Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Hanging Out with Tough Men

From the beginning of my formative years I have enjoyed the company of tough men, the kind who work at hard jobs and wouldn't have it any other way. Tirebuilders and men who worked in the vulcanizing pit at Goodyear were the first I knew. Next came Squint, a roustabout with Cole Brothers Circus. When it came to town in late spring I was there as the trucks arrived. Getting a job as a local - a townie - was no problem so I spent a memorable week working like a slave and studying the permanent workers, the men who put up and took down the huge tent, carried water and food for the animals, manned shovels to clean up after them and did any other mean job that came along.
I happened to be there when Squint shaved that first day. It was something to see and remember. Squint worked stripped to the waist so from his hairline to his belt his skin was the color and texture of tanned leather. He wasn't a boss but was the leader and hardest worker whatever the job might be. He could spot a problem and fix it without waiting to be told or until an accident happened.
Squint used all the circus lingo and could cuss with the best of them, but he talked like a college professor. He tolerated having me around so after a couple of days I began peppering him with questions. I asked if he had gone to college and he nodded his head. I asked where so he said Dartmouth. An Ivy League man. I asked why he was a circus roustabout and he answered with a question, "Have you ever worked in the office of a major corporation?"
He knew I hadn't. I said no so he said, "If you had, you wouldn't need to ask."
I made a point of always being there when Squint shaved. He started the way many men did, picking up a straight razor, the kind the British call a cutthroat. There the similarity ended. Squint dry shaved. No water, no shaving cream, just that cold steel blade cutting the whiskers from his leathery skin. Watching was painful, but I couldn't force my eyes to look elsewhere. When he finished he'd run a hand over his face and neck to make certain he hadn't missed a spot.
Six years in the infantry and working rough civilian jobs meant knowing many tough men and enjoying their company. Not one of them dry shaved. Only Squint. I'm glad I got to know him even if it was only for a week.


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