Ghost Walkers


After a short time, combat duty became a routine part of life along the DMZ for Americans in the base camps scattered north of the Imjin River fighting the unfinished and undeclared war that gripped Korea between 1966 and 1969.
“Hey, Major, we got a GI out here that’s in a bad way.”
Major Samantha “Nevada” Smith, MD, looked up from the report she was finishing and stared at the soldier standing in front of her. It was obvious he had just come in from a DMZ sweep. He was dressed in full combat gear and was filled with dust, sweat, mud, and smelled terrible.
“Bring him in and put him on the table in the examining room.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“This soldier has no ID tags or any insignia on his uniform. Is he with your unit?”
“No ma’am.”
“Who is he?”
“I don’t know, Major. We found him wandering along the Imjin just south of Freedom Bridge. He wouldn’t talk to us. He just asked for a medic. We think he might be a member of the invisible army.”
“Invisible army? What’s that?”
“I’m not sure. I heard they are stationed in ASCOM City. They train as snipers and everything they do is secretive, on a need to know basis.”
“I see. Well, he’s lost a lot of blood. Get him in here and we’ll take a look at him.”

It was 1:30 a.m. and the switchboard lit up. It had been a quiet evening. We had one report of an unidentified individual, UI, in the DMZ, by a patrol from the 1st of the 9th, which means they thought they saw something, but couldn’t identify it. They fired off a couple of rounds, requiring us to send in a report to the division headquarters and meaning I would have to go with the tracker team at first light into the DMZ to confirm the activity that required UN personnel to fire off the rounds. That happened just after dark, around 9:00 p.m. Not a sound since then out of any of the patrols out on the Military Demarcation Line, MDL or battalions manning the barrier along the DMZ, until now.
The call was coming in from Camp Young. Camp Young was in the western sector of the DMZ near Freedom Bridge and I wondered who would be calling from there at this time of night. I anticipated the brigade commander was shit-faced again and wanted to speak with his pal, General Malik, the division commander. After a night of heavy drinking, they enjoyed singing filthy songs to each other. It was enlightening listening to their conversations.
“Third brigade TOC,” I said. TOC was the acronym for Tactical Operation Center.
“Put me through to your OIC, please. This is Major Smith.”
“Yes ma’am,” I replied.
I knew who Major Smith was. She was the new doctor heading up the hospital at Camp Young and the only “round eye” female north of the Imjin River. She was a bigger draw than the movie theater at the Recreation Center. Since her arrival, they had to start limiting the GI’s sick calls.
I turned around and looked at Captain Smedley, our Officer In Charge, OIC, as he slept at his desk behind me.
“Sir, wake up. I’m putting a call through from Major Nevada Smith.”
“What? Really? I wonder what she wants. Okay, put her through.”
Before our former OIC, Lieutenant Halloran left for the states, he paid Major Smith’s house boy twenty dollars to obtain one of her brassieres so he could find out her breast size. Halloran then started a clandestine lottery, where anyone interested, could put in $5.00 and the person guessing the Major’s correct bust size would win the pot, less the Lieutenant’s administration fees, of course.
All the winning guesses were put in a steel pot and the winner was drawn from that.
Ironically, Captain Smedley was the winner. He had just arrived from the states after a tour in Vietnam where he was awarded a purple heart. He hadn’t even seen the Major, so it goes to show you that luck plays a major hand in these lotteries. Captain Smedley was kind enough to provide me with beer out of his winnings to relieve the boredom while pulling night duty.
“Major Smith, this is Captain Smedley, how may I help you?”
“Captain, two soldiers from the 1st of the 23rd just delivered a UI to our operating room. They said they pulled him out of the Imjin. He wasn’t wearing ID tags and his uniform didn’t have a unit patch.”
“Do you think he is a North Korean infiltrator?”
“No, he’s caucasian.”
“Caucasian?”
“That’s correct, Captain. I need to contact his company commander, but I need to find out what unit he is with.”
“Okay, let me make a call and I’ll get back to you.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“What’s that about, Captain?” I asked him.
“I’m not sure, but I think I have a pretty good idea. Put me through to division headquarters.”
“Yessir.”
I put Captain Smedley through to the Division G2, intelligence officer, a Lieutenant General Pearson.
“Sir, Major Smith, from Brigade OR called and has a UI on her table. I have a feeling it’s a Ghost Walker.”
When Captain Smedley hung up he walked over to the cooler and pulled out a couple of Falstaff beers.
“Here, have another one. I think we are going to need it.”
“What’s a Ghost Walker,” I asked.
He stared at me for a moment, took a pull on his beer and belched.
“They are some really weird dudes. We had them in Vietnam. They are trained by the CIA and were first organized here in Korea back in the early ’60’s. I heard that they were involved in infiltrating a North Korean nuclear plant and kidnapping a North Korean General. That was back in ’62, I think. They tortured him and then killed him. It’s rumored they were doing similar stuff in Nam.”
“What do you think he was doing down by Freedom Bridge?”
“I don’t know, but this will give us more gas than all of the beer we drank tonight. Which reminds me, you better get rid of the empties. I have to call Colonel Billups and let him know about this. I think these guys cross the MDL up in the ROK, Republic of Korea, sector so the United Nations Command doesn’t get wind of it. The Colonel is going to be pissed.
You think we are just keeping the North Koreans out of South Korea? It goes both ways. There is no love lost on either side. When there is some retaliation that needs to be done and the Second Division is not allowed to do it, you can bet your sweet ass the CIA will be involved.”

Texas Is Cattle Country – Texas Ranger Esben Hjerstedt

 

“So, what brings ya’ to Raton Pass, Ranger?”
“I’m lookin’ for a man named Stoudenmire, Dallas Stoudenmire. I heard he was hangin’ out in these parts. You know ‘im?”
“Oh yeah, he’s been around all right. Been causin’ trouble and folks tend to stay away from him and his boys. His boys are some purty mean fellas, cowboys with a reputation, one-armed Frankie Carson, cross-eyed Jack and another goes by the name the Mad Redhead. I learnt might quick to stay outta their way. I cross the street now when I see ‘im comin’. Why are you lookin’ for ‘im?”
“He’s wanted by the Texas Ranger’s for killin’ a man down El Paso way. I’m gonna’ bring him there or bury him here.
The Ranger threw back the rest of his whiskey.
“Thanks for the drink. I’m goin’ to turn loose my horse now.”
He walked out of the saloon and untied his horse and led him to the livery stable to put him up for the night.
His saddle pulled like lead as he removed it from his horse, putting it up along side the stall. He pulled off his saddle bag and extracted his rifle, an 1895 Winchester lever-action from its sheath. It carried five rounds in the box and one in the chamber. He gave the blacksmith fifty cents and walked out into the late afternoon sun toward the Raton Pass Hotel carrying his saddle bags and rifle over his shoulder. Before he got there, he was intercepted by Mac McConnell.
“Ranger, that Stoudenmire feller just ankled over to the saloon about an hour ago and he weren’t alone.”
He turned and glanced at The Red Light Dance Hall. “How many were with him?”
“There’s two others, Ben Holt and one-armed Frankie Carson.”
He nodded toward a small man standing outside the door leading to the dance hall. “Who’s that?”
“Oh, him?” He’s a shriveled-up lawyer, a wet-pants half-wit that loiters at the Red Light Dance Hall to warn Stoudenmire if someone suspicious comes along.”
The Ranger squinted into the glare of the sun, deepening the wrinkles along the sides of his eyes
“You gonna go after ‘em by yourself, Ranger?”
“I am, that’s what I’m here for, unless you plan on coming with me.”
“No sir, not me. You Rangers must all be plum crazy.”
“I reckon we are. Now you best stay outta the way so you don’t catch a stray.”
“You be careful now, Ranger, ‘cause there’s three others that ride with that snake, a cowboy knowd as cross-eyed Jack and Tommy O’Malley, the Mad Redhead and Fritz ‘Pecos” McCloud. They are a mean lot and aren’t afraid to mix it up none and they are usually watching Stoudenmire’s back. You better watch yours, Ranger.”
The Ranger nodded and walked toward the dance hall. He moved with a deliberate assurance, with an easy natural grace that spoke of authority.
He saw cross-eyed Jack, the Mad Redhead and Pecos McCloud, approaching the dance hall and ordered them to drop their weapons. At the same time, Stoudenmire and his other two companions, Ben Holt and one-armed Frankie Wilson stepped out of the Red Light Dance Hall. Holt and Wilson were holding .45’s in their hands.
He gravitated to the center of the street where cross-eyed Jack, Pecos McCloud and the Mad Redhead had stopped walking. He kept a watch on them out of the corner of his eye.
The Ranger turned and demanded that Studenmire drop his gun.
“You ain’t taking me in, Ranger,” Stoudenmire replied as he drew his Colt Peacemaker from its holster,
The Ranger slapped leather and in an instant his revolver was in his right hand. He cocked it and fired point-blank at Studenmire. The force of the bullet spun him around. He thumbed back his hammer and fired again. The second round also tore into Studenmire’s torso, hurling the big man against Frankie Wilson.
“Oh, my God!” Stoudenmire gasped as he dropped to his knees, grasping his chest. One slug struck his heart and he fell forward on the spit and beer-stained floor. His lips quivered and his eyes turned all white and then he died.
One-armed Frankie Wilson also sagged to the floor, struck in the belly by the bullet as it passed through Studenmire.

The Ranger turned and watched as Ben Holt disappeared behind the saloon door. He holstered his revolver, turned and walked away.

Serving on the “Z”

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1966-1969 The Second Korean War

You won’t find a memorial for these veterans with the names of those who sacrificed their lives inscribed to honor their service. The battles fought along the Korean DMZ during the second Korean War (1966-1969) are unknown or forgotten except for the families of those killed.  It was the United States’ other “DMZ” where soldiers from the Second and Seventh Infantry Divisions were engaged in combat on a smaller scale, but no less deadly, than the operations faced during the same period by fellow soldiers in Vietnam.

It was cold for an August day and it was raining. It was the seventh straight day of rain. For the entire week I was at Fort Lewis policing the grounds, picking up cigarette butts, waiting for my orders, I never saw the sunshine.

The dark green army buses stopped in front of the processing center and the First Sergeant called out for all the personnel going to Korea to form a line in front of the first bus. Those going to Vietnam line up in front of the second bus.

I noticed the GI in front of me frantically erasing the penciled in RVN letters on the tab of his file folder holding his orders and replacing them with the letters ROK.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Quiet. I’m changing my destination from Da Nang Vietnam to Kimpo Korea.”

“Will that work? What happens if you get caught?”

“What can they do to me, send me to Vietnam? I heard other guys did it. When they got to Korea they were slapped with an Article 14 and assigned to a unit over there. We’ll see.”

“Good luck.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

A mist continued to fall as I boarded the dark green bus with about fifty other GIs. The bus took us from Fort Lewis to the Seatle/Tacoma Airport where we boarded a chartered Northwest Airlines flight that took us to Tokyo Japan. It was an eighteen-hour flight. The next day, we flew to Kimpo Air Force Base in South Korea.

When we landed at Kimpo Air Force Base, my friend with the altered orders was greeted by a couple of Military Police, MP’s, and was escorted away. I hoped he would enjoy his stay in Korea.

The Trip to the DMZ

I heard a voice call out my name.

“That’s me,” I replied.

“Well, welcome to Korea. I’m Sergeant Robinson, William Robinson. Just call me Robby, or if some brass are in the area, Sergeant Robby. Grab your duffle and follow me. The jeep is parked out front. You can throw your gear in the back.”

Sergeant Robby got behind the wheel of the jeep and I sat in the front seat next to him and looked over my orders. They didn’t make sense to me. I was attached to an artillery unit but assigned to the Second Infantry Division, the 3rd Brigade, Headquarters and Headquarters Company that was manning the eighteen and a half mile sector along the 38th parallel, known as the Demilitarized Zone, or the DMZ affectionately called the “Z” by those fighting there.

“I don’t understand this, Robby, my military occupational status, MOS, is 11H, infantry, recoilless rifle, but I’m assigned to an artillery unit and attached to a Headquarters Company. What exactly will I be doing?”

“You are a DMZ Rat now. We are the only ones who stay on the DMZ for our entire tour. We never rotate south of the DMZ like the rest of the units. You will be working with me and five other enlisted men and an Officer In Charge, OIC, a first lieutenant by the name of Halloran. He’s just one of the guys and sometimes forgets he has a bar. We answer to a Major Thompson who is the Brigade S2 Officer. S2 is intelligence, in case you didn’t know.  Major Thompson answers directly to the Brigade Commander, Colonel Billups, who answers to General Malik. That’s all you will have to know as far as the chain of command. The Headquarters Company commander and first sergeant hate us because they have no authority over us even though we live on their property. We don’t have to pull any extra duty, except patrol on the Z with the tracker team to verify a Killed in Action, KIA, either ours or theirs. You will be working in the Tactical Operation Center, or TOC, charting all activity on the Z  and we pass it on to the United Nation Command, which in reality, is the U.S. Eighth Army. The TOC is located in an underground bunker a couple of kilometers from the Military Demarcation Line, the MDL. You are going to love it. We have our own little Quonset Hut, with two men to a room. You can have your own liquor in your room as long as you don’t get carried away. And nobody fucks with us because they don’t know what we do and we don’t tell them. We monitor everything, on the DMZ. We count every North Korean who enters Propaganda Village in the morning and count every North Korean that leaves at night. We also record every shot that’s fired, every deer that is killed, every North Korean, NK, or UFO, unidentified foreign object, that is spotted or killed in the MDL, or DMZ or found floating down the Imjin River. In other words, we know everything that goes on in our sector.”

“Propaganda Village?”

“It’s a North Korean farming community south of Panmunjom located on the DMZ. They have to leave every day before dark. Rules of the armistice.”

“Sounds like this will be fun.”

“It beats being in the army. You want a beer?” Robby said, with a grin as he fired up the jeep and headed north, handing me a cold Olympia beer out of a small cooler behind his seat.

The road was nothing more than a tiny sliver of asphalt that wound its way through the countryside of South Korea. I observed women along side the road with babies on their backs, hammering large rocks into gravel, working as part of a road paving project  It was August and the air was heavy with the fetid and stifling smell of human waste used as fertilizer in the farmer’s fields. It was punctuated by the occasional blast of diesel fuel from the many Army deuce and a half’s filled with soldiers returning from their rotation on the DMZ as they passed dangerously close to our jeep, kicking dust up over the windshield and into my beer.

“Damn, I should have warned you to cover it up, the beer I mean. Do you want another one?” Robby asked.

“Nah, that’s alright. I’ll finish this one.”

“Suit yourself,” Robby replied as he popped a top off another Olympia.

The buildings in the villages were built right up to the side of the road and pedestrians had to jump out of the way as Sgt. Robby went blasting through.

“This village coming up is  Uijonbul. See that place on your right? That’s the Turkey Farm. Trust me, you don’t want to go there, especially if you want to keep your dick.”

Gaudily painted Korean women hung out the windows almost touching my shoulder while they shouted out what they were willing to do for a couple of dollars and finally obscenities when they realized they weren’t getting any business as Robby drove by.

“Why’s it called the Turkey Farm?” I asked.

“It’s an infamous whorehouse that has been here since the first Korean War in 1950. I heard some of the same girls still work there if you want to call them girls. The Turkish soldiers taught them some really kinky sex that some of the GI’s seem to like. But they are diseased and if you mess with them your dick will turn black and fall off. If you want or need a girl, get a Yobo, a girlfriend. For twenty bucks a month, you have your own girl. For us, it’s not worth it as we can’t get in the Vill that often and the Major isn’t too keen on us messing with the girls in Chang-Pa-Ri. It’s too close to North Korea and I guess he’s worried the Vill’s been infiltrated. He’s afraid they might nail our balls to the wall to get information out of us.”

Soon the asphalt ended and sergeant Robinson pulled over to the side of the road next to a sign that said, “You are entering a hostile fire zone. All personnel will wear helmets and flak jackets beyond this point.”

“Okay,  from this point forward you will be wearing your flak jacket and helmet. Think you can hold your rifle in one hand while you drink that beer? It’s kinda like holding your girl and drinking beer back home.”

“I think I can do that.”

“Good. Hang it out, if you gotta take a piss. We’ll be in Chang-Pa-Ri in about twenty minutes.”

We were traveling on a knurly and cratered dirt road surrounded by rice paddies being worked by Koreans wearing satgats, conical straw hats, with their cotton pants rolled up over their knees as they stood in knee deep brackish-looking water.

“Whew, it stinks around here,” I said.

“You get used to it, don’t worry. When winter comes you can’t smell a thing. Probably because your nose is frozen shut. You can get frostbite and malaria all within a brief span of time here. Winds and snow scream through those mountains along the DMZ. It comes from Siberia and Manchuria and it is damn cold. It got down to forty below last winter. I was told the wind chill has been recorded as low as a negative 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Aren’t you glad you won’t be manning the barrier?”

“Damn straight I am, Robby. I’m from Wisconsin but I don’t like the cold.”

“Then you will be in for quite a surprise. I’m from southern California and I hated every day this past winter.”

As we moved onward we lost the use of the footbrake in our jeep from fording the creeks we crossed on the way to Chang-Pa-Ri, the last village along the Imjin River and the restricted Demilitarized Zone.

“There is a bar in Chang-Pa-Ri called the First Chance Bar,” Robby said. “It is the first building on the left side of the road into Chang-Pa-Ri from the DMZ. The sign reads “First Chance Bar” on the way into the village and “Last Chance Bar” on the way out of town. It is a convenient place to have your last drink while you wait for transportation back to your unit north of the Imjin River if you ever end up going into the Vill.

By the time we reached Libby Bridge and crossed the Imjin River, the sun was making its descent behind the mountains lining the Z.

Next: Ghost Walkers and the CIA.

Runt Wolfe, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

“Runt Wolfe is the strangest man ever to play baseball,” Casey Stengel, himself a pretty strange man, once said.

This week pitchers and catchers reported to spring training and that means that Runt Wolfe, born on March 2, 1902, if he were alive, would be reporting. He started his career in 1923 as one of Dem Bums, the old Brooklyn Dodgers, after graduating from Princeton University. Then he was traded to the Chicago White Sox where he changed positions from playing first base and shortstop to catcher before being traded once again to the Cleveland Indians and eventually the Washington Senators. The move to Washington would change his life. He became a spy.
The first organized baseball team he played for was at Roseville Methodist Episcopal Church in Newark New Jersey. Since he was Jewish, he invented a new name for himself, Runt Wolfe. He dropped the name Runt Wolfe before he joined the big leagues. His real name was Morris “Moe” Berg.
His father worked hard for thirty years so that his children would have a college education. His brother Samuel became a medical doctor, his sister Ethel a schoolteacher, and Moe became a lawyer.
A true Renaissance man, he studied classical and Romance languages: Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian. He also studied German and even Sanskrit.
Berg’s entrance into the field of intelligence began when he, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other baseball greats formed an all-star team and traveled to Japan in the mid-1930s for exhibition games.
Proficient in Japanese, Berg talked his way into one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. He climbed to the rooftop alone and used a movie camera to film the capital city’s shipyards. Reportedly, the US used Berg’s footage to plan bombing raids over Tokyo in World War II.
Before his death in 1972, Berg said, “Maybe I’m not in the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame like so many of my baseball buddies, but I’m happy I had the chance to play pro ball and am especially proud of my contributions to my country. Perhaps I could not hit like Babe Ruth, but I spoke more languages than he did.”

Big Lick

Big Lick, or Soring what is it?
A recent www.change.org request, to stop the use of stacks, on Tennessee Walking Horses made me think that many people haven’t a clue what stacks are and why they are used and maybe a little explanation is in order.
Tennessee Walking Horses have what is known as an exaggerated gait which became popular in the late 1940’s and 1950s. Trainers were able to have the horse achieve this exaggerated gait by being lite shod, but it still required extensive training.
However, as this natural gait caught judges’ fancy, along comes the “Big Lick” where trainers started using other practices to enhance movements such as weighted shoes, stacked pads, and weighted chains. It wasn’t long before the methods used became more aggressive—heavier weights and chains placed against the sole of the hoof to induce pain, and the application of caustic substances on the pastern or coronary band to induce pain when those areas were rubbed by the chain.
The practice of blocking is when they grind down the sole of the horse to expose sensitive tissues in the hoof and make the hoof shorter than the sole. Then they insert hard objects between the horseshoe and the pad, standing the horse on raised blocks then they tighten a metal band around the block.
In addition to the use of chains and blocks chemicals such as kerosene, diesel oil, mustard and other caustic substances are applied to the pastern and coronary band region of the horses front legs. As the device rubs against the skin, the chemicals exacerbate the pain.
These practices are called “soring” and the final result is a horse that snatches its forelimbs off the ground.

One way to tell if a horse has been sored, is the exaggerated head movement in a sored horse as opposed to a horse that has not been sored. It is clear when they are put side by side.

Tennessean newspaper Sportswriter Mr. David Climer, is quoted in the change.org request as saying, “Big Lick” Animal Cruelty to Tennessee Walking Horses is akin to “Dog Fighting” and “Cock Fighting”. For years, many of those involved in the Tennessee walking horse industry have yearned for its competitions to be taken seriously as a legitimate sport. Bloodsport, yes. Legitimate sport, no. Sorry, but I’m calling horse excrement. Soring is still in common practice, and everybody knows it.”
I agree.
Please take a moment and sign this petition.
Thank you.

The Loveable Loser

ASU Alternative Spring Break 139

 

Zippy Chippy, a bay gelding, boasts a pedigree that includes Northern Dancer, Buckpasser, Bold Ruler, Man o’ War, War Admiral and Round Table—some of the fastest horses of all time but none of all that special blood coursing through his veins could help him win a race. In one hundred starts, he won zero. That’s right, he never won a race. But, there is a moral to Zippy’s story as there usually is when it comes to horses.
Wait, he did beat a minor league baseball player in a forty yard dash in 2001 and he also beat a harness racer named Paddy’s Laddy. He beat out Paddy Laddy and his rig to win by a neck after he spotted the trotter a twenty-length lead.
After his win, Zippy’s owner said, “It feels good to win but it doesn’t count until we do it against thoroughbreds.
He’s mean, he kicks, he bites, but he has a home forever with me and my daughter.”
The last time Zippy Chippy raced against other thoroughbred horses it ended up as his 100th loss. It occurred on September 10, 2004, in the Northampton Fair at the Three County Fairgrounds. He went off at odds of 7-2, making him the second betting choice.

A host of fans were there that day to cheer him at the start and to take his picture, prompting his jockey to say, “It would be nice if people took photos at the end of the race too.” However, Zippy Chippy finished last.
Eventually, in 1995, his owners gave up on him and Felix Monserrate, who had boarded Zippy Chippy, purchased him in a trade for a 1988 Ford truck.
Zippy was finally banned from competing at many tracks. Why was he banned? Not because he was a perennial loser, but because sometimes he would refuse to leave the gate, or he would bite the other horses, or he would just pull up in mid-race.
But Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Home where he currently resides tells us that winners don’t always finish first. He has more visitors than any other horse at the retirement home.
Watching Zippy lose all his races became a very popular pastime. In fact, his profile got more reads on the Blood-Horse website than stories about Kentucky Derby winners did. He also made more money off the track than he ever did on it through merchandise sales and other endorsements.
And how many horses are voted one of the year’s “Most Intriguing Characters” by People Magazine? Only Zippy Chippy and he received that honor in the year 2000.
There is even a book written about him, which I have to admit, I haven’t read. It’s available on amazon.com. It’s called The Legend Of Zippy Chippy.
Zippy Chippy is the spokeshorse for racing horses. He went on tour in Kentucky in the summer of 2012 to bring attention to the safe retirement of racehorses.

Two hundred and fifty years before Zippy there was Stewball, or Squball, or Sku-ball. It is believed his name is bastardized from Skewbald, which is a horse with patches of white on a coat of any color, except black. A Piebald is a horse with patches of white on a coat of black.
The difference between Stewball and Zippy is that Stewball was a very successful racehorse on the track in England and Ireland as well as off the track.
His name instilled the words to an old song, a song sang by many people over the years but made popular in the 1960’s by the folk group, Peter, Paul, and Mary.
For your singing pleasure, here are the words.

Oh, Stewball was a racehorse, and I wish he were mine.
He never drank water, he always drank wine.

His bridle was silver, his mane it was gold.
And the worth of his saddle has never been told.

Oh the fairgrounds were crowded, and Stewball was there
But the betting was heavy on the bay and the mare.

And a-way up yonder, ahead of them all,
Came a-prancin’ and a-dancin’ my noble Stewball.

I bet on the gray mare, I bet on the bay
If I’d have bet on ol’ Stewball, I’d be a free man today.

Oh, the hoot owl, she hollers, and the turtle dove moans.
I’m a poor boy in trouble, I’m a long way from home.

Oh, Stewball was a racehorse, and I wish he were mine.
He never drank water, he always drank wine.

Wheels

“My legs went one direction, my life another.” – Bob Wieland
Have you ever chugged beer out of a friend’s prosthetic leg? No? Well, I have and I can tell you it’s an experience like no other.
I recall that first day we saw our friend after he returned from Vietnam. He drove up in a brand-new Cadillac and parked in front of the Popcorn Bar, one of our favorite bars in college because of the owner, Fitzpatrick, known to us as Fitz. He provided free popcorn to his patrons which many evenings was our dinner. Fitzpatrick was a good-natured old Irishman who actually liked college students and we made him our honorary father. He would be part of our group of guys while we would sit at his bar drinking beer.
Our friend got out of his car with two canes, one attached to each forearm and he dragged his legs as he walked in the Popcorn to a raucous cheer and no one cheered louder than Fitz did, welcoming home one of his “boys.”
“Welcome home, Bob,” we all cheered. Bob Wieland, Wheels, was finally home.
Fitz had his bartender set a fresh bottle of Chivas Regal in front of Bob that was his for as long as he came in the bar. Fitz told Wheels, “As long as I’m alive, this bottle will never be empty,” and it never was.
To show his appreciation, Wheels removed one of his legs and had the bartender fill it with Old Style beer and he passed it around to all his friends to share. The beer was on Fitz that night too.
No one in our group of friends was free from friendly ridicule and it was no different for Bob upon his return. We called him Wheels because most of the time he would get around in a wheelchair, but today he’s called “Mr. Inspiration.” His real name is Bob Wieland. You can google him to find out more about this amazing man, www.bobwieland.net. He has accomplished more than most people ever will.
When I first knew him he was in high demand. He was a very good baseball player and the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team was interested in having him join their farm system but so was Uncle Sam and Uncle Sam won out, sending him to Vietnam where a member of his unit stepped on a mine. Wheels, a medic, rushed to give first aid but he too stepped on a buried mortar round, designed to destroy tanks. It severely damaged his legs; they had to be amputated above the knee.
Wheels is best known for his walk across America on his arms. In 1986, he completed a 3000-mile walk across America on his arms to pay tribute to his fallen comrade. That journey took him 3 years, 8 months and 6 days. He had wooden blocks with a strap going across the back to put on his hands and he wore leather pants. I forget how many blocks and leather pants he wore out on that journey, but it was a lot.
How he accomplished this feat in itself is quite a feat. He started with some friends in California who would jog along with him and drive his car. But eventually, they tired out and could no longer stay with him. By the time he reached Nevada, he was on his own.
He would drive his car to the point he wanted to get to by the end of a particular day. Here he would drop off his wheelchair. Then he would drive back to his starting point and begin his journey. When he arrived at where he had left his wheelchair, he would get in and roll it back to his car and then drive back to where he had stopped walking that day. Amazing.
Since that time, he has traveled across America using his arm-pedaled bicycle.
A few years ago, a mutual friend of ours who was also living in Atlanta at the time, told me “Wheels” was going to be in town. He was scheduled to give a motivational speech to local high school football teams at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta Georgia. He wanted to know if I wanted to join him in surprising Wheels.
“Hell yeah,” I said.
Well, when Wheels came out to speak, his entrance was like none I had seen before, He came running into the auditorium from the back, on his hands and literally jumped on the stage.
His speech was pretty inspiring but he knew he had to do something special to really make an impression on a group of testosterone laden teenage boys.
He put a set of weights and a weight bench on the stage and put out a challenge to all the young men in the audience to come up and do as many bench presses as they could and when they finished he would match them and do one more rep than they did. You see, Wheels had just set a world record in the bench press but was disqualified because he didn’t keep his feet planted on the floor. It didn’t matter that his feet were lying in some rice paddy in Vietnam.
Bob did beat everyone who took his challenge and there were a lot of conversations going on by the audience as they left the auditorium that day.
We visited with Wheels for awhile after his speech, talking about Fitz and the guys, before he had to leave for another engagement in another city.
What an honor it is for me to be one of the few guys to know such a great American and get to drink out of his prosthetic leg so many years before.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside vs. Vehicle vs. Bitches Ain’t Shit But Hoes And Tricks

Baby, It’s Cold Outside vs. Vehicle vs. Bitches Ain’t Shit But Hoes And Tricks
This past year, a young couple from Minnesota, Josiah Lemanski and Lydia Liza, said the iconic song, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” written in 1944 by Frank Loesser, promoted date rape. I really don’t think the term “date rape” was even in the American vocabulary in 1944. Frank Loesser and his wife, singer Lynn Garland, performed this song at cocktail parties at friends houses at the time.
“This song is a point-counterpoint between a man and a woman, each with very clear goals: she wants to go home, he wants her to stay. But does she really want to go home? Why does she refer to the strength of her drink? Is she using it as an excuse because she really does want to stay, because it IS cold outside?
According to Songfacts, this song is generally heard as whimsical fun, but the guy’s persistence is a little troubling to some. When she asks, “What’s in this drink?” it makes you wonder if he’s trying to get her drunk – or worse. Oh no!
To keep it from sounding predatory, the female voice in the song is usually a strong one, making it clear that it is her decision, seeing as she is a strong woman. Whatever that decision is we don’t know, do we?
In the end, it’s not clear what happens, as they join together to sing the chorus. So, whatever her final decision was we don’t know and Frank Loesser ain’t talking, he’s dead.
So, Lemanski and Liza did a reinterpretation of this song in 2016 with the lyrics altered to make the storyline more consensual so they can sleep better at night. Instead of pressing her to stay, the guy replies with lines like “Hoping you get home safe” and “Text me at your earliest convenience.” Ain’t that nice? If she left, I hope she didn’t freeze to death. Wouldn’t a gentleman offer to take her home?
So, if you millennials are taking umbrage to songs written in the 1940’s, I can’t imagine what’s going to happen when your fragile brains work their way into the ’60’s and ’70’s. The words to the songs my generation wrote will curl your toes.
Years ago, Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, commented on the songs his generation listened to now that they were older and compared them to the ones of the ’60’s generation and what we would be listening to when we reached old age. In particular, he said we would reminisce about Dancing In The Street, instead of songs like, say Red Sails In The Sunset, or even Baby It’s Cold Outside. He didn’t even touch on the controversial songs of the ’60’s and ’70’s, like the 1970 hit, Vehicle, one of my favorite songs, performed by the Ides of March.
The lyrics are both a love story and a tale of an unsavory guy who’s up to no good, according to Jim Peterik, who wrote the song. He said, “To me, the dichotomy is kind of cool. To me, the first line is the most important of all. The original line had nothing going for it. It had no scansion, it had no rhythm to it. When I came across, ‘I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan, won’t you hop inside my car…”
Well, why don’t you be the judge? Here are some of the lyrics. It was every young lecher’s favorite song, especially if you took artistic license and interpreted the lyrics the way you wanted to which, evidently, the millennials like to do.
I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan won’t you jump inside my car. I got pictures, I got candy and I can take you to see the stars. I’m your baby I’ll take you wherever you want to go. I want you, I need you, I got to have you, child.
Allow me to rewrite these lyrics so they are not so offensive. Here goes.
I’m the friendly Uber driver in the black sedan won’t you allow me to open the door so you can get inside my car. I got a safe place, I got candy and I can take you to see the stars. I’m your Uber driver I’ll take you wherever you want to go. I want you to enjoy your ride, I need you to enjoy your ride so I can keep my job. I got to have a good review, child.
Talk about lacking scansion, but, then again, I’m not the one offended by the original version of this song.
Now, to me, it’s possible the original lyrics may be a bit predatory and I can see where some millennial may feel a need to rewrite them so they aren’t so offensive but when they finish with Vehicle, they may want to take on the Hip Hop industry.
And speaking of curling your toes. The Hip Hop music’s conscious condescension to women is clearly evident in that all time favorite hit of the National Organization of Women and other women on the left, Bitches Ain’t Shit But Hoes And Tricks, by Dr. Dre, that should really set you off. Though Dr. Dre doesn’t use the dreaded “P” word in this particular melody, some of Hip Hop songs of love do and the “P” word is probably the least offensive of them all.
Can you imagine this? Maybe Donald Trump has been listening to too much Hip Hop and it has skewered his moral compass.
How do these intellectual elites expect the sane proletariat to take them seriously when they think a song like Baby It’s Cold Outside is promoting date rape and they don’t take umbrage to lyrics in songs like Vehicle, and, heaven forbid, America’s all-time leading favorite, Bitches Ain’t Shit But Hoes And Tricks?
This is just more nonsensical rhetoric we have had to endure from the far left for the past fifty years. It’s no wonder many of us applaud the arrival of Donald Trump. We will welcome anyone who can bring some sanity back to this world.

Texas Is Cattle Country

 

From the second book in the Esben Hjerstedt western trilogy.

A flat piece of rawhide covered the soles of his feet, protecting them from sharp stones and cactus. He had a narrow band of tanned doeskin that kept his long blond hair from falling into his face. The only other clothing he wore was a G-string. They stole everything of his they could find down to his boots and last pair of pants.
He reached in his rawhide bag and pulled out what remained of the corn and dried meat he had been carrying the past few days. He drank some water from a bottle made from the large intestine of a horse. The only weapon he had was a knife that he had secured in his G-string. He had been walking for days.
Nothing bothered him. When he was in dangerous situations he had nerves of steel which were manifested in the many battles he had participated in while scouting for General Crook and the U.S. Army.
He noted a volume of dust moving at a slow rate in the distance; it wasn’t much and he figured it must be a wagon drawn by two mules. Definitely not ox-drawn. Oxen do not lift their feet as high as horses and mules and they create more dust.
He removed his glass and put it to his eye. He could see two men sitting on the box of the wagon. By the time the shot reached his ears, the driver had crumpled and fallen forward. His companion reached out to catch him when an arrow struck him in the shoulder and he was knocked to the ground and slipped softly beneath the left rear wheel of the wagon. The mules came to a stop.
Soon the wagon was surrounded by twenty warriors, Apaches, faces painted, led by none other than Geronimo.
The Apaches circled the motionless wagon, whooping and firing arrows into the sides of the wagon and the slumped over body of the driver.
Two warriors dismounted and started to unhitch the mules when one of the mules bolted. They shot the remaining mule and began to skin it.
The rest of the warriors surrounded the injured man who was beneath the wheel of the wagon. They dragged him out and two warriors held the wounded man to the ground and another cut the soles of his feet off and made him walk around the wagon for sport before one of the warriors grabbed the front of his scalp and cut it off and shot him. The warrior held the scalp up in the air and started whooping and dancing around while the remaining members of the war party began to rummage through the goods in the back of the wagon before setting it on fire.
He cut off a piece of the dry meat and slowly chewed it while he watched the carnage unfold below him before he stood.
“I guess I’ll see if I can catch that mule.”

Horse Racing: No Transparency, No Oversight

 

Yesterday, January 29th, 2017, marked the tenth anniversary of the death of the great racehorse, Barbaro which, once again, brought to light, the inhumane treatment of thoroughbred horses by the racing industry.
This industry has a long dark history that is really sad. From Barbaro shattering his leg at the start of the Preakness to the planned destruction of Alydar by his owner and his attorney to collect insurance money, to Eight Belles, a filly that had compound fractures in both front legs after running second in the 2008 Kentucky Derby – and there are numerous others.
According to the Equine Injury Database in 2008, two Thoroughbred racehorses die every day in North America, and this is just the ones that are reported. It is not required to report when you euthanize one of your racehorses.
There are numerous ways the industry can cut down on the number of horses put down but they don’t implement any of them.
Theories abound as to why there are so many injuries to these horses, the main one being they race these young horses at two years old before they are fully developed, but breeding practices, greed, both on the owner’s part and that of the veterinarians, wanting to keep the horse alive at any cost, and those damn break over shoes they put on the horses to keep the front feet from sliding when they hit the track surface so the feet “break over” faster, are major causes as well. This industry needs some oversight, that’s for sure.
Horse lovers can only hope it’s sooner than later.