No idea why my mind turned to baseball today, but it did and the memory that washed ashore was one of a hot summer day in San Antonio, when we Billy Mitchell Bombers took the field in a Kelly AFB Little League game. I was a big 12-year-old, already in the range of six-foot, and my younger brother Jim was playing as a 10-year-old. We were both late-year birthdays, me in late October, and him in early November.
On that day I threw a perfect game, striking out 17 of 18 batters. There were few foul balls and few balls called. I had one pitch, which was to throw as hard as I could, and on that day, it was more than enough in the toolbox. Only one player touched me in that game, sending a looping liner into the outfield, where my quiet little brother, (the cerebral one, and a damn Yankee fan) ran down the ball and snagged it for the out.
I remember none of the batters I faced that day, how I did at the plate, or even the final score of that game. All I can see in my mind is Jim making his catch and saving my moment of perfection with his ow perfect moment. There was even a large vertical photo of my catcher and me on the front page of the San Antonio Express after that. Fifty six years later, my only memory of the game is Jim’s catch, and I don’t even remember thanking him, so I’m doing it now. The lesson of the day was that while one player can overpower, it takes a team to win. Thanks, Jim. Pretty good work, especially for a Yankees fan.
Had a telephone call from a retired CO pal this morning who wanted to share some old CO names for the list Randy Clarke and I are putting together, and for the 125 Committee doing the 125 yr law enforcement celebration. I remain astounded by how much we DON’T know about our COs and their history. So here’s a couple. I know the names, but am not putting some of them out here until we vette them properly.
CO Jack Huntley worked the Atlanta -Hillman area probably back in the fifties and sixties. One night he catches two guys shining in the “Grass Farm” area (well known for shining)and they have two illegal deer and he approaches them on foot to confront them and one of them whacks him on the head with a wine bottle and stuns him. As he lays there trying to recover his senses he hears them talking about where to take him to kill him and dump his body. Officer Huntley recovers his senses enough to scramble to his car to get his gun and a gunfight ensues, during which Huntley hits one of the bad guys in the leg, which will later be amputated. The one-legged man committed suicide before coming to trial. The thing is that there are lots of stories like this that never come to the public light, but re-inforce how damn dangerous CO work is. These guys would kill Jack Huntley over two deer? Good god.
There was also an officer assigned to Hillman, who died in a housefire. It was later contended that he had been murdered by some Detroit men he had “offended,” and that they had come north solely to dispose of him. Apparaently the officer’s remains were exhumed, but no charges were ever laid. Still, there is the possibility that this office is yet another who fell in the line of duty. The committe will look into this one.
Finally, a CO of some repute, who eventually rose to chief, was out one night and caught a man with an illegal deer. He drove the guy and the deer to the Justice of the Peace, justice was done, the fine paid and the officer and the poacher, who were on friendly terms, went to buy a case of beer, then drove out into the woods to quaff brews and shoot the breeze. At some point in the evening, somebody got mightily pissed off the other man and a s, brutal fist fight ensued, the violator ending up out cold and the CO with multiple broken ribs. I don’t seek to explain this. I just report it as it came to me. CO’s of old tended to be independent cusses who each did their jobs the way they saw them. They did not have the sort of training officers of today have, and the areas they covered were a lot smaller, and more defined than now.
The first draft of Killing A Cold One (Woods Cop #9) is done. Readers won’t see it until fall of 2013, 19 months hence, at which time I will be getting questions about a character named Gertrude on page 87 and I will have to remind the questioner that the book was done almost two years before and not all the names and events automatically come to mind!
Last night Jambe Longue and I went over to see Jerry Dennis, who was speaking in the Rare Book room at Waldo Library at WMU. Jerry is a fine writer, naturalist, trout fisherman and outdoorsman, and a true Michigander, one who relishes snow! His latest book was published by the U of M Press in 2011. The Windward Shore: A Winter on the Great Lakes. Jerry is the top nature writer in Michigan, and somewhat of an historian for the Great Lakes, which play a role in all of his work. He is both entertaining and highly informative and he gave a great reading to a roomful of people last night. If you haven’t read his work, do yourself a favor and do so. He makes it look easy.
I got a funny email from one of my CO pals yesterday, and will protect his identity. He and I have done a heap of patrols over more than 10 years and he likes the woods cop books. Here’s the gist of the note, of a kind to make an author chuckle: “I met one of your fans(Don Mattson) who said he located (stalked) you at your house which is in the same neighborhood as his daughter lives. He stopped as I was checking my sled and tightening the cover at a park-and-ride near Koski’s Corner. He said, “Do you put as many miles on that truck as Grady Service does?” I answered, “No and I dont sleep with as many women as Grady does either.” I guess that you paint such a picture that these people think that Grady is a real person and then like an idiot I answer him like Grady is my buddy. I enjoyed the last book but I have to tell you that you shocked me with 2 characters. David Letterman and Joe Heywood. I laughed my butt off Heywood!”
I’m a lucky man to have made the friends I have out there in the CO world. For sure.
Turns out I also got some photos from an Iron County Moose-Vehicle collision last August, I think. The bull weighed something in the neighborhood of 1,200 pounds and was thumped by an 18-wheeler. Note that the animals huge antlers are still in velvet and there’s only one antler on the head, he other antler apparently ganked by a passerby before emergency troops arrived on the scene. Thanks to CO Dave Painter from Iron Co for sharing the pix. Glad it wasn’t me who hit the beast. Sheesh. That could really ruin one’s day, eh. When you’re a CO anywhere in our great state, you never know what you’ll have to contend with next.
I only recently discovered that Pete Gent had passed away this past fall at a very young 69. I wrote a little about this on Facebook, but want to share a story. We were linked by high school basketball, our teams rated 1 and 2 in Class C in Michigan for the 1959-60 season. (We were rated number one) But Pete’s Bangor Vikings won the state championship and he moved on to play basketball at Michigan State. I graduated the next year and went south to get a degree in journalism, and also, I hoped, to play basketball. I went to see Forddy Anderson (varsity) and Bruce Fossum(freshman) coaches. In those days you got only three years of elligibility and had to play freshman ball. Very different than now. Coach Anderson knew about our team, but not so much me. (Why would he?) But he invited me to work out with his players over the summer. The main player was Dave Fahs, who would captain the team in upcoming season. Dave was from Indiana. I played every day, upstairs in the heat of Jenison Fieldhouse. I more than held my own. Come fall I continued to work out with Dave and others, and a week or so before tryouts (I want to say it was September) for the frosh squad I blew out my ankle. Bad blowout. I couldn’t use it again with any strength until winter term, when I took track for one of my HPR classes. Jim Gibbard, the assistant track coach taught the track and field class and one day in the high jump I jumped 6-3 or something in that range. Coach and he pulled me aside and asked me where I’d come from and what experience I had, and told him I’d graduated from Rudyard and we’d had track only one year and I had won the district and UP championships and jumped 5-11 3/4. in the district finals in Newberry (which was above the Class C record at the time). By the time class ended I had jumped 6-5 1/2, the highest I would ever soar. Coach Gibbard introduced me to head coach Fran Deitrich and toward end of winter term they offered me a books and tuition scholarship for spring term. Spring came and I took part in one meet in Ann Arbor and soon thereafter came down with mononucleosis, which put me time in hospital for several days, and washed me out for anything physical for the remainder of the school year. I saw Coach Anderson that spring, and he urged me to come back in the summer to play basketball and I told him I would if I could. But then I got a job with the USFS in Idaho and went west to spray actidione on white pine trees, and fight fires. I never really thought about basketball again. That fall as a sophomore I began getting into my actual beginning journalism and related Communciations classes and there I met Pete, who was majoring in Communications – Advertising (as I remember it). We hit it off. He was smart, a good student, funny, cynical, and quick thinking. We became if not close friends, pals and whenever we saw each other on campus we’d go get a pop or something and shoot the breeze. We both laughed about never getting the chance to meet in high school. Pete graduated from MSU in 1964, got a tryout with the Dallas Cowboys, and then a contract. He played five years. Football wasn’t so surprising: he’d been an all-state quarterback in high school.
Push ahead: It is now 1967 or so, I’m a navigator on a KC-135 in SAC, and the NFL pre-season is under way and my crew and I are told to take a KC-135 down to Carswell AFB in Ft. Worth Texas for some sort of manufacturer alteration. I suggested to the boys that we go to the Dallas Green Bay pre-season game, and told them I’d call my old pal and see if we could get tickets. I managed to get Pete’s home and talked to his wife, who told me Coach Landry made the team stay in a hotel the night before home games. Undeterred, I suggested we go down to the Cotton Bowl, where the game would be played and I would try to make contact with Pete. As fate would have it, the player locker rooms were on either side of the tunnel leading out to the field, and very close to the player gate. I looked over and Pete was hanging over a Dutch door bullshitting with various people and I got his attention, and next thing I knew we were in the lockerroom, where he gave me a player pass. He was grinning like a Cheshire cat and wanted to know all about my job. He tried to find more passes, but couldn’t,and told me to go across to the Green Bay lockerroom and see Herb Adderly, another MSU man to see what Herbie might scare up. Well, I got almost to Herb’s locker, wearing my Dallasplayer pass, but a stentorian voice yelled something along the lines of, “Get that asshole out of my lockerroom,” and I quickly found myself unceremoniously back in the tunnel. I went and told the boys no luck, then went to Pete’s door and waited for the team to come out and after they ran onto the field, I walked out to the Dallas sideline, where I spent the entire game. My squadron mates back at K.I.Sawyer AFB saw me on the sidelines during the TV broadcast and started cracking up. “How did Hump get onto the field?” (The Hump was my nickname in the squadron.) By the time I finished my tour in the USAF in 1970, Pete had finished five years with the Cowboys and was out of football. I ended up with The Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo. Later Pete returned to his hometown of Bangor, MI, 25 miles west of me. He wrote the hugely successful North Dallas Forty and a string of other good stories, but we never met again, and I always regretted not driving over there and popping in on him. Two small high school guys, one a great jock, the other a mediocre one, but both of us became novelists. What are the chances?
I know football beat hell out of his body and that he was in pain for years, but I never expected him to go at 69. Rest in peace, pal. Of all the sports memories I might have had, the one that stands out is Pete, stealing a ball in a game and charging down the middle of the court. He was six-four, 200 pounds, but he could JUMP, and he took his last step on the free throw line, elevated and literally soared, descending to pound the ball through for a stuff that brought the crowd to it’s feet. You see, we Michigan Staters like winning, but we even more like players who give an honest, maximum, no-holds-barred, nothing-held-back performance every time they go on the court or field. Pete Gent was the prototype. And a smart guy to boot. He graduated with honors. Me? A solid C. Sad to lose him and ironic because Bubba Smith, another campus pal passed away a few years back and I didn’t know about that until later either. It’s getting to be that time of life when death has to be factored in.
Romnoid 46-32% over Gingrich in the Florida primary. What’s it mean? Romney and friendly super pacs ran 13,000 ads to Gingrich’s 200. For all that money, what did the “lifelong outdoorsman” [his description of himself in 2007] get? Perhaps, Dare pondus ideonea fumo, or “fit only to give weight to smoke.”
Yes, of course he got committed heads for the first round of the GOP convention, but that aside, more voters in Florida didn’t prefer Romney, than did. Gingrich and Santorum together got 45 % of the vote (32+13). Is the lesson in Florida that money “sort of” trumps all? Projections say Obama is on fund-raising target for $1 billion for the November election. Him with the biggest war chest will win?Like all reality shows, there’s more baloney and trumped-up drama in the election run-up, than reality.
Okay, how about this for a new approach. No more elections. Let candidates declare during a certain set time: Once the field is set, let them buy ads (bloggers, etc) and let candidates put forth their views as ably as they can; as ads run, let the media shit-fight begin and require all candidates to participate in televised national debates to be held in football stadiums so as to assure gladiatorial audience ululating responses. Seats to stadium events must be limited to people who live within 10-15 miles of the stadium, with tickets mailed only to legal residents. I suspect one or both parties will come up with a plan to counterfeit tickets, or have like a polling place challenge teams to block people trying to get into stadia. Finally,after all the sturm and drang, we’ll let pollsters decide who would be elected if we wanted to be bothered by all that trouble of physically voting. Herman Cane said at a Gingrich event this week that, “This country is being ruined by stupid people.” Ya think?
But which stupid people is the grandiloquent Hermunster referring to? Seems to me Pogo, old chum, tis we the gobschmucked masses in need of scrubbing with unholystic political soap, and mass water boarding with specially made party hard cider. We always expect the creme de la creme to emerge to lead us, but it always turns out to be the grim de la grim, running scams de la scam, or rich guys born on third base, and certain in their proclaimed god-fearing hearts that they hit a triple?
Will be interesting to see what happens here in the Wolverine State (where many naturalists believe there was never an indigenous wolverine population). Last polls here said Obama would trump Romney in that matchup. Our Governor OTN (One Tough Nerd) himself a republican, has wisely refrained from endorsing anyone in his party. Meanwhile, if you get out in the countryside hereabouts, you’ll see all sorts of Ron Paul yard signs. Just like last time when Ron Paul carried no states, and got 6.3 percent of the primary vote, while Romnoid beat Johnny the Jet 39-30 (three field goals) , but lost the Big Show nomination and the election.
Mario Cuomo is sometimes quoted as saying Presidents campaign in poetry and govern in prose. Don’t hear much poetry these days. Does this mean the prose will be even worse. Or is it that those with too much poetry are incapable in the stark world of prose?
Like my old pal The Snooker, used to say in his East Texican drawl: “Is this keen, or what? Are we having fun yet? Anybody out there? Over.