In the Spring of 1972 the war in Viet Nam was still going on. The draft was still in place, and my life was up for grabs. I had no real plans for the future, but I really wanted to survive. I was troubled by a sense of duty and a love for my country, and the dismal prospect of being sent for no apparent purpose to be used up in a war I did not understand.
I enlisted. I joined the Army, because they had the shortest enlistment term with a promise. I got a guarantee for training in Nuclear Weapons Electronics. I figured that nuclear weapons were not deployed to active war zones, and so I could complete any obligation to my country without being placed at particular risk. It was a good plan, at least in the beginning.
Unfortunately, I was then what I am now, a frustrated idealist. I found the people associated with supporting our nuclear arsenal a bit unsavory. They were uncomfortably gleeful about the prospects of the button being pushed. I was just not ready to join their strange fellowship of worshipers of the atomic fires, and eventually washed out of that school.
Wash-outs in the Army are not wasted. I eventually was sent to supply school, to learn to manage the vast numbers of parts needed to maintain the modern Army machine. I did well, and after some thought I was not particularly fearful of deployment to even Viet Nam. How much danger would a guy counting parts in a warehouse face?
I completed my schooling and was eventually ready for deployment.
They sent me to Germany. Not only did they send me to Germany, but the sent me to Ramstein Air Base. This was an Air Force installation, but not just any installation. This was Air Force Nato Headquarters. I was in an ordinance detachment serving an Army air defense unit defending a very significant target. Great housing, very good food, wonderful accommodations and very near to the city of Kaiserslautern.
Considering that I was serving my country during war time in a pretty comfortable location, it was not too bad. At least, it seemed pretty nice until I learned our real mission.
During field exercises where we ran around doing Army stuff in the mud, the Battalion Commander brought us all together for a meeting. He wished to relate our mission. He showed us our place in the defense of Europe from a conventional assault by the Soviet Union. He had drawings and graphs, and showed how the layers of defense were to be set up.
Now, I worked in supply, a rear echelon sort of job. Unfortunately ours was a very mobile supply operation, and I learned that we weren't going to be that far from the front. The task of the Seventh Army deployed in Europe was to maintain vehicles and equipment for the soldiers coming from the United States, in the event of an all-out Soviet assault.
The Seventh Army was designed to survive only twenty four hours, the time it would take to bring masses of troops to the European continent. The anticipated losses were 80%. The arriving troops would travel light. We had their supplies and equipment in place. Our job was to defend for only one day. Longer, if possible, but we were a planned-for sacrifice to buy twenty four hours of time.
At least, that is how it was all related to me, as best I can remember it. I am proud to have served my country, but there are times I wish the whole thing made a lot more sense.
If the fall of the Soviet Union is considered a victory, then we won the Cold War. Now Russians can by Levi's (probably now made in Viet Nam) in their very own malls.
I was in Medford, Oregon, recently. The circumstances were a bit trying, as we were dealing with a family emergency. We got past the emergency, and as a consequence had a bit of unscheduled free family time. This happened to coincide with the sixth annual Oregon Cheese Festival, a small but quite interesting event.
I am fond of cheese. My niece Briana is fond of cheese. She had a car, and we had free entry passes courtesy of her sister, Shayla. Such a cosmic confluence ought not to be ignored, and was not. We went to the sixth annual Oregon Cheese Festival, held at the Rogue Creamery in Central Point, Oregon.
The event was organized by the Oregon Cheese Guild, a body of independent artisan cheese makers and others associated with the production and use of quality hand-crafted cheeses. I found it to be quite delightful, to experience so many cheeses in one place.
Some creameries purchased their milk from small farms managing carefully selected cows, goats, or both. Others managed their own herds. Quality was always the purpose behind such selectiveness. The cheeses were manufactured largely by hand at small creameries, such as Rogue Creamery. Production levels were low, the volume of cheese being rather limited in many cases.
Restaurants and chefs were in attendance, as well as members of the public who had a discriminating fondness for cheeses and related wines and beers. Many of the stalls were run by the owners of the creameries, wineries and breweries represented.
While some creameries were mature organizations producing cheese for generations, many were relatively new operations created by people leaving other modes of life to become artisans. I had the impression that many of them had been successful enough in their previous lives to indulge and invest in these artisan dreams. The quality of the cheeses I enjoyed certainly attested to their commitment, dedication and the successful outworking of their visions.
The romantic side of my imagination loves the vision of a successful engineer, lawyer or physician finding that life in their chosen field is not "all that," and taking their earned wealth out into meadows to fund the production of fabulous cheeses. Most would have to find an artisan from whom to learn in an apprenticeship of some kind, or else purchase that expertise and learn from the master they have hired.
I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have such dedication and commitment to a vision, to go forth and become an artisan. To earn the title "Master" in making cheese, or wine, or beer. In my younger days I did not experience such a vision, and I am not a successful professional with sufficient resources to purchase the experience here on the back-side of my life.
What I can do is appreciate the artisans, and enjoy the fruits of their long labors. I can enjoy beer, wine, cheese and many other delights produced by artisans. I can, even with my limited wealth, patronize artists in their work. I eat, I drink, and I live in this world.
Raise a glass. Fill your plate. Fill your life. Here's to the artisans!
In a recent post pboyfloyd challenged both my primary premise and the implication of my argument. He rightly pointed out a flaw in how I stated my argument, a logical inconsistency. I corrected that in my response to his reply, though whether or not to his satisfaction I am currently not aware. As to the other aspect, pboy essentially concluded that I believed government to be "bad."
Groups of unregulated humans are an ugly thing. Hobbes correctly observed that individual life outside of some kind of society is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." In groups that remain unregulated things don't get much better. Orders of tradition, religion, myth, history or some other foundation can mitigate corporate selfishness and greed. They have done so often enough in the past to bring forth the relatively viable and livable orders that exist today.
How trustworthy is any given government? There are abundant examples in the world today indicating that government is not a particularly good thing, from the individual perspective. However, there are a great many governments that display great promise. For all of their flaws, many governments strive with diligence to insure a reasonable quality of life for individuals under their authorities. Between anarchy and tyranny there are some very livable social orders.
Our current American social order is undergoing some uncomfortable changes. Most specifically, the issue of health care and how it relates society to the individual has the nation in a state of flux. Some believe the government trustworthy and responsible for the regulation and provision of health care. Others trust the government less, and so do not find it the proper venue for the management of the nation's health care.
Those profiting from the status quo utilize all of their strengths to oppose such changes. Those who see the individual as suffering for lack of health care under the current system seek a champion in the power of the government to bring forth change. Some fear that entrusting and empowering the government in yet one more aspect of life will lead to a deterioration of individual liberty. Others see a liberation from fear of the cost and loss due to illness to be worth the sacrifice of some liberties.
My own relationship with the government of the United States, and by virtue of that relationship my relationship with government in general, goes back to the end of my youth. I grew up in an atmosphere of patriotism and good citizenship. I respected the confidence and faith I perceived in my parents and grand parents toward our government, and adopted without question that same confidence.
Around 1968, however, I became much more personally aware of the state of the world and the relationship of the United States to other nations. We were engaged in a war in a distant land called Viet Nam. I watched the news reports on television in the company of my parents. I grew aware of the fact that there were real deaths occurring over there, and many of those deaths were Americans.
I became familiar with the draft, a lottery established to select which young Americans would be taken and sent to that distant war. I understood the terrible sacrifice that was made to end World War II. A clearly defined set of enemies intended to overthrow our nation and take our freedom. The purpose of Viet Nam was a lot less clear.
And so, in my later youth I faced a government which intended to sacrifice me in a distant land for no clear purpose. Talk of dominoes and a vague Red Threat counted for little in justifying the enormous risk to my young life. I was conflicted between wanting to love my country and its government and the threat that same government presented with regard to my option to go on living.
I did serve my country in the uniform of the Army of the United States. I served proudly, and have the honor of being classed as a Viet Nam Era Veteran. I never went to Viet Nam. I volunteered for the Army in order to exercise at least some small control over my military destiny. That control was largely an illusion, but I was none-the-less preserved from actual war and committed instead to fighting the Cold War in Europe.
Since those days I have looked upon the government as a relatively docile Leviathan, a great and dangerous beast not to be trusted too far. I speak often of a small government which regulates gently, made small to preserve individual liberties but large enough to prevent the unprincipled from acquiring too much power. The true Leviathan is nothing like my dream, and will never be much like that.
There are a great many people poking and prodding the great beast, in the hope of causing it to do their will. Perhaps it even will, for a time. However, it is an entity in itself, and I cannot truly trust the beast. After all, it threatened my life in the past. I cannot make myself believe that it truly has my best interests in mind.
So, deep in my heart, do I think government is bad? Yes. Yes, I do. It is a necessary evil, and I will abide it as such. Even now the great beast grinds young men and women in the mills of war, and I still cannot see the true reason behind it. That it grinds only volunteers does not mitigate the evil by much.
A necessary evil may be necessary, but it is still evil.
The trip back from Oregon went well. Fuel consumption was not so bad as I had anticipated. By the time I reached my half-way point I had only consumed a quarter tank. The half-way point is Rolling Hills Casino, which is a convenient stop. I did two dollars in several different penny slots, and drank one cup of coffee while playing and took another for the road. Essentially two dollars for two "free" cups of coffee, plus some entertainment.
Obviously gambling is not a big draw for me, though I really appreciate the facility. Clean restrooms, free coffee and soda, and a bit of fun. Perhaps someday I will stay for more fun, but this trip was an effort to get home. I did get home, quite comfortable and safe. The Mobile Man Cave provided good transportation, and a place to nap along the way.
Since getting home I have been gathering things for my Mobile Man Cave. I got some bins from Dollar Tree that fit nicely under the bed. I also gathered some items in a larger bin in the far back, loaded in my camp chair, stowed my dutch oven, propane stove and other gear, and set up the bed. I currently have one of my air mattresses laid out and covered by bedding. It is quite comfortable and a great place to nap.
I got a camp lantern that is rechargeable electric, a gift from Linda for my birthday. I also found an inverter. After shopping around I found the best price on a Duracell unit from Walgreens, at which I just happened to stop by on other errands.
Some of the family is distressed by my camp potty, a bucket with a special toilet seat top. I also have a pot for, well, I have a pot to piss in. I am not really sure why these things are distressing. I find it more distressing not to have such things when they are needed.
At present I am sitting in my Mobile Man Cave, typing on my netbook computer using a lap desk. I wouldn't want to write my next novel this way, but it does work well for a blog entry. I am on my home network, the signal for which is coming in quite well. I have yet to explore tapping available wifi signals while traveling. That will be a future project.
I have also placed an extension cord on board, to allow for connecting to outside power sources when available. I hope to add a power storage unit sometime in the near future, to allow even more flexibility in electronic camping comfort. I have a few other items I will add over time, and I am sure I will find more.
Recently being with my whole family to deal with a family emergency allowed me to spend some time with my sisters, Donni and Conni. I also had some time to spend with my nieces, Shayla and Briana. Both of these young women are adults, thus giving some perspective on the span of time I am reaching back across for these memories.
This visit led to reflection on growing up, on family, on ageing and the next generation. In our extended family our ages range from just a few months to a venerable eighty three years. Four living generations. Much to love, appreciate and contemplate. The presence of both of my sisters, however, turned my thoughts to our childhood.
I have to make a projection, here. I must assume that others reading this had similar play experiences in their childhood. I was always fond of imagination games, adventures exploding from shared imaginative activities. The one element that inclines me toward concluding that such a form of play is universal is "hot lava."
My grand children sometimes define an area as "hot lava." I recall games in childhood in which such definitions were also made. Most particularly, the family room in one particular house. The danger was the vast area of wall-to-wall carpeting that was designated "hot lava." Whatever the particulars of the adventure in play, it was necessary to traverse the vast expanses of our family room without stepping in the "hot lava."
Due to the dangers this kind of play presents to household furniture it was necessary to designate some areas as impassible. Coffee tables and end tables were out of bounds. With the necessity of leaping from safe point to safe point in a sea of lava, the tables were necessarily excluded. One broken table could damage relations with the adult community for quite some time.
So, depending on the degree of immediate supervision, cushions were often removed from chairs and sofas to provide safe islands in the otherwise deadly "hot lava." Pillows from the bedrooms, blankets and other objects also served to create the needed environment for leaping adventures.
An alternative game played in the same arena was called "fall." In this game the room was imagined as being set at some precarious angle, and the furniture provided hand-holds and safe landing places. Generally, this game was played with everyone laying on their sides, feet planted against whatever surface of furniture was available after the direction of "down" was determined.
Rolling and slithering across the carpet after a leap from one point toward another was considered "falling." Sometimes the whole environment was caught in some convoluted rotation, causing "down" to shift over time. I wonder if any of my Facebook or Blogger friends recall such adventures?
Imagination, applied to every-day objects for the purpose of play. I don't really play now in the same fashion, but I really haven't given it all up. I read fantasy fiction. I go to Disneyland often, where I face imaginary adventures time and again. I periodically re-visit Middle Earth in book and video formats. I go often into the imaginary World of Warcraft, there having both scripted and unscripted adventures.My favorite films and stories seem to embody those same adventures I had as a child.
I have met people who longed as children to grow up and be adults. I have met adults who reveled in their adulthood. I have known adults mired in the complications of adulthood who longed for a long lost childhood. None of that for me. My childhood is a place I have never left, at least in the most important elements.
So, my dear readers, be very careful. The carpet is hot lava!
I am currently 62 years old. At present I am a retired correctional officer with 20 years of service. (My real job these days is being a Grandpa.)
I am married to my long-suffering wife, Linda. I have three children; Matthew, Beth, and Jon. I currently have six grandchildren; Alexandra, Madelyn, Wyatt, Lucas, Abigail and Landon.