Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow Day today! Woooohoooo!

It started out pretty light, but it was a joy to see anyway. We don't get much snow around here. last time we got enough to matter was maybe two Easters ago.

I got out to the car this morning and found a light dusting. This was taken at about 7:30, when I usually leave for work.

The drive to Florence was easy. The roads were wet, but nothing was sticking on the road. Grass was still sticking up through the snow.

Looked more like rain on the car when I parked it in front of the school, just before 8AM.

A while later, my first period Seniors were huddled by the windows, amazed, as the snow flakes got bigger and bigger and began to stick.

Yea, it's a small class. Just six kids. The rest are ether in the band, or have some other issue that keeps them from taking my first period class. Result is, I get an extra class in the morning, a little more money, and another batch of Seniors third period.

At one point I opened one of the windows to get a better picture and see the snow. Next thing I knew, a few kids had jumped out the window and were frolicking in the cold.

I had them pose for me. I told them this one should go in the yearbook.

By the time the third period class began, order in the school was breaking down. Kids were getting out of class and going out to have snowball fights and enjoy the moment. My kids were begging me to let them go, so I decided to take a "field trip" out to the FFA meat market. They make some kick ass jerky out there, among other things, and I was lookin' to buy myself some.

I think I was hit by about three snowballs on the path up to that building. I didn't answer back with any. I figured I was outnumbered, and it could only get uglier.

By about 10:20, the announcement was made over the intercom that the school day was going to be cut short. The kids would all get out at 1PM.

The reaction in my class was appropriately subdued, as you can see. They were all so sad to hear the news. By this time I'd learned that my classes in San Saba and on Ft. Hood had already been canceled, so I was pretty happy too.

They also announced that school wouldn't start on Wednesday morning until 10AM. I decided then that rather than come down to Florence for just 40 minutes (third period ends at 10:40), I'd get a sub and sleep in.

Going out to my car for the drive home, I could see the almost three hours of accumulation. It's melting, but it's also accumulating.

The drive home was slow. There was no ice, so far as I could tell, but the slushy road was slippery enough to cause my little car to slide here and there, just a bit.

When I got back to Killeen, I stopped at HEB and picked up some beef ribs, brussels sprouts and potatoes for dinner, and about five bundles of firewood. I drove up into the garage, sliding a bit, unloaded the trunk, and then moved the car back out so that when Denise got home, she could have the garage. She'd called me by this time to say that the main campus was closing at 11:30. We were both gonna be able to enjoy a Snow Day.

My car parked, and me safely back at home, I decided to make a short celebratory video.

The back yard was covered, as was the front, but it's melting almost as fast as it's falling. It's supposed to stop by tonight, and then everything will freeze solid by morning. Denise and I will probably sleep in, and then I'll head to San Saba around 10:30AM. The roads should be OK by then. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, what a hoot. A Snow Day. Ain't life grand? Cheers!

Update: It's official. Denise and I both get to sleep in tomorrow. The main campus won't start till 10AM, and I have a sub in Florence. Setting the alarm for 9. Blissssss!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Went to a concert in Austin last Friday.

The show was at Stubb's BBQ in Austin. If you want to read my review of the gig, and the BBQ, click over here to another blog I occasionally post at. I'm pressed for time here at the library in Saba and don't want to just cut and paste the post from there to here. Otherwise, here's a short wrap-up.

First, Stubb's is one of the best outdoor venues in Austin. Small and intimate, it's a place where you can really enjoy a live show, up close and personal.

Here's the guy I was comin' to see. Warren Haynes, the lead guitar player for the bands Gov't Mule (who I was seeing Friday), and the Allman Brothers. I think this marks the fourth time I've seen this guy live... Three times with the Mule and once with the ABB. It's always a pleasure.

The band is different this year from previous incarnations. they have a new bass player, who it seems has been with the band long enough now to come into his own. Finally, the Mule has found a guy who's energy can come close to replacing, or really matching the energy of their original bassist, Alan Woody.

Woody, another ABB vet, died in about 2000, five years into this side project. Since then, Haynes has gone through various personnel changes. The current manifestation of the Mule... Haynes on guitar, Mat Abts on drums, Jorgen Carlssen on bass and Danny Louis on keyboards/organs, recorded their first CD in three years at Willie Nelson's recording studio last year, with guests like Billy Gibbons stepping in to help.

I think the result of this newest collaboration will knock your socks off when you hear it. Here's a taste, captured with my new toy, my Sony Cybershot camera. Enjoy.

Yep, I'm postin' vids on Youtube now. DANGEROUS!

Anyway, it's time for me to head back to the jail. Reviewing to losers - "Offenders" - for their finals later this week. Then, next week, no driving to San Saba. Denise will LOVE that... me gettin' home from Florence at 11AM on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and goin' back to bed. wait till she finds out.

She's back home from Nashville and Kentucky, by the way, safe and sound. We had a great little reunion last night after her plane touched down in Killeen and I got her back to the house. But that's another story.

Anyway, I'll see ya later. Cheers!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Well, I went to see my tax lady today.

I was afraid, what with having sold those two lots last year, that I was gonna be stuck with a fat bill. Capital Gains. Everyone I talked to about it would get this somber look on their face. they had me thinkin' I was gonna have to pay something like eight or ten grand this year. I went in today so that if I did get stuck with a huge bill I could take the next few months to save up the cash.

Sheeeeit, it was a breeze. Took my little German tax gal about fifteen minutes to tell me that my bill was only (ONLY?) $2300.00. I was elated. I told her to go ahead and set up an automatic withdrawal. get it dome now, so I can finally start thinkin' seriously about some of the stuff I want... need to spend money on this year.

There's a new deck in the plans, and a nice flat screen TV with a surround sound system. And, maybe even a down payment on one of these...

You know, or something like that. We'll see.

Denise is in Kentucky now, chillin' with her friends, kids and grand kids. She had a great time in Nashville, with lots of folks from other colleges pattin' her on the back, tellin' her how brilliant she is. Several of them want her to come to their campus and give her presentation in person.

I told her it was great to hear her bubbling with pride after this experience, rather than the long string of familiar complaints I usually hear when we've both come home in the late evening and she needs to unload from a day of dealing with rude students and pain-in-the-ass employees.

She'll fly home late Sunday, so I'm still batchin' it here as the weekend commences. There's a concert in Austin this evening. I plan to head down to Stubb's, get myself a big plate of BBQ, stroll over to the outside venue behind the restaurant and enjoy some Gov't Mule.

This'll be my third time to see them. Lookin' forward to it. It's always good.

Some time before the gig, my plan is to stroll over to the Paramount Theater, a few blocks down the road from Stubb's, and pick up a few tickets to see Joe Bonamassa. He's gonna play the Paramount on March 24th. Denise and I will enjoy that.

So, I'm gonna go take a nap, and then I'll load up the cameras with new batteries and head south. Y'all be good, and we'll talk again on the other side of this one. Cheers!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Did I tell ya...

what my buddy John, a guard out at San Saba, local liquor store owner and shootin' buddy, did for me a week or so ago?

He and a cousin had to go up to New Jersey and Pennsylvania a few weekends ago to take one of his uncles to another uncles funeral. He told me before he left that he was gonna try to bring me back some Yuengling. He's not a beer drinker. A whiskey drinker, ol' John is. But he'd see if he could stow away a six-pack in his bag on the way back.

Sure enough. Ain't it purdy! He even put them back on the plastic yoke for me. What a gentleman!

I've had em in the house for a week. In the fridge for a few days, but I have yet to drink one. I still have most of a case of bottles at the house, and I'd hate to mess up this new set. I guess I'll wait till the bottles run out. Use this as a kind of a Yuengling emergency stash. Break glass and guzzle in case of emergency.

Ether that or we'll just have to have a good old fashioned pizza night some time, and Denise and I will kill them all. Pork up, get loose and get wide. One way or the other... Cheers!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ya kinda get the feel that a shootin' war could bust out at any moment.

Check out all the Kalashnikovs all over the place. And the government minders revvin' up the crowds.

This is the India-Pakistan border, Wagah road closing ceremony. It's the only road connecting the two antagonistic nations... Both nuclear powers.

Every night, the border is closed with this ceremony, lasting only 156 seconds. Dig it.

All that posturing and sweating... And then they shake hands. It's really more like a sporting event, where each side gets to shake a leg and show their national pride. That's cool. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dinner with mom, and a vexing little dadget.

I went over to Temple Monday evening and had dinner with my mom. She'd spoken over the weekend about taking some chicken out and wanting to make enchiladas, so i was really looking forward to the treat.

This is one of mom's best dishes. Ask anybody. I'm gonna call my cousin Bob tomorrow and tell him I got to enjoy these and He'll cuss me. The envy will just ooze through the phone connection. Seriously.

My usual helping is three, but she'd decided to load them in these smaller casserole dishes, so I ended up having two for my first helping, and then the third all by it's lonesome. What? Save number three for later? Pffft, are you kidding. Oh hell no.

Just look at that. Juicy, cheesy goodness.

Yep, it's good. I know, I shouldn't tease the public like this. Well, head on over. Maybe we can talk mom into making some more.

You can see here, even the cat knows how good this stuff is.

We both enjoyed a beer with our dinner, and then I took the dishes back to the kitchen and loaded them in the sink to soak. While there, I noted that mom was missing a few bulbs in her ceiling light fixture.

It's a funky cool one with directional lights. There were three bulbs out on this thing, and another out on another fixture nearby. They all use fancy halogen lights. Fancy and expensive, but that's not the real kicker in the deal.

I offered to go and get some new bulbs at Lowe's and fix the situation. I told mom I needed to go there and get a few things for myself anyway, so it was no big deal. I was only gone for a short while. I went in and found the right bulbs, and my own items, really quickly. I wasn't even in the car long enough to light a cigar. I got back to the house and started working on these lights.

You should have heard me cussin'. The guy who designed these little bastards needs to be pistol whipped. First, they're a HUGE pain in the ass to get out, and then they're even more of a pain in the ass to replace with a fresh bulb.

See, you have to press up hard on the bulb with your thumbs and then twist to the left to get the old one out. Then you have to try to line up those two little nubs with the two holes in the fixture, and then twist the bulb to the right with your thumbs while you keep pressing up, hard.

I got the idea that there's probably some sort of suction cup devise the electricians use to replace these things, making it much easier to align the bulb, press and twist, but mom doesn't have one.

Plusssss, these are the only lights in the kitchen, and it's late, so I had to have them on while I was changing them. So, after minutes of pissing and moaning, cussin' a blue streak (mom was in the other side of the house), I'd get the thing lined up right and start twisting with my thumbs, and then the light would come on.

I'd be pressing as hard as I could with my thumbs as the light would blind me and the friggin' thing began to quickly heat up. And i mean heat up! I think I may have left a little finger print burned on to the bulb, along with a circle of bright light burned into my retina.

But, as you can see from the shot above, I eventually got it done. I saved a few of the dead bulbs for target practice later. That should be fun.

Anyway, I went back in and sat down with mom to watch the downhill skiing. Watched some Canadian dude crash and burn at a dizzying speed. And then they said the American skier had won the bronze medal, but that he'd only missed winning the gold by a margin of 1/900ths of a second! Sheeeeeit! I bet he was pissed. Puts my light bulb troubles in perspective.

I hung around there for a while and then headed home. I left mom that extra rack of pork ribs that I'd cooked Sunday afternoon. She'll have those to enjoy this week. I know she'll love them.

Well, that's that. I'm off to work. Florence, San Saba and then Ft, Hood. It'll be a long day, but one filled with good friends, fun times and a job I love. I can't complain. Y'all be good. Cheers.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I put my wowman on a plane for Nashville today.

She's got to go there for a business conference and give a presentation on how they handle the evaluation of a students transferred college credit, which is what she does here on the main campus of CTC. Her boss couldn't go, so it was tossed to her. She'll be there in town till Thursday, and then she'll drive up to Kentucky and spend the next few days with her kids. She'll fly home Sunday, landing here in Killeen at around 8PM.

So, I'm batchin' it this week. It'll be weird as hell, not havin' her around. But I'll survive. There's plans for me to head over to Mom's place and eat dinner with her tonight. She's cooking one of her best dishes... Chicken Enchiladas, and I think she's plannin' to toss some shrinp in there too. She wanted to cook for us this last weekend, but I'd already made plans to cook pork ribs for my wowman on Valentines day, so the enchiladas were postponed till tonight.

The ribs turned out good. They were put in the oven at 250 and stayed there for about five hours. I took them out with about 30 minutes to spare and dribbled some good, spicy BBQ sauce all over them. The meat just fell off the bone when I finally took them out.

Denise loved it. She prefers to eat her ribs with a fork. me, I missed the gnawin' I usually get to do, pickin' the ribs up with my hands and chewin' in 'em till they're nothin' but bare, shiny bone.

Anyway, it was all good, and there's leftovers for me to enjoy this week.

There's a concert in Austin at the end of this week. I'll head down to Stubb's BBQ and attend an outdoor concert with Warren Haynes and his band, Gov't Mule. They put out a new CD last year and are touring to support it. I picked it up last year, right after seein' Haynes when he played with his other band, The Allman Brothers. So I'm really looking forward to the gig.

If you're not familiar with Warren's skills, here's a taste. He's doin' a Zeppelin cover here (I love their covers!), I can't quit you baby... Itself a cover of an old Willie Dixon tune. Enjoy.

Well hell, while we're here, why not check out Dixon's version...

And then there's the Zeppelin version. This is only a taste, but it's worth hearin' again. OK, slink back in the chair, crank up the volume and enjoy.

Well, anyway, Gov't Mule will be a great gig. I just hope it's not rainin' and in the 30s Friday night. Here's hopin'.

Y'all be good. We'll connect again in a bit. Cheers.

Update: She's landed successfully, after a tedious, turbulence filled flight from Dallas to Nashville.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Day... A blast from a not too distant past.

Damn. Just damn. In the space of my lifetime, how far we've come.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Went to a friends funeral on Tuesday.

He was a colleague of mine from way back. A man I've known and taught along side for at least fifteen years. As you may remember from the earlier post, his name was Arthur Trijillo.

You can click back to this other post and read about him, and my feelings for him. I just wanted to share a few images from his service. You can also click here and see the obituary and comments that were published in the local paper.

The funeral was held at St. Joseph's, a big Catholic church on the northeast side of town. The place was filled, wall to wall, with people like me who'd known or worked with Arthur. I felt that was a wonderful testament to the character of the man I knew. He's gonna be missed by a lot of folks.

Not being Catholic, it seemed there was a lot of up and down goin' on in the service. Get up and pray, sit down and sing, get up to pray... for about an hour. There was a little kneeling too, but I didn't join in on that. It was a wonderful service, with Arthur's son-in-law giving a great eulogy. he had us all laughin' and cryin', remembering ol' Arthur.

After the funeral, the internment ceremony was held at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. It's a beautiful place south of town. I pass by it every day on the way to teach my classes in Florence.

I'd say about half of the folks who came to the church also drove out to the cemetery. We stood there as the soldiers lifted Arthur's flag draped casket and brought it out under the shade of the atrium. The gentleman in the officers cap on the right is Arthur's son-in-law, who gave that great eulogy. He's a local police officer. Arthur's widow, Minerva, is on the left, in the tan coat and black shawl.

As the priest from the church finished the services, Arthur lay there before us, covered in the flag he served so well for so long. After the soldiers uncovered the coffin and folded the flag, the soldier you see there on the left knelt down to Minerva and offered the flag to her, "with the gratitude of a grateful nation."

I tell ya, it was all I could do to keep from openly weeping. Of course, as always, I find myself, in these sorts of reflective moments, drifting off to thoughts of my father, my uncles, and all the others that are no longer here with me. I wanted to get a picture of that moment, but I thought it would be too much of an intrusion.

As the service ended, the soldiers took up their positions and fired the salute. I decided to film it. You can see the video here.

I was concentrating so much on getting everything in the frame, nervous about filming at a funeral, that the first shot jolted me, but I steadied up after that. I was curious in the moment about the tinny sound of the trumpet, and that the soldier was fiddling with there before he blew Taps.

Turns out, after viewing the video, he wasn't really "blowing" taps at all. He was playing a recording, with the trumpet at his lips as if he's playing it. I was shocked. They don't really play friggin' Taps any more? Damn! When did that start?

Anyway, after the service was over I went home, changed out of my suit and took my little lady out to a late lunch. Chinese food. The cooks at the Great Wall Cafe were in rare form. The Generals chicken and shrimp fried rice were excellent, and will soon be again, when I get a chance to kill the leftovers.

After that I took Denise back to work and headed over to the base to teach my evening classes. Of course, I was thinkin' a lot about Arthur that evening, and my colleagues and I spent a good bit of time talking about him. We probably will for a while.

Anyway, that's the story. Arthur's gone now, but I bet I'll think of him every time I drive by the State Veterans Cemetery on the way to Florence, and I see that flag at half mast.

Rest in peace buddy. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Went up to Gatesville a few weekends ago and had a big shoot.

A few weekends ago back in mid Janyary, my buddy Dave Waters made plans to have a big shoot at his place up near Gatesville. It turned out though, by that Sunday, the weather had gotten cool and there'd been a little rain. That made drivin' out to his back 40 and issue.

Also, his original date for the shoot coincided with the Cowboys/Vikings game on TV. So, the shoot was put off for a week. Yea, I know. We should'a shot and missed that lousy game, but who knew?

By the time the next Sunday came along, the weather was dryer, but the land out on Water's place was still too wet to take his truck out there. So, the plan changed. We'd all gather at Water's place and then drive over to a range that's been set up on some land belonging to an old friend of his named Dody Belknap.

I was really lookin' forward to this shoot. I told a few other friends of mine about it and before long it was evolving into a big meet. It was my chance to get a few new friends together.

Dave Willingham, on the left here, works with me in Florence. John Hoenow, on the right here, works with me in San Saba. Both of these guys are great, and I knew they'd get along fine and fit right in with Dave (Waters... There's too many Daves in this story) and all of his reenactor buddies.

I'd never been to Belknap's range. It's really cool, with steel targets, painted red, set up at 50 yards, 100 yards, and then another set, painted white, set up there on the left at 200 yards. The targets are just cut pieces of steel ties, set up on a horrizontal steel tie. When you hit them they make a cool "ting" sound and fall over.

The Civil War dudes had a great time loadin' up their muskets and rifles and knockin' those things over.

John's into black powder shootin' too. He goes on a hunt to New Mexico each year where he uses a black powder rifle. He brought the rifle he hunts with to thius shoot, and also brought his Kentucky rifle for me to shoot. He knows I'd love to have one.

Of course, I brought a few of my toys for him and the others to try out. As usual, everyone had a great time.

Dave (Willingham) got to try out one of the guys Civil War rifles.

So did John. I think the fellas love to let new guys try out their gear. It's fascinating, the process of loading and shooting one of those old things. You can see some of that process in this video.

You can also see the general mele of shooting that went on. It was a mess, but fun.

At one point, another guy showed up in an old jeep and helped Waters out, sighting in his new Garand. Yep, he's got ANOTHER Garand from the CMP. That makes about five. I've learned since the shoot that this guy is an armorer that's helping Waters turn this Garand into a replica of a snipers rifle from World War Two. He didn't introduce him at the time, and I was too busy filming and taking pictures to ask.

At one point, Dave (Willingham) brought out a cool over and under rifle.
Then he brought out this lever action rifle and we all took turns with it, and then he tried out my Hungarian AKM.

(Shit! I've been tryin' to upload this video for weeks. They must have a limit on how many you can put in one post. It just won't upload. So here's the link. Enjoy).

Sprayin' from the hip is always fun.

Then, Dave (Willingham) brought his 9mm Baretta, and the after market clip he's recently got for it. The friggin' thing holds about 32 rounds, and shoots forever. You keep thinkin' you're done, but you're not. Check a look.

That thing was fun. I may have to get myself one of those pistols, and look over at Cheaper Than Dirt to get myself one of those long clips.

In the end, the sky began to look like rain again. So we all gathered up our gear and headed back to Water's place. The plan was to head into town and eat lunch, but John couldn't come along. He had critters to feed and stuff to do back at his ranch, south of San Saba. So he headed off, and the rest of us drive into town to eat some BBQ.

The food was good, like the company, and then we split up and headed for home. I took Dave (Willingham) back down to my house (he'd ridden up with me) and let him stick his head in the big blue safe. He was amazed, as is everyone.

It was a great shoot. There are more shots and videos of it over at FlickR. Check 'em out. Cheers.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Remember this?

Weeeeall, You think that's a knife? That ain't a knife. I got somethin' fo yo ass!

HEEEEEERE's a knoif!

I've wanted one of these dudes for years, seein' em in many different catalogs for at least ten or fifteen years. Well, I finally made the plunge.

It arrived the other night. I took it out of the box and couldn't believe how big it really was. It's way over the top. Kinda silly. I started to talk myself into sending it back. Then I took it in to work, down to Florence, to show it to Dave (Willingham).

He went ape shit on me. Loved it! I told him I was probably gonna send it back and he was shocked. He looked at me like I was crazy and said "What? Do I need to slap you?"

He said I needed to keep it. It's like the knife Sam Elliott carried in that old TV movie, "The Sacketts". He eventually decided that I needed to name it "Sackett", the way a Viking would name his sword.

Later that day, I guess this was last Tuesday, I still had the thing in my trunk when I drove onto the base to teach class. Of course, that was a HUGE no no. Not as huge a no no as the .45 in the back seat pocket, but still a no no. I was nervous about driving on the base with all that gear, but I went ahead and tossed the dice.

Something was tellin' me not to do it. Sure enough, the car directly in front of mine was selected to me inspected. I took a big drag on my cigar, showed the guard my ID and drove onto the base, sure that God was sending me a message. "Boy," he was sayin', "you're a fuckin' idiot!"

Yea, I know. Never again. I'll be good from now on. Promise.

Anyway, I drove over to the new building we're teachin' in, got to class and everything was cool. At break time, half way through my first class I went upstairs to where Dave (Waters) was teaching his Geology class. I told him, with a funny look on my face, that I had somethin' in the trunk to show him.

"What?" he asked, smilin'. "Contraband," I said, with a eyebrow lifted for dramatic effect. He bit hard. He later told me that he'd convinced himself I must have a new AK in the car. He shook his head and looked at me like I was crazy for bringin' anything on the base. I said "Yea, I know," and went back to class.

When his class ended, he dropped into my class and told me he'd be goin' over to the old building to talk to Joe. Joe Reeves is one of the regulars at our big shoots. He's the guy with the FFL and the AR pistol. I told Waters that was cool. I wouldn't be long.

Next thing you know, Joe is texting me in class, asking me "Why are all the MPs surrounding your car?" I smiled to myself and continued the lecture. Turns out they were both right outside my class, gigglin' like kids, hopin' I'd jump up in a panic. But I knew what was up.

When my class was over I walked out and met up with Waters. We both drove over to the old building and found Joe standing out by the road. Their curiosity was peaked. I almost think they were let down when they saw that the mystery item was just a knife. They were still impressed with it though.

Like I said, the sheath is crap. It needs a lot of work. Maybe I'll just make another one. I'm also thinkin' about doin' somethin' with the handle. I think a nice horn nub would be cooler than the cheap wood that's there now. I'll have to look into it.

Anyway, dig it. Ain't it cool? Just wait till I'm done with it. It'll be way cooler. Way! Cheers!

Friday, February 05, 2010

I posted this originally back in October of 2007...

When I'd become familiar with some of the interesting details of my buddy Arthur's life and career. Check it out again.

"Old Soldiers never Die"

They live on in old stories, sometimes tearfully but always passionately remembered, told to wide eyed young pups about the adventures of their youth, when life was lived to its absolute fullest... When abject terror and jubilation were with them at all times, held closely and tightly, like their rifle and their K-Bar.

I was at work Wednesday, sitting around with a few friends, waiting to go to class, when one of my colleagues came in and said he had something to show us. His name is Arthur Trujillo, but he's better known by his students as "Mister T". He's a Government and Business instructor here on Ft. Hood, and he also moonlights as a school board officer here in Killeen, and volunteers in a few other areas. He retired from the army after 20 or so years in 1987. He's been a buddy of mine for years, ever since I started teaching here in 1995.

He's a funny guy, and works tirelessly, probably too much. The common view of him among his colleagues is that he's a great guy, but that he's got too much goin' on to possibly enjoy his life. Too many fingers in too many pies. Well, he obviously needs to keep active, and it's his choice. His wife, Minerva, recently started teaching Spanish here on base. He's tried to get me to go to Chamber of Commerce meetings with him in the past, early on Sunday mornings, but my ass doesn't know how to get up that early on a Sunday and put on a suit. Call me a slacker. Guilty.

Anyway, I've known for years that he was a Vietnam Vet, and that he'd been a Special Forces officer there and a helicopter pilot, involved in all sorts of secret operations, serving several tours from late 1966 to the early 1970s. Every once in a while he comes in and needs to tell us stories, the anniversary of some battle or incident having come by and shaken old memories and passions loose from his heart. It happens from time to time, and we're happy to listen. I always sit there, mesmerized by this old warrior, trying to imagine this old guy in that old setting. Today was one of those days.

There are several Vietnam Vets working here on the Ft. Hood campus, including the Dean. It's one of the things I love about working here. I get to rub shoulders with the guys who've lived much more interesting lives than I have (so far), who have a deep well of wisdom to share with a young guy like me. When Arthur started telling his story, another Vet chimed in. His name is Mike Davies, and he's an Economics teacher and former Army colonel who served in Vietnam in the early 1970s.

Here's an old shot of the three of us, and a few other folks, all sitting in the office at work. That's Mike on the left, without his hair. That's Arthur on the right, with the coffee cup (he's CONSTANTLY drinking the stuff).

They compared notes about where they had served and when, and talked about how it seems like yesterday that all those events were taking place. I ketch them trading memories fairly often. Once I caught them laughing in the teachers lounge, and they told me about going to Thailand on leave from Vietnam and getting a "Blow Bath and a Steam Job". I laughed my ass off when they told me what that was all about.

While they were remembering things yesterday, I jumped in and said that while we'd been stationed at Richards Gebower Air Force Base, in the early 1970s, my dad, then a Colonel, had gone on a two week tour of Asia with other officers. He was working in communications then, in a huge, two or three story windowless, supposedly bomb proof concrete cube with one door going in and out. The tour was looking at communications facilities in Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and finally Vietnam (I was about ten or eleven then).

I told them that while the other guys went to Vietnam, my dad had stayed back in the Philippines and played golf (something about them not having enough room for him on the plane). They laughed at that. Then Mike chimed in that he'd played golf in Vietnam, in Saigon. He said that if you sliced on the 16 hole your ball landed in a mine field. We all laughed again, wondering which local kid probably got the job of picking up those lost balls so that they could sell them back to the golfers.

Arthur took out a folder then, and showed us some clippings from his time in the war. I was amazed to look into the eyes of this young soldier, staring back at me from the pages of the clippings in the folder.

He looks a lot like one of the kids in my AP high school class in Florence. Two of the clippings were from his home town newspaper, the Roswell New Mexico Daily Record. The other was from the Army Times. He said that his home town had been very gung ho about the war back then, and gave him a lot of press while he was over there. I told him, looking at the yellowing clips, that he should scan those clippings into a computer so they could be touched up and preserved. In the end he gave them to me, so I could see what I could do. This gave me the time to go over them in greater detail, and read up on my friend.

The first clipping (below, right) is from the end of his first tour (the first of three, if I have things right). It shows him sitting in the jungle, September of 1967, his radio and maps in hand, his Colt Commando, short barreled M-16 rifle near by.

He's described as a 1st Lt. commanding B company, 1st battalion, 8th infantry, 4th infantry division, serving in Ducco, Central Highlands of South Vietnam. It talks about him having served as a rifle platoon commander, platoon XO, "Recondo" (leading long range reconnaissance patrols), Psychological Warfare officer, and Civil Affairs officer.

He's written notes on the margins of this clipping, talking about being ambushed a few times, crossing a river and walking through a field, and that he'd had bullets cut the ground right in front of him and to his side, kicking up rocks and dust that hit his face. He writes about working with the Montagnairds (Mountain tribesmen working as guerrillas on our side) and setting up a school for their kids in a village on the Cambodian border.

At some point he took Paratrooper training, and then in his second tour, served as an intelligence officer in the command and control detachment in the 5th Special Forces group. As an officer in the Special Operations Group, he did all sorts of stuff he still won't really talk about. He was there for the Tet offensive in early 1968, and ended up giving about 15 to 20 top secret briefings to Gen. Creighton Abrams, who was second-in-command at that time, but who later took command of all the troops in country.

During his third tour, from late 1970 to late 1971, he commanded troop "D", 17th squadron, the 17th Cavalry, flying planes and helicopters and logging about 350 combat flying hours (see picture at upper left). He went into Cambodia in 1971, flying an OH-58 reconnaissance aircraft. He laughs now about things like taking anti-aircraft fire through his cockpit, almost killing him, while he was supporting his men from the air. Looking at these pictures and his notes, I can only wonder what other experiences he's had. I wish he'd put it all down somewhere for the rest of us to read, so that his personal history isn't lost some day.

I'm blown away by all the things I've learned in this simple yellow folder, and want to know more. It occurs to me that having guys like these around is a walking, talking reminder of the real courage that our soldiers display, and how much they really go through in the service of their country. It's often said that we should honor these Vets for the service they gave on the battlefield, but I think it should go deeper than that.

To one degree or another, when the guys and gals head off to war these days, following in the footsteps of men like my buddies Arthur and Mike, they're volunteering to sacrifice not only their lives, or a part of their body. Most of them will end up sacrificing their peace of mind. Their war time experiences will haunt many of them for the rest of their lives. The memories of these things will come back to them at odd times, when they smell something familiar or hear a sudden loud noise. Most of them will hold it together, and they'll manage to bear the trauma, hiding it from the people they love, only dredging up memories in the company of those who served, who are the only ones really able to understand.

They'll move on to build families, and stable, valuable lives in the world. They built this country, and continue to build it. Maybe that's the real sign of courage we should honor. Maybe that steadfast resilience is the real heroism we should celebrate.

Thank God we still have folks like these among us, willing to serve in whatever capacity, putting it all on the line.

Well, it turns out I was wrong... with that post title that is.

My buddy Arthur's been going through some hard times lately. We found out last year that he had cancer. He stopped teaching and started going through a regimen of chemo therapy that took his hair and forced him to give up all the jobs that kept him active in the community.

I haven't seen him in months, but his health and progress have always been a hot topic around the Ft. Hood campus. Every time any number of us got together, the conversation would inevitably shift to "Have you heard anything about Arthur?", and "Have you seen him lately?"

Well, the news came last week that Arthur, who's been continuing his cancer treatment, had suffered a massive heart attack. The word was that he was mostly brain dead and not long for this world.

The rumor spread on the campus earlier this week that he'd passed away Tuesday afternoon, when they'd unplugged him from the respirators. The consensus was, well, that's a hell of a lot better way to go than a long lingering fight with cancer.

It turns out we were a bit premature. The tough old soldier is still hanging on. I found out last night. It's so in keeping with his character. He's still fighting, not letting go... as of this posting.

I guess I just wanted to post this again. Celebrate old Arthur's life again. I'm really gonna miss him, but I'm not gonna believe he's really gone until I see that casket. Some folks are just to tough to die, I guess.

God bless him, and his family. Here's to him. Cheers!

Update: I just found out that my buddy Arthur passed away Friday afternoon. His funeral is Tuesday. I'm gonna try to get out of class that day and go. He'll be sorely missed. What a guy!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Chillin' on the way to San Saba...

As per usual. I hit the road from Florence around 10:40, and with a good wind behind me, and no stops to shit or get gas, I can be in Saba by 11:50... just in the nick of time.

Along the way, to make the time fly by faster, and simply because I can and I enjoy it, I light up a good cigar. I crank back the sunroof (just crack it in the rain), snip off the end, blaze up and turn up the volume on the satellite radio.

Last Thursday afternoon, just as I was driving into Saba, a truck whizzed by heading East and graced me with a little present... A rock in the windshield. Fuck! But it was just a ding, so I called the insurance company and they put me through to the ding-fixer-upper folks and an appointment was made for Friday afternoon to inject whatever the hell they inject into the ding to make it go away. Insurance would pay for it. Neet and sweet.

Shit! I get up Friday morning to head down to Florence and I've got a friggin' two foot crack along the bottom of the windshield. Shit! There goes about $250 for a new one. Yea, I have a $500 deductible. This'll be the fourth windshield I've had on this car. Daym!

So far, this year is the same as the last in San Saba, with maybe a new little twist.

The jail is still here, and I'm still drivin' out here four days a week. But my old eating spot, the Dairy Mart and I... We've mostly parted ways. You remember the place? I told you about it again and a gain, with the awesome Sourdough Bread Bacon Cheeseburger? Well, they changed their hours last year and now I can only rarely get there in time to get that treasure of a burger.

So, I've become a regular at another place. This one's called Our Place. Quaint, ain't it? It's just a house on 190 that's been turned into a cool little diner. You can see the salad bar there on the left, and the pies and stuff there under the register.

Since I get there around 2:45 or 3PM, the place is usually empty. But at least, unlike the dolts at the Dairy Mart, this place is open for bidneth when I gets off woik!

Yep, I have a salad and tea, every time I go...

And 90% of the time I go I have the grilled Chicken sandwich on rye bread with a small bag of chips. It all runs me just under $10. More expensive than the DM, but at least they're open.

Mmmmm, good. But don't let the sound of that fool ya. No, I'm not on a diet. But I haven't had any Corn Dogs in ages, and I may be loosing a few pounds. Don't tell anyone though. I don't want to have to change to title of the blog.

Anyway, the chicken sandwich is wonderful, and the salad is fillin'. Thing is, these folks make a killer bacon cheeseburger too, which I enjoy now and again. But their fries and O-rings are pissy. They look like they need to be put back in the grease for ten minutes or so. Light in color and floppy. There ain't nothin' good about a floppy french fry. Nothin'.

The windshield ding dude is scheduled to show up this Friday morning (anywhere between 8 and noon), so I've arranged for a sub and intend to sleep in. Gives me an excuse to get out of work... Not that I ever need an excuse.

And by the way, this is the first post from my new laptop. I'm sittin' in the library in Saba, takin' advantage of the free WiFi. Ain't it grand? I love it to death. 500 GB hard drive (vs. 54 GB in my old desk top) 4 GB of Ram, and Windows 7 is a breeze to deal with. Chills. Pinch me.

So, I'm off. Don't druel too much over the food shots. Remember the plastic sheeting. You know, the same stuff you use when you... Oh, never mind. Cheers!