Friday, July 31, 2009


They haunt the edges of memory;
Images floating through the mind,
Far back from long ago.
Some no longer breath.
If others do,
I do not know.

They lived and breathed
In my life at one time;
Passing acquaintances,
For a brief or longer moment
Our lives were once in-twined.

Then our separate ways we went,
By death or living providence;
Only memory to remain;
The ghosts of my life
Floating through my mind.

(Copyright © July 2009. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sycamore Tree Trunk

Sycamore Tree Trunk II, originally uploaded by neukomment.

I'm getting into a photography mood these days. This is the trunk of the Sycamore tree in our back yard. Sycamore bark is scaly and the Sycamore tree easily sheds bark. God's creation has a way of making it's own art which is seen in the design you see here.

Really awsome when you think about it.

Solo Deo Gloria!

~ The Billy Goat ~

Monday, July 27, 2009


Froggy in the Garden., originally uploaded by neukomment.

I was dusting off my low end (cheap) digital camera and seeing what I could come up with in our back yard. Froggy was just sitting there waiting for me to take his picture. For you photo die hards, I uploaded the pics to Flicker and used the Fliker editing function to crop, ajust exposure, sharpen, and etc... This is an example of the final results.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bishop John Hooper’s Letter of January 21, 1555

[Note from The Billy Goat: John Hooper was burned at the stake on February 9, 1555, in Gloucester, England. This was at the time of the reign of the Roman Catholic, Queen Mary, who ascended the throne of England in 1553, after the death of the Protestant King Edward VI. His words are a challenge to the Church of Jesus Christ at it enters the 21st century.

I would entreat any Roman Catholic friends who came across this post, to not take quick offense at some of Bishop Hooper’s words, but to read the whole of his letter, and seriously consider in the light of these words, what it should mean for anyone who says they are a "Christian", to be a Christian.

Please note that in the original, what are the first two large paragraphs as presented here, was one paragraph in the original as transcribed by Ryle.]

A letter which Master Hooper did write out of prison to certain of his friends, three weeks before his cruel burning at Gloucester.

The grace of God be with you. Amen.

I did write unto you of late, and told you what extremity the Parliament had concluded upon concerning religion, suppressing the truth, and setting forth the untruth, intending to cause all men by extremity to forswear themselves, and to take again for the head of the Church him that is neither head nor member of it, but a very enemy, as the Word of God and all ancient writers do record: and for lack of law and authority, they will use force and extremity, which have been the arguments to defend the Pope and Popery since this authority first began in the world.

But now is the time of trial, to see whether we fear God or man. It was an easy thing to hold with Christ while the Prince and world held with Him; but now the world hateth Him, it is the true trial who be His. Wherefore, in the name and in the virtue, strength, and power of His Holy Spirit, prepare yourselves in any case to adversity and constancy. Let us not run away when it is most time to fight. Remember, none shall be crowned but such as fight manfully; and he that endureth to the end shall be saved. You must now turn all your cogitations from the peril you see, and mark the felicity that followeth the peril—either victory in this world of your enemies, or else a surrender of this life to inherit the everlasting kingdom. Beware of beholding too much the felicity or misery of this world; for the consideration and too earnest love or fear of either of them draweth from God. Wherefore think with yourselves, as touching the felicity of the world, it is good; but yet none otherwise than it standeth with the favour of God. It is to be kept; but yet so far forth, as by keeping of it we lose not God. It is good abiding and tarrying still among our friends here; but yet so, that we tarry not therewithal in God’s displeasure, and hereafter dwell with the devils in fire everlasting. There is nothing under God but may be kept, so that God, being above all things we have, be not lost.

Of adversity judge the same. Imprisonment is painful; but yet liberty upon evil conditions is more painful. The prisons stink, but yet not so much as sweet houses where the fear and true honour of God lacketh. I must be alone and solitary; it is better so to be, and have God with me, than to be in company with the wicked. Loss of goods is great; but loss of God’s grace and favour is greater....It is better to make answer before the pomp and pride of wicked men than to stand naked in the sight of all heaven and earth before the just God at the latter day. I shall die by the hands of the cruel man: he is blessed that loseth this life, full of mortal miseries, and findeth the life full of eternal joys. It is pain and grief to depart from goods and friends; but yet not so much as to depart from grace and heaven itself. Wherefore there is neither felicity nor adversity of this world that can appear to be great, if it be weighed with the joys or pains of the world to come.

I can do no more but pray for you; do the same for me, for God’s sake. For my part (I thank the heavenly Father), I have made mine accounts, and appointed myself unto the will of the heavenly Father; as He will, so I will, by His grace. For God’s sake, as soon as ye can, send my poor wife and children some letter from you; and my letter also, which I sent of late to D. As it was told me, she never had letter from me, since the coming of M.S. unto her; the more to blame the messengers, for I have written divers times. The Lord comfort them, and provide for them; for I am able to do nothing in worldly things. She is a godly and wise woman. If my meaning had been accomplished, she should have had necessary things; but what I meant God can perform, to whom I commend both her and you all. I am a precious jewel now, and daintily kept, never so daintily; for neither mine own man, nor any of the servants of the house, may come to me, but my keeper alone—a simple, rude man, God knoweth; but I am nothing careful thereof. Fare you well.

The 21st of January, 1555.

Your bounden,


John Hooper’s Letter was taken from the transcription used by J. C. Ryle in his book Light From Old Times.

Light From Old Times: or Protestant Facts And Men ; J.C. Ryle; (1890); Reprinted by Charles Nolan Publishers, Moscow, Idaho; (2000)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

We Hardly Got to Know Him

(There are some losses in life that you do not recognize until much latter. This is a story about such a loss. This was originally written in August 2004, but remained unpublished until December 2007 when it was edited and first published on Facebook. In recent days, I have thought it well to publish it here also.)

When the muse is upon you what else can you do? You write the story that flows from the memories of time, penning words that paint the pictures you see in your mind so well as though it was only yesterday, but in reality was ages ago; in this case, a whole lifetime.

When your years add up past the half-century mark, how is it memories can go so far back; memories that seem as fresh as yesterday, though so very long ago? What tides of history have come and gone since those early days of our lives. The Berlin wall was yet to be built, but is now battered to dust. Wars were to be fought and lost or won. Mankind had not yet gone into outer space and walked on the moon. The Internet and personal computers were the stuff of science fiction, not the reality they are today

Such were the days of that school year of 1955 - 1956. As you came into the sleepy little rural town from the north, you would have seen the site where work was just commencing on the new high school building. Turn left at the main four corners, and a few blocks east you would see the then red brick school building setting on the north side of the street next to the Wesleyan Methodist church building. Behind the church, on the side street was Martin’s feed mill, abutting on the school property. To the east of the school was a house, then another feed mill, after that the railroad tracks and the local grain elevator.

The school building was a two-story brick affair, typical of many local rural school systems in the early part of the 20th century. A gymnasium at the back was connected to the main structure by a hallway to which also was attached two classrooms.

It was in one of those classrooms where we who were fresh out of kindergarten, now sat in first grade as Miss Laser began teaching us those beginning basic reading and writing skills that were to be the foundation of our entire academic endeavour over those next twelve years of our life.

Many of us had been in the same Kindergarten class the year before. Of that particular class, eight of us would go all the way, K through 12, graduating together in 1967. There was another elementary school in a little town about five miles north. Another first grade class was there, and in the seventh grade our two classes would become one as we came together at the new high school building. Many in that other Elementary class would also go though all their school life together. Over those years, in that inevitable camaraderie and shared experience, we together would forge a life long common bond with one another; becoming as it were, a band of brothers and sisters.

Of most of those who started with us, but did not finish with us, the reason was pretty simple. For whatever reason a family would move out of the area, and the one who had been our classmate would be gone, starting life in another town and school system. Over the years from time to time you might see this one or that one, but the shared experience and the resulting common bond was not there like it was with those still there. So over the years, here and there, we would lose a classmate, and usually another would move into the area from another school and take their place.

In all of that inevitable and understandable loss and gain, there was one loss of a very different nature. It was a very early loss in our first grade year; a loss that remains embedded in memory a half century latter. It is of this loss I would now speak.

They lived out on the Territorial Rd. south of town, just down the road from Shanour’s apple orchard. His name was Jack. He had an older sister whose name now escapes me even as Jack’s last name fails to come to mind. I have it in mind he had been with us the year before in Kindergarten. Yet for all that, there is so much that I do not remember about him.

At only six years of age, we were still developing our social relationship skills. Though acquaintances, we had yet to develop the deeper relationships of friendship that would come later with growing maturity and age. For whatever reason, in my six-year-old mind I was wary of Jack. I had not got to a point where I was comfortable with him. It was though we were still sorting each other out, and needed more time to figure out how we related one to another, and what our individual place would be in each other’s life.

One time, someone sharpened a crayon in the pencil sharpener. That was a real “no-no”. I was asked if I had done it In reality I was the “guilty” party, but had in the moment, not realized what I had done. I sought to shift the blame to Jack, who rightfully denied it, and testified that I was the culprit. Thankfully, Miss Laser didn’t “whoop” me, or get all over my case for messing up the pencil sharpener. I know now that a primary prerequisite for being a first grade teacher is a great deal of patience and forbearance. That’s why at that time Miss Laser was such a good one.

Almost fifty years later, I wonder what would have happened between us as we grew older and moved on in to the upper grades. Would he and his family have stayed in the area? Would we have become friends? Very possible when you are at an age and place where most everyone was to some degree or another a friend. What things might we have done together? What parts of our lives might we have shared with one another, if not as close friends, at least as friendly acquaintances forging that common bond of shared experience as we went through our school years together? But such was not to be. What the answers may have been, only God Almighty knows.

I do not remember very well exactly when it happened. I am pretty sure it was in the late fall. We were on the bus on our way to school. From somewhere, from someone the story came. Jack had been playing in the basement. He had lit some candles or something and there was a fire. He was burned badly and was in the hospital. His sister had run down into the basement and somehow had put out the flames that had been seeking to devour her little brother.

That was all we ever knew. A few days later his sister was back at school; both hands and wrists in bandages. In my simple six-year-old mind, I was expecting Jack to soon be out of the hospital and back in class. But the weeks turned into a month, then another month. Around Christmas time I was with my parents at a store in Hillsdale. I overheard a lady in the store say she wanted to buy a toy for the little boy in the hospital who was badly burned. I thought of Jack. Was he the boy she was speaking of?

As his classmates, we had no idea how badly hurt he was. I do not remember that Miss Laser ever talked to us about what had happened to him. I think that was an honest decision on her part. She probably thought we were to young to understand, and it would be better not to bring it up or dwell on it. And who is to say she was not right in that judgment? I’m sure there must have been some stories in the local newspaper about Jack’s accident, but we were far from being at an age and reading level to peruse the newspaper.

Back then there were not the medical advances that would in future years bring about specialized burn units, skin grafts, and all the other advances in medical care and pain management from over the past fifty years that have saved lives that once could not be saved.

We as a class continued on with our studies. As I remember, it was sometime around early March. Once again from somewhere, from someone we heard that Jack had died. A few days later a substitute teacher came into the room so Miss Laser could go to Jack’s funeral.

That was it. Jack was gone. He didn’t come back. If we had been older, perhaps we would have gone to the funeral too. But our impressionable and perhaps fragile six-year-old minds were not exposed at that time to that reality we would later face and grapple with in other circumstances of our life. I doubt any of us at that young age really understood the full meaning of what it meant to say, “Jack died.” We did not know enough to really miss him and mourn his loss.

We went on through school. As the years rolled on, I do not know if those of us who had known him gave much thought to him; perhaps a fleeting memory here and there. And from time to time after I graduated from the high school and left the area to go to college and the rest of my life, I would occasionally remember Jack; the vague picture in my mind.

Jack was the only classmate we lost by death during all our years of school. One classmate later lost his little brother to congestive heart failure. While in high school, a younger junior high student was killed in an automobile accident. One of our married high school classmates lost her husband in Vietnam. But of all of the Class of 1967, Jack was the only one so taken from us. We hardly got to know him…

How did any of us survive our childhood and teen years? How many naïve innocent risks we took. Add to those the calculated risks we took, along with the absolutely stupid risks we sometimes took, and all of that along with the normal risk of ordinary everyday life. We survived. We lived. Jack died. Why?

Miss Laser eventually retired from teaching. Over the years she taught, hundreds of kids got their start in reading and writing from her. Her legacy will be passed on in the lives of those of her students who went on to be teachers, lawyers, engineers, nurses, farmers, housewives, factory workers, and etc. She eventually passed away, her long journey of life completed. I have to believe that over the years, from time to time, she probably thought about that little six-year-old boy she once had in her class; the little boy whose journey through life was so tragically brief.

I have a picture in my mind. Yes, it is an apocryphal picture, but it is a picture that will not easily go away, if ever. In that picture is a beautiful place where the sky is blue, the sun shines softly, a gentle breeze brushes the leaves of a green tree, and green grass provides a gentle turf. There is a school desk in the shade of the tree. A little boy sets at the desk, pencil in hand, working through his writing workbook. His teacher stands besides the desk watching, smiling, and encouraging him. There is joyous contentment in the faces of both student and teacher. Those lessons, abruptly interrupted so long ago, are resumed once more…


August, A.D. 2004
Copyright (C) August 2004. All rights reserved.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What the Confederates Were Really Fighting For

[Some time ago I originally posted this on Facebook. I thought it good to publish it here, with some editing and expansion, to tie in with some other posts I have here regarding the Civil War.]

Cornerstone Speech by Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, March 21, 1861 Savannah, Georgia

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution.

From the Mississippi Declaration of Secession:

"..Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product, which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. "


"...was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery - the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits - a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time."


"..For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery."

South Carolinia:

"The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right."

Alabama Secession Speech: Speech of E. S. Dargan, in the Convention of Alabama, Jan. 11, 1861

I feel impelled, Mr. President, to vote for this Ordinance by an overruling necessity. Years ago I was convinced that the Southern States would be compelled either to separate from the North, by dissolving the Federal Government, or they would be compelled to abolish the institution of African Slavery. This, in my judgment, was the only alternative; and I foresaw that the South would be compelled, at some day, to make her selection. The day is now come, and Alabama must make her selection, either to secede from the Union, and assume the position of a sovereign, independent State, or she must submit to a system of policy on the part of the Federal Government that, in a short time, will compel her to abolish African Slavery.

Confederate Constitution:

"No bill of attainder or ex post facto law [, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves] shall be passed."

Jefferson Davis:

".. the labor of African slaves was and is indispensable.."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Life of Faith: Anna Margaret (Clarke) Spade

[ Anna Margaret (Clarke) Spade was my great-great-great grandmother on my mothers side. She was born November 20, 1822, and died October 23, 1890. She and her husband Christopher are buried in West Franklin Cemetary, Fulton County, Ohio. The following was transcribed from Bavin Beginnings: A History of the Charles Bavin Family compiled by Carol Newcomer-Cox and Mary Byrne (August 1994).]

Obituary of Anna Margaret (Clarke) Spade
By her Pastor, J. W. Lilly

Anna Margaret Spade, nee Clarke departed this life near West Unity, Ohio, Oct. 23rd, 1890, aged 67 years, 11 months and 3 days. The funeral service occured from the family residence, Saturday afternoon conducted by the writer.

Sister Spade was born in Cumberland County, Penn. With her parents she removed to Richland County, Ohio, where in the fall of 1842 she was united in marriage with Christopher Spade, who died two years ago. In the spring of 1843 they located to Williams County, Ohio. The country was new, but the hardships and inconveniences of a pioneer life was patiently shared with her husband, and right well did she perform her part. For forty-six years she resided on the farm about three miles northeast of West Unity. She was converted when but thirteen years of age, and united with the Church of God. In a few years she became identified with the church of the United Brethren in Christ of which she was a member nearly fifty years. She had a clear experience, and the strength of her faith in the Lord, was indicated by her ever Christian life. She was highly esteemed in the community where she live, and exerted a wide influence for good. Always interested in the salvation of others, and the welfare of her own family. Her last moments were spent in prayer and her last words were, "Children I must leave you."

She leaves seven children, twelve grand-children, one great grandchild, one sister, one brother, a large number of near relatives and many warm friends to mourn her departure. The triumphant death of this sainted mother, should be a solace to the sorrowing ones; her hallowed influence a benediction upon their lives, and an inspiration to meet her in heaven.

J. W. Lilly

(Transcribed and edited by Bill Newcomer, great-great-great grandson of Anna Margaret (Clark) Spade, December, 1996.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009


They died in the same week.

The one's death was heralded in news headlines across the country.

The other's death went larger unnoticed except for the family and friends who had known and loved her.

The one lived most of his life in the public eye; for better or worse, a cultural icon and entertainment idol.

She lived her life in relative obscurity, content in loving her husband, children, and grand children, and great-grand children. Content to serve her God, her family, and others.

He was cut off at a relatively young age. The full facts of what happened to him are not yet publicly known, and maybe never will be known.

She lived to a ripe old age and as her end neared, she was ready to "go home"; trusting her Lord and Saviour, giving Him all the praise and glory, her family around her, loving her, singing hymns with her, and being with her at the very end as she slipped from this life.

Which one of the two's legacy will endure the passing of time and the generations to come? Which of the two was truly happy? Which of the two lived a life truly worth living?

I did not know him nor did I spend much time following or evaluating his career. The death of any person, great or small, is a serious matter, and a reminder that the existence of death is a consequence of the fall. For better or worse this man has gone to meet his Maker.

I did get a glimpse of her life, and in that glimpse saw the image of Christ being formed. The spiritual legacy she received from her grandfather when a young child has been passed on to her children, grand children, and is now in the process of being inculcated in the lives of her great-grand children.

Who's legacy will endure and have the most meaning? Who really lived a life worth living?

Rest in peace dear Christian lady and elder sister in the LORD. Your children rise up and call you blessed. We your friends who knew and loved you will miss you, but in our tears at your leaving is also much joy. Solo Deo Gloria!

~ The Billy Goat ~