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.