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Well, here we go! This is where the author of a book usually writes a paragraph dedicating this book to his wonderful wife and kids, whose patience, understanding, blah, blah, blah etc. I won't do that, because my wife knows very well how much I appreciate her for standing by me from one job to another, and another and another. (For over 30 years) This also applies to my (now grown-up) kids, who know what it's like to move into different homes and schools on a regular basis.
Instead, I'll dedicate this book to the MANY employers across the country that hired me, tolerated me, trained me, profited from my labor, and made me the truly talented person I am today. It is also dedicated to you… the job switcher, and those who have stayed with one boring job forever, plus… the ones who haven't the courage to quit an unfulfilling job and move on.
Before we get to the real adventures in life, I must tell you that I firmly believe that almost anyone with a line of "BULL" (and a desire) can land just about any type of a job they want, doing just about anything they want. (With a little study and a lot of confidence, you will soon see that this is possible) There are obvious signs to look for, and sure ways to tell if it is time to start searching for a new career or vocation. I'll cover some of these in the very first chapter.
The events, experiences, and Times, in this book will not be in chronological order. Who wants to stay in the same place very long? Let's move around and do something different, after all this is NOT an autobiography of a famous person, it is an entertaining account of TRUE stories and experiences of one person who has been there and done that.
Tom "RoadRunner" Blair
1. Is it Time to Change Jobs?
First, let's see if it's time for you to change jobs. There are clear indicators to look for when considering a career change: Think back to the first 6 months of any "new" job you've ever had. Remember how time went by so fast? It seemed like you just got started and the day was over, and now you find yourself watching the clock, as hours seem to drag slowly by. We all look at our watch occasionally, but a stale employee looks continuously and wonders if the day will ever end.
1. Do you find yourself browsing the help wanted section "Just for curiosity?" You may be subconsciously bored with what you are doing, and looking at a change is refreshing.
2. Are you doing exactly the same thing today, as you were a year or two ago?
If you haven't made a move towards different or better things on the job then you, no doubt, have become somewhat stagnant.
3. Do you have a burning desire to just pick up and move to another state and start all over? Wanting to clean your life's slate usually involves changing jobs, lifestyles, and interests all together.
4. Do you get angry at work more than you used to? Being disgusted with what's happening in your place of employment, and having the feeling there is nothing you can do about it, indicates frustration with the job. Is it Friday yet? Sure, we all look forward to the weekend, but if Friday is the longest day of the week for you, and Sunday night you are already dreading Monday morning… you're not happy with what you're doing. Have many things that you used to look forward to doing at work now become dreadful tasks? YOU MAY NEED TO MAKE SOME CHANGES. If you don't like your job… QUIT! If you look at your home life, most of the above principals will apply here also; just substitute the word "home" for work.
The down-side of job switching is: You never get to make your way to the top of an organization, playing the lottery may be your only form of retirement, and you never become one of the best in your field. To many people, the fear and anxiety of changing jobs will overtake desire to have a "fresh" one.
Of all the job changes I have made in my life, I have NEVER regretted making a change. (There was only one job I DIDN'T take… I wish I had taken.) Each new job offers a different perspective on life, people, and experience. I only regret NOT taking one job I was offered. Otherwise, even bad jobs can be a positive influence on your life.
Remember: Every time you change jobs, you will expand your knowledge, meet new people, and experience a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. (This alone will lessen the panic feeling.)
2. The Job That Got Away
Once upon a time I time I was offered a job as a counselor at a juvenile correctional facility in Red Wing Minnesota. A man named Orville impressed me considerably, and he was in the upper level of management at Red Wing at the time.
Orville appeared to be a person I would have enjoyed working with, and could have learned a lot from. I had just been fired as Chief of police in Kenyon Minnesota, and this seemed like something I would be good at… and like.
Orville knew I had devoted a lot of time working with "problem" juveniles. (Since I was, at one time a juvenile delinquent, I had a pretty good understanding about many of their problems.) At the last minute, I "backed out" of taking the job. He later went on to become head of the Department of Corrections for the State of Minnesota and I went back to my old cop job. I have wished many times I had taken that job. I'll never realize the knowledge and experience I missed. (It's kind of like the "big one" that got away.)
3. Good kid bad kid
Let me share with you some of the things I learned as a juvenile delinquent, and later a police officer while working with young people with problems. Why do so many kids become problem young people? Well, just bear with me for a few minutes, because I have the answer to a lot of the questions many people have about "troubled" kids. Let's start by comparing what being a "good kid" has to offer, over what the "bad kid" lives for. We realize that there are a lot of things young people need in their life, but most certainly, young people WANT attention, excitement, and praise. If a "smart" kid gets attention by being an honor student, how does the average or poor student get attention? By being a "jock" on the football team, or being a star basketball player? That will get the attention desired, and sports is also exciting and sometimes dangerous. "Good kids" usually get a considerable amount of praise.
How do bad kids get praise? Their other "bad" friends will praise them for doing bad things well! Many kids have friends and family that take them canoeing down rivers, climbing hills and camping in the wilderness. That's exciting and bordering on danger. (I use the term danger because danger breeds' excitement, one of the ingredients young people have a craving for.)
Now look at the delinquent who doesn't do well in school, and doesn't get attention for having good grades. Maybe he or she is not physically capable of being proficient at sports. How do they get the attention? Bad grades get attention, getting into trouble gets attention, and if they need danger or excitement; shoplifting, stealing and being in a gang will do just that. These kids get attention, praise, excitement, and are finally recognized as being "good at something"… being bad.
If you know of a teenager that is not capable of achieving good grades in school and is not active in sports, you must give them something else to excel in. Like playing a musical instrument, a business venture, raising animals, working or repairing motors may be something they would be good at. Keep in mind that they still need some excitement. Depending on the individual, fishing with dad or camping with the family may offer excitement. Exploring a cave, climbing a mountain, going to stock car races, what ever it takes, FIND IT.
4. Miracle Salve?
I remember as a young boy seeing that ad on that back of a comic book, "Win a brand new Daisy Defender B-B gun or a real guitar." I think it was Roy Clark who got one of those guitars, and had a hoof print of Champ or Trigger on the back of it. It was really awesome. (In those days it was just "Cool".) There were all kinds of prizes to win, but the B-B gun and guitar jumped off the page at me. It seemed so simple. All I had to do was sell some White Cloverine Salve, and according to the article, it "Practically sells itself." (And were they ever right!) As soon as I got my salve in the mail, it started selling, and I couldn't believe so many people really needed salve. Mom and dad bought a can for the medicine chest, one for the fishing tackle box, the trunk of the car and the shop. Uncle Ben, Aunt Ester, Uncle Joe, Aunt Ruth and even our next-door neighbor HAD to have some of that salve.
At the end of the first week, I must have sold at least 27 cans of salve and I was happy as hell. This was going to be my vocation in life. I thought I was the only kid in Kansas City selling it, the stuff was good, and I was going to be rich. Then it happened! Sales slumped… people turned against the world's greatest healing medicine of all time. What was going wrong? The people I sold it to weren't using it fast enough. The people who didn't know me (down the block) and in other neighborhoods bought it from someone else. Yes, there was someone else selling the same stuff I was. After realizing that I had to sell several hundred cans of salve to get the guitar or B-B gun… I made the first job change of my life.
I may forget a lot of things in my middle age mode, but I never forgot the education and training I accumulated from a job experience. The salve sales gig taught me that you will never get everything you expect from an employer and there will ALWAYS be someone doing the same thing you are. (And in your neighborhood too.)
Well, over 40 years have passed by, and you may find this hard to believe, but I recently worked for one of the largest vitamin and health product companies in the country, and I spent a lot of time helping one of my clients sell his product… named Miracle salve. A couple of weeks ago I enjoyed reminiscing, as I watched an old episode of Andy of Mayberry… Opie was selling Miracle Salve, and he was having the same success and failures I had experienced. You just can't believe how many people don't want to buy salve.
5. The BIG Donut Heist
When I was about 12 years old, a neighborhood kid named Ray and I spent a lot of time playing together. His parents had left him with his aunt and uncle to raise, and I don't think they were crazy about the deal. So, I asked my folks if he could come live with us. His Aunt and Uncle jumped at the opportunity. I guess my folks figured Ray was eating, playing and sleeping at our house most of the time anyway… so why not? He was like a brother to me, and another son to them. He was now family. (We have always considered each other "Brothers"
Ray and I did everything together, including the great donut caper. Back then; there was a company that delivered donuts to kids all over Kansas City. Lots of kids like Ray and I would sell their donuts, making a profit for the company and a small profit for the young people selling them. We decided to try it. We ordered 12 dozen donuts, ate a couple dozen and sold the rest. For some reason, we didn't seem to come out ahead, but we had fun and kept busy. We needed to make more profit, though. So, I devised a plan to do just that. We ordered 12 dozen donuts, and had them delivered to a neighbor's house. (We knew no one was home, but told them to leave the donuts on the porch, and "we'd" be back shortly.) Surprisingly, they did deliver the prize donuts. (We staked the place out from a garage across the street.) We were in the ideal business; I'm talking 100% profit and then some. We ate a tons of donuts, gave some away to our friends, sold what was left, and had a great time!
Well, that's the donut story, and I don't know for certain if the jokes about cops and donuts have a credible foundation. However, I eventually did end up spending 10 years in law enforcement and ate even MORE donuts (That's a couple chapters in itself, we'll cover later.) We had NO money left when the donuts were gone, but we learned another lesson that some people go their entire life not realizing; "Easy come… easy go." and "The more you make… the more you spend." Typical example: I can remember making $2.50 an hour, driving a 53 Chevy, living in a $100 a month home, had a TV, a lawnmower a phone AND about $100 in the bank. Now I make several times that, I have 2cars, 2 motorcycles, a motor home, 3 ATV's, 3 TV's, 2 riding lawnmowers, a half-dozen phones, and… about $100 in the bank. It just seems like we have more toys now, but do more toys make us any happier? Maybe a little?
Let me tell you something I learned about happiness and worldly possessions from Julius Granfor. Julius was a real likable guy and he had a pretty nice place up around Perley Minnesota, and I had visited him a time or two. He had a lot of nice things, and I made a comment to him about how "rough it must be" to have so many things. He turned to me and said, "Wanting can be more enjoyable than having." I thought to myself, "That's easy to say… this guy's GOT it all." Then he explained to me what he was trying to tell me. (I filed it away in a small spot in the corner of my undeveloped brain, and went on with life.) Years later, it popped out… and he was right! If you want a new car, you work, save, and plan for that new car. All that time you'll get a lot of enjoyment, contentment, and fun while you're looking forward to that new car.
A month after you finally get that new car, or whatever… everyone has seen it, you gotta make the payments, and the new wears out pretty fast. It's short-term happiness compared to all the planning, anxiety, and excitement of WANTING it. It makes sense… think about people playing the lottery; They want to win, dream of winning, and have fun moments thinking of how they will spend the money if they ever win. Then they win, and a few months', or a year later, they're broke and miserable. (It happens all the time.)
I won't spend much time talking about this subject, but I must lay a foundation so I'll appear to be a credible source to you. Otherwise, you may not enjoy or learn from these adventures we are about to embark upon.
My mom and dad always wanted me to have the best. Dad was an honest, hard working laborer who graduated from 7th grade but could figure algebra in his head. Mom had very little education either, but she was naturally shrewd at business deals. She even traveled around the United States trouble-shooting for a big dress company while hiring and firing people and getting stores out of the red. Both of them knew the importance of a good education, even though they had very little.
They decided to send me to a private Military School. I was just hanging on with my fingernails and trying to survive in a public school. I flunked the 7th grade, and I had a hard time with many subjects. How in the hell was I going to exist in a tough academic environment?
7. Life at the Military Academy
It was discipline all the way, as the Christian Brothers taught most of the classes, and a real Army sergeant was the head of Military. We called the Christian Brothers…"Brother", and we called the army sergeant "Sir." We were all issued a US rifle caliber 30, M1's. (Referred to as a gas operated, air-cooled, clip loaded, clip fed, semi-automatic, self-ejecting, shoulder weapon.) You learned pretty fast, and as you can see… you remember what you are taught. I hated wearing a hat; it messed up my hair.
I was warned to wear my military hat at all times (but I would sneak in the back door of the academy without it). One morning as I came in the back door, there was Brother Peter. "Where's your hat Mr. Blair?" he said. "I don't like wearing it Brother… it messes up my hair" I explained. SWISH! WHAP! Was the next sound I heard… it was Brother Peter's hand across my face, knocking me clear across the hall.
I hit the wall flat, slithered down to my buns, and shook my head and regrouped. (That really messed up my hair.) When I told my dad about it, (expecting some sympathy) he said, "I guess you damn well better wear your hat huh?" I followed the hat rule the remainder of the time I was there.
I hated math in high school, but I ended up taking 2 years of algebra, 2 years of geometry, and even two years of Spanish.
I remember Mr. Grantham always had a chunk of chalk tied on a string, and if you weren't paying attention in class, he'd whip a "Thump" on the top of your head and immediately gain your attention. Just a couple knots on the head, and you quickly learned to stay awake in his class.
The things that were done in those days would have been called "child abuse" by today's standards, but they worked. I learned, it didn't leave scars, and just like most of my experiences, I benefited a great deal from it. Why don't we give teachers the power to have total control over their students again? I remember in public school getting "swats" for screwing up (of course there is always one teacher who will abuse the power), but in general I believe that teachers who are allowed to employ discipline get respect and have students that learn.
I kept saying to myself, "I MUST learn, or I won't get to live in a $30,000 house someday. " When I was a kid dad always said, "If you don't "Git" a good education, you'll never live in one of them $30,000 homes." Today most $30,000 homes are occupied by people making a lot less than $30,000 a year.
I eventually got kicked out of De La Salle for being rebellious, but when I moved over to a public school (my senior year) I couldn't believe how smart I had become. Math was now easy, English was a snap, and I never took a book home the whole year. I got good grades too! You get better at what you do, if you do it with people that are better than you.
8. FLYING PINS
One job I held for a short while, while in high school, was being a pin setter in a bowling alley. (Another profession gone by the wayside, thanks to computers and automation... thank you.)
When you decide to be a pinsetter, it seems fairly simple: The bowlers knock down the pins, you pick 'em up, place them in a rack, pull the bar down, raise it back up, and the pins are set. Then you pick up the ball, roll it back down the track to the bowler. The pay was little, but uncomplicated and you'd get 10 cents per person/per game. Now, if you wanted to make it more profitable you'd do two alleys at the same time (doubles). It was when you were working two alleys that the kid next to you would get hit with a pin, or get sick and have to go home. Then you worked 3 alleys at one time (triples). Put yourself at the other end of the alley for a minute.
You'll find 2 couples on alley one, going at a good fast pace. Mom, dad, and two little kids on alley two (bowling at a totally erratic pace), and alley 3 were occupied by two contemptuous macho-muscle drunk (hell bent on seeing who could shatter the most pins). All of these customers are bowling at different intervals and speeds. You are jumping from one alley to the other, picking up pins, ducking pins (and sometimes balls), while trying to keep track of who's turn it is, what frame it is, while bending over picking up a 16 LB ball hundreds of times a night.
Some of the bowler's actually get pissed if you didn't "rack em up" fast enough, or didn't know when it was the 10th frame. If you stayed with it long enough, you could grow up to have huge ugly stretched-out bulging knuckles (from picking up those pins 6 or 8 at a time), no teeth, splinters from ankles to knees, and be called the "Hunchback From Notre Lane!" No thanks...I'll try something else. (Ray did better than me at it, as usual)
9. Vending Machines
One of the better jobs I had, while in high school, was working for a vending company. This experience later became a stepping-stone into the pinball, juke box and amusement machine repair business. Delivering vending machines, filling cigarette machines and handling money was my first lesson in responsibility. Working in a business where you meet a lot of people is a good thing for any young person, as it rounds out a personality...a very important asset in any vocation.
Unloading Boxcars: One of the worst jobs ever and it isn't going to take up much space in this publication. During my high school days, I had a brief experience of unloading boxcars of cedar shingles, by hand, from dusty cars in 90-degree heat with the humidity around 89 percent. I couldn't get fired because I was working for my Uncle Brown, but it didn't take long to have my fill of that vocation. I really learned one good lesson: Don't take a job like that unless you have to! There were the other typical jobs I had, mowing lawns, delivering papers, and selling junk, and there are lessons to be learned from those jobs too.
11. Put me in Coach
I probably could have played professional baseball. I remember as a kid, I loved baseball, saved cards by the bucketful (sure wish I had them now), and Ray and I played baseball from sun up to sun down. I had a buddy named Harvey (nicknamed "Boots"), who was the batboy for the Kansas City A's.
He was also the co-writer of my first recorded song our band produced. Boots saved every broken bat, ball, and paraphernalia he could get his hands on, and a few years back he told me his collection was for sale (worth about a MILLION bucks I guess). Last I heard, Boots was retired and living down around the Ozarks. (He must have sold them baseball doo-dads huh?)
Anyway, Boots got me a job working in the clubhouse and tarp crew for the A's. We even got to chase fly balls and played whiffle ball with the "Big boys. "I got to meet Jimmy Piersal, (Fears strikes out movie and book) he always acted kind of crazy. Although, Boots told me he really wasn't, and that he just acted that way because everybody expected him too after his nervous breakdown). I saw "Suitcase" Simpson, Bobby Shantz, Woody Held, and many baseball stars of the era. Once, when I was in the Clubhouse, Ted Williams came in and said, "Hi kid" as he grabbed a huge piece of birthday cake off the table. He washed it down with a quart of milk, and hustled back to the dugout. WOW!
Boots was a great pitcher, and probably could have made it to the majors as a relief pitcher. He really wanted to be a starter. The guy had so much "junk" on the ball, if I didn't know what pitch was coming… it was hard to hang on to. My brother Ray was a super shortstop, long ball hitter, made spectacular catches, had reflexes like a cat and an arm like a rifle. (Even liked to throw the bullet over the 1st baseman’s head regularly) But after a bout with rheumatic heart problems… he was never the same. I was the catcher behind the plate you couldn't throw a ball past.
My arm wasn't developed enough to get the ball down to 2nd base, fast like a pro, but somehow I managed to lob it into centerfield. I was a hitter (not home runs, just a lot of singles, but rarely a strike out). Baseball scouts were looking at us and we probably could have had a few years in baseball, but we just didn't work at it like we should have. Now my Brother While Ray was the natural at baseball, I had to "Work" at it to become good.
Anything you want to do well you MUST work hard and "study" to become a professional (that includes any sport or profession).
12. A's Baseball Camp
When I was about 18 years old, I tried out for the Kansas City A's baseball team. Having been a player in the 3 & 2 League as a kid, playing for De La Salle Military Academy I was a pretty good catcher. My Dad really wanted me to be a Pro ball player, while my Mom wanted me to me a "Star" of ANY kind. (No matter what it took)
I spent a few days at the try-outs, and it was interesting the say the least. I had seen plenty of pro ball before, but when you're catching a pitcher that you have never caught before, and this guy is out to impress the world with his knuckle-ball and fast ball, he doesn't care if he throws the ball right through your catcher's mitt. (Or your body) It seemed like sometimes you just got a glimpse of the ball leaving his hand before it was "Popping" into you catcher's mitt.
They had all of us bat, throw, run and hit. If you struck out, they might have you go to first base anyway. And when you got there… you were told to steal the next base. That way they could see how everyone reacted to different situations.
Needless to say, I didn't make the majors, but I did get an opportunity to go to Florida and play ball, but turned it down…as I had a chance to go on the road playing music instead. (Less work and more fun) Besides, they told me my arm hadn't developed enough to play semi-pro ball yet…and I wasn't waiting around for an arm to develop. (I wanted to play music, chase girls, drink booze and go on the road.)
When I left the stadium, they handed me my birth certificate, as a birth certificate was needed to document that you were really who you were, and old enough to try out. After NOT being picked by the A's to go into professional baseball, I went home and decided to do something else with my life.
13. Adoption, Abuse & Booze
I had never seen my birth certificate, as it had been sent ahead by my parents before the tryouts, so When I got home, I decided to look at it, out of curiosity. Whoa! It wasn't mine… "They gave me the WRONG birth certificate." I thought. And it sure was strange; whomever it belonged to had the same first and middle name as me, but a different last name. He even had the same date of birth. (unbelievable!)
When my folks came home, I told them about bringing home the wrong certificate. They looked at it, and then I saw a strange look come over their faces. I was 18 years old, and about to find out that I wasn't who I thought I was. "What's the deal?" I asked. They began explaining to me how I came into their life. "You are really not our son" they said, but quickly announced, "But we love you just as much as if you were our own." (Whether you have or haven't been adopted, examine what they said, and see if you can understand what those words felt like) It was really a major shock in my life.
They told me how I was abandoned as a baby and somehow ended up with a girl named Nellie. (Whom I thought had always been my Mom.) She married a guy named Tex (Who I will never forget beating the hell out of mom and me)
Tex was another one of those people who was "A wonderful person when sober." In 1965, I saw Tex, and he really did seem like a nice guy and he had quit drinking. (He has since died) Mom later divorced him and married Ralph Blair. (A childhood romance re-kindled) She later divorced Ralph Blair and married Brownie; my x-uncle had lost his wife (My mom's sister) to cancer earlier.
They say the first few years of a child's life form a pattern for the rest of their life. I believe it does have some effect, because I can remember things when I was just a toddler. But most of all I remember Tex and the spankings. Why in the hell he had to make them hurt so bad and make them last so long is beyond me.
I can remember when he would start, it only took a few minutes of pain to realize I had learned my lesson, and was sorry for what ever it was I had done wrong, but he would just keep hitting me. He left marks that would last days too. (But he did the same thing to my mom.) Mom tried to hide it, but that didn't always work. I remember hearing Tex yelling at mom from the bedroom. I walked in to see what was happening. Tex was screaming at mom for taking money out of his billfold. (For groceries) Tex yelled at me to leave, but I was scared for mom… so I threw my dog (Rex) at him and ran out of the room.
I felt that I had protected mom, but I don't remember what happened after I threw the dog and ran. It made me feel like a hero for stepping in, but my mind blocked out the rest of the story. (Probably because I knew that he went ahead and beat mom up. (I wasn't even old enough to go to school yet)
Tex played the guitar and sang too, Him and mom always had big musical get-to-gathers every weekend. Tex would play music, sing and then get drunk and start a fight. (He had scars all over his face from injures) I remember mom telling me her favorite scar was the one where she hit him in the forehead with an ashtray. I remember seeing Tex holding a guy down, (blood all over the guys face and Tex's too)
Tex had a whiskey bottle in his hand, and was drawing back to hit the guy in the face with it. Everybody was screaming at him to stop, but Tex hit him anyway, then he shoved the guy down the basement stairs. (Yeah, we sure had some good times in the old house, on Stark Street) I wonder if that's why I am pushing 60 years old and still chew my fingernails and smoke like a steam engine.
People who have adopted children are sometimes disappointed when their kids grow up and want to find their "Real" parents. For most adopted people there is a magnetic "Pull" or a burning desire to find out what your real parents are like. They want to know where they live, what they do, why they abandoned you and… show them what you are like. (It is also good to know for medical history)
14. Where's My Pa?
In about 1964, I was reading a magazine, when I spotted a cartoon written by a lady named Ruby Rusque, from Medford Oregon. Since I knew that I was born in Medford, I fired off a letter to her. I didn't have her full address, but she did get the letter anyway. I told her that my name at birth was Kesterson, and explained that I was trying to locate my natural parents. A few weeks later, she responded, saying that the only thing she could find out was that my biological dad's brother lived in Portland Oregon. (She didn't know his first name, but the last name was Kesterson.)
A couple years later, when Darlene and I were living in Portland, I met a guy named Kesterson. (We were both on the Portland police reserve.) After a brief conversation, I found out he was indeed my dad's brother. He didn't know how to get in touch with Tom Kesterson, but heard that he owned a commercial salmon fishing boat, and worked somewhere around Coos Bay Oregon. It didn't take long for Darlene and I to head down to that area to find him. A buddy of mine named Gene came along, he thought this would be an interesting meeting, and he was right.
After asking fishermen around the Coos Bay area about Tom Kesterson, it was determined that he had a CB radio in his boat and home, and this was the only way he could be contacted. After several attempts, I finally made contract with my Biological dad. I didn't tell him who I was, but asked him if he would meet me to discuss some business. He was very reluctant, but after some assurance from me that I wasn't a bill collector, cop, or IRS agent, he agreed to meet at noon, by the bank, in Downtown Coos Bay. (Sounds like a western movie gunfight meeting.)
Strange, but the more I thought about this meeting, the more nervous I got. This guy could be a nut. Maybe he doesn't want to meet the son he abandoned, and what if he goes "Whacko" and tries to kill me? I decided to stick my .38 pistol in my back pocket. (Just in case!)
It was noon, my wife and I, (accompanied by my buddy Geno) were standing by the bank, and a man walked up to where we were standing. (Obviously looking around as if he was looking for someone.) I asked him if his name was Tom Kesterson, he said yes and wanted to know who I was and what I wanted. I said, "I think you're my dad" He had a puzzled look on his face, and asked my name. I told him it was Tom Blair, but mentioned I was adopted, and my real name had been Kesterson. He asked me when I was born, and I gave him the date. There was a "Melted" look on his face, followed by, "Well I'll be damned." He took us to his little house, where we met Anna, his second wife. When we got to their house,
Tom Kesterson took a gun out of his pocket and put it away, and commented, "You never know what kind of nuts you're gonna meet out there in the world." (My buddy Gene still talks about that meeting.) We talked at length: He wanted to know all about me, what I was doing, what I had done, and a million other things. (And I wanted information about him too) That afternoon he took us out in his salmon fishing boat for the afternoon. I gave him my business card, and told him I lived in Portland, and to come up for a visit or call, and we'd get together again. (I never saw Tom again.)
We both had similar interests and life experiences: Play the guitar, sing and had bands, Worked on radio, spent time in the woods as loggers, loved fishing, he had been a dance hall cop and I was a reserve officer. Both of us were on our second marriage, and both of us married girls who had quit high school to work, and we met them in a café. (Both were waitresses and neither had been married before.)
15. I missed my own funeral
A few months' back, I was on the Internet trying to locate my biological dad, when I had contact with a woman named Carla, who had located my biological dad's 2nd wife, Anna. I called her on the phone and we talked for quite a while. She seemed so nice; I wish I had spent more time talking with her when I first met Tom Kesterson.
I found out that Tom Kesterson had died several years earlier from cancer. I asked Anna why my dad had never contacted me, since I had left him my business card when I lived in Portland Oregon. Apparently, he lost the card, and Darlene and I moved from Oregon to Minnesota so there was no way he could have found out where I was. Anna told me that when I was born, Tom thought I was dead, and had actually went to my closed casket funeral. (Apparently, my biological mother went to a LOT of trouble, for some unknown reason. It seems that my biological mother had told my Dad that I was dead. I also found out that my biological mom and dad were never married. (My brother's in Law got a kick out of that when they heard that, I guess they always thought I was a bastard.) The weird part is, my birth certificate says my mom had 4 kids, and none were alive when I was born, yet Nellie, (my 2nd mom) says I had brother that was living. (Sounds like a problem for Ann Landers doesn't it?)
A few years back, I was contacted by a half sister (Debbie) I didn't know I had. (Now living near Coos Bay Oregon) We chat on the net, send pictures and e-mails and are planning on meeting each other soon.
16. THREE Moms and Four Dads
Mom #1 was my biological Mother, Mom #2 was the baby sitter who I was left with, Mom #3 was Nellie, who I always felt was my real Mom, (And took possession of me from the babbysitter) died in early January, 1999. She was blind and had a failing heart. She was married to My Uncle Brown, (That's dad number 4) He has since gone on to another marriage and who knows what he's doing. Tom Kesterson was my biological Dad, Tex, (Dad #2) who was Nellie's first husband is dead, Ralph Blair died a few years ago, I never found my "Real" mother, (Juanita.) You know about my biological dad's 2nd Wife Anna, who I have lost track of and can't locate, All I know about my biological mom is: She lived in a motel and drove a cab. What a mess, we won't go into this any further, it's true...but confusing.
17. THE ROCK AND ROLL DAZE
The West Coasters Ray Tom, Owen & Denny
After giving up on being a professional baseball player, Mom got her wish… it was music all the way. Mom wanted me to be a recording star so bad, she talked my Dad into buying a record label to be assured we would have a record released. It worked! The first record we recorded on "Teen-Tunes" records (our label) called Rock-It, got bought out by Dot records, and re-released nationally. Later I ended up with two other records, on Decca records. (With My Hand on My Heart, West Coast, Since You Are Gone, and Dollar Bills.) We wanted to record a couple other songs before someone else did, but my manager at the time said they wouldn't sell. Matchbox... Which Carl Perkins wrote and was recorded later by the Beatles, and I'm So Lonesome I could Cry, by Hank Williams, later recorded by BJ Thomas.
Actually my music career started with the William J. Barkus Armed Forces show. A group of people, doing volunteer entertainment shows at Air bases, hospitals, correctional facilities and a variety of places that normally didn't get to see much entertainment. One of the first shows we performed was at a hospital. Ray and I played the guitars, told jokes and sang to the people. Nothing worked, they didn't laugh at my jokes, and didn't seem to even appear to be slightly amused when we sang a funny song. We really thought we bombed all the way. Later that afternoon, we found out that the hospital was a colon hospital. (These people were in pain; they had sore ass holes, and didn't dare laugh).
Another time we played at a girl's correctional prison of some kind. And we got "Mobbed" after the show. I think (For a few minutes) I know what Elvis felt like. All of us in the band talked about that show for a long time. It was a far cry from the colon hospital… this was what show business was supposed to be like.
Tom and Ray (Early days)
After getting some good experience from the Armed Forces tours, we put together a high school buddy band, playing hops, and private parties. The band consisted of my adopted brother, Ray Feldman, Denny Garner on sax, Owen Sloan on drums and I played lead guitar and we all sang. The band was called Tommy Blair and the West Coasters; we traveled all over the country, worked nightclubs, ballrooms, radio, TV and fair dates.
I even had a song that was number 1 on the rock and roll charts on a Kansas City radio station for nearly 11 weeks. Of course back then it was a little easier; they had a thing called Payola. A few bucks in the DJ's pocket, or couple of dinners, and in one deal, we had the Radio announcer's picture on the sheet music of the alleged hit record.
As I mentioned earlier, my mom wanted me to be a "Star" so bad, she worked on all the right people, pulled the right strings and was a natural show person herself. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had a record in the number one position on KUDL radio station, and before the year was over, we had the same record, (which was recorded on our own label) re-released on Dot records. The following year, we had two more records out on Decca records and were signed up for fair dates, ballrooms and nightclubs all over the country.
We sometimes played at places where the "Biggies" played: We even worked a couple times at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake Iowa, where Buddy Holly played the night before he was killed, the Frog hop Ballroom St Joe Missouri, the Fiesta in Montevideo Minnesota, Clear Lake Pavilion, and several other ballrooms. We made one tour through Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi; we even performed on a stage in Amery Mississippi where Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins and many other stars had played.
Some of the stupid things that happened often took place while traveling from town to town. We'd be driving along the road, see a Donkey in a field, and stop and see who could ride the dang thing. It's a wonder we didn't get hurt or killed. I suppose the most unlawful and dumbest thing we did, was throwing pop bottles at road signs. We got pretty good at it, but it's a shame we left broken glass all over, and it's probably still laying in ditches somewhere.
One time our trailer came loose from the van we were traveling in, it jerked from side to side, (as the safety chains held) and the out of control van rolled over several times. We had instruments strung all over the highway, Marge, who was singing with us at the time, had some broken bones and the rest of us had a lot of bumps and bruises. Considering the van was a total wreck, and so was the trailer, we came out of that one very lucky.
The State & County fair dates were loads of fun, even though there were bad times; we always enjoyed the memories and the good times. The experiences were ones you could never forget. Sometimes scheduling was pathetic, making jumps from Virden Manitoba to a county fair in the middle of Kansas, then to Berryville Arkansas, then to Montana, Iowa and Moose Jaw Saskatchewan Canada. Then there were times we'd have a fair in Hallock Minnesota and the next night a ballroom in Montevideo Minnesota. (That would be the time we'd have car problems and get stuck in nowhere USA waiting for a part to fix it for 2 days.)
The fair dates were grandstand shows, and this was back when almost all fair grandstand shows were put together for family entertainment. Like watching the Ed Sullivan show live and on stage. We had a real variety, like Gordon's trained dogs, Doug Hart doing low wire comedy balance act, And Henry LaMonte would dive from a 30 or 40 foot tower in to a couple feet of water. (He made it into the Guinness book of records with that feat.) I must tell you a good one on Henry. Entertainers are always being invited to parties when you get to a new town, Henry, the man who could dive from daring heights, into shallow water and live fell and got hurt at the swimming pool, while being a guest at one of these party's. (I think he even broke a leg.)
There was a guy named Harris, who did comedy and played 3 trumpets at once, The Wheelers marimba musical act and even a guy with a Pork chop review. (Trained pigs no less) The man would sing, and the pig would sing little a "Squeal" in between the trainer's singing.
What the public didn't know was, the guy had his hand behind the hog, and a firm grip on the old bore's testicles. When he wanted a note, he'd give a little squeeze on the hog, and if he wanted a real high note, a bigger squeeze would certainly raise the pitch and volume of the pig. (Ouch!) The audience bought it.
18. Working with Stars
Sometimes there were more notable people headlining the fair shows, or working at the same ballroom we were playing at, and I was fortunate enough to work with or meet many of them.
People like: The Wilburn Brothers, Pat Boone, "Little" Jimmy Dickens, Tex Ritter, The Ink Spots, Anita Bryant, Conway Twitty, Fats Domino, Dion, Homer and Jethro, Carl Perkins, Faron Young, The Coasters, The Crystals, Gene Chandler, Davy Jones (The Monkees) Johnny Tillotson, Bobby Vee, (Who I still talk to occasionally) Buddy Knox, and many others.
We were booked by the Tom Drake agency out of Kansas City; his Wife Hazel Randell was the MC of most of our fair shows. We were booked as three different acts, starting out as the back-up band for the stage show acts. (Wearing clown suits over our all white sports coat and white slacks.) Then in between acts, we had to run back stage, take off the clown suits and come out as Tommy Blair and the West Coasters. After our presentation, we'd run back stage and put the clown outfit back on and return as the back-up band. A few acts later, we'd run backstage, take off the clown outfit, and return wearing checkered shirts as The Hootenanny boys. Playing acoustical guitars and singing Kingston Trio style songs. (After which, we'd run backstage and return as clowns to back up more acts.) It was quite hectic, but fun. I don't know if Tom Drake got paid for 3 different acts, but knowing Tom Drake… he did.
For those of you who know how much equipment needs to be set up for today's shows would marvel at the simplicity of what used to be considered "Normal" for a traveling show. We usually traveled in one car or station wagon, pulling a small trailer behind. Our musical gear consisted of 2 Fender Baseman Amps, one guitar, one bass, a small set of drums, and a sax. We didn't have a P.A. system, as the places we played were required to furnish the sound system. In those days you had to entertain people with talent, and talent alone. We didn't have a light show, digital effects to create an orchestra in the background, smoke, pyrotechnics, wireless mics, monitors, and videos.
What happen to the original band? Well, Ray lives in Vancouver Washington, and is retired from the telephone company. Denny does some supervisory maintenance work at a hospital in Missouri, Owen ended up being some kind of a "hot-shot" banker/investor in Missouri. Me? I am still working on what I am going to be (IF) I grow up. (And living in what my Missouri relatives call the "God-forsaken-mosquito-infested-frozen waste lands of the North Country")
19. Booking Agent
Sometimes in between tours, I worked in the office for Tom Drake, booking talent. I liked that, and it was certainly something I knew about. I did find out one thing, there was always something to sell, even if you didn't have it! Tom Drake always had one band to cover any occasion… Billy Jolly.
If someone wanted to book a rock and roll band, I would tell the caller, "I think I can get The West Coasters." (My Band) If they wanted an orchestra, I'd book Billy Jolly, He was always available. He didn't even exist! But when I sold the Billy Jolly orchestra, I'd get on the phone, call some guy with a band, tell him to scrape up 3 more musicians, and go to the gig as… Billy Jolly. You want a trio, sell them the Billy Jolly Trio, call a bandleader, and tell him to go as Billy. (After all, it's show business.)
20. The Not-So-Funny farm
Been There too, but it was a cool con-job on my part. It was in the Rock and roll nightclub days in Kansas City. Lots of drinking, love affairs by the wayside, plenty of money in the pocket and not much planning for the future. I was driving down a back street of Kansas City, (about 70 miles per hour) in a 30-mile zone, when the red lights appeared in the rear view mirror. "Damn" I couldn't afford to get another ticket; I'd loose my license for sure. I slammed on the brakes, pulled to the side, and sunk my head on to the steering wheel. (What was going to happen now? Jail? Loose my license? Big Fine?)
When the officer approached my rolled down window, he kindly asked me in a soft voice, "Do you feel violent or depressed sir?" I mumbled "yes" (As I wondered why I hadn't been jerked from the car, spread-eagled and handcuffed) the officer asked me if I would like to get some help for my problem. I'm thinking, maybe if I go along with whatever he talking about, I'd get out of a ticket. I played the game. He gently handcuffed me, placed me into his patrol car and away we went. I found myself being admitted to the psychiatric receiving center, (funny farm) 3rd floor. That's where they weed out the real "Dingbats" from the ones who might have a chance. (But everyone starts out on the 3rd floor.)
I could look around and see that I really didn't belong here, but it beat the hell out of jail. I couldn't even find anyone I felt comfortable talking to, but after a couple of days, managed to get to drop down to the next floor. There I got to at least talk to the doctors, and begin my recovery period, whatever that meant. I could see 2-way mirrors all over the place and I knew that we were being watched. There were mirrors in the room where I slept, in the shower and in the halls. When are they watching? What are they looking for? And most important, HOW do I act normal?
Take a minute and put yourself in that position, it's like a movie, you are trapped, and the only way out is to convince the doctors and nurses that you are "Normal". The only way to do it is to "ACT" normal. Try acting normal in front of a bunch of peeping tom doctors and nurses, you'll soon become paranoid if you aren't already. I did manage to get down to the main floor, where there was a pool table. Now I didn't have to act normal, just shoot pool and talk to the doctors and tell them how I wanted to turn my life around, quit drinking and start making some plans for the future. I was soon free. (All I had to do was come back for some follow-up out patient treatment.) No careless driving ticket and I didn't loose my driver's (until the next paragraph).
21. Thirty DAYS IN the "Slammer"
Damn...I lost my driver's license my driver's license, I believe it was the ticket for 105 miles an hour in Blackwell Oklahoma that did the trick. Like so many of my escapades, this adventure occurred while traveling around the country "picking and grinning"
I was in Watertown South Dakota in the early 60's playing at a nightclub and was driving a 55 ford with straight pipes, and stick shift. (Lost my other cars by then) I pulled up to the stop sign, slowed down a little, and then kicked the Ford in the ass and lit up the tires. I didn't even make the next block and the cop had me.
When we went to court, I figured I'd pay the fine and be on my way. I didn't have a driver's license; cause it had been suspended, but there was a real nice guy in the courtroom to help me. (He was an attorney) He told me it would be best to just plead guilty and it would be easier on me, so I did. The judge said "30 days at hard labor" as he slammed the gavel down. "Now what?" I asked that nice attorney. He said "You go to jail for 30 days" "But I'd rather pay a fine" I stated, as they hauled my butt into the county jail. (What a drag this would be) I found out later, that nice attorney I was talking to was the PROSECUTING attorney and I was an idiot for listening to that slime ball! Lesson: NEVER, NEVER listen to an attorney, unless you know which side he (or she) is on. I was in the "Slammer" with some real hard criminals. One guy sold the sheriff's friend, or grandma, a hearing aid that she thought was too expensive. (And he didn't know how long he was in for.)
Another guy was in for child support, and my 3rd cellmate claimed he didn't have the foggiest idea why he was in there (and I believed him). The Sheriff's wife cooked all the meals, and their home was adjoining the jail. As a matter of fact, there were peepholes to view us jailbirds from their living quarters. They could even watch us on the community toilet if they wanted to. (And did) We used to watch for "Eyeballs" peering through the peep holes, and if we had to "Potty" or do something we were not supposed to, like brew home made tea, We'd wet down paper and put it over the holes. The sheriff didn't like that a bit! For excitement, we'd climb up to the bars (Overhead) tie a sheet around our waist, (like a window washer) and watch the people in the streets.
Where's the hard labor? I didn't get in on that, but I heard that some of the guys had to paint the sheriff's barn, or some similar task. I was lucky enough to get out of jail at night, (Under the Huber law) to play music. I ended up being kind of a hero in the jail, as I would smuggle fried chicken into the cell late at night in my guitar. (I also brought in sugar for that miserable black coffee.) It was boring to say the least, but you soon learned about every joke that ever existed, every card game invented and hear some unbelievable stories from people as they would come and go. Actually, every young man should have to do 30 days in a slammer like the one I was in… It would be a lesson in what you DON'T want to be when you grow up, a crook! (So I decided to be a cop someday)
Sometimes in between tours, I worked in the office for Tom Drake, booking talent. I liked that, and it was certainly something I knew about. I did find out one thing, there was always something to sell, even if you didn't have it! Tom Drake always had one band to cover any occasion… Billy Jolly. If someone wanted to book a rock and roll band, I would tell the caller, "I think I can get The West Coasters." (My Band) If they wanted an orchestra, I'd book Billy Jolly, He was always available. He didn't even exist! But when I sold the Billy Jolly orchestra, I'd get on the phone, call some guy with a band, tell him to scrape up 3 more musicians, and go to the gig as… Billy Jolly. You want a trio, sell them the Billy Jolly Trio, call a bandleader, and tell him to go as Billy. (After all, it's show business.)
22. Family Tradition
I always told my Son, "Don't go on the road with a band son, it's a life of hell" When he'd ask "why?" I'd jokingly say, "Nice places to stay, beautiful country to see, traveling all over the country, different women chasing after you every night, great food, playing music and having fun all the time…. Its such a lonely life" He'd laugh and roll his eyes around. I did give him some real advice, "If you do go on the road, don't get serious with any ONE girl, don't drink much, don't smoke, eat right, save all the money you can and you will be a successful musician" (All the things I didn't do right)
Having the love and respect my son has for me… he followed in my footsteps. (Missing few prints) My son Danny drove a truck, played in several rock and roll bands, traveled around the country! Chased to women, drank like a fish, smokes like a steam engine and worked at the Northern Topless Club that I worked at. (And later owned). He hasn't spent the two 30 days in the slammer or funny farm yet... but but who knows huh?
Danny (Tom's Son)
There were fun times and lean times. I remember when we hit Wichita Kansas in my baby blue 55 Cadillac, broke, no credit cards, a flat spare tire, and the left rear was leaking badly. Club Dearmores, (where we were going to play that week) wasn't going to open till noon lunch, and we had to keep airing our rear tire up.
For entertainment, we kept talking about what we were going to eat when the club opened up and I started a bar tab for the band. Being resourceful young guys, we pooled our money, bought a big jar of Skippy peanut butter, a loaf of bread, and a jug of tap water from the service station, and that was our breakfast. It was horrible enough filling an empty stomach with peanut butter, but washing it down with hose-flavored water is NOT a delightful after dinner drink.
When Dearmores opened up, it was Fat City for us. Eat and drink like kings, get enough advance money for a place to stay, and play the roll as rock stars the rest of the week. Do you have any idea how much food and booze four young musicians can charge on a bar tab in a week's time? We never worried much about it; there was always bread, peanut butter and tap water waiting in the next town. We solved the flat and bad tire problem the first night we played. We announced a scavenger hunt over the microphone, a free case of beer to the first person that could bring in a pair of 8.20 x 15-inch tire before closing time. (We had a full set… before the second break) It was party time… all the time, but we didn't have marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. It's true! We never even SAW any. We did booze.
I remember lying on my back, throwing up, into the air, not being able to move and watching it come down. There was always plenty of free booze, as bar patrons don't mind buying the band drinks… especially if it's a birthday for a band member. (And it's always a birthday for someone in the band)
I probably shouldn't tell you this secret, but every night, in every town, someone has a turn at having a birthday. (As the bandleader announces over the P.A….the people buy the drinks, it works!) The only drugs we used, were legal diet pills. I say legal, because we would go to a doctor and say we wanted to loose weight, and he'd prescribe Benzedrine or Dexedrine. We used them for driving on those long jumps from one gig to another.
Sometimes on a slow night at a club, a "Benny" would get you through the night, and unlike alcohol, you maintained your wits and coordination. It was really "Speed," they were dangerous and certainly could have been habit forming. I guess we were lucky; we didn't abuse them or use them over a long period of time.
Where'd the Money Go? I wish I knew, I know that the guys in the band could hardly make it on what I was paying them. Sometimes the money got split up fairly, and there was a period of time I had the guys on straight salary for somewhere around $100 a week. At Dearmoores club I was getting $1,000 a week, paid $300 out to the band and the rest I blew. (In the 1960's that was pretty good money) Sometimes on fair dates and ballrooms, I'd make about $350 a night… 5 or six days a week. Pay the guys $100 each…and invest the rest on wine women and whatever came along. I really don't remember what I did with all the money, but I think I had a pretty good time and I can’t tell you about all the women on the road, this is only a "PG" rated book (And besides... my wife proof reads it.)
23. THE EXTERMINATOR
Let's talk about bugs! Actually being a bug man (Exterminator) requires a considerable amount of knowledge and skill, knowing which chemicals, how much and where to use them. (The vocation just doesn't get the respect it deserves.)
A few years before Darlene and I met, I was in Springfield Missouri, the job was there, and I happen to be the one hired. "Pest Control man wanted" Termites are big business in that part of the country; they can literally demolish a home or business if they go unchecked over a period of time. Even if you do find you have them, it can cost a lot of money repairing damaged lumber in a termite ravaged home. The profit was enormous on spraying for critters. I believe we used about 2 gallons of Chlordane per 100 gallons of water, so it went quite a ways under the house, and chlordane wasn't too expensive either. (It has now been outlawed.)
If a house didn't have termites, some exterminators brought along their own. After inspecting a home, if it was termite free, the termites brought along could always be pulled from the pocket, to show the owner what was found under the house. Then there were the "Mortar Mites" HUH? That's right, these were little (Non-existent) creatures that would lurk under your house, lie on their backs and kick the concrete loose on the footings and sidewalks of your home. (Turning the foundation to dust) Spraying for them was relatively inexpensive;
You didn't have to use any chemical… just spray with water, laced with imaginary chemical. Never charge too much, or the customer might complain and you'd get into trouble. Pest control can be a dangerous business, and in those days we didn't have OSHA, and we never worried about facemasks, gloves and protective clothing… we just sprayed the stuff all over. Sometimes you would be under a home with a high pressure hose spraying and hit a floor joist, splash back into you face, get into your eye and all over your coveralls. One time I ended up in the hospital with a chemical or drug type hepatitis. I spent about 3 weeks there and returned right back to the same job.
One of the poisons we often used was called 10-80. (It had a real long scientific name, let's give it a try: Sodiumonoflouricitate? I understand it was developed during World War Two for poisoning water supplies, and what a nightmare it would have been. It is odorless, tasteless, leaves no real trace in your system… but it just keeps killing. The dust on the head of a pin could kill a rat in a minute, kill the cat that ate the rat, and a year later… the dead cats carcass could kill a critter that munched on the remains. I understand it was used to kill hundreds and hundreds of wolves in the United States, and the stuff is still being used for killing purposes.
(Fortunately, most of today's pest control people have training and certification.) You wouldn't believe how chemicals were used back in those days, I can remember spraying chemicals right in to the cupboards with the dishes. We were told it was harmless. I look at the warning labels of some of the same products now, and wonder why I am alive and my kids don't have 3 legs and 2 heads.
24. Nashville or Busted
After being a "Bug-man" I decided I had to become a "Star," and the best way I could think of, was to grab my guitar and head for Nashville Tennessee. (After all, all I needed was my talent, guitar, and meet the right people) I loaded my 1951 Ford with some stage clothes, guitar, Amplifier, and enough money to get there. I wouldn't need to worry about getting back; I'd be a famous singer and wouldn't want to come back.
When I got to Nashville, I immediately went to the Dot Record Company, since they had labeled one of my records earlier, they'd be glad to see me, and hear what I could do. (Wrong) I couldn't even get past the receptionist. No one wanted to see me! NO problem, I had recorded a couple records for Decca records… they'll see me. Wrong again! I couldn't get past the receptionist there either. "What's wrong with these record companies?' I thought to myself, here I am, a guy that can sing, play lead guitar, and entertain anybody… and they won't even listen to what I got. After trying a half-a-dozen record companies, I decided to check out the nightclub scene.
I'll just go to a few nightclubs, get up on stage, "Blow em away" and get instantly employed as a famous entertainer. Well, needless to say, they wouldn't even consider letting me "Sit-in" with the bands. I suppose because the bands playing had people in them like, Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, and Floyd Kramer… Holy cow! There must be some clubs with people like me, wanting to play and make my way to the top! (There was a pretty strong union affiliation in Nashville at the time which made playing some of the clubs difficult for non-union musicians) You wouldn't believe how many talented people there were in Nashville. It seemed like every fleabag hotel had two or three guitar players, (And other assorted musicians) that could just flat-out make an instrument wail.
After much frustration, I did manage to get to come up on stage and "Pick" a few tunes. (I'm in) I don't remember the name of the band, but the club was a smaller, upstairs place called "The Knotty Pine" room or club. The leader offered me $20 a night for starting out. (I was getting a little low on cash, as I hadn't made it into stardom just yet) So I jumped at it, besides, some famous person would come in and pick me out to go on the road with them in a hurry.
We usually started playing around 9 P.M. and when I started putting my guitar away the first night at 1:00 A.M. (In the morning) the leader of the band, asked me "What the heck are you doing?" I told him I was going back to the hotel, and he replied, "We play till 4:00 A.M." This was one Looooong night of pickin guitar and singing. I didn't stay around Nashville very long, when you play all night and sleep all day… you just don't meet a lot of stars. I guess the rich and famous don't spend a lot of time looking for back-up musicians in "All night bars" on back street of Nashville.
I did have an offer from a man who wanted to sell me bootleg whiskey to haul back and forth from Nashville to Springfield Missouri. (He did promise some darn good profit) At $8 a gallon, he said I'd be rich and famous in short time with his "Fine" Tennessee whiskey. I only had $16 left to get me back home, and that wasn't enough to get started.
I did make a stop at a rural farm home, and helped myself to some gas for my old Ford. It was risky, but I was desperate. And to add to the stupidity, I ended up putting in diesel fuel. I had to keep the pedal all the way to the floor, and still all I could get was 40 M.P.H. for top speed. When I finally pulled in to a gas station, I had to hold the foot-feed to the floor, while the attendant put some gas into the tank. He didn't even ask what happened. (He knew what I had done, he just didn't know where)
Like everything else, I learned from the Nashville trip. It isn't that easy to become a star just because you are where the stars are. I guess it sometimes takes years for someone to become an "Overnight" success. And never put anything into your car, that comes from a green tank.
25. The Pin-ball WIZARD
While salmon fishing with my uncle Lynn in Astoria Oregon, a friend of his, named porter, asked me if I would be interested in working for a company repairing juke boxes, pinball machines and pool tables. Shazaam! You bet, that sounded like a breeze after my brief logging career. Porter worked for a company called Canteen in Portland Oregon.
They had a division called Automatic cigarette service, which I worked for. I didn't know much about repairing pinball machines, jukeboxes, or pool tables, but when I was in High school and on the road in my band… I was very good at putting money in a jukebox, playing a pinball machine, and shot a mean game of pool.
Back in Kansas City, when I was a kid, my brother and I used to skip church on Sunday mornings, and Dad gave us for the collection plate to shoot pool. (At 10 cents a cue on a snooker table, we could last quite a while)
Jukeboxes were fairly simple in those days, if there wasn't any sound; you had to change every tube until it started working again. Of course the new ones may be simple too, you just pull the amp out, put a new one in, and take it back to the shop for repair. The pinball machines of my generation were not so simple. Miles of wire, switches and solenoids.
Where do you start? If it was today, you'd just turn on the analyze switch, and the pinball machine would start through a series of diagnostic internal tests, and tell you the problem. Back then, it was… follow wires to switches, clean switches with a fine file, (Or matchbook cover) adjust switches, look for broken wires and if everything else fails… spray the heck out of everything with tuner cleaner. Learning to read a schematic is helpful. Next time you look over the service manual and papers of some device you have purchased, look at the schematic. You may be surprised how you can follow the circuits, and sometimes find a fuse or circuit breaker you didn't know was there. The fun part of the job was going from bar to bar, bowling alley, cafes and rec. centers, meeting people who are there to have fun. (Unlike police work, where everyone you meet is either a drunk, stressed out idiot, or a poor victim in a sad emotional state)
Do you remember shuffleboards? (Long boards that look like a little bowling alley lane and you slide little silver pucks down to the end to knock off your opponent's puck.) Fun and simple to play and was really popular at one time. Every little bar had one, and if it was an American Legion club on the 3rd floor… it had one. Talk about fun installing on of those puppies. They don't come apart, and the board alone must weigh 2 or 3 hundreds pounds. (Moving pool tables can be agonizing experience too).
Working at this company was like most of the jobs I've had, act like you know what you're doing, meanwhile study the situation, watch everyone else, and learn everything you can from fellow workers. (As most are eager to tell you and show you how smart they are at their job.) It's like getting a "Crash" course free.
When we moved from Oregon to Missouri, I took a job as a pinball mechanic in Kansas City. Then I found out, that the guy I was working, for not only had pinball machines… he had slot machines in several locations in Kansas. I got to see how they operated and spent some time on service calls too.
I remember one time a slot was out of coins, and when I got there, I didn't have my keys, so I had to put a ton of coins in (one at a time) through the coin slot. They must be much more liberal than the new slot machines, because it took me a hell of a long time to get all the coins dumped in. The dang thing kept paying me back. I guess if you kept track off all the coins you get back, they consider that "Payback."
We also had other multiple coin machines that paid off. I don't see them anymore, but you could line up the balls in a row, and win games. (Later cashing them in for money) The more coins you put in, the higher the odds would go and the bigger the payback if you got 3,4, or 5 balls in a row. There was some degree of skill in playing these machines, because if you would shake the machine "Just right" you could get the ball to drop in the right hole.
There was another way to cheat, using a condom. You put a B-B in it, and place the condom near the bottom of the playfield glass. Pull the rubber (With the B-B enclosed) like a slingshot, and let go. This would make a perfect little hole in the glass down by the numbers 23, 24 and 25.Whenever you needed any one of these 3 numbers, you just stuck a wire through the hole and held the center pin in the hole down, till it racked up the credits. After the win, you just placed your drink on top of the hole to cover it up till after you got paid for the credits. (You didn't come back to this business after you collected) It was illegal to pay out on one of these machines, and it was against the law to get a pay out on one of these machines. At least in Multnomah County Oregon, I got caught getting a pay out in a bowling alley there.
26. The assembly line
While living in Oregon, I was fortunate enough to live the experience of being on an assembly line. I worked for a short while (As usual) for FWD Wagner Company. We built all wheel drive machines that looked like giant forklifts. The only difference was… these things were BIG. They were used to drive into lake ponds and pick up gigantic logs and several of them at a time. We did make a smaller one, called a piggy packer, it was used to picked up semi-trailers and load them on to flat railroad cars for shipping across the country.
As were most jobs in that part of the country, we were Union, and that meant when it was time for a break… we took it. If you had your wrench on a nut, had three turns left to get it tight… you stopped and took the break. If Quitting time was 4 P.M. that meant you had everything cleaned up, your coveralls hanging by your toolbox, hands washed, lunch box in hand and when the whistle blew… you were out the door.
The routine wasn't bad, and working with a bunch of clowns can be fun. I remember one guy had an artificial hook for his right arm. It was just about lunchtime, we were welding on one of those big machines and the guy next to me winked, and in one quick stroke, he spot-welded our co-workers hook to the chassis of the machine we were under. We all strolled away laughing as we walked towards the lunchroom. No sooner had we sit at the lunch table, and here came our one-armed buddy with a big grin…he had unstrapped his artificial arm from his shoulder, and left it hanging on the forklift. Those machines were big monsters. I wish I could remember what they weighed, but we put thousands of pounds of steel filings in the ballast tanks to counter balance the weight for efficient operation.
When we filled the tires on these monster machines, we were told not to leave the air hose unattended, because if the tire exploded from over-inflation, it would be the equivalent of several sticks of dynamite. There was a poster on the wall demonstrating that such an accident would have enough force to blow a 200-LB man as high as the Empire State Building. Working in the assembly line environment has it merits, as long as it isn't the fast-paced, high-pressure production line work.
Being a security guard, sometimes called "Rent-a-cops" or "Play Cops," is a job that requires a good deal of responsibility. Watching for fires, administrating first aid, looking for safety hazards in the work place, thwarting pilferage, and theft from places of employment, and seeking out potential break-in areas. There are some that view it as an easy job to work, while you read, study, or sleep till your shift is finished.
One very interesting assignment I had while working for a Security company in Vancouver Washington, was watching detainees. These are people from foreign countries who are working for a steamship line, but are not allowed to leave the ship while in US ports. Not only did I have to watch the gangway plank; I had to go aboard the ship and check to see if the detainees were still on board. This required the use of a photo, and a visual check of the detainee's quarters on a regular basis. (Including pulling down the covers to see if he was there) You wouldn't believe the filthy conditions that exist aboard some of those freighter ships that visit our ports. This was NOT an enjoyable assignment to get.
Sometimes your job was to watch a ship just to see that everything was all right and no vandalism or fire occurred. This meant walking around the deck, checking rooms and compartments. Often having to go down to the very bottom of the ship, by the screws, (Props) to check the water level in that compartment. Spooky, lonely, and weird is the best way to describe your feelings, while you're walking alone and listening to the strange sounds that a big empty ship can produce. Back then the job didn't pay well, training was non-existent, but you did have a gun to defend yourself. Now days about the only thing that has changed is the existence of minimum requirements, certification and training in some jurisdictions. A good move!
28. Being a private detective
I've seen the ads; I've watched movies and TV shows about being a private detective. I met a man named Rusty in Portland Oregon, I told him how just about everyone in my family were police officers, and that after I finished college, I was going to become a police officer. Why did I start off with such big lies? My dad actually seen Baby-face Nelson, knew just about all the boot-leggers, gamblers and gangsters in Missouri, but is that being close to a law enforcement family? Rusty hired me on a part-time basis as a detective. WOW, just the title itself is glamorous. What do you do for a living? "I'm a detective mam." My first assignment? Follow a woman, really? What's she wanted for? She's not wanted; we just need to know where she goes and what she does, and who she does it with. O.K. Sounds cool to me. (Have you ever tried to follow someone, and didn't want him or her to know they were being followed?) It is really difficult, the biggest enemy is yourself, you become paranoid and think they are actually watching you follow them. I followed that lady through traffic, changing hats, putting on glasses, slumping in the seat, sitting tall, changing shirts and whatever I could do to make myself as inconspicuous as possible. (While in reality, being as conspicuous as possible) Fortunately, she wasn't paying attention to anything accept her driving.
She pulled into a clinic parking lot, left her car and took the elevator up to the 3rd or 4th floor. I know because I went up the stairs, checking every floor the elevator stopped at. She had an appointment with a doctor; this was really going to be boring. I waited for over an hour just down the hall from the waiting room. After her doctor's appointment, she returned to her car, drove home, and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.
My mission had failed; I didn't catch her doing anything illegal or immoral. I called Rusty, the boss and told him everything she did. He said he wanted a full written report on his desk the next morning. I wrote everything down, and handed it to him the next day. "Good work, this is what we wanted," he said. "What?" "She didn't do nothing" I replied. Well, It seemed she had been spending a great deal of time at the doctor's office, and the husband became suspicious when there were no bills from the doctor. She had been carrying on an affair with the doctor for nearly a year, as I later found out, when the doctor began taking his lunch at the same time she was taking hers, and they went to a motel to eat.
Very clever this lady, after lunch, he'd walk up the stairs to the third floor, and then walk down to the second floor, room 206, she'd take the elevator up to the first floor, then get off and walk up to the second floor… room 206. It took Rusty and I both to get that surveillance gig down to a fine art. (Trade secret)
My detective career wasn't much longer than most of my jobs. I spent one night under a porch, another night in a tree, in a closet at an office and in a car. (Those aren't so bad; you can at least listen to the radio while you are peeping at people.) Back then most of the "Real" private detective work was about finding out who's cheatin who, who's stealing from the office, what are the employees saying about the boss and shoplifting surveillance. Later on in my career, I worked as private detective for Don, a Moorhead police officer, who had a security company and did private detective work near Fargo North Dakota. I got to do more technical work for him. (Since he was a police officer, and I had been a police officer for 10 years previous to working for him) We did more investigative work for private business.
I learned quite a bit about "Bugging" when I first got into the business, and that was back before all the new technology we have today. The "Spike" mike was a simple device. Try this one at home. Want to hear what's going on in the next room, you drive a small nail in the wall, glue a mike head onto it, and plug it into a small portable amplifier with headphones. I'll guarantee you, when someone flushes the potty, you'll think Niagara Falls is about to gush into your head. One of the simple, but effective ones was to use a small CB walkie-talkie. Tape the hand button in the "On" position, place it under the couch, in a light fixture, or under a table, and you could listen in your car across the street.
Radio Shack always had some cheap transmitters that were short range, but you could listen on AM or FM radio frequencies. I would certainly question the legal use of any of these devices I have mentioned, but then I would never have used any of them. (Being a "Real" detective and all) Maybe later in this book, I'll have the plans for a shot-gun-style listening device that will pick up your neighbors TV across the street from your front porch.
29. Got Fired?
One nice thing about working for yourself, you don't have to worry about getting fired. Getting fired would not be a new experience for me, although most of my employment experiences concluded when I was ready to move on. The first time I was terminated wasn't entirely my fault; my stepbrother was partly responsible. I'll admit that I ripped off the jug of Mogen David wine while I was carrying out the groceries for that nice little old lady at the grocery store. But it was Ray's idea to take a drink off it each time we carried out more groceries. I think Ray was an accessory to the crime, I really don't remember. But I do remember that after another 5 or 6 more trips to the parking lot with more groceries… I was smashed. I also recall turning over a grocery cart as I came out of the store and seeing potatoes rolling across the sidewalk and into the street. It was while I was crawling around the curb picking up stuff, when the store manager came to my assistance and discovered I was inebriated. (I didn't even get a 2-week notice) Ray didn't get fired, I got fired from a machine shop once when we were kids, we were doing the same thing, goofing off somehow… and I got caught and he didn't. I don't think he ever got fired from a job. (Lucky huh?) There were times when he was playing bass in my band I thought about firing him, but he quit and went on the road with Buddy Knox. He recorded such hits as: Party Doll, Hula Love, I think I'm gonna Kill Myself and other hit records)
I love animals, about as much as some of the entertainers who had animal acts on the fair tours. And most of the people who have animal acts really treat them as family. One lady had some Chimps that were trained for show work. She also had an older chimp, that was pretty well retired from show business, but she took it along on tours anyway. When chimps get old, they are not so "Cute" and they can get grumpy and temperamental.
She took the old chimp to a shoe store in one of the small towns we were playing in to get chimp fitted for new shoes. It ended up being quite an experience for the "Small town" shoe salesman. While he was trying to fit the "Right" shoes on the chimp, he looked up at the owner, tickled the bottom of the chimp's foot, as he asked "Is he ticklish?" The chimp "Went ape" (no pun intended) and grabbed a shoe and began beating the hell out of the shoe salesman, and chasing him around the store. Last I heard the guy was black and blue from one end to the other, remember, and show animals are just that working animals, and most of them were NOT to be messed with.
I have had just about every unusual pet you can have, including a couple different monkeys, snakes, fox, raccoons, rabbits, and even raised a few skunks in my day. (Buffalo Bob taught me to de-scent a skunk.
Skunks were one of my favorite pets and have a great disposition, but they are nocturnal by nature and you can't change that. We had a pet skunk when I was The Village Marshal in Felton. Daisy was her name, and she would potty in a sand box in the bathroom, and loved to play tug-of-way with your socks while you were trying to watch TV. One time I placed a baby skunk, (That didn't even have its eyes open) onto a mama cat that was nursing kittens. She accepted it, but never licked it as much as she did her kittens.
There are drawbacks to most exotic pets, but in general… ya can't beat a well-disciplined dog for a good all around pet. You don't have to have a pedigreed politically correct dog either. I have owned two Lab-Shepherd cross dogs, that were great police dogs, and family pets as well.
Why do people get "Hung-up" on this PURE bred pet thing… look around you, how many people do you know who are "Pure" anything. I had a cop buddy, who was Norwegian/Italian, (What a combination huh?) But he insisted that his dogs be Purebreds. (If you just want a good pet, and you're not planning to do shows… What's the difference?)
31. Love @ first sight
It was during that summer I met Darlene, the same Darlene I have married to over 35 years. Do you believe in love at first sight? Well, I proposed to Darlene the first day I met her that summer of 65. She said, "You propose to every girl you meet don't you?" I said no, but really I must admit, I had proposed to quite a few… but THIS TIME I really meant it! She told me she would be interested in marriage only after I quit traveling and playing.
I couldn't believe it; I was ready to quit at that moment. Actually my mom had told me years earlier, "When you find that girl who WON'T sleep with you, that's the one to marry, and I did. I finished that summer tour, broke up the band, and went out West to live with my Uncle Curly, (he lived just North of Longview Washington) and settle down and began to prepare for a life of marriage. (I'll head down to the employment office.)
Tom’s Dream Wife of over 40 yrs Darlene. (One cool woman)
32. Apartment Manager
Shortly after Darlene and I were first married, and were living in an apartment, the manager asked us if we'd like to manage the apartment building. (As she was planning to leave the area) So why not? We got free rent, and it really didn't involve much work. It wasn't that bad, but your life is in a constant interruption. (Being newlyweds this had a definite disadvantage) It does require collecting rent, calling the plumber, clean-up service, painter etc. every time someone trashes an apartment or moves out. My wife did most of the apartment showing while I was at work. Nowadays, with so many weirdoes, rapists, and murderers running around, you might want to give it careful consideration before taking on an apartment management job.
33. Logging St. Helen's Mountain
While at the Employment office, to begin my new job search, there was an opening at Weyerhaeuser timber company for choker-setter. (Talk about a job experience that leaves an impression on you for life this is the genuine thing.) I believe it started at $3.75 per hour or more, and that was pretty good starting bucks in 1965. The employment office said the job involved placing cables around trees that had been cut down, so they could be pulled to an area to be loaded. (Sounds simple enough… let me at it!)
I started that job on a Monday morning, waaaaay before daylight. I had to get up plenty early, drive to Longview, where we would get on a bus (Called a "Crummy," and head up to St. Helen's mountain. (I don't recall anyone knowing or mentioning that it had been, or WAS a volcano.) It was beautiful! Deer would actually walk right into the logging camp for free apples and other various treats from the loggers as they sit around eating lunch and listening to Paul Harvey on the radio.
I did have to prepare somewhat for this adventure: You must have cork-boots, heavy spiked work boots with steel toes and laced up the front. You can always tell a rookie logger, because he has the "Walk-on-yourself" look. The Spikes make holes where you step on your own boots… not professional, but it happens. You can't wear a belt, because a belt can catch on something and pull you to your death. (You have to wear suspenders) You make sure there are no seams on trouser bottoms and shirts, because seems catch on things, (Like branches, cables and tools) and of course a hard hat.
A hard hat is what the other loggers "Rap" you on the head with, if you try to sleep on the crummy on the way to the logging camp. You DON'T sleep on the bus on the way to the camp. You talk, joke, and swap MAN stories. If you do sleep, you will wake up to someone hitting you on the top of your hard-hat with his or her (But there were no "Hers") hard-hat, your shoelaces will be tied together, or your suspenders may be tied to the bus seat.
On the way up to the mountain, we made several stops, picking up other loggers. (Some that had been dropped off at various taverns on the way down the mountain from the previous Friday.) Loggers are hard working, fun loving, and strong and compassionate people. They are concerned for each other's safety, and the need for safety is certainly an important factor when working in the woods. One important thing: NEVER make impulsive declarations or brag about something that you can do, or are about to do. You're fair game. One guy bragged about the virginity of the girl he was going to be married to in the upcoming week. He wouldn't let it go, and he knew there was no way the guys could dispute his claims. Well, enough was enough, at lunchtime he was held down by several laughing loggers, while one fetched the first-aid kit from the bus. They pulled his pants down and initiated his love tool with red Pokka-dots using the iodine bottle and a swab. The organizer of the initiating crew stated that it will be quite simple to know of his future brides innocence: When they undress on honeymoon night, if she laughs out loud… she's seen one before, if not, she will take it for granted that "All peckers are Pokka-dotted"
One young logger was trying to grow a beard, and a couple guys made a comment about "Wiping-off" his delicate little beard. His next comment did the trick: "There isn't anyone around here big enough to lick me or my beard" Well, loggers may be fighters, but don't fight each other often, so…the initiation boys had the solution. They would have to remind the young would-be tough guy, that there is a higher power… THEM! They held him down, but this time no iodine; it was gear dope, (as in heavy grease) One wipe in the crack of his butt and a small handful of sand to follow. (Try cleaning that out by you) This was one uncomfortable man the rest of the day. Don't "Lip-off" to loggers! The work itself was hard. I believe after a month in the woods, you could go right into military boot-camp, and while the others are gasping for air, you would be lighting up a cigarette and asking yourself "Where's the hard stuff?"
I learned terms like pecker-pole, buckskin, bull-line, whistle-punk and Hemlock poisoning. I knew what a Cat was, (Caterpillar) but I worked off a yarder, which is like a crane with a main cable (Bull-line) and several cables (chokers) from the bull-line were wrapped around logs to be pulled to another area. A choker-setter is the guy who runs the choker cable around a log to be pulled. Just spend one day walking, running and climbing through brush and over logs as big as trucks and you'll know what a good day's work is. (I wanted to be back playing music again.)
34. Iron Worker
Before owning a pool hall and working for the telephone company, My Brother-in-Law Allen told me he could get me on as an ironworker. I don't remember what it paid, but I remember it was excellent pay. "Why not?" was my thought, After all, ironworkers get paid well, they're full of muscles, and I am sure it will be a rewarding experience.
So, the next week I accompanied Allen to Minneapolis, where construction was in full bloom at the Radisson South. My job was simple: Place re-bar, (Those steel re-enforcing rods that are installed before concrete is poured, to give it strength.) Then you cut a pieces of wire and twist it around the joints where the iron rods cross each other to hold them in place while the concrete is poured across them. The very first day, I was on top of a many-many story high building, walking across steel beams, meeting a lot of interesting people and wishing I had suction-cups on all of my fingers and feet. They do not put up temporary safety nets or railings on top of those buildings for workers when they are being built. The first couple days I thought for sure I would not make it, I was going to get killed, and that was all there was to it. But the third day, I started feeling something… PAIN and plenty of it; My back, from lifting re-bar and the back of my legs from bending over tying wire to the re-bar. I was beginning to feel that dying really wouldn't be so bad. It's amazing how your brain can look forward to a cold bologna sandwich, a Twinkie for lunch and in the same second, think of death, unemployment and how you miss being home. I didn't return to the ironworker job the next week.
35. Pool Hall Hustler
I was looking for an easy fun job, and decided to open a teen center. Having worked for amusement and vending companies, I new I could get the machines for a percentage of the take, all I needed to do was find a location for my pool hall. Besides, all those years working in the vending business, shooting pool in about every bar in Portland and Vancouver... This would be fun. It wouldn't be $10 & $20 a game 9 ball, just being around the tables again
Since I had in-laws in the Twin Valley Minnesota area and rental property was reasonable. I found a building that had been a restaurant for many years, and was empty. The price? $100 a month, and the brother of the former owner had a house to rent with it for another $50 a month. (Can you imagine trying to find a house and business today for $150)? I contacted a vending company in Fargo; they set me up with 3 pool tables and several pinball machines. (For 50% of the take)
I got a soda pop set up from the Coke Company, (I just had to buy my pop from them) bought some chips, candy bars, etc. and I was in business. All I had to do was promote it a little. I'd throw a free game on each machine everyday about the time school was out; the first ones in got a free play. I got a $7.00 airplane and a few other prizes to set on top of each machine for the high score for the month. Kids will put a lot of money in a pinball machine to win a prize. I have found that a trophy will get more interest, be highly prized, and is something that will NEVER be thrown away.
As a matter of fact, give an employee or co-worker a trophy for outstanding work and it will mean more than bonus money and they'll keep it forever. (And show it to everyone) During the day when school was going, business was near nothing, So I served coffee and bought a few decks of cards and all the old geezers would come in and play cards, drink coffee and have a great time. (I could make money at 10 cents a cup, with a free refill.) Of course around noon, everyone would leave to go to a café or home to eat, so… let's have some food. I didn't have any restaurant equipment, so my wife brought down a couple skillets, a toaster, and some food to cook.
We'd have bacon and eggs, Toast, hash browns and jelly. Then at lunchtime I'd cook up some barbecue, tacos, or some kind of a hot dish. Sometimes when 4 or 5 people ordered at the same time, it would get pretty hectic, but Darlene held things together for me. Competition was fierce; The Twin Valley population was only 1,000, and had two other places the kids could hang out. It was really a lot of fun! Since I didn't have much overhead or big payments… we survived for a while. At least until the next job opportunity came along… and it did. I went to work for the Felton Telephone Company as a lineman/repairman.
36. The Telephone Man
I worked for Vern at the Telephone Company in Felton Minnesota. (My Boss Vern was a nice guy, didn't even smoke.) He used to give us a rough time about smoking and lung cancer. Vern hadn't smoked for many years but chewed toothpicks all the time. We told him, he'd probably die of Dutch elm disease. (In later years, I was told he died of Lung Cancer… go figure.)
Working for a smaller, independent telephone company has some advantages over working for a giant. In a small company you do just about everything that has to be done. It's pretty well that way in any company, if it's smaller, you have more tasks to do… and that helps you gain more knowledge. Cable splicing, installation of equipment, pole climbing, trenching, locating and digging up faulty cable, you learn it all.
Speaking of telephone companies... have you made a switch yet on your long distance service? I was an AT & T customer for years, course there wasn't a choice, but they were OK. One day I received a check in the mail for $20, it was from MCI. They said all I had to do was cash it, and I'd be $20 richer, and have MCI for a long distance carrier. (The rates were comparable.) Then I got to thinking, I have been with AT & T for so many years, why wouldn't they give me $20 to stay with them, so I called them. I told them about the check from MCI, and that I would really rather stay with AT & T, but $20 is $20. They wouldn't give me the time of day… they said "We don't work that way." I made the switch to MCI, and then later got a call from an AT & T representative wanting to know why I switched, and I had to tell them the truth… I sold out for a $20 bill, and AT & T wouldn't match the deal. She said they didn't work that way. Then, a few months' later I got a call from AT& T offering me Cash incentives to go back with them, I told them "I don't work that way." (Maybe I should call Sprint… hello?) It was while working at the telephone company, my police career began.
37. Fixing Shorts
Once, while being in between various jobs, (A regular scene with me) I stumbled into a job as an electrician apprentice. An electrical company in Fargo needed someone, and I did some wiring for Vern, at the telephone company. (He had an electrical business too) This is a good field to get into. Sometimes it is pretty hard work, but most of the time… not bad. It doesn't require a LOT of knowledge to be an apprentice, because the journeyman will tell you what kind of wire to run. You just figure out how and where to run it. If you look in any basement, the wire usually runs the shortest distance from an outlet, to the main electrical panel.
Ask a few questions of the journeyman… and you're running wire. I started out at over $9 and something an hour, and in Fargo that's respectable. Of course as a rookie, you will be carrying a lot of wire and tools from the shop to the truck, and out on the job. Once and a while you'll be in an attic with dust, insulation and sweat rolling down every crease and crack of your body. But there will be times you'll freeze your butt off in the basement of a new home with no heat in it yet. But remember, if you take notes, read the codebook, ask questions, and watch how things are done, and in a few short years, you could be journeyman yourself. I found out my 56-year-old body just wasn't ready to take off on a career as an electrician.
38. Village Marshal
I must tell you the truth, you may have to lie occasionally to get a new job, or get ahead at the one you have. (Now that statement alone could destroy this writer's creditability… but I will point out examples as we go along.)
Shortly after I landed my first police job, I realized the importance of deceiving myself as well as others. I told myself I knew what I was getting into. (1st lie) The first confrontation I had with tough dude, had me telling myself, "If you think I am scared of you…think again" (2nd lie) my knees were shaking and so was my confidence.
At the time, Felton was THE place for young people to have a good time and congregate. Young folks would drink beer as they stood around their cars and talking and laughing into the wee hours. (Can you imagine that?) They'd even race around town and screech their tires. (Making black marks on the streets the city fathers called "Shit-hooks.") Then of course there was the endless string of cars going up and down the main drag, hour after hour playing their stereos. None of this really sounds like "Heavy" crime by today's standards, but it was irritating to some residents, and they wanted something done.
One day, while I was working for Felton Telephone company, I was standing by Pete's service station, a young kid climbed into his machine, came sideways up the street, cut 2 shit-hooks and roared out of town. I told the guy standing beside me, "I'd like to be cop-for-a-day in this town." (Just making casual small-town conversation, but it did piss me off, as there were little kids riding tricycles and bikes on and around the street.)
As it turned out, the guy that was standing beside me was the Mayor of Felton. (Jess) The Mayor told me that talk like that may get me the position of town Marshall. I laughed and said, "That would be OK with me." The next night I was invited to a city Council meeting, and came out as the new town cop. The Village Marshall, Chief of police in a town of a couple hundred people. We are talking some real authority. You have no idea the feeling of POWER that comes over you the first time a badge gets pinned to your chest. (Wait till I get a gun, uniform and real police car.) As we walked out of the town hall, mayor Jess, and the rest of the City Council, (Pete, Paul, Ron, and Duane) we ran into a guy named Larry. (Holding a drink in his hand) He made a comment like, "So you're the new town cop," I said "Yes I am" proudly as I took the drink from his hand and poured it onto the ground. I remember Larry had a pretty strange look on his face, because this is something you don't do to Larry.
This guy was as tough as a bear turd wrapped in barbwire and knew how to fight. If he had made the decision to wipe that spilled drink up with this instant cop's smart-ass body… he could have. I hadn't thought about a defensive move, because I was "the man," "the law," the omnipotent one. (Who would challenge that?)
I found out later, that Larry had a couple cracked ribs from an earlier altercation, and just wasn't in the mood to risk further injury, by taking a chance on me. (Besides, even though my knees were shaking somewhat, I displayed confidence.) Later on in my police career, as a real chief of police, and deputy sheriff, I'll learned more about having confidence
The lesson here is this: You don't have to BE confident, but you must learn to APPEAR confident. Think about it, how can you be confident about going into any job or situation where you really don't know what you're getting in to? HOW can you BE confident? You don't have to be confident… just learn to appear confident. (And it will help your confidence level.)
40. A Cop Attitude
Ever wonder why so many cops have an attitude problem? A lot of them seem to have that "Above you" air about them? You walk up to a police officer, start talking, and they're NOT very friendly. You don't feel comfortable, and they don't appear to be very comfortable either. (This is not always the case, but in general.) There are several good explanations for this.
When you are a stranger, and you walk up to a cop, and start talking, the first thing the police officer must do is analyze what you are, who you are, what you want and listen to what you are saying. Are you a citizen with a complaint, a diversion for a crime, could you be a threat? We are talking about a lot of thought here, not to mention, whatever the officer was thinking about before you approached.
There are other factors that have an influence on a police officer's "Friendly factor." It didn't take very long for my wife to become somewhat withdrawn from the friendly neighborhood "Ladies" groups. (A cop's wife is always an assumed source of information) Getting the 3rd degree about what's going on in the neighborhood, and getting "pumped" by nosey people using you as source of gossip, is not something a cop's wife enjoys.
The same holds true when a police officer is "Off Duty." Across a neighbors fence, at a party or get-to-gather of any kind… the cop faces "Cop talk." "What happened the other night, I heard all those sirens?" "What's the real deal on that robbery the other night?" "What's the law on this or that?" It goes on and on. Almost always, at a party or bar, people will make a remark about a "Off duty" police officer having a drink. (That's why cops usually go to a more private place to have a drink.)
am sure Lawyers and doctors get a lot of the same things, although are not expected to maintain as high of standards as a cop. (I'll get some arguments on that!)
Another thing that has an effect on a police officers attitude, is the people he or she is in contact with from day to day. Most of the people a cop deals with during a shift, are under a great deal of stress, injured, intoxicated or on drugs, criminals, victims of crimes, emotionally unstable or angry about something. Think about that awhile, it WILL have an effect on your attitude.
When I "Thought" I was Cool!
41. Buffalo Bob's Wisdom
When I first got the marshal badge pinned on my egotistical body in Felton, I immediately called Buffalo Bob, who was, at that time, the Chief of Police in Twin Valley Minnesota. He also raised buffalo, skunks, wild boar, weird chickens, and other exotic animals. (This is NOT the same Buffalo Bob that was famous on the Howdy Dowdy T V show.) I always respected Bob because of his good morals, common sense and a person you could trust.
I told Bob I had just been appointed "Chief," What do I do? He told me to act like I knew what I was doing, whether I did or not. The other part of the indoctrination speech Bob gave me should be a part of every cop's oath of office, and I did my best to apply his philosophy throughout most of my years of police work. Here it is: "When someone commits an offense, or breaks a law, make up your mind at that time if it warrants an arrest… or ticket. THEN follow through." "Don't wait till you reach the vehicle to see WHO it is, before you decide if you are going to make an arrest or write a ticket." (Read Bob's advice again, and I think you'll agree, every police officer should follow Buffalo Bob's line of reasoning.) Buffalo Bob is now retired, has a few weird animals on his farm... but still enjoys talking about the good old cop days AND HIS BUFFALO.
Pete, from Pete's garage, (who was on the city council) built a squad car, the hard way. I heard that Pete was quite a hell raising, drinking party animal in his day, but quit all that and was a working fool with a hidden heart of gold. Pete knew I needed a police car, and found a 1963 ford, V-8 straight stick and all it needed was a valve job. (Only $300) The city bought it, and we began building a police car. (It looked just like Andy's Mayberry Police car.)
Darlene & I with my 1st Squad car Yep, just like Andy's car
I made a trip to Fargo North Dakota, (yes the same place as the movie Fargo) and visited the local car parts store. They didn't have a red revolving light at the time, so we installed a luggage rack, with two big flashing red turn signal lights on top of it. We took a siren off an old fire truck, (Must have weighed 75 lbs. or more) and bolted it on the fender. When Pete hit the switch, the headlights went dim; the radio volume dropped as it began to wind up. RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, louder and louder. (The whole damn car vibrated from this monster.) When I shut off the switch, it took about 8 minutes for it to slowly wind down. Pete found another wire coming out of the thing; we discovered it was a brake to get the siren stopped.
We hooked it up and it did work, but later the brake broke, so when I stopped someone and gave him or her a ticket, it would still be going. (Even after writing the ticket and returning to the car, it would be slowly winding down.) The only thing that kept that old Ford together was Pete. Every time I'd bring it in after a high speed chase, the gas tank would be hanging in one strap, bumpers loose, and busted shocks, Pete would shake his head and say, "Ya know dem machines ain't made fer dat kind of drivin" and he's start putting it back together. But the old Ford paid for itself many times over. A person must learn to be resourceful in your employment. Be creative, and get along with out all the fancy tools in the beginning. It will come later.
Wait a minute, Where's my gun, bullet, and Police car? I got a gun and bullets, (A Smith & Wesson Snub-nose, 38 Chief's special) I didn't really need training on how to use it, as I was raised around guns and scored the highest in my police training class. (Later we will talk about gun control.) I never had to even take it out of the holster while I was Village Marshal in Felton
42. SPEED TRAP
Back to technology: One day, between the times of writing tickets and fighting crime (and or evil) on the streets of Felton, I was reading my wife's Enquirer magazine, and a headline with a picture struck my attention. There was a picture of Chuck Ross, an old musician buddy of mine from Kansas City. The headline read, "Son of disabled coal miner becomes a multimillionaire." Unbelievable, I'll give Chuck a call. He was always making amplifiers, P. A. systems and stuff like that for bands; I guess he hit the mother load. The other night I watched John Foggerty doing a concert and he was using a Kustom Amplifier made by Chuck Ross. (Last I heard Chuck sold his company, and who knows what he's doing now)
I ended up going through a half a dozen people before getting to Mr. Ross, but he was the same old Chuck I knew, laughing and telling stories. It seems that he had not only cornered a big market with Kustom Amplifiers and P.A. systems, he had developed a police Doppler radar unit that was sweeping the nation. We talked a while, he told me what it's like being rich and all, and told me that since that magazine came out, he had friends he never knew, and relatives he didn't know he had coming out of the woodwork. Chuck said he was going to send me a surprise, and he did… a brand new Kustom, hand-held radar unit. (It was state of the art at the time.) I remember Trooper Dave from the Minnesota State patrol saying HE didn't even have anything that nice at the time.
Trooper Dave was quite a crime fighter himself, and when him and Buffalo Bob used to get a high-speed chase going… look out! They were just like the Mounties; they always got their man. In a short while, Felton was recognized as having a "Highly active speed control safety program" (commonly called a speed trap, and I was the high commander)
The City Fathers didn't mind, it was a way to help pay for our newly implemented police department…and it did. Number 9 highway was 65 M.P.H. till you entered Felton, the speed limit, (as you grazed the edge of Felton) dropped to 45 miles per hour. Nobody slowed down especially me. I was writing tickets for speeders on Highway 9 in the daytime, and chasing careless or reckless drivers and underage drinkers out of town at night.
One thing I didn't have was a police radio. I used a CB radio to call my wife, I'd give her a license number, and she would then call the sheriff's office by phone 25 miles away. When she would get the information back, or if I had a call, she'd call me back on the CB radio with the information. (She put in some wicked long hours at times.)
The Fargo Forum did a full-page story on the Felton Police department consisting of one man… we took in $11,000 in fines in the nine month's we operated the department. I did have some good help from the Clay County Sheriff's department, Glyndon Police department and even Lt. Pinkney from the Moorhead police department came up with a squad car a time or two. My real job was supposed to be at the Telephone Company, and the cop job was part-time. Well, it didn't work out that way; it seems that I made my share of enemies. Someone put chemical in the gas tank of the telephone truck I drove, they shot bullet holes in Mayor Jess's tractor, and I couldn't keep a mailbox up on my road.
I lost my job at the telephone company, most of the hell-raisers had one ticket to go to loose their license, and it got pretty quiet around Felton. It was time to move on. With the city's help and a grant from the State of Minnesota, I had the opportunity to attend police school. (Run by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension)
After graduating from formal police training, I accepted a position as Chief of Police in Kenyon Minnesota, (Southeast of Minneapolis area) then Later on became Deputy Sheriff of Pine County, (Between Duluth and Minneapolis) and ended up in a town called Dilworth (Next to Fargo North Dakota) for my closing job as a police officer.
Later I'll tell you stories involving some wild arrests, drugs, dead bodies, suicides, escaped prisoners, stories about cops I've known and the side of police work you may have missed.
43. "Doggy Gate"
I am surprised that there was never an investigation nation wide, because at one time, just about every small town cop had to deal with the "Dog problems." Most of the towns didn't have a vet clinic, humane society or a kennel, and the dog problem was taken care of with a bullet. No one wanted to deal with it, so the council would just instruct the officer to, "Just take care of them" I have always loved dogs, So It wasn't a fun job. No one seemed to care, until you wasted a dog that happen to belong to someone influential. (Then "All hell would break loose") In Minnesota they had a law, allowing the shooting of ANY dog chasing deer. I dropped two expensive sled dogs one time with a shotgun, as they were trying to take down a Whitetail deer. I did my job, but you don't get a lot of backing from the political machine when you do it. There are people who don't give a damn about their kids or anything else, but something happens to their dog and you'd think the world has ended.
A dog left to run loose is a bad thing; they destroy property, attack children and are a health threat. No one should have to put up with someone else's dog. When we are visiting my daughter in town, we often hear 7 or 8 dogs barking (Non-stop) for hours on end. How can dog owners be so inconsiderate to their neighbors and their dog? Having a dog penned up in a cage all day barking and rarely getting attention.
44. CHIEF of Police
Being Chief of Police in Kenyon Minnesota was my first, full-time, REAL cop job, and I took it seriously. I remembered Buffalo Bob's advice and lived by it. The previous chief was a nice old guy, but more of a "night watchman" than a police officer. He helped the kids cross the street on their way to school, and in the winter, he'd park where everyone could see him, and plug a little heater in the pole socket by the Standard station. (So he wouldn't have to run the police car and burn up too much gas) He'd roll the awnings down on some of the merchants stores for them, Turn the Christmas lights on and off at the appropriate times, and walk around being seen by everyone in the daytime. By some small town standards… the perfect cop.
I was still a bloodthirsty rookie, hell-bent on fighting crime, writing tickets and changing the world. There were lives to be saved, criminals to lock up, and burglars to catch. (They did have a pretty high fender-bender rate in the city limits) They wouldn't trust me with a radar unit, so I bought a stopwatch, painted up some white lines on the streets and began writing up those speeders.
The young kids were making U-turns at the end of town…it was against the law, and something had to be done. (Even though there were no accidents to reflect that the U-turns were causing a problem) When you are a "New" cop in a town, you don't know who is who, and therefore, you ticket a lot of people that consider themselves above the law. (Or people who know people who are feel that they are above the law.) It didn't take long for it to come to a head.
I was writing "Too many tickets," according to the mayor, and was ordered to "back off a little." That's the wrong thing to say to an overzealous young rookie. I was even starting to bust some local kids for dope. There hadn't been any drug arrests in Kenyon, I was averaging a felony bust a month, and several misdemeanor pot arrests. Some people were concerned about the reputation of the town, while most were glad to see something being done about the problem. The combination of me being "To aggressive" and the reputation of the town were at stake. The City fired me. The reason given was "Writing too many tickets"
Well, you know when something like that hits the news, it doesn't take long to get people stirred up. I did have some good supporters who wanted equal treatment of citizens, and most wanted an aggressive drug enforcement program. As a result, a business man by the name of Harold Nielsen asked the public if they wanted the fired chief back, and agreed to pay for the attorney to get it done, (and did). A state Trooper named Don and his wife got up a petition demanding a hearing on the matter. I got my Chief's job back, and stayed about a year before moving on to the Sheriff's department in Pine County. (There is probably still a hole in the police station wall, where I was giving the reserve unit some tips on conditional reflex "Point & Shoot" methods.) Make a stop in Kenyon, I am sure some of the firemen will tell you all about it, tell them I said hello!
45. POLICE POEM
I did have a couple poems published when I was fired as Chief of police in Kenyon. (And later re-hired) When the headlines of the firing "Chief fired for writing too many tickets" reached The Associated Press and I received a considerable amount of notoriety. Paul Harvey talked about it on his program and it was carried in newspapers worldwide. I received letters from people as far away as Australia; I was on the Jim Klobachar TV show in Minneapolis and radio interviews galore. It was during this time I decided to put pen to hand and write a couple poems, one was published in local papers and the other one included in an article by Robert T. Smith, Minneapolis Tribune.
Officer Jack enforced the law, his record was clean without a flaw.
He worked his way from bottom to top, to most of the people, he was their kind of cop.
He'd ticket the banker and the councilman's son, But Officer Jack's career is done.
He treated all the same rich or poor, from the hippie in the van, to the neighbor next door.
He was hated by few, but respected by most, to Officer Jack we offer this toast.
He was not only fair, but he did his best, and now we lay him down to rest.
He wasn't killed in a swift gun fight, He was asked to resign at a meeting one night.
He wouldn't "Back-off" is why he's through, It wasn't WHAT he did… but WHO!
46. HIRE THE HANDICAPPED?
While I was in Kenyon, there was a Federal program, which allowed me to hire someone "Unemployable" for minor jobs and extra help. In a small police department, there are always little things that take time away from patrol and investigations, and the jobs are aggravating: Dog catching, dead animals on the streets, washing the squad car, cleaning and organizing files are just some of the things that a part-timer could help with.
I had an Assistant Chief, a part-time patrolman and a reserve force, but no one to do those little "Dirty little jobs" that had to be done. One afternoon, someone from Social Services brought in a young "Handicapped" man named Marv, to help work in the police department. Wait a minute… this guy didn't have ANY fingers on either hand, "What could he do?" I thought to myself, as he sat in the chair in front of my desk. (Well, I had him; I guess I better think of something for him to do)
I have never had to deal with a handicapped person before, do I talk about his problem? DO I ask how it happened? Well, I decided to just do the "Honest approach" (Believe me, this turned out to be the way to do it) I said, "What happen to your fingers?" He told me, when he was little, they got caught in a freezing snowstorm, and his dad left the car to get to a farm home and was carrying Marv. By the time they reached the farmhouse, Marv's hands were frozen beyond repair.
I told him I didn't know what he was capable of doing, but rather than ask him if he could do certain things every time I assigned a task … I would just "ASSUME" he could do it. (Till I found out different) I didn't even know if he could unzip his pants without help, after all, all he had was a thumb on each hand. It was at that point; he reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, whipped off the cellophane, pulled out a cigarette, and lit it up with a Zippo lighter.
I gave him tasks as if he was "Normal" Well he was more than normal, there was NOTHING he couldn't do, INCLUDING qualify with a pistol. He held the revolver handle between his left thumb and part of that hand, and pulled the trigger with the thumb of his opposite hand. He would shoot till his hand was bleeding, to get good enough to qualify. And he did. I never viewed him as handicapped; he was a person, just like anybody else. (I don't have to tell you the lesson here)
47. WHO NEEDS A COMPUTER?
I've always said I'll never have a home computer; I don't have anything at home worth computing. Besides, you are dealing with a guy who still buys 8-tracks at garage sales, and screws up regularly trying to record programs on a VCR. In this world of changing technology, it is easy to hate changes, but the computer is one piece of equipment that is here to stay.
I became an author the day you started reading this book, and I must say it has really been a learning experience. Everyone should start writing a book, if it doesn't sell, it will always be paper monument to whatever your life has been about. (Besides the grand kids may get a kick out of it later on) You should, if you haven't already… get a computer. (I've always hated the darn things) Do you have any idea how many people have been replaced by computers? In the radio business alone, it would stagger your imagination. (As a matter of fact, I recently located all the original members of the West Coasters (My high school Rock and roll band) through the Internet. Computers answer the phones, do the billing, keep track of advertising schedules, pick the music, play the commercials, and control volume, tone, quality, plus… replace the radio announcer.
Look around your place of employment, and write down everything that is automated or computer controlled… you'll see how many people have been replaced. If you have kids, or grandkids growing up, they won't even be able to get a job at quickie lube, unless they learn some basic computer skills. Buy a computer; it will be a learning experience that will help you with just about any job you want in today's market. (Besides, it will help you write your new book, make letter writing easier, bookkeeping more simple and I promise it will sharpen you mind considerably)
Don't be afraid, there's so much free technical support (800 toll free numbers) for every computer related product on the market, you will not have a problem. I bought my first computer less than a year ago, I have had NO formal training what so ever, and I am writing a book. The computer companies will help you, neighbors, friends and chat rooms on the Internet are a source of helping you walk you through any problems you have.
I have learned to keep records for a business, find just about anything I am looking for on the Internet, and I haven't even taken a typing class in my life. (You never have to be in a hurry anyway) When you write a page, you can have the computer check grammar spelling and punctuation, just by "Clicking" the mouse on a little icon. (As you can see, it isn't perfect.) You can save everything in your computer, store it on a disc, or print paper copies…and that gives me another idea… Maybe put some pictures in this book.
I have a scanner, (It only cost a $100) I just place a photo in the scanner, (run it through) and it becomes a file. You can insert the picture anywhere in a letter or text as you write. (Done deal) We even copied our vacation pictures into the computer, and sent them to friends and relatives. Owning a computer will benefit you in any profession, plus some of the many educational programs can benefit your kids or grandkids. (And yes, there are a lot of cheap, fun games you can get for your computer)
NOW I have a program that enables me to take all my old records, tapes...and yes 8-TRACKS, and put them onto my computer, converting them to CD's, DVDs and MP3 file. If you don't have a computer...GET ONE. There are cheap classes offered at community colleges and the kids or grand kids will get you going in no time!
I have always had the urge to be a writer, and did get my feet wet while working for John Kolness Publications. An area paper, a memories magazine, and I did some sales for him. I still write a column called in the Extra magazine for Kolness, called Rambling Road. (www.theextra.com) John is another one of those bosses you enjoy working for, makes you feel like you are an important part of his organization, and always wanting me to go to work for him. (And when he hits the lottery, he'll be able to afford it) I love writing editorials, but everyone wants to be a famous writer, and I guess the competition is fierce. And pay checks are few and far between)
The feature I received the most letters on, was one I wrote about gun control. I guess it hit home for a lot of people, and it was timely… about the time President Clinton had the street closed in front of the White house…for security reasons.
Here is the editorial: (Written when Clinton was President)
If the president can protect himself, shouldn't we have the same right?
When they decided to block-off the street in front of the White House for security reasons, I couldn't help but wonder have we lost the battle on crime in the streets? But wait, Clinton is the one who was going to make the streets safe.
I believe Clinton wanted to get rid of all the handguns in the United States; so let's assume for a moment that he could have succeed with such a plan. All the Drug dealers, rapists, thugs, muggers, the mob and armed robbers would immediately turn in all their guns, Clinton would NOT have to keep the street in front of the White House barricaded, and NO ONE would ever need a gun again. (Because it would be against the law to own a handgun) The man, who talks the most about getting rid of guns, is the man who has a staggering amount of guns at his disposal at any given moment.
We are talking awesome firepower within a few feet of the president at all times. Why? It is against the law to carry a gun in Washington D.C. and most of the places he appears. And of course it is against the law to shoot at the President, just as it is against the law to commit other crimes with handguns against any citizen. But laws don't prevent these crimes from happening do they?
The public doesn't get barricades in front of their homes, nor do they have armed security personnel a few feet from them and their family at all times. If the number one man in our country's leadership role wants to give up his firepower and barricades, (to show us how safe it is) then his plan to rid the country of firearms would be a little more believable.
Paul Harvey recently talked about a new study showing crime was the lowest… where there were the MOST legally armed citizens. It makes sense to me that criminals have a clear choice when they commit a crime… to be armed or unarmed, shouldn't a victim have the same choice?
49. Bare Arms?
I don't have to spend a good deal of time explaining my views on gun control, as I am sure by now you know them. I do believe that anyone traveling across the country should be able to lawfully carry a handgun. When I say "lawfully" carry, I mean just that! If you are caught in the commission of a crime, or commit a crime with that firearm, DO JAIL TIME, and plenty of it. If you are a felon, having been convicted of a violent crime, you have lost your right to posses it.
Those who say we should have gun control for "Safety" reasons? Remember this: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty or safety." Benjamin Franklin said that!
Some of my handguns
50. Bad shots
I have seen my share of blood from firearm misuse, starting when I was a young boy hunting with my dad. We were on one side of the hedgerow, (everyone with shotguns) the other hunters on the opposite side, the quail jump up and the shooting begins. Since I was little, most of the shot went over my head, however some of the shot hit us.
My dad had several pellets hit his face and neck, one pellet lodged right between his eyes, and I got one in my thumb. I thought it was funny, but the doctors never removed any of the lead. I still have one in my thumb, and my dad carried several pellets under the skin of his face and neck for the rest of his life.
My uncle R.C. and I were doing "Quick draw" shooting, and his revolver discharged into his leg when he holstered it. (That was because of the manufacturer's poor design)
I was the first officer at a scene where a young man accidentally blew his brains out with a .357 revolver. He was playing Russian roulette while showing off in front of a couple friends. And when the term "Blow out brains" is used, it really happens, we found brains on the barbecue grill, in the trees, and on a car parked nearby.
Once, while on the road traveling and playing music, my keyboard player placed several rounds through the motel wall, shattering a mirror on a dresser. His mother had been sitting at that dresser minutes earlier. It was my handgun, and he came into my room, picked it up, and I yelled "It's loaded" but he already pulled the slide back to check it. When he let the slide go, the hammer fell, and it rapped off several rounds in a heartbeat. That too was a faulty gun; I had just purchased it a few days earlier from a service station attendant in a small town. I really should have been more careful with it.
I was standing by a girl who was shooting a handgun and she wanted no part of shooting, but her boyfriend insisted she try it. Just as she pulled the trigger, she pulled the gun down, and shot herself in the leg. People, who don't like firearms should not have them, while people who have had proper training and know how to use them, should be able to do so. Funny thing, when you get shot, most of the time you don't feel it right away. As a matter of fact, sometimes, you see the blood flowing, before you realize you are hit. The real pain comes at the hospital, when they have to clean out the wound… that's pain. Needless to say, I am very fussy about who I shoot or hunt with these days! .223 is much faster than 911
51. The Kathy O Murder
I guess every cop has a case that nags him over the years, and mine was one I call the Kathy O murder. Officially it was ruled a suicide, but I know better, and so do a lot of other people.
Pine County Minnesota is a beautiful area, between Duluth and Minneapolis. It covers around 1,500 square miles, consisting of over 600,000 acres of wildlife areas, 35 or so lakes, over a dozen trout streams, the St. Croix river borders the East side and an incredibly scenic river, called the Kettle River. The biggest town in Pine County was Pine City, and I think it was only 2,500 population. Hinkley was North of Pine City, (home of the great Hinkley fire) I really don't know what was so great about it, people lost lives and I guess it was like a huge ball of fire swept through the area. Just imagine a pile of dried Christmas trees burning on a windy day. (Then multiply it many, many times) located just North of Hinkley, is Sandstone Minnesota, Home of the Federal Correctional Institute. (And yes… I was involved in more than one-man hunt chasing escapees from there).
Before I get into the Kathy O case, I have to tell you about a landmark escape case that occurred in Pine County. The guy's name was Jeffery O. and he split from the Sandstone Federal Prison one afternoon. Deputy Tork and I located an old depot in Hinkley, where tracks in the snow led into the building. Tork and I began inching our way through the building. It was dark, and we didn't know if the suspect had any weapons or where he was in the building. It wasn't till we reached the very back corner of the upper level, did we finally get him to "Give up."
When you see the cops on TV covering each other, as they go from room to room looking for a suspect, you don't really think about it. It is adrenaline-pumping fear keeping you alert. A Suspect knows where you are, and if and when he will "Strike" and with what force. The only thing you know FOR SURE is, you want to get home to the wife and kids when your shift is finished.
The suspect didn't have a weapon, but he did have an unusually large amount of candy bars, clothing and snacks with him. He had obviously been prepared for this adventure. We couldn't figure out why we were going to go to court on this case, but when we eventually ended up in Federal Court in Minneapolis, Jeffery was pleading "Innocent." How and why, was beyond our belief, He escaped from point A, and ended up at point B… it was an escape, plain and simple!
The suspect claimed (in Federal Court) that he left prison because he was afraid of being attacked by homosexuals. (He said he overheard two guys planning to assault him that night, And that's why he took off from prison). Since our prosecuting attorney had neglected to see that the "Stockpiled" clothing and food, (that the suspect had with him at the time of capture) was NOT brought into the picture. As a result, he was found innocent of the charge of escape. These items would have proven that there was premeditation and planning on his part for the escape. (Not the last minute fear of a sexual attack as he had voiced) I don't know why the two of us police officers couldn't have testified to what we observed, but you need the evidence. (It was a Judge Miles Lord decision)
I was in the Sheriff's office in Pine City one day, looking for a crime to solve, when I stumbled on to an "Accidental" death. A teenager, named Kathy, had been struck by a train, while walking on the tracks. (A short distance out of Sandstone.) The more I looked at the file, "Things just didn't add up." Keep in mind, that it has been somewhere around 20 years since I did any work on that case, so my details may be off a little here and there. I have thought many times I wish Unsolved mystery's or America's Most Wanted would do a "One time" shot on it. (They have so many current cases to work on, I doubt if they would even consider it, but I did call them about this case, and sent them this chapter of my book. Now am waiting to see what happens.
Kathy was a typical teen-ager and attended school in Sandstone Minnesota. She lived with her mother, I don't remember if her mother was a widow, or divorced. I do know her body had laid on the railroad tracks, just outside of Sandstone for several days. (Covered with a mound of hay or grass.) We know this because the engineer on a train going through recalled seeing what he called a "Mound of hay" on the tracks and hearing a "Thump" when he ran over it. Later it was determined that this is where Kathy's body was found. A track inspector had been across the same spot after the train, but said he saw nothing.
It was later determined that he did NOT do the inspection he stated that he was supposed to have done. There were several cigarette butts lying around the area where the body was found. Most of the "Butts" were Salem cigarettes. (Kathy was a menthol cigarette smoker.) I don't know if they were saved as evidence, or if they still exist, but today, a DNA test could reveal some important information. There were only two logical ways Kathy (On her own) could have got to where her body was located: By going several miles around Sandstone to a road that intersected the tracks. And still, she would have had to walk a hundred yards or more to get to the spot where she was found. Or walk over one of the highest railroad bridges in Minnesota, to get there. Which would have been a much shorter route, and closer to town, but Kathy was deathly afraid of heights.
Keep in mind, that this happened in July, it was hot, and mosquitoes were thick. (As evidence to that fact was clearly indicated on her body.) She was not in possession of mosquito spray, and was wearing shorts with a short sleeve top. She was "Ran over" NOT "Struck by" a train, as her death certificate had stated.
Kathy had done some babysitting for the town Chief of Police, and according to Crime Bureau records, the Chief was "Not very cooperative" in the investigation. There was some suspicion directed toward the Sandstone Chief of Police during the investigation, but I later interviewed the chief, and he accompanied me to the State Crime Bureau for a polygraph test, and was very willing to talk about the case. He admitted he had not gotten along with investigators, but he was "Pissed off" because they would not let him get involved in the case, and didn't want his help or advice. After the death, It was rumored that Kathy may have been pregnant, the autopsy did not show this, but, as I understand from the reports, there was a certain test that was NOT performed, that should have been.
There were some furniture movers in the area, and Kathy was observed with one of these people, but there is no mention of this in the file. No one mentioned if Kathy could have been depressed or despondent, as a matter of fact, there was something in the file, which led me to believe that she had some immediate "Future" plans for some kind of event. I did talk to a couple of the people who were on the Coroner's jury during the inquest. This person stated that most of the jurors believed the case to be a homicide, but the way their choice was presented, they HAD to rule it an accident. The choice was: We can't PROVE it was a murder, and we can't PROVE in was a suicide, so it must be ruled an accident. This makes it easy to close a case, doesn't it? I do see how some investigators can become obsessed with a case, and hang on to it like a bulldog till it is solved. If I were still a cop, I would reach for that file, every time there was a free moment to work on it. (The trail on this one is Ice cold & I don’t believe it will never be solved)
For those of you that wonder why someone can get lost and freeze to death in the God-forsaken, mosquito infested beautiful Minnesota; I'll tell you. The first time I ever got lost in a snowstorm in Minnesota, was in Kenyon Minnesota. I received a call that a car was broken down North of town, and people were in a car on the edge of the highway, (Waiting for someone to rescue them.) I headed out to rescue them. After going north for about a mile, I had slowed down to about 5 miles an hour and another 100 yards had me down to crawl speed.
The snow was blowing so hard; I could hardly see the hood in front of me. I radioed in, that I couldn't go any farther, and was going to turn around and head back. As I started turning around in the middle of the highway, I got lost. I mean total vertigo. I couldn't tell where I was in the road. I had to get out of the squad car, holding one hand on the vehicle, walk around, (Feeling with my feet) trying to located where the road was. If I had moved away from the car, as much as 2 feet, I could have been so disoriented, I may have never located the car, as snow had by then built up on the road, and you couldn't tell where the road started and ended. Once I did get turned around, I waited till it subsided enough to continue back in to town. (The people were not there anyway, they had pulled into a farm and were staying with a farm family)
53. AMBULANCE ATTENDANT
One of my jobs as Chief of Police in Kenyon was to manage and run the local ambulance service. We had some pretty good volunteer people from the community, including fire department and reserve police personnel. (I started a reserve police force in Kenyon, consisting of 10 or 12 young men, and later a reserve police organization in Dilworth Minnesota. (MANY of the reserve officers went into law enforcement full time, and are still there)
Being an ambulance attendant is certainly not a dull job, but it takes dedication and in this day and age… a lot of training. You never know what lies ahead on the next call. An elderly person who died several days ago, a terrible car accident, a child hurt seriously while playing on a power lawnmower, or the victim of a violent crime? It can compound things considerably when you arrive on the scene and it's someone close to you. It happened to one of my people, and I was there: I had a call of a serious car accident a ways out of town. When I got to the police station/ambulance garage, a reserve officer, fireman and friend of mine named Howard was ready to go on the call.
I drove and he operated the radio and away we went. When we got there, it was a living hell, there were 3 or 4 people already dead, and the ones surviving didn't look good. One of the survivors was Howard's mother. She appeared to have both eyes punched out, nose cut off and numerous other injuries. It was Howard and I alone, what do I do? I looked at Howard, and he said, "I'm gonna hold up, I'll drive to the hospital" he said.
The only thing I could do was get in the back and do everything I could helping the 2 survivors stay alive while we headed for Rochester. I had no help in the back of the ambulance, all I could do was constantly try to stop bleeding on Howard's Mom, and do CPR to the unidentified man on the floor. (Every time I did compressions on his chest, it sounded like cracking chicken bones… it was a very long ride) After we reached the hospital, Howard finally let his emotions go. He was really a brave man, but he knew what he HAD to do and did it. He thought about all the people effected by this awful accident, and didn't think about his own feelings, I was proud of him.
54. The SUICIDE
It wasn't the first dead body I've seen, but it was the first suicide, a hanging. I got a call at the police station from a mailman. He said an old fellow hadn't checked his mail for a couple days, and like most mail carriers that deliver to elderly people… he was concerned. When I pulled into the yard, I had a sick feeling on this one, I guess I felt the Mail carrier's genuine anxiety.
The screen door was locked from the inside, as was the back screen door. No one would answer either door, in spite of repeated rapping. The painted window cracks hadn't been disturbed, something was wrong. I radioed the Sheriff's office that I was breaking in. When I entered the house, the smell of death was present. I didn't know what the smell was at that time, but later, I came to know what it was. It is something you can't describe, but never forget. As you cautiously move about from room to room, your mind races. What has happened? Is it a bloody mess? Is it horrible? Just what is going to take place next?
After not finding anyone on the main floor, I moved into the basement, and there it was… a body. My heart was pounding; they don't tell you in police school how dead bodies are supposed to look. When someone hangs, their neck stretches out, blood comes out of their nose, their color doesn't look human and they excrete their body waste. It's not a pretty picture. Wait a minute, this must have been a murder, the ceiling of the basement isn't high enough for the guy to hang himself. His knees are almost dragging on the floor. The ceiling was only about 6 feet from the floor. I found out later, it was a suicide. The man had placed the rope around his neck, and applied pressure on the neck arteries, until he passed out, then slumped towards the floor. An officer should never start trying to determine if there was foul play immediately, his or her job should be to preserve that scene FIRST. (The investigation begins AFTER the scene is secured)
I once received a commendation from a county attorney for the proper handling of a crime scene. It was a homicide, occurred a couple blocks from my house, and I was the first police officer on the scene. I made sure the suspect who murdered the woman, was NOT still in the area. (Then I secured the scene.) I took pictures of the murdered woman and the immediate area, but did NOT enter the room. I would not even let other fellow officers go into the room where the crime occurred, until the main investigator arrived. Besides, getting information on the suspect OUT to the other officers was an urgent priority. The first person at a crime scene, (police officer, citizen, or victim) should secure the scene! It takes very few people milling about a crime scene area to destroy valuable evidence. If you ever stumble upon a crime scene, or suspect it may be…don't touch anything, and don't let anyone else even walk around the area, YOU are the boss…till authorities arrive.
55. What is a Dil...worth?
I'm really not sure, but I know it is a suburb of Moorhead Minnesota. (Which some people say is a suburb of Fargo North Dakota… across the Red River) However, I ended up there as Assistant Chief of Police when I left the Pine County Sheriff's Department. It seemed that all of Darlene's brothers and sister lived in the area, and I had been offered a job by the Chief of Police there. We'll call him Chief Dot, since he liked to end sentences with the expression, "Big Dot"
Chief Dot was one of those kinds of guys you just couldn't help but like, a real "Father figure." Like I needed another father) Dot was going to send me to F.B.I. School, he was going to become the sheriff of Clay County, and I was going to be the Chief Deputy. He was a man who could really sell ice to Eskimos.
I talked Chief Dot into starting up a reserve police unit. Since I had started one in Kenyon, and I told him how successful and helpful a good team of volunteers could be… he agreed. And I guess that's where me and Dot's problems started. It seems I had been working with one of his sons, (We'll call him Dot Junior) guiding him in the direction of police work.
His son would ride around with me, night after night, and we became good friends. Dot senior would even cover my shift, so Junior and I could go snowmobiling and fishing together. We really had some good times, and if Chief Dot would have just left things that way, and hadn't had the desire to have Junior take over his throne some day… I believe things would have turned out different. I was the one helping to urge the City Council into hiring Junior to the police department "Full time." Chief Dot and I both wanted it to happen. Junior was my buddy, and so was Dot… And we got him hired!
That was a real turning point, and I understand why. If I had my son in an organization, I would want him to be up front and first in everything that happened. Pretty soon, The "Proud" Godfather and Chief of Dilworth was proud as a peacock of Junior. Some of us began to jokingly call Junior "Boy Wonder" after we heard him tell the mayor, "That boy makes things happen" It ended up in a pissing contest, a lot of hurt feelings, friendships lost. I finally ended up quitting. (After getting a month's suspension) Chief Dot ended up spending about the same amount of time off for "Personal" reasons. Accusations were flying all over, and The Crime Bureau was even called in when I was accused of unlawfully entering a building, during a late night training session with junior.
I even went to Minneapolis for the polygraph test on that deal. (Got paid overtime to drive the squad car part of the way) Junior was a good cop, and after getting away from direct influence of having a father/employer relationship, he became a deputy sheriff, expert police dog trainer/handler, and the last time I heard, he was doing great.
Assistant Chief-Dilworth MN
My police work led to several drug arrests and investigations in Dilworth, Chief Dot had been a long-time hero in Dilworth, and several of the Dilworth reserve officers went in to full-time law enforcement jobs. (Some are ranking officers or investigators now) Chief Dot and I had some heavy influence on several lives over the years, but if we hadn't got tangled up in the "Family" crap… we'd have done well. ANY TIME you work within a company where the family is involved, you damn well better remember… "Blood is thicker than water" Nepotism can be a real bad thing, especially if you ain't "Part of the family."
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56. "On call" Murder
I remember one crime scene I went to that scared the hell out of me, as it happened just a few blocks from our home. I got a call of a shooting just down the street, and being on call at the time... I was first officer there.
I arrive just seconds after the shooting: There were people all around the house where it happened and nothing but confusion. No one knew where the shooter was and he could have been still in the house, the yard or in the neighborhood yet. That's scarry! It seemed that a guy was upset at finding out that his live-in girlfriend was a lesbian and apparently he couldn't handle the idea. He picked up a shotgun and blasted her in the chest at point-blank range. (What a mess) She was dead before she hit the floor.
People seemed to think the shooter had fled the scene, so I got a description of him and his vehicle and put it out to all departments. Within in a short time, the suspect was found by the Minnesota State Patrol. (In a slough near Hitterdal) He was arrested without incident.
I Held the crime scene, took some pictures, and roped off the area for investigators. (Even had to keep out a couple over zealous cops) It helped to commission a few citizens to help keep everyone out of the crime scene area. I later received a commendation from the County Attorney's office for the handling of the crime scene.
Even as a citizen, (As I mentioned earlier) If you come upon a crime scene....preserve it. (At all costs) Don't touch anything, and don't let anyone near the area until police arrive.
57. The Lie detector
On the lighter side of the Dilworth experience, Dot, Junior, and I did have some fun with my "Lie detector" Some of the area police officers still remember that machine. I put together a big wooden and plastic box, about two feet high, two feet across, and about 8 inches thick. The front was covered with a cloudy piece of Plexiglas, with flashing colored lights behind it. I had a slow turning motor with a roll of adding machine paper on it. As the paper rolled from one spool to another, there was a pen that drew a straight line on the paper. (Until I hit the a control switch, that made it "Jump" and show a jagged peak on the paper.) I had a microphone that the suspect was to talk into while being interviewed. (It had a slight feedback sound to it) Then there was the hose with a piece of stethoscope on the end.
It had a couple wires run down inside of it, carrying a low voltage shock upon being activated. This thing looked like it came right out of a Frankenstein movie. It whirred, clicked, buzzed, and belched out some pretty weird sounds. Keep in mind, that this contraption was built for "Fun" only, and was by no means to be used on anyone… until Loony was brought into the station one night. Loony, (We'll call him) was a little "Slow" but this time he had crossed the line, he went from window peeking to exposing himself to an elderly lady. The lady did not want to press charges, but wanted Loony to stay away from her and the neighborhood. (But Loony wouldn't admit doing anything.) Right about now, if you are an attorney, or know anything about the law… you are "Cringing" at the thought of what we were about to do, don't jump the conclusions YET!
Loony agreed he should take the "Lie test" after all he had "Nothing to hide" he told us. We gave him the microphone to answer questions in, had him hold the little black stethoscope piece, put a piece of vacuum hose around his stomach, had him place his foot on a volume control pedal (From an office transcriber machine) The test began. Loony was watching the paper roll slowly, and the pen making a straight line, he was really into this thing. "Is your name Loony?" I asked softly. "Yes" he replied. "Do you live here in town?" I asked in a soft tone. ""Yes I do" Loony replied. ""Are you in the police station right now?" I questioned. "Yes Mr. Blair" replied Loony. THEN… the big one! In a loud voice I asked, "DID YOU SHOW THAT WOMAN YOUR PETER LOONY"? (At the same time I hit the button, sending a mild shock to loony's hand, hit the switch to make the pen jump on the paper and made a buzzer and bell go off. Loony jumped a foot into the air, and began blurting out a complete confession. Then he kept telling us how good that "Lie detector" worked. He said he was sorry, and would NEVER do anything like that again. (We never had any trouble again with Loony. No more window peeking or flashing again.) Case closed!
My "Home-made Lie detector
58. Security Director
Years later I got to see first hand what it was like at the supervisory level of the security business. When I left police work, I worked as Security Director for one of the larger private security companies in Fargo North Dakota. You can't always find the type of people you want, when wages are low, hours are lousy, and security people are needed on weekends and holidays as much, if not more than normal working times. If you want a job that will keep you busy, work at a lot of different things and scratch out a living, be a private security guard. And if you're honest, observant and are dependable when committing to a shift… you'll always have a job.
I remember we had a hospital contract for security, and I was looking for a person to replace one of the people leaving. The person who was best qualified, and I felt would do the best job, was a young lady named Melanie. "But we've never used women in that position before." My boss told me several times, "You better know what you're doing on this one" The contract we had with the hospital was a pretty big chunk of business, and we couldn't afford to lose it. The owner of the company, (We'll call him Jack) agreed to have Melanie try it. He later told me she was the best person we ever hired for that position. (I guess the hospital loved her too) I do feel that women should always be given a chance at ANY job that a man has. If she can do it… she deserves it. (And the pay the job is worth)
Having been a police officer, security person, and gaining knowledge of electronics, made the move into electronic security, burglar and fire alarms, a natural one. It is basically a simple business to get in to, as control panel can be wired with very little knowledge of electronics. I made enough money to survive in the business, and installed some pretty sophisticated systems. One installation, in a prominent Doctors residence, had several zones of protection; it was monitored 24 hrs a day for fire and burglary plus hand-held transmitters to notify police of abduction. A friend of mine named Greg Anderson, (Who is now Deputy Chief With the Moorhead Police Dept.) helping me with installation. Of course my wife and kids helped, as they were always there. Anyway Greg and I were installing a monitored fire and burglary system in the Ostlund chemical Co. warehouse.
I was pulling some cable with a heavy fish-tape wire from the upper level of the building, down through a wall to the control panel. A fish-tape is used to locate, snag and drag wires through walls, and across false ceilings attics etc. All of a sudden the darn thing hung up on something. I wiggled it, Greg tried to get it loose, and we finally had to decide whether to just "Yank" hard and free it. In which case we might break our wires and have to rerun them) or one of us goes back up to see if we can find out what it was hung up on. I was just about to give it a big jerk on the wire fish line, when Greg said, "I'll go up and check it." It was jammed in the automatic sprinkler system. Had I yanked, it would have gushed water onto chemicals down below the pipes. Some of those chemicals were extremely dangerous, poisonous and volatile when wet. Not to mention the thousands and thousands of dollars in ruined product that I would have been responsible for.
A real good lesson here is: When you are uncertain what reaction will occur as a result of an action you are about to take… stop and think for a couple minutes before you make that move. I have found myself in related situations since then, and I am hoping this will stick in your mind, and be helpful if something similar happens to you.
60. Sneaking into Radio
My first full time radio job started at KZ102 in Fargo. It was a new variety FM station, and Hal, the manager was quite a guy, he wanted to know if I had any "Air experience," and I told him "Yeah, I fell out of a balloon once." He laughed and hired me! He did have a unique idea. He wanted to start an overnight trucking program and was looking for someone who knew about trucking, music, and CB radio talking and with radio experience.
I bluffed my way in on the radio experience end of it, because I always remembered the expression: If you can dazzle em with your brilliance, baffle em with your bullshit. (And I do that well) My program was called the Midnight RoadRunner Show, (From 11 P.M. to 3 A.M.) For some unknown reason, everyone began calling me RoadRunner. (A nickname I carry to this day) I played anything the listeners wanted to hear, a lot of comedy, and even talked to truckers on the air. It was fun and the listeners loved it too.
We played country trucking music, oldies, took requests from truckers on the CB radio, and gave away a lot of goodies on the air. The big thing was the sponsorship. We had Jims truck Towing, Selland Motors, Flying J Travel Plaza, Valley Dispatch and Express, Tempte Trailer Company, Butler Machinery, Peterbilt, Mack Truck and anyone who had the money to buy ads related to the trucking industry. It was successful, made money and was it fun.
We even brought Dave Dudley to town. (6 Days on the Road-Truck Drivin Man) I had a few drinks with Dave, and even sang a song with him at the Civic Auditorium. I have talked to Dave a couple times since then, last time we talked, Dave was retired and living in Danbury Wis. with his wife Marie. (Who is a terrific songwriter.)
I remember one night I was giving out RoadRunner Caps to any trucker who came down to the studios to pick it up. Our studio was located in downtown Fargo, and the truckers had to get off interstate 29 or Interstate 94 and wind around smaller streets to get there… and they did. At one time I was worried that the streets were going to cave in at Broadway and First Avenue North. (We had windows in the studio to see out and everyone could see in) I just kept thinking, "Wow, what publicity if the street does cave in, as long as no one gets hurt"
One time a guy who owned a furniture store on Broadway in Fargo, (I won't divulge his name) came by the station with his naked butt hanging out the window. (A friend of his was driving and they just wanted to hear what I'd say I assume) "I just turned to my partner in the studio and said (Over the air) "Did you see the jaws on that dude?" Well, they heard it, and the driver of the car, who was going the wrong way on the one-way street, damn near wrecked the car.
The guy who owned the store and whose butt was out the window is still worried I'll tell the world who he is. (I told him "Larry, if I told the people, they wouldn't believe it") The station was later bought out by KFGO, and that's when I made the move there. I went to KFGO for better pay and better hours. (10 P.M. to 2 A.M.) I left there for better pay and better hours at WDAY. (Afternoon drive time) Months later I got an offer from KQWB (Oldies Station) to move to morning drive, and it too was better pay and better hours. I stayed there for 5 years, (Which I believe is a record for me with ONE company) and was operations manager the last 2 years.
I had a pretty popular show at KFGO; I played nothing but "Kick-ass" music, from Charlie Daniels to Buddy Holly, and anything that was rowdy and fun. KFGO had a reputation for doing news on the hour and the half-hour, and I had to do news too. I just made it interesting by only doing news from the Star, Globe, and Enquirer.
I would take requests, do comedy and you could be sure of 100 calls or more a night on the phone. (Channel 11 came out to do a report on the RoadRunner show, and they couldn't believe how much fun it was) Later I would sell all the ads and get sponsors for the show, and that actually made it more popular. The same style show could still be done and make money, because people love live and fun radio. It's just that most of the stations now days are too format oriented, and it's a lot cheaper to take syndicated stuff off a satellite.
Thanks to Ed Schultz (Who now hosts a national radio show, and Joel Heitkamp, (North Dakota Senator and Talk show host) for getting me back into radio part time... so I still guest host on KFGO from time to time. KFGO has since been purchased by another company who plans on getting the station back to "Live & Local" which is what made KFGO (The "Mighty") station it once was. I
61. Obscene Call?
Jerry Nelson was one of my biggest fans, Jerry would call 50 times a night to request My Way, the Class of 57, and every Elvis song that ever existed. He made one request I'll never forget. It was his boss's birthday, and a bunch of the guys were celebrating at the Tree Top. (We'll call his boss JOE, so we don't embarrass a swell guy) Jerry wanted me to call the Tree Top and wish "Joe" a happy birthday (Live and on the air) I was busy and really didn't want to do it, but after Jerry called 10 or 20 times, I figured I'd do it, and get him out of my hair. So I called the bar (Right on the air) and asked for "Joe" Well, whoever answered the phone recognized my voice, as I heard them say, "It's for you Joe, It's the RoadRunner." I didn't even hear the phone get handed to Joe. The next thing to go into my headset and radios all over the Red River Valley was, "Hi RoadRunner, you old long-peckered son-of-a-gun." (Too late to shut off the switch, It was gone)
I turned down the phone as quick as I could, and said, (Over the air, "Well, he wants RoadRunner to put on a long record and have some fun" (Hoping the listeners would believe that that's what "Joe" said. Not a chance! Deputy Dave, stopped me on the way home from the studio, and asked me how much I paid "Joe" to advertise for me on the radio…ha ha ha. The next day I had to go into Bill Hoverson's (My boss) office and tell him what happened on the air. When I finished telling Bill, he had a big grin on his face and calmly said, "That's live radio, try to be more careful."
62. RADIO 101
I got my start in radio working part time in Wadena Minnesota. Rick and Dan had me on KWAD as a guest to talk about my music career and we became friends. Once I was on, I knew I had to do something different to stand out, so I did what I liked other announcers to do when I was listening to them. I talked to them… instead of talking to a microphone. Really! When you are going to be on radio, TV or give a talk in front of people, just practice in front of a mirror. Most of the time I had a small mirror in the control room to talk to the guy in the mirror. Let me explain it like Bill did. Bill Hoverson was the General Manager of KFGO radio station in Fargo North Dakota when I began work there. (KFGO is a prestigious radio station with a national reputation)
Bill would tell me: Don't say, "There will be a spaghetti feed at the 1st Lutheran church this Saturday from noon till 3 o'clock and it costs $2.00." Bill would say, "Do it like this." "We are all gonna meet for lunch at 1st Lutheran this Saturday, they're having that delicious spaghetti feed they're so famous for, and you'll get plenty to eat for a couple bucks…hope to see ya there" In other words… make pictures with the words you use on radio. (I learned a lot from Bill)
Another guy I worked with at KFGO, was Dave Lee. Dave worked under Bill too. When you listened to Dave, you'd swear he was talking to you and you alone, it must be one of the deciding factors in determining who is an announcer and who is a personality. Last I heard, Dave Lee was at WCCO in Minneapolis-St Paul, (And making a healthy sum of dollars).
Actually, anyone can be on radio, and you can have your own show. All you need to do is think about the advertising value of the program and have a niche. Example: If you have an interest in old cars, start a classic car program every Saturday morning. Again, remember the advertising value of the show.
Go to the local NEW car dealer and ask if they'd be interested in being the only NEW car dealer to be one of the sponsors of the show. (Exclusiveness makes it more worthwhile, and they know if they don't take it, another new car dealer will) Then find a parts store for sponsorship, a mechanical repair shop, a radiator shop, a tire store, and a body shop. Now when you go to the local radio station with the idea, you have people who will buy commercials for it, and that makes it near impossible to turn down. Everyone, who owns a classic car is a potential guest, so is the body shop owner, the mechanic and so on. You can open the phone lines for questions, talk about how to buy an older car and fix it up, what costs are, and where to look for good deals. The same principal applies to the craft business, gardening, cooking, and fishing shows.
I remember when I was a kid watching Harold Ensley's fishing show. He didn't have a voice like Gary Owens, he just talked fishing. Everyone who had caught a fish brought it down to the studios, and all the bait shops, resorts and fishing gear companies wanted to be a sponsor and have Harold display their doo-dads on his show. It is a little harder these days, with all the syndicated and satellite shows on radio and TV, but if it looks like it will make money, you will have a show.
I called managers and booking agents of famous people, and told them that my listeners had picked a certain star, as being the favorite person they would like me to interview "On the air". It worked…I actually got live interviews with Mickey Gilley, Ralph Emery, John Conally, Jerry Clowers, Tommy Roe, Dave Dudley, Freddie Cannon, and several others. I was just a part-time "Rookie" at a small-town radio station at the time. Remember what I talked about earlier, confidence IS the key to opening doors and if you don't have it… you better develop the ability to "Appear" and sound like you are confident.
63. The Family band
When my first daughter was born in 1966, I was looking for the first member of a family band. (Being inspired by the Browning Family band) I didn't know if I was going to have a mess of kids, but whatever and however many I had, would make up a band. As soon as she was old enough, I started teaching my oldest daughter (Darla) how to beat on coffee cans to the time of music, As soon as Danny's (My son) fingers were long enough, I began teaching him how to play the guitar. Meanwhile, I had already taught my Wife (Darlene) how to play bass. (My other daughter, Danita, Decided she didn't want to learn how to play) She is the middle child, and to this day, believes that any and all problems that exist in her life are because she was the "Middle child."
She was going to learn to play once, but Darla made fun of her because Danita had a banjo. (And had been practicing) Danita got mad about that, and never played again. (Very stubborn) None of my kids were "Forced" to learn to play music, but were given the opportunity to learn, and wanted to. Once they made the decision to play… I did make them practice, and STAY with it. (I did have to use unreasonable force on Darlene) I had to make a book with all the words to the songs I was playing and singing, and the chord changes above the words. I found out later, she was memorizing each and every change to the songs, rather than listening for the changes. Most recently, she has taken up the drums, she said there's a lot less pressure and seems to enjoy it more. (Besides, I think she's pretending to beat me with the sticks)
I wrote a song that I was sure would be a hit, but I couldn't even get a record company to look at it. Darlene and I recorded the song together, it was called, and "I got a headache and I'm not in the mood" I really think Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn would have made it a hit. Are you ready for some of the words? Here goes! (Of course, it's better with music) BUT… here's the song:
(Tom) Well I took a shower and I shaved again, making love to my wife's no sin,
I turned on the stereo and I shut out the light, looks like I'm finally gonna make it tonight.
(Darlene) I'm too tired, it's too late, and I'm not in the mood.
(Tom) Well a week went by I had a chance to unwind, I hope she still remembers what is on my mind,
The next day I figured it was just a bout time, so I said "Oh honey" will you be mine.
(Darlene) The kids are awake, I got a headache and it's just not the time.
(Tom) Why is it always such a fight? (Darlene) Why can't you wait till tomorrow night?
(Tom) I'm tired of waiting for what is mine. (Darlene) I think this weekend will be the time.
(Tom) This weekend is coming and there be no excuse, I'm gonna turn her every way but loose.
I came home from work ready, willing and able, I found a note laying on the kitchen table.
(Darlene) I went to see my mom she was feeling ill, besides I forgot to take the pill,
don't get mad when you read this letter, I think next month will be a whole lot better.
(Tom) NEXT MONTH? What happen to this month?
(Talking as a mild argument)
(Darlene) Is that all you men think about?
(Tom) Lately I been giving it a whole lot of thought.
(Darlene) I think you should go see a doctor.
(Tom) What do think I am some kind of pervert?
Darlene) MEN! (Tom) WOMEN!
When Darla (My oldest daughter) was 12 years old, and I was the Assistant Chief of Police in Dilworth, we started playing at a local restaurant lounge as a 3-piece band. We kept getting more and more jobs, and soon we were working wedding dances, private clubs, and bars all around Fargo North Dakota. Danny (My son) joined the band in about 1981, when he was 10 years old.) after we moved to Wadena Minnesota. The family band was fun; we met a lot of fun people, and made some money at it too. It is good for young people to be in a band, it boosts their confidence and helps them learning to communicate and mix with a variety of people.
Music was a big part of family life when I was growing up. Uncle Joe played the upright bass, uncle R.C. played guitar, Fern played fiddle, Grandpa had a fiddle, and so did Cousin Gary. Ruby played piano, Uncle Bob played guitar, if they didn't play an instrument, they would sing, and the list goes on and on. I can remember, as a kid being down in the Ozarks at a cabin, the entire family would be playing music and fishing. It seemed that everyone was cleaning fish, dancing, singing, playing music, or taking their turn getting a little sleep. (And of course drinking) You do not have to be a "Natural" at music, most people have some kind of musical talent, and it just has to be developed. Don't wait to see if your child is "Musically gifted" before you get them involved in music, get them started at an early age in some form of music. It has been scientifically proven, that music helps develop a child's brain faster and more efficiently.
64. Night club Manager
I always wanted to own a nightclub of my own, as do many people. So one time when our family band was playing at the Elks Club in Wadena Minnesota, I told a guy named Jim, who had hired us for the gig, that I would like to own a place like this someday. "Maybe you should hire me as manager" I told him. (I figured the best way to learn was at someone else's expense.) He asked me if I ever ran a club, and I told him no, but it would be really simple, "just make sure everyone who comes in has a good time, and they'll come back." He must have been impressed, a couple months later; he called and offered me a job managing the club. (Little did I know it was in such BAD shape financially, We're talking, in the red all the way.) How am I going to do this? I didn't even know how to mix a drink, let alone run a bar. I did tell them I wanted an "Air-tight" contract for one year. (In case they suddenly realized that I didn't know what I was doing,) They agreed to the contract, and I took the job.
I immediately called an old police buddy of mine named Tork, he was pretty educated, and had run a big business more than once. (We went through rookie police training together, and had had some pretty heavy police duty together in the Pine County Sheriff's Department) After I explained to him what I had taken on, he said I wouldn't have any problems, just get a good bookkeeping person to tell me where the money goes, and do just what I planned to do, make sure everyone has a good time at the club. That's what I did, and it worked.
Here is what I did: While the waitresses made the drinks, (And I made some effort to learn how to mix them in my spare time) I set up a corner of the bar with some pull-tabs, set up a board of prizes, and began having fun with the customers. Happy hour sometimes consisted of "Bingo for bottles." So it costs $2.50 for a bottle of champagne, 10 customers pay fifty cents for a bingo card that's $5.00. (I just made $2.50 and it was entertaining for the customers.) I bought a deer rifle, a shotgun, a 22 rifle, a rod and reel, and set up a jar of numbers to draw at $1.00 a draw. There were 2,000 numbers in that box. (It didn't look like that many tickets, but those of you who play pull-tabs, know how many tickets can be in a jar.) If you got a 111, 222, 333 etc. or a number like that, you'd get a free drink. Once I'd recover the cost of the raffle items, the profit went into a special box, to buy a big screen TV. And I did have one of those after a short time. The TV became a big draw for special events too.
Friday night I had a "Crazy" bingo night. I had 20 envelopes hanging on a ladder; an envelope would have a piece of paper saying $25, $100, or maybe $200. (I was the only one who knew what amount was in the envelopes) If you got a bingo, you'd pick out the envelope you wanted, and come up to the cash table in front, where I would have all cash piled up on the table. I would give them ALL ones, (Easy to spend and it looks like more money) Now let's get everyone else to be part of the entertainment. I bought some red clown noses, some funny looking glasses and some antennas that a space alien would wear and passed them out before bingo. I had several bottles of booze, Windsor, Barcardi, champagne, 6 pack of beer and who knows what else on the table by the cash. When the first game of bingo would start, I would announce that "This is a nose game" meaning, if you got a bingo, and was wearing the red nose, you'd also get choice from the bottle display too" Maybe next game it would be glasses and antenna game. Then after each game, I instructed the people to tear up their cards and throw them into the air. (What a mess at the end of the night, but it was fun, and the waitresses learned to use rakes instead of brooms for the clean up.)
Do you have any idea what it looks like to see a couple hundred people wearing clown noses, space antennas, and covered with shredded bingo cards having a blast? Well, It causes more people to want to join in, and everyone becomes part of the entertainment. It wasn't a bunch of little old ladies; we had construction workers, bankers, business people, and all kinds of people having a great time. The board complained that we weren't selling much booze during the bingo games; I informed them how much profit there can be in a glass of ice and a shot of pop at a dollar a pop.
Private clubs and fraternal organizations are having a harder time making it these days, there are just too many things going on, and lifestyles are different than they used to be. Most of these types of organizations are resorting to "loose door" policies, and getting the public into their clubs to help make money. Get away from the "Big salad bar" limit the menu to one size steak, chicken or shrimp, simple salad, baked potato and drink. Utilize volunteer help for the kitchen, and keep the price cheap. You want them to come for dinner, and the entertainment start about the time they're finished eating.
What I learned in the 2 years running a nightclub was enough to convince me I could run ANY business. A business must keep labor costs down, make a profit margin on what they offer to the public and again remember, if the customer has a good time… (They're treated well) "They WILL come back." What else do you need to know?
65. PAIN, UNEMPLOYMENT and WELFARE
I fell off a ladder at the club, hurt my back, and found out I couldn't return to the 12 to 14 hour days on my feet. The doctor told me I was going to have to change my vocation. "I'll drive a truck" I replied. He said no; you can't spend hour after hour driving, sitting, or standing. What was I going to do? I couldn't find a job, especially while I was recovering.
I received workman's comp for a while. I asked the insurance company if they would help me get some training to do something. The man I talked to at Workman's Comp. said "If you want anything, you better get a lawyer." (I didn't want a lawyer, I wanted a job) (But ended up getting an attorney) A few times I felt I might be able to handle a certain job, and my lawyer would say "No, don't do that, we won't get anything on the lawsuit" "How the hell am I going to live?" I asked him. Go on welfare! Besides, the lawyer said we'd pay welfare back when we got the settlement.
Hell…we got food stamps, free eye care, doctor calls, fuel oil, AFDC, and I don't know what all. I figured out one time, that I'd have to have a job clearing a couple thousand dollars a month to equal what I was getting on welfare. "I see why some people don't want to get off this stuff," I thought to myself.
After a year or so, we finally got a settlement (We didn't get near what we should have, my lawyer sold me out in the final minutes of negotiations) However I recovered, learned a vocation (More job-hopping) and this was another experience to broaden my knowledge. The sad part is, many people have to go through the same experience and shouldn't have to. When you are hurt on the job, and you have permanent injuries, the insurance company should have to pay enough money to keep you alive while you negotiate the extent and degree of injuries. It shouldn't be welfare supporting you, while you struggle to survive. (Waiting for the insurance company and lawyers to do everything they can to starve you into a "weak" settlement)
66. Farmer Tom
What I know about farming would fill a very small page. I know that farmers get up with the roosters, sleep with the hogs, work like a horses and get treated like dogs, and evaporated milk doesn't come from "Dry" cows. I guess my first experience at farming was near Greenridge Missouri. My Dad was a farmer, and I used to sit on his lap and drive the old Farmall. My dad told me I needed to be along, in case he got tired and needed me to steer the tractor. Of course he would always get tired, just about the time I was ready to drive. It felt good, being a part of something. As a matter of fact, I believe that that's a big part of the problem with young people today, they don't feel needed. Years ago on the farm, kids WERE needed. You had chores to do, it wasn't just something to do because Mom or Dad didn't want to do it, it was a responsibility you were assigned that had to be done.
Another job I had when we were on the farm was to get on top of the corncrib pile and kick the corn down while dad was shoveling it. Of course the corn would have fallen down without me every time dad would scoop up another shovel full. Then when we would go to market, I got my share of the bounty. 15 cents! Wow! There was always a tremendous decision to make after being paid. Do I buy one 5-cent candy bay and a 10-cent bottle of pop? Do I buy 3 candy bars and get a drink of water later? Then Dad would remind me I should save some money for a rainy day. (I usually saved my guilt on the savings thing till AFTER I drank the pop and ate the candy) Saturday night was like a carnival in a lot of small towns.
In Greenridge there was a town square park in the center of town, and it had a screen, stage and small projection house. Every Saturday night it was the "Free" show, and we'd get to see movies like "Gangbusters," (an Elliot Ness style gangster-good-guy show) "Commander Cody" (He was the first man to have a rocket back-pack) and could fly like a bird. Of course there were cartoons and newsreels. We'd take our own buttered popcorn along, the women would sit around and talk, (After doing some shopping) and the men would hang around the feed store and hardware store, talking farm stuff and swapping stories. Nowadays, no one wants to be open on Saturday night, because no one wants to work, so I doubt if the Saturday night family go to town days are over. (I think it was another broken thread that kept family's doing things together)
I did have a short run at some serious farming in 1965, shortly after Darlene and I were married. We were living in Portland Oregon, and I got my draft notice, so we immediately left Oregon to get back to Minnesota, that way I would be inducted from the same area where all of my wife's family lived. Somehow, Darlene managed to get pregnant during the trip from Oregon to Minnesota. I wasn't trying to beat the draft; I just wanted to get caught up on homework before going to Viet Nam. Where else would they send a young kid who had been to a military school and "Loved" guns? A front row seat in the infantry. As it turned out, upon learning of my wife's condition, I was reclassified to 3A. (All of a sudden they were NOT taking married men with dependants. I still have feelings of guilt about not going to Viet Nam, even though at the time I was ready to go and never considered getting out of it. I have a cousin who got shot all to hell over there, and to this day he is bitter about it. We should have been allowed to win that one!
Well, here I am in Minnesota, broke, pregnant wife, the service put me on hold… what's next? I grabbed a job with a farmer… driving tractor; after all I had experience didn't I? And that's what I told Bert, (The farmer) I told him the truth, "I used to drive tractor on our farm in Missouri, my whole family was farmers" (He bought it) I am glad he had me pulling a disc for starters, but the size of that tractor was unbelievable. (John Deere 4020 I believe) At the time it was a monster, and this is one time I was scrambling to learn how to operate something I had never seen, let alone driven. I did ask him about some of the controls that I "Wasn't used to" Talk about a long, boring and tedious job, farming has to be it. We were up before daylight eating breakfast, then to the fields and that's where you stayed all day and half the night. When lunch was brought to you in the field, you felt like you hadn't seen a human for years. All I wanted to do was eat that turkey sandwich and talk. Like I had been on a deserted island, and this was the first person I had seen, and the first food I had laid eyes on for months. I actually did quite well, (Considering the lack of experience) What you lack in experience on a new job, you make up for in concentration.
Once I concentrated too long on driving straight, I should have looked back, because I was pulling a fence and a whole lot of poles behind me. This Bert was a pretty patient guy… not only did he NOT get pissed, he held the same composure when I got the tractor stuck and he had to readjust the clutch before I could get back into the fields. At the end of only one-week I decided that I didn't like farming as much as when dad and I did it, I called back to Oregon to see if they had held my job for me. They did… and I went back.
67. The SEMINAR KING
I have attended quite a few seminars, listening to slick talking people tell me how rich I can get, how to sell anything to anybody, and be a much better person for it. Every seminar I attended I wanted to get up there and "help em out" I didn't want to watch…I wanted to be up there myself. What a way to make a living, talking to people and getting money for it. I did a seminar for Dale Alwin, who used to be my sales manager at KFGO, and I really enjoyed doing it. Dale had his own station at Devils' Lake North Dakota, and said he thought the seminar was good, and gave me a nice letter of recommendation. I decided to go for IT. I will be the next seminar king. I know how advertising works, and what the important factors are in getting people to buy products.
Among some of the many talents, I have acquired, is the knowledge of producing, writing and recording radio and TV commercials. If you have a business and you plan on advertising, you want a commercial that will make people listen, want your product, give a reason to buy now and come into your business to buy it. That's really the bottom line, and you don't need an expert to tell you that that's what you want.
However if you want an expert, I am one… so is your next-door neighbor, your kids, friends and YOU. Anyone who makes a purchase does so for a number of reasons. First of all they need something or want something, (Or you convince them in a commercial they need or want etc.) Where and why they buy from one place or another is not a mystery either. You buy a car from a certain dealer for a number of reasons: Selection, (They happen to have the one you wanted.) A dealer gives the best deal. (Price), The service is excellent. (You've been there before or someone you know has) You like the people who work there or you are comfortable, with the people and it is close and convenient. I don't know of anyone who has ever purchased a product because of an overbearing, obnoxious, abrasive, screaming commercial. (And there are certainly enough of them on radio and TV) Many of them, you can't even understand what they are saying, let alone get a subconscious message.
Let's look at some of the people who try to sell advertising for radio, TV, and print. They want to sell you "Spots" or ads, and they emphasize rates, cost per thousand, frequency of ads, placement of ads, etc. YOU WANT customers, not spots. Is the salesperson a customer of the business they are trying to get to advertise, if not they should be. I always made it a point to buy from people who advertised from me when I was on radio and involved in sales.
Usually the person who sells the ads, writes the ads, produces the ad, and plays the ad on radio, are all different people. The best made ads are made by people who know about the business that they are advertising for. I really gave the merchants and media a good seminar, (so I thought). The problem is: When people go to a seminar, they expect to be entertained.
People usually walk away from a seminar with a few good points to remember, but they want humor, not writer's cramp. You must have goodies for them to walk away with. Sell them tapes, books, and definitely a free workbook to take back to the office and leave on the shelf forever. But most important… make them leave feeling good about themselves, and have one or two real neat Ideas you gave them to try.
68. Health Products
A few years ago I was talking to an old radio friend of mine, named Steve Tweed. Steve does impersonations and has held almost as many jobs as I have. Steve told me that Swanson Health Products was looking for someone to book speakers on radio shows. He said Swanson's was a big company, growing like crazy, and the man who ran Swanson's (Lee Swanson) was one of the nicest guys you'd ever want to work for. (We'll touch on bosses a little later in this chapter) It was a commission only job, but seemed like something I could do. The first problem: Local talk shows are getting to be fewer, while more and more people are wanting to con the radio personalities into interviewing them. (And so many of these people are selling "Snake Oil" and dull books) My job was to schedule different people for radio interviews and these people would then promote their products using our toll-free number. Getting the guests and radio interviewers from all over the country together for interviews wasn't that simple. Setting the appointments was time consuming and frustrating. I wish I could do the shows myself…Wait a minute… WHY NOT? All I need to do is become an expert on something in the Health industry. (So I became an expert on smoking)
In 1993, Darlene asked me what it would take to get me to quit smoking, and I told her "A new Harley Davidson motorcycle." Surprisingly, she agreed to let me have one. An FLHTP (Police special) Harley. Before the year was over..., I was smoking again. I did what I had to do and what I promised to do… SELL the Harley. Damn...how dumb am I? I did manage to put about 12,000 miles on in it before I lost it.
Now a lot of people tell me how stupid I was, and I agree, but people risk losing their lungs, life and health in general, but keep on smoking. I have been a smoker for over 40 years, so I must be an expert on smoking addiction, so I started a study on how to be a healthier smoker. I began my research and learned some very interesting facts from other experts who tell me the following: A cigarette takes about 6 minutes off your life. So I needed a product to curb the urge to smoke as much. (I found a product called Cigno, containing a homeopathic ingredient that helps curb the urge, and cut back) One cigarette destroys large amounts of vitamin c when you smoke it. So, a smoker's need to take a lot of vitamin C if they are not going to quit. (Sustained release in better) Vitamin A helps protect mucus membranes in the throat and lungs, so a smoker needs more vitamin A than the average person.
Research shows that people with lung cancer appear to have deficiencies of Beta Carotene and B complex, another supplement beneficial to the smoker. (Of course quitting the damn things would be much smarter… but I am (Like many people) hopelessly ADDICTED. I now had the basic ingredients for a Smoker's Survival Kit. We put in the right vitamin supplements, a smokers guide to helping quit, smoker's breath gum, the deterrent spray and pretty reasonable price tag for a 30-day supply.
I started booking myself on radio shows. (Giving that "Appearance" of confidence) I AM AN EXPERT ON SMOKING CESSATION, RIGHT? Well, it worked, as I did interviews on shows like Bo Hudson, Frank O'Leary in Chicago, Ken Behren's Show, Andy Barber in Tulsa, JJ and the morning Crew in Detroit, The Morning Ace in Tampa Bay and even had fun With Steve Canon's night show. We helped people cut back on smoking, and helped those Die hard (No pun intended) smokers live a little longer. (We had quite a few re-orders too) I still puff away, but religiously take those vitamin supplements. I must have done ok, as Lee Swanson himself offered me a job as National sales rep. for Swanson's Health Products. Want a free catalog? E-mail a note to: Swansonsvitamins@aol.com
When I started in national sales, for Swanson, I knew very little about vitamins and supplements. So all I had to do was learn, and that I did. I grabbed every publication I could find on the subject and began filling my head with information about the business. In just a couple month's, I was in Vegas at a health product trade show, talking to heads of companies and selling them advertising in our publications.
A few months later, on to Baltimore and working with more clients. (Helping them get products approved for distribution with our company. (Swanson is selective about products they sell, and with a waiting line of clients wanting us to carry their products… Swanson can afford to be selective. I do believe everyone should be taking supplements of some kind, how much and what kinds, depends on your lifestyle. Foods now days do not contain all the vitamins and minerals you need. I have also learned that there are homeopathic medicines that work in curing hemorrhoids to hay fever, and other health problems. (Without drugs) Remember, when talking homeopathic medicines, what works for one person, may not work for another, (So you may have to try a couple different kinds) but they are not nearly as expensive or as harmful as drugs. There are herbs that heal. I am sure you have heard of the miracles of garlic? It works, and I don't care how many doctors (Who make a living prescribing drugs) say they have little faith in herbal nutrition… it is NOT harmful, and millions of people swear by them. I am sure you have used Aloe Vera, it comes from a plant (Originally from Africa) and is used for burns, sunburns, constipation, diabetes and wound healing. It is an herb. Cayenne, Ginseng, Echinacea and Feverfew are popular herbs you may have heard of. Ginkgo Biloba is an herb that has been in the news a lot for use as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease.
You must realize that the big drug companies can't get a patent on Maitake mushrooms, and they can't make money selling you flax oil, when you could make it yourself, if you had a press. So they sell drugs! Ask your doctor about vitamins, I believe he (Or she) you will be told that they can't hurt, and will probably help. There is such a thing as taking too many vitamins and supplements, and there are recommended dosages, but the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) you always hear about… isn't enough for most people. (Especially older people) My wife, who had the brain damage, takes B-6 regularly, (Because a medical doctor told her to) can tell when she isn't taking it regularly.
If I go a few days without my vitamin C, E and garlic… I can feel the difference. Most experts will tell you, when taking the B vitamins, take them equal, or B-complex. Your reputable health food store will help decide what is best for your needs, and they also have plenty of books on the subject. One I recommend is called the Natural Pharmacy, by Dr. Skye Liniger. Prima Publishing www.primapublishing (If you have a computer and are on the net.)
69. BOSS? SUPERVISOR? FRIEND?
One thing about being a "Job hopper" you certainly learn how to survive under a variety of bosses and supervisors. Take Lee Swanson for instance. The guy ALWAYS says "Hi" to employees he meets in the halls, takes a little time to talk to everyone about THEIR interests. He gives you the feeling he's glad you are a part of the company, and makes you feel like a friend, the kind of boss you want to WORK for, and do whatever it takes to make them happy with your accomplishments. (Even though the boss must keep that social barrier in place.) After all, no one really works hard for someone they can't stand or don't respect. But it is enjoyable to work for someone you respect as a leader without being "Friends."
70. Being liked?
You don't have to be as good, if you are liked. Think about that, as it applies to the people around you at the work place. It isn't right, but that's the way it is. You need to learn how to use that to your advantage.
I learned that from being a drummer in a small country band in Vancouver Washington. I was playing drums for a little country band called Joe White and the Countryaires. (We'll call the bar the Riviera tavern.) We played Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and real country music, and everyone liked Joe. Joe had a great personality, and you could tell he loved to entertain the people. He could take a new song, even if he didn't know it, and play it. If he did a lousy job, it didn't make any difference what we played or how we played it, cause Joe was liked and there wasn't anything he could do wrong. If Jay, the guitar player hit sour notes and I lost a beat on the drums… who cares, old Joe's band was the best. (Because they liked Joe and his band)
When you deal with people in business, you need to be liked, and if you are a boss, you should try to be liked. I know a lot of bosses will say, "I don't care if anyone likes me, as long as they get their job done" That's really bull crap, and I'll tell you why. Have you ever bought anything from someone you don't like? (Unless you had to) Will you work as hard for someone you think is a "Dork" as for someone you admire? (I don't think so)
Now this doesn't mean a boss can't be firm. I have (and I am sure you have) worked for someone who is firm, but fair, demanding, but respectful of you, and expects production out of you, but isn't afraid to praise you for a job "Well done." You like a boss like that, and as a result you WILL work harder for him or her. The same holds true for an employee. The boss isn't going to give a better assignment to an "Unlikable" employee, and will certainly be more apt to give favors to an employee he or she likes. I cannot understand how a boss that looses employee after employee, year after year, while the same people he looses, go to work for bigger and better companies and become very successful. We're talking about hard working talented individuals who get along with everybody. (And the boss doesn't consider for a minute that he or his organization may be at fault) You know what I am saying, I am sure you've seen the same thing.
71. How many friends do We have?
How do you determine who is REALLY a friend? It really isn't that hard to tally them up. I remember my Dad telling me, "If you go through your entire life, and only have a handful of friends… you'll be very lucky" It's taken a few years. But I understand, and I'll share it with you.
Take a person you consider a friend, leave $100,000 with them to save for you, and the love of your life, leave him or her in their care... while you take an important business trip for a month. A REAL friend would not touch the money or your loved one. (And if your mate allowed your friend to have their way, he or she would not be a friend either.) If a friend lost everything they own, and ended up in jail for robbing a bank, would you go visit them in jail? If you were a friend you would, they may need your comfort and help. If the offense were child molestation, that would be a different story. I would have to agree with a statement I heard Charlie Daniels make. "A child molester is lowest form of life there is."
To have a friend, you must be a friend, and that definitely applies to a wife or husband. The biggest reason my wife and I are together after 33 years, is because we are "First of all" friends. And of course we have a 50/50 marriage, she buys $50 worth of junk at a garage sale, and I spend 50 cents for a fishing lure. (Just kidding) If you think marriage IS a 50/50 proposition, you are either NOT married, or you know anything about percentages. When someone is planning to marry another, the first thing they always say is, "We love each other so much" or " I really love her", (Or him) That isn't nearly as important as being friends. You must first be friends; the love will develop and grow. I don't know who said it, (But it was a very wise person) "A friend is one who knows everything about you, and still likes you." So if you are "In love" with someone… better make sure you like them, because when the fire is gone, health is bad, and you fall on hard times… that "Friend" you have (your spouse) will still be there. (Because you're "Friends")
72. I LOVE YOU!
When my Brother in Law Irvin died a couple years ago, I remember telling friends and relatives that I had never told Irvin that I loved him. Why was that so important? Because I'll never get the chance again, (And I don't know if he knew it) We were friends for years and never even told him I liked him, and that he WAS a good friend. THINK for a moment how many people you like (And love) and have never once told them how you feel. It may seem difficult for a man to say it to another man, but a simple "I love you man" when you're leaving, (Or he is leaving) will mean a lot. If you don't... some day you will be sorry.
73. The Rochester experience
The morning of November 13th 1990 was a real turning point in my life. I was the Morning guy on radio station KQWB. (The original and historic rock and roll station that had played the hits from the 50's, and never changed the format.) I had just finished the morning show, and received a call from the Fargo Police Department. They said my wife had been in a car accident. "Is she hurt?" I asked. The dispatcher said, "We are not allowed to give out that information" She stated. I knew then, something terrible was wrong after hearing that. I immediately went over to St. John's Hospital, where she was being treated in the emergency room. I found out she had ran over the curb and hit a stop sign. "She couldn't be badly hurt," I said to myself, and besides, she always wore her seat belt, and was a very careful driver.
When I reached the hospital emergency room, she was on a respirator and unconscious. They informed me that she had had an aneurysm on the brain, and it had broken. It was the same month in which her dad had died; her mom had died of a similar problem with the brain, and had died in minutes. To top it off, our 25th wedding anniversary was the 5th, and we had celebrated it the month before. I knew she wasn't going to live; the cards were stacked up wrong. She had suffered severe headaches in the past, and we thought it was just stress. She was transferred to St. Luke's into intensive care.
The doctor's prognosis was not good, he said that the part of her brain that controlled speech had been destroyed, and that most people who had an aneurysm break in their brain were dead before they hit the ground. (But this was one tough Norwegian, her dad's name was Ole, and the whole family had a stubborn streak. (If anyone could beat the odds… SHE could.)
It had happened on a Tuesday, and Thursday night the doctors called me into a room to talk. (I also asked the kids to come in; after all it was their mother) The Doctor said her lungs were filling up, and it didn't look like she was going to make it. We all started crying, and my oldest daughter told the doctor that Mom always said she didn't want to be a vegetable, and we didn't want her to suffer. When something like this happens, you don't get an option to unplug anything, you just have to wait and see what happens, and take whatever you are given.
Somehow, she managed to live through the night, although still unconscious and on a respirator. The doctor told me it was time to get her to Rochester; she must have brain surgery to "Attempt" to repair the aneurysm, before it started bleeding again.
The next morning we boarded a private twin-engine hospital plane. A respiratory therapist was manually keeping Darlene alive; there was also a nurse, an EMT, a pilot, co-pilot and myself. (This was one expensive ambulance ride) I must say that Fargo has one of the best ambulance services in the country. The people are not only well trained; they are compassionate and caring as well. When we reached Rochester, they wouldn't relinquish care to another service, they insisted on taking her all the way in to St. Mary's emergency receiving room in Rochester. It's one of those experiences where you keep saying to yourself, "This isn't really happening is it?"
Once in the hospital, they kept insisting that she get blood, as her hemoglobin count was down to a drastic level. (Plus they couldn't operate) My wife has always made it known she WILL NOT take blood in any form. (Being a Jehovah's Witness) So the waiting game began, they were pumping IV's into her, and doing everything they could to get her hemoglobin up… to no avail.
One night, as I sat beside her in intensive care, she woke up. I couldn't believe it! Then I thought she was trying to say something, so I leaned over, and heard the words, "I love you, and I want some ice cream" "Impossible" I said to myself, All the doctors said her speech was destroyed. I ran to get a nurse, who didn't believe me, she got the doctor, (Who assured me she wasn't able to talk) and She wouldn't speak. Why? After the doctor left, (Mumbling under his breath I am sure) I asked Darlene to tell the nurse what she wanted, and she said she wanted some ice cream. This was the turning point, was it possible for her to make a comeback? The thought of surgery was terrifying to say the least.
Even though Dr. Peipgrass was a more than competent surgeon, a well-liked doctor who has performed thousands of successful surgeries, the odds were against her ever being the same again. Even if the operation was a success, the possibility of her being paralyzed on one side was great. Her Hemoglobin never got up to what they considered a favorable range, but they had to go ahead anyway.
A few weeks later, after nine and half-hours of brain surgery, refusal of blood, and slim chances of living at all, we were driving home from Rochester together. She had a shaved head, crossed eyes, so skinny she looked like she had just been released from a concentration camp, and talked in broken words and thoughts. But I didn't care; I was willing to take her in whatever form God allowed. Here we go into the millennium, Darlene has recovered, and as I write this passage, we are preparing for a usual trip to Sturgis South Dakota for the motorcycle rally. She isn't babbling from a wheel chair, or riding in a sidecar, no… she has her own full dress 1100 cc Goldwing motorcycle, and scored in the top of her class in the experienced rider course. She has all of her memory back, (Except for one week before the accident) and has no problems speaking or saying anything. (Which I sometimes have mixed emotions about)
74. lessons learned
This may have seemed like an unimportant chapter in this book, but let me share some things I learned from this experience, that may later help you through a tragedy of similar magnitude. Everyone who goes to Rochester doesn't recover, but if you are ever in the position to go there yourself, or have a loved one who is in need of critical care
(And has the opportunity to be taken there) should go. It is more than the ultimate care facility. I spent enough time roaming the halls, and watching the employees, to realize that they don't just hire talented people, most of the people that are employed there, sincerely care about people in general. They also go to extremes to assist family that have loved ones in there. Remember that no matter how bad things get, they CAN get better, and what ever you go through, it can be a learning experience that will make you a stronger and wiser person.
No matter what happens to you, or a loved one, you have the built-in ability to deal with it, you must remind yourself of that often. (It will give you strength and confidence) Finally, LIVE life to the fullest by enjoying the loved ones around you, they are going to die, and so are you; the only question is… who's first and when?
75. The BIG FLOP!
I guess the biggest failure I ever had, where I actually lost money on a deal was the "Love Tag" company I started. I paid $5,000 for a franchise for a territory selling registration for children in a national databank. The idea was fantastic, and the company was reputable. You bought iron-on tags for your children's clothing and belongings.
If the child was abducted, injured or lost, emergency personnel could simply look at the iron-on tag on the child's clothing, and call a toll free number on it. A central dispatcher would then notify parents with pertinent information. The company also could relay information on medical conditions, allergies, other people to notify, family doctor, clergy and other important information. The concept was wonderful, but I ran into two BIG problems: People will not hesitate a second to spend several thousand dollars to buy a boat, motorcycle, RV, personal watercraft, car, or similar toy. But they will balk, hesitate, bicker and argue over spending $25 to help protect their kids by having a means of identification on their person. Think about this, millions of children walk to school daily, play in other neighborhoods, and ride around with other young people without any means of identification what so ever on them. If they are injured, it sometimes takes hours to find out who they are, where they live, and who to contact about their condition. Problem 2: Finding people that want to work and help make it a success. Even when they could make money at it. I ran ads in the paper, interviewed people, and had meetings with folks who liked the idea, and appeared to be concerned. It totally flopped!
76. Proof a God exists?
HOLD IT… I am not some kind of a religious "Nut" pushing my views on you. I am here to help you, and if you analyze what I am about to tell you, you SHOULD be able to make a good judgment call as to the belief in the existence of a God. Some scientists say we came from some kind of Ameba slime, that slithered out of the water, and over a period of several million years "Evolved" into what we are today. What are the odds of that, and why didn't all the creatures evolve into man? (Some probably took a look at man and said, "No thank you huh?)
When they talk about the "Big bang" theory, I have to wonder how these complex bodies of ours can function so well by "Chance." Whether you believe in the Bible or not, you will have to agree on one thing: (As most scientists do) it was written a few thousand years ago.
The Bible says that man was formed from the dust of the earth. How could anyone look at their body and believe that it is made of dirt, yet people had faith that we are made of the dust of the earth. Of course, not that many years ago, scientist who analyzed the components of our body and "Discovered" that WE ARE made out of… Dirt. There isn't any ingredient in our bodies, that isn't found in the earth's soil.
The Bible says (Ecclesiates 8:17) that "Man will always be trying to find the secret of life, sometimes he will say he has it… but he never will." Man can't even duplicate a 1 inch square piece of skin, let alone any part of the body or "Life." Columbus discovered the earth was round, look up John 26:7 and Isaiah 4:22.
Man "Discovered" electricity? The electric eel has been generating 600 volts for many years before man claimed to discover it. But man did invent jet propulsion right? The octopus has been using jet propulsion for thousands of years, then of course there is radar, man's invention? God designed the bat, with MUCH more sophisticated sonar than we will ever be able to make.
If you think that all this life came about by "Chance," put a piece of carbon, (Like in a lead pencil) a piece of wood, a half-ounce of yellow paint, and a piece of eraser on the ground; Put it where there will be tornadoes and explosions hitting that little pile of stuff every day. See how long it will take to make one pencil, then compare the complexity of a human body to a pencil.
Read scripture yourself, and don't try to start at the beginning, and read the whole thing at once, do what the Bible says, hop around, (Go to and fro) look at what ever interests you. (By the way, those pictures of Jesus with long hair, (Our kids always refer to) Look up 1st Cor. 11:14.
77. Is there a "TRUE" Religion?
I have always believed in a God, but what religious organization has the corner on the real one? (The Bible says there are many Gods, and is does appear to be so) But there are so many good people in so many various religions, and greedy, phony people too. How do you tell which one is right? (And most religions do claim to be the right one.) Yet the Bible states (Acts 17:24) "God does not dwell an "Man-made" buildings" I guess that means fancy churches don't have a corner on the God market.
My mom went to a Methodist Church; Dad's side of the family was all Baptists, when I was a kid I went to a Presbyterian Church, Four Square Gospel, and anything else that was in the neighborhood. Then my folks sent me to a private Catholic school. If that isn't enough, I married an Atheist, got a divorce, married a Lutheran, and she became a Jehovah's Witness. (I joined her, but got "Kicked out" for smoking)
I have always been pretty open to discussion on the subject, (Although most people can't stand to talk about religion) but if someone came up to me and said they had a religious belief they wanted to tell me about… I'd listen to what they had to say. Then I would go home, Look it up in the Bible, and decide for myself. Let me share some of what I have learned. Believe it or not, I probably learned more about the bible from the Jehovah Witnesses, because they do know scripture frontward and backward, plus they know everyone else's Bible too (I even became a JW for a while, but got kicked out for smoking)
Here's the big problem: If you are Protestant, what do you know about Catholics? Most of what you learn is from other Protestants. If you are a Catholic and you hate Jehovah's Witnesses, it is probably because of what other Catholics have told you about them.
One time I had a buddy, who was Jewish. Another friend of mine wanted to know why I would spend ANY time with a Jew, after all he said, "They don't even believe in God" (Which is wrong, they DO believe in God, but this guy who was saying it… was an Atheist himself! (Figure that one) Don't take it to be fact, what ANY person tells you about a certain religious organization's belief. Go to the Elder, Priest, Pastor, minister, high commander, (Whatever) and inquire on your own. THEN go look it up yourself, in whatever Bible you choose. Here's something to remember! In the New Testament, (Matt. 9:38) Jesus was walking along, and some of His disciples came to Him, and said: There is some guy down the road "Casting out demons in your name, We tried to get him to GO WITH US, but he wouldn't." (The man was casting out demons in Jesus' name…doing some good on his own) Jesus told his disciples to leave the guy alone, and do not stumble that person, or you'll be in trouble. In other words: The man casting out demons wasn't doing anything wrong and didn't have to belong to their organization to be religious and do well. You look that one up (Any Christian Bible) and see if you get the same message I did. Many people have this definition of a cult: Any religion you don't understand! Amen Bro!
78. You Should get a motorcycle
Who should have a motorcycle? Anyone who has the longing, and is physically able to ride… and age (Or sex) is not one of the determining factors f being capable. The reason I bring up the subject is that there are probably millions of people who admire, desire and would enjoy riding a motorcycle. Most of them don't, because they are not aware of all the "Free" education and training programs available to them.
My brothers-in-law, and Darlene and I had some fun time riding together. Wayne had a bike, I got one, and so did Ervin, Ernie and Elmer. It was Elmer and I who were the first ones to brave the trip to Sturgis South Dakota and be in the motorcycle rally. A couple of x-cop buddies, Tork and Dave got bikes…. And we were in business. My wife and I are 60 years old, and as I write this, we are packing for our annual motorcycle trip.
One of our 1st big trips was across Montana, (Again) through Bear Tooth Pass; spend a day or so in Yellowstone, through the Bighorn Mountain range and on to Sturgis. YES STURGIS, home of all those rowdy bikers. (95% who are ordinary people like us, just having a good time away from home) We've been to Sturgis several times, and have never seen a fight, never had problems with anyone, and always have a good time. Sturgis is usually just ONE of the stops along the way. We visit places like Glacier Park, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. We have since then returned to Montana and just about every state West of the Mississippi. We've heard it said, "To take a trip in a car, is just that, a trip…to travel on a motorcycle is an adventure! It is a fact, when you are cruising along the highway, or winding around a beautiful mountain… it IS IMPOSSIBLE to think of bills, work, and family problems or the future, just fresh air and freedom.
Just ask any motorcyclist, (Leather vest and long hair, Harley or Honda) about A.B.A.T.E. or MSF. These are organizations that will help you with any questions about motorcycling. My wife and I both have attended courses sponsored by them. Many of these organizations even furnish a motorcycle to learn and take the course on. (You'll feel rebellion, freedom, excitement, relaxation, camaraderie and FUN)
Our favorite places to ride are: Glacier Park, Hell's Canyon, (Idaho-Oregon area) Apache Junction AZ Area, the Big Horn Mountain range and just about ALL of Montana.
79. DO SOMETHING!
The person who said "You don't stop doing things because you get old… you get old because you stop doing things" is probably still living and active. I know some people who have never traveled over 100 mile from their home in their life. (Outside of being in the service and crossing a few parts of the country) They have nothing to talk about, because they've done nothing. They don't know what they're missing, and don't care to find out. Years from now, they will be sitting around, wondering where the hell their life went. And when it's time to leave their body for that last final adventure… it will be the only real adventure they've had. Don't wake up one day, sitting at the end of the trail, saying, "Why didn't I do this, and do that." It will be too late, because today is history and tomorrow is a mystery!
80. A Friend or two along the way
On one trip to the Black Hills, we found ourselves in Rapid City without motel reservations. We had never made reservations before, but this years motorcycle rally was over 400,000 strong. While we were at a service station, trying to find a place to pitch a tent for the night, a friendly guy, (We'll call him A. J.) Told us, "I have a camper at my house, you can stay it if you want." We had received a lot of offers from people to stay in their spare room… for $80 to $90 for the night, so when I asked how much, and he said, "No, you can stay there for nothing" we found it hard to believe. After some small conversation about all the driving habit of some of the bikers in town, he handed us the keys to his garage and house, and said he'd let his boys know we were coming, and that he'd be home after he got off work. We tried looking some more for rooms, but there were none, so we drove to his home, not knowing quite what to expect. When we arrived, we saw a real nice home, and sure enough, a nice tandem trailer next to his home.
We unlocked the garage, went into the house, got the camper key hanging where he had instructed us it would be. (Why would a man trust total strangers with his home and belongings?) We were tired at that time, and didn't spend too much time worrying or wondering about it. It didn't take us long to unload our motorcycles and set up for the night. We made a pit stop at a local store, got some munchies, a bottle of Phillips Amaretto and a bag of ice. We spent the evening sitting on his back porch patio, talking about the last few days motorcycle ride through the Bighorn mountain range and how much fun we were having together. Can you imagine, two people in their mid-fifties, sitting on the porch of a strangers house, having a couple drinks, eating pretzels, and talking about how funny things can turn out?)
When A.J. got home that night, he asked us why we didn't use the shower, watch TV and make ourselves at home? (What a guy huh?) He did invite us in, and we talked for some time. He was a very educated man, but I guess South Dakota doesn't pay teachers a decent salary. He gave us a tour of his home; He had valuables galore, including guns and a coin collection. We asked him why he would trust someone he didn't even know. His answer? "I am a pretty good judge of people" he replied.
In this day and age, it's almost unbelievable to find people that are that trusting, but it is nice to know … there are a few left in the world. We did a lot of talking about people and life in general, and of course I had to tell him I was writing a book about life and people. Since he enjoyed reading, what could I do, but give him the first original rough copy I had. (Besides, in that short time of our visit, I felt his input on the book would be valuable) We spent a couple nights there, before continuing our journey, but we actually ended up making a good friend, in a short time. (It was not only refreshing to find someone like A.J. but also it was a highlight in our vacation) We now keep in touch by letter and phone and about every other year, I spend a night or two at AJ's when I go to Sturgis.
My cousin Gary was shot all to hell in Viet Nam, was in the hospital for month's and was somewhat physically disabled the rest of his life after he returned from Viet Nam... many of our relatives said Gary had become an "Odd Duck" Can you imagine that? DAH!...I think anyone who went through the Viet Nam experience would change somewhat, don't you? After hearing some of his stories... If I had went through what he had, I would have been an "Odder Duck"
I remember when I first moved to Georgetown, everyone asked me if I had met “Crazy” Remo yet. Who is crazy Remo? “He’s that guy who lives in that funny, multi-colored house on the corner” “Oh, I have wondered about that house” I replied.
One day as I was driving by that multi-colored
house, I saw
a guy working in the yard. He didn’t act nuts and looked normal to me,
wanting to be a good neighbor, I pulled over by him and asked him if he
“Crazy Remo” He smiled with a great big grin and said, “I guess that’d
be me” We laughed and talked for a couple hours there in the yard. I
about the multi colored house he lived in and why it looked the way it
told me that his daughter picked out the colors and wanted to help paint
is a single parent raising a little girl by himself)
It took a couple years, but Remo
finally opened up to me one afternoon, as we sit around a campfire at
sipping on a couple adult beverages. This guy was in hell and came back.
him why so many guys were “Messed up” after returning from Nam and I’ll
never forget one of his many reasons.
It was a pretty short
explanation for him: Like so many, he was just out of school, didn’t
stand out at anything and was really a nobody with no “Real” plans for
A short time later he in a
chopper with behind a .30 or .50 caliber machine gun or mini-gun killing
and not knowing who and sometimes why. Bullets whizzing by, many other
getting shot down, comrades being killed and wounded and mission after
mission… day after day, and month after month it went on. Then after
and commendations for bravery and other things… some time later he’s
the streets in the USA…. AS A NOBODY again.
I have many friends who
served in Viet Nam, some that did little but brag of doing great things,
who went through a nightmare and say nothing about it and those
will share some of their thoughts about what they went through. Two out
three mentioned are to be given all the respect and understanding
81. COWBOYS & INDIANS
Our Original founding forefathers
A few years ago, my wife, and I were motorcycling around the country, and we would see many towns, roads, businesses, and recreational areas with Indian names. (But we didn't see any Indians.) As I looked around the beautiful Black Hills area, Colorado Mountains, beautiful areas of Montana and Wyoming, I couldn't help but wonder: "What was like being an Indian, years before the White man came? Plenty of wild game, hunting and fishing in beautiful bountiful areas, no enemy's, unless you infringed upon another tribe's territory
Just raise your kids, and work hard to survive a long winter. I will not go in to the who did what to who first when the white man came along, but two things you MUST do before you live out your life: See the PBS series called How the West was Lost… and read a book called Chief Joseph. Chief Joseph was one tremendous person, well respected and famous. Although never being known for any battles or massacres. Chief Joseph and his tribe were able to out run hundreds of Cavalrymen across Utah and Montana for weeks on end. The Nez Perce tribe consisted of women, children, dogs, the elderly people, a few horses, and their personal belongings. They were a peaceful people, but the death of a soldier (Who had raped one of their women) at the hands of one of Chief Joseph's braves, later lead to the death of many of his people. (And started one of the most famous pursuits in history.)
When I was a young boy, the kids in the neighborhood played cowboys and Indians, most of our generation did. I never grew up with or around Indians, and really knew nothing about them. (Except that they would ride straight at the cowboys, cavalry, and settlers and get shot all to hell… and lose.) When I became a deputy Sheriff in Pine County Minnesota, I knew very little about the Native Americans. Some of the residents informed me that Pine County had "Indian Problems." "What kind of Indian problems?" I asked. "They go to the bars get drunk and fight." (Of course the white man doesn't do that) That was pretty much my law enforcement sensitivity training on Indians before I came to that area.
I certainly did my share of going to bar fights involving Indians in Sandstone Minnesota. I can remember myself, Deputy's Leroy and Tork being knee deep in Native Americans, fighting, cussing and cuffing. No one got hurt much. But one in one week, an Indian was alleged to have raped and assaulted a couple of well-respected elderly ladies in the community. (One of which was a well-liked retired schoolteacher.) Then a young kid was shot in the neck by an Indian, plus the Sheriff got shot apprehending the Indian who was alleged to have committed the crime. Later it was determined that the Sheriff got hit with shot gun pellets from a Deputy's shotgun, while the Deputy was in the process of "Clubbing" the suspect with his gun.
Things around Pine County got pretty tense. The truth of the matter was that we didn't have an "Indian problem," we had one group of hell-raising people getting involved in a considerable amount of crime, and this particular group happened to be Indians. Not that I am free of prejudice in my life, nor believe that anyone is totally free. But what you teach your children WILL carry on. This year as my wife and I stood on the very battlefield of Custer's last stand, I couldn't help but ponder the thought, "Wasn't it also the Indian's last stand"?
82. Black and White
Back in the mid fifties I was attending Central High School, (Which had been recently integrated) Some of my relatives were telling me things like: "Them Niggers are out to multiply and take over the world, don't let em." And some of the black people I knew had been indoctrinated with statements like: "You are as good as that white trash, don't let them push you around." So it was not surprising when the black and white kids got together, things didn't go well.
A few chapters back, I mentioned learning about religious beliefs from the religious leaders themselves, rather than from people from within your religion before making decisions. The same thing holds true about various ethnic groups. Learn about them by being around them, and don't judge the entire group by a select few.
83. The Ultimate Norsky Joke?
I failed to mention this earlier, but NOW 's the proper time to bring it out in the open: When I first met Darlene, I told her that she was different. I told her that I had met Norwegian people before… and found them to be a "Dumber race of people" They were "Slow." If you recall, it was on the salmon fishing boat with my biological dad, that I was told I was, in fact, a Norwegian. Dah! Get the picture?)
84. Write a Hit Song
You have the talent. (If you know the alphabet) Here's my secret:
Write the alphabet on a piece of paper. (abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxy)
Start out your song or poem, using the example below.
I love that gal she is so cool (Then look at the alphabet, and go down the line to rhyme something with the word "Cool") aool-bool-cool-fool-gool-hool- etc. and you'll hit words that exist, like fool, stool, drool, tool, pool, and so on. Now you have the next line to your song.
I love that gal she is so cool, if I don't marry her, I'll be a fool.
She loves me too, it is a fact, let's go to Vegas, and I've already packed!
If you finish that song and make it a hit,
remember me… and the money we'll split.
If this book doesn't sell, and your song's a flop,
we'll just keep trying till we get to the top.
Now...go write that hit song!
85. The courier
A friend of mine named Everett, got me a job working for a delivery courier company. Sounded like a fun job, drive around; deliver packages, BS with people, steady hours, and it paid good bucks. I had to get up very early; (Not fun) I had to load my own truck. (Not fun) we had to drive like idiots, didn't stop for anything, didn't have time to talk to anyone and eat your sandwich on the go, and when Mother Nature called; you didn't have time to go! (Not fun either)
When I started looking around, (at my fellow drivers) I couldn't help but notice, "They're all young guys" Then I looked at other company delivery people, and they weren't very young either. (If you stop and think about it, you don't see very many "Old" UPS drivers do you?) It's time to move on!
86. WHAT IS A "TWIP?
A "TWIP" is what a "Wabbit" takes when he goes on vacation, (According to Bugs Bunny) but it is something us humans need to do to "Air out" our Bwains from time to time. I have been in just about every state West of the Mississippi, and several East of the Mississippi, and I have experienced some real beauty. So I have designed a vacation trip of a lifetime for you. (Take all, or part of it)
Start off with a drive through to Glacier Park in Northern Montana. (St Mary, through Logan Pass, by Lake McDonald, to West Glacier) Breathtaking scenery and wild life pictures will be burned into your memory as long as you live. After you go through the Pass, turn around, and go back through it from the other direction… it's like seeing another world. After a day or two in the mountains, head south, through Kalispell, past Flathead Lake, Poison and on to Missoula Montana. (Beautiful town) Jump on to Interstate 90 to Billings Montana, where you'll leave the freeway, heading to Red Lodge Montana, (Highway 212), and the beautiful Beartooth Pass.
(It's about 60 miles up, down, and around hairpin curves at elevations of 11 or 12 thousand feet above sea level, and pure beautiful raw natural beauty) Plan ahead, Beartooth and Glacier are closed during high snow periods, and that may be almost anytime of the year.
Once you've made it through Beartooth, you have a choice, you're right at Yellowstone Park's door, (If you have plenty of money and don't mind terrible roads and potholes) Yellowstone is beautiful, but to get the best out of it, you need to spend the day and stay there overnight. (If you are lucky you can reserve a room for $100 plus, and it won't have TV or air conditioning) It cost me $30 to get our two motorcycles into the park, and it was $20 for one car. (Don't look for garage sale clothing prices inside the park either) For sure, you will see wildlife and unforgettable scenery.
If you decide to pass on Yellowstone, you can head East to Cody Wyoming, (Wild West town and a museum to back it up) and on through the Bighorn mountain range. The Bighorn mountain range doesn't have the hairpin curves of Beartooth pass, or Glacier, but it does have a beauty of it's own you won't forget. A real variety of scenery, and it's more affordable to eat, sleep, and play in the Bighorn area. Scenic trail rides, excellent fishing, hiking, camping, and picnic country.
When you want to see bear, elk, wolf, antelope and other wildlife, get up early, grab the binoculars and park your buns on a comfortable stump overlooking the hills and valleys… you'll see some.
When you leave Cody Wyoming, take Hwy. 16, which will go east to Greybull, then south to Worland. At Worland you'll stay on Hwy 16 through Tensleep. (Nice place to spend the night and have a good meal) You can also take Highway 14 alt out of Cody, (Through Powell, Lovell, and Burgess Junction, to Sheridan Wyoming. Either way, you'll hit Interstate 90, which goes to Gillette. Once you've traveled this far, keep going east, you'll see Devils Tower, and you're going in the back door of the Black Hills of South Dakota. (Trust me, there are so many things to see in the Rapid City, Sturgis, Deadwood area, it would fill another book) Just get on the Internet, or call Rapid City for information about a vacation in the Black Hills. (Spend a week there)
I have mapped out a two-week vacation for you that will make you feel like a totally NEW person inside. (Or take one week and finish it up the next time) And I promise you, during the entire trip, you will have to TRY HARD to find any stress or think of work and problems. If you shop around, motels can be reasonable. (Except in Yellowstone)
Always remember, the 1st full week of August is the Sturgis Bike Rally, and this will affect motel and hotel rates in the entire Black Hills area. (And in most cases there are NONE available) Take a tent, camper or motor home, eat lobster, or Stop at a grocery store, and put a "Sack" lunch picnic basket together, you will never forget it!
There is one other "Twip" that I would put in this same category, and that would be East of Ft. Collins Colorado, through the Rockies and the Estes Park area. Remember, ask the locals, there are some beautiful roads to drive, that are not publicized as much, but are awesome scenic areas. The roads don't get the publicity, because they don't have Ski resorts, commercial snowmobile trails or recreational areas as some others do, but they are Beautiful and scenic.
In the summer of 2006, we spent about 10 days cruising Colorado. AWESOME! is all I can say. Be sure to take the COG train up to the top of Pike's Peak, There is also a mini train at the Royal Gorge that is short, cheap and fun, all of Colorado is beautiful and worth traveling in. The long expensive full size old time train (Durango/Silverton run) at Durango is a little too long and expensive. Takes up 8 to 10 hours of your time and isn't near as beautiful or a value as the Pike's Peak COG train.
I took this while Darlene & I were riding with Arizona
87. You can do Anything
Before I close, there is ONE final secret I must share with you. When you are talking to people on the phone, radio, or before a group, you must remember, the listeners can sense if you are not enthusiastic or sincere. You cannot sell others, until you sell yourself… and to sell yourself, you must have confidence in your abilities. (Or APPEAR confident)
Most people feel insecure at times, and even feel inferior in areas. You have a talent… everyone has one or more areas of talent that haven't been tapped. You must learn to develop these talents. You just have to give your body and mind a chance to see what it can do. Take your mind and body where it can explore!
I remember watching a nice little guy painting beautiful pictures on TV every week. I was glued to the tube, fascinated by what he could do. (And wished I could do it) I finally made a move. I bought some paint and brushes, recorded his program, and played it back. (Stopping many times) and doing exactly what he was doing. I painted a mountain scene and my picture turned out fine. Some people looked at my paintings, and said they thought I had some real talent at painting. I don't have art talent, but that's not important, it is ONLY IMPORTANT that someone else believes you have talent. GET IT? How talented or smart you are isn't really what counts in life. It is how talented and smart you can make others believe you are.
Damn, would you believe it, I lost another job, better save this location, and return for updates, I went trucking for a short while, then got a job as Marketing Director for a Gentlemen's (Topless) Club. So as I round the corner on the last downhill run of my life, I'll be adding a couple chapters, with some way out, (But true) stories about how to drive a truck, and what it's like running a first class topless bar!
88. Truck Drivin Son-of-a-Gun
Just about everyone has a fascination for big powerful trucks, and I'd have to say, I got to experience the feeling of commanding an 18-wheeler for a while. How is it? Awesome, totally Awesome.
Now… how do you "Fake" your way into trucking? Just as easy as sneaking in the back door of most of my job experiences First ya gotta talk to some truckers, hear their experiences, ask questions about trucks and get a "Feel" of what it's like, and that's just what I did. A buddy of mine named Gene owned a semi, when I told him I wanted to "Get back in to it" (Even though I had not really been in it, I just said I had done some truckin when I was younger. Not much, but some!
Gene talked away and I asked questions and heard a lot of war stories about trucks. Before long, were under his kitchen table, with a toy truck, backing up, and parking that truck just like a couple kids. (This was the beginning of learning the business. I went down to the driver's license bureau, got a book on the art of driving trucks, studied my butt off, and took the written test. (I passed the first time) I brag about that, because frankly… it's a bitch. A trucker has to know a TON of stuff before you can get a CDL nowadays. Pick up a CDL written test book at the DL office and look it over… just like you plan on taking the test. (You won't believe it)
Another "Buddy" of mine named Arnie Berg owned a trucking company, and when I told him I wanted to get a CDL, (Commercial Driver's License) he let me drive around the neighborhood to practice up for my big test. Deputy Dave, another buddy of mine rode along and helped me guide that huge monster around town. Man oh Man the feeling of POWER, adrenaline, and excitement of actually driving one of those rigs, (Even at a high speed of 15 miles an hour) around the Streets of Fargo in mind boggling. You know that before you even start out on a trip with a truck, there are hundreds of laws, (I mean Federal stuff) on what you can and can't do. You have several things you MUST do before you move an inch, and you have to document it! Checking brakes, brake lines adjustments, tires, fluids, lights, and a ton of other things. Actually, when I was a cop I had LESS regulations and restrictions on the job than a truck driver. Hell, even my code of conduct as a cop wasn't as strict as what regulations are put on an average trucker.
By far it's a very small percentage of truckers who touch drugs or alcohol when they are behind the wheel, as a matter of fact, they don't even have the luxury of having rights. They can get drug tested anytime they're on the road, pee in a bottle, blow in the machine, and unlawful search and seizure don't mean "Squat" when it comes to the DOT. (Department of Transportation.)
I offered Arnie money and what ever I could think of to show my appreciation for him letting me use that truck several times that week, but he just mentioned that whenever I got that CDL, he'd be glad to have me work for him. And he was the kind of guy I would like to have worked for.
Yep...I drove em all (The Green one is the Transystems "Beet haulin" Semi)
With a CDL, some practice, a lot of confidence and guts, you can walk into just about any trucking company and they'll give you a quick driver test to see if you can drive… and that's just what I did! There is a big national trucking company, that contract hauls all the sugar beets in the Minnesota, North Dakota area, and they are always looking for drivers. They are non-union, and don't really pay a lot, but you are home every night. So I went over there and talked to the main man, who put behind the wheel, and we did a road test.
I wasn't really too nervous, because I really didn't have a lot to loose, the worst thing that could happen was I wouldn't get the job… but I did. I didn't do a lot of downshifting, cause I wasn't too sure of the truck, but then I wasn't really too sure of ANY truck. When we finished, I filled out a ton of paper work, took a drug test, and was ready to go to work. Now I was getting scared… would the other truckers recognize that I was a rookie? Would I be able to keep up the pace with the other drivers… maybe this wasn't going to be so easy after all.
The Trucks were all nearly brand new Freightliner trucks loaded with air adjustable seats, air-conditioned, nice stereos, cruise control and a ton of other options. We were paid by the load, so there was no poking along… plus, none of us were allowed to each pass another one of our own company trucks while we were hauling from one beet pile to another. Now that meant I HAD to keep up or have a string of pissed off professional truckers on my rear all the time. The name of the game was drive as fast as you can ALL the time and whatever the pace is set at… keep it up.
When the guys asked me who I drove for, before I came there, I just told them that I used to drive part-time years ago, and was just getting back into it. I made sure I learned about some of the other drivers, so I could try to get behind one of the slower drivers when I made my first run.
The company always talked safety, but you were expected to make so many trips in a shift, we had to damn near run wide open all the time to make the loads. There was no stopping to eat, just drive. Drive 12 hours a day for 4 days, then off 2 days, and back again. I got behind what I thought was a slow driver, the first day, but when you don't really have much experience, running the speed limit can be terrifying.
I remember once thinking to myself, "I'm not good enough to be trying to keep up with the pack" But I gotta do it, so I just pressed on. (Really I thought to myself, "I'm dead meat" I'm gonna die… I'll just make sure if I'm going to wipe out… I won't take anybody with me) I put the hammer down, and concentrated with everything I had, and got the job done. I drove in rain, shine, Muddy and gravel roads, fog and high winds, hauling those sugar beets, and I'd have to say… I really enjoyed it. I see why truckers are truckers: The feel of freedom as you cruise down the road, you have a front row seat to the world and you know there's no one trying to climb up the food chain after you… or your job. No one's trying to talk your ear off, except the CB radio, and you can turn that off, and crank some tunes on the radio, or listen to a good talk show.
Somehow all of a sudden you have a different view of simple things: Picking out what to have in your lunch bucket can become "Fun". When you're shopping for what to have during the week… A hostess Twinkie becomes something to look forward to. "Will it be a pear, or an apple tomorrow?" "I think I'll get some of those little pies this week, Cherry, apple and blueberry" It really become something to look forward to every day, and you don't have to eat at noon like the rest of the slobs of the world, you can pull out a handful of grapes to eat as you drive along, eat a banana, a sandwich, some chips, or pour yourself a nice hot cup of coffee… and anytime you want. This is one job where you can talk to yourself all day long, sing at the top of your lungs, or just enjoy listening to the sound of a powerful diesel purring along.
Then of course as you approach the edge of a town , ya flip on the Jake brake and watch everyone look your way… as the exhaust raps out like a machine gun. (Damn! "What a feelin" One big downside of the trucking business is, you got to cover a lot of miles to make money if you're working for someone else, and if you own a truck, the expenses are outrageous. You could buy a whole set of tires for an average car, for what you'd pay for one good truck tires… and remember… they're 18-wheelers. If you could just drive a truck for 8 hours a day, be home every night (and weekend) and make $50,000 a year, I would drop everything and be a truck drivin son-of-a-gun.
89. The "Boob" job
After a couple months' "Jammin gears" a good friend of mine asked me if I'd go to work for him at a topless club. Wait a minute, I'm in my late 50's, the kids are all grown up, and have their own kids, and it's time to get a real respectable high-class job to get me to retirement. "No" I told him, working in a topless bar somehow just doesn't appeal to me. In my younger days, being in the middle of half naked women, booze and partying all night would have been a normal day, and now someone was offering to "Pay" me to do that?" But them He offered me some real good money, great benefit package, and some perks that I couldn't refuse… so I took the job. It started as being the marketing and promotions director, I wouldn't be spending much time at the bar, just go out and give away some passes, and plan some promotions…. WRONG! After being there a short while, I found evidence of theft, the club was really going nowhere, and I Soon I found myself working 14 to 16 hours a day managing the club, booking entertainment, trying to run the bar, and look for help at the same time.
I hired Darlene (My wife) to work there too; I guess there wasn't going to be much partying huh? It's kind of funny now, but when I have had to go to the Dancer's dressing room to read rules to the girls before a show, and I'd take Darlene with me. I knock on the door, and ask before entering, "It's me, Tom, are you all decent?" The girls would say "Yes," we'd walk in, and there'd be bare breasts all over the room, and occasionally one or two of the entertainers would be butt naked.
They are exotic dancers, so as far as they were concerned… they WERE decent! Well, I start reading the rules, and telling them what was allowed and what wasn't, some of the girls just kept on dressing and undressing, some topless, and some just plain "Bare" It's a funny feeling to be standing there with your wife, and be surrounded by naked women. (It's kinda like having candy in your mouth and no teeth, what can you do?)
Most of the girls I booked there were really nice people, some are going to college, some married, some single moms, but most do what they do, because they can make a large amount of money in a short time. I have seen some girls make as much as $6,000 or MORE in a week, although that is much better than normal. (There are some that barely make $1,000 in a week to) Sounds like a real career, but there are certainly some drawbacks. Some of the girls are on the road all the time, accommodations sometimes leave something to be desired, but most of all, having to deal with some of the people they have to entertain nightly. (Most are ordinary men who just enjoy looking at a beautiful woman performing exotic dancing, but there are s few of those drooling humpback perverts out there.
90. The Udder Side
For some strange reason, some of people look at exotic dancers as sluts, whores and prostitutes, which is far from the truth. Let me explain the real side of the young ladies I deal with, you may find this interesting. When you have a job that "Other people" look down on, you may often say to others, (And your own brain) "I'm just as good as anybody else" But you will easily begin to suffer from a low self-esteem. Many of the Exotic dancers suffer from low self-esteem. I try to make the entertainers feel "Comfortable" in what they do.
Alcohol abuse in rampant in the world of exotic entertainers, first because many of the girls got started by getting half-looped just to obtain the nerve to get up on stage and bare themselves to a room full of men. Then most of the men spend plenty of money buying the girls drinks, (in hopes of being able to "Score" with the lady.) Probably most of the girls become "Disowned" by one or more of the parents when they become dancers, mostly because they fear for the safety of their siblings.
It's also a matter of pride for some parents, being more concerned for how others may perceive them having "Strippers" as daughters, rather than real concern for their daughter. (And of course the low self-esteem helps contribute to the desire for a mind-altering substance. One of the girls that my wife and I talked to, recalled a time in Minneapolis when she made as much as $3,000 a night or more… 6 or 7 days a week.
Drugs were introduced to her by nightclub management to keep her sedated part of the time, then energized for a performance, and of course make her become "Dependant" on her employers for more money and drugs. She eventually broke out of the "Loop" and got back to reality. (Although many don't)
A friend of mine asked me "How in the hell can you be around all those beautiful girls night after night, and not want to climb in the sack with them?" Well, I'm not "Dead" from the neck down, but it really isn't hard (No pun intended) when you know that if you go to bed with ONE of them… they all will own you! I have had a couple of the girls "Hint" that they thought the "Old Fart" still had some fire in him, and I do, but that flickering fire burns at home… not on the road. Besides, my wife knows that when I quit "looking" I'm over the hill. Really, looking and admiring a beautiful body is a far cry from "Lusting" and "Drooling… isn't it? I sold the Northern in July of 2006, I stop by to help the new owner with security, but other than that...I don't miss the drama much!
Well, now that I have written a book, an old entertainer buddy of mine I used to work in radio with is now working for a publishing company here in North Dakota. As a matter of fact, I helped them cut a TV infomercial for a couple of their new western books. (Charlie's Gold, and A Time for Justice) Well Partners, I guess I'll mosey on over to the office, and see If I can get this here western book published. (It didn't happen)
91. Winning a MILLION DOLLAR$!
It was October the 13th, and my wife and I were at a local Minnesota Indian Casino dropping a few bucks in the slots and having a good time, when Darlene said she was ready to go. I told her I'd like a few more minutes, as I had the "Feeling"
I had watched a woman sitting for a long time waiting to be paid on a $300 jackpot she had won on the "Megabucks" dollar machine. I observed her putting quite a bit into the machine next to her winning machine and had not won anything much. So, when she left, I decided to drop a ten-spot in the machine she won the $300 on, and maybe a couple in the one next to it she had been playing. After spending $10.00 on the one machine, I dropped $2.00 in the one next to it…….SHAZAAAAAM! It hit 3 Megabucks logos on the very first time.
I was trying to figure out what I had won, the crowd was gathering around, and it appeared like it WAS the "Big one" (1.2 million dollars. "No it couldn't be" (Or could it) A security dude came over, and when he saw it, he radioed in to central, and security came from all over. I asked the guy if that was 1.2 million bucks, and he said "I can't verify that at this time" but when all kinds of casino "Wheels" started coming over, then they placed a security man right on the stool where I had been sitting, and roped off the entire row of slots…I knew it was the big one.
"Holy shit" what a feeling! Then I really started the wheels turning in my head… I can quit working, I can do what I want, and I'm a MILLIONAIRE!!! Where's my wife? I ask security to page her to the desk, cause I was afraid she would faint or have a heart attack. When the brought her over to me at the winning machine, she looked at me with a pale face as if she was worried something bad had happened. "What's wrong?" she said, and then she looked at the machine, the entire and me crowd standing around and said, "How much is that?" I said just one point two million dollars. She looked again and said, "No, really how much is it?' I repeated "1.2 million dollars" "Oh my God… really?" and tears started flowing, and everyone around us was just about as excited as we were.
They told us we would have to wait about 4 hours for some people to come up from other areas to verify the machine was in fact a legitimate win or a malfunction. (Like malfunction or not… I was going to get that money, whether they said it was a screwed up machine or not!)
Meanwhile, the casino took our picture with a big 4-foot check made out for the sum of 1.2 million dollars, and everyone was congratulating us and saying how happy for us they were. Mean while, they told us the casino was ours! Darlene called the kids to come up, as the casino wanted to buy us and all of our friend's dinner. (Anything we wanted) A couple hours later, we had one of our daughters, and 4 or 5 friends join us at the casino for Kansas City Black Angus steak, lobster, Dom, (Champaign) and wines of all kinds. (And the casino paid for it all) It was a blast for sure!
A little later I went out to check on my 1.2 million dollar winning machine, as the verifying response team was here to check out the machine. You wouldn't believe it… those guys had that machine torn down to the circuit boards right in front of everyone, reading chips, looking into every corner of the machine for who knows what. Then after about 4 hours of bliss… they declared me a 1.2 million dollar winner! (WOW… what a feeling)
Then I found out, I had won another $3,000 on the same machine on the same jackpot. I gave my daughter and friends a $100 each, and told them to go hit some machines, because I had a lot of paperwork to fill out. There is a lot of paperwork to fill out for sure. Then they told me I would have to take the money in yearly payments. "What?" I want it all, because as we had been earlier figuring out, I should end up with close to $700,000 in cash in the bank, and at today's lousy interest…STILL do quite well, and have money in the bank when we "Croak" years down the road. They said it was an annuity machine. Wait a minute… the machine said 1.2 million dollars, they gave me a phony check for 1.2 million dollars, and that's what I wanted!
That night they gave me a check for $60,000, for the first year's payment and forgot about the $3,000 for the secondary jackpot. Well now, we'll just have some fun for the night and get it straightened out later. My group of friends hadn't done well with the money I had given them, and were sitting at a bank of machines complaining that they just couldn't win anything. So I dropped a couple bucks in Linda's machine and hot $50, then I put a few buck into Darrel's machine and hit $100. (Wow) I am hot. I gave them all some more money and proceeded to walk around and hit a few more machines. Then it happened again, I hit another machine for $3,000. They all couldn't believe it, nor could I. It was like electricity from my body from then to 4 on the morning. Every machine I hit I won from $50 to $100 on everywhere I went. At 4 in the morning, I was so tired of cashing in chips; I just wanted to go to be…and did. The Casino gave us all rooms for the night… but after all the excitement and fun… who could sleep? Darlene and I got up at 5 or so in the morning and headed for home… beat, but feeling no pain.
92. Reality of being rich?
The next morning, I had some work to do at the club, and Darlene and my daughter had to clean some rooms at the dorm, and life goes on. About 10.00am I called Darlene and asked her, "What's wrong with this picture?" "What do you mean" she replied. Well, last night we won over a million dollars, and we are still working…"Are we nuts or what?" she laughed and said, "I think so"
That day a guy names Bernie came up to give us another check for $63,000, as the check we got for $60,000 didn't include the extra $3,000 secondary jackpot I won on the 1.2 million dollar machine. Then he wanted me to sign a paper saying I would take $60,000 a year for 20 years. I told him I had to talk to my lawyer and see what to do first. Then he said I had to give him back the check for $63,000 if I wouldn't sign. "What kind of a deal is this?" I said, the machine said 1.2 million dollars. He said again that it was an annuity machine. After several days of bitching, haggling and investigating, I discovered that they were right. In very fine print on the glass of the slot machine, there was a small note; the machine did pay off in 20-year payments. According to my lawyer, it did "Suck", and the fact that they gave me that symbolic check for 1.2 million, the machine banner said 1.2 million, and they declared me a 1.2 million dollar winner… I should get it all.
They said they would offer me cash later, but I found out it would be only $400,000 after taxes, and I sure couldn't live off that for the rest of my life at today's interest rate. So I am stuck with $60,000 a year for 20 years. After taxes I only end up with about $40,000 clear a year. (You'd like to trade places with me & my problem wouldn't you?)
The funny part of having some wealth isn't the fact that you can quit your job, tell everyone to take a hike, and go off to the vacation land the rest of your life… it's continuing with your life KNOWING YOU CAN ANY TIME YOU WANT! We were happy and felt rich before the win, so I guess we would continue to be happy, and a little richer, but it wasn't like you thought the American dream would be. Considering the massive amount of taxes one has to pay… a million dollars isn't really what you think it is. We'll count our blessings, and enjoy working for a few more years, and then we will have it made.
Well, now that I have written a book, an old entertainer buddy of mine I used to work in radio with is now working for a publishing company here in North Dakota. As a matter of fact, I helped them cut a TV infomercial for a couple of their new western books. (Charlie's Gold, and A Time for Justice) Well Partners, I guess I'll mosey on over (again) to the office, and see If I can get this here western book published.
93. ALMOST The End?
I never used
someone asking me my age, but lately it has become somewhat of a sore
because I am worried about getting
old, or worried others may think I am getting old?
I still have a big box full of 8-tracks in my
A friend may call me at 10 o’clock at night
“Did I wake you?”
I find accordion music less annoying.
Some of my childhood toys are worth a fortune
I do have a compass on the dash of the car.
I catch myself arguing with a friend over
I sent $25 to Public Broadcasting.
I have to use my autostart frequently to find
my car at
93. The End?
You probably know me quite well by now, and realize that if I don't get this thing to press soon… I'll be moving on to another job. I'll be contemplating a new novel in the future called something like: The New life of an "Old Fart"
OH NO...what an idiot I am! Why do I Live on the edge? The first of March, 2005 I hocked everything I had to BUY THE NORTHERN. (Fargo's only topless night club.) I had my Son Danny manage it, my daughter working in the office, my wife in charge of the kitchen and cleaning...and I worked there too. I could have been traveling around the countryside on my scooter, fishing, being a bum... but no, I choose to get into another adventure.
Am I greedy for more money? Not really, I am happy with what I have. Could it be a self-destruct thing? No, I want to be successful and enjoy life. Maybe it's just that ADVENTURE of trying exciting and challenging new things. What ever it is, come back occasionally and check the site, as I will keep you updated.
I sincerely hope you have learned a few do's and don'ts about what adventures in employment and life you may want to pursue, but if you got some entertainment value from this book, just remember: Some day someone else may get enjoyment out of YOUR adventures! Just make sure you start keeping track of all you do…cause one day it might make a good book! (Besides, it's fun and brings back a lot of memories while you're writing things down)
Yes… I have been very lucky, but I did create a lot of my own luck. Now if the United States would just quit spending money on some of their foolish war conflicts, foreign aid to people who don't need it, and worthless programs… they could send a check each year for $60,000 to everyone in the country. (Then we could all enjoy life a little better)
Well, we owned the Northern for a year and a half, and I decided to sell out and retire. (As of July 2006. This year I paid $12,000 a quarter in estimated Federal Taxes, $12,000 in Minnesota State taxes, $4,000 in North Dakota taxes and I have another 9 or $10,000 more I owe. That’s $74,000 and doesn’t count paying $275,000 for a liquor license and all the damn sales tax and other taxes I paid on that business, AND around $70,000 in insurance...so I’m getting out while I still have my shirt. Sure I made a little money… but damn little for the investment. I’m going fishing and traveling and put more miles on the scooters. (And add a chapter from time to time right here...I hope!)
We spend the winter 2008 in Mesa Arizona hunting gold, playing
hunting and meeting a lot of interesting people. Even did a cross
with Don Handcock and Dale Prichard. (Anything to entertain huh?) Go to
Arizona page on this site and see the ugly details! (Or
here for Arizona Pics)
I picked up a boot-leg CD in
Arizona of the most amazing guitar work I have ever heard… by some guy
(By the locals) JD Hog. I spend a lot of time hunting for JD. It
seems that JD
has been missing. Well, I couldn’t find him because it was Jay Dee Hoag,
that wasn’t even his read name either. I’ll be getting into the
elusive and mysterious Jay Dee Hoag story in a few weeks. This guy is
the best guitar player I have ever heard in my life and has worked with
names like... Marty Robbins, The Ventures, Louise Mandrel and
others) He is alive and well and I’ll be telling you about him soon.
UPDATE: I have since met John "Jay Dee" Hoag... we played together and did a couple concerts in the winter of 2008-09.Then we went on to play concerts in 2010-11-12-and 2013. IT WAS AWESOME! Click here to see some of our Arizona videos and the entertainment videos. http://www.tomroadblair.com/SeeVideos.htm
Thanks for taking to time to read the book. I sincerely hope you enjoyed it, and maybe learned a couple things and it will help you make some decisions in your life. Please feel free to drop me an E-mail with any questions or comments you have.
The perfect ending to a day of Montana Riding! Tom & Darlene shutting down for the night!
Now on to some NEW EMPLOYMENT ADVENTURES. (And "Life" ….I hope) The end?