The Three Flies

Three flies were sunning themselves on the handle of a pitchfork stuck in a large pile of fresh manure. One said to the others,

“Man that smells yummy, it’s making me so hungry I can’t think.”

The other two concur and they decide to fly down and partake of the succulent banquet.

After eating their fill, they fly back up to the handle and are once again basking in the warm glow of the sun. One of the flies says,

“That was so good, I just have to go down and have some more of that delicious shit.”

The other two say in unison,

“Not me, I’m stuffed. I’m not sure I could fly back up here if I did.”

They high five each other at their cleverness. The hungry one leaps off the handle. Down he goes in an uncontrolled spiraling crash into the pile of fresh manure and is buried in it on impact. “Zooot, gurgle, gurgle!”

The moral of this story boys and girls is, “Never fly off the handle when you are full of shit.”

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I Wanted To Go To Sea

As a youngster, those many years ago I had occasion to think being a Merchant Seaman was something I wanted to explore. To literally get my feet wet so to speak, I joined a Seaman’s Union, and finally went to sea on a tanker.

We first went to Long Beach, California and took on a shipload of refined oil which we delivered to Japan. Once we offloaded the oil, we went back out to sea. We spent three days scooping out bucketsful of the dregs from the ship bilges, dumped it into the blue Pacific waters before heading back to Portland, Oregon again to take on a load of grain. When the grain was loaded onboard, we were off again heading for India.

Both coming and going into the entrance to the harborage of the Columbia River, we had to pass over the ‘Columbia River Bar.’ It’s a huge sandbar that juts off the West Coast and every ship or boat coming or going from Portland has to cross over it.

I was on a large ship. An oil tanker. From my sleeping compartment to the water line was about sixty feet. Going over that sandbar had water pouring into my cabin because I hadn’t secured the porthole in the bulkhead across from my bunk. To say the ship was rolling back and forth radically is a mis-statement. I thought we were going to roll over and sink. That was the first time I questioned my choice of a lifestyle and occupation. Of course, the ship was empty going across the bar.

I was signed on as a Second Cook and Baker. My job was to bake all the bread and pastries for the crew and help the main cook in his preparations of the meals. A cooks job on a merchant ship is never ending. It is without a doubt the most labor-intensive job onboard. I had no idea how hard I was required to work on a daily basis. Getting up at three o’clock every morning was normal to get the dough and other preparations going. If you ever baked anything, you’ll understand the length of time involved in not only the preparations involved, but the cooking time. That was only a portion of it.

We cooked for fifteen of us, three meals a day, and there were always sandwiches for the crew if they got hungry during the night or early morning. Not to leave out mentioning the gallons of coffee that was a constant.  I had to bake the bread, slice it, slice the meat and vegetables such as tomatoes, and lettuce and have it all laid out for those who wanted it.

When we stocked the ship before any trip, I had to help load the stores and put them away. It was a tough job and I was beginning to feel sorry for myself once we left Portland and after getting the crap scared out of me as we crossed over that sandbar again heading for India.

The ocean crossing trip going to India was fairly boring. We didn’t have satellite TV back then or Walkman’s. You either worked, slept or read a book. Some played chess or checkers while other idled away the time with cards. I was studying for the Third Mate’s Coast Guard license, so I studied every chance I got. Part of the requirements was you had to have so many days at sea.  Of course, I did some of the card playing too, but I developed a dislike for a man from Haiti who was one of the crew.

It all started one day when he didn’t like a peach cobbler I prepared. It escapes me now after all these years what it was, he didn’t like about my cobbler, but he came down on me if front of the whole crew during dinner one evening. I was tired, I’d been at it all day and into the evening hours. The seas were a bit rough and all I wanted to do was to take a shower and get rested up for the next day.

This Haitian was a great big man. As I recall, about six three and probably weighed in at about two fifty. He had great big hands, his breath smelled terrible as he yelled at me and his nose was only two or three inches from my own. While he was screaming, he was spraying me with saliva. I decided right then and there I didn’t like him very much. When he was done berating me, he turned to the crew and began laughing at the rest of the crew. He said something along the lines of,

“I sure told that cook, didn’t I?’

Being at sea, you had to be careful you didn’t get anyone too angry at you because who knew, someone might disappear in the night while they were leaning on the lifelines having a smoke?  It was easy enough to do. Especially in a storm or in rough seas. If you went overboard, you were gone. He was a great big guy, and nobody messed with him. He was also the First Mate. The Second in Command of the ship. He was the man who usually handled things while we were in port taking on a cargo or stores.

During one conversation with one of the crew a small tidbit was dropped about Henry, the First Mate. He was a Haitian as I’ve said, but Henry was very superstitious. My little wheels inside my head were turning since the altercations, and I was trying to figure out how I was going to get him. The light bulb suddenly went from dim to full bright on hearing this news. Superstitious? Now, there’s a way.

Henry had his own cabin forward in the pilot house structure. Three people lived up there. The Captain, the Radioman and of course the First Mate. In between his cabin and the galley, was the next deck up from where the rest of us had our sleeping accommodations. From the galley, you had to go up a set of steps. Remember the light bulb and the little wheels going around in my head? Superstitious was the key to getting that Haitian. I decided to put my plan into working order.

I waited each night until everyone was sleeping except the man in the wheelhouse steering the ship. It wasn’t unusual for me to be up because I always had to get the bread started and prepare the dough for the pastries. I went about gathering firehose from here and there. They’re all over the ship in case of fire. All coiled up and connected to a large valve that someone could crank open once the rest of the men had a good grip on that nozzle and the rest of the hose. I ran this section of hose from a place alongside the deck and the lifelines on my deck just below Henry’s deck above me. One end went to the porthole to Henry’s cabin. When I was ready, I was giddy. I damned near peed my pants in anticipation of the show I was hoping would ensue. Of course, I could get caught too. I was careful.

I spoke into the end of the hose on my end,

“Henry…..I’m coming for you…. You know what you did man…. Back on the island man, …..I’m coming for you…. It is time….. You will pay!”

Then I laughed the scariest hideous laugh I could come up with.

“You can’t get away…. You know what you did man…. It is time…. You cannot escape.” 

Then I laughed again.  

Nothing happened. So, I went about taking the firehose down and coiling it back up where it was stored.

The next day the Captain couldn’t get Henry to come out of his cabin.

That night I strung the hose again.

“Henry,….. your time is up man…… You have to pay for what you did….. We are waiting for you on the other side man.”

Then, the laugh started again. I made it as insane sounding as I could, and it was prolonged this time.

I went up the ladder to the next deck and there was a light on in Henry’s cabin, and the door stayed locked. I turned the handle on the door, real slow back and forth. It made a rasping noise when I turned it. The door was locked. I rattled the door a bit and then ran back down to my hose end.

“You can’t hide Henry.”

I said his name slow and I drew it out a bit kinda like, “H….e….n.…r….y!” Then I began to laugh my insane laugh again.

I ran back up the ladder and unfastened the hose and put it away and turned in for the night.

The next day the Captain had a meeting with the whole crew. This is what he said,

“Henry won’t come out of his cabin. He’s in there mumbling something about an island and how he’s sorry. I can’t get him to come out or to talk to me so I’m having the Boatswain throw all the fire axes over the side. If anyone has any ideas, I’m wide open for any suggestions.”

That night the hose came out again.

When we got to India, the Captain had several members of the crew cut the door off the hinges and they dragged Henry out of his compartment. It wasn’t easy, he’s a great big man but they did it and sent him to a hospital in Bombay.

Sometime, when you contemplate battle with a superior force, you have to fight smart, you use your mind not your brawn.

I don’t know what happened to Henry after that, and frankly, I don’t care. People cannot belittle another person in front of a lot of people just for the hell of it. I decided after that trip sailing Merchant Seaman wasn’t in the cards for me so I quit sailing until years later I bought my own sailboat, stocked it with my woman, a cat, some books and lots of food and water, I went out the Straights of Juan de Fuca and turned left, but that’s another story.

L Michael Rusin

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The First North Slope Airlift

Back in the early days of the first North Slope airlift, there were airplanes in the sky from Fairbanks to Point Barrow separated by approximately 30 minutes between airplanes, in both directions. When a pilot landed his airplane on the icy airstrip, he had 30 minutes to unload and then load whatever he was taking out and be back up in the air for the return trip to Fairbanks.

Back in those days, there weren’t many VOR 0MNI directional guidance systems in place for a pilot in the North, and most of us traveled to and from using an ADF principle. The OMNI was a course guidance system that had the pilot flying with a needle pointing in the direction the pilot was traveling on an instrument gauge in the airplane. Either coming or going from the OMNI Station which was on the ground. It transmitted a constant radio signal. The ADF system was similar to the OMNI but it had an arch to it so it would have you following a course that swerved to one side or the other of a radio transmission station the closer you got to it. The needle always pointed to the location of the radio station and it would cause a pilot (if they weren’t paying attention) to fly a course that arched toward the station.

One late afternoon I had already delivered my cargo and picked up the mail and some other requests for requisitioned parts for a later trip back up to the rig. I had a young fellow with me in the back. Many times I was asked to take passengers to Fairbanks where they would catch a jet to other locals before returning later to go back to work. Another man in the front seat was being ferried out to a hospital in Fairbanks who had a large ball peen hammer sticking out of his skull.

Apparently, he was involved in a fight with another man on the rig and the other guy used a hammer on him. The guy with the hammer stuck in his head was a big man. About six-six and close to 300 pounds. He wasn’t fat just big.

About 75 miles from Fairbanks we hit an icing condition and ice was beginning to build up on the leading edge of the wing. That usually isn’t a problem because I had “Boots” on the leading edge that inflated when the ice was sufficiently thick enough to break it off. You had to be careful not to do it too quick because then you caused another problem of too much ice building back up behind where the boots were installed and the boots wouldn’t break it off sufficiently.

The reason for the boots is the leading edge of the wing causes oncoming wind force hitting the leading edge of the wing to develop “lift.” That is what makes the aircraft fly. Without the lift, you come down. Ice forming on the leading edge of the wing distorts the lift and causes the airplane to lose effective lift or the ability to stay in the air and the aircraft cannot continue to fly. I had boots on the propellers as well in case ice began to accumulate on them. It’s a good system when it works properly.

As I was watching for the ice to get thick enough before activating the ice boots I could see I was already beginning to lose altitude, slowly, I couldn’t maintain the altitude I wanted and we were beginning to lose lift. I was steadily adding more power to stay in the air. I couldn’t see much of anything because it was snowing pretty hard and we were in a condition called a “White Out.” That didn’t matter because I am an Instrument rated pilot and I always fly by the instruments anyway even in VFR conditions, (Visual Flight Rules). There are a lot of mountains and other hard things on the ground and hitting anything was usually fatal, so it was not a good thing to be losing altitude.

I decided it was time to inflate the leading edge boots. Nothing happened. I was stunned. I tried again and the ice kept building up. I came to the grim realization we were going down and there was nothing I could do about it. The boots weren’t working. I sent several “May Days” over the radio and yelled to the guy in the back seat, “Brace yourself, we’re going down.”

I watched the altimeter showing my altitude was getting lower. There are two hands on an Altimeter one registers thousands of feet and the other, hundreds of feet. The hundreds of feet hand was steadily going in reverse. Not fast but it was showing I was losing altitude. It began to spin faster.

The last thing a pilot wants to do is to pull back on the yoke which ordinarily will direct the position of the aircraft up. If you keep pulling back on the yoke when you cannot maintain lift, you stall out totally and then go into a spin which will ensure you will hit the ground probably nose first and at a speed of well over a hundred miles an hour. Needless to say, nobody would walk away from that.

I was straining to look out of the windshield for a clearing that hopefully we could put down in. I was also saying a prayer, because in the back of my mind I was getting this message, “You’re about to die.” being only 28 at the time I didn’t want to die, but of course we don’t always have a choice in the matter. One consolation if you do die in a crash, it is usually quick, no suffering in pain. Sort of like a bug hitting the windshield. Boom and you’re dead.

Then I saw it, we broke out of the snow storm and there was a clearing dead ahead. There were trees, but they were the long tall skinny ones, not the great big solid ones. In the Alaskan Tundra, there is a condition called “Perma Frost.” There is a layer of ice below the surface of the ground and the trees cannot grow roots that are sufficient enough to support a large solid tree so they grew tall but skinny. The altimeter was reading about a thousand feet above the ground by then and I knew this was it.

I yelled to the guy in the back, “This is it, brace yourself the best you can.” By this time I had to be careful not stall out completely and I was fighting the almost overpowering urge to yank back on the controls. The loud noise of the trees hitting the airplane sounded like a machine gun firing as I hit the tree tops. The stall warning horn was going off warning me I was about to stall, “No shit”!

That’s when I pulled back with all my might and the airplane hit the snow covered ground with a whooshing sound followed by a whirring noise. Tree branches were hitting the windshield and then they were gone in an instant. It seemed to go on for a long time and then we stopped with a lurch. I heard someone talking on the radio but I don’t remember what they were saying. I reached down and felt my legs and they were okay. Usually when a pilot crashes his plane his feet go through his shoes. There was no pain but a ringing in my ears. The guy in the backseat asked, “Are we dead”? It made me laugh.

I asked him if he was okay and he said he was. I couldn’t see anything out of the windows, just white and it was strangely dark in the airplane. The instrument panel was still lighted up and it was somehow warming in the look it gave off. I busied myself shutting everything off, Mags, Master Switches and remembered the radio so I turned the Masters back on to make a call. I waited and nothing happened so I turned the Master back off. I didn’t want to risk a chance of a fire.

I tried opening the door and it wouldn’t budge. The guy in the back turned himself around in the seat and began kicking at the window. It cracked finally and snow began to fall through the hole. The snow was packed pretty tight. When we had two of the cabin windows broken through to the outside we began digging with our bare hands. The problem was we didn’t have any place to put the snow we were digging through. I didn’t like the idea of suffocating so I continued to dig and pushing the snow aside. It took about an hour and my fingers were screaming at me from the cold I was feeling. We dug a tunnel through the large pile the airplane had made as it plowed through the snow on impact. Finally, we were out of the buried alive situation.

We only had one choice, walk back toward Fairbanks or freeze to death. I had a small compass in my jacket pocket and got it out. I saw the direction toward Fairbanks and remembered the guy with the hammer and my firearms down in the cockpit. I always carried a sawed off 12 gauge shotgun and a Smith and Wesson .44 magnum. You never knew when they would come in handy and today was that time. Reluctantly I crawled back through my snow tunnel to retrieve the firearms and tried to make the guy with the hammer as comfortable as I could but I realized we weren’t going to be able to drag him all the way to Fairbanks. I yelled through the snow tunnel to the passenger and he agreed so I crawled back out.

It took us seven days to get to Fairbanks. We tried to pinpoint where we went down but the rescue crew could not find the airplane. We didn’t have GPS back then. It snowed and it was buried. They did find it the following Spring and the wolves had eaten the guy with the hammer. There wasn’t much left of him. A belt and buckle, his shoes, some pieces of clothing shards and some buttons and of course the hammer. My passenger in the back seat never returned as I recall and when the airlift shut down later, I went to Africa and never returned to Alaska again

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A Visitor from the Past

 I had a dream the other night, I didn’t understand.

I saw a figure walking through the mist, with a flintlock in his hand.

His clothes were torn and dirty, as he stood there by my bed.

He took off his three cornered hat, and speaking low he said:

“We fought a revolution to secure your liberty.

We wrote the Constitution, as a shield from tyranny.

For future generations, this legacy we gave.

In this the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

“The freedom we secured for you, we hoped you’d always kept,

But tyrants labored endlessly while your parents slept.

Your freedom gone, your courage lost, you’re no more than a slave.

In this the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

“You buy permits to travel, and permits to own a gun.

Permits to start a business, or build a place for one.

On land you believe you own, you pay a yearly rent,

Although you have no voice in how the money’s spent.”

“Your children must attend a school that doesn’t educate.

Your Christian values cannot be taught, according to the state.

You read about the current news, in a regulated press.

You pay a tax you do not owe, to please the I.R.S.”

“Your money is no longer made of silver or gold.

You trade your wealth for paper, so your life can be controlled.

You pay for crimes that makes our nation, turn from God in shame.

You’ve taken Satan’s number, as you traded in your name.”

“You’ve given government control to those who do you harm,

So they can padlock churches and steal the family farm.

And keep our country deep in debt, put men of God in jail,

Harass your fellow countrymen, while corrupt courts prevail.”

“Your public servants don’t uphold the solemn oath they’ve sworn,

Your daughters visit doctors, so their children won’t be born.

Your leaders ship artillery, and guns to foreign shores,

And send your sons to slaughter, fighting other people’s wars.”

“Can you regain the freedom for which we fought and died?

Or don’t you have the courage, or the faith to stand with pride?

Are there no more values for which you will fight to save?

Or do you wish your children to live in fear and be a slave?”

“People of the Republic, arise and take a stand!

Defend the Constitution, the supreme law of the land.

Preserve our Great Republic, and God-Given Right!

And pray to God to keep the torch of Freedom burning bright!”

As I awoke he vanished, in the mist from whence he came.

His words were true, we are not free, we have ourselves to blame.

For even now as tyrants trample each God-Given Right,

We only watch and tremble, too afraid to stand and fight.

If he stood by your bedside in a dream, while you slept,

And wondered what remains of our Rights he fought to keep,

What would be your answer if he called out from the grave?

“Is this still the land of the free and the home of the Brave?”

Author Unknown

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My new Rewritten Book is Available

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California’s Child New Trailer


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Avalon: Beyond The Retreat Book Two

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Avalon The Retreat Book One Rewritten

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Avalon The Retreat Book OneTrailer

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California’s Child, New and Revised

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