Among Eagles

Spent several days last week in Marquette with my old comrades from the 46th Air Refueling Squadron. Great time. They were all men who walked the talk, and have done so their whole lives. It was very humbling to be among them.  Will post photos soon as I can, but software for transfer is still gone doggo. Until later, over.

Reading List

A lot of people ask what I read.  Here’s the list of everything i plowed through so far this year. At least those I remembered to write down. I have some great photos for the blog, but my Firefox and blog software are in blinkage and not working properly, so the pix will have to wait. [NF] means nonfiction. *** means great read, at least by my standards. We’re each unique and often read for different reasons.

Joseph Heywood. Shadow of the Wolf Tree.[page proofs]

Leighton Gage. Buried Strangers.

Leighton Gage. Dying Gasp.

Karen D. Vitelli, Ed. Archaeological Ethics. [NF]

*** Ben Fountain. Brief Encounters  With Che Guevara. [SS]

Joseph Heywood. Force of Blood [manuscript]

Ken McCullough. Travelling Light [P]Ken McCullough. Obsidian Point: A Triptych [P]

U San Oeur with Ken McCullough. Cross Three Wildernesses: A Memoir [NF]

***  Ken McCullough. Left Hand. [NF

*** James Armstrong. Blue Lash. [P]

Ken McCullough. Sycamore. Oriole. [P]

Ken McCullough. Walking Backwards [P]

Stephanie Mills. In Service of the Wild: Restoring and Reinhabiting Damaged Land. [NF]

Lewis MacAdams. Birth of The Cool: Beat, Bebop, and the American Avant-Garde. [NF]

James Brady.  The Marines of Autumn.

Thomas Keneally. Bring Larks and Heroes.

Charles E. Cleland. Rites of Conquets: The History and Culture of Michigan’s Native Americans. [NF]

Helen Hornbeck Tanner, Ed. Miklos Pinter, Cartographer. Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History [NF]

Grace Lee Nute. Lake Superior [NF]

***Sprague Taylor. Tahquamenon Country: A Look at Its Past. [NF]

Alvah L. Sawyer. A History of the Northern Peninsula of Michigan and It’s People. [NF]

Angus Murdoch. Boom Copper: The Story of the First US Mining Boom. [NF]

Bob Lemieux. Off Wing. [Manuscript]

William W. Lutz. The News of Detroit: How a Newspaper and a City Grew Together. [NF]

Jeanie Wylie. Poletown: Community Betrayed. [NF

Josephine Daniels. The Wilson Era: Years of Peace – 1910-1917. [NF]

Phyllis Lee Levin. Edith and Woodrow: The Wilson White House. [NF

Joseph Heywood. Force of Blood. [Manuscript]

*** Ken Bruen. Once Were Cops.

*** Ken Bruen. Guards.

*** Ken Bruen. The Killing of the Tinkers.

*** Ken Bruen. The White Trilogy.

Robert Ludlum. The Tristan Betrayal.

*** Michael Delp. As If We Were Prey [SS]

*** Harrison E. Salisbury. The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad. [NF]

Joseph Heywood. Force of Blood. [Manuscript]

*** CJ Box. Nowhere To Run.

*** Bob Smith. Hamlet’s Dresser: A Memoir. [NF]

Sara Nickles, Ed. Drinking, Smoking & Screwing: Great Writers on Good Times. [NF

John Gardner. On Becoming a Novelist. [NF]

Paul West. Master Class: Scenes From a Fiction Workshop. [NF]

Lewis Copeland & Lawrence W. Lamm. The World’s Greatest Speeches. [NF]

Library of Freedom. Great American Speeches. [NF]

Davy Rothbart. Found: The Best Lost, Tossed, and Forgotten Things From Around the World. [NF]

US Government. 1914 Report on Michigan Copper Range Strike. [NF]

*** Philip Kerr. The Shot.

*** Nathaniel Philbrick. The Last Stand; Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. [NF]

*** John Smolens. The Anarchist.

***Philip Kerr. Dead Meat.

Joseph Heywood. Force of Blood. [manuscript]

Robert Edmond Alter. Carny Kill.

Howard Zinn. Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal. [NF]

Richard Ford. Independence Day.

***Joyce Cary, The Horse’s Mouth.

Stuart M. Kaminsky. A Fatal Glass of Beer. [Toby Peters Mystery].

Michael Genrich. Megis.

*** Tony Horwitz. A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World. [NF]

***Lewis H. Carlson. Van Gogh’s Right Ear: Dissonant Chords for the Progeny. [NF]

***Jack Hemingway. Misadventures of a Fly Fisherman: My Life With and Without Papa. [NF]

Paul Griner. The German Woman.

James L. Haley. Wolf: The Lives of Jack London. [NF]

Rena T. Thompson. A History of Kinross Township. [NF]

Ida Amanda Johnson. The Michigan Fur Trade. [NF]

*** Evan Thomas. The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst and the Rush to Empire, 1898. [NF]

*** Gordon S. Wood. The Purpose of the Past: Reflections on The Uses of History. [NF]

*** Paul Murray Kendall. Richard III. [NF]

Jeff Shaara. The Steel Wave.

James Bradley. Flyboys. [NF]

*** Susan Jacoby. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. [NF]

*** Sebastian Junger. War. [NF]

Janet Ivanovich and Ina Yalof. How I Write. [NF]

UNK. 1883-2008, Rudyard. [NF]

Francis Osborn. The Bolter. [NF]

Louis S. Warren. The Hunter’s Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth Century America. [NF]

Rick Bragg. Ava’s Man. [NF]

Hialeah Jackson. Farewell Conch Republic.

Howard Zinn. Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal. [NF]

Denis Johnson. Tree of Smoke.

Rick Bragg, The Prince of Frogtown. [NF]

Clarence J. Monette. Allouez, New Allouez and Bumbletown. [NF]

Larry Lankton. Cradle to Grave: Life, Work, and Death at the Lake Superior Copper Mines. [NF]

*** Jane Fletcher Geniesse. Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark. [NF]

*** Martin Cruz Smith. Three Stations.

Jerry Stanley. Big Annie of Calumet: The True Story of the Industrial Revolution. [NF]

Nevada Barr. Burn.

Melvin J. Visser. The Climate Trap: A Perilous Tripping of Earth’s Natural Freeze Protection System. [NF]

Peter France. Hermits: The Insight of Solitude. [NF

*** David Finkel. The Good Soldiers. [NF]

Carl Hiassen. Star Island.

*** Patrick Hennessey. The Junior Officer’s Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars [NF]

*** Leonard Shlain. Sex, Time and Power; How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution. [NF]

Bitten by the Bug

Shooting the 1896 30/40Krag Jorgensen carbine (180 grain load)

Chris Vairo of Nebraska( son of pal Mike (Goose) of St. Ignace and San Diego) has just gotten started with fly fishing, and with a little success, the bug and addiction hath taken hold. Chris is already an accomplished hunter.

Rainbow with Shoulders


Bon giorno. As foreplay, here’s the history of my old USAF outfit, the 46th Air Refueling Squadron (H)

The 46th Ferrying Squadron was activated on December 2, 1942 at Wadi Seidna Airport, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The 46th was assigned to the 13th Ferrying Group who assigned area took in the territory from El Geneine, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, to Karachi, India (now Pakistan), and from Cairo, Egypt, to Tehran, Iran. The 46th was responsible for the aerial transportation of personnel, supplies and mail throughout this area. The squadron was redesignated the 46th Transport Squadron on March 24, 1943. With the reorganization of the Africa Middle East Wing ( AMEW), the 46th was disbanded on September 30, 1943 when the group and squadron organizations of the Central African Sector (CAS) were disbanded and replaced by stations. The 13th Transport Group, its assigned squadrons, and all personnel and equipment were absorbed by the newly created Station #20, AMEW-ATC, Khartoum.

Reconstituted and redesignated the 46th Air Transport Squadron, Medium, the 46th began operations at Kelly AFB, Texas, in July 1954. The 46th operated primarily as a training squadron until April 1955, at which time it became a full strength squadron. The primary mission of the 46th was to provide air movement of personnel and supplies over almost two-thirds of the globe as designated by higher headquarters. The secondary mission was to train new Military Air Transport Service (MATS) personnel and to make them an integral part of the squadron. The 46th Air Transport Squadron inactivated on April 8, 1956.

When the 923rd Air Refueling Squadron, Heavy, was discontinued and inactivated on April 1, 1961, the 46th Air Refueling Squadron, Heavy, was organized and gained the mission, personnel, and equipment of the 923rd. Stationed at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan the 46th flew regular, reflex, alert, and training refueling missions; its tankers refueled TAC fighters being deployed or rotated overseas, and those returning to the United States. Aircrews of the 46th were deployed to assist in refueling operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis; it also sent aircraft and crews to Southeast Asia to support combat missions of SAC bombers and TAC fighters. The 46th deployed aircraft and crews for tanker task forces operating out of Alaska, Spain, Labrador, and in the Great Lakes region. The squadron maintained operational readiness to conduct air refueling operations with the KC-135A Stratotanker as specified by higher headquarters until its inactivation.

The 46th Air Refueling Squadron was awarded the 40th Air Division Best Air Refueling Squadron Performance award for January-March 1961. This award was also won for the following quarters; October-December 1961, January-March 1962, January-March 1963, April-June 1963, and October-December 1963. The squadron won the 2nd Air Force Best Air Refueling Squadron Performance award for January-March 1961, January-March 1962, and January-June 1963. The 46th won the Air Force Association Outstanding Tanker Unit in SAC award for both 1962 and 1963. The squadron was awarded the Saunders Trophy, a SAC Award, for the Best Air Refueling Squadron in 1962 and 1963. The 46th Air Refueling Squadron was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period 1 April 1962 to 31 March 1963. In 1982 the 46th ARS won the General Carl A. Spaatz Memorial Refueling Trophy. The Spaatz Trophy was awarded for the best support to the Tactical Air Command. The squadron also won the 1982 SMSgt Albert L. Evans Memorial Trophy for the best boom operator section in SAC. In 1983 the squadron won the Eighth Air Force Golden Tanker Award.

The squadron has since been deactivated with honor.

Alas, my brain tends to cook and simmer thoughts in darkness, which leads to bizarre sleep-work cycles and habits. Tonight I have been mulling over the days of Cold War and the Strategic Air Command, in which I served 1965-1970. [It was not a favored place to be and we used to complain that we’d rather have a sister in a whorehouse than a brother in SAC. This was a joke. Sort of similar to the buttons aircrews used to wear that declared in Red, white and blue:  Kill A Commie For Christ – which when you think about it is some very twisted thinking, given that Jesus apparently preached for a communistic approach to community.] Enough of that.

I was born in 1973 and next month will be 67 years old – in my seventh decade of life and over that time this  country has been directly involved in wars or tangentially involved via intelligence agencies for virtually the entire time. It’s a little complicated to calculate actual years, but the specifics go something like this. I was born in 1943 as World War II raged. It ended in 1945. The Cold War began in 1945 and officially ended 1992. (The life span of the Strategic Air Command is identical to the duration of the Cold War.) 1950-53 was the Korean War (UN Police Action). The Vietnam war is sometimes cited as the 14-year period, 1961-75 from the American Point of view, but the actual dates run 1954 to 1975. More to the point, you can delve into World War II and find antecedents for the Vietnam conflict based on actions by both the French and us when Ho Chi Minh tried to seek our aid, but that’ sort of foggy and complicated, so we’ll ignore it.  The USSR –Afghanistan War went from 1979-1989 and of course our CIA was involved there. (Ref, Charlie Wilson’s War). We’ve also been involved in various UN peacekeeping missions, e.g., Bosnia and Somalia. I haven’t counted these or other events such as the Grenada incursion. The First Persian Gulf War was 1990-1991. For years after the USAF continue to enforce no-fly zones with combat sorties, but nobody seems to count those years as part of the war. After 9-11 we went into Afghanistan in 2002 and we are still there. And we went into Iraq for the second Persian Gulf War in 2003, and are still there. 1943 – 2010 and the very little of it lived when Americans weren’t dying somewhere and often dying for reasons not at all clear to those who were doing the dying.

I love asking those who preach about things worth fighting and dying for if and when and where and how they served. Mostly the questions get met with silence. Those who’ve fought and “seen the elephant,” don’t need to proselytize because they have seen the shit that is war and know what it entails, not by Hollywood or political propaganda standards, but in reality.

Most importantly they know what war is not and never will be.

My entire life is marked by wars. Sort of sobering if you sit back and think.

I once had a Michigan State college pal (from British Columbia in Canada) come visit me at K.I. Sawyer AFB. It was an unannounced visit and I was a young first lieutenant on alert, meaning living away from home in a facility where if a nuclear war loomed we could be out to our eight go-birds and have them all off the ground within minutes of getting the go-code from the President. My late wife Sandy and I met my friend and his new bride at the base’s officer’s club where I was wearing my flight-suit and boots, and a red ascot (dickey) and a black leather hat – our costume of those times. My old friend was entirely creeped out by the sheer martial air,  and totally spooked by all possible war scenarios, especially knowing there were eight B-52Gs sitting in plain sight and loaded with nuclear weapons. He and his new bride fled after a day. He said, “You’d go if they gave you the order?” Damn right I would have. We all would have because we only would have been sent if total destruction was imminent here. Our mission was strictly reactive, a massive and deadly response to a threat and the Strategic Air Command had as its motto, “Peace is Our Profession.”

The whole time was an odd one from just about all perspectives as the US and USSR jockeyed for theoretical superiority in terms of “throw-weight” of their national arsenals until we eventually reached the point of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

Next week former crewmen of the 46 Air Refueling Squadron, 410th Bomb Wing (H), will meet in Marquette to swap stories and revel in life, where we are all in what I heard a youngster the other day refer to as the spend-down phase of life.  Naturally I’m looking forward to seeing everyone, but what set me to thinking was a piece written by the late John Voelker (aka John Traver), author of Anatomy of a Murder, former Michigan Supreme Court justice, and one hell of a trout fishing bum.  John lived in Ishpeming, not far from K.I. Sawyer AFB and after Anatomy topped best seller lists and the film from it won Academy Awards he bought a place called Frenchman’s Pond, which is not that far from the runways and there he repaired with pals to fish and contemplate the world of trout and the vagaries of human life. Voelker once wrote: “The constant obscure savagery of nature seems always to lurk below the apparently placid surface of things. Probably even the lice on a loon’s wings battle each other, while I know the fish swimming below dwell in a subterranean welter of cannibalism. How man can hope for peace when combat and strife, not peace and calm, seem to be the basic norms of nature? In a real sense, then, peace is an unnatural state and all the elaborate plans of man to achieve it are, in this sense, in plain perversion of nature. Alas, peaceful men may be unnatural men, a fairly bleak prospect in the Atomic Age.”

Prescient thinking.  The late judge was a fine philosopher. Many of the men and women who crewed SAC birds all those years also spent time on the hot side of the various wars we were involved in and while this country seems bent in this post-draft age of reality shows and other mass baloney to want to thank citizens for their service, most people who served in the Strategic Air Command have never gotten the gratitude of anyone other than their comrades. I don’t expect this will change as the Cold War fades to the War That Never Was and therefore will disappear quietly except in the minds and notes of a few historians. My own children never evinced a single bit of interest in what the whole damn thing was about.

Back in the day when I was a twenty-something in uniform, we hung the label Sierra Hotel on those people who were courageous, really skilled, and remarkable role models. The term was phonetic for Shit Hot and next week I will sit among men and women who were truly shit hot and walked the talk, which the vast majority of citizens in this country have never done and never will.

My hat is off to all those men and women who, in Voelker’s terms, somehow helped maintain that unnatural state we call peace, even as other wars raged all around the planet.

My thoughts, such as they are this early morning.

Go State, Kick Irish Ass. Over.

A Yooper Tale

This true story  is from my pal William “Wally” Kent:


I promised you that I would tell you about the disaster involving the vertical
lift bridge at Houghton. It happened to be one of the more memorable cases my
dad presided over as a federal district judge serving the Yoop.

It seems that shortly after the vertical lift bridge over the Portage Canal was
completed (the early 60’s?), the bridge tender had some liquid refreshment with
his supper. I mean, he was a yooper! In fact, he may have polished off a
bottle or more of brandy. Nothing wrong with that, is there? In any event,
by midnight or so, he had apparently passed out cold, so that when a freighter
approached and blew its horn to signal him to raise the bridge, he was too far
gone to hear it.

The ship’s captain blew his horn a couple of more times trying to get the tender
to raise the bridge, to no avail. Finally, in desperation, the captain
apparently blew a continuous blast and woke everyone in Houghton and Hancock –
maybe even a few in the cemetery! – everyone, that is, except the bridge tender,
who was probably snoring contentedly. In a panic, and fearful that he was
going to ram the beautiful new bridge, the captain threw out the anchor in the
nick of time and stopped the ship short of the bridge. Unfortunately, as the
anchor dragged bottom, it also snagged a cable laying on the bottom of the canal
which was the link between the Keewenaw and everyone below, cutting off contact
between them and the outer world, and causing great expense of repair.

I’m not an admiralty lawyer, but apparently there is a rule that a ship, like a
motorist, must be able to stop within the assured clear distance ahead, so the
shipping company was sued in federal court and eventually had to pay substantial
damages. One hell of a lawsuit, and a memorable moment in the history of the

Thanks for the story, Wally. Over.

33rd Annual Bullshido Camp

Our 33rd fish camp is history. “Al-The-Pal” VanderBerg (67), Dickie-Bird Chamberlin (71), “Larspars” Hjalmquist (73), Reg “U.C.” Bernard, “Robochef” Peterson (60) and  me (1967) spent September 5-10 at the VanderBerg fortress on Little L Lake south of Baldwin in Lake County. We didn’t bother to fish on Labor Day, assuming the Pere Marquette River would be overburdened by plastic and aluminum turds. On Tuesday the 7th (my Brother Ed’s birthday) the wind howled like a banshee and drove Reg and I off the water while the others golfed. Traverse City recorded winds of just under 60 mph, Cadillac just north of us in high 40s and we guess we were pretty much in that lower ballpark. Reg and I both managed to hook a fish briefly on small, heavily weighted streamers,  and both of us were nearly blown backwards onto our backs while wading rocky riffles. Meanwhile Peterson actually beat Al and Lars on the front nine, but “fell apart like a cheap suit in the rain” on the back nine and brought home the anchor. After coming close to an unscheduled swim in waders we repaired to “camp” for libations.  Wednesday the wind dropped to the 20s, but clouds came in and the fish took nymphs and were cooperatively looking up a small Blue Wing Olives. Thursday the wind stopped, the sky was again overcast and BWOs popped continuously. Reg took a 13-14 inch brown on a #20 BWO floating nymph — no mean accomplishment.

When we got to the river Thursday we were greeted by a preening adult bald eagle, who seemed unspooked by our presence and allowed us to leisurely photograph him. Soon as I get the photos dumped, I’ll put one on the blog.  When you start a day of trout fishing in such close proximity to a majestic bird, the day is already made, the fishing a bonus. We even got to see the eagle drop a white-bomb load.

Robochef’s cuisine for camp: Sunday, grilled sockeye, salad vert; Monday, Swedish dinner of pickled and creamed herring, Swedish meatballs, kourve (potato sausage), mashed potatoes, steamed wax beans, and Swedish limpa bread with lingonberry jam; Tuesday, filets, baked sweet potatoes, carrots in horseradish sauce, and sauteed nuclear shrooms, fresh Italian bread; Wednesday, grilled chicken with apricot sauce, fresh corn on cob, salad vert; Thursday, shrimp creole, walnut-pear Gorgonzola salad with hearth bread. Of course good wines, including those from Bernwood Estates.

The sheer beauty of the Pere Marquette never fails to amaze me. Like other primo Michigan trout water it attracts more canoes, kayaks and rafts than I would like to see, but it’s a resource we all share and can love it in our own ways. Watercraft and some fishermen are pigs, dropping beer cans everywhere. The difference between mankind and the eagle is that the bird’s is biodegradable.  We had a few canoes on one of the days and I continue to be amazed by people who feel the need to shriek like maniacs when they are outdoors.

Off to the UP soon for 46th Air Refueling Squadron reunion. Our old boom operator Nick Carter is having some health issues and won’t be able to make it, but we will give him a group mission debriefing soon as we can. Nick once gave me Michigan State and 7 points against Houston, and State lost like 35-0 and I never bet with him again. I got Mississippi blood, but it is not the equivalent of the Little Rock stuff. Sorry you can’t be with us, Sarge. Get some.

We plan to fish our way to Marquette and visit friends. Old copilot Mike Vairo will be at his cottage outside St. Ignace and squadron mates Fred Pumroy and Harlan Pedretti will drop in on their way to Marquette.  Good men all.

Over. Will get photos up here soon as.

When Fiction Comes from Reality

Want to read about an interesting character? Think my characters have no basis in reality? Type in John Graybill and Alaska and see what comes up. The late John Graybill was the uncle of Mike Brown owner of Deer Park Lodge. One more photo here from the summer trip.

One evening after fishing the shoreline of Perch Lake for smallmouth (Jambe Longue got one), we went up to the campground to chat with Bob and Judy Bernhardt of Trout Lake, and Grit and Alice Turner of Holt. All are agate hunters, artists, craftsmen, lapiodaries. Judy and Bob had their lab MacKenzie with them as well. Nothing quite like socializing over a campfire eh.

Last Photo Show

These are the last of the pix from the Yoop. Maybe sometime down the road I’ll throw more on line.  Enjoy. Over.

"Okay, okay so it's a little muddy...."
Nothing like a frog-strangling rain storm to help you pack the truck.
We broke the trip in half, stopping for the night at Gates Au Sable Lodge outside Grayling, and of course availing ourselves of the trico and blue wing olive hatch the next morning.
Jambe Longue trying to float a size 26 trico over a small rising fish. The hook up was not to be. We departed the river, skunked.
I love the birch groves and I'll close with this shot -- a wonderful one to remember and within fifty yards of the Big Lady.