Monday, April 19, 2010

Excuses and an article

i have many excuses for not posting anything here in almost two weeks. In my mind, none of them work. This was to be my top priority when i started it over two years ago, but of late, business opportunities, personal tasks, and of course, golf have gotten in the way.

i am not complaining, mind you. This layoff was of my doing and my choices, and many of them, golf excluded, were a product of responsible and realistic priority setting. Still, there is no question in my mind what i am recording here is more important to me than almost anything other than family.

The fact i am having a great deal of fun and feel like i could be usefully contibuting to our country's defense again make my business opportunities easy to put at the top of my priority list.

And golf? Well, i am playing a lot and shot a 40 on the front nine at Sea 'n Air on the North Island Naval Air Station yesterday. This makes it damn hard to sacrifice that escape.

So...i apologize. i hope to make at least four or five postings in the next two days. If you miss them, they will be in the appropriate section in the archives here.
i will try to do better.

Notes from the Southwest Corner:
JD, Wanda Peal and the King of the Cowboys

SAN DIEGO – Even with a Tennessee-like spring (although it was a bit earlier than the real Tennessee springs), the Southwest corner is not as much fun as it used to be.

One reason is one of my best friends and old shipmates left a number of years ago. On occasion, I have mentioned JD Waits in this column and have even related a story or two from his repertoire.

About a dozen years ago, JD and his wife, Mary Lou, left for Houston, then Raleigh, and now Bastrop, TX, near Austin, the last appearing to be a permanent move. Before his last tour at the Strike and Air Warfare Center” as Aviation Maintenance Officer in Fallon, NV, JD had spent his entire Navy career of 30-plus years based in San Diego.

Naval Aviation Wizard

He was an exceptional maintenance officer, winding his way through airman recruit to master chief, to warrant officer, to limited duty officer, and finally to an aviation maintenance restricted line officer before retiring as lieutenant commander.

When he was commissioned as a line officer, his active duty clock started over and he could have remained in the Navy until he was 67. But his detailer (assignment officer) insisted the next duty station would be “Belleau Wood” (LHA 3). The “Belleau Wood” was home ported in Sasebo, Japan with 70 percent of time spent underway. Mary Lou would not move to Japan, so essentially it would have been a two-year “unaccompanied” tour.

JD told his detailer to stick it, submitted his letter for retirement, and came back to San Diego. I was happy as I got to spend about another ten years with him. Even better, his tales of growing up in Houston and his Navy anecdotes were so good they eclipsed the term “sea stories” and were singled out as “JD tales.” Many could never be related in this column, but they were all funny.

My wife loved all of JD’s tales and still will burst out laughing when she thinks of one.

Wanda Pearl and the King

JD was born and raised in Houston. After his father died, JD’s mother, Wanda Pearl Waits stayed there until she moved to Austin just before JD and Mary Lou moved back there.

In the late 1980s, Wanda Pearl came to visit JD and Mary Lou in San Diego, a rare visit. JD gave her the grand tour, culminating with a trip to Apple Valley, CA.

For those who are not familiar with the Southwest corner, Apple Valley is in the desert between Los Angeles and Barstow. Development has finally blossomed there, but for years, there wasn’t too much attractive about Apple Valley.

But Apple Valley was famous. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans established their ranch there in the early 1960s and opened their museum there in 1967. The museum was moved to larger accommodations in Victorville about five miles away in 1976.

Wanda Pearl had been a Roy Rogers fan since he began singing with The Sons of the Pioneers in the early 1930s, which made my adoration of the King of the Cowboys merely child’s play.

When Wanda Pearl and JD returned from Apple Valley and the museum, we invited them and Mary Lou to dinner. The mother and son waxed eloquent over the Roy Rogers Museum.

My father later told me he was not too impressed with his visit there: “For one thing Trigger had been stuffed and was sagging a bit.”

Cowboy Gallantry

But Wanda Pearl gushed with her recounting of the museum visit. Then JD revealed why.

When they first arrived, the King of the Cowboys was near the entry in his full cowboy regalia. With few visitors there early, he offered to take them on a personal tour. JD trailed behind as Roy Rogers escorted Wanda Pearl through the memorabilia.

As they completed the tour, Wanda Pearl shyly asked Roy, “Mr. Rogers, would you mind if my son took a picture of the two of us?”

Roy pulled off his ten-gallon Stetson and replied, “Why little lady, I would be honored.”

Sadly, I never visited the museum. It was moved to Branson, MO in 2003 and closed last year.

That’s another reason the Southwest corner has lost some allure.

But I bet Wanda Pearl still has that photo of her and Roy.

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