The Feeling that Provides Healing…..

“I have laid aside business, and gone a-fishing”. Izaak Walton

The first of April is less than two weeks distant and I am starting to feel that gentle anxiety that portends the beginning of a new spring fishing season. The Master knew precisely what he was doing when he created seasons, most likely for the benefit of those of us who love the outdoors. I am also sure he doesn’t mind other people taking advantage of the weather to pursue less noble pastimes such as golf and baseball. He has given us a magnificent world and challenged us to take advantage of it, relying on our imagination and creativity to maximize the renewable resources we have. My professional career was centered around a high stress environment and I sincerely doubt that I would be here to enjoy a cup of Irish coffee and record a thought or two about how it is that I have come to relish the start of a new fishing season, were it not for the relaxation and challenge fishing has provided over the years.

My earliest memories of fishing go back to Marion, SC, the hometown of my parents. Fishing, in those days, was not high tech. My father and Uncle Ed relied on the careful selection of a simple cane pole, rigged carefully with a split shot, bait hook and float to suspend a cricket a foot or two below the surface of the dark waters of the Little Pee Dee river and the numerous oxbow lakes the river afforded. The quarry was what southerners refer to as bream, redbreast or “warmouth”. These little panfish, ounce for ounce, provided a dandy fish-fight when played against the limber cane poles of the day. There were no sleek, fast bass boats, rather these fish were pursued from handmade, one man boats, where you sat with a live box between your legs and a crude electric trolling motor for power. Crickets, costing a penny a piece, were kept in cricket tubes or cages and subsisted on a diet of a slice or two of raw potato while they awaited their fate. Bream, it seems, could not resist them and nice limits of fat panfish often found their way to the frying pan. As you probed the swamps for these fish, you were often accompanied by water moccasins as thick as your forearm, sliding by casually as they assessed the threat of your incursion into their world. We were not far removed from the 1500’s when Mr. Walton mused about the merits of fishing, at least equipment wise. In spite of the tremendous technological advances in equipment and electronics today, it is still possible to spend a day on the water without bringing a fish to the surface. That is why the sport is referred to as angling…..

When folks are fishing together, the atmosphere around them is one of honesty. It matters not if you are sitting on the bank, dock or occupying a seat in a boat. There is little need to worry about the business of the day which is viewed as a distraction from the serious business of coaxing a fish into your basket. The conference room or the bosses office will seldom provide the soul baring honesty that pervades the conversation while fishing. A basic philosophy that I adhere to religiously is that a day is not complete if you have not laughed hard at some point. As I sit here, I am smiling as I recall the antics of a fellow angler, in a nearby boat, having lost his glasses, stepping into a styrofoam minnow bucket, which promptly exploded scattering minnows all over their boat. His nearly blind scramble to recover the minnows jumping in the floor of his boat resulted in uncontrollable laughter so intense that I thought I would lose my breath. I smile broader as I recall standing in the back of my boat, pushing off of a limb that was caught between the transom and the jack plate, when the push pole slipped off the tree and I executed a perfect header into the cold water of Truman Lake. I was in no mood to spend much time in the water and was struggling to board the boat on the pitiful rescue ladder as I reached out for the help from my partner that never came. He was laughing so hard that he was on his knees as I struggled to climb aboard. I did so and we both laughed until nearly exhausted. My partner, Ralph Biele, is a big guy and when his eyes are dancing around a deep belly laugh, it is contagious, believe me. On another occasion, I was carefully working my way through heavy flooded timber on Truman Lake, intent on long poling a cedar, when I noticed a “gall” on the side of a tree. I touched the gall with my rod and quickly realized that I had just poked a hole in a large hornets nest and was greeted by the 8th Air Force in the form of mad hornets, intent on stinging me to death. I made the trip from the bow to the transom in two steps and gracefully dove over the motor into the welcome coolness of the lake. As I treaded water, a few determined hornets, having already landed on me, managed to sting me underwater, which heightened my anxiety a bit. The hornets were concentrating on my fluorescent pink ball cap, and ignoring my partner, Lee Plunkett, who was busy laughing himself into convulsions. When I asked him to please push the boat off of the nest tree, he breathlessly replied he wasn’t going near the tree and risk being a victim of the second wave of hornets. It is hard to laugh, cry and tread water at the same time, however; it was a matter of necessity and I lived through the experience. I cleverly pitched the hat into the boat which caused Lee to rethink his position and push the boat off.

So it goes. Mr. Walton also remarked that, “Rivers and the inhabitants of the watery element are made for wise men to contemplate, and for fools to pass by without consideration”. I suspect that millions of folks who seek relief from today’s’ s high pressure environment through a prescription for a chemical that mimics the calming affects afforded by fishing, might benefit from the stress reducing qualities the simple act of picking up a rod and pitching a bait will induce. Fishing has become a competitive sport for many, but it need not be for most folks. As a final thought, even if you are afflicted in such a way that you pass by the opportunity that Mr. Walton speaks of, it is never too late to take a child fishing. They will never forget the experience, nor will you!

Spider Rigging……..

I thought we might take a quick look at a “fishing” technique that will produce crappie, and presumably other species as well, when traditional methods either fail or are too slow. No, I am not talking about carefully “rigging” a spider, although the name would imply some sort of intimate relationship with a hapless arachnid. I am talking about a technique that has become wildly popular these days, particularly in the pursuit of crappie on our lakes and rivers. A disclaimer is due up front, as I have never resorted to this technique for any number of reasons, and if the truth be known, likely never will. In short, “spider rigging”, sometimes referred to as simply “rigging”, involves placing an array of long rods on the bow and/or sides of your boat and slowly trolling along in quiet water where crappie are either suspended or staging. I use another descriptive for this technique, “mobile trotlining”. It will catch fish at impressive rates, I can attest to this fact having had my butt kicked on a number of occasions in crappie tournaments where this is permitted. One should tread carefully when casting disparaging commentary on something he has never done, however; I feel relatively safe as I have also never cranked fish up with a shocking device or used dynamite. Let’s have a look at this technique.

The photos accompanying this article are worth a thousand words. I fish because I thoroughly enjoy matching wits with a critter that has a brain the size of a BB. The challenge, for me, is to slip quietly along a brushy bank or in standing timber, working a jig quietly around likely looking cover, feeling for that “bump” that signals that a fish fight is about to happen. After a quick wrist snap (hook set), you must then “work” the fish out of the brush that you are fishing, careful to not break him off or hang him up, until you can get him boat side. There are visual clues that a crappie has fallen for your presentation, but mostly your ability to feel the bite is what catches a fish. It takes skill to maneuver your boat in heavy cover, pitch, dip, flip or cast a bait and carefully work that bait around, in and through the structure you are fishing. A limit of fish may come quickly, or not, and you enjoy the intimacy of being in the “fish houses” rather than slipping by or over them.

A limit of crappie for the freezer is a good thing, but is secondary to the fun of fishing with a rod in your hand. When you see the various advertisements that populate social media sites, in which anglers proudly show off their phenomenal catches of fish, you are most likely looking at the results of a day spent spider rigging. Early in the season, before the fish have moved up on the banks, rigging is THE way to put fish in the freezer. It would seem the basket of fish is the prize, rather than the fun of fishing. A trip might change my mind, but I don’t think so. As much as I love a mess of crappie fillets, I also love the challenge of catching them one at a time!

It is worth mentioning that a good number of tournaments are “single pole” tournaments, thus precluding riggers from entering. I have virtually abandoned tournament fishing, but quickly learned to not mix it up with riggers in the tournaments that I fished. The big boys, in the national tournaments all rely on rigging to be competitive. An array of baits, presented at different depths, slowly fished near cover are going to produce more fish than a fisherman standing in the front of a boat with a single rod in hand. I must also confess that in spite of the heavy weights on a riggers lines, I am sure that I would end up with one giant mess of tangled lines when I failed to jump up from my seat in time to keep a nice fish from swimming across the other lines. As if that isn’t enough to deter me, the thought of installing all of that hardware on the deck of my boat seals the deal.

So, what have we learned today? First, I am old school and no longer view fishing in a competitive sense (although my single pole partners would argue this observation). A mess of crappie is a secondary consideration, with the fun in catching them trumping the freezer. When single pole fishing, it pays to watch the riggers around you, as their technique will quickly help you to understand where the fish are and at what depth they are holding. A single pole fisherman will often take more time in finding the “pattern” for the fish he is after. I am convinced it takes more skill and experience to catch crappie with a single pole as opposed to rigging. At the end of the day, the rigger will spend more time in front of the camera than a single pole angler, as an array of rods will provide a great deal more opportunity for photo worthy fish. Finally, you are less likely to execute an ungraceful exit from the boat while rigging, as opposed to casually bumping some underwater hazard while standing, rather than sitting in the front of your boat. This consideration is of obvious value anytime, but particularly early in the spring when the water is really cold. I am not an experienced rigger but am experienced at invoking unimaginable oaths when popping to the surface in 50 degree water.

Fortunately, there is plenty of room on our waters for both kinds of anglers to enjoy their day. Rigging or pitching, dipping and casting, a day on the water beats a day about anywhere else!

Killing Police Officers……

Behavioralists, and other folks who study human interaction have their theories as to why it is that America is currently experiencing a police officer killing spree. It should come as no surprise that when you make your living by first strapping on a firearm and restraint device laden belt that you are at least acknowledging that you are going to place yourself in harms way at some point in your career. Professional police officers work hard preparing for the inevitable conflicts that are inherent to an authoritarian role in a freedom loving society such as ours. We rely on defensive tactical technique to protect ourselves as we go about our business. There are specific recommended techniques for approaching automobiles, houses, the placement of patrol vehicles, communication, and even how you stand when talking with a person of interest. When the contact intensifies, we rely on an escalation of our response to meet the circumstances, ranging from verbal control, use of chemical agents and electronic disabling devices to the use of deadly force. We wear protective gear in the form of ballistic vests in an effort to stop a bullet, devices that generally offer trunk protection at best, but can hamper your ability to manage a grappling confrontation. Our officers today are better trained, educated and equipped than at any time in our history and yet, are dying at an unprecedented rate. Why?

My generation of police officers existed during a transitional period in police science. We experienced a rapid evolution in equipment, training and the management of confrontation. Our early mantra, still evident today, was that we were “Gentlemen who enforced the law”, a descriptive obviously dated by the inclusion of women into the ranks of policing. The line between a gentleman who enforced the law and a gentleman who would quickly displace you from your shoes with force was very fine. Authority was respected and compliance was the norm. “Verbal Judo”, a conversational technique designed to introduce decorum into an enforcement contact, was not yet developed and when direction was given, compliance was expected……one way or another. Differences of opinion relative to a law enforcement officer’s authority were hammered out in court and not at car side or on the front porch. It was a simpler time, not complicated by cameras and the disrespect that is relatively common today. While this shift in the tone of enforcement action may be a contributor, it is not the answer.

I see a dramatic shift in the way we view authority. This is a narcissistic period in America, and generally speaking, if it doesn’t feel good, then you don’t have to do it. There is an overwhelming anti-authority attitude that is prevalent across our entire culture. When you have the mayors of major cities that choose to publicly ignore the common sense application of law in the detection and apprehension of illegal, criminal aliens, to score some obscure political objective, you are seriously undermining the authority and effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies that must cooperate to accomplish their sworn obligation. When a mayor publicly alerts a known criminal element within her city of an impending law enforcement sweep, you are undermining the authority and effectiveness of law enforcement. When you have states that ignore existing federal law prohibiting the distribution of marijuana, in fact encouraging this practice, then you are undermining the authority and effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction. When you have attorneys general who are held in contempt of congress or who rely on an alias to conduct their business, again for benefit of some political objective, then you undermine the authority and effectiveness of law enforcement. When political convenience trumps pragmatism and you permit hordes of pillaging rioters to burn a town down in front of your restrained police presence, you are undermining the authority and effectiveness of those officers. When you rely on the considerable authority of a major federal police agency to pursue a political objective in front of a super secret court, you are undermining the authority and effectiveness of that agency. In each of these instances, you have political leadership establishing themselves as horrendous role models for our citizenry and particularly our young people. Authority, today, is increasingly viewed as an inconvenience as opposed to a pillar of democracy.

The price we are paying is intolerable. Police officers are, by the very nature of their sworn obligation, authority figures. Authority figures that are being undercut at the highest levels of our society. They are being sacrificed at unprecedented levels by a culture that is developing a remarkable contempt for authority. The ultimate disrespect for authority is the casual elimination of a police officer. Until we demand accountability at the highest levels…….they don’t stand a chance.

The End of a Dreadful Week….

I sat in front of my keyboard for a bit this morning, thinking about the events of this past week. The turmoil in my beloved Republic seems to know no bounds, with guns, gun violence, political upheaval, messy affairs and the continued assault against the noble profession of policing forging ahead unabated. This morning, I was saddened to learn that yet another sociopath has killed three mental health professionals and himself in a veteran’s facility in California. I feel the pain, deeply, for my friends, neighbors and fellow law enforcement officers in Clinton, Missouri, as they prepare to bury another of their centurions. I have had enough, and it is time to sit back and recharge our batteries for the next week, sure to bring more gloom and doom to our existence. I have never been accused of being a Pollyanna, however, when the pressure is on, I retreat to my favorite coping mechanism, food! With that in mind, I ask my reader’s indulgence as I deviate from the news of the day to bring a positive perspective into our world of negativity. Let’s dig in.

The Wall Street Journal, with it’s usual candor and after deep research has concluded that it is, indeed, okay to eat a whole pint of ice cream in one setting! Can this be? They quote a number of health enthusiasts, you know, the folks who generally eat wheat germ, bamboo shoots and wild hickory nuts as saying that on a weekly basis, if you choose correctly, there are a number of great tasting ice creams available for the over indulgence that usually accompanies a nasty break up, bad week on the market or the news that one of your checks is happily bouncing it’s way back to you, courtesy of a displeased merchant. Men don’t curl up on the couch, wrapped in an Afghan, watching some sappy chick flick while savoring every bite of a pint of tasty ice cream from a soon to be emptied pint container, or do they? Well, maybe not, but an action movie rerun, the dog, a pair of sweats and a pint of ice cream will certainly assuage our bad news moment……..

Sure, I love to travel about. It might be on a motorcycle or in my pickup truck, or maybe on a bicycle, however; every jaunt is usually to and from a place to eat. God willing, if I finally earn my pilot’s license, I am confident that I will spend precious flying time headed somewhere that offers food as a reward for making the flight. This past week, I pulled our RV to the dealer in St. Louis to have a bike rack installed, carefully timing the trip to include a Pryor’s Pizza, in Rolla, Missouri. It is hard to think about the distractions in this world when you are confronting a beautiful, hot, succulent, pie from the Pryor’s oven……

Back to the ice cream thing. You may not be aware that our ice cream manufacturers are paying attention to America’s current “eat healthy” mandate. Ben & Jerry’s is offering a new line of deliciousness, “Moophoria”, that is said to be delicious without the guilt of over indulgence. There is a relatively newcomer to the market, “Halo-Top”, which is playing to mixed reviews, but is designed to be consumed in pint sized servings! We must not forget Breyers, a company that knows something about ice cream, with their new offering “Artic Zero”. These delicacies can be enjoyed with the smile that accompanies indulgence without the calories, as they all weigh in around the 250-500 calorie range per pint! Now we’re talking. These little treats can be enjoyed without the inconvenience of driving through Andy’s Frozen Custard, strategically located throughout Springfield, which serves a number of decadent concoctions such as the Jitterbug or Straw Anna, or some custom built, pint sized container of gastronomic sin. Then there is Cold Stone…….shaved chocolate folded into vanilla bean……

I take my cues from the svelte, no body fat examples of meticulous gym rats that I associate with on a daily basis. When these conditioning aficionados give a thumbs up to a pint of ice cream every now and then, who am I to argue? I can practically guarantee that a pint of ice cream, enjoyed with someone that you care to be around, will knock the rough edge off today’s turmoil. How can you miss with an endorsement from the Journal? Ice cream, the one anti-depressant that does not require a prescription or come with a warning about side effects.

Enjoy a pint today……….

This Officer and Veterinarians……

When you are a Highway Patrolman, you are going to become acquainted with folks from virtually every walk of life, some are outside of the law, most are well within the law and some, like veterinarians, are surely destined for sainthood. Over the years, I have relied on the local country vet to lend dignity to situations, almost always created by human error, that would tax the sensitivities of the most jaded officer. I thought I might share a few of those experiences with my readers.

I had just turned east on I-70 out of Odessa, Mo., on a very hot summer morning. Traffic on the Interstate was picking up and I had intentions of inviting a few “high rollers” to visit with our local magistrate judge. In those days, troopers were blessed with far more discretionary time than our officers today who are taxed with any number of obligations beyond working traffic. As I passed a state lettered road intersection, I saw what appeared to be a horse along side of the eastbound entrance ramp and I turned through the median to investigate. What I found was appalling. An otherwise healthy young pony, with a badly broken front leg had been tied to a reflector post and left there to suffer a terrible death from pain, shock and by now dehydration. I asked our radio folks to have the Odessa Police Department contact our local vet, Dr. Hanson, and send him out. They did so, and within a very few minutes the doctor arrived and began attending the pony. The doctor began preparing the euthanasia injection as I stroked the poor fellow, determined that he exit this world in the company of someone who cared. Dr. Hanson, a gentle man of even disposition was furious with the individual(s) who left this animal to suffer for what the doctor thought was several hours, and assured me that if I could find them he would be glad to draw up another injection for them. The little pony quickly sagged to the shoulder and was finally at peace as the doctor put his things away. The tears on the doctors face were as a result of rage as much as sadness. Predictably, we never determined who the callous individual was. I offered to pay for the call, and the doctor would have nothing to do with my proposition and our relationship was formed.

On yet another occasion, west of Odessa on the same road, I received a frantic CB call from folks who were transporting a very expensive horse through Missouri on their way to Kansas from Illinois. Their horse was down in the trailer and they were requesting assistance from the nearest vet. I quickly found them on the shoulder and the decision was made for them to follow me to, you guessed it, Dr. Hanson’s office, which was about five minutes away. I called and had the doctor alerted and he was standing out front when our entourage arrived. Before the trailer had come to a stop, Doc had the gate open and was in with the horse. The folks transporting the horse had far more money than sense, and had loaded this horse for long distance transport with a gastric tube to relieve bloat. The horse, jostled about in the trailer, had crushed the tube and died in our presence. Well, these well to do folks stood quietly as Dr. Hanson read them their pedigree and suggested they consider rocks as pets, as they had no business in caring for horses. His lecture was withering….

After retiring from the Patrol, we relocated to Warsaw, Mo., a move designed to facilitate my pursuit of crappie in Truman Lake. Another suffocating day found me leaving another retired officer’s house when I caught sight of what appeared to be a dog, in some distress, laying under a cedar tree along side of US 65. I stopped and found an old momma pit bull, battle scarred and obviously having delivered any number of litters in her day, laying under the tree in a great deal of pain, unable to use her hind legs. My attempt to help her was met with fierce resistance, as her pain was intense. The county did not have a catch loop, nor did the city of Warsaw, and I used my cell phone to summon the local vet, Dr. Anstaett, to help with the pup. He arrived, assessed the situation and used a shot stick to sedate the dog and retrieve her. We both knew where this was heading and after a three day wait for someone to claim her, the pup, who was not going to regain the use of her legs was gently eased out of this world. The good doctor and I had a rather energetic discussion over my paying for the call and euthanasia. In spite of his objections, I prevailed as I was intent on being a part of showing compassion to this old fighting dog. Before you ask, I have a remarkable aversion to shooting injured pets, having dispatched a number of deer and occasional cows at a farmers behest. Shooting a dog, for me, is a crushing consideration.

Will Rogers once remarked on the intelligence of vets as opposed to human doctors, saying that veterinarians were the smarter of the two, as they had to “know” what was wrong, the result of animals being unable to tell them. Mr. Rogers had it right. I have been privileged to know a number of great country veterinarians like these two doctors. Certainly, Dr. Jerry Robertson, recently retired from years of vet medicine in Sedalia, Mo. is one of them, as is Dr. Ray Alcantera in Warsaw, Mo. While they earn a good living, the work is hard, and the return, in most cases, does not compare to human physicians. This in spite of the arduous study inherent to this profession.

As a final note, a confession is in order here. I have stopped a number of these wonderful professionals, driving too fast, late at night, on a call to help a farmer or client who was desperate to save an animal in distress. I can assure my readers that I was always inclined to remind them of the law and to be careful……but saw little need to inconvenience them with an appearance in court. Critters and their doctors deserve no less!

The Fast Paced, Exciting Game of Curling…..

Given the decidedly grey, depressed pallor that is gripping America these days, with tongue in cheek, I thought I would offer a thought or two about the unbelievably exciting sport of Curling! In the highly unlikely event you missed it, the US just won gold in Olympic Curling. I am stunned that network television did not interrupt regular programming to bring this fast paced, inspiring competition into our living rooms. Sure we have the Super Bowl, World Series and NASCAR to contend with, but Curling….wow!

Before we can appreciate this incredibly fast paced game, we must develop some understanding of the mechanics of play. Curling is a sport (they say) that involves very carefully sliding big granite stones on a sheet of ice toward a target that is segmented into four concentric circles. It is played between two teams, each with four players, who take turns sliding these rocks toward the aforementioned circles, referred to as the “house”. Each team has eight rocks, with each player “throwing” two of these across the ice at the “house” located at the other end. Be still, my beating heart! Surely, by now you are starting to feel the euphoria that accompanies such a grand sport. As they say in the infomercials, wait there is more!

This isn’t just any old rock and there is considerable technique and athletic prowess associated with this great competition. For instance, when the rock shooter (my vision) slides the rock, two highly trained teammates carefully accompany the stone with brooms to sweep the ice in front of the stones and thus alter the direction and speed of the stone. What a magnificent display of athleticism, that I was obviously lacking when my grandmother would dispatch me to the back porch with a straw broom. If this isn’t enough to peak your excitement, the rock thrower can subtly induce a curve in the path of the stone, thus influencing it’s ultimate stopping place. As you have surely deduced by now, the score is determined by the number of stones resting closest to the center of the house. One can only imagine the strategy and playbook attendant to this exciting sport. These rocks weigh between 38-44 pounds. It is no wonder they slide them as really “throwing” them is out of the question.

Curling is thought to have originated in Scotland in the 1500’s. This is the result, presumably, of the frozen nature of water in this region, during the winter, and nothing much else to do. I am told there are plenty of rocks in this part of the world, most of which are too big to throw, so; viola, we have Curling. Football was a distant thought but there is something inherently undignified in reaching under another man’s kilt to accept a carefully snapped ball……..anyway, to the uninitiated, casual viewer, there is much that escapes the eye. As an example, you may not be aware of the incredible technology that is employed in the selection of materials for the broom. While some synthetic material is in use, true curlers rely on horse hair, hog hair or some form of fabric. Fans of Duluth Trading Company attire are familiar with a style of pant they advertise as “ball room” pants, for rather obvious reasons. Curling pants, for men, are also carefully crafted so that when the thrower crouches into the position necessary to carefully begin his throw, his movement is not accompanied by a change of several octaves in his voice! No discussion about the dynamics of curling would be complete without mentioning the beautiful crafted, teflon soled shoes, designed to facilitate a controlled slide across the ice. Oh the beauty and majesty of it all! Think about this the next time you skip a rock across a frozen pond (or unfrozen for that matter). You could be planting the seeds of this majestic sport in the minds of your children and grandchildren.

So it is. America wins gold in another thrilling upset of our Scandinavian competitors. You would think by now, these countries would know it is difficult to slide anything past a determined American athlete.

Satire aside, congratulations are in order. Excellence in anything is beautiful to watch.

Guns and Sociopaths…

Just under two years ago, I wrote a piece about guns, specifically black rifles and illustrated my position with a story about a fellow named Carlos Hathcock. I have repeated the operative paragraphs in this writing, as they are still as applicable today, after the most recent slaughter, as they were when I originally penned them. With subtle edits, this was my point, then, and yet again today.

There is little need to weigh in on what constitutes an “assault rifle”. Progressives and our liberal friends love the descriptive “assault”. It is easy to say, catchy and takes little room on a printed page. To the less informed among us, they are typically black, polymer stocked and semi-automatic in operation, with a detachable magazine. They may, in actuality, be green, camo, brown or any color, are usually relatively compact and have far too many buttons, levers and attachments for gun controllers to wrap their minds around. They come in a wide variety of weights and calibers, although the venerable 5.56 MM easily predominates. A very popular squirrel rifle, the Ruger 10-22, by definition, qualifies. Folks who rail against these rifles remind me of people who come home and kick the dog because they experienced a flat on the way home. The dog did not cause the flat and these rifles are not fueling the homicidal, sociopathic rages we are seeing…..

During the Vietnam War, the Viet-Cong and North Vietnamese Army or NVA, placed a bounty on our most prolific sniper, Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, also known as “White Feather” to our enemy. This bounty was the result of the Gunny killing 93 enemy soldiers, confirmed, with perhaps as many as 300 unconfirmed kills. The bounty was $30,000.00 US, a princely sum in this era. He was a terrific shooter, having been raised in Arkansas, where he honed his skills with a simple .22 rifle. After the war, the Gunny said he never really enjoyed the kills, instead viewed each one as saving a fellow Marine from a deadly fate. The Gunny relied on one of the oldest, continually produced sporting arms, mostly manufactured in America. It was the reliable Model 70 Winchester, bolt actioned rifle, chambered in the very popular .308 Winchester round, a favorite of sportsmen (and women) today. By today’s standard, it was not an assault rifle. Now to my point.

The Viet-Cong did not place a bounty on the rifle, rather on the shooter. They understood that to attempt to deny the Gunny his rifle would not be productive. They needed to remove the shooter from their world. Interesting. Folks who ran around armed with cheap, stamped, poor quality arms, the result of the genius of Mikhail Kalashnikov, recognized the futility of attacking the gun, instead focusing on the shooter. Combat theaters are awash in firearms and, my dear friends, so is America. There is a lesson here.

We have co-existed with guns for centuries in this Republic. There is a likelihood that we are destined to do so in the future. After you work your way through the entirely justifiable rage associated with the latest mass killing, please take a minute to consider what has just happened. The beautiful children in this Florida community were destroyed by a system that utterly failed them. The sociopath that destroyed these kids was well known to local and federal law enforcement. The NRA, under yet again a full frontal assault, publicly endorsed the inclusion of folks like the Florida shooter on the rolls of those prohibited from purchasing firearms. The Executive Director of the NRA, Mr. Wayne LaPierre, met with Sen. Schumer several years ago, who promised to pursue this tactic and then failed to even address it. To add insult to injury, the officer assigned to protect these children, failed to respond to his most basic, sworn obligation, to place himself between them and certain death. A systemic failure….leaving 17 defenseless people dead. This being said, we should understand that even with enhanced background checks, you are going to miss any number of high functioning sociopaths who run quietly under the radar.

Sociopaths thrive in a free and open society, such as America. What is embolding them is a subject for the behavioralists and social scientists. Meanwhile, we need to take definitive steps to protect our most precious charges, and that my friends is as simple (and expensive) as denying access to our schools to folks who are intent on killing them. Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock’s first task was to get close enough to his targets to squeeze off the shot they never heard. Something and/or someone needs to be between our children and those who seek to destroy them.