Archive for June, 2019

  • Blog
  • June 28th, 2019


By Joel M. Vance


                It was a love-hate relationship for three decades between me and 150 acres of jumble so unproductive that no one would pay the taxes on it so it reverted to state ownership. 


                It’s a swamp in northern Minnesota, only you wouldn’t have known that it was public land unless you had a plat book from the county courthouse which marks ownership and, in the case of the Wagonwheel bore the familiar “Tax Forfeited” label.  So we hunted it because it was public land, open to anyone foolhardy enough to crash through it.


                I wouldn’t have told you where the Wagonwheel is, other than it’s north of Iowa and south of Ontario.  That’s because there’s magic in those mushy acres.  The middle of the Wagonwheel is a swamp, penetrated by fingers of slightly higher land.  Woodcock come in here as if it were Hollywood to an aspiring actor.  And there are ruffed grouse on the fringes where the alders and hemlocks give way to birch and pine.


                The covert was named, as all magic spots are, for something that identifies it (My favorite covert name always will be Wanda’s Wetspot). The fellow across the dirt road into the Wagonwheel had a mailbox mounted on an old wagonwheel, thus the name.  Years ago the wagonwheel vanished from the mailbox, but the Wagonwheel remained, as reliable, year after year, as it always was.


              The house across the road from the Wagonwheel and owned by the owner of the wagonwheel mailbox remained a work in progress for all the years that we hunted the Wagonwheel. It was a ramshackle building of uncertain origin—perhaps it had been a livestock shelter before it purported to be a house. From what we could see it consisted mostly of tarpaper slapped on whatever was beneath. From year to year there didn’t seem to be any improvement except perhaps the application of more tarpaper.


                It became tradition to hunt the first afternoon in the Wagonwheel.  Get the road kinks out, let the dogs remember what tough hunting is all about.  Because the Wagonwheel was tough hunting.  It’s a tangle of suck holes, alder blowdowns and clinging fern and, depending on the rainfall, over-the-boot wet spots or springy peat moss. An hour there is like a half-day in a more congenial place.


                I loved it.


                It was a magic spot.  I have more memories of this one covert than of any of many miles I’ve walked in the north woods.  There was the time I stopped for a break and ate an apple with my best friend, Guff, sprawled at my feet.


                He was muddy and festooned with dead, stinking ferns, but couldn’t have been happier because he had just pointed a grouse and I’d shot it and the bird was lying limp on an old log beside me.  Sunlight slipped through the aspen and spotlighted the bird and I smoothed its feathers with a tenderness that was ironic, considering that I’d just killed it. There is, in my cluttered memory, no single time more filled with bliss and grace than that moment shared with a long gone and sadly missed hunting companion.


                Another time our grandson Nickolas, on his first hunt, moved in behind his dog Muggsy and neatly shot two woodcock, bang! Bang! as they jumped, one after the other.  I haven’t done that and here was this 14-year-old kid with braces who showed reflexes like Michael Jordan.  And he did it with a 28-gauge double barrel that I had “loaned” to his mother who then “loaned” the gun to him.  A gun, obviously, that was not meant to be mine.  I keep hoping maybe they’ll “loan” it back to me. 


                A memory considerably less exhilarating was when Guff and I jumped a huge doe as we neared the county blacktop.  The deer took two bounds to reach the road and I heard a screech of brakes, a thump, and then the inspired cursing of a couple of guys who, though I couldn’t see them, sounded big and mean and mad.


                “Come on, Guff!” I hissed and we slunk back into the heart of the Wagonwheel where we could hide.  Presently the truck, possibly dented, restarted and faded into the distance. 


                Spence Turner was my frequent companion in the Wagonwheel.  We bulldozed our way through the tangles and got lost.  It’s tough to get lost in 150 acres most of the time, but the Wagonwheel is such a maze that being turned around is the norm.  There are two sets of tall pines that serve as landmarks in the otherwise featureless swamp.  One is toward the access road; the other at the opposite side of the swamp.  In a wet year the second set of pines (we call it the Pine Ridge) involves some careful negotiating to reach and, usually, wet feet. 


              There were times that I feared we might have to call out search and rescue teams to find errant members of our hunting party, adrift in the Wagonwheel, but we usually could locate them by the sound of heartfelt, top of the voice obscenity.


                But the rewards of challenging the Wagonwheel were an hour of almost certain action.  There was at least one grouse along the swamp side of the ridge, and perhaps as many as a half-dozen woodcock fronting the swamp.


                The grouse flushed into the pines and vanished forever—hunting grouse in those looming, dark conifers was like hunting the leprechauns at the end of the rainbow.  The woodcock flushed over the swamp and unless you shot quickly the retrieve involved a wet entry for you or the dog (if you could get him to look for the bird). 


                Once Spence took his, setter Mike to the Wagonwheel for the first time. Mike, a rangy, big headed setter, was, to put it charitably, as dumb as a bucket of rocks. You could pitch him a treat and, unlike most bird dogs who snap it out of the air like a major league second baseman fielding a pop fly, Mike would let the treat hit him on the head and bounce off to the floor, and then after a time lapse perhaps of canine contemplation, would open his mouth—better late than never.


            Mike ambled through the fringes of the Wagonwheel, as usual befuddled, and then a minor miracle occurred. A woodcock sprang over the watery interior of the place, Spence shot, and the bird tumbled dead some 20 feet into deep water. The choices for retrieval were few. Swim for it in what amounted to ice water, leave it unretrieved (something no ethical hunter ever does), or encourage poor mentally challenged Mike to go after the bird. Mike had seen the bird fall, looked at Spence as if for instructions, and then without command lunged into the frigid water, swam with powerful strokes to the fallen bird, grasped it in a gentle mouth, returned to shore and dropped it in Spence’s waiting hand.


             That night as we luxuriated in the depth of sleep, we were jolted awake by what at first seemed like an earthquake, an unusual if not unique phenomenon for northern Minnesota. Spence’s bed was heaving and lurching as if in the grip of some unseen science fiction monster, threatening to hurl Spence to the floor. After we got it sorted out, it turned out Mike had crawled underneath the bed and, perhaps in the grip of a bad dream, had come awake and lurched to his feet, thrashing in panic. Perhaps he was dreaming of the ultimate woodcock retrieve. It was somewhat of a relief to have the old Mike back.


                We hunted far more congenial places than the Wagonwheel—in fact every one of them was more congenial.  But the Wagonwheel rewarded hunter effort.  It was not a place for the Sunday hunter or the dilettante.  It was a blue collar operation, complete with sweat and dirt and muscle strain.  Sometimes I wondered if my appreciation for the place wasn’t like the guy hitting himself on the head with a hammer because it felt so good when he stopped.


                Several years ago my son-in-law, Ron DeValk, and grandson Nickolas went back for a season final hunt.  They had the usual boot camp marathon and returned to the truck tired and muscle sprung.  A woman was waiting for them.  “We’ve bought this place,” she said.  “It’s ours now.”


                So the Wagonwheel, after two decades, was not mine anymore.  I doubt that the family who now owns the place ever will hunt it for grouse and woodcock.  Chances are they don’t even know what unseen treasures live within its forbidding interior.  The Wagonwheel now is just another flyspeck on the huge map of northern Minnesota , but not my flyspeck.  I should be relieved that I don’t have to bust the brush and fight through the bogholes, often wondering just where I am.


                But I’m not.


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  • Blog
  • June 20th, 2019


By Joel M. Vance


I owe an abject apology to Ireland, the country from which my family emigrated  a couple of centuries ago. In a recent blog I said that Northern Ireland was sympathetic to Nazi Germany during World War II. This is 100% wrong.


My good friend and faithful reader Paul Vang set me straight.”You might want to take another look at your reference to Northern Ireland supporting Hitler during WWII. I think it’s the other way, with Eire (Ireland) having sympathizers. Northern Ireland is an official part of the U.K. and is closely allied with England – or at least the Protestants are.” Paul obviously is a far better student of Hibernian history than I am.


I was commenting on Donald Trump’s idiotic proposal that the Irish should build a wall to separate Northern Ireland from Southern Ireland (Eire) as a solution to the country’s long and involved political and religious unrest. Trump is an idiot and I feel like one also for being so egregiously wrong. Northern Ireland pledged support and loyalty to the fight against Germany from the outset, while Southern Ireland, technically neutral, did harbor a number of Irishmen sympathetic to the Hitler regime.


Separation between the two parts of Ireland dates back almost a century.  The South now is called the Republic of Ireland or the Irish free State, while the North remained part of Great Britain, along with England, Scotland and Wales. The southern part of the country became the Irish Ffree State in 1922.


Northern Ireland served as a staging area for troops gathering for the 1944 invasion of Normandy, was host to a number of Royal Air Force bases, and contributed troops to the fight against Hitler’s awful regime. I can only offer my deepest apologies to the six counties that constitute Northern Ireland, although it probably makes no difference to any sons of Erin. If it’s any consolation to those whom I might have offended, I treasure the soothing taste of Bushmills or Jameson’s  Irish whisky, love the music of Da Dannan, and one of the earliest songs I learned to sing was Galway Bay (Johnny Cash, my favorite singer, also learned the song as a kid and does a touching rendition of it in a collection of homemade tapes, available on compact disc)


I hope I’m right in correcting my wrong. If not, I hope that Paul Vang will set me straight.


It is a slogan often seen in backwoods taverns: “Cheer up. They said things could be worse. And sure enough, they got worse.” There is good news from the White House. Sarah Sycophant Sanders is leaving her job as Press Secretary and as Donald J Trump’s favorite ventriloquist dummy, and Kellyanne Conway, the Wicked Witch of the West Wing, has been recommended by the office of the special counsel  for dismissal in for mixing political activities with her government job— a legal no-no. The bad news in all of this is that Sanders is being touted as a gubernatorial candidate for Arkansas. That’s especially bad news if you happen to live in Arkansas where her father was governor with a dubious record and where other politicians have had less than stellar personal lives (and I include Bill Clinton in any listing of dubious Arkansas politicos).


My home state of Missouri has had its share of boneheaded governors (the present one replaced Eric Greitens  who resigned amid accusations of sexual misconduct and campaign fund shenanigans) but we’ve had no one who can compare to Arkansas’s Orville Faubus, way back when, then up to and including Clinton and Sanders One.


Conway, even if justifiably canned , no doubt will have no trouble finding a new job—perhaps as the Red Queen in a revival of “Alice in Wonderland”. And there’s always Mrs. Hannigan in an “Annie”-revival or the evil stepmother in “Cinderella”.


The Fourth of July is a few days away and here are a few thoughts about that event. Trump apparently is going to get his cherished parade and as I write this there still is scheduled a speech by the big baby boy himself. Without a doubt this unwanted talk will be nothing but a campaign speech larded by personal attacks against his favorite Democratic party adversaries. There may be a flyover by Air Force One possibly repainted with Trump’s latest campaign slogan. There are no plans announced as to who or how this parade will be paid for, but you can bet that the American taxpayers are going to get stuck for it— creditors still are waiting to be paid for some of our deadbeat president’s other nefarious escapades.


Donald Trump long has wanted his very own parade in Washington, featuring tanks, guns, and Army Navy and Marines. Rather than mobilizing the nation’s armed forces for the glorification of the Great Leader, why not just mobilize all the people who have been fired or resigned from the Trump administration and march them down Constitution Avenue. They might outnumber the sparse crowd on the Capitol Mall that attended Trump’s inauguration.


Protesters already are petitioning to hoist the Baby Trump balloon like the one that welcomed him to England recently — perhaps the one of him sitting on a potty. I’m sure that the English, now that they have gotten rid of the pudgy interloper, would be happy to loan it out for Trump’s extensive parade of former employees.  Trump initially had backed down on his parade idea, blaming the local politicians for not supporting him accusing them of inflating the cost in order to cast a pall on his megalomaniacal proposal.


It would be interesting to know what the average English person thinks about our American president who bragged in an interview that he not only would accept help from a foreign government to get himself reelected, but he actually had a conversation with (and I am quoting from one of his tweets) “the Prince of Whales. Sarah Sanders claims that Trump was chosen by God to lead our country— not only God but apparently the Clown Prince also has a direct line to Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.


“Abraham Lincoln was treated supposedly very badly. But nobody’s been treated badly like me.” That’s what Trump said to interviewer George Stephanopoulos.  Trump proposed that he make a speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on July 4, the most celebrated holiday we have, specific to our independence and our democratic system of government. Such a desecration of our proud heritage is so awful an insult to every citizen that even the most ardent Trump supporter should be ashamed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the iconic seated statue of Abraham Lincoln would slump over, much as Mr. Lincoln did in Ford’s Theater a moment after he was shot from behind by John Wilkes Booth. That sad event would seem to trump Trump as an example of being treated badly, but not according to poor pudgy picked on Donnie.


It seems there is no cherished institution of our democracy that Trump can’t throw mud on. Donald Trump the most narcissistic politician in the history of the country reminds me of the evil queen from Disney’s cartoon “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” who daily looks in her mirror and asks “Who is the fairest of them all?” To which the mirror is supposed to exclaim “Why, you are mama!”


Except that there comes a day when the mirror, which probably surreptitiously voted Democrat in the previous election, says “it ain’t you, baby!” Trump is far less charming than the evil queen and if he resembles anybody in Snow White it’s Dopey, the dimwitted dwarf— although Dopey is well-meaning and sweet tempered, attributes which no one believes about Donald Trump except that 40% of muddled voters who continue to support the old fruitcake , endorsing the cracked mirror into which he peers constantly.  I’m reminded of the Rodney Dangerfield joke “my psychiatrist told me I’m going crazy. I told him, “if you don’t mind, I’d like a second opinion.” He said, “All right, you’re ugly too!”


And then there’s another Trump appropriate joke about mirrors from Dangerfield, “I went to see my doctor.‘ Doctor, every morning when I get up and look in the mirror I feel like throwing up. What’s wrong with me? He said, ’I don’t know, but your eyesight is perfect’”.


My apologies to the late Mr. Dangerfield.


I can’t get over the sight of Trump hugging the furled American flag as if it were his own personal banner. Grinning like a deranged chimpanzee, Trump was photographed on Flag Day, of all things, which also happened to be Trump’s 73rd birthday. If any more evidence were needed of Trump’s mental disintegration, that photo, officially issued by the White House, should be ample proof. Once he pried himself loose from that unhinged embrace of Old Glory, Trump went on to attack Robert Mueller’s investigation into his campaign conspiracy with Russia, calling it “bullshit.” If anyone knows bullshit it is Donald Trump who daily spews more of it than a stampede of uncastrated male bovines.


Proving that Twitter is not the exclusive domain of Donald Trump, one veteran (which bone spur deferred Trump is not) commented on the goofy photograph, “That photo intensifies the disgust most veterans and active duty military feel when they see you treating our flag with such disrespect. The flag is not to be fondled like some porn star. Despicable.”


Apparently there is no institution of our democracy that Trump can’t diminish. Already he has ignored the constitutional imperative that no president may serve more than two terms by suggesting that somehow he is owed two terms plus two more years  because of the length of the Mueller investigation—and he has intimated that being president for life like Chinese dictatorXi Jinping would be just fine by  him. Of course, it is not going to happen and if there is a just God and a viable legal system in this besieged country he won’t even make it through one term.


It has been nearly 250 tumultuous years since this country officially separated from England and  became, however tenuously at times, the United States of America. There have been wars upon wars and the bloodiest of them involved a four-year squabble between the states as to whether they truly are United or not.


But still, despite a civil war, despite long-standing disputes over states rights, federal rights, and individual rights, on July 4 we celebrate our unity. We must do this to preserve the image that we have created of a nation where truth, justice, and the pursuit of liberty are triumphant.


We do this in spite of the most awful president in our long history, one who treats our most cherished documented=io tributes to those ideals as outdated pieces of paper to be ignored and scorned at his whim. We don’t hug our flag as if it were one of his pornographic girlfriends, we fly it high and free, rippling in the sweet wind of liberty.


Let’s just, for one day, ignore our would be dictator and salute our flag and our history, no matter how frayed it sometimes is, and proclaim loudly and proudly to whatever deity we believe in, “God bless America!”






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  • Blog
  • June 14th, 2019


By Joel M. Vance


I’ve seen it attributed to Mark Twain but actually it was the rope twirling humorist Will Rogers who said “If dogs don’t go to heaven, when I die, I want to go where they go.” Considering the many moments of happiness and hilarity that dogs have given me over the past decades, I’m with Mr. Rogers when it comes to a vacation in eternity.


My first dog was named “Chaps” a literary allusion.  Chaps was a half cocker spaniel half springer spaniel who seduced my father as he was passing a pet store in Chicago, Illinois. He thought that having a dog would tame my juvenile tendency to create new ways to get in trouble. Of course, in later years, Chaps became his dog, a constant companion in the squirrel woods where she excelled at treeing the bushytailed critters so he could shoot them.


But I did get to name her as a puppy. I had been reading “My Friend Flicka” and there was a dog in the novel named Chaps which I thought was a good one for my new puppy. I also had been working on a balsa wood model of a World War Two airplane and had spent countless hours gluing the little pieces together until I had a lovely, but flimsy replica of a fighter I much admired because of its sleek and dangerous look. Unfortunately, with virtually no grasp of international warfare (I was eight years old), the plane I chose to build was a Focke Wulf German fighter bomber. The puppy, Chaps, obviously was far more patriotic than I was because as I passed by my bedroom en route to the supper table, I spied Chaps reveling in the wreckage of my cherished model which she had chewed to splinters and shreds of paper.


Flick was a Li’l Abner among dogs, a rangy French Brittany who seemed from the outset to believe that his purpose in life was to have a good time. Once, hunting with the late outdoor writer Nick Sisley, Flick had an exemplary morning, outshining the other dogs on the hunt, pinning pheasants to the ground as if he had staked them with a hammer and nails. All in the hunting party admired my flawless dog until just after lunch when our host introduced his dog to the hunt. “She’s coming out of heat,” he said, “but I don’t think she’s attractive to male dogs anymore—she’s been defused.”


Flick, however, disagreed and fell instantly in love and the only thing he pointed from then on was his new girlfriend. “He is,” Nick said, “a fun dog.”


Flick did love the ladies and his best friend among our dogs, was Tess, a demure French Brittany whom I called Lady Di because of her habit of peering somewhat seductively up at whoever was petting her, much as did the late Princess Diana. Tess and Flick loved to race each other until the day that Flick, a half stride ahead in the race, looked over his shoulder at Tess…. And ran headlong into a tree. He staggered back from the collision, shook his head— and then snarled and jumped on Tess as if to say, “it’s all your fault, bitch!”  Typical male reaction— blame somebody else when you do something dumb.


Not too long after that, Tess came in heat and she and Flick were united in canine marriage. Sixty three days later they became the parents of eight puppies. I have a photograph of Tess standing in the yard with eight youngsters hanging off her faucets as she glares at Flick, standing nearby, with an expression that clearly says, “it’s all your fault, you son of a bitch!”


Pick any given winner of Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club competition, especially if that blue ribbon dog is a pointer, a bird dog, symbol of the club for 100 years, and lead that dog into a field formerly occupied by cattle. Unsnap the dog’s leash and let it roam and within minutes, the dog will return covered with green slime from having joyously rolled in odious cow flops. There is no substance so noxious that a dog will not enthusiastically decorate himself and, if you’re not extremely agile at evasion, you.


I know this is true because our dogs periodically return from brief romps in our woods smelling not unlike the effluvia from a defective sewage lagoon. A dog’s nose, many hundreds of times more sensitive than that of a human, is a marvel of evolution— able to detect at unbelievable distance the faint aroma of something so odious that it would, to quote an old simile “stink a dog off a gut wagon.” Except, of course it wouldn’t—the dog would be in canine heaven, perfuming itself in an ecstasy of self gratification. The reeking dog invariably wants to share its bounty with you and display its undying gratitude by becoming a lapdog


The target of the dog’s ecstatic attempt to roll in the sludge not always is inanimate. Well-known is the penchant for a dog to dare the rear end weaponry of a skunk with disastrous results both for the canine and the canine owner. Once, on a grouse hunt in Minnesota, the owner of a Labrador retriever, belonging to a member of our hunting party and his fuming owner, returned to the motel apartment where we were staying, clutching in one hand a large can of tomato juice, and in the other hand the collar of the skunk-sprayed Labrador which he dragged rapidly through the room where we were eagerly awaiting supper, into the bathroom where he and the dog and the tomato juice wrestled in the shower.


The theory is that tomato juice defuses the awful stench of skunk but I can testify that is a fallacious theory much like that of the 1950s theory that if schoolchildren get under their desks they will escape the effect of an atomic explosion.  We banished the dog to a kennel in the back end of the owner’s pick up outside the motel where it proceeded to howl its dissatisfaction all night. Periodically, large and outraged truckers staying in the rooms below us opened their doors and snarled that if they ever could discover who owned that condemned dog they would exact corporal punishment. The least the guy who owned the Lab could have done was to sleep in the kennel with his dog— he didn’t smell like roses either.


Another time, closer to home, my late best friend Spence Turner and I were quail hunting when our two dogs went over a nearby rise in search of the elusive bobwhite. We heard a yelp and then both dogs returned bringing with them a veritable tornadic whirlwind of skunk stink. The temperature was about 20° and we were 50 miles from home—and we were in my car which was not equipped for distance traveling with reeking dogs. The only way we could survive was to roll down all the windows and by the time we got back to my house we both were verging on hypothermia. I got no sympathy from the family trying to explain why the family car turned toxic while daddy was trying to hunter gather supper.


Once I had a dog who, in one monumental hunt, committed the equivalent of a human breaking all 10 Commandments in one day. First, he acted as if his genetic imperative, rather than pointing birds, was to make them fly. He ran through grouse after grouse and I began to wonder if he had completely lost his sense of smell–until the moment he obviously scented the effluvia of a particularly juicy cow pasture and returned from having bumped yet another grouse, smelling like an exploded outhouse. By nightfall, when we returned to the cabin where we were staying, exhausted and exasperated, he had run through enough weeds and damp vegetation (and grouse) that the awful stink of cow flop had faded.


I was on the verge of forgiving him for his sins, figuring that even Michael Jordan had a bad game once in a while, and I even felt a twinge of sympathy when he flopped exhausted on my hunting partner’s duffel bag. I heard a faint hissing sound but it didn’t register until my hunting buddy moved the dog to get some gun cleaning material only to discover that the hissing sound had come from a can of WD-40 that he had laid in the bag nozzle up and that the dog had triggered when he laid down on it.


It wasn’t until much later that I remembered something that happened to me at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, when I was at ROTC summer camp, learning how to be an artillery officer. It was Friday night and we were to have an inspection the next morning before we could go on leave for the weekend. I had spent a couple of hours arranging my footlocker so that every item was neatly displayed, ready for the most rigorous inspection by the most rigorous inspecting officer. I was ready.


I also was ready for a moment or two of relaxation so, with several buddies, I went to town and indulged in a few cold ones. We returned late at night, worn out with a week of training, readying for inspection, and, not to mention, from a few cold ones. I opened the footlocker for one last look at my artful display only to be confronted with a tsunami of foam from a can of Mennen’s shaving cream which I had laid in the footlocker with the nozzle pointing up…. And then had closed the lid on the can.


It runs in the family.








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  • Blog
  • June 7th, 2019


                By Joel M. Vance


Pussycat, pussycat where have you been?

I’ve been to London to visit the Queen.


Far be it from me to make any risqué jokes about this old nursery rhyme in conjunction with Donald Trump’s recent visit to Great Britain where he hobnobed with the Royal family (those of them whocould swallow their disgust long enough to be seen with the worst thing to happen to Anglo-American relations since George III was King of England.


Trump was photographed with his hand on the Queen’s back and I will make no further reference either to the nursery rhyme or to Trump’s infamous campaign statement about how he treats women. It was bad enough to the dignity of the British monarchy to be seen with Trump much less be associated with his disgusting personal behavior.


The Internet is alive with a photo of Trump beside Queen Elizabeth, wearing a tuxedo that looks as if it were made for Danny DeVito. He is just about as elegant in his evening clothes as if he had slept in them.  Difficult to read what’s going on in the mind of the Queen because Elizabeth was conditioned from birth to be regal, but I can’t help but imagine that she is thinking “I would rather be treated like one of Henry VIII’s wives than to be encumbered with this Yankee lout, dressed like the Penguin from a Batman movie.”


You have to admire the forbearance of Great Britain’s longest lasting Queen in not swatting the pudgy jowls of this arrogant bigoted interloper for having insulted a member of the royal family, a new mother and one much admired by everyone not named Trump, by calling her “nasty”.


Trump sashayed across the ocean in his usual blundering way, raucously tweeting like a seagull scavenging off a garbage dump, scattering insults and incomprehensible falsehoods–in other words, business as usual. After bumbling his way through England, Trump shambled to Ireland the country from which my forebears immigrated (oh, that horrible word “immigrant”). Maintaining as usual that everyone loves him and ignoring the thousands of protesters who basically were saying “Get the hell out of our country!” He over flew those apparently invisible crowds of anti-Trump Brits, heading for the nearest Trump branded golf course in Ireland where he could, like the proverbial ostrich, bury his head in a sand trap and ignore the fact that lots of folks on the other side of the ocean from Trump Tower hate his bloated guts.


As is usual, Trump managed to make a bad situation worse by suggesting that Ireland, which is divided into two entities— six counties in Northern Ireland, and the rest of the country, known as Ireland should build a wall to separate the two. Both sides of the boundary between the two Irelands quickly tried to repair this diplomatic gaffe by assuring the uneasy Irish that there are no plans to build a wall. Trump apparently focused entirely on his reportedly cheat-laden golf game to the exclusion of knowledge about the tumultuous history between the two Irelands.


Possibly he was harking back to the days of World War II when Northern Ireland was sympathetic to Hitler’s  Germany (possibly more because of anti-English hatred  rather than affection for Hitler’s Germany). After all, he was partly in England to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion which resulted in the defeat of Nazi Germany and presumably quelled the connection between Hitler and the pro-German Irish. But that is giving more credit to Trump for knowing  history than he deserves since he almost daily indicates that if it didn’t happen to him personally he has no knowledge of it and no interest in learning about it. Trump also chose a solemn commemoration of bloody sacrifice to personally attack Robert Mueller and Nancy Pelosi with the backdrop of thousands of crosses commemorating those who died fighting for freedom. This partisan political name-calling rant was just disgusting, a gut wrenching example of just how petty and cruel Trump is at his core.


For example, he gave a rambling interview on British television in which he said that one reason he didn’t go to Vietnam to serve in that bloody war was that “I wasn’t a fan of it” as if it were a sporting event, and then he said it didn’t matter because no one had ever heard of that country anyway. That despite the fact that polls   at the time showed that Vietnam was the number one concern of America’s citizenry. He carefully did not mention the fact that he received medical deferments so he didn’t have to serve from a doctor who was renting from Trump’s father. Is there something in this that doesn’t smell right?


In the interview with Piers Morgan, Trump briefly put on a hat identical to those famously worn by Winston Churchill during World War II. The anti-Trump twitterites instantly made great fun of his appearance in the hat (which made him look remarkably like Moe, Shemp or Larry) and the best of the twitter feeds was this which parodied a famous speech by Churchill: “We shall fight them on the beaches. We shall fight them on the landing grounds. When I say “we”, I mean you, as I’ve got a doctor’s note. Bone spurs, you see. The greatest bone spurs ever, etc.”


It would be hypocritical of me to totally condemn Trump for evading military service during the Vietnam War and taking advantage of deferments. I also had a college deferment during the tail end of the Korean War, but went through ROTC, was commissioned as a second Lieutenant, and spent 13 years in the National Guard. But my unit never was activated and I did not serve in Vietnam. I also was not a “fan” of Vietnam, but I didn’t burn my draft card, move to Canada, engage in antiwar protests, or otherwise actively lobby against what I felt then and feel now was a stupid incursion into the affairs of another country. Trump might want to consider some of those same concerns when he starts thinking about messing with Central and South America, Mexico, Iran or North Korea. It’s one thing to react decisively when attacked as we were at Pearl Harbor; quite another to engage in empire building (as we have done periodically over the last couple of centuries) or to interfere militarily with other countries because we don’t like them (as we also have done a number of uncomfortable times in our history).


I got out of the Guard 50 years ago but I think I still am in what they call the inactive reserve, meaning that theoretically I could be recalled to active duty in case of national emergency. Considering that I’m nearly 85 years old I doubt that I could be any more effective as a warrior than Donald Trump is as president of the United States.


It’s wrong as a national policy to become isolationist, but it’s equally wrong if not worse to ignore or insulate the country from the world. Once we had allies, once we were engaged with the world in an effort to help create a more peaceful and stable environment in which all nations could live and thrive without resorting to bloodshed. Trump seems dedicated to destroying alliances which have been carefully built and preserved for decades if not centuries, and to hobnob with the world’s most repressive and brutal regimes led by some of history’s nastiest dictators (and they truly are nasty as opposed to an innocuous English princess who has the good sense to know a bigoted, misogynistic and despicable slob when she sees one).


The Vance family name traces back to the Norman invasion more than 1000 years ago. According to family genealogists, we were named deVaux when we stormed across the channel to occupy Scotland and Ireland. The name morphed into Vans and ultimately into Vance. Somewhere in the 1700s, some of those Vances immigrated (oh, that horrible word again) to America and we’ve been here ever since, mostly in Missouri since the early days of settlement. The Vance immigrants, breeding like flies, spread all over the New World and soon there were Vances all along the eastern seaboard, what would become Ohio, and creeping over the Eastern mountains to Missouri.


I don’t know if any of my direct line deserves to be called either a son or daughter of the American Revolution, but my great grandpa and great grand uncle both served a few short months in the Union Army in the Civil War before they got captured by the Confederate forces of General Sterling Price. They were spanked on the bottom and sent home to resume their roles as Chariton County farmers. At least their hearts were in the right place even if their military training was not. My uncle Roy Finnell, who married my father’s sister, Lilah Mae Vance, was a sailor in World War I and his son, Roy Joe, was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne in World War II and parachuted behind German lines on D-Day, 75 years ago today (as I write these words). He brought home an English war bride—classic example of Anglo-American love.


Trump would tear apart this historic affection. He has called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) a bunch of freeloaders. He has strained relations with France, a country which supported the American colonists in the Revolutionary War and without whom we might well have remained an English colony. At the same time he has disparaged our traditional allies, he has been eagerly embracing his good buddy Kim Jong Un of North Korea and other dictators who routinely kill off anyone who displeases them.


Trump is a problem and you solve problems by offering solutions. It does no good to complain without offering remedies. Obviously, Trump can be voted out of office in 2020, but why wait that long? He could be impeached but that is a cumbersome process that might well stretch longer than the next election. Why not begin hearings in the House of Representatives that could lead to an impeachment trial? The only thing keeping that from happening is a timid Democrat controlled House. The Democrats need to get off their easily spooked horse and start asking questions— calling key witnesses, hearing what has transpired behind the scenes, and then acting on the information.


Dithering solves nothing and only plays into Trump’s pudgy hands. Those who could derail him routinely defy subpoenas issued by the House, thumbing their collective nose at the rule of law. Call Robert Mueller to testify and ask him what lies behind the many blacked out portions of his report on Trump’s misdeeds as well as the unredacted portions.  America’s voters are visually oriented these days, to their TV, iPad or other visual devices. They aren’t going to read 400 pages of Mueller’s report, but they will absorb his words spoken directly to them via a visual media. Once they understand the meaning of this damning report Trump’s already eroding power base should begin to crumble.


 And as far as those who defy House subpoenas, throw their butts in jail. The House should refer the defied subpoenas to the courts who presumably would call out the authorities to exercise forcible restraint on Trump’s scofflaws.  It would be nice to see at least part of Congress do something positive for a change.





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