The Palpable Nature Of History…..

This past week I spent several hours at the Confederate Relic Museum located in Columbia, SC. On display are thousands of artifacts from the Civil War, including such things as Minnie balls removed from the bodies of Confederate Soldiers, Battle Flags and a great display of small arms weaponry actually carried by soldiers of the Confederacy from South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union. You do not have to be a student of history to appreciate the intensity and horror of this Great War. I am fortunate to see these things before some woke politician deems them offensive and orders them destroyed.

South Carolina traces it’s contributions to our country back to the days of the Revolutionary War fought in her swamps and lowlands by legendary leaders such as Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. The British soon learned that standard Neapolitan tactics were useless against a determined and crafty foe. America was born from this conflict and hardened by the Civil War that followed some years later. The museum in Columbia pays homage to both conflicts with a decided emphasis on the Civil War. I could not help but draw comparisons between the early Patriots in South Carolina, who ran the powerful British Army off the continent and our more recent experience where a determined enemy sent America home from Southeast Asia having accomplished very little beyond a horrible loss of life. History does teach, but it’s lessons are lost on those who seek to cover it up or destroy it.

The flag in this writing is the real thing, not a reproduction or restored banner.This battle flag belonged to the 2d South Carolina Volunteer Regiment, organized in 1861 and assimilated into the command of the capable Confederate General Joseph Brevard Kershaw. This unit was attached to the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee. This flag is blooded. It accompanied the 2d Volunteers into battle in such storied places as Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Literally thousands of confederate sons were killed under these colors as well as an equal number of Union soldiers. Each side fervently believed in their cause before the matter was finally decided and ended at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

If only this flag could speak!

Most folks have a rudimentary knowledge of the Civil War, but few understand the Herculean effort of every man, woman and child in prosecuting this conflict. This museum reminds us that southern wives sewed the uniforms for the men they sent to their deaths and the tremendous hardships that both armies suffered through, beyond the quick exit brought about by gunfire. We have graphic reminders of the gallant efforts of the war surgeons with very basic tools and chemicals who worked until exhausted during every battle or until their arms could no longer wield the saws used to remove limbs shot through. This museum also helps the patrons to understand the political nature of this fight and the inner mental working of the great Generals on each side. As a reminder, Gen. Kershaw was not a trained military man, rather a prominent attorney who soon grasped the nuances of warfare and was quite successful, in leading his men.

I am ending today’s writing with a plea. Please, to the extent that each reader can, speak out against the destruction of history in the name of erasing this period of strife in America. It is a damned shame that folks who had nothing to do with any of this history want it covered and erased to appease some sense of righteousness that dwells within them. Their slant on the Civil War period is fashionable today but in reality is as ridiculous as reparations for the sins of those who acted over a century ago.

Have a great weekend!

SR

Traffic Enforcement Ain’t Black And White…………..

I, like all troopers, began life as a dedicated traffic cop with broad police powers that led us off the road and into the criminal realm on occasion. Working traffic exposes you to a virtual Petri dish of human behavior that runs the gamut from pleasant folks who simply succumbed to momentarily lapse of consciousness to jackasses who could care less about the restrictions imposed by motor vehicle law. I have a total of 48 years of observing America behind the wheel, of which 27 were in uniform. Today what I see is as ugly as it has ever been. Here are my thoughts.

At the upper end of the scale, we have a shrinking minority of folks who still adhere to the rules of the road. They signal, stop at stop signs and are courteous to the drivers around them. They are easy to spot for us old road dogs. At the other end of the scale you have the psychopaths that fly through stops, wouldn’t know a turn signal from a spotted elephant, drive really fast and generally think the road exists for their exclusive use. Traffic cops love the good guys and live for the bad guys. We feel really good when we hand the jerks an invitation to circuit court. It is the grey area in between an automatic summons and a warning that concerns me. It has dramatically expanded in the year of Covid and we are seeing the results of reduced enforcement brought about by the viral scourge. When is the last time you saw what appeared to be a traffic stop? In my municipality, the traffic guys are up to here with accident investigations and the district cars are entirely too busy to mess with traffic law unless the violation is particularly egregious. What did I just say? There is more DWHIA (Driving with head in ass) activity today than I have seen in 48 years of observing the movement of cars. The grey area in enforcement has expanded and folks know it.

Traffic Officers never sleep!

To be fair and balanced, in this age of defunding the police, a dramatic number of experienced officer retirements, and the ever increasing non-police related duty placed on law enforcement, traffic slips to the bottom of the list of things for the police to consider. While the number of traffic crashes declined during the pandemic, the severity of the accidents showed a dramatic increase. Why? Speed and DWHIA rates have increased, a lot. Officers have so little discretionary time these days, coupled with a reluctance to stick your head in the window of a strangers car who might be a Covid carrier, traffic enforcement is down. Apparently the days of 30 troopers saturating I-70 in a single county are over. We used to do that and it made an impact. If this old road dog donned a uniform and slipped out in a Patrol car, I doubt I would get 10 miles from the porch….there is that much work to be done out there.

One last thought. We have a new generation of drivers on the street who have come of age in a non enforcement environment. They earned their licenses and climbed into their chariots with little fear of suffering the consequences of stupidity behind the wheel. They are going to be tough to re-train when and if we amp up traffic enforcement. Good luck to my brothers and sisters who have assumed the responsibility of lending dignity to the movement of traffic in America. You are behind an eight ball not of your making, but it is a job that needs to be done. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to rail at the disregard that today’s motorists have for the law and their fellow drivers. If you have the inclination, work on climbing the grey scale to that light shade at the top, where folks don’t mind rules and understand the consequences of ignoring what you know to be right.

Have a great weekend!

SR

Economics And Cherries…..

If I were to start all over again, economics would be in the bottom tier of a selected field of study. I just don’t have the patience to drill down into the whys and wherefores of how a 2×4 piece of wood can quadruple in price, seemingly overnight. Rather I am one of millions of Americans who will defer building our dream barn on some nice piece of ground until things return to normal. The question is, will they or will it be like it has been historically, and you are seeing the new normal? Let’s look at what is happening to us “out there”.

This musing was prompted by an addiction. I love Sonic Diet Cokes, preferably with vanilla added, followed closely by a shot or two of cherry syrup. Either way, I like easy ice and a couple of cherries tossed in the cup as a treat after draining the beverage. Drinks are a high profit item for the restaurant industry, with the cost of the cup likely exceeding the cost of the drink it is holding. Sonic now counts the cherries and charges you a dime a cherry when they toss these morsels into your drink. Really? Sharon and I are eat out a lot kind of people, too often I suppose, especially given her culinary skill. At one of our very favorite breakfast eateries here in town, I uttered a quiet “Uh-Oh” when the server handed us a brand new menu, as the old ones seemed fine last week. Bingo, an omelette that we share is now 12.00 and comes with a single piece of toast. Coffee is now hovering around 3 bucks a cup…well you get the idea. I get it, labor is higher and commodities are too, therefore they have no choice but to pass it on.

A Facebook friend, obviously an impulsive one, was pulling his RV through Cincinnati last week and drove by a Ram dealership. He had decided his half ton pickup was over worked and is in the market for a new diesel pickup….something that is absent from dealer’s lots because somebody in China or Ethiopia or somewhere is holding on to a “chip” we should be making in America. This lot was sporting 3 new Ram 3500 diesels and he stopped in to check them out. As luck would have it, he fell in love with one of them and asked the salesman to “run the numbers”. The salesman proceeded to “work up” a sheet and the buyer noted an 8K “value added” addition to the MSRP. The dealer explained the up charges as a result of the scarcity of these trucks and my friend bolted from the store after deciding his current truck was doing just fine. Makes dime cherries in a soft drink a little more palatable. Sharon and I love to buy high and sell low, keeps the economy jumping, but the annualized increase of up to 40% in used vehicle values is another indication of the “I” word, inflation, steaming along at about 5.39% these days. The good news here is that if you have owned your home for two or three years, you are enjoying ownership of something that has increased in value, a lot actually, over the past several years. Unfortunately, this value will pass to your heirs when you go to your reward, as selling and buying will eat the increase up in a hurry.

Coming soon, to a store near you!

Back to the cherries in my nearly daily elixir. If you use the Sonic app on your cellphone, drinks are always half price, so we can afford to order up two or maybe three cherries with the offset in price. I pass the savings on to the carhops, who I genuinely admire if no other reason than they are actually working. The bottom line is we live a comfortable, middle class life, drive one of those hard to get Rams and want for nothing, so why the fixation on the damned cherries?

I told you that economics is not my strong suit, resulting in a penchant for getting lost in the details rather than the big picture. Maybe we should all adopt Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman attitude of why worry. Cornpop Biden and his band of merry fruitcakes are going to keep handing out money until the presses run dry anyhow.

One last point….it is impossible to count the cherries you have paid for until you drain the cup. To add insult to injury, often they short you on the cherries or don’t put any in your cup. Come on man………!

Have a great week!

SR

Rosie Jo’s Cafe…..Where Urban and Rural Collide…….

Somebody on a Facebook page this past week asked where the best fried chicken in Springfield could be found. There were about a million opinions, including several vote getters that we didn’t know existed. We decided to take a ride to Ozark and visit a popular choice, Rosie Jo’s Cafe. Upon entering, we knew providence had smiled upon us. Behold a country cafe, packed at 1:30 on a Friday afternoon, with a generation or two of folks who should know something about fried chicken tearing into massive platters of pan fried chicken, potatoes that were either baked, mashed or pan fried, slaw or a vegetable, Texas Toast and your choice of a beverage. More about the menu in a bit.

We also walked into what seemed like old home week. A gentleman who I don’t remember inquired if I was Steve Johnson, the trooper that writes and another gentleman struck up a conversation with us as we waited to be seated. As luck would have it, the second gentleman, a retired coach named Randy Swearengin and I had much in common besides our age. He was seated at the table next to us. He coached in and around the same conference that I played High School baseball in and we knew many of the same people that he coached and I grew up with. We talked John Brown basketball and education then and now, with Sharon able to more than carry her own about the latter. He was with a brother and his father, a retired minister, who knew what it was like to be raised by a widowed young mother in a time when many of life’s needs were in short supply. He is also facing a huge health issue, but it has not drained one ounce of his coach’s wisdom and enthusiasm. Randy talked about a coach’s role in developing character and confronting the challenges of growing up. He was the epitome of a tough, kind, and skilled High School and college coach, the kind of guy who will get every ounce of what you have and send you home for more. He both new and coached a number of young folks who went on to become troopers and other law enforcement officers. In short, he made me proud to have come from a rural environment where not everyone gets a trophy!

Thank you Lord…….

Back to this cafe. I noted on Trip Advisor, after we returned home, that a number of folks recoiled at the idea of waiting for honest to goodness pan fried chicken. Sorry, this isn’t the simulated chicken parts you get in a box. Sharon loves gizzards and livers and the platter, too hot to touch, of these delectables was piled 4 inches high, with all the afore mentioned sides. A chicken dinner is four pieces, any combination, from all white to all dark and go boxes are an absolute necessity. They have all you can eat cat fish and the pies had meringue piled high. Pie not your thing, finish with a cup of soft serve, vanilla or chocolate or both. Read this sentence carefully, without pie, our total check was 21.73, with ice cream. Yes, two beautiful pan fried chicken dinners and soft drinks for a 20 spot and change. To be honest, I don’t know what else is on the menu….my cap was set coming in the door when I saw the chicken coming out of the kitchen.

So good………

What a beautiful day. Visiting with an old coach who knew so many of the same people in our lives over 50 years ago who shares your concerns with the latest slant in America. Listening to his father, a product of a long ago Missouri where anything you had, you earned. A man who would never abandon our Lord under any circumstance. Mounds of fried chicken with plenty of pan gravy if that is what you want, and a conversation about both education and character involving Sharon at every turn.

I can guarantee you will love Rosie Jo’s if you like chicken. Bring a little patience and an appetite. You will need them both………and you won’t need to wait until payday!

Have a great weekend!

SR

The Immeasurable “Peace” In Peace Officer……..

I am currently not following major league sports, instead finding that appetite fed by collegiate activities that will soon be corrupted by money and endorsements as well. When I read the paper, however, I do note the activities of league leaders in batting, wins, and saves by the bullpen guys. It must be nice to hang a nice tidy statistic on whatever it is that you do for a living. Police officers don’t have that luxury. Here is why…….

This morning I read about a 3 year old child that drowned at a swim beach on Table Rock Lake. The child was left unattended and found floating before rescue attempts ultimately failed. This tragedy reminded me of the good side of policing, a facet that gets little attention because you can’t develop a stat relative to your efforts in educating our “clients” the citizenry we protect. Specifically, it reminded me of my Award winning daughter and her tireless efforts at preventing these tragedies as a member of the Marine Division of the Highway Patrol. Her reputation for fair and aggressive enforcement was overshadowed by her zeal and presence in the classroom, delivering common sense water safety and regulation to thousands of folks over her career. Unfortunately, the results of her efforts can’t be measured, as it is impossible to know how many lives were saved by her enthusiasm and skill.

In our careers we answer hundreds of thousands of questions. Seldom, in the day, did we sit down for a quick lunch and not have an opportunity to educate an inquiring mind. Weather conditions, road conditions, favorable routing and equipment advice as well as legal inquiries were usually the topic. How much of this advice made a quantifiable difference? We’ll never know. In my day we placed a manicured Patrol Car in a fire station on the Optimist Cub’s respect for law day. I loved this opportunity to show kids the workings of a Patrol Car and answer hard questions about why we carry guns and what difference traffic and criminal law make to each of us. The response to these events was rewarding but not quantifiable.

Part of the job……

We may never know how much solace we provide after the death of someone in an accident. Our authority and ability to bring some organization to the details surrounding an untimely death is not quantifiable. Being an authority figure in these circumstance requires a great deal of composure and brings some degree of certainty to the circumstances, but it can’t be measured.

I have loaded badly hurt dogs in my Patrol Car and taken them to a vet, seeing to it they were either provided medical attention or saved from their suffering. I have stood next to a carnival pony, tied to a mileage marker on the interstate with a broken leg awaiting a local vet’s arrival to put him down. In both cases, we made an immeasurable difference to one of God’s critters.

How do you measure this?

Finally, there is the consideration of presence. What difference have we made by simply being at the right place at the right time? Years ago, we lived on an acreage outside of Jefferson City where we were in the process of building our home. I drove out there, in uniform, and climbed a ladder to watch the roofers work for a few minutes. They had no idea this was my house they were working on. After watching for awhile, one of the roofers walked over to me and asked how I knew about him (he was wanted). This assumption being prompted by a trooper sitting down next to him as he worked, for no apparent reason other than to arrest him. I asked where he was wanted, climbed down and confirmed the warrant, cuffed him and took him to jail. He asked how I found him and we both laughed hard when he discovered that I had no idea about him and the house was mine. It is where presence, alone, compelled a surrender. How many times has presence, alone, prevented an untoward event? We’ll never know.

To all the defund idiocy that is still wafting about, you have no idea what we do. It is not a life, as depicted on television, of shootouts and incredible enforcement tactics. While these things do happen, we contribute in thousands of ways that cannot be captured on paper with a number. It is usually after you have left the business that you start thinking about the “other” ways you have contributed to the greater good. We were paid to make a difference that cannot always be captured as a statistic.

Have a great week!

SR

Perspective, Perception And Spin……..

In order to satisfy some important educational objective in my freshman year of college, I took a course titled “Art Appreciation”. It was not a good fit for me, as beauty was not in the medium on a classic piece of art painstakingly cobbled together by one of the masters, rather a goggle eye just removed from a Big Piney root wad or a nice buck that drifted a little too close to my deer rifle de jour on a frosty fall morning. Madonna never caught my eye quite like a cute high school classmate as we loaded up for a movie date under the disapproving eye of her mother. The Masters and I do not agree on the definition of art. Probably never will.

Now we live in a world of perspectives, a fifty cent word for “spin”. I suppose we have politics to blame for never really knowing where the truth is these days, but the spin game is played daily. Consider the following masters of spin.

Listening to elected officials, 101

First up, we have realtors. Now to my realtor friends out there, do not be offended by this unmasking of the tricks of your trade. After all, the final decision needs to be made by the buyer and not based on one of the crazy distorted photos that are so prevalent today. There is wizardry in making a shoe box kitchen, with a hot plate for a stove, look like Emeril Lagasse’s kitchen. Realtors are becoming even more creative with the use of drones where a sink hole looks like a manicured lawn and the sunset shades a house that Herman Munster once rejected. They can make ditches go away and the word “rustic” conjure up thoughts of a lakeside cabin and biscuits just coming out of the oven. They are masters at staging a home, to hide the occasional flaw, with expensive furniture as well as providing direction to bring freshly baked cookies out of the oven as the clients drive up. “Quaint” is another word that suggests beauty and comfort…..in what might have been a chicken coop. No offense intended guys, but you are masters of illusion.

Well….they are Angels (sort of)

Next we have car salesmen. You might be looking at a 10 year old rust bucket, with the exhaust pipe wired to the bumper, but if you show interest, the salesman can assure you the car is a fine “local commuter” or errand car for around town. They will tell you they offer a “limited” 30 day warranty, point out the glass is all good and a seat cover or two will keep your butt off the springs. By the way, they are also very handy with the camera and hype. A little “surface rust” or “one owner” are handy fill ins for a car that may not make it off the lot under it’s own power. The bottom line is that if you show interest, they know how to maximize your interest. A good salesman only needs your perception to close the deal.

Finally, let’s talk optometrist offices. This week I had a lens surreptitiously fall out of my glasses. After realizing that I was not having a stroke, and finding the lens, I popped into my optometrists office to replace the offending screw. The conversations around me where hilarious. Folks who can’t see very well were attempting to pick out frames for new glasses. Never do this alone, especially if you can barely see the wall the frames are displayed on. People wear strange frames, some colorful, some God awful in shape and size, and some that defy any degree of normalcy, at least to the casual observer. It matters not. If you pick out a pair of chartreuse frames with Turkey vultures on the ear-piece and alligator skin nose pieces, the clerk will tell you how good they look on you. When your glasses arrive at a meeting about ten minutes ahead of you, the wearer, you have a glasses salesperson to thank. Again, never do this alone.

Today, we live as never before in a world of spin. Remember this advice. If you are listening to a person that was elected to his or her position, if you are buying something based on perception as opposed to utility, be careful. I try to choose dealing with folks like my physicians, people who tell it like it is, with warmth and honesty. We have been exceedingly fortunate to have several real estate agents who were ruthlessly honest and we generally buy new vehicles, based on research and expert opinion from sources other than sales staff. The last pair of glasses that I buy will be under the approving eye of Sharon, knowing full well she will not let me get out of there with a pair of clown specs perched on my nose. Today, more than ever before, the truth is elusive.

Have a good weekend.

SR

Keep The Finger Holstered………

Recent studies have shown that fully one third of road rage incidents involve guns, either defensively or offensively. It matters little here, because either way is gonna hurt you. In the US, there are, on average, 30 murders each year as a result of a road rage inspired incident. There are estimated to be an additional 12,600 reportable injuries annually attributed to rage. It is also estimated that as many as two thirds of all fatal accidents involve aggressive driving, as defined above. Not surprisingly, teenage males lead in the rage statistics but few of us are totally immune. Screaming at another motorist through your steering wheel is a symptom of our vulnerability and a prominent middle finger the ultimate indication of our displeasure. Screaming will address the adrenaline rush, the middle finger will get you shot or run off the road. Hear me out here.

Blow her a kiss…might keep your mirror from being snapped off and thrown at you.

A refresher on the indications of road rage is hardly needed for my readers. It is simple really, any movement made in traffic contrary to existing traffic law qualifies you as a slob driver or rage seized menace. Traffic enforcement is down in America. Covid has taken it’s toll with fewer officers during the pandemic willing to share space and air with folks who might be afflicted. Understandable. This phenomenon has also resulted in a newer generation of drivers who have little fear of police interference in their quest for notoriety. Statistics suggest that 2 out of every 3 fatal accidents involve rage or aggressive driving. Amazingly, 2% of road rage incidents result in one of the drivers attempting to run the other off the road.

Another contributing factor to road rage is the horn. Who hasn’t sat through a light change behind a possessed idiot feverishly manipulating their cell phone? When you are in that position, do you offer a courtesy beep on the horn or do you smash the horn button flat until your battery dies? Where you are when you offer the horn matters. In Dallas or St. Louis there is a certain horn etiquette that is expected and followed. I suspect the etiquette is far different in Portland or New York. Too long on a horn will certainly elicit an un-holstered middle finger accompanied by the wire to your horn being wrapped around your throat. You could, as an alternative, be shot or your car set on fire.

Okay, here is my point. Rethink your aggressive driving tendencies. There are about 393 million firearms in America, every car has a horn and we learn at the age of five what the middle finger means. Listen to this admonition from a retired traffic cop; courtesy taps are okay, the driver next to you may be an armed sociopath, and keep the damned finger holstered and in your lap. Learn to scream without moving your lips and have a nice calming cocktail when you hit the door at home. It takes two of you to create a rage incident, and neither one of you will remember it two days later.

When you get right down to it, road rage is really stupid…..on either side of the transgression. Vehicles cost a lot and all lives matter!

Have a great week!

SR

Old School……

In the news today, The US Air Force has announced new standards for physical fitness, presumably to accommodate the diversified nature of today’s young airmen and women. It seems the incoming folks can walk, as opposed to run, a mile and a half with other changes such as a planks rather than pushups when demonstrating their physical prowess. Should we be concerned? Hell yes, we absolutely should.

Two times in my lifetime I was required to meet a minimum physical standard necessary to fulfilling the role I was assuming. The first time was in Ft. Polk, Louisiana in the months of July and August, 1969, and the second was upon entering the Missouri State Highway Patrol training academy in July of 1972. In each case my well being was in the hands of folks who understood that preparation to fight a jungle war in Vietnam or a mean drunk on a county road somewhere in the hinterland would require a degree of conditioning exceeding a leisurely walk down a country road or the ability to hold a modified pushup position for a minute or two. Let me explain.

After a rough flight on a Trans Texas Airline puddle jumper, I arrived at scenic Ft. Polk at 1:30 AM. We had not slept since being sworn into the US Army in Kansas City around noon the day preceding. We were assured we had little value as human beings and ushered off to a building that was reminiscent of a cell block in a Southern prison farm. This was the beginning of our transformation from carefree high schoolers to a human being ready to fight for his life in Southeast Asia. The lynch pin in this transformation was one Domonick Petrarca, the Senior Drill Instructor. Sgt. Petrarca hailed from the streets of New Jersey and was as mean as a snake. He was also very effective and after 8 weeks, we had learned the basics of soldiering. Those veterans reading this know what I mean when I say Petrarca could transition from a butt stroke to a parry forward in a millisecond. He was effective and you either left the place conditioned and ready to fight or you got to start over, an experience sanctioned in hell.

My second experience was in the Highway Patrol Academy. This institution has produced many semi legendary physical training officers, and we soon became acquainted with our mentor, Corporal Paul Corbin (later Captain Corbin) who saw to it that every graduating recruit met a rather ambitious physical training standard. We soon realized that conditioning and maintaining control of society’s sociopaths and aberrant souls would, more than occasionally, require strength, stamina and resolve. Police work, like combat, is not for the faint of heart. Although the techniques taught were geared to a civil environment, both occupations require a certain and absolute degree of conditioning.

Captain Paul Corbin
Senior Drill Sergeant Domonick Petrarca

Back to the beginning. I emphatically disagree with the loosening of standards that seems to be the order of the day in occupations where well conditioned men and women are expected to win in a confrontation. I also am at odds with those who somehow believe that a social worker can talk him or herself through a confrontation with a mean drunk or sociopath bent on destruction. There really was a day, folks, when spitting on a police officer would see you launched right out of your brand new looted Nikes. Respect is gone because we no longer expect respect. Sad, really.

Thank you to my two personal mentors, who knew full well what I didn’t know. The number of really mean or otherwise societally challenged people is increasing and we are relaxing rather than enhancing the standards for confronting and dealing with these people. Our military has come to the point where it’s male members are taught how difficult it is to walk in high heels and how horrible it is to be in a minority or protected class where white supremacy reigns supreme. Believe me when I tell you when you are in a fight for your life, the color of the participants makes no difference, whereas your degree of conditioning and stamina mean everything. Don’t pray for a lighter load, instead pray for a stronger back.

This is one time where old school is best.

Have a great 4th of July holiday!

SR

The First Car Buying Experience….

Our family and extended family are all car people. It is a rare vehicle that lives it’s full life in our stable. I can’t think of a single vehicle that we drove from the showroom until it was hooked to a salvage yard to await it’s turn in the crusher. The game has changed, with internet pricing and the ability to have a vehicle evaluated, assigned a rating, and shipped to your driveway from somewhere in America being examples of today’s marketplace. I am old school and enjoy what Sharon refers to as the “dance of death” as you haggle with a salesman over a car you have seen, driven and evaluated personally. So we smiled broadly when Kaelin, our grand daughter entered the fray. Our job, approved by her parents, was to simply accompany her to look at a car in Springfield that Kaelin had found. Little did we know what we were in for…..

There are a number of Subarus in our family. Brand loyalty has never been my strong suit, but we like the offerings from this Nippon company. After researching extensively, and with deep consultation with her folks, Kaelin began looking for a pre-owned Subaru to replace her beater (an older Subaru) to take to Kansas City where she was to pursue her first employment opportunity after college. At a franchised dealership in Springfield, she found a newer Outback that looked promising. We arrived at the dealership to find an exceptionally clean and well maintained Outback, priced at the upper level of its value range. You guessed it, she fell in love with the car and decided to purchase it. After a quick consult with her folks, Sharon and I were asked to guide her through this process. Miss Kaelin then entered her first “dance of death”.

To get Kaelin on the right track, I told the salesman that we were not going to give them their asking price, and armed him with the number that was more appropriate. Kaelin gained a deep appreciation for the haggling game, and the extras that we demanded such as the removal of two door dents and painting of the rear valence that was scratched. After an hour or so, we came to terms and Kaelin was delighted with her first car deal. She learned to brush off the myriad of “great” opportunities, such as a lifetime clear coat protectant and extended warranties. Financing was easily arranged with her pristine but limited credit rating and substantial down payment and she was the owner of the Outback. Sharon was on deck and accompanied her to the meeting with the F&I folks to sign the paperwork. Kaelin sat through a second assault with offers of a number of great options and opportunities. She was learning and brushed them off.

We have all been here. Cars are an integral part of American life. I have written before about the enchanting lure of the internal combustion engine (yes with it’s carbon footprint and destruction of the world wide eco-system). America is within easy reach on our deteriorating road system and freedom is a button push or key turn away for a very mobile people. Our first vehicle purchase from a dealership is not easily forgotten. The margins today are narrowed considerably from days past as the internet has dramatically increased the competitiveness of a multi-billion dollar industry. This industry is driven by the delivery of cars and trucks, one at a time, to a customer from a dealer. Each of us will arrive at our final earthly resting place in a vehicle, hopefully not a damned Tesla with it’s thousand pound battery, rather a carbon spewing chariot courtesy of the genius of Henry Ford.

Miss Kaelin and her chariot to freedom!

Thank you Kaelin for allowing us to share in your first retail car buying experience. Your innocence, kindness and trusting nature will serve you well in your lifetime. It will also be tested in sales offices as you seek new chariots to freedom. Lee Iacocca, an icon and master of automobile retailing, said “never let a deal walk”, advice to salesmen that is timeless. We are proud of you! He didn’t let you walk……and he didn’t get his price either. Enjoy that new car and be safe. We love you, kiddo.

Have a good week!

SR

All Hail The Pig Trail….

The past two weeks have been spent in our neighbor to the south, Arkansas, at two distinctly different Ozark Mountain RV parks. You don’t have to travel far to enjoy the rugged beauty of this region. Our first stay was in a “resort” park, with many amenities such as zip lining and a large pool, twice daily trash runs and set your propane tanks out and they will be refilled and delivered back to your sight convenience. While expensive, and not a usual stop for us, it afforded a glimpse into the type of park where million dollar rigs were rather common among the units of folks like us who travel comfortably but not opulently. As always, the people in the RV culture offer a glimpse into Americana.

We started at our own Echo Bluff, close to home, where we could shake down our RV after it had reposed in storage for over a year. There I met a funeral director/embalmer from St. Louis who is on Missouri’s mass death response team and saw service in Joplin after the tornado. He is from the St. Louis area and was charming as well as astute. His knowledge of the Highway Patrol in his area was eye opening. You don’t often have the chance to visit with a man who understands death in ways we don’t see. Pragmatic but sympathetic and entirely service oriented. Fascinating.

We then moved to Hot Springs, to the Catherine’s Landing resort, on Lake Catherine. It is corporate owned and the subject of my remarks above. We visited the University of Arkansas maintained Botanical Gardens, on the shores of Lake Hamilton, which were absolutely gorgeous. It was hot, hilly and taxing on Tazzy and me but well worth the modest admission charge. US 70 (not I-70) will shake the fillings from your teeth east of Hot Springs. Beware.

We then relocated to Eureka Springs, to a park said to be among the best in Arkansas, Wanderlust RV Park. It is, indeed, very nice. The hospitality is top notch, hook ups excellent and cleanliness and affordability first rate. The units are close to one another, too close in some spots, but not disqualifying. The Eureka Springs Trolley picks up in the park and transports you downtown to an eclectic environment. This is home to the Great Passion Play and, to the uninitiated, a very diversified population. The host is a former Washington State area police officer and who also worked for the New Orleans Police department for 7 years. Those in the know are aware that New Orleans is home to one of the most corrupt police forces in the nation, and he freely acknowledged their colorful history. (Officers killing their partners in an armed robbery and such). We are sharing space with a retired California trooper and other police types while here. You can spend several days here and not see all there is to see in this region.

Finally, the ultimate adventure. I have always wanted to ride the infamous Pig Trail through the Boston Mountains of Arkansas on my motorcycle. Having not accomplished this, I made the decision to pull our 34’ RV down the trail. It is a series of sharp switch backs and challenging hills and grades. When we entered we were greeted by a “road work ahead” sign, prompting some concern, but I am a “professional driver” so ahead we charged. There is no turning around when you are well into the trail. Some 15 miles in we encountered a sign that said no trailers over 16’ allowed. It was a sphincter tightening moment. The sign needed to be 15 miles back from where it was erected. We soon drove up on a line of stopped traffic, including a loaded log truck pulling a “pup” or trailer also loaded with giant oak timber. We could see a problem on the hairpin curve ahead and a group of highwaymen talking to the truck driver. They left him and came to talk to me. They explained that a one lane, inside section of the curve had fallen away in two places and that I could not make the curve. The boss noticed Sharon’s police pillow and asked if I was a LEO. Turns out he was a deputy before retiring and going into road construction. I asked if I could walk down and look at the problem and he invited me to do so.

Decision time! The trucker said no, a good decision, as he had too long a wheelbase.

It was a nasty scenario and exactly as he described. If I elected to stay where I was, we would be spending the day and likely night on a steep grade communing with nature in a place that lightning would have to double clutch to hit us. If I got to the turn and got cold feet, then I would be obstructing the arrival of equipment to the scene. If I dropped off the edge, we would be a new tourist attraction on the Pig Trail, a monument to fool hardy confidence. During our conversation, the foreman noted that I was a Captain on the Patrol in Missouri, which was met with great deference. The decision was then mine to make. I borrowed a 50 foot tape from a worker, measured the radius of the curve, and then measured my wheelbase from the back axle of the Ram to the trailer axles, made a hasty calculation and announced I was ready to go. I figured I had two feet more than I needed. The foreman declared, “The Captain says he can do it”. I climbed in the truck and watched Sharon bury her head in her hands. I told the foreman if this goes to hell, take plenty of pictures, but was confident I could negotiate the corner safely. The workers all got out of the way and we began the the turn. Turns out I had two feet to spare and to their cheers, we were on our way. Here is the take away, that my friend, Stan Oglesby, knows to be the truth. Math is absolute, if it is done correctly. The construction workers have a story to tell, Sharon has renewed confidence in my eroding skills and my butt cheeks have finally turned loose of the fine leather seat in our new Ram truck.

RV’ing is an adventure, We celebrated our success in a bikers bar (no guns allowed) in Eureka Springs with a couple of the best chicken tacos I have ever eaten and settled in to watch a lovely Arkansas sunset.

Life is a hoot! Enjoy it while you still can.

Have a great weekend!

SR