Monday, December 27, 2010

Five Hundred

A counter on the Colonel's blog dashboard tells him that, since opening this massive and egregious waste of energy, language, and valuable rod and cone time five years ago, he has posted 499 missives. That makes this one [insert kazoo fanfare here] Number 500 [insert diminishing echo here].

Not since the dawn of the algorenet, have so few readers invested some much time with so little to show for it, as have the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon. The Colonel only hopes that none of you possess no better use of your time, no so infinitely idle curiosity, nor misplaced hope for a worthwhile read amongst the incoherent trash heap of inanity and reminiscence that is this blog, that you have actually subjected yourselves to the painful photo-receptive assault on the visual cortex and read all 499 of the previous posts hereon. Such a feat would surely represent the definition of "above and beyond."

Five hundred.

The Colonel paid $500 dollars for his first car. It lasted approximately 500 days.

Five hundred.

The Roman Republic lasted about five hundred years...until its leaders began to ignore the constitutional constraints on their power and a military dictator rode back from the battlefield to "save the Republic."

Five hundred.

Five hundred years ago Charles of Gelre and Bishop Frederick of Bathe took turns capturing and recapturing Oldenzaal, Netherlands, in a war whose only consequence today is that it proves the point the Colonel made in this post's second paragraph. The five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon really need to find something at least marginally more productive to do with your time.

Five hundred months ago (give or take a month or four), the Colonel entered his torturous teen age; wherein he completely lost his mind.

Five hundred weeks ago, the Colonel finally relented of all hope of regaining the mental faculties forfeited in his teens.

Five hundred days ago, the Colonel became a full-fledged, stay-at-home, grandad--an occasion which will no doubt find a prominent place in history texts five hundred fiscal quarters hence and will be celebrated as the moment 21st Century Civilization gained true Hope.

Five hundred million years from now, give or take a billion, the nuclear fires of the nondescript star, 'round which this tiny blue marble races, will gutter like a candle in a snowstorm, and our pebble will join the cosmic dust cloud awaiting the next collapse into infinity. At that time, no one will care that the five of you who regularly waste rod and cone time perusing posts hereon found nothing of more import with which to occupy yourselves.

So, while the radiation from Ol' Sol yet warms your bones and transmits information to your visual cortexes, the Colonel thanks you for your readage and wishes you a similarly unproductive New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Season Reason

The old man didn't believe in much, and he certainly did not believe in anything he couldn't prove. He was too intelligent and too learned to indulge himself in beliefs that required faith--that was just too simple-minded and uneducated for a college professor. He wasn't completely passionless--he did love his birds. As a trained biologist, he knew every detail of the physiology and behavior of animals in general, and, as a ornithological specialist, his knowledge of birds was particularly deep and broad. He was unabashedly vain in the surety that he knew practically everything there was to know about birds--he was darn near omniscient when it came to feathered fauna. He lived alone and kept several feeders in his backyard to attract the birds he loved so much--they were his company, and he often, embarrassingly, caught himself talking out loud to them.

He stood at the window as the light of the late December evening dimmed. It had snowed most of the day and several inches had accumulated. The temperature was dropping precipitously--it was going to be one of the coldest nights of the year. But, that hadn't deterred his neighbors from their annual ritual of asking him to join them at church for Christmas Eve services. He had politely refused, and even wished them "happy holidays," even though he considered it hypocritical to do so. His principled disbelief in the basis for the holidays prevented him from even recognizing Christmas in any way. There was no decorated tree in his house, no silly lights outside, and certainly no gift giving. He was no hypocrite.

As darkness fell, he heard the bells ringing from the church down the road, and he marvelled at the waste of time, energy, and resources devoted to Christianity. How could anyone with half a brain buy in to the immaculate conception fairy tale? If there was a God running this universe, and he was fairly certain there wasn't, why would he waste his time on the insignificant life forms on an insignificant rock circling a nondescript star in a galaxy of billions of stars?


It was snowing again, and he reached over and turned on the outside light so he could watch the flakes fall. His attention was drawn to the ground just at the edge of the circle of light, where a flock of small birds was huddled motionless in the snow. He was immediately concerned. He had seen this kind of behavior before and it normally resulted in the death of all the birds in the flock. Stunned by the sudden onset of bitter cold, they would just sit there and freeze. He hated to see that happen. He loved his birds and it just tore at him any time he found one dead. He had to do something for this flock.

He quickly pulled on his coat and boots and stepped outside in the snow. He thought maybe he could scare them into some life-saving activity. Maybe he could chase them into the air and they would fly somewhere safe. He waved his arms and stomped his feet, but the birds just moved out of his way and continued to huddle in the snow.

He walked across the yard to his workshop at the back of the lot, opened the door, turned on the light, and stooped to turn on the space heater in the corner. He propped open the door and then stepped outside and into the shadows. He hoped that if he remained motionless and hidden the birds would see the light and warmth of the workshop and move inside. After a few minutes, it was obvious that the birds weren't going to take the initiative to move into the workshop on their own. He would have to try to move them himself. He walked over to the flock and bent to pick up a bird, but it fluttered away and landed on the other side of the flock. He tried several times to catch a bird, but the results were always the same. He tried to herd the birds toward the warmth of the workshop by stooping and waving his arms, but the birds just scattered in front of him and then rejoined to huddle in the snow. Again and again he tried to shoo the birds toward the lifesaving warmth, and he became increasingly frustrated at his failure to save them.

The temperature was perceptively dropping and he noticed that one of the birds had slumped lifelessly. He redoubled his efforts to herd them to the workshop. Another bird slumped in the snow. He was frantic now, speaking to the birds, trying to reason with them, and then caught himself, embarrassed. He said to himself aloud, "If I could just become a bird for one minute, I could lead them to the light and warmth of the workshop and save them from dying in the snow."

At that moment, the bells on the church down the road began to ring again. The old man sank to his knees in the snow and understood.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Burrell and Cletus

Burrell, the 'Bama grad, and Cletus, the Mississippi State grad are deer huntin' together over in the Black Belt. Cletus hears a gunshot and then hears Burrell holler, "Whoooeee, Cletus, I just shot me a good ol' biggun'!"

Cletus climbs down outa his tree stand and hikes over to where Burrell is standing over a nice 'Bama buck and says, "Nice deer, Burrell. Looks like a ten point."

Burrell stiffens and sniffs loudly, "See here, Cletus, you big Miss'ippi redneck, I got an engineering degree from the University of Alabama and I can count past ten. This here is a twelve point buck!"

"Yore right," agrees Cletus.

"Betcha butt, ahm right, you dumb clod. Now grab holda that leg and hep me drag him to the truck."

The two struggle with the deer for fifty yards or so and Cletus finally stops and scratches his noggin, "Burrell, I got an animal husbandry degree from Mississippi State and I think I know a thing or two about animal anatomy. If we was to gut this here deer right here it would be a lot lighter to drag."

Burrell agrees and the two of them gut the deer, wipe their hands on their trousers, grab the deer by the hind legs and start draggin' again.

The deer is lighter, but it ain't slidin' real well. Finally, Burrell stops, faces Cletus, and snorts, "Looky here, you dumb redneck, I got an engineering degree from the University of Alabama and I know a thing or two more'n you about the coefficient of drag."

"The cohabitation of what?," Cletus asks.

"Not cohabitation, you dumb hick, co-e-ffi-cient. The coefficient of drag. If we were to pull this deer from the front instead of by the hind legs, its hair would lay flat and there would be less drag. Here, grab a hold of them antlers with me and lets drag this here deer the easy way."

The two grab the deer by the antlers and take off a draggin'.

After ten minutes of easy draggin', Cletus looks over at Burrell and says, "Burrell, it's a lot easier draggin' the deer this way, but..."

"But, what?, you big knucklehead! I got an engineering degree from the University of Alabama. Whadayou got from that poor ol' cow college you went to?"

Cletus looks sheepish and replies, "Burrell, I done told you I got a degree in animal husbandry from Mississippi State. But..."

"But, what, ya dumb redneck!"

Cletus kicks the leaves and starts to mumble.

"Speak up, you big dummy!," Burrell blasts.

Cletus kicks at the leaves again, "Well, I...uh... Well, you was right about the cohabitatin' drag and all, and the deer is a lot easier to drag from the front, but..."

"But, what, you mouth-breathin' Miss'ippi mutt?"

"Well, it is easier to drag from the front, but we're gettin' fuhther and fuhther from the truck."

Chain Gang

Give a Marine a four-wheel drive truck, a chainsaw, and a couple lengths of chain and there ain't nuthin' he can't move.

Yesterday, during a brief burst of unaccustomed energy associated with entirely too much Christmas goody sugar intake, the Colonel and his rusty red pick-up, Semper Fillit, accomplished item #7 on his 459-item Project and It Needs doin' File List (to which the Colonel has affixed the most appropriate acronym, PAINFUL).

Item #7 was "Move metal thang."

Accomplishing item #7 was indeed painful, both physically and mentally.

The "metal thang," was so called because the Colonel and his not-so bright sons (they take after the Colonel, not the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda) couldn't figure out, even with all of our not-so massive brain power cobbled together, just what in the world it was. The best that could be figured is that it was a piece of logging equipment left behind years ago when the section of land whereon it was discovered, during one of the Colonel's security patrols, was being logged in the far distant past. The metal thang looked like a large gate. A very large gate, made of inch-thick steel plates. The Colonel was able to figure out, as part of a hands-on-lift-test, that the metal thang was the approximate combined weight of two bull elephants and a well-fed goat.

The metal thang, when first discovered, was leaning up against a large cedar tree destined for harvesting and conversion to sawdust on the Colonel's sawmill, Semper Filet. The Colonel conducted the aforementioned hands-on lift-test and was able to move the metal thang approximately seven and one quarter microns away from the cedar destined for harvesting and conversion to sawdust, for approximately seven and one quarter micro-seconds. The Colonel's hands-on lift-test of the behemoth metal thang was immediately followed by a short recovery period during which the Colonel's infantry-ravaged lower back and pack-ridden shoulders convinced him that a strategic planning session in the inverse prone position would be advantageous as well.

Upon conclusion of the joint hands-on lift-test recovery period and inverse prone position strategic planning session, the Colonel spent the next three and a quarter hours conducting a low-light land navigation exercise back to the Big House, as darkness had fallen some time during the preceding six hours. During the exercise, the Colonel discovered the world's second largest blackberry bramble and a here-to-fore uncharted hardwood bottom with muddy creek. The Colonel's arrival at home was greeted by the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, whose concern for the Colonel's whereabouts over the preceding day overrode her desire to conduct a cast-iron skillet Colonel-correction period for the copious amounts of mud and blood tracked into her home.

After cleaning up, and withstanding the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's withering condemnation of the Colonel's intelligence and judgment, summed up in the repeated use of the word, idiot, the Colonel trudged to his study, turned on his 'puter and entered on line seven of his PAINFUL list: "Move metal thang."

Said entry remained ignored for a year and a half, whilst the Colonel, and more worthwhile uses of his time, were exhausted.

A lack of cedar logs destined for conversion to sawdust adjacent to his sawmill, Semper Filet, finally stirred the Colonel to action on item #7 on his PAINFUL list, and he loaded chainsaw and chains on Semper Fillit, shifted into 4WD, and headed for the patch of mixed hardwoods and ten year-old planted pines in the very heart of which the metal thang rested against the cedar tree destined for harvest and conversion to sawdust like a rusting reminder of the Colonel's waning muscular might and mental acuity.

As there was no way to turn Semper Fillit around once in the woods adjacent to the metal thang, the Colonel backed his rusty red pick-up down the space between rows of pines, stopping to cut down intervening brush and hardwood saplings with his chainsaw. Fifty yards short of the metal thang's resting place, a near-ninety degree turn in the pines was required. (Dear reader, you must know that it took the Colonel nearly an hour to figure out how to construct that last sentence--backing the truck into the pines actually required a left-hand turn, as long as the Colonel was receiving visual navigation cues from his rear-view mirror; looking over his shoulder changed it to a right-hand turn. As the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon know with frightening clarity, the Colonel is easily distracted...) At the point of the [insert direction here--the Colonel is tired of trying to figure it out] hand turn, the Colonel spent the better part of the morning jockeying Semper Fillit in the tight confines of planted pines until his rusty red pick-up was around the corner and backed up to within chain length of the metal thang.

The Colonel wrapped one end of the chain around Semper Fillit's bumper hitch and hauled the other end over to, and attached it to, the metal thang. When the Colonel hit the gas, the metal thang edged forward approximately one quarter of an inch, at which point the leading edge bottom corner dug into the ground like a quarter horse's hooves and stopped Semper Fillit in it's tracks like a roped steer. The Colonel succeeded in digging four impressive potholes with his rusty red truck's tires before it began to slowly dawn on him that the truck was no longer moving forward. The metal thang was going to have to be laid flat for movement.

The Colonel approached the metal thang warily, circling slowly, mentally measuring it's center of gravity and computing the foot-pounds of energy required to change the metal thang's physical orientation from on-edge to flat. Said computations delivered a sobering sum in the amount of approximately 400 foot pounds more energy than the Colonel believed was available to be mustered from his diminutive frame, infantry-ravaged lower back, and pack-ridden shoulders.

Math never was the Colonel's strong suit.

The Colonel braced his boots against the cedar tree destined for harvest and conversion to sawdust, placed his hands shoulder-width apart on the upper edge of the metal thang, coiled his atrophied muscles for one explosive release, summoned a Rebel yell that began in full Fredericksburg roar and choked, mid-heave, into an Appomattox Courthouse whimper, and pushed mightily; yea, verily, with much pain. The metal thang tilted ever-so-slightly away from the cedar tree destined for harvest and conversion to sawdust, and wavered mere microns short of the center-0f-gravity line beyond which attraction to the third rock rocketing 'round ol' Sol would pull the metal thang from vertical to horizontal orientation. Just as the Colonel's quivering muscles began to give out in a cascade of lactic acid-producing fatigue, a solitary breath of breeze blew from over his shoulders and provided just the needed combination of refreshment and reinforcement. The metal thang's leading edge crossed the line of no return and the behemoth began a momentum-gathering rush away from vertical to horizontal orientation.

The metal thang's earthside impact lifted the Colonel one half foot off of the ground, set off car alarms as far south as Hattiesburg, and no doubt registered on seismographs throughout the Mid-south region.

A veritable blizzard of pine-needles jarred loose from their coniferous connections and covered the ground in an accumulation of up to six inches, in a radius taking in the better part of seven adjacent counties.

A tsunami on Sardis Reservoir swamped three bass boats and a college professor-carrying-kayak (had to be a college professor; no self-respecting redneck would get caught dead in a kayak).

Water sloshed out of swamps and sloughs throughout the region, revealing relic-littered bottoms and panicking the local mouth-breathing, pillow-case and sheet crowd.

After the earth stopped moving, and upon conclusion of a short inverse prone position muscle recovery and strategic planning session, the Colonel reconnected chains between the metal thang and his rusty red pick-up and recommenced his practice for the upcoming county fair tractor pull. In flat-to-ground orientation, the metal thang slid nicely ... until the near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn in the narrow confines of the planted pines was reached. The Colonel spent the better part of the rest of the afternoon jockeying his rusty red pick-up around the near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn in the narrow confines of the planted pines.

As he dragged chains to reconnect the metal thang to his truck, it slowly dawned on the Colonel that the metal thang was positioned in one lane of the narrow confines of planted pines and the truck was positioned in another lane of the narrow confines of planted pines, with a near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn in between.

The Colonel, drawing on all-but-forgotten theorems from 10th grade geometry class, determined that looping the truck-to-metal thang connecting chain around the bottom of a pine tree on the far side of the near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn in the narrow confines of planted pines would, upon recommencement of county fair tractor pull practice, pull the metal thang to the center of the near-ninety degree [insert direction] hand turn intersection, from whence it could be re-chained and dragged hither and out of the narrow confines of planted pines. Practice, amazingly enough, confirmed theory. The Colonel's 10th grade geometry teacher, Mrs. Graham--the lady whose fierce discipline prepared him for that of the Marines--would be proud.

The metal thang is now positioned in a corner of a field on the Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.

Item #7 on the Colonel's PAINFUL list now reads: "Figure out what to do with metal thang."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shaky Story

One hundred and ninety-nine years ago today, two terrible temblors rocked the Middle Mississippi River Valley. Those two approximately 7.5 to 8.0 Richter Scale jolts, and the two similarly-scaled subsequent quakes over the next two months, were the largest and widest-felt seismic events in recorded history on the North American continent. Whereas the 1909 San Francisco Earthquake--on which the sure-to-come repeat of which popular culture focuses dreadful anticipation--was felt over a roughly 6000 square mile area, the 1811/1812 New Madrid quakes were felt, owing to much different geography, over an area encompassing an incredible one million square miles.

The effects, and the distance to which effects extended, of those four earthquakes and the hundreds of attendant aftershocks were, quite frankly, unbelievable. Epicentered along a line extending from extreme northeastern Arkansas into the Missouri boot heel, the major jolts were felt as far away as the Eastern Seaboard. Straining credulity, some accounts maintain that the shocks were strong enough not only to be felt as far away as Boston and Toronto, but that they were strong enough at that extreme range to even ring church bells in those towns! Damage to dwellings was reported as far away as South Carolina and Ohio. In the region of the epicenters, population was very sparse. Yet, what few eyewitness accounts that survive recount scenes of unimaginable destruction. One such eyewitness, Eliza Bryan, a resident of the tiny village of New Madrid, wrote:

"On the 16th of December, 1811, about two o'clock, a.m., we were visited by a violent shock of an earthquake, accompanied by a very awful noise resembling loud but distant thunder, but more hoarse and vibrating, which was followed in a few minutes by the complete saturation of the atmosphere, with sulphurious vapor, causing total darkness. The screams of the affrighted inhabitants running to and fro, not knowing where to go, or what to do — the cries of the fowls and beasts of every species — the cracking of trees falling, and the roaring of the Mississippi — the current of which was retrograde for a few minutes, owing as is supposed, to an irruption in its bed — formed a scene truly horrible."

The quakes significantly altered the very geography of the region. Soil liquefaction and land subsidence created vast swamps and lakes where once stood virgin forests. Not only were there reports of the Mississippi River flowing backwards, but eyewitness accounts tell us that an upheaval under the bed of the river actually created a waterfall at one point that persisted for several days before the mighty current carved away the disruption in the riverbed. Whole islands in the Mississippi River subsided and disappeared. Huge tracts of timber up and down the river were uprooted and washed away from the shoreline, forming giant log jams that impeded boat traffic on the primary trade artery for months.

From their study of the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ), geologists tell us that earthquakes of the magnitude of those in 1811/12 strike the zone every 200 to 500 years. Current forecasts, as inexact as the science of earthquake prediction is, are that there is a roughly 1 in 15 chance of a 7.5 quake in the zone in the next 20 years. Of course, the chances of a repeat of such a quake increase with time. The chances of a lesser, but significantly damaging nonetheless, 6.0 in the very near future are much higher.

How destructive would a major magnitude quake in the region be today? In 2008, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported that a large earthquake in the NMSZ might cause "the highest economic losses due to a natural disaster in the United States," with "widespread and catastrophic" damage across a zone encompassing all or parts of the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. The major metropolitan area adjacent to the NMSZ is Memphis, TN, a city which did not exist in 1811 and is today the home of 1.5 million people. Memphis is a major redistribution center--the home of FedEx and a transportation hub for dozens of retail, supermarket, and construction supply chains. The FEMA report warned that a 7.7 magnitude quake or greater would cause damage to tens of thousands of structures affecting water distribution, transportation systems, and other vital infrastructure.

A major earthquake in the NMSZ would devastate Memphis, destroy the rail and road bridges across the Mississippi River there and probably seriously damage bridges as far south as Greenville, Mississippi and as far north as St. Louis. Highway and road bridges of every type would fall--the rubble of highway and rail overpasses and bridges over water courses would create obstacles to all but foot traffic. Pavement throughout the region would buckle, split, crack, and subside to make almost all vehicular traffic impossible. Nearly every building in Memphis and for 100 miles in every direction would be severely damaged if not destroyed. Buildings not flattened by shaking would burn in uncontrollable fires fed by thousands of gas pipeline breaks and other flammable releases. Those firefighting resources not themselves incapacitated by the quake's effects would be overwhelmed immediately, unable to respond to but a tiny fraction of the fires that could easily unite in an all consuming firestorm.

Casualties in the hundreds of thousands would overwhelm medical facilities, except that no medical facilities would have withstood the quake. And even if any had survived, their staffs would be limited by their own casualties and hampered by a lack of electricity and water.

If New Orleans' Katrina experience is any indication, police protection would break down completely as most law enforcement personnel would either themselves be casualties or decide to look after themselves and their own rather than attempt to maintain order in an increasingly desperate and violent situation.

The two-day wait for outside aid Katrina survivors experienced would pale in comparison to the weeks it would take for help to work its way into the destruction zone of a major NMSZ quake. Long before any appreciable help could arrive, survivors would have stripped and looted any surviving food stocks and begun to flee the destruction zone. Thousands would die fighting for food and water and in obstacle-filled flight to reach unaffected areas. Diseases, deadly and highly contagious cholera for example, would follow in rampant rapidity on the heels of the total collapse of sanitation and potable water infrastructure. Communities outside of the destruction zone, whose access to resources will be significantly affected by the quake's disruption of transportation and communications infrastructure across much of the middle of the nation, will face unprecedented challenges and choices as they first struggle to help the initial survivors to arrive on their doorsteps, and then find themselves in danger of violence from desperate throngs of hungry and homeless.

Excerpts of the Colonel's novel in progress, which deals with Southern society in the aftermath of a future New Madrid quake, can be found at http://www.scribd.com/doc/44946106/Tallahatchie-Excerpt

The Colonel hopes he can complete it before the next quake hits.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just Ducky

With the temps in the teens this morning here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, the Colonel took binoculars in hand and glassed the shoreline of Lake Brenda from an upstairs window to see the progress of ice formation. A splash drew his attention and he swung to focus on a diminutive mallard hen frolicking in a still as yet un-iced corner of the impoundment. The duck's name is Archie. She is a free spirit. This is her story.

Back last summer, the Colonel's favorite daughter kicked the last of the sticky sand of the Scumslime State from her feet and changed residency to Eegeebeegee (the physical and spiritual capital of the Tallahatchie Free State--a virtual republic established as much tongue-in-cheek as hand-on-wallet). As reward for her display of outstanding wisdom and uncommon common sense, the Colonel procured for his favorite daughter a pair of call duck ducklings.

A call duck can best be described as a miniature show duck. Originally bred in Europe as live decoys for trapping wild ducks, call ducks were later used in America as live decoys by duck hunters, until the practice was outlawed in the name of "fair chase." The raising and showing of call ducks has become a hobby with a growing following.

Parenthetically, it seems to the Colonel that just about anything can take on the trappings of a fad or hobby with a fan base. The Colonel is earnestly awaiting the fad of sawdust collection to catch on in our popular culture--his sawmill, Semper Filet and the Colonel's ever-growing collection of wood-working power tools (insert monosyllabic guttural utterances here) in his Man-toy Internal Storage and Facility for Sawdust Production Training (the MISFSPT -- acronymically pronounced Missfit) account for a significant percentage of the nation's sawdust production and would, therefore, place the Colonel in an excellent monopolistic position to corner the market.

Go ahead and laugh. How many of you remember pet rocks? A jar of cedar sawdust has infinitely more intrinsic value than a painted rock. The Colonel is just sayin'...

Back to the Colonel's story about Archie and Peyton, the Colonel's favorite daughter's names for the pair of call duck ducklings acquired for demonstration of sound judgement in choosing Mississippi for residency over the state that will go unmentioned, but whose initials are FLORIDA. Why anyone would voluntarily live south of I-10 or north of I-40 baffles the Colonel more than Euclidean Geometry and the fact that there are still people who claim to honestly believe in Keynesian Economics. But, the Colonel digresses...

Throughout the interminably long, hot, dry summer that shrank the shorelines and exposed bottoms of ponds and lakes here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere so much that the pillow-case-hooded crowd hereabouts began to become increasingly edgier, and cloaked the kudzu-clad hills and long-tall loblolly pines with a choking chalk so that the green began to give way to grey, the Colonel's favorite daughter spent hours each day "teaching them to swim" in a small swimming pool formerly claimed by the Hope of 21st Century Civilization dashes One and Two, and lap-training her two ducklings to dry and preen themselves and then take naps nestled on her shoulders. It was a bit much for the Colonel to take. The Eegeebeegee Hen Herd (said fowl collection, as the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon may remember, was actually a lot less hen and a lot more heard) was none too favorably impressed, as well. The chickens took every opportunity to voice their displeasure at the ducklings and much effort was expended by the Colonel's favorite daughter to ward off the roosters' untoward advances on her charges.

Then, tragically, one morning dawned to reveal that the duckling known as Peyton had fallen prey to fowl play. The Colonel immediately opened a faunicide investigation, which has, due in great part to the dumpling diving demise of three of the prime suspects, failed to reach satisfactory resolution.

Poor Archie was now alone.

Even more grievous was the growing apparency that Archie, contrary to early gender assignment and subsequent naming, was not a drake.

The early gender miss-assignment of fowl here aboard Eegeebeegee is occurring much too frequently and is a matter for investigation by a select committee of the Tallahatchie Free State's Peoples' Congress. Whereas said committee will necessarily be chaired by the citizen of the Tallahatchie Free State, and given that there are many much more pressing subjects of congressional investigation yet to be addressed; such as: the strict portion control at the Colonel's table of late, the disturbing lack of key lime pie for desert, and the substitution of the Colonel's well-fitting for ill-fitting trousers by persons-unknown; it is unlikely that the issue of early fowl gender miss-assignment will be resolved anytime soon.

Archie is a hen.

Towards the end of summer, Archie was out-growing the kiddie-pool and the Colonel recommended that his favorite daughter take her duck down to Lake Brenda for a swim. At the conclusion of the first such dip, the Colonel's favorite daughter needed the help of her big brother and the Colonel's long-handled fish net to corral her duck. At the conclusion of the second such daily dip, the duck demonstrated a profoundly impressive learning curve and easily evaded recapture by net, or by any other means. Archie clearly was not to be a pen hen.

The dainty little duck was at the lake each time the Colonel's favorite daughter checked over the next few days. Then, she disappeared. That is, the duck disappeared. The Colonel's favorite daughter was still here and more than a tiny bit distraught. The Colonel scoured the shoreline of Lake Brenda for any sign. A few feathers at water's edge alongside a set of small predator tracks led the Colonel to surmise that Archie had fallen prey to an opportunistic coon cruising for some crustacean cuisine. The Colonel reported to his favorite daughter, however, that he believed that Archie had flown away. That was his story and the Colonel was sticking to it.

Two weeks later, Archie was back. With company. A hooded merganser drake had followed Archie back to her home waters. The odd couple flapped and flirted for several hours seemingly oblivious to the reality that fish-eaters and dabbling-feeders do not, under any circumstances, commingle, cohabit, or otherwise fraternize. Certainly not in the wide open. The Colonel, feeling oddly parental, finally had enough of the brazen avian PDA and walked down to the lake to break it up.

Stupid ducks.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Life Well-Lived

A funeral for a college chum took the Colonel to West Memphis, Arkansas this morning. As he is wont to do to ensure that he is never late, the Colonel allotted double the time required to drive from the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere to the town the other side of the Big Muddy from Memphis. With a couple of hours to kill, the Colonel sat at a McDonald's, nursed a cup of coffee, contemplated man's mortality, and marvelled at a woman's immortal legacy.

Janine was taken from us much too soon.

And, yet, she enriched more lives in her one short life than a hundred men and women together could hope to in a hundred much longer lifetimes.

The Colonel was not a part of the very close knit group that made up Janine's first layer of friends during the years he knew her at Ole Miss and since. At least, not in his estimation. In her smile and hug greeting at our annual reunions in the Grove, however, she displayed a genuine love that made even the outliers, among whom the Colonel was counted in those early years, feel like long-lost siblings.

Janine was the glue that bound our extended group together--strong enough to hold our rambunctious, globe-trotting circle together, yet elastic enough to include everyone and anyone in her acquaintance. And, she had many, many such circles carefully drawn and overlapped in her life.

One of our classmates lovingly eulogized Janine to a church packed to overflowing with family and friends. He recalled Janine's campaign for Homecoming Queen at Ole Miss, remarkable in that she was member of no sorority. Had it been anyone else, it would have been scandalous--such honors at a school like Ole Miss are steeped in tradition thicker and more unmoving than molasses on Christmas morning. Janine transcended all that. She finished a very close second in a field of five and captured the hearts of the half of the 7500 students on campus then without fraternity and sorority affiliation--and the grudging admiration of the other half.

The thirty-five years since that convention-busting homecoming queen campaign were filled with scores more campaigns, large and small, challenging the status quo and conventional wisdom to accomplish great things for friends, family, and community. Janine won't be missed, however.

Her legacy won't allow her to be missed.

Janine Buford Earney
May 15, 1954 - December 3, 2010

Friday, December 03, 2010

Football Fantasies

Call him a "fair weather fan" if you like, but while the Colonel has always had a penchant for picking lost causes behind which to throw his unimposing weight, he has all but given up on his alma maters' football teams. One of the Colonel's alma maters' teams now plays only in his dreams; the other plays prominently in his nightmares.

It has been a nightmarish football season for Ole Miss, all too reminiscent of other nightmarish gridiron campaigns through which the Colonel's Rebels have marched over the past four decades during which he called his own self an Ole Miss Rebel. This year's eight loss record echoes the first disappointing season through which the Colonel suffered in his first fall of matriculation at the Harvard of the South. That 1974 season saw the Colonel's Rebels fall to South Carolina at Homecoming, enroute to a three and eight season -- South Carolina went one and ten that year.

So, there is no joy in Rebel Nation this year. Our beloved Colonel Rebel has been replaced by a Jellystone escapee, the maroonnecks won the Egg Bowl, and Pete Boone is still ruinously running things as Athletic Director.

To see just how bad things have gotten here in Oxford, one need only to have witnessed the scene at our final game against Mississippi State where our huge jumbo tron video board's sound system malfunctioned embarrassingly and the idiots (a stronger word is probably more appropriate, but the Colonel is feeling unusually gracious this morning) running the show in the stadium flashed a message on the board which said:

"We are aware of the problem with the sound system and we are woking on it."

That's right, woking.

This week, Pete Boone (whose presence here in Oxford is depriving some other more deserving village the services of a perfectly good idiot) sent an e-mail to season ticket holders apologizing for the problems with the video board sound system and other complaints regarding the stadium's concessionaires. The Colonel presumes that the problems with the fried rice concessions were connected with the efforts to wok on the video board's sound system.

The Colonel only wishes that his mind were fertile enough to make this kind of stuff up.

As the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon may remember from other of his frantically boring presentations of pusillanimous prose, the Colonel went to high school in a time far, far away in a place far, far away, which now exists only in the minds of a small minority of Americans who cling not-so bitterly to their principled guns and religious-like belief that they once lived in the most special place on Earth and learned at the most special school on this side of the galaxy. For those lucky few of us whose parents' government service took them outside of comfortable stateside confines, assignment to the Panama Canal Zone in the last century was one of the greatest blessings bestowed on minors in the history of children.

The Panama Canal Zone was a slice of lost-in-time America carved across the tropical paradise that is the isthmus of Panama. The Colonel won't debate the issue of American territorial occupation v. Panamanian territorial sovereignty here--except to say, in his not-so-humble opinion, that when we got around to giving territory on the isthmus back to "the rightful owners" maybe the re-United States should have given the territory of Panama back to Columbia, from whom we helped Panamanian rebels secede in the early Twentieth Century. At any rate, America operated a canal through the isthmus, governed a zone through which that canal ran, and administered the finest schools on the planet for the children of those who ran and defended that canal and that zone.

The Colonel went to, and graduated from, the Canal Zone's Balboa High School. The last class to graduate from Balboa High School did so in 1999, the year at the end of which Canal Zone territory, and the canal, reverted back to Panamanian ownership. The Colonel would stack the accomplishments of the alumni of Balboa High against those of any other alumni of any other high school IN THE WORLD, and feels quite confident that he could easily demonstrate that the world class faculty there produced (if not the finest football teams) the finest legion of learned the world has ever seen.

But, alas, BHS is no more, save in the fond memories of those of us fortunate enough to have matriculated there.

So, the Colonel and his lady, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda (with whom the Colonel graduated from Balboa High), have adopted another high school; one at which the youth in our church attend and at which our grandsons, the Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dashes 1 and 2 (H21CC-1 & -2) will someday matriculate and perhaps participate in a little gridiron glory. There are two high schools here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere--Oxford High, to which the city's students go, and Lafayette High, which the county's students attend. The Colonel and his lady live in the county. Those unfortunate to be considered the Colonel's friends likewise live outside of the city limits and are, by and large, alumni of Lafayette High.

So, while he waits for the unlikely reoccurrence of the Ole Miss Rebel gridiron glory which last resulted in conference and national championships fifty years ago, the Colonel cheers for the LHS Commodores.

The Commodores are a FORCE in Mississippi 4A football. They played in the 4A state championship last year. Tomorrow they are gonna win it.

GO 'Dores!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Winning with Warlike Souls

One of the many famed quotations attributed to General George S. Patton is his assessment of fortified defensive positions, “Fixed fortifications are monuments to man's stupidity. Any thing built by man can be destroyed by him.” Patton also believed that "the only sure defense is offense, and the efficiency of the offense depends on the warlike souls of those conducting it." The Colonel fervently believes that our republic needs to pay heed.

With the 2010 holiday travel season rapidly approaching, and nine years into our phony war with politically and militarily weak Islamic extremists employing terrorism as the only effective weapon available to them, the American people, in particular the traveling public, are stupidly subjected to increasingly onerous inspection regimes that are the TSA version of the Siegfried Line, against threats already discovered and narrowly thwarted, and therefore discarded as an ineffective tactic by the enemy. One could easily, and the Colonel will noisily, make the very good argument that the fixed fortifications through which the American people must wastefully weave in order to use public transportation are more of a hindrance to the protected than an obstacle to those against whose attacks we are presumably protected.


The Colonel is exasperated beyond words at the inexplicable, inefficient, and ineffective way in which the greatest republic in the history of man has frittered away blood and treasure against a flimsy foe. He has said it before, and the Colonel believes it bears pedantic repetition, if the United States had responded to the aerial attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the same way we have, FOR NINE YEARS AND COUNTING, responded to the Islamic Extremists attack on 9/11, we would still have a fleet stationed in the middle of the Pacific intercepting individual Japanese aircraft. That may sound to some a cheap and effective tactic, but staying on the defense and giving an enemy time to develop increasingly effective offensive weapons and tactics is simply a recipe for disaster and defeat.

Most disappointingly to the Colonel, he is beginning to believe that the enemy is winning.

The goal of an enemy employing terror as a tactic is to unsettle you psychologically. He can't beat you operationally on the battlefield, but he can cause you to make decisions that are in his favor strategically. Particularly, he can hurt you more on the homefront than on the battlefield and that is the purest definition of success for anyone fighting America. Our response to terrorism has been to punish our population, in order to "keep them safe." That is a win for the enemy.

The goal of an enemy employing terror as a tactic is to incite panic, not only in the populace but in their leadership. Panic leads to decision-making such as that in which a nation's principles are sacrificed in the name of the safety of a relative few. Case in point--the torture of Kalid Sheik Mohammed, justified by the claims that information so gained has thwarted attacks that would surely have killed Americans and allies. The Colonel stands firm in his conviction that the lives of none are so precious as to justify the discard of the American principles of human decency and rule of law to protect.

One of the seminal books in the Colonel's early professional military education was John G. Hubbel's P.O.W.; A Definitive History of the American Prisoner-of-War Experience in Vietnam, 1964-1973. What so deeply impressed the Colonel was not so much the incredible and monstrously inhumane torture endured by American fighting men at the hands of their communist captors, but the reasons for their resilience, chief among them being the sure knowledge that America was better than their captors; that America would never submit its helpless captives to any mistreatment, let alone torture. The Colonel is dismayed that, in our current fight, we have stepped into the gutter with the enemy. That is a win for them.

The Colonel is afraid that this situation is destined to continue its descent towards defeat for America. It is inevitable that our enemy will find a crease in our static, fortified domestic defenses and our populace will pay the price for our leaders' unwillingness to prosecute this war with Patton's "warlike soul."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Limited Membership

There aren't many organizations to which the Colonel confers the dubious honor of his membership, or into which the Colonel has been granted inclusion, for that matter.

The Colonel doesn't belong to organizations that support elected lawmakers and political candidates whose agendas include unconstitutional aims. Therefore, you won't find the Colonel's name on the rolls of the AARP..., nor the NRA, for that matter.

"Why not the NRA," the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon may ask?

The NRA supports congressional candidates who caucused, or would have, with the political party that has done more to undermine the constitutional foundations of our republic than any external enemy would dare hope. Which party was that? The Colonel will give you two guesses and the first one doesn't count.

Other than his local church, the Colonel doesn't belong to any charitable organizations nor materially support any of the plethora of causes that dot the guilt-inducing social landscape. There are no ribbons, of any color, on his lapel, bumper, nor door. The Colonel gives to his church, the Lord of which he trusts to multiply his offerings and use to show His Grace.

Don't trust your church with your tithes and offerings? You belong to the wrong "church" for the wrong reasons.

The Colonel pays no dues to a union, no obeisance to group or gang. No fez on his mantle. No ring on his finger--save the one the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda placed there 34 years ago.

There are these few things in the Colonel's life and heart: He is a black-hearted sinner saved by the grace of God; ecstatically married to his best friend; a proud dad and prouder grandad; an American citizen; an Ole Miss Rebel...; and..., the Colonel is a Marine.

What else could a man ask for?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Corps Novembers

On Wednesday, this week, the Colonel's beloved Corps celebrates it's 235th birthday, and a day later our nation sets aside the day to honor all those who have served the nation in its armed forces. In honor of the occasion, the Colonel republishes the following, first posted four years ago.

November is an important month for Marines, and is particularly a month tied to memories for this Marine. The obvious reason for its importance to Marines is that the Corps celebrates its establishment on 10 November. On that date in 1775, nearly 9 months BEFORE the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a rebellious outlaw group of landed gentry and merchants, ostensibly acting in representation of the will of the people of the 13 British colonies in North America, and calling themselves the Continental Congress, resolved that two battalions of Marines be raised for service with an all but non-existent rebel fleet (a resolution for establishing a navy had only been passed less than 4 weeks previous). Marines attach great celebratory import to the date 10 November, but few realize that the two battalions initially authorized by Congress were actually never raised.

You see, Congress had this great idea. They wanted to invade Canada. Mind you, we had just initiated open conflict with the greatest nation on the planet by skirmishing with its small occupation/constabulary force in America, and needed to be thinking about protecting the territorial integrity of the 13 Colonies against the sure to come full-scale British military operation to quell the rebellion. But, Congress wasn't thinking about border security (sound familiar?) and fancied themselves strategists of the first order. Part of their great invasion plan was an attack on the British naval base at Halifax, Nova Scotia. The two battalions of Marines the Continental Congress resolved to raise were to be the assault force of that naval raid. George Washington, in command of the Continental Army, objected to the diversion of resources, and the plan (along with the two battalions of Marines) never got past the drawing board.

But, an American navy of sorts was growing (converted merchant ships mostly) and the British naval model called for Marines on board to act as the captain's security force (18th Century sailors were an undisciplined lot), as sharpshooters during engagements at sea, and as a landing force for small-scale expeditions ashore. The American colonists were British after all, and they copied the Royal Navy right down to the printed regulations. There was an abundance of out-of-work able seamen in colonial seaports, and some of the more trustworthy were enlisted to serve as Marines. A tavern-keeper with scant martial or maritime experience was the first Marine officer commissioned by the Continental Congress. Samuel Nicholas was evidently prized for his recruiting skills and for the fact that he owned Tun Tavern in Philadelphia--a local watering hole frequented by the aforementioned idle able seamen. To this day, Marines celebrate their birthday with a toast of rum-punch, supposedly the drink supplied by Nicholas to seal the deal on each enlistment. One has to wonder how many toasts were drunk BEFORE the aforementioned idle able seamen scrawled their X on the enlistment contract.

November is an important month for Marines for other reasons as well. On 10 November 1918, one hundred and forty-three years to the day after the Continental Congress had resolved to raise two battalions of Marines, two brigades (or the remnants thereof) of Marines prepared for the final assault of the First World War (that operation--the crossing of the Meuse River--occurred the night before the war ended with an armistice on 11 November 1918). That a United States Marine Corps even existed at that point is an amazing and twisted story of near-extinction, evolution of missions, and fighting spirit of Marine leaders who tenaciously fought to save their jobs. But, a Corps of Marines did exist when the US entered the War in France in 1917, and Marines quickly established a name for themselves (thanks in great part to Army censorship of their own exploits) at the bitter battles of Belleau Wood, Soisson, Chateau Thiery, and Mont Blanc. Not much of the original two Marine brigades survived the war. What did survive was a reputation for battlefield ferocity, and perhaps more importantly, experience by senior Marine leaders in large scale military operations and staff planning.

The month of November has another Marine Corps red-letter date--20 November 1943. On that date, at the conclusion of the first year of our war with Japan, the Second Marine Division conducted the first full-scale test of amphibious assault doctrine developed by Marines during the interwar years. While amphibious landing operations had been conducted earlier in the war, most notably at Guadalcanal, the 20 November D-Day on Betio in the Southwest Pacific Tarawa Atoll, was the Corps' first truly opposed amphibious assault. It was a near disaster, plagued by poor intelligence regarding the tides and reefs surrounding the island, poor application of naval gunfire support, and horrible ship-to-shore communications. The Japanese commander of the island had boasted that his defenses were so formidable that it would take "a million men, a thousand years" to overcome. Five thousand Marines of the Second Marine Division took Tarawa in less than 4 days. The cost was horrific--1085 Americans gave their lives for that speck of coral--but the payoff was a treasure trove of lessons-learned that helped to perfect the conduct of amphibious operations and made possible successful Allied amphibious assault landings around the globe--across the Pacific to bring Japan to its knees, and across the English Channel to force Hitler into his death bunker in Berlin.

From a force of 6 Divisions and a like number of Air Wings, the Marine Corps, following cessation of hostilities in 1945, dropped to less than a third of that size and was scattered in reserve when Kim Il Sung (the current North Korean Commie's daddy) sent his forces into South Korea in June of 1950. Scraped together quickly from mostly WWII veteran reservists, the understrength First Marine Division spearheaded MacArthur's bold 15 September 1950 Inchon landing that turned the flank of communist forces pinning the remnants of US and South Korean defenders holding the Pusan Perimeter at the southern tip of the peninsula. Two and a half months later, the First Marine Division had retaken Seoul, re-embarked on amphibious shipping, sailed around the peninsula to Wonson, and advanced to the North Korean border with China. In the bitter cold of one of the worst winters in a region known for bad winters (history is replete with battles fought in record-breaking winters, as if God tries to cool off warring mankind's ardor), the First Marine Division was attacked, on 27 November 1950, by the ten divisions of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Ninth Army Group. Battling sub-zero cold and 100,000 Chinese, the Marines conducted a fighting withdrawal back to the coast and survived, barely, as a fighting force. But, leave it to Marines to celebrate even a terrible defeat such as this (forever immortalized as the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir) as one of the crowning achievements of our Corps.

More recently, the month of November achieved further acclaim in the Corps' battle history with some of the most ferocious house-to-house fighting Marines had seen since the battle to retake Hue City during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Required to eradicate Al Queda and insurgent forces in the key Sunni Triangle city of Fallujah, ten days of bitter fighting began on the 7th of November, 2004.


November is a personal red-letter month for the Colonel as well. The first of November 2003 marked the official end of nearly three decades of his uniformed service to the United States of America.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Citizen Has Spoken

The Colonel apologizes to the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon for the egregious delay in publishing last week's Tallahatchie Free State election results. There have been several recounts and legal challenges, and, pending resolution of the same, the Colonel was loathe to even post a prediction of the outcome. In fact, the Colonel believes that there will be a ballot initiative on the next election cycle's ballot to call for an amendment of the TFS constitution prohibiting any pre-election polling, exit polling, and press prognostication regarding the outcome of balloting prior to the results of said balloting having been certified by the appropriate election supervising official (in this case, the Colonel).

Anyone with the painful familiarity (born of previous wastage of valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon) with the establishment and brief history of the Tallahatchie Free State will recall that while residency upon and within the boundaries of the sovereign territory governed by the TFS (a virtual republic established as much hand-on-wallet as tongue-in-cheek) here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere is easily attained and loosely conferred, citizenship is a right earned by honorable service in uniform. As the franchise to vote in the TFS will always and only be granted to citizens, and whereas the Colonel remains the only resident upon and within the boundaries of the sovereign territory governed by the TFS to whom the right of citizenship, by virtue of (relatively) honorable military service, has been conferred, the Colonel likewise remains the sole member of the only voting block participating in TFS elections.

Although challenges and vote recount demands by the non-citizen residents of the TFS have obscured the fact, and besmirched his good name, the Colonel is proud to announce that TFS voter turnout last Tuesday was 100%.

The polls aboard Eegeebeegee, the capital of the TFS here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, closed promptly at 0705 (local), exactly five minutes after opening, and the Colonel began the ballot count immediately. At 0800 (local), the Colonel (who, in addition to being height and follicly-challenged, is, by proud self-admission, mathematically-challenged, as well) completed the ballot count and announced the results. The Colonel had won by a landslide, swept back into office as the supreme political leader by a tsunami of popular support from the citizenry of the TFS.

The Colonel's lady, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, looked up from her knitting, gave the Colonel the look that normally precedes the search for the cast-iron skillet more often used as a weapon than cook-ware, and demanded a recount.

Demonstrating discipline born of a military career of immediate and willing response to orders, and cat-like reflexes born of a marriage career of dodging cast-iron skillets, the Colonel began a ballot recount immediately thereafter (heading off the impending skillet search by mere mili-seconds). Endeavoring to prove his commitment to free and open elections, the Colonel invested the better part of two hours--time that he could have otherwise much more fruitfully applied to a supine strategic planning session and eye-lid light-leak inspection--to a slow and careful count. At 1000 (local), the Colonel announced that the ballot cast had indeed been cast by a (in this case, the) bonafide citizen and was unmistakably a (in this case, the) vote for the re-election of the Colonel as the undisputed, beloved, and benevolent leader of the good people of the Tallahatchie Free State.

The Colonel's lady, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, looked up from her ironing (You don't think the Colonel would let her waste all of her day knitting, do you?) and signalled her acceptance of the election results.

"Idiot."

The Colonel thinks his lady may have missed her calling. Seems to the Colonel that the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda would have fit right in on the set of MSNBC's 2010 election coverage.

The Colonel hears there may be an opening for 2012...

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Undefeated

Two undefeated teams will meet in Oxford tomorrow as the Auburn Tigers come to town to tangle with the Colonel's Rebs. Auburn is 8 and 0; the Colonel and the Hope of 21st Century Civilization Dash One (H21CC -1) are 10 and 0. Every game to which the Colonel has brought his good luck grandson for the past three seasons has been a Rebel victory.

H21CC-1 is going to the Ole Miss - Auburn game tomorrow evening--whether he wants to or not.

The Colonel knows that's a lot of pressure to put a youngster under.

Somehow, though, the Colonel thinks that H21CC -1 will be oblivious to the pressure. It will probably have a lot to do with the sugar high from consuming one cotton-candy stick and a large souvenir cup of carbonated liquid candy bar per quarter. The latter will necessitate frequent visits to the restroom, which should coincide nicely with the Colonel's need for peed.

It was at this point in the season two years ago that the Good Luck Grandson's uncanny ability to secure a win for the home team came into focus. Two years ago, the Ole Miss Rebels (the Colonel is using Ole Miss Rebels as often as possible in the sure knowledge that the PC Police are, even as the Colonel wastes the valuable rod and cone time of the five of you who regularly peruse posts hereon, plotting the demise of those horribly insensitive nicknames) had amassed an unenviable record of 3 wins against four losses. With tickets available for a song, and the Colonel unable to dump any of his season tickets, H21CC -1, then a tender tot of only 3 air-breathing rides 'round ol' Sol, scored a seat. The Ole Miss Rebels were heavy underdogs to a strong Auburn team. The Colonel's Rebs routed the Tigers and the legend of the Good Luck Grandson took flight on the fancy of fans throughout Rows 63 through 65, Section H in the hallowed confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

The Ole Miss Rebels went on to beat Arkansas and LSU on the road and capped the season with a 45 to nuthin' drubbin' of detested intra-state rival Mississippi State. The first of two straight Cotton Bowl wins followed.

The current Ole Miss Rebel football season has disappointingly dropped to the same dismal record as was recorded in the first half of 2008. Idiot that he is, the Colonel did not bring the Good Luck Grandson to the season opener against lower division Jacksonville State nor to the SEC opener against Vanderbilt. C'mon, Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt? All the Rebels had to do was show up.

They didn't.

The frantic fans in Rows 63 through 65, Section H in the hallowed confines of Vaught-Hemingway (although a huge Hemingway fan, the Colonel never understood why the name of the stadium isn't Vaught-Faulkner) Stadium turned loss-hardened eyes on the Colonel and asked, with no little venom, "You're bringing the Good Luck Grandson to the next game, right?"

The Good Luck Grandson was in attendance for the next two games as the Ole Miss Rebels steam-rolled Fresno State and Kentucky--two teams arguably better than Jacksonville State and Vanderbilt. The legend of the Good Luck Grandson spread far and wide, now encompassing Rows 61 through 65, Section H in the hallowed confines of Vaught-Faulkner (the Colonel likes that better) Stadium.

Friends and fellow fans encouraged the Colonel to take H21CC -1 on the road to Tuscaloosa and Fayetteville, even suggesting that he should petition Ole Miss Athletic Director Pete (the Colonel spits on the floor) Boone for special seating for the Colonel and the Good Luck Grandson. The Colonel reminded his friends and fellow fans that he has been rather, ahem, dismissive of Ole Miss Athletic Director Pete (the Colonel spits on the floor--and gets an angry look from the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda) Boone over the last several years and it is more than doubtful that Ole Miss Athletic Director Pete (the Colonel spits on the floor--and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda heads for the kitchen for the frying pan that is used more often to correct the Colonel than to feed him) Boone would entertain said petition for special seating.

Needless to say, (but the Colonel will say it anyway) without the Good Luck Grandson in attendance, the Ole Miss Rebels lost to Alabama and Arkansas.

The Colonel's Rebs need three more wins for post-season bowl eligibility. Three (counting tomorrow's tilt with the Tigers) home games remain on the schedule. The Good Luck Grandson will be in attendance at all three.

That foot scrambling sound you hear is the Vaught-Faulkner concessionaires racing to increase their cotton-candy orders.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Corrective Action

In addition to making repairs to his mailbox--the victim of a failure of parental supervision--the Colonel must add clearing the brush away from the sign on his drive that reads "If you can read this, you are in range" to his list of projects for the day.

It is times like these that make the Colonel nostalgic for the years during which he lived in base housing or in neighborhoods off-base where his neighbors were all Marines. There is nothing more effective at correcting juvenile anti-social behavior than a fire-team of neighborly Marines. The Colonel is reminded this morning of an episode from one of his assignments at the home of the Second Marine Division.

In 1987, at the outset of his second tour of duty with the Second Marine Division, the Colonel (then a captain) and his lady, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, purchased a home off-base in one of the newer subdivisions of Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was within walking distance of the elementary school to which our children happily and eagerly skipped each morning, and also just down the street from the high school away from which teenage idiots (apologies for the redundancy) with cars happily and eagerly sped each afternoon. The Marines in the neighborhood listened with growing concern as our wives related to us each evening the increasing occurrence of high-speed travel along our street and the failure of Jacksonville's finest to arrest same. An extended weekend granted by the Division Commanding General gave the Colonel and a couple of his comrades in arms the opportunity to be at home during delinquent drive time.

Under the shade of a tulip poplar, and under the influence of a few adult beverages, the three captains sat in lawn chairs with a bucket of tennis balls at their feet. With arms loosened up by target practice at the expense of the Colonel's worthless Labrador (grist for another post), the three sat with growing expectancy for the high school's last bell signalling, "Delinquents, start your engines".

With an admixture of relief and disappointment the three observed the first few cars to pass doing so at or safely around the posted speed limit. Then came a late model sports car, obviously driven by the son of a civilian member of the community (Marines don't make enough to buy their children sports cars), not only travelling well in excess of the speed limit, but, by the sound of its engine, actually accelerating down the street toward the ambush. Three tennis balls impacted the driver's side window in a tight group that would have made Carlos Hathcock proud.

The car screeched to a stop.

A mop-headed teenager leapt from the car and then froze at the sight of the three captains who now stood, reloaded.

"My dad's a lawyer and he's gonna hear about this!"

"Fine! Make sure you tell him exactly where to find us!"

Half an hour later, another late model sports car idled slowly down the street and pulled up at the curb. A middle-aged man climbed out of the car and walked over to the three tennis-ball snipers.

"My son told me that someone around here hit his car with tennis balls," he eyed the bucket of tennis balls and the adult beverage empties at the captains' feet.
"Was my son speeding?"

"Yessir, he was doing about 45 heading for 55."

"Well, he won't do that again," the man loosened his tie and eyed the bucket of tennis balls, again.

"Mind if I join you?"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Range Reminiscence

The inaugural Eegeebeegee Evil Glowing Zombie Rubber Duck Resistance (EEGZRDR--pronounced: exerter) shoot was held Saturday evening here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere. Following the wild acclaim by which the inaugural Eegeebeegee Easter Egg Hunt (manly men hunting eggs the manly man way--with firearms) was received and for which a seasonal intermediate version was demanded by a clamoring crowd of cronies unwilling to wait an entire year for an opportunity to burn prodigious amounts of gunpowder and break lots of things, the Colonel's Number 1 Son, using brains and inventiveness obviously inherited from the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, developed the aforementioned EEGZRDR shoot concept, the scenario for which can be found and perused at http://excellence-in-mediocrity.blogspot.com/2010/10/haunted-gully-of-abbeville.html

The details of the actual execution of the inaugural EEGZRDR will be kept a closely guarded secret for reasons which would be obvious only if the Colonel broke his sworn silence. Even then, the Colonel would be required to track down and (insert favorite euphemism for placing final entry in one's health record) the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon. Suffice it to say that the gist of the EEGZRDR combined four of the favorite pastimes of southern men--spotlighting, shooting, talking trash, and competing for points in spotlighting, shooting, and talking trash.


This morning as the Colonel and the Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dashes 1 and 2 (H21CC-1, -2) policed brass on the firing line, the Colonel was reminded of his time shooting and policing brass on Marine Corps rifle ranges. In particular, the Colonel was reminded of rifle qualification week on the Quantico rifle range 27 years ago this week. The Colonel remembers that range week clearly for its coincidence with two seminal events in the history of his beloved Marine Corps.

Early the Sunday morning prior to that qualification week, the 23rd of October in 1983, the Colonel, then assigned as an instructor at The Basic School (the training ground on which Marine officers are prepared for their first assignments leading Marines), turned on the television and saw the pulse-quickening news of the bombing of the Battalion Landing Team 1/8 headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. The projected casualty toll on the Marines and sailors ashore there for duty as peacekeepers was hard enough to bear, but the Colonel was particularly concerned as one of his earliest mentors in the Marine Corps--Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gerlach--was in command of BLT 1/8 and was almost certain to be among the casualties.

The next Tuesday morning, as the Colonel and his fellow Marines sat in the dark on the 200 yard-line awaiting sunrise and the beginning of the day's rifle qualification practice, the talk about the tragedy in Beirut was interrupted by news that another Marine battalion landing team was participating in an invasion of the Cuban satellite, Grenada. It was a surreal moment. On one side of the world, fellow Marines were digging the bodies of their comrades out of the rubble of a massive three story building leveled by a truck bomb. On this side of the world, Marines were conducting an amphibious assault landing for the first time since Vietnam. As the Colonel and his range mates sat digesting the news and wondering what it would mean to them, their reverie was broken by the range loudspeakers announcing the instructions that all Marines can recite by heart:

"Attention shooters! That first relay, move up to your firing positions and assume a sitting position. This string of fire will be fifteen rounds. Five rounds sitting, five rounds kneeling, and five rounds standing. Shooters, you are in your prep time."

It snapped the minds of the shooters back to the task at hand, but with a bit more of a sense of importance given to it.

Lieutenant Colonel Gerlach survived the blast that leveled his command's headquarters, though gravely wounded; Grenada fell quickly to the Marines of BLT 2/8 (with a little help from an Army airborne brigade and two battalions of Rangers); and the Colonel qualified "Expert," for the fourth time.

Likely the Colonel will ever handle a firearm or clean up afterwards without reminiscing about some experience from his time in the Corps. And, that's probably a good thing. At his age, the Colonel is starting to celebrate the fact that he has memories at all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Officially Offensive

During a pre-season intra-squad scrimmage open to fans, an Ole Miss Rebel quarterback escaped the defensive pass rush and lofted a long pass downfield to a open receiver who leaped to catch the ball and fell into the end zone for a touchdown. Cheers turned to groans as fans noticed a yellow flag on the field signifying a penalty that would nullify the touchdown. As the groans faded to silence, a plaintive voice called from the stands, "C'mon refs! It ain't the Bama game!"

It was both prologue and portent.

The Colonel waits with great anticipation for the sure to come "tell all" book by some guilty-concioused or disgruntled former Southeastern Conference football official. When that book hits the shelves, the Colonel will race to the store for his own copy and thumb quickly to the chapter entitled "Ole Miss must never be allowed to beat Alabama."

Last Saturday's game at Bryant-Denny is case in point for the claim that more flagrantly false fouls are called against Alabama's opponents, in general, and Ole Miss, in particular, than in any other games in the league. The only thing worse in the SEC than the officiating in Alabama football games, in general, and the game in question, in particular, is Les Miles' clock management.

Alabama is tough enough to beat. Having to play against them and the officials is too much to ask. Alabama should have been penalized on every down for having 15 on the field.

Not that the Colonel believes that the outcome of the game would have been any different had a) the officials not flagged the Rebel defense for roughing the kicker (the offending defender was clearly blocked into the kicker) and the Tide had to settle for 3 instead of the 7 it easily got after the penalty, b) the officials not flagged the Rebel special teams for offsides during an onside kick (the flag didn't hit the turf until well after the play was whistled dead and it was clear that Ole Miss had the ball), and c) the officials not called a foul on a Rebel player who was not even on the field, and gave new life to a sputtering Bama drive. The Colonel's Rebels could have figured out how to give the ball game to the Tide without the officials' help, thank you very much.

It has been thus for at least the nearly four decades during which the Colonel has subjected himself to the agony of Ole Miss Rebel football.

There is a bright side of this situation on which to look. Soon, his alma mater will no longer be known as the Ole Miss Rebels and the Colonel can find another team for whom to root. It will need to be a team with an inoffensive mascot--the Colonel ain't going through that battle again.

Hmmm. How 'bout them Scalawag State Carpetbaggers!

Friday, October 15, 2010

No End to Reconstruction


As the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon are painfully aware, the Colonel wasted his opportunity for a quality college education and attended the University of Mississippi instead. It could have been worse, the Colonel supposes--he could have gone to Mississippi State.

Ole Miss grads are a conflicted lot. An Ole Miss grad rarely refers to his alma mater as the University of Mississippi. He is an Ole Miss Rebel.

Ole Miss grads are, by and large, fiercely patriotic Americans, in spite of and to the horror of the decidedly liberal, America-despising administration and faculty. An Ole Miss grad loves the Union more deeply than any yankee who sneeringly still refers to southerners as unreformed Confederates. You want proof? The Colonel will stack the list of Ole Miss grads who demonstrated true love of country by service in uniform against any school north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Ole Miss grads are, for the most part, dyed in the wool traditionalists, in spite of and to the horror of the largely liberal and tradition-despising administration and faculty. Yeah, an Ole Miss grad would wave Beauregard's battle flag at a football game if allowed. He doesn't attach a desire to return to the horror of slavery to that gesture. It is more a matter of regional pride and yankee hate. The Colonel knows hate is a strong word. That's why he used it.

Ole Miss grads, tradition-loving to the end, are in mourning this morning. The nearly century-old symbol of Ole Miss, Colonel Rebel, has been replaced by a Black Bear. The Mississippi--Black Bear connection is tenuous at best. Teddy Roosevelt, while on a Mississippi Delta hunting trip, refused to shoot a black bear whose status was not exactly in accordance with the ethics of "fair chase." The media of the day reported on the incident and a capitalistic toy maker capitalized on the story and marketed a small stuffed bear doll--calling it "Teddy's Bear."

This Ole Miss grad bemoans the idiotic headlong rush that the University of Mississippi has taken--straight into the arms of the liberal elitists whose tyrannical bent is to force all to conform to their opinion of what is proper, correct, and inoffensive. The Colonel has said it before, but it bears (pun intended) repeating: The line beyond which something is considered politically incorrect or offensive incessantly encroaches on tradition and common sense. The line never remains static. There will never be an armistice of accommodation agreed to by the elitist minority who believe themselves socially superior to the majority.

The sad thing is, the University of Mississippi's administration has taken its "politically correct" steps of sidelining Ole Miss traditions to ingratiate themselves with liberal elitists who will, in fact, never be satisfied until every vestige of the unique traditions of Ole Miss are taken down. The nicknames Ole Miss and Rebels are odious to them. They will not rest until those are gone, as well.

"Reconstruction" officially ended a century and a half ago. The liberal elitists who denounce hate with every other breath are so consumed by their hatred of every American tradition that they, if allowed, will eventually reconstruct America to the point of self-destruction.

It's enough to drive this unreconstructed Rebel to drastic measures--the Colonel is going to put his Ole Miss Alum ball cap on his head and go drive his tractor.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

New Wrinkles in the Gray Matter

For the first three plus decades of his adult (the word is used loosely) life, the Colonel's accumulation of wrinkles in his gray matter centered on the art and science of leading men in that manliest of dance forms--the battlefield ballet. Upon his retirement from the Marine Corps, the Colonel attempted to retrain as a businessman.

Business was good, but the Colonel wasn't good at it.

In truth, learning to be a good capitalist wasn't all that hard. Having to deal with undisciplined civilians was the Colonel's undoing, however. After playing for years on a BCS team, it was more than difficult for the Colonel to subject himself to playing on the sandlot.

So, the Colonel tucked his two masters degrees into his Marine Officers Qualification Record, placed them out of sight in the bottom desk drawer, bought some acreage and a tractor, and became a farmer.

A bib-overall clad, ball cap-wearin', grass stem-chewin', kudzu-hatin' farmer. Really. How hard could being a farmer be? Looked like the perfect occupation for this Type A looking for a Type B lifestyle.

Turns out the Colonel had a whole new education ahead of him. Here's just a representative sampling of the things the Colonel didn't know four years ago:

A sawmill produces more sawdust than lumber.

Sawdust is inedible, and difficult to breathe.

Tractors and ditches don't mix.

Rolling over is not a trick one should teach his tractor.

Tractors don't swim.

A chainsaw doesn't discriminate.

Extension ladders don't have seatbelts.

A gravel drive will drive one crazy.

Tractor implements are not designed for high speed turns.

A post hole-digger quickly become odious in one's sight.

Chickens don't give live birth.

Roosters don't lay eggs.

Rain is not guaranteed.

The term "Ready-mix" on a bag of concrete is not synonymous with easy-mix.

High-water marks should not be ignored.

Stumps and bush-hogs don't mix.

The intensity and half-life of skunk-spray is directly proportional to the proximity of the spraying skunk to one's front porch.

Nothing is more valuable than a neighbor with a bigger tractor.

Nothing holds more promise than a freshly plowed field.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Jump and Dive Qualified Tools

On February 7, 2008--a scant ten months after the Colonel and his lady (the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda) planted their flag on the last place they will ever live in this world--a tornado tore through the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere. It destroyed homes, rearranged the landscape, and scattered neighbors belongings along the two mile stretch of country road at the end of which the Colonel's vast holdings sit. While the Colonel's home was spared all but relatively superficial damage, many of his tools and belongings that had been strategically placed in the last place he used them turned up missing.

Over the next weeks and months, the Colonel patrolled the grounds of his vast holdings picking up litter and finding many items tossed hither and yon by the twister. The Colonel found the wheel to his wheelbarrow down near Lake Brenda. But, alas, no barrow.

The Colonel plotted the supposed trajectory of the airborne wheelbarrow from its last known resting place adjacent to the last place it was used, drawing a line connecting the last known resting place adjacent to the last place it was used and the position of the found wheel. Allowing for wind shift and the Coriolis effect, the Colonel then plotted a cone of probability under which the wheelessbarrow would have precipitated from the twister's winds. The placid surface area of Lake Brenda occupies the vast majority of the area under the cone of wheelessbarrow precipitation probability. The ever-widening area within the cone of wheelessbarrow precipitation probability down range of the far side of Lake Brenda was grid-searched without result--excepting multiple scratches incurred during a thorough investigation of a large and labyrinthine briar patch.

The Colonel, summoning synaptic connections not used since the first year of the Reagan Administration, therefore deduced, after lengthy calculations rivalling that used to plot Apollo 13's free return lunar orbital burn, that the wheelessbarrow precipitated into the deeper, out-of-sight reaches of Lake Brenda. The Colonel considered putting out to sea in his boat and dragging the lake for the errant wheelessbarrow. Then, the Colonel remembered that this is Mississippi. Seeing someone dragging bodies of water around here makes the sheet and pillow case crowd a tad edgy.

So, the Colonel gave up on ever recovering the barrow and reuniting it with its wheel.

Last July, as the daily high temps soared well north of the century mark on Herr Fahrenheit's scale, it ceased raining here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere. For the past three months it has been drier than a forgotten pot roast. Daily, the surface level of Lake Brenda dropped visibly, exposing greater and greater swaths of shoreline and making the sheet and pillow case crowd hereabouts increasingly edgy.

And then this week there was, poking above the surface of Lake Brenda like the nub of the Lady of the Lake's Excalibur-sliced arm, a form that looked for all the world like the handle of a wheelbarrow. The Colonel donned his chest waders and waded out to investigate. It wasn't the Lady of the Lake's Excaliburless arm.

Unfortunately, the ravages of tornadic precipitation and multi-year immersion left the wheelessbarrow irreparable. It will, sadly for it, given the horrible experiences it endured, live out the rest of its life as either a rustic planter or a fish shelter.

Some things that tornado did will never be undone.