One Of Those Moments

You know, this morning when I read about the Gaza-Blockade-Runners’ shoot-out – I kept thinking that this may be Israel’s “Let it all be done” moment … and thinking of the moment in the 1998 movie “Elizabeth” when Elizabeth I said exactly that. It’s at about 8:00 in the clip…

Was this Israel’s -nothing to loose, so might as well act and let the stuff fall where it does – decision? Discuss in comments.

Ceremonial Bushwah

I was going to rant about President Obama sending Joe Biden to Arlington for Memorial Day, while he spends a well deserved weekend in Chicago.

When you care enough to send the very best you send your second banana in your stead. 

But then Richard Fernandez did it for me and he did in a very non-ranty way and it is an actual pleasure to read.

So go read ‘Memory and Survival’.

Besides - he’s going to lay a wreath at Lincoln Cemetry.  And hey, that’s okay.  One national cemetary is just like another.  Just a buncha dead guys in a stone garden.  The headstones look the same.  Hey lay a wreath here, lay one there, it’s all the same.  Just some ceremonial foolishness – hand salute, lay the wreath, hand on the heart, moment of silence then back in the limo.  Who gives a fuck, really.

Tell you what: just to keep the Commander In Chief from being bothered with trotting out to Arlington or Lincoln or where-the-fuck ever … next year we can lean a headstone against the fence in his backyard.  Monday when he feels up to it he can mosey outside, toss on a wreath and call it a day.

Cross posted to Space For Commerce.

Yes Gunny, that is bad ass

From the video description: Against GySgt Wallgreens request I recorded his speach in secret….. the result is this awesome video with the last words we heard before boarding helos and heading into the heart of Marjeh. Have you ever wondered how Marines get pumped up? This video will show you how true leaders inspire their Marines to do the unthinkable.

And that ain’t no crap, Suzy Sunshine.

Where do we get men such as these?

Via.

Cross posted to Space For Commerce.

Another, Really?!! Moment

With all the other things going on:  President Obama’s running away from Washington to Chicago; This administration making post-Hurricane Katrina look successful; The Obama Presidency throwing former President Clinton under the bus in the Sestak sleaze-fest.  You may have missed this bit of news yesterday.

I received this from the HQ NORAD/NORTHCOM GROUP on Facebook and…and…I had to laugh.  Yesterday the White House released their National Security Strategy.  On the White House Blog, the title of the post that announces the release of the strategy is, and I couldn’t make this up myself if I wanted to:

“A BLUEPRINT FOR PURSUING THE WORLD THAT WE SEEK.”

What amazes me is that we all know that there were meetings about this.  There was brain-storming.  If nothing else, this administration knows the value of a well-turned phrase so they WORK at it.  THIS is what they came up with.  It’s the best they could do.  So basically, they’re not even doing the image thing very well anymore.

Tales of Texas: Lexington on the Guadalupe

A stern and unvarnished accounting of the bare facts of the encounter known as the Battle of Gonzales, or the “Come and Take it Fight” would make the proceedings rather more resemble a movie farce than a battle. But almost at once, that encounter on the banks of the Guadalupe River was acknowledged by those involved and historians ever since, as the Lexington moment in the Texas War for Independence. In brief – late in the fall of 1835, a party of about a hundred Mexican soldiers from the military presidio in San Antonio de Bexar attempted to repossess one small 6-pound iron (or possibly bronze) cannon from the civil authorities in Gonzales. It was the second request; the original one had been backed by only five soldiers and a corporal. The cannon was old, had been spiked and was generally useless for making anything other than a loud noise. It had been issued to Green DeWitt’s colonists out of the military arsenal some five years previously, when the American settlers on Green DeWitt’s impresario grant feared Indian raiders, and the Mexican authorities did not have such a high degree of apprehension over what those obstreperous Americans were getting up to.

The Anglo-Texian residents of Gonzales first stalled the request for the cannon’s return, suspecting that the true motive behind the request was an attempt to disarm, or at least intimidate them. They appealed to higher authorities on both sides, asked for an explanation, finally refused to turn it over, and sent to the other Anglo settlements in Texas for aid in making their refusal stick. They hid all the boats on the river on their side, baffling the Mexican commander, one Lt. Francisco de Castaneda – for the Guadalupe was swift and deep at that point. He struck north along the riverbank, looking for a shallower place where he and his force could cross – but in the meantime, companies of volunteers from other Anglo-Texian settlements had been pouring into Gonzales – from Mina (now Bastrop) from Beeson’s Crossing, from Lavaca and elsewhere. There were well over a hundred and fifty, all of whom had dropped whatever they were doing, as farmers, stockmen, merchants and craftsmen – and hurried to the westernmost of the Anglo settlements. That they arrived so speedily and with such resolve was of significant note, although their eventual encounter with Castaneda’s soldiers was somewhat anticlimactic. The two forces more or less blundered into each other in morning fog, in a watermelon field. One of the Texian’s horses panicked and threw it’s rider when the soldiers fired a volley in their general direction. The rider suffered a bloody nose – this was the only Texian casualty of the day. A parley was called for, held between Castaneda and the Texian leader, John Moore, of present-day La Grange (who had been elected by the men of his force, as was the custom – a custom which remained in effect in local militia units all the way up to the Civil War). The lieutenant explained that he was a Federalista, actually in sympathy with the Texians – to which John Moore responded that he ought to surrender immediately and come over to the side which was valiantly fighting against a dictatorial Centralist government. The Lieutenant replied that he was a soldier and must follow orders to retrieve the cannon. Whereupon John Moore waved his hand towards the little cannon, which had been repaired and mounted on a makeshift carriage. There was also a brave home-made banner flying in the morning breeze, a banner made from the skirt of a silk dress. John Moore’s words echoed those on the banner, “There it is on the field,” he said, “Then come and take it.” At his word, the scratch artillery crew, which included blacksmith Almaron Dickenson (who within six months would be the commander of artillery in the doomed Alamo garrison), fired a mixed load of scrap iron in the general direction of Castaneda’s troops. Honor being satisfied, Lt. Castenada retired, all the way back to San Antonio, doubtless already writing up his official report.

No, they won’t give the damned thing back, they’ve fixed it, and they’re bloody pissed off and demonstrated that with vigor. I have the honor to be yr devoted servant, Lt. F. Castaneda, and no, don’t even think of sending me out to truck with these bloody Americans again – they are really pissed off, they have guns and there are more of them than us!

So, yes – pretty much an anticlimax. The Texians had nerved themselves up for a bloody fight, and in six months they would get it. But why the “Come and Take It Fight” got to have the considerable press that it has in the history books – the history books in Texas, anyway – it’s a bit more complicated than the bald narrative of a couple of days in the fall of 1835 on the banks of the lower Guadalupe River might indicate.

By that year, the American settlers, or Anglo-Texians who had been taking up grants of lands in Texas for almost ten years were getting entirely too obstreperous for the peace of mind of centralist and conservative, top-down authoritarians such as General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. In a way, it was a clash between two mind-sets regarding civil authority and the proper involvement of ordinary citizens in the exercise of it. One favored central, top-down authority by well-established and ordained elites. Those lower orders did as they were ordered by their betters – and no back-talk allowed. The other mind-set, that of the Anglo-Texian communities – had no truck or toleration for political elites, practically no stomach for doing as they were ordered, and felt they had a perfect right to concern themselves with the running of their communities. This appeared as the rankest kind of sedition to the central government in Mexico City, sedition and revolution which must be firmly quashed . . . only the more they quashed, the greater the resentment and deeper the suspicion, which resulted in more meetings, fiery letters and editorials, stronger determination to manage their affairs themselves, and finally drove even Stephen Austin into open rebellion. He had always been the conciliatory towards Mexican authority, and the most exasperated with American hot-heads looking to pick a fight with that authority, but at long last, even his patience had reached a snapping point. A year-long stint in prison on vague suspicions of having fomented an insurrection and another year of restriction on bond to within Mexico City had soured him on agreeable and gentlemanly cooperation between the Anglo-Texians and the Centralistas.

Pardoned and released, Austin returned to Texas just as the Mexican government led by Lopez de Santa Anna decided to crack down, once and for all. A large military force led by Santa Anna’s brother-in-law, General Martin Perfecto de Cos was dispatched to sort out why Texians were not paying proper import duties on imported goods, end all resistance to the Centralist government, and arrest the most vociferous critics of the Centralist administration and the Napoleon of the West, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. It was rumored among the Anglo Texians that among General Cos’ baggage train were 800 sets of shackles and chains, intended for the use of bringing prisoners back to Mexico for trial and execution. The demand for the return of the Gonzales cannon came just at the very time that General Cos had landed with his soldiers, and was marching towards San Antonio, as the seat of civil and military authority in Texas. Farcical, anticlimactic and slightly ridiculous as the “Come and Take It Fight” was – it was still the spark that set off serious and organized resistance among the Texians. And within six months, the war which threatened would become all too real and all too tragic, especially for Gonzales – which eventually suffered the loss of a good portion of leading citizens – and even the physical town itself.

Other fine imports include Guinness and the Dropkick Murphys

Boycotts are awesome.  A very American [1] institution.  Economic freedom rocks!

 Until the boycotted fire back.  Arizona Corporation Commission member Gary Pierce to the City of Los Angeles

If an economic boycott is truly what you desire, I will be happy to encourage Arizona utilities to renegotiate your power agreements so Los Angeles no longer receives any power from Arizona-based generation.

I am confident that Arizona’s utilities would be happy to take those electrons off your hands. If, however, you find that the City Council lacks the strength of its convictions to turn off the lights in Los Angeles and boycott Arizona power, please reconsider the wisdom of attempting to harm Arizona’s economy.

I bet Los Angeles would miss 25% of it’s electric power way more than Arizona will miss the revenue Los Angeles sends to Arizona.

[1] Yes, the boycott was invented in Ireland.  So what?

Cross posted to Space For Commerce.

Tea Partied – Party Deux

You know, it amuses the bitter cynic within me, that of the critics, pundits and just plain bloviating a-holes of both the professional and ungifted amateur varieties who felt the urge to charge out there and start opining on the Tea Parties, and the people who participated in them – damn few of them appeared actually to have gone to a real Tea Party protest for longer than about twenty minutes. In the case of news professionals, those seem to have remained just long enough to shoot the footage and scoot back to the studio or newsroom. Few of the national mainstream media geniuses felt a need to talk in depth to anyone who participated in any of the planning for same, or read any of the various Tea Party websites and newsletters. Too much trouble to actually search out some genuine representative samples, apparently – easier just to talk to some self-identified expert already in the rolodex, and come up with a superficial judgment based on two or three minutes of TV news camera footage.

I do have to admit, while this has provided an irony-rich environment for me over the last eight months – it seems to have left the national main-stream media and those of the leftoid persuasion floundering in a sea of misconceptions: Those awful, horrible, rude Tea Party people! They-they’re dumb! They’re a put-up job by Faux News! They’re red-neck, bitter-clinging white men! They’re raaaacists! They’re potentially violent! They have no real program other than expressing their resentment of a Black Man being in the White House! They don’t think! They’re a bunch of religious nutters! They’re a front for the GOP/the health insurance industry! They’re a crop of Dick Army-corporate supported astroturf! Und so weider, und so weider, so on and so forth. Myself, I came away from the experience of reading what was said about the Tea Parties and what I knew from first-hand immersion with bad case of existential whip-lash.

Our events were jolly and laid-back, kind of like the largest neighborhood block party in the world. We very carefully picked up the trash, policed ourselves for threats of violence and intemperate talk about secession. Not a GOP party front, or a shill for any media network; most of us were angry at both organized political parties. Racial-hate element? Oh, please. For all that the CBC and elements of the frothing media keep insisting on it by comparing the Tea Parties to the KKK, actual, verifiable evidence for that is pretty thin on the ground. We were funded by small donations from individuals. There’s no national leadership calling the shots, no big corporate sugar-daddy, no paychecks for any of us. Frankly, there’s not enough money in any slush-fund, no matter how humongous to pay for what we did as volunteers, and go ahead: multiply that among Tea Parties in other towns and other states. It turns out also, according to a CBS/NY Times poll (which actually surveyed real Tea Partiers- whotta shocka!) that the average Tea Party activist tends to be a little better educated than the average American, and in another recent poll that a large proportion of the ground to mid-level organizers are women. I have tried to explain various elements of this, to people who fall somewhat along the leftish side of the spectrum, and seem to pride themselves very much on their intelligent toleration for everyone who agrees with them. Nope – no credence given for the evidence of my own lying eyes.

This kind of serial misunderstanding, dismissing the Tea Parties out of hand as just another unfocused temper tantrum, has come at something of a cost in credibility for the mainstream national media: is it a coincidence that MSNBC’s ratings are tanking, readership of the NY Times is down, and Newsweek is on the block? Granted, coincidence is not necessarily causality – but still . . . people who are Tea Partiers, and those who only sympathize with them have very little appetite for being continually denigrated, ridiculed and marginalized. And that portion of the public who still retains any faith and credence in mainstream media outlets may be in for an unpleasant surprise. We do more than just protests. There’s been an effort gathering steam over the last eight or nine months, as more and more people inside the Tea Party organizations sat down and thought about it, working at the local level to support candidates who support the small-government-strict-constitutionalist-free-market POV. Not a third-party; that way lies disaster, but to work at the local caucus level, to get the word out about viable candidates in ones’ own and other districts – candidates who perhaps might see a term or two in the House or Senate as a citizen’s temporary duty, rather than a thirty or forty-year long career. You don’t have to believe me, of course – free country, still – but don’t be surprised, come November. I will have told you so.

An Obama, Really?!, Moment

President Obama today stated that “taking the fight to the enemy seemed to be changing the momentum of the insurgency.” Yes Mr. President, actually fighting the enemy usually works better than letting them attack you without a response. Are you SURE you spent time in Chicago?

Posted in War

Woops

Ya know for two days I’ve been looking at pictures of Elena Kagan and wondering why all the news agencies kept posting pictures of this doffus looking guy.  I finally read closer today.  Ummm, sorry ma’am, in my defense I DO have an eye doctor’s appointment on Friday.

Gone To Texas – Chapter 4: Gonzales

(I am pulling ahead full-bore on this WIP for now, as my partner and I at the Tiny Publishing Bidness are planning on using one of my books as our first venture into working with the printer-distributor Lightening Source. Enjoy!)

Every evening, sundown lingered a little later and a little later more, and for a week, Mama had been waiting. She never said as much, but Margaret knew. Papa had said he would return and take them all into the far west to Mr. DeWitt’s colony, and so when Mama finished reweaving the red-wool blankets, she did not start another weaving, for what would be the use of that? As soon as Papa returned, they would take apart the loom, re-pack the wagons and resume the journey. For several weeks, she and Margaret had occupied their afternoons, when school was done and she and Carl had finished whatever studying had been required, by firmly stitching a narrow binding of calico cloth around the raveled edges of the blanket-lengths. After supper every evening, she and Mama picked up their sewing once again, until it was too dark to see, and the swifts had begin their darting, almost unseen against the darkening indigo sky.

Margaret never forgot the day when Papa returned from the farthest west, cheerful and invigorated, as if all of his fury and disappointment with Mr. Austin had been but a bad dream. He was still resolved upon removing to Mr. DeWitt’s settlement, which news sent Margaret’s heart sinking down into her toes. He and Rudy arrived on an early evening in late April in company with a handful of other horsemen, when the trees had finally put out all of their tender green leaves, and the meadows around San Felipe were deep in rich grass, all touched with gold by the setting sun. Two of them were Mexican; young men clad all in black, their trousers and short jackets trimmed with many bright silver buttons, with sashes of brilliant silk knotted around their waists. There was silver on their horse’s saddles and bridles too; the men all waved farewell from the roadway, as Papa and Rudi tied the reins of their own horses to the rough-hewn wooden fence rails which marked the boundary between the street and the dooryard. Margaret and Carl had just come home from an errand bearing a message to Mr. Robbins, telling him that Papa would soon return. They were walking hand in hand from Mr. Robbins’ establishment, when they saw the three horses and the other men of a party departing, Papa rushing exuberantly towards the house and Mama, leaving the horses still burdened with saddles and blankets, although the third horse bore a large pack. Rudi was dismounting a little more slowly from his mount: he appeared tired, yet excited.

“Papa has a grant from Mr. DeWitt!” he shouted, “I have seen it, M’gret – and it is truly ours. Papa has a brand for our cattle and all – the Spanish governor an’ Baron Bastrop said so. It is ours, and Papa says we will live like lords . . . “

“We have missed you!” Margaret hugged her little brother and ruffled his hair – boy-like, he made a face at her. “Your neck is filthy, Rudi – did Papa not make you wash the back of your ears, ever?”

“What for?” Rudi answered, “Esteban an’ Diego say that I am a now a true buckaroo – that is what they call a vaquero, a horseman . . . I should see to my horse before I see to myself.”

Margaret sniffed disdainfully, “Than your horse would be nicer to sit next to at dinner. “And where is Rufe . . . did he remain at Papa’s new holding?”

Rudi’s face suddenly looked most somber.

“He’s dead, M’grete. We were coming along the road towards Bexar – Papa had him ride ahead a little way, to see if we were near to water for the horses. He was only out of our sight for a few moments . . . we heard a sound, as if he tried to shout to us. Then just silence – and when we came upon him, he was lying in the middle of the track, with two arrows sticking straight up out of his chest and the hair skinned off the top of his head. The other men – the men with us – said they were Comanche arrows. They steal horses, you know.”

Rufe dead, and so abruptly? Margaret felt cold chill, as if a winter draft had suddenly crept up on her. Papa had said nothing of this in his letters to Mama, as if he had not put any thought towards their hired man at all. Rufe had uncomplainingly come with them as a drover, all the way from Pennsylvania. He never had much to say for himself, but now he was dead. Obscurely Margaret felt now guilty for never having paid much mind to him.

“What did you Papa and the men do then?”

“They put his body over the pack-horse saddle, and took him to be buried in Bexar. Papa gave a priest a few silver coins, and Esteban swore that for all he knew, Rufe was a Catholic, so that he could put into a grave in the proper cemetery.” Rudi looked down at his feet, shuffling them wretchedly in the dust. “And then we came straight to San Felipe. Papa says he must hire another drover, of course – as if the Comanches killed Rufe just to spite Papa, or that Rufe was careless and caused Papa special trouble!”

“It wasn’t your fault, Rudi,” Margaret soothed her little brother with another hug, for he truly looked quite wretched, “And it wasn’t Rufe’s, either. Go to the well, and wash up – Mama will have supper soon.”

“I must see to the horses first,” Rudy answered, stoutly and repeated, “A vaquero always takes care of his horse – Esteban said so.” So there was nothing else but for Margaret and Carl to do, but to set their slates aside and help Rudi to unsaddle the horses, and turn them loose to graze behind the house, where the grass had grown lush and tall in the months that Papa and Rudi had been gone. Margaret lugged the first of the two deep willow-baskets to the log house, while Rudi and Carl dragged the other, full of the bedding and gear which Papa had taken with them. The pack-horse had born the baskets, lashed to the sides of a wooden frame, which sat on its back atop a thick sheepskin pad cinched twice around its belly.

In the porch between the two rooms of the house, Papa was taking bites out of some bread and cheese, as he talked excitedly to Mama about the new holding,

“Along the river, which runs deep and fast between tall banks,” he was saying. “The bottom lands are rich and well-watered . . . I have found a good site for a house, for we must cultivate within two years. I have been advised to herd cattle as well, on the uplands. Young Mr. Menchaca and his brother were most kind, to advise me. Alas, the DeWitt grant adjoins the tracts where the Comanche are accustomed to hunt . . . it is in my mind that you and the children should live in the Gonzales settlement for a time, as my lands are only at a short remove. Until some kind of peace can be made with the Comanche, as has been with the Karankawa and such – that would be best, I think, Marichen . . .” He appeared to notice Margaret and her brothers for the first time, embraced them with something of an absent air, as if he were already thinking of other matters. “Grete, my angel – are you ready to help your mother with the packing? We should leave by the end of the week, I think. I must speak to Robbins, for I sent a message that we would return and need our wagon…”

Margaret kissed Papa on the forehead, saying

“Must we depart so soon, Papa – Carl is doing so very well at school that . . . “

“There is a school established in Gonzales,” Papa answered, his attention already on those matters involving moving his family on towards his holding in the DeWitt grant. “And now I must hire another drover – perhaps Robbins can recommend a man . . .”

“What of Mr. Tarrant?” Mama asked, looking swiftly from Papa’s face to Rudi’s dolorous one. “I do not understand, Alois – did he not come with you?”

“He’s dead, Mama,” Rudi answered first, and almost tearfully. Mama’s mouth rounded into an ‘o’ of shock and sorrow, and she abruptly sat down. “The Indians killed him.”

“Alois,” Mama said then, sounding as stern as if she wished to admonish Papa and Rudi both, “You said nothing to me of this in your letters.”

“I did not wish to worry you, my heart,” Papa answered, “It was merely one of those sad things which happens out here, if one does not take sufficient care. And of course, I shall always take care – the boy and I were never in danger. We saw that Rufe had a proper Christian burial – the very least that I could do for him.”

“You should write to his father,” Mama said at once, and her lips tightened. “You should tell him at once, Alois – and before we depart this place.”

“Marichen, my heart, must there be such a hurry to write this? “ Papa remonstrated, “for it will take months for a letter to arrive back East . . .” but Mama repeated,

“You should write to his father at once, Alois. It is only fitting. His family – his parents – they are friends of long-standing to my family and yours.”

Margaret’s gaze went from her mother to her father; again, she felt that ‘standing aside’ feeling, as if she were a stranger watching them. Carl’s hand crept into hers, seeking reassurance, and Rudi looked as if he were close to tears, for Mama was angry at Papa. Mama was almost never angry at Papa, but in this instance she was, not just for his thoughtlessness in leaving that intelligence out of his letters, but in seeming to regard Rufe and his death as a matter of little importance. Papa was, Margaret realized then in a flash of comprehension, as hasty and careless about Rufe as Mr. Sullivan or any of the other slave-owners in San Felipe were, concerning the least of the slaves they owned – as if they were nothing more than a not terribly valuable tool, which once broken could be set aside without a second thought. And she wondered then, with a little flicker of foreboding; what kind of man would Papa be, if Mama was not there to anchor him to his better nature, to remind him of what was good and right, and to make amends when he had spoken hastily or in anger to men like Mr. Austin? Margaret tried at first to put this unsettling thought aside. Of course, Mama would always be there; she was the fire on the hearth, the calm presence that made this bare little log room their home, the center and core of the family.

“Shall we be returning to school, then?” Margaret asked. Before Mama could answer, Papa said,

“No, little Grete – we need to begin packing at once, in the morning. You and the boy will not miss any lessons, as there is a schoolmaster in Gonzales.” Margaret’s heart sank, at her fathers’ words. She had expected something like this upon Papa and Rudi’s return, and thus had taken care with the blanket that she had marked out as Schoolmaster Vining’s special gift. Still, she had nurtured some faint hope that Papa would not act so precipitously, or even that he would amend his quarrel with Mr. Austin. No, she accepted and facet the inevitable: they would leave San Felipe immediately – as soon as they could repack the wagons and Papa could hire another drover. Unconsciously, Margaret squared her shoulders.

“Mama,” she said, “Then I should go to the schoolmaster’s house and tell him of our departure. I should also take our gift to him; may I then?”

“Of course, my duckling,” Mama answered, and it seemed to Margaret that Mama spoke with tender sympathy, “And take Carlchen with you also, to convey our appreciation for the schoolmaster’s teaching, all these months.”

“Yes, Mama,” Margaret went to the large willow basket which held hers’ and Mama’s sewing. The one blanket which she had stitched the binding around entirely by herself was on the bottom, carefully folded into a neat square and tied with a narrow length of woven cotton tape, with which Mama secured all of her household linens. She tucked it under her arm, and took Carl’s hand with her other. He went with her obediently, although he looked back at Papa. Papa, now having stuffed the last of the bread and cheese into his mouth, was pacing up and down restlessly, as was his habit when deep in consideration. He did not spare any glance after Margaret and Carl as they walked away from the little log hut.

“Choo sad, M’grete?” Carl asked warily in the English that they used at school, as soon as they were out of earshot.

“I am,” Margaret answered, with a sigh.

“Why, M’grete?”

“Because I liked living here – even in a little house not our own. I liked our lessons – and I very much liked the master of the school.”

“I like too, M’grete,” Carl confided, with the air of someone confessing a great secret. “He ver’ nize.”

“I think I will miss our school here,” Margaret hugged the blanket to her chest. Yes, she would miss it very much. She would miss Edwina, and walking down the road with her brother every morning. San Felipe was safe, she felt certain – for Mr. Austin had made a kind of peace with the Indians, all but the Comanche, and they were far away in the west. Which, alas, was where Papa was going to take them.

The schoolmaster’s house looked very different, when school was not in session in the breezeway. All the benches were moved to one side, and the doorway to Mr. Vining’s parlor stood open. It was always closed, during school hours, and so Margaret and the other children did not know what the schoolmaster’s house was like, on the inside. She knew that he had a horse in a corral at the back of his town-lot, for he rode as well as any other man in San Felipe. She walked through the school-yard, half eager and half-hesitant. It sounded as if Mr. Vining had visitors, for there were several more horses in the corral, and several saddles piled in the breezeway. The sound of men’s voices and laughter came from within the parlor. She could see a little, through the opened window: a young man who looked like one of the Mexican men who had ridden with Rudi and Papa. With a firm hold on Carl’s hand, she walked across the porch and stood for a moment in the doorway, thinking to herself that the schoolmaster’s parlor looked quite pleasant. In one of her ‘thinks,’ she had considered very carefully the matter of what one could tell of a person by looking at their possessions, or conversely, of what you could expect someone to own, just by studying them. Schoolmaster Vining had very much the things she had expected of him. Although the furniture was no finer than any other household in San Felipe, there were several elements which Margaret found most pleasing, chief among them, a quantity of books. A very fine glass-shaded lamp stood in the middle of a round table in the center of the room, and the chairs in it appeared both capacious and comfortable. The lamp shed a good light, on the books lying upon the table. Schoolmaster Vining and one of his friends were taking turns, leafing through the largest of them, while the other friend leaned back in his chair, with a pipe in hand. The schoolmaster looked up, at the sound of Margaret’s gentle rap on the door-frame, and sprang up from his chair.

“Why, Miss Becker,” he exclaimed, in pleased surprise, “And young Master Becker, too. Good evening! I was not expecting a call at this hour. I thought your family would be enjoying your reunion. My friends tell me that your father returned with them from Bexar with them, and that he has a fine property now, in Mr. DeWitt’s land-grant.”

“Yes, sir,” Margaret answered, “Good evening, sir.” Suddenly, what she had wanted to say, those things that were proper for a young lady, went entirely from her mind. “Papa says that we will leaving soon, so we will not be coming to your school again. So we brought you a parting gift – this is from our family, of my mother’s weaving.” She held out the blanket, suddenly miserably aware that she had sounded childish. “We are grateful for your teaching, sir – especially for teaching Carl.”

“Convey my gratitude to your family, Miss Becker,” Schoolmaster Vining accepted the folded blanker, although he looked slightly puzzled. “I find teaching to be rather a pleasure, especially with willing and talented pupils.” At Margaret’s side, Carl tugged at her hand, and whispered,

“I t’ink school very nize, M’grete.”

“I am gratified,” Schoolmaster Vining answered. “Would you like to meet my friends? I think they are already somewhat acquainted with your father. Miss Becker, Master Becker – may I present Senor Esteban Menchaca de Lugo, and Senor Diego Menchaca de Lugo, gentlemen of Spain, and San Antonio de Bexar. Miss Margaret Becker and young master Carl Becker.”

“I am honored,” replied the young man with the book, who set it aside. The spurs on his boot-heels jingled musically, as he came towards the doorway. “And to make your acquaintance is my pleasure as well, senorita.” He bowed over Margaret’s hand very correctly, and smiled as if it really was an honor and a pleasure. Carl stared, wide-eyed as an owl. “We traveled with your father and brother, I think. Diego, recall your manners,” he added as an aside, over his shoulder to his brother, who took his pipe out of his mouth, and drawled,

“My head remembers my manners . . . but alas, the rest of me is telling my head that it does not wish to move a muscle out of this very comfortable chair. Consider that I also am most pleased, so on and so forth.” Senor Esteban said something chiding in Spanish, over his shoulder to his brother, who only laughed sardonically and puffed again upon his pipe.

“Forgive my brother, senorita, for he is a lazy swine . . . “

“Who has ridden a very long way,” Senor Diego retorted, while Schoolmaster Vining laughed, and confided to Margaret,

“They are both my very dear friends, but sometimes they put me into the mind of some of my younger pupils . . . but I am most grateful for this gift, Miss Becker. I confess that I will regret your departure from my school, and from San Felipe. If business or friendship ever takes me near to Gonzales, and your father’s new holding, might I presume to pay a call upon your family?”

“Yes, of course,” Margaret answered, and immediately regretted sounding so hasty. She should have sounded dignified, as Mama had in response to Mr. Austin. But Mr. Vining smiled, so that the deep creases on either side of his mouth appeared; by that Margaret knew that he was quite genuinely pleased.

“Then I shall live in anticipation of that pleasure,” he answered. Carl was still staring at the Menchaca brothers, rapt by the splendid display of silver buttons on their coats and trousers, and the pleasant jingling sound of the spurs on their boot-heels. “Good evening, Miss Becker.”

“Good evening, Mr. Vining,” Margaret did a small, and awkward curtsy, and fled, tugging Carl behind her.

That night, as she lay in her pallet-bed in the loft, she thought about that brief visit, and concluded that perhaps it had not been all that disastrous. He had looked on her and smiled, and promised to visit them in their new home. Margaret reposed tremendous confidence in the witch-woman’s prophecy. Mr. Vining was the man that she would marry; philosophically, Margaret set aside what the witch-woman said about two husbands. It would be enough, she decided, to settle the question of the one, the one which she would have ten years and one of happiness with. Ten years was forever-long, Margaret decided. Ten years was almost as long as she had been alive.

Out in the breezeway, on the porch, Mama and Papa were still conversing. They would begin packing the wagons again in the morning. Mama had already taken down the delicate parts of her loom. It made Margaret sad to see that. When she considered her feelings, she had quite liked living in this little place. She had a friend in Edwina, a comfortable place and rhythm to the day – school, and chores, helping Mama with the weaving, supper, and then sitting on the verandah of an evening, doing schoolwork or sewing, until the light faded. The birds returned to their roosts, and the bats to their lair, and the stars wheeled in their orbit, white-silver in an indigo sky, the sun set in a smear of orange and purple, then the moon rose to take its place, pale and milk-colored as it waxed and waned. There was a lot to be said for that, Margaret decided. She had one of her ‘thinks’ about it; no, she had decided regretfully – she did not like days of constant adventure, of seeing a different aspect to every morning. She preferred a set place, under the sky, the march of the regular seasons and days. There was a joy to seeing things unfold.

“M’grete?” Rudi still lay awake, also. She could hear him turning over. The straw which stuffed the pallet upon which he and Carl slept crackled as he did so.

“Rudi – what is the matter?” she asked, for he sounded deeply unhappy.

“I’ve been wondering about something, M’grete. Do you think it would hurt to be dead?”

“You are thinking about Rufe,” Margaret answered. Of course, he would have been. He would have seen Rufe’s body, afterwards, seen everything but the Indians actually killing Papa’s hired man. “I can’t see how anything that happens after someone is dead can hurt their body. Their spirit is gone to heaven, anyway.”

“Are you sure?” Rudi still sounded unhappy.

“Of course I am – do you think that the pig objects to being cut up at butchering time, after it is dead? Can you imagine the fuss about hanging up the hams in the smokehouse if the pig was still squealing and wriggling?” That coaxed Rudi into laughing, at least a little bit.

“He looked . . . surprised. Rufe did. As if he couldn’t believe it had happened. Do you think that it hurts to die, M’grete?”

“I guess it depends on how fast it happens,” Margaret answered, carefully. “And I think it probably does hurt at least a little – but not for long at all. And then you go to heaven, if you have been good. I think I would like Heaven. Opa Heinrich always said Heaven was like a garden where there were never any weeds.”

“I wouldn’t like to be dead,” Rudi said, after a bit. “I would miss Mama and Papa, and you and Carl, and all my friends.”

“And we would miss you too,” Margaret replied. “But nobody else is going to die, Rudi. It’s late – go to sleep, now. Here’s my hand – hold it, and I’ll hold on to yours. Remember, Mama and Papa will always keep us safe.” But, thought Margaret to herself – Texas is large, and a wilderness. Papa and Mama are only two, matched against it. Best to not say so to Rudi or Carl; my brothers are still children, and children must believe that everything will be all right. I am twelve and will marry the schoolmaster someday. I am all but grown up.”

Five Years Later – Gonzales, in the State of Coahuila y Tejas

“Mama,” Margaret ventured one late summer afternoon, as Mama worked at her loom, which sat in the outdoor room of the house that Papa had built for them when they finally settled in Mr. DeWitt’s colony. “There is to be a roof-raising for the Darsts, on Sunday. Mrs. Darst and the Dickensons and their friends are planning to have a fiddler for dancing, afterwards. I promised that I should bring some pies and Benjamin said that he would like to dance with me.”

“Young Mr. Ful-fulka?” Mama garbled his name, as she usually did. Benjamin Fuqua and his brother Silas had arrived a year or so ago. He held a quarter-league of land in his own name. “But certainly, Margaret,” she flashed a quick and impish smile over her shoulder towards her daughter, although her hands had never stopped their rhythmical motion, sending the shuttle flashing back and forth. “Since your Papa is not here to withhold his permission, I give it very freely.” Margaret returned the smile. She and her mother had grown ever closer in the years since coming to Texas, united in a gentle conspiracy to bend Alois Becker into more sociability with his fellows. Most recently, Mama must work to soften or thwart his dictates, regarding Margaret and those young single men who had begun to flock to the Becker household, as soon as Margaret put up her hair and began wearing womanly longer skirts. His horror at suddenly realizing that Margaret had grown tall, as slender as a young willow-tree, and gravely pretty – and was indeed of an age to marry – was almost comic, if somewhat embarrassing to Margaret. Suddenly, Alois regarded every single man come to visit his household with wary suspicion, even if they were truly his own friends and had no intentions towards Margaret. But every admiring glance in her direction, or word spoken to her, even on the most mundane matter seemed to inflame his temper. Lately, Margaret was glad that Papa had reason to travel with his wagons, for he had gone into partnership with several merchants in San Felipe and Gonzales to haul goods arrived at the port of Anahuac upcountry, leaving Mama to see to household and social matters.

“How Papa can expect me to marry well, but yet never be courted, or even converse with a young man …” she sighed. “I think Papa just expects a husband for me to grow on one of the apple trees. And that one day, he shall pluck it from the branch, present it to me and say, ‘Here, Grete – a husband for you to marry, this very afternoon.’”

“Your Papa wishes only the best for you,” Mama answered, “Like all men – he thinks that only he may make a decision on such matters as affects the family.” She smiled again, over her shoulder, “I permit him to go on thinking that. It spares his feelings.”

“And then you work on him, so that he will do rather what you wish,” Margaret said, with another sigh. “But it takes such a long time . . . and the Darst’s roof-raising is Saturday.”

“Your Papa will allow it,” Mama answered serenely, “I will see to that. For most everyone will attend – how can we keep ourselves apart? He will see the sense in that. Do not worry, Margaret – your Papa will not be able to keep you as cloistered as a nun. Your Mr. F-fulka may accompany us to the Darsts, of course.”

“Thank you, Mama,” Margaret bent, and kissed her mother’s cheek. She had been seventeen for four months, having put up her hair on her sixteenth birthday. There were always more unmarried men, and adventurous young men in Texas than there were women of marriageable age; within the last few years, Margaret had begun to loose that conviction that she would marry Schoolmaster Vining. Now she considered the witch-woman’s prophecy something akin to a fairy tale for children. The schoolmaster had passed through Gonzales once or twice with his friends, the Menchaca brothers, on his way to San Antonio. He had paid a call on the Beckers, although he had not done such in a year or so. Rudi had heard from one friend or another that the Boston schoolteacher in San Felipe had returned to the East, and there was another schoolmaster there now.

Margaret wistfully hoped that he had taken the red Mexican-wool blanket with him, to keep him warm in the Eastern winters.

“I think the beans are ready for picking,” she said to her mother, “I will go and tend the garden for a while.” She took a wide straw hat down from a peg, and tied it over her head. The Texas summer afternoons were brutally hot – but she felt the need to be by herself for a while. Her father had bought several town lots, besides the one allotted to him for the family home in Gonzales. He and the men he had hired had built a log house very like one they had lived in at San Felipe, save that it was larger – and of course, the Beckers had all of it to live in for themselves. It sat on a low rise of land, a little east of most of the other houses and business concerns. A narrow creek watered what Papa had begun planting as an apple orchard. Most of the sapling trees were still now only a little taller than Margaret. An open space between house and orchard was plowed and planted in garden vegetables, of corn and squash and row after row of beans. From the veranda of Papa’s house, Margaret could see nearly all of Gonzales – split-shake roofs either new and dark, or weathered to silvery-grey, interspersed with trees and chimneys. A few threads of smoke rose into the sky; beyond town, a line of darker green trees marked the river. The river, pale green and deceptively placid, ran so deep and swift at Gonzales that it had to be crossed by ferry. Margaret had grown first accustomed to the town, and then to love it; for now it was home, and overflowing with friends. There were days when the sky was a pure, clear blue, arching overhead like a bowl. In spring, the meadows were starred with flowers, of colors that dazzled with eyes with their intensity – pure yellow or yellow and red with dark, coffee-colored centers, lacy clusters of tiny lavender florets, or those dark blue spires stippled with white that some of the other settlers called buffalo clover, or blue-bonnet flower. But now, the flowers had faded from the heat, all but the stubborn pale-yellow mustard, and the green meadows were burned dry by the summer heat, brown and lank, unless it were close to a water course, or a small spring, bubbling out from the ground.

“Where are the boys?” Mama asked, and suddenly the shuttle paused in it’s ceaseless back and forth journey, “They should be helping with the garden, instead of taking every excuse to play in the woods.”

“Benjamin was talking of going hunting along the river today,” Margaret answered, “He had seen a large herd of deer, so he and Silas and some of their friends were going. He talked of it to Rudi – and so I suppose they let Carl tag along.”

“Those boys,” Mama resumed weaving, “They should take care.”

“Don’t worry, Mama,” Margaret stepped down from the verandah. As soon as she moved from the shade, the hot sun struck a harsh blow. “They were going in a party, and they all have rifles and plenty of bullets. Rudi wouldn’t let anything happen to Carl.”

Her littlest brother had turned ten, just a few weeks ago. He was tall for that age, and so most took him for older. Rudi was tall now also; at fourteen nearly the height of shorter men, although still a stripling, next to Papa. Carl was quiet, Rudi outgoing and lively – very different in character, although still much alike in looks. Margaret wondered absently why Papa had not taken Rudi with him to Anahuac. She didn’t think Rudi particularly minded not going with Papa on that journey, for he would much rather have gone hunting with the older lads and the young men. She looped up the corners of her apron, and tucking them into her waistband, began plucking ripe green beans for supper.

When she straightened from picking beans, she could see her brothers and Benjamin walking towards the house; the two older boys were ebullient, although covered with dust. Rudi had taken off his hunting coat, tying it around his waist by the arms. He and Benjamin carried a long pole over their shoulders, from which hung the carcass of a deer, already roughly cleaned and gutted. Carl followed after, with a large turkey-cock slung over his, the head of it swaying limp and loose with every footstep.

“Dinner for tonight, and smoked jerky for winter,” Rudi called, as soon as the three had come close enough to the house. He was smiling, jubilant – as if they had just experienced the most wonderful adventure. “And Little Brother made the most amazing shot! You should have seen it, M’Gret! They all bet that he couldn’t do it, but he did – a wild turkey, gobbling up old corn, clear across the creek it was.”

“A regular leatherstocking, ma’am . . . Miss Margaret,” Benjamin added, with enthusiasm, “That’s what he is. Natty Bumpo couldn’t have bettered it, nor my grandfather in his young days – and he was a champion-shot. They say in the War, he shot a British soldier right in the place where his belts crossed at a distance of fifteen hundred yards.”

Carl only looked pleased, half-smiling as he ducked his head. Margaret thought it was as if he were unaccustomed to such praise. Perhaps he was, as he certainly got little of it from Papa. Papa had never really warmed to his youngest son, for all of Mama and Margaret’s efforts. Carl was still a quiet youth – and Papa often and cruelly upbraided him to his face as an idiot. Mama’s face had lit up, rapturously,

“Such clever boys,” she exclaimed, “And we thought to have nothing but a little bacon with our dinner tonight. Tomorrow, then – we will butcher the deer and hang it to smoke . . . as for the bird, we shall dine like the royalty do, tonight and for several nights hereafter.” Mama got up from her loom. “Come help me clean and singe it, Carlchen, Rudi – and then fetch water from the creek to clean yourselves with…” She collected the boys with a meaningful look, leaving Margaret and Benjamin for a brief moment alone. Benjamin touched the brim of his hat to her, saying hesitantly,

“Miss Margaret . . . did you speak to your parents about dancing with me, at the Darst’s roof-raising? Have I their permission …”

“Most certainly,” Margaret replied, and his countenance lightened immediately. “And you may escort us to the Darsts, as well.”

“Thank you, Miss Margaret!” he made as if to kiss her hand, as Margaret added, wryly, “We will be bringing some dried-apple pies with us – and you might have to help us carry them!”

“My duty as a gentleman, and my most sincere pleasure,” Benjamin added, looking inordinately pleased with this development. Margaret rather warmed to him then, for he was a handsome young man, clean-shaven but for a generous mustache. Indeed, he was almost as handsome as Schoolmaster Vining had been – only now, Margaret thought with a pang of regret, Benjamin Fuqua was here, and Schoolmaster Vining had returned to his home in the East, long since. And she did wish so much that she was not wearing a plain dress, and with a quarter-bushel of green bean pods bundled up in her apron. “I will call for you on Sunday, then, Miss Margaret.”

(This is in some ways, the prelude to the Adelsverein Trilogy, and most likely be available early in 2011. And if you have read and enjoyed the Trilogy, could you post a review at Amazon? The Texas Scribbler just did, and he lamented how few reviews there were for such a ripping good read!)

A Place Apart – Last Thoughts on the Milblog Convention

So, three weeks later, and I am finally getting around to writing up the last of the Milblog Conference; real life intervened, had to go back to work a great number of hours for a regular client, and find a permanent home for the poopies, and do some work for the Tiny Publishing Bidness . . . and my problem is that I can get easily distracted . . .

Hey, was that a chicken? I could swear that was a chicken, outside in my yard . . . I wonder if it escaped from the neighbors’ yard. I found a ferret in my back yard, once. Really – cute little fellow. He came along quietly and rested in the cat-carrier until we could locate the owner . . . and where was I?

Oh – meditating on how the world of the military – the Other America of Defense as Arthur T. Hadley described it. He made note of how rarely the world of the military, their families and veterans intersected with that of the various elites – the political, social, intellectual and media elite. His book came out in the late eighties, and confirmed pretty much what I had sensed about the military generally. Which was, unless members of the military had been killed either grotesquely and/or in significant numbers, the existence of the contemporary military pretty much skated by the notice of the great and the good, with the exception of a fleeting up-tick in general interest during the Gulf war. Not much notice taken, otherwise – hardly any movies, maybe once or twice an abortive TV series, or a character who was a veteran of the non-messed up and fairly well-adjusted kind. There wouldn’t have even been much in popular fiction either, if it weren’t for WEB Griffen and others, writing in the military/adventure genre – and that is not everyone’s cup of tea, not even mine.

Arthur Hadley thought this kind of cultural/societal disconnect did not bode very well for the country as a whole – and so I thought I might do my very best to enlighten the general web-readership about the wonderful wacky world of that “Other America.” So I began contributing to the earlier iteration of this blog, at the crack-of-dawn, blogging-time. (August 2002, for those who keep count.) I have to say, the whole civilian-military cultural divide is not quite the yawning chasm it was twenty years ago. I have no idea of what to account for this feeling – probably something to do with 9-11, and the internet generally. Even so, I don’t think we’ll ever replicate the kind of national situation in which a citizen-scholar-soldier like Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain could move from being a professor of rhetoric and languages at Bowdoin College, to a combat command in the Civil War. In one shining, desperate moment on a hill at Gettysburg, the balance of that battle and by extension possibly the whole war – hung on his command for a bayonet charge. No, I don’t much think we’ll see that crossover involvement of that kind and to the degree that we did when there was a draft on, but now and again I am a little more hopeful about the likelihood of such a thing happening again than Arthur Hadley was, twenty years ago.

For at the Milblog Conference, one of the establishments or personalities making an appearance (aside from the others I have written about previously) was a representative and some students from Hillsdale College – a tiny and very traditional co-ed liberal arts college, buried in the wilds of southern Michigan. To read about Hillsdale’s history is to read the history of higher educational establishments on the American frontier. If Joshua Chamberlain hadn’t emerged from Bowdoin, he would have likely come from a school like Hillsdale. According to their website, a higher percentage of Hillsdale students enlisted for service in the Civil War than any other western college. Hillsdale’s other claim to prominence is a devotion to independence so fierce that it refuses all federal and state subsidies – student aid monies, as well as the GI Bill. Liberal when they were founded in 1844, although in stubbornly sticking to their founding principles when the world around has changed so much, they have indisputably slid all the way to the conservative side of the spectrum, through no other action than being . . . er stubborn. And dedicated to high standards.

Nonetheless, the college makes it possible through scholarships and donations for veterans to attend. I did meet one student, 2Lt Jack Shannon, who is now on active duty in the Marine Corps and stationed at Virginia Beach going through intelligence officer school . There will also be nearly a dozen other Hillsdale recruits attending the Marine’s Officer Candidate School this summer- which out of a student body of around 1,300 is not too shabby at all. Two of the other Hillsdale students I spoke to were veterans – when my daughter looked at a picture of the three, she could tell which two by the look of their faces.

James Markman served as a medic in the 82nd Airborne – in Iraq and Afghanistan, during which he was awarded a Purple Heart. Now he is intending to pursue a medical career, modeling himself after an Army doctor who impressed him no end, when he was serving.

Jon Lewis served three overseas tours as a Marine – a rifleman (although every Marine is a rifleman) section leader. Two of his tours were in Iraq. He intends to go into the ministry. I had the same feeling from all three of them that I have from my daughter – of a sense of focus and maturity in them that one usually doesn’t get from the ordinary college student in their early twenties. James and Jon preferred to attend Hillsdale on scholarships rather than any other school, where they could use their GI Bill educational benefits. In a way – through Hillsdale and other schools where these new veterans are going to classes – we may be replicating what happened just after World War II, when veterans flocked into higher education. There is a new cadre of citizen-leaders being developed – which will make it interesting when they run up against the old cadre.

And so that was it, for this year – the conference wrapped up with a banquet of no more than usual rowdiness – milbloggers being rather more exuberantly extrovert than would be expected of the stereotypical blogging sisteren and bretheren – and an awards ceremony for various categories of mil-blogs. There was a raffle (some gift bags featuring Ranger Up tee-shirts – very popular among military circles) to benefit Homes for Our Troops – another military-oriented charitable effort, that like Soldiers’ Angels, hardly anyone in the larger world might have heard of. They retrofit or build homes for veterans seriously disabled in service since 2001. All in all, a very interesting weekend – possibly the first time I have gone farther and stayed longer away from home in about fifteen years.

Land, Lots of Land

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don’t fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don’t fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin’ breeze,
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don’t fence me in.

So, I came to a decision about a week or so ago, one that I sensibly should have come to a couple of years ago . . . except that a couple of years ago might not have been the time, either. This was just one of those things that I don’t think about very much, except twice a year when I have to figure out how to pay the taxes on it. Yes, when I get the bill from the San Diego assessor’s office for the three acres and some of unimproved howling wilderness that I own – that’s when I remember that yes, indeedly-do, neighbors – I am a landowner. It’s a nice little tract, which would have been covered with black oak, pine trees and mountain laurel, on the edge of a national forest – save for a plague of bark beetles throughout the 1990s, topped by a massive forest fire in 2003. But everything should be fairly well grown back by now – look at how Yellowstone looked, a decade after fires there. I saw the pictures in the National Geographic; natural cycle and all that. As far as So Cal goes, my land is so far back in the woods that they have to truck in sunshine. The roads are graveled, but the electrical lines have crept gradually in, as other owners built little cabins on their patch of Paradise. Me, I have only visited it once in twenty years, although I have a fair number of pictures.

About halfway through my career in the military – a career spent almost exclusively overseas, my daughter and I came home to visit my parents, who had retired to build their own country hideaway. For one reason or another, I thought – well, I shall retire eventually, and why don’t I start by purchasing a bit of land close by, something that I could build on? Having lived in a series of drab rentals and equally drab military housing, the thought of a bespoke home of my own was understandably enticing. And so, my parents drove me around to look at some nice little bits, eventually focusing on the mountains near a charming little town called Julian. We hadn’t actually fixed on a suitable tract – but my parents knew my tastes by then. Basically, I bought my property on their advice. Used a reenlistment bonus granted when I re-upped for a second hitch in the Big Blue Machine for the down payment, and religiously for the next ten years or so, I mailed a check to an address in Ohio. I don’t think I thought about it too much then, either. I think I was stationed in Utah when I came to the final payment – even then I had written to the former owner, asking plaintively if June or July’s payment would be the last, for I had rather lost track.

So – I had the property; now to sort out how to build a house on it. When I finally returned from overseas, I had pretty much resolved that I would buy a house to live in for the rest of my time in the Air Force, rather than continue pouring money down the rental-rat-hole. I’d continue working until the mortgage was paid – then sell the house and use the equity to fund a new house on my land. When I first formulated this plan, I had kind of half-expected that my last active-duty tour would be at a base of my choosing: the assignments weenies for my career field used to be rather good at this. You could retire in a town where you already had done the ground-work for a post-service career, bought the house, got the child or children established in a local school. Lucky me – I got sent to Texas. Which was third on my list, by the way – but I did buy the house.

And then . . . well, things happened. It’s called life, which happens even when you have plans. One of those things which happened was that Texas – rather like bathroom mold – grows on you. Really; after a while, practically everywhere else seems dry and savorless, devoid of an exuberant sense of place and identity. And the countryside is lovely: east and central Texas is nothing like what it looks in Western movies. It is green, threaded with rivers lined with cypress trees, interspersed with rolling hills dotted with oak trees and wildflowers star-scattered everywhere. I put down roots here, made friends and connections, both personal and professional. I wrote books, set mostly in a locality not very far away, books which have garnered me readers and fans, and a partnership in a little specialty publishing firm. I have come to love San Antonio; which I have described for years as a small town, cunningly disguised as a large city. (Really – you can connect anyone with anyone else in this town in about two jumps. There’s only about two degrees of separation here. You simply would not believe how many people I know who are connected to other people I know. And I don’t even belong to the San Antonio Country Club, though I was a guest there, once.)

Another of those local connections is to a semi-occasional employer, the gentleman known as the Tallest ADHD Child on Earth. He runs a tiny ranch real estate bidness from a home office, but since he is hopelessly inept at anything to do with logical organization, computers and office management, I put in a small number of hours there, every week or so, just to keep his files and documents from becoming a kind of administrative black hole, sucking in everything within range. I put together his various brochures for the various properties that he has listings for – and last week, while assembling one of them, I was thinking all the while, “I so want a bit of that.” I’d rather have a bit of land, maybe park a little cabin on it for now, where I could go and spend quiet weekends. I’d rather have something I could drive up to in a couple of hours, rather than in two days. So, I told Mom and Dad to put the California acreage with a local realtor, and my friend the ranch real estate expert that I would be looking for a nice acre or two. It feels good, it really does.

I expect that I will eventually be driving a pickup truck. But the gimme cap, the gun rack and the hunting dog are still negotiable.