Marijuana, A Cash Cow……….

Back in 2737 BC, a Chinese Emperor named Shen Nung discovered that marijuana could deliver relief from the incessant turmoil of managing a dynasty. Old Shen was so impressed that he recommended the stuff to help with gout, malaria and, get this, absent mindedness. Slowly, the herb worked it’s way across India and then found favor in Europe. When you are stoned, there is little doubt that many of your ailments, real and perceived, take a back seat to the mellow hallucinogenic euphoria that accompanies the ingestion of this ever more powerful drug. Why are we in a hurry to embrace this mind altering weed? Money……..Mildred………and lot’s of it.

Back in the 80’s, an engaging patrol Criminal Investigator, David LePage and I were tasked with developing a program to introduce every trooper in the state to the art of drug interdiction on our highways. Our presentation was well received and a good number of enterprising officers used the techniques to remove millions of dollars worth of marijuana and other street drugs from circulation. We were stunned at the quantities and profitability back then……..and those of us who were in that struggle are now well beyond stunned. The money circulating around the recreational use of marijuana is astounding. It is what is driving the rapid push to legalize the stuff for recreational use…….a concept soon to be law in Missouri and Arkansas.

A recent study by a credible think tank (Arkansas Economic Development Institute) estimates that recreational marijuana could easily add $2.4 billion to Arkansas’s economy and add 6,400 jobs by 2027. Their studies are predicated on the experiences of other states who have moved from the hilarious “medicinal” use of the drug to the recreational use. There is absolutely no reason to expect Missouri’s experience to not mirror Arkansas’s projections, if not soundly exceed them. The stoners are on the edge of total success, having relied on the escalation of marijuana use by way of the medical use portal. Money, folks, is the icing on the cake. By the way, taxing the stuff is going to be difficult, as anyone with a grow light and potting soil can cultivate his or her own stash. Home based grow operations, along with your electric iron horse are really going to tax Mr. Biden’s energy vision for the future.

America has a fixation on staying calm and mellowing out. What have we learned from the recreational use of alcohol? Not much, really. It is reliably estimated (CDC) that alcohol consumption in this country results in an annual loss of $28 billion in healthcare, $179 billion in work force productivity, $13 billion in collisions and $25 billion in criminal justice expense. Hold on, the new numbers, courtesy of marijuana are going to be mystifying

So there you have it. Budweiser, Coors, Angry Apple and Miller Light will be set aside in favor of an ounce or two of Hindu Kush, Purple Kush, Acapulco Gold, Afghan Kush or Maui Wowie. Pictures of the grandkids on the mantle will be replaced with the latest in soothing water bowls. Folks will be sporting the latest smoking paraphernalia, beauties like the Hitoshi Trident or Power Hitter will replace the coozy and flask. You can bet on it!

I wish it were not so. Our children and grandchildren deserve better.

Have a great week!

SR

A stoner’s delight, Afghan Kush

A Hour With A Master…….

This past week the weather has been brutal, more so for fishermen who tend to stand in one place with cool spring water slipping by them as they attempt to fool a fish that gets little respect in our part of the country. Of course I am talking about trout in one of our beautiful trout fisheries, Bennet Spring, where your legs are refreshingly cool while your upper body is baking in a brutal late summer day. Missouri is home to a plethora of fish native to our waters sporting colorful monikers like goggle eye, linesides, and calicos. While trout are not native, they thrive well in our cold big lake tailwaters and many spring branches around the southern part of our state. They are also wary, finicky, in a funny sort of way, and fun to mess with. We eat them, but I would not go so far as to say they are in a class with a mess of walleye or crappie out of hot peanut oil. Remember, some people also eat snails.

Trout, unfortunately, can be caught on just about anything. Their gastronomic preferences are probably the result of mostly being raised in concrete runs and fed a diet of fish food. You can catch them on a variety of natural baits, but also on stuff like power bait (a brightly colored concoction out of a jar with the eerie consistency of silly putty) dough bait and cheese. Not even an old channel cat, known for eating soap and disgusting, dead smelling stuff out of a jar (that must never be opened inside) eats as broad a variety of stuff as a trout. Thankfully, they also eat a variety of bugs and “normal” stuff like minnows and worms. So now, armed with what they eat, let’s talk about how to get them on a hook.

Why fool with trout in a rich fishery where you can tie into a mean large mouth bass or a string of delicious crappie instead? It is because when on the hook, a trout goes berserk. All fish resist being caught to varying degrees, but a trout goes all Beth Dutton when he feels the steel. This is especially true when you are using a fly rod and a 2# tippet or tapered leader and tossing a bug imitation the size of an overweight mosquito. Fly fishing is the stuff of legendary fishermen and purists who scoff at our heavy handed tactics involving native fish. You see, Ozarkians fish so they may enjoy a cooker filled with suckers or crappie, corn bread and a few taters to balance the plate. Trout fishermen, especially the purists, fish so they can end the day with a snifter of brandy or aged scotch while talking about baits such as “crackle backs” or “blue duns”. Ozarkians don’t spend a lot of time talking about bait and we tend to end the day drinking beer around the back of a pickup truck.

An experienced amateur teaching an inexperienced amateur

The truth is I am a fisherman who occasionally uses a fly rod as opposed to a true fly fisherman, with the latest Orvis or G. Loomis rod adorning the little gizmos on the hood of their truck designed to showcase their thousand dollar rods. That being said, I love to fly fish. I readily accept the disdain from the purists who likely share stories every evening about the hillbilly with the fly rod who was down the creek obviously better suited to a trot-line or crappie rod, than fly rod. Enter my son-in-law, Tom, who asked me to teach him to fly fish. I put on my best game face, grabbed a couple of fly rods and got him started with a two basic casts and a few of the nuances of fly fishing . I also took him to the lair of one of the best fly fishermen in the world, Charlie Reading, of Reading’s Fly Shop near Bennet Spring who has been fooling trout, literally, all over the world with the smoothness of a practiced surgeon. Charlie is a master of all things involving the manipulation of a fly rod. Seriously, he is the Tiger Woods of fly fishing and an hour with him still leaves me in awe. This was a risky move on my part, as Tom has only me to compare with the great Charlie Reading. Reading isn’t one dimensional…..he is also a salesman. Tom left with a great basic outlay for this pastime. Sorry Tom, I made the introduction……the rest is on you.

The master, Charlie Reading, at work.

You have to be at least 70 and lived in the sometimes violent world of Law Enforcement to appreciate the serenity that is a part of fly fishing, hooking up with a trout and turning the exhausted fish back to fight another day. If it brings a fraction of the peace this has provided me over the years to Tom, I will have added years to Tom’s life. To top it off, he has been coached by one of the best in the world……..and a duffer who made the introduction.

Have a great week.

SR

Old Dogs, Old Men And The Sun……

After a good swim in the Niangua River, Tazzy and I are relaxing in the slowly fading shade of the RV at the Hidden Valley Campground located across the road from Bennet Spring. This a nice, but dusty, campground with level pads, great utilities and a short jaunt to the river. This morning it is quiet and the low water conditions are keeping many folks off the river. It is a perfect morning to think about what got us here and what we are going to do about it.

Watching the shade fade…….

Constant employment beginning at age 15 and ending at age 60 got me here. Being perfectly suited to resting on the front porch with a cup of coffee and an old dog, somewhere near a Missouri float stream has always been my ambition. A career in law enforcement introduced me to a frenetic, sometimes violent and confrontational lifestyle that I am finally beginning to outrun. Ending my career between a tremendously profitable business and the politicians who are always interested in money (the gambling industry) was about all it took to make me appreciate the charming existence of an Ozarkian depicted in various caricatures wearing a pair of coveralls, barefoot and a corncob pipe clenched in his teeth.

This morning, after accompanying Tazzy to the river, we sauntered back to the shade of the RV, where he and I watched the shade disappear and the cool morning transition to another hellishly hot September afternoon. A load of kayaks showed up just as we were leaving and the livery operator assured me that a float today would kick your rear end as the water is low and the shoals plentiful from here down. I can handle the paddle, but am not ready to drag the canoe over the shoals relying on a shoulder that is just starting to forgive my age adjusted lack of dexterity. We can float later, today we just sit and think a bit.

Swimming and walking ain’t easy on old guys

As for what I am going to do about my current situation, the answer is easy. Not much. Taz and I understand that folks don’t expect much from either one of us, and we have no intention of disappointing them. We’ll likely rely on the beautiful fall weather in Missouri to deliver more time “on the porch”. Neither one of us has any intention of doing one damned thing we don’t want to to do nor existing anywhere we don’t want to be. We have paid our dues and been just thrifty enough to finance the lifestyle we enjoy. I am married to a woman who moves at a faster pace than I do these days, but she is good about letting us catch up when we fall behind. A day or two on the Big Piney, Niangua or Gasconade is better medicine than you’ll find in any drug store, and when the water is right, the Huzzah or Courtois is soothing to the soul.

Have a good week!

SR

Traffic Officers And Killers…….

The unsung heroes of the police profession are the men and women who suit up, climb into a patrol car and regulate the flow of traffic in our country. As a police commander, I loved the general practitioners of the police world, guys and gals who could handle a wide variety of the law enforcement circumstances they came in contact with. I was fond of admonishing my officers that nearly every really bad actor in our society drives a vehicle and crosses paths with a diligent officer on our streets. Alert traffic officers had a knack for ferreting them out and welcoming their entry in to the criminal justice system. I know it can be done as I have done just that on numerous occasions. It is also important to note that speeders, aggressive drivers and impaired drivers kill more Americans than murderers on an annual basis. Traffic officers also catch killers, as evidenced below.

The beginning of the end for many bad guys begins here…..

Great traffic officers have a keen understanding of “probable cause”. When you master this legal requirement, the door is open to legal searches of vehicles where the mistakes of criminals lurk. Illegal substances, stolen property, and on occasion, bodies, are sometimes detected. The following commentary illustrates my point here, cases where heinous killers and traffic officers crossed paths with the bad guys losing……

Timothy McVeigh, currently residing in a corner of hell courtesy of the US Government and the death penalty, sent to his reward on June 11, 2001. Tim needs little introduction. He killed 168 folks on April 19, 1995 as well as maimed hundreds more when he blew up the Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City. An alert Oklahoma trooper stopped McVeigh on the day of the bombing for having an expired license on his Mercury. A probable cause search revealed a loaded firearm and the investigation unfolded, sending Timothy to the “big sleep”.

Randy Kraft, currently awaiting execution in California. On May 14, 1983, California Highway Patrol officers noticed Kraft’s Jeep being driven erratically and stopped him. Kraft quickly exited his Jeep and walked toward the officers who subjected him to a field sobriety test which he failed. The officers detained Kraft and searched his Jeep where they found a shrouded body of a young Marine in the front seat. The Marine had been heavily sedated and then strangled. A subsequent investigation resulted in the conviction of Kraft for killing 16 young men, many were Marines, picked up hitchhiking. It is believed he killed as many 67 men.

Wayne Williams, currently residing in the Georgia State Penitentiary where he will be for the rest of his life. Traffic officers were watching bridges over the Chattahoochee River for suspicious activity as a result of as many as 30 young black men being recovered from the river, victims of homicide. Williams stopped on a bridge before dawn on May 21, 1981, officers then heard something hit the water, and detained Wayne for stopping on a bridge. Forensic evidence subsequently led to his conviction. Wayne was black, dispelling rumors in the black community these killings were the work of the KKK or some other white hate group.

Ted Bundy, sharing a bench with McVeigh in hell, courtesy of the State of Florida and the electric chair. Very few people don’t know about Ted. What you may not know is that he was arrested in August of 1975 by the Utah Highway patrol for driving without lights after dark. An investigation resulted in a conviction for aggravated kidnapping. He escaped from jail in June 0f 1977, but his lack of driving skills brought him to the attention of another traffic officer who initiated a stop and determined the car was stolen. He escaped again in late 1977. Later Bundy was spotted in Pensacola by a traffic officer in yet another stolen car and his luck was at an end. He had killed too many young women to count and was electrocuted on January 24, 1989. Arrested three times by traffic officers.

There are many more. William Suff, on California’s death row, convicted of murder, rape and mutilation in 1995. A killer of prostitutes he was stopped and arrested by a traffic officer for an illegal u-turn. David Berkowitz. He parked illegally on a city street, a traffic officer checked his plates and Berkowitz was identified as the “Son of Sam” killer. (Berkowitz is serving 364 years in Attica and has converted to Christianity and now calls himself the “Son of Hope”. Good luck with that Berkowitz.) Joel Rifkin, stopped for no license plate by New York State Troopers, serving 183 years for the chainsaw murders of uncounted numbers of folks. In the bed of his truck was the decomposing body of a young woman. I can go on and on…….but you get it.

My point is this. We owe a tremendous debt to our police officers, of every stripe and specialty. This being said, traffic officers are an invaluable addition to the LE community and deserve just as much recognition as the super sleuths that investigate crimes……their contribution to criminal justice cannot be overstated.

Have a great week!

SR

Deadly Force…..

It is far easier to buy, load and carry a firearm today than it has ever been. Millions of Americans have chosen this route in the name of self preservation in an increasingly violent society. It is a rite that has seen broad support from the courts. In fact, however; comparatively few folks will ever rely on that firearm in a confrontation, a consideration that leads to complacency and a rather lackadaisical approach to strapping one on or dropping it in your purse. I thought it wise to offer just a little guidance relative to the use of a firearm to protect ourselves. Missouri is a “stand your ground state” meaning there is no obligation to retreat from a perceived threat. There are 37 states that offer some form of this doctrine. I am offering a peek at 5 considerations that come into play when the time comes to defend yourself. A little reflection now may save your bacon after a deadly confrontation.

Pulling the trigger will change your life

1. Innocence. You cannot start the fight. Your provocation in a confrontation is NOT a justification for the use of deadly force. Such provocation will put you on the wrong side criminally and civilly. If you go looking for trouble, you will find a bag full of it when you shoot someone.

2. Imminence. The confrontation must be sudden. Vengeance is not a legal foundation for the use of deadly force. The threat must be imminent, or present in time and place.

3. Proportionality. This is sticky. Excellent judgement is in order here. In a hurry, you must decide whether the force should be deadly or not deadly. This is why this is a sticky proposition. There must be a discernible threat of death or serious personal injury to justify elevating the force to the lethal level. A firearm is a lethal consideration every time it comes out. If the threat isn’t deadly or necessary to prevent a rape or likely to cause serious injury, it is not justified. It is why police officers carry a variety of force options short of the pistol.

4. Avoidance. In the 13 states that that have a “duty to retreat” doctrine, you have a legal duty to run away from the encounter, when you can safely do so. Obviously, if your assailant is holding a gun on you and has threatened to shoot you, running away is not a viable option. Most states see the futility of this doctrine, however, it is always wise to avoid a potentially deadly confrontation when you can. If it can be demonstrated that you had an opportunity to avoid the confrontation , your defense is compromised. Remember this….

5. Reasonableness. Okay, this consideration seethes through all of the above elements and is going to be given a heavy weight in subsequent legal actions. Perfection is trumped by reasonableness. The totality of the circumstances will dictate the reasonableness of your action. As an example, you shoot someone and they fall to the ground, obviously incapacitated. It is not reasonable to empty the magazine of your pistol into the miscreant when he no longer presents a threat. The test of reasonableness will be applied in every encounter where lethal (deadly) force is employed.

When you made the decision to procure a firearm and carry or rely on it for self protection, you are assuming a potentially life altering responsibility. I think it wise to consider each of these points BEFORE you slide Ole Thunder out of your waistband to lend dignity to an otherwise undignified situation. In this piece, I have cracked the door open…….step through it before you make the decision to carry.

Have a great week!

SR

Graduation Day……

I have been kicked out of the nest. Yesterday marked my last day of Physical Therapy, session 23, on the road to recovery from a badly torn rotator cuff. This experience was a tough one, and at my age I am no stranger to health issues that are taxing. I have previously written about falling and will end the discussion about unexpectedly leaving your feet with this admonition. Falling situations are all around you, but they mean something entirely different to a 70+ year old as opposed to a 30 something person. Do not take falls for granted.

This has been a long process. In early April, I fell down the steps into our garage. On May 5, the talented Dr. Timothy Galbreath, an orthopedic surgeon in Jefferson City, reconstructed a badly messed up shoulder. He is in favor of limited immobilization post surgery, unlike many surgeons, and prescribed physical therapy beginning on May 17. I elected to rely on the Physical Therapy services at Mercy Hospital and was introduced to Coe Rose, PT DPT, shortly after. Coe and I share a propensity for very short hair (none) and began a protracted relationship involving a manageable level of pain and plenty of homework. Along the way, a young lady, Katelyn Schmude, a senior student of Physical Therapy entered the picture. Katelyn is finishing a PT internship under the watchful eye of Coe before returning to school in St. Louis. Simply put, I could not have been in better hands.

Left to right, the patient, the princess and the master.

Like most folks, I had a very basic knowledge of the nuances of Physical Therapy. These folks rely on a solid knowledge of anatomy as well as an intimate knowledge of just how a given part of our body should move. They understand the healing process and how to measure progress over the course of time. Their prodigious bag of tricks includes isometric exercise, rubber bands, free weights and the manual manipulation of the aggrieved part of our anatomy. They can spot bad technique from a block away and have an uncanny ability to isolate a particular muscle or connective tissue so as to maximize healing and strengthening. I have developed a deep appreciation for what they bring to the table in terms of healing. Perhaps as important as their ability to guide you physically, is their ability to encourage you and help you to understand that we are all different and respond differently during the healing process.

I end where I began. There may be health care systems and practitioners in the world that are as competent as ours but there are none better. I still have a ways to go, as most orthopedic surgeons will tell you that recovery from this injury and surgical repair will take a year. I am 5 months in and am ahead of the curve in the opinion of my therapists. These folks will tell you early on that recovery is a partnership and that you will get out of the process exactly what you put in it. Thank you Coe and Katelyn for your professionalism and skill. In hillbilly terms, “you done good”! As a parting thought, Katelyn is scheduled for another internship in Chicago……..please be careful young lady. The world needs your talent and compassion. Chicago could care less about your well being………

Have a great week ahead!

SR

The Home Of Conservatism………..

This is not destined to be a deep thinking treatise on Conservatism along the lines of a thinker like George Will, rather a tongue in cheek look at what makes Missouri, a deeply red state, the home of conservatism. You don’t choose to be a Conservative, you are shaped by a philosophy. Learned minds, like the great scholar Michael Oakeshott, a champion of the right said; “to be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown,…the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, and the limited to the unbounded”. I am proud to be a Missourian and Ozarkian. Here is why.

A typical Missouri viewpoint….it why we are deeply red………

Conservatives have an aversion to rapid change. Handed down wisdom, honed through experience and tradition is very comforting. As a Missourian, I see a good, tight barbed wire fence as a terrific alternative to raising stock in a confinement operation. The Lord made pastures, not steel and concrete buildings for our critters.

The U.S. Constitution works just fine in it’s original form. As a Missourian, I follow the rules. I don’t question signs that say no trespassing. I always rely on gender specific restroom signs. I have no desire to be beat senseless by another Missourian for venturing into a ladies room. It is why we have sign boards and paint …….to help us avoid the inevitable ass kicking if we don’t pay attention.

Conservatives have a sense of morality. In Missouri if you reject Christianity, keep your mouth shut and keep to yourself. It will promote your well being in the Show Me State but will do nothing to lessen the pain in the fires of hell later on. Missourians are schooled in the “right thing to do” early on.

Conservatives embrace free market capitalism. In Missouri, you sell your watermelons for a fair price and understand that if they are inferior, we’ll pass the word and you’ll soon have all the sorry watermelons you can eat.

Conservatives believe in national exceptionalism. We believe America is the beacon on the world hill. Missourians will fight to preserve our nation’s way of life, and elect our representatives who will provide a logical voice in the representative form of government we embrace. We believe in a strong defense and have no problem with a gun in every home. We leave it to the individual to determine how many guns and what kind they should be. Period.

Conservatives embrace “red” American cultural cues. Missourians believe in getting about in our own car as opposed to mass transit. We embrace country music and have no taste for arugula, preferring instead plain mustard, salt and pepper on real beef and not some God awful “meat” made from synthetic protein. There are a lot of pick-up trucks in Missouri because they are practical.

Conservatives have a disdain for American liberalism. In Missouri, we reject multiculturalism, identity politics, affirmative action, gender norming, welfare, European style social policies, and electric cars. We have an aversion to being stuck in a snowdrift with a discharged battery to keep us warm…one day maybe but certainly not today and at the direction of an inept government.

Conservatives believe that taxes should be lower and government smaller. In Missouri, we’ll throw you out of office if you do not hold to this principle. As I write, our Governor has convened a special session to study the return of excess tax revenue to the people, not find a new way to spend it.

Conservatives believe the budget should be balanced. In Missouri, debt is managed. If you cannot cover the costs, you do not put more cows on the ground. In Missouri, you do not buy an extra load of melons if there is little chance of selling them. We tend to be risk adverse and rely on conventional wisdom. We also tend to be fiscally pragmatic.

Conservatives believe in the value of skepticism, doubt and humility. In Missouri, we’ll ask you to show us what you are talking about and judge accordingly. There is a very small market for snake oil in Missouri.

In short, Missourians tend to oppose change for the sake of change. We tend to be moderate and cautious, much preferring subtle adjustment over rapid, unnecessary change, new concepts or things that have yet to be tested. We’ll attempt to fix a broken lawn mower rather than toss it for a new one, know the value of a gallon of paint and are quite content to live modestly and express skepticism. Finally, I must remind my readers that Ozarkians are a sub-culture of Missourians. The primary difference being in our tendency to outright reject bullshit artists like the current administration. In the Ozarks, bullshit artists fish alone!

Have a great week!

SR

Familiar Feelings and Continuing Education……

No, this is not a piece on the latest survey showing that some 62% of Democratic college freshman would not room with a Republican room mate compared to some 70% of Republican kids who said it would make no difference. (This is an obvious indication that Democrats fear a conversion to reality and don’t want to take the chance.) Rather I am writing about another day riding with our Fire Chief Jamie Kilburn. This day I was being schooled in fire station architecture located in the districts surrounding ours in response to the tremendous development in our region.

The afternoon started with a quick lunch at a local eatery before setting out for a station north of us. As luck would have it, we drove up on a very fresh accident at a terrible intersection of two state routes. It was a two car, single fatality accident and we were there within minutes of the event. Those old familiar reflexes were awakened and I immediately hopped out of the Chief’s vehicle, evaluating scene safety as I hurried to the aid of one victim, thrown clear of his vehicle. The Chief was grabbing his medical bag, a matter of instinct for him. A quick check of the victims established massive, instantly fatal injuries to one driver and probable moderate injuries to the other. In a flash, my senses were heightened to a level not felt since my days in uniform, and a logical sequence of events was already in place mentally. Some things you will never forget to do in these circumstances.

After clearing the scene we headed north and I was able to tour two newer fire stations in the areas we had targeted. They both reflected ingenuity and efficiency, concepts that are essential in rural fire services. I was not disappointed and was able to glean much information both from the inspection and the fire fighters who assisted us. I continue to be very impressed with the folks who provide this critical service to the people within their districts. In one station, an old fashioned set of working car top red lights had been rigged up as a light fixture over the bar in the kitchen.This feature is a sure hit with children as they visit the station. Every time I am around these folks I come away stunned by the degree of commitment necessary to assume these roles in our society. Even more stunning is that many of these folks are volunteers, although that demographic is changing as political subdivisions recognize the necessity to maintain full time, on duty, emergency responders.

My final lesson of the day was centered around an older gentleman selling watermelons from the back of his pickup truck. He was parked in a service station parking lot and has been delivering melons for many years from this location. He was a true Missouri gentleman, replete with khaki pants and shirt while sporting a panama straw hat. He had stashed a couple of his melons in a cooler and retrieved one for the Fire Chief to take home to his boys. He imparted a lesson in Missouri logic as an additional service to us. He said it was hard to determine the quality of a melon until you cracked it open. He suggested to Jamie that his melons came with a guarantee of sorts. If, upon slicing, it was determined it was a poor melon, throw it over the fence into the neighbor’s yard and tell the neighbor it came from Walmart. Then said the old gentleman, return to his truck and he would replace it. This fellow would have made Will Rogers proud…..never underestimate the older man in khakis making change over produce. Not in Missouri anyway……

To some, a watermelon, to others, a lesson in marketing!

Have a good week!

SR

A Day With The Chief…..

There are no gaps in my commitment to emergency services. My years in the Highway Patrol have delivered many opportunities to work with various emergency responders, whether it be fire, medical, or unsung heroes like towing services and even railroad derailment specialists. America is a nation of wealth, most often modest and hard earned and sometimes incredible and inherited. Our emergency services are responsible for the preservation of life followed by property. Yesterday was another training day, with a familiarization tour of the Brookline Fire District, assets and a number of our firefighters who man the equipment and respond to our most trying circumstances. I can’t tell you how fortunate we are to enjoy the umbrella of dedicated emergency responders, both volunteer and professional.

A few months ago I was approached by Brookline Chief Jamie Kilburn and asked if I would consider a position on the District’s Board of Directors. It was an appointment to fill a vacant position, for a prescribed term at the end of which I would be required to run for the position in an election. The District is recovering from a rather colorful near history the centerpiece of which was a chief convicted of various nefarious activities and jailed. The Board selected Chief Kilburn to lead this fine agency, tarnished by the scandal, back to respectability. They made an excellent decision when they handed this task off to Jamie Kilburn, a native of this area with a long history of involvement in emergency services, both fire and medical. I visited with the Board, offered my management philosophy and a summary of my professional experience and they voted to accept my offer to join them. This District is big, our assets are very good, our people outstanding and we are benefitting from a recent levy that is facilitating our role in fire service and emergency medical response exponentially. I am already proud of my association with these men and women as well as somewhat awed by their expertise in this business. Make no mistake, it is a business with the fortunes falling on the point of the spear, out in the district in emergency response as well as the back of the house where numbers are crunched and strategies formulated.

Chief Kilburn on the right with some of the fire fighters he commands. It would be a mistake to underestimate these folks…….

Like most districts near major metropolitan areas, our geographical boundaries are nebulous and scattered. Emergency services are centered around response times and our task is complicated by the rapid development in our area and increasing responsibilities. There are a number of districts that we interact with. This interaction demands a solidly cooperative attitude among the various services and an absolute reliance on the heart of rural fire protection, motivated and sincere volunteers. The exposure to the parameters of our district was eye popping. As a previous police administrator, my mind raced with the various possibilities for improved efficiency in our region beginning with the actual location of stations and distribution of assets. There is a long history and much tradition in this region that can be preserved in a cooperative approach to improving response times to the citizens we serve. The possibilities are endless.

Fire in an occupied residence. I gained immeasurable experience in the dissection of why and how this fire developed thanks to two fire professionals at the scene. Thanks, guys!

During the day, we stopped at a recent residential burn just outside our district but one that required our response in a mutual aid capacity. We happened to catch an insurance investigator at the scene and between him and the Chief, I was introduced to fire scene investigation 101. My mind immediately jumped to criminality (there was no evidence of any intent). Like most professions, fire fighting has it’s own language, and I am learning “fire speak”. Riding with the Chief, listening to the chatter on the radio and the rush of controlled excitement as the services in our region responded to routine matters reminded me of my earlier life in a Patrol cruiser. Until your ox is gored, most people don’t dwell on the nature of emergency response by fire and medical services, but these services are busy behind the headlines. I am looking forward to contributing to the smooth and timely response to folks in trouble. My association with these guys provides that opportunity.

Have a great week!

Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine….

When it is hell hot, the politicians are either licking their wounds or chortling triumphantly at their victory’s and the overdue rains are providing a respite to your lawn, it is a perfect time to slip away and indulge in the wonders of Missouri. So it is that we spent a week at Echo Bluff campground celebrating Tazzy’s 9th birthday with daily jaunts to Sinking Creek where the old men spent time enjoying it’s spring fed coolness, oblivious to the rest of the world.

Tom T. Hall’s old dog………our Tazzy

Years ago, Tom T. Hall penned the song that is the title of this piece while sitting at a bar talking with an old gentleman about life. The old man opined that old dogs, children and watermelon wine constitute the most important triumvirate in life. The old man was right, and Tom’s genius captured the moment set to music. You can see the years in Tazzy’s face, the white cast around his eyes and the magic in taking his time walking down to the creek as opposed to sprinting. Mind you, when taken off lead, there is no evidence of age and he still crashes the water with gusto before easing into a slow, steady cadence against the current. When I am standing waist deep in the cool water, watching him carefully scrutinize each leaf that passes in the current, I am reminded that I am fortunate. Too many of my contemporaries are gone, never to enjoy a Missouri waterway again, and the list is growing, seemingly daily. Tazzy and I have learned to take the path of least resistance these days, the key to survival in our golden years. Each passing leaf, soon gone from our view represents a friend also gone in the current of life. The passing leaves all have a story, having seen manny things over their short time on earth, a story that means little to those watching them pass, but a story never the less.

Waiting for the next leaf to pass……

This is the time of the year when the kiddos are on high alert before returning to the classroom. They were buzzing by on various wheeled devices called “razors”, boards and scooters within the campgrounds. We were up early every morning, tackling the creek before the floaters and funeral tent folks set up on the banks with a chest full of adult beverages to enjoy the finest air conditioning in existence, cold water. Their kids are in the creek too, oblivious to the passage of time that old folks are all too aware of. They are convinced there is no finite number of trips to the creek and the Master’s plan is of little concern to them. I wanted to tell them to enjoy every minute of every day………soon enough the realization will set in for them. It would be cruel to paint a picture of aging for them.

Now we are down to watermelon wine. I have enjoyed watermelon wine on several occasions in years gone by. I find it sweet but burdened with a nasty aftertaste. Today we prefer a good Moscato, preferably bubbling, ice cold with a chunk of cheese and crusty bread. If it gets any better than an iced bottle of Marco Negri, wedge of mild cheddar and loaf of french bread with a slice of apple and a few grapes thrown in for color, I have yet to experience it. While indulging in the wine, add a chorus of children laughing and splashing, an old Labrador who is oblivious to the kids and you have a great song. I can see why Tom wrote this song…..

Summer is winding down, going out with a flourish that midwestern summers often do. Soon the fairs will be under way and the kids will be suited up for another tour in the classroom. Teachers are already preparing for their next set of kids and another cycle of life repeats itself. Thank you Tazzy for another great outing and we hope you enjoyed your birthday celebration at Sinking Creek. God willing, we’ll be there again next year with a bottle of wine, watching you charge the creek bank….alert for those passing leaves.

Have a great week!

SR