Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Different Kind of Girl

Cindy said it couldn’t have been as bad as people believed. “Ray Gene ... You remember Ray Gene, he’s my first cousin?”

“I remember Ray Gene,” Tom said.

“Ray Gene was at -- Oh, it’s one of those places I can’t pronounce. You’d think they’d have real names for places. Nah or No or something like that. Anyway, it had an air base.”

“Nha Trang,” he said.

“That’s it!” She reached across the car seat and touched his hand and then took back her hand. “How do you remember all that stuff?” She turned in the seat. Tom looked at her face. He remembered her eyes, colored like blue ice, but he couldn’t see her eyes in the darkness of the car.

“I don’t know. After a while, you know the names,” he said.

“Well, they have funny names for places,” Cindy said. Her hair was longer than Tom remembered, but that was the fashion now. Not that he minded her hair being long. He had seen pictures in magazines, and all the girls in the pictures had long hair. He didn't mind her short skirt, either. When he was last home, girls didn’t wear skirts that short, and he thought it was a good thing they did now.

“Some places I remember, you know, from the news on TV?” Cindy said. “They had lots of stories about Saigon and a place that’s pronounced Whey, but it’s spelled like Huie. Are all the places spelled different than they’re pronounced?”

“Not all of them,” Tom said. Cindy was two years younger and a college sophomore. He and Cindy had not been particularly friends in high school, but Cindy was her mother’s daughter and oftentimes acquiesced with what her mother asked. Her mother and his mother were best friends, and one or the other or both decided Cindy and Tom should go out before his leave was finished. He didn’t mind. Cindy was a pretty girl. The girls were different now, though, and he would not have asked out any girls he remembered knowing. On the plane home he thought about the girls he remembered, in a different way than when he thought about them before he came home. Before he came home, he thought about every girl he had ever known, and the ones he had gone out with. He remembered what he wished had happened when he was out with those girls, even though none of it had happened. On the plane home he thought about different girls and maybe if he asked one or two out, it would happen. But when he came home, the girls were different than he remembered.

“Ray Gene said he worked eight hours a day,” Cindy was saying. “Just like when he worked at the garage. Sometimes he had to work extra hours, like overtime? But he didn’t get paid overtime. I guess they don’t pay overtime.”

“No,” Tom said. “They don't pay overtime.”

“They should,” Cindy said. “I mean, somebody works more than eight hours a day, he should get overtime.”

“It’s the duty,” Tom said, but he knew she wouldn’t understand. “You’re on duty twenty-four hours a day.”

“They should pay overtime,” she said. “Anyway, Ray Gene said when he got off work, there was a club he could go to. On the base. He said they had beer and records. There weren’t any girls to dance with, so they drank beer. Ray Gene wasn’t much for beer before he went over there.”

“Some guys weren’t, I guess.” He hadn’t been much for beer either, but he learned to drink it when it was available, because ... But that was all over now.

Tom parked the car in front of the movie theater. He put the transmission in Park and turned the key. He got out and closed the door and walked to the other side. Cindy said “Thank you” when he opened her door. Tom watched as she swung her legs from the car. He took her hand as she stood. She had nice legs and her hair was thick and dark brown and reached the small of her back. He wondered how it would be, her hair streaming through his fingers, and how her lips would taste. He closed the door. She took his arm. Her fingers were light.

At the ticket window, he said “Two, please” to the woman behind the glass. He paid for the tickets and held the door open. “Thank you,” Cindy said. He asked if she wanted popcorn and a coke. She said she would like a coke. He got two, and they walked into the theater.

They would see “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” On the phone the day before, when he called and asked if she wanted to see a movie with him, although it all had been arranged by her mother and his mother, and he told her which movie was playing, she said, “That’s the one where the colored man is marrying the white girl.” He said it was. She said she wouldn’t mind watching that movie. On the phone she asked, “Do you think that’s happening a lot these days?” He said he didn’t know.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deer season

A man in the barber shop today was talking about the deer he got this season, his first ever, after 14 years of hunting.

“Two hundred twenty-five yards and running,” he said. “Dropped him.”

I grinned when he said that. I grinned and almost – almost – said, “First man I shot was 100 yards and lying down. Of course he was shooting at me, so …”

I didn’t say that because (a) it would have been one-upmanship, and (b) I don’t really know if I hit the man I was aiming at. It was at night and I saw a blink-blink-blink light from the edge of the rubber trees, the light about the size of the burning end of a lit cigarette, the light muzzle flashes probably from a Russian or Chinese DP light machine gun, that looks like a rifle, but has a bipod near the end of the barrel and a round pannier magazine on top.

When seeing the muzzle flashes, I was surprised. I thought: “I’ll be damned. There really is somebody out there, and he’s shooting at me.” That last part was important. He was shooting at me. He was not shooting at the 30 others in my platoon, nor at the M113 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle that sat near my bunker. He was shooting at me. A realization: “He’s trying to kill me.”

So I aimed my M16 low and fired 18 rounds in just over a second. The rifle climbed and the bullets went some into the red dirt road and some into the tall grass and maybe … maybe … into the man who wanted to kill me.

Maybe I shot the man, maybe I came just close enough, and he went to his commie sergeant or commie lieutenant and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore tonight.”

Whichever, the light machine gun did not fire again.

Two hundred twenty-five yards and running is a decent enough shot. So is 100 yards and lying down when you are the target.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Woman breaks up with man who used to be a woman; prefers him as a man

(And, yes, I am lifestyle insensitive.)

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Chaz Bono was born Chastity Bono, to Sonny and Cher. She (Chastity) at age 13 decided she was lesbian. In 1998, she (Chastity) wrote that coming out "catapulted me into a political role that has transformed my life, providing me with affirmation as a lesbian, as a woman, and as an individual.” (Family Outing, Little-Brown, 1998). In 2008, she (Chastity) began “gender transformation,” that is, changing from what she was (see the above “affirmation as a lesbian, as a woman …”) to a man.

Now we get to Jennifer Elia, who “began seeing Chaz before his gender reassignment process began, when he was still Chastity Bono, in 1999.”

She (Jennifer) began dating her (Chastity) because both preferred women rather than men as sexual partners. But then she (Chastity) decided to become Chaz. Six months ago, she (Jennifer) said she preferred her/him (Chastity/Chaz) as a man. “Jennifer, who says she is a bisexual woman, said that their intimate relationship as a now 'straight couple', has improved 'for the good.'"

But now they have broken up, boo-hoo.

So. A girl decides she prefers other girls as sexual partners. She enters into a relationship with another woman who likes women. A time later, though, the first she decides to become a he, and the second she prefers “him” with new parts.

Welcome to the New World.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

They were so glad to help out someone in need

Every Monday morning, the fourth grade teacher began class with the same questions, beginning with the girl who sat at the desk nearest the door and continuing with every other student: “Did you go to Sunday school and church yesterday?” and if the answer was “Yes, ma’am” then, “What did you study in Sunday school” and “What was the subject of the preacher’s sermon?” If the answer was “No, ma’am” the teacher asked, “Why didn’t you go to Sunday school and church yesterday?” Answers almost always were, “My mother was sick,” or “My daddy was sick.”

For three of us, though, the answer every Monday was “No, ma’am.” We three, all boys, sat in the same area of the classroom, at the back and near the windows, farthest from the teacher and last to answer. And every Monday we waited while other kids received praise from the teacher or admonition when a sermon subject wasn’t remembered or a Sunday school topic. We waited to say “No, ma’am,” and we waited to hear the teacher ask why we hadn’t gone to Sunday school and church the day before and we gave the same answers week after week – “I don’t know” or “I just didn’t.”

One Monday one of the other boys said, “My daddy said we don’t have to go to church.” The teacher was a bit ruffled by that response. She said, “Everybody should go to Sunday school and church.” That Monday, too, I gave the answer my mother gave when I told her of the Monday morning questioning: “I don’t have any church clothes.” That stopped the teacher for a moment. “Oh,” she said, and then she went to the last boy.

Later that week, Thursday, when I got to class, the teacher said to me, “Tell your older sister you won’t ride the bus home. I’m taking you somewhere after school.” I did not ask where she was taking me or why; I just said, “Yes, ma’am.”

After school, well after school when all the buses were gone and there were only teachers in the building, my teacher said, “Come with me,” and she and I went to the parking lot and got in her two-year-old Buick and drove the two miles to Naples. She drove to a house and as she parked, explained: “You know Joe Smith. He is two years older than you, but you are about his size. His mother said she has dress slacks and shirts Joe no longer wears. We will find some that fit you.” I said, “Yes, ma’am.”

I wish I could explain the sense of embarrassment, of guilt, and the fear I had going into a stranger’s house, hearing a strange woman talk about how pleased she was to be able to help someone in need; how embarrassed I was when taken to someone else’s bedroom, where three or four pairs of slacks and belts and white shirts and bow ties and long ties were laid out on a bed and I was told to put on a specific pair of slacks and shirt and to let the women know when I was dressed. I got undressed and then did as I was told, three times or four times, and the two women made comments to each other on how each pair of slacks fit and each shirt, and they discussed which tie would go best with each pair of slacks. In the end, my teacher selected a pair of slacks and a shirt and tie and belt and put everything in a paper sack. I mumbled, “Thank you” to Mrs. Smith. My teacher and I got into her car and she took me to another house and I did the same thing another three times or four times. Again, the teacher selected the used clothes I would get. Again, I mumbled “Thank you,” and then the teacher took me home, several miles southwest of town, in the country, where there were, under normal circumstances, places to hide, but not on that day. The teacher took me home and I said, “Thank you” and got out of the car and carried my used clothes into the house, where I told my mother why I was so late getting home.

Supper was quiet that night. Daddy got home not long after I did. He and Momma had time to talk. Near the end of supper, Daddy said to Momma, “On Saturday take the kids and get them some church clothes.” I understood. He would not have me wear somebody else’s clothes, somebody’s cast-off clothes.

My parents could not afford to pay all at one time for clothes for five kids. I guess Momma charged the clothes and paid out over a few months.

On Sunday, Momma took us kids to the Baptist Church in Omaha. On Monday, when it was my turn to answer “Did you go to Sunday school and church yesterday?” I answered, “Yes, ma’am.” The teacher was very pleased.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

World AIDS Day

I passed through the living room; local news was on TV, something to do with local noting of world AIDS day, in which the infected are (something – Not “celebrated,” but something) and the AIDS dead are remembered. In the first 25 years of AIDS, 25 million people died world-wide. A million a year, average. A terrible number. In the great flu pandemic of 1918/19, 25 million died in the first 25 weeks, 100 million during the course of the infection (or 50 million or 60 million. Estimates vary.) There has not been a World Flu Day. Maybe it’s the touchy-feely latter 20th century/early 21st that caused tears for the AIDS dead. Most people will not say those 25 million AIDS dead might not have died had men kept their dicks where they belonged, or to be more frank, out of where they did not belong.

Bring back the smoke-filled room?

“Instead of a candidate-vetting process carried out quietly by party leaders, it's now done randomly by a Hydra-headed national media. Any flaw or past stumble is metastasized into a public nightmare for spouses and children. So they say No. In their place we get mysterious candidates who have wandered in from Nowhere Land or obscure state senate seats.”

(The debates don’t do a damn bit of good. We get “Whoozis?” candidates, TV gets more ad money, dig-deeper sleaze mongers rake around in the muck trying to find somebody somewhere who will remember the time a hope-to-be candidate did something that could have, might have been something he or she was not supposed to do or say or think or tell a joke about. It’s OK for President Clinton to present himself to a White House intern, but oh good grief this black Republican once worked around white women, so he must have done something. I mean, you know how they are.

(The 1960 Democratic presidential campaign was the first I paid attention to. Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts won the majority of the party primaries, but a few weeks before the convention Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas announced his candidacy for the nomination. When the convention began in Los Angeles, no candidate had a majority of delegates. Kennedy got the nomination, but says, “1960 represented the last time there was true drama in a Democratic convention. Since 1960 the outcomes of the conventions have been known in advance.”

(Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt disagreed with that statement, calling the convention “turbulent--but prearranged …”)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Wright rules

I glanced up from my terminal at the Star-Telegram as the managing editor approached with a bushy-eye-browed man who was too much on television. I stood up.

“Congressman,” the managing editor said, “this is Bob Merriman, one of our news editors.”

I shook the congressman’s hand. “Congressman Wright,” I said. I gestured at the terminal. “I was just reading a story …”

“And over here,” the managing editor was saying, and he tugged at Wright’s arm, leading the congressman somewhere else. I sat. Well, I thought. Excuse the f out of me for beginning to say, “I was just reading a story about Congressman (Somebody) …”

I didn’t know the rules, but from that one incident I learned the rules: Stand up, smile, shake the congressman’s hand. Smile. If the congressman asks a question, answer in as few words as possible. If the congressman does not ask a question, keep your mouth shut, smile, and wait for the congressman to go somewhere else.

Sort of like rules of conduct when meeting a Royal. When Prince Charles the Unnecessary, of the Windsdor Unnecessaries, tripped to D-FW a few years later, TV stations ran stories on “What to do if approached by the prince.” Amazingly (or maybe not) rules for meeting Royalty were near those for meeting Congresspersons. So do not say (afterwards), “By golly this is the United States of America, where men are men and women are glad of it …” It don’t mean nothin when Important Folk are around.

Later that year a pickup team from the newspaper played a softball game against Wright’s Fort Worth office. There were about 15 of us on the newspaper team, some serious players, some wanting to be seen, including a couple of women who waved a bat and girly-threw the ball in the cause of “Hey, I’m a woman and I’m just as good as any man.” And, for honesty’s sake, a couple of women who knew how to hit and catch and throw and run.

Wright’s team kicked our a$$. We played six innings, and in the dugout after the bottom of the fourth, score around 15-5, somebody said, “They are kicking our a$$.” One of the political reporters said, “There is no way a congressman’s office beats a newspaper team.”

I led off the top of the fifth. I was an embarrassed 0 for 2. Wright’s office had put in a new pitcher, the third or fourth. The new pitcher was different, though – tall, blonde, with legs that went from here to there, red short-shorts, a white T-shirt, and, when I stepped into the batter’s box, a smile that genuinely said, “I am so sorry we have kicked you’re a$$ all over the field. Here’s a pitch. Do something with it.”

I singled into right field. In the next two innings, the Star-Telegram team scored somewhere between 15 and 20 runs; Wright’s team only enough to keep the game interesting.

If I had managed Wright’s team, there would not have been an “I am so sorry …” thought. But, then, the manager of the congressman’s team probably was looking at next week and next month and what’s going on in Washington and he really needed good publicity … And a whole lot of other stuff.

I’d rather be the guy who’s going out there to beat the other team. That’s the rule that counts.

Well, that’s going to make driving difficult

‘Saudi Arabia: Women Must Cover Provocative Eyes’

What? Women can’t drive in Saudi Arabia? What kind of government tells it citizens driving is based solely on gender? Oh. If Saudi Arabia didn’t have oil … But it does.

Fear factor

Fear factor

Which has nothing to do with the applausedly cancelled TV “reality show” (although what wrecking cars and falling off buildings has to do with everyday life …), but does have to do with everyday life, in which you had better have a few pounds of gold on-hand when life as we know it ends, etc.

An ad made up to look like a news story at, “41 things you should hoard.”

ARRGH! My computer was reeeaaaalllly slow, so I X’d out of MSN. When I came back to get the link to “41 things you should hoard,” a different ad popped up. So, I’ll never know the 41 things I should hoard. I could make a list, but I’m not sure about 41 things. Rifle and pistol ammunition, since those will be tradable when everything falls apart and life as we know it ends. A bunch of other common sense things, if you think everything will fall apart in your lifetime, ending life as we know it and you’ll have to defend yourself and yours from a crazed horde that wants all your stuff. (See how I used “hoard” and “horde”?)

Minutes later. OK. I found the link. To a book or magazine or some other publication you have to pay to read. So, forget about the link. Unless somebody wants to pay me.

WalMart doing better than governments

One of my wife’s membership people was giving a talk in the northern part of the state, in the mountainous region. The talk included the need for emergency supplies and such in case of earthquakes (which occur just about every day in Arkansas), floods, tornados and such, until the government was able to get things operational again. People at the talk said they would just go to WalMart and get what they needed, thank you – “We don’t need the government.” The speaker said WalMart trucks might not be able to get through if a tornado dropped trees on the road, or stores might not be open if electricity went out. “Nope,” people said. “We’ll just go to WalMart. We don’t need the government to help us with anything.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

If Dobie had taken Zelda on a few dates, Rock Hudson would be alive today

From a Facebook posting:

“MyTV shows programs from the ‘50s and ‘60s. A whole bunch of them. Car 54 came on the other night and Priscilla said, “Some theme songs you just remember.” Unfortunately. Stick in the head all day. Ode to Billy Joe. I turn off the radio, but I heard the guitar entry and it’s there alllll day.”

And who can forget this timeless classic:

Here’s a story
About a boy named Dobie
And his beeeessst friend

I forget the rest.

The thing about Dobie, he wanted what he couldn’t have, or “who” he couldn’t have – Thalia Menninger (“have” in the 1959-63 sense of … well, sort of possessing, but not really, and certainly not “have” in the sexual sense. Nobody had sex then. Not television characters. Mr. and Mrs. Gillis did not have and had not had sex. Never and ever. Maynard’s parents … No, man. Yuuchsville, man.).

Who else never had sex, in the normal sense? Zelda. All those times she was after Dobie, all those school dances and movies, rides in cars or Halloween hayrides on wagons and such … Never happened.

It’s Dobie’s fault.

Zelda “came out” a few years ago. If Dobie had taken Zelda to a few movies, borrowed Dad’s car, gone on a hayride or so, maybe things would have been different and Zelda would not have hung around in the closet all those years.

Why is it a news story when somebody famous “comes out?” If homosexuality is normal, why does it matter when somebody announces he or she is “gay?”

Years ago my wife attended a national meeting of executive directors of an organization. At the first session, each ED introduced herself and told where she was from. The woman running the meeting then introduced members of the national staff. Before introducing one man, she asked him, “Should I tell them?” He replied, “Yes.” The woman said, “He is gay.”

When telling me of the meeting my wife said, “Why would anybody refer to himself as a sex act?”

I thought, Wow. That’s true. When a man says he is gay, he means he has sex with other men. There is no other meaning. When a woman says she is gay, she means she has sex with other women. That’s it.

A contestant on this TV season’s Survivor is a retired New York Police Department detective. During some part of the show, I wasn’t paying that much attention until the man said, “I am gay. That’s who I am.”

What? You spend your adult life as a policeman, much of it as a detective, yet you see yourself as gay, and nothing else? You summarize your entire life with the declaration you have sex with other men. That’s it? There is nothing else?

Pay attention. When a man says he is gay, he says he has sex with other men. That. Is. It. There is no other meaning. None.

I’m supposed to do some wrap-up here, but it isn’t necessary. My point has been made.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I was all set for fixing breakfast -- thawed a bread loaf overnight, had the recipe for Breakfast Rolls on file and ready to print. Got into the living room at 6:20… and Cylla was eating cereal. I said, “Are you going in early?” She said, “I am. I have an insurance meeting at 9, and I want to make sure I’ve got everything I need.”

So much for my culinary plans. But … The bread was thawed. So charging ahead went I. Printed the recipe. Got everything together – chopped ½ cup walnuts (the recipe said 1/2 cup pecans [optional], but I didn’t have any, so I opted for walnuts); ½ cup melted butter (Hmm. OK, that’s why I have a microwave); ½ cup brown sugar; 3.5 ounce package cook and serve butterscotch pudding (Where’d that come from? I don’t remember reading that before! Checked pantry because, maybe, I had read that before and bought a package … Nope. Well, shoot. I guess I’ll have to wait until … What’s that on the top shelf? Cook and serve vanilla pudding! Hey, pudding is pudding.)

Everything was going now. Oven heated, 9-inch Bundt pan sprayed, bread cut into 16 pieces and rolled, walnut chops sprinkled in Bundt pan, butter melted and brown sugar stirred in. Sixteen rolls placed on top of walnut chops; pudding sprinkled on top of rolls; cinnamon on pudding; butter/brown sugar on cinnamon. We are ready to go. Check recipe one last time for cooking time – 25-30 minutes.

And: Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in refrigerator 6-8 hours.

Oh. That hadn’t been there before. How was that added to the recipe while the recipe sat in a “breakfast recipes” file?

I told Cylla. She said, “Oh, it will be dessert tonight.”


Friday, October 28, 2011

Honesty arrives late in life

“When I was started out as a writer I took credit for draft evasion where I shouldn't have. I washed up in Canada with some vague idea of evading the draft but then I was never drafted so I never had to make the call. I don't know what I would have done if I'd really been drafted. I wasn't a tightly wrapped package at that time. If somebody had drafted me I might have wept and gone. I wouldn't have liked it of course.”
—William Gibson, interview with io9, June 10, 2008.
But when stuff is on the internet …
“ …at age 19 left the United States for Canada in order to avoid the draft for the Vietnam War.”

… it becomes fact

“Gibson became part of the counterculture in the mid-1960s, traveling the U.S. and Europe before moving to Toronto, Canada to dodge the Vietnam war draft.”

(Of course, if one was “part of the counterculture in the mid-1960s,” one must have avoided the draft or fled the US or some such.)

Friday, October 7, 2011

As new manager, the White Sox hired the guy with the bat.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The way things work

“Extermination order.” After watching a Buster Keaton silent film this morning, I decided to do a little research on Keaton. Searches led to actress Camille Keaton, said to be a grand-niece of Keaton. The actress was born in Fort Smith, Ark., but went to school in Eudora, Ark., until age 13. Eudora is a small town – 2,850 people by the 2000 census.

The Wikipedia article on Eudora contained an external link to “History of Eudora’s Jewish Community” from the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, In 1900, the town had 11 Jewish families and a congregation, Bene Israel. Historians have paid little attention to Jews in the South. ISJL attempts to change that.

From the ISJL site, I looked at four small towns in Texas. The narrative of one town mentioned a man who served with the 16th Texas Cavalry during the Civil War. Search for the 16th mentioned Confederate Gen. Sterling Price, who was in the Mexican War and the Missouri Mormon War. Missouri Mormon War? More searching, which led to the extermination order, accounts of murder and depravity, as well as cases of injustice and unconstitutional seizure of property. The extermination order was rescinded in 1976 by then-Missouri Gov. Kit Bond.

Extermination order

“Headquarters of the Militia, City of Jefferson, Oct. 27, 1838.

“General John B. Clark:

“Sir: Since the order of this morning to you, directing you to cause four hundred mounted men to be raised within your division, I have received by Amos Reese, Esq., of Ray county, and Wiley C. Williams, Esq., one of my aids [sic], information of the most appalling character, which entirely changes the face of things, and places the Mormons in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this state. Your orders are, therefore, to hasten your operation with all possible speed. The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace--their outrages are beyond all description. If you can increase your force, you are authorized to do so to any extent you may consider necessary. I have just issued orders to Maj. Gen. Willock, of Marion county, to raise five hundred men, and to march them to the northern part of Daviess, and there unite with Gen. Doniphan, of Clay, who has been ordered with five hundred men to proceed to the same point for the purpose of intercepting the retreat of the Mormons to the north. They have been directed to communicate with you by express, you can also communicate with them if you find it necessary. Instead therefore of proceeding as at first directed to reinstate the citizens of Daviess in their homes, you will proceed immediately to Richmond and then operate against the Mormons. Brig. Gen. Parks of Ray, has been ordered to have four hundred of his brigade in readiness to join you at Richmond. The whole force will be placed under your command.

“I am very respectfully, your ob't serv't,

“L. W. Boggs, Commander-in-Chief”

Missouri Executive Order 44, issued by Gov. Lilburn Boggs.

On May 6, 1842, “Boggs was shot by an unknown party who fired at him through a window as he read a newspaper in his study. Boggs was hit by large buckshot in four places: two balls were lodged in his skull, another lodged in his neck, and a fourth entered his throat, whereupon Boggs swallowed it. Boggs was severely injured. Several doctors—Boggs' brother among them—pronounced Boggs as good as dead; at least one newspaper ran an obituary. To everyone's great surprise, Boggs not only survived, but gradually improved.” (Wikipedia article on Boggs.)

Mormon gunman Orrin Porter Rockwell was believed to have shot Boggs, but Rockwell stated he “never shot at anybody, if I shoot they get shot!... He's still alive, ain't he?"

Rockwell is also reported to have said, “I never shot anybody who didn’t need shooting.” Really. Honest. Before T.A. Edison even thought about picture shows and The Great Train Robbery.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Al Chet

“Do you think God will ever forgive me of the most horrible sin of all. an abortion I pray and cry out with Al Chet each day and night, and call out to Him, and I know He says, ‘I have forgiven you’ but I feel as if I cant forgive myself so how and why would He. Pray for me. Rachel.”

“Yes, Rachel. He forgave you the first time you prayed for forgiveness. He's a loving G-d and a forgiving G-d. He looks for ‘turning away’ from our sin; He doesn't want nor need us to walk in guilt for the rest of our lives. If He says that He is ‘faithful to forgive us’ and we continue to walk in shame and guilt, it's like we're calling Him a ‘liar’; telling Him that He isn't who He says He is. Remember King David? He committed murder; had to live with the consequences of his actions, but he was forgiven and went on to be blessed in his life. Allow G-d to forgive're holding Him and yourself hostage. Let Him love you and bless you as you move forward. Use your hard lesson to teach others to guard themselves from falling into the same trap that you fell in. Blessings upon you, Rachel. 'May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.’" Anonymous.

The sins for which we ask forgiveness.

(In my belief of my own wisdom, I began a comment. But none is needed.)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What would Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain do?

“Williams ‘quoted two lines from Romans; then he made some very broad statements,’ Herman said. ‘I feel uncomfortable saying exactly what he said because I'm sure it's gotten twisted in my mind since then, but, after he read the verses, he started preaching his beliefs, I believe it was within one or two minutes that we decided to walk out.’"

(Here’s the problem: a. the preacher read from that bible thing, and then b. he started preaching his beliefs. Heaven forbid … Oops. Lord help us … Oops again. OK. Try: Somebody in a chapel service had the audacity to read from the bible and preach?)§ion=1&id=6

linked from and maggiesfarm.

(Back in the 1970s college days, many of the longhairs proclaimed Jesus as a rebel against The Establishment. The religion established in his name, though … Well, that’s an altogether different thing. Also, statements by students and by college officials sound … stupid. The college does not teach direct speech.)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hey! You don't have a permit for bible study!

Honest to (you know who), if this had been (that religion of peace), mainstreemmediums would be on the story like white on rice, like ugly on an ape and or something else.

Why we aren’t there (and ‘affordable housing’ in Woodstock)

“I suspect that human capability reached its peak or plateau around 1965-75 – at the time of the Apollo moon landings – and has been declining ever since.

“This may sound bizarre or just plain false, but the argument is simple. That landing of men on the moon and bringing them back alive was the supreme achievement of human capability, the most difficult problem ever solved by humans. 40 years ago we could do it – repeatedly – but since then we have not been to the moon, and I suggest the real reason we have not been to the moon since 1972 is that we cannot any longer do it. Humans have lost the capability.”

(Several months ago I decided human political philosophies reached apogee in the 1930s. Every event since then has been but a chapter (or footnote) in the struggle between fascism, Communism, capitalism, socio-Marxism/fascism/capitalism. The only difference in the now-of-them-all is who receives the payouts, with the Big Boys unchanged. Or, “Meet the new boss.”)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Woke up at 3:30

because my right hip and leg felt funny and running in my head “Trained to live off nature’s land, trained in combat hand-to-hand.” I hate when that happens. Even had the trumpet – Ta-tut-ta-ta – after the comma. My hip and leg didn’t hurt (which is the first time in more than four years), but had that “You have to move or you’ll go crazy” feeling. If you’ve never had that, I can’t explain it. I’ve had that feeling now and then since before the first restless leg syndrome TV commercial. Yesterday was my third physical therapy session. Next week I go from twice a week to three times. Courtney the therapist has given me three stretching exercises (three reps of 10, two times a day, each) and five strength exercises (same reps). If this keeps up, I’ll do nothing but exercise, all day.

For more than four years, twice a year, I told VA docs about the pain, generally a 7 or 8 on the pain chart. I told them of the Army neurologist’s 1989 diagnosis of right side focal dystonia and my thinking that might be cause of the pain. I asked for examination for physical therapy. I got Yeah, yeah, sure, we’ll look into that. Then in May I got pi$$ed at my new VA doc and talked rather sternly when she pi$$ed me off and I got not only physical therapy, but also dermatology (after several years of asking), a neurological consult (but I only wasted the neurologist’s time) an EKG, an EEG and a brain CT scan. Who knew all I had to do was get pi$$ed off and respond accordingly?

So I got up and while fixing a cup of breakfast tea, got to thinking about cadence stuff, for some reason ‘”If I die on the Russian front,” probably because Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler mentioned “silver wings upon my chest,” and that reminded me of a day in July 1966 when the troop marched to a gym at Fort Meade to hear a speech by I think Col. Cobb and afterwards marching back to the troop area and Sgt. (I can’t remember his name) started to call cadence … “I know a girl who lives on a hill …” but he stopped because a woman was walking on the sidewalk, so he cadenced “If I die on the Russian front …” and we all started laughing. Sgt. --- was SOL on cadence rated G for General Audiences. In January, during a perimeter probe, as books on tactics put it, Sgt. --- went all goofy nuts when the VC crawled into the grass on the other side of the road and he was on the field phone – “The gooks are in front of my bunker! They’re in the wire!” – and then he was throwing grenades and his M60 firing and grenades going “KA-WHUMP! KA-WHUMP! KA-WHUMP!” Sgt. --- was throwing so fast. He was pullpinthrow, pullpinthrow and then every other bunker opened up, one through last, in sequence.

I let the dogs out and then in. Warm and humid outside. Temperature at 10 last night was 88.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wreck kills three teens

You could see how it happened. That was the easy part – the four-way highway intersection, the Stop sign ignored or dared.
HUGO, Okla. – Three Rattan High School students were killed Tuesday afternoon when the pickup in which they were riding was in collision with a loaded gravel truck, Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers said Wednesday morning.

The students killed were identified as Timothy G. Dawson, 17; Kimberly J. Smith, 16; and Melissa A. Allen, 16. All were from Rattan, said Highway Patrol officer Gaylon Jeffords. Dawson was a senior at Rattan High School, while Smith and Allen were juniors.

Jeffords said the accident occurred when a 1998 Ford Ranger pickup, driven by Dawson, heading west on East 1960 Road, apparently ran a stop sign at the intersection with Oklahoma Highway 147. The Ranger was in collision with a northbound Chambers Co. Gravel Co. truck, driven by Billy F. Boyd, 37, of Hugo.

Boyd, who was injured in the accident, was treated and released from Choctaw Memorial Hospital.

Funeral services for Dawson, Smith and Allen are pending with Loman Funeral Home in Hugo.

And there you have it. A boy driving a pickup with two friends from school, a warm afternoon, and … What? He didn’t see the stop sign? He didn’t know the stop sign was there? He wasn’t paying attention?

Here’s what the accident location looked like: A normal paved intersection, stop sign east and west. Trees a distance from the highway, but not presenting visibility limitations.

Two days after the wreck, the intersection showed skid marks in the northbound lane, slightly angled to the west, indicating the driver of the gravel truck had a split second on the brakes before impact, and the same split second to try to turn the fully loaded truck. Both actions were purely reaction, of course. The truck probably was going 55 mph or more, given the terrain at the site. There was no way the truck would miss the Ranger pickup, no matter what the driver tried to do.

The area northwest of the intersection was sand, with short pine trees beyond. Thursday after the wreck, the sand had a plowed appearance, probably from remains of the Ranger pushed across the sand and toward the trees. The trees were blackened from a fire. Trooper Jeffords had not mentioned a fire, but a fire was logical, given the mass of the gravel truck smashing into and through the small pickup, crushing the pickup, rending it into small pieces, splitting the gas tank and the fuel spilling.

You have to figure the pickup was not dawdling, but traveling at least the speed limit – 60 mph. My two years’ experience with Oklahoma drivers was this: My pickup, the one with Texas plates, was the only one doing the speed limit; every Oklahoma-plated car or truck either rode my bumper or passed me at the first opportunity. You know the gravel truck didn’t dawdle. Gravel trucks went as fast, and were as dangerous, as log trucks. Most drivers of gravel trucks paid little attention to speed limits. Fifteen mph over was normal.

Not that it would have mattered how much over the speed limit the gravel truck was going when it hit the Ranger. The gross weight of the gravel truck was what, 50,000 pounds, 60,000 pounds? Or more?

The wreck was a matter of timing. For the broadside impact, both the pickup and the gravel truck had to be traveling at a specific speed, relative to each other.

You can get into the luck or fate aspect of the incident, but that does no good. It happened. The why …

Maybe the driver didn’t see the stop sign? I drove east on 1960 Road, the same road on which Dawson drove west. The terrain was level. No trees obstructed visibility of traffic on Highway 147. At more than one-third mile the stop sign was visible right of the road.

It happened. That’s all. Nothing else is explanation.

I headed back south on Highway 147. Thoughts of the gravel truck and the pickup had been my entire focus for thirty minutes or so -- images of the pickup entering the intersection, the gravel truck almost at the same place on the road, and everybody involved suddenly … Realizes what is about to happen? I don’t know. Sometimes the mind is not that quick.

A gravel truck turned in front of me, 50 yards away, a right turn into a quarry, plenty of room.

I flinched.
The wreck happened in 1999. I did not write this then because the three high school students were too newly dead. Relatives and friends tend to anger when you write a story concerning people who die young and your focus is not what great kids they were.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kinetic this, dude

Nobody really gives a rat’s patooie about the US bombing a little snot out of Libya. It’s not like a Republican president ordered/approved the air strikes and cruise missiles.

For one thing, the Democratic president said, Americans are not in any real danger. “Obama has also argued that the conflict does not count as ‘hostilities’ because Gaddafi’s forces are so battered that they pose little threat to American air crews.”

Let me tell you how many bullets it takes to bring down a modern multi-million-dollar airplane: Hold up one finger. Thank you.

From nine days ago: “Air Force and Navy aircraft are still flying hundreds of strike missions over Libya despite the Obama administration’s claim that American forces are playing only a limited support role in the NATO operation.

“An Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that since NATO’s Operation Unified Protector (OUP) took over from the American-led Operation Odyssey Dawn on March 31, the U.S. military has flown hundreds of strike sorties. Previously, Washington had claimed that it was mostly providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and tanker support to NATO forces operating over Libya.”

But then there is administrationspeak: "’The US role is one of support,’ the official said, ‘and the kinetic pieces of that are intermittent.’"

“Kinetic pieces” is a new phrase to describe bombs falling from American aircraft.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why Larry moved to Texas

A couple of years ago I was visiting Larry, my best friend in high school and 1967 participant in the Greater Southeast Asia War Games, 9th Infantry Division. Larry was born in Alabama and spent his first 12 years there. During the visit, Larry said, “Did I ever tell you why we came to Texas?” I said he had not.

Preface to story: Larry’s father, Grady, and my father worked at the steel mill in Lone Star. Grady previously worked at a steel mill in Alabama.

Story: One day at the mill in Lone Star, two men came up to Grady. One said, “We were just wondering. What’d you get run out of Alabama for?” Grady said, “What? What’re you talking about?” The other man said, “Well, everybody we know here from Alabama got run out for something or the other. We just wondered why you got run out.”

At the Alabama mill, Grady ran the overhead crane in the blast furnace, moving the big bucket up or down the mill as required. When the bucket was in its proper place, Grady moved the crane out of the way. For some reason, Grady’s foreman had it in for him. He would say to Grady, “I know what’s going on. You’re sleeping in that crane. One of these days I’m going to crawl out there and catch you sleeping.” Grady reminded the foreman that it would be a dangerous thing, crawling along a beam, and who knows what might happen.

One night at dinner the foreman was really on Grady, again saying he knew Grady was sleeping in the crane and he would catch Grady and have him fired. After shift was over, the foreman followed Grady into the change house, again repeating his intentions. He was behind Grady at one point, and Grady turned around and gave the foreman a knuckle sandwich -- laid him out. Grady then got in his car and went home. When he got there, he told his wife, “You know, some people used to work here been writing, telling me I ought to go work at that mill in Texas.” Mrs. Grady was an un-Reconstructed Southerner of the highest degree, and she had no plans to live outside Alabama, which was the pride of the South and keeper of things anti-Yankee.

Then Grady said, “In the morning there’s liable to be people looking for me. You tell them I said I was going Up North to De-troit, see could I get a job in a car factory.” Mrs. Grady said she would do as her husband said. Grady then packed a few clothes and left.

Next morning, two deputy sheriffs showed up, with a warrant for Grady’s arrest for assault. Mrs. Grady told them what Grady had said. The deputies left.

Three days later, Grady returned, and that night the family packed what they could in the car – Mr. and Mrs. Grady and four boys -- and headed for Texas.

Way back when, this kind of story was repeated over and over, people leaving wherever they were, often with cause, and heading for Texas. They still are.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Box Had No Label

(Written some years after a visit to the Wall.)

There is a strange silence about the Wall, as though fifty-eight thousand souls gather there, asking for the silence. You would think the names would rage against their fate. Perhaps they know a peace we cannot yet comprehend.

I walked slowly along the paved path in front of the Wall. I wasn’t after a particular name, not even really looking at the Wall, I didn’t think, just taking in the whole thing.

The Wall is black, shiny black, and it reflects faces that stare at the names. I saw my face, but looked away.

People leave things there — medals, old jungle boots worn down to bare leather, books of poetry, notes, a teddy bear.

A teddy bear. I didn’t look long at the teddy bear, because I saw a boy’s mother cleaning out a closet or a room where things of the past lay for more than thirty years. I saw the boy’s mother open a box. The box had no label. Perhaps the boy’s mother didn’t want to remember what was inside the box. But she opened the box, and she saw the teddy bear and she fell onto the box, clutching the bear as tightly as she had clutched her son. And she cried.

The bear was her baby’s companion. The bear kept away monsters of the night. The boy slept with his bear, toddled to breakfast or off to bed or around the house, hugging the bear or holding it by an arm. Every day the boy told his mother what he and the bear had done, the places they had gone, the good people they met. And when the mother rocked her baby to sleep, the boy held his bear, his eyes closing slowly. The boy fought sleep, just as he would later fight death.

The bear waited a long time. He had nothing to do in the box. There were no monsters in the box, no frightful things to guard against,. No boy to protect.

The mother found the bear, and she took the bear to her son. She did not take the bear to some cemetery filled with strangers, but to the place where her son is, among friends. There, where his boy is, the bear can rest. All the monsters are gone now, and the bear can sleep again with his boy. The boy understands. So do his fifty-eight thousand friends. More than anyone else, more than the boys’ mother, fifty-eight thousand friends understand.

I saw the teddy bear, and I walked away quickly. I walked away quickly because my children had teddy bears.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Strange dream

I am sitting in the dugout of a Triple-A baseball team, talking with players and coaches and I hear on the PA: “Managing today is (garbled, but my name in the dream)."

I turn to the manager. “What?”

He said, “You’re managing today.”

“Me? Why?”

The manager had been thrown out.

“How can you have been thrown out? There hasn’t been a meeting at home plate!” For whatever reason, he had been tossed.

So I am struggling with the lineup card; I don’t know the players. Somebody hands me yesterday’s lineup card. The manager says, “You don’t want *** hitting leadoff.”

The dream shifts to another inning. The usual starting catcher is standing in front of me. He is not in uniform. I say, “Where TF have you been?”

“The judge sent me to jail.”

“What? Why?”

“I got arrested for running away from the orphanage.”

“What? How could you be in an orphanage?”

“You know.”

“No,” I say. “I don’t know. Anyway, go get in uniform.”

As he turns to leave, I say, “What’s the judge’s name and number?”

“You know.”

“No, I don’t. Go get in uniform.” Somebody on the bench tells me the catcher is 16.

“How can we have signed a 16-year-old?” I ask. Then: “Well, when we win the pennant, especially when we’re in the series against the International League, that judge will look foolish.”

I then tell the players about my aneurysm, of the surgery (doctors slicing my face from above the hairline to below the top of my ear, peeling back the skin, using a doorknob cutter to cut a hole in my skull , repair, putting the skull plug in place, waterproofing it, using wire to hold the plug in place, stapling together the incision flaps).

I say, “Most people when I tell them that, say, ‘God must have a plan for you.’ I say that if he does, I don’t know what it is. So maybe God’s plan is for me to manage this team, and if that is the plan, then I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”

Woke up.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A stop on the journey

The porch at God’s house goes all the way around.
God sits out there of an afternoon,
After work,
Drinking sweet tea from a tall glass
With ice in the glass -- the proper way
To drink sweet tea.
He has a pitcher of tea on a square table,
Wood of the table fitting just so,
Squared off, sawed just right and planed smooth,
Finishing nails so small you almost can’t see them.
God thought about having the carpenter
Make the wood tongue and groove,
But then decided he liked the look of more simple

God sits on the sunset side of the house.
He likes sunsets; indeed, God believes sunsets
Among his best creations. He is sometimes
Amused at painters and photographers
Who try to capture true sunset colors.
They are never successful,
But God created in them a need to try.
He is pleased when their pastel blue,
Red, orange, pink or purple
Come close to what he created.
They can’t get it right, but they keep trying.

God sometimes has breakfast at a table
On the sunrise side of the porch –
Eggs, grits, biscuits, strong coffee,
Butter, a different jelly each morning,
A glass of water and a glass of juice –
Orange, tomato, apple, grape.
Each is always in season.
God has eggs fried hard, over easy, scrambled,
Boiled. Sometimes he has whole eggs, sometimes
Just the whites, sometimes one whole and one just
The white.
Sometimes, too, he has toast instead of biscuits,
Bagels with cream cheese, or jelly made with real fruit.
He likes waffles, too, and pancakes.

God works in his vegetable garden during the day,
Half a day hoeing after planting,
The other half with flowers and shrubs, pulling grass
And any weeds brave enough to try.
Dirt in both gardens is dark, with manure
Worked into the soil. Goats and horses,
Sheep and cattle provide loads for the
Large wheelbarrow. Combining the various kinds
Produces the best results. God considered using
Elephant manure, but his two elephants produced
Too much. Once a week God goes into the elephant pasture
And levels the piles, spreads everything around.

Used to, God got lots of volunteer work in the gardens
And in the pastures. These days, not as many people
Come by. God thought about taking an ad in the papers,
“Workers needed in the garden. Meals furnished.”
But, he decided to let things go as they had for years.
If enough people come by, that’s good. And if not …
Well, that’s OK, too.
People have a lot more to do these days.
God has a nice garden, regardless if people see it.
And the view from the porch is indescribable.

--Bob Merriman, 13 June 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stupid Republican women

Remember when Sarah Palin got stupid in a speech not long after the November 2010 elections, when she told a Tea Party gathering not to celebrate too soon, because this isn’t 1773 and a whole bunch of liberals LOL’d because OMG, she doesn’t know when the American Revolution started, but other people actually checked history and it turns out the Boston Tea Party was in 1773, which is what Palin was talking about in the first place?

And remember the video from a debate at a college in the 2010 elections when another Republican woman asked, “Where exactly is separation of church and state in the Constitution?” and you can hear college students saying “Oh my god! She doesn’t know!” when in reality the college students need more education and many of us knew exactly what the candidate meant, because separation of church and state is not in the Constitution?

Oh, those stupid Republican women.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Detroit plans to demolish 70,000 houses.

That's right -- 70,000.

"I can do twenty a day," says Lorenzo, standing outside a Craftsman-style bungalow at 18058 Joann. This house took the better part of 1926 to build. Crews of men dug a hole, poured a foundation, assembled floor bridging and ceiling joists and a truss for the roof. Shingles were laid down, one at a time. Wooden siding was hung. Mortar was spread and bricks were stacked. By the time the house was completed, it boasted a gable roof, central dormer windows, and generous eaves shading a balustraded veranda. Covering 1,300 square feet, it had a couple of bedrooms, a bathroom, a small kitchen, and a light-filled parlor facing the street. It was priced for a worker—less than $4,000 new—and meant, for a family, a future.

Son of a

Apparently West Point Cadet Richard King gets beat up by Patti LaBelle’s body guards, police report reaches West Point, and academy decides to suspend King, “drop his rank and ship him out under a program that enlists cadets who leave the academy after the beginning of their junior year for three years of active duty with an option to return to complete their degree at the end of the tour.”

Story links to video.

So when is the day off?

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. In case you missed the announcement. Who made it so? As Gomer would say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

Black history month, womans' appreciaion month, Asian-Pacific Islander month, LGBT Pride Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month. Hell, we're running out of months.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


1300 formation, F Troop 6th Armored Cavalry, a pleasant summer day, 1968, Fort Meade, Maryland.

“Sergeant Merriman!”

“Yes, First Sergeant!”

“Is Private Weeble one of your soldiers?”

“Yes, First Sergeant!”

“Private Weeble is presently in custody at the Provost Marshal’s Office, following his arrest for Absent Without Leave. At the conclusion of this formation, you will proceed to the supply room, where you will draw a pistol belt, a pistol holster, a .45-caliber pistol, a full magazine and a set of handcuffs. You will then go to the PMO, where you will secure and handcuff Private Weeble. You will bring Private Weeble to the orderly room. If Private Weeble attempts to escape, you will shoot him. Do you have any questions?”

“No, First Sergeant!”

Private Weeble had made his unauthorized trip home less than a month before. He had surrendered to the nearest Army authority one or two days before his status changed from AWOL to desertion. Private Weeble began his unauthorized leave before I took the platoon, but that timing was of no importance. He was one of my soldiers now.

Private Weeble was from a mountainous part of eastern Kentucky. Had the local draft board not considered him of sufficient physical and psychological nature for the Army, and had the Army not agreed, Weeble would never have had anything to do with the military forces of the United States. He would never have become Private Weeble, but would have remained John Weeble and continued to work at whatever his job had been until such time as he retired. Or he would have gone from job to job, taking whatever was available for a young man of his talents and abilities in his part of Kentucky.

But the local draft board had selected Weeble, told him so in a letter and informed him of date, time and place to report to a bus station, from where he would be taken to the nearest military entrance processing station. Weeble complied with those instructions, just as he complied with instructions at the processing station. He completed several written tests, and he was judged of sufficient physical and psychological character by Army doctors. The Army sent now Private Weeble to Basic Combat Training and then to Advanced Individual Training, where he learned basic repair techniques of wheeled vehicle maintenance.

In addition to his mother and his father, brothers and sisters, Private Weeble left behind in Kentucky a wife. And shortly after reporting to F Troop, 6th Armored Cavalry, Private Weeble was told his wife did not remain home at night. Especially, he was told, his wife did not remain at home on Friday nights and Saturday nights. Someone in his family told him “that woman you married is unfaithful.” More than likely the wife’s escort was some SOB Weeble did not get along with in high school, some SOB whose parents had sufficient influence with the draft board … Well, sometimes it is that way.

Private Weeble wrote to his wife, he telephoned his wife. And one day he said to another soldier, “I’m going home and straighten this out.”

As instructed by the First Sergeant, I got a pistol belt and holster and pistol and full magazine and a set of handcuffs. I walked to the Provost Marshal’s Office and I took custody of Private Weeble. I said to Private Weeble as I handcuffed his hands behind his back, “If you run, I will shoot you.” That was nonsense, and the First Sergeant knew so when he gave that guidance to me. Army rules are quite specific concerning under what conditions deadly force may be used when moving a prisoner. Running is not of itself one of those conditions. Whether Private Weeble knew of the nonsense I neither knew nor cared.

We began our walk back to the troop. About halfway there, Private Weeble said, “Sergeant Merriman, can you loosen these handcuffs? They’re awful tight and they hurt my wrists.”

I didn’t.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Husbandly duties

I am a man, which means, among other things, that the label on almost all my clothes says “Machine wash warm, tumble dry normal” or “tumble dry regular.”

Labels on my wife’s clothes, though, say “Machine wash warm” or “Machine wash cold” or “Hand wash cold,” some “delicate cycle,” and “tumble dry regular” or “tumble dry delicate” or don’t tumble dry at all, but “Lay flat to dry” or “Hang dry” or “Line dry” or “Drip dry.” I figure “Hang,” “Line” and “Drip” all mean the same thing, and nothing adverse has happened when “Hang dry” equates to “On a hangar hung on the laundry room door upper sill.” “Lay flat to dry” equates to “On a bed not in use.” That works OK, since the clothes so laid flat went through the spin cycle and are not sopping wet like clothes used to be when my mother used an old broom handle to take clothes from boiling water in a wash pot and then rinse the clothes in cold water in a galvanized tub and then wring them out by hand and put them in a basket and when the basket was full, carry the basket to a clothes line. That was in the Good Old Days, before women had washing machines and dryers in the house, and looonng before fathers/husbands were at home and mothers/wives working. When you’re retired, though, some things kind of revolve to you.

But we were talking about the “Lay flat to dry” label.

What was in the mind of whoever wrote “Lay flat to dry”? Did he/she think most people have a particular place in the house, a place the real estate agent points out? “And this is the lay flat to dry,” and potential home buyers say, “Ooh, that’s nice.” Beds not in use work.

While varying instructions are irritating, more so are the ones unreadable. Who decided to make instructions gold letters on black background? Or white letters in blue background? And all in 6-point letters?

If I can’t read a label, the offending blouse or pair of slacks becomes a “Lay flat to dry.”

And then … Dryer buzzer went off. Have to hang up clothes.

Don’t get me started on hangers.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Biscuits, Garrett Snuff and the American Revolution

I made biscuits this morning, Priscilla’s recipe from her YWCA cookbook:

Heat oven to 425; mix 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup margarine and 2/3 cup milk. Form the dough, roll and cut, cook for 12-15 minutes.

The milk measurement is a ballpark figure, usually not enough, with enough somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4, so you have to add a little after the 2/3 and after mixing and seeing the dough is a little dry. So add a little milk and mix again; not too much milk or you’ll be adding flour and if you’re not careful you’ll be adding more milk again and maybe more flour …

The biscuits turned out good, as they should from a good recipe. A full recipe makes 12, but I got 13 this morning. Carolyn, Paul and Francis spent the night on their way to Naples and Rocky Branch, so I made more than usual. Usually I’ll make half a recipe, when there’s just Priscilla and me. We don’t eat all six or seven, but the dogs think spare biscuits are OK.

I used a Garrett Snuff glass to cut the biscuits. Priscilla brought two Garrett Snuff glasses into our marriage. She has never, ever, used any kind of tobacco. But, the Garrett Snuff glasses are just the right size for orange juice and for cutting biscuits.

Priscilla got the glasses from her maternal grandmother, Cora Johnston Raley, who used snuff for a number of years. Priscilla said she remembered as a little girl sitting on the porch in DeQueen and Mrs. Raley chewing a willow twig and dipping the twig into a glass of snuff and then painting her gums.

Mrs. Raley was married only 31 years, 1919-1950. Her husband, Melvin, was born in 1880 and died in 1950. Mrs. Raley was 97 when she died in 1994. She had stopped using snuff long before then.

Cora’s sister, Aunt Liza, Priscilla calls her, married Melvin’s brother. The offspring of the two families were double cousins. One of the brothers and one sister made a date for marriage, but they had to keep the arrangement secret from their families. The other brother and the other sister were part of the plot, and on a certain date, the sisters and the brothers drove each family’s wagon to a place in Southwest Arkansas. When the four got together, the other two decided, “Why not get married, too.” Cora and Melvin must have been those two. Melvin was 39 and never married, and Cora was 22, an age facing rural spinsterhood in those days.

The Johnstons were tenant farmers, and maybe the Raleys, too. The Johnstons got to Arkansas by way of Virginia, Tennessee, Texas and the Indian Territory. How the Raleys got to Arkansas we’re not really sure.

Priscilla’s great-great-times-a-few-grandfather Martin Johnston was in the 3rd Virginia Line from February 1776-February 1778 and in the Virginia militia until moving to Tennessee after the Revolution. He was in the Battle of Trenton. He was discharged at Valley Forge. He went home and two years and eight months later fought Loyalists at King’s Mountain. In his application for a veteran’s pension in 1818, Johnston said that if anyone doubted his service, the doubter need only contact James Monroe, for Pvt. Johnston and Lt. Monroe were in the same company, and Johnston “was present at Trenton when Lt. Monroe was wounded.” A sitting president is a good witness.

A few years ago, when Priscilla’s bachelor uncle Murray died, she and I searched the cabin and barn northeast of DeQueen for several revolvers, rifles and shotguns we knew Murray had. We did not want thieves to find the guns. We found the weapons wrapped in a shower curtain in the barn. There were two .22-caliber rifles, a 16-gauge double-barrel, a .410 single barrel, a .32-caliber nickel-plated Smith and Wesson revolver and a .32-caliber rim fire Remington rolling block rifle. I mentioned to Priscilla that the .22s and the shotguns were for putting food on the table, but the Smith and Wesson and the Remington rolling block were not.

Southwest Arkansas in the late 1800s and early 1900s could be a dangerous place.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

One crow cawing

A crow cawed in the back yard, and I was reminded of walking through the woods on a foggy fall morning, the day following a night of light rain. Leaves are soft on such a morning -- soft and wet -- and footfalls silent. On such a morning, fog envelopes the tops of trees, embraces thin limbs.

When the crow cawed, I saw the side of a small hill, a round hill, and a gentle slope to a creek below. Small oak trees grew on the top of the hill and the side of the hill. The oaks were no more than a century old. Bark on the trees was black from morning dampness. Somewhere not far away, a squirrel chattered; perhaps complaining, perhaps only doing what squirrels do. Acorns crunched underfoot.

When the crow cawed and I remembered walking through the woods on a foggy fall morning, I also remembered, from two or three years ago, biting into a slice of fresh ham -- Not the kind quick-cured in a factory and bought in a grocery store; not the kind wrapped in plastic and with a label listing weight and price per pound and total price, and another label with instructions for baking and still another label announcing injection with a solution. The kind of ham I bit into two or three years ago had been wrapped in white butcher paper -- no labels of any kind, and the price marked with a grease pencil.

When I bit into the slice of fresh ham, an image came to my mind. The image was of a cool, wet day -- much like the day of walking through wet woods. The image was of a house in the woods; a house never painted, bare wood weathered by rain and sun, a long porch all the way across the front of the house and a tin roof, the kind of roof soft rain patters onto and you lie in bed and pull the old quilt tighter around your shoulders; the kind of rain on a cool morning, almost cold, and you lie in bed and just let your mind wander.

I saw, too, a chimney on the old house, and smoke rising from the chimney, drifting upward until taken into the fog, embraced by the fog.

That kind of morning, an almost cold morning, would be a morning for sleeping late, and when you do get out of bed, you poke at the coals in the fireplace and then put pine-knot kindling on the coals. When the kindling blazed, you lay two split oak logs on the flame and a third log on top of the two and then go to the kitchen and put on water for coffee. That kind of morning is a day for breakfast of sausage cooked in a cast iron skillet, for eggs over easy, grits maybe, hot biscuits, and coffee hot and strong.

Those are the things I saw when the crow cawed in the back yard.

Some things you wonder how it got this crazy

“Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, has prepared an amendment repealing the policy that prevents women from serving in front-line combat units in the Army and Marine Corps.

“Sanchez’s amendment would implement a recommendation made earlier this year by the Military Leadership Diversity Committee, a group of current and retired officers, noncommissioned officers and civilians, which determined that combat exclusion laws hurt advancement opportunities for women**.”

** And that is, after all, the sole purpose of a military, to ensure everybody has a shot at advancement, and, by the way, you get promotion points if you pee sitting down.

Linked from jammirewearingfool.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I made the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ list

And it wasn’t like the Dean’s List.

An older man who sometimes wrote columns for the newspaper stopped by my desk one afternoon and placed a newsletter amid the clutter.

“I’m a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans,” he said. “You’re mentioned here, but you didn’t get the information from me.” And he walked away.

I didn’t? Well. And why should anybody care where I got the information?

I opened the newsletter and read a piece that did, indeed, mention my name, as well as misquote me. The mention had to do with a column I had written a week or two before. The column led with demonstrations in Southern California by Vietnamese boat people against another refugee, who had placed a picture of Ho Chi Minh in the window of his store. The demonstrators said the picture was a slap in the face to all who fought Communists in Vietnam, and especially to those whose family members died in the wars or were murdered by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. On one day, 10,000 people were in the shopping center parking lot, demanding that the man remove the picture.

In my column I said you would think the Vietnamese would get over the war, since Saigon had fallen 24 years before. I then said that we had not yet gotten over the Civil War, and that one ended 134 years before. And, I wrote, “The South lost the Civil War because it was out-generaled and out-fought.” The idea of a “Lost Cause” was, I wrote, “dribble.”

I knew when I wrote the piece that some people would consider me worse than a scoundrel, of lesser social standing than one who fouls a swimming pool or punch bowl. But I have never had much truck with organizations whose membership is based on what an ancestor did more than a century ago. It’s quite simple: You ain’t him. Or her.

I have the same opinion of war re-enactors, especially Civil War re-enactors, who seem mostly to be middle-aged and overweight.

I was surprised but not angered at mention in the local chapter newsletter. I didn’t know the local chapter had a newsletter. What upset me more than a little, though, was the misquote. Whoever wrote the piece had my writing as “The South lost the Civil War because they …”

That is one of those things that gets my goat to a fare thee well, assignment of person to a non-living object. A country (imagined or real) is an “it.” A country is not a “they.”

So, as mad as the SCV was at me, I was twice as mad.

Oh, the SCV writer said it was opinions like mine that gave the organization a bad name.

Glad to be of help.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

From The Sarsun War

Against Overwhelming Odds, Scout Flight Destroys Sarsun Cruiser

By Jasmine Folks
United Republics Navy Press

Marine Captain Jack Fletcher was more than surprised when his flight of four scouts burst from deep space and into the middle of a Sarsun fleet.
“Surprised would be an understatement,” Captain Fletcher laughed during an interview in the pilots’ lounge of the cruiser URS Saratoga.
“Scared out of my wits might be more appropriate,” the five-year veteran pilot said.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to think of Captain Fletcher as frightened by or of anything. As leader of Number One Flight, Fourth Scout Squadron, the trim Marine has faced more than his share of dangers while searching for and finding Sarsun ships.
Senior officers recognize Captain Fletcher’s abilities, as do the pilots he leads.
“Jack Fletcher is one of the best pilots and finest officers I have ever known,” said Lt. Col. Matt Mapes, commander of Fourth Scout Squadron.
“Not only can he fly anything that has wings, he also has a nose for where the Sarsun are hiding,” the lieutenant colonel added.
It was that sixth sense, perhaps, that led Captain Fletcher and Number One Flight into the Sarsun fleet of six cruiser transports, an even dozen escort ships, and several ancillary vessels last week.
Four scouts against eighteen warships. Not the kind of odds most pilots would want to face.
“It didn’t take too long to figure out we were a bit outnumbered,” Captain Fletcher said.
Outnumbered and outgunned. Stripped of almost all weapons in order to have space for scanners and additional fuel cells, each of Captain Fletcher’s SF3F Rattlers (SF for “Scout-Fighter”) carried a single automatic cannon, three short of the F3F’s usual armament.
And, in addition to the eighteen Sarsun warships, Captain Fletcher and his flight mates had to contend with two dozen Sarsun fighters, launched from the cruiser transports when Number One Flight dashed through the enemy fleet.
“The Jakes (Sarsun fighters) are larger than a Rattler, but just as fast,” Captain Fletcher said. “The Rattler is more maneuverable, though, and the maneuverability gave us an edge.”
In the hands of an experienced pilot, that edge often means the difference between winning and losing, between life and death.
On the day Number One Flight met the Sarsun fleet, though, one of Captain Fletcher’s pilots was on her first combat mission.
Junior Lieutenant Shala Felps was graduated third in her flight school, but that rating did not prepare her for the sudden appearance of an entire Sarsun fleet.
“You learn what to do, how to handle the Rattler,” Lieutenant Felps said of her training, “but when you streak through eighteen Sarsun warships, the surprise goes beyond anything you experienced before.”
She added, “When I saw the Sarsun ships, I knew we would either keep going, or Captain Fletcher would turn us around and attack the enemy. I was glad when we kicked our Rattlers around and went full bore at the nearest cruiser.”
Going at the largest Sarsun ship did not mean the Rattlers faced an easy kill. Not only were defensive guns active on the cruiser, but there were the Jakes to contend with.
Captain Fletcher considered the Jakes, of course.
“I figured if we went right at the cruiser, the Jakes wouldn’t follow too close,” he explained. “They might get caught by the cruiser’s antiaircraft systems.”
Captain Fletcher did not have his pilots line up for individual passes at the Sarsun cruiser.
“We went in on line,” said Senior Lieutenant Marcos Walls. “Our wingtips were no more than a meter apart. Captain Jack knew we had to concentrate our fire in as small an area as we could.”
Had the Rattlers been fully armed -- 16 cannon and not four -- pilots could have brought fire to various vulnerable parts of the Sarsun ship.
“As it was,” Lieutenant Felps said, “we concentrated all our shots at the bridge. If we could take out command and control...Well, good things would happen.”
Flying on Captain Fletcher’s wing that day, Lieutenant Felps lined up on the center of the Sarsun command bridge.
“The formation Captain Jack put us into worked out so that I had the middle,” Lieutenant Felps said,
Captain Fletcher was to Lieutenant Felp’s left, while Lieutenant Wells and Junior Lieutenant Salum Bordax were to her right.
The four Rattler pilots opened fire at maximum range and quickly closed with the cruiser.
“We got good hits all over the bridge,” Captain Fletcher said. “My guys did an excellent job.”
Winner of the gunnery trophy in flight school, Lieutenant Felps recognized the value of good training.
“In flight school, firing at drones was exciting,” she recounted. “But this ... Seeing my shots shatter the Sarsun command ... Nothing compares with that.”
Because of the number of Sarsun ships, Number One Flight made only one pass at the cruiser.
“I figured we could get our shots in, and then we better get out of the area,” Captain Fletcher said.
That one pass, though, was as good as it gets for high-speed pilots.
“Our on-board sensors and cameras showed the bridge on fire,” Captain Fletcher said.
Additionally, data analysts in the Saratoga’s intelligence section said the fire most likely was not brought under control for some time, if at all.
“I wish we could have remained in the area and watched the cruiser burn,” Lieutenant Bordax said. “That class of cruiser carries a crew of one thousand and a landing force of fifteen hundred. Nothing would have given me more satisfaction than witnessing the death of twenty-five hundred Sarsun.”

Transcript of Radio Calls During Fight Against Sarsun Fleet (with explanation of combat flight terms)

Captain Jack Fletcher -- Flight Leader
Junior Lieutenant Shala Felps -- Captain Fletcher’s Wing
Senior Lieutenant Marcos Walls -- Leader Second Section
Junior Lieutenant Salum Bordax -- Walls’ Wing

NOTE: Transcript begins with First Flight’s egress of jump and sighting of Sarsun fleet.

LT. FELPS: Holy shit!

CAPT. FLETCHER: Full vertical, full burn, now!

(Rattling and shaking noises as aircraft go to maximum military speed in a vertical climb.)

CAPT. FLETCHER (after four seconds of burn): Off burn, now! Everybody still in one piece?

(The other pilots answer “Affirmative.”)

LT. WALLS: Pucker factor of nine.

CAPT. FLETCHER: Understood. Let’s flip over and see what we’ve got.

(By turning 90 degrees, upside down, the pilots can see below, through the aircraft canopy.)

CAPT. FLETCHER: By eyeball count, it looks like six cruisers, twelve escorts and a bunch of little ships that don’t matter. Scanners agree.

LT. WALLS: We got Jakes coming up.

CAPT. FLETCHER: I got ‘em. Okay, folks. We’ll make one pass on the nearest cruiser’s bridge, then get out of the neighborhood. Attack angle, thirty degrees, increase angle as we near the cruiser. Set weapons for burst fire at maximum range. Go manual and hold the trigger down when we get hits. We go straight through the Jakes. They’ll open fire at max range, and when they do, we go full burn until we’re through their formation. Questions?

(No replies.)

CAPT. FLETCHER: Okay. Roll left, now. Good. Attack angle, now. Okay. Everybody’s looking good. Jakes should start firing … Full burn, now!

(Sounds of shaking noises, then loud ripping sound as cannon fire in half-second bursts.)

LT BORDAX: Sonofabitch! That Jake almost hit me!

CAPT. FLETCHER: A little short. Getting closer. Go to manual fire. Increase angle forty degrees. Fire, fire!

(Sustained ripping sounds for five seconds as each cannon fires 750 rounds.)

LT. FELPS: Hits, hits! We’ve got hits on the bridge! Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah!

CAPT. FLETCHER: Cease fire! Pull up. Level flight. Full burn, now! Okay. Jump in ten seconds.

LT BORDAX: Did you see that? Did you?

CAPT. FLETCHER: Jump in seven seconds.

LT. WALLS: Sonofabitch is on fire!

CAPT. FLETCHER: Five seconds. (Short laugh.) Well, Shala, not bad for a first mission, huh.

LT. FELPS: No, sir. Not bad at all. Can we do this every mission?

CAPT. FLETCHER: Probably not. Jump … Now.

Friday, April 29, 2011

When I Went to Vietnam

(In 1993 I took a class called "Vietnam and Its Influence on American Film, Literature and Music." One afternon before class, another student asked me, "What did you feel when you went to Vietnam?" Usually when someone asks a "How did you feel ..." question, I answer with not-good manners. The confusion of "think" with "feel" is a rather stupid thing. That day, though, I answered the qustion truthfully. I said, "I don't know." I went home that night and I wrote When I Went to Vietnam.)

What more fitting memorial for the fallen
Than that their children
Should fall for the same cause?
-- Osbert Sitwell, The Next War

When I went to Vietnam

Kim and I said good-bye in the parking lot across the street from my barracks. We were in Kim’s white Ford Falcon. The Falcon was six years old.

There were lights on tall metal poles in the parking lot, but the lights gave off only enough illumination to make the parking lot spooky at night when it was full of cars and you walked through it. In the parking lot the night I left there were only Kim’s Falcon and six or so other cars. The other cars belonged to wives or girlfriends who had driven from home and to Fort Meade to say good-bye to their men.

Soldiers walked from the barracks and into buses or got off the buses and stood around and smoked cigarettes. There were three buses and a three-quarter-ton truck parked beneath a street light near the barracks. The buses were dark green and shiny and had big white letters on the front and back and sides and reading “U.S. Army.” The buses would take us to Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., where we would get on a C-130 transport plane. Sixty of us would get on two of the buses. The third bus was loaded with duffel bags. The three-quarter-ton truck was painted a dull greenish brown; olive drab; OD the color was called. Some soldiers said OD meant Over Dirt. The truck carried rifle racks with our M-16 rifles, and boxes with M-60 machine guns and M-79 grenade launchers. The troop orderly room was packed on the truck, too -- OD three-drawer metal filing cabinets; wooden OD boxes with typewriters and typing paper; three field desks; several folding chairs and a Tent, General Purpose Small, that would be the orderly room when we arrived in Vietnam.

Kim and I had said good-bye the night before, but that good-bye was longer than this one would be. Now, we held hands and touched and made soft kisses in the dark. We said, “I’m going to miss you,” and “I’ll miss you too,” and “It won’t be the same,” and “No, it won’t.” Kim said, “I will write to you every day.” I should have said, “No, don’t tell me that, because you might not be able to, and then what would I think?” But I didn’t say that. I said, “Okay.”

Later on, I did not get a letter every day, but I didn’t worry. Kim wrote at least twice a week, sometimes three times, and the paper was scented. She wrote about things we had done and about her job and how she sometimes cried. She wrote about things we would do when I got back -- places we would go and restaurants where we would eat. Kim knew all the good restaurants around Laurel and in Baltimore. Kim didn’t mention the other things we would do. She was shy and would never talk of those.

Later on, I wrote when I could. I wrote that it was hot and dry or hot and wet. I wrote about the songs we had listened to and sometimes those songs were on Armed Forces Radio and I thought about her when I heard the songs. After a lot of later on, I stopped writing. I don’t know why. Kim wrote and asked why I didn’t write any more. After a time, she stopped asking. (We did get back together, but it was more than a year later. It wasn’t the same, though, and then we weren’t together.)

Kim had left and had been left before, but that did not mean she was accustomed to it. In the summer of 1950, Kim and her family left their village north of Seoul and ran from the North Korean army. Kim and her family ran south, through Seoul and farther south and stopped in Tageu, because they were tired and could run no farther. There wasn’t much food, and sometimes they went three or four days with nothing to eat. Grass, sure, but everybody who ran ate grass, and the grass was soon gone. Kim was eight years old the summer she and her family ran from the North Koreans, and she remembered eating grass. She remembered, too, a funny thing, that for more than a year she didn’t have any candy. I guess that’s something you remember when you are eight years old and then nine before you eat candy again.

I was 20 years old that autumn. Kim was 24. She was a lovely woman. Her face was shaped like a heart and her hair black and always fixed just so. Her teeth were white and even. She smiled every time she saw me, and her eyes crinkled. Kim’s manners were impeccable. She dressed modestly; red was her best color. She embarrassed easily.

One September day we were in a large department store in Laurel, in the lingerie section. I held up several things for Kim to look at, and the flimsiest and most transparent, I held against her. She blushed every time I did that, saying, “Bob! Someone might see!”

I found a thing that was not transparent; a lounging suit, one-piece and with long sleeves. It was burgundy colored and had a scoop neck and a zipper that went all the way down. The zipper had a big metal circle at the top that you could put your finger through and find easily in the dark. I took the suit from the rack and said, “This is pretty.”

“Yes, it is,” Kim said. She touched the materiel. “It is very pretty. Should I try it on? It is my size.”

“Yes,” I said. “I think you should try it on.”

Kim carried the suit to a dressing room, and I stood in the lingerie section, surrounded by things that were transparent and things that were not.

A saleswoman approached. “May I help you?”

I said, “Ah, . . I’m with my ... She’s trying something on.”

The saleswoman nodded and smiled, and then Kim said: “Bob?”

I turned. Kim was just outside the dressing room door. The suit was much more pretty on Kim than on a hanger in the rack. Kim stood with her arms at her sides and a look that asked very much for approval.

She said, “Do you like it?”

“Yes,” I said. “I like it very much.” The saleswoman smiled and looked away.

I don’t remember what Kim and I finally said to each other in the Falcon, other than “I love you” and “I love you too.” I know we kissed a final kiss and it was good. Then, I got out of the car and walked to the first bus. I got on the bus and sat next to Jim MacMillan. (Jim would call in the summer of 1992 from Shamrock in the Texas Panhandle. He said he did a second tour with the Regiment. I asked, although I didn’t want to, but it was something I had to ask, “Did you make it okay?” I closed my eyes and almost cried when I asked, because somehow I knew the answer. Jim said, “No, I didn’t. I got shot in the face.” I remember how I thought the conversation strange from the beginning, that when I asked a question, Jim paused longer than is normal before he answered.) I took the seat next to Jim and I sighed and lit a cigarette.

Kim didn’t leave, not right away. I looked out the bus window. The Falcon was still there. I could see the car, but not Kim. The parking lot was dark. I wished she would go.

Then the headlights came on and the Falcon backed up and left the parking lot. Kim drove north. Brake lights flashed when she stopped at an intersection at the top of the hill. Then, the car was gone.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stories I would like to sell or finish

The Disappearance of Harvey Lee Jackson – 92,000 words. Done. A young man returns from war, meets a girl, falls in love, but the girl’s husband is nine months dead from Vietnam. Young man goes back to Vietnam, his best friend is killed and the young man wounded. As the man tells another woman 24 years later, “There was a girl. I loved her, but I lost her to the war.” G language; PG events.

When I Went to Vietnam – 86,000 words. Done. Short stories, essays, poems. Contains soldier language; not for the easily embarrassed or faint of heart.

All Our Yesteryears – 300,000 words. Done, but needs redoing. Circa 1964, a young man’s last few months in high school, the girl he loves, his enlisting in the Army, the girl’s death in a car accident. The young man goes to Korea, re-enlists, succumbs to temptations he never knew existed, returns Stateside, goes out with and falls in love with the first girl’s younger sister. Threats by the girl’s father. Young man goes to his duty station for eight months, then to Vietnam. Events there. Returns home for his last year in the Army. When discharged, sees second girl, knows he cannot stay, goes to Midwestern state, where his best friend from Vietnam lives. Meets friend’s older sister. Events. Two endings, haven’t chosen. Young man marries best friend’s sister, or he is contacted by the girl he ran away from and returns to her. Language as above.

Phu Bat – several unfinished chapters. Phu Bat is a town of 25,000 on the South China Sea, between Nha Trang and Cam Ranh. HQ for the 407th Truck Company, commanded by COL. Wade Martin. Colonels do not command truck companies, which means there is more than movement of materiel. Martin keeps the peace in and around Phu Bat through the oldest and most effective method – He pays for it. Local authorities, local Viet Cong leaders take Martin’s money. Except, of course, it is not his money. Every business pays a fee. Martin’s bought local authorities make sure the Saigon government gets nothing. Soldiers of the 407th and airmen at the small Air Force strip support local businesses. So,to, do local farmers, some of whom grow pineapples, tobacco and potatoes rather than rice. Local middle men sell the agricultural products to name brand companies, who in turn sell to the US government. Farmers pay a fee, as do the middlemen. Many Americans involved in Phu Bat, with every department of the US government involved in educating indigenous peoples on the proper ways of modern life – Departments of Justice, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Transportation, etc. and et al. Also in Phu Bat are American non-profit organizations and religious missionaries, to whom the American soldiers are an encumbrance. War stuff and personal interactions as well.

The Greatest Years of Rock and Roll – many unfinished chapters. Actually has nothing to do with rock and roll, except for the time span – 1963-72 – and use of song lyrics on each and every page; i.e., “the GTO really looking fine,” “Jack is running a 409 in the pickup, saved his pennies and his dimes,” “Last night there was the girl in Missouri, Doris, and ooh that girl looked nice,” “and a couple of songs Doris just stood in one spot and wiggled around,” “Jack finished chewing, swallowed, sipped coffee. ‘I was born in a small town.’” In the opening chapter, Jack stops for lunch at a diner in mid-eastern Kansas, eventually discovering the diner is a way station for the characters who journey in. Every picture tells a story, and so does every man and every woman.

The Sarsun Wars – many stories, a few actually finished. In a galaxy far away and far in the future, a race before unknown begins conquest and elimination of humans. Almost genetically identical to humans, the Sarsun take planet after planet, despite appalling losses. The idea of the book is a compilation of stories from published accounts by those who fought the Sarsun and survived or who were captured and survived.

One of Our Own – basic idea and layout. What do you do when a friend on a medical mission to Mexico is kidnapped by narco-terrorists and your government does nothing? If your friend is one of your soldiers and you are the only fulltime soldier at a National Guard detachment near the Rio Grande, you get with like-minded soldiers and plan and carry out a rescue. Over a drill weekend, of course. People have to be back at work on Monday.

And then there are the true events found while searching for something else, events that would make great stories; to wit: Rowland George Allanson Allanson-Winn, 5th Baron Headley (19 January 1855 – 22 June 1935), was offered the throne of Albania in 1925, along with $500,000 and $50,000 per year but refused it. That’s $10 million or $6.5 million in today’s money, depending upon which source you believe, plus the annual stipend. Albania wound up with King Zog, former president, who proclaimed himself king in 1928.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

From Sgt. Bob's kitchen

Today’s breakfast menu called for “Charming cheese blintzes.”

“Charming?” The things I cook can be called many things – filling, quite good, excellent, and even occasionally so-so – but never have I prepared a meal termed “charming.”

I probably cooked “Charming cheese blintzes” before today. Cylla and I have used the menus off and on for around seven years. More off than on, sometimes. A 240-mile move spread over two years leads to an off and on life. Cylla got her job here in Arkansas in March 2005. I moved up here in June 2007. We sold our house in Sulphur Springs that November. Two-plus years of fixing a house – There were things that should have been done before, but as a friend said, “When my wife and I decided to sell our house, we had to fix ten years of ‘I’ll get to that tomorrow.’” Well, I had 23 years of tomorrows to take care of. But with the combined efforts of a bank, contractors, roofers and my often limited abilities, the job finally got done.

Cylla got the menu plan a time after I was fired from my last job. The newspaper went into a “Let’s fire all the older reporters and hire brand new graduates.” Out the door went an almost 60-year-old reporter, a 55-year-old (me) and a 40-year-old reporter. I applied for several jobs after the firing, but not with much gusto. I discovered I cannot take much stress. An Army psychologist wrote that in 1990 following two days of testing and evaluation – “decreased tolerance to stress.” Kind of funny; I’ve had two jobs since high school graduation – soldiering and newspapering, both with definite, sometimes almost overwhelming, but different, kinds of stress. There were other kinds of jobs – construction, taxi driving, nigh club bouncing – but those were interludes between soldiering and newspapering.

The psychological tests were interesting. An Army staff sergeant gave the tests. One question was, “Who wrote Faustus?” I answered, “Goethe.” The staff sergeant said, “I’ve been giving this test for 12 years, and you are the second person to answer that question.” Another question was one of those “If it takes (this many) people (this long) to do a job, how many people will it take to do the same job in (this amount of time)?” I said, “Ninety-six.” The staff sergeant said, “I have been giving this test for 12 years, and you are the only person who’s given the right answer.” Late that afternoon, I went back to my room at the visitor’s quarters at Fort Sam and got a pencil and piece of paper and wrote down numbers and went through the math to figure out how I got the answer.

The tests determined I have “superior IQ” and “very superior verbal IQ.” I wondered how one has a “very superior” anything. That sounds like the difference between “good” and “gooder.”

The decrease tolerance to stress was a result of a cerebral aneurysm in March 1986. Doctors cut a hole in my skull and moved aside parts of my brain and got to the aneurysm and put a spring-loaded stainless steel clip on the bulge. After that, though, there were physical and mental problems, which lead the Army to decide on a discharge based on “Organic mental disorder, characterized by depression, emotional lability and personality decompensation.” The Army medical people did not explain what the words meant. “You have this, here are the papers, there is the door.” The papers meant a check every month, but not as much as I wanted.

But we were talking about “Charming cheese blintzes.” You take an egg yolk, two egg whites, fat-free cottage cheese, some flavoring, flour, a little milk (I used 2%, even though the recipe called for skim), put it all together and cook about a third-cup at a time in a skillet sprayed with non-stick stuff. Like pancakes. I used a wrought iron skillet, one of the greatest inventions of man. (“Man” in the gender-neutral sense, lest the Gender Police or Thought Police be reading.) You can cook anything in a wrought iron skillet or a wrought iron Dutch oven, given something as a lid, of course. Cooking “Charming cheese blintzes” does not require a lid, but some things do.

Here’s what I learned from cooking “Charming cheese blintzes” – Each of the six stuck. Some more than others, but stuck none the less. Still, served with fat-free sour cream and strawberries cut up and sweetened “with your favorite sugar substitute,” as the recipe said, the blintzes tasted pretty good. But they stuck and I won’t do them again.

From Sgt. Bob’s kitchen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

What happened?

At the Barnes and Noble site, Nookbooks, under Historical Fiction, titles in the first two screens include: Water for Elephants; The Paris Wife; The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane; The Valley of the Horses (Earth’s Children #2); Prayers for Sale; The Shelters of Stone (Earth’s Children #5); Dragonfly in Amber … Those are not historical fiction. Those books are romance novels.

Historical novels are set in specific times and involve specific events, historical events, hence the name “historical novel.”

The first two screens contained two writers who are gendered male. The remainder are written by women – 15 books written by women; four by men, and three of those by Ken Follett. The other was written by Steve Berry.

The science fiction/fantasy category is even less diverse (to use an in-vogue word). Of 10 screens of titles, there is not one space opera or space exploration or humans war against alien thingees threatening extinction. Not one. There are dozens of books about vampires, zombies and fairies, though.

Maybe more women than men buy books. Or, maybe men have become so feminized that they are reading romance novels and vampire novels, and etc.