Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Masonic Ring With A Hidden Secret

Oh sure, it's a beautiful ring now, but you should have seen it the first time I did.

My Dad is an antique collector/dealer and ran across this old Masonic ring. He wanted me to have a look at it (Dad is the source of most of my Masonic "treasures"), so the man who was selling it let him borrow it, and he brought it by for me to look at. The ring was a mess. Whoever originally owned it wore it a lot. That was pretty obvious since it had gotten so thin and brittle with constant wear, that it had broken into three pieces and was barely recognizable as a Masonic ring. It was just a little plastic bag full of broken pieces of an old ring. I wasn't impressed, and certainly wasn't interested in buying it. It wasn't worth much more in my opinion than the gold in it. Probably a nice ring in its time, but I thought its time had come for the melting pot.

Several months later, guess what I got for my birthday? I got an "I told you so" gift. My Dad didn't give up on that old ring. He knows a very good jeweler, and had him look at it. That jeweler was able to rebuild it, repair it, and polish away all the scratches. I couldn't believe it was the same ring! It went from being an ugly piece of junk I had no interest in at all, to being my favorite ring. It's still very delicate because it's been worn so thin, but I wear it for special occasions--like when I was installed as Master of my Lodge.

That's a pretty good story in itself, but the best part of the story is what the jeweler discovered when he was working on it. The ring had a secret! On one side of the ring, you can see where originally it had a few familiar working tools--a level, maybe what was once an acacia branch. You really have to look closely, because most of the original engraving has been worn smooth over time. The theme is similar, and easier to make out on the other side because more of the detail survived. There is clearly a trowel, and under it, an apron. Nothing unusual about that.

Little secret hidden under a concealed flap

However, when the jeweler was polishing it, he noticed something odd about that apron, and had a closer look at it. He discovered a tiny hinge on top, and upon further inspection, a tiny clasp below. The apron opens! Under the flap, on the lid was engraved the name of the Lodge the man belonged to. And below that, the dates the man was Entered, Passed, and Raised a Master Mason. The engraving is so tiny, it's barely legible to the naked eye. Under a magnifying glass, you can see that the man was Entered in 1939 and raised in 1940. But he wasn't the first man to own that ring.

Those dates that are legible now were engraved over older dates. The man who was raised in 1940 had a jeweler buff out the original dates and engrave over the original dates. You can no longer see what those dates were, but it obvious this ring has been around for a long time, and at least two Masons wore it and had it customized.

I've never looked at another "treasure" by Dad brings by in the same way again. I know that sometimes, what looks like junk in a little plastic bag, can actually be something pretty remarkable. First impressions can be decieving.

~TEC

 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Takes A Mighty Brave Athiest To Pick On A Christian

I don't usually comment like this, but it annoys me when athiests do this.  And I know not all athiests are like this--I'm speaking to the ones that support the organizations that pull these stunts.

I don't have a problem with atheists--if you don't believe in God, that's fine with me.  I don't have a problem with Catholics, or Jews, or Muslims, or any other religions, either.  But it's not enough for some athiests not to believe in God, they feel like they have to ridicule Christians.

I just don't understand the point.  If you don't believe in God, what possible harm does it do to you if I do?  It's called being a bully.

And Christians are easy targets, because we know our Bible.  We believe in peace, we believe in loving thy neighbor, forgiving the sins of others, and Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek.  That's the reason athiests pick on Christians--they know that Christians aren't going to fight back because of their beliefs.  That's also the reason they don't pick on Muslims--they know the reaction they'll get if they make fun of Muhammad or the Muslim religion would likely be much different.

So basically, they pick on Christians because they're cowards.  And while they claim intellectual superiority because they don't believe in religious hokum, they demonstrate it with these sophomoric tantrums around Christian holidays.  They have nothing better to do than to stick their thumb in the eye of something that they have never experienced or witnessed, and clearly don't understand.  If they had God in their lives, they might find a better way to live with purpose. 

So Christians, don't get annoyed with them.  It's nothing more than a desperate cry for attention and publicity.  They grew up missing a very vital part of the human experience--the belief in a Higher Power.  And they miss all the joy, love and peace that comes with that faith.  I know a lot of Christians that used to be athiests, but I don't know many Christians that changed their minds and became athiests.

Pray for them--they know not what they do.

~TEC

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Value Of "Oh Crap" Moments

"He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else."
 
~Benjamin Franklin

We've all been there at one point or another.  We discover we've forgotten to do something.  We've failed to plan properly.  Some unforseen circumstance arises and blows up our project.  We've stuck our neck out too far.  We said or did something incredibly stupid.  We've spread ourselves too thin, and our projects didn't get the attention they required.  It's that moment when it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

It's embarrassing.  It's humiliating.  But it's life, and it's going to happen to all of us at some point or another.  Once it's happened to us once, we tend to be very careful never to suffer that fate again.  But what we forget is that this is how we learn.

One thing I noticed when I was putting together quotes for my book A Freemason Said That? is that there are a lot more quotes about failure, than there are about success.  Ben Franklin, FDR, Teddy, John Wayne, Mark Twain, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill . . . the list goes on and on.  They all talked more about failure.  They all understood that it was a big part of success, in fact, it's almost impossible to enjoy success without having survived any number of these "teachable moments." 
When you're doing big things, there are a lot of little things that can go wrong.  You shouldn't be afraid of making mistakes, you should be more afraid of playing it safe.  As John Paul Jones said, "Those who will not risk, can not win."  Success isn't the opposite of failure--success is one of the results.

Next time you stumble and fall flat on your face, remember that those that go through life without making mistakes aren't doing very much.  Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, figure out where you went wrong, and learn something from it.  Then try it again, and again, and again, and again . . .

~TEC

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Uncle Joe Cannon's Famous Shoplifting Case

Originally posted in March 2012


"Uncle Joe" Cannon political cartoon
Tempestuous Illinois Freemason, Joseph Gurney "Uncle Joe" Cannon, served a record-long term as Speaker of the House between November 9, 1903 and March 4, 1911. He was known for his fiery rhetoric, and his iron-fisted rule of Washington D.C. That period of Washington D. C. politics is known as "The Age of Cannon."  His record as Speaker of the House stood for fifty-nine years until another Illinoisian, Dennis Hassert, finally broke it.  When Uncle Joe Cannon finally retired in 1922, he was featured on the very first cover of Time magazine.  He returned to his home on Vermilion Street in Danville, Illinois, where he lived out the remainder of his life.

Abe and Sarah Bush Lincoln
But it was one of Joe Cannon's early cases that was the most interesting. Long before moving to Danville, Illinois, he lived in Tuscola, Illinois, and served as state's attorney for the 27th juducial district between 1861and 1868.  During this time he was sent to Charleston, Illinois to defend a woman accused of shoplifting--she had taken a piece of cloth from a local store.  After interviewing the woman, he learned she'd taken a small swatch of material home to compare the color against a piece she was working on--a common enough practice in that day.  Joe Cannon talked to the judge, and was able to get the charges dropped.  It was just a misunderstanding after all. 

That was fortunate, because it wouldn't have looked good for the President of the United States, a man known as "Honest Abe," to have his step-mother, whom he called "mother" and credited with his sense of humor, convicted of shoplifting in Charleston, Illinois.

That's right, the woman that Joe Cannon went to defend was none other than Sarah Bush Lincoln.

I like to tell a story about a local hero every once in awhile, and Uncle Joe is definitely an iconic character in my part of the world--and of course, Lincoln spent some time here too.  Originally, Joe Cannon was made a Mason in Shelbyville, Illinois, he affliliated with Olive Branch Lodge No. 38 in Danville, Illinois in 1858--that lodge is still thriving.  I was told later, by my friend Michael Shirley (then Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332) that he was also a charter member of that Illinois lodge, where he lived so many years.  He was also a member of Vermilion Chapter No. 82 of the Royal Arch, and the Athelstan Commandery of the Knights Tempar, both in Danville--sadly neither of those are still in existence. 

When I wrote about Uncle Joe Cannon in Famous American Freemasons: Volume II by friend Bob Blacketer, the Secretary of Olive Branch (then and now), went digging through all the musty and dusty records looking for material for the chapter in my book about Uncle Joe--I'd like to thank him again for that. 
~TEC
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