General Commentary (May be military related) email: Kudzuacres1@juno.com

Thursday, June 26, 2003
A Sob ? Story

I had an interesting conversation with a couple of old friends today. We all grew up on farms in the 50s and 60s. We each worked our first full day at about age 5. You think I am kidding? The first day I remember working was in the fall of 1952 when I was five years old. My mom and dad had moved to Michigan to work in the car plants and my brothers and I were left with our Grandmother who earned what little cash she ever had working as a laborer on the hardscrabble farms in our community. That consisted of hoeing corn and cotton and hand-harvesting both. The average cottonfield was probably around two acres and the cornfields were not much bigger. By 1960, most of the farmers had added chicken "broiler" houses and in a few years, the row crops largely disappeared. My Grandmother had no choice but to take us to the fields with her and as soon as we were big enough to pick cotton, we were given a flour sack and put to work. I could pick about 40 pounds a day when I was 5 and I never got a whole lot better. Forty pounds brought a big $1.20 for the day which was used to buy what store-bought clothes we had. We were probably at the bottom of the economic ladder, but in our part of the county, most of the rungs weren't a lot higher.

I worked on farms after school, in the summer and on weekends until I left for college in 1965. While in elementary school, my brothers and I built the fires to heat the classrooms and washed dishes in the lunchroom to pay for our lunch. I still think that school lunch yeast rolls are the best bread in the world. When I went to a larger school in the 7th grade, I quickly learned that you could make 25 cents a day by cleaning a classroom. I also learned that most of the "cleaners" didn't bother to show up for work so I cleaned any room that had not been cleaned by the assigned student and was making pretty good money for a 13 year old. By my senior year, I was in charge of all the student cleaning crew and ran the concession stand for sporting events.

I got a $569 scholarship from my HS alumni association and headed off to college in 1965. The $569 paid room, board, tuition and fees for one semester and I had some money left over to buy books. I had to sell my books at the end of every semester in order to raise money to buy the next set. Fortunately, most math and science books covered more than one semester. A friend who had been my math teacher in the 11th grade was back in college and lined me up with a job in the college cafeteria. I was a really good dishwasher and became a pretty good cook. I also delivered newspapers, shilled for an insurance saleman, worked on other student's cars and wrote papers for those who could not or would not write their own. I was really interested when states started making that last one a crime in the mid-70s. Several of my clients became teachers, I hope not in English. I averaged working 40 hours a week while in college. I paid my college costs through National Defense Loans, money I earned and my big $569 scholarship.

In 1966, a guy from my HS graduated from my college and I went to the ceremony to lend support. His Aunt, who had reared him, brought his draft notice to the ceremony. I decided that ROTC was a better option than the draft and on graduating in 1969, I entered the Army. I made $386 per month. I eventually served 30 years active duty and 2 years in the reserves. I left the Army after 10 years and founded a small retail business that failed in 1981. The main reasons for the failure were the massive inflation and high interest rates of the Carter administration and I had a full medical plan for my employees, unlike my competition. I re-entered the Army, did another 20 years and retired a Colonel. I guess I must have averaged 60-70 hours a week (not counting field duty which was 18 hours a day, 7 days a week) while in the Army and my wife and I were apart for 5 years. I averaged 18 hour days while running the retail business. I also did over a 1000 hours community volunteer work one year while I was in the Army. I coached kid's sports for 8 years, worked with the Boy Scouts for 9 years and served on a HS Academic Boosters Club board.

After retiring from the Army in 2001, I founded a small defense contracting business. I now have four employees with a monthly payroll well over $35,000. No, I don't pay the people that much. I have a good medical plan, pay a high percentage of wages into retirement plans and have to pay social security. I expect to double in size in the next three months. I work from can to can't (6 to 6) most days. If we ever become profitable, we plan to give the employees a fair amount of the profit.

My kids went to state colleges where we paid everything except for the academic scholarships they won. I made too much money for them to qualify for anything other than academic scholarships. (As an aside, my one of my son's two best friends made money on his "minority" based scholarships. His parents were both HS principals and had a family income twice mine. Dang, I can't believe sour grapes crept in here.)

I drive a 10 year old Mazda pickup and my wife's car in 4 years old.

After 51 years of work, I am rich. (Okay, I don't think I am rich, but according to Molly Ivins, etal, I am not only rich, I must have gotten here by exploiting those less fortunate) It only makes sense that my taxes should be higher than those who make less. I should pay about 50% in income and employment taxes, and my property taxes should be raised.

Actually, I don't have a problem with my taxes going up. I will most likely vote for the tax increase although I suspect that I will be in the 10% that does. Heck, if I kept the money, I might be tempted to go out and buy me one of them limosines and get a driver (poor guy, I am probably the world's worst passenger, my wife says I am not much better as a driver) and ride around town looking down on the peons (which I think translates as "workers").

What I don't care to do is listen to any more drivel about how the "rich" got where they are by exploiting the "poor" and how the dastardly Republicans (I am not one) are responsible for the sorry state Alabama is in. This state has been controlled by the Democrats for 120 years. They are the ones who came up with the current regressive sales tax system, the unfair property tax system and the atrocious state constitution and I bet that they are the ones who will defeat the tax plan.

I will do my part. I will work to create jobs, do community service, pay a lot of taxes and make all the money I can.

I may even buy a new pickup in about ten years.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003
It looks like we will be able to move the bedroom furniture back tonight and I will complete the master bath tomorrow night. We have been at this project for six months now. It started as a fairly simple plan to repaint the master bedroom and replace the floor in the master bath. As with most of our projects it got a little out of hand. First, a furniture store where we had bought a couple of pieces said they would provide free decorating advice so we invited them over and they suggested crown molding in both rooms. Not a big deal. I called my old high school buddy Wally and he came over and put in the crown molding. We took up the carpet in the bath to find that the sub-floor had been installed by a psychopath or at least someone who is not a very good carpenter. Old Wally came back and re-did the sub-floor and put in paneling half up the bath wall. We ordered the new flooring, a new vanity and the paint and the past two weekends and most of last week were devoted to getting it all installed. My wife painted both rooms (I am not allowed near paint) and now she is gone to the doctor to see why she cannot feel her right hand and why the pain in her left shoulder is much worse.

Next: We tackle the family room and I install an oak floor in the dining room. I predict at least a year until completion. Janis Gore mentioned that their house needs cleaning. Try not being able to find a couple of rooms.

Indigo Insights posted some political humor that started me thinking about where I fall on the political spectrum. My two long term readers have probably gathered that I am not particularly fond of politicians in general. I was not a fan of George Wallace, but I am convinced that he was correct when he said there is not a dime's worth of difference between the major parties. At age 21, I refused to register to vote because the registration board insisted that I had to pick a party. My family was (and is) yellow dog Democrats convinced that Republicans were rich people trying to steal whatever the poor had left. What I saw was a Democrat administration dedicated to lying about Vietnam and striving to maintain their lock on power and a Republican party that had nothing better to offer. Looking back on my votes for President, I have voted for more Democrats than Republicans, and lived to rue each and every vote except the last and the jury is out on that one.

That said, I don't find most of the things that pass for political humor at all funny. Today I received a link to a site Here that apparently is dedicated to finding and posting instances where G.W. Bush mangled the English language. There are a lot of postings on the site. I would have found it a lot funnier if I were a devout Democrat and if I had not just finished reading the transcript of Howard Dean's Sunday interview with Tim Russert. Dr. Dean mangled the English language several times during the interview. If you read a free flow interview with just about anyone, or listen closely to off the cuff remarks, you will find instances where the language is mangled. I once sat through a four hour interview by an Army historian. It took me six hours to edit the transcript to make complete sentences and put coherent thoughts together and the subject was one on which I am the expert. (Dang, me the expert on a subject! Proves it can't be that important.) My point is most of us mangle the language. We are just fortunate that no one records every thing we say.

I have noticed that political humor of the sort posted by Indigo Insights appeals mostly to what I think of as devotees of one of the political parties. Thus devout Democrats see nothing good from President Bush and devout Republicans saw nothing good from President Clinton. The truth is both men did good and bad.

Michael Bowen is apparently convinced that the Republicans will sink Governor Riley's tax plan and it appears that groups who are nominally Republican are lining up to oppose the plan, but I read that Lucy Baxley, the highest elected Democrat in Alabama doesn't plan to support the plan and may not vote for it in September. The fact is, unless all the senior officials of both parties get behind the plan and spend some time working to ensure its passage, it will be voted down and there is nothing humorous about that.