Monday, November 30, 2020

Cars? I've had a few.

 Looks like you caught us some new commenters with your Mustang-o-rama drama Saturday, Tuna, Well done. 

 Well. much like one of those commenters, ArtbyJoe, my first car was a '55 4 door Sedan.  Only mine was a Ford. Looking through pictures of those type of cars as best I can remember it looks like it might have been a Customline.

Similar to this. Source

 I suppose at one time it might have been lime green, but when my Grandfather gave it to my Dad in the mid 60's, it had survived 10 years of Denver winters, so was more like a puke-green.  Another gift from those winters to the vehicle was the floor board on the passenger side had a hole rusted through it.  I remember going over the pass on US 85 between Trinidad CO and Raton NM at about 20 MPH, it was all it could do.  Given that Mom and my brother and sisters were driving behind us followed by several peeved drivers of other vehicles, the car became known as the "Super Putt Putt". Dad drove it as his go to work car until he went to Vietnam.  He then bequeathed it to me.  

Unfortunately, the amount of information about cars that I knew nothing about was monumental, and it died shortly thereafter from a lack of oil.  Sold it to the junk yard for $25.  

I got my  next car in my Freshman to Sophomore summer.  I was painting houses at Columbus AFB and Dad and Mom offered to go halves on a car.  We bought a 76 Chevy "Spirit of America" Vega for a couple of grand.

Dang, things change! Back then I had hair and no waist.  Now, I've got lots of waist and no hair!

I paid off my half that summer.  I think I surprised the heck out of my Parents.  Made several trips from Lubbock to Columbus, 915 miles and about 19 hours.  The hatchback was full of cases of Coors as it wasn't distributed then east of the Mississippi.  I was a popular guy with Dad and Mom's friends on those visits.  Dad got transferred to Nellis late in my Junior year and the trip got shorter. 914 miles, still 19 hours. The aluminum block cracked in my Senior year, So I took out a loan for $600 to replace it.  Paid that off by graduation.  While in grad school (1 year wait for UPT), I lent it to a friend who needed it for something.  He got hit in the passenger door by someone running a stop sigh.  Unfortunately, the other driver had no insurance, but he worked at a body shop, so he'd fix it for me.  He fixed the door but not the bent frame.  Top controllable speed after that was 55.  Which is why I KNOW I wasn't doing 75 in the 45 zone in Hondo as the Deputy Sheriff insisted.  Sold her for $100 to one of my UPT classmates who was staying at Laughlin as an IP.

The next vehicle was a 1980 Silver Grand Prix that I bought in Del Rio just prior to graduation from UPT. 



 It was a very comfortable ride,  I drove that for about 9 months through Lead-In and F-4 RTU, but got an assignment to Kunsan.  No cars allowed.  So I left it with Mom and Dad for safe keeping.  Mom fell in love with it.  Returning from Kunsan, I learned that she was reluctant to part with it.  So I sold it to her for the amount  remaining on the loan. Since I'd taken out a 3 year loan and been gone for a year and been paying an additional $100 more per month, She got a good deal.  But, hey, She's my Mom!

Used that money as a down payment on a 1982 Lemon yellow Grand Prix.


 Drove that one from Las Vegas to Moody, where I met my wife, who was driving a Sunbird.  Kept both of them through the Moody assignment and drove them to Holloman.  About a year into that assignment, Little Juvat arrived on the scene.  Since both Mrs J and I were on active duty at the time, we called in a marker and asked Mom to visit for a bit while Mrs J and I figured out the parenting while on active duty thing.  To show our appreciation for her help, we decided to go to Sunday Brunch at the Inn of the Mountain Gods , a resort owned and operated by the Apache Indians in the mountains near Ruidoso NM.  On the way back down after breakfast, Mom and Little J are in the back seat, when he has what can only be described as an "explosive decompression".  Who knew such a little guy could that full of...In any case, Mom was somewhat trapped in the back seat.

Which is why our next car was a four door.  So we decided to sell the Sunbird to one of Mrs J's enlisted folks.

We'd had great success with Pontiac so far and decided to continue the streak with a Pontiac 6000 LE (that's the Luxury Edition, Beans.  It had an FM Radio and 8 track)


 The fighter pilot in me was not ready to give up on the image, so I continued to drive the Grand Prix (2 doors=more sporty).  Mrs J went for the luxury, I mean, FM radio and 8 Track?

Unfortunately (as far as cars are concerned, other aspects of the next assignment were extremely fortunate), our next assignment was Okinawa where cars were again not authorized.  Besides the Japanese drive on the other side of the road.  So, once again, Mom got the car, which was fortunate because the Grand Prix had been totaled by somebody running a stop sign.  We bought a 4 door Japanese something or another that wasn't rusted all the way through.  Salt air having that effect on vehicles.

Now it's finally time for me to pay my dues for 12 good years of flying.  I'm headed to Leavenworth.  (Yes, Beans, the prison is there, several actually.  No, I'm not going to jail...yet). But I need transportation.  Since I'm Air Force and the school I'll be attending is Army, I and my non-Army counterparts have to show up early so we can learn to speak Grunt-ese. (Beans, it's pretty easy, just say "Hoo-ah" to everything.  Inflection is used to convey meaning.)  I'm arriving just as the prior year's class is leaving.  There are lots of cars advertised on the bulletin board.  

I choose a Volvo.  It was an easy decision.  It had seat heaters.  This Texas boy knows it gets cold in Kansas in the winter.  Bought it from a guy in the Portuguese army.  Sold it two years later to a the Portuguese army.  Nice car, shaped much like a tank, which helped me get into the Army mindset.

Mrs J arrives the following summer for her turn at understanding Grunt-ese, bringing with her MBD who's just now turning one.  Little J had decided I needed adult supervision, and had joined me the previous summer.  We were together as a family again.

At this point, Mrs J makes a command decision.  We need a minivan.  

It looked a lot like this one except for tinted windows.  I had some self respect left that I needed to protect.

We've completed school and have received orders to Hawaii (Yeah, I know, tough duty.) The van goes with us, but the nature of my job is going to require a second car.  I'm looking at the bulletin board when my boss walks in.  He tells me he's just been offered a job as the Airfield Manager at Kwajalein.  (Yes, Beans, the Statue of you is still there.) The catch is he has to sell his cars and he's got to be in position in 30 days or so.  Would I take power of attorney and sell them for him?  Sure.  He's got a Toyota sedan and a red Mazda RX-7 convertible.  I ask him how much he's asking for them.  He tells me remaining loan value.  I ask him how long he's got left on the RX-7. 6 Months.



Sold! Drove it home that afternoon.

Kept that car through Hawaii, the Pentagon and 10 years here in Texas.  We're now here in Texas, we own a wine tasting room, run a Wine Tour company, teach school and raise two kids.  I've still got the Mazda, but Mrs J needs something a bit more practical for the wine related businesses.  While the Mazda is a blast to drive, it doesn't have the capacity needed to supply a wine store with product.  So, we buy a Dodge Ram truck, and I start to drive that as the primary car.  Mrs J drives the Mini-van.  The Mazda sits.

Which anyone who knows about the Rotary Engine knows that's a bad idea.  It finally gives up, doesn't start.  There's nobody with in range that knows how to fix it, so I sell it to somebody for next to nothing.  He managed to get it running again and I saw it around town a few times but I heard he'd left town and was living in Wisconsin.  Which I found interesting, one thing the Mazda did not have was a efficient heater.

But...Now I'm driving a truck, not the Ram.  MBD totaled that just after getting her license.  Everyone involved was fine, although she was not so anxious to drive for a while.  No, we bought a used GMC pickup.  Drove that for years.  It fit me like a glove,  had 250K on it when Mrs J sold it to her sister.

I was a little "irked" to say the least.  At least until she had Little Juvat take me down to the Ford dealer in San Antonio and let me buy a new F-150.  

That's Mrs J's Ford Transit Connect in the background.  Everybody involved except Mrs J refers to it as...
The Clown Car


Made the last payment on my truck on the first of this month.  Now, it's mine, all mine!

Sunday, November 29, 2020



But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then shall he send forth the angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.

Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; even so ye also, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that he is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. But of that day or that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. It is as when a man, sojourning in another country, having left his house, and given authority to his [c]servants, to each one his work, commanded also the porter to watch. Watch therefore: for ye know not when the lord of the house cometh, whether at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch. - Mark 12:24-37 (ASV)

The 26th to the Front!

US Army Signal Corps Photo

1st Lt. Nate Paddock woke up and looked around. His first thought was wondering why he was flat on his back at the battalion aid station, he didn't recall being wounded. Then it struck him, he had become violently ill after what had seemed to be a great Thanksgiving meal that regiment had laid on for the troops. What the heck had happened to him?

"Glad to see you're awake lieutenant, you were pretty sick. We were a bit worried about you."

Paddock looked to see who was speaking, as he did so it struck him that it was a female voice. A woman, dear Lord when's the last time he had heard a woman speaking English? He tried to sit up.

"Easy GI, don't want you pulling that IV out. The doctor says it can come out now anyway, but better I do it, less messy that way."

With that the army nurse, for Paddock saw the uniform now, and the captain's bars, began to remove the IV from Paddock's arm. Paddock couldn't help but notice that the captain was quite attractive, she smelled pretty good too!

"There, that should do it for you." She bandaged the spot where the IV had been, then began to tidy up and move on to her next patient.

"How long have I been here Ma'am? And where is here?" Paddock was disorientated. But he noticed that he was clean and, though it was a simple Army cot, he was awfully comfortable.

"Just a couple of days, you were pretty sick, in fact most of your platoon was sick as well. Seems that one of your battalion cooks wasn't as fastidious as he should have been. That food you got for Thanksgiving was contaminated, some of you boys were really sick, but I think you'll all be okay now. The doctor says you can return to your unit today, maybe tomorrow, depends on transport availability. Oh, you're in a field hospital outside Aachen. Any more questions?" She smiled as she said that and Paddock felt better just seeing that smile.

"I'll be back soon with your discharge papers, you can get dressed now if you feel up to it." With that she moved on to her next patient.

"Hey L.T., you gonna lay in bed all day and flirt with nurses or what?"

Paddock turned at the familiar voice and saw his platoon sergeant, Sgt. Stephen Hernandez, coming down the aisle. Even in the dim light of the hospital tent, Paddock could see that the man looked pale as a ghost.

"You get sick too, Top?"

"Coming out both ends L.T., thought I was gonna die, there were points where I kinda wished I would. Most of the platoon got sick, just the guys on sentry duty didn't, they missed out on the big turkey dinner. They're kinda happy they did."

"I hear one of the cooks f**ked up."

"Yessir, he ain't a cook anymore, he now gets to carry a rifle like the rest of us, not in our battalion though, regiment was afraid someone would shoot the bastard. You never know, fellow pops his head up on the line, bad things can happen."

Paddock finished getting dressed, all the clothing was new issue. After he laced up his boots he looked at Hernandez and asked, "Did all the guys get new uniforms, Top?"

"Yessir. Even the guys who didn't get sick, they brought the whole platoon back, Major Josephson wanted to keep us all together rather than attach the guys who were well to another outfit."

"Major Josephson?"

"Yessir, he got promoted, his command of the battalion was confirmed by division as well."

"That's great, now where are..." Before Paddock could ask about his rifle and his other gear, he heard his name called.

"Lieutenant Paddock?"

Hearing that female voice again, Paddock turned, there she was with a number of documents in her hands.

"Here are the discharge papers for you and the rest of your men. All of your weapons and other field gear are over at the armory. There's a couple of trucks waiting over there to take you back up to the line."

Paddock blushed and said, "Thank you, Ma'am. For getting my men back on their feet."

"The name's Edith Parsons, lieutenant. I didn't do it all by myself, there are quite a few other nurses and a couple of doctors you could thank. Not to mention all of the orderlies, your own medic pitched in as well."

"Really, Doc Milbury didn't get sick?" Paddock looked at Hernandez as he asked that question.

"No Sir, remember, Doc was up at regiment getting medical supplies for the battalion. He ate there, said the chow was pretty damned good. Bastard." Hernandez chuckled as he said that.

"Great, so let's round up the guys and get going." Turning to Captain Parsons he said, "Thanks again Ma'am, anything we can do for you, ya know, souvenirs, that kind of thing?"

"Yes, lieutenant, end the damned war so we can all go home." Though she smiled when she said that, Paddock could sense the bitterness lying underneath. He didn't know that Parsons had been a nurse on a pediatric ward in Milwaukee before the war. Dealing with sick kids was a sadness unique to the human condition, but dealing with young men torn and dying from the weapons of war was quite another. She was sick of it all and couldn't wait for the war to end.

"That's what we want too, Ma'am. As fast as is humanly possible, I'm sure you've seen things, but enough of that, thanks Captain, we'll be off now." Paddock couldn't understand why he was so tongue-tied at the moment, and why did Hernandez have that stupid grin on his face?

"Take care of yourself Lieutenant, take care of your boys. I don't want to see you here again, understood?" She smiled as she said that, Paddock thought her smile was pretty special.

"Yes Ma'am, I'll try. Let's go, Top, we have a war to finish."

As they left the hospital tent Paddock turned to his sergeant and said, "You can lose the shit-eating grin now Top."

"Yes Sir, no disrespect Sir, but that Captain Parsons was pretty, real pretty."

"Yeah Top, I noticed. Now the lady said 'end the war,' let's go do that."

"Roger that, L.T."

Major Jürgen von Lüttwitz was exhausted, his unit had just traveled by rail nearly a hundred and twenty-five kilometers. With delays and Allied bombing raids, it had taken his Kampfgruppe four days to travel that distance. After all that, they were only 30 kilometers from where they had started their journey in the Hürtgenwald.

"Herr Major, you'll be pleased to know that the StuG we managed to drag to the rail head and bring with us has been repaired. Somehow the StuG troops 'found' an engine they could use. They just finished installing it and testing it. That beast runs better than it did with the old engine according to Hornbach." Sauer looked nervous as he reported that.

"What's wrong Manfred? You're usually not this skittish. Something bothering you?"

"Jawohl Herr Major, we need to get away from this railyard, the things attract Allied Jabos wie Fliegen auf einen Scheißhaufen."¹

"Yes, I know Manfred, but we must be patient. I've been told to expect new orders and soon. We can move the men away from the yard into Kall² itself, but don't let them disperse too far apart. Where the Hell is the Spieß? He should be making these arrangements, not you."

"Keller is over at the yardmaster's office, paperwork, you know how the Army is. We can't get enough men, bullets, and rations to the front, but the damned paperwork always has to get done." Sauer spat in the mud when he said that.

Von Lüttwitz looked at the commander of his 1st Company's 1st Platoon (the unit was now carried on Army rolls as an independent battle group and no longer attached to the 983rd Grenadier Regiment) and said, "Get Krüger to take care of that, he's been a Spieß far longer than Keller. He should know what to do."

"Jawohl Herr Major, I'll go see him now, he's already got the 2nd Company men bivouacked just outside the town. It's not far, I'll get the rest of the men headed that way in the meantime."

"Very well, also you need to update your uniform."

"Sir?" Sauer looked at his commander in some confusion, what was the man talking about?

"Your promotion to Feldwebel has been approved, division had the paperwork before we left the Hürtgenwald, it went up to Corps and finally made it back to me. Get those new epaulettes on your tunic, until I can find another officer, you have 1st Company. Oh, put these on those epaulettes while you're at it. I couldn't get that approved right away, but it made sense to do so, seeing as how you were jumped over the rank of Unterfeldwebel."

Sauer looked at the two strips of lace, meant to go on his sergeant's epaulettes, they signified that he was now an Offiziersanwärter, an officer candidate.

Sauer's new epaulettes.

In peacetime there would be more to becoming an officer, but Sauer knew, this was definitely not peacetime. If he survived the next few weeks, he figured he would be a lieutenant by Christmas, maybe even before. Not bad for a pig farmer, he thought.


After collecting his rifle and other gear, 1st Lt. Paddock, accompanied by Sgt. Hernandez, headed over to where the trucks were waiting to take them back to the front. He was surprised to see newly promoted Major Alphonse Josephson, commanding the 1st Battalion of the 26th Infantry, standing by a jeep driven by the battalion sergeant major, M/Sgt. Brad Powers.

Paddock walked over to the major, not saluting by force of habit, and extended his hand, "Congratulations on the oak leaves Sir, 'bout time!"

Josephson laughed and said, "I guess so Nate, being a battalion commander is sometimes more trouble than it's worth, but hey, the pay's better! Now, are your guys fit and ready to head out?"

"Absolutely Sir, the docs here cleared us for return to duty. I, for one, am feeling much better, though Sgt. Hernandez looks a might peaked, he says he's ready." Before Paddock could continue, Josephson interrupted him.

"You mean S/Sgt. Hernandez, right?"

Paddock's grin spread over his face, his platoon sergeant now had a rank commensurate with his position. "Really Sir? That's out-f**king-standing!"

"Overdue as well. Now we're going back into the Hürtgen, I'm sure you're as unhappy about that as I am. But we're damned near on the edge of those f**king woods now. The entire battalion is being moved up to an actual castle, Burg Laufenburg according to my S2, who's a bit of a history nut. Built in the 12th Century, pretty much intact. At any rate, we'll muster there and then see what we have to do."

"Damn, an actual castle huh?" Paddock wondered what the bad news would be.

"Yup, according to the G2 up at division, they want the 26th to move up to the line Langerwehe-Juengersdorg-Merode. That'll get us out of the woods and poised to take Düren, which will f**k up the Kraut's logistics a great deal, then push on to Cologne, then across the Rhine. G2 says we'll be facing Kraut paratroops again, but these are mostly kids..."

"And old men?" Paddock asked, he'd heard that line before.

"Negative Nate, this is our old buddies the 3rd Fallschirmjäger Division. We destroyed 'em at Falaise, apparently they've been rebuilt with new recruits. So we can destroy 'em again I guess. Last word I had was that the battalion will be used as a flank guard for the regiment as we have so many new recruits in the ranks."

"Hell Sir, we're starting to be made up of kids and old men ourselves." Paddock observed.

"Seems that way, but our kids are mostly 18-year-olds, our 'old' men are in their 30s, you know the Krauts are fielding a lot of 14-year-olds and guys as old as sixty. Big difference."

"Copy that Sir. When do we move out?"

"Right now Nate, let's get this show on the road."

"Yes Sir! Hey Top, you heard the man, load 'em up, move 'em out!"

Next stop...

Merode, Germany
US Army Signal Corps Photo

¹ Like flies to a dung heap
² The town of Kall is located in the Eifel hills, approximatively 20 km south-west of Euskirchen. Not to be confused with the Kall River in the Hürtgenwald.

Author's Note: Yes, I'm back in the saddle again, feeling much better, thank you. I used the excuse of food poisoning to explain Paddock's absence from the field and the redeployment of von Lüttwitz's outfit in preparation for Die Wacht am Rhein, or the Battle of the Bulge as we knew it. Diverticulitis didn't fit the story line, food poisoning did. Hope y'all had a great Thanksgiving, mine, while less than optimal, was still a time of thanking the Lord for my many blessings.

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

To All the Cars I’ve Loved Before


I tried to wake Sarge, but he just grumbled something about being in a Tryptophan coma so I'm giving him some more time off.  Here's a piece I wrote for the San Diego Mustang Club newsletter.  It's not our usual fare here, but it might be interesting for some of you.  Most all of us have cars so we have at least some interest in them, although maybe not to the extent I express below.   For some car enthusiasts, it's a lifestyle, for others, just a mode of transportation.  I've been on both sides of that, but being an enthusiast is a lot more fun.  I get good SPG-  Smiles Per Gallon. 

I have loved cars since I was a little kid.  In my lifetime I’ve owned my current ride, a 2017 Ruby Red Metallic Ecoboost Premium convertible, a 66 Mustang Convertible, a 67 Fastback, a 1972 Chevy El Camino, a 1980 Datsun 240Z, a 69 Dodge Charger, a 74 Corvette, a 1979 Jaguar XJS, a 73 VW Baja Bug, a 1974 Porsche 911 Turbo, a 1979 TransAm, a 57 T-Bird, a 1975 Ferrari 308 GTB, a 78 Econoline Van, and a 1971 VW Beetle.  Those cars set me on my way to a love of cars in general, vintage cars especially, and Mustangs most of all.   I went all over the world with most of them- in the Alps, the rugged woods of the Pacific Northwest, the streets of Monaco, the Autobahn in Germany, and in my own neighborhood.  Unfortunately, only the first and the last one were cars I was actually able to drive, the rest being my favorite Hotwheels cars of my youth, taking them wherever my imagination drove me. 

That’s where it often starts for us though, as kids with our toy cars, not knowing anything about what’s under the hood, but loving the styling, the lines, the fire-chicken on the hood of a Trans-Am, or the jacked up back-end with the extra wide rear wheels on hot rods.  I saw these cars in the movies (Bullett, Smokey and the Bandit, Bond films), on TV (Magnum PI, Dukes of Hazard, Vegas), and on the streets and roads of San Diego and Southern Oregon where I grew up. I’d see wild ones in CARtoons magazine with Krass and Bernie. I also read about them in my first car magazine subscription- Popular Hot Rodding. I didn’t understand why at the time, but it was the only magazine my mom would let me read.  However, I figured it out once I hit puberty, with cars and hot girls going together like PB&J.  The other mags had a little too much skin for a 10-year-old, but PHR was just about the cars.


Now it's Car and Driver- a magazine I've subscribed to since the late 80s.  I love its motto on the front cover of every edition-  Intelligence, Independence, Irreverence.  Slickly humorous writing which I really like.  Every once in a while a letter to the editor complains about the magazine covering cars that no one can truly afford save for the richest of the rich.  That's part of what the enthusiast likes about it- seeing and learning about cars we can't even come close to.  Maybe they are dream cars, but it's nice to dream.  

It has been a life-long love affair with cars for me, although one that was rarely consummated.  In my early 20s I bought a new Acura Integra, which I loved, but had to sell it as the Navy sent me to Japan for my first duty station after flight training.  Then with a wife and small kids, cars were just tools- practical vehicles that were good family cars- the econobox (some white Japanese things that were basically disposable for them- and cheap for us .mil types), the four-door sedan (a couple Camrys), the mini-van (a new model Odyssey), the four-door pickup (Tacoma) for hauling Boy Scout camping gear.  But I never forgot my first love, the 67 Lime-Gold Mustang convertible with the center console. 

My mom bought it new from the same dealer I used for mine, just 50 years earlier.  I was able to drive it on the back roads of Oregon a couple times, but only while sitting in my dad’s lap. We lost her before I could drive, (the car, not my mom), but I never forgot her. Fortunately, now as empty nesters, practicality doesn’t mean anything.  We have no kids to ferry around, no cargo to haul anymore.  So now I have the car I love, a younger version of my first crush, but perfect in her own way. 

So am I alone in my semi-unreasonable interest in Mustangs, or maybe cars in general?  What do you drive?  What car was your favorite and what do you wish you had or had never let go?

Friday, November 27, 2020

And Now For Something Completely Different!


Sarge is taking a short break.  Maybe so the logistics train can catch up to his infantry, so I'll jump in with my irregular series of something completely different.  Just a hint of my usual fare, then some random musings I’ve had recently.

I am usually the political post-er here on the Chant, and while it isn’t frequent, I do grow weary of always being frustrated by the political goings-on.  I truly enjoy politics though, watching from afar how policy is made, following the election process, how states get a share of our hard-earned tax dollars through federal legislation, and the pork that is often served as a side dish of those laws.  I won’t go into an intensive rant so close to a very filling holiday, but I will toss this out for the record: As much as I believe there was some very illegal activity behind the election, definitely enough to change the outcome, I don’t think there’s enough time to find sufficient evidence of that activity to keep the current occupant in the White House.  Will some software forensics or testimony someday reveal what happened?  Only time will tell, but we have to figure out a better way to secure our elections- starting with Voter ID.  We're repeating history it seems.

I was sorry to hear that Alex Trebek passed away.  While his death after a long fight with Pancreatic Cancer wasn’t a shock, it reminds me again of how fleeting life is.  My mom was a trivia addict.  She watched Jeopardy religiously, loved playing Trivial Pursuit, and would even play those trivia games in a local bar as she enjoyed a glass or two of wine.  She was very smart and well-read, and always amazed me at her breadth of knowledge.  While watching Jeopardy one evening I remember being surprised at her quick answer to a seemingly insignificant question on an obscure topic.  I asked how she knew that and she said it was just one of her “valuable bits of useless trivia” - a phrase I’ve taken on as one of my own when I get the chance to use it.  My mom’s oldest friend from High School and Nursing School down here in San Diego died in January, and her best friend, another trivia buff, passed away in June.  So Alex Trebek’s passing is a little sad for me, for another loss of a cherished connection, and the finality of it.


I heard tell that former champion Ken Jennings will be temporarily stepping into the role as host of Jeopardy.  He's been on recently as one of the people asking a series of questions under a category.  My wife noticed he's been listed in the credits as a Production Consultant.  I'm sure he'll do a fine job, but who could you see stepping into the role?  I think Jeff Goldblum would work well

How was your Thanksgiving?  I can count on one hand the number of times I haven’t spent the holiday in the company of a ton of my relatives.  Just a few this year though, no thanks to COVID.  Not that we’re afraid, nor are we faithful followers of Gov. Gavin “let them eat cake” Newsome.  But we do have a couple of elderly Aunts, and a couple cousins work in the medical field, so we are being cautious.  I’m sort of ambivalent about the vaccine- I’m not worried about getting infected, as I take the appropriate precautions, but I don’t want to be the first one in line.  I need to do some research on the results of the trials though so I have some facts to support/assuage my concerns.  I also want to be sure of how it was developed, with regards to ethical morality and the use of fetal tissue.  Looks like the vaccines developed by Merck, Inovio, Pfizer, and the John Paul II Institute are good to go for me. 

Christmas will be a simple affair for us, but it usually is.  We’re not ones to give or even want big gifts, and I try to focus on the spiritual vice the material.  We’ll have to bundle up for Midnight mass this year since it’ll probably be outside.  No lights in our parking lot though, which may cancel the traditional service, so we may have to hit the early mass.  However, the new and improved Supreme Court just ruled NYC’s ban on religious services unconstitutional so maybe that will trickle down to California.  

Now while I do care more about the reason for the season, it’s not like I don’t want any gifts.  I’ve taken up watching dash-cam videos on YouTube sometimes and there are a ton of really lousy drivers out there.  Criminal ones too.  A front and rear dash-cam is what I’ll ask "Santa" for, if only for the eventual insurance claim.  She doesn’t do tech though so she’ll probably let me pick it out and order it all by myself, so I get exactly what I want.  

We have a very well stocked Navy Exchange down here which is going all out on their online Black Friday sales pitch, offering free shipping or pick up in the store after ordering.  I can even pick up an order at a nearby Navy Mini-Mart and avoid the main store crowds as well.  Two weeks ago my car was broken into and my jacket was stolen.  Well, technically he didn't break in, I stupidly forgot to lock it in a sketchy part of town, so the scumbag just opened the door and grabbed it.  I picked up a replacement coat online at the Black Friday price which actually started on Wednesday.  I'll fill up my tank and pick up the coat on Saturday.  So COVID has at least some benefit.

Anybody else saving a little more money than usual this year?  With a kid out of college, staying closer to home and no vacations this year- again, no thanks to COVID, our family expenses have been considerably reduced from our 2019 levels.  I did have to replace my Surface Pro 3 a couple months back.  Great computer/tablet combo, but it was starting to act up- not turning on, screen edge acting wonky where the magnetic keyboard connected, etc., so I figured it was time.  And I had that extra cash.  We also got a new TV since I shot the old one.  Late last year we attended a James Bond themed Birthday Party for a co-worker and Bond aficionado.  My wife dolled herself up like a Bond Girl, and I wore a white tux jacket, adding a Walther PPK to complete the look.  No, not a real PPK, but an air soft pellet gun.  Last summer I was sitting in my recliner and not treating it as I should have (poor trigger discipline) and sent a plastic pellet into the screen.  What was initially just a small star of dead pixels,  gradually became a widening black line on both the x and y axis out to the edges of the screen.  Fortunately TVs are almost disposable these days, with very good offerings in the few hundred dollar range.

Anyone a fan of George Winston?  My Sis-in-Law posted a link to one of his songs, which I listened to, then wound up listening to a playlist for the rest of the evening.  Good stuff, fitting the mood for me that night.  I put him on during our Turkey dinner as well, which was good ambient music for the holiday.  I had heard of him, but never took a listen.  I'm glad I did.

I miss going to the movies.  I'm not a huge movie buff, but now that we can't go, I seem to miss it more.  That last movie we saw was 1917.  No, not back in 1917, but the war movie!  I enjoyed it very much, but it wasn't so good that I am still savoring it.  I was looking forward to the next Bond flick, and my son and I would usually see the latest superhero offering during our get togethers, but all those are on hold until who knows when.  Damn COVID.  Maybe we should rush out for the vaccine!  

What are you watching on Netflix or Amazon?  I need something good.  Out of boredom the other night I watched Bruce Willis' action flick Hard Kill.  Don't do what I did.  Avoid it at all costs.  It was not good at all.

Well, I seem to run out of random musings, and all my musings now are centered around leftovers.  But before I go I'll leave you with the things I'm thankful for, and an interesting aviation story from the Cold War.

Plus my health, a good job, and a full fridge.  Have a great Thanksgiving weekend.

During the 1980s, the U.S. flew regular SR-71 Blackbird aircraft reconnaissance missions in international waters over the Barents Sea and the Baltic Sea, the latter known as “Baltic Express” missions. On June 29, 1987, during one of those missions, a Blackbird launched from RAF Mildenhall, UK, piloted by retired Lt. Cols. Duane Noll and Tom Veltri, experienced a pretty serious inflight emergency.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Taking Some Time Off From the Story...


I had had such high hopes for this week, it being Thanksgiving and all. Though we hadn't planned on going anywhere and none of the progeny were coming to visit, it was still a few days away from work.

The Missus Herself was even going to make the traditional Turkey Day feast, sans pie, she doesn't care for pie, I do, if we had pie I'd eat all of it, not all at once mind you, but over a few days I'd be gorging on pie. So the ruling from on high was, "No pie." [Sigh] I suppose there's always Christmas...

But now those plans have all been swept from the table.

Sunday night I felt a bit of a twinge in the lower belly, left side. First thought was, "Ah crap, diverticulitis." Went to work Monday and felt okay, decided to check in with my doc anyway. Glad I did, Tuesday I was most assuredly "not fine."

This isn't the worst bout of this illness I've ever had (that one cost me a big chunk of intestine) but it's still annoying as Hell. Clear liquid diet for Thanksgiving?!?!

Damn the bad luck.

While I don't feel bad, I don't feel good either. Most assuredly I don't feel creative. (Uncle Herzig paid for my ill temper yesterday.)

So it's a few days of sparse to maybe nothing at all here at The Chant.

Believe me, it ain't you, it's me.

I'm just not up to it.

Be back soon, hopefully. (Well, as soon as the antibiotics kick in, knock on wood.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The Uncle


Unteroffizier Manfred Sauer, 1st Platoon leader, his platoon messenger, Grenadier Stefan Holzbauer, and the leader of Sauer's 1st Squad, Gefreiter Karl-Heinz Köhler, were standing at the side of the muddy road leading from the nearest village into the forest. They were watching the crewmen of two of the Kampfgruppe's StuGs cutting branches and strapping them onto their vehicles in an attempt to break up the outline.

Sauer turned towards the village when he heard the engine on a Kübelwagen struggling through the mud on the road. He saw the little vehicle sliding around in the thick mud but making headway nonetheless. He wondered what the two men in the small car were up to and where they had come from. That's when he noticed the license plate on the front.

"Scheiße, it's the damned SS."

Köhler turned and saw the vehicle, he looked at Holzbauer and leaned over and told him, "Go tell the Major that the asphalt soldiers¹ are in town."

Holzbauer looked at Sauer, who nodded, then he hurried off to find Major von Lüttwitz, the Kampfgruppe commander.

"I wonder what these boys want, Opa." As the vehicle slid to a stop near the two men, an SS officer stepped from the car.

"Unteroffizier! Is this Kampfgruppe von Lüttwitz?" As he said this his arm swept over the vehicles and men scattered through the small clearing.

Sauer stood to attention, as did Köhler. "Jawohl Herr Standartenführer². How can we help you?"

As the SS officer removed his cap to brush his hair back, Sauer noticed that when the sleeve of his field jacket slid up, it revealed the cuff title on the man's tunic. These guys were not with the Leibstandarte but were with the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich. "We are looking for the men who were with Oberleutnant Herzig when he was killed. I am his uncle, SS-Standartenführer Walter Herzig. I received word just yesterday that the boy was killed in action. As we were not far away, I decided to come over and ask a few questions. That shouldn't be a problem, yes?"

The overcast was starting to break up. Captain Horace Miller of the 513th Fighter Squadron looked to his right to make sure his wingman was still out there. They'd nearly got separated flying through this soup on the way here. He was relieved that the weather boffins had actually gotten the forecast right for a change.

Miller heard the crackle in his headset as his second element leader checked in, "Blue Leader, Blue Three, I have you in sight, we're at your 8 o'clock low."

"Roger three, close it up, the clouds are starting to clear. The weather guessers nailed it, strong wind out of the west is pushing this crap over Hitler-land. Time to ruin some Kraut's day!"

As Sauer started to answer the SS officer, he heard the sound of engines, aircraft engines. "Everybody, off the road, cover!!" he bellowed. As he and Köhler dashed for the cover of a small stand of trees, he turned to the two SS men. "Hide you idiots! That's a flight of Jabos!"³

As Sauer and Köhler rolled in under the trees, Köhler looked back at the road. The SS colonel was shading his eyes from the increasing afternoon light as he tried to make out the incoming aircraft.

"Get down Standartenführer!!" Opa screamed at the man.

Miller had his gunsight pipper on what looked like an assault gun sitting on the track up ahead. Easing his stick down a bit further, he noticed that there were two assault guns and what appeared to be a car sitting on the track.

He pulled the trigger and watched as his rounds walked over both assault guns and then into a man standing next to the car. He had to wonder what that idiot had been thinking.

The first StuG hit by the American aircraft had no more damage than scratched paint, the angle had been too shallow. The second vehicle wasn't so lucky. A number of .50 caliber slugs tore into the engine compartment and started a fire.

Sauer heard the strikes on the two armored vehicles and looked up in time to see the SS officer get shredded by the machine guns of the strafing American P-47. His vehicle wasn't hit by the first aircraft, but it too was shredded when the second American aircraft fired. The driver was killed instantly and the small car was set on fire when a round went through the car's fuel tank.

Sauer buried his face in the ground, expecting the car to explode in flames. Surprisingly enough, it did not.

SdKfz 10/5 mounting a 2 cm Flak 38 cannon

"Shit! Blue lead, break left, Kraut Ack-Ack in the woods!"

Miller pulled hard on his stick and shoved the throttle forward, he just had a glimpse of tracer rounds passing under his aircraft, Two had just saved his bacon.

His wingman wasn't as lucky, he had just started to break up and to his right when five rounds from the German anti-aircraft gun slammed into his engine. The big piston engine coughed once, then again, then caught and began to run, though roughly.

"Lead, Two, I gotta get this bird on the ground."

"Roger that, Blue Flight, Lead, let's go home."

"What the Hell was that?" Opa Köhler exclaimed.

Sauer turned from the spectacle of the two dead SS men and told Köhler, "One of the Major's new toys, they showed up this morning, two of 'em. Sonderkraftfahzeug 10 slash 5, that was a 2 centimeter pill that Ami pilot swallowed, damaged him but didn't kill him. Those 47s are tough birds.

"Yup, saw those f**kers in Normandy, killed most of my old unit in the Falaise Cauldron. Where the Hell did the Major find those?" Köhler had to wonder at the Major's ability to scrounge men and equipment for the Kampfgruppe.

"Apparently they were sitting on a rail siding with their crews. The guys were awaiting orders so the Major asked for them, the colonel running the railyard said to take them, he needed the rail cars they were on. So here they are. Oh, speak of the devil." Sauer stood, brushing the mud and dirt from his uniform as he did so.

"Herr Major." Sauer nodded at von Lüttwitz, then at the burning Kübelwagen.

"Who are those men, Manfred?"

"Apparently the one in the road was Herzig's uncle. He wanted to know what happened to his nephew I guess. We didn't get to tell him anything. Those Jabos came in, we dove for cover, and the NSFO's uncle just stood there, like it's a show or something." Sauer shrugged, as if he didn't care one way or another for the fate of two random SS officers.

Von Lüttwitz looked at his StuGs, the one which had been hit had smoke coming from the engine compartment, but the crew had extinguished the fire. No one in either StuG crew had been injured, but the vehicle with the damaged engine would be a problem, von Lüttwitz thought, where do I get parts for the damned thing?

As the Major went to check on his armor, Köhler looked at the dead man in the road, then turned to Sauer, "The Amis really don't like the Herzig family, do they?"

"Apparently not. Let's get the driver out of the car before he cooks. Then we need to get a detail to bury these two men. I don't want dead SS men stinking up our bivouac." As Sauer went to start pulling the driver out, it was another officer he noticed, he heard Opa say.

"Yes, dead SS men smell bad, even worse than the live ones, what would the neighbors think?"

¹ "Asphalt soldiers" was a derisive term for the SS Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, a unit which started life as Hitler's personal bodyguard. As such they pulled a lot of ceremonial duties in Berlin. The name may be apocryphal, but I've seen the term in more than one place.
² Colonel in the Waffen SS.
³ Jabo = Jagdbomber = Fighter bomber

Author's Note: The other day SCOTTtheBADGER mentioned the travel lock on the StuG IV. Me, in my awesome ignorance, went out for a casual once around the Internet and didn't see any combat photos of the travel lock on the StuG IV, so I assumed it was a "museum thing." What an arrogant ass am I! Since then I see those travel locks all over the place, especially on the StuG III! Look at the lead in photo on this post. Yup, travel locks. I have to remember not to pull the trigger on my comments so quickly. And not assume I know everything. Silly me...

Link to all of The Chant's fiction.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

What the Hell Is That Guy Doing?


Pfc. Herman Shapiro and Pvt. Robert Jennings were sharing a foxhole forward of the front line. A listening post they were told, another man had called it an observation post. Shapiro had thought it odd that the L.T., 1st Lt. Nathan Paddock, had sent both of the platoon messengers out on outpost duty. He'd mentioned that to the platoon sergeant, Sgt. Stephen Hernandez, who was quick to point out the logic of what the lieutenant was doing.

"Look Herm, you and Bob are buddies right? Bob is green as Hell and you're teaching him how to do his job and stay alive, right"

"I get that Sarge but we're messengers, we should be back at the platoon CP with the L.T., case he needs to send a message." Shapiro could be argumentative at times, Hernandez understood it was just his way of making you explain yourself. It was irksome, but he was a good kid who worked his ass off when needed.

"Hey, he's got the radio right? It's not like we're spread out all over Hell and gone is it? When the boss says everybody does outpost duty, he means everybody. Would you want Bob out here with one of the platoon guys? A guy he doesn't know?"

"Yeah, okay, you're right Sarge."

Now they were out in front of the platoon, with their borrowed field glasses they had a clear view of the German entrenchments on the next ridge. At the moment Jennings was using them, he had been scanning the other side when he stopped, Shapiro heard him mutter something.

"Whattaya got Bob?"

Handing over the field glasses, Jennings said, "Take a look, near that big pine. What the Hell is that guy doing?"

Shapiro took the field glasses and looked towards where Jennings had said, sure enough, there was a Kraut, an officer from the looks of him, squatting in front of the German trench, waving his hands around while he looked down at the guys in the trench.


Oberleutnant Erwin Herzig was squatting in front of the trench, he had been inspecting the lines when he'd heard the two young soldiers complaining about their rations. He had taken it upon himself to instruct these young men as to the importance of sacrifice.

"Did you know that people on the Home Front are also making great sacrifices for the war effort? Sometimes they don't eat as well as we do here at the front. The Führer demands that the entire Reich support the war effort, how dare you complain about the food, you are eating better than the people back home!"

Paulus Ackner, a 16-year old Grenadier from Aachen, now behind the American lines, looked at his friend Grenadier Günter Schmidt, a 17-year old from Silesia, in amazement. Before he could utter a word, the NSFO spoke again.

"Do you have something to add to the discussion Ackner? You are from Aachen, I've seen your record," turning to the other men in the trench Herzig shouted, "I've seen all of your records!"

Herzig continued, "I'm surprised you haven't been brought up on charges for abandoning your city. No doubt your family are all doing slave labor for the Americans now, if they haven't been shot already!" Herzig had nearly screamed that last phrase, the flecks of spittle sprayed the men nearby as he ranted at the two young soldiers.

Ackner said, "I wasn't in Aachen when it fell, I was here, in the Hürtgenwald undergoing training and..."

"Excuses, my dear boy, will not save you. The Führer demands..."

"The Führer demands far too much of these lads, Herr Oberleutnant. And you really should get down in the trench, we are in clear view of the American lines here." Unteroffizier Manfred Sauer, commanding the 1st Platoon, the platoon which the two young soldiers belonged to, said casually. His MP 40 machine pistol was pointed in a direction which the NSFO took as a threat.

"How dare you Unteroffizier!" As he said that, he stood up, hands on his hips, trying to look menacing.

Shapiro had sent Jennings back to bring up the platoon's sniper team, recently promoted Corporal Charlie Gammell and his spotter Pfc. Jackson "Bear" Hebert. He'd been intercepted by Sgt. Hernandez, who quickly approved the idea.

Gammell was watching through his rifle scope, he chuckled and said, "Guy looks like a Kraut officer, but he's dancing around like a damned monkey."

Hebert chimed in, "Yup, I can't make it out really well, but by his cap and the epaulettes on his greatcoat, guy's a company grade officer. Top?"

While technically Sgt. Hernandez wasn't a first sergeant, or "top" sergeant, he was the top NCO in the platoon, so a lot of the men had started to call him "Top." He didn't mind, he had come up with the sniper team and had been watching the antics of the German on the other side through his own field glasses. "What the Hell is that guy doing, trying to get killed?"

"I say we oblige him Top, he has a death wish, who are we to deny him?" Shapiro hated the Nazis, not quite with the intensity of Cpl. Katz, but as a Jew he knew them to be the enemy of his blood.

Hernandez tapped Gammell on the shoulder, "Take him Charlie..."

Sauer blinked as he felt wetness splash over his face, he had heard a wet "splat" at the same time. The Oberleutnant had a surprised look on his face, what was left of his face anyway, as a large part of it had been ripped apart by an enemy bullet.

Herzig's head had snapped to his left, stunning him, he was still very much alive, though he was in shock and didn't quite understand what had just happened to him.

Gammell swore as he worked the bolt on his M1903 Springfield, "F**king gust of wind."

He settled his cheek into the butt stock of his rifle, let out his breath and squeezed the trigger. The report of the rifle surprised him, as it always did.

Sauer hated this prig of a Nazi, but that didn't stop him from reaching up to pull Herzig down into the trench, at the same time he bellowed, "Sanitäter!"¹ As he reached up and gripped the Oberleutnant's greatcoat sleeve, Herzig grunted. Sauer heard a dull "thunk," a sound familiar to him when he had been a pig farmer with his father. It sounded as though someone had hit Herzig in the back with a meat cleaver.

Herzig's eyes were looking from one side to another, he wasn't seeing anything really, just blurs, things were happening much faster than his brain could process them, yet, time seemed to have slowed as well. He was thinking of his home as the second American bullet took him squarely in the back, deflecting down off his shoulder blade, passing through his left lung, then deflecting down into his liver, where it stopped.

A great gout of blood spurted from Herzig's mouth as the blood from his destroyed lung had nowhere else to go but up his throat. He couldn't breathe and the pain from his wounds overrode the shock.

Sauer had him on the bottom of the trench now.

"Damn it Herzig, stay with me! Sanitäter!! Where the f**k is Krause!!" Sauer was gripping Herzig's hand, he couldn't see, other than the poor bastard's ruined face, where else he was hit. It had all happened so fast.

"Sauer, move!" Unteroffizier Peter Krause, the Sanitäter, jumped into the trench. Gefreiter Karl-Heinz Köhler, "Opa" to the men, was with him. It had been his squad this idiot Nazi had been haranguing.

"Roll him!" Krause ordered, pulling on the injured man's left arm to see his back. The facial wound, while extremely painful, didn't look fatal, even though most of the man's right cheek was missing. When he had Herzig on his back, he saw the entry wound. "Scheiße!"

Krause used his combat knife to cut Herzig's greatcoat and tunic open. Herzig had been hit high up on the left side, Krause thought that the bullet had probably deflected off of his shoulder blade then down into his lung. Herzig coughed and another gout of blood spilled all over Krause's trousers.

"Opa, we need a stretcher, I can't begin to treat this man other than to plug this wound, he's bleeding internally." Köhler immediately climbed from the trench and went to get a stretcher, there was one not far away, maybe twenty meters. Krause checked Herzig's pulse again.


"Shit, shit, shit!" Krause screamed in frustration, throwing the bloody wad of cloth he had been using to try and stem the bleeding from Herzig's back.

Köhler had returned with the stretcher, but he saw it was no longer needed. The young NSFO's eyes stared blankly to the overcast skies above. He would torment the company no more.

"Nice shot Charlie, you got him high up on his back, definitely a kill shot." Hebert had watched through the field glasses as Gammell's first round sent the enemy officer's cap flying, snapping the man's head to the left. Then he'd watched as the second round had dropped the enemy officer to his knees.

Hernandez, Shapiro, and Hebert had watched the scene play out through their field glasses some 200 yards away. Gammell had seen everything through his rifle scope. He'd chambered another round as he didn't think the target was dead, just hit real bad. Then he'd seen the man pulled down into the trench by unseen hands.

He hadn't fired when the German medic and another man had jumped into the trench, they'd come out of the brush behind the trench too quickly for that, also the medic's vest and helmet were clearly white and marked with the red cross. That had made him hesitate for just long enough that the shot wasn't worth taking.

When the second man had jumped back up and run to the rear, Hernandez had told Gammell to hold his fire. "We did enough, we don't want to give away our position, they have snipers too."

"You tried to save the man?" Hauptmann Jürgen von Lüttwitz asked, somewhat incredulously, "I thought you hated him?"

Sauer looked down at his boots, Herzig's blood was all over him, "I did hate him Sir, but when he got hit, I acted the same as I would with any man. I mean, would you have done differently Sir?"

"No, I don't suppose I would have." Von Lüttwitz sat down heavily at his desk, another letter to write. What would he say about this young man whom nearly everyone in the company was either afraid of, or despised? What could he write to this boy's parents?


Shaking himself from his brief reverie, von Lüttwitz looked up at his old comrade, "What is it Manfred?"

"When you write the letter, don't lie to them about their son. I mean his father is a party big shot or something, right? Tell them he died a good National Socialist. I mean, that's all he was good at wasn't it? He certainly wasn't a soldier." Sauer finished his little speech, and waited.

"Well, he's the best sort of National Socialist now, isn't he?"

"Yes Sir, that he is." With that, Sauer snapped his heels together and saluted. Turning, he left his commander to his letter writing.

¹ Medic!!

Author's Note: Beginning with this post I'm going to start using the official U.S. Army abbreviations for the men's ranks. I haven't done that before, I'm starting now, I have been remiss. Better late than never, neh? The source of which is here. Well, one of the sources. That one has some good pay information as well.

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