What the Hell………

Okay. I am going to deviate a bit from the seriousness of the world around us and talk about something that is the foundation of our existence. Ladies, you may find this of particular importance as it is reported that women buy 60% of this product for the men in their lives. I am talking men’s underwear here, where I take a tongue in cheek look at this booming industry (pardon the pun.)

It you are a Social Media consumer you know what I am talking about. Who lately hasn’t seen the Facebook add featuring a young man wearing a pair of the latest Tommy John drawers. He is either an out of work porn star or desperately needs attention to address what has to be a painful hernia. But wait…as they say in the informercials, there is more!

Industry experts say the average man buys his own underwear for 17 years of his life. That leaves a lot of time for moms and wives to do the shopping. Thirty years ago it was easy. You wore boxers, briefs or Army drawers. They came in white, white or olive drab. Back in the day, go to the gym and drop your jeans to reveal a “red soft modal, copper infused thong” and you would be dressing alone or stuffed into a locker. Cotton was the order of the day, which modern manufacturer’s say is comfortable but loses it’s shape over time. No kidding, so do the wearers! Don’t think it matters? Think again. Your chances of ending up in a doc’s office or the ER standing around in your soothing paper gown are better than ever. Don’t get caught without a sleek pair of designer drawers when they decide they need to look in places that don’t see much sunlight.

Mack Weldon says he has devoted 10,000 hours to the development of his silky Lycra and Modal underwear. This brings up another point, gone is cotten and Modal is the new fiber of choice. Modal is derived from the Beech tree and Lycra is a chemical concoction that can expand up to six times it’s original volume. This expansion is important to middle aged men and the aforementioned guy with the hernia. Wait, there is more!

Everybody has gotten into the underwear game. Tommy John, Mack Weldon, Duluth Trading, Sax, Calvin Klein, and Bonobos come to mind. They offer copper for odor control (replaces washing machines) cool zones for the boys and super secure pouches that breathe when you are short of breath. (The pouches should be mandatory for ball players to keep them from constantly rearranging their junk) The colors are breathtaking and the styles are limitless. You can choose old school boxers or briefs, or…..hold on, boxer shorts, short boxers, long boxers or boxer briefs, thongs, slingshots (don’t ask) or cute little socks that resemble the handle protectors on a cast iron frying pan. No fly, button fly, or horizontal fly are additional options. You can get them with copper filaments or for the discerning, silver threads, anti-microbial infused and organic fiber constituted. You can even order a “hammock” style pouch and guaranteed no roll waistband. The discriminating shopper can also find his and hers sets of undies where form eclipses function, I am sure……

Not your fathers underwear…..

Why does this matter, you ask? Harvard says that men who wear boxers produce 25% more sperm than guys who wear briefs. So if you are in the baby making business, this might be helpful. Guys who go commando are 30% more likely to have chaffing and to injure themselves while physically engaged. It matters because many wives and girlfriends will see the Tommy John guy and think they have been short changed in life. (Another pun, sorry). It matters at the doctor’s office or gym where staff won’t be able to recall your name but will long remember your neon Star Wars shorts. We have come a long way from worrying about whether to button down or use a collar stay.

Good luck ladies as you navigate the world of men’s underwear. Odds are you’ll spend a lot more time buying his foundation stuff than he does yours. That, my friends, is a shame…….

Have a great weekend!

SR

Hell Comes in Many Colors…..

I read an interesting and very compelling article in the local paper this morning. This article detailed the soft blue walls of the Covid ward in one of our two major hospitals and the plight of the nurses and techs who are immersed in the business of death, dying and prayer. The article reminded me that hell is all around us in America, the greatest nation on earth. It also reminded me that it is okay to rely on a living God when we are surrounded by Godlessness.

My first experiences with God, not the concept but the reality, occurred in Vietnam. When you are walking artillery in very close to kill an enemy that is determined to kill you, your attention turns, instinctively to God. It is a rare individual who is flirting with death that doesn’t ask for the Lords help. That I am sitting here, writing this piece, is the result of tremendous good fortune and the Lord’s generosity. My next intimate visits with the Lord occurred when I was tasked with providing some degree of certainty to the families of folks killed in car accidents, by criminal acts or at their own hand. I relied upon the Lord, often in silent prayer, to give me the strength to add dignity to the otherwise undignified death at hand. Death in these circumstances is a multi-sensory experience and is often accompanied by many vivid colors, each representative of the hell that is surrounding both the families and the first responders. I shall never forget an experienced Highway Patrol Captain, on his knees tearfully praying with the family of another trooper whose son was killed in front of them as they stood in their front yard. The child rode his bicycle across the road and was struck and killed by a good neighbor. Hell that day was a bright bluebird sky with white puffy clouds holding forth over a cold, asphalt gray road. This family was strong and yet relied upon the God that we are tossing out of America to provide the strength to endure their taste of hell.

The caregivers in the hospital mentioned in the beginning of this writing are living testaments to the strength of a God. When medical science is failing the patients, a regular occurrence with this invisible hell that has been unleashed upon us, they turn to prayer. They are experienced professionals who have joined the fight to keep their patients alive. Friendships develop and often, these providers are in a position to know when survival is unlikely. They are tasked with staying in the fight and acting as surrogate family, as the patient is most often relegated to a death without family present. They call upon the Lord to help the patient and themselves deal with the inevitability of a final, lonely demise in the powder blue room referred to as a Covid ward.

Please God….give me the strength

From experience, I can tell you that circumstances do exist where you call upon a spiritual being to help you avoid suffocation and panic when death is close enough to smell. If you are fortunate, you have the time to call upon the Lord before you breathe your last breath on earth. Many times you are not and an eleventh hour save is useless when you are taken in the tenth hour. Please take a moment to look around you and decide where you stand and who you want in your corner when the bell tolls. Are we going to sit idly by and let “progressive” America pitch God out of our lives? Are we going to let a political persuasion that believes it is okay to snip the spine of a newborn infant be our conscious? Are we helpless in the face of this same political persuasion that is going to make a faith a litmus test for a seat on the Supreme Court?

Back to where I began. My hat is off to folks who take on the responsibility of not only the maintenance of life, but a dignified exit from the life we have been given. Combat has an effect on everyone who experiences it. Police service has an effect on everyone who takes on the responsibility. Providing medical care, for folks who are afflicted with a scourge on a scale with Covid 19, will forever haunt the providers. If you have ever uttered “God help them” or “God bless them”, you are acknowledging the existence of the Master. We are taught that you deny the presence of God at your own peril.

Denying God is denying the reason America came into existence. He is not a statue to be torn down……and one way or another, he will be there at the end……How do you want the meeting to go?

SR

Oil, Wind and Grass……

We recently completed a “glass” getaway through the great state of Kansas and Colorado. By glass, I mean little contact with people as we viewed the countryside through the glass in our car. A visit to the Mining Museum in Leadville, Co. filled in many of the blanks as it relates to mineral and metal from Mother Earth. With the lyrics from the popular television show “The Beverly Hillbillies” streaming through our minds we were determined to become familiar with the lure of oil, wind and prairie as we travelled. The answer lies in money. Let’s have a look.

I am fascinated by Kansas topography, and amazed at how quickly we go from the ruggedness of Missouri to the gently rolling plains of Kansas. No sooner than you cross into Kansas, you begin to see small oil wells scattered about the countryside. Looks easy, drill a hole, install a pump and sell your black gold to the folks driving from well to well while you count your money. Actually, it is a tremendous risk. The average well produces 3.5 barrels of crude every 24 hours. Today, Brent crude is trading for 41.93 a barrel in these days of fracking and Keystone pipelines. The average well is 3,000 feet deep and costs about 500,000+ to drill and set up. If you hit a dry hole, a possibility even with todays seismic capabilities, you owe the drilling company 150,000. If your well is productive, you can expect, on average, 20 years production. You are advised to NEVER borrow money to speculate in this enterprise. On the other hand, some landowners have many wells churning out oil every day and are doing quite well. The size of the rig denotes the depth of the well and it’s productivity as compared to the averages. So, before you sink you inheritance in a well, consider the prospect of shoe sales at a discount shoe store, a real possibility if the well is or soon runs dry.

“Nodding donkeys”

Wind is up next. All of us have driven by the “Wind Farms” some of which stretch for miles along the high plains. First, you need wind, at least 9 MPH to turn the turbines. Almost all of the turbines you see are owned by large investment conglomerates, and at least in Kansas, most of the electricity is going to California. The financial considerations attendant to a turbine can be complicated, but the average turbine pays the land owner 8,000 a year, and typical leases are 20 years. There are spacing requirements and the soil must be of the right composition to hold the thing upright. The developer must front about 2 million to erect and bring on line each turbine. The math tells you that if your ground is just right, and you have enough of it, you will be well served to choose wind over crops or cattle. I should mention that if a turbine(s) on your property is in a great wind zone, you may also negotiate a financial reward based on a kw/hr basis.

The Tri-fecta. We drove by a number of ranches that were truly blessed. They had wind turbines happily supplying electricity to the west coast, a number of oil wells covering their operating expenses and either cattle or irrigated crop land to keep them happily belted into first class as they winged their way to Europe or South America for a get away. Or you could emulate the late T. Boone Pickens, a legendary oil man who understood risk. Mr. Pickens was broke when he borrowed money and formed a company to find and produce oil. He died just short of being a billionaire, as he, like all wildcatters, did not always come out on top in a speculation. He did however, understand America’s energy needs and was not lazy.

Renewable Energy

Mr. Pickens died last year, and left an interesting philosophy on the table when he said, “I’m a Republican. I don’t want to go to heaven and have to face my family up there and tell them I voted Democratic”

I’ll bet you didn’t see that one coming!

Have a great weekend, stay safe and VOTE.

SR

Cliffhangers, Ghost Towns and History…

We are back from a getaway to scenic Colorado that had much to offer beyond skis, snow and spandex. Finally after 70 years, I was able to see the fabled Aspens in their peacock splendor and wind generated whispers. They are beautiful. Folks write about the Million Dollar Highway, and it is a treat, but examples of this kind of cliffhanging motoring abound within the state. The ride through Independence Pass was complicated by bicyclists that were pedaling both up and down as if they were on the Katy Trail. We wondered what it would be like to have a resting heart rate of around 3. Colorado has a well earned reputation for personal health, an attribute they are justifiably proud of.

Sharon and Tazzy on the Divide

There are thought to be around 600 ghost towns in Colorado, vestiges of the glory days of gold and silver mining. To understand their magnetic appeal, one needs to spend a couple of hours at the Mining Museum in Leadville, high in the Rockies. You can understand the magic of gold, silver and other metals that drew folks from a depressed eastern seaboard to the freezing mountains of this beautiful state. The mining activities and lust for riches have resulted in 24 Super Fund sites being declared by the EPA through out the state. Toxic wastes are still leeching from the mining sites as Superfund status is not a guarantee of restoration. The superfund is currently woefully underfunded. There are many ties to Missouri in Colorado mining country, not the least of which is the plethora of mining experts turned out by our own University, formerly known as the School of Mines in Rolla, Missouri, now referred to as Missouri S&T, for science and technology.

Let’s talk cliffhanging for a minute. Colorado has a number of roads leading to the crests of it’s tallest mountains. Folks who have negotiated them have an appreciation of heights and white knuckles. Your car or motorcycle requires a diligent, focused effort to operate as you both ascend and descend these peaks. We drove to the Continental divide at Independence Pass on a sunny morning, sharing the road with bicyclists in both directions. The bicyclists, and there were many of them, started at the base of the mountain and rode, non-stop to the divide. Had I not watched this with my own eyes, I would have told you no way. The harrowing consideration is sharing the road with vehicles, around hairpin curves, sans guardrails, and chugging bicyclists going up and hurtling down. It is no wonder that Colorado enjoys a stellar reputation for robust personal health and conditioning. I talked, through a mask, and briefly, with a passenger who had just made the ascent to the divide who declared the trip was “terrifying”. She had a point!

Colorado’s history is well preserved. Every mountain town, through preservation and restoration, has a story to tell. These villages and ramshackle whistle stops are becoming very popular and expensive as folks are relocating back to these quaint environments in great numbers. Consequently, real estate prices are eye opening and the properties in great demand.

Every pancake, no matter how thin, has two sides. We drove through scenic Aspen where the rich and famous casually stroll through town in spandex and fur. Their town is a far cry from Leadville, where we were most comfortable. The town was wrapped in an aura of opulence and wealth. We did not feel unwelcome….nor did we feel welcome either. We love the Dillon, Breckinridge vibe, places we know and skied once upon a time. We are jeans and flannel folks and pride ourselves on never meeting people without a smile and greeting. Good old boys would be well advised to seek the ski country on the “other” side of the tracks, where cold beer and strong drinks are all readily identifiable. Places where designer shirts come from Duluth Trading or Carhartt and jeans are cut for a loose, high waisted fit………

Time for another coffee and additional reflection on the ability to ride a bicycle up a mountain….

Have a great weekend, pray for our President, and remember to be civil….

SR

Magic Is In The Air……

Two days from now marks the beginning of my favorite season in Missouri. A years work in the fields will soon be ready to go into the bins, the gardens are in Mason jars and our critters begin fattening up and grooming their coats for what is promising to be a cold winter. WWII had just ended days before this poem was published by A.H.Hindman in the Kansas City Times.

Every line captures a facet of fall and my hope is that if you have not experienced each one of these sublime considerations, you do so before you go to your reward. Missouri, my adopted home, never fails to enchant me. It has been my privilege and good providence to settle here as a boy. It is my intention to be here for eternity.

Beautiful in it’s simplicity

We have held onto this for many, many years. It was given to Sharon just before we were married by a teaching colleague. Fall is such a multi-sensory experience. Grab it while you can!

Have a great week!

SR

A Non-Linear Opponent…..

We are entering my time of the year. My agricultural roots, deeply imbedded in the soil of the South Carolina low country, sharpen my anticipation of the harvest season. It is just that the rewards of all the work and worry of the spring planting and summer nurturing delivers it’s bounty in the season of shortened days, cool nights and vibrant colors. People who love the outdoors, also love the moderating weather that fall brings. Fall marks the beginning of the end of another year on planet earth. A year significantly impacted by a microscopic, colorful bug that refuses to walk a straight line.

Our world has become one of negotiating a rapidly shifting pattern of what is safe and what is not. We are forced to deal with uncertainty as to what is open and what is not, usually verifiable by actually stopping by and reading the door. Slowly, America is coming to terms with this opponent, the virus’s terms, not ours, and dealing with it on a personal level. The freedom to make our own decisions, often conflicting with the attempts by government to keep us safe from ourselves, has delivered a scene reminiscent of Sherman’s march to Atlanta. Instead of scorched earth, we have destroyed relationships, endured political viciousness, and hours of watching bad movies on the cable carriers. To replace fun trips into the retail world, we have a constant stream of FedEx and UPS trucks navigating our streets and neighborhoods. Thousands of good hard working folks are not working yet and we need legal counsel to help understand the policies of our educational institutions. We are conflicted in our spiritual world as well. Churches are feeling the impact of low attendance, and our tendency to rely on spiritual assistance has been replaced by governmental assistance. All courtesy of a little virus with sometimes deadly implications.

Yesterday, we stopped at a chicken house here in Springfield for an order to go. I was up, so on with the mask and into the store to pick up our chicken, taters and gravy I went. Hostility chilled the air at the counter. A family was having trouble keeping the kids on the social distancing spots and decided to wait outside. They viewed me with some degree of disdain, and you can’t smile your way out of tension through a black mask. A man came in to pick up his order, looked at me and suggested that I could dispense with the mask on November the 3d, as this whole thing was a “political hoax”. I wanted chicken not a political science class, and suggested cheerfully, “we’ll see”. I did not turn my back on this man, as there existed no trust between us.

Where do you stand on the facts?

If this virus could just stay on a straight line, we could plan our way around it and establish a new order of existence. It has not and we are forced to contend with the most formidable opponent you can engage, and that is one that adheres to no rules and thus confounds the brightest minds we have. All is not lost. We have sought out eateries that offer outdoor seating, learned the basics of smoking meats at home and are becoming rather clever at buying online. (Online shopping is an art….but that is a story for a later discourse.) There are hundreds of ways to social distance in the great outdoors and the virus, most agree, cannot catch an automobile at 70, a motorcycle at any speed or a bicycle at 10 MPH.

If the virus went away today, we have learned from it. We are adaptable and far more self sufficient than we thought might be the case in this age of modern convenience. So, on this foggy Sunday morning, grab a cup of coffee, seek a little spiritual solace and dwell on what we have gained rather than lost. Soon enough we’ll either beat it or rope it off….it is what we do in America. At the very least, our generation will have a story to tell, like those before us who talk off the Great Depression and dust bowl….that is if we are still recording history in the future.

Have a great week.

SR

Covid…..Beyond the Disease……

America is more mobile today than at anytime in our history. We move around a lot and nuclear families that live in the same town are becoming rarities. Trips to our parents home in rural or small town venues often involve drives or flights of many miles and the rigors of working in today’s demanding market tend to dampen one’s enthusiasm for a thousand mile drive to attend a picnic on a Sunday afternoon. Enter covid. The impact of this virus is felt in many ways not related to being physically sick. Are you a victim of strained or destroyed relationships as a result of this malady………if so you have plenty of company.

Satan paints a pretty picture, doesn’t he?

First the malady. We know more about this virus and it’s implications than at any time since it’s grand entrance on the world’s stage, and yet there is much we don’t know. Self proclaimed experts have us wearing masks, or not. They want open schools, or not. The virus was handled, politically correctly, or not. The folks who have challenged the authority of political mandates to open or close businesses are hero’s, or not. Folks who err on the side of caution and mask up with a gel bottle in their bag are germaphobic zealots, or not. Pro maskers display disdain to those who do not wear them, and those who do not wear them ask why you are wearing the stupid mask. When you are 70, you view a bout of Covid with a great deal more respect than when you are 20. Kids are basically immune, or not. Depending upon your view, Covid has killed thousands in America, or not. The popular rage today is that underlying conditions cause the deaths, conveniently ignoring that death, from underlying conditions, might have been avoided had you not contracted the disease.

Let’s cut to the chase here. Covid has become the hottest political issue in America since Vietnam. One’s view of this disease is shaped by one’s political view in general. Either I have been asleep, or we are experiencing the deepest political divide in our country’s existence. The hatred that is the hallmark of political campaigning today loves a contributing circumstance. Covid is just that circumstance. Depending upon your political perspective, the management of Covid has been a disaster or the work of the best minds in the country, who have adjusted to the ever increasing knowledge base relative to the disease. Under no circumstances will one side of the political spectrum concede the other side did something the right way. We should shut the economy down, or not. We should build thousands of ventilators, or not. We need thousands of hospital beds, or not. In combat, when time permits, you develop a plan and attack. The wise warrior understands your plans may go to hell in minutes and you had better be ready to adapt. Combat with Covid demands the same respect.

America’s problem is not so much with Covid as it is with pride and taking a stand on one side or the other of an issue that really has no sides. Friendships have been destroyed in the murky waters surrounding Covid and it’s implications. Family relationships have been strained because of this microscopic little virus from the depths of hell. Medical professionals differ dramatically on the implications and management of Covid. Why shouldn’t we form opinions as well? We should, but the smart individual doesn’t push the envelope when arguing for or against a position on the management of this malady. Why?

Because there is no way of knowing who is right or who is wrong until that day in the future when history and the rear view mirror provide the answers. If you have wagered a friendship on one of the implications of this malady, I am sorry. Your wager will become one of your lifelong regrets when you summarize your wins and losses in the end.

From experience, I know this.

Have a great holiday!

SR

Medicine Closets and Old Folks……..

Unless you have moved a lot, or are a wannabe hoarder, as you enter the golden years you acquire a lot of stuff. Most of us are old enough to have cleaned out a dear relatives house after they have gone to their reward. These efforts are usually accompanied by wide eyed amazement at the stuff they have accumulated and, importantly, what in the hell to do with it. I recently came into possession of a set of very nice belt buckles from a dear Patrol widow, as she no longer had any use for them. I was fortunate as many Patrol employees collect such things and a home was easy to find. We tend to not dwell on such matters unless we are needing something not in daily use and stumble on a cache that would make a cocaine importer green with envy. We have moved around a lot, still I am concerned from time to time the county health inspector is going to show up. If you are smiling at this point, you know exactly what I am taking about.

In the last 15 years or so, I have established a relationship with a number of health care providers. I have always believed in preventive maintenance, and the practice of medicine is pretty well the province of specialists these days. On my “team” is a great podiatrist, who has been collaborating with me in the care of arthritic feet that were abused in early life until and through the vacation in Vietnam. I stopped in yesterday for a minor procedure, one that requires a little home care to see the project through. This necessitated a trip to our medicine CLOSET, which has long since replaced the medicine CABINET of the younger generation who generally keep a bandaid or two and bottle of Advil in their otherwise empty cabinet. I was shocked…..

Sharon is well organized and I am certain that she can immediately find any kind of bandaid, compress, wrapping, tape or antibiotic that has come out in the last 15 years. Rx medicines are yet another embarrassment. We take a few (well below the national average according to AARP) but docs are fond of changing and adjusting dosages. After paying our share of the drug costs, it is hard to pitch bottles of Squibs best out the door or down the porcelain throne (not good for the environment, I know). Every surgical procedure over the past years has resulted in a new RX for pain control, resulting in a few, or many as the case may be, left over heavy hitters in the opiate class. I could treat the aftermath of some terrible calamity, if I knew what I was doing. I don’t, which begs the question yet again, why do you keep this stuff? We are able to take a temperature a variety of ways (grandchildren for the curious!), measure blood pressure in about thirteen body parts and turn the average adult into a mummy museum piece. We have heat pads and ice packs. Over the counter analgesics, check. We have it in brand name and generic form, for the less discriminating. Ate something bad, we can cork you up. Ate too much of something good, we can increase the urgency to find the throne. Now let’s move into flu and cold. There is not a patent medicine, decongestant, vaporizer dope or antihistamine that we do not stock. The problem today is that a sneeze sends you scrambling for the long Q-tip up the nose to make sure you don’t need to make arrangements with the nearest funeral home. We have pillows, neck braces and two kinds of back wraps. Somewhere in the attic we even have a walker for those of us that dive off ladders with a running chainsaw in their hands. (That is a whole other story). We have around 30 toothbrushes, vomit trays in multiple colors, water jugs that measure your intake and cute little plastic containers to measure your output. If you need to stick it, swallow it, smear it on or drink it, we have it. We can make you cough or stop you from coughing.

By now, you see the point.

No explanation needed.

I remember the days on a farm in rural South Carolina when the outlay in medicinals was a bottle of merthiolate or mercurochrome for the less sadistic and a bandage torn from a piece of old bedsheet. If the injury was serious, you got the strip of cloth dipped in the fuel oil barrel. Seemed to work fine, and the mosquitos left you alone. For everything else, it was a dose of castor oil or paragoric.

I have come to the conclusion it is easier to run out and buy a new tube of Polysporin than look for one in the closet….unless the inventory specialist, Sharon is on duty. To those of you laughing….I can guarantee you are laughing with me and not at me!

Have a great week!

SR

From Terror to Brotherly Love…….

In the past day or two, I posted a picture of a young Staff Sergeant who has been selected as the U. S. Army’s top Drill Sergeant. Veterans all share a vivid memory of their 8 weeks in basic training when you make the transformation from a fun loving, carefree young person to a warrior wannabe. I am confident the rules have changed a bit over the years from the night that I arrived at Ft. Polk, La. soon to surrender my soul to one Senior Drill Instructor, Domonick Petrarca. I had been around the Army for my entire life however; being around it and in it are two vastly different things. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

Tough as hell, but fair and dedicated.

Sgt. Erik Rostamo, the current reigning top Drill Instructor, is a master of all things necessary to being a warrior, capable of delivering small arms death from the comfort of a pair of US issue combat boots. He has to be very good to earn his current accolades. When you get off the bus, he represents an element of hell, who is generally displeased with your very existence. When he is through with you at the end of a cycle, he is remembered fondly. If you are one of the unfortunate ones that is destined to become a part of the current gunfight d’jour somewhere in the world, his lessons become critical to your survival. Sgt. Rostamo’ s image triggered memories of another remarkable Drill Instructor that I was introduced to in 1969, Senior Drill Sergeant Dominick Petrarca. It was hot in Louisiana in July but it was about to get one hell of a lot hotter on the sands of Ft. Polk.

I had not slept for 24 hours. The airplane ride from Dallas to Ft. Polk was rough, with unsettled weather pitching the Trans Texas airplane violently. The load of recruits, freshly sworn in, were busy filling the little paper bags with the last meal they had enjoyed as civilians. We landed and were bussed to a reception station where we were allowed a few hours sleep on sweat stained mattresses and pillows sans sheets and pillow cases. The sweat of thousands before us was our only connection with a rapidly fading past. Two days later, the training cadre showed up and the excitement began. We were bussed to the barracks, the old style wooden barracks with communal toilets and showers, decorated in the latest colors, that awful yellow paint and stained red floors. After being loosely formed up, in ranks, Sgt. Petrarca chose the biggest recruit in our company and ordered him to step in front of the formation. He then challenged the affable fellow to a fist fight while hurling invectives that would make Lucifer grin with glee. Thankfully the recruit, terrified, declined the invitation and the cycle began.

The food was prepared in a Company mess hall, not the big consolidated dining rooms in vogue today. We all took a turn as kitchen help under the guidance of the head chef (Mess Sergeant) and became adept at removing a layer of metal from the steel cookware that seemed to be everywhere you stood. You marched everywhere you went and the days were long and genuinely arduous. The military has long ago learned that repetition is the best way to train, and you got plenty of it. A Drill Sergeant seemed to be constantly in what used to be your space but had somehow morphed into his space that your borrowed from him. The training you receive is best chronicled in a book, not a blog, but for one aspect. I was assigned the task of fighting the biggest, meanest trainee that our company produced, one Anthony Roosakis, in the Pugil Stick drill. This training is supposed to teach you to fight with a rifle in hand to hand combat. You use log sticks, with padded ends to beat the hell out of one another. Roosakis sported a tattoo on his arm denoting that he “was born to raise hell” and I believe he was. He was braining me with the sticks, but made the mistake of slipping in the sand providing an opening for me to finish the match with him on his back. Were it not for intervention by a Drill Sergeant, I would have killed him. For many years as a trooper, I remained alert for the name Roosakis, but never again saw it.

Anthony Roosakis

At the end of the cycle, 99% of us realized that Senior Drill Sergeant Petrarca actually cared. Vietnam was a running gunfight and most of the trainees at Ft. Polk were destined to enter a hot war. He invested blood, sweat and tears in sending us into combat as well prepared for ground fighting as we could be. We were just as adept at putting a bullet into the enemies head as we were at providing first aid to one of our troops who had taken a shot to the head. Drill Sergeants introduce every one of their trainees to an orderly life, with structure, teamwork and a sense of loyalty to the country. These are rewards that follow you through life.

I will not forget Senior Drill Sergeant Petrarca, a man I knew for eight weeks, fifty years ago. He made a difference in my life that many are not privileged to enjoy. He was also the toughest SOB that I have ever known, and I have known quite a few tough guys.

Have a great weekend!

SR

Why God Created Retirement……

God’s infinite wisdom is clearly manifested in this concept we call retirement. I am up this morning, coffee in hand, reflecting on an America that is wobbling like a dented top we played with as kids. There are many definitions of “retirement” but only one really matters. When you retire, you are no longer a problem solver on the world’s stage. You are no longer required to make a difference. Let me explain.

I am shaking my head at the police response today. To be fair, the generations before me were shaking their heads at the behavior of my generation when we were the gendarme. I have nothing but respect for the folks on the line today and a wavering respect for their leadership in many cases. It is good that my generation’s opinion on the tactics of today are no longer relevant, as we would be in jail or dead with the skills and tactics of yesteryear. The police are supposed to represent the society they protect, with norms and behaviors reflecting those demands. In the old west, bad guys were quickly dispensed with by the law, with lead or a rope. It was appropriate then, as action had to be taken quickly to prevent almost certain additional death. We have come a long way. When folks like Clyde Barrow and John Dillinger were unceremoniously gunned down, we clapped with glee and applauded the efforts of the police. There may have been an inquest, but it seldom took more than an hour, the graves were closed and the hunt was on for the next miscreant.

I began my career under the tutelage of troopers who handled things in a somewhat refined but definitive way. When our penitentiary erupted in a riot in 1954, the event was short lived. Troopers from all around the state began arriving, and control was quickly and with deadly consequences, restored with the prison population laying facedown, naked in the yard, afraid to move for fear of a swift and likely harsh response. Calm was restored and the prison population was exceedingly reluctant to buck the system for a long, long time. Today, we approach things differently, granting broad concessions to terrorist groups like BLM and ANTIFA, as they burn our cities down and loot the retail world. Previous police generations understood that force, sometimes with deadly consequences, was all that a certain segment of society understood. You cannot meet the rampaging hordes we are seeing today, with fresh water, verbal pleas and a promise of understanding while they burn, pillage and injure the officers that stand between them and honest, morally bound folks. To coddle them is to empower them, and that is exactly what we are doing. My generation of police commanders do not have the patience and wisdom to stand by while folks burn down towns, districts and threaten with impunity. We would be inclined to take the fun out of the riot de jour of today…

That is why I am writing about the sanctity of retirement. I am not expected to respond to the happenings of today. I am expected to sit back and converse with my retired contemporaries about what we would do if we were in charge. We are not and never will be again, and we offer our sincere best wishes to the sophisticated and well meaning current police generation and especially their leadership.

Sharon…..rubbing it in!

God built a period of decompression into our lives. It is the “golden” years, where talk of health, fishing and travel are the major concerns. We grouse, ruminate and criticize at will, but are expected to offer no solutions beyond the coffee table. My major concern today is Sharon’s ability to catch the big fish of the day and grin impishly at my chagrin. That being said, the thought of crushing the rioters and looters still makes me smile………knocking them out of their recently stolen tennis shoes is an option, or so it would seem.

The Golden Years…….back to fishing!