The Art of the Gift…….

As I sit at my desk this morning, coffee close by, the world outside is a beautiful white, glazed by a heavy frost that portends the beginning of what is promised as a cold winter. It also reminds me that it is time to think about the gifts for those close to us in celebration of the Christmas season. I am no stranger these days to nostalgic moods, reminding me of the days when cold, heat and other distractions were casually deflected by the urgency of tasks that were much more easily accomplished than today. Today’s writing was, truthfully, triggered by a young painter we are employing to re-color our home. He, too, is an avid fisherman, however he has gone to the trouble to have a fish measuring scale tattooed on his leg. This was a gift to himself, one that he will never forget as long as he is able to bend over and see this masterpiece. Most of us measure a little differently.

In an effort to avoid starring in an episode of “Hoarders”, we from time to time, divest ourselves of the excess of “stuff” that inevitably collects in the far corners of our attic and closets. Yesterday, as I was cataloguing fishing tackle to be sold this spring, I came across my handmade fish measuring board, similar to the dozen or so of these simple treasures that I have constructed for fellow fishermen over the years to replace any number of commercially produced devices available in every tackle store in existence. These boards represent far more than the length of a fish, rather they represent the thousands of crappie, countless lies and half truths, and memories of long days on the water with trusted friends and family. This board has also served as the master of ceremony in a number of tournaments over the years, as a not so precise way of culling fish for weigh ins. If you look closely, you will notice a patina comprised of slime and dried scents that inevitably accumulates over time. I have now relegated the board to a place of prominence on my bookshelf where similar memories are stored. Below is the fish board.

Another priceless gift in my collection of hoarder worthy acquisitions is a gooseberry picker. On the second day of work after being transferred to Springfield, a senior sergeant stopped in and invited me to lunch the next day. I gladly accepted and we rode south into his zone and to his parents home near Table Rock Lake. I enjoyed a wonderful home cooked meal of venison, squirrel, fried potatoes, gravy and huge butter biscuits. This feast was topped off with a healthy scoop of gooseberry cobbler, my very favorite desert. During the meal, the sergeant’s father regaled us with tales of his days as a guide on the White River. He talked of float trips that required days to complete before the great dams were built. His father had been employed by the Owen guide service, a legend in this part of the country. Having discovered my fondness for gooseberries, his dad gifted me with the picker in this photograph. It is a gift that also resides on my bookcase, a reminder of one of the grandest meals ever. Behold the gooseberry picker.

Yet another installment on the art of the gift centers around a tradition that has since fallen from grace in our family. My brother-in-law is also an avid fisherman and woodsman, and he and I exchanged only home made gifts each Christmas. Dennis is not easy to shop for (a common refrain among younger folks attempting to select gifts for their older friends and family, although Dennis is younger than me). One year, Dennis, with help from my sister, Wanda, and her paint brush, constructed the key board in the accompanying photograph, which has proudly hung by our door for years. It is more than just a place to hang keys and such, it is a reminder of float trips and long days on Truman Lake where the scenery often eclipsed the fishing. That same year, I gave Dennis a shadow box, where a map of Hogles Creek, on Truman Lake, was the backdrop for a few “secret” crappie baits that we used to win a Tournament that spring. Neither of these gifts will hang in Johnny Morris’s Wonder of Wildlife Museum, but to me, they are certainly worthy. Finally, in the realm of home made treasures, my sister gifted me recently with a hand made “Valor Quilt”, denoting my service record, specifically my year in Vietnam. The quilt resides in our RV and serves as a reminder that home made reflects a closeness that isn’t easily matched by todays gifts that almost universally run on electricity. Our key board is below.

It is hard to do today, but my challenge to my friends and readers is to think this season through and strive to present a gift that for the rest of the recipient’s life, will elicit a memory that ends in a broad smile every time they see it. To do so, would be to master the art of the gift. To do so without electricity would make you a Grand Master!

Twenty-Four Notes…..

As Veteran’s Day unfolds across America, nearly everyone within reach of a television or radio will likely listen to the hauntingly beautiful melody named “Taps”. I would argue this melody is the most recognizable tune in our country as it denotes patriotism on the grandest of scales. I thought it appropriate on Veteran’s Day to remind folks about the origins of this iconic tune.

In 1862, during the Civil War, Union general Daniel Butterfield and his brigade were camped near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia having just finished a long battle with confederate forces near Richmond. The General was not particularly fond of the bugle call in current use signaling the time to retire for the night. He thought the current tune was abrupt and needed improvement. The General decided to rework the current call and wrote the 24 notes that we recognize today as Taps. He instructed his bugler to play the new melody that night, and noted the popularity of the call among his troops. It wasn’t long before buglers from other units began playing this call. Interestingly, this melody quickly became popular with the Confederate forces as well.

The tradition of playing Taps at military funerals is thought to have begun when Captain John Tidball, an artillery commander, ordered the melody played at the funeral for one of his cannoneers, who was killed in action. The Captain was also convinced that playing Taps was safer than the traditional 3 rifle volley that was the current practice at military funerals. He believed the rifle fire could be mistaken for hostile action, a likely event as opposing forces often were camped within close proximity during the war.

How did we get from a melody named “Extinguish Lights” to the moniker Taps? Again we call upon reliable historians who suggest Taps likely came from the traditional three drum beats, called “Drum Taps” which always accompanied the lights out call. The moniker “Extinguish Lights” remained in military manuals until sometime in 1891. From this day forward, Taps has been formally recognized as a part of military funeral services, flag ceremonies and lights out in the evening as the flag is retired for the night.

These 24 notes immediately stir the souls of all who have served in the military or have military veterans in their families. In fairness, the souls of most Americans, regardless of their vocation, are moved by the finality that Taps conveys. We instantly recognize that Taps signals lights out on all US military bases around the world and also is the final act of devotion reserved for our military members when their living light is extinguished by the inevitability of death. Memories, a flag and these twenty-four notes mark the end of a life well lived and a sacrifice gladly made in the name of freedom and devotion to the greatest country on earth.

May God bless America.

The Barber Shop…..

It’s genetics, I suppose, that has relegated me to gazing wistfully at the striped pole that guards the entrance to the few remaining barber shops in small town America. Thankfully, I don’t suffer from debilitating hair envy, but must admit just a little aggravation at the likes of Tom Selleck and Mathew McConaughey with their full heads of hair and remarkable inability to age normally. As an Army brat, I was introduced to the barber’s chair at a very young age, sitting on the jump seat while less secure kids had to be beaten into submitting to a haircut. Barber Shops are far more than they appear to folks unaccustomed to the inner workings of these palaces of wisdom and prevarication. Let’s have a look…..

My first experiences with a barber occurred on military bases at what were affectionally referred to as simply “The Post Barber Shop”. Civilians manned the chairs and you were required to select from a series of five pictures on the wall behind the barbers all depicting a different style of acceptable military cuts. There were no cute names for these styles, instead they were either one, two, three, four or five. Truth be known, if you average these numbers you come to the number three and if you were the least bit hesitant when you sat down…a three is what you got. The styles ranged from a buzz cut to enough hair to part but they all resulted in whitewalls from the ears up. These works of art cost .75 and could be accomplished in just under two minutes, start to finish. The application of the strip of paper around your neck (Sanex strip, protecting your neck from the cape) and draping with the cape took more time than the cut. You picked a number when you walked in and seldom waited long to hit a chair. You were not afforded the luxury of “preferring” a particular barber which would have been an exercise in futility anyway.

As time passed, I graduated to an off base barber shop, where there was always a supply of the latest, well worn Playboy and Maxim magazines to make your wait just a little more tolerable. I still wore a very short hairstyle, a carryover from my upbringing. To this day, I cannot stand hair on the ears, which unfortunately, is about the only place I have any. Soon, I found myself back in a military barber shop as I transitioned from being “around” the Army to being “in” the Army. Believe me, there is a difference.

Throughout my years in the Highway Patrol, I enjoyed great relationships with a number of small town barbers and came to appreciate their uncanny wisdom relative to all things in life. Barbers are required to have a working knowledge of farming, hunting, fishing, carpentry, gambling and the co-existence of man and woman. For the most part, they have refined senses of humor and uncanny memories. Their profession should never be underestimated. I have never laughed as hard as I have in a barber shop, sometimes at my own expense. A couple of experiences come to mind.

In St. Joseph, Missouri, the preferred shop was a genuine boar’s nest. The wood walls were adorned with various mounts of deer, game birds and fish and the smell of tobacco wafted throughout the shop. I was in a chair, in uniform, when another trooper, off duty, brought his grandson in for a trim. It did not go well, with the kid screaming and fighting the experience in front of 15 or so patrons. From the chair, I called the child’s name and gained his attention. The shop became quiet as I promised the kid that his grand father was going to buy him a pony if he submitted to a haircut. He profusely thanked me, hugged his stunned grandfather and sat quietly for his haircut. Thankfully, I was armed and his grandfather was not. Grandpa thanked me and made promises that are unspeakable, not appreciating the calming affect that a simple pony could convey. We are still good friends and laugh often at my psychology. The grandson likely harbors a distrust of his grandfather to this day, as he did not get his pony.

On another occasion, I was sitting in the Southside Barber Shop on Dunklin, in Jefferson City, Missouri, deeply engrossed in the latest edition of Playboy magazine. I don’t remember the article that had my attention, nor was I paying any attention to the clientele that was moving about the shop. This was a three chair shop, manned by barbers who were a credit to their profession. Joe, Ronnie and Lonnie each had an area of expertise that could entertain you for hours and were masterful at pitting one customer against the other in the name of good humor. It was not uncommon for moms to bring their sons into the shop, which often, but not always, resulted in a certain dampening of the raucous conversation in the shop. A mom sat next to me as I perused the magazine and I looked up into the eyes of the Governor’s wife, who was smiling at my choice of literary fare. I immediately turned two shades of red as she winked at me and pronounced the young lady on the pages that I was entranced with as “simply beautiful”. It was an unforgettable moment, believe me and the subject of much humor on my return trips to the shop. These same barbers have backed me and countless other unsuspecting troopers around their shop with “snakes” in burlap bags and a contraption that had allegedly caught a squirrel that would pop open and fling a very real looking squirrel into the face of an inquisitive customer. The Highway Patrol owes much to these barbers as they provided humor when we most needed it on many, many occasions.

Below is the South Side Barber Shop.

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I am hair challenged these days, and my barber is Sharon who skillfully wields a pair of Wahl clippers with deft precision, leaving me with a little grey on the sides for color. When I wear a hat, as I often do, my shiny pate is hidden from view. When I am sitting for my weekly trim, I close my eyes and imagine, just for a minute, the many hours spent in the magnificent chairs that adorned the barber shops in years past. Love her, though I do, there are some conversations that belong in the sanctity of the Barber Shop….and are not suitable for discussion with your wife!

If you still rely on a real barber, in a real barber shop, enjoy the moment! It is time well spent.

They Called Him Junior . . .

Junior was born into a large, hard working family in the small town of Marion, South Carolina.  Cotton was king in these parts, with tobacco following close behind in providing a living for the folks who either worked the fields or in one of the textile mills in town.  America was transitioning from world War II to a “police” action in a far east peninsula called Korea.  Junior had time on his hands and soon garnered the attention of the local constabulary which resulted in his joining the United States Army.  He was well suited to the rigid discipline the Army provided and soon worked his way up to Master Sergeant at a very young age.  His birth certificate simply said that he was “Junior” in parenthesis, indicating that he was not provided a given name when he entered the world.  Times were indeed tough . . .

Junior loved his military existence and volunteered for Airborne training and became very adept with the small arms that formed the nucleus of an infantry unit.  He soon found himself on a ship, bound for the Korean Conflict where he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division, a unit that earned many honors as a frontline fighting division.  It was in this early combat that Junior discovered he had yet another talent, a zeal for close quarters fighting.  His tough boyhood experiences had prepared him well for the combat he was soon to see. Junior was a leader from the front sort of solder and possessed the ability to motivate his troops when under fire.  His wife, Hap, had relocated to Japan as many dependent wives and families did during this conflict, and on January 25, 1950 bore a son.  Junior, remembering his rather lackluster entrance into the world, carefully selected a name for the new addition to the family.  He had little time for additional family considerations at this point in time as he was busy earning one of two Silver Stars and a battlefield commission to Second Lieutenant.  Many years later, he talked of the incredible heat during the summer and debilitating cold that Korea welcomed it’s combatants with.

 

Sgt. Johnson’s abbreviated citation for this Silver Star is below:

After returning home from Korea, Lt. Johnson went about changing his military records to reflect a new name instead of the inauspicious “Junior”.  He opted to name himself after the name he had chosen for his son.  Junior Johnson became Stephen R. Johnson, Sr.  I, then, became Stephen R. Johnson, Jr. or SR to my friends.  Dad left this world far too early, felled by a vicious form of lung cancer at the age of 43.  I followed in his footsteps, enlisting in the US Army and completing a tour in Vietnam before becoming a career Highway Patrolman.

When I stand for the flag, or gaze at the colors on our residential flagpole, I remember that folks like dad and countless other dads, brothers and sisters are the very reason why we enjoy this great country.  The Colonel is home now, resting among his brethren and sisters in the national Cemetery in Florence, South Carolina.  Thanks, “Junior”……you left a wake, sir.

Airstream, Where Magic and Reality Collide….

We are relatively new to the recreational vehicle culture, having experienced a little over three years traveling from one RV park to the next. Along the way we have met many fascinating people, a few cranks and a smattering of eccentric types who are entertaining to say the least. The RV industry has exploded over the last five years as folks take advantage of a nomadic lifestyle that opens up America to a new level of exploration. In the course of this expansion, many manufacturers have set up shop and the industry offers a myriad of RV types for the eclectic crowd that participates in this pastime. Should you need to stimulate a lively conversation while sitting around a fire miles from home, bring up the topic of RV preference, or if your tastes include dramatic declarations of loyalty, throw in a preference for tow vehicles. These generalizations gel when the Airstream, a true RV legend , is the topic of conversation. Airstream addicts are tenacious, can be stuffy and tend to elevate their preference to the top of the travel trailer pyramid. We just sold our Airstream, still under factory warranty, to a very nice doctor in Mobile, Alabama. This is at least the second Airstream the doctor has owned so he is among those who understand the brand. We have managed to break our addiction to Airstream magic without the interventions that have become popular with so many other addictions. Let’s have a look.

Airstreams have “ramp presence”. No other brand of recreational vehicle will elicit the adoring commentary of a Airstream when it is properly set up in a park. Folks will invariably comment that an Airstream is their dream, and often ask to look inside your trailer. The aura that surrounds these sleek, aluminum tubes includes their low slung, tidy airplane look, replete with huge deeply tinted windows. Most folks understand that you will pay easily three times as much for an Airstream as other brands of trailers, and naturally assume their systems and construction merit this kind of cash outlay. They are meticulously constructed, relying on a labor intensive riveted system to join the equally expensive aluminum panels together, however the same appliances, HVAC systems and fixtures are now found in much of the industry’s offerings. The engineers who design Airstreams are geniuses at maximizing the use of the precious little space in them. Their profile is such that towing is easy, with little wind resistance and the solid aluminum underlay, just inches off the road surface, further guarantees ease of towing. Airstreams hold their value very, very well, comparatively speaking. If you take care of them, your children and grandchildren will enjoy “camping” in them for many years. The furnishings and upholstery are top tier and the fit and finish simply outstanding. Such is the magic of Airstream. Now for the rest of the story.

Airstreams are low slung, necessitating that you crawl on your belly to reach the low water drains that must be used to winterize the trailer. This low slung aspect also results in your sewer hose often being at or near the same height as the sewer drop, all gravity fed, and less efficient than a trailer that sits just a few inches higher. The tongue weights in Airstreams tend to run heavy, presenting a problem for the lighter tow vehicles popular today. (This was not a problem for us as we rely on a 3/4 ton diesel as a tow vehicle.) Airstreams are aluminum, inside and out which results in the direct transfer of heat and cold, as the case may be, from outside to inside. We were forced to rely on pillows to insulate us from contact with the walls on cold nights, unless you prefer cuddling with a cold slab of aluminum. Yes they are insulated, but the thin layer of insulation cannot possibly mitigate the cold transfer through the side of the unit, exacerbated by the aluminum ribs that form the framework. The roof of an airstream is virtually off limits. The roofs will easily bend if you do not carefully step on the ribs, assuming you somehow are able to execute the incredible gymnastic maneuver necessary to step over the curved portion of the roof. The ends of the roof will collapse if you step on them, thus precluding access from that angle. The roofs of RV’s are busy places and access is necessary for a variety of reasons. Speaking of the aluminum, Airstream owners spend inordinate amounts of time watching the weather, as the mention of hail in a forecast will send them scurrying for a bottle of Jack as they search their contacts for their insurance agent’s number. Airstream has done about all they can do to isolate the air conditioners from the trailer, however they are mounted on an aluminum roof, supported by aluminum ribs, which sits over an aluminum ceiling. The air conditioners are loud. The clever ceiling ducts for air exchange do help…a little.

The aluminum interiors look great, however; are not as attractive when condensation forms on them. All RV people know that moisture in their unit is not good, and this problem must be closely monitored. The disqualifying consideration for us is space. Many RV’s today rely on “slide rooms” to dramatically increase the living space within the unit. Airstream does not. In a word, they are tight inside necessitating clever maneuvering to pass one another when moving about. I am old and cranky, and insist on a recliner at the end of a day canoeing, and there is no room for recliners in all but the biggest (very expensive) Airstreams. The inside storage is compromised by the curved roof lines and lack of slide room space. You become clever at packing for an extended trip. The exterior doors on an Airstream are awful. I have yet to enter an Airstream through a door that operates smoothly, especially when closing it. We had ours adjusted at the factory in Ohio, involving a clever technique where the door is bent over a 2X4 wedged in the jamb! If I were the CEO of this company, I would find an engineering team to resolve this problem, cost be damned. You run the risk of waking everyone around you in the middle of the night, when on a dog run, as you forcibly slam the door upon your return. The outside storage is also a challenge especially when compared to the storage in conventional RV’s. I am a neat freak, necessitating the washing of my RV prior to every trip. The aluminum skin on an Airstream must be carefully washed with a soft brush or very clean mitt, as the soft, coated, metal will scratch very easily. Swirl marks are not becoming.

When we decided to buy an Airstream, the dealer who sold us our original Grand Design trailer suggested we would love Airstream quality, but would chafe at the size. He predicted that in three years or so, we would be back, wiser for the experience, but anxious to return to comfort as opposed to ramp presence. He was wrong, of course, as we will be in his office after only two years, hat in hand eating the crow that I talked about a week or so ago. Please note that I am not indicting Airstream, as their rabid following will insure their success for years to come, and my commentary will elevate me to the position of a deplorable traitor in their eyes. The magic of Airstream will guarantee their position in the RV industry. Below is our Airstream on our last trip.

That is the beauty of magic, a concept that defies reality. Long live Airstream…..just not in my garage!

Have a great weekend!

SR

Eating Crow……

We have all done it. Step onto the front porch and beat our chests with some nebulous declaration that “I’m gonna” or “I’m never gonna” usually in response to some issue that invokes more than a little emotion on a personal level. As an example, not too many years ago, I offered the declaration to Sharon that we were quickly running out of closet space as a result of her penchant for shoes. She smiled at my admonition, and as wives are want to do, responded by suggesting we adjourn to the closet and take inventory of each other’s shoe collections. I was brimming with confidence as we began our accounting and was deeply chagrined to note the final count revealed the shocking revelation that I owned more shoes than her. “How do you want your crow”, she asked, “boiled, fried or blackened”? Nice!

There have been other noteworthy crow buffets. The lack of factual reporting and abundance of editorializing in our local newspaper resulted in my cancelling our subscription mid year. A lifetime habit of reading a paper with coffee and ridiculously low subscription prices led me back a year later, though the offerings in the paper are still far more opinion than fact. Abandoning the NFL was easy. Players beating the daylights out of their women, drugs and a lack of respect for this country providing them with untold opportunity and riches, constituted the straw that broke the camel’s back. I found other entertainment opportunities on Sunday afternoon and was quite content. It was easy to ignore this league, that is until an upstart quarterback named Mahomes made his appearance. Would I love to go back and watch the Babe smack one out after a night of drinking and partying? Would I love to watch Koufax launch a curve ball that had the first baseman ducking? I remember the kid from Louisville named Clay that was the picture of grace and destruction in the ring. Looking back, I would have loved to watch him in his prime someplace besides pay for view. Several of my friends go back, way back and can tell of watching the greats play ball, counting themselves among those lucky enough to actually see it happen. Mahomes is that kind of talent. Quarterbacks that can thread a needle, casually tossing footballs with precision across their body, left handed are rare. Very rare. Especially when they are right handed!

My friend arthritis, Arty for short, has introduced me to a young, ripped pain management doctor named Chuckwudi Obiora Chiaghana, who strides into the procedure room to deliver a series of unpleasant injections into my lower spine. Dr. Chuks, as he is called, sports the New York Giants logo on his brilliant blue lead apron. He is animated and, as might be expected from a guy who routinely sticks long needles into your back, supremely confident. We talked a little football before he reached for a needle that looked like a piece of rebar. (Okay, I didn’t have my glasses on.) He stopped and smiled broadly at the mention of young Mahomes, and declared that should he stay healthy, he would blister the league like no other, ever. The doc wasn’t merely effusive, he was adoring. He is, of course, correct in his analysis. The question is, am I going to let a few over paid, wife beating substance abusers keep me from watching this kid on Sunday afternoons? I think not. Key the crow.

There is more. Mahomes attracts talent. Fabulously gifted cornerbacks Bashad Breeland and Morris Claiborne, safety Tyrann Matthieu, and others are coming to play for the Chiefs. They sense this kid can take them to the big bowl. Players coach, Andy Reid, must be pinching himself hourly at the prospects of coaching these guys. This is starting to look like a very good year in the kingdom, and I intend to be along for the ride. I think I can hold my nose at the antics of the rest of the overpaid, egomaniacal, confused folks who are hell bent on squandering their physical gifts and buckets of money protesting matters they could not explain if their lives depended on it.

In short, I am all in. There is a box of Mahomes Magic Crunch on my bookshelf, acquired in a late night run by Sharon to HyVee. The Crunch is a little easier to choke down than crow, tasting exactly like the Frosted Flakes said to be Mahomes’ favorite cereal. Finally, my new connection with this young quarterback is much deeper than corn flakes. He owns over 180 pairs of shoes, something history has shown that I know something about……

Yes, I am back.

Have a great weekend.

SR

When Reality Sets In…..

This morning I enjoyed a conversation with an old and dear friend, retired Col. Ralph Biele. This conversation was prompted by a sale circular delivered in today’s Springfield paper detailing the latest and greatest offerings from my personal candy store, Bass Pro, also known as Cabela’s. This circular listed a number of rifles, ammunition and assorted outdoor gear that I no longer have a need for, courtesy of arthritis and the realization that immortality is the Provence of the Lord and only the Lord. If you have not already come to this same realization…..you will soon enough. Here is my take on this unavoidable consequence of living.

Police officers, especially those that are “blooded” by the tragedy they must confront develop a unique cloak of invincibility often referred to as “Image Armor”. It is this cloak that permits us to remain stoic in the face of unspeakable tragedy and remain calm when the breath of life has been sucked out of the scene we are charged with managing. Image Armor, of course, is a mental thing and creates a certain aura of invincibility, masking the reality that we are slowly approaching a day of reckoning that awaits us all. Police officers seldom consider their own mortality as we are often preoccupied with the immortality of those we deal with. Invincibility is stripped away by any number of considerations, most physical in nature, some involving the mind, which is perhaps the cruelest consideration of all. So how does this relate to a Bass pro add?

My beloved bass boat is reposing in a garage in St. Louis, owned and operated by a much younger couple in the pursuit of crappie. As I write, I am propped up in a chair with a pillow insulating my lower, arthritis plagued lumbar region from the chair back. Never mind this inconvenience, the discomfort is a stark reminder that launching a boat and dancing around the trolling motor on a tree lined arm of Truman lake isn’t going to happen until the medics can figure out how to stem the “discomfort”. The circular describes the latest aluminum boat package like those that elevated Johnny Morris from the days of selling terminal tackle out of a van to multi-billionaire. With decent credit, today’s crop of fishermen who have never given thought to the day when a boat will no longer be useful, can slip down one of my favorite banks and jerk the descendants of the fish that found their way into my live wells over the years. This same “discomfort”, read pain, has dispatched my Harley to the care of a younger man who I can guarantee is not thinking about the day he climbs off the bike for the last time. If you are one of my contemporaries and are still riding and fishing, God bless you. Do not, under any circumstance, take today for granted! The Master is not in the habit of telegraphing his intentions for us as we negotiate the life he has granted.

Below is a photograph of my 40th birthday roasting at the patrol Academy, many years ago! The picture is full of “Image Armor”……..

It has not been that many years ago that I stepped in front of rooms full of troopers, confident in my ability to disarm them and defend my handgun against disarming while teaching the art of handgun retention. Today, Sharon would stand a fair chance of disarming me by capitalizing on my sorry excuse for a back and thumbs weakened by surgeries. During this same time frame, I was tasked with discussing and conveying strategies to troopers designed to keep them alive in armed confrontations. I did so, often relying on a challenging, profane style designed to shock our officers into accepting the reality that death awaits the unprepared. I make no apologies for my approach, which was not designed to win points for decorum. When you are teaching police officers in a physical arena, you are going to be challenged. Losing when challenged is not in your best interest as an instructor. My number one asset during those days? An absolute reliance on image armor.

Today, my readers are either confronting the inevitable decline in ability that awaits us all or are basking in the glow of an existence that has, thus far, spared them the inconvenience of a significant decline in physical or cognitive ability. Memories are priceless, especially when the likelihood of creating new, similar, memories isn’t in the cards. My image armor has long since been replaced with the necessity to develop new pastimes and adventures that make room for a weak back and challenged hands and I am enjoying life aided by a wife who gets it and a dog who demands little beyond honesty and exercise.

Have you given any thought to the subtle changes and challenges that are emerging in your life? Has the reality of adjusting to these set in? It is never too early to consciously contemplate a strategy to manage the hills and curves in our lives. Attorneys live by the axiom that preparation is everything when going to trial. Life, my good friends, is the biggest trial of all.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

SR