Internet Recipes…Yech!

17 05 2015

My wife has sworn off Pinterest. Her sole reason for joining was for the recipes; and, while we have tried several, so far we haven’t found one… not a single one, which we both like. In fact, most of them, neither of us has liked. Anytime you get a recipe from social media, be it Pinterest, Facebook or elsewhere, you are at the mercy of the taste of a stranger, and tastes vary as widely as opinions.


“Oh, you want a good steak, you need to go to Stinky’s Steaks. It’s over off the Interstate inside Big Roy’s Truck Stop. But if ya go there, be sure to eat outside ‘cause the smell of bug spray inside is strong enough to gag a maggot.”


People post their favorite recipes on Pinterest or Facebook and rave about how simple, yet wonderfully delicious, they are. Well, the dish might be good to the poster, but that doesn’t mean others will like it. As I said, it’s a matter of taste.


Well, currently, my wife is dealing with some health issues and finds herself in a position of total dependence on me. I do all of the laundry, shopping, and cooking. And, bless her heart, she does everything she can to lessen my burden. One thing she has been doing is scouring social media for recipes she thinks we may like, but particularly, those that will be simple for me to cook.


The most recent was a dish that seems to be very popular. It really is easy to prepare. You put boneless chicken breast, green beans and red potatoes in a dish and dust it down with Zesty Italian dressing mix and then drizzle the whole shoot’n match with butter. Then, you throw it in a 350 degree oven for a while.


She enjoyed this dish, but personally, I didn’t care much for it. Actually, that’s an understatement. I like my garlic to play a supporting role and not take center stage. The garlic in the dressing mix was too strong for my taste. It stunk up the house and I find the smell as offensive as the strong taste.


A-1 to the Rescue

Back when I was in the Coast Guard, while stationed at Elizabeth City, North Carolina, I learned a valuable lesson…A-1 Steak Sauce can make anything palatable.


I had the duty, which meant I had to spend the night on base as a member of the ready C-130 crew. The offerings in the mess hall that evening were slim. Liver! Of all the things I don’t like, liver is near the top of the list; but, that night I was particularly hungry. So, I got a piece of liver and tasted it. It was every bit as bad as I expected it to be. There was a bottle of A-1 on the table, so I gave the liver an A-1 bath and gave it another try. This time, I decided I could eat it. Since then, if there is anything I don’t care for, I’ll put enough A-1 on it to mask the taste and I’m good to go.


Well, even though my bean-chicken-potato bake was a simple dish to prepare, I had invested too much in parts and labor to just shove it down the disposal. Besides, I was hungry. I then decided it was A-1 time. Sure enough, it was tasty enough that I was able to clean my plate.


Ahhh...My Culinary Hero!

Ahhh…My Culinary Hero!

So, no more Internet recipes for us. But just in case, I’ll keep the A-1 close by.


Say, She Looks Familiar

31 03 2014

"Drop, drop, drop."

“Drop, drop, drop.”

One of the many responsibilities of the United States Coast Guard is International Ice Patrol. During the ice season, which runs from February through August, a Coast Guard C-130 crew stationed in Elizabeth City, North Carolina will fly out of St. Johns Newfoundland for two week stretches to track the flow of ice bergs into the shipping channels.


As with anything, there were some guys who just didn’t want to go; and then, there were others who would rather go on ice patrol than eat when they were hungry. Some, particularly some of the young single guys, took full advantage of the night-life, including becoming familiar with some of the local ladies.


One particular young man was one of those who, if allowed, would spend the entire ice season in St Johns. He, apparently, had developed quite a relationship with one of the local gals and during one trip decided it was time to make it permanent. He proposed, she accepted and then he got permission from the aircraft commander to leave the crew at the end of the trip and return to Elizabeth City with his new bride. After the long drive down from Newfoundland, they arrived in Elizabeth City. That night he took his love to the base and the enlisted men’s club. It being a Friday, there were a number of off duty Coasties there with their wives or girlfriends. As the newlyweds made their appearance inside the club, about half the guys there jumped up and ran for the back door. Apparently, she had been quite the popular St Johnian!


Hey, Ya’ll, Free Paint!

10 03 2014

Located in the northeastern corner of North Carolina, Elizabeth City isn’t exactly on the beaten path. You travel through many miles of rural North Carolina to reach the River City, a great place to live and where old Coasties go to die. Depending on where you’re coming from, and which route you take to get there, you’ll pass through such metropolises as Ahoskie, Conetoe (pronounced cuh-nee-tuh) or Scotland Neck.

When my wife and I were living in Elizabeth City, during my Coast Guard days, we would make the 2 ½ hour trek back to Wilson once or twice each month to spend the weekend with family. One town (and that’s a stretch) which we passed through along the way was the small farming community of Crisp. As you approached Crisp, you could look across the flat farmland and see the many homes, barns and outbuildings scattered about the countryside.

One weekend, I noticed the North Carolina Department of Transportation had staged white and yellow paint in the shade of several oak trees at a crossroads just outside of town. There were large stacks of 5-gallon buckets of road paint which NCDOT would use the following week to repaint lines on the road.

About a month later as we were approaching Crisp, on our way to Wilson for another visit, I noticed the lines in the road still had not been painted even though the paint was no longer where I had first seen it under the trees. That same weekend, on the return trip, I looked across the tobacco and bean fields surrounding Crisp and noticed all the freshly painted white houses and barns as far as the eye could see. On one trip I counted 42 structures which appeared to have a fresh coat of yellow or white paint. The enterprising folks of Crisp had literally painted the town. Good one.

Chicken! Chicken! Gotta Have Chicken!

9 02 2014

It was 1975 and my wife was pregnant with our first child, Brian. Now, when I say she was pregnant, I’m not talking baby bump pregnant. She was more like baby blimp pregnant. She looked like a Volkswagen Beetle with legs and lipstick-and for good reason. The little booger weighed in at 9 pounds and 4 ounces and he wasn’t even our largest child. But I don’t recall my wife ever having anything resembling what they call a baby bump. It was more like one day she’s telling me she’s pregnant and the next day she can’t see her toes. She would lie on her stomach and let the next door neighbor’s kids play see-saw.


We were in the Coast Guard at the time and I was on temporary assignment attending school at the naval air station in Millington, Tennessee. We were living in an apartment right next door to the base and attended church at the base chapel.


Wild Cravings

I had heard that pregnant women would have weird cravings during pregnancy. I vaguely recall an episode of I Love Lucy during which a pregnant Lucy had a craving for pistachio ice cream with hot fudge and sardines. My wife had cravings but none that exotic nor at 3 in the morning asking me to make an ice cream run.


One Sunday, we returned home from church and there was no discussion about what to have for Sunday dinner. My wife already had her mind made up. That’s one good thing about having a pregnant wife-she has usually already decided what she wants to eat so there is none of this back and forth, “I don’t know, what do you want?” which can go on forever. Well, on this particular Sunday, she had a craving for one of her favorite meals. She wanted my barbecued chicken. That meant firing up the grill.


Wild Weather

Now, if you’ve never spent any time in the west Tennessee area let me tell you about the weather. You’ve heard that old saying, if you don’t like the weather just wait few minutes and it’ll change. Well nowhere is that more true than in Millington, Tennessee, just north of Memphis. One Sunday we got up to an inch of snow. By the time we came out of church around noon, the sun was shining, the temperature was climbing through the fifties and there was no sign of snow. Later that afternoon we had a thunderstorm which included hail. Where else can you have that wide a weather spectrum in a single day?


As I began pouring charcoal into the grill, I noticed the sky had begun to darken. By the time my coals were ready to throw the chicken on, it had begun to rain. I have been grilling for 50 years and have never refused to cook on the grill for any reason. I have been known to shovel snow out of my grill to grill a chicken. Heck, one Saturday night with the temperature at an all-time low of 11 below zero, I stood in my backyard grilling steaks. So, I’m not about to be scared off by a little rain. I thought to myself, I have an umbrella and I’m not afraid to use it! So there I sat under an umbrella, my wife watching through the backdoor window with loving anticipation of barbecued chicken. But wait…things got worse. With my chicken about half done, this rain turned into a full blown thunderstorm. So, there I sat under an umbrella, in a thunderstorm, grilling chicken to satisfy my wife’s craving.


I can’t say that had anything to do with it but you know what, we’ve lived happily ever after.

First day home. From day one she had everything under control. This lady was born to be a mother.

First day home. From day one she had everything under control. This lady was born to be a mother.

Mama Always Said There’s More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

15 01 2014

It was September 14, 1974, and I had just wrapped up my last full work week stationed at Johnston Island before returning home. The next day, I would be taken off rotation-meaning; I would be relieved of any official duties for my final five days on the island. I had been working the mid-watch (midnight to 8 a.m.) and had just gotten to bed. It was now mid-morning and I was sound asleep. My room was at the end of the hall next door to the game room. At the opposite end, but on the same side of the hall, was Johnny Milhonick’s room. Johnny, better known as “Greaser” because of his love for 50’s and 60’s rock and roll, was an olive-skinned, jet black-haired New Yorker who had spent approximately $3,500 on stereo equipment for his room. Imagine, if you will, how much stereo you could get through Navy Exchange (military discount) in 1973. He really had a nice set-up.

Greaser on the left. A really nice guy. RIP

Greaser on the left. A really nice guy. RIP


Anyway, Johnny was one of several sitting around the card table in the game room playing poker. Not only was Greaser a fan of oldies rock and roll, he was also into some pretty hard stuff, such as Black Sabbath and Judas Priest-more of a screaming annoyance than music. Heavy metal is more accurately characterized as noise with a guitar accompaniment. On this particular day he was playing something particularly hard and loud-loud enough to wake me up. Now, in 1974, I was a heavy sleeper. Ty Pennington and his crew from Extreme Home Makeover could have built a house around me while I slept and never woke me up. But a screaming Ozzie Osborne did manage to wake me up on that day.


I got up from my bed and went into the hall to see what, if anything, could be done about this screaming, bat-eating mis-creation. When I saw who was at the table, I knew it would be futile to ask them to turn the music down so I didn’t even bother. I returned to my room and sat on the side of the bed wondering what my next step should be. As I sat there, I noticed the table lamp by my bedside and decided I could survive the next few nights without it. So, I cut the plug off and twisted the wires together.


At this point, I feel compelled to point out two things: 1) I no longer do unsafe things like this and, 2) don’t try this at home.


I pushed the plug into the receptacle in my room causing the breaker to trip. This power failure extended all the way down the hall but only on my side. Naturally, that reached down to Greaser’s room and I could hear the music s-l-o-w-l-y d—i—e—i—n—-g. It was great! There in the privacy of my room, I had control.


Greaser jumped up from the table and ran down the hall to his room. Soon, everyone had left the table and joined him in trying to find the problem. I will point out that Greaser was an electronics technician so it didn’t occur to him that loud music would cause the breaker to fail. Finally, someone in the group suggested checking the breaker. They ran to the electrical room and sure enough, the breaker had failed.


They reset the music, cranked up the volume and returned to their game. I let them get back into the game and did it again. And then a third time. By then, they had decided that for some unknown reason loud music was causing the breaker to fail. So, they turned the volume down and I was able to get back to sleep. Never had another problem after that. As mama used to say, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Chief Cox

18 08 2013

Not long ago, I got word that a friend of mine had passed away. Chief Ron Cox was not just a friend, he was also, for a while at least, my supervisor while serving in the Coast Guard and stationed at the USCG Air Station in Elizabeth City. Chief Cox was, or at least he cast the appearance of being, a very serious person who defined stoicism, but one who did not take the world too seriously. He was also a very fair-minded boss who was fun to work for. He had the rare ability to give you an unpleasant assignment and make you not mind doing it. I was recently thinking about Chief Cox when I remembered this story which I think is not only an apt description, but, also, one which you might enjoy.


My good friend and fellow former Coastie , Richie Boyd, and I had spent the afternoon flying. In order to maintain your flight status and continue to qualify for monthly flight pay, we were required to fly a minimum number of hours each month. So, one day, realizing we were both in need of a little flight time, we jumped on whatever mission was available. I don’t recall what the trip was-probably some mundane training flight practicing touch-and-goes at some obscure airport in eastern North Carolina. Regardless, together, Richie and I were a recipe for trouble because alone, I submit with at least a modicum of pride, we were each a mere notch below world-class pranksters. The world was our target and like a shark cruising the surf, we were always on the lookout for a next target. It was our way of telling the world to lay back and enjoy the moment.ECity

It was about 5:30 PM by the time we returned to the hangar where we worked when we weren’t flying. Everyone had left for the day so the hangar was ours. We were free to do whatever we could conjure up in our twisted minds.


There was a sink in the office with a can of hand soap on a shelf directly above. The soap had the same consistency and color as the grease we used to grease the flap tracks on the C-130s we maintained.


Now, I’m foggy on the details of who actually did what, but it was a definitely a joint effort. We emptied the soap can and filled it with flap grease. Our thinking was the rest of the crew would come in to work the following day and fall victim to our brainstorm. What we didn’t know was, Chief Cox had also been out flying that afternoon and as we were walking toward the door to go home, he came in. Neither of us said a word as we watched Chief Cox go to the sink in the office and begin to wash up. The last thing I recall seeing was Chief Cox reaching deep into the soap can. It was at that point, Richie and I began to run from the hangar. Neither of us wanted to be left alone with Chief Cox when he realized he was the latest victim of the Boyd-Taylor torture tandem.


Chief Cox was well aware of our reputations and always turned a blind eye with a hidden grin. I believe he enjoyed watching as we pulled one over on the crew nearly each day. But how would he react to being the victim?


Well, the next day when I came in to work, I walked by Chief Cox while sitting at his desk. At first his look was stern but then one corner of his mouth came up into a slight grin with a look as if to say, “Well played.” 

Rooster Pecked!

26 01 2013

While stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City, one of the guys I knew, but not all that well at the time, asked me about helping him with a project. Turns out his wife had been involved in a car accident some time earlier and suffered permanent back injuries. I’m not clear on all the details but she had been awarded a pretty good chunk of cash as a result of her injury. Using this money, they bought 10 acres of wooded land which surrounded their home and then had a swimming pool installed right in front of the house.

The next step in their plan was to enclose the pool so they could swim year round. That’s where I come in.

Bob had no carpenter skills but he knew I had done some building, so he asked me if I would be willing to “help” him build a room, attached to the house, and surrounding the pool. He was willing to pay me to do it but the truth is, I’d have done it for free.

The house was deep enough into the woods that it could not be seen from the highway. I eased my 1954 Ford pick-up up his driveway, parting the sea of chickens in my path like a ship parting the waters. Bob met me as I got out of the truck and showed me around. As we waded through the chickens he warned me about his rooster. He said you hardly ever see the rooster, but he’s a mean one. I thought, c’mon, it’s a chicken. How dangerous can he be!

That's a mean rooster!

That’s a mean rooster!

Sometime later, as we were getting close to finishing the project, I had a day off and decided to spend at least part of it working on Bob’s house. He and his wife were both at work so there was no one but me and the chickens.  We kept tools in the barn, so when I arrived I went straight to the barn to get out what I would need. As I stood there collecting tools, I was suddenly attacked… yes, physically and brutally attacked… by the rooster Bob had warned me about. I turned around and there he stood-defiant. Daring me. My goodness! This rooster must have been six feet tall. He looked like Foghorn Leghorn! If he could talk, I know exactly what he would have said. “Boy, I say, boy, I just pecked you in the butt. Now, whatcha gonna do about it?”

He was the biggest rooster I had ever seen and he knew he was big because he wasn’t backing down a bit. I reached around to my backside-the point of attack-and there was a hole in the seat of my jeans! And to make matters worse, and me madder, there was blood! Not much, but blood none the less. I was hot. I looked on a shelf in front of me and saw Bob’s wrist rocket slingshot. Well, when I grabbed it I got the impression the rooster had seen the wrist rocket before because he took off. I took off right behind him with the wrist rocket and a handful of ammo from a jar on the shelf. There weren’t enough lawyers at PETA to stop me from putting a hole in the chicken. I chased him around the barn and got off a couple shots while on the run. Both shots missed but the second shot skipped off the ground right beside the rooster and hit the side of Bob’s house. The sound of that steel shot bouncing off siding made me stop and think how it would’ve sounded had it struck a window instead, or worse, my truck, so I gave up chase and let the rooster live another day. But I kept one eye out for the rooster the rest of the day.