Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Day of The Generals

    One of the greatest good fortunes to befall me was that I was able to escape service in Viet Nam during the conflict there. This is the story of the beginnings of that fall into good luck.
    When I arrived at Bergstrom AFB in Austin, TX, less than a year into my two years, five months, and twenty one days of service in the United States Air Force, (My daddy and most others of military service were able to state their exact period of service. I wondered why until I had done mine.) I was placed on “Reserve for Overseas Duty.” That means I could be given no assignment that would keep me from serving in the Viet Nam area of military operations. Further, I learned that, we were to be shipped out to that area in the exact order in which we arrived at Bergstrom. I quickly learned the names and the order of arrival of those before me. John was the man.
    Until basic training in the Air Force I took a fairly relaxed view of working for the maximum result of any effort. Lazy, some people would call it. My GPA from high school was 2.66, from college was 2.7. My college entrance tests placed me in the top 1% of college freshmen in ability (to this point an unrealized ability. Later attempts at college would yield a 4.0 average.). Basic training gave me an attitude adjustment. The process was simple. Every positive outcome received a positive reward. Every negative outcome received a negative reward. Simple. By the time of my story I was an honor graduate of every military class and course they had given me. The key reward being I worked on aircraft cameras and control systems in a environment controlled  shop instead of the uncertain weather of the flight line outside.
    The our aircraft was an unarmed recon bird. (Unarmed, depending on how you felt about 24 200 million candle power flash cartridges.) It was also the primary mission of Bergstrom AFB. Our cameras and controls were the only mission of the our aircraft. Our shop made it all work. Our airplane could fly at 250 feet, 600 miles per hour and take two pictures of everything it passed over from any or all of six cameras.
    One day my shop chief, Master Sargent Right, asked if I would mind showing our “equipment” to some “people”. I have a touch of the showman and agreed to do the demonstrations. Three VIP’s were coming to the base and wanted to “look around”.
     My companion for these adventures was a jet engine mechanic. He was of insignificant rank, like myself. In the future we would meet several times as our "Dog and Pony" show became a feature event for those visiting the base. As you will understand later, the leadership had good reason.
    The first of our distinguished guests was the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force. His position was only 5 or 6 steps down from the President of the US, and way above any officer on the base. He was led around by the base commander, a two star general, and our squadron commander, a light colonel. Mr. Secretary was in his early forties, average height and build, and dressed in a suit. He showed no particular interest in us or our airplane, but was polite and listened quietly as I and my companion talked about our equipment. They moved on after a cursory look around the plane.
    The second of our distinguished guests was Vice Commander of Allied Troops in Europe.  This man was covered in gold decorations and lots of colorful ribbons. He may have been English. His was an amazing entourage. He was guided by a man in a uniform that I did not recognize( or I simply did not look). Behind them was a row of half a dozen or so four star generals. Behind these was a row of half a dozen or so three star generals, Then a row of two star generals, including our base commander. A row of one star generals followed the two star row then a row of full colonels. Behind this platoon of generals was a handsome young lieutenant, the head man's aid. At this late date, I have to say I do not remember even thinking of saluting any of these men.
    The Vice Commander was a pleasant and personable man. He appeared to be interested; listened, asked questions, then moved on. The entourage shuffled past as if we did not exist. The aid, however paused. He seemed interested. He listened. He lingered. We asked if he wanted to see more. A polite "Yes" caused me to stand him in the camera bay and show where the cameras and controls were positioned and describe other features of our capabilities. The engine guy put him in the cockpit and showed him the operational controls of the aircraft. After his tour, the lieutenant thanked us and walked purposefully after the crowd.
    Our third visitor was an Army General, with four stars. The story we heard later was that he was retiring and this visit was his last hoorah. He was delayed and the weather turned cold and misted rain. My companion and I moved under the aircraft to stay dry. After a while, an officer approached us from the pilots' ready room that was a short distance away. He offered us shelter therein. This building was occupied by a number of officers in uniform and pilots in flight suits. I still do not remember any saluting. We waited for two hours. Finally a call came in and we were hustled out to the plane where we assumed our position, in the rain and wind, beside our covered equipment. After a wait of several more minutes two cars with flags on the bumpers pulled up on the street, about 50 feet away. The general was distinguishable because of his army green uniform. He looked at us through the rain spotted window, listened to someone in the car for a few seconds, waved and was driven on.
    At some point in these exercises I lost my fear of officers. The Vice Commander was, no doubt, the keystone of this change. After this, officers were just people. From time to time I was stopped and addressed by one who angrily demanded to be saluted, but for the most part, if I was paying attention, I delivered a proper salute. If not, they walked past un-noticed and unconcerned.
    The pot of gold at the end of this rainbow was a letter delivered a few weeks later, under the letterhead of the Vice Commander of Allied Troops in Europe. It was addressed to the Base Commander, (remember the two star in the forth row) and copied the wing commander (the full colonel in the last row) . It was a glowing compliment of the two "troops" who showed the aircraft. It was endorsed by every officer and non-com in my chain of command. I have my copy somewhere.
    From that time on, my companion and I met every VIP to visit the base. I was asked what could make the display of equipment better and was given the materials to put on a first class "Dog and Pony" show. My Squadron Commander nominated me and I was awarded Airman of the Year for Bergstrom AFB, that year. Got my picture in the base paper.
    One day, John, the man ahead of me in line for Southeast Asia, got his orders. I could see the bullseye on my chest. I would be the next to go.
    Miracle of miracles, I was taken off "Reserve for Overseas Duty". How? Why? Completely unanswered. But, not unnoticed. I began looking for a way out. The Arkansas Air National Guard needed people with my skills. I called and set up an interview.
    At the ANG Shop I was greeted by a master sargent. He had been seated at a test bench working one of my boxes. After introductions he says "Hey, you are supposed to be an expert, tell me what is wrong with this box." This could have been a tricky question on that particular box, but after his description of the problem, I knew it was going to be an easy fix. I put my finger on a transistor and told him it was his problem. "Yes, but that transistor tests good" "Yes, that is how you know it is bad, change it and the board will work."
    I was led to the Squadron Commander's office. After several minutes of chatting, the door opened and the sargent poked his head in and said "Get him, he fixed THAT box!"I was given the paper work to cause my transfer to the Arkansas ANG.
    Now I had to get my squadron commander's permission to go.  I remember saluting this time. Colonel, was a rather pleasant black man, educated and well spoken. Unusual on all points, at that time in the military. I described my request and handed him my paper work. After several thoughtful minutes, he said "I am not in the habit of giving away my best troops." "Colonel, it won't matter. I am next up for transfer to Viet Nam." After more thoughtful minutes he said "I will have to give this more thought" and dismissed me. Salute. A week later he approached me at a local high school football game. We were both in civies. No Salute. "I will be sorry to lose you. I have signed your transfer papers and turned them in. You should get orders shortly." I thanked him. The orders came a week or so later. John was about to leave for his tour and made me a good price for his car.
    A lot of people think the tale of Guardian Angels is a story for children, to make them feel safe. I think I have a darn fine Guardian Angel.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Free Will: The First Derivative

By Rob Watson

(Wikipedia had a great segment describing first derivatives) 

In a recent Physics class (Physics For Elementary Teachers), up at the local college, there was one advanced student among a group of regular students. The advanced student had lots of Physics background and lots of higher mathematics. The regular students had none of either. One day the class took up the subject of Newton's Second Law of Motion. It describes how things move under ideal conditions. In simple terms, that law states: Force equals mass times acceleration. (F=MA) Related topics included kinetic energy and momentum. Kinetic energy is one half the mass times the velocity squared.(KE=1/2 MV^2) Momentum is simply mass times velocity. (MO=MV) As with all complex things, the regular students brains swirled in confusion. The professor strove to explain the concepts while the advanced student’s mind drifted. 

After a bit the advanced student drifted back to the subject at hand. He understood mass and velocity, kinetic energy, and force, but momentum seemed not to click. The more he studied, the more kinetic energy and momentum became inseparably entwined. Roll a bowling ball down the ally. It has momentum. It has kinetic energy. The ball hits the pins. The pins go flying off, taking with them some of the kinetic energy and some of the momentum. Why are the equations different but contain the same mass? The same velocity? There was nothing to do but ask. He raised his hand. 

The professor eyed him suspiciously (Knowing full well that an advanced question would not rest well with the other students) then asked what his question was. “Sir, what is the difference between kinetic energy and momentum?” The answer came back: “It is related to higher mathematics and I would prefer to answer later” The professor was hoping this seemingly innocent question had simply flown over the heads of the regular students. But, as he glanced around the room he could see such was not the case. The professor knew the necessarily complex answer was not going to help the regular students. The advanced student had unintentionally put him on the spot. Then an idea took root. If the advanced student could catch onto a mathematical code word, the question could be answered and the regular students would not slide deeper into confusion. His eyes swept the room again as he contemplated the possibilities. Then his eyes settled on the advanced student and he said: “Momentum is the first derivative of kinetic energy” The advanced student threw up his hands in surprise and understanding, said “Oh... yeah, Thanks.” Almost immediately, from the back of the room came a very sarcastic “Oh... yeah, Thanks.” followed by general laughter among the regular students. Then another voice questioned: “What do you have to have, calculus to understand that?” The professor answered a simple “yes” and then proceeded with his description of Newton's Second Law. 

Do you understand what these two, the professor and his advanced student were talking about. Did you understand the question, Did you understand the answer? Well if you are befuddled you are in the right state of mind. 

A few days after this, the advanced student went to church where the pastor touched on the problem of how God could let all the evil, that happens in this world, continue. While evil has many components: greed, hatred, lust, religious zealots, mental illness, prejudice, and many other situations. Like kinetic energy and momentum, evil is really very difficult to understand... A man drives drunk and crashes his truck into a van carrying 8 athletes, killing them all...rape and murder an attractive young woman... savagely beat a young man and tie him, naked, to a fence in the dead of a Wyoming winter... Blow yourself up to kill a few innocent people... fly an airplane full of people into a building full of people... “Lord, God Almighty, How can you let this happen?!” is the question that immediately comes to mind. 

Evil has a core component that allows all the others to function. That is “free will”. The free will to drink into insensibility, the free will to enjoy lust and murder, the free will to hate. This is to say, the first derivative, the enabling core component, of evil, is free will. 

What about good; work, self control, love, generosity, self sacrifice, honor, duty, faith in God. Are these decisions that we make as a free will choice. Is not the core component, the first derivative, of all that is good, also free will? So the first derivative of all that is evil and all that is good is the same: free will. Would you give up free will so that evil could not exist? And, if you would give it up, How would you live? And why? Unlike our professor, God has chosen to answer later. I am sure we will all understand when we face Him at His judgement seat.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Grotto

By Rob Watson

    When Wife and I inspected our building, before buying it, the basement was dry. However, there were water stains on the walls running from cracks in the walls. When I ask about them, the response was something about a flood in Town back in the 1950’s.
    This should be a lesson to you (and me) when buying a building/ house. Never believe the real estate agent or the previous owner. When I asked about water stains on the ceiling of the main floor the answer was “My daughter left the water running upstairs and flooded the place.”
    The truth was plumbing for both bathrooms, the kitchen, and the air conditioner leaked. The huge glass door to the upstairs patio was improperly installed. When the wind and rain is (notice present tense) from the west, water pours in over the door frame. After I removed all the outside wood, replaced it, insulated the cavities  around the frame and re-caulked it all, we just get a slow drip. Before, it was a fair simulation of Niagara Falls. I also tore parts of the ceiling from the main floor, found the plumbing leaks and repaired them, mostly.
     In the spring of 2007, this part of State got an unusual amount of rain. The ground became saturated and the creeks flooded. Dry Coon Creek, which is usually dry, had about 4 feet of water in it. The flood and pictures of my ranch (where the pumpkin patch is now) actually made national news. Water began to bubble through cracks in the floor and walls of the basement here at our building. The water never got more than an inch deep. I went to the trash dump and got 30 or so freight pallets, and put all our stuff on them. Eventually the water stopped bubbling up through the floor. But things still did not dry out. There was still an inch of water on parts of the floor.
    Now, I am an easy going guy. I don’t let things bother me... until they get entirely out of hand. I was not bothered all that much by the inch of water until I notice 16 banana boxes full of my stuff was soaking wet and the boxes had collapsed into a pile of mush.
    Close inspection showed these boxes were touching the basement wall in the southwest corner of the building. Water was slowly seeping through the cracks in the wall. Water was also flowing from the stairwell. Now I was irritated. The floor has two cased wells drilled in it and I could see the ground water had receded more than a foot below the floor. The main part of the floor was dry, the cracks that had bubbled water during the flood were dry and water was coming through the walls!! Now, as a student of Geology, I know a fair amount about hydrology and this did not make logical sense.
    One theory held that there were springs under the city and the corner of our building was set on one. Our building was built in 1934 during, what they call here, The Dust Bowl. So, the spring would have been dry when the building was built. It could also dry out from time to time during dry periods. Another guess held that there was an underground stream...
    Things that defy logic really bother me. I tore down the interior wall of the stairwell and found a concrete bench cast against the wall of the extreme southwest corner of the basement wall. This wall faces the street. (important information to be used later). Water was bubbling from a crack at the top of this bench. A significant amount of work with a hammer and chisel increased the flow. I borrowed an air driven drill and began to enlarge the hole. It eventually got to be about 3/4 inch high, a foot long and 8 inches deep.  I went to the building supply store in Big Town and found a patch cement that was made for basement walls that leaked water. It says it could be applied even in wet conditions and would expand to fill the hole. “Ha!” says I. “This should be easy to fix.”
    The directions said mix the cement with water and apply to the leaking wall. It even gave me a whole 3 minutes from the time I pored in the water until the patch was completely finished. (after 3 minutes it got hard fast... like 3 seconds after). The water flowing through the hole simply washed the patch materials out of the hole. I would dab a wad of patch in place and watch it wash away as I hurried to get another wad. The materials left in the mixing bowl hardened around my putty knife and I had to use a hammer to break it out.
    The second try worked no better than the first. I tried to hold the patch material in place with a board. It still got washed out before it hardened. I kept the hammer handy to release my putty knife again.
    This process may be hard to visualize, so you will have to take my word for the fact that a movie of it would make a prize winning “Funniest Home Video”.
    Plan B formed as a way to drain off the water into the sump pump. Remember the bench? I got the air hammer and cut a groove in the top of the concrete bench. This groove was an inch wide, an inch deep and ran the entire 3 feet of the bench. At the end of the groove I tarred in a plastic pipe fitting such that the water ran down the groove through the fitting and into a bucket. This is when I learned the water flowed  at a rate of 5 gallons per hour. I cut a hole in the bucket, installed another plastic fitting and ran a water hose from there to the sump pump. Dry wall and floor, right? Well, not quite yet.
    The simple solution was to show (remember the wall was facing the street) that the water was leaking from the city water main. Wife called the city maintenance chief. He came by and brought his water test kit. We took a sample of the water and he  tested it for chlorine. No Chlorine. He also took out his handy dandy sound detector and heard nothing. Being a nice guy, he inspected the water main in the man hole in front of  our building... Dry. He inspected the three water meters nearest the building... dry. He even replaced our water meter. All after firmly declaring the water was not from the city main because there was no chlorine and no sound.
     This water was coming from somewhere and I was determined to find it. The top of the bench was about 5 feet below ground surface. I went outside  beside the leak and drilled a hole 8 feet down. Dry. I moved to the corner of the building, no more than 2 feet from the leak. Dry. I went to the front of the building in the window well and drilled down to floor level. Dry. While I was drilling this hole I banged one of the windows panes and it broke out. Another pane just cracked. You should remember this last hole.
    Well it must be a miracle. Wife suggested we build a grotto. We could put in a little statue of the Blessed Virgin, brick it all up and form a pool for people to get their holy water, have a little box for donations... Alternately we could seal all the leaks in the walls and floor and make an indoor pool. Maybe even charge admission and teach water walking and swimming. Wife taught water walking for the YMCA in another state, when we lived there.
    For a while the groove-bucket-hose fix worked to keep the floor dry. Then the wall began to leak faster and the groove above the bench slowed to a drip. I got out my trusty rusty sledge and chisel and proceeded to break a hole in the floor and dig down. This hole was about a foot square and two feet deep. It immediately filled with water. I dashed over to Big Town and bought another sump pump. I built little dams of tar and bricks to direct the water from the leaks in the wall into this new sump hole.
    This spring was wet again. Remember the window well where I drilled? It filled with water and began to flow in through the broken window. Oh, remember the leak patch material? I used some of the leftovers to build little flow control dams for this new water. This stuff really stuck to the wet cement floor. It almost worked too. It kept the majority of the water going into the new sump hole but water would wick over it and part of the floor stayed wet.
    It is fair to say Wife took a dim view of my intermittent prolonged inactivity regarding the water leaks in the basement. She insisted it was all the city’s fault and they should come fix it. Much as it hurts to say: She was right.
     I tried setting up a siphon to get the water from the window well down into the sump pump. I could sit and watch the siphon work for hours and it functioned flawlessly. Go do something else and it would quit siphoning... water flowed over the window  and all over the floor, again.
     A few weeks of this got me into a “do something” mood. I decided to dig out the window well and put in a third sump pump. For reference, the window well is 2 feet by 4 feet and 6 feet deep. I would dig the mud into buckets and push them up to the surface. Wife would dump the mud into large trash cans in the back of our pickup. As the hole got larger the water got deeper and Wife went inside to siphon some of it out. As the water got lower I heard a sound like, forgive the expression, someone pissing in a toilet. I got some light on the subject and saw a stream of water flowing into the now nearly empty hole. I sent Shirley for a bottle and the phone, to call the City Maintenance Supervisor. This time, the test indicated chlorine and the sound detector indicated a leak. Why not the first time? Well, I don’t know. If you read this carefully you will  see there is a lot that goes unexplained.
    Last week Wife and I drove to Wyoming to hunt up some of Wife’s relatives, see our doctors, and visit friends. Our fine City dug up the street, a hole 4 feet by 25 feet, 6 feet deep, repaired two leaks in the water main (that was laid in 1886) and repaired the street after also putting in a new water pipe to our water meter. Friends report the action was spectacular. Photos, which have been promised to me, show a fountain from the water main arching more than 30 feet into the air, over the electrical power lines and onto the top of our  store. After three years, the floor and walls are dry, the sump holes are empty and my next task is to remove all the water flow dams from the floor. If anyone is interested, I have an unused sump pump, some basement wall patch, and  a small statue of the Virgin Mary available.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sleeping Accommodations

By Rob Watson
Some may wonder at my thought processes, In truth I wonder myself. Tonight I was putting on my wool socks and reliving the joys of walking on my extra luxurious wool carpet, when I began to contemplate all the places I have slept. Well, maybe not so unusual, I am a floor sleeper. I like to lay on the floor. I like the extra room, the lack of directionality, and, that soft, soft, wool carpet. 

It all began way back when they invented TV, or, at least, invented one my fiscally conservative parents would buy. I was about six years old. Before the invention of TV, my family played games at the dinning room table, or listened to the then popular radio programs, for entertainment after supper and before bed. 

The games were Canasta or Monopoly. I hated Clue. It is fair to say I was clueless at Clue. Monopoly made sense to me and I frequently won. My strategy was to buy up the railroads, Boardwalk, and Park Place, build them up and hang on to the bitter end. 

From the earliest times, I remember a crib and sharing a room with my older brother. I graduated to a swayback army cot with one of those hard, packed cotton, army mattresses. My brother, my senior by twelve years, had a huge, from my prospective at the time, double bed. When he went off for college I was still stuck with my army cot. I remember it was so sway backed that the only comfortable position was laying flat, well not exactly flat, on my back with my arms straight down at my sides. As I lay there, I recall, frequently imagining I was in my rocket flying around in space, five years before the first man left the earth in his rocket. I remember having back problems from as young as the age of 14. 

I became a floor sleeper with the invention of TV because I had a soft, thin, flannel blanket. The nearest equivalent today would be a cotton flannel sheet, and yes, I still have one today. My security blanket was pale yellow. I would lay on the edge of the blanket, at the edge of the floor, and roll my skinny little body into the blanket, ending in the middle of the floor, in front of the gas burning stove, and coincidentally, the TV. There I would lay, squirming around into various comfortable positions, taking care not to unroll my security blanket, until I went to sleep. Daddy apparently carried me to bed, for I always woke up in the morning tucked warmly into my own little swayback army cot. 

In those early years I had my tonsils removed and caught a couple of illnesses that required hospitalization. I liked those crank up hospital beds with the firm mattresses, soft when compared with my army cot. What I did not care for was being awakened every two hours for a penicillin shot in the butt. 

About the age of ten, we moved. I got a used twin bed with an extra soft mattress and sagging springs. For some reason my parents put a piece of plywood between the springs and the mattress. Perhaps it was at my request, because I remember it being vastly more comfortable after the insertion of the board. We lived in the rear of my parents’ store. The four of us slept in the same room for a while. When my sister, older by twenty-two months, reached puberty and began to develop, they decided we each needed our separate rooms. Sister’s room was something like 15 feet square with a 12 foot closet.

Mine was seven feet wide, eleven feet long, and had a twelve foot ceiling. That space held my bed, my desk, a four foot by two foot clothes closet, Sister’s old chest of drawers, and shelves for my one hundred plus model boats and airplanes. My one window was two feet square and eight feet from the floor. I could adjust the window by standing on the bed. This was my private space until I went off to college and, in my absence, my parents built their dream house on the lake. 

My room there was vastly more commodious, but as you shall quickly see, almost never used. I got a new solid pecan chest of drawers, that I still have today nearly fifty years later. In college I spent two and a half years in the dorms, then with my best friend, moved off campus into a three bedroom mobile home... a forty by eight foot mobile home. 

I had the luxury suite, just over seven feet long and five feet wide. My closet may have been two feet wide and 18 inches deep. Friend’s room was one inch shorter than his six feet, one inch height and his only floor space doubled as the path from the kitchen to the bathroom. The bath room was a wonder of compact organization. at four feet by four feet, it contained a sink a toilet and a bathtub. To borrow a phrase from the military, you could “shit, shower, and shave” without taking more than a single step. You could, in fact, shave while taking care the other natural body processes. Actually there was only one direction in which you could take the one step and that step took you out of the bathroom. There are many more stories about life in that mobile home that I shall leave for another time. A great adventure to be sure. 

After college I was abandoned by my best friend and took on a wife. I renovated the suite by taking out the closet and the built in chest of drawers to allow for our new, wedding gift, queen size bed. There was one foot space at the end of the bed and a full eighteen inches on the side not jammed against the wall. To shorten a long story, After a year or so in the mobile home, Wife was anxious to have more conventional accommodations. Today, in compensation for shortages of space, my current bedroom and master bath combined, exceed the square footage of that whole trailer by some two hundred square feet or so. 

Now, can you really believe that I spent my entire life in small spaces and uncomfortable beds? Well, not now, but there were other times... I was a boy scout until I finished college. I spent many nights on the cold hard ground. Yes, I know about air mattresses. I had many. None lasted a whole night, except for one, and few lasted more than the time it took to blow them up and lay down on them. I never acquired a taste for sleeping on the ground. It has all the attributes of a bare hardwood floor plus it is cold in cold weather, hot in hot weather and lumpy in all weathers. I may invest in a camping cot someday. Perhaps something to bring back the nostalgia of an old swayback army cot. 

On the way back from the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Colorado Springs, still a skinny little boy, I pulled my duffel bag and pack from the overhead luggage rack, wrapped up in my sleeping bag, and crawled into the luggage rack myself. I was quite comfortable with the train car’s air conditioning blowing directly on me. Somewhat larger, a few years later, for the trip home from the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, I slept wrapped around the toilet of that train car. The rest of my body can be bent but my legs have to be straight. Train and bus seats just don’t do the trick. Why, only on the way back, you ask. Well nobody sleeps on the way to a Jamboree.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Person of Note

By Rob Watson

The following is an exchange between a dear friend and myself. I have permission to post this from that person. As is my usual the names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.

In my dream I had to go to Texas and see where this river from Wyoming flowed from Texas into Mexico. I got into the river in Mexico and swam a few yards into Texas. You, Husband, your father, and another man were swimming in the river. I explained to your father that the nice clear water had come all the way from Wyoming. (A considerable geographical feat if you think about it). At this point I woke up.

I was unable to go back to sleep and began to think about your dad. I really did not know him at all but I developed a great respect for him. Toward the end of our freshman year in high school I grew some chickens for the "Chicken of Tomorrow" contest. The final show and judging and auction were held in the Citizens Bank parking lot across from your father's office. I won the grand champion prize that year. Normally the bank bought the winning coop of 6 chickens. Normally the price was about $4 to $6 per chicken. Your dad bought my chickens for more than $8 each. It caused a lot of comment at the time because it was the most ever paid for chickens in that contest in that part of HomeState. There was even a write up and comment in the HomeTown Press. (For those not around in 1962. a four pound chicken would sell for 59 to 79 CENTS in the grocery store.)

At the time I overheard some conversations speculating on why your dad paid so much. Some said he thought he was bidding on the whole coop instead of per chicken. Others claimed he understood... anyway, I saved that money and it paid a good part of my expenses to go to the Boy Scout National Jamboree in 1964 and the New York Worlds Fair. Someday I will have to show you the movies I made of GoodBuddy and I foot loose and fancy free in the worlds largest city. As I write now, and remember those times, I have a huge smile on my face.

When I was ready to drive I went to your dad to buy my car insurance... He refused my money and directed me to go to my parents insurance agent. I was sad when he gave up that business. Having been a salesman and faced my own setbacks I sometimes try to identify with him... But I never had three kids to support. Good man!

How did Husband like his year as a substitute? I really hated mine. I did three long term BASS/Resource jobs, then for three months took over a metal shop when the teacher had a fight (verbal) with his principal and got suspended. I never had taken a shop class before and had to learn everything I tried to teach. I really did a poor job... but the innocence of youth prompted some of the students to go to the office and tell them what a great guy I was and they wanted me back next year.

It just goes to prove a recent theory of mine: No matter how bad you are some people will always love you; and no matter how good you are some people will always hate you. ( I believe you had an experience along these lines last summer.)

Have you taken your cruise to Portugal yet? When you told me about that last year I wondered what it would be like on the Atlantic in springtime. Have you been to England to visit with your son? Where is he?

Sorry it has been so long sense I have written.
Your friend, Rob.

I'm sitting her with tears in my eyes having read the wonderful words you wrote about my father. You made him come to life again for me today, and I see him in his office working away. He did love HomeTown and working with the people there. And it was his kindness that you wrote about that eventually ended up costing him his business. When the mill went on strike and so many of his customers, who were his friends, couldn't make their insurance payments, instead of canceling their insurance, he carried them... and in many cases, made the payments himself. So, you see that mill strike hurt more people than just the mill workers.

I never knew about the dad loved scouting so maybe he did pay the extra $$ to help you with your trip. Who knows....

I apologize for not writing you in ages, but my life has been very hectic. At first, I was depressed about my son moving SO far away so I focused on my work like a crazy person...working way too much for me. Then it was time to plan for our trip, then take our trip, and then recover from our trip!!

We had a cruise and trip to Spain...gone for 3 weeks. I'll have to send you some pictures that Husband took...they were great. Anyway, the weather was wonderful. The seas were very calm...we left from Miami, then to Nassau and had 5 straight days at sea before reaching the Azores, then went to Lisbon, Seville, Spain; Marcella and then to Barcelona. We stayed in Barcelona two nights, took a train to Madrid and were there 3 days before flying back to BigTown. We were exhausted! I caught a cold the last couple of days and ended up spending the first two weeks we were home in bed with bronchitis.

In fact, the end of last week was the first week I felt good since we got home on the 25th of May. I need my rest because I am flying out on the 20th to stay a week with my son in London. (Yes, I have become a jet setter!! Thank goodness for cheap European air fares!). Husband isn't going with me. We decided to go separately to see Son. That way, he would have more visits from home (for the same amount of money.) He is having ups and downs....and at one point I really thought he would be coming home...but then he discovered traveling! He spent Memorial Day weekend in Normandy at Omaha Beach and surrounding area. He went one weekend to Belgium to visit friends and he flies Thursday to Nuremberg for the day to a World Cup game where England plays. In fact, he and I will be meeting in the airport on Wednesday next week when I fly over. He'll be flying back from Sweden. Of course travel over there from country to country is like going from one state to another over here.

So, have you made the great move? If so, how do you like your new home? (Oh, and Husband loves substitute teaching...he signed up to be a 'stellar' sub at the local middle school...which means he will automatically go there every day and then be assigned a class. The man is crazy sometimes!!)

Take care...and thanks for the lovely story about my daddy (even your dream made me smile!)

I appreciate the kind words you shared about Nick (as I called him), my grandfather. To me, he was a tremendous man that was all about respect and something he taught me at a young age.  I hope you don't mind that my mother shared this memory with me.

I still think about him often and its great to hear some of his stories. He always taught me to think of others first and I'm happy to say that I'm about to be 30, living and working in London and what he taught me twenty or so years ago -- still lives on today.

Best wishes and thanks again.

Best, Son