Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tom Hardy, Marine

Thomas William Hardy, of Columbus, Mississippi, passed away earlier this month.   He was 93. 

Only weeks before his death,  Hardy climbed into his sail plane for one last flight; logging the last hour in a flight record opened nearly eight decades before.

A 1939 graduate of Mississippi State, Hardy put his degree in Mechanical Engineering and his love of flying to work together as an experimental test engineer with the Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Corporation. 

When his nation went to war, he went with it.

Flying F-4U Corsairs with the famed "Checkerboards" of Marine Fighter Squadron (VMF) 312, Hardy was credited with three official victories against Japanese pilots.  

Like most in his generation, Hardy was circumspect about his wartime experience.  He was not, however, bashful about his love of flying. 

His octogenarian aerial adventures in the skies over Mississippi are the stuff of local legend.  One newspaperman in his hometown went as far as to call Hardy, "the Edmund Hillary of Mississippi."  Most who knew of his sail plane sorties were unaware that his time in the air also included time logged in mortal combat during a war fought when he and his nation were much younger and the battle lines were drawn between America and its enemies -- not between Americans.

The Colonel had the good fortune to meet Tom Hardy eight or ten years ago.  The Colonel's father and buddies have for many years held a Sunday afternoon sporting clays match in which Hardy was a frequent participant.  At one such outing, the Colonel was introduced to an elderly, yet spry, gentleman with, "this is Tom Hardy.  He was a Marine fighter pilot in World War Two."

The Colonel began to launch into a practiced spiel reserved for Marines from generations before his own, wherein he thanks the older veterans for their legendary service that "makes being a Marine such an honor today."  

Hardy didn't allow the Colonel to finish, "We're here to shoot.  Let's shoot."

We shot.

Men like Tom Hardy are a rare commodity.  They are quietly heroic, living their lives with more purpose and energy than a dozen lesser men who believe, and pronounce, themselves superior.

Semper Fidelis, First Lieutenant Thomas William Hardy, USMC. 

The Colonel will insist on finishing his homage when we meet again.   

Then, you can give the Colonel some flight lessons.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Heroes: Incentive, or Inspiration?

War is both the most base and the most noble of man's endeavors.  Those who have marched with fellows into the maw of destruction know no other more horribly soul-crippling nor no more honorably self-sacrificing experience the rest of their however long lives.

Veterans, survivors, of war know that the heroism of their fallen comrades provides not incentive for more war, but inspiration to serve something larger than one's self and conviction to ensure that the sacrifices of the few for the freedoms of the many are not forgotten nor wasted.

Chris Hayes, whose grip on the reality of a world that pits good against evil is more tenuous than a newborn's grasp of the trim of his blanket, has not the first inkling of a clue.  Frankly, he deserves no more attention than to pity the desolation of his vacuous view.

You and the Colonel knew many like him in the formative years of our high school and college matriculation. 

They wore peace symbols, not out of any real conviction for peace, but because it was cool.

They blithely blathered about disarmament without thinking for a moment that evil never reciprocates.

They naively spouted Marx and sought to to shine a bright spotlight on the relative few inevitable imperfections of our constitutional republic and its conduct in support of self-determination abroad, while never once pausing to credit the overwhelming good that our nation did in the lives of others around the globe.

They refused to respect anything -- not the flag that caresses the caskets of freedom's fallen, not the norms of a society that spawned the greatest leaps forward in man's long history, not their fellow citizens' right to the "free exercise" of religion in the public square --  except their own warped and deluded sense of enlightened intelligence.

They sneered in denigrating contempt at those who, in admirable early-onset maturity, followed a call to serve something larger than themselves.

Many of these awakened from the self-induced slumber of their self-righteous self-absorption and became productive members of society, at both ends of the political spectrum.

The rest became journalists and college professors.   


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Limitation Lamentations

One of the Colonel's favorite movie lines is the observation made by Clint Eastwood's character, "Dirty" Harry Callahan, in the cinematic tour de force, "Magnum Force.

"A man's got to know his limitations."

The Colonel has rarely been one to follow that advice.  And, with regard to the Colonel's physical limitations, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda knows no... well, let's just say she's never been a Dirty Harry fan.    

Take the Colonel's latest forays afield in agriculture, landscaping, and animal husbandry, for example.

The Colonel, as the thousands of you who hang on his every written word in posts hereon have by no difficulty ascertained (except for the LSU grads who think the Colonel just used a naughty word), has been on an involuntary writing hiatus of late. 

Part of it has been his fault.

Part of it has been the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's fault.

Let's start with her.

Now, far be it from the Colonel, whose occasional lack of judgement, frequent loss of situational awareness, and catastrophe-defying clumsiness is the stuff of local legend, family lore, and several not-so-flattering semi-annual Marine Corps officer fitness reports, to cast aspersions on the judgement of his blushing bride of nearly 36 years (although the last part of this sentence prior to the parenthetical pause you are now perusing does call her matrimonial decision-making into question).  However, even she has a hard time refuting her reputation for underestimation of project scope and resource requirements.

Case in point: Renovation of the flower beds and lawn in front of our church.

Six weeks ago, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda approached the Colonel during one of his frequent reverse prone strategic planning sessions and, in her ever-so-loving and gentle way, gained the Colonel's attention.

"Hey! Knucklehead! Wake up! You're burning daylight and I've got a small project I need your help with."

The Colonel opened one eye and regarded his soul-mate with apprehension bordering on stark terror.  He attempted to divert the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda by engaging her in loving small talk.

"Dear, one should never interrupt a steely-eyed Marine in the midst of deep thought, and one should never end a sentence in a preposition.


"Dear, you said you have a project, and the Colonel quotes, 'I need your help with.'  You used the preposition 'with' at the end of the your sentence.  Not good grammar.  Let's try the sentence, again -- this time placing the preposition in the sentence correctly."

"Buddy, if you don't get a move on, you're gonna be black-eyed instead of steely-eyed.  I've just got a little project up at the church I need your help with..."  

"Ah, ah, ah..."


"That's better!  Now, what is this little project on which you need the Colonel's help?"  

"Grrrr!!  Get up and get in the truck.  We're just going to move a few bushes and some clumps of monkey grass.  Shouldn't take the two of us more than 30 minutes with a shovel."

Four weeks of 10-hour physical labor-intensive days (involving the removal of two acres of monkey grass, moving forty-seven holly bushes, installation of an irrigation system and the laying of ten pallets of sod) later, Miss Brenda stood astride her prostrate man (collapsed in a mud puddle created by his own sweat) and proudly pronounced, "Phase I is complete!"

"Phase I ?!?," the prostrate Colonel croaked through dehydrated vocal chords.  "Just how many phases does this 30-minute project have?"       

Lest anyone get the impression that the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's projects have been the sole reason for the Colonel's absence from his appointed place of duty enlightening and entertaining the masses via the written word, the Colonel must admit that he shares some responsibility.

A few days prior to the initiation of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's landscaping project / reenactment of the physical labor involved in the construction of the Panama Canal, the Colonel and Grandson #2, aka: H21CC-2 (Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dash 2), loaded up the truck and headed into the center of the southern cultural universe, and home of the Harvard of the South -- Oxford -- to stimulate the economy at the local garden shop.

Said local garden shop was supposed to be receiving a shipment of Barred Rock chicks that morning and the Colonel was desirous of increasing and diversifying his monochromatic Rhode Island Red hen herd by the acquisition of one half dozen of said Barred Rock chicks. 

Alas, upon their arrival at said local garden shop, H21CC-2 and the Colonel were disappointed to learn that the shipment of said Barred Rock chicks had yet to arrive.

"Not a problem, little buddy," the Colonel reassured his third favorite person on the entire planet, "we'll go over to the Tractor Supply Store and pick up a few things and then come back and get the chicks later."

Upon arrival at the second stop in the Colonel's economic stimulus trip, the keen ears of H21CC-2 picked up the peeping of chicks.

"Pop!  They have some chicks!  We can get our chicks here!"

The Colonel bets you didn't know that four-year olds do not have a very keen appreciation for the differences between fuzzy yellow chicks that will become non-descript plain ol' white chickens and fuzzy black chicks that will become beautiful Barred Rock hens with which the Colonel was desirous of increasing and diversifying his heretofore monochromatic hen herd.  

To a four-year old, a chick is a chick.  And this particular four-year old wasn't budging from his position adjacent the wash tub full of chicks until he had some of his own.

Bottom line?  Instead of six, the Colonel now has twelve new mouths to feed. 

And water. 

And feed, again. 

And water, again.

And check on every 30 minutes.

Between landscaping and chick raising, who's got time to write?

Oh, and there's the garden.

Well..., gardens.  

The small garden up here on the hill next to the Big House aboard  Eegeebeegee -- the Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere and the capital of the Tallahatchie Free State -- has been wildly successful at the production of tomatoes and squash.  So much so that the Colonel felt emboldened last year to open up, down in the bottom behind the Big House, another quarter of an acre to cultivation wherein he raised a bumper crop of corn, okra, and cantaloupes.

And cantaloupes.

And more cantaloupes.

Countless cantaloupes.

Cantaloupe for every meal, cantaloupes.

Cantaloupe for every neighbor within a three mile radius, cantaloupes.

The Colonel invites you, at this juncture, to revisit the opening lines of this missive and recall the point he made regarding his frequent failure to heed Dirty Harry's advice on personal knowledge of limitations.

The garden in the bottom behind the Big House has trebled -- nay, quadrupled -- in size this year, replete with rows and rows and rows of beans, peas, spinach, onions, potatoes, okra, corn, squash, cucumbers, watermelons...,

And cantaloupes.

So, pardon the Colonel for his blogging truancy.  He's been a little busy...

Oh, and did the Colonel mention he got to go on vacation last week with his in-laws?  Wait until you read about that.

Of course, it might be a week or two before the Colonel gets back to his keyboard...