Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Hey, greetings from south Texas. Doc, thanks for getting this BBS up – with the problems of little or no internet, and the MSM broadcasting the party line Phog, I have really felt isolated.

I feel like I am living a novel, Lights Out to be specific. “Halffast” got it too close to right, and living in the general area that the novel is set really gives me a sense of déjà vu. This county is fortunately still inhabited by a lot of the old ranching/farming families which settled here 200 years ago and Texas individualism and patriotism runs strong through the people. Mutual Assistance Groups have popped up all over and we have a pretty effective barter system.

I sort of became the gathering point for a bunch of medical types, and cops. I used to work in the ER at the county hospital and got to know a bunch of people and was known as a “survivalist type”. The hospital was trashed when the rioting in San Antonio moved out to the surrounding areas. So a bunch of us, with the help of the Sheriff’s Dept. salvaged what we could when the dust settled and moved the “hospital” farther out into the county into a rancher’s pole barn – way off the beaten trail. The citizens of the county all know where it is and we are working 24/7 mostly as an emergency room, but have some OR and acute care abilities. A lot of the doctors who used to work at the ER have moved out here with their families and there is a ‘settlement’ of them near the new hospital – the place looks like an RV park.

San Antonio was hit hard when the military was ‘downsized’. The most heartbreaking part was the almost 1,000 kids who were at Lackland AFB in basic training. Without warning, their DIs went through the barracks and told them they had 30 minutes to pack up their belongings and get off base – they were no longer in the Air Force. That many kids, most were 18 an 19 year olds, really didn’t have a clue what to do, or how to get home, or even survive. San Antonio has always been known as Military City, USA, and the ex-mils and retirees living there took it upon themselves to get these kids (and any other now ex-military) folks home. They pulled out all stops and used every non-traditional means to set up transports. Long haul truckers and a very effective underground railroad managed to get about 3000 military members where they wanted to go all over the nation. Fortunately most of the folks got out of town before things went sour.

The Police Chief in SA was one of those new age touchy-feely type of cops which can all too easily turn into a Jack Booted Thug. He had spent the last 4 years making a ‘kinder gentler’ police force, with the addition of several ‘tactical’ units. The older cops had been leaving in droves from the time he was named chief, almost every one who had their 20 years in had already retired. When things got tense in SA with the cost of fuel, lack of food shipments and frequent blackouts, the city put in a tight curfew and new regulations which to most of the citizens looked and felt like martial law. Chief MacGuy and his Tactical Squads turned into JBTs. The final straw was when there was a march to the Alamo and Federal Courthouse demanding an increase in welfare benefits and a fuel allotment. Several thousand (estimates are as high as 40,000) people were in the march and it was proceeding as most of the marches on the Alamo had in the past – lots of yelling and placards and rhetoric on the Plaza in front of the Alamo. Then someone decided to go into the Alamo Chapel and hold a prayer session. Chief MacGuy was there and decided he would be the one to bar the door to deny access to the Alamo.

No one is quite sure what happened next. Of course this was one day the grid was up and the march was being covered by all the TV stations, so anyone who was not in the Plaza was watching on TV. What can be agreed on is that one of the Priests leading the attempt to enter the Alamo got into a confrontation with the Chief. Someone threw a bottle and the Priest saw it coming towards the Chief and tried to grab the Chief and move him so the bottle wouldn’t hit him. The Chief went down, and suddenly, the Tac Squads showed themselves. They were lining the roofs of the Alamo, the Long Barracks, and many of the businesses surrounding the Plaza.

No one is admitting to firing the first shot, but when it finished, there were bodies all over the Plaza. The JBTs had automatic weapons and it was literally like shooting fish in a barrel. There have been no official estimate of the casualty figures, but I would put it in the hundreds – then it seems like the entire city exploded into mass riots. When things finally quieted down about a week later, most of SA had been burned or taken over by gangs. Most of the fighting had been contained to the city proper but rioting and burning had extended north up I-35 all the way to Austin, which also joined in the riots. Many of the rioters/gangs also followed the main roads into the surrounding counties. Wilson County was hard hit by the marauders, being invaded on two fronts, US 87 and US 181.

The mass retirements from SAPD worked to our advantage, as about 150 of them lived in Wilson County and had signed on as volunteer officers with the various law enforcement agencies. The Sheriff was wise enough to use this resource as well as the military vets in the area and had established a County Militia. The militia set up a defense line just south of the county line on 87 and was able to turn the rioters back. The defense line on 181 was flanked and the rioters got all the way into Floresville. Fortunately for us, they were distracted by the hospital – the lure of drugs must have been too strong and the Militia was able to counter attack essentially ending the invasion.

All of this has taken Wilson County back to the 19th century. Isolated from San Antonio, no jobs as most of the residents of the county worked in SA, the power plant near the county line was down for about 2 weeks but is back in partial operation and we are able to have fairly dependable power, at least for as long as the coal and natural gas lasts. The Sheriff has commandeered all utilities in the county, including the phone lines belonging to ATT and Verizon for essential services, so I have access to the phone and the BBS while at the New Hospital. Most of the homes in the County have no electricity and a couple of the locals have set up a small refinery, using the production from local oil wells mostly to refine kerosene and are making some bio-diesel.

Fuel is limited to use for emergency vehicles only, so most of us are using ‘alternative’ forms of transportation. Lots of horses and mules, of course, and bicycles but the people have really gotten creative. I have a scooter that my once-upon-a-time couch-potato Malamutes are now pulling. A neighbor used his dog to plow his garden. The county has set up a battery exchange where they are using what electricity we have to recharge batteries – you bring in the dead rechargeables and swap for charged ones. A lot of us have solar or wind to generate some home power, and to run the pumps on the water and oil wells.

Sounds like the whole Nation is in about the same shape we are – but I feel sorry for the folks left in what remains of the cities. At least in the countryside, and somewhat the suburbs, the people are really doing a good job of growing food and the ranchers are still producing beef, goats and sheep, and almost everyone has at least a couple of chickens. Wilson County is lucky – we had a fairly large dairy – and a lot of dairy cows- which got back in production sufficiently to provide milk and cheese for the area.

School has not restarted since the riots and I doubt if they will reopen anytime in the near future. Home schooling or small community one room schools are now the norm. The old timers, those who have basic skills such as canning and preserving foods or sewing, are teaching their neighbors and holding classes at the area swap meets. Those who have skills and trades such as blacksmithing, leather work, cooperage and the many other skills which can keep a 19th century civilization running have taken on apprentices. Seems like the only ‘profession’ which has disappeared is the Politicians.

Someone once said, “All politics are local.” Well, now they REALLY are local. And they are all part time politicians; the County Commissioners, County Judge and the Sheriff are about the only politicians we have to deal with any more. Aside from the Texas State Guard and the Rangers and DPS we hardly hear anything from Austin – it seems that government at the State level has gone back to the Republic of Texas mode – and the legislature will not meet until the regularly scheduled every two year cycle.

The Governor did call a special session of the Lege, but barely enough of the Reps and Senators showed up to have a quorum – and most of them were from the rural areas of Texas. This was the first time that the Lege met that they only passed what bills were needed to adjust to the new normal we are living. The ‘sunset laws’ which limited the existence of many of the State laws and bureaucracies saw the sun set. We have a new leaner State government which leaves most of the governance of the people up to the counties.

The Federal government and its interference with life in Texas has gone the way of DC and most of the programs both mandated and funded by them have disappeared – even welfare is a local issue. We did have some guy show up at a County Commissioner’s meeting claiming to be from FEMA and DHS but the County Judge told him that we were doing just fine, thank you, and ‘requested’ he leave the county before the sun went down. That is the last we have heard from anyone claiming to represent the Feds.

The people really do feel like once again the government is ‘of the people, by the people and for the people. No one is going hungry here, and we all are working our tails off just trying to survive, like the rest of the country. There is a new feeling of pride and cooperation and purpose and patriotism as we try to adjust to the way things are now. I guess that going back to basics includes every aspect of life, including back to the basics of the foundation of the Republic – with all men (and women) being created equal and each person is judged on how well they contribute to the community.

This gives hope for restoration of the America I love.

We have an ambulance coming in so I need to get to the ER – will post more when I can get some time --- y’all hang in there.

Remember the ALAMO 2!


Monday, April 20, 2009


Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Many of you will recognize this as the first stanza of The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. To me I remember it as one of the special benefits of having my Father as a teacher.

I went to a very small school (there were 49 in my graduating class) in southern rural Michigan. My Dad had been a teacher at that school since the year I was born. My Grandfather was a Preacher and the County Commissioner, my other Grandfather had been a blacksmith in town, and my Great Grandfather had built the flour mill in the next village. Many of the kids in my class had similarly deep roots in that town. Newcomers were those whose parents had not been born there.

This town during the mid 40’s to early 60’s when I was growing up could have come straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, at least on the surface. My Dad saw the world was changing and everyone, especially the kids he was teaching were growing up in a world very different than the one he knew. His hope was that ‘his kids’ would be able to walk into that new world armed with all the skills and knowledge he could give them. No longer was knowing how to farm or run the family business in town going to be enough. His kids, if he had anything to say about it, would be as well rounded and ready to learn and adapt to what ever may come as any kid from a big city.

One of his innovations was a class for the Ninth Graders (Freshmen) that he called Sociology. I have tried for years to think of a better name for that class, since it had nothing to do with the Sociology classes I took in college. What this class did was teach life skills – those that we would need to go out in the world, and those skills which Dad considered important but were not taught elsewhere.

There was one class where he taught ‘Table Manners’. Not the keep your elbows off the table and don’t comb your hair at the table kind of manners which he assumed that their parents had taught, but what to do when you find yourself as a real Formal Dinner. . .which fork to use, and what all those plates and glasses are for. Another time he showed a short movie of a ballerina and then showed game films of the football game. That class was connecting the athletic skill, grace and body mechanics in common to both endeavors. We never knew what was going to be the lesson or the presentation when we walked into class. To say the syllabus was eclectic would be to say a rainbow is just colorful.

One Monday we walked into class and on his desk was a human skull – and Dad was not in the room as he usually was.

I KNEW what was coming: Dad never let me know ahead of the class what was being taught, nor gave me extra help at home – if I needed help with homework from any of his classes, I had to go to Mom. He was way too careful not to show favoritism to me. There was a rule in his class – no chewing gum – I was the ONLY student who ever had to stay in the room during lunch hour for chewing gum. But I digress. The skull on the desk meant one thing – he was going to totally embarrass me.

That day, Dad walked into class after the bell had rung – walked up to the desk and sat on one corner, looking at the skull, he said:

That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once:
how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were
Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder! It
might be the pate of a politician, which this ass
now o'er-reaches; one that would circumvent God,
might it not?
. . .
Or of a courtier; which could say 'Good morrow,
sweet lord! How dost thou, good lord?' This might
be my lord such-a-one, that praised my lord
such-a-one's horse, when he meant to beg it; might it not?
. . .
Why, e'en so: and now my Lady Worm's; chapless, and
knocked about the mazzard with a sexton's spade:
here's fine revolution, an we had the trick to
see't. Did these bones cost no more the breeding,
but to play at loggats with 'em? mine ache to think on't.
. . .
There's another: why may not that be the skull of a
lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets,
his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? why does he
suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the
sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of
his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be
in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes,
his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers,
his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and
the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine
pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him
no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than
the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The
very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in
this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?
. . .
. . .
Let me see.
(Takes the skull)
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
come; make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell
me one thing.
. . .
Dost thou think Alexander looked o' this fashion i'
the earth?
. . .
And smelt so? pah!
(Puts down the skull)

The students were quiet – some recognized this as Hamlet’s words, but all of us felt the majesty of the work – this was our introduction to Shakespeare. And, to my astonishment, I was not embarrassed….I was in awe, I had no idea that my Dad could do something like that and how moving it was. He then explained that in college he needed to memorize this to join his Fraternity (TKE) and he was very lucky that his teachers had taught him, from the one room school where he started and continued through the very School we were now attending, the skill of memorization. He then began teaching the unit on memory and learning. We learned how to learn in that class – and then he gave us our assignment.

We were to memorize the Gettysburg Address and excerpts of two works on a list he gave to us. As I recall, they were from The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, Thanatopsis, The Preamble to the Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, and several other which I have forgotten in the 50 years which have passed. We were then to recite our selections before the class.

Much to our amazement, we all completed our memorization and recitals. Little did the rest of the kids know that my assignment at home was to memorize and recite to my parents ALL of the selections.

We all grew in that class – and much to Dad’s delight most of us went out in to this new world and did well. We became doctors, nurses truck drivers, lawyers, professional musicians, teachers, dentists, police officers, business owners, engineers, mothers and fathers, and many other life paths, but underlying whatever we did was the one piece of advice Dad gave to all of his kids, “In life do what your passion leads you to do – but strive to be the best at it. If you become a ditch digger, be the best ditch digger there ever was.”

Next February, 2010, Dad would have been 100 years old. His legacy continues and his ‘kids’ have dug some very awesome ditches in this world and we can thank a very big teacher from a very small school who encouraged each of us to make our own Midnight Ride.

To me he was just my Dad….to the kids at the three schools where he taught; he was Fred B Ambler, Teacher, Principal and Football Coach.

And their greatest supporter.