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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Three More Great Gambling Stories

 In October I published my first installment of great gambling stories. Today I am going to tell you about three more. 

I have gambled for over 40 years, from Foxwoods near Mystic, Ct. to the Bicycle in Los Angeles. I have seen a lot of crazy things in my time. I am going to start with a bizarre story that didn't net us any money. I am including it here because it was so strange. It happened at the Desert Diamond in Tucson, Az.

Virtual Roulette

My wife and I had been playing blackjack and we were waiting for seats in the poker room. We stumbled on to one of those video roulette wheels. You insert your money, the machine credits it, and about every 15 seconds some cartoonish, virtual dealer with big boobs spins the wheel. Just before she spins the roulette wheel, she says "No more bets." Then she puts the pea in the roulette rail and spins the wheel. The key to this story is that as the pea is spinning in the rail before it drops, it makes a noise. The wheel also makes a clackety noise as it spins. These simultaneous sounds last about 15 seconds.

I think we may have each put a twenty in this thing and we are just killing time. No sooner had we made a couple bets than this kid at the end of the game, calls the number out and then the pea lands in that number. He does this a couple times before I start paying attention. Spin after spin, this kid calls out what number the pea is going to land in before it leaves the rail and drops onto the wheel. So now I am more interested in how the hell he is able to do this, spin after spin. He is never wrong.

I cannot tell you how many hours and days this kid must have sat there- listening to the sounds of the wheel, memorizing them, and calling out the correct number every time. Somehow, he had memorized the sounds of all 36 numbers and also the 0 and 00. Unfortunately, because the game shut all bets off just before the spin- there was no way to capitalize on this. That made it even more weird. I simply could not imagine how anyone could memorize the slight auditory distinctions each spin of the wheel made and how long this kid had been obsessed with that. I also did not understand why. Autistic I suppose.

The College Football Bet

For many years, I played poker every weekend. Maybe 15 years. In the fall, on Saturdays, I never missed a weekend. I loved to bet college and pro football. I would bet the games, tune to the proper channels, and watch the game while we played poker in the poker room. Very often, a crew from Montana would show up on higher limit weekends when we would play 10-20 limit.

So there was this guy, Jim, from Deer Lodge, Mt.  He and his friends from Deer Lodge and Anaconda would show up and play 10-20 limit Hold 'em. On this particular day, Jim decided to bet a college football game for 1500 bucks. The spread was -1.5 which meant Jim had to win by two points. (I made decent money back then and I always wondered where these guys found 1500 to piss off on a football game, my biggest bet is usually 500)

I wished I remembered who the two teams were who played that day but I don't. I do remember the score was 29-3 at the half. Jim's team was getting it's ass kicked so he quit watching the game and since 1500 is a lot of money, nobody teased him about it. One of the crazy aspects of this game is that the opposing team blocked a chip shot field goal and ran it back for a touchdown. They had missed two other extra points.

So when the game started after the half, I kept watching. Jim's team rallied. About the time they made 3 second half touchdowns, the score was 29-24. Everyone at the table was excited. Jim, who had written off the bet earlier, was glued to the television. Just as time expired, Jim's team scored a touchdown. The score was 30-29. We were all excited, slapping Jim on the back- whooping it up and hollering. All they had to do was kick the extra point and Jim would cash his ticket. Except that didn't happen. The coach decided to kneel the ball down instead rather than risk another blocked kick. We were all incredulous. That was the worst beat I ever saw- down for most of the game, came roaring back and gave Jim hope, and then crushed him with that kneel down. I can remember how sick I felt for Jim. I kind of get sick just re-telling this story.

The Good Karma, Bad Beat Jackpot

In 2016 I had bought a new house in Twin Falls and sold my house in Boise. I was homeless as I waited for the family to move out of the house in Twin Falls. I had a week to kill. I decided to go to Tucson. Tucson is one of my favorite places.

I had a crazy thing happen to me a few months before selling my house in Boise. I was in the alley pulling weeds. When the sun went down, I took my sunglasses off. Right after I did that, I pulled a weed out of the ground and one of the stalks in this weed stuck me right in the eye. I tore the macula in the right eye, it went dark, and eventually I had surgery. So, I was blind in that eye for about 6 weeks. During that time, I had a serious problem with depth perception and driving. I backed into my truck, I backed into the trash cans, I even ripped the passenger mirror off the car backing it out of the garage.

The rear bumper of my Elantra was pretty scuffed up and scarred. A new bumper cover was only a couple hundred bucks on E Bay.

So off to Tucson I went.

The second day I was there I decided to go play poker at Casino Del Sol. On the way there, I get struck from behind. Not too hard, maybe 5 MPH or so. Mexican gal, 50s, gets out of her car. She looks at my beat-up bumper and starts crying. I looked at her and said, "no damage." It is fine. She is very apologetic and nice. She says thank you. We go about our separate ways.

At the casino, I landed a seat in a 4-8 game. They have a bad beat jackpot which is maxxed out at 50k. To win the bad beat jackpot, 20 dollars must be in the pot. Four of a kind must get beaten by four of a kind or better.

The game is full of solid players. There is a little old lady sitting two seats to my right. There is an old, grizzled player in the number one seat, on the left of the dealer. I am on the dealer's right, bullshitting with a guy next to me. After about 2 hours or so, the old, grizzled guy and grandma get in a raising war. I hadn't been paying attention and I look out at the board. There are two kings and two nines on the board. And neither one of these two will stop raising. I thought initially that each had a king full house but ol' grizzly won't stop raising. Grandma keeps raising back despite the fact she can see the two nines on board. They probably each put in 10 raises. I asked the guy next to me if he thought they had hit the jackpot. The guy "shushes" me. Grandma finally quits raising. She rolls over 4 kings. Ol grizzly rolls over 4 nines.

Ol grizzly wins 25,000. Grandma wins 12,500. The rest of us win about 1600 apiece. It takes the casino nearly 3 hours to pay us. We can't play while we wait, so everyone is bullshitting and grandma, hitting the white zin, is pretty much wasted and happy. She keeps drinking wine and kissing on me. It was kind of strange, but everybody was happy. I don't think her hubby cared too much for her kissing other players.

While we were waiting to be paid, I won another 200 when the poker room calls my seat number in a random lottery.

It was a good karma day. I love Bob Seger and the casino had a band that played nothing but Bob Seger. I wish all days were like that but then I guess they wouldn't be so special.


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Money, Money, Money

I'm so fucking sick of advertising. It's an absolute bombardment. An intrusion into every conceivable space. I think of advertisers much like I think of cockroaches. Infiltrating my life through every conceivable crack. 

Monetize this, monetize that. Subscribe to this channel. We've detected you are using an adblocker, please disable your adblocker to continue. Spam blockers. Spam filters. The pricks even have my cellphone number and call that two or three times a day.

Tip jars, GoFundMe, GiveSendGo, Patreon, Google Adsense. Ads on my homepage, ads following my queries. Even ZeroHedge got into the act.

Pleas from blog producers. Please support this blog. Ads on social media.  

Some places make you subscribe to comment. Marketwatch does that. Naked capitalism. Like I can't live without their proprietary genius, therefore I must pay them to comment. 

Even the casino kiosk asks me to donate my change to charity. 

Television advertising. I pay 70 bucks a month to watch YouTube TV. You'd think my 70 bucks would entitle me to watch something ad free. Oh no. They take your 70 bucks and then force feed you ad after ad after ad. I swear to gawd they must invent diseases to give us the cure. Never ending ads about medications that you should tell your doctor about. In fact, I've often thought covid 19 might be a marketing tool. A disease that was invented and leaked to scare people into taking some over priced, untested, and experimental drug that doesn't work. 

Does Pfizer issue refunds?

Last week, I was binge watching "Murder in the Heartland." They embed advertising. You can't fast forward through. Instead, you are forced to watch the same 8 ads, over and over and over. All you can do is hit the mute button. 

Soon, I will see this on my TV. We have sensed that you have deployed your mute button, please unmute your TV to continue watching.

Ads on benches, ads on shuttles, ads on hockey team uniforms, ads on billboards, ads on stadiums. Ads on soccer players. Bicycle racers and auto racers. Stadiums named after corporations.

Next month, I'm gonna say fuck it. I am going to kill my TV. I am going to cancel YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Not only am I going to save 100 bucks a month, but I am going to exterminate these TV cockroaches.

Many years ago when I started this blog, I decided that under no uncertain terms would I ever allow an ad on here. It's all about scale anyway. You don't make shit unless you become some highly relevant piece of writing that people can't live without. Then you have pricing power.

Well, the good news is, I ain't that good. 

Frankenstein Government. Still lousy, still free, and worth every penny.

Banksy, the original advertising hater. I loved him right from the beginning.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Monday, January 23, 2023

Please Carry Your Guns With You

 Many years ago, in a restaurant called Black Bear Diner, there was a group of older gentlemen that would come in each day and drink coffee. Each of them was carrying a firearm in full view or what we call, open carry.

In those days, Idaho still required concealed carry permits issued by the local Sheriff.

Most of the men in Idaho, native born that is, know a lot about firearms. So, what the concealed weapon permit law actually accomplished was that law abiding and knowledgeable citizens were deterred from carrying guns. This left Idahoans at a severe disadvantage because criminals don't care about concealed carry permits. The law actually kept criminals armed while disarming good citizens. 

So one day while having breakfast with a liberal gal at that particular restaurant, a bunch of those gun toting guys came in. My liberal friend asked me, "doesn't that bother you?"

I looked at her and said, "absolutely not. You are sitting in the safest restaurant in all of Boise." 

As an epilogue to that story, Idaho finally got rid of the concealed carry weapon permit a few years later. No longer were citizens required to get a note from their government mommy to protect themselves. Before we continue, can we agree on two things?

1. Beyond the armed services and law enforcement, only mentally ill people intentionally kill other people. 2. You should know how to properly handle a gun safely, how to clear jams, and shoot straight. Practice and learn tactical advantages.

We Have a Mental Health Problem in America, Recognizing That Will Save Lives

I don't ever want to shoot or kill anyone. But right now we have two enemies. We have a serious mental health crisis wherein depressed and mentally ill people fantasize about killing others. That's not to say, I am not sympathetic to mental illness. I am a former N.A.M.I. board member. 

So that is our first potential enemy. Our second enemy is a government that ignores the actual illness and attempts to treat the symptoms. This is what some bad physicians do. They don't take the time to actually diagnose what is wrong with a patient, they just write a prescription for some drug and give it to us.

We all know the difference between a good physician and a bad one. We get that. Why then is the public distracted from the real issue, mental illness, and focused on the idea that guns are bad? Because vilifying guns is easy and it gets podium pounding votes. Let's face it. Many people are stupid and buy into that rhetoric. Fixing mental illness is hard. Passing worthless gun legislation is always easy.

One last item that is not insignificant. Those same governments, state and federal, are the same governments who let these mentally ill assassins fall through the cracks. Give them early releases. Fail to provide mental health support and monthly checkups. 

Poorly run government and the often untreated, mentally ill are the issue. But I can't solve that. Those are external issues, long ignored. But I do have dominion over my own life and the lives close to me. Unfortunately, I must practice civil disobedience to be a good citizen.

Guns Are Simply Tools, Like Tow Chains and Jumper Cables

In my car and truck, I carry all three items. The truth is, I don't want to have to use any of them. I have crawled under two vehicles and pulled them out of a snowbank and a muddy ditch. I have jump started a few cars with jumper cables. 

Nobody calls me a tow chain nut. Or a jumper cable fanatic. But they do say, thank you, after I provide the tools to help them. I have never shot a human being in my life. I hope I never do. But if I have to, I can and I will. That's the promise I make to myself, my family, and anyone nearby. That is part of the cost of being a good citizen.

A Few Examples of Items That Changed My Mind About Carrying Guns

In the small town I used to police in, we had a very angry and large human being named Howard. Howard was plagued with mental illness. Howard always carried a giant ax which he would sling over his shoulder. He carried that thing everywhere. Into banks, stores, and as walked down the street. He scared the hell out of people. But carrying a giant ax is not illegal. Nor could I take it from him. All I could do was be nice to Howard and hope he did not cleave someone's head with that thing. I invited Howard into my office every week. Howard and I became good friends. He was funny as all hell. But I didn't let my guard down. Emotions can turn on a dime and I knew that.

Originally, I never made a big point of carrying a gun off-duty. I can think of one time that a .223 ranch rifle on my front seat stopped an entire car full of drunken idiots from beating me with a tire iron...but beyond that...all I had ever used a gun for was the killing of deer and elk struck by cars.

In 2007, after I retired, I was in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana had released a man who had killed two people. Once as a juvenile, the second as a young adult in what he described as a drug deal gone bad which was probably nothing more than a drug rip off. He had done 10 years for that manslaughter. At any rate, I was forced to co-exist in a situation with this man for a while and during that time- I would catch him staring at me. He knew I was retired police. The guy gave me the creeps. I began to start carrying guns with me, concealed and in my car. I didn't even bother to check what the law was- it didn't matter to me. I was going to protect myself and quite honestly, I could care less about the law beyond 2A. 

From that point on, I began to carry guns. Usually concealed. I didn't want to attract attention.

By the way, New Orleans is a shooting gallery. I have never been to a scarier place.

I also carry guns in businesses that prohibit concealed carry. When I see a sign with a handgun and a slash through it- what the translation means to me is- "Hey if you want to come in here and kill a bunch of people, please go ahead. We have disarmed our customers."

The Hits Just Keep Coming 

Over the weekend, a deranged man killed 10 people and wounded many more in California. When caught, this 72 year old shot himself. A few months ago, a guy in Las Vegas stabbed 8 women, killing 2 on the strip. 

Could an armed bystander have intervened and stopped either of these two events? Yes. 

Have armed individuals stopped attacks? Yes. There are many instances of this. One of them occurred just north of me in the Salt Lake area when an armed gunman was shot and killed in a mall.

There are exceptions. The barricaded sniper in Las Vegas who shot concert goers was a horrible, savage, well planned attack. Pure evil. I doubt any intervention, save a few potshots from the ground, would have accomplished anything except given away your position with muzzle flash. No SWAT team could have been assembled in time. I doubt anyone in the initial attack had any idea where the shots were coming from. That shooter lived 60 miles from me. I undoubtedly crossed paths with him in a casino which has a handgun sign with a slash through it which reads, "No Firearms."

I could go on and on. But I want to leave you with this. The Luby's shooting in Killeen, Texas. Oct. of 1991. There was a woman who testified in front of Congress that she had left her gun in her pickup truck that day because she did not have a permit to carry it. Subsequent to that, she watched the suspect kill both of her parents. This first link recaps that day. The second vid is her testimony. Schumer has hair- that's how old this is.

 25 Years Later: Memories of Luby's shooting fade but don't die | Local News |

Perhaps the most powerful, compelling, 5 minutes of video that I have ever seen. I watched today via You Tube- I had not seen it back in the 90's. It sent chills up my spine just watching it.

Please Carry Your Guns With You

It's been 31 years since the Luby's murders in Killeen, Texas. That should be enough time for anyone to realize this is not getting better and it's not going away.

In a place not too far away, I carry my gun into one of those places that says no firearms. The employees know that I carry guns. They do not tell anyone. They are glad that I do.

I want responsible, trained, people to carry guns. I want caring people to remain in our society and culture. I want law abiding citizens to obey local laws if you can. Being well trained and responsible helps send the message that we aren't going to stand idly by and watch people get killed or be killed- begging for mercy that will not come. When bad guys start to worry about whether they will get killed, we have a chance of slowing this down. A deterrent effect. 

I have to accept the reality. The mentally ill are growing in number. Bad laws, designed to disarm law abiding people are growing in number. We cannot rid ourselves of the mentally ill or the misguided politicians that abuse our emotions and intelligence while banging the anti-gun drum looking for campaign or party donations.

We have to rely on something that has always worked. A decent, well informed, and polite society. 

Please carry your guns. 

Friday, January 20, 2023

An Idaho PERSI Discussion for Invited Friends


I started this blog 15 years ago. My initial thinking was that I wanted a forum to discuss all the crazy things our government was doing. The start up year had the government stealing 1 trillion from taxpayers to bail out the banking community. I wish I could say things got better. They did not.

Today, we are a bankrupt nation. As we speak, the federal government is discussing the 79th raising of the debt ceiling since 1960. It is a bizarre dog and pony show that inevitably- 78 out of 78 times- will raise the debt ceiling again so that the government can continue spending ad infinitum.

So the net of all that- is that I quit writing about it. Our leadership has financially destroyed our country. Any discussion becomes a regurgitation of the same old set of numbers. We are never paying back the 31.4 trillion we owe. There is no trillion-dollar coin or monetary money theory mechanism to repay that debt beyond hyperinflation or default. 

So now, I use the blog to write about things that matter to me. The federal government? Not so much.

Idaho's Public Retirement System or PERSI

Back in the late 90's, I studied PERSI returns based on the greatest investment period of all time. Coincidentally, that time frame (1982 to 2007) were the years I was a public employee working within the state of Idaho.

While the PERSI fund was enjoying extraordinary returns- the members were receiving bupkis. Eventually, the fund had made so much money- that even they could not justify the over with holding and they finally issued a 13th check. 

In the late 90's, after an exhaustive look at every public retirement system in the United States, I submitted a report/summary of Idaho PERSI to the Idaho Peace Officer magazine. I was critical of PERSI. While they were getting fantastic returns for the fund, the membership was receiving nothing.

That has always been the problem. Forced in no less. It's not like you have a choice and can opt out.

PERSI published a rebuttal of my piece. It was nasty. They attacked me personally. 

I knew then that I was right. I had struck a nerve.


Idaho's PERSI has been very effective at investing. The problem with that is simple. No matter how well they accumulate money- you as a retiree/member will never see a benefit.

Nothing showcases that more than the fund's returns over the last 12 years and the horrible cost of living adjustments for retirees. While PERSI has been doing quite well- the retired members have not been doing so well.

I talked about that very thing in the late 90's. 

Each and every year, the Bureau of Labor statistics issues their annual inflation report. (CPI) The CPI report is a highly massaged number that always tends to understate actual inflation. Unfortunately, this is what most retirement funds use. Real inflation, the kind the Chapwood Index identifies, is far higher and is not massaged. 

So what I am going to show here is simple. I am going to show the annual inflation figure from the BLS in column one. In column two, I am going to show what Idaho PERSI gave retirees in cost-of-living adjustments. In column three, I will show what PERSI made in terms of investment income for the year. Oddly, there used to be a simple bar chart on the PERSI website that showed annual returns. It has gone missing. These numbers are from PERSI annual reports and a COLA chart they provide.

Inflation Rate (CPI)                              PERSI COLA%                       FY Annual Return PERSI

2011- 3.2                                               1.0                                             20.7

2012- 2.1                                               1.0                                             1.62

2013- 1.5                                               1.0                                             9.1

2014- 1.6                                               1.0                                             17.2

2015- 0.1                                               1.7                                             3.0

2016- 2.1                                               0.2                                             1.8

2017- 2.1                                               1.1                                             12.7

2018- 1.9                                               1.9                                             8.5

2019- 2.3                                               1.0                                             8.4

2020- 1.4                                               1.7                                             3.1

2021- 7.1                                               1.0                                             27.9

2022- 6.5                                               3.5                                             -9.5

Discussion and Analysis

So the accumulated inflation rate for 12 years was 31.8 divided by 12 = 2.65% per year.

The annual cost of living adjustment from PERSI was 16.1 divided by 12= 1.34% per year

The annual return of the PERSI fund was 104.52 divided by 12= 8.71% per year

So, each year that I've been actively retired, I've lost 1.31% buying power or a cumulative 15.7%.

PERSI has made 8.71% per year and could easily fund a cola that matches the annual inflation rate. However, they continually stiff retirees while touting how well the fund is doing. What's more- is that we actually have a law that governs this.

The eye-popping return of 27.9 in 2021 was soon forgotten. The -9.5 loss for one year, which is expected and hardly uncommon, had PERSI whining about preserving the fund. Not only did they whine about preserving the fund, there never seems to be a shortage of people who believe that nonsense.

Other States and the Law

Persi could easily match the BLS CPI figures each year. In fact, the actuaries always imply a 3.5% inflation rate every year even though PERSI never delivers that. 

Then there is the law. 59-1355

Idaho Code 59-1355 provides for an annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to be applied to the March retirement benefit. The COLA is tied to the change to the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for the twelve months ending the previous August. A COLA of greater than one percent is subject to legislative approval. Below is a history of previous COLAs:

So the problem we have is apathy. The membership of PERSI doesn't understand numbers and somehow the law that governs cost of living adjustments- has been ignored. 

In the western US to include Wisconsin and South Dakota, every state was issuing a larger COLA than Idaho. Even Colorado's PERA was issuing a 1.7%. PERA gives health and dental benefits to retirees as well- but to be fair they rank around 40th in terms of funding. Most states were issuing 3% colas.

We have a director making 195,000 per year. Bob Maynard makes nearly double that. 

I had seen in meeting minutes where the Board was giving Mr Drum and Mr Maynard raises. Once I saw a raise for Mr Drum of 10% which he declined. It was reduced to 5%. I began thinking about how much Drum, Maynard, and a few of the employees were getting. I'll bet it's more than 1 percent. 

I made this very argument many years ago. Yet here we are, some 25 years later, watching the fund make 18% during the last two years, offering retirees a few crumbs while extolling the virtue of protecting the fund as though it is on the verge of extinction after having one bad year. We sure didn't hear that in 2021, did we?

Waiting For Godot (PERSI)

PERSI has had every opportunity to make this right for the last quarter century and it has not. Short of hiring your own attorney, you have little choice.

One last item. The meeting minutes for October through January. There was nothing in those minutes about a COLA. Nobody mentioned it. They didn't mention it because they weren't considering anything beyond the minimum 1%. Interesting that nobody brought it up. No discussion. It's like it had already been settled.

Does anyone advocate for retirees? NO. That's quite obvious while reading the meeting minutes.

Do I think PERSI will begin to deliver cost of living adjustments that match the CPI? Also no. If you are sitting around and waiting for that to happen you are exceedingly optimistic. The only way that is going to happen is when you hire a lawyer and show up for the December meeting and begin an actual discussion about the law. 

Waiting for Godot (/ˈɡɒd/ GOD-oh)[1] is a play by Samuel Beckett in which two characters, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo), engage in a variety of discussions and encounters while awaiting the titular Godot, who never arrives

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Making the Universe Right

Thank God for you Jack.

I have reached that age where I cannot always tell the true from the false. I tend to think my younger years were kinder and gentler. But that is a lie. The world has always been a harsh place where one poor decision might spell disaster. Many of us escape a lot of bad decisions intact. We learn and we live. Mostly though, we remember what happened to us along the way. 

I had always been an explorer. Always going somewhere, always trying new things, some good and some bad. I think in the beginning, I wasn't fully aware of all of the judgement and evil in the world until I experienced it in those explorations. These are the things we don't talk about. The things that impact us and change us for the better and sometimes for the worse.

I felt the sting of many bad decisions, some my fault, some not. 

And during those explorations we call our lives, we have bastions or pillars of sanity we meet along the way. Guideposts. People who "get us" when most do not. Jack was one of the ones. One of the few.

Mrs. Webb in the 5th grade. Mr Winchell in the 11th. Doug D when I was 17. Jack S when I was 30. Jim A when I was 43. Des C when I was 47. My 2nd wife when I was 56. That's it.

The list of people who didn't "get me" is much longer. These are the people who judge us harshly. They can't believe we act the way we do. The proper way to act is a secret, discoverable only when you violate some script these judgers carry about in their heads. At their best, they keep their opinions to themselves. At their worst, they seek to actually damage us. The conflict is really about who they are- sometimes our mere presence is something they cannot tolerate.

I understood that at an early age. It took me a lot longer to accept it.

So when Jack S came to me by way of Mayoral edict, I was wary of him and he was wary of me. After a few months of long hours working together, I discovered that Jack was a tolerant, kind person with a large dose of patience. I think Jack discovered that I was a head strong but loyal person. I didn't quit until the job was over. I was always willing to fight for what I thought was right and it landed me in some trouble. Jack bailed me out a few times. I like to think I bailed him out a few times as well.

Many times in the eleven years we were together, I very often looked at Jack like he was a father of sorts. He was caring and tolerant. He was empathetic. He had all the skills he needed to deal with me. Skills my own father never had. Some call these people role models. I call them blessings, perhaps miracles.

For eleven years or so, Jack and I worked hard to make the universe right. We locked up murderers, pedophiles, thieves, and drunks. We suffered through refusals to prosecute, plea bargaining, chicken shit dismissals, and ridiculous sentences. We dodged a few scandals, attended meetings ad infinitum and then one day, Jack up and quit. He never really gave me the reason, but I suspected what it was. For me, the timing could not have been worse. 

So it was, I had another seven years left on my sentence. When you take hard stands or tell people truths they don't want to hear, you don't last very long in the upper echelons of small-town politics. The very best chiefs and city administrators master the art of ass kissing. They survive long stretches, through some combination of convincing folks they are irreplaceable coupled with a large dose of ass smoochery. I have a different script in my head that they don't get. That I made it seven years after Jack, was a miracle all by itself.   

I quit trying to make the universe right in 2007. By then Jack was out enjoying his life. I was certainly the better for having known him. 

So, when I heard Jack had cancer a while back, we talked on the phone after all those years. Same nice guy I had always known, offering hope and encouragement for his future and mine. Some thirty years had gone by, and I still remembered his phone number.

Jack fell ill and died January 5. The new Chief gave me the news. I felt sick to my stomach. The truth is, it has taken me nearly two weeks to come to terms with it. I tried to write a note on his chapel obituary but for some strange reason, it wouldn't publish. 

I loved Jack like a father. He was one of the good ones. I owe him a lot. Thank you for being such a decent, kind man. Jack Stoneback, 1941-2023.


Monday, January 2, 2023

You Can't Measure This Heart

Munith Fred Higbee. One of the very best. A cop story.

I met Fred in 1983. He was about 64 years old at the time. He was the process/civil order server for the Sheriff's Office in Blaine County Idaho. A uniformed position.  I was a newly hired jailer.

Fred had been a cook in the Navy. He was present in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. I always pictured him on the deck of some ship shooting at Zeroes. He retired from the Navy after the war. He began a second career as a cook for the Sun Valley Company ski resort. I don't know how many years he worked there. I do know that it would have been in the 50's and I think one of the railroads owned Sun Valley and that technically Fred worked for the railroad.

In 1981 or thereabouts, Fred wrapped up that career and decided to become a deputy sheriff. He was the oldest man at that time to graduate from the Idaho State police academy. He didn't finish near the bottom either. Mid pack as I recall, he was a 63 year old who could run 1.5 miles in 14 mins., do 20 pushups and 35 sit ups. I think the avg age in the academy was 29 at that time.

Fred had a great work ethic and always had a daily routine. I remember one day at the office, I had made the coffee that morning. Fred took one look at the finished pot and poured it into the sink. He then pulled out the carrier, filled the filter to the brim with coffee, and restarted the coffee maker. That coffee was black and thick. Fred looked at me and said, "that was real coffee."

My favorite thing about Fred was what a horrible driver he was. His driving was legendary, simply awful.

I am going to tell you a few stories about his driving, all of which I witnessed. I have many more.

Fred drove fast. All the time. He was the king of distracted drivers long before cell phones made it common.

I was following Fred up a county highway one day in my personal car. Fred was in his patrol car and obviously not paying attention. This was a two-lane highway at the time and people were constantly slowing and turning into subdivisions before they finally put in some turn lanes. Anyway, Fred looked up just in time to see that the car in front of him was stopping to turn left and there was oncoming traffic. With no time to stop, Fred jerked the wheel right to avoid a rear ender, slammed on the brakes, skid marks through the fog line, off the pavement and into the ditch. I watched as he traveled at 50 MPH or so about two hundred feet down the ditch, as the car was bouncing wildly. Fred brought 'er back up on the road, past the car that he nearly hit, and continued down the highway like nothing happened.

We used to have those barrels during hunting season where hunters would skin their deer and elk and donate the hide. I suppose some group tanned the hides and sold them. Anyway, every year during hunting season, they put one of those barrels on the corner, just one block from the sheriff's office. One snowy morning when the road was slick, I watched as Fred came down the hill in his car going way too fast. He tried to turn right but the front end was sliding. It suddenly caught the curb, jumped it, and he smacked that metal deer and elk hide barrel and sent it careening down Main. Spilling out a hide or two in the process. Fred simply kept going like it was nobody's business.

We had a jailer, Mike, and I don't think Fred was a big fan of Mike's. One day Mike had bought 6 snow shovels for the inmates to use as they cleared all the walks and driveways at the sheriff's office. Mike had placed all six of the shovels in the center bay, on the floor, and had spray painted some identifying marks on them. He was letting them dry. Pretty soon Fred came wheeling up, hit his garage door opener, and promptly ran over all six shovels snapping them in half and ruining them. Mike started yelling holy hell at Fred. Fred looked at Mike and said they shouldn't have been there. Mike looked at me, for sympathy, and said "Do you believe that shit?" I looked at Mike and said Fred was right.

I will not tell you how Fred shot out the rear window, front seat, and steering wheel of his patrol car with a 30-30 rifle I had sold him. I will just say, he told me before selling the gun back to me, that he had never fired it. About 30 seconds later, with one round still hanging in the chamber, Fred fired that gun for the very first time. The trustee who was in the garage was shell shocked. I remember it well. It was the hardest I ever laughed in my life. I could not quit laughing. Between Fred holding that gun in a state of shock and Terry the trustee standing their gaping- I tried, really, I did. But I couldn't hold it in. I was laughing hours later on a traffic stop and remember a motorist looking at me like I was nuts.

Fred retired after 20 years. Lived a couple more before leaving this plane for the next. One of the best, zaniest, characters that I have ever met. You can't measure that heart.