Sam at the wheel.

Back in the day, before he got married, my son, Dirk, had a great dog, Sam. An Australian Shepherd. He was Dirk’s shadow They went everywhere together, except when Dirk went to work.

This is a story, Dirk told me recently about a grocery run with Sam along.

Dirk pulled his car into a space in the grocery store lot. Than, as usual, he turned off the ignition, shoved the gear shift, which was was on the steering column, into reverse gear. A common practice in lieu of putting on the hand brake. He rolled down the window enough to give Sam air but not enough that Sam could squeeze through. Told Sam to stay and went into the store.

Just as he was about to check out, he heard an announcement that the owner of a silver Toyota should report to the policeman outside. Dirk’s car. He went out right away.

The cop was standing there with a scowling man. When Dirk said the car was his, the angry man got in Dirk’s face.

‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over with your goddamn car!’

Dirk was at a lose for words. He extended his hands, palms up, and looked at the cop, who stepped between Dirk and the man. Dirk’s first thought was the man was off his rocker.

‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over!’

Before the cop could say anything, the man leaned over the cop’s back and repeated, ‘Your goddamn dog almost ran me over!’

Finally the cop got a chance to explain. It seems the car, which was no longer in a parking space but in the car lane and the dog was the only one in the vehicle.

‘If your goddamn dog can learn to drive, the goddamn dog can learn to watch out for people. He goddamned nearly ran me over’!

The three went to the car. Sam got all excited seeing Dirk. He began to jump around hitting the steering column several times.

‘See, your goddamn dog’s trying to run us all over!

Dirk looked in the window and saw the gear shift was in neutral. Sam must have been jumping around and knocked it into neutral. The parking space had a slight incline so the car coasted down into the driving lane…just as the man was walking by.

Dirk and the cop agreed that is what happened. The explanation didn’t matter to the man. He just walked away and shouted back over his shoulder, ‘Your goddamn dog! Your goddamn dog almost ran me over’

Dirk said he jumped in the car and pulled it back into the parking space and the spent about five minutes laughing before going back into the store. And all the while he was laughing, Sam was trying to lick Dirk’s face. Before he got out of the car, he put the shift into gear and put on the parking brake to boot.


The Old Hand:

I watched a man trying to back his SUV into a parking space at the mall. There was at least six spaces empty on either side of the space he wanted. He tried about five times, finally just left it. One half of the SUV was in one space, the other half was in the space next to it. I noticed both spaces were posted for ten minute parking only. Since he was parked in two spaces, does that mean he can park there for twenty minutes?

I have a hard time understanding what is accomplished by backing into parking space. You might get out faster but since it takes the average driver seesawing back and forth about three, four times, whatever you gain in time on the exit, you’ve lost on the entrance by a long ways. And then if you want to put groceries etc., in the trunk, you probably have to pull the vehicle ahead. I saw a customer with van at a big box store loading plywood after he had parked backwards in the space. He had to actually pull the van into the driving lane, blocking any other vehicle from using the lane. He got the plywood loaded but he also caused a lot of horns to be honked and fingers to be waved.

I always get a leery whenever I see somebody back into a parking space when there is a bank close by. Is it because the driver might want to make a quick getaway?

Published St. Paul Dispatch- 7/14/13


Another story about a car of Dirk’s.

No, there was no dog driving this time. Fact is there was no one driving it…and this time the car wasn’t just coasting…it was moving under it’s own engine power.

As told to me by my nephew, Rick:

Rick had a few days off from touring with WICKED and stopped off in town to see his folks and family. He had a chance to work a quick easy stagehand call so he went to the State Capital Mall for a quick load out. He said he would go over to Dirk’s for a bit.

But when he got to his car he looked back and saw Dirk standing by his car. He drove over and asked Dirk what was wrong.

‘Won’t start. Won’t even turn over. Dead. Probably the alternator. Get it home and I’ll check it out. I got Roadside Assistance. Might as well use it.’

Something went right that day…the tow truck arrived quickly. Rick and Dirk sat on a bench and didn’t pay any attention to the driver as he hooked up the cable to the rear of the car.

But he got their attention as soon as he pushed the button to start the wench. He swore and jumped back. The car’s engine had started and the car shot up the raised tow-bed.

The large trailer hitch on the car’s rear bumper hit the tow-bed’s front safety barrier with a resounding crash. Luckily the barrier held and the car’s engine died…otherwise the car would have ended up on the roof of the cab.

A perfect storm. Dirk had left the car in reverse and the key turned on. No biggie! The car wouldn’t start anyway.

But the tow truck driver committed two cardinal sins of towing a vehicle. Check the key. Make sure the ignition is not on. Pocket the key so it doesn’t get lost.

Make certain the transmission is in neutral. Had Dirk’s car been winched forward it would have ruined the transmission. Could you imagine if a Jag or Rolls were pulled against their gear setting what the cost would be?

And the fact it was in reverse and winched backward could have really done some bad damage had not the barrier held.

The Buck Stops At the Tow Driver.

Both Rick and Dirk ran over to the truck. But when they got within a few feet of the driver, they stopped and retreated. The driver was frozen in time. His face was ghostly pale and his pants were getting darker by the minute. And, oh, did he stink!

When the driver regained his composure, he managed to lower the flat tow-bed and get the cable taut and then had to get up on it to survey the damage. It was a sore sight to see him move with his loaded pants. Spread legged. Trying to make believe nothing was wrong.

‘The car’s okay!’ he screamed as he reached in and pulled the key and cracked the gear shift into neutral. He didn’t comment when he surveyed the huge dent in the safety barrier. Must have been doing a lot of silent swearing every time he had to move though.

At home, Dirk showed him where to put the car next to the garage and then both he and Rick stepped far back… and upwind of the guy. Nobody spoke as the car was unloaded and nobody said good by as the driver got in and drove the truck away.

‘Hope he stops off and cleans up before he has to explain to the boss about the dent in the barrier,’ Rick said.

‘Or the stink in the cab,’ Dirk added. ‘I guess that’s what they mean when they talk about being shit scared.’

And they both laughed.


Old Hand::

Since my wife doesn’t drive, and I don’t shop, I spend a lot of time in nice weather sitting in the car, read a little, snooze a little, observe the life of the parking lot. I see children mistaking the it for a playground, shoppers, with full carts, blindly believing in the right-of-way of pedestrians, and drivers whose only focus is finding a parking space. I see a lot of accidents waiting to happen.

A few lots have speed bumps in their entrance lanes to help counter some of these potential accidents.. Most drivers see the bump, slow down, ease over it, and maintain a sensible rate of speed. Some don’t notice the bump and go flying over it. It’s amazing how, when their tires return to the road, and their right hands can no longer hold onto the steering wheels, their left hands always manage to keep holding the cell phones tight against their ears.

But the drivers that really make me shake my head are those that avoid the bump altogether. They speed up, pull into the wrong lane, then quickly get back into the correct lane once they are past the bump. Such a shame when something that is meant to promote safety becomes an excuse to drive stupidly. But then, some people don’t need an excuse to be stupid when they get behind a wheel, it’s just second nature.

So when you go into a store parking lot, remember the warning of the old sergeant in Hill City Blues TV and

be careful out there‘.

Don’t be a part of the accident that happens.

Pub St. Paul Dispatch 4/23/09


Be careful out there is right.

There was 42,915 traffic related deaths in the US in 2021.

That’s almost as many deaths as gun related US deaths in 2021, which totaled out to 45,222.

Auto deaths are confined to roads.

Each year brings stricter laws to safeguard against traffic accidents.

Gun deaths take place anywhere, anytime, with or without a reason

And too often they are not accidental

And gun laws must not infringe on the 2nd Amendment.

There are 285.5 million cars in the US

There are 436.4 million guns in the US

Owning a car like a T Bird was cool

But owning an AR15 is the new cool

Joking about traffic is universal

Joking about guns is taboo

Guns makes the US unique.




My Gun Control Conclusion

The dining car was almost empty so I had a table all to myself. I ordered the biggest steak on the menu. Uncle Sam was still picking up the tab. I refused wine and took coffee. I was on duty. I forgot my paperback, so I sat back and watched the scenery pass, and thought about Sergeant Calvin C. Crowe. He represented a type of paratrooper I hoped was the exception and not the rule.

When I first thought about joining the Airborne, back in basic, I was hoping it would be my ticket to go overseas to Germany, instead of ending up like so many peace time GI’s in Frozen Chosen, aka South Korea. I had heard rumors of the 11th being disbanded and Crowe’s remark pretty much convinced if I made it through jump school, I would be in Fort Bragg, North Carolina – for my duration.

The steak and two pieces of apple pie ala mode were good but they didn’t keep me from thinking about my future. Maybe I should have joined my two high school buddies and enlisted in the Navy, even if the hitch was for four years. See the world and not have to do a silly thing like jumping out of airplanes. 

I didn’t want to, but I had to go back to our cabin. I didn’t meet anybody on the way and the rumble of the train reminded me of the Hitchcock movie where the old lady vanishes on the train.

I stood in front of the door. I don’t know if it the funk I was in, or if I saw too many cowboy movies, or if I thought I could hear snoring; but whatever, I unsnapped my holster and pulled out the ‘45. I checked to make sure it was locked and loaded and slowly pushed down the door handle, using my left hand. Then I pushed the door open quickly. The gun pointed straight ahead.

Damn! I was staring right into the eyes of Billy the Kid. He was standing by the table. He was holding a ‘45 pistol. In my side vision I saw Sergeant Calvin C. Crowe asleep on the lower bunk. He was snoring.

I realized that my thumb was pressing on the safety, my finger pressing against the stiffness of the trigger. I also realized I was staring down a barrel of destruction. Not that I thought the lad had any idea of shooting me ; but his eyes told me he was scared and might shoot me in fright, and I wasn’t going to let that happen if I could help it.

Oh, Billy,’ I said to myself. ‘Oh, Billy, don’t press down on that safety lever. Please. Please don’t.’

What seemed like a long, long time was over in a few seconds. The kid hollered, ‘No! No!’ and he threw the weapon down. It hit the table with a loud crash and bounced to the floor.

Crowe broke out of his nap and sat upright. It took him a couple double-takes to realized what had happened and he quickly dove for his weapon, all the time shouting ‘F@#k! F@#k!

Crowe’s swearing and Billy’s crying brought me back to my senses and I stuck my weapon back in the holster and picking up my paperback off the chair seat, sat down and opened it pretending to read. My mind did not register on the print but gripping hard on the book hid the shaking of my hands. I just kept thinking over and over how close I came to pulling the trigger.

What a trio!

A teenager from the tough streets of Philly trying to explain between sobs that all he did was take the gun off the sergeant’s belly because the man was sleeping, and he was afraid it would fall on the floor. ‘I just was looking at it. I wasn’t going to do nothing with it. Just looking, honest.’

The man in charge, a rodeo rider from Calgary, mumbling the same apology over and over. ‘I didn’t sleep very good last night. I never thought I would fall asleep though. I don’t think I was out very long. Not very long.’

And me, fresh out of Basic and an Army school, a small-farm lad from Minnesota, only a few months out of my teenage years, trying to look calm by trying to read a book. I must have carried my act off because the other two believed it. If they only really knew that I might have been the most shook-up of the trio. ‘Why don’t both of you go down to the dining car and have some chow? Do you good.’

They both claimed they weren’t hungry; but it would be a long time before they could eat again, so I pulled the porter’s cord and ordered two cheeseburger baskets and a couple cokes. For a couple of guys who weren’t hungry, they sure wolfed down the food as soon as it came.

Crowe said that he needed a real drink as he finished off his coke. I reminded him he was on duty and he muttered about falling asleep on duty.

I worked my ass off for these stripes,’ he whined, ‘And now…Blink of an eye and I lose them. Hell, they might even slick-sleeve me. Kick my ass back to Canada. Who knows.

I don’t blame you, Ostertag. When you write the report you got to…’

Whoa there, Mister Sergeant. When I write the report? I’m not top- rank here. When you write the report…’

Yeah, you’re right. When I write the report.’

Well,’ I said, ‘The report should be be short and sweet. Mission accomplished. Boring trip. Nothing happened.’

‘What you mean…?

What I mean, sergeant,’ I said, ‘The report should reflect it was a boring trip, nothing happened. You go off on some tangent to say something happened, but nothing came of it, and the three of us will spend more days in Repo while the Army red tapes the whole thing only to find out nothing happened.

‘Just let the three of us get on with our lives. The kid wants to go home. You want to get to town and buy your new Hog. And I want to go to jump school.’ And if they really believed that, I should have won an award for acting.

Crowe reverted to his normal egotistical persona. He handcuffed himself to our desperado before we exited the train and pushed Billy into the back seat of the MP car that met us at the depot. I got in the front like before.

Piece of cake, Sarg. Piece of cake,’ he assured the driver, who hadn’t asked us how things went. ‘Sarg, did you have to go to a special school to get in the MP’s?’ The sergeant said he enlisted to be an MP and volunteered airborne at the school.

We were dropped off at MP HQ and Billy was whisked away to the stockade without being able to say goodbye. After we checked out and waited for the jeep to go back to Repo barracks Crowe asked the desk MP about putting in for a transfer to the MP’s. He said he thought he would make a good one. And he had the wings and rank already. ‘And,’ he added, ‘Experience.’

Yeah,’ the top NCO said,’You got it all, don’t you?’ He looked at me and asked if I wanted to transfer also.

I’ll pass,’ I said, quickly.

The next week I was busting tail in jump school. About midweek, Patricio, the mail clerk intercepted me when I came in the barracks to tell me some kid had  come to the barracks to say thanks and goodbye to me.

Must have made a hell of an impression on him,’ Pat said, smiling, ‘When I told him you were in jump school, he said he would lay odds you graduated first time cause you are some baaaaad ass.’

Billy the Kid also promised he’d look me up when he was old enough to enlist again. He left a piece of paper with his address in Philadelphia in case I get up there. He said he wanted to fix me up with his good looking sister.

I never heard from William P. Fuller again. And I sure wasn’t going to reup just to hang around to see him, if he ever did come back.

As far as Mr. All- Canada was concerned, I saw him once from across Slave Market Street in Fayetteville. I waved, and I knew he saw me; but he ducked in the nearest bar to avoid me. I didn’t bother to cross over and follow him in the bar; although I really would have liked to rub it in his face that I not only got my wings, I got them on the first try in the jump school. So much for his prediction that I would have a hard time to make it.

A few weeks prior to my getting my discharge, there was a Division rodeo competition. I went hoping to see if Crowe was as good a bronc rider as he bragged he was. I was disappointed when he wasn’t one of the competitors. I did see him though as I rode my motorcycle out of the parking lot. He and several other MP’s were waving their night sticks around conducting traffic. He did transfer to the MP’s. His ‘experience’ must have been the tipping point to get accepted.

When I got back home I got rid of all my guns, three long ones used for hunting, one hand gun used to try and hit the broad side of the barn. Never missed not having them. Hunting wasn’t the same anymore. My old hunting grounds were suburban lawns. Besides after my experience with Billy the Kid, shooting an unarmed Bambi or Thumper would not be much of a challenge. After all I had faced ‘the most dangerous game’.

For several years after I had the occasional dream of staring at the barrel of that gun, seeing the look in that kid’s eyes. I still think of how close three people came within a hair from having their lives changed – for the worse.

And I am eternally thankful that I managed to use my gun control to prevent it from happening.

And that’s a wrap