About Crucis

I'm a retired telecom engineer, life NRA member, Amateur Radio Operator and Air Force vet. I created this blog at the urging of some folks who think I have an occasional thought. A liberal friend once described me as "being just to the right of Atilla the Hun." I thanked her for that description and told her I'd do my best to maintain her expectations.

I remember: Kenneth Tate, US Army, 1946 – 1967

Kenneth Tate, US Army, 1946 – 1967

Sgt_Kenneth_W_Tate

Most men my age, served during Vietnam in one form or another. After I graduated from Southern Illinois University, I entered the Air Force. Ken went into the Army.

I was born and grew up in Illinois, southern Illinois in Benton, IL, the Franklin County seat. I attended Benton Consolidated High School along with several hundred others. One of those in my class was Kenneth W. Tate, a very distant cousin from my mother’s side.

Ken was a tall, lanky, farm boy, who lived, if I recall correctly, to the northeast from Benton.  I lived on another farm in the opposite direction.  If it weren’t for the occasional family get-togethers and high school, I’d probably never have met him.  But we were distantly related and we did attend high school together.  We ran around with the same bunch and were geeks and band-members.  I played a trombone, Ken played the drums. 

For him, like many of us, being in the band was more of an opportunity to get out of PE class that is was for music. The school felt that being in the marching band in the fall was sufficient to meet the state’s PE requirement.  That drew many into our band clique.

Ken and I took the same math and science classes. We were lab partners for Biology, Chemistry and Physics…the standard college-prep curriculum. When we graduated in 1964, I went off to Southern Illinois University. Ken started classes at a nearby Junior College but he didn’t attend long.

The draft was in force during that time.  It was a strong motivator to remain in school with a 2-S deferment. Rather than being drafted, Ken enlisted in the Army.  I lost track of him until a couple of years later when I received a letter from my father. Inside with the letter was a clipping…Ken’s obituary.  I didn’t know the details until later.

From the Benton Evening News, September 18, 2009. (The original link no longer works.)

Benton, Ill. —

A trip to Northern Illinois by a U.S. Army veteran resulted in an emotional tribute to a Benton man who died in the Vietnam War.

Joe Hare of Columbia, Ky., on Tuesday honored the memory of fellow Black Lions 28th U.S. Infantry member Kenneth W. Tate, who was killed in action on Sept. 6, 1967 — two days after his 21st birthday.

 

Hare and his wife, Pat, were joined by some of Tate’s family members and friends at his gravesite in the Masonic & Odd Fellows Cemetery.

 

“It’s not easy, is it?” Hare asked, his voice trembling. “I didn’t think I would do this bad.”
Tate was the first person from Franklin County to die in Vietnam.

 

“I’ve forgotten how many people came to his funeral,” said Tate’s stepsister, Alana Day, “but there were 140 cars at the funeral home.”

There’s a bit more information here at the Virtual Wall.  I didn’t know Ken was a LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol). All that we heard was that he was on a patrol and was killed. Someone, I don’t remember who now, said he was killed by a mine.  I don’t know if that’s true or not. It doesn’t really matter, now.

I don’t know why I keep thinking of Ken. We weren’t all that close. Circumstances put us together fifty years ago for a period of time. I can still remember his face.

Perhaps it is, as someone once said, that as long as we remember, they aren’t really gone but live within us.  I have no doubt Ken and I will meet again…and laugh remembering when we made nitroglycerin and bombed pigeons outside the window of our 2nd floor High School Chemistry lab using an eyedropper.

Well! That was exciting.

The Court has been down for about a week. I’m not sure why.

I noticed a week ago that when I tried to open the ‘Court, that nothing appeared. I was finally able to get an error message. One database table got corrupted and I followed the instructions on how to repair it.

However, the ‘Court didn’t reappear after the fix. it’s taken me a week to figger out the cause. To repair the database, you have to add a line to the config file. I had failed to remove that line after the repair. A few minutes ago I did—AND IT’S BACK!!!

I haven’t blogged in a while. but I did for eleven years. I would really hate to have lost it all.

Repost: Protected

I originally wrote this post in 2012 after Sandy Hook. After the events yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, it’s still as pertinent as it was six years ago. It was a school shooting, The difference was that this was at a high school instead of an elementary school.

Similarities exist. A shooter walks into a No Gun Zone and kills. Contrary to the Connecticut shooting, there was a, one, law enforcement officer on campus—on the other side of the high school campus.

Why is this important? The school contained 3,200 students, more than many of the small towns in the area, and with multiple buildings. Think on that for a moment. Over 3,000 kids, teachers, administrative staff and one, ONE!, protector.

Impossible.

The libs scream for gun control. That has never worked and they know it. But gun control is all the libs have, nothing else.

The current talking heads, including Florida’s ‘Pub governor call for more mental healthcare, and over-watch of those who have mental problems. That won’t work either. How can you know if someone, who has never drawn anyone’s attention, is homicidal? You can’t.

Then what is the solution?

One that has been proposed for years and the libs block at every instance. Arm the teachers, arm the administrators, and, hire some guards who have proven themself in critical situations—like veterans and retired or former police officers.

A single security guard for a campus larger than many small towns across American is a sure path to failure, as we have just seen.


The events in Connecticut triggered a memory. A memory from nearly 60 years ago at a time when I was in grade school.

The school I attended was rural…a country school of three classrooms with a peak enrollment around seventy students. There were three classrooms, first through third grade, fourth and fifth grades, and in the largest room, sixth through eighth grades.

There were three teachers—Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Rhodes, and Mr. Helfritch the Principal; one full-time janitor/school bus driver and two older ladies as cooks.  The school was rich. It sat in the middle of a half-section of land; property deeded to the school district after WW1. The property also contained two oil wells whose royalties made the school one of the best funded in the county.

This incident occurred early in the fall of the school year. A family rented an old dilapidated house about 300 yards from the school connected by an overgrown track reduced to a foot-path. That family had three children in our school; one boy my age, a younger sister and a younger brother.

The family could best be described as…white trash. The father and his several brothers were drunks. They worked occasionally at one of the nearby mines but only long enough to qualify for “relief.”

On this day, the older boy had done something, or perhaps, not done something to cause the ire of his father. We were at morning recess when we saw the father enter the front of the school, followed shortly by loud voices and words we weren’t suppose to know, much less speak. The father was quickly escorted out of the school by Mr. Helfritch.

I don’t remember his first name. I may not have known it. All our teachers had similar first names—Mister, Miss, or Misses. I remember Mr. Helfritch as a slight, blond-haired man of medium height with a flat-top haircut. He was a WW2 veteran and a state policeman before being recalled for the Korean war.

Lunch recess was the longest of the day; an hour at least. I suppose it gave the adults time to savor lunch, coffee and to talk a bit. On this day, Mr. Helfritch was, uncharacteristically, outside watching the kids. Some friends and I were playing marbles in an bare area we’d hacked from a small grove of man-high saplings and briers. It was “our” place. We hadn’t been there long when we saw the father returning accompanied by two of his brothers.

They walked up to Mr. Helfritch demanding the older boy. My friends and I were close enough to hear some words, enough to understand some of the conversation. When Mr. Helfritch refused, one brother took a swing. In an instant, two of the three visitors were on the ground. The remaining one had a knife in his hand and Mr. Helfritch had a .45 pointed at the knife-wielder’s nose at a distance of about two feet. He carried the pistol in a shoulder holster every day my Father later told me.

Someone called the Sheriff and Mr. Helfritch kept the three covered while Rudi, the Janitor, looped a few turns of rope around their legs. They were going nowhere quickly. A Deputy arrived some time later and hauled them off.

My Father, who was an auxiliary Sheriff’s Deputy, told that Mr. Helfritch was a reserve police officer. He had been a full-time state trooper before being recalled for the Korean War. When he came home from Korea, he decided to be a teacher instead of a state trooper, but, like many in those times, he kept his reserve police commission. It was the only way he could legally carry a concealed weapon in Illinois. It was the same reason my father was an auxiliary Deputy Sheriff.

I’d forgotten that incident for many years. Dad told me Mr. Helfritch said the school kids were under his protection. He would allow no one to threaten his students. I have no doubt, and it was proven in Connecticut last week, teacher’s today would do the same…if they had the tools to do so. Unfortunately, as was proven last week, those tools have been denied and those teachers did their best—dying defending their students.

It should not have happened. The best defense for our children is still people—armed people—armed teachers willing to do what is necessary to protect their charges.

When Veteran’s Day was Armistice Day

Contrary to current common observance, today was originally Armistice Day—celebrating the end of World War I.  The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
 
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
 

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

I can remember celebrating Armistice Day.  My earliest memory was standing along one of our town’s main streets with my family watching a parade of returning Korean War Veterans marching down main street accompanied by Tanks, bands and floats (tractor hauled wagons.) That changed by a proclamation by Dwight D. Eisenhower on October 8th, 1954 that designated November 11th as Veteran’s Day. 

All was well until 1968 when Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250) or the Uniform Holiday Bill. That bill was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.” — Department of Veteran’s Affairs.”

Under this law, Veteran’s Day was observed on October  25th causing much confusion.  President Gerald Ford moved Veteran’s Day back to November 11 by an order in 1975.

Considering all the wrangling over the holiday, one result of having Veteran’s Day on November 11th is that no one remembers that it was originally set aside to celebrate the end of the First World War.  Before the two holiday were merged, each had their own observances.  Veterans are also honored on other days such as Memorial Day, Flag Day and and even the Fourth of July. 

Personally, I think the WW1 vets have been robbed, if any are left.  My mother had a cousin who was a WW1 veteran (search the Court for Heinie Mueller.)

I would much prefer that Veterans have a holiday all our own. A day solely for us and not usurping a celebration intended for others.

Until that happens, however…Happy Veterans AND Armistice Day!

(A repost from November 11, 2015.)

Happy Birthday, Marines!

Happy Birthday, US Marines!

The Marine Corps was created on November 10, 1775, in Tun Tavern, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by a resolution of the Continental Congress. In 1834 the marines became part of the Department of the Navy.

The globe and anchor signify worldwide service and sea traditions. The spread eagle represents the nation itself. The motto, Semper Fidelis, or Always Faithful, is clenched in the beak of the bird.

To all you current, inactive and retired Marines,

His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
Mathew 25-21.

Pivot Points

My wife and I was at dinner recently and we were discussing some long-ago event. It occurred to me that there was a single point that changed the direction of our life. A point that created a fork in our life, a divergence from the life before us. That pivot point was an invitation to lunch.

It happened in January, 1976. I was working in an administrative job for a flour milling company. The company owned a number of flour mills across the country and one charcoal plant. My job, depending on the day of the week, was Payroll Manger (hourly employees), Data Processing Manager, Assistant Treasurer, Payroll Accounting Manger, and on Friday, Manager of the company Benefit Program—paying medical claims for the salaried employees.

A couple of weeks after New Years in January, 1976, I received an invitation to lunch by a Ham Radio friend. I had been a Ham Radio operator for four years and was interested in RTTY, Radio Teletype. So was my friend.

I had spent my Christmas Holiday building a RTTY demodulator. The device decoded two RTTY tones received over the air and converted the tones to Baudot code for the TTY printer. In transmit mode, it received Baudot code from my TTY keyboard and converted that code into two tones that would be transmitted over the air. I had designed and built the demodulator from scratch. I was very proud of it and, at the request of my Ham Radio friend, took it with me. My Ham buddy wanted to see it.

When I arrived, I found my friend sitting with another. My friend was a field maintenance engineer for a Texas-based distributed computing company. The other person sitting at lunch was his boss. The boss was based in Minneapolis and visited Kansas City monthly. That day was his January monthly visit.

The lunch went well. I presented my pride-and-joy, described the circuitry and the techniques I had used in its construction. After twenty minutes, my friend received a customer call, some equipment needed maintenance. He departed leaving me with his boss.

It was a setup.

It was a job interview. My friend had accepted a position within the company to be an instructor in the company school in San Antonio, TX. However, as part of the deal, he couldn’t leave Kansas City until he found a replacement. Me.

I impressed my interviewer. I lacked knowledge of digital computing but I did have more knowledge of basic electronics than many of the current field engineers of the company. By the end of lunch, I had a job offer, for the Kansas City area, at twice my salary of my job at the milling company.

I took it! My wife was five months pregnant and my salary of $600/mth was small compared with the cost of a growing family.

I had been coasting since leaving the Air Force. My job at the milling company was dead-end. It was a family owned business and all the higher positions were limited to family members or very close family friends. The new job had more opportunities and the potential for a much larger salary.

That pivot point changed our life. I became a field engineer. A few years later, I was second level support covering a four state territory. Not long after that, I was third level support for a seven state area and a regular visiting instructor in the company school teaching disk-drive maintenance, software design and programming and telecommunications.

I have no idea what our life would have been if I hadn’t accepted that invitation to lunch. I’ve lost touch with my Ham Radio friend. A decade later the computer company was bought by a financier who broke up company and sold the pieces.

That field engineering job eventually lead to position with Sprint that lasted until I retired as a Principle Network Design Engineer. While working at Sprint I was a programmer, manager, systems design enginer and finally a project manager. I acquired seven patents along the way.  All in all, it’s been a good life.

I wonder if I will meet Mike Rathbun again. I think I will.

Where have I been and what have I been doing?

Wow! No posts since November 11th. When I stopped posting five days a week over a year ago, I did not intend to let my blog slide off into history. I haven’t posted because I’ve been busy.

Busy? Doing what, you may ask. Writing fiction. I’ve had some small success.

It all started last June when I received an email from one of the editors of the Grantville Gazette. The Gazette buys fan-fiction based on the world of 1632 by Eric Flint. 1632 is available, free, from Baen’s Free Library. Scroll down on the 1632 website and you can download the book in your favorite e-book format.

Getting back to the event last summer…some ten to twelve years ago, I submitted a short story to the Gazette slush pile. I received some feedback, made changes, resubmitted the story to the 1632 slush, and waited…and waited…and waited until I decided it must have been so bad it wasn’t worth more attention.

The subject of the story arose again last May in the 1632 forum on Baen’s Bar, a subsection of the Baen website. I mentioned that I had submitted a story long ago on that subject and a few days later I received an email asking if I was still interested in selling the story to the Gazette.

Grantville Gazette #68 cover art

Of course, says I! I resubmitted, received some further feedback, made some changes, reviewed it to catch typos, missing punctuation and resubmitted it. The next thing I know, I received a notice, “Send me a .rtf.” The short story was accepted and appeared in the November, 2016, issue #68 of the Grantville Gazette. The title was, Greetings! I’ve included the link but it may be behind a paywall.

That sale was followed by a novelette, The Marshal comes to Suhl, that appeared in the Grantville Gazette #70 in March, 2017. A third sale of a novella, SMC, is appearing as a three-part serial starting in Gazette #71. SMC, Part 1, is up in the current edition of the Gazette. The second and third parts of SMC will appear in the July and September, 2017 issues.

So. Instead of continuing to write a political blog, I’ve been writing fiction. My ego has been kept under control by the submission of three other short stories that are still sitting in the slush-pile without a nibble.

I don’t…yes, I do mind, but they have been a good learning experience. I found that typos are insidious and no matter how many times you read and re-read your text, they will still escape your notice. I’ve learned the difference between ‘telling vs. showing,’ and to avoid the dreaded ‘white-room,’ or writing just pure dialog without any context.

I can’t post the stories here. I’ve sold the rights for five years. But, if you’re interested you can follow the links above and read them on-line. If they are behind a pay-wall, I strongly suggest you subscribe to the Gazette. You may get the writing bug, as have so many others. The Grantville Gazette pays professional rates. Who knows, maybe you too can be a published writer.