Unexpected Gifts

I had a heads up email from my eldest son about an incoming package….always something to look forward to. Who doesn’t look forward to a surprise? After spending the past few days in KC (weather!) it was nice to get home again, especially as nice neighbors had helped shovel out the drive. Finding a package awaiting me was a bonus.

I could never have imagined that he could have found a film of one of our favorite books from his and his brother’s childhood…..Paddle to the Sea. The film was released in 1966 and nominated for an Academy Award for live action short. I can’t wait to watch it this weekend! The book was written by Holling C. Holling in 1941 and it is still in print. If you know any young people this, and his other books, are wonderful books to share. Paddle is the story of a small carving of an Indian in his canoe, created by an Indian youth at Lake Nipigon, north of Lake Superior, with a message carved into it: I am Paddle-to-the-Sea from Nipigon Country Canada. He placed the carving on a snowbank before a thaw and let nature and the winds and waters take it where they might. The journey took him hundreds of miles–where he escaped a sawmill, fled a forest fire with wild animals, survived an icy storm that wrecked a steamer on Lake Superior, passed through locks and busy docks loading iron and copper ore, down Niagara Falls, and through the Saint Lawrence to the Atlantic. He was helped along the way occasionally by humans and ultimately earned the right to be called a true Paddle-to-the-Sea. Holling illustrated the book with wonderful color paintings augmented with drawings of all the things seen and experienced–how locks work, the operation of large sawmills, etc. It’s just crammed with interesting tidbits of knowledge. There’s history, technology, maps, industry–a delightful way to learn about a part of our country in an earlier time (like when there still was industry).

Holling’s other books–Tree in the Trail (plains Indians and westward-bound pioneers on the Santa Fe Trail), Minn of the Mississippi (snapping turtle), and Seabird (a scrimshaw ivory gull on a whaler)–are all wonderful and chock full of history and adventure.

The film–live action–took a few years to create and entailed its own thrilling adventures and I look forward to a quiet evening viewing. It’s great to have a thoughtful son who remembers fondly those many nights reading Holling’s books at bedtime. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that as a parent you perhaps did a few things right!

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Other good news! The FCC just granted permission for GE’s sale of MSNBC/NBC/Universal to Comcast. And GE’s CEO was just appointed by Prez O to serve on a ‘jobs’ council. It’s always a good thing to consolidate the state-run media. And Keith Olberman is gone, gone!, from MSNBC. Other trolls will fill his vacant time so no actual change in tone there. Hope and change….hope and change!

Some of the parts of the deal I like best are that ‘Comcast will make available to approximately 2.5 million low income households: (i) high-speed Internet access service for less than $10 per month; (ii) personal computers, netbooks, or other computer equipment at a purchase price below $150’ and ‘we require Comcast-NBCU to increase programming diversity by expanding its over the-air programming to the Spanish language-speaking community, and by making NBCU’s Spanish-language broadcast programming available via Comcast’s on demand and online platforms.’

It’s always easier to handle the social justice thingy and income redistribution via regulations and bureaucracies rather than through straight-forward legislation. And besides that, who will notice this happening….coercing a private business to give away goods and services as conditions of doing business.

Goodbye, Blair

We received a letter today from one of our oldest friends, Scott T.  We’ve known Scott and later Blair, his wife, since I was in training in the Air Force at Keesler AFB, MS in 1969.

Mrs. Crucis and I had a small circle of friends, all single-guys going through the same training. I was the only one married and our small apartment outside the gate of Keesler was a gathering spot for our friends.  Scott was my best friend and one of that circle.  When training was over, everyone in the group was assigned to different bases. Scott was the only one that I every saw again.

The group, including Scott and I had a 10-day delay in route before reporting to our next assignment.  Mrs. Crucis and I went home to Illinois to spend Christmas with our family. Scott went home to North Carolina to marry Blair.

I was assigned to Richards-Gebaur AFB on the south side of KC.  Scott was assigned to March AFB near Los Angeles.  Mrs. Crucis and I had just moved into a small duplex when we got a call from Scott.  He and Blair was traveling to CA on their honeymoon and wanted to drop by and see us.  It was a start of a 40 year friendship.

We never saw them, face-to-face, again.  The world is a big place and we were never close enough again for visit.  Scott and I spent our time in the Air Force and on leaving, Mrs. Crucis and I settled here in KC.  Scott and Blair went back to Winston-Salem.

We kept in touch.  Scott had a flair for poetry. Every Christmas we received a photo-Christmas card and a poem from Scott.  His hand-writing wasn’t all the best and half the fun was translating his script.  As time went on, our families grew.  Our daughter, Jennifer arrived, so did their son, David.  Blair became an IT manager. A few years later so was I.  Our correspondence kept our friendship alive for four decades. 

We didn’t get our Christmas photo this year.  It was a disappointment, but Scott had frequently been late before. So we waited.  Today, we got a letter from Scott. Blair had passed away in her sleep.  She’d had some minor health problems in the last few years but nothing really major.  She’d fallen—broke her knee and sprained her ankle. She’d had her gall bladder removed a few years ago. As I said, nothing really major. 

Mrs. Crucis and I are healthy for our age.  Yes, we take medication for cholesterol and blood-pressure, but many like us do. It’s no longer unusual.

When we read Scott’s letter today, we both cried. We cried for Scott’s loss, for David’s loss, for missed opportunities.  We were once a state away in North Carolina, but our Blazer blew a generator near Sevierville, TN.  Could we have gone on? It hadn’t been our intent. There was always next year.  Now, we’ve run out of next years.

Scott appears to be recovering.  His son is nearby. David and Scott spent Christmas with David’s girl friend and her family. It will take some time.  You don’t get over such a loss quickly after forty years together.

I only met Blair once. I still remember her voice from that single visit long ago. I miss her, too. 

Cartoon of the Day: Michael Ramirez

President Hu from Communist China was in Washington this week and Obama laid out a massive state dinner for him last night. Thankfully, Mitch McConnel and John Boehner didn’t attend that farce. 

Obama was his usual wishy-washy self.  Hu bragged how the United States was now a 3rd world country and no longer the most powerful country in the world.  He said, in essence, our time had come—and gone, thanks to Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chris Dodd, and Charlie Rangel.

Michael Ramirez has this comment on the situation.  This is his cartoon for January 20, 2011.

Save your Confederate Dollars! They’ll soon be worth more that our US greenbacks.  Oh, wait!  We don’t have greenbacks anymore either. They’re now brown, orange, purple and other strange colors—like currencies from Europe.

Mr. Congressman, where in the Constitution…

I was scanning my usual websites, looking for something to blog about, when I spied this column on the Washington Times site.  A bill is being introduced in the House to repeal Obamacare.  Along with that bill is something that will rock congress—where in the Constitution does Congress get the power to do what it’s been doing?

It will bring the subject of Enumerated Powers, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, before Congress and the country.  We’ve seen numerous times in the last four years when Pelosi, et. al., has ignored the Constitution and has travelled far assuming powers not given to Congress. In many cases, such as Obamacare, they’ve ignored the Enumerated Powers and the Tenth Amendment as well.

House GOP spoils for Constitution fight

‘Judicial supremacy’ challenged

Following the House GOP‘s new rules, Majority Leader Eric Cantor submitted along with the repeal bill a little-noticed but far-reaching statement of constitutional authority that casts the effort in terms of reclaiming congressional prerogatives and the duty of each branch of government to police itself and “ensure that all their actions are constitutional.”

…their underlying message is this: The Supreme Court is not the only referee on the field when it comes to determining what’s constitutional and what’s not.
“The claim of judicial supremacy has been taken to such a point that it now requires Congress, as well as the executive, to push back and reclaim constitutional authority,” said Matthew Spalding, a Heritage Foundation constitutional scholar whom Republicans consulted. “The deeper significance of the citation requirement is that Congress is stepping up as an institution and saying that it is an independent constitutional actor.”
For much of the last century, schoolchildren have learned that Congress writes the laws, the Supreme Court rules whether they are constitutional, and the president carries them out. But Republicans said that’s a modern, and not entirely correct, division of labor.
Rep. Eric Cantor
And it’s one reason they wrote their new rule requiring lawmakers to file a statement of constitutional authority along with every bill they sponsor, citing specific constitutional authorities for Congress to take the actions they are proposing.
Mark C. Alexander, a law professor at Seton Hall University, said the back-and-forth is a debate worth having, adding that lawmakers should ponder whether what they are doing is supported by the Constitution.

 It will be an interesting debate.  On one side will be the ‘Pubs saying the Constitution means what it says and places limits on the excesses of Congress.  On the other will be the dems saying the Constitution is too old to understand and is meaningless anyway because the Congress can do whatever those in power want. 

Then again, the dems may keep quiet and reply on their bought and paid for judges to rule against the constitution.  It won’t be the first time.  

There’s much more interesting reading at the Washington TImes.  Go there are read the entire column.   

More Rudder!

More rudder is a term you’ll often hear a flight instructor say when you’re slipping to reduce altitude while landing. Briefly, it’s done when you’re high on final and need to dump altitude quickly. The technique is to place your windward wing down as if turning into the wind, while appling opposite rudder to keep your line of travel straight towards the runway.

The term can also mean “more Rudder stories” such as the one I received in an e-mail from a friend. I don’t have all that many. Most of the time I saw Rudder she was asleep or pretending to be asleep on her favorite chair in the corner of the FBO office.

However, there was one incident that sticks out–Rudder and the Refueling Waco.

The Waco, in this instance, was a rebuilt UPF-7, a radial engine powered biplane. Many of these aircraft were built early in WW2 to supplement the fleet of Stearman biplanes for primary flight instruction for the Army Air Force.

This particular Waco was a transient. It had been completely rebuilt in a deep red color scheme—a multi-coated metal-flake color that sparkled brightly. Once, when it was on the down-wind leg of the pattern it caught the sun just right and appeared to be a bright ruby about to land. It had been rebuilt inside and out with a complete avionics package including GPS—new at that time for private aircraft.

The photo above is similar to the Waco in this story. It would land at Gardner from time-to-time for fuel and a pit-stop for the pilot and passenger. Often one of the local hangers-on (me occasionally) would run them into Gardner to Mickey D’s or a greasy spoon for hamburgers. The Waco traveled frequently from somewhere in Nebraska to Ardmore, OK. I don’t think I ever knew which was their home port.

From May through September, the Waco was almost regular in it’s arrival every other Saturday, weather permitting. The Waco had an open cockpit and air temperatures at altitude was a consideration. Once time, in mid April, the pilot and his teen-aged granddaughter arrived dressed in electrically-heated, fleece-lined flight suits—Army surplus from WW2 and worn by B-17 flight crews.

This particular incident occurred during mid-summer. The Waco landed and taxied over to the fuel pumps. The gas tanks were in the upper wing. The refueler would climb into the front passenger cockpit and stand on the seat to man-handle the fuel hose up to the gas cap. If I remember correctly, the wing tank held 25 gallons and a second fuel tank in front of the passenger, behind the engine, held another 25 gallons.

This time, the biplane was refueled and everyone was inside the FBO paying the bill. Rudder, like all cats, liked high places. Unseen by those inside, she trotted out to the Waco, jumped up onto the lower wing, jumped into the front cockpit and from there onto the upper wing. Once there, she walked out to the wing-tip, sprawled out and went to sleep.

Eventually all the business in the FBO was completed and the pilot and his passenger came out. The pilot went through his normal pre-flight while the passenger tried to get Rudder down from the wing. Anyone who lives with cats knows they are sometimes a bit stubborn. Rudder ignored all pleas to come down from the wing. One of the locals came out with the fueling ladder to get Rudder. She promptly trotted down to the other wing-tip and plopped down. All this went on for about 20 minutes.

At the Gardner airport was one city employee. Jim was his name and he provided all the building, runway and grounds maintenance for the airport. Aside from Ellen and Charlie Craig, he spent more time with Rudder than anyone else. Jim had been in another area of the airport and arrived at the fuel pumps as a bunch of folks ran from one wing-tip to the other trying to get Rudder down. The pilot wouldn’t start his engine fearing Rudder might fall into the prop and there were other aircraft queued up for the fuel pumps.

Jim watched it all for a moment. Then he put two fingers between his lips, whistled loudly and motioned at Rudder to get down. Rudder looked at him for a moment and then slowly walked towards the center of the wing, jumped down to the fuselage, down to the lower wing. From there she jumped down to the ground and sauntered off towards the FBO office weaving around and through the mob around the Waco.

The Waco returned many times after that for a stop-over but the pilot always stayed nearby while it was refueled to insure Rudder never hijacked his plane again.

Don’t Tread on Me — Missouri

I received the e-mail below from my local state representative, Chris Molendorp.  I’ve sent him my thanks for sponsoring this piece of legislation.  Please join me and send your thanks and support as well.

Chris Molendorp 
201 West Capitol Avenue, Room 206C
Jefferson City, MO  65101
Phone:  573-751-2175

Representative Molendorp wanted to let you know, he will be the chief co-sponsor for the “Don’t Tread on Me” Missouri License Plate.  
Below is a picture of the proposed plate.  As soon as the bill is filed, we will send you the House Bill number.
Thank you.


I was reading a post by Frank James and he mentioned about a shooting range in North Carolina that also cared for some cats. That struck a memory.

It’s not surprising that many businesses whether big or small, retail, office or outdoor, will have a mascot. When I worked for Sprint, my office was in a one story building with a basement containing test labs and an open courtyard in the middle of the building where we had tables, grills and an occasional nesting bird. Inside, we had mice.

One year in the early fall a yellow tabby appeared at the back door and was unofficially adopted. One of the ladies fixed up a cat bed in her cube and the maintenance folks cut a “cat door” into a janitor’s closet where a cat box was installed. That took care of our mouse problem…and chipmunks. We didn’t know about them until the cat, “8-Bit”, deposited her trophy next to the door to the courtyard.

The mascot I remember most fondly was an airport cat by the name of “Rudder.” I used to hang out at a small airport on the west side of Gardner, KS. The Fixed Base Operation or FBO, was owned by Charlie and Ellen Craig. Both were CFIs, Charlie was a CFII (Instrument Flight Instructor) and had been an instructor since before WW2 and had over 30,000 hours in the air. Ellen had been a ferry pilot during WW2 delivering B-25s from the Fairfax aircraft plant in KC, KS. Their kids and grandkids also served as instructors as necessary.

One day a car came by, stopped, and tossed out a small black and white kitten. When Charlie returned from a flight, he found Rudder curled up next to the door of the FBO. He picked Rudder up and took her inside. Rudder had found a home.

I met Rudder a couple of years later. I came to talk to Charlie about some lessons but he was out flying so I sat down on the office couch to wait. I hadn’t been seated long when Rudder appeared, climbed my leg and settled down in my lap. I still have a small scar from that first meeting. Rudder had a full set of claws and she used them to climb my denim covered leg up to my lap.

Rudder was popular with just about everyone. She ran in and out during the day and stayed nights inside the FBO office. Not long after my first meeting with Rudder, she produced a small litter of kittens. The next day Ellen set a large glass jar on her desk labeled “The Rudder Fund.” That was Rudder’s last batch of kittens. (Update. My wife caught an error in the paragraph above. Rudder’s fund was called, “Fix the Kitty Kitty.”)

The Gardner airport, also known as K34, has two grass runways and one asphalt runway. Off the end of the longest runway was a small woodlot. Somewhere inside that woodlot was a den of foxes.

I was sitting outside the FBO one Sunday afternoon watching a local (by local I mean one of the aircraft based at the airport.) do touch ‘n goes in a rebuilt Interstate, a high-wing single engine aircraft similar to a Piper Cub when I saw the foxes chasing something in the high grass next to the runway. It was Rudder. I couldn’t find a photo of Rudder but I did find the one above on the internet that closely matches Rudder.

The Interstate made another touch ‘n go at that moment and scared the foxes. Rudder was used to planes taxing, landing and taking off and used that interruption to streak across the runway, across the grassy tie-down area and up onto the bench next to me. She leaned into me, butted my arm a few times and then curled up into my lap shivering a bit. It’d been a close call. Foxes like cats—for breakfast, lunch or any meal.

The foxes were Rudder’s nemesis. From time to time some of the local pilots would go down to the woodlot to clean out the fox den. Sometimes they were successful but in a week or two, we’d hear foxes barking in those woods at dusk.

Rudder loved to fly. She never flew with Charlie but she did with some of the local pilots. There was a small group of WW2 and Korean War pilots who had planes hangared at Gardner. They’d go up a few times a month to keep current and it wasn’t too unusual to see Rudder looking out from the passenger seat as the plane went down the runway. I think Rudder had more air-time than some of the younger pilots at the airport.

A few years later, Ellen died in her sleep. Charlie continued to give flight instruction for a few months at the airport but his heart wasn’t in it. The FBO was a means to keep the family together. Now that Ellen was gone, the business lost its purpose. Just before he closed, Rudder didn’t escape the foxes. She was found next to the runway one morning. Her friends buried her in the grass next to the airport office where they’d built a small covered picnic area. There was talk of collecting money for a small memorial for Rudder but I don’t remember anything coming of it.

I now have cats at home. We’ve had three since Rudder died and now have two of keep us company.

But, I’ll always remember Rudder.