The Boston Bombings: Evil Is What It Is

(Obviously, we know more about the suspects at this point than we did when I wrote this column. So far I’ve seen nothing to change my conclusions.)


"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." – Fred Rogers

            More good words from Mr. Rogers, words to live by. Maybe the biggest thing we should take from the Boston Marathon terrorist attack is that there are still way more good people than bad. Fire, police, EMS, National Guard, marathon officials, and bystanders with no responsibility whatsoever raced forward to help. The good people of the world are of every stripe – all colors, religions or lack of one, every spectrum of political viewpoint.
            For every bad guy and every person who doesn’t want to get involved, there are still hundreds who will and do. The world is full of good people; it’s just that the bad ones make more noise, and more headlines.
            Unfortunately, that wasn’t my first thought on waking up to discover innocents have been attacked again. My reaction can be best summed up by a movie quote, one that I’ve used before under similar circumstances:

“Mr. Rat... I have a writ here says you're to stop eating Chen Lee's cornmeal forthwith. Now it's a rat writ, writ for a rat, and this is lawful service of the same. See? Doesn't pay any attention to me.” (Rooster Cogburn shoots the rat.)
“You can't serve papers on a rat, baby sister. You gotta kill him … or let him be.” – Rooster Cogburn, “True Grit”

I suspect the rest of this column won’t sound terribly original, either.
Some people – and I use the word “people” loosely – aren’t stopped by the idea that their unique, psychotic form of hatred puts them in the minority. On the contrary, their hatred is especially keen toward those they see as helping their enemies. You know, enemies, like 8-year-old children.
These “people” take great delight in the use of secondary devices: bombs that go off some time after the initial attack, designed to kill and hurt as many first responders and good Samaritans as possible.
All the good will in the world isn’t going to deter these animals. They like to kill. No matter what reason they give, what cause they claim to fight for, in the end they love causing pain and destruction.
You can’t argue for them to see the right, because they’re certain they’re in the right. You’re not going to stop them with diplomacy or reason. You’re not going to appeal to their better nature, because they have none.
You can’t serve papers on a rat.
And you can’t let the rat be, not if it continues coming after you, determined to take what’s yours: Your property, your family, your freedom, your life. You can’t live in harmony with something that wants to destroy your world.
You have to kill it.
That’s not a political commentary. I’m not suggesting what needs to be done to keep more people like that from coming along. Once they get to the point where they’re killing innocent people in the belief that it furthers their cause, they should no more be reasoned with than people who kill others for fun. They’re rabid animals that need to be put down.
That’s it.
Mr. Rogers would likely not approve, and I understand that. Maybe he and I are on the same page as to how we should treat most people. No matter where they are or where they’re from, we should start from a standpoint of humanity. Do the right thing, treat others as you wish to be treated, better yourself and your community.
But part of bettering your community is defending it from evil.
Evil is what this is.
I don’t care what bad thing happened to these monsters in the past. I don’t care if they were economically downtrodden, or if they have a beef with America for any reason. Once you start murdering people just because they happen to be standing there, you’re evil. Period. You give up the right to be considered anything but a threat that needs to be dealt with. You’re a rat.
Notice I didn’t mention who actually committed this act, or why, or what, if anything, they represent. I don’t know. As of this writing nobody does, including those who are speculating anyway. I want to know their reasons, yes, but only to hunt down their followers and keep it from happening again. A scumbag is a scumbag, no matter what cause they wrap themselves in.
We should celebrate and support the good people who will always be there to help, but also protect them where we can, just as we should protect our children, our communities, our liberties, and our nation. There will always be someone trying to take those from us, and when we have to choose between what we hold precious and the rats trying to swarm over us, there’s really no choice.
You don’t serve papers on a rat.

Speak of the Devil: Vampire Sex, Harperland, And Sleazy Weasels

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Allergies and recovery and stuff

I had to stop taking meds for awhile due to upcoming allergy testing. It’s made me realize that the only thing worse than having to be on a medication all the time is not having that medication.

Emily's doing ... well, maybe better isn't the word, she's still pretty sickly and worn down. She's sleeping at the moment, and I've stopped sneezing long enough to make some chicken noodle soup for when she wakes up.

ER, again

It's been a bit of a difficult 24 hours here in the Hunter household. We took Emily to the doctor yesterday afternoon with abdominal pain, and after a great deal of poking and prodding he sent us to the ER, where we spent the next five or so hours.  The fun part: All those tests that have come back so far have all been negative. They sent us home with instructions for pain pills and a clear liquid diet, and it was a loooong night, although she seems to be feeling better now. (I'm about to go wake her up.)

 As it usual with our family, more tests and doctor visits to come. This was, I believe, the fifth ER visit/hospital stay for one of four family members since mid-winter. When I walk in, the staff all calls out, "Mark!" and I take my regular seat.

for Walking Dead fans

You “The Walking Dead” fans, you’ll get this:

The other day I noticed, printed on the inside of my glasses, the brand name “Karl”. Now, whenever I misplace them – as I often do – I ask my wife, “Where’s Karl?”

They never seem to stay in the house.

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Enter Mural History


            One thing I find interesting about history is the way things come together in unexpected ways.

            Yes, I find history interesting. That hasn’t done me much good – I always seemed doomed to repeat myself, anyway – but as spending time goes it beats the heck out of smoking pot, watching grass grow (the other grass, not pot), or a scintillating episode of “Water Polo With The C-List Celebrities”.

            I like history so much that I actually wrote a history book, which you’ll hear a whole bunch more about later because it comes out this summer. I don’t presume to be an expert historian, so much of it is set during the town of Albion’s early history, where the witnesses are dead and so can’t call me on my mistakes.

            It seems like every day of research I stumbled across something new, such as the connection between my own home and Albion’s first fire chief, the story behind Albion’s first recorded fire-related injury, and the effect of reading newspaper microfilm for hours at a time on eye strain. Most recently, I learned that the Churubusco Fire Department was organized at almost the same time as Albion’s was, and that they bought their first firefighting equipment from the same New York company – a company that earlier advertised in the newspaper I now work for.

             I don’t care who you are, that’s cool.

           Recently Darlene Bender put together Albion’s first mural, if you don’t count the one I created in crayon across my bedroom wall. And boy, was my wife upset about that. (By the way, if memory serves, Darlene’s sister once got an award for saving an Albion woman from a fire. There you go on the connection thing.)

            I was asked if I had anything to contribute to the mural, but didn’t have any photos going back far enough. I didn’t think too much about it after that, until I saw an article about the mural and realized – there’s a theme going, here – that there were many connections between it and the history of fire in Albion, which just happens to be what my book is about.

            Let’s take a look, shall we? Oh, come on, I won’t write on you with crayon:

            Naturally, one of the scenes is of the current Noble County Courthouse, which has quite literally loomed high in Albion’s skyline for … well, let’s see … looks like it was built during the same period in which the Albion Volunteer Fire Department was being organized. The first courthouse built at that site was destroyed by – wait for it – fire, a story I relate in my book Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century Or So With The Albion Fire Department. Which from now on I’ll shorten to Smoky Days, because it’s, well, shorter.

            The mural depicts a scene in which a carnival Ferris Wheel stands in the foreground. A similar Wheel, in use during the town of Albion’s centennial celebration, figures into another story of the Albion Fire Department, which I shall now shorten to AFD. (See above.)

            Also shown is the Worden House, a hotel that stood on the Courthouse square where the Corner Stop (Hey, I still call it that) convenience store now stands. That building came very close to being replaced years earlier than it did, in a story that figures in to family, fire and ice, and the Civil War.

            (Notice I don’t actually tell you the stories? Hey, I’ll have a book to sell, and it’s all in there.)

            Another scene is of the Albion Opera House, which still stands on the north side of the Courthouse square. The reason it’s standing? The volunteers of the AFD, after an incident that happened the same year that they received their first motorized fire truck.

            Then there’s the scene of the Atwood Buggy Factory, one of Albion’s early big industries, which I’m going to assume built buggies. This one’s an epic fail for me, because I did not include its story in the book, even though it burned in 1905 in its location just blocks from my home. Maybe in the second edition.

            Hey, we all miss stuff.

            Another scene: Albion’s train depot, which is where at least one, and almost certainly more, of Albion’s new fire apparatus were delivered back in the day. The initial construction of the railroad in Albion brought something else with it: the man who would one day be Albion’s first Fire Chief.

            And so it goes. The mural is going to be installed on the side of the Black Building, at the corner of Main and Orange streets near the center of town. That structure, a three story brick, only exists because fire swept away the wooden building that once stood there – and took with it much of the rest of the block, which allowed room for the eventual construction of Albion’s second fire station.

            Oh, and one more thing:

            The AFD is celebrating its 125th anniversary on July 20th this year, because that’s a workable date for bringing the most people in to join in the festivities. But the actual, official anniversary of the fire department, thanks to an ordinance passed by the Albion Town Board, was May 4th, 1888.

            The mural is planned to be up in time for Albion’s First Friday activities in May … May 3rd, the day before the AFD turns 125.

            History is cool.

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National Telecommunicators Week

I'm too full of rage to talk about the Boston Marathon tragedy right now. Instead, as this was already National Telecommunicators Week, I'd ask that you take a moment to send thoughts and prayers to the 911 operators/dispatchers of the Boston area. These men and women, already stressed by a major event in their city, are among the unsung heroes who have to hold it together when everything is falling apart.
telecommunications week

dispatchers prayer

Smoking Out the Danger Of Grass Fires

(Yeah, the photo's shaky -- I was busy.)


            “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. And suppose you set controlled burns, but didn’t keep an eye on them. But I repeat myself.”
- Mark Twain

            Okay, folks … let’s go over it again.

            Many years ago, when I was a rookie volunteer firefighter, we showed up at the scene of a large ground cover fire. Ground cover, in that case, meant it was burning through fields on three sides of a house, all the way to the ditches along the roadside. Only the shortness of the grass kept the flames from sweeping over the lawn and setting fire to the house – something that actually did happen to another place last summer.

            We pounded on the door to alert the occupants of the danger. A guy came to the door, wrapped in a towel, and explained that it was a controlled burn and he didn’t need us. He had been “controlling” the burn from the comfort of his bathtub.

            What he needed was a controlled iron skillet to the side of his head.

            Spring in Indiana is one of those times when everything blooms: flowers, allergies, columns of smoke, everything. Between the time the snow melts and the time all the foliage starts greening up, property owners have a window of opportunity to burn off various areas where they want to get rid of old, dead stuff, like weeds and last year’s election signs. If done properly under the right conditions, there’s minimal danger to anyone who doesn’t have a lung condition.

            Even then there’s always the chance of an unexpected change in wind direction or speed, or the all-too-familiar scenario of someone just not understanding how fast fire can spread. It’s like me working on my plumbing. (My home’s plumbing, I mean.) I know the risks, I think it’s under control, and it explodes in my face. Sometimes literally.

            As with my home maintenance attempts, sometimes simple little grass fires almost get me killed.

            Grass fire season here in northern Indiana is relatively minor. We don’t have the explosive underbrush of southern California, or the huge, inaccessible forests of the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes, in a particularly wet spring, we hardly get a grass fire season at all. Other times, as with last summer, things stay dry and the danger stretches on into the summer.

            Often, in both cases, the fires just get away from the people who start them, and it takes a little help to stomp them out. It’s also not uncommon for us to pull up and find dozens of acres, vehicles, barns, homes and, once or twice, people burning.

            I’ll tell you a little secret: I’ve always liked fighting grass fires. It dates back to my younger days, when I lived to put the blue stuff on the red stuff. I found a chance to do it with fires that burned across fields, meadows, and woods, but rarely did major property damage. It was exciting, but not terribly tragic … usually.

            But time goes on, and you see things. Almost getting killed never bothered me all that much, because I’m not that smart; seeing others almost get killed, or lose their homes, did. The easiest fire to fight is one that never starts.

            Which brings me back to my point.

            Having a controlled burn on your property is not brain surgery. It smells way worse. Or maybe not, what do I know? But the number one rule of both is that if you don’t have to, or if it’s more dangerous than it’s worth, don’t do it.

            The number two rule is to call your local police agency – around here usually the Sheriff Department – and let them know about your controlled burn. This prevents false alarms, in which a bunch of angry firefighters show up at your door ready to drown you in your own bathtub. Once they get there, half will be angry that it’s a false alarm, and the other half upset because they don’t get to put a fire out.

            The number three rule is to figure out how much fire you can control, and what you need to control it with. Once, when I was driving out in the country, I topped a rise and saw the ditch burning on both sides of the road and both side of the cross road, literally as far as I could see. People, if it’s just you, a broom, and an ATV, and you’ve set a fire line eight miles long, you do not have a “controlled” burn. Keep it small, and have lots of water, shovels, brooms, fire extinguishers, and cell phones.

            The number four rule is to burn against the breeze, so the fire can’t spread rapidly, and to not burn at all if the wind is too strong. Considering how grass fire and tornado seasons come so close together here, I can only imagine that sooner or later they’ll combine into one spectacular, almost Biblical twister of flames. I’d better copyright that idea before SyFy gets ahold of it.

            (My wife informs me that SyFy has, indeed, already produced a movie on this subject. *sigh*)

            The number five rule is don’t wait too long before calling for help if things get out of hand. Don’t worry about being embarrassed … do I get embarrassed when I have to call for help as water from my sink sprays into an electrical outlet? Well … yes, but still.

            The number six rule is, don’t be stupid.

            Actually, that pretty much covers them all.