Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The equals sign (=) was dreamed up in 1557 by Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde, who said he was tired of writing “is equal to” ad infinitum.

● Pokémon, the omnipresent Japanese game franchise, was created in 1990 by video game designer Satoshi Tajiri. So far, 807 Pokémoncreatures have been introduced.

The word Pokémon is a contraction of the Japanese term Poketto Monsutā (Pocket Monsters). The inventor said the game was inspired by his childhood hobby of collecting bugs.

● The teeth of mammals are specialized according to subgroup (bovine teeth differ from canine teeth, etc.), but all teeth have three components: an outer layer of inorganic enamel, the hardest substance in the body; a middle layer of living dentin, which is similar to bone; and the central pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels to nourish the dentin.

In 1758, the King of Spain issued a land grant in central Mexico to Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo. There, near the town of Tequila, the Cuervo family cultivated blue agaves, producing the first commercial mezcal de tequila in 1795.

In 1900, the widow of a recently-deceased Don married Jose Cuervo Labatida, a master distiller at a competing company. He became the new Don, and the Cuervo family brand became “Jose Cuervo Tequila. It is still family-owned today.

Jose Cuervo

● Japanese baseball phenom Ichiro Suzuki spent nine seasons (1992-2000) in Nippon Professional Baseball before starting his MLB career in the U.S. His playing career ended in 2018, and he moved up to management with the Seattle Mariners. He holds 26 MLB records for hitting and batting.

In June 2016, Ichiro recorded career hit number 4,257, breaking the record held by Pete Rose. Rose was snarky because Ichiro got his first 1,278 hits in the Nippon League. “The next thing you know, you’ll be counting his high school hits,” said Rose, always a class act.

● Footwear is almost exclusively mass-produced these days, but historically, shoe-making was an important craft — as well as laborious and time-consuming. Technically, an artisan who makes new footwear is a cordwainer, and one who makes repairs is a cobbler.

● In 2016, it was revealed that President François Hollande of France had a full-time personal barber on his staff, at a salary of $132,000 annually. Because of high unemployment and domestic troubles, Hollande’s approval rating already was the lowest for a French President in modern history. The barber story was the last straw, and Hollande declined to seek reelection in 2017.

In most animal species, the males use ornamentation (elaborate plumage, bright colors, impressive antlers) to attract females. One rare example of females using ornamentation to attract males is the glow worm, a variety of flightless beetle.

All glow worms glow in the larval stage, but only females retain the ability to shine as adults. Researchers have found that (a) the brightest females produce the most eggs and (b) males are attracted to females that glow the brightest.

Glow worm

● Chewing gum has been banned in Singapore since 1992. The government was fed up with vandals finding creative ways to dispose of their gum: in keyholes, on elevator buttons, in mailboxes, under bus seats, and, of course, on streets and sidewalks. Some vandals had taken to sticking wads of gum on the door sensors of mass transit vehicles, which not only screws up schedules, but also is a safety risk.

Lobbyists for Wrigley Co., the chewing gum behemoth, tried to beat the ban (of course they did), but only managed one minor concession: in 2003, Singapore conceded that certain chewing gums have health benefits, such as ingredients that strengthen tooth enamel.

Thus, the sale of “medicinal gum” now is allowed, but only by dentists and pharmacists, who are required to report the names of the buyers.

● The longest cave system in the world is Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, which is documented as 405 miles long. It likely will become even longer as connections are found to other cave systems in the limestone of the region.

The world’s second-longest cave system, located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, is 215 miles long. The third longest is in South Dakota and is 193 miles long.

General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson got his nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861 from fellow general Barnard Bee, who remarked that Jackson stood his ground like a “stone wall.”

Bee was killed in the battle, so no one knows whether he was complementing Jackson for his courage or insulting him, alluding to the fact that Jackson and his men should have advanced, but did not.

The hoatzin, a tropical bird native to the Amazon region, is the only member of its genus, having evolved separately from other birds. Due to their appearance, they are known as reptile birds.

The species is unique for having a digestive system that ferments vegetation in a specialized stomach, as do ruminants (cows, goats, deer). For this reason, hoatzins smell terrible and also are known as stinkbirds or skunk birds.

Hoatzin

 

Read Full Post »

Meet the Fam

My previous post was a report on how I got motivated last year and began tracing the Smith family lineage in a serious way. With the help of Ancestry.com and other online resources, I traced the family way back — to the King of Jutland, a Danish Viking born circa 760 A.D.

His name was Halfdan Haraldsson, and he lived 33 generations ago, in the Early Middle Ages. Back then, Charlemagne was King of the Franks, forcing Christianity on everyone, and the heathen Vikings were busy plundering the region.

When doing the research, I focused on my paternal lineage, and I was able to follow the Smith name back 400 years before I ran out of clues.

That was disappointing, but not fatal. It was an easy matter to switch from paternal to maternal lineage and keep going back. Eventually, I stopped with Halfdan.

To be clear, the line of ancestry I documented is just one thread in the greater tapestry. I followed the most promising clues, going in one direction when others were equally available. In the end, I identified one specific chain of relatives out of a veritable web of them.

With that preamble, here is a summary of what I learned about our forebears over the 1,200 years between Halfdan Haraldsson and the Smiths of today.

———

Denmark, Germany, and France

Halfdan Haraldsson (circa 760-810) was born on the Jutland Peninsula in northern Germany near the Danish border. He lived in Denmark as an adult, fighting various rivals and becoming King of Jutland. He was a Viking and certainly facilitated much of their signature raiding and plundering.

The son of Halfdan and his Norwegian wife Helga was Harald “Klak” Halfdansson (c. 800-854), who succeeded his father as king. Harald married Sigrid Helgesdatter (800-854) also Norwegian.

Fam-1

King Harald “Klak” Halfdansson.

Klak’s son, Godfrid “The Dane” Haraldsson (825-885), was in line to become king, but he was impatient. Godfrid moved south with a contingent of followers and seized land in Germany. Twice, he led raids back into Denmark, trying to overthrow his father. He failed.

Godfrid finally gave up and moved further south, establishing a fiefdom in Guines on the northern coast of France near Calais. Godfrid’s son Sigfrid (905-968) was the 1st Count of Guines.

Beginning with Sigfrid’s son Ardolph (965-996), the family name was gallicized to Le Blount.

Ardolph Le Blount was the 2nd Count of Guines. His son Rudolph (996-1036) was the 3rd Count. Rudolph’s son Robert (1036-1086) was the 4th Count. There was no fifth Count because events led the Le Blounts to leave France and become Englishmen.

To England in 1066

In 1066, William the Conqueror assembled an army from across France to invade England. That undertaking was, as you undoubtedly know, successful. Sir Robert Le Blount (the 4th and last Count of Guines) commanded William’s fleet of warships. He was known as “the Admiral.”

As the spoils of war, the Admiral was awarded a large chunk of the county of Suffolk, northeast of London. He became the 1st Baron of Ixworth, that being his town of residence in Suffolk.

Between 1066 and 1270, six Le Blounts held the title Baron of Ixworth.

Fam-2

The family coat of arms.

During the 1200s, the family name evolved to Le Heyre, Le Eyre, and Eyre. Historians haven’t confirmed the reasons.

English Nobility

For several centuries, the Eyres lived as proper English nobility with holdings in both Suffolk and the county of Derbyshire, north of London.

In 1424, Sir Robert Eyre (1392-1459) of Padley, Derbyshire, England, married Joan de Padley (1399-1463). My previous post describes Sir Robert’s service as an English knight and the burial place of Sir Robert and Lady Joan.

To America

By the mid-1500s, the names Smythe and Smyth had appeared in the lineage. Richard Smyth (1553-1593) of Herefordshire, England, who died in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is the first Smith in our family known to have come to America.

Richard’s son John Smyth (1592-1649) and John’s wife Margaret Blythe Smyth (1596-1645) were among the first 140 settlers of the Maryland colony, arriving in 1634 aboard the Ark and the Dove.

Fam-3

The arrival of Lord Calvert, leader of the Maryland colony, on the Ark and the Dove.

Maryland and Georgia

In the Maryland colony, the spelling of the family name changed to Smith. Maryland was home to the next several generations of Smiths, most of whom lived in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore. I haven’t made inquiries, but many of our relatives undoubtedly still live there.

Around 1800, three Smith brothers from Maryland moved south to Georgia. They were Archibald Smith (1736-1799) and two of his three younger brothers. (Benjamin, George, and Elijah were the brothers, but I don’t know which two accompanied Archibald or where they settled.)

Archibald lived in Hancock County, midway between Atlanta and Savannah. His son moved further south to a rural area near Savannah.

In 1839, Archibald’s grandson George (1817-1867) married Jemima Ruth Sumner (1815-1896), and they settled in Bartow, Georgia, near Augusta. The second of their eight children was John Wesley Smith (1845-1918), my great-grandfather.

In 1875, John Wesley, a Confederate veteran, married Martha Roseanna Sherrod (1854-1939) in a double wedding ceremony with her sister Elizabeth.

Fam-4

The youngest son of Martha and John Wesley was Walter Anthony Smith (1881-1950), my grandfather.

Savannah

In 1892, John Wesley Smith and his family moved to Savannah, where he worked as a house painter and roofer. In 1918, at age 73, he died on the job in a fall.

In 1916, John Wesley’s son Walter married Stella Etta Ham (1894-1969) of nearby Pooler, Georgia. The oldest of their four children was my dad, Walter Anthony Smith, Jr. (1917-2002).

Walter Senior was a prominent Savannah businessman. At age 19, he took a one-year business course and became a clerk at the Railway Express Agency. Soon thereafter, he went into the cotton business.

Walter became a “cotton factor” at the Port of Savannah — an agent for inland cotton farmers. His job was to grade, sell, and arrange for the shipment of the cotton to world markets. He was in the cotton factoring business for 40 years.

My dad, Walter Junior, was a bomber pilot during World War II, and he flew jet fighters in Korea. After his Air Force career, Dad went into banking, which had been his major in college. I’ve written about him many times on this blog.

Fam-5

Dad, a dashing cadet at Army Air Corps Flight School. He included this photo with his Christmas cards in 1940.

Today

Names come and go. And soon, I regret to say, the Smith name will fade away in my family.

That’s because all of the children in the latest generation of Smiths are female. When they marry or pass on, our line of Smiths will come to an end. The literal end of an era.

I realize, of course, that a name is a superficial matter. As the foregoing family history illustrates, what counts is the bloodline and the people. I get that.

Still, the looming demise of the Smith name makes me sad.

 

Read Full Post »

The Family Iceberg

Two years ago, I posted a story about finally biting the bullet and delving seriously into Smith family genealogy. As it turned out, we Georgia Smiths originally came from Maryland. I’m not sure what I expected, but Maryland wasn’t it.

Around 1800, for reasons unknown, three Smith brothers left Maryland, where their family had lived for several generations, and moved to Georgia. We, the Savannah Smiths, are descended from one of the brothers, Archibald.

At the time I wrote that post, we also thought we had identified the first American Smith in our lineage: James Smith, who arrived in Maryland from England in 1660.

We were wrong. That distinction, it now appears, belongs to Richard Smyth (1553-1593) of Herefordshire, England, who died (at a young age, you’ll note) in Massachusetts.

James wasn’t even the second American Smith. His parents, John and Margaret Smyth, were here before him. They were among the original settlers of the Maryland colony, arriving in 1634.

For us, those revelations were a big deal. Prior to 2016, we could trace the Smiths back only as far as Archibald. No one could figure out where he came from.

We guessed he was Scotch-Irish and came from North Carolina, because that’s a common background for Georgians. Now, suddenly, we had traced our lineage back 400 years to England.

Well, I’m here to tell ya, that was just the tip of the family iceberg.

Last year, feeling on a roll, I continued the research and traced our ancestry back a lot more. A WHOLE lot more.

I followed our lineage back through many generations in England; and before that, through many more in France; and before that, to Germany and Denmark.

At the moment, our earliest known ancestor is Halfdan Haraldsson (circa 760-810) a Danish Viking king.

I could have kept tracing Halfdan’s forebears, but I had to stop somewhere.

While doing all that digging, I learned some interesting lessons about genealogical research.

Lesson 1. To state the obvious, a family tree consists of numerous lines of ancestry, branching out (pun intended) in all directions. When you research your ancestors, you enter a labyrinth that is complex and mind-boggling.

You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, and 32 great-great-great-grandparents. That takes you back just six generations.

In addition, every generation consists of some mix of sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Not to mention divorces, re-marriages, stepchildren, and adoptions.

In light of all that, genealogical research means choosing which path to follow out of many before you.

Lesson 2. On the positive side, this complexity also means that when the clues run out and you hit a roadblock, you can back up a step and explore another path.

Lesson 3. In my experience, the hardest part of the research was of the generations immediately preceding me.

I suspect that’s common. Like most families, the Smiths were ordinary folks leading ordinary lives. They were farmers and merchants, not presidents and popes.

They were not lauded for grand accomplishments, their deeds recorded in history. Most made the newspapers only upon birth, marriage, and death.

If your family includes presidents or popes, doing the genealogy will be a snap. If it doesn’t, be prepared to work hard for every tidbit of information you unearth. Believe me, that goes double if you are a Smith.

Lesson 4. At some point, you may discover an ancestor who was famous to some degree. This will be an important breakthrough, because someone likely has done the genealogical work before you. The famous person’s lineage will be on the record, waiting for you to find it.

In other words, find your celebrity, and the rest is much easier.

In my case, I came across a celebrity of sorts in Sir Robert Eyre (1392-1459), an English nobleman and knight who fought in the Battle of Agincourt (France, 1415) during the Hundred Years’ War.

If the name Eyre is familiar, you’re probably thinking of Charlotte Brontë‘s novel Jane Eyre, which takes place in the same family in the 1700s.

Doing the research back to Sir Robert was difficult and slow, because most of his descendants, as far as I could determine, were not remotely famous; researching the generations before him was much easier, because in his lineage was a succession of barons, counts, and kings.

FYI, Sir Robert and his wife, Lady Joan Eyre, are buried at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Hathersage, England.

This brass plate is affixed to their tomb:

Eyre-1

Nearby, this plaque is on display:

Eyre-2

Sir Robert and Lady Joan had 14 children.

In my next post, I will present a summary of the Smith family lineage, from Halfdan Haraldsson to the present.

I decided to make that a separate post, in case you aren’t interested in someone else’s ancestors and have better things to do.

You’re welcome.

 

Read Full Post »

Last spring, having lived without a dog for two years, I began looking for a new co-pilot. After passing up a lot of pooches, I adopted Joliet Jake. Patience is a virtue, my friends.

Jake is happy, healthy, and a very good boy. He has a few lingering bad habits, but, hey — who doesn’t?

As for me, the sense of well-being you get from having a pet around the house is back. I’ll probably live longer as a result.

Anyway, at this point, it seems time for a Jake update.

For the two of us, the daily routine is now pretty well established…

Every morning, we go for an hour-long walk, usually somewhere in Jefferson, sometimes at a park in Athens or Gainesville.

I carry two doggy bags in my wallet. Bag #2 is for when bag #1 got used and I forgot to restock.

The back seat of the car belongs to Jake, who rides joyfully with his head out the window, tongue waving in the wind. It’s important that both windows are rolled down, so he can dart from side to side as conditions require.

During the day, he often gets on the bed to play with toys or take a snooze. At night, he prefers to sleep on the floor.

A few weeks ago, I installed a dog door to the back yard. Now he isn’t stuck in the house while I’m gone.

Jake-5

So, you ask, what about Jake’s personality and behavior? How is he adapting? Is he a good boy all the time?

No, not all the time. He has a few problem areas.

THE GOOD

When I adopted Jake, he was already housebroken, and he knew the “sit” command.

He is everybody’s pal, dog and human. He hasn’t shown any aggression, nor is he protective of his food or toys.

He doesn’t beg at the table or surf the kitchen counters.

Usually, he understands that my belongings and furnishings are off limits. See below where I elaborate on “usually.”

He is a natural for the dog parks. He engages in friendly play with the other dogs and, if alone, is happy to explore. He is fit, athletic, and could outrun an impala.

THE NOT SO GOOD

My car windows are perpetually decorated with nose art.

I’m living with dog hair again. I bought an electric sweeper and am obliged to use it daily.

Jake seems to prefer about seven hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, I prefer eight. Going to bed earlier is pointless, as he simply will get up earlier, so I am doomed to be sleep-deprived.

He is full of energy and is compelled to jump up and plant his paws on you. This is a problem when people visit. It’s a tough habit to break.

Thunder scares him. In a storm, he retreats to the back of my bedroom closet. Squeaky toys also unsettle him.

Early on, he developed the habit of occasionally stealing paper from wastebaskets. When I fussed at him about it, the behavior stopped, but only temporarily. I finally bought lidded wastebaskets.

Now and then, he steals items from the clothes hamper. An extreme example:

Jake-6

So far, nothing has been damaged, but the habit persisted until I put a lid on the hamper.

THE EVEN WORSE

Back in August, we had three traumatic incidents with bed linen and pillows. Total losses: one fitted sheet, one mattress cover, two pillow protectors, and one pillow case.

The damage occurred, it appears, during frenzies of digging on the bed. Maybe it was canine exuberance. Or maybe he was flipping back the sheets to get to the pillows. Apparently, he thinks pillows are fun to grab and shake. I guess it’s a dog thing.

Here is the first of the three incidents, resulting in the loss of a sheet and a mattress pad:

Jake-7

I’m not sure if he did the damage with his claws or his teeth. It’s probably academic anyway.

Two more incidents followed of a pillow being taken from the bed and the cover torn. After epic rants by me, I think he got the message. He hasn’t messed with pillows or bedding in a month.

IN SUMMARY

Jake is young and a typical Border Collie: smart, observant, and energetic. I expected that when I adopted him. I knew we would have a period of adjustment. Maybe a lengthy one.

On most days, he is quiet for long periods and then, without warning, enters wired mode. What makes him change from calm and serene one minute to chasing his tail the next? I wish I knew.

Of his problematic habits that persist, I manage them the best I can. He still gets into some kind of minor mischief every few days, but his behavior has improved considerably. He’s learning the rules.

His good qualities, of course, easily win out. He is a good-hearted pooch, fully devoted to me as the pack leader. Like all good dogs everywhere, he is completely without guile.

And, in the end, I find it hard to resist this handsome face.

Jake-8

 

Read Full Post »

Quotes o’ the Day

Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

###

You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist.

— Indira Gandhi

###

Better to get hurt with the truth than comforted with a lie.

— Khaled Hosseini

###

I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.

— Oscar Wilde

Emerson RW-2

Emerson

Wilde O

Wilde

 

Read Full Post »

In late 1967, I was still stationed at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, near Clovis, the “Cattle Capitol of the Southwest.” I was a 1st Lt. and Commander of the Supply Squadron, and I had moved off-base to an apartment in Clovis (where, incidentally, I met my future wife Deanna).

Here are some of my journal entries from those days. In them, you will meet:

Col. Frank Shepard, Base Commander
Col. George Doerr, Deputy Base Commander
Capt. John Thornton, Base Legal Officer and my roommate
Capt. Ted Mayo, Base Legal Officer

———

3 NOV 67

Well, I’m in trouble for sure. This morning, I testified in Airman Key’s administrative discharge hearing. Key is a bad apple, and Col. Shepard (the Rococo Toad) is hell-bent on kicking him out of the service. The pressure from the Toad to get it done has been intense. Ill-advised, if not illegal.

Thornton kept me on the stand for 45 minutes, and I said my piece. In the end, the board voted to retain Key in the Air Force. Shepard will go ballistic when he reads the transcript.

Originally, Mayo was appointed as Key’s counsel, but Key insisted on Thornton. Ted was livid. After the hearing, John being John, he sent a telegram to Ted in Ft. Worth, where he and Judy are attending a country club gala. The telegram read, KEY RETAINED STOP MAY HE COME TO THE BALL STOP

5 NOV 67

A few months ago, the City of Clovis installed a marble tablet of the 10 Commandments on the courthouse lawn. Yes, for real. Thornton and I went down there this afternoon to take photos.

And get this: the Clovis tablet has 11 (eleven!) Commandments. The line about not coveting thy neighbor’s house is presented as Commandment 10, and the rest of the shalt-not-covets are Commandment 11. You can’t make this stuff up.

I’m pretty sure the 10th Commandment is supposed to be something like this: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, nor his wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.”

The Clovis version also skips the “nor his ox” part, and “nor his ass” was changed to “nor his cattle.”

Maybe the cattle part is appropriate. Clovis has stockyards as far as the eye can see and the nose can smell.

10 Cs

6 NOV 67

I got a call this morning from SSgt Hinkle, who came home early from a TDY assignment to find an airman from my squadron living with his wife. Hink wants to confront the airman in my presence. The villainous airman is on leave for a few days, so I have that to look forward to.

Mayo got John’s telegram Friday night in Ft. Worth. It arrived while they were searching for a pearl and diamond bracelet Judy lost. They didn’t find it. Poor Ted.

7 NOV 67

Thornton got permission from 12th AF to release a summarized transcript of Airman Key’s board hearing. Thank God. I was really worried about how Col. Toad would react to my testimony, honest and accurate though it was.

John said he did it to save his own skin, not mine. In his closing argument, he called Shepard two-faced and a dupe. Why, Shep would kick John off the bowling team for that.

8 NOV 67

Hinkle came to my office today and said he changed his mind, he doesn’t want a come-to-Jesus meeting with the cuckolding airman. He just wants the guy transferred as far away from Cannon as possible, ASAP. If not, he will call his congressman and every officer at Cannon from the rank of bird colonel on up.

When I informed Col. Shepard, he summoned me to his office, where he was waiting with Col. Doerr (Commissioner Gordon). Doerr is a decent guy, but nobody considers him a mental giant. He had little to contribute.

Shepard finally decided it would be best to get the offending airman reassigned. He left to go talk to Personnel about it.

9 NOV 67

The Squadron Fire Marshals met today at 1400 hours. I had to meet with Col. Shepard and Hinkle at 1500, so at 1445, I got up and quietly excused myself.

Col. Stitt, always a favorite among the junior officers, said, “Where do you think you’re going?” I explained where. “Sit down, Lieutenant,” he said. Sir yes sir.

The meeting ran until 1530 hours. When I got to the Toad’s office, he chewed me out for being late. I apologized for being such a slug.

Col. Shepard told Sgt. Hinkle that the Casanova airman will get a fast assignment to somewhere else. Personnel is already working on it.

He then gave Hinkle a lecture on how to keep your family together. Ha. Last spring, the Toad’s wife threw him out for two weeks for some mysterious transgression. To our collective chagrin, we never found out what it was.

10 NOV 67

When I got back from lunch, Capt. Bryan from Civil Engineering was waiting in my office. Some major told him that the CE barracks is a disgrace and Bryan’s men are filthy pigs, which is true. The major said Bryan could learn something from Supply Squadron.

That was flattering. I wanted to ask which major it was, but Bryan wasn’t in a happy place, so I refrained.

In spite of being angry and insulted, Bryan was curious. And there he was, asking to see my barracks. I gave him the pass keys and sent him down the hall with a pat on the rump.

13 NOV 67

This morning, MSgt Smith popped in and said he couldn’t find the pass keys. Did I have them? Crap. That moron Bryan didn’t return them.

Smith asked what we should do. I said either pick up the phone and call Bryan or go over to CE and find him, your choice.

I’m amazed that Smith got to be a first sergeant. He always needs help or permission.

I’m beginning to think the Air Force is a haven for incompetents and loafers who can’t make it in the civilian world. Maybe the entire military is that way. I try to maintain my sense of humor about it. You could go mad if you let the daily nonsense and stupidity and petty dramas wear you down.

Now if I can just laugh my way through the next 264 days, I’ll have my DD 214.

DD 214

———

The Rocky Smith of those days honestly believed, I can attest, that the Air Force was a sanctuary for incompetents and loafers incapable of handling civilian life. To him, the evidence was clear.

On the other hand, he was still a young lieutenant, not long out of college, whose work experience was, in fact, limited to the Air Force. Not until he left the military and widened his experience would he learn the truth: all workplaces are the same, whether military, government, academic, privately-held, or whatever.

In reality, the world of Dilbert is the universal norm. Only the people change. And you might as well laugh as cry.

 

Read Full Post »

When I got my Bachelor’s degree in 1964, I wanted to follow up with a Master’s in Journalism and Law. But there was a complication. I took ROTC as an undergraduate, and at some point, the Air Force would call me up to serve four years on active duty.

In reality, months could pass, even a year or more, before your orders arrived. Starting grad school in the meantime was not unreasonable.

But it didn’t happen. My orders arrived immediately. I graduated in early June and became 2nd Lt. Smith by the end of July. Indeed, life is like a box of chocolates.

My assignment was to Cannon AFB in eastern New Mexico. I lived in the Bachelor Officers Quarters and worked as an Administrative Officer, a deputy to one of the squadron commanders. Later, when the C.O. went to Vietnam, I moved up to his job.

Being a Journalism major and predisposed to writing, I quickly fell into the habit of keeping a journal about my life at Cannon.

Here are some entries from late 1965. All the names below are real except “Billy Joe Brown.” For him, a pseudonym seemed prudent.

———

3 DEC 65

The legal office called this morning and said to come running. They needed me on standby until we got a verdict in the court-martial of one of my airmen, Billy Joe Brown, alleged bad check artist, deserter, and car thief.

Billy Joe and I played double solitaire for an hour, and then the verdict arrived: a Bad Conduct Discharge, forfeiture of all pay, and six months confinement. I signed Billy Joe over to the APs and headed out to find some lunch.

6 DEC 65

Groan. 1st Lt. Jelley from Operations Support called. He said he had reason to believe that one of my men, A1C Wika, had stolen two parachutes while on the night shift and may have hidden them in his room in the barracks.

“You’re kidding,” I said. Jelley said no, he wasn’t kidding. With a sigh, I went up to Wika’s room and woke him up. I said, “Do you know your rights under Article 31 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice?” Nope.

I couldn’t ask questions until he acknowledged his rights, so I went back down to my office, got a copy of Article 31, and read it to him. He said he understood.

So I said, “Wika, don’t laugh, but did you swipe two parachutes while you were working last night, and if so, are they hidden in this room?” The room is barely large enough for me, Wika, and the bed.

“Yeah, Lieutenant,” he snorted. “I stuffed them in the pillowcase.”

7 DEC 65

I got to my office this morning to find 2nd Lt. Harkrider and MSgt Childress from Base Fuels waiting for me. Harkrider, who looks about 14, is trying to grow a mustache. It’s sort of a wispy blond thing. He said someone stole a parka, and he needed my advice on how to open an investigation.

That’s easy, I said. You don’t open an investigation. You call the Air Police, stand back, and watch them open it. Childress, who is twice as big as Harkrider and twice his age, never spoke.

8 DEC 65

MSgt Stricklan is a crackerjack first sergeant. I’m lucky to have him. Everyone at Cannon respects him, from the top brass to the latrine orderlies.

Strick and I have an unofficial arrangement: I don’t do anything without his tacit approval. That way, the squadron runs smoothly, and I get credit for having the sense to listen to my first sergeant. Mama didn’t raise no fool.

Usually, Strick is stoic and cool-headed, but this week he nearly blew a fuse. It happened during the barracks inspection when he discovered that Airman Lloyd hadn’t changed the sheets on his bed for about a year.

Apparently, Lloyd was out boozing the night before and was still sawing logs when Strick reached his room. Lloyd usually has the bed made and the room ready for inspection, but this time, he was sprawled out on the bed zonked, and the linens were exposed for all to see.

Something about it hit a nerve with Strick. He was appalled. Indignant. He said the sheets were brown, Lieutenant! Literally brown! He reamed Lloyd out and told him to (1) change the bed, (2) prepare for a re-inspection, and then (3) report to my office.

An hour later, a half-hung-over Lloyd knocked on my office door. He admitted he hadn’t changed the sheets since he arrived at Cannon this time last year, but he didn’t see what the big deal was. It was easier just to make the bed and be done with it.

I patiently made a hygiene case. Lloyd wasn’t impressed. No matter, I told him. I suspect you’re about to be put on a laundry schedule that will be personally monitored by the First Sergeant.

10 DEC 65

Maj. Colvard from Operations Support called. He wanted to know if I had reported the theft of the two parachutes to the APs. I said no, they aren’t my parachutes.

Maybe not, he said, but Col. Shepard wants you to handle it. And while you’re at it, report the loss of six aircraft tires. I have the paperwork. Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.

———

In my next post, some journal entries from 1967.

Stricklan & Smith

MSgt Stricklan and 2nd Lt. Smith in the Orderly Room, December 1965. Note the many decorations Lt. Smith had earned at that stage of his military career.

 

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »