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...

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...