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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Thursday, November 29, 2007

An Old Hoosier's View of the GOP Debate

Well, it's been a while since I've stopped by here but my time has been pretty well occupied by important stuff like watching the Republican debate on the tube. I did this alone because Jackie just came right out and stole one of my lines by saying that before she'd watch a debate on the tube she'd choose to be buried up to her neck in sand beside an ant hill and have somebody pour honey over her head.
Now that seems a little extreme although along about halfway through this debate the thought did cross my mind. For one thing, nothing seems to change so if you've seen one debate you don't miss a thing by not watching the others although last night's was one of those You Tube debates. The idea behind them, I think, is to show the audience that those up on the stage doing the debating really aren't the most stupid people in the world. No sir, those asking the questions have them beat by a mile in that respect. Take this fellow who held up a Bible and wanted to know if all the debaters believed every word in it. That's all anyone would need to know about them, he said.
As might be expected, this threw them all into a tizzy. The former mayor didn't do too bad because he said some of those words were allegorical. The Baptist minister did even better when he said the Bible didn't really mean you should go off somewhere and pluck out your eye. A lot of us were in agreement about that.
But then it was the turn of the former governor of Massachusetts and as usual he hemmed and hawed around and everybody could see he was kind of shook up. The moderator would have none of it, though, and pinned the governor right to the mat by demanding to know if he believed every word in the book. By then the sweat was beginning to show and the governor looked around a little wild-eyed like he was hoping a bomb would go off or something like that to attract everybody's attention away from him. It didn't happen so a sickly smile showed up on the governor's face and he came right out and said yes. So right there with that one word he lost a couple of million votes although knowing how some people are, like the guy who asked the question in the first place, he probably picked up a few.
All in all it wasn't a good night for the governor. He replied to some questions by saying that as president he would consult the experts for the the answer. Now just about everybody knows presidents do that but folks kind of expect a candidate to at least pretend he has a mind of his own. And then he got pinned right to the mat again by a senator when the governor was asked how he felt about torturing prisoners and he said he'd consult the experts.
There was a congressman who stood at one end of the line and it took so long for the moderator to notice he was there I was beginning to wonder if he had got huffy and left the hall. Another congressman who is a little guy seems to have more sense than the rest of them put together but he comes across as Gomer Pyle with a brain. Then there's an actor who seemed to be in a fog for the first hour so he brought to mind Ross Perot's running mate who stood there on a stage and said, "Where am I, who am I?" much to the annoyance of Ross. That may have been overlooked by most folks because actors are used to having a script to read from.
Well, it was enlightening and all that but I was shaken up at the end when I realized that if forced to vote for somebody out of that bunch it would be a Southern Baptist minister who went on to be governor of Arkansas. That's enough to make an old Hoosier philosopher say, "I'd rather be buried up to my neck in sand and . . ."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Now That Was a Real Snow

It snowed on Thanksgiving night. Nothing much, just an inch or a little more, but we awoke Friday morning to find the first tracking snow of the season on the ground. It should be like that this time of year.
Our little snow brought memories of a much bigger one. That's the way it is as you grow older; something happens and a similar event from the past comes to mind. In this case it was Thanksgiving of 1950 and what followed that night.
I had the day off from my job of driving a G.I. Cab twelve hours a day, six days a week. The time was spent with friends at my parents house. The conversation continued until late evening so instead of going to bed at nine I was up until eleven. It was raining when I hit the sack for a little more than five hours sleep before it was time to get up and prepare to catch the 5 a.m. bus that would take me to downtown Akron. There I would transfer to another that headed east to where I would get off and walk about a mile to the cab company. I drove cab number one from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then Ben Gang would take over for his twelve-hour shift. When I arrived at the company he would have the cab washed, cleaned inside, gassed up and ready to go. I did the same for him in the evening.
Things didn't go quite that way on that Friday morning fifty-seven years ago. Rather than getting up when the alarm went off at 4:15, I arose to answer the phone at 4 o'clock. It was the night dispatcher and his words surprised me: "Don't come in today."
"Why not?"
"Take a look outside."
I went to a window and saw more than a foot of snow on the ground. More was coming down, an almost solid wall of white whipped about by a brisk wind.
It continued through the day and when it finally ended we had twenty-six inches on the ground, but that didn't tell the real story. The wind had piled it to a height of six feet in all but the most sheltered places.
A week went by before the buses started running and it was then that another call from the company told me to come in and pick up a check for $35, the average pay, including tips, for a seventy-two hour work week. When I arrived all that could be seen in the parking lot were two long rows of slight humps - the tops of our cabs - in a field of solid white.
That $35 was badly needed by those of us who drove full time. When I read about the shabby way so many companies treat employees today, that gesture never fails to come to mind. G.I. was a struggling company, a victim of prejudice by the city council that favored Yellow Cab in every possible way. Still, even though money was always a problem, the two men that owned the company placed the welfare of its thirty full-time drivers ahead of the bottom line.
So snow on a Friday morning after Thanksgiving always inspires thoughts of that beautiful cab number one, pale gray with a bright red top, some of the other drivers, all young veterans, and above all a company with a goal of more than merely making money. Over the years I haven't run across too many like that.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Presidential Candidate Campaigning in Iowa

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this warm welcome. What a pleasure it is to be back in the great state of Ioway and here among the friendly folks of Des Moines. Let me begin by – what was that? Oh yes, Cedar Rapids. Ha, ha, just wanted to be sure everyone is bright eyed and bushy tailed this beautiful morning. Cedar Rapids, of course.

Fred, how in hell can you let things like this happen? I pay you good money to see that they don’t.

Well friends, in only a few weeks now people all over this great state will be heading out after supper to a caucus. Let’s hope that every one of you fine – No lady, I said caucus, not ruckus. I thought everyone in Ioway knew – Oh, you’re from Indiana. Well, it’s always a pleasure to have a Hoosier among us. And now – Oh, you’re not really from Indiana, you were just visiting there before visiting Ioway. How nice. Yes, I hope the people who were supposed to meet your plane do show up.
Now when the wonderful folks of Ioway gather in living rooms all across the state it will – No, lady, they don’t have to gather in a living room. A family room would be fine. And as these good citizens sit down to discuss – Lady, a great room would do perfectly. Or a garage or any other damn place they care to meet.

Fred, will you get her out of here? I don’t care how, just put her on a plane or stuff a rag in her mouth, just do something.

And as I was saying, when these proud citizens discuss the candidates at all these various caucuses they will have – Look, lady, I know they’ve been discussing them for a year but this time they choose one to carry the banner of the party in the coming months as – No, woman, I did not say anything about having a party. Now could we please – Listen, if they want to have a party after the caucus that’s their business and either way it’s no skin off my nose.

Fred, for God’s sake do something. Help me out here.

So remember as you beautiful people head out to party – I mean caucus, of course, ha, ha, just my little joke – it is my sincere hope that you will place the good of the country before everything else and help me as I start down the long road to the White House. Thank you all, thank you from the bottom of my heart. God bless America!

Fred, what the hell do you mean she’ll be on the plane with us to Des Moines? I don’t give a big rat’s ass if she landed at the wrong place. She’ll get on that plane over my dead body and I mean that sincerely. You want one woman to destroy a multi-million dollar campaign single handedly? Is that what you want, Fred? Now get me a martini. Extra dry and make it a double.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Clyde, Where's the Turkey?

It wasn't my fault. For one of the few times in my life I was innocent as could be when everything turned sour. Jackie often says that from the moment I was born I have never been innocent, but she's wrong. This time I was innocent.
All I wanted to do was go to a football game, the Steel Valley Bowl game pitting Youngstown South, the city champion, against Struthers, the top finisher in the Steel Valley Conference. It was scheduled to begin at 10:30 on Thanksgiving morning.
The problem was my old beater couldn't be counted upon to get out of the driveway, much less travel forty miles to Youngstown and forty more back again. So I called my dad, Ol' CBS, and asked to borrow his Oldsmobile. As I knew he would, he said yes. Why not, when along with a few friends I would be having Thanksgiving dinner at my parents house?
It was an exciting game played in a downpour of cold rain that fell from start to finish. Soaked to the skin, I headed home with an appetite. Unaware, as it turned out, that the real drama had taken place when my mother said it was time for Ol' CBS to get the turkey.
She was never overly patient with him so when she saw him standing empty handed in the kitchen doorway a few moments later she said, "Clyde, where's the turkey?"
His reply: "In Youngstown."
It seems the bird was too big for the refrigerator so it had spent the night in the trunk of the Oldsmobile.
So Ol' CBS was ordered to go out and find a replacement. Fortunately I had left the keys to my decrepit heap in the ignition. If someone was foolish enough to steal it I wasn't going to make it difficult for them.
So off he went in search of a grocery that was open on Thanksgiving morning. It seemed there were none. He drove to a dozen or more before finding one that was, a hole-in-the-wall place miles from home. One turkey remained, a gaunt old bird about six inches wide, six inches high and three feet long. Even though it was the last turkey in town, my mother was less than thrilled when Ol' CBS carried it in the door.
But how was I to have known any of that? How was I to have known I had a passenger on my drive to and from Youngstown? I was innocent, yet my protests to that effect fell on deaf ears and to his dying day Ol' CBS felt it was just another of my pranks. Then, too, it wasn't just that he had been put to all that trouble, it also meant the big bird that had accompanied me to the game had to be cooked the next day so in one form or another Ol' CBS was eating turkey for nearly the entire month of December.
I borrowed his car a few times after that. For some reason he never was quite as gracious about it as he had been on that long ago Thanksgiving morning.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Casing the Colors and back to Iraq

Today at Fort Hood in the Lone Star State of Texas, the colors of the 4th Infantry Division are being cased in preparation for a return to the grim streets of Baghdad and its surrounding area. This will be the third tour of duty in Iraq for the Ivy Division. Last December my old outfit returned home after being relieved by the 1st Cavalry Division. Now they will take over from the 1st Cav and this time will stay fifteen months rather than twelve.
The first time the Ivymen traveled to Iraq they were stationed in and around Tikrit. Among their accomplishments was the capture of Saddam Hussein. During their two tours both men and women of the division were killed. The women served in support, not combat, units. That didn't prevent them from dying.
Some of the soldiers will be returning to Iraq for the third time, some for the second and a fair number will be making their first trip. Although the Fourth has a higher retention rate than other divisions, there were those who had seen enough of Iraq and left the service when their enlistments were up. In many cases this was at the urging of families who had more than their share of lengthy separations.

People glibly speak of supporting the troops. Others use that despicable phrase "boots on the ground." Soldiers wear those boots. Without them those boots mean nothing. Troops aren't merely large numbers of soldiers, they are individuals who leave loved ones behind and often die on foreign soil. In its first two deployments to Iraq, at least 214 from the 4th Infantry Division were killed in Iraq. Ten of them are pictured below. Look at their faces and sometimes think of them, and as you go about your daily routine give some thought to those now returning to Iraq. Not all will come back. Others will, some in good health and some with shattered bodies, but none will be quite the same as when they left. Most people will never understand why.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Sign of the Times in America

Twenty miles away in the town of North Canton they are getting ready to auction off the machinery and equipment in a neat-appearing factory in the heart of town. It's a sign of the times in America today and it isn't a happy one.
It began 100 years ago when a factory janitor named James Spangler rigged up a pillow case, soap box, broom handle and electric motor and used it to clean the floor. Spangler patented the gadget but a short time later sold it to W. H. Hoover, soon to be known as "Boss" to the people who went to work for him producing a little more sophisticated version of Spangler's machine.
The factory with a large smokestack bearing the name Hoover soon followed because these vacuum cleaners became an overnight hit. So much so that in England people still refer to it as "hoovering" the floor when it needs cleaning.
In North Canton, life revolved around that plant. They even named the school system Hoover. Shortly after World War II a friend and I went to see the North Canton Hoover Vikings play a game of football. At halftime the fans stood up and sang a song to the tune of the Field Artillery Song - When the Caissons Go Rolling Along. They changed the words a little so the song was about Hoovers rolling along, or sweeping along.
Yes, life in North Canton truly centered on that Hoover plant. But no more. Hoover will still manufacture vacuum cleaners, but not in North Canton and the company no longer is top dog in the field. Folks there blame it on mismanagement after Maytag took over Hoover some years back. Their jobs are gone and they say the same thing happened to Maytag employees out in Iowa. They also say the Maytag CEO had millions in his pockets when he left.
The same story can be told by millions of people who once were loyal employees of companies that packed up and left town, often for some place overseas. Is it any wonder that young people laugh when someone talks about being loyal to your employer?
No, it isn't the same America that it was when people were singing that song about the Hoovers sweeping along. The steel mills around Canton have shut down too, and twenty miles to the north the only tires they make in Akron are for racing cars. On Wall Street the people who make money without working for it call that progress.
There is an ironic twist to the story in North Canton. People are hoping that when everything has been auctioned off the tall Hoover smokestack will remain. Loyalty - even after taking a beating it is still ingrained in older generations. What will replace it for the young?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day - What Does it Mean?

It was known as Armistice Day, the day that ended the First World War (they called it the war to end all wars) at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when I raised my right hand and with twenty-two others took the oath on November 11, 1943. It was the beginning of a fateful adventure.
Thirty-eight years later I wrote a Veterans Day column for the Muncie Evening Press. Now twenty-six additional years have gone by so perhaps it is a good time to run it again.
Nov 11, 1981
Veterans Day, what does it mean? A great deal to some people, very little to most. A veteran, regardless of the war in which he or she served, is one of those who is left. That’s not the definition found in Webster’s, it appeared in a small volume titled "Beach Red" published 35 years ago – "War doesn’t prove who is right, only who is left." While this is a day to honor American veterans, it’s hard to tell one from another when the shooting stops. Those who do the fighting, regardless of the uniform they wear or the language they speak, are pretty much alike, just average guys who have to kill the wrong people. Not all American veterans saw the enemy at close range, of course, and those who did saw the wrong faces, not those of the Kaiser, Hitler, Tojo, or the top men of North Korea or the Viet Cong.
He lay on his side, curly blond hair matted by the afternoon rain, face pressed to the wet blacktop of a narrow country road. Fingers of one hand gripped a half-open first aid packet, water collected in an upturned helmet a foot away.He was too young to buy beer in Indiana. Too young to walk a college campus except as a visitor. Too young to die on a spring day when the air was warm and wild flowers bloomed nearby. But he did. And those who crouched beside the road took no pleasure in the fact. Some might say they should have because his uniform was a different shade and his helmet a different shape. A bullet fired by one of them had found him as its mark. No one boasted of the kill, no one claimed the trophy.
He was too old and too slow to keep up. The others cleared the wall and kept going. He was still trying to climb over, clawing at the top with fingers that suddenly relaxed as bullets tore his body. He turned and faced his pursuers, smiled a sickly smile as he sagged against the wall and to the ground. The overcoat that was too big came open and letters scattered in the wind. Someone picked one up, handed it to the squad leader. He opened the envelope and a photo inside was passed from man to man. Each in turn looked at the body slouched against the wall, and saw the face of the man holding a young girl on his knee. Behind them stood two older children and a woman. The squad leader knew the language, read the letter aloud. A commonplace letter, news of home, nothing special. At the bottom a postscript in a childish scrawl: "I love you, Papa. Hurry home." The squad leader reached for another letter. Joe, a hardened killer at 19, shook his head and said. "Don’t read any more, Eddie." No one raised a protest.
The tank 20 feet away fired again and again at the stone farmhouse in a narrow valley. Only between bursts could the clatter of rifles and machine guns be heard. A squad of riflemen, out in front of the rest of the company, crouched behind a thick dirt hedgerow, waiting to be ordered forward. A mile to the rear had been a training school for boys 12 and 13. They had joined the thin rank of defenders, been told to try to hold the line. They fought fiercely until cornered, then were little boys again. One of them squeezed through the narrow space between the tank and hedgerow, stopped and looked around uncertainly. His right hand held a rifle, tears streamed down his face. Someone cried, "Put your hands on your head." The words were lost in the incessant racket. Still, the boy grasped their meaning. He began to raise his hands, and with them the rifle. It was a threatening gesture. Only later, when there was time to think, came the realization that it was unintended. With it came the memory that would never go away – the look of disbelief, the shock, the pain. The ranks of the enemy were one fewer, but who was there to rejoice?
They have served by the millions in this century. And died by the millions. Young, old, black, white, red, yellow. From all walks of life, from every section of the globe, in uniforms of various hues. The differences seem small once they’ve died.. You look and wonder who he was, where he came from, who will cry for him.Those who are left gain weight, go bald, grow old while the medals tarnish in a drawer. The years pass but certain memories never fade. And those who didn’t squeeze a trigger never quite understand. Who can truly say whether it was worth it? No one, but any person of common sense knows there had to be a better way. Today is set aside to honor American veterans. Many countries have similar days. Until the time when they are unnecessary, any claims that men are civilized will ring hollowly over the countless graves of those who learned otherwise.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Pleasing Outcome For Once

Justice has prevailed! It doesn't happen often so that makes it all the more pleasurable when the usual course of events gets sidetracked. The unscrupulous guy mentioned in yesterday's blog lost the election. His female opponent received 54 per cent of the vote.
In the previous blog I failed to mention a really underhanded trick he tried to pull off. He had seven women sign up to also run for the office and all of them used their first, middle and last names just as his legitimate rival did. That would confuse the issue and draw votes from forgetful people, or so he thought. The election board threw them off the ballot.
It's too bad that sort of behavior has become commonplace in elections and the vast majority of the time it is a Republican who resorts to dirty tricks. I remember when it wasn't that way. Until recent year if there were nine offices up for grabs my ballot would be marked 5-4 or 6-3. In one election Republicans would have the edge, the next time it would be Democrats. No more. I'll never again vote for a Republican for any office. I don't think much better of the Democrats so I may just sit out future elections. I might not feel that way if I trusted the outcome, but I don't. Not the way it is done today.
Remember when the CEO of the company that makes a goodly share of the computerized voting machines said he'd do anything to see that George W. Bush was elected? After that remark, why would anyone have faith in the outcome of an election using equipment manufactured by his company? Another firm that makes similar machines is owned by a foreign conglomerate.
So why do they use these gadgets rather than paper ballots as they used to do? The news organizations like them for one reason: speed in publicizing the results. Crooked politicians - that's close to being redundant - like them because you can fix an election.
Despite everything that is wrong with the way Americans vote today, something good does happen now and then. It did yesterday right here in River City. When the dust settled, the guy who tried every underhanded move in the book was "unavailable for comment."
The results in this area were noteworthy in one other respect: nearly all incumbents won. I'm not sure if that shows what a wonderful job they have been doing or if it was just a case of sticking with the devil you know rather than taking a chance on the devil you don't know.
I'd like to see the entire system consigned to the dumpster. Fill every office from township trustee to president by lottery. The winner - or loser - would have to serve out the term and then go back to whatever he or she had been doing previously. No more campaigns. No more obscene amounts of money spent to buy an election. Could the result be any worse? What a silly question.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Voting on the day of blog number 200

It wasn't any sense of civic duty that led us to the voting booth today. At least it wasn't on my part. Every election it seems to be more of a case of voting against someone rather than for someone. Those on the ballot are usually such a pathetic lot.
So that was our only reason for being there - casting a vote against one man and one woman. The woman has been on city council since the majority of the inhabitants of the area were wolves, panthers and bears. Every election she puts up hundreds of pink signs defacing the landscape. That's why we voted against her.
The man is a real piece of work. He ran a full-page newspaper ad pointing out how wonderful he is and listing all his accomplishments. Beside that he ran the most unflattering photo of his opponent he could find. A blank space was her list of accomplishments despite the fact she is the incumbent clerk of courts. That's why we voted against him.
I voted against the issue that would have provided money for policing girlie shows. Not that I intend to visit one of those places but it smacks of Big Brother sticking his nose into one more place. Figuratively speaking, of course.
I'm not sure our votes were counted. After filling in ovals on a paper ballot it was handed to a woman operating a scanner. No matter that she had no idea how it worked, she was operating it. A couple of times she frowned and pressed one button or another, probably the one that deleted my ballot because I voted against the man and woman mentioned previously. It was a secret ballot, so how could anyone know who I voted for or against? Because before putting the ballot into the scanner the woman had to take it out of its folder and there it was for anyone close by to see.
Some people believe that voting matters. I never will until they go back to paper ballots. The electronic system makes it easy to juggle the results the way they did in Cleveland in 2004. When they tally up the score, take it with a large grain of salt.
# # #
The is blog number 200 in well under two years. That's not much of an accomplishment for someone who used to write 250 columns a year plus a hundred or more on sports plus a weekly travel column that ran in numerous newspapers plus sometimes covering other events and writing them up. Those columns were much longer than blogs. When the newspaper's executive editor hired me to do them the editor wondered if I could manage to come up with something to write about five days a week. The only problem was having far more material than I could use. Unless I am seriously tied down with another writing project I enjoy doing blogs. As Jackie says, it keeps me off the streets.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Clock Setting Blues

"Well, we did it again."
Sometimes you heard those words in the newsroom when a copy boy dropped off a stack of papers still warm from running through the big presses downstairs. They meant we had started work at 7 a.m. with dozens of sheets of paper with nothing on them but ads and a huge amount of white space. Six hours later we had filled up all the empty space and now there was a complete newspaper. We had done it again.
That's a little like setting all the clocks twice a year. Ahead in the spring, back in the fall, on and on it goes. Why can't we just stay on Daylight Savings Time all year? Think of the man hours it would save.
In Europe back during WWII we were on British Double Summertime. That meant the clocks were two hours ahead or two hours behind, one or the other. I can't recall that it changed from one season to the next but maybe it did. I believe I would have noticed if it had because it would have screwed up things like guard duty. While the fighting was going on the German pilots didn't give a damn what the clocks said, they were always there to drop bombs shortly after darkness settled in. Bed-check Charlie, you could set your watch by him.
Now that I no longer have to worry about Charlie, I have to worry about clocks. It's downright amazing how many of them we have. I normally don't notice except to occasionally glance at one in passing. But on clock setting days they seem to come crawling out of the woodwork. A visitor would think we are the most time-conscious people on the planet, and we aren't. So why all the clocks? I haven't a clue.
A few of these clocks, but not many, are set in the old-fashioned way by just turning a little knob. Most are electronic so it's more complicated. Far more complicated because each must be set in a different manner. After struggling with one for fifteen or twenty minutes you finally get it right and move on the next thinking you have it all figured out and the rest will be easy. Wrong. In six months you have forgotten that each has a completely different way of being set.
The cuckoo clock in the hall is especially troublesome because both the clock and the cuckoo have to be set. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with the bird. He has a mind of his own so at 10 o'clock he may call out nine times, or maybe eleven. Then he will shape up and get it right just long enough to prevent being strangled by the irate man of the house. If that happened it would please the hamster, Mr. Zip-Zip. Whenever cuckoo sings out he stops in his tracks, certain a monster is approaching.
So now as Sunday morning winds down all the clocks have been set and the semi-annual task is complete. Yes, we did it again.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

BULLETIN! - Drink Beer After Exercising

The news from the medical front just keeps getting better and better. The latest is that after exercising, drinking beer is more beneficial than gulping water. So after jogging up and down the hallway just reach for a Bud or a Blue Ribbon. If someone objects , tell them it's doctor's orders.
The only problem with this is, it isn't news at all. Infantrymen have known as much for eons. For proof, listen to a few old dogface marching songs:
Rack up another beer, boys, the infantry's hitting the road,
Time for another beer, boys, to help us lighten the load,
There isn't a war in history that wasn't won by the infantry,
So rack up another beer, boys, the infantry's hitting the road.

Then there's this old classic:
The infantry, the infantry, with dirt behind their ears,
The infantry, the infantry, they drink up all the beers,
The cavalry, artillery and corps of engineers,
Could never lick the infantry in a hundred thousand years.

Still not convinced? This should do it:
Old King Cole was a merry old soul and a merry old soul was he,
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl and he called for his privates three,
Beer, beer, beer, said the privates . . . and on and on through every rank in the Army. They all had something different to say, of course.
So there it is, proof positive that infantrymen are always a step ahead of the medics. Or in this case, centuries ahead.
# # #
Mystery writers are always looking for a new twist. Coming up with one isn't easy. My favorite is the woman who was sick and tired of having her husband hanging around so she finished him off by conking him on the head with a frozen leg of lamb. She then put the leg of lamb in the oven and cooked it.
The detectives couldn't find the weapon that committed the dastardly deed so they decided the killer had taken it with him when he left. The wife was off the hook. In the meantime the aroma of the lamb led them to tell her how wonderful it smelled. She then put plates on the table, sliced the lamb and the detectives sat down and ate the murder weapon.
It's embarrassing to admit I can't remember who wrote the story. That could be grounds for drumming me out of the Mystery Writers of America.

Friday, November 02, 2007


I kind of enjoy keeping up to date on all the things people need to be afraid of. Maybe it's because I always seem to be the one the fear mongers are talking about. It's sort of like I'm the Poster Guy For Bad Habits.
As everyone must know by now, the Fear of the Week for the end of October and beginning of November is being overweight. Now this is an old fear with a new twist so some people may not have been paying attention. That means it bears repeating here as a public service.
This time the folks who spend their working hours coming up with this stuff aren't talking about being grotesquely fat, they are saying a few extra pounds around the midsection is all it takes to come down with cancer and die. It's as bad for a person as smoking cigarettes, or so they are saying.
Now I've never made a scientific study of the subject but I am willing to wager that if they are correct this means 75 per cent of Americans will be dead within a year. If anyone doubts that they should glance around at the people in the shopping malls and other places where people hang out.
A hospital is another good place for sizing up obesity. Not the patients, the staff. On my monthly trip to the hospital a couple of miles away for a shot, we usually have lunch in the cafeteria and it's hard not to notice the amazing number of fat female employees. And a few males, but men come in a distant second in this race.
The point, though, is that there isn't much left to scare people about. It all began on a low key back in the 1960s. Don't eat bacon and don't drink coffee, those are the first two I remember. Then they really came down hard on smoking. And drinking. And not exercising. Then it was being so fat that you hadn't been able to see your feet in years. Now it's a few extra pounds around the waist. Some town is even trying to pass a law that restaurants and groceries can't serve or sell anything but low cholesterol food. Most likely it's a town in California.
So now you can't smoke, can't drink, can't eat anything that tastes good and should spend at least half an hour a day doing pushups and side straddle hops. Otherwise you may die. All this reminds me a routine by a couple of 1920s entertainers, The Happiness Boys. One was afraid he might not have long to go so he went to see a doctor. The doc asked him about all the things mentioned above. One by one he said he didn't do any of them so the doctor said, "Then why do you want to go on living?"
The Happiness Boys had a point there. So what's left to scare people about? Maybe the danger of getting the skin wet. We may be told one bath or shower a week should be the limit.
That would leave only one other thing I can think of: Sex. We've already been warned about social diseases and such, so next it may be plain old unvarnished sex. Want to bet that within a couple of years they won't be issuing warnings about that? No more than once a week, or twice on special occasions.
Being an octogenarian, I'm already well past my sell-by date so I don't pay attention to the warnings about things people should fear other than for amusement. I've never heeded them anyway. In my opinion the writer Jack London had the right idea when he said, "I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
He died when he was 43, of course.