Recently posted quotes:

"There is no distinctly American criminal class - except Congress." Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for.” -Will Rogers (1879-1935)

"Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it." -James Madison (1751-1836)

"Liberty must at all hazards be supported." -John Adams (1735-1826)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meeting of the Executive Committee of SFA graduates in the Austin Area

Well, I am finally home from the meeting of the Executive Committee of SFA graduates in the Austin area. The employees of the Red Lobster off 183 ran us out just a few minutes ago. It seems that they had to close the restaurant so they could open it for the next days activities—weird rule but they seemed to know what they were talking about.

Neither Bobby nor I had seen hide nor hair of Jimmy Phipps since graduation from Texas A&M back in 1970. Forty plus years had gone by just like an overnight.

We managed to induct Jimmy onto the Executive Committee prior to starting any discussion on world peace, the state of the union or the solving of hunger throughout the globe—a hard task, but we managed.

Taking seats in the booth we started in on the questioning of Mr. Phipps: where he had been over the last forty years; what he had accomplished; and what his plans were for the future.

Due to the fact that there were two old military types the conversation naturally revolved around the telling of experienced “war stories”—all of which were true I am sure. Have you ever heard a war story that you even had the slightest bit of doubt as to its authenticity?

We allowed Jimmy to tell several prior to the gauntlet being thrown down. During the telling of an adventure he detailed about an event while stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, Jimmy mentioned that there was nothing between the North Pole and Fort Riley—obviously trying to one-up the cold factor on the entire assemblage. His account of the cold was most likely true to anybody having not ventured north of the Lower 48 but I couldn’t let the challenge pass.

At this time in the tales of the past Jimmy did not yet know of my traveling. I took the opportunity to interject that I was between the North Pole and Fort Riley for the four years I spent on my first tour of duty in the Army and had better first hand knowledge of just what the effects of the Hawk could be. In fact, the Hawk checked in with us prior to heading south. Cold? Man, let me tell ya ‘bout Cold..

After this confrontation we moved on to each of us attempting to one-up one another time and again with our best stories concerning: Fort Hood adventures, flights on C-141s, flights on C-130s, mountain adventures, Fort Drum adventures……..

At the end of each inning, Bobby would add his editorial comments and we would move right back to the confrontation.

The process took an hour to get through our salads and two waiters//waitresses before we ordered lunch.

Once in a while, the conversation would move toward the politics of the state, the nation and the world. Each appropriately adding their own two cents (never more) about the current subject prior to moving on to the next somewhat related (not a requirement) war story and extra innings.

Eventually the waiters forced us to order a meal which was pretty much engulfed without the interruption of the current conflict being described by who’s ever turn it was.

Boy! What a time we had.

I want to publicly thank Big Bucks Bobby for picking up the check. By the way, he promised to do so again whenever we meet north of the Colorado River—this is an option I will not soon forget.

By the time they asked us to leave, the restaurant had ran out of both coffee and iced tea—both sweetened and unsweetened. As I was sitting on the inside and both Bobby and Jimmy had outside seats, the lack of non-alcoholic libations was probably a good thing at this time; I know I was beginning to feel the urge.

We resolved to meet again as soon as we all recovered from “war story overload.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Do you remember the Texas Prison Rodeo in Huntsville?

I remember it very well. Those Sundays at the Walls Unit in Huntsville in October usually with my Dad were times I will never forget.

I remember going there soon after arriving in Bryan in 1954; this time with my Dad, Mom and brother Kenny. We probably made several trips as a family, but that was to soon give way to the jaunts being just my Dad and me.

I remember a couple of times—maybe about the time I was 12 or 13—that Preston Bishop joined us on a Sunday afternoon. Of course I knew Preston as Cathead more than his given name. Cathead was an old doodle-bugging friend and confident from the 1940s and early 50s. I would never miss the opportunity to sit and listen to the stories these two would tell about their days in the seismographing industry (locating potential oil fields). The stories those two could tell—most hard to believe, but nothing less than the truth.

Well, it seems that they are now tearing down the structure that housed those Sunday memories. There hasn’t bee a rodeo conducted there since 1986 when the structure was deemed to be un-safe. Funds availability to repair//rebuild found it hard going against other budget items determined to be more appropriate. See Associated Press and Austin American-Statesman article:

I remember when halftime would come and they would roll out the afternoon’s professional entertainment. Some big names; usually of the country-western variety would perform. The article mentioned names such as Roy Acuff, Willie Nelson, John Wayne and Steve McQueen—all good Google terms for hit-ability. There were plenty more just as visible that made their stop on a Sunday in October.

I remember one that the article mentioned; I couldn’t wait to see. The infamous Juanita Phillips—more recognizable as Candy Barr, her stage name—was the one I most wanted to see. I don’t know what my young teenage mind expected to see when the Goree Girls made their entrance—to a teenager, a stripper is a stripper no matter what the program says—a performed their short act of two or three songs. The prisoners on the lockup side were just as or maybe even more excited than I was at the time.

I remember the event called “Hard Money” referenced in the newspaper article written by the Associated Press’ Michael Graczyk. I don’t think that Mr. Graczyk ever attended a Sunday performance—maybe a rodeo ever. His description of the Hard Money event made it out to be the most dangerous event in the afternoon’s performance. Forty inmates trying to snatch a tobacco bag from a bull’s horns is exciting—especially when accompanied by the fear of being gored//trampled by the bull; but much more the threat of being knocked over by the hoard of fellow contestants and trampled by them or either them and the bull in the frakus can not be understated. There was also the Wild Horse Race and Mad Cow Milking; both very similar to the Hard Money event. But, in my esteemed estimation these were by far not the most dangerous event of the afternoon. ANYBODY that ever attended a Sunday in October could tell you this.

I remember exactly what the most dangerous event of the afternoon was. Anybody that has seen a rodeo will tell you that the most terrifying one second to maybe twenty or so that takes place is the bull riding. No occupation—with the possible exception of Alaskan crab fishing is more dangerous or so the authorities tell us. Just ask a crab fisherman if he//she will sit the back of a bucking, snorting, wheeling, whirling bull and you will get a resounding NO! Right, bull riding is far more dangerous. Now multiply that danger by a factor of ten. There you have it—real danger. The announcer behind the chutes would warn the audience prior to the start of each and every rodeo. It went sorta like what you might imagine: “If you are squeamish or upset easily, it is suggested that you leave the arena right now. What you are about to see is not for the faint of heart.” Time was then given for the cowardly to exit.

I remember what would happen as soon as the cowardly time was up. The announcer would then describe what was to take place—the Prison Rodeo in Huntsville being the only place one could find an event as dangerous as what was to come. Most of your rodeo arenas had four, six or as many as eight chutes for the bucking//riding events to emerge from, but Not Huntsville—there were ten. All ten were loaded and ready. At the sound of a whistle all ten chutes were pulled open and 10 bulls with their 10 riders would be let loose into the arena, all at the same time. The event was called the Mad Scramble; an appropriate name—yes it was. Mayhem erupted into the arena and mayhem continued until the last astride rider was thrown, recovered and usher out of the arena—all the while the 10 bulls were running loose causing what mayhem they rapt.

I remember going to Huntsville eight, ten or maybe even twelve times and having seen many dangerous events throughout the northern half of the western hemisphere; but I have never seen a more exciting twenty seconds or so anywhere else in that region. Quite possibly there is not another twenty seconds of planed purely voluntary mayhem anywhere in the world.

I remember the one time that sticks out more in my memory than any other. I was probably thirteen at the time and my Dad and I had seats about three rows up behind the chutes on the right side looking into the arena. During the bull riding event, an inmate made a ride that will always stick out in my memory as the best ever. It so impressed my Dad that he actually said the same out loud—a very unusual occurrence I can assure you. The guard positing directly in front of us must have heard my Dad’s comment. He turned and looked back up at us and said: “He might even get better over time. He has ninety-nine years to practice!” His editorial on the ride has always stuck with me. At the time I couldn’t imagine anything lasting ninety-nine years.

I remember the last time I saw the rodeo. I took my wife and kids on the 10th of October in 1982 during the time I was stationed in Bryan briefly after departing the Army. It had now become my turn to take my son (and daughter) to the best rodeo anywhere. Their only experience up until this time was a two chute event we had attended in New York staged on a race track; the entire arena less than the size of a basketball court.

I remember that my wife tells me I spend too much time in the past: I’m still happy that I can remember these times when others my age are can’t.

I remember it all like it was yesterday; but will be never again. Do you?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Update on trhe Renda & the Healy

The Russian Tanker Renda & the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy were still some 78 miles out from Nome at noon time today. Reports say that the wind and weather have turned somewhat favorable and decent progress is being made.

Here are a couple of links to the Anchorage Daily News and their picture pages that you might find interesting:

Anchorage Daily News tracking the Healy and the Renda

Anchorage Daily News tracking Cordova Snow

#4 of 30 is my favorite

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Will heating fuel reach Nome, Alaska in time? – 11 Jan 12

You may have seen the news and pictures covering the Russian fuel tanker Renda and the Coast Guard Cutter Healy (icebreaker) trying to provide a path for the tanker to reach Nome, Alaska. Will they get there in time?

Route of Renda & Healy map provided by the New York Times.

The area is a tough go at any time of the year, but especially in the winter months. The Bering Sea and the rate of freeze makes it even tougher—as soon as the Healy cuts a path, it freezes back. Check out the depth of ice in the pic above. (provided by the New York Times).

Russian tanker Renda & Coast Guard Cutter Healy – provided by the AP Photo &US Coast Guard - Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis

Nome, Alaska isn’t gonna run outta heating fuel—at least not anytime soon. Re-supply of petroleum products via air and Army personnel was tested as far back as the winter of 1972 – 1973 as far as I can attest.

I know this for a fact. I was there and the officers and soldiers of my platoon did the actual work.

We were re-supplied with product out of Elmendorf Air Force Base by a C-130 “Bladder Bird” a especially equipped cargo plane with fuel tanks which pumped fuel directly into our airlifted petroleum cargo trucks from Fort Richardson (both activities located just outside Anchorage, AK).

The operation above tested the movement and refueling of Army helicopters but the same procedures can be adapted to any fuel and any storage device.

Reprint from Fort Richardson community paper published after the test took place:

“Men responsible for refueling military vehicles and aircraft when the Army is on the move in Alaska tried new techniques last week during Exercise ACE CARD VI at Nome. Speedy fueling of more than 70 Army helicopters was accomplished during a single hour shift.”

“According to 2nd Lieutenant Larry Wilson, the brigade’s petroleum, oil and lubricant (POL) officer, the refueling of all aircraft while their engines are still operating is routine, but this procedure is a first for the large, twin rotor CH-47 “Chinook” helicopter.”

“The aircraft fuel is dispensed from two 10,000 gallon fabric tanks (bladders). To distribute the fuel the men use three 350gallons-per-minute pumps (with separators to keep the fuel clean of dirt and water), and 2000 feet of hose. In an hour the men refueled a CH-54 “Flying Crane,” 11 CH-47 “Chinooks,” six AH-1G “Cobras,” 23 UH-1D “Hueys” and 30 CH-58 “Kiowas.”

“With wind chill temperatures ranging to 50 degrees below zero, with the primary hazard being frostbite, eleven soldiers alternately work in fifteen minute shifts, and handle the POL equipment. They must be extra careful, for fuel touching the skin will evaporate, causing quick cooling of the tissues and instantaneous frostbite.”

“During Exercise ACE CARD VI, the POL section handled 73 aircraft plus all other vehicles in the Brigade. In only two days the section dispensed 22,000 gallons of gasoline and 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel.”

Two points I would like to clarify here: (1) Larry Wilson was the 2nd POL officer to fill the position during my tenure as the Supply Platoon Leader (LTs: 1-Kring, 2-Wilson, 3-Brown and 4-Kuchta )and (2) the reporter confused the numbers on gallons dispensed. They should have read 22,000 gallons of jet fuel and 4000 gallons of diesel and Mogas. Be that as it may, in those two days they did a great job under some tough conditions.

I have very few pictures of the winter operations we were involved in as my camera (a Pe3tri, fully automatic 35mm) was frozen most of the time—I continually forgot about it and left in my jeep overnight and when time to use it presented itself; it failed to operate correctly.

I will, however, provide you with the two shots that follow:

2LT Larry Wilson at Eielson AFB a couple months prior to the Nome test

SGT Garcia & 2LT Doug Brown atop a 10,000 gallon fabric tank

So, just as the Alaska National Guard digs out the southern coastal city of Cordova, Alaska; the military contingent in Alaska has the where-with-all to insure that Nome does not run short of heating fuel.

By the way, I always ask this question every time I have the opportunity to show the Brown-Garcia shoot; can you guess what my very next action was subsequent to taking the photo that day?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

1 sided cell phone calls

Hello! Have I got the War Department?


Could ya connect me with Plans and Operations?


Plans and Ops, I have a question ‘bout today’s operation.


No Sarge! I want to talk with the officer in charge. Please put him on and be double quick about it!


Hello! Are you the guy who wrote today’s op order?


OK, I’ve got the guy I wanta talk to. I have several immediate questions.


No, no. I’m out here in Montana. I’m not in Afghanistan somewhere with what did you say the Taliban? Give me the guy in charge of the Montana operations order!


Hello! Are you the guy who wrote today’s op order?


I see in paragraph number 1 that the enemy force estimate says there might be light opposition. Man, do you have any idea just how many Indians there are out here?


Well, let me tell you; there are a whole hell’ava lot more than light enemy action Indians out here. They’re everywhere!


I don’t know where you got your intel, but mine is first hand and I’m telling you there’s a hell’ava lot of Indians out here today.


Have you heard from Reno?


I’ve lost contact. He shoulda been here hours ago!


What’s the chance you could send in the Immediate Reaction force? They aren’t in contact are they?


What? They aren’t available! What good do you think the Mississippi national Guard will do me in the next thirty to forty minutes?


Hold on a second, I gotta say somethin’ to Charlie.

Watch out Charlie! Oops, too late!

Say Ops, just how many Survivor Assistance Officers do you have on call today?


I’m ‘athinkin’ you’re gonna need to get some more ready!


No Major, I mean a lot more than that!


Hold on another second, I gotta………