Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, May 13, 2019


Openers:   Spring around the Mideastern campus, especially during Easter vacation, is something the Army would invade with weasels, so on this fine Easter of 1949, as with every other year I've been on the Mideastern squad, we had borrowed, for two weeks, the facilities of little Grandon College, in Florida, a state even the Army couldn't spoil.

--  "Bye, Bye, Backfield" by "John Wade Farrell" (John D. MacDonald) (Fifteen Sports Stories, July, 1949)

Weasels?:  I was thrown by that phrase above, "something the Army would invade with weasels."  After a brief check I found that the M28 Weasel was a tracked vehicle (as a tank is tracked) introduced in World War II and designed to operate in snow.  Built by Studebaker, there were seven other types of Weasel beside the M28.  Weasels were also used by the Marines and by the English, French, and Canadian armies.  Because of their capabilities in snow and cold weather, 25 weasels were used in the VIII Winter Olympic Games in 1960 at Squaw Valley, California.

Thus, the Mideastern campus in John D. MacDonald's story was usually snowed in as late as Easter.

It is also nice to know that MacDonald, a resident of the state, felt that even the Army couldn't spoil Florida.  MacDonald evidently never heard of...

Florida Man!:   This one hit pretty close to home.  A 29-year-old Florida man, Erich Reitz,  was shot and killed by his father after he had stabbed both parents multiple times.  Both parents survived.  The incident happened a few streets from where we used to live.  The man was a former police officer in a town near where one of my daughters work.  A decorated former military veteran, he had been hired by the Niceville, Florida, Police Department in 2015 and had had three merit increases during his 2 1/2 years on the department.  He was fired early last year for being "unfit to perform the duties of a police officer" and that he "could no longer have access to a firearm," this following a medical report dated three days before Reitz was fired.  According to his termination letter, Reitz had violated the Florida Moral  Character Code (which means he had lied on his job application) and that he had admitted to providing false testimony during a military court marshal; exactly who was being court marshaled was not stated.  (Reitz received an honorable discharge from the Air Force.  While serving he had received "the Combat readiness Medal with two Oak Leave Clusters, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign medal with one Service Star.")  According to the county sheriff, Reitz was terminated for 'psychological instability."  After being let go from the police department, Reitz worked as a customer service representative at the local Lowe's, where he could well have served me.  And then...

He was hired by the school department (!) as a paraprofessional and assistant wrestling coach at Gulf Breeze High School -- the same high school were my granddaughter Erin attends and where my grandson Mark had graduated last year.  Paraprofessionals in the Florida school system work with disadvantaged children on a one-on-one basis, provide tutoring, or help with classroom management.  Reitz had been a graduate of Gulf Breeze High School and had been on the wrestling team for four years.  A Niceville police officer who had work with Reitz provided a reference, saying that Rietz had been a detective in the department and that he had left the force "voluntarily."  The same reference letter said that Reitz "was one of the most dependable law enforcement officers I had worked with.  He followed instructions and completed assignments in a timely manner.  I felt safe when Erich Reitz was on shift with me."

The question remains, how did this guy get hired by a school department?  School officials would not give details on Reitz's hiring or on their screening process.  One would hope that the school district had contacted the Niceville Police Department, but -- if so -- what happened?  Someone clearly dropped the ball. Oops.

Don't Get Me Wrong:   I have sympathy for all involved.  I have no idea what happened to trigger the attack.  Nor do I know what the family dynamic was.  What I do know is that this was a guy in trouble, and a guy who did not get the help he needed.  I don't now if he sought help or if he even realized he needed help.

There are cracks not only in the hiring process the school district used, but in our society.  Mental health treatment is spottily available and (sadly) often ineffective.  We do not put a premium on caring for the more troubled and least of us.  Perhaps Reitz could not be helped but we do no know that.  I firmly believe that few people are incapable of being helped.

As a society, we have had a long history of dismissing others -- native Americans, immigrants, ethnic groups, those whose sexual makeup differs, those whose political positions differ...all types of people.  I see this disturbing pattern re-emerging and getting stronger as the current administration deliberately pushes the country into further polarization.  It's time for us to yield to our better nature.  It is time for u to remember that we are all co-passengers on spaceship Earth.

Pothole as Superhero:  Last month a Nebraska man suffering from super ventiricular tachycardia was being rushed to a hospital in Omaha.  Omaha has had a rough winter and  bad spring rsulting in what could politely be called a surfeit of potholes.  Over 7000 potholes were repaired between March 29 and April 4; another 6000 or so were patched a week later.

They missed one.

That was the one the ambulance hit -- jarringly.  In fact, it hit the pothole so hard the patient's heart rate was shocked back to normal.

Not a recommended medical procedure, but an effective one. And there's at least one Nebraska man who will never again complain about Omaha's potholes.

Two Goodbyes:  Peggy Lipton, who I remember so well from The Mod Squad (1968-1973), in which undercover cops Pete, Linc, and Julie managed to infiltrate a different school, organization, or business on weekly basis with ease.  Knowing what the job market was in those days, this amazed me.  I often wished I could have their job-getting superpowers.  Lipton went on to be a featured actress in Twin Peaks as Norma Jennings.  Lipton was married to Quincy Jones from 1974 to 1990; the couple and been separated for some four years before the divorce was finalized.  In 2017 she played the mother of the title character in Angie Tribeca, which starred her real-life daughter Rashida Jones as the title character.  I'll always remember Peggy Lipton as the super cool, super lovely hippie Julie Barnes of my youth.  Lipton was 72.

Doris Day died today at 97.  The singer and actress was an American fixture for decades, beginning as a big band singer with Les Brown and His Band of Renown, through a string of films from 1948 to 1968 -- mainly romantic comedies with such stars as Rock Hudson, Cary Grant, James Garner, Frank Sinatra, John Raitt, Clark Gable, Richard Widmark, Gordon MacRae, and Jack Lemmon.  In the early 1960s she was the screen's biggest female star.  She entered (unwillingly*) into series television with The Doris Day Show, which lasted for five seasons, from 1968 to 1973.

(Her son, Terry Melcher, was a singer and recording producer who had once auditioned charles Manson for a record deal, but decided not to sign him.  At the time Melcher was living in a house which was later leased to Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate.  It was rumored that Manson's "family" had gone to the house to kill Melcher and ended up killing a pregnant Tate and four others.  Although Manson evidently knew that Melcher no longer lived at the address, he ordered the murders to "instill fear into" Melcher.)

In later year she devoted herself to animal welfare, a cause that she had held dear since a teenager.

Today's Poem:
"Nature" Is What We See

"Nature" is what we see --
The Hill -- the Afternoon --
Squirrel -- Eclipse -- the Bumble bee --
Nay -- Nature is Heaven --
Nature is what we hear --
The Bobolink -- the Sea --
Thunder -- the Cricket --
Nay -- Nature is Harmony --
Nature is what we know --
Yet have no art to say --
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

-- Emily Dickinson

(posted in light of a U.N. report that a million species
 will soon become extinct due to mankind's actions)


* Her late husband had signed her to the series without her knowledge.  He had also left her broke though bad investments -- something she had been unaware of until his death.

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