MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: September 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007

TAKING THINGS INTO HIS OWN HANDS

Part of the fun of being on base patrol, especially on night shift, was that you could visit some of the “parking”, or “sparking” (as my dad used to call them in his day) spots around the base. Young lovers are quite ingenious at finding little hidden or less traveled areas of an Air Force Base where they can be alone. If you have ever been a “young lover,” and you did not have your own place yet, then you know exactly how ingenious!

However, sometimes a “would be lover” can be down right unimaginative!

Early one Sunday morning, around 2 or 3 AM, I made a routine check through a parking lot at the rear of several student barracks. I knew that girls sometimes brought Airmen back to base and some tended to take a little too long to say goodnight! I was on the prowl and up to no good!

As I made a turn at the end of a row of vehicles, my headlights lit up something familiar – feet, feet sticking up from the back seat over the front seat. This, or the top of a head, or someone’s backside mooning me, was what I was hoping to find!

I quickly pushed the lights to their parking position and dismounted the truck with flashlight in hand. A quick flash of the light and I could tell that whoever it was had apparently missed or ignored the lights of my vehicle. The feet remained still, hanging over the front seat as I approached. Perhaps they are staying still thinking I will not see them,” I thought to myself.

Standing just a couple of feet from the rear window, I smiled with anticipation at what I was about to see.

FLICK! The flashlight was full on, yet the Airman did not move. Ah, he’s asleep, but what is in his lap?” I asked myself.

As I moved up the window and shined the light fully on him, my jaw dropped and my eyes bugged out! There he was, fast asleep, pants pushed down, and he was holding firmly to his manhood with his right hand! Yep, the “little Airman” was at full attention, but his commander had long since stopped commanding the situation!

I took giant steps backward, wheeled around, and ran back to the side of my truck, where I burst out laughing! Keesler Police, Unit 2.”

Go ahead Unit 2.”

Keesler Police, please have Unit 3 rendezvous with this unit at…” I said giving my location and doing a good job of hiding my excitement!

Unit 3, that night, was David Hillberry, a good ol’ boy from West “by god” Virginia. He seemed about a foot taller than I was and weighed almost as much as Sgt. Webb, and therefore was a much more imposing figure than I could have been at the time. He was a fun loving troop who had a lovely wife and baby and was the only “married personnel” on A Flight. From time to time, I used to visit him and his family in their home in base housing.

Hillberry rolled into the rear of the parking lot and as he approached, he too extinguished his lights and got out. What’s up?

Follow me…you ain’t go’na believe this.”

It was the cool time of year in Biloxi and so the Airman had left the windows up to keep out the night air, so there was no real danger of him hearing us walk up to the car.

I turned on my flashlight and lit up the backseat, and almost instantly, Hillberry covered his mouth to stifle his laughter and backed up a few steps. As soon as we composed ourselves, he asked me what I wanted to do.

I explained that I did not want to get the guy in any trouble, but we did need to teach him a lesson.

Hillberry said, watch this. He walked up to the window and loudly tapped on the window with the butt of his flashlight.

Immediately the surprised Airman rose straight up, banging his head hard against the roof of the car, making a loud metallic popping sound, as if someone had run headlong into the side of a car door headfirst!

Simultaneously, the Airman began scrambling and fumbling with his pants, and with the “little Airman” at “parade rest”, he finally managed to get them up and fastened. However, he sat there with his arms across his lap as if nothing had happened.

Hillberry tapped the window again and hollered for him to get out.

I was standing to the side and just behind David, trying my best not to laugh and not to let the young Airman see my face.

What the hell are you doing?” Hillberry said, screaming like a drill sergeant right into the troop’s right ear.

I…I…I went to town (sniff),” he began, starting to cry and whipping snot on his sleeve, “…and, and I couldn’t find a girl, and I was so horny (sniff)…and I miss my girl…my girl back home.” At this point, he was bawling like a baby with more snot coming out of his nose, mixing with saliva coming from his open mouth, and he was sucking in short breaths of air.

Well, why in the hell are you out here in public Airman? Hillberry pressed.

I…I…I don’t know, I…I just got…drunk, and couldn’t help it! Awh man…I’m sorry,” he sobbed.

Why didn’t you go inside…go in the latrine or some place man?

Hillberry did all the talking because I just could not get out a word that sounded anywhere close to authority!

I know…I know I should have…I’m sorry.

Go on troop, get your ass in that building and don’t ever let us catch you out here like that gain. YOU UNDERSTAND?

Yessir!

Get!

With that, David and I turned and walked back to the trucks and then burst out laughing again. However, we soon ended our little entertainment break with David saying, “You know, I kinda felt sorry for the poor guy.

Yeah,” I said, “there but for the grace of God…

I know what ch’a mean man,” David agreed with a big smile on his face.

That was a lesson two Airman, well, maybe three, never forgot!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

WE GOT HER CHERRY

Yep, just moments after this shot Steve exclaimed, “We busted her cherry! Hundred miles an hour!”

It was the first time he has had his new Mustang GT convertible over 100 MPH, and man, did it ever sound good. It brought back the sixties and seventies oh so clearly! I loved it.

The last time I was over a hundred was when I had my ’93 Cobra, quickest little thing I ever owned. Got rubber in four of its five gears, and I had a witness!

Before that it was in a ’89 Mustang GT and a ‘69 Mustang, but the fastest top-ender I ever owned was a ’78 Trans Am, and we pegged her at 140! Click back in time to see them all HERE!

Friday was a beautiful day with clear blue skies, a late setting full moon, and a low-lying fog that crept off Walden Ridge to die a slow death in the morning sun down in the Harriman valley.

Steve and I met early, had breakfast at the Common Ground, egg croissant and coffee, before doing some manly shopping at Pep Boys, CompUSA, and Gander Mountain.

By then it was time to hit Wild Wings Café, which was his first time. The wings and Bass Ale was great sitting outside feeling the early fall breeze that carried our cigar smoke off to another county.

I passed this field, just about a half a mile from my house, and caught the color of Ironweed and Goldenrod beaming in the afternoon sun. All we need now is a frosty night and the trees will quickly jump on the fall color bandwagon. Come on fall!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

DON’T DO AS I DO, DO AS I SAY!

The Christmas and New Year’s Holidays brought shift changes to Keesler AFB for many permanent party groups. The Air Police normally operated with four Flights rotating the midnight, evening, days, and off shifts, with 24 hours off between shift changes (so I was reminded by PRH recently). The shifts were normally broken into 3 days of each shift, with the last shift being 3 days off.

However, during Christmas and New Years two Flights alternated 12-hour shifts while the other two Flights took “leave” and usually went home for five days. Then two Flights returned while the first group took their short leave.

The best present you could get for the holiday was to work the first 12 on 12 off shifts, so that when you returned you went back into the normal routine. Otherwise, a week of relaxing with family was ruined by having to work the grueling 12-hour shifts!

Only one of the holiday rotations is clear in my memory, or it could a combination of the two holiday seasons I had a Keesler.

We prepared for the 12-hour Christmas Day or New Year’s Day shifts by gathering three clean garbage cans from our friends at the chow halls. We then requisitioned enough ice to fill them. Before topping the garbage cans off with the ice, we filled them about half way with canned beer!

One of the cans was placed at each of the three off-site radar facilities that we routinely checked several times each shift. The inspections were normally performed by the patrol that rode the area surrounding the back gate, where a highway from Gulfport came directly into the back of the base. Off this highway were the three dirt roads that lead to the radar sites.

However, during these festive times, each patrol got their turn to leave their normal areas, exiting the base through the back gate (Gate 7 if memory serves), and headed for the radar site/s. Once at the sight the unit went 10-6 (busy) and checked the fence and locks, and then grabbed themselves a beer – or two!

This was how we celebrated the holiday and forgot about not being at home. The beer trips rotated during the shifts, and by mid-shift, most Air Policemen were pretty happy. Even the gate guards got their turns, with the patrolman standing their duty while they were gone. However, we were sworn to uphold the law, and uphold it we did.

I remember driving along, feeling good, not drunk, but with a mid-level buzz, and seeing some Airman weaving along a base street in front of me. He’s drunk,” I said out loud as I reached for the toggle switch that turned on the huge chrome-clad combo red light and siren atop the Ford Econoline.

AWWWAHHH,” it bellowed, while at the same time sucking all the electrical power from the electrical system, causing the engine to bog and slow the truck by at least 10 MPH! You soon learned to flick the toggle back and forth quickly in order to keep your truck from stalling!

The Airman pulled to the side of the street and stopped. I could see him digging from his ID card and license as I walked up the rear of the driver side window.

Step out of the vehicle sir.” It was our custom to be polite and courteous of everyone; at least until we found out if they were an officer.

Yeeaah…shur,” he slurred as he opened the door and braced himself, carefully using the car door and the top of the car.

I do not remember the routine we used in those days to determine sobriety, but I am sure it was more a judgment call in those days, and I was calling this guy “drunk!” He could barely form sentences, and if he were not holding the car, he would almost go down.

Now mind you, at this point, I too was feeling no pain, and the least little thing would set me to laughing almost uncontrollably. I got the cuffs on the guy, helped him up into the passenger seat of the truck, and we both laughed all the way to AP HQ!

There we stood, both of us weaving back and forth, actually using each other to steady ourselves, in front of the Desk Sergeant. The only difference between us was that I knew the other guy was drunk.

I voiced the circumstances and charges to the Desk Sergeant, who grinned, and took down the information. The apprehended Airman was taken to a holding cell in the stockade, and I mounted up and resumed my patrol.

As soon as I entered my patrol area, I informed the Desk Sergeant that I was 10-8 (back in service), and promptly requested permission to check one of the off-site facilities. I was getting a little dry!

Uh, that’s a negative Unit 4, I believe you have done your service to the off-sites for this shift,” the Desk Sergeant announced. I remember hearing laughter in the background as his transmission ended. Was it Webb? Can’t remember.

While it is not commendable that a law enforcement officer would drive drunk while on duty, I ask you to remember that they are human, and when off duty, will do many, if not all, of the things you do when you are off. If you happen to catch one of them in the act, they would simply say, “Don’t do as I do, do as I say!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

ENJOYING ANOTHER LONG WEEKEND

What, another long weekend? Oh, I forget you all aren’t retired…all my weekends are seven days long! Sorry.

Well, here is a “FatHairyBastard” style weekend round up:

Anyway, started out Friday at Wild Wings with part of the Knights and Dragons, enjoying the “all you can eat” wing bar and cold beer. The Sierra Nevada pump was dry, so I went for the Bass, while Ron had another Skip Jack pulled, and Gary got his usual Miller Lite. The Dragons had a ball out on the deck while the Knights enjoyed a CAO cigar at the bar.

Saturday began at Neena and Ron’s for banana bread and coffee. Ron then took Terri to the lake for the promised short canoe and kayak trip. Getting in the canoe was somewhat rough on her bottom though. The algae slick boat ramp didn’t bode well with the Crocks she was wearing! I missed the first shot because I thought she had really hurt herself, but when I saw her laughing, I knew she only hurt her pride!

Her husband (Steve) sat in the back and did the stirring. You’ll also notice Gary in the Kayak…he had a shoulder and neck muscle that would spasm on him every few minutes and almost bring him to his knees. He figured the exercise would work that out, but he soon realized the paddling was doing him no good. They soon left and went straight to the emergency room where they gave him a shot to relax the muscle. I think he spent the rest of the day in bed!

Later, we met another Knight and Dragon at the local Mexican restaurant for beer, fun, and food. Steve and I took his Mustang and let the wind mess up our hair – right!

I included shots around the table, Terri/Steve, Linda/Noel, Ron/Neena, and finally Judy and me. Notice, she has her eyes open, but I think her mouth was full!

We later ended up on your back porch listening to tunes, smoking cigars, and drinking more beer! Everyone stayed until after nine, so we had a long fun day together.

Sunday, we had a biscuit from Hardees, and our granddaughter (Katie Bug) had pancakes. Katie used to spend every Friday night with us, but she has too many girl and boyfriends know to stay that often. This was an increasingly rare treat!

After lunch, I visited with my brother, who came in from Charlotte to visit our mother. One of his daughters came by with her husband and two daughters. It was a great weekend.

Monday, September 24, 2007

SERGEANT WEBB AT HIS BEST

In the previous post, I began to describe the Desk Sergeant’s area. It was about a ten-foot diameter area in the center of a large fourteen or fifteen by fifteen foot room, circled by a desktop area that encircled all but the three-step entrance up through a swinging door to the rear of the area and opposite the side the Desk Sergeant usually sat, or more normally stood.

The the desktop was about thirty inches above the main floor, and the desktop, and shelves beneath it, made up a walled ring around the Desk Sergeant’s area. Above the desktop was a Plexiglas ring, about twenty-four inches high, protecting the area from people walking through the area, but gave the Desk Sergeant a 360-degree view of the Air Police HQ operations area. This made the overall height of the Desk Sergeant’s platform about seven feet from the top of the glass to the floor.

The raised floor, on which the Desk Sergeant stood gave him a commanding view of the entire HQ area. From his perch, he could look down on anyone coming in the front door and walking up to the three-foot opening in front of the Plexiglas to ask questions, plead his/her case or voice his complaints on traffic violations and other issues, or for patrols to bring in appended Airmen for identification and disposition.

The Desk Sergeant usually stayed out of the main conversations between the Patrolmen and their arrest, and just stuck to documenting the incident in the Desk Blotter, and ensuring the proper forms were completed and signed.

On one eventful midnight shift, Sgt. Webb brought in, rather shoved in, through the front door, a very belligerent and obviously drunk Airman. The loud commotion took me by surprise and I jumped to my feet and looked over the side of the desk at the Airman that was now lying on the floor attempting to get up without the use of his arms, which were cuffed behind him.

The Airman looked up at me and yelled, “What’chu lookin’ at?

Uh, you,” I snapped back!

Get your ass up,” Sgt. Webb said, reaching down and pulling the guy up to his feet.

Hey, you better watch it asshole,” he fumed!

Sgt. Webb again shoved the drunk on toward the rear of my Desk Sergeant platform and made him take a seat in a chair along the wall near the side entrance door. Every time Sgt. Webb would start to walk away, the Airman would jump up, only to be pushed back down in the chair again.

You damn APES (a derogatory term developed from AP) are all assholes,” he spewed in Webb’s direction.

Sit down and shut up!” Webb yelled back.

The third time the Airman sprang to his feet, Sgt. Webb grabbed his right arm and forced him up the three steps and through the short swinging door and onto my level. Webb grabbed a rolling office chair and handcuffed the Airman’s arms to each of the chair’s arms.

The Airman could not stand up, but he could scoot the chair about. He then made a near fatal mistake.

You damn APES are stupid,” he said looking at me and spitting in my direction!

Sgt. Webb boiled and spilled over! His big booted foot suddenly lashed out and caught one arm of the chair and he pushed with all his might!

Through the swinging door, and bypassing the three steps, the Airman landed face first on the hard tiled floor below. The Airman made an “Ooffff” sound as he bounced to a limp stop next to the chairs along the wall. His face was against the floor, turned slightly to one side, and looked distorted from the full weight of the chair and his body on top of him. The room became so quiet we heard the chair’s rollers spin to a stop.

Everyone but Webb held their breath, just knowing the Airman did not survive the fall. However, by the time Webb ambled over to where he lay, he began to show signs of life!

Even if the fall had killed him, Sgt. Webb probably would not have shown any concern. He bent down close to the Airman’s ear and whispered something none of us could hear. The Airman blinked his eyes, shook his head, and then allowed Webb to right the chair without resisting.

I would love to be able to tell you what Sgt. Webb said to the Airman, but I do not have a clue. Suffice it to say, there was not a peep from him the rest of the morning.

The next morning the Airman was lead away to the stockade.

I always felt safer with Sgt. Webb around, even before this incident, but this just sealed the deal for me. I gained a new self-respect and sense of pride for being an Air Policeman on “A Flight,” and more importantly, a Desk Sergeant that night. I was determined to be the best at what I did, not only for me, but also for him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

THE DESK SERGEANT

Car 54, where are you?

If you are old enough to remember that phrase, or watched any other good police movie or TV show, you know that a “Desk Sergeant” makes such calls out over the police radio. The person doing the dispatching duty may not actually have the rank of sergeant, but the position is normally given this title, mostly because he or she works directly for the Duty or Flight Sergeant and issues tasks/orders over the radio on the responsible Sergeant’s behalf.

After many months of walking and standing duties, I moved up to motor patrol, and apparently distinguished myself as a good Sky Cop. It could also have been partially because of the high school typing experience I had!

The Desk Sergeant keep the Flight’s shift Desk Blotter – a kind of running chronological incident log of the night’s happenings, arrest, alarms, accidents, open buildings, thefts reported, domestic altercations in the housing area, etc.

The Desk Sergeant issued standard procedures to the patrols that deployed to accidents, car chases, break-ins, and routine Flight Line incidents and practices. One such routine practice was to provide security to a plane that was either being up or downloaded with an atomic weapon. Fake accidents, complete with colored smoke depicting a crashed aircraft were performed at least once quarterly at Keesler, even though there were no nuclear weapons at the site. These exercises were called “Broken Arrows!”

The Desk Sergeant was expected to know the operating procedures for all exercises and ensured that Air Policemen were dispatched to the proper positions around the perimeter of the incident. He also kept a running log of events until the exercise was declared completed. These “exercises” really kept you on your toes!

Underneath the Desk Sergeant’s desk, which usually sat high above the floor of the Air Police Headquarters, to look down on anyone entering, was a foot pedal about the size of a clutch pedal in a car. This pedal was to be used when the office area was “under duress.” A large amount of cash was kept in several safes around the room, where the Base Exchange and other businesses dropped their nightly receipts. The money was then picked up the following morning, by the specific managers, and taken to the Base Bank for proper deposit.

It was conceivable that this money could be a target, therefore, a procedure was written to cover the situation. AP HQ was the perfect place to keep an eye on the money, and if someone got the drop on the Desk Sergeant, he was to step discretely on this pedal. This action turned off the radio so no one in the office could hear the patrols being dispatched by the Base Command Post.

Yes, I had been briefed, and had even watched a “duress” exercise being played out before, but while using the push broom one evening to clean up before shift change, I inadvertently hit the pedal with the broom!

I had no idea what had happened, but at that very moment, inside every patrol vehicle was being heard “Keesler Police, Keesler Command. Keesler Police HQ is under duress! Please deploy as to procedure and standby for instructions!”

As I was “whistling while I worked,” the front and side doors burst open! At the main entrance stood Sgt. Webb with his .38 (a recent change from the .45) pointing directly at me!

Instantly I knew what had happened and glanced down at the pedal under the radio console, and back up at Sgt. Webb. A little smile attempted to turn up one corner or his mouth, but he fought it. He gave me a “you screwed up” look, holstered his weapon, and immediately squeezed the microphone on his left lapel.

Keesler Command, this is Alpha One.”

“Go ahead Alpha One.”

Keesler Police is clear. There has been an unintentional activation of the duress alarm.”

“Ten four Alpha One, Keesler Command is clear.”

The radio console again began to squawk and squelch normally. The A Flight Patrols returned to normal operation, and I was left alone with Sgt. Webb for the remainder of the shift. Write it up Mushy (not his real name)!”

It was about thirty minutes after normal quitting time before I completed the Desk Blotter entries. My backside hurt the rest of the night from the butt chewing I received.

I could not, at one point, resist saying, “Ah, it keeps’em on their toes!”

Suppose a patrol had gotten hurt rushing over here?” Webb said looking sternly over the top of his glasses, waiting for the rational to dawn on me.

Well, yeah, there’s that! Won’t happen again, sir.”

Better not…I stuck my neck out putting you on the desk. You know what goes before my neck don’t ya?”

My ass,” I said.

The regular Desk Sergeant was a Staff Sergeant (four stripes) who was on 30-day leave. When he returned, and because he loved patrol, I continued to alternate with him during my remaining time at Keesler.

Monday, September 17, 2007

MY BILOXI BLUES

Some visitors to Keesler AFB were sometimes amazed how I knew to throw up my white-gloved hand and stop them as they approached the gate. It is quite simple really, authorized vehicles had little vinyl decals on the drivers side bumper that were color coded from Airman (red), NCOs (yellow), Officers (blue), and Civilian employees (green). There is nothing particularly hard about that but unauthorized personnel do not realize this and think the Air Policeman at the gate is either psychic or just stops everyone coming through!

“How did you know to stop me? I saw you waving all those other cars ahead of me through,” the pretty brunette asked.

“Oh, just intuitive I suppose Miss,” I said as I stepped down to the street level, bent forward and looked into the car. “Where you ladies headin’?”

“Airmen’s Club, of course.”

“Driver’s license please Miss, uh…”

“Smith...and this is Debbie Bates,” she said pointing to her blond passenger.

“What on earth for?” I said as I waved an Airman and two NCOs on around through the passing lane.

“Why didn’t they have to stop?” pointing through the windshield at the other cars.

“Oh, I know them, but I don’t know you. Now, Miss, uh?”

“Betsy,” she said rather shyly taking back her license.

“See, I’m gettin’ to know you already….Betsy. Now, Betsy, why are you going to the Airman’s Club?” I said waving an officer on through.

“To dance of course! Don’t you dance?”

“Well, I have been known to do the Freddie from time-to-time, but not on the gate…at least not anymore,” I said with a big “inside joke” kind of smile on my face.

“So, what time do you get off….uh Officer?” the blond asked.

“Oh, thank you mam, but I’m just a lowly Skycop, and I get off about midnight.”

“Think you could dance then?”

“Deb!” Betsy said embarrassed at her friend’s boldness.

“Well?” Debbie shot back.

“Well, if two lonely Airmen were standing right over here at midnight, do you suppose a couple pretty girls would stop and take them on a ride along the beach?”

“Yeah…” Debbie started before Betsy interrupted.

“What she means is…” she looked up at me, and I removed my sunglasses and looked back into her dark eyes, “…is probably.”

‘You DO have a friend…don’t you, ah, Mr. Sky Cop?” the blond asked.

“That’s Mushy (not his real name), and yes I have a friend that I know would be thrilled to meet you.”

I stepped back up to the gate shack level, grabbed a Visitor’s Pass, and handed it to Betsy. “You ladies be real careful down at the Airmen’s Club, ya hear, and I hope to see you both later.”

I guess the point here is that there were advantages of working the boring “gate duty,” especially “Main Gate” duty. This did not happen often, but often enough to break the repetitiveness of always going out with the guys or just Boyce. The guys were okay, but occasionally, well, you know.

I immediately rang up the Desk Sergeant and asked him to have Patrolman Spainhour drop by Gate 1.

Wayne had come to Keesler to learn to be a Skycop through OJT. He was there straight out of Lackland, but he and I had quickly bonded early on over drinks and from sharing adjacent “walking patrols.” We talked for hours, ran to punch our clocks, and then rushed to our next rendezvous to take up where we left off. Wayne was a Southern Gentleman, and that, plus his boyish good looks, made him a favorite of the local gals.

Wayne did not believe me until a few minutes after midnight when the girls rolled up and he got a good look at the Debbie! “Damn!” is all he could utter.

Wayne settled in the back seat with Deb and I took the “shotgun” position and gave Betsy the once over while we were still beneath the Main Gate’s lights.

The black dress she wore puffed up under the stirring wheel, several layers of petticoat marked where the dress stopped, and the long darkly tanned legs began. The dress lay flat across her belly and her long tan arms held the wheel firmly at 10 and 2.

It seemed as though she was afraid to look in my direction. She checked her outside mirror and pulled forward, up and over the tracks, and on to the beach where she turned right toward Gulfport.

At some point, she made a right and headed back deep into the coastal area forest. The road turned to dirt and the full light of the moon was nearly blocked by the huge Willow Oaks strung with long strands of Spanish moss. The moss hung very still in the night air, but it was still a pleasant night for driving.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“It’s Charlie’s Place…never been here?”

“Nope.”

“Then you are in for a treat!”

She was right. There was a huge buffet of “soul food” steaming on a long line of trays, and the place was nearly packed. In the beginning, you had to shout to be heard over the crowd.

There was chicken, chicken livers, black eyed peas, grits, hog jowl, pinto beans, slaw, macaroni and cheese, and other wonderful things I cannot remember. In addition, of course, there was beer…all kinds of beer of the day, Schlitz, Falstaff, Budweiser, Country Club, and Colt 45!

There was also music of the day playing loudly on a jukebox that bubbled and flashed bright colors, and reflected the happy faces of its listeners! It was such a wonderful place, and it appeared, it was a place frequented by mostly locals.

Soon it was just the four of us, and one or two other couples, content to sit and talk, listen, or dance to the juke, and have another round. The family staff busied themselves with putting things back in order, ignoring us except for an occasional “Need anotha round, hun?”

Betsy and I, Deb and Wayne, swayed to the soft music that was now the choice of most quarters that were dropped.

She was such a beautiful Southern beauty and already I was addicted to holding her and to smelling the hair on the right side of her head. I could feel the heat of her body through the dress and I wanted more than I could ever have. I whispered my wishes and she pulled me tighter.

Later we all four lay on the beach and listened to the waves lapping the shore. We kissed and we talked until daylight. We probably kissed more than we talked, but the things we said were phrased as if there would be a tomorrow. However, there was no tomorrow for us.

That was the last time Wayne and I ever say those same girls again. Time after time, we played that scene repeatedly but with different girls. Oh, we might be blue a day or two, but we soon forgot about it and got on with the game.

Girls visited the base looking for a lot of things, but it seemed the ones that were the easiest to pick up had a long-term plan. A Sky Cop just did not hold the best meal ticket for those plans, but we were good enough for a one-night-stand and hell, that did not bother us in the least!

As Bob Seger put it so eloquently, “we were gettin’ our share…workin’ on our night moves.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

HURRICANE BETSY

There are few times in my life that I can pinpoint exactly what I was doing on a specific day/night in history, but September 9, 1969 is one of the times I can.

Hurricane Betsy came ashore near Grand Isle, Louisiana that evening as a 40-mile wide Category 3 hurricane packing 135 MPH winds. The storm was a strange one, in that it made two complete loops, reversing itself, before turning around from aiming at the North Carolina cost. Betsy swept back through the Florida Keys, strengthening to a Category 4 when it reached the Gulf, just 1 MPH short of being a Category 5, and then making landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Betsy was dubbed “Billion Dollar Betsy” for causing $1.42 billion in damages in 1965 dollars! Eight oil platforms were destroyed and 76 people died as a direct result of the storm.



Forty-two years ago, and a little more than 90 miles away, Patrolman Mushy was trying desperately to find a power line that had been reported down somewhere on the street that separated Keesler Air Base from the flight line.

Unit Four, you havin’ any luck?” the Desk Sergeant asked.

The Ford Econoline eased along the street, its bed loaded with sand to keep it firmly on its tires. The wind howled from the Gulf side of the base and making the rain come in quick sheets across the street in front of me. The wipers did little good and the inside of the windows were fogging up from the humidity. I wiped constantly at the windshield, trying to keep a porthole size spot clear so I could see.

Nothin’ yet, Keesler!” I yelled into the microphone trying to be heard over the sound of the wind and rain pelting the metal cab of the truck.

Every 5 minutes the Desk Sergeant would specifically ask me this question. Between times he took reports of trees down, flooding, or other power lines down somewhere on the base.

I inched along, feeling the truck rock back and forth from the 75 to 90 MHP gust, trying to see through the little hole in the windshield. The base was in complete darkness, except for my headlights and the frequent flashes of lightning.

I thought about my dad during that anxious time, because, as you may remember, he was terribly afraid of storms, and often got us all out of bed and drove around in the car until the storms passed. I wondered how he would like it if he were riding with me.

How’bout it Unit Four?”

Negative, I have not found any power…”

Just then, there was a loud crack, and a pop, and the night lit up behind my truck. I looked into the rear view mirror and saw another bright blue flash and a shower of sparks!

Uh…I think I found it Keesler, it’s at the intersection of…” My voice shook and my knees seemed strangely weak. I ran over the downed power line, and it had not reared its dangerous head until after I passed over it!

Ten-four Unit four, we’ll direct the power boys over there. Stick around and keep traffic away from that area.”

Traffic?” I thought. I was the only fool out on a night like this!

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Hurricane Protection Program came into existence as a result of Betsy. The Corps built new levees for New Orleans that were both taller and made of stronger material, designed specifically to resist a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane like Betsy. However, the levee improvements failed when Hurricane Katrina, a large and slow-moving Category 3 hurricane made a near direct hit on New Orleans on 2005.

For us, the wind died down shortly after midnight and the base began the process of cleaning up the mess Betsy left. We all worked a twelve-hour shift that evening, and through the morning of the 10th, and by the time I got in the rack, Boyce was there with breakfast from the “back gate” café. It had survived, as did most of the area around Biloxi, so it was business as usual under the beautiful blue skies of the Gulf Coast.

Boyce and I slept like babies!