Overcoming Life’s Insurmountable: Glenn Cunningham

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A select few face overwhelming challenges in life.  Encouraged with a heart filled with perseverance, these trailblazers adopt an attitude where “Can” outplays “Can’t.”

Born in 1909, American Glenn Cunningham transformed into one of the world’s best middle distance runners.  However, there was much more to this man’s personal story.

Born in Kansas, seven year-old Glenn endured burns suffered from a gasoline explosion at school.  The lower part of his body was substantially burned.  Doctors said that the young boy would never walk again.

Hopelessly crippled by the burns to his legs, young Glenn proved many people wrong about his future.  Not only would he walk, but he ran right into the record books.

Nicknamed the “Kansas Ironman” and “Kansas Flyer,” Glenn’s perseverance and dedicated training brought him into a setting that few could ever have imagined.  He emerged as one of the world’s premiere track athletes in the 1930s.  The mile run became his specialty, and he went on to win numerous races and championships. 

In 1934, he established a world record in the mile run (4:06:08), and his performance would not be bettered for three years.  After his world record run, Glenn was quoted, “I always believed that I could walk normally, and that was the truth.  Now I will run, and run faster than anyone else.”

Glenn’s amazing willpower and faith carried him onto the world stage.   Running the 1500 meter run in two different summer Olympics, he proved his greatness.  He placed fourth in the 1932 Olympics at Los Angeles, but he saved his best for 1936 at Berlin when he earned a silver medal. 

Glenn’s Christian faith was visible in his actions and words.  One of his favorite Scripture verses came from Isaiah 40:31:  “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Throughout his distinguished running career, Glenn endured frequent leg pain.  Few could imagine how he needed to overcome so much with a faith-filled, inner strength.

As Glenn’s running career wrapped up, the country needed his service in World War II.  He served in the U.S. Navy, and he developed new physical training programs.  Later he taught athletics and physical education at Cornell College in Iowa. 

One of his most noted ventures exhibited his desire to care for underprivileged children.  He and his wife established the Glenn Cunningham Youth Ranch, which offered a temporary home for over 10,000 foster children.

These closing words from Glenn epitomized his approach to his life:  “In running it is man against himself, the cruelest of opponents.  The other runners are not the real enemies.  His adversary lies within him, in his ability with brain and heart to master himself and his emotions.”

Time’s Traveler

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Generations marching

Clock’s hands never stand still

Time’s traveler journeys

Years navigate downhill


History’s recorder

Passport to each event

Time’s traveler writing

Every book’s contents


Stories fill with people

Exploits reign paramount

Time’s traveler sees all

His recollections count


Worldly landmarks indexed

Mile after mile recalls

Time’s traveler postcards

Destination now calls


Energy never sleeps

Chronicles each step

Time’s traveler breathing

At library’s doorstep


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To End All

The Great War (later renamed World War I) began on July 28, 1914.  The rapid mobilization of armies carried the war forward until November 18, 1918.  This poem shares a narrative voice of those decisive years.

American World War I cemetery near Verdun, France. (courtesy of Pinterest)

Entangling treaties joining nations

Old school diplomacy’s fixation

Glorification of war’s romance

Titanic wills collide, ghostly dance


Distant continent boiling over

Single shot ignites war’s makeover

Ill-prepared, mortal combat waiting

Millions now face death, devastating


Modern weaponry overpowers

Military tactics of old sour

Now transforming nations’ fertile ground

Mankind’s killing fields, forever found


Privileged few making decisions

Common citizens fill divisions

Ruthless fighting in blood-filled trenches

Calling soldiers into death’s clenches


Exhausted nations, pushing ahead

World waiting for war’s sunset instead

Men, resources, and will running low

At last, reason stops war’s bloody flow


War to end all wars finally ends

Lasting peace stands ready to pretend


When the armistice was signed, the world hoped for lasting peace. (courtesy of Pinterest)

English writer, H. G. Wells (1866-1946), who is sometimes called the “Father of Science Fiction,” also provided social commentary.  These words share his sentiments about war:  “It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men’s lives should not stake their own.”  “If we don’t end war, war will end us.”

Buckeye Snapshots (Issue #5)

A recent scene from a Buckeyes’ game at the “Shoe.”

Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Ohio Stadium is hallowed ground for The Ohio State University football team.  The Buckeyes have played here since 1922.

Nicknamed the “Horseshoe,” the venerable stadium graces the west side of campus near the Olentangy River.  The journey to build this magnificent home goes back to the World War I era.

The Buckeyes playing field back in the 1910s is Ohio Field.  The unassuming name cannot hide the fact that this football home is less than adequate.  Seating is limited to 14,000, but some games find more fans viewing from the perimeter of the field as a standing-room only (sometimes in excess of 20,000).

The catalyst behind the need for a much larger stadium for the Buckeyes is traced to the success of the team in 1916, 1917, and 1919.  Ohio State’s first three-time All-American, Charles “Chic” Harley leads the team to numerous victories and conference championships.  Playing in the period before college football’s Heisman Trophy, Harley would have been a cinch to win this prestigious award as college football’s most outstanding player.  One might say that Ohio Stadium is the field Chic built.

Needing a much bigger stadium, Ohio Stadium is constructed with its unique horseshoe design.  Ohio Wesleyen becomes the first opponent to play here on October 7, 1922.  The original stadium’s seating capacity is 66,000, but it is far exceeded later in the 1922 season when the Buckeyes host the Michigan Wolverines before 71,138 spectators.

Field-level view during a youth flag football event. My grandson was participating.

Here are some quick facts about the “Horseshoe.”

  • Current seating capacity:  102,780
  • Fourth largest on-campus facility in the United States
  • Largest crowd:  110,045 for the 2016 Michigan game
  • Over 36 million fans have entered the stadium since 1922
Ohio State has captured many national football championships as evidenced by these banners. An additional one has been added for 2014.

George Orwell Quotes

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If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.

The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.

English novelist and journalist, George Orwell (1903-1950), was an outspoken political commentator, but he was much better known for his literary works, including the novels 1984 and ANIMAL FARM.

Charles Swindoll Quote

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All of history looks back at that moment–to the tragedy and triumph of that cross.  First the crucifixion, then the resurrection of the Son of God.

From Romans 5:8:  “God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

Distant Land

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Nation’s outstretched hand

Shaping distant land


Trade benefits both

Bringing steady growth


Prosperity’s health

Welcoming new wealth


Benevolence molds

Filling now with cold


This mighty power

Seeing its plans sour


Citizens lack voice

Having little choice


Uproar fuels action

Bringing reaction


Hostile clouds amass

Reaching dark impasse


Big brother nation

Facing frustration


Rebels gather ‘round

Fading common ground


More Redcoats arrive

Gathering beehive


Independence shouts

Calling freedom out


Colonists stand firm

Battling to affirm


Mother country’s heart

Tearing self apart


British might stands down

Watching its meltdown


America stands

Molding freedom’s hands


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Throughout history, many nations have attempted to mold and shape other lands into their own image.  Terms such as imperialism, colonization, and nation building sometimes come to mind.  It is worth noting that the British attempted to establish a foothold on the American continent starting in 1607.  By the mid-1770s, their plans for a continuing American empire were crumbling.  Few, if any other nations, have learned from this lesson in history . . . America included.

Monday Memories: Perfect Seat

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Circus shows once filled with excitement to delight

Few spectators now attend circus magic each night


Generation ago, numerous children experienced it all

Now mighty Big Tops have vanished with a huge fall


Sitting in the crowd with a perfect seat

Thrilled to adore another tasty treat


The ringmaster keeps the thrilling show moving along

Audiences soon realize that each act lasts only so long


Three rings keep crowd’s enthusiasm mounting with ease

Here come zany clowns, filled with foolishness to please


Dazzling jugglers and daring acrobats delight

Children dream of being in the circus spotlight


Sitting in the crowd with a perfect seat

Eagerly watching performances so sweet


Lions, tigers, and bears—Oh, what a sight to behold

Bravery shown by animal tamers, awesome and bold


Always pleasing are gigantic elephants from afar

Their majestic presence makes them the stars


Evening’s ultimate act flies high above three circus rings

Trapeze artists dangle with suspense from their swings


Sitting in the crowd with a perfect seat

Looking forward to each astonishing feat


Fewer circus companies still travel the globe

The “Greatest Show on Earth” needed to fold


Audiences once filled the Big Top’s nightly crusade

Now dying out, precious memories stumble and fade


New generation of young children shall never wonder

How circus night brought applause as loud as thunder


Sitting in the crowd with a perfect seat

Recalling circus images that will repeat


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Vanishing Prairie

Courtesy of Pinterest.

Vanishing prairie hangs on

Isolated town foregone


Time long ago, grand premiere

History fading each year


Showing up on highway map

Road’s wide spot, taking a nap


Middle of farming country

Seldom find even one tree


Boarded-up wood-frame schoolhouse

Empty, forgotten courthouse


No longer town’s pride and joy

Critters, varmints now employ


Railroad track hides in tall grass

Recalling past trains, first-class


Grain elevator hanging on

Memories live, town’s swan song


Single street light standing guard

Night’s shadows, lasting vanguard


Yesteryear’s grandest of homes

Mystery for Sherlock Holmes


Faded sign for Ruth’s Café

Long absent dinner entrees


Movie theater shuttered

Smelling fresh popcorn, buttered


Few remember town’s past times

Hearing nature’s windy chimes


Past glory days, now long gone

Dim sunset, well past its dawn


Courtesy of Pinterest.

During my teaching career, I taught 25 years in the eastern prairie country of Montana.  Today, many small farming communities struggle for survival while others such as the one in this poem live on only as memories.

Her Spirit Lives

Montana’s Crazy Mountains (courtesy of Pinterest).

Howling wind joins darkness

From mountains standing tall

Screaming into valleys

Her spirit lives to bawl


River bottom cuts through

Shudders at her loud cry

Escaping into night

Her spirit never dies


Myths and legends live on

Woman wanders away

Never noticed again

Her spirit roams to prey


Crazy Woman Mountains

Dramatic island range

Lives into eternity

Her spirit must not change


Another winter night

Shivering voice calls out

Noisy lungs never sleep

Her spirit lives throughout

Another view taken from the south with the Yellowstone River in the foreground with autumn’s colors (courtesy of Pinterest).

Montana’s Crazy Mountains stand as a sentry above the valley near the town of Big Timber.  Nicknamed the “Crazies,” the wind always seems to be blowing.  If you wish to read more about them, here is a link to the mountains.