What is the legal drinking limit for drivers in Texas?
The blood alcohol limit in Texas is a 0.08 BAC ( Blood Alcohol Content), unless you are under the age of 21. If you are under the age of 21 and your BAC is 0.02 or higher then you are legally intoxicated. Additionally, the legal limit for commercial drivers is a BAC of 0.04 or more.
What are the terms used for drunk driving offenses in Texas?
A person arrested for drunk driving in Texas will be charged with Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”). Moreover, the definition of Intoxication, under Texas DWI law, includes both drugs and alcohol. However the term used for a drunk driving offense for a driver under age 21 Driving Under The Influence Of Alcohol By A Minor (“DUI by a Minor”).
What happens if I refuse to consent to a Chemical Blood or Breath Test when pulled over for DWI in Texas?
According to Texas’ implied consent law, once you receive your driver’s license you automatically consent to a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine to determine blood alcohol content or the presence of drugs. If you refuse the test, your driver’s license will be taken away immediately and you will be issued a temporary drivers license until your court hearing. During your hearing the refusal may be used as evidence against you and the court may rule to suspend your driver’s license.
Those are the rules, and what follows is my analysis and my recommendations—tough love and zero tolerance.
If one is driving on San Antonio’s freeways, whether day or night, one needs to be ready to dodge some damn fool coming towards one against traffic, sometimes weaving across lanes at a slow speed and sometimes at high speeds. Alcohol is the cause of most of our wrong-way drivers—they have entered the off-ramp thinking it was the on-ramp to the freeway.
Our city is one of the worst in the nation for such violations, and our police officers do everything they can to prevent accidents and save lives by controlling and stopping the wrong-way idiot before someone dies because of stupidity. The police often resort to placing spike mats across the lanes, a dangerous action for the patrol officers and for regular traffic and dangerous even for the traffic offender. Some times the spikes work and sometimes not.
In virtually every incidence, the wrong-way driver is DUI—driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances. Our daily paper, the Express-News, faithfully reports such violations, the police faithfully arrest the offender and the judge faithfully sentences the driver to prison and orders probation along with community service.
If the DUI results in the death of another driver and/or passengers, the offender is given the option of having a jury decide the punishment or places his fate in the hands of a judge. The judge almost always orders prison time and the juries almost always punish with probation and community service. In San Antonio we have drivers with as many as a dozen DUIs and still driving.
When drivers are stopped and are suspected of DUI, the routine tests are administered, including having the suspected offenders walk a straight line or at least make the attempt, close their eyes and touch the tip of their nose, take the breathalyzer test and/or submit to having blood drawn to determine blood alcohol content. If the alcohol content meets a predetermined level, the driver is charged with DUI and the court process begins.
Our local paper tracks the offenses, and sometimes the story is that a particular citizen has been charged multiple times with DUI and is still on the loose, on probation. I believe that if adopted, my suggestions will change that.
I recommend two processes to be made law. The first is to implement zero tolerance. If tests show the presence of alcohol, regardless of the amount, fine the offender and strip the driver’s license to drive for six months and impose a financial penalty. Subsequent offenses should escalate in severity to include longer periods of loss of license including loss of driving privileges for life, higher financial penalties and extended terms of incarceration. Community service should never be a sentence for violation of DUI, whether it be the only punishment or an addition to other options—community service is a farce.
My second suggestion is to require that any person, whether male, female, adult or juvenile that intends to imbibe alcohol beverages or indulge in using substances that affect driving skills, whether legal or illegal substances, must utilize a designated driver. With that protection, the drinker will be able to ride in comfort to the various venues that feature alcoholic beverages and have no fear of being charged with DUI violations. That person may be a drunken passenger, but in the absence of other violations such as mooning people, for instance, or riding while naked or barfing out of the window and splattering the windshield of the vehicle behind thus obscuring the driver’s vision and causing an accident, that person should be safe from our dedicated police officers. I have no recollection of anyone having been charged with RWD—Riding While Drunk.
What follows now is a not-so-brief bio of my mother’s youngest son in respect to liquor consumption. I hasten to say that having driven various motor vehicles over more than six decades—almost seven decades—I have never been cited for driving under the influence of alcohol. I lost count over the years for citations I have earned for minor traffic offenses, but none for DUI. Yes, luck was on my side many times, and I take no pride in that. I will, however, take pride in being truthful, at least in this instance.
In my teenage years I was a confirmed introvert—an introvert, however, only until I consumed my first alcoholic beverage, whether straight shots with or without a chaser, a mixed drink or wine or beer. Immediately after that first drink I became a confirmed extrovert, and I hit on everything that even remotely resembled a female, homo sapiens of course. I never desired nor was I ever involved in an intimate sexual relationship with non-homo sapiens whether large or small and whether animal, vegetable or mineral—well, there was just one time I was briefly involved with a sun-warmed watermelon (hey, lighten up—that’s a joke, damn it).
My hit lines were delivered regardless of the target’s race, political affiliation, religious beliefs, education or lack thereof and physical features whether heavy or slim, tall or short, whether brunette, blond, red-haired, streaked, short hair, long hair, curly hair, dreadlocks, bangs or bald. I was not one of those for whom “all the girls get prettier at closing time,” a claim made in a song by country singer Mickey Gilley. The girls went from drab to pretty immediately after I took that first drink and kept getting prettier as the hour neared closing time.
In my teenage years and extending to today’s tender accumulation of years, I have never seen nor do I ever expect to see an ugly woman. In my estimation every member of the female gender is attractive—it’s just that some are prettier than others, and in many instances much, much prettier—I mean, like you know, a lot prettier, like, you know, drop-dead gorgeous. Of course, I must remind the reader of a hoary adage which tells us that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
I—meaning the author of this posting—am a teetotaler and have been for a significant number of years. The only downside to being a teetotaler is that I can’t respond to wine-tasting parties, many of which are free. I eschew alcohol in all its forms except one. I do not subscribe to the statement that “Lips that touch whiskey will never touch mine.” In this one exception I embrace the saying that “There are exceptions to every rule.”
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Old joke—A guy in a bar approaches a tall female, one with unusually striking facial features, and says, “Ubangi?”
She replies, “You betcha!”
Click here for photos of Ubangi women, and please remember the premise that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a truism to which I subscribe with very few exceptions.
With the admonition that a picture is worth a thousand words, I’m furnishing a composite drawing of hernia areas, but please don’t be alarmed—it’s nicely drawn and gracefully presented. Had you worried there for a moment, I imagine.
Now droning on:
This is the third posting of my quadrilogy, the operatic part (Get it? Operatic, as in Operation?). I know, I know—that’s a stretch, but it serves my purpose of presenting the details of my hernia operation in smaller doses. Believe it or not, I have been roundly chastised for the extreme length of my postings, and that makes me wonder if those who cast their slings and arrows at me have tried reading Ulysses, or the Holy Bible or the New Testament—now those tomes are really lengthy dissertations.
With the help of my three adult daughters I presented myself—no, belay that—I presented my corporeal housing, my body, to Same-day Surgery at an ungodly hour, 5:30 AM on a bleak Thursday morning. The bleakness had nothing to do with the weather or its outlook, and everything to do with my reluctance to be there. I felt the same way when I boarded a plane bound for Viet Nam to begin my 13-month tour during the height of the war, a vacation from stateside duties with all expenses paid by the US government.
The process began a few minutes after I was comfortably seated with a nice view of a big-screen wall-mounted television. A friendly and very competent nurse confirmed my identification, determined and recorded my vital numbers—height, weight, blood pressure, and medications taken in the past 12 hours. She tthen produced a hospital gown, bade me strip, don the gown with the open part to the rear, don soft non-skid booties and then recline on a gurney while she trundled me to an area near the operating rooms.
My daughters were allowed to accompany me to that area and remain there until a nurse came to roll me into the operating room. In the interim I was furnished a silver hair cover similar to that worn in Arabella. the Hollywood movie starring Jane Fonda. Incidentally, I still have dreams of Jane and the costume she wore. No, they were not, and are not, nightmares. We are just two friends, similar to two boats passing in the night.
But I digress, so on to the surgery. I was fitted with a wrist tag with my name and other significant data, especially as to the location of the surgery. When the doctor came, he wrote on my left lower side, probably something on the order of “CUT HERE.” A needle was inserted into the back of my right hand, and I was hooked up to a portable stand with two clear bags filled with unknown liquids which dripped from both bags and converged into a single line and into the line connected with the back of my hand. When all the little shut-offs were turned to shut-ons I knew my time was near, and I’ll give you three guesses what the operating nurse said as she started wheeling me towards the row of operating rooms, areas lined up precisely like the cells at San Quentin—private rooms, of course, but just as secure.
What the nurse said as we started that last mile—that Green Mile—was, “I’ll see you on the other side.” Just before I entered a state of nothingness, I asked her if she would please rephrase that cheerful remark, and she said that she meant after the surgery was over and that she would see me on the other side of the area after I had recovered from the anesthesia, and this allayed my fears—slightly.
This concludes the third part of my surgery quadrilogy, and I’m sticking to it.
Stay tuned for the fourth—and final—part of my surgery. I know, I know. I heard that long sigh of relief.
I came across the word antidisestablishmentarianism today—hadn’t seen it in a long time, but I didn’t need to Google it. I just nudged my memory from philosophy and religion courses—History of Religion, Early Greek Philosophy, Golden Thread in Catholicism and others that I took at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio during the mid-1960s in search of truth in religion, a hopeless undertaking (true story). I realize, of course, that my viewers are familiar with antidisestablishmentarianism, but I need to prove to myself that I haven’t forgotten my schooling so I’ll prattle on.
A Greek fellow named Ariusestablished a theological school of thought, Arianism, and others worked toward the disestablishment of Arianism. Still others were against Arianism being disestablished, thus the anti in the term Antidisestablishmentarianism—they were against the disestablishment of Arianism—got it? The entire fracas consisted of religious scholars squabbling and quibbling over the relationship, in the biblical sense, of the Son to the Father.
Them aire greks war sum rite smart foks, warn’t thay!
That’s my quickie definition of antidisestablishmentarianism and my story and I’m sticking to both.
Postscript: Historian Warren Carroll at Wikkipedia describes Arius as“tall and lean, of distinguished appearance and polished address. Women doted on him, charmed by his beautiful manners, touched by his appearance of asceticism. Men were impressed by his aura of intellectual superiority.” I have added this description of Arius for this reason: Except for the tall and lean portions I, The King of Texas and the author of this blog, am a reincarnated mirror image of Arius, and I make that statement without even the hint of humility.
The year 1932 was a leap year—had I been born on the 29th of February that year, I could only celebrate my birthday every four years, and by counting only my official birthdays I would now be twenty years old. I share my birth during a leap year with my neighbor, a lady that was born on the 29th day of February. As Don Adams of Get Smart fame would say, while showing a small space between his thumb and forefinger—Missed it by that much! Using the same formula that made my age 19, her leap year birthdays would make her 13 years old.
I hold the seventh of March firmly in my memories. On that date in 1949 I awakened at an early hour, performed my morning ablutions, broke my fast, allowed my mother to teach me how to make a Windsor knot in a necktie, dressed and bade my goodbyes, walked the few blocks to the courthouse in Columbus, Mississippi, swore an oath of allegiance to the United States of America, became a US Air Force recruit, boarded a train to New Orleans, transferred to the Sunset Limited bound for San Antonio, Texas, arrived there the following day, completed 13 weeks of training successfully and remained in the United States Air Force for 22 years plus several months. I celebrated my actual nineteenth birthday in 1951 in the middle of a shooting war while based at Kimpo Air Base near Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. If you like, you can click here to learn a lot about Korea and Kimpo and the war, probably a lot more than you thought you needed to know.
I realize that it’s childish to compute one’s age on the premise that one was born on the last day of February in a leap year but it’s a lot of fun, and childish and fun somehow go together. I have retired twice from US government service, once from the Air Force with 22 years, and again from a federal law enforcement agency after 26 years of service. Using the leap year computation with a birthday only every fourth year, I would have been 10 at my first retirement,16 at my second retirement and I would now be—at the tender age of 20 years—a triple-dipper with a combined income from military service, federal civil service and Social Security.
Hey, I didn’t plan it that way—things just seemed to happen, and as they happened I just went with the flow. Oops, I forgot something—I also have a substantial return from a substantial IRA, one that is earning an annual interest rate of six and one-quarter percent. I suppose that would make me a quadruple dipper.
On a day not really all that far back in time—22 June, 2009—I submitted a letter to our local daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in the United States in the hope that it would be published. An offer was made to publish it but the editor e-mailed me to say that certain parts would be cut out. In an e-mail I told him to not publish the letter, and I chastised him for his response to a long-time subscriber to the paper. What follows is the initial response from the public editor.
From: BRichter@express-news.net (the public editor of the paper) Mon, Jun 22, 2009 1:34 PM H.M. – Thanks for your letter. May we publish it? I think I’ll cut all the whining about your letters not getting published when they strike a nerve. We’ll just go with the criticism of the photo in question (which I didn’t really think was so bad). Bob Richter
I rejected publication because the public editor slimed me—well, perhaps slimed is a bit too strong—let’s just say that he whined me and because of that whining, the same label he placed on my submission, I vowed to never submit another letter to the public editor for consideration, but instead post my whining on WordPress, a far more appreciative audience than the Express-News. I have never had a submission rejected or criticized.
Now to get to the crux of this posting—everything I’ve said up to this point was intended to explain my criticism of the public editor’s grammar in his article that appeared in Metro of the Sunday edition of March 6, 2011.
Yes, grammar—with all that supposed talent he has at his beck and call, he started and finished an article he wrote by improperly using the verb was. The article centered on budget cuts proposed by Rick Perry, the governor of Texas that involved disabled Texans, and much to his credit he began the article with disclosing that his son has disabilities and lives in a group home that receives state aid.
I can readily understand and admire the title of his article:
Budget Cuts: What if it was your kid?
The final paragraph is a one-sentence closure with a wish from him and a question for Governor Perry:
What I wish is that Perry would put himself in our shoes:
What if it was your kid, Rick?
The verb was is the subjunctive mood of the verb to be, a mood suggesting that something is not or perhaps may not be. The subjunctive mood gets really complicated if one digs too deeply, but one does not need to dig deeply, or even pick up a shovel in order to determine whether was or were should be used.
There is an incredibly simple way to remember whether to use was or were. If the word if is lurking anywhere in the sentence, whether visible or concealed, the proper usage is were, and if if can neither be seen nor assumed, the proper usage is was. Please forgive me for the double if in the previous sentence—I just couldn’t resist it—when read aloud it sounds like a puppy barking.
The article’s title should read, What if it were your kid?
The ending should read, What if it were your kid, Rick?
Some more examples of the subjunctive verb were:
What if the copywriters were better versed in English?
What if the current public editor were reassigned?
Were he reassigned, would it lower the paper’s ratings or raise them?
Was he reassigned?
No, he was not reassigned.
Note the absence of if in the last two sentences above.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Postscript: In all fairness I must state that, in my somewhat unlearned opinion, the public editor’s article was highly cogent, nicely constructed, timely and well presented, with the only exceptions noted in this posting.
Today is Sunday, March 6, 2011 and the time is 5:30 AM, Central Time Zone, in San Antonio, Texas. Dave Briggs, one of the male co-hosts on Fox and Friends just told us that, “Coming up—a dog has been given a new leash on life by firefighters,” and the scroll at the bottom of the screen read leash.
This information is for the co-host and for the typist entering the information in the scroll at the bottom of the screen—the firefighters did not give the dog a new leash on life—they gave the dog a new lease on life.
By definition, a leash is a rope or chain placed around an animal’s neck to restrain or control the animal. However, in instances of human animals engaging in S&M activities, a leash is often used for the same purpose, assisted by the use of various and sundry items such as blindfolds, handcuffs, feathers, whips, gags, etc.
For those that are unfamiliar with S&M, send me a stamped self-addressed envelope with your request and enclose $25 in cash—small bills and no counterfeits—and I will furnish full details by return post sealed in a plain brown wrapper, including numerous photos in glorious color, created by professional photographers.
Now to continue with definitions:
A lease is a contract calling for the lessee—user—to pay the lessor—owner—for use of an asset. When an individual, whether human or a member of the so-called lesser orders, is given a new lease on life itself, a contract that many believe is an agreement between the individual and a Supreme Being—I cannot speak for how an animal—a dog, for example—might feel, but I can assure you that a human that survives death and is given a new lease on life is very grateful—unless, of course, an individual attempted suicide and was foiled in that attempt—in that event the individual may be a bit upset.
Brother Dave Briggs used the wrong term twice, and the moving scroll at the bottom of the screen showed the word as leash framed by quotation marks. It is unknown whether the scroll typist used the quotation for effect or used it to show that Dave had used the wrong word. I would like to believe the latter—it would be nice to know that at least one person on duty knew the difference between leash and lease.
In previous posts I have said that during the many years that I was gainfully employed, I had an extensive working relationship with a lady for whom English was a second language, and she pronounced the term nit picker as neet peeker, an aberration caused by the fact that in her native language, Eye’s were pronounced as Es, hence nit picker became neet peeker. I mention this only to say that I am neither a nit picker nor a neet peeker—my contributions to language result from my desire for accuracy in the spoken word. In more than one instance the lady I mentioned apparently got her tongue tangled up and pronounced the term as neet pecker—go figure!
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Postscript: If there is any doubt concerning the veracity of this post as concerns the gaffe, I captured the entire hour on Tivo, and I will cheerfully furnish a DVD on request. Just follow the same instructions given for S&M information. Send a stamped self-addressed envelope with $25 enclosed—in cash—small bills and no counterfeits, and the DVD will go out with the return post, sealed in a plain brown wrapper, just as D.H. Lawerence’s novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover arrived in our mail boxes many years ago. It’s a great story and the movie was even better—breathtaking!
News flash! Today is still Sunday, March 6, 2011 and the time is 7:20 AM, Central Time Zone, in San Antonio, Texas. I just heard Alisyn Camerato of Fox News fame announce that a dog has been given a new leash on life, and the scroll at the bottom read leash—same story, different gaffmaker.
An article in San Antonio’s Express-News—the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in the United States—on Monday, 28 February 2011 states that the cause of death for Jane Russell, the generously endowed star of Howard Hughes’ 1941 movie The Outlaw, was respiratory failure. Stop me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t respiratory failure be the cause of death in every instance? I should think that whatever other condition caused the respiratory apparatus to fail would be the real cause of death.
Let’s at least agree on this point—when we say that death was caused by respiratory failure, we are saying that the departed stopped breathing, a term equivalent to saying that someone died because the heart stopped beating. That isn’t enough—we need to know why the departed stopped breathing and why the heart stopped beating. Either of those actions, or their failure to act, will cause the other to happen—when the heart stops beating the breathing also stops, and when the breathing stops the heart stops beating, and neither is the actual cause of death.
Each of us has the innate ability to contribute to the world’s store of statistics, other than just the statistic of having died, and the opportunity to make that contribution is given to us at the time of our death, namely the cause of our death. Was it by our own hand, thereby joining the ranks of suicide statistics? Was it suicide by firearm, hanging, wrist-cutting or a heart attack caused by an overdose of Viagra? As the immortal Jack Webb would say, speaking as Detective Joe Friday in his role as a police detective in the black-and-white television show Dragnet, We just want the facts, M’am, just the facts.
I realize that the Jack Webb skit above is not germane to this posting, but I wanted to show him in action and share his sleuthing techniques with my viewers. I know, I know—I have a lot of time on my hands. There are too many wrongs in this world and too little time to right them, but I will soldierly strive on in my efforts—it’s in my nature.
Didja hear the one about the two little morons and the weather? Does anyone even remember the wealth of little moron jokes that made the rounds several decades ago? We aren’t allowed to use them now because they are not politically correct. Such jokes would disparage anyone of those among us that may be outside the intellectual norms established by our society. My use of the word instinct in a recent posting brought back one of those jokes, and I humbly offer an abject apology in advance—but not too seriously—to anyone that may be offended now.
I believe the question Are ya’ll ready for dis? which introduces the joke is, or at least was in the past, used by the San Antonio Spurs NBA team at the start of their games. It may be copyrighted, and if so I acknowledge that right and give them full credit for its origin. The voice is that of a former player named Johnson—no, not Jeremiah Johnson—Avery Johnson.
Are ya’ll ready for dis?
First little moron: It’s going to rain.
Second little moron: How do you know?
First little moron: My instincts.
Second little moron: My end stinks too, but it doesn’t tell me it’s going to rain.
I realize the two speakers could just as well have been Bert & Nan (the Bobbsey twins), Pat & Mike (Irish friends), Dagwood & Blondie, Mutt & Jeff, Donnie & Marie, Pelosi & Reid, Barack & Hillary, Chris Dodd & Barney Frank, Stanley & Livingston, O’Reilly & Beck, Paula & Simon, ad infinitum—or ad nauseam, perhaps. And the joke could also feature any two people, whether morons or MENSA charter members, regardless of nationality, race, sex, sexual preference, political affiliation, ideological bent, region, occupation, body build or marital status, whether divorced, married or cohabiting, whether same sex, married or unmarried, or two prim straight old maids or two grumpy straight old bachelors.
I used the original speakers, two little morons, to tell the joke as I remember it—history should never be rewritten, whether by nondescript writers such as I or by presidential biographers, historians and most of all, not by the school boards that decide what goes into the history books.
There’s a time-worn maxim that tells us that If we do not remember history we are doomed to repeat it. How can we remember history when it is constantly being rewritten in order to conform to prevailing social mores, to support or condemn various opposing political factions and to promote or condemn various opposing political agendas?
That’s a rhetorical question, of course, for which there is neither right nor wrong answers, and to misquote a line from the old Laurel and Hardy movies, It’s a fine mess that political correctness has gotten us into.
As a nation we are adhering so tightly to political correctness that little by little we are painting ourselves into a corner, and eventually our chickens will come home to roost—and that mixed metaphor should give everyone something to mull over!
And one more special note:
I especially like the combination of Pelosi & Reid as a replacement for the team in the little moron jokes. They were overwhelmingly voted into first place in a recent far-reaching poll, both exhaustive and exhausting, to determine the most logical team to replace the little morons in all the old jokes, and in any similar jokes that may be created in the future.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must state that only one person was polled. Can you hazard a guess as to the identification of the person that was polled? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count. Yep, you guessed correctly—I was both pollster and pollee and here are the results of my poll:
My vote of first place for Pelosi & Reid was unanimous—I know, I know, that’s an oxymoron.
Chris Dodd & Barney Frank were first runner-ups, also unanimous.
Barack & Hillary were relegated to third place, ditto.
The other candidates were also-runs, unnumbered but also unanimous.
And a rather lengthy final note:
Lighten up! It’s all in fun, and if this posting elicits a chuckle from even a couple of readers, regardless of their age, religion, sexual orientation, political preference or affiliation, education, profession, location, marital status, economic status, race, nationality, place of birth, height, weight, intelligence quotient, hair style, eye color or shoe size, then I have accomplished my objective—I’ve lightened their load for a moment, however brief, as they laboriously trudge along the road of life, usually making the wrong choice when their path diverges—-most do as Yogi Berra suggested: When you come to a fork in the road, take it!
I will conclude this posting by echoing the words of Brother Dave Gardner (1926-1983), an old-time stand-up comic whose career flowered and flourished in various entertainment venues in the years between 1950 and 1970, and included the production and sale of millions of LPs—and for those that have forgotten them or are too young to remember them, LPs are long-playing phonograph records.
Brother Dave would not be accepted today because of his politically incorrect repertoire, one that depended heavily on the use of regional and racial dialect. His career nose-dived in adverse proportion to the rise of political correctness in our republic. Were Brother Dave privileged to read this posting, he would analyze it and express his thoughts with one of his trademark expressions—he would undoubtedly exclaim,
On a recent Sunday morning I unrolled my home-delivered plastic-bagged copy of the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily newspaper in the seventh largest city in America, with a potential audience of some two million readers. Prominent on the front page was an article announcing planned changes in menus of military dining halls, specifically at Fort Sam Houston, Texas but eventually in military dining halls world-wide. Click on the image below to read the front-page portion of the article.
As a retired military person I can appreciate and accept all the changes except one. I do not mourn the loss of fat, French fries, sugar and salt and I welcome whatever substitutes replace those items, but gravy? GRAVY? Not gravy, please dear Lord don’t let them outlaw gravy. Without gravy there will be no SOS, a dish that is embraced emotionally and gastronomically by everyone that has ever served in any of the United States military forces. SOS is primarily a breakfast entree—gravy with chipped beef, hamburger meat or sausage added, and usually served as a stand-alone spread on toast or biscuits with various other items added if desired—bacon or sausage, perhaps, or eggs cooked to order, or pancakes or all the above.
Those in the stratospheric zones of the military hierarchy—commissioned officers and their families—usually refer to SOS as creamed chipped beef on toast, or creamed hamburger on toast, or creamed sausage on toast—creamed is simply a euphemism for gravy. However, the unwashed hordes in the military services, the enlisted population including NCOs (Non-Commissioned Officers) are comprised of those always willing to call a spade a spade—oops, delete that phrase—it is so not politically correct—make the phrase willing to tell it like it is instead. That elite group of military persons refer to the breakfast delicacy as Shit On a Shingle, with the toast being the shingle and meat gravy the shit, thusly SOS. As a side note, that culinary masterpiece known as SOS is also called Stew On a Shingle and Same Old Stuff. The words may be different, but the visual appearance and taste of the mixture are the same.
Please say it ain’t so, Barack!
Please say it ain’t so, Michelle!
Please don’t do away with gravy—that will sound the death knell for SOS, a breakfast choice for untold millions of men and women in America’s armed forces, in peace and war in virtually every country on the planet, a breakfast delicacy that has been around since long before World War II, and in my opinion helped the United States win its wars—with the exceptions of Korea and Viet Nam and possibly Iraq and Afghanistan, wars that are still unfolding. Although we are claiming the war in Iraq to be a victory, it will probably be rated as a failure in future history books, as will Afghanistan—that is purely my opinion, and I freely admit that opinion is similar to a certain body orifice, the operation of which is controlled by the sphincter muscle—everybody has one, and that’s mine.
Please don’t throw SOS under the bus, Mr. and Mrs. Obama. I believe in change just as much as anyone, including battle-hardened Democrats, but I draw the line on the elimination of SOS from military dining halls. As a home-care giver for many years, I have been a frequent morning visitor to San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center and to Lackland’s Wilford Hall Medical Center, and although I have lost my reason for being a home-care giver, I will continue to use both entities for my own medical care, and you may be assured that I will, at every opportunity, enjoy an SOS breakfast in the hospital cafeterias as long as it is served.
And you may also be assured that if SOS is dropped from their breakfast menus I will look elsewhere for SOS and give my business to those other locations, including such ubiquitous outlets as Whataburger and the myriad Jim’s Restaurants in San Antonio, both of which proudly serve sausage gravy on biscuits for breakfast.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Postscript: In my outcry against the demise of SOS I used the term eggs cooked to order, and I must tell my readers that in the hospital cafeteria at San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center you can in fact have your eggs cooked to order, except you cannot have soft-scrambled eggs, eggs over-easy, eggs over-medium or eggs sunny-side up. You can only have them hard scrambled, fried hard on both sides, scrambled hard in an omelet or hard-boiled. The rules are in place to prevent salmonella.
But listen up, and I’ll whisper this in your ear: Go to the hospital cafeteria at Lackland’s Wilford Hall Medical Center and you can get your eggs made to order. Just tell the cook what you want and you’ll get it, up to and including fresh eggs cracked in a bowl and served raw, as many as you want and none having been anywhere near flames or heat, usually ordered by those trying to bulk-up for competition in such sports as wrestling and boxing and, of course, for those that just enjoy flexing their muscles for the opposite sex, and in some instances for the same sex.
Hey, it happens—at my age I don’t flex and I never have, couldn’t even if I tried because I never ate raw eggs, but even at my age I still get flexed at—not all that often, but once in awhile. I believe some men follow the advice contained in a song my brother used to sing, namely that, If you can’t get a woman, get a clean old man.
That’s the end of my story and my postscript and I’m sticking to both.
This e-mail, dated December 13, 2010 is from a long-time friend, a great lady that left the semi-arid spaces of San Antonio, Texas for greener pastures in another realm earlier in 2010. Evidently my computer considered it to be spam and sent it straight to my junk mail. I was cleaning out the files and I found it just this morning. It was a bit startling because she died in the summer of 2010, long before the date of this e-mail, but then I realized that her husband is still using her e-mail for correspondence.
I hesitated a long time—about five seconds—before deciding to post this on my blog for the edification, enlightenment and amusement of my readers. Whether true or not, I’ll bet you’ll find it just as humorous as I did. I doubt that the senator will read this, but if he does I’ll bet it will elicit a smile—at the very least.
A Lesson in Creative Writing
It’s all about how you put it into words . . .
Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher in southern California, was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Senator Harry Reid’s great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor. The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory.
On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription:
Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.
So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle. The reply was as follows:
Senator Harry Reid
Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.
Now that’s how it’s done, folks—that’s real political spin!
Letter to the editor Express-News, P.O. Box 2171 San Antonio TX 78297
Who was that pit bull?
The question in the title above should offend your language sensibilities—if it does not offend, please stop reading and go in search of other postings by people who are poorly versed in the intricacies of our English language. I formed that title question in my mind when I read the pit bull story in today’s Express-News on Page 9B of the Metro Section, an article written by Maria Anglin. The article included a file photo of a pit bull, and the caption below the photo stated that The shooting of a pit bull who was attacking a passerby brings up the issue of responsible pet owners—bolding of the word who is mine.
Who was that pit bull, you ask? That pit bull was not a who—that pit bull was the pit bull that attacked a passerby on Wednesday, January 9, 2011 in San Antonio, Texas. It was the pit bull that was shot in the leg by a witness to the attack, a witness that happened to have a gun and the license to carry a concealed weapon. It was the pit bull that limped away and was ultimately captured and destroyed by the city’s Animal Care Services.
This post was not prompted by the pit bull’s attack on the elderly woman, nor by the fact that the dog had no tags on its collar, nor is it my intent to discuss the pros and cons of dogs illegally roaming the streets, or whether our Texas gun laws are good or bad for our society.
Nope, none of the above—this post was prompted by the fact that a dog is not a who. The word dog may be followed by that or which, but never who. A dog can be a that, an it, an is or a which, but never who. A dog may also be referred to as a he or as a she, but no dog—no, not even Lassie of movie fame– should ever be referred to as a who, and those persons employed in the newspaper business—journalists, copy writers and copy editors should know that. A human being is correctly referred to as the person who, or as the person that, depending on the writer’s preference—dogs do not have that privilege—they are not human—they are dogs.
Kudos to Maria Anglin, the author of the pit bull story. Maria danced around the term and used the words which, that and it. I would suppose that the photo and the caption were added after her copy was submitted—otherwise she would have corrected the flaw.
Back in the days when I was gainfully employed, I worked with a lady for whom English was a second language, and she often pronounced the letter eye as an e—she repeatedly labeled people as nit pickers, but the sound came out as neet peekers. Readers of this post may consider me to be a neet peeker, but they should remember and adhere to the proverbial rhyme below. It demonstrates that small actions can result in large consequences.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost, For want of a horse the rider was lost, For want of a rider the battle was lost, For want of a battle the kingdom was lost, And all for the want of a nail.
A final note: In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not submit this letter to the editor, nor will I submit it. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a wiser audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on WordPress.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by WordPress.
Nineteen months have passed since I vowed that I would never submit another letter to the editor of the Express-News for consideration, and I have kept my vow. I have posted several letters to the editor on Word Press during that period—yes, there have been others I did not send to the Express-News editor. I was burned—read insulted—once by that worthy, and I refuse to be insulted again. I will continue to nurse my pride and do my whining in other venues—so there!
Postscript: There is an animal rescue organization in our city that publishes and send out to it members a periodic newsletter detailing its work over a specific period of time. Without exception, the species of the animals and birds are capitalized in the literature—Dog, Cat, Rat, Bird, Snake, Roach, etc., etc., and every species is referred to as a who—DooDoo, the Dog who, and Rastus, the rat who, and Polly, the Parrot who, etc., etc. I admire their work immensely, but I abhor their writing intensely. Perhaps it is done out of respect for the various species of animals but perhaps they don’t know any better, similar to the staffer at the Express-News who captioned the subject of this posting.
Yesterday was the eighth day of January 2010, a supremely significant Saturday (ah, that alliteration—I cannot resist it). The entire world knows at least one reason why yesterday was significant. Elvis Presley was born on that day in 1944. Had the rock-and-roll star stuck to singing (more alliteration) and kept his distance from fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches he could have celebrated his seventy-sixth birthday yesterday—some say that drugs contributed to his early demise.
Yesterday Debra, our elder daughter—I use the phrase elder daughter because it carries far less emotion than older daughter—celebrated her fifty-seventh birthday. She and our granddaughter and their friend Sandy whiled the day away shopping in Austin at Sam Moon’s mercantile for Chinese-made items, primarily jewelry, and enjoyed a birthday lunch—probably at a McDonald’s outlet—no, not really—I’m certain that they went to a five-star restaurant, assuming that Austin has such.
I called Debbie on her cell phone and submitted her to the birthday song—I’m unsure whether she has recovered from that cacophony of sound. She has breezed past the half-century mark in age and added seven years, and she could easily pass for thirty—alright, she could definitely pass for thirty-five. I believe that her satisfaction with her work in one of San Antonio’s school districts is helping her stay young—that and her plethora—call it a gaggle—of close friends.
I believe that most of the credit for her youthful look can be attributed to the genes bequeathed by her mother, a lady that has always appeared far younger than her years. I would like to believe that I contributed to that youthful look, but I’m honest enough to give full credit to her mother for that.
Janie, if you’ll take a quick look at a certain spot in a certain section of Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery you’ll see a brilliantly white marble marker, newly erected, with a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers placed in front of it. The marker is etched with all the pertinent information required by military regulations, and the words Cry not for me, I wait for thee.
I have been unable to comply with the CRY NOT FOR ME admonition, but your statement that I WAIT FOR THEE has stood me in good stead and kept me from unraveling completely. That phrase is in the forefront of the multitude of reasons why I love you, and in the words of Emily Dickinson in her timeless poem, I shall but love you better after death.
The beauty of the flowers will last for several days in the cool weather of this December, but with the summer sun I’ll need to replenish them far more frequently, but I don’t mind—they are from our local HEB market—this is perhaps one of the best bargains that can be found in one of the finest markets in our city—nay, one of the finest in our nation.
Sweetheart, I’ll close for now. I have a photo of your marker taken by my new Sprint 4G phone, but I haven’t figured out how to get it from the phone to my computer. When I do I’ll add it to this letter.
Sleep well in heaven, my darling.
I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.
Postscript: The marker photo was added today, January 10, 2011.
Prior to the interment of my wife’s mortal remains in Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery here in San Antonio, I was asked to provide any information that I wanted in addition to the mandatory data required by military regulations. An official of the funeral home said that I would have three lines for our use, each line consisting of a maximum of 15 letters including spaces. After securing agreement from our three daughters, I submitted the following three lines, to be placed below the lines required by regulation. These lines were my original submission:
Cry not for me I am at home I wait for thee
Shortly after that submission I was contacted by a cemetery representative, and was told that only two lines were available for my use after the mandatory items were inscribed. After a few minutes of looking at possibilities, I realized that any one of the three lines I had submitted could be deleted. I could remove the first line and the inscription would read:
I am at home I wait for thee
I could delete the third line and the inscription would read:
Cry not for me I am at home
And finally, with the second line removed the inscription would read:
Cry not for me I wait for thee
Again with the agreement of our three daughters, I chose to remove the second line, so the inscription will read:
Cry not for me I wait for thee
Of course, when my earthly remains are placed with the mortal remains of my wife in our temporal holding place—and I will join her, either sooner or later—her inscription will again need to be formulated, primarily because she will no longer be waiting for me—at that time I shall have arrived.
As for my inscription on the front of the final headstone to be inscribed and erected, I will entrust the inscription to the sensibilities of our three daughters, and I trust that they will be gentle in complying with that responsibility, and unanimous in their decision, whatever it may be—but none of that two out of three stuff!
In reference to the method of correspondence I have initiated between me and my wife, I realize and acknowledge that it strains credulity, but a significant number of this nation’s population and the population of the world routinely talk to a celestial being—God—and all believe that their prayers are heard. Given that followers of every religion that exists now and that has ever existed features prayer, and that prayer is fervently practiced by those followers, I feel that the strain on credulity is considerably lessened. Such followers routinely call on their God to comfort those that have passed on to a higher realm as well as those that remain on this level—in effect, in using this medium to communicate with my wife I’m simply bypassing the Middle Man—the envelope is open and can be read by all, just as you are doing now.
My second letter to my wife Janie follows:
This letter will be brief because there’s not very much new to talk about. Our daughter returned to her home in Dallas today with our grandson and granddaughter. They arrived in San Antonio early in the evening three days ago on Monday, and we have been pretty busy over the past three days. We packed a lot into that time, including dinner at our San Antonio daughter’s home—lots of great leftovers from her Christmas dinner with several new items added. We also managed a trip to the Ninety-nine Cents store across from HEB. Oh, and we also took in the Salvation Army Thrift Store on Wednesday—slim pickings but our daughter found some novels that she liked, and also a large book that claims to make learning to play the piano easy—I doubt whether the family dog will appreciate the sounds that the book will generate.
Over the past several days we had the requisite tacos and fried chicken baskets from Bill Miller’s Barbeque, and MacDonald’s pancake/egg/sausage/potato/biscuit breakfasts today. On Tuesday morning I served the kids thick-sliced bacon and soft-scrambled eggs for breakfast, and as usual they made quick work of making it disappear. Yesterday we had lunch at Jason’s Deli near Costco. Our daughter had a salad, the children had pizza and as you might guess, I had a bowl of chicken noodle soup—extra hot, and I managed to sneak out two cups of ice cream to bring to our daughter that lives near us. She has been under the weather for several days with allergies brought on by the norther that swept into San Antonio recently, bringing cedar mold and other pesky airborne afflictions down from our vaunted hill country.
We visited you at Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery yesterday. Your community is really busy—we estimated that at least one hundred more residents have been moved in since you’ve been there, just in the past thirty days. I read that an average of 13 burials are made daily, usually Monday through Friday. With few exceptions, Saturdays and Sundays are down days for interments.
We stopped at HEB’s supermarket, the one near our home, and the four of us selected sprays of flowers for you. The only flowers I can identify with any assurance are roses, poppies and tulips. I brought you tulips on your birthday last Sunday, but I don’t know what the sprays were that we brought yesterday—whatever species they were, they were fresh and bright and beautiful.
Workmen were busy in your community, placing floral pieces on recent arrivals and seeding and leveling the ground in the newly created area. Underground irrigation is already in place and by midsummer your community should be up to par with older established communities, with headstones in place. Creating and placing those simple marble monuments usually takes six weeks or so following interment. That should give you an idea of how busy the National Cemetery is, and that’s all year long except for holidays and weekends.
After we placed the flowers near your temporary marker and returned to the street, I told our daughter that I would like to tell the children what some people believe, and tell them that they could talk to you if they liked, but that you would not respond in any way. Their mother seemed to have no problem with that and agreed to it.
I told our grandchildren that lots of people believe that persons that have ascended to a higher plane than on earth are still present in spirit, and can hear comments directed to them, and I told them that if they wished they could go back and talk to you. Both of the children decided they would do that, and spent some time kneeling near you. We don’t know what they said, but I’m sure you were listening.
I made several phone snapshots of the children and their mother placing the flowers, and of the children talking with you, but I won’t make them part of this letter. I’ll just keep them in the phone and let you look over my shoulder to see them.
That’s all for now, but I’ll get back to you with more news as it happens.
I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.
Cemetery scene: Having lovingly placed a bouquet of roses at the head of a grave, the visitor to the cemetery watched smilingly as an elderly Oriental man lovingly placed a steaming bowl of rice and chopsticks at the head of a nearby grave, and then asked him at what time he figured his friend would come up to eat the rice. The other man replied, “He will come up at the same time your friend comes up to smell the roses.”
Having set the scene, I will continue with this posting. On this cold blustery day in San Antonio, Texas I traveled twelve miles from my home to Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery. I placed fresh flowers on the grave of a great lady that was transported from this earthly realm to her just reward in God’s heavenly realm on the evening of Thursday, November 18, 2010 just one month and eight days before her seventy-ninth birthday. Our three daughters were present at her death, at her memorial and her interment, but unforeseen circumstances prevented them from being with me to visit her on this day.
Today is my wife’s birthday. She was born December 26, 1931 on an icy Saturday in a small south Georgia town. We met in 1952 and were married just four months later on a Saturday afternoon on the thirteenth day of December in 1952, and we completed fifty-eight years of marriage thirteen days ago on the thirteenth of this month, December of the year 2010.
To complete the fifty-eight years of marriage I included the days between her death on 18 November and our wedding anniversary date of 13 December. I included those days because we remain married and will always remain married, albeit on a spiritual level rather than on a physical level.
We are separated physically but our spirits are intertwined, an inextricable unity that will never be separated. I refuse to allow our marriage to dissolve simply because we exist in separate realms. Her spirit—her soul—has returned to God from whence it came. She is in heaven with Him and I remain on earth. I am well aware that adherence to our marriage vows will be more difficult for me than for her, but I readily accept the challenge and I will not falter.
I still wear my wedding ring on the ring finger of my left hand, and when I join my wife in the grave that contains her earthly remains—the same grave that will contain mine throughout eternity—that ring will still be in place. If it should be lost I will replace it, and if that replacement is lost I will purchase another, as many times as necessary. I also wear my wife’s 1949 high school graduation ring on the little finger of my right hand. That one will be a bit more difficult to replace, but I will make the effort should it happen.
Yes, in the same grave—with space at a premium in our national military cemeteries, husbands and wives share the same burial plot. I have no problem with that procedure, nor does my wife. We have discussed it at length over the past several years, and we agreed with the premise that the closer, the better. And on the subject of matter, the contents of our grave constitute mortal material matter only, as do the contents of every grave.
The immortal essence of that matter—the soul, given by the grace of God—was never there, having already gone to its promised reward before the remains were placed beneath the sod—its direction dependent, of course, on certain requirements having been met, a point that should be foremost in how we decide to live our lives.
This is a letter to my wife, one of the purest and sweetest beings that God has ever created. Her immortal soul returned to its Creator on Thursday, the eighteenth of November, 2010 at 9:15 in the evening. Immediately after joining Him she left His presence, and anointed with the divine influence of His grace she returned to our mortal world for a few brief moments. Her return is documented and discussed here.
I know you’re watching and I’m sure you were part of the annual get-together in the Nephrology Clinic at Brooke Army Medical Center, but I’ll recap the luncheon for you just in case you overlooked some of the folks that attended. It was held on Thursday, December 16, the day that would have been your day for dialysis. You’ll remember that Thursday is the least busy day for the unit. There was only one patient that morning, and I believe that was an in-hospital patient.
All the nurses were there: Gracie, Linda, Irene, Gloria, Jackie, Tammie, Jim, Carver, Henderson and Patti, the Head Nurse, along with Kathy, the dietitian, and Dr. Reynolds, the officer-in-charge of the Clinic. Many of the dialysis patients were there, including the Big Colonel and the Little Colonel. The Big Colonel expressed his sadness at learning of your death, and offered his condolences to me and to our daughters, saying that we and you would always remain in his thoughts and prayers.
Dr. Reynolds welcomed us to the event and asked that we never forget those that are longer with us, specifically naming you and Mrs. Kirk, that beautiful little lady with the short gray hair and the ever-present smile, always commandeering a wheelchair and chauffeured by her husband. She followed you from this realm just a few days after you left us.
Dr. Reynolds introduced the chaplain, and following the chaplain’s brief prayer with blessings on those present and those not present, we lined up at the trough for lunch, and what a spectacular trough it was. The tables stretched at least thirty or forty feet along one wall and each table was loaded—the staff should be enjoying leftovers for several days, probably through the weekend and into next week.
You should be very proud of me because with you beside me, coaching me at every step, I prepared a seven-pound brisket, from HEB of course, and brought it still hot on my arrival at the clinic, along with sauce, chips, bread and four gallons of sweet tea from Bush’s Chicken in Converse—incidentally, there has apparently been a complete change of personnel at that location—I recognized none of the staff there.
Rita met me at the entrance of the hospital with a handcart to help carry everything. I also brought another large framed piece of art to add to our gallery in the clinic. That makes a total of fourteen pieces lining each side of the hallway from the entrance all the way to the dialysis section. I’m told that your “art gallery” is an attraction for other hospital staff and patients and visitors. I know that you and I did not make the donations as a memorial, but it doesn’t hurt that it serves as a memorial to you.
Cindy helped me create gold foil stickers for the pieces, and I placed one on the lower right corner of the glass of each, and I also placed a label on the flat-screen television you donated to the Nephrology Clinic to replace that little dinky tube television that was there. Each of the gold stickers reads, Donated to Nephrology by Janie and Mike Dyer. And just in case you are wondering, Rita still watches The View every morning with religious fervor.
I wish the hallway were a bit longer so I could expand the gallery in your name. I also wish that I could create another Taj Mahal to honor your name and your life, but I’ll have to be satisfied with the Taj Mahal that resides in my heart and in my memories of you and of my life with you. Just as is the original Taj Mahal in India, the Taj Mahal in my heart and memories is a symbol of our eternal love.
I helped the nurses set up the banquet tables (Irene made me don plastic gloves before I could help sanitize the tables). When the signal was given to Come and get it! I joined the long line, loading far more on my plate than necessary, but I admit shamefully that very little was left when I finished. I shared a table with Ernie, his wife and his daughter. You’ll remember Ernie as the camera-bug transplanted to San Antonio from El Paso so his severely handicapped wheel-chair-bound daughter could receive treatment here. He is still following Cindy’s blog and working on his photographic skills.
Unless you were preoccupied in another area, you probably noticed that I visited you in the cemetery that Thursday afternoon. There were few visitors that day, but the machines and their operators were present as always, hard at work maintaining and enhancing the grounds, watering and grooming and planting and preparing new communities for military wives and husbands and for the orphaned children of military families. The perpetual care provided by our government for those families ensures the beauty and the future of one of the largest such cemeteries in the nation.
My visit with you that Thursday afternoon was bitter sweet, as all future visits will be. I accept the sadness that cloaks and permeates each visit, but I exult in the knowledge that the sadness is temporary, because I know that at some time in the future I will join you and our immortal souls will be reunited.
And I know that, in the glorious morning of the Resurrection our bodies will be raised, and become as incorruptible as our souls.
Sleep well in heaven, my darling. I love you more today than yesterday, but less than tomorrow.
Readers of my blog will note that I write and post letters to my relatives who have left this realm for another. These letters are the means I have chosen to document their lives and to secure them in my memory and the memories of our children, our grandchildren, our relatives and our friends.
The following obituary appeared in San Antonio’s Express-News on November 22, 2010. My wife and I met in August of 1952 and married just four months later on a Saturday afternoon on the thirteenth day of December that same year. We were together for the next 58 years except for the twelve days remaining in November and the first thirteen days in December. We are still together and we will remain together throughout eternity, both in this realm and the next.
Janie Alta Dyer, age 78, an eleven-year survivor of ovarian cancer, died at her home in San Antonio, Texas on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from complications of that disease and kidney failure.
Janie was born on December 26, 1931 in Broxton GA, one of six children born to John James McLean and Wootie Pridgen of Pridgen GA. She met and married Hershel Mike Dyer of Columbus MS in 1952 in Douglas GA and is survived by him, her three daughters, their husbands and her grandchildren: Debra Janet Dyer and William Talbert of San Antonio TX and their daughter and son, Lauren Ashley Talbert and Landen Dyer Talbert, Cindy Dyer and Michael Schwehr of Alexandria VA, and by Kelley Dyer and James Brantley Saunders of Wylie TX and their son and daughter, James Brennan Saunders and Macie McLean Saunders.
Janie is survived by three sisters and one brother: Winnie Sapp of Hamlet NC, Evelyn Pridgen of Brunswick Ga, Christine Young of Fitzgerald GA and Charles McLean of Pridgen, GA. She was preceded in death by her father in 1954, her mother in 1985 and her brother John Herbert McLean in 1997.
Over the years Janie has expressed admiration and love for those involved in her health care, including the staff at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) and Wilford Hall Medical Center (WHMC), with particular affection for those involved in the chemotherapy clinic at WHMC and those in Oncology, Nephrology, Vascular Surgery, Interventional Radiology and Dialysis clinics at BAMC. She viewed them as angels placed on earth to guide her through perilous times.
Her family echoes her sentiments, and they also thank the staff of Odyssey hospice for their loving care and professionalism. Janie’s highest praise for others was that they were good persons, and her life echoes and exemplifies that expression. She was a good person throughout her life. She will be missed in this realm, and will be welcomed in another.
Memorial services will be at 11:30 AM on Monday, November 29 at Porter-Loring Mortuary North, 2102 North Loop 1604 East. Interment will be in Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery at 1:00 PM.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in her memory to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, P.O. Box 7086, Dallas Texas 75209, http://www.ovarian.org or the American Kidney Fund, 6110 Executive Blvd., Ste. 1010, Rockville MD 20852, http://www.kidneyfund.org
I intend to post letters to my wife in the future in order to keep her up to date on family feats and foibles. I know that she will be watching anyway, but I might be able to provide some minor details that she may have overlooked. If they don’t have computers there now, they will have when Bill Gates and/or Steve Jobs relocate from here to there.
For some time I have considered posting this series of e-mails but I have held the posting in abeyance until now. I doubt that many viewers will hang on long enough to finish reading it, but that will be their loss. It seemed to me in the past that a rift had been created between me and the finest neighbor and friend one could ever wish for, and through no fault of either of us. Nevertheless, it appeared to exist—now it seems to have gone away, or perhaps never was.
These are the e-mails that passed between me and my neighbor lady to the west, posted as transmitted and as received. My e-mails are in standard type and hers are in italics.
Feb 3, 2010:
Good morning, Sherlock Holmes here:
I’m currently conducting an investigation to determine why and how my daily copy of the Express-News is mysteriously appearing on my front step, neatly placed there by someone or something to be determined. It was there this morning at an early hour. Today is the second time the phenomenon has occurred in as many weeks, and we had rain on both days.
My first thought was that the paper carrier wanted to ensure that the paper stayed dry, but it was double-bagged and would have to be submerged before it could suffer any damage. Besides, I have not remitted a gratuity to the carrier since 2007 and cannot reasonably expect her to be so obliging. Unless, of course, she is buttering me up for the coming Christmas season. I suppose that could be it, but I have serious doubts.
I next considered the possibility that Rudy, the cat that lives with the family across the street, is picking the paper up with his teeth and placing it in a dry spot, hoping for a continuation of the chicken and salmon handouts.
That is not likely, because he was nowhere in sight when I picked up the paper either time. He did not show at all on the first day, and as of the time of this writing I have not seen him today. That reduces the probability that he is doing the good deed. I suppose Ralph, the cat that resides with my neighbor to the west, could harbor the same thoughts, but I would think that Rudy would be more likely.
There is a third possibility, one a teeny bit more plausible than the first two. Two weeks ago I stepped out on my stoop, looked very carefully in all directions, except to the rear because no danger lurked in that direction. The coast was clear (so to speak), so I ambled out toward the mailbox (the paper was in proximity to said letter receptacle). Wearing a bright green fuzzy housecoat and brown house shoes, I arrived at my destination and bent over to pick up my paper, and at that instant I heard someone say, very audibly and gleefully, “I wish I had a camera!”
As to whether my ensemble included pajamas, it did not. A pair of skinny white legs were in full view. Well, not in full view, just up to mid-tibia. Said legs were supported by a matching pair of skinny white feet, ensconced in brown leather house shoes.
So the third possibility is that the person that voiced that wish, not wishing to be faced with that apparition again, is defending himself by placing the paper on my stoop, thereby keeping me out of sight in the process of retrieving my paper.
This is a very serious investigation, and I would be grateful for any and all assistance.
Feb 3, 2010
WHAT???? Your paper doesn’t get wet??? Our paper gets soaked. Now that I think about it, the water probably runs down the driveway right into the bag. Well, I don’t think you need to worry about your paper phenomenon any longer. Do let me know if the culprit starts hiding the paper, though. That would definitely require a more thorough investigation.
At this point a three-day quiet ensues with no e-mails between me and my neighbor. I was very busy running between home and the hospital and I neglected to read and respond to my e-mails.
Feb 6, 2010
It has been eerily quiet over there. Did my response offend you? You are very funny and clever in your writings. When I try that tactic, it usually backfires, since I am neither funny nor clever. I did put your paper on your porch because I thought it was getting soaked like ours often does. Your white legs had nothing to do with it! Now that I know your paper does not get wet, I’ll leave it there. You are free to retrieve it in whatever attire you choose. I often retrieve our paper in my robe. So, let’s just agree to leave our cameras out of this.
P.S. You are a very good writer, a trait that obviously not everyone has. I hope you decide to continue writing your memoirs for a potential book. I’d definitely buy one, but I would want it autographed.
Feb 7, 2010
I read your e-mail at 2:30 this morning (I had a brief sleep last night —up at 2:01). Nothing new there, of course—my sleep is brief on most nights.
A hundred mea culpas!
No, make that a thousand mea culpas because there is nothing you, Kevin or Ralph could do to offend me, and had you and Kevin and Ralph not banished the girls to another exotic location, there is nothing they could do to offend me. Even if you, Kevin, Ralph, the banished iguanas and your extended family banded together in a concerted effort to offend me, I would not be offended. The only way you could possibly come close to offending me would be to take me and my babbling seriously—life is simply too short for me to be serious—besides, it’s not in my nature!
I had the best of intentions to answer your previous two e-mails, the one on Victor Borge’s video that Cindy posted, and the one in which you asked me to let you know “if the culprit starts hiding the paper.” Of course, as the saying goes, “The road to (fill in the blank) is paved with good intentions.”
Unfortunately, recent events got in the way and I delayed my responses (actually, that means I forgot to respond). We’ve had an unusually busy week, and things are not going as well as we would like. Yesterday especially was not a good day, but things seem to have leveled off. I believe—I hope and I pray—that the worst is over.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa! I found that phrase on Wikipedia— I am greviously at fault, and as an apology Wikipedia said it far better than I could.
I have no knowledge of how or why or when your Sunday paper was placed neatly just outside your door this morning, placed at a right angle to the street (I just pray that the picker-upper doesn’t trip over it). Also if I were forced to guess, I would guess that it was placed by some nut wearing a bright green robe, etc., etc. I would also hazard a guess that the deed was accomplished somewhere around 6:00 AM (Central Time).
March 2, 2010:
A card from Kathy, delivered by the US Postal Service although our mailboxes are approximately sixty feet apart:
Dear green-robed phantom and your pink-robed wife:
Thank you so much for the delicious edible arrangement! That was quite a surprise. The other big surprise is that you used 4 exclamation points after “Happy Birthday.” I was so perplexed that I questioned Kevin, “Do we know any other green and pink-robed couples?”
I hope you know that your presence as our neighbors is truly a real gift. Any more than that is really not necessary. Thank you, though. That was very kind!
Your (one year older) neighbor,
March 3, 2010
Dear One Year Older Neighbor,
Thanks for the card and for the kind thoughts, especially the thought that you consider our presence as your neighbors to be a real gift. I wish I had said it first but I didn’t, so I’ll just bounce it right back at you. Regarding our presence as neighbors, As ours is to you, so yours is to us.
On the subject of exclamation points, I have given up. You know that in a dog fight the vanquished dog, rather than running, may simply end the fight by lying on his back, thereby giving the victor access to his underbelly, his most vulnerable area—it is a sign of surrender.
I’m not going to that extreme, but I have surrendered. I have given up on my quest to eliminate, or even to reduce, exclamation points. I realize that the practice is too well entrenched, so I’ve decided that if I can’t beat ‘em, I’ll join ‘em! And I enjoy it—it’s fun!
I just took a closer look at the sentence that says “As ours is to you, so yours is to us.” When viewed out of context it seems to take on some profound meaning, similar to a Tibetan monk’s summary of life or some other chant.
Try it. Read it aloud several times. Look real solemn and speak in a deep tone. You’ll find that it takes on mystic properties. I think I may have created something. I should probably copyright it!
March 4, 2010:
You are so funny!! I wish the Express-News would replace that Marcie Meffert (Elders Express) in the S.A. Life with your writing. I’m not sure what the “elders” is for, and I’m not implying anything concerning your age here. I think she writes for the group of readers who would also qualify for AARP membership, older folks fifty-ish plus. I have only read her articles a few times, but I have yet to read one that I like. She tries to tell stories about her life, and I think she is trying to be humorous. She seems to be lacking the charm that you seem to have captured. You are a far superior writer, and way funnier! This “Dear Neighbor” writing had me LOL today! I agree on the mystic properties—copyright it!
March 5, 2010:
Those are some really kind words. Ain’t nobody that good, but you finally convinced me! Normally I would be delighted to replace the Meffert lady, but I have such distaste for the Express-News that I would be unwilling to have my name associated with it. I fought a running battle last year with Bob Richter, the editor for Letters to the Editor—dueling e-mails, if you will, and I won—he apologized for his lapse in judgment. He had asked for permission to print my letter, saying that he liked it but would omit my “whining” about the paper. I refused to authorize its publication.
I no longer strive to have my thoughts printed in Your Turn of the Metro section of the Express-News—my gain, the public’s loss. However, I sometimes throw rocks at the paper by posting items that I did not submit for publication, then I bad-mouth the Express-News on Word Press by claiming that my submission was rejected. Sneaky, huh?
Kathy, it really is a small world—we were neighbors to the Meffert family for several years in the latter part of the 1960s, with only one house between us, in what was then a decent lower-middle-class neighborhood near Lackland Air Force Base. It’s now a shambles, a nightmare with gang activity everywhere, gunshots frequently heard both day and night, lots of graffiti, chain-link-fenced front yards and junked cars behind them. The fences are not to keep the kids in—they’re there to keep the dogs out and to slow down burglars laden with items purloined from the houses.
Marcie had five children, two girls and three boys, their ages ranging from one year up to nine years—a very fertile lady, that one! Her husband was a surgical dentist in Lackland’s dental service, and attended me through a long series of dental procedures required by my failure to pay proper attention to dental matters. I was a smoker at the time—he said he did not smoke, and frequently lectured me on the evils of tobacco, then on almost every visit apologetically bummed a cigarette from me.
We were never close friends with the parents. We waved at them when appropriate, and Marcie and Janie often stood outside to discuss whatever women discuss—their children, I would suspect—Marcie was usually out looking for her children. As best as I can remember, neither family ever entered the other family’s house, probably because neither family ever invited the other family in. However, we came to know her children well. She put them out to graze each morning and called them back in for lunch and dinner, leaving the neighbors to look out for the kids. They were well behaved—the older girl was Cindy’s best friend, and she spent lots of time in our home.
All five children received good educations and seemed to fare well following graduation. Cindy’s best friend Lisa died several months ago—her obituary in the Express-News said only that she died suddenly. The obituary included her siblings’ names, marital status and their whereabouts. Their various professions were impressive—two colonels in the military, two doctors and one biology professor. I am of the opinion that their early association with our girls gave them the necessary head start to put them on the way to success—then again, maybe not.
When we returned to San Antonio in 1987, Marcie was the mayor of Leon Valley and wrote a column on city activities. I believe the Elders Express gig came after she was no longer the mayor. We have never made any effort to contact her to talk about old times. Lacking any strong desire to relive history with Marcie, we have been content to read her columns. Those columns, along with her daughter’s obituary, comprise our knowledge of her and her family.
But it is a small world, wouldn’t you agree?
March 5, 2010:
Agreed—a very small world sometimes! I hope that my observations of her writings weren’t too unkind. I just think that you would be a much better writer for that spot in the paper. Well, as long as I’m wishing, you’d make a far better editor to the Letters to the Editor too, but let’s not even go there!
I see that you and Kevin must have talked. He didn’t know that I would be home for a short time this afternoon and I didn’t know either. One of my tutoring students canceled out, so they may make the delivery while I’m here. If they do I’ll call and let you know. Thanks!
March 5, 2010
Your observations of her writings were not unkind at all, and your analysis of her work is right on. Writing with a restricted amount of space is more difficult than the writing I do. I have unlimited space and therefore just keep writing until I everything I want to say has been said, and is available somewhere among the verbiage. The reader just needs to keep sifting through the chaff in order to find the kernels of wheat.
At various duty stations during my military career, I wrote performance reports for a whole gaggle of people, officers as well as enlisted people, and that included writing my own performance reports. My superior only needed to sign them. The writing wasn’t part of my job. People heard about the guy that could get a person promoted and came to me with the details. I fashioned them into a performance report. The narrative had to be fitted into a limited space, and I soon learned that 250 words wrested from my vocabulary filled that space nicely. When I reached the magic number, I stopped writing.
No, writing such reports was not my job. I was a maintenance analysis superintendent, whatever that was, and I dealt more with numbers than with words. I hated numbers and loved words. Go figure!
While at Kelly Air Force Base in the late 1960s, I wrote performance reports for my commanding officer. In our association over a period of five years, he was promoted twice, from lieutenant colonel to full colonel and then to brigadier general. Coincidentally, I was promoted twice during the same period. My pay raises were not quite as generous as his, of course, and shortly after the second promotion, both his and mine, I was unceremoniously shipped off to Vietnam. I guess the general figured that one star was all he was going to get. Bummer!
November 16, 2010:
That concludes the exchange of e-mails between me and my neighbor. I trust that some of my viewers made it this far in this posting. I realize it’s lengthy, but I also realize that it contains some interesting neighborly communications, perhaps with comical, even historical value that may appeal to my family and to my neighbor and her family, and perhaps to some of my viewers—I hope, I hope!
Television and newspapers today are sharply focused on the recent murder of a jet-ski rider that was moving around on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake that straddles the international boundary between the U. S. and Mexico. It’s a giant reservoir, a body of water that extends some fifty miles along the Rio Grande River. The waters of the Rio Grande River are impounded by a huge dam near the city of Roma, Texas. The invisible international boundary line in the lake divides the countries of Mexico and the United States, and divides Texas and the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
The murdered man was on a jet-ski, a personal watercraft, and was accompanied by his wife who was mounted on a second jet-ski. She witnessed the murder and successfully escaped with her life. Now her story is being questioned because neither the jet-ski nor a body has been found by Mexican authorities, and those worthies will not allow American law enforcement officers to participate in the search. I believe that privilege is being denied because the jet-ski and the body were recovered either by Mexican authorities, persons working for Mexican drug cartels or by members of a Mexican drug cartel. I also believe that both the jet-ski and the body, and especially the body, have been concealed or destroyed in such a manner that the odds of them being recovered or found range from slim to none. I predict that they will never be found, and without the body or the jet-ski the Mexicans will continue to deny that no criminal action occurred.
Much of this is standard procedure in relations between us and our neighbor to the south. The drug cartels control Mexico with the use of cash from their illegal operations—local and federal Mexican officials either accept the bribes or they will be killed—other citizens, with or without an offer of cash, will in either case look the other way to avoid being killed. That’s a brutal way for a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate—perhaps a trillion-dollar conglomerate—to operate, but it is quite effective.
I worked on the Texas-Mexico border as a Customs inspector for twelve years, first as a trainee and journeyman inspector at Progreso, Texas, then as a first-level supervisor at Roma and Falcon Dam for two and one-half years, and finally at the port of Brownsville, Texas for another three and one-half years. I then spent three years at Customs Headquarters in Washington, DC and later held enforcement positions in Houston and San Antonio for another ten years. Looking back on my experiences and the knowledge I gleaned over a period of twenty-six years, I feel fairly well qualified to express my opinion of that murder incident and of the area where it occurred.
One brief statement can describe the incident. It is true—it happened. The man was murdered, either by cartel members or persons supporting the cartels, and the murder is being covered up with the knowledge and assistance of Mexican federal officials. That area on both sides of the border was lawless even before it became a part of the United States in 1848 following our war with Mexico . It was lawless then, it is lawless now and it will remain lawless into the predictable future. That is the nature of the terrain and its population on both sides of the international boundary, whether on land or on the water.
It is not my intention to paint every person in the area as lawless—the population contains the usual mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly—well, perhaps more of the bad than of the other two—my neighborhood and any other neighborhood reflects a similar amalgamation of people, differing only in degree. That area along the Texas/Mexico border is lawless because of its terrain and its proximity to Mexico. Smuggling in Starr County, Texas has for centuries literally been, and to this day remains, a way of life for many of the county’s residents. Merchandise, animals and people are routinely smuggled from Texas to Mexico and from Mexico to Texas, while cash, weapons and ammunition are smuggled into Mexico and illegal narcotics are smuggled into Texas. Much of the smuggling is done to avoid paying duty and taxes on the U. S. side, and paying duty, taxes and mordida on the Mexican side. Mordida is the diminutive of the verb morder, to bite—mordida is a little bite added to the legitimate cost of importations and exportations—on the Mexican side it adds a considerable amount to the cost of doing business, whether legal or illegal business.
A case in point would be the movement of horses across the Rio Grande River in the past, and perhaps even now. The law requires that live animals be subjected to examination by proper officials, whether going out of the U.S. or coming into the U.S. In past years quarter-horse races have been held and probably are still being held, on both sides of the Rio Grande. Rather than be bothered by quarantine laws and paying mordida, owners and trainers would take their horses to a bend in the river that would guarantee that a horse forced into the water would swim to the other side, where an accomplice would recover the animal, then off to the races– time saved, no veterinarian fees, no holding period, etc. One must necessarily view that as practical, and the odds of being detected were virtually nil. The point is that if one can smuggle a full grown horse from nation to nation in both directions, smuggling narcotics should be a snap—and it is.
Some of Starr County’s features were summed up thusly by a writer in a Playboy magazine article published in the 1970s: The author told Playboy’s readers that in order to visit Rio Grande City, the county seat of Starr County, Texas you should fly into San Antonio, rent a car and drive to Laredo, make a left turn there and drive until you smell feces—that would be Roma, Texas—then continue straight until you step in it and you’ll be in Rio Grande City, the county seat of Starr County. I seriously doubt that the article increased tourist traffic in the area.
Mexico as a nation and Mexicans as individuals have always felt that our annexation of Texas in 1845, an act that led to our war with Mexico, was illegal and it probably was. Mexico has also always felt that the land lost to the United States in 1848 with Mexico’s defeat in the war between the nations was unwarranted and unfair. Perhaps the drug cartels will at sometime in the future reclaim much of that land, especially in the lower and upper Rio Grande Valley and in the great state of Arizona. The cartels already rule Starr County during the hours of darkness—the next step is to dominate the area during daylight hours—the way things are going now, it could happen.
What follows is a comment I made on one of my daughter’s postings way back in May of 2009. I was somewhat belated in making the comment—her posting is dated almost two years earlier, in August of 2007. Hey, better late than never! I’m bringing the comment out of the Stygian darkness of comments and into the bright light of today to make it available to more viewers, to present a beautiful family to today’s Word Press viewers. I’m proud to be part of this family.
Photos are by my daughter, Cindy Dyer. Click here for her blog at http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/ for some gorgeous photography, with interpretations and descriptions of flora, fauna and a little bit of everything else—no, make that a lot of everything else. You’ll find photos and descriptions of of places all over the United States and various foreign countries including—well, rather than listing all the places, just remember when you get to her home page to click on her Stuff About Me in the right-hand column and get ready to be impressed! I am tremendously impressed by her talents and her work. Of course I am her father and I am supposed to be impressed—but see for yourself!
This is the comment I posted almost two years ago:
It’s 4:00 AM plus 35 minutes here in San Antonio—I’ve been up and on my feet since 2:00 AM plus 13 minutes (actually, I’ve been sitting on my heine at the computer, looking over some of your past postings). Past postings sounds like a food dish—Italian, maybe. Do you perhaps have the recipe?
I am thrilled by these photos of the Talbert family—I must have overlooked them when they were first posted. My heart swells with pride when I realize that through my daughter Debbie, the family matriarch, I contributed to the formation of this gorgeous group. I hasten to add that I was not involved in the formation of the two hairy ones, the one with the beard and glasses and the family member Landen is holding, the devil cat that his mother and his grandmother—my daughter and my wife—call hussy.
I proudly proclaim—a kingly proclamation—that I have, perhaps not full but at least partial, genetic responsibility for the “beauty and brains” displayed and demonstrated by this family except, of course, for the patriarch and the pussy. I am not implying that those two are in any manner limited or deficient in beauty or brains—I simply mean that I was not privileged to contribute to their genetic makeup in any way.
Hey, The Patriarch and the Pussy Cat could well be the title for a television series, a family situation comedy centered around the activities of the title characters. However, that title may cause it to be listed in the adult section of TV listings, so it would probably be best to stick with The Talbert Family a la —in the manner of—The Partridge Family.
According to Google, heine is of Germanic origin—it’s most likely a diminutive for the surname Heinrich. I’m guessing that’s what the hn means in the Google listing below. As Bill O’Reilly is wont to say, “What say you?”
Heine Heinrich, 1797-1856, German writer who lived in Paris after 1831. His romantic poems and social essays are marked by his love for the German land and people and derision for many modern German institutions.
How about this? If a son born to a Hispanic mother and Germanic father was unlucky enough to be named James Heinrich, he could legitimately be called Jaime Heine. Phonetic pronunciation would be as follows: Hime Hine, with a long I and the soft accent on the first syllable of each word.
I know, I know—I have far too much time on my hands.
Postscript: The family, including the devil cat, is three years older now and lots of water has flowed under the bridge in that three years. Big sister was just graduated by the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA—and little brother is no longer little—he has replaced the curls with an adult haircut, moved up into the rarified air of six feet in height, and is in his second year of studies at UTSA. The pussy cat has not changed—she is still a devil cat!
Earlier this month I posted a story about a rabbit that thrived on diesel fuel—not a real rabbit, of course—this was a Volkswagen Rabbit that performed heroically for our family in the years between 1978 and 1984. I would like to believe that it is still performing, some 26 years after I donated it to the Salvation Army in McAllen, Texas—could be—who knows?
What follows is a comment from one of my three daughters, the princess that lives in a Dallas suburb with her husband, her son, her daughter and a Blue-heeled Australian Shepherd named Wrigley, along with various insects and other creepy-crawly specimens collected by her daughter. I felt that my daughter’s comment, combined with my response, qualified for a separate posting. My daughter also has a WordPress blog. She started off at top speed then came to an abrupt stop, but the initial posting is well worth the read. Click here for her posting about the Easter bunny.
This is my daughter’s comment:
What I remember most about this car was driving to San Antonio to buy the car. You and mom dumped—okay, dropped—us off at the movies to see “Jaws.” Cindy and I sat through one showing and you didn’t show up—we sat through another showing and you still hadn’t come back to pick us up. Halfway through the third showing you proudly came into the theater with the great news that you had bought the car. I am sure that seeing Jaws two and one-half times has something to do with my fear of being ripped to shreds by a shark—that and my overactive imagination.
This is my response to her comment:
Sorry about that, but thanks for your comment. It taught me a new word—galeophobia. Had I been asked the meaning of that word before now, I would have guessed that it meant a fear of strong winds—tornados, hurricanes, summer breezes wafting o’er the meadows, etc. For your edification—if needed—and that of the hordes of viewers stampeding and elbowing one another in their efforts to gain access to my blog, I am including Wikipedia’s take on fear of sharks—click here for the Wikipedia web site.
Fear of sharks: Excessive and persistent fear of sharks is termed galeophobia. Sufferers from this phobia experience anxiety even though they may be safe on a boat or in an aquarium or on a beach. Hollywood films depicting sharks as calculating, vengeful diabolical monsters have no doubt enkindled the fear of sharks in many persons. So have validated reports of sharks venturing into rivers and lakes.
Most of the more than 300 species of sharks rarely attack swimmers and scuba divers. However, great white sharks, hammerhead sharks and tiger sharks will attack on occasion, especially if they detect blood in the water. More than 60 percent of the victims of shark attacks survive. Oddly, the largest of all sharks, the whale shark, feeds on plankton and has no appetite for human flesh.
The term “galeophobia” is derived from the Greek words “galeos” (shark with markings resembling those on a weasel) and “phobos” (fear). “Galeophobia” is also sometimes used as alternate term for ailurophobia, fear of cats, because the Greek word “galeos” is derived from “galee,” a Greek meaning “polecat” and “weasel.”
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Postscript: I stumbled upon a website that featured a Panama-brown Rabbit owned by a lover of Panama-brown Rabbits. Click here to view multiple photos—this car differs from my rabbit only in the number of doors—mine had four—and its fuel requirements. The owner doesn’t say, but I believe this is a gasoline model. My Rabbit was configured for diesel fuel.
During the early 1980s I was one of two second-level Customs supervisors in the inspection force at the port of Brownsville, Texas and on a very special evening I was performing my supervisory duties on the swing shift—4 pm to 12 midnight—at the Gateway Bridge. At some time near the middle of the shift, a pedestrian of a different kind walked in from Mexico and the officer on sidewalk duty referred him to my office.
The pedestrian was an elderly Anglo male, probably in his sixties, wearing slacks and a white shirt, his tie still knotted but hanging loosely. There was blood on his face and his shirt was stained with blood, apparently from a nosebleed. He walked erratically and seemed oblivious of his surroundings. My first thoughts were that he was either drunk or under the influence of drugs, but his answers to my first questions were always the same—I don’t know. My most pertinent question was Do you know where you are? His answer was simply No.
I asked him for his name and he said Fred Siemens. I asked him where he lived and he said San Antonio, and my next question was Are you an attorney? He said Yes and I realized that he was Fred Siemens, a prominent attorney in San Antonio, nationally and internationally known for his work in criminal law. Because of him and an article on him that appeared in one of San Antonio’s local newspapers, I became a devotee of Henry David Thoreau’s writings, specifically Walden or, Life in the Woods and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. The image on the right is my well-thumbed copy of the work on which Mahatma Ghandi based his passive resistance movements. Click here for an explanation of how, when, where and why I first met Thoreau and his writings.
I suspected that he could be the subject of a missing person alert, and I immediately called the Brownsville Police Department and asked for an officer to come to the Gateway Bridge. Two officers arrived in record time, and I told them that they should contact the San Antonio Police Department and would probably find a missing person lookout on the man. They thanked me and gently escorted the attorney to their vehicle.
Now read about the non-existent grateful appreciation expressed by the Brownsville police for giving them a well-known missing person and the opportunity to shine a bright light on the coordination between local and federal law enforcement in the city of Brownsville. I never heard from the Police Department—I called the Department the next day and the people on duty claimed to have no knowledge of the incident.
However, several days later a lengthy article appeared in the local daily newspaper detailing the fine work done by Brownsville’s police in returning a missing person to his home in San Antonio. The article stated that in the early evening on a certain day Mr. Siemens was found wandering around in the vicinity of the Gateway Bridge, apparently unaware of his surroundings, and an investigation determined that a missing person lookout for him had been made by San Antonio police. Obviously there were some really ambitious officers on Brownsville’s police force!
I should have known what was going to happen, because the two officers that took custody of the missing person neglected to ask for my name or for my position in the Customs hierarchy. If I gave that any thought at the time, it would probably have been that they would return for the specifics of the interdiction, and also to tender the thanks of the local department to the Customs officers on duty that evening, specifically to the inspector on pedestrian traffic duty and to the supervisory officer on the shift, the person that recognized the missing person and initiated the investigation. I mean, like hey, everybody likes to shine!
So I can only offer kudos to the local police for their fine work in solving a missing person lookout and returning a brilliant and nationally-known criminal law attorney to his home and to his loved ones. Good work, guys!
In 1977 I began the year as a journeyman Customs inspector at the port of Progreso, Texas at the international border with Mexico, just as I had done for the past six years since beginning my employment with the U.S. Customs Service in December of 1971, just six months after my retirement from the U.S. Air Force in July of that year.
In the summer of 1977 I applied for a supervisory position at the port of Roma, some 75 miles farther upstream on the Rio Grande River, and I was selected in the competition for the position of a first-level supervisor at that location. I went to Roma in October of 1977 and remained there two and one-half years until 1980. Early in 1980 I was promoted to a second-level supervisory position at the port of Brownsville, Texas and I relocated there in April of that year.
My home was in Donna, Texas, a small town in the lower Rio Grande Valley some 60 miles distant from my duties at the port of Roma. At the time I was driving a 1972 Ford LTD that used a considerable amount of gas per mile, so I searched for a more economical vehicle. I sold the Ford and bought a 1978 Chevrolet that turned out to be a gas hog, so I traveled to San Antonio is search of a vehicle a bit easier on fuel.
I returned to the Valley with a Panama Brown 1978 Volkswagen Rabbit equipped with the original Rabbit gasoline engine that had been modified to run on diesel fuel. Diesel in Mexico was selling for a whopping 12 cents a gallon at that time, and the station was a mere one-eighth of a mile from the Customhouse, across the river in Miguel Aleman, Mexico. I gave the Chevrolet to one of my daughters in Donna, Texas.
The Rabbit had four doors and seated four passengers in relative comfort considering its diminutive size, with front bucket seats and a floor-mounted manual gear shift. It had the basic required dashboard instruments, but the only extras were a radio and air conditioning. Its color was called Panama Brown, but it could only be considered a rather bright shade of orange.
I started making the 120 mile round trip between home and work and soon realized that I was getting excellent mileage, but I wanted to know exactly how far the little car would run on a full tank of diesel. The tank held 10 gallons—I told the station attendant in Mexico to pack it in, and filled a one gallon can with diesel to carry in the car. I intended to run until the tank was empty—I couldn’t think of a better way to get an accurate picture of the performance of a gasoline engine configured to run on diesel.
I decided to run without air conditioning for the test because I knew that the compressor took a toll on the engine’s power. I zeroed out the mile indicator and maintained a steady maximum speed of 60-65 miles per hours for the duration of the test. I drove until the engine stopped running and then let the car coast to a stop. The coasting didn’t gain much, because the terrain between home and work was flat, with no hills and no curves.
Including the one hundred feet or so covered in the coasting when the tank ran dry, I recorded exactly 600 miles. With a ten-gallon tank that means the little orange Rabbit averaged 60 miles for each gallon of diesel—I sure wish I had it now!
I drove the Rabbit for the two and one-half years I worked at Roma, then for another three and one-half years that I worked at the port of Brownsville, a round-trip distance of 100 miles between my home in Donna and my work site in Brownsville. In October of 1983 I passed the Rabbit to my daughter that at the time was living in Donna and making the same 100-mile round trip in the gas-guzzling 1978 Chevrolet. She parked the Chevrolet and I donated it to the Salvation Army in McAllen, Texas and took a decent tax write-off for the donation.
Now for the kicker: My daughter drove the Rabbit for another two years, then she parked it and came to live with us in Washington, D.C. I donated the little car to the same charity and took another decent write-off for the donation.
Its speedometer showed an honest 186, 000 miles, and here is the clincher—I never changed the glow plugs nor ever replaced a tire—never even had a flat. The only maintenance performed on that magnificent automobile during that 186,000 miles was the replacement of the fan belt—it broke at exactly 100,000 miles while I was on the way to work, still with about 30 miles to go. I lost all electrical power, but a diesel doesn’t need electricity—the heat of the glow plugs keeps it running. I drove directly to the Volkswagen dealer in Brownsville and had the belt replaced.
That’s my story of my 1978 Panama Brown diesel Rabbit, and I’m sticking to it!
A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Forum yesterday. No, belay that—I didn’t mean the Forum—that’s where Julius Caesar was heading when Brutus intercepted him and said, Here, Julius, hold this! and then stabbed him. No, I was on the way home from having lunch at Bush’s Chicken Restaurant in Converse, Texas and a funny thing happened when I stopped at the newly opened 99 Cent Store at Thousand Oaks Drive and Jones Maltsberger in San Antonio.
That store was open for a year or so then closed for some reason. The closing saddened me—among many other bargains they sold watermelons for 99 cents, the same brand that the HEB supermarket across the street was selling for prices up to seven dollars. The 99 Cents Store just reopened with lots of fanfare, with grand opening day bargains that included 22-inch flat screen TVs for 99 cents to the first nine people through the door—people began lining up two full days before opening day with picnic chests, coolers and lounge chairs.
The store was open two days before the Grand Opening, and I stopped there the day before the Grand Opening. They were closed that day, and a nice lady told me that as I was exiting my car. She and her husband had just been turned away, and she was kind enough to brief me before I made the trek to the front door.
The couple were long past the eligibility age for AARP, but I must say for the lady that she retained a keen sense of smell. After she told me the store was closed, she said, Sir, can you tell me the name of your cologne? and I, nonplussed, said Excuse me? She asked me again, saying that she really liked my cologne, that the scent was heavenly and she just wondered what it was called—I suppose she intended to purchase some for her husband, or perhaps for herself—who knows?
I use neither cologne nor aftershave lotion—in fact, I do not shave because I have a full beard and mustache. I use deodorant but it’s unscented, as is my bath soap. I answered the lady truthfully, without a hint of laughter, not even a smile.
I said, Ma’am, I don’t use cologne. That isn’t cologne you smell—it’s Bush’s fried chicken. My clothes and those of my wife had apparently absorbed the odor of fried chicken, plus we had a take-out box with leftover chicken pieces resting on the pullout drink holder on the dashboard. It was a hot August day with virtually no breeze, and the odor exited the car at the same time I did.
This is a true story, certifiably a candidate for Ripley’s Believe it or Not—had my wife not been with me to verify its truth, I don’t believe I would have ever told the story. Veracity is one of my pitifully few positive attributes, one that I strive to attain and maintain in all my conversations with others, whether written or vocal. I freely admit that I boast a lot, a fact that is substantiated by some of my postings on Word Press, but hey—it ain’t bragging if you done it!
The lady acknowledged her faux pas gracefully and with laughter, and asked for more information on the source of my heavenly odor. I briefed her on the two locations of Bush’s Chicken Restaurants in the city of Converse and told her that other outlets in the San Antonio area were on the drawing boards.
Please don’t tell Bill Miller of Bill Miller’s Restaurants what I told the lady before we parted. Bill Miller’s is a chain of restaurants that offer fried chicken as a staple along with barbecue and sausage and brisket, tacos, iced tea, and various pies, ubiquitous in San Antonio and with locations in other Texas cities. Some locations, but not all, serve breakfasts, and their tacos are outstanding. When you go, and I know you will, try the potato, egg and cheese taco—it’s great!
I told her that Bush’s Chicken Restaurants plan to open more outlets in the San Antonio area and would likely give Bill Miller a run for the money—at least in the fried chicken part of his business.
San Antonio’s only daily newspaper, the Express-News, is considered by conservatives to be liberal, and is considered by liberals to be conservative. I have my own opinion, but I’ll keep it in reserve for another posting, and I’ll let my viewers decide the paper’s political bent when more information is given on yesterday’s crash—Sunday, August 8, 2010—that killed four people. The front page article on the accident identified the dead, all occupants of a green Dodge Caravan, as an infant boy and an eleven-year-old girl in the rear seat, and two front-seat occupants, the driver and a passenger. The article stated that, “No names were released Sunday.”
The vehicle that crashed into the green Dodge Caravan while being chased by a San Antonio patrol officer was not identified by color or make or model, although it was readily available for identification—it landed upside down in a TV repair shop near the collision site. The article referred to the upside-down vehicle as an SUV, a term that was used nine times by the two female journalists that wrote the story.
Why? Why identify the minivan in such detail and no details on the SUV? Perhaps it was oversight on the part of the journalists, but that isn’t likely. I am of the opinion that the SUV is well-known by many citizens of San Antonio. Did it have bumper stickers or magnetic political signs on its doors? Was there some feature of the vehicle that would link it to one of San Antonio’s political personalities?
After causing the death of four people, the driver of the SUV suffered nothing more than a broken ankle. She is identified only as a female in her late 30s, and the article states that, The SUV’s driver had warrants issued for her arrest on charges of theft, failure to produce proper identification and driving without a license, as well as several traffic citations, Benavides said.
The speaker was police Sgt. Chris Benavides.
I submit to you, my readers, that the SUV and its driver are connected in some way to a prominent person or organization in the city, and the editors of the Express-News are withholding identification pending a decision on what to release. If that seems to be a stretch, consider this:
Some years ago a woman was jogging while pushing her infant child in a stroller, and was attacked and killed, knifed to death. The woman lived long enough to identify her killer as a black male dressed in jogging clothing. An all-points bulletin was sent out for everyone to be on the lookout for a male dressed in jogging clothing—no mention of the killer being black, nor did the Express-News include that fact in its coverage of the incident.
That murder occurred in Olmos Park, one of the most up-scale areas in San Antonio. The odds of a black jogger being in that area were astronomical then, and are much on the same par today. I am certain that every non-black jogger encountered in that area on that day and on later days was stopped and questioned. I wonder how much time was spent on those stops that could have better been spent on looking for the black jogger.
In the case of the murdered woman, vital information was withheld for the purpose of political correctness. In the case of the four people killed by a woman in her late thirties driving an SUV, I consider the possibility that the public is being denied pertinent information for the same reason—political correctness, in this instance to protect some prominent person or persons or organizations.
I don’t know them personally, but I know of them because I am a resident of this city and I try to keep up with the times. I am aware of several prominent people in this city that are married to women that are in their late thirties. I await breathlessly for future facts on the incident.
I’ll get back to you with more details as they emerge—I promise!
I’m back, and with more details, just as I promised. The Express-News today identified the SUV and the driver and dashed all my suspicions and speculations that the driver may have been a well-known and well-connected person, eitherpolitically or otherwise. She is in fact very well-known, but known to the local police force—she has a rap sheet that includes other drunken driving charges, a jail sentence, several charges of prostitution and a host of other violations of city and state laws.
And the mystery of the SUV is no longer a mystery—the SUV that did all the damage, the vehicle that was identified nine times as an SUV in the original report, the SUV that landed upside down in a TV repair shop after broadsiding a green Dodge minivan and killing four people—the driver, her mother, the driver’s four-month old child and the driver’s eleven year old sister—yes, that SUV—was not an SUV.
It was a PT Cruiser.
You, the reader, may wonder why I included the oddities of the initial report and my suspicions and speculations of the reasons why the so-called SUV was not identified color, make or model. The answer is simple—I worked too damned hard on those suspicions and speculations to toss them away, so I decided to let ’em ride and report the details that should have been printed in the original article. At the very least I should get credit for having a vivid imagination!
Your phone call yesterday was really a pleasant surprise. I had just about decided that you were keeping a mad on with me, because you didn’t write, you didn’t call . . .
I got to work right at 9 o’clock, just in time to make the daily schedule. Actually they didn’t need me. If I hadn’t shown up the inspectors would have assigned themselves the different jobs and processed the arriving aircraft. Sure is nice to know you’re not needed, isn’t it?
Sundays and holidays are nothing days anyhow. I work from 9 till about 11, then go home and piddle all day and come back at 6 pm, work for about an hour then go home. I get paid for all the time in between because I can’t go anywhere. I’m on standby.
Effective in January our overtime system changes, and probably not for the better. I’m certain the amount of overtime we earn is going to drop significantly. The good part about the new system is that the overtime we earn will be used to compute our high-three earning years to determine our retirement pay. The system we use now does not take overtime into account in determining retirement. So it’s one of those every cloud has a silver lining deals.
I’m not sure it’s true that every cloud must have a silver lining. I’ve seen lots of clouds that didn’t have a lining, silver or otherwise. The only way a cloud can have a silver lining is if the sun is behind it. What about a cloud that doesn’t have the sun behind it? The saying should be changed to every cloud with the sun behind it must have a silver lining and then it would be true.
I’ve definitely seen clouds without silver linings, and I’ve seen situations and circumstances and events that were bad, 100 percent bad, nothing good about them, or nothing that I could see, anyway. Wow! Am I feeling pessimistic, or what?
Not really. I’m feeling good. Yesterday I had a phone call from one of my two favorite sisters (worded that one neatly, didn’t I!), I’m at work making good money and earning 10 percent extra wages just for being on the evening shift (and it goes to 15 percent January1), and they got my concrete poured today, and if all goes well I should have the new patio cover up in a week or so, and all my kids are well and we will all be together for Christmas, and I have no doubt that the rest of the universe is unfolding as it should, even without my help!
Did I ever tell you about my dog? I’ve had her for about four years now, and sometimes I really don’t like her. She is a barker and a sitter—I omitted the H—when people ask what breed of dog I have, I tell them that she is a Shitzalot, and some say, Oh, okay, I’ve heard of that breed. I can’t keep the patio clean because she tracks dirt and mud on it, and I can’t have a pretty back yard because she cuts trails all through the grass, and I have been threatening to give her away, sell her, shoot her, or donate her to the dog pound almost from the time we got her as a puppy. And I unfairly blame Alta, because she is the one that wanted a puppy four years ago.
Today one of the concrete workers said that she was a pretty dog and he really liked her, and I asked him if he wanted her. He said he really would like to have her, and guess what? I don’t want him to have her. She’s my dog, and I’m stuck with her. I must have figured that if someone else wanted her she must be an outstanding dog, and it would be foolish to get rid of such a fine animal.
I made Alta a promise, though. I had my chance to get rid of her—the dog, not Alta—and didn’t take it, so I promised never to cuss or punish or even complain about her again—the dog, not Alta. It isn’t going to be an easy promise to keep, but I’ll work hard at it.
The dog was supposed to be a Cockapoo, a mix of Cocker Spaniel and French Poodle, but somehow a Labrador Retriever got into the act and accomplished the act, so my Cockapoo weighs about 40 pounds and eats like a horse and dumps like a horse and cuts paths in my yard like a horse—but I’m not complaining!
Would you believe it? I have been sitting here looking at the screen for a long time, couldn’t think of anything to talk about. That’s not like me, is it? Usually I have something to chatter about. How about San Antonio and its drive-by shootings? We are right up there with the big boys in Los Angeles and Chicago and New York. The city is averaging some 3-4 drive-by shootings daily. They are mostly on the east side where most of the blacks live, and on the south and west side where most of the Hispanics live. However, youth gangs are beginning to spread to the north side where most of the white folks live.
I’m really not sure who to blame, whether it’s the parents’ fault, or television and the movies, or the government, or maybe that old a-tomic bomb they keep setting off. I imagine more effort will be put into the problem now that it is spreading to the side of town where all the power movers and the wealthy live—the people with the financial and political clout.
Since I live on the north side, you won’t have to worry about the gangs when you come to visit. I mention this only to allay your fears, not to imply that I am one of the wealthy or a power mover, or one of those with financial or political clout. I live on the north side just because it’s closer to the airport. We looked everywhere in the city before we finally settled on this house. I believe I could qualify as a taxi driver in virtually every section of San Antonio.
Valley High, the subdivision we lived in from 1964 till 1972, is now one of the most crime-ridden areas in the city. Our old house still looks good, except it is now a bright pink with blue trim—doesn’t look too bad, actually. The area has junk cars on the streets and in the front yards, and many of the homeowners have completely fenced their houses, front yard as well as the back. I guess the fence is intended to keep out people as well as dogs. We have some friends who still live in Valley High, but we don’t visit too often. Well, actually, we haven’t visited them in 6 years. I guess that’s not too often, isn’t it?
They’ve been to our house a couple of times since we returned to San Antonio, but that’s about it. Is this depressing you? It’s depressing me. I feel a deep resentment when I see how property values have gone down in various areas here because of the influx of lower income people. I don’t know who to blame for this, either. I suppose the people do the best they can with what they have to work with.
So whose fault is it that they don’t have much to work with? Is it theirs because they don’t try to improve, or is it ours because we fail to share with them, or is it government’s fault because it doesn’t provide adequately for them?
Boy, I’m waxing philosophical, ain’t I? Want to know how I really feel about all this? To heck with them—I have mine, let them get theirs! The only problem is that too often they want to get theirs from someone else instead of earning it.
I know you’re not supposed to listen to bad jokes, so skip this paragraph. Three young women, all pregnant, were at the clinic waiting to see the doctor. They were discussing the sex of their unborn children and one said, “I know I’m going to have a little boy because my husband was on top when our baby was conceived.” The second woman said, “Well, I’m sure mine is going to be a girl, because my husband was on the bottom when our baby was conceived.” The third woman burst into tears and said, “Oh, my God, I’m gonna have a puppy!
You can open your eyes now, but don’t look back. You remember what happened to Lott’s wife, don’t you? Are you aware that she was probably the first salt lick in history?
Are you getting tired? Would you like to take a break, maybe get a cup of coffee, go to the bathroom or walk around for awhile or something? I don’t mind. I can wait. Go ahead.
Boy, you must have really had to go!
Did I ever tell you about the time we were traveling through North Carolina and Debbie, who was about four years old, started to ask me something then said, Oh, never mind, you’ll just tell me I’m going upstream. We finally figured out that she meant was that I would tell her she was going to extremes. She also brought me the phone book one time and asked me to show her an unlisted number. And the funny thing is, I started to hunt one. She was about 17 then. No, she was about seven, I guess.
Isn’t it funny the things we remember about the kids? I remember so clearly you telling about Larry, when he was just a little fellow, playing on the porch and saying Whew, tod dam, and he turned out to be saying what Elmer would say when he got home from working, Whew, tired down. You did tell me that, didn’t you? I do remember it right, don’t I? Or did I make it up? Well, if I did, it’s a good story. I’ve told it a lot over the years.
My girls come up with stories about when they were little, especially about things concerning me, that I know never happened. My only problem is that when one of them tells the story, the other two back her up. In fact, Alta usually jumps on the bandwagon and also claims it happened just like they said. Can you believe that?
Oops, got a plane to work. This is my last one tonight, from Mexico City. Shouldn’t take long, just 21 passengers. Maybe we’ll get out early tonight. So I’ll close for now.
On July 27, just a few days ago, I posted a story about road rage and San Antonio drivers, and told my viewers of the time my daughter had a window shot out in her car while she was driving on North Loop 410 in San Antonio. Click here to read the full posting.
Our only daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, had two articles on road rage in today’s issue—a person died in each instance. As of this writing a 44-year-old man is in jail in San Antonio, charged with murder in the beating death of a 30-year-old man. On Sunday, the first day of August, 2010 the killer was forced to wait at a green light at an intersection when the victim stopped and exited his vehicle to “pluck a flower.”
When he returned to his vehicle—we must assume that he plucked the flower—the killer followed him to a parking lot, confronted him and “punched him several times,” then slammed his head on the asphalt. The author of the article tells us that the killer’s “temper is alleged to have cost another man his life—and it could cost him his freedom.” Please note the word could, not would, and remember that this happened in San Antonio, Texas.
After the the Express-News “journalist” told us the murder could cost the killer his freedom, the victim was abandoned—we are not told whether the victim died instantly and was pronounced dead at the scene, or was dead on arrival at a hospital, or lingered between life and death in the intensive care unit and died at a certain time on a certain day. Instead the “journalist” continued with an in-depth discussion of the killer’s background, including his criminal record, his work record, his abusive treatment of his wife and numerous other sad facets of his life. The “journalist” quotes the killer’s wife as saying, “Maybe looking at the possibility of never coming home will give him time to really think about exactly what his temper and anger had caused.” Please note the words maybe and possibility, and remember that the incident happened in San Antonio, Texas.
We are told nothing about the man that died, whether married or unmarried, where or if he worked, absolutely nothing of his background, whether he had brothers or sisters or a father and a mother or perhaps a family of his own. The only things we know about him is that he was a man and was 30 years old and he stopped to pick a flower and is now dead.
My question to the “journalist” and to the editor is this: Why were we not not given any details about the dead man? The killer was given quite a bit of space in your paper—were the details of the victim not newsworthy?
The second article on road rage deals with the murder of a 23-year-old man, shot by a 62-year-old man following a minor accident, labeled a “fender bender” by the journalist. The jury could have given five years to life for the conviction—they chose to give him seven and one-half years and he will become eligible for parole after serving just one-half of his sentence. Other than a statement made by the mother of the dead man, we were told nothing of his background.
There are multiple morals to these stories, including the fact that should you fall prey to road rage and lose your life, the sentence given to the killer will probably be light, and few details of your death will be printed. The public will know your name and age and little else, and the facts of your demise will occupy far less newspace than the killer’s actions.
There are other morals, namely, whatever you do, do not block traffic by stopping to pick a flower—not even an exotic orchid is worth your life. Don’t ever tailgate a driver because you feel he dissed you, and don’t ever cut in front too sharply for the same reason. Don’t ever flip a bird at a driver or return one that he flipped you, and don’t blow your horn unless it is absolutely necessary—and in my opinion it is virtually never necessary. If I had my way, horns on privately owned vehicles would be outlawed. I challenge any reader to describe a circumstance that absolutely requires a driver to press the horn button.
Don’t use the one about a driver coming at you traveling against traffic—blowing the horn won’t help. That driver is either too drunk to hear or to care, or is intent on committing suicide by motor vehicles—his and yours. If the driver ahead of you is asleep at a green light, either wait for him to awaken or, very carefully, back up and go around him. If you blow the horn he may be startled into instant action, regardless of the traffic situation. And if you’re thinking it’s his bad luck, think again. Another driver may hit you in his attempts to avoid the sleeper from hitting him.
I know I’m tilting at windmills on this subject. I know that people will continue to flip birds, hold up clenched fists, shout at other drivers, race around an offender and cut in too closely, follow too closely and blow the horn incessantly, and I also know that there is little sense in enumerating the myriad stupid things we tend to do when frustrated by the actions of others.
I know that we will continue to do those stupid things, and guess what?
We will continue to die.
And in Texas, light sentences will be given to our killers.
I wrote this letter to the editor of the McAllen Monitor while employed with the U.S. Customs Service in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. I spent twelve years on the Mexican border (1971–1983) as a Customs inspector, progressing from trainee to first level supervisor to second level supervisor, then transferred to Customs Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
This letter was my response to an editorial published by the McAllen daily newspaper, the Monitor. I never got the editorial update I requested, but I was rewarded by several subsequent submissions from the public on my criticism of the paper’s rant against “double-dipping” Civil Service workers, submissions that reflected and supported my comments on the paper’s editorial.
The McAllen Monitor
McAllen TX, Sept 17, 1977
Letter to the Editor:
Your editorial of Tuesday, August 30 entitled “Welfare—Civil Service Style,” is an unbridled and unprincipled attack on a segment of our population that has done nothing to deserve such an attack. You present only one side of the story and leave too much unsaid.
You say that there are 150,000 military retirees in federal service. How many military retirees are not in federal service? You estimate the average annual pensions of the 150,000 at $6,000 plus, and their annual Civil Service salaries at $12,000 plus. You don’t mention the extremes that make up those averages. You don’t mention the retired privates and corporals and sergeants, nor the many low-paying Wage Board and General Schedule jobs filled by military retirees. You say nothing of the merit selection and promotion systems in which military retirees compete equally with all others for employment and promotion.
You cite two extreme cases involving high salaries but you say nothing of the positions. Were they unique? Were the retirees qualified? Did they possess unique skills in scientific, professional or administrative fields that were urgently needed by the government? Skills that were not readily available from other sources? Since these things were left unsaid, they could well be possible.
You say that “98 percent of those who apply for federal disability retirement get it.” You omit the fact that virtually all those applications are based on years of service completed. Retirement eligibility has already been established. It has already been earned, regardless of whether the request for disability is approved.
You use the term “100 percent disability” as an all-inclusive condition, indicating that the retiree is supposedly unable to function as a worker. You either overlook the fact, or you are unaware of the fact that the disability percentage applies, not to the individual but to the percentage of his retired pay that will be exempted from federal taxes. And you overlook the fact that a retiree’s disability may have no effect in the career fields different from the one he is leaving.
You say nothing of other retired people in federal service. How many retirees from city, county and state Civil Service systems are employed in U.S. Civil Service? How many retired railroad workers? How many retired policemen, firemen and merchant seamen? How many independently wealthy people are employed by the federal government? Would you have our United States senator from McAllen resign his office? I’m certain his “outside income” is at least equal to the average military retiree’s pension.
I am ashamed and embarrassed by your editorial, not for myself or for the other military retirees in Civil Service, but for your editorial staff—for its lack of sensitivity and understanding and for its one-sided presentation of facts. I feel personally offended by such distorted reporting. I traded a military career spanning 22 years and two wars for a pension with no disability. Evidently my disabilities were not among those “relatively easy to fake.” I am now employed with the U.S. government and I am labeled a “welfare case” by you and your staff.
I cheerfully admit that I am a double-dipper, and I intend to continue double-dipping after retiring with a full pension at age 60 after 20 years of federal Civil Service. And I also intend to draw Social Security benefits based on maximum quarters paid in during military service. I suppose that will make me a triple dipper. Actually, I am already a triple-dipper because I am currently receiving educational benefits under the GI Bill. I suppose you would consider that another “welfare” payment.
You probably won’t get much repercussion from your editorial. The Valley is not a favorite of military retirees because of the high cost of living and the absence of those military facilities that provide additional welfare benefits—hospitals, commissaries, exchanges, etc. A military-oriented community—San Antonio, for example—would react more strongly.
Are our past wars really so distant that you feel free to use your critical and influential editorial space and privilege to condemn and label, as “welfare recipients,” people who served their country honorably in the armed forces for 20 years or more?
I would appreciate an editorial update, a note possibly, to the effect that while the system that permits double and triple dipping may be faulty, those involved in it are not. Not all of them “faked” their disabilities, and not all of them are simply “dipping in.” They are also “putting back.” Most were professional and dedicated military men, and most will never dip out enough with their pensions to compensate for the hardships, privation, and dangers they endured through their long military careers.
No military retiree objects to the highly descriptive, albeit somewhat derogatory, term of “double-dipper.” You may be sure, however, that every retiree objects to the “welfare” label. We deserve, and have earned, more honorable mention.
This posting is a letter I wrote to one of my sisters, the prettiest one and a lady that has always been at the top of my list of best loved, but don’t tell the other sisters or their children—they might not understand! This lovely lady left us behind almost seven years ago. I’m sharing the letter on Word Press because many people that knew and loved her are visitors to my blog, and this letter includes a lot of history from 1994. The image on the right shows the beautiful teenager that Elmer met and married after a brief engagement—a very brief angagement! We miss her.
San Antonio Int’l Airport
January 25, 1994
I’m certain you are aware that just because B follows A does not mean that B was caused by A, or in fact is in any way associated with A except, of course, by virtue of B’s position immediately following A’s position in the alphabet or to put it another way, by virtue of A’s position immediately preceding B’s position in the alphabet. So the fact that you called and talked for a long time the other day does not necessarily mean that this letter was caused by that phone call, or in fact is in any way associated with it.
However, we can put the matter to a scientific test. You keep calling and see if a letter follows each phone call. After a few years of that, we will be able to determine if there is any correlation between the two events. Betcha there is, betcha there is, huh, huh, whatcha wanna bet, huh, huh?
Correlation or not, it sure was pleasant talking with you. I know you’re glad to be back home. Seems like every time we leave, the urge to get back becomes stronger and stronger. I’m like Papa John Weathers—I guess I hate to have my routine messed up! That’s good news about Jessie recovering from her accident so well. I know that brace is a bummer but as you said, she’ll just have to adjust to it.
Got time for a couple of jokes? Stop me if you’ve heard these, okay?
The Lone Ranger and Tonto rode into town and stopped at the saloon. The Lone Ranger said, Tonto, my horse is really hot from all that galloping. Run around him a few times to stir up the air and help him cool off. The Lone Ranger went into the saloon and a few minutes later a guy came in, tapped him on the shoulder and said, Hey, man, you left your Injun running.
The doctor examined a guy and told him he only had six months to live. The guy said Doc, there’s no way I’ll be able to pay what I owe you in just two months. The doctor said, Okay, in that case I’ll give you a year.
One more doctor joke: A guy’s doctor called him and said, I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that your tests showed you have only two days to live. The guy said, That’s the good news? What’s the bad news? Nothing could be worse than that. The doctor said, Wanna bet? The bad news is that I’ve been trying to contact you for the last two days.
Well, I’ll shut up. Don’t blame me for the jokes. They came from Kelley. If the subject matter doesn’t depress you the subject matter will—oops, that’s another joke. Kelley heard the jokes from Gordon, and he made her promise not to repeat them, and she made me promise not to repeat them, so I want you to promise not to repeat them. They are so bad that they must be stopped!
Speaking of depressed, I have a program called Quicken which tracks all kinds of good stuff, including one’s finances. I spent several hours loading all my “finances” into it, then called up a report showing the totals. I was really happy with them until I divided what I have now by the number of years I’ve been working. Boy, am I depressed!. The program is a lot of fun, though. Gives you all sorts of charts and graphs, all in beautiful color. I just wish I had more to put into them.
I’m not really depressed. I have a wife that loves me, three daughters that love me, two grandchildren that love me, two big sisters that love me, a whole passel of nieces and grandnieces and nephews and grandnephews and even a couple, perhaps, of great grandnieces or maybe great grandnephews—don’t know whether they love me but all would if they knew me. I also have two cats and a dog that love me (I don’t care much for the dog), a good paying job with no heavy lifting, a nice place to live and a nice house to live in, way too much to eat, and good health. No, I’m not depressed, I’m blessed—hey, I made a rhyme!. See there, I’m even talented to go with all the above.
I said the job required no heavy lifting, but I just remembered something. Did I tell you about pulling a back muscle while lifting a heavy suitcase for an elderly lady last year? Well, I did, and suffered severe lower back pains. Went to the doctor and he said I had muscle trauma. I was sure it was kidney stones, and asked the doctor why it was taking me so long to get recover if it was only muscle trauma. And he said it was because I was a fat old man. Well, he didn’t actually say I was a fat old man. He said it’s because You’re 60 years old and overweight. So I left the doctor’s office and stopped at MacDonald’s for breakfast. I have lost some weight since then, though, and I’m working on the rest of it.
It’s 7 p.m. now, and I’m halfway through this 3-11 shift. The first 4 hours seem to pass fast, probably because we have several flights. The last 4 hours drag on and on. Seems like 11 o’clock will never come, but it always does, of course. Boring as the shift may be, you’ll never hear me griping to go on day shift. I’ve been doing this now for two and a half years, and I wouldn’t take the day shift on a dare. In fact, I live in fear that the other supervisor will decide he wants to evenings for awhile. Not too much danger of that, though. He is a politician, loves to make Chamber of Commerce meetings and other activities, and there’s not much of that on the evening shift.
Time has really flashed by since we returned to San Antonio. March will be seven years since I left Houston, one of the happiest days of my life, leaving Houston. Not because I was coming back to San Antonio, but because I was leaving Houston. I never really planned on staying in Customs this long, but as I’ve said before—at least I think I’ve said it before)—it’s hard to quit just when the money is good and the living is easy. It’s been so long since I really had to expend any significant effort on the job that I’m not sure just what kind of product I would come up with if I were asked to produce. So I’ll go on hoping I won’t be asked!
I see by the old computer screen that I’m near the end of the page, so I’ll close, or else I’ll have to subject you to another full page. I have lots more, but I’ll save it for the next letter.
Lots of love, from me and all of mine to you and all of yours.
SUPRISE! I’m back. Just called Alta and she said she had just finished talking to you, so I cranked up the word processor again. Alta said she asked what size unmentionables you wore so she could fill up the box she is sending. If it’s the one I’m thinking of, you won’t have to worry about bloomers for a long while, because the best I remember there is quite a bit of room there—in the box, I mean, not in your bloomers. Did she tell you about packing the outfit in a small box, then checking it later and finding that some of the stuff she put on it had been squashed—is that spelled right, or is squashed even a word? Anyway, she had to do it over. The more I look at squashed the worse it looks.
Our weather is still wet. It’s beginning to remind me of Viet Nam where we had to wrap our billfolds in plastic to keep the leather from getting moldy. And if we left a pair of shoes for several days without wearing them, they grew beards and moustaches. That sure seems like a long time ago. Well, shucks, it was a long time ago. I got back to the states in June of 1970. Would you believe more than 23 years ago?
Sometimes I have to work very hard to make myself believe I was even over there. I saw a movie the other night about the war, and relatives visiting the Viet Nam memorial in Washington, D.C. and placing different articles at the base of the wall. I went there several times while we were in Washington. It’s quite an experience, watching the grief displayed by so many of the people there. Some people call it the “Wall of Shame.” It seems to bring about a release of the emotions that people have kept bottled up inside themselves. I’ve seen hardened veterans fall to their knees and weep unashamedly, oblivious of everything else and everyone around them. It’s not an easy thing to watch, and it’s impossible to see such an outpouring of grief without being affected. And how in the hell I ever got into this subject is beyond me, but I’ll get out of it now.
Well, what can we talk about now? Did I tell you I have almost all the Louis Lamour books, the paperbacks? I think I have 105, and he wrote 110 or so. I even built a special bookcase for them—well, for them and for some other paperbacks. I also collected novels by John D. Hamilton, Ed McBain, Lawrence Sanders and a couple of others, along with a lot of the old western, the ones that were printed in the forties and fifties and sixties. And some day I’ll get around to re-reading them!
Compact discs are the big thing now. Grolier’s Encyclopedia has been put on a single disc, the same size as a music disc. And another disc has almost 2000 books on it, 2000 of the world’s great literary works, every word, complete and unabridged. I have a compact disc reader/player, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time at the San Diego Zoo, and in the Gallapagos Islands and South America’s rain forests and Australian deserts, at the Grand Canyon and all the national parks, all without leaving home. It’s a marvelous invention, especially for the world’s shut-ins, and it’s a shame that right now the cost is prohibitive for many of the people who could most benefit from such programs. The cost is coming down, but will still be out of reach for many people. And then again, maybe they don’t want it. What do I know? Maybe they all would rather watch Fresh Prince of BelAire, or some of the other zillion or so TV programs that pretend to be entertainment.
Boy, am I up on my soapbox, or what! Oh, drats! I’ve just come to the end of another page, and that means I’ll have to think of something to talk about to fill up that page, too. How about that drats? How long since you’ve heard that? I think it may be the first time I’ve used it, but it won’tbe the last. Has a nice sound to it. Try it. Drats! Drats! DRATS!
Speaking of jive, how do you like rap music? I hate it, I hate it, I HATE IT! And I hate it regardless of what color the rapper is whether black, white, brown, yellow or purple. I hate it, so I use the only weapon I have—I don’t buy it, and I don’t listen to it any longer than it takes to turn it off.
San Antonio had a murder here a few nights ago. Murder is common here, far too common. This one, however, was different. No jealous lover or husband or drug deal involved. The dead man was a husband and father of three, active church member, finished choir practice, called his wife and told her he would be home soon, just had to stop at an automated teller machine and make a night deposit. A 17 year old boy and 13 year old girl waylaid him and made him give them his personal identification number for the money machine. His body was found on the side of the freeway, shot through the head, and several cash withdrawals had been made at various locations in the area with his card. Both the teenagers are in custody. The girl said in her statement that she was holding the gun on the man and her boy friend didn’t like the way she was doing it, so he took the gun from her and shot the guy.
I’ve changed my mind about a lot of things in the last few years, and capital punishment is one of them. I never believed in it before, but now I do. I feel nothing whatsoever for the two people involved, regardless of their ages. They took something away from another person, and they should pay for the crime by giving up the same thing. And the sooner the better. They better hope I don’t get on the jury. When the judge asks me if I can render a fair and impartial verdict, I’ll say, Yes sir, Your Honor, boy, oh, boy can I ever render a fair and impartial verdict, just put me on that jury and see how fast I can render a fair and impartial verdict, and as soon as I render that fair and impartial verdict, I’ll help you hang ’em or shoot ’em or fry ’em or draw and quarter ’em, however you want it done, just so long as it’s done soon and I get to help do it. I’m dreaming, of course. They would never let me serve on a jury.
Well, I really have to shut up now. If I keep on I’ll have to send this thing in two envelopes. Once again, lots of love from me and all of mine to you and all of yours.
I hope you like this photo—I have several shots of you from over the years, and this is my favorite—just check out that glorious smile!
I believe this is where you were living just before you and Victor bought a farm near the air base and moved there. I remember it clearly, especially because when I was home on leave having completed Air Force basic training, I climbed a tree in the front yard to inspect a squirrel nest and had to holler for help from Victor, your husband and my brother-in-law—he brought a ladder and helped me down from my lofty perch!
This coming December will mark the thirteenth year since you left us. My family and I have passed the time peacefully—very little fuss or muss. We have health problems, of course, the young ‘uns as well as those of advanced ages. I know there are no health problems where you are, and no calendars or clocks—there would be no need for them.
I can capsule the major changes in my family rather quickly, changes that have come about since you left. Important changes for my girls include Kelley’s marriage in 1998 and the subsequent births of a boy and a girl. The boy is now eight and the girl is 6 years old. They live in a nice Dallas suburb and are doing well.
Debbie lives just one mile from us. She works at one of our local schools and loves her job. Landen, her son, was graduated from high school last year and is continuing his education at the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA. Lauren, his older sister, was graduated by UTSA this year. Her degree is in Early Childhood Development—she is great with children and seems happy with her work with a local Child Care center.
Cindy and Michael are a properly married couple as of last October, still living, loving and working in Northern Virginia. As you will probably remember, they had been a committed couple for many years, a total of twenty years prior to their marriage—they finally put it on paper! They seem very happy—no children, but they have two cats on which they shower all the love and rights and benefits that would be accorded children.
I won’t be able to bring you up to date on your family—you are probably more up to date than I am. I can’t tell you much about your sons, Wayne and Lynn, but I believe that Lynn still lives in South Korea and Wayne still lives in Maryland. I know very little about the boys and their families, but I imagine that you are watching over them—I want to believe you are, and because of that it takes very little imagination! I also know very little about your daughters or their families. I haven’t seen them since we were all together at your funeral. I talk to Toni infrequently on the phone, and exchange e-mails with Vickie even more infrequently.
Jessie, I’m writing this letter for the purpose of recording some of our mutual history in response to my daughters’ request to learn more about their aunts and uncles and cousins. As I continue with my writing I realize that it makes me feel I am in some way connected with you—if you would like to respond to this letter in some fashion, please do so—trust me, I’m up for it, and as the television commercial says, I’ll leave the light on for you!
This is the third letter I have written. The first was to Hattie, our sister that lived only one day—you probably won’t remember her. She was our mother’s second child, born in 1917, so you would have been only two years old at the time. Had she lived she perhaps could have shared some of your responsibilities as the eldest of six children. Looking back on those years, I know that it was tough for you, but you willingly shouldered those tasks and thereby took some of the weight off our mother’s shoulders. My letter to Hattie is posted on my Word Press blog and can be found here.
It’s odd, but I rarely heard any of my siblings talk about our father—a bit from Larry, a bit from Lorene and nothing from you. Most of what I know about Willis I learned from our mother, and I never heard anything positive. There must have been something other than the negative things, given the fact that our mother birthed seven children for him.
I wish you had told me about the incident in the garden between our dad and you, his teenage daughter. Mama said that he gave you an order and you did not comply quickly enough, so he beat you with one of the wooden stakes, or poles, used for growing beans to climb on—unmercifully, I believe, was the word mama used.
I also wrote a letter to Larry, our brother. You may have been looking over my shoulder when I wrote it, just as you may be looking over my shoulder as I write this letter to you. You can read the letter to Larry here. I was recently contacted by Larry’s daughter Deanna, and we are now friends on a web site called Facebook, a place on the internet where people can find new friends and chat with old friends—not necessarily old, of course! I have mixed emotions about the process, and am considering opting out of it.
I often wonder about Larry’s first wife, Toni, and their two sons, Troy and Marty. If she is still in this life, Toni would be about 86 years old now—you might want to check around to see if she is there with you—one never knows, right? I’m sure you remember that I lived with Larry and Toni for a couple of years or so in Suitland, Maryland. That was a hectic time in their marriage and I was caught in the middle of it. That was not unusual for me—things were hectic from the time Mama married Papa John until I enlisted in the military at the age of sixteen, a period of some seven years. The military provided the stability I needed. I finished growing up in the military, and as you know I stayed with it and retired after 22 years. I can proudly say that I assisted Uncle Sam in fighting two wars during that period, wars waged in Korea and in Vietnam. We lost both wars, but I will always be proud of my contributions to them.
Hey, big sis, this letter seems to have a mind of its own, and it’s getting far too long for a single posting. Let me close this one out and get back to you later with more details. There is so much to talk about—perhaps we should consider putting the letters in book form when I run out of words—if I ever run out of words, that is!
What you are about to read may prevent a collision that may seriously damage your automobile, including the possibility of it being totaled, and it could save you from incurring serious injuries sustained in a collision, and may even in some instances save your life—but only if you read and heed this message.
This is a tale of driver frustration and road rage, emotions that are daily demonstrated in every metropolitan city in the nation, but particularly in the Alamo city with its population second only to Houston in the state of Texas and seventh in the United States. There are numerous recordings of road rage in San Antonio, some that have caused major damage to vehicles and introduced death to some drivers.
A few years ago an elderly driver exited Loop 410 West, turned left under the expressway then left into HEB’s Market Place parking lot and parked. When he stepped out of his car he was shot dead by a driver that had followed him from the expressway. There were witnesses that noted an auto being closely followed into the parking lot by another auto, but none could positively identify the shooter or his car—to this day the murder is unsolved and probably will never be solved.
The consensus among investigating officials was that the elderly driver was an unknowing victim of road rage, having done something to infuriate the shooter. The elderly driver had perhaps failed to signal a turn or was following too closely or was proceeding at a leisurely pace on the city’s speedway known as Loop 410. Whatever the reason for the murder, one man is dead and the killer is free to kill again should the occasion arise in the future.
My daughter—a lovely lady, the youngest of my three equally lovely daughters—had the right rear window of her car shot out while traveling from work to home on Loop 410. She had no warning and could not tell the origin of the shot, but speculated it came from a car traveling beside her on the Loop or from someone off the side of the freeway. The window was still in place when she arrived home, albeit with a small hole in the center and cracks radiating in every direction. When we opened the door the window shattered into small pieces.
We called the police and a search was made of the rear seat area, but nothing was found that may have caused the damage. The police officer speculated that a lead pellet fired from a pellet gun had shattered the window, a pellet fired deliberately at the car or an errant pellet fired at some other target. Pellet guns don’t fire BBs—such guns are powerful and are used by hunters to kill small animals including rabbits, squirrels, birds and snakes. The pellets are heavy and are propelled at high speed with enough weight and power to penetrate a human skull—they can kill.
That pellet could just as easily have struck the right front window and hit my daughter or her friend that was by the right front window. This could have been an act by a juvenile following an I dare youtaunt, or the act of someone my daughter or her friend had rebuffed at some time in the past, or perhaps someone that she or her friend had flipped a bird at on the freeway because of another driver’s action.
Please trust me, San Antonio—do not flip birds or make other obscene gestures at another driver. If you take such actions you are subject to having a window shattered or a bumper hooked, or be forced off the road, and you may die as a direct result of having angered someone that—please forgive the expression—you pissed off in some way.
Now to the gist of this posting:
I am an elderly driver—I freely admit that, and I endeavor to remember my status in all my actions, particularly in operating motor vehicles and guns. I don’t add guns as a threat—I just thought that I should mention that I am an accomplished shooter, including expertise with military weapons as well as those available to home owners, including shotguns and pistols, some with magnum capabilities. Oh, and I also have a pellet gun, an estate sale find I couldn’t resist.
No, I have never shot out the rear window or any window of an auto driven by a cute blond, or a cute brunette for that matter—and both are legion in this great city—nor have I ever been inclined to do so—I sometimes gawk at or wave at or—gasp—even wink at, but I do not shoot at such persons. And no, that’s not my photo—that’s one of the cute blonds I mentioned. I said I was an elderly driver, remember?
This morning I drove two miles or so to the Whataburger outlet nearest my home, the one located at the intersection of US Highway 281 North and Brook Hollow Drive. I stopped for a red light at the intersection of Brook Hollow and Heimer and stayed in the left lane. An SUV driven by a woman pulled up beside me in the right lane and stopped. I knew from experience gleaned over some twenty years of traversing that intersection that she would continue straight ahead when the light changed to green.
The street ahead had four lanes for a short half-block, but the right lane was provided to allow a driver crossing the intersection to turn right on a side street—-from that point the street narrowed to one lane in each direction. While the light was still red a second SUV pulled up behind the woman.
In anticipation of her accelerating to cross over to my lane, I moved out at a pace calculated to give her the space she needed—not sedately or at a crawl, but just enough to let her get ahead of me, and after she was in front of me I accelerated to the 35 MPH allowed in that area.
It wasn’t fast enough for the driver of the second SUV—he blew his horn repeatedly and then fell in behind me and stayed on my bumper until Brook Hollow Drive became a two lane in both directions and I signaled a left turn into Whataburger’s parking lot.
He immediately floored the SUV, passed me and turned sharply in front of me into my lane. I anticipated that action, the action of an idiot, and I braked enough to avoid our bumpers—my front and his rear—making contact. I was successful, and I turned into the parking lot while the SOB in the SUV continued under the 281 overpass and turned south on the access road toward downtown.
Our local news channels and our lone daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, routinely report similar instances. Many, perhaps most of such actions are those of gang members, but not all—some are simply a matter of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time or doing something—no matter whether deliberately or inadvertently—by voice or gesture or motioning or by vehicle operation, driving another person into such a rage that they wound and maim and even kill to get revenge for such actions.
In closing, remember that the life you save may be your own. Don’t respond to the actions of some SOB in an SUV, and be content by wishing that should that person be involved in a serious accident he—or she—will arrive at the hospital DOA.
No, I’ll take back the part of someone arriving at the hospital DOA. When I am faced with such churlish actions on the part of another driver, I say aloud to myself and to any others that may be riding with me that, Perhaps we will find that vehicle wrapped around a utility pole farther down the road, with the driver surviving with a few broken bones and a serious concussion, but no injuries to other occupants. No, I do not wish anyone to die, but I admit that I will not mourn for any appreciable amount of time if such occurs.
A final note: In the interests of full disclosure, I confess that I did not submit this letter to the editor. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a different audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on Word Press.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by Word Press.
In February of this year a special friend died, a lady that I first met back in the mid–1960s after her husband was assigned to my office at Kelley Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. A Great Britain transplant and the mother of five children, her first words to me were—and I kid you not: “So you’re the guy that wants to f-word me.”
Her memorable greeting was prompted by the fact that, although the family’s recently acquired phone number was unlisted, she was receiving frequent obscene phone calls directed specifically to her. Because regulations required that the number be on file at her husband’s duty station and available to all assigned personnel, she believed that someone in his office was making the calls.
She hoped to startle me into an admission of guilt, a plan that she shared with her husband and one to which he had agreed. Believe me, I was really startled, but not enough to cause me to admit to making the calls, especially since I was not the culprit. Had I been guilty I probably would have been startled into a confession. I will reserve a detailed explanation of that situation for a future posting aptly entitled Obscene phone calls. Stay tuned!
Yesterday in a family fit of spring cleaning in the middle of summer, a copy of an e-mail I sent to my friend was rescued from a catch–all box in a closet. The e-mail, dated August 17, 1999 was my response to my friend’s request for my wife’s King Ranch Casserole recipe. That e-mail is reproduced here exactly as transmitted and received. Sadly, it does not include the recipe—a separate and later e-mail served that purpose, and did not survive the passage of time, electronically or otherwise—at least not in my household, but perhaps in hers.
The complete e-mail follows:
Re: Your request for the King Ranch Casserole recipe:
Thank you for your e-mail dated August 16, 1999 subject: Something for Janie to read. We are always pleased to receive praise concerning the gustatory delights of Janie Mae’s culinary combinations, and we also appreciate your request for the King Ranch Casserole recipe. Before we give you a definitive answer to that request, we feel the need to apprise you of the nature of the aforementioned recipe, to wit:
In the entire world there remain only four recipes that have been handed down through generations and remain unknown to the general public. The ingredients of all four recipes are still jealously guarded by the descendants of the originators. Three involve products that are very familiar to everyone—Coca Cola, Colonel Sander’s Kentucky Fried Chicken and Louisiana’s Tabasco Sauce.
The fourth recipe is slightly less well known, but just as jealously guarded by its owner. I refer, of course, to Janie Mae’s King Ranch Casserole. To give you some idea of its importance and its history, I will tell you that the name is derived from a combination of two family names.
The first name, King, refers to one of Janie’s many royal ancestors, namely Edward, Prince of Wales who, as you will remember from your school days, abdicated the throne of England in favor of marrying a widow—which proves that even kings aren’t always first!
The second name, Ranch, was derived from my own ancestral lineage. Ranch was originally spelled Raunchy, but the name was corrupted by several generations of goodie-goodies besmirching our family reputation by insisting on being—well, they insisted on being goodie-goodies! They felt that the name Raunchy evoked visions of emotions and activities they felt were unbecoming to the family name, and for that reason the U and the Y were deleted—the second word of the recipe thus changed from King Raunchy to King Ranch.
The third name, Casserole, is also derived directly from my ancestral lineage and was also spelled differently in the beginning. In the modern version, as you know it, letters have been both added and deleted. To recreate the original word, delete the C, the first E and change the R to an H and the word becomes Asshole. The name of the recipe was thus corrupted—it was changed from King Raunchy Asshole to KingRanch Casserole.
I have striven mightily to restore the proper spelling and title to the recipe, but with very limited success, and I’m at a loss to understand why so many insist on the new spelling rather than retaining the original words—after all, as Shakespeare would say, that which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet. One can readily see why that phrase would apply to the name of a recipe, especially for a recipe such as this one.
Having briefed you on the history of the recipe I will now apprise la cocinera Juanita—Janie, the cook— of your request. You may be assured that she will give the proper orders and provide the supervision necessary for me to be able to convey the recipe to you in the manner in which you requested it be conveyed. Please note that I have adopted the historical name of the recipe, the original name minus the King part, as my official signature.
Yr. Obedient and Loyal Servant,
Postcript: Being the highly principled blogger that I am, I was somewhat wary of using the a-word. However, I used the Search Word Press.com Blogs feature and got 98, 936 hits—with that in mind, I am far less wary of using it.
Your editorial in the Metro Section on Monday, July 19, 2010 entitled, Renaming dorm at UT proper, recounts the changing of Simkins Hall’s name to Creekside Hall, an action taken because of the scholarly research of Tom Russell, a former UT law professor and inquiries by the Austin American-Statesman. In what appears to be a rewrite of history, William Stewart Simkins is now considered a racist because of his association with the Ku Klux Klan, and therefore not worthy of having his name on a student residence named in his honor some 56 years ago, in spite of the fact that he was a longtime popular professor and considered a great legal scholar and teacher.
The article states that, Once that past was uncovered, it was clear Simkins’ name was inconsistent with the mission of a public university and an affront to UT Austin’s more than 2,000 African American students.
This letter is not meant to criticize UT for renaming the student hall. It is a matter of no consequence to me, nor should it be to anyone else, including your editorial writers and the 2,000 black students enrolled at UT. The student residence is UT’s property and subject to any name they prefer, for whatever reason. Nor will the renaming affect William Stewart Simkins—he’s been dead since 1929.
However—and this is a big however—it should affect the sovereign state of West Virginia. West Virginia is morally bound to follow in UT’s footsteps. They must follow UT’s lead and rename everything in West Virginia that carries the name of Robert C. Byrd, the late United States senator from West Virginia. The state should also rename everything that carries the name of Erma Byrd, placed there by the senator in honor of his long-time wife.
A member of the Democratic party, Byrd served as a West Virginia senator from 1959 to 2010, and was the longest-serving senator and the longest-serving member in the history of the United States Congress.
Why, you may ask, should the people of West Virginia rename all the places that sport the senator’s name? My answer is because it’s the right thing to do, the honorable thing to do. West Virginia should take the moral path and remove the name Robert C. Byrd from any and all public buildings and areas—parks, streets, highways, bridges, monuments and history books, and from all local, state and federal institutions and offices. While at it they should also remove and rename all the locations and institutions the senator named in honor of Erma Byrd, his late wife. Married for 69 years (1937—2006), one can reasonably assume that she was aware of his association with the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1944, Byrd wrote to segregationist Mississippi Senator Bilbo: I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.Click here to read the complete Wikipedia article.
Over the coming years, beginning with his first campaign, Senator Byrd did a complete about face—he renounced and denounced the Ku Klux Klan and embraced the black population of the United States, or at least the voting population of West Virginia, and was re-elected to his seat for the next fifty years.
Does that redeem him? Will his record in the U.S. Senate nullify the feelings he expressed in his 1944 letter to Theodore Bilbo, the segregationist Mississippi senator?
Perhaps—and perhaps not.
Listen to the You Tube video below, an interview with Tony Snow in 2007—the senator starts out fine, but manages to step on his pepperoni before the interview ends, so stay with it to the end to hear his apology for his comments. Did he really change his feelings? Remember that this interview was conducted in 2007 following decades of professing far different feelings toward blacks—a slip of the tongue, perhaps?
In closing, allow me to repeat UT’s reasoning for renaming Simkins Hall:
Once that past was uncovered, it was clear Simkins’ name was inconsistent with the mission of a public university and an affront to UT Austin’s more than 2,000 African American students.
I submit to you that the same rationale should be applied by West Virginia residents regarding the plethora of places that are named in Byrd’s honor. Click here to read the 51 places that have been identified, plus nine named to honor his wife, a total of 60 and counting—the authors do not claim that the list is complete and are soliciting any that do not appear on the list.
The following editorial statement should appear in the Charleston Gazette and every other newspaper in West Virgina:
Once the past was uncovered, it is clear that Robert Byrd’s name and the name of his wife are inconsistent with the mission of the various edifices and other locations that bear their names, therefore they must be renamed—the present names are an affront to West Virginia’s population of some 52,000 African Americans.
An important footnote: West Virginia is home to some 52,000 African Americans—that’s 50,000 more than were supposedly affronted by William Stewart Simkins’ name on a residence hall at Austin’s University of Texas campus. I wonder if an effort has ever been mounted to rename even one of the 60 plus places in West Virginia that bear the Byrd name?
A final note: In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that I did not submit this letter to the editor. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a wider audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on Word Press.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by Word Press.
In 1955 I was a staff sergeant in the United States Air Force, stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. I was an aircraft electrician and a jet aircraft and engine mechanic. That was my third year at Maxwell, having reenlisted there after my discharge from service in December 1952. It took me just thirty days to realize that I had made a mistake in not reenlisting—you see, I had met this girl in Georgia and—well, click here to see her picture. and then you’ll know the rest of that story. The photo was taken some thirty years after our marriage in 1952. I reenlisted in order to get married, and I kept reenlisting in order to stay married and retired for length of service after 22 years of military life. Oh, and the title of the posting with the picture is Peaches, Cadillacs, Convertibles, Cows and Combat. That should pique your interest a bit!
During my three years at Maxwell Air Force Base I was assigned to the Transient Alert Section, a maintenance unit charged with meeting aircraft not based at Maxwell but transiting the base, including Marine and Navy aircraft as well as US Air Force planes. Our duties were to meet aircraft on landing, escort them to the proper parking place, secure the aircraft and then escort the crew and passengers to various places. We drove the yellow pickup trucks with the huge FOLLOW ME signs on the back end. While their flight plans were being filed for the next leg of their flight we serviced the plane with oil and fuel and performed any required inspections and maintenance as necessary.
We had a special parking place for VIPs—Very Important Persons—any member of Congress, any high-level member of the current administration, and any aircraft carrying a Code Five person or a general officer. We parked them immediately adjacent to Base Operations, and at the entrance to Base Ops, there was a small office that we shared with the AOD, the Airdrome Officer of the Day. The mistaken identification, the one interesting enough and strange enough to be featured in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, a popular television show that ran for five years and 156 episodes—it began in 1959 and continued until 1964.
On a special day in 1955, the FOLLOW ME driver led a B-25, a World War II bomber configured for passengers. The B-25 was a favorite for senior military officers to flit around the country in, supposedly on official business. I suspect that some of its use was comparable to that of certain members of Congress, Nancy Pelosi, for example. I can remember a five-star general that came to Montgomery frequently to visit old friends. Oh, I’m sure he delved into something official while there, but I doubt that the results justified the cost of the trip—but, of course, I could be wrong.
On that day the B-25 carried a Code Five, a number corresponding to a full colonel, the one that wears silver eagles on collars and shoulders. After the aircraft was parked and chocked and the passenger off-loaded, the flight crew chief stepped into my office to discuss fuel and maintenance needs and departure schedules. When he entered he smiled broadly, shook hands with me, said “Hi, Dyer. I have to go into Base Ops but I’ll see you before we leave.” I didn’t know him, but I said something to the effect that, okay, I’ll be here.
The crew chief returned an hour or so later, he entered smiling and asked, “How long have you been here?” I told him I had been there almost three years.
He was still smiling when he said,”No, really, when did you get here?” I told him I got there Maxwell three years before, in 1952. The smile vanished and he became visibly angry. He said that he didn’t know what kind of game I was playing, but he knew that I had not been at Maxwell three years. He said that he had seen me just before he left his assigned station at Randolph Air Force Base at San Antonio, Texas, that my name was Dyer and that I was a crew chief on a B-25 in his squadron.
I was dressed in white one-piece coveralls. My name was stamped in blue above a pocket on my the left side of my chest, and I pointed to that and asked him if his Dyer wore white coveralls. Then I turned around and showed him the back of my coveralls, with the large blue letters proclaiming Maxwell AFB.
None of this impressed the B-25 crew chief. He cursed and stomped out of the office, escorted the pilots and the passengers to the aircraft and in a very few minutes the aircraft was just a faint dot gaining altitude for the next leg of its planned flight. I never saw the crew chief again, and I never made my way to Randolph to meet my twin, the other Dyer in this version of the twilight zone.
The Airdrome Officer of the Day, a young first lieutenant, was a witness to our conversation, and after the plane left he asked some pointed questions. I could only tell him what I had told the crew chief, that I had never been to Randolph and that I had been stationed at Maxwell for almost three years.
Hey, Dyer, if you’re out there somewhere and you read this, please get in touch. You can contact me through this blog, or you can contact me on Facebook.com. There are thousands of Dyers on facebook, but only one named Hershel. I assure you that I will respond. And if anyone out there has ever known a crew chief named Dyer that was stationed in the 1950s at Randolph Air Force Base and would want to help me solve this puzzle, you can contact me through the same venues and I will definitely respond. Oh, and I’ll accept and acknowledge any e-mail sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a previous posting I discussed the fact that I am unable to tune out conversations between others when I am within hearing distance, and I cited several examples of benefits gained because of my affliction—making new friends, learning things I didn’t know and passing time more pleasantly while in hospital waiting rooms. I’m using this posting to explain how I acquired a hand-knitted skull cap, a cap knitted exclusively for ladies that have lost their hair because of chemotherapy—oh, and at this juncture I must make it clear that I, the appointed and anointed King of Texas, am male through and through, neither female nor unisex—I’m not a woman, lady or otherwise, even if I am prone to don a bright red knitted cap occasionally.
Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas provides chemotherapy treatments for active duty and retired military people and family members. On a recent memorable morning I left the patient waiting area, took an elevator down six floors to the basement, negotiated seemingly endless winding corridors and finally arrived at the hospital cafeteria for breakfast. The cuisine there is only so-so in quality and presentation but the prices are—well, priceless, and they almost—not quite but almost—compensate for the lack of taste in the food. If you’re ever there for a meal, please don’t mention that I panned their kitchen or I may be banned from the facility.
In the hallway leading to the patient waiting area in the chemotherapy unit, there is a nice exhibition of knitted skull caps hanging on the wall. Dozens of beautiful caps of every design and color surround a mirror that interested ladies can use to see how the selected cap will look. The caps are made by a local ladies’ knitting club and are offered free to chemotherapy patients. I must hasten to say at the outset of this posting that I have the utmost respect for the group—I love ’em all!
When I returned from breakfast several women—knitters, if you will—were gathered at the wall display, rearranging the caps and adding new ones to the exhibition. As I neared the group I heard them discussing a planned flight to Las Vegas. I stopped and lounged against the opposite wall to watch them working on the display, and thus was privy to their conversation. I did not linger there with the intent to listen to their conversation, but because of my inability to tune out the speech of others I couldn’t help hearing them talking—it’s in my nature! For a detailed explanation of my affliction, click here to read, “It’s in my nature,” the forerunner to this posting.
One of the ladies said that she detested going through the inspection line in airport terminals. She felt that the workers were rude and made unreasonable demands such as ordering passengers to remove their shoes for inspection. She said that she was wearing sandals, flats I believe was the term she used, and she had to remove them and hand them over for inspection.
And in regard to that requirement, I can’t help but speculate that a goodly number of those employed at airport check-in lines are afflicted with foot or shoe fetishes, perhaps a combination of both. It could well be that the handling of women’s footwear and the sniff test the workers perform is not an attempt to detect the odor of explosives—it may be nothing more than the harmless actions of freaks seeking relief from the ho-hum mundane pressure of the job through personal satisfaction—so to speak.
When the speaker paused for breath I stepped forward and asked her if she planned to take her knitting on the flight, and she replied in the affirmative. I told her that it would not be allowed, that they would confiscate the items and hold them to be picked up on her return. She said, “Oh, I didn’t think about the needles—I suppose they could be used as weapons, maybe by threatening to stick a needle in a person’s eye.” I told her that was not the reason and she said, “Well, then why would they confiscate them?”
I told her—are y’all ready for this?
I told her they would not allow her to board the plane with her knitting paraphernalia because they feared that she might knit an Afghan. The group erupted in laughter and offered me one of the caps. I resisted but they insisted, and I am now the proud owner of a bright red cap with a tassel on the top—it fits well and I look great wearing it, and observers probably think that I am en route to the slopes at Aspen, or Vail perhaps.
I know, I know—it’s a dumb hokey joke with racial overtones, politically incorrect and certainly not original with me, but it served its purpose. The lady bemoaning the requirement to remove her shoes forgot all about the inconvenience and with a beautiful smile thanked me for making her day. As they made their rounds through the treatment rooms offering caps to the patients, they told the joke several times for the benefit of the patients, and each time laughter resounded in the rooms and into the hallway. My inadvertent eves-dropping on their conversation thus spread and helped brighten the day for more people, and as Martha Stewart would undoubtedly say, “That’s a good thing!”
The letter that follows below is from my original posting dated November 25, 2009, entitled Dear Abby poem, a letter from beyond . . .Click here to read the original post. I am re–posting it now for the benefit of a recent subscriber to my blog, a nephew, the first of two sons born to my sister. His mother was the penultimate—the second to the last—family member to shuffle off this mortal coil. I am the ultimate, the last of seven children born to our mother and father and the last one still standing.
The poem below appeared in the San Antonio, Texas Express-News daily on Sunday, July 11, 1993, in Dear Abby’s column. It’s a moving message from one and all that, as voiced by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, have shuffled off this mortal coil,and is for us a solemn reminder of our own mortality.
These are the words of Hamlet:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
Several years after her husband died, I sent this letter to my sister:
July 11, 1993
It’s Sunday morning here and I just finished wading my way through the Sunday issue of San Antonio’s Express-News. This poem was in Dear Abby. I know it’s very sad, and I know it won’t be easy for you to read. But I’ve read it over and over and I found that, at least for me, it becomes more uplifting and less sad with each reading. It was untitled, so I guess we are supposed to furnish our own title.
Nice touch, that. We can simply leave it untitled, or we can dedicate it to someone or something we’ve loved and lost, whether it be a person or pet or place or idea. Or we can title it We are not dead and attribute the poem to be from all those we’ve loved and lost.
Whether the voice of one or the voices of all, and regardless of the title, the poem must give us pause:
Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.
When you awake in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.
In the seven months since I posted the poem it has garnered ten votes, all excellent, but no viewer has taken the time to post a comment. I realize that many of us, perhaps most, are reluctant to focus our thoughts on those that are no longer with us, but when they are in our thoughts they are not dead—they live, if only for a brief moment, and the finest tribute we can pay is to never forget—always remember.
The King of Pop is back in the news. We have now learned that each of his (?) three children will inherit $300,000,000 on their thirtieth birthday. In celebration of that news I am dredging up a posting I made back in July of 2009 following the death of Michael Jackson in June of that year. Apparently hidden from view, that posting has garnered only four votes—three of which are mine—and no comments, so I’m bringing it out from the darkness of Past Postings into the bright light of today’s news.
Yes, I vote for my own postings, but only if I feel they are worthy of a vote—and no, I have never given myself a negative vote, nor have I ever given another blogger a negative vote. My mother taught me that if I cannot say something good about someone, I shouldn’t say anything. I will vote excellent for every posting I place on Word Press, if for no other reason than to congratulate myself for taking the time and effort to write. Any comment I might make to another blogger is intended to congratulate the writer, or to offer what I believe to be constructive criticism—the blogger is always free to edit, accept or delete such comments. I cheerfully admit that my reasoning is circular, but so be it.
As military people like to say, I’m running this posting up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes it—yes, they say that—they really do.
This is my original posting:
Kudos to Robert Rivard, the editor of the San Antonio Express-News, for his Metro article on Sunday, July 5, 2009. His article was titled “As Jackson is recalled, don’t forget his victims.” This article is the only sane review of Jackson’s death, and the only one that offers any measure of comfort to those who were victimized by the King of Pop—those to whom “He reportedly paid out tens of millions in settlements with his alleged victims.”
I know, I know—Jackson was found not guilty—so was O. J. Simpson.
I was somewhat startled by the Jackson is recalled part of the title—my first thought was that the King of Pop had been recalled from whatever dimension he entered following his death. And based on the news coverage, both by network news and cable outlets, my next thought was that perhaps the recall referred to his return to the Deity, the One that lovingly created him and endowed him with a super abundance of talent, and then allowed him to entertain the world for more than four decades. Apparently the Deity was either occupied with other duties or looked the other way during the times Jackson was engaged in those actions for which he was charged, namely the sexual abuse of young boys.
I realize, of course, that Robert Rivard used the term recalled to describe the feverish remembrance by the United States and the rest of the world of Jackson’s accomplishments in the fields of music and entertainment. This outpouring of emotion could only be equaled by combining the emotion which followed the deaths of John Kennedy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Lennon, Mother Teresa and Jesus Christ—with America’s entry into World War II and VJ Day thrown in. For those who were not around for it, for those who may have forgotten it and for those who have never heard of it—VJ Day marks the end of World War II—Victory in Japan.
The emotion over Michael Jackson’s death reached fever pitch with the lottery that was set up to accommodate the public for his memorial to be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles—17,500 tickets were offered on-line, and more than a million were requested.
As the San Antonio Express-News editor rightly notes, the cost for the memorial activities will be borne by a city in a state which is paying its debts with IOUs, a city that should have “. . . . . more important priorities than throwing a party for an entertainer whose talent was always shadowed by his own destructive self-loathing.”
I would not be surprised if plans have been formulated and approved for Jackson’s body to lie in state in the Capitol rotunda to allow viewing for mourners, and then be transported with the rider-less horse and the black caisson procession to Arlington, Virginia for interment in the National Cemetery. In fact, judging from everything that has transpired so far, I will be sorely disappointed if that doesn’t happen. And I predict that in the near future, plans for a Michael Jackson monument on the Washington Mall will be finalized and approved, and will likely be paid for with federal funds, probably from one of the stimulus packages.
I hope that Rivard’s article will be picked up by news outlets and made available world-wide—the San Antonio Express-News is not in the same league as the Washington Post or the New York Times, so it will probably remain here at the local level. However, perhaps this posting will be picked up and carried on by my viewers.
I first came to San Antonio in 1963 and I have called it home ever since, with several absences, some brief and some in terms of years, all made necessary by military service and my later employment in federal Civil Service. I’ve submitted many letters to the editor over the years—some were accepted, some were rejected—some I expected to be tossed but submitted them anyway. An example of that can be found in one of the web sites shown below.
I no longer submit letters to the San Antonio Express-News editor. My reasons for not writing to the editor of the only daily newspaper in Texas’ third largest city—the city I have called home for the past 46 years—can be found in two previous postings to this blog.
Rather than having my submissions summarily rejected, I prefer to blog them. I welcome and will respond to all comments, whether positive or negative.
I pondered long and strong before using the above title. I resisted using the word sex because I couldn’t be sure that the pair pictured near the end of this posting were actually pleasuring one another—I listened carefully and heard no sounds, and I watched intently and saw no movement on the part of either snail. I noted that the pair were head-to-head and appeared blissfully unaware of my presence. I speculated that I was witnessing snail foreplay and with that thought and not wanting to interrupt them, I blushed and averted my gaze.
I googled snail sex and found this fascinating video—yes, fascinating—utterly fascinating. The creatures in the video had shells, very different from the shells mine have, but I figure that shells are shells, so my morning visitors were not slugs—they were snails. As near as I could determine from my online research, a slug has no shell, and a snail has a shell—the creatures share almost every other attribute.
My curiosity aroused, I also googled slug sex and found this video, a fascinating picture of slugs procreating, or at least attempting to procreate. Theirs is a real gymnastic performance, gymnastic enough, I believe, to awaken that green-eyed monster—envy—in many, perhaps most, humans—I arrived at that conclusion through introspection, the contemplation of my own thoughts and desires—not that I would want to be a slug, of course, nor would I want to be a snail.
The two creatures pictured below were lying on the sidewalk near my front door early on a recent morning when I stepped outside to retrieve my morning paper, the San Antonio Express-News, the only daily paper in the seventh largest city in the United States—makes one wonder about the future of daily papers, huh?
As an aside, be forewarned and forearmed—do not send a letter to the editor of the San Antonio Express-News if it includes serious criticism of the paper—the odds are that it will not be printed nor acknowledged. I readily admit that my cautionary statement is based on personal experience—perhaps I criticized the wrong things, or perhaps my criticisms were too strongly worded.
The animals in this photo have shells and are definitely snails, as opposed to slugs. They may be having some sort of sex, albeit it rather sideways—if that be so, I suppose we could refer to that as getting a little on the side–or they may have just stopped to talk things over, to whisper in one another’s ear, so to speak. Or perhaps they are racing, a snail competition in a race akin to the hundred-yard dash in human competitions.
They were still there when I came back with the paper, but had disappeared an hour or so later, either into the grass or into some bird’s belly—Texas grackles are always hanging around, and are always hungry. I hope they were not prey for some bird—the slugs were a nice looking pair, at least as slugs go, and I wish them the best of everything, now and in the future.
If one should ever wonder, as I did, whether a creature is a snail or a slug, just remember this:
Away back in 1995 my daughter, the one living at home at the time, slipped her bonds from her parents in San Antonio and migrated to Dallas to accept a position with a real estate corporation. She met a really nice guy and married him, and they now live near Dallas with their two children and a puppy. Before she left home I wrote the document below for her to sign—she never got around to signing it, but had she signed it she definitely would have compromised the conditions outlined in the covenant, and would have accepted and been subjected to the punishment outlined below.
I am posting this covenant to remind her of how far she has come, and to offer it to any father that may find himself in a similar position. I offer it freely, without need of recompense—just say thanks.
Declaration and Covenant
To any and all presents, to all who have gone before and to all who may come later, let it hereby, forthwith and forever be known that I, Kelley, being of sound mind (?) and body (!) and in no way under stress or duress on the part of any person or persons, known or unknown to me, living or otherwise, do hereby, hereon, herein and forever promise and swear that I will treat this magnificent sum of money (which is being tendered unto me by my omnipotent, beneficent, munificent and prescient ol’ pappy) in such manner that it will not hold itself at its present amount but that it will increase under my administration, although it may from time to time be reduced in varying amounts for varying periods of time due to the many vagaries and exigencies of life, but it will then be restored to its original amount in the shortest length of time possible, but in no event later than one day following my next paycheck, said restoration to be accomplished by returning to the account (which I will establish) the amount withdrawn, plus an amount equal to ten percent of the amount withdrawn from the account, with the initial (and entire!) tendered amount of $500.00 to be placed in a Money Market account with Security Service Credit Union, San Antonio, Texas to draw interest at variable rates depending on the economy and to be maintained without charge to me provided my withdrawals are limited to three or fewer per month, said withdrawals to be for nothing other than the purpose of paying just, legal and due (never overdue!) debts, and I most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, without any hesitation, mental reservation, or secret evasion of mind in me whatsoever, that I am firmly determined to follow and perform everything to which I have promised and sworn, and if I fail to abide by the terms of this covenant I promise that I will, filled with remorse and shame and clad only in a smile, push a peanut with my nose from my father’s house to my sister’s house, a distance of one mile, repeating loudly all the way at 10-foot intervals (to be measured by my sister Debbie and witnessed by my friend Thelma) the phrase, “Pappy, you da most!”
So help me Hannah and keep me steadfast in due performance of all the above.
Signed __________________ Date ___________
Witness ________________ Date ___________
An afterthought: Who would have thought it! Some folks actually push peanuts with their nose, as shown in this photo. I found no female peanut pusher photos, but I did find a competition that ended in crowning a king and a queen in a peanut pushing contest. Had my daughter acquiesced to the punishment outlined above, she may well have entered the book of Guinness World Records as the first naked woman to push a peanut with her nose, regardless of the distance involved.
Alas, fame is fleeting, and one should reach for the brass ring at every opportunity! The fellow pictured here pushed a peanut with his nose seven miles to #10 Downing Street in England to protest his student loan debt—I understand that he is now known as The student with no nose, and adding insult to injury, his protest was ignored by the Prime Minister of England.
I first posted this item almost one year ago (June 28, 2009). In the eleven months it has been available it has garnered two votes of excellence and one comment. One of the votes was mine—yes, I vote for my own postings—any politician worth his salt votes for himself—and the other was my daughter’s vote. She also made the lone comment received by the posting. I am therefore offering the posting to visitors to Word Press by bringing it up from the darkness of earlier postings and into the bright light of today. I believed then and I believe now that it should interest any fan of baseball, basketball and football, as well as those that enjoy reading good writing, a claim that I make without any tinge of humility.
Personal ethics demand that I offer a disclaimer before beginning this posting:
I am not a fan of professional sports.
I am not a fan of football, baseball, basketball, cricket, badminton, volleyball—beach or otherwise—nor am I a fan of golf, horse racing, dwarf tossing, cup stacking, thumb wrestling or arm pit smelling. During my existence on this earth (a goodly number of years and still counting) I have made only two contributions to the sports world. My first contribution was to the game of football (see below), and my second was to the game of baseball. I had a brief stint at age 13 with a Little League baseball team sponsored by an American Legion Post in Suitland, Maryland. My budding career as a shortstop crashed and burned when I broke my right leg while sliding in to home plate—a clean break in the tibia plus four cracks, two above and two below the break. I was in a toe-to-hip cast for several weeks, well past the end of the baseball season.
My first contribution to the world of sports was also in my thirteenth year. I participated in one—only one—high school football game played under lights in Kosciusko, a small town in north-central Mississippi (my team represented Durant, an even smaller town also located in north-central Mississippi). I was a slightly-built seventh-grader weighing less than 100 pounds, and I was a lineman.
Throughout that game I labored mightily to catch the guy carrying the football and was never successful—never even came close, perhaps because I rarely knew which player was carrying the football. My participation was mandatory, but believe me, I would have quit the game in the first quarter had a certain female student (of whom I was enraptured and for whom I pined) not been watching from the bleachers.
My performance and that of the team left our coach dissatisfied—nay, our performance left him disgusted. The game ended with our final score in single digits—zero. Our opponent’s score was in high—very high—double digits. I cannot recall the score—evidently I have either buried it in or forced it from my memories. The numbers may return in later years (it could happen), but I hope not.
The coach intensified our training by increasing the number and length of practice sessions, many of which were scheduled after the end of our school day. Shortly afterward my football career ended in a scrimmage session, essentially touch-football played without helmets or any other protection. The lineman opposing me was about twice my big, very strong and very rough, and after several bone-jarring encounters with him I suffered a broken finger when his left cheekbone and my right fist came together with enough force to break the little finger of my right hand. That contact also made it necessary that he lie down for a few minutes while the coach assessed the damage and tried to separate fact from fiction. Predictably, the coach decided that I was responsible for the accident, but it was really my opponent’s fault.
He shouldn’t have hit my fist with his face.
That ended a budding career in football—I was dropped from the team, but my disappointment was lessened by the black eye and huge lump displayed by my opponent—his good looks, or lack thereof, were severely distorted for several weeks. On the other hand (no pun intended), the metal splint I wore on my right-hand finger elicited numerous expressions of sympathy from other students, among them the girl on whom my enrapture and pining were centered. Sadly, all this was temporary—shortly after my rejection by the coach and my ejection from the team, I left that school and completed the school year in a different school, in a different town and in a different state.
But I digress—that was a rather lengthy disclaimer, but I’ll let it stand because I worked pretty hard on it, so on with the posting:
The San Antonio Spurs recently made a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, a trade which included Bruce Bowen. Cary Clack, in his column today ( June 28, 2009) in the S.A. LIFE section of the San Antonio Express-News, bemoaned the loss of that player to a rival team. I’m reasonably certain that the Spurs team, and the city, and its fans will recover from the loss, but my status as a non-sports fan in no way limits my understanding of the heartaches suffered by Bowen’s many admirers on learning of the Milwaukee trade.
Although I understand their heartaches, I cannot be numbered among those admirers. Bruce Bowen is the only professional basketball player I have ever encountered, and my memories of that encounter are not pleasant. Several years ago—yes, I’ve held this grudge for several years and I will continue holding it—I entered our neighborhood Post Office station on Henderson Pass in San Antonio and joined the waiting line directly behind Bruce Bowen.
Yes, I recognized him. When a Spurs game is on television I watch because my wife mandates it. Either I watch the game in her company or I am banished to a much smaller screen in an unhospitable back room, far from our 50-inch flat-screen plasma high-definition television set.
But again I digress—on with the posting:
Bowen stepped out of the line to a side counter, apparently to complete some paperwork. In the interim before he finished, several people joined the line behind me. When he finished he turned, saw the line and started for the rear. He never looked directly at me as I stepped aside and motioned for him to return to his original place in the line. He obliged, still without eye contact, with no change in expression and without a word spoken, in thanks or otherwise.
My first impulse was to say aloud, “You’re welcome,” but I resisted the impulse. His attitude and his failure to acknowledge my courtesy was in conflict with the Express-News columnist who in today’s issue labeled him “one of the most popular players in San Antonio Spurs history.” The columnist also wrote that after the trade to Milwaukee, the first thing Bruce Bowen wrote on his blog was, “. . . THANK YOU SAN ANTONIO!”
This is pure conjecture, but I must acknowledge that it may be possible—a remote possibility, but still possible—that the NBA star has obliquely thanked me for holding his place in line at the post office by including it in his blanket expression of thanks to the city when he said on his blog, “THANK YOU SAN ANTONIO!”
Please study this photo and tell me what you see. Is this child a refugee from a war-torn country? From somewhere in Europe during World War II, or perhaps from one of the Balkan countries during a later time of conflict? Bosnia? Kosovo?
Look deeply into this pitiful child’s eyes, at her wrinkled brow, at that pleading look and stance, and try to imagine what horrors she has endured. Does she awake in the dead of night screaming, reliving sights and scenes and sounds from the past? Has she been abused? Is she a victim of ——-? (fill in the blank).
Nope, none of the above. This lovely little girl is not from any war-torn country—she is not a refugee. Those are not blood-stains you see, and the only thing she is a victim of is having gotten into her mother’s cosmetics and applied lipstick, quite liberally—she has lipstick in varying amounts on lips, teeth, chin, cheeks, neck, eyebrows, forehead, arms, hands and tee-shirt, and in her hair.
That pleading look is one of, Look at what someone did to me! How could this happen to me? What have I done to deserve this? That pleading look and pitiful pose is actually saying, Help me, help me! If the picture had sound, it would be similar to Vincent Price, half-man and half-fly, trapped in a spiderweb in that old black-and-white movie, The Flyand pleading, Help me, help me!
She’s begging for a clean-up job. My first thought when I saw the damage was to strap her on the hood of my car and run it through the automatic car wash a couple of times, but her mother nixed that. My next suggestion was to remove the lipstick with scouring powder but that was also nixed, and ultimately soap, water and lots of rubbing returned her to something approaching a normal appearance.
This child, this urchin with the oh, so innocent but pleading look and stance is my daughter Cindy, the middle one of three daughters, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia. She was somewhere between three and four years old—closer to four, I believe—when I took this picture. She’s standing in the driveway of our home at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, an upscale on-base neighborhood, one that our family hated to leave after just one year there. We left Brooks Air Force Base and traveled just twenty miles or so across town to another assignment at Kelley Air Force Base—our six year stay at that location is a subject for a future posting.
Cindy is all grown up now, married without children and working as—well, her work is so varied that rather than trying to capsule it into one category, I’ll let her tell you in her own words. The following is from Stuff about me on her Word Press blog. Click the link below for her Stuff about me. Click here for her latest postings and get ready to view some really gorgeous photography, some of the finest to be found on the web!
Paying the bills: self-employed graphic designer and photographer (mostly print; professional and trade associations, and small businesses—magazines, newsletters, brochures, annual reports, logos, posters)—celebrating 21 years on my own this year—2010!
Family: by far the best Mom and Dad on the planet, two sisters, two great brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews, and my sweetie, Michael…wonderful friends who are always there for me…an ode to my Garden Club Weedettes as well, who are always eager and willing to dive into a project with me, dress up for a party, whip up a potluck contribution, or get their hands dirty doing something crafty.
Some other activities—some, but not all: Oil and acrylic painting, photography (portraits, glamour shots, nature, macro, floral/botanical, travel), cement leaf casting, crocheting hats like crazy come winter time (what else can a gardener do when it’s cold out?), needle felting, sewing, murals, faux painting, Polaroid transfers (if it’s something crafty, I’ve probably at least tried it once), biblioholic (any topic, you name it—we probably have at least one book on the subject…don’t even begin to guess how many gardening books I’ve amassed!), animal lover (currently: two cats (ZenaB and Jasper), down to one goldfish (Goldie), and one pleco (Spot); formerly: ferrets (Ginger, Jessie Belle, Missy, Pogo Diablo, Ben, Callie Jo, Silver, Bandit), one white rat (Lucky Fred Chewy Ratatouille), and countless other goldfish (Calico Joe, Dorrie, Nemo, Suebee, Debbi, and Regina). Also handy with power tools and do-it-yourself projects…
Magnificent obsession: Gardening! As the “Head Weed,” I started a garden club in my community over five years ago and I’m surrounded by an amazing group of Weedettes!…and gardening books (reference, how-to, essays by other gardeners)
Always on my radar: Gardens, nurseries, plant sales! In my travels, I always look for the local nurseries and botanical gardens to visit.
And another obsession: BOOKS! I love to read and subjects include nature, science, gardening (I especially love personal essays by gardeners); photography; graphic design; nature and travel writing essays; how-to books on writing, editing, crafts, journaling, cooking, designing, decorating; biographies…sometimes a book just has to be beautifully designed for me to want to possess it! I never met a book I didn’t like (um…scratch that. If it relates to math, I’m outta here). And when I travel, I always look for new bookstores. What could possibly be better than Powell’s Books in Portland, The Tattered Cover in Denver, Elliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle, or any Half Price Books & Records in the south?
Other diversions: writing poetry, entertaining (all my parties must have a theme, dress code, and guests pose in front of related theme backgrounds for their photos!), animal lover; magazine addict (covering photography, graphic design, Photoshop, Mac, home and garden, travel). I also love to research the things I photograph.
Oh, and just a few more obsessions: Yarn, fabric and craft stores!
Globetrotting: I love to travel (so far: Italian and French Riviera, Rome, Chile (Buenos Aires), Argentina (Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia), Antarctica, Alaska, the islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, St. John, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, St. Barts), southwest U.S. several times over (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah), all the eastern states, Ohio, California (San Diego, Monterrey, Carmel, San Francisco, Napa/Sonoma Valley, Death Valley), Texas (mostly South Texas and Mexico), Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Point Pelee for bird migration, Maine (and all the other New England states), Maryland, West Virginia, New York, Louisiana (lived there when I was in 5th grade), Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Montana, Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Victoria/British Columbia)….love a good road trip…need to do more!
Music: Lifelong John Denver fan, Tingstad and Rumbel, Eva Cassidy, Christine Kane, Katie Melua, Cheryl Wheeler, Janis Ian, Barbara Streisand, Karla Bonoff, James Taylor, Trisha Yearwood, Carly Simon, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Josh Grobin, any acoustic instrumental music (particularly guitar and piano)
Late in the evening on Friday before Mother’s Day, 2010, while standing in our backyard squeezing out a mop after cleaning up an unknown kitchen floor stain, I heard the patio door open behind me and a ghostly voice saying somberly, I brought you word. I guarantee that anyone in a similar situation would wonder as I did, if only for a brief instant, who the speaker was, from whence the speaker came, and what specifically is the word that the speaker brought—that sentence definitely got my attention!
I should state at this point that Word is a computer software program. The source of the voice was an unrecognizable backlighted figure, but I soon deduced that, in spite of the odds against it, the voice was that of my daughter, the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia. I also knew that I talked to her around noon on Friday and she was then at home in Virginia, 1,600 miles distant from San Antonio and busily working at her graphic designing profession on a project that was, in her words, due today and must be submitted today. I will respect the sensibilities of any reader that might be offended by not repeating my first response to her statement that, I brought you word.
Yep, she made a surprise visit for Mother’s Day through a highly successful and purely diabolical scheme hatched weeks earlier, a well-planned and executed plot that featured Fred, a family friend, and Debbie, one of her two sisters that lives nearby in San Antonio. She brightened up our lives for three days before returning to Virginia.
This posting was prompted (inspired) by a comment my daughter made on her blog at Cindydyer.wordpress.com in her posting of “Apparently you can get here from there.”
Before I continue I must post this disclaimer—I realize that “my daughter and me” is incorrect English usage. It should be “my daughter and I,” but me rhymes with Society, and I does not rhyme—doesn’t even come close. I believe this is referred to as “poetic license.” Therefore if there is a fault to be found, it must be charged to the song writer.
On her blog my daughter stated unequivocally that her father is “Undeniably, hands-down, no contest—the best father this girl could have.”
I labored long and strenuously on how best to return the sentiments expressed by my daughter. I despaired of ever finding a suitable response, so I have asked Ethel Merman to speak for me. She said it best in the song below, found on the Netflix web site and reproduced in its entirety (thanks, Netflix).
Some necessary word changes:
The term daughter should replace baby and certain other modifications should be made, depending on the locale and the audience, to emphasize that ours is in every respect a natural father/daughter relationship. I briefly considered singing and recording the song and dedicating it to her, but I was afraid the shower would drown out the words, or at least muffle and distort them.
MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY
From the Broadway show “Happy Hunting” (1956)
(Matt Dubey / Harold Karr)
Ethel Merman & Virginia Gibson (Broadway Production) – 1956
Jaye P. Morgan & Eddy Arnold – 1956
Teresa Brewer – 1956
Rita Hayworth & Carol Burnett – 1971
Also recorded by: Louis Prima & Keely Smith;
Ann-Margret & Al Hirt; Everette Harp; Bud Shank.
We belong to a Mutual Admiration Society
My baby and me
We belong to a Mutual Admiration Society
I think he’s handsome and he’s smart
I think that she’s a work of art
I say that he’s the greatest man
And likewise I’m her biggest fan
I say her kisses are like wine
His kiss is just is good as mine
And that’s the way we pass the time of day
My baby and me
We belong to a Mutual Admiration Society
I say now you’re the sweetest one
I say, no you’re the sweetest one
She claims that I’m a natural wit
He says it’s just the opposite
The only fighting that we do is
Just who loves who more than who
And we go on like that from night til dawn
My baby and me
Oh, we belong to a Mutual Admiration Society
Now I do not exaggerate
I think she’s nothing short of great
I say that kind of flattery
Will get you any place with me
The way we carry on it tends
To just embarrass all our friends
And that is how we’ll still be years from now
My baby and me
We belong to a Mutual Admiration Society
My baby and me
We belong to a Mutual Admiration Society
My baby and me
A closing message to my daughter: My subscription to the Mutual Admiration Society and its publications will never expire—I have it paid-up for life, with a guarantee that there will never be any late or missing editions. To qualify for that guarantee I signed a document (with my real name) saying that I would never apply for a refund.
This is the complete text of a letter written to a couple in south Georgia—the state, not the country—we had recently returned from visiting relatives there. As the saying goes, there’s been lots of water under the bridge since then. The couple has since gone through a tumultuous divorce—as are most divorces. They now live in different states and their sons are grown and married—with children. My, how time does fly and how things do change—and not always for the better!
Yes, I wrote this letter on government time, but in all fairness please know that I had mastered all the rules and regulations pertaining to my duties, and was ready to spring into action should some unforeseen event occur. The time I spent waiting for work in my profession was down-time, comparable to the time fire fighters spend waiting for a fire and a call to action. For those professionals, there is a limit to how much time they can spend polishing the fire engines—eventually they’ll take the paint off the metal—and much of their time is spent sleeping, playing cards, writing letters, etc. On my watch the fire engines glistened in the overhead lights and were at all times ready to go. I feel no remorse for having used government time and government equipment for personal use.
San Antonio Int’l Airport
November 29, 1993
Hi, Kaye and Gary,
Is it Kaye or Kay? Can’t really tell just by hearing it, so I’ll take a guess at it and spell it Kaye. Either way you’ll know who I’m talking to, right? Given the fact that you’ve never gotten a letter from me it may take awhile for the shock to wear off. I’ve even shocked myself at some of the letters I’ve written recently. I’m doing the writing at work because I am bored, and I am bored because I have nothing to do—at least there is nothing I want to do. I’ve read books and magazines and worked crossword puzzles and played computer games until I’m tired of all that, so now I write letters, mostly to people who don’t expect them. All on government time, using government equipment, and drawing a government salary, even 10 percent extra because I am working nights. It’s your hard earned tax dollars at work.
I’m the supervisor on the 3-11 shift, and we only work the incoming international arrivals—passengers and baggage. There are no administrative functions to be performed after 5 pm, and we have long periods between flights, sometimes several hours. The inspectors have a television with cable in the break room, but most of them read during those down times.
We really enjoyed our visit to Georgia this time, especially the cookout. We counted 45 people there, including the little ones and the inlaws and outlaws. We don’t even know that many people here. Of course, now that I think of it, I didn’t know a lot of the people there either. I thought that you did a masterful job cooking the fish, and I’ll cheerfully recommend you in case anyone asks. However it’s my opinion that the ice chest filled with beer in the back of your pickup truck helped a lot.
We had a good trip back home. Stayed just two days with my two sisters in Mississippi, then back on the road to San Antonio. The ignition actuator broke in my truck, so I had to raise the hood and use a screwdriver—out here it’s called a Mexican ignition key—to restart the engine every time I had to shut down for gas or food or the restroom. We hit heavy rain coming through Louisiana, but I was lucky because I didn’t have to stop for anything.
Say hello to Andy and Jacob for me. Those two have really grown since I saw them. Given enough time and enough hints, I may have been able to identify Andy in a crowd, but there wouldn’t have been enough time or hints in the world to help me recognize Jacob. He had changed so much there’s no way I would have known him.
Kids seem to grow up a lot faster these days. I think it took me a whole lot longer. And seeing all the kids at the cookout, and seeing the kid’s kids, and knowing that the kid’s kids will soon be having kids made me wonder where all the years went. I guess they just slipped by while I wasn’t looking, or maybe I was looking and just wasn’t paying attention.
And a bunch of those years have flown by. I am now one month into my 45th year of government service, 22 in the Air Force and working on 23 with the Customs Service. No wonder I feel a little bit tired. I guess when I retire I’ll do nothing—after that many years of government service, a change of pace would be impossible!
We are having all kinds of weather here. Fall and winter do not bring a lot of change to San Antonio. The leaves fall, of course, but we never get the kind of cold you folks get in Georgia. The Chamber of Commerce claims that “the sunshine spends the winter in San Antonio,” but if it does it hides out behind the clouds a lot of the time. Right now we are hurting for rain.
Hope Thanksgiving was everything it’s supposed to be for you folks. We had a good turnout here. Everybody was at our house except Cindy—lots of turkey and all the other goodies. Turkey isn’t such a treat any more. We eat so much chicken that a turkey is just another chicken—it’s just a lot bigger. I heard a television comic say the other night that he and his wife had eaten so much chicken that they threw away their mattresses and were roosting on the bed slats. We haven’t gotten that bad—yet!
Gary, you need to take time and smell the roses. Take a little trip out here. See the Alamo, do the mission trails thing, take a ride on the river barge, go broke in the River Center, take a run up to see the LBJ ranch—possibly the best bargain in the country—interesting, lots of fun, and all free—drink a few cold Lone Star beers, visit the Lone Star brewery, see the Buckhorn Hall of Horns, take in Fiesta Texas and Sea World, and maybe even fit in a trip to Nuevo Laredo to buy some Mexican junk.
Well, let me shut this thing down. I have a plane due in a few minutes. This will be the last one for tonight. It’s a Continental flight from Mexico City, with a reservation count of 64 passengers. Those flights usually have a high no-show, and this one will probably come in with about 40 passengers. We really had the passengers over Thanksgiving, coming in for the big sales after the holiday. Don’t let anybody tell you that all the visitors from Mexico are poor.
They come through here with lots of cash and every kind of credit card imaginable, and according to the Chamber of Commerce they spend millions. The planes are full and the highways coming up from Laredo and Monterrey are packed with private autos from Mexico, some of them from as far away as Mexico City, just for the after-Thanksgiving sales. By Monday everybody is gone, and we settle back and wait for the Christmas shoppers.
I said I was going to shut this thing down, but started rambling again. Using a word processor to write letters is similar to eating peanuts, running down hill and sex—it’s hard to stop once you get started. I just had a call from the Continental people. The plane is late because of maintenance, and will be in at 15 minutes after midnight, so I’ll get home around 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning. This doesn’t happen too often, but even once is a pain. There’s some consolation, though—I’ll earn overtime for the late flight.
Tell Andy and Jacob to save some of the big fish for me for our next visit to Georgia.
My earliest memories include scenes and events that I can recall beginning at the age of three—that’s three years, not three days or three months. One item that is seared in my memory is why I was given the first name of Hershel—no, it wasn’t Herschel Walker—I would have been pleased to be named after Herschel Walker, but he began life far later than did I, and his name is spelled with a C and mine isn’t—also he was a much better football player than I was. Click here to read about my prowess on the gridiron and lack thereof.
Note: In addition to the gridiron, that posting also contains some significant facts relating to the San Antonio Spurs NBA team and one of its star players—that alone is worth a visit to the posting.
This posting is the story of my naming, a story I heard numerous times from my mother and one that I have repeated with gusto over the years whenever the occasion arose, and one that I will repeat with the same gusto should the occasion arise in the future. When I was a little bitty feller—actually I’m still a little bitty feller, just a lot older—my mother told me that when I was born, one of the most popular shows on radio was the Hershel Collins Gospel Quartet, a group featured weekly on a Birmingham, Alabama radio station and beamed to local stations all over Alabama and adjoining states.
The broadcasts were live, of course, because tape recording was still in its infancy. I always felt that being named after a well-known radio personality was in some manner highly complimentary. Many of the boy babies born in that period were burdened with biblical names, and I was thankful to be different. I could just as easily have been named Hosea or Habakkuk or Haggai or some similar name—and those are just a few of the biblical names available in the aitches.
Just as an aside, as a youngster I never went by my first name. Everyone knew me as Mike—Mikey to my mother—and in my teen years those in my peer group would sometimes greet me with Hi, Hershel, are you a Hershey bar? Is that with or without nuts? My standard answer was, With nuts—so eat me, eat me! I do not remember anyone that ever asked me that same question twice. Hey, one has a right to defend one’s self, right? Right? Right!
I was to learn that I was not the only baby boy named after the gospel group leader. Many years ago while stationed at Kelley AFB here in San Antonio, Texas, my wife and I were in the base commissary shopping for groceries, and when we checked out I used a personal check to pay our bill. The young woman at the register glanced at my name and told me that her father’s name was also Hershel. I bet her that I could tell her where he was born, and that I could come close to his date of birth, and I said her father was born in Alabama, probably in the early 1930s.
She said I was correct on the state and close to the date, but she felt that I probably knew her father. The truth is that I did not know him. It was pure serendipity—it hasn’t happened since and it’s unlikely that it ever will, but trust me—it happened that time. And now looking ahead to the rest of this posting, I believe that you’ll agree with me that it’s highly unlikely the girl’s father was named after a drunken alcoholic deputy sheriff—please keep that thought in mind as you read on.
I’m the only surviving member of my immediate family—those that have gone on include my mother, father, one brother and five sisters—oh, and one stepfather, an unusual man, one-of-a-kind that my mother married when I was nine and one that loomed large in my preteen and teen years.
Over a period of 29 years the couple were married twice and divorced once. Between the first marriage and the divorce they were separated several times, separations that were initiated by my stepfather. He also initiated the several reunions, and our small family was reunited. The first marriage lasted about sixteen years, the divorce a couple of years, and the second marriage some eleven years until his death in 1970.
As is my wont, I have digressed from my original reason for this posting, so back to the story of my namesake. Shortly before her death in 2003, my last surviving sibling asked me whether I knew my namesake, and I told her the story my mother told me, the same story that I told my wife, my three daughters and any others over the years that were willing to listen.
When I finished my answer to her question, she immediately refuted my mother’s story and told me that I was named after a small-town deputy sheriff, one that when not engaged in his official deputy sheriff’s duties spent most of his time in one of the town’s jail cells, sleeping off his constant drunken benders. I didn’t ask why he was repeatedly re-elected by the county voters—however, I deduced that his surname may have helped—the county was probably full of Smiths and most of them would have been his relatives—that’s how it was in rural Alabama counties.
I did not challenge her on her version of my naming—my response was a simple Oh, okay, so that’s where the name came from. My sister was very ill and died that same year. I knew her well enough to know how much she loved life and I knew that she was nowhere near ready to leave it. She was very proud of her two sons, their wives and their children, all successful in their lives and didn’t want to leave them.
I believe that she was deeply depressed, and because of that depression she lashed out at me in frustration, perhaps unconsciously—and on second thought, perhaps consciously—seeking to relieve her sadness by projecting some of it on to me. Such projection is one of the defense mechanisms of repression. How’s this for an example of psychoanalysis? Take that, Sigmund Freud!
I understood her depression and frustration, and while in her presence I accepted her revelation, her version of my namesake. However, I do not accept the notion that I was named after a drunken deputy.
Others may believe that, but as for me, I’ll stick to the version told to me by my mother repeatedly over the years—I’m sticking to her contention that I was named after Hershel Collins, the leader of one of the best-known and best-loved gospel quartets of the time.
A six-year old boy in a Delaware school was recently sentenced to a five-day suspension and 45 days in a reform school for bringing a Cub Scout camping knife to class. The item was given to him when he joined the Cub Scouts. It combines a fork, spoon and knife in one tool, a tool indispensable to every Cub Scout and Boy Scout—I’m uncertain whether such tool is given to Girl Scouts and/or Brownies, and if given, whether it would be indispensable to them.
“Significantly reduced the boy’s sentence—impressive. Schools have become such odd places. Being an older father of elementary students, I am shocked at how far schools go to assert their dominance over students. But then, I look at the parents of some of my children’s classmates and understand why.”
The viewer’s response was highly cogent—clear, logical and convincing, and obviously heartfelt. His comment about the dominance exerted on students by today’s schools was insightful and accurate. We daily abdicate our responsibilities and surrender our children to schools at every level—faculty members are in full charge of the students. In effect, the students become charges of the institution (note the definition of charge below).
I responded to the viewer’s comment as follows:
Thanks for the comment—I appreciate your interest. I realize that in your case the thoughts expressed below constitute “preaching to the choir,” but perhaps some wayward readers will be influenced by them, one way or another—we need all the help we can get!
This is the definition of CHARGE (from Wikipedia):
“During the European Middle Ages, a charge often meant an underage person placed under the supervision of a nobleman. Charges were the responsibility of the nobleman they were charged to, and they were usually expected to be treated as guests or as members of the household. Charges were at times more or less used openly as hostages, ensuring that the parents were kept in line.
The nuclear family is fast disappearing from the American scene. Our families have become splintered because of government intrusion by local, state and national authorities, intrusions that we appear to welcome.
I abhor the appellation of Chicken Little, but in this instance I embrace it—the sky is falling, and telling the king won’t stop its downward spiral because the king is, in many ways, responsible for the accelerated pace.
I fear that our slide down that slippery slope will continue.
This posting was originally unleashed on an unsuspecting audience almost ten months ago on June 9, 2009. It has languished in the bowels of Word Press since that time. The number of visitors the posting has drawn, for whatever reason, is unknown, but the number that bothered to rate the posting is known—one, and in the interest of full disclosure I must admit that the one vote is mine. I briefly considered commenting on the posting’s excellence, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it and remain anonymous. However, when I reread the posting I was so pleased with myself that I gave it a vote of excellence, but no one knows I did it because voters are not identified. Given its poor performance in attracting readers, voters and comments I decided to bring it out into the bright light of 2010 for the enlightenment of those that, for whatever reason, may find it in their wanderings around Word Press.
I beseech you, visitors to this posting, to leave some evidence that you were here—a footprint or a finger print or an old sock or cigarette butt or a few marijuana seeds or a burned bobby pin or a beautifully crafted joint holder—anything to show me that someone was here. Whether the story pleases or displeases you, please take the time to vote on it and leave a comment, either positive or negative. And whether you like it or hated it, tell me why your liked it or hated it—if I know why you hated it, I can change it for the better, and if you liked it I can change it by making it doubly better—or I’ll make it worse if you insist. See how that works?
In the spring of 1969 I began an extended vacation in Southeast Asia in Vietnam, one of the most beautiful countries on our planet, courtesy of the United States military with all expenses paid. My trip over was on a commercial airliner, with a brief stop on Guam. That stop was probably meant to prepare us for the sweltering heat we would soon be enjoying at Tan Son Knut air base on the outskirts of Saigon, Vietnam’s capital city, renamed as Ho Chi Minh City when Saigon and the rest of South Vietnam fell to the communist forces of North Vietnam.
My visit at Tan Son Knut was all too brief, but it lasted long enough for me to enjoy the last three months of the southern monsoon. According to our briefings, Vietnam has two distinct monsoon periods, six months in the south and six months in the north, cleverly labeled, respectively, the southern monsoon and the northern monsoon, with one beginning when the other stops. When I was transferred to Da Nang air base in the north, very much against my will, I was privileged to enjoy all six months of the northern monsoon, for a total of nine months of rain while in the country.
Monsoon, by definition, is a seasonal prevailing wind that lasts for several months. A monsoon typically includes the monsoon rainfall, a period during which a region receives the majority of its rain. On my vacation I was granted the opportunity to be drenched almost daily over a 9-month period.
I was wet every day that I spent in Vietnam, one way or the other, either drenched by rain or soaked with perspiration—one is supposed to be cooled by the evaporation of sweat, but in that climate perspiration could not evaporate because the air was already full of moisture. Shoes, boots, wallets and anything else made of leather, if left in an enclosed space for any length of time, would come alive with a solid coat of mold, looking like something in a Japanese movie on late-night television, more realistic, of course. By eight o’clock in the morning my undershirt was soaked with sweat and clung to my body like glue—I learned to not wear an undershirt, and I continue undershirt-less to this day. I also learned to wrap my wallet in plastic to keep it from imitating a Japanese horror monster.
My vacation tour of Vietnam was scheduled to last only 12 months—the thirteenth month was the result of a death in my family. I was allowed a 30-day respite from my vacation activities, but was allowed to complete my original commitment by staying an extra month on my return to Vietnam. The purpose of the thirteenth month was to make up for the break in my vacation tour—incidentally, the U. S. Air Force generously debited the 30 days from my accumulated leave time.
What a gift!
I have much more to tell about my tour of duty in Vietnam, but for this posting I’ll cover little more than the emergency 30-day leave—how it came about, and how and why and by whom it was initially denied but later authorized. I’ll try to be brief, and then return later with more details of my vacation.
Early one morning I was summoned to the office of the Red Cross representative at Da Nang to be informed of the contents of a telegram received from his counterpart in my home town. The telegram stated that my stepfather had died peacefully in his sleep, and that “… the mother is doing well and requests that the service member not return home.” That request not withstanding, I took the telegram to my Personnel Officer and requested a 30-day emergency leave in order to be with my mother to console her in her time of grief. I told him my late stepfather had held that title for 28 of my 37 years, except for a brief period during a divorce from my mother, a divorce that was soon followed by remarriage to my mother. I told the Personnel Officer that I felt that I owed my stepfather a return home because he was the only father I ever knew.
The truth of the matter? I desperately yearned to leave beautiful Vietnam, if only for a brief period, and 30 days of emergency leave was authorized in such circumstances as the death of my stepfather.
The Personnel Officer, a major, denied my request because the telegram stated quite clearly that my mother did not want me to return. My initial reaction was anger, but I calmly—well, sorta calmly—said to the major, “Sir, if my mother had requested my presence and I did not want to return, would you have ordered me to go?” He responded to my question with these exact words, uttered with strength, volume and passion:
“Sergeant, that’s insubordination!”
I considered that for a long moment and then said, “Thank you, major.” I saluted, did an about-face, left his office and the building and hotfooted it to the Non-commissioned Officer’s Club, an organization that I was a member of and a very frequent visitor to, and I was also a part-time off-duty worker—I considered the Club Manager to be a good friend.
I briefly explained the situation to him and asked if he could get a call through to my wife in San Antonio. He immediately picked up the phone and established a connection with a U. S. Navy vessel anchored off-shore from China Beach. From that ship the call went to a satellite, from that satellite to the ground somewhere in Scandinavia, then up to another satellite and from that satellite down to my home phone in San Antonio, Texas, all in a matter of minutes.
My friend handed me the phone and I heard my wife’s perfectly clear “Hello,” as distinct as if she were in the room with us. I told her not to talk, just listen and do what I was going to tell her to do. I told her to call my mother in Mississippi and tell her to go to the local Red Cross immediately and tell them that she desperately needs her son home from Vietnam, that she is suffering mightily from her recent loss and wants her son to come home because she feels he will be able to assuage her anguish and grief—and tell her that time is of the essence!
I used several unrepeatable words and phrases to emphasize the importance of the call to my mother. I told my wife to tell my mother that if she failed to convince the Red Cross to authorize my absence from helping lose our war with North Vietnam, she would never, ever, see me again or hear from me again. This was not a threat—it was a solemn promise that I intended to keep. My wife said she understood and we terminated the call. This was no time for small talk—time was of the essence!
I felt no pride in what I was doing, nor do I feel pride in it now. It was necessary and needed to be done, similar to the ultimatum given to the defenders of the Alamo when surrounded by the Mexican army: They were told, “Surrender now, or we will give no quarter.” I wanted my mother to surrender and deliver, and to understand the consequences if she failed—I would give no quarter. There was no time for deliberation, reluctance or self-recrimination—I needed action, not excuses—time was of the essence!
Early the next morning I was again called to the office of the American Red Cross, and the local representative gave me another telegram and told me to take it to the Personnel Office. Always one to comply with a direct order, I hastened my return to the office of the Personnel Officer. I was again ushered into that worthy’s office, wherein I saluted smartly, placed the telegram on his desk, stepped back and remained at attention while he read the message, a message which consisted of the things my wife told my mother to say, but without the unrepeatable words and phrases.
The major, apparently speechless, said nothing. Not a word, at least not vocally, but his face spoke volumes. He stamped the telegram APPROVED, with almost enough force to make a dent in the desk. I retrieved the approval, said “Thank you, sir,” saluted smartly and smartly pivoted 180 degrees (an about face), and went to the Administration Section to process for my return to the land of the big PX and round door knobs.
I departed Da Nang the same day on a commercial airliner, stuffed mostly with military personnel who had completed their Vietnam vacations. At the exact moment the wheels broke ground, a concerted and prolonged cheer erupted from the throats of some 200 men—I didn’t expect it and it scared the hell out of me, but I managed to join the choir, albeit somewhat belatedly.
I returned to Da Nang 30 days later to complete my tour in Vietnam—I never saw the major again, something we both can appreciate.
That’s all for now. I’ll have to get back later with more details of my vacation in Vietnam. It was one of the most memorable times in my life, a life which has, to date encompassed beau coup memorable moments.
See there? Even the word “beau coup” brings back memories of Vietnam—France occupied and fought in that country for many years. They no doubt took many mementos home with them, but also left many mementos behind when they left Vietnam, including a substantial number of Vietnamese mothers with children fathered by French soldiers. The French efforts in Vietnam were, of course, a prelude to American soldiers leaving similar mementos, probably in even more substantial numbers, of Vietnamese mothers with children fathered by American soldiers.
The plight and the beauty of those children deserve a separate posting.
Please accept my compliments for your report on the use of a hitherto unknown weapon available to our police officers, as reported in today’s issue of San Antonio’s only daily newspaper. The development of the new weapon and its procurement were unknown to me until today’s issue arrived and had been read. The prompt for this submission was an incident that was reported on page 2B in the News Roundup feature of the Metro section. I was pleased to note that our city is well ahead of the curve for innovative additions to the arsenal of weapons available to our uniformed police. The innovation pleased me, but the writing gave me no pleasure. This was the item’s heading:
S. A. cop shoots man with knife
In accordance with current journalism practices, details pertinent to the heading were given in the first paragraph, effectively setting the scene for the reader:
A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.
The author—or authors—used an estimated 200 additional words to cover the events that followed the shooting, but no more details on the new weapon were given. I had no interest in subsequent events—my attention was riveted on the heading and on the first paragraph, one that featured a single sentence, pithily constructed. While pleased at the introduction of the new weapon, I was fascinated by the ambiguities contained in the heading and its first paragraph.
The heading—S. A. cop shoots man with knife—was a bit ambiguous, but clear enough for any reader to surmise that—or at least possibly that— a combination of knife and pistol was used. However, the paragraph that followed was even more ambiguous—it is repeated here for emphasis:
A San Antonio police officer shot a man Tuesday night after he ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife on the South Side, officials said.
Based purely on that paragraph, no reader can be sure whether other officers were present nor whether one officer, the one that fired the shot from the combination knife/firearm, shot one of the other officers as he ran at them. The reader has already surmised that the butcher’s knife doubled as a firearm, so in the face of that ambiguity could also surmise that the shot fired hit one of the other officers.
Oh, and there is yet another ambiguity—we are told that a man ran at officers wielding a butcher’s knife. We don’t know exactly which man, nor do we know who was wielding the knife—one could reasonably surmise that it was wielded by the officers. If wielded by more than one officer, it must have been a really large butcher’s knife.
The reader is told that the butcher’s knife was wielded (carried) on the South Side, perhaps indicating that the carrier (or carriers) had previously wielded the knife/firearm combination in a different part of the city. The author erroneously capitalized both words, either inadvertently or purposely in the belief that locations appearing in the middle of a sentence should always be capitalized.
A reader might also surmise that the butcher’s knife was carried on the side away from the officers—on the south side—in order to conceal it until the man came within reach of the target. I find that plausible—the wrong doer may have been running toward the other officers at an angle—sideways, so to speak—thus deliberately making an effort to conceal the weapon.
I thirst for more information on the new weapon, and I trust that the additional information will soon be provided. Apparently some highly imaginative weapons manufacturers and cutlery makers have created a dual-purpose weapon by combining a deadly blade with a deadly firearm—a weapon that can be used against a miscreant at close quarters or from a distance, depending on the situation and the discretion of the officer or officers.
The mere thought of police officers armed with such a weapon should strike fear into the hearts of any person contemplating one or more criminal activities. An errant citizen now knows that he (or she) will be sliced, slashed or stabbed as necessary if the officer is close enough, and if the officer is not within knife range, that errant (he or she) will be shot as many times, and in as many body parts, as necessary.
As an aside to this letter, I learned from a radio report this morning that the man was shot in the leg—which leg was not revealed, but it was either the left or the right. I do not recall the radio report shedding any light on that facet of the incident, nor do I recall the report specifying which man was shot and which man did the shooting, so my doubts created by the ambiguities present in the report remain extant.
And now for mandatory disclosures if any exist, and in this case there is one. This posting was notsubmitted to the Express-News for consideration. I have compiled an impressive collection of submissions to the editor in past years—some were printed and some were rejected. I soon realized that the rejections contained one or more criticisms, all of which were intended to be constructive, but the editor apparently did not consider them constructive, and in fact, in one instance the editor agreed to print a letter but would not include the whining portions of the submission. I refused permission to print it, whether with or without my whinings.
So now you know the rest of that story. I address constructive criticisms to the editor but I do not submit them to the editor. I submit them to Word Press on my blog. That publisher has never rejected a letter and I trust that they never will, assuming of course that my submissions are pertinent and in good taste—just as this letter is.
The above title seemed appropriate at first, but on serious reflection I realized that the title involved certain conclusions that could possibility be drawn by viewers. I therefore hasten to add that my barber is a lady, a lady that I married in 1952 and one that has hung around and tolerated me for the past 57 years, and our union continues in its 58th year with no abatement of the passions that prompted the marriage (that simply means that we still love one another). I can understand my love for her, but I have never fully understood her love for me.
Que sera, sera—whatever will be, will be!
My wife became my barber in 1983, the year that we left the sanctity and security of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and relocated to the Washington, D.C. area following my unlikely promotion to a higher level in my duties as a law-enforcement officer in our federal Civil Service. I managed to endure those duties for three years before I bailed out and returned to Texas—to Houston, not to the Rio Grande Valley—and six months later to San Antonio for an additional ten years in service and retirement in 1997. Texas is our adoptive father and San Antonio is our adoptive mother—we love both, and we intend to remain in that family throughout this life and the next—see, I told you we love them!
The above two paragraphs comprise the foundation for this posting, one that could accurately be titled, “The time my wife cut my hair and my left ear prior to my travel from Arlington, Virginia to New York, NY and on to London, England and Johannesburg, South Africa and finally to Botswana, the capital city of the sovereign nation of Botswana, Africa.” That trip and its several stops, both outbound and return, are fodder for later posts and will be attended to in time. Just as a teaser, I will tell you that at that time, apartheid still ruled in South Africa—click here for details of that nation’s apartheid rule from 1948 until 1994.
I was running a bit behind for my flight out of National Airport (later renamed Ronald Reagan National Airport), but I was desperately in need of a trim. My barber gave me the trim but inadvertently removed a one-inch strip of skin from the outer portion of my left ear, a wound that bled very little but quickly became an unsightly scab—it ultimately healed with no discernible after effects, but that one-inch strip figured prominently in my trip to exotic foreign countries. It became a topic for conversation, and attracted stares from everyone I faced on the trip, including immigration and customs officers, taxi drivers, airline employees and fellow travelers. While few questioned the wound, their gaze invariably strayed from eye contact to ear contact, a really disconcerting situation. It made the viewer appear uninvolved, and somewhat cross-eyed. At first I felt obligated to explain the wound, so I assembled several canned responses to use when someone asked, “What happened to your ear?” I finally gave that up, and either ignored the question or steered the conversation in a different direction. Bummer!
Oh, I just remembered that my mother labeled eyes that seemed to be looking in different directions as “A and P eyes.” She explained that by saying that one looked toward the Atlantic and the other toward the Pacific. I make no apology for her little joke, nor do I feel compelled to apologize for recounting it here. My mother was a lovely lady with no hint of bias of any fashion toward any race, color, or creed, nor was she biased toward noticeable physical or mental aberrations. And as the adage goes, the fruit never falls far from the tree—like mother, like son—seriously!
At some point during the decade of the 1970s I read an article in the San Antonio Light, one of San Antonio’s daily newspapers, a report of an interview conducted by a Light reporter with a nationally-known San Antonio attorney that specialized in criminal cases. His work took him across the nation and to many foreign destinations, and he talked about the extensive travel his duties required.
He told the reporter and readers of the San Antonio Light that he always carried a copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden on his travels. Whether on a plane or train or bus, whether in a hotel amid the hustle and bustle of big cities or in a motel room in a rural area, Thoreau’s journal provided the peace and quiet he needed for rest and relaxation. He said that over the years, his original copy became so worn that it needed to be replaced.
Fascinated by the effect of the writing as voiced by the attorney, I hastened to the library in search of Thoreau—I found him, and in the years since I have held Thoreau and his writings close at hand—they give me the same peace and quiet enjoyed by the criminal lawyer. The well-thumbed copy I now use, one that I heartily recommend, is entitled Henry David Thoreau—Walden and “Civil Disobedience,” a Signet Classic paperback printed in 1980 by The New American Library, Inc., New York, NY. I treasure the copy for several reasons, not the least of which is the former owner’s signature inside the front cover, that of my youngest daughter, penned while studying Thoreau during her first year of college.
The runner-up to “Why I value my copy of Walden” is the afterword written by Perry Miller (1905—1963), an American intellectual historian and Harvard University professor. Miller’s brilliant analysis of Walden and “Civil Disobedience” should be read before reading the book—such pre-reading will give the reader a head start on understanding Thoreau’s life and his writings.
I believe that many, perhaps most, of those that read this posting will rush out to look for the book. There’s no need to rush, and no need to leave home—at the time of this posting, twenty-three copies of the book may be found online at http://www.abebooks.com/, the same site that the folks athttp://www.halfpricebooks.com/ use to determine their selling price for books. At Abebooks, prices for Walden begin at one dollar and top out at twenty dollars. Try the site—you’ll like it! (In the interests of full disclosure, I must say, regretfully, that I have no stock in either company).
If any readers of this posting have not been formally introduced to Henry David Thoreau, I will proudly make the introduction by referring such persons to the following biographical study—plato.stanford.edu/entries/thoreau/. I trust that they will find a new friend in Hank—yep, I take the liberty of calling him Hank based on our long friendship.
This posting is a letter that I submitted to the editors of the San Antonio Light way back in 1992, and in the interest of full disclosure I must admit that it was never published. Apparently my letter touched a nerve, or perhaps several nerves, because it was neither printed nor acknowledged.
First, a brief history of the SAN ANTONIO LIGHT, a daily newspaper that flourished for more than 100 years in San Antonio, Texas, but is now defunct:
The San Antonio Light, a daily afternoon and Sunday morning newspaper in San Antonio, Texas began as the San Antonio Surprise in 1881. The paper subsequently morphed through a series of titles including the Evening Light, the Daily Light, the Light and Gazette, and finally settled on the San Antonio Light title in 1911. The Light was published continuously until late 1992 and was then closed, shortly after its purchase by the Hearst Corporation.
This is the letter I submitted:
Letters to the Editor, San Antonio Light
PO Box 161
San Antonio, TX 78291
“One Woman’s Choice,” the article that appeared in FOCUS on July 5, was an eloquent and compelling plea for legal abortion. Subtitled “Best decision made among grim options,” its objective was to convince the reader of the rightness of pro-choice.” The article practically guaranteed equal space in FOCUS for a pro-life rebuttal, providing that such a rebuttal would be submitted. The Light’s editors must have prayed for a rebuttal and had their prayers answered, because in the space of one week a rebuttal was submitted, verified, edited and printed in the FOCUS section of the paper.
The pro-life article appeared in FOCUS just one week later, titled “Another Woman’s Choice.” Subtitled “Giving birth took love, hard work,” the article is just as eloquent and compelling in its plea for pro-life as the first was for pro-choice. The Light did not publish either writer’s name because of the “personal and sensitive nature” of their stories. I can understand the woman that aborted her pregnancy being reluctant to see her name in print, but not the woman that gave birth and life to her child and then achieved success in her quest for an education—summa cum laude, no less!. That mother (so to speak) should be shouting her name from the highest rooftops, perhaps even having it written in the sky high above the city of San Antonio.
Ostensibly the letters reflect widely disparate personal experiences of two young women in San Antonio, events which profoundly affected their lives. Rather than the work of individuals, the letters appear to be composites of the abortion issue. I suspect that they are ghost-written, perhaps by a professional writer or writers or groups of writers, all well-versed in the pros and cons of the abortion issue.
While both articles are excellent journalism, an error or two in sentence construction, grammar, punctuation or spelling might have made them more believable. Of course, one of the authors is careful to tell us that because of her abortion she was free to pursue her education, and ultimately graduated from college and traveled extensively.
The other author stresses the fact that she was able to pursue her education without aborting her pregnancy, and was graduated magna cum laude by a prestigious university. The stated accomplishments of the two women effectively explain their articulateness and the excellence of their literary arguments.
If the letters are genuine, I apologize for allowing my skepticism and cynicism to show (Ann Landers would probably sign me, “Cynic in San Antonio”).
Whether the letters are genuine or bogus, I extend my congratulations to their authors and to the Light for publishing them. The abortion question is probably the most divisive issue this country has ever faced, and I applaud any efforts to resolve it, even those efforts that appeal to emotions rather than reason.