My Mississippi friend

                Well, now, there are people out there that do the dangdest things and I am going to tell you about one of them. There was a feller that I knew when I was in the Army.  He was from Mississippi and was in his mid-twenties. He was a good fella and he worked for me at the bulk fuel yard at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Our job was to haul diesel fuel out to the ranges to refuel the tanks and what all. He was assigned to an old Ford cab-over tank truck that could haul about twelve hundred gallons of diesel. He liked his job and it showed.

                One summer day, I sent him out in his tank truck to haul some diesel fuel out to the ranges. It was a range that was a far peace from our shop so he was gone quite awhile. Now, our shop was at the bottom of a very small hill so we would see his truck at the top of said hill as he came back. Well, we saw him just as he came over the crest  but then he stopped right there in the middle of the road. He climbed out and ran into the woods. He was back in there for awhile and I thought maybe he had to relieve himself and could not wait until he got back to the shop. By and by, though, he came back and drove onto the lot and parked his truck. He got out of the cab and walked toward the office. He kept one hand stuck inside his shirt the whole time though. I thought maybe he was hurt or something and asked him if he was ok. He said he was just fine and his trip was uneventful. I asked him why he had his hand stuck in his shirt. At that, he pulled his hand out of his shirt and revealed that he had caught what appeared to be about a three or four foot long rat snake. It seems he had spotted it just as he got to the top of the hill and stopped his truck to go catch it. I asked him what possessed him to abandon his truck in the middle of the road just so he could catch a snake. “Well, I first thought it was a Copperhead and I wanted to see one up close,” he answered. “So,” I replied. “You stopped your truck because you thought you had spotted a Copperhead but what you wound up with is a rat snake. Why in the world would you ever want to catch a poisonous snake?” He said and I quote. “I wanted to see one up close and personal like.” That, my friends, was his only reason.

                True story.

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Your tax dollars at work?

                Soldiers are probably some of the best practical jokers around. I have long ago lost count of the jokes played on me and the ones I have inflicted on others. The best jokes involve sending newly arrived soldiers on errands to get a fictional something or other. I was pretty good at inflicting this joke on new GI’s but, I have to confess, I got caught more than once myself.

                I was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Field Artillery in Germany and worked in the motor pool. I was in charge of the parts room. One of the drivers popped in one morning and asked me for a wuffle gear for his five-ton truck. Being a new solider in the unit, I wanted to be responsive to his request. You know, I spent the entire day combing through parts manuals (this was in the days BEFORE computers) and diagrams looking for this elusive wuffle gear. The saddest part was my Sergeant KNEW I’d been had and let me go the whole day before he told me. I was the butt of jokes until the next new guy arrived and was similarly treated. Pretty much every soldier goes through it at least once. The slower ones would get “taken” more than once.

                There was sweet revenge later when I had made Sergeant and had my own new soldier to deal with and victimize. He was a newly trained helicopter crew chief. I sent him to the hangar for a bucket of “prop wash.” He dutifully went from hangar to hangar looking for a bucket of prop wash. Each stop he made, the people there picked up on the ruse and sent him to another shop with the promise that they routinely kept such an article there and would gladly surrender all he required. He did not return until very late in the day. He was a very large young man from Louisiana. Have you ever seen a large man from Louisiana when he discovers he has been had? He actually took it pretty well but, I had the feeling that I and all who helped me in this practical joke would do well to watch our collective backs.

                There were a number of imaginary things that we sent people for. Things like:

  • A tent stretcher
  • A yard of flight line
  • A tube of night vision
  • A bucket of radio frequency
  • A bag of grid squares
  • And my all time favorite,  a gallon of muzzle blast

 Your tax dollars at work.

Mrs. Russell

            Ever notice that some people cross your path and are only there for a short time but they have a life-long impact on you? I can say that about Mrs. Russell.

            Mrs. Russell was a speed reading teacher at Tascosa High School in Amarillo, Texas in the 1960’s and 70’s. Rumor had it that she was a former U.S. Marine but nobody had the nerve to ask her. She was probably a little over five feet and had the general shape of a bowling ball. Her speed reading class was an elective. I don’t recall that she taught anything else. I had her in the fall semester of 1971.

            She was known throughout the school to be very tough and never in the mood to take any guff from anybody. Any male student that had the temerity to give her any nonsense usually caught the side of her hand alongside the head. I have no memory of her ever smacking a female.   

            When report cards came out, Mrs. Russell demanded to see everybody’s. She heaped lavish praise on those who had done well. Those who did not do well got hair pulled, ears boxed, or a hand slapped upside the head. Let us say that I was not a great student so when my turn came for her to review my report card, I hid the worst one in the assumed knowledge that she would not realize there was one missing. Bad mistake. After she went through my cards and was about to begin the beating, she stopped. “There are only five report cards. Where’s the sixth?” I was sitting on it and, to my dismay; she saw the corner of it on my chair and grabbed it. She looked at it and her eyes got big and her face turned to an angry frown.

            First, she grabbed the collar of my shirt and started shaking me violently. At the same time, she boxed my ears and slapped my head while lecturing, “How dare you bring this kind of report card in my classroom! How can you shame your parents like this!?” She whipped me pretty good and told me she had better see a lot of improvement on the next card. Mercifully, she moved on and I am sort of glad to report that I was not the only one to get a whipping that day.

            A lot of people took a beating from Mrs. Russell over the years and nobody ever said a word. Know why? It was because we all knew she loved us and wanted to do all she could to get the best out of us. She is the only one of a few teachers I remember by name and with great fondness.

            It was something else, though, that made an impact on me. Shortly before my seventeenth birthday, I made the decision to quit school and join the Army. On the day I quit high school, I had to go to every teacher and get their signature to leave on a withdrawal report. I also had to get my parents’ signature. Mrs. Russell was the ONLY person that tried to talk me out of it. She even went so far as to offer to take me in to live with her so that she could help me finish high school. At the time, I told her that my parents would not allow it. She finally relented and signed the withdrawal form. She did so with great reluctance. I have never forgotten that moment in November of 1971. Somebody actually believed in me and said so.

            I went on to finish high school and college. I have never forgotten Mrs. Russell and never will. I wish I could thank her. Maybe I just did. Today, go look for somebody that has impacted your life in a positive way and thank them.

Yet another shopping trip gone awry

It is, once again, incumbent on me to share my own misfortunes in the hope that I can help some other poor soul in avoiding what I had to endure yesterday. One would think, by now, I would have learned my lesson but it seems not. Herein is my sad story.

            The wife and I decided last night that we would do some shopping. It is a trying affair for me as I do not, as a policy of my own constitution, shop. I, however, recognized some years ago that I would be compelled to shop from time to time. Such is the duty of married men. She thought she would also do a little Christmas shopping as well. Course, she did not mention this change to our plan until we were well on our way.

            Our first stop was one those “big box” stores. It was one of those stores where you catch a bus to get from the produce to the pharmacy. This particular stop was for the week’s groceries so we spent most of the time at one end of the store. Her list did contain an item or two that would require a long walk to the other end of the place. So as to save time, she suggested that I go off and get the two things that she required from the far end.

            It is quite a walk to the other end of the store with the end result being I forgot what it was I had been sent there for. In time, I remembered and found what I needed. After another long walk, I arrived back at the spot where I had last seen my bride. There was, of course, no sign of her. I was left to walk up and down the aisle in search of her. (You know, I bet those store employees who watch the in-store cameras have a good laugh at the lost husbands they see on a regular basis). After what seemed to be something short of eternity, I found her and all was well.

            We went from there to a clothing store where we were able to get in and out without incident. Being as how our luck seemed to be holding up, she suggested we go to another clothing store. We did, and that was our undoing. This store was in a mall. She took it upon herself to show me exactly what she wanted for Christmas and where it was to be found in this particular store. She then told me that some of her shopping was for me and we would have to split up. It was 5:45PM and we agreed to meet back at a specific place (next to a woman’s perfume counter) at 7:00PM.

            I walked through the mall and got in my requisite amount of people watching (yikes!) but failed to find a store suitable for me to wander through. I wound up walking back to the original store and buying the outfit my wife wanted (it took me a minute or two to relocate it). I did all that and it was now 6:15. I found myself at the designated meeting place with forty-five minutes to go. I decided to call her cell phone and let her know I was done. No answer. I wound up spending that remaining forty-five minutes split between standing at our designated meeting spot trying to look interested in women’s perfume, and a bench out in the mall. When we were able to meet again, she lamented that she did not have enough time to finish and that she would have to come back. She was gracious enough to allow that she would do so without me in tow.

            I am supremely happy for that decision on her part

The Law of the Guest Bathroom

                  Somebody posted a question on the web the other day regarding the reasoning behind placing hand towels in one’s downstairs bathroom and then not allowing anybody to use them. This particular writer had stated that his bride was in the habit of placing very fancy hand towels in the bathroom usually reserved for guests.  Furthermore, and in no uncertain terms, she made it clear that he was disbarred from ever entering the guest bathroom. That, of course, precluded him from even seeing the aforementioned hand towels, not to mention actually using them. This discussion took place on Facebook™ and there were several responses to his question. None of the questions seemed to be satisfactory so I decided to do my own research.

                I focused my own study into this age-old question on my bride of almost thirty-two years. We happen to have a guest bathroom on the first floor of our house. I am aware of its existence and (don’t tell her), I have actually used it a time or two. Anyway,..

                I told her about the question on the web and asked her what she thought was behind this old rule. She told me her mother taught her. It seems, she said, that the front bathrooms of all houses are reserved for guests only. She went on to tell me that the hand towels and even the soap that is placed there is never, ever to be used by any residents of the house. This is, apparently, a universal law that has been in place from the dawn of time. It is never to be violated, she told me, and those that do so would here about it in the ever after. I, of course, would not want to do anything to rile the Almighty so I have made it a point to restrain myself from using the soap or hand towels. My wife tells me that the rule does allow the men folk to go into the “guest” bathroom to affect any repairs that may be required but that is all. It is a very strange rule indeed. I asked my wife if there were any other rules that I am unaware of. She did not think so but promised if any came to mind, she would most assuredly inform me. She loves me and does not me to rile the Almighty either.

                She did come back later to tell me that the men folk of all households were expected to keep all of the cars in the household clean and full of gas at all times. How convenient.