Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sunday Afternoons, Training Union and the Beatles

     Every Sunday afternoon for many months in the late 60's we made our trek up the mountain to the Glory Rock (respectfully named so in honor of Gloria Farley) and even back into Kitchen Canyon. I would ride my bike over to Celia Jean Costner's house, and then she and Bobby and Joe Miller would join me for the hike. Sometimes there were other friends who would go along, just whoever was around, or whoever thought that was a good idea for a Sunday afternoon. It makes me tired to even think about it now! And I remember how llooonngg the bike ride home seemed after I left Celia and Bobby and Joe at their houses to make my trip back to West 4th.  Of course, the rule at our house was that I had to be home in time for Training Union. Does anyone else remember Training Union? Did anyone else HAVE to go to Training Union every week? I remember complaining to Mother once that I had to be at church even more than the preacher's kids!! At times, I was the only kid in my "department" at Training Union.
    But it was at Training Union that I first realized I had the world's absolute best SISTER! One February night in 1964, Judy knocked on my Training Union door, last door on the left down that last long hallway at FBC. She told my teacher that we had to go home real quick. During that block's drive up the hill, she explained to me how I couldn't tell Mother, but we HAD to go see the Beatles on Ed Sullivan - everyone was watching! (Thinking back, Dad must have been working the night shift because he wasn't home and I'm pretty darn sure Mo wasn't in Training Union!)
     I was 8 years old, and I don't remember being particularly impressed with the Beatles that night. But I was extremely impressed with my sister and getting to do something so special with her. She got us back to church by the 3rd verse of the second song, and I got to sit with her on the back row. There weren't a lot of teenagers at church that night. I guess they were all at home watching the Beatles. Judy and I reached a new dimension in sisterhood that night, a dimension that grows deeper and stronger with each passing year!
     By the way, Dad, a little later in life, loved his time at Sunday School and church there at FBC. But even after he became a spiritual giant with a close walk with the Lord - - I still don't think he ever had to go to Training Union!!!

Beer-can hill

In my youth days, Indian Rock on Poteau Mountain was a get-a-way place where we used to go spend a day. Or even a night, for those who were brave enough. Another place was beer-can hill.

Not at night, probably, but some of us used to go spend at least a few hours, or an afternoon. It’s a place where Larry Pennington and I used to “sneak off,” for lack of a better description. That was long before the days of the Hamilton Homes and the Montclair addition. Nothing was there behind Larry’s house, on Hwy. 128, but a field of tall grass leading up to beer-can hill, which was across the road from old Harvey Stadium and across from where Bill Warner lives now. There was nothing there but a few rocks to climb on the hill. How it got its name is a mystery to me, although I suppose someone could sneak up there to drink a beer or two, without their dad, or parents, knowing a thing about it. Larry probably wouldn’t like it if I gave away our little secret, but we sure didn’t go up there to drink beers. All we did, back in those days, was to go up there and smoke a few cigarettes. You know, something horrible like that, just something we weren’t supposed to be doing, or just something we thought we might be getting away with.

It was one of those things that was seemingly harmless fun.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The deer whisperer

Cynthia and I spent all last week at the Lake Medina Thousand Trails campground, near San Antonio communing with the deer. It wasn’t our intent, but the deer around the place were so plentiful, we couldn’t help ourselves. And I couldn’t resist feeding them.

As a member of Thousand Trails, we get a week in a getaway cabin, along with a bonus week in a standard cabin, among other benefits. Needless to say, we plan to stay at a Thousand Trails campground as often as we can next year when we head west to California . Most of the Thousand Trails campgrounds are on the west coast, so we can get to stay there for up to three weeks at a time.

There are several in Texas -- Lake Texoma, Lake Tawakani, where we are keeping our RV stored for the time being, Lake Conroe and Lake Whitney, to name a few. Back to Medina , though. It was our first time to stay there, and we loved it. Medina was advertised as a place with plenty of wildlife -- the deer were everywhere, even on the miniature golf course. We quipped early on, “Is that an obstacle? That the ball has to go though the deer’s legs?” Cynthia said, “They’re a novelty now. By the end of the week, we probably won’t even notice them anymore.” Guess what? They were still a novelty by week’s end, too. It seems you can never get enough of something so pretty. Seeing deer so close, with those big brown eyes never gets old.

Believe me, the Heavener deer pen in Heavener has nothing on this place. By the end of the week, I was feeding a little doe from my hand (see photo to right), giving her a small watermelon rind on Thursday and on Friday three quarters of an apple -- a quarter three different times. I felt I had made a breakthrough with the deer, that I could talk to them. We saw does (upper photo on right), bucks (bottom photo), fawns (photo on right). It was like being in the thick of nature’s wildlife. Of course there were squirrels, too, but we have plenty of them at home scampering around in the yard and up the trees.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Cronkite: my little link

Walter Cronkite was a legend as a TV voice, a great newscaster. He passed away late last week. I bet you didn’t know he got his start in East Texas , though. He was better known as the CBS anchorman who broke the world-wide news of President Kennedy’s assassination in downtown Dallas on Nov.22, 1963, but his very first assignment as a news correspondent was in New London , Texas for a school explosion in 1937. History tells us the New London School explosion occurred on March 18, 1937, when a natural gas leak caused an explosion, destroying the New London School . The disaster killed in excess of 295 students and teachers, making it the worst catastrophe to take place in a U.S. school building.

As the story goes, Cronkite arrived late and had to get his information from a little-known Longview reporter named Ed Leach, who later became Editor-in-Chief of the Longview News. Well, Ed was my very first boss at Longview . He didn’t tell me the story, but his son, Ted, did. And Ted later became one of my best friends.

I never met Walter Cronkite, but “THAT’S the way it is.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

A note to Kathy

Kathy Bain Dunn, I don't have your e-mail so I'll just say it publicly. I asked my son, Chris, to read the comment you had made about Mother at the funeral. There were many good things said about Mother at the service, but I thought what you had written was the most touching of all. I will be forever grateful to you for writing what you did. Judy Sexton says you are a wonderful lady, she must surely be telling the truth. colin

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mother Died Today

Thanking you in advance for your prayers and condolences, I'm letting y'all know that Mother died today at St. Edwards in Ft. Smith. I had gone down for a visit Tuesday morning and while I was there she had a stroke. The ambulance rushed her to Ft. Smith and by the time I got to the hospital she had slipped into a coma and did ot awaken . She seemed at peace the whole time. colin

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Colin, You Asked for It

Colin, you asked about oil grades and the relative merits of synthetic lubricants compared to “natural” oil.  Well, not to bore all you guys and gals out there, here is a brief summary.

Natural petroleum is a mixture of many different hydrocarbon molecules, most of which are in long chains with from 18 to 34 carbon atoms per molecule.  Specifications for oils (and fuels such as gasoline and Jet A) are in terms of physical parameters (e.g., boiling point, vapor pressure, flash point, viscosity, etc.) and not in terms of chemical constituency.  Therefore, natural lubricating oils may vary in makeup and performance from product to product.  The SAE established and maintains the standards for lubricating oils.

The numbers such as 10W-30 refer to the viscosity of the lubricant.  The lower the number, the less viscous the lubricant.  Viscosity is measured in units called centistokes but for our purposes we can think of it as “thickness”.  Molasses is “thick” (high viscosity) and ethanol is “thin” (low viscosity).  In the simplest method viscosity is measured by heating a lubricant to a specified temperature and measuring how quickly it flows through a standard hole.  The actual current method employs a cold crank simulator but produces similar numbers.

The viscosity of a lubricant is a strong function of the temperature of the lubricant.  Most lubricants become less viscous as their temperatures increase. Multi-grade capabilities are obtained by mixing lubricants of different grades.  The two numbers in the rating for motor oil lubricants refer to a low temperature viscosity and a high temperature viscosity.  For example, a multi-grade lubricant with the number 10W-30 has a viscosity at -13 deg F equal to that of a lubricant with a rating of 10 and a viscosity at 212 deg F equal to that of a lubricant with a rating of 30.  The “W” in the rating means that the lower number is the “winter” grade.  In simple terms, the lubricant acts like a “thin” one at low temperatures and a “thick” one at high temperatures.

Newer automobile engines have very small clearances between the parts of their journal bearings (e.g., rod to crankshaft) and need “thin” oils to be able to get into the tight spots.  Most wear on a journal bearing is experienced during either startup when the only oil present is the remnants of a film from previous running or during oil starvation.  In both cases, the bearing has metal-to-metal contact rather than riding on a film of oil.  Similar considerations apply for lubrication of sliding surfaces such as cams and valve stems (for OHC engines). Lubrication of a roller or ball bearing device follows the same principles but is somewhat more complex.  A low viscosity lubricant provides better startup protection because of its ability to enter the bearing while a higher viscosity lubricant provides better running protection because it doesn’t “thin out” and become too thin to provide a suitable lubricant film.

You also asked if synthetics are better than petroleum lubricants.  The answer depends on the engine and how it is used.  If most of the driving is short, low-speed jaunts then petroleum-based lubricants are fine.  If, however, the engine is driven on long, high-speed trips then synthetic lubricants are probably better.  The major advantage of a synthetic is that it lasts longer before the molecules in it break down.  This is primarily because the molecules in synthetics are shorter chains than petroleum-based lubricants.  Of course, the temperature of the oil is the critical parameter and that temperature depends on the design of the engine as well as the way the engine is used.  For engines that operate at low oil temperatures, the major reason for oil changes is that the lubricant becomes contaminated with things such as combustion products that “blow by” the rings of the pistons, water that condenses in the lubricant, and chemical reactions with these contaminants in the form of acids that the metals of the engine.  For engines that operate at high oil temperatures, the primary reason for oil changes is to replace lubricants that have broken down as described above.  In addition to these basic considerations, the number and characteristics of the additives is also an important factor to consider.  To discuss the effects of all the additives that are used is beyond the scope of this blog.

Colin, the SAE has an aeronautical division as well as an automobile one and most of my experience has been in the aeronautical world of turbojets, turbofans, and turboprop engines.  Bearing temperatures in aero engines tend to be a lot hotter than those in automobile engines (on the order of 350 to 500 deg F) so all the above concerns are heightened in aero engines. 

Probably more than you wanted to know but here it is any way.  By the way, I did work for Chevrolet many years ago in Warren, Michigan at the Chevrolet Engineering Center.  The first 275 HP Corvette engine for the 1964-5 models was certified on my dynamometer in the summer of 1963—but that’s a story for another blog.

Sorry about the boring engineering stuff, boys and girls, but he DID ask.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Stars & stripes forever

Church Sunday morning was red, white and blue. Everybody looked so patriotic. Even Bro. Bennie had on a shirt that resembled a flag. Of course, so did I (photo above). The day was set aside as a birthday celebration – the 233rd – for our nation. Even as I watched the Yankees play Saturday, every player had on a red cap and all the NY insignias had red, white and blue stripes. The umpires wore red caps.

Every song in church touched on patriotism, from the Star Spangled Banner, to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA , sung by a guest lady, not by Lee himself, but nevertheless, performed quite well. Also, “Armed Forces: The Pride of America” medley was sung with anthems from all branches, Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force and all the ex-servicemen stood. Bro. Bennie stood for the Coast Guard, because he said he has never had anyone stand during that song in any of his services. I stood proudly as the famed Air Force music was playing, and I thought nostalgically back to my Air Force days. From Lackland and training camp in the scorching heat of San Antonio in September, to Hamilton AFB, the “country club of Air Force” bases in California, to Viet Nam and finally to Altus AFB in Altus, OK.

My time in the AF touched a myriad of places. I remember all the marching, more marching and the parade reviews in Lackland. We marched so often I had shin splits and the T(raining)I(nstructor) in charge of our squadron called me “hoppy” for awhile. But, somehow I persevered simply because I didn’t want to fall behind and have to start over again. At Hamilton AFB in California , the duty was splendid. There were palm trees, green grass and I was only 20 miles from San Francisco ! Viet Nam was not easy by any means, but the jobs we had were given according to time in country, not so much by rank. After a few short months, I had been there longer than most of my friends, so I got the better job, refueling the commercial aircraft that landed.

Altus was hardly a vacation spot, either. It was flat, flat and flatter, hot, hot and hotter, windy, windy and more windy. There were times when being in Viet Nam seemed easier than being in Altus . Through it all, though, I was proud to be serving my country. And I still am proud of the red, white and blue.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


“And just how fast was he going when he backed into you, Father?” asked the Irish policeman.  That punch line from the old joke about the automobile accident caused by the Catholic priest running into the back end of the car in front of him came to mind as I answered the Colorado Highway Patrolman’s questions.

 Colorado state highway 82 from US 24 over Independence Pass to Aspen is one of the most beautiful drives in this country.  The photos below are of the very mild portions of the road.

I was on my way to a meeting of a Society of Automotive Engineers committee.  Not too far from Twin Lakes the road begins the long climb to the 12,000 foot pass.  For the first few miles it closely resembles driving through the Ouachita Mountains south of Heavener.  Later on it becomes rather more exciting with several sheer drops of nearly a thousand feet along the side (with no rail protectors) along with a few one-lane portions.  

 As I began a rather sharp curve to the left I saw a Toyota begin to cross the centerline and come toward me.  Reflexively, I jumped on the accelerator and steered as close to the small (about 15 feet) drop off on my side of the road as I could go.  The oncoming car hit me just in front of my front door and proceeded to push farther and farther into the car as it progressed.  In the end it tore my left rear wheel completely off the car.  I remember quite clearly thinking, “ You hit me, you s-- of a b-----!” as I spun around in the road, missing the drop off by only a few inches.  When I came to a stop I was pointing back the way I had come on the other side of the road.   The Toyota ended up about fifty yards down the road in a shallow ditch.  Fortunately, neither I nor the Toyota driver was hurt.

 When the patrolmen arrived they interviewed me first.  As I showed them my Tennessee driver’s license I noticed a sudden change in the demeanor of the policeman.  Suddenly I was guilty—of what he didn’t know but it was clear by the look on his face that he thought a Tennessee driver couldn’t handle Colorado mountain roads and that I had committed some act that precipitated the accident.  Little did he know that just ten miles from my home is one of the stretches of I-24 that has grades every bit as steep as those in Colorado and that claims several trucks each year from people who don’t believe it could be there.

 After I responded to his rather demeaning approach to questioning me, we both walked to the Toyota to allow him to complete his assessment of the cause of the accident—or rather, to allow him to justify his bias about Tennessee drivers.  Before he could ask the Toyota driver a question, the young man blurted out, “I just went to sleep—I didn’t mean to hit him.”

 Have you ever seen a man’s face almost break as he tries to change expressions?  That patrolman made one of the quickest about faces I have ever seen as he wrote the young man multiple tickets for offenses ranging from reckless driving to failure to maintain control of his automobile.

 Later that night, after the rental car company delivered a new car to me in nearby Leadville, I drove over Independence Pass by moonlight.  It was even more hauntingly beautiful at night and, not nearly as nerve-wracking, since I couldn’t see the sheer drop offs any more.

 Is there a moral in this story?  Maybe it is to practice what my engineering career has taught me.  Never make a judgment until you have all the facts you can acquire.