Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Day at the Market

Charlie Lavinder

A Day at the Market

“It all starts with the home,” says Charlie Lavinder. Charlie is a farmer from the Back Creek area of Roanoke County, Virginia. A man somewhere in his 70’s, he’s been selling his seasonal products for many years now.

On October 28, 2006, Charlie and several other market vendors agreed to meet with a group of fifth grade students from Bonsack, Burlington and Green Valley Elementary Schools in Roanoke County to discuss personal experiences on the market over the years. The kids were very excited to be visiting the market for their interview session. Our group consisted of four kids. Each child had a specific job. One took still photos, another shot video, another handled audio recording, and the last was the main interviewer.

Charlie, initially, was hesitant to meet with the students. Apparently, however, he had a change of heart. Another vendor, Jack the Egg Man, reported to our teacher leader as we began to gather for the event that Charlie must have had a change of heart, because his booth, filled with a wide selection of old-time apple varieties, was looking awfully spruced up.

When the kids approached Charlie, he broke in to a wide grin and welcomed them with open arms. He seemed to be almost magically animated. I found out later that Charlie, born and raised in the Back Creek area of Roanoke County, worked on his daddy’s farm up until the time when he went off to war. After the war, he didn’t really want to return to Roanoke, but someone had to run the farm as Charlie’s father was in ill-health, so Charlie took over. He’s been there ever since.

He talked a lot about the way things used to be on the Market; the old cars, old movie theaters, old people; times long past. After he spoke with the kids for about fifteen minutes, I had the opportunity to just chat with him about stuff. I found Charlie to be quite knowledgeable. He’s a bit of a community activist. He’s very concerned that the land in his area is being swallowed up by new McMansion homes (my term…not his). He fears that many of the old, tried and true ways are being lost and are not being passed on to the fresh generation. That’s why he chose to speak with our kids, I think.

Charlie and the gang

Charlie is concerned that the old Back Creek elementary school is in danger of being torn down and rebuilt. He was a student in the current building back in 1937 when it first opened, and he has personally checked out the structure of the school, determining that it is a very sound structure. He’s afraid that if the county determines that the old school should be replaced, some of the defining history of that beautiful area of Roanoke County will be lost forever. It’s hard to describe his intense passion for keeping Back Creek Elementary.

From his childhood, Charlie remembers well when they built Back Creek along with Southview, Burlington, and Clearbrook elementary schools. He pointed out to me that Back Creek was designed to be a three story building and but only two were built in order to save money. He doesn’t think it would be that difficult to build up and add another floor. I pointed out that the school would most likely have to add elevators and other expensive upgrades to bring the building up to modern code. He agreed, but counter-pointed that it would be very difficult to find suitable, affordable land in the area.

In the end, Charlie gave each of the kids a nice, shiny red delicious apple. He told us that the apples were from an old red delicious tree that he and his daddy planted forty years ago. He said that while modern red delicious apples that you get at Kroger may have gotten bigger and bigger, they don’t taste near as good as his smaller apples.

That seemed to be the lesson that Charlie was trying to share with all of us. Just because something is new, doesn’t make it better. He’s afraid that we are losing something important from the fabric of our country and behind his welcoming smile, a twinge of sadness lurks. Perhaps the children who visited the market in Roanoke, Virginia can plant a seed of hope for the future.

Pippins from Charlie's display

The gang interviewing Mark Woods. Mark was a key in getting other vendors to participate.

Mark with the gang

Mark's display

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Neon Night

Neon Night

The night was dark. An early warning chill swept in on late October tails. Cars gradually unwound as the evening commute gave a last gasp. Neon ruled the night as I sat and watched the world pass by. Owning one corner of the busy street, a brilliant red Sheetz proclaimed everlasting opening with incredible submarine sandwich deals, lotsa java, as well as $1.93 gas. The dim fluorescent security of a frequently robbed bank graced another corner with a lone beat up car guarding the abandoned parking lot. Across the four lane road, Hardees stood guard like a citadel, the smiling neon yellow star welcoming all passersby, enticing no one inside. On the final corner, the corner where I was parked patiently waiting, resided a new tenant. “CVS/pharmacy,” the sign splashed in brilliant red into the traffic noise. “Now Open.” “Get your October Extra Bucks Today!” “Milk $3.59Gal.” “Beauty.” “Drive-Thru Pharmacy.” Photo Center.” Formerly busy people, kids in tow, easily strolled in and out at a relaxed pace, their day almost done.

A massive 18 wheeler stopped at the corner stoplight. “Industry’s finest golf and utility vehicles” “Club Car Augusta, GA” No doubt, it had once been loaded with valuable vehicles and was heading to a place to rest ‘til morning. An old, beaten pick-up truck zoomed past weighed down with a load of spent tires. “Hot dogs, 2 for $1.99” barked the Sheetz banner. All traffic stopped as a fire truck zipped by turning between the bank and the forever Sheetz, racing into the night. The lights turned green, and people in their machines marched onward.

Flash Neon Flash Neon Flash Neon Flash Neon Flash Neon Flash Neon Flash

A wandering, lonely piano tune with no particular melody meandered through my head.

They came back, and I dropped back into the world.

Post Script

It seems that I rarely force myself to just stop and really look around. There’s a certain beauty and symmetry about the world, a delicate balance only penetrated by the unexpected. Watching that corner gave me insight into a place I’d never normally consider. It occurs to me that the corner scene is being played out all over the world right now. I yearn to observe every corner, every street; yet, I’m physically barred, denied by a physical reality. So much passes me by, so many possibilities, so much unexpected, all passing beyond my sight and thought.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Grazing Cows

Grazing Cows

Here comes a few minutes of your life that you will never get back. So I’ll offer this apology in advance. I’ve modeled my apology after many recent apologies by public figures. “I’m sorry if you feel in some way put out or offended by my words. However, in no way have I violated any netiquette or other real or perceived rules of decorum.”

A win in football can be extremely therapeutic. The Virginia Tech victory over a modest team from Southern Favre Mississippi was just the tonic that the Virginia Tech team needed. Moreover, it was also a shot of smooth bourbon for our more combative fans. For some, however, more medicine is needed.

The drive to Blacksburg along Catawba (Blacksburg) Road from Roanoke Saturday was special. The narrow valley connecting the localities with unique Bubbly Mountains™ was cast in a golden glow from the retiring trees. Only at times like this do I become envious of the cows we pass along the way who graze lazily on lush green grass amidst the radiant surroundings. I almost begged the keeper of the world to make me one of those cows for just a few moments so I could experience that contentment. But of course, the cows were oblivious to their impending personal apocalypse. Being a cow is ultimately not a safe occupation on a farm.

Crisp, gentle breezes awaited us in Blacksburg; it seemed to bring forth a cleansing breath of quiet resolve. In the parking lot, I mingled with various people. There was a frequent internet message board poster who came by to chat for a bit. I had enjoyed watching his group attempt to park a huge white Ford World Expedition. The whole exercise looked like the flagging of a bomber onto an aircraft carrier deck.

At one point in my parking lot wanderings, I came across an older gentleman in a motorized scooter (handicapped lot). He was sporting a Southern Favre Mississippi University sweatshirt and looked friendly enough. So, since I’m all about “Hokie Respect,” I decided to introduce myself and engage in some pleasant conservation as he watched some young members of his group toss around a Favre ball. We had a short, but excellent talk. I told him that I had enjoyed my stay in Hattiesburg a couple of years ago when I stopped over there on my way to the Sugar Bowl. So we spoke of restaurants near the interstate. Then he proudly mentioned that Brett Favre played college ball at Southern Favre Mississippi. I responded that I knew that and that I had watched Favre play against VT years ago at Lane Stadium. He was impressed that I knew of this Favre connection. After we exchanged a few more pleasantries, I moved on.

Once I arrived at the game on the handicapped shuttle, I leaped off and headed in to the stadium via the south end zone gate and immediately went to the first uncrowded concession stand to purchase my one $4 Diet Coke. Up until this year I used to buy two large Diet Cokes from concessions, but I had to cut back this year since the masters of concessions raised the price a dollar. So instead of shaking me down for $6 a game, they now only get $4. It was their choice to raise the prices, and it’s my choice to withhold my support. Karma was evident as I watched the concessionaire fill my big cup. To my shock and amazement, she was loading my pop into a large 2002 Hokie Respect cup! The 2002 cup had an excellent design. Sturdy and large, this cup has always been one of my favorites since it can hold lots of liquid and stand up to the rigors of time and the dishwasher.

I ended up sitting in my actual season ticket seats for the first time ever. Up to this point, I had managed to share my sister’s better seats while giving my seats to others. But Saturday, my sister had all of her seats spoken for, so I had to trek to upper reaches of the negative end zone to find my seats. In the end, despite the unique perspective, I enjoyed my seats. While the guy next to me was rather large and was actually sitting on one of my two seat numbers, I was able to carve out enough space to actually enjoy the game. In fact, unlike the fans around my sister’s better seats, the people around my actual seats actually stand and cheer. That I can appreciate!

The game itself was excellent from a Virginia Tech perspective. With all of the controversy surrounding VT’s program of late (arrests, poor play on the field, uncharacteristic losses, penalties, etc) the team looked solid and united. Most importantly, there was very little trash talking and absolutely no personal fouls. This was an excellent development.

The fans, me included, seemed quiet. We seemed pensive, as if we were waiting for something to be proven to us. Of course, I believe we were waiting for magic to be uncorked from and bottle so we could dance with a genie. While I don’t think the level of play rose to genie dancing, I do think that the orchestra was warming up and a corkscrew had been delivered to the field. Hopefully, that genie bottle can be popped this coming Thursday night.

One thing that really bothered me at the game, however, was the annoying tendency of many fans to be completely fickle regarding our quarterback play. There were some loud people scattered about around me both near my seats and my sister’s seats that simply harangued Sean Glennon from before the game started until the game ended. Those people were constantly screaming that Beamer should “Get him outta there!” and “He stinks!” Amazingly, when these people finally got their wish and Ike Whitaker entered the game in the second quarter, some of these same people were booing his performance in his first series. As you may remember, Ike came in and promptly looked a bit confused for three plays. These people had no tolerance for anything less than some ill-defined and subjective form of perfection. So they predictably screamed and booed. The very next series, they booed Sean Glennon again when he came back in to the game, but cheered loudly the next moment when Glennon fired a perfect forty yard strike to Josh Morgan in the end zone. Some people are just mentally constipated, I think.

After the game, I hoofed it back across campus to our parking lot next to Shultz. The crowd was subdued and seemingly satisfied as they all shuffled along. Before leaving my parking lot, I helped a Hokie jumpstart his car. His battery was dead, but it sprang back to life with the proper motivation and support, kind of like the football team.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Last night, I was moved to write about my second grade teacher. I didn't like her at all as may have been evident in my written piece. This afternoon, I went by to visit my mother and father for a bit, and I mentioned last night's blog entry to my mother. After a few moments, my mother had excellent recall of that teacher, and my mother's opinion very closely matched mine. But my mother had different memories of the same story, memories that were instantly a revelation to me.

She easily recalled the story of me being sent out to the hallway for whispering during quiet time, but her recollection of the event was clearer and more detailed than mine. One of my greatest weaknesses or strengths has always been that I rarely have detailed memory of events. Apparently, that was the case regarding my memory of the whispering incident. According to my mother, I was indeed sent to the hall for whispering during quiet time. The principal did come by and speak with me, but something else happened that I have kept repressed and largely rewritten in my brain.

What really happened that fateful day was that I was caught whispering to Lisa, as I mentioned last night, and I was sent crying into the hallway with shame. Shortly after the principal came by, another person came by and saw me crying. That person was my very own mother. She was very active in the PTA and was at the school for some kind of meeting. The following details are according to my mom.

As I was standing there crying, she saw me and came over asking what I was doing out in the hallway. I sobbed my response, and that's when my mother called that Miss Worley out into the hallway and confronted her with sharp, biting words. Right then. Right there. She recalls vividly what she said to that lady after some initial heated discussion where Miss Worley layed out her case against me, "I've had four children go through this school and none of them have ever been in one iota of trouble, I do not consider this to be trouble!" Why I couldn't remember that she did this on my behalf, I don't know. After all, I suppose I was standing right there for the entire conversation, unless they sent me inside while they had words outside the classroom. It's interesting though. That day, my mother came to my aid in my moment of need and backed me up, defending me against ridiculous charges. I was a very lucky boy to have such a parent.

My mother further told me that she thought that teacher was horrid, and she had no business being in the profession. I suppose my mother knew what she was talking about, because Miss Worley didn't stay at my school very much longer after I had her.

It would be an interesting study, I think, to dig through my repressed memories to find out what history I've rewritten. It's like Churchill said, "History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Quiet Time

Quiet Time

Second grade was a pivotal year for me. I was a shy boy back in 1967. Back then, school began with first grade with no such thing as pre-school or kindergarten. So when I reached second grade, I was still socially reclusive. Being the fourth out of five kids in my family, I suppose I sort of disappeared and learned the benefits of anonymity.

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Johnson-a seemingly 100 year old great grandmother with long gray hair neatly pinned in a bun, scared the life out of me as she paraded around the room with her long plain dress and granny boots swatting her ruler on the hands of inattentive pupils. I quickly learned to become invisible in her room. My natural tendency to not draw attention to myself was reinforced.

Well trained, I entered second grade already broken in to the harsher ways of that old school. I knew that my potential second grade teachers were not likely to be any more compassionate. Little did I know that sometime in the late days of summer vacation, I drew the proverbial short straw.

My second grade teacher’s name was Mrs. Worley, and I grew to resent her. She wasn’t old, but she was a broken woman. Early in the year, she went in to gory detail of the horrible injury she sustained in an automobile accident. Apparently, her back injury was so severe that she was in constant angering pain, and she was forced to wear a cumbersome and painful back brace. I remember one day, she showed all thirty-five of us that brace. I was appalled. People never displayed partial disabilities in public back then. In fact, people with physical or mental disabilities were completely hidden away from society. In my mind, Mrs. Worley was mean and insane. To top it all off, she was an incredibly boring teacher, shoving paper after paper at us. I did become pretty good at copying words off the board onto my lined paper with my fat blue pencil. My only thrill came when I got use a fat green pencil instead of the fat blue one.

Two things happened that year that I will never forget, one traumatic and one hilarious in a mean sort of way.

Every day in that class, Mrs. Worley would make us all sit down …wait a minute…she always made us sit down. Every day, Mrs. Worley made us put our heads down on desktops for a quiet time. This period lasted at least 30 minutes, sometimes longer. During this period, there was only one rule, “No Talking!” She spent that time busily adjusting her brace, grading and commenting on papers, and applying make-up. Her antennae were always alert for the slightest stray peep from any classmate.

I remember dreaming every day of escaping that torturous room. I knew how I could make that happen. Right outside our huge classroom windows was a fantastic, old white pine tree. From just outside our first floor window, the tree went up, like Jack’s beanstalk. I never could see the tree’s top, though I always did try to strain my eyes to see around the edge of the window’s top. I wished I had curved vision to see around edges and corners. I imagined that to escape I would bolt out the open window and quickly climb the accommodating pine to the clouds and a special cloud city. There I could spend my time doing things I liked doing like riding my bike or tossing a baseball around.

One day during quiet time, my dream was interrupted by the annoying girl who sat right behind me in our boy/girl/boy/girl classroom. Lisa was a gabby blond who was always poking and bugging me. She was the worst kind of gossip-monger. Relentless with fresh information in her clutches, she would take all kinds of chances in spreading her venomous tales. I tried ignoring her, but it became increasingly more difficult as she kept poking me in the back. Finally, in desperation, I turned around and whispered, “What??”

Unfortunately for me, that’s when Mrs. Worley’s radar alerted her to my motion and sound. Her beady and freshly shadowed eyes fixed on me like Sauron locking in on Frodo’s ring. I knew at that moment, that I was doomed, and I began to cry even before she screamed, “Tommy Ryder! Were you whispering during quiet time???”

[Sobbing uncontrollably now] “…[sniff] y-eh-eh-es ma’am.”

“You know you’re not allowed to be whispering during quiet time. I can’t believe this! Get out in the hall! Now!”

There is no way in real words to describe how much her ranting and strong words have scarred me. I had been through my whole school career up to that point without getting in to any kind of trouble, and in fact, I would go through the rest of my school career without ever getting in to any other trouble. But on this day, I was sent to the hallway with thirty-five pairs of frightened eyes and one pair of enraged eyes following me. That was only the beginning of my most public humiliation.

Outside the room, I instinctively knew to stand stony still, rigid against the sand colored block wall. My tears cascaded down my face in seemingly endless waves. I was furious. I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. Anger and tears mixed freely. I hated that mean lady. I didn’t do anything! I didn’t do anything! I didn’t do anything! That’s all I could think.

After a few minutes, I caught a blurry figure approaching from down the hall. I was probably too emotional to truly understand my impending misfortune. For coming down the hall was none other than Mr. Vaughan, the school principal. He was a big man and all I knew of him was to fear him. I hoped my cloak of invisibility would serve me here, but its powers had obviously weakened.

To my complete horror, he stopped, stared at me, and said, “Why are you out in the hall son?”

That’s all it took, a fresh wave of tears came down my face as I attempted to explain in stammering fashion how I had been whispering during quiet time. He shook his head and told me that he had better not ever find me in the hall again. Then he walked on. I was now completely embarrassed. Mr. Vaughan would never look at me the same way again, I believed earnestly.

Soon, Mrs. Worley came out in the hall and requested that I open my hand. When I obediently complied, she placed a note in my hand and instructed me to take it home and get it signed by my mother. Then she ushered me back into the room and the spotlight of 69 eyeballs (one kid was missing an eye). Lisa showed no remorse for causing my humiliation. She was snickering under her bimbo breath.

On the way home that day, I dreaded giving the note to my mother. I did peek at it and, being a fine reader, I had no problem translating the message. In fact it is seared into my memory to this day, “Dear Mrs. Ryder, Tommy was whispering during quiet time today. Such behavior will not be tolerated in my classroom. Regards, Mrs. Worley.”

To my credit, I didn’t put off the confrontation with my mother. I knew that she was apt to swat me pretty good and send me to my room. Although I feared the punishment, I had come to terms with my impending doom, yet my tears still returned. I handed my mom the note as soon as I came through the door. I waited for the reaction. But her reaction wasn’t what I expected.

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” My mom was an ex-elementary school teacher, and she knew well how classrooms operated. “What happened?” she asked.

So, I told her the truth about how Lisa had poked me and I had asked her what she wanted.

“Well, I’m going to give that teacher of yours a piece of my mind!” I remember being so happy to be her son right then. The next day, my mother set up a conference with Mrs. Worley, and I suppose the wrath of mom was on that mean lady. My mother referred to her excitability in such circumstances as “getting her Irish up.”

The second thing that happened that year was really quite funny, and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving teacher.

We were sitting as always in the classroom, and Mrs. Worley was going into one of her many long diatribes during the last half hour of the day. She was really getting in to whatever it was she was trying to share with us. I can’t honestly remember the lesson, but it probably related somehow to something to do with her feeble back and rigid back brace. Anyway, time kept ticking away, and Mrs. Worley kept talking right through the time when we were usually getting packed up to go home. Then, we all heard the first dismissal bell ring. Being second graders, that’s the bell we were supposed to go on, but Mrs. Worley kept talking. I honestly believe that we were all too afraid of her to interrupt her to tell her that our bell had rung. Then five minutes later, the second bell rang. There was rustling in the hall as upper grade children all caught their buses. Soon the halls grew quiet, and still Mrs. Worley kept talking. We were all very nervous now, noticeably fidgeting- but much too timid to say anything out loud. Finally, our unusual movements broke in to her trance, and she said, “What on Earth has gotten in to you children?”

Of course Lisa was the one to speak up, “Mrs. Worley the bells have already rung.”

“Oh my goodness children, why didn’t someone say something?” She bolted from the classroom, really testing that new rigid back brace, leaving us alone in the classroom-excited and scared. We began to wonder what would happen if we had missed our buses. Would we be trapped at school all night? Where would we sleep? How would we eat?

A couple of minutes later, Mrs. Worley came back in to the classroom with Mr. Vaughan in tow. Her face was beet red and so was his. I remember him telling the nasty lady right in front of us that it was inexcusable to forget to load the children on the bus. I remember that Mr. Vaughan made Mrs. Worley go down to the office and telephone every mother she could reach to alert them that the children would be late arriving home. Then he ushered us all on to the “substitute bus”- a retired 1940’s model that still chugged along. That was the day that my principal drove me home.

In the final analysis, my second grade year was almost forgettable, yet it remains a powerful memory to me all these years later. Mrs. Worley didn’t last much longer at my elementary school. I have no idea what became of her. I remember thinking 29 years ago when I decided to major in elementary education that the main reason I wanted to become a teacher was to somehow negate that horrible school year. I figured that I could do a better job than that lady, anyone could.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Travelogue Epilogue

We traveled home Sunday. It was a mostly unremarkable trip. Route 460 between Ivor and Zuni showed signs of recent devastating floods where mud coated trees 10 feet or more above the road surface in spots. We left Avon, N.C. at 10:15 a.m. and arrived in Roanoke, VA at 4:45 p.m. We definitely made good time.

Before we left, I did slip down to the dock by the canal behind our beach home and slipped a fishing line into the dark water. My tiny hook was armed with slimey squick and in a matter of several minutes, I had captured my ninth species. My brothers and I had a little side bet going on who could catch the widest variety of fish species. My brother, Greg, led the competition going into Sunday morning when I pulled that little one inch shiner out of the murkiness.

After I got home, I immediately began putting stuff away and washing my fish smelly clothes. I had exactly two loads of dark wash to do, and I kind of packed the second load a bit too much, so those clothes still kind of smell a bit like funky squid. I didn't have enough whites to do a load so I left those few articles of underwear, socks, and t-shirts laying on the basement floor beside the wash. When my wife came home this afternoon, she discovered all of my malodorous whites strewn about the yard and one very happy black dog wagging her tail with glee. Apparently, my four year old puppy loves me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Saturday Evening

My brothers and I made a side bet on the way to the beach Thursday. The brother who recorded the most species landings would win the pot of money($10 all in).

I had the early lead on Thursday and most of Friday with six species landed. Greg then made a comeback when we stopped to fish just south of Cape Hatteras point. He ended up with nine species. Jody was limited in his species to five, but he received a one point penalty for hooking a beautiful osprey right out of the air. Today, I made a run at Greg and scored one additional species, a flounder, and I presently sit one species behing Greg.

We are staying beside a canal leading to the sound, Pamlico Sound, and I have noticed that there are strange tiny fish species residing there. Perhaps in the morning, before we leave...I'll slip out there and snag the tying species.

Enjoy today's sunset.

Weekend Update

Fishing. Just Fishing.

I'm sitting here in a marvelous beach house on the sound side in Avon, NC. Looking outside, I can see flags stiff in the fresh cool breeze.

We spent the day on the beach just north of Avon at Ramp 30. It was a moderately productive day. Everyone caught nice bluefish and both my brothers Joe and Greg caught nice red drum. Joe's measured 26" and Gregs was 26". Regulations state that anything over 28" must be returned to the wild. We kept Joe's for dinner tonight and released Greg's.

We ended up sharing a fishing hole with a group of guys from Roanoke. They were waiting anxiously for our hole, and as soon as we were pulling away, they moved in on our old turf. To be fair, they were in our exact spot yesterday, but we were the first hard men on the beach this morning, breaking out onto the sand before the crack of dawn at about 6:00 am. Those guys didn't roll in until about 7:30.

I'll have a sunset update later this evening.

Enjoy the pictures.

Friday, October 13, 2006

From Glory

I'm sitting in our beautiful canal/sound side rental at 10:30am just back from our morning excursion to the beach just north of Avon, NC. While at the beach off ramp 30, my two brothers and I caught many fillet sized blues, small spot, mullett, a flounder, and a crab.

The weather is quite breezy but not especially cold. I started out before sunrise with my trenchcoat, long johns under long pants and a sweatshirt. Before long I had changed into my swimsuit and t-shiirt while going barefoot in the surf.

Enjoy this morning's sunrise!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Visit From the Deep

Several years ago, the story retold here actually happened. As is normal for me, I have recalled the basics of the event, and I hope I have captured the passion of the moment in time. Tomorrow, I head back to the beach again with my two brothers and father.

Visit from the Deep

Notre Dame football cackled on a distant AM radio station, fading in and out with the rhythm of the crashing waves as the orange full moon rose over the warm, wispy ocean sky. On the Outer Banks of North Carolina, it gets dark earlier than on the mainland during winter. Backing our truck up to the surf and hanging a Coleman lantern out to illuminate the bait board, my brothers and I prepared for a night assault on the mightiest sea creature under the stars, Red Drum.

The Red Drum is the master of the deep. Long-lived, these fish sometimes grow to become huge specimens, weighing fifty to sixty pounds or more. During the waning days of autumn and into the fresh cold of winter, these warriors patrol the coast of North Carolina in search of tasty delights. It takes a lot of food to feed a mighty creature. Luckily for the drum, there’s plenty to choose from in this most wild part of the Earth.

Fishy beauty is something for which red drum have never been accused of possessing. Frankly, they are blocky, plain, and ugly fish. Misshapen, thick scales seem to shed constantly from its body. It’s jaw is permanently set in some kind of stupored pose with its wide-placed eyes staring dully straight ahead from either side of its chunky face. Red drum aren’t red at all, they’re more like a dull mud brown with a hint of dull mustard. The one attractive feature is a faded reddish spot centered on its powerful tailfin. A mature red drum reminds me of a slob living in a trashy rusted car.

My brothers, father, and I talked of and planned our night assault all that Saturday afternoon. We returned from our afternoon battle with obnoxious “fish” like skate and more skate to resupply with ice, beverages, and bait. Then as darkness began to win the battle of the late afternoon, we said good evening to our father and drove my brother’s silver Ford F-250 out to our isolated honey hole along Rt. 12 about six miles north of Avon, North Carolina.

As we pulled onto the beach, we noticed one lone window-steamed parked car in the sand a few hundred yards north of the ramp along the beach. We had no interest in passing by this hot car; luckily, we planned to head south anyway, looking for the honey hole we had located earlier in the day and marked by “stroking the dogstar”- my brother’s Garmin GPS.

The hole was easy to spot. It was a classic, easy to spot in the young moonlight. Moonbeams shimmered along the ocean’s surface highlighting the glassy calm of the hole between the storm of breakers beyond and the tamer breaks up close to shore. Red Drum love holes. That’s their restaurant. That’s where we would carefully place our bait.

Under the intense orange moonlight, we set up our normal spread. Traditionally, my two brothers and I line up along the beach in age order. My oldest brother, Joe, stands on the north side of our camp facing the ocean. My middle brother, Greg stakes out the middle of the formation, while I take the south flank. Over the years, we’ve arrived at this predictable arrangement mainly because of my unpredictability with the surf casting rod. Joe is a very powerful line caster. He can send his line far out straight and beyond the wild breakers past the hole. Greg is a solid line caster. His throws always run straight and true hitting the hole every time. My casts, on the other hand tend to be somewhat more powerful than Greg’s, but very unpredictable. I tend to slice my casts every now and then, spraying my line hard starboard. By placing me on the south side of our base camp, I can be as unpredictable as I want without disturbing anyone else’s line.

We tend to toss out about two surf casting rigs per person. Usually at least one or two rigs are drum rigs, that is they are set up with a very large hook and a generous hunk of cut bait. We usually use squid, shrimp or mullet for the smaller blue fish rigs and mullet slabs for the drum.

That beautiful evening, as the Notre Dame game became joined with the wheeling brilliant stars in the intoxicated sky, Joe waded out into the easy surf and let his drum rig fly far and straight beyond the hole and way beyond the far breakers. I could see the bait sparkle in the moonlight and disappear in the sea mist. I often stop to watch Joe cast. It’s always a dynamic, powerful event. Meanwhile Greg and I got all of our lines out, no casts as dramatic as Joe’s. One of my casts predictably went askew.

Things were quiet for a while. Greg and I watched the surf, our poles, and Joe out in the water tending his pole when suddenly we noticed Joe become frantic. His rod tip was suddenly dancing, bending hard to join the ocean. It seemed all Joe could do to keep the whole rod and reel from being stripped from his hands and taken to the deep. We could hear his reel being stripped of line with a telltale whirring sound. Then Joe looked back at us and began barking orders…”CLEAR THE LINES…IT’S A BIG ONE AND IT’S RUNNING!!”

We had all trained for this moment over many years like school children in a fire drill. We leaped into action. With about seven lines out, we had to act fast. If that beast on Joe’s line made a run to the south, we’d be in one very tangled mess. Winding madly, Greg and I managed to get all the lines in just in time as Joe’s visitor dragged the line, pole and him over where our lines had just been. Joe, fighting hard with the pole, managed to back out to the shore and found a way to keep all of the line from stripping off of his reel. Luckily, he had set up his rig with a steel shock leader to provide more protection of his line in case of a big strike. This one certainly could be classified as just that or more.

Already breathless, Joe instructed us to be ready for the landing. Basically, he would try to maneuver the mystery beast (most likely a large red drum) close to shore. Then we were instructed to pounce on the fish when it got close enough and wrestle it to shore. Imagining this Steve Irwin-esque maneuver, we stood ready for our moment, poised for the pounce.

The monster had other ideas, however. Without warning, it began stripping line and running north along the beach away from our camp and towards the steamy car. Greg and I sprinted ahead to make sure there were no obstacles that would impact Joe’s fight. The last thing we wanted was to have Joe trip over driftwood or other debris. Joe sprinted right behind us to keep up with this champion track star fish.

After a few moments withstanding the latest attack and sprinting behind, Joe became very worried. He began shouting that he was running out of line and getting tired. His line was way out, and he was down to the last few feet before the whole line simply detached itself from the stout reel. He would have to take aggressive action in order to save this catch, so he waded back, and took the fight to the fish.

Amazed, Greg and I stood there and watched Joe fight and fight that mystery creature in the emptiness of the glowing night. Time seemed to stop, perhaps an hour passed or maybe it was only a couple of minutes. It didn’t matter. Our truck’s lantern was a distant dot of light far to our south. The steamy car had abruptly pulled away, leaving us completely alone in this beautiful alien world. Slowly, Joe made some progress, and the fish began to give way to my most persistent brother.

The moment of truth was coming closer and closer. I was determined to be the alligator wrestler, and Joe told me to get ready to land him. As he got closer and closer as I crouched in the surf, ready and poised. The fish was still fighting Joe, however. He had other ideas about living on land. With a desperate final attack, the fish again ripped the line in a powerful move toward the sea. Joe, weakened from the battle, could barely hold the pole and that fish began stripping the line and Joe’s hard work away. Then, in an instant, the battle was over as the pole stopped bending to the sea and returned to pointing at the moon. The hookless line began billowing in the gentle breeze-the almost captured opponent free to live another day.

Joe reeled in the orphaned line and when he got to the end of it, he pulled it down to inspect what was left. He studied that line there in the surf for minutes and minutes. Quiet and thoughtful in the weak crashing shore breakers, he stood there silhouetted in the moonlight. Eventually, he came back to shore and the three of us began a slow quiet walk back to our distant Coleman lantern.

Soon though, our somber moods lifted and we began laughing about the whole episode. We relived each second of that adventure over and over. Greg and I prodded Joe to tell us what it felt like to be hooked up with such a powerful fish. He shared every felling, every maneuver, every tense tug. Then he dropped a bomb on us. “That wasn’t a drum fellas…” He paused and let us drink in that revelation. “It had to be a huge barracuda or a sizable shark or something... But definitely not a drum.” We were flabbergasted by his theory. Both Greg and I had assumed that he had hooked in to the mightiest of Red Drum, but Joe was convinced otherwise. Without waiting to be asked how he knew, Joe shared with us that the line hadn’t snapped. Instead, it had been sawed through, right through the thick steel leader. No drum could do that. Only a creature with razor sharp teeth could possibly have severed that leader.

All I could think about after that was what would have happened if I had blindly pounced on that fish. If it was a barracuda or a shark, I would have been in very deep trouble. But I suppose the moon was looking out for me, and that never had to happen.

We finished our walk back to the truck. None of us had any real desire to seriously fish anymore that evening. We’d all had enough entertainment for the night and captured a story for a lifetime.

There are many beautiful things and glorious moments that pass through a person in life. Wonders, from family and friends to nature, are all a part of a most fantastic world. On that misty moonlit evening on a lonely beach where it joins the wild ocean, I experienced a moment of ecstasy and oneness with the cosmos that will forever remain etched in my soul.

Red Drum.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Carruthers, what on earth is happening to our program?

Backstory:The University of Virginia football program is in a free-fall state after the team was whipped by a low-land team from East Carolina last night. Yet in Hoo-ville, there is hope and optimism.

Carruthers, what on earth is happening to our program?

What on heaven's Earth do you mean Carruthers?

Baxter, You know as well as anyone that our program is performing astonishingly well. Our spread this year has included the best vin and the absolute finest cheeses, along with other delicate and tasty appetizers that would ordinarily be dining fit for King Louie in any other less glorioius setting. I was especially enammored by the chicken liver, mushroom and apple pâté as well as Les olives marinées that we served up for our most recent presentation. I also was partial to The Fourme d'Ambert crepes. They are the most rewarding entry on our cheeseboard, in my opinion.

We've been especially careful to mate our cheeses with complimentary wines. Nothing can ruin an excellent spread like mismatched cheeses and wines as you especially well know. So we use the following regimen:

Goat's Cheeses — Sauvignon Blanc
Mild Cheeses — Gamay, Chenin
Medium Cheeses — Pinot Noir, Merlot
Strong Cheeses — Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (Shiraz), Grenache

Speaking of wines, Baxter old boy, I've just discovered a fantastic new appellation to display in our vino array. It's the grand vin named for the grower's estate, Chateau de Beaucastel. It's excellent mated with our goat cheese and bakery fresh bread .

So, Baxter, I'm confident that our program is on solid ground and developing nicely, exactly according to plan.

I am concerned about Hobson, however. He seems to be struggling a bit this season. We've picked up some of his traffic and frankly its putting a bit of a strain on our ability to develop our program; however, I know we are up to the task. Buck up old friend.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

In The News

In the News

Dennis Hastert apologized for his alleged role in suppressing evidence of Representative Foley’s recent internet indiscretions and almost simultaneously Wisconsin State Representative Frank Lasee made a bizarre announcement that he will support state legislation that would enable teachers to carry guns in schools.

Hastert came out swinging back on October 4 amid calls for his resignation. Instead of resigning, he offered the world “an apology.” If you’ve read any of my recent long blog entries, you may remember a piece I did a few weeks back on the modern art of apology. It seems to me that the socially trendy thing to do when in a tight spot is to apologize without apologizing or even to apologize by attacking others. Hastert’s “apology” was true to modern form.

“I'm sorry -- you know, when you talk about the page issue and what's happened in the Congress, I'm deeply sorry that this has happened. And the bottom line is that we're taking responsibility, because ultimately, as someone has said in Washington before: The buck stops here.”

On first hearing, this sounds like a strong statement of sincere apology and resolve to make amends; however, look closer. Hastert subtly never accepts any blame. His words do not show remorse…only regret when he invokes the modern apologetic catch-phrase, “…I’m deeply sorry that this has happened….” You bet he’s sorry it happened! He’s sorry it happened and that it involved him. He’s probably also sorry that anyone feels upset about any of this. He’s very sorry about it all. Later in the day, Hastert detailed where the blame should really lie: with Democrats, Bill Clinton, and millionaire liberal activist George Soros. You can read more about Mr. Hastert and his fumbling words by visiting Slate and The National Journal blog.

The other story that has caught my eye over the last few days comes to us from Wisconsin where Representative Frank Lasee proudly proclaimed that he would support legislation that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in public schools as long as they receive training. According to the Appleton Post Crescent, Lasee plans to bring forth his legislation tat the upcoming spring session. I especially enjoyed Warren J. Bowe of Chippewa Falls, WI’s editorial. Mr. Bowe makes some humorous points regarding the effects of that legislation if passed. I especially enjoyed thinking about designer guns decked out in school colors with school mascots engraved in the handles.

Of course having teachers tote around guns in school is so very wrong on so many levels. Having guns in classrooms is akin to having starving, angry tigers in your kitchen while you’re cooking dinner. In both cases, there would be blood on the floors.

Other Apologies of Note

McDonald’s French Fries

The Prince of Wales

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On Friendship and the Loss of a Friend

On Friendship and the Loss of a Friend

Winston Churchill said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” That’s what you need to know before reading this piece. The events I’m writing are more of an artistic impressionist brushstroke rather than pure documented fact. Very simply, with the passage of time and its degenerative effects on my fragile mind, I can’t guarantee that everything I write here is 100% or even 50% accurate. I can guarantee you that the feelings and emotions are genuine at this moment, and I suppose that’s what’s really important anyway.

It was one year ago on October 1, 2005 that my friend, Joel Robert Bek, passed away. Joel’s death has changed me subtly both for better and worse. I’m too sad about his passing to share how this made me better and too withdrawn to truly share how his passing has made me worse. Tonight, thinking of Joel makes me nostalgic.

I first remember Joel from band class in eighth grade. He had just moved to Roanoke with his mother, Joan, after she had divorced his father, Ted. Joel was the first person I ever knew who called his mother by her first name. I found that concept very strange; perhaps that’s what all Iowans did. Even in the eighth grade, Joel was an adult, a very juvenile one, but an adult nonetheless. He seemed to have a world-wise air about him, like he had experienced far more than my rather sheltered soul could fathom. Joel’s older brother, Jeff-no not The Jeff Beck, but Jeff Bek- and my next oldest brother became friends at about the same time as Joel and I became friends. I would like to tell you that Joel and I were absolute best friends in late middle school, but that would not be the truth. That honor belonged to Billy Taylor. Joel and Billy both played French horn in the band, and more importantly, they both had quirky senses of humor. Despite the fact that I sat at least a row behind them in band class with my tuba, we would somehow manage to do goofy things like intentionally mess with poor Mr. Spiers innocent mind by playing different tempos…wait a minute, it just occurred to me that Joel probably wasn’t trying to mess up on purpose.

As the three of us and our classmates moved on to high school, Joel, Billy, and I became better and better friends. Our band began to develop a real family sense. Pretty soon, we were all sharing the same friends and the same interests. By the end of our first year, we had all developed an interest in drama. I suppose I was the most involved at that time since I had taken over the mantle (pun intended) of head lighting technician. Joel would sometimes help me run the board and aim the lights. The board was a relic of some Frankenstein movie. It consisted of old fashioned plugs that were dangled on long cords. The plugs had to be inserted into a pegboard-like structure much in the same way that old operators used to connect calls. Then when all the plugs were added to the board, you could raise the mighty light levers and create stage magic. My favorite lighting stunt was sunrise effect where I would start with a blue night time stage and gradually cook an orange glow in from the back of the stage to the front until finally the whole stage was bathed in brilliant light. Joel used to love to mess with those levers and plugs, too. To him they were like toys or some strange mathematical puzzle.

That light room was a wonderful place. It could be accessed only two ways, from a small locked door in the auditorium lobby and by a small locked door in the main hall of the school. I had a key. This meant that as I grew older and wiser in my ways, I could steal away from life and find solitude for my dark thoughts in this dark room above the school. Sometimes Joel would join me along with Billy and our drama friend, Faith. We could hang out up there in relative anonymity on a most uncomfortable used school couch that had been liberated from the school lobby some time years before. The second coolest place in the light room was the ceiling above the auditorium. You could access the ceiling through a trap door high up the wall in the light room. Once through the door, you could wedge yourself out along a dangerous catwalk and eventually make your way to a spot where you could poke your head out just above the stage where the ceiling spotlights lived. Joel used to like to monkey around up there. The absolute coolest place was the roof. Unknown to almost everyone in the school, there was a locked door to the roof that could be accessed only from the light room, and I had the key. Joel would sometimes like to go out there to smoke his Camel Light cigarettes. Even then he was smoking. I didn’t smoke then, but I used to love to go out and sit on the roof in a student chair that we had liberated from an unsuspecting classroom.

Faith and Joel were always great friends. I think they met as neighbors when Joel first moved to town. Faith dated Kenny, one of the greatest Thespians our school ever produced and together they worked on plays. Faith usually worked behind the scenes like me while Kenny took the main stage. Joel and Billy frequently worked on sets during this stretch, while I ran the lights. One thing you could count on was an amazing cast party at Kenny’s house after our last show of the run. Since this is a family board, I will spare you detail, suffice to say that Joel usually became the focal point of the party. He was energetic and bright, engaging and hilarious. He would always have some off-beat cornball Iowa story to tell, and in conversation, he knew everything you were talking about already- even if he didn’t really. I’ve never met a person more gifted at inventing pure BS than Joel Robert Bek. In fact, I think he passed that skill on to me to a large degree.

It was our senior year that Faith, Billy, Joel, and I really bound together as life friends. That was the year we all had serious parts in the play, The Night Was Dark. I believe Faith ran make-up. Getting make-up from Faith was like visiting heaven. Secretly, even though I knew she was always spoken for, I got chills when I lay down and Faith leaned over me to apply my make-up. I suspect Joel and Billy felt the same way. Faith was and is magnetic that way. Joel played Chester (a role he later reprised as “Chester the Child Molester”) in a Thespian initiation. I played a Russian butler with a Roanoke twang southern accent (Ding-dong… “I will git it.”… “It’s GET Ryder..GET…not GIT!!!”). Billy stole the murder mystery by playing an old man named Mr. Garth. Billy was the best old man I’ve ever seen to this day. Of course the fact that Billy was shaving his moustache in sixth grade kind of gave him a head start on playing old guys. I remember one scene in that play, perhaps it was dress rehearsal or perhaps it was even the actual performance when Joel went diving onto Mr. Garth’s couch while Billy was sitting there and I guess he applied a bit too much force to the couch on that slick stage floor, and it went tumbling over backwards spilling Billy and Joel to the floor. You’d never know that wasn’t part of the script. Those two guys covered it like pros.

Our last play together was the extravaganza, “Winnie-the-Pooh.” In this play, Joel and I took starring roles while Billy and Faith worked behind the scenes. I say that we took starring roles, but in a real sense, this was Joel’s play. Thanks to my boyish looks (barely hit puberty at age 18), I was chosen to play Christopher Robin. My role was more of a stage manager part, and thankfully a small one at that. I would go in front of the curtain before each act and tell some stories to my stuffed bear (which was almost larger than me) as young Christopher. Joel, however, got the title role, Winnie-the-Pooh. Never to this day have I ever heard a better Pooh than Joel Robert Bek. He was made for the role. He padded his middle just a smidgen and waddled around the stage just like a silly, dopey bear.

After we all graduated in 1978, we prepared to move off in our separate directions. Faith was heading to Radford College, Billy was accepted at the 7-11 across from Roanoke College to play pinball all night and sometimes attend classes at the college next door by day. Joel and I were both headed to Virginia Tech where he would major in eating hot dogs from the dorm lobby and Engineering, and I would major in goofing off and Education. I don’t think we knew at the time that we would share many more adventures together. Perhaps another time in the lonely, dim reflective light of my laptop, I can share some of those memories.

One final thought I’ll leave you with…In one scene from The Night Was Dark, I had to stand within close proximity of Billy’s face and explain to him in my bizarre Russian accent just how much I loved him, “I love you Mr. Garth, like a brother I love you.” You know, even when mature guys like Billy and me get ridiculous lines like that, we’d bust our laughing every time. The funny thing is that today I don’t think I’d laugh anymore if I had a chance to say that line to Faith, Billy or especially Joel. Those souls are my brothers and, sadly, one has been away for a year now. He’s a fine bear, you know.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Found in a Box of Cigars

Found in a Box of Cigars

I’ve been obsessed with Sir Winston Churchill recently. I have no idea why. Sir Winston once said,

“It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations. Bartlett's Familiar Quotations is an admirable work, and I studied it intently. The quotations when engraved upon the memory give you good thoughts. They also make you anxious to read the authors and look for more.”

He also said this, The length of this document defends it well against the risk of its being read.”

So I thought I would take the rare visitor to this page through some of Churchill’s best quotes. I did a simple Google search for “Winston Churchill Quotes” and the miracle workers there found these pages just for me: Winston Churchill Quotes Brainy Quote My current top ten are in bold in no particular order.

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

A joke is a very serious thing.

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Although personally I am quite content with existing explosives, I feel we must not stand in the path of improvement.

Although prepared for martyrdom, I preferred that it be postponed.

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.

By swallowing evil words unsaid, no one has ever harmed his stomach.

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

Danger - if you meet it promptly and without flinching - you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!

Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.

Eating words has never given me indigestion.

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others.

For myself I am an optimist - it does not seem to be much use being anything else.

From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.

He has all of the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.

Here is the answer which I will give to President Roosevelt... We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools and we will finish the job.

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.

I always avoid prophesying beforehand, because it is a much better policy to prophesy after the event has already taken place.

I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.

I am bored with it all.

I am easily satisfied with the very best.

I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

I am prepared to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.

I am reminded of the professor who, in his declining hours, was asked by his devoted pupils for his final counsel. He replied, 'Verify your quotations.'

I cannot pretend to feel impartial about colours. I rejoice with the brilliant ones and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns.

I have been brought up and trained to have the utmost contempt for people who get drunk.

I have never developed indigestion from eating my words.

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.

I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.

I like a man who grins when he fights.

I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly.

I'm just preparing my impromptu remarks.

If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.

If I was your wife Sir, I'd poison you! Madam, if you were my wife, I'd let you!

If the Almighty were to rebuild the world and asked me for advice, I would have English Channels round every country. And the atmosphere would be such that anything which attempted to fly would be set on fire.

If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way toward one another.

If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future.

If you are going through hell, keep going.

If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce.

If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time-a tremendous whack.

In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

It is a fine thing to be honest, but it is also very important to be right.

It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.

It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see.

It is more agreeable to have the power to give than to receive.

Kites rise highest against the wind - not with it.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

Moral of the Work. In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill.

Most people stumble over the truth, now and then, but they usually manage to pick themselves up and go on, anyway.

My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.

My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.

My wife and I tried two or three times in the last 40 years to have breakfast together, but it was so disagreeable we had to stop.

Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

Never, never, never give up.

"No comment" is a splendid expression. I am using it again and again.

No crime is so great as daring to excel.

No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism.

Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilization.

Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

One day President Roosevelt told me that he was asking publicly for suggestions about what the war should be called. I said at once 'The Unnecessary War'.

One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never!

Out of intense complexities intense simplicities emerge.

Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.

Play the game for more than you can afford to lose... only then will you learn the game.

Politics is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.

Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.

Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.

Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.

The great defense against the air menace is to attack the enemy's aircraft as near as possible to their point of departure.

The latest refinements of science are linked with the cruelties of the Stone Age.

The nose of the bulldog has been slanted backwards so that he can breathe without letting go.

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

The power of man has grown in every sphere, except over himself.

The price of greatness is responsibility.

The problems of victory are more agreeable than those of defeat, but they are no less difficult.

The short words are best, and the old words are the best of all.

The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end; there it is.

There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.

Too often the strong, silent man is silent only because he does not know what to say, and is reputed strong only because he has remained silent.

Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.

War is a game that is played with a smile. If you can't smile, grin. If you can't grin, keep out of the way till you can.

War is mainly a catalogue of blunders.

We are all worms. But I believe that I am a glow-worm.

We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English.

We must beware of needless innovations, especially when guided by logic.

We occasionally stumble over the truth but most of us pick ourselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber.

When the war of the giants is over the wars of the pygmies will begin.

When you are winning a war almost everything that happens can be claimed to be right and wise.

When you took your seat I felt as if a woman had come into my bathroom and I had only the sponge to defend myself.

Without a measureless and perpetual uncertainty, the drama of human life would be destroyed.

Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.