Thursday, August 30, 2007

"A Special Place in Hell"...

That’s the term an ardent dog lover used for Michael Vick following his guilty plea to promoting dog fighting on Tuesday. Had they offered opinions, Sammy Dammit the Wrong Dog and Little Lupe would have offered similar opinions. My dogs speak perfect English; they just don’t say a lot.

Time was, a dogfight was fighter pilots swarming the skies and duking it out with available guns. Now, it’s bloodsport, like politics.

I have always regarded dog pitting to be a redneck activity, not some ghetto-mentality “black thing”. Spike TV—where I used to visit for the cop-dash-cam videos—features all manner of fight club nonsense and wrestling theatricality. Okay; that’s between humans. If you’re some corn-fed chap who can take the pounding, jump in. I’m a Libertarian; make your choice, and live with it. I prefer my body-slams on the floor of the Senate…but, that’s just me.

Dogs don’t necessarily have that option. Ever since wolves surrendered their autonomy to our cave-dwelling ancestors, dogs look to us for guidance, affection, and support. They could be living in a feral state somewhere, but they like us big ol’ bipedal caterers to attend their every need.

I hate to disappoint the PETA crowd, but I do not consider an animal’s life worth more than a human’s. On the other hand, I’ll kill for my dogs. They are fortunate critters, and they know it. To quote the late, great Lee Marvin from “The Professionals”: “You don’t die for a good woman, you kill for her.” I don’t know too many good women at my age, but my dogs are always glad to see me, and they don’t question where I’ve been.

I am larger than the average dog, and no matter what else happens, I know I can throw and probably kill one if we get into an all-out attack.

I have friends—a cop, a close friend, in fact—who has raised pit bulls in close proximity to infant children. The closest guardian of my children was a Doberman named “Ransom”. Such dogs are only dangerous if you make them so. What Michael Vick did was to make his “pets” so dangerous that they will probably have to be euthanized. He also participated in the brutal executions of un-performing animals, or whatever.

I once took in a Dalmatian who had been trained as a volunteer firehouse watchdog. Then he had gone deaf, which is a common genetic trait among Dalmatians. Generally unmanageable, I took him out to my farm. The firefighters were ready to do away with him as a bad deal gone wrong. He settled in beside the woodburning stove and snoozed off. I sat at my desk for a while, pounding the typewriter with some work-related stuff.

I eventually rose from my desk and headed toward the kitchen, intent on a cold beer or some such. My path took me past “Spot”. Although deaf as a rock, he felt the floor of the 120-year-old house vibrate, and woke in just enough time to bite me firmly behind the knee.

All right, dog lovers! Cringe, and ready your slings and arrows!

I picked “Spot” up by his hind legs. He weighed over 100 pounds, but I had the adrenalin going. A good dog bite will put you into traumatic shock. I swung him like a bag of horse feed, once, twice, three times. Then I let go, and he crashed into the wall like a sack of rocks.

We never spoke of this again. Dogs have short memories. You can’t go back later, lecture them, and then punish them. “Spot” never tried to bite me again. After some more “tough love”, he never bit anyone again. This was a dog who could yank a 250-gallon propane tank off its blocks, charging at intruders in the yard. He always responded well to “Who’s your daddy?” All you to do was “duck and cover”; show submission, and he’d lose interest. He ended up doing quite well with kids. I had another Dalmatian to teach him manners; they both ended up attacking a guy on crutches because they thought the shiny things were rifles; but then, a dog will do what you ask. You who fly bet your lives on Homeland Security every day. Want to bet your life on a dog’s?

Later in life, I became guardian and servant to an impressive Doberman. She had never been “trimmed”, so she had giant bat ears and a long, curly tail. Had she asked, I might have gone for the cosmetology, but she never asked, so I didn’t do it.

This dog was ¾ Doberman and ¼ German Alsatian [Shepherd]. She stood quietly by while the kids played. She rode quietly in my car or pickup truck. She never attacked a stranger, or mauled an innocent bystander. If, however, someone had attacked any member of our family, they would have faced over 100 pounds of snarling fury, to coin a phrase. The dog could smell gun oil, my children knew the difference, and predators walked up at their own peril. Few tried.

There are now people who are saying we have to “understand” Michael Vick, and somehow forgive him for what he has done. If my dogs deigned to speak to you, they’d say what I do: Bullshit. [That’s PG-13 by modern standards; I’ve been watching the movie channels.]

I am not without sin, and should perhaps not cast the first stone. Judging by the hooting at his court appearance, there is no shortage of those who want Michael Vick drawn and quartered. I might parse things with PETA, but if the darlings of the Liberal Left care to take a stand on this, I am with you. There is no limit to what I will do for my dogs; on the other hand, there is no limit for what they will do for me.

I grew up with rednecks, so it ain’t no surprise that we fight dogs. Stupid people are capable of incredibly stupid things. I once had to body-slam a dog because there was no other way to get through to him; I still get grief from other “dogsters” because I had to resort to such measures.

My dogs would die for me; I will kill for them. Such is the ageless relationship of man and beast. I have heard all the rhetoric about “Mike Vick is being unfairly used as the poster-boy for dog fighting.” There are apologists who want him to resume his NFL career once he exits prison for this little “hiccup”. Utter rubbish; he needs to hide and pray.

My pictures doen't publish the way I'd like them. However, the shot of Ransom is at the beginning of this column. She was a really sweet pooch, but if you made a pass at the kids, her facial expression and more is what you got.

My friend has it right. There is a special corner of Hell for those who inflict suffering on the beasts of God’s creation. PETA people be damned; we are given dominion by Biblical decree, but that doesn’t mean you go out and act like some kind of king-hell beast. I might not trade the average human life for that of a critter, but Michael Vick’s life isn’t worth that of a dog. Bad boy! Get down!

Friday, August 17, 2007

The mine [going underground]

I have been withholding comment on the Huntington, Utah mine disaster, hoping for a favorable outcome. Like the Sago, if even one man walks away, it is a victory.

I’m a claustrophobic wimp. I have been spelunking under the University of The South in Sewanee, Tennessee, going into Harry Clarke’s cave at the foot of the mountain in Roarke’s Cove, where a small party of friends has agreed to meet in case of nuclear holocaust. Going into that cavern, and edging past the underground river, required conquest of fears that I didn’t even know existed. I stood outside “The Mud Room” and turned my headlight off to see absolute darkness. Total, pitch black. The river runs through it, and there was still the roar of the water in the oblivion of total underground black-out. It was the most frightening two minutes I can think of. I think I’d rather take my chances with thermonuclear weapons on the surface.

My initial reaction to this mine owner, Murray, was “we’ll be seeing you in handcuffs PDQ”. He does not play well on TV. He should shut up with the excuses, and concentrate on the mine.

Three would-be rescuers died last night. This is turning into a nightmare. One doesn’t have to be military personnel to be a hero. Anyone who goes underground to earn a living is far braver than I can begin to imagine. Two minutes with lights out had me squirming. Truth be told, I wanted to scream and flee. I mastered my fear, but that total darkness is not something I’ll ever opt for again. When my time comes, I’d just as soon be staring at open sky.

I pray that someone will walk away from the deepest mine collapse in recent history.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Long musings on home invasion

I am a victim of the Dog Days. They are aptly named; my pups won’t bark until a loudly talkative neighbor might be halfway over the fence. Not that they’d want to do that, but folks who live in this part of the country acknowledge that if you manage to defeat the 100+ pounds of night-fighter—picture nothing but shiny white teeth and rolling brown eyes coming at you out of the blackness of a Georgia night like a real-life land-locked “Jaws”—you still have the homeowner to contend with.

Some folks in Jawja might consider Jeff Foxworthy a Hollyweird sell-out, but when he made that remark about rednecks with [firearms in our] sock drawers, all was forgiven. Y’see…it’s true.

I sleep—when I sleep, which is next to never; more on that later—in the assurance that when Blessed Morphia [that’s Shakepeare, not drugs, kids] descends, I will wake to several timely alarums:

If I have somehow managed to violate every safety stricture of The Possum Den and that last cigarette of the night—usually smoked in bed; nannies be damned—has spread to flammable territory, there is the traditional wailing of the hard-wired smoke detectors.

Someone once asked me about an emergency evacuation plan. [My home nurse, actually; don’t you love talking a good game while you’re sitting in a wheelchair, dependent upon people to bring you food so you’ll live until the next gripe session?] My reply was something to the effect that I’ll grab the little dog who—hopefully—woke me up, and, depending upon the smoke levels, throw ourselves down the stairs from the second floor to the first, and out onto the deck. From there, it’s a short fall to the ground. The electric fence that keeps my night-fighter in the yard isn’t all that powerful, and given a few seconds’ time, I know where the plug is. In the final extremity, I’ll grab the electrified gate, throw it open, and scream “Run!”

I ain’t a tough guy; my life has been saved too many times by the best this country has to offer, and those guys are tough. I have a female friend whose love for dogs far exceeds these mutterings; she’ll die for her dogs; I’ll kill for mine. If the aforementioned scenario ever started playing out, I’d doubtless be the most hysterical and lost actor on the stage. I’d be screaming like a little girl. Hopefully, the Fire Department would snatch us all from the jaws of the corny cliché of “the jaws of death”. I’d be a good Democrat, standing there as the flames rose, certain that the government will “do the right thing” and keep my lame ass from perishing in the fire. I’d make no move to survive on my own, because they promised me, help is just around the corner. Right. Bet The Possum Den on inactivity.

That may be some presidential-hopeful’s wet dream of an ideal constituent. I have almost given up on Bill O’Reilly, Hannity & Crypt-Keeper Colmes, and especially the Van Susteren vulture, because they pursue their ratings-driven hunts for a poor girl who was f---cked to death and thrown out to sea with the next day’s shark chum.

And what, say ye, does all this musing have to do with the initial teaser of home invasion?

You want to find out about home invasion, live in the “BosWash; that fertile strip between Boston and Washington.

I spent too many years of what should have been a productive life listening to sources, mostly sociopaths, tell me about ”the score” Thanks to them, I have some grand vision as to what it might be like to score big, at least in the eyes of a have-not. I have known people who sprayed pursuing cop cars with high-velocity AK-47 rounds, causing disaster. For some, “The Score” is as simple as grabbing a couple thousand dollars from a bank teller’s drawer while they and the customers cower at gunpoint.

For others, “The Score” is more of an intangible, and doesn’t just involve satisfying whatever momentary greed may have triggered the cause-effect actions of the day. One of the best, and simplest, explanations of a sociopath is that this is someone who (a) reinvents themselves every morning when they wake with no regard for other humans, and (b) never starts a day with anything resembling empathy for others, regarding them as mere objects placed on this earth for their [the sociopath’s] gratification.

That’s an extremely simplistic explanation, but then, I’m a simple man. I like my educational terms in 25 words or less. I have a perverse pride in being a high-school dropout; said pride hinging on one word: rectification. I had some very uncertain years regarding what I wanted to do with my life, but there was always the moral compass that my father instilled; I knew right from wrong.

Say what you will about “family values”, and it’s been a subject of derision since the kinder, gentler Reagan/Dan Quayle era.

So, we come to a classic case of a younger sociopath wondering what the hell to do today, and an older [parental substitute] suggesting “why don’t we follow that appealing young girl home from the mall?”

They act on their impulses, and the result is murder, rape, arson, and a single day’s activities that warrant the death penalty in what should be the most ardent liberal’s pantheon of behavior.

In his book “Outrage”, former Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi details the doctrine of “the presumption of innocence”. Oooo-kay. We’ll assume for the moment that these two scumbags in Connecticut didn’t do anything they’re accused of, and they fled head-on into a police car because they share my childhood anxiety about policemen as authority figures. Gee, all those years I was a scofflaw with speed and arrogance, it never occurred to me to run from the cops. The blue lights come on, you pull over. End of story.

(Actually, I outfoxed the Georgia State Patrol twice, like the Bandit in “Smokey and the Bandit”, but youthful stupidity behind the wheel of a high-horsepower ‘60s muscle car doesn’t fabricate a moral equivalency with murder.)

In most parts of Georgia, excluding the People’s Republic of Atlanta, if you try to force your way into someone’s home, you get two responses:

(1) The more benign response of the sound of a slide racking on a large shotgun; the classic, unmistakable “snick-snack” that every movie patron over the age of eight is familiar with, or
(2) the more brief and quiet double click of a handgun action being activated, followed by a flurry of shots. If it’s a wheel gun [revolver], you may never hear the shot that blows your head off.

When I taught combat shooting some years ago, I always asked my beginning pupils what their purpose was for taking the course. If they said it was for home defense, I would advise them to get a refund from the range owner, and to buy a .12 gauge shotgun and some range practice time instead. A shotgun is cheap, easy, and you don’t have to be Annie Oakley to hit what you’re gunning for.

Georgia is not without its home invasions. One of the two murders in Union County in the last four years was a result of home invasion. In that case, it was meth-heads going after each other. We are not immune to crime; we just have less of it, and usually on a lower scale because it is taken for granted that every house with a light in the window has a firearm lurking somewhere within. Burglary of the flatlander’s summer homes is the biggest problem, followed by driving offenses concerning illegal aliens working in our prolific housing market.

Georgia is also not unfamiliar with family massacres. In the 1960s, three escaped convicts slaughtered an entire family in South Georgia, in what was eerily reminiscent of the earlier killing of the Kansas Clutter family, of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood infamy. My younger daughter was plagued by an unwelcome suitor/stalker, until the moment he was crouched below the peephole at the front door, and I opened it, stuck a .12 gauge shotgun into his eye socket, and racked the slide. That boy wasn’t right, but I think he settled down somewhat after that.

I haven’t explored Connecticut’s gun laws, but I’ll bet they are restrictive. The catch-phrase for liberals is “gun violence”, as though the weapons jump out of the drawer in the middle of the night and run to the nearest 7-11 to commit a robbery, all on their own. I’m withholding the family name, but if the Connecticut doctor had possessed a firearm and was able to reach it when the home invaders made their move, his wife and children might have survived, and evil people might be sprawled in the gutter staring at Hell instead of a court trial in front of liberal “let-‘em-go” judges.

Hey, kids, homeowners, responsible adults, I have a news flash for you: a firearm is a tool, like a hammer or a screwdriver. Put one in the junk drawer in your kitchen, and that puppy won’t move unless/until you remove it. Firearms don’t cause violence; people do. Never forget that.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


When I was a child, we used to rev our V-8s and play “jump the Skyway”. “The Skyway” was the original bridge in St. Pete, Florida that got rammed and dumped by a rogue tanker. We’d crank up on 34th Street, and tear past Florida Presbyterian College [Now Eckerd, since the drugstore magnate bought it]. The idea was to hit the perfect incline at 100 mph and leave the ground. If you managed this death-defying feat, you had awesome bragging rights.

So, it’s 30 years later. I’m driving home, minding my own business, all youthful indiscretions long gone in my past. All of a sudden, I might get creamed by some punk fleeing from the cops. Life is full of uncertainties. In fact, I got hit head-on a few years ago by a foolish woman trying to pass a dump truck in the rain. I'm addicted the "dash-cam" police chase shows, and when the fleeing hoodlums invariably smash into things, it makes me shudder. I recently replaced the late, lamented Mercedes Panzerwagon with a generic Chevy Astro van. My neighbor Dennis, the heroic truck driver who canceled contracts to carry Hurricane Katrina relief to New Orleans, said the Astro's V-6 is so quick because it's "the 350 V-8 with two cylinders sawed off". I fully expect to be motoring along, minding my Ps and Qs, and get smashed by some bulletproof hoodlum fleeing the law. Living in the sticks gives me better odds that it won't happen, but the local weekly paper invariably has the details of last weekend's chase by the county Mounties. Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham filmed nice portions of "Smokey and The Bandit" in this area, and all these years later there are still nut cases who think they can reproduce carefully choreographed stunt work on our mountain roads.

There is a basic element of horror that attaches to the Minneapolis bridge collapse. As we get older, we expect to be tooling down the road, minding our lives, and certainly not jumping bridges at 100 mph. The old Sunshine Skyway got bumped by an errant ship, and collapsed into Tampa Bay, taking people with it. When that news broke some years ago, it was what is referred to in The Possum Den as a "jaw dropper".

My heart goes out those who have lost loved ones in Minneapolis. It takes the breath away. One can dodge a fleeing felon or idiotic motorist, but when the road goes out from under you, it's like an act of God where you have to hang on and hope for the best. We never think of bridges until we cross them.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Summertime Blues (Rockin' like The Who)

Hey! It’s summertime. We’re all on vacation at times. In my case, this coincided with horrible, recurring computer problems, thanks to a troll-induced virus from a while back. I turned the hardware of HAL-9000 Mk. II over to a specialist, and headed out in my new, custom Chevy Astro van.

My hunting trip was unsuccessful in that I don’t shoot animals of the four-legged variety for sport or trophies. I don’t think my delicate sensitivities could endure a deer’s head staring at me from the wall of the Possum Den with those glassy eyes. I’d start talking to the thing, apologizing, and descend into further madness.

On the other hand, as a shakedown voyage, the van was wonderful. The 4.3 liter V-6 is a cut-down version of the 400 hp Chevy 350 that powered my Corvette, and for a box in wheels, the thing is pretty darn quick.

So, I come home quickly to a refurbished computer and too much news to handle. A terrifying home-invasion murder in Connecticut stands out, and bridges collapsing in Minnesota are the stories du jour.

Regarding the former, I have to join those who are asking “What were they thinking? Why were these guys out of prison?”

The latter story is still developing.

Upon checking the blog and the super-secret blog-tracker technology, I find a comment from a ScrappleFace™ troll who insists:
(a) I only write boring, unreadable stuff here; things about cigarette smoking; and
(b) because I have nothing relevant or significant to say by progressive standards, my modest blog remains unread.

This sort of begs the question: why are you still reading, much less bold enough to post a comment and reveal this fact to me?

Truth be told, I do not crave legions of sycophants. I need an opposition viewpoint to tell me when I’m straying into madness and fanaticism. Even though I wander into references that are beyond PG-13, there’s a zero-tolerance policy in effect. Just say it within boundaries, and everything gets published. The proof of this maxim lies in the commentary section of my last post; glad you’re still reading, Liger. I suspected as much. Remember, page visits are tracked. Not to deter, but my anal-retentive self likes to keep count. Keep it family-friendly, and keep those visits coming.

So much happens so fast. The fact that I have difficulty keeping up with the news is a sign of incipient middle old age. I’ll attribute premature senile dementia to over-use of drugs and alcohol. No shyness or BS here; Danny Bonaduce is in my hero-hall-of-fame.

I’ll try to be a bit more relevant to current events in a while. For now, I’m back from vacation, and licking my reptilian lips in anticipation. Bring it on!