The World’s Smartest Man

Remember when you thought your father was the smartest man in the world? I do. And I remember how I felt the day I found out he wasn’t. I just came right out and asked him if he knew everything. He laughed and said no. I was let down, but somehow I had begun to sense it and was somewhat prepared to accept a slightly more realistic image of the big guy. He was still the best dad in the world, and he held that title for the rest of his life. The way my daughter found out that I didn’t know everything was more abrupt, and my wife was more shocked that day than my little girl was, but not because she suddenly realized I wasn’t the smartest man in the world. She had known it from Day One. This happened in Kendallville, Indiana–a great little Midwestern town. My wife got called in as a substitute teacher that day, so it fell to me to get Katie dressed and off to school. It so happened that Carol was teaching the first grade class that Kate attended. When she walked into the classroom, my wife was horrified. Katie had her dress on backwards. Carol took our little first-grader into the restroom and put the dress on right. She said, “Katie, you know how this dress goes.” “Well, I figured if daddy put it on that way, you must be able to wear it either way.” All I could say was I thought the buttons went in front. I’m pretty sure that was the day that Katie figured it out,...

I still love Major League baseball, but…

I admitted to my email subscribers that I was now a card carrying curmudgeon. I’ve earned it, and I’m going to play the card I’ve been dealt. So, let me start by laying into Major League Baseball, which I have loved since the 1950s. First, a little background. I was the kid who rode his bike up and down the alleys and up and down the blocks, knocking on doors, hollering at open windows, trying to get up a game of baseball in the field behind the American Legion. I was the instigator. But when my Milwaukee Braves were playing the Cubs, whose games I could pick up on the radio (in Northern Indiana) , I was also the kid who could and did spend a whole summer day up in his room listening to a double header on the radio and keeping a scorecard of both games. I used to wonder what the big deal was about speeding up the game; hell, I thought they went too fast. Today I can watch every Braves game on TV since I live in Alabama. But I don’t have the patience to actually sit and watch a whole game. I hit the record button and then come and go as I please. Even if a game is going well, holding my interest, I like to let the recording get ahead a bit, not only to cruise past commercials, but to protect against the dreaded umpire replay consultation–you know, three or four umps standing around wearing headphones for five minutes. I prefer to get the bad news fast, with no drama. So...

Was it the worst of times or the best of times?

“Ask most combat veterans to name the worst experiences of their lives, and they’ll probably tell you it was war. But here’s the confusing part. When you ask them to choose the best experiences of their lives, they’ll usually say it was war, too.” This is the best account I’ve ever read on the topic. It absolutely nails the mindset of my DEATH’S DOOR protagonist, Jesse Yates. http://dailysignal.com/2016/01/06why-soldiers-miss-war/ Share...

Enduring dreams of combat

As a kid growing up in 1950’s small town Indiana, I was proud that my dad had fought in the big war, but I had no idea how much horror, anguish and phyical suffering he must have endured. He’s gone now, so I’ll never know the details, but a few years ago I found some disturbing news in a library book about World War II. I looked up 90th Infantry Division in the index and began going to the pages that mentioned their activity. I was stunned at the number of horrific battles they were in, at the heroism, the significance of their campaigns and at the carnage. I hate that he had to endure it. The 358th Infantry Regiment, 90th Division, put out a booklet that told the story of their march through Europe. It was rather clinical, doing little more than describing where they went and, briefly, what happened there. On one page, though, there was a backward checkmark (dad was left-handed). It was the only mark he made in the booklet, and I’ll never know why he put it there. It was at a paragraph with the heading The Jaws Close, and it read: “After Le Mans, the Division cut north in clouds of dust toward Alencon, following the Second French Armored Division and blocking to the West any effort of the German 7th Army to escape the inevitable and fast closing Falaise Trap.”  Le Mans, Alencon, Falaise–these were names I heard recently while watching a program on the Military Channel about the Allies’ struggle to break out of the Normandy peninsula, and the raw footage...

Keating was a nightmare

In my new novel, Death’s Door, undercover P.I. and ex-Navy SEAL Jesse Yates has a conversation with a suspected hijacker in an Alabama honky-tonk. When the guy nearly jumps out of his skin because somebody tapped him on the shoulder, he recovers and says one word to Yates: “Keating.” Although Yates hadn’t been there, he understood. Combat Outpost Keating was under constant pressure from the Taliban and was the site of one of the worst battles in the Afghanistan war. I was amazed at what I found out about COP Keating. As was often the case, our troops did a hell of a job there, despite a history of bureaucratic bungling. First of all, the camp was located in an almost indefensible location, practically surrounded by steep mountains, crawling with Taliban snipers. When it was finally ordered shut down, there was a long delay in carrying out the order, again, for largely bureaucratic reasons. A report after the major battle blamed a “mindset of imminent closure” for the fact that the outpost’s defenses were never upgraded, despite intelligence reports of a large scale enemy attack. There were 47 attacks in the five months preceding the showdown, 10 of which hat occurred in the previous month. The report also mentioned that senior commanders were “desensitized” the threat of a large scale attack, having heard it so often over the previous months. It sounds sort of like Hillary Clinton and Benhazi. So, once again, U.S. troops fought valiantly despite costly failures up and down the increasingly bureaucratic chain of command. Eight valiant soldiers died in the day-long battled during which our...

Let ’em do their job!

That truck driver cell phone law still sticks in my craw. It also applies to click-to-talk radios, too. They can’t really think that picking up your radio is dangerous, but now they require you to pull off the road to call your dispatcher. To me, that’s a hell of a lot more dangerous than reaching down to pick up my radio. I didn’t think they’d apply the law to C.B.’s since they can be used to warn other drivers of impending road hazards, but I guess I was wrong. It’s another regulation in an occupation drowning in regulations—another attempt to collect revenue from people who are being targeted so often and by so many that they approach every day as though preparing  to run a gauntlet. In my Novel, Death’s Door, the hero, Jesse Yates and Phil Bolden, who turns out to be a hijacker, are in a honky-tonk commiserating about truck driving, when Bolden tells Yates about a driver who was caught without his seat belt on by a cop on an overpass with binoculars, who then radioed ahead. I hate to say it, but that really happened. What really gets me is that these kinds of things represent the Washington elite treating the rest of us like children, fining us (severely) for doing things that they do with impunity. Of course it’s all just a money grab, since it’s now impossible to collect enough taxes to pay for all their vote-grabbing social programs. Traffic fatalities are down 24% from 2005, but what’s also down? Revenue. You gotta get it somewhere.The law is full of verbiage about drivers...

Marijuana seems to ease PTSD symptoms

I’m no expert on marijuana, but my gut tells me there’s something to it. I won’t try to tell you I have no experience with the evil weed, but I will say that it hasn’t been a big part of my life. I guess there are three main reasons. I’m a booze guy, initiated as a young Hoosier in Ohio border towns where 18-year-olds could legally drink 3.2 beer. Man, those bars were like Old West saloons. It’s a good thing we didn’t carry six-shooters. The prospect of being hassled by the law was a definite turn-off. Pot didn’t seem to do much for me. Well, there was this one time when I had a layover in Saigon and met up with my best friend from home… Back to topic: I don’t think anybody escapes the horrors of war unharmed. Chemical and genetic makeup probably help some people deal with it better than others, but I believe that a feeling of isolation compounds all the thoughts and images of battle that plague combat veterans. Deep down, they can feel permanently isolated from civilian society because they think nobody really knows them anymore and never will. They only feel truly normal among other veterans, but when they get home their chances of coming in contact with someone who has shared their experience is mighty slim. Support groups can be a big help if you have access to one. A couple of veterans in Olympia, Washington, have started a group that focuses on using marijuana to help reduce the incidence of suicide among combat veterans. One of these guys says he...

Kerry built his career on the backs of U.S. troops

The Obama administration can really pick a Secretary of State. First it was Hillary, whose incompetence and lack of concern got an ambassador and three other good men killed, and then you get John Kerry who built his political career on the backs of his brothers in arms. I can’t think of anything worse than coming back home and lying to your countrymen about the guys you went to war with. Kerry testified before congress in 1971 and talked about all the atrocities we committed in Vietnam, and he knew damn well that the vast majority  of U.S. troops (and probably every one he ever laid eyes on) were doing in Vietnam what always done–fighting with honor and courage while doing their best to help and defend the civilian population. Anyway, how would he know about all these atrocities? He was only there for four months. He put himself in for three Purple Hearts and got the hell out. In his testimony he claims to have met with 100 veterans in Detroit who admitted murdering, raping and mutilating civilians in Vietnam, sometimes just shooting people for the fun of it. If his pals were telling the truth, they should be in Leavenworth. I don’t know the exact truth about his wounds, but, since none of them caused him to miss any duty time, they couldn’t have been significant. No doubt most guys who spent a year or more over there got their share of cuts, scrapes and minor injuries during combat activity without getting a Purple Heart. I know a lot of guys who, if they had somehow managed...

The strange ‘Madmen’ view of the Vietnam War

I couldn’t help being amused by the Madmen view of Vietnam. As early as 1965 in the show, all the young guys in the agency seemed threatened by the idea of being seized by the military and sent to their death in Southeast Asia. Later, when the son of one of Don’s lovers faced certain death at the hands of his local draft board, Don became obsessed with saving his life, while the kid made plans to hightail it to Canada. And then there’s the weird scene where the goofy little kid who used to be a neighbor of the Drapers mans up and joins the Army with every intention of going to Vietnam. Sally freaks out, spewing leftist garbage like “Why, so you can kill kids your own age?” She couldn’t have been more than 13–an age when politics, if it has somehow managed to raise its ugly head, is no match for hormones. And yet we’re to believe that she has already been indoctrinated with Bill Ayers-type dogma. Here’s the reality: It actually took quite a while for the self-righteous U.S. media and the likes of Jane Fonda and John Kerry to have their way with America. In the early years of the war–I suppose the Madmen writers had no way of knowing this–people pulled for our troops, wished them the best and then went to the mall, much the way things have been going for our warriors today. The seeds of rioting in America were scattered around the globe by masters of Soviet disinformation. They even had a whole department of Dezinformatsiya. Later, they cooked up the...

Guy walks into a bar wearing a rebel flag…

I hate that so many government entities have fallen all over each other in their haste to pretend that the Confederate battle flag  never existed. It’s one thing when segments of the general population have a thoroughly negative reaction to the symbol. After another horribly disturbed young mass murderer poses with the flag, what can you expect? Knee jerk reaction on the basis of emotion and with little regard to rational thought is not something we should value in our government officials, though. And yet now, in the heat of the moment, we have state and local politicians in the South scouring every logo, seal and symbol in a desperate effort to find and eradicate the slightest trace of stars and bars. I don’t like it. Hundreds of thousands of decent young men with no stake at all in the slavery issue followed that banner out of loyalty and devotion to their homeland–deep rooted American traits that, in years to come, the country depended on for it’s very survival, and still does.  As an aside, I think it would be interesting to find out what percentage of our military ranks are filled with people from former Confederate states. The topic is complicated far beyond that fact, though–too complicated for a simple blog post–but I will say that the sorry state of education in this country has a lot to do with it. Too many people react to historical events as though they were subject to today’s legal standards, cultural conditions, moral sensibilities, Tweets and Facebook posts. Let’s face it, the Stars and Bars has been demonized for quite a while...

Example Blog 3

The standard Lorem Ipsum passage, used since the 1500s “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.” Section 1.10.32 of “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum”, written by Cicero in 45 BC “Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?” Share...

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The standard Lorem Ipsum passage, used since the 1500s “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.” Section 1.10.32 of “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum”, written by Cicero in 45 BC “Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?” Share...

Example Blog 1

The standard Lorem Ipsum passage, used since the 1500s “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.” Section 1.10.32 of “de Finibus Bonorum et Malorum”, written by Cicero in 45 BC “Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?” Share...

This Really Happened

I call myself a thriller author because that’s the genre I love and plan to move forward with, but two of my first three novels didn’t fit in that category. As such, I’m kind of glad to have them out of the way. They were stories that were somehow connected to my life experience and had to be told. Big Sandy will always have a special place in my heart because the instigating event really happened, and I was one of the characters. I’ll always feel proud of the fact that Hollywood producer Timothy Blake purchased an option on the story and spent two years trying to raise production money.  It was a tough sell, though. Directors aren’t eager to get involved with projects that have kids and animals in key roles. On a quiet small-town summer night, sometime in the 1950’s, a friend and I were sitting on the porch watching bats strafe the bugs around a street light. And then we heard a sound we’d never heard in real life–a woman screaming. It took a while to catch my breath, but then I remembered that people said a panther’s cry sounded like a woman screaming. There was a story going around that a panther had been seen in the area. The sound came from behind the co-op, so my friend and I ran into the house, grabbed a flashlight, a hunting knife and a pellet gun and took off down the railroad tracks behind the co-op. There was a hole in the crawl space beneath a warehouse out there, and we thought it would be a good place for...