Weekend In a DNR Truck

EVENT 1: My partner CO Jeff Goss (Calhoun Co))  meets me at our traditional rendezvous spot in a small town south of Battle Creek — about an hour-drive east  of Portage. I chuck my gear in the truck and Jeff reports to Station 20 (The RAP Room in Constitution Hall in Lansing) that he is ” in service” and that he has a ride-along for all day.

Asks Station 20: “What’s  the ride-along wearing?”

Jeff and I look at each other in puzzlement. Neither of us has ever heard this question asked of a ride-along. Jeff radios, “Uh, black boots, black hat, green pants, green coat, green shirt.”   Tomorrow will be even weirder.

Thus the weekend begins. Jeff already has three deer heads in the truck bed from last night. We’ll pick up another pair today and another one tomorrow. I’m going to lay out this s this telling event by event  to give  you a  sense of the rhythm of a CO’s deer season days . I’m not including everything, just the more  notable happenings.

EVENT 2: Two or three years ago, Jeff and I caught a guy butchering 8 deer.  He had no license or tags, had not bought any licenses. He was also clearly living on the edges of life. The courts hammered him with a $6,000 fine and took away his hunting privileges. Eight deer, of course, it seems is  more than seeking to put meat in the larder,  but there’s no doubt the man is hurting. Doesn’t matter  how he got into such a compromising position. So that’s the backstory. Forward to now: a couple of weeks back Jeff bumped into his former client, listened to his tale of woe and told  the man if he wanted venison and we confiscated some, we’d bring it to him. Jeff got some high-speed beef last night, ergo, our first job today  is to take the venison to the man, who is celearlyh glad to have it.  His living circumstances have not changed since last I saw him. the front yard of his trailer cluttered with old boats and parts of boats, all fronted by a TRUMP-SPENCE sign.

The theme for his year with violations seems to be, Shoot your deer, THEN go buy a license, which is, of course, the exact reverse of how  the law says this is supposed to work. A resident deer tag costs us $20 bucks (less if we’re seniors). But if you shoot a deer before you have a license or tag it, you are in possession of an illegal deer. If your deer has 8 points, you are in possession of an animal for which law says you will be fined $6,000 and lose hunting privileges, perhaps lose your weapon and get sentenced to a jail. $20 and jail time vs thousands? How can this be so hard to adhere to? The people we contact on this issue,  hunt with thousand dollar weapons, etc, so $20 bucks does not seem like a deal-breaker for them. There has to be some other logic here other than pure frugality. I can’t figure it out.

EVENT 3: Meat processor. We find a discrepancy in one of the carci. An original tag was purchased, but then a replacement tag wasbought the next day and the initial tag not voided, the result being the man now has two tags in possession.  We’ll visit the gent sometime along the way and when we do we will discover that he bought the license under someone else’s driver’s op and shot a deer before he bought a license. Same old story with small wrinkles. Verbiage in the DNR bi-weekly LED reports say, “Appropriate law enforcement action was taken. ” Hereafter  I’ll say: ALEAWT.

EVENT 4: Yesterday Jeff found a deer at a processor. Validated tag shows deer was killed before RSS (Retail Sales data base) shows license was purchased. This is the big No No. We go looking for the man’s address, and don’t find him, but we do  locate him cutting wood in  a nearby woodlot. woods,  not too far from his rental trailer, which we discover later is parked behind a business a friend of his owns, and which we never would have found. Jeff has already  arrested the business owner for trespassing a few years back and killing a ten-point, in-velvet buck on property he had no permission for. Now the man hates my partner. Our “woodsman” has a blue-healer mix dog with him. After some discussion he confesses tht he bought his license after shooting the buck. He has already served 9 months in jail for a non-violent felony and wants to cooperate lest he have more trouble. He confesses and ALEAWT.

We keep moving on.

EVENT 5: A man  has shot an 8-point buck, then called his daughter and told her he can’t find his tags. He tells her to go buy a license and she does and when she gets home, dad is there with his big 8-point, slaps her tag on it and hauls the deer to the processor. But, as interviews and RSS research shows later, dad  never bought y a license this year. In fact he hasn’t bought one since 2011, but readily admits to hunting every year. Hmm. Shoot first, buy later. A No-No:  ALEAWT.

EVENT 6:  We have had a tip that hunters are trespassing onto Battle Creek Unlimited property which is closed to all hunting. An old barefoot guy tells us where to find a blind and we head into the woods and discover a young man hunting in full camo in a camo blind, with a compound bow. No orange. We ask him to come out of the woods with us.

“You can’t hunt back here,” Jeff tells him.

“Everybody else does,” he said. (at least he doesn’t say “on accident.”) 

Jeff: “It’s closed to hunting and there’s no trespassing allowed.”

The man: “I didn’t know, man. Honestly.”

Jeff says, “Of course you knew it. You’re dressed in full camo and you’re using a bow so no-one will hear you; you’re not wearing orange because you don’t want to be seen.  To this, the suspect reacts by studying  his boots. Jeff then says, “One, get your blind out of there tomorrow or you’ll see me again, and two, tell others that at the request of the owners  the DNR is making this property a priority. If you hunt in there, we WILL get you. Spread the word.”

The guy then tells Jeff of other blinds and hunters in the restricted area. Jeff has already found the blinds the man tells us about. ALEAWT.

EVENT 8: We depart after the ticket is written and drive to a nearby park and ride which some hunters use for access to the property. Here we see a woman alone in a vehicle, motor running and shortly after we pull in, she leaves the area. Jeff has a hunch, watches her with binoculars and sees her turn into a truck stop a quarter mile north of us. Hmm. We follow by circling through a neighborhood and cut into the truck area running dark. Sure enough there she is, engine running and soon she bolts again. We watch her push into the same neighborhood where we issued the earlier ticket and we follow and set up black in a driveway. She makes four laps of the circular road in the neighborhood, but on the fifth lap she is flying and we go after her and can see her lights, but lose her almost immediately. Very, very weird. Most serious violators in this are drop someone, let them do their thin and await a cell phone call for the pickup. We figure she grabbed him near where we wrote the ticket, during her fifth lap. Damn.  You can’t get them all, but losing even one irritates.

EVENT 9: We stop at CO Jason McCullough’s house. He is headed to Belle Isle for a graveyard shift patrol later tonight. We arrive just as U of M loses to Ohio State in two overtimes and he is miffed – to say the least. We show him some of the stuff we’ve picked up, talk about various items ahead, and depart. Jeff and Jason are partners in Calhoun Co. Sometimes they double up but mostly they operate alone,  each keeping his partner informed and backing up each other as needed. Their personalities are different; their professional results are tops.

EVENT 10: We get a call from Station 20. A house in Homer has an ungutted,  untagged buck on a trailer. Neighbors keep calling in. Our partner CO McCullough gives Jeff a telephone bump, says he’ll handle it. “Won’t take long, it’s a slam dunk.”

EVENT 11: We go to a taxidermist to look at his records, pick up one of our illegally  killed antler sets. Jeff finds three  more questionable deals which we will investigate later. By season’s end he may have a dozen or more illegal deer still to investigate — just from comparing tags at meat processors with RSS data. Later he’ll hit taxidermists and pick up more cases. We also check hunting social sites and Internet locations like FACEBOOK to compare RSS and buck photos. It’s surprising how many people make an illegal kill and then put it on social media, or enter it into a big buck contest. Defies logic.

EVENT 12: We hit another “questionable” and get the same result. Shot first, license bought later, ALEAWT. You know, over recent years we notice that more and more people treat traffic stop signs not as required-by-law stops but more as guidelines. Out front of our house 90 percent of people coming through roll through the stop sign or blow through without even a hint of a brake light. Maybe this deer licensing issue is similar. Same phenomenon  with drivers who don’t dim lights at night when they are coming toward you.

EVENT 13: En route to another facility a vehicle passes us at high speed, in a curve area with double yellow lines. We light up the vehicle and pull it over. It stops. We get out. The vehicle begins to inch forward. We both yell for the driver to stop and he does and Jeff goes up to him and explains why he stopped him. We have here an elderly  gentleman who says he lives with his sister in Homer and that she is not feeling well and he is hurrying to get home. Jeff explains to him that if he doesn’t slow down he’s not likely to safely get home to help her, and then where will she be? He issues a verbal warning and cuts the man loose. he slows to 35 mph on a 55 mph strip. Either he is really shaken up or being vindictive. At least he’s not speeding.

EVENT 14: We check out a fur-buyer operations and Jeff drops me back at my Ford. I am home by midnight. Tomorrow we roll at 0800. I’ll head  his way at 0700.

DAY TWO

EVENT 1: Rendevous, same spot. Jeff calls “in service, and informs 20 that he has a ride-along for the day.  This time Station 20 asks, “What’s his name?” Jeff gives them my last name. We have heard maybe four or  five other calls of ride-alongs over last two days. None have been asked what the RA is wearing, and none have asked or a name.  Some sort of interplanetary malfunction harmonic? Minor but odd – and funny.

EVENT 2 Jason never got to the “slam-dunk” yesterday and he is on the way home from Belle Isle about now, so we head for Homer and  locate the deer immediately and also see immediately that it is a road kill. We go to the door and a man answers.   En route we run dirt roads checking various hunting spots, see only two vehicles. It’s prime time and no CO will spoil someone’s hunt by walking in, unless the officer already has evidence of a crime or problem. Same as yesterday, almost no hunters in the field.

Jeff asks him about the deer.

“Not mine, the man says. My son’s.”

“Is he here?”

“He don’t live here.”

From the inner house a female voice sings out, “He don’t live here no more!”

Jeff asks the man, “Where does he live?”

The man  yells at the other voice, “Where  DOES he live?”

She answers. “He don’t live here no more.”

Jeff asks the man at the door. “Do you have a phone number for him?”

“It’s real long,” the man says and again he turns to the voice in the dark behind him, “What’s that real long number?”

The female says, “It don’t work. I just tried it, and it don’t work. He don’t live there no more.”

He don’t live here, he don’t live there, let’s give the DNR the old runaround drill. No idea why. Some people just cop an attitude when the DNR shows up.

Why all this stonewalling we can’t begin to figure out, but while the female voice is yelling,  the man at the door whispers the address in Homer  to Jeff, and we depart and find the house and after knocking loudly and repeatedly for a long time a man steps out onto the porch carrying a toddler with no shoes or socks and the man confirms he picked up the roadkill, not for the meat but for the antlers (7 pt and broken), and he has a possession tag but he took it off because it was raining. He goes in the house and brings out the permit. No slam dunk here, no real violation, just curious human behavior. Jeff asks the man to do something with the carcass so that neighbors don’t keep calling in. Says he will. The horns on the animal are broken and or spackled by road rash from the crash that killed the animal. Will he mount antlers from the roadkill? Anything is possible. Just another strain of buckular dystrophy.

EVENT 3:  Processor in Homer. Jeff introduces me to a fellow who calls himself  Pimp Daddy Blue, great name, great character, garrulous and funny. No carci to check here,  but it is  stenchiforous beyond description and we keep moving, check a couple of deer being brought in, but find no problems,   and we move. 

EVENT 4: Another processor stop, different part of the county.  I’ve met these guys before. They say their count is down from last year. Archery was up from last year, firearm down and in their own hunting they are not seeing any animals. There is of course endless discussion of such matters. Our own thought is that the deer have gone nocturnal, which sometimes happens after the shooting begins. We have talked to people who are getting photos on their game cams, but not seeing animals when it’s light. We figure most of the deer are hunkered in standing corn, or swamps of which there is a  plenty of both in this county.

EVENT 5:  Yet another processor. Guy is fiddling with meat grinder an spitting Skoal on the floor as he works. Yum. No carci, not new leads, we keep moving. Note to self: never bring meat here for processing.

EVENT 6: We head over to Marshall to follow-up on a lead we got at a processor last night. It turns out to be another shoot-first, buy-later case.  The man confesses almost immediately. ALEAWT. Turns out that this guy’s wife HATES his hunting and so he sneaks around, which we suppose is supposed to excuse the fact that last Monday he shot a deer at first light and didn’t buy a license until 5 p.m. He’s a big fisherman and waterfowl hunter and has records for the past five years of fish and duck license purchases, but no deer license since 2012. Yet he claims to hunt deer a couple of times a year. When we point out that he has been hunting illegally, he hangs his head. Worse, on this year’s  first tag  bought after  the kill, he validated the tag for the PREVIOUS day. Geez. We just listen. Jeff explains the ticket procedure, ALEAWT and we head out.

EVENT 7: We see a pickup towing a trailer with a tractor on the trailer and three is something on the back of the trailer, which  seems about to fall off, so we pull the guy over and help him get squared away and continue on.

EVENT 8: En route to the Battle Creek Unlimited property we spy a bait pile behind the house in northeast Battle Creek. We’ll come back later to investigate. The corn pile is pretty big 15-20 gallons and the limit for feed/bait is 2 gallons for hunting or feeding deer.

EVENT 9: We head over to patrol of the BCU parcel. The blind from last night is gone, and there’s nobody in two other blinds, so we clear the BCU parcel and we press on to State Farm property, also along I-94, a well-known poaching spot. Nobody there. Just a dozen turkeys, who don’t care for our presence and ghost into a hedgerow.

EVENT 10: Now we head for the corn pile house. En route we pass the Post plant and drive the truck through a cloying sweet cloud of Fruity Pebbles scent, which is a strange comparison with raunchy overwhelming stench of a processor we visited in the morning. We get to the house, find a  truck in driveway but house is dark and nobody answers.  The bait pile is less than a hundred yards behind the house on a mowed field. A dog up the hill at the neighbor’s house is going “ape”over our  arrival and presence. We check the house then the bait. And suddenly a woman pops out of the darkness,  demands to know what we are doing on her property. Jeff explains the bait.

“We just take photos of the deer,” she says, “you want to see them?”

“No thanks ma’am, how much corn is out there?”

She says, “I don’t know, my grandson put it out there.”

Jeff explains the 2-gallon limit for hunting or viewing.

“I didn’t know that,” she says.

“Does anyone hunt here?” Jeff asks.

“My grandsons do.” So it’s not just for deer pictures.

“How old are they?”

“Thirteen and seventeen —  but  I don’t let them hunt unless an adult is in the house.”

Jeff listens as she explains how the boys hunt from the tree line. Her uphill house is  directly across the field and both houses are within the 450 ft. safety zone, but she is the landowner, so this is all right. Jeff explains the laws governing juvenile hunting, that directly supervising does not mean being in the house but being with the young hunter.

She says, “I hunt with them.”

Hmm.  She says she’ll try to get the bait piles down to 2 gallons tomorrow. We apologize for interrupting her dinner and she heads home. Jeff gets on the computer to see if the boys have licenses and if she does. Both boys are licensed but before we can check granny I see a flash of plaid behind Jeff’s window and the father of the boys shows up.  This is damn good reminder of how easily you can be crept up on and shot if your head is in your computer or inside your vehicle. The man then gives us a long story about how he got served for divorce last Monday, how  his wife of 18 and a half years  wants to move to Florida and he doesn’t, “and my kids don’t neither. “Thanksgiving day my youngest son  says ‘Dad I was looking at mom’s I-Pad and she’s got all sorts of divorce stuff on there. Are you guys getting divorced?’ No the man says. Later, he tell us, the wife attacks him. “So you want to divorce me and they sent the information to the wrong email? He says no. The following Monday, papers are served in her behalf at his workplace and he moves down to his mom’s second house. It is exhausting hearing people’s stories of woe. Jeff warns the man to knock down the bait pile size and explains how it’s supposed to be done. The guy tells us about court dates and work and so forth and maybe he can’t get this done till weds. Jeff says, “I drive by here all the time. It better be fixed next time I come by or I’ll have to take action.

EVENT 11: We call another processor to tell him we’re coming, but Jeff gets a cell phone call from a friend of his, a farmer, who has a sick or injured doe in his cornfield near Burlington. We roll down that way and find the deer. Her head is turned to her left and backward,  looking up over her spine and she can only turn in tight circles. She has been  in this field all afternoon. If she can’t straighten out, she will die of starvation. Jeff calls the district wildlife biologist who says he wants to look at her.  No choice  in this but to euthanize her, first to put her out of agony and secondly, to get her to the biologists for necropsy and tests to figure out wha’s going on. It could be almost anything. Jeff dispatches the animal as it shakes its head and circles.  Her head silhouette  agaisnt the cut corn is creepy.  We load the dead animal in the truck. None of the three of us is comfortable with having to do this, but it’s the right thing to do. Being a CO is not all fun and games.

EVENT 12: On to  our last processor of the day to seek Intel

Jeff drops me at my vehicle at 2030 and I am home by 2130. Two long, productive days. We have another half-dozen cases to investigate. Jeff will be working today as the firearms season draws to a close on Weds. I may join him Wednesday and meet some other district officers for a post-season feed and roundup.

Over. Photos of this weekend follow.

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Doe with a problem. We called it Deer Taco Neck Syndromes after a TV ad of some years back. We have no idea what it is and won’t until the biologist gets a necropsy done.
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Six illegal deer, 2 1/2 days of work, what we think is only a small percent of a percent of how much of this goes on in this county.
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The cell phone, the radio and laptop computer are the tools that aid our investigations as we roll around the county.
Fetching evidence of illegally taken game
Fetching evidence of illegally taken game
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Ill-gotten gains.
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Future cases come off walls such as this one at a taxidermist.
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Sitting fox mount. It looked real!
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More of the taxidermists work. As it turns out, My partner CO Jeff Goss is also a taxidermist and does fine work.
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New way of tricking out European mounts. It’s called dipping.
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Turkey feet for hunting mementos? Different strokes.
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Full turkey fan mount.
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View in the taxidermist’s office.
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Coyote rug.
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Checking taxidermist’s records.
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With this device the taxidermist can stuff it with hides for capes and mounts and have them finely tanned in 8 hours.
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The slam-dunk case. That’s the spine sticking out from car crash. Apparently the neighbors never got close enough to see this.
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D’Art Hunteur, the sort of random stuff you see in hunter’s trucks. Fun for authors, creepy to non-hunters.
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Getting ready to take a walk through area with reported armed trespassers.

Random Thoughts and Memories From A Random Mind

Happy Thanksgiving. Still sorting files and journals here. On July 4, 1985 we were in South Bend for a soccer tournament (U-14). I picked up some tabloids at a stop-and-rob while replenishing team snacks: here’re the headlines offered: INSTANT COFFEE CURES HERPES/MENGELE STILL LIVES – AS A WOMAN/ GAY BIG FOOT GOES FOR LITTLE BOYS. Very weird and  such garbage now is  on the internetm where there a plethora of  websites that specialize in such garbage, socially and politically and want to be thought of as “legitimate  newsmedia” (e.g. journalism). Newp.

Randomly composing and thinking this morning, here are some random facts I picked up on that  long ago South Bend trip:

  • Henry Ford was the first American to receive Adolf Hitler’s Supreme Order of the German Eagle;
  • Abner Doubleday was a gunner at Fort Sumter. As this one report had it, the rebs fired on the fort for several hours, but the Yanks took time to have breakfast before responding. Doubleday is said to have fired the first Union shot of the war. I bet he’d be shocked to  learn that the  war and some of its issues are still not settled. But the game he invented, baseball, is doing quite nicely, thank you;
  • The Liberty Bell cost $300 in 1752. (No wonder it cracked?) If you’re wondering, that’s $9399.26 in 2014 dollars;
  • James Madison, as an undergraduate at Princeton, was admired for his facility with pornographic prose;
  • The only Mainland American casualties of WW2 were a woman and her five children, who while on an outing near Klamath Falls, Oregon, happened upon  a dormant Japanese balloon bomb, which exploded. This was sometime in 1945;
  •  Back in 1872 a mosquito-borne virus killed 4 million U.S. horses (25% of the national horse supply). The virus was never named or identified. I am always amazed at  the number of people who tell me they  would like to go back in the past to live. Life for the average human at almost any time in history, anywhere in the world, was far more dangerous than it is now. I can’t imagine lack of santitation, danger of infectious diseases, lack of food, or spoilage of food, lack of health care or understanding of disease, poor shelter,  and clothing,  any of it, or all of it The past was nasty, not golden;
  • John Paul Jones eventually got promoted to the rank of admiral. In the Russian Navy.
  • The Revolutionary army to which the Brits surrendered at Yorktown was made up of 10,000 Americans and 30,000 Frenchmen;
  • May 10, 1775, the Brirs surrendered Fort Ticonderoga as Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allan argued over who was in command;
  • In 1942, uncited, unnamed authorities discovered that Adolf Hitler owned nearly 9,000 acres in eastern Colorado;
  • Among the force of Mexicans that overran the Alamo in 1836, there were quite a few 13 and 14-year-old military academy students. The CFA used similar students in its armed force and many were killed in the Civil War. Children have not always been the treasured package they are now — in some places. For most of history children were no more than labor to help get things done;
  • Among the $90 Billion in WW II surplus goods sold to the public after the war was 10 million pounds of contraceptive jelly. (There is at least a short story in this one.);
  • The army General Sherman’s armym marched 300 miles from Atlanta to the sea was 62,000-strong. He lost only 724 soldiers during the campaign, which suggests he had truly found the soft underbelly, if not of the Confederacy, then certainly of Georgia.;
  • The Pony Express was a financial disaster. It operated only from April 1860 to October 1861. It’s short life aside, its reputation has hung in there, once again, a real-life example of how perception and myth-building often override historical fact and reality, yet people take such myths as fact;
  • Between 1860 and 1889 (29 years) the population of Great Plains Bison fell from 50 million to 551. They were killed by commercial hide hunters, nor some sort of exotic bison disease;
  • Prior to 1935, the U.S. Supreme Court allegedly had no permanent home and reportedly “often met in taverns.” I wonder it f it might be a good idea to revert to  simlar conditions for  our own current Honorable Justices? Might be damn good for them to get out and mix with real peopled living real lives, rather than verbal jousting with  never-ending line of intellectuals and theorists; and,
  • The first shot of the Spanish American War was fired at Guam.

 

At some point n July 5,1985,  I said out loud, “Shit.” My son Trevor (ten days from turning five) looked up at me studiously and, seeing nothing extraordinary or inciteful, leaned toward me and shouted, “What was that shit for?)

On our way to South Bend it seemed every house along the Indiana border was selling fireworks which are illegal here. My friend and colleague Phil Sheldon (son Shane plays on same soccer team with my son Troy) took his kids and some others on a tour of a wholesale fireworks factory.  Soon after arriving, the proprietress (his word) asked him if he was driving a silver vehicle, to which he replied Eh-firm and she said, “Would you please move it so the fire trucks can get it?”  Phil guffawed, laughed, ukked while she turned nth-degree pale and finally it dawned on him maybe he’d better go outside and check so he led his flock back outdoors and there saw that the surrounding farm fields were ablaze with 5-7 ft. high flames and there was a jam-up of emergency vehicles trying to get into where he was parked.  Call this a junction of random, serendipity, and  sneaky old fate. Nobody injured, all out safely. No matter what age we live in, or where, luck plays one hell of a part in what happens to us and most people do not give this luck factor its due, especially those who climb to great levels of success in life.

July 7, I was hauling the boys various places and Trev was along for the ride. At one point he spotted a man with hooks for hands, driving a van, and he was fascinated. Trevor in those days had an imaginary friend (to us) he called Boonga, and seeing the driver he informed me that Boonga’s father had also lost both of his arms and hands, but they had grown back. Boonga, you should know, lived in a storm pipe  in the dry reservoir behind our home. Trev informed me that that the pipe Boonga lives in “is so long that it reaches prehistoric times.”  Dad’s don’t answer such questions, or ask for additional information. The image stands wonderfully alone. Far as I know, Boonga still lives back there and he may be what Shaksper barks at from time to time.

My word for the day is “hypegiaphobia.” (Fear of responsibility).

I close with this thought. I have no idea if any of the cited historical facts are accurate or not. I pulled them from the South Bend Tribune while we were at the soccer tournament. I have not really looked at them in three decades. Did not check accuracy before including in this blog and herein is the difference between a blog and real media. A legit media outfit has editors and fact checkers and lawyers to pour over information to be as sure as they can be that it is as accurate as possible, and that where it is opinion or estimate rather than verifiable fact, that this is noted. In today’s internet and cable and 24 hour news cycles and environments, we no longer know what a legitimate news operation is, and we tend to choose media that tell us what we want to hear, or which tear down those things we don’t agree with. We have come to an age where many people, perhaps most thing that feeling something makes it a fact or a truth. It may to the individual, but not beyond and as all this goes on we keep sinking into tribes, all trying to capture or burn away the souls of those who disagree. Hell’s bells,  this is like living in the Middle Ages.

Have a great Thanksgiving with those you love.

Over.

A Day In The DNR Law Enforcement Cave

Drove to Lansing, yesterday and spent the day with our dispatchers in the Report All Poaching (RAP) room in Constitution Hall. After 16 years of hearing them from a truck radio, it was educational to spend time in the room. My biggest realizations: These folks block a lot of silly garbage from taking up the time of Conservation Officers (screening function), and they work really hard to get information from callers, many of whom want to remain anonymous and are hinky about the people they complain about finding out who called the DNR on them. The RAP room keeps everything anonymous and this is an inviolate rule for officers int he field and dispatchers in the Cave in Lansing. Each dispatcher is monitoring and using six computer screens and a telephon, plus monitoring colleagues to see if they need help. Supervisor Dominique Clemente (an 18-year vet of the op.) Her colleagues say of her that she has a Rolodex mind, can hear six conversations at once, and simultaneous to handling her own phone call,  has the answers to the other six inquiries . I had the pleasure of meeting: Dominique; Cathie Smith; Autumn Shaffier; Nick Sparks;Rick Bierlien; Jill Behnke; and, Leann House. Thanks to all of you for patience for my questions and for helping me understand how you are a key cog in making cases in the field.  The teamwork among dispatchers was and is impressive. Photos of the folks follow, but first a few “interesting” inquiries/calls they have handled:

— Man calls in and says he has a complaint and he wants to talk to the two female officers who came out to his place last time — the ones wearing pink bikinis and packing .45s;

— Lots of people also call in with bogus claims, for example a call with all sorts of details on a “vampire deer.” Dispatchers and Officers alike are sometimes forced to treat call seriously in case they overlook something that might later cause harm;

— Call and complaint about a Wyoming Lion shot in Wyoming and then  hanging on a guy’s porch in Wyoming, MI. COs checked it out. The cougar was legally shot in the state of Wyoming, not in the Michigan city;

— Man calls in to complain that he was attacked by a coyote and when he shot at it, it attacked him a second time. No other details given;

— Call from a woman who wanted to know how to get rid of a bat, a conversation  during which she she  informed dispatchers she had sat on it,  adding with exasperation. “It’s the second time I’ve sat on a bat.” Twice; You didn’t learn to look before you sit? Call Guinness (the record book, not the ale house);

— Or the person who applied for a job in the RAP room who listed his occupation as “Sandwich artist.” He also neglected to mention he was also a felon;

— A woman calls in to seek information on rabies. Dispatcher tries to direct her to a veterinarian or a physician, at which the caller says, “I AM a doctor,” but we don’t learn much about rabies in Medical School;

— Woman who wants to know if you can catch HIV-AIDS from a cat?;

— Caller insists there is a dead elk on Drummond Island. Dispatcher tries to nail down specifics, but has difficult time. Dead elk, (like dead moose, or dead Wolf) are words that mobilize law enforcement. COs make their way out to the island. The dead elk turns out to be a dead domestic sheep;

— A woman in Pine Rest (use your imagination) called the RAP room repeatedly, talking about doctors melting her insides;

— multiple calls from people reporting a person next door, or in the field has a gun an they are a felon. You know they’re a felon? “Everybody says so.”

— Person calls to report neighbors buring a vehicle in the driveway in order to collect insurance money to buy drugs; Police check it out. There is indeed a fire in a car. The fire happened on the road and the driver pulled into first available driveway and found a garden hose he was using to try to douse the fire. People live on their speculations and perceptions, none of which may coincide with reality. And,

— COs get  their lulus too. CO Sean Kehoe had a contact with a woman who found several baby raccoons and was nursing them, because that is what their dead mother would have wanted. Not with bottles, but with her breasts. ISYN.

Photos follow. (Out this weekend  for ride-alongs with officers):

Dominique
Dominique
Jill (L), Leann (R)
Jill (L), Leann (R)
Nick
Nick
Rick
Rick
Cathie (L) and Autumn (R)
Cathie (L) and Autumn (R)
Electronic spaghetti.
Electronic spaghetti.

 

 

Upcoming Book Signing Event: December 10, 2016

Kazoo Books Author Hop/Merry Mitten Event is scheduled for Saturday, December 10, 2016. The store is located at 2413 Parkview Avenue, Kalamazoo. Drop by to shoot the breeze with your favorite authors, get books autographed, have a cookie and tea or coffee. Hang out. Lonnie and I will probably arrive a little before out 1 P.M. schedule and leave a little early. We have a wedding in Allegan later that afternoon. See you then.
Schedule of authors is as follows:
1100-1300: Ruth Barsaw, Leslie Helakowski, Kristen Remenar, Matt Faulkner, Heather Smith-Meloche, and Buffy Silverman.
1300-1430: Joe Heywood, Kelly Fordon, Bonnie Jo Campbell and Mel Starr
1430-1600: Mark Nepo, Maureen Dunphy, Phil Stagg, Andy Mozina, and Grace Tiffany.

Journal Entries from Exactly 33 Years Ago Today

PORTAGE WINTERING-OVER CAMP: Sunday, November 20, 2016 — Winter, after a long delay has finally showed its ugly mug. Snowed yesterday and it is dusting again this morning as the temperature has dipped into the twenties  the last two nights and is forecast to do so again tonight.

We have the contract set on the next Woods Cop book, but publication will not be until February 2018. Meanwhile I’ll work on something else. And paint and draw.

Part of getting ready to write is getting “the room” ready, which entails a lot of filing and sorting through notebooks and ironically I found one journal with an entry 33 years ago from the exact date, in 1983.  That Nov 20, like this one was also a Sunday. Here’s the entry:

Sunday, November 20, 1983 – Tonight ABC aired its controversial film The Day After.   My generation and those who have followed behind us, have all grown up with the bomb.  But even those of us who served in SAC, which was tasked with delivering bulk of the U.S.’s nuclear weapons in an all-out war – I suspect –rarely gave the aftermath much serious thought. The truth is that those flying bombers and tankers (B-52s and KC-135s) didn’t really plan to come back. There were, of course. Di rigueur contingency plans on paper directing us to “recover” in  Milwaukee or Green Bay, where we theoretically would present ourselves to the local military commander and be at his disposal. (There were no women at such operational ranks in those days). The plans were of course, on paper, but nobody viewed the mission as anything but a one-way ride. In fact mission success was bolstered by such thinking. If our families were to be obliterated behind us, then we would damn well make sure the other side got a lethal dose. What we knew was that our country would never deliver the first strike and therefore we were assured that any strike we launched would be in retaliation for something done to us. Somehow that put the white hats on our heads.

The ABC program has created a tremendous public  discussion and controversy that has run for several weeks at various levels of intensity. The Freeze/Disarmament people have tried to use the film to support their position; the militarists naturally have used it for their own position support. Business as usual among America’s special interest groups.

The Day After makes one think, that’s for sure, but in one sense the result of a nuclear exchange is almost immaterial: What I’m getting at here is that 25 million Russians died in World War II and Uncle Joe Staling and his henchmen hardly blinked. Ironically, while Hitler’s forces poured across the Bug River into Soviet territory, Stalin was still conduction mass transportation of political enemies to GuLAGS in Siberia., and it was hard for Soviet military leadership to convince the Soviet leader of what was happening.  25 million dead then, so what’s the biggie for the Soviets if they lose another 100 or 200 million bodies?  Obviously their leaders realize their country would no longer exist in political terms so they, as our leaders, must factor all that in and what has prevented a lethal exchange so far seems to have been the strategy called MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, which means nobody can “win” such a war in conventional terms, because both combatants will be obliterated, and there also will be all sorts of Massive  collateral death and destruction in Europe and in the Soviet’a satellite countries, but these are government decisions, not decisions in the purview of common folks — those on the receiving end. For the fodder-folk, be it from nukes or conventional weapons the ultimate result is the same. Some will die swiftly, some slowly – and many, in the downstream from hunger and infectious diseases.

If Americans come “unglued” over this show, I’m guessing it will come from seeing Americans dying in huge numbers on their own land and  in their own homes. It’s been a long time since our civil war — though emotionally the damn thing continues to persist and some who were on the southern side call the conflict The War of Northern Aggression. Weird. Massive human loss and societal destruction is a reality we’ve never had to deal with at the magnitudes Europeans and Asians did during World War II.

Despite what one hopes for, how does a “side” disarm in the face of those who would use their power either to dominate, or out of paranoia and fear in their leadership ranks. (Remember, Hitler repeatedly gave orders to fight to the last man, meaning old, young, male and female, military and civilian,  everyone until no German  was left alive to fight.)  Like most thinking people the nuke thing disturbs me when I bother to contemplate it, but I don’t pay it much attention as long as the Cold War situation remains in some sort of stasis.

If I harbor a fear, it’s this: If one side feels critically threatened and has emotionally unstable leadership,   such leaders might feel they have no choice but to strike pre-emptively, which is why we don’t need  dozens of countries in the world with proliferating nuclear weapons programs. I don’t put my concern solely on the Soviets and smaller nations led by questionable personalities.  Never mind the “Global Communist Threat,” the last big war was fought against European Fascist states – the far right of the political spectrum in those days, not the extreme left.

Leon Uris’s novel —  Mila 18 was published in 1961 – my high school graduation year –  and this novel compellingly told a story about circumstances in the Warsaw Ghetto during WW2. To some extent Uris looked at the philosophical question that involves the response to life-threatening aggression:  Does one turn the other cheek, or does one fight back? Is not fighting back a matter of obedience to a higher religious ethos and principle? Or, when we are truly threatened, does it impinge on those being attacked to not willingly (or easily) surrender their life and liberty? In Mila 18 youth eventually rise up to take over defense leadership in the ghetto, intent on fighting back, no matter the cost, and if I remember correctly from actual history the survivors of this resistance movement emerged later to push the creation of the nation of Israel.  Such questions will always be among thinking people, but the real concern here is not how the masses will act,  because unless the enemy already has fallen upon us – the decisions are vested in a country’s leaders.  God help us if we have an unstable soul with his or her hand on the “football.”

That concludes the journal entry. It’s fun and semi-instructive to look back and see what was rolling around in my empty coconut in those long ago days. Since I left college in 1965 and joined the USAF I have kept a journal, not daily, but regularly for some 51 years and looking back pleases me, makes me smile, and sometimes disturbs me. Once in awhile I even find a good idea I can use now.

Also, there are some notes from 1967 – 49 years ago– when the killing  in SEA ramping up as it was rolling along; I was in training as a navigator at Mather AFB in Sacramento California then.

March 15 –  North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh demands that bombing be halted and the U.S. troops be withdrawn from SVN before direct peace talks can begin.

March 22 – The U.S. announces that Thailand has given permission for us to use bases for B-52 air ops; previously our missions and sorties had to be flown out of Guam, which is a long haul from South Vietnam.

April 4 – Martin Luther King Jr. says “the U.S. government is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. He encourages draft evasion and a merger of antiwar movement with the civil rights moment.

April 15 – Antiwar demonstrations all across the country, 50,000 in SF and 100,000 that in NYC. Songs of those days were “All You Need is Love, and “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Out at Mather AFB we paid no attention to Martin Luther King or  to the demonstrations. We were  focused on training to do a job and intent on doing it as well as we could. These were, to be sure, strange, strange times. Ironically most of the boys I went to college with never served in the military. They evaded in any way they could and frankly it was easy enough back then to get a medical excuse that would allow one to remain home while others stepped up to serve the nation and risk their lives and limbs.

Enough for today. Got real work to do  Journalizing-blogitating, by any definition,  is not real work, but such trivia  keeps us writers writing and that’s always a good thing for us. Shot and a beer. Over

On the Road to New York City, September 1986

All the years I traveled around U.S. and elsewhere,  I kept notes, some brief, some in depth. Been cleaning the studio,  and organizing files, ran across some travel stuff. Not in any order, but  this all took place during one Big Apple trip. This trip was strictly for biz,  and on my dime to meet with my agent and editor to talk about The Berkut which will publish next year, and other book business.

Flew Blue Goose from Kalamazoo to Dayton to   catch  Blue Goose connection to New York. Our lead flight attendant has a rubber backside. Men lean into the aisles to watch her wake.

I went to my seat and sat down. Turned out I was the wrong address.  I pulled out a 6-month old boarding pass and had to move. This is not unusual when you travel as much as I do.

After boarding our pilot announces the Air Traffic Control computer is down and we are on “an indefinite delay.” We sat for 30 minutes and when the computer came back on line were 8th or 9th in line for takeoff. We finally go wheels up 1+45 after we were schedule. Glad I’m not connecting at LaGuardia (LAG). Not too far from Jackson Heights where I attended St. Joan of Arc in first grade. My old man was station in recruiting down at Whitehall Street, once made the papers for swearing in Whitey Ford.

Someone in the back of our bird has a heavy wet cough – the sort that goes on and one with every indication that it will end with a lung flying down the aisle. It goes on throughout the flight.

When I fly I take turbulence personally and I do not like not being able to see the flight crew and monitor what the hell they are doing.

Grab quick minimalist breakie at LAG: Orange juice, coffee, milk, and a bagel. “That’ll be $8.”

The Libertarian politician Lydon LaRouche has his troops at a table at Laguardia.  One LaRouche guy says to me, “Sir are you interested in a strong defense for Europe?” I keep walking and he says, “Hey, keep walking Mister, the stock market’s gonna keep going down.” Like that means something to me? I live paycheck to paycheck.

New York, New York, it just is.

My cabbie from LAG to Manhattan is named Luis. He wants to open a “good restaurant.” He tells me he’s Puerto Rican, does not like his Cuban cousins. Talked about the Feds, other drivers, Possible U.S Canada merger, Puerto Rico statehood, cheap Cubanos and his lazey son-in-law

On foot in Manhattan a block beyond a clump of stores I come upon an old black man clinging to a public telephone platform while singing, “America,” his free hand outstretched, the universal hit-me-with-some- green- gesture.

Lunch with my Random House editor Joe Fox. La Petite Marmot. Yellow walls, Waiters in white jackets, black trousers, one block from the  the UN Building, Fresh flower baskets on the tables. Also baskets of cut veggies. Brown marble bar. Gold-plated dessert gurney. Deep green-gray carpet with short pile. Fox wants to talk about the future books, says, One word: “Loot. People love stories about treasure. Loot’s the ticket. “

At a nearby table a gorgeous lady in a skimpy black dress shouts, “Fuck you, you Latvian pig!” She is alone. There is nobody sitting close to her. Bad day, one presumes.

Styles in restaurants for the ladies: spike heels. FMR mainly, prominent breast architecture, most with hair that looks like they were prepped by electrocution.

OBSERVATION: Good restaurants never have clocks.  And, those that do are interested in moving people through. Good restaurants let people be.

Out at the airport there is a call for pre-boarding. Exactly what does that mean? You’re either on or off the aircraft, right?

Outside the Glaziers’ Union Hall on Sixth Avenue, there is a gathering of people in satin union jackets and a tall black woman with flaming red hair, a decent six-five in her heels.

A  Cabby’s reaction to my tip: “Three fucking percent” Where the fuck do you think you’re going?”

Dinner at Village restaurant. Our waiter has long black hair in a ringlets, a touch of rouge on his cheekbones, a falsetto, feminine voice.

In Greenwich Village after dinner. On the street under a yellow light lamp there is a young man and young woman locked in an embrace, weaving, off balance, their lust knocking their gyros out. She has her hand between his legs and is rubbing vigorously. My agent Betsy Nolan says,” Like I really needed to see THAT.”

We pass a shop in the village, the windows filled with what look like ancient travel posters from the USSR.

Betsy’s office and apartment are in the Korean Green Grocery district.  She owns the upper floor of an old factory. On the ground floor there is a Korean-run hat shop. Davey Crockett hats are on sale, no prices given. The man, Betsy says, pays $10,000 mo. rent. To sell coonskin caps. Weird. One block north of us is the Furrier district, west is the garden district. Activity in this neighborhood usually starts around 0400,and shuts down by 1700.Across the street from her building is a brothel called, The Love Apple, all Oriental establishment, stocked with sporting ladies.

Betsy has a house guest. His name is X, a native San Franciscan, recently located to  So California. He’s a decorator for a mannequin company, a business Betsy calls cutthroat.  X’s former lover now works for a competitor and they hate each other. X, Betsy tells me, has had a tough life. His grandfather hung himself because an operation for one of his daughters went poorly. X’s uncle  then hung himself; he was the husband of the woman whose operation failed, but his suicide note said he did it because his father hung himself.  X’s  father then hung himself and it was X who found the body. Thus, a father and two sons hung themselves until dead, all of them in the same room of the family home. So much for Ozzie and Harriet.

When Betsy lived in Paris in the  early 1960’s she authored a book (in French) on the historical antecedents of the Vietnam War, but no U.S. publisher was interested. “It made about 15 cents,” she tells me and laughs.

Monday night Betsy went to a focus group. A writer friend had authored a book on the women’s movement. All the women at the meeting were 48-52. All related how the movement was the most important event/influence in their lives. One woman vehemently disagreed. She has M.S., as does her husband. She announced, “The woman’s movement doesn’t mean shit to me or to people like me, to the handicapped or seriously ill. When my first baby was born the State tried to take her away. “You can’t hold your baby,” they said, “and, therefore, you can’t properly care for her. This is what they told me. Bullshit! I fought them. You know what? Babies know. Mine knew I couldn’t hold her, so she clung to me – like a monkey. I took her everywhere and she just hung on. When her diaper needed changing, she lay perfectly still so I could  change her. Babies know these things. They compensate. And the State wanted to take her! Where was the damned Women’s Movement then? Nowhere. They couldn’t care less.” Betsy said she was blown away by this. Me too.

I had a suite at the Helmsley at $300/ night.   No idea who made the reservation. The price made me dizzy. The toilet paper was wedged so tight you had to take it off one sheet at a time. The stopper in the sink wouldn’t hold. The vanity mirror was loose and tilted down as if it had broken its neck. Couldn’t close the door to the bathroom while on the toilet. I love New York. Three bills a night. Ridiculous.

Heading out to LAG. The Cabby tells me of his exploits in North Africa with the Brits in WW2 (under General Alexander). Claims he fought against Rommel in 1943. I asked him: “Does it seem like a distant dream, or like yesterday?” He looked back at me, said softly. “Like last night.”

Betsy tells me she arranged a date for her friend X. She described his date (a man) as “lewd and Lascivious.” Said X,”Goody!”

En route to Dayton, the man beside me has white hair and is extremely stooped. There was a woman’s travel case on floor at his feet. Beside him sat a woman with her granddaughter a girl of 3 or 4, black-hair, bright eyes, delicate little creature. The  man asked granny about the weather in Dayton. “It snowed a couple of days ago, but didn’t stick.” He sighed loudly. “I’m 72 years old and I’ve never yet seen snow.” Lucky man in my estimate. We’re bucking a 130 knot headwind going west. Time flies when you’re having fun. No snow when we land. This makes the man sad. Not me. I guess I lack an empathy gene,except when writing.

Hunters’ Economic Contributions to the Michigan Economy

There are heaps of people out wearing orange hats and vests and carrying weapons, deer on car tops etc as the Michigan firearms deer season rolls along. It runs from Nov 15 to Nov 30. According to data from a group called Hunting Works For Michigan, Michigan hunters and target shooters spend $2.3 billion annually, including $1.3 billion on hunting equipment, and $271 million on trip related expenses; hunting generates $62 million in license sales and $40 million in Pittman-Robertson funding, which goes into managing the natural resources of our state; hunter spending translates into $1.2 billion in salaries and wages, and hunters pay $289 million in state and federal taxes. Overall the economic impact of Michigan’s 529,000 licensed hunters crates a $3.9 billion ripple effect on Michigan’s economy.  I wonder how this compares to  the economic impact of other natural resource users, eg, campers, hikers, leaf-peepers, berry pickers and mushroom hunters, fishermen, mountain bikers, etc. 

If you’re hunting, be safe out there.

 

Excerpt From a novel in development, BROWN BALL

The following is an excerpt from the opening of a new novel to be called Brown Ball. I started writing it January25, 2012 and is now finished in draft form. Read and enjoy. It’s not the woods cops, but it is about life — in the form of baseball — for a to-be 13-year-old in the summer of 1956 in San Antonio Texas. 

Prologue

Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts;/Into a thousand parts divide on man,/And make imaginary puissance;/Think when we talk of horses, that you see them/Printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth;/For ’tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,/Carry them here and there; jumping o’er times,/Turning the accomplishment of many years
Into an hour-glass: for the which supply./Admit me Chorus to this history;/Who prologue-like your humble patience pray,/Gently to hear, kindly to judge, our play.
Wm Shakespeare, Henry V

            If much of life is ambiguous, baseball isn’t.  But the soul of life, and the soul of baseball, share common fuel called stories.  Sometimes baseball is life, but life is never baseball, and neither life nor America’s pastime end in ties.  In life and in baseball it’s how  you handle curveballs that often determines  your success. All stories and all lives involve curveballs of some kind, including how a story is built and how it is told.

Some, if not all  English-Speaking Critics  would no doubt argue it’s not classy to start a tale with once upon a time, but dammit this story is a baseball story  with all its genes packed deep in the family of Once Upon A Time.  And, if it’s not what the Frogs over Paree-way  might call literature (like we care what the hell the  Frogs think?) so fricking be it.  We are telling this story and we elect to kick off the telling as we choose,  as a tale, not a sleep- inducing academic biography. Historians and writers know that hanging dates on stuff is intended to make readers feel comfortable.  Pitchers hang curveballs on batters to make them feel uncomfortable. Most humans fear curveballs, and  need to know where and when stories take place in order to take the dream into their own heads. But giving  names to places, and providing minute-by minute times  won’t make a thing real.  Such devices only just help reader to orient, by giving them some concrete  facts to fix in their heads, like guideposts.   

Our story isn’t real but it damn well might be, and what is reality?  Is reality the same thing we think we see, or is reality separate and independent of what we think we see? While this seems a simple question, the answer is not as easy to glom on to, which ome wiseacre wrote early in this new century, a  long six decades after our story took place.

Or is reality nothing more than a kaleidoscope of infinite possibilities? Like we need that to confuse us even more? Old Bob Hicok, a frollicking 20th century tool-shop poet once wrote, “Tests show within seconds, recall’s fiction that we create more than remember.” Okay, then. Thanks Bob.   Here’s storyteller reality: There isn’t any reality except what  the  storyteller chooses,  be it present or past, and unless  we’re telling it to you, it’s not reality at all. It just is. Or was.  Or might be, which is all part and parcel of one thing and none of it is the least-bit shipshape, nor intended to be. This is one of those stories we hope will take you into a world where your heart can pump and your head spin happily. 

If you ask us, fiction and nonfiction, given the shimmery wet shadow of reality, means whatever you want them to mean and thus I figure to start this tale off with “Once upon a time,” which I’m about to do, despite the learned frowns of erudite coastal clowns who think they dictate the rules and taste for stories. They don’t. Readers do. Don’t believe me? Look at that old boy the late Jim Harrison.  Most of the whole damn reading world was gaga over him, admired him to the point of making him a treasure, but this own native land? The critical clowns here  paid the man hardly a glance. Readers, meanwhile, did, as they always do,  pay damn good attention. And readers and listeners are all that counts in yarn-spinning business.  This said, Dear Reader, let us commence.

Once upon a time there was a boy, and this boy was precociously worldly smart in a lot of ways and he’d always heard the term dirt-poor bandied about, had even seen some of it first-hand and for real over in war-torn Italy, not to mention in yeasty Casablanca, but that had been over there and then, and this was here and now, in America the Homeland of Plenty, which got him to thinking there might be a whole lot about this  country casually tossed around as reality when a great part of it is make-believe at best.  But, to be fair and balanced in my telling, this boy, like most boys of twelve going on thirteen, well he was, when it came to a lot of important aspects of his life,  as dumb as a moose doot.

Let us be more precise. Our boy was tall for his age, wiry, driven to ask a lot of questions. How was it some Nazi war criminals got prosecuted, but the Japanese mostly got left alone? This struck him a peculiar and in ways he couldn’t pinpoint, somewhat evil. And why had the newspapers hidden the fact that FDR had been a cripple in a chair? Or why were women were called the weaker sex. That certainly wasn’t true in his home.

What if there’s no Hell after death and that this thing we call life is actually Hell? Sure couldn’t ask the priest a question like that. The Church taught that questions alone were grounds for excommunication, so even if you were twelve going on thirteen, you weren’t going to ask the wrong question to the wrong person at the wrong time and risk having your soul consigned to some sort of eternal Leavenworth. And if God made everything, why the heck did he design a cat with nine lives and only one body?

Thinker, brooder, that was our boy, living to some extent in his personal ether. Physically, he was neither  handsome in appearance nor homely. He had the piercing, dark-green eyes of his father, and the same daggering gaze when he got focused, eyes that in an instant would go from alive and welcoming to chiseled in stone.

He was also a doodler at all times and though he was criticized for not listening or paying attention, his marks in school showed no such deficiency. Some took the doodling as an indication of the boy’s lack of attention, but the boy claimed it helped him focus. Worst of all, such a deviation from apparently not paying attention might be read as disrespect, the worst of the mortal  sins for a boy growing up as a brat in a military family,  a difficult style of life, which was never easy for children and  tended to leave a lot of wounded in its wake. Kids either  thrived under such stress, spreading their wings and soaring, or they folded their wings and crashed. There seemed to be little middle ground. Identifying who would fly or crash was impossible to predict and by the time the result was  there, it was permanent and too late to correct. Every kid growing up in the military life was going to pay a price. All that was in doubt was how much.

Most parents had no idea of this cost, and tended to think the lifestyle was beneficial to their offspring. After all, they liked “seeing the world.” Why wouldn’t their kids?

            Ardie Hunter had seen grand paintings in gold gilt frames purporting to be God when his family lived in Florence, and damn if his Mississippi Grandpa Atley didn’t look like he’d been the model for the artist. It was bad enough being a lone Yankee deep in Rebel territory, but to be hosted by, cooked for, and bossed around by the likeness of God?  Truthis , it wore on that boy’s nerves from the start and forced him to cope by imagining himself as a fighter pilot, shot down over enemy Korean territory after a valiant dogfight against overwhelming odds, compelled to eject from his North American F-84 Sabre jet and, once on unknown ground, to escape and evade, living off his wits as best he could manage in a strange land (without brainwashing and torture of course). The Civil War had ended nine decades back, yet that boy couldn’t help notice that there were people down here, for whatever reason, who didn’t seem to accept history-book fact as reality. Whatever this place was, it wasn’t home and personal fantasy was a proven escape mechanism, as it always had been for him.

            So once upon a time, and never-you-mind geography, grand-scale history and such, this whole thing with his Southern kin was as perplexing as it was confusing. Barest naked facts: His Mississippi mother had married his New York State (not the city- never that) father and the couple and family had spent very little time below the Mason Dixon Line for reasons never adequately explained, this in a family where discussion was as common as palm tree-lined boulevards in Poughkeepsie.

            One day the sky took dark and growly and winds began to hoot like hungry banshees, and Grandpa Atley Ardghal Gilead grabbed young Ardie Hunter from the cook shack and yowled with a  heretofore unheard urgency, “Get on down in the shelter, Sonny!”

            The boy balked. Until this moment he’d been told repeatedly that going down in the storm shelter would be to risk sudden death. “Stay the hell out of that cellar cause it collects poisonous serpents of unruly temperaments,” Atley drawled repeatedly. As an Air Force officer’s son, the one thing the boy knew was how to follow orders from those higher up in the chain of command. Remembering this, the boy got to the threshold and could go no farther or further. Snakes or orders. How the hell do you make the decision when both choices stink equally?

             Atley unlatched the double wooden doors on the storm shelter,  flinging them open to reveal an ominous black void, and growled, “Get yore skinny butt on down in there.”

            “Snakes!” the boy countered.

            “Ain’t no snakes down there, leastways not no more,”  Atley said softly.

            The boy descended cautiously, his legs rubbery, his heart racing, thunder throbbing ponderously over their heads, rabid dog winds growling and drooling,  snapping as the door slammed down with a gunshot- ponderous bang, and his grandfather threw the bolt to hold the it in place.

            “You afeared of dark?” Atley asked right off.

            “How come there  ain’t snakes here now?”

            “What you think we been eatin’ on since  yore mama Leakey’s magic fried chicken run out?”        

            The boy felt like he would be sick but at that exact moment there was a roar overhead so loud it sucked all thought and intentions out of his head.  He cowered in the darkness and felt his grandfather’s hand on his lower back, and stood there on wobbly legs, panting like a dry-mouth hound until the cacophony passed and silence took on weight. The old man’s hand, it should be noted was somewhat famous down that way, it having been measured as 10 inches across from finger knuckle to finger knuckle and never mind the thumb which put the fist right around a foot across, and for a lot of folks a damn fearsome looking thing.

            Grandpa Atley said, “I believe that thing up there done passed on over us, Ardie.”

            Ardie? The boy was stunned. This was the first time ever his grandfather had used his given name. Before this it had been “you-boy-kid-sonny-bub.” Atley had  picked a helluva time to get grandfatherly and the boy was in a quandary about how he was supposed to react. Ardie Hunter was nine at the time and it was early summer and Mama Leakey had loaded his six-year-old snot-nose brother and him on a Greyhound in Alexandria and the three of them had ridden all night and all the next day into what his mother called Deep-Dialed-Dixie. They stayed on the bus until they finally reached Cottonmouth, a mirage of a dirt crossroad.

            He learned eventually that they were five miles south of Mize, on the upper edge of  an untamed and elliptical region called Sullivan’s Hollow, Mississippi, a legendary place not on printed maps, but deeply etched in the minds of all who lived nearby, or had to pass through,which most did quickly as they could manage.

            Mama Leakey handed him over to a giant white-haired old man standing barefoot in the pink dust, got back on the bus with the snot-nose and left him, her firstborn, with a grandfather he’d not seen since early babyhood and of course had no memories of, good or bad. Mama Leakey, meanwhile, took Ardie’s younger brother and  hightailed it by bus on to her high-strung sister Higgy over to Hattiesburg.

            Whenever Ardie asked Mama Leakey about her family she’d touch his lips softly and coo, “Now you just hush, honey.”

            She’d rarely talked about her father or her family, yet here she had dumped him with the man like he was some kind of stray dog, explaining nothing. Hell, that woman didn’t even make a try at an informal introduction, just pressed the boy’s hand in Atley’s giant’s mitt, climbed back on the bus, and was gone, leaving him to reality:  Marooned in Cottonmouth, the entire transaction odd at best, and having been dumped, he eventually learned that the previously unspoken and secret plan was for him to remain ten days.  At first blush, the prospects sure did not look promising, nosiree.  The old man, who was tall as a lot of small trees went barefoot, his huge feet covered with a layer of soft red dust that made it look like he grew right up out of the ground the way the local flora had.

            The boy, Ardie, was feeling pretty down that day. Here was clearly a turning point, a time of change for him and he couldn’t help think, even at nine years old that baseball was the only consistent system or rules he knew or trusted. Wherever the game got played in the world, the rules were the same and none of this the slightest bit of help to a kid trying to  roll with life’s new knocks, grow up, and facing a situation he’d never imagined for himself. Baseball, it struck him, provided paths to follow, base to base, until you reached home, or didn’t. Life on the other hand gave only ambiguity, or worse, insipid platitudes and worthless directions from mouth-breathing adults. Eat all your food. The kids in Africa are starving. What the hell did his eating everything have to do with some African kids eating nothing? You didn’t find this kind of stupid direction in the game of baseball.

What I Believe: The Day After the Presidential Election

Congratulations to our new President. May he govern wisely and compassionately.

And Happy 70th Birthday to my brother Jim. Two septuagenarians of three siblings. so far. Good for all of us.

That said, it seems to me that we are seeing the zenith of  what I’ll call “the Disneyfication of America.” Let me explain. Back in my corporate days I had some contact with the Disney organization –  to be more precise, its lawyers – and Disney, let me tell you,  that wonderful self-appointed  pater familias stand-in for America  had two primary core values : money and fantasy. Old Walt assembled what perhaps was the hardest-nosed team of money-driven lawyers ever assembled by a corporation and they made their money by entertaining us with fantasies of a wide and astonishing range. The reality of that company was built soundly on the product of  unreality.

Now we have a president, once a business man turned-reality TV star. Everyone knows that reality TV is scripted, staged, acted, and directed to make it look real, and we suspend disbelief in order to watch it, knowing but often not enunciating that another word of the reality show genre is “rigged.” It is a form of fiction, not reality.

Donald Trump won the presidency while telling us over and over that the U.S. political system is rigged. If so, how does that square with his election”  Syllogistically   anyone elected  by a rigged system is by definition a rigged product, which means our new president is a product of said rigging. It will be interesting to see how he scripts his response to this, if he does.

I hope he backs off on divisive rhetoric and finds and listen to people who know a helluva lot more than he does about a whole mélange of subjects far beyond his ken. like the military and war-making.

Meanwhile, I  feel compelled to take stock of what I believe.  Here they are:

1) I believe: A lot of the American people want to be entertained,  not led. Given social media and reality TV, some people no longer know the difference between actual leadeship and entertainment. 

2)  I believe: Shakespeare wrote his own stuff.

3) I believe: Oswald acted alone.

4) I believe: Hitler committed suicide in the Fuhrer bunker in Berlin in late April 1944.

5) I believe: Roosevelt did not know about Pearl Harbor before it occurred.

6) I believe: 9/11 was not a put-up job.

7) I believe: The holocaust happened and at the level historians have shown.

8) I believe: The Apollo moon landing was real, not staged and televised from a  remote film studio.

9) I believe: Arab Spring  was misnamed:  It should have been called Arab Fall.

10) I believe: Social Security is neither.

11) I believe: Political Correctness was for a long time becoming our national religion. What about now? Is P.C. kaput and are we now free to  “Say-anything -we-want-to-say-to-whom-w-want, about-whom-w-want, when-we-want-with-no-consequences-because-we- all-need- to-speak-our-minds without limitation in tone or vocabulary or emotion? We shall see.

12) I believe that the vast majority of print journalists are not crooked or any other derogatory terms candidate Trump used to characterize them. I  also believe that a lot of electronic reporters are  greedy and are allowed to use their fourth estate offices to flog their own books and self-interests. The way Mr. Trump played electronic media showed true genius in such matters. He was not able to play the print media, an observation most people seem to have missed.

13) I believe: Donald Trump will never release his taxes now withheld because of “routine audits.” I hope the proves me wrong.

14) I believe:  Melania Trump when she told voters she will make bullying her White House Spouse “Project.” Dare we hope she begins with her  hubby?

15) I believe: We constantly hear the pronunciations,  EYE-rack (Iraq) and EYE-ran (Iran). If these are correct,  then  shouldn’t it also be EYEn-diana (Indiana) and EYE-llinois (Illinois)? What about ID-aho? How the hell do we formulate policy when  some of our leaders don’t even know how to pronounce what it is we are making policy for?

16) I believe that when the majority of Americans declare “We  support our troops,”  it is  no more than cheap lip s7rvice which seems to mean behind the words, “Better  you and/ or your kis rather than me and/or my kid.”

17) I believe: Our vets have always been treated as unwanted dirt when their wars were over. No President has ever made this a priority to change. No vet in this country, the richest in the world, should be homeless or without medical care.

18) I believe in a strong military and national defense and spending what’s needed to make it that way.

19) I believe that cops need our support. I also believe we have a percentage of cops who should not be and  never should have been in the jobs they are in. This is true of every profession, so why not law enforcement as well? 

20) I believe: All of us are prejudiced. Most of us recognize our obvious predjudices, but there are a whole bunch of prejudices which guide our actions which are not visible until we look at what we do rather than what we say.

21) I believe: Conservatives AND liberals own guns and hunt and engage in shooting sports.

22) I believe the NRA is a manufacturer’s association bent on making money for members, and manipulates the rank and file in order to maximize income for companies.

23) I believe:  When you raise a weapon, or faux weapon, at a cop and you end up dead, it’s almost always your own fault.

24) I believe: When a cop asks you to do something, do it. Then you can discus, debate, and argue.

25) I believe: Rural America and Urban America are different countries and creatures. The  attitude of urban Americans  aboutgrural Americans is one of “outside the city limits is China.” Rural Americans feel the same way about city people.

26) A I believe: An  aircraft model that crashes one percent of the time is considered a public hazard and is ordered out of service. But a computer that crashes one percent of the time is considered acceptable in  performance. What about computers that perform critical tasks in aircraft systems and fail one percent of the time?

27) I believe: No bad deed goes unpublished. Lots of them go unpunished.

28) I believe: Presidential “briefings” seldom are.

29) I believe: No CHILD LEFT BEHIND actually seems to mean no child’s butt will be left when government tries to control education.

30) I believe: No principle is higher in the U.S. and its citizens than accumulating money: My money, and my stuff.  If something makes this easier, it is good. If it makes it more difficult, it’s bad.

31) I believe: No news is good news, ergo the disappearance of daily newspapers in this country.

32) I believe: TV is now news or journalism. It is the organized pursuit of mass partisan disinformation. And it is, by any standard of evaluation, nothing more than entertainment.

33) I recently heard North Korea described as a “hereditary communist dictatorship.” I suspect some Americans thought Hillary’s run for the White House was of a similar ilk, and voted against her.

34) I believe:  staging election precincts in churches is an abomination of separation of the principle of church and state.

35) I believe: Hillary Clinton’s failure to step into the public and gracefully acknowledge defeat this morning was a serious lapse in judgment and runs the risk of playing to negative stereotypes.

36) I believe: this world is smaller and more interconnected than at any time in history. To ignore this is to invite disaster.

37) I believe: Robots and productivity improvements  via improved  automation has helped eliminate somewhere close to  half of our manufacturing jobs. These jobs can’t be repatriated because they no longer exist.

Let me close with something potentially disturbing. I have heard three or four times in the past six months from former Marines a statement that I would paraphrase as: “I was a Marine and as Marines we had no choice but to vote Republican.” I’m not sure  at all certain this means or signifies, but it makes my belly roll.

 I seem to remember (I no longer trust my memory for great accuracy ) that back when my old man was in the USAF there was a decision made at the highest level of the Air Force (or Pentagon) to require airmen to contribute a percentage of their salaries, predetermined by their rank, in order to  fund the new Air Force Academy stadium in Colorado Springs.  My memory is that the old man joined in a suit to fight this and won.  Ort mayve there was no suit. This is where memory fails.  And I can’t find anything on the Internet about such litigation.  The Air Force could not use this sort of intimidation to raise funds. The choice to give or not was up to each airman, not his command. Oddly enough, I saw similar tactics used in corporate America to support annual corporate United Way drives. Seems to me if your money can’t be reached for by anyone other than you, neither can your vote. I would hate to think that our military forces are issuing directives to rank and file on how to vote, and trying to enforce such an order.

I may look further into this. Over