Wile, Wit, Wisdom & Weaponry

Ruminations, Opinions & Debate about the world as I see it and the toys that make it bearable!

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Location: TEXAS, United States

-Defender of the Second Amendment, the "little guy", free market system, liberty and freedom from government!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Yesterday I was sitting in our small church service thinking about what I would write as a simple commemoration for all those who serve- or have served- as America's military heroes.  One of our church elders got up to speak and decided to specifically address his fellow Marines in the audience while introducing the next part of the morning's service in honoring our military.  He said, "My wife told me not to call out to my Marines when I got up here, but I just can't help it....SEMPER FI, Marines!"

And it struck me in that moment:  I didn't know this man well, but I did know every member of his family and not once in the past year did anyone mention that he served in the armed forces- much less the Marine Corps.  He is a very quiet, humble and soft spoken individual.  He is also very thin for his 65+ year, 5 foot 10 inch frame.  He might weigh 150 lbs.  Not your typical Marine.  This got me to thinking...how many other men had I known over the years at different churches, schools, businesses that served their country in honorable and admirable ways?

The list started to come pretty easily.  Family, friends, church leaders, ministry leaders, people I worked with over the years.  Before I knew it, I easily had 40+ names written down.  Most of these were men I had gotten to know through our church in Temple, TX.  These men had a very positive affect on me.  Some more than others, like my Dad, but nonetheless- each and every one of them left an indelible mark on my life.  They served as older role models, fathers, grandfathers, uncles, husbands, brothers, sons and siblings.  Each of them has a distinct relational grip on my life. I'm forever grateful to these men and their constancy in putting up with a brash young man who loves and appreciates them all for their unique gifts and their presence in my life.

In no particular order of importance:

Maj. Gen. Leon J. Laporte (US Army, Retired)
Brig. Gen. Jerry Strader (US Army, Retired)
Capt. John C. Stevens (US Army, Retired/Deceased)
Col. T.D. Smith (US Air Force, Retired)
Col. Jim Morgan (US Army, Retired/Deceased)
Col. Jim Holmans (US Air Force, Retired)
Maj. Craig Smyser (US Air Force, Retired)
Capt. David Henshaw (US Air Force, Active)
Petty Officer Mike Ricker (US Navy, Retired)
Mike Murphy (US Air Force, Retired)
Maj. Brian Golden (US Air Force, Active)
Col. Malcolm Coco (US Air Force, Retired)
Maj. Tim Townsend (US Air Force, Active)
Sgt. Roger Carraway (US Army, Retired)
Lt. Jeff Whitt (US Army, Green Berets, Retired)
Robbie Smith (US Marine Corps, Retired)
Lee Kinsey (US Navy, Active)
Capt. Marc Van Wert (US Air Force, Retired)
William "Bill" Craig (US Army Reserves, Active)
Evan Chrane (US Army, Active)
Commander Hunter J. Haltom (US Navy, Active)
Eric Dyson (US Navy, Retired)
Bob Pikna (US Army, Retired)
Kevin Clinton (US Army, Retired)
Maj. Grant Seabolt (US Marine Corps., Retired)
GSgt. Sean Trembley (US Marine Corps., Retired)
Petty Officer Markus Netzel (US Navy, Retired)
Troy Vaughn (US Marine Corps., Retired)
Harold Tidwell (US Marine Corps., Retired)
Sgt. Mike Stirman (US Army, Retired)
Robert Medlock (US Navy, Retired/Deceased)
Larry Matthews (US Army, Retired)
Ron Scott (US Army, Retired)
Capt. William "Bill" Goforth (US Army, Retired/Deceased)
Sgt. Jim McKinney (US Marine Corps, Retired/Deceased)
Eddie Lester (US Army, Retired/Deceased)
Henry Browning (US Air Force, Retired)
Neil Haney (US Army, Retired)
John Hopewell (US Air Force, Retired)
Capt. Jack Morgan (US Army Air Corps., Retired/Deceased)
H.C. Mann (US Army Air Corps., Retired)
Grant Smith (US Army, Retired)
Jerry Secrest (US Navy, Retired)
Johnny Usrey (US Army, Retired/Deceased)
Capt. Wesley "Wes" Fortenberry (US Army, KIA)

And every one of these has a story to tell.....every.blessed.one.of.them.  Some have several stories to tell.  These were men who saw combat up close and personal.  Men who were trained to secure beachheads, hills, hedgerows and towns without a thought's notice. They are/were men who consisted of grit, determination, valor, honor and integrity.  They were also patriotic- a word that has unfortunately turned into a lightening rod in some circles in the 21st century.  Let's examine the lives of three of these men.

Captain (and Chaplain) John Christopher Stevens.  Former President of Abilene Christian University (1969-81) and faculty emeriti of ACU's History Department.  His specialty was European History.  In the following famous WWII-era photograph you will notice a long column of 28th Infantry Troops marching down the famed Champs d'Elysees in Paris on VE Day in France.  Leading this column is non other than Capt. John C. Stephens. (Center of photo, tallest man in the first row.)

The 28th Infantry troops entering the Champs-Elysees in Paris during a victory parade after the city’s liberation from the Germans. 

He was often asked about the photo and always responded with self-deprecating humor, telling one reporter in a March 2001 Abilene Reporter-News story, "Never were so many led by one so unaware of where we were going!"  (This was typical JCS humor- and very much like the response of many men from that era.)

William "Bill" Goforth. Bill was one of my elders at the Western Hills Church of Christ in Temple, TX where I grew up.  (Some would say I never grew up, but I digress here...)  Bill was probably one of my favorite men in that congregation.  He had a very sonorous bass voice and I always loved to hear him read scripture during the worship assembly.  To me it was as if God himself and ordained that voice to speak His words.  He was quiet, dignified, always an encouraging word to those around him, and ferocious about those whom he loved.  He was a true family man in every sense of the word.  Bill was also our resident fisherman who loved to catch fish on Saturday/Sunday afternoons and then drive all over Temple looking for someone who might be home who liked crappie.  We were the recipients of Bill's bounty numerous times.  Sometimes it took me 2+ hours to clean all the fish that Bill caught!  Here is Bill's story as told by my father, Mike Stirman:

"Bill served during WWII and Korea.  He started out as a Combat Infantryman.   Because Bill was an officer at the end of WWII, he was still eligible for duty when Korea started up but a new law had just been passed by Congress that would have exempted him.  But someone messed up and sent him a "Report For Duty" notice anyway. After getting to Korea and being assigned to a combat battalion, Bill's business partner back home, Mr. Dalos Cobb, contacted his congressman and got Bill released from duty. Bill's C.O. was really angry, thinking Bill had pulled some personal or political strings to get himself released from active duty. As a result, Bill had to arrange his own transportation home. Bill called his wife, Betty, to tell her that he would be home in a certain number of days and went to the Flight Shed to bum a ride home. The transport he was assigned was a DC 3 that had engine trouble twice before reaching Hawaii. The mechanics worked on the engine, delayed another day, and then headed to San Francisco. On the way not one, but two engines quit over the Pacific (this model only has 2 engines!). When they finally limped into San Francisco, Bill phoned Betty once again to tell her what happened and that he was trading in his flight voucher for a train ticket back to Temple and that he would be home in 3 days. As luck would have it, out in the middle of northern Arizona, a blizzard and avalanche covered the train tracks and he sat on the train for 2 days until a snow plow-enabled train could get them out."

Jack Morgan.  Jack was another one of my elders at the same church in Temple and was a WWII veteran who flew B-29's (8th Air Force) over Europe for his entire tour.  Jack was stationed outside Paris on V.E. Day. He and a friend finagled a light reconnaissance plane during the massive parade in downtown Paris and flew it under the Eiffel Tower.  No one ever figured out who pulled off the stunt!

On this Memorial Day, I hope all Americans- no matter where they live- find themselves reflecting on the service of these brave men and women.  Many serve in quiet, unassuming ways and in distant lands far away from their respective families.  They still need our support and our prayers for their safety and for the successful conclusion of their mission so they can return to their homes. Those who are retired, serve as a reminder of past generations and their sacrifice during some of our greatest conflicts.  These are the sentinels who stand on the walls of Freedom.  Walls which are built with course after course of sacrificed souls mixed with gritty determination and a true sense of pride, duty and honor. Our largest and most visible national monuments stand as silent witnesses to those who can no longer speak for themselves, but whose patriotism lives on because we who remain appreciative continue to remember and reflect on such a price paid...

American Cemetery- Normandy, France

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stirman's Law #56...

Stirman’s Law # 56 states:

The larger the metropolitan area, the harder the business must work to stay ahead of the competition.”

It pains me to say this, really- it does, however I’ve noticed something. The smaller the town, the worse customer service seems to be these days among our local business establishments. Of course there are exceptions to be found, but in general I think small town business owners believe they don’t have to work as hard. ‘The competition is scarcer (or non existent), therefore we will prevail.’ This is a VERY dangerous mindset and those who cater to this philosophy would do well to visit with their big city counterparts who have to scramble for every percentage point of the business pie chart.

In a world as small as ours (thanks in large part of the World Wide Web), this is critical thinking and could prove fatal to the entrepreneur who has just hung his/her shingle. Competition is EVERYWHERE.

- Just because you are the latest craze- don’t think it will last beyond the initial fad.

- You may be new-but there are others right behind you gearing up for something similar.

- When you appear successful, someone will eventually take away your market share.

- Customer loyalty is necessary, and as such is like a garden…it needs constant tending.

- When you make a mistake- OWN IT, don’t attempt to explain it away.

- In today’s society, it’s the nice guy/gal who will be remembered…so go the extra mile.

- Did you really remember my name or my child’s name on my return visit? Priceless PR!

- When was the last time you thanked a customer in person?

- When was the last time you performed over and above the customer’s expectations?

- At what point are you finished cultivating the relationship? ANSWER: Never!

There is simply too much competition in every field imaginable. One cannot simply rest on past deeds and expect to reap rewards. Rewards come from work- sustainable work in progress. Please don’t take my business for granted. I’m begging you.

For the internet forums and consumer sites await me…and the strokes from my mighty keyboard.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Hey, Stirman- school is now in session…

It was supposed to be another routine visit to yet another donor’s home to express my general thanks on behalf of my alma mater for this particular person’s latest gift to the university. Little did I know that I was about to benefit from a fantastic schooling on history…

For nearly seven years I served as a Development Officer for my alma mater raising funds for the 100 year anniversary of Abilene Christian University. The Centennial Campaign (as it is referred to) was the largest fundraising endeavor the university had undertaken in the school’s history. It was an honor for me to participate in this enterprise and afforded me the opportunity to come into contact with thousands of alumni I wouldn’t ordinarily meet in my lifetime. Many of these invited me to their homes or offices in order to ask questions about the latest programs of interest, different schools/majors on campus, or simply to learn what the Centennial campaign would do for the university in years to come. These visits were almost always exciting to me as it meant I would get to hear another person’s story about their time on the ACU campus. On rare occasions, I was able to visit with those who were not alumni, but who supported the university for various personal reasons.

On one such trip to south Texas, I took the chance in calling on an elderly widower in a town I had never visited (which shall remain anonymous for this retelling), but for whom I wanted to meet and express our thanks for his recent donation to the university. As a gift of thanks, I had a special book I had brought along with me to present to the fellow. So I called him a couple of days in advance of my trip, told him who I was and why I was calling and asked if it would be alright if I could drop in on him while I was near his home. He was very quick to answer “sure” and the date was set.

Over the course of my experience in serving as a fundraiser, I learned a few things about visiting strangers. Either they loved to visit with you about their time on campus, or they would like to discuss (and I use that term loosely) some issue that they didn’t necessarily agree with as it pertained to the school. In most cases, the latter was not usually the case. But I quickly learned the initial conversational tone employed needed to be established early in meeting with the donor. It tended to relax both parties and made for a very pleasant first meeting. (The last thing one wanted was a confrontational or negative experience to begin the relationship.)

Not everyone I met with had identical thoughts or views about various topics associated with the conversation. As a former salesman, I knew enough about initiating the conversation to keep things light and moving along so that I could discuss the one or two main points that I intended to convey. When this is done in a sales office, car lot, or other business office- the customer is usually on unfamiliar ground which gives the salesperson the edge. But fundraising is different in that most of the conversations take place at the donors’ place of business or at their home. This meant that I - as the fundraiser - was on unfamiliar ground. Depending on the environs of such meetings, it meant I was the one who would feel a bit out of place. So, to counteract that personal feeling, I devised a method in starting the conversation so that I could direct the general flow of discussion. This meant getting familiar with the surroundings. If I was in an office setting, I would quickly look at the person’s office walls to see what photographs, citations, awards or diplomas were displayed. Nearly everyone had these walls of shame- and they are great conversation starters. But for those meetings taking place in the home, sometimes these items would be tucked away in a bedroom or hallway far removed from the main entry or living room where these conversations typically took place. So what would I do? Well, everyone loves books. I would move around the living room until I found a series of shelves containing books. In nearly every instance there was at least one volume I could personally identify with- a certain author or title would catch my eye. Now I had my conversation starter…which would always come full circle to the book I had brought with me.

(Clever, no?)

Back to my south Texas donor…
Upon arriving at my intended’s home, I noticed two things right away: the house was very small but tidy, and every exterior window and doorway was covered with wrought iron bars. This person was serious about personal security!

I rang the doorbell and a kind southern gentleman greeted me at the door and showed me into a large living room. To my sheer joy, the room was lined with floor-to-ceiling bookcases! As we made initial small talk (standing) in the living room, I couldn’t help but notice that nearly every book centered on World War II. I had hit the jackpot. This fellow and I were going to get along nicely today. This was a subject I could talk about for hours. I had read most of Stephen Ambrose’s books and several volumes by other WWII authors, and had watched all the notable movies and documentaries ever made on WWII. So, after being ushered to an overstuffed chair and without much consideration on my part, I blurted out: “So, I guess you’re a WWII buff?

(LONG pause as the gentlemen slowly lowered his head and stared at the floor…)

Well”, came the reply, “if you call flying 42 bombing missions in a B-24 over Nazi Germany between 1942 and ’44 a history buff, then I guess that’s what I am…

(My turn for silence- and not just a little red-faced as I stared back at him in disbelief…silently acknowledging my unintended blunder.)

Upon closer inspection, EVERY single volume in those bookcases centered on the 8th Air Force group which dominated the skies over the European theater. I asked him, “Why so many books on the 8th?

His reply caught me off guard once more, “Every time some yay-hoo decides to write a book about that period of our nation’s history as it relates to the 8th Air Force, I buy the book to see for myself if they got it right…most of the time they didn’t. They weren’t there. They don’t know what happened. I do…

At this point, I’m WAY off script and I let this gentle giant in front of me wax on about his time serving our country during WWII. Come to find out, “Bill” (not his real name) had flown 7 missions over the required quota of 35 to qualify for rotating out of the front line bomber groups. (Side Note: actor Jimmy Stewart flew at least 20 such missions during his time in the service.) On two occasions, Bill had lost a plane to anti aircraft artillery flak that the Germans were known for all over that part of Europe. Many of his crew sustained injuries or died from wounds caused by these flak bursts- or who were too weak to pull rip cords on their parachutes when they had to bail out of a crippled B-24. Bill bore many scars on his body where shrapnel had punctured his body. Initially in our visit, I noticed the rather large indentation at the top of his forehead. He explained that a piece of flak had entered the plane’s belly between his feet and continued through his seat (between his legs) and hit him in the head. It knocked him unconscious and his co-pilot took over the mission and landed the plane back at the base. They took him to a hospital were the surgeon replaced the shattered skull fragments with a steel plate to protect his exposed brain. Since the steel plate is thinner than the skull, the skin grew over the gap haphazardly causing an indentation the size of a golf ball.

Our WWII pilots, co-pilots and crews were very efficient at their jobs. There were so many missions flown over Germany that the total tonnage of bombs dropped exceeded 434,000. (That’s 864.4+ million pounds of munitions.) Total number of sorties flown by bombers alone during the war exceeded 754,800. But with this success came a high price; over 160,000 allied airmen lost their lives during the European campaign. Bill survived, and was sitting across the room recounting his experiences.

Yeah, school was in full blown session and I was the grateful pupil soaking up every consonant that dripped from this man’s lips. I was rendered speechless at his courage, daring, and sheer luck of surviving those ominous daytime raids over Germany. The ‘greatest generation’? You better believe it…and I’m honored to know a few who sacrificed so much for so many. Bill went on to his reward soon after our meeting. I was never able to speak with him again after that visit. In a strange way, I miss him. He imparted a bit of himself to me during our meeting. And what, you may ask, was the reason for his donations to the university? He quietly answered that question during our visit. “I just appreciate what ACU does in educating [preachers] to serve all over the world. I wasn’t able to attend school- I was too busy flying ‘Liberators’…”

And liberating his countrymen as a result.

(And we are most grateful for your sacrifice, Bill. Most grateful...)

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Veteran Among Veterans

(This is a repost from 2007- but very appropriate for today)

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by interesting trivia- mostly in the scientific realm. When I was young, my mother discovered that I loved to read. For many years I could count on receiving at least one lengthy, picture laced volume about facts (trivia) for Christmas and my birthday.

There were several phases I went through: Space Exploration, Dinosaurs, Marine Biology, Machinery, Inventions, etc. Then along came the annual Guinness Book of World Records- man, I was hooked.

To this day, I much prefer to read works of history or interesting biographies over a work of fiction. Anything to do with WW II currently has my attention. It all started with my introduction to Stephen Ambrose. (Thank you, Kevin Riley!) What a fascinating history professor/lecturer Ambrose must have been. If you’ve never read his classic work on Lewis & Clark, Undaunted Courage, you must obtain a copy at your local library. Though slow in the beginning, it quickly picks up pace and broadens the reader’s view of the entire tale of Western exploration during the early 18th century. His works on WW II are fully engaging and extremely detailed. I highly recommend these volumes: D-Day, Citizen Soldiers, The Victors, and Band of Brothers. Other interesting works: Undaunted Courage and Nothing Like It in the World (the history of the Transcontinental Railroad).

Recently, I ran across a most interesting article penned by Jacob Gottfredson of Guns Magazine, detailing the life of Colonel T. D. Smith.

Here’s just a teaser: Col. Thomas D. Smith is a college educated, decorated Vietnam War Fighter Pilot, Olympic and World Pistol Champion record holder, inventor, photographer, consultant, author and skydiver- without a parachute! That’s right- Col. Smith is the lone human to ever free fall from a plane at an elevation of 5,000 feet and lived to tell about it. Keep reading…

Mr. Smith used to spend boyhood summers with Ad Toepperwein- the great exhibition shooter. He has been an avid hunter for most of his life. Not satisfied with the average scope reticle, he set about inventing an ingenious device to satisfy his own needs. His experience as a fighter pilot coupled with a keen intellect birthed his version of the scope reticle called the “TDS Reticle”, after his own initials. Some have taken to calling it “The Christmas Tree.” Imagine the triangular outline of a Christmas tree etched onto a crystal lens within a scope. Within the triangle are horizontal bars increasing in horizontal length from top to bottom. The varying widths of the bars give windage values and the vertical spacing between them allows for bullet drop from 100 to 900 yards. Here’s a close up of what I’m describing:

To date, one can purchase this reticle only on certain Kahles and Swarovski scope models. If you have a deep pocket to purchase these wonderfully made scopes, you can own a piece of Col. Smith’s inventive creativity. (Retail starts at $950)

Col. Smith’s book, TD’s Tactical Stress Management, is the primary mental training program for a number of United States national shooting champions and at least one world champion. His “Brain Model,” derived from thermal imagery, is a brain alignment method for making a perfect shot- every time. Prior to his experience in Vietnam, someone recognized Col. Smith’s extraordinary shooting gift. It’s been said he could shoot a pistol like Van Clyburn, another Texan, could play the piano.

Col. Smith won his first match and kept winning, year after year, championship after championship. At the 1963 Pan American Games, he set the only World Record in pistol held by the U.S. In 1964, he was on the U.S. Olympic Team and placed 8th in the free pistol event. That same year, he won the National .45 Championship. In 1965 he won the National Indoor Championship at Fort Benning. He has held the National .22 and .45 Championships and the Air Force Service Pistol Championship at Camp Perry. Smith was also the first pistol shooter to hit 300 x 300 (perfect score) with the .22 and .45 handguns in registered competition.

At the U.S. Pan American games, he broke Russia’s Idatshin’s World Centerfire Pistol record, a record that is today the oldest human held world record in International Sports! Incidentally, the Colt pistol used to set the record was the first military weapon gratuitously awarded to a military member in U.S. history and is the centerpiece exhibit at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Virginia.

In all, Colonel Smith broke 79 world records throughout his career.

But if all of this isn’t enough, his adventure on Mount Helmos in Greece tops it all. Strapped to his seat at the center of a USAF C-47 transport, Col. Smith had begun to snap pictures with his Nikon camera of an Italian General seated across the aisle when the plane literally broke apart. Col. Smith found himself suddenly free falling through the air still strapped to his seat and without a parachute. He struggled free from his seat, and as he fell towards the snow capped rocky mountain some 5,000 feet below, he rolled himself into a ball and told himself he could make it. After several hours of unconsciousness, Col. Smith regained his senses and struggled free from his snowy tomb. Blind, bruised, and broken, he clawed snow from his eyes and found his way to the plane’s tail section. Bodies lay strewn about and he began dragging them into the plane’s tail.

Here are some excerpts from documentation recorded by Charles W. Maultsby, Lt. Col, USAF, Commander in his letter denoting Col. Smith’s nomination for the Martin-Baker Life Saving Award:

“Despite his injuries, complicated by partial eyesight and hands frozen into claws—he made repeated trips into the blizzard to gather debris with which to close the gaping hole (in the plan’s tail section) and then finished sealing the wind out with two parachutes. He retrieved 14 bundled parachutes which he dragged one at a time into the shelter, clawed them open, peeled ice and snow off the bodies, and covered his patients with parachutes and scraps of aircraft insulation.

“The major discovered his body was stiffening almost beyond control. He realized he could not afford the luxury of sleep as both he and the others would freeze to death if he did not remain awake to keep the parachute covers fluffed up to insure a minimum of airspace insulation to keep out the freezing cold. He then began exercising until he regained the use of his arms and legs. This regimen continued for 48 hours.

“Two of his patients died in the night. Of the three remaining, one was in total shock and the other two were maimed and could not move without assistance. All rescue radios were broken, there was no food or water, and the wreck was hidden from search aircraft by drifting layers of snow and ice. Major (at the time of the event) Smith examined the survivors and decided that another day of exposure and lack of medical attention would result in their death.

“After tying a signal flag to the top of the shelter and securing a signal parachute around his waist, he moved down the ridge in dense fog until he slipped and plummeted down the ridge. This process of falling down ridges continued for 1,500 feet until he broke out of the fog and was able to climb a peak, which was in the clear. The Major sat down, unwrapped the parachute, and held it in the wind and waited. Presently, a C-130 flew by and spotted the red parachute against the white snow. For the first time, rescue headquarters knew in which country the aircraft had crashed.”

(The US Sixth Fleet was directed to the Grecian Coast and helicopters from the USS Forrestal finalized the rescue the following day, 17 January 1966, at 1300 hours; three days and two nights after the accident. Three survivors were placed on stretchers, carried
to the helicopter, flown to Wheelus, AFB, and hospitalized in critical condition. Doctors there declared the three would not have survived without Major Smith’s care and the risk of his life in a timely bid for rescue.)

Col. Smith was awarded the Airman’s Medal for extraordinary heroism by General Bruce K. Holloway, Commander-in-Chief United States Air Forces in Europe. Jacob Gottfredson of Guns Magazine, who wrote a lengthy article (of which I’ve borrowed heavily from), finishes his article with this epilogue:

I wondered what had happened to TD’s Nikon. As it turned out, the camera was located by one of the cleanup crew several days later—some distance from TD’s point of impact. Thinking that it must have been damaged, he sent it to the factory. The film was recovered and printed. On it was the photo captured by Smith during the moments of the plan’s disintegration. I have that photo. It shows the Italian General amid the implosion of window glass next to him just as the plane broke up.

Post Script:
Before Col. Smith went into the military which enabled his illustrious, storied career he attended college on a football scholarship and lettered in Track at what was then called Abilene Christian College located in Abilene, TX. (Now ACU)

Post Post Script: (I've since learned that this particular plane was shot down during a military exercise, not a simple mechanical failure as previously thought.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Standing with Patriots...

Tonight, I took part in my very first public protest. Sure, I've protested before- but always to my neighbor, my family, writing on my blog or talking to one of my best friends- never in a public forum. That all changed as I attended the Abilene Tea Party.

To my great surprise (and a little relief) it was a very friendly, family-oriented atmosphere as hundreds of people lined the streets at the local post office. Since I went alone, leaving my family to head for Wednesday evening church services, I was wondering who I would bump into that I might know. Within the first 2 minutes, I saw one of my church elders, several of my colleagues, and neighbors from down the street. What I witnessed was nothing short of breathtaking; people of every walk of life.

- Four year old children and ninety-four year old adults

- Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians

- The Ranch Foreman and the Bank Chairman

- The farmer in sweat-stained coveralls and the teenager in droopy pants

- People on motorcycles and people riding bicycles

- People waving American flags and people holding placards

- Married folks and single folks

- Athletic folks and less-than-athletic folks (me!)

- White collar and blue collar

- Those wearing RED and those wearing BLUE

- Independents, Libertarians, Republicans and Democrats

- Preachers, Teachers, Lawyers, and Business Owners

- Salesmen, Mechanics, Babysitters, Accountants

- Poor folks and rich folks

- People with agendas and those who were simply curious

Above all, I witnessed a scene of American pride and patriotism as a number of speakers stepped up to the microphone and addressed the assembled citizenry with their thoughts and feelings. All were calm, all were sincere, and all were given that ability covered by the protection of their First Amendment right to speak what was on their hearts. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. A young lady with a crystal clear voice sang the Star Spangled Banner.

The thunderous applause at the conclusion of each speaker's turn was matched only by the din and excitement of the throng that had gathered, punctuated by dozens of motorcycle riders who had descended on downtown as if Willie G. (Davidson) himself were present.

The endless stream of vehicles winding their way through the downtown streets, honking, windows rolled down to give thumbs up or shout encouraging phrases to the people lined up on the sidewalks was refreshing. People taking photographs or talking to any one of a half dozen journalists who were camped out snapping photos, shooting video feed, and furiously capturing talking points and sound bites.

As I surveyed this scene that was electric as any public event I've ever witnessed I felt a stirring. It came from deep within me, and it was unexpected. It took me a moment to recognize that an old friend had re-emerged that I thought was long gone. That stirring - that friend - is Patriotism.

What a grand evening to stand with fellow Patriots and declare our values and dreams, together, with one unified voice.

God bless America...

God bless Texas...

...and may God protect them both!


Monday, February 16, 2009

Question for the week...

Name three things, when grasped by a man's hand, are capable of yielding lasting consequences...

Monday, November 24, 2008

The other White Meat...

Those of you who know me well understand that I'm a serious shooter. If for no other reason, that description applies to the safety factor I build into every session when investing my time alongside a weapon. Whether it's busting clays, peppering dove, bagging a buck, punching paper targets, or sniping varmints from ungodly distances- safety ALWAYS comes first. Period.

Occasionally, I catch word of a buddy who isn't so cautious. When it becomes apparant that there is no injury or death by said person- or enacted upon a third party- I will certainly follow up with the normal questions starting with, "What happened?".

Such was the case last week, when I met a new friend who works for a well-known construction firm here in town. After the initial greetings, I realized another long-time friend worked in the same building as my 'new' friend. Of course, I asked about my old friend. 'New' friend chuckles and says, "You need to ask him how much an Armadillo is worth!"

Not one to pass up a good story- I implored my 'new' friend to spill his guts. Turns out, my old friend (who is not yet 30, and a relative new comer to the fine sport of hunting) decided to dispatch a pesky armadillo on his last hunting foray. He was so intent on bagging this critter he didn't even exit his pickup truck to do so properly. Not carrying a sidearm with him- or perhaps feeling more bravado than one should- he decides to take aim with his high powered center-fire deer rifle topped off with an equally high-powered variable scope. (You see where this is heading, don't you? Now, don't get ahead of me...)

My less-than-30-year-'old' friend is intent on dispatching that pesky armadillo. He's got to have something to show his new bride for the evening's activities spent in her absence. He is also under the illusion that he can safely do so while sitting in his heated truck cab. He rolls the window down on the far side of the truck. He brings the gun to his shoulder. Puts his right eyeball snug to the scope. Centers the crosshair on the critter and squeezes the trigger ever so gently...BLAM-O!!! He blows a neat hole right through the top edge of his passenger-side door where one's elbow would normally rest. Not to mention he nearly wet his pants from the percussion inside the close quarters of the truck's cab. As the smoke gently and effortlessly curls upward from the new vent hole in his truck door- my friend realizes what he did wrong. The scope is mounted 2 inches above the bore of his rifle. The muzzle of the gun was pointed at the door- while the centered "X" of the scope was above the door frame. Problem is- when your aiming point is 20 feet from the muzzle of your gun- the scope will always be higher than the path of the bullet once launched from the breach. Too late- the damage is done.

Well, I'm a nice friend- and I refuse to exploit my friend's identity here in these pages. But you can bet I'm going to have a wonderful story to relay to his parents in Belton later this week when I see them during Thanksgiving.

(Wonder how Randy and LaGay are going to take the news, JP?)