|Issue 55||July 2000||Volume 5 - Number 8|
Welcome to the CANDOER News. Suggestions as to what you would like to see in the CANDOER are welcome. Letters to the editor, articles consisting of general information, feature articles, G-rated jokes, or poems, written/submitted by retirees or OC/IM employees, past or present, will be published, unedited. Material may be submitted on a 3.5" floppy disk (disk will be returned) using WordPerfect Version 6.1 or earlier (if it contains graphics), on a plain sheet of paper (if it has no graphics) or via e-mail. The deadline for submitting material is no later than the 25th of each month. Material received after that date will be published in the next issue of the CANDOER, space allowing. Please, restrict articles/submissions to two single spaced, typed pages. No hand written submissions, please.
The snail-mail address for submissions or letters to the editor is:
Robert J. Catlin, Sr.
Publisher/Editor CANDOER News
2670 Dakota Street
Bryans Road, MD 20616-3062
A Web page is available to all members at: http://www.CANDOER.org. The WEB page, the current issue of the CANDOER News, and the two previous issues of the Newsletter are available on the Web site for free.
A new page has been added to the Web site. The page is entitled, "Serial Stories." The page contains several of the serial stories, written by members, that have been published over the past 5+ years. They are available to read in their entirety.
It is with deep sadness and regret that I inform you of the death, on June 2, 2000, of June Dietz.
June retired from the Department as Chief of the Analysis section in room 5440 (OC/T), as a long time GS employee.
She is survived by her husband, George L. Dietz; and daughters Lana Carol, Allison, Christian, and Marcia; and Son, David.
A card has been sent from the CANDOERs.
The following was received from Jean Reavey on June 14, 2000.
I'm still stunned that Henry (Hank) died this morning. He had another stroke this morning about 7:45. I was called by the nursing home and went there immediately. He was not responding and had slight occasional tremors in his left arm having mild seizures. He was breathing comfortably but with high blood pressure. They had just put a patch on his shoulder to slowly bring down his blood pressure. I was holding his hand and talking to him when he gripped my hand very hard letting me know that he knew I was there. Then he started to get very pale and gently floated off into God's arms. I was forever grateful that I was there to see him one last time.
He had been delighted with the get-well email messages and cards from friends made through his various tours overseas. He was progressing with his physical therapy each day, chatting with and kidding the nursing staff folks, getting around the corridors on his wheelchair, and working towards standing a few seconds more each day. We were all optimistic when this sudden stroke felled him.
A funeral mass was held at St. Mark's Church, 970 Vale Road, Vienna, VA 22181.In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 1115, Vienna, VA 22183-1115 or to LaSalle Academy Annual Fund, 6112 Academy Ave., Providence, RI, 02908. He will be Buried at Sea by the US Navy off the coast of Norfolk, VA.
A card has been sent to Jean in the name of the CANDOERs and a donation has been made to the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department from the Memorial Fund, in Hank's name.
8/8 - Day 14- 104.5 miles. 1570 foot vertical climb - This would turn out to be the rainiest day of the whole trip. It rained heavily most of the first 80 miles, even to a point of forcing us to stop for cover a couple times. Although the weather was horrible, it did not appear to "dampen" the spirits of the bikers. And I think bicyclists have a certain amount of pride which prevents them from giving in to the elements. It seemed that the attitude was, that they came to ride bikes and ride bikes they would do. When we started out this morning, we would ride out as a convoy, as we had a narrow bridge to cross which could have presented some danger to the group. Once over the bridge, we would be in Kentucky. We would bike some 65 miles through this little corner of Kentucky and I felt that even with all the rain, it was the most beautiful part of the ride. The trees and varied surrounding scenery made for a very picturesque ride. Had it not been for the rain, I would have rated this the best day of the whole ride. About 70 miles into the ride, we crossed into the state of Tennessee. Unfortunately, after riding nearly 100 miles, we were greeted by one last hill of 1.1 miles before entering Dyersburg, our destination for this day. You would see some pretty sorry characters riding in on this day, all ready for that all important hot shower. Fortunately, we are staying in the Lt. James A. Gardner Armory with cots and good showers. A hard day, but another day closer to Memphis, our next layover destination. We had dinner this evening in a restaurant that specializes in catfish. You can begin telling from the scenery, the food and the warmer weather that we are getting deeper into the south. Everyone is excited this evening and talking about the next days ride to Memphis. I believe everyone is quite ready for this layover.
8/9 Day 15 - 84.9 miles. 1200 foot vertical climb - Everyone is anxious to get this day started and we got our early start as usual. We woke to no rain and it looked as though it would be a great day. The first 50 miles was. However, we finally got some of that hot weather that we had been warned about. The last 35 miles were tough. The scenery was uninteresting and we didn't get to see the river again, until we got to Memphis. The last 14 miles we would be riding within the city limits, which adds to the heat and danger of any ride. Fortunately, the route is well marked by arrows and we are given plenty of warnings where there are any dangerous road crossings or where any other dangers might exist. We finally arrive in downtown Memphis, at the Days Inn, where we will spend the next full day resting. The Days Inn is located directly across from the posh downtown Peabody Hotel. This evening we had our meal in a restaurant located on Beale Street. They had a live blues band in the restaurant that was there to play especially for us. I found Beale Street to be very commercial, and even more so at this time, because they were gearing up for the following weeks' celebration of "The King's" birthday. After wandering the downtown area and watching some of the goings on of the street people, i.e. kids doing acrobatics in the streets, various instrumentalists, etc., I was soon off to bed, in anticipation of a very busy day of sightseeing. We have now biked a total of 1083.3 miles.
8/10 - Day 16 - Layover Day - What a wonderful day this would be. First of all, no riding and secondly, the weather was just beautiful and most importantly, the portion of the city that I saw gave me plenty to do all day. Although I could have slept in, I was up at 7 having breakfast and making plans to depart for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. St. Jude had offered to give a tour for the bicycle group, but since there was a tour leaving at the same time for Graceland, St. Jude held no interest. Fortunately for me, however, I was given a private tour of the facility and was immensely impressed with how the money they receive is spent. I saw children in all stages of the dreadful disease, cancer. While it was a bit depressing, I found great satisfaction in visiting the place that I had elected to support, knowing that I had selected the right organization to dedicate my ride to. After visiting the research center, I toured, on my own, the Danny Thomas museum, which is on the hospital grounds. I found this to be fascinating as well, and had not realized that Mr. Thomas had selected this location for his final resting place.
After spending a major portion of my morning at the research center, I walked back toward downtown, where I would come to Mud Island, claimed to be America's only Mississippi River museum and park. The River Walk at Mud Island is an exact scale model of the Lower Mississippi River from its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois. The River Walk also features maps of 20 river cities that are laid out in slate; with aluminum strips representing the major streets and bridges of each city. It might be of interest to know that the Mississippi is the third largest river in the world. It is 2,348 miles long, starting in Itasca, Minnesota, and ending in the Gulf of Mexico. The name "Mississippi" comes from the Native American Algonquian language: misi, "big"; sipi, "water". To get to Mud Island you have to take a tram for a ride of approx 10 minutes. I was quite fortunate once again in that when I arrived, they were just about ready to give a guided tour and no one but me was there. Again, I had a private tour. I could ask all the questions I wanted, and I did. Unfortunately, I did not have the time to tour the River Museum, which takes you on a 10,000-year journey through the natural and cultural history of the Lower Mississippi Valley. The museum details everything from the first people to live along the river, through the Civil War, to the rich musical roots of the blues and rock and roll in the river valley.
In the same area as Mud Island, one can see the famous Pyramid, the 32 story stainless steel sports and entertainment arena. Although I did not go in the facility, it was mighty impressive from the outside. From here, I hopped on the electric trolley which brought me within walking distance of the National Civil Rights Museum, the first museum to document comprehensively the American civil rights movement from the 1880s to present. The museum was constructed on the site of the Lorraine Motel on Mulberry St., below Beale St., where Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968. It offers audio-visual displays, interactive exhibits, and an interpretive education center. There was so much to see and read, and so little time to do it in. Since we ate together each night, it was necessary for me to cut my visit short and get back before everyone left for the evening meal. I did have an opportunity to get one more event in before dinner. Directly across the street from our hotel was the Peabody Hotel. Every tourist that visits this city must get to see the world-renowned mallard ducks parade out of the elevator into the lobby to swim in its fountain. At precisely 11 a.m. each day, the ducks parade out of the elevator and into the fountain where they remain until exactly 5 p.m. that night. At this time, they waddle back across the hotel's red carpet and into the elevator for the ride to their penthouse pond. Quite a sight.
Dinner tonight was at a restaurant specializing in ribs. It was delicious. However, during dinner this evening, the talk went back to the beginning of our next and final leg of the journey. Everyone was feeling good, and after a great rest day, they appeared ready to get on with the remainder of the ride. We all are now beginning to feel good about our accomplishment so far, and more confident that we can do the remainder of the ride. We would have 32 riders on the final leg. Three riders departed the group here in Memphis.
8/11 - Day 17 - 93.2 miles - Vertical climb 340 feet. After an early night and good nights sleep, we are on the road early again today, for the final leg of our journey. We were pleasantly surprised to wake up to a beautiful morning. It was especially surprising, since it had rained almost all night long. The good thing is, we would be riding the first 50 miles under a cloud cover which would make the ride bearable. As we ride out of town, we will see "Graceland," the mansion of Elvis Presley. Since I was not able to get to this place during our short stop in Memphis, this would be the only view of the place that I would get. There were so many things I did not get to see in Memphis, and would like to come back some day. Soon, we would cross into the state of Mississippi, where we would be riding for the next few days. Little did I know how many cotton plantations I would see during this day. I also wasn't quite prepared for the poverty that I would see along our route. I was quite taken aback with the sight of casinos in the open fields along with a beautiful hotel along side and then the town right next door would be so very poor. It was quite depressing and really was an eye opener. After seeing this type of poverty, it really makes you thankful for the life we have. I must admit, I felt a bit pretentious riding through these towns on our beautiful bicycles with helmets and biking clothes. We were alerted not to stop, in case there might have been some hostility toward these "rich" folks, riding through their town. There were no incidents, but lots of stares. About 60 miles into our trip, we came upon Moon Lake, a lake created by an earth quake which backed up waters from the Mississippi River. The lake is about 20 miles long. Although we followed the lake shores for only about 7 miles, it was quite pleasant and probably the best part of today's ride. Arrived at motel, showered and after a short rest, headed off for the Delta Blues Museum. This museum has exhibits featuring Mississippi's contribution to blues, country music, gospel, R&B, rock and roll, and jazz. While we were there they had a Blues band of young people who put on a concert for us. Our meal was catered tonight right at the museum and, as usual, it was very good. Somehow, I doubt it would have mattered what we had to eat, it would be delicious. Once again, we head off to the motel for an early night, so we will be ready for an early start. We are looking forward to tomorrow, as the ride is actually a short one of less than 80 miles.
The following people were in attendance at the June luncheon: Cal Calisti, Bob Campopiano, Bob Catlin, Bill Ford, Paul Del Giudice, Charlie Ditmeyer, Rey Grammo, Charlie Hoffman, Mel Maples, Millie Muchoney, Will Naeher, Tom Paolozzi, Val Taylor, and Tom Warren.
Attending for the first time, and I hope not the last, were Bryon and Mary Lou Hallman. A big CANDOER WELCOME to you both.
From now on, the information I repeat after every new address, e-mail change, etc., received from members must be assumed. I am wasting a lot of space to say, "His/her e-mail address may be found on the Pen and Ink page, on the last page of this and future issues, and on the Web site," and/or "His/her bio information and address may be found on the Pen and Ink section and on the Web site," after every change of information or addition of a new member.
May 26th, Charlie Christian informed me that he expected to be in the area for the June luncheon and hoped to attend.
May 28th, Babe and Patti let me know that they are packing up or their way back to Maine. They are going to Phoenix for three days and then head East. He is hoping to be in the Washington area for the June 13 luncheon, but made no promises. He has furnished a new address for Maine.
June 1st, Bryon Hallman informed me he would be in the Washington area during the period of the next luncheon and hoped to attend it.
June 10, I received word from Jim Prosser that Gerry Manning recently died of cancer in Orlando, Florida at the age of 78. Jim believes a few of the old timers will remember Gerry, whose last assignment was in Bonn.
June 11, I received a report from Dolly Markham on the status of Ned Paes:
We received a written update on Ned on 8 June from his daughter Cathy. Ned had an appointment with his oncologist on Wed, 7 June. The doctors decided to start chemo tomorrow, Tuesday, 13 June. He will have four mild treatments, one a week. They will do this at the same time they are radiating the lung. He has to go into George Washington University Hospital (Foggy Bottom) for radiation treatments on his lung everyday. Then on Tuesday's only he goes to Prince William Hospital for the chemo treatments which last approximately 3 and 2 hours. At the end of his radiation treatments they may schedule him for a strong dose of chemo. The oncologist informed Ned that he may have four years left, to which he promptly told her "You are wrong. You don't know me. I have longer than four years." The brain neurosurgeon, Dr. Hammock, also told Joyce and Ned that four years is a very long time with all the strides they are making in cancer research today. Both Ned and Joyce are upbeat. They feel he will be cured, either through God, or the doctors. They still require help with driving into Washington everyday.
Any and all CANDOER's who are interested in volunteering for driving should just call them at (703) 361-1854. You know, any and all help is greatly appreciated.
The good news is that he had his last radiation treatment for the brain tumor. X-rays done on a weekly basis of the brain look very promising. A Cat Scan will be done in approximately two months to ensure everything is still doing well. The lung treatments began last week. The radiation has left him with wisps of hair, but he is neither sick nor extremely tired.
The chemo treatments will take the rest of his hair, and could make him tired and weak. We have to wait and see. He is doing well right now, both physically and spiritually. Although this is a rather stressful time for the Paes family, they feel God has brought many caring and loving people to help them. Please keep those prayers and e-mails going for/to him. People can now call him, too. The radiation treatments on the lung have shrunk the tumors there to an extent that the coughing is better and he can speak better. Joyce and Ned both have enjoyed hearing from friends from the past. It's the fact that they have such a support group praying for them and helping them that is making the difference. Lets keep it up. Thanks to all CANDOER's.
On June 14, Ed Ferry informed me he had a new e-mail address.
On June 14, Jim Norton notified me of a new address and e-mail address. Jim is in the process of being transferred from Frankfurt to Tokyo where he will assume the duties of the IMO.
On June 15, Sid sent me a change of address for Eva and he, effective July 5, 2000. Effective immediately, they have no e-mail capability.
On June 18, I received an e-mail application from Kenneth Parton. You will find his bio information in the usual places. Ken and Min Jin, Welcome to the CANDOERs.
On July 22, I received an e-mail application from Robin Byrd. You will find her bio information in the usual places. Robin and Lewis, Welcome to the CANDOERs.
At the age of 12, I lived in a relatively small town, Winona, MN, population then about 18,000. During summer school vacation, I spent many hours with two friends that were part of a family of 12 children. Fred was the eldest male of the 12. He was about a year and half older than me. Fred loved nature. I accompanied him on many of his nature exploratory activities, such as fishing, and hiking in the wooded hills on the other side of Lake Winona, looking for wild flowers. He was the only one I knew that would find a rare wild flower called a Lady Slipper with a pink bloom. To me it was a wild orchid. In the fall, we would take gunny sacks and hunt for black walnuts and butternuts. Fred loved poetry and composed a few. One or two after he turned 80. He passed away at the age of 89. I like this one.
How like our lives a tiny stream
Starts merrily on its way
And just as we see many a change
Take place from day to day
At times the deepness of some placid pool
Is of utmost serenity
Soon to be followed by great turbulence
For sharp rocks we can't always see
As it grows older it gains more strength
Seems nothing can stop it now
Just as we in the time of youth
Think nothing can make us bow
But even the stream sometimes hits a dam
That slows it in its stride
So are we humbled at times of life
And sometimes we lose our pride
The slower the pace the smoother it goes
Maturity's steadied the flow
Just as we in the prime of life
Also have found it so
Now much slower it meanders
On its peaceful winding way
Resembling closely our own actions
Since retirement day
The journey so long still seemed short
It's now time to go to rest
Just as we in the twilight of life
Know we too have long passed the crest
Then finally it comes to oblivion
It has now reached the sea
And just as some who were here yesterday
Has gone to eternity
Humbly as usual, by Fred Bambanek
Old-timer of Bear Creek Valley
Rural Rollingstone, Minn.
While I was in Peking (it was Peking then) we had a terrific load of outgoing pouches. The load was upwards of ten thousand pounds of pouches that totally filled the back of a canvas covered stake truck. In the good old days in Peking, all pouches had to go as accompanied baggage and go 'across the scales.' I got to the airport with the load and decided that there would be an exception made today, the pouches would go directly to the plane. Of course, the Chinese were not aware of my decision and here I was with the truckload of pouches on one side of the scale and the plane on the other. I argued with them and we escalated it higher and higher. I was dog tired and showed it, tears almost in my eyes, I was going for the academy award, and I couldn't move another pouch. They of course were delighted since they didn't want to move them either, and so it went. Finally a Chinese Lady, the Cadre Leader, came out to negotiate. She said that they needed to weigh them. I showed her the pouch form with the weights. That wasn't good enough she said. So we argued some more. Finally she asked what kind of scale did I use to weigh them and I proudly exclaimed, 'the finest scale in the world, it was fabricated by the Peoples Republic of China.' She gave a cute giggle and said ok, she would accept that.
So I won the battle, went back to the Liaison Office and told the story to Joe Acquavella. I then mentioned the weights and he said "OH NO - I ALREADY CONVERTED THEM TO KILOS". I briefly thought about going back there to apologize but it was coffee break time.
Back in the early seventies a group of us at the Embassy in Madrid would occasionally shake our guardians and wander down to the oldest part of town. As in many other cities around Europe, old town contained buildings several hundred years old, and some a lot older than that, and streets that twisted and turned, some being quite narrow and cobble-stoned. It was a neat area, very large, always bustling with life, for it's a residential area in addition to being a shopping area.
There may be a person or two who might confuse tasca hopping with tapas. There is no similarity. Tapas are the tiny portions of, you name it B tortilla, fish, two or three differently prepared calamari; artichoke B some bars have 20 or more huge plates of tapas lined along the counter. You help yourself to tapas. The contents of each plate is cut so that there are lots of one inch squares, of whatever. A toothpick is stuck in each piece so, if you want to have some calamari with your beer or wine, you just reach over and grab a toothpick and eat the food, remembering to place the toothpick on the bar so that the barman can count up the total when you're finished. Everything costs the same so you can have three portions of calamari, a hunk of ham, some fish, etc. and they would charge you about 2 pesetas each. Back in my days in Madrid, the rate of exchange was about 70 pesetas per dollar. So one could eat the equivalent of a horse for a buck.
Our occasional wanderings had a serious purpose, Tasca hopping. Here's what it means. After work, instead of going home, you take a taxi, subway or a bus downtown. You do not go in your car for three reasons: (1) it's a very congested area and there's no way you'd ever be able to park your car B you could give it away but you couldn't park it; (2) if you moved your car from where you normally parked it, you'd lose your parking space and might need to wait a month until you found another one; and (3) tasca hopping is an event after which you wouldn't know your car from a bulldozer.
Here are the steps. You gather a dozen or so congenial people, sprinkle the group liberally with women who have several functions, not the least among them being that any woman is more likely than any man to say enough is enough, it's time to go home! Men are biologically and physiologically unable to function that way so it's best to take twice as many women along as men.
You meet at a specific restaurant/bar. (Note: In Spain, there's no significant difference between a bar and a restaurant since all restaurants have a bar and all bars have a restaurant --- maybe in the back or up the stairs.) So, the nominal leader chooses a favorite starting place for all to gather. It will be a place where there is some particular specialty of the house. I forget many of them but do remember such delicious items as baby eels. Now, I'd barf at the thought of eating pickled or fried eel but a small plate full of baby eels, smothered in garlic and butter is not so bad. Looks a lot like spaghetti, just pretend the eyes are pepper. Anyway, the nominal leader bellies through the mob to the bar and orders glasses of wine (in small plain glasses) and beer, according to who wants what. These glasses get passed back to the tasca hopping group. He also orders enough of whatever the specialty of the house is for x-number of people and that is also relayed back to the group where everyone digs in. It is not a lot of food. Sort of an hors devours.
After drinking the glass of whatever and wiping the excess wine, beer or eel off their face onto their sleeves, they all move out the door, around the corner and half a block down the street to the next joint. Everyone had one glass of beer or wine at the first joint and a nibble of food. (Some actually passed on the eels.) At the next joint, and they're all crowded morning and night, the specialty might be a way they roast calamari. So, again the leader worms his way through the mob to the bar and gives his order. Again, a big plate of roasted calamari and a glass of beer or wine for everyone.
Twenty minutes later, we're on our way to another place, perhaps a block away. Another one I remember was a place where they fried green peppers. They are really wonderful but one night I got hold of a hot one. It was most unexpected, caught me by surprise. The plate, for all of us, must have held 30 or more peppers, beautifully fried, and once I got one that was not just hot but bloody hot. I was shocked, actually, since in Spain one doesn't normally find hot peppers. I took the advice of some one of us who said suck on bread. Well, I sucked a loaf or two and then ordered a huge glass of water. Eventually the pain subsided and we moved on to another joint.
In Spain the imagination runs wild when it comes to food. I actually think it is more of a gastronomic treat than anywhere else I can think of, including France. So there were half a dozen other places where we would stop to eat and drink and move on.
There was an ulterior objective to all this tasca hopping. The object was to have enough to drink for when we got to the ultimo joint where they served barnacles. At best perhaps half of the group would tackle the ugliest creature known to man and eat it but it could only be done after two hours of tasca hopping and a fair amount of alcohol. Eating of the barnacle was considered to be the culmination of tasca hopping --- a kind of graduation ceremony. In retrospect, it would have been nice if someone had been able to issue a certificate to the person who ate his first barnacle. And an even greater prize for the person who ate his second one! Problem is, of course, we were mostly blasted by that point and thus in no condition to be trusted with a dangerous items such as pen and paper so, though there were witnesses, they were hardly credible ones.
What does an edible barnacle look like? Well ... barnacles are generally served in clusters, usually three, if my somewhat disjointed recollection can be trusted. Three ... sorta fingers, joined at one end, about the size of a grown man's fingers, of about 2-1/2 inches in length. The outer skin is black. The end, away from the cluster, has what looks a little like a finger-nail. You rip a finger Y or whatever you call it, free from the cluster; pinch each end of the skin and beware, salt water will spill out. You then pull the skin off and expose the pinkish flesh inside. It is cold and probably raw and tastes very salty. I cannot say I chewed it but I can say I kind of chomped on it once or twice and then let it slip down the hatch. The taste was not particularly good but then it wasn't in the mouth very long so I wouldn't really know. The aftertaste is extremely salty and the antidote is one or two glasses of wine or beer, drank as soon as possible, in fact, they are usually sitting right there on the bar, ready to go.
Bragging rights in hand, one then wanders with what's left of the group and tries to remember what a taxi looks like. However unlikely it may seem that this is a cultural performance, it's pretty high on a bachelor's list of things to do when in Spain.
The Bedouin simply called us "The Orange People." We were cited as "fair and impartial" by the Egyptian and Israeli Governments. An "unqualified success" is how the Comptroller General of the United States described us. The New York Times said that we "served as a sentinel." Secretary of State, Alexander M. Haig, Jr. wrote about our "spirit of dedication and professionalism." Most of the world knew us as "peacekeepers."
For those who had served at the Sinai Field Mission (SFM), it was more than a commitment of the United States to the pursuit of a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East. Our small part of history was also a personal adventure to excel in a career specialty. As a Communicator, I was truly in my element with racks of HF radio Teletype and SSB voice equipment, CW, and the variety of VHF utility systems. Oh, the antennas were music to my eyes! With a back yard consisting of two log-periodic yagis, a fixed curtain array, dipoles and a multitude of other interesting aerials, I was never tired of propagation and antenna experimenting. It was like the ultimate Ham Radio station.
Hidden behind locked doors in the Operations Building, the Communications Center (and Armory) was a busy, yet quiet environment. There were officially two customer organizations to support; the USG element of Official Liaison-Observers and the Director's staff, and also E-Systems - the prime logistics, operations, and technical contractor. No matter how critical our varied communications role was, perhaps one of the more important tasks was to ensure that we receive Armed Forces Network short-wave broadcasts and patch the radio signal into a channel of the Base Camp public address / internal intercom system. Many times during the middle-of-the-night, the predominantly Texan crowd would listen and party to a live baseball game broadcast from back home. A quality signal meant that the Communicator was an exalted hero the next day. Yes, experimenting paid off.
The Base Camp lock down following the assassination of Egyptian President, Anwar Sadat and also, frequent Israeli bombing raids into Lebanon had reminded us to remain skillful with emergency and contingency communications readiness. The night before an off-site E&E radio test, our guard force would tear gas the underground bomb shelter to kill all of the critters that took up residency. They usually had it all cleaned out in the morning before we performed the scheduled regional network checks. The mobile test was also a lot of fun. We would take the Director's personal HF radio-equipped Chevrolet Blazer out into the desert or to the infamous J-1 limestone plateau to conduct this on-the-air drill.
Communicators were not bound by the same restrictions as most other support personnel. We enjoyed daily afternoon walks outside the Base Camp fences, sometimes flew in the co-pilot seat during helicopter reconnaissance patrols, and enjoyed exploring famous biblical sites. Morale enhancing field trips were great times! Perhaps the most memorable was camping and an early morning hike up Mt. Sinai. We also had another fun R&R, flying in helicopters to the southern tip of the Sinai. Our impromptu beach landing at Ras Mohammad, cookout, swim amongst the sharks and almost loss of a pilot (not fun) is forever etched in memory.
In April 1982, we literally pulled the SFM plug - our five-year job completed. The monitoring and verification role was turned over to the new Multinational Forces and Observers (MFO) activity located at the revised Israel and Egypt border. (Please, see Louis Correri's article in the June 1999, CANDOER.) Equipment racks were dismantled with each item carefully inventoried and packed. Our close down detail subsequently escorted cryptographic equipment to Embassy Cairo. The rest of the equipment was given to MFO.
SFM's last cable included the CPO's profound phraseY."That'sssssssss all folks!" Indeed there is no more Sinai Field Mission with the contingent of bright orange uniform personnel. Nor do we have the extensive antenna fields and rooms full of communications and other electronics equipment. Yet, the few privileged Foreign Service Communicators that lived and worked there had left a personal part of us behind. Author Burton Bernstein's book, "SINAI - THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE WILDERNESS," expresses the personal aspect very well. Indeed, we do actually have something in common with the native Bedouin who quickly appear and suddenly vanish. You may not actually see them, but certainly know that they are there. In the context of written chronicles about the Sinai since Moses time, us Communicators - members of "The Orange People," have a deserved and unique place in history.
The following poem was received from four different CANDOERs on the same night.
From Me to You
Just a line to say I'm living
And not among the dead.
Though I'm getting more forgetful
And mixed up in the head.
I got used to my arthritis.
To my dentures, I'm resigned.
I can manage my bifocals,
But God, I miss my mind!
For sometimes I can't remember
When I'm standing by the stairs,
If I must go up for something,
Or if I've just come down from there.
And before the fridge so often
My poor mind is filled with doubt,
Have I just put food away,
Or have I taken something out!
And there's time when it is dark
With my nightcap on my head,
I don't know if I'm retiring
Or getting out of bed.
So if it's my turn to write you,
There's no need getting sore,
I may think that I have written,
And don't want to be a bore.
So remember that I miss you,
And wish that you were near,
But now it's nearly mail-time.
So I must finish up I fear.
Here I stand before the mail box
With a face so very red.
Instead of mailing you this letter
I opened it instead!
I consider myself quite an authority on horses. It's all first-hand knowledge, too. None of that book stuff. (Oh, I did read a book about a boy and a horse when I was 11, but I don't remember a thing about it, so it doesn't count!)
My first experience with horses occurred when I was about seven --- nearly 30 years ago.
I was in the process of growing up in Waterford, Pennsylvania, and there were quite a few horses around town then. I never had anything to do with them, until one spring afternoon near the end of the school year. My mother had come up to school at dismissal time to pick me up. I was always happy when she did that because it meant we'd go for a little ride out through the country.
They were short rides, but they were just what I needed to help unwind from a tough day of coloring, pasting, and those Palmer-method handwriting exercises.
On this particular day, Mom paused to visit a bit with my teacher, Mrs. Brooks. All the other kids had disappeared instantly upon dismissal. So while Mom and Mrs. Brooks talked in front of the school, I played on the swings. It was the only time I ever had all four of them all to myself. I was going from one to the other, trying to decide which was best.
The area from behind the school to Fifth Street was an open field. Paul Bartholme, who lived a couple of houses up the alley from us, had a team of horses. Occasionally he would hitch his team to a mowing machine and mow the field. This day was one of those occasions.
So, there I was happily swinging away when all at once I heard a terrible commotion in the back of the school. Someone was yelling! Horses were making horse noises! Suddenly, from behind the school came the horses at full-gallop!
Now for those of you unfamiliar with "runaways," horses will sometimes spook when they catch a glimpse of something they perceive to bel life-threatening --- like a leaf or a butterfly. Then they run! Away! Very fast! And in no particular direction!
On came the horses with the mowing machine and Mr. Bartholme still attached! Mr. Bartholme was yelling at the top of his lungs. He was saying things like, "Whoa!" and "Gee!" and "Haw!" and other thing that I, as a second grader, had never heard before.
The horses paid no attention whatsoever. They were on their way somewhere at about 85 miles per hour! How Mr. Bartholme stayed aboard that sulky-like mowing machine is beyond me. It was chattering like a machine gun. It's a wonder they didn't cut down all the trees in the schoolyard!
I had stopped swinging and just sat there in shock and astonishment. The horses turned and came directly toward me! They were very large horses! Elephant-sized I'd say.
Mom came on a run for me.
Still, I sat their, bug-eyed and immobilized! I would have run, but I had momentarily forgotten how!
When the horses got within a few feet of me, they suddenly turned and headed for the street! When they reached the road, they stopped almost as suddenly as they started.
Funny how little incidents like that stuck with you.
Most of all, I remember the crazed look of the horses' eyes --- bulging, rolling, staring, white. Mom had a similar expression as I recall. I can still see her running out there to fight off those two brontosauruses. Talk about family values!
I don't think we went for our ride that day.
My next experience with horses came when I was about 13 --- nearly 30 years ago.
The Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales were visiting and stayed overnight at the old bus terminal. We went to see them. Unfortunately, they were facing north in their stalls, so all I got to see were their southern ends. (I've not seen such a sight since!) The part I was looking at is a substantial portion of a horse's anatomy in any case. But these were enormous! Huge! Just plain big.
Even so, I was somewhat disappointed. But then I realized that I was getting approximately the same view of the Clydesdales as the driver of that fancy Budweiser wagon. That made me feel better.
I finally got some real hands on experience with horses when I was 20-something --- nearly 30 years ago.
We were living just outside Albion, Pennsylvania then, and our neighbor, Roscoe, had a rather large riding horse that he kept in our barn for awhile. He rode the horse quite a bit. Having long been a Gene Autry/Roy Rogers fan, I wanted to ride, too. Roscoe was more than willing and showed me how to mount, dismount, neck-rein, check the oil, test the battery --- no, wait --- that was something else.
He said any time I wanted to ride was okay with him. Go right ahead. Just make sure the horse knows who's boss. This was unnecessary advice. The horse knew who was boss long before I showed up.
On afternoon, I decided it was time for a ride, so Dad and I went up to the barn. Dad knew all about horses, but he wasn't able to do anything because of a heart condition. So with Dad giving directions, I somehow managed to get the blanket and saddle on the old horse, along with the bridle, reins, suspenders, cummerbund --- no, wait --- that was something else.
We led her outside, and I mounted up (just like Gene and Roy). I said something horsy, like "giddy-up." The horse turned and marched back into the barn. Fortunately, I'm a quick ducker or I probably would have fractured my skull on the beam over the door.
I dismounted (just like Gene and Roy). We led her outside again. I mounted up once more and, like and instant replay, she clomped back inside the barn again with me laying on her neck to miss the barn door.
Dad said for me to stay aboard while he led the horse back out. I did, but when he handed me the reins, we went right ack inside again. I was getting very proficient at ducking the door.
We decided that we should get the horse a little further from the barn door, so we led her all the way around the barn. I climbed "back in the saddle again," clucked at the horse, neck-reined and all that, and the horse ignored me completely. She stomped rather rapidly all the way back into the barn. I ducked the door successfully again.
I said I guessed I'd had enough riding for one day. Besides I'd seen about all the inside of the barn that I needed to see. I think the horse was tired, too. So we said goodbye.
A few weeks later, Roscoe was riding around and stopped in the yard to talk with Dad. The horse was parked nearby, and when I came along Roscoe invited me to take a ride.
Dimwittedly, I said okay and climbed on board. To my overwhelming surprise, the horse responded to my urging and away we went off through the field.
We went a couple hundred yards or so. Then the horse stopped. No amount of pleading would make her go further. So, having always been quick to compromise, I decided this was far enough anyhow. I turned her, and as soon as she caught sight of Roscoe back in the yard, she took off for him at full-gallop.
Well, I was hardly prepared for this. I hung on to everything I could find to hang on to. Horses do not have handles, you know.
Luckily, I managed to see where we were going. The horse was taking a shortcut. Under the apple tree. The one with the big, low limb.
The barn door experience proved immeasurably valuable. I hugged the horse around the neck and skimmed under the limb, missing it by several --- uh --- millimeters.
The horse skidded to a stop in front of Roscoe.
He laughed and said, "See, I knew you could do it!"
I went immediately to the house, took a handful of aspirin and smoked a pack of cigarettes.
I have not been on a horse since.
My opening sentence may have been misleading. Maybe I'm not exactly an authority on horses as I suggested.
What I meant was, I know everything about horses that I ever want to know!