“Who Will Watch the Home Place”

Laurie Lewis & the Bluegrass Pals sing one of the most poignant songs I’ve heard in quite a while. It’s a moving song about the death of a loved one & the loving home they make & keep for us. When the anchor of our life is snapped-up by the grip of death, we must pause from our daily busy schedule to take stock of our future life without the one person who is always there for us.  Common to all humanity our loss is accompanied by disbelief, sadness, uncertainty, & grief.  During those trying hours we most likely feel numb as we go through the scheduled arrangements happening all around us.  Events we normally look forward to now seem meaningless & without purpose.  What will we do without that person who succored us through our many trials & challenges? What will become of us without them? Who will help us now?

Without them by our side our life feels empty & meaningless. Our old joys vanish and any new song must wait until the the light of purpose once again shines forth upon our path.  No-one can answer for us the meaning of our life during our time of grief for we must endure the pain of  losing a precious member of our personhood, much like losing an arm or a leg. Meaning returns only when a state of readiness emerges through our sorrow, much like the growth & emergence of a butterfly from its cocoon. Until the time is right, grief will continue to work its mysterious magic.

As I am a man of humble means, the youtube.com playback is from a live session without all the bells & whistles of the professional sound stage, but it is free.   Despite the lack of electronic sophistication to capture all the rich tones of her voice, the live performance produces for me a wonderful experience that bring smiles to my face & tears to my eyes. I’m mesmerized by its words of wisdom & the bluegrass voice & melody. Who Will Watch the Home Place

Wayfarin’ Strangergarland dale

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Stan the Man: 1920 – 2013

Stanley F. Musial played ball when everything seemed simpler. There were 8-teams in        each league, and only the winners played in the World Series. The season consisted of 152-games, and most players worked in the off season to supplement their income. Steroids and the other performance enhancing drugs were unknown. It was a great time to be a baseball fan. Stan the Man ended his career with a lifetime .331 batting average, 475 homeruns, 3630 hits (1815 at home & 1815 hits away), and a plethora of other records. He was a man who youngsters and adult fans could believe in. One of the greats has gone home and will be missed.              Rest in Peace, Stan the Man. stan-musial

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Pallet on the Floor

As a youngster, when we went to visit for a night or two, there weren’t always enough beds for us children. In that case the woman of the house made us a pallet on the floor. It consisted usually of an old quilt laid on the floor for cushion, a pillow for our head, and a light or heavy blanket for warmth, depending on whether it was summer or winter. I thought nothing of it.

Doc Watson died recently, and this song always reminded me of the matron of the house saying to Tommy and I, “Boys, we’ll make you a pallet on the floor. Sleep tight & don’t let the bed begs bite.” Doc Watson – Make Me a Pallet On Your Floor

Wayfaring Stranger: garland dale

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Titanic & Sultana: April Tragedies

There is no doubt that the Titanic deserves its tragic place in history. The historical account of the Titanic is riveting and ripe with stories about the famous and rich enjoying the luxurious, open decks above, to the poor immigrants below deck fleeing Europe to seek a better life in America. Ship passengers and crew were all looking forward to their journey’s end when tragedy appeared as a thief in the night in the form of an iceberg.

On that silent night, 100 years ago, the Titanic steamed quickly through the ice field before ramming into one of Nature’s colossal sculptures. Her rivets snapped; her thick, iron plates buckled; and the whole behemoth shuttered. The mighty ship went down but was never forgotten. Some passengers and crew faced the end with courage; others desired to be brave, but their legs failed them as they ran away to save their lives. That fateful night, when the Titanic slipped beneath the sea on its journey to the bottom, the sea was as smooth as a mill’s pond.

In the latter part of April, in the year of 1865, an overloaded steamboat named Sultana carried recently released Northern prisoners of war back to their home up river. To make a long story short, the Sultana’s boiler blew up and the steamboat exploded & sunk in the swollen Mississippi River. Seventeen hundred (1700) men lost their lives that night. Because it happened at the end of the Civil War, the incident became lost in history. Timing is every thing in life and history. With 625,000 soldiers lost during the Civil War and the recent assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the Sultana Tragedy became absorbed into the total horror of a vicious war and the national mourning of a martyred President.

While I am drawn to the tragic story of the Titanic and agree with its mythical place in our hearts, I find it interesting how some tragedies become famous while others are lost in the sands of time.  garland dale


 DEATH on the DARK RIVER The Story of the Sultana Disaster in 1865

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Sadaka, the First SuperStar!

Shoshoni Bow & Arrow

Let’s take a long walk back into history some 30,000 years ago when Sadaka, an African warrior, formed the first bow stave out of wood and tethered it to a string made out of antelope sinew to form a formidable and useful instrument. Working diligently and in secret, he continued to craft and test his new hunting piece until the bow and arrow proved superior to his current hunting weapon, the spear. On that happy day he became so excited with his new hunting instrument that he hurried back to his dwelling and shared the good news with his young wife, who had recently given birth to his first son. Seeing his invention for the first time, his wife blurted out in excitement a prophesy, “This thing you constructed will soon become the greatest step forward since we harnessed fire 875,000 years ago. It will rival the invention of the wheel–no doubt about it.” How did she know that? Oh yes, she’s the first prophetess. 

A few days later Sadaka and the other warriors headed out of camp to the hunting grounds beyond the tall grass, beyond the winding stream, close to the big volcano several kilometers away.  As he was the youngest warrior in the hunting party, he brought up the rear; that is, last in line. After a mid-morning, heart-thumping march, they stopped at a water hole to rest and quench their thirst. As they rested, the always vigilant leader of the hunting party took a quick look around to check his men’s readiness to continue the trek to the hunting ground. When he came to Sadaka, the hunting chief noticed his youngest member in the party lacked a spear.

“Sadaka! he yelled, “where’s your spear? How are you going to hunt without your spear?” You will be useless to us today! Why did you come unprepared?

“I brought a new hunting weapon,” he explained, “much better and deadlier than my old spear, so I though I’d bring it with me today to test if it’s really as good as I believe it might be.” After his statement he lowered his eyes and head in deference to his leader and waited for his superior to rule as to his future presence among them.

The leader of the hunting party gave him the eye, turned around and yelled, “Let’s go hunting!” He then spoke in a commanding voice, “Sadaka! keep up with us and don’t get in the way, or I’ll send you home.” Off they went to find meat for their wives & children.

The hunt went well and everyone was extremely impressed by Sadaka’s new hunting weapon, which he called the bow & arrow. The arrow traveled so fast and so far that the amazed warriors found it difficult to follow its flight all the way to its target. Only one problem developed: the sinew string broke during the last shot. Everyone laughed about his new device failing, but all agreed it had lots of potential.

In his spare time back at the campsite Sadaka worked to perfect his new invention, the bow & arrow. Using his extraordinary skills in shaping & picking the right wood for his stave and strengthening his sinew string, he overcame all problems & produced a fine, useful instrument for putting meat on the table for his wife & growing son. He looked at the final product, smiled, and felt the satisfaction that comes with a job successfully and well done. He fell asleep that night with a satisfied mind. Soon, and very soon, others tried to make a bow like Sadaka, but no-one else could make a bow like the Sadaka bow. 

It wasn’t long before the leader of the pack paid him a visit and asked  for a favor. “I tried to make a bow for myself,” the chief said, “but the stave didn’t turn out well. Do me a favor and make me one like yours. I’ll excuse you absence from our hunting party until you complete your assignment.”

Sadaka, knowing his place and desiring to please the chief, got to work right away making the chief a beautiful & efficient bow & arrow set. A week later the chief paid a visit to the young warrior’s dwelling to pick-up his new prize. The following day Sadaka instructed the chief on the proper way to use the new hunting weapon and took him to an open field for live practice. The young warrior turned out to be an excellent instructor as well as a skilled craftsman. The chief warrior was very pleased with his new hunting weapon and proudly used it in all his future hunts, though he continued to carry his familiar spear.

In the following weeks a friend came by, then a brother-in-law, followed by another chieftain, & et cetera & et cetera, all asking Sadaka to make them a bow like his. In no time at all a new one-man operation began. Sadaka kept so busy making bows that he had no time for hunting, no time for his lovely & lonely wife, and no time for relaxation or recreation. He just had time for one thing & one thing only: making bows & arrows and instructing other warriors how to effectively use them.

Like all men in prehistoric times and modern men today, he began feeling abused and taken for granted as he worked hard to provide everyone else with bows & arrows while he received very little in return for all his efforts. Everyone was benefitting from all his work except him. Naturally, he soon tired of being taken advantage of by his chief & fellow tribesmen. They demanded his labor and skills as if they had a right to the most important resources in his life: his time, his talents, and his self interest. The rest of the community prospered while Sadaka slowly and steadily became irritable in his personal relationships, unkept in his appearance, neglectful of his wife, and sloppy in his work.

One day his wife approached him and threatened to take their child and go back to her family if he didn’t straighten up. He explained his situation to her the best he could, but all arguments were in vain, and she left the next morning. Poor Sadaka, the future looked bright just a few months ago. Ever since he invented the bow & arrow his life had turned to crap. He laid down under a small shade tree and fell asleep with a heavy heart.

He didn’t know it, but his fame had traveled far and wide by prehistoric measures. His bow & arrow invention was the talk of the land, a small area now in the country of Kenya.  The small tribe down the creek wanted to talk to him about coming to their small encampment to manufacture bows & arrows for them and their allies. They would reward him amply with a hut, a new wife, plenty of meat, roots, & fruit to eat. Most importantly, they would allow him two days off every week just to relax, play, and watch the wrestling matches held each week at the biggest camp down the big river. They would provide transportation in their big dugout canoes.  they made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

The next day his old warrior friends & the chief looked on as warrior Sadaka left their small campsite. They hated to see him go, but they finally realized his worth & wished they had rewarded him for his work & skills. The chief learned it was wise to reward talented and gifted individuals like Sadaka who made their life better, their life safer, their life more productive, and their life more enjoyable. Sadaka never returned to his home tribe. They lost a precious member due to neglect and a failure to understand human nature.

Let this story be a lesson to all: Don’t neglect natural law & the desire for people to be free to pursue their own happiness. I’ve Gotta Be Me sung by Sammy Davis, Jr.   

Wayfarin’ Strangergarland dale

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The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950, Part 4 of 4

Surface Chart, 1:30 am November 26, 1950

Bobby’s maternal grandmother lived conveniently a short distance from his house, giving him ample occasion to visit her after his dad’s death. As her 1st grandchild she worried about him more now and paid extra attention to his wants & needs. Her oldest daughter needed more support as well, so her #1 grandson began staying overnight more often. During the summer vacations he often stayed the whole weekend and played outside with his uncle T, who was a little younger than he; he came inside from time-to-time to tease his  pretty aunts. He always enjoyed himself at grandma’s.

Saturday night baths were still a ritual for boys and girls in the early 1950s, and before going to bed Bobby & Tommy took their bath, put on their pajamas, and asked grandma/mother to tell them a nighttime story. She always obliged them by telling chilling ghost stories experienced by her, her parents, or by other family members; true adventures about her family moving by covered wagon from Kentucky to Illinois; fascinating stories about great men of the Bible like David & Samson; and our favorite one we called, the Mad Dog Story. When alone with Bobby, she always finished with his birth story. “They rolled you out of the delivery room and stopped so I could take a look; you were so cute and special. The very first thing you did was to yawn g-r-e-a-t big. You were my first grand baby and I immediately fell in love with you.” She told the birth story with such pleasure & sincerity that Bobby never grew tired of hearing her tell it. At grandma’s house Bobby always felt loved & wanted. No matter how trivial his problem, she always took time to stop & listen, the hardest thing in life to master.

Bobby cannot remember the first time he experienced the Texas Eastern phenomenon, as he named it, but he only heard it at his grandma’s house. It happened something like the following. One night before falling asleep at grandma’s house, the window next to his bed began vibrating in a dull, hypnotic rattle. At first he didn’t know what caused it, but he soon learned. The window next to his bed began rattling each time the huge motors at Texas Eastern came alive to keep its natural gas product moving on down the pipeline. From that night forward, whenever the window began to rattle, Texas Eastern became a conduit to remember his dad, the sacred place his daddy worked when he met his untimely death. When the night winds were still, Bobby heard the monstrous motors start-up, followed almost immediately by the drumming of the window, as if to say, remember me, remember me. No-one ever suggested window putty.

Bobby enjoyed the noise of the rapid, dull rattle as it masked the night noises that sometime kept him awake. The rattling windows never annoyed him at all; quite the contrary, it felt good to remember his late father, plus the hypnotic sound of the vibrating window melted away all his fears of the night. From that time on Texas Eastern became an important symbol to Bobby.

Whenever Bobby and his mother traveled to the county seat of White County to shop, see a movie, or eat at a restaurant, they passed the Texas Eastern Pump Station. Each time and every time, just before making a left onto the two-lane highway heading north on Route 1, he looked silently & solemnly toward the pump station and remembered his dad. Hearing & seeing became conduits for assisting Bobby to keep his dad alive in his memory.

Recently, from across the ocean, Bobby looked at the pump station through the eyes of Google Earth, then traveled to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery.

Other objects reminded him of his dad as well. His mother, Gerry, displayed for some time a beautiful nude statue carved for her by Dale. Bobby heard some people say the full body figure was carved in his mother’s likeness. Bobby saw it often for a number of years until on day he found it broken in half around the knees. He saw it after that for a while; then, one day, some way, some how, it disappeared.

Uncle Richard, who adored his older brother Dale, talked to Bobby sometimes about his father. When his Uncle Richard talked about his brother’s carvings he listened intensely & soaked up everything he said.

“Dale told me,” said Uncle Richard, “that one of the hardest & most difficult parts of the human anatomy to reproduce accurately are the hands.” Bobby found that bit of information difficult to understand at the time, but he accepted it as the gospel.

One of Bobby’s favorite carvings, a partially completed one, showcased a man on his knees, his hands tied behind him, looking up into the heavens in a prayerful pose. His hands, bound behind his back & nearly finished, were magnificently carved in fine detail. The rope wrapped tightly around the condemned man’s wrists was carved by a master’s hand to the smallest detail. The overall appearance reminded Bobby, now a teenager, of a captured soldier knowing his execution is imminent. The legs and chest were partially completed with the head unfinished, except for some initial cuts. Bobby felt the partially finished carving reflected his dad’s life, both unfinished but very promising if only … .

Throughout the years Bobby searched for answers to discover what happened on the day his father froze to death in the New Heaven bottoms. Most of his inquiries went nowhere, or were tainted with contradiction, confusing facts, and worse of all, no information at all. Then one day, questioning his Aunt Connie about it, she mentioned without hesitation the “bitter” cold temperature that night. Several years later and after a final decision to write a few words about this painful part of his life, he remembered his Aunt’s comment and took action. He searched the Internet to find out the temperature on the night his dad died. He found what he was looking for and more.

By typing in 1950 Thanksgiving into the Google search bar, he received information he never expected. Upon first glance he didn’t know if it meant anything at all, but it soon became apparent to Bobby that he had hit the jackpot.  The only thing better would be a written copy of the inquest held to determine the cause of his Dad’s death. Bobby traveled by car to the county in which his father died and requested to see the documents concerning his dad’s death. The county secretary returned with a ledger book and showed him a handwritten note indicating an inquest was held on such-and-such a date with no indication of wrongdoing, but the written record of the inquest wasn’t kept at the courthouse. The secretary said the coroner who conducted the inquest at that time kept all inquest files in his office. Later that same day Bobby learned when the coroner retired, he took all the inquest files with him to his house. The coroner had since died, and no-one who Bobby talked to that day knew anything helpful to his search. “What a revolting development this is,” Bobby thought, and he went home.

The Internet Search:                                              

The National Weather Service in Jackson, Ky reports that 3-feet of snow fell in parts of Ohio, and 57″ of snow fell in parts of West Virginia. On the Epic Disaster Website the Thanksgiving Storm of 1950 resulted in 353 deaths and is listed as #3 in their list of the worst storms of the century. In all the websites Bobby visited, the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950 was considered to be near the top of all-time winter storms of the past century. In Norman Phillips Symposium, Robert E. Kistler writes: “At the time of the storm, the manually derived forecasts of the day were unable to anticipate this extreme event.”  The breadth of the storm, the extreme low temperatures, the snows, the windstorms, and the flooding caught everyone by surprise.  Again from the National Weather Service for Jackson, KY: “Perhaps the bigger story with this one was the bitter cold air that poured into Kentucky in its Wake.” By checking the weather history for November 25, 1950, the National Weather Service (Indianapolis, IN) reports these temperatures: Evansville, IN (3), St. Louis (-4), & Paducah, KY (-3). These temperatures should pretty well reflect those in New Haven, IL, with Evansville about 25 miles to the east.

To summarize Bobby’s research is the fact that this mammoth storm quickly deepened into one of the monster storms of the century. The speed in which it moved caught everyone by surprise. Empowered with this new information Bobby can imagine his father & Bob traveling to their destination during decent weather-at least far from extreme, unloading their boat and equipment, and anticipating a successful duck hunt, unaware that a bitter & deadly cold spell is on its way.

How could they know that before the day ended both men would be struggling to stay alive. For Bobby it explained most of the question marks about his dad’s death. From looking at the charts & information presented by the weather service & others on the Internet Websites, Bobby concluded his dad probably died from hypothermia about the time the Nor’easter reached its maximum strength at 1:30 am on November 26, 1950.

Instead of wondering why his dad made such poor decisions during a crisis, Bobby learned mother nature made an unexpected turn beyond the knowledge available to all men at that time. One of the top ten storms of the century caught many men, women, boys, and girls by surprise, resulting in 353 deaths. Bobby knew now his father was caught unaware, out in the open in bitter cold and windy conditions, by a very unusual weather event uncommon to man & beyond prediction at the time. It was like the perfect storm of its day, but with no computers, satellites, or models available to the weatherman of that day to see it coming. It’s a wonder Dale’s friend, Bob, made it to safety.

But one questions remains: Why didn’t anyone in his family ever mention the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950? Maybe, just maybe, no-one in his family ever heard about it. Bobby didn’t until recently.

Celine Dion sings My Heart Will Go ON, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiy9YB1coMw, the theme song from the movie Titanic.   

Wayfarin’ Strangergarland dale

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The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950, Part 3 of 4


Most of what took place during the funeral will forever remain absent from Bobby’s memory except for two final scenes that are filled with emotional pain and flashes of faded images. Those scenes occurred during the final viewing of his father’s corpse. It all happened in a simple wooden Church next to the Ebenezer grave yard. Whether regular church services occurred there at the time, or whether it opened its doors only for funerals, Bobby never knew for sure.  He formed the impression a bit later in his life that it only opened its doors for funerals. Many year ago the little wooden church was torn down & never replaced. Its absence was another loss for Bobby as the existence of the Church supported his memory of what happened on that day & stood as a memorial to mark a tragic event in his life.

Scene 5  The minister concludes his eulogy with a few comforting words for family & friends, and the congregation of mourners stand up and pass by Dale’s open casket for the final viewing. Bobby, unmoved by the funeral service thus far, suddenly awakens to the emptiness & pain of losing his father and begins to cry copiously. He hasn’t felt this way since his mother came through the doorway of their home several days ago and abruptly announced his father’s death. He turns to his mother sitting next to him, rises upon his knees in the pew, & wraps his arms tightly around her neck. In between sobs he implores his mother to be there for him:  “Mom, don’t ever go away.  Please, don’t ever leave me. Promise me that you’ll never leave me.” He repeats these same lines again several times in a dramatic show of grief. It’s like he woke up all of a sudden and realized the gravity of what was happening to him: My dad is gone for good and not coming back.  This is final & finished!

His mother, with tears running down her cheeks & dealing with her own grief, promises her son tenderly & lovingly that she will never leave him. With all the strength she has left she whispers into his ear with a firm but emotional voice, “I’ll never leave you Bobby; don’t worry, I’ll never leave you.” Those words comfort her son. Bobby remains sitting in the pew as his mom visits his dad for the last time just before the casket lid is closed for eternity.

Scene 6  From the pew Bobby hears a mournful cry of psychic pain as trembling words issue forth in deep despair, praying for the impossible to come to pass. He looks up and sees his mother in great distress, appearing to him as if she may crawl into the casket with his father. The beautiful wife, very close & looking directly into her husband’s face, pleads with him one last time, hoping for a miracle: “Dale! Dale! Please don’t leave me, please don’t go. I can’t go on without you! Dale, I beg you, don’t leave me now! What will I do without you?”

Bobby remains confused about his mother’s continuing efforts in exhorting her dead husband to defy death & return to her. Or is she till tying to join his dad in the casket? Despite his thoughts he is not frightened that she might actually go with him, for there isn’t enough room for her in the casket to do so. After a fairly short amount of time, several members of the family approach Gerry and gently pull her away from the casket and escort her toward the church door. Bobby watches his bereaved mother exit the church. Her gait is unsteady and her cries are unremitting as she disappears from his sight and crosses the road. It is a short distance from the church to the burial site. For Bobby, the remainder of the funeral service that is to be held at the grave site is forever hidden from him and remains locked up in the vault of forgotten memories.

After that day life continued without his dad’s presence. Here today and gone tomorrow took on a new meaning as he continued to grow. (To Be Continued)

A song for the occasion:  Tragedy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OZxrh3zBTo sung by the Brenda Lee-1961.

warfarin’ Stranger:  garland dale

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The Great Appalachian Storm of 1950, Part 2 of 4

In scene 3   A fine lady of the community finds Bobby playing in a corner of his house as late morning visitors continue to file by to view the body of his dead father.  The sun is shinning brightly through the front room picture window, revealing no trace of the bitter cold-spell wrought in the wake of the recent storm, the Katrina disaster of its day.  Being a Christian woman & a mother of a 12-year-old boy, Ronnie, Mrs. H takes pity on the youngster and decides to offer his mother some assistance during her hour of need.  Thereupon she approaches quietly the playing child, taps him on the shoulder, and speaks plainly & softly.  “Would you like to come to my house & play with some of my son’s toys?”   Bobby looks up for a moment then looks back down as he is unfamiliar with her, but he knows who she is.    Mrs. H is not put-off by his failure to respond to her invitation and further encourages him to accept by saying, “My son has an electric train set, and I bet you would like to play with it?”  Bobby’s eyes lite up as he instantly looks up at her.  He cannot refuse a chance to play with a toy electric train, so he leaves the safety of his home and travels across town to Mrs H’s home, just a few minutes away.

Upon arriving he jumps out of the car & follows Mrs. H into her house.  He feels a little strange about going into an unfamiliar place, but the chance to play with an electric train set overcomes all his apprehension in following her into a strange house, then into the play room.  He notices immediately her house is fancier & larger than his, but further inspection remains secondary to his desire to see & play with the electric train, something he has longed to do since becoming aware that such a toy exists.

Scene 4  Walking into the play room with Bobby close behind, Mrs. H spends a few minutes showing him all the toys, then she leaves the room to allow the youngster some privacy to engage in the fantasies of play that only children can do at his age.  Bobby goes immediately to the train set and inspects each piece by lifting it off the track.  He inspects carefully the engine, every car, & finally the caboose; then he places all, one-by-one, back upon the track, as if he’s a jeweler working to win a prize by putting together a mechanical clock for navigating across the Atlantic Ocean.  When all is ready, he carefully inches forward the control switch to move the train across the circular track.  He feels like a real engineer as he maneuvers the train around the track over & over.  After several hours of play, he leaves Mrs. H’s abode hearing the hit tune by Red Foley,  Chattanooga Shoe shine boy.
Watching Bobby play with the electric train set, one might underestimate his loss.  As a matter of fact, he felt the weight of his father’s death throughout the remainder of his life, especially strong during the Thanksgiving Holidays.  Back at the house visitors continued to pass-by his father’s casket, saying goodbye one last time to a young man of the community & a WW II veteran of the Pacific Theater.

Dale, Bobby’s Dad

(To be continued)  Wayfarin’ Strangergarland dale

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