Tag Archives: DOUG SMITH

Doug Smith: On Thievery and Philanthropy

14 Jul


Doug Smith is an opinion columnist, historian and social editor for Free State Patriot

July 14, the 2019


Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale?  What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention.

If this villainy wins so many recruits from the ranks of the demoralized that it acquires territory, establishes a base, captures cities and subdues peoples, it then openly arrogates to itself the title of kingdom, which is conferred on it in the eyes of the world, not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity.

For it was a witty and truthful rejoinder which was given by a captured pirate to Alexander the Great.  The king asked the fellow, “What is your idea, in infesting the sea?”  And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, “The same as yours, in infesting the earth!  But because I do it with a tiny craft, I’m called a pirate; because you have a mighty navy, you’re called an emperor.”

 St Augustine of Hippo, The City of God

I have been reading Dan Jones’ The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens who made England. It led me to consider 2 millennia of thievery. First the Norsemen came to raid Normandy and the British Isles, then later the Normans, mixed in with Norsemen who had stayed, in the person of William the Conqueror conquered England in 1066. It was the grandson of William (also known as the Bastard, depending on the tome you read) Henry II, who established House Plantagenet, and, by all accounts, England.  (Watch The Lion in Winter), Richard the Lionheart, King John (of Robin Hood and Magna Carta fame), his grandson Edward, (Longshanks, of Braveheart infamy), Edward, The Black Prince (you saw him in A Knights Tale). See, you know these guys. What you don’t know is that they were broke, and had expensive hobbies. Their hobbies were France, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. For while their main endeavor was conquering new lands to provide income to themselves and their sons, they had no source of income, no viable skills to trade, other than being very good at war, and, from time to time, at making laws. Laws, taxes, and the point of a sword were their stock in trade. No one who raised crops or shoed horses came to them and offered silver in exchange for a new set of laws, so they had to borrow and tax to finance their wars to obtain further lands from who to obtain further taxes. Et Cetera, ad nauseam.  These Wars included the aptly named Hundred Years War. Almost without exception, they amassed fortunes, spent them on wars to acquire other territories, to get the income from them, to get more territories, and died leaving the nation in debt. For purposes of this article, we won’t dwell on the bones bleaching at Agincourt, just the money. Henry says of himself, in James Goldman’s The Lion in Winter, “My life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. Henry Fitz-Empress, first Plantagenet, a king at twenty-one, the ablest soldier of an able time. He led men well, he cared for justice when he could and ruled, for thirty years, a state as great as Charlemagne’s.” He cared for justice when he could, but his skill, his raison d’etre, was fighting. So how did he get the money to “rule a state as great as Charlemagne’s? Institutionalized thievery, at the point of a sword. He gave laws, and molded the outline of England, but he took the money to do so at the point of a sword.

Does all this bear on our modern world?  Consider a politician who today makes $ 174,000, but a year ago made barely 26,000, has student loans to pay off, and can’t afford a place to stay, offering to give away free stuff that will cost 5 times as much as all the money produced by the entire United States economy in 2017. Who will pay for it?

Henry could tell you. The bankers who lent to his grandsons and were bankrupted could tell you. Henry might at least make the argument that for all he cost, he did leave behind a legacy of better laws and justice. Nor would he couch it in terms that he was only doing it for the people. No, he was straightforward about his ambitions to rule.


One can respect his attitude as true, even while resenting his taxes. But question with a jaded eye the one who is “only thinking of the folks”.

Free medicine. Who pays the Doctors? Or are they to be slaves?

Free housing? Who pays the builders? Or are they to be slaves?

Free Education? Oh this one is rich. Will they make slaves of the NEA and University Administrators?

Green New Deal. Now that is a good one. Who pays for that? The cost, by conservative estimates, is over $ 93 Trillion dollars. Who pays? Or who becomes a slave. These are, understand, the only options.

When Andrew Carnegie, who was, at the time, the wealthiest man in the world, began to put his money to use building libraries (including the one in Huntington, WV. Look at the cornerstone on the original building sometime. It reads, A gift of Andrew Carnegie to the people of Huntington. ) Universities, he was a philanthropist. He believed that money, wealth, was best spent helping people help themselves. And to that end, he gave away over $ 350,000,000 before his death in 1919, the equivalent of 5.3 Trillion today.

Franklin Roosevelt, with his original New Deal give-aways, never touched his own fortune. Instead, he spend, in 2019 dollars, 900 Trillion taxpayer dollars by 1940. The future obligations of those give-aways are over 50 Trillion. Who paid for that? Or who will pay for that? And who will pay for the free stuff encompassed by the GND?

Well, of course, the Left will tell us, we will simply tax the evil, greedy rich. But consider. The total net wealth of everyone in the United States, including the wealthiest, is hovering around 88 Trillion.  So, to take all the proposed free stuff Democrats politicians are bandying about, conservative estimates are a cost of 243 Trillion dollars. If we enact a 100 percent tax and confiscate everything owned by everyone, that still leaves us well over 100 Trillion short. And remember, estimates of the cost of government programs are always low, usually by huge margins. We have another problem as well. If we go to the 100% wealth tax, that is the last dollar the government ever brings in. Period. No one has a car to go to work. No one owns a factory to hire employees. No one can afford to make widgets, or buy them if they were made, or plant a crop. The economy comes to a halt, because no one has any money, except for the government. If history has taught us anything, it is that they will quickly consume their feed corn.

So, when a politician offers to give things away, unless they are offering to give away their own money, we have the answer to the question: Who becomes a slave? Everyone. Me. You. Your children. They own it all, and we get only what they bestow on us, only if we do exactly what they approve of. That is the definition of slavery.

Now, let us consider this.

Of the current crop of potential candidates for President in 2020, which is proposing to give away a great deal of money that they don’t have, by the simple expedient of stealing it from anyone who does have it, so that they can control it, and, regardless of their promises, dole out whatever they choose? Everyone running for the Democrat nomination.

And of this same crop, which has donated their entire salary to various causes for over 2 years?

If you are a Lefty, or a Never Trumper, you should stop reading now. No, really I mean it, I’m warning you. Really, don’t do it.

Ok, you asked for it.

That would be President Donald Trump.

Doug Smith: The truth about illegal immigration

24 Jun

After a sabbatical following the loss of his hero, his father, Doug has returned with absolute clarity on the crisis at our Southern Border.  The crisis is real.

illegals for doug's

The crisis at the border is real



Doug Smith is an opinion columnist, historian and social editor for Free State Patriot

June 24, 2019



During the time of the Barbary Pirates, there was an expression of the sentiment of the times. In various forms, it said “Millions for defense, not a sixpence for tribute.”  The Pirates, you see, would offer to stop attacking our ships if we would only pay them off. The sentiment was to reject the offer, and reject it we did. Jefferson sent the Navy and Marines to fight them off and there was no more problem with the Barbary Pirates.

A similar principle is at work in the arguments regarding the costs and treatment of illegals detained in the US. Legal immigrants play by the rules. They must show that they are able to support themselves before being allowed to come in, and are expect, at once, to begin contributing to, not taking from, society. It is, therefore, manifestly unfair to permit others to push around those waiting to do it right, and sneer at our laws and borders, and reward such behavior by supporting them while they are here illegally, and meanwhile, the ones who respect our laws, and our country, wait.

In 1986, Democrats, led by Ted Kennedy, made a deal with President Reagan. In exchange for amnesty for 3 million illegals, Democrats would agree to secure the border and fix laws so that legal immigration was streamlined and illegal immigration was much harder, and dealt with much more sternly. Unsurprisingly, looking back at deals with Democrats, he lied. The 3 million got amnesty. None of the promised actions took place. Not even now, 33 years later.

When our laws, our enforcement, and our benefits to illegal entries all combine to make it attractive to disobey our laws, and count on being rewarded for being illegal, and punished for doing the right thing, we get what you would expect: more illegals.

We must remove the incentives to break our laws.

Now, there is an argument being put forth that it is cheaper to release them and give them welfare than to detain them. (Have you noticed that the Left is never concerned about how to pay for something, or what it costs, unless it is for something of which they disapprove?)  This is particularly specious. For one thing, detainees will be held for a limited period of time. Then, after a hearing, if denied amnesty, they will be deported to their homes. Illegals released into the population, and given public moneys to live on, will be living on it, in most cases, for decades. Arguments by the catch and release crowd to the contrary, ICE testified before Congress in Dec 2018 that in fact, a scant 15 % ever show up for hearings. And with good reason, from their point of view, because less than 12% of amnesty claims turn out to be valid and approved. There is massive fraud in these claims, because lawyers and open borders advocates coach people before they arrive on what to say to trigger a claim for amnesty. Yet, once they are investigated, very few are found to be legitimate.

This is tantamount to saying it costs so much to hold a felon that it is cheaper to release him into the community. After all, what he would steal is probably less than what it costs to hold him. In one sense, it may be cheaper, with the single felon. But there is also the desire to deter crime and make it costly to the criminal. We want to discourage crime and live under the protection of a system of laws. If we always do that which is cheaper and easier, regardless of right or wrong, we soon find ourselves at the mercy of bullies and bandits.

The arguments to simply release everyone are just the open borders arguments in various guises. The United States of America is not going to have open borders, and permit anyone, anywhere, who wishes to come, to come on in, ignore our laws, and get paid for it. Because if we did, the United States would cease to exist. No sovereign nation has, or can, continue if it does not control its borders and its populations. Many countries require visitors to have a return ticket before they can roam around.

The current flood of people coming into Texas is no longer just people fleeing Honduras or Guatemala looking for the good life here. Citizens of 29 different countries have been flooding Texas in recent months. A small town of 17000 recently had over 300 Congolese illegals appear on their streets, and no one who can even speak their language. Proof, in case we still need it, that the word is out: drag a child with you and you can get in, and that these folks are getting help to get in. How else do 300 poor Congolese make the trek from Africa to Mexico and then walk up across the border.

It is unfair to legal immigrants, or those waiting to come in illegally, but it is also unfair to US citizens and taxpayers. Essentially the open border argument says “No matter what it costs you, no matter how much it taxes your resources, no matter that it may bankrupt your town, then your county, then your state, then the nation, you must accept as many of the worlds billions of poor who want to come and take from your purse.” I reject this argument, and say I, and my fellow citizen, get to set the limits on my charity. Often in response, I am called a bigot or xenophobe. These are not arguments, but simply attacks. They do not persuade. If anyone, government or fellow citizen, wishes to take my good and money from me, without persuading me that it is in my interest to give it, then it is simply robbery, whether the gun is visible or not. Ultimately, the threat of force is behind it.

I am an American. I advocate for the interests of my country, and my fellow citizens, first and foremost, and above and to the exclusion of any others. For those who want to come in, you may ask to do so. You must play by the rules, and there is a chance you will be permitted to come. Not everyone will. America may be a friend to other countries. We are the best friend other countries can have. We are the ones called when a tsunami wipes out hundreds, or an earthquake devastates an already backward country. Us. The United States. Not Cuba, or Venezuela, or China, us. And we respond over and over again with ships and people and money. The world looks to us as the big dog when trouble strikes. But we will not accept, en masse, their entire populations of poor, thereby relieving them of the obligation to care for them, and breaking our own system and economy.

It costs something to detain, care for, process, and deport illegals. It will cost Mexico something to slow down the mass movements on their southern border. But once the word filters out that it is no longer a cake walk, and that dragging a child along a dangerous 1200-mile journey is no longer an EZ Pass into the US, the flood of illegals will slow considerably, to levels we can manage. Until it does, these are steps we must take to preserve our country.


Doug Smith: Scoundrels leading fools

1 May


Doug Smith is an opinion columnist, historian and Associate editor for Free State Patriot

May 1, 2019


“12 year olds should be nailed in a barrel and fed through the bung until they are 16, at which time the bung should be sealed. “

Mark Twain

16 year olds are morons.

That assessment is, I realize, overly generous. But I am fond of many 16 year olds. I sympathize with them for the number of times they say or do something incredibly stupid and cringe over it. I spent much of my 17th year of life cringing, justifiably. I still cringe over the memory of ignorant but certain pronouncements I made to girlfriends, buddies, teachers, and other adults in my life. I am still amazed that they let me drive a car. I was going to list some of the moronic things I did as a 16 year old, but I find that even decades later they make me want to curl up like a potato bug in embarrassment. Instead Ill invite you to recall some of the idiotic things you said and did at that age. Feel good about yourself? Yea, right.

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

Mark Twain

Mature adults smile at this quote, recognizing in it their own journey to maturity. Sadly, we live in a world containing far too many large children of 13 or 14, whose bodies have grown for a couple of decades. While the adults smile at their teenage angst, and certainty about everything, beginning with the premise that everything done by everything before us was wrong, or at the least, certainly inferior to what we, with our superior, well, something, would do when we were in charge. For many of us there comes that eureka moment, usually not during a bath, more often with the first pay check, or paying for a car repair, or perhaps some very loud sailor who doesn’t really care how badly you would enjoy 5 more minutes on your mattress. It is 0530, there is a lot to do, and you are going to do it, and you are decidedly not in Kansas. Welcome to the adult world.

But evidence suggests, as far back as 30 AD, there were those who learned the lessons of adulthood poorly, belatedly, and with difficulty.

Witness the prodigal son.

Entitled: “Give me what is mine” (Boy, none of it is yours. If your Dad decides to endow you with a living or a bag of coin, that is his choice to bless you. But you earned nothing by virtue of being born.

Profligate: That which he had not earned, he did not value, and set about spending his money with bartenders and hangers on, also happy to share in unearned value. He set nothing aside, provided no source of replacement income, and purchased nothing of value beyond today’s meat and wine and women. Like everyone who eats their seed corn, comes the time of planting and harvest, the foolishness becomes apparent. Everyone will share your wine, none will share your hunger.

Foolish: As witnessed by his wisdom, obtained by hardship, in the Eureka moment when he realizes “Even the guys who work for my Dad are better off than I am now, and I was his son. Maybe he’ll give me a job. “

Of course, we now understand, from medical science, that the forebrain, that part responsible for reasoning and logical thinking is still developing at 16. In fact, it is not fully developed until around 25. The body, hormones, muscles, and other parts of the brain are rapidly developing, enough that a 16 year old can simulate an adult in many ways. But of course, the part that makes sound judgements is still at around the same place that thinks bringing Mom a snake, or chasing a little girl with a bug, or cutting down Moms favorite tree with Dads favorite cross cut saw are all great ideas.

So what, you might ask, is your point? Any of us past the age of 30 can look back at our own foolish 16 year old self, and conclude, yes, it was a miracle that I survived. We must have guardian angels. So why, then, we might ask together, would liberal Democrats want to extend the franchise for voting to someone who we judge (Correctly!) is not old enough to responsibly buy and drink alcohol, enter into a contract, buy real estate, purchase a gun, enter the military, or, in most cases, marry without permission? We lowered the voting age to 18 in response to the Vietnam War, on the logic that if an 18 year old can go fight in the jungle, they ought to be able to vote for the leaders who send them. There is something to be said for that argument, but it is not axiomatic that it was correct. We have a class of 18 year olds about to vote for the first time who have lived in a country at war their entire lives. That will certainly color their thinking, and (another article,) it should give us pause as well, but it does not make 16-18 year olds any more mature and responsible than they ever were.

Who then, wants people known for making ill-advised decisions, still self-assured of their own superiority, because life has yet to kick them in the shins with the results of their dumb decisions, to be part of the decision making about who gets to lead the country? Well, if we apply a bit of basic logic, it is easy to see that would benefit people who want to enact half-baked ideas which any rational, mature adult, would reject out of hand. What party wants to spend more money that the GDP of the entire world? What party races to the microphone with promises of all they will give away, after 8 years of the worst jobs and economy performance in American history, assuming their friends in the Teachers Unions have successfully dumbed down a bunch of entitled children so that they never think to ask who will pay for all this stuff? (A too- generous Santa Claus at Christmas means beans and macaroni instead of steak and chops in January. A step on the road to adulthood is realizing that relationship.)

(Dad, can I hitch hike to Canada this summer? And while I’m at it, can I spend more money than you, me, and my kids, will manage to earn to give everyone I meet free game consoles, MP3 players, and lobster dinners? Uh, no, you may not. Tell you what, you can work all summer, see how much you can save, and spend that money any way you want. At which point giving away freebies will be less appealing, because why should you give the fruits of your hard work to your pals who spent their summer playing games and eating junk food? And you will suddenly find yourself in the Republican Party. Funny how that works.)

There are those who will give away their votes purely for the promise of all the free stuff politicians offer them. As I have often noted on these pages, Government owns nothing, produces nothing, has nothing, can give nothing that it does not take away from someone else. Marcus Tullius Cicero said it most eloquently:

“The evil was not in the bread and circuses, per se, but in the willingness of the people to sell their rights as free men for full bellies and the excitement of the games which would serve to distract them from the other human hungers which bread and circuses can never appease.”

Next up: Why Democrats should campaign and recruit candidates in Psychiatric Hospitals.

Short answer: They already buy into insane ideas.


Free State Patriot: Will Democrats return to the tactics of bullying and intimidation?

5 Mar

wv capitol

State Capitol Building. Designed by renowned architect Cass Gilbert, the West Virginia State Capitol sits along the Kanawha River in Charleston.

doug mark

By Doug Smith and Mark Caserta of Free State Patriot

March 3, 2019


Is there some sort of “rite of passage” that occurs following the election of politicians which converts them into spineless “representatives” of the people, unable to see beyond winning their next election?

Now, I know some well-meaning politicians, (not many) who attempt to stay focused on their campaign promises and work diligently toward delivering for their constituents.

Contrary to the liberal media, Donald J. Trump is one of them. His “archaic” approach to living up to one’s pledges and working hard for those who elected him to office, has certainly becoming a “pipe dream” for voters in today’s modern era.

But liberal Democrats are the very worst.

Positioned as the predominate party in the state of West Virginia since the early 1930’s, their reign helped perpetually cripple our state and move us to the cellar in nearly every metric regarding jobs, the economy, education, you name it, West Virginia falls on the lower side of the grading curve.

In many regards, progressive Democrats were arguably successful in their mission in our state. Their ideology of capturing the poor and uneducated in their liberal nets of government sustenance has provided them a predictable voter base year after year.

And they did it all in the interest of “compassion” and “benevolence”. Hogwash!

They did it for power.

Liberal Democrats live by the old proverb which says, “If you want to go fast – go alone. If you want to go far – go together”. They’ve adhered to that philosophy for decades.

They don’t go it alone, and they don’t eat their own!

In the face of battle or controversy, they circle the wagons and unload everything in their arsenal to protect their progressive, self-centered ideology of fabricated compassion for the “downtrodden” and “disenfranchised” among us.

It’s the equivalent of liberals keeping West Virginians “barefoot and pregnant” and in the kitchen and bedroom where they belong.

And don’t worry, you can abort your baby more easily than buying cold medication. And true to form, Democrats will keep the food stamps coming – just don’t get a job and become self-sufficient or they’ll drop you faster than The Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn!

Just remember to vote for the hand that feeds you.

Republicans in Washington just aren’t that smart. I’ve can’t recall seeing such a group of feckless politicians wavering in the winds of discontent, like those on Capitol Hill.

It’s as though the ability to wield power on behalf of their constituents is an incomprehensible concept to them!

They flounder worse than Barack Obama not speaking from a teleprompter!

And believe me when I tell you Democrats are smiling on the sidelines, watching the GOP implode. Right now, the dissention among Republicans in Washington, is simply a gift to the Democrats, who remain cohesive, even in their reckless abandon.

Speaking of a gift of dissension, Republicans offered up a huge one last week at our State Capitol.

What the liberal media called an “anti-Muslim” display, resulted in a legislative aide seeking medical attention, another resigning and an “out of control” House Democrat kicking a door open to the House Chamber during prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Dems are so gracious in their approach.

Reportedly, a poster with an image of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, set off a firestorm, angering House Minority Whip Mike Caputo, D-Marion, to forcefully enter the chamber, injuring an aide.

Of course, the liberal media, ever on the attack of conservatives, escalated the news to a national forefront, predictably portraying the GOP as racist Islamophobes and Democrats as “Knights in shining armor”.

“I’m the one who kicked the door open,” Caputo said. “That’s how angry I was. I went over to that poster and I said it was a racist poster … . Yeah I kicked that door open; I’ll own it.”

I can’t help but wonder if Caputo would have forced the door open with the same reckless anger if it were an anti-Christian poster on the other side? Apparently, He and his liberal colleagues put on quite the show for the media.

But here’s the fly in the buttermilk.

Rather than members of the GOP presenting a united front and posturing offensively, they apparently chose to cower in the shadows, fearing retribution of the mainstream media.

Understand, this tactic of bullying and intimidation isn’t a new stratagem for the left.

Throughout the 1840’s and forward, Southern Democrats in the Congress increasingly used bullying tactics, threats, intimidation, and even physical violence to stifle debate, limit amendments, and shut down any attempts at limiting or threatening their current “sacred cow”: Slavery.

Northerners were increasingly incensed at the Southern Democrats bullying tactics, feeling that it robbed them of representation in the Congress, and gave Southerners a double advantage, in that they already had representation for their slaves, who could not vote, under the 3/5 Compromise. Northerners in Congress often stayed silent for fear of being challenged to a duel, or direct violence.

Indeed, in the 30 years prior to the Civil War, there were over 70 cases of direct violence between members of Congress.

Sound familiar? Is history doomed to repeat itself, beginning in the state of West Virginia?

The nation already suspects the Mountain State is filled with uneducated hillbillies, who cling to their “God” and “Guns”. Are we now revealing our true, racist colors?

No wonder these mountain people voted for their hero, Donald Trump!

Caputo and his liberal minions did absolutely nothing but embarrass themselves, our great state and the Democrat Party with this shameless display of workplace violence.

But, isn’t workplace violence grounds for termination?

You see, we understand Democrats not having a moral compass. We expect that. It’s not prerequisite to their platform. They will make whatever change is necessary to remain in power, even if it means re-writing or re-living history.

But if Republicans don’t learn how to control their majority status and leverage it to legislate on behalf of the people, it won’t be long before we hand this state, “lock, stock and barrel”, back to the Democrats.

Free State Patriot has nothing but respect for our local, Cabell County GOP management. We know them to be God-fearing, trustworthy individuals. They are true conservatives. We need more like them on the field of play.

But we must unite as a party, with a singular goal of delivering to our constituents. We will never be able to stand successfully against the Democrat machine otherwise.

The GOP must learn how to present a unified message with consistency. Only then can we effectively evaluate the need, plan the action and manage the results for the American people.

Let’s begin our own “progressive” approach to rebuilding the conservative foundation in West Virginia.

Let’s learn from history – not relive it.




Doug Smith: Text of address to Cabell County GOP event

7 Feb

gop event

Doug Smith is an historian and Associate Editor for Free State Patriot.  He recently addressed the Cabell County GOP at an event sponsored by the Cabell County Republican Executive Committee.  The following is the text from his oratory.



I used to love football. Up until it became a political football, instead of a sport, I was crazy about the game. My 3 favorite teams were Green Bay, Marshall, and anyone playing WVU.

Vince Lombardi often said “When you continue to be defeated, go back to the basics. “So in his first practice with the Pack, after they blew a 4th quarter lead to lose the 1961 Championship game, he began with:

Gentlemen, this is a football. To which Wide Receiver Max McGee responded, “Slow down, Coach. You’re going too fast. “

I’d like to explore for a few moments the GOP penchant for losing fights they have in the bag, by taking Lombardi s advice to go back to the basics. Perhaps to start winning on conservative issues, we need to begin by understanding, and being able to defend, what we believe and who we are as conservatives. When I say defend, I do not mean to make excuses, as in GW Bush’s “compassionate Conservative.” This falsely implies 1: that to be conservative is to lack compassion, and 2: that compassion is the only worthwhile attribute.

On the 4th of July 1976, the 200th birthday of the United States, I walked down to pier 7 of the Navy Submarine Base, New London, CT, and reported aboard USS Gato, SSN 615, a 594 Class Nuclear Attack Submarine. Gato was the newest in the class of faster, silent, deep-diving Submarines, capable of operating at depths greater than 400 ft at speeds more than 25 knots. We carried 16 high speed Mk 48 anti-ship torpedoes, and up to 6 SubRoc anti-Submarine Rocket propelled Nuclear Warhead Depth Charges, with a variable yield from 1.5 to 250 Kilotons depending on the target. They had a kill radius of 5 miles. In plain terms, that means anything within 5 miles in any direction of ground zero simply ceased to exist.

By way of comparison, Little Boy, the bomb that devastated Hiroshima had a yield of 5 Kilotons.

Our mission was to hunt down and track Soviet Ballistic Missile Submarines, which had the capability to wipe out American cities. In my 5 years on the boat, I saw valves stamped “made by De Laval, of Huntington, WV”. They were cast out of K-Monel and Ni Cu produced at International Nickel, in Huntington, WV. That could account for a projected Soviet Submarine ICBM target map I saw with a circle drawn neatly around the Nickel Plant. They say that all politics is local, and regardless of the philosophical questions involved, all war in ultimately personal.

Given the nature of our weapons, and our mission, it was reasonable to ask the question: Do you have any problems firing a nuclear weapon and killing every man aboard an enemy submarine? Or perhaps an enemy task force, with hundreds of men? If the order comes, and your hand is on the switch, will you fire the weapon? And they do ask. Given that those 200 Russians 20 miles from us might be the ones launching a missile at Huntington, 1000 miles away from us; the answer was easy for me as a 20-year-old sailor. Darn right, I will. (Being a Submariner, talking to a Submarine Officer, I confess I may have phrased it a bit more colorfully at the time.)

At 63, as a somewhat faded and careworn old Chief Petty Officer, my answer is unchanged. Assuming things were so dire they would take me back on a boat again. That is because of my conviction the United States is the finest and freest country in the history of the world; that she has done more to free people and raise them out of poverty and misery than all the nations and empires that have ever existed. She is

Infinitely worth fighting for, worth killing for, worth dying for. That is why we were still out there. Despite the loss of the Thresher, the lead boat in our class, with a loss of all hands. We closed the hatch, and we submerged, and we spent months on end ready to go to war on 2 minutes notice. “A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” John Stuart Mill. But the sad reality is that going down to the sea in ships is an adventure for young men.


How can I defend that conviction about America when I am no longer wearing the uniform? There are many things I can do: work hard, be honest, be a good neighbor. But to be a good citizen, part of the task is to defend and support those ideals and principles that led to the founding of the country, and subsequently to all, and it is a very great all, the good she has done.

I believe those principles are best guarded and nurtured by the collection of beliefs and ideals that is Conservatism.

Abe Lincoln was our 1st Republican President, and he considered himself a conservative. He was certainly one Republican President for whom Republican and Conservative were synonymous. That is not always the case. Lincoln was certainly the first POTUS to follow that philosophy to preserve the vision of the Founders of the United States against those who rejected it in favor of an elitist form of government. Lincoln once said:

“What is conservatism? Is it not the adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried?”

I take his words to heart. While he was not the first conservative, (that distinction belongs to Edmund Burke, he certainly believed that this American ideal and experiment, 87 years in, was worth conserving, and was willing to pay a terrible price to see it endure.

I have been a Republican since the Gipper ran for POTUS while I was a young sailor and that Old Peanut Farmer was my C in C. I love and appreciate what Reagan stood for. I hate the capacity of my Grand Old Party for snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. Reagan agreed to amnesty in exchange for border security for which we are still waiting. Bush 41 made a deal with Ted Kennedy (Marylin Monroe and Mary Jo Kopechne and the Bay of Pigs fighters will tell you making a deal with a Kennedy is not going to end well for you) to break his promise of no new taxes in exchange for cuts in spending, for which we are still waiting. I don’t know about you, but after a decade of We will repeal Obamacare, root and branch, if you just give us the House. And the Senate. And more of the Senate. And the White House. And more judges. And we still wait for the border security Ted Kennedy promised Reagan, the spending cuts Ted Kennedy promised George HW Bush, (as far as I can tell, the only promise Ted Kennedy ever kept was “ Mary Jo, baby, I’m going to take you for the ride of your life), and the repeal of Obamacare. The GOP is so good at losing, you have to either decide that they are indeed the Stupid Party, or that they are not serious about their principles and RINO s like McCain and Flake are more mainstream than we like to admit. Now, I for one, am about ready to stop kicking that football.

To quote Ricky Ricardo, Lucy, you got some “splaining” to do!

When the Left wins, we get, predictably, higher taxes, more regulations, more abortions, more illegals, more political correctness (which is a high-sounding way of rejecting common sense), more Congressmen with $ 90,000 dollars in cold cash in their freezers, and the 40-year cancer on our culture and body politic that is the Clintons. When we win, we get, what? A few marginal victories but lose on the big issues. We pass lots of meaningless bills to repeal Obamacare, right up till we actually have the power to do so, and then we fold like a cheap suit.) If the Left wins, even a slight majority, we go along with their Ginsberg and Kagan Justices, and their whole agenda with a somewhat apologetic “Well, elections have consequences, they did win.” When WE win, we somewhat apologetically say, well, you have to understand how politics works. After all, we only have one half of one third of government and there is only so much we can do.” Odd how such restrictions did not seem to matter to a Democrat House, or, for most of my lifetime, a Democrat WV Legislature.

It has been said that Republicans are the stupid party, Democrats are the evil party. The GOP can always be counted on to do something stupid. The Democrats can always be relied upon to do something evil. Occasionally, the GOP is stupid enough to compromise with the Democrats, and then we get something spectacularly both stupid and evil.

So, do we really continue to lose because we are stupid? Well, let us entertain a different theory.

T.S. Eliot said “the tendency of liberals is to create bodies of men and women-of all classes-detached from tradition, alienated from religion, and susceptible to mass suggestion-mob rule. And a mob will be no less a mob if it is well fed, well clothed, well housed, and well disciplined.”

William F Buckley said the conservative movement is an alternative to the liberal establishment that is based on principles of “freedom, individuality, the sense of community, the sanctity of the family, the supremacy of the conscience, the spiritual view of life.”

Conservatism as we know it began around the time of the French Revolution. Men like Edmund Burke saw that while there was much to criticize about Parliament and King, the barbaric fanaticism of the Mob rule in France tore at the foundations of civilized society and was not the way to go. Robespierre, the man who made the Mob, and egged them along to murder King Louie, Marie Antoinette, and 16,000 more Frenchmen in the terror, may have had a few moments to reconsider his position before the guillotine proved the problem of the Mob. We will never know, of course, because, to paraphrase the poem “A tisket a tasket a head in a basket, cannot respond to the questions we ask it.” Burke s “Reflections on the Revolution in France” influenced leaders both in England and in America to establish governments that would preserve justice and freedom.

. Our American War of Independence was not so much a revolution, as a separation from England. Adams, Hamilton, and Madison, did not desire to depose the King and tear down society in England, but to maintain and expand self-rule and freedom in American. The Constitution, written with an understanding of history and human nature, and recent bloody experience of the horrors of the French Revolution,     followed by a war of conquest by Napoleon, caused our founders to create arguably the most successful conservative device in all history.

Conservative leaders, ever since Burke and Adams, have subscribed to certain general ideas that we may set down, briefly, by way of definition. Conservatives distrust what Burke called “abstractions”—that is, absolute political dogmas divorced from practical experience and particular circumstances. They do believe, nevertheless, in the existence of certain abiding truths which govern the conduct of human society.

Perhaps the chief principles which have characterized American conservative thought are those outlined by DR Russel Kirk in his 1956 book “The Conservative Mind.”

Men and nations are governed by moral laws; and those laws have their origin in a wisdom that is more than human—in divine justice.

John Adams said “Our Constitution is made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. “At heart, political problems are moral and religious problems. The wise statesman tries to apprehend the moral law and govern his conduct accordingly. We have a moral debt to our ancestors, who bestowed upon us our civilization, and a moral obligation to the generations who will come after us. This debt is ordained of God. We have no right, therefore, to tamper impudently with human nature or with the delicate fabric of our civil social order.

Variety and diversity are the characteristics of a high civilization. Uniformity and absolute equality are the death of all real vigor and freedom in existence.

Conservatives resist with impartial strength the uniformity of a tyrant or an oligarchy, and the uniformity of what Tocqueville called “democratic despotism.” The PC mob that becomes hysterical at any thought that might differ from their own are a moribund piece of society. They can be “ safe and comfortable” in Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World, but they have no idea how to live in Adams and Madison’s society of free people.

Justice means that every man and every woman have the right to what is their own—to the things best suited to their own nature, to the rewards of their ability and integrity, to their property and their personality.

Civilized society requires that all men and women have equal rights before the law, but that equality should not extend to equality of condition: that is, society is a great partnership, in which all have equal rights—but not to equal things. The just society requires sound leadership, different rewards for different abilities, and a sense of respect and duty.

Property and freedom are inseparably connected; economic leveling is not economic progress.

Conservatives value property for its own sake, of course; but they value it even more because without it all men and women are at the mercy of an omnipotent government.

Case in point, ask Suzette Kelo In 2000, the Town of New London, Ct, acting on a promised 1000 new jobs and 1.2 mill new taxes, exercised eminent domain to take homes in the Fort Trumbull area, including Kelo s, for Urban Renewal, with the specific purpose of giving the land to a developer for $1 a year, who would, after development, bring Pfizer, who received 10 years of tax breaks on their existing facility, and other tenants. The only “public purpose” was more money for New London. She sued. The case was heard by SCOTUS in 2005, Kelo vs New London was decided 5-4 for New London, with O’Conner, Scalia, Rehnquist, Thomas dissenting this grab of power and loss of rights as a total misreading of the Constitution. The Town subsequently spent 78 million to demolish the property, (a private party bought and moved the little pink house, as a monument to the stupidity) only to have Pfizer backed out, after their 10 year tax breaks expired, instead losing 1000 jobs. As it turned out, the property was only ever used as dump for Hurricane Irene debris. As of today, had the deal gone through, and Pfizer paid the 1.2 mill a year, New London would still be down 56 mill. 42 states enacted laws restricting takings. Not, I might add, WV.

Power is full of danger; therefore, the good state is one in which power is checked and balanced, restricted by sound constitutions and customs.

So far as possible, political power ought to be kept in the hands of private persons and local institutions. Centralization is ordinarily a sign of social decadence. “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”
John Stuart Mill

The past is a great storehouse of wisdom; as Burke said, “the individual is foolish, but the species is wise.” The conservative believes that we need to guide ourselves by the moral traditions, the social experience, and the whole complex body of knowledge bequeathed to us by our ancestors.

The conservative appeals beyond the rash opinion of the hour to what Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead”—that is, the considered opinions of the wise men and women who died before our time, the experience of the race. The conservative, in short, knows he was not born yesterday.

Modern society urgently needs true community: and true community is a world away from collectivism.


Real community is governed by love and charity, not by compulsion. Through churches, voluntary associations, local governments, and a variety of institutions, conservatives strive to keep community healthy. Conservatives are not selfish, but public-spirited. They know that collectivism means the end of real community, substituting uniformity for variety and force for willing cooperation.

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
― Mark Twain

In the affairs of nations, the American conservative feels that his country ought to set an example to the world but ought not to try to remake the world in its image.

It is a law of politics, as well as of biology, that every living thing loves above all else—even above its own life—its distinct identity, which sets it off from all other things. The conservative does not aspire to domination of the world, nor does he relish the prospect of a world reduced to a single pattern of government and civilization.

Men and women are not perfectible, conservatives know; and neither are political institutions.

We cannot make a heaven on earth, though we may make a hell. We all are creatures of mingled good and evil; and, good institutions neglected, and ancient moral principles ignored, the evil in us tends to predominate. Therefore, the conservative is suspicious of all utopian schemes. He does not believe that, by power of positive law, we can solve all the problems of humanity. We can hope to make our world tolerable, but we cannot make it perfect. When progress is achieved, it is through prudent recognition of the limitations of human nature. We understand that the desire for the perfect is often an impediment to the achievement of the excellent. We have seen the results of Utopian schemes played out over and over, and see the results now in the streets of Caracas. (And, parenthetically, hear them espoused in the halls of Congress.)


Change and reform, conservatives are convinced, are not identical: moral and political innovation can be destructive as well as beneficial; and if innovation is undertaken in a spirit of presumption and enthusiasm, probably it will be disastrous.

All human institutions alter to some extent from age to age, for slow change is the means of conserving society, just as it is the means for renewing the human body. But American conservatives endeavor to reconcile the growth and alteration essential to our life with the strength of our social and moral traditions. Lord Falkland said “When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.” They understand that men and women are best content when they can feel that they live in a stable world of enduring values.

Chesterton’s Fence

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.


Conservatism, then, is not simply the concern of the people who have much property and influence; it is not simply the defense of privilege and status. Most conservatives are neither rich nor powerful. But they do, even the most humble of them, derive great benefits from our established Republic. They have liberty, security of person and home, equal protection of the laws, the right to the fruits of their industry, and opportunity to do the best that is in them. They have a right to personality in life, and a right to consolation in death. Conservative principles shelter the hopes of everyone in society. And conservatism is a social concept important to everyone who desires equal justice and personal freedom and all the lovable old ways of humanity. Conservatism is not simply a defense of “capitalism.” (“Capitalism,” indeed, is a word coined by Karl Marx, intended from the beginning to imply that the only thing conservatives defend is vast accumulations of private capital.) But the true conservative does stoutly defend private property and a free economy, both for their own sake and because these are means to great ends.

No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.

Edmund Burke, 1729-1797


Doug Smith: Is “who we are” worth defending?

17 Jan

nancy and chuck

(House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer)


Doug Smith is an opinion columnist, historian and Associate editor for Free State Patriot

January 17, 2019


As a student of history, I have been asking myself, was there ever an analogous time in history, when leaders of a nation or empire, for whatever reason, gave more effort and concern to foreigners, to defending cultures hostile to their own, as the modern Left in the United States is doing now? What can explain the apparent, willful, blindness to real threats to our sovereignty, and security? What can motivate people like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, let alone the radical new far leftists now infecting the People’s House to advocate for ideas that have failed horribly, again and again, and if fact are doing so at this moment in Venezuela, Iran, North Korea? What can motivate them to invert good and evil, to support dangerous people hostile to their own county, and ultimately, as anyone with logical reasoning ability can see, to them, once they have won?

The Romans permitted other, usually conquered, people to become Roman citizens. But they did not permit them to make Rome become Gaul, or Germania, or Britannia. Until, of course, they stopped being able to defend themselves and fell to the Vandals and Visigoths. The Chinese built a wall to defend against warring tribes to the South, with good effect. They neglected to deal with the Mongols, to the North, and before you could say Kublai Khan, the Yuan Dynasty had the Mongols ruling China. Historically, I can find no instance in which a people failed to defend their borders and their prevailing culture and had a happy outcome.

So, what motivates these people?

It is easy to say it is hatred of Trump. But that, perhaps, begs the question.  Democrat Ted Kennedy approached the USSR asking them to ease up on any military provocations to help him beat Ronald Reagan, the implication being that he would deal with them much more favorably once he won.  Coming at the height of the Cold War, when thousands of Nuclear Warheads were pointed toward both nations, and guys like me were stalking Soviet Ballistic Missile Submarines, ready at a moment’s notice to kill them before they could launch at our cities, it is difficult to see how this was anything but treason. The Special Prosecutor concluded, oh that’s right. There was no special prosecutor to investigate Ted Kennedy and the Russians. Or Mary Jo Kopechne. But I digress.

I am somewhat at a loss to understand the reasoning of a certain genre of Americans who find it chic and enlightened to enjoy the benefits of this society and culture, while simultaneously decrying it as unjust, immoral, and evil. Every time a Republican runs for President, there are a group of pampered elitists, actors, singers, talentless hacks whose wealth derives from marriage or pictures of their derrieres who loudly proclaim if X is elected, I’m leaving! But they stay. Or, as in the case of George Clooney, they buy a villa in the south of France with wealth they could not possibly have earned anywhere else in the world, and retreat there; safe in their wealth from the effects of French socialism and stupidity and criticize the very culture that enabled them to do so.

What a contrast between the patriots of WW1 and WW2 who lined up to put their lives on the line to defend what they believed was the greatest country in the world. Or, for that matter, between immigrants who escaped to the US from Cuba or Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, who listen to chic liberal rhapsodize about the merits of socialism and say Are you people crazy? It occurs to me the ideal candidate for Congress is one who was in the Gulags of the Soviet Union and managed to come here after that evil empire collapsed.

So what is it that makes these foolish people continue to whittle at the deck of the lifeboat in a sea of misery in which they ride safe and secure, all the while criticizing how the crew handles the oars?

Here are a few things that I observe as a part of it.

Ignorance of history.

Much of the ain’t it awful crew has either no, or a badly skewed knowledge of the history of the world or their own nation. For instance, it is easy to criticize the ancient Hebrews of Abraham’s time because of the status of women; essentially the property of a husband or a father, and very firmly relegated to the traditional roles of child bearer and household mistress. Compared to their roles in society in 2018, that was rather outdated. Until, of course, one really understands the history and the time and contrasts the Hebrews with other tribes. They did not sacrifice children to stone statues by tossing them alive into fires to burn to death. They relegated women to traditional roles as mother and homemaker, but they did not make them temple prostitutes to encourage fertility. Judged by 2018, people living in 2500 BC were primitive, but in the context of the world in which they lived, it is a different thing.

It is very chic to condemn the US for the institution of slavery. But once again, consider the context. In the 1400s to the 1700s, capturing and selling slaves was big business in African nations. It was common throughout the history of the world, and endemic in the Arab world. England, and later the US, went through great turmoil and even war in order to wipe out slavery as an institution. In the Arab world, and much of the socialist paradise our chic leftist critics admire, slavery is going on today. Right now. Iran and North Korea have among the largest populations of slaves in the world. Yet somehow there are those who find it appropriate to condemn the practice which was abolished 150 years ago in America but give a pass to those doing it right now.

Denying the excellent by demanding the perfect.

I am an unabashed American Patriot. By this I mean that I believe, with all my heart and intellect, that the United States of America is, hands down, the greatest, most prosperous, most free and desirable nation ever to exist in the history of the world. I challenge anyone, a challenge you will fail, to find another nation, or time in history, where it would have been preferable to live. The Tudor Kings of Medieval England never ate, or perched their behinds on a toilet, or dressed, or slept, in anything approaching the standards of living of a poor laborer in present day America. Unique among all times and nations of the world, America has gone to war and not conquered and occupied land and spoils but has liberated oppressed people and left them to determine their own fates. The Greeks, the Persians, the Babylonians, the Romans, the French, the British, the Prussian, the Russian Empires all together cannot make that claim. We have the luxury to criticize the failings in our country because we are so safe and prosperous.  Empirical evidence: we do not debate who may leave this country. We do not witness Americans shot down or drowning seeking to flee oppression and reach Germany, Vietnam, Cuba, or Russia. Or even, except for George Clooney, who found the lifestyle of a multimillionaire so oppressive that he had to flee: to France. And no one tried to stop him or keep him from taking his millions with him. There is a reason why millions have sought to feel TO America since her founding. We used to teach that reality in our schools, and around our dinner tables. Now it is often chic to complain about America with the same arguments as our bitterest enemies use, and the same distractions. Alexander Solzhenitsyn was happy to defend America, and contrast the early conquest of the continent, and the failures in our society against the 100s of millions starved, murdered, or imprisoned by Soviet Russia. There was and is simply no comparison. Only fools and useful idiots would advocate that the lowest and worst of in American ought to feel to the free air of Russia.

Left leaning teachers, and college professors, and parents have engaged in a dangerous, and potentially fatal game of finding the best to be bad because it is not perfect, while failing to place it in the proper context: the worst place to live, except for all other places.

So what is it we are, and wish to defend?

We are not, Leftist media aside, a nation of immigrants. We are a nation of ideas and laws. We welcome those who embrace our ideals and wish to obey our laws and work and contribute. Our open secret is that American is a place where hard work and thrift pays huge dividends. We are not stronger because we had an influx of Irish, Scot, German, or Japanese immigrants. We are stronger because we got immigrants from those shores who came already loving America and embracing her laws and her promise. Work hard and be rewarded. You can make it here.  We are not a nation of government handouts. We did not become great, conquer the continent, become the breadbasket of the planet, and set our feet on another one, by the promise of other people feeding you. We did it by embracing and encouraging work. As a people, we are more generous and helpful than the rest of the world combined. No desperate please go out to the Chinese or Russians when a Tsunami destroys homes and lives. It is American Carriers which show up and help.

We are a generous people who will gladly give a hand up to a struggling neighbor. We will always resent those whose charitable impulses consist of reaching in our pockets in order to bestow their largess on ungrateful recipients, who then go on strike demanding more. Americans will help you get back on your feet, they will bridle at helping you stay on your donkey. (You know the word I mean, but this is a family friendly article.) Isn’t it odd that the symbol of a certain political party is that same animal which spoke to Balaam and told him he was headed for destruction?

And we are a people, and a sovereign nation who have the right, and privilege, of defending our nation, our borders, and our identity. In case you have not heard it, we won or bought the land area we inhabit, and no one in the Southwest wishes to become part of Mexico. Nor do the citizens of Mexico want to be part of that failing state and culture. You have never seen, and will never see, a mass of people rushing Mexican border guards to get in. And we have every right and responsibility to take pride in our culture, though we recognize it as imperfect, because it is superior to all others you may stack it against. Our citizens do not stream to other countries or cultures for work, or education, great orchestras do not play the classical masterpieces of 3rd world countries which struggle for subsistence. We can work to adjust the edges, correct mistakes, and right wrongs, but for the Lefty elite who seek to wholesale reject our nation and culture, they are just as wrong as it is possible to be. They seek to destroy what we have in favor of some coffee shop dreams of their idea of a perfect society which does not, and never has, existed.

We need to take pride in America. There is a reason why so many wish to come here, and why so many volunteer to defend her. I make no apology for being proudly American. I take pride in my Irish heritage, but I AM an American. To the Elitist chic dandies who want to tear it down and find their Utopian society, a dream which has cause endless misery and death throughout history, I consign you to the other side of Chesterton’s Fence.

G.K. Chesterton used an analogy of a fence in the middle of a field. When you propose to me to remove a cultural barrier, or part of our way of life, like that fence, first you must tell me why it was built. If you do not know, you cannot remove it. Once you find out why it is there, then we can discuss whether to remove it. Who knows? Perhaps it is to keep wolves away from the sheep, even though standing next to it, you can see neither the sheep nor the wolves. Still, its purpose still exists, and so, therefore should it. If we permit you to destroy fences willy nilly and build without knowing the purpose of what you destroy, or what you build, the result we get will be anarchy and barbarism.

So, to answer my premise, yes. It is worth defending American, and the American ideals and principles. And that begins with our founding documents, not the fad of the day. If you are an American, chances are you have never, or not for a long time, read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the Federalist Papers. I challenge you to make that a project for this year. They are readily available. They form the basis for the nation and the freedoms you have enjoyed. They also contain a number of fences. Understand why they are there, and how they protect and defend you.



Doug Smith: Eulogy for my father

16 Jan

bill 2011 (2)

(Columnist, Doug Smith’s father, Bill Smith, recently completed his journey on earth)

doug 2

Doug Smith is an opinion columnist, historian and Associate editor for Free State Patriot

January 15, 2019


Nikos Kazantzakis, the author of Zorba the Greek, once said “When a man dies, that particular vision of life that is his, and his alone, dies along with him. Therefore it behooves a man, while he is living to write down his story.” Dad never did that, so I think it fitting that those of us who remain and mourn his passing recall a few tales from his life story as we knew it while we say farewell.

In part it is here: there came a day when I looked in the mirror and saw the old man staring back at me. I quickly grew this beard. People used to come into his shop and wonder which of us was the older brother. Now, I, for one, never colored MY hair. But for 63 years, Dad was that guy who looked more like me the older he got. Well, maybe I got a little greyer too.

But part of the story came to me by taking time in recent years to drink coffee and ask questions about who we are, and where we came from, (County Sligo, Ireland) knowing that the time was coming when I would have asked him the last question, and he would have given me the last answer. Like all good stories, it is some parts fact, memory, and legend, all forming the picture I have of my Dad. If you will indulge me, I’d like to share a little bit of the tale of the man whose face I wear.

Back in the 1920 s my grandfather, Carl, looked at the least flattering view of a Kentucky mule, and moved to Huntington, WV. He rented out crystal radios in matchboxes at a quarter a week, repaired busses, traded in scrap Iron and Metal, and, during the Depression, grew vegetables near the river, ran a trot line to a boat and sold fish and crops to local grocery stores, whatever would fight the wolf back from his door. Meanwhile, his wife Nellie, started on 8 children of whom seven would live to grow up. So Carl had his work cut out for him, and work he did. That was a legacy he passed to his children: work is what we do.

There’s a photo that I love of my Dad, with his big brothers, Pete, Dan, and Hobart; no shirts, dirty torn pants, no shoes, hair cut short, 4 little ragamuffins. Everybody worked, and did what they could to help put a poor man’s feast of beans, greens, bologna, onions, and Ohio River fish on the table. The boys worked at Smith Iron and Metal to help feed the family. Dad managed to graduate from High School, a first for the family. He married my mom, and began a lifetime, like Carl, turning his hand to whatever he could to buy the beans and bologna. He worked at Hot Dog stands, dry-cleaners, and, of course, junk yards. Again, work was just what you did.

When I started first grade, Dad started at Marshall, and soon became a Methodist preacher. During that year, I can remember the excitement caused one morning when Dad and my Uncle Dan had been out fishing and left their catch in our bathtub. When my Grandma, Biddie Mason, went in to get ready for work, she was greeted by 3 large Catfish, hissing in protest. Grandma let out a scream, and nobody was running late for school that day! By the way, we had fish for dinner.

There came a time when I was old enough to help Dad cut the grass. My job was to pick up anything in the way of the lawnmower. I picked up an old iron skillet to toss it in a drainage ditch, and instantly discovered another thing we had in common. There was a blacksnake coiled under the skillet, and when I picked it up, the old snake started to move, I dropped the skillet on him and ran for the house. I don’t think I actually touched the grass on the way. When I got in the kitchen, all I could get out was Sna Sna, Sna. When I finally had some blood back to my brain, I realized that Dad had been scorching across the lawn right behind me and was standing next to me, looking a little pale about the gills himself. I think we looked like those cartoons where the feet are moving but all you do is kick up dust. Dad used to tell the girls about how he would grab a snake with his bare hands, strangle a bear with it, then kill the snake. They were pretty gullible, so they probably bought it until, oh, about last year. Permit me to set the record straight. Bill Smith despised snakes. I despise snakes. All snakes. When he was tearing down tipples a number of years ago, they wore snake chaps, heavy boots, and had 2 guys with shotguns blasting away at the copperheads and timber rattlers they found in those old abandoned, grown over, tipples. Caught snakes with his bare hands? Sorry to ruin your illusions, girls. But not a chance.

Dad went to seminary while he preached at 2 little country churches in Ohio. I went with him for a week, and stayed in his dorm room. I sat in an Old Testament class with him, which was enough to keep me from ever going to seminary, and we visited the observatory. I got to peer through the big telescope. Another time, Dad and I stood in front of Smith Iron with a little telescope and watched a Lunar Eclipse together. I guess those memories stuck, because I still have a telescope.

Dad and his brother Hobe ran Stewart’s Hot Dog later. Different name now, but it’s still in Chesapeake by the Symmes Creek Bridge. My first job was as a short order cook. I learned some lessons there from Dad, without realizing: do it right the first time, keep it clean, count your change, you only get one first chance to impress a customer. But most of all, again, work: it’s what we do. I still tend to introduce myself as what I do, rather than who I am. For both of us, I think, that line was blurred. Dad never said, we are Smiths, and therefore, we work, but the unspoken message was always there. All his long life, Dad worked at many things to buy the beans ; scrap metal chief among them, but he was not too good to pick fruit, tear down tipples, and make Hot Dogs (ours is such a unique family: Scrap Metal and Hot Dog Stands have been the family businesses.) Most of my memories of Dad have something to do with work.

But not all; Dad and Mom had 3 children, and we lost a little sister and brother in infancy. That loss was part of him, as well as, of course, as was the inestimable joy of having me. You’re welcome. I also remember learning the pleasures of stirring up your ice cream till it was like soup before you ate it while watching Walter Cronkite.

Well, in time, Dad married again, and I ended up with a Step Mom and eventually 4 sisters. FOUR. Really, Dad? Really, Connie? FOUR?! You guys couldn’t manage even ONE boy to even things up for me?

I remember him telling me how his brothers taught him to swim: by pushing an old truck inner tube out into the Ohio and dumping him: swim or drown, Bill! I never told Dad this, but my cousin Sam continued the family tradition with me in a pool in California. Obviously, it worked.

Swim or Drown might well be the Smith Clan motto, for while Dad sometimes found himself in deep waters in his life, he always struggled back to the surface. When I was 18 I failed to see the irony in that image when I told him I was joining the Navy and would sail on Submarines. He never expressed anything but support for my decision, but I always wondered if he had a “moment” when he saw me get in that Navy Gray van and leave for boot camp.

All of you knew Dad in different ways, but for me, this was always the guy who wore my face. I loved him and he was important to me, and much that I knew or was came from him. Still, there comes a sobering moment when you realize your Dad is, after all, just a man, both foolish and wise, yet frail and noble, a complex man; good, yet fallen and flawed all at the same time. Not a superman after all, just a man. But still: Dad.

Just like when he tested the Turkey stuffing; and he always said it was perfect, but after a moment, that it always needed more sage. I think Dad would agree that since sage also means wise, we both had our areas of perfection, but both of us could have used more sage.

As sons and Fathers will, we had some difficulties and clashes, things not said, or settled for many years. But, I took some wise counsel several years ago: Don’t leave things unsaid until the last words had passed between us. So, we spent a couple of evenings together, with lots of coffee, of course, and when Dad died, we had nothing left unsaid between us.

Some of the hardest places in Dad s life took him away from the church, and from God, for a time. I will always remember that the love and caring from folks at Jefferson Ave Church of God after the loss of his Mom was the lamp that lit his way home. I know that later, the baby steps of this church where I stand now, and these people, and Pastor Terry and Vickie, were an important part of his life. He would not have missed being a part of this church.

Dad was a man of great contrasts, of strong opinions, and emotions, and passions. Erika told me the other day about Dad saying he could hold on to a ticked off feeling for a long time. He worked hard to build and accomplish what he could in his life and his businesses, and, was, I discovered over the years, generous and open handed to many people. I suspect the full scope of his giving to people will never be known. But that was a part of him. He loved deeply, grumbled often, fumed and raged loudly, but turned to a big teddy bear for a child, or a baby, or that little fuzzy animal that he insisted is a dog. He had a sharp, questioning mind, with a love for learning and reading, which he passed, thankfully, on to me.

I missed my Dad when he was not around to talk to about solving the problems of the world, or books. Neither Dad nor I ever saw the need to use 2 words when 20 would suffice, so I’m not sure how we ever finished a conversation. I enjoyed learning things from my Dad; how to make hot dogs, or cut up a side of beef, or identify metals, or count in German, even when I was just satisfying my idle curiosity. I guess I carry on that tradition as a wellspring of (sometimes) useless knowledge, because I love to read and I remember much of what I read. I remember Robin Hood, and the King Arthur stories, Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island; the Arabian Nights and Swiss Family Robinson: because they all were books that Dad gave me. He was a big fan of books, and learning, and as a kid, I was pretty much a book with legs and glasses. I loved our talks over coffee about books. And I will miss them.

In my last visit with Dad, before the end was obviously at hand, Connie got a much needed chance to walk around and breathe in some cool air, and Dad was with me for a while, and really present. We talked about my kids and grandkids, how he confused mine and Josh’s names since the boy was born, about an icy cold mountain stream in the Grand Tetons we drank from one July morning, and oceans, and the many places we both had lived, which, between the 2 of us, constitutes most of the US. I just held his hand, and we talked. He was glad to see me, and I was glad he was there. And then, as evening came, he wasn’t there. The Alzheimer’s ended that time and left him confused and afraid. But, I will be forever grateful we had that time, although I didn’t realize at the time that we were saying good bye. I’m sorry he is gone, and I will miss him, But I am glad he is free of the cage that Alzheimer’s made of his mind.

In 1879, Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson made a long trek from Scotland to San Francisco, to see Fanny Vandergrift, the women he loved. The journey nearly killed him. Thinking himself near death, he wrote a poem called simply: Requiem. Later, seeking warmer climates to ease his Tuberculosis, Stevenson moved to the Island of Upolu, in Samoa. There, in the shadow of the 1500 foot Mt Vaea, Stevenson built his family estate. In 1894, when Robert Louis Stevenson died, 60 Samoan men, took turns standing guard over his body through the night while some of them cleared a path to the top of Mt Vaea, and carried his coffin on their shoulders and buried him. 20 years later, the ashes of his beloved wife Fanny were brought by their daughter to be buried beside him. At his request, these words, his “Requiem “, are carved on his tombstone.

Under the wide and starry sky,

Dig the grave and let me lie.

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

 This be the verse you grave for me:

Here he lies where he longed to be;

Home is the sailor, home from sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.










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