Thursday, April 26, 2012

The War of Jenkin's Ear

Hanks life in Hell on Earth, a love story often seemed to be going off in all directions with seemingly little hope for better direction other then the misguided efforts of his caseworker on Erebus. This is pretty much the way research on the Internet works.

You go looking for one thing and you may or may not find it but you will find something and that will lead you to something else and something else and something else. Before you realize it, you’ve got a dozen pages open and you don’t even remember what you were originally searching for.

Recently, while bouncing around the Internet —and I do mean bouncing, I came across a war that to the best of my knowledge never made it into the history books. At least none of the ones I had read.

This war preceded the French and Indian War (1754-63) that was fought between the very organized and disciplined English and French forces and their respective allies, the unorganized, undisciplined, sneak up behind you and shoot you in the back Americans and Indians. It was called the “War of Jenkins’s Ear” (1739-1748) and fought between Spain and England, two naval powers of the day, both with heavy investments in the New World.

You might be asking yourself, “How did I miss that war?” You aren't alone.<

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hope For the Holidays-a GI remembers a legend

This is a rewrite from the Virginia Pilot, December 7, 1982. This article was the beginning of a now 30-year off-and-on association with the Pilot and the nearest I've gotten to the intended newspaper career that I wanted and Hank needed in Hell on Earth, a love story.  

Hope For the Holidays
--a GI remembers a legend

In December 1970, I was nearing the end of my first year in the army. It was a strange year. I held none of the then-popular objections to serving in the army. Both my parents had served their country during World War II and I was proud to be doing the same.

But there was one problem. I didn’t really feel that I was walking the same path that they had. So many changes had taken place, and the army had come under so much attack in recent years that it was hard to believe that my army was my father’s army. His had had the support of the entire nation. My army didn’t even have the support of its own members. After one year I was still looking for the missing link.<

Monday, April 23, 2012

Did you ever take a trip, baby, on the Mobile Line?

The Laconia--Lowell's Most Beautiful Bar








This was the sound of thimbles on the fingers sweeping across a washboard to create the noise of the train wheels gaining traction against the rails serving the Mobile line.  It was also the call to put the books away and scrape up a few dollars for the nightly train to the Laconia, Lowell’s Most Beautiful Bar.

The Laconia probably was Lowell’s most beautiful bar at one time—back in the 40’s during the war. But in the 1960’s it was just one bar out of a couple dozen on Moody and Merrimac that made up what was then referred to as “The Acre,” possibly the sleaziest real estate on the east coast east of New York City’s East Side and north of Boston’s North End.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We May Be Rats But We Ain’t Chicken

     You dirty Rat! Try counting all the times you’ve heard that remark. You know, it’s not really fair; the reputation that rats have, I mean. It’s really a disgrace.

And who am I, you ask.

And what do I know about rats.

Well, I’ll tell you. My name is Ralph and I am a rat. And don’t laugh at my name because it also happens to be my father’s name. I guess I’m what you would call a junior only no one has ever called me that.

But that’s beside the point. My big gripe has nothing to do with my name. What rattles my tail is the horrid reputation we rats have. And it’s all the fault of you humans.

Humans have really given rats a bad rap. Why to listen to you guys’ talk you’d think we were the worst things going.

It’s not something new, either. Humans have made the name rat synonymous with scum from day one—even going so far as to make rat the worst degree of scum.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Slugging It Out

A similar version was published in the Virginia Magazine, April 24, 1983. Steve McCracken, a Virginian-Pilot illustrator provided the artwork.

We're always hearing about some animal exhibiting some kind human characteristic or trait. Monkeys can be taught to paint like man, parrots can be taught to sing, dolphins can jump through hoops to earn a fish better than any worker ever dreamed of doing, and snakes can slither like a man—oh wait—that one goes the other way around.

Anyway, when it comes to seeking shelter from the rain, the most manlike of all the animals is the slug.

Slugs are those things found under garbage cans and in flower gardens. Because we tend to see slugs only when it is raining or right after a rain, there is a tendency to think slugs like the rain. This is what I always thought and said as much back in 1958 to my buddy Joe.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Restless Kids and Rainy Days

This is a rewrite of an article that appeared in The Virginia Beach Sun, August 24, 1988.

I think sometimes the biggest overriding factor in raising kids might just be luck.

As the former governor of Maine, James B. Langley’s mother told him at his graduation, “Despite all the honors, there is one circumstance more than any other that will determine the turnout at your funeral. And that will be the weather.

That was luck Mrs. Langley was talking about.

Take summer vacations—please!

Our kids, Jessica, eight; Danielle, six; and Dylan, four were all at the age where they were pretty much confined to the house, the yard and the immediate neighborhood. Kathy and I knew that we would have to have some kind of a plan going into the summer.