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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Monday, May 28, 2007

Those Rows of Crosses - There was a Face for Every One

On this Memorial Day, just as on any other day of the year, it is difficult to look down the long rows of crosses and Stars of David in a military cemetery and remember that each represents a man who had a family, had friends, had a life. There was a face for every one of them.
Some of those faces come back to me every day. I don't call them up deliberately, they just come on their own. If none come to your mind when you look at those long rows that mark the resting place of those who fell in battle, perhaps you would like to meet just a few.
Jimmie Hewston's blond hair was crewcut in proper military fashion. No matter the situation, his smile always came easily. Wearily, sometimes, but always easily. Wherever he went, Jimmie was a favorite of the girls and the proof of that was the large number of letters in his blanket roll. In female handwriting, sometimes scented or in colored envelopes, they came from towns near every camp where the 4th Infantry Division had been stationed in the States or in England. Jimmie was 20 or 21 and a rifle squad leader. Unlike many men who are held dear by members of the opposite sex, Jimmie was a favorite of the men he served with as well. He wasn't a big man, 5-10 at most, but his heart was large enough to make every new replacement in his squad as comfortable as possible. When he laid down in a shallow hole one afternoon while a firefight raged nearby someone said, "That's a bad place to be, Jimmie." This time his familiar smile was slow to come and very weary. "I know, I just want to rest for a minute." For Jimmie, that minute stretched into eternity.
Not a single hair grew from the top of Curly Walsh's head. There was a fringe around the sides and back so when his helmet was in place a stranger would never had guessed the reason for his nickname. Curly was also a rifle squad leader. His smile was a bit on the wry side and often was accompanied by a droll remark concerning the situation, whatever it might be. He was older than most of the men in the company, somewhere around 35, and he eagerly awaited the day when he could return to his family. That day never came.
Lanky John Morgan was a private on D-Day but he soon rose to the rank of platoon sergeant. Like most men from the Appalachian hill country, John never had much to say at one time. Even so during quiet moments he liked to walk along the line and visit with old friends in other platoons. He especially enjoyed talking with another platoon sergeant, Bob Everidge, also a quiet man from Appalachia. They could sit or stand together for fifteen minute and never say a word, yet each well aware that a friend was close by. Everidge would never stoop down even when under fire. He was afraid that doing so would make his men afraid, or more afraid. He was always out front during a frontal assault although he couldn't quite keep pace with the long strides of John Morgan. All along the line you'd hear them as the men of G Company started out in the face of machine gun and rifle fire, Jimmie and Curly and Bob and John: Follow me, first squad; follow me, second platoon . . . follow me, follow me, the infantry battle cry.
Like Jimmie and Curly, Bob and John died too during the bloody summer of '44. I don't think any of them would have cared if people remembered them or not on Memorial Day. They would have much preferred to have gone on living. Still, it's good to remember. They deserve that much.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Splitting Pills and Stuff

Well, I split my Zocor pills this morning. If that doesn't sound very exciting to you just remember that at my age you take your fun where you find it.
I've never really understood why I have to split them even though I know they come 40 mg. per pill and I'm only supposed to take 20 mg. I'm sure I can't be the only one in the world to take 20 mg. so why don't they make them in that size? The people who need 40 mg. could take two unless whoever manufactures them would put them out in both sizes. Makes sense, doesn't it?
The really interesting part of this story is that they have changed the shape of Zocor pills. They used to be shaped like a shield but this shipment from the VA turned out to be round. Could the VA have mailed me the wrong stuff? Not likely. Anyway, quite a while back the VA sent me a little pill splitter and I'm pleased to say the round ones are easier to split than those shaped like a shield.
So the pills are all split. Thought people might like to know that because when I told Jackie she said it sure was a load off her mind.
* * *
A few years back when I got out of the hospital they gave us a bunch of prescriptions for pills I was supposed to take. We went to Walgreen's and had them filled. When they handed us a bill for $375 I darn near had to head back to the hospital. And that was for a one month's supply.
There was no doubt in my mind that I had to do one of three things: quit taking the pills, find a cheaper source of supply, or just go ahead and die and get it over with.
I decided to go with the second option because the VA would fix me up with the same pills for $64. I figured I was entitled to a bargain price because some of my experiences in the Army sure were no bargain.
* * *
All this business with pills made me recall that I have outlived three of my life expectancies. It began when the fighting in Europe was all over back in 1945 and a doctor gave us a little talk. He said those of who had been in combat with the infantry for any length of time could knock 15 years off our life expectancy, which for normal people was 72. All of his listeners had been in combat with the infantry for a goodly length of time. The Army likes to give occasional pep talks like that.
Being a couple of months shy of my 20th birthday I wasn't too concerned about that. Fifty-seven sounded like a long way off considering that not too far in the past my prospects of making it through the day weren't all that good. In fact I never gave it another thought until I was 56 and the only reason I did then was the wire service editor dropped something he had taken from the AP machine on my desk. He thought I might like to see it because it said that earlier estimate was revised and I could deduct only eight years from my life expectancy. He had no intention of running it in the paper because it was a boring story and nobody would be interested in seeing it. It's not likely that any paper in the country ran it.
So anyway, now my new life expectancy was 64. Well, that came and went and before I knew it I had also passed the original one of 72 years for normal people. I don't know if they even have life expectancies for guys just a little shy of their 82nd birthday. If they do, I'm going to give it the same amount of consideration I gave the last three.
I do wonder, though, who it is that comes up with this kind of nonsense. There were plenty of old people around when I was a kid and at the beginning their life expectancy was something like 43. The thing was, if they avoided cholera, and if they avoided TB, and if they avoided Yellow Fever and all those other fevers that were around back then they lived as long as men and women live today. Just don't tell that to those people who spend their time figuring out life expectancies. If they believed you it would shoot down their whole careers.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sixty Years Ago at the Indianapolis 500

Sixty years, that's how long it's been since I last stood in the infield on race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. How things have changed since then, both there and in my life. I was a few months shy of my 22nd birthday in 1947, now it's my 82nd. In Indianapolis almost everything has changed other than the design of the track itself.
The most startling difference is the level of safety. Sixty years ago there were no fire-resistant suits for the drivers. Crash helmets were simple devices compared with those of today. The drivers wore goggles and you could see their faces, recognize them even if you didn't recognize the car. They had lap seat belts, not shoulder harnesses. On race day some wore dress shirts or sport shirts, some merely a white T-shirt. There was no radio communication with drivers. If it was necessary to tell one something it was done by a member of the pit crew holding up a chalk board. Having a woman in the race was unimaginable. This year there'll be three.
The cars were far different, of course. Tires were thin and treaded and might not have to be changed throughout the race. During that era Cliff Bergere once drove an entire race without a pit stop. The cars were higher off the ground so that, along with the narrow tires, made it much easier for one to turn over. Many were pre-war cars nearly a decade old.
The casualty rate was horrific back then. I had seen the 1946 race, the first after a four year hiatus because of World War II. George Robson won that race in a boxy old car that was primitive by today's standards. He was killed in a race less than three months after his victory at Indy. In 1947 the orange car driven by Shorty Cantlon refused to start. Several laps had been completed when it finally did. He was trying a little too hard to make up lost ground and hit the wall on the first curve head-on. The steering post pierced his chest; his death was announced before the race ended.
Several more big name drivers on the track that day died in later races. Rex Mays, Ted Horn, Ralph Hepburn, perhaps others. They were the Dan Wheldons, Tony Kanaans, Scott Dixons of their day. It was a terribly risky business , driving a race car in those days.
We made the trip from Akron to Indianapolis in the 10-year-old Chevy owned by my friend Bob Shafer, a sportswriter for the Beacon Journal. His younger brother Dick was with us. The horn would blow on its own at inconvenient moments. It did in Ashland, scaring an old lady crossing the street in front of us half to death. We arrived the afternoon before the race and parked on a side street near the track so in the morning we could finish the trip on foot.
We slept in the car and awoke to find that Bob had somehow managed to get his head caught between the spokes of the steering wheel. I was ready for breakfast that in those days was a cup of black coffee and a cigarette. Today it's Irish breakfast tea and a pipe. Bob said not to worry, he had breakfast all taken care of. It turned out to be a case of beer in the trunk.
Despite such things it was a fun trip, but I'd hate to make it today. I don't think any of us could make it today. I'll be watching on TV, of course, and I'm sure Bob will too. Probably brother Dick as well. It won't be quite the same as being there, but that's OK because nothing else about it is quite the same.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

My Communist Aunt - Now Featured in a New Book

I never met my Aunt Helen for the simple reason that she renounced all family ties two years before I was born. She did this in a way that fell a few miles short of being considerate. In a letter to her father she said it was because, "I love only Helen Lynch."
Granted, her father could never have been described as warm and cuddly, but he deserved better than that. To his friends and business acquaintances J.T. Lynch was an outgoing, friendly super salesman. With his family he was a martinet. Among other behavior he demanded strict adherance to the Catholic faith. This was drummed into him as a child when his mother forced him to sleep on his back with his arms folded in the sign of the cross.
His reward? Not one of his five children followed that or any other religion as adults. To his horror, two married people that were divorced and two were divorced themselves. To cap it all off, Helen became a Communist. J.T. Lynch surely must have wondered where he went wrong.
The lives of his other children were, to say the least, colorful. Two were innocently involved with Chicago gangsters during the 1920s, a time when aside from selling bootleg hooch their favorite pastime was gunning each other down on the streets. Another's third marriage was to an officer, a pilot, in the Dutch air force. He was killed during Indonesia's war to gain independence. The youngest of the brood married a star athlete and was the mother of a son who gained even greater fame because of his athletic prowess.
But back to Helen. Although a bit on the wild side as a youngster (a trait shared by her three sisters and big brother) she was a devoted church-goer who spent a year at St. Mary's Academy in South Bend, a school that later became part of Notre Dame. She kept a diary while there (it's in the book) and a reader quickly gains the impression she was not a favorite of the nuns. She was forced to finish her high school days at Muncie High and this was most displeasing to her. She found many ways of making this clear to her father.
Then came four years at the University of Michigan, where she became the leader of aesthetic girls who formed "The Group Mind." Among other things they scorned humanitarianism, a trait that hardly went along with Helen's later activities. She was considered a gifted writer, however, but again she had no use for readers among the vulgar, humanitarian herd. In other words she was a high-brow, an unrelenting snob.
Following graduation she headed for New York, fully expecting to take the literary world by storm. In order to survive, of course, the publishing business depends upon sales to the very people she despised. Her writing career never got off the ground. For years she supported herself as best she could, at the same time demanding cash from the father she supposedly had disowned.
Then came a remarkable turnaround in her life as she watched a demonstration in support of the unemployed. Things must have gotten a bit out of hand because a policeman gave her a nasty conk on the head with his billy club. Never one to take such a thing in stride, she devoted the rest of her life to fighting City Hall, and that included the police. She was arrested and thrown in jail at least 30 times. Along the way somewhere she joined the Communist Party. There is no doubt that she did brilliant work in assisting New York's poor and the unemployed during the Great Depression. At the age of 37 she died of pneumonia contracted during a demonstration that included camping out at the base of the Washington Monument. More than 5,000 people attended her funeral.
But why did she cut herself off from her family years before her Communist activities? Hey, I don't work for free, you know. Buy the book and find out.

You won't learn anything about Communism, but visit

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

All's Well in Our Politically Correct World

If you're even close to being as old as I am you will remember back to a time when people were happy with their live-and-let-live way of life. No more. Now people don't have enough to do (they claim otherwise, of course) so nearly everyone has an agenda or a cause not worth fighting for. It all boils down to this: "Live the way I do or get off the world."
It's gotten so bad that now you can't even walk into the Blue Parrot restaurant in Louisville, Colo. and order a wopburger. A couple of immigrants right off the boat from Italy opened the Blue Parrot in 1919 and ever since then you could enjoy a wopburger. That's 88 years. The many Italians in the little mining town thought that was just great.
Recently a fellow from back east named James Gambino - a name familiar to all those interested in organized crime - came to town and was downright shocked. He complained to the National Italian American Foundation and they complained to everybody and then Gambino complained to the local school district that bought stuff from the Blue Parrot and now the wopburger is gone forever. Chalk up a victory for political correctness, chalk up a loss for individuality.
Back in the nation's capital where you never could enjoy a wopburger the gutless Democrats caved in as expected and let the Decider have his way on Iraq War funding. Never mind that the people elected them to do otherwise. Guess it still isn't politically correct for Congress to go along with the will of the people.
To be fair about it, though, maybe the gutless Democrats were too busy trying to give away the country to illegal aliens from Mexico to spend time thinking about Iraq. That goes right back to considering the will of the people, but who cares? Not many people in Washington, obviously.
So for those who have no use for the gutless Democrats and the heartless Republicans, what's left? Not much. A CNN poll this week found that Americans who consider themselves independents far exceed those who favor one of the two major political parties. But who can they vote for other than one of the two? Ralph Nader? Get serious. So to dust off an old saw from back in the olden days, ask them if they'd rather be shot or be hung. That's about what it amounts to in politics.
And then they wonder why so few people bother to vote.
In Indiana the legislature is allowing horse racing tracks to have slot machines. Private clubs can sell pull tabs and tip boards. Taverns can't have any of these. Taverns employ far more people and supply far more revenue to the state but their future is shaky because of this. Makes sense, does it?
In Ireland an average of one pub per day is going out of business because of no-smoking laws and what they call drink-drive laws. Meanwhile in the Middle East . . . well, it's best not to even think about that.
Live and let live, where have you gone?
More profound and deranged thoughts can be found at:

Monday, May 21, 2007

Some Leftover Thoughts

After writing yesterday's blog I had a few leftover thoughts. The truth is I often have leftover thoughts, but at my age that's OK. Sometimes it seems that all the thoughts I have are leftovers from a better day. Occasionally from a worse day.
So back to the Great Depression. For the adults those were worse days. Kids didn't know anything different so the days and years weren't too bad. Pretty good, actually.
One aftereffect was my mother's refusal to ever again buy anything on credit. She was leery about even taking out a mortgage when they bought a house in 1940. When you hear about some of the astronomical credit card debt rolled up by people in the 21st century that's not a bad idea. Having grown up at a time when "going in debt" was thought of as just one step below committing murder, Jackie and I avoid it like the plague.
My dad might have gone wild on buying stuff on credit had my mother allowed it. However, he did become excessively proud of every possession he acquired. To be certain that everyone knew he had made a comeback after bottoming out he put his initials on everything he owned, even applying tiny metal plates reading "CBS" on both front doors of his cars. I still have a Zippo lighter on my desk engraved "CBS." As a result when I write something about my dad I quite naturally refer to him as Ol' CBS.
Like a few million other men, he found himself out of work early in 1930. My mother's job as nurse at Detroit's Fox Theatre lasted until late summer that year. Shortly after that I started kindergarten in a grim old building that looked like something built by Count Dracula on a visit to the United States. That lasted only a short time and then we were off on our nomadic existence that took us from town to town in Michigan.
In retrospect I have often wondered about the choice of places where Ol' CBS decided to look for a job. No business was hit harder than the automotive industry during the early days of the Depression. Things didn't ger much better as the years rolled by. One company after another folded up and the country lost some great names in the business, names like Stutz, Marmon, Duesenberg, Auburn - the list goes on and on. So where did Ol' CBS go in search of that elusive job? Automotive manufacturing cities.
How bad was the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash? Consider this: Billy Durant was the founder of General Motors. Later he began manufacturing Durant automobiles in Muncie. He ended up - think about this - as a fry cook in a bowling alley.
Yes it was bad. Damn bad. Could it happen again? Anything can happen again.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Are We Ready For Another 1929?

Read a story this morning about the stock market hitting a record high, something that has been happening a lot recently. I've never been sure what it is than an economist does but the story said some of them think stocks are overpriced and may be due for a fall. That brought 1929 to mind.
Yes, there are a few of us around who can remember that far back. In my life the big event of the year was a wreck on the highway that put me in the hospital for 30 days. Not far behind, though, is the way everything changed not long after that. Life had seemed just fine, at least to a 4-year-old, then suddenly things turned sour.
Some people who had always been cheerful had turned glum, I noticed, but it was the next door neighbor's car that made me realize something was really wrong. It was a brand new 1930 Chevrolet sedan. The neighbor worshipped that car. Every evening after work he would hose it down, dry it off and check to make sure not a single spot of dirt remained to mar its finish. It was a ritual I always enjoyed watching, which leads me to believe there wasn't a whole lot of excitement going on in my life.
Then one afternoon I saw the neighbor get off the bus down at the corner and walk home, head drooped low and eyes fixed on the ground. The car, his pride and joy, was gone. I asked my dad about it a couple of times but never got a real answer.
It wasn't long before the neighbor wasn't even riding the bus any more. He just stayed around home all day and I was confused about that too. And finally the neighbor himself was gone and there was a sign in his front yard. Dad said he had moved and the house was for sale. No one ever came around to buy it, though.
A little more time went by and then one day dad's car was gone. Someone stole it, he said when I asked. I noticed he didn't try to find it and the police didn't bother to check on it. It had been a nice car, pale yellow with brown fenders and top. A Ford Victoria, dad called it. He also had quit going to work every morning. Sometimes he'd go out but when he came back he wouldn't say much, just look at my mother and shake his head.
My mother kept going to work at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, where she was the nurse. That theatre was a great place. Sometimes I got to go with her and I really enjoyed those days. But one day she quit going to work too.
About that time dad came home with an ancient Model-T Ford, the kind called a touring car that was open on both sides. And men came around with a truck and hauled away our furniture. It was being put in storage, my mother said, but that was the last I ever saw of it.
Some clothes and other things were loaded in that old Model-T and we started down the road to another town. That kept happening about every month - load up and head for a new town. It seemed the job dad was looking for always stayed a little ahead of him.
And then the day came when we'd hit a new town but not move into another furnished apartment the way we had been doing. We just lived in that Model-T that was open on both sides.
So that's the way it was after October of 1929. Wherever we happened to be I'd hear the grown-ups talking about the crash. At first I thought they meant the one that put me in the hospital for 30 days. Eventually I learned they meant a crash that was even bigger than that one.
So reading that story reminded me that what goes up must come down. Not as far down as 1929 and 1930, I hope. Or 1931 or 1932. Rock bottom, that's how far down we went in those years.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

AMAZON SHORTS - A Couple of New Ones

Not that the world is going to be thrilled to hear the news but I have a couple of new stories on Amazon Shorts. Those who have never heard of Amazon Shorts, and that means nearly everyone, can see the cover of one by looking to the left.
It works like this: by shelling out 49 cents you can download a Short by typing in the writer's name, seeing a list of everything he's written that Amazon has for sale, then clicking on the story you want. Forty per cent of that 49 cents ends up in the writer's pocket so you can see it is a quick path to riches.
But about those new stories. Actually they are old stories written a quarter of a century ago. They didn't fit any particular niche so they never were able to find a home. Until now. I can't honestly say that either of them ranks among my favorites. That is not the cover of one of the new ones but it was the easiest to call up and I wasn't in the mood to spend a lot of time on this.
Anyway, one of the new old stories is "The Crime of Loving Someone." It's about a couple of people from Indiana who retired to Florida expecting it to be the answer to their dreams after a lifetime of hard work. Instead it became a nightmare. Each decided to do something about it but in far different ways.
In writing it this story took a couple of twists and turns so it didn't end up quite the way I had planned. While looking it over after Amazon had acquired it I suddenly realized it was a takeoff on O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi." That's not what I had intended but at the very end the old guy in the story kind of took over and that's how it turned out. By the time this dawned on me it was too late to do a thing about it even if I had wanted to. People who believe the characters don't take over a story and guide it toward the finish have never written much fiction.
The other story dusted off after long years in a desk drawer is "Dunivant's Christmas." It's a fictionalized account of a true incident concerning two GIs in Germany shortly after the end of World War II. I was the narrator when the true version was written but I am not Dunivant in the fictional account.
Dunivant is loosely based on a man I knew who had been overseas for four years. He was among the first to be shipped out to Iceland even before the United States was involved in WWII. From Iceland he went to Northern Ireland, England, France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and Germany. He could have gone home months before he actually did because he chose not to. Why? Because shortly after he left home his wife died in childbirth. He had a daughter who was nearly four and he had never seen her. He worried about how both of them would react to the meeting. I appreciated his anxiety.
Four years overseas in a single tour - think about it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ah, There's Good News Tonight

Remember Gabriel Heater? If you answer "yes" - well, let's just say you weren't born yesterday. Gabe had a news show on radio back during the 1930s and '40s and as often as not he came on the air saying, "Ah, there's good news tonight." That was encouraging to hear, of course, except that sometimes his idea of good news was announcing that if Hitler were given a large chunk of Czechoslovakia he would have no further territorial ambitions in Europe.
So with that in mind let me say, "Ah, there's good news tonight." Actually it's morning but it's bound to be night somewhere. So the football coach at Buchtel High School in Akron was hauled off to prison for engaging in sexual activities with a 17-year-old student. Female student. The judge told him this was not a nice thing to do just before a deputy slapped handcuffs on the coach and started him on his journey.
Let's face it, some people might not see this as good news because Buchtel is an inner city school. Graduates and drop outs have an equal opportunity of being shot before they reach the age of 25. Coach was a role model for boys who otherwise might be hanging out on one of the street corners where the shooting often takes place. Seeing coach led away to a new home where he probably will meet numerous former students hardly qualifies as a good thing.
(Note to Cleveland TV news people: It isn't BUCK-tel High, it's BOOK-tel. You know, like those things that a few people occasionally read. Your studio is only 35 miles away so you should have known that without me telling you.)
But back to the good news. Up in Cleveland a policeman was arrested for raping a woman before, during or after a party. There seems to be a bit of confusion on the issue. This has to qualify as good news because when the unfortunate victim yelled, "Call a cop!" there was one close by.
As usual there's a lot of good news coming out of Iraq. Thirty-two people were killed when a car packed with explosives blew up at a crowded marketplace. The previous day it was 53 people so conditions are improving.
The search goes on for three American soldiers who went missing after their position was attacked by insurgents. This happened in a place known as The Triangle of Death. Now you'd think that alone would make prudent men a little wary, but not so. These men and five others, now all dead, were sent out by their officers to a place near a spot where just a year ago two soldiers went missing. Everyone seems to agree the men in the latest incident should never have been in so risky a place unless a lot more of their buddies were there with them. Ironically, this comes at the same time it is announced that the officers in charge of last year's nearly identical event have been disciplined because the victims should never have been in so risky a place unless a lot more of their buddies were there with them.
So once again it turns out that the Army has a number of officers who aren't too swift at catching onto things. Even Gabriel Heater would have found it difficult to see anything good in that.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

He who turns and runs away - but I just can't do it

Darn it, I've been fighting again. You'd think that by the time a man gets to be my age he'd know better. It must have something to do with not being able to teach old dogs new tricks. In other words, it's not my fault.
Actually it wasn't my fault. It happened on the PublishAmerica message board where a few people love to put others down with snide remarks and personal attacks of the worst sort. I try to ignore those people but at times it's impossible unless you are the type to turn and run away. That's just not my style.
What happened was this: several nice people responded to a question someone asked and were immediately cut to pieces by what I'll call the Gang of Three. So I jumped to their defense and very calmly - no kidding, I was very restrained - explained why such tactics are wrong. A couple of mild attacks were the result, but nothing worth responding to. I was just showing what a restrained gentleman I could be, something like that. You know, turn the other cheek and that sort of nonsense.
Well, this morning the worst of the Gang of Three, an 80-year-old woman, shot back with both barrels. Here's what she had to say, misspellings and all:
Hey guys I think we finally got rid of all the whynners!and as Martha would have said.." That's a very good thing!" Personally I think they should start their own threads-- but like the Al Kaidas they prefer to just hit and run..Starting a thread means taking a chance no one will answer you-- Rudy, as my kids like to say"Ma.. you are sooo bad!" I know Bad Pier xoxoxoxo_________________Pierrette
Here was my response:
And the long knives come out again. A number of people have been banned from this board for far less than the previous post. Why do some continue to get away with it? But sorry, I've never run when being attacked.
Well, she shot back with the following because I had previously ignored a call for me to name the culprits and say where they did it, etc. Being a restrained gentleman again, sort of.
I just love a man with a sense of humor! But Rudy he never did answer your " how, when, where,?" as a good reporter should do! non? _________________Pierrette
Naturally I fired back with this:
OK, how about:
Who: You above all others.
What: Vicious attacks.
Where: Right here.
When: Now.
How: With snide remarks and personal insults in the guise of being cute and feeling assured that while others can't get away with it, you can.
So was I wrong? I don't think so. As my antagonist seems to have real power on that PublishAmerica board they may ban me for not letting her get away with her viciousness. But you know something - frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. As I said, backing down just ain't my style.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Golf on TV - The Ultimate Experience in Boredom

Is there anything on earth that for mind-numbing boredom can equal watching golf on television? OK, there's poker. Does anyone actually watch a group of strangers play poker on the tube? And bowling - don't forget bowling.
But even poker and bowling don't drag on for what seems like hours with nothing happening. Golf does. I was reminded of this yesterday while hoping to watch the final hour of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. The last three minutes, that's what I got to see. The previous 57 were spent suffering as two women played golf. Four times they played the same 18th hole. The last three were playoff rounds.
If you have never watched golf on TV it goes like this. Two women stand looking off in the distance until one of them places a ball on the ground. Then she stares off in the distance again, walks over and talks to her caddy. Both stare off in the distance. Finally the golfer takes a club from the bag, walks over to the ball and swings the club half a dozen times. Not at the ball, just close to it. Satisfied, she moves closer to the ball, shuffles her feet around, wiggles her butt and then lo and behold she actually hits the ball. The TV audience gets to watch it sail through the air and land on some grass in the distance.
In a near whisper an announcer says there are 45 women from South Korea playing golf on the American tour. The other two announcers nod their heads profoundly.
Next, the second women does the same thing as the first. After that they stroll leisurely down to where they hit the balls and the audience gets to share that excitement. Once they reach the balls they mill around for a moment or so, then the first woman folds her arms and stares off in the distance. Eventually she walks over to her caddy and the tension begins to build as he opens a little notebook and shuffles through the pages. They consult. They both stare off in the distance. The woman takes a club from the bag and walks toward the ball, decides she doesn't like that club, walks back and puts it in the bag and pulls out another. She takes a few swings, moves up to the ball, shuffles her feet, wiggles her butt and then hits the ball. The camera follows it through the air until it comes down and rolls a short way through the grass.
Then the second woman does the same thing. After that they walk determinedly up to where the balls have landed somewhere near the hole they hope to hit them into. The crowd cheers.
All that was mere buildup to the fun that now takes place. The first woman stands behind the ball and looks toward the hole. She crouches and looks toward the hole, shielding her eyes with her hands. The caddy crouches and looks toward the hole. The woman walks to the far side of the hole and looks back toward the ball. She crouches. She walks back, making a wide swing so she can stop halfway and crouch. She walks to where the caddy is standing. They consult. Men hold up signs telling the crowd to be quiet. The woman takes a club from the bag, makes a few practice swings, approaches the ball, shuffles her feet and wiggles her butt. She's not satisfied. She steps back and starts over. Then, with the crowd in an agony of suspense, she hits the ball. It misses the hole. The crowd applauds her effort.
Then the second woman does it all again. They both hit the hole in the same number of strokes. They walk back to where they started and begin the whole process over again by staring off in the distance.
The excitement, the thrill, the suspense, will it never end? Yes, after 57 minutes.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Little Discipline Never Hurts

Disciplining kids seems to be constantly in the news. It appears the majority of Americans feel that making a kid do something is a capital offense and giving him or her a few whacks on the butt is even worse. After all, the little darlings have their rights. Actually they don't. At least they didn't in the distant past. Somehow the kids turned out pretty good.
That "rights" talk always reminds me of my second or third day in the Army. A couple of hundred of us were in an auditorium and a hawk-faced officer swaggered out onto the stage and said, "The first thing you need to know about the Army is we can't make you do a thing."
After allowing a couple of minutes for that surprising news to soak in he continued, "That's right, we can't make you do a thing - but we sure as hell can make you wish you had."
A couple of years earlier when I was a sophomore in high school my algebra teacher was Earl Loucks, the football coach. One look at him and you knew he was not a man to mess with. He had closely cropped blond hair, a neck only a couple of inches long and a body the size of an oil drum. That body was all muscle. Loucks was from Martins Ferry, a hard-bitten river town across the Ohio from Wheeling. If a Ferry kid had any hope of reaching adulthood he had to be tough.
I never caught on to algebra, a trait I shared with Loucks. One day he told me I was the most stupid kid to ever come down the pike and that I had no chance whatsoever of passing the course. However, he said, he would give me a passing grade if I came in half an hour early every day and worked problems on the blackboard. I did so, of course.
Loucks worked a problem on that same blackboard one morning and a girl with more nerve than sense said, "But Mr. Loucks, that isn't the right answer."
You could see the red appear just above his collar and work its way up that short neck until his face was fiery. "I wasn't trying to get the right answer," he shouted, "I was showing you how to do it."
Then there was the morning a lanky kid I knew cast sanity aside and mouthed off. Loucks never said a word, just walked over and opened the door to the hallway and then positioned himself in front of the row where the kid was seated, lowered his head and charged like a bull. He hauled the kid out of his seat by grabbing the front of his shirt and then for a few seconds held him at arms length with his feet dangling above the floor. Still gripping him that way, Loucks walked to where the kid was lined up with the open door, then gave him a mighty heave. We could hear him crash against the metal lockers on the other side of the hall. After that came a series of pauses and then crashes all the way to the principal's office.
All the while you could have heard the proverbial pin drop in that classroom. A couple of minutes later Loucks returned, stood looking us over while he brushed his hands together the way a person does after finishing a job. Finally he said, "Anybody else got something to say?"
From that day forward the lanky kid was well behaved not only in algebra class but a couple of others I shared with him. In later years I sometimes saw him on the street and we'd stop and talk for a minute or two. By then he had a good job at a rubber company, was married and had a couple of kids of his own. He had learned more, he'd say with a smile, from that episode with Loucks than from anything else in his life.
Had it happened today the bleeding hearts would have had Loucks fired and in criminal court. The kid probably would have drifted along with a smirk on his face and a toke hanging from the corner of his mouth. Too bad, but that's the way it is in a country that somehow got off course along the way and now is careening down the wrong road.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Was Life Better in 1953?

An e-mail comparing life in 1953 with life today was humorous at first reading. But then it got me to thinking about the changes that have taken place, some good, some bad.
At the top of my list of improvements is the scaling back of the atrocious racial discrimination that existed in the south in 1953. I wrote about it a while back in a blog telling of a bus ride in Georgia.
Civil rights laws have made life a whole lot better for those who were victimized. Many have taken advantage of the increased opportunities but, sad to say, many have not. Barack Obama is correct in contending that young blacks who regard success in school as bad, as being too "white," need a major change in attitude. How to bring that about is a daunting challenge.
Abortion was illegal in 1953 but any girl or woman who wanted one had no trouble making the arrangements. Many died, of course, because the back-alley "clinics" were usually operated by unskilled people working in unsanitary surroundings. That's another positive for today.
How about things that were better back then? There's no shortage of them. Parents were still parenting, grandparents were either mentoring or staying out of the way. Teachers (and parents) were disciplining kids who got out of line rather than popping pills in their mouths. All of this was very good for the kids. Unfortunately, parents were beginning to take an active part in activities that previously had been the sole domain of kids.
If a couple of boys got into a fistfight no one called the cops. Anyone who used a knife in a fight was forever ostricized by his peers and the thought of using a gun never entered anyone's mind.
Oh, let's forget the comparison. It boils down to this: In the 21st century common sense has been replaced by causes and agendas. In the name of political correctness people poke their noses into everything someone else does. They tell kids not to use drugs but from an early age they have had many of them on Ritalin and similar drugs that alter their personalities. In the past a paddle was a lot more effective and didn't cause the damage that drugs inflict on kids.
Live and let live was the general attitude in 1953. Today it is live according to the dictates of political correctness or pay the consequences.
To sum it up, this is a helluva time to be a kid. In many respects it isn't much better for adults.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

They'll Sing the Wrong Song at the Indy 500

In May the thoughts of Hoosiers near and far turn to the granddaddy of all auto races, the Indianapolis 500. As usual it will be preceded by the singing of Back Home Again in Indiana, probably by Jim Nabors. But that's the wrong song, a plagiarized version of the Indiana state song.
This came to mind when a Washington D.C. madame began preparations for a trial that has big shots trembling in their shoes for fear her list of clients will become public. One such figure has already resigned as a result, but he contends he used her "escort service" only for massages.
Naturally all this brought another madame to mind, one who ran a house of pleasure in Evansville in the late 19th century. She was immortalized in the song My Gal Sal. You remember -they called her Frivolous Sal . . .
Well, the song about Sal was composed by Paul Dresser, who changed his last name from Dreiser. Some say it was when he set out from his native Terre Haute in pursuit of a musical career, others contend it was to avoid confusion with his younger brother Theodore. During the early years of the 20th century Theodore Dreiser was one of the foremost American authors and even today Amazon lists 4,430 of his books for sale. Not all different books, of course, but dozens of various issues of An American Tragedy, Sister Carrie and other works.
Brother Paul wrote what became the Indiana state song, On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away. There was some controversy about the song because Theodore claimed he wrote the first verse and chorus and this outraged many Hoosiers, especially those in Terre Haute, because they felt he was a sex-crazed, Indiana bashing lout whose books should have been either banned or burned. But Theodore never wanted to be listed as co-author or share in the profits, which were huge. He just made that statement in a letter and it became blown out of all proportion. Paul said he didn't have help on any of his songs. Whatever, the version that seems most plausible of the many I have heard is that Paul was struggling with the lyrics and Theodore spent most of one night helping him get them right.
The song was a terrific hit (25 of Paul's would have won Gold Records had they been written today) when it was first heard shortly before the turn of the century. Then in 1917, 11 years after Paul's death, James Hanley and Ballard MacDonald collaborated on Back Home Again in Indiana. It was as blatant an example of plagiarism as ever existed so Theodore, for the sake of his dead brother, pressed a case of copyright violation. The publishers contended they had been granted permission to use two bars of music from On the Banks of the Wabash by the firm that published Paul Dresser's song. Saying that was unlikely would be a gross understatement.
Judge for yourself: Paul wrote: "Thro' the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming."
MacDonald wrote: "The gleaming candlelight still shining bright thru the sycamores."
Paul wrote: "From the fields there comes the breath of new mown hay."
MacDonald wrote: The new mown hay sends all it fragrance."
Paul wrote: "Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash."
MacDonald wrote: When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash."
The music for that latter line of MacDonald's was lifted from Paul's song with only one note changed.
So what do you think, will they be singing the wrong song before the 500?
If you believe they should be singing the state song, Paul Dresser's song, here are the words:
"On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away"
Verse 1
Round my Indiana homestead wave the cornfields, In the distance loom the woodlands clear and cool. Oftentimes my thoughts revert to scenes of childhood, Where I first received my lessons, nature's school. But one thing there is missing in the picture, Without her face it seems so incomplete. I long to see my mother in the doorway, As she stood there years ago, her boy to greet!
Verse 2
Many years have passed since I strolled by the river, Arm in arm with sweetheart Mary by my side. It was there I tried to tell her that I loved her, It was there I begged of her to be my bride. Long years have passed since I strolled thro' the churchyard, She's sleeping there my angel Mary, dear. I loved her but she thought I didn't mean it, Still I'd give my future were she only here.
Oh, the moonlight's fair tonight along the Wabash, From the fields there comes the breath of new mown hay. Thro' the sycamores the candle lights are gleaming, On the banks of the Wabash, far away.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Could You Be a Journalist?

  • Yes you could be a journalist (most prefer beining called a reporter) if you are capable of handling a few basic requirements. I've come up with the following list after reading some derogatory comments about journalists.
    You could be a journalist if:
  • . You talk to a township trustee and a U.S. senator during the same day, treat them exactly the same and write each of their stories with equal care and respect.
  • You cover a boring city council or county commisioners meeting and manage to remain vigilant for something that doesn't ring true, then dig into it until you discover the reason why, and after that write a story that is of interest and doesn't let the reader know how mind-numbing it all was.
  • You cover a meeting during which contracts are awarded and pay no attention to the organized crime soldiers occupying the front row of seats and write it up just as you intended even though their leader drapes his arm over your shoulder, smiles and says, "You're going to write a nice story, aren't you?"
  • On a raw and windy day you cover a baseball game involving two tank town high school teams and write it up just as if it were the story of the seventh game of the World Series.
  • You cover a criminal trial and write an objective and fair story no matter how despicable the defendant may be or how obnoxious the prosecutor may be.
  • You aren't afraid to ask for help when preparing for a complicated account of something involving figures from the treasurer's office and when you go back the next day take it as a compliment when the woman who provided the help says, "You aren't as dumb as you look."
  • You work hard to make them as interesting as possible when you start the day at 7 a.m. by writing obituaries even though you may be nursing a hangover. You keep in mind that for many it will be the first time their name appeared in a newspaper and for most it will be the last.
  • You have to write a story about crooked cops even though one of them had been a friend and you can do it fairly and thoroughly enough that he still considers you a friend.
  • You cover a high school football game far out in the boondocks, it's raining and there's no press box so you walk the sidelines trying to keep your notes dry, then go back to the newsroom soaking wet and treat the story as if it had been the Rose Bowl game.
  • You don't mind leaving a warm bed at 3 a.m. when a city editor already out on the prowl calls and says, "There's been a triple fatality on highway 3 north of town. Better get out there." Or when he calls at 5 a.m. the next morning with news of another fatal accident and a short time later you look down at the mangled body of a young woman, but will recall above all else a wisp of smoke rising from a hole burned in the side of a lime green high-heel shoe.
  • You must write a story concerning something not quite right at Circuit Court, then the next day hear the bailiff say, "We wish you hadn't written that story but at least you got it right."
  • You don't hesitate to write a story about a dirty trick played by the campaign of the leading candidate in the race for mayor, a fine man who is a fraternity brother of your publisher, and then watch the resulting uproar and see the underdog candidate forge ahead and win the election.
  • You can force yourself to knock on a stranger's door and ask if the person who answers can provide a photo of a loved one killed in an accident or arrested for a heinous crime.
  • You can appreciate knowing you are doing your job the way you should when the right-wingers say your stories lean too far to the left and the left-wingers say they lean too far to the right.
  • And above all, there isn't a man or woman in town you wouldn't want to meet on the street because you had written something inaccurate or unfair about them. There's much more, of course, but if all those things seem reasonable you could be a journalist, a reporter.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Verdun - War On a Scale Unknown to Americans

With a slight bit of editing to bring it up to date this is a reprint of a column I wrote in 1985 during a visit to Europe. Jackie asked me to use it in a blog so here goes:

Verdun, France - If there is one sensitive bone in your body this land from the city of Verdun to the dark, nearly impenetrable Forest of the Argonne will overwhelm you. Bones - in the forbidding low white ossuary on the high ground outside Verdun you look through small windows at ground level and see the bones of 150,000 unidentified men who died when the French saw the horde of approaching Germans and decreed: They Shall Not Pass. They didn't, but they kept trying.
Skulls are visible through one of those low windows, 150,000 of them. Other windows reveal the bones from arms, legs, ribs and all the places where bones are found in a human body. French bones and German bones. How could one be distinguished from the other once the uniforms of horizon blue and field gray were stripped away?
And outside that ugly resting place for bones stand long rows of white crosses that seem to go on forever. There lie the French dead that could be identified. Red roses bloom around each cross creating a pastoral scene, but only yards away the ground is pitted and pockmarked by shells that fell all those years ago. Now only scrub pines and weeds will grow in ground forever contaminated by metal and chlorine and mustard gas.
That would bother American farmers as much as anything else, those thousands of acres destroyed, utterly ruined by man's inhumanity. It is a cratered lunar landscape, a place where more than 900,000 men died in a stretch of ground only a few miles wide.
Just north of the ossuary is a trench where Frenchmen waited with bayonets fixed for the order to go "over the top." A massive artillery barrage fell upon them before the order could be given and now the rusted bayonets and rifle barrels still point skyward, the men who held them buried under the deluge of earth. A red rose rests beside each protruding bayonet.
South of the ossuary in a shell-torn area where no foot of ground escaped the interminable shelling is a monument pointing out that "Here stood Fleury." It was erected by the citizens of the little town who had fled but could never return to the poisoned ground where their homes had once been. Signs warn that straying from the marked path means "Danger of Death."
On a back road north of Verdun we came upon a hillside cemetery where the crosses are black. Two men are buried under each. Atto Apelt was a reservist, but not far enough in reserve to avoid the same fate as Paul Shafer and the other German riflemen of 18 and 19 who died in that horrific battle. After all these years fresh flowers lie in front of some black crosses, a few words written on cards attached to them. That cemetery, shielded from the road by high hedges so that Frenchmen don't have to see the hated symbols when passing, was for some indefinable reason the most peaceful of the countless burial grounds we have seen.
Yes, this was war as Americans have yet to see it. Americans who mistakenly believe the French won't fight have never been to Verdun or the Chemin des Dames or all the other places where they fought so well in that Great War and lost an entire generation of men in doing so. They have never heard those words "They Shall Not Pass." They have never seen the cemeteries that are everywhere in this land that is so beautiful, yet so bloody. When you pause beside a plot of crosses, be they white or black, it seems that somewhere in the distance a bell is always tolling. And before you leave, no matter how brief your stay, fighter planes swoop down on a practice air strike, reminding you that nothing has changed. Reminding you that the clock is ticking, that it's waiting to happen all over again.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Will the Fun Never Cease?

Far be it from me to complain but it seems there should be a limit to the amount of joy that should descend upon a man during the course of two or three days. It began when I decided to switch from dial-up to DSL for the internet. Making the switch, the literature assured me, would take 10 minutes of my time. That seemed reasonable enough.
Four hours later I untangled myself from a maze of wires, uttered a few words and phrases that will not be repeated here, and went out to the kitchen.
Jackie was taking something from the microwave when I arrived. Sparks and flames shot out from it and the microwave, a mere 20 years of age, had gone belly up. They don't make stuff like they used to.
After consoling Jackie I returned to the computer and worked another three hours trying to complete that 10 minute job. It still wouldn't work so I decided to take a nap rather than commiting murder, or at least taking a hammer to the computer.
An hour later I returned. The DSL - and who knows or even cares what those letters stand for - was working perfectly. I have to say it was a huge improvement over the old dial-up.
The next morning it wouldn't come on. That's not completely true because it did - after sitting alone and ignored for nearly four hours.
Then the next day we set out to check on a new microwave. The car moved a couple of feet, made a strange sound and the left front tire went flat. An hour later the tow truck from AAA showed up and the man changed the tire. The car moved a couple of feet, made a strange sound and the same tire went flat.
The tow truck driver lay prone on the ground and said a strut or something had broken, destroying two perfectly good tires. He hooked the car up to the truck and then I climbed up to the passenger seat and let me tell you that was no small feat for a man my age. In the process I pulled a muscle that runs across my midsection and was forced to endure agonizing pain for the rest of the day.
At the place where we had bought the tires one of the mechanics lay prone on the ground and said a spring had broken causing a strut to break causing two tires to be ripped open. They fixed eveything up and we parted with $647. That included two new tires, one of them replacing the original spare that in its lifetime traveled exactly 15 feet while in contact with the ground.
So that's why I haven't written a blog for a few days. And yes, the DSL is working just fine as long as the modem isn't turned off. That means a summer of hoping there isn't any lightning in the area that might knock out the power. Or that another spring doesn't break causing a strut to break causing two tires to be ripped open causing me to strain a muscle in my midsection and causing us to part with $647 . . .