Looking back

I am nearing a point in life where half a century has passed by and people are putting together reunions.  45 years ago I graduated from Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, OK.  In spite of how bad I thought my time there sucked, I feel strangely compelled to go back for a reunion.  Is that crazy or what?   In 2015, I will have a 50th Reunion from a high school where I graduated with about a 1,000 students and I think I may go to that reunion.  

Yesterday, my brother and I talked about what our life would have been if we had married and stayed that way to our High School Sweet hearts.  Would we both be  living in a trailer in Dog Patch down in Wichita?  He was blessed with a couple of great daughters and now some cool grandchildren.  What would life have brought us if our aspirations had not been higher (or our abilities been lower?)   
1968 in Wichita  right before we got married in Las Vegas
I listened to a news program yesterday that indicated that gas prices are as much as a $1.50 a gallon different from Wyoming to California.  Kind of makes me want to get a truck and get in on some of that action.  Even if the difference was only a dollar a gallon, a couple of thousand gallon trailer would make a twice weekly trip worth while.  No, I don't want to drive a truck over the road.  I think our trip to Maine this past year took most of that out of my wish list.  If the Government wants to make a difference, find the speculators and kick their asses for us.

I will have to admit that there was a time or two yesterday that when KU was down 19 points and 15 minutes left in the game I doubted their comeback ability.  I guess that 7 seasons of winning the BIG XII conference title was good enough.  I would have hated for the Border War with Missouri to end with them winning on our floor.  having a Guard like Connor Tehan that could shoot from the outside did make Missouri play T-Rob Mano-e-Mano.  Having him score 28 points and Connor score 12 didn't hurt.  

In today's paper there was a question sent to Click and Clack the tappet brothers about why would you not want to buy a new car today and just keep it forever?  I loved their answer.  If you had a 52 Chevy today, it would not have power steering, power brakes, anti skid brakes, seat belts,  a 12 volt system,  air conditioning and it would only get about 16 miles per gallon.  If you were lucky enough to have a dad that converted the system to a 12 volt system and install an aftermarket air conditioner, you would have to set fight in the path of the fan to feel cool let alone cold air.  Lets not even talk about the heaters that might bring the temperature up a couple of degrees in the dead of winter.  

I am really looking for some answers on how to handle the problem of paying taxes on the 401ks, 503bs and IRA when we hit 70.  Yes, I know there are a lot of people that would be glad to have more money rolling in even if they did have to pay taxes on it.    My brother and I laughed at the tax problem the oil money is causing those of us that are still paying taxes.  Between time off for surgery and the additional medical bills he is fine for this year  Me?  I am still sitting beside a card table full of tax information hoping it will all go away.  

OH Well...




How many things in your life do you see and then ask why would someone do that?     Here are a few of the things that cause me to ask that question:
  • Just where the heck is someone going that it is so important that they pass me on either side when I am driving my normal +2 or +3 miles above the posted limit?   I find people do this a lot more when I am driving my old truck.  Is it the age of the truck or the appearance?  Yes, years ago I was guilty of this also but it annoys me more today.
  • If you are too drunk to drive, why the heck would you give the wheel to someone as drunk as you are?  A car crashed yesterday and the owner of the car was in the passenger seat too drunk to get out of the car.  Her designated driver got out and ran away.  This is just dumb on many counts.
  • Why have we gone from an America that was built by independent actions by our citizens to a country where people think the Government must support them cradle to grave?  I don't remember any of the Economics classes telling us where the Government must save us.  There was some influence mentioned but Massive bail outs are going to save us?  
  • I see normal people have their children grow up and when they do, these people adopt a pet and it almost consumes their lives.  
  • Where have the parents gone that told us that if we work hard,  get an education and save our money we can have a happy and prosperous life? My dad told me I could make a living digging a ditch but it was a hard row to hoe.  
  • At what point do people stop worrying about their children?  At what age do they take full responsibility and rip the reins out of their parents hands?  I see this across many families not just mine.
  • Why do I put this crap in one blog when it would make about a weeks worth of Facebook?
If you have any of the answers to these questions, write them down and put them in the circular file by your computer.  I really don't want to know the answer much more than i wanted to know the questions.



Wine in My Chili

My battery was located near Ban Me Touit, and for a month or so, I was the Officer in Charge for the resupply. We sent rations, beer, colas and mail to them every day if the weather held out.  Somewhere along the way, one of my guys obtained a case of Freeze Dried Long Range Recon patrol rations.  No, I didn't really want to know where it came from, I simply wanted to try some.  It turned out that one of my favorite meals, chili, was the main component in the case.  

I managed to find that the Class VI store located in the Bungalow down town.  We all had ration cards that limited us to how much booze what we could buy.  On one of my trips down town, I stopped in and saw several cases of white wine.  The NCO running the store told me that somehow the supply system sent him about 25 cases of that wine and he had little or no demand.  He offered to let me have as much as I wanted without hitting a ration card.  I picked up a case of Hans Kristoff, Libfraumilch for a couple of dollars a bottle.  It was a decent wine for someone that had no wine to drink.  For some reason, red wine has sulfates in it and they would give me  headache.  The white wine didn't seem to do that.

One evening, I decided that instead of water, I would try to reconstitute the chili with white wine.  My experiment went well except for the fact that no matter how long I waited, the beans didn't seem to absorb the wine.  They remained crunchy and no amount of wine or time would fix them.  I tried to add a little water and that helped just enough to make them no longer like eating rocks.  

I had no idea that those crunchy pieces of beans would cause my intestinal tract to become an alternate energy source.  No matter what I did, those little protein pellets just morphed into methane gas.  There is just no way I was going to go over to the medics and see if they could find a solution.  I managed to ride around in my jeep and not get into any confined spaces with anyone.  The good news is that after about three days, the situation normalized and that ended chili experiment.

On one of my trips to Fort Sill a few years later, I went into one of the State owned liquor stores in Lawton.  Right there by the door was a display of Hans Kristoff Libfraumilch and I bought a bottle.  I took it back to my apartment and cooled it to a nice drinking temperature.  It was terrible.  I guess it is all in the location and distance from booze. 



Howitzer, Howitzer, Who has the Howitzer?

As most of you know by now, I went to the Field Artillery Officer Candidate School (OCS) in early 1967 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  I trained for our year long deployment at Fort Irwin, California and we went to Vietnam in early 1968.  Our unit went over together and traveled on the USNS Geiger from Long Beach to Cam Rahn bay.  I have a funny story to tell about that adventure but for now, I’ll fast forward to the middle of my year long tour and into the Central Highlands.

Shortly after I made First Lieutenant, I was made XO of a 155mm howitzer battery.  We were located about 5 kilometers (Klicks or K’s) inside the Laos/Cambodian border in the Tri Border Area northwest from Pleiku and Kontum.  We had been moved there from LZ Mary Lou located right outside Kontum to support operations in the Plei Trap valley.  In fact, the unit moved when I was on Rest and Recreation (R&R) with my wife in Hawaii.

When I went back through battalion headquarters in Pleiku, the Commander Alfred J. Cade asked me if I could go out on a mission to find a howitzer.  I asked him if it was an enemy howitzer along the border and he said, No Dennis it one of yours that was dropped by the sky crane helicopter (CH54) when you were on R&R.  It seems that as the flying crane cleared a mountain ridge either one of the straps or slings as we called them broke and the gun began to swing wildly beneath the chopper.  All the crew chief could do to save the bird was to punch the darn thing off and let it play lawn dart.

Now imagine a 15,000-pound lawn dart being dropped into a hostile location from several thousand feet.  It went in barrel down and it was tough to locate as very little of the gun was visible from the air.  Had it been a sling load of ammo and we would have been there immediately but by the time I got the mission, the gun had been there a couple of days.  Being young and somewhat stupid I agreed to take a team from one of the Special Forces Camps and go do what we could to keep the darned thing from being a weapon for the enemy.  That day I flew out to a camp at Polei Klang.  I was given a team of Jeh Montagnards (yards) with a SF Team Leader and sent by Helicopter out to the general area where the gun was lost. 

The SF Guy was very sharp and knew the area well.  We were just a little way from the nearest hamlet but the area was well known to have a lot of hard-core North Vietnamese Army (NVA) units.  It was not far off the Ho Chi Min trail and there were rumors that there were NVA tanks in the area.  The area where the gun was lost was a valley between two mountain ridges it was a grassy plain with a river snaking it way down near the middle.  The ground was very spongy along the river and not at all hard packed clay like the Kansas Prairies back home.  It was in the fall and the monsoon season had just ended so it was cool at night and hot and humid during the day.

We established a main patrol base and sent small teams of the yards out to scout.  They stripped off their uniforms and wore just a loincloth to go out into the surrounding countryside.  They also left their weapons with the base team. I guess they know that a few M-16’s aren’t of much use against an enemy that could have tanks.  They moved out base each day and on the third afternoon found the howitzer.  When we moved the detachment to the reported site, we first saw one of the tires.  The tires had been ripped off the side of the howitzer as it dug in.  We soon saw the other tire but no howitzer.  The team that scouted ahead sat in the shade and watched us as we tried to spot the howitzer. I guess playing Howitzer, Howitzer can you find the Howitzer was a game to them. One of the yards with me actually tripped over the lunette or donut shaped piece on the very back end of the howitzer.  It was sticking up about 12 inches out of the ground.  The rest of the gun was tube down to a depth of about 20 feet.  There was no way in hell that anyone was going to dig that gun out.  The soft ground had kind of settled back in around the howitzer.

After about a half hour of negotiation with the Special Force Camp, my battalion and the District Province Chief it was decided that we would dig down to the breach block and put a thermite grenade in it.  The grenade would burn its way through the breechblock and render it unusable.  The yards all took turns digging and they all chatted in their curious language and laughed at each other.  I’m sure they called me all sorts of names because I hung with the Radio Telephone Operator (RTO) and refused to eat the weird collection of animals, insects and greenery they bought in from their forays out into the countryside.  They had the indigenous Long Range Rations for Patrols (LRRPS) but seemed to love to augment them with all sorts of animals and minerals. The indigenous LRRPs were basically bags of freeze dried rice augmented with a very small protein source. The Americans all ate three times a day and the yards ate twice.  They also wanted to take about two-hour nap in the middle of the day.  Being a child of the 60’s I knew the difference between tobacco and pot.  There was a lot of the pipes smoked by the yards that wasn’t just tobacco.

During the nights, my RTO and I alternated sleeping and radio watch.  Normally we had a three-man team but because of the small size I only had one enlisted man with me.  He had been with me when I went out as an FO earlier and loved to be out in the countryside in spite of the danger.  I probably got mortared more with the Artillery than out with the Infantry.  I guess we moved a lot and it was hard to hit a moving target.  Every time we moved I would conduct a fire mission on our old position a few hours after we left.  We would send back a recon team and see if we had gotten lucky.  The VC and NVA liked to dig up the trash pits of American units to see what they could find out about what we were doing. And any information about who the heck we were.  One day we did find blood trails so we did hit someone.  I guess they thought we weren’t very darned important because we were such an easy target. 

The end of the fourth day they sent out a couple of choppers and we were taken back to Polei Klang.  After a quick shower and a good meal I was taken back to Pleiku by chopper.  I soon returned to my unit and resumed the duties of Executive Officer (XO) of the battery.  I’ll tell you more about that duty later in another edition of Vietnam.



A Vietnam Discussion

I find discussing Vietnam with other Vietnam Vets interesting.  There are a lot of factors that makes our memories different.  here are some that I have noted.

Location - Vietnam is a tall country that varies from one end to the other.  In the northern part, the mountains are there on the edge of most places and it tends to be a lot cooler.   Most of the people that fought up there were Marines and I didn't get to meet many of them.   The II Corps of the second most northerly part was the Central Highlands.   Lots of mountains and some plains down near Pleiku.  I swear that early one morning in the time nearing Christmas 1968, I saw what looked like snow way up in the mountains.  It didn't stick but we all wore a rain jacket with a poncho liner lining.  To me, it was too cold to take a shower outside in the rain during the monsoon season.   The area from the Central Highlands and south of there for about 50 miles was our III Corps Area and mostly smaller rolling hills and jungle.  I spent about 6 weeks in that area and it was triple canopy jungle for the most part.  The south end of Vietnam was the delta of the Mekong river.  The guys there fought the enemy, the jungle rot and fungus.  They were brought back into base camps more often and fought having terminal athletes' foot and crotch rot.  Many of the guys describe that part a lot like the swamps of Louisiana south of New Orleans.  I understand that the majority of the rice grown in Vietnam was grown in III and IV corps.  There was some grown in the Central Highlands but not as much as down south.

Kind of Unit You were assigned to.   What you did dictated the kind of life you had.  The Infantry mostly carried their rations, ammo and sleeping gear with them and where they stopped was where they slept.  Some of the units in the Delta were in a fairly permanent base at night and taken out on daily operations.   The Field Artillery were strategically placed around the country to allow them to fire for the Infantry and each other.  In the Highlands, they were placed on mountain top fire bases and we lived in bunkers.   The helicopter units had a lot more permanent housing and were located near airports and runways.  The troops slept in tents a lot but they also had some of the amenities like clubs and  shower points.  The higher the headquarters, the more like Stateside were their facilities.  The Air Force base near Artillery Hill in Pleiku even had a hamburger drive in and ice cream shop.  Their PX's were always stocked with nice items that our smaller PX's didn't have.  One headquarters in Ban Me Touit was located in the Bungalow, a hotel that Teddy Roosevelt stayed in when he went there to hunt tigers.  needless to say I wasn't admitted there but I did buy booze at the Class VI store. 
Mission - In all of Vietnam, there were probably less than half of the 500,000 men (1968) involved in directly meeting and greeting the enemy and killing him.  Most of the rest were involved in supporting those activities.  It was my personal experience that a hell of a lot more booze was consumed by the rear echelon guys.  On the other hand, marijuana was available pretty much everywhere and a lot of us just didn't go looking every time we smelled burning rope.  One soldier that I did talk about marijuana use was also the point man of a rifle company.  He said that when he was high, things that weren't natural just glowed and he never walked us into an ambush or booby trap.  

Rank - RHIP. Rank has its Privileges.  I don't think i ever saw anyone over the rank of Captain that didn't sleep in a bunker or better.  A lot of the unit commanders that lived in cantonment areas had small houses and most had a shower unit so they could take a daily shower.  Take that to the lowest rank and the lowest level and you had grunts out in the field that slept under a poncho to stop the rain and went weeks without getting to see a hot shower.  We did manage to find a "blue Line" or river with water in it and wash off the real stink.  Unless you were in the mountains, the water wasn't fit to drink even with Iodine tablets. 

Age - A lot of the lower rank soldiers were Baby Boomers and we listened to war stories told by our dad's.  We spent our lives playing games and competitive sports.  I was ready for the Military and found it easy.  Some of the older guys were more in the conventional wisdom of the Military and had a tough time adjusting to guerilla warfare.  Those that came after me and were younger had a tough time adjusting to the fact that they had an enemy that wanted to kill them and a lot of higher rank soldiers that didn't like them.  

My Combat time in the Military started right as I turned 20 and it was in the 60's.  I find it interesting the number of soldiers that talk about the high times they had before the service, while in the service and when they got out.  The most stable of us, if there are any, were the ones that didn't do the hard drugs and returned to jobs, wives and college campuses.  If you haven't heard, I am an alcoholic and I don't blame the Military for much of that.  I like a lot of my friends am currently sober due to getting smarter and starting to fight the effects of getting old.  I come from a family of large livers.  Yes, not long livers, large.  

I for one can discuss the times in Vietnam with about anyone.  One of my best friends hung his uniform up in the closet when he got home and has never talked about it.  I am pretty sure that I saw a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart on his uniform the one time I did see it.   Perhaps one day he and I will feel comfortable enough to talk about our experiences. 

When you put the above factors and multiply the ages, races, home States and family income status in the mix, you can clearly see that there are probably no two guys that saw the same war and came out the same.  God Bless our Servicemen and Women and may they all find the peace in their world that we all fought for.

Just My Point of View

Sunday, I listened to a Black lady on Television tell us why we needed more Federal Programs to help the disadvantaged.  Here were her points and my Counterpoints:

Point - Education is the stepping off point to having a better life.  The Government needs to step in and provide a cheaper College Education.

Counter Point - Anyone that studies history knows that the GI Bill has been one of the best things going since WWII.  What good is an education if it is given to you and it leads you to think the Government owes you one?  I sure as hell value my education and the fact that I earned it. 

Point  - We need to have training programs available for the disadvantaged.  Some day we will need more electricians, plumbers and mechanics.  Again the Government needs to step up their support.

Counter Point - Why would we need a program to teach kids to show up for work and do a job?  Isn't that the role of parents?  A good period in the Military shows you the value of haircuts, shining your shoes and being where you need to be on time every time. The GI Bill can be used in almost all schools for training as electricians, plumbers and mechanics.

Point - To pay for the new programs, we need to cut Military Spending.

Counter Point - The Constitution requires us to have a strong Military Defense.  I think the side benefits we gain from this program should lead us to a way to make it mandatory for more young people not eliminate it.  Even the Swiss have a six month mandatory Military training for all their youth.


PS - I went to Vietnam in 1968 and spent a year there helping what I thought was our national Priority.  I will not apologize for my actions, I will stand up proudly when my flag unfolds and am proud of America.



Women in the Military

In my study of the Military, I found an interesting parallel between women in Wartime and Blacks.  From the Civil War to the 1950’s, Blacks were considered inferior for combat duty unless white Officers led them. The truth showed that many black units were highly capable and won many battles.  For the most part the Army leadership relegated Blacks to Combat Support Roles until the integration of the Military after Korea. The exceptions were National Guard units and volunteer experiments tried by the few progressive Military Leaders that were willing to take a chance.  There were a few Black Brigades in the Civil War and there is a Military History Poster about the World War I, “Hell Fighters From Harlem”. From WWII, there was the “Tuskegee Airmen” and the 555th Combat Regiment an all black Airborne Regiment experiment.   Until full integration was reached in the 50’s and until the young Black officers and Non Commissioned Officers moved up into leadership positions during the Vietnam era there were few black Generals and Sergeant Majors.  From the 1960’s on, the Military led the way to full integration of minorities in all facets of the Male dominated services.  I for one was proud of my Army and the integration of all male soldiers into all sections of the Army.

I feel that here is the point to be made about women and their assigned roles. Just as the blacks were not allowed full integration until the 1950's the women in the Army were not allowed the full integration into all units when the blacks were.  Early in the history of the Military, women were relegated to positions such as clerks, drivers and Nurses.  The land beyond the cantonment area was an all male bastion and women were not allowed during combat on Ships, in Air Crews or in units where women could be exposed to direct combat with the enemy.  As one should never say never or always, there might have been a few exception but for the most part women did not move into anything nearing an equal position with men until the modern era.  Let me say I love nurses as they have given comfort to our wounded soldiers and there were many killed but seldom in direct battle.

In the 1980’s, the Military tried to develop a study that would scientifically define women’s and their roles in the Military.  The study framed the discussion called a Direct Combat Probability Code (DCPC).  The DCPC looked at the jobs and the opportunity and probability of meeting with the enemy in combat.  The study, for the most part confirmed the Male leadership’s feelings that women should not be allowed in Combat roles.  There were a few exceptions in the study that allowed some women in Combat MOSs but limited women serving in those roles for positions located in higher headquarters. 

In the Army of my youth (1966–80) I served with few women because of my assignment to Field Artillery units at battery and Battalion level.  The “good old boys” took care of each other and women were talked about but not seen.  In our field units men could strip off their clothes and bathe in a helmet without the worry that there were women nearby.  In 1980, I was assigned to the National Guard State Headquarters in Topeka, Kansas.  There, women made up a significant part of the membership of the unit and my earlier preconceptions of the Military had to change dramatically. 

It is interesting that about the time of my transformation, the Military was undergoing the same change.  Women were showing up more and more in our units authorization (Table of Organization and Equipment ,TO&E).  With the move towards an all-volunteer force our recruiters were working hard to recruit all sexes into the Military. One of the biggest shocks was having women in positions that caused them to be in the Field with the men.  This created the need for female facilities and separate tents for different sexes.  It definitely changed the level of swearing and raised the decorum in most units.  Even in the Field Artillery Battalion I was in 1975, we had a few women attached but not a permanent part of our unit.  One of my dear friends to this day was one of those women.  Sally is as always a fine soldier.   Perhaps one of these days I'll have her read this and put her comments as a counterpoint to my thoughts.I am proud to know Jana Harrison that made Command Sergeant Major and served with a female Battalion Commander. (her name just escapes me)

In conventional wars, the front lines are somewhat well defined and the enemy weapons systems are fairly predictable.  You can somewhat limit the location of women and therefore limit the number of females that die.  Society has for the longest time been willing to send their young men to die but not the women.  Men do the fighting; women raise children and stay home. That has had to change in society and that change reflected in the military. The equal rights to live free and have equal pay has been tested by the equal right to die in combat. 

In unconventional wars, the front lines blur and the fighters are harder to tell from the non-combatants.  A primary description of the difference can be found in the ambush of a Maintenance unit that led to the Jessica Lynch story, “I am a Soldier Too”.  The two Kansas National Guardsmen killed in Iraq were Field Artillerymen and because there was no need for Artillery, they were assigned duties more like Military Policemen or Infantrymen.  They were killed protecting a convoy from attack.  The unconventional roadside explosives don’t differentiate between women and men.

Today there is still somewhat a protective part of the Military that shields women from the role of warrior but that distinction is becoming less as society’s attitudes soften.  I do not think there will ever be a free assignment of women in combat until our attitudes continue their transformation and women are seen as equals in all facets of life.  We are on that road now and it is only a matter of time until there will be only Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines not men and women in those services. 




Another War Story

OK, I thought I was finished and had it all out of my system but I just had one or two more stories in there that had to sneak out.  The first month I was assigned to my new unit in Pleiku, someone put a set of orders in my mail box and it appointed me as the Class A agent for most of the whole damned battalion.  I didn't know that most of the forward elements on Mountain Top LZ's just didn't want or need any money.  Most of the guys would draw a partial pay and let the rest ride to draw when they went on R&R.  But, in case they did, I was required to draw about $200,000 with half of that in Piasters and half in Military Payment Certificates.  It all looked like Monopoly money to me but what the hell, it was just another job for the kid from Wichita.  The battalion headquarters did set up a helicopter ride for me to go way the hell up to Dak Pec.  It was where we had a part of a gun battery right beside a Special Forces Camp.  Much to my surprise as I got off the helicopter, I saw one of the village women going topless.  What was amazing was the fact that she was wearing a skirt and her breasts hung down so far that the nipples were inside the skirt.  Strangely topless and not topless.  I had not been in Vietnam long enough for it to be really erotic.  I would judge her to be about a 34 XXL. (Extra, extra Long.)

 Did  mention that Dak Pek was way the hell up north of Dak To and the helicopters would not shut down and wait on you?   That night I spent sleeping in a bunker with about $200,000 in a brief case in my cot with me.  There were also two armed guards with  so I didn't feel too bad.

Dak Pec, was so isolated that the Special Forces guys could not shop in the local village or market for food.  Everything they ate was brought in by air.  As I sat on the runway the next day,  waiting for a helicopter ride, a Caribu landed and off loaded a cow.  The crew chief was so mad he could spit. n That plane was brand new and when the pilot pulled one of his fall down and land moves, that cow shit a line of crap all over the cargo area.   Needless to say I passed on a ride back to Pleiku in that one

Over on the run way by the Special Forces camp was a Caribu that had crashed landing at that remote strip. It was so far from anywhere that the Army just wrote it off and left it there.  

The next day, I made my way back to Dak To, and two fire bases where we had units.   I think we also stopped in Kontum to pay a rear area ammo supply point.  As we were finally headed back to Pleiku, the pilots met up with another Huey from his unit also headed back to Pleiku.  I was listening to their conversation and one of the pilots said, "Wanna Race?" I until then did not realize that if you wanted to go really fast, you lowered the nose of a Huey and it would go really fast.  

I had never been in a Huey that was going  really fast and not overloaded.  We were going well over 100 Knots and all of a sudden that damn bird shook like a hound dog shitting peach pits.  The door gunner right beside me said ,"Don't worry but we might crash."  Shit oh dear, here I am with about $175,000 in my lap and we might crash.  Then all hell broke loose.  I had never seen the dash of a Huey flash and sound so many alerts.  Master Caution, Chip Alert, Engine RPM and then silence.  The damned engine just quit. it was so silent that I about shit myself right there.

From the back of a Huey

I had read about Huey's doing an auto rotation but had never seen one.  There I was, smack dab right in the middle of a live demonstration.  The pilot pulled up the nose, gained a little altitude and started the rotors spinning as fast as he could.  Just when I thought I would get to smack me and all that damned money into the earth, the pilot pulled full pitch and we landed in a garden right behind a montagnard village.   My legs were shaking as we crawled out of the bird and the pilot calmly told me that there would be about a 30 minute wait until a recovery bird would arrive.  I told him that unless he wanted to have a full report made to his Flight Operations, he would get on his little handy talkie and have the second helicopter land and pick up up.  He could just tell the other bird that His name would be in my report if he didn't come back right damned now.  Having two pretty pissed off soldiers with me armed with M-16's didn't hurt.  There was no way I was going to spend one more minute on the ground in the middle of "no and fucking where" with that kind of money in the brief case. I could just see a casualty assistance officer coming to my house and telling my wife that I had been killed and ,Oh by the way you owe the Government $150,000. 

The other bird came right back and took us to Artillery Hill.  I didn't report them but I probably should have. Two young sets of Pilots just out on a joy ride.  Oh well, All's well that ends well.  Everyone got paid and we didn't die.



Just a Sunny Sunday Morning

So I went in to the Doctor's office and said, "Doc, my sex drive is too high."  He looked at me funny and said, "Dennis you know with your high blood pressure I don't recommend you use Viagra."  I replied, "Yes Doc, the drive is all in my head and I want you to lower it."     That's not a true story even if there are elements of truth woven into the fabric of the joke.

The other day, I drove out in the country trying to find a used Volvo Tractor dealer.  Man if I thought their cars were expensive, I wasn't ready for their skid loader price.  I have about three driveways that are in bad shape and need a lot of rock and a tractor to grade it with.  The ideal thing I found was a 4 wheel drive Kubota tractor that is a special at the Lawn and Garden show at  $20,000.   My dad would say, "Keerist, are you kidding?"  His Ford 9N was about $1,500 with a bush hog and a rear blade.  

Oh, I got side tracked on my BBQ story.  damned tractors...   On east 21st in Topeka, there is a new BBQ joint that is open only 11 AM to 2 PM and Friday night.  The place was busy as hell and there were a couple of Topeka Policemen eating at one of those long tables for 8.  I asked if I could sit down at one end and they said sure.  About four minutes later, their friends that were going to have lunch with them called and said they could not find a parking place so they were going to a Mexican Restaurant down the street. I noticed that they were driving one of the Typical cop cars a Crown Victoria and I mentioned that I had to replace the light control module and it was over $400.00.  They said that they have a lot of problems keeping the lights working right on their car.  It seems that the light control module on a police car is more expensive than on the standard sedan.  They have had to replace theirs twice in the 80,000 miles on the odometer.  

The subject turned to guns and I mentioned that I was fond of the Beretta 9mm.  The Topeka Department uses the Glock 9mm and all carry the standard side arm to make sure that if there was ever a fire fight you could give you buddy a clip and it would work in his gun.  It wouldn't do for someone right in the middle of a gun fight to have to unload a magazine and reload one so it would fit in his gun.  I mentioned that I bought a laser sight and they said that there was one available for the Glock but few of the regular patrolmen carried them.  They said the special weapons teams do but they don't.  They said that they aren't allowed to put the flash light clamps on their pistols.  That would mean that you would have to aim you gun at people when you are using your flashlight.  I wouldn't want to do that because people with a gun would shoot at the light and because I aim with my whole arm and people shooting at my light would probably shoot me.  

The Mayor here in Topeka was in a meeting with the Chief of Police and it was mentioned that if people would not wear hoodies, hats and sunglasses, the surveillance cameras would do a better job at identifying bad guys.  The Mayor floated an ordinance that would require people to take their hats, glasses and hoodies off when they go into banks and 7-11's.  I thought the two policemen would choke when I said, "If they outlaw hoodies, only outlaws will have hoodies."    They both took their hands and covered their badges and said no comment.  We laughed.  I laughed mostly because I could remember their names even if it was really important for me to do so.

Oh well, better move on and see what mischief I can can ether get into or stay out of.




More Car stories

Did I mention that I supported a girl friend and a car through High School?  Man I loved that Chevy and those big front seats.  You could roll around on them....  Wait, I will clean this back up and ask you to forget what I just wrote.  No, I won't remove it because I get paid by the word.  

My girl friends car was a Renault Dauphine.  As much as we tried to wrestle in that car, it was almost impossible. You notice I didn't say totally impossible, just almost.  Somewhere in all this time, my parents had a Volvo 544.  It looked like a 47 ford in about 3/2rd scale.   I loved that car and thank god that dad was there to work on it.  Keeping those twin SU Carbs synchronized was a trip.  One of the biggest problems was that everyone drove it and few if anyone spent any time checking the fluid levels.  One of the simplest things was to make sure the oil dampers in the carb had oil.  It took about a tablespoon or 20 weight oil about once a month.   My dad just laughed each morning when Mom would go out to start that car and pump the linkage.  You could actually hear her working that linkage and it had no effect on how the car started.  On most American cars there was a built in pump to throw a little gas into the engine when you worked the linkage.  Not so much on the Volvo.  There was one kind of neat feature I liked also.  There was what looked like a roll up blind in front of the radiator.  You would pull that chain and raise it up.  As soon as the engine warmed up, you lowered it down.  In really cold weather you could pull it up a little way and it would let the heater keep the car toasty.  

Somewhere in my years between High School and the Army, my dad bought a Renault to try to rebuild.  It would go 46 miles per hour in third and 45 in 4th.  What a piece of crap that car was.  Someone had broken off the little stick that was on the steering wheel.  It controlled the lights, the horn and the turn signals. Dad went over to the Oklahoma Tire and Supply store and bought about 10 switches.  He put everything on little throw switches and somehow made it all work.  The problem was that it was pretty easy to honk the horn or turn off the lights instead of the turn signal.  Dad read in the paper that one of the car dealers had a deal where they would give you $200 for anything that rolled if you bought a used car from them.  I'm pretty sure that they offerefd to give Dad the money if  he wouldn't leave the car there.  Something about the tag transfer and insurance so we drove home a 1963 Volvo 4 door sedan.  That was a great car.   

After we brought that car home, I got drafted and for the better part of 6 months, I was at the Army's mercy for transportation.  It wasn't until about half way through Officer Candidate School that I got to bring the Volvo on Fort Sill.  The one thing they required of me was to put seat belts in the car.  Thankfully there was a foreign used car part salvage and I got the front belts for little of nothing.

When I was ready to go to Vietnam, Dad asked for the Volvo back and Barb and I bought an MG.  Never will I buy anything with a British electrical system in it.   Why doe the Brits drink warm beer?  They all have Lucas refrigerators.   

While I was in Vietnam, dad drove that Volvo to Arkansas about every weekend. The good thing about what fort Sill made me do is that it probably saved my dad's life.  He was driving to Arkansas one weekend and a car pulled out in front of him as he drove through one of those little towns in SE Kansas.  Dad had slowed down to about 50 but hitting a full sized car broadside just was more than that Volvo could bear

As you can see, it mashed the front end big time.

In spite of the damage to the front, you could open and close all the side doors.   Dad managed to tear the steering wheel off and broke his nose with his knee. The wreck also separated some ribs from his sternum and he spent a few days in a hospital.  The car stayed in a salvage and  I never saw it  again.




Car Tales or Tails

Over the 64 years of my life, one constant has pretty much been the cars around me.  There are pictures of me climbing on the fenders of pre-war cars that had headlights separate from the fenders all the way to pictures of me mugging for the Camera as I took the 57 Chevy apart in the Driveway here at Rabbit Run. 

One of the first I remember was the Kaiser Mom and Dad had that Dad worked on all the time to keep it running.  We actually wore the seat covers out on that car and were reduced to sitting on blankets.  I remember that in the Mid 50's dad was enamored with a Studebaker and wanted one pretty badly.  He broke down and bought the notorious "Plymon" new in 1955.  It was a basic four door Plymouth sedan and from the first Dad had his job cut out for him keeping that damned thing running.  It was not expensive to buy, but I'll bet if you figured in all the parts, tires, shocks and dripping oil Dad replaced in the four years we owned it, it was one of the most expensive.

Somewhere about 1960, my father found a 1957 Chrysler.  That white and gold car was beautiful and was one of the best.  I remember it had push buttons for the automatic transmission and radio.  It would haul a family of six and you could throw in a dog for good measure.  On one of our trips home from Arkansas,, I asked dad just how fast will this thing go.  It had one of the Hemi motors and would haul ass with air conditioned comfort.  Dad was on one of those straight roads in Southeast Kansas and floored it.  At 112 MPH, something on the drive line let loose and made a buzzing sound and then quit.  The car was fine but something had obviously scared the hell out of Dad. There was a rubber boot on the drive shaft that covered the universal joints that had let go. Dad and I put a new one on later when we got home.  Well, I watched and Dad did most of the work.  Probably where I learned the difference between an adjustable wrench, a fucking spanner and a god dammed socket.  Thank god it was back in the SAE days and there wasn't a bunch of metric sized wrenches to get in the way.  I'm sure that learning to cuss was a right of passage most boys went through.  

My sister Carol was just starting college when dad found a 47 Ford Sedan to fix up for her to drive.  We bought a big package of sandpaper and a case of spray paint and went to work.  Dad and I spent one weekend wet sanding that old car away from the factory black rusty paint it came with.  Then dad spent hours putting masking tape over all the shinny bits.so we could spray primer first.  The final color was a two toned grey and black.  The biggest problem with the ford was that due to its age, you had to be careful or it would run out of oil or water (or both)  Being a young teen male, the job of checking the fluid levels weekly became my job.  Carol was pretty but mechanically challenged.  Dad always seemed to have a case of oil around the house and the hose was right there on the side of the house.  One other problem with the old ford was the six volt electrical system.  If you turned on the radio it would just eat the battery.  If you wanted to listen to the radio, you had to run the motor. 

I never did know why or where Dad found the 1954 Hillman Californian.  It was small two door car that had a stick shift and a 4 speed engine.  The paint was a beautiful red and black but the paint was dead and unless you waxed it about once a month, it was so faded it was terrible. In a little over a year I had waxed that paint down to the primer.  It was a great little car with one weakness.  A nail file could work the ignition switch and I stole it a couple of times before I got caught driving it.  I drove it to High School for a while when Carol found a 49 Cadillac that she drove.  It was beautiful and smooth but got only about 10 Miles per gallon.  (If That)   The Hillman lasted for a few years until Carol and Rick went to Arkansas and back.  Somewhere about Augusta east of Wichita, it started to get hot and by the time she pulled up in the yard, that engine was just frozen solid.  It was so hot that it melted the spark plug wires.  Lucky if didn't catch on fire.  It was kind of funny that I had put those clear red spark plug wires on it and Carol was sure that that was the cause of the problem.  Dad knew better.

We had a mini before it was cool to have one.  Ours was a Morris 850 and really was a cute little car.  It would not go real fast except around corners.  It was more like a go kart than a regular car.    The battery was always bad and the good news was that I could get it rolling out of the driveway and it would start.  It got about 40 Miles per gallon back when gas was cheap.  

My first, Denny paid for car, was a 55 Chevy that became to be called "Bad News."   I worked at the Standard Station at Rock Road and Kellogg in Wichita.  My boss had bought the old Chevy from an Air Force kid that was deploying overseas.  It had a metallic paint job and looked pretty to my young eyes.  I think I paid less than a hundred dollars for it and probably that much getting it running.  Somewhere in that first year, I decided that it needed some oil additives to get the oil flowing.  Working in a gas station, there were all types of oil products.  I seem to think that Bardahl was the one I tried and it cut so much sludge loose it plugged up the oil passages and a new engine was in order. I should have known that if you were using non detergent oil you didn't need additives. The mechanic that dad used at that time found a six cylinder truck engine that was bored .60 over and it had solid lifters.  It was a hauling Jessie and there wasn't many cars that it wouldn't outrun. OK, the 57's with the newer 327 engines were more than I could handle.  Until, I ran into the side of a brand new 63 Chevy on my way to school.  Chunks of body filler fell out of the body in places that I didn't know you could put body filler in.  There was so little of the fender left that I had to wire the headlight in.   Yes, drill holes in the fender that wasn't rusty and use bailing wire to hold the light wherever it was pointed. The wires would rust and I knew it was time to rewire when the headlight would point either at the top of trees or the ditch.  One day, one of the rear fenders was rubbing on a tire and one of the guys there in the station took an air chisel and cut the wheel wells out and painted Bad News on the side with a spray Paint Can.  I drove that car all through High School and only stopped driving it when the engine finally raced its last race.

More on cars Tomorrow.

MUD, Richard Petty's brother.