There are two sets of qualities that make a good leader. One is to be tall with wavy hair, and the other is to be short with an attitude. The latter is called a Napoleon Complex, e.g. Valdimir Putin, Joseph Stalin, Hugo Chavez, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam and of course Napoleon. I’m of average height with very little attitude and hair that will never be mistaken for a wig, only because nobody would ever believe someone would be stupid enough to spend money on a wig that looks that bad.
When I worked in law enforcement I was the sergeant of the department. The reason I was the sergeant had nothing to do with my leadership abilities. I simply had the highest score on the sergeant’s test—that I had the highest score made me firmly believe law enforcement personnel were paid from the neck down.
It doesn’t take much leadership skills to be a sergeant in an ultra-small department. Normally I was the only deputy working at night so there wasn’t anyone to boss around. Occasionally on a slow night when I was feeling overly arrogant, I would become drunk with the puissance of my position and give myself absurd orders just to flaunt my power. But by nature I have an aversion to authority, and I would ignore the orders. (I was convinced my sergeant was an incompetent Bozo with no leadership abilities whatsoever. I mean come on, have you seen that hair? I was convinced he had attained his position by ingratiating himself to the boss in some degrading bootlicking manner rather than being rewarded on any kind of merit or ability). I was definitely a trouble maker, and several times I threatened to suspend myself for my insubordination, but not having the height—or lack of it—to be a true leader, I never followed through on my threats. I guess in the long run I’m fortunate that I’m a poor leader or I never would have made it to retirement.
Growing up most of my friends were poor leaders. They were neither tall nor short, and we all had bad hair. General George Patton is credited with saying: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.” We had trouble just getting out of the way. Whenever we got together, we milled around with none of us willing to take charge, and all of us waiting for someone else to generate incentive.
Friend One: So, what do you guys want to do?
Me: Maybe we could go for a hike?
Friend Two: Where are you going to take us?
Me: I’m not taking us anywhere. I was just asking a question.
Friend One: I’m allergic to poison ivy so don’t lead us through any of that, or I’ll break out, and it won’t go away for weeks.
Me: I’m not leading us anywhere. I just sugg—
Friend Two: Well, I’m allergic to bees. So if you take us by any bees and I get stung, I could die.
Me: I’m not taking you anywhere. I—
Friend One: If he dies, his parents will sue you.
Friend Two (nodding): Probably. I take out the garbage every night after supper. If I die they would have to hire someone to do it. I’m sure they’d at least want the money to pay someone.
Me (shouting): We’re not going for a hike! And I’m sure not taking you if we do!
Friend One: It’s the sign of a poor leader to shout at people.
Friend Two: What do you expect with that hair?
We stand milling around for a while in a tense silence.
Friend One: So, what do you guys want to do?

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I’ve never been much on haggling. My wife on the other hand loves a good haggle. (I think it’s genetic, because her father was a master haggler. I won’t tell you how much I had to cough up to get his permission to marry my wife, and that’s not even counting the deal I had to cut with her–I still have to clean the stools for five more years.) If someone offers me something for a certain price, I either take it or leave it—usually I take it and tell my wife I talked them down—but my wife sees a price as nothing more than a suggestion, an opening gambit for a larger game that she plays really well. When we go looking for a new car, the salespeople see my wife get out of the car, and they throw the CLOSED sign on the door and cower under their desks until she gets tired of waiting and leaves.
I’ve told the story before about the last time we went shopping for a new boat. After an hour of my wife trying to squeeze down the price to below what the boat cost the dealership and getting them to throw in every option ever made, the salesman finally threw up his hands in surrender and called the owner over to deal with her.
After another hour of haggling, the owner threw up his hands. In frustration he asked my wife, “Do you want a job?”
“Do you want a job?” he repeated. “Because I would certainly rather have you working for me than against me.”

My wife once took a trip to Ecuador with her church. She brought a lot of religion to the country. Street vendors who weren’t religious before now get down on their knees every night and pray she never comes back. When we retire we’re going to take a trip to Mexico where they expect you to haggle. I can hardly wait to watch her in action. It’ll be sort of like the haggler Olympics. Now that’s entertainment. My wife will haggle over anything.

Sample lady at Sam’s Club (smiling broadly): Excuse me ma’am, would you like to try a sample of our new Braunschweiger spread on a cracker?

My wife: Just one?

Sample lady (still smiling): We have two different kinds, regular and with cheese. So you can have one of each.

My wife (looking indignant): So my husband here doesn’t get any?

Sample lady (hesitantly and the smile not as wide.): He can have one of each, too.

My wife: You’re going to have to do better than that.

Sample lady (no longer smiling.): What do you mean?

My wife (nodding toward another sample stand across the aisle): Weiner Boy over there is offering a cheese dog and a Dixie cup of butter rum ice cream.

Sample lady (looking confused now): But this is all they gave me.

My wife: If you’ll throw in that bag of chips you have under your display table, maybe we can talk.

Sample lady (in a confused whisper): But … that’s my lunch.

My wife: You want to do this deal or not? (She looks over at Weiner Boy) I have other offers.

Sample lady (looking ready to cry): What do you want?

My wife: Has that bottle of Pepsi beside the chips been opened yet?

(Fast forward half an hour)

My wife: Okay, so let’s see if I have this straight. I get the whole plate of Braunschweiger and crackers, the Pepsi, the chips, the egg salad sandwich on whole wheat, the three sticks of gum left in your purse, and you’re throwing in a coupon for a free McDonald’s ice cream cone? Right?

Sample lady (nodding enthusiastically and looking as if she’s willing to write her a personal check just to get rid of her): Right.

My wife hands me the plate of Braunschweiger and crackers. I take a bite.

Me: Hey, these are pretty good. Especially the cheese ones. (I hold the plate out to her) Try one.

My wife: You know I hate Braunschweiger.
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“So what are your plans for the day,” my wife often asks.
I have to have plans. She does things, which normally consist of going to her friends to have coffee or talking to them on the phone. But I need to have something scheduled for the day or she’s afraid there’s a chance I’ll waste it on the computer or watching TV. Maybe my plans are being on the computer or watching TV, but she never thinks of that.
My wife wants me to get a hobby I can do in the winter. I actually have a hobby: I putter, as in “I’m going out in the backyard to putter around.” I’m not exactly sure what you are supposed to do when you putter. Usually I just stand on the patio staring at our fence, wondering why the heck I came out there. The problem is, I have two doors I have to open and close to get out in the backyard. At my age, the combination of having to turn the doorknobs and make sure the doors are pulled closed behind me taxes my ancient brain cells and doesn’t leave room for the reason I had come outside to begin with. So I don’t do much puttering, whatever that is. I just stand for a while looking stupid, before I walk over and check the birdfeeder—I figure if my neighbors are watching, it will dissuade them from calling the authorities on the poor old man in the neighborhood who wanders around aimlessly in his backyard—before I go back inside to get on the computer or watch TV. After a little bit, I’ll remember I have some serious puttering to do, and again I’ll head for the backyard. But of course there are those two complicated devil doors to go through … It’s a vicious, never-ending cycle.
I have hobbies I do in the summer. I garden, fish, and do things to the yard—most people would call it landscaping, but that has the connotation of some artistic talent of which I have none. I used to have winter hobbies. I snowmobiled and ice fished. I was fanatical about ice fishing. In my garage I have a power auger, two portable fish houses and countless containers of ice fishing lures and equipment, including tiny ice fishing rods that look as if they were made for Munchkins. I can remember sitting on a plastic bucket out on the lake ice in a blizzard. I sat there for hours in near zero temperatures with the wind blowing so hard I couldn’t see more than a few yards through the blowing snow. I didn’t have a clue in which direction the shore was or how I was going to find it, and I kept on fishing until darkness came and made everything even more difficult. And I didn’t do this just once, I did it numerous times. The comedian Stephen Wright once said, “There is a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore looking like an idiot.” Sometimes in ice fishing that line is completely obliterated.
My wife has suggested we take up cross country skiing as a hobby. Sometimes when she watches the Olympics, the athletes make everything look so easy that she doesn’t realize the muscle pain the next day alone would put people our age in the hospital. Maybe I can talk her into waiting until this summer when it’s not so cold to try cross country skiing. Until then I guess I’ll just keep working on the computer and watching TV and puttering of course. Which reminds me, I need to go out in the backyard and do a little puttering.
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I’ve been watching some of the winter Olympics, and I’ve decided I don’t like them as well as the summer Olympics. I think it’s because they always have them in the cold weather when everything is covered with ice and snow. They should have them in maybe July or August when it’s warmer. I think I’d like them better then.
My wife likes watching the ice skating. I watch with her sometimes, but the only thing I know about figure skating is: falling down it’s bad. The main reason I watch is to see people fall down. It’s sort of like watching NASCAR for the crashes. The worse thing about figure skating is you have to wait until the judges figure out the scores to see who won. (Most of the time I think they just flip a coin. I mean, does anyone really think there’s a difference between a Double Toe loop, a Lutz and an Axel? It’s all the same thing! Haven’t you noticed how the announcers have all they can do to keep from laughing when they say Triple Salchow? Wake up people. They have been putting us on for decades.) Judging is always so subjective. I’m old enough to remember the Soviet Union and all the judging controversies. Some East German skater would fall, break his leg with blood shooting out of it like something Steven King would write, while the EMTs did CPR as they wheeled him out of the rink on a gurney. Later that night they would posthumously give the gold medal to his next of kin because there had been more eastern bloc judges than western judges.
I’ve never trusted sports with judges. A bona fide sport needs a finish line. That way you know instantly who won. They could put a finish line in figure skating. All the skaters could do the same moves and jumps, and whoever crosses the finish line in the shortest time wins. They could even put more than one skater on the ice at the same time … They could even put ALL the skaters on the ice at the same time. Sort of a skater free-for-all. Sure it would be confusing with lots of skaters running into each other and falling down, but wouldn’t it be fun? You might lose some of the highbrow artsy-fartsy crowd, but think of all the hockey fans you’d gain.
Snowboarding has a finish line, but it doesn’t mean much because it has judges, too. Go figure. I only know one thing about judging snowboarding: falling down is bad. It’s amazing the way they run the rails and do spins and rolls over the jumps. Personally, if you don’t fall down and cross the finish line without wetting yourself, I’d give you a medal. And yes, having more than one person go down the slope at the same time would improve the sport. I’m not sure where the sport of snowboarding came from, but I bet it started with the statement: “Hold my beer and watch this.”
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When I was young, maybe seven or eight, my  sister hit me in the head with a hammer. (Stop it. Stop giggling. It does NOT explain everything.) I don’t remember why she hit me—there are a lot of things I didn’t remember for a while after that, such as my name and most of the third grade. Another time I was playing cowboys and indigenous peoples with the same sister. She was the sheriff, and I was the bad Comanche horse thief. My sister, also judge and jury, decreed all horse thieves should be hung, so she threw a rope over the top of the clothesline to serve as a gallows.
When Mom finally cut me down, I was a half-inch taller and missing a few brain cells from oxygen deprivation. (I think they were the brain cells that had to do with geometry, because in high school I found I had a big blank spot in that area of my brain.)
Keep in mind it was my NICE sister who did this. My oldest sister was the mean one. She would have hit me with a hammer too. It just would have been a sledge hammer, and I wouldn’t have thought she needed a reason, a slow Wednesday would have been enough. (After getting hit with the hammer, I vaguely recall laying on the ground in a bed of soft clouds. Mom stood over me looking concerned that my younger brother might have to step in to fulfill the duties of the oldest son, when my mean sister picked up the hammer and asked Mom if, since I was already down there, she could have a whack at me, too—the memory might just have been from the blow, because I also remember various glowing blue ducks and a lavender elf named Peako.) When I played with my mean sister the only thing that was guaranteed was eventually a freak accident—wink, wink—would befall me.
Mean sister: I don’t know what happened, Mom. He was just walking along and fell into that pile of barbed-wire. You know how clumsy he is.
Me (screaming): She pushed me!
Mean sister: Don’t listen to him. Remember the hammer and the hanging? I think he has brain damage.
Mom (sighing): Go run and get the wire cutters, again. What is it? Three times this week?
Mean sister: Four, and once in the rose bushes.
My mean sister didn’t want to kill me. She just wanted me to suffer. We didn’t play French Revolution, and she never built a guillotine, but we often played chiropractor. I’m still amazed at what an efficient rack she could make from a couple pulleys and an old ironing board. Mom would eventually hear me hollering and release me, then she’d go find my younger brother to see if he was at least smart enough not to willingly get on a homemade torture device.
The point of this—yes, there is a point—is recently we have heard about all the men in Hollywood and politics who routinely have abused and disrespected women. What they needed when they were younger were older sisters. They teach you to respect the opposite sex at a young age. Sometimes they teach a raw fear of the opposite sex.
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My entire life I have lived in the Snowbelt, and I’m not talking someplace where once a year a couple of snowflakes fall and everyone runs around like they’re Arctic explorers. I’m talking about places where anything less than a couple feet of snow is called a dusting. News networks try to make a snowstorm into the Snowpocolypse as if the end of the world is coming. But snow doesn’t have the character to cooperate. During a snowstorm you basically have snow falling. Even if it’s a blizzard it’s no more than wind-driven snow. There aren’t palm trees and corrugated sheet metal flying by like you see in a hurricane, or houses, various kinds of livestock and witches on bicycles and broomsticks whirling past like in a tornado, or even cars floating down a flooded river. Snow is white like soft clouds, downy cotton and sheep. It floats gently to earth and covers the land in a coat of clean white linen. Nobody has ever written a book about alien snow angels trying to take over the world or a maniacal killer snowman stalking a group of kids in a sewer.

Frosty the Snowman was a homicidal troll
With a really sharp axe and a big chainsaw
He’ll try to cut out your soul.

The aftermath of a snowstorm is as vicious as a fluffy bunny … until you have to shovel it.

In my life I have shoveled a lot of snow—and that’s a conservative estimate. I wanted to find out the exact amount I’ve shoveled, so I dug out my calculator and ran the numbers. I was amazed to find that I have shoveled a total of 7,200,000 tons of snow. That is more than the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza! I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s a scientific fact. I looked it up, and the pyramid weighs 6,500,000 tons. My figures on the weight of the snow, on the other hand, may be a little off one way or the other since I averaged the weight of each shovel of snow, and I’ve used different shovels over the years, so the weight of each one would be slightly different. Also the zero key on my calculator sometimes sticks down, so there might be too many zeroes, and I’m not absolutely certain that I didn’t hit the multiplication key a couple times more than I should have. But other than that, it should be a fairly accurate number.

When I was a kid I loved the snow. I couldn’t wait for it to stop snowing so I could go out and build snowmen and snow forts and snow angels and have snowball fights. Snow was amazing. That’s because I had the brains of a powdered sugar doughnut, and I didn’t have to shovel snow. When I got older and I had to shovel snow, it lost a lot of its fascination.

I learned to shovel snow from my father. I also learned a lot of colorful adjectives for snow from my father, none of which I can use in this blog post. Since growing older I have come to a profound, mature acceptance of snow. I’ve learned if you’re going to live in the north, it is going to snow. I have a different attitude about it, a more refined intellect and a snow blower.

My New Year’s resolution is to post more on this blog this year, however, it’s almost the end of January and this is my first post, so we’ll see how it goes. Also a little housekeeping, Wings epress is starting to put their books on Kindle Unlimited where you can read pages for free if you belong to it. I already have my book, County Ops: The Vengeance of Gable Fitzgerald on it, soon you will be able to get my other Wings books there also.

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I recently attended my forty-fifth high school reunion. It was good to catch up with what people had been doing for all these years, but two things struck me immediately.
First, I do not remember going to school with so many old farts. I admit I was ultra-shy and self-conscious in school, but you would have thought I would have noticed it. The bald heads and gray hair should have been dead giveaways. I guess I paid too much attention to me to notice everyone else, but it embarrasses me to think I couldn’t beat some of these potbellied old geezers in wrestling. And I won’t even get into how amazing it is that they made weight to wrestle in the weight classes they did.
Second, I am convinced there is something in our hometown water. All the men were bald, balding or at least had copious amounts of gray hair, but all the women’s hair were perfect. Hardly a gray hair in sight. I’m thinking there is something in the water—or it’s because they haven’t been living with women all these years.
I’m joking, of course. Ha-ha. If there’s one thing everyone says about the Class of ‘72 is they can take a joke. Ha-ha. Especially those guys who used to hold me down and give me wedgies and swirlies in gym class. And even if they are offended, I won’t see most of them until the fiftieth reunion. I’m sure they’ll have forgotten all about it in five years—I’m counting on dementia kicking in for most of them by then. Ha-ha, I’m joking again. We are all a loooooong ways away from dementia.
(A funny story. In the same building we had our reunion, the Class of ’67 was having their fiftieth reunion. One of my classmates mistakenly went into that room. He said he didn’t recognize anyone, and even the names didn’t seem familiar, but he was thinking, “Man, I’ve aged well.”)
So if you have a chance to go to your class reunion, go. Although we didn’t think about it at the time, it was the last thing we did before our lives began. You’ll be amazed at how people turned out who you were sure would be shepherds or on death row. I’m looking forward to my fiftieth reunion. By then we’ll be discussing hip replacements, brands of adult diapers and what flavor of Ensure is the best. Ha-ha. I’m joking again, of course, but I hear the strawberry Ensure is amazing.

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