We’ll be at the Roscommon Public Library, 5 p.m. in Roscommon, May 10.
Page proofs for Red Jacket went back to the publisher last night. Now I have to key some update changes into first draft of Killing A Cold One, and sometime this week I’ll get a proof of the 125th Anniversary book of DNRE Law Enforcement to scan. Meanwhile I continue to noodle ideas for Woods Cop 10, and play with the start of a story I’m calling Brown Ball: The League of Summer Suffering, a story of baseball in south Texas in 1956. We’ll see if it grows feet. Meanwhile, I’m reading all I can on Latin American/Hispanic beisbol. Very, very interesting stuff. I am also gathering timelines from a pal to review his ms when I get to the UP this spring. No dirth of things to do, plus I have to order Topo maps for my favorite fishing holes in the UP, and glue them all together so I can just stuff a folded one in my vest and boogie into the bush.
Ray Schalk was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky and attended the University of Louisville, earning a BA degree in Psychology. He received his commission through the AFROTC Program.
Ray entered pilot training in Dec. ’63 in the class of 64-D at Craig AFB in Selma, AL. He learned to fly in T-37s and T-Birds. He remembers the flight training as being fun and a breeze. Academics, on the other hand, were tougher. B, C, and D classes got a disproportionate number of Academy guys. “Bad News” – they set a high curve for a psyche major. “Good News” – they were always there, willing to tutor/coach the less scientific students – even into the wee hours. SAC was powerful in those years, and as Ray remembers, a disproportionate share of UPT assignments were – 47s, with a few 52s, and 135s and even less of others – GO FIGURE! He was pleased when he got one of the B-52 slots.
The most notable occurrence during UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training) – he married his college sweetheart, Alice, fitting the wedding in between T-37s and T-Birds. They still remember, and laugh, about their first days at Craig. Their apartment wasn’t ready; so they stayed in the BOQ, which had twin beds, of course. The solution was to push the beds together and rotate the mattresses. Every day, the maids would move them back. Once the maids learned about the “newlyweds” this stopped’, but still did a lot of giggling in the halls.
After the normal cold war B-52 training route – Nuclear Weapons, Castle AFB, and Stead – he was assigned to the 824th Bomb Squadron at Turner AFB, GA. Ray remembers how warm and welcoming everyone was, and the camaraderie of the squadron, especially when on alert – making it somewhat like a family and fraternity atmosphere. An interesting highlight of his Turner time was the Chrome Dome missions. He comments that the long, grueling missions left him feeling as if he had made a higher contribution to the Cold War effort. One unexpected perk came when their aircraft experienced a hydraulic pack failure in one of only two that controls the horizontal stabilizer. This called for “a divert” into Morion AFB, Spain. The crew was there for six days waiting for a new pack. Each day, they had a launch window that ended at 4 PM. Then they were free to “DO Seville” until the next morning. WOW!!! Then his wing served one TDY Arc Light tour in mid 1966.`
Upon their return, Ray moved with the squadron to the 736th Bomb Squadron at Columbus AFB in Mississippi. In June, he departed for his second Arc Light Tour. Upon return to Columbus, Ray departed the Air Force, having fulfilled his 5 year military commitment. He had 111 combat missions and was awarded the DFC and the Air Medal with 4 OLC. Ray believes that his Air Force career was more than ‘rewarding’ and one of the most character building experiences of his life.
Ray went to work for Procter and Gamble as a sales manager. He continued to fly C-97s, after joining the 105th MILALFT Sq,, ANG in Nashville, TN. P&G promotions took the Schalks to various U.S. locations. The first – to Chicago – arrested Ray’s military flying in that both Reserve and ANG slots were backed up. Ray retired from P&G in 2000 after 32 years of service. Ray and Alice have three children and six grandchildren. They split their time between their winter residence, in Clermont, FL and their mountain home in western North Carolina.
JOE NOTE: What follows are a couple of” hairy scareys” from the B-52 (BUF) world. The B-52 is propelled by eight jet engines, and it is humongous and oddly shaped, making for a paramount challenge for pilots and crews. Fighter pilots have some of the same basic aviating challenges and a few different ones, but all flying in war and peace is essentially risky. The men and women who did these jobs did them most of their careers with no accolades or recognition from anyone outside their own flying circles. It’s my hope over time to add more of this kind of thing, to keep alive memories of what it was like to fly in the Cold war, Vietnam, etc. Frankly, most folks sitting on their safe butts at home didn’t know about such things, or care. Vietnam was a time when warriors were not respected or supported. So it goes. No whines. The professionals went out and did their jobs because they knew they were important, not for “attaboys.” Ray published the first story in CREWDOGS. The second he did not. Here we go:
A Most Tragic Weekend by Ray Schalk
I want to relate two of my crewdog stories, both of which happened to occur over one horrific weekend. Like so many in the previous books, I have tons of memories; but none have stayed with me like these.
The time was the second weekend in July, 1967. I was the co-pilot on Crew E-39, along with Capt. Dick Dixon (P), Capt. Ken Palmer (RN), Capt. Sal Segreto (N), Capt. Charlie Goss (EW), and SSgt George Edwards (G). We were with the 736th BS from Columbus AFB, TDY to Guam. This was the beginning of my second Arc Light tour and I had only arrived ten days earlier. The first ’66 tour had brought no losses. I was ill-prepared for the two events of that tragic weekend and circumstances had me involved in both. The first was the July 7th Mid-Air where two birds were lost along with six on board. I was the co-pilot in RED 3. This incident is also chronicled by Ron Gable – Red 1 (CREWDOGS II) and Toki Endo – RED 2 (CREWDOGS V). The second event was the crash, the next day, of Brown II at DaNang where five were lost.
I’ll begin my memories of the mid-air event at our briefing, which began about 11 PM. The mission called for two cells involving six crews. The lead cell, RED cell, consisted of the March AFB Sutter crew in the lead, and the Columbus Westbrook crew as #2, and our Dixon crew as #3. Additionally, the airborne commander for the mission was Major General William Crumm, flying in RED 1. It was to be Gen. Crumm’s last combat flight before departing for stateside duty. I don’t remember if our crew knew that the General would be on the mission, but I do remember my introduction to him that night. He carried himself like “one of the guys”, while leaving no doubt that he was a true professional. My other two memories are that, unlike us, he wore a powder blue flight suit, and that he was dozing a little during the briefing. Now that I am 71+, I can appreciate that behavior. With the weight of the ongoing responsibilities of his position and the pending move and the eleven o’clock PM hour, he deserved a doze.
The mission’s objective was to strike targets NE of Saigon. After a pretty routine briefing and pre-flight, we took off at about three AM. Again, all went well, refueling and prepping for the bomb run – donning our chap kits, checking in with the MSQ site, closing in to close visual formation, and such. The VFC flying part was really fun, for the pilot at least, but all recognized the risk. The aircraft separation was, as I recall, wing-tip to wing-tip, nose to tail with 15 feet of vertical separation, which was dangerously close, especially for giant aircraft like these. The B-52 just isn’t as responsive as a fighter.
About four and a half hours into the mission, the trouble began. We had closed to the V formation and I was flying the aircraft. Dick and I had worked out that pre-refueling and bombing time would be on me, resting him to execute the more critical phases. We were in an 80 degree turn to the IP south of Saigon out over the South China Sea. . The MSQ called with identification problems and directed lead to change positions with #2. RED 1 verbally initiated the change and #2 acknowledged with the intention of descending and moving up into the lead position. At this point, Dick said, “I got it”, which I acknowledged. We discussed that we better give them a “wide berth”; I then radioed that we were moving out and slightly back to the left in the formation.
Now to digress for a moment. Remember this is being executed in a banked turn in a tight formation in a big aircraft. For anyone who hasn’t experienced this, holding your place on lead is difficult enough, even without jockeying around in the sky at 32,000 feet. From our upper position in the echelon in that banked turn, you felt like you were “falling into” RED 2 as he started descending and moving forward. All of this equals “Pucker time”!
An additional consideration which we observed was that RED 2 had been flying “tucked in tight” since forming up. Wingtip vortex-generated downwash from Red 1 would have #2 experiencing control pressures which they likely trimmed out. As Red 2 moved down, under, and forward, these pressures changed and would have been neutralized, inviting their left wing to start moving up. Just as they passed forward under # 1, the cell roll out was initiated. At this point they were sufficiently close such that interacting aerodynamic forces between the two aircraft made a collision unavoidable. SAC Accident Prevention Bulletin 127-1 (Oct 1967) confirms these conclusions.
Psychologists say that “significant emotional experiences” stay with you forever. I can still replay it in my mind. It goes like this. We were still in the turn – aft and out a bit – when lead started to rollout. “Oh my God!” (Remember how close we all are). I jumped on the yoke with Dick, trying to pull away from the inevitable. We were full left at the stops, but the old bird just responded “oh so-ooo” slowly. It seemed like an eternity until it took. As we rolled left, we watched them fly together. Lead was “rolling out” right onto #2. As they made contact, lead’s wing separated from the body as it struck #2. The impact occurred right in the 47 section, severing the tail. I can still see the gunner’s white helmet as the tail cart-wheeled away. Red 1 fell away out of sight. Tailless, RED 2 continued forward starting into a slight descent. I remember it reminding me of a flight of a paper airplane. Just forward of the 47 section, a small line of flames erupted and shot up the center of the aircraft and then out both wings. It looked as if someone had lit a match to a trail of gas. Then, WHOOM!!, the entire aircraft exploded in a ball of fire. Remember, we weren’t long off of our tankers and still had quite a load of fuel. James Bond movies were popular then and used huge gasoline explosions for effect. It was just like that! We flew through this huge fireball with debris going everywhere. A loose engine was heading right for our cockpit, seemingly in slow motion. I knew I was dead. Miraculously, it fell away, slipping just under our nose. Then, just that quick – measured in seconds – it was over. I remember the bright sunlight and the eerie quiet – as if nothing had happened.
I have the benefit of adding to this story the additional perspective presented by Red 1’s copilot, Wilcox Creeden, as he related his bail out experience in SAC COMBAT CREW (Nov 1967). Here is an extract and I quote, “I remember feeling the rush of air on my face and started to believe I had it made. My hopes dimmed when I saw I was approaching a huge ball of flame covering the exploding airplane. As I came nearer to this inferno, I could actually feel the hair on my head burning; I realized I had lost my helmet but it didn’t seem to matter now. Luckily I separated from my seat and fell short of the flames”.
For us, back in Red 3, the adrenalin kept us focused. My thoughts went to my fellow crew members. I realized I had no communication and assumed they didn’t either. The last words that I remember hearing were, “Mid-Air! Mid-Air, Mid-Air!” I remember saying to Dick that we were flyable and that I needed to tell them not to bail-out. To which, he said, “O.K.”, and gave me a thumb-back signal to go to the rear. When I returned and strapped in, I found the reason for my communication loss. Between the maneuvering and the fireball concussion, my mike chord must have been jerked loose.
The crew continued to check our air worthiness as we endeavored to finish our mission. Charlie, our EW, worked the radios – especially the HF handling crash info transmissions. The rest of us continued checklists to get the bombs to the target, which we accomplished. Then, as we climbed out, things slowed down and the impact of what we had experienced began to set in. On the way home, no one said anything. We just sat there, reflecting on what had happened, fighting off feelings of horror, helplessness, disbelief, and sorrow. The closest thing to it, for me, is to watch a You-Tube replay of the B-52 Fairchild crash.
An additional note is that we did get to visit George Westbrook shortly after his return to Guam. We all talked, but he was still somewhat sedated. His head was, as reported in Book V, swollen like a pumpkin, now all black and blue and his eyes were just little slits. He shared with us details of his rescue – struggling to get into the basket while the sharks were closing in on him – his story is something I remember. The rescue pilot dropped his chopper down to the water level pushing George under, thus driving the sharks away and allowing his rescuer to jump in and help. Credit to those rescue folks! Credit to George’s heroism as well!
The second event I would like to relate is the tragic Brown II crash on July 8th, 1967 at DaNang. This has not been chronicled in WWCD’s; and while my story is not first-hand, it is pretty accurate. Pieces have come together to give me some credibility as the storyteller. First, Swede’s crew was billeted in a trailer directly across from ours, while at Anderson. We knew them pretty well. After the mid air, we were grounded during the information-gathering period, and as such, were subsequently assigned duties related to Swede’s crash, which included handling personal belongings and such. So we were involved. Secondly, our gunner was rotating back to the states leaving us short a gunner. DaNang survivor, Al Whatley (Jugs), became our gunner for the five months of TDY remaining. Finally, a friend of mine, J.T. Chapin, has been working on recounting this crash for a long time. He has dug up many of the details and has been a valuable resource.
The accident unfolds with Crew E-08 from the 736th BS, Columbus, departing their Arc Light mission from Guam with targets south of the DMZ. The crew commander was Maj. Swede Brown (P), flying with Capt. Jim Davis (CP), Capt. Bill Pritchard (RN), Capt. Tony Johnson (N), Capt. Don Reynolds (EW), and TSgt. Al Whatley (G). After a successful bomb run, they climbed out and leveled off. At that time, things began to unravel. They lost their forward TR units. This meant that AC power was available, but some DC powered switches were inoperable. HF radios were lost, leaving only battery powered UHF communications. Most equipment relying on these switches were out with the important impact on fuel transfer. There was still enough fuel to get back to Anderson, but it couldn’t be transferred around to other tanks. They were left with only about two hours of flying time. Also, the bird would be pretty heavy when they did land. This had to have everyone rattled enough, and then came more trouble. Just minutes later, they lost #1 and #2 engines. Restart attempts failed. Other advice was forwarded but to no avail. Struggling to keep up, the cell tried descending. It became obvious that there was but one choice – leave the cell and get her on the ground. The decision was made to turn around and land back in Vietnam. They picked DaNang which had a 10,000 foot runway. All seemed doable and Swede started his approach. Al Whatley told his story many times when I was present and he always mentioned that they had discussed abandoning the aircraft and “punching out”. Al said Swede wanted them (the crew) to do that and that he would try to save the bird by himself. Al also said that they unanimously said “No” and agreed to trust their pilot and “ride her in” with him. Then the next crisis – the flaps wouldn’t extend. A lot of us remain unclear on this. Between SAC Hgts., Boeing, and on down, wouldn’t the flap extension issue and prep for a no-flap landing have been considered early on? In any case, it seems to have come upon them as a late surprise and Brown II initiated a go-around. They kept the gear down and returned to attempt the no-flap landing.
I’m sure Swede tried to “plant it” as short as possible. With a “no-flap” he would have needed every inch of runway. Some reports say that the bird touched down, then took a big bounce. Al never mentioned this to any of us, although he did say that he “popped the drag chute”. J.T. Chapin reports that eye witnesses had stories that varied somewhat. Exactly what happened on landing remains unclear. The devastating results are not. The aircraft ran off the end of the runway, sheared the front trucks and hit the ground sliding – disintegrating as it went – right into a mine field. Fortunately for Al, the tail sheared off leaving Al trapped facing the runway. The aircraft burst into flames, followed by explosions which resulted in the loss of the five forward crew members. Again, Al told us that he remembers sitting there, resigned to die, as the flames lit up the sky behind him and consumed everything else.
Now for Al’s miracle story. He said he could see firemen in suits, red lights, and vehicles. He wondered why they weren’t coming his way. He wasn’t aware of the mine field issue, of course. Al told us that he heard noise, as it was dark. He looked up and it was a guy trying to “chop him out” (I think I remember that the tech order says this can’t be done). But there he was, chopping away with an ax. Al wondered how he even got up there. He got Al out as other help arrived. I remember distinctly that Al said he asked the guy how he could have risked going into the mine field. He got the simple answer that it was obvious to this hero to simply run down, following the skid marks of the severed tail section. The collaborative research collected by J.T. Chapin has other variations of the details of Al’s rescue and they may be more accurate. However, these are my recollections. Chapin also reports that Al’s first concern on egress was, “How’s my crew?, How’s my crew?’ I would confirm this. He always said that his first worry was about those other guys. Familiar theme, huh? I would add that Al insisted that it was his choice to stay with the squadron, on Guam. There were concerns, in those times, about morale back at home when something like this happens. I really can’t say. After flying with Al as a fellow crew member, I surmise that there was no question for him, one way or the other. If you knew Al, you would completely agree.
One other important sidebar to be mentioned here. A tribute, here, should be made to honor the strong women who supported the crewdogs and their mission. “Not enough has been said!” We know what they did on the home front with children, et al. Others don’t! I would post that they experienced the same anxiety and fear that we did. They did this day to day, and in some cases, to the extreme – like when a disaster struck. Some readers may not know this. The AF tried to prepare them for the shock and grief that might come. They were briefed, making a list of friends to be there for support, and such; but it wasn’t enough. Consider a caravan of blue AF sedans entering the base housing area, with the lead displaying the CO’s flag. The “notification party” – also carrying the Chaplin and designated friends – would slowly proceed down the street. The wives in each house prayed it wouldn’t stop in front of their home. As it passed, after initial relief, they would then wonder who would meet this awful fate. If it stopped at a house, what would one do? One wife was unloading groceries after her commissary trip. They stopped, to which she threw her groceries in the air, ran into the house, and slammed and locked the door. “Gasp!” Whether you were this wife or any other, you were affected. This kind of worry always hung over their heads. They were a group of understanding women who were truly brave and tough. We salute you ladies!
I would conclude by saying that my crewdog days provided positive growth experiences in my life, more than any other non-religious, non-family experience. My contributions pale compared to what others did and gave. I appreciate this platform on which to write and share these events. Thanks to all of you fellow crewdogs and all those who supported us as well.
This is a new category for the blog, piece about or by former fliers, especially those with the right stuff. This first one is from Ed Haerter, who a the time was flying F-100s in Vietnam. Pretty reiveting story and a reminder of how important pure luck can be to each of us. Ed wrote the piece for the Super Sabre Society Journal.
Living on Borrowed Time, Near-Fatal Encounter with the Hunter: Fate.
By Ed Haerter.
On the night of Aug 22, 1968, Mike McLean and I, both stationed at Phu Cat with the 174th TFS out of Sioux City Iowa, were scrambled off alert twice in “C” models for close air support missions in support of a Special Forces camp under heavy attack in “I” Corps, right up against the DMZ. Armament was the standard alert “soft load” of 2 finned napes, two M117 high drags, and four guns loaded with mixed HEI and API 20mm.
The first flight was uneventful, with quite a lot of tracer fire coming down from the hills during our deliveries, but no hits on us. On the second scramble, ground fire intensified significantly.
I had just finished with my last strafe pass, and right after easing off the “G’s” from the pullout, and starting to climb, I felt a distinct thunk on the aircraft, and told Mike that I’d been hit. The aircraft started to fly erratically, just kind of wallowing. Mike looked me over to see if he could see anything, but it was very dark and all he had was a flashlight.
We got feet-wet and continued back to Phu Cat, after deciding that the problem was most probably just a loose sway brace on one of the fuel tanks, and we discussed jettisoning them, but decided against it because of our uncertainty. When we got back to Phu Cat, it was overcast and raining, so we had to use GCA to land, something we didn’t like to do because they’d put a couple of guys into the hills south of the base.
The landing and de-arm were normal, but I convinced the alert crew chief to change out the aircraft because of the strange way it had been flying. As usual with that kind of write-up, I got the normal, “The only problem is the connection between the seat and the stick” look, but he did it anyway. We cocked the new aircraft, and I forgot the incident as I looked forward to getting off alert in the morning.
At about9AM, I was just finishing my second or third beer, when one of the maintenance officers came up to my hootch and told me that they wanted to see me on the flightline. I was still wearing my grubby flight suit, had a day’s growth of beard, and was tired and not in a very good mood about being bothered.
When we got to the flight line, I was amazed to see a large number of people, including a bunch of colonels and one civilian, gathered around #972. The civilian was a North American tech rep who’d flown in fromSaigon, and he was talking to the DCM. The DCM asked him if it would be possible to one-time-fly the aircraft toTaiwanfor a new wing, and the tech rep told him, “Colonel, I wouldn’t taxi that frigging thing to the end of the runway!”
One of the maintenance sergeants motioned to me to join him under the wing. He showed me where they’d pulled off a panel to expose the front spar. It was cracked all of the way through, and the remnants of a dud 23mm shell was laying next to the wing panel on the ground. At that point, the tech rep came over to me and asked if I was the pilot who had last flown the aircraft. When I said yes, he said, “Captain, you have to be the luckiest SOB I’ve ever seen. I just got done talking to our engineers at the factory, and none of them could understand why the wing had not broken off.”
He asked me, “How far did you fly the aircraft after it was hit?” When I said a couple of hundred miles, he just laughed. It seems like all of the things that happened during and after the time I was hit had been in my favor. First, I wasn’t pulling any “G’s.” Second, we flew straight home with no hard control movements. Third, I hadn’t jettisoned the tanks, and last of all, and probably most important, the weather prevented us from doing a 360 overhead landing pattern. The two “G” break would probably have pulled the wing off.
The aircraft never got fixed. It was cannibalized for parts, and left at Phu Cat. One of our crew chiefs, Dick Westbrook, removed the stick grip for me, and I still have it. It continually reminds me that Fate is, indeed, the hunter!
Pal Randy told me about collectors’s show, old conservation mementos, etc. Sent email on Friday asking if we would be coming to the show in Marshall. We went to Marshall. Small problem. Show was in Mason. But no road trip is wasted for writers. All -around weird, yet fun day, if you don’t count atomic puke by Shanahan a mile from home. He was embarrassed. Then it was dinner with our friends Jay and Donna. Here’s how the day went:
Wrong county fairground, 80 miles of so off, we stopped for lunch, faute de mieux.
Not one menu, but deux and on the small in big old type. NEW
Double-chocolate Pancake Puppies with Peanut Butter sauce.
Condiment is designed as a substance used to give flavor to food.
Indeed. At this eatery, kethup is apparently being used in novel ways,
I offer photographic evidence.
An elderly black couple sits in the corner, him
wearing Krocs, she in ostrich skin cowgirl boots,
gaucho pants, flamboyant batik blouse
on her head and Aunt Jemima head-scarf, in salmon-pink.
An hour before we went looking for vintage conservation gewgaws
found a Mommy & Me Sale.
We are surrounded by raucous luncherers,
the males of all ages keeping ball caps on throughout their meals,
everyone on cell phones of electronic doodads
A boy of eight struts by, black Megadeath T-Shirt,
three strands of bling, legs spread apart like he has crotch rot.
My date says, Just like the Old Pig’s Trail inn down in Longview.
Shouts a nearby woman, “You don’t never pay no attention to your kid!”
Who knew? And all the while Ricky Nelson is warblekating in the background,”
“All I have to do is dream.” This is a day of dreams, it seems,
I hear about a lush who shit in a bathtub and left residue of melted Hersey kisses ringing the water line,’
A cat named Topaz who refused to deficate anywhere but in an empty and clean tub.
It was a mix of morons, and imbeciles and idiots, you cant do your own math on the numbers
defining such things. Our friend has installed above-ground punji stakes
to keep deer away from her flowers and rhodendron,
Put this image in your mind: Ho Chi Minh Trail stuff
around a Frank Lloyd Wright house,
a new take on gating communities?
Heard a story of a Bear-Faced liar
though at lunch a new def for locavore
and rarer than lottery winners.
Some days things seem to swing wrong’
and turn out just right.
We looked for Mitt and Ann,
but they were no-shows.
No surprise, Tax Day is tomorrow
and Mitt is smiling. Eww.
More pix from the day follow:
Everywhere and every time I speak, i get questions which point to the oddness of the names of characters. I’m always takean aback by these questions. Almost all the names come right out of U.P. phone books. Just having finished a biography of George Marshall, I had to laugh. Here are the first names of American and Brit military and diplomatic personnel who played key roles in World War II: Starling, Tasker, Hunter, Fox, Peyton, Newton, Lesley, Bedell, Millard, Sholto, Savvy, Jumbo, Lucian, Pug, Carlisle, Walton, Forrest, Omar, and Styles. My names are odd? Look ye around the world, friends, now and then-wise.Seems to me I’ve somewhat neglected the blog for Facebook, so I thought I’d dupe some of my Facebook ramblings to here for folks who don’t follow in that alleged medium. I use Facebook like I use versifying, to work on language, thoughts, etc.
April 12: Late last night I was watching Newt Gingrich at Wesley College (aside: first time I’ve seen him speak without Callista beside/behind him). Newt told audience he is sympathetic to endangered species, and then utters — as evidence: I’m a zoo fanatic.” Really? Zoo = endangered species? Whew-boy Who knew?
April 11: A Cypriot Greek proverb:
“If a stone falls on the egg, alas for the egg –
If the egg falls on the stone — alas for the egg”
Seems to my meager mind in this proverb, that life, justice and such require us to have a pretty damn good idea what the egg is at all times, and in all circumstances. Mel Brooks in History of the World gave us the memorable line, “It’s good to be da king.” Likewise it’s NOT good to be da egg. Ever.
April 10: The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same Department — Why do we have to keep re-learning lessons of the past? News reports make it seems like the military has been caught by surprise by psychiatric problems in the wake of Iraq Deux and Afghanistan. In the fall of 1948, there were 110,000 vets in VA hospitals, 60 percent of them for “psychoneurotic problems.” We’d call that PTSD now. It was called neuroanesthesia, shell shock, and other things after past wars, but it has been seen after EVERY war American kids have bled in.
April 9: Is there a heretofore undefined and identified biological magnet that begins to apply as we hit the downslide? Today out of the blue heard from my old pal John Wesley Gould of thespianic greatness (personal life and on stage) he who defined Tevye for Kalamazoo in a long ago production of Fiddler. Forty years since we imbibed and worked together and he took off for the City of Wind (adding to it in ll manners, good and bad, I assure you). I’ve always thought that a merciful god would in your final second(s) on this blue-green spaceship provide a thorough update on each and every person encountered in our journey. Might make a good plot, now that I think it out loud. Snow today. I lmost feel sorry for it this time of year in this year. March I understand was the warmest since 1945. I was two, and no, I don’t remember it.
From British writer P.D.James: “I believe that political correctness can be a form of linguistic fascism, and it sends shivers down the spine of my generation who went to war against fascism. The only way to react is to get up in the morning and start the day by saying four or five vastly politically incorrect things before breakfast.”
During breakie works too.
April 6 — My Pal Laurie K sent me an article from the July 1943 TRANSPORTATION MAGAZINE. Title odf the article is: Eleven Tips for getting more efficiency out of women employees. I would remind us that this was written in the time of the so-called “greatest generation,” which is one of our most twisted national myths. Here are the 11 points directly from the article:
1) Pick young married women;
2) When you have to use older women, try to get ones who have worked outside the home at some time;
3) General experience indicates that “husky” women — those who are just a little on the heavy side — are more even tempered and efficient than their underweight sisters;
4) Retain a physician to give each women a special physical examination — one covering female conditions. This step not only protects the property against the possibility of lawsuit, but reveals whether the employee-to-be has any female weaknesses that would make her mentally or physically unfit for the job;
5) Stress at the outer the importance of time thre fact that a minute or two lost here or there makes serious inroads on schedules. Until this poiny is gotten across, service is likely to be slowed up;
6) Give the female employee a definite day-long schedule od duties so that they’ll keep busy without bothering the management for instructions every few minutes;
7) Whereever possible, let the inside employees change from one job to another at some time during the day. Women are inclined to be less nervous and happier with change;
8) Give every girl an adequate number of rest periods during the day. You have to make some allowances for feminine psychology. A girl has more confidence and is more effective if she csn keep her hair tidied, apply fresh lipstick, and wash her hands several times a day;
9) Be tactful when issuing instructions or in making criticisms.Women are more sensitive; they can’t shrug off harsh words the way men do. Never ridicule a woman — it breaks her spirit and cutt off her efficiency;
10) Be reasonably considerste bout using strong language around women. Even though a girl’s husbsnd or father may swear vociferously, she’ll grow to dislike a place of business where she hears too much of this; and,
11) Get enough size variety in operators’ uniforms so that each girl can have a proper fit. This point can’t be stressed too much in keeping women happy.
Sheesh. The fact is there are still many bidnettpeople who think these things or some semblance of them. And we want somebody with business experience in the White House why? If I wrote these rules in a novel, nobody would believe them. Sad and sick.
April 6 — Memo to Ass-gut-less Country Club Board of Misdirectors and Their Lil’ Old White Whack-A Ball Tournament: Let’s see: Suffrage, 1913, female golf club members in 2012:That would be Zero? No hurry, boys, it hasn’t been even a century yet? How about changing green jacket to yellow, to symbolize closed-door chicken feces? How many of you boys is in the 99, eh? Is it a family value country club of patriots? Just wondering from up here in the flyover rust belt?
Morning Thoughts: yaah-yaah-yaah-yaah, Nothing’s changed. Who writes this grin-and grope candidate’s speeches?
April 4 — George Orwell once wrote: “In Twentieth Century society the media does not adequately represent all shades of opinion.”
Note to George: not all opinions are equal, and all opinions do not deserve equal treatment, or respect.
Going through my notepads I found these unattributed write-downs:
“Mony-mougers working off the hornbook of vitriol.”
Or, The goal of the candidate today is to bombard opponents until their legs are wrapped in rhetorical bags filled with gunstones so they drown quickly and go away.
ignorance: The orthodoxy of tell me what I think I know, so I won’t have to know anything different or question what I know or think about what somebody else says if I don’t agree with their view. We have dogma. Where’s the catma?
Politics as art. Social networking as absurdist art?What happened to the vaunted Facebook revolution in Syria?
Aging: The Game for Life (I may used this one as a book title sometime).
The graveyard is a social network for religionists.
And, “Candidates as ranck-riders, hustlers posing as gentlemen.”
When a political independent hears: “Republican,” the brain often substitutes “religionist.” Sort of our brains channeling iPad currents.
Herein: The Days of Weird. Just a note to iPad users. What ignoratti programmed the expensive toy to guess what I’m going to write and pre-spell it for me? And, Spell it incorrectly, or pick the wrong word. Not appreciated. Not all technology is equally loved. e.g. Le Guillotine.
The Klingon word for love song is bang bom.
All y’all get it done today.
March 27 — Look around fellow stumblers on earth, here in the land of all-law, no-law, using us-uns vs. them-uns, all sides filled with looters, fasttalkerfellas, all them blaring mouth organs of Boughtland and the blueyredreadyblues, manipulated by spiky gel suit units here in greenback meadows, the one percent with greenbacks, the 99 with shit on our souls, here deep in the Disjointed Disunited States of Wackdom, (that performer formerly known as America). We live our lives at the end of soul-cranks, rhetorical meat grinders arm-twisting for loyalty, like salesmen, for or against, no middle ground. No individual opinions allowed. We feel the fiery breath of Torquemada in Super PACs, Believe as we believe, believe as we believe the chant goes, it’s like being back in church again in Jackson Heights at age seven, The 99s paying blood homage to the Won, the Supreme Court debates health insurance, which can’t be eaten, lessen there’s a recipe I missed? We pass time with rocket fuel Brennivin in our veinous network, shit caked on our boot souls, the phone rings the caller wanting to do a short survey. Will you vote in the August election, touch 1 if yes, 2 if no, 3 if undecided. I push asterisk. Voice says, “That is an inappropriate response, let us begin again,” Indeed, let us do so. …” Will you vote….? Twelve asterisks later I grow bored of my afternoon entertainment, hang up. The dog harbors squirrel-killing fantasies has his nose against the glass door. I hear gas is up to $4.15 an hour. What else is new? It goes up every spring before we head for the UP where eccentrics are embraced and devout suits seldom welcome.
March 25 — Interesting thoughts from Barbara Newman in LRB, talking about language, grammar and rhetoric. She writes about Medieval theorists
trying to square “absolute” or free and ungoverned, character of this distinctive construction within the ‘regimen’ or logical hierarchy, that ought to govern all syntax. She says the distinction matters. “To take a famous example, the Latinate framers of the US Constitution employed an ablative absolute in the Second Amendment: ‘A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to bear and keep arms shall not be infringed.’ Newman explains: ” An interpreter who favored regimen would argue that the ablative clause determines the sense of the main clause hence, the state has a right to maintain an army. Those who favor the absolute, as American courts have done, bracket the militia clause to mean citizens may as own as many firearms as they wish. The difference between constructions amounts to roughly 12,000 murders a year.” Not sure where she draws numbers from, and I don’t necessarily agree with the snarky view. But it seems important for us to understand that this example is but one reason why we have an entire legal field of constitutional law scholarship. It also ought to remind us with all the hue and cry of better math and science scores by American students that poor use of language, or failure to understand that comprehension failures can lead into cultural cul de sacs it can be impossible to escape. Just saying.
Here’s the take from this past month. Some great stuff, not much fiction. Also, a couple of photos from my writing “space.”
Robert Douglas Fairhurst. Becoming Dickens: The Inventaion of a Novelist. [NF]
Carter Niemeyer. Wolfer. [NF]
Paul L. Errington. Of Predation and Life. [NF]
Bill Holm. The Music of Failure. [NF]
Jon Krakauer. Under the Banner of Heaven. [NF]
Ed Decker and Dave Hunt. The God makers. [NF]
Grace Tiffany. Erotic Beasts & Social Monsters: Shakespeare, Jonson, and Comic Androgyny. [NF]
Jim Harrison. Songs of Unreason [P]
Paul W. Mapp. The Elusive West And the Contest for Empire, 1713-1763. [NF]
Bill Holm. The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere. [NF]
Bill Holm. The Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland. [NF]
Ian Stewart. Another Fine Math You’ve Gotten Me Into. [NF]
Walt Harrington. The Everlasting Stream: A True Story of Rabbits, Guns, Friendship and Family [NF]
Albert E. Cole. The Great Black Wolves. [??]
Anita Brookner. Hotel Du Lac.
Carl Hiassen. Kick Ass. [NF]
Rick Bragg. The Prince of Frogtown. [NF]
Bill Holm. Coming Home Crazy. [NF]
Rick Bragg. Brown Dog of the Yaak: Essays on Art and Activism. [NF]
Bill Holm. Eccentric Islands. [NF]
Rita Crosby. Quiet Hero. [NF]
Joseph Heywood. Red Jacket. [MS]
Daniel K. Richter. Before the Revolution: America’s Ancient Pasts. [NF]
Jaroslav Hasek. The Fateful Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk: Book One.
W.D. Hulbert. The Dappled king – A tale of a Northern Trout Stream
MSU Dept. of English.
“Wolves, Wildlife and Politics”
Hannah Community Center
East Lansing, Michigan
March 22, 2012
Despite the focus of this evening and series, I need to tell you that I don’t write books about issues. I write about characters, who live in a certain cultural/geographic context, which gives rise to situations and various issues that then come to bear on the characters. Issues are only strands of the fabric from which the story gets woven.
The ways of journalism I learned here at MSU have served me well as a novelist.
We were taught to strive for objectivity and to keep ourselves, our opinions and prejudices, out of news. I suspect that train has left the station as US journalism has dived closer to the world’s political news model with a yellow tinge – just as it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Journalism of 1961-65 tried to teach us: how to create and nurture a beat; how to find and protect a source; how to listen for a good quote, which starts us down the road of effective hearing, that is, how to hear not just what people actually say, but how they say it. (Not to mention what the sources are not saying publicly.) I learned how to do background research here, and how to get involved closely in a story and keep my eyes and ears open. It even taught me to listen carefully to dialogue and to hear the rhythms of language of place and class. Journalism training instilled all this in me, and more and what I took away from here 47 years ago will always be treasured.
Most of all, we were taught to go get the story. Rick Bragg addresses this in Brown Dog of the Yaak. He wrote: “I think most readers want to see writers, artists charge hard, or move powerfully or gracefully, out of this world — but then turn and come back to some anchor in that art, whether it’s a physical place, or an emotion, or both.”
When you do this as a writer you sometimes hear something like I once heard from an old, but reformed violator. He told me, “If there’s a lot, take a lot. If there’s just a few, take ‘em all.” You would never hear this sitting at your desk. It’s like Captain Kirk at the end of one of the movies telling his helmsman to “Take ‘er out there, thataway.”
I have been an author since 1985, and over the course of almost three decades my reputation has soared from internationally unknown to regionally obscure. I am by one person’s estimate, the Poet Laureate of Groundlings and the I-Don’t-Read-So-Muchies. My fans are far more likely to borrow my books from the library than to buy them. Or one person will buy a copy, then pass it around to 30 or 40 other folks. People frequently tell me that while they don’t read much, but they have read all of my books. If true, this is probably a good thing.
Our being here tonight is propitious, the gray wolf having recently been delisted from endangered species status in Michigan. My view on wolves is that they belong in the state, and that our MDNRE should have the power to control problem animals, as they do other creatures. Conservation should never be about popular opinion measure by superficial polls, or citizens voting on such issues, but about science, in full recognition that scientists will be quick to admit they don’t have all the answers. We either manage our resources scientifically or politically. The two don’t mix well. Nitty-gritty conservation issues should not be decided by voters at large. I take issue with citizens who spend a few weeks in the woods each year and dare tell wildlife biologists how to do their jobs, criticizing them loudly when biologists do something different than the self-appointed experts want.
I write in my Woods Copy series about law enforcement men and women called conservation officers. My stories move all around the state, but focus on the life of one officer in the Upper Peninsula, that place Old Curmudgeon Jim Harrison once characterized as a “wilderness by default.”
The terroir of the UP is always a character in my stories because the weather and terrain up there effect every aspect of life for every individual who lives there, a place where you must stay involved and pay attention. Above the bridge you have to live life, not let life live you. To reflect this sentiment I wrote in the U.P. poem, called, ”90 Miles from The Walmart: “We burn time here, unlike below the bridge, where the reverse obtains.”
Over the past decade I’ve been on 300 – 400 patrols with conservation officers from around the state. I’m approaching a full year of time in CO trucks. These patrols have lasted from four hours to 17 hours, night and day, in vehicles and on foot, in all kinds of weather, over all kinds of terrain, involving all kinds of cases, from arson and drunk drivers to search and rescue, suicides, robberies and break-ins, assaults and escaped felons, not counting all the fish and wildlife matters that take most of a CO’s time. I love this work in part because our state’s officers are every bit as professional and dedicated as the aircrews I flew with in the USAF in the late sixties in a considerably warmer part of the world. Our COs are carefully selected, continuously and rigorously trained, and they have exceptional people skills.
Of 5,000 candidates in the state civil service pool, three or four will eventually make it to duty as conservation officers. Were I to apply, I’d never make the cut.
Conservation Officers are fully commissioned peace officers empowered to enforce all the laws of the land. Some are also federal deputies, which enables them to pursue across borders. COs work with city cops, county sheriffs, the Michigan State Police, US Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms, US Forest Service law enforcement, the Secret Service, Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Immigration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the FBI.
So why choose a conservation officer for a main character in for my stories?
I found the work interesting, and that little fiction had been done on the subject until C.J.Box and I came along at about the same moment. His stories are set in Wyoming, mine largely here.
The notion of outdoors, it seems to me, is important for many reasons, not the least being a huge philosophical shift in human values that has happened over the past century or so: This is the massive flip-flop from conceiving of wilderness as a dark and foreboding mythic terra nullius harboring monsters and death, to something apart and beautiful that somehow helps us define what it is to be human. The result of this philosophical shift is, that rather than conquer, subdue or eliminate the wild ( as was the push throughout most recorded history) we now seek to preserve and protect.
At this time in the U.S. conservation and natural resources are subjects of widespread and increasing social interest, from a number of angles, and wilderness and wildness are part of the overall picture. Soon there will be a reality show about COs in Maine, and another set in Western Canada.
If one is interested in conservation and the UP, who better to show us than a DNR officer whose life is intertwined 24-7 with the outdoors?
The shift in public value of wilderness and wildness seems to me a major one that hasn’t gotten a great deal of serious academic attention. I mention this because the status of wilderness bears directly on wolves, which were not so long ago relentlessly pursued with a goal of eternal obliteration. Over the ages, mankind declared war on wolves, sometimes driven by churches and religions. Wolf dens were destroyed relentlessly, whole litters killed. The animals were trapped, snared, poisoned, shot from aircraft — killed in every conceivable way, and revulsion for the animals was common in this state, even when I was in high school in the UP, fifty one years ago.
People tend to be for or against wolves. Part of the formula seems to involve a latent level of anti-government, anti-establishment feeling, wherein nothing the government does can be right. Our current political campaigns are filled with such rhetoric and thinking. And it is common thinking in parts of the UP (and other rural parts of our state).
I once explained to my pal God how Americans could say and mean that they love their country yet hate their government, and he didn’t believe me. After trout fishing one night, we went into a bar, and ordered our dinner. I stepped to the bar and ignited a group tirade down the precise lines I had told him about. He was astonished. Still is, I think.
The anti-wolf view still lingers, more widely than one might assume. “I-can-see-Russia-From-Here Sarah Palin, then governor of Alaska, was reportedly “unenthusiastic” about a law to prevent killing wolves from aircraft, whinging to the media, wolf killing is, “an All-American sport, and a way of life in Alaska.”
Killing them certainly was a long-time business in the Lower 48 and here in Michigan as well, with bounties employed to eliminate several species.
Back in the late 19th century a North Dakota “wolfologist” by the name of Frank Corbin claimed wolves multiplied at the rate of 600-800 percent per year. Corbin claimed to have killed 400 wolves within seven miles of his house, and 1,100 over nine years, by digging dens to encourage females to use them, then catching the pups on fishing hooks, killing them, and “bountying” the pups while leaving his adult brood stock in place to breed more bounty producers. True? Who knows. The status of wolves in Corbin’s day was below that of rats, and there remains today a small, largely secretive group of people of indeterminate size who continue to think this way.
Go to the U.P. and you’ll see various bumper stickers and signs: “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up. “
Or “So Many Wolves, so Few Recipes.”
And “Support Wolves: Smoke One Pack a Day.”
One can never underestimate human creativity in finding ways to manipulate situations to their own purpose. Corbin went around with wolf scalps attached to his coat – to advertise his prowess.
Enmity for wolves seems to have grown out of myth, based largely on lack of actual knowledge, and driven in part by organized and primitive religions. How we have historically thought about wolves no doubt also grew out of faulty inductive reasoning: generalizing from specifics. For example, experienced outdoorsmen might tell you that scavengers won’t touch a dead wolf carcass. I have also been told (and read) that dogs and grizzly bears, both of which will eat just about anything, will refuse wolf meat. Microflora will of course destroy a wolf carcass, but nothing else.
So where might that observation lead to in terms of man’s concept of wolves? Both Bible and Quiran mention wolves only negatively and the wolf has been used metaphorically for eons to describe general and specific evils. I’ve seen several wolf carcasses and if they’ve been out a while, they show up as desiccated lumps of fur, guts and blood gone, even the bones untouched by calcium-seeking porcupines. What sort of conclusions were drawn by people seeing such sights?
Some Native American groups concluded that, of all of the great spirit’s things and creatures, only the wolf lacked a manitu or soul, and therefore was deserving of little respect. Our state’s native American tribe, the Ojibwe (Anishnaabe), interpreted wolves differently. Their belief taught that all other animals were created in pairs, but the wolf was the last animal created, and it was created alone. Under this belief system, the wolf was supposed to “walk the earth with man as a partner.” Now think about how Europeans attempted to eliminate Native Americans, and parallel that with how those same Europeans treated wolves, right into modern times. Interesting parallel. For white folks: Indians and wolves, perhaps same-same? Not being facetious here.
I have tried to paint wolves accurately, and not to anthropomorphize them – yet there is no denying they are smart, attractive, curious, social, family-oriented creatures that have managed to persist despite the onslaught of human loathing and firepower.
I like having wolves back in our state: They were here when we arrived (and I mean Native Americans in this instance), and wolves deserve to have their place here now.
I tend to be pretty hard on hunters in my books because of all the nonsense and shenanigans I’ve seen when I’m out with conservation officers. But I fully support hunting, have no philosophical problem with hunters who follow the rules. I don’t even object to Hundred-Yarders, those clueless individuals who plop their pop-up blinds within 100 yards of their trucks so they won’t get lost, or can get out fast when fear overcomes them, as it often does.
I saw my first wolf tracks in Idaho near Hoodoo Lake in 1962, saw my first gray wolf in Michigan on the Fox River Road north of Seney in 1998, had my closest experience with a wolf around 2004 on the Iron River, and heard my first wolf calls last summer in Luce County. Since 1998 I’ve seen approximately twenty of the animals, tracked one that had been poached in Iron County, and helped find another that died of natural causes, also in Iron County.
I’ve seen live wolves in Iron, Dickinson, Delta, Mackinac, Luce, and Keweenaw Counties. I’ve also seen several wolf carcasses.
Despite dozens of calls from citizens of a dead wolf on the side of such-and-such a road, investigation revealed the following: coyotes, miscellaneous dogs, cats, foxes, a badger, a raccoon, and two bear cubs. But not one wolf since I started doing ride-alongs with COs in 2001. Not one, which might suggest a lot of wolf reports in whatever context are better kept in the questionable column. Familiarity may breed contempt. It surely breeds an illusion of knowledge. And the illusion of knowledge sometimes breeds panic and cluelessness.
Wolf Expert Dave Mech once reported he had, over 35 years in the field, had only 15 encounters with wolves without the aid of radio collars or aircraft.
Wolves sing a song of determination and resolve.
So I will close by saying that if you are fortunate enough to see a wolf, count yourself very very lucky.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 was a positive step for wildlife preservation.
But some species like wolves tend to polarize opinions and when this happens pro-wolf groups try to act in behalf of the animals, but often end up causing largely deleterious effects.
As I said at the outset. I prefer to let science and those who know the science steer the wildlife ship, and keep politics out of it.
Got the first typeset pages back from my editor and I am going through the pages line by line. When this is done,the pages will go to the proofer/fact-checker and i’ll go through the story again to look at and answer her questions. By mid April there will be a typeset version bound for reviewers, this happening five months before publication. At that point, my work will be done and I won’t have anything to do until the book publishes September 19.
I’m working with the paper typeset pages at the moment, but will then take my work and plug it into the electronic version and shoot it back to my editor. What sort of things does the editor do? In a note I just handled, my editor wrote, “Let’s give the reader a little of Bspcst’s internal thought, rundown of what he gained in this meeting with Geronissi. A little box score of the exchange, since’ there’s not a lot going on. The setting traps thing you mention a few lines after these lines is okay, but still a little too hard to decipher without some of Bspcst’s thoughts to help.” This is a fairly typical comment from the editor, and he’s right. More eyes on the writing help make it smoother and easier for the reader, which is the whole point of the story. Our lady cardinal continues to build her nest ten feet from my work desk. First day of spring, supposed to be 84 today. two years ago on this day, it snowed several inches of wet snow. All this warm weather makes me wonder if bird and critter spring breeding skeds will move up? will have to ask a biologist. I’ll work on manuscript more tomorrow but take Thursday off as we head to East Lansing for a talk and panel discussion on wolves and endangered species, 7-9 p.m. at the Hsnnah Community Hall on Abbott Road. I never eat before a gig, so we’ll grab dinner afterwards. God and his miss us will go along with us. Shanny will stay home to guard the house. What i like at this stage is to re-read the manuscript and feel it working the way I hoped it would. I try to read it with the reader’s eye, managing the technical part of the story, but also trying to feel the flow and impact of the words as they’ve been written. This happens with every book, and I love all the work except for the “appearances’ that take place after the book is on store shelves. To me the book is between the reader and me, a one-to-one communication, not some sort of group grope and explication. The upside of the public stuff is all the interesting people I get to meet. So now it is back to work. Over.
When I left the USAF in 1970, my CO asked why I and my regular commission were leaving after only five years. I said, “Sir, I’m leaving with five years in uniform, but I grew up in it and have 256 years, more time in than you do.” He was a full bull, looked at me, grinned, and nodded. Looking back, my life has been marked by one thing: War and American troops spilling blood in other nations.
Born in 1943 midway in WW2 (1941-1945); Cold War, 1945-1991;China 1945/1948-49/ 1954/55; Greece, 1947;Korea 1950-53;Lebanon, 1958; Haiti, 1959; Thailand, 1962;Congo, 1964; Dominican Republic, 1965;Vietnam, 1959-1975; Laos 1962-1975;Gulf War I, 1990-91;Bosnia, 1992-1996; Somalia, 1992-1995;Afghanistan, 2001 – ; Gulf War 2, 2003-2011. Some of these were unavoidable, but what the hell is it about us that keeps wanting our kids to die on foreign soil? And not take particularly good care of returning vets, wounded or not?Be nice is some of our jackleg politics could ‘splain this fixation with war to us, yo? In my 68 years there has not been one year without the Cold or a shooting war somewhere, with us in it. Do we want this, and if so, why?