Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, Letter to Dave
Here is this week’s Rural Reflections Radio program, royal redemption
I just got done watching an installment on a television morning show. The title of the piece was “Unfit to Fight.” It told how a high percentage of America’s population does not fit into the military definition of a person who is fit to enter the service. It hit a nerve with me and I wanted to tell you my story.
In 1983 I joined the Army National Guard. I waited until after my eighteenth birthday because my parents thought (correctly) that it wasn’t a good fit for me so I had to wait until I was an adult and could legally sign a contract. I wanted to make the Army a career. I had taken the pre-enlistment test and was told I was qualified for any job within the services so my future seemed pretty wide open. I thought I would start in the National Guard and then progress into the Army if I liked it.
I spent my senior year in high school going to monthly drill and planned to leave for basic training the following June. I was 5’8” and 220 pounds so I did not meet the military height/weight chart however they had measured the fat content of my body and I was only one pound too high. I visited the bathroom, came back, and was right on. My recruiter told me basic training would go fine.
It did not go fine. It the processing station I was weighed and a Sargent looked at me like I had three heads and said “what do you think you’re doing here.” I told him I’d been pinch tested and that my recruiter said no to worry about the height versus weight chart. The Sargent told me, “son, you’re recruiter $%*@%^$ you.” (my recruiter apologized several years later, I bare no hard feelings toward him.)
At the time I was able to do 114 sit-ups in two minutes and seventy push-ups in the same amount of time. I lifted weights constantly and had a youthful lack of fear. I could run, shoot a gun and was aggressive. The only thing I couldn’t do was fit into a chart which I’d been told was derived from something an insurance company had produced in the mid forties. I came home and was put on the “chub club” back at the local armory while men with pipe stem legs, and pigeon chests that blended into belly’s that strained their uniforms were seen as healthy because they fit the chart.
Very few athletic records stand from the the 1940′s. The reason is people have become bigger and stronger. An athlete from seven decades ago might have weighed 170 pounds and ran a six second forty yard dash, they would fit the military chart for a healthy person. Today a contemporary athlete might weigh one hundred pounds more and be a good second or more faster in the forty. This contemporary athlete would not fit the military height/weight chart as “fit to serve” and would have joined me in the “chub club.” Superior strength and speed come about because of increased muscle which increases the weight of your body. Does anyone really believe that a stronger, faster human is less effective because he or she does not fit a “health chart” drawn out by some actuarial whose life expectancy was a whole fifteen years shorter than the average man lives today? Am I the only one who sees the irony of this situation?
I know more and more people are too fat today, and therefore unable to serve in the military . However, there are many more people who carry a dense mixture of muscle, bone and patriotism who will be passed over because of some chart. I was unable to serve my country not because I wasn’t strong enough, smart enough or courageous enough. A chart said I was not “fit to fight.” I beg your pardon?
It’s quiet now. There is no snow to move nor grass to cut. When
people had no electricity, they slept more hours and called the time
of restlessness before awakening twilight. That’s were we are now,
We all move during the winter; we shovel snow, drive to work, attend
social occasions and maintenance our daily life-yet we are like the
waking drowsy. Winter seems to me a time of sleep; the ground is
frozen and sleeping, animals hibernate and trees stop growing. The
human version of this occurs as
we bunker down in our houses to endure the cold and tribulation. I
think this time may be important to northerners even if it is just
something to which we’ve become accustomed. We move through these
dreamy times on a perpetual snooze button, in the dark much of the
time, through a world covered in a white blanket of snow. We awake
only in times when the weather becomes such that we can face it without the
morphine of our own sleepy indifference.
Twilight is the time when we occupy the no mans lands of rest. We
neither sleep nor wake. I find it an unwelcome time when I am too
hungry to sleep and too sleepy to move. This past fourth season has
been like one long twilight-too warm to hibernate and too cold to do
what must be done this spring. I cannot tell whether I should sit on
the couch and read the Rivard Seed catalog or if I should be outside
sharpening the blades on our lawnmower. It has been an unnerving
winter in that I keep waiting for the cold hammer to drop and it
really has not yet. Perhaps it is why horror movies often use
twilight as a backdrop for the most unsettling scenes; it is a time
we find most unfamiliar and unpredictable.
I can see dawn from where I awake. If I can shuffle enough cats from
beside and on top of me I can even lift the window shade enough to
see sunshine light the first appearance of the day. I have smelled
the beet pulp leftover from last fall as it warms in the newly
strengthened sun-so can the cattle. I can have hope for green to
replace white and for the smell of my own sun-baked skin as it
replaces inches of blanketed car hart coveralls. I can consider the
new cattle that will arrive soon to cover our little farm. It is a
time when seasonal twilight sees its death and the birth of a new
More deer and turkeys survived the winter because of its lack of
ferocity. I don’t know if it’s the weather or lazy coyotes but we
actually have a few rabbits on the rabbit trail. Spring tugs hard on
the cloak of winter and we can now see what is in our future. It all
happens, in twilight time.
You could say I am a man of many hats; either because I’ve had lots
of different jobs or because I have always worn some type of head
apparel. I like to think that I’m not too old to change
and maybe this week change found me under the brow of my hat.
I always wanted to wear a baseball cap as a youngster. I especially
liked anything my brother Dave, brought home. I remember a John Deere
cap I wore almost to a threadbare death. It was green with a green
patch and gold lettering. I think it had a foam front and mesh
backside with an adjustable band. 1976 was our country’s Bicentennial
and my mom made me a hat by cutting squares from empty red laundry
bottles and white Hi-Lex bottles then crocheting them together with
blue yarn. It was the kind of hat that helped me learn to fight at a
young age and never got the chance to become threadbare and exhibit use.
As an adult, I was an auctioneer on the side. I used to buy
used caps which is a little gross but they were always clean and
purchased for a dollar per box. Most of these caps advertised some
sort agricultural product and typically were in new shape. I had a
“Jacques Seed” cap which was really nice looking and hardly used
which I wore with some pride. It was stiff-sided and quite nice looking and was probably intended for
farmers who’d purchased a lot of “Jacques” product but now it was mine. I
tried a cowboy about a decade ago but found it did not fit me. The cowboy hat felt like
wearing a chandelier on my head as it would bump into things when
I tried to do some work.
There are songs about hats but none about going hat-less, probably because hats
supposedly tell something of the character of the wearer. “This Cowboy’s Hat,” and “I Wear my Own Kind of Hat” are just a couple of hat songs that leap to mind. I was riding around on my 4-wheeler this week, wearing a cap when I decided I didn’t like the feel of it on my head anymore. The sun
was beating down nice and the sky was so blue and I felt like the hat separated me
from all the beauty of a summer day. This spring was so gloomy that I’ve really come to appreciate sun and
warmth and wanted nothing between my scalp and all the sweet
air. I wanted to feel the sun on my face so I traded that sweaty old hat for some dirty sunglasses I wear when I use my grinder.
It’s that way in life too; we come to depend on habits that actually separate us from enjoying life. If you want some change in how you live or a little deeper appreciation of life, then try a different hat- or no hat at all.