Good Morning Colonel, It is Veteran’s Day…..

It is time for our usual Veteran’s Day visit and there are many things happening in this great Republic that you fought so hard to guarantee.  I trust you are resting well among your fellow veterans in that special place in heaven reserved for those who have given their lives so that we may continue to live in the greatest country on this planet.  America has come to recognize that a veteran’s contribution may be a few short years or a lifetime, and is worthy of acknowledgement on this special day.  I know full well your preference for brevity in the delivery of a briefing, so, sir, let’s get to it.   


This morning, while enjoying  breakfast courtesy of a local eatery, I noticed what seemed like a dramatic increase in the number of female veterans in the crowd.  Women are increasingly involved in military roles that were, just a few years ago, reserved for the masculine gender.  They are serving in line combat roles, and are doing exceedingly well, to include flying some of America’s latest fighter jets.  Although not directly related to a military role, your grand-daughter is doing an excellent job as a Highway Patrol officer, something unheard of in your day!  I am confident these ladies would meet your very exacting expectations.

This year has seen new highs in patriotism as well as new lows.  We have elected a President who is doing precisely what we wanted him to do, but he has not engendered universal support, as a result of his style and public demeanor.  He is a tremendous advocate for military strength, thus serving notice to the rest of the world that America will not be bullied. I suspect you would not be a fan of his blustery style, as I recall clearly your preference for moving in closely and quietly guaranteeing to your adversaries their total destruction in an encounter.  I believe your advice to me was that talk is no substitute for action, and that too much talk was usually counter-productive.  As you know sir, the past Administration was all talk, something you loathed.  In keeping with your philosophy of quickly closing with an adversary and dominating them, the essence of your favorite sport, football, I have unsettling news.  The game is in decline.  The game, as we know it, is facing two obstacles.  First, we are now discovering that participants in this grand sport are destroying the parts of their brains that control behavior and emotion.  The NFL has long covered up the destructive aspects of repetitive head injury, and many folks who are in a position to influence the future of the game are rethinking their positions.  Secondly, Colonel, there is this business of kneeling during the National Anthem, allegedly protesting some great social injustice.  The participants in this disrespectful ritual argue that it is a response to police brutality, or a comment made by a team owner, black oppression and racial inequality.  Before you ask, sir, I too have no idea what the relationship is between respect for the flag and National Anthem and these perceived social issues.  It is good that you and I are spared from the spectacle of you tearing through the stands, climbing onto the field and attempting to beat the hell out of one of these morons with his own helmet that he is using as a chair during the Anthem.  I remember your position on such matters, which was simply “death before dishonor”.  Eternity is a long time, sir, probably not enough time to figure this stuff out.

The state of our military, today, is excellent.  I can report with absolute certainty that our armed services are populated with exemplary folks.  They fight hard and clearly understand the stakes involved in a stint in one of our services.  They, like us,  trust our national leadership to carefully consider the mission at hand.  Through a better education than we enjoyed in our generations, they understand that history has a way of redefining the merit of our action in a conflict.  Exceptions, of course, exist to my blanket endorsement of the folks in our military.  A soldier deserted his post in combat, attempted to collaborate with the enemy, and was rescued from his predicament after the enemy turned on him.  He subsequently pled guilty to desertion and was then freed with no confinement.  The Army is now deliberating as to whether he should receive back pay for the time he was AWOL.  No sir, I do not have any idea what in the hell is going on.  I know, it is the death before dishonor thing again.  You should also know that a veteran sniper is in hot water for allegedly peeing on the corpse of an enemy combatant that he just shot to death on the battlefield. Some General, somewhere, says this was disrespectful to the dead combatant, as if shooting him dead was respectful in some way!  I am smiling too, sir….”

Today, Colonel, many people will visit the cemetery where you rest among your troops.  I will be there sometime next summer to visit and again reflect upon our relatively short time together. Meanwhile, thank you for your leadership and unmatched patriotism.

Today, dad, is your day.

The Truth about Robert E. Lee

America is faced with yet another polarizing issue in the destruction of statues and monuments that honor the great men of the Civil War.  The arguments for and against this phenomenon are mostly visceral, lacking a strong factual base, and often reflecting precious little reasoning.  This summer, Sharon and I visited Lexington, Va.,  the home of Robert E. Lee and the legendary general Stonewall Jackson, both buried here.  I am offering a short, factual glimpse into the life of Robert E. Lee, so that folks on both sides of the destruction rage can react with other than hatred and dismissal.

Robert E. Lee was an honorable man, with an impeccable background and education.   The current debate often ignores the General’s true identity, which some may find surprising.  Lee was, first and foremost, an accomplished Army officer.  He was deeply torn over his loyalty to both the Union and his home state of Virginia, declining an offer from Abraham Lincoln to command the Union Army, a position that he deeply wanted.  He correctly predicted, upon his acceptance of command of the Confederate Army, that America was going to pass through a “terrible ordeal”.  The General understood war, once saying,  “It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it”.  He was a consummate fighting general, but executed war from a tactical perspective while avoiding the hatred that soon consumed both armies.

Robert E. Lee, although a slave owner, described slavery as a “moral and political evil”. The day after Mr. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect, the General freed his family slaves.  Shortly after the war’s end, the General gave an interview during which he strongly condemned the assination of President Lincoln and stated flatly that some of the best men in the South had long sought an end to slavery.  Indeed the General, who was not taken to offhand commentary, remarked, “I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished”.  The historian, Jay Winik, notes the war’s official end at Appomattox failed to stop the hostilities, the scope of which still threatened the sanctity of the union.  Jefferson Davis, on the run, called upon southerners to take the fight to the hills, guerilla style, and continue the cause.  General Lee soundly rejected this call to guerilla warfare, a point he made emphatically at Appomattox.  He was a revered and trusted leader in the south and his call for a return to normalcy was likely instrumental in avoiding the creation of two countries after the end of the war. General Grant, in response to the character and humility of General Lee, rejected any and all calls for charges of treason on the part of General Lee. 

To those who advocate the destruction of the statues and monuments related to the war, they may have an ally in the General, who declined an invitation to participate in a ceremonial meeting at Gettysburg, some years after the wars end.  The General is quoted as saying, “I think it wiser…not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.”  


Robert E. Lee was a gentleman and certainly a scholar.  Like many fine men of that era, he chose to be on the losing side of history as a result of strong loyalties to their home states.  The General understood both sides of the issue, a characteristic we see lacking today in the visceral reaction to the destruction of the concrete and bronze reminders of our history.  The history and character of this great man deserves far more consideration than is currently being accorded him as elements of our society seek to erase him from our past.

Is that too much to ask?  I think not.

Sallie…….

Tazzy, the CEO of the Johnson clan stirred softly this morning as I rose and brewed a cup of coffee, badly needed to ward off the damp chill of a early November morning.  His soft sigh as the aroma of the coffee wafted into the bedroom reminded me that I had promised him a story about another dog, many years ago, who won the hearts of a hardened regiment of Civil War soldiers from Pennsylvania.  While at Gettysburg this summer, I was constantly alert for the back stories, behind the exploits of the great warriors who decided this battle, and some think, changed the course of the war.  One of the back stories is about a little dog named Sallie who is enshrined for eternity on the battlefield of Gettysburg.

Sallie, a brindle bull terrier, was gifted to the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment when she was a puppy thought to be just 4 weeks old.  A young boy, watching this regiment train in early 1861 thought a puppy would be just the thing to insulate the men from the tedium of constant close order drill and delivered the pup to the men.  The troops named the little terrier after a local lady, said to be breathtakingly beautiful.  Sallie was rambunctious, friendly and of even temperament.  She, however, was described as not particularly fond of rebels, Democrats and other females.  She was given free reign in the camp and, predictably was well fed by the troops as she wandered about.  Her nights were generally spent sleeping outside a Captain’s tent away from the raucous areas surrounding the troop tents, where she could snooze without interruption.  By breeding and association, Sallie developed a reputation as fearless going into combat, an event that came soon enough for the pup.

The 11th Pennsylvania quickly became involved in the fighting and Sallie established an early reputation as a fearless guardian of the colors as the men marched into battle.  Her first fight was in 1862 at the battle of Cedar Mountain.  The 11th Pennsylvania then made it’s way to the great battles at Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, where she would race around the front line, staying close to the colors and barking ferociously at the enemy.  In the spring of 1863, Abraham Lincoln was on the reviewing stand, conducting a review of the Union army, when the 11th Pennsylvania passed in front of him.  He tipped his hat at the little dog, proudly trotting alongside the unit’s commanders, as it passed the stand. She was, indeed, a little dog with a big heart.

Gettysburg was the next great campaign for the 11th Pennsylvania. At the battle of Oak Ridge, the 11th Pennsylvania was badly beaten up by the advancing confederates.  In the confusion of war, Sallie became lost and was separated from her unit for awhile. Three days after this fight, she was found, calmly guarding the bodies of her soldiers, having gone without food or water until rescued by the remainder of the 11th Pennsylvania as they returned to Oak Ridge to bury their dead.  As is the custom in a war, the unit rested, reorganized and began fighting again, this time at Spotsylvania, where Sallie suffered a wound to her neck.  She quickly recovered and accompanied the 11th to Ketcher’s Run where she was shot through the head and killed instantly, on the front lines, giving hell to the enemy until her last breath.  Hardened combat veterans, weeping uncontrollably, buried the little dog where she fell, on the front line that she knew so well.

Gettysburg is a chilling place, even in the heat of summer. The magnificent statues and monuments that were erected by the survivors of this great battle, many years after the war, are reminders of the camaraderie that exists within a fighting unit.  These monuments were erected in the late 1800’s, paid for by individual unit survivors in memory of their lost brothers.  In 1890, the survivors of the 11th Pennsylvania, erected their monument on the sight where they faced the advancing confederate soldiers.  Little Sallie rests at the base of this monument, eternally watching and waiting, never to be separated from her troops again.  Visitors, to this day, leave treats and gifts for Sallie.  We left a penny, turned so that Mr. Lincoln could once again offer his approval for the little dog who still reaches out and touches the heart of those who know the story.


This is as it should be.

How to Meet Heart Mechanics…….

I recently read a post on a dear friend’s social media page where she indicated her goal in life was to be stress and worry free, thus guaranteeing, to some extent, a happy existence as she navigates life.  This lady is whip smart, a pilot and well respected professionally where she works very hard to support her bosses and the public they serve.  I suspect her expectations were summarized in one of those little social media assessments that pop up every once in awhile supposedly based on some form of analysis.  More often than not, these things are a shot in the dark, but in her case, likely dead on.  I poured a cup of one of my favorite coffee’s, a vanilla bean blend, and gave her situation some thought. Being stress and worry free is a tall order. As a student of human behavior, the real world, street stuff that is not the substance of psychology textbooks, I thought I would offer a few perspectives.  The caveat to these observations is obvious; if I had the recipie for eternal happiness, I would be wealthy enough to buy Jeff Bezos out, instead I am an old trooper who knows full well that hindsight is 20/20.   Some of these thoughts are the result of watching experienced criminal investigators work, folks who can read people like a truck stop menu, folks who can turn stress into a double edged knife when eliciting information from people who are in trouble.

Perfectionists are destined to an early demise. Their obsessive, detail oriented existence permeates everything they do, from cutting the grass to writing a note to a friend.  Much of their stress in life is the result of their expectation of the same level of obsessive/compulsive behavior from everyone around them.  It is not going to happen and the sooner in life you recognize this, the longer you can wait before establishing a relationship with the heart mechanics.

If your concern in life is centered around what others think of you, you are going to have a rough row to hoe.  I can guarantee that if you are positively impacting the world we live in, you are angering someone.  Live with it and move on.

Two of the weaknesses in human beings that good cops exploit on a regular basis are a defined sense of right and wrong and a conscience.  Police officers do not always respond in a black and white way, but they live in a black and white world.  For instance, police officers, generally, have a healthy respect for the polygraph, because they have a clearly defined sense of right and wrong, making them ideal polygraph subjects.  Having a conscience is a great asset when considering some act, but a terrible liability after the act is done.  The old saying, let your conscience be your guide is sage advice…….on the front end.  A conscience is one of a cops best friends when we are “talking” with you about something of importance.

Consistency is a key to happiness.  The only class of human beings that I am aware of that can exist with inconsistent positions on the things that matter most, are politicians.  If you possess the ability to look a friend in the eye and disagree without being disagreeable, kudos to you.  For most of us, life is not an election, therefore we are afforded the luxury of a heartfelt difference of opinion in the name of honesty and fairness, without worrying about losing a vote.  A lack of consistency creates internal conflict, remember conscience, and has put many bad people in prison.

Heart mechanics welcome folks to their offices who do not have something they believe in.  Scientific stuff doesn’t count here.  I am talking about the belief in a higher power, a concept that does not lend itself to mathematical confirmation.  As an example, look at the rather large number of condemned prisoners who turn to religion in some form when the hour of their departure approaches.  My own father, a warrior who was a skeptical Christian as a result of his experiences, spent hours with an Army Chaplain on the day before he died.  I am not making a case here for a specific religion, rather for faith in something infinitely more powerful than what you see around you.  The ability to trust something other than mortal man provides a peace that is necessary to happiness. 

Two passages come to mind when I think about the road to happiness and a worry free life.  First, “The truth will set you free” followed closely by “What a tangled web we weave when we first practice to deceive”.  Liars are a cops best friend when we are investigating.  When confronted by a situation that threatens your well being, don’t lie, instead shut up.  In the police world, we have a little thing called the Garrity Rule.  Because officers are held to a higher standard, administrators can compel an officer who is the subject of an investigation to tell the truth in all matters, with the exception of criminal conduct protected by the 5th amendment.  Citizens are not under such pressure and are essentially free to lie under most circumstances.  In the investigative world, officers love liars, especially liars with some degree of conscience.  Lying on substantive matters almost always involves the tangled web of deception mentioned above.  One again, rather than lie, shut up.  

I am acquainted with both a fabulous heart surgeon and a heart electrician who have combined their skills in an effort to provide a little more time in this world to think about what I have done and seen.  America today is not Utopia. We live in a world of constant conflict, worry and stress that we cannot control……..

…….however, there are things we can control.  The bright lights in an operating theater are scary as is the not so reassuring suggestion by the doctor, that you are “going to go to sleep now.”

The Backpack…….

As I age, my memory becomes a bit more selective.  I tend to remember my better moments, triumphs and the other good things in life while forgetting the monumental screw ups and social failures that have kept me up at night.  Honest folks know what I am talking about and likely can relate to this self imposed amnesia.  I can recall, with some clarity, attending grade school and junior high, dutifully toting books and papers back and forth in a carefully arranged order, without benefit of the colorful backpacks of today.  If the need arose, a belt carefully pulled tight around this stack of school books was all that was necessary to keep your “stuff” together on the bus or sidewalks, as the case may be.  Circumstances and social convention resulted in delaying my exposure to the advantages of a backpack, that nifty concept that permits you to have what you need, when you need it.  Women have long understood this concept, carrying purses ranging from cute little “clutches” to enormous monstrosities capable of carrying a smart car across town.

I am guessing the Europeans are responsible for pioneering the concept of a man bag or “murse”, as my grand-daughter often refers to my backpack. For years, it has been quite stylish for men abroad to carry a shoulder bag of sorts, referred to as a “European” in fashion circles.  Not so for Americans.  When you are in your twenties and thirties, a wallet or money clip is all that is necessary to get you through your day.  I suspect the “cargo pant” craze has its genesis in the need for men to put additional stuff in their pockets. As you begin the downhill slide to seventy, your pockets are not going to get the job done, leading to a shedding of custom and the acquisition of something large enough to pack your “stuff” into.  Enter the backpack for men.  What stuff, you ask?  Let’s have a look.

First, the backpack itself.  I began with a pretty basic, canvas bag made by Fossil, designed to have a masculine look about it, in a basic brown, lightweight canvas.  It was functional but not particularly sturdy, showing premature wear on the corners and bottom as a result of my rather utilitarian approach to carrying it.  It tended to reveal it’s contents by imprinting whatever might be inside, not desirable if the contents included something in the .40 – .45 range. I tried an “European” bag, made of leather, but found my cargo pants could handle my “stuff” more efficiently.  This bag now goes into my motorcycle hard cases when I am riding, providing just enough room for a wallet, cellphone and perhaps something in the .380 range.  Perfect!  I have now graduated into the very nice Frye that you see in the photograph.  This backpack provides the room and organization to efficiently carry the stuff that old men invariably need when they are out and about.

When you inventory the contents of my backpack, as was done recently by TSA agents at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, you will find only necessary “stuff”, to include, but not limited to my wallet, checkbook, I-Pad, a charging cord, two or three pens, a notepad, credit card case, sunglasses, a pocket knife, a canvass bag containing eyeglass cleaner, toothpicks, nail clippers, and an extra inhaler to keep me breathing when I encounter tobacco smoke.  Another small leather bag contains antacids, Advil, and packages of my favorite artificial sweetener, because I gag at the sight of the pink stuff in many of the eateries I frequent.  I am a proponent of conceal carry by properly trained folks, and the backpack is convenient for this preference when your attire does not permit a pistol to be thoroughly concealed.  The Rambo look does not impress me.  My backpack will also contain a small wooden prescription med box to house the med that requires mid day ingestion, and a magazine for those times I am cooling my heels while Sharon is shopping or I am waiting on an oil change or similar activity. Finally, when shopping, the backpack is a handy place to stuff the sale coupons that stores like Cabellas and Ace hardware inundate your mailbox with.

I generally carry the backpack on one shoulder, unless I have temporarily added something that is hefty, in which case I will double shoulder carry to distribute the weight.  I have learned that many businesses, presumably as a result of thievery, will not permit me to carry the backpack into their business.  This is annoying, particularly when the woman with the smart car carrying bag can breeze right in without challenge. Discrimination if ever it exists! 

The practicality of carrying a backpack is catching on, with the proliferation of various conveyances such as messenger bags and computer cases.  Who would have thought it 25 years ago…..men carrying a bag of sorts.

I love my backpack!

Another Cult……

The word “cult” conjures up all sorts of negative cannotations.  With Halloween fast approaching, you might immediately think of some super secretive satanic cult, where membership is granted only after a nasty ritual where the ceremonial meal is marked by a concoction of toads, lizards and the eyes of a newt.  In reality, whenever several folks with a common interest covey up, the makings of a cult are in place.  Today’s cults, unlike the organized crime families of yesteryear, seldom involve a candle, bloodletting and oaths of silence, the fabled Omerta, a code that exacted death as the penalty for breaking.  As a matter of fact, common interests require a certain allegiance to those interests, whether they be sinister in nature or exist for the common good.  Sometimes, admission to today’s cults are purely by accident and are discovered only after one becomes involved in a practice or activity.  Such is the case with the latest cult that we find ourselves flirting with as a result of finally settling on an RV.  First, in the spirit of confession, I should share a bit about my involvement in various cults.

My first experience with a cult began in 1967, when I joined a High School fraternity.  Many of my friends during this unsettled time in a young man’s life belonged to one of two fraternities centered around Waynesville High School.  These were rather innocuous groups of guys who were generally narcisstic and hell bent on having a good time in their free time.  The initiation involved underage drinking and eating stuff that would make a coyote gag around a bonfire on the banks of the Gasconade river.  I wasn’t much of a drinker in those days, as my father assured me that beer on my breath and the car that he had graciously provided me would not mix.  When he spoke, I listened.  My membership in this gang was my only experience in Greek mythology.

My next cult, involving a short ceremony, occurred at the induction center in Kansas City, where upon I swore allegiance to the constitution and handed my very soul to the US Army. It was a character defining experience and led to an accelerated maturation process while exposing me to the terror of war.  Membership in this cult is not, at all, as it is depicted in the clever adds you see on television.  After being separated from this cult, I again swore allegiance to the constitution and all that is good, when I raised my right hand and joined the blue mafia, AKA the Missouri State Highway Patrol.  My generation was a transitional one in police service.  We were slowly evolving from the Omerta like code of silence into a more open and transparent profession, where personal accountability is the word of the day.  If you have not already done so, watch the movie “Serpico” and you will have a better understanding of this fraternity. Police organizations were and still are capable of internal politicizing and bickering on a scale to rival any institution in America, however; an external threat still can result in a quick circling of the wagons with an eye toward neutralizing that threat.  

There are many kinds of cults that we really just take for granted.  If you belong to a church, you are a member of a cult, albeit a good one.  If the ritual to gain status in the Mafia is impressive, just attend a traditional Catholic wedding and prepare to be wowed by the kneeling, Latin passages, wine consumption, movement of the Priest around the alter and smell of incense as he waves the incense burner or thurible around the front of the sanctuary.  Impressive!   Motorcyclists, in particular Harley Davidson aficionados, are a cult.  Their waves to one another and understanding of the thrill of the open road on a vibrating marvel of modern engineering is evidence of their regard for fellow riders.  The initiation into this cult is usually gained through the production of your pen and checkbook!  Amazon devotees are another cult who are initiated with the checkbook and or membership in Pay-Pal, the magic way to finance your addiction to the myriad of offerings in Jeff Bezo’s empire. Amazon is critical to RV owners, make no mistake.  Yet another cult is the brother and sisterhood of pilots.  I have come to the conclusion that most pilots cannot spell and mitigate this shortcoming with acronyms for just about anything that has to do with aviation.  There are estimated to be 9,284 aviation acronyms in common usage, such as AD-Airworthiness Directive, ADF for Automatic Direction Finding (Equipment) and ADS-B for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, (Equipment).  I will write about this peculiarity in aviation in a later blog.  Suffice to say, it is “inside baseball” when pilots get together and speak their own language!  There is a subgroup of fishermen (and ladies), generally tournament devotees who are very cult-like in their sharing of locations and techniques that are productive on a given day.  I find these folks to be particularly annoying when my goal is a simple mess of crappie for a fish fry.  Ask me and I’ll tell you where, on what and which pattern to use to help you enjoy this wonderful pastime.  Ask them, and they will respond “in the lake”…….nice.

Sharon and I joined another cult when we began traveling with the RV crowd.  We have found their initiation to be in the form of unheralded kindness and the willingness to share everything from the nuances of the protocol in campgrounds to the knowledge associated with the systems management one must acquire when he or she arrives in or pulling their “COW” or condo on wheels to a new location. (One can see that my association with pilots has had an effect, recreational vehicles, in aviation terms would be “COW”.) There are a number of sub-cults in the COW environment, usually centered around whether the unit is towed, or self propelled.  Back to aviation again, these units are either Class A, B, B+,C, Super C, truck camper, pop-up camper, travel trailer or teardrop trailer.  We have elected to belong to the travel trailer or TT subcult, and began with a trailer manufactured by a terrific company named “Grand  Design”. We recently sold this trailer and focused on the trailer that we seemed to always return to when in the marketplace, the Airstream, a trailer that most folks identify as the all aluminum “silver bullet”.  We intend to spend a great deal of time traveling America, meeting new folks and seeing things we have only read about until now, and the Airstream seems ideal to us.  We have christened the new COW, the “Taz-Mahaul II,”  Taz for Tazzy the Lab, Mahaul because it will be used to haul Tazzy with us.

A final note about the RV culture.  If you view this pastime in purely financial terms, you will not make it work.  By the same token, if you consider the expense involved in a single crappie fillet in hot peanut oil, you will want to frame that fillet rather than eat it!  We have been impressed with the huge cross section of folks that we have met as we travel about, their friendliness and willingness to share their stories with us.  Seeing this country from ground level, where you can absorb the sound, smell and regional cuisine is priceless.  So is the ability to return to the unique and comfortable surroundings of your COW at days end, sitting around a fire and listening to the breathing of a softly sleeping Tazzy as you talk about things you have seen that day.

We finally have the time for this cult……..and we are loving it!

I Need a Supervisor………

I love to fly, but am a fair weather pilot, a necessity brought about by my flying under Light Sport Rules which limit me to daylight hours in, well, fair weather. It should be no surprise that I would jump at the opportunity to grab the right seat in a beautiful airplane, a twin engined Beechcraft Duke, with a good friend and super pilot, John Purifoy, a senior Captain who flies for American Airlines.  My thrill was compounded by the prospect of starting the flight in solid instrument flight conditions on a day where driving to the airport in a car was a bit iffy.  The plan was simple.  John was flying through Springfield on his was from Illinois to Dallas, and I joined him for the continuation of his trip.  After landing, I planned to hop on an AA Eagle and return to Springfield later that day.  Little did I realize that such a simple plan could be disrupted by a lapse in preparation, entirely of my own doing, which resulted in my introduction to new friends in the form of TSA agents and a couple of Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport police officers.  My friends and family have enjoyed a good laugh since then, but at the time it was anything but funny.  Let me explain.

The Dallas/Ft. Worth airport is a big airport.  The drive from Meachem field to this airport was carefully planned to allow just enough time to stop for a Texas Bar-b-cue sandwich in a little hideaway restaurant that is frequented by pilots and the local working establishment, before dashing into the airport, clearing the TSA security check and making it to the gate with a half hour to spare.  I found myself in a long line of folks, many of which had less time than I, to be screened for a list of prohibited items that most of us know about, such as knives, guns and other stuff that could be used to disrupt the flight. Before leaving Springfield, I was careful to remove my handgun from my backpack and leave my pocket knife on the desk.  I did not want the folks in Dallas to think I was a rube, just out of the hills, enjoying my first experience in a big airport.  As the line moved forward, I was required to remove my I-Pad and place it in a tray, my shoes went into a second tray and the backpack into yet another tray to be scanned while I walked through the magnetometer.  My concern at this point was the large number of travelers behind me, many of which were nervously scanning their watches in an effort to freeze time and make it to their flight on time.  As my backpack went into the scanner, the conveyer suddenly stopped and the TSA agent in a bell clear and loud voice shouted, “I need a supervisor”.  I could hear the collective groans of the people behind me as 3 additional agents joined the agent operating the scanning device and they began looking for the owner of the backpack.  I love my Fry backpack, crafted out of fine leather with perfect compartments for my cellphone and tablet, but at that moment sincerely wanted it to belong to anyone but me.  At this point a TSA agent asked me if I had the pistol that went with the “clip” that was in my bag.  I assured him that I did not, and mentioned that I had just walked through the magnetometer.  He was in no mood for an explanation of how those devices work.

The people behind me were gradually transforming from a gaggle of tired, time pressed travelers into a lynch mob, and I began to fear for my safety.  No problem as shortly thereafter, two police officers walked up and began eyeing me in the same fashion that I have eyed folks for nearly thirty years, in an effort to make the distinction between my being either brain dead or intent on some bad act.  By now you have deduced that in my haste to render my backpack ready for travel, I had failed to locate and remove a spare .380 magazine that was buried somewhere in one of the compartments.  I plead brain dead to the officers, introduced myself to them and after checking my retired ID and concealed-carry permit, they told the TSA guys that I was okay and to just process the event as usual.  This is where the wheels came off.

TSA insisted on photographing the image on the scanning device before the backpack was removed.  They produced a small camera, took several pictures and removed the bag where it then was THOROUGHLY searched.  In a small canvas bag that I use to keep Advil, antacids and such, they found a set of nail clippers that also had a very small 1’’ folding blade attached.  The clippers have joined the “clip” in the box of contraband the TSA uses to to publicize their efficiency from time to time. When I pointed out to one of the now 6 agents surrounding me that the clip was actually a magazine, he was not impressed with my knowledge of gun etiquette.  Finally, I was taken to a desk, where another agent photographed the magazine again, along with my driver’s license and concealed/carry permit.  I was not photographed in this process, and was released, with my backpack, just in time to hustle to my gate and visit with a nice AA agent about the next available flight to Springfield.  I was finally able to make it onto a later flight and be on my way.

I needed the Advil to assuage a by now pounding headache brought about by sharing terminal space with a number of other passengers who missed their flights as a result of my misadventure.  I found myself apologizing to everyone that cast a disparaging eye as I sheepishly made my way to a Starbucks for a double shot of caffeine.  I did not want to fall asleep and be strangled with the straps on my backpack.  My friend, the Captain, having already cleared security ahead of me, was sitting on the “other” side of the security area, watching, smiling and holding onto a bag of popcorn as I was enjoying being the center of attention.  On the way to the airport, we ran a checklist of items that I could not clear security with, but our checklist did not include magazines and bullets.  Who carries magazines without guns?  Rubes from the hills……..

The takeaway from all of this?  I do not fault TSA for their diligence and they were polite enough considering the circumstances.  I do recommend they streamline the process following the discovery of contraband to insure the mitigation of inconvenience to those travelers behind the offender.  The delay to the folks behind me was entirely avoidable and totally unnecessary.  I likely will receive an admonishment from the TSA, could be fined and my name has probably been forwarded to the IRS as my identity as a “gun toting conservative” has been established.

When your backpack, briefcase, etc., is in the scanner, and you hear, “I need a supervisor”, steel yourself. You are about to become the center of attention!