The Squeeky Wheel

For crying out loud, all I wanted to do was lie down and catch myself a nap before my wife got home. Not going to happen. Dogs keep barking, telephone keeps ringing, and people at the door and I continue coughing.

I finally got through to my VAMC doctor that I didn’t need a rectal exam as much as I need something for my cold. She still didn’t give me any antibiotics to cure the cough, saying, “I can’t be sure its bacterial or viral.”

I’ll buy that but she didn’t do a throat culture to find out either. Instead she gave me a once a day for 10-days antibiotic for an ear infection.

I swear she shoved that scope so far down my ear tube that she tickled the back of my throat. This caused me to be seized in the nagging grip of a coughing spasm right on the end of her exam bed. She also gave me a once over for my back.

I am learning to be a very loud and squeaky wheel so I can get the best snake oil. Not only am I getting a full set of x-rays, she also referred me to physical therapy.

Maybe I will actually find out what is going on with it.

I didn’t get out of there until after 1300 hours. I think the longest wait was at the pharmacy. I was in a fairly jocular mood until the woman behind the counter told me I had to go to the end of the line for a consult.

More loud squeaking from a very perturbed little wheel!

I tried telling her twice I had already gone through the consult and I simply refused to surrender my place in line.

Anyone who has been around me knows that I get loud and defiant in these situations. I really don’t like to be challenged or intimidated like this.

It was a 10 second stare down. She blinked first.

She had the prettiest eyes.

Side B

I was working for KEKA in Eureka pending the sale of the station to a broadcast company in Reno. While there, I arranged to live with my mom and step-dad until the sale was completed.

However after four and a half months of negotiations, the sale fell through and I was getting ready to head back to Nevada. As a way of saying “thank you” to my parents I figured I’d get them a nice gift.

Mom had been given several compact discs of jazz music but had no CD player. So I went out and found a single tray player, keeping it as simple as I could.

The following day, I set the equipment up and headed for work. When I got to the station, I got a call from her. She was complaining the player did not work correctly.

Even after she tried to explain what was wrong, I couldn’t help her fix it. I told that I’d come home after work and take care of the problem.

Once home, I put the CD in the tray and the system seemed too work perfectly. Mom was standing next to me, shaking her head.

Suddenly she exclaimed, “No wonder it’s working for you!”

Then she reached over, picked up the disc from the tray and turned it over.

Guacamole Cowboy

Contrary to what Charlie Russell said, not everything can be done from the back of a horse. As a rule I tried to stay away, far away from the feed lot and pens when this subject of checking cows for pregnancy came up.

In fact I would much rather be out pounding out holes for fence posts rather than have my Uncle look at me and tell me I had the duty.

He would give it to me because I was usually not fast enough to disappear like my cousins and I stood a good four inches taller than him. It was the height that made me the logical choice as he hated using a step stool.

That and the fact I was a teenager and half afraid of my Uncle anyway.

So without argument I would fetch the long plastic sleeve, which was more like a glove as suddenly one of my cousins would reappear. That one cousin would drive the cow into the chute and my Uncle would clamp the gate shut, effectively trapping the animal in the small space.

It would then be my turn to go to work. Here I will spare the fine details other than to say my arm disappeared inside the cow for a few seconds to confirm or deny the existence of a calf.

It was during this times that the cow had her greatest opportunity to off load on the cowboy standing behind her. It is difficult to escape a defecating cow with one’s arm shoved up its posterior.

After several years of research (meaning having checked several hundred cows and been crapped on in the process) I have figured out that the animal just can’t help it. There is something about the act of being checked that causes some sort of stimulation.

Once this stimulation occurs, it’s all over but the feces, odor and the cursing. There is also the dread of seeing a cow eat just before the big check is about to happen.

It’s at that moment I wished I had become a CPA and taken up city-living. I have also learned that it is worse when the cow feeds on green grass.

By the time the shooting match is over, I’ll look like a side of guacamole.

Wyoming Whirlwind

“Tornado reported jus’ north of here,” the Sergeant stated as he came into our office.

Memories of Texas raced through my head, “I didn’t know there were tornadoes in Wyoming,” I said feeling a pit of fear welling up in my gut.

Jus’ then the hospitals intercom sounded off with the three bells meaning to get a persons attention. It was effective as long as it didn’t scare a person to death first.

It was Francis Emory Warren Air Force Base Hospital’s Commander, “Attention all staff, prepare to evacuate patients, guests and staff to below ground shelters.”

My telephone rang and I answered. It was my commanding officer.

He told him to meet him in the orderly room immediately. I let the sergeant know as I headed straight down the hall passed the pharmacy and the flight surgeons office.

The Captain was already there by the time I entered the orderly room. Coming to attention in front of him, I started to say that I was there as ordered, but he cut me off.

Instead he turned and smiled, saying, “I volunteered your services to the Colonel.”

I raised his left eyebrow.

It was widely known that the captain enjoyed creating situations for me to volunteer for. I waited for the other shoe to drop.

“Your record indicates that you are an expert on tornadoes,” he started, “the Colonel needs a posted look out on the roof and I told him he could use you.”

My face felt like a wild-fire out of control. I was instantly angry.

Yet I gritted my teeth and took a deep breath. The Captain knew I was mad and that’s what he wanted, but refused to let him have his moment as he continued to smile his cruel little smile.

Behind me, I heard the Colonel say, “The Lieutenant will unlock the roof hatch for you.”

The Lieutenant’s keys were giggling in his hands before the Colonel had completed the sentence. I followed him out of the Orderly Room and back down the hallway I had jus’ come from.

Once we made the corner the Lieutenant slowed his pace and waited for me to catch up.

“Your C.O. really doesn’t like you, does he?” the Lieutenant asked.

“No, sir,” is all I said.

The Lieutenant stopped in the supply office and signed for a set of field glasses and a radio, handing them to me. We continued down the hallway to Engineering in silence.

Inside Engineering, he walked to the far wall and started climbing up the ladder. The Lieutenant unlocked the hatch and climbed down.

I grabbed hold of the first rung as the Lieutenant put his hand on my shoulder, “You showed a lot of courage back there,” he said.

Jus’ before I pushed the hatch open the Lieutenant shouted up, “You know if it gets to dangerous, get back down here and head for the shelter, okay?”

“Yes, sir,” I responded.

The Lieutenant smiled and I pushed open the hatch, climbed through then closed it behind himself.

The winds’ bite was ferocious and the distance I could see the long gray-black snake reaching down from the overcast skies. It touched the earth with a roar as it tore apart whatever lay in its path.

It whipped pieces of corrugated tin through the air as if it were onion-skin typing paper. It lifted mobile homes, smashing them like cardboard boxes and tossing cars and trucks about like Matchboxes on a playground.

I couldn’t tell if I was sweating from fear or from the humidity in the air.

As continued to watch, I reported its distance to the commander by hand-held radio. Finally it crossed over I-80, less than two miles away and approaching the hospital quickly.

I radioed, “Funnel cloud, crossing freeway, moving in our direction.”

“10-4,” was the commanders’ response.

I could hear the general alert inside the hospital become a general alarm.

The situation had turned from serious to grave. The sound of the bell continued for five minutes.

I waited for the general alarm warning to end before I radioed the Colonel. There was no answer.

So I called again, but still no answer.

It occurred to me that the Colonel had gone to the underground bunker, designed to withstand nuclear penetration. That meant he could no longer receive or send signals.

So I rushed over to the hatch as the rain started to drive down on me.

“This is how it happened before,” I thought.

As I pulled on the handle to the hatch, it refused to come up. I pulled harder and still it would not budge.

I looked up and could tell the funnel cloud had moved closer.

I lifted the radio to my lips, “I’m trapped on top of the hospital roof. The twister is jus’ about on the building. Does anyone copy?”

There was nothing but the gentle hiss of airwaves with nothing to say.

By this time knew I would have to jump from the building if I were to survive. The wind then stripped my cover from my head, sending it flying away and I decided to follow the same path the hat had taken.

Looking over the ledge, I found another roof below. So I climbed over the side and dropped down to it.

Then I raced across that roof and looked over that ledge. It was the ground and without hesitation, I leaped over the side.

I hit the ground with a thud.

The wind was momentarily knocked out of me but I kept moving. I tried every door he came to, but they were all locked.

At the front of the building I concluded I could wait no more so I thought about smashing in the window near the front door to get in. However the last time I broke a window I received a non-judicial court-martial.

Instead I moved out onto the lawn, where I laid down. Shutting my eyes as tight as I could make them, I prayed as loudly as possible.

The wind rushed the words from my throat, drowning them in its force. It also buffed me and I felt the sting of my clothing as it surged over me.

Time seemed to come to a halt as a deafening rush of silence fell over me.

Soon an all-clear alarm sounded and I tried to stand up, but I was too shaken. The Lieutenant was the first to come to my aid, helping to my feet and then into the Emergency Room.

Both the radio and binoculars that the Lieutenant had signed for were gone. I felt bad about this, but I had something more important on my mind.

Asking for the Lieutenant for his help, we walked down to the Engineering Office, where each took a turn looking up at the roof hatch. We then looked at one another, neither wanting believe what we were seeing.

Someone had locked it.

The Best Cowboys

Rocky was old and tired and the young tribal deputy knew it. The vet had been out to Grandma Ivy’s place and looked the mustang over. He declared the situation helpless.

“You can let me put him down or you can just turn him out and wait for the end,” the large animal doctor said.

Tommy thought about it for a few seconds. He figured that since Rocky had pretty much been born in the wild, he ought to be allowed to die as naturally as possible.

“Is he in pain?” the deputy asked.

“Not as far as I can see, just at the end of the line is all,” the doctor said as he packed up the remainder of his equipment.

Tommy offered to carry his second bag out to his pick up. They shook hands and the doctor drove down the road and back towards the civilized world of Fortuna.

He returned to the barn and the stall that he knew so well since childhood. There was a terrible ache in his heart as he thought back on the memory of the old horse he was preparing to lead out to pasture one last time.

His uncle had purchase the mustang from the BLM when Tommy was nine and gave it to him as a birthday present at the age of ten. The young boy’s mother was not thrilled about the idea as she knew that her eldest son was a handful of mischief. She knew that with a horse added to the mix it would be worse.

Tommy’s uncle refused to let the boy ride the horse unless he acted responsibly. He set the child to mucking stalls and feeding stock. He taught Tommy how to clean and groom his pet which he named Rocky.

“Where’d you come up with that?” his uncle asked.

“You said he was a mountain pony, so I figured Rocky would be a good name,” Tommy answered.

Rocky was around five years old when he was captured and sold to Tommy’s uncle. Tommy estimated that the old mustang was somewhere around eighteen years as he unhitched the pasture gate and walked the horse through.

It was all the young deputy could do to choke back the tears as he gently removed the lead from the horse. He rubbed Rocky behind the left ear as he had done for so many years. He turned and walked out of the pasture.

There wasn’t much choice to the matter as Tommy checked the revolver in his holster. The Captain had directed him and another deputy to transport the prisoner to Yreka. It was a simple case of transferring an accused car theft from the reservation to standard civilian authorities.

It was a ten hour or more job and Tommy needed to keep his mind on what he was doing and quit worrying about Rocky. “Besides,” he thought, “I have Dodge checking up on him.”

The prisoner transport and transfer went off without a problem. Both tribal deputies were on there way back when the radio dispatcher said, “Tommy, you have an urgent message to call Dodge.”

They found a place to pull into and use the telephone. Tommy’s finger shook as he dialed the Dodge residence phone number. It was the bad news he was expecting; Rocky was dead.

It seemed like a dreadfully long drive back to the reservation as Tommy hardly said anything. His partner already knew the situation and could offer nothing else and therefore chose to say as little as possible.

When they pulled into the station, Tommy immediately signed out. He didn’t stop to talk with the full-time tribal officers as he normally would have. It was already dark and he knew he needed to get home before the wild animals found Rocky body.

Two and a half hours later, Tommy come bouncing up ungraded road and pulled into his Grandma Ivy’s drive. She met him on the front porch with his bedroll and his grandpa’s 30-30.

She said,”You can use the back hoe in the morning. I’m so sorry dear.”

She kissed him on the cheek and hugged him as tightly as her frail arms would allow her.

He walked out to the barn and found that the old ranch woman had saddled up a horse for him. Grandma Ivy was always surprising him like that. He mounted the horse as soon as he tied his bedroll to the saddle and double checked the cinches.

With the Winchester laid across his lap, Tommy moved the horse towards the pasture gate. There was very little moon and the air felt thick as he worked his way towards where Dodge said Rocky had last been seen. “Maybe I’ll pick up fresh sign there,” Tommy said out loud.

Someplace in the distance a wood fire could be smelled. It had a curious aroma, open and natural, not at all like a wood stove or chimney. Then it occurred to Tommy that it was a campfire. He instinctively felt for his pistol, realizing that he could easily ride up on somebody trespassing on his Grandma’s land.

A few minutes later, far off to his left he saw an orange glow. It was low to the ground and close to the edge of the redwood trees that bordered a clearing that Tommy knew fairly well.

He slipped from the saddle and ground tethered the horse right where he stood. Tommy unsnapped his holster and drew his pistol and slowly walked to the right of the clearing. He worked hard to avoid stepping on anything that might make any noise, alerting who ever was trespassing in the pasture.

Once he was within seventy-five feet and in back of the fire encampment, the tribal deputy lowered down and waited. Tommy wanted to see if there were any signs of movement from the camp. He could see nothing but the faint glow of the camp fire.

Suddenly, a person tossed a couple of logs on the fire causing it to build up a flame. Tommy still could not get a good look at who was by the fire. “Who ever they are, they’re smart enough to sit just outside the fires edge,” he thought.

He crawled on all fours to get closer. Then he heard the sound of a rifle as its hammer was being pulled back. He rolled to the right as the sound of thunder blasted its way through the night.

Tommy quickly fired back.

A strained voice called out, “Who the hell’s out there?”

“It’s me, Dodge,” Tommy answered. “Lower that damned rifle. I’m coming in.”

“Are you hit?” Dodge asked.

“Nope, are you?” Tommy returned as he got up and walked cautiously towards the campfire.

“I thought you were a varmint,” Dodge said as the buckaroo rose up from behind the still form of Rocky. “Then you shot back and I figured you were the two-legged kind.” Dodge smiled.

“What on earth are you doing out here?” Tommy asked.

“Keeping the varmints off of Rocky, because I knew you wouldn’t be home in time to bury him,” Dodge responded.

Tommy shook his head in amazement because nobody asked Annie Dodge to come out and spend the night fending off varmints, four-legged or otherwise. Maybe he’d finally be able share the pain he felt in his broken heart too. It was at that moment that he realized that some of the best cowboys God ever made were cowgirls.

Why Cinco de Mayo?

Cinco de Mayo is still celebrated in Mexico, but is considered a minor holiday. It was largely unknown in the U.S. until the 1960s, until Latino activists started raising its profile.

The holiday celebrates the Mexican victory over France at the Battle of Puebla, May 5, 1862. Mexican Independence Day is celebrated September 16.
Mexico had been invaded by Spain, France and Great Britain in late 1861, but within six months Spain and Britain had pulled out. With the \Civil War in the U.S. raging north of the Mexican border, the French decided to take advantage of the chaos and invade Mexico, which had been torn apart by war in the late 1850s.

The French made inroads in April 1862, but in May, at the town of Puebla — about 85 miles east of Mexico City — a small Mexican army under the command of Ignacio Zaragoza defeated a larger French contingent. Zaragoza was born in what’s now Goliad, Texas, about 60 miles due north of Corpus Christi.

It was a classic David-over-Goliath victory, and it’s been celebrated ever since for its symbolic value, even though the French did eventually take over Mexico and establish the short-lived Second Mexican Empire under the Emperor Maximilian.

The Decision

Dad sat reading, “The Eureka Times–Standard”. It only came in the evening. Mom was absorbed in an Agatha Christy novel. The two girls and Adam were outside playing.

Tommy came walking down the hallway and sat down on the edge of the couch. He let a big sigh escape as he did so. Neither parent took notice. They both sat there busily reading to themselves.

Outside Tommy could hear the kids at play. He was wishing to himself that he was younger and could go out and play too. But he had already graduated from high school and his job as Paul Bunyan’s voice at the Trees of Mystery had closed for the winter months.

“Besides,” Tommy thought, “I don’t want to do that for the rest of my life.”

Tommy sighed again. Still, Mom and Dad did not look up or give Tommy any attention.

Tommy stared out the large sliding glass door into the back yard. His thoughts drifted back into another time. He was just a little boy then, when his family moved into this house. That was back before there were four children. It was just Adam and himself then.

He looked at the Alaskan daisies that he had spent a week after school planting. They were all white with brilliant green stems that stood out against the dull gray redwood fence he helped build less than seven years ago.

There was the swing set with its rusted green legs and cross bar that he could not recall never having been without. It had saved his life once by providing plenty of entertainment the one summer he was grounded to the back yard all three months.

Just over the fence was the old apple tree that was shade from the afternoon sun for the summer months. He spent last summer with Linda. She was gone now, back to Southern California.

Tommy’s parents continued to read as he sat there with his thoughts. They were mostly memories, more than thoughts.

“Thoughts collect dust, memories live on,” Dad had once said.

Tommy was trying to make a decision – an important one. At first the decision seemed to be easy, but the more he looked around, the less thought he had and the greater the memories he found.

Until this time, Tommy thought of memories as something old men passed back and forth in front of the hardware store. Tommy knew he wasn’t an old man, yet the flood of memories weighted him down until his heart felt like that of an old man. Tommy pushed himself upright and squared his shoulders. He took a deep breath and cleared his throat. It was a loud and long noise.

Both his Mom and Dad stopped what they were doing and looked at him. Tommy took another breath.

This one was longer and deeper than the previous one and said, “I’ve decided to join the Air Force.”

For a moment, nothing happened. Both parents sat there in stunned silence. Then Mom started to cry as Dad stood up to shake his grown son’s hand.