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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Friday, July 28, 2006

Hell - All day in Wal-Mart, all meals at McDonald's

This morning I was looking over a message board and found a posting headed: What is your concept of Hell? The fellow who wrote the post wanted to know what other people may think because he is writing a book about what Hell is really like. That's so the rest of us will try to avoid going there. As he's writing the definitive book on the subject, apparently he is sure he knows all there is to know on the subject. This struck me as a bit jumped-up and pretentious because the last time I checked they weren't running round-trip excursions to a place that no one can be certain even exists.
Being me, I had to reply with a wise-ass personal concept of hell. It was easy, didn't require more than two seconds of thought: Spend all day, every day in a Wal-Mart and eat every meal at a McDonald's. Talk about a fate worse than death!
But posting a question like that does provide food for thought. What is it that makes some people claim to know more about life after death than anyone else? Whatever the reason, and I'm in the dark about it along with many Americans, there sure are a lot of others like that fellow around today. It seems that you can't pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV news without being confronted by religious zealotry. Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Lebanon, Bosnia - the turmoil and bloodshed in all those places has been the result of religion carried to the extreme.
So far it hasn't reached the point of open warfare here in the United States, but it's not too far from it. Picketeers from Kansas staging demonstrations at military funerals, fanatics protesting outside abortion clinics, TV preachers blaming hurricanes and floods on the evil ways of the rest of us, people more concerned about gay marriage than the state of the schools or the government or any other important issue facing the country. So much hatred by those claiming to be guided by the love of God, whatever one it is they happen to worship.
How does anyone reach the point of devoting all or most of their time to a cause that in the overall scheme of things isn't too important? That's one more question I can't answer. But I do know this, the time when America was a "live and let live" nation is past. Long past, and that's too bad. We have gained in material possessions, lost something far more valuable.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Being a Stodghill isn't as exclusive as I thought

Until the Internet came along I believed that anyone bearing the name Stodghill was one of a select few. I had done some traveling in my day - 21 countries, all but a few American states - and never once encountered another Stodghill. While at Camp Polk, Louisiana in 1952 I read a newspaper account of a high school football game in which Bobo Stodghill played a major role. That was as close as I have come to meeting one.
But now that feeling of being somewhat exclusive has been blown to hell and gone. They're everywhere, these Stodghills, and more than a few of them are writers. Call up the name on Google and you're buried under an avalanche of 113,000 entries. Many are duplications, of course, but when it comes to being exclusive I could just as well be Smith or Jones.
My grandfather's family lived in and around the Ohio River towns of Aurora and Rising Sun, Indiana and Warsaw, Kentucky. I presumed that some of the clan followed the river to other places but I didn't know that a short distance downriver at the University of Louisville there is a Stodghill Endowed Professorship in Biomedical Research. Adele and HW set it up, I think.
So right off the bat I'm feeling a little inferior. Then I found that N. Stodghill has something to do with the study of The Effect of Ammonia on the Culturing of Penaeus Vannanei. Don't ask.
Ron Stodghill is a well-known writer who cranks out textbooks and such for Random House and writes for Time and other prestigious publications. Mark is a journalist in and around Duluth. Moving on to the Ivy League we find that Paul is associated with Cornell, Jack has a ph.D from Brown and Jeffrey graduated from Yale in 1981. Hey, I spent a few days at Rio Grande College myself.
Did you know there's a Stodghill Lake in Texas and a Stodghill Funeral Home in Fort Branch, Indiana? Neither did I.
Auburn University is urgently in need of information concerning Eunice Rebecca Stodghill, a very attractive lady who was a student there in 1917 when the school was known as A.P.I.
Mike has something to do with anabolic clabs. We all know what that means, don't we? Tom D. has an animal research foundation, Elena is a songwriter, Randy is in the music business, Alexis does voiceovers for commercials, William is a union president, Valene and Lance are filmographers among other things and Amelia is involved with movies and filmographs. Dr. Steven is a professor of pharmacology, Rod is another writer, but I'm not sure what Russell, Charles, Amy and just plain S. do.
All this is from the first eight pages of the hundreds, maybe thousands, on Google. Those eight provided far more information than I really wanted. Not one word, though, about Martin Stodghill having his nose bitten off in a street fight in Aurora. Street brawls were a common occurrence there a hundred years ago. Nor was there mention of the Stodghill hanged as a horse thief. Maybe those are covered in later pages.
Anyway, can you imagine what it would be like to have all these people in the same room at a Stodghill reunion? I don't want to think about it. I'd rather nurse my wounded pride.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Too Busy to Blog

If neglecting a blog were a crime, I'd have to plead guilty as charged. Well over a week has gone by since my last, but I have an excuse - too many other things took priority over blogging. First of all was my web site, which I have been updating. Then a short story to polish up before submitting to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. There's also a book in the late stages of being published and that requires some attention. Then there was helping my wife get her computer set up and running.
But there were unnecessary time-killers, too. Posting irate comments on an Israeli newspaper, for example. I'm outraged over Israel's overreaction to the kidnapping of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah. Far too many innocent men, women and children who had nothing whatsoever to do with either the kidnapping or the organization have been killed, grieviously wounded or seen their homes and business places destroyed. Animals, too, because they are always the helpless victims of man's stupidity.
I have always been a firm supporter of Israel, albeit from a distance, but no more. In my opinion it now ranks as a terrorist nation. I have witnessed a great deal of needless slaughter in war, some of it far worse than what is happening now, and yet this is just as evil, just as inhumane.
The entire Middle East has become a nightmare of intrigue, religious zealotry and senseless bloodshed. It has all the needed ingredients for a third world war. The first, remember, began with a neighborhood conflict between Serbia and Austria, two minor players in what transpired. Where is the strong leadership that can prevent it from happening again? Not in this country, certainly. Not anywhere that is evident. And what is it all about? Religious beliefs, the cause of so much of the violence throughout history. Is that what religion is supposed to be about? Apparently so, although it would seem otherwise.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Cleaning Pots and Pans with Mickey Rooney

Few soldiers ever looked at an Army bulletin board without groaning when they saw their name on the KP list for the next day. Worse yet was reporting to the mess hall at 4 o'clock in the morning and being told you were on pots and pans, the most miserable of all possible assignments.

It happened to me when I reported to the 10th Replacement Depot near Birmingham, England after enjoying a week's furlough in London. That was the first step in getting back to my unit. The 10th Repple Depple was a notorious place, a filthy hole with a commander and a group of his military policemen that enjoyed beating up on people. Some of them were brought up on charges but that came long after I was there.

So I wasn't beat up but I was put on KP at the greasiest, dirtiest of all Army mess halls. On top of that I was handed the job of scrubbing pots and pans. I was scrubbing away when I heard a commotion behind me but didn't bother to look around until a bird colonel shoved me away from the sink. This was not an everyday occurrence in a mess hall so I turned and saw more top brass than I had ever seen in one place. Among them, if you looked down a little, was Pvt. Mickey Rooney. This was another first, the first time I had seen a movie star in person.

I had been unceremoniously pushed aside so that Mickey could roll up his sleeves, pick up the pot I had been working on and mug for the many photographers in his entourage. The idea, of course, was to show the folks back home that Mickey Rooney was just like any other Army private - up to his elbow in filth. No special treatment for movie stars, not in this man's Army.

When the photographers were satisfied, Mickey rolled his sleeves back down, turned and left with the officers falling over themselves trying to be the closest to him. Good old Mickey, he hadn't even bother to hand the unfinished pot back to me.

Late in the day those of us on KP had to interrupt our work to join a formation of men standing out in the rain. It was Mickey again, but he and the officers were standing in the arched entryway of a building. We were wet, they were dry. And having to go outside like that meant we fell behind in our chores and had to work even later than usual.

Good old Mickey Rooney. What fond memories I have of him. Just one of the boys, that was Mickey all the way.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

My Partner, Jackie Stodghill

The beginning of the dedication in the book Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War reads: "For Jackie, who has always been there to help an old infantry dogface with his dubious enterprises, never losing faith that the next one might actually prove worthwhile."
Very true, but it fails to mention the countless hours she spent sitting in the rain and cold at football games while I sat in the dry and heated pressbox, of others in the blazing heat of Cincinnati's old Riverfront Stadium while I enjoyed the comfort of the air-conditioned pressbox. And then one evening I complained that they had served lasagna (her favorite) in the press dining room, forgetting that her dinner had been a hot dog from the concession stand.
Being married to a newspaperman was, at best, a frustrating experience. The job always had to come first. Every time we went out to dinner, every time we took a trip, in fact every time we did anything it always centered on that one thing - the job. Somehow she always found a way to keep smiling and remain uncomplaining. Well, almost always. That business with the lasagna and hot dog didn't go over too well.
Then came the sports books that meant hundreds of hours of poring over old newspapers on library microfilm. Not one library, 27 of them in Indiana, another 15 in Ohio. And all the time knowing we'd be lucky to break even on the projects because they were labors of love - my love, not hers.
Did I mention the afternoon when it was 13 below zero and we had to call AAA to get the car started so we could drive 126 miles to see two small town high school teams play basketball? I wanted to write a column about one of the towns and its school and that was all that mattered.
No, it hasn't been easy for her, hasn't been a life of luxury, of gala social events and activities women normally would enjoy. Rare was the day when we did something merely because she wanted to. It just hasn't worked out that way even though I always hoped that someday it would. But through it all we've had a lot of fun, a lot of laughs and met a lot of interesting people. She did get to see nine countries in Europe, something she might otherwise not have done, but even then I had to spend time writing a column every single day.
For me it's been great, having a wife willing to live that way. The finest partner a man could hope for. For her? Well, maybe I'm better off not asking.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Winging it when you forget what you intended writing about.

Some days you feel like a blog, some days you don't. I week ago I wanted to go blogging but for a couple of days or maybe three I couldn't get onto Blogger. It may have been my fault but I don't think so. Then I received page proofs to check and return - 299 pages that I had grown tired of reading long ago. That doesn't matter, though, it had to be done.
After writing the above paragraph there came more to do with the page proofs, then several days of back and forth correspondence with the cover designers. Then it became necessary to do some work on my web site so finally today, July 10, I returned to blogging and work on this page. I think I'm too old for this much hassle. On the other hand I enjoy it. The point of all this, if there really is one, is that you shouldn't believe the date on this blog.
There is one problem, though: after all this time I have forgotten what the subject of the blog was going to be. So I'll wing it, a term we used during my newspaper days when we had to write a certain number of column inches on a subject we knew absolutely nothing about.
Ah, those were the days. They began at 7 a.m. when you'd walk into the newsroom and find a stack of rewrites on your desk. These were stories clipped from the morning paper and pertained to things that happened on your beat after the previous day's deadline. On rare occasions - you had better hope they were rare - there was something brand new, something you had missed. At those times Jack Richman, the city editor, would cast a baleful stare in your direction and say, "I see you got scooped, Dick." But the words you really dread hearing were, "I see you got scooped, Dick - again." Few words have ever packed a greater wallop than that "again." A reporter's job was only as secure as his last story so if there were any scoops to be had they'd better be yours.
One thing guaranteed to bring on a groan was finding a bunch of obits among your rewrites. Who felt like rewriting obituaries at seven in the morning? At any time of day they were, at best, boring. Those waiting to be rewritten usually began: "John Doe - blah, blah, blah." So the easist way of rewriting them was to start with: "Services for John Doe - blah, blah, blah."
Then there was the mail. When a letter, a bulletin, a magazine or a catalog arrived addressed to a specific editor there usually wasn't such a person. That meant each reporter was "editor" of a variety of topics. Evan Owens, whose desk was next to mine, counted up one day and he was 28 different kinds of editor - all on a reporter's salary, of course. I can't remember the subjects of my various editorial duties but I do recall that none of them was interesting.
So that's the way a reporter's day began. When the last rewrite had been rewritten some of us would head for the diner down the street before starting out on our daily rounds. We did a lot of talking and learned a great deal about what was going on around town that way. Of all those many conversations over cups of coffee only one thing really stands out in memory. That came the day Evan Owens ordered "dry toast with butter." It took a while for me to figure out what that meant.

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