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Daily Archives: February 13, 2010

Turn around and bend over . . .

I wonder how many people out there remember Dragnet, an early black-and-white television show starring Jack Webb and Ben Alexander. That law-and-order series was my very first exposure to television, viewed in an Atlanta, Georgia motel on Peachtree Street in 1952, the same year that I returned from a two-year tour of the Orient (Japan and Korea). Oops, I forgot something—I watched part of the 1947 World Series, the very first time it was broadcast in color. You can read all about it here.

The television in my room on Peachtree Street was activated and kept active by inserting quarters into a coin slot mounted on the set—one quarter bought thirty minutes of viewing—if the minutes ran out in the middle of a show, a viewer had to be fast on the draw to recover the picture by inserting another quarter—not being particularly fast on the draw, I compensated for that deficiency by sitting close to the set.

I slept very little that night—I fed all my quarters to the television, and made two trips to the motel office for more quarters. I was in Atlanta to reenlist in the military, a process I completed the following day, one that was both hilarious and sad.

The next day, December 20, 1952, dawned clear and cold, a day that holds memories both funny and psychologically painful for me. I left my motel room on Peachtree Street early, and arrived at Fort McPherson at 0830 hours to submit to a physical examination required for my reenlistment for another four years in the United States Air Force. On that day 500 men reported to Fort McPherson for physicals, a huge group that included volunteer enlistees, re-enlistees and draftees. After a brief signing-in process, we were ordered to remove all clothing except shorts, and were told that, should we be so inclined, we could remove that item as well.

The provision to retain underwear did not apply to those wearing long-handles, a winter underwear garment that covers everything except head, neck, hands and feet—you know, that one-piece winter accessory that is strategically fitted with a button-up drop flap in back. There were no long-handle wearing participants present, a fortunate exception for the wearer and for the rest of us. It would prove to be a very long day, and having someone’s Johnson or someone’s Willie, depending on one’s terminology preference, staring (or peeking) and waving at us as we moved from one location to another would have been disconcerting—for some, perhaps, but perhaps not for others.

I have spent what may be regarded as an inordinate amount of space and number of words in this first paragraph, but it was necessary because I needed to present some important details. We were told to bundle our clothes, place them on the floor and then form a single line. We obediently obeyed those orders, all 500 of us. That line snaked out the door and down a long corridor, then a 90-degree left turn and farther down another long corridor. Buildings at the installation were connected by those corridors, enabling people to move from building to building without being exposed to inclement weather, including rain, heat and cold. And cold is the operative word for that day. Those corridors were not heated, and their floors were covered with linoleum.

I was near the end of the line that formed, and my feet were bare—yes, I removed everything except my shorts—I have always been one to follow orders unless I stood to sustain injuries in doing so. As a result of leaving my socks with my bundle, I stood on one foot for much of the day, letting one foot freeze while its counterpart warmed up a bit—I felt, and probably looked like, a Florida flamingo.

Now that I’ve laid the stage, this posting will be mercifully short. Our physical exams progressed as the sun reached its zenith, and continued well into the afternoon as shadows lengthened. We filled out innumerable forms and presented ourselves for weight measurement, height measurement, eye exams, dental exams, exams of our privates, rectal exams, IQ tests, blood draws, urine sampling, dexterity tests, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

The only moment of comedy relief came after we marched into a large room and lined ourselves around its perimeter while a doctor stopped in front of each man, had him drop his shorts so the doctor could take a cursory look at his genitals, then pull his shorts back up. The doctor then stepped in front of the next man, and on and on until the line was completed. He then ordered us to face the wall, drop our shorts and bend over so he could make the rounds again, ostensibly making a visual rectal examination.

When he finished that round he told us to restore our shorts to their original position and face front. At that point the doctor made a declarative statement. He had earlier directed a rhetorical question to an individual while the doctor was performing a visual examination of that individual’s genitals: He said, “Damn, boy, have you been driving nails with that thing?”

Revealing the racial composition of the man to which the question was directed should not be necessary, but I will point to the doctor’s use of the term “boy.” This was in Georgia and the year was 1952, long before the passage of civil rights legislation, and long before the concept of political correctness swept the nation.

And in the words of Tom Horn, as portrayed in the movie by Steve McQueen, “I’ll have nothing further to say on the subject.” (I love that movie!)

The doctor’s declarative statement was made just after he ordered us to pull our shorts up and face front after he completed his visual rectal examination. When we were faced front he said, “Well, it’s just as I expected—they’re all brown!” There were several chuckles, titters and giggles, but none from me—my feet were so cold that, had I attempted a laugh it would have sounded like something akin to the “He-haw, he-haw” of an Alabama mule—a bit more subdued, of course.

The long day eventually came to a successful close, and I embarked on my second enlistment in the U.S. Air Force, a career that would end several months after I completed my twenty-second year and retired for length of service

Nope—my retirement did not include even one percent of disability. I had no lower back pain and I even passed the hearing test—bummer!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2010 in actor and acting, grammar, Humor, Military

 

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A shaggy dog story . . .

My mother remarried when I was nine years old, and for the next six years, for varying periods of time I had the privilege of living under the auspices of a stepfather. Those periods varied because several times during those years, for one reason or another, he banished his new family to other pastures. I suspect that each time he had accumulated enough of a grubstake to make it on his own for awhile without having three millstones around his neck, namely a wife and two children, he would precipitate a ruckus that would drive us away, in one instance a ruckus that included these remarks:

“Come on back to the house, kids, I won’t hurt you,” a sentence shouted from the front porch to the two children standing out in the road, poised to run. That supplication was followed by a louder and very sinister shout. He said very forcefully, “I’m going to get my shotgun,” and with that exclamation he disappeared into the house and the two kids disappeared down the road. That was the only time my sister ever managed to outrun me—she managed that by running so fast that she kicked up gravel in my face—yes, Virginia, it was a graveled road. I may possibly be exaggerating a bit, but only a bit—that she outran me is factual—I can neither explain nor deny it. We ran a short distance on the road alongside a pasture to a point where the woods began, then plunged into the forest and hid in the bushes and the underbrush.

And now I will leave my legions of viewers in suspense, undoubtedly wondering what started the fracas and how that episode turned out. I’ll finish that story in another posting because it was not the original subject for this posting, my shaggy dog story.

This is how it began:

My stepfather mandated that everyone in the family be gainfully employed, a mandatory requirement that extended to animals. He allowed no pets—no cats on the hearth and no lapdogs—he felt that if an animal did no work it was not entitled to be fed, and that included human animals. He would feed and groom, and if necessary medicate, a working dog but only as long as it produced. If a watchdog didn’t bark to ward off intruders, it shortly disappeared, ostensibly a runaway. If a hunting dog slacked off noticeably in its production of game, whether rabbit dog, squirrel dog or bird dog, that dog would also disappear and be labeled a runaway.

I have a memory, one dear to my heart and closely held, of a particularly lovely autumn day in the sovereign state of Mississippi. On that day I went squirrel hunting with my stepfather. We were accompanied by a small black-and-white female Cocker Spaniel named Lady, a beautiful little dog my stepfather had borrowed from a fellow hunter. The dog’s owner claimed that Lady was the finest squirrel dog in the state and perhaps the finest in the entire nation. At my stepfather’s request, the owner left her at our house some weeks before the scheduled hunt, and my stepfather courted her religiously during that period—he petted her and groomed her and hand-fed her, constantly assuring me that Lady, or any dog, would work best for a person they loved and trusted.

From this point on, the posting will be brief and brutal . . .

We entered the woods with Lady and began the hunt. For those not versed in the intricacies of squirrel hunting with a squirrel dog, the dog is trained to range far and wide through the woods to pick up the scent of a squirrel on the ground, then follow that trail to whatever tree the squirrel has ascended, and bark furiously until the hunter arrives and blasts the squirrel out of the tree. Our little hunter, however,  stayed right at our feet, so close that we had to walk carefully to avoid stepping on her, and she completely ignoring my stepfather’s exhortations to, “Hunt—hunt, damn it, hunt!”

He finally spotted a gray squirrel running along a high branch, and when it stopped to check us out my stepfather downed it with a blast from his 16-guage Browning, and with that roar our squirrel dog disappeared—we never saw her again. We tramped the woods for hours, but no amount of calling, whistling and cussing (that’s southern for cursing) could bring her back. The calling and whistling soon tapered off, but the cussing went on for an interminable length of time.

I was not privy to whatever agreement my stepfather reached with the dog’s owner, but armed with the knowledge that owners of great squirrel dogs take great pride in the dog and therefore sometimes place an inordinate value on it, I suspect that my stepfather paid handsomely for not returning Lady to her rightful owner.

That’s my shaggy dog story, and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2010 in Humor

 

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