General Commentary (May be military related) email: Kudzuacres1@juno.com
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, I ran a small retail business. My business partner was a slightly crazy, South Alabama boy who also happened to be a gun collector. I know that sentence is full of redundancies, but it all seems necessary to the story. Our customers were good ole boys buying stuff for logging trucking and construction operations. Almost all wore the traditional southern workman outfit of rented uniforms accessorized with a Mack, Caterpillar or John Deere cap, steel-toed shoes and, most importantly, at least a .38 caliber pistol in the front pants pocket. Customer complaints take on added importance when your customer can really “complain”. Early on, I decided that the customer was usually right unless he was really wrong and was one of the few who would actually listen to the other side of the story.
We had an outside salesman whose ambition was to foil a robbery attempt on the business by blowing away the robber with his little snub-nosed .38. He would sit a few feet back of the service counter, concealed behind shelving and wait his big chance. The problem was his advanced age and constant shaking. My wife kept the life insurance paid up because she knew that if we were ever robbed, I would either be killed by the robber or by shaky, but dead-eyed David. After several weeks of argument, I finally convinced David that it would be better to let any robber have the little bit of money in our cash drawer and let me live.
One morning a few weeks later after David had left on his daily rounds and I was feeling safe for the day, my partner Billy Bob brought in a .44 MAG Dirty Harry pistol to show to a potential buyer. The buyer came in mid-morning, looked at the gun and said he would be back later to pick it up. Billy Bob sat the gun in the open box under the parts counter and went about business serving customers. A few minutes later an irate construction equipment mechanic came in to complain that we had sold him the wrong starter for a piece of equipment and that he had wasted a whole day trying to put it on. My partner, the gun-collector, talked patiently to the man, rechecked the part number, compared the new starter to the one removed from the equipment and determined that we had supplied the right part. At that point, the customer who disagreed with our assessment, yanked out his .38 and said, “How would you like it if I just shot your ass?” While I was looking for a safe place and thanking God that David was not around , Billy Bob reached under the counter, picked up the unloaded, never fired, collector quality .44 and asked, “Want to see which one will make the biggest hole?” I suppose that the business end of a .44 seen up close and personal looks much like a cannon, loaded or not. The customer grinned, put his pistol back in his pocket, picked up the “wrong” starter, left and we never saw him again.
A few days later, Billy Bob decided that he wasn’t cut out for the retail parts business and moved back to South Alabama. From then on, we had a policy that the customer was always right no matter how wrong they might be, any robber could have the money and no guns on the premises. David retired, Jimmy Carter became President, the economy went to hell, the construction, logging and trucking industries collapsed and we started repairing cars belonging to little, old ladies, who if they carried a gun, at least kept it in their purse where it wouldn’t scare us.
The folks I grew up around were and are people of principle; they just occasionally get carried away with the idea and take it to absurd extremes.
My family settled in Alabama in the early 19th Century on rocky ground a few miles south of Tennessee. They were Scots and German, but not Scot-Germans until much later. Actually, that was the part that was not Cherokee and I really have no idea when the Cherokee showed up. With Scot, German and Cherokee blood and stubbornness, principle becomes a dangerous thing. My introduction to the idea of principle came when I was a bout ten. My Grandfather was a farmer who thought that it was much easier transporting his corn to market in liquid form rather than wasting time with cobs and grains and dealing with moisture content and the price vagaries of the corn market.
The problem with this concept was that it involved frequent interaction with the county Sheriff. Now in those days, a regular payment to the Sheriff meant much less trouble than if you insisted on working alone. Pa remitted his liquor tax through one of the larger farmers and also sold his product through that farmer’s outlet. Solo work was frowned on as not being a team player and the Sheriff would mail a request that the miscreant report to the County Seat to be booked for bootlegging. This resulted in a fine that was split between the Probate Judge and the Sheriff. If you wished to continue in the business, you had to pay all of the extralegal taxes arrears. Overall, it was a very good system for the people in county government and the upper tier bootleggers. (As a digression, as a result of what I learned of the illegal alcohol business in the 1950s, I have always suspected that there are payoffs at every level in the illegal drug business and war.)
It had not been a good corn year for Pa and he fell a couple of months behind in his payments. The Sheriff wrote that he would be out at 5 PM on a June day to arrest him. It was all very civilized with the Deputy sitting and talking with Ma while Pa cleaned up from his day’s work. By the time they were ready to leave for the jail, my Dad and Uncle were home from work and followed Pa and the Deputy to the jail where they made bail and 45 minutes later everyone was back home. Pa agreed to pay his arrears and the fine with borrowed money and everyone was happy.
Except for my Dad, the man of principle. He decided to take his trade to a competitor of the farmer through whom Pa sold his product. I have no idea why he didn’t just help Pa drink his own product, but he was determined to show the powers that he did not have to deal with them. A few days later, with my mother and four children in the car, he drove to a local bootlegger and purchased a half-pint of moonshine. A quarter mile up the dead-end road from the Bootlegger’s, he was stopped by the Deputy who had arrested Pa and busted for possession of untaxed whiskey. Now a man of lesser principle would have paid the fine and gotten on with it. Not my Dad. He fought it through Circuit Court was found guilty and eventually paid the initial fine, court costs and for a lawyer, or about four times the fine.. His argument was that it was unfair to arrest him and ignore the Bootlegger a quarter mile down the dead-end road. All in all a logical argument, but it was also irrelevant to the court.
Fast forward a few years and I am an Army Company Commander in Germany. A good ole boy from the hills of Alabama shows up. He is 30 years old and a bare-sleeve private. It turns out that he grew up about 20 miles down the road from my hometown. He knows several people from my hometown, including my dad and brother. He quickly settles in and becomes one of the best-liked and most productive soldiers in his platoon. The company re-enlistment sergeant loves him because he is very good at convincing the young soldiers that the Army was the best deal going. A few weeks later, he shows up in my office demanding that I “get him out of the Army”. Surprised by the sudden change in attitude, I ask what the problem is. He says that the recruiter lied to him about the amount of time he would be in Germany. The recruiter told him 18 months and now he has learned that it is actually 30 months or the remainder of his enlistment. We talk about how much he likes the Army. Finally he tells me that it doesn’t matter. It is the principle of the thing. That got my attention. He then says that he bets if he cut someone up, I would let him out of the Army. In fact, if he cut up a Captain, he would probably get out of the Army even faster and pulled out his small pocketknife. Since I was the only Captain present, I explained that I doubted he could cut me before I removed his head from his shoulders with the club I had by my desk.
I did some creative personnel work and had him out of the Army in about a month. Once I told him he would be discharged, he went back to being the ideal soldier. Everyone else in the Company thought I had completely lost my mind to be arbitrarily discharging such a good soldier.
I told them it was a matter of principle.
Tuesday, July 30, 2002
After reviewing the Axis of Weevil requirements, I am concerned that I may not actually be qualified for membership. I do not actually own any exposively driven weapons. I have a couple of swords and two wicked chainsaws, but not any guns. I do work in the weapons design business so I hope that qualifies.
I have been wondering if Kudzu could transform the Southwest. The only thing that seems to slow down its progress toward my house are generous applications of Roundup. Maybe it could take over the desert and make it safe for other crops. Oh wait, no other plant life can survive in the presence of Kudzu. Belay that terraforming project.
Been down to Texas. Actually way out in West Texas and New Mexico. The temperature was around a 100, but it was a dry heat, ok as long as you are in the shade. The problem is no shade.
Spent an evening with some old friends and their daughter’s family. The grandchildren are being home schooled. The daughter attended public schools in El Paso as did her siblings, and she is not happy with the education they received. She sincerely believes that she and her brothers were consistently exposed to values that are inconsistent with being an American and a Christian. That is her reason for home schooling her own children.
The interesting part is the progress of her 8 year old. She reads extremely well in English and fairly well in German. Her American Sign Language is coming along well also. She is weak in arithmetic, but is doing rote drills in adding and subtracting. The child understands the concept of positional value of numbers, but cannot yet quickly add and subtract in her head.
My friend is convinced the public schools are bad and is doing what she can to educate her children. The interesting thing is that just as children with interested parents do well in any school, total parental commitment to education seems to produce exceptional students