Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rooster Reduction Regime

Sometimes one needs to just sharpen his ax and get with the program.

The five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon are painfully up to date on the status of the Colonel's chicken herd. On the odd chance that an errant blog surfer has been tossed broken-boarded upon the desolate beach that is the Colonel's Corner and knows not the history of the poultry predicament here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, the Colonel will recap.

Back on the first Saturday after the first full moon following the northern vernal equinox, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and the Colonel were wandering aimlessly around one of the Colonel's favorite stores -- Tractor Supply -- and were interrupted in their aimless wandering by a faint peeping. Upon investigation, the peeping was found to be emanating from a large galvanized tub full of yaller chicks. The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda insisted on adopting eight of said yaller chicks. The Colonel then spent the next two months constructing a critter-proof chicken coop, with integral hen house, into which the Eegeebeegee chicken herd moved after reaching the age at which the brooder box could no longer contain the peepage and poopage attendant to eight Rhode Island Reds.

The mouth-breather at Tractor Supply who assisted the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda in choosing just the right chicks, assured her that she had chosen all hens.

Imagine the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's, and the Colonel's, surprise when the majority of the guaranteed all-hen herd began exhibiting decidedly un-hen-like behavior. As the weeks went by and each of the herd's hen names were grudgingly changed to rooster names, a cold, hard reality asserted itself. All but one of the Eegeebeegee poultry posse were of the,, roosterly persuasion.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and the Colonel conducted a frantic search for good homes for the excess roosterage. An add ran in the local fishwrap:

Roosters, free to good home. Yard broken. Good with children. The number to call is BR 549.

There were no calls.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and the Colonel began stopping traffic on the road past Eegeebeegee and offering roosters to passersby.

There were no takers.

The one hen began to lay. There was wild joy and celebration about the Colonel's vast acreage, until an accounting was made of the cost per egg. With a production rate of one per day, balanced against the cost of feed and coop construction costs, the price of Eegeebeegee eggs was approximately $37.50 each--slightly above the price per egg at the local grocers.

With no takers for the excess roosterage and egg production costs threatening to bankrupt the whole enterprise, the Colonel was forced to take matters into his own hands. This morning, while the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was up the road purchasing pullets, the Colonel was making room for them in the coop.

The Colonel will probably be the only one with enough stomach to chow down on the smoked chicken this evening. Fine by me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rebel of Arabia

At the Ole Miss -- Vanderbilt game in Oxford on Saturday the pre-game activities included a flyover by a B-52. For the increasingly disenchanted members of Rebel Nation, that thrill turned out to be the highlight of the afternoon. It is shaping up to be a typical Ole Miss football season, replete with missed opportunities, broken plays and broken hearts. The Colonel actually appreciates the poor play of our football team--it stirs slumbering synapses of nostalgia that remind him of those halcyon days spent on campus, where the fun of college was interrupted many a fall weekend with a trek across the Grove to witness gridiron debacles.

Another memory was stirred from deep in the Colonel's fogbound faculties on Saturday. As the B-52 grew from a dot on the northern horizon and lumbered in full-throated roar overhead, the Colonel was reminded of another B-52 flyover nearly three decades ago.

In 1982, the Colonel, then a First Lieutenant, was assigned to the headquarters staff of the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU), embarked on amphibious shipping in the Western Pacific. The Colonel's job title was Training Officer, but owing to the fact that he was the most junior officer on the staff, the position's duties really should have been described by the job title: SLJO (Stinky Little Jobs Officer). Whenever somebody was needed to run some demeaning errand, deliver some unwelcome message, or represent the command at some uncomfortable event, the Colonel's boss would call him aside and begin his orders with the imperious intonation, "Rebel, this is more important than whatever you are doing at the moment..."

Being both not-so-bright and eager to please, the Colonel would accept his boss' assessment of the relative importance of the mission now assigned, salute smartly, and step off in the enthusiastic attack. Even when it began to slowly dawn in the dimly lit interior of the Colonel's brain-housing group that most of the missions to which he was so assigned were not-so-important, he still endeavored to attack each one as if the outcome of some great campaign weighed in the balance and depended solely on his diligence.

In the fall of 1982, the 31st MAU was scheduled to make an amphibious landing on the southern coast of the Sultanate of Oman and then conduct training exercises with the Sultan of Oman's Army. Ordinarily, the Colonel's job during exercises of this sort was to act as a watch officer in the Landing Force Operations Center, maintaining situational awareness of the course of the landing and the subsequent exercise, and regularly briefing the boss on highlights and decision points. It was a job the Colonel actually looked forward to.

But, three or four days prior to the exercise, the Colonel's boss called him aside and imperiously intoned, "Rebel, this is more important than whatever you are doing at the moment. The Omanis have requested that we exchange liaison officers. There's a helicopter leaving in an hour for the Omani HQ. Be on it."

The Colonel responded with his customary, "Aye, aye, Sir!," and headed to his stateroom to grab his gear and a change of socks. An hour and fifteen minutes later, the Colonel stepped off the helicopter at the edge of an encampment that looked like something straight out of the movie "Lawrence of Arabia." A bewildered-looking Omani officer climbed aboard and took the Colonel's seat; the look on his face turning to near abject horror as the chopper lifted off--evidently it was his first helicopter ride. The Colonel completely understood how that young Omani felt--this was about to be the Colonel's first camel ride.

To the Colonel's surprise, he was greeted by a red-headed officer wearing the uniform and insignia of a major in the Sultan of Oman's Land Forces. "Hello, Leftenant," he said with a toothy grin and a clipped British accent, "Major Tony Martel, aide de camp to General Hamadi."

The Colonel snapped to the rigid position of attention, saluted and introduced himself, "Sir!, Lieutenant Ed Gregory." Major Martel extended his hand and grinned, "That shall be the last 'sir' and salute for me, Ed. Call me Tony."

The Colonel doesn't know if it's still in practice, but in those days, and owing to a long and close relationship with Great Britain, the Omanis had an agreement with the British by which experienced Commonwealth officers could take leaves of absence for several years and serve with the Omani military as "contract officers." As inducement, the Sultan of Oman offered considerably more in compensation than did the Queen. These "contract officers" filled many positions in the middle grades (captain to lieutenant colonel), and also acted as mentors and trainers to the junior Omani officers.

Tony Martel escorted the Colonel into the camp and our first stop was the officers' mess tent where "tea" was being served. There, the Colonel (then just a lowly lieutenant, remember) was presented and introduced to the General and his officers, and, much to his embarrassment, received a standing cheer. This was not going to be the usual "stinky little job!"

Over the next several days, the Colonel was treated to tours of the training grounds that included visits with local inhabitants. One afternoon we visited a Bedouin encampment and received an invitation to stay for the evening meal. The images from that evening were straight out of the pages of National Geographic. We sat in a billowing tent around a large brass tray heaped with rice and goat. Across from the Colonel sat the smiling Bedouin chief, resplendent in white robes with a large traditional rhino horn-handled dagger belted at his waist. Next to the chief sat his frowning body guard, his robes criss-crossed with bandoleers of cartridges for the ancient Enfield rifle on which he leaned. This man's frown never left his face and his eyes never left the Colonel for a moment during the entire evening--he clearly wanted this infidel to make a wrong move!

On the day of the start of the exercise, the Colonel sat next to the Omani General in a makeshift reviewing stand on a promontory overlooking the beaches across which the battalion landing team from the 31st MAU would conduct an amphibious landing. The coastline ran roughly north and south. The landing beach was to our north and the sprawling Omani army encampment was to our south. As the hour for the landing approached, the Colonel explained to the General the phases of an amphibious operation. The Colonel had been told that there would be a low flyover of some sort just as the landing craft were approaching the beach to demonstrate the aviation delivered ordinance that would be employed to support the landing. As there was an aircraft carrier operating in our area, the Colonel expected that we would see a couple of fighter bombers high overhead and was scanning the horizon out to sea to see them first and be able to show them to the General.

The landing craft were drawing ever closer to the beach, and the Colonel was beginning to grumble to himself about the unreliability of Navy Air, as no carrier aircraft were anywhere to be seen. In frustration, the Colonel widened his scan and turned to look behind us to the south. No more than a half mile in the distance, and at an altitude that could not have exceeded 500 feet, the unmistakable head-on profile of a United States Air Force B-52G Stratofortress filled a significant portion of the view. As the bomber bore in, filling an exponentially increasing portion of the view south, the Colonel had just enough time to touch the General on his elbow, catch his eye, and jerk a thumb over my shoulder, before the huge plane was upon us.

As our perch was several hundred feet above sea level, and the bomber's crew were obviously attempting to bring their beast over the beach as low as possible, the B-52 thundered so low over our position that it seemed one needed to duck or get a haircut courtesy of the Strategic Air Command.

The Omani General bellowed something about Admiral Ackbar.

The Omani camp exploded.

No bomb had been dropped. But, no bomb was needed. The sonic blast from eight jet engines sufficed.

Over the years, the Colonel has tried to find words to describe the aftermath of the flyover on that camp. The words have always escaped him, and do to this day. There is a scene from a movie that fits, however. In "Lawrence of Arabia," Lawrence's Arab army catches a Turk army in retreat and falls upon it. As the massacre subsides, Sir Lawrence Olivier's character wanders the battlefield in search of Lawrence. Picture the carnage in the background. That's what the Omani camp looked like after the flyover.

Likely the Colonel will ever see a B-52 in flight without remembering the non-lethal leveling of that Omani camp by the penultimate icon of lethality.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Replacing the Colonel -- 38

The Colonel's alma mater is in the throes of a political correctness induced mascot replacement controversy. The University of Mississippi has been known as the Ole Miss Rebels since early in the last century. The Ole Miss mascot was a caricature of a southern planter named Colonel Rebel. A few years back, Colonel Rebel was banned from sports events, and this summer, the University officially "retired" Colonel Rebel as the school's mascot--supposedly in an effort to further distance the school from its racially insensitive past.

For the past couple of years, Ole Miss has been trying to find a replacement mascot. The problem is that when you are the Ole Miss Rebels, it's hard to find a mascot that reflects what that name infers without being odious to some. As a result, the handful of mascot candidates to which a year-long mascot search has been narrowed range from woefully lame to downright embarrassing. One candidate is actually two muppet characters named Hotty and Toddy (after the school cheer).


This Colonel has a better idea.

As much as the Colonel would dearly love to see Colonel Rebel return to his rightful place on the sidelines as the official mascot, he is ready to yield, and proffer another thought.

Why not have Chucky Mullins represent Ole Miss? Why not replace Colonel Rebel with Chucky Mullin's number 38?

For the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon, and who may not have a clue who Chucky Mullins was, allow the Colonel to elucidate.

Twenty years ago this weekend, in a game against Vanderbilt, Safety Chucky Mullins made a career and life as he had known it-ending tackle. He was paralyzed from the neck down. Even before his accident, Mullins was known for his never-say-die attitude and courage on an off the field. Not recruited by Ole Miss, Mullins told then coach Billy Brewer that if given a scholarship Brewer would not be sorry.

Turns out that was the understatement of the decade.

Mullins eventually returned to school and inspired all with whom he came in contact. His always positive attitude and can-do spirit made you almost forget he was confined to a wheel chair.

A year later, a pulmonary embolism ended Chucky Mullins' life, but not his legacy. The Chucky Mullins Courage Award is presented yearly to the Ole Miss football player whose conduct on and off the field best exemplifies the courage displayed by Mullins. For a few years, the award winner wore Mullins' number 38 jersey. After Ole Miss retired his number (the only other number retired by Ole Miss was Archie Manning's number 18), the award winner wore the number 38 prominently on the shoulder of his jersey.

At the end of the tunnel from the Ole Miss locker room sits a bust of Chucky Mullins; each player and coach touches the head of the man whose name means Courage before running on to the field.

Ole Miss doesn't need an embarrassingly lame mascot replacement. Ole Miss has Chucky Mullins and the number 38. Every other school in the nation has some sort of personage, animal, or plant for a mascot. Some schools share the same mascot. No other school honors a player hero as mascot.
This is a no-brainer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thinking Ahead

The Colonel, as the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon can attest, is not exactly the most regular of writers. Some weeks, when the mood strikes, he'll punish his meager readership with a veritable blitzkrieg of blog posts. Then there are weeks when he is blessedly silent, allowing respite to those whose lives are so rudely afflicted by his curmudgeonry.

Often the Colonel opines on topics of interest or disgust gleaned from mass media. At other times certain dates awaken a memory of a history lesson learned or a personal lesson earned. Last week was a week that had a plethora of both--a target-rich environment of idiots and scoundrels, and a treasure trove of historical highlights and personal memories. The air waves and data streams abounded with opportunities for the Colonel's opinionated comment.

And, just seemed too easy to wade into the fray.

Don't misunderstand the Colonel. Ain't much he likes better than a good scrap--the bigger the melee the better. And this time of year seems to provide more melees per metered mile than any other season.

But, for some reason this past week it just felt too much like piling on to chime in with the Colonel's two cents worth. Could it be that the Colonel is developing a nascent sensibility--a sensitivity to other's opinion--a hesitancy to strike out in his customary hyper-criticality?


The truth is the Colonel recognized a fight well-joined and saved his ammo for the next engagement.

While he waits on that next firefight, the Colonel will leave you with this thought:

Nine years ago, after a long night of watching skyscrapers collapse over and over, the Colonel woke the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda as he left for the office and told her to get ready. The Colonel was convinced that a major war was in the offing and that his bride needed to be ready to send both her husband and her sons off to fight.

When the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda asked "do you really think so?", the Colonel responded with "There's not a doubt in my military mind."

There still isn't.

For those who think that the minor campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, once concluded, will mark the end of America's latest war, the Colonel must regrettably inform you that harboring that thought is fool-hardy at best.

The real war hasn't even gotten started yet.

And, when it comes (and it will come most likely sooner rather than later), Americans will look back wistfully on the last decade. The real war will be more than the entertaining distraction that the Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns were for the majority of Americans. The real war will require real sacrifice. The real war will require a massive draft. The real war will challenge most Americans personally in ways only our grandparents and great-grandparents were.

The Colonel hopes he's wrong--but knows he isn't. And, you know he isn't either.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


The Colonel was torn over the appropriate title for this post. "Bombs Away" was a first thought. "First Fruit" crossed the ever-widening synaptic gaps in the amorphous goo lying fallow in the dark and largely infertile recesses of the Colonel's brain-housing group. "Opening Ova" richochetted randomly in the Colonel's cranial cavity.

The Colonel settled on... well, the memories of the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon aren't that short...

As the five of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon (and whose memories aren't short) will remember, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and the Colonel started a chicken herd back on the first weekend after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. In those early halcyon days of chick wrangling, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda and the Colonel were concerned that our chicken herd would be an all-hen harem, sans rooster.

Turns out those fears were ever-so slightly unfounded.

Actually, worry over the presence of a rooster in the Eegeebeege Chicken Herd turned gradually to concern for the rooster ratio and finally to dismay at the realization that of the surviving original seven Rhode Island Reds ALL were roosters, save one.

The only thing that matches this circumstance for embarrassment was the Rebels blowing a 21 point halftime lead this past weekend against our FCS home opener practice patsy and letting them take us to double overtime. And, since we were in such a giving mood this weekend, we decided to give them the game.

The only way last Saturday could have been any more embarrassing would have been if the idiot administrators at my alma mater had decided this would have been the best weekend to introduce the new mascot. We still don't know what will replace the irreplacable Colonel Reb, but this Colonel will bet you a punch in the jaw, and give you fifteen minutes to assemble witnesses, that whatever the new mascot is, it will be more embarrassing than flatulence in the choir loft.

But, the Colonel digresses.

With a rooster-to-hen ratio of six to one, never has more hope been placed on the feathered shoulders of any chicken as have been laid (pun intended) on those of one Rhode Island Red hen, callsign: Olivia.

More hope than a fifteen-year-old who just spent his last five dollars on a jar of acne cream.

Doug Flutie had less hope riding on his last pass in the '84 Boston College-Miami game.

This afternoon, amid much cackling and and scratching in the hen house integral to the Eegeebeegee Chicken Coop, Olivia turned hope to elation. Never, in the annals of barnyard fowl, has the arrival of one egg been the cause for such celebration.

If there had been goal posts in the Colonel's backyard, he and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda would have torn them down.

We'll probably have it bronzed.