Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happy Birthday Cesar Chavez

Yes, you can!

Today, March 31, we celebrate the birthday of Cesar Chavez. I recognize this man because of his efforts to unite the farm workers and bring fair and civil treatment to them, all with Peace and non-violence as his byword.

It was three years ago that I visited La Paz, the United Farm Workers retreat, in Keene, CA. I passed through there while involved with the Longest Walk II in 2008 with American Indian Movement, A.I.M., leader, Dennis Banks. I wrote and posted This Story, and repost it today in honor of an American hero.

Cesar Chavez
"I want to make it very clear that it is not Unions that I love, but Freedom to choose, if you so desire, to have or be in one or not."
Joseph Spado

Friday, March 30, 2012

Seeing Double

Haiku My Heart
March 30, 2012

Haiku My Heart was created by my friend Rebecca. More haiku can be seen at her blog, recuerda mi corazon.

Friendly smiling face
Still traveling with her Pop
Lessons to be learned
In mid March, I traveled by car to Albuquerque, NM with my two oldest Grandchildren. Our journey took us through South Dakota and across the Missouri River at Chamberlain, SD. This rest area, high atop the bluffs along  Lake Francis Case, which is created by a dam on the mighty Missouri, is a convenient place to stop while on this particular route.
In fact, Anna, seen in the first photo in 2006, has been here before. I took the second photo in 2012, six years later, from the same spot. 7 years old in the first and just about 14 in the second. I must admit, it was an after thought to compare the two photos. Had I had this on my mind while taking the 2012 photo, I might have lighted and focused better.

For me, the idea that we have lived to the point of revisiting a place, a spot, far away from home, simply to be on the road together, on the earth where we have tread before, is an extreme highlight of existence.

My Haiku speaks of the wonderful opportunities I have had to be with my Grandchildren on journeys such as this one. Opportunities to tell them my stories of my life and now recall moments of theirs. To show them sites that I have discovered, tell the stories, relive the moments . Maybe they’ll be so motivated to return and remember a moment or place in time some day in the future. That is my dream and barometer of my vision for them. For today, we have a few photographs to hold, but many memories that might live on forever in our hearts.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Name Game

Do you remember this old favorite from 1964?

As I get older, so do the Grandkids. And as they get older, they gain in wisdom And quite frankly, my Grandkids are smart. Maybe smarter than I was at their age. Okay, for sure, they are smarter than I was at their age. But as wise? I dunno.
I am the fortunate one that has a fantastic relationship with these fabulous children. I am so blessed to have them in my life. One of the best parts of our relationship is the time we spend talking to each other. General conversation for the most part, but I do get to learn what they are learning if I pay attention.
Sometimes it’s a school lesson or subject. A project they are working on. Like the time the oldest, Anna, wanted to discuss the American Revolution. Turns out she chooses to side with the French! Another example was when 12 year old DJ needed to tell me the most common first name on earth and did so by asking me if I knew the answer to that particular question.
I remembered from way back that I thought John was the most common first name. DJ immediately told me that it wasn’t John. “It is Mohammed”, he said emphatically.
I countered with, “Well, maybe John is the most common first name in the United States.” I added, “And Joseph, my name, is second.” 
I was making this up and hoped I was right. I at least hoped they wouldn’t challenge me as I wasn’t really quite sure. Seems these kids are getting too smart. On DJ’s insistence, we went to the almighty computer and did a search. Sure enough, in the whole of the world, the most common first name is Mohammed. In the United States, James gets the nod.
John is second, and Joseph, my namesake, comes in a lowly ninth. The name Joe, a derivative of Joseph in most cases, is down the list at 51st! Most folks call me Joe or Joey. By the way, Joey comes in at number 307.
I revolted. “If Joe isn’t more popular than that, why do we have so many references to Joe?” 
Who hasn't heard these phrases; Hey Joe, (Where you goin’ with that gun in your hand?), Cuppa Joe, Morning Joe, Joe Momma, Plain Old Joe, GI Joe, Say it ain’t so, Joe, Joltin' Joe, Joe from Kokomo, Joe this, Joe that, Joe the other. Joe the plumber. Joe the bartender. Joe’s Bar. Joe’s Diner. Joe’s Bar and Grill, Eat at Joe’s. Joe Mauer, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Joe Hill. 
Cowboy Joe, Joe Millionaire, Joe Blow, Average Joe. Not to mention the use of Joe as a middle name. Billy Joe, Bobby Joe, Randy Joe. There is a town called Joe, North Carolina and a Joey is what they call a baby kangaroo in Australia. And how many more using the shortened version, spelling Joe without the “E” on the end like Mary Jo? Who is Joe Blow anyway?
Why when I was a kid, a fictitious character we all sought to mock was a character we called Joe Matradatz! I mean, if James is so damn popular, why don’t they use his name for coffee? Cuppa Jim, or Jim Matradatz?
Now, in our name controversy, I had the upper hand. As a 12 year old, DJ hadn’t heard of all these references. Then, we looked up his first name, Derek. He came in at 163rd! Click on these handy links for reference and see where your name is. They have girls too, that list is here.
I managed to get him to agree that Joe should be up higher since it had such significant press and usage, you know, being a part of the vernacular and all. But the facts didn’t lie. At least I was higher than Derek. By the way, he was named after his Grand Fathers. His Dad’s Dad and his Mom’s Dad. Well, he’d have a name higher up on the list if his Father hadn’t insisted that the Paternal Grandfather's name be used first. DJ stands for Derek Joseph. Had he been named JD, he could have been right up there near the top, sharing honors with his Maternal side.

Now, I think I’ll do a search for girls names and see where Josephine comes in. Holy Crap, that one is 121st. Mary gets the number one place. Sorry Anna. You’re at 33, ahead of Derek, but your real name, Arianna is at 2495th.
Where does your name fall in? What were your parents thinking? I remember wanting our first born, if it was a girl, to be Maggie. We used the biblical Margaret, and slanged it to Maggie. Alyssa, our second born, was taken from a book of names. (Must have been smokin’ a little that night). We liked the sound of it. There isn’t a soul that calls her Alyssa. Everyone says Melissa, Poor kid. Mea Culpa. 
Our third daughter is Jayne. It had to have that weird spelling as it was to honor someone that my spousal unit thought very highly of. We call her Jane or Jay’-Nee, but spell it with the “Y” in there. By the way, she hates the phrase “Plain Jane”, and her nickname is Binky. Go figure.

There can be no end to the stories behind someone’s name or names of towns. I remember reading a book by author William Least Heat Moon called “Blue Highways”. He circumnavigated the USA and wrote about his exploits, similar to Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck.
Moon put great emphasis on the unusual names of places. Like Dime Box, TX, Nameless, TN and Remote, OR. Have some fun looking at the names of American cities and towns in this reference.

Another game we played while on the road was to find a name of a town or city and see how many states it is common to. We used the Rand McNally Atlas for this. I think there are 20 Ashlands. We looked that up because we lived in Ashland, WI. Topping this list with 49 is Greenville. That puts a Greenville in almost every state. Guess which state doesn’t have a Greenville. The answer is Right Here.

Playing with names of people, places and things can be a lot of fun. Have some fun of your own and report back. I’m sure there is a story for every name. Smith? Johnson? If your last name is one of these two, you are ranked one and two respectively and encompass over 4,600,000 of the population in the US. My last name is not listed in its current form of Spado, but the original name of Spada is listed and comes in number 14,724th. 

I live on Johnson Street. Let me see how common that is. 40th. How about that!

NOTE: This post is the result of a sleepless night and in no way reflects the mindset of the author about his Grandchildren, name, town, street where he lives or ego.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spotlight On a Job

As many of you may know, I have held many jobs over the years. In putting together the memories and details for the family to have long after I'm gone, many stories are told. This is one of them. 


Everything I know about a piano I learned from moving them. Well, except how to play. I learned that when I was a kid. I took piano lessons from a guy with really bad breath named Harry Slocum. He chain smoked, too. I’d go to a one hour lesson once a week. I learned how to play a song called Canadian Sunset. I played Autumn Leaves in an arpeggio style. My Mother loved to hear me play. Other than that, I can do a few things, but I am not at all any kind of accomplished pianist.
Now moving them is another thing all together. I went to work for a furniture moving company in suburban Chicago in September of 1967, right after the summer after high school graduation. Yep, 45 years ago. I was a laborer and worked loading and unloading trucks with people’s furniture. Some folks had pianos and if they did, we moved them.
Uprights, spinets, consoles and grands of every size. I mean, did you know that there are butterfly grands, baby grands, parlor grands and concert grands? And don’t forget the square grand piano. All of them are heavy. Moving them took some knowledge of how to use the specialized moving equipment made for that one purpose, moving a piano.
This is no technical journal though. It’s a few memories about some of the unique piano moves I’ve been on. I worked for a few moving companies a long time ago besides the one I started at when I was 18. I also had three piano moving businesses of my own. One in Chicago, one in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN and one in rural Minnesota in Pine and Kenebec counties.
The hardest pianos to move are the uprights. They are big and very heavy. Usually, people who own them and called a moving company moved them from a third floor apartment to another third floor apartment. In fact, most folks who didn’t have stairs to negotiate moved themselves. It was the gravity that puzzled them, and a turn in the stairway was doubly confusing. This is where we excelled.
As a business, the calls came to move the old uprights out of the basement. So many of these fine pianos were relegated to the cellar and pounded on by the children. They gathered dust and dirt and warped in the moist humid conditions. Like people, they got older, sedentary, and gained weight. When it was in the way, people would call the movers and want the hulk out of the basement. They didn’t care where we delivered it. They wanted the movers to get rid of it.
At the old Jackson Storage and Van Company in Chicago, there was a warehouse on a large parcel of land way out in the sticks. Behind this warehouse was a yard, or a field actually, and we’d put the old pianos there. On the other hand, there were people who cherished the thought of having a fine musical instrument in the house and when they moved, they simply had to hire someone to make sure the job got done correctly.
One of the businesses I had was moving pianos for a man that took them as donations. He fixed them up, refinished them and rebuilt the intricate mechanisms and sold them. I did all the moving in and out of that shop in Minneapolis. Since it was a non profit venture and the proceeds of the piano sales went to charitable organizations, this guy wanted me and my helper to work for hardly any pay.
I did a few for free, and many for a reduced rate, but It was a small business doing a hard job that required equipment, a truck and a couple of boneheads with muscles. The guy who helped me the most when I was hauling pianos for The Rose of Sharon Piano Shop was a fellow named Randy. Randy lived in the apartment building next door to where I lived. He worked as an auto mechanic and still does, last time I heard, down in Phoenix.
Randy had a thick black beard. I did too. We unofficially called our company The Smith Brothers Movers, like the cough drop guys. Earlier, in Chicago, another friend and coworker had a side business moonlighting as furniture movers. We called our business Acme Movers. Our slogan was Call Acme, half normal rates. It should have been half normal guys will come to your house and move your crap.
Anyway, back to the pianos. I had a regular day job and so did Randy. We’d get calls and schedule the piano moving in the evening and on Saturdays. After dinner, we’d get in the pickup truck with the protective pads and equipment and head out. It was a usual occurrence to go into someones basement, move an upright piano into the truck and drop it off at The Rose of Sharon Piano Shop and put a twenty dollar bill in each of our pockets and some gas in the 1968 Chevy C20. There might have been some beer involved and for sure a joint or two.
My brother helped me on many occasions too. This one time we were asked to move a small grand piano from somewhere in southern Minnesota to a cabin up north. It was a lot of miles. We loaded it on a small utility trailer and pulled it with my 1967 black Chevy Blazer. 
We were within a mile of this cabin and the damn wheel fell off the trailer due to a failed wheel bearing. I managed to get the rig pulled over to the side of the road, but since we were delivering to a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, we had to be resourceful as to how to finish the job. We ended up putting the cabinet of the piano cross ways on the tailgate of that old Blazer and the legs, bench and lair in the back seat. My brother used a thick manila bull rope and wrapped it around his hands and wrists. He held the piano case against the back of the truck. He put his feet out against the interior of the cargo area as bracing as we drove to that cabin. He looked like a cowboy riding a team of horses. We laugh hard when we recall the event.
When we pulled up and the woman that hired us saw her pride and joy on that tailgate her jaw dropped a mile. We explained what had happened and set up the baby grand in her living room. All was fine and we got paid. But we were pretty close to having to buy her a new piano. If it had dropped off the trailer or the tailgate, it would have been smashed to smithereens.
I know what smithereens looks like when it comes to pianos. One time on a job, we were moving some folks and they had to vacate a third story apartment. They didn’t want this piano, but they had to move it out. We saw a fire escape down the hall and gave that thing a tumble, end over end, to the alley. It crashed and made a great sound like the end of a Schubert concert, key of C. To be honest, I don’t remember what we did with the twisted broken splintered pieces of wood. At least we didn’t have to carry the piano down three flights of stairs.
My own good fortune happened in 1970. I had just returned from military service and got my old job back, moving furniture. I was put on a move job helping an over-the-road driver load for a long distance move. The people wanted to get rid of a lot of furniture and did so. But they still had this baby grand piano that no one would buy. Time was running out. It was moving day.
It ended up with me buying the piano for $80.00. Not the $3000. it was probably worth, but eighty bucks. The driver loaded it at the end and dropped it off at my apartment on his way out of town.  He helped me move it in and set it up. Now, I had a grand piano, a chair, a large oak desk and a rug in the living room. When Mrs. Spadoman met me, that’s where I was living. She actually thought I could play the piano. Maybe that’s what lured her in.
I moved furniture and pianos in particular on and off for many years. I could go on and on and tell piano moving stories, or moving stories in general. Every day different people, a different place, in various forms of disarray. Some people were slobs, some meticulous neat freaks. Some had a lot of stuff, some had but a few worldly possessions.
But it was the piano that caught the attention of the mover. In the assessment of what was to be moved as we walked through the house or apartment, if there was a piano, we discussed where it would go in the load and how we’d move it, through which door, or down what hallway.
I had become so proficient at it, that one time I wagered another coworker that I could move a piano up two flights of stairs by myself. He took the bet and the pre-move discussion assembled a few onlookers at the bottom of the stairway. I was young, strong and stupid.
I laid down one of those padded blankets that movers use and picked up one end of that piano. I lifted the piano up on its end and dragged the blanket across the floor, sliding the piano to the edge of the stairs. From there I placed the edge of the piano on stair number one and pushed it over. When the other edge was on a pad on a stair higher up, I tumbled the piano, end over end. Now, the top edge of the side of the piano was on the top step, on a padded surface. I did this over and over and got up both flights of stairs. No nicks or scratches. When I did the last flip it was onto a four wheel moving dolly. I rolled the piano down the hallway and into the customer’s apartment.
The other guy was flabbergasted and didn’t have enough money to pay the bet. I collected eventually, but it was worth the money if he hadn’t paid me to remind him of my superior skills and strength day in and day out. If he could only see me now as I limp from my sore hips and watch me grimace as I hoist my nine month old Grand daughter up in my arms, disregarding the ache in my shoulders and back, not to mention the heart matters.
Moving pianos makes those ice road truckers look like candy asses. After all, all they do is sit down and drive. My youngest daughter is moving at the end of the month. I’ll go down and be in the audience. Her sister and Mom will help her do the moving. They are a bunch of tough gals.
If you’ve gotten to the end of this tale, I applaud you. Not much to write about. After all, it was just a job, and most all of you have moved something some time or another. This conversation should have been done in a bar with a half dozen people sitting around swilling their favorite alcoholic beverage. Arms waving, voice crescendo up and down for drama and effect, laughs and remarks along with a few patronizing flexes of my drooping biceps.
In any event, have a great weekend. Thanks for coming to the Round Circle.


Friday, March 23, 2012


Haiku My Heart
March 23, 2012

Haiku My Heart is a weekly exercise that started over at my friend Rebecca's recuerda mi corazon blog. Have a visit, read more Haiku. See fantastic photos and art work. Read magnificent stories. Share the love. Meet new friends. Do it by clicking on This recuerda mi corazon Link.

Some day I’ll soar like
An Eagle, and look down on
Man living in Peace
The Eagle has been figuring very prominent in my life lately. I was driving to Hudson, another town about 10 miles from where I live. It is close to the freeway, so it has many more shopping opportunities and more selection. I was taking a trip to Fleet Farm, a large local chain farm supply, household goods and hardware store. There are numerous ways to drive to Hudson from my house. A quickest way, all high speed highway, a combination of high speed highway and County Roads, or the option I use, the meandering scenic, slower-moving County Road system all the way.
While going around a curve that is situated near the top of a small knoll, an Eagle sat close to the road on my right, in the ditch. He was big. His head was very white. I immediately thought that since it had rained the day before, he was so white because he rinsed off the Winter grime in the rain. I also thought he might be feasting on a road kill, maybe a deer carcass, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the whiteness of his head feathers, but everything to do with why he was standing so close to the roadway.

I went into Hudson, did my business and was headed back. I used the same route and he was still there, in the same place. He looked up when I was within the distance he needed to hear me, but he didn’t take to flight or move. He stood there and looked at me, just as I might catch the eye of a passerby if I was standing there.
There was a tobacco pouch open and sitting on my dashboard. I grabbed a handful, and cast it to the wind through the drivers side window, as I muttered a guttural sound of acknowledgment meant for the Creator to hear, I said out loud and to myself, “It’s always a good day when you see an Eagle.”

This happened on a day I was to attend the Sweat Lodge and have the Wopila that I wrote about some time ago. At the Wopila, I gave a dance stick to Gene,  the spiritual leader and friend of mine. That stick had an Eagle feather on it. The feather I used was one that floated up to me one day when I was sitting outside along the Great Lake Superior. I remember watching this thing, and wondering what it was, in the waves, as it washed inland from out on the big lake. When it got close, I went down to see what it was and lo and behold, there was a nice black Eagle feather.

Also, on that very same day, I got an e-mail from an old blogger friend from Oregon. (She’s not old, our friendship is) It was a photo her husband had taken of two Eagles sitting in a tree. I can go on and on and tell stories of Eagle sightings, Eagle feathers and Eagle related coincidences that I’ve been privy to. This is how it usually happens. Something might be happening and I’m planning on attending, maybe some decision has been made, maybe a pathway chosen, then the Eagles start to appear.

There are more reasons why the Eagle is such an honored totem to have as well. It is the greatest honor to receive an Eagle feather as a gift for good deeds that you have performed, or to mark a special achievement, like becoming a Warrior of the people, someone that serves their community and family well.
I’ve included some photos from my files along with this post of Eagles. The one my friend sent me and of those I’ve seen when I’ve had my camera close at hand. Some are out of focus as I was driving or they were just too far away. 

I do make the trek to the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis quite often. The road I use runs along the great Mississippi River through St. Paul. It is no surprise that there are Eagles along the river bluffs. One might say that seeing an Eagle along this route is common and no big deal. Yet I feel that when a particular Eagle flies along your path at the exact time that you are there, or when you spot one camouflaged in a treetop overlooking the river as you’re driving the only car within a half mile of the spot, these sightings are meant for you and you alone at that particular moment and may hold great meaning.
Anyway, I wrote the haiku about the Eagle as in one of the creation stories, the Creator allows the Eagle, the bird that can fly higher than any other bird,  to be on watch and tell the Creator when he sees someone putting down tobacco and praying. The Creator had planned on ending this world because the people didn’t care any longer and were disrespecting the Sacred Earth Mother and each other.
That still goes on, but it is the Eagle that tells the Great Spirit that there are still people who pray for others and try to live in peace with all of mankind. The agreement between The Creator and the Eagle is that as long as there is one person left that still prays, he’ll allow the world to exist. This thought makes me hopeful that Peace will spread on the wings of the Eagle. I’ll continue to spread the tobacco when I see one. After all, it may even be The Creator showing himself to you in the form of the great Eagle. Then again, it could be a mouse.
Peace to all

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

My Historical Vignet

It was Easter, any year between when I was born in 1949 and 1963 or so, and we colored eggs. We used the old method back then. Hard boiled the eggs, let them cool. We filled coffee cups with a mixture of vinegar and warm water and made designs on the eggs with wax crayons. A small dye tablet, each a different color, was put into each cup of the mixture and the eggs were dipped in and held there for a few moments. The longer we held the egg in the vinegar solution, the deeper and darker the chosen color became.
Near the end of the exercise, we mixed the colors all together and did a special egg. It turned dark greenish brown and looked like the olive drab of an army uniform. This was always designated as Dad’s egg because he was in the army during WWII.
I have seen the pictures and heard a few stories about life in our household before I was born. My sister and brother were born in 1942 and 1943 respectively. Dad got drafted in 1943 and was on a troop ship in San Francisco in 1945 when Japan surrendered and the war ended. They let him off the boat and sent him home with his military commitment complete as be had children at home.
The only significance in my mind of mentioning the story about my dad having served in the US armed forces is that he was drafted and did his duty when called. I did too when I was drafted in 1968.
Fast forward then, to April of 1968. I was drafted into the army and I went and served. I did my duty as called as well. In fact, I spent the first five months at Fort Polk in Louisiana, close to Shreveport, near the small town of Leesville. I was trained there. Infantry training, at a place called Tigerland. I went in mid April and was there all Summer, through August.
The sign at the gate of Tigerland at Fort Polk, Louisiana

I don ‘t know how many of you know how hot and humid it gets in the deep south that time of year, but let me say that it was brutal, especially on a slightly overweight out-of-shape kid from Chicago. I was strong. I had big shoulders. The drill sergeants recognized this immediately and pulled me out of the crowd often to humiliate me.
While in training, my size and weight meant many a barrage of extra calisthenics, all meant to get me trim and fit, but at the time, I saw it as harassment of the fat guy. I got through it all and came out slimmer, stronger and meaner than most others. I tested out at a high IQ, (US Army criteria, I’m not bragging here), and was taught how to operate a mortar. All that meant was when they eventually sent me to Vietnam I would have to carry a rifle and some part of a mortar and be part of a gunnery platoon.
In September, when the training was complete, I was sent home for a fourteen day leave and had my orders to report to a duty station beyond that. I was sure I was going to be sent to Vietnam, as they drummed this fact into our heads. The whole of the training was to teach us how to kill The Viet Cong and the NVA, North Vietnamese Army, combatants which were identified to me as our enemy.
They taught us how to aim, fire, clean, service and maintain an M16 fully automatic rifle. In my case, they taught me how to do the same with both an 81 millimeter and a 4.2 inch mortar. Here’s some army wisdom for you. One is in millimeters, the other is in inches. I don’t know why and I never cared why it was this way. There are a lot of things like that in the army.
They taught us hand-to-hand combat with a bayonet attached to the business end of a rifle. We used pugel sticks with thick pillowed ends to fight each other. Parry and thrust into the chest of your combat brother in arms during training and then remember this to jam the bayonet into the chest of those they called the enemy if the circumstance of hand-to-hand combat ever arose after they send us to Vietnam.
Bayonet attached to a fully automatic M-16 rifle

We trained with an array of early morning exercise and running. Turning flab and fat into solid muscle. And even though many of us smoked, we managed to build up our lung capacity and sustain a brisk pace of walking for at least 12 miles without a rest, all while carrying a pack of about 40 pounds on our backs. Having a loud voice that could be projected and heard throughout the columns of marching soldiers, I pulled the duty to call cadence and marched alone on the other side of the road, adding more expenditure of air with my voice while marching, than that already expelled from the March itself.
Basic training was the first eight weeks, then you were given a military occupation. You were sent to training for that military occupation. Some went to Fort Sill in Oklahoma for artillery. Some went to Fort Benning in Georgia to learn how to parachute. The army had a certain fort that specialized in the training a soldier needed for the occupation they said you were going to be, all based, supposedly, on that military IQ I mentioned earlier.
I stayed right there in Fort Polk, Louisiana and went to Tigerland. Advanced Infantry Training, AIT, for my Military Occupational Specialty, my MOS. Right there, in the deep south, amidst the buggy, hot, humid, low elevation, river bottoms of the Red River, during the hottest months of the year at the height of summer.
When I say humid, I mean really humid. We’d shower after a day of training. We were issued small white towels and dried ourselves, then hung the towel over the rail at the foot of the military bunk bed to dry. When we were woken up at Oh four thirty AM, those towels were wetter than when we hung them up to dry!
The sweat would pour off our bodies. Our clothing saturated. White cornstarch-like salt lines were etched into our uniforms when the wetness dried. The salt from our bodies dried in the pores of our skin and it felt like needles poking us in our backs when we laid down on our bunks.
I mentioned that I finished training for my MOS at the AIT at Fort Polk in Louisiana and was sent home for a fourteen day leave. What surprised me was that I didn’t go to Vietnam. My orders sent me to Fort Carson in Colorado near Colorado Springs. This was in September of 1968. I was nineteen years old.
Yours truly, at 19, sporting a pipe, in the barracks at Fort Carson, Colorado

What a difference. Hot and humid summertime in the deep south swamp to the fresh mile high altitude of the front range of the Rocky Mountains in September. I spent five months in Colorado beneath the shadow of Pikes Peak. 
The current sign for Ft. Carson, CO

That time in Colorado was different from the five months of training in Louisiana. I was assigned to a motor pool and wore the patch of the 5th Mechanized Infantry Division, During training, I was a private E-1, the lowest common denominator rank in the US Army. After training, I became a private E-2. I wore no stripes, just the insignia of the unit I was assigned to, which in this case, was this red diamond.
Patch of the 5th Mechanized Infantry Division to which I was assigned at Ft. Carson, CO

I knew the rules as training was fresh in my mind. Salute the officers, stand at attention when told to and at ease when directed. I knew to keep my shoes and boots shined, buttons buttoned, head gear on or off as directed, insignias properly displayed and creases clean and sharp in my clothing. I did my own laundry and sewing if I needed a button or had a small tear. My foot and wall lockers were neat and tidy and didn’t contain much in the way of personal items that wouldn’t fit into a small space the size of a cigar box.
I could leave the base every night after the work day, provided I signed out at the orderly room, and had to be in attendance every morning for roll call. We worked a half day on Saturdays but Sunday had no requirements.
My duties during the day were to report to the motor pool with the unit I was assigned to. My job was to fiddle with jeeps, trucks and trailers. Change the oil, clean and wipe, touch up paint, and do the same with the buildings these same vehicles were housed in. Every so often, we’d have an exercise and actually drive the vehicles out of the motor pool and into the hills south of the base. This allowed us to have something to clean and polish when we returned.
These maneuvers included many over night bivouacs and army training exercises designed to keep our minds sharp and focused in the event we were called to combat duty.
It was in 1968 and I did stand in a gravel area for two days waiting to board a plane and be taken to Chicago or Detroit where riots were out of control from the aftermath of the Democratic National Convention and the displeasure of the American public in regards to the war in Vietnam and the blocking of civil rights for Black Americans across the nation. I had plans to go AWOL, Absent With Out Leave, if they sent me to my hometown. I’m from Chicago, and I remember thinking that if they sent me there, I’d leave  the unit and go see my girlfriend Judy for sure.
Instead, we stood in the lot, full gear at our feet, in one spot, and were fed in an outdoor chow line set up. This is how many meals were fed to me while in Vietnam, with a mobile army kitchen. Eat, sleep, work and shit in one spot.
Typical Vietnam chow line set-up. Food was kept in insulated containers. The cook/server and equipment brought in and out of the field position by helicopter

I did have many fun experiences in Colorado Springs during that time however. I was only 19. I was trim, young, and some have pointed out, good lookin’, if I may be so bold to say that. I learned to drink with the help of an altered Military ID card that added two years on to my age and brought me to 21. I remember the days and hours it took to slowly and carefully peel the laminate off of my Military ID, erase and retype the “9”, in 1949 to a “7”, to make 1947 as year of birth, and resealing the card with a new plastic laminate.
Beautiful Pikes Peak. My daily view while stationed in Colorado

A fellow from Detroit had a car there. I stayed as a tolerable pal to have around and mooched a ride into town as often as I could. We mostly sat in a joint called Sill’s barn and drank beer while listening to the music of the day and bikini clad girls dancing in white go go boots.
We’d get paid once per month, on the first, and go to Denver the first weekend after getting paid. Colorado Springs the next weekend and Pueblo, which we called “P Town”, the third. By the fourth weekend of any month, we were broke and pooled our money together to buy cheap bottles of muscatel, Bali High, tawny port or Mogen David 20-20 and drank it in the parked car, which was usually out of gas.
Mad Dog 20/20 Elixir of the gods

I was promoted to Private First Class E-3 and given a yellow stripe to wear on my sleeve before I left Fort Carson in January of 1969, I was sent home for a 30 day leave with orders to report to Oakland, California in February of 1969 to be processed for an all expense paid trip over seas to the Republic of Vietnam.
I’ll be returning to Colorado Springs and Fort Carson in September this year, 2012, exactly 44 years after I was sent there in September of 1968, to attend the reunion of the military unit I was assigned to while in Vietnam, the Triple Deuce of the 25th Infantry Division. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Trips in One

Monday Mystery Tour
March 19, 2012

Sorry for the delay in posting about the last two days of our trip. I just got busy living life so completely that I ignored my blog. I figured that I’d start off the week with a Monday Mystery Tour post and make part of the subject Days 5 and 6. So here goes.

And Oh, by the way, I hope everyone that decided to do so had a great St. Patrick's Day. Please allow me to inform you that today, March 19th, is the feast day of St. Joseph, St. Joseph's Day, my namesake. Have a cream puff or two to celebrate and pinch the cheeks of someone you love.

We left Roswell, NM on day 5 and drove through the high plains of New Mexico with a breakfast stop in Clovis. Into Texas with a quick overview of Amarillo, then into Enid,Oklahoma where we started to head north towards home.

DJ and Anna didn't catch the name of our new friend from Roswell, NM
I do have a couple of photos to share. The one above of the kids at the International UFO Museum, and the one below of a couple of the half dozen beautiful flower pots I scored in Santa Fe.

Colorful Flower pots will adorn our deck this summer

We used Interstate 35 through Wichita, Kansas and ended the day in Kearney, Missouri. Our last day, day 6, we completed the trip. Other than scenery and plates of food at restaurants, we didn’t do anything but drive and arrived in River Falls by 3:00 PM on Friday. My bike rode safely, following close behind me and in my rear view mirror the entire journey.

We logged 2680 miles in six days, the bulk of that, 1576 miles, coming on days 1 and 5. On days 2 and 6 we logged another 804 miles. Those middle days, 3 and 4, we didn’t have long days in the car and just got ourselves to where we wanted to go in New Mexico. No rough weather at all was noted.
We had a great time together, saw some wondrous sights, ate good food most of the time, swam, laughed, learned and enjoyed the road time together.
Upon returning home Friday afternoon, we unloaded the car and sorted out our trappings. I concentrated on getting my motorcycle unloaded off the trailer and called a friend. We decided to ride over the weekend and we did.
I met Ed last year through a Triumph motorcycle forum called Triumph RAT, Riders Association of Triumph. He doesn’t live too far from me, just down river, and we have made it a point to get together and ride when we can.
This past weekend, with its unseasonably warm sunny weather, had many motorcycle enthusiasts out along the beautiful river bluffs. Ed and I linked up for a Sunday ride. I put in around 200 miles, mostly on pavement, but we did get off the hard top and onto some dirt, gravel and muddy slime complete with three, count ‘em, water crossings.
We started with breakfast where Ed’s spousal unit, a Triumph rider in her own right, joined us. She left to return home and do some activity with the children, Ed and I continued with an unplanned, where-ever-the-road-takes-us, kind of a ride. I learned of a new road I had never been on and the experience of the Rustic Road, complete with the water crossings of small creeks emptying into the Mighty Mississippi, was a complete thrill.
All that riding worked up an appetite, so we headed for the river town of Stockholm, WI and a stop at the Stockholm Pie Company. The Cherry Berry is to die for and won a contest recently. The crust is divine. Even the accompanying coffee was delicious, enhanced by the pie methinks.
A slice of the award winning Cherry Berry, Raspberries with cherries, just heavenly

I had a camera with me, but I took no photos of the motorcycles and our smiling faces, but I did get a shot of that exquisite pie and my friend Ed at an outdoor table, in shirt sleeves, in mid March. Believe me, if you lived in Northwestern Wisconsin or Minnesota and were familiar with the usual weather patterns, you’d know and understand what a treat this is to be able to get out the motorcycles, and on dry pavement!
My friend Ed with a slice of PIE

The PIE ride started with another mutual friend of ours named Mary. Although Mary and the rest of us are pie aficionados, PIE actually stands for Pie Is (just an) Excuse, to get together and ride. Some sort of breakfast or lunch meal, or a stop like the Stockholm Pie Company, is always on the agenda for such a motorcycle ride, we just call these excursions Pie Rides.
It’s Monday morning now. VA appointments this week, three of them. The reports should be good. One of them is with the eye clinic. Might be discussing some surgery for cataracts and astigmatism.
I had a real fine trip with my two oldest Grandchildren and a great weekend of riding my motorcycle with a good friend. Along with that, a wonderful rest of the family waiting for our retrun. I know I have a lot to be thankful for as I cannot forget the time in the hospital during last November and December and how I wondered if I would be alive, let alone able to  travel and ride again.
Now, I know there are some people hurting out there. Either themselves or family members, great friends and people they love that are Elders and waiting for their call home. I send positive energy along with Peace, Love and Kindness out to anyone that needs it. Take what you need, and pass the rest on for others to use.