Sunday, August 28, 2016

VIETNAM 1966-67 2/20th ARA 1st Air Cavalary

Audio: God's Own Lunatics by Joe Gallow from "In The Shadow of the Blade"


I was 10 years old and very much taken with building a soap box derby car and racing in our annual downhill event. My building skills came from being at my father's side with tools and materials. These were not the skills, though, to build the downhill racer with curving wood fuselage nor did we have space or a large enough garage to take on this task. But racing my own car, one that I built myself, had my full attention.

Kids around the neighborhood made make-shift downhill carts using old materials and wagon wheels. A rope was tied to the front axle so the cart could be steered down a hill. Their front feet also were positioned on the front axle to help steer. They built quick enough but did not last long on our back roads and hills. Every once and awhile, a neighbor friend would let me on a short ride of the cart he had built. One ride!

During the summer of 1955, my folks had saved up enough money to buy materials for some remodeling and building me a bedroom. I was older and it was time to find space in our small house for my own room. Mom and Dad both worked and during the summer and I would stay home alone under our neighbors watch. “Stay close to home, check in every couple of hours, lunch at noon, nap after lunch, chores and more checking in with the neighbor.” Our home was across the way from the neighbor's large kitchen window. And it worked.

The day arrived when the local lumber store delivered the materials my father ordered for the bedroom remodeling project. The 2x4s, 4x8 plywood, nails and other assorted items arrived late morning, were unloaded neatly and stacked in our driveway.

As an older man now, I believe I know what my father was thinking at work that day. He would come home, turn up our street to see a neat pile of building materials stacked in the driveway. All of his planning was over and he could now start on this project and finish it. This is a big plus for anyone who builds things. To have all the materials at hand is half the fun.

But instead of Dad driving up the driveway and seeing all of that new material waiting for him, he saw his saw horses with cut up 2x4s on them. Small scrap pieces of wood were strewn around his son's work site that afternoon. Sawdust was on the ground, hammer and nails were out on the plywood, hand saws, squares and tape measures scattered nearby. And his son was proudly standing and welcoming him home next to the completed frame of a downhill racer. Four old wagon wheels were set next to the 2x4 frame to show my dad the frame of “The Apache.” I did not know how I was going to mount those wheels, or how to make the front wheels and axle turn, but Dad would.

And to this day I do not remember what he said or what his body language was getting out of the car and looking at our driveway and the bedroom materials turned into a car manufacturing area. I do not remember him being mad or upset. He must have swallowed all of that in the few seconds he had seen his son's project and the building materials turned into the beginning of a soap box racer.

What I do remember is how dad helped me attach round axles to the 2x4 front cross member of the frame. Large bolt with spacer piece of plywood between the front axle and frame would allow simple turn left and right motion. Dad greased the two surfaces of the front axle plywood pieces. Grandpa greased all of his farm equipment. Dad greased all of his equipment. And I needed grease on my stuff. Grease keeps things running.

I remember Dad finding an old lawn mower handle and how he helped me fashion that into the steering wheel. Dad taught me how to turn rotational motion of the lawn mower handle into lateral motion of the front axle. We had to go to the store and purchase some pulleys and clothesline wire. A large spring was needed too to return the friction drag hand brake dad fashioned under my seat. I would pull the brake handle, the brake arm with small square tire tread nailed to a pad, would drop down and drag “The Apache” to a stop. The break pad would neatly retract under the car when I released the handle. Through all of this I was at his side using tools, helping hold materials, drilling, nailing, bolting and adjusting. Dad turned me into a car manufacturing apprentice and I was not about to let him down.

In a few short days the Apache was done and tested on the short slope of our street. Everything worked. An adjustment to tighten up the slop in the steering cables was all that was needed. The final touch was painting the name on each side in bright red bold letters: APACHE.

Down the back woods road the Apache ran, turned sharply left and coasted all the way to the main street. Next run the brake was tested just after the sharp turn and worked perfectly. Now the neighborhood kids were clambering around the car. I had acquired an immediate pit crew. Pushing touching and running alongside as I raced time after time. Soon though, my pit crew wanted a turn at the wheel for all the pushing and pulling they were helping me with. To the main side walk we went and they all got to run the Apache the full block and return. Then the next kid and so forth.

After a few days of this, I towed the Apache a few blocks to another neighborhood where a long, paved, winding road ran a mile or so up a hill. The kids there too came running and wanting to drive. More “miles” were put on there. With a little coaxed help, a few of us towed the Apache up a half mile of the hill road. Hardly ever any cars during the day and kids were always coasting some kind of wagon down the hill.

We turned the Apache around, I got inside and tucked myself into the aerodynamic driving position. And off I went, leaving all the other kids behind in seconds. A little brake had to be applied for speed control, but the wind whistled like never before. She rounded corners tightly and beat the wind to the bottom of the hill. We had won. Just me and the Apache. No helmet! There at the bottom of the hill, in all of our glory, we waited for the other kids to arrive. The thrill of the moment, the thrill of victory in the car Dad and I built with our very own hands. It was all good.

The summer wore on, the Apache, the kids in the neighborhood and I spent many an hour touring the sidewalks and short hills that summer. Of course, I had to do the upkeep and maintain the greased plywood turning plate. 

Grandpa greased all of his farm equipment. 

Dad greased all of his equipment. 

And I needed grease on my stuff. 

Grease keeps things running.

All of this was quite awhile ago. But a memory etched in my soul. Late this morning, I completed a portion of a new stair project on our porch. I set all the tools and remaining materials aside, got on the riding lawn mower and pulled the small yard trailer around the house to the garage. I noticed the back wheels of the little trailer squeaked. I propped up the trailer, pulled each wheel off, added a little grease and spun tested them both.  

Grease keeps things running.

UPDATE 11-4-16 

Just found this photo. 


Sunday, August 14, 2016


No, not giving our dog away. Rather sharing some thoughts on dogs.

We have Goldens and have had for quite a few years. The dog fits us to a “T”. Sure she sheds. The pickup truck, dog's truck, is full of swirling hair when we opt to drive with all the windows down. The bride starts waving her arms in survival mode and I know to roll up all the windows and turn on the AC. But it is the dog's truck. Not the family “truckster” or a vehicle we pick friends up at the airport. Hundred and ninety thousand miles and not an oil leak. Burns some oil but has been a 100% vehicle for everyday living and hauling. The dog is free to come and go with me all the time and usually does. We both like getting out of the house and we never worry about the mess. A bi-annual clean up of the truck is in order though. It is our truck!!

Here on the hill the dog has free rein. She rarely—RARELY- is leashed when out and about and never around the property. She knows where the seasonal mud hole is. The mud watermark along her side and the biggest smile on her face, is an annual event. Generally she roams at will, barking at the neighbors dog barking. Noises in the woods find her running to investigate and the small black bear that visits here during the summer season sets her hackles up when she leaves the kitchen and even before I even get the garage door up. She has treed the bear several times. The neighborhood fox is also chased. The dog and cat do rule here. A fisher cat who lives here COULD rule but we avoid it when it visits.

Our girl loves to help bring in winter wood. She comes to me when I am loading the tractor bucket from the outback woodpile. I give her a small thin dog piece of wood and off she goes with a “bone in her teeth” (A wonderful expression from the sailing days of old where ships under a full press of canvas would push the seas aside with a great white bow wave on either side. If they were coming straight at you, they would look a bit like an exuberant, happy dog with a “bone in their teeth.”) to the front yard where she stacks her share. After awhile, she lays in the warm grass, eyes watching my work, head rested on her wood pile.

I have from time to time found myself looking at her and her freedom to live her life with us, free and unencumbered. No leash necessary. And in this day and age where everyone is seemingly on edge about something, a dog walking in the field, down a trail or headed out to the swimming hole un-leashed, very well can bring a “do-gooder” to mess with our world. That is rare because all I have to do is carry a green tennis ball in my hand and nothing else exists in our dog's world. Nothing! There is not a leashed dog on this planet that minds more than our dog on “tennis ball.”

I watch others watch us when we are out in public. Their dogs are pulling and straining to be free from the leash. The owners are in some kind of constant struggle to protect their dog and world from freely interacting. I hear them talk to their dog as we pass or are near by. The life struggle to be controlled vs being free. The owner twice wrapped in dog leash. 

If another dog comes close or wants to investigate, I stop and hold the tennis ball at my side. I tell our girl to sit, stay close and so forth. She does. Only when a leashed dog gets close enough to touch or get in our space does she start to get annoyed. And under no circumstance should the leashed dog show any interest in the tennis ball. We just do not go there and I tell the owner of the leashed dog to pull their dog off as it will not go good for either of us. Our dog owns the tennis ball. That is where the line in the sand is drawn on the dog's terms. Maybe dogs too will stand and protect for the same things they live for.

In the water, our girl will swim and fetch the ball till the cows come home. Time after time, till heavy breathing interferes with carrying the ball. And yes, the leashed dog finds its way to our little swim area. Not because it is a bad dog, but because it is a dog. Tied up, wanting to be free, swim and play ball. So I stand to protect, minimize contact and if I have to, pull the ball from the water, hold it next to my side. Our girl will stand there, glued in place.

When we are finished, she follows us and the ball to the pick up truck to get dried with a big bath towel. I think she loves all of that as much as playing ball and swimming. As a treat, we all stop for a small vanilla ice cream cone to cap off the outing. Our girl is in the lap of luxury as she licks the ice cream till it is gone and the final ice cream cone bite is down.

The only seasonal problem our girl has is rain. Snow is a toy and so fun to run and roll in. Her laying in the fresh snow confuses me. But she loves it. In the summer laying flat out in the warm sun on the driveway. Quite often our cat joins in the relaxation, next to the dog, belly up. But the rain turns her back to the house always.

From time to time, like this morning, she finds and leads me to the back door. If you have animals, you know they have us trained as well. I open the kitchen door for her and she immediately backs up a full step and looks at me. False alarm? I say ok and back to chores. Again she finds me, leads me to the kitchen door to go outside. I open the door, she backs up and looks at me. This is dog speak that means “we” need to go outside. “I am not taking on what is out there w/o you, dad.” Sure enough, I walk out the door and off she leaps, hackles up and barking at the outside. She stops, looks at me to see if I have her back. We continue and she runs down the driveway barking and looking. After awhile of checking things out at the lower driveway, she feels better and we come back in. It was a team effort. I do not take lightly her need to go out and inspect. She knows things I do not know. 

Some of the very best moments in my life come from what I call "surveying our kingdom." On a warm day afternoon, I so enjoy to sit in a comfortable chair under the shadow of our roof. A perfect moment will include a cold beer topped off with the dog laying at my feet. Her eyes and ears perk as I talk to her. The richest man in the world can not buy moments like this. A light breeze filters through the trees, the Blue Jays hit the bird feeder and dart back into the woods. I see chores done and those still need doing. And so the minutes go by into an hour of doing nothing, just me, my dog and our kingdom.

I tell her, that she is a free dog living in America. How lucky she is, compared to many of her breed, to know life as she knows it. She looks at me but I do not know if she fully understands her freedom. All of this has been natural for her since we brought her home in the middle of the winter, all snugged in a blanket. But I know it and that just may be enough for both our understandings.

Her life will come and go in this world, a free dog in America. 


Thursday, August 11, 2016


Not reinventing the wheel today with these notes on hardtack - the information on the net is extensive, how to make, eat and the history behind this biscuit.  But I was curious. As always, you are going to do your homework.

I followed a basic recipe, just water and flour. Worked the dough, adding a little bit more water as needed to get it right mix and rolled it with a rolling pin. I was actually surprised at how easy all of that went. A little flour sprinkled on the cutting board helped just like in bread-making.

I used a wine glass for round biscuits and the bride found a square plastic container to cut hers out. We used the larger end of a chop stick to divot the biscuits. I rolled the first batch to be a little less than a 1/4” and baked on a pizza stone as per instructions; 30 minutes each side at 350 degrees.

After they cooled and dried, proof was in the biscuit that I most likely could pound nails with them. I could not snap the thicker ones in half. Here is where the heel or pommel of your hunting knife comes in handy to pound these biscuits into smaller pieces

I soaked one in morning coffee for 15 minutes and found it eatable but with significant crunch. For lunch today, I simmered water and won-ton soup base in a small pan with one of the thicker biscuits added. Twenty-five minutes later, the biscuit was eatable, but again with notable crunch. The won-ton soup base helped with the flavor, but the flavor of each biscuits was just fine on their own after soaking. I will break one up into smaller bits using the tractor and see how they soak then.

These biscuits look like crispy cookies out of the oven and very inviting. I kept wanting to pick one up and crunch into it. I did not, of course, but if you make these, a warning sign should be put on the cooling rack --- DO NOT EAT, WILL BREAK A TOOTH --- NEEDS TO BE SOAKED IN COFFEE, SOUP OR PLAIN WATER!!

I made a second batch this afternoon. Rolled them thicker and cut them a little larger. They do shrink. Still as hard as a baseball bat, but more to the individual biscuit per serving size.

To what end?

Right now, I am making these for learning and a little fun. The ones I have made are stored in jars and will be added to car bug-out bags when fall turns to winter. I would throw these into my pockets in zip-lock bags, understanding they can only be eaten after being soaked for awhile. They are somewhat bulky, but light in weight.Winter BOB's have plenty of coffee and broths in the mix. 

This winter will again be full of soups, stews and sauces here at home. I will add one of these biscuits for continued trial. Not that I want to improve the taste, just to improve knowledge of using them in meals.


I mentioned to the bride this morning that everything feels still and quiet. Not a headline out there that is not re-regurgitated. I am numb to all the “breaking stories.” Too quiet though!

We watched the 5 gymnastic gals do their routines and earn gold medals. Upbeat. Seems this is what sport is and what champions look like. Well, until the media gets a hold of the story and slams the success and beauty of these women right down the toilet. I think these gals are heroes, have earned everything themselves and well represent women in America and women of the world. These are the kind of people we want to lead us by example, through their hard work and proven success. These are people the world needs now. To the media agenda, not so much!!

Not surprisingly this afternoon, I find out that I am now a plague. Yep, old man in middle America. The plague ranks right up there with another growing enemy. Maybe the older neighborhoods of this great country are but a flight plan away from being sprayed.

We, the plague generation, are spreading. Some of us cannot walk up stairs w/o help or have to propped up in public. Many of us have survived sticking our fingers in light sockets, riding bikes with out helmets, walking to and from school on a daily basis, driving fast cars without using seat belts, shooting arrows straight up over our heads for entertainment, being sent off to war, raising families and varied careers that added value to the USA.

Likely this newly defined "plague generation" will not go quietly into the night and with their boots on.

Keep your eyes out for more stories like this and metaphors for this new outcast and troublesome generation.

The bride just arrived home with two boxes of fresh corn. She had offered some help to a neighbor organizing and researching information. Was helpful to the neighbor. He offered up some of his corn to say thank you. Bartering?

Think you cannot grow a garden? No room, no land or maybe just a balcony. I just counted (roughly) the Roma tomatoes on the smallest plant here in the raised garden and there are over 50 tomatoes. Six plants yields 300 tomatoes this season. Did the same counting method on the 6 cherry tomato buckets & each plant has in excess of 80 tomatoes on them. Yep, that is correct. Four hundred and eighty little tomatoes, give or take. 

A balcony can easily yield a hundred tomatoes, some onions, green peppers, herbs and lessons in growing food. Dirt, water and the want to do it. And remember to also invite the bees when you plant.

Hot hot here today and tomorrow and just notified her that we have to do a first harvest on tomatoes tomorrow and to give some thought on what to do. She said spaghetti sauce with home grown onions, green peppers, chives, garlic and basil. Her held her hands out in a big round circle indicating a large batch. It looks likes canning this weekend too.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


I believe that history repeats itself. To study history is time well spent to get a handle and a few insights on tomorrow. The seemingly continuous attacks these days on the Constitution, the heart of America and every individual freedom, it is no wonder, many folks are in some continual loop of search for truth. For me, it centers around finding a grounded source of daily common sense and news that is not agenda driven. I have over dosed-on the some “twenty somethings” suits or blonde-haired bare-armed experts expounding on all worldly matters. Or the old old men and women still reading the 1950's playbook to us. The liars are right in our faces now. A little time doing research, pulling back some and studying, reveals to me that all of this is not new, but rather a long, long battle that has been raging for years. Could be very possible now that the fuse is short.

Maybe Caprica was right: “It has all happened before and it will all happen again.” If you are a BSG fan, you will remember this. Just maybe a hint of truth because history does repeat itself, especially if history is not studied and used as some guide in future decision making. Students of history will recognize that much of our today's and proposed tomorrow's, have happened before.

If that is the case, regardless of degrees and individual takes on this, one thing is true: you and I are going to live through past history. Corruption is corruption, and lying is lying. If we are going to be forced through many of these past events and likely against our will, maybe it best be prepare for that trip. In keeping with history, there will those who make it and those who do not. Let's keep our knees bent, heads up and “dodge, duck, dive, dip and dodge.”

Hot and humid here in middle New England. Part of the "four" seasons. Ought to be through this soon and into the comfort of Fall and foliage. My favorite time of all the seasons. Acorns have been falling here for a couple weeks and it feels too early. Cherry tomatoes are on and daily candy with a dash of salt. Some baby red potatoes breaking the surface after hard rain, peppers and string beans ready also. Roma tomatoes by the dozens but still green. Will be eating or canning every one.

The last few years we have not had bees to help pollinate our vegetable garden. Simply planting more flowers all around the garden area and lawns this season have them returning. I see them in the wide open squash flowers in the morning and buzzing all around any open blooms in the evenings. Most successful garden, in regards to production, over the past few years. More flowers please!

Found canned powdered milk in 5.51 pound lots. Two years on expiration date, but will last longer in cool dry space, unopened. Makes 10 gallons and cost $35 each. Good find and purchase. Our recent experiences in Asian and African stores have found many wonderful items for long term storage and spicing up daily meals. Better and different offerings than everyday local super markets. Give these out of the way markets and stores your time to stop in and shop. Dollar Stores have some remarkable deals on #2 ½ size canned fruits.

Picking up seed garlic today. A fellow down the road has a killer crop every year and I usually purchase from him and other local growers. I can boast a nearly 100% success every year with our annual garlic growth. This year's crop is harvested, dried and in the food loop now.

Crab grass and weeds are the winners here in every other nook. Behind on much of this maintenance and only excuses to offer. Other chores being worked on and completed but the damn weeds scream at us daily. One day soon, very soon, they will have their final day this season, but not today.

The day is young here. The dog watches our moves and knows soon if we are staying home or going on the road. She is bedded now and senses we are home folks today. We turn TV's off now, much quicker than ever before. Even with sound off sometimes, the same constant images are quick sand. I joke with the bride that we should be thankful we still have an off switch.

I will take some solace this morning, again from Caprica six. (Caprica was a body style; like a Chevelle) Even she had a hint of optimism in the end/beginning. “Let a complex system repeat itself long enough and something surprising might occur.”