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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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why I don't like the Ken Burns WWII documentary

I'm sure that Ken Burns and his staff put a great deal of time and effort into making the documentary on World War II currently running on PBS. I missed the first two segments, then watched the third and didn't care for it. Not so much for what it included but because of what it left out.
I was on the ground during two of the events portrayed in the third episode. The first was the massive bombing along the highway near St. Lo that preceded the breakout from the Normandy hedgerow country. Ernie Pyle's column on the bungled affair was quoted, but only the early passages. Omitted was the story of how the bombs began falling on the American side of the road. Many men were killed. Among them was the general in charge of United States ground forces in Europe. Was this left out because it didn't fit the image of American efficiency? I don't know, but the portrayal of the event will mislead anyone who sees it.
Grossly distorted was the presentation of the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944. As the narrator mentioned that date, viewers were shown a parade that took place three days later. The impression given was that the liberation consisted of thousands of men forming up near the Arch of Triumph and then marching in formation down the street. The men in the parade had nothing to do with the liberation. It was a totally false view of what actually happened.
Those were events I played a small role in. I wasn't in the Pacific, but was surprised - shocked would be a better word - when a sailor on the ship Indianapolis was mentioned as having watched as two Japanese planes were shot down by men on another ship. That was it about the Indianapolis. Omitted was the fact it was later sunk and for nearly a week the small number of survivors floated in shark-infested waters because the Naval commanders failed to notice that one of their ships had vanished.
Then a loudmouth Marine spoke time and again about the invasion of Saipan. I came to doubt everything he said because I had met similar loudmouths in Europe. They arrived as replacements saying what they would do when they got a crack at the Germans. What they actually did was either head for the hills or shoot themselves in the foot as soon as they had a taste of the shooting end of war. Every time. Without exception that's what they did.
I was impressed by the stories told by the pilot of a P-47 Thunderbolt in Europe. Ken Burns should have found more men like him to interview.
The episodes centering on the home front were interesting as well. I felt there were more important things that might have been mentioned, but it is impossible to present a big war in a short program. I believe an overall view of the war was too much of an undertaking so the omissions exceeded the events included. I've seen better documentaries that focused on just one segment of the war.
I wonder, though, if in the future the Burns documentary won't be seen as the definitive view of World War II. It isn't. It doesn't even come close, but future viewers may not realize that. Neither will many present day viewers.
I won't watch the remaining episodes. It isn't a very good documentary. Not so much because of what it shows but because of what it does not.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Guess I'm Not Too Bright

There are some things I just haven't been able to figure out about the situation in Iraq. I do recall the beginning when our military was sent in to get rid of a bunch of weapons of mass destructions which at one time were called big bombs, poison gas and stuff like that. We were told they would be greeted as liberators, not invaders, and the folks there would be throwing flowers at them because they would get rid of a nasty dictator, I remember that. And I recall being told it would be done on the cheap because the revenue from the Iraqi oil fields would pay for everything.
Well, I guess things got screwed up somewhere along the way because there weren't any weapons of mass destruction and people were throwing things at our soldiers but they weren't flowers. Nor was it flowers they were planting along the sides of roads and highways. They did, however, get rid of the dictator.
So that leaves the cost. Something really went haywire in that respect because so far the American taxpayers have spent billions of dollars, some of which went to the vice-president's old company. Nothing anyone should get excited about, I suppose, just a few billion here and another few billion there. In the big picture that's small potatoes.
Apparently, though, things went radically wrong in the oil fields that were going to pay for this venture. Just yesterday the fellow in charge of it all went up to Capitol Hill and said it was time for the taxpayers to pony up another 190 million bucks to keep things going. That was not too long after the occupant of the White House said spending a small fraction of that amount on health care for children was asking too much.
One wise old senator said Iraq is going to cost a trillion dollars before it's all over so being an imperial power can add up to serious money. That's for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren to worry about, of course, not most of us.
One strange thing about Iraq is that most Americans couldn't find it on a map and a great many are barely aware that anything's going on over there. I was thinking of that while watching Ken Burns' PBS program on World War II last night. The show didn't impress me too much but it did spend some time on what was laughingly called the home front. So many people were actively involved in the war that the vast majority at home were at least aware it was taking place somewhere in the far distance. At the New York Stock Exchange they took it so seriously that two minutes of silence was observed on D-Day while the soldiers were struggling to get a foothold on the Normandy beaches. Then the brokers went back to struggling to buy stock in companies manufacturing war material because that's one thing you can say about war, it provides great opportunity for those not involved in it to make money.
So that leads back to the $190 billion needed for Iraq to add to the hundreds of billions already poured down that hole. Does anyone ever think of the good that money could do right here at home? Guess that's what I can't figure out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dick the Car Hop Didn't Get Many Tips

For no particular reason I was thinking about one of the less-than-successful business ventures of my father, Ol' CBS. I can't imagine what possessed him into believing he should open a hamburger stand, but he did. That was in the summer of 1938 when I turned 13 and was ready to get a job. That proved easy because Ol' CBS appointed me curb boy, or car hop. Not far away The Spotless Spot had cute girls in short skirts filling that position but at The Pilot the customers had to settle for a surly kid in T-shirt and frayed pants.
The place was called The Pilot because it was just across the street from the Akron Municipal Airport. For 15 cents you could get a hamburger and a Coke. Fries set you back another nickel. I spent a good share of the summer sitting on a stool out front because for some reason most of Akron's hungry people preferred ordering from those pretty girls in short skirts. But sometimes a car would pull in and I'd walk over and say, "Yeah, wha' duh yuh want?" After writing the order on a little green pad I'd take it in and hand it to Ol' CBS, who would fry up a burger and open a bottle of Coke. I'd take it outside on a tray that fastened to car door, collect the money and then go back to my stool. When the customer flashed his lights to show he was ready to leave I'd collect the tray and more often than not look in vain for a tip. Once in a while someone would leave a nickel for me, or maybe two or three pennies.
I did take enough time off to build a Soap Box Derby car. It, too, had The Pilot at the Airport painted on its wallboard sides. It won a heat in the Akron race, the only one in three years of trying. Then I hurried back to my nearby place of employment for the after-race crowd. Three or four cars did stop by.
So that was my first full-time job and I can't say that it put much money in my pocket. Ol' CBS paid me two dollars a week and I got to keep all my tips. Some weeks that added up to another quarter. I'd put in about sixty or seventy hours a week so I've always felt it best not to figure my hourly rate because sometimes ignorance is bliss. Or so they say.
I think Ol' CBS was about ready to throw in the towel shortly after Labor Day. With school starting in another week he'd be out of a curb boy until four o'clock on weekdays and I don't believe he fancied doing the job himself. Then we went in one morning and discovered maggots all over the meat. That did it for Ol' CBS. He locked the doors and by following spring a vacant lot was all that remained where The Pilot had once stood.
Ol' CBS went back to being a salesman and I went back to seventh grade, a place where I did not distinguish myself as a scholar. At least two or three times a week the teacher, Mrs. Canfield, would say, "Dick, some day you're going to laugh out of the wrong end of the horn." I never have figured out exactly what that meant. Nor have I figured out what it was that I found to laugh about so much unless it was thinking about the futility of my days as a car hop.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Race Inside Your Body

They call them the Golden Years so hitting the 70 mark or even the big 80 means just one daylong round of fun, right? On TV commercials you see these young looking senior citizens who spend their days on the golf course, riding bikes with their buddies or watching their grandchildren play games. No matter that to me every one of those activities sounds boring as hell. I'm not what would be called normal, if normal means enjoying things such as that. I'd much rather be working.
But there is one thing you can't get away from and that's the race going on inside your body to see what will cross the finish line ahead of the pack and kill you. The race begins when you are about 25, but you seldom think about it at that age even though it is already under way. I don't think about it even at 82 until something decides to make a dash for the lead and leaves me feeling miserable. Then all you can do is wait for it to slow down so something else can put on a burst of speed in hope of being first to the checkered flag.
Yesterday it was ulcerative colitis that decided to make me miserable but it was considerate enough to wait until most of the day's work was finished. It may have been on a schedule that limited it to 12 hours because that's exactly how long it lasted.
Now let me be clear about one thing: the less you know about ulcerative colitis the better. Just call it a bellyache although sometimes you can't even call it that. It can even be fun when you aren't in agony because this just infuriates the doctors.
That happened about six years ago when it put me in the hospital for four or five days. One doctor after another would look at extremely ugly and disgusting pictures of my inner workings and say, "How much pain are you in?"
"None, except I wish the nurses would quit sticking needles in my arms every hour."
"What do you mean, none? You have to be suffering."
"Sorry, but I'm not. What would you suggest I do to correct that situation?"
They'd just scowl at me, certain I was lying. Sometimes after leaving the room one or the other would stick his head back in the door and say, "You really are in pain, aren't you?"
I'd just grin and shake my head, providing a nurse wasn't sticking a needle in me at the time. That went on day and night, every hour on the hour until I had more blood in little tubes than in my veins. Finally Jackie decided enough was enough, placed a chair in front of the door and wouldn't let them in so I could get a decent night's sleep.
Every morning one of the doctors would come back, give me a nasty look and say, "How much pain are you in now?"
I hated to upset their entire belief in the things they had learned at medical school but I had to be truthful. "Not a bit. How about you?" Doctors have a limited sense of humor about things like that.
So in all the years I've had ulcerative colitis I've had two short and minor upsets. This despite the fact that after the first few months I've totally ignored the diet they put me on - no fresh fruits, no fresh vegetables, little if any meat, absolutely nothing that tastes good.
Like any good patient I did regret upsetting the doctors by not being in constant agony. That's just the way it is and I've done my very best to be obliging by tearing up their diet. I mean what more can a man do? Of course on those rare occasions when it does cause a problem I lie there thinking why oh why couldn't I have led the clean life? Why oh why do I always do exactly opposite of what the doctors say? That's when I hear a little voice whispering, "Because that's just the way you are so live with it. Or some day die with it."
I remind that little voice that despite having always done the wrong things I've already lived well past several "sell by" dates. That's something else the doctors can't understand. Someday I'll write about the time they wanted me to have brain surgery. Where do you suppose they get these crazy ideas?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Private Armies - Who Needs Them?

It goes against the grain to be serious two days in a row, but sometimes conditions make it impossible to be otherwise. Right now the itch in a place I can't reach is caused by the private armies that have flourished in this country in recent years, especially the one known as Blackwater. Call them what you will, they are private armies. Those in them are mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, meaning they work for the highest bidder.
Such armies have been around a long time. Best known of them is the French Foreign Legion, but it is under control of the government so it isn't really private. Even so it is made up of soldiers of fortune. The British recruited such an army in the German State of Hesse during the American Revolution. But for sheer numbers, Germany during the years following the First World War leads all comers. Every organization, political or otherwise, seemed to have one. The ranks were filled with former soldiers and an assortment of malcontents.
Best known was the Sturm Abteilung - the Storm Troopers. They were closely associated with but not under the control of the small but noisy Nazi party. This rankled some in the party so an army of their own was organized and named the Schutz Staffel - SS for short. The requirements for joining were strict almost beyond belief. At the beginning and for a short time after that even a filling in a tooth was enough to disqualify a man. That didn't last for long. The SS wore black uniforms. Their helmets were black, too, kind of like those worn by Blackwater.
There wasn't much money to pay these fellows but they were held together by the promise that when the party gained power they could use their long knives on the hated Communists. The promise was kept, but they also used them on the leaders of the Storm Troopers in what came to be known as the Night of the Long Knives. After that the Sturm Abteilung was under control of the party.
Once the party gained power, an Enabling Act was passed that took away many of the rights of the citizens. That was OK, people thought, because it ensured their safety and security. Kind of like the Patriot Act.
But there were those who didn't have the same values as the party so a place was needed to lock them up. A complex of old warehouses at the edge of the town of Dachau proved to be just fine. Kind of like Guantanamo.
It was necessary, of course, to keep the Reichstag, the controlling body, in line so it soon became a rubber stamp organization. Kind of like Congress. Even that wasn't enough, though, so they burned the place down and dissolved the body.
Someone was needed for the people to hate and even fear so they would be loyal to the party and understand its actions. The Jews served that purpose. So did homosexuals. Kind of like Muslims and homosexuals.
Then they took over a couple of countries and needed another for the people to hate. It helps to hate a country before invading it. Poland was just right for that. Kind of like Iran.
The regular army had to be won over, at least the generals, so those that didn't spout the party's dogma soon were out of a job. Kind of like the general who said the plans for the invasion of Iraq were faulty because far more men would be needed to do the job properly.
So considering the history of private armies, does the United States need them? If so, why? Well, Blackwater is the darling of the State Department and doesn't even have to abide by the same rules as the other private armies, sometimes known as contractors. I guess that's reason enough.
Newsman Jack Cafferty just wrote a book called "It's Getting Ugly Out There." Seems like he might be onto something. There are those who say it can't happen here. But can it? Time will tell. Meanwhile, keep safe and secure. Kind of like the Germans did. For a while.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Am I Missing Something?

Am I missing something? I don't think so. Let me explain why I feel that way. During my twenty years as a reporter in Muncie I had the reputation in the black community of being fair. I didn't slant my stories in favor of them or against them. That's all they asked so I was able to go where no other white reporter would dare go. I have a plaque on the wall of my office thanking me for being fair and objective. I was invited to give the Martin Luther King Jr. Day address at a black church. I made friendships among blacks, including Black Muslims, that endure seventeen years after leaving the city. Because of that I feel qualified to write on the subject of Jena.
It's the wrong fight. It isn't helping the cause of civil rights, it's setting it back. Why? Because regardless of the provocation, six-on-one is always wrong, always cowardly. The beating of a white student would not have had to go much further to have been murder. Maybe he asked for trouble, I don't know. If he did, then an attack by one of those offended would have been justified. But six beating on one, that's bullying of the worst short. It's cowardly. It's never justified.
But Jena provides perfect photo opportunities for Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson so they are leading the parade. Had six whites given a similar beating to a black student they would still be there, but for an opposing reason. They are wrong. The other protesters are wrong. Civil rights means equal opportunity for all. And equal blame. It doesn't mean a six-on-one beating is justified. Not ever. Regardless of the cause, it's never excusable. The protesters are fighting the wrong fight.
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The treatment in this country of a 5-year-old boy horribly burned in an unprovoked attack in Iraq is a wonderful act of kindness. A couple of million dollars has been donated by Americans and people in other countries to pay for the many operations that are required. The downside is that some of those who donated may feel they have done their part and nothing more is required. But there are thousands more citizens of Iraq who have suffered horrible injuries and should not be overlooked or forgotten. Countless thousands have been killed and four million of a population of twenty-seven million have been forced to flee their homes, are now displaced persons. When is extending a helping hand enough and no more need be done? Never. We are responsible. We caused it. We can never do enough to feel it is truly enough.
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I have no sympathy for the president of Iran. He's obviously either a nut case or a master of provocation. Probably the latter. But what was gained by telling him he couldn't lay a wreath at the site of the World Trade Center? Nothing. He knew he would be turned down. He knew it would give Muslims one more reason to hate the arrogance of the United States. So what was lost? An opportunity to be gracious, to kill him with kindness. Had that been done he would have been boiling inside, would have been thinking, "Curses, foiled again!" Instead he will go home and make fiery speeches about the turn down. Young Muslims will be listening. Knowing that, will you sleep better tonight?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Look Out World, My Rollator Has Arrived!

Remember the old Tennessee Ernie song that warned, "When you see me comin', better step aside. A lotta men didn't and a lotta men died." Well, that's my theme song now because I picked up my new Dolomite Legacy Rollator at the VA clinic yesterday and from now on it's Katy, bar the door!
I gave it a test drive at a supermarket and little old ladies were screaming and leaping aside as I charged down one aisle after another. Admittedly, being run down by a rollator isn't quite the same as being mashed under the tires of an 18-wheeler, but even so it wouldn't be much fun.
When I tired of scaring white-haired old frails I went over near the front entrance, locked it in place and sat watching the world go by - or at least the shoppers on their way in and old. Many of them cast admiring glances my way and a few even said I looked comfortable. Next time I'm going to take a tin cup along, hold it out and maybe make a few bucks.
I was wrong about one thing when I wrote about my rollator on a previous occasion. I said it cost $149, but that's the model for peasants. Mine lists for $349 but can be had for the bargain price of $274.95 if anyone's interested in acquiring one of their own. Mine was a gift from the VA, of course, meaning you may have helped pay for it. So thanks, but the next time just send the money.
A few things in the catalog bothered me a little because I wouldn't want people getting the wrong idea. The real sore point was reading that my rollator serves a useful need for Alzheimer patients. Not one word concerning its value for weary old infantrymen, but I'm sure that was an oversight on their part.
So that's about it although I might mention that my rollator and I traveled down to the Circle K store on the corner this morning and were chased by only one dog. All that's left to do now is start my customizing work. I mentioned a few ideas earlier but the manager of our apartment building came up with a couple of more - a headlight and reflectors on the back. As I am actually the back, not the rollator itself, he said I could slap a couple of butt reflectors on my pants, which I thought was a rather crude suggestion.
After giving it more thought there is one other thing on the agenda - heading out to one of the malls and scattering the crowds. Yes, this is number one and the fun has just begun.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Last Straw

Well, he really went and did it this time, pre-empted my favorite TV show. There are only three or four currently running on the tube that I can even tolerate let alone call a favorite, but "The Office" qualifies. It is that one-in-a-million show, a takeoff on a British program that turns out to be better than the original. All the others have been pathetic flops.
"The Office" has a fine cast of accomplished actors. Boy, is that ever a rarity today. Three of them have been in movies released during the past few months. That in itself isn't saying much, of course, but the two men and a woman who play leading roles in "The Office" know their craft.
Then there are the writers. They actually write a humorous script. No belly laughs and few sight jokes, just easy-to-take humor. That's quite an accomplishment at a time when the average script writer uses a tried and true formula aimed at people with the intelligence of a second grader: pratfall - double entendre - pratfall - double entendre - toilet joke - pratfall and on and on and on.
So anyway, I turned on the TV to enjoy an entertaining re-run and who pops up on the screen but the short-term occupant of the White House. The Smirker. The guy who likes to call himself The Decider. Considering the decisions he's made during the past seven years you'd think he'd want to keep it a secret.
I was so irritated it took ten seconds for me to hit the mute button. Like so many people, I've heard it all before. Didn't believe what he said before, don't believe it now. Earlier in the day CNN ran clips showing him repeating himself year after agonizing year. If nothing else it makes life easy for his script writers.
# # #
Does it strike anyone else as strange that the same man who pre-empted my show doesn't hesitate spending two or three billion a week on his pet war but threatens to veto a bill costing five billion a year that would provide more children with health? What a great guy!
# # #
In July Fred Thompson, who plays a district attorney on "Law and Order," said he wouldn't announce his candidacy for president until September because TNT would be showing re-runs until then and he didn't want the other actors to lose their residuals, meaning that after he was in the race they'd be off the air. Well, Fred, you've made the big announcement and TNT is still running them.
If I were one of the other Republican candidates I'd be screaming to high heaven. In his "Law and Order" role Thompson comes across as the wise man who has all the answers and yet retains his down home characteristics. Considering the IQ of the average American, that's how they'll think of him on primary election day. Yes, the others should be screaming.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Leveling the Bubbles

Because generals and war and stuff like that have been in the news my thoughts have once again drifted back to Camp Polk during the lovely summer of 1952. Many people may not realize just what it was that Pop, the mortar section sergeant, actually did to earn his ridiculously small paycheck so this might be called an informative blog. To fully understand it is necessary to know a little about a 60 millimeter mortar, the kind used back in the good old days.
There was the tube, the baseplate and the sight. On the sight were two bubbles like those on a carpenter's level. To keep them straight we will call one the back and forth bubble and the other the up and down bubble. It was the gunner's job to level them. Say he leveled the back and forth bubble and then did the same with the up and down bubble. However, leveling the up and down bubble would throw off the back and forth bubble so it had to be leveled again but doing so would unlevel the up and down bubble. Obviously getting both bubbles level at the same time was not as easy as it sounds.
Next came the aiming stake. This, as might be imagined, was a wood stake planted in the ground well out in front of the mortar. Along with the bubbles, there was a place on the sight to look through. When you did you would see a vertical line and this line had to be placed exactly on the left side of the aiming stake. After this was accomplished, the bubbles no longer would be level. The gunner then leveled the bubbles again, but of course this meant the sight no longer was lined up on the aiming stake.
A logical person would quickly realize that getting both bubbles level and being lined up on the aiming stake all at the same time was an impossibility, yet a skilled gunner could do it in a matter of seconds. Pop could do it too, although it might require five or even ten minutes. No one in the section was aware of this because like all good sergeants he used the time-tested method of, "Don't do as I do, do as I say." In other words he never did any of that himself, he just told the others how to do it. And even today some people believe you don't have to be smart to be in the infantry.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Will the Feds Come Calling?

Jackie's a little concerned because I sent 20 letters and one package to various Communist Party offices around the country. She visualizes FBI agents knocking on the door and hauling me off to some secluded prison where I will be waterboarded and have my fingernails ripped out. Even worse, she fears the same thing might happen to her.
Forget it, I keep telling her, there's no law against sending letters to communists. There's no law against being a communist. If I want to promote a book this way I have a perfect right to do so. I'm not sure she's convinced. It even worried her when I called up the Communist Party website on the Internet. As I don't happen to have the addresses of all the regional offices stored away in my mind there wasn't much of an alternative, but she feels I might have found one if I tried harder.
Anyway, from the time I was a a 9-year-old street urchin I've never had much use for the FBI. That was the time when the Feds staged a raid on the Little Bohemia Lodge in Wisconsin in hope of killing John Dillinger and his gang. They didn't, but they did manage to gun down several innocent people. Humorist Will Rogers wrote this about the affair:
“Well, they had Dillinger surrounded and was all ready to shoot him when he come out, but another bunch of folks come out ahead, so they just shot them instead. Dillinger is going to accidentally get with some innocent bystanders sometime, then he will get shot.”
That evening Dillinger and the members of his second gang returned fire, then escaped out the back of the lodge. During the course of events one of the gang named Baby Face Nelson killed an FBI agent. Later he killed two more. Nelson was a little guy who liked to be called Big George but a bank clerk tagged him with the "Baby Face" moniker. No one ever called him that to his face because he was a psychopath who was happiest with a submachine gun in hand. Even the other members of the gang didn't like having him around.
When we were kids we played a lot of cops and robbers when we weren't playing cowboys and Indians. Most of us preferred to be robbers. Just about everybody wanted to be Dillinger or Baby Face Nelson or Pretty Boy Floyd. This seems a bit odd because if we had been called Baby Face or Pretty Boy under normal conditions we would have set up a howl. Or slugged somebody. Nobody wanted to be a prissy Junior G-Man although I suppose that may not have been true in more affluent neighborhoods.
To understand how a great many Americans looked on things during the 1930s, the bank failures must be kept in mind. The desperadoes who went into banks with guns drawn were heroes to those who had lost their life savings and looked upon bankers as the enemy.
Anyway, I have always found FBI agents a little humorous because those I've had dealings with have been so puffed up and sold on themselves. Perfect examples of the old saying, "I'd like to buy him for what he's worth and sell him for what he thinks he's worth."
In the late 1950s when I was an investigator for Pinkerton's National Detective Agency's office in Cleveland the agency had the world's best file on jewel robberies and the men who commited them. One day a couple of FBI agents oozing self importance came to the office and asked to see the files. The manager smiled pleasantly, nodded his head and said, "Of course. We'll open our files to the FBI the day the FBI opens its files to us." The visitors turned and left in a huff.
So I'm not worried about sending all those letters. I figure I'm already in the bureau's records because of some of the things I've written. Adding a little more fuel to the fire won't hurt. Maybe Jackie will come around to my way of thinking. She should because she was the one who took the letters and package to the post office and was seen mailing them. I could say I was just an innocent bystander except they're often the ones who get shot.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dr. Stodg and Advice to the Lovelorn

Visiting the doctor at the VA clinic brought memories of my own experiences in the medical profession.
Back in my National Guard days about 1949 or '50 I was hanging out one evening in the orderly room of K Company, 145th Infantry. It wasn't our drill night but a few of us had gone to the armory just to shoot the breeze, something we were prone to do at the time.
We were having a fine bull session until First Sergeant Fred Slabaugh came rushing in all in a tizzy because a couple of guys wanted to join up and there wasn't a doctor on hand. He looked around, then settled his gaze on me. "I'll bring 'em in and you'll be Doctor Stodghill and give 'em a quick physical."
Fred went back out the door and I went out the window. If I was destined to spend time behind the cold gray walls at Leavenworth or Alcatraz I wanted it to be for something more enjoyable than posing as a sawbones.
A year or so later the outfit was federalized during the Korean War. While training at lovely Camp Polk in the bayou country of Louisiana I did have to play psychiatrist now and then. This was because I was a 26-year-old mortar section sergeant and most of my men were 18 or 19 and not too bright. They thought I was incredibly old and wise so they called me Pop.
Whenever one of them had a problem he would go running to Pop. Without fail these problems concerned girls. I would listen to a woeful tale and then always offer the same advice: "There's more than one fish in the ocean." As might be expected, this worked wonders. The young fellow's shoulders would straighten up, he'd smile and a gleam would appear in his eyes as he began looking forward to his next pass to town. Old Pop had done it again.
But then came a night when some of us were walking down to the PX for beer until someone came running up from behind calling, "Pop, Pop, you gotta come back. Bartlett's up on the roof and he's gonna jump off."
I uttered a few words that more or less covered the situation, then turned and headed back toward the barracks. A couple of guys went with me but the rest continued on, more interested in beer than watching Bartlett commit suicide. As we drew close enough to see, sure enough Bartlett was perched up there on the edge of the roof. I went up to the second floor and out on the rear landing. By standing on tiptoe I could see over the edge of the roof so I said, "Bartlett, what in hell are you doing up there?"
"I got a 'Dear John' letter so I'm gonna kill myself."
I seriously doubted that a leap into the sandy Louisiana soil would do the job but I was in no mood for playing games. "Bartlett, either come down or jump. The rest of us are going to the PX for beer and I don't have time for this. You can come along if you want."
He mulled it over for ten or fifteen seconds, then decided a cold beer sounded better than a mouthful of sand. He cautiously edged his way over to where I could reach out and give him a hand down to the landing.
As we walked along to the PX I said, "Bartlett, there's more than one fish in the ocean." He cheered up on hearing that and in no time was his usual annoying self. I chalked up one more success for Pop in his role as friendly old Doc Stodghill. It worked every time.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I'm Getting New Wheels!

Boy, am I excited! Thrilled might be a better word because at long last I'm getting new wheels. Just about everyone knows that feeling of anticipation while waiting for delivery. Nothing else is quite the same.
Now don't get me wrong, we're keeping our 12-year-old Toyota Camry with only 34,100 miles on the odometer. Only an idiot would get rid of a car like that. Having it parked outside in no way diminishes the pleasure in knowing the new wheels will be delivered in two or three weeks.
It will have just about everything a person could hope for - comfortable seat, great brakes that bring you to a halt on the proverbial dime, four wheels that roll so freely you have to hustle to keep up.
Keep up, you say? Hold on just a minute; surely you didn't think I was talking about a new car? What I'm getting is a rollator.
There are people who never heard of a rollator and I admit to being one of them until yesterday when I visited the Veterans Administration clinic. That's where I looked one over for the first time, kicked a couple of tires and took a test walk.
I want to make it perfectly clear that we are not discussing a walker. Not even a walker with a couple of little wheels in front. I would rather be lashed against a pole while surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves than use a walker. Those are for old guys who act their age, not for someone like me.
No, a rollator is nothing at all like a walker. Well, not much anyway. A rollator has four big wheels the size of those on a Soap Box Derby car. Or the kind you used to see on a boys' wagon that was piled up with stuff and pulled along the sidewalk before kids quit going outside the house.
The brakes are fantastic. The seat, while not exactly a recliner, is comfortable as can be.
The doctor at the VA, the best one I've had anywhere, asked if I did much walking to exercise my legs.
"No," I told her, "because it's a Catch-22 situation. My legs could do with a little more walking for the exercise, but lack of exercise has left my legs in no shape for walking."
So she sent me right down to the physical therapy department to be fitted for my rollator. When I got home I looked it up and found it costs $149. Not for me, though. Coming from the VA, it's free.
So now I'll do plenty of walking, but only after customizing my rollator a little. Can't have it looking like any old rollator you might see out on the street. I have a few ideas in mind. Maybe a little sign out front reading, "Dick Stodghill is here." A bicycle bell, or maybe one of those little horns with a rubber bulb you squeeze. Perhaps a short pole with a small flag, stuff like that.
There is one thing about a rollator that requires a bit of caution. They roll along briskly so you have to keep that in mind when starting down a hill. It would be very easy to find yourself running like an Olympic dash man just to keep up with the rollator as it was flying along like the hounds of hell were in hot pursuit. Slamming on the brakes would not be an option at that point. The rollator would stop dead in its tracks and the unlucky person running to keep up would go somersaulting over the handlebars. On the other hand, the alternative might be even worse if a cross street with heavy traffic lay ahead. That could never happen to me, of course. Could it?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine Revisited

New Internet provider, new book, that's how it is around here. Not me, though - I'm on the far side of my sell-by date.
Up to now Time-Warner's Roadrunner seems to work just fine and that's a relief after putting up with one problem after another from other programs throughout August.
The new book is a collection of sixteen short stories first published between 1979 and 1985 in the gone-but-not-forgotten Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine. The last of my stories appeared two months before MSMM went belly-up, but I deny all claims of being responsible for that unfortunate event.
The title, Rough Old Stuff, was chosen because in its late years Shayne had become a repository for stories that failed to sell to the top dogs in the field, the better paying Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen mystery magazines. This was not because the stories were inferior to those run in AH and EQ but because in many cases they were a bit too rough. Sometimes it was the events, sometimes the language (but not the language in my stories. Usually.). Anyway, many of the top writers in the mystery genre were found in Mike Shayne.
One of my favorites is the story of a sweet little girl who commits her first murder in a really nasty manner. It begins with the lovable little tyke explaining that her mother always calls her, "Mama's Darling."
Then there's one about a nice little old lady who goes into the same restaurant every day and orders nothing more than, "Water In a Teacup." After being served she hauls a used teabag out of her purse, sloshes it around in the hot water and then savours the weak but tasty brew. This simple act leads to a dreadful and quite surprising event, sad to say.
Along with those two little gems are a few stories about private eyes, one featuring a hardened criminal and his cohorts in crime, another told by a man flat on his back in bed thanks to a broken leg, and a tale (no pun intended) with an old dog named Blackie as the protagonist.
In other words a mixed bag of thrills and suspense for a mere $12.95.
Despite all that there likely are cretins out there who will find another use for their money. Life is hard and then you die, that's just the way it is.