Arrested, then shot

We went with some friends a month ago to visit to a community of about 5,000 people back east. We were arrested upon arrival.  And we were shot as we left.

We’re okay, all of us. But we’re not going to forget what happened to us. Actually, the bigger problem is trying to REMEMBER all of the things that happened to us.

You might think we’d be glad to be out of the place. In truth, however, we’d go back in a heartbeat.

We’d go back because we were surrounded by incredible people, all of whom were focused on making their community the best in the world. Every single one of the 5,000 had that goal. Everything they did was focused on the productivity of 4.5 acres. The average age of this community is less than 25 with many of the most important jobs done by people who are 18, 19, or 20.

This is the USS Theodore Roosevelt, 92,000 tons of sovereign United States Territory wherever it goes. Its twin nuclear reactors recently refueled, the latest electronic gear installed, and the most recent updates available built in, “The Big Stick” is described as the “Corvette” of America’s aircraft carrier fleets.

(Okay, we’ll explain the nickname in case you missed history class that day. President Theodore Roosevelt’s definition of our country’s foreign policy was to “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” in other words: negotiate from a position of strength.)

The USS Theodore Roosevelt can launch and land more airplanes in a few hours than dozens of nations have in their entire air forces. It’s a city that can go 35 miles per hour. It has its own daily newspaper, television station, a Starbucks, restaurants that serve more than 18,000 meals a day, a distillation plant that daily turns 400,000 gallons of the ocean into drinking water, the head of a moose shot by President Roosevelt, and an airport that houses St. Louis-made airplanes that can be armed to the teeth and go airborne at the rate of two per minute. It’s twenty stories high, not counting the forty feet that’s below the water line.

It is majesty and menace, depending on whether you are friend or foe. A rational person seeing the Roosevelt understands it is much better to be the former.

The ship was 150-200 miles or so east of the Norfolk Naval Base. We took a Greyhound out to it, although the folks on the carrier told us we took a Cod. Dog. Fish. Airplane. It was a Grumman C2A Greyhound Carrier Onboard Delivery airplane (COD). The same airframe with some different stuff hung on it is the E-2C tactical airborne early warning airplane, the one with the big radar saucers on the top, that you see with its wings folded on the picture above. Our Navy pilot was Lt. Scott Seago of Blue Springs, who was teaching biology and coaching football there before entering the Navy.

Military transport planes have few luxuries. I say “few” because for this trip we were not in the sling chairs that have been in the C-130s we’ve taken to submarine events. The Greyhound seats were utilitarian, did not recline and did not have trays. But at least they were seats. They faced to the rear of the plane.

There’s no sound-deadening insulation in military cargo planes. Pipes and cables and tubes and support structures are left uncovered and sometimes the overhead is pretty low. And that is why they issued everybody something called “cranials” so we wouldn’t damage the airplane with our foreheads.

They’re kind of like the catchers’ masks and hats that Yadier Molina and Salvador Perez wear for the Cardinals and the Royals but they’re not nearly as fancy and don’t have masks. But they did have goggles–which rather quickly fogged over for me when I got into the plane. This is what the well-dressed Greyhound rider looked like that day.

They also issued each of us a life vest since Greyhound seat cushions aren’t intended to be flotation devices. And earplugs. Anytime we wore a cranial on this trip we also wore earplugs. Although these funky helmets had ear-protecting headphones built into them, secondary protection was needed. The un-muffled turboprop engines of the Greyhound were still loud but at least were tolerable during the flight out. Later, on the flight deck, with F-18s of various configurations landing and being launched within yards of us, the double protection was barely adequate.

Dollar to a doughnut, I’d bet one of the first questions any of my companions has been asked by someone who learned of the trip is, “How was the landing?”

Well, it’s like this.

The pilot told us he has to take an airplane with an 80-foot wingspan and put it down in a space that is 85 feet wide on a landing strip that is moving away from him at a speed of at least 25 knots and is not stable.

The Greyhound has only two windows in the passenger/cargo area and they’re toward the back. So almost all of us were sitting in the dark wearing life vests and cranials and goggles, flying backwards tightly strapped with a four-point harness into our seats. We flew for about an hour and a half.

And then we stopped.

We didn’t land. We stopped.

The fog that you see in the video is the condensation from the Greyhound’s air conditioning system.

We knew the landing was near because of the way the Greyhound was moving. But we couldn’t see the water rising toward us. There was no runway to see as we sank toward it. We were in flight and then–

WHOMP!!! and four or five G’s pressed us back into our seats for two seconds as we went from 120 knots (138 mph) to 0 knots when the tailhook grabbed the arresting cable..

That’s us in our COD, snagging the three-wire.

By the time the brain processed what had happened, we were moving again and the rear cargo gate in front of us started to come down, revealing about 400 feet or less of carrier deck and miles of gray ocean. Three or four seconds into the visit, we already were on sensory overload. And we remained in that state for almost twenty-four hours.

We had been out of the COD and inside the ship for only a short time when General Quarters was called. Everybody was mobilized.

We were under attack!







Getting into a lather about leather

Saw an ad in a newspaper today that caused our jaw to drop.  We checked with our friends at the other end of the room who are the voices of the Brownfield Network, the nation’s largest agriculture radio network and they also were stunned.  One that we always thought of as a cultured young woman uttered an unladylike three-letter exclamation.

Then the ad prompted some discussion.

The ad shows a young woman wearing—get this now—a

Vegan Leather Jacket.

It has a faux fur collar.   We’ve come to understand “faux” is a toney word for “fake.”   Figured that out a long time ago.

But Vegan Leather???????


We can see a riot breaking out in Sturgis, South Dakota next year if some big, burly Harley Davidson owner walks into a bar and asks the other Harley owners, “How do you like my Vegan Leathers?”

The Sturgis Police Department better have its Pentagon-surplus armored vehicle ready to go rescue that guy.  Or woman.  Women can be big and burly sometimes too.

So the newsroom conversation started.

Does the average vegan have enough skin to make a jacket out of?  Or does it take several?

Are these domesticated vegans, farm-raised vegans, free-range vegans, or maybe grass-fed vegans?   And does the Agriculture Department or the Conservation Department have regulatory authority over captive vegan operations?

We’ve seen a few pretty hairy vegans.  Do they really need to have a “faux” collar on this jacket?

It would be a shame to waste the rest of the creature just for the vegan skin, as our forefathers wasted whole buffalo herds just for their hides.  So what does vegan meat taste like?

One of our friends suggested it probably doesn’t have much taste and it’s probably not well-marbled. In fact, he suggested it probably is about as tasty as raw granola or maybe shredded wheat. It probably wouldn’t work well on a barbecue grill because there’s no suet to hold it together–kind of like some moose meat I tried to turn into barbecued burgers one night only to see it all crumble and fall into the charcoal below.

We recognized leather likely comes from cattle.   So what do you suppose–with the understanding that a Vegan is a Vegetarian who doesn’t even drink milk–a vegan cow looks like?  But maybe that’s the answer to our problem.  Perhaps only something as oxymoronic as a vegan cow could produce something as oxymoronic as vegan leather.

But Ye Gad!!  Think of what’s next.

Vegan horsehide for baseballs.

Vegan pigskin for footballs.

Vegan alligator shoes.

After all these years we still haven’t figured out what a Nauga looks like.  Now we have to figure out what in the world produces vegan leather.

This is what happens on a slow news day when there’s nothing particularly significant to occupy our minds.  If you’re a Vegan (and we have some friends who are and we like them  a lot) who feels we have unfairly picked on you, blame Christopher Columbus. Without him, there wouldn’t be a holiday; there likely would be news to cover and we likely would not have been trolling through a newspaper to see this ad.

Notes from the front lines

(Stuff that doesn’t quite make it to full bloghood but answers demands from somebody somewhere that this space be filled with new material from time to time.)

A big bunch of people held a retirement celebration, commemoration, observation—whatever fits–on Monday night expressing their relief, regret, delight, sadness–whatever fits–that this correspondent is abandoning his 70-hour weeks of trying to explain state government to Missourians on December first.  It was a nice event populated with longtime friends, associates, teachers, mentors, and family members .  Several people had things to say in a video played during the event.

(In response to the Girl Scouts’ claim , I made sure a 2007 case of Girl Scout Thin Mints were available.  Several people tried them.  As of this writing, all are still drawing breath, proving that Thin Mints need not be refrigerated to remain viable–in fact, freezing them dries them out, sticks them together, and is counterproductive.  Research has shown they survive nicely under a desk. You’ll understand if you see the video.)

Thanks to those who put the event together and thanks to all of those who attended, especially to those who travelled good distances.


We have railed in this space many times about the Nixon administration’s commitment to managing the news.   We regret to note that Attorney General Chris Koster, who has ambitions to be Nixon’s successor, appears to be practicing to continue that trend.  He issued a statement after a circuit judge ruled that same sex marriages performed in other states must be recognized here but has refused repeated requests from media organizations to explain why he, as the defender of Missouri laws, is not going to appeal that ruling.


Here’s another sign that someone wants to buy government.  A circuit judge candidate in Jefferson City who is challenging a two-term incumbent circuit judge has gotten a $100,000 donation funneled through the Republican State Leadership Committee in Washington, D.C. The money has gone through the RSLC-Missouri PAC to the campaign of Brian Stumpe, how the city prosecutor.

Who gave that money to the national group?   That’s a big secret.  And why such a gigantic amount in a race for local circuit judge?  Well, that’s simple.  Stumpe says it’s because incumbent Patricia Joyce is too liberal.

The Missouri Non-Partisan Court plan, designed to keep judicial candidates from being front-people for special interests,  particularly those who want courts to rule their ways, does not include Cole County.  Those who have advocated for years expanding the plan to all counties now have a textbook example to justify their position.


State auditor Tom Schweich says 15 percent of our local governments and their agencies do not comply with the state law that demands they tell the public what they’re doing.   That’s a lower percentage than he found in a previous audit.

The reduction in non-compliance is not something to cheer about.  Thomas Jefferson told Charles Yancey in a January 6, 1816 letter than a nation cannot be ignorant and be free.   The continued failure of fifteen percent of local government to be as honest as they should be with the people who pay taxes to support them remains unforgiveable.


Go Royals.  Go Cardinals.  Wonder if Governor Nixon will follow Governor Ashcroft’s lead and arrange for a World Series Special train if both teams make the Series.  It was a fun ride in ’85.