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Smoke School Stories

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Bailouts, layoffs, the great depression of 2009, Politics according to Whitlow

Politics the Uncle George Way


I turned 60 years old in November 2008. I remember when I was 18 and 60 seemed like an ancient age to feel sorry for. In my own mind sometimes I still feel 18, but with a lot more experience, aches, and pains.


I remember telling my daddy when I was 16 that I need some cash for a date. Five bucks would get me some gas, 2 tickets to see John Wayne at the movie, some popcorn, and a couple of Dr Peppers. Daddy had a few bucks now and again, as much as you would expect form a cop on a Harley Davidson.  He was real quick to suggest that I get a job. I asked how do you go about getting a job.


He went into my closet and picked out a pair of my old blue jeans with the patches on the knee and a loop for a hammer on the side. Then he want out to the shed in the back yard and got a hammer, stuck it in the loop on the blue jeans, and said to take my old 57 Chevy down the road some morning at 7 AM and look for a carpenter crew working on a house. Just walk up and ask for the foreman and tell him that you are ready to start working.


This worked for me every summer right up until 1969 when I decided to drop out of college and join the Air Force. I usually was the gofer, a carpenterís helper, or was up in the attic putting in fiberglass insulation in tight places where the Louisiana air was humid and about 200 degrees. The fiber from the insulation cut into my pores and itched me to death. The foreman said to pour some coal oil on it.


I took a look around me at the other construction workers who were over 60 years old with the tobacco stains running down their cheeks, and decided that I wanted to go to college. The trouble is, I was motivated to register, but not motivated enough to buy the books, read them and go to class. I always knew that education was the key to success, but it still took me 20 years of night school to bring that 1.5 grade point average up to a 2.0 and graduate. I started college in 1966 and graduated in 1988. Go figure it.


Catherine, my ex wife had a PhD from the University of Arkansas and Perdue. I went to college 20 years of night school and finally got a PhD- I married one. Catherine was a professor at LSU just before we met. One of her LSU football students asked her how long she went to college.  Catherine answered, nine years. The football player replied, GEE WIZZ, you had about as much problems as me. Later Catherine was being questioned for a jury pool in a murder trail. The prosecutor asked her what she did for a living. Catherine replied a college professor at LSU. The prosecutor said you are dismissed; teachers tend to think too much.


The point is if you want a job, dress for the part, and show up on the site on time and start working. Put on those old blue jeans, get a hammer and go find the foreman. If you want an education, buy the books, read them, and go to class every day.

Peoples we are in a heap of trouble. Plants are closing left and right. People have lost their life savings in the stock market. People are getting laid off by the thousands. The military is not doing all that bad. They are having a bumper crop of enlistees. The troops are volunteering for extra tours. The military stopped offering enlistment bonuses. One of my best friends in Baton Rouge in 1980 was a US Navy recruiter, When he was not recruiting,  His NEC description was cryogenics, He worked on liquid oxygen and nitrogen systems. Which are very important on submarines. He told me that he was sick of the Navy and all he wanted to do was go back home to Alabama and rebuild old Volkswagens for a living. He had been rebuilding and selling old Volkswagens for years during his off time and he loved it. He was all set to pack up and go home after his enlistment after 13 years in the service. Then at the very last minute, the Navy offered him $30,000 up front to reenlist. The next thing you know, he sold his Baton Rouge house and he was back on a submarine outside of Myrtle Beach.

I heard on CNN the other day that the military does not have to offer incentives to reenlist. It is a sign of the economic times. CNN also stated that the military is turning down new enlistees by the thousands. I think you need to hear this. According to CNN only 25% of young Americans from 17 to 35 are suited for military enlistment. This means that a whopping 75% of our young people are not qualified to wear a military uniform, because they dropped out of school, had a criminal record, or a problem with alcohol or drugs. Lord help us, it could be a communist plot. 

You just can not find good help these days. Last week I was loading up a plastic folding bulky office table onto the smoke machine trailer Big Burtha and the Phantom 409, when a car came slowing creeping up, suspiciously down the driveway past the white oak trees with all the big acorns. The car came up to me and turned around in front of me, nearly hitting my toe in the process. The table was bulky and slippery and I dropped it onto the door of the car. The table made 2 scratches on the door that looked like an ďSSĒ. He as a small man, unshaved, and smelled like tobacco and bourbon. His wife or girlfriend was on the passenger side and it was her car. I could tell she was upset about the scratches on the door.


The first thing I noticed about him when he got out of the car was an outside leg brace from hip to ankle. The first thing out of his mouth was about disability, a bad leg, and a bad back. He said that I needed to write him a small letter saying that he had dropped by to see about getting a job. I thought about the hammer, and the blue jeans with the loop.


From my past experiences with unemployment I knew that Louisiana requires you to prove that you looked for a job twice each week so you could continue to draw unemployment.  In Louisiana you have a right not to work if you so choose. I actually had to take less money when I started working for the Louisiana DEQ than when I was drawing unemployment. This was after adding in the cost of gas to work, lunch, and a baby sitter. It is a matter of pride.


I gave the man a letter, reluctantly. Then he and his significant other started on about the scratch on the door. I pulled out my wallet and offered him 50 bucks. He refused to take it. I blew it, lost my temper and my redneck came out. I gave him that old military raised John Wayne/ Clint Eastwood voice and shouted, ďTake it or get the heck off my property!Ē


He then drove to the end of the driveway and I could tell he was on the cell phone calling the cops. By now I was fuming at the mouth and sent Angie out to offer him a hundred bucks. He refused it and just sat there.


After about 30 minutes 2 of Ouachita Parish Sherriff finest officers showed up. I am a lifetime member of a cop family. My daddy and my brother were both retired cops. I watched in the Heat of the Night and I knew that most cops hate to respond to a dispute. More cops are killed during disputes than any other task. I sat here at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee trying to cool my temper off until they came in the back door. Thank the good Lord that Angie, Tracy, Wendy and Larry were here to greet the police until I cooled off.


Eventually the disabled unemployed redneck came to the back door and I told the deputy that I did not trust the guy and did not want to let him in the house. The deputies had vast experiences in dealing with such matters and suggested that we all go out and look at the car.


Out in the driveway the man had shown the deputies a large dent at the bottom of the door. The car was old and had lots of dents and scratches and needed a paint job. I explained to the deputies that the only damage that I did was the 2 ďSĒ shaped scratches on top of the door. I explained about the offer to pay $50 and $100 to fix the door.


Both deputies just listened in silence until they reached their decision. Then they both went in on the man and said he was nuts for not taking the cash and that now it was a civil matter and he would have to hire a lawyer and file suite. More than likely he would loose the suit and be out $500 in legal fees and still have a scratched door. I was happy when it all ended without anyone getting shot. From time to time I watch the driveway to make sure he doesnít come back for revenge.


Recently I guess I been watching too much CNN. I have been having this dream about being trapped on a narrow stairway with a trap door at the top. The bottom floor is full of confusion and chaos- taxes, unemployment, bailouts, layoffs, murder, and the cost of fuel. There is a man upstairs that can calm the sea, but I canít get the trap door open. If I can just focus on the man, then I can get the door open. The man of course is Jesus and he is everywhere, if we can just stop and focus.


The problems with the world did not start with George Bush. The Bible says that the love of Money is the root to all evil. Barak Obama canít fix it. It is up to each one of us.


Ten years ago I needed some money to get out of debt quick. I called the loan company and asked for a second mortgage. The real-estate appraiser came by with a clipboard and asked how much money that I needed. I said we need $95,000 dollars. The house was a 2 bedroom wood frame house built for the Baby Boomers just after World War 2. The lumber, wiring, and plumbing were not getting any newer. I had put up one wall and converted it to a house with 3 small bedrooms and 2 baths. We paid $30,000 for the house 10 years previously. We got the loan for $95,000 and luckily 2 years later sold the house for $95,000. Go figure it out. Houses are just not worth what they say they are. My daddy always used to say that something was worth exactly what someone would pay for it and not a dime more.


People get loans that they canít pay. When my momma died, the credit card companiesí came after me for the money she owed. She liked to go to the boat and gamble. She had about $40,000 in unpaid credit card debts.  She had declared bankruptcy 3 times, was legally blind, 76 years old, had not had a job in 20 years, and they loaned her  $40,000, which she never made an effort to pay back. I said they would need a good phone because she had passed on to Heaven. I asked them how in the world they would loan her any money and why in the world they would expect me to pay for it. Looks to me like you boys like to gamble too and you lost. Donít come crying to me.


One credit card collector agent asked me why I did not tell my momma how to spend her money? I replied, why donít you call your momma and tell her how to spend her money. I had to hire a lawyer but I got them to stop calling me.


Why donít they make Ford and the Chevy to last 10 years like they used to? My employee Crew Chief Crew 2, Dave had my $70,000 Ford Excursion, American made, one million mile diesel engine deep in the woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. He called me at 2 in the morning and reported that he had broken down. The bumper to bumper warrantee had expired the previous week. The tow bill was $300 to the nearest mechanic who reported that the radiator had leaked and the engine had sucked up water and drowned. The repair bill was over $6,000.


In the 1970ís we had gas lines a mile long in Baton Rouge. OPEC owned all of the oil and they closed the trap door. American colleges no longer teach engineers how do drill for oil.  Our government promised to bring us economical vehicles, and the corn farmers promised to bring us ethanol. Well ethanol and biodiesel are trying to make a comeback. Nevertheless, I still get 11 miles per gallon on all three of my American Made Ford and Dodge Diesel trucks and you canít find biodiesel or ethanol.


In desperation Angie and I decided to buy a personal car that was Japanese made and a hybrid. The salesman was honest enough to explain that the hybrid Toyota cost $5,000 more and the hybrid kicked in only if you were going less than 35 miles an hour. We decided on the gasoline Toyota and for the first time in my life Ė 60 years, I brought a car that was not American made. Actually the Toyota was made in Indiana, so go figure it.


The big four automakers came to Washington for a handout in privately owned jets. We churned out millions of tax dollars to bailout the banks, and the automakers and their executives all got a big raise. Louisiana cotton farmers are all growing corn for ethanol, the price of corn is going down. If we donít reach stabilization soon, we are all going to be naked, starving to death, and walking to work- if we donít get laid off or fired.


You are reading this email, we send out emails to 3,000 of our customers and friends a month. Every 30 days I get 60 of the emails kicked back because people are getting laid off. International Paper is closing down after 50 years, and hundreds of other plants have closed the doors or are laying people off.


When I was a boy you did not need an education to get a high paying job. If you knew someone at the plant you could get a job there for life and make good money. Those days are fading fast. You need to focus your children and grand children to get the most out of education that they can squeeze. Probably concentrate on computers and technology and maybe medical careers. Us baby boomers are the largest concentration of people and none of us are getting any younger. There is a lot of money in cancer, heart problems, and nursing homes.


We all need to concentrate on the man on the second floor and forget about the chaos on the fist floor. Who would a thunk it?

Charlie Daniels Band- Long Haired Country Boy


People say I'm no-good,
And crazy as a loon.
I get stoned in the morning,
I get drunk in the afternoon.
Kinda like my old blue tick hound,
I like to lay around in the shade,
An', I ain't got no money,
But I damn sure got it made.

'Cos I ain't askin' nobody for nothin',
If I can't get it on my own.
If you don't like the way I'm livin',
You just leave this long-haired country boy alone.

Preacher man talkin' on the TV,
He's a-puttin' down the rock 'n' roll.
He wants me to send a donation,'Cos he's worried about my soul.
He said: "Jesus walked on the water,"And I know that is true,
But sometimes I think that preacher man,
Would like to do a little walkin', too.

But I ain't askin' nobody for nothin',
If I can't get it on my own.
You don't like the way I'm livin',
You just leave this long-haired country boy alone.

A poor girl wants to marry, And a rich girl wants to flirt.
A rich man goes to college,And a poor man goes to work.
A drunkard wants another drink of wine,And a politician wants a vote.
I don't want much of nothin' at all,But I will take another toke.

'Cos I ain't askin' nobody for nothin',If I can't get it on my own.
If you don't like the way I'm livin',
You just leave this long-haired country boy alone.



My Cousin Merle Haggard

Are the Good Times Really Over for Good

 Listen to me and my cousin Merle Haggard sing Are the Good times Really Over For Good

Wish a buck was still silver.

It was, back when the country was strong.

Back before Elvis; before the Vietnam war came along.

Before The Beatles and "Yesterday",

When a man could still work, and still would.

Is the best of the free life behind us now?

Are the good times really over for good?

Are we rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell?

With no kind of chance for the Flag or the Liberty bell.

Wish a Ford and a Chevy,

Could still last ten years, like they should.

Is the best of the free life behind us now?

Are the good times really over for good?

I wish coke was still cola,

And a joint was a bad place to be.

And it was back before Nixon lied to us all on TV.

Before microwave ovens,

When a girl still cooked and chopped wood.

Is the best of the free life behind us now?

Are the good times really over for good?

Are we rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell?

With no kind of chance for the Flag or the Liberty bell.

Wish a Ford and a Chevy,

Could still last ten years, like they should.

Is the best of the free life behind us now?

Are the good times really over for good?

One more time:

Stop rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell?

Stand up for the Flag and let's all ring the Liberty bell.

Let's make a Ford and a Chevy,

Still last ten years, like they should.

'Cos the best of the free life is still yet to come,

The good times ain't over for good?

Let's sing it again.

Stop rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell?

Stand up for the Flag and let's all ring the Liberty bell.

Let's make a Ford and a Chevy,

That'll still last ten years, like they should.

'Cos the best of the free life is still yet to come,

An' the good times ain't over for good?


It ain't over until the fat cat sings

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