Monday, April 27, 2009

Batmo's Chicken Barnyard

The Infamous Foghorn Leghorn

I just read this post over at the blogsite of a good friend of mine. Her name is Betmo, but I call her Batmo. She writes at a lot of blogs. Her own is called Life's Journey. Sometimes I think I’m a little hard on her by calling her pet names like Batmo or Batmaniac and stuff, but this post about the idea of her raising chickens a turkey and a pig seemed outrageous enough to warrant the moniker.

She’s been into the garden and being greener overall for a while now. It is a sound prospect to instill the idea that the way it looks with the economy and world view, war, politics and overall selfishness and greed that we might start thinking along the lines of self preservation. Growing our own food and doing our bits and pieces to save the planet are certainly not out of order for so many reasons not to mention the ones I mentioned.

The thing is, well, I raised chickens once. I had a couple of horses and some cattle too. I also had this great big garden, tapped maple trees for sap to make syrup and sugar, hunted and fished and had a passive solar heated house way back in the 1980’s. It’s not Batmo’s idea of doing the things we need, or rather should do, to be better prepared for citizenship of a spoiled world, but it is the idea of raising chickens in her backyard that I wonder about.

Real cute when they're little chicks.

Let me tell you a little about my experience in the matter. It was around 1982. We had just moved into this decrepit eight foot wide by fifty foot long thin walled uninsulated mobile home on a grand 20 acres along the Snake River in East Central Minnesota’s Pine County. We bought the property for the property, not the home. We planned to upgrade as soon as we could. Our dream was to become as self sufficient as we could possibly be.

We had been reading Mother Earth News and our dreaming heads were filled with fantastic ideas of growing all of our own food and using natural resources to heat our home. At one time, we actually thought we could live in the shed that we eventually made into a henhouse. It was a nice size shed. Actually a large storage area with a wooden floor, and a side area with a dirt floor, all under a good roof cover. This is where I decided to put the hen house after we decided we’d build a house instead of converting the shed to live in.

Our Hen House was similar to this one.

I had a nice ramp set-up and a small door opening for the chickens to gain entry. I put in a roosting grandstand. There was straw on the floor and plenty of dirt with the gravel they need to scratch. It was a nice layout. I stored the feed in the other side of the shed and could spread it either inside or out in front of the doorway.

I ordered 100 chicks from the farm store co-op early in Spring. I hung brooding heat lamps and made a small corral out of corrugated cardboard to keep them warm until they grew a bit. They got food and water and started to grow rather rapidly. One hundred chickens was a lot of chickens!

The hen house was looking pretty full. I was learning about separating them and desexing some of them. I never thought I’d have a bunch of roosters around and would propagate a new batch of chicks over and over. Buying the large tray of 100 chicks was convenient and simple and would provide the new stock in the future.

One morning, I wandered out of the house to do some early morning chores. It was a fine Spring day. The sun was up and the day had begun a few hours before I actually got my lazy ass out there to feed. That’s when I saw the most surreal thing I had ever seen in my life. Flat chickens. Yes, they were laying all around the hen house, flatter than pancakes! Looks like something had sucked the blood out of every damn one of ‘em. And that’s exactly what had happened.

The weasel before he sucked the blood out of all my chickens.

I’m from Chicago. I grew up in the city. If I saw chickens, they were on the side of the road in a farm yard along one of the slow roads in Wisconsin. Either that, or I saw them in a LoonyToons cartoon. Like Foghorn Leghorn way back there bat the beginning of this post. We used to always go to Wisconsin to drink because the legal age was eighteen and in Illinois it was twenty one. That’s where you might see a chicken or two or a sign that said fresh eggs were for sale and then you knew the farmer raised chickens.

This is the part of the story where I start to speak with a real thick southern drawl.

I had this land and was raisin’ chickens, but never thought I’d ever see flat ones. I rushed back to the house and told the good wife about the site I just saw. She scrambled out and we gazed upon the flat chickens together, not knowing what to think. Was we in one of them there Twighlight Zones?

The well dressed well fed weasel showing off to his friends.

We started cleaning up the mess. I had more than a wheelbarrow full of flat carcasses and went out in the woods and buried the lot. I went out to try to find out what had happened. I went into Dwight Lightfoot’s dairy farm, where we’d buy milk now and again, and asked Dwight right out. He told me that I had been attacked by a weasel. He told me that they could sneak into a small crevice and suck the life out of ‘em chickens, and that’s exactly what happened.

I went around the hen house and put boards up where ever there was a crack or a split in the sidin’. I put up hardware cloth with the small holes and did away with the open doorway. I’ll decide when the chickens can go outside, and I’d get ‘em all inside afore shuttin’ the door at night!

Hardware cloth used to keep the weasels out of the hen house.

We bought another 100 chicks and started all over with the heat lamps and the corral. That worked for about a month, but then the weasel did it again. But this time, he didn’t get all the chickens. I had about a dozen that ole weasel missed. I really fortified the barracks now and I was determined to save these dozen chickens.

We did, and they grew. I had about six hens and got about six eggs. Not six eggs a day, six eggs total from the whole time I raised chickens and fed ‘em and hunted through the straw for eggs. The rest were roosters and we didn’t make capons out of ‘em or anything. We just waited until they looked big enough to eat and then slaughtered them and had dinner.
Okay, I’ll go back to regular Midwest dialect now and lose the southern accent.

I read how to slaughter and clean a chicken on the farm from an old book called Foxfire. The Foxfire series had a plethora of information about how to get things done without buying all the fancy equipment that was available for these kind of down home country living. I should have been readin' THIS GUY.

They said to get a stump and place it down and put a couple of nails in the top of the stump, about two inches apart. You gather up the desired chicken and place the neck between the nails and stretch the body out. Then, you’d chop off the head with an axe. Well, that would be fine if you had one of the kids chase down the chicken, then catch one, then put it in the nails and hold it still while I grabbed the axe and did the hittin’.

But alone, it was impossible and I found a better way. I walked around in the hen yard with my 12 gauge shotgun. I had what was called a long tom, a real long 36” barrel on my shotgun because I used it to hunt geese in the Fall. I’d walk slow and not chase anything. Those chickens just stood there. If I made a move towards them, they’d run, so I just stood there real calm with that long tom and placed the end of the barrel real close to the head and blasted the heads off. < southern::They was butchered cleaner than any old axe would do and I didn’t have to chase ‘em around atall!::end southern>

Regular 12 gauge shotgun

Then the feather plucking chore had to be done. That was a mess. Feathers everywhere. Blowing into your hair, up your nostrils. And did it stink! Then they had to be gutted and washed. It took hours to clean one chicken. And they didn’t look at all like the ones you buy in the store. They were bruised and the skin was off here and on there because we didn’t know how to pluck properly.

This is a long 36" barrel 12 gauge shotgun, sometimes called a "Long Tom"

The kids wouldn’t eat them because they said they smelled bad. They still had the smell of the slaughter in their noses and when it came time to eat, they said they could still smell them and that chicken from the store didn’t have that smell. Then there was crooked toe.

Crooked Toe was the name giving to one of the chickens. It had a real obvious crooked toe and it was identifiable by this physical trait. Actually, the kids named all the chickens by color or sex or crooked toes or streaks of meanness. The chickens were like pets and they didn’t understand the idea of growing food. Growed food was garden food. Chickens was animals and therefore they were pets. Remind me to tell you about the cattle some day.

So, we slaughtered Crooked Toe and was gonna have him for dinner. We served it up and no one wanted to eat because they new this chicken personally. And even though we obviously didn’t serve the feet with the crooked toe, the kids knew which one was on the platter and wouldn’t eat because they went and talked with their pet chickens everyday and saw Crooked Toe was missing from the hen yard.

No Batmo, don’t raise chickens. Buy ‘em from the store. If your neighbor raises them, let your neighbor do the butcherin’ too. You’re in for nothing but trouble if you try to raise your own chickens. Now that turkey and the pig you was talkin’ about might be another story. I’ll do some thinkin’ an’ get back to ye.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New House and an Old Pool

So we moved into this new home. It’s a nice place, built in 1970, so it’s not too old. I’ve owned older homes before. They are nice looking, but a myriad of nightmares as soon as you try to fix them up a bit. First of all, if the electricity hasn’t been updated, you’re in for problems with ungrounded two-prong outlets and not enough of ‘em. Then there’s the plumbing problems with lead pipes and corroded galvanized water lines. I’ve been there and done that.

This place is okay in the old and decrepit department. Good water flow, plenty of grounded outlets. The lighting could be a bit better, so I have been working on installing some fixtures. I already did the stairway to the lower level and put spots up over the kitchen sink. I had to do away with the glass globe bug gathering relics that were there. I do have a bit of a dilemma though. The newest environmental phase has everyone using the fluorescent screw in bulbs to replace the regular standard base incandescence bulbs. I can’t see shit with the light they cast. If I buy a higher wattage, what will I be accomplishing?

I thought I would install some track lighting in the kitchen and use small spots directed onto specific work areas, but I just went with under cabinet lights instead to save some bucks and accomplish the same goal, that is, to be able to see the blade of the knife so I don't cut fingertips into the pasta salad. They draw less than the standard 60 watts, and cast a better light for my old tired eyes. I have a window over the sink, so daytime chores there don’t need any lighting at all other than the natural.

A few other small projects are in the works. I will paint two bedrooms. They are both a greenish color and are faded. The master had a border wallpaper applique’ that my daughter removed for us. She seemed to know what she was doing and had experience, so I let her have at it. I’ll prep for paint with a few small nail and shade mounting holes that need some spackle.I’ll paint without the aid of masking tape. I’ll “cut in” around the windows and baseboards and along the ceiling. The ceilings look like they’re in great shape, so I’ll leave them alone. The folks we bought the home from must have been non smokers!

The big job is in the back yard. This place came with an above ground swimming pool. It is 24 feet across and four feet high. It was filled with water. Some kind of cushioning pillow is used, along with a cover, and the water freezes during winter, but doesn’t damage the sidewalls as it draws to the center, attracted to the cushion. It was mostly thawed out when I uncovered it and started the draining process.

You see, I’m draining the pool because I’m getting rid of it. I went on Craigslist to post a notice telling the general public that I would give the pool away free to anyone that would come and dismantle it and haul it away. I didn’t have to put the ad in as I found an ad requesting just the opposite.

Let me mention here that I just don’t want one of these big monstrosities in my yard. They are expensive to keep up with chemicals and electricity to circulate the water through filters. Then there are the filter elements themselves and all the skimming and covering and uncovering. Then there is the panic factor. Some folks don’t worry about such things, but the hypervigilence in me will have me on the edge of my seat anytime any of my Grandkids get close to the back yard! There are plenty of lakes to swim in as well as the YMCA. By the way, our "Y" has a water slide! They can cool off in the yard under the garden sprinkler. There is a nice gentle slope for a Slip-n’-Slide too.

A young unemployed father was wanting a pool so he could stay home with the children this summer as the spouse worked. Whatever. He wanted a pool. I had one. Done deal. Right? Wrong!

I took a few pictures showing this man that the pool held water and had a good liner. All the circulating pumps and filters were there and in the house, taken off before freeze up and stored. I then started the process to drain the water. When I uncovered the pool, there were still large Titanic sized ice chunks floating, but they soon melted away with the influx of some warm Spring weather we’ve had. I went to the local store and rented a small 1/2 hp transfer pump and hooked it up to a garden hose.

Let’s see, 2 gallons per minute times 60 minutes, that’s 120 gallons per hour times 20 hours is 2400 gallons. That ought to do it, right? Wrong again! This thing holds almost twelve thousand gallons of water. That means over 100 hours of a constant running pump. I know this to be true because I went HERE!

It was super slow, and leaves kept getting caught in the intake end of the hose. I had to find another way. I hauled the circulating filter pump assembly out of the house, where it had been stored for the Winter, and rigged up a series of hoses and pumped it out that way. That worked fine, but the same leaves clogged up the filter and needed to be emptied often. I tried a screen on the intake end, but then it slowed the flow from that end. The leaves had gathered in the pool the previous Fall, before the previous owners covered the pool. Every time I had to clean the leaves out of the filter, I also had to reprime the pump and that was a chore, especially as the water level got lower and I had to reach over the edge farther and farther each time.

It took all day, but I got the job done. It took many trips into the yard and a lot of bending over and tugging here and pulling there. It tired me out and gave me some sore muscles. Wish I had a hot tub instead of a pool filled with cold water. Oh, that’s right, the pool is empty now. The guy is coming Wednesday morning to take it down, piece by piece, screw by screw.

I called the guy and told him the water was drained and it was ready to be taken down and hauled away. He asked me if I’d be around to give him a hand. I hope that goes well. The whole purpose of giving it away was to have some enthusiastic grateful recipient come over with their friends and their tools and disassemble the thing and haul it away. If I knew I would have to do any work, I would have sold the damn thing. I guess I’m just an old softy. But I sure don’t see myself working as hard as I did to drain the darn thing. I’m beat up, tired, sore and basically a wreck. No way I’m on up and down off a step ladder today painting the bedrooms.

So, the guy showed up, he had his screw gun and he went right to work. I supplied a few Ziplocs for the screws and some assistance, but for the most part, I left him alone working on dismantling the swimming pool in my back yard.

The pool is gone now. Some landscaping to get done, but in a few weeks, there will be a nice big grassy area where the kids can play.
This will probably replace that old pool!

So, instead,of painting, I’ll cruise town and try out another coffee shop. Being a college town, the coffee shops abound. Haven’t found the right one yet, but still looking. For that matter, we have many choices for pizza as well as bars and taverns. I’ve been to one bar and one pizza place so far. The Mexican restaurant in town was very good and we’ve been there three times!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Real Reason behind the Crow Creek Ride

TeePees adorn the actual site of Fort Thompson along the Missouri River during the annual Crow Creek Commemorative Ride.

The Youtube that appears on this post will explain a lot about why I spend time and energy doing fundraising and working for the success of the Crow Creek Longriders annual motorcycle ride. It really explains why I ride at all. Incidentally, this years ride will take place on June 17-20, 2009. You can get more information at our blog, which we use as a website. Here’s the link:

Crow Creek Longriders Annual 4th Annual Commemorative Motorcycle Ride

The video is eight minutes long. The original footage was over two hours, but it has been shortened to give you a glimpse of just one of the problems the people of Crow Creek face. This video is about the local power company and is simply a documentary of power company employees taking out electric meters and shutting off power to residents of Crow Creek in the middle of Winter.

As you may know, the winter is cold out there on the plains of South Dakota. Many people believe it is the law that power cannot be turned off in the middle of winter. This has not been the case at Crow Creek.

The 2000 census states that the median income for a household in Buffalo county South Dakota was $12,692, and the median income for a family was $14,167. Males had a median income of $18,650 versus $19,554 for females. That's the County, not the Reservation. On the Reservation, the median income is around $5000.00. The per capita income for the county was $5,213, the lowest in the nation. About 55.70% of families and 56.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 61.50% of those under age 18 and 50.40% of those age 65 or over.

Note: The above excerpt was taken from a WIKIPEDIA search about Buffalo County, SD.

The Crow Creek Reservation itself has an 80% unemployment rate. 80%! Hard to pay your heating bills when there is no work, no hope for work, no prospects and no investments in the community where you live.

I know there are those among the population that have an opinion about how the Native American should be living. Joining White society and moving off the reservation to a city where they can get work. Then there are those that think Indian people all get money doled out by the bucketful from the government or from casino gambling and spend it on alcohol.

The fact remains that the Power Company was only doing its job and they had a right to do it for non payment of services, but the extent with which they charge for shutting off and then turning back on the power is unethical and seems to be made as such a policy to render the people totally helpless, not to mention the laws that state power cannot be turned off during the months of winter in some cases where elderly, infants or sick people are concerned.

These things are true of all races and cultures across America and in the world. But all poor people are not degenerate drunks. And the “dole” that is supposedly given to Native Americans isn’t what you think. This article by the US Department of the Interior will quell any misconceptions about how much money the government is handing out to Native Americans.

Another myth is that all Indian people are rich from money they get from casino gambling. Only 40% of all recognized tribes have casinos. All Indian gaming casinos are not profitable at the same level. And each tribal counsel has the authority to use money generated from casino gambling as they see fit. The Indian Casino is not the end all and be all for poverty for the people of Crow Creek at all.

Here’s the Youtube video:

Peter Lendkeek, the man who filmed and narrated the footage as he followed the power company employees around during the winter of 2008, is a friend of mine. He is instrumental as a liaison between our group in Saint Paul, MN and Fort Thompson, SD where Crow Creek Reservation is located. He is dedicated and honest. It’s not too often you can witness a nationally distributed Youtube video and you know the author personally. I know the stories depicted here are true.

The Crow Creek motorcycle ride I participate in every June raises money for two youth programs in Crow Creek. The Boys and Girls Club and Project Head Start. We are in our fourth year and growing slowly. Our hope is to raise money, but more importantly, awareness about the poverty and critical survival situation on the Crow Creek Reservation.

The CAN-DO.ORG organization is helping with this immediate problem of people getting their power shut off in the middle of winter. I like CAN-DO. Their Mission Statement describes that they attempt to take care of problems at the local level and will go anywhere in the world to help solve a problem where humanity suffers. Here’s their website and a story about what they are doing at Crow Creek:

What can we do? What should we do? I don’t know. Each person has to come to their own conclusion. There are many stories out there like this one. Many poverty stricken cultures throughout the world. Why concentrate on just one? Why this one? Again, I don’t have a clue. For me, it was the opportunity to take part in an event that I enjoy, motorcycling, and have fun with other riders while doing a good deed for others. I like the idea of actually seeing what we’re doing and experiencing first hand the people who tell us we gave them hope or made them proud that someone remembered them.

You can read the history of Crow Creek by visiting our Crow Creek blog/website

If you do go to our site, I ask you to click on the link on the right on our main blog page where it mentions merchandise. Consider buying a T-shirt or a pin and help us support our cause. Or make a donation to the Crow Creek Longriders. I assure you, every cent goes to the programs mentioned above. We have no one getting any money from what we collect.

If you are a Facebook user, please join our group, Friends of Crow Creek. It is simply a way to get numbers of people so we, as group, can be counted in the future and donations from corporations and advertisers will be forthcoming

Join Facebook group Friends of Crow Creek HERE

Lastly, remember people like these people in your thoughts and prayers. In your daily reflections. Send your positive energy out to them and to all who suffer. It’s hard to live as most of us do, with nutritious food on our tables and our opportunities for a better way of living, and think of places like Crow Creek as we go about our daily business. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. I know Peter Lendkeek and believe his truths. The camera didn’t lie.

Peace to all of you and all you hold dear.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Reflecting in Wonderment

We bought a new computer. It’s another Mac. The features are great, and this one is lightning fast in everything you do with it. The monitor is 24 inches! It's huge! The built-ins are the fun part. iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, iThis and iThat and iThe Other Thing. Can’t wait to dive into Garage Band.

Our old Mac had been upgraded about three years ago. But now that operating system was outdated. I added memory and an external hard drive, but that didn’t speed things up much. There were so many things I just couldn’t do with the old one. This new model makes messing around with pictures and files a breeze.

It really does look something like this.

I hooked up the scanner last night. Lately, I’ve been in touch with some old comrades from Vietnam. Guys I haven’t talked to in 40 years! One in particular I remember well. His name is John. John called me out of the blue the other day. Left me a message on my cell phone. All we have is a cell phone these days. We use it as a home phone and have been for the past two years.

My friend John circa 1969.

When I answered his call, we talked for about ten minutes, then decided to keep in touch. I was driving, so, I gave him my e-mail address instead of trying to write down his. The plan was for him to e-mail me, then I’d have his e-mail address. I was going to send him some of the stuff I wrote about the trip down to Clarks Hill, SC and the Veterans Program down there when I visited the family of a fallen comrade. That was Wednesday. It’s early Monday morning and I haven’t heard anything from him. Maybe he lost the e-mail. Maybe I’ll call him and see what happened. I still have his number.

Another guy read the newsletter of the Vietnam Triple Deuce Association. I had written about the trip to South Carolina there and he saw it. He remembered Frazier Dixon, our friend who was killed in action on December 3, 1969. When he read the story, he remembered me and called me. Now, he calls me often. When I least expect it, the phone will ring and there’s Bob. Bob lives in Louisiana, somewhere near New Orleans.

Bob will call and talk to me like he’s been my closest friend for the past 40 years. The first time he called, he started right in talking about what is happening in his life right now, like I knew his family. It didn’t matter if it was a problem with the water heater or his son trashing the house, he’d tell me about it in a matter of fact sort of a way.

Larry N, My friend from Memphis.

Yet another friend, one of my Larry buddies, ( you know, I have about a dozen friends named Larry, this is the one from Memphis), also e-mailed me. We’ve been e-mailing regularly now for years. We touch base now and then and just say, “Hello”. Seems all these guys want to get some pictures they have held on to all these years and pass them around. I have a bunch of these old pictures and even some movie camera footage from the Fall of 1969. Larry, Bob and John all want me to get copies of the movie and send it to them. I mentioned including the still camera pictures I have and make a neat DVD out of all of it. I’ll include some other pictures from another guy who made them available some time ago. His name is Bill and he is from the Bay Area in California.

One of my Larry pals, Larry C. from Wyoming.

So this new computer is making this kind of project easy and a lot of fun. I’ve been scanning the pictures and watching the film I have, getting ready for editing. I’ll be putting something together soon. Maybe a couple of Youtube videos as well. The best part is, when Bill put some pictures on a CD, he had a cassette tape recording that he saved all these years. The recording was made in a bunker in August of 1969. Some of it is guys singing and laughing and joking around. On another part of the cassette, there is the actual sounds of war. Bill simply put the tape recorder on the ground and turned it on to ‘record’. The result is indescribable.

At first, I thought these memories would be terrible. The recall would spark terror or result in a major flair-up or intensify the PTSD symptoms, whatever those might be. But it wasn’t like that. It was more like thinking, “My God, I was there. I WAS THERE.”

The memories were not so terrible. Turned out that after the initial excitement of hearing the guns firing, I settled down, remembered, then put it all away. I don’t want to forget about it all. It is a part of who I am and why I do what I do now, all these years later. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t pull out the CD and listen to the American War in Vietnam like I might listen to Clapton, but I listened once, and now it’s over. It was more of a cleansing, a closure, a completion. The event had passed, like the pain of a sliver, the pain was gone. Only the sorrow remains. I’ll never get rid of the sorrow and wonder if I ever should.

There is an overlook on Minnesota Highway 23, way up North near Duluth, MN. It has a flagpole and some plaques in a circular fashion around the cement platform. On one of these plaques, there is a saying that touches me. It is the Special Forces motto. Here it is:

“You haven’t lived.....Until you almost died”

“To those of us who fought for it, life has a meaning the protected will never know.”

I mention this motto because I know there are many that don’t understand. I didn’t want to be judged for going to Vietnam. My own motto is that I accept the inevitability of loneliness as I struggle to be understood. It used to fry my ass to wonder what people thought of me. Now, I know it’s none of my business. The bottom line is that I didn’t like war back then, I don’t like war now, I don’t support war or violence of any kind and hope and pray for peace for all humanity. But war is a part of me, and a big part in thinking the way I do now about the subject. Nuff said.

So I have a lot of projects going on. This seems to be the usual case in my life. Moving and all that is needed to set up the new diggs as well as maintain a home, craft projects that I actually feel like working on, working out at the YMCA pool, taking a walk or riding my bike, riding my motorcycle exploring new territory, playing with Grandkids and getting involved in their lives and now making videos, DVD’s and CD’s and playing on the computer organizing all the pictures from the past. Our life.

All this and trying to write the occasional blog post as well. It’s a tall order. I have to make sure I put in some time to relax too. I guess playing with the Grandkids is relaxing. They were over yesterday and I had such a great time with Gracie. She’s the littlest one, just turned two. I realized that she screams for everything. Joy, anger, hunger, comfort or discomfort, makes no matter. Her first reaction is to scream. As I watched her and made the observation that every time she screams it isn’t that she is hurt or needs attention, but that it was way of expression. I open my mouth and elicit a silent scream of my own. She smiles at me and laughs. Then I laugh. That’s relaxation, to be content in the company of someone you love.

All the Grandkids. Gracie is the little one being held by Abby.

I’ve rambled on a while. Now I’ll post a few pictures from Vietnam. All were taken in 1969 during my tour of duty there. I served in the 25th Infantry Division, the same division that Oliver Stone served in. The impetus for the movie “Platoon”. My unit was the Triple Deuce. The 2nd Battalion of the 22nd Infantry Regiment. As I see these pictures again, I have no memory of when I took the picture, but rather what I remember, or forget, about the people and places I’m seeing. HERE is the link to the site gallery where I have the pictures posted.

As always, Peace to all of you.

The caption on the back of the picture says her name is Nguyen Lin Yon and was taken in October of 1969 near Dau Tieng, Vietnam.

Yours truly with Sgt. Jennings, the squad leader, holding a Russian made RPG, Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher. Taken soon after I got there.

A bunch of guys, acting goofy.

Another bunch of guys, celebrating Thanksgiving in 1969. L to R: Micky, Steve, Bill, Spadoman and Wilson.

The artist from California, a guy named Miller. The Spadoman logo has been around for 40 years!

Where I slept. On top of the 50 Caliber ammo boxes in the APC, Armored Personel Carrier. Quite comfy, but not too safe in the oxygen department.

Not only the medal, but the proverbial chest to pin it on.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Business As Usual?

Riots in France over the NATO Summit and France's involvement.

Politics have a way of digging into my life, even when I’m trying my best to avoid them. I keep telling myself, “I don’t care.”, but that really isn’t true. I care. I care so much that I get extremely upset at the decisions being made that I shudder. My stress level goes through the roof and so does my blood sugar. Stress isn’t good for me, or anyone for that matter, as it is. Then when I can’t just turn the other cheek and not pay attention to stuff, I get stressed and don’t feel so good. I tend to eat more and stuff myself with sugared and salted fat instead of good ole fruit and veggies. I undo all the good work I did the past couple of months.

Then this weather, still cold and wet and icy doesn’t make it easy to get out and take a walk. It’s a regular chore to load up and take the car to Hudson to the YMCA to get a little exercise in the pool. God knows I can’t ride my bike yet in this weather.

Take tonight for example. Or this morning if you’re keeping score. I’m here because I couldn’t sleep, and when I was sleeping, I had terrible fitful dreams. I woke up with worries. Maybe it was from listening to Democracy Now today. The first 20 minutes was about a college guy in Utah who disrupted a sale of oil drilling lease bidding on BLM lands.

I guess it’s against the law. Some act that was made into a law that says you can’t do what he did. So, he is getting 10 years in prison. People commit fucking murder and don’t get 10 fucking years!

After that story, it was Noam Chomsky. Chomsky really makes you think. If what he says is the truth, and I believe it is always the truth when he speaks, then we’ve been duped again by government and we’re in for more of the same war bullshit that’s just wearing a different coat.

NATO countries and the expansion Eastward.

We’re escalating in Afghanistan while we are getting NATO together to do more bidding in other parts of the world. NATO is aroused because they didn’t recognize the same old hawk wearing the newest coat. More war, more of the same. So many of the things that we didn’t like about the Bu$hCo group are still in place. The headlines are all about loud mouthing some stuff that is a great departure from the past administration, but the fact is, more of the old regime and their policies are still there, like the missing Habeus Corpus from our judicial system, for example.

I’m trying to ignore this crap and I can’t. I seem to have to make a stand. I guess I have to start another peace vigil.

Since I moved from Ashland last year, I haven't really done too much in the way of organizing protests. A little participation here and there, but no real work. No particular reason, just maybe thought with a new administration, things would be so much better. I don’t want to have to add that kind of structure into my life. I have enough to do already. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that having to spend all your time working for peace and justice is a pain and not a pleasure at all. It’s work and effort and not rewarding as experience has shown me that I’m usually out there alone. Especially now, when people think all is right with the world with Obama in office.

I stopped in a bar in Cumberland Wisconsin yesterday while traveling home from a trip up north. It was a biker bar as the sign outside was shaped like the Harley Davidson bar and shield logo. The place was called The Spot. They had burgers and it was noonish. We were hungry and figured a burger would be in order.

We went in and the bar was pretty full. But not with people gulping down burgers over lunch hour. There were folks sittin’ at the bar and they were into some serious beer drinkin’.

The thought occurred to me that it would be quite a bit more pleasant to sit around on a Friday afternoon, or any afternoon for that matter, and drink beer and shoot pool and bullshit with friends and strangers than to hold a peace vigil and have strangers flip you off and yell obscenities at you, not to mention getting wet and cold as the temps are still only in the high thirties and it’s been cloudy and threatening to rain, and even snow, this weekend.

Yes sir. Plenty more fun to be had sittin’ at the bar, or even bowling! I’d probably sleep better too. I mean having filled my belly with beer, I’d have that numbness creep into my brain and help my mind pass out. Hell, Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman can bite my ass, I’ll be listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers, rockin’ out without a care in the world. In the bar, CMT was on the TV, blaring country music, hit after hit, while the beer swillers were busy applying their trade. The bowling alley, just down the street also has a bar.

So, I guess I’ll tell you that I’m reading the news, listening to it on the radio, and reading your blog posts and articles. I’m still getting a dozen e-mails a day from Amnesty International,, Russ Feingold’s Progressive Patriots and on and on. It never stopped or even slowed down. Obama is off his pedestal now as he escalates the war in Afghanistan and ignores Iraq because deaths are down in number and there are plans to withdraw some troops.

Not really sure what I will do, but complacency shouldn’t be the choice here. Even the thought of brain numbing and gastro poisoning via a lethal food injection of chicken wings won’t make it change. It just makes it go away for the hours you while away. I can’t not care. I can’t sit by and watch more of the same.

Yep, off of his pedestal and on to a bar stool. He might as well be. Seems like he cares about peace just about as much as those Wisconsinites drinking away their Friday afternoon at The Spot.