Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Was it something in the air?

I don't qualify as a Civil War buff or even someone truly knowledgable on the subject, yet like so many others I have visited a number of battlefields from that war and enjoy hearing about them.
From the time I was a young boy, one thing about that war has puzzled me. How is it that you could enjoy a leisurely breakfast, then set out by car and well before lunch have visited the boyhood homes of three men who played prominent roles in that war and what followed in the Old West? You can do this in a small area of East Central Ohio.
None of these were jovial men or even sociable men by normal standards. Two were poor students at Wes Point and ranked near the bottom of their respective classes. Yet fame awaited.
The first was William Tecumseh Sherman of Lancaster. Unlike the other two, he was a  brlliant student. Not as concerned about military customs and protocol as he might have been, however.
Just over thirty miles to the northeast was the home of Phillip Sheridan in Somerset. Like numerous short men, he carried a big chip on his shoulder.
Drive on and you come to a wide spot in the road called New Rumley, at one time the home of an impetuous and impatient young man named George Armstrong Custer. Like Sheridan, he wasn't overly fond of books.
Sherman, an outstanding general, is best remembered for his march through Georgia and the Carolinas. He left a lot of smoke and ashes in his wake, as did Sheridan in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. With Custer leading the way, his cavalry was hot on Robert E. Lee's heels and both he and Sheridan were present when Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
Then all three moved westward. Sherman was in overall command during the Indian Wars but it was Sheridan, closer to the action and a man of many prejudices, who said, "I never saw a good Injun who wasn't dead." This was quickly transformed by others into, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."
Then there was the man who couldn't wait on others, Custer. With the entire 8th Infantry Regiment close enough to hear the gunfire, he went charging into oblivion at the Little Big Horn.
So was it something in the air of East Central Ohio that made them the way they were? Slash, burn, destroy, throw caution to the wind, that was the way they lived and in one case died. Whatever it was, it made for some interesting stories in the history books.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Do you know what it means to suffer?

It was one of those rare times when you couldn't ask for a single thing that would make life better. The brutal fighting in and around the town of Mortain was over and that meant the Battle of Normandy was over. More war lay ahead but at the moment all that mattered was the warm sunlight falling on a grassy hillside and the quiet that seemed so tangible you could reach out and touch it, store a little of it away in your pockets.
Then a chaplain came walking by, a hellfire and brimstone preacher who saw us as a captive audience. He stopped and looked us over with disgust.
"You're soft," he cried in a high-pitched voice laced with the hills and hollows of Appalachia. "You don't know what it means to suffer. You don't know what it means to be really hungry. Well I know and I'm going to tell you."
No one had informed him that some of the men sitting by themselves off to the left were from the 30th Infantry Division. For a week they had been surrounded on a hillside with nothing to eat but some unripe apples and hard potatoes they had dug from the ground.
So he told them and the rest of us who'd been eating high on the hog what it was like to be really hungry.
"After breakfast one morning I went for a walk in the woods and got lost. It was ten-thirty at night before I got back. All that time I didn't have a thing to eat. That's what it means to be hungry. That's what it means to suffer."
One by one the men from the 30th got up and walked away. One by one the rest of us did the same.
Well, it was nice while it lasted.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Losing Independence?

Any halfway intelligent person could make out a good case claiming I'm nutty as the floor sweepings at a Planter's factory. Then the defense would have its turn and I'd convince the judge and jury that I was the only sane person in the room.
OK, maybe not the judge. They live in a world of their own.
The point is, I've entered yet another stage of life. My entire existence has consisted of moving from one compartment to another, slamming the door behind me as I leave one and enter the next. I often think back to one of those earlier stages, but they're over with, finished, kaput. "Allus kaput," how often I heard that during one of those earlier phases.
As yet I have not come up with a new name for this latest step. Seizure Stage has a nice ring to it but lacks mass market appeal. I'll work on it.
Many people know I haven't been at the top of my game for a couple of weeks. Not that the top of my game at 84 amounts to a helluva lot. But during those recent days every ailment I've had in the 21st century came back. A Homecoming celebration of sorts. Like any similar gathering, one new wrinkle was added to make it memorable. A trial run was conducted Monday while I was typing some bit of fluff. Suddenly a pair of vise grips took me by the shoulders, lifted me in the air and dropped me again. What happened? I had no idea, but it was startling. I looked down and around to see if I had been smoking a pipe and it now was in the initial stage of igniting me. I hadn't had a pipe in my mouth, but I had just Lost Time.
Jackie took my blood pressure: 81 over 40 something. Low blood pressure brings on hallucination.
Then yesterday morning I was loafing in my living room chair as Jackie prepared to go to the drug store. I asked her to get a package of those cheap buns with gooey icing because nothing else sounded good. She went down the hall to get her coat and purse, then stood in front of me and said they were called sticky buns. I heard that, sticky buns. The next thing I knew she was holding one of my arms, which had been swinging wildly in the air. She said my face had been distorted, although I'm not sure how she could tell the difference.
Jackie called my favorite doctor and he returned the call on his new i-phone. I'm sure of that because we had been playing with it Tuesday when I went in for my monthly shot of joy juice that offsets the effect of a tumor on the pituitary gland that has been there for many years. Jackie was somewhat perturbed because she thought I should be asking medical questions and instead the doc and I were shooting at each other with various weapons on the i-phone.
So yesterday he said, "We can do two things. We can put him in the hospital for ten days to two weeks and run a lot of tests. Will he agree to an operation?"
He had to ask but already know the answer, "No."
"OK, I'll write a prescription for anti-seizure medicine and he can come see me again in a week."
So that's the way they left it, but I sure hope he has the i-phone ready to play with. Unless he has an even newer toy by then.
For obvious reasons I won't be driving a car anytime soon. Some people who don't know better will say that means a loss of independence. Nonsense. A car is handy at times but it owns you, not vice versa. You want independence, watch the last few minutes of the movie Elmer Gantry. He had everything, was on top of the world, but lost it all.  With only the shirt on his back and a cheap suitcase in hand containing all his worldly possessions, Elmer (Burt Lancaster) walked off into the sunset with a big grin on his face. That's independence.
Whatever, I suppose some people think I should take life more seriously. Why, when it's so humorous and filled with all these many unexpected twists and turns? Not a single one of us is going to get out of it alive. Eat, drink and make merry; it all comes out the same in the end. As the drunk said as he stood up at our table a week before D-Day: "You who are about to sigh, I dalute you." It's the only way to live.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Out of action - temporarily, I hope

Thanks to a Perfect Storm, medical variety, I have been on the ropes lately. Hope it ends soon and I can be back to blogging and writing. Thanks for the kind words and comments. - Dick

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ever get more than you asked for?

I sometimes recall driving across France in the summer of 1985. As tends to happen in July, the windshield grew buggy after a couple of hours so I pulled up at what appeared to be an auto supply store in a small town. I was hoping to buy a bottle of window cleaner but the woman behind the counter had no idea what I was asking for. After several minutes of motioning as if I were cleaning a window, arm waving and talking the woman may have decided I was a nut and called the manager.
We went outside, I showed him the dirty windshield and did more motioning until his face lit up and he began nodding his head and giving me directions. In French, of course, accompanied by some pointing and waving of his own.
I got behind the wheel while he opened a garage door. He then went to the middle of the street and stopped traffic in both directions so I could back up and enter the garage. Inside a mechanic was working on a large Mercedes. The manager gave him instructions and he walked away somewhere, then returned with two buckets of water, one soapy, the other clear.
He then washed and rinsed the windshield. After that he stepped back, sighted along where he had worked, shook his head and started over. Following several cleanings, rinsings, dryings and sightings he was satisfied. Never, not even on a new car in a showroom, was a windshield so spotless.
A little embarrassed by having taken him away from his work on the Mercedes, I got out my wallet. The manager shook his head, said, "No, no," opened the garage door again, went to the middle of the street and blocked traffic so I could back out. As we drove away he stood watching and waving his hand.
After all these years I'm still embarrassed by it even though I know they do things differently in France. No halfway jobs there. 

Monday, October 19, 2009

What a difference a word makes

Today over at that excellent site,, James Lincoln Warren wrote how one word can make all the difference in the military. This is all too true, as I learned at the age of 18 when I was a radioman in a rifle company in Europe back in 1944. I was not thrilled with the job because the radio weighed 38.8 pounds and that was on top of the 65 or more I was already carrying. With that kind of load it wasn't easy to follow my system for staying alive: move fast, keep low, stay mobile. Hit the ground and roll? Forget it with that thing strapped to your back.
A big offensive by three infantry divisions was planned so the night before our battalion's code name was changed from Apple to Queen. The battalion commander was Apple 1, his executive officer Apple 2, Easy Company Apple 3, Fox Company Apple 4 and my company, George for G, was Apple 5.
By morning I had forgotten we no longer were Apple. For weeks we had gotten four hours of sleep on a good night, none at all on some. We had eaten nothing but field rations intended for short term use. We had hiked countless miles, fought in major battles and in general lived worse than any dogs. I should be worrying about Apples and Queens?
The time for the offensive arrived and passed and we were still there on the Line of Departure. To find out what was going on I followed orders and time after time called, "Apple 1, this is Apple 5. I have a message for you. Over." Nothing. Dead silence. An hour went by and nearly another when half a dozen majors, lieutenant colonels and colonels arrived. They did not have nice things to say to me.
Why, I have often wondered, if they were so smart did it take them two hours to get to the source of the problem? The offensive was a complete failure and they probably blamed me for that too. I had two words for them, but kept them to myself.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How the government handles health care

In its unbounded determination to make a new man of me the VA has decided to give me a free hearing aid. This may be related to my saying, "What?" a dozen or so times during yesterday's routine visit to my primary care doctor at the Akron VA Clinic.
If the VA succeeds in its quest it could cause problems. Jackie has often said she will not tolerate having a new man around the place. She claims to have had it up to her ears with men. While she didn't specifically exclude me from this statement I'm sure she meant to.
I'm hoping this hearing aid will not mean a compulsory yearly examination of my ears. They gave me an expensive pair of glasses, then insisted I have a check-up every 12 months. Oddly enough, my eyes have improved every year. During the most recent exam I mentioned that I spend the entire day working at a computer. They gave me a second pair of special glasses that make it easier but don't work anywhere else.
The VA gave me an expensive, deluxe model rollator so I would walk more and it would be easier. It's easier but I don't walk more. It's nice, though, to always have a seat with me and I like to play with the brakes. It needs brakes because you walk like a man of 20 and reach a high rate of speed.
I also get any prescription drug on the market for a nominal fee. If I don't have the nominal fee the VA gives them to me for free. When I got out of the hospital after a heart attack five years ago I was given a list of new prescriptions to take to a drug store. It set us back $375. From the VA it's $64.
Got a flu shot at the clinic yesterday. No charge. I was given five pages of lab test results to give to the Medicare doctor. No charge. I get my toenails trimmed every three months. No charge. The list of other benefits would fill pages and there is no limit to the number of procedures on one visit to the clinic.
Did somebody say the government doesn't know how to run a health care program?