Soap Box

Little Joe's Christmas

Usually a week before Christmas, my father would gather some of his World War II veterans for dinner. They would reminisce about their days in the service. One of my favorite stories that he recounted was that of “Little Joe” and Gus. Recently, while rummaging through memorabilia that my dad left me, I found a small sketch that he did of “Little Joe” and Gus. It prompted me to recall this tale.

On Dec. 16, 1944, the Germans attacked an 80-mile front along the Ardennes. My father was an infantryman with the 1st Division during that time. Near the town of Bullingen, Belgium, in the Northern Sector, fighting became fierce and chaos reigned. My dad’s buddy and squad leader was Gus. They were ordered to reconnoiter a small hamlet. As they cautiously entered, they found it deserted except for a small mongrel dog. Gus stuck the dog in his wool coat and they continued patrolling only to find the village abandoned. On returning from their reconnaissance, they brought this mangy little character to the allied lines. Gus dubbed him “Little Joe.” He quickly became the platoon mascot.

Within the next six hours, there was a thunderous barrage as the Germans began their offensive. Apparently Little Joe was spooked and ran into a snowy field. Gus instinctively ran after the little pup. About 200 yards from the trench, Gus was hit by a sniper. My father and his comrades watched in horror. There was no attempt to rescue Gus as the German infantry had their unit pinned down. They couldn’t see Gus through the drifts and sleet. They only hoped that Gus was still alive.

By evening they heard a faint barking in the distance. This alerted them that Gus may surely still be alive. The platoon waited till dark, and my dad and a few corpsmen crawled into the field to rescue Gus. They finally reached him, and to their surprise they found Little Joe lying on his chest. Apparently, the sapper’s bullet had penetrated both legs but miraculously missed any vital arteries. The corpsman believed that “Little Joe,” by lying on Gus’ chest, kept him alive through the freezing night. Gus was dragged back and was driven to a field hospital. Little Joe wouldn’t leave his side. A few months later, a photo was sent to my father of Gus and “Little Joe” celebrating Christmas in northern France. My father always said, “In the darkest of times, always look for the light.” Little Joe was surely Gus’s little beacon. I looked for the photo but all I could find was the sketch.

– Burt Baldwin, Ignacio

Thanks for doing a thankless Job

To the editor,

Despite the peculiar yet popular predilection by the populace to vote against tax increases and yearn for keeping things the way they were (hey, like Rico), I would like to recognize one of the unheralded services that are incredibly cost-efficient, well run (despite being woefully understaffed) and one that helps keep Durango a great place to live and not just a place to visit (like Silverthorne): Code Enforcement. I’ve spent most of my career in construction and infrastructure management and quickly learned that the only thing worse than well-managed infrastructure is one that is ignored. Kudos to Steve Barkley and his crew for their good work!

– JD Watson, Durango

Best pick-me-up is helping others

To the editor,

For those that have the basics of a warm bed, bathroom and meals – count your lucky stars. Giving back to family and friends in an emergency will always be in us to do everywhere on Earth.

The “other people” in dire need, whom we do not know personally, are here in the USA, caravan asylum seekers and refugees from the Middle East (who rarely get coverage because of the hundreds of killed/jailed journalists), many more and last to be thought about seriously at the bottom rung.

All of the “other people” have their own personal story, either true or a desperate little lie that works to generate enough money for the ache in the belly.

Buddy, if you can spare a dime, here in our area, please think about Women’s Resource Center. A potluck every other month at the Rochester Hotel is where you can pitch in 35 bucks toward a group of local people needing a one-time chance for help.

If you got more to spare, do local and global giving year-around. Feels good, promise.

– Sally Florence, Durango

Vermont – for Rilke

Tell me again about that clearing in the woods where she kissed you for the first time. Immortals – angels – never tire of those stories. That is love, isn’t it? That image, that memory? Clothed ineradicably in self and time when the caustic is removed. What we don’t have. It is your story, not ours – tell it again, while you can, to those of us removed from all actuality or potentiality except in essence. We muses long to cry once more forever as you have. Not like you, because of the loss, in time, but for the gift of its happening after all.

– Christian Hatfield, Durango

Broken street lights pose hazard

To the editor,

There are a lot of street lights along the River Trail and on Bennett Street that are out. There is also a street light at the 32nd Street boat launch that has been flashing like a strobe light for over two weeks, which is dangerous for a couple reasons: one being the amount of deer that cross right there, and the second being the vision of the people biking, running and driving. Now that it is winter and the days are short, it would be nice to be able to go out and exercise safely or walk after work and to be able to see and not get potentially hit by a car.

– Amanda St Pierre, Durango