Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Welcome to Submarines

It was July of 1963. John F Kennedy was President and the Cuban Missile Crisis was 10 months ago. I had just arrived at the Submarine Base in Key West Florida and was standing on the pier, with my sea bag, waiting for my “boat” to arrive from daily op’s. I watched in amazement as my new ship rounded the sea wall and was maneuvering to line up with the dock. Black smoke was coming out of both sides of the gray ship rumbling the presence of powerful diesel engines, as an office was barking commands, “All ahead one third, right full rudder”, then “Back full, rudder amidships”. I stood there in awe, taking everything in when suddenly a “Monkeys fist” [A round knot and weight attached to a heaving line] narrowly missed my head; but a large coil of thin line hit me in the head and knocked my hat off. Trying to figure out what was happening, some sailor on the bow hollered at me “Hey puke pull out the line”. I didn’t know what a “Puke” meant but I kinda remembered from Boot Camp that line meant rope. About this time, two sailors rode up on bikes, a truck pulled up and these sailors tied the ship up, pushed over a gangplank and started hooking up shore power, which I would later learn connected the sub to the real world with; electricity, telephone, freshwater. I hoisted up my sea bag and headed for the gangplank and was promptly met, by what appeared to be, the entire crew charging over the gangplank heading for liberty. I waited until all had left and then headed up the gangplank myself. I saluted the aft end of the boat, where a flag was flying, and then saluted the bridge where two officers were standing and talking. “Permission to come aboard Sir” I shouted still saluting. I patiently awaited the return salute that would allow me to terminate my salute. It never came. The two officers glanced at me and returned to their conversation. About this time a young sailor, who was strapping a Colt .45 on his hip, walked up holding out his hand and said, “You must be Dickson, welcome aboard the Picuda.” He had a small, Stainless steel, desk on a post that he now stuck into a hole in the deck. He then pulled a green book out of the desk and began writting in it. He then wrote my name in it with the time of my arrival. I waited until he finished his duty, pulling out his .45, releasing the clip, pulling the receiver looking for a round in the chamber, pointed the weapon skyward and pulled the trigger. The look in his face was that he expected the weapon to fire. When it didn’t, he calmly put the clip of live ammunition back in the pistol and holstered it. I then said, “What is a Puke”. “That’s what we are, non-quals or not qualified on submarines!” he replied.

I laid below, met the Yeoman who checked me in, then the Executive Officer, then the Captain who took me to the mess decks and turned me over to the “Chief of the Boat” “This is your new mother” the Captain said as he turned and left. What a strange place this, I thought, where officers don’t salute, seamen run around with loaded pistols, Commanding officers introduce you to enlisted men who are pretending to be my mom and every one I meet now calls me a Puke. The COB informed me that “Puke” was a term of endearment used by qualified sailors when they referred to nonqualified sailors. It wasn’t a term that he especially liked or used but what could you do. [I tried to keep that in mind, over the next few months, when he used the term as I was being reprimanded for falling behind on his schedule of qualifications.] I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it. The COB handed me my Qualification card, told me the rules, told me never to loose the card, told me I had 6 months to get it filled out, and if I didn’t get it done I would be kicked off the ship, a disgrace to the Navy. The COB informed me that besides being a “Puke” I was also a “Nukie Poo”, another term of endearment and I should try and not take it very seriously. He said it came from the fact that I was eventually headed for a nuclear powered sub but I was now in the middle of a bunch of “Smoke Boat Sailors” and most of them didn’t like “Nuckie Poo’s”. The Topside Watches words were ringing in my ears, “Welcome to the Submarine Service”. Think I’ll go find a phone and give Mom a call. I think she will be worried if I made it or not.

Tomorrow "Hot Bunking"

Monday, February 27, 2006

My Bear Killer

Colt single action frontier scout .22 LR
This was my very 1st pistol. Bought it in SD when I was about 16 at a local Hardware-military surplus-everything store. The owner had been my next door neighbor when I was younger. Took it everywhere and did everything with it. Always my companion on every hunting excursion. When I worked for my father, in the woods, I was a lumber scaler which meant I would follow the log cutters in the woods and kept track of their lumber scale so they could get paid. I was everywhere, also tracking the skidders and the truckers. Always had my pistol with me as it was all big rattlesnake country. I would get a snake once every couple of days.
When I was off to college at Montana State University at Missoula, my Colt went with me. We spent a lot of time, my buddies and I, exploring the terrain around Missoula. Lots of rivers and lots of trees and lots of bears. In those days we had Black Bears on campus in the mornings and you could see them grazing on the hill sides. I think about the only thing I could have done with my pistol, in a Grizzle attack, would have been to hit the bear really hard on the nose with the butt of the gun. Shooting the bear with my .22 would have really pissed them off. Luckily we were never confronted up close. While at MSU, I got into fast drawing and it was during one of those sessions that the frame got broke. I got a new piece from the factory but I never got around to bluing it to match. Just didn't seem important.
Never could target shoot but I could sure shoot anything that you threw in the air, with it. I would practice just enough to keep my qualifications up for being a cop but I just didn't like practicing. When it came to the bad guys, if they would jump up in the air I could probably pierce both ears for them before they hit the ground but if they stood still, the buildings behind them were problably safe.
I have not shot my frontier scout for 20 years now. I had to go to a friends house to even look at my gun and take the picture you see here. As you know, I live in a state that is very unfriendly to firearms and their users. Possessing a pistol in MA is worse than robbing a bank. If I used my pistol to protect my home from a nitetime burglar I would probably go to jail for a longer term than the burglar because I don't have a permit to carry a pistol. Maybe I will go out and get my firearms permit and apply for a pistol permit so I can get my gun back. Even target practice is a problem because now the environmentalists want to to sue because you are contaminating the water table with lead????

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Flat Stanley goes to the Pomeroy Sugar House

Flat Stanley arrives at Pomeroy Sugar House

This morning my wife and I took our grandson Sam and Flat Stanley to the Pomeroy Sugar House in Westfield for breakfast because it is Maple Syrup Time in the Berkshires. The weather has been good and the syrup has been flowing for a few weeks now. Warm days and cool night make the syrup flow.
Flat Stanley taps a tree and gathers syrup
This only happens once a year and if the Sugar Maples are not tapped at the right time then the season is short and the taps' close up.
When the syrup flows, from the trees, the Pomeroy family starts their restaurant up for the next 8 weeks. The restaurant is located around the Sugar House so as you eat you can look into the sugar house and watch the family making Pure Massachusetts Maple Syrup in their gleaming, new, stainless steel boiling pots.
Sam and Flat Stanley eat a hearty breakfast
When you are done eating your pancakes, French toast or waffles, with bacon or sausages, you can wander into the boiling area and someone will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about making Maple Syrup.

At our present house, several years ago, I tapped two trees in our backyard and made Maple Syrup. First I started boiling the syrup in the kitchen, as it has to be reduced 40:1, but shortly my wife ran me outside as the entire house smelled like maple syrup. Outside I switched to propane and my setup for boiling steamers[steamed clams from the cape] and that worked just fine. I went through 3-2o# bottles of propane to make about about 2 quarts. That amounted to $13.50 worth of propane per quart of maple syrup. I switched back to buying it at the farm stores after that.

As you can see by the pictures that Flat Stanley was along and if you don't remember, he is the character in the Flat Stanley books. He was my grandson's 3rd grade project for the weekend so we made him part of our Sunday morning adventure.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Black Lab Retriever named Boo
What were they thinking? They already have a Goldendoodle, 2 years old and a Shih Tzu 12 years old. One more dog for our Doggy Day Care

Friday, February 24, 2006

Westfield Jubilee

This blogging thing is a very new phenomenon and at times I have a tough time really grasping the concept. Some of our fellow bloggers have become a very important part of our news reporting scene, investigative reporters and sometimes the very first to report a problem, or a story. Others of us are content to sit back and call ourselves Rememberers by reporting on things that happened a long time ago, in our childhoods, or telling stories about others or their town or their love affairs. Lest we get too full of our new blog business, and ourselves, let me report on a book written about my town and its Two Hundredth Anniversary in October of 1869. It is a book, that I have found, about some of the original bloggers .

First, let me give this story a little bit of historical perspective as I have a bit of a tough time getting my head around the year 1669 as that was the date this town was incorporated and it was founded even earlier. I moved here from a state, South Dakota, that was fighting Indians in 1869 and Gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1876. 200 years after Westfield was incorporated. 200 years my friends and that is a really long time. As of the time of this reporting, Westfield has been a town [and now a city] some 336 years.

The book I referred to is The Westfield Jubilee: a report of the Celebration at Westfield, Mass., on the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town, October 6, 1869, with the Historical Address of the Hon. William G Bates, and other Speeches and Poems of the Occasion, With an Appendix, Containing Historical Documents of Local Interest. Rather a long title but that was how they did things back then. The end of the title is the interesting part “With an Appendix, Containing Historical Documents of Local Interest”. This is about the blogging and the actual postings occupy about 60 pages. In the previous year, 1868 and earlier, The Westfield Times published several numbers of articles with the title “Pictures of Westfield as it Was”. These “Pictures were articles written by various writers, reporters and columnists with the paper. At the time of the celebration they numbered 42 postings. These postings were edited down to 19 that were included with the book as historical color. The various authors wrote about the present day town and reflected upon how it was according to their recollections. Usually the subjects were prominent individuals, events, historical heroes, etc.. I have selected a posting about a Mr. Bates who was a local resident. The story was about his life and what it has meant to Westfield, as his deeds were many. Some were funny and some were sad. A funny story was at the end of this posting No. 16.

“In speaking of Pine Hill, I am reminded of an incident. A small boy had a small sled, with which he was accustomed to coast on that steep hill. The “help” in Mr. Bates’ family, consisted of a short, fat, dumpy woman, named Bet, and a smaller girl. They importuned the boy, to give them a ride, which he did,--the girl and Bet being loaded on the sled, and he mounted, as steersman. After a number of rides, Bet desired to go down alone, soliciting instructions from the boy, for the guidance of the sled. The hill inclined somewhat towards the edge; and in giving his directions, he mistook, in telling her which foot to put down. It therefore so happened, that, when the sled, with its cargo, was in full career, and tending toward the precipitous edge, Bet put down the wrong foot, and, in an instant, they darted like a catapult, through the brush fence, on the hill-side, into the brush below. It is, perhaps, needless to remark, that, about that time, the boy left suddenly for home, Bet behind him, ‘breathing out threatenings and slaughter’”.


The photo at the top of this posting is a recent shot of the "Town Green" and shows a statue of General Shepard, our local hero of the Revolutionary War. General Shepard was General Washington's favorite and was with him in all of his battles of the war of independence. The second photo, of the city's seal, was 'lifted' from the city website. I don't think it was illegal to 'lift' the city seal & place it on this blog but in case it was I'll blog about it. Go ahead and click on the hyperlink under the word "city seal" and give us a look.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A parking Ban?

I get to remembering, for a postings, and sometimes it is not very easy to recall all of the little details for a particular post. Even if it is a subject I remember a lot about, it still takes a lot of time on the internet to jog my memory for the whole story or a call to one of my brothers for details.. When I wrote the post about the Polio epidemic in the 50’s I could not recall when the events actually took place. A search on the word polio got me into the proper year and a couple of sites even brought back some other memories so that I could do a good job with the post. Sometimes I remember things that I have suppressed for the past 50 years and I don’t want to remember so I have to get away from it for a while. It takes a while to shake these moments off and when it happens I usually turn to the present to blog about. I am enjoying my present life with my wife of 39 years with me and my daughter, son-in-law, grandson and two dogs all just 5 blocks away. The whole screwy bunch gives me armloads of material to write about and I will turn to that, for this blog, at least for a little while.

I am not much of one to go to the movies or even watch movies on TV at home so last week, when I accept an invitation to go to the movies, my whole family was in shock, even the dogs. It wasn’t just a trip to the movies, it was a trip to the movies with the girls. I went with my wife, my sister-in-law and my daughter [on the occasion of her birthday because wild horses couldn’t draw me into this, normally]. I brought along my notebook as I felt there would be 100’s of blogable events that would occur, and I wouldn’t want to forget them. I wasn’t to be disappointed. They had decided on seeing “The Pink Panther” with Steve Martin. [I just typed in with Peter Sellers which is probably the last time I went to the movies]. When we arrived at the Theater Complex, my wife was driving the van and it was 10 degrees with a 20mph wind outside. I suggested that she drive to the front door area, the ladies could disembark, and I would see to the parking. My wife gave me explicit directions on where to park and how to get the best parking spaces. They left and I headed out to the great world of parking lots on a Saturday night at 7:30 pm where the maximum number of cars had already arrived. There were no close spots as I drove the lot for 15 minutes. The movie was soon to start so I was forced up on the dreaded second tier. I got as close to the theater as I could. I was not alone as there were dozens of people exiting their vehicles all around me. There is an enclosed skywalk connecting this parking lot with the theater. When I got inside my wife inquired as to where I had parked. I replied “Pretty Close” and we went in to watch the “not real great” Pink Panther. When we exited, via the covered skywalk, my wife said “just where did you park that was “Pretty Close”? “Oh, just up here by the trees’ I replied. “MY GOD”, she hollered, “You are hereby banned from ever parking the van again. I noticed when we left that she hadn’t buttoned up her coat, wasn’t wearing gloves and no hat. I’m sure she was just cold and really didn’t mean what she was saying? I’m sure she didn’t really mean to say “Banned from parking”. After 39 years I don’t think she has the power to say that…….does she??

No Hot Water

Could not pass this one up. Thanks to First magazine and their column Last Laugh V18, I11

Sure---Blame the Dog!!

This speaks a lot about my feelings towards Congressional hearings. This cartoon was stolen from Mr. Completely, who obtained it from someone else, etc. etc. etc.......My congratulations to the origional artist.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mud Fight

Since our Daughter, Husband, Son and Golden Doodle moved into their own home a couple of months ago, things have been pretty quiet around here as we became empty nesters again. We couldn't stand success so we agreed to watch grandson Sam in the morning before school. There was no where for Randy the Golden Doodle to go so we watch him during the day [Doggy Day Care]. Since we were watching Sam and Randy we might as well watch Tim before school [Dad is a friend of ours from church]. Tim goes to school at 7:20 because he has breakfast at school every day. Sam goes at 7:45 because he has breakfast at our house and the two schools are in different parts of town. We both work for the cemetery, the office door and maintenance shop are about 50 feet from our back door so it is fairly easy to handle. They both get picked up at 3:00 which isn't bad except you have to go 30 minutes early or you can't get a parking spot. The boys are at our house until 4:00 to 5:00 when our daughter gets done teaching at her school and comes and picks up both boys and the dog. It is like heaven when everyone leaves every night. Are we not wonderful people?

We have huge snowdrifts in our parking lot from snow removal operations so both boys come home, shed their coats and with no gloves or hats go attack the snowdrifts. Usually coming in wet and cold around 4 for hot chocolate. Wednesday night they came in covered with mud instead of snow. Seems as if things are warming up a bit and they made some mud. Had them strip and put their clothes in bags. On the far side of our yard was where the boys were playing trying to keep out of the way. Thursday I ventured over to that area to check on something in a building and what do you know. The boys had managed to cover one of our pickups completely with mud on one side and had flung mud all over the side of the building. On the way to school with Sam I informed him that he could look forward to cleaning up the mud I had just discovered. He blamed it all on Tim but he said I couldn't make him clean it up because it was Art???? On the way back from school I told Tim about discovering the mud and he blamed it all on Sam. When I had both of them in the pickup they each ratted the other one out and said things like "Ya, well you covered the pickup with mud Tim"! Ya but you threw mud at the building with the shovel Sam" "Ya but you started it" yadda, yadda, yadda. I was very fair about it and told them they would each clean 1/2 of the mud off. Tim dutifully cleaned up his half and my grandson gave me an attitude which ended up with him still cleaning his 1/2 and then venting his anger on a snowdrift while his buddy went in and watched TV. When Sam's mom came and removed them I was very happy. The only unhappy thing was she forgot the dog, who had been outside all day, so I had to load him up in my pickup, mud and all and take him to her house lest she call up and say "I am really busy tonight, could you keep the dog for the night?" "NO!!!!" "we're empty nesters!!!"

A Great Party

Hi Friends. Another great dog story. This posting is a repeat of one that I posted earlier, last year, but I wanted to do it again because you need to fully understand what a warped woman my wife is before you can fully appreciate my stories about her and what I have to put up with.

This one is about Abbey and is about my wife’s favorite party. To bring you up to date, Abbey was a small Shih Tzu that my daughter brought into our house to become a playmate for Cody who was a small Rat Terrier and whatever crawled under the fence. Mommy kitty [who came to us in a blizzard with a load of kittens in her belly] was between litters and had adopted Abbey as one of her own, regularly bathing her and trying to feed her by bringing small dead animals and bugs into our house. Cody was about 4 when Abbey came and he completely ignored her, just assuming she was another one of those cats. One day, after 3 weeks, she finally barked and then Cody realized she was a dog. He jumped up and ran over and smelled her. They immediately became great friends but Momma Kitty wan't about to let her go. Abbey would walk by and Momma Kitty would reach out with a big paw and knock her down and then hold her down while she bathed her from top to bottom. We held a big family party [my wife’s family] in our backyard one Saturday. Very well attended and some of her Aunts and older Cousins were a bit of the stuffed shirt variety. The party was a little weak with a lot of polite visiting and we felt we were under a microscope. Some relations were hiding in a back corner under the tent and others had grabbed the best chairs and were up front by the food. Cody and Abbey were allowed to run loose and visited everyone. They loved it as they were getting lots of petting and a little food at the same time. Abbey was standing in the middle of the group and suddenly gave out with a loud “huh---Urk”, which garnered everyone’s attention, and she coughed up a dead, slime covered, whole, mouse. One of Momma Kitty's presents. Well everyone started screaming. They apparently thought Abbey was possessed and had spit up an alien life form. I was disgusted and was grabbing paper towels to get the mouse picked up. I was expecting my wife to help me pick it up or at least grab the dog but my wife was in a fit of hysterics, Uncontrollable laughing hysterics and holding her side unable to speak or breath [she did that once at a wake but that’s another story]. After everyone regained their composure the party went on and my wife was sent away to laugh in private. When able to speak she just said, “The sight of that mouse coming out and those old ladies screaming was too much”. No one wanted to hold cute, little, Abbey after that but it was my wife's favorite party??

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

KeeWee's Corner

KeeWee's Corner I really need to pass this one on. Way different than anything else I've read on the net. Guns, Recipes, Dogs, Cats, Cartoons, Photography and really great humor. Humor that is from a lady in the Northwest and from Downunder. Every post is something really different. I stole her logo to make you want to go to her blog. Hope she doesn't mind.

A light in the Distance

All of this recent news and talk about a blizzard in New York City and elsewhere has me bringing up old memories of blizzards of my own. In 1975 I was a hotshot Agent working for the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and was just leaving our office after a meeting and heading home to the SE corner of the state. I was riding with another agent, Carl and it had been snowing for a while. We both wanted to be home, for the weekend with our families so we pushed on. We contacted the State police on our radio to check the highway [Interstate 90] conditions and the Trooper we talked to told us they were getting ready to close the highway as the conditions were worsening by the minute. Carl asked if we could make it home and the Trooper replied that we might be able to but advised against it. There wasn’t going to be much snow and we thought that we could handle a little wind. Well we were “Super Agents” 30 years old and no fear of ever dying so we pushed on.

The following quote is from NOAA about the “Worst Blizzard of the Century” in South Dakota just to set the stage so that I can show you what true idiots we were.
The blizzard of Jan. 10-11, 1975 was widely considered to be the worst blizzard of the century in this area. There was only 7 inches of snow measured at Sioux Falls, but wind gusts were up to 70 mph, wind chills were down to 70 below zero, and visibilities were below a quarter mile at the airport for 24 straight hours. There were 8 deaths in South Dakota during the storm, …….. Two college students from Sioux Falls died from exposure when their car stalled 3 miles east of Sioux Falls. A 2000 foot high broadcast tower east of Sioux Falls collapsed due to the storm. Livestock loss was an estimated 10 to 15 thousand head.

So Frick and Frack push on. When we got up on the interstate we were much more exposed than we had been and we were now 20 miles from the State Capitol in Pierre. For those of you that are familiar with this general area you are aware of the fact that there is absolutely nowhere to really go to sit down and have a coffee and talk about it. We were in trouble and we knew it. The only way we could tell where we were on the highway was because I could see the edge of the road, which was gravel, by looking sideways out my window. Looking straight ahead was pure white. “A little bit right Carl” I would say “little bit more” as Carl seemed to prefer the center of the road. The only problem with that was the trucks passing us that didn’t seem to have a problem seeing the road? It was getting worse the further we drove. We had made about 175 miles and our luck was running out. “A little bit Right Carl, a little bit more” as I started to get nervous, “Your drifting right, way to far, turn right Carl, right now, HARD RIGHT CARL, HARD RIGHT” I shouted but it was too late. Carl had gotten Vertigo and drove right into the median. We were as stuck as stuck could be. No digging out, no pushing, just no nothing as we stood outside the car, in the 70 mph winds, trying to figure our options. Our Guardian Angel arrives. A mortician that Carl knew pulls up and offers us a ride, Hooray. We grab our guns, lock up the car and jump in with the Mortician. Well, we still can’t see except when we looking out the side windows and telling the Mortician how to steer. Finally we see a restaurant just off the road on an off ramp and decide to stop and have a coffee. We had come about 200 miles but we still had miles to go before we slept and none of us wanted to sleep on the floor of a restaurant for the night. I called into the town of Salem, about ONE mile away, and they still had a room in a Hotel so I reserved it and told them we would be there in about ½ hour as we were having coffee. We took off for Salem and immediately found that conditions were way worse. We were headed due north and just couldn’t see but the road was a gravel road and was a good one. I was hanging out of the drivers window staring at the gravel on the edge which helped us navigate. It was really cold and I would pull my head back in because of a blinding headache. I would have to literally break the ice that formed a mask over my face and forehead. Each time I was in terrible pain. Carl and I were trading off. He was in the back seat and having the same problems. Shortly I was hollering at our Mortician driver to slow down but he kept ignoring me and I hollered again to slow down. He said “Ted I am completely stopped”. I looked a different way and could see that he was. I had been watching the snow and the gravel on the side of the road and was suddenly concentrating on the snow which was traveling at 70 miles per hour over the gravel. It was my turn to get vertigo. We started back up but suddenly the car stopped as it had overheated. We got out and checked under the hood and found a blown radiator hose and that the 70 mph snow had jam packed the engine compartment with snow so hard we could not dig it out as steam was blowing out everywhere and instantly freezing. Once again we were stuck. This was becoming my longest mile ever. [when the storm was over, we checked and we had gone ½ mile in about 30 minutes] As we contemplated our options our Mortician notified us that he was a diabetic and took insulin. Carl and I figured we didn’t need to make him spend the night in a cold car. Carl spotted a yard light about 100 yards away that would disappear and then reappear but we couldn’t tell what it was for. It could have been for an outbuilding with no heat and no food. It could have been for a house but it might be too far to reach. There were a hundred “might be’s” between the three of us that evening as we contemplated everything, including our lives. We were in deep do do and we knew it. The three of us could probably keep the car warm enough to survive but we had no blankets, warm coats, candles, etc. etc. etc. All of the things you should have to keep you alive in a South Dakota blizzard. [The logic of staying in the car was a little bit flawed when you reference the NOAA statement above about the two college students whose car stalled.] My clothing consisted of a suit, topcoat, low cut shoes, no hat and no gloves. My two compatriots were basically in the same condition. We opted to make a “run for it “ towards the light and hope for the best. When I stepped out of the car I kinda figured I was making a mistake and was not going to make it to whatever fate was waiting at the light in the distance. I was overwhelmed by the process of making the decision about our future, which had just taken place in the confines of the warm car. We had made a life or death decision based on not very much knowledge about our real options. I thought about my wife and daughter and how I really wanted to be with them at this moment. About my parents and how I probably wasn’t going to see them again. I prayed. I thought about a lot of things and I imagine it kept me going as we plunged on through the snow, towards the light in the distance, breaking through the crusted snow that had been jammed together by the cold and 70 mile winds. I can still feel how cold it was as the wind whipped around my, now frozen, ears. My hands were totally numb but I can’t remember my feet. My feet were constantly submerged in the deep snow, my shoes were full as we struggled onward, stumbling, and trying to run when the snow was shallow. All I knew is that my feet were still working and that was all that was important. The last 50 yards our Mortician turned and hollered “It’s a house” as the image was just now becoming visible under the light. I was cold, I was tiring and I was praying that there would be lights in the house. We all trudged on, falling and cussing buoyed by the thought it was a house. At 25 yards we could make out a couple of lights in the windows. Carl knocked on the door and a wonderful older woman and her husband were at the door taking us in. It was at this point that I was at my coldest. So cold I was shaking uncontrollable and it took hours for me to get warm and stop shaking. I’m sure that wonderful couple told the story a hundred times about “The night the two DCI agents and the Mortician came by for supper and to stay a few nights”. God Bless them, South Dakota hospitality and the light in the distance.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Howard Street Gang

I don’t know how old I was but I was old enough to swing a hammer. I was the leader of the Howard St. Gang and had about 3 or 4 members and the other gang, in town, was the Howard St. Girls Gang. You might find this fairly humorous but me and my gang didn’t take it that way. In fact we were really miffed at the Howard St. Girls Gang and wanted them gone. My right hand man LeRoy was doubly miffed because the leader of that gang was his Sister Dorothy Ann and he didn’t like her just on general purposes. We normally wouldn’t have been very concerned with them but we had just had a Gang Fight over a bicycle??? The fight was complete with 1st name calling, then rock throwing, next came some pushing and finally a fist fight between leaders. Me and Dorothy Ann. Bring it on babe!!! Well to make a long story short, and to spare you the gory details I lost. I LOST TO A GIRL!!! I made a few mental notes about fighting in general as I got my butt kicked. 1) LeRoy started this whole thing with his mouth but wasn’t around when the battle started. 2) Girls can’t throw rocks very well and next time we will pick the distance and keep it to rock throwing. 3) Girls can really punch hard but all round house swings so if you can get inside and jab…..

My gang and I immediately started building a fort on our side of Howard St from slabs of logs brought from my fathers sawmill. It was a pretty good fort as I remember it. It was two story as you had a roof to stand on and pitch rocks. I think that the first floor was only about 3x4 and about 3 or 4 feet high so it was tough to hold meetings. I remember that my mother was a little upset about the fort because it was right on the edge of the street and she thought someone would run into it. Besides she thought it was ugly. My dad must have won out on that one because it stayed. The walls came out about 2’ above the top floor and we decided to build a rock throwing machine up there. It was about 3’ long and about 6” wide and the sides were about 3” high. We took strips from a bike inner tube and built a slingshot. Put a rock or rocks in the chute and pull that old inner tube back as far as you could and let go. Those rocks would go across the street and pepper the Howard St. Girls Gang as they walked by on the street. They would scream and run off and we would yell and whoop and laugh obnoxiously. Sounds like a great game if you’re a guy, Huh? Suddenly we ruled Howard St. Eventually the girls figured it out and stole our rock-throwing machine and put it in someone’s outside incinerator and that was the end of that.

We came to tolerate the girls. We had to because there weren’t all that many kids to play with. Every evening, after supper, we had yard games, mainly in our yard. Red Rover was always early and when it started to get dark we would be playing some version of hide and seek and there were a hundred other games we would fit in between. As it really got dark, parents were calling, ringing a bell, blowing a whistle or sending an older brother or sister to fetch. We had one family that had 9 kids and they were all musical. Traveled around playing gigs all over in a limousine type of car except it was homemade. “Gumbo Lilly kids” they were called. All of the kids that played the evening games were either Howard St. Gang members or Howard St. Girls Gang members but we had an unofficial truce. It was certainly a much more gentler time but soon summer was over.

Mary Ann was 1 year older than I was and her school started one day earlier than mine. I saw her when she came back from the 1st day and she was wearing a dress, had her hair combed and was wearing her first bra. Needless to say, no more fighting and no more rock throwing and if LeRoy wanted to call her names that was his business. I was dumb struck by the “New” Mary Ann and that was that.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

1st cop job

In 1970 I had been out of the Navy for 2 years, married for 3 years, had a one year old baby, lived in a new FHA 235 house, worked for my father at his sawmill making 5cents an hour above minimum wage and all of this was in my hometown in South Dakota. There was an opening on the local Police Department and I jumped at it. There were no fingerprints taken, no photo’s and no background investigation. I was given 2 sets of pants [wool], one dress jacket [wool] and 4 shirts. A gun belt complete with handcuffs and holder, can of mace and holder, 12 bullet holders and one holster.
The firearm issued was a Colt Python, 357magnum. I was given (image placeholder)1 box of practice ammunition, 1 box of Super Vel’s 180grain hollow points and 2 rounds of some type of armor piercing ammunition. I was told to get familiar with the gun but only shoot a few rounds of the Super Vel’s to get use to the kick and the noise and none of the armor piercing. Those two rounds went into the ammo holder on the belt along with Super Vel’s. Another officer gave me a couple of extra boxes of practice rounds and I headed out to the range that was a dry creek bed outside of town. Big rocks for lots of ricochet dodging practice. My wife joined me and we spent the afternoon practicing. Now I had spent most of my life shooting something but I couldn’t shoot a pistol. Started with my BB gun, next my Remington .22 single shot rifle, had a colt .22 single six revolver, 16 gauge shotgun, 12 gauge shotgun, 10 gauge lever action goose gun. Still couldn’t shoot worth a damn with a pistol. I could drop 20 or 30 targets in a row thrown in the air with my rifle, qualified through all of the NRA badges for rifle before I was 16, could shoot skeet with the best. Hunted for years for pheasants, duck, geese but I couldn’t shoot worth a damn with a pistol. I tried and every time my wife got to shoot she would out shoot me. We would keep this as our very own little secret because I was off to be a Policeman.

My partner Wayne taught me everything else I needed to know. Pursuit driving, felony takedowns, all of the law I needed to know. Choke holds, which were still allowed I think. The typical training shift was 8 at night till 4 in the morning so we could get in on all of the action. On my third night we got into a chase with a broken down 56 Chevy that was running lights and driving erratic. 2 AM it was and Wayne and I were in hot pursuit all over town. The car went up on the interstate headed for Rapid City about 25 miles away. It was a really slow chase as 60 mph was all his car would go. I was really disappointed because I didn’t get to hear and feel the acceleration as those 4 barrels kicked in. We ran used Highway Patrol cars. When we pulled alongside he would try and ram us, forcing us off the road so Wayne devised a plan. He would pull up behind, shift to the left lane and I would shoot the rear end out??? Now that seemed like the most cockeyed plan I had ever heard of, especially when you take my shooting prowess with a pistol into consideration. I had no desire to be shooting at cars and people at 2 in the morning for traffic offenses. I told Wayne I wouldn’t do it especially since I had no (image placeholder)experience with my pistol. Wayne then pulled his pistol out, [he was a lefty] slid to the right with the car, told me to take the wheel and took a shot at the rear end. Flames jumped out of that .357 about 6 feet and it scared the bejevies out of me. He missed, as we could see the sparks and the bullet hit the pavement below the rear end. Didn’t make much difference as the car soon slowed down and then stopped with a mighty puff of smoke. We got everyone rounded up and in cuffs after a major battle and ½ can of Mace. Then I noticed that one of the kids had a fresh cut on his arm. Said he got scared and was down on the floor and he must of cut himself down there. It wasn’t a cut it was a sear and tear mark made by a .357 bullet that had bounced off the pavement through the floorboards, slightly tearing his arm as it went by, through the firewall and through a radiator hose, and lodged in the radiator, which quickened the slow death of the car. That was almost the end of my Police career. After about a month I was well trained and got my own shifts. (to be continued)

T F Stern's Rantings

T F Stern's Rantings
Another good Blog by an older person.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


SunsetMan He blogged me and I blogged him. Worth the read.

Monday, February 06, 2006


The president has absolutely nothing to do with this posting but it sure makes a great lead.The following message was left as a comment on my posting about my recent stress test ”Now ‘Old man muser’ what you say we compare ‘Colonoscopies’.I'll be polite and let you begin. Best regards and continuing GOOD health from:A grumpy old 63 year old.” This is not my favorite subject to write about but I feel I must. If you are going to soon have a Colonoscophy I would advise you not to read this posting.

I had one because my Dr. said I was 60 years old so I needed one. He asked me who I wanted and I replied that I didn’t care and so he recommended a Dr that was in the building and I said Ok. When I told my wife she came unglued as she knew this woman Dr that was suppose to be the best around and she had never heard of the one I picked. “There is something un-American in the whole concept of having a female stick something up my butt to see if I am sick or not” I shouted. “But she is the best” she equally shouted. [She is really good at this equally shouting thing and it kinda takes the bite out of my shout] “Well it is never going to happen to this butt,” I quietly added. She refrained from answering and only smiled. That must mean I won the argument.

I went to meet the Doc and didn’t really like him. Something about him that I didn’t trust but I went ahead with the whole thing anyway. It was done at the local hospital and I had spent the evening before drinking fowl stuff and taking things to clean me out. Guess it worked because they let me take the test. Don’t remember much because they put me out with something. [My wife would add at this juncture “Probably a club”] I awoke in the middle of the procedure with all sorts of people around the world’s worst gut ache and me. There was a Nurse holding my head telling me “breath deep, it will be over in a few more minutes”. I remember breathing as deep as I could and the pain would not go away and like I would go to sleep again and wake up with this gut ache. Finally it was over and I was in the recovery room when I woke up. I remember the Dr. coming in and saying that they didn’t find anything and left and then the Nurse came back in. “Are you OK?” she inquired? “I thought we were going to loose you in there”. “What” I asked “What are you talking about, because the Dr. came in and said everything went well and I was OK.” She told me how my blood pressure had bottomed out from too much medication as I was responding badly to the pain. The Dr. was doing something wrong and I was being given more and more pain medication to counteract it until they couldn’t give me anymore. That was why I woke up and the Nurse was saying breath deeply, and that was the end of the procedure. Wow. I was way to groggy to fully understand all of this. I went to my regular Doctor and told him what had happened. He told me not to worry because they pulled that Drs, right to practice at the hospital and he had left town…………..What the Hell! When I told my wife about all the details she said those three little words. ”Told you so” and that was the end of that.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


I must depart from remembering for at least a couple of postings because it makes my head hurt. I’ll jump to the present for a while. Today I got appointed steward of the shopping cart and a 1st for me. First of all I hate shopping at large shopping malls and large stores anywhere. Today there were to many people, doing to many things, making to much noise and I am to old to enjoy it. For some unknown reason I agreed to accompany my wife to The Christmas Tree Shop. For those of you that might not be aware of this particular store, it is called New England’s Bargain Store and sells all sorts of different things such as glassware and art supplies, toys and gourmet cooking supplies. Right off the bat I got lost, I guess, as we were standing outside the bathrooms and I announced “I gotta go and I will be right back”. She replied “me too but I’ll wait until you come out.” [this is because her purse was in the cart and someone needed to guard the cart]. When I came out, I expected to see her waiting for her turn to go in but she was gone, kidnapped, vanished off the face of the store. I searched and searched while I kept an eye on the bathroom area where I figured she might return to if she was indeed not kidnapped. I was looking for security when she appeared around the corner of an isle acting as if nothing had happened. Non-chalet if you will. Could she possible be having an affair, meeting someone when she dumped me? The questions were rising. “Where have you been” I charged. Shopping “she replied “what did you think, that someone kidnapped me or something?” I didn’t respond. “I have to go to the bathroom so you stay here and watch my purse”. I saw that one coming.

Usually when we enter a store, my wife grabs a cart so she can have something to lean on when she is decision making. She will lean with her front arms resting on the cart, slowly perusing the prizes that lie ahead but this is serious shopping and one of her favorite stores so she has no reason to rest and a cart is just in her way. All she wants a cart for is a tool to hold her purse and jacket. That is where I come in. Serious shopping is the order of the day as the cart is ½ full already and the cart has been turned over to me as the steward. My God, I have been appointed Shopping Cart Steward [SCS for short]. What should I do? I start following behind her, making short turns that require me to pick the back end of the cart up to make the turns. Remembering always to stay on the right as I progress down the aisles or complete order breaks down. Gridlock will occur and anarchy will set in. Suddenly my wife turns on me threatening “I said to watch the cart and my purse not follow me everywhere”. She continues “You wait here so I know where to find you”. Oh No it is tough enough to negotiate the store while moving but now I have been ordered to stop and wait. I have become a roadblock, an impedance to orderly traffic flow. Everyone has to go around me and they all say things or just give me the eye, the evil eye. “I’m the SCS,” I offer apologetically to all who will listen and they all look at me rather weirdly, cocking their heads as they go by. A lot of whispering as people go by. By now I am half expecting to see store security show up and escort me out of the store. My wife looks around the corner and says “You have to keep up!” “I was on the other side of the store and you were no where to be found.” Go figure? In a few minutes she tells me to wait and she will be right back. Once again I am a traffic hazard. Ahead of me is another traffic hazard, guarding his shopping cart. Another SCS, Hooray! I make small talk but I don’t get much of a response. Only guttural noises emanate from this life form. Right away I can tell that he has been doing this for a long time as I quickly check his full cart. He could have been here all day and maybe his wife forgot him and went home? A fear of mine also. I chance moving and setup around the corner as there really shouldn’t be two impedances in a row, what with orderly flow and all. Later my wife returns and is upset that I have moved. Looked all over the store for me???? Now she wants me to follow her as we are going to do quick sweeps all over the store for items she might have missed the 1st time around. I can’t keep up without knocking over store displays and little children so she takes the cart from me. My God, she is knocking over store displays and little children.

Time for revenge. My wife has a habit of talking to me as she walks but while she is ahead of me, so I have no idea of what she is saying. We’re in a store and she is talking about shopping and if I could understand her I wouldn’t care what she was saying. I just make guttural noises and all is OK as long as I don’t ignore her. My favorite trick is to wait until she is stopped and doing her talking to me with her back turned trick and there are more shoppers around us and I just slip away but usually only far enough to watch. She will suddenly turn around and find some stranger standing there who is now looking at her with his head cocked as she makes some feeble, embarrassed, explanation. She always says “where did you go as I was just talking to some stranger and I thought it was you behind me.” I respond “sorry dear, I just stopped to look at something”. As we continue shopping, I have a grin from ear to ear. It makes the trip worth it and it has been working for 39 years.

Mr. Completely: Joke for the Week End

Mr. Completely: Joke for the Week End: "FINALLY SOMEONE HAS CLEARED THIS UP . . .

For centuries, Hindu women have worn a spot on their foreheads.

We have always naively thought that it had something to do with their religion.

The true story has recently been revealed by the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

When one of these women gets married, she brings with her a dowry. On her wedding night, the husband scratches off the spot to see if he has won either a convenience store, a gas station, a donut shop, or a motel in the United States."

one red paperclip

one red paperclip Well worth the trip

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My Chemistry set

In an earlier post I had told about being removed from my cozy nursery room to the basement. The basement became my bedroom and I soon found out that it was a good thing not a bad thing. I had reached an age where I would just as soon be away from the older members of my family as much as possible. Not that I disliked them but because everything I did was followed with the postscript NO! But down in my bedroom, I was the king. My brother was occasionally down, working on his chemistry set, and that was cool. My mom came down once in a while to gather food from the root cellar or from the storage boxes for other items such as ketchup and toilet paper. The huge appetites of my two older brothers and myself had forced her into buying food and cleaning supplies by the case.

I wasn’t allowed to touch my brothers chemistry set but I could sure imagine how neat it would be when I became a world renowned chemist with my own lab and staff all working together solving problems. Finally I got my own “Gilbert” chemistry set. The photograph doesn’t do it justice. It wasn’t nearly as great as my brother’s set but then he was 6 years older than I was. That would all change very soon. His interests in life were changing and chemistry was not nearly as important to him as girls [yuk], sports and cars. I was right there to pick up the abandoned chemistry set along with his notes. At about the same time, my older brothers friend brought over another chemistry set for me that he no longer used. My basement was quietly being transformed into a world-class chemistry lab. LET THE EXPERIMENTS BEGIN!!!!! My friend Steve was my lab partner. We were very short of glass wear and things like that so we went to our local Dr’s office and asked what we might have that they didn’t need anymore. The head nurse always gave us access to a drawer in one of the cabinets where all of the used needles, syringes, IV bottles, etc. were kept awaiting disposal. We even had some partially filled bottles of things like Polio vaccine, penicillin to add to our chemistry sets for some reason or other. Things have changed a bit since then. We used the syringes and needles mostly for oiling things.

We went through our books doing experiments with our sets until there were no more to do. So we turned to Gunpowder!A local pharmacists was very interested in furthering our adventures in the world of chemistry and helped us any way that he could. He would teach us about what was happening in our chemical reactions and with the ingredients if we were running out. He would help us with designing new ones, buying ingredients and with purchasing lab ware. He even got us the charcoal, sulfur and saltpeter to make gunpowder the old Chinese way and we were off and running. We made it in large quantities constantly experimenting with different formulas to get the right mix. We would light long piles of it and watch it crawl across the floor like a fuse [just like in the cowboy movies] or add different chemicals making the flame yellow or green or red as we chose. We found we could melt sulfur and use it to make molds. We heard that saltpeter was put in the food at camp so that young boys left the young girls alone. When we went to church camp we were the chemistry wizards with all of the answers. “Of course that was true”. The biggest problems with the gunpowder experiments were that they stunk really badly. Soon we were banned outside to burn the gunpowder. We made brightly glowing crystals and things that even grew in the test tubes. We did pretty well with our experimenting until lighting struck my house one summer afternoon. Immediately the neighbors thought lightning struck because of our experiments in the basement. The local Volunteer Fire Department showed up and the Chief quizzed me as to what we were doing in the basement. The nice old lady from across the street yelled at me because lightning and fire were dancing on her stove and it was my fault. Even our friendly Pharmacists quizzed me, the next time I was in the store with “Just what were you and Steve making down there”. At least the police never came by but we were forced to cool our heels for a while.

Our interests turned to Potassium Nitrate as a possible ingredient to add to the gunpowder mixture. We started putting the new mixture in used shotgun shells, along with a fuse. We would light the fuse and run like hell. Nothing! We were able to make small firecrackers out of our gunpowder mixture by wrapping them very tightly in newspaper with a wick but that was about it. What we really didn’t understand was that our new ingredient Potassium Nitrate was also known as saltpeter which we were already adding.

We attempted to make a pipe bomb for a while, not because we knew what a pipe bomb was but the “filling the shotgun shell thing wasn’t working” and we had to try something different. We had a piece of threaded pipe and a cap but we didn’t know how to seal up the other end with the fuse in it. Bingo….fill it with lead but we didn’t have any lead we could melt and use. It never dawned on us to take a fishing sinker and melt it down. All we could think of was the lead in our .22 shells would work. While I was gone, Steve decided to melt some lead for our bomb. He put some .22 shells in his mother’s skillet and turned on the heat [you have to know how this is going to come out don’t you]. The heat exploded one of the .22 shells and it dented the frying pan and while Steve was ducking the bullet entered a cabinet door. Steve’s mother never did figure out what happened to her frying pan. By this time, Steve and I both had become very adept at distorting the truth. Einstein’s we were not. The world and we were probably very lucky we couldn’t make our “Bombs” work. There was no Internet to get advice from, our friendly Pharmacists would not help and the library didn’t have any books on the subject. We were left stocking up with M-80’s and Cherry Bombs on the 4th of July instead. As bad as those things are they were probably a lot safer than what we would have created.

Steve and I both, some how lived to, advanced to High School and more Chemistry along with Biology. What we were most interested in was access to all of the chemicals and experiments. Best of all, MERCURY. We had no access to mercury except we knew that the Chemistry supply room had it in stock. We immediately managed to borrow some for our experiments. There really weren’t very many experiments that we could do that were outside the classroom so we just did those. We would also roll it around on the desk and then notice that it turned our coins shiny and if you carried one of the shiny coins in your pocket it turned the rest of you coins shiny also. It probably also gave us some high levels of mercury poisoning while we were doing it. Please read the following warning. Warning: Mercury is the second most toxic element on earth to plutonium. Toxicity of mercury has been linked to many different diseases, including autism, learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, depression, and bipolar disorder. The amount of mercury found in one mercury thermometer is enough to pollute a small lake. Why we didn’t lose a hand or a finger or were poison to death was beyond me but we didn’t. The God of immortality, childhood recklessness and stupidity was always with us and more than once, in the years since, I have found fit to thank him for letting us keep all of our limbs, fingers and lives. Many times including right now as I remember all of this.

Steve went on to become teacher and taught kids for years in Nevada along with fighting fires with the BLM during his off time. Steve is now retired. In 1962 I entered the USN, volunteered for submarines and became an Engineering Lab Technician. ELT’s took care of radiation control and monitoring and responsible for all of the Nuclear water chemistry for the reactor as well as all of the steam chemistry. In fact I became Leading ELT for the USS Snook (ssn592). Kinda scary isn’t it?