Monday, June 16, 2014

Happy Farther's Day

Yes it is "Farther’s" Day here at the Old Place and as the author W.P. Kinsella would say, “the memories are so thick you have to brush them away from your face.”  You heard me right, Far-Ther’s Day. You might remember farther back when I introduced you folks to the Old Place, I told you my Grandfather built it and my father used to bring me up here. Farther back in the day some Native American’s father likely discovered this lake while out hunting.  It was pristine of course and a lot smaller, probably not much more than a mountain stream backed up behind a beaver damn.  Farther back than that, well who knows?  Not able to look farther back with any certainty let’s look farther ahead.  We’ll be headed to church at 10:00.  Farther on after that Ms. Melinda and MaryHannah have a special day planned for me.  Farther back in this blog I mentioned W.P. Kinsella.  Most of you know the Kevin Costner film, Field of Dreams was based on Kinsella’s novel, “Shoeless Joe,” the movie tells the story of a novice Iowa farmer named Ray who lives with his wife Annie and his daughter Karin. Ray had a troubled relationship with his father, who was a devoted baseball fan. Walking in his cornfield one evening, Ray hears a voice whisper, "If you build it, he will come." Ray then sees a vision of a baseball diamond in his field. Annie is skeptical, but Ray plows under his corn to build the field. As months pass by, nothing happens. One evening, with despair and creditors closing in Ray’s daughter comes to him and says, “Daddy, there’s a man out there on your lawn.”  It is “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, a deceased baseball player idolized by Ray's father. Thrilled to be able to play baseball again, Joe returns with the seven other players banned from baseball in the 1919 World Series scandal. The story rolls on with Ray helping "Ease the pain" of a disillusioned 60’s radical and author Terrance Mann who dreamed of playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Ray tries to do the same for a long dead nobody named Archibald "Moonlight" Graham who became small town doctor after one game with the New York Giants in 1922, but never got to bat.  As things move farther along Ray gets angry wondering out loud at last, “what’s in this for me?”  It is Shoeless Joe who reminds Ray why he sacrificed so much saying, "If you build it, he will come."  Joe glances toward home plate. The catcher removes his mask and Ray sees it is his father as a young man. Shocked, Ray surmises that "Ease his pain" referred to his father, but Joe counters that the voice referred to Ray himself.  Ray introduces his father to his wife and daughter, then asks, “hey. . . Dad, ya wanna have a catch?”  The farther I go down my time line, the more I realize why God designed us to need a father.  Some fathers are living legends some fathers are just plain folks.  As fathers ourselves let us all resolve to go farther than needed, farther than required, farther than expected.  Then Our Father Who art in heaven, He will take us there, father than we ever imagined!

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place,

I am Col. Jim.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Why We Care About Safety

Here at the Old Place we look out for each other.  One morning I was taking my walk around the lake when I noticed Ms. Edith sitting on her back porch with a stranger.  It was a young man; his head was bent over, he had a cup of coffee in his hands and he was crying.  Edith got up patted his back and walked over to me.  The fella had recently lost his young bride to an act of violence leaving him a widower at 28 and his 7 year old daughter Teresa motherless.  All of a sudden all my problems seemed like Disney World.  As I began to pray with them the names Edith and Teresa kept appearing in my head, and I wondered what God was trying to tell me.  I had been reading recently about a rather unique saint, a Prussian born Jew and former atheist named Edith Stein.  Moved by the tragedies of World War I, Edith became a nursing assistant in a hospital.  Drawn to the Catholic faith, she was admitted as a Discalced Carmelite nun taking the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.  Eight years later she was martyred in a Nazi gas chamber.  God had chosen that moment of tragedy to show me again why safety is a ministry.

Of course safety is also the law.  The philosopher Aristotle said that, “Law is reason free from passion.”  Does that mean that law is sufficient reason on its own to be safe?  I believe rational arguments and inferences alone do not give us trustworthy knowledge.  Safety is about people.  Silly, emotional, passion filled children of God.

As I reflected on the young man’s pain, I remember St. Teresa saying that, “Our knowledge of someone else’s pain is direct knowledge.” Say what?  Well, we know other people have a mind like ours sure because we know that we think, feel, decide, suffer, rejoice and etc.  Think of Rene’ Descartes’ phrase, “Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am.”  We all have experiences influenced by the world outside our own bodies but what makes those experiences interchangeable between us?

In his 1995 Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II, now St. John Paul the Great clarified this when he wrote, “Recognizing the reality of a person as opposed to a mere human organism is as fundamental as recognizing the reality of being.”  In other words, recognize the soul in all persons.  So what’s it go to do with safety?

I must go back to St. Teresa for an answer.  The object of our awareness at first is awareness of a consciousness outside our-self, let’s say one that “appears” to be in pain.  When we allow this awareness to unfold to its fullness, we find ourselves actually aware of becoming of the other person, in a sense “remembering” or “recognizing” their pain as if it were a memory in our own personal experience.  We achieve what amounts to intimate knowledge of others, a caring that transcends any desire to merely prevent pain but to eliminate it all together.  The struggle for safety is a supreme act of virtue and as St. Thomas Aquinas said, “nothing, except sin, is contrary to an act of virtue.”

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, I am Col. Jim.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

No Time For A Parade

All over the country there are parades this Memorial Day honoring our fallen heroes.  There are no parades up here at the Old Place, but there is plenty of time for reflection.  I’m reading a small blue binder.  The author paints a vision of a terrified young sailor standing on the smoking, listing deck of a US destroyer.  A Japanese torpedo has just blown off the stern taking 19 of his shipmates to their deaths and leaving the ship dead in the water in the middle of a major sea battle. I could almost smell the cordite and hear the explosions.  As I close the binder, I see a patch glued to the front of it depicting a young wild Indian shooting a bow and arrow.  The arrow is pointed down.  I like to believe that is because he is shooting at that Japanese submarine, the preferred prey of our WWII destroyers. That patch is the unit insignia of Destroyer Squadron 23, “The Little Beavers” activated on May 11, 1943.  Under the command of then Commodore Arleigh “31 Knot” Burke, DESRON 23 earned a Presidential Unit Citation fighting 22 engagements while destroying a Japanese cruiser, nine destroyers, one submarine, several smaller ships, and approximately 30 aircraft.  That young sailor was a small, “Foote Note,” if you will, to this story aboard the Fletcher Class Destroyer USS Foote, interestingly the same class as our own embattled USS Kidd.  Wilbur V. Rogers was not even old enough to drink when with seabag hoisted over his shoulder he gazed up the gang way toward the ship that would be his home for the next two years. There was nothing special about the young sailor from Jonesboro, Louisiana.  Rog served in the Main Battery Director targeting enemy aircraft with the deadly twin 44 mm cannons.  He told me once, “You could get those guns to fire together or alternate.  I never liked it when they fired together.  If I could get them firing alternately that meant there was always lead in the air!”  Rog ultimately told me about the Battle of Empress of Augusta Bay. “It was 3 O’Clock in the morning and we had just executed a hard left turn to come up on the starboard quarter of the USS Converse.  A minute later a Japanese torpedo struck us at an angle behind the aft 5 inch gun mount.  We were making 31-knots and immediately went dead in the water.  All we could do was watch as the stern section, with 19 of our shipmates, turned slowly and began to sink.”  The Foote was repaired and returned to the war ultimately taking part in siege of Okinawa.  So, what’s it got to do with safety?  Those of you who know the Old Col know I’m a bit of a submarine nut.  So one day my father-in-law introduces me to his best friend Wilbur Rogers, with Marathon Oil and a tin can sailor.  Needless to say we eyed each other with some suspicion.  As I got to know Mr. Rog and listened to his stories he gradually became the grandfather I never had.  He took me on personal guided tours using our USS Kidd as a substitute for his long gone Foote.  As Rog shared, his stories of his shipmates, their battles and their laughter came alive.  This is a very difficult story for me to end.  “We all get old if we live long enough,” Rog once said.  Well I guess that’s true.  Mr. Rog and his sweet bride Ona Vee have had to leave Baton Rouge for Shreveport to be closer to their daughter.  To say I will miss him is not enough.  My world will be just a bit dimmer without Rog around.  His life and his character are a brilliant and blinding devotion to his family, his friends and of course to our country. Sadly, there will be no parade for Mr. Rog, but I send him on his way with “Fair winds and following seas” Mr. Rog, you will be missed.  

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, 

I am Col. Jim.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Good Safe Food

Cooking around the Old Place has always been an adventure.  Back in the day there was a wood burning pot-bellied stove which doubled as a heater.  It’s still a heater to this day, but now we have a separate wood burning stove/oven combination that uses propane as a starter.  As you can imagine, the safety challenges of cooking on a wood burning stove are manifest.  Burns are a given and in defiance of the old saw, an unwatched pot boils over so fast you just can’t believe it.  In preparing a proper Job Safety Analysis or JSA for this task I found that all the steps had the same hazards fire and burns so wearing gauntlet type oven mitts and keeping a full bucket of water close to hand are advisable.  Today I’m cooking bacon for the delicacy of day is the shamelessly male satisfying delight, chocolate covered bacon.  Oh yes, fellas, you heard correctly, chocolate covered bacon.  Please note, the bacon is not atop the stove rather it is sizzling happily on a foil covered cookie sheet inside the oven.  This increases the crispiness by allowing the grease to run off.  I find that “Wright” brand bacon works best when cut into 4 – 5 inch long sections.   Wood fires heat up quickly so put the tray in immediately after lighting.  15 – 17 minutes should do it.  The bacon is then placed on cookie racks to dry and cool.  Chocolate bark is best for coating as it melts quickly in a double boiler.  Take care not to burn the chocolate or the body on the stove top, the whole thing is hot.  Before proceeding, layout some wax paper on the table to receive the coated bacon.  Dip the dry, cool bacon in the melted chocolate.  Pay close attention here, the goal is to coat the bacon not cover the cook’s fingers in scalding hard to remove goop.  Keep a pot of cold water nearby, just in case.  I use a pair of Magill Forceps, grab the bacon on the end and slowly dunk it into the sweet confection.  Remove immediately and allow to drain.  The chocolate must be kept hot and the bacon dipped quickly.  Too thick a layer of chocolate will mask the taste of the bacon.  Layout the coated bacon to cool, then refrigerate for 10 minutes before boxing between wax paper layers.  Oddly enough the last step in this task is the most hazardous: that of not making enough chocolate covered bacon to go around.  

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place I am, Col. Jim

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why We Must Change and What We Must Change Into

Change is inevitable wouldn’t you say?   I grew up with change watching “Superman” on the old black and white Magnavox.  George Reeve would dash into the store room wearing his street clothes and leap out the window a moment later, changed, transformed from the mild manner reporter into the invincible Man of Steel.   My grandmother Nora taught me about change with stories of the mysterious east where the cunning horseman Rewagunga changed into the beautiful Afghan jihadist, Yasmini.  And who can forget how the leopard changed his spots with a little help from his Ethiopian friend who had, “just a little color left over on the finger tips of his fine new black skin.”  Yes, change is inevitable my brothers and sisters.  Sometime it is brought on by necessity and other times it is forced on us a knife point.  There has been a change in our safety world my friends, one which we ignore at our peril.  I am not talking about some deadly new chemical or dangerous new process, no.  In this case it is one both famous and infamous.  It is, the trial lawyer.   The Workers’ Compensation system has been turned on its head.  First off, since all of the comp judges used to be trial lawyers and since all of the comp attorneys are trial lawyers, well you can see it is rather like the fox guarding the hen house.   For years they have tried to find a way around the basis for the existence of workers’ comp that of “no fault.”   At long last, they have succeeded. 
In the last few years illegal immigrants injured while working in the US have been awarded huge settlements in addition to their workers’ comp benefits.  These settlements have now been upheld by the various supremes court.  Sadly, this means that the legal protection of workers’ comp for employers has been breached.  Oh sure, your basic simple comp cases will still work their way through the system no harm/no foul as usual just to make it look good but let some trial lawyer smell blood in the water and ohhh Ricky!
So what’s it got to do with safety?  Well you may ask.  Simply this, those employers who do not have proactive, preemptive and effective safety programs will soon be out of business.  Gone are the days of sitting presidents pardoning company officials and vacating their fines for multiple fatalities.   Gone are days of laisse’ faire safety attitudes of “they’ll never get me.”   The predictions of former OSHA Secretary, John Henshaw made just a few short years ago right here at our own Safety Council are about to come true, and I quote, “those companies who do not comply and continue to hurt workers will be run out of business.”
Mr. Employer, this means that now more than ever your corporate safety director needs to be more than a company man with a suit and secretary, and much more than a book worm with a high test score.  The modern corporate safety director must be a man who has come up through the ranks.  A man who has worked on his tools, swung the hammer, run the bead and the backhoe and climbed the scaffold.  The modern safety director is creative, a bit artsy, after all he was and is still a craftsman.  He should have a love of music and be musical himself.  The modern safety director enjoys the limelight, and even excels in it.  The modern safety director must be all of these things because he must be able to use all of these things to teach, coach, challenge, and entertain.   If your safety program is to prevent all accidents, it must change minds and touch hearts.
Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, I am,
Col. Jim

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fight to Learn

Anyone who knows the old Colonel well knows I love books and movies.  Over the years I have put together a collection of my favorite quotes for specific occasions.  This one from Top Gun serves as a good opening for today's blog.  "Gentlemen this school is about combat; there's no points for second place."  One of Hannah's cousins will be starting college this fall, and it put me in mind a collection of quotes my father Fred put together to send me off to school that fateful fall of 1975.  There were quotes from Vince Lombardi, Calvin Coolidge, even St. Paul but the one that stuck with me all my life was from Gentleman Jim Corbet.  No not the LSU basketball star but the famous pugilist.  Gentleman Jim was the last bare knuckles professional boxing champion, from then on every prize fighter wore padded gloves.  Corbet said this, "Fight one more round. When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round. When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired that you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round remembering that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped."  Those words shepherded me through many of the trials of my life.  True they did not stand alone for sooner or later we must fall, "so that we can learn to pick ourselves up."1  The famous allegory, "Footsteps" tells of a man looking back on his life with Christ as footprints in the sand.  At first there were two sets of prints as the man walked side by side with the Lord.  Sometimes there would be knee and hand prints where the man had fallen.  Suddenly during the greatest crisis of his life, one set of prints vanished!  When the man asked the Lord why he had left him alone, Christ replied, "those single footprints were when I carried you my brother."  Let nothing but your honor stand in your way during this phase of your life.  Be selfish of anything that keeps you from your studies.  Praise God for the well done job and feel no shame in your small rewards.  For if a dog trainer rewards his animal will not Our Father reward you better than this?  If motivation runs out, seek diligently for another and do not rest until you have it.  It is only a few very short years.  Work it up the hill.  In closing I will take poetic license firmly in hand an paraphrase the Fighter Pilot's oath, "Learn to Fight, Fight to Learn, Learn to Win!"

Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place I am,

Col. Jim

1 - Thomas Wayne in "Batman Returns"

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"I've Got Vision and the Resta the World Wears Bifocals"

It is astonishing to me how badly we need a viable, well financed third party and a truly unbiased news media, but we just don't have them.  There is a great line in the 1987 movie 'The Untouchables" delivered by Kevin Costner's character Elliot Ness, "I have broken every law I swore to uphold; I have become what I beheld, and I am content that I have done right!This has become the mantra of the left in general and, of late, the power right as well.  Fabulous amounts of money, fawning sycophants and the exquisite thrill of the power they wield blinds them to the coming storm.  Celebrity suck-ups, PACs and other lobbyists poison our elected officials like sirens beckoning sailors to their deaths on the rocksTerrified of the future, they are doomed to repeat the past at the expense of us all.  Down through history tyrants have always created their own worst enemies and were ultimately brought down by them.  The Democrats created the Libertarians and the Republicans the Tea Party.  So too have ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN created Fox, Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin and etc.  Our plight is a vicious one: We (and our children) are forced to tolerate and even embrace salacious and disgusting behavior so vile and unnatural you can almost smell the brimstone.  We openly do business with wealthy Islamics who perpetuate the sex slavery of young girls. (Mostly white girls. Sorry but I don't make this stuff up.)  Those of us with a vision for the future are shouted down or threatened.  Soon the kindly folk of the country will be forced to pack and tramp, each fathers son from his father's home and from the lands where he was fed and bred and played as a lad.  Ach and the cruelest blow of all as we are forced to witness and tolerate the greatest form of personal arrogance there is, the murder of God.  Ever wonder why old people are cranky?  Well, now you know.

Sittin' in a rocker at the Old Place, I am,

Col. Jim

Title quote is from the movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."