Late last fall I happened to be driving in Bellingham and listening to a local radio station. The announcer was giving the results of the state high school football playoffs. I paid attention because our grand daughter goes to one of the local high schools.
The sports guy reported that the Lummi “Blackhawks” had been defeated by their arch rival, the Neah Bay “Red Devils”. Whoa! I knew that these schools were tribal or Indian schools…. or, if you must, Native American schools. One has to assume that the students themselves chose these mascot names for their sports teams, or, at the very least were not troubled by them.
About this time the press and some professional sports blabbers were dissecting Dan Snyder, the billionaire owner of the Washington Redskins football team, over the name “Redskins”. The team has had that name since 1932 when the team was founded as the “Boston Redskins”.
At the time I wondered why they were picking on the Redskins. After all, there are thousands of sports teams, both college and professional, that have Indian related names. Just to name a few: Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks, Golden State Warriors, and Florida State Seminoles.
These names presumably were selected because they suggested the fighting spirit and determination of the Indians, not as an ethnic slur. Anyone who has watched baseball over the years must have seen tens of thousands of Atlanta fans all chanting and doing the tomahawk chop to urge their Braves on to victory. That is hardly a sign of disrespect.
If you’ve ever watched college football you surely have seen the Florida State mascot (Osceola) dressed in full Indian garb charging down the field astride Renegade, a magnificent Appaloosa, and planting his feathered lance in the middle of the field. More than a decade ago the NCAA went on the warpath against Indian mascots for college teams. Some were forced to change by PC faculty and school administrations. Florida State was able to resist partly because the Seminole tribe had no problem with the mascot.
That fact and, as the example of the mascot names for the two Bellingham tribal schools suggests, most Indians have no problem with these names. The natives that do complain are not really offended. They just want to see if they can push somebody’s buttons and they are aided and abetted by the politically correctness industry.
Remember the centuries long effort to correctly address American slaves and their descendants. In the early days they were referred to as “colored” because it was considered offensive to call them “negroes”. Then
It was determined it was fine to call them “negroes”. In the activism of the early ’60 the left decided that the proper term now was “Black”. OK, fine. But, just when everyone got accustomed to the “Black” term, the PC crowd led by grievance whores Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton announced, “Nope, now we’ve decided they must be referred to as “African Americans.” Some Blacks do not like this term as their families immigrated not from Africa but from the Caribbean or Europe.
How many generations removed from the homeland constitutes the statute of limitations on claiming a place as your ethnic appellation? And, what percentage of your genetic make-up must you have to be considered “African American”?
In the case of President Obama who claims African heritage, he is clearly 50% white from his mother but his father is largely Arab, supposedly with an African Black in his past. Some put Obama’s actual percentage of African blood at 6% and his Arab blood at 44%. Whatever the true percentage, the least part of him is African Black. No matter. He claimed to be African American and they claimed him, voting about 95 percent for ‘one of their own’.
A lot of this obsession with this stuff is a result of people with too much time on their hands. My Parisian friend would characterize it with a phrase that translates roughly as attempting to fornicate with flies. I think it stems from a burning desire to feel morally superior to others. In other words, just inflating your ego but believing you are protecting the feelings of others.
Very noble indeed.
Late last fall I happened to be driving in Bellingham and listening to a local radio station. The announcer was giving the results of the state high school football playoffs. I paid attention because our grand daughter goes to one of the local high schools.
Detective Ian Cudney first heard of the mass murder at the Willow Tree Mall as he drove his unmarked police cruiser slowly through downtown London, Ontario traffic.
His radio crackled, “All units, respond to multiple shots fired at 1476 Willow Tree Circle. Unknown number of assailants. Automatic weapons fire reported.”
“Oh shit!” He muttered and grabbed his Fireball portable emergency light and slapped it on the roof. He thrust the plug into the cigarette lighter, flipped on his siren and slowed. As the traffic responded, Ian cranked the wheel, slid into a U-turn and accelerated in the opposite direction. He guessed he was fifteen minutes out with no hang-ups.
The vast mall parking lot was already clustered with police cruisers, Emergency Response Team vans, ambulances and fire trucks by the time he skidded off the access ramp and into the parking lot. He eased up to the perimeter being set up by some uniformed officers and parked. He tucked his badge holder into the breast pocket of his sport coat, grabbed his portable radio and headed for the nearest officer.
The Constable recognized him as he approached. Everyone on the force knew Ian, a twenty-five year veteran, often called Columbo behind his back because of his somewhat frumpy and shuffling manner. He looked nothing like Peter Falk, however, for he was tall and heavy with bushy grey hair and eyebrows. But, like Columbo, he displayed great patience coupled with meticulous attention to detail and keen intelligence. His success as an interrogator rested on his knack of being the genial and gentle bear or, when necessary, a large imposing bastard.
“What’s the situation, Constable?” Ian asked.
“Good news and bad,” he replied. “The good news is that the asshole is down. The bad is that he shot a lot of people before he went down.”
Looking grim Ian responded, “Who’s the ERT leader and what frequency are they on?”
“John Chu is in charge and they’re on Channel 9.”
Cudney nodded his thanks and lumbered toward the mall entrance that was now crowded with Emergency Medical Teams rushing in with stretchers and bags of equipment. He keyed the radio and called, “John, this is Detective Cudney. What’s your location?”
“Hey Ian, this is Chu. We’re about 50 metres down the first corridor on your right. Everything is secure. It’s a god awful mess, but the shooter is down.”
Cudney hustled down the corridor trying not to count the bodies while noting the wounded being treated by EMTs, ER team guys and some Christmas shoppers. Some of the employees and shoppers were peeking out of shops where the metal shutters had been activated. Others had been opened or perhaps never closed, and officers were herding dazed shoppers away from the crime scene toward the far end of the corridor.
He spotted John in full battle gear standing over a black clad body in the middle of the corridor. John was short, perhaps 5’5”, but extremely muscular and fit. “Hey, John, quite a mess, eh?”
“I swear to God, Ian, I will never understand why guys do this shit. This is where it ended.”
Cudney stared at the body, dressed all in black with a black ski mask covering his face. He lay in an awkward pose like he had been sitting and then knocked over backwards. Blood pooled wetly on the terrazzo floor behind his head. A Bushmaster .223 assault rifle lay just beyond his outstretched hand. Ian raised his gaze to the shop directly behind them where an EMT worked frantically over a prone woman. “How many so far?”
“Not sure of the final count, obviously…. But maybe 10 dead with many more wounded.”
“Who shot this asshole? Your guys?”
“Nope. He was dead when we got here. No one should have a firearm in this place. It’s a gun-free zone. There’s a mall cop here but he’s not armed. Haven’t found him yet.”
“Yeah. Well, it looks like two guys had a gun; this asshole and whoever shot him. Any ideas on how this went down?”
“Well, I’m waiting for the Forensic ID Section, but it looks to me like whoever shot him hit him first in the hip just below his body armor. He went down back there. You can see the blood…and he dropped the rifle. From those blood smears on the terrazzo, I’d guess he crawled toward the rifle and when he turned on the shooter, he shot him in the head. Looks like a handgun. Not enough damage for a hunting rifle.”
“Where was the shooter then?”
“Not sure. Up there, maybe,” John replied, pointing to the second floor.
“What? A guy shooting from up there with a handgun? A head shot? You gotta be kidding!”
“Got any other ideas?”
“I’m going up there for a look around.” Ian slowly ascended the stairs like a weary bear and ambled back toward the likely spot where the shooter must have stood. He glanced over the railing and spotted the crime scene crew hustling toward Chu and the fallen gunman. As he searched among the potted plants and trash receptacles he caught the gleam of light off the brass of a spent cartridge. Without moving it, he determined it was a 9 mm.
He peered over the rail and shouted down to Chu, “John, we got spent brass up here. Get somebody up here to preserve this area and send the Forensic Team up here when they’re done down there.” John turned from the CSI crew, waved and shouted at one of his men who came running over.
The young ERT cop jogged up to Ian, who expected him to snap to attention and salute, he seemed so military in bearing. Ian instructed him to protect the scene and not let anyone touch anything. The young officer glanced over the railing at the sprawled shooter, turned back to Ian and said, “Wow. That’s a long way and an awkward angle for a head-shot. Could you have made that shot, Sir?”
“Mind your manners, Son.”
Cudney turned and spotted a well-dressed, middle-aged woman standing in the lady’s lingerie shop behind him. As he started walking toward the shop to see if she might have seen anything, his partner, Traci, bounced up the stairs and hurried over to him. Ian glared at her and rumbled, “About time.”
“Hey, Boss, cut me some slack. This is my day off and I was in the tub when I got the call.”
“I talked to John downstairs briefly and he said somebody capped the bad guy from up here?”
“That’s the way it looks. I spotted some 9 mm brass over there by that planter. I was just about to talk to that women in there and see what she knows.”
Traci nodded and they walked into the shop both holding their badges in front of them. “Hi, I’m Detective Cudney and this is Detective Whitequill. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“Sure,” the woman replied, shifting her gaze to Traci and recognizing her First Nations features and stunning beauty with raised eyebrows. They ignored it and Ian went on.
“Can you tell us what you saw?”
“Well, I didn’t see much, but…I heard shooting on the first floor. I thought it was fireworks or a prank of some kind. But then as it got closer and I heard the whistling sound like you hear in the movies with bullets bouncing off stuff.”
“Yeah, like that. So, I ducked down behind the checkout counter and crawled in that cubby hole there,” she said, pointing to the space.
“Then what happened?”
“Then I heard two really close shots and I really got scared. But, then it got totally quiet and I heard someone walk in the shop. I was afraid to move. I heard some metallic noises over there by that table and then the guy walked out.”
“How do you know it was a guy?” Asked Traci.
“You know, men walk different. He had a limp.”
Traci nodded and walked over to a table marked with a ‘Clearance’ sign and littered with a pile of colorful bras and panties. “Hey, Ian! Check this out.” Cudney strolled over and discovered a handgun with the action open perched on top of a black camisole like a strawberry on a chocolate cake.
“Smith and Wesson Model 5946,” Traci murmured. “Standard police issue.”
“Yep, empty too. Clip’s gone.”
“So, somebody shot the gunman from over there, walked in here, emptied his handgun, left it and walked out? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Yeah, and where’s the guy that owns it?”
On cue Ian’s radio screeched, “Ian, this is John.”
Ian keyed his hand held and answered, “Yeah, John. Go ahead.”
“We found the mall cop. He’s dead. On your floor, back toward the main entrance, near the top of the stairs. I’m headed that way now.”
“OK, see you there.” He turned to Traci. “Bag this pistol, get her contact info and then head down there.” And then to the clerk, “Thank you. We’ll be in touch.”
Cudney lumbered back toward the entrance hall and spotted a group clustered around a body lying in a pool of blood. John stood off to the side with his hands on his hips. Ian pulled up next to him breathing heavily and stared down at the body. “Shit!” he exclaimed. “It’s Barney Kaminski.”
“Exactly.” John replied. “Looks like our shooter hit him in the legs and vest knocking him down and then finished him off with shots to the head.”
“Same shooter as the guy laying down there on the first floor?”
“Sure looks like it. There’s .223 brass all over up here. Two dead in there, too.” John swung his head toward the shop behind them. Ian followed his gaze and noticed two bodies sprawled on the floor of the shop and a young woman hunched over sobbing near the entrance. “His firearm is missing,” said John, as he pointed to an empty holster. “He was not supposed to be armed but then Barney always did have trouble following the rules.”
“Hmmm? We found a Smith 5946 in a pile of ladies underwear back there.” Ian replied nodding his head in the direction of where the shooter lay. Chu frowned and stared at Ian.
“If that’s Barney’s side-arm…” He didn’t finish. “Shit. I’m glad I’m just the SWAT guy on this one and you can do that detective crap, Ian.” Traci hustled up and Ian grabbed her arm and guided her toward the shop.
Traci glanced over her shoulder at the body behind them. “That the mall cop?”
“Yep. Barney Kaminski. Poor sap thought he had a cushy job. Let’s go talk to that young lady over there and see if she saw anything.”
As they approached flashing their credentials, the girl stood up and wiped her eyes with a tissue. She was about 18 and painfully thin with her blond hair pulled back in a severe ponytail. She was dressed in what Ian thought of as the ‘teen/hooker style’ skin-tight top, too-short skirt, and high heels. “You work here, Miss?” asked Ian. She nodded and swiped at more tears streaking her makeup. “Did you see what happened?” She shook her head no.
“Maybe you can tell us what you know.” Traci interrupted. “First, what is your name?”
“My name is Lucy Martin.”
“Where were you when the shooting here happened?”
“I was, like, hiding back in the stock room.”
“How come the other girls didn’t hide?” asked Traci bobbing her head toward the two bodies now covered with sheets.
“I don’t know. The man, like, tried to get them to hide too but…”
“What man?” Ian insisted.
“My customer. He had just, like, picked out an outfit for his daughter for Christmas when the shooting started. He kinda pushed me toward the stock room and I heard him telling Heide and her customer to, like, run but they, you know, never came with me.” She started to sniff again as she thought of her friend and Traci put her arm around her shoulder.
“Take your time, Lucy. What happened after you hid in the stock room?”
“The shooting started in the shop and I could hear, like, screams and then they stopped. I could hear more shooting but it got further and further away and then it, like, stopped altogether. After a while, I, like, snuck out of the stock room and saw Heide and the other girl on the floor and had to, like, get out, ya know. All that blood!”
“What about the man…your customer?”
Lucy looked puzzled, “Gee, I don’t know. He was, like, gone.”
“Can you describe this man, Lucy? How tall was he?”
“He was, like, taller than me.” Lucy gestured with her hand over her head.
“How tall are you with those heels on?’ Ian asked.
“I’m, like, 5’6.”
“White guy?” Traci asked.
Lucy stared at Traci fearing she could make offense before responding, “You are, like, totally pretty.”
“Thanks, Lucy, but help us out here. White guy?”
“Yeah, just, like, an average older guy. Not, like, fat or anything; in fact he looked like he totally worked out, ya know?”
“Older guy?” Traci asked. “How old would you say?”
“Not, like, real old…..’bout the same age as my Dad.”
“How old is he?”
“He’s, like, 40…. Yeah, he’ll be 41 in July.”
“What was he wearing?” Ian jumped in.
“A leather jacket, brown, I think. A baseball cap from one of the American teams, ya know. And jeans.”
“Um, I can’t remember. But I remember wondering if he was, like, an American but, he totally didn’t talk like one.”
“OK. Moustache? Beard? Long hair? Tattoos?”
“Not that I can remember. Just, like, an average guy. Nice guy though and he, like, totally saved my life.” With that she started to sob and Traci put her arm around her shoulder and waited patiently.
“It’s all over now, Lucy. Let’s find your purse so I can get your driver’s license and write down your info in case we need to talk again.” She led Lucy away toward the checkout counter leaving Ian stroking his chin deep in thought.
When Traci returned Ian said, “I don’t think the mall corridors have closed circuit TV recording, but see if they have it in this shop. Maybe we can get a look at this customer of Lucy’s. I have a feeling he figures in this somehow.” As they headed back to the corridor Cudney looked at Traci and said, “That poor cop was carrying a side-arm and it’s missing.” Traci stopped in her tracks and stared at Ian with a mystified look on her face.
“Maybe the ballistics test will clear this up but something seriously does not add up here.”
Cudney and Traci worked their way up and down the corridors trying to find any witnesses who might have any information but once the shooting started, panic set in and people were running in every direction. They headed back to the office and hoped the video surveillance system of the shops would provide something useful.
Ian had his feet up on his desk wishing he still could smoke in his office as he pondered the contradictions of the mall shootings. His boss, the Deputy Chief of Police, Graham Brantwell, swept into the room followed by a cloud of after shave. He dressed and carried himself like an ambassador and, in fact, harbored dreams of a glorious career in politics. He viewed his time in the police department as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. Tall and handsome with long wavy hair, he never missed an opportunity to get in front of the TV cameras or get his name in the newspaper. This shooting would get national wall-to-wall coverage and Graham drooled at the chance to become a household name. “The Chief has given me the responsibility of conducting the press briefings on this and I’ve scheduled one for 4:00. This incident is a perfect example of what’s going to happen more and more often now that the god damn Conservative government got rid of the gun registry. I expect to emphasise exactly that point in the press briefing. Anyway, Cudney, what have you got for me?” Graham asked.
Ian gave him a bemused expression and slowly swung his feet off his desk and rolled his chair up to his desk. He detested the man and his backstabbing, tyrannical methods. He pushed a sheet of paper forward towards the Deputy Chief. “Here’s the butchers bill. Seven killed, 14 wounded, four critically. Plus the shooter, of course.”
“What about the shooter?”
Ian opened a slim file on the corner of his desk and pulled out a sheet and handed it to Graham. “Brandon Norton, aged 21. We are still investigating, but it appears he’s the typical troubled youth, in and out of mental institutions and a series of minor run-ins with the authorities: drugs, fights, petty crime, and a rocky relationship with his family.”
“How about his parents?”
“His folks are divorced. The dad works up in the oil patch and Mum works as a waitress. She and Brandon had a falling out weeks ago and she claims not to have seen him since.”
“Has the Dad been contacted?”
“Yeah. He’s flying down from Ft. McMurray tonight.”
“What about the mall cop? I understand he was one of ours and retired.”
“Barney Kaminski medically retired after about 15 years. He was a bit of a loose cannon out on the street and was pulled in to ride a desk. Had some personal issues with alcohol and a divorce and was given a medical about four years ago. ”
“Well, I guess he’s the hero of the entire incident. I’ll be sure to build him up in my statement to the press.”
“Possibly. You will have to finesse the issue of why he was carrying a sidearm, I guess.”
Traci slid into the doorway and stopped abruptly when she spotted the Deputy Chief. “Oops, sorry, Sir.” She muttered.
Brantwell looked up with annoyance. “We’re having a meeting here, Whitequill.”
“Oh, lighten up Graham.” Ian interrupted. “This is not the Premier’s office.” Then turning to Traci he said, “Whataya got, Traci?”
She waved a sheet of paper and said, “Thought you might like to see the preliminary ballistics report.”
Ian beckoned her in and took the sheet from her while Graham glared at her. She smiled sweetly, understanding that his animosity toward her stemmed from her rebuffing his advances, telling him ‘to go home to his wife.’ Graham turned back to Ian as he said, “Well, that’s what we figured. The extractor markings on the shell casings we found on the upper deck match those from Barney’s handgun.”
“The slug that hit the shooter in the hip is still in the body and if it’s not too beat up, the ballistics guys should be able to make a positive ID that it’s a slug from Barney’s weapon.” Traci replied.
“How’s it going on reviewing the recordings from the shops?” Ian asked.
“Mary is working on sorting through them isolating the time of the shootings so we can review them without watching the whole recording. I’ll let you know when we’re ready to look at them.” She turned and headed out the door.
“Well, that settles it then. Barney is a national hero. He saved numerous lives and died in the effort. They’ll put his statue in the courthouse.”
“Not so fast, Graham,” Ian cautioned.
Graham ignored him and lost himself in the fantasy of seeing his face on every TV screen and newspaper front page in Canada. He turned and headed for the door. “I’ve got to go prepare my statement.”
“Hold it, Graham!” Ian said loudly. “There’s a problem here.”
Graham stopped and turned. “What problem?”
“Couple of problems, actually. First off, Barney was a lousy pistol shot. He couldn’t hit the broadside of a…..” Ian stopped himself from saying it. “I doubt that Barney improved as a shooter after retiring four years ago and whoever made those shots is a solid expert and knew exactly what he was doing.”
“Maybe Barney got lucky.”
“I doubt it. But there’s a bigger problem.”
“Barney’s 9 mm was in a pile of ladies’ undies near where the shots that took out the shooter were fired and that was about 50 meters from where Barney lay dead.”
“I don’t get it.” Graham looked puzzled.
“For Barney to have made those shots he would have had to rise from where he was shot–in the head–walk 50 metres down the corridor, kill the shooter, hide his side-arm, walk back down the corridor and die. He’d have to do all that without bleeding on the floor.”
“So you’re saying some shopper picked up Barney’s handgun and killed the shooter?”
“It’s the only thing that makes sense.” Ian replied.
“That’s murder.” Graham mused.
“Well….. Yeah, technically.”
“Not technically, actually. You kill someone in Canada with a firearm and that’s murder two. You find out who did this and I want him charged with murder. You got me, Ian?”
“Yeah, I got it, but I wouldn’t tell this to the press this afternoon. Not until we sort this all out.”
“Yeah, I suppose. I’ll tell them we’re still investigating and that quick action by the police saved lives.”
“Yes, I’d leave out the murder idea. Emotions are a little raw right now and we need to be sure of what we’re talking about before we open that can of worms.”
Graham marched out hurried down the corridor. Seconds later Traci poked her head in the door again. “We’ve got the videos cued up if you have time to take a look.”
“Yep, I think we’ve found our mystery shopper anyway.”
Ian hauled himself to his feet and he joined Traci heading down the hall to the video room. Ian nodded to Mary as they entered. “What have you got for me, Mary?”
“First, here’s the video from Michelle’s, the shop where Lucy Martin works. It’s the one close to where Barney was killed.” Mary started the video and they could see the man described by Lucy ducking behind a rack of long dresses as a man in black carrying a rifle enters the shop. The silent black and white video did not soften the horror of the execution of the two women.
“Christ,” muttered Ian.
The man in the video slipped from behind the dresses after the shooter exited, checked the pulse of the two downed girls and then limped out of the shop.
“With that baseball cap pulled down, you can’t really see his face.” Traci said. “Detroit Tigers cap, if that helps.”
“If he made a purchase in the shop with his credit card there will be a record and we should have his name and address within an hour.” Replied Ian.
“I’ll get right on it,” answered Traci.
Mary interjected, “There another video of the lingerie shop where the handgun was found. Looks like the same guy but still no good look at his face. As the lady said, he’s got a limp.”
Ian and Traci drove through the near suburbs of London looking for the apartment complex on Huron Avenue. “You sure this is the guy?” Asked Ian.
“Well, he used his credit card in Michelle’s about the time of the shootings.” Traci answered.
“But you could find out nothing about the guy?”
“Not much. His name is Peter Gerard and it’s almost like he’s off the grid. Nothing on Google, Facebook or Twiter. Not listed in the phone book. He’s got a driver’s license and a cell phone account but no email address. I could find no social insurance number or any employment record. He’s got a couple of credit cards with BMO and a checquing account. That’s it.”
“So, what’s he do for a living? Sell drugs?”
“I have no idea but I think we better be careful with this guy until we find out what’s going on.”
They found the apartment building and circled around to the back parking lot just as a few snowflakes started to fall gently out of a depressingly gray sky. They walked up to the 2nd floor and found the apartment halfway down the corridor. Standing on each side of the door, Ian rapped firmly.
They heard someone move to the door and say, “Who’s there?”
“Police. Please open the door.”
The door opened to the safety chain and a man said, “Show me some ID.” Ian and Traci pushed their ID wallets to the opening and after a moment the man unhooked the chain and swung the door open. They entered and gazed around the small apartment. It was sparsely furnished but neat and clean. A small flat screen TV flickered in the corner where a hockey game was in progress. A two-foot artificial Christmas tree sat on a table by the window with coloured lights blinking a sad rhythm.
“Mr. Gerard, we’d like to ask you a few questions.”
“What about?” He replied.
“Mind if we have a seat?” Asked Ian. Gerard nodded and motioned toward a tired-looking couch. He remained standing.
Traci noted that he was of medium height, solidly built and in good shape, pretty much as Lucy had described him. He was in his early 40s with short and slightly graying hair.
“Mr. Gerard,” Ian began. “Were you shopping at Willow Tree Mall yesterday?”
“Can you describe what happened?”
“I was in a shop picking out a gift for my daughter and some guy in black came in and shot up the place. I hid and then ran out after he left. He shot two of the girls in the place and I could see they were dead so I hauled ass away from the shooting.”
“Did you see Officer Kaminski lying in the corridor when you went out?
“Yes, of course, but I could see the holes in his head and guessed him to be beyond any help from me.”
“OK, Mr. Gerard, what did you do then?”
“I worked my way back to the entrance and got the Hell out of there.”
“You didn’t grab Officer Kaminski’s gun and run down and shoot the bad guy?” Traci asked.
“What? Why would I do a stupid thing like that?”
“Somebody did.” Ian interjected. “Somebody killed that guy and in Canada that’s murder.”
“How do you support yourself Mr. Gerard?” Traci asked quickly. “What kind of work do you do?”
Pete looked at her for a long beat and then said, “I’m on disability. I was injured and am no longer able to work.”
“Where did you work?”
“I was in the Army…. A supply sergeant and was injured in a vehicle accident. I was medically discharged.”
“You don’t look like a supply clerk.” Traci said, doubtfully.
“You don’t look like a cop. You look like a model.” Pete responded. Traci blushed in spite of herself.
“Look Gerard, if you don’t want to give us straight answers we can continue this conversation down at the station.” Ian replied angrily.
“What’s the point? I don’t have anything to add and nothing more to say.”
“We’ll just see about that Mr. Gerard.”
Pete said nothing on the drive down to the station and said nothing for the next four hours despite the various officers who took turns trying to get him to talk. He simply sat there and stared at them. Finally, as Traci came in to take her turn, Pete spoke at last. “I have to take a piss.” He said.
“Well Mr. Gerard, if you answer our questions perhaps we can then take a short break.”
“Bullshit. If you don’t unlock these handcuffs and let me go to the washroom I am going to piss my pants right here. Make sure you don’t delete the video you’re making of this interview. My lawyer will want it for the lawsuit. Last I heard, torture is not permitted in Canada.”
Ian entered the room, reluctantly removed the cuffs and led Pete from the interview room. As Gerard relieved himself with Ian standing behind him Pete said, “Look Chief, I’m done here. I gotta pick up my daughter after swim practice so I need a ride back to my car now.”
“You’re not going anywhere. We have credible evidence that you are involved in this thing and we want a statement from you.”
“That’s bullshit and you know it, Cudney. If you have evidence, charge me. Otherwise, I’m out of here. If you don’t give me a ride home I’ll take a cab.” Gerard walked out of the bathroom and headed down the hall to the elevators. Ian spotted Traci and motioned her over.
“Give him a ride home. He likes you. Maybe he’ll say something on the way.”
Ian sat brooding in his office when Constable Kelly poked his head in the door. “Good news Chief. Your idea paid off. We found the magazine from Barney’s pistol in the one of the trash baskets on the second floor. The techs are trying to pull some prints off it as we speak.”
“Excellent, Kelly! Let’s hope it’s not wiped as clean as the handgun.” Kelly nods and hurries out.
His phone buzzed and he heard the insistent voice of Graham as he answered. “What’s the progress, Cudney?” I hear that you brought in a likely suspect.”
“We got nothing out of him and had to let him go. But, we found the magazine from Barney’s gun. We’re trying for prints right now. Should know something by morning.”
“Good work. Stay on it. I want this murderer behind bars by the end of the week.”
“Yes, sir. We’ll stay on it.” But Graham had already hung up. Ian sighed and looked at the clock. Time for a couple of cocktails and dinner. This case was not how he had imagined his cruising into retirement.
The next morning Ian walked in to find Traci already at her desk. He growled at her, “Anything new?”
“Yes, we got one good thumb print off the magazine and have submitted it to the Automated Fingerprint ID System database. It came back without a match. We also submitted it to the FBI system in the US. The print’s not there either.”
Ian scratched his head. “If the print is Gerard’s or even Barney’s it would be in the database. All the Army guys are printed. Unless maybe the guys in JTF2 are not in the database.”
“You know, Canadian Special Forces… like the US Delta Force or Navy SEALs.”
“I suppose we could get Gerard in here and take his prints, see if we get a match.” Offered Traci.
“Yeah, but that would require a warrant and I don’t think we’re gonna get a judge to do that with what we’ve got now.” Ian headed for his office. “I’m going to get on the phone and start calling up the Canadian Forces. See if I can find out anything about our Mr. Gerard. You can stall Graham if he gets anxious.”
After three hours, Ian emerged from his office with anger and frustration clouding his face. He looked into Traci’s cubicle and said, “Let’s go to lunch and then drop in on Mr. Gerard.”
As they settled into a booth at Joe Kool’s and ordered drinks, Ian a pint of lager and Traci a diet Coke, Traci asked, “Well, what did the Army have to say?”
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I got bounced around and talked to lots of colonels, majors and many sergeants but essentially they were all telling me zip. Never heard of Pete Gerard. Or, so they said.”
“So what now?”
“Well, I’d like to drop it. The guy saved a lot of lives. Norton had over 300 rounds of .223 ammo on him when he got capped. By the time the ERT got there, a lot more people would have been dead.”
“Graham is going to insist that we pick up Gerard and bring him in for printing.”
“I know. I figured we’d do it right after lunch.”
When they got to Gerard’s apartment he wasn’t there and neither was his pickup truck. Nor was he there the rest of the afternoon and night when a patrol car cruised the parking lot. Gerard had seemingly vanished.
London Chief of Police, Stuart Sims, rummaged through his top desk drawer looking for some antacids. Between the Mayor demanding an explanation for what happened at the mall and the ranting of Graham Brantwell, his stomach boiled with acid. His phone buzzed and his secretary announced, “Chief, there’s a Ms. Smith here to see you.”
“Ms. Smith. She says she has an urgent personal message for you from Ottawa.”
Stuart frowned. Now what? “Send her in.”
The woman entered briskly. Tall and slender, she dressed in a serious business suit with low heels. She wore little make-up and her hair was pulled back in a severe bun. After shaking hands she presented her ID wallet that sported a bright badge and picture ID.
“CSIS? What the Hell do the spooks want with me?” A pained look caused Sims to realize the offense and he quickly added, “Sorry, Ms. Smith. You just caught me by surprise. What can I do for you?”
“Perfectly understandable Chief. I’ll get right to the point. Your department is trying to get information on Peter Gerard.”
Sims nodded. “Yes, we have reason to believe that he was involved in the shooting at the mall two days ago.”
“Yes, we know and I’m here to deliver the message that the government wants you to drop your pursuit of Mr. Gerard.”
“What I am about to tell you is Top Secret and revealing any of this is a federal crime. Understood?” Sims nodded and Smith continued, “You may have noted that there is not a lot of history on Mr. Gerard. That’s because that’s not his real name. He was a highly trained member of JTF2 and involved in numerous clandestine operations in Afghanistan. In one highly successful operation, he rescued some very important British civilians who were on a humanitarian mission and were abducted by the Taliban. He was awarded the George’s Cross, their second highest award, by a grateful Britain.”
“Wow!” Sims said. “But why is he in hiding?”
Smith held up her hand. “Gerard killed several high ranking Al Qaeda leaders in a later operation and they issued a fatwa on him and his family. He was seriously injured at that time and retired from service as a result. He received the Cross of Valor from Canada for his actions. In secret, of course.”
“What about the murder charge? Sims asked. “I’m assuming from this that he did it?”
“Of course he did it. But, I think under the circumstances most people would consider what he did a tremendous service, don’t you?”
“Yes, but I’m not the problem. My Deputy Chief is a stickler and has political ambitions.”
“We’re well aware of that. I have a message from the Prime Minister for him. Why don’t we call him in and talk it over?”
When Graham entered the room and Ms. Smith introduced herself Graham looked at her with a haughty expression. He did not approve of the clandestine service or the military so her explanation fell on deaf ears. She produced from her slim folder a hand written note from the Prime Minister explaining the situation and requesting that he back off. Graham stood angrily.
“Ms. Smith or whatever your name is….. I despise this Conservative government and its militaristic ways! When I get to the House of Commons I intend to vote to eliminate your organization, cut funding to the military and re-instate the long gun registry! I will not back off of my pursuit of the criminal that committed murder in my town!”
“Sit down, Mr. Brantwell, before you have a stroke.” Smith pulled a phone from her pocket and punched a speed dial number and set the phone in the middle of the desk. “You’re a member of the NDP, right Mr. Brantwell?” She asked. He nodded as the phone rang. “Maybe you’d like to speak to the leader of your party?”
When the phone was answered Smith spoke loudly. “Hi, Tom. I’m here in London with Chief Sims and Graham who does not think too highly of the Prime Minister’s note.”
Tom sighed. “Hi, Chief. Look, Graham, I don’t agree with Steven on very much but on this subject, we see eye to eye. Gerard is a hero and if we expose the guy and subject him to this, we will do irreparable harm to the party. The Conservatives will beat us over the head with it and we will have the Queen on our ass. A couple of the people he rescued were close to the Royal Family. Graham, I know you have political hopes but I promise you this; if you push this or breathe one word to the media you will never get elected to anything. I will see to it personally! Do you understand?”
With a pout Graham mumbled, “Yes, I got it, Tom.”
“Good. I’ll see you at the convention next summer, buy you a drink and I’ll introduce you around. Gotta go, guys.”
“Thanks, Tom.” Smith chirped.
“Well.” Chief Sims said. “What now?”
“Simple,” Smith answered, “Call in the media and tell them that after investigating you have determined that Barney fought it out with the gunman and though gravely wounded managed to kill Norton before he could murder more innocent Christmas shoppers. Quite frankly, he’s a hero.”
Graham looked glum but the Chief beamed, “Let’s make it happen, Graham.” He then looked at Smith. “I’m going to have to explain to the detectives working this case what’s going on here. They know Barney did not shoot Norton.”
“Yes, you may but you should also remind them of the secret nature of this situation and that if this leaks out I will be back looking for the culprit.”
Three weeks later Traci exited her grimy, ancient Toyota sedan as Pete Gerard drove his beat up F-150 into his apartment parking lot. He looked mildly surprised as she approached him. “Well, Detective Whitequill, what brings you into this neck of the woods? Not here to arrest me I hope?”
She laughed. “You saw that Barney is up for the Cross of Valor?”
“Yeah, I saw that. I’ve got a TV and everything. He deserved it and it will make his family proud. Why are you really here?”
She blushed and said, “I wanted to see if you’d have dinner with me.”
“What?” He looked shocked. “Why? Detective, I’m old enough to be your father!”
“No you’re not. I’m 28, and you can call me Traci.”
“Geeze … ah Traci, a woman that looks like you shouldn’t have any trouble attracting guys like bees to the clover patch.”
“Guys maybe, but not real men. Guys I meet are too full of themselves, only want to get their hand up your skirt and get you into bed. Too many guys with multiple earrings and too many tattoos; guys who wear perfume and moisturize and can’t walk past a mirror without admiring themselves, or married guys looking for a little something on the side. Plenty of guys like that.”
“I’m pretty beat up, Traci. Damaged goods.”
“Hey, I’m just talking about dinner here.” As he stood there considering it, she continued. “You don’t have a daughter in town you have to pick up from swim practice do you?”
He laughed and she liked hearing it. “No, but I do have a daughter. She’s 12 going on 22 and she does swim. She lives with her mum quite far from here.”
“I’ll even buy.”
“Nah, can’t have that. Tell ya what though. I’m a modern guy; we can split the cheque.”
© Richard Draper, August 2015
This story was prompted by my observation that the worst of the mass shootings that plague modern society seem to happen in “gun free zones”. Gun free, that is, for everyone but the armed psycho bent on killing as many people as possible. Like the muslim terrorists, they are essentially cowards and pick the softest targets they can find. Unarmed Christmas shoppers are as easy as it gets. I also wanted to write a story that takes place in Canada, a country with some pretty restrictive gun laws, and to my Yankee readers, some unusual spelling of certain words.
I was helped in getting my facts and terminology about Canadian police procedures correct by RCMP Officer Cst. Janelle Shoihet. True, I had to stretch a couple of facts to fit the story but mostly I think I got it right. And, of course, thanks to the Blogmaster, Karen, for her suggestions in getting the ‘teen speak’ in Lucy’s dialogue accurate and for her thorough editing. Hope you liked the story.
Next up on my list of writing projects was a piece on fracking but the recent cold snap bumped this one to the top of the list.
If you are a frequent reader of this blog you are well aware of my long skepticism of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) now referred to as “climate change”. I’ve taken some significant amount of ridicule for that view over the years, particularly from the readers of “The Vancouver Sun” where I offered some thoughts on the subject after the intellectual dishonesty at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was exposed.
So, it brought me no small measure of satisfaction when the expedition to the Antarctic to study the impact of global warming found itself stuck in the sea ice. The ice breaker sent to rescue them also got stuck and then the US sent a huge ice breaker to try to free both ships. True to form, of the first 41 news reports on the incident, 40 of them failed to mention what the Hell they were doing down there and simply referred to them as “tourists” or “scientists”. According to the expedition leader’s website, Professor Chris Turney of the U. of New South Whales, they were there to study the effects of global warming on sea ice. You would think that the media would be unable to resist this rich irony, but of course you would be wrong. They have too much invested in the global warming story.
The news services, however, cannot ignore the cold spell that is now breaking 100 year old temperature records all over the North American continent. Of course, they can cry that this “polar vortex” is just a very unique phenomenon and has in no way disproved global warming, er, climate change. This is the thesis of Jason Samenow, the weather editor of the Washington Post, who has made a career out of pushing the global warming story. It is true. You can’t predict what’s going to happen a hundred years hence by a single weather event. However, whenever a nasty event like a heat wave, tornado, hurricane or drought strikes somewhere on Earth these same guys and gals are loudly blaming it on global warming. Some yahoos have even tried to blame the polar vortex on AGW.
Dr. Roger Pielke of the U. of Colorado is a professor of Environmental Studies and he testified before Congress on December 11, 2013 that hurricane landfalls since 1900 have NOT increased, nor are they more intense or causing more damage. His studies also show the same is true for floods, droughts, tornadoes and forest fires. There is simply no evidence that these extreme weather events have increased in the last couple of decades. Did you see that on NBC Nightly News?
No? Maybe you saw this one? A sea level study by Lennart Bengston, a Swedish researcher using satellite data from the U of Colorado concludes that sea levels have risen an average of 3 mm/year over the last 20 years. This slow increase in sea level continues a trend begun at the end of the last ice age and the rate has not increased in the last 20 years.
To put this in perspective let’s do a little metric conversion arithmetic. There are 2.54 cm in one inch or 25.4 mm. So 3mm equals about 1/8 inch rise in sea levels per year. In 100 years that comes out to about a foot or so…just a tad lower than the 20 foot prediction in Al Gore’s Academy Award winning 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth”. But hey, Al’s made some $200 million dollars since losing his bid for the Presidency. Perhaps winning the prize for Purveyor of Apocalypse of this decade and pocketing the $200 million will be sufficient consolation?
There have been many predictors of the coming Armageddon who have cashed in on the gravy train. After all, nothing sells newspapers and magazines or loosens the purse strings of governments and rich donors like the end of life on our fragile planet. No one wants the facts to mess up a good story or to obstruct the government grants to universities and think tanks to study the problem. The US has doled out billions to energy related start-ups (mostly to large donors to Obama and the Democrats) for wind or solar farms, electric car developers and solar panel manufacturers. Most have gone tits up.
We also recently learned that the Obama brain trust has given $4.7 billion between 2010 and 2012 to other countries to battle global warming! Draining the public treasury to do battle with a ghost like AGW is one thing but the war on carbon has more dangerous implications when mandated policies like closing down coal fired electrical generating plants and putting unnecessary restrictions on drilling or pipelines is added to the insanity. As this unusual cold snap is demonstrating, electrical grids are dangerously close to their limitations during prolonged frigid periods. Closing power plants because you hate coal and nuclear is simply irresponsible.
It doesn’t seem to matter that past dire warnings of the coming apocalypse have proven hopelessly wrong, the gullible public always falls for the next one. Recently we had the Y2K computer crisis. Some smart computer nerds made a bundle on that one. And what about the Mayan Calendar 2012 scare? Hard to dispute the Mayans were pretty clever dudes for their day. But I did wonder how smart they could be if they sacrificed their prettiest virgins to make it rain? Just sayin’. Here in more enlightened times we just sacrifice tax dollars and economic prosperity.
Nor does being hopelessly wrong about predictions that the world is coming to an end seem to adversely impact a reputation or income. Take Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford professor of biology who in 1968 appeared on Johnny Carson to promote his book “The Population Bomb” predicting mass starvation in the next 20 years due to overpopulation. This is, of course, the same crap espoused by Rev. Thomas Malthus in 1798.
The population of the earth in 1960 was 3 billion people at the time and Ehrlich and his fellow doomsayers professors John Holdren and John Harte, among others jumped on the bandwagon. They predicted that growing populations would outstrip the food supply and the world would soon run out of everything including oil, copper, iron, tin, etc. This became the “settled science” of the period and governments and journalists called for action to control population growth and resource consumption. The guys selling this apocalyptic vision made a bundle selling books, making speaking fees and with cushy university jobs. Politicians of all stripes jumped on the bandwagon. By 1970 Earth Day had kicked off the modern environmental movement and Nixon created the EPA.
Of course, there were skeptics most notably Julian Simon, an economist and business professor at the U of Illinois. Simon believed that technology and human ingenuity would prevail and that resources were not finite. This led to a very public battle between the two… essentially the apocalypse camp and the optimist camp. Simon proposed a bet with Ehrlich that soon became very public. Simon offered to let Ehrlich pick any five commodities (he chose chromium, copper, nickel, tin and tungsten) and bet that these would not increase in price in the next decade. If they were to become scarce they would obviously increase in price. Ehrlich was assisted in selecting the five by Holdren and Harte.
So, how did the bet turn out? Not good for Ehrlich. All five commodities were LESS costly. (This is all detailed in the book The Bet by Paul Sabin.) What about the mass starvation that was predicted by these guys in 1968? The earth’s population has more than doubled since then and the only starvation is caused by war and political repression. Improved farming practices, seed genetics and mechanization has vastly improved yields. Besides, the UN among others are predicting that the earth’s popu-lation has peaked and will be declining in the coming decades.
Ehrlich and his fellow doomsayers were hopelessly wrong about everything so their credibility as prognosticators should be over, right? Wrong! Like the guy on the street corner with the sign, “Repent. The world ends on July 14th!” When it doesn’t happen he simply changes the date.
Ehrlich is still a Harvard professor and much in demand for his opinions on the serious threat of global warming.
John Holdren who seems to never have been right about anything, is now Obama’s“Science Czar” and helps shape their climate change agenda. John Harte, now a professor at Berkley has written a book called “Climate Shock”.
Ya gotta give it to these guys and their guru, Al Gore; they’re pretty good at riding the latest apocalyptic fad to the bank.
In the fading sunlight, Sam Bailey pulled his battered Explorer off the tarmac and on to the gravel track leading to the headquarters of the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society. After unlocking the substantial metal gate, he wound his way back to a large log and stone structure tucked into a grove of white pines. Sam struggled to remove the heavy shutters that covered the windows and slowly unloaded the truck. He started a fire in the cold stone fireplace and poured himself a dark scotch. He sat down before the fire to catch his breath.
As the darkness crept into the cabin with only the snap and hiss of the fire as companions, Sam’s thoughts also turned dark. He struggled to change his mood by remembering the old days and the good times: The deer camps with cards and laughter filling the cabin, along with wood and cigar smoke. The redolent odor of drying wet wool hunting clothes hanging everywhere and exhausted dogs dozing contentedly by the fire. The clink of ice cubes and whiskey-lubricated merriment had echoed off the log rafters.
Most of all, he remembered his friends. But one by one his companions had grown frail and died. Only Charlie remained, housed in a nursing home over in Racine, unable to even remember his own name.
They had all had believed that the next generation would take over the Society, but inexplicably, all the children of the next generation had moved away or were uninterested in hunting and fishing. His own son, Joe, his favorite hunting and fishing buddy in the early years, had too quickly grown and moved to California where he worked for a big software company. His daughter, Sue, had married a Navy pilot and was raising a family in Florida. The offspring of all the other members had similar stories, either moving away or uninterested.
But Sam’s biggest blow had been losing his wife, Martha, two years ago. He had been utterly lost since. He sighed, drained his glass and, struggling to his feet, shuffled to the kitchen area to prepare his supper. A second scotch was required for the meal and a third for the clean up and dishes. It had become a nightly ritual and his doctor didn’t like it one bit. Frankly, he did not give a “fiddler’s fart” as his Dad used to say, what a doctor half his age thought about his alcohol consumption. What was it going to do…. Kill him?
After coaxing the fire back to life in the blackened granite fireplace, he settled into a battered cherry wood rocker. He carefully placed the scotch bottle on the end table next to his Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver and propped his feet on the hearth. This had been his routine in recent nights. Sam was trying to find that elusive niche between inebriation and consciousness where he would find the courage to join his wife and his old friends from the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society. He had yet to find it, but the night was young. Perhaps one more scotch?
I first met Sam Bailey on a sunny mid-May morning on the Big Green River in Southwest Wisconsin. The Big Green runs out of the oak and walnut forested hills of Grant County and into the Wisconsin River about 20 miles up from where it joins the Mississippi on the relentless journey to the Gulf. The limestone soil and outcroppings along the Green’s passage provide the nutrients to produce fat brown trout and also accounts for the impressively solid antlers on the local white tail bucks.
I arrived at the Green a little late that morning and as I approached my favorite hole I could see someone had beaten me to it. It soon became clear he was an older gent and he wore clothes of another era; a checked wool shirt topped with an ancient fishing vest, canvas waders and a battered felt hat. The wicker creel that hung at his side clearly cemented him in another century. I had never seen one of those outside of fancy hunting and fishing stores where they served as wall decorations. In the modern religion of catch-and-release, a creel represented a clear sacrilege.
He worked the water with the easy efficiency of decades of wielding a fly rod, and as I sat down to watch, I could see from the smooth, slow action that it was a bamboo rod. Some Blue Olives started coming off and Sam tied on one of the delicate mayfly imitations.
He quickly hooked and released a couple of smaller fish when he noticed a heavy rise near the far bank where I was sitting. It would be a long cast, perhaps 65 feet, but the old man didn’t hesitate. He stripped long pulls off his reel and made several double hauled false casts before landing the tiny, dry fly soundlessly in the back eddy next to the grassy bank. It disappeared in a slurp and as the line snapped taut, a dazzling shower of droplets were catapulted into the sunlight along its entire length. With the reel screaming and the rod bucking, the trout powered back and forth across the pool before turning and racing upstream like a charging bull. At the end of the pool, it launched skyward and seemed levitated in the sunlight, gleaming gold with black and red spots all surrounded by a halo of sparkling spray. And then he was gone.
Sam reeled in his slack line and carefully waded the river toward me. He plunked down beside me and I could see that his hands were shaking as he pulled a scared briar pipe and worn tobacco pouch from his vest and began the ritual of filling and lighting it.
“Big fish.” I offered in horrendous understatement. “Must have been 5 lbs.”
“Yep.” He replied. “Too big for that tippet anyway.”
“Too bad.” I mumbled lamely.
“Ah well, It was fun there for about 10 seconds.” “By the way, my name’s Sam Bailey.” He offered his big rough hand that bore the wear and spots of many years and too much sun.
“I’m Kurt Jensen,” I replied.
I could see him eyeing my Winston rod and Ross reel with interest. “Nice outfit,” he said. And then looking at me directly in the eyes, “Don’t see many Black guys out here on the rivers.”
He could see that I was a little surprised and annoyed and quickly said, “Ah shit, sorry. I guess you guys like to be called African Americans now.”
“No. Mostly I like to be called Kurt and referred to as a fly fisherman,” I replied a little offended.
He chuckled. “Sorry Kurt. That was rude of me. I apologize. What do you do…? I mean for a living.”
“I’m an attorney in Milwaukee with Bigelow, Linstrom and Meyers.”
“Sure. I know that firm. I used to do a little business with old Bill Bigelow. Good guy. I was sad to hear of his passing.”
“Me too. He was the man responsible for my joining the firm.”
“You hunt?” Sam asked.
“Yeah, love to hunt grouse. Got a setter at home. A few friends and I go out for deer each year.”
“Hmmm,” replied Sam. “Let’s see you wave that high priced piece of plastic, Son. I’ll just sit here and smoke for a bit.” Sam relit his pipe and watched as I waded out into the pool and started peeling off some line. I’ve been fly-fishing since high school and pride myself on my technique, but I must admit that I was a little nervous. After about 10 minutes, I hooked a nice foot long fatty, and after a brief but furious struggle, brought him in and released him. I looked over for some praise from Sam but he had already gone.
I was at my desk early the following Monday–as all law associates aspiring to make partner must be–when my intercom buzzed and my secretary, Lucy, announced in her strangled valley girl voice, “Kurt, there’s a Mr. Bailey here to see you.”
I happened to be working on a routine real estate deal at the time so, intrigued, I replied, “Fine, send him in.”
Sam lumbered in, slightly hunched over, and I stood and offered my hand. He was dressed in a brown tweed sport coat that looked like vintage 1980 complete with string tie and tan slacks. His long white hair was slicked back and accentuated his ruddy complexion. He sat and refused my offer of a coffee. After staring at me for a moment, grinned and said, “Surprised to see me?”
I nodded. “What can I do for you?”
“I checked you out this weekend. The Internet is amazing. We never even had a damn phone until I was in high school so I could never have imagined what we have now.”
I just nodded wondering what was coming next. “Go on.” I said.
“I did a Google search on you and checked out your Facebook and Linkedin page. You are an interesting fellow…. Your Dad was a 30-year vet of the Milwaukee police department and your Mom an elementary teacher, three successful sisters. You’re a lucky guy to be born in those circumstances with a family like that. A lot of black kids in Milwaukee are not so lucky.” He paused to see if I’d reacted and I tried not to look pissed. Sam continued, “To your credit, you didn’t waste it. You’ve done well.”
“You have impressive computer skills.”
“Yeah, well,” He chuckled. “Full disclosure, I called my son, a computer nerd, and he walked me through it.”
“That’s all fine, Sam. But why are you here?”
“I’ve got a story to tell you and then a proposition for you to consider.”
My phone rang promptly at 8:00 as I was hanging up my coat. “Hello,” I chirped into the phone trying to sound business-like.
“Man, you are so predictable. I could set my watch by when you walk in the door.”
“What are you talking about? I‘ve been here for half an hour working away at my desk.”
“Bullshit, Jeff. I’ve known you since the seventh grade and you never have been anything but perfectly on time in your entire life. Never late and never early. I couldn’t figure out how you always managed to do it.”
It was Kurt Jensen, my best friend for as long as I could remember. We had gone to grade school, junior high, high school and college at the University of Wisconsin together. We had parted in grad school when I took my MBA at Marquette and Kurt had gotten his law degree at UW Madison. We got reunited in Milwaukee when Kurt joined one of our biggest law firms and I started plying my investment banker trade with the money boys on Water Street.
I asked, “What’s up calling me so early?” I thought he might want to set up a game. He regularly kicked my ass in racquetball and I cleaned his clock in one-on-one basketball, a fact that our friends found hilarious since Kurt is black and I am as white as a person can be without actually being blue.
“Lunch? Kurt asked.
“Sure,” I responded quickly. “You buying?”
“OK. Jonah’s on the Water. 12:30.” He hung up.
“That’s odd,” I thought. No quibbling about who was going to buy. Nothing. I sat back wondering.
As I sat fidgeting at Jonah’s, nursing an iced tea, Kurt was, as usual, late. Finally, he swung through the door and waved as he spotted me across the crowded dining room. He looked, as always, like a GQ model suddenly set loose in downtown Milwaukee. He sported an impeccably tailored tan summer weight suit, brilliant white shirt and patterned brown and gold tie. It all complimented his smooth light chocolate completion. He carried himself with such confidence that he seemed bigger than his 5’ 10” that I knew him to be, and coupled with his looks and dazzling smile, he caught the attention of every female in the room. I shook my head for it was always the same. I used to tell him… before my marriage, of course…that I would just follow him around and pick up his cast-offs.
He slid into the chair across from me, grinned and asked, “Waiting long?”
“Nope, just the usual 20 minutes.”
“Sorry, Man. Busy, busy, you know.” Before Kurt could continue the waitress showed up and Kurt glanced down at my iced tea and frowned. “Tea is not going to cut it today,” he declared. “Let us have a bottle of the Sterling Chardonnay, 2009 and take this man’s tea away immediately.”
I looked at him curiously. “What’s up Kurt? Did you discover gold in your garden? Is Darlene pregnant again? What’s gotten into you? You never drink at lunch.” I said. “Did they make you a partner?”
“Nah, maybe next year on the partnership. I’ve got an opportunity for the two of us and a few of our close friends.” Kurt raised his hands to halt my coming questions as the waitress arrived with the wine.
We went through the ritual of opening, tasting and pouring the wine and as we clinked glasses in the traditional toast I said, “OK buddy, let’s hear it.”
Kurt started by relating his encounter with Sam Bailey at the Big Green last Saturday and then began, “So Sam shows up unannounced at my office yesterday at 9:00 sharp. He sits down in my office and without much preamble says, ‘You got 6 or 7 pals who are hunters and fishermen and have a few disposable bucks in their pockets?’ And, I say, ‘Sure, so?’ He then proceeds to tell me about how he and 7 of his friends founded the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society 49 years ago.”
“The what?” I ask.
Kurt held up his hand to stop me, “In due time, son, in due time.” He also waved off the waitress who was hovering to take our order. “We’re going to enjoy our wine for a bit.” He squinted at her name tag. “Thanks, Eileen.” He gave her his 1000-watt smile and she blushed and scampered away.
“OK. Cut the flirting and tell me what this is all about,” I grumped.
Kurt sighed and began, “Sam tells me that he’s the last of the Society members still alive. The only other survivor died this weekend at a nursing home. He’s 85 and doesn’t seem to determined to live much longer himself.” Kurt paused and took a hit of his wine. “He tells me that our firm, specifically our founding partner, Bill Bigelow, did the legal work to set up the Society originally. It was started in the early ‘60s during the period when farmland prices, especially for marginal farmland, were in the toilet. Sam and his friends bought 400 acres of bottomland on the Wisconsin River and the surrounding hills for a song from a bank that had foreclosed on the property.”
I took a sip of the chard and raised my hand to slow Kurt down, “Where does this chowder and marching society come in?”
“Whitetail and Chowder Society. Pay attention.”
“OK. Proceed, Councilor.”
“Bill set up this society and made a deal with the Wisconsin DNR, under certain stipulations: That they would provide an easement for fishermen to have access to the trout stream that flows through the property; that they would do no actual farming or grazing on the property and that they would maintain it in a natural state. The society was grandfathered in on a reduced real estate tax rate but the kicker is…if the society ceased to exist the title of the property would revert to the state to turn into public hunting land.”
I sat there a little confused while Kurt let that sink in. “Why is he coming to you? What about the kids of the original members?”
“All gone. Some dead, many moved away and some not interested. I guess the members had a lot of girls. We better have the water supply checked out there,” he replied thoughtfully.”
“So why us? Or more specifically, why you?”
“Us. Sam wants the two of us to recruit 5 or 6 more guys our age to take over the…”
“Marching and Chowder Society?” I interrupted. Kurt gave me the Don’t-Be-A-Smartass look.
“Well, here’s the catch. Sam’s proposing that we agree to use some of the time during the summers to turn it into a sort of camp for under privileged kids from Milwaukee.”
“Well, not completely. We have to take over the taxes and maintenance plus continue to follow the obligations of the original agreement with the state.”
“This deal goes on in perpetuity?”
“Nope. It’s a 100-year deal. Expires in 2062.”
“Holy shit! I can think of five guys off the top of my head who would jump at this deal.”
“I can too, but let’s consider carefully because we will be stuck with each other for a long time in this deal.” Kurt refilled our glasses and started to tick off some names. “By the way, he wants to meet us out at the property on Saturday morning at noon when he gets back from trout fishing.” He waved his hand at Eileen who had been keeping her eye on us and she came running.
Kurt and I followed Sam’s directions to the driveway of the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society property. He was waiting for us at the end of the dirt track in his dusty Explorer. He started up his truck and motioned for us to follow him.
The classic log and stone house had the look of a structure that had been built in many stages over the years by people who had vastly different architectural theories. Sam unlocked the substantial oak door and swung through the door to turn off the alarm system. “We had a few burglaries and vandalism incidents over the years so we installed a very sophisticated system of video cameras, motion detectors and alarms.”
“Does it work? This place is pretty far away from any police service.” Kurt asked.
“Pretty much. The system rings up a couple of the neighbors who we keep on our good graces with some generous Christmas gifts and word gets around.”
We walked into the cavernous main room, dominated by a huge, rustic stone fireplace that was adorned by a mounted moose head. “You shoot that sucker on this property, Sam?” I asked nodding toward the moose.
“Sure.” He grinned. “I’ll show you the spot up on the ridge later.”
The log living room seemed to be the original cabin with a kitchen and bedroom wings tacked on at a later date. Mounts of huge whitetail bucks, mallards, wood ducks and grouse with a few duck art painting interspersed formed the decorating theme. “You two can wander around and see the rest of the place while I dig out some of the paperwork.” Turning to my buddy, he said, “Kurt, did you bring along the original legal documents setting up the club?”
“Yep. Got them out in the truck.”
“OK, after you’ve had your look around we can sit down and go over everything.”
Ten minutes later we gathered around the dining room table and scattered various files and books between us. “Kurt, you have the signed agreements from the new members, right? These fellows presumably understand their legal, financial and moral obligations that are spelled out in the charter. In addition, here are the Society rules and traditions.” Sam slid a thin, leather bound book across the table at us.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“These have evolved over the years by consensus. Not legally binding, but hopefully things the new members will continue to honor.”
I opened the book and glanced at the first page. “I see the first entry is about gun safety.”
“Yep. Other than failing to hold up your financial end or screwing another member’s wife, violating the gun safety rules is the one thing that can get you kicked out of the Society. Accidental discharge of a firearm, bringing a loaded gun into the cabin, or carrying one in a vehicle are grounds for automatic expulsion.”
Kurt and I looked at each other and nodded. “Sounds good to me.” I said.
“The rest of the stuff is in there and you can read it and pass it on to the other new members. By the way, in the back is the recipe for our traditional chowder. Each year a designated guy has to prepare a large vat of the chowder for the opening day of deer season. It’s for lunch. I’ll show you the hidey hole where we keep that book and some other stuff too before we leave.” He rose and headed for the door. “Come on, I’ll show you the boats and ATVs.”
A large metal pole building stood a short distance from the cabin. Inside stood a substantial pile of fireplace wood, four Lund aluminum fishing boats and three ATVs of various vintages. Sam waved his hand to the corner where three 25-horse Mercury outboards stood on a rack. “None of those have been used in several years so you should probably have them serviced before you let anyone go out on the river. While you’re at it, oughta have the ATVs checked too.”
“Can we get a look at the river access?” Kurt asked.
“Sure. Good idea. If you’re going to bring kids out here this summer there’s pretty good walleye and bass fishing and a nice swimming hole. Probably be a popular spot.”
We strolled about 100 yards down the path leading to a grassy clearing on the bank of the gently flowing Wisconsin River. A rolling dock stood well back from the sandy beach and the deep hole beyond. Sam pointed to one of the wooded islands that checkered the wide river and said, “Those islands out there have some potholes that the mallards love during the migration and you can get some great wood duck shooting early in the fall.”
Sam led us back to the cabin and we stood in front of a large map on the wall. He pointed out another gate on the other side of the county road and the trail leading up to the hardwood covered hills that had been the ancient river bank during the glacial floods. “Nice campsite here by the creek. When you bring kids out that might be a good place to set up. There are some pretty good brown trout in the creek, although it’s tough to fly fish it. The kids used to do well drifting a night crawler down into the deeper holes.”
I pointed to a number of red stars scattered across the map. “What are these, Sam?” I asked.
“Permanent deer stands.” He replied. “You can see there’re not too far off the ATV trails that run throughout the property.”
Sam showed us where all the keys were stashed, gave us the security code and the names of the neighbors and left us to fire up one of the ATVs and take a tour of the property. When we got back, he was gone.
We traveled in convoy. Kurt rode with me in my Suburban in the lead and the other six members of the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society followed in two SUVs. Kurt hadn’t said much until we got past Madison and were passing by Barneveld, the site of a nasty tornado that wiped out the town back in the early 80s. “Sam came to me and had me re-write his will shortly after we took over the society.” He said.
“You read the will when his kids were here for the funeral, right?”
“Yep. But he also included a letter to me and that’s the reason we are all going out to the cabin today.”
“I was wondering what all the mystery was about. No wives, no kids, no dogs and all members present on a nothing happening Saturday.” I replied.
I turned on to the country road that paralleled the Wisconsin River and slowed to follow its narrow, winding course. As we passed the entrance to the upland part of the property Kurt glanced up at the sign above the gate that read SAM BAILEY YOUTH CAMP. “I’m glad Sam got to see us get a bunch of kids out here this summer before he passed.” He said.
“Me too. I think he got a real kick out of seeing those kids swimming in the river and learning how to fish. By the way, it was a master stroke getting your Dad and his retired cop friends to do the bulk of the work.” Kurt flashed me a grin with those dazzlingly white teeth of his and popped his seat belt as I turned into the driveway that leads to the cabin.
Twenty minutes later we were all clustered around the foot of the dock that extended out into the river. Kurt carried the urn and a bouquet of daisies and I held a polished wooden box. He stepped up on the dock gazed at us and began, “Sam asked me to bring us all down here after the funeral and consign his ashes to the river. He figured they would eventually make it down to the ocean and get back into the food chain. He also said he was looking forward to joining his wife. I’m not sure how exactly those two things work together but that was his wish and we’re honoring it.”
“Sam told me he was glad that all the new members of the Society were joining at the same time and were about the same age. He thought we would develop our own traditions but hoped we’d keep some of the old ones.” He nodded at me. “Jeff.”
I opened the box and started passing out small crystal glasses and then a dark bottle of Hennessey brandy. As I poured a generous shot in everyone’s glass Kurt continued, “Sam explained that somewhere in the early days of the Society they had purchased this bottle and the idea was to open it when the last of the original members died. The thinking was that the Society would be adding members as they went along. Since that didn’t happen it’s up to us.”
He raised his glass. “To Sam Bailey and the Mill Hollow Whitetail and Chowder Society!”
To a chorus of “Here, Here!” we all downed the amber liquid and grimaced. Fifty additional years of aging hadn’t done it any favors. It might be useful for lighting fires. Kurt handed me his glass and walked to the end of the dock where he opened the urn and began spilling Sam’s ashes into the river. The light breeze scattered some of the dust and Kurt tossed the daisies into the rest. A small swirling eddy of current caught the ashes and flowers and sent them spinning toward the shore.
“Looks like Sam’s in no hurry to leave,” quipped Mike. We all stared at him for breaking the solemn mood and then we all burst out laughing. As we trooped back down the path to the cabin I thought, “Sam would have gotten a kick out of that.”
Copyright 2014 Richard Draper
Alert readers may notice that this story is told from different Points Of View as it goes along. It was intentional. I had written several short stories before I purchased a book on ‘how to write a short story’. I’d never really thought about it much…. just did it. It’s kinda like a golf swing, if you think about it too much you can’t do it. Anyway, I found the chapter on POV interesting and decided to play with it a bit in this tale. I did not read far enough in that chapter to find out if switching POV back and forth in the same story is a no-no. Probably is, but who cares. Let me know if you find the flipping back and forth confusing or if you think the story is crap.
In the winter of 1973 we moved to Cold Spring, a small town in central Minnesota where I had recently taken a job. Our kids soon became acquainted with the neighbor kids down the street. We had been there less than a week when Tara, our oldest daughter, says to her younger sister, “Come here once, Karen.”
“Once?” I thought. “Why not twice?”
I soon discovered that it was a local speech custom to attach useless and unnecessary words to the end of perfectly good sentences. Much like Canadians stick an “Eh” at the end of a statement or question. Minnesotans would tack on a “once”, “then” or “hey”.
This is, of course, not all that big a deal and cannot be compared to, say, the Iranians getting a nuclear bomb and wiping out Israel. Nor is it as annoying to certain speech crutches currently in vogue. Repeatedly sticking in “you know” between comments can be distracting and seems to be a common filler for athletes being interviewed by sports reporters. You would think that star baseball or football players who are frequently asked for on camera comments and who make the big bucks would have someone from the team’s media office taking the guy aside and saying, “Look Dwayne, you said ‘you know’ 37 times in that two minute interview yesterday. That makes you sound like a dumb shit and you are a graduate of Notre Dame and make $10 million dollars a year. Can we cut the ‘you knows’ down to perhaps 10 next time around?”
President Obama has a reputation for being a gifted orator, but that depends on whether he is reading his speeches off his teleprompter or not. When he is forced to speak off the cuff things do not go quite so well and he typically sticks in repeated “ah, ah, ahs” in the middle of sentences and phrases. It seems he’s groping for the thought or correct word. I guess that’s why they haul the damn teleprompters everywhere he is going to make even the most unimportant speech.
Some of the stuff that annoys me most is now part of the youth culture propagated by the all-pervasive media. The use of the word “go” as a substitute for “said” when recounting a conversation can be confusing to senior citizens like me. (“So he goes, blah, blah and I go blah, blah, blah and then he goes…..” etc.) In my memory, failing as it is, the verb “go” is not a suitable substitute for “said”.
But, by far the most maddening verbal crutch of recent times is the repeated and unnecessary insertion of “like” into conversation. “Like” is a perfectly useful word but has no place getting stuck excessively and inappropriately into otherwise perfectly fine sentences. Example conversation: “He was like really mad and I was like completely totally like shocked.” You get the drift.
I guess this is not so shocking. Teenagers all watch the same stuff on TV and the same movies and all their heroes talk this way. What really drives me nuts is to hear 40 something celebrities talking like (acceptable usage of the word) teens on Jay Leno or Jimmy Kimmel. My wife used to count the “likes” on those occasions and often could make it to 30 or 35 before I grabbed the remote and switched channels. Don’t these people ever watch one of their own interviews?
Note: This is not a piece about drilling for natural gas.
The extraordinary events of recent weeks have prompted me to break my personal promise to retire from writing about politics. While these latest developments are unlikely to affect me very much in a direct sense, they will certainly intrude on the lives of my children and grandchildren.
First, let’s talk about ObamaCare. You might notice if you pay attention that Obama and his minions happily referred to the program by that name until it started to turn to crap. Now it is Administration and liberal policy to refer to it as The Affordable Care Act or the ACA. ObamaCare has been banned from the lexicon of the left.
The Democrats in the dark of night pushed through this monster, a radical confiscation of the US healthcare system, by numerous questionable tactics and without one Republican vote. Now the Dems are blaming the GOP for not helping them implement the law! This is the height of absurdity. Remember Pelosi’s famous line? “We have to pass the law to find out what’s in it.” Surprise! It’s like a piñata full of poisonous snakes.
In a brilliant article by Andrew McCarthy in the National Review Online called “The Scheme Behind the Obamacare Fraud,” McCarthy explains why Obama and his supporters lied repeatedly about the plan. Unless you’ve been living in a cave and eating roots and berries you have certainly heard the President assuring folks that “If you like your plan you can keep your plan. Period.” Turns out that was a big lie as millions of people got notices that their plans were cancelled. Obama tried to blame the insurance companies but that would not hold water because it was obvious that HHS had changed the rules. Everybody’s plan had to include buying Sandra Fluke’s contraceptives, abortions, prenatal care and maternity benefits among others. It didn’t matter if you were a 90-year-old male widower who hadn’t had an erection since the Carter Administration; you still had to have maternity benefits in your insurance. With all this added stuff, including accepting everyone with pre-existing conditions at the same price, only a career politician or a liar would assert, “… everyone would save an average of $2500 on their insurance costs.” You’re going to get more and pay less? Yet Democrat apologists continue to assert that people will get better plans on the exchanges for less money.
“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” Says Obama again and again. Another lie and they knew it. Doctors are retiring in droves and are being dropped from group plans. More and more are refusing to see Medicaid and Medicare patients. Specialized hospitals and clinics like the Mayo Clinic and Seattle Children’s Hospital (where a couple of my grandkids go) are being cut out of group plans because under ObamaCare, group policies can no longer afford it. Which raises another question in my mind. Why are the insurance companies nailing together their own gallows and tying the noose for their own hanging? It’s pretty obvious that Obama intends to put them out of the health insurance business. They seem to be quietly walking to the scaffolds. Executives of these companies should be screaming their bloody heads off.
The most recent and seemingly unrelated story last week was Harry Reid’s decision to invoke the “Nuclear Option” and change over 220 years of Senate tradition by changing the rules such that instead of requiring 60 votes to approve a judicial or administrative appointment, only a simple majority would suffice. This allows the Democrat majority in the Senate to pack the DC Court of Appeals (and others) with liberal justices. Why is this important? The DC court is the only check on the rules issued by unelected bureaucrats in the EPA, HHS and other intrusive branches of government. It’s a power grab pure and simple. The Senate Democrats are pretty fearful that the voters are awakening from their slumber and realizing that they have been lied to by their Democrat rep and will likely take revenge in 2014.
Getting rid of the 60-vote requirement also allows the Obamaniks to appoint leftists to the IPAB, the Independent Payment Advisory Board. This outfit, beyond judicial review, will effectively have control over prices, reimbursement to doctors and, essentially, rationing. These guys are what Sarah Palin so accurately called “Death Panels”.
Speaking of Palin… perhaps you missed that Martin Bashir of ultra-liberal MSNBC decided that Ms Palin was not entitled to use the word “slavery” when referring to the national debt being accumulated in the name of our grandchildren. He was so angry about it that he said she should suffer the same fate as the punishment meted out by one of the world’s worst slave owners: That someone should urinate and defecate in her mouth. What did MSNBC have to say about this? How about NBC, the parent of MSNBC? Well, nothing. Not a single word. Paula Dean lost her career because she admitted in a courtroom that she may have used the word “nigger” at some point in the misty past but Bashir did not even get a reprimand.
Nor did NBC have anything to say about the collapse of the ObamaCare website or the millions having their heath care plans cancelled. No interest in the disaster of the $900 million flop of Healthcare.gov or the no bid contract to build it given to Michelle’s Princeton pal’s company. Total silence. If the major networks don’t mention it, it didn’t happen. The media has protected Obama since 2007 and the Obamas have reason to believe that policy will continue.
Speaking of lies and the media…Obama’s re-election hinged on several frauds as well. First, Benghazi. To perpetuate the myth that Obama’s policies had terrorism on the run they had to blame the Benghazi disaster on “a protest of an anti-Islamic video” when it was obviously a lie. Second: It is now clear that Obama used the IRS to harass and silence the Tea Party organizations around the US. Finally, Obama used the Census Department to fudge the numbers to put the unemployment figures below 8%. That, too, was a lie. But for those lies and the untimely arrival of Hurricane Sandy, there would be an honest man in the White House today and the economy would be booming. ObamaCare would not exist.
Getting back to the failing ObamaCare program… McCarthy asserts, and I agree, that it was designed to fail from the start. The “scheme” as he points out, is to get the US to a “single payer” system like Canada, the UK and other European socialist counties. Obama admitted as much in a speech in 2003 and again in a speech in 2007. More people are already being forced into Medicaid and Medicare. The cost and unsuitability of the policies being pushed on the young “invincibles” will not attract enough of them to make the economics of the program viable and perhaps a 150 million more people will lose their employer provided health care at the end of 2014 when the “grandfathering” runs out. With millions uninsured by the private market the liberals will be there with the solution: Government health care. ObamaCare is a carefully scripted program to get the US to a single payer system. To the leftists if lies, fraud and deceit are necessary to get there, so be it. The ends justify the means. If high cost, long delays for essential services, rationing and bureaucrats deciding who lives and dies are your thing, you’re gonna love it.
By the way, the Democrats in the faint hope to cover their asses in the 2014 elections have pushed the release of the costs for health policies for 2014 past the November elections. How cynical is that?
Many barrels of ink were expended and countless trees sacrificed in the aftermath of the surprising re-election of Obama. Many theories were put forward but the statistics clearly showed that it was the turnout of the normal GOP base that did Romney in. Now we are starting to understand just how the Obama Administration managed to suppress that vote as the many scandals are beginning to be revealed.
With the assistance of a compliant left leaning media (more on that later) Obama managed to bury what really happened in Benghazi until well after the election. It is now clear that the Administration lied about what actually occurred and withheld information. Worse, it appears that the lives of Americans were sacrificed because to send assistance would destroy the Obama campaign narrative that the Al-Qaeda threat had been neutralized. That’s why they called it a “demonstration over an anti-Muslim video that got out of hand”. You don’t send in the Special Forces or F-16s to quell a “demonstration”. The Obama team ran out the clock until after the election, an insult to the families of these brave men.
More recently we are learning about the abuses of the IRS in their blatant efforts to suppress and discourage the Tea Party organizations and individual Romney donors. Given the enormous power of the IRS this should be frightening to all Americans. The Tea Party is credited with bringing about the substantial defeats of Democrats in the 2010 off-year elections despite the concerted efforts of the media, Hollywood and left-wing comedians. Using the old Alinsky stand-by of ridicule and accusations they were called racist, tax dodgers and “tea baggers”, a nasty homosexual slur.
According to White House logs the President met with the head of the National Treasury Employees Union, Colleen Kelly on March 31, 2010 at 12:30. The very next day the targeting of Tea Party groups by the IRS began. A coincidence or smoking gun?
It did not thwart the tide of the 2010 elections but the Obama Team was determined to make sure the Tea Party and Romney supporters were not going to keep Obama out of power in 2012.
Lois Lerner, earned her partisan stripes by leading the Federal Election Commission’s three-year harassment of the Christian Coalition. It was the largest lawsuit in FEC history. So, naturally she was the perfect choice for Director of the IRS’s Office of Tax Exempt Organizations.
In my blog post shortly after the 2010 elections I questioned whether or not the Tea Parties would be a factor in the Presidential elections in 2012. Now we know why they were not. We have learned that DHS, as early as 2009, had sent a letter to the FBI asking them to look into “right wing extremists” groups which meant opponents of abortion, advocates of states rights, 2nd Amendment fans and opponents of higher taxes. That pretty much describes the Tea Party groups.
The full power of the IRS with all its intimidating and coercive force was directed at groups and individuals that were political opponents of the left wing administration now fearful of being tossed out of office. This is a blatant abuse of power.
Unfortunately, it was not just targeting Tea Party groups seeking tax-free status but individuals too. Big donors to the Romney campaign suddenly found themselves and their businesses targets of IRS audits. Their personal data was being illegally leaked to left wing bloggers. Naturally, big contributors to the Romney campaign were wary of getting IRS targets painted on their asses.
The tale of Catherine Engelbrecht’s nightmare is the most chilling imaginable. She and her husband own and manage a small metal manufacturing company in Texas that they started 20 years ago. They have 30 employees and have never been audited. Catherine served as a poll watcher for the 2008 elections and was so appalled by the voter fraud she saw that she started a Tea Party and an organization called “True the Vote” that specialized in voter fraud by attempting to stop dead folks from voting as well as other abuses. After applying to the IRS for tax-exempt status for her two groups, the three-year nightmare began. The IRS audited her, her husband and their business for the first time. Then the FBI came calling asking questions… and came back again and again. OSHA did a surprise inspection and audit. The ATF did a surprise visit and inspection, supposedly because the business had a license to manufacture guns. They never had made any guns. The ATF came a second time and, of course, the IRS audited them again.
The question is: Who sicced all these government agencies on these people? This is not just “a couple of rogue IRS agents in Cincinnati”. The logical path leads right back to the White House and the Obama re-election campaign.
It’s also right out of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” and those methods differ little from “The Chicago Way”. The only question for the proponents of this leftist political philosophy is “does it work?” Obama got elected twice in Chicago by using less than ethical methods and it looks like he’s pulled out another one by employing the awesome power of the Federal Government against his political foes. He thought he could get away with it because the mass media has failed to do its job. If you wonder why the major TV networks are so often biased toward the White House and so frequently fail to mention negative news on Obama, take a look at this.
If you watched the smug and arrogant behavior of Ms. Lerner and her IRS cohorts in the House hearings on this matter, you would think they feel pretty secure and that they have been assured the White House and left leaning press will cover for them. Maybe. But, House Speaker, John Boehner asked, “I want to know who’s going to jail?” Good question but a better one might be, “Who’s going to be impeached?” A good start would be Eric Holder for all his lies and illegalities.
I said to myself, “Self, forget blogging about current events and work on that short story.” So I did. Slogging away I piled up 13 pages in a story and ground to a halt. After reading it over, I determined that I was telling the tale all wrong and needed a different approach. Six pages into that, I happened to stop by a book store and buy a book on ‘how to write a short story.’ Big mistake. I had never thought about this stuff before and had just been doing it by feel or instinct. I wondered if it was like over-analyzing your golf swing when you step up to the ball? If you think about it too much, you can’t do it.
Meanwhile, some news items on which I have strong opinions were passing by and blogs were writing themselves in my head on my daily walks. But I resisted while the six pages of the new approach to my story languished. For example.
Two women that I admire died on the same day, April 8th. Margaret Thatcher, famously called “The Iron Lady” died on that day at the age of 87. Also passing on that date was Annette Funicello at age 70. The two women could not have been more different. Thatcher, strong willed and determined, rose to political power to be the Prime Minister of the UK from 1979 to 1990 despite the rough and tumble all-male politics of the time. Sticking to her conservative principles, she reversed the economic decline of her country at a time when her philosophical soul mate, Ronald Reagan, was doing the same thing in the US following the disastrous Jimmy Carter.
Funicello was simply America’s sweetheart and came on the scene in the middle ’50 as a youthful star on the Mickey Mouse Club. This was about the time we got our first TV set and young fellows of my vintage were getting our first shot of hormones. Walt Disney was a bit of a prude but he knew marketing. Those tight sweaters on the blooming Mouseketeer girls were no accident. Of course, her later movie career did not distinguish her as much as her determined and classy battle with MS. Maggie and Annette, RIP.
Another story that caught my fancy was the petulant tantrum of the child dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong-un. While his people starve and only 26% have electricity in this impoverished country, he spends lavishly on weapons and his million-man army. To get attention, he decided to declare war on South Korea and the US. It appeared he might be crazy enough to do it and then he disappeared from the news with the coverage of the disgusting bombings at the Boston Marathon. The tales of tragedy and heroism and the subsequent search and apprehension of the two Islamic Terrorists (there, I said it; the President and his minions can’t seem to get those words past their lips) took Kim Jong-un completely out of the news. Without the spotlight, he lost interest in his own threats and we have not heard a peep out of him since. Not much to be said about Boston, the coverage was wall to wall.
A couple of other related news items crossed my field of vision that may not have been so obvious to your average news junky. First, the April 22 issue of “National Review” had a cover story on the “miracle of the Canadian oil sands” called “The Quiet Gold Rush” by Charles Cooke. He actually visited the various oil sands projects and saw first hand the process, the restoration of the mined areas and the extensive emission controls. Every “environmentalist” should read this article.
The second piece was in the “Financial Post” on April 13th The FP is the Canadian “Wall Street Journal”. It is called “Hedge fund billionaire leads donors in pushing Obama on Keystone XL”. Tom Steyer who made billions running a hedge fund now has taken on the task of saving the world from global warming. Nearly all rational people are now forced to admit that temperatures have not increased a bit in at least the last decade. I don’t know what it is with these hedge fund guys? They must all feel really guilty about making obscene amounts of money in a business that does nothing but make bets with rich people’s money. Steyer, like George Soros, another absurdly wealthy hedge fund player, all feel they have to remake the world to conform to their own prejudices.
Steyer has decided that his enemy is the Canadian oil sands and has lined up like-minded liberals to pool their money and blackmail Democrats and Obama to veto the pipeline. Not satisfied to sabotage the Keystone XL to the Texas coast, they also are funding the opposition groups to stop the Canadians from building a pipeline to their own coast where they would ship the oil to China. Why don’t they go fund groups in Saudi Arabia to oppose the oil industry there? Or maybe Iran?
The American public overwhelmingly supports the construction of the pipeline (65%) and the Democrat controlled Senate does too (62-37) and well as the House. Now the unions are protesting in favor. Still Steyer and his fellow limo liberals plan to fund Democrat senate challengers against senators who support the pipeline. Great idea, Tom. Go for it.
The news that really got me fired up was that the FAA planned to stick it to the flying public by furloughing the air traffic controllers to meet a 4% cut in spending instead of cutting some other less critical expenses. This was part of the Obama Administration’s cynical attempt to make the sequester cuts as painful as possible so that they could gain political points on the GOP. They were petulant that the Republicans would not agree to raise taxes again after doing so in January and their first action was to cancel White House tours for school kids on spring break. Really? Out of a $3.6 trillion dollar budget the first place you are going to go to find cuts of about $40 billion is tours of the White House for school kids?
The cuts to the air traffic controllers delayed 6700 flights for a couple of days before the Democrats realized they had mis-calculated and they, not the Republicans, were getting blamed for this obvious boondoggle. They quickly passed a bill to allow the FAA to restore the controllers, something they really could have done without congressional action. Whew! Just in time for the congress to fly home for a much needed break.
Note: WSJ article on 4/24 called “The FAA Strikes Again, the FAA Brags”.
In our childhood we have all experienced the agony of waiting for some much desired event: A birthday, a vacation, getting out of school for the summer, or perhaps being able to drive for the first time. Sometimes our imagination so glamorizes the event that when it arrives it fails to live up to expectations. This can even happen to grown ups.
In late January and February of 2012, when I had my heart bypass surgery, followed by the second surgery to fix things, I was one sick puppy. I spent nine days in the hospital in Bellingham with the fix and was weak as a baby when I got home. I could barely walk around the loop in our neighborhood (about 1/8th of a mile). During the long and difficult days of trying to rebuild my strength (and my hemoglobin levels) one of the things that kept me going was my anticipation of our annual fishing expedition to Minnie and Corbett Lakes scheduled for the first week of June.
My fishing pal, Rob, and I have been doing a spring trip for many years and staying at the yurt on Minnie for the last five. For several of those trips we have taken along two other guys, which helps with the expenses but requires that each of us act as half-assed guides for our guests. Not that our guests were raw novices but the boats are two-man situations and we know the lakes and what flies and techniques generally work. For this trip we decided that we would go by ourselves. Although I was getting stronger by the day, I did not feel all that enthused about acting as a guide and running the boat for myself and someone else. For Rob’s part I guess he felt if we fished together he could keep an eye on me.
Rob and I have fished together so much that we function smoothly, each guy anticipating the other’s moves without much discussion. He casts lefty and I cast right-handed so we can both sling away without shooting line over the other guy’s head. We never have much debate about when to move to another spot or change up the strategy…fish dry flies on the flats or chironomids off the drop offs? Whatever. Rob’s boat is perfectly set up for two guys to fish with Hurley up on the deck in the bow, protecting us from low flying suicidal waterfowl and other fishermen encroaching on our territory.
By the end of February, they pulled the PICC line (the permanent IV thingie in my arm) out and Loi no longer had to pump antibiotics into me twice a day. The docs were gradually sorting out my chemistry and I was getting stronger. With the usual crap weather in early March, I headed to the mall and walked in the dry warmth with the other old farts. The sainted surgeon who did the chest fix cautioned me against swinging a golf club or other exertions that might interrupt the healing of my abused sternum. Having blown it open once, he did not have to beat that into my thick skull. I did want to get out my new 6-weight fly rod and see how my casting was going to work but held off.
The time was fast approaching when it would be too late to cancel at Minnie Lake and Rob and I agreed to go for it. I was getting stronger and now up to walking 3 miles at a crack and getting faster at it. In mid-April I finally dug out the Winston and did some casting in the back yard. My dreams of being a bionically-created championship caster were dashed, but I was able to sling it out there in my typically awkward fashion. Good enough.
Through May my anticipation for the trip built and I spent more time than required to prepare the menu and shopping lists. We do our own cooking at Minnie and rely heavily on grilling… mallard breasts, moose steaks etc. Not complicated.
On the 3rd of June I drove up to Whistler, and Rob, Hurley and I headed over mountains on the Duffey Lake Road to the Douglas Lake Ranch and Minnie Lake. We have experienced some really hot weather on some of our trips to Minnie Lake in early June. Not this time. It was cold, wet and the wind was howling. We went fishing anyway after we unloaded our gear. Apparently the fish were pissed at the weather too and uninterested in anything we had to offer. We scratched out one measly rainbow each.
The next morning brought more of the same, except windier. Minnie Lake sits out in the open with few trees around it and when the wind comes from the west it sweeps the lake and renders negotiating the lake with an electric motor nearly impossible. The adjacent lake, Stoney, about a half mile away, has a sheltered back bay that’s fishable in the worst of conditions, so we headed over there. Apparently the fish in that lake didn’t like the cold weather either.
The next morning we rose to even worse conditions and the temperature inside our yurt was 2 degrees C. We restarted the fire in the wood stove and crawled back into our sleeping bags. In the afternoon we fished Stoney again with lean results. The final day of our stay at Minnie continued with a bit less wind and rain and we did manage to fish a somewhat sheltered bay on Minnie and pick up about a dozen ‘bows each but nothing big (4 to 6 lbs). That evening we gave in and hit the outdoor shower. On previous trips the biggest challenge in using that balky thing was fighting off the mosquitoes. This time with that icy wind blowing we each managed to break the record for shortest shower. No bugs.
The next morning we packed up and headed to Corbett Lake. Before we left we checked the water temperature. It had been so cold that the temp in the lake had actually dropped 5 degrees during our stay. No wonder the fishing was lousy!
We caught a couple of rainbows that afternoon at Corbett but things were still not great and the weather the next morning turned even nastier. We donned layers of clothes and full rain gear and went anyway. Anchored with our backs to the wind, we flipped out some chironomids and settled in to wait.
Chironomids represent a staple of BC trout diets and there are literally thousands of species of these tiny insects. Fishing these sometimes microscopic flies usually consists of dangling an unlikely-looking imitation on a long leader below a floating strike indicator. Because dedicated chironomid fishermen are so smug about their skill in this technique, I have always derisively called it “bobber fishing for snobs”. But it works, so I have slowly accepted it. With the wind and the rain on this morning, it seemed like a particularly good idea.
Hurley had curled up on the bow taking a nap in the rain and Rob and I stood with the cold wind at our backs and stared at our floats. As happens in these situations, what with morning coffee and cold weather, a man’s fancy turns to urination. Considering several layers of clothes and major shrinkage (hey, cold weather plus icy fingers), this would be a two-handed operation, so I put the fly rod down. With the rain pants around my knees and in mid relief, my strike indicator was jerked under the surface. Not bothering to tuck Mr. Happy away or hoist my rain pants, I grabbed the fly rod and set the hook. The rod throbbed in my hands and the fish came out of the water like a pissed off porpoise and headed for deep water.
Rob and I both shouted when we saw the size of the fish, waking Hurley who joined the chorus. With my reel screaming the fish took another couple of jumps about 20 yards directly off the bow. It was too much for Hurley and he launched himself into the water after the fish. Rob and I were both screaming at Hurley visualizing the dog, fish and line all intersecting but the fish had reversed course and by the time Hurley got to where the rainbow had last jumped, it was long gone and jumping behind the boat. Hurley swam back and Rob unceremoniously hoisted him out of the lake where he took up his rightful place on the bow. In the several attempts to get the big fish in the net, Hurley crowded to get a better look and stepped on my other fly rod snapping it cleanly. Rob netted my fish and I was finally able to pull up my rain pants. We guessed the fat rainbow at 8 1/2 lbs and gently released him.
We both figured that would be the big fish of the trip, but a short time later, Rob latched on to another monster that, when boated, proved to be of equal heft, though longer and skinnier. Later we each caught nice twin 5-pounders along with a number of other lesser trout. I guess they were finally getting hungry.
We fished another day at Corbett and then the following morning (both so-so) before packing up and making the 4 1/2 hour trek back over the mountains to Whistler.
The trip may not have lived up to my fondest expectations, but it sure gave me something to look forward to during an extremely low ebb in my health and spirits. And landing the biggest rainbow trout of my life with my rain pants around my knees will be remembered for a very long time. Thanks Rob.