Friday, December 27, 2013

How Not to Handle a Diplomatic Dispute - Ask India


http://freepressjournal.in/from-domestic-spat-to-diplomatic-tussle/?utm_source=Daily+Media+Digest&utm_campaign=24088e0737-AFSA_Media_Digest_12_27_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e87ea75dce-24088e0737-215168573 An Indian journalist describes how India could have maturely reacted to the Nanny case - and didn't.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Three Words For 2014


I’m about as much into making New Year’s resolutions as I am in celebrating Christmas – which is to say, I’m not much into it. When I came across Chris Brogan’s My Three Words List on one of Nick Kellet’s lists, though, I decided, ‘what the hey!’

Brogan uses his three word lists – a practice he started in 2011, I think – to establish motivational markers for himself, and since they didn’t seem like your traditional resolutions I was intrigued. After deciding to participate in this little exercise, my next task was to think of three appropriate words.

Actually only took about five minutes. I know what I’d like to achieve in 2014 – what every writer wants – more readers. I mean, on a crass, commercial level, that means selling more books, but I want to take the high ground here. I’m not just about selling more books (I won’t be disappointed at that, you understand, it’s just not my primary concern), but about getting my message out to more and more people. So, that means, in addition to increasing book sales, I’d also like to expand my blog readership.

 And, there you have it: my three words for 2014 – GET MORE READERS

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Grump's Christmas Carols


It’s four days until Christmas Day, and the weather here in suburban Maryland has taken a big left turn. This morning, the temperature had risen high enough that I was able to sit on my deck with my friend Grump (a distant relative of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch), drinking hot cocoa, and watching a squirrel do some last minute nut hunting for the coming winter. The snow is almost completely melted – except for a few stubborn clumps of ice here and there – so, I think a White Christmas is out of the question. Grump doesn’t mind – he hates Christmas almost as much as his relative does. I’m no big fan of Christmas myself, and I absolutely hate winter because the cold causes my arthritic joints to ache, but I do believe in being happy, and trying to spread happiness wherever and whenever I can. So, as we sipped the nice hot cocoa that my wife was kind enough to make for us, I decided to try to wipe that scowl off Grinch’s face by penning a couple of carols that I felt were sure to cheer even him up.
 “Hey, Grump,” I said. “What do you think of this one?”

 “I’m dreaming of a warm Christmas 
Just like the ones I used to know. 
When barefoot and in short pants 
We played in the warming glow 
Of the morning sunshine 
On the East Texas hillsides, 
Watching the lazy river flow. 
I’m dreaming of a warm Christmas 
As ice piles up on my driveway. 
I feel that I really must say, 
I wish for a warm Christmas Day.” 

“Hmph,” Grump growled. “You know it’ll be below freezing on Christmas Day, and there’s likely to be sleet. Your driveway will be like a skating rink, and you’ll probably fall again and break your other hip.” “Aw, come on,” I persisted. “It’s not all that bad. How about another carol?” ]

“Icy sidewalks, slippery sidewalks 
And the cold arctic wind; 
Is this truly the meaning of Christmas? 
Throngs of shoppers 
Grasping madly 
For those last minute gifts; 
Is this truly the meaning of Christmas?” 

 “Oh, knock it off,” Grump said, scowling. “You know it is the true meaning of Christmas nowadays. Everyone’s scrambling to get more and more gifts, stores are having sales like there’s no tomorrow, politicians are getting ready to go home to their constituents and try to fool them into thinking they’re really here in Washington looking after their interests – don’t try to cheer me up, ‘cause it ain’t gonna happen.” “Well,” I said. “It would be nice if people truly believed it’s a time for sharing and spreading joy. In fact, it would be nice if we had Christmas every day of the year, don’t you think?”
 “Hmph,” Grump growled, and took another sip of his cocoa. “At least the cocoa’s good.”

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Year-end Deals! Get Free Autographed Copies!


When Christmas is over and you’re surrounded by wrapping paper and the other detritus of the season, you might not be thinking about what to do with the rest of the year. Well, how about giving yourself a special Boxing Day or you name it celebratory gift?

I’m having a special promotion from December 26 to January 4 to celebrate the New Year.

Buy paperback copies of some of my books and get autographed copies of others FREE!

You can’t beat that, now can you?

 For the first three people who buy a paperback copy of Buffalo Soldier: Yosemite during the period Dec. 26 – Jan. 4, I’ll send an autographed copy of Buffalo Soldier: Homecoming.
 

For the first three people who buy a paperback copy of The Culling during the period Dec. 26 – Jan. 4, I’ll send an autographed copy of my Al Pennyback mystery, Death by Design.


 
To get your free autographed copy, send me an email with proof of purchase to: charlesray.author@yahoo.com. In your email include your snail mail address, and I’ll get your book in the mail right away. Remember, this is for the FIRST three who purchase a paperback copy (does not apply to e-books or other free promotions). The date of the email will be used to determine who is first, second, and third for each book. Unfortunately, I’m only able to offer this to readers in the U.S.A.

Mark your calendar (Dec. 26 – Jan. 4) and don’t miss out on this great year-end deal! To order, just click on the titles above.

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Friday, December 13, 2013

On Being Daring: Grabbing Life by the Throat


I think that in our dreams we all see ourselves as brave and daring; willing and able to face any challenge with steely resolve and unblinking courage. Having spent 20 years in the army, including two tours in Vietnam during the war, I know the reality is quite different. When danger stares you in the face, your legs become weak and your mouth gets dry – and your heart pounds so hard you can almost hear it. In short – you’re scared. Bravery, though, is not about not being scared, it’s about being scared and still doing what you have to do – about being bold in the face of adversity.

The bravest thing that I have ever done, believe it or not, happened far away from any battle field. One day, back in the late 1980s, we lived in an apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland, in the shadow of the I-495 Beltway, but also abutting a large forest that ran behind several housing developments. I used to love walking in that forest with my son and daughter, then ages 12 and 13.

One balmy Saturday in autumn, we were walking within sight of one of the communities when suddenly I looked up and saw a snarling Doberman barring our path, loping toward us from about a hundred yards away. The animal had gotten out of a backyard because its owner had let it roam the yard unleashed and had carelessly neglected to lock the gate. Looking at that snarling mass of black fur and muscle, with sharp teeth bigger than my index finger, I was as frightened as I’d ever been in my life (most of my nightmares since I was a kid involve being attacked by dogs). More than my own personal fear, though, was the fact that I was responsible for the safety of my son and daughter. The damn dog was between us and our apartment, and even if we’d want to run back the way we came, there was no way we could have outrun it. Don’t ask me why I did what I did next – to this day, even I don’t know what made me do it. I pushed my kids behind me, puffed my chest out and advanced on that dog, growling deep in my throat. First, the dog stopped dead in its tracks. Then, it stared at me, with a puzzled look. I kept walking forward. Maybe it was my size; I’m almost six feet tall and weighed 220 at the time, and the fact that I didn’t seem to be impressed by Mr. Doberman; but, that miserable canine whirled around and ran, yelping, toward his backyard with his tail between his legs. In the meantime, I grabbed the kids and, taking a path to avoid going to close to that community’s backyards, hastily returned to the safety of our apartment building.

At the time I wasn’t feeling brave. I was just happy that none of us had been hurt. In fact, it was many weeks later before I realized what an incredibly foolhardy thing I’d done – but, I felt a kind of pride in having done it.

That, I now realize, is what life is all about. Facing the things it throws at us, and having the gall and audacity to puff out your chest and stare them down.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

WIP: Chapter 2 of 'Buffalo Soldier: Yosemite'


They got an early start the next day, after fixing breakfast and striking camp. Ben rode in front of the detachment, but his mind was on the wagon immediately behind him, and his friend, who moaned each time the vehicle hit a bump, which was about every ten feet of the thirty-mile journey.
 Once at the fort, Ben accompanied the surgeon and wagon directly to the hospital, where orderlies gingerly removed Holman from the wagon and took him to an examination room. Ben wasn’t allowed in. The surgeon told him he would be informed as soon as the examination was complete. He went off to the stables to take care of his horse and gear and see to the rest of the detachment.
 He found Samuel Hightower in the stable brushing down his horse.
 “How’s Tom?” the lanky corporal asked as Ben approached.
 “Doc said he’d let me know soon’s they finished examining him.”
 Hightower shook his head. “That was a mean lookin’ break.”
 Ben had no medical training, but after nearly ten years in the cavalry he’d seen a lot of wounds, and he had to agree that Holman’s injury looked serious. Even if the doctors were able to reset the bones properly, he would be many months healing, during which time he’d be unable to sit a horse, or even walk without crutches.
 “Yeah, pretty mean.”
 “You think he’ll be laid up a while?”
 They both knew the answer to that question. Ben just shrugged, and changed the subject. “We need to start getting ready for the next mission. The surveyors from Washington are due here any day now.”
 Ben looked around the stable, visually assessing the animals stalled there, and going over in his mind what he would need in terms of pack animals and equipment for what he knew was likely to be a three to four month mission.
 He started out, heading for the quartermaster sergeant to start the process of wheedling the necessary extra supplies out of the man, when he bumped into Major Joshua Wainwright, the troop commander.
 “Sergeant Carter,” Wainwright said. “I was just looking for you.”
 “Yes, sir,” Ben said, coming to attention. “I was just about to start putting the gear together for the trip back to California.”
 “That’s good. I know I don’t have to tell you how important this mission is. Colonel Hatch is depending on us . . . on you and your men . . . to see that it’s successful.”
 “I’ll do my best, sir.”
 “I know you will, sergeant,” Wainwright said. “That’s why I picked you to do it. Of course, I didn’t come here to talk to you about that.”
 “What is it, sir?” Ben asked. The worried look on the major’s face concerned Ben.
 “It’s about Corporal Holman.”
 Ben stopped breathing. He looked at the major with a shocked expression, afraid of what he might be about to say.
 “H-he’s okay, isn’t he? It was just a broken leg.”
 Wainwright laid a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry. He’ll live. It’s just that the leg was pretty badly broken, and he won’t be able to walk for several weeks, and the doctor said he shouldn’t sit a saddle for at least six months.
Ben breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn’t lost a man yet. The thought of losing anyone was bad enough, but to a stupid accident – it didn’t bear thinking about.
 “He’ll be reassigned to light duty here at the fort as soon as he’s released from the hospital,” Wainwright continued. “In the meantime, I’m assigning a replacement to your detachment.”
 Ben wanted to object – to say that he didn’t need anyone to replace one of his men because they couldn’t be replaced. He wanted to say that, the one time he’d been given a bunch of new troopers, he’d almost lost a man. He wasn’t a training sergeant. At that thought, he pulled himself up. He had in fact been a trainer. When he’d been put in charge of the detachment at Sandy Gulch in West Texas after the lieutenant and sergeant who had been in charge both fell ill, he’d had to whip them into shape. He smiled at the memory. They’d been ten of the raggediest-looking soldiers he’d ever seen, but they’d come out on top in skirmishes against the renegade Comanche Scarred Nose. Since that encounter, they’d proven themselves again and again, whether fighting hostile Indians or dealing with the prejudice of the white settlers they’d been assigned to the frontier to protect. In a few years, though, they had transformed into the toughest cavalry troopers in the entire United States Army in Ben’s opinion. They couldn’t be replaced. But, he was a sergeant of cavalry, and the major was his commander. He hadn’t asked Ben’s permission to assign a new man – he didn’t need to. Nine years earlier Ben might have questioned him. But, with years of command under his own belt, he had matured beyond such foolish behavior. His was not to question, but to make whatever the officers decided work. He squared his shoulders and looked expressionless at Wainwright.
“Yes, sir,” he said. “Who is the replacement?”
 “You met him,” Wainwright said. “Corporal Kincaid – he’s the driver that brought the doctor out to pick up your injured trooper.”
 Ben wanted to scream, ‘No’ at the top of his lungs. He remembered the trooper. The one who’d brought the doctor out to the field and had forgotten to bring extra supplies or a tent. At least the recruits he’d been assigned before had the excuse of inexperience. Kincaid, on the other hand, was a corporal. That meant he’d been in the cavalry at least four or five years. No trooper with a year or more experience ever left the fort without rations and equipment for a possible overnight stay in the field, and to take an officer out without the required gear was unthinkable. He’d been asked to take on difficult tasks before, but now he felt he was being asked the impossible. But, there was nothing to do about it but square his shoulders and give it his best.
 “Okay, sir, I’ll brief him on the mission tonight.”
 “Good, good. Oh, and the regimental commander will be arriving around mid-morning tomorrow from Las Vegas. He’s here to officially brief us on the mission, and welcome the survey party when they arrive day after tomorrow. I want you and your men – including Kincaid – in parade uniforms for the arrival ceremony.” Ben snapped to attention and saluted. “Yes, sir.”

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Negotiations: Sometimes, Getting to "Maybe" is a Good Outcome

Negotiation is the art of coming to agreement on an issue. There are a number of fine books on how to negotiate. One really good one is Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. While it’s a great book, with a lot of practical advice, it can, in the wrong cultural context, leave the impression that getting ‘yes’ from your negotiation opponent is the only successful outcome you should be seeking.

The recent contact by the P-5 with Iran over that country’s nuclear program points out in the starkest terms the danger of such an assumption. Unfortunately, in the post-9/11 environment, and several years of George Bush’s cowboy diplomacy (shoot first, and ask their names later), too many in this country have a zero-sum view of negotiations, and are strongly opposed to the interim agreement that was forged with Iran. They want to get to yes, and the only acceptable yes is Iran caving to all demands.

Well, in the first place, it’s not going to happen. There are just too many years of distrust on both sides – too much baggage. So in this case, an interim agreement - getting to ‘maybe’; is actually not such a bad outcome. Tea Party Republicans in congress are threatening to scuttle the agreement on the grounds that it doesn’t help Israel’s security, and we can’t trust the Iranians. I have a problem processing this stance. I can’t for the life of me see how doing nothing but threatening Iran with military action (or even carrying out those threats) before trying for a peaceful settlement of the issue helps Israel or anyone else’s security, or what it has to do with trusting anyone. Frankly, the Iranians don’t have a lot of reason to trust us or the West if one is to be brutally honest.

Nine prominent Americans who served as ambassador to Israel and as undersecretaries of state disagree with our Tea Party friends. They see the interim agreement as good for Israel’s security. Former secretary of state, Colin Powell, has also lauded the interim agreement. Now, whose position do you think is more credible – a bunch of self-serving politicians looking for any excuse to bash a president they can’t seem to defeat at anything, or people who have actually served in the trenches, and know what they’re talking about?

The fact is, it’s time to give diplomacy a chance, and President Obama is to be applauded for taking this posture. We can’t continue to settle every problem with force – for one thing, we’re rapidly running out of force, and for another, as a veteran, I’m getting tired of seeing all the young men and women with missing limbs every time I go to the National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

We have to be realistic about it, though. Negotiating, especially in a diplomatic context, is not always about getting a definite ‘yes.’ Diplomacy is not a destination, it’s a journey; a never ending journey of managing relations between independent, and sometimes stubborn and mutually antagonistic states. In such a context, getting to ‘maybe’ – to the tentative agreement that we won’t fight today, we’ll talk some more – is sometimes the best you can hope for. The key objective sometimes, as former special representative on the Afghanistan issue Marc Grossman recently wrote, is to ‘help open the door.’ I would take that even further. Sometimes, the objective of negotiations is to ‘keep the door open.’ We spent years talking to the Chinese before finally establishing diplomatic relations. The same thing was true with Vietnam. Relations with neither country are what one would call rosy, but we do continue to talk, and a lot of issues that could have become full-blown crises were kept off the front pages and eventually settled. As long as we continue to talk, there’s the possibility that the others will also be settled. We can continue to hope.

In the meantime, we still have ‘maybe.’

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kindle Books: Holiday Book Specials


Looking for stocking stuffers for those favorite people on your holiday gift list – or just want to give yourself a treat? Books are great gifts, because they keep on giving year round. And, e-Books are even greater because they’re so portable. I’m offering a holiday special for my readers. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, five of my Kindle titles will be available either FREE or at a greatly reduced price. Make a note of the dates and get your shopping done early.

Buffalo Soldier: Incident at Cactus Junction Third in the Buffalo Soldier series, historical novels for YA readers. In this story, Sergeant Ben Carter and his men are sent to protect the citizens of the West Texas town of Cactus Junction from a gang of rustlers. In the process, they also have to contend with local prejudice. http://www.amazon.com/Buffalo-Soldier-Incident-Cactus-Junction-ebook/dp/B009C91HO8/
Get it FREE December 1 - 5!



 Dead Men Don't AnswerAnother Al Pennyback mystery. Al is asked by a young woman to find out why her fiance, supposedly dead for six months, answered his phone. As he investigates, a ghost from his past - a military operation gone terribly wrong - comes back looking for revenge. To make matters worse, he discovers that the dead man might actually be alive, and a murderer. The clock is ticking for our intrepid DC private detective, known as the Brown Knight. http://www.amazon.com/Dead-Men-Dont-Answer-Charles-ebook/dp/B00AOMT99M/  Get it FREE December 6 - 10!




African Places: A Photographic Journey Through Zimbabwe and southern AfricaA photographic journal of my travels through southern Africa. http://www.amazon.com/African-Places-Photographic-Zimbabwe-southern-ebook/dp/B008C2WP2Y/
Discounted December 3 - 9, beginning at $0.99 or 81% off regular price!








 Pip's RevengeThe second in the series about Pip of Pandara, a foundling with special powers. A sword and scorcery fantasy. Pip has been given command of Pandara's army, and furthermore, Queen Daphne has instructed him to find a wife. To complicate his life, the Barbarian Tenkuk is mounting an invasion army, and Pip must defend Pandara against him. He's not sure which is the harder task, fighting Tenkuk or finding a wife. http://www.amazon.com/Pips-Revenge-Chronicle-Pip-Pandara-ebook/dp/B008ZDRJ76/
FREE December 11 - 15!



 Angel on His ShoulderA comic fantasy. Winston Nesbitt is a 40-year-old loser who still lives in his parents' house; is abused by his employers; and, is in love with a co-worker but afraid to let her know. He was comfortable with his life, if not exactly happy with it. He didn't think could get any worse, but then his grandmother, who died twenty years earlier, comes back as a tiny spirit, bent on straightening him out. http://www.amazon.com/Angel-His-Shoulder-Charles-Ray-ebook/dp/B008DYPPI2/ Discounted December 10 - 15. Get it for $0.99.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

WIP: Chapter 1 of Buffalo Soldier: Yosemite

English: A photograph of Yosemite National Par...
English: A photograph of Yosemite National Park ranger Shelton Johnson in the uniform of a "Buffalo Soldier" as part of a living history re-enactment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An Afro-American Corporal, in the 9th Cavalry....
An Afro-American Corporal, in the 9th Cavalry. Snow covers the ground 1890. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a special holiday treat for fans of the Buffalo Soldier series, I’m offering a sneak peek at chapter one of the latest work in progress; Buffalo Soldier: Yosemite, a fictional account of the role played by the Buffalo Soldiers of the U.S. Ninth Cavalry in the development of the National Parks system, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
 
 
1.
 
     They came riding through a sharp cut in the mountains, where the trail started to dip down toward the broad, flat plains below. After more than two months, most of it spent in the saddle, they were weary and looking forward to getting home.
     The lower they got on the trail the higher the temperature rose. The great coats they’d had to wear at the higher altitudes to protect from the bitter January cold were starting to feel heavy.
     “Detachment, halt,” Sergeant Ben Carter said, loudly enough so that Corporal Tom Holman, who was riding point, could hear. Ben noticed that his breath fogged less than it had when they started riding earlier that morning, and he was starting to feel sweat forming under his armpits. “Let’s take off the coats, and tie ‘em to the back of the saddles.”
     The nine cavalrymen riding behind him wasted no time shucking the heavy coats.
     “Dang, I didn’t think you was ever gone let us take them things off,” Sergeant George Toussaint, Ben’s second in command, said. “I was sweatin’ like a blue tick dog in a Louisiana swamp in that thing.”
     Toussaint rode up alongside Ben. The wide smile on his broad, brown face belied his words. Ben noted that the normally phlegmatic trooper had been smiling and happy for almost the entire mission. In fact, everyone in the unit had been considerably happier since they’d been moved from their job of escorting work details and sent off to scout a route from Fort Union to Yosemite. Despite the long days in the saddle, the rugged terrain ranging from high mountain to scorching desert, and weather that was freezing cold in the mountains and hot enough to fry bacon in the desert, Ben and his men had been in fairly good spirits for the entire time.
     “Yeah,” he said. “I was starting to feel a bit hot myself. I don’t reckon we’ll need ‘em for the rest of the trip.”
     As they came down out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, north and northeast of Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico Territory, they could see the plains off to the east that seemed to go on forever. Ben knew that Fort Union, home to two troops of the Ninth United States Cavalry, was just over the horizon - about thirty miles more, and they would be home.
     Up ahead, he saw that Holman had tied his coat behind him and was waiting for his signal to move out again. He waved.
     When Holman’s horse was turned, Ben signaled the rest of the detachment to move out. In a clatter of hooves, ten riders and five pack horses resumed their trek down off the mountain.
     Over two months on the trail had been taxing, but Ben was satisfied that they had accomplished their assigned mission of mapping out a route from Fort Union to Yosemite that could be traveled by a wagon carrying surveying equipment and driven by civilians with little experience on the frontier. He had also, he felt, accomplished the mission he set for himself.
     After an extended period of garrison duty, the men of the detachment had lost their edge. During the mapping mission, Ben had them perform tactical drills at every opportunity. From setting up camp at night, and breaking camp each morning, mounting sentries at every stop, and on a few occasions in isolated areas away from settlements, doing rifle, pistol, and saber drills until they could do them with their eyes closed. There had been complaining the first few times, and they were clearly rusty, but as the old skills came back, and their performance smoother and by reflex, they began to enjoy it. Being outside in the open air, with starry skies over their head at night, was what they needed to feel like soldiers again. He could see it in the way they rode. Their heads held high, shoulders squared, and backs straight. These were once again the men he felt confident going into battle with.
     They hadn’t even minded that their mission caused them to be in the field over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. They’d shot several quail and a small deer and cooked them over an open fire to supplement the rations they carried. The fresh meat, along with several jugs of apple cider they’d bought at a settlement in California they’d passed through, made the meals around their campfire every bit as festive as it would have been had they been at Fort Union. Even George Toussaint, taciturn by nature, joined in the singing around the fire, surprising everyone with his beautiful baritone voice.
     He breathed deeply of the air, fresh and crisp. He enjoyed the feeling of the sun bathing his face and hands, and the sight of the animals coming out to take advantage of the warming air as the sun burned off the night chill.
     As Ben looked ahead, something about what he saw bothered him, but it took a few seconds for his brain to process what he was seeing.
     Off in the distance, he could see Holman’s horse idly grazing. But, there was no sign of the trooper. Ben senses’ went on alert. He raised his hand, halting the column.  Toussaint quickly rode up beside him.
     “What’s the matter?” he asked.
     Ben pointed. “I see Tom’s horse, but I don’t see him,” he said tensely.
     He quickly went through possible scenarios in his mind. He hadn’t heard gunfire, and there wasn’t enough cover in front of them for an Indian with a bow to hide, so it couldn’t be a hostile attack. Holman was a good horseman who wouldn’t just fall off his horse, and it he’d gotten off for some reason, Ben should be able to see him. A standing man was visible for miles on the flat terrain.
     “You want me to go up and check?” Toussaint asked.
     “No, you stay here with the unit. I’ll take Malachi with me.”
     Ben called Private Malachi Davis forward. Davis was the best shot in the unit. If firepower was needed, Ben felt confident with the youngster at his side. He pulled his horse around and kicked it forward toward Holman’s grazing mount. Davis followed close behind.
     As they got closer, Ben saw a dark shape on the ground. At first, he feared it might be a dead body, but then he saw it move. Closer still and they heard the moans. It was Holman, writhing on the ground. They halted their horses and both men vaulted from the saddle.
     “Keep a share lookout, Malachi,” Ben said, kneeling next to Holman. “Tom, what happened?”
     The corporal’s dark face was contorted in pain. “O-o-ow!” he cried. “My horse was spooked by a snake, and throwed me. I think I done broke my leg.” He pointed to his left leg which was at a strange angle from his body.
    Ben felt gingerly along Holman’s leg, staring at his hip. As he reached a point about eight inches above the knee, he felt a sharp bump, and Holman screamed in agony. Ben quickly removed his hand.
     “Yeah, it appears broken all right,” he said. “Malachi, go get the others. We’ll have to make camp here until I can figure out what to do.” He laid a hand on the injured trooper’s shoulder. “You just lay back and rest, Tom. We’re gonna have to set that broken leg somehow.”
     Holman’s brow was covered with beads of sweat. He spoke through clenched jaws. “It hurt somethin’ awful, Ben,” he said. “I don’t think I can ride.”
     “Don’t worry; we’re not too far from the fort. I’ll send somebody to get a wagon.”
     Ben rose and walked over to retrieve Holman’s horse, which he tethered to a small bush next to his own. He began gathering twigs for a fire, glancing constantly at his friend, who still moaned occasionally. He had just finished stacking the wood near Holman, and was about to light it when the rest of the detachment rode up.
     Toussaint rushed over to him. “Malachi told me what happened,” he said. “What we gone do?”
     “We’ll set up camp here. We need to try and set that broken leg, too.” Ben issued rapid fire orders. “Send Hezekiah on to the fort to get a wagon to transport Tom.”
     The big sergeant whirled and began carrying out Ben’s orders. Ben motioned for Corporal Samuel Hightower join him next to Holman.
     “Yeah, Ben,” Hightower said. “What you need?”
     “We need to set this broken leg,” Ben said. His face was creased with worry. “I’m not sure I know how to do it properly. I was hopin’ maybe you’d learned how when you and your ma lived with the Indians.”
     Hightower nodded. “I reckon I might be able to. I need four pieces of wood, as straight as possible, and about the length of his leg from crotch to the ground, and some twine.”
     “I can do that,” Ben said. He hurried off, scanning the surrounding terrain for something matching Hightower’s request.
     He found two pieces of the length Hightower wanted, so the corporal used four shorter pieces to make up for the missing lengths. They cut strips from Holman’s saddle bag to secure the wood to his injured leg. Ben had to hold him down as Hightower affixed the makeshift splint. When they were done, Holman lay back, his face and upper body slick with sweat, his chest heaving. He looked up at his two friends, his eyes clouded with pain.
     “How you feelin’, pardner?” Hightower asked.
     “Like I done been stomped by a Brahma bull, is how,” Holman replied. “Did you have to be so rough puttin’ this here splint on?”
     “I needed to cinch it up tight so them broke bones don’t move around. I done seen a bad splint let the bones move and they cut a vein. That happen, you’d bleed to death.”
     Holman winced. “Oh, in that case, I forgive you.”
     “Hey, Tom, we got some vittles goin’, you feel up to eatin’?” Ben said.
     Holman smiled weakly. “I done broke my leg, not my belly. ‘Course I feel like eatin’.”
     Ben had him lie back and rest, his saddle as a pillow and wool blankets below him and covering him, while the men set about erecting tents and getting their supper of beans, beef, and biscuits done.
     The sun was below the peaks behind them, casting long dark shadows over the plain, by the time Private Hezekiah Layton returned from the fort, accompanied by the post doctor and a wagon driven by a husky corporal.
     The doctor examined Holman’s leg, while the corporal untied the wagon’s two horses and put them in with the detachment’s animals who had been tethered in an area twenty feet downwind of the circle of tents they’d erected.
     When he’d finished his examination, the doctor, a gaunt captain with lank brown hair and watery blue eyes, stood and turned to Ben. “That’s a pretty bad fracture he’s got,” he said. “Can’t do much but try and keep him comfortable, though, ‘till we get back to the fort hospital. You did a pretty good job of settin’ it, sergeant.”
     “Thank you, sir,” Ben said. “But, it was Corporal Hightower that did that.” Ben looked around. “I notice you and the driver didn’t bring tents. You can use mine, and I’ll bunk with one of the others. The driver can do the same.”
     The captain laughed. “Reckon I wasn’t thinkin’ too clearly. I appreciate that, sergeant. Reckon we’ll need to borrow mess kits as well.”
     Ben shrugged. That the officer hadn’t thought to equip himself for an overnight stay didn’t surprise him, but he was a bit disappointed in the corporal. Troopers of the Ninth were supposed to be field ready at all times – his men now were. This one, though, had obviously been in garrison too long.
     “No problem, sir,” he said. “We have extras in the supplies. Brought ‘em along in case we had any lost or damaged.”
     That, Ben thought, was what it really meant to be a cavalry trooper.
 
 

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Red Card for the Red Line

If Washington’s Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) was a soccer team, the Red Line that runs between Shady Grove and Glenmont would be a player not pulling his weight. The Red Line, part of the oldest line in the 37 year-old combined subway/surface rail system, has been plagued with problems for the past several years, including excessive delays, breakdowns, and accidents.

When mishaps cause the system to have to single track – which seems to happen almost every day – riders during rush hour can experience delays of two to four hours, stations as crowded as a Tokyo subway station and frustration levels that are off the chart. Add to this the design flaws in the system, such as platform tiles of a material that becomes as slick as ice when it gets wet, escalators and elevators that stop working at the most inopportune time, and turnstiles that malfunction frequently, and you have a set of irritants that force many commuters back into their cars and onto the crowded streets and the Beltway.
The Red Line handles about 150,000 rider trips a day, making it one of the busiest of the system’s soon to be six lines (the Silver Line to Dulles Airport is set to open sometime in 2014). If its problems cause people to jettison mass transit commutes, and go back to the highways, think of what that will mean to area traffic and pollution. That’s another 100K cars or so on roads that are already overcrowded, and tons more greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere.

Come on Metro; fans are sitting in the stands cheering for you to get your star player in shape and back onto the field.

Monday, November 18, 2013

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My Top 5 Trips in 2013

This year, 2013, which is almost over, is the first full year since my retirement from government service. Having spent 50 years traveling for the government, I’ve become addicted to packing and spending a fair amount of time in hotels around the world. I feared that being retired would put a huge crimp in one of my favorite pastimes, but so far, I’ve been pleased to discover that, even in retirement, there are many travel opportunities. Despite an accident in July, when I fell and broke my right hip, resulting in six weeks of limited mobility when the doctors thought it was just a bruise, and another twelve weeks of being confined to my house when they found a small fracture that required surgery, I’ve still accumulated a lot of travel miles. With a month and a half left in the year, my travel will be restricted to subway trips from my home in suburbia to downtown Washington, DC, but I still had five great journeys that have made 2013 a memorable year. Arizona and New Mexico In March, I was invited to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona to participate in the Air Force’s major personnel recover exercise, Angel Thunder. Unlike past exercises, I didn’t get to do any helicopter trips, but did do several road trips between Tucson and Playas, New Mexico, with a side trip to historic Tombstone, Arizona.
Cameroon The Canada-based magazine Afrique Expansion invited me to join a media delegation traveling to Cameroon in May to cover Cameroon’s national day celebrations. In addition, we did road trips around the capital Yaounde and then drove to the port city of Douala. Included were visits to a tourist village and an ape sanctuary.
Dearborn, Michigan After returning to the U.S. from Cameroon, I left home the next day for Dearborn, MI, where I was the grand marshal for the city’s Memorial Day parade. Great visits to the Ford Museum and Ford Village, which included a ride on a turn-of-the century carousel.
Chautauqua Institution, New York Chautauqua Institution, in western New York, is home to the country’s oldest public book club. Despite a broken hip (which hadn’t been diagnosed at the time) I drove up to participate in the institution’s activities. A historic site, and a great place to spend a week in the summer.
Suffolk, Virginia After my hip fracture was diagnosed and I had surgery, I was housebound for more than ten weeks. My doctor, however, cleared me to drive and move around on crutches just in time for me to travel to Virginia’s east coast to work with a team of defense consultants in Suffolk, VA during the second week in November.
In addition to some great scenery, which I photographed madly, each trip was a culinary delight. From eating some rather exotic dishes in Cameroon to mouth-watering barbecue in Suffolk, I partook of local delights at each venue. For the rest of 2013, I plan to rest up and get ready for 2014.
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

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Monday, November 11, 2013

A Salute to Those Who Serve



Whether they’re sitting watch in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan, at a radar screen on a ship in some distant ocean, behind a desk at a post in the U.S., or on their back porch remembering their service, our veterans have never failed to answer the call when their services were needed. They’ve come from farms, small towns, and towering cities; farmers and factory workers, men and women, all colors and religions – and, when necessary, they’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Take a moment today to reflect on the freedoms that we as Americans all too often take for granted, and the price in blood that our veterans have paid to purchase those freedoms. We might have to endure some economic hardship, but compared to much of the rest of the world, we have it easy. And, it’s largely due to the men and women who have been willing to put their lives on hold, and go into harm’s way.

They don’t ask much; only that we not forget. Show your respect and gratitude to our veterans. They deserve it – they’ve earned it.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Marza - the Film by Regan Young



Former U.S. Marine Regan Young has made an evocative film about his time in Afghanistan. He needs but $5,000 to finish production and release it. Check it out at Kickstarter.com and consider supporting this artistic and worthwhile endeavor.