"So, you vant to be an engineah, eh? Come. Walk wit' me."
Back when I had a real job, fresh out of the Marines, it didn't take long to figure out that when Dick Frosch said to walk with him it meant one of two things, either he was going to drop some new responsibility on me or there was going to be a prayer meeting, him doing the meeting... sort of like when Mom or Aunt Shirley would stand on the front porch and holler "Royce Junior!", except his didn't involve a hickory.
He said he'd heard I'd enrolled in college and asked why. I explained that if everyone was going to accuse me of being one of those critters, denizens of a deep dark laboratory somewhere, one of those engineer creatures because I knew how a transistor operated, I was going to at least have some creds. He appreciated the thought, and explained that he grew up on a farm in the "Old Country," Bavaria. During the second war to end all wars he was a tank commander in the German Army, then went on to become an engineer himself. Back in the "Old Country" they did things differently, similar to our co-op program but theirs was a required part of the curriculum. They would do classroom work for six months then work in that field for six months be it the blacksmith's shop, machine shop, welding, electronic lab, motor shop, electric shop, or what ever. In this manner those who were designing equipment and systems had a basic knowledge of the processes necessary to build them. He further explained that beginning the next day I'd be spending two to three days a week in our shops for at least a month each, but that also didn't mean I was being relieved of any other duties. Just what I needed, more work... without more pay because he'd just put me on salary.
Right out of the chute I learned when you upset the painter by clogging up his spray gun, with epoxy paint, the rest of that month will be spent deburring cabinets and chipping weld slag. I learned how to make little pieces of metal out of big ones with a shear and various saws, to cut holes with saws and punches and torches... except they forgot to explain our (purchased used) automatic flame cutter never worked and I had to fix it, in my free time, before being able to use it, how to shape metal with a brake and lathe and milling machine, and how to make big pieces of metal out of little ones with a welder... and why welders wear long sleeve shirts even in the middle of summer. That was the worst sunburn I ever had, learning to weld with a MIG. TIG really takes some finesse, and I never did get the hang of a stick or torch.
I learned that contrary to what some math teachers and judges with little or no experience in industry will tell us, there are uses for algebra and geometry and trigonometry in the real world, the world of profits and losses and returns on investment. We use geometry to determine if a BH (Big Honking) sheet of metal is square (hint: diagonals are equal in a rectangle but not a parallelogram). We use algebra to determine ratios when using an pantographic machine to engrave symbols onto a front panel, with cutter tip angle and depth of cut to determine line width. We use trigonometry to determine the surface speed of a conveyor in feet per minute or furlongs per fortnight, which ever the case may be, based upon the angular velocity of the drive motor and diameter of gears.
I learned the more experienced guys had a difficult time holding back their chuckles at a young hot-shot who didn't even know the tap drill for a #6-32 screw is a #36, or that one of those super cool automatic center punch hickies sure makes drilling a hole in the desired location easier. The women, up to 14 of them, I directly supervised in the lab had great fun teaching me to do wire-wrapping... and when they discovered how easily they could make me blush, oh how the jokes did fly. I learned the advantages of having a service loop in a wire when design changes or repairs were made, and a tension loop in a cable harness when it goes across a hinged panel or door opening.
Lessons... all those valuable lessons, but the most valuable lesson of all was there are a lot of jobs many of us never see and most of us don't even think about, or the skills necessary to perform them. This is most especially true of the elite of our society, and politicians who perceive themselves elite.
Take, for example, Congressman Chuck, Esquire, whose concept of a working schmuck is someone who works in a grocery or convenience store. Oh, he tried to show us he was interested in working class people, as he got out to spend a day performing their duties... and costing real working people a day's pay, wages they likely could have used to pay rent or grocery bills of their own. But what's he done lately? He prattles on about being faithful to the political party my second favorite politician used to call those republican weenies, but he's also been known to host a fundraising event for Ms. Paula Thompson, a Democrat, when one of his own purported homies was running in the same race. Did I mention that many of the local republican elite were in attendance as well? Names like Claude and Bill and Bobby? He votes the way he's told by the party elite, the establishment. What else has he done besides bash Democrats and union members? But we have a two-party political system, don't we. It's actually nothing more than one big dynasty with two groups divvying up the pie the way they want, not what's right and proper for those who elect them, isn't it.
But what do we have to replace him with? A young fellow who flew off on vacation on election night the last time he ran and isn't even as old as my Snoopy socks, much less my Mork suspenders? What experience does he bring to the party, besides how to party? We celebrate youth for its energy, innovation, and fresh perspective. At the same time we complain about a President of these United States of America, the greatest nation to ever grace the face of Planet Terra, but isn't that exactly why he was elected in the first place? And what experience did, or does, he have in real world affairs? Where are the callouses? What scars, true battle scars, does he have to prove his chops? But yet, he and his minions would presume to hang campaign signs on the fence surrounding a National Cemetery, a cemetery where Veterans who fought and died to ensure his ability to claim par with them, sort of like Kanye, lay buried. He may have a name but what experience, what real creds, does he bring to the table? Is he doing nothing more than attempting to carry on the family dynasty?
I often wonder if either of these cats, both of whom are quick to denigrate trade unions, know there's a County Republican Chairman right here in Tennessee who's spent his entire career as a union member.
We see and hear a lot these days about those evil rich dudes and dudettes, don't we. Does money or status make the man, or woman, what they are? Not hardly. But neither does it make that person evil or even less than desirable to associate with, does it. Take away their money, all their finery and peacock feathers, then introduce a person as Joe or Jane or Herbie or Ruthie. How do they react with others? How do others react toward them?
Prior to commencement of combat operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, then Major General James N. Mattis, USMC, told his troops "When you men get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she's dating a (uh, sissy)." I'm reminded of that when thinking about the current state of our nation's governing body. I'm also reminded of a lady in Colorado, a Marine Mom, who not long after single-handedly broke up an anti-war protest in the median of the Interstate not far from her home in Fort Collins while her son was across the Big Water. But the best one of all was the two women who walked into an office near Oceanside, California, and asked to speak with the manager. After they spoke he called another lady into the office and they explained her Marine had been wounded in Iraq but he was okay, that they were there to assist her in getting to Germany to see him. Needless to say, the young lady was a basket case about this time so they drove her home, helped her pack for a couple of weeks, took her to the airport with a ticket, all the while explaining to her they had arranged to have her children picked up at school and someone would stay with them until Grandparents could get there, her bills would be paid while she was out of work, and all the other of life's details would be handled until she got back. She met her Marine as he was being unloaded from the plane. All of this was handled by the Semper Fi Fund founded by Mrs. Karen Guenther, at no cost to the family, and before the military could even notify her.
There's a reason they say Marines take care of their own.
With the state our nation is in today, do we need more bumper sticker slogans? Do we need more elected officials who live by the adage "When the going gets tough, the tough go on vacation" or who hide from their constituents unless there's a fundraiser going on? Do we need any more family dynasties being built?
Scottie Mayfield had an election to lose two years ago, and did. Why? He turned his campaign over to a young fellow who'd at one time been the chairman of a College Republicans chapter, and was removed from office because he'd used his office and its resources to campaign for a Democrat in a congressional campaign. Is there any wonder we have so few voting citizens who claim affiliation to either political party any more?
If J. Pat Williams, Scottie Mayfield, or any number of other viable candidates jumped in that ring, bare knuckled, without gloves, and ran their campaigns as they built their businesses, we wouldn't have a Congress of incompetent baboons, excuse me, buffoons (buffoonish baboons?) like those in Washington, D.C. right now forcing us to pick up the tab for their party time. We'd have elected Leadership who can appreciate the sacrifices made each and every day by people getting up to go to their jobs in order to make this Grand American Experiment work.
We'd have elected Leadership who could wink at some girlfriends.
I need an espresso...
Royce Burrage, Jr.