Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dateline: Stanley, North Dakota

Fox Business News Reports on Bakken Shale
The oil boom which threatens to make our North Dakota relatives rich was the subject of a series of Fox Business News Reports from Stanley, North Dakota, last week.

(You can see the complete reports on the Bakken Shale strike in western North Dakota by clicking on the Bakken Shale blog link, below left.)

With oil at over $100 a barrel, it is now practical to capture crude from the huge reservoir buried two miles below all those Norwegian farmers.
The North Dakota oil is locked in shale and has to be teased out. This is expensive, but oil companies are now merrily digging like prairie dogs. Any time oil sells for over $50 a barrel, drilling is worthwhile in North Dakota, experts say. See how the drilling is done in the Fox reports.
A big advantage to drilling here is that the local population appears quite friendly and passive, so it is unlikely the government would have to subsidize the oil companies by sending planes, troops and bribes to protect their operations.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Master of the Persuasive Arts

My foster mother was the greatest child psychologist I have ever known. She never had any children. Neither have I. But our lives have been filled with the love and responsibility of many who were conceived by others. And we do know something about raising them.

Ruby wasn't actually my foster mother. But my birth mother and father made more kids than they could conveniently manage, so from time to time they would farm some of us out for extended periods. Thus Stan spent a number of summers under the care of Ruby and Al Korkowski on their 160-acre farm north of Lake Chippewa near Brandon. It was a glorious time.

Around 1951, when I was about to turn four years old, I carefully steered Al's red Farmall around his hayfield in super low gear as he walked alongside, tossing hay bales into the trailer. The Vickermans across the road had a yellow Allis Chalmers. Nice, but certainly no match for a powerful Farmall, Al and Stan smugly agreed. When we parted at the end of the season, Al paid me $1 as hired man wages. I was stunned and immensely proud.

Last week, my classmate Bev Roers Korkowski sent me a picture of that very hayrack with Ruby seated just behind where the horses would be hitched, her nose in a potentially unfortunate location. (Subsequently, the front wheels were removed and the rack modified to trail behind the new tractor.) This bright red rack also served as my jungle gym and teeter-totter.

Born in 1913, Ruby was teaching country school by the time she was eighteen. That was eight grades of children at once. After she married Al, she quit teaching and they worked the farm together. That's when I came into the picture and I have floods of memories of our happy life there.

Ruby never raised her voice, but she always got her way. One afternoon, I did not wish to go down into the chilly farmhouse basement to shower. She asked me kindly, but I used my most wily pre-schooler tactics to avoid taking that uncomfortable journey down the stairs onto the cold floor, stubbornly preferring to remain dirty.

Ruby would have none of that. She looked at me with an absolutely straight face and said, quite matter-of-factly, "Well, if you don't wish to go by yourself, I will take a shower with you."

Horrified at the thought of being seen naked by a naked lady, I soon found a towel and took my modest little self down the stairs for a scrub.

Top photo: That's Ruby with genuine Lutheran Church Ladies. She's the one with the white collar. Her sister, Josephine Elness, is second from the right. She was my sister Sosie's "Mama Jo." The school building in the other photo is District #48 where Ruby once taught.

Photo, left: On our way to the movies at the Andria Theatre in Alex on Saturday night, we'd all sing the Albert and Stanley song in honor of Stan and Al.

"I'm Albert, I'm Stanley!
We love to bring you cheer,
By painting signs that remind you of
Grain Belt Premium Beer."

Albert and Stanley were cartoon characters for St. Paul's Grain Belt Brewery. Not sure if my abstaining parents would know anything about that... or even approve of the song, so I guess we were being sort of naughty when we sang it.

We saw Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis in "Partners." They played cowboys. There was baled hay on the movie set, and as an expert in hay baling, I knew that this was a mistake, because during cowboy times there was no such thing as a modern hay baling machine. Al agreed. Ruby and Al also took me to my first cartoon, "The Lady and The Tramp." I could not understand why the sad, skinny little rat terrier didn't just walk through the bars and escape from the dog pound.

Coming soon: Al explains to Stan why he keeps a bull on the farm, even though you can't milk it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Three candles and a back scratcher

A birthday present for M'Liss highlighted the April Ladies Who Lunch event at the Richfield Champps today. Kathleen and her childhood chum spent three and a half hours just to "catch up." Would have been longer too, but the birthday girl had to go play racquetball at the Jewish Community Center in Highland Park. The competitive Ms. Switzer, who last year broke a collarbone going after a low shot, usually opens up the place. The ladies also discussed poker happenings (M'liss hasn't been getting any cards lately so her winnings are down) as well as the usual old business, husbands Stan and Chuck.
Kathleen's gift was three candles and a back scratcher. Romantic tub time for the Switzers?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Poppies, turtles, casinos, lacrosse

It was encouraging to see some tiny seedlings breaking through the potting soil in Hai Dang's dining room window this morning. True, there is nothing close to actually growing in the Dang's extensive Prior Lake back yard garden (unless you count Andrew) but it is very nice just to see the baby poppies and try to imagine all the bright colors spread around the whole Dang yard.
Andrew is getting huge, dwarfing his skinny pop, who is actually pretty tall for an Asian. His mother, Thuy Nguyen, is shorter than Kathleen, so it is a wonder to see big, strong Andrew, presently on the attack line of the Laker lacrosse team, growing up like a weed.

We dropped by after breakfast this morning to collect an antique computer that Hai has loaded with some fun card games. We'll deliver it to Midtown Danny soon.
Dan enjoys playing cards and challenging video poker games at Mystic Lake so we're sure he'll get a kick from the standard Solitaire, Hearts and Minesweeper games that come with Windows software. Yes, you know, the very same games that you and the rest of working America have been playing on the company dime.
(Speaking of Mystic Lake, Kathleen was recently mailed a special invitation to play Blackjack at the casino, along with a certificate for $5 cash. Fortunately, Stan was able to buy it from her for only $20.)
Hai keeps an eye on our house when we're in Arizona. We bought him a Mexican garden turtle as a thank you. He has it outdoors, trying to get it acclimated to Minnesota. Not sure how that's going. When he placed the turtle out in the yard last month, it had a short tail. When we looked today, it was gone.
No surprise there, this has been one cold spring.
This, of course, is our all-time favorite photo of Andrew Dang, shot by his Dad during his "welcome back" vacation adventure to the jungles of Vietnam. The dour water buffalo are quite genuine and so is the smile and the shirt.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

At times like this...

April 26, 2008
You take your sunshine where you find it.
It has been a month and a half now since we departed Arizona for the springtime delights of Minnesota. A few promising rain showers fell early this week, and quickly turned the grass a verdant green. Our spirits were buoyed by this long-awaited event.

Today we awaken to snow on the ground and promises of below normal temps and clear to partly horseshit.

We're finding things to do inside these days. Went shopping at the Goodwill with Em and found some steak knives for Danny. There's a Halal butcher with beautiful fine grained steaks (no chops) who just opened in the Midtown Market. The tubby, be-aproned Mideasterner, just call him Achmed, earnestly proclaims in his broken English, "I have good meat for you. You will like. If there is a bone in it that is not straight, you call me right up. I take care of you."
It took me a few beats to figure out the guy is just kidding and doing a fine parody of an old-fashioned, fat-thumbed butcher.

I like Achmed. We'll buy some of his steaks and grill 'em up with Danny on the rooftop barbeque. . . if the sun ever shines again.

Photo: Isn't it is nice when the baby carries her own toiletries?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stan got a new watch today

Kathleen bought Stan another new watch today. It was about $50 on sale at Macy's, the usual investment for her man who breaks and loses things.

Whenever Stan gets a new watch, these two memories return:

The only kid to ever wear a real wrist watch to our country school was Rodney Karrow. He was actually a town kid whose parents moved to their new little rambler in the country and found themselves in a rural school district.
He started in the middle of a term and lasted only one day with us. He had a wrist watch and everyone was very impressed, asking him if it was "real." He patiently assured us that it was and seemed to check it from time to time, even though a big black and white school clock hung in front. He also had butch wax in his hair and wore starchy pressed blue jeans rolled in wide cuffs above his ankles like Opie Taylor. The girls thought he was very cute and quite unlike any of the farm boys.
That night we snooped in on the party line and learned that Rodney had fallen off his stool at home. This upset his mother so much she decided to return him to Washington Elementary until the fall. (Washington was cool. They had an inside gymnasium and that's where we went to get our polio shots.)
He rejoined us country kids in fifth grade, I think, and apparently never fell off a stool again. He became a good friend and ended up as a jeweler in Alexandria.


My father would hold my hand and pause in front of Hedine Jewelry in Alexandria to look through the window at watches displayed there. He didn't own one. Sometimes he went inside to look closer and ask questions. One year my mother bought him a watch for his birthday. It cost her $50. He cried when he got it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Scouts honor, these are the Happy Scampers

There was some kind of mix-up earlier as to the true ownership of the new Scamp on Abbey Point. Sorry. Turns out there was no sniper fire either. It was the intern who was responsible.
New grandparents, Tom and Sandy Story, who share the other half of our duplex, have yet another baby. They ordered it last fall from the factory in Backus, Minnesota, and took delivery Saturday. It is sort of a fiberglas version of an Air-stream, weighs only 1,500 pounds (unloaded) including air-conditioner and 3/4 bath. It sleeps as many as five people who really like each other.

Stan and Kathleen got a tour and used the words "cute" and "wow" a lot.

Tom and Sandy aren't sure exactly what their immediate travels plans are just now, but he laughs that his goal is to tether it once in every state park in Minnesota.
Don't Come A-knockin'. . .
It stood proud in the driveway at first, inspiring neighbors to drop by with clever remarks about "senior housing," "road warriors," "dog house for Tom," and unbloggable trailer culture quotes.

Tom loves to drive (he's an occasional tour bus operator... a favorite with blue-haired ladies and WW II vets) and party hard. Sandy is the ever-faithful good sport who admits it took a while, but now she's adjusted to the whole idea of driving around with her house and groceries trailing behind.

Yesterday, Tom stored the Scamp in the undisclosed location they've rented, triggering a communal sigh of relief and the cancellation of the emergency meeting of the Abbey Point Neighborhood Protective Association.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Grandparents are nuts, please help me

One thing just led to another. Grandpa and Grandma's Abbey Point neighbors bought a brand new camper and parked it in their driveway. Grandpa spied it and said "Hey, Grandma, just for fun, why don't we park the Volkswagen right in front of Tom and Sandy's new Scamp? It will look like the bug is pulling it." Well, Grandma should have known better. But that was just the beginning.

Next thing you know, Grandpa and Grandma were standing in front of the VW and Scamp, posing like something out of that American Gothic picture. Well, Grandpa hears that and of course he says "American Gothic? Hey, let's go get the flag!"

So now grandma and grandpa are standing out in front of our house, acting goofy, flag-waving and Big Mr. Tom is taking their pictures and giggling like a five-year-old.

Well, his pictures actually turned out pretty good. They happened to be on the same roll that Grandma took of me and my mom and our brand new washer-dryer that was supposed to have top billing on this blog all weekend.

So then my Grandpa says, "Wow, look at this great picture! Let's put on a Travels with Charlie deal. Grapes of Wrath or something. It will blow people away." And so on. It just snowballed out of control after that. I love my grandpa but sometimes I have to question his balance.

I think I have them talked out of leaving town and that they should just stay home and act like normal grandparents, but I am not sure. Please help me. They are truly nuts and I just can't handle this all by myself.

Thank you, love,


(All of today's photos were taken by Grandma)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

We'll pursue the American dream

We leave tomorrow. This devastating economy may have diminished our realities and expectations, but not our dreams. Pack up your troubles in the old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Join us here daily as we boldly plot our way across America, searching for the ever-flickering spirit that makes our country so great. We will post daily from the wifi in the new Scamper to Don't miss a single adventure. And with our new lightweight equipment, we'll scoff at $4 gasoline and exorbitant hotel fees.

A fresh bouquet from Lorlee's garden

A colorful bouquet of iris and a signature poppy arrived in the digital inbox this morning from gardener Lorlee Bartos. They're all dewey fresh, because Lorlee collected them just yesterday. Spring will come to Minnesota soon, she promises, and hopes these Texas blooms will last us until then.

Please look closely at the magnificent blossom above. It appears that if you tore off a petal, it would bleed.

Thank you to Lorlee for her thoughtfulness. The photos have been arranged in a digital vase below for everyone to enjoy. All blooms are from around Lorlee's house. Possibly, the galvanized wire grid you see is the fence that separates her property from an Interstate freeway.

Lorlee has been written up in the Dallas press for willfully encroaching into that freeway space with flora, something her family used to do to the Soo Line right-of-way near their farm by Forada. Her mother, Mrs. John Bartos, whom we all knew as a strong-willed Catholic- Democrat-Farmer-Laborer, felt it was a shame for it to go undecorated and took action.

Lorlee writes:

Some iris and a poppy, mostly taken today. Isn't digital wonderful?

A few years back, there was a new restaurant in town called Iris. They invited artists to take the concept of iris and create artwork. There was Iris the Dog Star, Iris the goddess, iris in a horse's eye, etc. I was one of the invited. They chose six of my photos which were put into two triptychs (sp) of close up shots of iris, single petals with dew, etc.

Unfortunately, the restaurant closed last year. Don't know what happened to my art. That year I took several hundred shots of iris.


(This will have to hold you until your own bloom)

Friday, April 18, 2008

More big family news!

Steve Letnes earns license to teach.
Now. Does anybody have an opening?

Despite not being able to finish 30 percent of the exam because he had a hard time seeing it, Steve passed the Minnesota licensure exams with flying colors.

Now he's working the job fairs, etc., and looking for a social studies position.

Steve would make a great addition to any school staff; swell personality, lots of talent, team player and he knows the history of the stapler, and other school supplies, he laughs. Oh. Did we mention that he's good looking too?

(He really does know the history of the stapler, which was originally made for King Louis XV in the 18th century.)

Congratulations Steve. We're so very proud of you. Steve is the son of Ron and Linda Letnes of Blaine, Minn., and is the nephew of Stan and Kathleen Rolfsrud.

Earthquake awakens our Iowans! Cat ok.

We have a first-person report from correspondent Adam Jerdee in Des Moines! Check his blog for details. It is linked below, left.
The rumble was very surreal, says he. Cat is ok. No word yet on the wife.

We have a question from Dallas. . .

An impertinent question arrived from Dallas this morning, from Stan's dear childhood friend, Lorlee Bartos, who faithfully checks the blog every Wednesday to see the latest Emily pix. Though Emily was here all day long, there were no Emily pictures posted. We hope that readers understand that when grandma and grandpa are splashing and giggling in the tub with Emily, there is just no one left to take the picture. (There. Try to get that picture out of your brain. Just kidding. But it does remind Stan of an old Ruby Korkowski story that we intend to share soon.)

Not that Lorlee ever likes to rub it in, but sometimes she likes to rub it in about our late spring. The beautiful photo of the iris is mine, just to remind Ms. Master Gardener that, while Minnesota iris are bashful and do take longer to come out, they are always strong and better-looking than average.

Here's Lorlee's note:
Did you oversleep and forget to pick up Emily this week?
Iris are in full bloom here and we are having a nice spring. Lots of things that didn't bloom last year are going great guns this year. Maybe the abundance of rain last year.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cheers! Jenn Rolfsrud passes the bar. . .

Word was received today that Jennifer Rolfsrud has passed the Minnesota bar exam and can now practice law. Formal swearing-in ceremonies are upcoming. She's a graduate of the Hamline University School of Law. She's married to Ford Rolfsrud, Stan's nephew.
Congratulations, Jenn! Now get out there and sue somebody!
Linda Rolfsrud Letnes writes:
Good for you, Jenn! When my brother Steve [Jenn's father-in-law, now a law judge] was a young man, he told me he was going to go to law school. I was fearful for him, thinking it would be too hard and I wasn't very encouraging. I also thought he would make a great coach or teacher (he would). So I said, "But Rolfsruds don't DO that." He certainly proved me wrong and I have laughed at myself many times since then. So now you are once again proving that Rolfsruds DO "do that". They can and they do. And Breck is next...Good job, Rolfsruds!
Love, Linda (who has learned a thing or two since then)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Been there, done that

No need for our devout Catholic neighbors to visit Washington to see the pope. They caught Papa last summer at the Vatican, received his blessing then and snapped this picture. Note stern look on bodyguard as he watches Tom closely.
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Sure Signs of Spring:

A half-dozen robins spotted on the sidewalk.
Stan has a tee time for 9 a.m. Thursday.
First annual Abbey Point tarmac party was attended by four residents at 5 p.m. tonight. Both politics and religion were covered. Meeting broke up without bitterness at 7 p.m.
Tom Story removed his Christmas decorations this afternoon.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Inspector Gerken solves mailbox mystery

Our mailboxes were knocked from their roosts a couple days ago, creating a stir, as Abbey Point residents theorized just who might have done such a thing. A blue Volkswagen bug was processed for suspicious paint scratches as well as a maroon mini-van, but to no avail.
Then resident sleuth John Gerken accepted the case. He soon learned that Bobby & Steve's Auto World had visited the cul-de-sac recently to perform a "lock-out" rescue detail. Next the Inspector summoned the towing company and, using advanced trigonometry and training from "The Forensics Files," was able to pin down the likely cause.
Mitch Harrison, towing leader from Bobby & Steve's, immediately took full responsibility for one of his unlucky drivers, and replaced the crushed mailboxes pronto. With a mammoth tow truck, it was easy to see how a driver might be unaware of his rear end swiping a batch of mailboxes. Mitch found the right screws to go with the new mailboxes and before you could say "Sherlock Holmes," everything was repaired and residents of Abbey Point went back to their knitting.

A neighborhood thank you to Mitch for his cheerful response and Get It Done attitude. Also, to our own detective for putting all the clues together and solving the case. Well done, Inspector Gerken!

Garfield is not a cat to these ex-Minnesotans

Back in the 50s, sometimes six kids were more than our parents, Erling and Bev, cared to handle. So they would farm out a couple of them to friends. Sosie, and her brother, Stan, were kept for weeks at a time by Mama Jo and her sister, Ruby.

Josephine and Simon Elness farmed near Garfield, Minnesota; Ruby and Albert Korkowski near Brandon. Sosie was dealt to the Elness farm, Stan to the Korkowskis.

Ruby and Al had no children, Mama Jo and Si had three: Rand, Karen and Jerome. Our wonderful surrogate parents are gone now, but Mama Jo's children are still Sosie's playmates. Sunday they picnicked in California.

Sosie brought booty from her recent visit to Minnesota to see her mother and others. A big fan of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce (The Birthplace of America), Sosie gathers examples of local flavor as souvenirs. Her latest exports include lefse fried in Osakis and bottles of Miltona's fine Stanley's Sagebrush BBQ Sauce as well as his maple syrup.

These coveted items were delivered to the ex-Minnesotans rally in sunny California Sunday. Sombreros were provided by Sosie's future daughter-in-law, Jenn, who apparently keeps dozens at the ready, waiting for a fiesta to break out.

Yesterday, Sosie and her husband, Bill, received an e-note of appreciation from Rand's wife, Connie. (In the photo above, kindly note Connie's Hackensack, Minnesota, t-shirt):

Hi You Two -
Thank you for the lovely day! What a treat it was to see you again. By golly, you make the best Minnesota Beans we've ever tasted! Thank you for bringing them, the lefse, champagne, the dishtowel and syrup PLUS saving the day with Stan's BBQ Sauce!
Whew - that was a close call!
We had a grand time - thank you for making it such a special day.

Here's Sosie's explanation to her family:

I am forwarding to you a note from Connie Elness. You will see Rand Elness, his sister, Karen, and her husband, Kaj, from Madison, Wisconsin, and Connie Elness. Oh, and Bill and me.
Connie had forgotten the ketchup for our various tubular steaks and was quite chagrined, but what did it matter? We had
Stanley's Sagebrush BBQ Sauce! Who needs ketchup when there is Stanley? Connie honestly thought this BBQ sauce was from Stanley Rolfsrud, so limited is her knowledge of Stanleys. That straightened out, the kudos head rightfully to Miltona, Minnesota. But in general, the reputation of Stanley's has spiked substantially.
In one of the photos taken in the Elness back yard, you'll see me reading the
Elness Editorial, which Karen had published in 1947 when she was 14. As an artist, she had rendered some creative cartoon strips of "Radar Rand," who solved crimes perpetrated by evil gangsters. We are reading these cartoons and admiring how little the essence and ethics of hero cartoons has changed since then. Also, as far as we are concerned, the extremely handsome and magical Radar Rand has not changed much in the six decades of his sister's admiration.

Karen lost her left arm in a threshing machine accident as a young girl. When she was a teenager, she challenged Sosie, then a child of 7 or 8, to a silverware drying contest. "I can dry spoons with a hook and a hand faster than you can dry spoons with two hands!" And she was right. Interestingly, Solvieg adds, that in 60+ years, science has not improved her gripping hook sufficiently to replace it with anything better.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sheldon kept my wife up last night

The weather man was wrong again last night, so St. Paul Katie drove herself to the poker game on Thomas Avenue.
Earlier in the week, dire predictions of deep snow made Kathleen declare she'd not go unless her driver took her there. He could watch baseball in the other room while Miss Daisy played cards, she suggested.
The streets were cold as hell last night, but they were dry. So Katie, who had forgotten to go to the bank Saturday morning, borrowed her stake, and headed out alone into the miserable Minnesota evening for an away game.
The gang was all there at Mr. and Mrs. Anderson's Saturday Night Poker Fiesta. Host Sheldon Anderson is a professor at Miami University in Ohio, where he guides America's youth through the vagaries of Eastern European History. What happens to America's youth on Saturday nights is none of his business. He has his own vice, playing poker with his wife, Kristi, under the alias "Da Professor."
Da Professor had a run of bad luck early last night, but kept dipping into the children's college fund to stay in the game. This, according to St. Paul Katie, who opened our garage door on the darker side of midnight this morning, before crawling into a warm bed with an anxious husband.
Turns out it was Sheldon who had encouraged all the winners to keep the game going last night, hoping for enough time to win his money back. Tiger Woods will have the same problem today. He's on a run of birdies at Augusta, but may run out of holes before overtaking the young studs bent on their own green jacket.

Cards were dealt in the new Anderson poker room. Ground was broken a year ago for this grand addition to the homestead (see photo) and St. Paul Katie found the new digs most spacious and playable.
We are unaware of the precise financing arrangements for this project, but remain hopeful they are not linked to Da Professor's poker prowess. Sheldon did not win the green jacket last night. Despite employing his best skills in cajolery and shaming to extend the game, the leaders held on to their riches, and when St. Paul Katie returned home with tales of glory, she replaced every nickel of Stan's stake into the white sweat sock under the bed.
Her winnings? You should know, Sheldon, that you may have been able to keep my wife up late last night, but when I watch the Tiger finish up late this afternoon, you will be paying for the pizza and snacks.

Friday, April 11, 2008

They also serve who only stand. . .

My neighbor is a genuine war hero. As a teenage helicopter pilot in Vietnam, he was shot down and crash-landed a half-dozen times while bringing troops in and out of hot combat zones. He doesn't talk about it much.

I'm no hero, but I have war stories too, and I'm happy to talk. Drafted into the U.S. Army on 7/7/70 at age 23, I was soon garrisoned with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th Support Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas. I spent my entire military career there, always with the dread possibility of an immediate transfer to Vietnam jungles hanging like the sword of Damocles.

With a degree in journalism, I was assigned to the Public Information Office, where, for 18 months, I wrote glowing press accounts of the activities and achievements of the brigade, all the while not having a clue as to its actual mission.

We wrote in the Armored Sentinel newspaper about fancy data processing machines, a radical concept called the volunteer army, new coke dispensers in the mess halls, the virtues of reenlistment, and the missions of mercy our transport company made to save thirsty Texas towns with broken-down water systems.

Always mentioned in my lead paragraph was the name of our commander, Col. Paul F. Roberts, a kindly warrior in the twilight of his career, leading this sleepy brigade. It was my job to make the old man look relevant and exciting. Nobody actually told me to do this, but doing so may have been what kept me in Texas, something I will never know.

Near as I could tell, the brigade was a warehouse, holding soldiers coming and going to other spheres of duty. While in Texas, many received promotions. Thousands of promotions are made every week on a big Army post. But when you were being promoted to First Lieutenant or Captain while in the 13th Spt Bde, it was a big deal. Col. Roberts made it so, and this is my war story.

The ritual went something like this: A call would come to the public information office (PIO) from headquarters that there was to be a promotion in the headshed and to have a reporter there at 1350 hours. A similar order went to the Signals Company, which ran a photo section near us. They mostly made 8x10 glossy black and white prints of officers for official use and chain of command displays. They had a refrigerator for keeping film fresh. We used it for keeping Spam snacks, which is not an official use.

The photographer and I would share a ride to the headquarters building, walk upstairs and wait in the orderly room outside the colonel's office. The door would eventually open, we'd walk in and post ourselves to the rear of the empty office, trying to blend with the furniture. Then a few members of the promotee's unit were ushered in, perhaps his unit commander and others, shined and polished for the occasion. Sometimes a young wife would come to witness her husband's promotion to a higher pay grade. She would create a bright spot among the tans and drabs, all teased up in a colorful 70's mini-skirt and big hair.

Then the adjutant and the chief of staff would stride in, followed by the old man, and we'd jump to attention while he took his place behind the desk, between the American flag and the Brigade campaign colors. He'd quietly tell us to stand at ease. The young lieutenant would salute and report. The adjutant would bark, "Attention to Orders" and we'd all come to attention again and the adjutant would read the orders in a loud military monotone.

When it came time to pin on the new bars, the photographer beside me would spring to action, the old man and the new captain would freeze in the traditional pose, and two flash bulbs would pop, one for the actual photo and the other just in case somebody blinked.

Mission accomplished, the honorees relaxed and informally chatted with the old man. Meanwhile, the photographer and I did a left-face and walked briskly out of the room, he with his camera, me with my clipboard. Clipboard? What ever had I written on the clipboard? Well, absolutely nothing. It was a prop. Sometimes, if the chief of staff were in the room during the ceremony, I might pretend to scribble important words on it, but there certainly weren't any notes taken. No need for that. A form had already been filled out by the company clerk. It would eventually be married to the photograph and sent to a hometown newspaper. In addition, the Armored Sentinel automatically got a copy of the orders and published a small paragraph among many others under the 24 point heading: "Promotions." I had nothing to do with any of that.

So what was I doing again and again at these promotion ceremonies, standing in the back of the room in my cleanest uniform and shiny boots, faking it? At first I thought it was a sorry waste of time, but eventually I caught on. The old man and the chief knew what they were doing. They wanted to honor and encourage these young leaders in any way they could. It was a very difficult time for officers, charged with leading many unwilling men during an unpopular war. So they made these promotions as impressive and memorable as they could.

All these young men had mothers. After they got their promotions or awards at the 13th Support Brigade, each could truthfully say, "Yeah, Mom, it was a pretty big deal. The press was there to cover it and everything."

Yes, honor and celebrate the true heros. But don't forget, we also served who only stood and faked it.