Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Right Tool at the Right Time

After about a year of writing my “Notes from the Southwest Corner,” i began a second weekly column entitled “Minding Your Own Business” in 2009. Amelia Hipps, the editor at the time, was kind enough to take on both columns in the Lebanon Democrat. i wrote 296 of those columns. New management decided $50 a week was too expensive and that column was stopped. It was probably a good thing because i was beginning to make things up.

The idea was generated when JD Waits and i co-wrote The Pretty Good Management Book in the early 1990’s. The manuscript remains above my desk.

In the middle 1990’s, i wrote a similar column for The Independent Community Post, a small local paper in Bonita, which only lasted for less than two years. That editor came up with the title “Minding Your Own Business.” i will include the Democrat columns here under JD’s and my title of “Pretty Good Management” because of the source.

We began writing our book with the idea most high end consultants try to sell a perfect system to make an organization run smoothly with minimal management and leadership. That, of course, never happens. JD pointed out his and my mothers would pay one of their highest compliments to anything with the term “pretty good,” as in leaving a fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, and fresh tomatoes supper and commenting, “That was a pretty good meal.” We figured we weren’t going to blow smoke and promise perfection, but that the principles we brought forward would allow a leader/manager to run a pretty good outfit.

i thought about the genre where the column fit and made up my on term: business leadership. The below was the introductory column for The Democrat.

Using the Right Tool at the Right Time

In forty-plus years of observing people and organizations working toward success, I frequently have been amazed at how bollixed up we can get.

Nearly all of us seem to have a pretty good idea of how we would like our business to work. Most of us have good intentions and pretty high ethical standards. Generally, we display a pride in our work and believe in our service or product. In most cases, the skills, intelligence, and common sense are sufficient to produce success are in place.

This seems to be true for nearly every kind of organization: profit or non-profit, product or service, large or small, technical and non-technical, government or commercial.

Invariably, a large number of businesses don’t fare as well as they should. We work hard but the rewards are elusive.

Why Are There Failures?

I continue to ask myself, “Why do people and businesses not succeed when they appear to be capable?

“Why do numerous people and businesses, which have initial success, have such a difficult time staying at the highest level of success?”

I do not have THE answer. Even more sadly, I haven’t seen anyone, any theory, any program, or any process which provides THE answer.

This suggests I too may never find the answer.

I refuse to believe this.

A Right Answer For You

Yet there is hope. Although there’s no single right answer, there is A right answer for you. Getting to your right answer is not easy. It wasn’t meant to be. If it becomes easy, it is about to change in a way you will not like.

Making lives and businesses work like we want them to work requires dedication and hard work. But it can be done, and this is enough to give us hope.

When I go out in my garage on the weekend to pursue some project, it is an amazing process. The garage is in disarray. I have a number of tools and materials in that garage, but finding them is a different matter. I normally can’t find the right ones. I become frustrated and head for Home Depot to buy new tools and materials.

I love this part. Wandering around a Home Depot is like visiting a wonderland of human nature and great gadgets. This fun part lasts until dark, delaying the project until the next day. And so it goes through the weekend. The project doesn’t get done, but I have lots of fun.

I can afford to do that with my garage, but neither you nor I can afford to do that with our work.

To succeed in our work, we must be organized. We must have tools and we must know how and when to use the right tools. It requires application, what our parents recognized and called “hard work.”

The good news, as I have discovered through my varied and lengthy experience, is doing it right can be mostly fun, especially if the hard work is done correctly and leads to success. It took me a long time to realize hard work can be fun.

POA&M

Success doesn’t require genius or some special tool, process or some consultant selling tools and processes (although getting unbiased help and outside skilled facilitation is often a necessary assistance). Succeeding in business can be accomplished by knowing where you want to go, knowing how you want to get there, and making it happen.

This Plan of Action and Milestones (POA&M) includes:

  • Taking care of your customers (and every business has customers)
  • Taking care of your people
  • Taking care of your finances
  • Being aware of your business environment
  • Doing what makes good business sense
  • Realistically assessing how you are doing in all of the above
  • Modifying what you are doing based on assessment
  • Working hard at all of the above

My plan is to write articles about what to consider in your quest for continual business success. The considerations will be around the basics I’ve listed above. This article is, hopefully, the first of many for you to use at your discretion.

My goal is to give you some ideas about how you want to conduct your business, not what you think I want you to do. I plan to work hard and have fun. I hope you do too.

Why Navy?

In 2008 , i wrote this for my weekly column for The Lebanon Democrat. i don’t know if anyone will really understand my love/passion for a life at sea. My father after his day at sea with me came as close as anyone i know.

SAN DIEGO – As the new year ramps up, I am back in the Southwest corner considering why I made the Navy my career.

My father also has wondered why a boy from Middle Tennessee would choose the sea for his livelihood. Others have wondered the same thing.

The sea called me during my midshipman cruise on the U.S.S. Lloyd Thomas (DD 694) in 1963. We steamed from Newport, RI, to Sydney, Nova Scotia; to Bermuda; and back to Newport as part of the U.S.S. Intrepid (CVA 11) battle group.

My last four weeks were in engineering with two watches and normal work requiring 16-hour work days. Having no more sense than now, I went from my last watch to the crew’s movie in the Drone Anti-Submarine Helicopter (DASH) hangar – “DASH” was a weapon which did not last long. Sailors called it “CRASH” instead of “DASH.” But its hanger on the 02 level just aft of amidships was perfect for showing movies.

This night, I watched “The Quiet Man” for the first time. As I left the theater and traversed the torpedo deck, I walked to the port side and gazed at the full moon.

The ship was making 15 knots. The moon’s reflection cut a wide, rippling, reflective path straight to me. The boilers roared through the forward stack. The bow wave was white, curling from the side and swishing its whisper as the ship cut through the water. “Darken ship” allowed no lights except those for navigation. At least a billion stars blanketed the black sky.

The sea grabbed me. She came down that path from the full moon, wafted across the bow wave, and reached deep inside. I felt her grab my heart and take it away.

I have loved her in her fury of the winter Atlantic, when she tossed a 500-foot ship around like a cork, ripping off protruding metal like dandelion bristles, and tossing sailors around the ship like matchsticks. Her intense fury blanketed the sea surface with froth.

I have loved her in the doldrums of the South China Sea where not a breath of wind existed, and the sea surface was glass for a week. I saw my first “green flash” then.

In the summer of 1973, steaming in the operating areas off of Newport, Rhode Island, my father saw why I went to sea. My ship, the U.S.S. Luce (DLG 7), was undergoing a major inspection. My Commanding Officer learned of my father visiting and invited him to ride during our underway day.

As a lieutenant, I was the sea detail officer of the deck. My father was by my side as I had the “conn” while the ship stood out of Narragansett Bay. As soon as we reached the operating area, we went to 25 knots for rudder tests, rapidly shifting the rudder to max angles both ways. The commanding officer and I went into a frantic dance, running in opposite directions across the bridge to hang over each wing checking for small craft in the dramatic turns.

After the rudder tests, I took my father into the bowels of the ship to our anti-submarine warfare spaces. My father stood behind me as I directed prosecution of a submarine contact. In the darkened spaces with sonar pings resounding, he watched as we tracked the sub on our fire control screen and simulated firing a torpedo.

After lunch, we set general quarters and ran through engineering drills. Finally, we transited back to Newport.

With mooring complete, the captain gave my father a ship’s plaque. My wife and mother were waiting on the pier when we debarked from the ship’s quarterdeck. As we walked the brow to the pier, my father said to me, “Son, I understand why you would want to make this a career.”

I did. Somewhere in the latter stages of that career, I met a woman, a native of San Diego, and we got married. After a brief taste of being a Navy officer’s wife, she and I returned to San Diego for my “twilight” tour, the last four years on shore duty.

So now when I walk up our hill to raise and lower the flag, I look out to sea and check to see how many ships are pierside at the Naval Station.

And that, my friends, is why I made the Navy career and live in the Southwest corner, far from my home in Tennessee.

Something to Remember

Last night, i wrote my post about Memorial Day.

Today after all of those nice words from me and about a gazillion others on every media option possible, i was recipient of a Facebook post that put it all in perspective for me.

Larry Wood relieved me in my last Navy tour. Larry had been a helicopter pilot of some renown. He and i had a cup of coffee at the Naval Amphibious School, Coronado. He now lives in Florida.

What he posted today brings into focus what this day is really all about. i confess when i saw the photo and read Larry’s comment, i had to catch my breath to keep control of myself.

Larry, i stole this off your Facebook page. Here it is:

Larry is the dark-haired guy on the left in Navy dress whites. The Navy has shoulder boards on dress whites. Marines do not. Here is Larry’s explanation of the photo:

This is the class I got my wings with in’69. All Marines and me. We all went to NAM! To my knowledge, I’m the only one who came back. RIP Marines!

i don’t think anything i might add could say more about the deepest meaning of Memorial Day.

Thanks, Larry, for giving me a  better understanding of what Memorial Day is really about.

Memorial Day

Monday is Memorial Day.

We celebrate with a long weekend, car races, baseball games, picnics, and sales, lots of sales. We all do it under the red, white, and blue pretense of the Memorial Day weekend.

There are some precious souls who travel to military cemeteries with their neat crosses in a row marking the fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of their country, their flag, their constitution, and ALL of the people who believe in liberty and equality. i am not one of those precious souls.

There are a bunch of folks who travel to the Vietnam Memorial in our nation’s capital. Ken Hall and his wife Diane joined Rolling Thunder in the motorcycle riders tribute. The last time i was on a motorcycle was in 1969 when Andrew Nemethy, Rob Dewitt, and i would tour the mountains in eastern Virginia on weekends when we didn’t have the duty on the USS Hawkins, about six months before i went to my Vietnam tour.

i honor those who died for our country in my own way. i have also written a number of pieces about this honoring of our fallen on past weekends such as this one. i began to write another tonight, but i think you’ve had enough of that already.

So i returned to the powder blue “Deluxe Baby Gift Box” that once held “Baby Powder, Baby Cream, Baby Soap, and Baby Oil,” the Johnson & Johnson products of “New Brunswick, NJ,” and “Chicago, Ill.”

i am guessing it was handy when he was deciding what to do with the photos he brought back from the war, the big war as they called it. The products in the box, i’m sure were for me. When he got back i was a month from my second birthday and those baby products had probably been used.

So he took the photos, put them in a box and stored the box in his chest or closet. i wonder if he ever took out that box and went through the photos. It was intact when he gave it to me about a half century later. i have refrained from showing nearly all of it to anyone except my brother and some very special friends who served later, like me. Some are rather grotesque, some show some pretty horrific things, but all of the photos in the box are like his private memories of the war. i’m not sure he ever showed any of them to my mother, including the ones she sent him of her and their newborn chubby baby.

My father didn’t die in that war. Neither did my  Uncle Bill Prichard who was flying fighters on the opposites side of the world or my Uncle Pipey Orr who rode a minesweeper out of Charleston. Somehow, my father received photos of his brother-in-law beside his aircraft in Britain. i’ll remember each of them throughout the weekend but not because it’s Memorial Day weekend. i remember them for their sacrifice, but those sacrifices weren’t the ultimate one. i honor their service, but this weekend is for those who didn’t come back.

Still, i think a number of the less graphic photos  and some memorabilia in that box might give us pause to think about what those men and women were up against in WWII, and by extrapolation, our service men and women in all of the wars and conflicts from the revolution to today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one on the left is my father’s rating badge for Machinist Mate Second Class, Automotive. The one on the right is the patch designating him as in a Construction Battalion or Seabee. They are from three quarters of a century ago. He advanced to First Class Petty Officer before the war ended.

He apparently received this photo from his brother-in-law, Bill Prichard. It is my uncle with his aircraft named Colleen for his new wife. On the back my uncle wrote “Notice the snow. Guess  you haven’t seen any for quite a while.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He carried these two photos, the left one of me with Mother right after we got home from the hospital. He was there for my birth but caught a train back to Gulfport the day after i was born,. The second was of him and me in Gulfport in May 1944. My mother; Aunt Naomi, and my grandmother drove me down there so he could see me before the liberty ship took him and his 75th Construction Battalion boarded a liberty ship for the transit to the South Pacific.

This was taken the week after MacArthur returned to the Philippines. It is the beachhead encampment and stores being offloaded from cargo ships.

And what Monday and this weekend is all about. This one is a US military cemetery on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Many of the men buried here have relatives who have never seen their grave. i honor all of them with a silent moment while i conclude this post, and i will honor them again tomorrow and Monday.

Thank you folks for your service. i will not forget you.

Dark Side of the Moon

i awoke this morning around 6:15, unusually late  for me. i was charged to take care of one of about two hundred thousand chores i had either invented by myself, had been requested by my most significant other, or required, like damn near everything in this twenty-eight year old house. i also thought i would finish a post i promised Eleanor Hicks.

Then i remembered a phrase that had passed through my somewhat scattered brain either from a dream or an actual thought blossoming up like a dandelion in my head.

So i  scrabbled around the office as i usually do to start the day, rather than doing the stretches i should do every morning, had a lovely breakfast with Maureen, piddled, and sat down to consider the fairly substantial to-do i had planned.

That thought just refused to go away.

So i added some words, got a little bit enthused, added some more words, and liked what i had written, just a tad off center from what i usually enter here:

i walked on the dark side of the moon
where living, breathing gargoyles screech,
where souls with black hearts rule,
slithering about everywhere with no compassion;
i could not see the world;
indeed, it was dark and damp
with coldness of the sickly kind;
i walked through the dark side of the moon
without guilt; therefore
unharmed by the living gargoyles and souls with black hearts
although they screeched their pitiless cries of harm and fear;
finally, i turned in the darkness to ask
“why are you so cold and heartless
when, if you just walked with me
from the dark side of the moon,
you could see the light;”
the gargoyles and dark souls scratched their heads;
a couple began to walk with me
from the dark side of the moon;
the others retreated to the dark;
the breathing gargoyle and the dark soul
who walked with me to the sunny side of the moon
smiled when they met the light and warmth;
the gargoyle turned into an infant angel;
the soul lost its darkness and glowed;
i thought how sad the others had stayed
on the dark side of the moon;
but
for the two who walked with me,
my walk on the dark side of the moon
was worth it;
enough reason to continue walking.

 

 

Bay to Breakers

This past Sunday, Eleanor Hicks ran the Bay to Breakers run in San Francisco.

Eleanor is one of my favorite women of all time. The daughter of my Vanderbilt friends, Alan and Maren Hicks, she is an attorney for Google. She is also astounding: a good athlete, an adventurer, one of the smartest and caring people i know, and perhaps one of the best read people on earth. She is as much a daughter as a friend (Eleanor, i purloined your photo off of Facebook).

Bay to Breakers is the longest running run (pun intended) in the country. The first one was in 1912 with 218 entrants, 186 runners who showed up, and 121 finishers. And so it began. It routinely has 50,000 plus running. In 1986, it peaked at 110,000. It begins on San Francisco Bay, near the Embarcadero runs up the hill on Howard Street, takes a jog on 9th Street and another jog on Hayes Street. It is pretty much down hill from there going through Golden Gate Park to the Pacific Ocean beach. 12K run. 7.53 miles.

i know.

i ran it. Twice. 1982, 1983.

Of course, as usual, i didn’t have a clue what i was getting into. i was the weapons officer, aka first lieutenant on the amphibious helicopter carrier, USS Okinawa (LPH 3). Master Chief  ETCM B.R. Kellish and Senior Chief NCCS Woody Brown came up with the idea.  The master chief was from San Francisco and both were highly rated California marathon runners. The two of them were responsible for organizing many runs in San Diego. Then they came up with an Okinawa team running in the Bay to Breakers.

CWO-4 JD Waits, my co-conspirator in many scams, and Major Lou Rehberger, the Marine Air Ops and a constant running companion with JD and me, considered our options. We announced it would be a go for us.

i flew up in the ship’s CH1 Huey helicopter. Rehberger was the pilot. i was the qualified right seat safety observer until we picked another Marine pilot at Pendleton. There were five of us and the crewman. BR, Woody, JD,and a couple of others met us for the run.

We all put on running shorts, white USS Okinawa singlets, some wore Okinawa ball caps, and all of us had secured a toy helicopter on top of our heads with a large rubber band. We thought we were dressed well. But the gamut of costumes and floats driven by runners were incredible. So we were a bit embarrassed. The run started at 8:00 am. We got there around 7:15 and were so far back from the starting line, we didn’t cross it until around 8:10. As the run started, those who had dressed warmly for the San Francisco cold mornings shed their outer garments and threw them in the air. Clothes were hanging from every electric, phone and light line for the several blocks before we reached the starting line.

We were moving at a fairly decent clip but kept noticing there were a lot of runners drinking beer. One of the guys had tucked a twenty in his running shorts so when we hit the Ninth Avenue and Hayes street jog, we veered right into the market on the corner. We bought a six pack of Miller Lite and returned to our run.

As we emerged from the market, a party passed by us. Apparently, there had been a formal event the previous evening. About a dozen of the party goers showed up at the start in their tuxes and evening gowns and were making the run. They all had champagne glasses and about four of the guys were toting magnums of champagne. When they spotted us, in unison they yelled, “You mean you are drinking light beer?”

As we approached the Haight-Asbury district, speakers were hung out seemingly every window and the music was bouncing everywhere. We passed a runner who was wearing an overcoat. As we went by, he opened the overcoat. He had stuffed a woman’s stocking with cloth and affixed one end into his pants, the stocking fell down as if it was his business. We were at first stunned until we realized it was a stocking, not what we thought.

The rest of the run went well.  We had another beer and agreed to run the next year.

That’s when it became complicated.

I was disappointed JD could not make the next year’s run because of a schedule conflict.

BR and Woody decided to do it up right. BR asked his family members who still lived in San Francisco if they would like to participate. Several were excited to do so, but one niece said she would love to but she wasn’t a runner. That’s when the idea hatched.

The two chiefs made a small wagon out of plywood and a child’s toy wagon wheels. They attached a swing chain to the front with chain harnesses for four runners. On the wagon they put two lawn chairs and a large cooler up front. As this was progressing, i asked my fiancé Maureen if she would like to join us. Not being a runner but a trooper, she said yes. The lawn chairs were for BR’s niece who would not run and Maureen who could hitch a ride if she decided not to run the entire race.

We flew up and met our other runners and carriage about the same place, several blocks from the starting line. BR had donned a super hero costume of tights, colorful shorts, and a long-sleeve thermal underwear shirt with “Captain Ugly” painted across the chest of the shirt. He had added a curly red wig. Perfect.

BR’s niece came in a black gown and sported a calla lily. She regally established her royal presence on the cart’s lead folding chair. Maureen, after sitting in her chair while donning her running gear, then began running rather than sitting in the chair. She never sat in the chair again. Four of our runners, including me, slipped into the swing chain harnesses. There was a plan for us to switch out occasionally for breaks, but somehow Rehberger and i were always two of the mules pulling the wagon the entire seven and a half miles. There were lots of strange rigs, some elaborate, in the race, but we certainly got our share of attention (As i recall, the number of runners had swollen to 60,000 from the previous year).

With all of the ridiculousness involved, one task had not been worked out: who was going to bring the tow mules their beers? Maureen, being the caring soul that she is ended up being  the beer hauler and ended up running more than anyone else because she was constantly running back and forth between the cart’s cooler and the runners. i knew marrying her had been a superb decision.

As we entered Haight-Ashbury again like the previous year, there was this guy in an overcoat again. When i spotted him, i yelled for Maureen to check him out. Sure enough, as we got close, the guy, who was also sporting large sunglasses, opened the overcoat and out flopped the stuffed stocking. At first, Maureen gasped at the sight. Then she realized what the stocking actually was and laughed all the way to the finish line.

About then, we began to have a problem, the toy wagon wheel’s tires began to smoke a bit. They had been rubbing against the plywood sides of the cart and the rubber was overheating.

Maureen took on another task. She opened a can of beer and poured it on the smoking rubber. She did this with a couple of beers. We were alarmed. Not that the rubber was burning, but afraid our beer supply might not last. At about the five-mile mark, the last of the rubber had fallen off and we were pulling the cart with metal hubs for wheels.

Undeterred but significantly slower, we continued to pull the cart with the princess niece still aboard.

The last half-mile was a challenge. We had reached the beach and the remaining distance to the finish was through beach sand. It would have been tough with rubber wheels, but the metal hubs made it even tougher. As we swallowed down another beer (or two), we refused to quit towing. After all, we were stubborn mules. It was a slow run. Completely worn out, we crossed the finish line amid cheers.

Gasping, we got out of our harnesses and waited in one of the twenty or so lines to get our tee shirts. Maureen and i both were gassed, but we were proud of ourselves and laughing at the exploit. That’s when we discovered the guy in the overcoat was right behind us. He turned out to be a great guy and we laughed all the way to the tee shirts where we bid each other a fond farewell.

We found our other runners and someone asked where were our cars. Well, with about 60,000 people on the beach, parking was at a premium. Our transportation was over a mile away. So the spent runners/towers/beer deliverers of Captain Ugly’s bunch trekked one last time to our cars.

BR suggested we stop at one of his old haunts for lunch. The tavern was a great place and somehow all of us began drinking salty dogs. Not a good idea.

But it was over. We said goodbye as we left the bar. Lou, Maureen, and i went to one of my favorite dining places of all time, Pacific Cafe on the third level of the Ghiardelli Plaza. It had great fresh seafood and the back of the bar had an arched window, like an oversized version of what was in the Perry Mason television series, looking out at San Francisco Bay with Alcatraz right in the middle of the window. As with all good things, the Pacific Cafe is gone, replaced by condos and business offices.

After our dinner, the three of us got to the airport on time to catch our flight back to the Southwest corner.

Tuesday, friends in San Francisco informed us we had made the the headlines in a sidebar of The San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage of the race: “Captain Ugly’s Team Was Well Received.” That’s the best i can remember the headline. Somewhere in my pile of stuff, i have a copy of the story. If i ever find it, i will post it here.

If you don’t believe me, here’s proof:

The calla lily princess aboard her chariot with Captain Ugly and the Gang
The mules: Lou Rehberger, the goofy guy, the Marine whose name i can’t remember, and one of BR’s family.
Maureen, the beer maid and longest runner, before she started serving (and putting out fires) with Captain Ugly leading the mules. The goofy guy is the fourth mule.

And Eleanor, i hope you had as good of a time at Bay to Breakers this year as we did in 1983.

Nancy, my cousin…er, other sister

The letter came with extra scotch tape on the seal.

She was family famous for wrapping Christmas presents, usually about a roll of scotch tape on each package regardless of package size. We would laugh and she would laugh. She had and still has a great laugh. She also continues to use lots of scotch tape.

The return address label has a puppy on it. She and her brother had a dog when they were growing up in Red Bank, a suburb of Chattanooga. His name was Spot. The puppy on the label did not look like Spot, but it brought back memories. Her name is listed as “Mrs Nancy Schwarze.” She is also known as Nancy Orr Winkler Schwarze, a history lesson in her name.

Being she is on the other side of this country, we don’t see each other often, certainly not often enough. When we were growing up, i thought she was one of the prettiest girls i had ever seen. She was. i have a photo where she looks like a young Elizabeth Taylor, but it’s late and i’m not going to look right now.

Nancy is two years and change older than me. Her brother Jon, who passed away several years ago was between us. They were so much cousins they were like another sister and brother.

The letter was addressed to Maureen, but Maureen was in Cleveland with high school friends. i cheated and opened it. It was a very nice, heartfelt letter generated by a communication Nancy and Maureen had a month or so ago. The two are alike in they love family unconditionally.

The letter contained lots of news about her family and how she and Bill Schwarze, her husband are doing. It also told of her folks, my aunt and uncle Pipey and Evelyn Orr and the war years.

Then she related a story about the three cousins, Nancy, Johnny, and me. i did not know about this one. i will not attempt to rewrite but give you Nancy’s narration from the letter (with Maureen’s approval):

Jim was two, i think. He was not exempt from getting into trouble. One day, Granny was keeping the three of us out on the farm (the Webster land on Hunter’s Point Pike) while our mothers had gone to play bridge (This was during the war and Daddy and Uncle Pipey were still in the Seabees and Navy respectively). When they got back and came into the house, Granny was sitting in a chair and the three of us were sitting on the couch. The only bath tub in the house was a metal tub on the back porch (i have a photo of that too, but again, not tonight). Our mothers asked Granny what happened.

It seems we found a jar of Vicks salve or Vaseline and rubbed it all each other from head to toe. Granny gave each us a bath in that tub. After that, we went out to let the cows out of the barn, and we rolled in manure. Another tub bath for each of us. Granny sent us out to play and we all played in the do dirt (cow pies and dirt). After the final bath out of nine she had given us that day, she put us on the couch and dared us not to move. 

I (Nancy) was probably the instigator, but I will never admit it.

Now Nancy, my sister, and my brother have better memories than mine. And Nancy did get us, as well as herself, into some difficulties, but i suspect that threesome were all culpable in the antics that afternoon.

Maureen might tell you i haven’t changed.

But i will never admit it.

i wonder how many children in this country today have a chance to do that. i’m pretty sure the answer is none. Sad.

The Gloekles

A couple of months ago, i queried several Hawkins sailors about the Gloekles. i told them i was thinking about writing a post about the Gloekles and would appreciate any input.

i may have entertained you (maybe) with some information on these Hawkins sailors before, but to make sure here’s the story:

My first ship was the USS Hawkins (DD 873). After getting my commission from OCS in early February 1968, i attended the Anti-Submarine Officer’s two-month course in Key West and then flew to Rota, Spain, on to Malaga where i joined the Hawk on her way out of the Mediterranean en route from a nine-month deployment. i immediately became the First Lieutenant in charge of First Division, the deck gang, as we crossed the Atlantic to our homeport of Newport, Rhode Island. i became the ASW Officer as we entered our ROH (regular overhaul) in Boston in September. After a six-month overhaul, we went to GITMO for refresher training (for non-Navy folks that was Guantanamo Bay where Atlantic based ships went through two-month period, getting underway every weekday for certification as operational after overhauls.

By the time we returned to Newport, i had qualified as one of four OOD’s (Officer of the Deck underway) and one of four CDO’s (Command Duty Officers, who stood twenty-four hour duties and acted as the captain’s representative, responsible for the ship when the captain and the executive officer were ashore.

The Gloekles were not some small islands in faraway sea. Nor were they some dangerous passage close to some foreign shore. i had some first hand knowledge of the Gloekle’s. They were nice, friendly, sincere young men. Twins. They were SA’s (Seaman Apprentices) when they reported aboard and were assigned to First Division, the deck division, the one headed up by the green officer, one Ensign Jewell. They were of the old Navy.

i had experienced that Navy on my Third Class Midshipmen cruise aboard the USS Lloyd Thomas (DD 764).  There were sailors on the Thomas who thought of their ship as their home, their parents, their world. They lived on board for their entire careers. There was a fireman who had made it to second class BT (boiler tender) at least three times (and then would get busted at captain’s mast) with eighteen years in service on the Thomas. There was a second class cook with 17 years of service who also lived on board, and there were more. They  would not have been considered the brightest bulbs in the light fixture, but they served that Navy well and that Navy served them well.

The Gloekle’s were not in Mensa by any stretch. But they were sincere, well meaning, and as mentioned before nice young men. From somewhere in the Midwest as i recall.

They also had a penchant for getting themselves in predicaments and at least on one occasion, dragging me with them.

In the summer of 1968 after our return from the Med, we went out to the op areas for several aerial gun shoots where our two twin gun mounts (5″ 38) fired at a aircraft-towed target sleeve. i was assigned as check sight observer for Mount 51 on the forecastle. i sat in a seat up in the left front of the mount with a sight. My job was simply for safety. Before the mount captain could fire either gun, i looked through the sight to ensure we were shooting at the right thing, the target. i would tell everyone on the JS or JP sound powered phone circuit (as best as i can remember) if the guns were aimed “on target,” “clear,” or “cease fire” if they were aimed incorrectly, like at the aircraft rather than the tow . The mount had 12 personnel cramped inside including me. It was hot and it was loud (and this was long before anyone had come up with hearing protection). i loved it although i wanted to be more a part of the action rather than as a safety observer.

The hot case man in Mount 51 was one of the Gloekles. i don’t know which one. But i well remember looking back and watching him working at his task. The hot case man squatted at the rear of the mount underneath where the mount captain stood on his raised platform. He wore his regular dungarees, a battle helmet, and large asbestos gloves. His job was to deflect the powder casings as they were ejected from each mount after firing a round to ensure they went out of the mount through the hole in the bottom of the mount and onto the forecastle deck. It was an assignment coveted by noone. But this particular Gloekle twin obviously was enthralled.

His look of concentration was beautiful to watch as he swatted the brass casings. He knew his job was important, and he was completely focused on the task at hand — after a gun shoot, another job was to “police the brass.” Any of the casings, about a yard in length with diameter of five inches, that had not rolled overboard were collected and tossed into the sea. i often wish i could have saved them all, stored them, and then sold them for the brass; i would be a rich man today; we have a three-inch brass casing used to hold dried flowers by our living room fireplace; for a long time, i had the base of a five-inch casing and used it for an ashtray. i don’t know where it went. But Gloekle was not concerned with that. He was doing his job.

At that time, the First Division chief was BMC Jones, an incredible Navy chief and a superb boatswainmate. Just before the noon mess, he and i were walking the main deck, checking on how the painting of the ship was going.

Chief Jones turned to me and asked, “Have you ever seen a one-armed Gloekle?” At first, i thought he was talking about a unique piece of equipment used in deck evolutions. Then i began to consider he was pulling my leg. Finally it dawned on me, he was talking about one of the twins.

“Yeh,” the chief continued, “Gloekle was in the mess line on the port side of the main deck and he got frustrated with something. He turned and hit one of the grates on a air duct. His fist and arm went through the grating.

“He broke his arm and the doc put in several stitches. Won’t be good for much of anything for at least a month.

“Damn one-arm Gloekles,” he mused.

The Gloekles also were known by shipmates as good guys. One struck for the radioman rating while the other was a DK (disbursing) striker while we were in the yards for overhaul. The disbursing striker didn’t make it and returned to the deck division as a seaman.

In May of 1969, Hawkins went to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for a month. There the fantail deck was strengthened and a special davit was installed. The ship had been designated as the Atlantic recovery ship for the Apollo 12 mission in July, a backup to the planned return in the Pacific where the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV 12) had the primary recovery assignment.

Taking advantage of a month in the shipyard, the deck division cleaned and repainted the paint locker. To do so, they had moved all of the paint into a large conex box on the pier. One afternoon before liberty call, the new first lieutenant came to me and said, “You aren’t going to believe this, but Gloekle locked himself in the paint locker. He was in there for about two hours until someone discovered him there just before knock off. We have no idea how he did it.”

i had been qualified as OOD (officer of the deck on the bridge watch) in late February 1969 and as CDO (Command Duty Officer, responsible for the ship during an in port 24 hour period) shortly afterwards. i had  the CDO duty one night in August while the Hawk was in a maintenance period and Hurricane Blanche was building southeast of Norfolk (in June, Hawkins’  home port had been changed from Newport to Norfolk; i was not thrilled with the change). i read the message board after eight o’clock reports and there was no radio traffic that addressed  Blanche as a threat to the Naval Base.

After making my rounds before taps, i went back to the wardroom and caught the 10:00 o’clock news. The lead story was how the ships at Norfolk Naval Base were preparing to sortie because of the approaching hurricane. i had heard nothing from higher commands. i called radio, no answer. RMSN Gloekle, the other twin, was standing the evening watch in radio  Somehow, he had locked himself out of radio and had spent a couple of hours trying to get back inside the radio shack. Finally, he woke up the duty radioman who had another set of keys.

When the dust settled, Gloekle brought me the message board again. The radio message from SOPA (Senior Officer Present Afloat) had ordered the sortie preps about two hours before and each ship was required to report if it could get underway within twenty-four hours. i called the captain and the chief engineer at their homes. The engineer confirmed the main engines were open for maintenance, requiring more than a day to button them up and get underway. The captain confirmed the radio message response i had written and i sent it out immediately, later than other ships but apparently okay with the chain of command. A disaster had been averted.

One of the best things about the draft was Navy ships were melting pots of the United States. Sailors were from everywhere in the country and with all different kinds of backgrounds. Many i have known went on to successful careers in a variety in the civilian world. Many stayed in, like moi, and had good careers. Back then, some stayed in because it was a safe place to be, like i said earlier, it was their home, their world. i enjoyed knowing all of them except for the small number of miscreants i ran into through twenty-two years.

And then there were the Gloekle’s. Sadly, i don’t know what happened to them. But i remember them fondly in spite of some problems with them locking themselves in or out of things.

 

 

FMG

i’ve written about it many times here.

It is almost a ritual.

The two guys in the foreground are Marty Linville and Rod Stark. Rod is taking practice swings. The three of us began playing golf together in the mid-1980’s when we were all on our last military tours. Marty was the Army’s gift to the Navy’s Amphibious School, Coronado, taught gunfire control, and managed the big gun shooting range on San Clemente Island (about seventy miles west of San Diego). Rod was the director of amphibious training and later became the executive officer of the command. i was the director of leadership and management training for the West Coast and Pacific Rim in addition to facilitating the two-day seminar on Command Excellence for senior officers.

With a pretty rigorous schedule, the only time we could play was on weekends. It was difficult getting tee times on the four Navy courses (Sea ‘n Air on the North Island Naval Air Station, Admiral Baker North and South in the Naval Base recreation area in Mission Valley, and then Miramar, which was a Navy Air Station before the Marines took it under BRAC. One reason for our difficulties was retired folks were also getting tee times. We bitched about old farts taking up weekend tee times when they could play during the week.

So we vowed once we retired we wouldn’t play military courses on the weekend to give more tee times for active duty personnel. Except for tournaments and later Sunday rounds with Pete Toennies and our wives, we have stuck to that vow.

Then in 1991, Marty and i played a weekday round and discussed the situation. Marty had just gone to a 4/10 work week. i was mister mom. So we decided we could play Sea ‘n Air, Baker, and Miramar on Fridays. Rod, who after retiring was the golf pro for the North Course in Sun City, California, had quit that job when we ran into him at Miramar one morning in the mid-90’s. He joined our Friday bunch then. Since those first rounds in 1991, we have played golf at a local military golf course almost every Friday, teeing off early. i have actually made it understood when i worked at Scripps Consulting Group, military contractors, and Pacific Tugboat Services i would not be available to work on Friday mornings.

We call it “Friday Morning Golf.” i have shortened that to FMG. We have had as many as 16 golfers in our group and as few as two. Now, we come close to filling up two foursomes every Friday.

i have posted photographs before, nearly all on the fifteenth tee. The tee and the fairway borders the Navy beach (it used to be called “dungaree beach” for it was where sailors would escape from work when possible and loll about on the beach, but now is a big attraction for all Navy personnel, dependents, retirees, and others). The tee box gives one a great view of the majestic Point Loma, the Rosecrans Military Cemetery, and the wide expanse of the Pacific, not to mention if one turns around the iconic Hotel Del Coronado and the sprawling city of Tijuana are visible to the south. And routinely, we watch my ships, haze gray in their military splendor standing in or standing out of the channel.

But this photo is from the eleventh tee, the shorter one on the small hill rather than the longer flat one to the north. We are waiting for the group in front of us to clear the large par three green. The marine layer i often write about is hanging low over the Pacific, the brown and gray flat area from the middle to the right side of the photo is the beginning of the East to West runway for the air station. It is nearly always the flight path for landing aircraft unless a Santa Ana wind is blowing. So not only do we get to play golf in a rather idyllic setting, we also get to see FA 18’s, Ospreys, helicopters, training aircraft, others, and every once in a while even a C5 seemingly hung in the air trundling overhead like an airborne but very large snail headed for a landing. It is satisfying to know our successors are defending our country well.

A Notable Week

i have been juggling a whole bunch of balls for a while and haven’t been putting a lot of stuff out here.

Some of that reduction is because spring is here…or was here. i wrote about that. Like the first part of May is Southwest corner wonderful. The week started off that way. i now am required to check the garden each day. i have added a composter, and there are cats and bobcats who have found the garden box looks very much like a litter box. Now why a bobcat would consider a litter box for deposits is beyond me, but apparently at least one thinks that way.

i am not the gardener my father was. i don’t hold a candle to Andrew Nemethy, Martha Tate or Susan Felts when it comes to gardens. i don’t even come close to my neighbors, Spud and Vonda Mumby and Ralph and Debbie Lavage even though two of Debbie’s five chickens have fallen into the claws of the bobcat or kin who created an account in my little 4×8 box garden. It’s just i wanted to have home grown tomatoes and strawberries.

So the first part of last week, i walked outside to tend my garden and experienced the glory of May spring. Out the kitchen door lies another project. i will be expanding and rearranging this flagstone to lead to a sitting/reflecting area, perhaps with a fountain next to the bougainvillea outside my office window. As i walk across the patio, the tree in the planting area is in its regal splendor. i love the colors in this tree. Since our gardener, Paul Shipley is on a hiking trip along the Pacific Crest trail, he can’t tell us the name. For a long time we thought it was a plum tree. The Phoenix Robellini in the planter box is in its last days. Between Paul and i, we will be replacing with plumeria, a smaller, prettier plant with leaves throughout the year, at least in the Southwest corner. i get  to the work area. Right before the gate to the back slope, is one of our two coral trees. This one is of the Mexican variety. The Chinese version is bigger, but i’m into these. The blooms last for about two months, sometime in the spring. Like now.

i reach the fence my neighbors and i built about a quarter of a century ago. No, i have to admit i was just unpaid labor. Pablo, who is long gone back to Spain or Mexico, did the bulk of the work. The fence here is where Billie the alligator-hunting Louisiana Swamp Dog scales to go get the neighbor’s dog’s toys. It also is one of better spring spots. And that’s before the agapanthus begin blooming. It’s a pleasant place to do my minimal garden tasks and roll the composter. The garden itself is the beginning an experiment. Perhaps it is a connection to my father. Or perhaps this trial is my way of admiring nature and how oh so much better homegrown vegetables, fruits, and even chicken eggs are compared to the store bought kind, no matter how “fresh,” “range free,” or “organic” they claim on the shelves in the markets. As you can see, it’s not much but i’ll get tomatoes and strawberries pretty much all year long, and since i have my night visitors, i’ll be planting more onions throughout the year as well. It brings comfort to me.

But as i said, May Gray moved in early. It’s doleful to live in gray, especially in the Southwest corner, but i can handle it knowing it won’t halt golf, i can wear a sweater in the early morning and late afternoon. And  just after first light, i walk out to retrieve the newspaper. No, i haven’t trained the dog or cat to get the paper, nor do i intend to train them. i mean i can be greeted by Mount Miguel with her diaphanous silk shawl of misty clouds peeking over our neighbor’s roof (Later, i will repost a poem about this particular mountain again). And feel like i really am home.

Then, just to prove me wrong, May Gray after just under a week of chilly damp weather breaks. We are having our rather sizable slope cleared. i began to nibble at it about two years ago and never really got traction. It’s a lot of work and old men have thin skin, so i would come away looking something like a bloody pin cushion. i was a bit sad to see the workers clearing the acacia with their chain saws. It would be a lovely day to work hard on the slope: not too hot, not too cool, low humidity. You know, Southwest corner weather at its finest. Well, since my bride decided not to wait 350 years for me to clear the slope, i must do something else to be outside. i worked the garden and composter a bit, then i took the young alligator hunting Billie for a walk. My walk is a truncated version of the long one i used to take with the lab Cass where he chased and played with coyotes who, it turned out, were fearful of such a maniac. He also rolled over o’possums, damn near caught up with a road runner while taking my arm out of socket, and would take off to be on his own for a while at his whim.

Perhaps someday, i will do that with Billie. It would certainly get me back in shape because there is are two stretches about seventy-five yards in length on a ten percent upward grade. That’s in the future. Now, i must be satisfied with the trail behind our neighbor’s house. Billie is fine with that. No alligators, of course. But there are ground squirrels, lizards, and all sorts of other fauna, including the aforementioned bobcat, and although the coyote population seemingly has diminished, i’m sure there are plenty of them out there, not to mention the snakes, foxes, and tree rats.  However, as pleasant as it is (and somewhat remarkable when we consider we are smack dab in the middle of suburbia), there are high desert dangers which appear innocent enough. i don’t think i’ve seen this type of cactus anywhere else. It’s local nomenclature is “cholla.” i learned shortly after moving off of the island of Coronado and out here in the truly high desert to be wary. The cholla cacti are innocent enough looking, even pretty this time of year. Yet you can’t get too close. i know and was reminded again today. After we returned from our walk, i went outside to check how things were going. As i made a move, it felt like i had been cut on my knee. It stung. i thought i was bleeding although no blood was coming through my trousers. i raised the pant leg above the knee. There were two spines stuck into the side of my knee. Tiny things. But man, they sting and they somehow planted themselves through my trousers apparently when i unknowingly barely brushed one on the walk.

The walk’s over. i’m listening to the last throbs of the chainsaws as the young men flail away at the acacia. i’m thinking this is a good place. It’s in a big, big city but not too close, just accessible. i can see the Pacific from the top of my slope. The weather is good as it can get. Then i think of all of the places i have lived in my seventy-four years. About fifteen depending on how you count. i liked them all. Enjoyed the weather. i am in a good place now.

But i would like to go home for a bit. Lebanon, Middle Tennessee, Nashville, the lakes, they are still in my bones.