The Ozarks Almanac

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Where will you be on Sunday morning?

Well, it is the day before Easter, so I hope you will be in church tomorrow morning.

People who don't go to church (and some who do) don't get the reason for church. It is this: Worship, pure and simple, of the Great God Almighty.

Some years back, I ran the Westminster Shorter Catechism over the course of many days on the editorial page of the Rolla Daily News.

The first question of that catechism was “What is the chief end of man?” That is another way of saying, “What is the main reason we are here?”

And the answer was “Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.”
There were scripture references to prove that truth.

Last year, I read a book by Dr. N.T. Wright, some high-up theologian in The Anglican Church over in Great Britain, who said the Great God Almighty expects to be worshipped.

Now, although I am not worth a hoot or a holler as a follower of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and am usually out yee-hawing on Saturday night (or, wait, maybe all that yee-hawing is just in my mind as I sit and watch the cowboys shooting and fighting in the black-and-white saloon on my TV screen), I generally am in a church someplace on Sunday morning, for I believe the catechism and Dr. Wright are right and that the Great God Almighty wants me to worship Him.

I have heard many people say they can worship Him in a boat or on a stream bank or sitting in their backyard just as well as they can in church.

Well, I doubt it. In fact, I don’t believe a word of it. When you tell me that, I think you are full of something, I shall not say what. Seriously, I think the only place you can worship the Great God Almighty is in a gathering. Seriously, again, I don’t think you have the willpower to sit on a stream bank and sing or chant praises to the Great God Almighty and to meditate on scripture and to think about what God has done in your life, which by the way is absolutely meaningless apart from the Great God Almighty, all while you are sitting in a boat throwing out a line early on the Sabbath, or sitting in the back of your pickup on a Saturday night or Sunday night listening to your coon dogs or while you’re walking amongst the beautiful flowers in your backyard, drinking a cup of coffee on Sunday morning.

I think you have to be in the middle of a community of believers, focused on worshipping You Know Who, because He is worth your undivided attention.

Now, there are a lot of churches in Rolla and the surrounding area, so you are sure to find one where you are comfortable attending. Even I, who fit in no where with no one, have found one where I fit in enough that they haven’t kicked me out. (I don’t attend Bible study with them, but that is a whole other story that has been told elsewhere.) If I can find a church to worship the Great God Almighty, you certainly can.

Speaking of Him, I believe the reporter in The Bible who wrote that “God, who at various times and in different ways spoke throughout history through prophets has lately spoken unto us by his Son .. who (is) the very image of (him).” In other words, I believe Jesus Christ was the Great God Almighty in the flesh. I believe he lived a perfect life, died on a cross and somehow that was to take the punishment for my sins, not His because he didn’t have any, and then rose up alive. It’s that rising up that we are fixing to celebrate tomorrow morning, just like we do every Sunday morning.

I am a sinner, a terrible sinner. If you knew the thoughts in my head, you would be shocked. Of course, I’d probably be shocked if I knew the thoughts in you head. Nevertheless, I like to read about Jesus in the four Gospels, because He has some interesting and mysterious things to say. For instance, there’s a story about Jesus going over to eat at the house of a high-and-mighty preacher. The reporter who tells the story says that Jesus turned to his host and said, “When you put on a dinner, don’t invite friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors! For they will return the invitation.  Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the godly, God will reward you for inviting those who can’t repay you.”

The reporter goes on to say that the man sitting at the table with Jesus said, “Boy, howdy, What a privilege it would be to get into the Kingdom of God!”

And then Jesus replied with a story that went something like this: “A rich ole boy from Rolla prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations to the fine and important people of the community.  When all was ready, he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to arrive.  But they all began making excuses. One big businessman said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it to get it ready to build a big commercial building, and asked to be excused. Another, an engineering professor up at the university, said he had just bought a powerful new car and wanted to take it out for a drive on the interstate, maybe run up to St. Louis for the weekend to see a ball game and eat on the Hill. Another fellow said he had had just been married and, well, (wink, wink) you know, he couldn’t attend a dinner on a special night like that.

“So, the servant came back and told his master what everybody said. The rich man was angry and told him to go up and down the streets and alleys of Rolla and find all the beggars, crippled, lame, and blind. But even then, there was still room.

“ ‘Well, then,’ said the master to the servant, ‘go around to the parks and behind the shopping centers and over in the woods by the interstate and find the homeless people and invite them to the big banquet. Go out into the country lanes and out behind the hedges, go around to all the bars in Rolla, Newburg and St. James and invite those drunks; find all the meth-heads and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.  For none of those big-wigs I invited first will get even the smallest taste of what I had prepared for them.’”

That is in Luke 14:12-24 of The Living Bible (Ozarks Boy Paraphrase). You can look it up and read it for yourself. But isn’t that something? What do you make of that story Jesus told? Does Jesus really mean that? What the heck DOES he mean, anyway?

I kind of get the idea he means that when God calls you to come spend time with Him, then you better come and spend time with Him. Don’t think you’ve got something better to do like look over your property or run up to St. Louis or tickle your new wife or go to some egg-drop or ball-game or rat-killing. Get together at the Lord’s table with the other folks and focus on Him. Otherwise, he’ll just forget you and find some other sinners to lavish his gifts on.

That’s what I think on this day before Easter, but I could be wrong, for I am only a Shade-Tree Theologian, just a big, fat, old, profane, loud-mouthed sinner who is going to be in church Sunday morning thanking and praising (and trying to hear from) the Great God Almighty.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The joy of helping retail customers

By day, I work at a retail job in another city, in another county. I like the job a lot for many reasons. The associates I work with are, for the most part, kind to me. The company is a good one that offers good benefits, although Obamacare requirements kind of messed up some of that, it seems. The customers are wonderful people, and I like to help them find the products they need to complete the projects or make the repairs necessary in their homes.

I’d tell you the name of the store, but the company’s social media policy is quite strict, and since this column will be posted in the social media, I am prohibited from naming it. It is a store that sells products related to the home is all I can ethically reveal.

(DISCLAIMER:  I must here and now tell you that I do not represent myself as any kind of expert related to home improvement or repairs. I do not speak as an agent of the company that owns the store in which I work, and any opinions I offer today or any day here or anywhere, including church, are strictly my own, not those of the company for which I work.)

Who among us doesn’t like to be helpful to other people and to be appreciated? That’s why I like to help customers. They’re grateful when I help them find what they want or need, and they express appreciation. As a daily newspaper reporter by night, generally I get griped at and about, so I appreciate my daytime retail job immensely.

Here’s a poem I wrote about recently helping one of my customers:


It was right after lunch at the big-box store where I work,
and because helping customers is something I never shirk,
I walked up to the woman who looked like a lost little lamb,
and I said to her, politely. “What can I help you find today, ma’am?”

She was in the lighting department and she held broken bulbs in a bag,
She appeared confused, her tired shoulders seemed to sag,
I didn’t know if she was from the North or from Dixie,
but  her hair was cut in a style you could call pixie.

I spoke to her quietly, gently, because she was older than me,
while she replied in a voice that was soft and lilting as could be,
“I need some ceiling fan lightbulbs, to be exact, two,
“One that is a teardrop shape, and another that is blue.”

“Well, let’s go see if we can find what you need,” I encouragingly said,
and she pushed her cart behind me, as to the bulb aisle I led,
where I quickly found the bulbs with the shape of a tear.
“But, ma’am,” I said. “Bulbs that are blue, we don’t have, I fear.”

Then I saw Charles, the associate in lighting and electrical sales,
who knows a whole lot; with information and help he never fails.
“Charles,” I said, “this lady needs these two broken bulbs to replace.”
Then I said thanks and good-bye to her and left with a smile on my face.

While disposing of trash in the back of the store, later in the day,
I saw Charles walk past, “Hey, ole buddy, what do you say?”
“Were you able to help that woman who I referred to you?
“Did you find her a ceiling fan bulb that was the color blue?”

“No, R.D.,” said Charles. “We don’t have blue bulbs for lights on a ceiling fan.
“By the way, that customer you kept calling a woman was really a man.”
I was dumb-founded, slack-jawed and could not think of what to say.
“Are you sure, Charles,” I said. “Absolutely,” he said, and then walked away.

So, men, whenever to a home improvement store you go,
I want you to know I mean to help you as you spend your hard-earned dough.
But, please, roughen up your voice and don’t cut your hair like a dame.
So I won’t call you ma’am. That will save me from much shame.

I really feel badly about confusing that gentleman for a lady. I’ll be honest with you: With the number of people we see in that store every day and with the way styles of clothing and hair are today, I have seen a number of people who I wasn’t quite sure what gender they represented. In those cases, I was careful not to call them either “Sir” or “Ma’am.” I just acted respectfully and used generic terms.

But in this case, I was fooled. And I feel right foolish.

I am sorry, sir.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Why I will vote against Prop A

Tuesday, I will vote against the sales tax for Rolla parks and The Centre.

I am not against the parks. I am not against The Centre. My vote is rational and predictable. I’m just doing what I said I would do some 15 years ago.

Lots of us will do what we said we would do. We supported the tax at the beginning to help get the facility built, but we said that once the tax was done, the facility was on its own.

There were plenty of promises made that the tax would last no more than 15 years. The proponents of Prop A tell you that such pledges were never made.

Well, they were, and all it takes is a little review of history.

For instance, on Tuesday, April 27, 1998, this newspaper reported that the Rolla City Council held a workshop the night before that included Mayor-elect Joe Morgan (now deceased) and several council members who would be sworn in at the May meeting. At the workshop, the council discussed the ballot language for the tax.

The consensus was that the ballot question should spell out that the tax would be used to build “at a minimum” an indoor walking track, an indoor swimming pool and aquatic center, an outdoor aquatic facility and an indoor recreation center. The consensus also was that the tax should be a half-cent tax “for not more than 15 years.”

Do you think the time limit was set just as an enticement to get us to vote for the tax? Or do you think the council expected it would indeed operate the recreation center without a subsidy?

Councilman Lou Magdits, chair of the council’s ad hoc recreation committee, now a candidate for mayor, obviously believed the recreation center would stand on its own legs, for he said the time limit would mean the city government would “get out of your pocket” faster.

Dr. William Moorkamp, who headed up the “grassroots” group that worked with the council to promote the sales tax, and Magdits both supported approaching the project with expectations of a 100 percent recapture rate.

“Recapture rates of 100 percent are, in fact, the trend,” Moorkamp assured all those present.
The consensus at that workshop also was to keep the recreation center funds separate from the park funds.

Just a few days after that workshop, in a guest commentary published Sunday, May 3, 1998, Dr. Moorkamp wrote under the title “Clarifying the rec-plex proposal” that his “grassroots” committee wanted to make sure the city council would  “sunset the tax after building the facilities.”

He explained: “By ending the tax as soon as feasible the City will need to manage the facilities to pay for themselves through user fees. We have seen this at most facilities we have visited. This MUST be clear to all before we begin operations.”

Dr. Moorkamp was pretty emphatic.

Then at the May 4, 1998, regular meeting, the council approved the ordinance calling for an August election on a sales tax to fund the construction of the recreation center with a sales tax of one-half of one percent to be levied for 15 years.

I also want you to understand that before the August 1998 election, what the city defined for us as a recreation center was basketball courts and volleyball courts, not cardio equipment and weightlifting machines or free weights. In a story published May 20, Rolla parks and recreation director Ken Kwantes said the facility would not have features that would compete with private facilities in Rolla,

For instance, it would not have any weight facility or racquetball courts as does Vessell’s Fitness Complex and Family Fitness, he said.

The assurances to voters that the tax was temporary and the center would be able to stand on its own continued throughout the summer before the election.

In a July 30, 1998, story on Page 1A, headlined “Residents still have questions about the proposed recreation center,” city officials addressed concerns from the public.

The No. 1 question from the public was about the fees. City officials said the fees would be like those of the Farmington recreation center, about $320 per year for a family, $192 for adults, $136 for youth 15-18 and $80 for those 14 and under.

Another question was whether the recreation center was meant for all or just the wealthy “country club types.”

Mayor Morgan said the daily rates—$8 for family, $3.50 per adult, $2 for 14 and under—should make it affordable to all to use it from time to time. Moreover, there would be scholarship funds and work programs available for those who could not afford to pay the full fee.

City Administrator John Butz pledged the revenue and expenses of the proposed recreation center would be kept accountable and  separate from any other city accounts.

Moorkamp added that the site visits to other recreation centers demonstrated how important it is to have the center and its director isolated from other responsibilities and accountable with the city government.

In the July 30, 1998, Progress Edition, Moorkamp said, “We want accountability, in that there are four features, plus we wouldn’t want a tax forever. That’s why we had the sunset part in for 15 years.
After that time, the facility has got to run over a 100 percent rate.”

Those assurances worked, for the Rolla Daily News bannered on Page 1A on Aug. 5, 1998: “Rolla will have its recreation center.”

Only one ward declined to support the tax. By precinct, the vote was as follows: Ward 1: 84-98; Ward 2: 371-145; Ward 3: 426-252; Ward 4: 423-256; Ward 5: 136-102 and Ward 6: 89-38.
Sales tax collection was to start Jan. 1, 1999.

On Tuesday, Aug. 25, 1998, the paper reported that Butz, even before the tax collection began, was planning on spending it for other purposes. Working on the next fiscal year’s budget, Butz recommended putting about $55,000 of the new sales tax revenue to be used in parks projects not related to the recreation center issue. The council and mayor scoffed at the idea.

“I totally disagree with that. I think we’re accountable for every cent of that going to the recreation center,” Mayor Joe Morgan told Butz.

The council ordered a separate fund to keep track of the money.

In this column after the election, I wrote:

“When we voters approved that half-cent sales tax for a recreation center on Tuesday, Aug. 4, I believe we performed an act of religious devotion, for it appears to me that we put a lot of faith in the city government.

“We agreed to sacrifice to the city government a half-cent sales tax for the next 15 years. Not a big personal sacrifice, perhaps a sacrifice of only the size of a mustard seed, but a sacrifice nonetheless, for it will add to each person’s cost of living. Over the course of 15 years, a mighty revenue tree will sprout, for the city government will receive quite a hefty amount from that small sacrifice.

“We agreed to trust the city government ‘to accomplish at minimum an indoor walking track, an indoor swimming pool/aquatic center, an outdoor aquatic facility and an indoor recreation center.’

“We gave our City Fathers our sacrifice and our trust to do what is best for us for we approved the tax with no design for any of those facilities, no estimate of the cost to build those facilities, only a wispy idea of what would go into those facilities and just a flimsy idea of what it will cost to join the center once it is built.

“Apparently, the overwhelming majority of us believe our Fathers have taken care of civic needs properly in the past and are worthy of our blind faith for the future.

“Let’s all bow our heads and pray they don’t screw it up.”

The city council and administration say they haven’t screwed it up, that instead market forces out of their control have worked against them. They cite the university’s recreation center, which took away their student users; the crummy economy, and a partnership with the hospital that they say fell through.

Because of this, the city officials say, they need the tax to help subsidize The Centre.

I’m not going to fall for that. All the other recreation facilities in town lost customers when the university built a recreation center. All the businesses in town have to deal with the crummy economy.

And when partnerships fall through or industry trends change, private businesses can’t call on taxpayers for help. Every businessman in town understands that; every employee in the private sector understands that.

So I am going to vote no and not feel guilty about it. I did what I said I would do. I supported The Centre with my tax money for the last 15 years.

Now it’s up to the city to make it work, just like they said they would.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Is Rolla council taking away your rights? I don't think so

Rolla Mayor Bill Jenks III has proposed that the office of city attorney, also called city prosecutor to differentiate that office from the city counselor, the legal consultant, be appointive rather than elective.

On one hand, the argument goes, that takes another right away from the people and puts more power in the hands of the mayor and council. That’s the argument of Councilmen Brian Woolley and Jonathon Hines. On the other hand, the office of city attorney is part of the executive branch and that official is part of law enforcement, so it isn’t an upsetting of the balance of power.

Not enough Rolla residents care to vote in municipal elections to make this an issue, in my opinion. The council declined to take any action—not even hearing the first reading of an ordinance they had in front of them, at Monday night’s meeting—so they could collect comments from Rolla residents.

Everyone with any interest in this non-issue should contact their council member. If the council hears from a dozen people, I’ll be surprised, given the fact that there wasn’t even a 10 percent turnout in the municipal election of April 2012, the last time we elected a city attorney.You going to call your councilman? Then I hope you voted in April 2012, and I hope you will vote in April 2014.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Missouri rodeo clown performance spreads embarrassment

You’ve surely heard about the embarrassing rodeo clown incident at the Missouri State Fair.

If not, here it is in a nutshell: A rodeo clown put on a big caricature mask of President Barack Obama. The rodeo announcer, who was president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Association, said, “Watch out for that bull, Obama." If you’ve ever been to a rodeo, you know there’s lots of joking and goofing around, so there was some other bantering that went on and the crowd loved it.

It was pure entertainment, not politics. Rodeo clowns have used former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush as fodder for their comedy acts. It’s all in fun, and it is part of Americana.
This time, though, it was different. There was a national outcry about the rodeo performance from Washington, D.C., St. Louis and other urban areas where people don’t go to rodeos.

It has been embarrassing. Aren’t you embarrassed by Missouri’s reaction to this incident that has been blown out of proportion by the social media, broadcasters and our own politicians?

Well, I am, and I'll tell you why:
I’m embarrassed that the rodeo announcer had to resign as president of the Missouri Rodeo Cowboys Association. Announcer Mark Ficken is also a school administrator, the superintendent of the Boonville School District, and the school board there has hired a private eye to look into Ficken’s rodeo announcements to see if he ought to be fired.
I’m embarrassed that the Missouri State Fair Commission has banned rodeo clown Tuffy Gessling from ever working at the State Fair rodeo again in his life.
I’m embarrassed that there are some state legislators who want to remove State Fair funding because of this incident.
I’m embarrassed that our governor, Jay Nixon, felt it right and good to publicly state that this rodeo clowning performance “was inappropriate and offensive.”
I’m embarrassed that the Missouri State Fair Commission will require all rodeo clowns hired for future performances undergo something called “sensitivity training” before they can work as bullfighters in Missouri State Fair Rodeo.
I’m also embarrassed that the congressman from another state, Texas, has said Gessling is free to come to perform in Texas because unlike Missouri, “Texans value speech, even if it’s speech they don’t agree with. Texans value free and open political speech.” If he’s correct, Texans are better Americans than are our Missouri governor and state fair commissioners.
I’m embarrassed that the Missouri chapter of the NAACP has asked the Justice Department and the Secret Service to open a federal investigation against the rodeo clown. Imagine that: A federal investigation against a rodeo clown who was trying to make people laugh!

I’m embarrassed that the Obama administration put a former Missourian out in front of the cameras to criticize our state for something so petty. I'm embarrassed that the former Missourian didn't have any more common sense than to say this: "I can tell you, as a native Missourian, it's certainly not one of the finer moments for our state and not the way that I like to see our state mentioned in the news." Those are the words of Josh Earnest, the deputy White House press secretary; or, maybe they're just the words the Obama administration told him to say.
I’m embarrassed that a columnist in a Georgia newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, got the joke, but our own Missouri public officials didn't. That columnist looked at what happened up here in Missouri and felt compelled to write this about the over-reaction: “It seems like a long time ago, but it used to be considered funny when entertainers wore the masks of presidents in ridiculous situations. There was even a popular movie that starred shotgun-toting ex-presidents violently robbing banks. In 1994, at least one rodeo clown act featured a dummy wearing a George H.W. Bush mask. And now you know why clowns cry.”
I’m embarrassed that so many people, including St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, did not realize that the person at the rodeo was not the president of the United States, but was instead just a clown with a mask on. Ms. Jones used the social media to get the word out that the nation’s first black president was in danger. On Twitter, she tweeted: “Racism rears its ugly head at MO State Fair.” Later, confronted in the social media to explain why she thought the rodeo clown performance was racist, Jones tweeted this: “How bout this...a large group of white ppl cheering for a black person to be run over by a bull! #notcool #Racism”
Now consider this: The rodeo crowd knew that the person with the Obama face was not really the president of these United States. Heck, that rodeo crowd would have cheered the bull and urged it to chase a caricature of, say, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, and no uproar would have ensued. Tishaura Jones not have noticed and would have tweeted about something else
This time, though, it was different, and it was different for only one reason.
In the words of Tishaura Jones: “ I cannot help but notice the Missouri State Fair incident is a part of an unprecedented level of disrespect directed at a president who happens to be African-American.”

There you go, that sums up the difference right there. This president is a black American. You can say and do whatever you want about a white president. You can burn George W. Bush in effigy over and over again and no one will say a damn thing. George W. Bush even laughed about it when it happened, because he understood it. If Obama were burned in effigy,  he'd declare martial law and the NAACP and all the white liberals would applaud him for it.

But if a rodeo clown does what a rodeo clown does and dons a mask of a president or other public figure and that mask happens to be a depiction of a black person, well, say good-bye to your job , rodeo clown.

Isn’t it embarrassing and sad that President Obama cannot accept being the way other presidents are treated?

Isn’t it embarrassing and sad that we must constantly remember that he is different?
Isn’t it embarrassing and sad that he is only different because he is, in the words of Ms. Jones, “a black person”?

R.D. Hohenfeldt, a Georgia native, has lived in Rolla since ’84. Currently, he writes regular columns for The Rolla Daily News, That's What I Think ( and accasionally for  the registered forums of On the night shift, he helps cover Rolla city and school government for The Rolla Daily News. He edits Missouri and Ozarks news on Photo of R.D. and Henry, the fun-loving, sometimes clownish white standard Republican poodle, courtesy of Bea Bonebrake (

Friday, August 16, 2013

Remembering the good ole days

Back when I was, oh, about seven or eight years old, I was playing on the front porch of the house in the small town where my grandmother lived. There was a swing hanging from the ceiling of the porch. I would lie on the cushion of that swing and try to make the swing move, but it’s impossible if your legs aren’t hanging down so you can pump the air. That’s what moves the swing. I studied the chain holding the swing and looked at the eye bolts holding the chains and the swing. At the time I did not know what an eye bolt was, nor how it worked, so I wondered how long the swing would hold me up. Moreover, my parents  or my grandmother would sometimes sit in that swing, and I knew they were heavier than me, for they were bigger.
The swing has nothing to do with what I am about to tell you. I was just thinking about that porch and the swing the other day, and recalled that late afternoon when I sat up, got off the swing and sat on the edge of the porch. Looking down the street, I saw a boy in my classroom, Robert Jones, crossing the street about half a block away.
“Hey, Robert, where you going?” I shouted.
“I’m going to get a comic book. My mom gave me a dime,” he shouted back.
“Well, wait a minute. I’ll go ask Grandma if I can go with you,” I said.
I ran in the house and asked grandma if I could walk uptown to the dime store with Robert. I also asked if I could have a dime. She gave me a nickel.
I ran out and joined with Robert to walk down the alley, across another street, up the alley to the sidewalk on the main street and then just a few steps to the left to the dime store.
Inside, we took our time looking over the comics. Robert quickly picked out a Superman comic. A dime was sufficient to buy that. I had only a nickel, so I had to buy an offbrand comic, something not nearly as good as Superman. Robert left so he could go home and read the adventures of Superman.
I stuck around and kept looking for something I would like. It was difficult to find something.
“Who are you?” the old woman clerking the store grumbled.
“Huh?” I said.
“What’s your name?”
“Ralph Hohenfeldt,” I said.
“That’s what I thought,” the old bat said. “You better just go on home. Addie Howe does not want her grandson reading comic books.”
“Uh-huh,” I said. “She gave me a nickel to buy one.”
“Well, go on, get out of here,” the old battle-axe said. “I am not going to let you buy a comic book. I go to church with Addie; she must not know what kind of trash is in these books. You just go on, now.”
I left the store, slamming the door, of course. I walked down the alley, crossed the street, cut down between some houses and walked through the unfenced yards to come up to the backyard of the house where Grandma lived.
I went inside and gave the nickel back to Grandma.
“The lady in the store wouldn’t sell me a comic book,” I said. “She said she knew you.”
Grandma took the nickel from me and put it back in her coin purse.
“Well, find a book to look at,” she said.
And I did.
Hillary Clinton once quoted an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Because she is a liberal Democrat, she made the case that the government needs to step in and take the role of the village and help parents raise children.
Conservative Republicans chastised her and called her some bad names. They said that parents, not villages and certainly not governments, should raise children.
That’s what happens when you start getting political about things as simple as raising children. Issues arise, truth gets lost.
The Africans were right about the role of an entire village to help raise kids. Ozarks villagers and small-towners knew and practiced that without the help of government back in the middle of the decades of the previous century when I was a young Ozarks Boy.
Over the following years, though, as the government was called on to take the role of the villagers and those who fought against government intrusion in private life over-reacted, the family and the village reached the point to where this is what happens now:
Store clerks today will sell any kind of trashy reading to a kid as long as the kid has the money because the clerks don’t know the kid, don’t know the parents or the grandparents.
And, besides, if the clerk refused to sell what the kid wanted, the modern parent or grandparent would rush to the store and give the clerk a good cussing.
If I’m making it sound like people were better and life was grander in the old days, it’s only because that is the truth.

R.D. Hohenfeldt, a Georgia native, has lived in Rolla since ’84. Currently, he writes regular columns for The Rolla Daily News, That's What I Think ( and occasionally for the registered forums of On the night shift, he helps cover Rolla city and school government for The Rolla Daily News. He edits Missouri and Ozarks news on
Photo of R.D. and Henry, the music-appreciating poodle who loves to hear his Mama sing to him, courtesy of Bea Bonebrake (

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What would Mark Twain think about today's politicians?

Mark Twain wrote an essay in the spring of 1874 titled “The Temperance Insurrection” about women who did not have the right to vote but had the right to express themselves, so they publicly protested the ready supply of alcohol. He poked fun at them, of course, for that was what he did for a living. Nevertheless, about halfway through it, he turned serious and wrote the following:
“Would you consider the conduct of these crusaders justifiable? I do—thoroughly justifiable. They find themselves voiceless in the making of laws and the election of officers to execute them. Born with brains, born in the country, educated, having large interests at stake, they find their tongues tied and their hands fettered, while every ignorant whiskey-drinking foreign-born savage in the land may hold office, help to make the laws, degrade the dignity of the former and break the latter at his own sweet will. They see their fathers, husbands, and brothers sit inanely at home and allow the scum of the country to assemble at the ‘primaries,’ name the candidates for office from their own vile ranks, and, unrebuked, elect them. They live in the midst of a country where there is no end to the laws and no beginning to the execution of them.”
Twain’s description of government office-holders in 1874 fits in 2014, in my opinion. So, too, does his description of the electorate. And, he hits the nail on the head regarding the number of laws.
I wonder what Mark Twain would think about our country today?
What would Twain say about a president (running for office and trying to portray a safer world thanks to his work) and secretary of state who allowed terrorists to kill our ambassador to Libya and other Americans, then sent an official out to the television talk shows with a contrived story that it wasn’t terrorism but a spontaneous uprising in response to an anti-Islam video that led to the killings.
What would Twain say about an administration that allows the Internal Revenue Service to seek out conservatives, active in their opposition to the president’s administration, for special audits?
What would Twain say about the administration fishing around in the private e-mails and phone records of journalists?
What would Twain say about the administration’s selling of guns to Mexican drug cartels to be used against out nation’s own Border Patrol agents?
What would Twain about the health and human services secretary going around to the healthcare businesses her department regulates to collect money (extort?) to help promote Obamacare.
What would Twain say about the bugging of Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office by Democratic party operatives to listen in on strategy sessions who then released transcripts of those sessions calling the senator insensitive to his opponent?
And what would Twain say about voters who sat inanely at home and allowed the scum of the country to elect their own into office again because the tea partiers and ultra-conservative independents stayed at home because they didn’t like Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion, didn’t think he was conservative enough and accepted the mainstream media’s contention that he was out of touch.
I presume Twain would have something witty and biting to say.
I’m not witty, so I’ll just call on you to stay informed about what the Obama administration has done and continues to do and tell your friends and relatives so that when the election rolls around in November 2014, maybe the conservatives will get up and do something about it.
Finally, I’ll leave with this quote from President Ronald Reagan, who said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years tell
ing our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

R.D. Hohenfeldt, a Georgia native, has lived in Rolla since ’84. Currently, he writes regular columns for The Rolla Daily News, That's What I Think ( and occasionally on the registered forums of On the night shift, he helps cover Rolla city and school government for The Rolla Daily News. He also edits Missouri and Ozarks news on
Photo of R.D. and Henry, the freedom-loving standard poodle, courtesy of Bea Bonebrake (

Friday, August 2, 2013

Edward Snowden:Hero or traitor?

I’d be interested in hearing what you think about Edward Snowden, the employee of a government contracting company who spilled the beans about the government’s nosing into your business.
According to what Snowden divulged before he high-tailed it out of the U.S. to avoid being arrested or simply removed from the face of the earth by the government, phone records, emails and who-knows-what-else, are being copied regularly and filed away on computer discs.
From what I’ve read, the government claims no humans will read those records; instead, computers will listen to the phone conversations and read the emails, searching for key words and phrases like “Obama’s a stinker” or “I wish we had a different president.” When those phrases are found, the person who said or typed those words will be in for a heckuva bad time with the government.
I’ve heard varying opinions about this situation. Some people think Snowden is immoral and a traitor who should be hung for treason because he divulged government secrets.
Others are aghast that the government in a free republic has so much power.Some people hold both opinions simultaneously; they believe Snowden was immoral for telling the secrets and the government is immoral for keeping track of us.
Some people see nary a problem with the government spying on citizens; it is necessary to give up rights and freedom in these modern days of terrorism, they say, and they are ready to give up more rights and freedoms to make sure their children remain safe and secure.
Here’s a perfectly logical opinion based on the facts of the case: In 2013 with terrorism a constant threat, our government needs to do whatever it takes to make sure we are safe. If giving up some rights will make me and my kids safer, I’m all for it. I don’t care if they read my text messages, listen to my phone calls and check my email. There’s nothing interesting there, anyway. What’s more important, in my opinion, is my security and the national security. I’m all for more cameras on street corners and drones carrying cameras to check on people’s backyards to see what they’re building. I’m for technology that can “see “ through walls to see what people are doing in their houses, because they might be building bombs. It’s a different world, and we have to make adjustments to it. For the sake of my children, I’m ready and willing. Edward Snowden did something that hurts my government’s attempt to keep my children safe, and I think he should be arrested and tried for it.
Is that your opinion? It’s a perfectly valid opinion. I don’t share it, but I can’t knock you if that’s what you think because it is consistent and coherent.
Does anyone else have a differing view?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

It's in the Bible: Gov't always screws you

How a government handles challenges to its security and how it handles immigration are issues you are familiar with from current events. I was reading an ancient document the other day, and there was some history about another country’s handling of those two issues.
I’m talking about the story in the Bible of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. He ended up in Egypt where he landed in prison for awhile and then became second in command. The security challenge he faced was a massive food shortage brought on by climate change or some such meteorological phenomenon. The immigration challenge Egypt faced was what to do with the people who came from Canaan, now site of Israel, looking for food.
It’s one of the most interesting stories of the Bible, which is filled with lots of interesting stuff, and I wonder if we could learn some lessons from what happened.
Joseph had the ability to interpret dreams. Nowadays, we figure dreams are a way to deal with life’s stresses, but in those days, dreams were often seen as messages from God. Pharaoh, the president of the country, had a dream about some fat cattle that were devoured by skinny cattle. No one could tell him the meaning of the dream until Joseph revealed that it meant seven years of good agricultural production followed by seven years of famine. Joseph suggested that pharaoh appointed a food czar with the power to collect 20 percent of the grain produced during the seven bountiful years.
Pharaoh bought Joseph’s story and made him the man in charge. Joseph and Pharaoh set up a tax collection bureaucracy and grabbed 20 percent of the grain produced every year. That food was stored in Egyptian cities. The Bible says Joseph collected so much corn it was like the grains of sand on the beach of a sea. It was so much corn that they couldn’t count it all.
That corn and other grain were laid up for the emergency Joseph had predicted. Sure enough, the hard times that Joseph predicted were on the way did indeed arrive.
It was a regional famine, so the other countries in the region were also hungry. Joseph opened up his grain storage bins and started selling the corn to the Egyptians. People from other countries showed up wanting food, too.
Among the hungry immigrants who showed up were Joseph’s own brothers, the same bunch of ne’er-do-wells that sold him into slavery so many years previous. He recognized them, but he didn’t bear any grudge, and eventually he got them and their families, plus his old dad, a sweet deal with the government.
Joseph took his boss, Pharaoh, to see his brothers, who had brought their families and their livestock to stay and eat for awhile. Pharaoh told Joseph to give his family the best land in Egypt and to put them in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock.
I told you it was a sweet deal.
Think on that for awhile. Here are a bunch of immigrants who have not worked the land or paid the taxes that the Egyptians paid, and the president of the country gives them the best land and puts them in charge of his own ranches.
And the immigrants ate well. The Bible says, “Joseph nourished his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to their families.”
But out in the rest of the country, where the Egyptians lived, “there was no bread in all the land.”
Joseph, the government agent, second in command to pharaoh, gathered up all the money in the lands of Egypt and Canaan by selling back the grain he had collected in taxes for the previous seven years.
When the Egyptians ran out of money, they came to the capital and asked Joseph for grain even though they had no more money. Joseph said he would give them grain in exchange for their cattle.
The people were hungry, so they gave the government all their cattle.
That year ended, and the famine and economic downturn continued. The hungry people from all over the nation asked the government for more help. They told Joseph that the government had all their money and all their cattle. “There is not ought left … but our bodies and our lands,” they told him.
So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, paid for with grain. There went private property out the window. He also bought the people in exchange for grain, making them slaves to the government, which was Pharaoh. There went freedom right out the door.
Joseph gave the citizen-slaves of Egypt seed grain and told them to plant. He turned them all into sharecroppers, telling them that they had to pay the government a tax of 20 percent of their harvest. They could keep the 80 percent for next year’s seed and for food for themselves, he said.
Now the people were so happy to be alive that they didn’t care that private property rights and personal freedoms were gone. They said, “Thou hast saved our lives: let us find grace in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's servants.”
They were a cowed people.
Meanwhile, the immigrants from Canaan lived high on the hog, so to speak, in the best region of Egypt. “They had possessions therein, and grew, and multiplied exceedingly,” the Bible says.
This is an Old Testament story. There’s nothing contemporary about it. But doesn’t the story of an economic downturn for taxpayers who are losing their jobs, homes and personal freedoms, while benefits are extended to people who have not paid taxes, seem familiar?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Why I quit walking/running at night

As a former nighttime walker/runner through neighborhoods in which I did not live (which I considered my right as a taxpayer), I admit I identified with Trayvon Martin.
From what I could tell from press accounts, he was out walking home from going to a neighborhood store to buy a soft drink and a snack. A do-gooder named George Zimmerman, the Neighborhood Watch captain, was out on patrol when he spotted the young man. Zimmerman followed him, called the police who told him to back off and let them do their job, but he ignored their directive and stuck with Martin.
Martin, being young and apparently in good physical shape (pictures show him as bulked up and kind of thuggy looking), noticed that Zimmerman was stalking him. Martin confronted Zimmerman. Zimmerman had a gun. Martin saw it and decided his life was in danger from Zimmerman, so he attacked the stalker. It didn’t take too long for Zimmerman to pull out his gun and shoot Martin dead.
Now, my keen legal mind leads me to believe that Zimmerman should be held accountable for this in some way. When I said that to a close relative who is even more conservative than I, my relative said, “What did he do wrong? There’s nothing against the law in following someone.” But my relative thought it wrong and illegal for Martin to confront Zimmerman. I don’t get that. I might do the same if someone stalked me in the dark. More than likely, though, I would run like a scared bunny rabbit.
The whole event was tragic, and it could have been avoided if Zimmerman had done what the police said and backed off. He did his job as Neighborhood Watch captain, i.e. he noticed something suspicious and he reported it to the police. That should have been the end of it.
Now, I think young Martin was probably as thuggy as he looked and was probably a lawbreaker. But he wasn’t breaking the law at the time Zimmerman stalked him and killed him. That’s why I think Zimmerman should have been convicted of manslaughter and made to serve at least a short sentence.
The jury did not agree with my assessment, though, Those good citizens found stalker Zimmerman not guilty. Because of that there have been riots, protests, threats of federal intervention.
If the system of justice means anything, people need to get over it. It didn’t go the way they wanted it or the way I thought it should have, but it went the way the system is set up: A jury of citizens acceptable to both sides weighed the evidence and made a decision.
That’s the way it goes.
The whole Zimmerman-Martin incident affirmed what I had come to accept years ago: Our small town of Rolla has grown too large for after-dark walking. We're on the verge of being urban. Walking/running at night is dangerous, so I quit. I don’t even go to the community track after dark, which is the only time I have for exercise. I go to Vessell’s Fitness Center and watch ball games or read while walking on the treadmill and riding the recumbent bicycle. It’s air-conditioned, comfortable, and a big, looming scary-looking guy like me doesn’t have to worry about being stalked and shot by a do-gooder who thinks I should not be on his streets that my taxes helped pay for.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Will you take time to vote next election?

Here in the Eighth U.S. Congressional District of Missouri, we had a chance to vote for our representative in the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday, June 4. Most registered voters stayed home. The turnout was about 14 percent.
Now, listen, I’ve argued for both sides of this question.
Some months back I wrote in this space that I generally encourage a low turnout of registered voters. My logic was that important decisions such as the election of our lawmakers should be limited to intelligent people, or at the very least, those who are smart enough to: 1.) find out when elections are held, 2.) seek out information about candidates and issues and 3.) go to the polls and cast a ballot.
Voting should not, I wrote, be left up to morons who don’t know there is an election until somebody mentions it on election day. Voting should not be done by people who have no idea who the candidates are or what they stand for. Voting should not be done by people who have no personal, rational, coherent political philosophy on which to base their selection.
Voting should be the work of highly intelligent people like us, i.e., me, the writer of this column, and you, the reader of this column. I think that either the writing or or reading of this column is an excellent way to judge intelligence and worthiness of voting. We are an elite group, so following this line of thinking, voting should be done by only a handful in the community, like the one in 12 registered voters who cast ballots in the April municipal election.
And that brings up my “on the other hand” argument. After the April election, I blistered the registered voters who did not cast ballots to select the people who will make the decisions on how to spend local tax money.
My argument at that time was that if you did not vote, you ought not go around spouting and spitting about how much you love, honor, adore and support the men and women who have put on the uniform to defend this country.
The logic of that argument is that men and women have died in battle to give you the freedom to vote, so you are betraying them and belittling them by not exercising that freedom.
Even I, accused of being a draft dodger, am more a supporter of the troops and an American patriot than most registered voters, for I have hardly ever missed an election since I turned 18 back in the previous century.
I got more personal email, phone calls and comments about that voting to support the troops column than any I have written, with the exception of the one in which I proposed the “TNA: Target ‘n’ Annihilate” solution for the feral cat problem, which I wrote nearly two decades ago and still hear about every now and again.
Many of the comments about the obligation to vote were negative toward me. One tea partier even disagreed with me. You would think a tea partier would be in favor of voting in every election, but you would be wrong.
Now, the Bible says a “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways,” and you might think I am double-minded, having written columns that seem to be in opposition to one another.
Perhaps I am, indeed, double-minded, for I see that you have a choice to make next election:  On the one hand, will you vote because you are highly intelligent? On the other hand, will you vote because you honor your rights that were earned by the blood of others?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Say good-bye to English

A young man I recently met had some words tattooed on his arms.
“What’s that say on your arms?” I asked him.
He held up one arm and I saw one big word, “Poetic,” which I read aloud.
He held up the other arm and in big words, I read aloud, “Hustla.”
“Poetic Hustla,” he said.
“What in the sam hill is a hustla?” I said, “and what makes it poetic?”
“Hustler,” he said, repeating it more clearly, “It’s hustler.”
“Hustler?” I said. “Well, they misspelled it; you ought to get that fixed or get a refund from the tattoo parlor.”
“It’s slang,” he said.
“Well,” I said, “in my book, it’s misspelled. You won’t find ‘hustla’ in the dictionary. You really ought to get that fixed. It’s embarrassing.”
“It’s in The Urban Dictionary,” he said.
“That isn’t a real dictionary,” I said, being familiar with that particular website. “A real dictionary will have the word ‘Webster’ in the title, or ‘Oxford English.’”
He glared at me and walked away.
I have that effect on people. I didn’t mean to make him mad. I was just trying to help him, for I know how embarrassing a misspelling or typo can be. I’ve been writing for over 30 years. I have no doubt that I have read more words than most of you, and I’m certain I have written more words than all but a handful of you. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, because mistakes happen, no matter how hard we try to avoid them.
Heck, I find mistakes in library books all the time. I used to make corrections to the library books, like marking up a galley proof, but I found out the librarians frown on that practice so I quit.
It seems to me I find more errors in newspapers, magazines and books nowadays, and I think it is because we rely on computers. Also, I suspect English is not taught as thoroughly and as deeply as it was in the previous century.
I got into a discussion one day at lunch with a woman who said schools do not teach English nowadays; instead, they teach language arts. I hope she just misunderstood what her children were telling her. At Rolla Board of Education meetings, the administrators usually say “English language arts.” If they formally drop the word “English,” from that title, I will raise some hell.
Let me make a prediction. Fifty years from now, the English language, at least in its written form, will be unrecognizable to people like me who were born in the previous century. Of course, we will be dead, so we won’t recognize it; I know that. What I mean is, if we could somehow live another 50 years and maintain some sense about us, we would not recognize written English.
Here’s my logic: Even though modern Americans use the English alphabet to communicate, they don’t write, they haven’t learned to write and they can’t write. Many young people I have run across can barely speak a coherent sentence, so I know they can’t write one. They use abbreviations and slang only; that practice has become so commonplace that these shortcuts are found in all forms of writing.
I am not opposed to slang or colorful language. If you’ve read my column over the years, you’ll know that I will often use slang or colloquialisms. I’ve started many columns off with “Boy, howdy” and slipped in references to “some ole boy.”
I don’t mind some use of offbeat expressions to enrich a piece of writing, but I’m sick of seeing “ur” for “your” and “r” for either “are” or “our.”
I’m also sick of seeing signs in foreign languages in the United States, but that’s a topic for another day.
Say good-bye to English. In 50 years, you or your grandchildren will be writing in a mish-mash of what used to be English churned with the language of immigrants, whipped up with urban slang and frosted with digital expressions and shorthand. If I live to be 110, I won’t be able to read it. I’ll have to ask for ancient texts from the 1950s and ‘60s to do any real reading.
Good grief, I sound like my parents and grandparents!
I really am an old goat.
Maybe I’ll have “Ole Gote” tattooed on one arm and “True Dat” inked on the other.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Let's keep Missouri free, unlike New Jersey

New Jersey is a fascist state and you would do well to stay away from it if you are a gun owner.
I say this because The Associated Press reported late last month that a Texas man who had stopped to take a nap while traveling through that despicable state was arrested for carrying guns through the state in his SUV. Because of that, he’s serving a five-year sentence and won’t get out before serving a minimum of three years.
A New Jersey appeals court upheld his conviction in May.
I heard about the case of Dustin Reininger from a friend who subscribes to Shotgun News and regularly reads The Knox Update column in that magazine. Writer Jeff Knox described what happened to Reininger, and I hunted up a later report from The AP to verify it.
Here’s what happened. Reininger was moving in March 2009 from Maine to Texas and had his 21-gun collection in his SUV. He also had hollow-point bullets and a high-capacity magazine. He legally owned the firearms and the ammunition. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He made the mistake of going through the most worthless Yankee state of all the Yankee states. He made the even worse mistake of stopping there to take a nap in his vehicle. He also made the mistake of denying he was carrying guns – who wouldn’t, given the circumstances – but the cops spotted a gun case and conducted a warrantless search and discovered the collection of guns he was taking back to Texas.
If you drive through New Jersey, maybe you should put your gun in a banjo case because the very presence of a gun case gives the cops the authority for a warrantless search.
Reininger was supposed to store his guns in the trunk. Unfortunately for him, an SUV doesn’t have a trunk.
So there he is, in prison, a convicted felon now for the rest of his life because he traveled  through one of the 13 original colonies, which is now a state where the majority of residents obviously prefer fascism, for they’re the ones who elected and re-elected the lawmakers who passed the anti-Second Amendment laws. They uphold the centralized authority of the state and eliminate individual liberties, which is one of the definitions of fascism.
Let’s try to fight off the anti-liberty attitude here in Missouri for as long as we can.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Paula Deen, enemy of the state

Do you recall a few years back when Martha Stewart's trading of some stock was such a threat to the U.S. economy that she had to go to prison for awhile?
Well, there's a new threat, according to media watchdogs.
Based on television coverage, I have concluded that Paula Deen's calling people "niggers" poses a far worse threat to the American Republic than does a president who stands by and does nothing while terrorists murder a U.S. ambassador and then concocts a lie about an obscure anti-Muslim video as the cause of the uprising rather than acknowledging a real terrorist attack.
That is why the media are all over this story. They are protecting us from the likes of Paula Deen, enemy of the state.
Plus, they just don't like her Georgia accent.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Stay in the cities, city dwellers

I have no idea whether this so-called casting call for a reality television show about rich city people wanting to move to the country is true or not. It might be a big hoax. I hope it is. We do not need to encourage this kind of behavior. There are too many transplants out here in small towns and rural areas. They are the kind of people who want to move to "get away from it all," but as soon as they get here, they start griping because there aren't enough "amenities." City people don't understand that we don't have shopping malls out here and we don't have a Starbucks on every corner. City people are vapid, shallow and selfish people who really need to stay in the cities with people of their own ilk.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Weather observations at 7:30 a.m. Sunday

From the Rolla NOAA Co-Op Weather Station, here is the Rolla weather data for the 24-hour period ending at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, June 16, 2013

Max Temperature:                      82° F  

Min Temperature:                       67° F

Present Temperature:                 71° F

Precipitation:                             0.03"

Precipitation for the year:           27.48"

Precipitation for the month:        2.16"

Relative humidity:                      93%

S.R. Fraley
NWS Co-Op Observer

Happy Fathers Day

U hope you had a pleasant Fathers Day. I did. I spent the day with Daddy and Mama, who are 81 and 82 years old, respectively, and are still as active as most 50-year-olds. Daddy is still working part-time as a barber. They're both active in church and still drive and travel quite a bit. They are amazing.
One of my two sisters, her son and grandson; my brother and his wife and their son, my daughter and son-in-law and their two boys were also there. My son and daughter-in-law and their two girls and my sister and brother-in-law and my other brother-in-law were unable to attend. I'm hoping we can all get together for a Fourth of July celebration.
Daddy cut the hair of three great-grandsons. It was the first-ever haircut for one great-grandson.
It was a wonderful day.

Here's a song about a Daddy from Lou Reid and Carolina. I heard this song this morning on Wayne Bledsoe's Sunday Morning Sounds bluegrass gospel program on KMST-FM.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How Ozarks Boy dodged the draft

By R.D. Hohenfeldt
Managing Editor/

On Monday, we will honor the men and women who have given their life in service to our nation. A Memorial Day service will be held at 10 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial Park in Rolla, and I encourage you to attend. I have been to many Memorial Day services since I moved my family here back in the previous century. When I covered the services for the paper, there were two of them, one at the city cemetery and one at the private ceremony. I would take pictures at both.
Covering a Memorial Day service required me to work on a holiday, but I didn’t mind, usually. I remember one year when I refused to go; instead, I used the holiday for a family event. I felt so guilty about not honoring the veterans that I never again skipped, and if I didn’t go to the services myself, I made sure someone else did.
I felt compelled to cover the Memorial Day services with story and pictures as my little way of making up for being a Sixties draft dodger.
I turned 18 on July 19, 1971, and I registered for the draft as required by law for any young man born in 1953. When I told the clerk at the Selective Service office that I would start attending the University of Missouri the following month, I got something called a student deferment. I don’t remember what my classification was, I-S maybe, and the lady at the draft board said it really didn’t mean a thing. She told me that I would be included in a national lottery at some point in the future, and if my number were drawn, the I-S (or whatever it was) wouldn’t mean a dadburn thing.
I remember she told me that I had to carry my draft card with me and was not to deface it, damage it or destroy it.
That August I went to Columbia, moved into the dorm with a bunch of other guys born in 1953, and started going to classes. We all carried our draft cards in our wallets with our driver’s license and our student ID cards. We all worried a little bit about the lottery we knew was coming up sometime.
I had to check the Selective Service website today to refresh my memory about the draft lottery. There was a lottery on Dec. 1, 1969, the first one since 1942. That was to determine who would be drafted in 1970. It was for all men born between Jan. 1, 1944, and Dec. 31, 1950.
“There were 366 blue plastic capsules containing birth dates placed in a large glass container and drawn by hand to assign order-of-call numbers to all men within the 18-26 age range specified in Selective Service law,” according to the Selective Service history.
More lotteries were held on July 1, 1970, and Aug. 5, 1971, for men born in 1951 and 1952, respectively.
I could have volunteered to go to Vietnam, and I supposed that would have been the honorable thing to do. I remember thinking, though, that it would be a stupid thing for me to do, because I was sure to wind up dead.
Now, I wasn’t too worried about being shot to death by an oriental person in Vietnam or one of those other countries. I was more concerned about dying in basic training. I just knew I would be run to death. Running was not something I did well. I was a pudgy high school kid, although I wasn’t nearly as fat as today’s obese high schoolers, and I hated PE class.
A demonically possessed (or so it seemed to me) fellow by the name of Coach Al Houser was our PE “instructor” and he made us “run the stairs” in the gym daily, and after we were sufficiently warmed up doing that we would run these other delightful exercises called “wind sprints,” in which we ran from the boundary line under the basketball goal to a line even with the foul line, then back, then to the centerline, and back, then to the foul line on the other side, and back, then all the way to the other basketball goal and back and then back to the other side again.
Sometimes, just for the fun of it, Coach Houser would add in the ends of the foul circles as places from which to run to and fro.
Oh, it was great fun for him, and for the other guys in the PE class to watch me huffing and puffing alone on that last leg of the wind sprint, for they would all be finished while I was dragging my sorry butt across the floor.
That was my freshman year of high school. I was required to take another year of PE to graduate, so I put it off until my senior year. Then I concocted a wild lie about why I would be unable to take PE; I don’t even remember what it was, but the high school principal said I could get out of PE if I would write a long paper on some health-related subject. I threw together something at the last minute that wasn’t very good. Although the principal expressed his displeasure, he accepted the paper, and I graduated in May of 1971.
I did not volunteer, for I knew that if I went into the Army, a demonically possessed drill sergeant would take pleasure in torturing a pudgy Ozarks Boy with wind sprints, or worse, and I would die of exhaustion and oxygen depletion.
That, not fear of being shot to death, was the main reason I did not volunteer to take a trip paid for by the Army to South Vietnam.
The lottery for those of us born in 1953 was held on Feb. 2, 1972.
The capsule containing July 19 was the 332nd one picked. That assured me that I had indeed dodged the 1973 draft and I could continue my education. No draft orders were issued after 1972, so I was home free.
While other young men were dying in South Vietnam and those countries for reasons that I am not clear about to this day, I was able to go on to journalism school and then take a job with a newspaper and spend my life writing.
I still feel some guilt about dodging the draft, so I do what I can to thank veterans and honor them. I won’t be able to attend the Memorial Day service, because I have a day job in retail, and in the United States, the day to honor fallen veterans is the day most people celebrate the beginning of summer by spending a lot of money.
I can’t attend, but I’ll be saying a prayer of gratitude at 10 a.m. Monday for the men and women who did not dodge the draft.

Map of Missouri counties

Map Courtesy of Digital Map Store