March 31, 2022
CHOOSING ON THE JAVELINAS
Back in the old days, when I was in the Army, there was a short, slightly built sergeant, whose full name I have forgotten, and who may be long passed-away, but whom I will refer to as Sergeant A.
There were several things about Sgt. A that distinguished him.
He was a black man at a time when black men had a lot to be angry about, but he didn’t let that interfere with his ability to relate to all races. He was pugnacious at a time when such actions could get one reduced in rank. And he wasn’t afraid to confront the enemy, either domestic or foreign.
We were stationed in Okinawa before we shipped out to Vietnam, and one day during our morning run, Sgt. A ran us down near the Marine barracks. We didn’t get along with the Marines. We were paratroopers and we considered ourselves elite bad-asses. They were Marines, and they considered themselves just as elite and their asses just as bad.
That was the mindset of both groups, and that was our advantage in combat.
The truth is that both the Marines and we paratroopers were bad asses, mainly because that’s how we saw ourselves. We were all young and strong, and we all had a lot of testosterone boiling up inside of us.
So this one morning, Sgt. A slowed us down and brought us to a halt when we got in front of one of the Marine barracks. He ordered a right-face so we were all facing the barracks.
“All right, you jarhead m*****f****rs,” he yelled at the barracks. “You want to mix it up, come on down assh***s. Jockstraps and entrenching tools. Let’s get it on.”
By this time a few sleepy Marine faces were looking out the window of their barracks, trying to figure out what was going on. We waited. Nobody came out.
“That’s what I thought, you sorry-ass punks,” Sgt. A yelled at the Marines.
He turned us left, and we finished our run.
As it turned out, Sgt. A had a drunken confrontation the night before with a bunch of Marines and took a lot of abuse from them. His payback was an empty and angry gesture. But it’s going on 50 years later, and I still remember it. We had no personal stake in the game, but the chance to mix it up with a bunch of jarheads was just too good to pass up.
Of course, this is all ancient history.
What brings it to mind is a confrontation Carmela and I had earlier this year with a pack of javelinas in West Texas who wanted to kill and eat our dog Henry and chase us away from a picnic table with our lunch on it
For you eastern folks, who don’t know what a javelina is, let me explain. A javelina is a pig-like creature, smaller than a wild boar, and actually closer biologically to a goat than a pig. They have been known to kill and eat dogs and other small domestic animals, and although they usually stop short of killing animals as big as humans, there are instances of people who have died after being bitten, usually from their wounds becoming infected.
When the javelinas showed up at our roadside picnic table, we hustled Henry inside our truck, but our lunch was still sitting on the table and the javelinas were between us and our stuff. We tried to chase them away, but they failed to be intimidated by our yells or our waving a big blue rubber mat at them. They came within a couple of feet of us, checking to see if we had something they could eat.
Carmela at first wanted to flee and leave our big picnic bag with food for the dog and us on the table. I immediately vetoed any such idea. A brief argument ensued.
“I’m not leaving our picnic supplies and a bag of Henry’s food to a bunch of wild-ass javelinas. No way.” A second argument ensued. “You wait in the car, then” Carmela said, pointing out that I am old, on blood thinners, and bleed profusely at the smallest of wounds.
Carmela is 15 years younger than me and in far better shape, but now she is going too damn far. All that she said may be true, BUT, in my mind I am still that bad-ass young paratrooper that I was back in 1964, who is ready to die before he submits to the indignity of sitting in the car while his wife faces off a bunch of wild javelinas by herself.
By this time the javelinas, who apparently were unable to climb up on the table itself, had wandered a short distance away. We walked briskly to the table, gathered our stuff and started walking back to the truck. As soon as we did, the javelinas came running back at us, to be met with another round of shouts and fist-shaking on our part. This went on a few more minutes, with Henry barking encouragement from inside the truck. Finally, we chased the javelinas far enough away that we could retrieve our picnic basket and get everything back in the truck.
We saved our stuff, but it was hardly what could be classified as a victory.
A few days later, when we visited our cousins in Florida, they had special presents for us that we both loved – handcrafted walking sticks – big, heavy oak one for me and a smaller hickory one for Carmela.
Carmela’s hickory stick is actually much prettier than mine, but mine is much bigger and heavier than hers, which makes a lot of sense, since she is much prettier than me, and I am much bigger and heavier than she.
Here’s our plan. The next time we are passing through West Texas, we plan to stop at the same picnic ground. And like Sgt. A, we plan to call out the javelinas. You want a piece of us, come and get it, you ugly little piggly-wiggly, snout-nosed creeps! I suspect they won’t come out to confront us, but that’s OK. We’ll put them on notice, that if they want to mix it up, we are ready.
In the unlikely case, they do come out of hiding, we’re going to take our walking sticks and lay their skulls wide open, and leave them dying by the side of the road as a warning to any other pig-like creatures who want to mess with the Cunninghams.
A few hundred miles away in Arizona, javelinas are a protected species and it’s against the law to kill them. But we won’t be in Arizona. We’ll be in Texas.
I don’t know if there’s a law in Texas about killing javelinas, and frankly I don’t want to know. In the unlikely case we get arrested and sent to jail, that’s OK.
We will plead ignorance of the law and get a lighter sentence. And even if they lock us up, the word will spread in the javelina community not to mess with the bad-ass Cunninghams.
And just like the Eagles, we’ll be already gone, and we’ll sing our victory song:
“Woo Hoo Hoo Woo Hoo Hoo”
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March 29, 2022
TRASH SIGN ON THE TIMES
It used to be in the olden days, that all anybody expected you to do was put your trash in the trash can. Now it’s a lot more complicated. This trash receptacle at our local Panera restaurant has three bins with graphic explanations about what should go in each bin. After you eat, you are supposed to bone up on how to sort your trash before you leave the restaurant. Looking inside each bin, it seems most people just use the “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” method and hope for the best.
March 10, 2022
THE AGE OF DISCOVERY
I’m surprised by how much I like getting old.
I don’t mean the pains and aches that come with age – those are just the daily dues you have to pay for surviving all the things that could have gone tragically wrong along the way.
The payoff, if you’re lucky, is that you now have the chance to figure out what it was all about. And what it is all about probably is not what you thought it was all about when you were younger, stronger, and didn’t have the time or the patience to pause and reflect.
Old age is an opportunity to separate who you are from what you did to put groceries on the table and a roof over your family’s heads. It’s a time for revelation and learning, and I’m getting smarter by the day.
My wife Carmela and I just returned from a road trip to Florida. We admired the scenery, spent a ton of money on hotels, visited with kin folks and, as with all road trips, took lots of pictures. And what I found is this.
I like taking the pictures of people and I like looking at them, but when it comes time to pick my favorite shots, they’re usually not of the people – however much I love those people – my favorite photos are of things.
The desert, the sky, the ocean, mountains, swamps and trees. Bridges, buildings, windows, birds, highways, and other inanimate objects.
- Being an amateur photographer helped open up the world for me. All the things that people zoom by without seeing, suddenly pop up and reveal themselves through the lens.
- I know the people, and I love the people, but mostly we end up taking pictures just for the sake of recording their images one more time. The candid shots are always better, the shots where nobody is posing, where the secrets behind the façade reveal themselves.
- As much as I love people, sometimes I crave aloneness, being away from everybody, being by myself in the middle of nowhere, with no electronic and social connection to the rest of the world.
Strange thoughts for a person who doesn’t necessarily believe in God – at least not the one touted by the preachers and prophets from around the world. Maybe that’s the difference between being religious and being spiritual.
I’m still working on that.
Credit where credit is due. Two of the photos in this article were taken by my wife, Carmela Cunningham. No problem. I often take credit for her brilliant work. If you would like to subscribe to our work, you may contact me at email@example.com and let me know and you will get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.
January 2, 2021
Good-Bye 2020; Hello 2021
As many people know, I have been an outspoken skeptic on the coronavirus lockdown of the country. It’s long past time for folks to go back to work, for restaurants and bars to reopen, and for factories, and farms to once again start supplying the basic needs.
At the same time, Carmela and I have been very careful how we live and how we relate to other people – mostly because of my age and health. And that has been our attitude. High-risk people – whether because of age or other factors – should take whatever steps they needed to protect themselves. Everybody else should get back to work.
And some people have. Grocery workers, whether cashiers or truck drivers, have been showing up every day, wearing masks, and making sure people can get the food they need to survive. Doctors and nurses have been manning the front lines at hospitals; many construction workers have also been on the job, and so have other blue-collar folks, such as longshore and warehouse workers.
Lots white collar workers have been able to perform their duties from home, avoiding the long commutes and the need for a downtown office – an idea that may gain new credence after the coronavirus lockdown has past.
Most teachers and other unionized government workers have continued to draw a paycheck even if they have not been doing any work.
Carmela and I are retired, so earning a living is not an issue. But other things are. In my age group and with my pre-existing medical conditions, the coronavirus would be a death sentence – or so we thought. Then in December – 12 days after my 80th Birthday – I went to an oral surgeon for a root canal.
Without getting into details, this guy was clearly frazzled, not tracking very well, and inserting all kinds of tools into my mouth and a probe into my gums. We left there and vowed never to return.
Two days later, I developed a sore throat, a cold, and severe body aches. Two days after that, so did Carmela. The final diagnosis, we both had the dreaded coronavirus. And guess what. We are both still here, although I still have the sniffles and Carmela has temporarily lost her sense of smell – which is a tough thing for a woman who loves to cook.
But we overcame the coronavirus and that’s something for which to be very thankful. And we are.
2020 may have been a terrible year, but we survived it. So here is to 2021. It’s got to be better than the year just past.
Or is that just wishful thinking?
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November 28, 2020