Saturday, October 6, 2018

Hurricane Florence and Human Character

I live in Eastern North Carolina, and we were recently visited by Hurricane Florence.  Florence has cost an estimated $38 to 50 billion in damages, and killed at least 39 people in NC alone.  This was a huge natural disaster.

As the storm was approaching, some in our neighborhood evacuated, but many stayed in place.  My family was among those that stayed, along with the rest of the military base near us.  It was an adventure, for sure.

During and after the storm, we saw the true character of many of our neighbors.  As the flood waters began to rise, much higher than anticipated in our neighborhood, my wife and I realized that we were in a very dangerous situation.  The water was almost to the top step of our porch when one of our neighbors helped me pile my wife, daughter, dog, and cat into a canoe, and swim alongside, pulling them out to safety.  

Over the following couple of days, we huddled together with two other families in a vacant house in our neighborhood.  The homeowner, who had the house listed for sale, gave us permission to stay there, and we were very grateful.  Neighbors showed up and offered us blankets, food, and other necessities.  There was much help and comfort from those that stayed through the storm.  A couple of neighbors that evacuated even gave offers of their homes and belongings via text messages and phone calls.  It was heartwarming.  

As things settled a bit, my family was able to return to our house.  The floodwaters had mostly spared our home, but four houses around me were flooded, to include the two families that we spent the last couple of days with.  Additionally, others in the neighborhood began returning from wherever they had evacuated to.

One woman in particular, who had previously offered to let one of our neighbors stay in her house and use her belongings (towels, blankets, food, etc), returned home and began to sing a different tune. She accused our neighbors of breaking into her home and stealing from her, despite having texted them an offer of her belongings, leaving them a key to the house, etc.  She made sure to visit all of the neighbors and spread these lies.  I also suspect that she contacted the owner of the vacant house we stayed in, as the sheriff deputies showed up there to run us off after a couple of days, claiming that the owner had been told that we were tearing up the place.  Told by whom? I can only guess, but I suspect that the same woman that suddenly decided to label us as burglars and thieves was to blame. To be clear, we left that house in better shape than we found it in.

What kind of person does this?  This disaster brought out the best and worst in people.  We had many offers of help, and a few looters as well.  We also had one neighbor that chose to attack and defame us.  The real irony is that one of our neighbors that stayed in that borrowed home was planning to buy it; she ended up buying a different home in the neighborhood, so the liar not only inconvenienced us all in a time of need, but she cost that homeowner the sale of their house.   I hope she doesn't ever find herself in a position where she needs a favor from me.

True character comes out in times of stress.  

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Master Gunnery Sergeant vs Sergeant Major

      The Marine Corps has two senior enlisted career paths, each with their own unique duties and privileges.  There's often confusion on the part of outsiders about how that rank structure works, who is senior, and what these ranks mean.  There is also some bit of rivalry between the ranks, which is usually good spirited.  Here's a little explanation, and a little opinion as well.

     When an enlisted Marine is promoted to the rank of Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt), they must then choose which path to follow, by selecting either "F," or "M," on their fitness report, which stand for First Sergeant (1stSgt) and Master Sergeant (MSgt), respectively.  When that GySgt is eligible for their next promotion, they'll be considered for the next rank based upon that F or M.  If they put F on their fitness report and fail to get selected for 1stSgt, they will be considered for MSgt, if eligible (time in grade requirements differ for different jobs/MOS).  That scenario isn't as common as you'd think, since the time in grade requirements for MSgt are usually greater than those for 1stSgt.  In other words, if you put F on your fitness report, you'll typically get looked at for promotion sooner, but not always. 

     Once promoted to 1stSgt, a Marine is given the MOS designation of 8999.  If promoted to MSgt, a Marine remains in their original career field.  Upon promotion, both are now on a path that cannot be changed.  1stSgts will be considered for promotion to Sergeant Major (SgtMaj), and MSgts will be considered for promotion to Master Gunnery Sergeant (MGySgt).  What's the difference, you ask? 

     1stSgts and Sergeants Major (yes, that's how you state the plural) are mostly administrative jobs, and they serve as the direct enlisted advisor to their respective commanders, with 1stSgts at the company level, and SgtsMaj at the battalion or higher level.  MSgts and MGySgts remain in their MOS fields as technical experts and senior enlisted advisors.  Occasionally, MSgts and MGySgts will temporarily fill a 1stSgt or SgtMaj billet (job), but you'll never see an 8999 filling a MSgt or MGySgt billet; they just don't have the technical expertise to do it. 

     Which rank is senior?  Neither, technically; both SgtMaj and MGySgt are at the E9 paygrade.  Niether is "in charge" of the other.  The biggest difference is that the SgtMaj believes that he/she is senior in rank, because they work directly for the commander.  In reality, the MGySgt is usually in charge of more equipment and personnel than the SgtMaj; SgtsMaj typically have a clerk or two in their charge, and they routinely harangue their company 1stSgts. 

     How do their duties differ?  Here's another area where it gets contentious.  8999s are advisors to their commanders on troop issues and administrative matters.  They also have the pleasure of dealing with all unit punishment issues, so they get to deal with the dregs of the unit on a routine basis.  MSgts and MGySgts work as equipment or technical experts, members of a commander's or general officer's staff, and other key leadership billets.  Many Marines jokingly claim that the 8999 probably spends all his/her time at the PX, chewing out Marines for uniform violations or poor haircuts.  In fact, I recently received an email from a SgtMaj, complaining about Marines being at the PX and gym during working hours...coming from the guy that was at the PX and gym during working hours.  You do the math. 

     There are other differences, and a few stereotypes.  Here's the stereotype about 8999s:  They're dumb, self-important, and weren't worth a damn at their original MOS, so they had to go the 1stSgt route.  Here's the stereotype of MSgts and MGySgts:  They know everything, they're really old, they're fat, they drink heavily, and they hate all 8999s.  There's some truth to both, but the shoe doesn't fit all.

     Most 8999s are great Americans, but they can typically be categorized by the reasons that they chose that MOS path.  If they chose it for the right reasons, they usually end up being great Marine leaders.  If they chose for the wrong reasons, they often end up being worthless jerks.  If they spent more time out of their original MOS than in it (multiple tours as a Drill Instructor, or other special duty assignments), and know that they are less competitive for promotion within their MOS, many Marines will put F on their fitness reports; that's the wrong reason to go that route.  If their original MOS promotes very slowly, and they know that putting F on their fitrep will get them promoted sooner, many Marines do so; that's also a poor reason.  Most of us view the 8999 MOS as a miserable, thankless job; many Marines find that out the hard way when they put F on their fitreps for the wrong reasons.  You've got to want to do that job. 

     The Corps needs great Sergeants Major, just as much as it needs great Master Gunnery Sergeants.  I just hope that more future leaders will choose their path for the right reasons.  Here's a funny article about the subject (click here).

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Marine Corps Lingo

I was browsing a blog written by a fellow Marine who bills himself as, "America's Sergeant Major,"  when it occurred to me that many Marines assume too quickly that our lingo will be understood by those outside of our profession.  As a result, I decided to publish a list of some of our more frequently used phrases and terms for the amusement and education of our civilian friends.  Feel free to add to this list in the comments.

Ooh-rah: Ooh-rah is a multi-use term that can be a greeting (not to be confused with the "appropriate greeting of the day"), an acknowledgement, or a simple expression of enthusiasm. It's origins are disputed, but I like to keep it simple and believe that it is derived from one of the common, early expressions of excitement, such as, "huzzah," or, "hooray."  

Good to go:  This is a very overused term that simply means, "Ok."  Many leaders get so fixated on this term, that they'll use it in every sentence.  It's an appropriate way of saying that everything is ok, understood, or that you approve of a given situation.  

Secure that $hit: To secure something means to properly tie it down or, more likely, to stow it or put it away.  This is Naval terminology, which permeates our vocabulary in the Corps.  This is an appropriate phrase for a leader when his subordinate Marines are saying something that they shouldn't (like complaining about whatever crappy work detail that they've been assigned to).  

MOS: Military occupational specialty, or job.  This is simply a numerical designation for the career field that a Marine is assigned.  Marines compete for promotion only against others in the same MOS, or sometimes a similar group of MOS designation. 

Lock on:  To lock on something is to schedule it, or set it up.  "Hey Gunny, did you lock on the range for next week's machine gun shoot?"  To lock somebody on can also mean to train them or explain something to them.

 Square away:  This term has multiple meanings.  If a Marine is squared away, he/she looks good in uniform and is good at their job.  To square something away means to fix it, or straighten an area up.  "The General will be here this afternoon; make sure the area is squared away." 

Boot:  A boot is a new, very junior Marine.  This term implies that the subject is freshly graduated from recruit training, or boot camp.  Boots are easily spotted off base by their awkward manner of dress, traveling on foot, backpacks, and running shoes (most don't own much civilian footwear yet).

Field day:  When we were kids, field day was an entire day of games and contests; in the Corps, it's nothing more than a thorough cleaning.  This can be a noun or a verb.  One can be told to go field day the barracks, or that field day will commence at 1800.

PCS: PCS, or permanent change of station, refers to a Marine receiving orders to a new duty station, and the move associated with it.   I got my PCS orders to Camp Lejeune today; looks like I'm moving in September.  PCS can also be used as a verb:  I'm PCS'ing to Camp Lejeune in September. 

Leave: Leave is paid vacation time.  Marines accrue, or earn, 2.5 days of leave per month, which works out to 30 days per year.  Leave is then "charged" when you use it.  Marines cannot carry over more than 60 days of leave to the next fiscal year; anything above the 60 day mark is lost on 1 October.

Liberty: Liberty is nothing more than time off, such as on the weekends, or in the evenings after normal duty hours. This differs from leave, in that it is not charged as vacation days.  

Float: A float is a deployment aboard ship.  Our Corps routinely deploys Marine Expeditionary Units, or MEUs, aboard ships for approximately six months at a time.  A MEU is typically made up of an infantry battalion, sundry combat vehicle elements (tanks, amphibious vehicles, and light armored vehicles), as well as artillery, air wing units, and support elements (cooks, mechanics, etc). 

POG or Pogue:  This term refers to anyone that has a supporting MOS, such as administrator, or supply clerk.  It began as "pogie," or "pogy," many years ago, and has been bastardized into POG, which is an acronym for "person other than grunt," or non-infantry.  
There are also a few more terms that seem to have fallen out of favor over the last couple of decades.  I include a couple of them here for amusement's sake:

Scuttlebutt:  This term has two meanings-- Water fountain and gossip.  The "latest scuttlebutt" is slang for the latest rumor, or word on the street.  Some say that this stems from water coolers being the traditional spot to meet and gossip about one's coworkers, and scuttlebutt being slang for water fountain.

Pogie Bait: Candy or junk food.  This originated from the practice of bribing pogies (supply clerks, admin clerks, cooks, etc) with candy or doughnuts in order to get a favor in return.  "I slipped the supply clerk some pogie bait in trade for a new sleeping bag!"

Geedunk:  Geedunk is another slang term for junk food or candy.  

Got any others to share?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Things From My Childhood 4: BB Guns

I know it's been a long time, but I decided to knock the cobwebs off of this blog (again), and post something.  Here's another little tidbit from my childhood.  

When I was eight years old, I wanted a BB gun for Christmas.  I wasn't quite as bothersome as Ralphie, from A Christmas Story, but I was still pretty persistent.  I felt it was a long shot (no pun intended), but I kept up my vocal demonstrations of my desire to get my hands on that sweet piece of wood and steel.  

When kids are fixated on a particular item, especially as Christmas approaches, they tend to learn as much about that item as they can; I was no different.  I knew exactly what kind of box my BB gun of choice came in, what the containers of BBs looked and felt like, etc.  I would often browse the gun section at Kmart (yes, Kmart sold guns back then, as did most department stores, and even hardware stores), and lovingly heft the little boxes of BBs, noting the sound that they made.

As Christmas approached, presents began to appear under the tree.  I couldn't help but notice that one of the gifts was very similar in size and shape to the box that a Daisy BB gun is packaged in.  Could it really be?  I didn't think that the odds were in my favor, but I spent quite a bit of time handling that present, feeling the weight of it, shaking it, and hoping that it was a BB gun.  Another of the presents, when shaken, sounded just like a box of BBs, but was not the same shape as those I had seen in the stores. I remember thinking, Hmmm, maybe it's a box of candy?

My family drove to Oklahoma that winter, to spend Christmas with my grandparents.  That was the first time, in my memory, that we spent Christmas away from home.  We had visited my grandparents before, but always in the summer.  This was a new treat.  My dad loaded up the truck with our clothes, other traveling items, and a pile of Christmas presents.   After three days of traveling, we arrived at my dad's home town, in Oklahoma.  I don't remember how many days prior to Christmas we arrived, but it wasn't very many.  These were exciting times for an eight year old boy!

On Christmas morning, I was finally able to tear open that suspicious present that had been on my mind since it appeared under our tree.  It was a Daisy BB gun! I was happier than a politician with a bag of other people's money!

My dad gave me a quick class on marksmanship, weapon safety, and how the BB gun operated, and we were then in the back yard of my grandparents' house, shooting at a paper plate tacked to the door of the shed.  If I were a betting man, I'd wager that the shed in question still has BB marks in the wooden door.  

That BB gun and I had a long relationship.  I dispatched many a soda can with it, and it accompanied me on all manner of adventures while growing up in the hills. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Marine Corps Advice

During my 23+ years in the Corps, I've learned many things.  Some of the things I've learned were tough lessons, and I wish I had known these things when I was a brand new PFC, fresh out of boot camp.  So, here's a few tidbits that I wish I could go back in time and explain to my young self, or simply hope that a new recruit or junior Marine will come across and take to heart.

1. Your current unit or duty station is like Texas weather; if you don't like it, just give it a bit and it will change.  Duty stations, and even units at that duty station, are cyclic in how miserable or pleasant they are.  This stems from the fact that the leadership of those units and bases changes on a regular basis.  Be patient, and know that with new leadership often comes a fresh change of atmosphere.

2. The minimum standard or requirement is merely a starting point, not a goal.  I saw this on a placard as a young NCO and have embraced it ever since.  No Marine should ever strive to simply pass the physical fitness test (PFT); they should strive to max that sucker out!  If you aim for perfection, you'll find yourself routinely excelling at all that you do.  Hold yourself to high standards beyond the minimum that the Corps requires.  The Marines that routinely exceed expectations are the ones that get chosen for positions of greater responsibility, and also the ones that the leadership will reward with meritorious promotions, awards, etc.  

3. It's one thing to step on your d*ck once in a while; just don't mark time on it.  A crusty old Gunny made that comment to me once and I'll never forget it.  We're all human, and your leaders will understand if you make a mistake; it's patterns of screwing up that will not be forgiven.  Don't be so fearful of making a mistake that you never take any risks.  Risk can be mitigated but not entirely eliminated.  If you never make a decision or venture forth into the unknown, you'll never achieve success.  With decision-making and uncertainty will come occasional mistakes; learn from them and become better.

4. Don't throw away old uniforms or gear.  I've lost track of how many different versions of boots I've been issued over the years, and I also have worn two different colors of t-shirts under my cammie blouse, flip-flopping back and forth a couple of times.  Whenever we get a new Commandant, expect some changes, but don't bank on them being forever.  If our next Commandant decides to change the color of socks that we wear, just put your current batch of perfectly good socks in a plastic tub and keep them; you'll probably need them again in the future.  Got extra "CIF" gear?  Hang on to it.  You never know when you, or your buddy, will lose a canteen, ammo pouch, or something else that the civilian-run issue facility will charge you an arm and a leg to replace.  

5. Just because they have shiny sh*t on their collar, doesn't mean that they're great leaders.  Not all officers are great leaders.  In fact, many are mediocre, at best.  Some are downright wastes of skin.  The officer selection and promotion systems are not perfect.  As a result, less than stellar officers occasionally make it into positions of influence; this often leads to misery for the enlisted Marines.  If you find yourself doing stupid things, seemingly for no reason (painfully redundant safety briefs, for example), it's probably because some idiot with shiny stuff on his collar thought he had a brilliant idea that would earn him a positive fitness report comment.  Officers love to try and fix the un-fixable, such as throwing a few more safety briefs at a group of young Marines, fully expecting that to prevent them from doing stupid things while on liberty.  Just be patient, and see comment #1, above. 

6. Never pass up an opportunity to do the right thing.  Integrity is more than honesty; it's doing the right thing, even when nobody is around to see it.   Never miss those opportunities, and you'll make good habits that will benefit you for life.  One of the best things I could possibly hope to be remembered for is being "a good man."  Nobody says that about a thief or a cheat.  Be the person that never fails to come to the aid of a fellow Marine in need.  Do the right things, even when they're unpleasant or unpopular, and you'll be a great leader and a great person. 

7. Surround yourself with good Marines.  Just like your friends in grade school, the Marines that you associate with will influence you, like it or not.  Successful people don't surround themselves with losers, and that's just as true in the Corps as it is in the civilian community.  When you get to your first, or even your next unit, look at the pictures on the wall of the Marine of the Quarter and NCO of the Quarter; those are the guys (or gals) that you want to hang out with.  Associate with winners and you'll be a winner. 

8. Don't be a sheep in wolf's clothing.  The Corps doesn't need guys or gals that aren't willing to fight.  We're an organization that prides itself on its history of valor in combat.  Every Marine knows the names of our most famous battles, from Belleau Wood, to Fallujah, as well as what we accomplished in those storied places.  If you're confused or squeamish about what we do for a living, find another line of work.

9. Make a list of what you want to do in the Marine Corps, and go do it now!  The Marine Corps doesn't give a damn what you want.  That's a hard pill for some guys to swallow, but it's true.  If you want to go to jump school, be a Drill Instructor, travel the world, or whatever else you think would be fun to do in the Corps, then get off of your ass and go do it now.  Don't put it off.  Pester your leadership to send you to the school you want to attend, or to get you orders to where you want to go.  Understand, however, that if you're a turd, don't expect anyone to grant you your wishes.  If you follow rule #2, you'll have more success.  Your time in the Corps is going to come to an end at some point, and your chances to do the things you want to do will be gone.  How do you want to remember your time in the Corps?  What stories will you tell your grandchildren about that time?  Start making those memories today.

Note: This post, like all of the posts on this blog, represent my personal opinion, and do not represent the United States Marine Corps in any capacity.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Church and State

I've long held the belief that the First Amendment has been perverted by the liberal left portion of our nation.  One only needs to ask, "What does a voluntary prayer have to do with the establishment of laws," to see the fantastic stretch of imagination that is required to be a liberal supporter of what has become the modern day "separation of church and state." 

A series of Supreme Court cases, beginning with Everson v. Board of Education, has perverted the First Amendment, and led to a slippery slope of rabid condemnation of our country's foundation of beliefs.  This nation was not founded by atheists, nor was it founded by muslims.  It was founded by Christians who had a strong desire to escape religious persecution in England.  Now, Christians face religious persecution in America, while muslims, who openly seek the destruction of our nation, seem to be a protected species; what an ironic twist. 

Everson v. Board of Education led to the belief that there must be separation of church and state; I dispute that belief.  I believe that the First Amendment was intended to prevent the establishment of a national (or state) church.  It was NOT intended to prevent kids from praying in school, or the display of the ten commandments in front of a courthouse (no laws passed in either case, right?).  The perversion of this court decision (and the others that followed) is absolutely disgusting.  It is now assumed that any mention of God by a member of any government body is an official, state recognition of a particular religion.  Nobody even acknowledges that Everson v. Board of Education started out as an argument about funding school buses.

We now live in a nation where Christians are actively ridiculed by members of their own government for simply being Christian.  Our President even poked at Christianity when he lamented that certain red states cling to "...their guns and bibles."  This is a sad state of affairs.

I believe that our nation is speeding down a path that will be difficult to backtrack upon.  We only need look to Europe (which we fought to become independent from) to see our future; it's pretty bleak.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Why I Hunt

I love hunting animals.  That's an "offensive" statement to some folks, but I can't fully understand why.  As humans, we're omnivorous, as anyone that paid attention in biology class could tell you.  Meat eating is in our DNA, and I oblige it.  To say that I love to hunt is an understatement.  I love everything about hunting: I love the talk, the equipment, the preparation, the stalk, being in the woods, the kill, the meat preservation, the cooking and, of course, the eating.  I thought I'd talk a little bit about the why of it all.

My dad took me dove hunting as a kid and I loved it.  I loved the challenge of it, and I loved the fact that we could bring home food that we had gone out and killed ourselves.  Many Americans take meat for granted.  There really are people out there that believe meat comes from factories somewhere; they really are that ignorant.  The rest of us know that eating meat requires the killing of animals.  I choose to be in charge of that killing, when I can.  My meat is 100% organic, locally grown, hormone free, free range, humanely butchered, or whatever other buzzwords that the overly-sensitive folks are throwing around this week.  This leads me to my next point, which is the fallacy of how "inhumane" hunting is.

Hunting is as old as life itself.  All organisms compete for life, and humans are at the top of the food chain.  The idea that hunting is bad is a very new concept, relatively speaking, since man has been hunting for the entirety of his existence.  The only reason that the anti-hunting crowd even exists is that the commercial meat industry has removed the need for families to hunt.  Meat can now be "harvested" at your local grocery store.  The anti-hunting activists claim that hunters are cruel, but they don't post footage of commercial slaughter houses on their websites.  My kills are humane, and the animals I kill don't spend their lives on death row.  They grow up in their natural habitat, get a chance to breed, and live their lives in the manner that God intended. 

God made us in his image, and I'm convinced that God is a meat eater.  Anyone that differs from that opinion needs to show me God's dental records.  I am a meat eater and, as such, I enjoy harvesting my meat myself.  I love the chase.  I love trying, and usually failing, to outsmart the critters that I'm after.  I love being in the woods.  I love seeing wildlife, even when I don't kill it.  I love the adrenalin that pumps through me when a deer walks in front of my tree stand.  I love the process of releasing my arrow or pulling the trigger, and validating the many hours of practice that got me to the moment of killing that magnificent animal.  I absolutely love the emotions that are involved in the hunt, as complex as they are.

Killing an animal is no small thing to me; I don't take it lightly.  Killing deer has been an emotional experience for me, almost spiritual.  I feel a hint of lament for the killing of such a beautiful animal, and I'm so thankful for the harvest of so much meat; it's very moving.  I wish that the English language allowed me to fully express what I feel when I kill an animal.  I'll never be able to fully explain how I feel when I bring that meat home to my family, or when I put my hand on the ribs of that still warm deer.  

I guess it's safe to say that I love to hunt, but it's also safe to say that I support hunting because it gives back to the environment.  Hunting pumps many millions of dollars into conservation efforts, billions of dollars into the American economy, and is a vital piece of effective wildlife management efforts across the globe.  I'm proud to support the wildlife conservation efforts that hunting contributes to, while enjoying the sport that I'm passionate about. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Things from My Childhood 3: Stealing a Sip

When I was a kid, my dad was a beer drinker.  He would have a couple of beers on the weekend, and often would place a partial can in our refrigerator while he attended to other things.  

When I got to be 12 or so, I would occasionally sneak a sip of those open cans of beer.  I thought I was pretty slick, and it was just a sip. 

One evening, I had dish duty after supper.  My mom had made something fried and, as usual, she had drained the grease from the skillet into a can.  I just didn't know which can...

While doing the dishes, I took a break and decided to take a quick sip of the open beer can that was in the fridge.  I tilted the can back to take a healthy slug, and had to fight the urge to gag as I realized that my mom had drained the grease from the skillet into a beer can, and placed it into the refrigerator to cool.  Yuck!

I didn't tell Mom or Dad about that, so I'm sure they'll laugh when they read this.  God is always watching, even when your parents are not.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things From my Childhood 2-- Learning Baseball

When I was young(er), my dad was more patient with me than I gave him credit for.  I was a baseball enthusiast, and he did his best to teach me about the game and improve my skills.  There were many sessions of catch, batting practice, etc.  There was even one season that he worked with me on my skills as a catcher.  The team's coach let me take the catcher's gear home and told my dad to throw lots of tennis balls at me.  The idea was to get me accustomed to digging bad pitches out of the dirt without the bruises that typically follow that experience.  I can't remember how much time he spent doing that, but it helped.

There were also a few sessions of batting practice at the spot in the above picture.  I think that is, and was when I was a kid, some sort of water treatment facility along El Sobrante Road.  The clear spot near the arrow used to be a very rustic baseball diamond.  My dad used to take me there on weekends and help me work on my batting.  He would pitch and I would attempt to hit his very toned down throws.  I think that's where I learned to bunt as well; I never asked my dad how he learned to do such things, but I just sort of took it for granted that dads know how to play baseball.

One weekend during our batting practice, a fish and game warden pulled up in his truck.  He was curious to see what we were up to, and asked if we had heard any gunfire.  In the back of his truck was a dead eagle.  It was the biggest bird that I had ever seen up close and he told us that it was a bald eagle.  I asked why its head was not white, and he informed us that it was an immature specimen.  It had been shot, and I still remembered being puzzled as to why anyone could possibly want to shoot an eagle.  My dad was smart enough to point out to me that there were a couple of chicken ranches nearby and one of the ranchers probably confused it with many of the red-tail hawks that frequent the area, and had mistakenly acted to protect his livestock.  I again assumed that dads just knew such things.

My dad is a pretty handy guy.  Thankfully, it runs in the family.  I'm often thankful that my dad forced me to do various things myself,  or made me help him when he performed various repairs or construction projects himself.  I'm also thankful for all of the baseball lessons.  Thanks, Dad.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Things From my Childhood Series

Writing occasionally on the pages of this blog is fun, sort of, and I thought it might be beneficial to write about my childhood.  My kids might even laugh about some of this stuff someday, so why not document it before I reach an age where my memory is so poor that I cannot share it?  On that note, I have decided to document glimpses of my life and past here.  So here are a couple of stories from my past, and I hope to post more of them as I recall them.

That Joshua Tree with the bottle caps in it:  My dad and I used to make regular trips to the high desert to ride dirt bikes, shoot and generally fart around out in the desert.  He and I both enjoy being away from urban sprawl and the high desert has a certain appeal.  We used to load the bikes up in his 1974 Chevy truck (which ended up being my first vehicle) and head out past Victorville, California.  There is an exit off of I-15 for Stoddard Wells Road and, a bit farther on, a second exit with the same title (the one past Denny's).  We used to exit the 15 at that second exit, and park near a Joshua tree that provided almost no shade.  We would ride from there and return periodically to the truck to rest, eat, or to have something to drink.  Over the years, my dad would occasionally flip bottle caps from his soda pop or beer up into that tree.  He even commented once about how many might be up in there.  We were, after all, in the middle of the desert, and there wasn't much out there to disturb the tree.

One weekend, we made a trip out to the desert with a friend of my dad's from work, or maybe it was a friend's son, I'm not sure.  I was still riding a little Yamaha YZ-80 at the time, and the acquaintance that was with us commented on how well I was riding.  My dad complimented me as well, and I asked him if I was riding better than him; he admitted that he thought I was indeed a bit better than him at it.  I recall asking him at least one more time later if I was really better than him at riding; he was puzzled by the fact that I was fixated on that and I said, "Well Dad, it's a big deal; I've never been better than you at anything before!"

We had many good times out there in the high desert.  A couple of years ago I looked on the internet and was able to see the subject Joshua tree on either Google Earth or maybe Google Maps; it was still there and I wondered if it still had any of my dad's bottle caps in it.