6th Bn, 84th FA

Swoosh, was the sound of the doors opening on the first bus of soldiers arriving from Fort Sill.  The unit was filled by Lieutenants fresh from OCS and cannoneers just trained at Fort Sill.  We had a couple of NCO's that had been in the Army for a while but few if any with combat experience in Vietnam.  The Chiefs of Section were the one's that had been acting NCO's in AIT.  My battery (Alpha) had a Captain fresh back from Korea, a 1LT that had washed out of flight school and 4 brand new 2nd LTs.  I was assigned as a Forward Observer and the unit Supply Officer.

As the supply officer, I was the guy responsible for the issue of the entire battery's worth of equipment as it arrived by truck.  This was a new unit and we had nothing on hand until it was sent from some depot.  We worked hard to get some Connex shipping containers for each gun to secure their equipment.  Our motor pool did not have storage buildings built in with wire cages.  I don't remember how many pages of Microfiche it took to list the things on order and on hand but I do know reading one of the readers would give me a headache.  The trucks loads of equipment would arrive and we would have to figure out who to make sign for it.  

The 6th Bn, 84th Field Artillery was a 155mm Towed Artillery Unit.  That meant that we had a 5 Ton Gun Truck and an ammo truck for each gun.  When our unit went out to the field, we would stretch out for several hundred meters along the road.  The biggest problem we had was that the main reason our XO failed flight school. He was absolutely unable to read a map correctly or tell direction without help.  The first time we pulled into a firing position, we were facing entirely the wrong direction.  The battery commander was watching from up on a nearby hill and came down and chewed his butt big time.  They us-assed that position and drove around and came back to the same spot.  had one of the NCO's not remembered, he would have the put the guns in the same spots facing the wrong direction again.  That happened two more times and it was when the Post Commander came up over a hill and saw the battery pointing at Main Post that things got changed.  One of the other 2nd Lt's was put in the XO's position and things were fairly normal during the rest of the training.

It was a lot like the blind leading the blind there at Fort Irwin.  We knew what the books said about fighting but how the hell do you train for Vietnam in a place where  there is no brush over two or three feet tall and damned little of that.  We had no camouflage nets, no sand bags, no experience and darned little leadership. Somehow the battery managed to get ready for and pass what was then called an ATT or Army training Test.  A couple of mornings after that, when we all appeared for a Battery Officer's call, CAPT Alex Kocsis said, "Good morning Special Weapons Officer" to me.  I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. 

I was sent over to the S-2's office and read into the Nuclear Weapons Program.  I was told that in two weeks we would be given a courtesy evaluation by 6th Army and a week after that we would be evaluated for record.  I went back to the battery and was met by the First Sergeant.  He would not let me go in to the Commander's office and plead my case.  He calmly said that over there in that file cabinet was the records of every man in the battery and I could pick six of the best for my team.  I picked out the 6 brightest soldiers in the unit (or the one's with the highest test scores) and went out to meet them.  I think one or two were in the Fire Direction Center but the majority were on the guns.  I took them over to a Quonset hut and started talking about what the heck we were in for.  I am not sure how much of the training is still classified but mostly in a 155mm unit you assemble a round by the book and if authenticated you get to fire it.  We had a trainer and between the three battery teams, we shared it.  We would have one person read the manual and the others would help do what the reader said.  There was some stupid rule that there needed to be two people on hand at all times so we had to stagger lunch.  

The two weeks went by quickly with only one small problem.  On Wednesday of the first week, I was told to report to Battalion headquarters.    Who the hell had picked Stubbs for the training?  For some reason he did not have a favorable National Agency Check and would never be given a Security Clearance.  I had to send him to the S-2 office where they read him out of the program with a threat of Leavenworth if he ever uttered a word of his training.  We were down to five but the training went on.

One Saturday Morning, we all met the evaluation team from the Presidio and did our thing.  We had only one training round, so each unit did their thing in order and by the book.  We were told that in a week they would be back and we needed to do the same thing only next time for record.  A week later we did and we passed.  The 6th Bn was Officially certified as a Nuclear Capable Unit and on orders for Vietnam where there were no Nuclear Weapons.  Stupid is as Stupid Does.   That night, I invited my team over to my BOQ room to have a party.  When they showed up, they had Stubbs in tow and we partied until all the beer and Scotch was gone.  Somewhere in the middle of all the fun, I asked Stubbs what he could have possible done to not get a favorable National Agency Check.  He told me about his trip to the Peace Corps.  When they completed his training he was sent to Nigeria and the people there hated them.  They were not allowed to go into the villages or do anything they were trained to do.  He went to his camp director and asked to be sent somewhere else.  He was told that the only way out for the next two years was to be crazy and get sent home.  Stubbs said he took off his clothes and ran around naked for a couple of days acting crazy and they sent him home.  Works for me.  In 1967, no Peace Corps assignment and the Draft soon followed.

Right in the middle of the training for the Battalion level ATT, orders came down for us to send several officers to the Jungle Warfare school in Panama.  I will close this here and start the story again in Panama tomorrow.

MUD, Jungle Expert

Wait a Damned Minute!

Before I launch into a tirade about what was the most unfortunate unit I was ever in, I have a couple of more Fort Irwin stories to tell.    The main post at Fort Irwin had a fairly good PX, Commissary and Officer's Club.  The rest of the post was old wooden barracks that housed National Guard units as they trained there in the early summers.   By the next period of scheduled training, I would be in Vietnam so I never saw any of them train.

One of the duties we all drew was Officer of the Guard.  We would go over to the Guard House, inspect the troops, make a visit on them right after dark and once in the early morning and be there if they needed us.  They never did but it was an assigned duty that we all drew once or twice.  It did amaze me that there was live ammo issued for the guards at the golf course.  Their weapons were .22 rifles with scopes and about once each hour they would flip on the lights and assassinate any bunnies that were there eating the only grass north of the Andreas Fault and north to Canada.

On my second assignment of Guard Duty, I was doing the inspection of the soldiers and I was going down the line and inspecting each soldier as well as I remembered how to.  I turned to face a soldier about half way down the line and I had to look down to see his face.  There standing in front of me was the shortest and thinnest soldier I had ever seen in a uniform.  Even in what was the smallest uniform ever on an adult soldier was a private that made Sad Sack look like a member of the Honor Guard.   He was at attention and he placed the M-14 butt on the ground and pushed the charging handle down with his foot.  He brought it back up into the port arms position and as he looked me in the eyes, he said, "I've been sick."   To keep from laughing, I just moved to the next soldier.  When the Sergeant of the Guard and I got back into the guard house, we both busted out laughing. It was my hope that  that poor soul would remain in the United States and never deploy against any enemy bigger than a girl scout troop.  The average 12 year old girl could whoop his butt.

Fort Irwin was sand surrounded by more sand.  There were a few mountains here and there but if you weren't careful, you could get lost quick and often.  I had some innate sense of direction and realized that all roads led somewhere and once I had a map, I drove that Volvo of mine all over the place. I loved the sand tank trails and it just kept going and going. I saw the towers at Gold Stone that tracked the Apollo missions and even strayed past them over into China Lake Weapons Training Range.  When I saw my first large rocket stuck in the ground, I decided that I had strayed too far and turned around.  I drove out north of the main post and finally found where the pavement ended and the trails began their meandering towards Death Valley.  Later on, Some of us drove out the back gate and into the back side of Baker, California.  I never did find the way back in so we had to drive the extra 40 miles back to the front gate.

I found a way to cut off about 10 miles by cutting over to the Barstow dump from Yermo but you could  tear the hell out of the bottom of your car if you drove too fast and the one of the few rain storms washed the sand out of the river bottom.  I hit the rocks about 45 MPH one day and the Volvo would only run about 100 yards and stop.  I looked underneath and saw that I had mashed a fuel line flat and found that if I would just stop the car, turn on the key and let the fuel pump slowly fill the carbs, it would go another 100 yards.  I drove the last two miles to main post 100 yards at a time.

 I took it to the Self Repair facility and found an old retired sergeant there  that loved old cars about as much as I did.  He found a piece of rubber fuel line and showed me how to replace the flattened piece for a couple of dollars.  I mentioned that the Starter was dragging some and he showed me how to yard it out and then we rebuilt it there on the bench.  In each end of the starter there is a bushing that keeps the starter spinning true and even.  The bushing were worn out and he just showed me how to replace them with some stock bushings he had on hand.  He told me that the brushes were getting pretty worn out and then we took a stock set of Chevy brushes and ground them down to fit.  I think he even recommended that I go to the 2nd hand store and pick up a pair of Michelin tires he saw there on sale for a cheap price.  After mounting and balancing those tires, I had about the best car on post, at least in my mind.  The only thing he couldn't fix was the fact the windshield was just getting blasted by sand every time I was out on one of my adventures.   My dad replaced that windshield and then soon wrecked that car.  I was glad that Dad survived, but the Volvo didn't. At Fort Sill, OK they had me put in seat belts in the front and I'm sure that saved his life.  The accident that killed the Volvo was so violent that Dad broke his nose with his knee and still walked away from the crash.

 After a couple of weeks in the temporary house, a unit deployed to Vietnam and we were moved over to the old BOQ.  I had a room that shared a bathroom with the post Provost Marshal.  I met him a couple of times but because you could lock the door while you were inside the bathroom seldom saw him.  The room was furnished with the basic bed, dresser, a couple of chairs and  an area rug.  One day as I was walking out to my car I saw a bit of green growing near the sidewalk.  I saw that it was a sticker plant and I picked up three or four stickers and planted them in a glass on my dresser.  I think I needed a bit of green and was so cheap that I wouldn't spring for a real plant.  That sticker plant grew and flourished there by the window in my BOQ and it wasn't until it started to drop stickers that the maid threw it away.  I think it had died when I went to Panama.

One night I was in the pool room of the Bachelor's Officer's Quarters (BOQ), watching TV and drinking Scotch.  I picked up a bag of chips at the Commissary earlier that day and was well into eating the whole damn thing when I felt flushed.  I asked one of the guys if it was hot in here or just me.  They rushed me over to the hospital and the nurse on duty said I looked like a strawberry.  I had no known allergies and they gave me a shot and put me in isolation.  The next morning, I woke up well and healthy.  It seems that either the Scotch or the Granny Goose potato chips fried in Cottonseed Oil caused an allergic reaction.  Must have been those damned chips.

Most of the units assigned to Fort Irwin in 1967 were units training for deployment to Vietnam.  That meant that most nights you could go into the club and not swing a dead cat without hitting a dozen young Artillerymen.  Somehow we got a copy of the field Artillery song on the jute box.  Whenever the urge hit us, we would play that song and everyone would stand and sing along. Now it is the Army song so I'm sure that everyone stands now. Anyone that wouldn't stand was thrown out the back door.  The post commander a Full Bull Colonel was an Armor Officer and quite often we would have to carry him and his chair to the back door.  He would stand up and exit until the song was over. We just couldn't throw a Colonel out the door of his own club.  I think they finally got him a chair with rollers so we could just roll him over to the door. 

I am pretty sure that because of the isolation of Fort Irwin and the fact that most of us were on orders for Vietnam. there was a level of decorum (or lack thereof)  that was accepted that would not have been OK at most posts.  I am pretty sure that had the BOQ's been right across the street from the O Club, the MP's could have made a killing every night.  If someone forgot and drive his car to the club, he would just leave it in the parking lot until the next morning and then drive over to his unit.  

One of the nice things about fort Irwin was the fact that most activities shut down right after duty hours on Friday and didn't start until Monday morning.  That left us 48 hours to drive to LA or Vegas.   It was a mass migration on and off that post.  It wasn't until our unit got formed that most of us in the 6th Bn 84th Artillery were let off restriction to Fort Irwin.  Now the fun begins in earnest.



Fort Irwin, CA 1967

Near the end of our Officer Candidate School (OCS) we were taken over to the Day Room and our TAC officer read us our assignments for our first unit starting in July.  We had class mates going all over the United States and Panama.  For some reason, a fairly large group of us were just kept on hold to the very last.  Then the announcement.  The following will go to where there is sunshine, sand and Death valley.  Hey Wait, Fort Ord isn't near Death Valley!   Fort Irwin, California will be the new home for about 20 members of your class.  You are not allowed to take wives, more than 300 Lbs of baggage and be prepared for deployment to Vietnam after the completion of training.  Talk about a downer.  Oh well, by then I had the Volvo and I would at least not be trapped on post the entire time.

After a couple of weeks vacation, I drove all the way to Barstow, California in two days.  About 10 PM I drove in from Needles to Barstow and saw what I thought was a beautiful sight from the lights of Barstow.  Perhaps it was that I was just tired as hell and needed a Motel with a good air conditioner.   I turned off the Interstate and found a small No-Tell, Motel that gave me a room for about half of what I had in my wallet.  It was over 100 degrees and the maids left the AC turned off in the room.  I went in, turned the AC on get cold fast and took a shower.  By the time I came out of the shower, it was just cool enough that sleeping naked on top of the sheets was the only option.  Somewhere about 4 AM it finally got cool enough that I could pull a damp sheet over myself and sleep until the sun brutally appeared for another round of broil the ass off Barstow.

In the light of day, Barstow was a dump that had some pretty street lights.  I was so disappointed that a 1200 mile trip would end up in the arm pit of California.  I asked the manager of the Motel how to get to Fort Irwin and he told me to go down to the street light (Yes there was one at the main intersection on Main Street) turn left and go out past the rail yard and follow the road north.   I struck out and followed the road past the first Del Taco and across the Rail Road bridge and then followed the road as it meandered across the desert.  My map said that the road ended at Fort Irwin, just short of Death Valley.   I found the only place where the road was dangerous.  Instead of going around the big ass rocks, someone had decided to put the road through the rocks in Dead Man's Curve. I'm sure that many a drunk soldier had failed to negotiate the curve on their way back out to the base.   A little further on, I started to see Unit Crests painted on the rocks near the highway.  Soon, I hit the gate of Fort Irwin.  I had gone about 24 miles and there sat a gate in the middle of a sand covered field with nothing near it for as far as I could see.  I pulled up to the gate, the MP saw my Fort Sill sticker and saluted me on through.  I just had to stop and ask where the hell was the main post?   he said it is another 12 miles on to the main post.  I asked why the hell was the gate way out here in the middle of no where.  he said that way they didn't have to pay isolation pay for soldiers stationed more than 25 miles from a town.  Hell, you could have been stationed in Barstow and had to draw isolation pay in my mind.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at a post that was built for desert warfare training during WWII that had not changed a whole hell of a lot.  Old wooden buildings and the only grass was in front of main post headquarters where a sprinkler ran 24/7.  OK, I did find that the golf course had grass greens but the guards on duty there had .22 rifles to shoot the rabbits.  I went into the Adjutant's outer office in Main Post and signed-in.  As I waited to get my welcome packet, I noticed that I had my first nose bleed.   The clerk behind the desk handed me a tissue and said the dry air here will do that for a couple of weeks or so.  He recommended that I stop by the PX and buy a big jar of hand cream, a tube of chap stick and a bottle of petroleum jelly.   I think the humidity was about 7% inside where they had water, or swamp coolers to cool down the air. If you stood right in front of one, you could stand the heat.

I went over to the post Housing and was told that I was to be put up in a a house over in the post housing area.  Go down to the Officer's club and turn right.  The first house I came to was to be my first home at Fort Irwin.   I got there and there were about 10 cars parked there in the driveway and on the street.  I went in and found that most of the new arrivals in our house were my class mates and we were put up in a three bedroom house for the time being.  I later learned that it was the house that our Battalion Commander would be housed in when they picked one. The bedrooms were all taken, the living room was taken and the only room left was the dinning room.  Sure enough there was a bed and a cheap dresser there.  Oh well, it beat the hell out of a tent.  That afternoon, I went over to The Field Artillery Brigade Headquarters to find out about my new unit.  They had me again sign in and issued me a welcome packet.  I was assigned to the Task Force Headquarters for the possible riots in LA.  I was the third assistant Morale and Welfare officer and responsible for the sports equipment if we had to deploy forces to Las Angeles.   Further, I was restricted to the post for at least the next 6 weeks.  Oh great, right in the middle of no damn where and I can't even go into Barstow. 

To make matters worse, and I didn't think it could get much worse, the house right across the street had a pair of 15 year old twin girls living there that I never saw in much more than bikinis.  I don't think I saw any other girls on post other than them and they were Jail Bait.  Imagine a house full of 19 to 22 year old guys living across the street from two cute blond girls that knew they filled out their bikinis well.  No, I think they also wore t-Shirts, no bras and the shortest cut off shorts you could make out of a pair of blue jeans.

Oh,,I was told,, your unit will be over in Bldg by the Post Hospital when it forms.  I think some of the people are there if you want to go over.  I found one Major, two Captains a jeep and five or six Lieutenants in one little Quonset hut.  No one had any idea I was coming and did not care that I was there.  I was told to go back over to my lodging and stay there except to check in once a day about 9 AM.  I was told by my new room mates that in the welcome packet there was a Charge Card for the Officer's club and it was the cheapest place to eat on post for us.  I used that card for the next month and when I got paid, I owed about half of what I was paid to the O Club.  You had to pay that bill first thing or you would have your card taken away. 

I wish I could say things got better for us in the next month but I soon found that the only way to have anything to do was to volunteer to go out and be a safety officer for the 5th Bn, 22nd FA as they trained for deployment to Vietnam.  It was a 175mm Self propelled Artillery unit that was shooting up ammo that was repackaged when they De-commissioned the New Jersey battleship right after the Korean war.   They couldn't hit a barn from the inside with that lousy powder and close was within the grid square of the target. I would go over to their headquarters in the morning, fill up a water jug with ice and water and fill up a five gallon can with water and that might last me one day out in the desert running between the guns.  By 9 AM, the Fire Direction center would ask for a powder temperature and it would have the thermometer pegged at 113 degrees and god only knew how hot it really was in the shade.  There wasn't any damned shade!

Somewhere near the first of August, it was announced that there would be a meeting of the officer's club memebers in the evening.  As most of us were there drinking, we went over to the meeting.  the first order of business was the proposed new front for the club.  They had about $50,000 in the treasury and wanted to put a new rock front on the building.  Oh hell no, we wanted them to reduce the price of the drinks for happy hour for a month and see about that next month.  They did lower the priced for a couple hours each evening and at the next meeting announced that the club now had about $75,000 in cash on hand.  Oh hell, no, lower prices and more bar food during happy hour.  At the next meeting they had about $100,000 on hand and we had damn near free drinks and food for happy hour.  A couple of years later I went to Fort Irwin on a visit to My In-laws in Barstow and saw that they had finally put the rock front on the Officer's club.  It was a terrible color and I just laughed all the way off post.

I am going to stop here and will write about the 6th Bn, 84th FA starting tomorrow.




Memories and Perceptions

I just want to state for the record that what I write is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the perception of the truth as it is filtered through time, memories, illness and age.  Stories told over and over get embellished a little and that embellishment often becomes a hard part of the truth as the teller remembers.  If I misstate the facts, write your own damned story and see how correct you are.  If I tell stories about you that are true, just remember that I tried to not tell all the stories that would have indited us all,  


Officer Candidate School

When I signed in to my OCS Battery at Fort Sill, I had just completed 8 weeks of a preparatory class that was designed to get us ready for the crap they would dish out.  We were sent to one of the old wooden barracks and piled in High and tight.  Someone had renovated the barracks and down both sides of the middle open aisle were cubicles designed for two candidates.  To start, they double stacked us with bunk beds and instead of the usual 25 to 30 there were closer to 60 on my floor.  I am pretty sure we were Battery E, also known as class 23A-67 set to graduate with our sister Battery,  F Battery on the 3rd of July.  Normally the graduations were held on the Tuesday of the week but that would have been the 4th of July so we graduated a day early.

My 8 weeks in the OCS Prep battery helped me get my junk organized quick and I spent the next couple of days helping the other poor dumb Bastards get their gear in order.  There was a diagram for everything and we had to work hard to make it be there and all shiny.  I literally poured my display out of the laundry bag and set it up.  Those poor guys that had just completed AIT in normal units suffered.  In the second week, they did a Peer review and we rated every one else in our Platoon.  I was ranked tied in the top position with another OCS Prep graduate.  We worked hard to help everyone get their gear set up.  I was completely blown out of the water when I was counseled by our TAC officer and he gave me a 71 Leadership grade. Barely a C in any language.  I was blown out of the water.  He told me that I was not there to help, but there to learn how to lead.  he said i would raise my leadership grade by every step i went down in the peer ratings.  By the end of the class i was tied for 23rd out of 24.  Sure enough my leadership grade was 93.  

I often relate the story that for the first couple of weeks, we had a Candidate from a Senior Class that lived with us.  Every night he would walk up and down the middle aisle after lights out and lecture us on what we had done well and what we had done poorly that day.  It was either laugh or cry into my pillow each night for a while.  Me, I just had to make it a game and laugh.  There were a lot of us that started and darned few, less than 50% that completed. 

Each day, the TAC officer would come through our area and anything that was wrong or sloppy would get thrown on the floor.  Demerits would be awarded to the offender and special periods of extra duty awarded. The first couple of weeks were especially chicken shit and everyone had to walk the "Parking Lot Tour."  I had the bad luck to be in front of one of the most clumsy soldiers ever.  He never learned to start by stepping off with his left foot.  The first time we were there, he kicked the heel off one of my boots and because of a lack of funds, I was forced to leave that pair under my bunk as a display and not rotate the boots like we were supposed to.  We had one pair marked with a red spot and one pair not marked.  Each morning I put the little stick on red spot on or off the pair under my bed.  No one ever caught on. After we were finally paid about the 8th week of OCS, the guy that knocked off my heel came by my bunk and gave me a new pair of jump boots he has just bought.  they were not his size and were a real pain to bring up to the OCS standard.  I was a whizz at shining anything by that time and I never was given a demerit for that pair of boots.

The weekend extra periods of duty continued for a couple of weeks until the first big weekend for a JARK.  The story went that the 4.2 miles from the Robinson Barracks sign to the top of Medicine Bluffs 4 or MB-4 was named after some WWII Candidate who managed to have to go up that mountain every weekend he was in OCS.    You made the walk like an adjutant walk or stiff legged and you were guaranteed to have shin splints for a couple of days after each walk.  I had to go that first time but after that I thought I was going to tie the record of the lowest number of miles in OCS.  4.2 was the record and I was well on my way to only making one trip up that hill.

On Sunday mornings, we were allowed to go to the Day Room and purchase junk food or grotto.  It was a blessed extra calories for young soldiers that were easily burning a few hundred more than we could consume in the rigid mess hall atmosphere.   One of my cube mates went over to the day room and actually brought a Baby Ruth candy bar back into the barracks. That was a big no no.  As he finished it, he was looking for a place to s=dispose of the wrapper when someone called "Attention" downstairs.  He grabbed the wrapper and stuffed it in a binder on our desk and left it there while the officer was visiting.  He put it in his pocket and disposed it on a trip to the dumpster.  The next Monday morning our TAC officer came to visit and saw the binder out of alignment and knocked them on the floor.  That stupid candy wrapper had left half a peanut and some chocolate on the desk.  The TAC officer wrote a 6X6 special for the infraction.  That was 6 weeks detention and 6 trips up the Hill on weekend JARKS.  The owner of the candy bar was married and had not been to see his wife for the first month we were in OCS.  To help him out, the three of us left in our cube split the penalty and I gave myself a 2X2.  That gave me three trips up MB-4 for 13.2 miles.  I had the lowest number of miles in our Battery but did not tie the Overall record.  

I wish I had a way to share all the things we saw at Fort Sill but  am somewhat limited by this format.  I can tell you that we got to blow off steam in a lot of ways.  We would holler on the bus - "Give me an Attitude Check. Check - We hate this Fucking Place.  Someone would holler Give me a Positive Attitude Check - We Positively Hate this Fucking Place..."  

On the weekends, there was often gunnery Displays out on the range.  We were made to attend and some of the were great but some were a disaster.  Honest to god, I saw an Honest John Rocket fired and someone forgot to pull the "God Pin" out of the rail.  That rocket hopped its way across the firing position and took the truck and all and blew up right in front of the stands. The crowning blow was that someone set off a nuclear simulator way off in the distance and the announcer read the part of the script about the explosion on the horizon.  We could feel the heat in the stands.  I'm sure that someone was packed up and sent to Korea that weekend.  A couple of months later, I saw a unit bring in a Little John Rocket by Chinook helicopter  and shoot it at The biggest mountain in the impact area.  I looked at it and said to the people near me that unless that rocket had a left hand spin it was going to miss Signal Mountain.  Sure enough, when it was fired it just sailed right on past that mountain.  Another young officer went to Korea the next morning.   If you have ever been to Fort Sill, you would know all about Signal Mountain and how it is the tallest mountain that dominates the west range.  To miss that mountain was very hard to do.

Oh well, I'd better call this a day and move on to my first Unit, the 6th Battalion 84th Artillery at Fort Irwin, CA.  Yes,it was later designated the National Desert Training Center.

MUD (then 2LT)

The Early Military Years, Enlisted.

In 1966, I was  cruising along in life like I knew where it was headed and I was along for the ride.  I had started college but didn't apply for a Military deferment.    Sure trip to the Army.  Lo and behold, in July 66 I was sent to Kansas City for a Pre-Induction Physical.  I Looked at the paperwork completed  near the end when I had a visit with the Doctor.  Little did I know then that all those 1s in the PULHES section would award me a 1-A rating.  On my 19th Birthday I went to the mail and there was a "Greetings" Letter and I was told to report on 5 Sep for induction (Drafted, busted go to the Military do not pass go) 

I did talk to a navy Recruiter about being a SEA BEE because of my construction experience.  They weren't interested unless I had training and experience driving heavy Machinery.  I just accepted my fate and got on the bus.  Go to Canada?  Are you Crazy?  Hell, all they wanted was a couple of years and what else did I have to do.

The Induction station in Kansas City is still there across from the Train Station.  It has a fancy name now something like MEPS but it really isn't important.  I spent a couple of days taking tests and the checks to insure that I hadn't done (or Caught) anything since the last time I was there.  Nope, Stand in a line in alphabetical order.  I lucked out that everyone in the alphabet after P were sent to another room where a Marine Corps Gunney  made them swear an oath to the Corps.  As soon as those of us that took the induction were official, we were on a bus for Fort Lost in the Woods (Leonard Wood) 

We arrived there late at night and were given a sheet, a blanket and a pillow and told to go rack out in an old wooden barracks.  We did and early the next morning some a-hole came in and kicked a can down the center of the barracks and called us a lot of names.  We were herded outside to a line for breakfast and some of the guys were drug out of the line to serve.  I was chosen and put on the part of the line where I fed bread into this merry go round toaster.  The toast fell into a metal container and the guys just picked up the toast with their bare hands.  At least I got to wash my hands.  The toast that got burned was taken by one of the other guys and they made French Toast out of it.  

After a bunch of tests, a hair cut, issuance of uniforms and equipment, a bunch of shots, we were finally marched over to a nearby unit.  It too was a bunch of WWII Barracks and we were greeted by our Drill Sergeant.  SFC Tignor (we became Tignor's Tigers) was a great guy in the barracks.  You could ask him anything and he actually talked to us like we were people.  His words were, "You guys are being trained to go to Vietnam and the better you do here, the fewer of you that will die there."  His motivation was  loud and clear to me.  I pitched in and learned everything I could.  One of the guys that were Acting NCO's (they had been in the Army two weeks longer than we had) could go to the PX and they purchased a Basic Training Guide.  It had simple things like the Code of Conduct,  General orders, and how to wear the uniform.  I got one and read it cover to cover several times.  I finished 2nd out of all the trainees in our cycle.  My dad got a letter from the 2nd Brigade Commander thanking him for teaching me as much as he could.  It was BS but at least I got promoted to E-2 as I entered AIT. 

There was a lot of confusion in my orders.  I had been selected to go to the Field Artillery OCS at Fort Sill and the first orders I saw were for Fort lee, VA.  Had I not got Sergeant Tignor involved, I would have been on a bus to Fort Lee.  I finally got a letter that told me to report to Fort Sill.  No orders at that point but what the heck did I know.  I was assigned to an OCS Preparatory Battery  and completed 8 weeks learning how to be an Artillery Fire Direction Crewman and to polish things that were already shinny but needed more.

Some time in late January or early February, I went over to the Robinson Barracks and signed in.  23 weeks later, I graduated as a branch qualified 2nd Lieutenant.   My next stop was Fort Irwin, CA but more about the rest of my career next Blog.

Col, (Ret)


The High School Years

For some strange reason the City of Wichita really got mad at Beech Aircraft and their attempt to block annexation of the east side of the county from Annexation.  Just as I was to start High School, they blocked us from attending South east High School.  Instead of going to the same school as our brothers and sisters we were given the choice of three other schools.  We could attend the old dungeon downtown called East High, the new school called Wichita Heights or travel 5 miles east to Andover.  It was a strange day when we were all given the choice.  Most of the girls in my old neighborhood chose Heights and the guys chose East.  I guess it was a fortuitous thing that my girlfriend went to  Heights.  I was then allowed to not have my hormones racing during the day at least five days a week.  No more than normal.

It was a culture shock for trailer trash from a neighborhood where no self respecting black man would live to be in a school that was probably 60% black.   My next door neighbor threw a fit and forever washed the cans of Coors beer when he saw they employed blacks in their canning section.  Just once, I will use the word Nigger to describe the only appellation I ever heard them called in our group of poor white trash.  Imagine my shock when on the first day of PE I not only was in a mass class with then, I actually stepped right on the chest of one of the biggest blackest man I ever met.  For some reason he was laying on the floor resting and as I ran over to a loose basketball, thud, I stepped right in the middle of his brand new white shirt.  The evidence was clear, there was a size 12 footprint right covering his name.  I recognized it as the name of one of the football linemen from the year before.  I think the only thing that saved me was that he would have probably gotten thrown out of school had he killed me.  I brushed off the evidence and apologized for not seeing him.  It was the first time I had been called an "MF" by someone that was man enough to tear one of my arms off and beat me with it.  That guy had enough friends with him that it would probably been called one of the worst cases of suicide in 1963.  I lucked out and lived, I think.

I managed to get through High School with no special awards or recognition.  In fact I once saw that I was in the bottom 1/4 of my graduating class in academic performance.  I was supporting a girl friend and a car through most of that experience and trivial things like studying was on the back burner.  One of the first failures in High School was the fact that I flunked 9th grade English and had to take it my sophomore year.  I showed up in a class of almost illiterate students and was singled out by the teacher after class.  She asked me what the heck I had done to flunk a subject like English and immediately set me on a self study  path that allowed her to focus on the students that really could not read or write.  I read at least a book a week in her class and wrote book reports.  I sat in the corner of the room and we basically ignored each other.  Play nice Dennis and we will get along fine.  

Spanish my sophomore year was another story.  The teacher assigned homework every night and I didn't have time to be bothered.  I recall the rule that for each assignment I missed my grade was lowered by one whole grade.  I am pretty sure that several of us had F's by the end of the first week.  I transferred to the Chorus very soon.  For some reason the chorus instructor listened to me sing and I wound up in the Choir the second semester.  I sang my way through High School and I wore the one suit I owned to do so.  We had to buy a Blue Blazer with Charcoal grey pants.  We did look good and sang much better than we as individuals were capable of  singing.  I lettered in Choir but there was no way I was ever going to wear a Letter men jacket with the Choir patch on it.  there were a couple of honest to god letter men that  put the Choir patch on theirs but they also had Track, or Basketball, or wrestling patches.

I worked at gas stations all through High School and I think I did a pretty good job.  My first job was working at a Phillips 66 station and they had real high standards for the restrooms.  I was the flunky and it fell to me to clean them and keep them that way.  That carried over to the Job I had at Rock Road and Kellogg.  On my second night there, I checked the bathrooms and the women's was an absolute disaster.  No one cleaned the joint is weeks and it showed.  I had to get some pretty heavy duty cleaners to get the toiled to not look like it was freshly crapped in even after I cleaned it.  I had to take some auto polish and buff the sink so it would even glow, let alone shine.  I did my best and even left the floor with a coat of wax. 

The next morning the owner's wife stopped by the station and while she was there, she went into the restroom.  She came out and asked "Who cleaned that bathroom?"   I admitted that I had and wondered what I had done wrong.  She came over to me and praised me for doing what had as long as she remembered not been done.  Yep, the reward for good work is more work.  I was forever the Latrine orderly there for the next three years.

I do wish I could really explain my relationship with my girl friend Donna.  I thought I loved that girl but I probably lusted more than loved.  The only thing that really saved us was a fear that if we went all the way it would probably result in a pregnancy that would tie us to a life in Dog Patch.  I am pretty sure that she didn't want that any more than I did.  I even bought her a ring but when we graduated from High School our parents helped us decide to wait at least a year to get married.  Her parents moved to Seattle, Washington with Boeing and she followed as soon as graduation was over.  I went out by bus Christmas of 1965 to visit but even an inexperienced guy like me could tell it was over.  She joined the Navy and we drifted different directions.  She married "Lucky" and I felt lucky to be free of the whole affair.  I found out about her marriage from my father while I was in basic training.

I started at Wichita State and made straight Cs my first semester.  Right after the start of the second semester, I learned to play 10 point pitch in the Campus Activity Center and that ended my college career for that year. One of the guys and I worked out a system of cheating that amazing how simple and easy it was.  We would put the cards in our hands to indicate our strong suit. Left hand cards folded was diamonds spread out hearts.  Right hand folded was spades and spread out clubs.  We would never let on what we were doing and beat about any other group we played.  We both had also played bridge and knew how to play cards well. The only really good thing was they didn't serve beer there.  Cokes and Cheese sandwiches were my breakfast and lunch for a couple of months.

  They required everyone to take ROTC the first couple of years but at the end of the enrollment line I didn't fill out the deferment card so I was eligible for the draft.  The Vietnam War was just beginning to build and I had a fair idea that a healthy single non college student would find himself drafted.

I worked construction from that spring to well into the fall.  I saved nothing but had one of the greatest times ever.  I was about 6'2" and 185 lbs of young enthusiastic male.  I figured out that if I did get drafted I would fly through that training no sweat.  Little did I know that heavy labor just didn't prepare me for running in combat boots.   One of my goals was to not go into the service a virgin.  I managed to work that out and had no idea that while I was eager, I was not a very considerate lover.  Oh well, it was good enough for me.

My car through most of High School was a 55 Chevy.  man I loved those big bench seats.  My dad helped me buy a Renault and I hated every part if it.  In about July we traded it in for a Volvo and I found those reclining seats to be almost as wonderful as the big bench seats in the Chevy.  Oh well, Off to the Army



In the Beginning

I grew up on the east side of Wichita, Kansas.  We were right outside of the City Limits and the view from my house was mostly the Beech Aircraft Plant number 1 on Central and the Beech parking lot that was right behind my house.  My daddy was in the Navy in WWII and I was a "Baby Boomer".  In my neighborhood, there was no shortage of kids to play with.  In fact, many of our ball games on the vacant lot up north had more kids in the outfield than most professional teams had on their roster.   We all went to Minneha and it was from kindergarten to the ninth grade when I attended there.  I guess the last three grades were technically Junior High but who even thinks about such things at the time.  We walked to school and so long as you got home before the 3:30 shift change you could do so mostly safely.  There were no old stupid dogs in my neighborhood.  If they ventured out between 6:30 and 7 AM or between 3:30 and 4 PM they died in the road.  That happened a lot...

The neighborhood I grew up in was called Travel Air City as it was built right before the war to house the expanding workforce for Beech Aircraft.  By the time I had grown up, it was known as Dog Patch after that Al Capp cartoon city.  I think that appellation stuck mostly because of all the Oakies and Arkies that settled there because of the cheap housing.  Someone tore down an apartment area called Beechwood and hauled the large buildings to my neighborhood.  It improved both areas.  A lot of the rest of my neighborhood was trailer courts and shacks.  At least a couple of years in my life I too was a part of the trailer trash as we lived in an 8X38 foot trailer when we moved back after Vietnam.  We were going to Wichita State University and in love so we didn't care much where we lived.

A lot of people don't remember who was their first friend.  I remember clearly that Harvey Blinn was one of the first guys I knew.  He lived two houses south of us on Byrd Street and I think our being friends was mostly because we were both from families where the girls out numbered the boys.  I think he had 5 or 6 sisters and I had two.  Harvey was a year older but I feel confident in saying that I was a bad influence on him in a lot of areas.  Harvey and I maintain a correspondence with each other even today and have had a chance to visit in the last year or so.  

One of the influences in my neighborhood was Minneha.  My Kindergarten teacher lived next door,  The Head Custodian lives across the street and there was a kid in about every grade that lived on my block.  There was a joke about a little frog there.  When someone would ask "Who Did That?" he would hop out and say, "Petty did it, Petty did it!"  Damned if he wasn't right more often than not.  I was a pretty intelligent kid that would probably be on Ritalin today.  My attention span on old ideas was short and there was no limit on new ideas for things to do.  I guess Harvey, Ronnie, Eugene, Denny L. and Wayne needed more to do to enliven their lives.  The Wichita Flash was there to help.  When my sisters started at Minneha, it was in a very small building at Central and Webb Road.  They expanded to a new building up Webb Road and had to build a new Elementary School because of all the kids born right after the war.  I think that it now has been absorbed into the Wichita School District now and even is a "Magnet" school what ever that is.

While there were a lot of people involved in the Education process in my neighborhood, there was also a lot of people that worked at Beech.  Most of the people that lived in out neighborhood may have started at Beech and walked to work, a lot of them moved to Cessna or Boeing for the money.  When they moved up, a lot of them moved out.  Not all, but many moved away from there and the neighborhood deteriorated with the arrival of poor folks from Oklahoma and Arkansas.  A lot of them seemed to be in the roofing business. The men would travel to places far away if there was a major storm and then draw unemployment all winter. Most of them left large families in the shacks and sent home what little money they didn't drink while in other cities.  

I can't even begin to tell you what sociological influences were the greatest on the kids where I lived.  I was almost 7 when we got our first TV and we were too poor to go to many movies.  I did listen to radio on those hot summer nights but I think I spent more time outside than anything else.  Because of the lights in the Beech parking lot, our yard was lit up and we played outside a lot during the summer.  Kick the can, hide and go seek and just mischief kep us busy most of the time.  I don't remember being bored a lot as we always found someone to play with or something to do.

I don't remember when I got my first bike, but I do know that we all had one.  We were like a gang of bikers riding the darnedest collection  of old iron anywhere.  We roamed the neighborhood and often rode the roads way north of our homes.  I can remember riding one time at least 5 miles north of our neighborhood and having to dip my front wheel in the water in a ditch because there was no grease in the bearings and it got so hot it darned near froze up.  When we got home the bearings fell out and we never did find enough to make that wheel work again.  

I guess I want to share with you that even if we were poor, we were rich in friendships and blessed to attend a school where a good education could be had even if it was by osmosis mostly.  For me, my salvation was one of the best libraries ever.  I could go in there and find books that took me all over the world.  I traveled every battlefield in the Civil War and WWI.  Those places I didn't read about in WWII were places we were taken by the war stories of our fathers.




Finally, I got that Sucker!

I think I have mentioned feeding the birds (OK about a million times).   To do that, I have found that Black Oil Sunflower seeds are the one's the birds like the best.  The problem with having bulk seeds in the computer room downstairs is the problems with other animals that like the seeds, like mice.  There has been one bold little fellow that has just strolled out in the middle of the room and dared me to catch him.  I tried the old mouse trap baited with peanut butter but he just was so small he could lick one of those traps clean and escape.  I found that Victor makes a trap that is very pressure sensitive and catches them like crazy. It has a great big paddle looking thing that trips the trap.  I put the traps perpendicular to the wall  and put just a few seeds between a pair.  Out in the garage, I put them along a "run" they use without the seeds. It seems that in the dark, mouses run along the wall using their whiskers to go straight.  They first run into the traps line and then go to mousy heaven (or hell in my book). So far this year I have trapped over 30 in the garage and one in the basement.  I hate those mice in a big way. 

Our friend, Mel, from Austin was with us one day over the Christmas break  when we were out on a walk.  Her cell phone rang and I'll be darned if she didn't get a cold call interview.  She works as a quality control person for the programmers.  She tests the programs and finds the bugs before the programs go out for release.  The company she had been working for had hired a new supervisor and they just didn't get along.  Mel was offered a new job and ran with it.  We are thrilled to see her get a chance with a new company.

I have a dilemma,  One of my renters thinks the bathroom at their house needs upgraded.  They are behind $2,100 in  rent for last year and quite frankly I had hoped they would go find somewhere else to live.  I do have plans to upgrade the bathroom in that house but how do you do it with them there?  I am very inclined to use the back rent to remodel if they make good on their promise to catch me up by march.  If they don't, I will evict them and do the upgrade as I can.  Oh well.

Barb and I went to the KU vs Texas A&M game Monday night with Dan and Carrie Craig.  During our Dinner at the Yellow Sub in Lawrence they mentioned the family trip next fall in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Right now it will cost us a little over $500 @ for a week on the beach.  I'm pretty sure that food costs will drive that up a little but as one of the cooks I really look forward to working with Keith to cook up some great seafood.  By then, there will be another new baby in the Kirkland family and we love babies. 

I am going to work on getting together with my nephew Robert and Julia to see their two year old and soon to be new daughter.  I have seen pictures but we seem to just miss them - a lot!.     I hate it when that happens.

Better run and get something accomplished.  I guess I should try to set a goal or two first.



I am not as Think as you drunk I am...

Just the other day, I had a non-alcoholic beer in New Braunfels, Texas. It was a German beer with a German meal of schnitzel, cabbage and boiled potatoes (Mit butter) It was wonderful and enjoyed the taste.  For the first time in a long time I found that I could enjoy the taste without the craving for another, and another and another.   For the longest part of my life I really liked beer.  No, I really, really liked beer. 

While I had many a drunk night in the Military, I drank before I went in and after I came out.  No one to blame there.  I like many others must stand up and be accountable for myself on that front.

The other day, I was looking for a phone number in my old "Day Runner" and found the Micro fish from my time in the Service.  I went down to the National Guard Headquarters to see if they had a machine to read the darned thing and I was taken back that they no longer had anyway to read one.  Even the archives section no longer uses one.  They sent the old files off to be put in a data base and I forgot to ask if I could get a copy on a disk.  I found my military life reduced to 392 itty bitty files and no way to read them.  

The biggest surprise was that the Library had a film/fish reader and they were glad to show me how to use it and I did.  There wasn't a lot to be surprised about, except for the lack of documentation of all the TDY's to other units in Vietnam.  Heck, there wasn't even an order when I got "Infused" from one major unit to another.  I did find that I was in battery A, 6th Bn, 84th Artillery , Service Battery and then C, 1-92nd as the FDO then XO.    I had trouble remembering that detail even if the war stories come back loud and clear.  

For the most part, my OERs over the years said good things about me.  I was amazed that one OER took a pot shot at me for getting out of the Military after Vietnam.  All the time, one leader after another told me that the Military would not want me without a degree.  They never offered to put me through college except for the GI Bill so what the hell did they expect?   I got my degree from KU and then joined the Guard full time.  I don;t regret one day of it.  Hell, I may not remember things from time to time but no regrets.



Jeff? hell no I am not Jeff. Oh, Deaf, well...

It all started in Basic Training in 1966.   I loved the M-14, but it was one loud Mother.  We would put cigarette butts in our ears when we shot because the Government didn't think ear plugs and an ear plug case was something they could afford to issue.  I shot the M-14 all the way to expert and by Christmas of my first year in the Military, I felt like I had been listening to Hard Rock all my life.  I wasn't deaf, but on the way.

The next step in the cycle was my times on the guns in OCS.  Again, we had no Military issued hearing and those damn guns, even the smallest 105mm Howitzer would hurt your ears if you got caught unawares.  For our Field Problem we spent four days with 155mm Howitzers and they were more than just loud.  The concussion was hard on you.

I went to Vietnam and after the first week in the field, I was damn near deaf and both my ears had bled.  When I tried to be an Aerial Observer for pay, they weren't sure I could hear well enough. I went back to the guns and lost a lot of what was left.  

I went back in the National Guard after Active Duty and wouldn't you know it would be the Field Artillery.  By then, the Government had figured out that a few ear plugs would be a lot better than a lot of deaf soldiers.  I try to carry some all the time then and now.  It is a little like a little too late for me.  Those damned cows are not only out of the barn, but they are out eating the horses feed.  (Mixed that metaphor big time) 

When I got out of the Service, I went to the VA and had my hearing tested.  The guy said by the time I reach middle age I would probably need something but I'm not sure of what he said.  Because it was in the audiology lab, I assume he said hearing aids.  Now, I am doing battle with the VA.  Little did I assume it would be a paper war to even get a hearing test.  The VA also said I should go over to the DAV and file for a disability.  Let me share that with you.

I spent a few minutes visiting with a counselor and he started the paper work for their files.  He indicated that if I hear a ringing in my ears (I Do) that was a 10% Disability and deafness was another 10%.  If it was the money only that is about $250 a month.  I explained to him that I wasn't out for more money and he kind of laughed.  He said that it's a good thing, because I wouldn't get any money.  The best I could hope for is to have the disability declared and some of the retirement income in a Tax free basis.  Good enough for me.  I am already on the Government dole and don't need more taxable income.  In fact even a little bit in a non tax basis wouldn't be bad.

Oh well, I guess I'll just muddle along in life.  Oh - Do you know how to tell an old Artilleryman?   Real Loud...


Great Weekend

There is a table of paperwork sitting here in the room and I managed to enjoy basketball on Saturday and Football on Sunday.  I think the Football games were a little better because I could take a nap and not feel like I missed much. Until Sunday, I had not seen a Baltimore Raven's game all year. Once San Francisco fell out of the picture, they lost me.  An all East coast Super Bowl just doesn't float my boat.  Other than the KU vs Texas game on Saturday, I didn't have much spirit invested in the games so I could also switch between History, the Military Channel and the games. Direct TV fooled around and I had to listen to the KU game.  Most of the paperwork on my table can't be completed until I get the paperwork from the Oil Companies and the banks.  I have organized what I have and am just waiting.  Most of it isn't due to me until 30 January. 

One thing that is clear is that I need to invest in a tractor for all the rock driveways.  They are in horrible shape and I sure can't fix them with a shovel and a pickup.  I also think that if my renters catch up on their back rent, I'll need to invest a few dollars or get beat at Tax time in 2013.   I have also looked at a rental property but I didn't get a lot of good feelings from Barb.  There is a duplex worth about $200,000 and I would like to buy it for about $150,000.  It needs some maintenance but most other than the roof is just piddling stuff.  I think it would make a nice investment to have a house in the Shawnee Heights district that would rent for between $750 and a $1,000 a month for each unit.  I just try to let the units pay for themselves and they are long term investments.
The really stupid thing is that at least once each year, I think to myself that I sure would like to get out of the landlord business.  The real problem is that so far it is the only thing that has paid off regularly ad most of my real gains have been due to my property investments. 

I think starting the weekend out by seeing a movie was the way to start.  I loved  "Red Tails" and someone said that if I liked it I needed to see "War Horse".  

Every once in a while i will be writing on my blog and the courser just disappears.  It is somewhat frustrating in I make a lot of errors and  have to guess when I am in a correction mode.  Oh well, write if you get work...



Just You and Me!

Somewhere in the middle of my tour in Vietnam,  my unit moved by road from Dak To to Bahn me Touit.  It took us most of two days to make the move and when the guns were all set up, some one decided that the gun trucks would be moved back to the base by the air field.  It was about a 30 Kilometer move and the sun was well on its way to setting.  Had there been a vote, I would have waited until the next morning but no one ever said the Military was a democracy.  I was the third Lieutenant assigned to the battery and it was decided that I would remain in the rear and run the resupply point.  I would have a couple of NCO's and about 8 soldiers.  

On the move back to the rear area, I was in one of the trucks with Sergeant Terratola.  He could tell that we were out in the middle of no where and our ass was hanging out.  I didn't have a radio, or a map and no idea where the hell we were or where we were going.  One of the guys from the big gun unit we were helping was in charge and we were just a row of ducks following momma home.  It had been raining for several days and the trucks could not keep the wheels on the road.  As we went down the road, we basically just drove from one ditch to the other and mostly in a forward manner.  I hate to think what the road looked like the next after when 7 or 8 trucks drove down the ditches and tore the shit out of them.

About half way back, it really got dark and my senses were on full alert.  About that time, Sergeant Terratola began to say, "Just You and me Lord, Just you and Me!"  He pulled out his St Christopher medal and kissed it.  He started to chant the Rosary sayings, "Hail Mary, mother of god, full of grace....."  That's all a Baptist from Kansas can remember.   That went on all the way back to the base and I understood.   It wasn't the "Why Me lord" comment, it was just a way to communicate to the Lord that he was in charge and we were along for the ride.

In the end, we got back safely but I'm sure that most of us felt we were so lucky and a few prayers were said that night.  

I remember that night and many more to come.  After that, I feel like it would take a lot of crap to make me feel that way again.



Perception & Reality

The reality of life is that my perception is my reality.  What you think is what you think and I would hope that for the most part as you get older you feel more and more confident that your reality will do for now.   Because most people learn and  grow in what they know, their perceptions change as they go through experiences and living.  What I find frustrating is that so many people fail to realize that what they are thinking just might be right.  Or wrong as the person may be..

I have a real problem dealing with people that think their way is the only way.  It has been said that I don't suffer "Fools  Gladly".  By that, I  think that people unable to discuss the facts and somewhat use the facts to shape new ideas are way too rigid.  I don't think changing your core beliefs will happen but at least admitting there might be another way to do things is a good thing.

I am pretty sure that I don't care for most Opera.  I love music and there are a few places where someone singing Italian very loud is OK, but so far I don't think I want to sit through hours and hours of it.  I won't let that aversion stop me from listening to any music, just don't expect to find me in line buying tickets for Rigoletto.    My father loved the movies but he never met a musical he liked.  (Well, there was one movie with Theresa Brewer in it that he wanted to see but I think it was because he really thought she was cute) 

Speaking of movies, I am going to go see the new movie "Red Tails" today if at all possible.  I did a lot of growing up without much experience around blacks.  I loved the Military as one of the few places where doing your job was a hell of a lot more important than the color of your skin.  I really want to see the success of a bunch of committed young men to do a job that was very important.  Had those black Pilots not been there in those great P-51 Mustangs, the bomber crews would have continued to die in large numbers. I am confident that supporting the Bombers did support our efforts in the war and helped shape our victory. 

An editorial cartoon in today's paper showed both the Republicans and the Democrats as drunks wanting to drive the car.  It is unfortunate that people fail to see that both parties are running the Congress and most of the failures aren't the result of one party over the other.  For every one reason to elect one type person over another, we can find an exception.  People say that Newt is an insider and should not be President.  There is a lot to be said about the ability of Lyndon Johnson to get things done.  Mitt says we should elect a person who is not a Washington insider.  Isn't that the weakness of Obama?  If he could rally the parties and get things done we might not be in such trouble.   Unless, of course the President really doesn't add much to the real workings in Washington.  Oh well, I will continue with my reality and you do the same.



Hawks Won!

Unless you live in a cave, you probably know that Baylor Men and Women Basketball teams (Bo fum) were unbeaten until last night.   In a game right out of my fantasies, the Kansas Jay Hawks went to work in Allen Field House and schooled them in the manly art of round ball.   Baylor was ranked number three in the nation and KU was about 8th.  Be interesting what happens this next Monday when the new rankings come out.

With that said, the weather here is well on its way to being January like in the Heartland.  The temperature is about 25 with a 20-25 MPH northerly wind that makes it feel like zero.  Should warm up to 40 by the weekend.You never know what the weather in Kansas is going to bring.

Last night, we had our son and his wife over for dinner.  Dave's wife Barbara told a funny story.  It seems that Barbara was telling one of he co-workers that she couldn't wait until she got home to eat one of Dave' s dinners  The lady was aghast that Barbara didn't cook all the meals in her house.  "What does he do when he wants a good home cooked dinner?"   "We go over to his Dad's house" was Barb's reply.    Good stuff on the state of the world.  

Better get running, got a hot date with the wife across town.  



Monday Holiday

One of the neatest thing about being retired is that unless you just are crazy to go to the bank, Monday Holidays mean very little.  We do try not to shop on the weekend any more than necessary and we can slip that over to Monday or Tuesday if needed.   It also gives the Barb's some bonding time.  I'm not sure of the entire details of today but I think they are going to knit a dragon.  OK, a dragon scarf to be more precise.

My son, of the Best Buy Geek Squad fame came over last night and I used his brain to figure out how to read my nieces Book for a Nook on my computer.  He can't be bought, but feeding him does seem to make him glad to help.  His mother also makes the Geek Squad cookies from time to time.  I had done everything correctly but the book had some kind of electronic protection and I had to download the Barnes and Noble free software to get to the book. It is called "the F Word"   by Rebecca Demauro.  It is the story of her life as she traveled through several stages of her life. It is a bargain at .99 cents. One stage in her life, is the murder of her daughter, Andi.  It really ends fairly well with her moving to an entirely new place in her life and finding that she can't hate the murderer and grow as a person. For family members, there is detail that was a surprise to a lot of us.   I think there is enough hate in the rest of the family to make up for it.  If Arkansas can't find an executioner, I'm pretty sure there is a long line of us that would do it for nothing.  They don't call me Mean Uncle Denny for nothing. I loved her meeting with President Bush and the First Lady, Laura. 

Tonight will be the first meeting this year of Baylor and KU.   It starts at 8:30 PM and I am pretty sure I will need a nap.  I think this will be the first meeting of the two teams that will fight it down to the wire for the Conference Men's Basketball Championship.  It will all depend on what team for KU shows up.  If Robinson and Taylor both have a great night it will be a breeze but if either one falls down, it will not be the 8 point win that the papers predict for KU.  It is nice to see entire team playing together and their win over Iowa State was a treat for me to watch.

Today I think I'll go over to the west side of town and get the oil changed in the Ford.  Because of the road trips to Austin, she is a lot overdue.  I checked the oil and it looked good level wise but needs to put some fresh oil in there.  I don't agree that 3,000 miles is long enough if the car is on the road.  I think 6,000 is just a little far.  OH well.

Barb and I lost our I-Phone a couple of weeks back and we replaced it with a TracFone that is prepaid.  I can't get used to the fact that it seems like it eats minutes.  With the program I had, I never had a problem with talk minutes and only on our trip to Maine did I get close to using all the Web time I was allowed.  Oh well, AT&T is really out of our life now.  I think we got our first phone with them through Southwestern Bell in Wichita in 1969.  Our long distance was through AT&T.  I can imagine how much money we funneled to them over the years but sadly no more for them.  Our local line and internet is through Cox Cable, our TV is Direcway and our cell is TracFone.   No bundle for us.

For some reason, it is almost 60 this morning.  I think there is a cold front due so the wind is from the south at 20 to 25 MPH.  Should drop 20 degrees this afternoon and be down into the teems by late tonight.  This time last year it was hovering around zero with 10 to 12 inches of snow.  This is more like Texas weather.

Oh well, nothing gained by sitting here and writing on this machine.  Books to read and places to go.   BYE!



Sports Saturday

I got sucked into watching games on TV early yesterday and finished late.  I loved to watch Lon Kruger's Oklahoma team demolish K-State.  I think it is interesting that Steve Henson of K-State fame is Lon's assistant coach.  I am pretty sure they both have (or had)  their jerseys retired and hanging in the Field House in Manhattan.

I watched the Iowa State and KU game with a lot of interest.  A lot of that game I held my breath watching Iowa State shoot treys from the outside like it was the only shot they could hit, and they for the first half, did.  Barb and I have an old saying, "You can't win games on Treys alone."  Somewhere in the middle of all that, you must play defense and shoot a two or three.  In Bill Self's words, sometimes you win with both the good and bad Taylor on the floor.  it was one of the best team efforts for Hawks this year.

Note to Bill Self and Danny Manning - Watch T-Rob's free throws.  Early in the year, he made a deliberate move with his right hand to his left shoulder and he has stopped doing that and his free throw percentage has gone all to heck.  

I thought the San Francisco win was a good game and fell asleep as Denver got their hats handed to them.  The NE linemen spent more time in the Denver backfield than the Running backs.At least we won't hear the endless Teabo stories for a while.  I try to be tolerant but even I was getting tired of all the hoop la.

In and amongst all the sports programs, I finished a book.   Today is predicted to be in the 60's so I'm not going to spend hours and hours watching TV.  Not sure of the details exactly but I do want to take my guns out and do some target shooting.  I bought myself a laser sight for the 9mm  and have at least 500 .22 rounds to plink with.  Perhaps when the girls go shopping Dave will want to come over.  

Oh well, no need to sit here all day and write this.



Dear Best Buy

The other morning, MSN, my home page here on the Web said that Best Buy may be on the way out because of the perception of lousy customer service.  I offer you this blog to encourage you to do better because: A. my son works in one of your stores and loves it and B. because I love the one stop nature of your business. I personally would hate it if every store became COSCO or Sam's Club.  You know the place with slightly cheaper prices but absolutely no customer service.  It is there on the shelf and take it or leave it.

Let me start by sharing with you that because of the free customer survey on MSN, you have the first leg up on fixing any problems the public may perceive.  I can't tell you who first said that knowing what is wrong is the first step to fixing any problem, but it is a truism that everyone should use.  Don't go out and spend thousands of dollars on finding out how to fix the problems, let me tell you a way I would fix it and give it a try.  First of all, it comes with 40 years of experience behind it and second of all it is free.  Got that? FREE.

When a person comes into Best Buy, your greeter at the door needs to say, "Welcome to Best Buy, is there anything I can help you with?"  The first impression is the most important.   If the customer has a question, have him send them to a person, by name in the department where the problem can be solved.  For example "...Can I help you? "  Customer - "Yes, I need to buy a computer"  Have him tell the customer that "Dave over there in the computer section is our expert in that area and I am sure that he has the best information to solve your computer needs."  Have him point out the computer section and if necessary have him announce over the intercom for Dave to be prepared to help a customer he is sending over to the computer department.  

Every person in Best buy needs to understand they are the customer representative for Best Buy and no person enters their area without a greeting.  I like "Welcome to best buy, how may I help you, or can I help you?"  I would give every employee an id card that says "Welcome to best buy" and their first name. 

Your managers need to understand that having your employees happy is the first step in making the customer happy.  The old saw is if you don't know what's going on in your employees life, how can you know what makes them tick?  A manager can't always fix all the problems, but they can often offer solutions that do work.  How many people in your store are working the first shift and would love to work second shift so they can go to school?  How many people are on second shift that would love to work first shift so they can spend more time with their family?   Is part time employees the best answer?  Ask them what they think.

The final part of the solution is to consider that not every solution works in every store.  For one, the store in Topeka is staffed with some of the best people in the business. You hire some of the smartest people in the business, ask them to give you their ideas and then do something.  Leaders are told in the Military to Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way. 

I know my son greets every customer like they are a person and tries to fix their problems.  If he is as effective with the other customers as he is with my electronics, I know they leave your store happy.   My wife takes treats to the Geek Squad all the time and we are well known in that store.  

 Most of all, I wish you the best of luck and hope that this next year the spirit of customer service visits your stores and brings you the sales you need to prosper and grow.  

Col, (Ret) US Army


What Do You Want ?

The first rule of life is that it is yours and what happens in it belongs to you first.  Here are a few wishes I have for you:
  • Look at the things in your life and smile when you are blessed with happiness.
  • Get rest when you need it.  There is no movie, computer game or book that should deprive you from sleep.
  • Eat sanely.  Yes, I love steak but I know that I sometimes need to eat a salad and chicken.
  • Never, never stop learning things.  Read, laugh and love to see the wonders of the world.
  • For me, writing like this helps me think about life and keeps me from taking it way to seriously.
  • A house is just a house, a car is just transportation, and things won't make you happy.  On the other hand, people loving, laughing and talking works miracles for me.  This Christmas we had more people over than ever and it was a wonderful time.  
  • Don't expect every trip to be Disneyland.  Sometimes it will rain and be cold.  Bring a good book and kick back and enjoy.
  • The main rule in finance is that income must be greater than or equal to outgo!  Other than a house, debt is not a way to anything good.  Put your credit or debit card away for a month and spend cash.  I'll bet you will not spend as much.  
  • My final wish is that you will smile and make the bastards wonder what you have been up to.
The wife and I bought a TracFone pre-paid phone. It is an LG 500G and a simple little phone that doubles the number of minutes and length of time on the card you buy.  My only problem is the instructions manual was way lacking and my fingers are way big. With my I-Phone, when I finished working on something I clicked the phone off.  With the TracFone, it wants to go to sleep by its self not be turned off.    Calls got to voice mail when it is turned off instead of ringing.  The phone and the minutes was way cheaper for the first month than my old AT&T plan.  I guess you get what you pay for.



Mobile Phones Part Two...

Well friends, it appears that this old dog is either too old to learn new tricks or everything in this world is far too complicated.  I bought a TracFone and it has way too many bells and whistles for this old dog.  With my I Phone, when I wanted to end the session I was on, I would turn it off.  That would save the battery and incoming calls would ring in unless I turned off the ringer.  The TracFone just wants to go to sleep not be turned off.  If you turn it off, incoming calls go to voice mail at a cost a a minute each time I retrieve them.  Just let the damn thing go to sleep and everything is fine.   Barb called TracFone's hot line  and between the Indian English and an echo on the line we just could not figure out what the hell he was saying.  You know, Jim from the call center.

We are having our first Arctic Blast today.  Between the 25 MPH wind and the single digit temps, it is zero out there.  They say it may clear and warm up some but I'll watch it from the inside just to make sure.    At least I got out and got the paper and made sure the birds had seeds and water.  

With the wind blowing so hard out there, I am amazed that the turkeys or the deer aren't down here below the house in the creek valley.  There are enough birds here to tell me that Rabbit Run is a great place to sit out a cold blast.  Guess I'll do just that.



Mobile Phones

Way, I say Way back when, I was the on duty officer for the National Guard as the Emergency Preparedness officer, (Also known as the Military Support Officer) I carried an early mobile Phone.  It was called "the Brick" because it looked like a brick in a bag with an antenna.  It had a limited range and you had to be careful where you turned it on as each time you hit a new cell tower you got charged a roaming charge as well as a cost to use it.  One day as I carried it into a store on my way home, a little boy said out loud"  Look Mommy, that soldier is carrying a purse and it has a tail."   That phone had a limited battery life and if it was left on all day out here as I worked on the fence, it would be dead by that evening.  Needless to say it spent a lot of time on the charger. 

That leads me to my first foray into the modern era of cell phones.  I didn't wait to buy one that was already outdated, I jumped into the fray at near the top of the business.  Two years ago I bought an I-Phone G3 and paid dearly for the phone and almost $100 a month for a few months.  AT&T wanted to cut down the usage on their towers and offered a slightly lower data plan and it only cost me $70.00 for the last 18 months.  All that ends today.  I am going to call AT&T and cancel that plan this morning.

Why?  Because no matter how durable the I-Phone and a rubber case is, it won't stand up to smushing by the standard automobile tire and being a cheapskate, I didn't insure it.  I got two years of service out of it and now time to move on.  

I am sure that somewhere out in the distance, the phones will get cheaper and I will move on down that road but in the meantime I think a smaller bill is in order.  There is one with a 1,000 minutes and 40 texts and  morre web searching time than I had for about $45 per month. We'll see what is in store for us when Barb and I got to Wally World in a while.

See Ya,