Harry Truman's Prayer

by Midnight Freemasons contributor
Michael Shirley

Harry Truman was not an overtly religious man. He was a Baptist and read the Bible a good deal, but credited Freemasonry rather than his church for prompting him to do so. He was far more concerned with making his way in this world than with speculating on his place in the next. But he was a man of prayer, and of one prayer in particular, which he recorded in his diary on August 15, 1950:

"The prayer on this page has been said by me--by Harry S. Truman--from high school days, as a window washer, bottle duster, floor scrubber in an Independence, Mo., drugstore, as a timekeeper on a railroad contract gang, as an employee of a newspaper, as a bank clerk, as a farmer riding a gang plow behind four horses and mules, as a fraternity official learning to say nothing at all if good could not be said of a man, as public official judging the weaknesses and shortcomings of constituents, and as President of the United States of America."

Oh! Almighty and Everlasting God, Creator of Heaven, Earth and the Universe:

Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right; make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellowmen - help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings -- even as Thou understandest mine!

Amen, Amen, Amen

And Amen.

~MHS

W.B. Michael H. Shirley is Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He's also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He's also a member of the newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

The Masonic Philosophy of George Washington: Part II Founding Principals

by Midnight Freemasons contributor
James E. Frey, 32┬║
(This is the second part of Bro. Frey's series--you'll find his first installment here)

The Watson-Cassoul apron given to George Washington (1782)
In August 10, 1782 Washington wrote the earliest surviving exchange of his Masonic correspondents. These early letters were with his Brother and friend Elkanah Watson presenting him with a specialized Masonic Apron symbolizing the union of France and the newly formed republic under the All Seeing Eye of Providence. This apron is now in possession of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 in Alexandria, Virginia.  In his memoirs Bro. Watson states:

“Wishing to pay respect to our beloved Washington, I employed, in conjunction with my friend M. Cassoul, nuns in one the convents at Nantes to prepare some elegant Masonic ornaments, and gave them a plan for combining the American and French Flags on the apron designed for this use. They were executed in a superior and expensive style. We transmitted them to America accompanied by an appropriate address.” (Men and Times of the Revolution, Elkanah Watson,1856, pp. 135, 136)
 
The Layfayette Apron
This Apron is not to be confused with the apron hand made by Bro. Layfayette Washington received at Mount Vernon in 1784. Along with this apron received from Watson and Cassoul, they included a letter celebrating the Masonic character of Washington and the Masonic destiny of the American Revolution. This Masonic destiny is the product of the enlightenment, which sought to take Europe out of the Dark Ages and into the light of liberty and democracy.

Watson and Cassoul wrote “ In the moment when all Europe admire and feel the effects of your glorious efforts in support of American liberty, we hasten to offer for you acceptance a small pledge of our homage. Zealous lovers of liberty and its institutions, we have experienced the most refined joy in seeing out chief and brother stand forth in its defense of a newborn nation of Republicans. Your glorious career will not be confined to the protection of American liberty, but its ultimate effect will extend to the whole of human family, since Providence has evidently selected you as an instrument in his hands, to fulfill his eternal decrees.” January 23rd, 1782. 

Masonry was the product of the age of enlightenment, an era of political and social upheaval focusing on the things we take for granted today such as inalienable rights, democratic government. This focus on reason rather then religious tradition is based on Alchemical and Rosicrucian teachings which spawned in the dark ages propagating an evolution in science, influencing philosophers such as Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and those in German Existentialism.

John Locke
This focus on reason and understand is what transformed a union of laborers and craftsmen into a society that would reshape the face of western culture. The Masonic philosophy was different depending on which part of Europe your lodge was in. This difference in philosophical emphasis is what accounts for the difference in the Masonic character across Europe, this is also what accounts for the main differences between the Grand Lodge of England, and the Grand Orient of France. American Masonry with its emphasis on liberty and individual rights grew out of the Grand lodge of England, which was primarily influenced by the works of John Locke.

Locke is known as the Father of Classical Liberalism and British Empiricism. Locke was one of the most influential of the Enlightenment thinkers. Locke’s theories and contributions to classical republicanism greatly influenced the Declaration of Independence and the structure of the American government. Locke’s focus on western and religious tradition as a detrimental part of who we are as a person and where we are going, is what greatly separated him from the more radical thinkers of the time. This is reflected in the implementation of Greek and Roman mythology in the early artwork and architecture of America.

Locke also introduced the idea of a separation of church and state and its relation to a social contract, which greatly influenced the Founding Fathers. Locke believed that people in a state of nature would defend and care for each other without government protection. But they would have no guaranteed protection of their rights and would live in constant fear, so people would willingly come together to form a state. This state would act to protect the lives, liberties, and properties of those who lived within it. Unlike social contract theories before which claimed the right of the government came from the authority, Locke claimed that the right of government to rule came from the consent of those who were ruled.

Bro. Jean-Jacques Rousseau
These moderate views by today’s standards were revolutionary at the time, and were the main political foundation of American Masonry. This influenced the founding Fathers to create a national character, which respected liberty as well as religious beliefs of others. This Masonic respect of all religion as light was what set American and British Masonry apart from French Masonry. This is primarily because of the works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and its influence on the French Revolution and the Grand Orient.

Bro. Rousseau saw the enlightenment period as an overthrowing of the religious establishment. Rousseau had little respect and admiration for traditions and western religious values. He saw the enlightenment as a dramatic change in social consciousness. Rousseau believed liberty was possible only if it were the direct rule of the people as a whole in law making. But Rousseau did not believe people understood their “real will” so they could not rule themselves within the confines of their social consciousness. Rousseau believed that a just society could not come about until a great leader, or “legislator” arose to change the values and conception of the people. He believed a true will of the people cannot exist when focus is placed on the individual. So the people must subjugate themselves to the laws of the “legislator”. By this Rousseau understands that laws and subjecting to laws are an expression of freedom.

“Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and in a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole.” (Oeuvres completes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau)
 
General George Washington
It is not a stretch to understand how the American Revolution as influenced by individual sovereignty was a just war, which led to a true republic, as opposed to the French Revolution, which was a bloody and violent revolution, which eventually led to the dictatorship and tyrannical rule under Bro. Napoleon Bonaparte.

I believe this is why the Founders would not militarily aid France in the Napoleonic Wars. They saw how Masonry was corrupted from within by radicals which eventually led to the destruction of over half of Europe. Washington addresses tyranny and evil in his response to Watson thanking him for the apron:

“If my endevours to avert evil, with which this country was threatened, by a deliberate plan of Tyranny, should be crowned with the success that is wished. The praise is due to the Grand Architect of the Universe; who see fit to suffer his superstructures & justice, to be subjected to the ambition of Princes of this world or to the rod of oppression, in the Hands of any power upon Earth.” Aug 10, 1782
 
This trend in the differences of philosophy and political consciousness is relevant to understand the development of the Masonic philosophy. The Original Grand Orient of France claimed responsibility for the French Revolution and enforced an atheistic and secular view of Masonry which led to them being derecognized by the Grand Lodge of England. This is the difference of Rousseau’s influence on Masonry which denounced religion and Locke’s influence which respected all religions. Under the reign of Napoleon not even the Grand Orient was safe as it was institutionalized into the regime only to merge with the Ecossais Rite in 1804.

Washington the Freemason
It is interesting because as was addressed in part one of this article, Washington believed that the American character should be a selfless individual, dedicated to serving humanity and God. This spirit centered approach is what I believe to the foundation of Masonry and America. This foundation is what led to success for the colonies while France fell to tyranny rejecting the spiritual nature on humanity.

To understand the evolution of the Masonic character we must look at the origins of the philosophical foundations of modern masonry. Masonry is referred to as a progressive science, but I beg the question, are we still true to our original intent and mission? George Washington and the other Founding Fathers valued the deep philosophical nature upon which the craft was founded. We have forgotten our roots to Rosicrucianism, Alchemy, and the enlightenment philosophy. In fact most members that we have raised in my lodge in the past few years have been mostly self-serving interested in wearing a ring or making corporate connections. Lodge meetings have become nothing more then a reading of minutes and small-minded bickering.

This new “Corporate Masonry” has watered down the average Mason’s understanding of philosophy, ritual, and the seven liberal arts and sciences. How have we allowed what was once the great influence of the western world be reduced to a marketing tool which raise dozens of Masons who get a ring and never set foot in a officer’s chair.

In my personal opinion, I believe the Founding Fathers would be disappointed by the state of Masonry. There is no focus in finding quality members and to further enlighten them. We have lost sight of our true purpose to make those business connections or pushing an agenda to mainstream a washed down version of the craft? But why, why change years of tradition for this Corporate Masonry. You cannot market Masonry to my generation by what is popular in the media or in movies. Masonry is a calling, in which like-minded men are drawn to a path of light and hope. Men are born Masons we choose to walk the checkered tile when we are ready to emerge from the darkness.

I feel Masonry has lost its mystery and allure and as a younger member I feel my generation is willing to work for our degrees, to learn Latin phrases and memorize their meanings, to discuss the philosophy and origins of the craft, to learn full form catechisms. We wish for a return to tradition of our past brothers. I know a lot of Masons are afraid. There is a lack of membership, lodges are closing, it seems as if Masonry is no longer important to the American Character. But trust me if you focus on the right members, the quality members who are willing to work for their Masonic experience, they will appreciate it more and get active. So let us return to our traditions, let us remember the Masonic character of our Founding Fathers. Let every Mason know that Freemasonry is the foundation for the American character, and the philosophical tool for bringing humanity out of the dark ages and into the enlightenment.

“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more then the people of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation… Thus supported by a firm trust in the great Arbiter of the universe, aided by the collected wisdom of the Union, and imploring the divine benediction on our joint exertions in the service of our country,” (Washington, Inaugural Speech, 04, 30, 1789)
 
~JEF

James E Frey, 32° is a Past Sovereign Prince and current librarian of Valley of Danville AASR. Founder of the R.E.B.I.S Research Society he sits on two Blue Lodge Education committees as well as a guest lecturer on Occultism and Esoteric studies in masonry. He is also a Member of the Oak Lawn York Rite, Medinah Shriners, and Golden Dawn Collegium Spiritu Sancti. He also works as a counselor with emotionally and behaviorally challenged children. 

Keeping My Focus In Check


by Midnight Freemasons guest contributor
Steven A. McBeth


I will do what I can to participate in Lodge, charity and events thereof when and where I am able.  I also hope I will maintain my attendance and good will, well after I am raised a MM, do my best to give (albeit quietly, and humbly) to charity, be it measured in monetary, or voluntary notes, and become a better man. 

I also, perhaps ignorantly, have a great appreciation for those of us who all though do not attend Lodge or functions on a regular or even sporadic basis, still pay their dues and remain Fraternally loyal.  You too my Brethren are doing your part.  As for me I will keep tightly locked lips on the actions or lack thereof on the part of my peers, and choose instead to transform any potential, future discord into affirmative, altruistic action, where I am able. 

My point is....  Complaining about the petty things others are or are not doing serves no good purpose.  It is dark, destructive and can be viewed as nothing more than an attention grab (Look at me and all the good that I do).  In turn, may I suggest, that we concern ourselves more of our own actions or lack thereof.  

I would put out this challenge to any Brother or Brethren who feel that others can, could, or should be doing more;  I challenge you to make that extra phone call, show up for Lodge once in awhile (as a newbie the better the attendance, the more attractive) , spread warm and welcoming Light to all who attend, and just be the best that you can be.  I assure you if you do this, they will come, or in this case, come back.  

Undeniably your inner Light will shine so bright, so attractively to the right people, they too will want what you have, and if they are curious enough to ask, and you are able to humbly inform them you did nothing more then what you know others could, should, or wished they would do, and you oppose despairing complaints and prefer instead constructive action, then you just might be surprised at how powerful are the good and altruistic actions, over the destructive and despairing word.  

I’m not saying go out and be an empty do-gooder, not at all.  I feel that most good deeds performed under pressure or obligation are no better than no good deed at all, and sometimes even worse.  Have you ever heard the saying “Let no good deed go unpunished”  Well I have, and through some discernment and unintentional experimentation I have found that any good deed I performed, especially when I was doing it more for myself then for others, simply backfired and caused damage, or more damage than if I had not.  

Like I have heard my Mother say many times; “Leave well enough alone”.

So I would like encourage myself and the rest of you, if you feel that something needs to be done, and it is a good thing, then don’t wait for permission, or someone else to do it, just do it.  If you have something good and nice to say, then say it, but do it for the sake of doing it, and say it for the sake of saying it, not because you have something to gain, rather because it just needs to be done, and I assure you, gain you will. 

The important thing is, when performing a good deed, we do so quietly, humbly, and altruistically otherwise it is no longer a good deed.  If I have read correctly, no spiritual brownie points will be added for such vain and proud attempts, rather deductions will be made.

One thing I love and cherish about our Great Fraternity is how little people actually know of all our good works, unless they choose to go looking for them or have been direct or indirect benefactors thereof.  This, my friends is a trait which God himself adores.  I have always felt that if caught in the act, and others find out, not by my mouth, but by others, this is a blessing, however if I do a deed and boast about, this serves only one purpose, vanity and pride, ok that’s two, but I am sure you get the point... 

“Do well to do well, not to do well”

~Steven A. McBeth

A Craftsman's Journey: Part VI

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Michael Shirley

Mandolin outline

Top cut out
One of the problems with having an instrument built for you is waiting for it. I’ve never been very good at waiting. Procrastinating, yes, but waiting is different. It requires patience rather than laziness. But this mandolin building process has shown me something new. Joe has been posting pictures as he completes each new step, and they’ve made me eager for more. I’ve found myself hitting “refresh” several times every day in the hope that something new will appear. 

Building the sides
That impatience just demonstrates to me that I’m not an operative craftsman and why Joe is: he has the patience required to plan a job thoroughly and to do it right at each stage, and to do the extra little things required for a piece of work to be great. His brother Rick said to me the other day that Joe got all the patience in the family, and that’s why he’s so good at building instruments. Carving a mandolin is different than framing a house. Both require precision, intelligence, and attention to detail, as all good crafts do. Carving a mandolin also requires an appreciation for the musical and visual qualities of different kinds of wood, and, like all good music, a sense of when to stop; Joe says that when he’s carving he can feel the wood vibrate, and when it starts singing through his fingers he knows it’s where he wants it to be. 

Adding bars to top
That’s when he can start putting the pieces together. I understand how it works (I managed to pass physics in college by doing a term paper on the physics of tone production in an arch-top mandolin), but seeing it happen and talking about it with the maker has been a joyful and humbling experience. The craft of it is one thing; the art of it is something else entirely. When he told me he was satisfied with the tap tone of the top and bottom, had bent the sides, and was ready to start making it look like a mandolin, I was eager to see what it would look like. He already had the image in his mind. 

http://www.clipsyndicate.com/video/play/4956756

This is the sixth installment in Michael Shirley's Mandolin Series.

W.B. Michael H. Shirley is Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He's also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He's also a member of the newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

REPOST: Neil Armstrong: Freemason Or Not?

by Midnight Freemasons contributor
Todd E. Creason

I thought I'd repost this today.  It's with a heavy heart we mark the passing of a true American hero.  Neil Armstrong died today at the age of 82.  He made history on July 29, 1969.  He was literally, a man that went where no man had gone before . . .
  
Neil Armstrong's footprint on the moon

 

"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."

~Neil Armstrong

As the first man to ever set foot on the moon, Neil Armstrong has become perhaps one of the most well-known NASA astronauts.  Long before he was an astronaut, he was a pilot during the Korean War and flew seventy-eight combat missions.

Neil Armstrong was an early pioneer of high speed flight and was a test project pilot for many types of air experimental crafts--he flew over two hundred different types of air crafts which made him an excellent candidate when NASA began searching for qualified astronauts.

He is often included on lists of famous Freemason, however, Neil Armstrong, Jr. is not a Freemason.  There's a little confusion with the name.  His father, Neil Armstrong, Sr. was a very active member.
The eagle has landed . . .
The Scottish Rite Flag Buzz Aldrin took to the moon.

Not to say there weren't a lot Freemasons amongst NASA astronauts--members of the craft were well represented.  Freemason astronauts include Buzz Aldrin, Leroy Gordon Cooper, Donn Eisle, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, James Irwin, Edgar Mitchell, Walter Schirra, Thomas Stafford, and Paul Weitz.  
As a matter of fact, Buzz Aldrin took a personal item on the Apollo 11 mission--a hand embroidered flag of the Scottish Rite Southern jurisdiction.
~TEC

Into A Place Of Darkness: A Past Master's Trip Of A Lifetime

by Midnight Freemasons contributor
SK Robert Johnson 
 

I arrived at my lodge about 5:30 in the evening. It was overcast and I was sitting in my car going over some interview notes. A homeless man came up to me and asked for some change, I obliged and after writing a few questions down, I became stumped. What was I going to ask? How was I going to get the information I needed?

I guess I should set the stage a bit. When I was initiated, passed and then raised, there were few faces the same each time, other than the officers of course. But there definitely had been a few that were there through each degree. One of them was this “Harley Davidson guy”. Always showed up in his Tebala Shriner’s coat and under that was always, and I mean always, a Harley Davidson shirt. In fact for this interview he was wearing one. He spoke rough and if you hadn’t seen the guy smile, you might think he was a drill sergeant. The truth is, this Past Master, Harley aficionado, Vietnam Veteran, and Shriner was a wealth of knowledge and experience. He taught me what I needed to know about floor work, whether I wanted to know or not!

PM Behling became a Master Mason in 2000. And the year before that he started riding his Motorcycles. He explained to me that his father told him that “It will do you good”, and the second time his dad said it, he thought he ought to do it, and he did. His father hailed from Boulevard Lodge in Chicago Illinois, and his mother is a lifelong Eastern Star. The Motorcycles came into play because “It was my midlife crisis, I couldn’t afford a Corvette, so I bought a motorcycle” he told me. I don’t think he knew how far it was going to take him at that point in time.

A year after being raised, PM Behling joined the Shrine, something he had always wanted to do since visiting his cousin in a Shriner’s hospital when he was a kid, something that never left him. I’m sure that the Tebala Shrine’s Dresser Shrine Club had something to do with it as well. In 2002 PM Behling’s father passed to the Grand Lodge on high. Behling was a JR. Warden at the time and told me “Somehow, I’ve never let that go” speaking about the fact his father never got to see him become Master of his lodge. His mother however, placed his hat on the day he became Master, something that was very special indeed.

PM Behling has had a few bikes in his time, I asked “What’s the deal with Harleys and Freemasonry?” He told me “It probably has much to do with the Shrine.” In Fact his bike right now is a Shrine bike made by Harley Davidson. The serial number has a distinctive “S” in it to denote Shriners.

Before the interview we talked about atomic bombs and World War 2. We also talked about his first degree and how the worshipful master at the time had a voice like James Earl Jones. He said “When I heard Clampit (The WM at the time) tell me the penalty of my obligation, well, I almost lost it in my pants (Laughs). I had to agree with Past Master Behling, Worshipful Brother Clampit had done the Paul Revere charge at our installations and it was intense. PM Behling then told me that after his first degree he heard nothing from the lodge all summer. He thought perhaps he did something wrong. But later he found out through his mentor, Worshipful Brother Carmen, that the lodge was dark in the summer time. He also told me that that, was the last time they were ever dark for summer (Waukegan Lodge 78, Waukegan Illinois).

PM Behling 63 years old, had planned a trip to Alaska with his friend, Mikey, a Marine of 68 years old, and if thats not cool enough, then think about doing it on a Harley Davidson.

RJ: So how long had you been thinking about making this Trip?

PMB: I think I initially planned it about 8 months in advance. At first it was a straight route, but then after looking into it, I started adding sights to see along the way and by the time I was done, we had a handful of things [to see].

RJ: What made you want to go to Alaska on your Bike? Isn't that a bit insane?

MB: Well it was the only state I hadn’t ridden in. Before that I had ridden my bike in 48 states and 8 provinces in Canada, I wasn’t going to ship my bike over to Hawaii because of the obvious expense, so when I got there I rented a bike and put 900 miles on it in 3 days. I don’t think they were happy about it. One of the cool sights I went to see was the training ground for Camp Tarawa, where we trained the Marines for Iwo Jima. Interestingly enough, that’s also where I experienced a good earthquake. We were on the 18th floor of a hotel in Honolulu. It was in 2006, and my wife and I were there before going into the time share. I was about to take a shower when I saw hangers start to sway in the closest. I looked out the window, straight down and the building was swaying about a foot in each direction. When it was over I decided to take my shower and then the second quake hit. Then we hauled all our stuff by stairway to the 3rd floor. That was a nightmare.

RJ: That's crazy, so you had been everywhere but Alaska.

PMB: Yeah a friend of mine gave me this book, called "The Milepost" which has what to expect for each mile marker on the Alaska Highway. Gas stations, motels and anything else you could imagine. That book showed the way, but from there, I altered routes to get to national parks and other cool sights along the way.

RJ: How old is that highway?

PMB: It was built in 1942. It was quite the venture, a ton of history behind it as well.

RJ: What was your main route?

PMB: Well we started in Gurnee Illinois and ended the first day in Sioux Falls South Dakota. From there we went to Sturgis, Cody, Wy, Edmonton AB, British Columbia, Yukon Territory to Fairbanks AK.

RJ: The Arctic Circle on a motorcycle...

PMB: That was the plan. When we got to Fairbanks we stopped in for some service at the local Harley dealer. I reconfirmed that the Arctic Circle was ahead, the guy said, “yeah 120 miles. But that's going to take you 8 hours each way.” The road is a mix of asphalt, rock and dirt. We thought better of the idea after hearing that, and opted not to attempt it.

RJ: How long did this trip take? How many miles was it round trip?

PMB: 28 days on the road. 9,183.8 miles. 9 of those days were spent riding just in Alaska.

RJ: So what were some of the sights?

PMB: The Black Hills, Badlands National Park, the Rockies in Northern British Columbia and Denali National Park. It was great because we found out you can get a lifetime National Parks Pass for $10.00 if you're over 62. So that was a great deal. We tried to take advantage of it. The landscape was littered with local wildlife, black bears, grizzlies, moose, deer and bison. British Columbia was particularly heavy with roadside wildlife.

RJ: The amount of wildlife sounds incredible.

PMB: It was. Like I said British Columbia was great for bear, big horn, bison and moose. At one point we saw a grizzly with two cubs just walking along. Then not long after that we spotted two black bears together, so mamma bear must have just recently let them go off on their own because they don't usually travel together. When we went through the Kenai Peninsula, south of Anchorage, the road was littered, and I mean littered with rows of Bald Eagles. Just hanging out. Alaska is just one giant postcard. We stopped in Wasilla and we visited a reindeer farm. I even had some reindeer sausage. It was good but a little spicy. I thought about taking a picture of it then having a friend photoshop in a red nose to mess with the grandkids. (Laughs). Somebody once told me, that up there you're at the bottom of the food chain. You gotta worry about what's hunting you.

RJ: How did you guys protect yourself from those animals? I mean, you could have been attacked right?

PMB: We had nothing. You can't bring anything up through the Canadian border as far as guns go.

RJ: How did that go over? Did you find that out when you got there? Had you brought any guns?

PMB: It was fine, I found out a long time ago what you can and can't bring into Canada. I also learned you can't be a smart ass about anything either.

RJ: Do tell...

PMB: I was coming back into the States from Canada. I pulled into Madawaska Maine. It was July 2008. The customs agent asked if I had anything to declare and I replied yeah, it's good to be back where we use gallons, miles per hour and have real money. The agent didn't look amused and asked me to pull around to the side. They checked me out pretty good.

RJ: So this wasn't the first time out of the USA on the bike?

PMB: No, I had been out several times. I do the Iron Butt Association rides.

RJ: What on Earth is that?

PMB: They are like challenge rides. When I was searched by border patrol in 08' I was coming back into the states to start the "Four Corners" ride. You travel the four corners of the states. I have also done the "Saddle Sore" 1000, which is 1000 miles in 24 hours, the "Bun Burner" 1500 which is 1500 miles in 36 hours and the "Great Lakes Challenge" which is where you drive around the Great Lakes in 100 hours or less. In fact I got this license plate cover for the bike. It has the buttons of completion on three corners.

RJ: So that leaves a fourth corner.

PMB: (Laughs) Exactly. I have been thinking about doing this for a while now, but I just don’t know, I mean I’m 63. But you know the reason I want to do it? The real reason? It really is that fourth corner. (Laughs again).The ride is called “50CC”. Which is coast to coast, Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego California in 50 hours or less. I think I can do it. But every gas stop, food stop etc. has to be meticulously documented.

RJ: So it really sounds like this isn’t a trip, but a journey.

PMB: We ran into some rough spots. There were a ton of roads under construction and up there, if it’s under construction it means dirt and loose gravel. In fact when we got to Glacier National Park, it wasn’t open. Denali was looking good but the weather was going to catch us so we avoided that one. We did get to see the Watson Lake Sign Post Forest.

RJ: Is that what it sounds like?

PMB: It is. It’s a forest made of sign posts. I don’t know when it started, but it’s awesome. People just bring signs that say where they are from, like my buddy who planted one up there that says Gurnee Illinois. When we found it Mikey and I both wrote on the sign, “Miss you Pat” (PMB’s wife) and Mikey wrote that he missed his wife, then we wrote “Thanks for the sign Joe”

RJ: Did you see one for Chicago?

PMB: No, I’m sure it’s there though. I think it would be cool if it was full of bullet holes. (Laughs)

RJ: Did you meet any Brothers along the way?

PMB: I did, there were a bunch. I wear my H.O.G. Chapter vest. On it, there are 2 patches, one for the blue lodge and another for the Shriners. People definitely recognized them. One fellow I met although not a Freemason, was a CMA...

RJ: Sorry to interupt, but what is a CMA?

PMB: Oh sorry, that’s the Christian Motorcycle Association. My wife is a member and she is actually the treasurer for the Ambassador chapter. Anyway, I met this guy and we exchanged formalities, I told him about my wife. I noticed a patch on his vest, it said “prison team”. It was comical. So then this guy finds my wifes chapter website and sends her an email to let her know he ran across me in Edmonton.

RJ: (Laughs) That's hysterical. So how are the accommodations on the Alaska Highway? I can’t imagine they’re luxurious.

PMB: Far from it. But when it comes to these kinds of trips you really have to plan ahead.

RJ: How so?

PMB: Well the stretch on the Alaska Highway is interesting. I made reservations at hotels months in advance. While we were riding we kept playing catch up and tag with these other two fellas. We got to this place called “The Air Force Lodge” and talk about amenities, this place was like barracks. Each room had a single bed, a nightstand with a lamp, community shower and community bathroom. I called it a German Youth Hostel. That’s what it felt like (Laughs). Not to mention it was run by this German guy who made you take your shoes off. Anyway, as we're cruising into the place, the two guys that we had been playing tag with were turned away and leaving. No reservations.

RJ: So they had to find somewhere else to stay then.

PMB: Exactly. We made our arrangements well in advance. We weren't going to get stuck riding at night out there. We’d probably hit that big hole in the middle of the road AKA a moose. Problem with moose is the eyes don't reflect light because they’re so tall. Yeah, they say if you're going to hit an animal try to aim for the back end, but you know what? If I knew I was going to hit a moose, I’d hit the throttle and hug the gas tank. Riding at night up there is not a great idea. There’s a story of a moose dismantling an 18 wheeler. It was crossing the bridge and the driver honks the horn. The moose didn't take kindly. He literally destroyed an 18 wheeler.

RJ: Dangerous things happen on bikes.

PMB: Yeah they do. I hit 100 miles per hour once on the interstate. I was on my way to a bike blessing in Kenosha Wisconsin. I looked down and saw the 100 and just took my hand off the throttle. I figure at that speed anything could lay it down. Hell, I’d probably stop sliding about Milwaukee.

RJ: (Laughs) So what's next Brother? Where is the next adventure?

PMB: Well, I’m not sure. That “50CC” sounds good, but I did promise my wife we’d drive up to Maine for a lobster dinner. You know it’s only five bucks a pound up there. Also I may go out to DC for Memorial Day. Of course there is the Bonneville Salt Flats, that would be a fun trip. That's where they do the land speed records. Maybe even do some volunteer work at Wendover, Utah.

Past Master Behling is an active member of Waukegan 78 and the Tebala Shrine. He is active in training young masons in proper ritual and floor work. He is indeed a just and upright Mason.

~RJ

Sir Knight Robert Johnson is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He belongs to Waukegan Lodge No. 78. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies Royal Arch, Cryptic Council and Knights Templar. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts a weekly Podcast (internet radio program) Whence Came You? which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is a husband and father of three. He works full time in the safety industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is also working on two books, one is of a Masonic nature.