to the stoic Cody.

If it had not been for the stop at Lake Stubble Field, and the opportunity to look in a mirror, we might not have known he was dealing with some skin irritations. He took the opportunity to look in the mirror, and saw many red puss filled pockets. The debate once it was brought to the attention of the Marchers, was whether it was a heat rash or acne. Acne seemed to be the consensus of the Marchers, but Ryan had left to make a run to the store, and his medical knowledge was not near to hand. Capt. Jack, took a look, and came back form the bathroom looking saddened by the sight of Cody's back and chest.

With a sadness, the decision was made to leave Cody for Ryan to appraise, and the four remaining Marchers left Lake Stubble Field headed for Kelly's Pond. By this time Thomas and Justin were crotch deep into the hike, and were beginning to see why all the fuss about feet and rashes were such an issue for those of us still on the March. The Lads had worn man-made fibers, as the web site had recommended, but they were gym shorts, and were causing some discomfort on this new playing field.

The terrain had changed a bit, but the vegetation now was thicker. While the Forrest service had burned off some under brush at the beginning of the hike, this new section had a chest deep feel to it. Our staffs were put to good use, as we pushed through the briers and brambles of the trail. Spider webs were a bit higher and made a tasty treat as we hit it with our mouths. My bush hat, boonie hat, had a nice long brim which, when the head was bowed, kept the webs from my mouth. Jack wore no hat and used his hands, while the Lads wore caps, which helped.

The walking was easier now for me. I was growing accustom to the endurance level needed, and was feeling a bit rakish again. The thing that bothered me was the pills Ryan had given me again that morning seemed to make me want to void, make water, etc.. I had to go every 45 minutes, and then shuffle back to the group. The Lads seemed worried about me, so I tried to smile and wave as they continued along the trail, making my deposit in a hurry near a tree- no use in letting all that fluid go to waste.

By the time we were closing in on our destination point, Jack was beginning to suffer form cramps. I had not idea how bad they were, but later I learned his hands were locking up. He was carrying the extra weight, and had not shown any weakness while on the March. He still did not, but when it came time to be picked up along the March, I saw he was having a bit of trouble. We had made good time, and the pick up point was deserted. We still had water, but it had been a long day and were ready to go to camp. Jack suggested we take a look down the road at an alternate pick up point, and I was feeling well enough to make the effort. The Lads were over by the end of the day's trail, looking tired, but later, they were swinging the guidon on at each other, whether in desperation or fun, I am not sure.

As I was headed up a hill, I kept hearing Marine cadences in my head, and began to Recon shuffle, as we Marines call it, Ranger shuffle, as the Army calls it. It felt good to be alive and doing something for Addison, not directly, but indirectly, thinking I was showing him a male sort of love- can't cure you, can't but it away, must do something sort of thing. This is when my sister showed up with her family and my Mom. They drove to Jack first, and then he sent them to me. I did not want to drive, the cadence was strong in my head, so I shuffled back to the pick up area, getting there a few moments after Jerry arrived. We took a few pictures, and eat the grapes and celery Cathey handed us, and headed to Kelly's Pond, and our last night in the woods.

Val Marshall's friends had made much of the food we had been eating in the evenings. This night we feasted on chicken gumbo. I could not eat much, but what I did eat was excellent. The camp was very nice, except when bathing myself by the out house I flashed the Lads. It was a back flash, not a full frontal; I apologize to the mothers of those I said I would take care of. I kept having visitors come near me while bathing, and I could not get my clothes on fast enough.

I have failed to mention that we picked up a dog on our first day's hike. The kids were very nice to the dog we called Marshall. Even Jack made sure the dog had water as we traveled together. That next day, Cathey and others went back over the roads we had traveled to try and find the dogs old home. The man at one house said the dog was stray, but had been staying there. It was a very nice dog and of good breeding. At Kelly's Pond we met another stray. He became Schindler, as whenever Justin came near him, he became excited and happy. I think Justin was flattered by the attention, but also embarrassed by the dog's devotion. We few, we happy few, kept picking up dogs, or they us.

The stars were heavy and near as we looked at the night's sky, but it was the lack of wind that kept us from a deep sleep at Kelly's Pond. That, and the sound of one of the walkie-talkies which gives off a beeping signal when the battery is getting low; it was low for over two hours giving off a beep-beep noise, and no one ventured forth to shut it off. Suffering was in beeping silence.

Our last day on the March, and Adam re-joined us, now that his bites and allergic reactions had taken a course for the better. He was no longer suffering, and was ready to hit the trail. Water was taken care of, breakfast was ingested, and the camp was being broke down in the warm, wet dew of morning.

The trail was a nice easy one, through the woods, staying off of hard packed roads. We had a took a break near a roadway, only to have Captain Jack walk out to the road and inform us the break point was across the road, and the good folks were waiting on us, no need to sup on MRE's.

It was at this point, I should have broke out my compass, form my back pack. I was feeling well, but kept moving in the wrong direction, and wanting others to follow. It was a good thing Jack had his GPS, or I might have taken him with me. The Lads, just nodded their heads when I recommended they come my way, and then moved off in a different direction, following Jack. By the mid day sun, I was ready to head south and not north, as we had traveled off on a different trail for a few extra miles. This was not heart braking, but the three Lads looked a little depressed, as they found out we had miles to go before we rested.

Disorientated, we had toruble making comm with our walkie-talkies and had to rely on phone with little or no reception, depending on the phone service used. We had to contact people in Tomball or Richmond, to make contact with those just a few miles away from us in the woods. It took longer then I had suspected, but with a small stretch of the legs on a dirt road, we found Ryan waiting for us, and the welcome relief he was, took us to the rest stop.

After the break, we took off, ready to face the world, with our Guidon held high. Jack kept it for this part of the March, and it was the first thing to cross the finish line, just ahead of Jack. That guidon had been held by everyone on the March, going the distance while others could not.

We saw the end point of the March with welcome relief, and a picture of a limping Addison coming to meet us at the trail head. He may have looked a bit bewildered by the sight of five happy hikers, but his eyes lit up as he recognized his two great friends. His Dad, Jack, was first on the scene, and the first one to Addison, He grabbed Addison and gave him a good healthy kiss, one that showed evidence of his great love for his son. Captain Jack had made it, and brought his gift of completion of the trek to his son. Addison, on the other hand, was embarrassed, not by his father's display of love, but by his inability not to be on the trip himself. He is a pridful young man, and does not want others to make a trip for him, but he wants to make it himself, perhaps unaware that is he was well and fit, the trip would no have been made.

I took my place for pictures with the other finishers, not really understanding what Addison was feeling, nor what I was feeling. I had thought I was doing this for Addison, but I was doing it for me. I was doing it to show my support, and love, in the only way I knew how. He will understnad it later, but no man worth his salt, can sit while others do something for him; he wants to be apart, to be a doer, not a sitter. He wants to do for others. This is what men do. You can sit and talk for hours, give sympathy to others, but in the end how do you reflect the feelings you have for one another? You can sit and talk with a friend while the crops rot in the fields, him injured in a bad fall, telling him how sorry you are for his loss, or you can get off your butt, and go harvest the crops- win or lose you are doing something.

Stay the course, Addison, for we are with you. We are Marching With Marshall.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The March: Day 1 and 2

Marchers and Interested parties,

The first day started late, but the Marchers were in good form, as we hit the trail with our Scouts and others. Breakfast was MRE's and Jerry had the forethought to teach the youths how to use their stoves in a box. MRE's have changed much since I had the pleasure of supping on them. Candies, scones, and cookies made me feel like I was in gourmet company, all I needed was tea; no tea, but coco, fruit punch, and a strawberry dairy shake hit the spot nicely, as the boys took the time to enjoy the military ambrosia set before them.

Captain Jack took the lead, and agreed to stay there at my request, as he had the knowledge, experience and satellite location finder in hand. The pace was brisk, and I felt the year move backwards, giving the commands, "jog it up", and "move up the column". The humor of the comments wore thin as we made good time through the woods. The trail wore thin, as we took a different trail, and found ourselves on a power line or pipe line easement, allowing us to take a break and adjust our packs. As we neared a dirt road, we saw three different trailer homes out in the middle of nowhere. We were having trouble with the sat. device, and jack took it upon himself to ask directions. I thought I heard banjos as jack came back with the news that there were only two kids, under the age of nine, and the adult would not come to the door to speak with Jack. An immediate decision was made to walk the dirt road to another dirt road, and gain insight from the sat. device where we were.

From there we found our bearings, and headed out on a known road, making good time, and feeling better about our location, as we headed away from the trailer homes and the banjos music playing in our heads. Jerry made sure we had a couple of breaks before the ten mile mark, and they were a welcome relief to see familiar faces. Feet were starting to hurt, and water resupply was a needed commodity as we took the breaks.

Walking staffs were good tools, as we used them to ward off burrs, "got you" veins, and probe for snakes. The Captain, told the troops about the need for leaving the spiders alone, and why they should not go under cut or blown down trees, sitting on their base end; we either went over or around, but as the miles wore on the end of the column began to go under them, being too tired and less careful about falling trees.

The trail was easy, as we were on dirt and black top roads for much of the time, giving the younger Marchers more issues with their feet. The complaints were few, but the look on their faces showed a small amount of suffering, which was telling to an old hand like me. Some marchers had school back packs, and the pressure on their shoulders were becoming an issue. I took one of the packs for a youngster for a few miles, and let him have it back later, but he was in pain. New boots, all pretty and clean, become a nuisance to some; they looked good, but caused more issues as the day wore on.

We made our first camp at Big Woods Hunter Camp, ready for chow and a break. I had not smelled this bad in a long time, and the first item of business was to clean my pits, and other sweaty areas. Once that was done, I was ready to enjoy the evening meal. Tents were put up, feet were cared for, and water was ingested. We had already lost one Marcher to feet and back issues, and others were questioning whether they wanted to continue tomorrow's March. Two Marchers, Scouts, were headed home the next day, and the third Marcher with the pain issues would go home at the end of the second day.

Jerry set up Taj Mah Hooch, and I had a better night's sleep in his large tent on a heavy duty cot. The morning came, with a call of nature, and many answered it with a shovel and baby wipes, parading towards the woods which surrounded us. Poison Ivy was a close neighbor in the woods, but no one came down with it in an uncomfortable area. My wife Peggy and son, Patrick returned form their hotel room, tired but refreshed. Alan and Kevin made breakfast, which hit the spot with eggs, potatoes, and tortillas. My sister, Cathey came with her young family, and the two girls decided to make the second day March, after Jerry orientated them to Camelbacs and MRE's. Coach Lionberger, made it back with his wife Stacey, and about 80 pounds of ice, which was much appreciated by all.

We hit the road on the second day with Cathey taking pictures, and less time on the dirt roads, which meant less fatigue in the feet department. Ryan LeNorman, had joined us the night before, and took all of his pack on the trek with him. The rest of us, except for Jack, had shed the packs, and were just using the Camelbacs for a carry all. I took my 782 gear- Jerry informed me in Army Language, it was called LBG( load bearing gear), I informed him in Marine lingo it is called "Deuce gear"- and was able to put in all my emergency gear, knife and pistol on my belt or in my military fanny pack.

It was a good thing, as we ran into a staggering feral hog, weaving on and off the road. Captain Jack, bide us stay put and went out to scare the hog off. I do not think the hog was in a good state of mind, I have seen the same effects on humans who have had too much to drink. I reached around and found a comfortable grip on my "decision maker", ready to help Jack, should the hog charged him in his rabid state. Jack's magic worked, and the hog staggered off in another direction to scare some other hiker out for a jont.

The trail was easy going, and the breaks were well established by Jerry and Jack, as we made good time that day. I again took a young man's pack, but felt an old feeling of fatigue hit me, a few miles before the end of the trail. I am not sure how far we traveled that day, but hearing we had reached our destination with about 19 miles under my belt, I was ready to take a good long break.

We were trucked the rest of the way to Huntsville State Park, and were met by the nicest people from Walker County Sheriff's Department, who took our aliments and applied cream, band aids, and tape to our March veterans. They also feed us, and then held a prayer service, handled by Kent Lucas, which was moving and well received by all hands.

I washed my clothes while I showered, and hung them out to dry. Ryan, heard my issues of sluggishness and handed me some electrolyte pills they give football players. It was just the ticket, as the next day I was in good form, ready to go again. Some of the Marchers headed to the lake in the park to swim and rinse off. They came back refreshed and comfortable, except for the feet issues. A nice young lady from MD Anderson came out an interviewed many of the Marchers in the park. It was a pretty evening, except for the serenading of the frogs out on the lake. The noise rose and fell within each minute, and kept some of us from sleeping, along with the lack of air from the wooded canopy surrounding us.

Ryan left us that night only to return the next morning with new supplies, and a knee the size of a large cantaloupe. He never complained about the March, but his knee kept him form joining us on Day 3 and 4. It was a good thing though, as he knew the area, and when we were a bit disorientated, he knew where to find us. The sight of his pick up truck was a welcome one on those last two days.

Addison's good friends made it out on this day, Thomas Rapper, and Justin Schindler , having been at camp in Arkansas the past week. It was good to see some of my old football players, they are fine young men, with good hearts; true friends to Addison. They had been told by me, that there was a possibilty of fishing on this trip, but most of our strength was spent on hiking, not the enjoyments of nature. The fishermen soon left their poles in the truck to enjoy the hike.

Anti- Monkey Butt Powder, and Boudreaux's Butt Paste were two good items to have, as we made a run to Wal-Mart to gain these needed supplies. These items became community property at each rest stop to apply liberally to areas under stress. The hand off was made between Marchers, and the recieptent soon made a retreat to a secluded area to make his withdrawal and application of these magic potions. Maybe they can sponsor us the next time we go, Marching with Marshall.

Coming up: Day 3 and 4.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Troop 941 Oorah!

A great thanks goes out to Alan McGaffin and his fine son, Adam. Alan took a truck load of Boy Scouts, the Troop trailer, and loads of equipment to help support the March. He was in great company, while his only complaint was, he was not marching. He wanted to March more then most, and perhaps should have, but we need him to help support the March. He sent us, the Marchers, off with a hearty propane cooked breakfast the second day, and made us feel comfortable at each break stop. He never stopped helping and supporting.

Alan, the troop leader of Troop 941, brought along some very nice young men, and a a couple of fathers who helped make a difference. Kevin Nguyen and Greg Sanzo, came along as supporters, and made sure, along with Alan, their Boys were taken care of. Their sons, Calvin and Tyler, walked on the first day, with Tyler finishing that day's March. Calvin went home the second day of the March, but Tyler stayed the entire time helping set up camp, refilling water containers, and handing out the chow at the stops.

A young man by the name of Cody, walked the two and a half days, with blistered feet, only ending his march, when the sight of his back and chest, red and swollen with heat bumps, forced him to stop. He did not want to, but I felt he needed to take a break. He never complained, and had a interesting sense of humor.

Alan's son, Adam, who, with numerous chigger bites and other issues , sat out Day 3, but rejoined the March to finish up Day 4, and end the March with the view of Addison at the finish line, was a stalwart companion. If it had not been for the bug issues, and his reaction, we would have had him for the entire four days. His Dad should be very proud of the young man they have raised.

A big thank you goes out to Boy Scout Troop 941 and their leader, Alan McGaffin. Also, thank you to the Fathers who helped us make this March a success.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Can Someone Please find the butt paste?

Instead of letting the interviewer know why we Marchered, and what we were trying to do, I laid the ointment on thick with the mention of Boudreaux's Butt Paste.

Jack did an excellent job presenting Addison update and the situation. And, had Jerry been miked, we would have righted my wrong; the third mike was to go to Mrs. Marshall, and should have, but I took it, and did not get to give credit to Jack for all his work on mapping, adjusting, and GPSing the course, while fixing a flat in the woods, and driving on a small bent doughnut spare back home to Fulshear.

Jerry's role was placed in the blog earlier, but credit was due to him because of his hard work and can-do attitude.

There was no second question put to me about what Addison means to me, so to clear up the matter, I will ask myself: I would be honored by his character, for him to be my son. I would be humbled by the strength he has shown through this ordeal. Most of all, I am blessed to have known him, and shared a friendship. That is what he means to me.

So, this next March, whenever that is, Addison will be first to the gate, and out of the chute to add his name to those who Marched with Marshall. That is the type of man he is.

Picture Pages

It is Picture Time...
Take a walk with us and enjoy the wooded view.

Below is a link that will bring you to a series of fabulous photos that will help you reminisce and savor every ache, pain, blister and moment of our four day walk.

Special thanks again to our unofficial, officially wonderful photographer and super sister, Cathey Morrison.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Superman or just Super Trooper: Krogel

Mrs. Marshall wrote a great blog about her husband, Jack Marshall. I think his value was well mentioned and his talents. I will leave that as his great tribute, and not try and match pens with the fine quality of writing, Mrs. Marshall displays, not to mention the love that shines through her words.

But, I will lay fingers on the keys to mention a friend of mine, who took over the role of XO, and brought intelligence and order to our March. Jerry Krogel is one of the finest products the Army has ever produced, outside of West Point. He is really is West Point material, but the Army made him the youngest helio pilot they have ever had at 17 years of age.

He advised me to walk the whole course, but as I did not have time, I relied on the coordinates taken by someone else, and the maps from the forest service and one by Karen Somers of the Lone Star Hiking Trail. While these were good, they were not eyes on the target, and the lack recon lead to some stressed episodes while on the trial. Jerry never waviered, he took in his role, and tried to work with Jack to make sure the course was set and he could get to us in an emergency. He came prepared to help, and lead, if necessary.

After our first night in open air sleeping, Jerry put up his Taj Mah Hooch tent to give me a better sleeping arrangement, and get my back off the ground. He put almost 500 miles on his Suburban and always had a map or GPS in hand. He made sure the Support Staff was working, putting the camp together and, when a break was mandated, he had the crew there with chairs, and snacks to keep us going.

He regaled us with tales of the Army, humorous quotes, things he had learned. He knows quite a bit about everything, and is a willing learner by listening to others. Thank you Jerry for all your hard work, and joyful attitude while we took your time away form the family, and keep your sweating through the night in the Taj Mah Hooch. PS. I know I have misspelled some words in this blog Jerry, but the message is heartfelt.

Next time you can hit the trail and I can work on support, not as well as you, but with a lot better understanding of my job, thanks to you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Gathering of the McStravick Clan: A Special thank you

There are too many people to thank for their support but I would like to try and do so, one day at a time.

Today, it is my family. My wife, Peggy, made two days of the walk and helped keep everyone going. My son Patrick, worked two of the first days, and did a fine job moving and shuttling between areas. My nephew, Robert, made forty miles of the walk on the first two days and never complained, even as his feet began to like like ground beef. But he did not quit, we just needed him to drive for the last two days, and again, he did not complain, he just jumped in the truck, smiled and took the trailer wherever Jerry told him too.

By Day Two, my sister Cathey, just up for a visit, began to hand out grapes, drinks, and became the picture taker of merit. She allowed her two daughters to go on the trek Sunday, and they made the whole distance, walking and talking. Molly never left Katie's side, as they want side by side through the forest. Cathey shows up on the Day Three with my Mother, who stays long enough to watch the day turn dark, and get bitten by a bee trying to take in our dinner. Cathey had not forgotten our needs and brought grapes, ice, and celery to our whole crew, leaving Jerry with directions for us to eat it all. Her energy was contagious and fun filled.

Day Four brought out my older brother, Peter, who brought, ice, kolaches and much needed coffee. He stayed half a day, but left me in great spirits with his presence and help.

Keep in mind, I did not ask them to help, they offered or just showed up. For their love and help, I am forever grateful.