Stewards of The Land………..

I generally avoid blogging political matters as my readers are fully capable of making their minds up without another amateur pundit suggesting he knows more than they do. That being said, I reserve the right to take shots at the inherent insanity of today’s political process, as evidenced by the dance of death the Democrats are currently engaged in. At some point, candidate Bloomberg has suggested the occupation of farming was an exercise in simplicity, requiring little more than the ability to drop a seed into a hole, step back and watch a plant grow. I have enjoyed a long career separating pompous jackasses from ordinary people and cannot pass on this opportunity to do so again. Today, we are going to talk about “farming” as I pen a rebuttal to Mr. Bloomberg’s asinine assertion.

I spent many of my younger years on a small farm in South Carolina where one of the smartest gentlemen that I have ever known raised a modest crop of cotton and tobacco. My grandfather, Mr. Ernest C. Cooke, was a hard working, temperate man, who possessed a number of skills necessary to the production of a cash crop. Those days, farming was an intensely laborious business with tobacco set out by hand and both tobacco and cotton cropped by hand. Mr. Cooke, as he was known, managed a sizable number of field hands that required the utmost in interpersonal skill and a refined sense of fair play. He was also a keen observer of market conditions, a mechanic, carpenter and amateur agronomist with an exceptional working knowledge of meteorology. His skill set is in high demand today, as some things never change.

Mr. Bloomberg has parlayed exceptional business skill into a fortune and here we must give him credit. Along with prodigious wealth he has developed an air of superiority that apparently gives him license to speak about matters that he knows less about than a corner post. Farming is one of those matters. I spent several years of vacations and weekends on Sharon’s family farm, a row crop operation producing mostly soybeans, wheat and corn. If you like big words, this type of farming is referred to as arable as opposed to pastoral or mixed. The USDA classified this farm as a small farm, under 1,421 acres. Today in America, in spite of the corporate acquisition of farms, 88% of our farms are still classified as small farms. I have never worked harder, not at planting and harvesting, which will wear you out, but in the allied skills of market analysis, mechanics, time management, seed science, the vagaries of weather analysis and risk management. To this mix, you are required to have a working knowledge of chemical application and suitability, soil analysis and genetics. These skills are necessary if you are to reap between 1k and 250K a year or……maybe have to rely on crop insurance to feed your family. Farming is a family business, with farm wives and children playing an essential role in their incessant support of the man or woman on the combine. Some of the finest meals that I have ever enjoyed were served on the tailgate of a truck.

A successful year!
The herd

If you are a farmer or rancher that is in the pastoral business, it is necessary to add even more knowledge to the mix noted above, with veterinary science, pasture rotation and management and a healthy amount of compassion for the critters you are responsible for. You must understand the forage sciences, genetics, animal husbandry and have a willingness to forgo a nights sleep in sub freezing temperatures to tend to your charges. Farming is a high asset business with the cost of land and equipment unbelievably high in relation to the return on your investment. Ranchers, like my good friend Marvin Proctor, the owner of the Triple P cattle ranch, are among the hardest working folks on planet earth.

Mr. Bloomberg might be surprised that successful farmers have been relying on a tried and proven concept that fighter pilots use; the OODA loop.They observe, orient, decide and act every day the Master gives them. They do this to manage our crops, orchards, vineyards, poultry and livestock operations all under the guise of “Farming”. Farmers do not take a can of corn or a prime midwestern cut of beef for granted, as they have the intimate knowledge of just how that fare made it to your table.

In closing, I will stifle the urge to display a prominent middle finger to the pompous excuse for a Presidential candidate that Mr. Bloomberg represents. I will always place my lot with the hard working men and women who are our nations farmers. Denim and manure never smelled better…….

Have a great weekend!

SR

The Uniform…..

I have worn a uniform for all of my professional life, first as a member of the US Army and then as a State Trooper. Along the way I have worn a uniform as a member of sports teams, such as a player on a softball team participating in an emergency services league, and other endeavors that are senseless at my age. I have never put a uniform on that I was not proud of. To me, the uniform signifies membership in a group of folks who are all pulling in the same direction with the same goal in mind. The uniform is also utilitarian in as much as they identify status within a group or facilitate the carrying of certain equipment essential to the mission of the wearer. I accept the inevitability of change and have made an honest effort to acknowledge diversity as the hall mark of a civilized society.

My efforts along these lines have hit a wall and it will take professional help for me to embrace the wearing of beards, hibabs, turbans and headscarves by our military forces. These changes have been adopted by the US Army and Air Force, in an effort to permit the expression of religious preference and, let’s face it, personal preference that is hiding behind religious expression. I have never expected my readers to agree with every word that I punch into a writing, and if you are in strong disagreement with my position here, I understand. This would be the appropriate time for those who think I am hopelessly dated to move on to a more pleasant topic on this beautiful Sunday morning. My mind is not changing anytime soon.

The military, and virtually all accredited uniformed services have welcomed religious diversity. The military offers services for virtually every make and model of religious preference and you are welcome to pray your way whenever the need arises. Your blood type and religious preference is stamped on your dog tags, both useful pieces of information when you are shot through and in need of medical attention or, God forbid, beyond medical attention. It is your uniform that establishes your occupational responsibility, not your religious preference, when you become engaged. Unless involved in certain special operations, a beard is of no value, and a turban or hijab will provide far less protection than Kevlar. I do not recall ever having a conversation with a fellow soldier or trooper where his or her religious preference was critical to the job at hand. As far as I am concerned, you can wear a fruit salad on your head when you are off duty…….

Uniformity

Finally, there is this matter of tradition, a word that is fast leaving our vocabulary. A well maintained mustache and a clean haircut are what I expected as a police commander. I was particularly keen on footwear and headgear, both signs of discipline and self pride. In the Army, I was taught and expected to “break starch” in the utility uniform that I mostly wore. I relied upon one pocket among many to carry a few dollars and driver’s license. The rest were starched closed. This was tradition. I am guessing that an in-rank inspection today requires a working knowledge of the proper way to wear a habib, a ruler to measure the length of beards, the right way to wear a turban or the ability to judge the quality of a head scarf. Soon to come will be a manual on the wearing of the yarmulke, kippah or zucchetto.

Turban

When you see an old soldier or trooper walking down a sidewalk muttering to himself about what has happened to his beloved organization, smile and give him a little space. You might also cover the ears of your children as he is likely expressing himself in terms that are offensive. Don’t ask him what is wrong………as he or she will damned sure tell you. That is also a part of our “tradition”.

Have a great day!

SR

Humble and Healthy…..

Like many of us in Missouri, I watched the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs as they paraded through the streets of Kansas City negotiating a crowd north of a million admirers and fans. I am not a sports writer, however; I am a sports fan and as such have developed a personal profile that I use to help me define athletes who, even when they have a bad day, make us smile and appreciate them even more. Profiles are not infallible. With that being said, I thought I would share a thought or two about athletes and greatness.

First the exceptions. Many years ago, as a freshman at UMKC, I strolled into the Student Union to listen to a brash, young, superb athlete deliver a rather incoherent speech during a black history event. I happened to be close enough to the speaker as he entered the building to find my self shaking hands with Muhammad Ali. He was jabbering away, as was his custom, impeccably dressed and I distinctly recall shaking a hand that felt like a Virginia Ham. I had given little thought to evaluating athletes beyond their arena (whatever it might be) performance on a given day. It did occur to me the thought of kicking his butt was off the table as he was as imposing an individual as I had ever seen. Mr. Ali was not a humble man but was an exceptional man with settled principles. He stayed healthy until his mental capacity began diminishing as a result of his chosen occupation. Along these same lines, in the NFL, trash talking athletes, superior and journeymen alike, are a dime a dozen. I don’t find it particularly endearing and they do not fit my profile.

At the risk of igniting a firestorm of protest, I offer George Brett as an example of the complete athlete who meets my two pronged test for greatness. Hold on friends, as blasphemous as this may be, Tom Brady is another example. Brett was amazing to watch as he quietly went about the business of knocking the hide off baseballs, fielding incredible hot shots at third base and making blistering throws to first taking out the fastest runners in the game. He didn’t talk much about his exploits, on or off the field….he didn’t need to. He was one of those greats whose immense talent was secondary to his modesty. Brett is the picture of class. Brady, to date, is at the head of the class of great quarterbacks to ever play the game. He is almost too perfect. His millions, his super model wife and his seemingly ageless youth are what he is. Never mind that he is bright and, although not as well as in the past, has the ability to place a football in the shirt pocket of a receiver cutting routes that can not be followed by NORAD, thus guaranteeing him a place in the Hall. His absolute dedication to staying healthy has served him well past the age that most quarterbacks are sitting back thinking of ways to spend their piles of money.

George Brett

Enter young Patrick Mahomes. He, single handedly, is the reason I began watching the NFL again. I am well past tired of the protests suggesting that America isn’t being fair to a given demographic, especially by athletes who are benefitting tremendously from America’s generosity. I have lived all over the world and believe me when I tell you, we have it made by any and all standards. Mahomes, today, exactly meets my profile for greatness beyond the ordinary. He is healthy, and, gasp, humble.When his heroics on the gridiron save the day, he gives credit to God and his teammates, without fail. He is very smart, fast and can put his throws into the watch pocket of a gaudy suit worn by so many players in the league who seek attention in any form. I watched George Brett play many times and deeply appreciate my good fortune at being able to do so. Hopefully I can say the same about young Mahomes in the years to come. The highest compliment that can possibly be paid to an athlete, who has been blessed with supernatural talent and skill, is when he or she is remembered as immensely talented and….a genuinely nice person. That my friends will meet the profile for greatness. The difference between “destined for greatness” and “greatness” is staying healthy, and humble.

Patrick Mahomes

So, my friends and readers, humble and healthy, in my view, is the perfect base in the recipe for greatness. This consideration is especially important to our young athletes as they establish their reputation for years to come. I recently met a 16 year old high school pitcher that has all the tools, a 85 MPH fastball, great personality and tons of potential on the diamond. He is also a really nice guy. Stay humble young man and healthy. I would love to read about you some day!

SR

The Silent Disability……

I suppose that for most of my life I have suffered from an addiction to noise. I enjoy the sounds of a high revving, old school V8 engine, motorcycles, thunder and various mowers as they churn the scent of freshly cut grass or hay into the air. For me, total silence would be a curse. The carefully attenuated sound of a firearm is also an enjoyable indication of my appreciation for our right to own and shoot them. In my brief flying career, I came to appreciate the sound of ATC through noise cancelling headphones, necessary in the small airplanes that I flew. I did not appreciate the noise associated with a fire fight in Vietnam and certainly didn’t appreciate the damaging results of a year on fire support bases where you lived within feet of 105 and 155 guns and their nose bleed inducing noise at the higher charges. I am exceedingly fortunate though, as tinnitus appears to be the only real negative consequence from that experience. As a result of that noise induced damage, I receive a token of appreciation from the VA in the form of state of the art hearing aids, which is no small consideration as they are exceedingly expensive.

We all know about the disabled parking spaces throughout our communities. They are visible attempts at making life a little easier for folks who have some degree of difficulty “getting around”. Much more often than not, we honor those who are not as nimble as the rest of us, even offering help to these folks with such gestures as opening doors and giving them the right of way in shopping aisles and such. Our courtesies are extended because we can easily see they need a little consideration and because we care enough to be kind. Today, I am writing to offer my deep appreciation to those who take the time to accommodate folks who are plagued by the very real, silent disability of poor hearing. In this age of communication, a significant hearing loss is one of the most frustrating afflictions that you can have. I know because I do not hear well.

It begins with those who we share life with daily, our families. When you live with an individual who does not hear well, it takes a little extra effort. As is often the case I have difficulty with ambient noise. Background noise tends to reduce normal conversation to a mumbling exercise that would be humorous if it were not so incredibly frustrating. We become good lip readers, to the point that we can watch television without sound, as long as we can see the speakers as they talk. I deeply appreciate wait staffs in restaurants who are alert to the subtle indications of hearing difficulties such as the small wire leading to my hearing devices or keen attention to them as they speak and we “lean in” to better hear their voices in an environment where there is plenty of background noise. The higher pitches make understanding my grand daughter a real challenge when she offers conversation in her rapid fire style. She knows to slow down and enunciate, especially after a gentle reminder to do so. It is often inconvenient, but conversations with Sharon are most effective when we are face to face unlike in years past when we could converse from room to room with little difficulty. Conversations in a moving automobile present special difficulties as the ambient noise is so multi-faceted. If the speaker is looking out the side window, commenting on something they are seeing, it is often lost on me as the driver. These issues are frustrating for the speaker, and damned frustrating for me as a listener.

Today’s hearing aids are incredible. The better devices are digital, bell clear, and the volume is adjustable. They are pitch oriented and can be programmed to your particular hearing loss. I have friends who simply do not get along with them for various reasons and have given up on their use. I feel badly for them. I adapted to them very quickly and am a terrible conversationalist without them. Just as you are, I become annoyed with “huh”, “what did you say” “say again” and the other indicators that we “ain’t gettin’ what you are telling us” that pepper our conversations. We don’t wear them to bed, therefore “pillow talk” is long gone, unless you are very close….whoa, where am I going with this!

To those folks who are keen observers, easily sensing that a person they are communicating with isn’t hearing well, thank you. To those who respond favorably to hints from hearing impaired folks, such as “I don’t hear well”, thanks for staying in the conversation and amping up the volume a bit or slowing down when we talk. Hearing impairment is a silent disability, and affects many, many folks. Handling this often subtle disability requires at least two people, the speaker and the listener.

Sympathy is not what we seek……understanding will do the trick!

Speaking of noise….on to the super Bowl. Go Chiefs!

SR

The Last Conversation……..

Yesterday, my 70th birthday, I was honored with the privilege of eulogizing a friend who had succumbed to a massive stroke while sowing seed in a food plot, taking care of critters that had formed the basis of his professional existence as a veterinarian for many, many years. As I sat in the sanctuary, waiting to speak, it occurred to me that our last conversation was about firearms and life afield. More about that later.

Dr. Jerry Robertson was a big guy, well suited to the rigors of a rural, veterinary practice. He was, at once, soft spoken and boisterous, brilliant and uncomplicated, humorous and serious about the practice of medicine. He had a choice early in life, medical school or veterinary school and chose to be closer to the land he loved. It was at it should be, the Robertson name was descended from the ancient Hebrides Islands off the west coast of Ireland where tending flocks of sheep and herds of cattle was paramount.

I have always had tremendous respect for veterinarians. I suppose this respect was honed in a conversation with a very wise Patrol Zone Sergeant, a Dutchman named Plymell, who was cattle rancher as well as trooper. He advised that if you could at all possibly do so, avoid arresting your mother, a good neighbor, the local veterinarian and your preacher. He went on to say you will desperately need each one of them at some point. In reality, they are all gifts from the Master.

Dr. Jerry Robertson

What about this man we called Doc? He was the patriarch of what I have formally christened Clan Robertson, fitting given the origin of the name. I sat with the family a few nights ago hoping to gain insight into this beautiful blended family and the good doctor. A few bottles of wine set the tone and I became fascinated by the stories and life in this tight clan. I can assure the reader they are brutally and humorously honest with each other, share secrets easily and were universal in their love for Doc and each other. Like good clans tend to be, when they circle the wagons to confront external threats to the clan, it would be wise to drop your challenge and back away. It was a wonderful experience with a group of bright, energized folks who have gravitated to various vocational specialties to which they handle with the precision of the Patriarch. The stories were many, some ribald as might be expected and repeated in Church after begging the forgiveness of the pastor. Doc would have wanted it that way. To illustrate his life, I relied on a worn out pair of Doc’s hunting boots as a prop. You see, boots, like their wearers, are term limited but hard to let go of in the end. This photo is of the family floral arrangement, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen.

Doc, among his many talents was a teacher. Field dressing a critter presented the opportunity to enlighten anyone within earshot concerning the anatomy of the animal. He was a man of science with an equal measure of appreciation for nature, in all it’s forms, built in. He was adept with firearms and saw the absolute value in the 2d Amendment. As bright as he was, he could not understand the hysteria over guns that is sweeping our country. Perhaps his greatest talent was his ability to weave a story. As the preacher noted, with Doc, a story had a beginning, a long middle and, well, the end was hard to discern as he was exceedingly clever at seamlessly transitioning from one story to the next.

I remember our last conversation, centered around the merits of various handguns and calibers, hunts and fishing. Doc sat stiffly, plagued by a back tortured by his early, large animal practice, as we talked. In spite of the pain, he painted a picture of a great hunt, and easily slipped into a conversation about Truman Lake crappie, a shared passion. As often happens, I had no idea it would be our last. I am saddened that I did not spend more time with Doc, as he had much to say and I much to learn from this masterful man. I implore you to not make the mistake of conversations with friends on an as needed basis. Every conversation may be the last and your regrets will accumulate. Doc Robertson was a treasure, leaving Clan Robertson to carry on the traditions of the family. He touched many lives and lives on in memory. I used an Ancient Indian Proverb to illustrate the doctor’s understanding of nature:

“Treat the earth well, it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”

Last conversations are inevitable.

The trick is to make them recent……..

SR

Weed Licenses…..

In a comprehensive article, our local newspaper announced the “winners” in the state sanctioned arena of marijuana product manufacturers, who will be licensed to produce such innocuous items as marijuana vaping devices and edibles. It is a headline that I thought I would never see in my beloved state, but then again I spent the better part of a career dealing with the consequences of this drug and attempting to stop it’s proliferation as one of my law enforcement responsibilities.

First of all, let me be among the first in law enforcement to congratulate the proponents of the “limited” legalization of marijuana on your resounding win in the court of public opinion! Your resolve and cleverness was carefully tailored to discount the down sides of yet another hallucinogenic substance on our streets, in a time when the opioid epidemic is delivering great profit to the funeral industry. I must also congratulate those folks who clearly recognized the enormous profitability of delivering this substance to our population in some, make that any, legal form. It is capitalism at it’s very best! May your profits be enormous and your conscience be unburdened. I read where one of the “winners” acknowledged the concern that some responsible parents might harbor in terms of her product coming home in the hands of their children in school. She submitted a plan to mitigate this possibility. How good is that? Never mind that our young people, who might be inclined, WILL find a way to obtain these products. After all, we are wonderfully successful at keeping alcohol away from young folks, aren’t we?

I have no intention here of recounting the sobering statistics arising out of the experiences of those progressive states that have beat us to the punch in this arena. Every voter in Missouri has the same access to this data as I have. I have absolutely no intention of touching on the mystery surrounding the effects of this drug on a human being, we’ll find out soon enough by relying on the results of one of the largest drug trials in history, courtesy of this industry’s resolve and slick salesmanship. After all, there exists mountains of anecdotal evidence to suggest that smoking, eating, and vaping eases the pain and discomfort of the folks who have used it. The validity of this evidence, in the face of mainstream medicine’s generally contrary position, really isn’t an issue. The voters believe it, so it is! Better yet, it is an issue of freedom of choice, right? The fact that folks will, certainly, die on our highways courtesy of some stoners slight overdose of his now accepted medicinal herb is a secondary issue. The proponents of this industry see the occasional loss of life and gateway to more addictive substances as a small consideration when their profitability is at stake. The industry knew there would be enormous profitability in the legalization of this innocuous herb, but they failed to mention that in their wonderfully successful blitz and petitioning. Marketing at it’s best.

I wish my law enforcement friends the very best as they go about enforcing the law relative to the proliferation of this newly approved herb. It should be easy to sort out the origin of the weed in a car and who is doing what with it. Somebody, somewhere will surely have the appropriate documentation for the marijuana that you encounter. Life was much simpler when the possession of an illegal substance stood on it’s own……but we changed the rules at the ballot box. You should take great comfort in knowing that profitability trumps social and legal implications. We all know about the “mellow” high this harmless herb produces. Like the Titanic, this ship has sailed. We now wait for the iceberg. Believe me, it is out there.

Finally, a note to those who see the tremendous benefits of this herb……..

The phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” was first coined by Sophocles in 442 B.C., and has subsequently been used by Shakespeare in Henry IV. Oscar Wilde shook this phrase up a bit when he said “don’t shoot the piano player, he is doing the best that he can”

So is your correspondent.

Traffic Officers…..

My years as a Highway Patrol officer haunt me, in a good way, as I travel about America. On those occasions that I encounter a police officer working traffic, I cannot help but to silently critique his or her every move while I have them in sight. Safety engineering has significantly diminished their ability to “work” traffic in the opposing lanes of Interstate Highways and you seldom encounter the “wolf Pack” operations of years past when troopers would target a particular county and introduce as many violators as possible to the local circuit court. To the casual observer, these operations appear to be simply revenue raising opportunities to fatten school funds and tax coffers. To alert traffic officers, they represent sublime opportunities to detect and arrest bad actors. Let’s talk about traffic enforcement, the unglamorous aspect of policing, in a law enforcement world that has become highly specialized.

I write with great deference to the specialties within law enforcement. I once commanded the Highway Patrol’s Criminal Bureau, and loved the association with our criminal investigator’s who were among the best sleuths anywhere in this country. These folks were tireless, intelligent, accomplished conversationalists (read interrogators), with uncanny instincts. I was also privileged to command other specialized Patrol components, such as Driver Examination, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, Governor’s Security and our Information Systems component. All of these folks were dedicated professionals who were on the cutting edge of their respective specialties. Having said this, my heart will always lie with the guys on the road, required to combine a working knowledge of each of these specialties as they police our roads and highways. Indeed, when assigned a new officer to train, I always enjoyed a cup of coffee on the first day of training, where I dispensed a critical piece of advice to the raw officer. “Every killer, rapist, burglar, drug courier, scam artist, child molester, thief, drunk and sociopath, at one time or another, relies upon a motor vehicle to get from one point to another. An alert officer, working traffic will come in contact with them and has a unique opportunity to detect and, possibly, arrest them”. Later, as a field commander, I developed a strong preference for the road officer who was an accomplished generalist, able to work from beginning to end any event that required the services of a uniformed officer. A perfect analogy is the medical doctor who is a general practitioner. He or she is expected to have a working knowledge of virtually every aspect of medicine and I expect accomplished officers to reflect the same knowledge base in their approach to policing as they “work traffic”. Below is a photograph of your’s truly and several zone officers at a DWI checkpoint in Lafayette County. It was years ago, but the memory is crystal clear and heart warming.

Traffic enforcement is one continuous opportunity to encounter mankind in all shapes and sizes. I am acquainted with troopers who have stopped vehicles driven by killers with their dead victim in the backseat. A classmate stopped a vehicle one evening and noticed a burlap bag, moving around on the rear floorboard and ended up arresting a miscreant with a bag full of not quite dead frogs, taken out of season. At a DWI roadblock, I encountered a car driven by a totally naked man, with his totally naked brand new wife sitting next to him (they has just gotten married). They were sent on their way, quite sober, with a story to tell for many years to come. I arrested a very large lady, who turned out to be a cross dressing man in full makeup, for stealing gas at a service station. He/she was testy, and attempted to cut me with a linoleum knife. It did not end well for him/her. Car thieves, homicide suspects and mass murderers have fallen to the alert traffic officer. The Oklahoma City bomber was arrested on a traffic stop. The beginning of the end of the American Mafia was the result of an alert traffic officer in upstate New York. A simple midnight traffic stop of a pickup truck within a few blocks of a Chevrolet Dealership netted me two tire thieves who had just removed 4 tires from a new car, prominently raised on cinder blocks above the other vehicles in line. They crossed the centerline, and then crossed paths with the county jail booking officer.

As I write, and recall the many sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic circumstances encountered while working the road, my blood pressure is rising and I am ready again to call in, announce my availability for duty, and hit the road. Those were wonderful days when you knew at shift’s end you had made a difference. Lost among all the glamour of policing, is the opportunity to help folks who desperately need your help. I never knowingly left a hungry child on a highway. Traffic officers also know where there are resources for virtually every conceivable circumstance from a vet to euthanize injured animals to a meal for a down and out family trying to drive cross country.

So it is that I end with a salute to the traffic officer. Done correctly, there is no more rewarding way to serve your political subdivision and the people you encounter. Often, when calling in service at 5:30 AM, I would rely on my mantra, “641 is 10-41, Lee’s Summit, on another glorious day to serve the people of Missouri”. I meant every word of it…..and still do.