Monday, January 1, 2018

Here’s To The Good Old Ways

It is the start of a new year on the calendar.  I have often felt that time stands still up here at the Old Place.  Pretty much everyone keeps to the old ways, the good old ways.  We have a general store, run by a retired Marine.  It also serves as the post office and first point of contact for strangers to the area, usually lost because their navigation app was inscrutable.  Older, and more able to appreciate the good old ways, we welcome them as long lost friends.  Our police department is a park ranger station whose “Major Crimes Division” handles nothing more exotic than a band of masked marauders cavorting about in someone’s attic.  (Raccoons)  So, it came as a surprise when at 6:00am on December 31st my short wave radio began to crackle; it was Ruth.
            “Mornin’ Colonel,” she said, “Sorry to bother you, but you have an overseas telephone call.”
“Really, at six in the morning, now that’s strange Gunny,” I replied.
“Oh that’s not the best part,” Ruth chuckled.  “Despite all our travels, this call is from the one place neither you nor I have never been before.”
“I’m listening,” said I.
There was a brief pause from Ruth, then, “Come on over.”
This was intriguing.  I went out, hopped in the old Tornio and drove to the store.  As I walked in, I could smell the coffee.  Ruth put a big mug, laced with real cream and sugar, in front of me, and went off to unlock the front door.
The heavily accented Micronesian voice on the other end replied, “Kukurei MenaĆ”i Ririki maiia Kiribati*, Colonel Jim!”
“I appreciate the sentiment,” I replied, “but it’s not New Years day yet,” or was it?  I began to think and to muse.  Kiribati was a name I had not heard in a long time.  Long before MaryHannah was born, way before I met Melinda, indeed while I was still in short pants, Sister Claire Germane had taught our 2nd grade class about time zones.  This phone call was from the future!
It is now, almost 18 hours later, on a chilly New Year’s Eve night.  Folks across the globe are partying their way through the waning hours of 2017.  The Old Colonel is curled up under a Biederlac in front of the fire.  Miss Melinda crashed hours ago with Ruprict asleep beside her.  Audrey and Molly are in my lap as usual while the gliders bark and glide around the Old Place and throw bottle caps, a cute but noisy ruckus.  I sat there and contemplated how this day had begun and what I should learn from it.  I had received a call from the future, but if so, then the other person had placed a call to the past!  We all know that it is possible to go back in time Einstein proved it, in theory.  So all I had to do was take a phone call from Kiribati and all of sudden I was much more clever than Einstein.  This was fantastic!  I could go back in time, back to the good old ways. . . .  WOAH hoss, not so fast.  When I received that call at 6:00am on December 31, 2017 from the tiny island of Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean, there it was already January 1, 2018.  How?  Kiribati rests astride the International Date Line on the opposite side of the world.  On one side today, on the other side, tomorrow!  Disappointed?  Don’t be.  We have an entirely new year full of new days and new months, to live, to learn, to share, to love.   

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

* Happy New Year from Kiribati.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Farewell to Mr. Rog

Good Saturday morning my friends.  My name is Col. Jim and this is my Old Place.  This time of year, there is plenty of time for reflection up here at the Old Place.  The days are cool and cloudy and the woods are somehow quieter. Today, I am reading from a thin, blue binder and remembering an old friend.  The author paints a vision of a young sailor standing on the smoking, listing deck of a US destroyer.  A Japanese torpedo has just blown off their stern leaving the ship, dead in the water in the middle of a major sea battle and taking 19 of his shipmates to their deaths.  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 leaping 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 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,  among the many young men who served.  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 USS Foote, the ship that would be his home for the next two years.  Rog served in the Main Battery Director targeting enemy aircraft with the deadly twin 44 mm cannons.  As Rog shared, his sea stories his shipmates and their lives and battles came alive!  “James, you could get those guns to fire together or to 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!”  As Rog told me about what history calls, the Battle of Empress of Augusta Bay, I felt like I was there. “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 our stern section drifted away, turned slowly and began to sink.”  Ultimately, the USS Foote was repaired and returned to the war taking Rog and his crew mates to the siege called, “Okinawa’s Ring of Tin.”  So, you ask, what’s it got to do with safety?  When one thinks of the sacrifices made by our military and their families, the answer to that question becomes clear.  

34 years ago, my father-in-law, Charlie Munley, introduced me to his best friend, yep, it was Rog.  At the time  Rog was working for Marathon Oil, a company known for it’s safety program.  As we got to know each other Mr. Rog gradually became the grandfather I never had.  Rog took me on personal guided tours of our USS Kidd, also a Fletcher class destroyer and of course took the time to point out all of the “safety” features.  This story is over long and a very difficult one for me to end.  “We all get old if we live long enough,” Rog once said.  Well I guess that’s true.  Rog was the last surviving crewman of the USS Foote and as such, according to US Navy tradition, has the right to be called, “USS Foote.”  Today I learned that at 92 years, USS Foote had passed away.  He is now reunited with our mighty God and with his sweet Ona Vee. To say that I will miss him is not enough.  Rog’s life, his character and his patriotism are a testament to what is good about our country and why we should fight to keep it that way.  So rather than mourn, let this be my prayer, for all of us who remain, “Fair winds and following seas” shipmate!  Until we meet again.  Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, I am Col. Jim.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Social Media: Love It, Leave It or Use It.

Up here at the Old Place we know how to use things. When you have to hit something, you use a hammer, not a wrench. When you want to go fishing, you do not drive ole Fezzie into the lake, you hop in the boat and if someone needs a hand, we usually give them two!  The other day, Hannah said that she was thinking of quitting FB and going back to, "the lost art of letter writing." I know how she is feeling. The same thing used to gnaw at me sometimes. Hannah even gave up social media completely for lent this year.  What a gal!  A break from anything can be a good idea. It allows you to step back and reassess.  Social media. . . well, I believe that requires a different approach.

First, ask yourself, 'Why do I use social media?'  There are lots of reasons:
1. Personal: Keeping up with old friends and making new ones, in other words, being sociable.
2. Special Interests for Fun: Cars (You knew that would be first.), Sugar Gliders, Dogs, Food, Sports, Travel, Hobbies, Home and car repair.
3. Special Interest Practical: Professional networking, Promoting your business, Buying and Selling.
4. BATTLE!:  If you have seen the movie, Michael, you will understand the reference. This is for your politics and causes.

1 and 2 can mix, 1, 2 and 3 could mix but should not, and 4 should never mix with anything.  

I believe the thing to do with social media is to use IT, instead of letting IT use us. Take FB for example, if I see something I want to comment on, I start my own thread and see where it goes. I also look at a responder's profile and personal FB page before replying to them. If I find things that make me realize there is no point in including them, I delete them from the thread and block them. Of the ones you leave on the thread, if they go Kujo on you STOP and dump them, fast!  Do not let them pollute the waters with their poisons. The cool part is, YOU can still comment on their stuff if YOU want to, otherwise, put 'um in File 13.  (TIP:  If you do not respond directly, they will not be able to defeat your Block.)

Finally, remember, the church wants us to be an evangelist for the faith. Pappa Frances is Tweeting all the time for us to do this with love.  Here then is simple a process to follow when using social media:
1. Pray for God's grace to guide you. 
2. Read and reread your post for content. 
3. Read and reread your post for grammar and spelling. 
4. Post ONLY if you want to entertain or to make a positive difference in the lives of your readers. 
5. Never post to get "it" off your chest. You may feel better at first but not for the long haul.

So, What's It Got to Do With Safety?  
Keeping your business and personal life as separate as possible will keep the two from interfering with each other to your grief. You can apologize for a gaff made face to face, but a gaff on social media can explode, hurt or anger hundreds, cost you friendships, your job, even your professional standing.  Then, there goes your blood pressure!  Or you could slide on up to the Old Place, grab a cold drink, pour yourself into rocker (they are available) and work the crossword in the paper.  That's what I'm doing, sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, I am, Col. Jim.