A Rogue Officer, The Camera and America….

Minneapolis is on fire while I write, as rioters take to the street and destroy property in the name of justice. I am a 27 year veteran of policing, having served as a State Patrol officer in Missouri. I am not an experienced municipal officer, but have enjoyed the company of officers from an excellent municipal department while commanding a Highway Patrol zone in Kansas City. I write without the results of the many investigations that are currently going on as a result of the death of one Mr. George Floyd, while in police custody in Minneapolis. The optics in this case are appalling, however, there is still much to be learned. Prudent observers will wait for the facts, but the folks who are burning down our cities are not prudent observers.

This is not the answer

The noble profession of policing has at it’s core, a certain commonality. Understanding the law, certain techniques, the mastery of modern technology and the pursuit of the common goal of peace and tranquility come to mind. Another desirable trait is the understanding of human behavior, street level sociology and psychology. When presented with the opportunity, peace officers resolve an astonishing number of conflicts with verbiage. This being said, the fork in the road for this profession is somewhere near the city limits of a major municipal community and the wide open spaces of rural America. Let me explain.

I recall riding with an experienced Kansas City police officer in the days before the advent of verbal judo and community oriented policing. This officer was extremely competent, quick thinking and street wise. This assignment was during a period of unrest in KC. We patrolled a section of the city that was less, shall we say, affluent than other parts of town. As we met motorists, I would offer a wave to them if we happened to make eye contact. The officer noticed my gesture and suggested that my waving was viewed as a sign of weakness in this community. So much for my habit of waving casually at motorists on the country roads in my rural patrol zone! When we answered a call, two cars responded, one to handle the call, the second one to watch the first car while the officer responded. In the county where I normally worked, one issue, one officer. Period. Diplomacy was what you reached for first. The afore mentioned fork in the road is real, folks, you can bet on it. The differences between rural policing and municipal policing are actually much deeper than this story would indicate. There is much rage in the cities and policing is not easy there.

Okay. While I am in no way condoning the actions of the officer implicated in Mr. Floyd’s death, I am issuing another plea for sanity. The officer has been introduced to the complicated criminal justice system as a defendant. This system presumes innocence until proven otherwise and burning down our country is not going to result in anything other than further divide, hostility and empowerment to those who see this as an opportunity to vent through property destruction and media scrutiny. Our outrage is based on the narrow optic of the camera catching a police officer using a technique not taught anywhere that I know of, and the death of the arrestee. Ugly……but that is not all there is to this story. Let’s save the condemnation for the whole story…….and not burn down our country in the meantime. The officer in the photo is alleged to be a rogue cop, and the camera is damning, but alleged means nothing until the verdict is in.

In summary, I was blessed. I worked in an environment where policing was respected and the officer’s I served with on every level could rely on diplomacy and reason to solve a vast majority of the problems we encountered. It could be violent, dangerous and we certainly dealt with our share of miscreants who ranged from sociopathic to tranquil, but we could also wave at a motorist we met, the same motorist who might be next to us at a charitable event that night. I was also privileged to work among the professionals in Kansas City, a lesson than I will not forget.

Remember the fork in the road.

Have a great weekend!

SR

$1.69 A Day……..

Memorial Day is once again upon us and the Lord has seen fit to recreate the conditions that existed on June 6, 1944 on the shores of France where thousands of troops landed on D-Day. Today it is cloudy, with a guarantee of uncertainty in the air as America faces the inconvenience of Covid-19. This malady is just that, an inconvenience as opposed to the hardship of landing on a beach, facing withering fire from a German army that knows full well that if they don’t stop us here, we will not be stopped.

Sacred Sand……..

Memorial Day belongs to the dead. It is an occasion where we remember those in uniform whose only thoughts were of survival and the God given blessing that if death is to be their reward, they die well. On Omaha Beach, 2,000 American soldiers were casualties, killed, wounded or simply gone from the face of the earth, their fate a closely guarded secret of the Master. Our British brothers and sisters in arms suffered the same fate, 2,000 lost on Sword and Gold Beach while our Canadian warriors lost 340 on Juno Beach, a great number when considered in the context of troops on the ground. The bedlam, uncertainty and smell of death permeated the air, but failed to stop America’s greatest blessing, our military, as they began the march to Hitler’s bunker, joined by the British and Canadians.

The media today is rife with stories of immense suffering as a result of the pandemic that has us in it’s grip. The financial impact is terrible and certainly the toll in human suffering is seemingly unbearable. It is important, though, that we place the events of today in context. Much has been written about the financial impact of the pandemic on our country. On June 6, 1944, the troops who waded into certain death were guaranteed a boxed meal, ammunition and the princely sum of 1.69 a day in wages. When you are in a gunfight, there is little time to consider the politics of the day, or whether or not your rations contain pound cake or fruit cocktail. When you were bouncing along in the Higgins boat, on your way in, with round after round pounding the ramp on your boat, you tuned out the smell of cordite, vomit, sweat and blood as it mixed with the sea air. The screams of the wounded on the beach ahead of you, the visions of troops wounded and drowning because they cannot stand to get their heads above water is secondary to your efforts to avoid a similar fate. You sure as hell were not concerned with the 1.69 that you were being paid for this days work. This, my friends is hardship, as opposed to inconvenience.

May God, on this Memorial Day, touch the souls of every man and woman who died in defense of this great country. War is the single most disorganized, chaotic exercise in discipline and courage known to man. It is a multi-sensory experience that will likely plague the human race until the final bell is rung by a Master tired of our lack of respect for one another. I write today in remembrance of those in uniform who were struck down on D-Day and every day of every war we have waged throughout history. To die well is the ultimate measure of courage, and those who have shed their blood for America deserve this holiday.

As you enjoy this weekend, and begin to emerge from the inconvenience of the current virus induced pandemic, take just a minute to thank those who have surrendered their souls to God in the name of America. Memorial Day is their day and they deserve your appreciation. Death was their reward. We must never forget them……never.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

SR

The Last Time……

I was on the five year plan. Back in my forties, I submitted to a routine colonoscopy, drank the nectar from hell and drifted off into nothingness, courtesy of the magic drug Versed. When I awakened, the doctor indicated that I had a polyp or two, but they were gone now and not to worry. The fact that an anomaly was discovered put me into the two year plan for a few years before being returned to the ready reserve, the five year plan. Earlier this spring, I drank the gallon of go-fast and reported for my Versed induced power nap. When I drifted back to reality, the gastroenterologist eased into my cubicle and said some things about being in great shape, plumbing wise, before he uttered words that were chilling. “Because of your age, you will never need another exam, this was your last time.”

Say what? The last time! Whoa there doc, I have no plans to check out for quite awhile, I’m thinking at least three or four more of these things, on the five year plan. What in the hell do you mean I won’t ever need another one? Sure I will, doesn’t cancer strike “mature” adults too? I was thinking much faster than I was talking, the Versed again, but the good doctor and I need to talk again! This little exercise in mortality has haunted me since and I have been thinking about “the last times” in my life. Let’s have a look.

When you are forty-five years old, in good health and near the peak in terms of professional ability and contribution, there are no “last times” in sight. Our minds do not work that way. When you are seventy, having long ago lost your fast-ball, every time you do something that is memorable, it might be your last time. Thanks to pragmatic doctors like my gastroenterologist, who is emerged in data and science instead of optimism, you begin to reflect. As an example, I remember, as if it were yesterday, the last time that I put on my Highway Patrol uniform. Honestly, I fought tears. I left our home, hit the highway and began working traffic. I remember a warrant arrest that day, several speeding citations and lunch in a little country diner. Troopers never forget the hush as they stride into a diner for coffee and a slice of pie. That same afternoon, I stopped at a photo studio where I met my daughter, then a Water Patrol officer, and we posed for a picture together. That photograph says so much, and is a tremendous source of pride to me. I vividly remember the last time that my father and I spoke to one another, the day before he left for a new assignment in the Lord’s Army. What was left unsaid haunts me to this day. There just wasn’t enough time. I recall my last motorcycle ride with amazing clarity. I handed the reigns of the Red Baron to a gentleman from Eldon, Mo. with the admonition that he was to treat the Baron with the respect it deserved. Sharon and I ate at one of my favorite eateries, a Steak & Shake, before driving home in silence. The change of command of the Street Glide was a tacit admission that I no longer had the reflexes and strength that I once had. I also remember selling my bass boat, on a ramp at Truman Lake, after a painful day of fishing. Arthritis played a prominent role in the sale of these toys that meant so much to me. These last times were a concession to age and I do not concede easily.

One of the last trips, with Ralph Biele

I could go on, but I am sure you get the point. It is important that we hang on to dreams, visions and plans all in the name of staving off the inevitable “last time” the doctor spoke about. Call your dear friends and touch bases with your family. Life is a race to work in another event, trip or experience. As a final note, in five years, I am going to schedule another colonoscopy, even if I have to pay for it entirely out of pocket! We all need something to look forward to!

Have a great weekend!

SR

A Spring Vacation……

If you really want to know how the mind works, open a social media account. For a deep dive into human behavior and thought processes, mix in a crisis of national magnitude. Some weeks ago, I predicted that folks would soon find one side or the other of the line between those who think that quarantining and personal protective gear is effective and those who cannot stand the thought of restrictions on individual freedom. When you add a cup of economic chaos to this nasty situation, unvarnished personalities are exposed. Separating the wheat from the chaff becomes easy.

I can see both sides of most issues, but like many folks, after consideration I tend to arrive at a position on matters of importance. It is imperative that you consider both sides of an issue, a tactic employed by thousands of trial lawyers every day they practice. I also understand that almost everything in life is important to someone, for some reason.

Recently, on Facebook, I suggested that I could see both sides of the issue as it relates to the beautician in Texas who chose jail time over closing her shop until the end of the order of the Governor. I still can. Economic necessity is a major driving force, however the rule of law is the foundation of our society. The Texas Supreme Court vacated her 7 day jail sentence and this lady has become the champion of millions of folks who are up to here with not working and various executive orders restricting movement. The Governor, in response to her machinations, modified his order to prohibit jail time as a consequence of violating his order, ostensibly issued to protect the citizens of Texas. He has pulled the teeth of the tiger with his position and reduced his orders restricting movement to suggestions, although the possibility of a fine is still apparently on the table. Civil disobedience at work, creating a nasty kettle of fish.

So what am I writing about? We are in dangerous times my friends. Relationships are being crushed by a microscopic little demon from hell that has disrupted life in a country where life has been good. I have watched friends who I have a great deal of respect for suggest you are a coward if you do not shed the masks and go about your business as if nothing is going on. Others have suggested the orders protecting health are simply tyranny and patently unconstitutional. They are neither. Seeing both sides of the liberty vs pandemic fight is not popular, and like politics, there is no demand for folks in the middle. We have reached a point where we are now assessing just how much death and suffering is acceptable when weighed against the cherished notion of individual liberty. Absent a vaccine, we’ll soon know the answer………

I am ready for a vacation. It is time to get away from social media, politics, morons, my way or the highway types, limited vocabularies and derisiveness. It is time to stand waist deep in a trout stream, with the singular worry about whether my tired, old eyes can see well enough to tie a tippet on after losing a good fish. I have deactivated my Facebook account, limited my information channels to a single cable network and the Wall Street Journal where news has a chance of being objective. My email account is in good standing and I am sure that friends who have something substantive will avail themselves to that medium or, the cellphone.

Sometimes, too much information is a bad thing.

Have a great weekend.

SR

The Great Dividers…..

Last evening, we invited a dear friend to stop in for dinner on the back deck. It was a perfect evening to spend time breaking bread with a lady who loves animals as much as we do, works very hard and is as honest as the day is long. She is a supervisor at the farm across the road, and had a tough day managing a crowd of folks who drove through to get free food, courtesy of a couple of local businesses and the park board. After she left, I wondered if we should have done that. Of course we should have. She will always be welcome in our home, but our living nightmare, Covid-19, is changing the dynamic in America, causing reflection that is absurd on it’s face.

My first real experience with division on steroids was the Vietnam War. I was a happy kid when I scooted off to UMKC to begin my college career, a nice urban collegiate atmosphere seemed to suit my interest. This was in 1968, and America was in a very unpopular gunfight in Southeast Asia. My nice collegiate atmosphere in Kansas City was anything but tranquil. Anti -war demonstrators were all over the place, espousing a hatred that was alien to a kid raised on military bases by an Army officer. I was miserable, forced to defend a way of life that seemed absolute, and left college for the Army. This division is mitigated, with time healing most wounds and the era gradually fading from prominence.

Enter politics. This division is as old as the world itself. Again, I harken to the days of innocence, when serious division was centered around GM, Ford and Mopar muscle cars. I was also involved in the gun culture and we often defended our choice of deer calibers with like minded outdoors folks. Serious conflict was limited to a broken date or lost drag race. As you mature in America, politics creeps in and soon splits the herd. What a shame. Why do older Americans seemed preoccupied with this great dividing proposition? That’s easy, we have the time. It is when you let politics choose your friends and acquaintances that you have succumbed to it’s insidious, destructive nature. Never in our history, have we been so polarized. As I am fond of saying, being a moderate will guarantee you a table alone when you stop for lunch.

Now we have Covid-19. Damn this stuff and whomever is responsible for unleashing this hell on earth upon us. The country will not soon forget the division that is enveloping us as I write. Is the answer in the retort “damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead” or is it social distancing, masks and gloves on the weekly trip to buy bread and paper products? Have we gone too far? Have we gone far enough? Is it time to let the genie out of the bottle? Is Covid as deadly as some believe? Is it just another form of a virulent flu that we have seen in years past? Do we continue to scream across the street at our neighbors, instead of engaging in a coffee klatch conversation? Is it okay to ride a motorcycle with your like minded riders? Do you silently curse the shopper at a grocery store who touches every piece of produce with ungloved hands, or do you curse the individual who looks as if they just came from a hazmat spill? For every political move, “in our best interest” is a counter move calling the first option absurd. By now you get the picture. Out of such polarization, friendships are lost, accusations hurled and divisiveness occurs.

The newest divider

Yesterday, I spoke with a dear friend by telephone for a good long time. It was refreshing, as she is super intelligent and dealing with family issues, not of anyone but the Master’s doing. Covid-19 drifted into the conversation, and we seemed to validate each other’s approach to personal accountability in response to this mess we are in. Interestingly, politics slipped into the conversation and we again agreed on the futility of siding one way or another in the Washington war zone. The conversation was refreshing, in that clearly, we would never let these issues interfere with the bonds of friendship developed over many years. My wish for my friends today is a simple one, don’t let it happen. Be patient with both sides of the Covid response protocol adopted by people you know. This nasty virus is doing enough damage without damaging relationships built over many years. Nurture your old friendships and be wary of our new enemy. Another great divider is at work.

Have a great weekend!

SR

Napping 101…..

One third of American’s do it. The other two thirds are missing out on a sublime art, the art of napping tactically. To those of us that have perfected the pleasure of a time out in life, you are in good company. Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and damned near every uniformed services member on the planet has napped. Respectfully, it is believed that John Kennedy accomplished a bit more than most of us during his afternoon snoozes, but that is another story. I am writing this piece so that nappers and non-nappers alike might appreciate this under rated and delightful habit!

First a disclaimer. I am a world class napper. Anytime my head and butt are on the same level, it is as if I am equipped with an internal tilt switch. Some might call it a blessing. My grades reflected the uncanny ability to nap through incredibly dull classroom sessions, such as in a basic philosophy class in college where the focus was on stuff that really made no difference to me. When I see a rock, I see it as a rock, and seldom take the time to ponder on the significance why it exists. In Artillery School, after a night of hazing and merriment, I fell asleep while in the “chair” position against a wall in a classroom, sliding down the wall like a snake that has spotted a juicy frog. Napping, folks, I have down.

A nap demonstration by the master napper

NASA research has confirmed the value of napping. They found that a 40 minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness by a whopping 100% in the time immediately following the nap. Their research also indicated the alertness improvement lasts for hours. Other research has indicated that napping is most beneficial late in the day, as a result of flagging body rhythms. In terms of time, most sleep experts feel that 15-30 minutes is ideal for a power nap. Because of the patently incorrect perception by the snobs among us who disavow the obvious advantages of napping, finding an ideal location in the middle of the day can be a chore. You need little noise, reduced light and a semi if not all together reclining posture. This is frowned upon in the office or front seat of a Patrol car. Caffeine is not a nappers friend, although when younger I could limit myself to, say, 6 cups of coffee, lie down and the switch would activate with sleep commencing in minutes. An important part of napping is the elimination of guilt. You must be secure enough in the appreciation for a nice power nap to make it a priority in life. You may be ridiculed when you show up at a staff meeting after an unashamed snooze in your office chair, but when the fireworks start, you’ll be the guy or gal leading the discussion! Trust me here.

I have napped on the front deck of a bass boat floating gently in the back of a cove on a spring afternoon as well as in the relative discomfort of a rapidly constructed deer stand 10’ off the ground. On one occasion, another fisherman, fearing the worst, gently awakened me on the bass boat deck with a flick of his rod. Not only did I confirm my status as a living being, I scared the hell out of him with my reaction, fearing a snake had decided to nap with me. On another occasion, my napping in a tree, while hunting, resulted in a rather undignified fall through the limbs of a pin oak, damaging only my pride. I developed a taste for ground blinds and discovered they were a nappers delight. Just sprawl out and enjoy the cozy windbreak while you miss every turkey or deer in the woods as they parade by.

Okay, by now you get the picture. Bill Clinton, another fearless and shameless napper has been captured on film napping at places like a Mets Game or Mr. Reagan’s funeral. He loved to nap…..at least that is what he called it at the time. He is quoted as saying, “when I nap, I imagine a big hole in the back of my head and focus on that until I fall asleep”. I have no way of knowing this, but being married to Hillary, and sleeping always with one eye open, as must be the case for a man caught in such dire circumstances, a nap would be your salvation. Falling asleep in a crowded church during the funeral of a dignitary, would have to be the least of his concerns. Dropping his guard around Hillary could prove devastating.

To the one third of Americans who nap, salute! To the other two thirds who view it as a total waste of time, come clean. You know you nap when no one is looking. Join us and strip the shame off of a beautiful part of life. That part where you temporarily check out and charge the batteries that power the smile of a refreshed human being!

Have a great weekend!

SR

Memory Overload…….

We have all done it. Someone is ushered off to the Kingdom and after the funeral we tackle their memories in the form of boxes of photographs. Sharon, steeled with a cup of coffee, opened the drawer that contains hundreds of photographs of life over the last 100 or so years, and we went to work. The volume increased dramatically as we worked our way into our recent past, primarily as a result of always having a camera with you. How many times in our review did we ask one another who this is, where was this taken or what is this a picture of? Too many, but a pattern of priorities in life soon becomes apparent. I do not advise undertaking this task while under the influence as the laughter, tears and anger would soon overwhelm you.

Pictures tell the story

Our early lives were represented by the usual snaps of us as children. Cute smiles, funny hair styles and the usual kid stuff were well represented. High School, for me, was a giant social experiment with academics as a side dish. Baseball, cars and cute girls were paramount with student politics thrown in for balance. My political career ended at the high office of student body president, a politician’s dream as I excelled at doing absolutely nothing short of conducting a few meetings. The Army was next, with the usual Vietnam pictures and customary uniform shots. The memories here are well documented in other writings. The Highway Patrol dominated this trip down memory lane…..but not singularly. This phase was also well represented by pictures of boats, hundreds of fish, many deer, turkeys, quail and other game. Trips afield or afloat with good friends brought pause as I sorted through them, each with a unique memory. Also throughout my lifetime I have enjoyed the company of many great dogs; beagles, pointers and Labradors. My Vietnamese, rear area mongrel, was also represented, a furry example of warmth and decency in a phase of life that offered precious little of each. I can only wonder what became of him. The one over-riding revelation is the numbers of tremendous personalities that I have become acquainted with over 70+ years. I have been exceedingly fortunate with only the very occasional snake slipping into my world. (It happens to all of us.)

Sharon is the proverbial cute little farm girl. Her life on a big row crop farm with a loving mother is well represented. I am still amazed that a young, 100 lb. girl can climb into a 300 HP monster tractor and finish a field with the best male farm hand out there. She can also load a seed drill, 50# at a time, throwing sacks like a pro. The pictures of her life tell the story of how a little, tanned farm girl can turn into a bobcat in 15 seconds flat, as you have to be tough in that existence. Her professional life is well represented with photographic evidence of her prowess in the classroom and as an administrator. She was a serious educator. Sharon also shares my passion for fishing, with the unique ability to begin reading a book if the crappie were not cooperating. Her handiwork with a camera, on quail hunts, has captured the beauty of a good dog, their enthusiasm seething through the picture even today. The pictures somehow still convey the smell of a milo field on a fall day and the sounds of Luke and Belle, our German Shorthairs, thrashing through the rows looking for birds.

Our trip down memory lane tends to clear up the mystery associated with aging and energy. After looking at our experiences through life, it is plainly apparent why grandfathers and grandmothers find the recliner and a beverage so useful in the evenings. To all of you that appear in our pictures, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It has been a hoot……

God willing, we are moving on to new adventures and pictures, intent on creating even more work for our children some day…….just not too soon!

Have a great weekend.

SR