Trimming An Engine

I found the photo of this B-52, 57-478, while going through old Strategic Air Command files. This bomber was assigned to Ramey Air Force Base during my three year tour at Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico. I can’t even guess the number of hours I toiled on this old girl, what with the Chrome Dome, Cuban Missile Crisis, Dominican Republic Crisis. Studying the picture took me back to the struggle of those days and nights on the flight line (I’d do it again in a heartbeat).
To prevent late departures each shop assigned a person to ride in the “bread truck” (launch truck) to preform last-minute fixes at or near the end of the runway. It happened often, perhaps 25% of the time. And many of those near delays were caused by engines not preforming up to snuff.
When this occurred the bread truck raced to the airplane and we waited while the engine man with the instruction book in hand (air force regulation demanded we each have our book at the ready, a technical order the size of the Chicago phone book). Laying it aside and then lowered the cowling he made the critical adjustment “trimming” while the jet engine ran at full thrust and the wing flexing and everything shaking. All the while he was basically running-in-place.
Once, after the last aircraft was airborne I asked him about his feet.
“I’m terrified of the engines, but they won’t let me cross train into something else.”
“Once I went to “trim” an engine on a B-66. I laid my book on a maintenance stand and started to lower the cowling when the engine broke loose from the wing. It destroyed the stand and hundreds of pages came flying at me. I thought they were impeller blades. I’ve been scared shitless since that day.”

Along Came Trump

During the first winter following World War II, December 1945 my mother and I moved from Kansas City to Southern California. The freeway system did not yet exist and day trips often consumed the entire day. The stop and go experience was often similar to what we see in Atlanta or Indianapolis or Dallas these days. And there was smog, even 75 years ago.
Over the years the voice of the people brought new emission standards into force. It helped.
And then came Trump.
He wants to change the EPA standards. He wants to bring back the smog. His plan is not health driven, it’s dollar driven.
I haven’t seen his water plan, but our water supply isn’t nearly as pure as he wishes us to believe. When we lived in Texas a bulletin accompanied our water bill which stated that tap water was not pure enough for the very young or the elderly.
If Trump gets his way with our water I wonder what how that bulletin will read?

I Wonder…

I wonder how many using WordPress go through the collection of trash that accumulates on the hard drive? I do. Quite often. Sometimes the idea is of greater importance than what came after – corner stories.

I have several fiction stories, fragments that hinge on the things GIs do during a change of station when they have 15 days travel time and 30 days of accumulated leave time.

I’m working on such a project, a young man rotating from West Indies to California. It would have been simple to write, but a girl, a gorgeous mulatto with long dark hair, deep brown eyes, and a voice that gives him pause got in the way.


Companies who depend on the Internet are always at the ready. Penterest came to mind this morning because they were lurking at the threshold when the tablet came alive. As they often do, this morning Penterest downloaded a sample of their wares a series of cartoon characters, panels derived from my distant past. Though I couldn’t name most of the characters I recognized their style and the hasty messages they bore.
I was pleased.
As a kid – 8, 10, or 12 – I wasn’t reading classics as so many in my age group claim they were doing. I was reading comics. My father frowned on such a pastime. So to avoid confrontations I did it while he was not around.
Was it Elmer Fudd who was forever trying to shoot Bugs Bunny? How about the farmer trying to keep the crow from eating his seed corn. Or Butch (was that his name?) who stole every pie Nancy’s aunt placed in the widow to cool.
A cartoon shown at our local theater featured a great flood that may have rivaled that of Noah’s time. I don’t recall the conclusion. I only remember a fellow had cast off from his front porch in a bathtub. When the water came gushing up through the drain he simply jammed a shower tube into the hole, directed it toward the stern and he was planing in no time.
Then there was Mr. McGoo. He couldn’t see well enough to tell the time of day. Yet, in his wanderings he never fell into someone’s well, or stepped into an open manhole, was run over by a speeding car. He always returned home safe and sound. Those in my age group knew he would, but watched with abated breath anyway.
They were often filled with conflict, even violence, but the violence was different, in that there were no dead bodies lying about.

Birth of the Sandwich

“HELLO THE HOUSE,” shouted the Earl of Sandwich. After the cottage door opened, he rode his his Percheron mount into the house and then thundered: “I’M HUNGRY!”

“Yes M’lord,” replied the wife. Turning, she kneaded a ball of sourdough until it was flat. Then she placed it on a flat rock lying on the hearth to and waited for it to bake. When it was done she covered it with scraps bird flesh and whey curds. Then she rolled it like a jelly roll.

‘I WANT IT ON A PLATE,” roared the knight.

“We have no plates, M’lord. You took them for taxes owed during you last visit,” said the wife.

“oh,” replied the knight, taking what she offered. “Wow! This is good. What is it?”

“We call it a sandwich,” the husband replied.

My Name Was On the List

This morning, while putting my groceries in the pickup a man near my age who also could have used a haircut and a beard trim pushed his cart nearby and began loading his groceries. On the strap on the back of his cap were the words “Navy Retired”.

“Have you visited the carrier tied up at Corpus Christie?” I called to him.

“Yes, I have,” he replied. pausing as though he expected me to say more. And I did.

“I was in the air force, After visiting that carrier I came away thinking I might have missed something,” I added.

“You did. I was a submariner,” he said.

We shook and went our separate ways. But our conversation lingered. I remembered Al Ricci, a friend I’d met in a late-night coffee shop a decade ago. Al had been a submariner. After World War II he earned an aeronautical engineering degree and retired from Northrup.

Al was older than me, perhaps by 20 years though he did not look or act it. We met often and when weather conditions permitted, we sometimes sat at an outside table at a Carl Jr.

Then one evening a stranger rang me on the phone. He said he was Al Ricci’s son. “My dad passed away, you know,” he said.

“No! I didn’t know!”

We didn’t talk long, but before we ended our conversation he said: “While going through my dad’s things I came across a book on when the words “important people” was written. Your name number was included in the list.”

Counter-Steering A Bicycle


Most people don’t realize they’ve been counter-steering a bicycle – pushing the left handlebar forward to go right and the right one to go left. The phenomenon is caused by the rotation of the wheel that reacts to that force by turning the opposite direction. It is more pronounced as the revolutions increase. Having bought my first bicycle in 1946 and riding it hundreds, if no thousands of miles, I first became aware of this phenomenon until I bought my first motorcycle in 1957 when I was 20 years old. If you think I’m spoofing you, try it.

This month, July 2019, I took delivery of Raleigh Tristar Tricycle. The purpose for the trike is to make it mobile radio trike so I can live up to the standards of the Bicycle Mobile Hams of America. I was challenged with the assembly (one would never dream I worked two decades as a line mechanic).

When it was ready I took it for a spin and promptly drive into a fence. Not once, twice. That was when I recalled the counter-steering phenomenon. Unlearning something so deeply embedded is a tall order. To accomplish this I must say the word aloud, “turn”. It’s working. But I still must stay out of traffic until it has become a habit.

A Canterbury Pilgrimage


About 25 years ago I discovered a rare book published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1885. It described a  journey taken by tandem bicycle during that year.

I found the book quite by chance in the rare book section at the Knight Library, University of Oregon. I was not allowed to take it from the section, so I took extensive notes. Much to my delight, I unearthed these notes this morning.

Elizabeth Robin Pennell, author, and Joseph Pennell, Illustrator, Bostonians, both, celebrated their honeymoon pedaling a tandem from Ye Old Tavern, London to Canterbury. They followed the path of Chaucer’s Pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, at least as best they could manage. They were disappointed that some the route had changed during the passage of 500 years.

At one point, while ascending a long, difficult grade and being passed up by mule-drawn wagons and surly drivers, Joseph accused Elizabeth of backpedaling.

My bride and I owned three tandem bicycles in younger years and we remember the old adage: Wherever a relationship is going, it will arrive at the destination more quickly on a tandem  bicycle.

This book was so well crafted I was able to experience Elizabeth’s agony.


The Blue Heron

Barb and I set out on our Tandem Two’sDay bicycle before sunrise one June morning of 1989. Our goal was to enjoy ham and eggs and a biscuit at a cafe 14 miles from home.

Not yet in the groove, as it were, we were both deep in thought rather than conversation. We’d traveled about four miles when we came upon a blue heron feeding in a roadside stream. He failed to notice us until we were about ten years away.

Unfortunately, the vegetation made his escape difficult. But he soon made enough room for his wing span and beat a hasty retreat across a grassy meadow, croaking like a frog.

And we had something to discuss.