Proficiency

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Adam Thayer


Last night, I sat my annual re-certification for individual proficiency. In Nebraska, we have multiple levels of proficiency; there is the proficiency you have to prove before moving to the next degree, the proficiency that each lodge much perform annually to show that they are performing the degrees correctly, and the “blue standard” of proficiency, the individual proficiency.

In Nebraska, to obtain your individual proficiency, you have to perform roughly 80% of the ritual work from memory (the remaining 20% is “monitorial”, or able to be read from a book). You are allowed to make up to three mistakes during the recitation. If performed in a single session (which is generally not done these days), you will speak for approximately 5 ½ hours, start to finish. Very few people actually undertake the ordeal, and of those who do, most people take a year or longer to finish all three degrees and all of the lectures.

For those few who do, the work is far from over; to keep the proficiency, you’re required to perform all of the degree work and lecture work on an annual basis, in a “round table” format. The round table format is pretty much exactly how it sounds; a group of men sit around a table, each taking turns going through the lines, one after another. Instead of focusing on one role (as you normally would for degree work), you’re constantly shifting from one officer to the next, and never really know what you’ll end up doing the next time around the table.

I personally find the round table format more challenging even than the solo recitation that was required to originally obtain proficiency; with the solo recitation, you can get into a rhythm, and as long as you don’t lose your place you will be ok. In the round table, you never really find a rhythm, and you’re relying on others to perform their role correctly as well. Of course, the balance is that you’ll repeat less lines overall, and depending on the number of brothers there it may be significantly less.

Now, if your state follows a similar proficiency path (or whatever you may call it), that was probably unnecessary background. I’m sad to admit that I don’t know much about proficiency outside of Nebraska.

What I noticed this evening, however, were experiences that I bet are universal to Freemasons. I saw brothers helping each other out when they got stuck; never in a condescending manner, but solely for the joy of helping a brother in need. We would each offer a clue to the missing word or words, and if it was obvious that he was really stuck, there was someone who would step in and take over for him by silent agreement.

It wasn’t the grand gesture that we think about when we think of helping a brother in need, it was the more everyday aid and assistance that we pride ourselves on without ever bragging about.

I’m not really certain that there is a “moral” to this story, as much as a reminder of the little things that separate us from the rest of the world. We have many great moments of “big” charity work, times when many people are affected by our actions, and it’s easy to forget about how much larger of an impact these tiny moments can have.

If you haven’t ever obtained your individual proficiency, it is definitely worth pursuing. Even if it takes you a long time to get through all of your proficiency exams (hey, it took me a year and a half), you should still work toward it, as you’ll gain a deeper understanding of our rituals and their meanings. In fact, the whole reason I worked on mine was so that it would be easier for me to research other Masonic topics without having to constantly pull out my ritual book. As a nice bonus, you’ll get to see a quiet moment of Masonic charity up close and personal.

~AT

WB. Bro. Adam Thayer is the Senior Warden of Lancaster Lodge No. 54 in Lincoln (NE) and a past master of Oliver Lodge No. 38 in Seward (NE). He’s an active member in the Knights of Saint Andrew, and on occasion remembers to visit the Scottish and York Rites as well. He continues to be reappointed to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska Education Committee, and serves with fervency and zeal. He is a sub-host on The Whence Came You podcast, and may be reached at adam@wcypodcast.com. He will not help you get your whites whiter or your brights brighter, but he does enjoy conversing with brothers from around the world!

From the East to the West

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM



It was a beautiful autumn morning in Central California in 1936. The rays of the sun began to cast a beautiful light on the fruit trees, which were beginning to bear their bounty.

Robert Hayes went out to his mailbox to fetch the morning paper. Robert loved the mornings, even though his love of the morning rarely showed through his usual grumpiness. This was his time of the day to read and catch up with the events of the world while his wife fixed his breakfast. Robert slowly sat down on his rocking chair stationed on the front porch of his modest home. The quiet morning was disrupted by the sound of a truck making its way down his driveway.

The Model-A pickup came to a stop near the front porch where Hayes was sitting. Over the top of his paper, he could see the truck was loaded down with furniture. Hayes could see several sets of eyes peering at him from behind the furniture stacked on every available inch of this old Ford.

“Good morning! I'm sorry to bother you sir. I wonder if you could spare some water. My radiator has run dry.” The man sitting on his front porch looked up from his newspaper and he looked the man up and down. “The well is right over there, help yourself.” he said with a grumble.

“Thank ya sir., My name is Chester, my friends call me Chet.” Chet took his bucket to the well and pumped it full of water. “I do appreciate your kindness.” The man on the porch replied with a surly grunt. Chet tried to strike up a friendly conversation. “Beautiful place you have here sir, everything is so green. It's been a long time since we seen such lush ground and those beautiful fruit trees.” Hayes grunted his agreement.

Chester swallowed hard “I hate to ask you sir but are you hiring fruit pickers? My family and I are good workers and we could sure use the money. We ain't asking for a handout. We work for everything we get.”

Hayes not bothering to look up from the paper said “Nope! We got everyone we need. Ain't hiring.” Chester’s heart began to beat faster. After clearing his throat the nervousness in his voice made it crack as he began to say “Are you sure Brother? My family and I are awfully hungry and we are nearly out of money. We could sure use the work.”

The redness in Hayes’s face began to show as he, in one motion threw his paper to the floor of the porch and he rose from his chair. “You damn Okies!” Hayes said in an angry tone of voice “You damn Okies ruin your ground, taking every single time of it growing wheat, not caring for the land you own and when the winds come and blows your soil to kingdom come you high tail it out of there!” Hayes tirade continued “I don't know if you are aware of this mister but the rest of the country is in a depression too. The local folk here are barely making it too and they need jobs too! You give me one good reason why I should turn away one of my neighbors and give their jobs to you and your brood? Then, to add insult to injury you have the unmitigated Gaul to call me your Brother! Mister I've never laid eyes on your my whole life and you think you can come in here and claim to be my family? The nerve you got!”

Chester lowered his head. There was silence for a second as Chester looked Hayes in the eyes, which were red with anger. “I'm sorry sir. I didn't mean to insult you.” As Chester’s shaking hands began to make a sign. “I seen the ring you are wearing” Chester said in a quiet, nervous voice. “I'm not sure how things are done here in California but back in Oklahoma this here is the way we signal distress. Theres some words that go with it too.”

Hayes face showed his surprise. “Are you telling me you are a Freemason?” Chester slowly nodded his head. “Yes sir, I am a Past Master and now former Treasurer of Guymon lodge 335 in Guymon, Oklahoma.“

Chet continued “Before the devil winds started I was an accountant. I had practiced for many years. I kept the books and did the taxes for most of the farmers and the businesses in Texas County. Ten years ago business was booming and all of us were doing pretty well when the wheat prices were high. We had a strong lodge and luckily we built up a large charity fund."

“When the stock market crashed and the winds came, our world was turned upside down. We tried to take care of each other and we did pretty well for several years. We made sure everyone had food and folks could keep their houses. We had hoped God would take pity on us and stop the winds but sadly, it wasn't meant to be. Banks began to foreclose on all the farmers and I lost my house. Eventually everyone's money ran out. We tried to hold out but we became nearly destitute. I traded our family sedan for this pickup and we took what little money we had left to join everyone else here in California.”

Chester lowered his head “I know eventually things will work out. Myself and my family have faith in the Grand Architect of the Universe. He will deliver us to the promised land. Thank you for the water sir. As soon as I get this water into the radiator we will be on our way” Chester turned around and began to walk back to his truck.

Hayes stood in his place. The redness of his face in anger began to be replaced with the redness of embarrassment. “Hang on. Stop right there brother.” Hayes lowered his head and began to talk in a hushed tone. “I need to apologize to you. Since the economy crashed we have had all kinds of hobos, sharpies and other sorts pull in that driveway. Everyone of them begged for a handout or money. I keep hearing on the radio all about you Okies coming in here trying to take jobs away from local folks. “ Hayes continued while gazing at his boots “Being a Mason I should understand about charity more than others. There was one point I found myself in a penniless, destitute situation."

The old man looked at Chester, a tear began to form in the corners of his eyes. “Tell you what. Pull your truck over by the barn and if you like set up camp. If you were just a typical okie with no skills other than farming I probably could help you but I just happen to know the local accountant in town, he is a member of my lodge. He is elderly and has been considering retirement but has been reluctant because there isn't anyone to take his place. If you can prove to him you know what you are talking about he might take you on as a partner and maybe eventually you could own the place. I'll also take you to lodge if you can work your way in. You get that truck settled and bring the youngins and your wife in the house. I'm sure the misses will be happy to fry y'all up some bacon and eggs. She might even have some biscuits. Come to think of it she has been wanting a housekeeper and a cook. Do you think your wife would want the job.”

Chester who was standing in the driveway in shock said with a newly created smile on his face “I'm sure she would but I've been married long enough to know better than to say yes without her permission.”

Hayes actually smiled and began to laugh “A man of good judgment! I think you are going to do fine here! Get that truck pulled over and come on inside!”

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Don't Shoot, We're Republicans! - Revisiting a Classic

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steve L. Harrison, 33˚, FMLR


Editors Note: This piece originally published quite some time ago by Bro. Harrison always struck me as absolutely unbelievable. It's worth reposting and your attention as it will assuredly make you chuckle and put you in a state of disbelief. ~RHJ

Brother Franklin D. Roosevelt, Holland Lodge 8 of New York City, crossed the Atlantic in November 1943, to attend a World War II summit. While the President was en route traveling on the USS Iowa battleship, the navy arranged a demonstration of firepower for its commander-in-chief. At the start of the trip the battleship William D. Porter joined the Iowa to show off its capabilities for FDR. While weighing anchor the Porter ripped the lifeboat mountings off of a sister destroyer, rendering the damaged ship un-seaworthy. The following day, a depth charge fell from the Porter and exploded, requiring all area ships, including the Iowa, to take evasive maneuvers. Two days later, during the demonstration, crew members inadvertently fired a live torpedo at the President's ship. Learning this, Brother Roosevelt asked to be taken deck-side so he could watch! Again forced to take evasive action, the Iowa barely avoided the live "fish."

After the incident with the torpedo, the Porter was quarantined and the entire crew arrested. Later, the ship's captain, Lieutenant Commander Wilfred A. Walter, and several of his officers were sentenced to shore duty. Lawton Dawson, who was responsible for releasing a live torpedo, was sentenced to 14 years at hard labor. Fortunately for Dawson, a compassionate Roosevelt gave him a presidential pardon.

The "Willie Dee," as it came to be known, and the remainder of its crew were "exiled" to Alaska, where most assumed it couldn't get into trouble. This held true until a drunken crew member accidentally fired a live round of ammunition into the base commander's house while amusing himself on one of The Porter’s big guns. The unfortunate incident was compounded by the fact that the commander was hosting a party and several surprised dignitaries were at his home when the shell hit.

By this time, the ship's reputation was so bad, whenever it pulled into port sailors from other ships would greet it by begging, "Don't shoot, we're Republicans!" The catcall implied the Porter’s crew shot at FDR because he was a Democrat.

The war in the Pacific required every piece of firepower the US could muster. Reluctantly, the Navy called the Porter into service at Okinawa where, not unexpectedly, it shelled another American battleship. After that incident, the Navy moved the Willie Dee farther out to sea where it could do no harm, but where it was also a sitting duck. A Kamikaze pilot spotted the isolated ship and set it as his target. Fortunately, the pilot missed the Porter badly and dove into the sea. Unfortunately, his plane exploded and the concussion capsized the battleship. In the end and true to form, a hapless Kamikaze pilot had sunk the hapless Willie Dee. Miraculously, however, every single crew member survived the incident when another Navy ship came to the rescue.

Somewhat ironically, the battleship was named for US Navy Commodore William D. Porter, who had a distinguished career. He commanded the Essex during the Civil War and was instrumental in several Union victories. Brother Porter was a member of St. John Lodge 11, Washington, DC.

Although the saga of the Willie Dee has its humorous side, historians agree Brother Roosevelt was in legitimate danger when the torpedo nearly struck the Iowa. Had the episode ended tragically, the war and history may have taken a different turn with Brother Henry Wallace in command.

~SH

Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.

Boots Across America

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
Bro. Aaron R. Gardner, 32˚


Over the past couple years, I attempted to raise awareness to the number of veterans who were losing their personal wars after returning home in an effort known as “Brothers in Aprons for Brothers in Uniform”. The concept was easy, donate money to help other organizations that assisted in finding military personnel that were living homeless in our country and forward them a hoping chance at survival and becoming effective citizens in the United States again. For so much money raised, I would run a mile. However, the attempt didn’t go as according to planned.

The initial mission was to have as many lodges across the country raise money in their lodge and that money would go toward the efforts by individuals that would scour the homeless populations, searching for veterans. Understandably, many lack the confidence in what their money is actually going towards. However, over the time that this awareness mission was in effect the number of people liking the facebook page, “Brothers in Aprons for Brothers in Arms”, has multiplied. Forcing me to believe that all wasn’t lost; people still do care and want to help where they can, even if it isn’t in helping raise funds.

Therefore, I am attempting another mission that will still provide that sense of duty from our Masonic Brothers toward the brothers and sisters who have written a blank check to the defense of this great nation. This is titled “Boots Across America”. Yet, again the mission is simple. Raise money to help various organizations that make veterans, military members, police officers and other public service members, the main focus.

To help alleviate the issues that arise when raising money, the goal is to establish a location in every lodge across the country that members can give in their own ability to an organization that has been agreed upon by the lodge at the time the lodge has agreed to donate the money. This will help keep the rest of brothers who are unsure of what they are paying for. Below this article I have included a list of various charities that make an effort to help our military, police, firefighters and EMTs.

If the national level of charitable organizations is something your lodge is not interested in providing for, it is completely understandable. There are local organizations that are in dire need of your assistance. My local lodge has recently decided to take an old boot of mine and use it to collect any monies that brethren are willing to donate, and attribute it toward local fund raising money for monuments for the Gold Star Mothers and Blue Star Mothers in Genesee County, which I will be publishing an article on my “Off Topic” blog, as well as different newspapers in the local area.

If your lodge would like to help contribute to any fund that offers assistance toward our military, police, firefighters and emts; I would highly suggest you place a boot in your lodge that allows for loose change to be donated. Perhaps, you can use the boot at your monthly pancake breakfast or whatever else you use to help raise money for the lodge and your lodge’s endeavors. If you would like access to a boot, access to a public presentation of this event, or anything else, you may contact me via telephone or email (located at the bottom of this article, just before the chartiable organizations). I would be honored to provide an old combat boot of mine, or to come to your lodge to provide a presentation about what “Boots Across America” is all about.

~ARG

Aaron R. Gardner (aarongardner@aaronrgardner.com) (810) 423-3932

List of Charities
Military oriented: 

Police Oriented:
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund: http://www.nleomf.com/
Correctional Peace Officers Foundation: http://cpof.org/

Fire Fighter Oriented:
National Fallen Firefighters Foundation: https://www.firehero.org/

EMT Oriented
NAEMT Foundation: http://www.naemt.org/foundation.aspx