Better And Better

If you don't draw yours, I won't draw mine.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Thanks, Billy!


I'd just finished an email to Billy Sparks today, when I heard the postal lady drop something off on my porch and jump back into her truck. (Remember when they used to knock? When they used to make sure the package, if it wouldn't fit in your box, made it inside and safe?) I checked the porch, and there was a box from Billy himself, contiaining the very topic of my email: 100 feet of good rope.

Constant readers will recall my post of about 4 weeks ago, in which I voiced my appreciation of good rope. My mama actually gave me a length of it and some snaplinks for Father's Day. It's massive, thick twisted white rope, and it was a really nice (if different) Father's Day gift.

Billy, who works in the first responder field, mentioned that he might have some extra rope lying around. I figured that he had some old rope that was ready to retire. In fact, he had some static line that had never been used, but had been shipped in the wrong color. Different colors are often assigned different tasks. Life-saving climbing rope usually has a built-in 7 to 12% stretch, which can save your bacon when you hit the end of it after a lengthy fall. It's expensive, and has to be disposed of after a couple of falls-- one should never use good climbing rope for general purpose chores like towing or hauling. It also should be kept as clean as possible, as sand and grit will cut and fray the fibers in it, reducing its strength and ductility. So when you order it, you get it in a specific color -- say, neon orange or yellow, and you make your utility ropes another color, preferably a contrasting color. So the general purpose rope that Billy sent me is brand-spanking-new rope that's never been used. Since I don't carry climbing rope or the like with me, the fact that it's Emergency Orange is not a problem-- it could be purple with pink flecks in it. Billy threw in a locking carabiner as well.

As soon as I figure out where my absent wife stashed the checkbook, Billy, your costs for postage will be in the mail, buddy.

I went out to a medium-velocity high-water rescue the other night with our fire department. A lady had driven into a puddle in the road that turned out to be a rising creek, and her car began floating right down the road. The firemen waded carefully out toward her, but stopped several times-- they didn't have a rope!! My new one was still in the trunk of my P.O.V., not yet transferred to my patrol car, so I was of little help. I will, tonight, though.

Thanks, Billy.

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Why is his bigger than mine?

The value of his corpse, I mean. Asphyxiated Emancipation's corpse calculated at $5675, while my poor decomposing hide only wins:
$4325.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth

Mingle2

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More of that frickin' wet stuff, Part II


Notice all the yellow and red? These ain't no gentle soakers-- these are lightning & thunder, 1.5" to 2" an hour, real thunderstorms.
Every. Dadgum. Day.

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"I beat him wit' a stick!"

"Nobody robs us and gets away wit' it." said Blalock Beauty School director Diane Mitchell.

"The suspect was trying to get out of the business, and as he was trying to get out, they kept pulling him back in and beating him," said a witness on the scene.

Xavier posts interesting takes on people who refuse to be victims.

Go read his post and watch the video of the hilarious news story of an armed robber who decided to rob the wrong beauty school.

Priceless. That's goooooood TV, right there.

(H.T. to Xavier.)

More of that frickin' wet stuff...


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Maybe it was the Mexican food,

...coursing through my veins with cholesterol-ly goodness.

Or maybe it was that margarita.

But the newest Bruce Willis vehicle, Live Free or Die Hard, did not suck.

That "cool kid" from the Mac commercials makes a pretty decent sidekick, too.

Questions:

How does "routing every available cubic foot of natural gas on the eastern seaboard" to a specific location cause an automatic explosion there?

We have "F35s" flying?

Did somebody at 20th Century Fox get a really good deal on MP40's?

Best friend Scott and I had a good ol' time.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

This just in...


JibJab has just released its newest Independence Day video, "Star Spangled Banner".

I'm afraid I neglected to post their 2006 Year In Review ("Nuckin' Futs!") when it came out.

I first came to love JibJab 8 years ago, when George the MadOgre sent me a link to their "Founding Fathers" flash vid (complete with a righteous Ben Franklin).

Their take on the 2004 presidential election, "This Land," was genius.

Uh, that is all.

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Please stop us...

...before we pun again!

How do these things get started?

Phlegm Fatale should be ashamed of herself.

I know I am.

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Tell me a story...

I like music. And, obviously, I like a good story.

While I like the pure sound of a riff from a good rock instrumental, and like the mood that a superb orchestral piece will put me in, I like best when I hear a story. I'm quite sure that's where the love of opera comes from for most folks; it's a mixture of the two. My problem with opera is that: I don't speak Italian or German, and I'm too impatient to wait 2 hours to see a story that easily could have been told in one of my daughters' old Little Golden Books. That, and most of it (though not all of it) wears me plumb out. (I have to admit that the dumpy amateur British fellow does manage to reach me, somehow.)

The other day, I was listening to an excellent piece by Gwen Thompkins on NPR Weekend Edition about Kenyan radio. Guess what their all-time favorite genre is? They love American country music. It seems that Kenyans have a long tradition of story-telling, and like it in their songs. When they started modernizing and listening to pre-recorded music, they found that the one style of popular music that appealed to their oral tradition most was American Country & Western music, especially from the 1970's and '80's, and especially from (get this): Kenny Rogers. Kenny is HUGE in Nairobi. (Who knew?) Songs like "The Coward Of The County," "The Gambler," etc. tell stories. As for female vocalists, it's all about Dolly Parton. (They especially love "Coat Of Many Colors.")

I thought about that.

While I'm not a huge fan of country music, I've been learning to embrace it more and more, lately. I'm growing away from the silly musical pieces that were the hallmark of my youth (Just what was the story behind "Pour Some Sugar On Me"?), and seeking out music that expresses a story, or at least a complete thought. Oh, it still has to have a catchy tune, without which "The Road Goes On Forever", or "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald", or "El Paso" would never have survived as they do.

The skill of storytelling in music is not dead; it's just not popular with those who currently control what we listen to: 12 to 24 year-old radio-listening kids. They make the requests, and they buy the albums (or MP3's), and they're moving the market to their focus. The Old 97s, a country/rock crossover band that seem to have managed to find a niche, do a decent job of telling stories in their music. They clearly recognized the beauty of a story in a song (indeed, their very band name refers to a famous folk song recounting a terrible train wreck), when they remade Marty Robins' aforementioned "El Paso," complete with a blistering guitar solo. Listen to it twice before giving up on it; it's greatness. They also tell a disturbingly concise tale of revenge in their song "Waiting For The Other Shoe." ("You've got your pride, and a blue steel .45/ And you're waitin' for the other shoe to fall."). And it was only 11 years ago that the late (great) Johnny Cash finally put the last verses on his old song "Mean Eyed Cat", and recorded "I Never Picked Cotton." Some folks still sing stories.

A local radio station (KZPS "Lone Star") has been attempting a "new" format of music that they've declared as "outlaw music." It's fronted by none other than Willie Nelson, and plays a lot of country music, but still pulls from their old rock and roll music collection. It's a decent attempt, but they still seem to be seeking their roots. One of the songs that they've been playing the most, lately, is "Breakfast In Hell." Slaid Cleaves hisses a tale of a tough lumberjack breaking up his final log jam in a conspiratorial manner that makes you turn up the radio and sing along with the chorus, even though you've heard it twice that day already. I wonder if our radio station has figured out that the reason they're getting so many calls for pieces of Americana like that and Junior Brown's "Broke Down South Of Dallas" are so popular. It's for the same reason that most folks can still recall the premise, if not the complete lyrics, to "Ode To Billie Joe"-- there's a story in there.

- - - -
Several years ago, a rookie cop that I used to work with introduced me to a rather... uh, base... site called "Stick Death". I repeatedly told him that it was a timewaster that was probably going to get him in trouble for watching on his coffee breaks, but on stormy nights I found myself sometimes watching some of the simple GIF animations over his shoulder. One of them, set to metal music, I found strangely... compelling for some reason that I couldn't figure out. "5MOCA" ("Five Minutes Of Crap Animation") Then I suddenly recognized the lyrics of the Metalica remake: it was an old Irish ballad "Whiskey In The Jar."; they'd only changed the lyrics a tad. So I watched the 5 minute animation of the old old song. And you know? It kind of sticks with you. (Warning: that animation is not particularly explicit, but then again, it's not entirely work- or kid-safe.) Funny how songs written hundreds of years ago that tell a story will do that, even in the strangest of contexts.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ma'am, I'm so sorry for your loss...

...perhaps a court-ordered tubal ligation will help?

Notice how I'm constantly mentioning all the damned rain we're getting?

Well, lots of rain means lots of saturated ground. Saturated ground means runoff. Runoff means swollen creeks and rivers.

Which attract kids like this Garland, TX woman's 13 year old boy. It seems that she's furious at the rescue crews who worked for 3 hours to try to rescue her son, William Griffin. William, it seemed, could not swim. He was playing in the water, and got swept away. He managed to cling to a bridge collumn, and the firefighters sensibly threw him a rope to initiate some kind of rescue procedure. He couldn't hold on, and was swept away in waters running up to 50 mph. Crews stationed at two other bridges downstream couldn't recover him.

Tragic. We all feel bad. It's sad when a kid dies.

But Tonya Williams, the boy's mother, says that her kid died because of the rescue crew. "They could have walked through that water, and gotten my son and taken him to safety, but they didn't do that. They threw him a rope, and that was it."

Garland rescuers tried to get to the boy, and began to lose their footing. They searched and found him a half mile downstream, and attempted CPR, but he didn't make it.

_ _ _ _ _

Folks, I'll be honest-- I want a state law disallowing rescue crews to be sent into harm's way to rescue any adults (over 18) who put themselves into flood waters. Drive past a barrier and get your car swept away in the high water? Oh well. If your gene line is worth saving, you'll figure out how to swim to safety.

With a kid under 18, it's hard. I think that the firefighters and rescue team did what they could. I'm sure that if the scene had been more stable, they'd have put a Zodiak in and gotten the kid.

But my old Boy Scout Lifeguard training was that, in saving a drowning person, you Reach, Throw, Row, Go. That means, poke out your arm or a pole, throw them a rope or a floatation device, or take a boat... in that order, before you ever consider physically going in after them. When you physically go in after a drowning person, you put yourself at huge risk, because drowning persons will kill you. They don't mean to-- they just want to climb out of the water, and will step on your head to do it. A large portion of rescue swimming is learning how to capture a drowning person by the neck from behind.

This lady woman, though, expected people to walk through high water running up to 50 mph to pick up and carry her 13 year old boy back to the bank. I've no idea how much her 13 year-old weighed, but I weighed about 170 lbs at that age. (I was 6'3") Given her fine level of physique, it's a fair bet that he was above the average weight for a 13 year old.

They threw him a rope. They put men in the water. They put people downstream. But but it's their fault that he got in the raging water when he couldn't swim.



Friends, I'll tell you a little secret: None of us gets out of this life alive. And Malthus would NOT be happy with the way we're creating a society that believes that we are OWED a rescue from ourselves.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A boring night's work.

Yesterday, the Deluge Of Aught Seven continued, and I worked a couple of wrecks, getting soaked in the process. My boots swamped early on in my 10-hour shift, so I got to spend at least 12 hours in wet socks. The rain defeated my work cell phone, requiring me later to spend an hour at the phone shop. Other than a fireworks call at the end of my shift, I had only a barking dog call.

But Dad braved the heavy rain to come out.

We had lunch, and drove around, chatting. Since returning to patrol, I'd not had any riders with me, but I decided that it was time, and anyway, Dad is no ordinary ride-along. My LT had made it clear that Dad could and should ride out whenever he had the inclination. With a Commander in his shoulder rig and a star on his belt under his jacket, the old fart frankly increases my chances significantly, should Bad Things Happen ( tm ). But they didn't, as they generally don't.

What a pleasure.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

And then, there's this.

Some gay dudes, I guess they just let they mystery be.

Some guys, they seem to let you know.

Some guys, they kind of go over the top, when they step out of the closet.

My question, posed seriously: Is the average (I know, I know-- it's a "bad word") gay guy offended by this, or proud, or just as completely baffled as I am?

I can accept (even if I don't really understand) that some men dig other men.... but this stuff completely escapes my powers of comprehension. (Especially the video.)

(Not that there's anything wrong with that...)

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Dang it.

This morning on the way to work I rear-ended a car at a red light while not really paying attention.

Anyway the fella who was driving got out.

And he was a dwarf!

He said, "I'm not happy."

I said, "Well, which one are you then?"



(H/T to Memphis Steve.)

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For what it's worth

While waiting for a fax confirmation at Staples copy center, I decided to surf The Firing Line, and found that Staples' WiFi hotspot disallows display of that site. Hm.

I went to The High Road, and found that I was similarly restricted from viewing that site. Hm.

They're clearly not against timewaster sites, as the server had no problems with me accessing thing on the .blogspot domain for Blogger, which is a serious time waste location on the 'Net.

As I suspect a gun bias, I'm thinking that I'll not be spending much money or time here in the future, until they get that sorted out.

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Hoops, and jumping through them.

I took my wife and oldest daughter to Six Flags Over Texas, yesterday.

Beyond the ticket booths, at the turnstiles, were big-time, airport-quality, walk-through metal detectors. I had noticed that they put these in about 10 years ago, just after Texas passed the Concealed Handgun License. It was kind of strange to have done, as the same law making CHLs law also banned handguns in amusement parks like Six Flags. But whatever. Now, in addition to having to line up like sheep to walk through the chute, one must be fussed over and wanded by a security guard, and challenged to explain any blip. They usually pay an Arlington cop to stand near the gate, but I rarely see him or her watching the proceedings. My understanding is that the rate of their off-duty pay is just silly.

You might wonder why Six Flags goes to such extremes, when any thinking person would realize that this is an affront to their customers, most of whom have paid in excess of $40 a head for the privilege. The answer is two-fold:
1. Arlington, TX, is a big city situated precisely between Dallas, TX and Ft. Worth, TX. It sees its share of gangs, and the park sees its share of gang members. Because it is illegal to carry a concealed handgun into the park, all law-abiding citizens are disarmed. By putting high fences around the park and metal detectors up front, the park is showing some due diligence in defense against the inevitable civil suits following the inevitable assaults that take place on their property. "Hey! We checked for weapons!" they'll say. That, coupled with the fact that the state legislature made the law in the first place, will probably cover them, to some extent. (Though I saw almost NO security guards there.)

2. The customers keep packing the gates, grasping high-dollar tickets in their sweaty palms.

_ _ _

As we walked the 300+ yards of parking lot to the gates, my wife sighed and said, "Are we going to have to wait for you to get checked in again?"

The last time we'd gone, I'd had to wait in line, explain at the metal detector that I was a peace officer carrying a pistol, and wait while they called a teen aged-to-early 20s security guard over, then cringe when he fairly shouted to the waiting (yes, they had line behind me wait, rather than have me stand to the side-- better keep an eye on me) crowd, "What? He's a cop with a gun? Come this way, officer-- we need to do some paperwork on that gun." He then led me to the side office, where I had to show my badge and ID, and fill out paperwork with my name, department, rank, ID number, Pistol brand and caliber and serial number (requiring me to get it out, because I really never memorized my pistols' SNs). I then was escorted... back to the back of the line! My wife and kids, waiting beyond the metal detectors in the park, were disgusted. I frankly was a bit, myself.

This time, I had a plan. "You two go ride on the Sombrero ride, and if I'm still not there, go to the Conquistador," I said. "I'll jump through their hoops, and meet you there." She sighed, but assented. She made it pretty clear that she'd rather I not carry in the park.

At the turnstiles line, I took a right, and went over to the office where I had been taken before. It had a sign directing me to another office to my right. Presently I arrived at a window, with a sign over it that said something like "Property Check-In and Claim," I noticed on the desk a bunch of pocketknives that had been checked in rather than be confiscated at the metal detectors, each sitting on a folded claim form. I thought back to the tragedy a few years back, when the Roaring Rapids ride had flipped over, and the riders were stuck upside down in the water, unable to release the straps that held them in to swim to safety. Some drowned, and at least one survived with brain damage.

I explained what I wanted, and the girl behind the window waved me through a nearby door. I was met in an office, and presented with a more abbreviated form, this time. I still had to give my pistol brand and SN (I only had to slide the KelTec P3AT and its Uncle Mike's pocket holster slightly out of my pocket, because the serial number is printed in white on the top of the tang, above the backstrap.), and sign the waiver that I had been advised that they had lock boxes available. She said brightly: "Next time you come in, you can just sign the next line down on the same page, which we'll maintain in our records for you. Now let me escort you to the gate..." I was surprised when she walked me to the front gate, opened a side gate for me that bypassed the metal detector and the lines, and wished me a good visit. How... refreshing.

Different policies? Of just different people implementing them?

I almost got to board the first ride with my wife and kiddo-- they waved at me as it started.

Two hours later, as we observed some highly-costumed, highly-tattoo'd angry-faced boys gathered up in a gang and challenging other boys that walked by, my wife held onto my 8 year-old's hand and stepped closer to me. Or perhaps I stepped closer to her. "Just another reason I carry," I murmured.

She did not nod and say, "You're right-- it's worth the extra effort to go armed!" But she didn't argue, either. And despite the heat of the muggy summer day, she didn't step away.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Hmmmm. . .

We got the house listed this morning.

At 09:35 AM, the phone rang for an appointment to show. I was asleep, so I didn't call 'em back until 12:20 PM.

At 1:00 PM, the very first possible buyer showed up.

At 1:30 PM, they offered to buy at my price.

Barring any snags, we'll be outta here by mid-July.

Maybe we listed too low?

Oh, well.

Guess I better go find a house to move into.

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Loyal opposition, my arse.

Are you getting the impression that many opponents of the current administration want to see our nation fail, just so that they can point to the administration's shortcomings?

I'm not saying that it doesn't happen on both sides of the aisle. It does. And it's despicable in either party.

It's fine to call our administration a collective of dunderheads, if you'd like. But if you're rooting for our nation to fail, then you really don't need to be vying to lead it.

But hey, let's lighten up about this stuff. How 'bout some Dr. Seuss-meets-Chris Muir-poetry?

Greatness!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

If anybody knows...

...of a company making and selling subcaliber insert adaptors to make 9mm, .38Spl/.357, or .357 Sig shoot through a .35 Whelen, then I'm interested.

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Happy late Father's Day....

I got off work at 0700, and had to be back at work for another 10-hour shift at 1500. By 0708 I was sliding out of the town I work in, courtesy of the city scooter. By 0710, I had turned back around to pick up an envelope that I had forgotten. By 0717, I was back en route to Dad's house.

Dad lives much closer to my work than I do right now, though we will be changing that, presently. In the meantime, when I have an 8-hour turn-around between 10-hour shifts, I can garner an extra hour's shut-eye by sacking out in his spare bedroom.

I rolled into his driveway at about 0735, and howdy'd with Holly and far too many dogs, while Dad got ready in the master-bedroom and I shucked out of a duty belt and level II body-armor. Dad hollered, "I came across some of that good Power Point .22 ammo at the Fort Worth Gun Show, yesterday, that Rich and Ashley like so much. I bought a few bricks."

The ammunition he was referring to is a rather difficult commodity to come by: Winchester Power Point .22 L.R., in the silver box, has for the last couple of years been next to impossible to find. Rich and Ashley, through arduous testing, have found that it thumps surprisingly well, and surprisingly accurately, out to distances (you really wouldn't believe me if I told you) that far exceed what you would expect out of .22 LR rifle. With one of those marvelous adult-sized Kimber .22 LR rifles, varminting was impressive. But the ammunition hasn't been manufactured for some time, and it's been getting hard to find at any price, even for publishers in the gun industry. Dad had counted something of a coup in scoring several bricks.

I called back to him. "Good deal. You'll enjoy shooting that out of your 1909."

Silence. Then:"What? Um. Matt, you've shot my 1909. I'm talking about .22 Long Rifle rimfire ammunition. You're referring to a pre-WWI .45 Colt revolver." He seemed a bit torn, between being a little embarrassed for me that he should have to bring this little misstep up (in front of Holly, no less), and aghast that I should have made such a misstatement.

I handed him an envelope. "Here. This is for you." I should have said "Happy Father's Day. That's why I had gotten it.

He opened it up, and looked at the paper accompanying the two little steel items in baggies stapled to it. Then recognition dawned on him. "Oh! Now I get it." Holly asked what he had, and he explained: I had given him two sub-caliber inserts. One was an insert that would allow you to shoot a .32 acp round through a .308 Winchester rifle. The other was a chamber insert that would allow you to shoot a .22 L.R. through a firearm chambered to .45 Colt. The hole for the .22 round is off-set, so that the centerfire firearm's firing pin will detonate the rimfire cartridge. It even has a little short bit of rifling-- the bullet in no way contacts the .45 barrel. If I hadn't been cheap, I'd have bought him a whole cylinder-full.

So he reached into his bag-o'-gunshow-goodness, and came up with a box of RCBS .357 Sig dies. The man doesn't even own a firearm in that caliber. Aw. Then he started talking about loading with his favorite hundred-year-old powder.

Dad put on a sport coat, knotted his tie, and put on his hat, and ran off to answer the call to go serve jury duty. Holly didn't think that they'd ever choose an old retired cop like him, and voiced her expectation that he would be struck preemptively, right away. Watching the good-looking old man cruise out of his driveway, I thought "well that'd be their loss, wouldn't it?"

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Anybody got a lantern?


Dang, but I've been lied to a lot at work, today.


If it weren't for his unfortunate social habits (ew!), I'd feel some kinship to ol' Diogenes.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Well, just this, then I'm outta here.

Variation of an old joke.

Oof.



(H.T. to Guy)

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No post today:

You come back tomorrow.

ListingHouse-YardWork-FriendsOver-PorkLoin-FamilyStuff-AllThatStuff-

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Finally...

...got my best friend on the phone this noon-- we've been missing connections for weeks, it seems. Did my best to shame him into making dinner happen tomorrow. Hopefully I'll get to see my god-children.

The nice thing about having a best friend of almost a quarter-century is that you don't sweat the small stuff. You can pick right back up. Scott knows that I don't need to know every little detail, and I know that he's cool without constant updates.

But why do we not make those little side-trips happen more often? Why don't we see our preferred companions more? Why don't I call in more "Man-Dates" (tm)? Because I'm stupid, that's why.

Pick up the phone.

Call your friend. If they won't pick up, leave voice mail. Or write a $.39 letter.

Make a date. If they're busy, ask them if they have to go to the damned grocery store, occasionally. Go with them.

Self-sufficiency is wonderful. I admire people that can and do manage it. But don't forget the pleasure of your friends' companionship. And if you're not forgetting it, don't forget how to partake of it. It's not that damned hard. It doesn't have to be a special event.

I'll bet Ted Kacynzki, sitting in his cell these days, sometimes thinks, "I shoulda had some people over to the cabin, occasionally..."

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ever notice?


The slight swell in the necks of many whiskey and whisky bottles?

Kind of provides a manly grip.

Old fashioned styling.

I like it.

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Phew.

ERnursery posted on the unwashed that she sees in the E.R.

Some of y'all may know that I worked in a jail for a little under 2 years. I had thought that I would be put to work utilizing my cop skills, but for 22 months, I did a lot of head counts, feedings, and patdowns. I also did a lot of strip searches.

Okay, in a jail, you NEVER are away from a sink and soap, even in holding. Within 72 hours of being admitted, you are required to have access to shower facilities, by state law. In most modern jails, inmates have access to the shower about 16 hours a day, as many times as they wish. They get the soap for free. They are given towels. Their uniforms are laundered on alternate days from their underwear. The laundry is done while they sleep, and all they have to do is put it into the mesh bag hanging on the end of their bunk, and in the morning when they awaken, it's clean.

They. Won't. Wash.

I got into some rather tense moments over making inmates wash clothes that I KNEW hadn't been washed for a couple of weeks.

We would take their blankets once a months for about 3 hours to launder them. I had constant battles with them about that, as they would try anything to keep their blankets to keep them from getting laundered. Same with mattress covers, once a week. Understand me, here-- they had only to put their bedclothes into a basket to comply.

Nicotine-stained fingers. They would roll the pouch tobacco all day into rolling papers that they got from commissary. It never occured to them to scrub the brown tar off.

Breath that would knock down a house. We gave them toothpaste and toothbrushes, but some wouldn't brush. They seemed to think of a lot of other uses for the toothpaste, though. Toothbrushes, too, come to think of it.

There were neat and clean ones. These were the guys who used their commissary money to buy shampoo, and body lotions (wait-- even the nasty ones bought that. Ewwwww!) and the big bath-sized bars of soap. Some of 'em even made it into a point of pride to press their jail uniforms under their mattresses, and I'll admit that there were days when some of those guys had creases that were at least as good as my own. Interestingly, a lot of the super-neat ones had been to prison before, and many were gang-related.

The worst in smelly were the dirty trustees. Trustees were given manual labor around the jail. The largest work party was sent out 3 times a day to the kitchen, to prepare and serve the meals. They wore tall rubber boots, because they hosed down the kitchen floor every shift. They worked pretty hard, in a humid, hot environment, and then had to be strip searched before returning to their pods. The strip search room was basically a closet, about 10 feet by 8 feet, holding 10 guys at a time, plus two officers, as they disrobed their sweaty, rubber-booted selves. The ventilation in there could have been improved.

Phew.

I came out of the strip room one day, and sent the inmates into their pod. I looked over at one of the other officers, standing in the hall, and shook my head. My nose was still involuntarily pinched shut. I breathed through my mouth for another half hour. "Hey, B., you ever seen the state of Inmate Mitchell's underwear?"

He laughed. "Yeah. Looks like somebody hit a deer."

Urp.
_ _ _ _ _

The first time I worked on patrol, I stopped a nasty-looking truck pulling out of our local mobile home park. Not a regular-- I'd remember. I made the stop on the highway for numerous administrative and equipment violations, and met a 20-something skinny white chick with dreadlocks. She had a pasty complexion, and gave off an... air. I ran her, and found that she had warrants. I asked her whose the truck was, and she gave his name. I ran that name, and found that he had warrants, too. I arrested her, and asked if she wanted to give him a chance to come get his truck. She did, and called him. I arrested him, too.

En route to the jail, they jeered me, making fun of my podunk job. (They were homeless, and long since out of work, living with his cousin in a travel trailer. Nice.) I suddenly noticed a horrible, HORRIBLE stench. Think rotting potatoes. Oh. To this day, I remember it. The drive to the jail was lonnnnng.

The next day, I saw them hiking along the highway. No truck, and only a backpack on each of them. I was in my personal vehicle. I stopped about 70 yards ahead of them, and hollered to them, asking if they wanted a ride to town. They came running. When they got to 20 yards, I laughed, and said "Haw-hawwww!" and got back into my car and drove off. Like I'd let that stench into my personal car!

Ooh.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hats

I've never been much of a hat-wearer.


I like one when it's cold out, to keep my head warm.

I like one when it's raining, to keep water off my glasses and out of my collar.

I like one when its damnable sunny, to shade my eyes and to keep my brain from frying.

But other than that, I'm not much of a hat-wearer. They generally get too hot for me. Or I'll find that I want to scratch or put my hand on my head (a common enough expression for me), and it's in the way. I tend to take them off when not immediately needing 'em, and then I leave 'em somewhere.

I've never worked for an agency that issued a uniform hat. We generally would have some informal baseball caps made up, which we'd sometimes wear for traffic duty, or the like. Because we're in rural or semi-rural Texas, cowboy hats have been approved. Silverbellies for the winter, and straw for the summer. I just never availed myself.

Well, yesterday I worked a major accident, standing out in the hot sun for an hour, and said, "well, it's not going to get any better 'till about Thanksgiving." When I cleared, I spent my lunch break at the western store. I was surprised to find that I was kind of picky. I don't like a full roll. I don't like a huge brim, 4" or better. I don't like too much mesh around the crown, even though I know it'll make it cooler. I don't like too tall of a crown. I don't want fancy macaroni, if any.

Unfortunately, given my large head and my pickiness, I didn't have a lot of choice. I ended up buying name brand (Resistol), and 8X at that. Much, much more than I really need for a dadgummed hat to wear out on traffic. It was a tad small, but the lady steamed it and stretched it for me before blocking it the way I liked. I got a horsehair brush for my boots as well. I paid the exorbitant bill (at least it was on sale), tipped my hat, and walked out to the car. CLUNK! I banged my hat and head as I got in. After sitting low in the seat, I found that the back of the brim hit the headrest. Oh. I can't wear it in the car. Okay.

_ _ _

When I was a kid, a lot more men wore cowboy hats. Older men wore them because they came from the Time When Men Wore Hats. A lot of younger men wore them, unfortunately, because the late 1970s and early '80s was the era of the Rhinestone Cowboy. Then some men just wore them because it was part of their Texas identity, like a pair of boots.

Nowadays, many real cowboys wear gimme caps. I talked to one today, wearing steel-toed boots, blue jeans (well, some things don't change), a torn t-shirt with axle grease on it, and a nasty gimme cap. We discussed the utility of his $40k pickup and $35k horse trailer, which create a rig that cost more than I paid for the brick city house I live in. He offered to teach me how to rope.

When my granddad was a young man, any man of any means put a hat on when he went out. I don't know why that charms me, but it does. A hat was the most important part of a man's uniform, be he a police officer, a cabbie, a butler, a business man, or a milk delivery man. At present, I think that our hatless society reflects the fact that we are living in the Age Of The Common Man. Our look is blended. I'm no longer shocked to see jeans and T-shirts at church services (even Easter!), anymore. Rock stars perform before thousands in tired old T-shirts and dirty dungarees. Kids speak easily to all adults, without formality. In some ways, it's very good that some of our barriers are broken down. Hats were once routinely handed to the first person of color seen at a restaurant by white folk, because checking them was understood to be their job. But I occasionally desire to see a touch more distinction when I'm referred to by my first name by a sales clerk or a nine year old says "yeah" to an adult.

And I enforce my daughters' use of "sir" and "ma'am," when I'm wearing my "Daddy hat".

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New take on Casa Magnetica:

Big phun with tilted room.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Suggestion to all y'all would-be scofflaws and light-runnin' criminals:

If you don't want extra charges, don't:
  • --beg the officer who just told you that you're under arrest to let you go get your credit card from in the house, and
  • --when he escorts you in the house, take him into the bedroom,
  • --which houses the desk,
  • --which has the drawer,
  • --which holds a giant cigar box sufficient to hold a Glock 21 and 4 magazines,
  • --which you insist on rummaging around (to the extent that you're actually sliding it around),
  • --and then begin to wrestle with the nice officer when he reaches for the box.

This is enough to make even the most R.E.M.F. of "soldiers" in the "War On [Some] Drugs" pursue an additional charge of possession of your meth pipe and scales.

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They're getting bigger than horseflies.

The mosquitoes, that is.

Recall all that rain I've been mentioning? (Okay, complaining about.)

Not only does it leave lots of stagnant ditchwater, but it grew deep weeds to hold the moisture and the damned bloodsuckers. Last night I nearly shut down a sobriety test to call the guy a ride, because we were getting eaten up.

While rambling through the long grass in quest for the wiley bull the other night, my citizen helper slapped a mosquito off his neck and muttered "I wonder if we can take off tomorrow for West Nile ?"

"Oh, have they finally made it an official holiday?" I wondered, slapping my own.

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Strange dispatch that I'm hearing more and more of:

"123."

"123, go ahead."

"123, be en route to 333 Buttercup Ln. Caller says that an unknown, unseen individual is ringing his doorbell and knocking on his door. Wants you to go checck it out."


Granted, I know nothing about the neighborhood. Granted, I know nothing about the caller. Maybe he's elderly, or handicapped.

But I'm hearing this a lot.

People are afraid to answer their doors, anymore.

What the hell?

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Unsolicited marital advice:

"Hey, everybody's looking at new ways to put some spice into their marriage, right? And don't you deserve it? I mean, hey-- you're the one who has to live with her folks until you get on your feet financially. And after 3 years, it's time to diversify, right? I mean, right?!?"

Uh, sure. But how about this:

Wait 'til you sober up.

And your (extremely attractive, BTW) wife is sober.

And then consider to yourself:

"Is this really a good idea to suggest?

...With my best friend's girlfriend?

...Who's also my wife's girlfriend?


...Who's never shown any interest in me,
more less my wife,
less still my wife and me?"

You really think that'd be a real good idea?

'Cuz, I'm just sayin'-- the end results don't look good.

Personally, I'm a big fan of weighing those t i n y little benefits against the HUGE risks. And I think, if you'll do that on this occasion, you'll find that inaction would be much, much more preferable.

Because, just like bullets from a gun, "Honey, I'd like to have a three-way with your best friend" is a phrase that you'll never be able to take back.

I'm just saying, is all.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Go see a good man who steps up.

Don Gwinn is a superior man. I've known him for roughly the same amount of time as LawDog has, though Don and I have never met in person.

I'm going to tell on Don, without his permission. It's an invasion of his privacy, and he's welcome to tell me to delete it. Which I may take under advisement, but probably will not do.

When a distant family member was having enormous character and personal problems involving various dependencies, she had to give up her boys. Because of the unfortunate manner in which they had been "reared" prior to that, they were challenged. If memory serves, they were 5 and 3.5 years of age at the time, but I'm probably off by a year one way or the other. One of the boys had a handicap, and both of the poor boys required a great deal of effort. Don and his wife never hesitated to take these boys in, and make them their own.

Both Don and his wife Missy are educators, and take their craft seriously. Both are working on (or have obtained) graduate degrees in education, and want to teach kids. They applied this love and skill at home. The boys quickly assimilated, and they made enormous strides, overcoming completely understandable developmental issues. As soon as they could, Don and his wife adopted the boys, making them a complete, loving family.

Don once wrote that his favorite birthday was one in which he piddled around the house with the wife and kids, watched a DVD with them, and just basked in the warm glow of his family. This man was meant to be a daddy. He and Missy recently expanded that family by one more, the old fashioned way.

Don is an amateur blacksmith, and makes his own knives. He is a shotist in a part of this nation that doesn't much support the right to keep and bear arms. He is a devotee to human rights (freedom of speech, right to assembly, gay rights, whatever-- not just 2nd Amendment stuff), and doesn't especially feel the need to apologize to those who don't understand his politics. He is fond of the written word, and has crafted more than few poems. For whatever reason, he drives an ambulance as a side gig. He's a bicyclist, having taken it upon himself to improve his health though biking regularly. If I recall correctly, he's dropped over a hundred pounds through his own self-directed regimen of excercise. Oh. And here's another thing about him-- he's funny as hell.

In short, Don Gwinn, a man I've never met in the flesh, is a Good Man. And if he doesn't mind, I'm proud to call him my friend. I look up to him in a lot of ways. Like my friend John Shirley, Don is a Hero of mine. I don't have many.

Go check him out at his new blog, "The Armed Schoolteacher."

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Friday, June 08, 2007

I just now noticed...


...that Gay Cynic listed me as a recipient of his "Thinking Blogger Award." Thankyee, kind sir. But the compliment sounds a little backhanded, I think:
Better & Better is another blog I follow...common sense, humor, and practical advice appeal to me - what can I say? On the other hand, if I had to read a blog on fashion, I think I'd go slowly mad.
What's that supposed to mean?!?

Is it the green? Or the writing style? Or my sexy outfits?
Heh.
_ _ _
Edit: Looking at it some more, I think what Gay Cynic means, is that my blog is the antithesis of a fashion blog, and is thus appealing to him for its substance. Which is one of the nicer compliments I've gotten, if I'm reading it correctly.

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What am I doing here?

On this blog, I mean.

The other day I was driving over to pick up my dad's pickup to facilitate a fencing project. On the way, I listened to NPR on the radio. They interviewed writer Anne Fadiman, who was plugging her new book (coming out next week), a collection of essays At Large And At Small. By the end of the interview, I decided that I would at least find this book in a library, if not buy it outright; Fadiman has a good eye.

Fadiman's passion is the "familiar essay."
The familiar essay is a subset of the personal essay, but not quite as personal as the personal essay, that we know in the 21st century-- the personal essay, in which the writer essentially regurgitates his innards onto the page, and doesn't talk about anything but himself. In the early 191h century, essayists like Charles Lamb and William Haslet wrote what they called "familiar essays," that were about them, but also about a subject --that is, Lamb for example wrote about tailors, and drunkards, and annoying relatives. Familiar subjects that he knew well, and that his readers knew well, too. *
Hmmm. That sounds damned familiar. Giving my view on topics that I know something about, but which doesn't exclude the reader. Oh, it gets personal, but I think that some my better entries are more open than that.

I've wondered for some time what I was doing here. Am I just puking up my thoughts and personal events, or am I actually putting a decent perspective on concepts and events? I'd rather not have this be a simple diary of electronic performance art.

The interviewer asked Fadiman about blogging as a possible new form of the familiar essay, which made me smile, as I'd been thinking about that since the interview began. Of course it is, when done well. But the question puts Fadiman, a professional writer who's been vetted by publishers and editors, on the spot: can she declare her own writing style to be widespread and free? Well, not quite.:
I don't know if it's a form of familiar essay, but I do think that it's an interesting literary genre. There are a lot of terrible blogs, because of course they don't go through the usual filters --it's sort of like eating your coffee grounds raw, as Balzac often did, rather than filtering them, into a somewhat more refined brew, but many bloggers write beautifully, and there of course may be some advantages in not being filtered through the editing process. The hallmark of the familiar essay is that it is autobiographical, but it is also about the world; a lot of bloggers that I read do just the one, or just the other, but they don't combine the two. *
I wholeheartedly agree with her.

_ _ _ _
I love personal essays. Twain and Kipling wrote some of the earlier ones that I loved. London, and Dylan Thomas, too. I think that one reason I like them so is that they're always written in the first person, with a narrator who doesn't hide himself. Anyone who's ever written an account of pretty much anything knows that the first person is the easiest to write in. If you're going to give a good view of what you know, why not tell it from your own eye? For some reason, many departments have taught police officers to write reports entirely in the third person. The effect is to actually make the report far more difficult to understand. "Officer Smith responded to a report of a burglary," seems a little stilted, when right at the top of the report is the author: Officer Smith. I've refused to write reports in the third person unless directly ordered to do so.

Because it's easier to write in the first person, I believe it's easier to read works written in that fashion. Good detective novels typically are written in the first person, which makes the most sense: how can we empathize with a detective's mystery when we know more or less than he does? Somewhere I read that all good stories are really mysteries, and there's probably a little truth to that. A good storyteller usually knows better than to put the punchline in the first line of the story. A good story has a closing point that the reader feels compelled to read to.

My mama writes in both personal and familiar essay style. Here she writes a wonderful personal essay of the pleasures of summertime in New Mexico before air conditioning, while here is one written in more of the 'familiar essay" style, of May Day celebrations in New Mexico in the 1950's.

My buddies Ambulance Driver, BabsRn, and LawDog all write superb essays in both the personal and familiar formats. Most of them are personal essays, and indeed those are generally the most popular, especially in the case of the extremely popular "LawDog Files" stories that my fellow Texas lawman writes. I don't know how the hell to classify Tam's V.F.T.P. blog, but her Arms Room blog is generally of the familiar essay style [and is superb. And is not posted to enough. (Tamara, trust me on this: that blog is the one that will stand for hundreds of years, regardless of how much pleasure we all get from the Porch.)].

I think back to how I hated writing essays in school, and how I now voluntarily write them. (Usually. Heh.)

I don't really know why I write them. (I dashed out my first one over a couple of beers on a personal holiday.) But it gives me pleasure to do so, and if they occasionally entertain others or invite others to think, then I'm satisfied.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reading the headlines,

it's sometimes more amusing never to read the text, but to write your own.

Putin Suggests New Site For U.S. Missile Shield

(Cartographers attempt to break news to an enthusiastic President Bush that they can find no such location as "Yurpoopshute.")

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

From the SiteMeter report:

Can you figure out what time Tamara linked me?


It would have been even more dramatic if she'd posted before noon.

Heh. My friend's a rockstar.


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Another few hundred words, but

...life intervenes.

The constant storming has interfered with mundane outdoor tasks that I'll not bore you with.

Per the nagging of one buxom bleachblonde nurse and one redneck Tourette medic, I've written a couple more pages on a little project that we've been talking about, but my end won't ever stand up to theirs.

It's not that I can't write-- it's that I have trouble making myself do so when it's an assignment. (This may explain why my four year degree took 14 years to get.) Sad thing is, I assigned it to myself.

Even sadder, theirs is better'n mine.

But I'll keep slogging on, and we'll get this thing published by this weekend, 'reckon.

But first, that yard beckons. Blech.

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Whoa.

The day after I first started this blog, I was chatting with LawDog.

"What do you think?" I asked, "Too much green?"

LawDog was diplomatic. "It does have a lot of green," he said.

I thought about changing it. I still do, in fact. But it's kind of grown on me. I should request input.

Today, I checked in on some of my "daily readers." (Hint: I don't always look at every blog every day-- even my own. We have lives, friends!) And I opened up BabsRN's blog.

Golly. That's a lot of red.

Typical of most type A males, I distrust change.

I'm probably not objective. This is probably like when my wife gets a bob and I grumble that I liked her hair long.

Hrrumph.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Not nearly enough, but it's somethng.

I causes me untold amounts of distress to think that the State of Texas issued a Peace Officer's License to sociopathic murderer Michael Griffith for ten years.

But the State is presently to make it a little bit better.

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Mud in the welt,

...spear grass in the laces, crap on the uppers.

It sucks that I'm expected, if I am to appear professional, to maintain sharp creases on my uniform trousers and shirt sleeves, have no spots, and maintain a spit-shine on my boots fit for court, while at the same time I have to chase critters (4-legged and 2-legged) through the brush and mud.

My next house will have a utility slop sink outside or in a shop or in a mud room. At present, I must use my kitchen sink and a vinyl brush to get the mud and crap out of the corners of my uniform boots. This is effective, but causes something of a mess, which makes my wife unhappy. Heck, it makes me unhappy. Then, after my boots dry, they desperately (!) need a good shine.

Occasionally, I can make it into town during daylight hours and hit the jail and get a trustee to shine 'em. Some of 'em are pretty good. Others... not so much. You never know what you're going to get. But for a dollar, it ain't bad.

Lately, I've been dropping my uniforms off at the dry cleaners. When I first started, I never did this. Frankly, I wasn't paid enough, and also, I hadn't fully grasped why those guys that always looked great looked so good. I'm pretty handy with a steam iron and a washing machine, but my very best days pale in comparison to what the couple of better local dry cleaners do to my uniforms. They give a minor discount to cop uniforms (which is smart-- gets cops, who are generally kind of blue-collar, to bring their stuff in, which in the long run brings in more business from themselves and other cops, and from word of mouth. It also puts good guys in badges and uniforms in your shop at unpredictable times all day long, which is very nice to have for a largely cash-oriented business.), and both of the shops I hit are small in-house family-owned businesses. I like supporting such businesses-- the counter lady at each one took to calling me by name the very first time I walked in, and they provide rush service when I need it. I try not to abuse that privilege, though-- they've got a rhythm to maintain, and I'm screwing it up when I ask before 0800 for my order to be ready by 1430. Like those old-timers that I used to notice always looked professional when I started, I figure that I'm making an investment in my overall outlook.

The price I pay is a couple or three of sawbucks a week, and the necessity of being organized enough to drop my stuff off and pick it up in time.

Right now I've got the dryer running on Permanent Press, trying to dry out my vest carrier, which reeked from last night's activities. The ballistic panels are lying in the sun on the back porch, airing out.

I need to move the collar brass and badge and pins and keys to the new uniform, which is just a daily thing, like shaving.

Yeah, it's part of the job. But like cleaning guns after shooting, it's not the fun part.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Frickin' bovines.

When I heard our local deputy check out with about 40 head of Hereford mix cattle running loose a half mile outside of our city, I thought about bug spray.

I had bought a can for my patrol bag during the early summer about 6 years ago, while looking for the missing driver from a wreck. I had run by a convenience store, asked if they had bug spray, and after they poured a bottle of water over me to revive me from the faint I felt at the sticker shock, I paid $5.97 for a can of Cutter bug spray. And it lived in that bag for years. But recently, it went missing, and I've been thinking about that.

It is my understanding that some of y'all up north and in other areas don't have chiggers; consider yourselves lucky. They're a bane down here, and it's just now entering their season. What you can empathize with me on is mosquitoes. As I have alluded to, this last month has been one of the wettest on record for north Texas. Fact is, we've got standing water everywhere. Mosquitoes swarm around every light shining. I've actually seen them swarming around the license plate lamp of a car stopped briefly at a stop sign. Fueling under a lighted awning at night is utter hell on earth. Until we've got some wind and some hot dry sun to dry things up, it's going to be like the worst part of the tropics around here.

So I checked my bag again, and finding that my spray was still missing, I went down to the convenience store, the only place open after 8:00 PM. They were happy to sell me a 6 ounce can of Deep Wood Off... for (I'm not making this up) $6.95, plus tax. It came to $7.53. This is not poetic license-- I have the damned receipt.

I thought about it.

The clerk double checked it with wide eyes. Yep-- they really wanted that much. She shook her head.

I bought the can. If I didn't, the Irony Gods would smite me.

5 minutes later, the deputy hollered for me to come help him.

- - - -

The grass wasn't too bad-- only knee high in lots of places. Waist high in others. Chest high in others. I left the thicker stuff alone.

Our plan was to let the cattle owner push 'em toward us, and we would haze 'em into the open gate, with our cars and our persons creating a diversion in their natural path. It was a great plan, that only required me to wait with my car, and to stand mostly on pavement. I just put on a little bug spray on my ankles and arms and neck, and rubbed some on my face.

Stupid cows.

The herd made it around the guy in the 4X4 out in the muddy field, and I started walking north along the asphalt road. Half a mile up, I began cutting across a pasture, and met up with a helpful guy with a QBeam, a heavy beer buzz, and a lot of enthusiasm for a man of 46. We started an end-around maneuver that Nimitz and Chesty Puller would have been proud of. We pushed 'em into a corner, and then insinuated ourselves just so, so that they trotted to our open gate, and ran in.

All but four. A calf, a cow with a little calf, and a Bull. Frankly, I was mostly concerned about the mama with the little one. I've been charged by a mama cow before, and it makes one pucker. Hereford bulls aren't notoriously mean. I figured we'd make short work of this.

The bull had other plans.

Tasers have a laser, the beam of which created a dot that concerned the mama enough to run into the gate when I moved it over the grass to her off-side. Ha! I thought. This will be easy!

The bull had other plans.

The bull started my way, and in a flash of brilliance, I pulled off my taser cartridge and fired off an arc. The bull checked up hard, and stared at me. I put the laser on his face, and zapped the taser arc again. He looked away, and then started my way. Fast.

I put the beam of my Streamlight and the laser of my taser in his face, and backed up and...

fell right into a large stinging nettle bush. The bull came on, and I found myself wondering if this was truly about to "get western." He ran on by me. Suddenly the pain got a little intense in my lower left arm and wrist. In the dark, I thought that I was being attacked simultaneously by a large amount of fire ants (something else we are damned with here), and began trying to brush them off. Unsuccessful, I put a light to my left arm, and saw my wrist growing red splotches and bumps on it. Ah.

I ran after the bull, cussing.

A quarter mile later, I got around it, and got in front of him, calling upon help from the ghost of Lord Nelson. "Haw!" I yelled. "Git!" I spat. He kept coming, his breath casting twin puffs of steam clearly visible in the humid 70 degree night air. I stood my ground, crackled my taser in his face, and yelled at him.

He lowered his head, and sped up.

So there I was, a mile out of my city (by that time), and a quarter mile from the deputy that I was helping, putting about 4 lbs of pressure on the 8 lb trigger of the Glock 31 I had in my hand (when did that get there?), with the tritium sight standing out neatly against the white face between the horns of a bull that was about 5 feet away and coming.

I stepped aside. "This ain't my job," I thought. Why push a "Dear Chief" letter?

I headed back.

"Man, you gave it a hell of a good try," the deputy said, which helped. The old man who owned the cattle had driven up in his Cadillac, and told us dirty jokes while we awaited the professional wrangler.

I went by the convenience store, tired, bug bit, rash-encrusted, sweaty, and muddy (I had just shined my boots, too!), and bought a stick of jerky.

Yeah. That's right. Who the boss, now, huh? Don't make me snap into a Slim Jim, yo?

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Defined by their transportation....

I dropped by the convenience store in the town I work in for soft drink before they closed.

They boy from the previous post was inside, his brand-new truck still sporting paper dealer's tags out front. "Got a truck box ordered yet?" I asked.

"No-- I'm not getting one," he said decisively.

"Where are you going to put your rope, and come-along?" I asked.

"Tow rope behind the seat, and no come-along," he responded. "That truck's never going off-road, ever!" he declared.

"Sometimes the best-laid plans can change," I said wryly.

"Nothing goes in that bed, and that truck never leaves pavement," he restated. "I've got big plans for that truck. I'm gonna lower it, put low-profile tires on it, special rims..."

"Good Gawd. You've going to make a sports truck." I said.

"Yep!" He said gleefully. "Then paint, decals..."

"But nothing goes in the bed, ever. So you get all the drawbacks of a two-seater coupe, without the handling and the milage. What in the hell is the point?" I'm afraid I had trouble concealing my disgust.

I stepped outside with my beverage as he argued his case. I wasn't listening any further. I'm a practical-minded guy. I drive a '97 Civic 4-door, because it's paid for, it drives well, it holds me and the family, and it gets 34+ mpg. The dent in the front left fender really doesn't bother me. It's just a way to get from here to there. I often regret not having my old truck, but only for the things it hauled. I sure don't miss the 12.5 mpg fuel economy that I used to get.

Out front was a guy on a new Honda 600 crotch rocket, of a type that I had some passing familiarity with. (Somewhere I've got a VHS tape with some beautiful video of a motorcycle rider on a bike just like this one, sliding into view in front of my patrol car. The rider had just successfully evaded a colleague of mine when my buddy suffered brake fade and crashed into a pipe-and-rail fence, injuring himself and turning a new Impala into just so much scrap metal. The rider didn't know the area, and I found that he couldn't ride too well with 1.5 million candlepower focused into his facemask as he entered a curve. Sadly, he managed to bond out before the 1st degree felony warrant for parole violation came in. Christopher Stout, I'd love to meet you again....) It too had dealer's plates. He bemoaned the high cost of comprehensive insurance each year, and I was impressed that the yearly amount ran to more than my car would bring. I recalled that when I was going to police academy, I bought a 1978 Honda CB 400 for a coupla hundred dollars cash, and paid liability only for about $20/month. "Yeah, but this could get stolen real easy," he complained.

"Or laid down," I said, thinking wistfully back to my own encounters between hot steel and dirt and gravel and pavement.

"Oh, no!" he responded. "I've never laid it down. I've never put a bike down, ever."

I raised an eyebrow. "That just puts you in the second category of riders
*," I said, doubtfully.

"No, I ride responsibly," he said. "I'm 24, married, and a daddy, now. I've got two girls."

"You're going to look me in the eye, and tell me that you've never taken this crotch-rocket into triple digits?" I demanded.

"I have never driven this motorcycle over 70 mph," he lied, while looking me square in the eye.

"Most responsible thing you could do for those girls of yours is to sell this thing back to the dealer, and get yourself into a cage," I said.

"Never! I saved up for a long time to get this bike," he said. I noticed that he didn't have a helmet.

"Good luck with that," I said, and got back into my patrol cage-- er-- car.
Hope he's got AD&D insurance.
_ _ _ _

* "There are two kinds of motorcycle riders: Those who have laid their bikes down, and those who will."

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Good rope.

Back when I first started patrolling, I put into my patrol bag a 40' length of good double-braided 5/8" nylon rope. I like good rope, and am loathe to ever cut it. But sometimes, like the guys in Boondock Saints, you're not just real sure why you bring the rope.

Initially I thought that I might use it for all the cattle that I seemed to have to chase, but I learned that without a horse, you might as well try to put a rope around a whitetail deer's neck as a semi-feral cow of any breed. Holsteins, Black and Red Angus, Texas longhorn, Masai, Brahman, Limousin-- they've all given me the slip as I've tried to ease up to 'em with a rope loop on foot. And Texan though I might well be, I can't honestly say that I'm much of a throw with a lariat. I never could get a loop going that I could hold (though few could with that floppy braided nylon). I can usually hit the branch or staub that I'm throwing for, within a couple of throws, when I've got to (and I choose my targets). But that's about it.

The secondary use, I did use it a lot for: clearing road blockages. We get these major-duty thunder storms (see prior post), and they'll knock a tree down. Now, technically, trying to clear the road isn't my job. But if I don't want to spend the next several hours baby-sitting a road hazard, I find a way. The Crown Victoria has a pretty decent anchor point on the back and front, but it's a little sharp at the edges. I used to use a carabiner, but I don't know where that went. So usually I'll just loop the rope a couple of times around the tree, put a two half-hitch with a slip knot in it there, and tie off to the push-bumper of my car. Then I back it up. I've pulled some mighty big trees out of the way this way, enough to allow traffic to pass. Toss out a cone on either side, and call Road & Bridge in the morning, and all's well.

Then there's the other stuff. Occasionally we find ourselves doing something stupid, like Ambo Driver's old partner did. Rationality says wait for the fire rescue guys. But emotion sometimes says that you're stepping in, with or without the rope. It's a poor excuse for proper rescue equipment, and my father is quite right when he declares that it'll only make it easier to retrieve your body. But sometimes... well, it's better to have it than not.

My length of rope spent a weekend holding a gate shut until the out-of-town rancher could get back to repair it. (I now carry a heavy set of linesman's pliers, and nowadays I'll just rob a middle strand of barbed wire from his fence, for the task.)

I used my rope many a time as a lead to take home a stray dog, and to anchor a dog while I went to a call before seeing whose it was.

I used my rope, run through a stretch of pipe, to capture a baby opossum out of a bedroom, one morning. No lie-- I was called by the homeowner, a single mother, who hadn't even gotten out of bed before she saw the marsupial sitting on the back of a loveseat in her oversized bedroom. "The door's unlocked-- just let yourself in," she said through her bedside phone. She refused to get out from under the comforter until the 8 lb rat-like creature was removed from her house. I left it hissing at me from a nearby woodpile.

I pulled other cars out of the mud a few times, and more than once had to be pulled out of mud or a snowbank, using my rope. 5/8" braided nylon has a new tensile strength of over 10,000 lbs, and folded double I figured I could probably depend on my used one for about 12,000 to 15,000 lbs.

I never pulled Timmy from a well.

I never yanked a damsel off a ledge from a crumbling cliff.

I never tied up a band of thieves.

I did once use it to hobble the legs of a critter who was threatening to kick out my windows. Tied a knot in it near the feet, tossed the knot out the door, and shut the door. He couldn't lift his feet until we got to the sally port, at which location he had an amused welcoming party waiting, which took the wind right out of his sails.

+ + +
My old braided nylon's swan song was one day when a beautiful-but-stupid thoroughbred stallion reared up, got a foreleg caught between two cattle panels, and came down on it in a terrible way. The horse's weight broke the leg, and he was hanging from it, with his other foreleg just off the ground. I used my rope to attempt gird the horse up and take the weight off his broken leg until we could get him loose.

He was frantic, and screaming, and the whites of his eyes (which you normally don't see on a horse) could be seen as he tried to rear up, which made things even worse as his broken knee and forearm caught, and the hoof, too wide for the gap, caught just below the fetlock. Then he'd come crashing back down, and the screaming was enough to split your head. The top of the cattle panel was cut rough, and it tore open the underside of the forearm, from breast to brisket. A vein was cut open, and blood pooled fast and dark in the powdery red dirt below as I tried in vain to take the strain of the horse's shoulder, as a sobbing trainer risked her life on his other side to get the loop placed forward on his chest. In the end, my rope just served to keep him from rearing up, which at least stopped part of the damage. We got a large animal vertinarian there quickly, but all he could do was inject a large dose of tranquilizer into the poor boy until we could get the fence apart.

When I left, they had the horse loose and sedated and on his three good feet. My rope was saturated with his blood, and we used it to tie the panels together tightly to keep a hoof from getting between them again; I didn't want it back. They put the horse down the next morning. To be honest, if I'd known for certain that they were going to have to do that, I'd have just shot the poor thing and ended his suffering right then.

+ + +

Now, six months after ending a two-year hiatus from patrol, I find myself driving around without a decent rope in the car. I found a 15 foot length of 3" webbing, thicker than your car's seatbelt, which probably would rate about 30,000 lb tensile strength. But there's not a lot you can do with such a short length. Still, we made due with it tonight when a large hunk of black locust was blown down-- the boy that hailed me down to tell me about the obstruction on the side road was driving a nice pickup, and I conned him into helping me by claiming I needed him to show me where the obstruction was. In the driving rain, I got the webbing tied off to the tree and to his hitch, and we yanked it free from its remaining hold to the trunk before dragging it to a wide spot of the ditch next to the fence, and together we got it (mostly) into the ditch.

The boy said, "That's not much of a rope."

I said, "You're right, and I plan to fix that. Still, it's better than the one you had in your pickup."

"I don't have a truckbox..." he began.

"I'm just bustin' your chops," I smiled and shook his hand. "Thanks for your help, kid. Don't wreck that pretty pickup in this rain; they drive poorly with empty beds on slick roads." He squinted at me like I was crazy-- everyone knows there's nothin' better in foul weather than a good ol' pick'em-up truck. Ah well. He'll either learn it on his own, or I'll be working his accident.

So now I've gotta go find myself a decent length of rope. I'm thinking I'll spring for 60 feet this time, with a couple of carabiners and a large snaplink hook.

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Haiku #5 Mud



"Climate is what you
Expect. Weather's what you get."
Change expectations?

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Haiku #4 Procrastination




Putting off writing
Reports, colaboration.
Ambo Driver's peeved.

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