Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Suspicious Character

One spring break while attending the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, I planned to visit my friend, Jim, in Hardin IL. I hadn't finished working on my car yet, so I decided to hitchhike.

I was standing on the edge of Hwy 36 in the middle of Missouri at 6 in the morning when a Highway Patrolman stopped to check me out. He looked at my driver's license and then asked me where I was going. I told him Hardin IL and he said, "Why don't you get in the car. You might be a suspicious character that I need to check out."

I spent the next half-hour chatting with him about some of his Highway Patrolman stories until we got to the next town. He pulled over, stopped the car, and said, "This is the end of my beat so I'll have to let you out here. I guess you're not that suspicious after all. Good luck!"


Monday, December 21, 2015

Easy to Find

One evening after dinner I asked Lan what would be good for dessert. She said, "I put a bowl of cut-up pears in the refrigerator, why don't we just have those?"

"Sounds good, I'll go get them."

No matter how hard I looked, though, I just couldn't find those pears. Finally I said, "Honey, are you sure they're in here? I can't seem to find them."

Lan was getting pretty annoyed by this time and in exasperation, she came into the kitchen, walked up to the fridge, and took out the pears.

She turned to me with a thoroughly disgusted look on her face and said, "You're lucky my pussy's always in the same place or you probably couldn't find that either."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Optometrist Needed

Yesterday I had one of those really good days. There were no panics at work, I was able to actually get some things done, and the atmosphere was very relaxed.

On the way home, the traffic was not bad and the radio station, KCSM, was playing a long set of Miles Davis' "All Blues". When I got home I was in a really good mood.

I parked the car in the garage, went into the house where Lan was working in the kitchen, and said, "Hi honey. You look really cute today!"

She turned, gave me a "look", and then said, "I think it must be time for you to get new glasses."

Monday, December 14, 2015

Still Alive

A few months ago my wife, Lan, had a routine blood test that returned numbers that were out of the normal range for her liver.

Over the course of the next several weeks she had more extensive blood tests done targeting her liver. These tests were inconclusive, so her doctor then scheduled a CT scan for her. This also didn't clarify what was wrong.

Finally they gave her an MRI which showed that she had a large cyst on her liver. After several meetings with the surgeon, It was decided to remove the cyst using laparoscopic surgery.

The day of the surgery I took Lan to the hospital, got her checked in, and waited for her turn in the operating room. The surgery took about 2 hours and shortly after it was over, the doctor came out to see me. He explained what was done and assured me that everything went well.

About a half hour later a nurse came out to bring me into the post-op recovery room. Lan was lying on a hospital gurney and still hadn't completely come out of the anesthesia. I was sitting on a chair beside her when she turned, looked at me, and said, "Hi honey," And then said almost to herself, "This is really good, I'm still alive!"

She's doing fine now and is almost completely recovered.



Sunday, December 13, 2015

Pressure Player

I had a load to deliver to a large Kroger's warehouse in Louisville KY. I arrived early in the morning and waited along with a dozen other trucks for the gates to open at 6:am.

Kroger's had a policy that they wouldn't start unloading any trucks until all the trucks were backed into the dock. All the drivers managed to get their trucks backed in except for a hillbilly from Arkansas. This guy had the easiest spot to back into since it was right on the end of the dock.

At the time, I had shoulder length hair and was at least 10 years younger than most of the other drivers. My long hair combined with my youth automatically pegged me as a hippy to the mostly redneck drivers who were standing around watching the guy from Arkansas.

After he had made about a half-dozen unsuccessful attempts, I walked up to his cab and said, "Look, why don't you let me back that in for you. If I can do it perfectly in one try, you owe me 5 bucks. If I have to pull up even once, you owe me nothing."

The pressure was on, so he had to agree to the deal.

I climbed up into the cab of that filthy International cab-over. The empty potato chip bags, scattered dirty clothes, and empty coke cans rolling around on the floor combined to give it the ambiance of a homeless camp.

I fished around with the sloppy shifter until I found reverse, put it in gear, and backed that thing into the dock perfectly. As I was getting out of the truck, the guy walked up to me and started reaching for his chain drive wallet.

I said, "That's OK, keep your money. Just remember this episode the next time the subject of hippies comes up."

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Mammogram

My wife, Lan, had never had a mammogram. Her doctor periodically urged her to get one and about 15 years ago, Lan relented. She scheduled a mammogram.

I took her to the clinic in Sunnyvale and waited in the lobby while she kept her appointment. When she came out, she had that same bemused look on her face that she gets when I tell her a joke that she doesn't think is funny.

She said, "I think that machine was designed by a man that hates women."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Humbled

I had never been to New Orleans, so a few months after I got out of the Army I decided to go there. I planned to visit a friend, Emma, who lived in Slidell, and see New Orleans at the same time.

One afternoon while waiting for Emma to get off work, I was relaxing on a bench in the main plaza of the French Quarter. A young boy came up to me and said, "Do you have any spare change, mister?" I just brushed him off.

There was an old homeless man sitting on the next bench who overheard this exchange. He said, "Come here, kid." He reached into the pocket of his ragged brown pants and gave the boy a couple of quarters.

I've never felt so small.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Drop Test

When I worked for Cisco, the prototypes for all new network switch designs had to go through Mechanical Design Verification Testing (MDVT). One part of this test required the switches to be dropped from various angles and from heights up to 1 meter. The switches had to continue passing traffic for the duration of the test.

I took four Catalyst 2900 prototypes to a small independent testing lab that had contracted with Cisco to do drop testing. I explained the setup to the woman in charge of the testing. I showed her how to connect each switch to a laptop, start and stop the test, and verify that the results had been recorded.

As I was about to leave, I turned to her and said in a very serious almost conspiratorial tone, "Remember these are prototypes so whatever you do, don't drop them."

She looked startled and said, "But that's what we do here!"

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Catholic Landscaping

There used to be a Nob Hill market in Sunnyvale where the Sprouts market is now. My wife, Lan, and I used to go there at least once a week for the exceptional produce.

The trip to the market took us past a Catholic church on Old San Francisco Road. One morning we were going past the church when Lan said, "Dave, look at the small evergreen trees in front of that church. Someone has trimmed them so the top of each one looks just like the head of a dick!"

This was enormously amusing to us. We came up with new jokes almost every time we passed that church for the next few months.

"We better slow down, we're going past the Church of Saint Richard, the Dick".

"Let's have a moment of silence as we pass the Church of the Divine Dildos".

Lan had a friend who was in her early 60's, had never been married, and was a dedicated Catholic. She wasn't that religious, she just liked being a member of the Catholic club and enthusiastically embraced every ritual.

One afternoon she stopped by our house to visit. She and Lan decided to go to the Nob Hill Market after Lan described how much she liked the produce there. As they were passing the Catholic church, her friend crossed herself and said, "Look at the lovely trees in front of that Catholic church."

Lan started laughing so hard she had to pull over and stop the car. When she regained her composure, she explained why she was laughing so hard.

Her friend's face turn as red as a Cardinal's clown hat.


Church Analysis

Our daughter, Nhan, and her son, Steven, moved into our house after her divorce. It was a lot of fun having Steven in the house and we spent a lot of time together.

When he was about 6, his father came by one Sunday morning to take him to church. We take a very dim view of church, but finally made a deal. He could take Steven to church this once, but if he didn't like it, he would never have to go again.

When Steven came back, I asked him what he thought about church. He said, "It was pretty boring, Dave. It was just stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, and then we had to pay."

It was the last time he ever went to church.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Parking Ticket Payback

When I was in college, two friends and I rented a small house in Lincoln Nebraska. It didn't have a garage or driveway so we had to park our cars on the street. The house next door had a 60 foot driveway with a garage in the back. In spite of this, the woman who lived there thought she had an inalienable right to park on the street in front of her house.

This woman was constantly coming over to complain whenever one of us had the temerity to park in front her house. Her parking harangues were a great source of amusement to us which didn't help the situation very much.

One day after Jim parked his Corvair in front of her house, she called the police. They wrote Jim a ticket for parking too close to her driveway. Apparently the city prohibited parking within 3 feet of a driveway and his car was only 2 feet away.

We decided that this called for payback. We discussed various options and finally came up with a plan. We decided that whenever one of us had a chance, we would park in front of her house. The gotcha was that we would park in such a way that there would be room for her to park as well, but if she did she would be too close to her own driveway.

We did this for more than 3 weeks before she finally took the bait. She parked in front of her house and in the process backed into Jim's car. We called the cops who wrote her a ticket for parking too close to her own driveway.  She also had to buy a new $300 bumper for Jim's car.

Justice was served!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Rumormonger

Gossip was a central part of many people's lives in the small Nebraska town where we lived. One day a woman came to our house to share some new gossip with my father, the minister.

My father waited until she finished and then said, "I happen to know that what you just told me is absolutely not true. Did you start this rumor?" She said, "Well no, I didn't."

"If you didn't start it, then who told it to you?"

"I really can't say."

My father then said, "If you won't tell me who told you this rumor, I'll assume you started it. I'll make sure the town knows that you're the one starting these rumors." She hemmed and hawed around and finally told him the name of the woman that told her the rumor.

My father then went to that woman and repeated the same line of questioning.

After about the 6th iteration of this process, he finally got to the woman who admitted starting the rumor. He told her he was going to make sure the town knew that she had started the malicious rumor and suggested it would be a good idea if she stopped doing it.

The gossip mill in town ground to a halt at least for a while. Everyone was afraid that if a rumor got to my father, he would track down the originator again.

My father was a terrific guy and I miss him.




Monday, September 28, 2015

Guard Duty

Stateside Army bases maintain the tradition of nightly guard duty even though there's nothing really to guard against. When I was at Ft. Riley Kansas, junior officers were assigned duty as Officer of the Guard on a brigade level rotation. I was about as junior as they come and it wasn't long before it was my turn to serve as Officer of the Guard.

The whole thing was something of a sham. Part of the process was to conduct an inspection of the soldiers who were assigned to guard duty. I was pretty relaxed about the whole thing, but one of the prospective soldiers fell below even MY low standards. He was sloppy, his rifle was dirty, and he had an attitude.

I went into the brigade headquarters to report that I was kicking this soldier off of guard duty. It would be the responsibility of his battalion to replace him. The Lt. Col commander of the soldier's battalion happened to be in the brigade headquarters at the time. He said, "You can't kick this soldier off of guard duty or he'll get an automatic Article 15 (the army equivalent of a misdemeanor)."

I said, "Sir, that's your rule, not mine." I turned to the Sargent of the Guard who had recently returned from Vietnam and said, "Sargent, will you please read the colonel this soldier's deficiencies?"

The sargent said, "Yes sir!", snapped to attention, took out his notes, and briskly read off the list of violations.

I turned to the colonel and said, "Sir, if you wish to take over for me as Officer of the Guard, you're welcome to have anyone in your guard duty that you wish, but as long as I'm Officer of the Guard, this soldier will not be in mine!" The colonel immediately backed down and mumbled that he would have the soldier replaced.

The story of the young 2nd Lieutenant who stood up to the Lt. Colonel quickly spread around the post and I became quite well-known.




The Inspection

My first job as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army was serving as the S2 for a mechanized artillery battalion. This battalion's primary mission was to be able to fire tactical nukes from track mounted 155mm Howitzers.

When I had my first meeting with the Lt. Col commander and he explained all this to me, I asked, "If the effective range of a 155mm Howitzer is about 9 miles, wouldn't you be committing suicide if you ever actually fired one of those nukes?" He said, "That was something we try not to think about."

Because this was a nuclear capable outfit, the battalion had quarterly inspections from the Dept of Defense. The colonel explained that his battalion had never passed one of these inspections in the year and a half that he had been the commander. He said, "We have so much turnover that we can never keep the training records up to date and the training records are the main thing they check." He also pointed out that as battalion S2, the training records were my responsibility.

The next DOD inspection was scheduled in less than 3 weeks so I got my guys together to come up with a plan.

The night before the inspection, we spread the personnel records for the whole battalion along the hall in the headquarters. We then went through each one and forged any training records that were missing. By 3am we had the entire battalion in training compliance.

The next day the battalion passed the DOD inspection with flying colors and I was IN with the colonel.

The whole episode raised a couple of interesting questions. If this was such an important inspection, why was it so easy to pass by forging training records? Also, why was I the first person to figure this out?

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Savings Bonds

When I was in the Army I was under constant pressure to have savings bonds deducted from my pay. Commanders were partially rated on how many in their command participated in the savings bond deduction program.

Shortly after I reported to Ft. Riley Kansas as a new 2nd Lieutenant, I was called into my Battalion Commander's office. He informed me that his battalion had a 98% participation rate in the savings bond deduction program. Apparently I was one of only a few who hadn't signed up.

I said, "Sir, if they couldn't get me to sign up in Basic Training, Advanced Training, or Officers Candidate School, what makes you think YOU can get me to sign up?"

He said, "All right then, I'll make you the new Savings Bond officer". This meant filling out and filing some annoying monthly reports on battalion participation rates. I'm sure he thought he was making the punishment fit the crime.

Armed with this new responsibility, I went to see the Battalion S1 (Army HR) clerk. I asked, "What do you have to do to have the Army stop deducting savings bonds from your pay?" He gave me a sideways glance and said, "You have to fill out a form and submit it to your commanding officer."

He pulled one of the forms out of his desk and showed it to me. I said, "I'd like to have copies of those forms along with instructions on filling them out distributed to all the enlisted men in the barracks. Could you help me with this?"

The clerk sat up straight, gave me a conspiratorial smile, and said, "Consider it done, sir!"

The next month when I filled out the savings bond report, the battalion participation rate had dropped from 98% to 80%.   

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Train Stoppers

My girlfriend and I were cruising around one Friday night when we happened to go through Hampton NE, population 450. There was a bar right off of N. 3rd St that looked interesting so we stopped in.

The place was packed and everyone seemed to be having a good time. After we found a place to sit down, the waitress came by and asked if she could get us a couple glasses of water. We didn't really want to just sit there and drink water, but she was really persistent so we said, "Sure, why not."

She brought us two nearly full water glasses and then stood back to watch. When we finally got around to taking a sip of water, we discovered that the glasses were filled with Vodka! Evidently the whole bar was in on the joke because it brought down the house.

We got to talking with the people there and I said, "It looks like you're having a party here. What are you celebrating tonight besides the water glass joke?" They said, "You're right, we ARE celebrating. We're celebrating our victory over the Burlington Northern Railroad."

At that time, Burlington Northern was running mile long coal trains right through town once a day. They were carrying coal from the mines in Wyoming to the steel mills and power plants around Chicago. They were so heavy that you could feel the ground shake blocks away as the trains went through.

One afternoon a local farmer was pulling a hay wagon from one field on one side of the tracks to another field on the other side of the tracks. Rather than going all the way around to a grade crossing, he just went straight across the tracks to the other side. As the wagon was crossing the tracks, he happened to looked back and saw the signal lights for the trains turn red in both directions. He guessed that the steel frame of the hay wagon had made contact with both rails.

Once across the tracks, he tested this theory. He took a crowbar out of the tool box on the tractor, went back to the tracks, and laid the crowbar across both rails. The lights turned red in both directions. When he removed the crowbar, the lights turned green. Apparently there was a small current running through the rails. This was some kind of safety feature to stop trains if a vehicle was stuck on the tracks and completed the circuit.

That evening at the weekly meeting of the Hampton Volunteer Fire Dept, he shared his discovery. A couple of hours and a couple of six packs later a plan was hatched to stop the coal train.

The next afternoon Herman went about a mile east of town with a crowbar and his CB radio. Fred went about a mile west of town with his CB radio. When Fred saw the train coming, he radioed Herman who laid his crowbar across the tracks.

When the train finally stopped, it was right in the middle of town blocking N. 3rd St. Once it was completely stopped, the rest of the Volunteer Fire Dept climbed into the fire truck, cranked up the siren, and roared up to the grade crossing blocked by the train.

The law states that when a train is stopped and blocking a crossing, the railroad has to break the train to let an emergency vehicle through. The guy in the caboose had to jog almost a half mile to uncouple the train to let the fire truck through.

Once past the crossing, the guys in the fire truck radioed Herman to go ahead and lift the crowbar while they bombed around in the country for a while.

It was a small victory over Burlington Northern, but one the town felt merited a celebration. The water glasses filled with vodka were a bonus.




Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Early Delivery

It was around noon when I pulled into a large grocery warehouse in Sioux Falls SD with a load of California produce. I parked the truck in front of the main building and checked into the dock foreman's office.

The foreman was having a bad day and seemed annoyed that I was there. He said, "You're not supposed to be here until tomorrow morning. You'll have to wait until I get all these other trucks unloaded before I can get to you. You may have to wait until morning which is when you were supposed to be here anyway."

I was uncharacteristically sanguine about the whole thing because, frankly, I could use the sleep. I went back out to the truck to do a safety check before crawling up into the bunk. I walked around the truck and checked all the tires, springs, and lights. I opened the hood, cleaned the bugs off of the windshield, and checked the oil.

As I was closing the hood, a guy in a suit walked by. He stopped and commented on what a good looking truck I was driving. We talked about the truck for a few minutes and then he asked, "What load do you have for us?" I said, "I have the C.H. Robinson load out of Lodi."

He looked surprised and said, "You're not suppose to be here until tomorrow morning."

"That's what I hear. But I'll tell you what, when I get this truck loaded, I don't fuck around - I get that load delivered!"

He gave me a long look, said nothing, and then walked into the main building. A few minutes later the dock foreman came out. He had a sheepish look on his face and said, "Give me a few minutes to pull that truck out of the first bay and then you can back in there."

"My boss just told me to stop whatever I'm doing and get that Crawford truck unloaded, because that's one driver that doesn't fuck around."


 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Police Protection

When I traveled around on my motorcycle, I made it a point to avoid interstate highways. One evening I stopped in a small Indiana town with a park that looked like a good place to spend the night.

The town cop was sitting in his car parked by the curb. I rode up to his car, introduced myself, and said, "I'd like to pitch my tent in your park tonight, but I'm worried about someone messing with my bike. I wonder if you could kind of keep an eye on it as you're making your rounds."

His chest swelled up a bit, his face took on a take-charge air, and he said, "I'd be glad to. Don't worry, you and your bike will be fine."

I pitched my blue nylon tent next to my bike and crawled into my sleeping bag. That night I had police protection that would be the envy of foreign diplomats and rock stars. Whenever I happened to wake up, I could hear the cop slowly cruising by.

When I started putting everything back into my bedroll the next morning, I noticed a sign near the park entrance that read, "NO OVERNIGHT CAMPING".

Monday, August 10, 2015

Pass The Butter

When I was in college I had a friend, Phil, who was in ROTC. One of the ROTC requirements was to spend 6 weeks in the summer training at a regular Army base.

The Army has its own specialized communication protocol with only one rule. A reference to an act of fornication must be included in every verbal phrase. The self-discipline required to resist embracing this protocol was something Phil just didn't have.

A few weeks after Phil returned from this training, his girlfriend invited him to her family's house for dinner. They were all having a nice time until Phil turned to his girlfriend's sister and said, "Could you pass the fuckin' butter?"

The phrase "awkward silence" was invented to describe the next minute. Finally, his girlfriend's father said, "Well, you heard the man, pass him the fuckin' butter."

Everyone laughed, but Phil was still embarrassed. He got up from the table and said, "I'm really sorry - I think I better go."

His girlfriend's father said, "That's OK, Phil, we understand. Sit down and let's finish dinner."

"No, I'd better go. If I stay, I'll probably just fuck up again."




Friday, August 7, 2015

Counting Cows

My grandfather had a large cattle ranch in western Nebraska near the small town of Albion. He was well-known for the outrageous stories he used to tell.

One morning in the town cafe, one of the local guys came up to him and said, "Harry, you run a lot of cattle on your ranch. How on earth do you count them?"

My grandfather replied, "That's a good question! I tried a lot of different ways until I finally found something that works. I get down really low, count their legs, and then divide by four."


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Motorcycle or Car

During one of my motorcycle trips, I stopped to buy gas for my Triumph just off of I-95 in Virginia. I was just about finished when an old guy on a Moto Guzi rode in. He was a retired doctor returning from a visit to his daughter in North Carolina. He and his bike both had that well-used, but well-maintained look.

We had just finished gassing our bikes when a guy pulled in on a new Harley Davidson Electra Glide. This thing was sporting every Harley accessory available.

It had big fenders, fancy fiberglass saddle bags, and two cb radio antennas. The handlebars had streamers coming out of the ends and the mud flaps were reflector enhanced. The big windshield and white-wall tires were a nice touch, but it was the extra lights that really set it apart. It had enough lights to make a Vegas casino envious.

The old doc walked over to this "Geezer Glide", looked at it for a few minutes, and then asked the guy, "If you wanted a car, why didn't you just BUY a car?" 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Out Of Miles

When I started driving trucks long distances, I worked for a company in Omaha that contract-hauled for the Armour Meat Co. It was a new, exciting experience for me and I relished it.

In a relatively short time, I started getting high priority loads. I learned later that I had developed a reputation for reliability. It seems that I was one of the few drivers that could deliver to the west coast without getting waylaid by the whorehouses and casinos in Nevada.

I was paid by the mile, which was the standard for this type of driving. When I compared the miles I was reporting vs. what I was paid, I found I was getting paid significantly fewer miles than I had actually driven.

My next high priority load after this discovery was one that HAD to be in L.A. early Monday morning. I was ahead of schedule when I pulled into a Barstow truck stop on Sunday evening.

I called the dispatcher and told him, "I'm stuck in Barstow and can't go any farther. I just ran out of miles."

"Ran out of miles? What do you mean you ran out of miles?"

"I drove the same number of miles I was paid for my last trip to L.A. and I'm not there yet."

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

80 On 80

I used to work for Bob Crawford, a retired truck fleet owner in Omaha NE. He kept one truck after he retired and I drove it for him. It was one of the best looking trucks on the road and had a Cat engine with so much power, it was almost like driving a car.

Occasionally Bob would take a trip with me from Omaha to the west coast. On one of those trips, we were going through Wyoming on a 100 mile stretch of I-80 called "Elk Mountain", which was well above 7,000 feet. The weather was clear, the road had been recently re-paved, and the big Cat engine was really cranking hard.

That engine would get really quiet when it was running at max load. About the only thing you could hear was the muffled whine of the turbo through the twin chrome stacks. We had been cruising along like this for a while when Bob turned to me and said, "Dave, why are we going so slow?" I said, "Bob, look at the speedometer."

The speedometer needle on that 60' long, 13' 6" high, 80,000 lb truck was sitting right on 80mph.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Monkey's Ass

Somewhere around the age of 40, my hair started getting thin on top. I didn't really pay much attention to it until my wife, Lan, pointed it out.

I was sitting on the living room couch reading when Lan came up behind me. She put her arms on my shoulders and her head next to mine.

It was all quite cozy and romantic until she stood up and said, "You know your hair is getting thin on top. It kind of makes the top of your head look like a monkey's ass."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Steel Hauler

Gary Indiana, a gritty industrial city just outside Chicago, was home to a number of large steel mills. I rolled into Gary on a Sunday evening to load steel the next morning.

I parked at a large truck stop just off of I-80 to get some sleep. Just as I was getting out of my truck to do a safety check, the driver of the Mack parked next to me came back to her truck.

Maggie was a tough old gal around 60 with gray hair in a pony tail, a weathered face, and mischievous eyes. She and her husband had been hauling steel together for many years. When he died of a heart attack a couple of years earlier, Maggie just kept on trucking.

She had a treasure trove of great stories about adventures with her husband. We stood around swapping stories until dark and then climbed into our trucks to get some sleep.

It wasn't long before the whores started coming around. One of them knocked on Maggie's door and said, "Want a little pussy?" She stuck her head out the window and said, "No thanks, Hon. I've got one of my own."

The Switchblade

I was headed out of San Diego late at night on I-8 to load produce in Nogales, Arizona. About 70 miles east of San Diego, I saw a car stopped beside the road with the hood up and smoke coming out of the engine.

I stopped the truck, grabbed my flashlight, and ran back to see if I could help. When I got to the car it turned out to be a black Cadillac limo.

Standing next to the open hood were three guys who looked like mobsters right out of Central Casting. They were all wearing black suits, black ties, dark gray shirts and had rough, unsmiling faces.

I looked under the hood with my flashlight to see what was causing the smoke. It turned out the AC compressor had seized up and the belt was slipping. I explained this to the group and said, "I could cut the belt so you could be on your way. I have some side cutters in the tool box in my truck - give me a few minutes and I'll go get them."

One of the guys reached into his pocket, pulled out a switchblade, flicked the blade open, and asked, "Will this work?" I said. "I'm sure it will."

I took the razor sharp knife and easily cut the belt. I returned the knife and told them they should be OK until they got the compressor fixed - they'd just have to roll the windows down.

I acknowledged their grudgingly offered thanks and walked back to the truck savoring how I had skewed their view of the world. They were stranded in the desert late at night and a hippy truck driver had saved their ass. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

The FBI Visit

My sister Dorothy was still living at home with my parents when our brother Chuck called from Drop City, Colorado. He was actively dodging the draft at the time and wanted them to know he was leaving for Bellingham, Washington.

The next day the doorbell rang. Dorothy opened the door to find a guy in aviator sunglasses, a large belt buckle, and boots who asked if her parents were home.

Dorothy called Mom from the kitchen. When she got to the door, he flashed his FBI badge and Mom invited him to come in and sit down. He told her he was looking for her son, Charles, and it was in Charles' best interest that she tell him where he was.

The passionately honest preacher's wife sweetly replied, "I have no idea where he is". She never lost her sweet, innocent demeanor even as Mr. FBI became more hostile and insistent.

After he left, Dorothy looked over at Mom who said, "Well, I know where he WAS and where he WILL BE, but I have no idea where he IS."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Curtains

We lived in a small town in Nebraska where there were many who made other people's business their business.

One afternoon a member of the local "Nosy Old Ladies" cabal came to our house. Her express purpose was to enlighten my father, the minister, about the scandalous behavior of one of the young school teachers.

It seems that he had closed the curtains in his house while entertaining a young woman. This self-appointed guardian of the town morals went on and on about how shameful this was.

My father listened patiently until she finally wound down. Then he stood up, gave the woman a "look", and opened the curtains in our living room.

Mixed Signals

I really don't like shaving. When the weekend rolls around, I don't shave unless there's some special occasion that requires it.

One Saturday evening my wife, Lan, and I were relaxing together on the living room couch. Before long, Lan started gently rubbing my cheek with her arm. I turned, gave her a knowing smile, and she said, "Hey, don't get excited, big guy. You didn't shave this morning and I'm just using your whiskers to scratch my arm."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Hot Rodders

I had a car in the Army that was something of a hot rod. It was a 66 Ford Fairlane GT with the big engine, 4 speed transmission, chrome wheels, wide tires, and fairly loud pipes. When I was deployed to Vietnam, I left the car with my parents and asked them to drive it once in while so it wouldn't just sit for a year.

At the time, my father was a Presbyterian Minister in the town of Aurora Nebraska. One Saturday my parents had to go to Lincoln to visit a parishioner who was in the hospital. They viewed this as an official ministerial visit, so they dressed accordingly. My father wore his suit and tie and my mother wore what used to be called "Sunday Go To Meeting" clothes. They decided this would be a good time to drive my car.

After the hospital visit in Lincoln, they started out of town on O st. which was 4 lanes wide, had stop-lights spaced about 10 blocks apart, and a 45mph speed limit.

My parents rolled up to a stop-light and right next to them was a Mustang with several college-age kids in it. When the light turned green, the Mustang blasted away from the light squealing the tires and making lots of noise.

This same thing happened for 3 lights in a row. Finally, while sitting at the 4th light, my mother turned to my father and said, "When that light turns green, let's leave those losers".

The light turned green, my father dumped the clutch, smoked the tires, and left the Mustang in the dust. He let off the throttle and backed off the pipes as he rolled up to the next light.

When Mustang pulled up beside them the kids were flabbergasted. They couldn't believe that the distinguished looking middle-aged couple in the Fairlane GT had just blown their doors off.

My parents never looked over at the Mustang. When the light turned green, they eased away from the light as if nothing had happened.






No PIckups

Years ago a factory near Salt Lake City built International Harvester pickup trucks. I was making weekly trips from Iowa to the SF Bay Area at the time. I met a guy during that period named Bill who was making regular trips from Salt Lake to the Bay Area delivering pickup trucks on a car carrier.

One week we were running together west bound on I-80 out of Sacramento talking on the radio when we came to the truck scales at Cordelia. There was a big sign that read "All Trucks Stop At Scales" with a smaller sign below that read "No Pickups".

Bill, running ahead of me, completely forgot to pull into the scales. I pulled in and had to wait behind about 6 trucks before getting weighed. Meanwhile, the CHP wasted no time in blasting out in a patrol car to stop him.

I merged back onto the freeway after clearing the scales and saw Bill about a mile ahead just getting back onto the freeway. I got on the radio and asked him what happened.

He said the cop pulled him over, marched up to his truck, and demanded to know why he hadn't stopped at the scales. The cop said, "Didn't you see the sign that said All Trucks Stop At Scales?".

"I said, yes, I saw that sign, but I also saw that other sign."

"What other sign?", the cop asked.

 "The one that said No Pickups."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Pace Setter



I was drafted into the army with a group of 80 other guys and started 8 weeks of Basic Training in Ft. Lewis Washington. One third of our group were black guys from Oakland, one third were cowboys from Montana, and the rest were from the mid-west like me. There were no volunteers in the group – we were all draftees and not especially pleased to be in the Army.

Every morning and evening all 80 guys would be escorted on a 2 mile run with a hyper-active drill sergeant running up and down screaming at us. Any group like that always has at least one guy that can't keep up and we had ours – Morris. He was about 30 pounds overweight and definitely out of shape.

Morris was a constant target of the drill sergeant's wrath and was ridiculed by him whenever he couldn't keep pace. After more than a week of this, I convinced the group that we needed to do something. I suggested that we all run only as fast as Morris and sold the idea as a way to mess with the mind of the drill sergeant.

The next morning we started our regular 2 mile run and after about the first 5 minutes, Morris couldn't keep pace and slowed down. Right on cue, we all slowed down to his pace. When he started running again, we started running again, when he slowed down, we slowed down.

The drill sergeant went ballistic! No matter what he did or how much he yelled, none of the 80 guys would go any faster than Morris. 

It was the beginning of a significant shift in the Basic Training balance of power.

Running The Scales

About 40 years ago I was driving a truck making weekly trips from Iowa to Utah with a load of pork for a wholesale meat company. I would get the truck unloaded and then go up to Washington to get a load of apples to take back to the mid-west.

The load of apples usually weighed significantly more than was legally allowed and required me to circumvent the truck scales on the way back. Loading the extra weight didn't pay extra, but I enjoyed  the challenge of getting away with it.

There was a truck scale on I-15 in Utah that I had to get around to successfully accomplish my chicanery. I found a small state road that more or less paralleled I-15 that allowed me to bypass the whole thing. This road went through a small town at the end of my scale bypass gambit and had a connector road back to the Interstate.

I was quite pleased with myself for figuring this out and made this detour almost every week for several months. One week in the winter it had been snowing recently and the roads were slippery.  I was loaded legally this time so I just went right down I-15 instead of taking my alternate route.

Just before the exit to the small town on my regular detour, I saw a car that had slid off the road into the ditch. It looked like the car wasn't damaged, but there appeared to still be people in it.

I stopped to check it out and found it was a nice middle aged couple who happened to live in the same town I had been going through almost every week. I helped them up into the truck and we had a nice conversation while I took them back into town.

I stopped in front of the general store on main street and as I was helping them out of the truck, a couple of old guys came out of the store. They thanked me for helping their neighbors and told me they'd get the local tow truck operator to tow the car in.

One of the guys commented on what a nice looking truck I was driving. He said, "We see you coming through here all the time running the scales. Why don't you stop in and say hello next time?"