My S.O.B.

We had our Old Fuds luncheon this week. A bunch of old retired Army Jags standing around before the meal trying to remember each others names. Oh yes, we have name tags, but with the condition of our eyes, it’s still a challenge. Then one of my friends showed up with his beard shaved off and I was clueless.

I ended up sitting between John Naughton, whom I served with in Germany back in the 60’s and Fran Gilligan, whom I served with twice at the JAG School. Whenever John and I get together, the subject eventually turns to our boss in Germany, Major Charlie Baldree. Working for Baldree was the worst experience in my life (not just professional life), but I survived it.

John and I worked as captains in the 4th Armored Division Staff Judge Advocate’s Office in Goeppingen, Germany. An SJA office only had about six officers back in 1967. Joe Donahue, our deputy, got promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and left and in came Major Charlie Baldree to disrupt our lives. Baldree would grin and smile, but he was downright mean as a rattlesnake. He insisted on competing with me. Believe me, I’m smart enough to know not to compete with my boss and rater. But every time I turned around, I was in the barrel.

Charlie’s office was about twenty steps from mine, but he would send me notes on everything. I would receive 20 – 30 notes a day. I remember receiving three notes at the same time. The first asked about the status of a particular matter. The next two complained that I hadn’t answered the first inquiry. I tried my absolute best to keep him informed and happy. But he was determined to crush me and I didn’t understand why. Was I paranoid? You bet.

There was a claims matter that I recommended paying. Charlie disagreed. That should have been the end of it. If he had told me to write it up denying pay, I would have. But Major “B” sent my recommendation and his disagreement into the SJA, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Wright and asked him to choose. You see how I am screwed? Well, to make matters worse, Colonel Wright notified Charlie that he would hear oral arguments on the matter. Here I am, competing again. After we both expressed our views, Colonel Wright agreed with me. Talk about a no-win situation. Jolly Charlie grinned, smiled and sent me back to my office. Here comes the notes.

At this time the Vietnam War was in full throat. The Army was increasing in size and people were being promoted rapidly. Because I was in the cue, I spent only three and a half years as a captain before I was promoted to major. Major “B” was unhappy that officers weren’t spending as much time as captains as he had. He didn’t come to my promotion party.

My promotion permitted me to move into field grade quarters. Majors lived in a building called the Glass House. Charlie, of course, lived there with his new bride. Shortly after I moved in, he sent me a note saying that since I had time to wash my car over the weekend, he assumed the projects he had given me were completed.

There actually was a chapter in the Army Officer’s Guide entitled, “Working for your S.O.B.” The chapter basically said it happens to everyone and do the best you can and before long, one of you would be reassigned. Well the first to be reassigned was not Charlie or me, but Colonel Wright. Our new boss was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Dribben. Colonel Dribben had been a reservist and had not spent much time on active duty. Now, all of a sudden, he was the 4th Armored Division Staff Judge Advocate. Colonel Dribben created enough confusion to keep Major “B” busy and things eased up on me. And, Colonel Dribben really liked me (bless his heart).

The OER or Officer’s Evaluation Report is how the Army decides who will be promoted and given positions of additional responsibility. Major Baldree wrote my OER. Before he wrote it, he came in and told me that he would never give a score lower that 92 (92 out of 100), because he wouldn’t want to kill a person’s chances for promotion. I need to explain that the OER numbers are highly inflated. A 95, at that time, was not a good number and I was convinced that a 92 would kill an officer’s future chances. When I got my OER from Major Baldree, he had given me a 92! He had that earlier conversation with me to let me know that he was giving me the lowest score he ever gave. Sweet. His narrative was consistent with the low score. He didn’t say anything negative, he just didn’t say anything positive. “Major Rice completes every assignment given to him.” Whoopee!

So how did I survive and go on to be the Commandant at The JAG School? Well, what saved me was the endorsement to the rating by Colonel Dribben. He maxed me out on everything. He gave me 100 out of 100 and said all the right things including that he considered me the best major in the office! When I departed Germany, I felt like a gigantic yoke had been lifted from my shoulders.

I have reread this draft about six times. First, it’s not very funny and my original purpose was to make you at least smile. Second, I’m not sure I can paint how stressful and downright horrible the situation was. I may come across to you as a griper or complainer. If that’s the case, you should have stopped reading well before now. Two years after Germany, I was in Vietnam and bumped into a friend who had had similar experiences with Charlie Baldree. A third person who was listening to us asked us what it was about Baldree that set us off. My friend said, “This is the best way I can sum it up. If Charlie were throwing a big party and wasn’t going to invite you, he would ask you to pick up the invitations.”

The ordeal was miserable, but I believe it made me stronger and I used the experience many times to help me out. When I was faced with a really bad situation and was having difficulty figuring out how I could manage, I would say to myself, “Hey, I can do this. This is not half as difficult as surviving Charlie Baldree.”

Written by PJ Rice at
Copyright 2014

Bloggedy Blog Blog – Final Part of the Trilogy

Things get old quickly. I remember when Imus was getting started with his ranch. It seemed like the only way a guest could get on his show was to donate three head of cattle and one Mexican ranch hand. I gave up on watching. And yet, here I am talking incessantly about this damn web site.

It’s just that I was blogging away for years, watching my numbers rise and thinking I’m on to something. Then GoDaddy pulled the plug on the program I was using and I began to flounder. To begin with, I had over a thousand new registered users who now I’m told were all spam. Comments were appearing at the bottom of my articles that I hadn’t approved or even seen. Some comments that I had deleted reappeared. But worst of all, Google couldn’t find anything I had written. If Google can’t find you, you are truly in a literary uninhabited wilderness.

Well, I got some professional help, a WordPress wizard, and things are back to “normal.” People can now subscribe again to Ricequips and as of the middle of September, 2014, I am again, receiving statistical data. The numbers are teeny tiny, but that is where I was when I started out last time. AND, that web crawler, Google, has located me again. So enough said about Ricequips.

My next problems is the acorns. The acorns dropping from the Oak trees are extremely heavy this year. I’m sure the Farmer’s Almanac uses such information to predict what type of winter we will have. That and the thickness of the Wooly Bear Caterpillar.

Seven years ago, we added a gazebo to our deck. It is fully enclosed and has eight sides.The neatest thing about the gazebo is the roof which also has eight sides and adds an additional eight feet to the already eight foot gazebo. Can you picture a very steep sloped roof? Well, that’s where the problems come in. Thirty feet above the sloped roof are the oak branches loaded with acorns. As the acorns release, they hit the sloped roof and fire into our bay window. It sounds like we are being shot at. Our poor dog, Nikkie, races out of the family room every time we are under attack.

So it’s just like Rosanne Rosannadanna used to say, “If it ain’t one thing, it another.” “Never mind.”

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2014

East Side High

Yea, it doesn’t matter how old you get, some of us will always be High School Harrys.  Still living in those days when life was much simpler.  I went to high school back in the 1950s.  The good news is that as we get older, the stories get better and better.

I grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois.  Right across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.  Back then we were known as a tough industrial town.  Just North of the town was the National Stock Yards (world’s largest hog market) and to the South were large industrial plants like Monsanto and Alcoa Aluminum Ore.  One thing about growing up in East St. Louis, you always knew which way the wind was blowing.

East Side High was a very large, very old brick building.  It wasn’t on the City Tour.  In fact, there was no City Tour.  The high school was located about five miles from my house.  No, I’m not going to tell you that I walked it everyday.  But there was no such thing as a school bus.  We all got to school some how.  My first year, I road with a friend across the alley.  His name was Fred “Ace” Edmonds and his older brother, “Crazy Ace,” had a car.  Each morning I would wait for Crazy Ace and Fred to come out of their house and I would get in the back seat of the car.  That entire year, I never spoke to Crazy Ace.  Fred said it was better that way.  Come to think of it, school buses sounds like a pretty good idea.

East Side High was a three year school.  Our ninth grade was spent as seniors in a junior high.  We had three junior high schools, Rock, Clark and Lansdowne.  East St. Louis was know as a football power house and the junior high system helped that program.  Rather than having a freshman football team, we had three junior high teams battling against each other (I was also a junior high school Harry).  I was the quarterback for the Lansdowne Tigers.  That was so long ago that I could probably get away with telling you that we were undefeated, but we weren’t.  We did play one night game under the lights against Clark.  We were losing until the last play of the game.  I hit Larry Heise with a 20 yard pass and he ran for 53 yards to score the winning touchdown.  Life was good.

So, when we finally got to East Side, we were sophomores competing to make the sophomore team.  That meant we only played varsity for two years.  But then again, we never lost a game the whole time I was in high school.  When I graduated, we were undefeated in 46 straight games.

I suspect the school had about 1800 students.  In between classes, when the students were in the hall ways, you could feel the floor on the second level rising and falling.  I asked a senior about that and he said, “Oh yea, it does that.”  My homeroom was on the second floor, so I got used to it.  When the Washington Redskins were playing at RFK Stadium, the fans used to get the stands rocking.  It always got me thinking of my High School Harry days.

My homeroom teacher was Pick Dehner, the basketball and baseball coach.  He stood about 6′ 6″ and received All American honors when he played basketball at the University of Illinois.  That was about the time I was born.  He must have hand picked who was in his homeroom because he had almost all of the jocks from our class.  Room 201 was a large study room with over 100 desks.  We met every morning for attendance and announcements (which usually there were none) and then we were off to class.

Pick selected me to do all of his gofer duties, so I designated myself as the Homeroom Class President for all three years.  There was never an election.  Outrageous?  You bet.  But it fell into the category of “Who cares?”  But every time I see it in the Eastlian class year book, I have a chuckle.  Wow, Homeroom Class President for all three years.  I must add that after attending law school, I became quite serious about telling the truth.

My senior year, me and Larry Heise were standing outside our homeroom before school started.  The lovely Alice Hoge walked by and we grabbed her and brought her into Room 201.  There was a supply room right behind Pick’s desk and we put her in there and took our seats.  Then Pick came in and sat down.  The room was deathly silent.  Then the supply room door opened and Alice walked right by Pick and left the room.  Not a word was said.  Then Pick looked at me and shook his head.

I can now safely report that Alice did not suffer any lasting trama from the incident.  There was no need to bring counsellors into the school to advise troubled students who had observed the incident.   It was just another day in the life of East Side High.

The reason I am reflecting on this stupid prank is that I wonder how it would have been handled today.  I’m sure I would have been arrested for false imprisonment – maybe even kidnapping.  Lawyers would have raced to see Alice’s parents explaining that she needed to sue not only me and Larry,  but also the school for letting such an egregious thing happen.  And, of course, Pick would have been in deep Kimchi for not reporting the incident.  Then, the media would look into my past and concluded that everyone should have seen this coming.  They would also find out that a few years earlier, I had asked Alice to go out with me and she had turned me down!  Clearly, this was an act of retribution.

Oh well, fortunately it was the 1950s and people seemed to know the difference between a harmless prank and a willful assault.  Life was good and we all survived East Side High.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2014



Bloggedy Blog Blog, Part 2

The world is racing by me.  I can’t keep up.  As JFK said, “Life isn’t fair.”  But if my biggest problem is that my blog site is out of control, I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

You know how many emails you get everyday?  Well, it’s the same with me.  So I delete a lot of them without even looking at them.  Groupon, Jockey, Golfsmith, Dick’s, Amazon, Facebook and GoDaddy.  Ping, ping, ping, ping.  They disappear as fast as I can hit the delete button.  I get rid of political stuff just as fast.  I have decided that sending $25 to some political hack is not going to save the world.

GoDaddy supports my blog site.  And, it turns out that 90% of their emails were trying to sell me something.  However, for the last few months, they had been trying to warn me that they were going to shut down the GoDaddy platform that supported my website.  They kept trying to notify me and I kept deleting the message without reading it.  Ping!

Something caught my attention one week before blog doomsday.  I was going through my emails and GoDaddy’s subject line said, “Important Message.”  That saved me.  If I hadn’t taken action, all of my previous blogs would have vanished.  So in the eleventh hour we transferred my 244 blogs over to my new “platform,” WordPress.  I’m sure that WordPress is good, but I just can’t make it work for me.

For example, I used to get one or two comments whenever I posted something.  It’s really great to know someone is out there.  Of course, I have to approve the comment before it is published.  I wrote a blog entitled, “It’s a German Thing” and it set out some problems I had with the German people.  One comment I received and promptly deleted was from a German, who in familiar Deutsch gave me the finger.  Now, with WordPress, the damn comment has reappeared.

Since switching to WordPress, I had been receiving 170 comments a day.  Of course, I can mark them for spam or trash, but it is extremely time consuming and frustrating.  Almost everyone was spam and trying to sell something (on my site!).  I was overwhelmed with spam.  I tried to figure whether there was something in the WordPress settings that would help me.  I finally found a place where I could put  “comment blacklist” words.  If the proposed comment had one of these words in it, then it would not pass GO, but would go directly to spam  I studied my submitted comments and  found that 60 to 70 % included Louis Vuitton.  So I put four items on the comment blacklist:  Louis Vuitton, babyliss, Michael Kors and louboutin.  Guess what?  I have had only six requested comments in the last two weeks!

Under my old GoDaddy Quick Blogcast system, I had a place where people could subscribe to my blog and whenever I published something, they would receive an email of the blog.  I also could check statistics and see how many hits RiceQuips had had in the last day, week or month.  Heady stuff.  Now I am flying blind.  And to make me completely irrelevant, Google can’t find what I have previously published.

I’m going to brag for a moment.  I actually had posts listed on the first page of Google.  Now, they are way back on page 12 and if you click on it, it comes up “Not Found.”  I have been told that Google is a creeping search engine, so it will eventually find me.  It’s been two months.  I wish it would creep a little faster.

I have been told that Google Analytics is the best place to get statistics, but now I can’t log on to Google.  I registered with Google about three years ago.  Google insists that my password is wrong (I wrote it in a book and I am looking right at it).  So I told them that I lost my password (not true), and then, they insisted on texting me my password.  I don’t text.  I know, I know, I’m a dinosaur.  So for my last chance, they asked me to tell them when I opened my Google account, AND, when was the last time I was on it.  I didn’t have a clue to answering either question.

If my air conditioner stopped working, I would get professional help.  If my car shut down, I would get professional help.  Get the picture?  You know those commercials where they say, “Don’t try to do this at home.”  Well, that’s where I’m at.  I have found someone who is going to fix me up.  My old subscribers will again be getting my blogs by email.  New subscribers will too.  I should also be looking at some statistics!  Life may not be fair, but for goodness sakes, don’t sit on your hands.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2014

The Judge Says – Anyone for Brandy?

As you may have observed, one of the categories I have is entitled, “The Judge Says.”  This is the 14th such article I am publishing.  They are not new.  In fact, I wrote them for newspapers in the Fort Riley area back in the 1980s.  Unlike wine, they haven’t improved with age.  But, there was nothing like this form of communication back then and I think they are worth preserving.  So, here is the latest one I have dug out.

The Judge Says, January 23, 1981

Drugs are illegal in the military.  Recently the US Court of Military Appeals ruled that you better not get caught dealing in drugs on post or off post.  In both cases, the military courts have jurisdiction.   With the above in mind, it seems a little outrageous that a soldier would think that he had some right to hide his drug stash, and be able to use some legal mumbo jumbo to insure that he is not tried by court-martial.  Until recently, we were advising commanders that they could conduct their health and welfare inspections and seize all contraband; but we weren’t real sure whether we could get a conviction.  The commanders were frustrated and so were we.

On January 5, some very positive vibes came out of Washington.  In a case called US v. Middleton, the Court of Military Appeals supported the traditional military inspection, the right during that inspection to seize drugs and other contraband, and to use them in court against the suspect.  In the Middleton case, the company commander decided to conduct a health and welfare inspection of his unit. This decision was made about three weeks before the inspection.  He decided to use a little Brandy during the inspection.  This Brandy had four feet and a sensitive nose for sniffing out drugs (not to be confused with a brandy snifter).  The commander checked out the dog and the handler prior to the inspection and satisfied himself that they knew their stuff.

While this particular inspection did not include wall lockers (it could have), it did include the rest of the room.  While Brandy  was in Middleton’s room, she alerted on his wall locker.  The company commander was called and again, Brandy went through her search pattern and alerted on the wall locker.  Based on what the company commander observed and already knew about Brandy, he ordered a search and guess what?  Drugs were found.

The court held that the commander had probable cause to order the search of the locker.  Keep in mind that the reason there had to be probable cause was that the wall locker was not within the scope of the inspection.  Had Brandy alerted on an area within the scope of the inspection, the contraband could have just been seized without the need for a probable cause search.

It would be difficult to advise a commander to do everything just like Middleton’s commander did.  But the language of the court strongly supports health and welfare inspections which are set up at an earlier date (this doesn’t mean that the troops know about it).  Don’t wait until someone loses his stereo to decide to hold a health and welfare inspection.  The  judge will look through the decision and treat the “inspection” as an illegal search.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2014

Refugee Kids? Sez Who?

I hate to write provocative stuff.  Maybe if I were a little bit smarter.  I know just enough about a subject to get myself in trouble.  I know it is illegal to enter our country without proper documents.  I know that a country that can’t protect its borders isn’t much of a country.  And that’s where I find us.

At the present time, we have a crises.  Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America are crossing our borders.  We can’t seem to stop them from coming and we aren’t equipped to handle them when they get here.  I can’t help but think about the old spoof that someone wrote during the Vietnam War.  In this spoof, the author had China entering the conflict.  But rather than fight, they were marching south and surrendering.  Twenty abreast and as far as the eye could see.  They just kept marching and surrendering (The thesis was that China had so many people that they could just keep it up).  In this wild story, the US demanded that the Chinese stop surrendering.  They didn’t.  Since we had no choice, we nuked them.  If there was a moral in the story, it got lost in the mushroom cloud.

Now, we have children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador marching across our border and surrendering.  Again, the similarity to the Vietnam spoofs striking.  We can’t handle them and they are overwhelming our border authorities.  I wish I understood more.  To me, it just makes sense to call out the National Guard and secure our border.  I’m afraid that might screw up somebodies political agenda and that is when I start mumbling and frothing at the mouth.

At this particular moment, I can’t stand either political party.  Our president is a smug doofus who has done damage to our national security at so many levels that I don’t  know if we will ever recover.  Periodically, I wonder if he is doing it on purpose.  I’m starting to froth again.  Then, our Republican leaders insist on doing nothing for fear that Obama might get credit for something good that happened.  And because the Republican party refuses to address the immigration issue (which they should and that means compromise), they are losing most of the Hispanic vote.  Then they lose the women’s vote over the abortion issue.  Thank goodness there’s still us old farts clinging tightly to our rifles!

The other day, I read a post on Facebook.  It said, “If you think fertilized eggs are people, but refugee kids aren’t – you’re going to have to stop pretending your concerns are religious.”  Whoa.  What does this mean?  Talk about provocative.  Talk about slick.  First of all, I’m not excited about the abortion issue, but I understand that there are religious groups that believe a fetus is a human being.  They have the right to believe that.  But who said anything about killing the kids crossing our borders?  Who made them refugees?  Refugees are those crossing borders “for safety or to escape persecution.”  I’m not sure that applies, but “refugee kids” gives them a sympathetic sound.  Heaven forbid someone call them illegal aliens .

I wish I were smart enough to figure out who is behind all this.  Thousands of children don’t start a long trek from Central America to our southern border on their own.  We love a good conspiracy theory, but I haven’t heard it, unless it is the Administration trying to bankrupt our nation ($3.7 billion).  If this situation gets  serious enough, Obama will probably blame Bush.  Now, I’m being told that if I don’t have empathy for these children, I’m heartless.  Say what?  For once, I am agreeing with Nancy Pelosi.  She said we are all Americans and she would like to take all of them home with her.  I, too, wish she would.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2014

Gillette’s Latest and Greatest Razor, Until Next Month

Oh man.  What in the world is going on?  Gillette has just come out with a new razor.  I guess I have always used Gillette razors.  I’ve written about them before.  But now, I cans hardly keep up with their new models.

Last year at this time, I had winnowed it down to two razors.  One was my old reliable Mach 3 Turbo that I had had forever.  You know it is a winner when Gillette just keeps making replacement blades for it.  Newer models have gone by the wayside, but the old Mach 3 just keeps chugging along.  Then, of course, I have the Fusion ProGlide Power.  Five blades and smooth as could be.  While the blades are expensive, they last a long, long time.  I was really comfortable with my shaving situation.

Then about eight months ago, Gillette announced that they have a new razor for sensitive skin.  It’s called the Gillette Mach 3 Sensitive Power Razor.  My old Mach 3, which I love, has no power and it wasn’t specifically made for sensitive skin.  They also made the razor green so it would be environmentally friendly.  This was a product they were marketing to jerks like me.  “Oh, it’s for sensitive skin.  I have sensitive skin.”  Dah.  So, I bought it and, of course, I needed to buy extra blades because Gillette is too smart to make their old Mach 3 blades interchangeable.  Bottom line is forget about the sensitive skin, I got sensitive every time I used the green razor.  I feel like I was gimmicked (I just made a new word).

So when I run out of the environmentally friendly green blades, I thought I would be back to the two razors I am happy with.  But no!  Gillette won’t leave me alone.  They are now coming out with the “Fusion ProGlide Power Razor with FlexBall Technology.”  Holy cow.  My present Fusion ProGlide flexes up and down to smoothly stay in contact with my skin over my jaw bone and chin.  Now, with the FlexBall, the blade will toggle sideways and if necessary do somersaults to get that last elusive hair.  After my last experience with the environmentally friendly Mach 3 “S” (S is for sensitive and stupid), I had half a mind not to buy the somersaulting  FlexBall technology.  But what if I am wrong.  I didn’t need the Fusion ProGlide Power razor, but now that I have it, I’m convinced that it is the best.  Whose to say that there isn’t a need for a somersault once in a while.

I will probably buy it, but I won’t promise that I will report on it.  That’s the kind of threat that will drive people away from my blog site.  My next blog will be on something more exciting, like tooth paste.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2014


Don’t Get Comfortable, Life Gets Tricky

Life is really tricky.  Just when you think things are under control, along comes the trickiness.  Maybe you have figured out how not to get junk mail on your computer, but I haven’t.  But I have found the delete button.  I probably get 40 to 50 junk emails a day.  The Jockey Store sends me a sale notice everyday.  Really, how much underwear can you own?

So when I bring up my emails, I go down the list: Groupon, Retail-Me-Not, tickets for the St. Louis Cardinals (even though I am in DC), GoDaddy, Double Take Offers, AAA and Dick’s Sporting Goods and many more.  I generally don’t even look at them.  With my finger on the delete button, I go ping, ping, ping, ping.

Well, life got tricky.  Even though GoDaddy had sent me hundreds of sale notifications, this time, since the first of the year, they have been trying to notify me that all of my blogs were about to disappear.  They were shutting down GoDaddy’s Quick Blogcast, which is the platform I use to support  On June 19, I was sitting in an outlet parking lot in Lancaster, PA, while Carole and our two grown daughters, Becky and Missy were shopping.  I was deleting stuff from my IPhone.  When I got to GoDaddy, the first two words got my attention.  It said, “Important Notice.”  That is how I found out that they were shutting me down on June 25!

I called GoDaddy on the 21st and they sold me a new platform (WordPress) for all my blogs.  Then with the help of JW Kimbro, a GoDaddy consultant, we transferred all 244 existing blogs from Quick Blogcast to WordPress.  If you are having difficulty understanding this, don’t feel bad.  I have no idea what I am talking about.  I am just repeating what they told me.  However, if you are reading this, you can see the style is different and that is because it was published on WordPress.  So there.

Now, my biggest problem is that Google can’t find me.  If you go to Google and type in Schilling Manor, Ricequips will pop up on the first page.  But, since switching to WordPress, when you click on the article, Google will tell you it is “Not Found.”  And I thought Google was keeping track of all of us.  I called GoDaddy to see if they could help me.  After two lengthy pauses to get help, I was informed by the consultant that Google is a web crawler and it will eventually find me.  I kept having flashbacks to the movie Matrix.  But I am somewhat relieved.  It just hasn’t happened yet.  I hope the posting of this blog does the trick.

I don’t think you can call Google.  They are too busy putting together a cute Google logo for the next day.  But hopefully, when I post this blog on WordPress a light will come on at Google and Bing.  Please keep your fingers crossed.

Written by PJ Rice at

Copyright 2014


Veterans Administration – Take a Number Sucker

I think it was a year or so ago when President Obama said he was going to fix the backlog problem at the Veterans Administration.  I am pretty sure he also promised to bring the killers of our Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, to justice.  I think his strategy is to say the right thing at the right time and then hope the people forget about it.  The Media is in his pocket, so they won’t remind anyone.

But unfortunately (for him) the present problems at VA have reminded the public that he hasn’t kept his promise.  So now, on cue, it is announced that Obama is “madder than Hell” over the VA allegations.  Well, that makes me feel a lot better.  The Washington Post had a cartoon a week ago Saturday in which a veteran was entering a VA office.  There was one of those take-a-number machines and sitting right next to the machine was a soldier in a Civil Was uniform!  Loved it.

When I was a young officer, Mr. Kenty, a warrant officer whom I worked with, and had been in the military for over 30 years, told me that there was only one person really interested in my military career and that was me. He started in the Army as a Blacksmith Apprentice.  He loved the day the Army got rid of their horses and he didn’t have to feed them at 0600 hours everyday.  His message about my career was clear and I did my best to keep track of what was happening to me.  I also strongly believe that the same holds true for medical care.  Especially in the military.

Upon retiring, Carole and I continued to receive our medical care through the military, always mindful that we were the only ones interested in our health and wellbeing.  A number of military families, upon retirement, got as far away from military medical care as possible.  That was their way of addressing the issue.  We learned how to get great care within the military.  The thought of using the Veterans Administration never crossed my mind.  If VA was the answer, I have no idea what the question was.

I’ve had only a few experiences with the VA.  None has been good. At the time of my retirement from the Army, I was told to apply to the VA for a disability rating.  I was also told to make a copy of my medical files before VA got them, because they would surely lose them.  They did.  Three times!  But each time they lost them, they found them.  So technically, they didn’t lose them, they were just misplaced.

This all happened 24 years ago, so I’m a little fuzzy on some of the facts.  Other parts of the experience, I remember like it was yesterday.  In applying for the VA disability, you have to list all the things that have fallen apart during your military career.  Then the VA gives you an appointment where they can evaluate your problems.  They set it up so I had five appointments in the same day.  I could receive all of my evaluations that day and be done. Sounded too good to be true.

The first evaluation was with an orthopedic doctor.  I was given a couple of forms to fill out while waiting for the doctor.  The forms were so ambiguous and confusing that I left a lot blank.  When the doctor arrived and saw that I hadn’t completely filled out the forms, he became furious with me. He was screaming at me with some Eastern European accent.  I was so bewildered that I just took it.  It was his play pen and I was thoroughly confused.  Here I had just retired  with 28 years of military service and I was being treated like a truant school child.  I thought about getting him in a hammer lock and giving him options.  But, I had come over to this strange hospital with a mission and this jerk wasn’t going to get me off track.  He eventually examined me and sent me on to my next appointment.

I made it to my next appointment which was with an eye doctor. He was young and friendly.  We chatted for a few minutes and then he asked to see my glasses (a reasonable request).  My glasses had been made in Germany which made the bifocal portion different. In the US, you can feel the bifocal portion of the lens extending from the front of the lenses.  My glasses had the built-up portion of the bifocal on the back of the lens.  The doctor noticed this and got all excited.  He asked about where I got the glasses and I explained to him that they came from Germany.  He asked if he could borrow them for a few minutes and I said, “Sure.”  He didn’t come back for an hour.  I just sat there.  I eventually went out to the receptionist and told him I was missing my next appointment.  He told me not to worry.  It would be OK.  The doctor came back as if he had been gone for only ten minutes and sent me on my way.

The next doctor concluded I had high blood pressure.  Duh!  I was delighted I hadn’t blown a leak.  The next doctor was a psychologist who asked me how my day was going.  I smiled at him and said, “Fine.”  Way back in 1962, I had a buddy going to ROTC Summer Camp at Fort Sill (I was also attending).  His car broke down three times on his trip from Missouri to Oklahoma.  He got there late and they rushed him through the physical.  Finally he saw a psychologist who asked him how his day was going.  He went into a rant about the trip down to Fort Sill.  They kept him under observation for three days.  So whenever a psychologist asks me how my day is going, I smile and say, “Fine.”  I also tell them I love my parents.

A year later, after “misplacing” my file a few times, I was notified that I was being awarded a 20% disability.  That came to a little over $100 a month.  Sound great?  Well, not so great.  The $100 they award is subtracted from my retirement pay.  The only benny is that I don’t have to pay taxes on the VA money.  Whoopee!

My only other VA experience was a screw up on my part.  The year I was assigned to Northwestern University to get a Masters Degree in Criminal Law, we lived in Evanston, Illinois.  Every couple of weeks we would go up to the Great Lakes Naval Station Commissary.  We would pass the hospital on the way to the commissary.  I had messed up my knee in my previous assignment in Germany and called up to the Great Lakes Naval Hospital and got an appointment.

On the day of my appointment, I drove up to the hospital and went inside.  I found the room number of the orthopedic section and headed there.  I found the room and went in.  There was a receptionist sitting at a desk.  I told her who I was and that I had an appointment.  She said, “Well the doctor isn’t coming in today, but if you would like to sit down and read some magazines, go right ahead.  Whoa!  I headed back down to the reception section and got in line behind a young kid.  He was big as a house, but the
little woman behind the counter was very upset with him.  He had lost his medical card (and not for the first time).  When it was my turn, I told her I thought I was in the wrong place.  She starred at me and said, “Are you sure?”

It turned out that rather than going to the Naval Hospital, I had gone to a VA mental hospital.  I smiled at her, told her I was fine and that I loved my parents and got the hell out of there.

Written by PJ Rice at

Dad, The Base Ball Player

I was going through some old files the other day and I came across my birth certificate.  It’s a real mess.  I have seen enough of my Dad’s handwriting to be reasonably certain that he filled out the top part with all the particulars.  They had decided to call me Jack, so he wrote in “Jack Paul Rice.”  Then, the “Jack” was scratched out and “Jackson” was inserted high on the line between “Paul” and “Rice.” I had noticed all that years earlier.  I used to kid that if I had been the oldest, I would have been worried about my   legitimacy (back when people worried about things like that).

The thing I did notice for  the first time was the listing of my father’s occupation.  It simply said’ “Base Ball Player.”  Isn’t that something? I suspect not too many people have listed baseball player as their father’s occupation on their birth certificate.  But it also made me feel guilty because I didn’t know much about his baseball career. By the time I started to kindergarden, his career was over and it was just something that never got discussed in great detail.  I knew he had gone  to Spring Training with the Chicago Cubs when he was only 19.  He played for the Little Rock Travelers for a few years, managed and played for the Lenoir Reds and ended his career with the Albany Senators.

Dad was a catcher.  We were all catchers (my brother, Bill, and yours truly).  Dad taught us the footwork to stop wild pitches, to catch foul balls and to throw out runners bunting for a base hit. Footwork is absolutely critical.  So now, as an old-timer, I drive my wife, Carole, crazy talking about mistakes made by catchers on TV. She likes baseball, but sometimes I drive her out of the room by running a play over and over with the remote control.  One announcer said that Yadier Molina (the superstar catcher for the Cards) was such a good defensive catcher because he had confidence.  Confidence?  It’s footwork (and a rocket for an arm).

Dad died over twenty years ago and I still miss him.  After retiring from professional baseball, he became the National Sports Director for the Junior Chamber of Commerce.  He formed what was called the Jaycee League and many kids throughout the nation, ages 10 to 15, played Jaycee baseball through those formative years.

After Dad died, I obtained what would barely pass for his scrapbook. I had looked at it a few times, but never studied it.  So I decided to dig in.  What a mess.  What is so difficult about chronological order? All those great newspaper articles regarding his high school success, Muny League success and professional career glued on to pages where there happened to be room.  Some going up and down, some going sideways.  And, no dates whatsoever.  But I hung in there.

Dad played high school football for East St. Louis Senior High School. He was an All-State left end at 5 foot 8 inches and 167 pounds.  Did I mention that my Dad was tough?  They were undefeated, but lost the Conference championship because they tied two games and Granite City only tied once.  But, as my Birth Certificate stated, he was a base ball player.  While still in high school, he was playing semi-pro ball in what was called the Muny League.  He was 16 and a star.  When he graduated, he went to Alabama and caught for their freshman team.  Dad insisted that they batted him ninth, because he was a Yankee.

When Dad was 19, while playing in what was called the Trolley League (another semi-pro league covering Illinois and Missouri), he was observed by the Chicago Cub manager, Charlie Grimm.  Grimm liked what he saw and invited Dad to Spring training with the Cubs on Catalina Island.  Spring training with the Cubs at 19.  Heady stuff. Most of the players took the same train from Chicago to California. Dad joined them in Kansas City.  One article I read said that “Puffy” Rice was all over the train with his checker board “looking for victims to play him.”  He never lost.  Did I mention that Dad was competitive? 

After Spring Training, Grimm farmed Dad out to the Little Rock Travelers.  He was with them for three years and then moved to Columbia, South Carolina and into the Cincinnati Reds organization. He caught for the Columbia Reds in 1937 and 38.  In 1939, he was catching for the Waterloo Red Hawks in the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League.  In the 11th inning of one game, the opposing catcher interfered with Dad’s bat.  That should have automatically given Dad first base.  However, the umpire insisted that he didn’t hear anything.  Dad told the umpire that he knew he was blind, but that was the first admission from the umpire that he was also deaf! Dad got the rest of the night off.

In 1940, Dad was the player/manager for the Lenoir Reds in the Tar Heel League (managing at the age of 26).  You know you can go on line and find out all about the players for the Lenoir Reds in 1940.  It turned out he hit .329 that year.  He had also been designated a scout for the Cincinnati Reds.  The next year, he was the player/manager for the El Dorado Oilers in the Cotton State League. He hit .348 for the short time he was with them.

Dad was relieved of his duties as El Dorado manager and became a free agent.  A Cincinnati scout named Frank O’Rourke notified the Albany Senator’s manager, “Specs” Toporcer that Dad was a free agent.  He said, “Don’t know whether you can sign him to a contract, but if you can you will get a better than fair catcher.”  He did sign with the Senators and we drove 1,600 miles in three days to join the team in Elmira, New York.  Keep in mind that there were no interstate highways.  And, you could figure that a tire would fail every 500 miles.  Mom used to say that back then, I would scream every time they took me near a car.  After that experience, at age three, I now understand my actions.  

Dad’s lasted two years with the Albany Senators before his career ended.  Back then, catchers didn’t wear hard helmets behind the plate (in fact, nobody wore what is now called a batting helmet). Today, catchers look like hockey goalies behind the plate.  I always believed that Dad got hit by what we called a “second swing.”  The batter swings and then the bat comes around a second time and whacks the catcher in the back of the head.  The catcher is protected back there by a soft baseball cap.  But it turned out to be even worse.  Albany was playing Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes-Barre had a man on first base.  The runner on first attempted to steal second base and Dad moved forward to collect a low pitch.  At that moment, the batter swung the bat and hit Dad behind the right ear. They carried him off the field and he was in the hospital for over a week.

Dad did recover enough that two weeks later, he pinch hit against
Elmira.  The pitcher for Elmira was none other that Sal, the Barber, Maglie, who gained his nick-name with the Giants, by giving out close shaves to the batters.  He nicked Dad in the midriff.  Here’s another little side note for baseball 
aficionados.  Dad’s roommate on the road with the Senators was Ralph Kiner.

Dad’s vision was never any good after the bat hit him, at least not for a professional baseball player.  So he retired when I was four. However, I did get to see him play once when I was eleven.  My brother’s Jaycee team (ages 14 and 15) had invited a team from St. Louis to come over and play a practice game.  The team that showed up consisted of 18, 19 and 20 year olds.  So they worked out a deal where Dad and the assistant coach (a Muny League pitcher) would play for my brother’s team.  The only thing I remember about the game was Dad batting.  What a beautiful swing.  It was lightning fast.  I was so excited.  The pitch came and Dad swung and the ball went straight up in the air.  When it finally came down, the shortstop had caught it.  I was crushed.  I was sure he was going to hit the ball a long way.  The good news is that I am no longer eleven and all I can see now is that beautiful swing. He was a great dad and he taught me the footwork, but he couldn’t teach me to swing a bat like him.  Not many people could

Written by PJ Rice at

BOO! I saw you smile!