Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Fall 1966. We were in our last two weeks of pilot training and barring any major screw ups on our part, we had completed the nearly year long Army helicopter pilot training program. We would get our wings and soon be declared “officers and gentlemen.”

As part of these last weeks' training was an Escape and Evasion scenario. We knew it was coming and I, for one, was looking forward to the exercise. It officially marked our last major exercise as a flight class.

We were to be bused to an obscure site on large acreage for this exercise. Map reading, escaping and evading a cadre of instructors following us and using as much of what we had been taught, in a real world exercise.

We awoke early on “the day” and were kept busy. No time for anything but training. No breakfast and no lunch and no opportunity to go the PX and put a few candy bars in our pockets.

The call came to pack our gear and board the bus. We had all the (minimal) basics. This was mirrored after a real time E&E - just go with what is on your back.

The bus dropped us off after nearly an hour of driving. Pulled off a back road in the woods surrounded by hills and valleys. We all had our given responsibilities. Point man, security, navigation and a time line to adhere to. We were to make it to point “X” on the map w/o being captured by 08:00 the next morning, or be lost to the enemy forever. We were motivated!

Last problem to solve. How to feed a dozen hungry men that night when camp was set? Our last “gift” from the departing bus was an onion, two large potatoes, celery and carrots and a live chicken. The vegetables were given to various members for safe keeping and the chicken was given to Mike, a close friend. His instructions were to take care of the chicken and keep it quiet. We were being followed after all. Mike tucked the chicken between his Army coat and vest so that only the chicken's head could be seen. Off we went.

I remember we worked well as a team that exercise. Strict adherence to the jobs associated with the mission at hand. We applied much of what we had been taught with success.

Night fell and we climbed to high ground. Set up camp, posted guards and were assigned our rotating shifts. We were all hungry and knew that chicken soup was as good as it was going to get. Vegetables were prepared and all looked to Mike to prepare the chicken. He could not!! He had bonded with the chicken. The chicken had become a team player having kept quiet. Mike had done his job too keeping the chicken warm and comfortable. I remember looking back a few times during the days march to see Mike with the chicken head peaking out of the front of his jacket. Seemed odd and out of place. But all of this mirrored what we might be able to pick up on a cross country escape route.

I think we were privy to Mikes plight. We understood but the good of the order prevailed and another team member took the chicken Mike offered up. Said chicken was quickly dispatched. My heart still sinks at that brief moment of chicken turning circles in the air and Mike walking away. It was what it was; nothing more, nothing less.

Several hours later our canteen cups were filled with thin chicken broth, a chunk of chicken and a vegetable or two. The chicken did indeed feed all of us except for Mike. He could not bring himself to the table.

And that was it. We made it to our rendezvous point and were checked off as having passed the E&E course. Covered in hours and miles of Alabama hills, we were bused back to base.

Two weeks later with wings on our chests and bars on our shoulders, we headed home before going to Vietnam. Mike lived in Denver and I in the Pacific North West. Mike was driving a Jaguar and I a 1963 red Corvette. I do not remember beyond this story having talked with Mike about that moment but if I still remember it, I am sure that he does too.

Monday, March 21, 2016


My grandparents and parents lived through the depression. There are many stories and weekends together where I remember folks gathering for a meal. Mom often asked me if I knew why so many friends use to drop by in those early years. She explained that they all knew they would be fed. The same was true early on at my grandparents farm. Back then, a good meal was traded for a few hours' labor on the farm. Grandma fed an army of friends during hard times and good times. She was truly a gem.

The depression taught the older generations how precious any object or commodity was. They learned what their time and skills could be traded for, Grandma's cooking. Vagabonds were not the norm, but rather a close small town family of young and old grew together in times of need. No one threw anything away.

Grandparent's barn was full of anything you could imagine that could be used for repairs, from shoes to farm equipment. Tools to garden with were always washed, dried and oiled before they were put away. God forbid anyone use a shovel or hoe and leave it outside, used and dirty. Working tools meant successful survival and made any job a little easier.

Both my parents were “hoarders” to some degree. Dad saved anything that was mechanical. Mom would freeze half a leftover hamburger sandwich. During my younger years, I would often clean out my mom's fridge and freezer. The things I would find with complete freezer burn and rendered unusable were still not thrown away. I would always ask her why and politely insist that keeping these small half eaten items wrapped in tin foil was not necessary. She never wavered nor quit that behavior. The lessons of living in a country during a depression ran deep.

And if it were not for the world seemingly falling apart at the seams, these stories of days growing up would be no more than family history - I find that I have become them.

Trying to explain or teach any of this to the young today is probably wasted on deaf ears. They were born into having abundance on a whim, wound into their DNA. Much of this seems to have become a human right. I believe this runs as deep within new generations as self sufficiency ran in our elders.
Living the New England brings with it the opportunity for us to go to our transfer station for recycling and trash drop off. In fact, many transfer stations become friendly gatherings on the weekends. Drop off your glass and cans and strike up a friendly conversation with others. Becomes “world headquarters” at times.

With this comes the opportunity for shopping. I know that many folks will go “EWW” at picking up anything at the dump and bringing it home. But shopping at the dump becomes an art form and one soon realizes it is true that one man's trash is another man's treasure. Really no difference from shopping at flea markets or weekend garage sales.

Old bed parts, wooden furniture, chairs and the such greet us upon entering. We found a 30-year old cedar lined hope chest just sitting out in the open one day. Upon inspection, I found it was in top shape with a locking lid. A little wear and life marks on the outside but the potential to clean and bring back to every day use was obvious. We scooped it up. Eventually, we gifted it to the young daughter of a friend. That hope chest got a second family and life for many years to come and the price was right.

Like my father, mechanical things draw me closer. A Coleman cooking stove and lantern thrown away. All they needed was a little TLC and a drop of oil on the plunger to bring back full operation.
Classic books tossed. Old history books, dictionaries and age-old home remedies for what ails us. All thrown away for one reason or another. Something inside of me gnaws that someday, these little things will be worth the time and energy to collect and restore.

Hard work and elbow grease has been a way of living for me. I never have given this a second thought. Grandparents, parents and, to a smaller degree, myself, never had much expendable income to use on purchasing new items or expensive foods for meal making. We learned and were most happy at making a lot out of a little. And really, it was all in the willingness to get a little dirty and learning ways of refreshing older things that were already proven. Behind a little rust, dirt and time, lay a new tool for our use. An inexpensive cut of meat, a little knowledge and a meal for a king. I have learned to see what can become of anything “not so perfect or second cut.” I can feed a family of four for a week of dinners with one chicken.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Shane (1953) Movie and Pictures on Pinterest

I was 7 years old when the movie Shane came to our local small town theater. A story of a retired gun fighter, a young boy and guns in the old west. The relationship between Shane and the young boy in the movie is paramount in the story line.

Mom and dad took me to a weekend matinee of Shane. And the story grabbed my 7 year old heart and imagination. Good guys, bad guys and cowboys. The story easily fit into my home surroundings and the back hills I roamed then. Lots of places to hide as a good guy and pretend of bad guys behind every rock, tree and bush.

I begged my parents to stop at the local five and dime as we left the theater. I so wanted a holster and six shooter cap gun. After seeing that movie, there was no doubt in my mind, that the hills behind our house needed a young hero to keep everything on the up and up. I begged and pleaded and my folks gave in. I walked out of the five and dime wearing a new six shooter cap gun with holster and belt. And in the spring and summer months that followed that afternoon matinee, I did indeed clear out all of the menace that lurked in those back woods. I never lost a fight. I was Shane!!

Several years later father purchased a BB gun for me and the back yard hills were again in need of a good guy with a gun. Rocks, leaves, trees and small brooks were taken on and defeated. More gun safety lessons from my father on loading, unloading, how to carry, aim and shoot accurately. Cowboys and bad guys came and went. The use of a BB gun served me well as I gained respect and understanding of a small rifle and the fun that came with the art of plinking.

Suffice it to say, that kids will be kids. As an early teenager it did not take much stretch of imagination that neighborhood friends and I would soon be setting up rules for BB gun fights. Seemed the natural progression at that time. BB guns were harmless for the most part if not aimed or shot towards another's head. Common sense was used in setting guidelines for BB gun shoot outs. No shots above the shoulders. In fact, we all tended to aim at legs and waists to insure no one would get seriously injured. And the rules worked. BB guns shoot outs only lasted a few minutes at most, as receiving a stinging shot to the leg was often enough for some one to call the event over. We went back to the sticks, trees and rocks as targets.

And when we bored with playing with our BB guns, we picked up a bow and arrow and shot it straight up over our heads and watched the arrows come down near us on the lawn. The falling arrow made a thud sucking sound as it entered the lawn. Maybe a few minutes of playing “stretch” by facing our opponent and throwing our pocket knives near their feet, making them stretch and hold that wider stance. The winner was the one left standing.

There were many things we survived as youngsters growing up. We invented and built the worlds in which we played. We were fortunate to have all the possibilities the outdoors and woodlands could provide our imaginations. And it was good!!

Eventually I graduated to a single shot pellet air rifle. And then the single shot .22 rifle. With each upgrade and as I grew older, all that I learned in the use of guns paid dividends. Guns were nothing to be afraid of. Safe use and practice though those years served me well. Those lessons are at the heart of safe gun practices and the plinking I enjoy today.

But I cannot even imagine what would happen now with many of the activities I enjoyed growing up. We cannot even make a fake gun with our hands without landing on the national evening news. Never mind the outrage at having shot a rubber band from said hand gun. (Every kid in my high school graduating class would be in jail today for all the rubber bands shot in study hall) Any of those back hill BB gun shoot outs would land me and those close to me in some serious hot water with a lengthy paper trail and record today. Yep, times have seriously changed. But even in the movie Shane, the young boy's mother states that guns will not be a part of her young son's life. Shane defends by saying, “.....that a gun is a tool, no better nor worse than an axe, shovel, or any other tool. A gun, he says, is as good or as bad as the man using it...."

Shane pales in comparison today to guns, good guys and bad guys in movies and on TV. Youngsters growing up now, with heads bowed and an electrical device in hand is not growing up with building tools and materials in hand. Being sent outside of the house to play taught us to think, invent, solve and build our worlds. Those young years have served many of us well in life. Our parents were raising thinkers and doers as a by product of being sent outside to play. We came home dirty, with scrapes, cuts and bruises. We were washed, disinfected, bandaged and sent back out the next day.

Much is gained through change and technology; much is also lost.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Life at 70. So much change now, seemingly daily. I know that I am not changing as fast as the world is. In large part, because the past 70 years have set so much in stone. I am constantly going back to old ways for understanding these times and old ways to keep up the life. Change is out pacing me.

I am reminded that Tom Selleck well depicted the older man and change in the movie, Monte Walsh. The movie opens with this old cowboy sitting in a rocking chair, eating a can of peaches with a little bourbon tossed into the broth. A can of peaches grounded Monte Walsh in the ever changing world in the late 1800's. The satisfaction and look on his face, as he eats a half peach form the can, tells the whole story to me. The working world of the cowboy was disappearing, the automobile was hitting the trails and the folks driving them spoke that horses would soon be outlawed on the roads. Hard reality for the cowboy to see coming. Add to that their ways of living and earning a living were also dying. Monte was bound to hang on as long as he could. Near the end of the movie, Monte rides into town, visits with an old friend and chooses to purchase a can of peaches over a bottle of bourbon. And to add insult to injury, Monte finds that the can of peaches has risen to 5 cents. Maybe this can of peaches was  eaten at the end of the trail that night to again ground and bring familiarity to Monte in a changing world.

Change is constant. Younger folks work their way though it and easily adapt. I am learning that older folks (this one for sure) struggles.

I do find though that we can bring moments into our lives that give great satisfaction and glue our past to the future. And maybe only for us which is just fine. Those are times we let go of everything and see the moment and take part of the greatness of that.

On a warm summer day, I find a great moment in finishing another row of cord wood in the wood shed. I position the chair outside between the garage and shed with sun not in my eyes, yet warming me. The new row of wood is in the center of my view, the tools are strewn where they were last used.

A cold beer from the fridge, I remove the cap like I use to do when I was young. The dog sits down next to me as I prop up my feet. The moment has begun. And there will be no more work done that day. The next half hour is spent in longing thoughts and the beauty of split wood neatly stacked. Each piece is a project in of itself and blends into a artful masterpiece that is a row of firewood. I am always at ease and at home in house heated with wood.

A few years back, our neighbor and close friend, invited us over for dinner. He brought out a bottle of Remy Martin CO Cognac and two small shot glasses. We were going to enjoy a few shots and the time to sit and visit. In all my years, I had never had Remy Martin Cognac. After the first shot, I told him that it is a very good thing I did not know about this during my drinking years. After dinner that night, he gifted me the rest of the bottle. A gesture beyond anything needed for our friendship. But more as a sign of the depth of our friendship.

I set the remainder of that bottle in the plow truck and vowed to only partake when plowing the snow from the driveway that winter. That worked for a few times until the day I remembered there were a few shots still left in the bottle sitting on the front seat of the plow truck. To this day, a shot of good Cognac brings with it that moment with my friend, his dinner table, our conversation and laughter. Every time.

I understand the can of peaches!