Friday, November 28, 2008

Prescient Pop and the Good Luck Grandson

With the score 31 to nuthin' at the half against Mississippi State this afternoon, Number 2 son opined that "Pop is gonna have to fly Caleb and his daddy up here for every game next year--they're good luck!"

Caleb, the Colonel's first grandson and the hope of 21st Century civilization, was in attendance for just his second Ole Miss football game in his young life. We left shortly after the half of his first two weeks ago against Louisiana Monroe--the Rebels were cruising to a 59 to nuthin' win and the weather was stinko. The weather wasn't a heck of a lot better this afternoon, but we weren't leaving the stadium this week until the boys in red and blue presented the fans with the coveted Egg Bowl Trophy.

Prior to kickoff, a recap of the Rebels' best season since Archie and Olivia's baby boy left town played on the jumbotron. The video began with Houston Nutt's initial news conference quote that, "you spell fun, 'W I N'", drew cheers with the defensive stop that made Tebow cry and roars with the scores against hated LSU. The production was so motivating it moved me to turn to my sons and predict that the final score would be "45 to nuthin'!"

Number One Son complained when Coach Nutt put in the second string in the fourth quarter with the score 45 naught--he wanted to see a 70 to nuthin' rout. I was just worried about preserving the shut-out...and my prediction.

It is such a burden being right all the time.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Missing Memo

Halloween night 49 years ago, LSU, ranked #1 in the country, trailed Ole Miss, ranked #3, early in the 4th quarter of a bitterly contested gridiron battle typical of the heated rivalry. LSU's Billy Cannon fielded an Ole Miss punt at the 11 yard line and broke at least seven different tackles down the right sideline, returning the punt for a touchdown. Billy Cannon was a horse in his day, and won the Heisman trophy that year for his outstanding play on both offense and defense. Later in the 1959 game, Ole Miss was at the LSU goal line needing a touchdown to win. On fourth down with just inches to score, the Ole Miss ball carrier was stopped short of the goal line by, you guessed it, Billy Cannon.

Yesterday afternoon down in Death Valley, the good folks at LSU decided that whupping lowly Ole Miss at home would be a great backdrop for honoring Billy Cannon and they made a grand show of unveiling his number and name pasted on the stadium. The only problem was lowly Ole Miss didn't get the memo.

Last weekend Troy sent most of the LSU faithful home early by leaping out to a 31 to 3 halftime lead. LSU then proceeded to score 37 unanswered points in front of a nearly empty stadium. It was the greatest comeback in LSU history... the previous being a 28 point come from behind win against Ole Miss in 1979. Yesterday afternoon down in Death Valley, the fans stuck around for the sure to come comeback win over Ole Miss. Again, my Rebels didn't get the memo.

To be honest, I was afraid that just maybe they had gotten the memo and couldn't relax and savor the win over our arch rival even with our QB taking a knee in the waning minutes holding a 31 to 13 lead. We have lost too many ball games recently in the last few minutes.

Remarkably, given the fact that Ole Miss has few friends, the Rebels are the only 4 loss team in the AP Top 25 for this week. Frankly, I don't care about the ranking, or even the fact that we are going to a bowl for the first time in five years. Just beating the despised LSU in Tiger Stadium is enough to make all well in this corner of Rebel Nation.

Now, if we can put the Mississippi State Bulldogs out of their misery on Friday, I will consider the season a success beyond my expectations. Hopefully, they'll get the memo.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Best on Betio

The Japanese commander of the force holding the tiny atoll boasted that it would take "a million men a hundred years" to wrest control of the island from him and his well-fortified troops.

Sixty-five years ago today, after only 76 hours of fighting, the Second Marine Division declared the primary island of Betio in the South Pacific Tarawa atoll "secured" and firmly in the hands of American forces beginning their island-hopping counterattack against the Empire of Japan. The cost was very high--nearly seventeen hundred Marines and sailors died in the initial landings and during the ferocious fighting over the next three days. In retrospect, many considered the assault on Tarawa unworthy of the high cost in men. In his post war memoirs, the commander of Marine forces in the Pacific, General Holland M. "Howling Mad" Smith, denounced the Joint Chiefs' decision to seize the island, claiming that we could have "let it wither on the vine" isolating it and its formidable defenses from other US-held Pacific positions and with carrier airpower.

But, the assault on Tarawa provided a treasure trove of lessons regarding the conduct of modern amphibious warfare, the doctrine and equipment for which had only been in development for less than two decades. Tarawa demonstrated the need for detailed intelligence regarding the near-shore waters (obstacles, beach gradient, tides, etc...) of the amphibious objective. Many of the casualties in the initial assault on Tarawa had occurred when unexpected low tides had prevented landing craft from crossing the reef protecting the beach--hundreds of Marines died wading the several hundred yards from reef to beach through murderous Japanese artillery and machine gun fire. Tarawa demonstrated the ineffectiveness of naval gunfire and aerial bombardment against well-fortified and deeply buried defensive positions. Perhaps most of all, Tarawa, and the assaults on other highly fortified Japanese-held islands (Guam, Peliliu, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, et al.) gave US operational planners a blood-chilling glimpse at the probable cost of the landings on the Japanese home islands projected for the winter of 1945/46.

Sixty-five years ago, today, the men of the Second Marine Division stood the bloodied and exhausted victors of a fight that showed Japan that they were not the planet's only repository of fighting spirit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tanks for the Memories

History doesn't happen in a vacuum.

My children learned early on that asking me a simple question of a historical or political nature would most often not elicit a short, simple answer. History is not, as our failing educational system portrays, simply a chronological countdown of names, dates, places, and events. Human history is a complex tapestry of interconnected threads; the unraveling of any one such thread will lead you on a dizzying ride through man's experience on this big blue marble. Often a thread placed in the weave at one part of the cloth will not join a cohesive pattern until it has wound its way to another part. Today's history lesson is case in point.

Ninety-one years ago, the European antagonists in the first great war of the 20th Century were deadlocked in a war of immobile attrition along a line of trenchworks stretching from the Baltic to the Alps. The machine gun, barbed wire, massed artillery, and observation by aircraft had rendered infantry and horse cavalry formations incapable of the successful offensive action required for victory in war (no war has ever been won on the defense). On the 20th 0f November, 1917, A British offensive employing 450 armored and armed tractors (tanks) surprised and overwhelmed the German defenses near Cambrai. The shortsighted operational and strategic planning typical of the Anglo/Franco Alliance in this war prevented exploitation of the breach in the enemy's static defensive lines and the Germans quickly restored stalemated positions.

There were huge lessons to be learned from this event that would be studied and implemented to stunning operational success nearly 23 years later. In 1940, the French tank was actually a better armored vehicle than the one employed by the German army. French reliance on static defenses at the Maginot line, with tanks spread our in infantry supporting roles, demonstrated failure to learn the lesson of Cambrai. The Germans, having suffered defeat at the hands of mobile armored formations at Cambrai, incorporated the tactic in their mobile, high tempo Blitzkrieg and overran the French and English forces in France and the Low Countries in June of 1940.

The German success is nearly universally credited to their military genius. No genius--just good appreciation of history.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An American Agenda

There's a lot piling up on the plate of our new Commander in Chief. The present president doesn't seem to have the spine to take them on. Will "H"?

Frankly, there's not much the President of these re-United States can do to effect the business cycle to the positive. He and the Congress can make things a lot worse in the long run by pumping up the dole and buying votes for the next election cycle, or President Obama and the Congress can manage the economy's fall to a softer landing by investing in 21st Century infrastructure, and 21st Century weaponry and equipment with which our brave warriors can defend our homeland and its revitalized infrastructure.

The real challenges, for which real American muscle and influence can be applied to the most significant effect, exist in the foreign policy realm of our chief executive's responsibilities. Dudley "W" Do Nothing has twiddled his thumbs while the following cuts and scratches on the body of our world supremacy and homeland security have festered into open, life-threatening wounds now requiring serious surgery.

1. Our Borders Must Be Secured. If only one percent of the twenty million illegal immigrants that have entered our nation over the past three decades have done so with criminal intent, that represents an invasion of our homeland and a clear and present danger to the internal security of our nation by an irregular army of 200,000 threats to our peace and security. To put that number in perspective, that's the size of your Marine Corps. Without intent to cast aspersions on the vast majority of those who have entered our nation, albeit illegally, in search of a better life, I would bet you a punch in the jaw and give you fifteen minutes to draw a crowd, that the number of miscreants in the total is much higher than one percent. If it is as high as five percent, that represents an irregular force the same size as your Marine Corps and Army combined, operating against the national security interests of our nation, at large in the cities and towns of our land. This is not rocket science, nor anywhere as hard a challenge to confront as arresting our current economic decline. In fact, taking on this challenge in a constructive way can help to speed our economic recovery in the long run. If we will secure our borders and grant tax-paying citizenship to those already here our cities will begin to be able to pay for the services they provide to all of their residents. At present our cities are going broke paying for services to residents the "undocumented" percentage of which do not pay their fair share of the taxes needed to provide those services for all.

2. Iran Must Be Prevented From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons (and, oh, by the way, stopped from supporting terrorism). If I need to explain to you the why and how, you have confined your thinking to a very small box. Suffice to say, some of our older nuclear weapons need testing.

3. Cuba and Venezuela Must Be Rescued from the Castro and Castro-Lite Regimes. We could have fixed this problem in 1961, but a bumbling, young and inexperienced US president twiddled his thumbs and set us up for a nuclear showdown with the Soviets. Our policy toward Cuba since that time has only succeeded in securing the votes of Cuban exiles in South Florida, the entrenchment of the Castro regime, and the long-term enslavement of the Cuban people in a failed socialist system. Drop the embargo against Cuba and the economic prosperity of these re-United States (even in a recession) will overwhelm the socialist dictators in Cuba just as it did the Soviet Union's and Eastern Bloc's totalitarians.

4. We Must Rearm For The Coming War With China. The Chinese are preparing for this war, it just might be a good idea for us to do the same. The similarities between this era and the 1930's are evident to even the most near-sighted historian. Replace Japan and Germany with China and Russia and the template otherwise fits. Stick your head in the sand, wear your peace symbols (I will admit I wore one... until I grew up and learned to use my brain) and wish for mankind to stop acting like mankind has always and will always act, if you like. You will be wasting valuable time.

5. There Must Be A Division IA College Football Playoff System. Fix this, President Obama, and you will go down as one of the greatest American Presidents of all time, regardless of your probable failures elsewhere.

Calibrating the Colonel's Calendar

Miss Brenda has been working the Colonel so hard in the yard and garden this past couple of months that my shoulders have stayed sore. Since I gave up heavy workouts as my retirement gift to myself five years ago my upper body strength has atrophied considerably--so much so that the past several weeks of heavy shovel work left me unable to draw the string on my bow without pain. I was watching the bow season for deer slip away without being able to shoot. Yesterday morning, after a five day break from digging, I was able to draw my bow and I got permission from Miss Brenda to go sit on one of my stands overlooking an acre foot plot of mustard and turnip greens.

Back in September, I had begun preparing this particular spot for a deer feeding field. My trusty new tractor (Semper Field) and I bushhogged the grass down as low as possible, sprayed a non-persistent herbicide to kill everything, and then disced the plot repeatedly to get the ground churned up and receptive to seed. I kept a close eye on the weather forecast and just a few days before the next good rain, I fertilized and seeded the field. It was the largest crop I had ever planted--despite having gardens of one sort or another nearly every year at bases and stations all over the world. A week or so after the rain, my crop began to sprout and by the middle of last month it was thick and nearly knee high. The deer began to visit and it was exciting to check the fields each day to see where they had mowed down a section.

Yesterday afternoon about 1530 I camoed up, sprayed down with a scent killer, grabbed my bow, and eased off the hill down into my back forty. Not fifteen minutes after I had settled in my stand, two does tripped through the leaves behind and under me and onto the food plot to browse. For half an hour they munched loudly, not twenty yards away. Presumably sated with salad, they moved off the plot and back up into the woods behind me. I sat shivering as the sun and air temperature chased each other down and the adrenaline high of nearness to wild things drained from me.

Right at sunset, with a half hour of good light left, a buck sauntered across the open hay field to my left and onto the food plot. I had seen this deer several times before and numerous times on a trail camera strategically placed near a corn feeder. It was the second largest of a group of four bucks that we had pictures of from the time they began to first sprout velvety antlers back in the spring. I have nicknamed him Big Eight--there is another, much smaller eight-point in the group that I call Little Eight. The smallest of the four is a precocious upstart we call Half Rack. He has the makings of a decent antler set on one side, but the other is badly deformed. A scar on his opposite hind quarter seems to give credence to the theory that antler deformity is often a result of an injury to the opposite hind leg. We have lots of pictures of Half Rack--he hung around the corn feeder constantly and was the only one of the group that figured out how to stand on hind legs and bump the feeder to get more corn between timed spins of the dispenser. The largest deer in the group is Romey. He is an impressive eleven point buck. He has the pronounced Roman nose of an older deer to distinguish him, along with a wide and high rack of antlers. I have decreed that Romey is the only buck we will take this year--or any deer of equal size and stature. We will let Big Eight grow another year or two.

Big Eight browsed amongst the greens for a few minutes and then went on alert as two other deer emerged from the brush on the opposite side of the green field. I recognised them immediately--Little Eight and Half Rack. They all fed together about seventy-five yards from me--well out of bow range, but near enough to hear them munching. At one point Big Eight saw fit to demonstrate his dominance and advanced on Little Eight, who stood his ground for one tentative antler clash and then danced away quickly from the much bigger buck. I waited hopefully to see Romey appear, but darkness fell without a sign of him.

On the phone later last night with Number One son, I related that it was a good thing it was still bow season--if I had been up in that tree with my rifle, Big Eight would have been hard to pass up. "Dad," he answered with the exasperation of a child with a forgetful parent, "I thought gun season opened on the 16th."

I told Number One that I was quite certain that the gun season wasn't open until this coming Saturday. He was just as adamant that it opened this past weekend, but finally relented that the Colonel knows best.

This morning, I checked my hunting season printout just to make sure. Yep, gun season opens on..., wait a stinkin' second, THE 16TH!

Big Eight has a new name: Lucky Buck!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Littlest Rebel

It was a good weekend for the Colonel and his clan.

The Sunbelt Conference patsy lined up for the Rebels' 10th game of the season obliged with an appropriately inept performance and the score was ugly in our favor, early. It was a glorious rout and a great day for grandson Caleb's first Ole Miss football game except for the fact that it was a blustery, cold day fit for neither old men nor younguns. We held out as long as we could, but left shortly after an early third quarter touchdown put us up 45 zip and assured bowl eligibility for the first time since Eli.

The wind abated enough for a comfortable settee around the fire pit Sunday evening and we gorged on sticky smokey smores and listened to the coyotes tune up at sunset. Number One Son and and his bride (she of the high and exalted position of Provider of Grandsons) left this morning for the Redneck Riviera and left Number One Grandson with Pop and Nana for an extended stay aboard Eegeebeegee.

I had a list of ten things to do with Caleb between now and when his parents came back to collect him at Thanksgiving. We did just about all of them this morning--don't know who needed the two-hour afternoon nap more, the three-year-old or the old man.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Here Comes Trouble!

Two days of light rain here at the northern end of southern nowhere have been just what the doctor ordered.

With the advent of cooler weather the past several weeks the flora aboard Eegeebeegee have begun their decline into dormancy and Miss Brenda has broken out her whip, cracking it within alarming proximity to her mule-headed mate's hairy ears. We are in a panic of flower bed re-positioning and tree re-planting to get the grounds around the big house all spruced up. Ordinarily we would have spaced the sprucing over the several long months of winter and early spring, but the boss wants the place in shape for holiday season visitors. Oh, my aching back! Thank you, Lord, for the rest of your rain!

The first wave of festive visitation comes ashore this evening with the arrival of Number 1 son, his bride (she of the high and exalted position of Provider of Grandsons), and the hope of 21st Century civilization--Caleb and Taylor.

Saturday will be Caleb's First Ole Miss Football Game. We picked (hopefully) a patsy for his inaugural Grove Gallop. I'm hoping for an early blow-out, as I don't expect Mr. C will be able to sit still for an entire game.

The plan is for Caleb to stay here with Nana and Pop for the next two weeks. At three years of age, he's mobile and agile enough to really appreciate the wilds of Eegeebeegee. I'll keep you posted on that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Semper Satisfaction

No history lesson this morning. No curmudgeonly commentary. No snide sniping. Suffice it to say, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, there's hot joe in my mug, and I'm a Marine. What else could a man ask for?

Happy 233rd Birthday, Marines!

Semper Fidelis!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Story Time

I love a good story. My favorite people are those who can relate an otherwise mundane occurrence or downright boring lesson with humor or color, respectively. I am not a "just the facts" person. The circle of folks here in rural Mississippi, to which I am slowly being allowed admittance, contains some first rate story-tellers. Heard this one the other day:

“We called him ‘Jumper’ cuz ever since we were kids he was so short and skinny he had to jump up to reach anything, an’ he was so light he could jump off a roof or out of a tree and land so easy he never got hurt. For bein’ so little, he was always lookin’ for a fight and would jump into a scrap any chance he got. So, the name ‘Jumper’ fit him, better’n the name Elton what his momma called him. Me and Jumper was coon huntin’ one evenin’ and the dogs treed this big ole boar coon way up in a sycamore tree down along Lawyer’s Creek. Jumper sez to me, ‘I’m gonna climb up there an’ knock that coon outa there an’ let the dogs fight him,’ an’ he jumps up an’ grabs a limb and swings up into the tree like a monkey climbin’ on a pony. He was up that tree quicker’n you can count your cousins. The dogs were going nuts with Jumper’s commotion going up in that tree, bayin’ and snarlin’ and workin’ themselves up into a frenzy just waitin’ for that coon to hit the ground. Once he got up close to that coon, Jumper realized he’d need somethin’ other than his bare hands to knock that coon off’n his perch, an’ he reaches over to break off a small limb. ‘Course Jumper didn’t weigh a buck and could’n work up enough leverage to break it off. He starts to swaying back’n forth raking that limb back’n forth an’ creatin’ such a commotion, an’ the dogs are getting’ whipped up, an’ all of a sudden I hear a crack an’ sumthin hittin’ limbs on the way down, an’ Jumper lands at the base of the tree with a thud and a ‘whoof!’ an’ then there’s a whirlin’ dog fight with Jumper in the middle of it. Them hounds were ready to hit the first thing that hit the ground and it was Jumper, an’ he’s screamin’ like a banshee, an’ the dogs are snarlin’ and snappin’ an’ I go to kickin’ like crazy at the dogs to get ‘em off’n Jumper. I’m a kickin’ dogs and they’s a yelpin’ when I connect an’ I’m kickin’ like crazy tryin’ to keep them dogs from eatin’ Jumper alive, an’ I’m not even tryin’ to aim at a particular dog, jus’ standin’ over Jumper and kickin’ like a hillbilly in a cloggin’ contest. Them dogs finally figure out Jumper ain’t no coon and leave him alone long enough for him to leap to his feet and start brushin’ himself off, an’ I sez, ‘Jumper, you alright?’, and he looks at me like he wants take the fight to me next and sez, ‘I wuz, til’ you kicked me in the head!’”

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Good Things

Despite the fact that my vote went for the other guy, I am heartened by the way the most free, safe, and peaceful elections in the world occured with clockwork constitutional precision. As one who dedicated the first three decades of his adult life to the defense of the constitution of these re-United States, it's a good feeling to know that those energies, not to mention the much greater sacrifices of others, were not in vain. The sun came up yesterday morning and the American people went about their business without fear of recrimination.

By all accounts, voter turnout on Tuesday and via early and absentee balloting means was the highest in over a century. That is a good thing. Democracy is not a game to be watched from the stands--it is most effective when participation is highest.

Tuesday morning, Miss Brenda and I made our way to our polling place at the Abbeville Court House, a building that used to house a small Methodist congregation. While there had been a long line earlier in the morning, we waited only a few minutes to cast our votes by touch screen. The last time I voted in Mississippi was 1976--my guy didn't win that year either.

It will be very interesting to watch as our new president builds his administration. My guess is there won't be as much "Change" in the faces he brings to the White House as one would expect given all of the change rhetoric over the past two years. I wouldn't count on seeing very many of his campaign promises fulfilled any time soon, either. No new president ever does carry out all of the pander he proposes to get elected. That is another good thing.

Yet another good thing is I figure I have a least six months to get fields of fire cleared and alternate and supplementary fighting positions prepared before any new anti-gun legislation is enacted.