RSS

Tag Archives: captain

My red-haired blue-eyed neighbor . . .

We moved to the farm in Mississippi at the end of the school year in Tennessee. The home of the nearest neighbor on our left was visible, perhaps a quarter of a mile away on the opposite side of the two-lane graveled road. The nearest neighbor on our right was farther away, perhaps a mile or so away, and there resided a family comprised of the father and the mother and, as they say in the southern hemisphere, a passel of young ‘uns.

There were several boys, stair-steps in age but all younger than I, and one girl, a beautiful red-haired woman-girl somewhere near my age, perhaps a bit older than I but much more attractive, with just one exception. That lovely auburn-haired girl with the azure blue eyes was—I won’t say she was cursed with those eyes, nor will I say she was blessed with them. I will only say that she had what my mother referred to as A&P eyes, namely that one looked toward the Atlantic and the other toward the Pacific.

The video below shows various girls that have deliberately crossed their eyes for the camera. Compared with my beautiful red haired neighbor, they all look normal. Click on the black screen below to watch the video, and be sure to turn up the sound for some catchy music—enjoy!

In this respect the girl was a reflection of her mother, a seldom seen lady with the same flaming red hair and azure blue eyes that never seemed to be focused on the same object, each seemingly independent of the other, apparently looking in opposite directions. I don’t remember whether any of the boys had inherited the eye aberrations, primarily because I paid very little attention to the boys or their eyes—they may in fact have been replicas of their mother, but my thoughts and my eyes were always focused on their sister. I do remember that all the boys had red hair, undoubtedly inherited from their mother.

Their dark-haired father worked somewhere away from home and was seldom seen, even on weekends. I don’t remember that he ever spoke to me—he may have felt that I was just another one of his kids, although my blond, almost white hair should have been a dead giveaway—perhaps he shared the same visual affliction with his wife and children.

I know, I know—I’m being ungracious and I don’t mean to be that way. I’m just telling the story as it was, without any attempt to gild the lily. The daughter was a beautiful creature, blue eyes and creamy skin with a sprinkling of cute freckles, a complexion and a countenance that reflected her age. I was only twelve at the time—okay, twelve and a half, but for some time I had been uncomfortably aware of certain physical differences between boys and girls and between girls and women. Believe me, the girl left no doubt as to her gender. The only doubt raised—so to speak—was of her chronological age.

At any time that I bring up memories of the farm and of the red-haired girl with the striking blue eyes, I immediately recall a line from the Wreck of the Hesperus, a narrative poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, first published in 1842. My first contact with the poem was a hundred years later in 1942 when I was a fourth grader at Miss Mary’s elementary school.

In Wordsworth’s epic poem the captain lashes his daughter to the mast to prevent her from being washed overboard in a violent storm. The ship breaks up on the reefs and the daughter is found dead, still lashed to the mast. The only line I remember coherently from the poem is blue were her eyes, blue as the skies, blue as the blue dress she wore.

Yep, times have changed—I defy anyone to show me a fourth grade teacher today with the temerity to present such obsolete reading material to a class. And I submit that it may be difficult to find a fourth grade teacher that is familiar with the poem. I am privy to much of the material presented in today’s schools through contact with my grandchildren, up to and including the college level, and I feel safe in saying that poetry, particularly poetry from the ages, is outmoded, unfashionable, gone the way of cursive writing in our schools.

Students of today, if required at all to apply pencil or pen to paper, choose to print rather than using cursive writing as taught with the old-time Spencer handbooks. The essay questions used in my school days, beginning in elementary school and continuing through college, have gone the way of the dinosaurs, and it is doubtful whether they can ever be restored. The students don’t like essay questions, and the teachers don’t like to create the questions and grade the answers—too time consuming. Bummer!

I just reviewed the last several paragraphs and I realize that I have digressed from my topic, that of the red-haired girl. I offer my abject apology and I will return to the subject of this posting, to wit:

I was only favored with a few weekends during that summer to visit with the family. We kids played kick-the-can, tag, hide-and-seek, pussy-in-the-corner, hop-scotch and similar games, exercises virtually unknown by today’s youth. I have vivid memories of Saturday when it rained all day, and all of us were banished to the barn hayloft—the house was too small to contain us and our antics. I never knew how long the family had lived there. I only know that they were there in the spring when we moved to the farm, and were gone when school started in the fall, replaced by a black family that raised turkeys, and yes, I have in mind a posting relating to the turkeys—stay tuned.

The red-haired girl and her family were gone by the time school started in the fall, so I never had the opportunity to share a seat on the school bus for our 12-mile daily ride to school. Even had she and her family not moved away, the pleasure would have been brief because around Christmas time my stepfather created a situation that would allow him to get rid of his familial responsibilities The crops were in, nothing had been planted for the next growing season, the flock of chickens had been appropriately thinned and the survivors fattened, one mule sold and the other found dead behind the barn—a death that deserves a separate posting so stay tuned—two Fox Terriers had been dispatched to dog heaven, and our milk cow had been serviced to reproduce herself in early summer, and yes, that also deserves a separate posting—stay tuned!

Click here for the story of the family’s breakup on the farm—it’s a tale well told, one that involves a question, Jergen’s Lotion, a cheek severely slapped, a cheek brutally scratched, a pan of biscuits, a shotgun, a race for the woods and a Model-A Ford roadster—not exactly an epic but a story with lots of earthy pathos and drama.

If there was anything else to tell about my relationship with the cute red-haired cross-eyed girl, something perhaps ranging somewhere between prurient and obscene, I would proudly post it in detail, all in capital letters with lots of exclamation points. I suppose I could fabricate something, but I don’t want to tell a lie—embellish, perhaps, but not an outright lie, not at this late stage in life. I already have a heap to answer for, and I have no wish to add to to that heap.

Nope, nothing happened, not even in the hayloft, and I’ll close with a quote from the words of John Greenleaf Whittier in Maud Muller: For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these—it might have been. And just between you and me and the barn hayloft, had I known then what I know now, it would have been!

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

Advertisements
 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Revisit: Captain, or engineer? Ship, or train? (via The King of Texas)

Captain, or engineer? Ship, or train? Some believe and some say, and some even teach, that each of us is the captain of our ship, steering it and our lives through the gentle swells of calm seas and crashing waves of gale-lashed waters across oceans, some dotted with tropical islands and others filled with icebergs. The analogy of our journey through life as the master and captain of our ship is exemplified by this poem: Invictus Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from … Read More

via The King of Texas

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 23, 2011 in death, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brownsville Customs assignment . . .

Before I begin this dissertation, please allow me to digress with an explanation of supervisory titles in the US Custom Service. A first level supervisor is equivalent to a captain in the military, equal in pay and responsibilities, and wears the twin silver bars of a captain in the military. A second level supervisor is equivalent to a major in the military and wears gold oak leaves on the uniform. Chief inspectors and port directors are usually the equivalent of a lieutenant colonel in the military and wear silver maple leaves when in uniform. Many Customs port directors have higher grades and have the option of wearing uniforms or civilian garb—most opt for civilian dress.

Program officers at Headquarters also have the pay and similar responsibilities of lieutenant colonels in the military, and unless involved in some field action requiring the uniform, normally wear civilian garb. The pay and responsibilities of program managers at headquarters are also similar to the duties and responsibilities of a full colonel in the military. The comparisons to military personnel continue up to the pay and responsibilities equal to the grade of a four-star general.

During my 26-year career in federal law enforcement I had the misfortune—oops, I meant the good fortune—of serving US Customs for several years at the Brownsville, Texas port of entry located at the tip of Texas, opposite the city of Matamoros, Mexico. I began my career at the port of Progreso and I was promoted to a first level supervisory position at the port of Roma. After two and one-half years there I was again promoted and transferred to the port of Brownsville, Texas some 125 miles down river from Roma. Click here for a posting on Progreso.

My position at Brownsville was that of a second level supervisor, one of two such officers responsible for supervising a staff of three administrative persons, six first level supervisors and a staff of sixty senior, journeyman and trainee inspectors. I performed my duties under the watchful eyes of the chief inspector and a racially and professionally biased port director, and I was the favorite target for any person that lodged a complaint against management, regardless of the source.  Those activities were dictated and urged on by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). Near the end of my tour at Brownsville, the Chief Inspector left my side and joined in the target practice.

A friendly journeyman told me that NTEU had directed the local Union Steward to have every grievance addressed to me, regardless of the supervisor involved—I was one of nine supervisors, yet all complaints came to me to be investigated and the results forwarded to upper levels including national headquarters, whether resolved or unresolved. The same friendly inspector said that every meeting of the Union members, whether locally or at District or Regional Headquarters, began with a request for input on me and on my actions.

Just as an aside, the Port Director and the Chief Inspector have since been arbitrarily transferred to that shining Port of Entry in the sky—a headquarters directed assignment, so to speak—and one may be reasonably certain that a significant number of the journeyman inspectors have joined them—some were quite advanced in age, and I left Brownsville 27 years ago. I can truthfully say that at this stage of life I hold no rancor for any of them—well, okay, perhaps a trace of rancor for the Port Director!

In spite of the onslaught of arrows (employee complaints) fired at me, none struck a vital organ. To paraphrase William Faulkner in his acceptance speech in 1950 for the Nobel Prize in literature, I did not merely endure—I prevailed. My actions and my decisions were upheld by mid-level and top-level management in every instance. The grievances filed numbered in the hundreds—none was resolved in favor of the complainant, neither by me nor by someone in the upper echelons. Most of the grievances stemmed from my efforts to reduce inspector overtime in accordance with instructions from upper level management given to me prior to assuming my duties there. Misuse of overtime was rife at that location, and my success was in inverse proportion to the number of grievances—as overtime declined, grievances increased.

The pay was good and there was no heavy lifting, so I stalwartly bided my time. I successfully withstood the onslaught for three and one-half years, from April of 1980 to October of 1983, and once again was promoted and transferred to US Customs Headquarters in Washington, DC as a program officer. Halfway through my three year tour in Washington I was assigned the title and assumed the duties of Program Manager for Customs’ National Canine Enforcement Program, and therein lies some tales to be told. Click here for an example of my duties, a tour of canine operations in California. This is just a teaser with more stories to follow, so stay tuned.

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

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 11, 2010 in bridge, law enforcement, Military

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Captain, or engineer? Ship, or train?

Some believe and some say, and some even teach, that each of us is the captain of our ship, steering it and our lives through the gentle swells of calm seas and crashing waves of gale-lashed waters across oceans, some dotted with tropical islands and others filled with icebergs. The analogy of our journey through life as the master and captain of our ship is exemplified by this poem:

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley, 1849–1903

Rather than the captain of a ship, I consider myself to be the engineer of my train. I have no helpers—no switchman, brakeman, signalman, fireman, conductor, oilman and no mechanic. I am the sole occupant on the train, controlling its freight and its movements through life with the various switches and gauges and handles available to me—and trust me, they are many and varied.

My travel through life is not limited to any existing railroad lines or tracks. My train is capable of laying its own roadbed. No matter where I choose to go, the track will always be there and I travel on it at my own speed, without regard to other traffic or intersections or crossroads.

Rumbling and swaying behind me on the track is a string of railroad cars, a string that lengthens as life goes on. In that line are railroad cars of every description and function—coal tenders, box cars, flat cars, hopper cars, passenger cars, cars of every description and every color, cars capable of holding and hauling anything and everything ever owned, including businesses and cars and houses and pets and airplanes and even islands.

Those railroad cars hold everything ever taught, everything ever learned, every job, every action ever taken, every thought and every deed done, whether good or evil. They carry every love ever found and every love ever lost, whether love for a person or a place, or for an animal or an idea, and they carry every friend ever made and lost, every enemy ever made and every antagonist ever faced.

I’m reasonably sure that you, dear reader, have already deduced that my train is my brain. The cars that I haul are the compartments of my brain, and in those compartments repose every thought I have ever had—memories of everything that I have learned and done are being hauled by the railroad cars. They are always there, although sometimes some of them are not always available to me—that seems to be a condition that increases in direct proportion to age.

The poem that follows pertains to those that do not understand or are unwilling to accept the responsibilities of an engineer, believing that their own train is run—engineered, so to speak—by someone other than themselves. Since all life ultimately ends, those folks may possibly—with emphasis on possibly—be in for a surprise! The poem’s origin is unknown, at least to me, but it could well be titled:

Plaint of a Non-engineer

I’m not allowed to run the train,
The whistle I can’t blow . . .
I’m not allowed to say how far
The railroad cars may go.

I’m not allowed to let off steam,
Nor even clang the bell . . .
But let the damn thing jump the track
And see who catches hell!

After awhile—eventually, ultimately, inevitably, inexorably and conclusively, we will hand over the controls of our train and its cars, loaded with the thoughts and deeds of our lives, to the Central Dispatcher and we will arrive at our final destination—no, make that our penultimate stop, the one next to the last.

Our freight—our baggage, so to speak—accumulated over a lifetime will be off-loaded, weighed, categorized, tabulated and compared to established factors in order to determine our ultimate destination. Some of us may protest the final decision, but bear in mind that the deciding factors will have been available for consideration, beginning with our first breath and continuing to our last.

Enough said?

A brief postscript:

I have been criticized, constructively of course, for the length of my postings. Evidently some viewers are so busy loading their train and maneuvering it around various obstacles, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, that they have little time for reading. This posting is relatively short, so I’ll close it with a metaphor, an apology for the length of my stories.

In my writings I am somewhat similar to the drunk—similar to, mind you, but not the drunk—that made a bet with another drunk in the bar, with the loser agreeing to take a drink from one of the bar’s cuspidors, commonly called a spittoon.. The loser raised the spittoon to his lips and emptied it, and the shocked winner told him he didn’t have to do that. The loser replied that he had no choice because it was all in one piece—as are my postings.

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

 
2 Comments

Posted by on July 25, 2010 in death, religion, ships, trains, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Repost: Petulant political posturing . . .

I am repeating this posting because change has come about, the change that our president promised in his 2008 campaign—well, actually he has been preparing for the job throughout his adult life, particularly during his education under the auspices of several ivy league schools. And just as change has been effected by our president in our country, so has change been effected in me.

Please note the final paragraph in the original and in this reposting:

In that paragraph I said that I’m a reluctant Republican, and that  I will follow Obama, but only as long as he carries that big stick and uses it, when circumstances dictate, to maintain and enhance (not restore) America’s position among the world’s nations.

My rather humble Republican opinion is that although the president did carry a big stick in the Somalia situation, he seems to have discarded it. Over the past year he has not enhanced America’s position among the world’s nations nor has he even maintained it—he has weakened it through his pacifist policies and his drive to change our country and our society from capitalism to socialism.

I took a stand when the president ordered the highly successful rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, the American ship’s captain held captive by Somalian pirates, and now I am changing my stance. I will still follow, but with dragging feet and praying heartily for a change in direction. If enough of us drag our feet, and if we fall far enough behind the leader, perhaps he will look over his shoulder and realize he has brought us to a fork in the road and has taken the wrong fork. It’s not too late to change direction, but we are fast approaching the point of no return, and the instant that point is reached we will pass it. Ask any pilot what that means and you’ll be told that, at that point, a crash is inevitable.

I know, I know—Custer also took a stand, and history tells us that he did not fare well. Near mid–19th century the South took a stand and fared almost as badly as did Custer. Texas history tells of the stand that the people at the Alamo made by stepping across a line drawn in the sand, with predictable results. That line in the sand part of the battle of the Alamo is perhaps—nay, is probably—apocryphal, but it paints a positive picture of people standing on principle—so should we. Yes, I do love alliteration!

I have stepped across that line—that’s my stand and I’m sticking to it!

This is the original posting dated April 16, 2009—click here to read the original.

Petulant political posturing . . .

Hispanics have a saying: “Quien no se atreve no pasa el mar,” loosely interpreted as, “Those who want to cross the ocean must first throw themselves in.” A similar proverb in English, used often by my mother, would be, “The longest journey begins with the first step.”

In his efforts to maintain our country’s position among the world’s nations, President Obama has taken the first step and embarked on that journey. I use the word “maintain” rather than “restore” because, contrary to the current petulant political posturing, the United States is still the freest, richest and most powerful nation on Earth.

The following was gleaned from the Internet: “In a letter written in 1900, a year before he became president, Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “I have always been fond of the West African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” He repeated what he called this “homely old adage” in a speech as president in Chicago in 1903, and twice again in his writings after that.”

Apparently Obama is heeding Teddy Roosevelt’s advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick,” as evidenced by his actions in a recent international incident. Three Somalians were killed in the successful rescue of Richard Phillips, an American ship’s captain held captive by the so-called “pirates” (read “terrorists”). The president used that “big stick” with remarkable effectiveness.

Our president is trying, and with none of the  “bring it on!” mentality which pervaded the last administration. I pray that he will succeed. Yes, I’m a Reluctant Republican, unable to accept the direction in which my party is moving (a direction it seems determined to continue) but reluctant to criticize it. If everything continues “as is,” the United States will become a nation with only one political party. To this observer, the GOP’s efforts appear largely defensive, with little emphasis on an offensive to slow the party’s descent into nothingness.

I will follow Obama, but only as long as he carries that big stick and uses it, when circumstances dictate, to maintain and enhance (not restore) America’s position among the world’s nations.


 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Petulant political posturing

Hispanics have a saying: “Quien no se atreve no pasa el mar,” loosely interpreted as, “Those who want to cross the ocean must first throw themselves in.” A similar proverb in English, used often by my mother, would be, “The longest journey begins with the first step.”

In his efforts to maintain our country’s position among the world’s nations, President Obama has taken the first step and embarked on that journey. I use the word “maintain” rather than “restore” because, contrary to the current petulant political posturing, the United States is still the freest, richest and most powerful nation on Earth.

The following was gleaned from the Internet: “In a letter written in 1900, a year before he became president, Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “I have always been fond of the West African proverb: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” He repeated what he called this “homely old adage” in a speech as president in Chicago in 1903, and twice again in his writings after that.”

Apparently Obama is heeding Teddy Roosevelt’s advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick,” as evidenced by his actions in a recent international incident. Three Somalians were killed in the successful rescue of Richard Phillips, an American ship’s captain held captive by the so-called “pirates” (read “terrorists”). The president used that “big stick” with remarkable effectiveness.

Our president is trying, and with none of the  “bring it on!” mentality which pervaded the last administration. I pray that he will succeed. Yes, I’m a Reluctant Republican, unable to accept the direction in which my party is moving (a direction it seems determined to continue) but reluctant to criticize it. If everything continues “as is,” the United States will become a nation with only one political party. To this observer, the GOP’s efforts appear largely defensive, with little emphasis on an offensive to slow the party’s descent into nothingness.

I will follow Obama, but only as long as he carries that big stick and uses it, when circumstances dictate, to maintain and enhance (not restore) America’s position among the world’s nations.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 16, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,