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, April 30, 2009

Buying American

This question was asked on TV news: "Would you buy an American car?"
Then a worker at a Detroit plant said, "It's time for a wake up call."
A wake up call for what? To buy only products made by an American company? Wonder where his TV set came from? Or his computer, or the suit hanging in his closet, his wife's new dress, his son's athletic shoes.
Or did he mean products put together in America? If so, our Toyota came from Lexington, Kentucky. Honda makes cars in a plant at Marysville, Ohio and Subaru in another at Princeton, Indiana. Those and other Japanese and German companies have numerous plants in the U.S.A.
I wonder a number of things about this man's wake up call. Does he feel we should be concerned about GM, Chrysler and Ford stockholders and executives making huge salaries and receiving obscene bonuses whether they deserve them or not? Did he rush out and buy a Studebaker or Packard or Hudson when those auto makers were on the verge of going under? Did he insist his new TV set was made here when the Japanese began producing superior products? Did he continue shopping at the locally owned stores downtown when the big boxes were going up? I wonder indeed.
Would I buy an American car, apparently meaning something made by GM, Chrysler or Ford? Should I forget the Chevrolets and Buick that were lemons? How about the Fords or Chryslers? It's decades too late to expect an affirmative answer from me. But we're making them really good now, they cry out. Am I to believe that? Maybe it's true, but why weren't they making a decent product in the past?
So my answer is a resounding "NO." To coin a fresh new phrase, the chickens have come home to roost. Nor do I appreciate the Chrysler TV commercials with American symbols in the background or those from Ford saying Honda makes good lawn mowers. Very cute. I'll bet that one plays well in Central Ohio where Honda is a major employer.
No, Detroit, I've learned my lesson. Learned it the hard way. You'll just have to look elsewhere for a customer. You waited too long to start building them well.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Silly People - Too Much News

It has been oppressively hot the past few days so I had no intention of writing a blog. Watching the noon news on TV changed my mind. It also made me wonder why so many Americans are frightened of everything today. Perhaps it is because there is too much news on TV and the Internet.
The big scare right now is swine flu. People are actually wondering what President Obama intends doing about it.
We have reached the point, have we, where we believe the president needs to take immediate action over an illness?
When I was a kid, polio was a far bigger threat than swine flu. People too young to remember those days probably can't comprehend the magnitude of the concern and justifiable fear. Everyone knew President Roosevelt had been stricken with polio when he was a young man. It left him crippled. Did Americans turn to him to solve the polio problem? Even kids my age would have laughed at the suggestion.
Then some woman who finished second in a beauty contest claims she would have won had she not said she was opposed to gay marriage. Why was she even asked? When did beauty contestants start thinking about anything more than themselves and how they look? It has become a big deal. Does any sensible person care what she thinks or says?
Next came Somali pirates. They have captured scores of ships without anyone putting up a fight. Half a dozen ragtag men just climb aboard and take over. When some are captured they are turned loose to do it again.
In the latest incident Israeli guards on an Italian cruise ship did fight back and drove them off. Ship owners say they don't have armed men aboard because some countries won't allow them in their ports if they do. So just tell them, "No guns, then no more ships will arrive."
Many of these incidents take place so far out to sea that the pirates in tiny craft are operating from a mother ship or ships. With all the modern technology, is it possible that no one can find these mother ships and sink them? Knowing the ports they come from, why aren't they raided? The French did it a few weeks ago to rescue one of their ships. Pirates are the worst sort of criminals. It is amazing that so little is being done about them.
I just don't understand people today. They worry about what some silly beauty contestant says, turn their back on pirates, call on the president to keep us safe from swine flu. Whatever happened to perspective and common sense?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weary, Wasted and Worn

It was 81 yesterday and is 82 today. Oppressive heat that drains all life and ambition from me. Could we bring back winter, please?
I don't mind the heat until it hits 75 or above. Then it wipes me out. I shudder whenever covering Cincinnati Reds spring training in Tampa comes to mind. The March heat was unbearable.
Upstate New York had the ideal climate when we lived in the village of Cooperstown. Even in July we'd build a fire when sitting on the patio in evening. I liked the standing joke when winter tourists would ask what we did in the summer: "If it falls on a Sunday we have a picnic."
Many evenings were spent at the Vet's Club shared by the Legion and VFW. When one had a dinner, the other would do the cooking and serving. We'd sit at the bar because there was always interesting conversation. The people there were the most informed and knowledgeable I have known.
The club in a building built in 1798 was directly across the street from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Just beyond it was the grave of James Fenimore Cooper. Visitors from around the country would stop in the club and often express surprise because New Yorkers were so friendly and nice. They had been led to believe otherwise.
In winter when it was 30 below we'd go out on the ice of Lake Otsego - the Glimmerglass of The Last of the Mohicans and Cooper's other stories - and watch auto racing on a slick track. The lake is the source of the Susquehanna River where there were canoe races in the spring. Sometimes a lone piper would stand where the river begins and play his bagpipe.
It was a wonderful area in the Northern Catskills between the Adirondacks just to the north across the Mohawk River and the Catskills to the south of the point where the Susquehanna sweeps to the west. Deer and bears roamed the densely wooded hills. The Mohawk warpath ran across the upper area of our property on Hannah's Hill.
It was, and is, an area of energetic people who work hard, move fast and accomplish a great deal. Wool sweater and warm jacket country of wondrous beauty. A great place to visit, a better place to live.
If we were there today I'm sure I wouldn't be sweltering in the oppressive heat of 82 degrees. It didn't used to get that hot in the Western Reserve during April. Global warming has a lot to answer for.

Friday, April 24, 2009

No Inflation, Huh?

The economists who know about such things say inflation is under control. Doesn't even exist, or so they tell us. They cite wholesale food prices as one example of everything being rosy and stable. Maybe it's time they got out from behind their desks, went to a grocery and checked retail prices.
At our nearby friendly supermarket this morning, a plain old loaf of bread was four bucks. The sliced corned beef that was $6.99 is now $7.99. The bulk candy - I like those little round things with Goetz printed on the label - just jumped from $2.49 to $3.00 a pound.
But there's no cause for concern. Inflation is under control.
Yesterday I stopped at the drug store. I used to go to a tavern for an eye-opener. Now it's the grocery or drug store. The 32 pipe cleaners that cost a quarter not too long ago went up to 67 cents and I complained. Now the price for the same pipe cleaners is $2.19. That's the discount price.
There's no inflation, though. The economists tell us so.
Then there's pipe tobacco. In recent years a 16-ounce pack of the kind I smoke went from $7 to $16. Then the first of this month the government slapped a $4 tax on it. The purpose is twofold: it will pay for children's health care and encourage people to kick the habit. Let's say we all quit, then what the hell happens to children's health care?
The United States government taught me to smoke. During the many months I was in combat they gave me free cigarettes. Then in the 1960s they announced it was bad for your health. Big discovery. As far back as 1915 they referred to cigarettes as coffin nails.
It infuriates me when someone says I should give up smoking a pipe. It's dangerous, they say. So is riding in a car or gulping fast food and dozens of other things. I enjoy the pipes so someday they'll have to pry one out of my dead mouth. Why should I give up a pleasure? So I can live a little longer and make it to a nursing home?
When after a heart attack the medics told my friend Ross Spencer he had to give up smoking and drinking he told them, "I'd rather live one day my way than 10 years your way." My sentiments exactly. Besides, if I give up smoking pipes, who's going to pay for children's health care? With inflation under control, I suppose everyone else can afford to.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Honorable Men Don't Torture

Word spread through the rifle companies that the regimental commander, Col. Russell P. Reeder, had been seriously wounded. He had been a star running back for Army during his years at West Point. Red Reeder's running days were over because he had lost a leg.
Along with many other wounded men he lay in the hot sun outside a battalion aid station tent. One by one the men were taken inside to be worked on by the battalion surgeon. Again and again Reeder told the aid men that all the others were to be cared for before his turn came. When only he and another man with a less serious wound than his own remained, he repeated the order. "But he's a German," he was told.
The colonel said, "Then first move him into the shade where he'll be more comfortable."
Red Reeder was an honorable man. Although in great pain, he insisted that an enemy soldier be made comfortable before he was treated himself.
Not long after that I was one of several men who lowered the swastika banner flying in front of Gestapo headquarters in the city of Cherbourg. It was a pleasure because evil men served in the Gestapo. They engaged in torture. Americans did not. Except on the rarest occasion, German soldiers did not. Evil men torture prisoners and most front line soldiers behaved honorably.
Little did any of us lowering the flag realize that the day would come when Americans did indeed torture prisoners. Nor could we have believed that the order to do so came from the very top.
Saying they are terrorists and are evil themselves isn't an excuse. We fought against men of Das Reich, the 2nd SS Panzer Division. On the way to the front they had wiped out the French village of Ouradour sur Glane. Only two of 687 people survived. The women and very young children were locked in the church, then it was set afire. If anyone tried to escape, they were gunned down. The older children were taken on a "picnic" and shot.
We captured men from Das Reich. Evil men indeed. We didn't torture them.
Should I have saved that Gestapo flag so that one day I could raise it on a pole at CIA headquarters? No, I'm too ashamed by behavior I never expected of Americans. From the highest ranking to the lowest, those who have engaged in or approved of torture are evil, dishonorable men. No excuse is acceptable. Those who contend it was justified are less than honorable themselves. If he were still living, what do you suppose Red Reeder would have to say about the torture of prisoners? I know. Some who call themselves Americans do not.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What is a Terrorist?

There has been a lot of talk about terrorists and torture again lately. So what exactly is a terrorist? If someone is on your side he's a freedom fighter, a member of the resistance. If he's not on your side he's a terrorist.
Members of all the resistance groups during World War II were, from our point of view, freedom fighters. The French and Russian underground members, like their counterparts in other occupied countries, were freedom fighters. That was our opinion. The Nazis called them terrorists.
A terrorist is someone without an air force on his side. He has no tanks or massed battalions of artillery. He doesn't have a navy. The French underground, the one Americans are most familiar with, had none of those things so they blew up bridges, trains and other targets. They ambushed German vehicles and men. They engaged in spying and relayed information to the Allies. To the Nazis they were terrorists. We welcomed their support so we thought of them as freedom fighters.
During that war, four counties engaged in terror bombing of cities and civilians: Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. Was it wrong? Of course. Those who engaged in it thought it would make their enemies lose the will to fight. It didn't. It made them fight all the harder.
Most, but not all, of those we call terrorists today come from Muslim countries. One of the reasons they don't like us is we always oppose them and support Israel no matter what the circumstances may be.
So who is right and who is wrong? Everybody is wrong. Killing people you disagree with is always wrong. It's a sign that somewhere along the way you have failed. To compensate for that failure you kill and get killed. You become self-righteous and call your enemy names. Like 6-year-olds in a playground brawl. Nothing is ever solved. Your enemy today becomes your friend tomorrow.
During the past century, countless millions have died in wars. Many were civilians. The First World War of 1914-1918 was called the War To End All Wars. Wasn't that a hoot?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

He Always Wanted a Friend

We joined the National Guard at the same time, Ken and I. He decided I would be his buddy. We both were infantry combat veterans of the war that had ended a few years earlier, but there the similarity ended. I was there for the camaraderie found in a rifle company. He was there because he loved everything about the Army. He'd put on his uniform even to walk to the corner grocery for a loaf of bread.
At summer camp he had the bunk closest to the barrack door and mine was next to his. Someone forgot to assign men to KP for our first full day at Camp Atterbury. The CQ came in at 4 a.m., shook Ken awake and said he needed a KP. Thinking I was asleep, Ken said the man in the next bunk would do fine. I went ahead and spent the day in the kitchen without saying a word, but Ken got the cold shoulder from me from then on.
Soon we both were staff sergeants, but on different paths. He was on the way up. I got teed off about something and told the captain what he could do with the stripes. He didn't, but I was a private again.
Then we were federalized for the Korean War. They promoted me to corporal and gave me the job of sergeant at corporal's pay. Our First Sergeant was made a warrant officer and Ken was given his old job.
He had a private room at the end of the barrack and would parade around at night in pajamas and a red bathrobe. No one else wore pajamas. He liked to say RHIP, rank has it privileges. No one could stand to be near him. When he'd join a group of guys talking, the others would leave. Everyone had found out what I had learned that first night at summer camp.
He tried to make men like him. All he'd get were one-word responses. One night six or eight of us were drinking beer at a table in the PX when Ken walked in. He bought a Zippo lighter and came over to our table to show it off. I said, "Nice," just to get rid of him. He went back and bought another lighter and handed it to me. Then he flicked his own, but they had put in too much fluid and it was a ball of flame. He dropped it onto the floor that was oiled to keep it from warping. The floor caught fire and everyone was stamping their feet to put it out so we wouldn't lose our PX. The jukebox was playing so it looked like we were doing some sort of ritualistic dance.
Eventually I was discharged but Ken reenlisted, going for a 20 or 30 year career. I never had the misfortune to see him again but I heard years later that his son joined up and they were together. He finally had someone he could call a friend.
The last I heard of Ken, he and the son were convicted of rape and went to prison together. Guess he still had one friend.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Jack the Tripper

On the off chance that someone might be interested in reading the latest Jack Eddy story, Jack the Tripper can be found in the June issue of the magazine pictured at left.
It is a story featuring two not-very-nice men. One is a bully of the worst sort, the other is an unscrupulous con man.
A boyhood escapade of the con man is based on a true story involving a close relative of my grandfather, J.T. Lynch. In his own way, J.T. was a bit of a bully. As he was an insurance salesman, probably somewhat of a con man as well.
Whatever, when his relative was a boy of 12 he wanted to wear his good suit to a circus that had come to town. Not only was this an unusual request, it was outrageous. Or so believed his parents.
As might be expected, the request was denied. The angry boy said, "If I can't wear my good suit, you'll never see me again."
No one took this seriously. Who would? But the lad was true to his word, they never saw him again. They searched, but to no avail.
For the next sixty or so years, family members kept hoping he would show up. Not because they missed him. Most had never even seen the kid. The vain hope was based on only one thing, that over the years he had become a fabulously wealthy man. Naturally he would be eager to share his riches with the family he had deserted. There would be enough, of course, to share with all the cousins, aunts, uncles and their numerous descendants.
As more than a hundred years have gone by since his trip to the circus in old clothes, I have all but given up hope of this happening.
Anyway, that played a very small role in Jack the Tripper. You might say I just threw it in to show this guy was an unusual character. From the way he behaves in the story there is little reason to believe he was the sort of man willing to share his ill-gotten gains with anyone, least of all his relatives. You might say that making him a dirty rat was a display of my contempt for the real man and his refusal to come back with his pockets loaded.

Friday, April 17, 2009

My Stimulus Check & Bedbugs

A notice came today from Social Security saying I would receive a $250 check next month as my share of the Stimulus Bill. Not on par with the bonus of an AIG executive, yet nothing to sneeze at.
I walked out to where Jackie was toiling over the income and outgo books and said, "I'm getting $250."
"No you're not."
I showed her the letter. "It says so right here. See?"
"What it means is, the general fund is getting $250. So that you'll feel good, when it arrives I'll add five dollars to your $15 weekly allowance. Just that week, of course."
I'll say one thing, I never lost $245 so fast in my life.
The news says the country is being overrun by bedbugs. The best place to find them is at a hotel. I have never seen a bedbug and hope to keep it that way, but an old friend from Muncie grew up with them. They are smart little critters. When his mother placed a can filled with water under every leg of his bed, these not-so-dumb bugs would crawl up the wall and out onto the ceiling. When they were positioned over his bed, they'd let go.
My friend was black, a United Methodist minister and a civil rights activist. We met because I covered the "do-gooder" beat when I first arrived in Muncie. He was seen as the cause of racial problems in the city. Actually he was the solution if people had possessed the sense to see it. Few did.
His grandfather had been burned at the stake in Alabama and his father lynched there for a crime he didn't commit. His mother took the family north to the tough little town of Martins Ferry, Ohio. His 12-year-old sister was raped and thrown into the Ohio River to drown.
He wrote a book about his mother and named it for her, Lillie. She taught herself to read by studying the Martins Ferry newspaper every day. To support her family she walked across a railroad trestle to a maid's job in Wheeling, West Virginia. That was OK unless a train came along. She put both of her sons through college. My friend graduated from Ohio Wesleyan.
Quite a woman, Lillie. The only obstacle she couldn't overcome was those bedbugs. A minor problem, all things considered.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Taxes: Are They All Bad?

Some right-wingers are upset about paying taxes. OK, let's do away with them.
Be on the lookout, though, for axle-breaking potholes when you're driving your car. Don't cross a bridge because it might fall out from under you. Take special care not to have an accident because there won't be any paramedics coming to help you, just an ambulance with a driver who doesn't even know how to apply a band aid. That's the way it used to be. If someone is injured seriously don't look for a medical helicopter to fly the victim to a major trauma facility. It won't be coming.
We could get by without cops or fire fighters, couldn't we? Just don't let your house catch fire or get held up. Beside, those things only happen to other people.
As for schools, who needs 'em? People could get together and build a one-room school so the neighborhood kids could learn their ABC's. A family could provide room and board for the teacher for a month, then she could move down the street to another house for a month. Hey, it used to work, didn't it?
Think of the tax money that could be saved by shutting down the state universities. If some kid wants to go to college, let the parents send him to Harvard or Princeton. There was a time when it was that way.
We could do without public transportation. If some guy needs it to get to work, let him walk or get a horse.
Public health systems? Another luxury. Let's all look out for ourselves.
Think of how much tax money could be saved by doing away with the military. What do they do anyway except fight wars in faraway places?
We could do away with the courts and just about every office at the courthouse and city hall. The same with all those federal agencies. If there's a flood or a tornado or a hurricane, well those people who were wiped out should have lived somewhere else.
So there's a start. No more taxes to pay. Sounds great, doesn't it? If not, then quit bellyaching about paying for such things.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

I've been too busy to blog the past few days. Then I got thinking again about being at Fort benning in 1952 and that took time. For six weeks I rented an apartment a block from downtown Columbus, Georgia. It was a bustling business district and just a short walk from the baseball stadium.
I had the apartment about a week when Fleming and Goulding cornered me and asked if a package had arrived there for them. Why, I wanted to know, would a package for them be delivered to my apartment in town?
"It would be safer," said Fleming. I didn't bother to ask more.
Every day they asked about it and every day I'd tell them no. Then it came, a two-foot cube in plain brown paper. I lugged it onto the camp bus. They were elated.
That night I stayed in camp and was in the sack by 9 p.m. I was on the verge of dozing off when Fleming came running up saying, "Stodgy, Stodgy, pretend you're asleep." I told him I would have been if he'd kept quiet.
Several minutes went by, then there was an explosion in the latrine at the far end of the barrack. I laid there until it dawned on me that anyone in his bunk would be looked upon with suspicion. Everyone but Fleming and Goulding was in the latrine, where all the porcelain had been blown off the shower room walls. The package delivered to my address had contained cherry bombs and M-1 firecrackers, the big kind.
One day as we headed out to the field, Goulding was carrying a metal tube and Fleming a Coke bottle. At lunchtime, when we went off by ourselves to eat our sandwiches and drink our beer, I saw that the tube was to be a mortar and the bottle was a shell. As they gleefully went to work, I sat looking out over a broad field about fifty yards below our level. In the distance a platoon was seated in a semi-circle while an officer delivered a lecture.
At the sound of a cherry bomb exploding, I turned and saw the Coke bottle flying away in the air. As it began its descent it became obvious the officer and his men were at ground zero. It hit about six feet to the officer's left. Men were leaping up, shouting and point. The mortar was left behind as Fleming, Goulding and I ran back to be hidden among the other men in our company.
Later I delivered a stern admonition. Someone might have been killed. They were having too much fun to listen. I spent many uneasy hours wondering if that package could be traced back to me. Had it been, my friends would have expected me to take full credit for the explosions occurring around Fort Benning. For them, that would have been safer.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Singin' Sam sold me on Barbasol

No time for blogging today because three months have gone by so I have to head out to the VA Clinic to have my toenails trimmed. The VA, like any organization even remotely connected to the military, has everything figured out down to the smallest detail. They know that 90 days is the exact amount of time it takes for toenails to become obnoxious and start ripping holes in sheets and punching right through the front of your socks.
This brings to mind that this morning I finally used the last of a can of Colgate shaving cream I bought more than a year ago at one of those "nothing more than a dollar" stores. I got my buck's worth because for months I've been waiting for it to empty out so I could start using Barbasol again. Being a Great Depression kid, I couldn't just throw it away because doing so would have been a cardinal sin. You always used up everything, ate every bite of food on your plate and never bought anything smaller than a house on credit.
When I got out the new can my thoughts naturally turned to Singin' Sam, the Barbasol man. He had a deep and mellow voice that was just right for the old songs and the popular ballads of the day. You never heard him sing the frivolous stuff like "The Flat Foot Floogie" or "Three Little Fishies."
No, Sam's radio show was devoted to more serious things than that although he was a genial fellow who always seemed upbeat no matter how dismal conditions might be in the world. Perhaps that was because he was from Richmond, Indiana.
There was another somewhat similar singer of that era known as Smilin' Ed McConnell, but he sang a lot of religious songs so I always tuned him out. Before Sam and Ed there were two popular figures know as The Happiness Boys on radio. They continued on though the 1930s although their greatest popularity came during the Roaring Twenties when there was more to be happy about.
So tomorrow I'll be shaving with Barbasol again, thanks to Singin' Sam the Barbasol Man. In honor of the occasion I put a new blade in the razor and will have neatly trimmed toenails.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Three Years of Blogging

In a few days there will have been three years of Stodghill Says So blogs. The title comes from the predictions I made on high school football and basketball games in the Muncie area from 1970 through the early months of 1990. For a number of years in the 1980s the paper ran a contest in which fans could try to outguess me. Many did some weeks.
The title dated to the very first day the predictions were published. I convinced sports editor Jerry Fennell it would be a good idea as it guaranteed that before hurrying out to a game, fans would pick up the Evening Press. Fennell was dubious, fearing readers might overlook a byline and believe it was he doing the predicting. To avoid that he ran a kicker above them - Stodghill Says So.
The name, and the predictions, caught on. For a few years I even predicted the scores of games involving city or Delaware County schools. That got things off to a roaring start when that first night I covered the Yorktown-Centerville football game after predicting Yorktown would win 20-19. Yorktown won 20-19. Fans were in awe, talking of little else as they left the field that night.
Things didn't always turn out so favorably. One year I was 1-9 on the outcome of Delta High School football games. They invited me to the team banquet, where I was presented a trophy topped by the south end of a northbound horse. The following year I was 9-1 on Delta games so they invited me back and gave me the other half of the horse.
Before a big basketball game I predicted Delta would lose. They won. When I walked into the newsroom the next morning the ceiling was covered with blue and gold balloons. Those Delta fans were hardcore.
Over the years I was right 75 percent of the time. The best year was 85 percent, the worst 72. Not bad when you didn't have inside information so were unaware the Elwood quarterback had broken up with his girlfriend a few hours before the big game with Tipton. Similar traumatic events sometimes affect high school boys in unpredictable ways.
So I was a star one week, a bum the next. The important thing is that it was fun for me and fun for the fans. You'd better believe that because Stodghill Says So.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Silly Slogan and Idea Time

People saying foolish things pop out of the woodwork every time some self-centered cretin who can't face disappointment opens fire on people. I heard a few while watching Headline News at lunchtime.
First some redneck repeated that most infantile of all slogans, guns don't kill people, people kill people. If you want to get technical about it, bullets fired from guns kill people.
After that a so-called I-Reporter came on screen to say the answer to mass murder is to have more people carry concealed weapons. He claimed just one person with a gun could have prevented the 53 killings during the past month. That figure doesn't include the many single murders committed with guns during that time.
The man who believes that having more people with guns seems to forget that the three policemen killed in Pittsburgh were carrying guns. He forgets the victims out west were children asleep in their beds.
Another said that handguns are fine if they are registered. The two guns used to kill 13 people in Binghampton were registered.
Most of the people spouting silly ideas and slogans have never killed anyone with a gun. Most of them believe killing someone with a gun is as easy as hitting a paper or cardboard target. It is if you walk into a room and open fire on a group of unsuspecting and shocked people. Squeezing a trigger is no more difficult than squeezing toothpaste from a tube.
However, if you are one of those shocked people, drawing your own weapon and hitting the shooter in a vital place is far from easy. He's going to pick you as a target and his gun is out and ready. You would have to assume he's wearing a bulletproof vest as the shooters in Binghampton and Pittsburgh were. That means you must hit him in the head, a smaller target than a body and one that moves more easily and more frequently. You must do this under extreme stress.
In infantry close combat everyone has a gun, yet men die. All are well-trained soldiers and many have killed before. Merely having a gun won't keep you alive.
Practical experience has taught me that killing an armed man capable of moving and doing it under highly stressful conditions isn't quite so easy as it may seem. It has no relationship with hitting a target on a firing range. Some can do it, many cannot.
The answer to ending the horrific violence committed with guns won't be found by looking for a solution in this country. We need to look to countries where gun ownership is not foolishly considered some sacred right. The sloganeers will have to be pushed aside and ignored. Cooler heads and smarter people will have to lead the way. Will it happen? Not likely. There aren't enough brave men and women willing to stick their necks out. Most would rather risk being shot.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

When will it end?

Will sanity ever prevail again? Has mass murder become so commonplace in this country that it now is acceptable just so long as it happens somewhere else? But just where is "somewhere else" today?
Is the "me" way of thinking responsible? It certainly plays a role. Self esteem based on nothing more than idle praise has been pounded into people for decades. TV commercials tell them they deserve this and deserve that until they believe it is true. Then something happens and suddenly the perfect world they feel they are entitled to isn't quite so perfect any longer.
The smart and the strong pick up the pieces and start to rebuild. The weak pick up a gun, go to the place or places they feel destroyed their happiness and open fire at random.
I don't understand that way of thinking. Uncle Sam once paid me $70 a month to kill people with a gun. Who knows how many because they can't keep score in the infantry. They told me there was a purpose to it. As the years have gone by and events have unfolded I sometimes wonder if that were true. There have been setbacks and disappoints along the way and yet the idea of picking up a gun and killing everyone in sight has never crossed my mind, or the minds of the others I know and have known who once were paid to kill.
There are too many drugs and too many guns in this country, of that there is no doubt, but citing either as the cause is too easy. Wars have created a culture of killing and made it acceptable if the "right" people are doing the dying, but that doesn't seem to account for it either.
Maybe it's time for Americans to quit worrying about foreign terrorists and start concentrating on the homegrown variety. The idea that the country has been kept safe since the twin towers came down is laughable. Just where is anyone actually safe? Not walking along the street, not in church, not in school, not at work, not in a quiet small town, not even at home, not anywhere. You don't need to have enemies to be gunned down, you merely need to be in a certain place at a certain time. You needn't do anything more dangerous than shop for groceries or pump gasoline into your car.
So what's the answer? I certainly don't know, but the time is long past when people should think about it and perhaps find an answer. Americans need to know why this has become a land of mindless violence.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Those Killer Prescription Drugs

If you can believe the Ohio Department of Health, and I have no particular reason not to, drug overdoses are killing more Ohioans than traffic accidents. This does not come as a shock to those of us who watch an occasional TV show.
According to the report, that old standby heroin still plays a big role in hurrying people along to the boneyard. The sharp increase, however, is the work of prescription pain killers. I imagine the pharmaceutical companies will rush to say the drugs are effective because while lying six feet beneath the dirt a person doesn't feel much pain.
Viewers of Bones or House or reruns of Boston Legal knew this was coming. The commercials touting prescription drugs have been getting more ominous of late. In the past, after they had to start listing side effects, we were warned that these effects might include nausea, difficulty in breathing or an erection lasting more than four hours. There are those among us who do not feel the latter is anything to be concerned about.
Times have changed, though. Now, after mentioning all the virtues of a drug, some of these commercials go on to say, "Side effects may include death . . ." After hearing that, there doesn't seem much reason to listen further. Anyone who does will hear a lengthy list of nasty possibilities and then on at least one of these come-ons there is a final warning of "sudden death."
And yet people take this stuff.
It seems to me that the bureaucrats who regulate these products might draw the line at approving any of them mentioning death as a possibility. They might just as well announce that Russian Roulette is OK if your doctor says to give it a try.
My advice, not that anyone asked for it or will be listening, is to remember before popping a pain killer into your mouth that it just might kill more than your pain. Just ask the Ohio Department of Health.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Living it up at Fort Benning

When the opportunity arose for three men from K Company to leave Camp Polk for a 14-week Weapons and Leadership School at Fort Benning, Fleming, Goulding and I leaped at it. Starting another cycle of basic training when a new detachment of men arrived held no appeal whatsoever.
We made the trip to Columbus, Georgia on a DC-3 from the Flying Tigers Airline. It was uneventful aside from having a few men ask why the wings were flapping.
We were setting up our bunks in a barrack, the three of us near the far end, when I saw an officer walk in the door. He came straight for me, scowling. “Soldier, don't you call ‘Attention’ when an officer walks in the room?"
I blinked a few times and squinted in his direction. "Begging your pardon, sir, I didn't have my glasses on and couldn't see you."
Knowing I didn't wear glasses, Fleming removed his and tossed them on his bunk so I could pick them up if the officer ordered me to put mine on. It proved unnecessary as all he said was, "After this wear your glasses." He then stalked out the door without ever explaining why he had entered in the first place.
We soon learned that the "school" at Benning was nothing more than an infantry basic training cycle. A good share of the men in our company were from the Air Force. That didn’t make any more sense than sending the three of us all that way to do exactly the same thing we would have been doing at Polk.
The food at our mess hall was the worst I ever ate, or couldn't eat, during my two tours in the Army. We could skip breakfast and eat dinner elsewhere, but were captives for lunch. Soon men began packing lunches. Anyone watching us hike out to the field would have seen a company of men with rifles slung over one shoulder and a brown bag swinging along in their other hand. Only a few cretins ventured near the chow truck when it arrived.
One day Goulding came back from town with a small round cooler with a handle for carrying. From that day forward we put three cans of beer and a lot of ice in the cooler, then covered it all with grape Kool-Aid. If a nosy officer decided to inspect it, all he would have seen was purple juice.
At lunch time we would find a place off by ourselves, eat our lunchmeat sandwiches and Twinkies, then drink a cold can of Budweiser or Blue Ribbon. It made the day a whole lot brighter.
I have written previously about our platoon sergeant, the most vulgar man I have ever met. Considering the people I have associated with all my life, that’s saying a great deal. One day while having us standing at attention he told us about his wife. "When I'm off in Korea or someplace I expect her to get that itchy feeling and that's OK just as long as I'm head hog at the trough when I'm home." That was far more information than most of us cared to hear. Turned out, though, that another hog was getting to the trough ahead of him.
And so went the 14 weeks. Fleming, Goulding and I didn’t learn a thing we didn't already know, but at least we were away from Polk.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

New Glasses Coming Soon

I can see again today. Yesterday we made another trip to the VA Clinic for my annual eye exam and just about everyone knows what that means - eye drops. Actually you can see after receiving them, but everything is blurry and a thousand times too bright when you step outside.
The VA doesn't fool around when it examines your eyes. I'm always a little amazed by the number of machines and you have to go from one to the other before it's all over. I don't mind that except for the one that smacks you in one eye and then the other. I got by OK this time but last year my left eye hurt for a week after receiving a Mike Tyson-style punch.
So when it was all over the optometrist said my eyes were a little better if anything, but she ordered a pair of computer glasses for me. That came after I told her my old ones were useless while working unless I was willing to have a permanently stiff neck. Using drug store glasses was fine, she said, but prescription lenses should be even better. Just don't forget and try to drive while wearing them, she said. Not likely I told her, since I can't walk and wear glasses at the same time.
Visiting the VA Clinic is usually a little sad because some guys, both young and old, are in bad shape. I talked for a while with a Vietnam vet who gets around in one of those powered chairs they call scooters that the VA gave him. He said I should be dead because most World War II vets already are. I told him to quit rushing me.
Sometimes an ambulance arrives to cart someone away. Yesterday there were two at the same time. I always feel a little bad about that, knowing the guy being wheeled out had come in under his own power and expected to go home the same way.
You hear some bad things about certain VA facilities because the TV news people love to jump at stories like that. The Akron clinic isn't that way at all. The people who work there bend over backwards to be helpful, considerate and understanding. No one ever gets angry when some old vet is a little slow and confused or a young one gets impatient. On top of that they provide the best medical attention I have ever received. I like the free stuff they give me, too. Glasses, rollators, things like that and big books explaining why everything I've been doing all my life is wrong as far as healthy living is concerned.