Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Like A Nightmare -- Entering A Room Full of Snakes

I opened the door, stepped over two  feet of planks at the entrance into the small barn -- and entered a nightmare.  Big black snakes were everywhere, running across the floor, climbing up and down the walls, and falling from the rafters.  I was startled, to say the least, and stepped back and fell through the door onto the ground.  I don't remember what I said, but I must have shouted something like, "Hey, this building's full of snakes."  They were chicken snakes, which are not poisonous but can bite.  I carried a scar on a finger from a snake bite I got as a child.  No doubt rats had made a home in this abandoned barn and the snakes had followed to feast on them.

We had enough land on the home farm to keep us busy, but daddy had rented this place from our aunt. The soil was sandy and well drained so it could be worked earlier in the spring.  We had traveled from home in a wagon loaded with plows and other tools and feed for the horses. I had opened the barn to store the feed when the snakes and I became acquainted.  We walked back home at the end of the workday but for the remainder of the week we would travel by car, including home at noon for lunch.

The farm was traversed by a small brook and there were several places too low and wet to use for crops.
There were plenty of snakes ranging  from coach whips to cotton mouth moccasins.  The last time I visited the place my  cousin was showing me his grape vines and I saw two large snakes, what kind I don't know.

Another adventure with snakes there is more fun for me to rememember.  We were working in one field and a farmhand was plowing in an adjacent field.  He had stopped plowing and was throwing clods of dirt at a stump.  Daddy yelled at him to get back to work and the farmhand yelled back that he couldn't because he had seen a snake and it had hid in the stump.  Daddy said to him, forget it, that snake is a pet; he won't hurt you.  The hand yelled back, "I don't make no pets of no snakes."  We had to find and kill the little snake before he would resume plowing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

North Carolina Football Troubles Are Bad for Everyone

Even the most rabid LSU Tiger football fan is unhappy  with the problems University of North Carolina and its football team are having.  Around  UNC you hear all around,, " We had a good chance to beat LSU," or even more aggressive,  "We were going to beat LSU," followed by, "but now we've lost half of our football team."  On the LSU campus you hear the plaint, "If we win everyone will say it was because UNC was missing some star players, and if we lose, we will really look bad."  They are referring to the report  that several UNC players will be suspended because of  violations.

Actually, injuries, suspensions, transfers, and bad officiating are challenges all teams face.  LSU has three injured players who will  miss the game, several players transferred, and one projected starter has been suspended. No one, not even the people in a position to know, has all the details of the facts around the UNC situation, certainly who or how many Tar Heels will be suspended for the game.  North Carolina began an investigation when it was learned some players and/or coaches had associated with agents. It was then discovered that a tutor, no longer with the school, had possibly written some papers for players. This transcends sports; it goes to the heart of academics and reflects on the integrity of the university.UNC will do the right thing; what punishment, if any, by the NCAA may not be known until a day or so before the game.

Every university should take this as a warning and monitor more closely its tutorial programs. Some schools want to win so badly they will hire coaches who have committed violations at other schools. They are an exception as most schools want to have a clean program, but the pressure to win is there for all schools..  They must be watchful lest something similar happens to them. The NCAA considers academic fraud the worst infraction a program can have.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Too Much Reliance on Green Energy Could Be Disastrous

Stupid.  That's what Economist Loren Scott, speaking in Shreveport recently, termed the idea that wind and solar are the answers  to our energy needs in the future.  President Obama's dream of  "clean" energy could  lead us to an oil shortage and a devastating blow to an already hurting economy. I can hear it now, "You're  beating a dead horse.  Many have warned about this."    Yes, but Obama seems determined to ride that dead horse no matter where it takes us.  A few days ago when questioned about the economy and unemployment, his only solution offered was that if we lead the world in clean energy plenty of jobs will follow.

Obama appears to be sincere in his dream that EV's are the future for America.  This was seconded by a Democratic congressman who told Greta Van Sustern that the United States should build batteries and electric cars for sale to China. He didn't consider that if the Chinese want electric vehicles they are capable of building their own.   Some people believe the day of the electric car hit its peak around the end of the 19th century.  Even the sale of hybrid vehicles has decreased from three per cent of cars sold in the summer of 2008 to two per cent today.  If there is a demand for batteries to power electric cars, why did we have to bribe a Korean company with 150 million dollars to build a manufacturing plant?

While some dream of electric cars, wind and solar, real jobs in the Gulf have been idled by the moratorium on drilling.  The White House has admitted that it knew thousands of jobs would be lost but went ahead with the moratorium.  Obama has shown in the past that he will tax some industries to subsidize others in his zeal to shape the nation to fit some dream of his. Congress is debating additional taxes on oil and gas when the need is to produce more.  Oil and gas are responsible for 9.2 million jobs. Development of more production will save some jobs and create more. Think about this; one-third of our domestic oil is produced from wells in the Gulf, 80 per cent of that from deep water wells, as defined by the government.  If this moratorium goes on much longer, this nation could have a shortage of oil.  Rigs moving out of the Gulf may not return.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How I Passed Spelling in the Seventh Grade

I had always been a good speller, making perfect on spelling tests and getting certificates from the state three years in  a row. Therefore, my parents were shocked when I came home with F's  in spelling in the seventh grade.  They demanded an explanation and I gave it to them.  We had to write with pen staffs, a problem in itself.  To be correct a word had to be spelled correctly and free of any writing errors such as an  e being too tall or an l too short, a loop in a t, or too narrow a loop in an l.  The girl who sat behind me graded my paper and took delight in finding a flaw in every word and marking nearly all wrong, thus giving me a failing grade.  I was helpless to contend with this.  My dad came to my rescue.  I had no money to buy the girl a candy bar and thus influence her,  but we had pears, pecans and peanuts in abundance, so I showered her with them. It worked; she started being reasonable and I passed spelling. I don't remember my grade, but for the first time I wasn't perfect in spelling. The teacher, Oren Trout, not only had students grading papers but let the class vote the  conduct grade for each student.  You can bet no boy got better than C. We also gave some of the mos popular girls C but he raised their grade to a B.

Cost of stimulus greater than cost of Iraq War.

A report on Drudge  says the Iraq War added very little to the national debt.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Too Many Senate Staff

Our founding fathers made a big mistake.  They provided for two senators per state but did not set a limit on senate staffers, which now exceeds 10,000.  A small step in government down-sizing would be to limit the number of senate staffers. Cutting the pay of federal employees while reducing those numbers would be another good move.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Today Is My Birthday

And  it's just another day.  Birthdays were never a big deal in our family as we were growing up. Maybe because there were so many of us.  The birthday boy or girl got to pick the type of cake that would b e baked for the Sunday nearest the birthday.  I've talked about my sad 18th birthday in the hospital in San Diego, a time I felt so alone, and then my 19th that passed while in San Francisco preparing to go to Japan, at first it was to invade and then when Japan surrendered it was to occupy.  Events were moving so fast I didn't remember that I had become 19 until two weeks later.

Owing to my wife Jen my 50th was marked with a few relatives and friends on hand.  Then my 80th with many relatives and church members shocking me by observing the day with me. Again, thanks to Jen.

Tomorrow, August 22, is the birthday of  brother-in-law Frank Cascio, who if he is not reading this should be. Also it would be the 97th  birthday of  Mark White, a fellow crew member on the Pickens.  I did not know him then but almost feel like I do now through his writings and correspondence with his son John.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Muslim or Christian -- It's His Policies That Are Destroying America

Much is being made of  recent poll results that show 24 per cent of Americans believe President Obama to be a Muslim. While 47 per cent consider him a Christian, the number of people who think he is a Muslim has been growing.  The liberal news media explains this by terming Americans as bigoted, race baiters and other not so nice names. Obama's support of the Islamic Center and mosque is just one more expression by action or word that might cause this confusion.  Votes were hardly counted when he traveled to Muslim nations to apologize for the United States, ignoring  all that Americans have done and sacrificed for others. He made claim that America is not a Christian nation.  While calling attention to the observance of  Ramadan, he has ignored  the National  Day of  Prayer.  Just recently he refused to attend the Boy Scout Jamboree marking the l00th birthday of Scouting.

Whether he is a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu or whatever is not  significantly important to us. What is vital is what his policies, particularly economic, are doing to this nation. He is driving us to disaster; 500,000 more have filed for unemployment compensation. Less than 60 per cent of  Americans of prime working age now have jobs. He talks about building a nation of "green" jobs while his goal is to destroy the oil and gas industry and put coal fired generating plants out of business.  And while the nation goes down. our brave Congress does nothing.

What's the use; Washington is not going to listen to me or any other ordinary American. I may as well sit here and get drunk  on butter milk.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Driver's License Renewed This Morning

My license has been renewed for four more years.  I didn't have to wait over 30 minutes before being called. My waiting time was eased by talking to a young mother who had a seven-months old girl.  The baby never fussed and played with toys on a string over her carrier.  I had a little difficulty with the eye testing machine at first until the operator adjusted it.  I paid $l2.50 for four more years  of driving; I thought it was going to cost more. Before leaving  for the license office this morning I practiced posing so I would have a handsome picture on my license.  It didn't work, although I think I look healthier than my picture four years ago, which was taken a few days after my triple bypass operation.  The photographer denied my request for three poses; I told her I always look better on the third pose.  I complained that the picture on the license a young and pretty girl  had was better than mine and that wasn't fair.  No matter, I  have my license even though the picture doesn't make me look young and handsome.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ice Cream Supper and Hymn Sing Great Success

Church leaders had to be pleased with the attendance at the ice cream supper and hymn sing Sunday night.  As always, there was ice cream in abundance, some of it homemade, but it looked like an advertisement for Blue Bell.  They were asking people to take ice cream home, saying there were 20 gallons left.  Maybe they meant half gallons.

Ronnie did a fine job keeping the singing moving along, recognizing requests and not wasting time.  Afterwords, he thought having a community sing every month would be good.  The problem is picking a night with few conflicts  and imposing on the pianist and song leader.  I wish it could be worked out. We did it in the past.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

VJ Day and How I Lost A Birthday

Sixty five years ago I left my ship, the Pickens, for a rare liberty.  We had arrived in San Francisco August 3 and were to be there only long enough to load on supplies and the 86th Division preparatory to invading Japan. Rumors of a possible Japanese surrender had been circulating and then, while I was off the ship, President Truman announced that Japan had agreed to surrender terms.  I was by myself as some of my buddies were on leave or standing watch.  I entered a restaurant  and was taken to a table occupied by people I didn't know and who didn't know me.  The manager said they were not accepting any more customers and would soon closes.

Streets and sidewalks were being thronged with shouting people.  A girl grabbed my cap and ran off with it. I chased her and got it back; the shore patrol liked to throw sailors in the brig for being out of uniform. I could not join in the celebrations going on around me.  For some reason I felt they were inappropriate and instead of being exhilirated I felt empty, not really sad but somehow let down.  I felt that this was no way to observe such a momentous event.  I left and went back to the ship.

A week or so later, August 23, we left for Japan, stopping in the Philippines to let the 86th (Blackhawk)
Division off and take the troops who had liberated the Philippines to occupy Japan. With all that was going on I forgot that I had a birthday August 2l when I became 19.  It was at least two more weeks before I realized that I had missed a birthday.  For many years I maintained I could be 19 any time I wanted, but my family surprised me by recognizing my birthday before a church congregation, thus marking my l9th birthday a few years late.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Notes About Fred Miller and the Homer Iron Men

I just noticed in the Guardian-Journal that Fred Miller, along with some other sports figures, was inducted into the Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions in Shreveport.  Fred was a member of the 1957 Homer High School football team that went to the state finals despite being a small squad of around 17 players and playing out of its class, school population wise.  Most of the players on that team had scholarship offers. I hope I am not forgetting anyone but I remember four playing for LSU, one for Tulane and three for Northwestern.  Fred made all-American and played several outstanding years for the Baltimore Colts. However,  the Iron Man who became most famous did not play college football.  Jimmy Andrews, a sophomore on that team, earned a scholarship to LSU but as a pole vaulter. Of course he is now a famous orthopedic surgeon, known for the athletes he has treated.

Three played at LSU at the same time, Fred and Bobby Flurry on the defensive team , theChinese Bandits mostly and Ray Wilkins on the Go Team, specializing in offense.   All three were members of American Legion baseball teams I managed and coached.  Most of our games were at night but on this occasion we were to play Natchitoches there in the afternoon. This was a problem, first in getting enough players together, and second, finding transportation.  I borrowed a car from Pete Pearson of Pearson Motors and that car and mine carried the entire team.  I drove  Pete's car and Fred drove mine. We were short of time and I remember we had to drive pretty fast.  Half the time I was watching the road ahead and the rest of the time I was looking back nervously to watch Fred driving my car.  I remember nothing about the game but we got back to Homer with both cars intact.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Four States Operate in the Black (Louisiana is Not One of Them

          "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditures nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness.
          "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditures twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
                    Good advice from David Copperfield.

Kiplinger reports that four states -- Alaska, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota -- are the only states
operating in the black. With the exception of Alaska the other three states are not rich in natural resources and only Arkansas has much population.  They have this in common -- they spend less than they take in.

The other 46 states are taking a variety of ways to help  the situation.  Some are cutting programs, some are adding taxes, some are waiting on the federal government to bail them out, and some are doing nothing.  In which category does Louisiana fall?  Well, the legislature cut some departments but still increased spending and added to the deficit.  Our current legislature seems incapable or unwilling to meet this crisis. Someday soon, and the sooner the better, the state is going to have to take on the unfunded liabilities in retirement programs.  Someone will have to inform employees that they will have to work more years before they can retire and their retirement checks  may be less than they counted on.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Hope I Murdered Some Chinch Bugs Today

I feel surprisingly well today after yesterday suffering the worst angina attack I have had in more than a year.  I still feel okay even though I got up  early and before the weather got hot   poisoned  the front  lawn for chinch bugs.  It was  locking the barn door after the horse was stolen; the bugs have feasted on the St. Augustine, leaving the crab grass to flourish.  The hotter and drier it gets the better the chinch bugs fare.

With all the scientific brains we have, why can't we breed chinch bugs that eat crab grass and leave the St. Augustine alone?  What we need is a man like the late Dr. Julian C. Miller, who came to LSU in 1929 to head the horticulture department where he trained hundreds of horticulturists but was best known for his research. My dad could never get over his amazement at Dr. Miller teaching sweet potatoes to blossom and produce seeds. This allowed him to cross breed and develop better potatoes.  Dr. Miller and LSU improved many crops, among them strawberries.  We will soon are be able to teach corn and wheat to produce their own nitrogen like legumes do, so let's get busy on getting chinch bugs to change their food preference. This should be easier than teaching a sweet potato to blossom.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lowe Reunion Held Saturday

Some 60 people met at Caney Lake Saturday afternoon to observe another reunion of descendants of T. T. and Frances Lowe.  A number of the surviving elder members attended but I was glad to see some young adults and children who were attending for the first time. We  mingled, reminisced, ate lunch, sang familiar hymns, and visited some more. During the past year three members of the third generation have died -- Mary Lowe Cassels, John Lowe, and Harry Dodez. We also lost Jen's mother, Ruth Alello, and Julie's mother, Mary Zimmerman.

Mike and Margaret are the only living members of the nine children  of Perry Lowe.  I spent quite a bit of time with them, recalling  many experiences we had shared.  Mike reminded me of the fights I had involved him in, where a larger boy was beating me and Mike had to take up the fight. One fight began on  the school bus, continued on the playground before school and resumed at lunch.  I was called to Mr. Trout's room to testify; Mr. Trout  called on the class for their opinion, and the class voted that Mike did the right thing in taking up for me.

Pat Perryman and Mike remembered spending time in our front room where there was not only a piano but a victrola that you wound up to provide the power for it to play.  I mentioned that at four years old Pat could hear a song on the record player and perform it on the piano.  She said playing by ear was just a God-given talent, and that others had different talents given by God. I said I was still waiting for God to give me a talent, then I said I once told the Sunday School class  that my talent was siding up cotton, but it isn't in demand any more.
Some time I may elaborate on that for future small timecotton growers if such ever exists again.

I wish more of my family could have been there. Maybe next year.( I had forgotten to mention that Margaret gave me a picture of Grandma Lowe in a wheelchair at Waldo where she had fallen and broken her hip.)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

No Apology for Hiroshima

I don't want to start another argument about using the atom  bomb, but if Obama sending a representative to the Hiroshima ceremony is in any way an apology or an indication that the United States was wrong to drop the bomb, then I agree that is an insult to every American but especially to the servicemen who were being ordered to invade Japan.  How often have I heard a veteran say something like, "the bomb saved my life," or "I would not be here if Truman hadn't dropped the bomb."

The bomb was a weapon used to save lives and end the war, which it did. Some estimate that Hiroshima lost 140,000 lives and Nagasaki lost 80,000.   Ending the war without the necessity of an invasion saved the lives of 300,000 white slaves who were to be executed.  Perhaps as many as one million or even two million Americans would have been killed.  The Japanese had a very effective weapon of their own, the kamikaze.  Sending one plane and one pilot against a ship carrying  hundred, or thousands, of  Americans was a good exchange, Japan thought.  Perhaps only those who were at Okinawa could appreciate how effective the suicide attacks were.  Japan had less than 400 planes at Okinawa, 340 miles from Japan, but l0,000 or more ready to defend against an invasion on the mainland.

It is not as if japan wasn't already suffering from our bombing attacks.  We had destroyed more than 50 cities and  killed more than half a million with our low level nighttime bombing raids.  Japan's leaders did not care; it took the shock of the atom bomb to get them to surrender.  Then, as only Americans do, we rebuilt the nation with compassion and money and now Japan is our ally.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Move Over Little Dogie; Wyoming is MY New Home.

If you live in Louisiana your share of the state's debt is $1271, compared to $77 for people living in Wyoming. ( I know; its only $15 in Nebraska but who knows a Nebraska song?)  Citizens in some states owe more and some in other states owe less per person, and even in Massachusets where the per capita debt is over $4,000 our indebtedness to the federal government is many times greater.

I read an editorial in the Shreveport Times that I can actually agree with, entitled State Barreling Toward the Cliff.  Sate lawmakers began the session with a 24.2 billion proposal and ended with a 26.9 billion proposal, resulting in a 42 per cent increase in state expenditures since1996  They ignored a plan by Treasurer John Kennedy to reduce state employment and to monitor 16,000 consulting contracts that cost $7.5 billion per year.The writer could have added that hanging over us like a crushing weight is the huge unfunded retirement obligation.

Our legislature, individually and collectively, has failed us.  It won't help much but I believe in giving them hell and letting them know they should all be replaced.

(By the way Times, where have you been while the Obama administration continues to spend us into massive deficits and debt?)

USS Pickens Arrives in San Francisco to Prepare to Invade Japan

Just before dawn in a heavy fog the USS Pickens crept under the Golden Gate bridge and dropped anchor at San Francisco after an absence of some 10 months.  We had been briefed that we would be there only a few days, long enough to load on supplies and embark the 86th  "Blackhawk" Division  and with a large contingent of men and ships  would invade Japan.  That may be all we knew at the time but we were to invade the Japanese island of  Kyushu November 1, an operation called Olympic, part of the overall operation termed Downfall. A second part of the invasion, designated Coronet, would  hit Honshu  March l. The navy expected casualties of 50 per cent, which to us meant one of every two would not return.

That was sobering news but we were excited at being back in the states and having liberty in San Francisco. Also, leaves were to be granted, 12 days to some and 6 days to others, depending upon  some point system  and how far away a person lived. The decision was really made by the division officers. I had never had a day of leave, not after boot camp, not after radar school, and not after being released from the hospital, but I was denied  a 12-day leave and told I lived too far away to get 6 days. I pleaded -- I said let me have 6 days and I will figure a way to get home and return.  I had some tough times in my life, but this was the worst, the lowest I have ever been.  To be in the states, to be going to a battle that I most likely would not  likely survive, and yet not see my family for even one hour -- it was devastating.  To make matters worse I had to stand double watches because of people on leave.

Of course, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima August 6,  on Nagasaki August 9 , and Japan surrendered August 15.  I was 19 on August 21 but did not remember it until days later when we were at sea. We left San Francisco August 23, proceeded to the Philippines where we left the Blackhawk Division and picked up the troops occupying the Philippines and took them to occupy Japan.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

65th Anniversary of Victory Over Japan Is August 15

This may seem an early reminder but two related cataclysmic events took place earlier in that  month, the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima August 6 followed by an atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki August 9.  Japan's leaders rejected a call to surrender after the first bomb, preferring to commit suicide as a nation, finally agreeing  to surrender after the second bomb.  For most people today, World II seems as far away as  World War I, but the generation that lived through the depression, the second world war,  and everything that has happened since,  is fast leaving us.  With them goes much experience, wisdom, courage and compassion.

(August 2.  I posted the above on Political Talk on the Tiger Droppings site and got many times the response I expected although it became  a discussion on  whether the dropping of the atom bomb was justified.  I think I made the case that while the bomb killed thousands, it ended the war and thus saved millions.  I try not to get upset at those who call the US wrong for using the bomb, but unless they fought in the South Pacific, especially at Okinawa, their opinions have no validity.)