Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lighthouse Keepers Tribute

Stubbornness is often said
To be a trait we all should dread.
Sometimes though it’s plain to see
It watches over you and me.

Look at the beauty a lighthouse gives
Brightening shores where ‘ere you live.
We take for granted that pretty sight
When seen by day, but what by night?

Storms roll in to blast the shore
And seem the worst when people snore.
When most people go to bed
There still is a lot to be said.

Lighthouse keepers look up to skies of gray.
Storm clouds make the moon go away.
Sea’s roll in, smashing water high
As if raining upward into the sky.

Temperatures fall, making water ice.
All burrow in, even the mice.
Ice coats sidewalks, catwalks, rails,
Windows and foghorn, stopping the mails.

When pea soup fog came rolling in
Engines were cut amid foghorns’ din.
Flu season be damned, they went about
Assuring their horn’s mighty shout.

Summer, winter, spring and fall
Regardless of weather, through it all
Lighthouse keepers tended lights and horn.
From all dangers, strangers were warned.

Anonymous lighthouse keepers kept the watch
Whether healthy or well, battening the hatch.
Lesser men couldn’t take what they got
But lighthouse keepers were a stubborn lot.

More men would have died, and women too,
If lighthouse keepers relied on brew.
Instead they faithfully kept light and horn
Through the night and into the morn.

Their faith in God and service to man
Stand many times taller than
The tallest lighthouse tower you see
As a tower of power for you and me.

So while you pass a lighthouse tower
Think of behind the scene power
Of a stubborn man braving nature’s fury
Protecting strangers, no favor to curry.

Loneliness broken by wife and kids,
To some it would be hitting the skids.
Lighthouse keepers stayed firm on the rock,
Sometimes with a boat on the dock.

Lighthouse keepers were saving souls
By light, horn, and boat, what ‘ere nature doles.
Thanks were anonymous as sailors passed by
But better that, than for sailors to die.

The Lighthouse Service filled a great need.
Motivated by service, never by greed.
Though they reached the end of their time
It would positively be a crime.

If we didn’t take the time to say
“Thank you for being there night and day.
As you retire and take your rest
Know your example was of man’s best.”

We kids who lived in lights with you
Could see firsthand all you do,
Your coping with every kind of strife
Taught we kids how to deal with life.

··· Michael Bauchan ···

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sabine Pass Lighthouse, LA

Out of the marshlands in the extreme southwest corner of the “L”-shaped state of Louisiana, an abandoned brick tower points skyward. Eight buttresses flare out from the bottom of the structure, like the fins on a missile. As it rises, the octagonal tower gradually tapers to a conical dome, which completes the image of a rocket poised for liftoff. The proximity of Houston’s Space Center might add further to the credibility of the picture, but closer examination reveals that this monolith is fortunate to be standing, let alone flying. During its life span of roughly a century and a half, the Sabine Pass Lighthouse has survived Civil War battles, innumerable storms, surging floodwaters, a marsh fire, vandalism, and long periods of neglect and indifference. Cameron Preservation Alliance – Sabine Pass Lighthouse, Inc. was formed in 1999 to rescue the lighthouse. The group will hopefully succeed with their ambitious project, permitting individuals to experience this unique lighthouse firsthand, rather than through one-dimensional words and photographs. Work on the eighty-foot brick tower and adjacent wooden dwelling began in the latter part of 1855, and the lighthouse went into service sometime in the late spring or early summer of 1857. As the tower was built on soft marshland, closely spaced wooden pilings were driven into the ground to provide a foundation, and eight buttresses were extended from the base of the tower to distribute its weight over a larger area. Four of the buttresses extended to a radius of ten feet, while the other four protruded an additional eight feet. A third-order Fresnel lens was employed in the lantern room, and the tower and dwelling were painted white. The lighthouse was only in operation for a little over four years, when it fell dark on August 16, 1861, and remained so for the duration of the Civil War. While Southern forces were constructing Fort Griffin on the west bank of the Sabine River, Union soldiers, who were part of the naval blockade of the Sabine River, spied on the progress of the defense works from the top of the Sabine Pass Lighthouse. Five months later, the Battle of Sabine Pass was fought practically in the shadow of the tower. Still, the lighthouse managed to survive the war remarkably well, and on December 23, 1865, it was returned to service after having been reunited with its lens that had earlier been shipped to New York by Union forces. The decision was made to keep the lighthouse active, and in 1932 two ten-foot-wide, black horizontal bands were painted on the tower to make it more visible on hazy days. By 1952, modern technology had further diminished the need for the Sabine Pass Lighthouse, and it was abandoned. In 1953, the federal government turned the property over to the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission that planned to use the buildings as a field station for its game wardens. However, the station was underutilized and was eventually returned to the General Services Administration. In 1971, the property was given to Lamar State College of Technology at Beaumont. The college intended to use the site as a research and teaching complex, but the expense of accessing the station thwarted their plans, and they returned the property to the federal government after four years. A four mile road has been built to the lighthouse, making the lighthouse approachable by land for the first time. This improvement should aide in the restoration effort. To help with their fundraising efforts, the preservation alliance has hosted an annual hayride to the lighthouse. With continued vision and persistence and a healthy grant or two, the project just might take off. References: Lighthouses of Texas, T. Lindsay Baker, 2001. Lighthouses, Lightships, and the Gulf of Mexico, David Cipra, 1997. Cameron Preservation Alliance Historical Book, 2000.