The Eleventh Hour Save…..

Compounding the uncertainty of just where we are going with the Covid-19 Pandemic is the separation from our churches on the Sunday that begins the Christian Holy Week. We are sitting at home on a foggy, damp and cool morning, while the pundits on television continue the conversation about how bad things are. It is Palm Sunday, and many folks are pondering the void between Christianity and science. I am sharing a story about one man that crossed the line between science and the Almighty in a rather dramatic eleventh hour save. This man was my father.

He was born into very poor circumstances, quitting High School before graduating and joining the Army at the direction of a justice of the peace who offered him a choice between the military and the streets that he was fond of fighting on. He had been provided precious little parental guidance growing up, and certainly was not exposed to the benefits of organized religion. He adapted easily to the rigors of life as an enlisted man in the aftermath of WWII and beginning of a “Police Action” in the Korean Peninsula, where he distinguished himself, earning a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant. This was his element, and he was awarded two Silver Stars, a handful of Bronze Stars with V Devises, a Purple Heart and still more ribbons associated with a warrior. His career ended with his elevation to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army’s Special Forces. He was comfortable with killing, not a bad attribute for a combat officer, and was a natural leader. Throughout his distinguished military career, he kept the Lord and organized religion at arms length. You see, he could not reconcile his lifestyle and mission with the alleged omnipotence of the Master. He would support the troops in his command as they sought the comfort of their religion, but his support was shallow. His lack of exposure to the tenants of religion resulted in an established belief that if the Lord existed, he was failing mankind in the environment that he relished.

Flash forward to the young Colonel, laying on his deathbed, a mighty warrior reduced to 85 pounds of suffering humanity, knowing that his exit from the earth was eminent. I was there with him, at a military hospital in South Carolina when after a short conversation, he asked me to find a Chaplain to talk with him. I did as he asked and brought the surprised Chaplain to his bedside. I stepped out while they talked for nearly an hour. When the door was opened, the Chaplain assured me that all was as it should be and the Colonel appeared to be at ease. He died quietly the next morning, gazing out of the window to his room, as the sounds of marching troops resonated through the halls of the old wooden hospital. A few days later, the Colonel was laid to rest among those he deeply loved, in a National Cemetery, in Florence, SC. A simple cross adorns his tombstone, so that folks would understand he is one with God.

This eleventh hour save is illustrative of the void between science and Christianity. A void that is the fodder of talk show hosts and other prominent figures who laugh at Christianity and refer to God as a ghost lacking credibility. You see, there is no mathematical solution to lend dignity to the concept of faith, a central component in the prospect of life after death. Christianity is losing it’s grip on this world, and the ability to benefit from an eleventh hour save is seldom proffered. I suspect that many of us have prayed fervently in situations that seemed hopeless, successful prayers if you are able to read this musing. The Colonel made a decision and asked the question, can I afford to leave this world without begging forgiveness for the things I have done and seen. The Pandemic is the equivalent of the Colonel’s combat hell, and a man not predisposed to do so, talked with the Lord and received the counsel necessary to understand the gap between science and faith. We can do the same.

It is rough out there right now. Is there any good reason why we can’t put faith to work for us as the scientists, guided by the Master’s Hand, unscramble the mysteries of this deadly virus? If faith can move a crusty old warrior on his deathbed, it can move us. That is the lesson here.

Have a wonderful Holy Week, count your blessings, and pray for those we have lost. If we join them, do so with God at your back.

SR

The Doctor…….

Doctors and their medical staffs are all the talk these days, as they are the front line in our war with this thing called Covid-19. America has always enjoyed a love for their doctors, never more so than now as they risk their very being in the treatment and care of their patients. Today, I am going to share my first significant experience with a doctor that I will never forget.

I was a skinny, 10 year old kid enjoying life on a small cotton and tobacco farm in rural South Carolina when, quite suddenly, I felt terrible. Nausea set in and the dull but prominent pain in my abdomen led to a trip to a small clinic staffed by two doctors located in the nearby community of Marion, SC. I was introduced to Dr. Finger, a surgeon and Dr. Ira Barth a family care specialist. An examination and test or two later and I was scheduled for surgery to remove the appendix, which had decided to go it’s own way. The surgery was uneventful, although the recovery was hampered by a jump off the back porch loosening a few stitches and causing some concern to the elders.

At the age of 10, I was hooked on all things medicine related. Dr. Barth was a big guy, jocular and easy in manner. I thought then, and still do today, that he was ideally suited to the practice of medicine. This story is about the good doctor.

Dr, Barth was born in 1929. He was an excellent student and was admitted to the Citadel where he further distinguished himself, before attending and graduating from the Chicago Medical School. He then completed post graduate study at the University of South Carolina and Duke University. In short order he became the Chief of Staff at the growing Finger Clinic before entering a family practice until his early death in 1988. As doctors often do, Dr. Barth was deeply involved in the community. He was a Free Mason, served on the Board of two boy’s homes and the Camden Military Academy. The doctor served as the Marion Police Commissioner, a city councilman and a State Highway Commissioner. He was a prominent designee in Who’s Who in Southern medicine and won numerous other medically related awards. He also served on the Boards of several medical organizations and was a member of the Israeli Medical Association. You get the picture, he left a wake in so many seas of life.

Ira Barth, Citadel Cadet

All of these accolades aside, he was also a doctor who would quiz me on the placement of organs and the physiology of human beings as a result of my fascination with a Renwal Visable Man, a clear plastic human likeness that you placed the organs in after painting them in appropriate colors. He laughed easily and was “the Doctor” to so many in the community who placed their lives in his hands. He possessed excellent judgement and could and did render opinions about the maintenance of life outside the medical setting.

The Renwal Visible Man, Circa: 1959

Doctors, in most parts of America are easily accessed. We tend to take them for granted until we really need them. I would not be sitting here writing this today, were it not for the skills and God given ability of several surgeons and family practitioners. These folks don’t simply possess the mental capability to complete the rigorous study, they also possess the discipline to follow through. Then comes the interaction with the people they serve, a trying circumstance, particularly in the environment that has prompted this writing.

Dr. Ira Barth was one of a kind…….but aren’t all doctors? Offer a prayer….today they need the wind at their back and God’s calming influence.

Have a good weekend, as you enjoy becoming a movie critic courtesy of Netflix and Prime!

SR

Old Guys…New Guns…..

When you carry a pistol for 27 years, professionally, it becomes more than a habit borne out of necessity, it becomes essential if you want to walk without a tilt to your strong hand side. Seriously, it becomes completely second nature for the vast majority of us and very occasionally is pressed into service again. In order to take advantage of certain US Code provisions regarding concealed carry by retired LEO’s, we also qualify with our firearm, courtesy of our old departments, annually. Carrying a pistol should never be taken lightly.

Since retiring 20 years ago, I have relied upon my concealed carry pistol once, to dispatch a horribly injured deer on US 65. It would suit me just fine if I never fired a pistol at a human being, thus protecting my perfect record of having never done so on duty. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for a shotgun. I am talking police duty here, not combat in Vietnam where I was tasked with shooting at people. For the record, a number of bad guys have stared down the muzzle of my sidearm in arrest situations.

The NRA, an organization from the devil’s den according to gun hating liberals, prints monthly stories of citizen involved armed encounters. These often tragic encounters are seldom reported in main stream media as they tend to validate our constitutional right to carry for self protection. Although I strongly support concealed carry, I am not and will never be a proponent of open carry. You see, I taught handgun retention professionally and know how easy it is for a trained or otherwise lucky individual to take a gun away from an untrained individual. Open carry, in my opinion, serves no valid purpose and is, in most cases, counter productive. To each his own and I do not wish to debate this point with my friends who feel otherwise.

I have osteoarthritis. It does not preclude me from drawing and firing, as my grip is still more than adequate. It does, however, preclude me from loading magazines with any degree of efficiency. Operating the slide on most semi-automatic pistols is also a chore as my individual finger strength is hampered by 70 years of living very actively and old Arthur again. To this end, a well known gun manufacturer, Smith & Wesson, has developed a new semi-automatic pistol designated as the M&P 9, Shield, EZ. This is a pistol for folks like me whose hands are not what they once were. The serrations on the back of the slide are deepened and extended out laterally to permit easy gripping and racking. The serrations on the front of the slide are simply deepened which greatly facilitates racking from the front. The real key is in the magazine’s construction. In the photo, you will notice two small keys, one on each side of the carrier. I cannot load a Glock magazine to capacity, arthritis again, but can easily pull these keys down and charge the magazine on this pistol. That is why the pistol is designated “EZ”. The pistol is a 8 round, single stack (gun talk for one stack of bullets) that is light and easy in the hand. It is chambered in 9mm Luger, a powerful and popular personal defense caliber. This is a new pistol for old guys that I mentioned in the heading.

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9mm EZ

I do not recommend carrying a concealed weapon for everyone. The responsibility is significant and your mindset has to be within certain parameters. The liability that accompanies pointing a pistol at someone that you might shoot is far more significant than might be imagined. This being said, protecting one’s self is also a lawful right and our world is very challenging. I have seen a pistol lend dignity to many vulgar situations that might have ended badly. To this end, there are hundreds of firearm choices out there and no one size fits all. I simply feel this new pistol is worth considering if your hands are somewhat compromised.

Note the keys on top of the red portion of the carrier

Have a great weekend. If you are not a firearms oriented person, thanks for reading and give the shooting sports a look. It is a hoot!

Have a great weekend!

SR

Fear, Friend or Foe?

America is feeling the affects of fear. A microscopic bug, the Coronavirus, is the culprit. While I am not a psychologist, I have enough experience with fear to talk a bit about it, from the perspective of someone who has seen the damaging aspects of this super strong emotion. The learned folks who study this phenomena will tell you that fear is comprised of two components, biochemical and emotional. That is all you need to know about it from an academic perspective. Now let’s talk about it from a street perspective.

Confronting Fear

Herman Melville “Ignorance is the parent of fear”

Mr. Melville has captured, perfectly, the motivation behind the essential commodity hoarding that is currently so pervasive. It is a good kind of ignorance, honest and satisfying in that folks feel they are doing something to manage this scourge they do not understand. Honestly, few people do understand Covid-19, and those that do change their minds daily. Hoarding is also irrational, another by-product of fear. It is this fear that causes an otherwise rational person to buy 500 rolls of toilet tissue.

Jimmy Stewart “Fear is an insidious and deadly thing. It can warp judgement, freeze reflexes and breed mistakes. Worse, it’s contagious”

Mr. Stewart was a bomber pilot in WW II. He flew many missions over Europe where a tremendous number of his fellow pilots and crews were killed during virtually every mission. The military prepares you to face fear. They understand that when wrapped in fear, you will either freeze and likely be killed, or react as you were trained, relying on proven battleground tactics. This is the same methodology used to prepare a police officer. In basic training, we were paired off with another trainee and placed in a pugil stick pit. In my day this was great sport for the cadre, much like a prize fight. The pugil stick is a broom stick with “padded” ends and is ostensibly used to train bayonet techniques. The traineees actually beat each other senseless with them. I was paired with one of the meanest asshats I have ever known and still recall his name clearly. He was big, not particularly bright and wore a tattoo on his bulging arm that read “Born to Raise Hell”. I was horrified, but still thinking. Anthony tripped about halfway through his administration of a brain numbing beating and I returned his beating, swinging the stick like a cave man killing a dinosaur. The cadre loved it and I lived to fight another day.

William Shakespeare “Extreme fear can neither fight nor fly”

We aren’t to this point yet, but we can see it from here. Every time a new restriction is mandated, the panic level notches up a bit. Don’t believe it? Read social media where folks are slowly taking leave of reason. I can recall a gunfight in Vietnam where we thought it was going to be our last minutes on earth. The moment was saved by savvy combat veterans who reminded us we weren’t dead yet, perfect advice when you were not exactly sure what your next move is. That I am here is a testament to thinking under pressure.

So, what do we do now? How do we manage this thing called fear. First, you engage your brain. Stop letting the talking heads govern your response. Listen to the facts, then sit for a few minutes periodically to breathe and accept that it is okay. This is also a great time to consider the many positives in your life and acknowledge how fortunate you really are. Recognize that anxiety is the storehouse of wisdom. Another great fear management tool is humor. Again, social media has turned out one numerous thought or spin on the current crises after another. Police officers have, since the beginning of their existence, relied on gallows humor to help assuage their fearful moments and experiences. Humor works and does not mean you discount the seriousness of the event. Finally, exercise. Before the advent of Pelotons and outrageously expensive gym equipment, we turned out marvelous physical specimens relying on the floor as a device. There are any number of publications that will help you understand the “old way” of exercising. Walking is never out of style!

Another smart guy, Christopher Paolini, said, “Without fear, there cannot be courage”. Accept rational fear, understand you can manage it and remember you are a human being capable of reasoning. Fear is not going away….but neither are we!

Have a great week!

SR

Rose Gardens and Such….

When I entered the Highway Patrol Academy in 1972, a young Corporal Paul Corbin, a member of the training staff, reminded us that it was not going to be easy…at all. He posted a quotation on the bulletin board that suggested we were not going for a walk in a rose garden. Three members of our class of forty walked out in the first week, preferring a far less disciplined way of life. Coincidently, none of the three had a military background and thus had not been exposed to the kind of structure inherent to a State Police organization. Though not necessary, a military background was obviously beneficial.

We are facing the discomfort of sequestration, at home or in our business, as the first weapon in the fight of the Coronavirus pandemic. A precisely uniformed officer, in your face as the result of a miscue was not pleasant, however; it was a small price to pay for membership in this unique fraternity. Our challenge today is not the expectation of near perfection by an officer schooled in the elements of perfection…rather the sharp reduction in our ability to move around our society at will. Staying at home will not be a rose garden, but it is important to keep it in perspective.

On June 6, 1944, our finest generation pushed ashore under tremendous enemy fire on the beaches of Normandy. I cannot imagine the fear, and soon to be horror, of being transported from Main street America to the snug confines of a Higgins boat listening to intense fire rattling of the front ramp as you approached the beach. You knew that survival was a matter of absolute chance and that many of you were soon to touch the face of the Lord. Do you think any one of these patriots would have preferred to be back home, forced to live within their home for two weeks, given the opportunity?

Vietnam

During the Vietnam war, our soldiers were faced with a different uncertainty. You either were on a Fire Support Base, waiting on the enemy to attack or you were in the bush, looking for a gunfight. Either way, the anticipation could destroy you unless you adapted to the circumstance. My personal consideration, private until now, was a concern with just how it would feel to be hit by a rifle round and perhaps live long enough to feel the pain. Death, in all it’s forms, was a near daily experience. Would I, given the opportunity, rather have been faced with two weeks at home? The question is, of course, rhetorical. For the record, war is war, whether it be in Vietnam, Europe, the Pacific, Afghanistan or Iraq. If we can find the resolve to confront what might be a certain death, for the good of the country, we surely can find the resolve to spend a couple of weeks at home, again for the good of the country.

Normandy

We have a superlative team of authorities leading the charge on the Coronavirus menace. They are very knowledgeable, and led by a President who is not afraid to make tough calls when his advisors tell him they are necessary. Coincidently, when we kick the virus’s ass, we have the right man in the Oval Office to shepherd the economic recovery. All we have do do is endure the “hardship” of sequestration. If the finest generation can storm ashore at Normandy and fight like tigers in every subsequent war, surely we can muster the courage and discipline to sit at home for a couple of weeks.

Perspective is a wonderful concept!

Have a good weekend.

SR

Heaven’s Gate Swings Open….As Hell’s Gate Closes…….

Again, last night, the Lord opened the gates of Heaven to welcome home another Centurion, this time from my hometown, Springfield, Mo. I have never, and God willing, will never take for granted the tremendous responsibility that comes with keeping the peace in a free society. A career in this role has hardened me in some respects, and I smile at the sound of the Gates of Hell slamming shut as the devil welcomes another demented soul into the eternal fires that are promised for those that kill needlessly. Officer Christopher Walsh, 32, was shot to death last night in a gunfight. There were three citizens killed in this confrontation and a second officer, Josiah Overton, 25, wounded, before the gunman turned the gun on himself and began his journey to hell. Accompanying Officer Walsh into Heaven will be the souls of those he sought to protect. May God bless each of them.

I am sickened by the complacency that has led American’s to believe that an officer’s death, on occasion, is to be expected. Every time an officer dies in America, I utter an oath and a prayer. The profession of policing has been turned into political theater, with various levels of government seeking to destroy the monumental strides the profession has made in terms of inter-agency cooperation. The constant barrage of criticism and the lack of political respect has reduced this honorable business to begging applicants rather than turning them away because we have more than we can handle. In the instant case, there will be an outpouring of community respect and a funeral that befits the line of duty death that we have experienced. Then it will be business as usual until the the next Centurion is down. This, my dear readers, is unacceptable.

I love this profession. There are few occupations that guarantee a sense of accomplishment in that you know that you have made a difference during your shift. An officer is in a position to lend dignity to any situation from the heinous to the mundane as he stands between chaos and those who seek to live orderly and honestly. For this, the profession is rewarded with compensation that is often earned for a year when death is your business on the streets. I abhor the complacency with which the profession is taken and detest the politization of policing, where the task is clearly defined but constantly interrupted by the machinations of our political system.

The hand crafted, stained glass, blue line plate in the photograph was given to me by a terrific, civilian employee of the Patrol, Jennifer Wease, several years after retirement. It sits on my desk and is a constant reminder of the years spent in perpetuating this honorable profession. I am in no hurry to make my exit, but when I do, this plate will be nearby as folks take the time to either curse my existence or praise my efforts. Make no mistake, though, the blue line is deeply imbedded and I will never turn my back on the men and women who are charged with the separation of the abhorrent from the mundane.

Thank you Officer Walsh, for your courage and sacrifice. I pray the terror that accompanies an armed conflict was short lived. Our debt to you will never be satisfied and the profession will never forget your efforts.

I wish that I could say the same for the society that you protected.

Respectfully.

SR

When Wisdom Takes Flight….

By now, you have seen or perhaps been subjected to the “Great Toilet Paper Famine of 20”, an event marked by mass hysteria and empty retail shelves where bundle after bundle of God’s gift to personal sanitation once resided. Folks, it isn’t over yet. I am sure the public hasn’t considered the tremendous value that peanut butter plays in the management of the dread Coronavirus. You see, if you coat your hands with peanut butter, you will be far less inclined to touch your face and thus transmit the virus to yourself. Given our current inclination to do something, anything to feel as if you are making a difference in the struggle with this malady, the peanut butter approach is not unreasonable. Poof, three days and there’s won’t be a jar of the sticky goo to be had.

Really?

I read an interesting comment from a friend today who has entered the golden years associated with life in his eighties. AJ has accumulated much wisdom in his lifetime and isn’t afraid to dispense it from time to time. He described his current status as still here, despite the curve balls he has been thrown. AJ is composed of equal parts common sense and fearlessness, each born of wisdom. You don’t have to guess with AJ, he is on front street. His wry smile is in front of a mind that is always busy. That folks, is because he has accumulated much wisdom. AJ isn’t likely to get in a fight over toilet paper.

So, what is this thing called wisdom, the absence of which is on full display during the Great Toilet Paper Famine. Wisdom is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. A truly wise man will also possess unbiased judgement, compassion, ethics and benevolence. When you turn on your television and are treated to a fist fight over a package of Charmin, you are NOT seeing wisdom on display. You are seeing folks abandon the hard earned wisdom that comes with life on the ground and, instead, acting like hyenas over a fresh kill. Given the current climate, we are sure to see an award for the accumulation of the most toilet paper by an individual in a single day……

By it’s very nature, wisdom is the product of time. You are not handed a basket of wisdom at birth, you accumulate it. I love all things aviation and there is much wisdom in this arena. At Nellis Air Force Base, in 1978, the Air Force was conducting red flag training relying on the old (1954) F-105 fighters and the newer, superior F-16 fighters. It didn’t look promising for the 105’s when the newer jets bounced them. The experienced fighter jocks in the slower jets relied upon wisdom to hit the deck at 100’ and light the afterburners. This is an altitude the newer jets cannot perform at. The old sleds vacated the premises, on the deck, at 700 MPH, leaving rooster tails in the sand. The F-16’s never got close. It is said the F-105 can be flown at speed, on the deck while the pilot can read the paper with his feet up. You will not find fighter pilots in a toilet paper skirmish.

I have given up attempting to lend reason to the madness associated with toilet paper. If you are unfamiliar with the fable describing the trek of Lemmings to the sea, take a little time to do so. Lemmings are rodents, and will follow each other faithfully, although their march is really migratory in nature. Is this what we have become?

If you are among the shoppers who simply need to replenish a week or two inventory of toilet paper, hang in there…….the Great Famine will run it’s course. Later, this spring, you won’t have need to justify your purchase of huge quantities of paper to your friends…elevating you to the status enjoyed by wise people! The deniers will be out in full force…..guaranteed.

Have a great day!

SR