All For The Want Of A Chip……..

Within hours of birth and almost always after death, we go for a ride in a vehicle, be it a car, truck or glorified station wagon with a velvet lined cargo area. America loves cars and guns and both have been severely impacted by Covid, the little virus that has disrupted supply chains world wide. Guns need ammunition, in short supply, and cars need chips, also in short supply. It is in the news and on our tongues, “chips” but do we understand what is happening? I can help here…….

Chips are simply tiny little wafers that perform complicated electrical transactions at damned near the speed of light. The picture below is of a chip, or more appropriately semiconductor. This is why your local new car dealer is wringing his hands and opening a fruit stand on his vacant lot while hyping his inventory of used trucks that are bringing new truck prices. Can’t find that new Silverado you have been waiting on? Here take a couple of these vine ripened beauties home and make yourself a nice BLT. He’ll even toss in a bag of chips made from potatoes, they are in abundance. We can walk on the moon, but can’t build a chip, some of which are damned near microscopic in size. Sure we can, but our “global” economy has us by the…well, walnuts.

The chip!

Chips are manufactured in Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore and here. Ah, but each country produces a certain kind of chip and all are dependent on one another to come up with the thimble full of these little miracles to make today’s vehicles run. It ain’t your daddy’s old Buick with a few fuses and relays, folks, our vehicles are damned complicated. Covid has seriously interrupted production in virtually every country that makes these things, and relief isn’t likely until early 2022 at best. Flu Siew Hai Wong, the head of the Malaysia Semiconductor Industry Association, says until the virus let’s workers return to the factories, chips are going to be in very short supply. New car sales in America are down 18% in August alone, selling at the slowest rate since 2011. Used car prices are climbing like homesick angels, pushed up by an increase of 8% in new car prices, when you can find them, this year! The average new car transaction price this year is $42,736.00. That is a big number.

Stellantis, (Chrysler to us old road dogs) is now installing old school analog speedos in some of their cars to avoid using a precious chip. Ah the good old days of a speedo that ticked between a couple of MPH as you hurtled down the super slab. I certainly hope my new Ram heavy came in early enough to avoid having chips replaced by rubber bands and Velcro. Who has been impacted by the shortage of chips? Every manufacturer, however some more than others. If you have a hankering for a new Chevrolet, Ford Bronco Sport or F-150, Mustang, Hyundai, Jaguar, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Durango, Mercedes C-class, Mini Cooper, BMW X-1 or X-2, Nissan, Subaru Ascent or Outback, you could be in trouble. Make that ARE in trouble.

As a final note. Are you proud of your Detroit born and bred hauler? Gonna keep those American dollars at home where they belong? Don’t check into the origin of the parts that comprise your latest chariot to freedom. Ain’t no such thing as an All American vehicle these days. The UAW is alive and well down in Saltillo, Mexico where my latest behemoth was manufactured. Economy of production and the bottom line drive the cost of vehicles, always has and always will, so production is a multi-national thing. When old Johnny Cash sang “One Piece at a Time”, he had no idea the pieces would be coming from all over the world in just a few years.

When you reach the age of my contemporaries, waiting until next year may be a dicey option. For now, keep circling your dealers lot and be prepared to pay MSRP, or better, for your next new car smell. Now you know the rest of the story!

Have a great weekend!

SR

The Handgun Is Not A Tool For Idle Threats……….

History teaches. During the Civil War, Generals Robert E. Lee and his able assistant, James Longstreet, were far more successful when fighting from a defensive position than when on offense. Athletic competitions will also lend credence to the axiom that a good defense will beat a good offense with amazing regularity. Let’s talk personal defense for a bit.

Indulge me while I remind you why this is important. America with 4% of the world’s population accounts for 40% of the civilian owned firearms in existence. We now own an estimated 350 million firearms, and recent sales have tilted in favor of handguns, which we now believe constitute over 40% of all firearms in civilian hands. Purses, pockets, backpacks and various holsters are placing handguns within easy reach of folks who find themselves in some form of an encounter with people who lack civility. How we respond is critically important, both for the belligerent and for you. Enough numbers.

Television, video games and our beloved cinematic aristocracy teach us that when all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. How unfortunate. Verbal skill and the ability to remove yourself from the confrontation in the first place should be in the top of your tool box. For citizens, that means running away from the gunfire instead of toward it, the sworn duty of the police. When you have assumed a good defensive position and are cornered by someone hell bent on hurting you, out comes the hammer. Translation: When a crazed sociopath is in your front yard, waving a machete around and threatening you, leave your little Micro 9mm in it’s holster, go inside, call the police, and grab your shotgun or AR and wait until the bad guy leaves or the police arrive. When he starts kicking your door down, you will be far better equipped to deal with the problem than in a yard fight. It will also make far better reading on a police report.

Civilians should be concerned with protecting themselves and folks within a few feet of them. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but going on the offense is not in your best interests. This is a job best left to the professionals….when at all possible. You carry for those precious few times when a belligerent individual will not leave you alone, pulls his or her handgun or knife and threatens you, and you cannot get yourself and your companion to cover or away from the situation.

Okay folks, the long and short of it. Learn to shoot effectively, holster and un-holster your firearm, and maintain it. Avoid arguments with strangers, especially those that have not read this piece and may be carrying a “hammer” with no thought given to avoiding confrontations. I have taught retention techniques to hundreds of police officers in years past, and you must give thought to keeping your firearm out of an assailants hands. I DO NOT like open carry, for the aforementioned reasons. Open carry complicates the situation when you are scrambling from an active shooter situation to a position of cover. It creates unreasonable expectations from both the bad guy and those around you who now expect you to respond instead of seek cover. This is not a good situation to be in.

Oh hell no…….

Embrace the concept that a “hammer” is the last resort to be employed when no other option exists. Always carry concealed. When you are cornered and have no other option, then the production of a firearm MAY resolve the problem, and if it does not, the flash and loud noise that follows likely will. We are not the police and our job is not to go after bad guys, rather to protect ourselves from imminent harm. Make them come to you.

The handgun is not a tool for idle threats. We use deadly force as a last resort and only when we are forced to. You are not much of a carpenter if your only tool is a hammer….

Have a great weekend.

SR

The Smell Of The Earth On A Road Less Traveled…………

This piece is about us, not the folks living in concrete and steel, rather about America’s farmers and meat producers. If you don’t occasionally take the road less traveled, you will soon miss seeing the true pride of America, the family farm. It is inevitable, but sad. The reality is that we are watching the transformation of farming into just another mega business with all emphasis on the bottom line. Along with the gobbling up of family farms by mega corporations we are watching small town America dry up. How profoundly sad.

The dust aside, the harvest this year (1990) was great!

Dad was a professional warrior. Mom was a farmer’s daughter. I was blessed to see much of the world, worth seeing, as a result of dad’s experiences and still gain insight into a 70 acre cotton and tobacco patch in rural South Carolina. My agricultural education was further honed on a medium sized row crop operation courtesy of Sharon’s parents. Both farms required business savvy and experience. It isn’t as easy as seeding the ground and harvesting a crop, an art that our newest generations may never be exposed to. I loved every minute my boots were in dirt.

I am hooked up and ready to go. Spring (1989) ground work……..

Sharon and I love to drive the roads less traveled. I smile when I drive by a Missouri Century Farm, knowing that successive generations of farm folks have not capitulated to the corporate raiders that have bought every acre they can, cleaned every ditch and hedgerow and planted the margins that were once home to coveys of quail. In 1985 Missouri, we were home to 23,000 individual pork producers, a number reduced to 2,000 today. How big are these operations that are relegating the family farm to a historical reference? Virginia based Smithville Foods has 1,000,000 brood sows on the ground. In the 1970’s, our Agriculture Secretary, Earl Bautz, championed the mantra of “get big or get out”. Thanks Earl, for encouraging the demise of a noble family enterprise. In 1990, family farms accounted for about half of productive acreage. Today it accounts for less than a quarter.

The demise of the family farm is eroding rural America’s wealth and political power. This is easy to see in the last election process when rural America wasn’t accorded the respect that is centered in our big cities. The talking heads were not at all concerned with what we say in farm country, rather the concern was in the cities. As a kid, I loved to go to town and visit McIntyres store, a feed and farm store, with it’s unique aromas of seed, chicks and turkey poults. The HVAC was a giant fan, blowing dust on wood plank flooring. Farm equipment was simple back then, much of it still involving a sturdy mule in well oiled traces. Thank you Lord, for giving me those wonderful memories.

Our recent drive to South Carolina, much of it on secondary roads, confirmed this unfortunate transformation. Still visible were old farmsteads and the occasional small farm with equipment in a machinery shed and evidence of denim and chambray uniformed folks running the show. If you have not done so, please expose your kids and grand kids to these last vestiges of a beautiful and honest way to make a living. The smell of freshly turned earth or freshly mowed hay is a wonderful way to begin a day. Take them to a country cafe and sit among the jeans and work shirts worn by people whose opinions are most often grounded in fact and where neighbors rely on each other. Walk them among the farm markets where real producers bring home grown produce to be sold at the prevailing market, (careful here, there are frauds selling boxed produce from big distributors among them). Teach them the differences in tomatoes, melons and fruit. We must not lose sight of the wonderful opportunities to see and understand food production.

God never leaves the countryside! Photo courtesy of Sarah Turner Pratt.

In closing, it is sad that politicians don’t get out of their cars on a rural road and talk across the fence with a hog producer, beef producer or row crop farmer. You just might learn a hell of a lot more in that conversation than you will on a big city street. Most importantly there is very little likelihood you will be shot or knocked in the head. A little manure on your glossy loafers won’t hurt a thing and there will be little, if any, pretense.

Have a great weekend and week ahead!

SR

Why We Love RV’ing……..

This past week, we returned from a trip to the Deep South where we were able to work in a much overdue visit with friends and family along the way. It was great to see them, however it was our second extended trip in a car as opposed to pulling our RV, and we missed the trailer. We are in between RV’s and our new one is in production, as is most of America these days, or so it seems. What do we miss and why the fascination with a RV? Let’s have a look.

Hate to leave home? Bring home with you!

First, let’s consider motels and dogs. They are a bad mix from the perspective of motel operators and that is easily understood. Dogs can be destructive, dirty and loud. Bad dogs have bad owners which causes problems for those of us who travel with the Tazzy’s of the world. The fix is easy, on top of rapidly escalating room costs, they tack on between 50 and 100 bucks for “pet fees”. Consider yourself fortunate if you find the rare motel that will accept them at all. The pet walk areas are usually littered with excrement, another sign of laziness and slob owners that walk among us. Before leaving this subject, trust me when I suggest that while motels are springing up like nut sedge in a lawn, they are showing wear along our interstates. We also can’t help but wonder how many folks occupied the room before us while suffering from Covid in some fashion or another……yes we are one of those couples who takes precautions with this virus. As a final note, dragging a bag or two through motels is becoming more of an issue than it used to be when we were young enough to travel with a change of clothes and a toothbrush.

Your RV addresses the motel issue head on. It is your condo on wheels. We have duplicated our home existence in the trailer, down to the coffee makers and precise climate control. When we come home from a day of exploration, we are back in a familiar environ, watching the local news and soon enjoying Sharon’s expertise in the culinary arts. If you are careful, you can stay in one of thousands of beautiful parks for a fraction of the costs associated with a room in a motel. Tazzy has his rug, and we are, indeed, in our second home.

The current national trend toward providing your and my tax dollars to folks who choose not to work has resulted in a restaurant nightmare out there. We have waited for 30 minutes to be seated in an empty restaurant because there are no folks willing to work. We have endured horrible meals from previously renowned eateries because the kitchen is relying on someone who will work for a week and watch his mailbox for the remainder of the month. We found ourselves eating what was handed to us through the take out window at fast food stores, and quickly tired of the predictable carb bundles that are inevitable in these places. The RV has a stove, oven, refrigerator and my personal chef who is at home in any kitchen.

Finally, RV’s keep your mind sharp. You become somewhat of a sanitation engineer, are mindful of various systems such as HVAC, water management and mechanics. You become tire conscious and travel with tools to handle stuff that is loose or broken. There is artistry in setting up and breaking down. There is also the pride of ownership, reflected in maintenance and keeping stuff clean. I even enjoy raising Old Glory over the Blue Line flag, a sign that I enjoy America and have an investment in her. Unlike a motel, you will meet your neighbors and delight in new friends along the way. Folks like a second home and the RV provides that second home, in as many parts of America as you care to see.

This is why we love the RV culture, and why dealers can’t keep them on their lots. Today, more than ever, it is a great way to travel!

Have a great weekend!

SR

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