Friday, December 28, 2007

Optimistically Pesimistic

Calendar year 2007 is fast growing to a close, and I don't know about you, but I'm not making any New Year's resolutions. In fact, several years ago my New Year's resolution was to never make New Year's resolutions again. It's the only one I've ever kept.

For your viewing pleasure this morning, I have posted a picture of the The Colonel and The Colonel's newest grandson. Taylor was born, if you remember (and if you do, it means that you waste precious time reading this blog and you have got to get a life), three weeks ago today. I haven't seen him, or his big brother, since his birthday--probably the only significant drawback to having moved up here to the Northern End of Southern Nowhere from the Redneck Riviera.

Added a new feature to my blog this morning. In the top right hand corner of the page, adjacent to the picture of the twins whose birthdays are separated by nearly 51 and 3/4 orbits of the sun, is the first of what may become an irritatingly common feature--a poll. Unlike most other insignificant polls (BCS, Iowa Straw, etc.), this poll has real meaning. First of all, it will allow me to gauge whether my readership has increased the forecasted 25% (e.g., from 4 to 5). Secondly, it will allow me to provide yet another method of wasting your precious time (maybe I'll actually provide a public service by using up time you would ordinarily use to see what Brittany Spears did last night). Last, but not least, it will allow me another avenue by which to subtly infer what are really the most important matters of our life on the big blue marble.

On another topic, I am pleased to note that my fellow Marine and favorite fishing buddy has returned safely from his third Babylonian Excursion in as many years. He reports that it is "much quieter" than was his experience two years ago advising the governor of Al Anbar Province. Seems the first few chapters of the manual that General Petraeus wrote regarding defeating an insurgency, and which the good general made required reading upon his assumption of command in Baghdad, are amazingly effective if followed. Now to see if the bickering tribal chiefs and megalomaniac mullahs will take advantage of the increased security to hammer out a lasting political agreement by which a New Iraq can govern itself in relative peace and stability. It took a relatively monolithic and demographically homogeneous late-18th Century America nearly a decade to come up with a workable national political system following cessation of hostilities with Great Britain. So, I'm not so optimistic that a hundred tribes and three diverse and diametrically opposed religions can make it work any time between now and the end of my parasitic existence on this third rock from Sol.

And, I'm an optimist.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning

It's Christmas morning on Eegeebeegee and for an hour or so this morning we'll be able to say that we have a white Christmas here at the northern end of southern nowhere. There's no snow, but a thick layer of frost is glowing white in the early morning sunlight. Frankly, that's all the white I want on Christmas, or any other day for that matter.

Miss Brenda and I don't tend to make a big fuss at Christmas. Most years since the kids left home, we don't even put up a tree. Some years our gift giving, in the name of Christmas, is already done before December arrives on the calendar. That's not to say that the holiday doesn't mean much to us. We prefer to channel the frenetic energy of the season into reflection on the reason we celebrate the 25th of December.

There are those who would rather we not dwell at all on the spiritual aspect of Christmas. Some challenge the date. Others wish to ecumenicalize the holiday, making it about anything but the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether you accept the date as the actual birth date of the savior is immaterial. I know the history of pagan seasonal rituals co-opted for Christianity's sake. So don't try to tell me that Christmas isn't really about the birth of Jesus. If you don't like celebrating the birth of Christ, then don't hypocritically celebrate Christmas Day. If you want to celebrate like a pagan, don't co-opt my holiday to do so.

What is most amazing to me is the power of God and His Son displayed in the conversion of their most virulent opponents. Saul's (thereafter known as Paul) conversion on the road to Damascus is one of the most celebrated from scripture. Paul, converted from his crusade to stamp out nascent Christianity, became one of the greatest spreaders of the Gospel in the first century following Christ's coming. Perhaps even more important to the spread of Christianity (and the subsequent celebration of the Christ's birth on December 25th) was the conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine I in the fourth century A.D.

Constantine, visiting Eboracum (modern day York, England) with his father Emperor Constantius Chlorus, was proclaimed Emperor (by the Legion in York) following Constantius' death in 306 A.D. Meanwhile in Rome, Maxentius, the son of an Emperor deposed by Constantius, was proclaimed Emperor by the troops garrisoning Rome. Over the next six years Constantine sailed from Britain, marshaled legions to his side, overran most of Italy, and prepared to besiege Rome. Maxentius, rather than endure a siege, marched his forces out to meet Constantine in open battle. Prior to the 312 A.D. Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine received a revelation. Constantine later told contemporary historians that on the march toward Rome, he observed a cross in the sun and heard a voice proclaim "in this sign you will conquer." Constantine instructed his troops to paint the Greek letters Chi --Rho, the first two letters of Christ in Greek, on their shields. Victorious under the sign of Christ, Constantine made Christianity the Roman Religion, changed the December 25th celebration of the sun god Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun) to the celebration of the birth of the Son of God, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Having a Huck of a Time

There must be something in the water in the Diamond State. Arkansas gave us the most talented (and most flawed) political genius of the modern era in Bill Clinton. He now has a rival for that title in fellow Arkansan, Mike Huckabee. Case in point is Huckabee's absolutely brilliant guerrilla marketing attack in the form of a commercial that has sent the yammering media minions into paroxysm's of apoplexy. Ostensibly the commercial was aimed at influencing voters who will participate in the upcoming Iowa Caucuses. It only aired as a commercial in Iowa television markets, and was, on its face, a positive and relatively effective message. In and of itself, the message would have garnered little attention outside Iowa. But the controversy engendered by the not-so-subliminal inclusion of a cross shape in the background has catapulted the commercial and Huckabee to free hourly national airing on every cable news channel and constant discussion on every radio talk show in the nation.

The manic media talking heads are hyper-ventilating over the overt use of religious symbolism for political purposes and are incredulous that..., GASP!..., it's working! And they accuse politicians of being tone-deaf. The secular liberal media elites are so out of touch with their audience, it is little wonder that the only time they get true audience attention is when they broadcast live police chases on Left Coast highways.

The reality is that the vast majority of Americans are NOT turned off by religious overtones in politics. Frankly, with ethical influence lacking in all other sectors of society, a politician's religious adherence has become the last bastion of ethical credibility against which the electorate can measure. Not to say that all those who cloak themselves in religious trappings will automatically be of the highest ethical character--there are charlatans in the flock to be sure. But, I'll take my chances with someone who professes personal guidance by a supreme moral authority, over a leader who kowtows at the alter of political expediency cloaked in the garb of unlimited individual personal freedom.

Don't know if Huck is the man for the job, or not. But, I have to admire his principles and his political savvy.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's Torture

"Waterboarding" is not "an intensive interrogation technique." It is torture. There is no doubt in my military mind on this subject. There is also no doubt in my military mind that we should not subject anyone in American custody to torture, no matter how heinous their crimes and no matter how "valuable and actionable" intelligence gathered thereby will be. Those who defend the use of torture to extract information from captured terrorists justify it as a means of "protecting American lives." If this has become official American policy, we have crossed a well-defined line that has heretofore divided us from the enemies of freedom. To "save American lives" we have tarnished our American character.

American servicemen captured by our enemies during the past century or so have been subjected to torture and we have always reacted in justifiable rage at such treatment. Heretofore we have been able to express our outrage at the torture of our warriors taken prisoner without fear of hypocrisy. Unfortunately for our nation, we can no longer do so.

It is not surprising that the most vocal critic of "waterboarding" is Senator John McCain. He calls it torture, and he knows whereof he speaks. Shot down over North Vietnam, then-Lt McCain, USN was taken captive by the Vietnamese communists and subjected (as were all of his fellow POWs) to incredible and brutal torture. Read the book "P.O.W." for an appreciation of the heroism of our fighting men in captivity and the inhumane brutality of the enemies of freedom. Senator McCain and his fellow captives drew untold strength in the midst of their trials from the sure knowledge that America would never subject anyone to what they were enduring.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The best defense is a strong offense. Let's take the fight to the enemy as brutally as we possibly can and destroy them. But let's not destroy our unique American character in the vain attempt to protect ourselves from attack.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Announcing Mr. T

Miss Brenda is a grandmother, again. My favorite daughter-in-law, she of the most high and exalted position granted by virtue of her delivery of grandsons, gave birth to our second grandchild this morning. Taylor Ray Gregory's arrival on this date that lives in infamy, provides me a positive reason to celebrate Pearl Harbor Day. Weighing in at seven pounds, seven ounces and laying in at 20 inches, Mr. T joins his brother Caleb (Mr. C) as my two favorite people on the planet.

Fair warning to the world: Mr. C and Mr. T represent a future force to be reckoned with. Until they achieve such maturity as will allow them legal exercise of their obvious potential political power and business acumen, they will remain under the tutelage, protectorate, and spoilage of one crotchety old colonel. Mr. T will soon join Mr. C on romps of wild abandon through the red clay of N. Mississippi, visits to Eegeebeegee thereto providing opportunity for such fearless boy development exercises as the "whooping indian down-hill run," the "too-high-for-safety tree climb," and the "critter-catching creek creep."

My sons exist under the mistaken impression that my recent acquisition of acreage at the northern edge of southern nowhere was intended to provide them hunting grounds. As I have been unable to make much of an impression on the grey matter encased in their thick skulls over the better part of three decades, I will not waste any energy attempting to dissuade them from that erroneous belief. However, the truth is Eegeebeegee is intended primarily as training area for my grandsons' attainment of excellence in the manly arts and sciences, for which only a fearless foundation of running wild will suffice upon which to build a man.

Welcome to the world, Mr. T. Get ready to rule it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Chasing Mr. C

Suddenly, the house is quiet again. For nearly two weeks, the sounds of a happy two-year old grandson (not to mention the sounds of a happy granddaddy) filled this place. He left this morning, along with all of the in-law Thanksgiving guests. He's a great kid, if I do say so myself.

He reminds me so much of his daddy at that age that I couldn't help remarking about the fact several times a day as his climbing and exploring curiosity and "do it myself" attitude led him to the limits (and beyond) of the ability Nana and Pop to keep up with him. Miss Brenda and I chased after Caleb from dawn to dark, and he wore us out! Raising toddlers is a sport for the young!

His daddy was fearless, and I see the same trait in my grandson. To my way of thinking, that's a good thing in a boy. A fearless boy provides a world of pride and a world of worry to those raising him. Fearless boys fight fair and fight for fairness. Fearless boys test boundaries in everything. Fearless boys climb trees higher than mommas think they should. Fearless boys challenge their daddies at an earlier age than their daddies can take. Fearless boys dream big and live for their dreams. Fearless boys volunteer and lead from the front.

My fearless grandson left this morning and his prideful Pop had to go to another room to keep anyone from seeing the tears in his eyes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hard Corps

What used to be one of the most celebrated dates in my life passed with little fanfare this weekend. The traditional birthday of the Marine Corps was Saturday. We Marines, and our friends, noted the 232nd anniversary of the Continental Congress' 10 November 1775 Resolution that "...2 battalions of Marines be raised..." Since I was 18 (in the fall of 1974) and in the early stages of my preparation to be an officer of Marines, I have celebrated the Marine Corps' Birthday. Often it was with great pageantry and prideful peacockery partying amidst fellow Marines. Occasionally it was with quiet reflection and rumination, alone. This weekend was one of the latter.

I did receive some congratulatory missives from family and friends. My daughter-in-law further cemented her exalted position (achieved through the provision of one and 8/9 grandsons) by calling to wish me "Happy Birthday!" An old high school buddy, now a Chaplain with the 3rd Infantry Division, sent an e-mail with birthday felicitations from "your big brother, the US Army." Even a flight attendant on a trip last week stopped, when he noticed my eagle, globe, and anchor lapel pin, to comment, "you've got a birthday coming up this weekend don't you?"

But the weekend was spent in a much quieter fashion than Marine Corps Birthday weekends of old. It was probably the first one in 33 years that I didn't participate in a ritual cake cutting of some sort. Shame on me, I guess.

Fear not, fellow leathernecks, faithful friends, and long-suffering family members, the eagle, globe and anchor tattooed on my heart lacks none of the vivid sharpness of its inking. I am still a Marine, after all.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Reeling Rebels

My Ole Miss Rebels hosted Coach Orgeron's alma mater, Northwestern (Louisiana) State yesterday afternoon in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. As Number 2 son and I walked onto campus about a half hour before kick-off, you could hardly tell there was a game about to be played. With Ole Miss stumbling towards the end of the most disastrous football campaign since the 1974 season, attendance, even for one of the worst fan support schools in the nation, was at an all-time low. Vaught-Hemingway can accommodate 60,000. There was maybe 20,000 in the stands at kick-off. I've seen more fans show for a Spring Game.

All for good reason. The scrappy Division 1AA team from a unpronounceable and unspellable crossroads in NW Louisiana nearly beat us. They out gained us, manhandled our offensive line, and in the end, with momentum clearly in their favor, ran out of time.

We scored 17 points on them early in the first quarter and then didn't score again until late in the second half. It was so quiet in the stadium, and I was so deep in conversation with some old college buddies, that when I looked up to see what the score was with a few minutes left, I was shocked to see us with only a seven point advantage and them with the ball, driving. The final score was 38 to 31.

This inept coach must go. The problem is our Athletic Director, Pete Boone, is even more inept than Coach O. He probably thinks O is doing a great job. Knowing Pitiful Pete, he was probably more interested in trying to get the fan in the Colonel Reb costume arrested and thrown out.

Friday, October 26, 2007

California Whines

The media's incessant, inane, and imbecilic comparisons of the governmental responses to the California Wildfire Disaster and Hurricane Katrina is matched in absurdity only by the California Lt. Governor's news conference assertion that California National Guard troops should be brought home from Iraq to help with disaster response. The assertions that there were "lessons learned" by Bush and the federal government is correct only in the sense that the federal government learned not to trust the preparedness of liberal democratic local and state governments. First, let's set the record straight on governmental response to Katrina.

The single greatest contribution to the crisis created by Katrina's assault on New Orleans was the complete and criminal incompetence of the city's government. Next in line for culpability whippings is the Louisiana governor and her staff. FEMA Director Browning was a buffoon, to be sure, and the Feds could have gotten massive aid to the scene at least 24 hours faster. But, the preparedness (or lack thereof) by Nagin and his krewe was laughable at best and criminal at worst. Contrast Governor Blanco's "deer in the headlights" news conferences with Governor Barber's rolled up shirt-sleeves presence at the front immediately following the storm's passing. While Mississippians, in large part, helped themselves and each other, New Orleanians helped themselves to each other's belongings.

The real difference between the response prior to and following Katrina and the response to the California wildfires are the actions by local and state governments. While Nagin and Blanco hunkered in their bunkers and neglected to lead their citizens to safety, California local and state authorities evacuated all but a handful of citizens from their homes ahead of rapidly advancing wildfires. The world watched Katrina take a bead on New Orleans for nearly a week, and Nagin/Blanco, et. al. did nothing. Not since Nero fiddled while Rome burned has a state's leadership demonstrated such utter disregard for its citizenry.

No fiddles played by Conan and his crew--with the exception of the politically motivated cheap-shot whine by the Lt. Governor. The truth: less than 15% of California's National Guard is currently deployed to Iraq, leaving 17,000 guardsmen in the state. The last I saw, the Governator had only seen a need to call up a fraction of those.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to the drought.

It hasn't been a drought buster by any stretch of the imagination, but the steady rain that has fallen here at the northern end of southern nowhere for the past 30 hours has been one of the most welcome sights I have seen in a long time. By my calculation, my little corner of the Tallahatchie Free State is running a rainfall deficit of nearly two feet for the year. It has been so dry here that, to paraphrase Sheridan during his ruinous romp in the Shenandoah Valley, "a crow flying over the length of the Tallahatchie River bottom would have to carry his own canteen for water." The water level in my lake has dropped precipitously over the past 8 months--five or six feet by my reckoning. The three or four inches of rain we just got won't refill it, but it will at least arrest the decreasing shoreline for a few weeks.

Miss Brenda and I have a running argument regarding the descriptive appellation by which to refer to our liquid inpoundment. I call it my lake. She insists that it is merely a pond. She is unswayed by my definitive reasoning that if one cannot throw a rock across the widest portion of said body of water it is more correctly referred to as a lake. She cannot pitch a petra across, nor have I attempted to do so (the muscles of my throwing arm have atrophied to the point of severe embarrasment should anyone witness my fruitless fling). Furthermore, some of our neighbors have ponds that have completely dried up during this epic drought. My lake and its pescatorial population has survived nicely--though significantly decreased in surface acreage and fin room.

I think I have a way to put the lake v. pond dispute to final rest. Hereby and forthwith, my lake shall be known (with appropriate reinforcing signage) as Lake Brenda.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Just Like Ole Times

Ruined another beautiful Saturday afternoon sitting in Vaught-Hemingway stadium this weekend. After the huge let-down against Alabama last Saturday, my Rebels came out flatter than a dried out cow chip. It was 21 to nuthin' early, and Arkansas only needed a dozen plays total to score those three times. We turned the ball over to McFadden and company four times after long drives and only scored late after Houston Nutt decided he had run the score up enough to save his job for another week and put his waterboy in to play defense.

At half-time, a fund-raising program fireworks display knocked out a transformer, and we watched the third quarter in silence. The Ole Miss unfaithful started filing out of the stands halfway through the third, and I wasn't very far behind 'em. Final score: Arkansas 44, Ole Miss 8.

Who says "you can't go home again?" This football team is right where I left them when I left Oxford 30 years ago--dwellin' in the cellar of the SEC. Just like old times.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rebel Ranting

There's been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth following the Ole Miss - Alabama game in Oxford on Saturday. Most of the sound and fury surrounds the overturning of an on-field call at the end of the game by the replay official. Alabama was leading 27-24 with two minutes left and Ole Miss had moved into Alabama territory. Following a sack that put the Rebels well out of field goal range, Ole Miss went for it on 4th down. Ole Miss quarterback Seth Adams lofted a pass down the left sideline, Rebel Shay Hodges and the defender played tug of war with the ball, and Hodges came up with it on the 4 yard line. Seven seconds remained on the game clock.

As Ole Miss lined up to go for the win, Alabama called timeout. Then, it was announced that the play was under review. After an interminable period of time, the officials announced that the replay official had ruled that the reciever had stepped out of bounds prior to the catch. Alabama took over on downs and their quarterback took a knee to end the game, amid the most fury I've seen unleashed on the Ole Miss campus since Meredith enrolled.

As much as I think that the replay official made the wrong call--all of the video angles were disputable about whether the defender touched the ball first and thereby allowing the reciever to legally reenter the field of play and catch the ball--I have two reasons to thank him for his decision. One, it reinforced my long held belief that Ole Miss remains hated by everyone else because the Rebels so dominated SEC football in the 50's and 60's and then waved the rebel flag in everyone's face in the process.

Two, there would have been four or five possible outcomes had Ole Miss been given the ball on the 4 yard line with 7 seconds left, only one of which would have been positive. We would have thrown an incomplete pass to go for the win. Coach Orgeron's clock management being what it is, it is doubtful we would have been able to save a second to try a tying field goal. But if we had tied the game with a field goal, our track record in overtime is miserable.

So, you see, by denying the Rebels the opportunity to try to win the game, the replay official saved us an even more crushing finish, and gave Rebel Nation a target on which to vent our frustration.

Gotta love college football.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Same Ole Missery vs. Alabama

When it comes to Ole Miss football there are only two games in the season that mean anything to most people, the last two games of the season against hated LSU and disdained Mississippi State. I add a third to my list--Alabama. Ole Miss and Alabama have played some great games. One of the greatest and most celebrated games of Archie Manning's Rebel career was actually a loss against Alabama. The Tide has had our number all time, beating us four out of five times we've met. The last time I attended a game against Alabama that we won was thirty-one years ago. We beat Bama on Bear Bryant's birthday and sang Happy Birthday to him at the end of the game. It was so good.

Since that time we have beaten Alabama maybe three or four times. Three years ago we had Bama on the ropes here in Oxford, hadn't let 'em move the ball all day, and they marched down the field in the last two minutes and beat us with a last second field goal. Last year, in Tuscaloosa we took 'em to overtime, and lost by three. This year we traded the lead back and forth all game and then fell short on a last minute drive. Final score 27--24.

With five games to go in this miserable season, I predict we'll win one more and finish 3 and 9.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Boot Camps and Armies are National Responsibilities

I have long believed that local government and the free market system are the most effective and efficient means of delivering essential goods and services to citizens. As a conservative, I ascribe to the tenet that local government and the free market provide the most responsive and democratic service to citizens. The higher up the food chain provision of goods and services is aggregated, and citizens taxed therefore, the greater the opportunity for political misuse and inequality of distribution, despite socialists' claims that they are correcting inequalities. But, there are some things best left to the Feds. Boot camps and armies are federal government responsibilities.

Just before I left the Redneck Riviera, a young man died as the result of abuse at a local sheriff's department's boot camp for troubled teens. This past week the trial of the guards at that boot camp ended in acquittals. Turns out the abuse they heaped on the kid before he collapsed was approved procedure. Most of the defenders of the boot camp and the guards railed that the kid's parents failed to disclose that he had sickle cell trait, complications from which the original autopsy report credited as cause of death. Frankly, that was beside the point.

When I first moved to Panama City in 2003 and heard that they had a boot camp, I was skeptical at best about the wisdom of such a venture. My experience with boot camps is with the most effective boot camp ever run by any military organization in the history of man, with the life-long boot camp of the Spartans being the one exception. The boot camps run by the Marine Corps at Parris Island and San Diego are the most grueling, shocking, and inhumane (yes, I said "inhumane"--the goal is to teach people to kill) training syllabus in the world. They are run with the most disciplined attention to, and constant supervision of, a detailed set of rules and schedules for cramming a life-time of hardness into thousands of couch potatoes, in 13 weeks' time. Drill Instructors are carefully screened and then put through months of rigorous training (far surpassing what will be expected of their recruits) prior to allowing them to set foot in front of a platoon of recruits. Drill Instructors may not touch a recruit. No Drill Instructor is ever alone with recruits. A Drill Instructor who violates the training schedule or the rigid rules of conducting training risks ruining his or her career at best, Leavenworth at worst.

And yet, abuses at Parris Island and San Diego still occur.

Contrast the most professionally run boot camp in the world with the state-sanctioned boot camps run by local sheriff's departments. Many who would be a "drill instructor" at one of these play boot camps are not qualified, period. Some who strut around under the campaign cover, have no more experience at running a boot camp than having been through one dozens of years ago. One of the Panama City drill instructors was 60 years old! A boot camp run by amateurs is a ticking abuse time bomb, the timing mechanism for which has been set by foolish sheriffs or ignorant state legislators. The drill instructors at the boot camp in Panama City should not have been the ones on trial this past month--the sheriff and the state sanctioning officials should have been.

The same common sense needs to be applied to arrest the proliferation of American mercenary armies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy. Blackwater is equipping itself with its own ground attack air force, for crying out loud! The shame of this is, there are no effective American laws governing the conduct of such private armies, and Geneva Convention protections do not apply to their mercenary fighters. With no rules governing them, should anyone be surprised that they have no compunction against shooting up the local populace in Iraq in order to be able to proclaim that "no VIP, for which we have been contracted to protect, has been killed." Amazingly, Congress had the gall to drag the CEO of Blackwater before "investigatory hearings" as if this whole mess was his (or George Bush's) responsibility, when, in fact, Congress has shirked their responsibility to govern such activities with appropriate laws to begin with!

Leave boot camps and armies to the professionals.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Painless Perspective

I've been better, but I've been a heckuva lot worse.

When I was on the instructor staff at the Air Command and Staff College, I served with an Army lieutenant colonel who, as a 19 year old enlisted man, had been taken captive after a Viet Cong ambush and held as a POW by the North Vietnamese. Wisely, the Staff College's commandant made it a point to have this officer speak to the assembled class each year about his experiences at the hands of the communists. At the conclusion of his presentation, he would describe his first day of freedom and his return to home and loved ones, and would sum up with the following statement: "...and I haven't had a bad day since."

I try, sometimes unsuccessfully, to put my everyday troubles, aches, and stresses into the perspective of some of the real hardships I've experienced. Now, I will admit that some will scoff at what I consider "hardships." I didn't grow up in rural Mississippi during The Great Depression (like many in my family). I wasn't in the first wave on the beaches at Iwo. I haven't been persecuted to the point of death for my faith. But, then again, I have a few painful benchmarks of my own against which to measure present difficulties. For example:

The best drink of water I ever had came from a puddle in a jeep track in Tunisia, after I scooped the green scum out of the way.

The warmest I ever felt was the ray of sunlight, after twenty hours of cold and dark, that split the uprights of two mountain peaks in Norway and touched my face.

The best shade I ever experienced was sitting with my back to a very hot M-60 tank in a very hot July California desert.

The best nap I ever took was on my feet, leaned up against a tree, twenty miles into a twenty-five mile forced march.

The second most beautiful thing I have ever seen (Miss Brenda being the first, of course) was a three foot square of muddy high ground after a night in a Panama mangrove swamp.
The sweetest sound I ever heard was Miss Brenda's voice on a cassette tape she mailed me while I was at sea in the Western Pacific.

Ole Miss Home Game #2

Moral victories, and statistics, are for losers.

My Rebels beat the point spread against Florida last weekend, but I have learned from long experience not to bet on, for or against, Ole Miss. They will give a top ranked team fits one weekend and then sruggle to eke out a win against a cellar dweller the next. I, like most Rebel fans, trooped into Vaught-Hemeingway Stadium on Saturday, expecting to see a 70 point Florida spectacle. But my Rebels kept it agonizingly close throughout the game, the stands stayed packed, and we held out hope for a third upset of Florida in three meetings. Tebow and company were too much, however. But I gotta be proud of the large percentage of Rebel fans who stood and cheered for the Rebels as they left the field 30-24 losers.

The Air Force put on the best show of the day, though. Prior to kick-off, the parachute team from the Air Force Academy jumped in and delivered the game ball. Then, right as the last note of the Star Bangled Banner was fading in diminishing stadium echoes, two F-16s roared overhead from end zone to end zone. One of the pilots was announced as an Ole Miss grad, and I assume it was his idea to make a second pass of the stadium at an even lower altitude, this time passing over the field sideline to sideline. They cleared the top of the stands by less than a hundred feet.

Miss Brenda turned to me as the roar faded, "Are they allowed to fly that low?"

"Nope. But I'm not going to report them."

One of these days, though, some jet jock is going to bring it just a little too low, catch a bump of turbulent air, and splatter himself among a crowd. That'll make 9-11 look tame by comparison.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Galloping Gator Guarantee

My Rebels play Florida here in Oxford tomorrow and it could be a historic day.

Florida hung 59 points on a pretty solid Tennessee defense last weekend. Vanderbilt (not the SEC's most impressive offensive unit) cruised for an easy 31 points against my Rebels Saturday evening. So, I'm thinking that Tebow and company should have a chance to score a hundred points against the most porous defense I've watched Ole Miss field in a long time.

The Ole Miss defense tackled so poorly against Missouri two weeks ago, that Coach Orgeron began each practice the next week with extended tackling drills. Didn't take--they missed tackles even worse against Vanderbilt.

I have goal line seats--I should get to see a lot of the game right in front of me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Losing the "Long War"

My contemporaries at the Pentagon, planners imprisoned in the mind-numbing drudgery and perennial politics that is high-level staff work in the Puzzle Palace on the Potomac, have, out of political necessity, seized on the concept of "The Long War" to which to hitch their wagons of war strategy. Not allowed to take this fight to the true centers of gravity supporting the radical Islamic insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have pulled a faded recipe from a discredited cookbook. The idea of fighting a war of attrition against Islamic terrorists without ever taking the fight to their state sponsors is an attempt to appeal to the squeamish majority in a democratic republic whose temper flashes and cools in a time span easily measured in months, not years. Here's why the "Long War" strategy won't work:

1. A "free" nation has never won a long (hot) war. War weariness (capitalized on by opportunistic politicians) prevents it.

2. We ain't ruthless.

3. Time is always on the side of the ruthless. (See reason 2.)

4. Attrition is the ally of the ruthless. (See reason 2.)

5. Long War focus requires ruthless control of the populace, both at home and abroad. (See reason 2.)

6. Long War focus requires ruthless control of the media. (See reason 2.)

7. Insurgencies are cheap. Counter-insurgency is expensive. Time is money.

8. Wars (long or short) require popular support. Popular support requires ownership. Ownership requires involvement and sacrifice. (I haven't seen any ration cards, have you?) America is not at war. The Army and Marine Corps are at war. America is at the mall.

9. We can't even control our own borders--how are we going to keep Amadawhatshisname from slipping arms and funds across the Iraqi border?

10., I mean, American, politicians care more about personal power than about what is right for our nation.

Remember 9/11. Remember. Remember.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Ole Miss Home Opener 2007

First home game of the 2007 Ole Miss football season last Saturday, and I learned a very valuable lesson--always bring two women with you.

Kickoff was at 5:00 PM and Miss Brenda, our loveliest daughter, and I got to campus a couple of hours early to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of one of the most hallowed rituals of fall at Ole Miss--Tailgating in The Grove. After a forced march (only slightly less grueling than the Baatan Death March, if the complaints of the women were any indication) from strategically planned post game escape axis of attack parking off campus, we found a bench situated between The Grove and the Student Union by which the vast majority of the female student body passed in review. Had I only had Miss Brenda in tow for this pre-game ritual, I would have been restricted to furtive glances at coeds dressed in the traditional Ole Miss home game finery. But, with our loveliest daughter along, a running critical fashion commentary between the two of them inevitably (I feigned resistance to participate) included me. At every disagreement about fashion and form, I was asked for my critical judgement--"Daddy, look at her. What do you think of that dress?" Oh, the sacrifices I make for my family.

The game went well for Ole Miss...until the kick off. Since we only play two decent quarters of football per game (a long-standing tradition, dating as far back as the inception of Tailgating in the The Grove), and it was a bit warm with the sun still up, we decided to reserve our best play for the half to be played after dark. Unfortunately, Missouri's spread offense scored with every possession and we spotted them 28 points before we decided to start playing. We played the best two quarters of football I've seen in Vaught-Hemingway in the second half, but two good quarters of football don't cut it in the SEC. Final score: 38--25, Missouri.

Our coaching staff is still oblivious to the concept of clock management. Orgeron's a great recruiter, but he can't tell time--even on a digital clock.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pigskin Patterns

It wasn't pretty, but it was a win.

My Rebels started off the 2007 college football season in much the same fashion as they finished the 2006 season. They let a team run all over them in the second half, but still eked out a win. For the second game in a row (albeit separated by 8 months) Ole Miss was significantly out-gained offensively, and yet points on the board were amazingly in their favor.

#2 son and I were desperate to find a place to watch the game Saturday afternoon. It was televised, but I didn't get the channel on my satellite system. So we headed in to O town with our significant others in tow and found a restaurant with enough TVs to give us opportunity to watch the Rebels jump out to to a 23-0 lead and then come within a tipped two-point conversion pass of going to overtime against the Memphis Tigers.

The Rebels ball-control offense worked as advertised in the first half, so Ed Orgeron decided to not use it in the second half! I really have to wonder what is in the water in the locker room at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium--for thirty years I've watched a steady stream of otherwise seemingly sane Ole Miss coaches completely lose their minds at half-time in Oxford. You can almost hear them coming away from the water fountain mumbling, "Our plan is working--gotta change our plan."

Next weekend we take on the second of four tiger teams when Missouri comes to town. Maybe I ought start a rumor that the water in Oxford is contaminated...

Friday, August 31, 2007

Crossing Columbus

It took Columbus a little more than three weeks to sail from the Canaries to the Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico on his second voyage of discovery in 1493. His fleet of seventeen ships dwarfed that of his first foray across the Atlantic a year earlier and his speedy crossing nearly halved the time he spent at sea in 1492 sailing westward in search of China. Last weekend Miss Brenda and I spent less than 12 hours total both ways in a trip from Memphis to San Juan.

References to Cristobal Colon's (we Anglos--in the immortal words of Steve Martin--"have a different word for everything!") "discovery" of the island of Puerto Rico are not hard to find, particularly in the ubiquitous gift shops that draw in and liberate white-legged tourists of yanqui green-backs for trinkets, t-shirts, and ball caps. This white-legged tourist added a coffee mug and a ball cap to his burgeoning collection. The cap is black with a skull & cross bones, the words "Puerto Rico" and the date "1493," meant as a back-handed slap at the "piracy of the white man," I guess. Of course, most current occupants of the island are descendants of the Spaniards that killed all the native inhabitants and colonized Puerto Rico for four hundred years until the adolescent re-United States picked a fight with aging Spain and seized Puerto Rico as a prize along with Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines.

As we sailed along at 34,000 feet and half the speed of sound, headed back north Monday morning, I couldn't help but wonder what Columbus would think were he strapped in my window seat crammed into a flying cylinder the size of the Santa Maria. Would he marvel at the billows as viewed from above, at the speed of our advance, and the reach of our advances?

Or, would he just pass out from the shock?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rome Remembered

In his contemporary history of the Roman Empire, "The Histories," Cornelius Tacitus wrote regarding the tumultuous three-decades framed by the deaths of Nero and Domitian (68 A.D. to 96 A.D.), that, "Rank, wealth, and office, whether surrendered or retained, provided grounds for accusation, and the reward for virtue was inevitable death."

The rise and fall of the Roman Empire is instructive. There are lessons for these re-United States in the study of that great power's ascent from the founding of its namesake city on the banks of the Tiber to the pinnacle of world superpowerdom, and its decay and deterioration into fractious city states that eventually coalesced into the dysfunctionally-governed laughing-stock that is Italy today. If one is attuned at all to patterns and parallels, our great nation's ascent from local obscurity to global omnipotence can easily be graphed alongside that of Rome's. That understanding of patterns and parallels can also allow one to predict, with some certainty, the path of political discourse and maneuvering for power that our nation, now at it's apex of power, will devolve to over the next few generations.

By the time of Christ, Rome's core citizenry had become fickle wards of the state, fruit ripe for the picking by scheming politicians looking to bake a pie of personal gain and glory. In one year's time alone (69 A.D.), Romans wrought by their own hands the imperial instability of four different leaders, each brought to power by the popularly induced suicide or assassination of the previous. Generals calculated that if Julius could march an army on Rome and become Caesar, so could they rally (bribe) enough legions to ride to titular triumph and penultimate power. Senators, having no standing Legion at their disposal at Rome, used the people of Rome itself as their army, spearheaded by constabulary commanders grown fat and greedy on the rewards of switched loyalties, and connived to be carried to power by the people.

At its peak, the Roman Republic sat atop a world of its own making that stretched from the British Isles in the West to the Persian frontier in the East, and from the Baltic in the North to the reaches of the upper Nile on the African continent to the South. Rome had legions (or parts thereof) garrisoned throughout its reach. As the generals and politicians began to seize power for their own ends and not the state's interests, the reach of Rome shrank dramatically. Legions collapsed on Italy, either recalled or in rebellion, and were followed home by "barbarians" eager to take advantage of Rome's perceived weakness. The cause was political greed.

You are, I'm sure, eager to scoff that no such calamitous collapse could occur to the great and powerful United States. Surely our revered Constitution, and its inviolable Bill of Rights will protect us individually and collectively from tyrannical treachery. "We've been a democratic republic for over two centuries!", you exclaim. Rome was a republic for five centuries with a constitutional tradition no less powerful than our own, and collapsed precipitously in not much more than two generations.

What Tacitus wrote 19 centuries ago regarding the death throes of his great nation, could just as easily been written today about the political state of our own.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mississippi Baking

We got the first measurable rain last evening that we have had since the first week of July--maybe a tenth of an inch. Thunderstorms banged and bumped all around us most of the afternoon with no liquid effect, and then, as the rumble faded, a light rain began to fall. After a few minutes, the air began to cool perceptively and I grabbed my tools and headed for one of my many partially finished outside projects.

For the past month, the heat has relegated my outdoor activities to the first and last hours of daylight. Even then, the modicum of strenuous activity I was able to coax from my rapidly aging collection of skin and bones produced a trifling amount of accomplishment to balance gallons of perspiration. But yesterday evening was, if work can be classified as such, glorious. As the cooling rain fell, I worked at my dock down by the lake, making more headway on the project than I had in a month of molten mornings.

This summer's heat and associated drought has been remarkable, particularly after the icebox that was April. What plants that chill didn't kill, are struggling to survive this baking.

Wonder what September will bring?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"O' brother, where art thou?'

We were a pretty special group. We had no idea at the time, but looking back on those awkward, amazing, adolescent days through the telescope of faulty but fond memory, it's easy to see that something beyond us was working around and through us.

The one distinguishing feature about all of us was that we were sons and daughters of military men. Well, para-military at least--hard for me to assign full military status to the Air Force, to which many of us were "dependents." What brought us together in the same geographic space was the fact that our fathers were stationed in the Panama Canal Zone, either at Howard Air Force Base, Fort Kobbe, Albrook Air Force Base, or Fort Clayton. We came from families originally formed in every corner of the country and the globe. The Canal Zone was for all of us just the latest stop on a trail of world-wide wandering from military base to military base. We had not grown up with each other since infancy, but quickly bonded as if we had been life-long friends. We were thrust abruptly together for a brief moment in time, and just as abruptly split asunder.

What brought the core group of us together was the labor of love of a young missionary by the name of Jane Downs. I don't believe her church had sent her to Panama to minister to American kids specifically, but that quickly became her calling, as far as we were concerned. Her Tuesday afternoon Bible study was the proximate event to which we were originally drawn, like so many wayward moths to the light of The Truth.

I have, shamefully, lost track of many of that special group. But, the ones I am still in touch with fill me with pride at their accomplishments. At least six of that group went into the military out of high school, either enlisting or getting commissions via the Air Force Academy or ROTC. One of us went into the ministry out of college. Ironically, he is now the only one of us still on active duty in the military, having gone into the Army Reserve as a chaplain and now ministering to war-wearied soldiers and families at Fort Stewart. I know where the prettiest girl and best mother in the group is today--she shares my bed.

Wish I knew where some of the guys like Reuben, Ricky, and Jeff are today. Don't think I have heard from them since the regular-occurring military-ordered diaspora swirled through our midst at the end of that remarkable time, scattering us like dust from a whirlwind. I last saw Dan, then a pilot for Delta, in Atlanta 16 years ago. Mike, the Army Chaplain, stays in touch. I last saw brothers Joe and Tom at Parris Island the day five years ago that Tom's son became a Marine. A year before that, Joe and I collided, literally, two colonels in a bunker in Seoul, having not seen or heard from each other in over a decade.

A part of me wants to begin a search, find them all, and bring them together again. Another part of me fears that special group won't seem so special upon our reunion. Would we have anything in common, now? Would we quickly tire of the game of "remember when" and grow quiet with the realization that the great gulf of time separating us from the jungles of Panama prevents us from really knowing each other?

It's a risk. But, one worth taking.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rebel's Rules

There are a few rules of thumb by which I've learned to lead. They weren't my original ideas--most of them were learned at the feet of other leaders, both honorable and horrible. I call 'em Rebel's Rules because, a) my operational radio call sign was Rebel (for rather obvious reasons, not all having to do with the fact that I was a graduate of Ole Miss) and b) the word "Rules" makes a nice alliterative title combination with Rebel. Most of them are self-explanatory (for all you LSU fans that means you have to figure it out on your own).

Rebel's Rule #1: "Take yourself too seriously and nobody else will."

Rebel's Rule #2: "First reports are always false."

Corollary A to Rebel's Rule #2: "Second reports will only be half correct, half of the time.

Corollary B to Rebel's Rule #2: "If you wait for the third report to act, you are already a step behind your opponent."

Corollary C to Rebel's Rule #2: "If given the option of defending or attacking, ALWAYS attack!"

Rebel's Rule #3: "Tell someone something often enough and they will start to believe it in spite of themselves."

Corollary A to Rebel's Rule #2: "Always tell your subordinates that they belong to the best unit in the larger organization, even if they have evidence to the contrary."

Corollary B to Rebel's Rule #2: "Find your own evidence."

Rebel's Rule #4: "Please and Thank You are power words."

Rebel's Rule #5: "The leader is responsible for everything his subordinates do or fail to do."

Corollary A to Rebel's Rule #5: "Perfect leaders would have perfect subordinates"

Corollary B to Rebel's Rule #5: "If your subordinates get in trouble, it's your fault."

Corollary C to Rebel's Rule #5: "If your subordinates do great things, it is probably only because you were smart enough to stay out of their way."

Corollary D to Rebel's Rule #5: "If Corollaries A, B, and C above drive you crazy, welcome to the wonderful world of leadership."

Rebel's Rule #6: "Bloom where you are planted."

Corollary A to Rebel's Rule #6: "The Marine Corps (add your own controlling agency here) knows where you are and if you are needed for a more important job, the Marine Corps knows where to find you."

Corollary B to Rebel's Rule #6: "Never let your subordinates believe that they do not belong to the most important unit in the organization."

Rebel's Rule #7: "A former recruiter will out lead a former drill instructor any day of the week."

Corollary A to Rebel's Rule #7: "How hard is it to follow a recruit training SOP?"

Corollary B to Rebel's Rule #7: "The recruiter who can convince 17 year-old Johnny, and his Momma, that it is in Johnny's best interest to forgo college for a few years to join the United States Marine Corps, during time of war, and oh, by the way, take his graduation trip to Al Anbar Province, can easily convince an 18 year-old Marine to climb out of the safety and comfort of his fighting position and charge into the face of enemy fire and probable award of the enemy marksmanship medal (Purple Heart)."

Rebel's Rule #8: "The leader who can easily convince an 18 year-old Marine to climb out of the safety and comfort of his fighting position and charge into the face of enemy fire and probable award of the enemy marksmanship medal, can certainly convince him to stay out of trouble while on liberty."

Rebel's Rule #9: "Surround yourself with subordinates smarter than you, and let them run."

Corollary A to Rebel's Rule #9: "Lucky for most of us, smarter subordinates are easy to find."

Rebel's Rule #10: "Training is everything and everything is training."

Corollary A to Rebel's Rule #10: "There is no such thing as an 'admin move'."

Corollary B to Rebel's Rule #10: "If you have time to complain, you have time to train."

Rebel's Rule #11: "Never pass up an opportunity to keep you mouth shut around senior officers."

Rebel's Rule #12: "Ninety percent of all communication is miscommunication."

Corollary A to Rebel's Rule #12: "If you want everybody in your organization to understand your intent, you need to express it at least ten times."

Corollary B to Rebel's Rule #12: "The tenth time you express your intent, ask the man in the rear rank to repeat it back."

Corollary C to Rebel's Rule #12: "When the man in the rear rank can't repeat your intent (and odds have it, he won't be able), refer to Corollary A above."

There's more, but that would be in violation of Rebel's Rule #13: "When 'briefing,' be brief."

Monday, August 13, 2007

First Round Picks to the Front Line

If you think reinstituting the "draft" is unpopular with the American people, you should raise the draft question with any group of past or present American military professionals and you'll see just how "unpopular" an idea can be.

However, comma, it may be time to put our Vietnam era anti-draft biases aside and look at the conscription issue through the lens of our present security situation.

Let's frame the debate with straight-forward answers to the following two questions. What are the "clear and present dangers" facing our nation? What is the status of the "all-volunteer force" charged with (sworn to, actually) defending our nation against "all enemies, foreign and domestic?"

From this Marine's perspective, there are two near-term (military professionals refer to this as the "close fight") challenges to our nation's security for which the force of choice (from the military, diplomatic, and economic sources of American power and influence) is armed action. Most people would think that Islamo-fascist-inspired terrorism is the number one near-term threat to our security. Make no mistake, the mad mullahs calling the shots in Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are a clear and present danger to the security and economic interests of the United States. However, despite the treasure we are expending in what Newt Gingrich calls a "phony war" (his reference, for those historically challenged among my meager readership, is to the "Phony War" waged less than half-heartedly by Great Britain against Nazi Germany following Germany's Eastern Europe aggressions in 1938/39), Islamo-Fascism is not the greatest near-term threat to the survival of our nation.

The clearest and closest danger to our security is the tide of unchecked immigration sweeping across our borders. The argument that this tide of immigration is no different than the previous tides that built our unique American nation and culture is specious at best, historically ignorant at worst. During other times of immigrant surges into our country, we strictly regulated who was allowed to enter our nation. For every three ships that arrived at Ellis Island during the great European immigration of the late 1800s, for example, one ship departed carrying people back to Europe who the United States deemed unfit (for reasons of health, mental defect, or criminal background) to allow entrance. The inscription on the Statue of Liberty may read "...send us your huddled masses...yearning to be free..." but we still reserved the right to refuse admittance to the Land of the Free in order the preserve the character of the Home of the Brave. If that argument offends your delicate sensibilities, then consider this: If only five percent of the one million illegal aliens entering our country across the southern border each year are criminally inclined then we are facing a yearly infiltration of 50,000 foot soldiers with intent to steal, rape, murder, and otherwise act in direct contradiction to the security and general well-being for which our government is constitutionally responsible. To put that number in perspective, that is more than the number of Marines in the Second Marine Division (one third of the Marine Corps). If only 5 percent of the 15 to 20 million illegal aliens presently in our nation are criminally active, we have been invaded by an enemy (criminals are enemies of society) force equalling the entire US Army and Marine Corps combined! Need I say more?

So, the threat to our nation is clear. Now, let's take a look at the status of our nation's defense posture.

First, the All-Volunteer Force is technically an all-recruited force. This is a significant distinction one third of my career spent in recruiting and basic training qualifies me to make. While no one serves in today's American military against their will, the vast majority of those who "volunteer" to serve do so only after they are contacted by a recruiter and sold on the personal benefits of military service. (The majority of men and women who walk into a recruiting office on their own initiative do not qualify for service due to reasons of health, mental defect, or criminal background.) I am not disparaging the magnificent young men and women presently fighting under the flag of the United States--once recruited, their eyes are opened and hearts fired to the patriotic calling to which they have answered. I am simply providing the facts regarding the nature of the way the United States currently mans the force.

Second, while the manpower well is full, the quality manpower pump's intake valve is buried in the muck at the bottom of the well. I have always been a firm believer in the concept of allowing only honorable men and women to honor the United States by serving in uniform under her flag. Consequently, even when I knew it would make my own recruiting effort more difficult in the short term, I have always been very vocal in my call for continuously raising the quality standards above which enlistment was allowed. For the most part, our military recruiters are filling the ranks to the number mandated and funded by Congress. The dirty little secret is that while the quality standards for enlistment have not been officially lowered, we have been systematically waiving disqualifying factors at the cyclic rate (for the non-infantry types among my meager readership, the cyclic rate of an automatic weapon is the most rapid rate at which it can load its deadly messages in the chamber, ignite the propellant, and send the mail out the business end). The net result is a steady decrease in the overall quality of the force. Again, no disparagement of those serving intended--it is just clear that America's best and brightest are not serving America.

Which brings me to the subject of reinstituting the draft. If America's best and brightest don't want to protect America by serving in the Army in Iraq, how about drafting them for service in a dramatically expanded version of the Border Patrol. Instead of keeping the Border Patrol under the dysfunctional Department of Homeland Security (if you have flown lately, you know what I'm talking about), let's create three light infantry divisions tasked with the mission of border DEFENSE. Let's man these divisions with a comprehensive, no waivers allowed, draft from all able-bodied men AND WOMEN between the ages of 18 and 22.

Got a better idea?

Friday, August 10, 2007

August 10, 1978

Our first born turns 29 today. Watching him grow from infant to boy to man to husband to father has been one of the most amazing things in my life.

Twenty-nine years ago this morning, I checked Miss Brenda into the small hospital in Dumfries, Virginia and joined a half dozen other expectant fathers in the small waiting area just outside the delivery room. This was before the time of free father access in delivery rooms. This was even before accurate sonogram determination of the child's sex. We sat and nervously thumbed through month's old copies of Field & Stream and National Geographic, waiting to hear the outcome of our wives' labors.

When I finally heard that I had a son, I was overwhelmed with the mixed emotions of elation and dread of responsibility. I was overjoyed at the prospect of a man child with whom to share my outdoors and sports passions. I was scared to death that I wouldn't measure up when it came to raising a boy to be a man. I'm sure I'm not the only man who has felt that particular mixture of joy and dread.

To wake up this morning to the realization that my little boy is now a 29 year old man, husband, and father is quite sobering. The good news is, despite my well-documented weaknesses at son-rearing, Number One is doing just fine in the manhood, husbandhood, and fatherhood department.

Happy Birthday, Joshua!

Monday, August 06, 2007

I've Seen Horror Show Before

Newt Gingrich has always impressed me as one of the more intelligent men in political life today. He's a firebrand, to be sure, but he puts a lot of thought into his bombs before he rolls them out onto the table.

He's said something lately that echoes what I have been saying for three years now. He called our "Global War on Terror" a "phony war." While I would disagree on points (it is a war--declared on us by others, we are just fighting it with both arms tied behind our backs), he is closer to hitting the target than any other political or military "leader" I've heard opine on the subject in the past six years. Of course, one of the reasons for Newt's accuracy on the intellectual firing line is the fact that he is an historian.

Newt's superior understanding of the history of America (and dozens of other empires) at war, allows him to put our present game with guns in correct perspective. He makes the case that if we are going to win this war, we need to commit to it. I concur! Despite the expenditure of thousands of young American patriots' lives and billions of dollars in American treasure, the United States never truly committed to the fight. Oh, we flew our flags on our cars, and painted billboards with United We Stand, but that is not the sacrifice required of a people to win a war (read any book on America during the period 1942 to 1945). Make no mistake, our enemies are making sacrifices and they are much more committed to victory than we.

Until we get serious about this war and start leveling our enemies' sanctuaries and financial/training support infrastructure in countries like Iran, Syria, and Pakistan (not to mention Saudi Arabia), we are in grave danger of repeating our inglorious retreat from Indo-China. Think our reputation around the world is suffering, now? You ain't seen nuthin' yet! Think our military is suffering from personnel and equipment fatigue, now? Wait until the next Jimmy Carter takes over and reduces the US military to a mockery.

Been there, done that, got the plaque.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Seeing Double

Thirty-six years ago, this summer, I made a delightful and life-altering discovery.

Several youth groups from churches in the Panama Canal Zone had assembled for a day of water fun at a camp on Gatun Lake called Governor's Island. The central attraction was a large dock, high up above the waterline and well out into deep water. A giant rope swing was tied to an overhanging limb of a huge banyan tree, and letting go of it at the apex of its swing arc launched you sailing through the air in a heart-pounding-in- your-chest, wind-roaring-in-your-ears, arm-flailing tangle of teenage testosterone. To access the swing, you had to climb a tower on the dock and catch the rope as it swung back from the previous launch. There was a long line of boys at the swing tower, and those of us tired of waiting in line to show off our courage to the girls, were arrayed at the end of the dock while a line of girls presented themselves, like so many volcano god-pleasing virgins, to be thrown, screeching in mock terror, from the dock.

Becky stepped up. I pushed her off, rather than take the time to pick her up and throw her in--she wasn't the one I had my eye on. It was that skinny little Cannon girl. Seemed like I had seen her everywhere at the end of the school year. And everywhere I saw her, I liked what I saw. Now, there she was, standing at the head of volcano virgin line, smiling shyly.

The problem was my best buddy, Joe, had been seeing her everywhere, and liking what he saw, too. Before I could scoop the little Cannon girl up, Joe hip-checked me, grabbed her, spun toward the end of the dock, and launched her in a bikini-clad, screeching, moon-shot that concluded in a most impressive "kersploosh!"

Joe and I stood at the end of the dock admiring..., er, maintaining safety watch over the girls in the water, particularly that cute little Cannon girl. I turned to grab the next contestant and stopped dead in my tracks in shock. The cute little Cannon girl was standing there at the front of the line. Man, she was quick! I looked back down in the water and the cute little Cannon girl was still there in a water-treading gaggle at the dock ladder!

"Joe, there's two of 'em! Twins!"

"Well, 'Duh.' Now leave mine alone; you got your own!"

Five years later, almost to the day, I married my cute little Cannon twin. Joe was my best man, and Miss Brenda's twin sissy, Linda was maid of honor. That was thirty-one years ago, today. To this day, everywhere I look, I still see that cute little Cannon girl.

And everywhere I see her, I love what I see.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Preschool Pearl Diver

Amazing how memories of events from over 40 years ago can surface through the accumulated fog and clog of one's cluttered mind. Even more amazing are the sensory triggers that trip the synaptic switch and start the reel to reel memory movie clattering through the projector of your mind's eye.

The Colonel is taking advantage of the fact that his lake's water level is low due to continuing drought, to build a dock at current water's edge that will, with hoped-for return of rains and raised lake level, be positioned out over deep water. While THE GRANDSON was here a couple of weeks ago, his dad and the Colonel dug the post holes, cemented in the posts, and fixed the 2 x 6 stringers onto which the deck boards would be screwed. This morning, Miss Brenda and the Colonel completed the deck board phase of the project.

Well..., almost.

From long experience with projects like this, and the Colonel's well-documented inability to effectively plan said projects or correctly follow an effective plan if he were to effectively plan said projects, he bought deck boards that were two feet longer than needed for the frame of the dock.
The Colonel will have to cut off the 2 feet or so of overhang, but not to fear, he has other projects for which 2 feet of deck boards will come in handy.

As he completed driving the last of the screws, the Colonel stepped off to one side of the very recently completed dock deck to admire his handiwork. The Colonel had four sides to choose from, three of which had board ends securely fastened to the edge of the dock frame.

The Colonel chose the fourth. The one with two feet of diving-board springy ends sticking out over several feet of nothing.

Owing to a combination of his still cat-like reflexes and the fact that his guardian angel knew from past building project experience to keep a sharp eye and close hand on him, the Colonel did not depart the vertical. The Colonel managed to regain enough balance to step back onto firmer footing, and as he regained composure and fixed his gaze on the trouble spot, the sight of loose boards caused a synapse to fire up the reel to reel.

Dad had taken little brother, Bruce, and the Colonel fishing. The Colonel was not more than 8 or 9 and that would make little brother either 5 or 6. They were on a narrow, rickety, plank bridge spanning a small, slow-moving stream somewhere on a gravel road in rural central Arkansas. Dad was doing what all dads do when they take young sons fishing -- cycling between the two boys untangling lines, fretting over the inability to wet a hook personally, and admonishing each boy at least twice a minute to sit still and not stand up on the bridge.

At one point in the two-son, line-untangling cycle, Dad failed to admonish little brother to remain sitting, and with Dad's attention turned to the Colonel, Bruce took the remain-sitting admonishment omission as permission to stand.

Neither Dad nor the Colonel were eyewitnesses to what actually happened next.

The sound, "kersploosh," was the first indication that something was amiss with little brother.  The Colonel looked over to see what his little brother had thrown in and was startled to see that he had disappeared.

As the Colonel marvelled at Bruce's evidently new found ability to vanish into thin air, Dad nearly knocked the Colonel off the bridge as he jumped to the spot formally occupied by his #2 son.

One of the earliest and most vivid pictures ingrained in the Colonel's memory is of his father leaping from the bridge and a geyser of water erupting subsequent to an impressive "KERSPLOOOSH!"

As water rained down on the bridge, the Colonel scrambled to his feet (Dad had failed to admonish him to stay seated before leaping from the bridge) and stood looking at bubbles roiling the water into which Dad and Bruce had disappeared.

Up through the bubbles little brother's face appeared and broke the surface, followed by Dad's head as he pushed Bruce up out of the water in front of him. Dad's reappearance reminded the Colonel that he was supposed to be sitting down and he spun to go reattain his seat before Dad could yell at him.

Too late; he was already yelling.

But, instead of yelling at him, Dad was yelling to the Colonel,

"Grab him!"

Dad needed the Colonel's help. It was the first time Dad (mind you, John Wayne was a simpering wimp compared to Dad) had ever needed the Colonel's help.

The Colonel managed to get hold of little brother's wrists and pulled as Dad pushed him up and out of the water. Dad pulled himself up and the three stood dripping, trembling, and awestruck, respectively, on that rickety old bridge in the middle of nowhere.

It was quiet, but for deep breaths and water dripping at our feet.

Bruce's plaintive wail broke the spell, "Momma's gonna kill me!" Never mind that he could have drowned or been eaten by a gator, he had gotten his clothes wet and that constituted a paddling offense in Mrs. Gregory's household.

About that time an old pick-up, trailing a cloud of dust, rumbled onto the bridge and stopped next to us. The man in the truck (describing him as a "redneck" would be an insult to rednecks) squinted at the collection of wet man and boys on the bridge, spat a stream of tobacco juice on the planks below his truck window, and snickered,

"Got yerself a pearl divin' youngun' there, do ya? Har, har, har."

Took the Colonel a week to forgive Bruce for cutting the fishing trip short.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rebel Yell

Don't know why I get excited about it every year, the disappointment is nearly always an annual occurence.

Forty days from now, the college football season opens for my Rebels. They'll make a short trip up to Memphis to take on the Memphis State (Yes, I know, they are the University of Memphis, now--but there's only room for one U of M in the south.) Tigers. Between Missouri, Memphis, LSU, and Auburn, we play four tigers this year. Obviously there is a shortage of mascots, if so many teams have to share the same one. Which makes me wonder why in the Sam Hill, Ole Miss' AD and Chancellor want to get rid of ours. Just gonna have to share somebody else's. But, I digress.

Since I started seriously following Ole Miss football in the early seventies (coincident with my matriculation), the seasons worth bragging about have been recorded on the fingers of one hand. I'm not even sure, and I don't want to waste the time and precious brain cells to confirm, that we are over .500 for the 35 year, post-Archie Manning period.

This year, with my CP secreted in the hills above Oxford, and with season tickets for the first time, I will be able to experience the pain (and pleasure, but mostly pain) of Ole Miss football up close and personal for the first time since I left the kudzu-clad Jewel of Mississippi (no kidding, that's what Oxford calls itself) nearly 30 years ago.

And, because misery loves company, the handful of you who punish yourself regularly by reading this blog will get a Sunday morning Rebel Rehash, complete with insights on the latest in Frat Rat fashion... Okay, maybe I won't comment on fashion. But, I will report, with a perspective not found on any Sports Page, on the scene from the stands.

Now, if that won't reduce readership, nothing will.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Spotted Wildlife Spotting

Miss Brenda was overwhelmed by opportunity the other evening and quite unprepared to take advantage. She recovered nicely, but I haven't seen her that animated and moving that fast in a long time.

The grandchild, and his dad, #1 son, are visiting Eegeebegee this week, and Miss Brenda and I have revelled in seeing the country sights through the eyes of an adventurous 21 month old boy. Blackberry picking, in particular, has been a face-purpling joy for the little scamp. By my calculations, he has consumed the critical ingredients for three jars of jam and two blackberry cobblers, intercepting said critical ingredients early in the pick to pail to pie production process. We were down in one of the fields below the house the other evening hanging up a feeder for my turkeys and whitetails, and Miss Brenda diverted for a low pass of the brambles lining the field to check for ripe berries.

The grandchild, #1, and I finished securing the automatic feeder from a oak limb and sat on the tailgate of the truck admiring our accomplishment. We called over to Miss Brenda, "Any ripe berries, Nana?"

"Quite a few."

#1 left Caleb and me at the truck and walked through the tall grass over to where Miss Brenda was reaching into the brush, liberating berries. Shortly after Josh got over to her, Miss Brenda came running back across the field toward the truck. She was highstepping with elbows in the high port position, giving the distinct impression of being chased by something. Curiously, #1 was still standing still, where his mother had departed company with him. As Miss Brenda neared Caleb and me, she breathlessly exclaimed, "Are the keys in the truck!?!"

I responded in the affirmative and lifted Caleb off the tail gate as Miss Brenda clambered into the cab, "Gotta go get my camera!," and gunned the truck back up the hill toward the house.

I called over to #1, "What is it?" But he was standing stock still and wouldn't holler back.

I put Caleb on my shoulders and headed over to where Josh was standing. Before I could work my way through the tall grass, Miss Brenda came bouncing back down the hill in the truck, skidded to a halt, leapt out with camera in the over-crowd paparazzi position and high-stepped past me like a Marine on a mission. What she said as she blew past me made no sense whatsoever.

"There's a great big black snake in the garage!"

My pea-sized brain was working overtime to process that last bit of data and collate it with the rapid movements and lack of movement of Miss Brenda and her first born, respectively, as I moved up behind them and noticed what they were worked up, and stock still, respectively, about.

In the tall grass under the bushes lining the field was a days old fawn. I'm talking less than a week of days old. Still wobbly. Cuter than Caleb. More spots than not. It was so young that it seemed to mistake our presence for the presence of its mama and it was mewling quietly and stumbling around back and forth in a tight circle of beaten down grass.

I let Miss Brenda take pictures from no closer than six feet and then moved everyone off and away. I knew mama was close by and wanted her to be able to get back and collect her baby before it got dark and the coyotes started prowling. As we walked back to the truck, I asked, "What's this about a snake in the garage?"

"When I got to the house there was a big black snake in the garage in between me and the door. I tried to shoo him out and he coiled up and hissed at me! Look, I took a picture of him."

Sure enough, she had a close up of a big black snake with lots of tiny faint yellow spots. Indigo snake, I believe. A good snake. Fast. We used to call them "black racers" when I was a kid.

"Look at this picture of it's tongue hanging out of the corner of its mouth."

"Uh, dear. That's not its tongue. That's the tail of a rat."

Not sure if she was more upset about the snake or the rat.