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Old Sgts. 1

August 11th, 2018 by jomo

Fifteen years after the end of WW2, when I was nineteen I joined the US Army, went through boot camp at Ft. Hood, basic artillery training at Ft. Sill, and was posted to a self-propelled 8″ howitzer battalion at a small kaserne west of W├╝rzburg, Germany. Many of the NCOs were WW2 vets, nearing retirement after 20 years of service.

One fellow comes to mind foremost. He was somewhere in his 40s, and was a serious drinker – and had been for a long time. Every morning was a struggle for him, redolent of booze with blurry-focus bloodshot eyes and trembling hands. He was a staff sergeant, and I think that he was in the commo section of HQ Battery, but I’m not sure. He had one more enlistment to go before retiring, but someone in Battalion HQ put a bar to his re-enlistment. That was a rotten thing to do, but it was the Army, right?

He was outraged at the bar. He had jumped into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne. He had jumped into Holland. He had fought the Battle of the Bulge. And now they were kicking him out.

President Kennedy had appointed James M. Gavin as US Ambassador to France. Gavin, known as “Jumpin’ Jim,” had commanded the 82nd Airborne Division in 1944. So the old drunk sarge was going to Paris to see his bud, the Jumping General.

He took leave and went to Paris. When he came back, the bar to his re-enlistment had been lifted, he had already re-upped, and was forthwith transferred to Seattle, his hometown, where he was assigned as Recruiting NCO to finish out his career in the US Army.

Once again, “it’s who you know” eh?

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January 29th, 2018 by jomo

I was eating lunch at a student hangout on the edge of campus on the first or second day of the fall semester, eavesdropping on a full table of students next to me, telling how their summers had gone.

One person related how she had accidentally encountered her parents having sex. There were groans of dismay and disgust around the table.

Then she said “I can’t believe they enjoyed it.”

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Keep On Milking

January 12th, 2018 by jomo

My great-uncle Ed was milking twenty-six cows, mostly holsteins, but there were some jerseys mixed in. After a bit of whole milk for the house, the remainder was separated and the cream was shipped by rail twice a week to a creamery in Trinidad, Colorado, about 60 miles northwest. The skim milk was fed to the hogs, dogs, and whatever else was around.

The milking parlor had six stanchions as I remember. There were four of us milking: Rex, Wayne, and I worked by hand, and Uncle Ed, about 80 years old then, used a Surge Milker. I was the least experienced and the slowest, so Ed and I would do one cow each go-around, while Rex and Wayne milked a couple each. The Surge required less labor, but required more fussing around and Uncle Ed wasn’t real nimble.

Wayne wanted to go off and join the rodeo circuit. A few days before, he had packed up a bedroll and some stuff, taken one of the horses and ridden away. He was only gone for one night, but it caused quite a commotion. A lot was said about it, but mostly not within my earshot because I was sort of an outsider.

Anyway, he was back, and we were doing the evening milking. Rex was Wayne’s uncle, in his early 30s at the time, and Wayne was about 16. Something was said by one to the other that couldn’t be abided, and suddenly the two of them were down on the parlor floor behind the cows, rolling around in the cow flop and piss, flailing away at each other and cussing a blue streak.

Uncle Ed hollered at me, as I looked around the back end of my cow to watch the goings on, “Just keep milking, Slim! Just keep milking!”

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A night visitor

January 6th, 2018 by jomo

I was asleep in a hammock in the middle of the night at my Dad’s fishing lease on the Devil’s River in West Texas, when I was awakened by some animal rattling the bushes near my head. I fumbled around for the flashlight, found it and turned it on. The batteries were so weak that it gave off feeble light only a little better than the previous darkness. I saw there was some dark mass on the right side of my hammock, now near the far end, but I couldn’t tell what it was…some big bush that hadn’t been there earlier? A large tumbleweed, although they didn’t grow around there and there was no wind? Then the thing moved a bit, and its round face came into view, looking mildly back at me over its right shoulder – a porcupine! The only time, however dimly, I ever saw one alive on the ground.

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A snake story

January 2nd, 2018 by jomo

My wife came in and asked me “What kind of snake is red, yellow, and black striped on one end, checkered brown on the other end, and doesn’t have a head?” I told her that I needed to take a look at it.

Outside, among some rocks, was what she described. I turned over a rock that the strange snake’s midsection was beneath and it was revealed that it was two snakes: a coral snake was swallowing a garter or ribbon snake (small blotched water snake?).

We were bent over in the yard looking at the snakes when our landlord came driving by on his way to work. He stopped and came over to look, then went back to his pickup and got a tire iron, which he used to pound the coral snake to death (the other snake too, but it might have already been dead). Then he put the dead coral snake in a wide-mouth gallon jar he had in his truck and went on his way.

Later on he told me that he talked to Parks and Wildlife about the record size of coral snakes in Texas and said that our’s was right up there at around 35″, but it was hard to tell it’s exact size with the mangled front end.

I regretted his killing of the snake(s), but it was on his property, and he had three severely visually-impaired children that walked around the area. A coral snake is not much of a threat to most folks, but could be deadly to a blind person.

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Roy Frame’s pigs

December 27th, 2017 by jomo

Roy Frame was a teacher in Wichita who bought an old farm in Douglas County, Missouri. He and his wife would come to their farm on weekends and other time off. Roy planned to do a custom haying operation, and bought equipment for that, but found that the local people preferred to use family relations and other locals, so Roy’s new machinery sat mostly unused. He also got into the pig business. He built some pens, stocked them with feeder pigs, and arranged with a local fellow to see to them while he was away in Wichita.

Pigs require good fencing because they are natural rooters and very difficult to confine. So Roy’s pigs were soon out of their pens and roaming through the countryside.

Up at the country store it was common to hear someone coming in the front door say “I just saw one of Roy Frame’s pigs run across the road.”

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November 21st, 2017 by jomo

Since my previous post on the subject, I listened to a book set in south central New Mexico in the 19th century . The reader pronounced the Spanish word “bosque” (woods, forest) as if it rhymed with English “mosque” (a reasonable mistake). In Spanish it is pronounced “BOHS-kay” but Anglos pronounce it “BOSS-key.” It refers to the riparian wooded bottoms of rivers in the Southwestern US. My grandpa, who farmed a few irrigated acres near Socorro, NM, called the nearby Rio Grande river bottom woodlands “the bosky.” I roamed the bosky as a kid, with my dog and a single-shot .22 , ‘exploring.’

In central Texas, around Waco, there is a Bosque River and a Bosque County – both pronounced “Bosky.”

The reader of the book is one of my favorites, George Guidall. My oldest certain recollection of him is as the narrator about twenty-five years ago of a couple of Robertson Davies novels when Books-on-Tape really were on tape cassettes. The Cunning Man and Murther & Walking Spirits were the novels, I believe. Well-done narrations of well-written stories.

I emailed Mr Guidall about the pronunciation of bosque and he thanked me pleasantly in return.

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Road kill

October 21st, 2017 by jomo

Out in the street this morning, beyond the curb was a squirrel corpse, much flattened. I called the city. They asked if it was impeding traffic. I said apparently not, and they said it would be taken care of. Of course I could take care of it – scoop it up and put it in the garbage can – but I didn’t want to mess with it.

Going outside for the mail in mid-afternoon, I saw some unusual movement outside of the front fence. I quietly walked out and looked over the fence. Three black vultures were working on the squirrel carcass. One of them, judging by the feathered neck, seemed to be immature. I wondered if it was a family preying together.

They weren’t much bothered by the occasional car going by.

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The eclipse: old news now

September 17th, 2017 by jomo

My sweetie and I flew up to Oregon, into the path of totality, and went with her sister’s family to view the event. And it (and the whole process of viewing it) was memorable. Then she and I in a rented car wandered around the Cascades for a few days.

Everything was rather closed in because of smoke from all of the wildfires burning in the mountains on all sides. The biggest disappointment was Crater Lake. The whole great bowl was filled with smoke so dense that nothing could be seen…a real “pea-souper.” But is was road-trip fun, tooling around with my honey giving me directions, and following some very seriously bad directions from an internet program – the calm voice says “In 800 feet turn left on Going up the Mountain Drive – ignore the ‘No Outlet’ sign.”

Getting back to Austin in the face of Hurricane Harvey led to some tense moments when it looked like all flights were being cancelled, or late, causing connections to be missed, but it all worked out.

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Audio book narration

July 24th, 2017 by jomo

I listen to a lot of audio books. They let me do things with my hands while listening to something besides music or news.

In a website review for an audio title which I had thoroughly enjoyed, the reviewer complained mightily about mispronounced words. I agree that mispronunciations are jarring, but they are not finally the fault of the narrator. Narrators shouldn’t be reading the text cold, and they have a producer reading along silently with them, controlling the recording machinery. At any mistake or unwanted sound the producer can stop the whole process, rewind the recording, and cue the narrator to record over the error. The next step in the process requires an editor to listen to the recording while following the text. Any errors are then corrected by insert editing, which can sometimes be heard in a published title because of a momentary shift in ambient, or background, sound and vocal quality/intonation.

So a narrator can mispronounce a word, but they are not alone in the fault: there are others also to blame.

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