Month: July 2014

Why to Buy a David Crain Whip: The ‘Ohio Bullwhip Fast Draw’ in slow motion

I have won the Ohio Bullwhip Fast Draw competition for several years during its decade of existence. I don’t win it every year, but most of the time I either win it, or I’m climbing around the top contenders and if I lose it is because of a miss. I can’t ever recall being beat to a target. In 2014 the whip maker David Crain told me before we paired off against each other that he had built a whip just for the annual event and showed it to me. As I looked it over it was built of nylon, which is his style, and was very springy. It had nice movement and was well balanced—but it felt light. I’m used to my whips built by Terry Jacka in Australia which are a nice balance between heavy and the weight of the nylon whips so I had my doubts that his whip would be fast to the target in spite of his efforts. But when we paired off, and the judge called “draw” it looked to me that our whips both reached the target at the same time. It was too close to call, but the judge gave him the win as seen below.

I was impressed by how his whip sprang into action from about the 11:00 position over his head and jumped toward the target like a rubber band.   It moved differently than my whip which could be seen in the slow motion breakdown. Crain’s nylon whip launched toward the target and got there quick. The effect was impressive and demonstrated that the “roo” hide whips from Australia were not the only ones capable of winning at the Ohio Bullwhip Fast Draw.

I have used Crain’s whips often and can testify to their quickness, my grandson has three of them. They are great for two-handed vollies and general technique. But after seeing them perform at this year’s Annie Oakley event in Greenville I am convinced that they perform excellently in competitions as well. David Crain’s whips are well made and unique featuring finely finished wooden handles making them easy to manipulate and excellent to look at. But in the hands of an expert, they are proving to be as quick as whips like the ones I use which cost $600 to $800 dollars. Crain’s whips typically cost a third of that but are every bit as accurate and many times are faster cutting through the air.

For me the elation of life is in the moments of time when a judge announces “draw” and when the whip hits the target. I find bullwhips more fascinating than firearms because all of the movement of the whip is done by a human being transferring the power of momentum through several strips of leather brought together by a whip maker to provide a focused force at the point of impact. By watching the coil of my whip strike its target in slow motion it is easy to see the world the way I do—first in the fast form, then slowed down the way it works in my mind. I live for those fractions of moments in time—those moments between seconds where decisions and momentum come together to define an objective. The same skills are used when driving a car, or making decisions that might affect millions of dollars in profitability—often we are only given a fraction of a second to make a decision and to act. The beauty of the bullwhip quick draw is all the decisions that have to be made in far less than a second, the uncoiling of the whip, the calculation of where the end is in space and time, the rotation of the handle to get the lay of the whip pointed in the right direction on the upswing from the coiled position—because if you go against it, the whip will push-off its mark during the strike, then finally the projection of the target cut with the whip in the air and pointed in the right direction, the flip of the wrist to get the coil started and finally the pop of the whip hitting the target squarely.

It was easy to see how I pulled off my side of the target cut, but David’s shot was a bit different. I looks like in slow motion that he was able to skip a few steps in the process. His whip being made of nylon didn’t have to be rotated in his hand to prevent working against the natural direction of the belly inside the whip that is formed to the coiled direction of a leather whip. From the extended position above his head it looks that he was able to launch the whip toward the target with a sling shot type of effect which can be seen the way the end of the whip turns into waves after it meets the target. What is easy to see in the very slow motion of the bullwhip fast draw above is that the nylon whip and kangaroo whip behaved very differently during the bullwhip fast draw but the goal is to reach the target first. In slow motion it looks like there is great advantage in using a nylon whip in the bullwhip fast draw.

For those who want to win the bullwhip fast draw in the future, a David Crain whip might be very wise. As it can easily be seen in the video, a lot happens in the span of time that two whip experts attack a target in the moments fragmented by such occasions. And like regular life that often feels slow and mundane it is those fragments of time that dictate the direction of success or failure—so the bullwhip fast draw is an excellent way to train the mind into the types of decisions that accompany such moments.

When people wonder how I do some of the things that I do in regular life whether it is under the guise of a suit and tie, or torn cloths hunting ghost ships in the back woods of river tributaries, the secret is not in a book, or a college, or any institutional influence. It is in the lessons learned in the fragments of time seen in the Ohio Bullwhip Fast Draw and how those lessons can be applied to problems others might find overwhelming and impossible. Even with all my years of experience I still see new things and learn from them as I did from David Crain this year—lessons that I will carry with me that will prove very valuable. But for others contemplating such a thing in the future consider that last year David didn’t think he had the experience or skill to perform such a feat—but only one year later, he has proven himself to be a contender of great repute. And part of his journey in getting there was in building a whip that would do supernatural things under great pressure and as it can be seen by the video, he was successful.

David Crain can be found at the following link:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Heartbeat-Artistry/169569816413486

 

Rich Hoffman

www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com 

Secrets of Competition: The fountain of youth discovered in Ohio’s ‘Speed Switch’

Every year I look forward to the whip contests at the Annie Oakley Festival because for me it is a measurement that I take to determine my personal efficiencies. Whip work and what it takes to strike 10 targets in 12 seconds or less possesses the same skills that make forward leaning philosophy so cutting edge or management strategies fluidly clear. When you step up to the line to begin those contests, all the same emotions rush through your mind, push too hard or fast and you will miss targets. Take things too casually, and your stopwatch time will be bad, and physical timing is everything—maintaining a nice even pace that accomplishes the task is of utmost importance. Many might think that it is the desire to beat the other competitors that drives a person like me in these competitions—but its not. I happen to think the world of all the people who participate in the Annie Oakley events and I rejoice when they do well—even if it is at my expense. The real challenge as it is in most competitions—it is always yourself that you must compete against. The optimal thing is to show up, do your best measured against your values, and relish the results for the sake of them happening. I had a rough start in the competitions this year; I had a couple of penalties which added 10 seconds to my time on the Speed and Accuracy. It bothered me that things didn’t go as well as they should, so on the next competition I performed much better on the Speed Switch, seen below.

On that one, the speed was perfect, the rhythm was there, and the strikes were wonderful even with both hands. Upon completing that run, it felt good to strike that final crack because I felt I had my mind and body centered from the task which is exactly the feeling I was looking for. I really didn’t care what the time was, and I would have been happy to see someone come up with a better time. What mattered to me was the feeling of having everything working in perfect harmony controlled by me and my effort for a positive conclusion. It is primarily because of that exercise that I have worked with whips for well over three decades now.

When you have to compete against others it is different from setting up the same course in your backyard, which I do have. Other people push you to be better, so when I discovered that my Speed Switch time was just over 11 seconds, I was proud. If I were doing the same exercise alone in my back yard, the time would have likely been a second or two slower, but because of the competition it pushes you to do better. So it was a better time because of the competitive environment.

In the scheme of things the time doesn’t matter much. Next year it will be forgotten just like last year’s Superbowl champions are often lost in time. But the thrill of the moment is in pushing yourself to achieve something you might not otherwise strive to do—and it makes you sharper, stronger, and generally better. After pushing your mind and body in these kinds of events, hot dogs taste better, soft drinks at a concession stand are sweeter, and the sun is always more brilliant. If the level of competition is of a better quality, it makes a win even better—not because the other guy lost but because you know they are good and the meaning has proportional value based on the strength of their talents.

Politically, when rules created through legislation, take away competition from any process, they help destroy it. When labor unions prevent such competition to the process of making a job better, they are destroying those jobs. Without competition, minds rot away and the thrill of becoming better is robbed from an otherwise curious mind. For me, a guy closer to age 50 than 40 there aren’t many chances to challenge myself. At this age, you are at the top of your game. If you have done things well in your life, you should be the father who knows best, you should be the top performer in your career, you should be a shining citizen in your community, your lawn should be beautiful, you should make good decisions because you have learned how to be the best possible person that you can be through years of trial and tribulation. But if the competition is taken away from you, then your mind starts to go and with it comes the edge that your maturity brings to the table of innovation and success.

Organizations where competition is removed from their processes are filled with corruption and apathy. When trophies are given for victory without a competition taking place the way collective bargaining agreements provide for union workers, sluggish behavior permeates the endeavor with a less than satisfactory resolution. In my life, I still look for ways to compete the way I did when I was young and still test myself not for my competitors but to keep myself in shape, and sharp and to feel that thrill of life of a task well done on a Saturday afternoon. It’s not about the other competitors only in that they tend to push you to be better just by their presence. Without that competition in our lives, human beings decay and wither away into complacency.

It is also important for those who are currently the best to help others become better by giving them a target to pursue. This is essentially the secret to parenting, but it is more broadly termed as “mentoring.” It is good for young people to chase after old people to become better than they are, because through competition, everyone becomes better. One generation should surpass the older one so innovation occurs. Young people always want to feel they did better than those who came before them, but for them to do that, it is the responsibility of the old to make it hard for the young.

During the Bullwhip Fast Draw contest this year David Crain won against me and when he did I couldn’t help but be happy for him. He was fast and when he discovered that he had hit the target first, he rejoiced not so much for the win, but because he thought it would be hard to beat me. So for him, a hot dog tasted better on Saturday because he won a hard-fought battle. It is my task to make it hard for other competitors, but it is also my job to be happy for those who win because innovation has taken place, and everything has become better.
If competition is not present, innovation stops and minds die. Anywhere that competition is lacking, this is the result—poor performance occurs. And when you get to an older age where opportunities for competition are no longer constantly on your radar—there is a tendency to decay. This is why I look forward to the bullwhip competitions each year at Annie Oakley. Bullwhips mean more to me than other things in my life, so there is something at risk when I compete lending gravity to the situation that might otherwise not be present.

In that regard I was very happy to get such a good time on the Speed Switch. It is hard, and when everything comes together like that, pride is the only emotion. I could have been down on myself for not doing very well on the Speed and Accuracy event, but instead I was able to get it together and come back like I do most things in my life. But the reason I learned to overcome things in other parts of my life are because I know I can—because through competition I have learned how and applied those same skills to solving sometimes ridiculously difficult problems. Before you can do that consistently it helps tremendously to push yourself on ground that you are familiar with—whether it is baking a pie, shooting a rifle, or cracking a whip—competition makes you a better person in virtually every category. You may not always win, but you will always become better—especially if you learn from those who do win often. There is a reason they do—and the way to achieve that same boon is to surpass them through innovation and technique.

After a few days of rest I am already looking forward to next year. It is one of those events that never fail to restore in me a hope for humanity because of the people involved and the nature of the competition and what everyone gets from it. I remember what the bullwhip competitions were like when they were done in Las Vegas with the Wild West Arts Club, but Gery Deer, who runs the Annie Oakley event wanted to improve on those, and he has. The Bullwhip Fast Draw was born out of that desire and new to this year was the Indiana Jones Quick Draw which was a lot of fun and very entertaining. The need to always get better is at the heart of innovation and those needs cannot be measured until competition draws them to the surface. I am happy with my performance in 2014 but already have my eye on 2015 and will change some of my approach to get better. And during that process everything else in my life will improve just as a by-product. It is for that reason that I am so happy for the Annie Oakley bullwhip competitions and all the wonderful experiences that have come from them over the years. There is contained within their simplicity a secret to youth which often dies in grown adults not because of age—but a lack of competition and a laziness to push themselves once they have mastered their own fates.

Rich Hoffman

www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com 

A Needed Circus Tent: ‘Bronco Billy ‘dreams that could resurrect a nation

At an annual dinner conducted by the participants of the Annie Oakley Western Arts Showcase there was much discussion about the new location in 2014 at York Woods in Ansonia, Ohio—just north of Greenville.  The reviews of this new site were very favorable, but I wasn’t so sure when we were driving there for the first time.  York Woods was founded in the mid 1800s and today is the site of the Greenville Steam Thrashers—a group dedicated to maintaining antique farm equipment.  Once we arrived I said to my wife that this country was so much God’s that you felt like you could reach up and scratch his beard.  It was amazingly remote and full of character.  It was the first location of our annual Western Arts Showcase which has now been going on for well more than a decade that could justify a circus tent for our shows.  Here is a video of the event:

We had the idea by seeing what kind of tent the drama group had up and for the first time considered that we should hold our future shows in just such a tent.  In previous years our shows were in the Coliseum at the Darke County Fairgrounds about 10 miles to the south.  Several times during the day weather threatened to alter our outdoor show, so it put in our minds the need for adjustments in the future if the York Woods site continued to be the destination.

We hoped that it would because there are things we could likely do at York Woods that we would never be allowed to do at the Fairgrounds, such as using firewhips and live ammunition for portions of our shows.  I typically don’t perform for the exhibitions due to the many restrictions and my lack of interest in living within too many boundaries.   I admire those who do, but I’ve always thought that our shows should incorporate more live fire—as was seen in one of my favorite movies, Bronco Billy.  At York Woods the Annie Oakley Committee actually had shooting contests on site which greatly enhanced the event for the crowd.  The Fairgrounds was in a fairly dense population area, but out in York Woods, there wasn’t much by way of residential living for at least a mile—maybe two.  The farmland was vast and very open giving a truly ideal location for improvements to the Western Showcase.

We could continue to do the shows outside as we have for years, and just work around the weather, but it may well be time to have our own circus tent.  Where space was always in short supply at the Fairgrounds, there was no shortage of space at York Woods giving our group for the first time some creative ability not seen before—so a small circus tent is something that we should pursue in the upcoming year.

 To do this we are looking for corporate sponsorship that could pay for some of the costs and would be proud to feature all benefactors prominently.  There are opportunities here that are unexplored for both parties, the Western Showcase participants and advertisers—so discussion would have to take place to make sure everyone gets what they want.

Interested parties should contact my friend Gery at:

http://geryldeer.com/

As for my the movie Bronco Billy, it has always been a dream of mine to do for kids what the Clint Eastwood character in that film wanted to achieve.  In that film Bronco Billy was operating his life upstream of the current in society and was functioning by a traditional set of rules that were grossly outdated even by the 1970s standards.  It has always been a dream of mine to step into a circus tent like the one shown at the end of that movie made of American flags.

Americans for too many years have felt guilty for their history, their art, and their success.  The tent at the end of Bronco Billy was a kind of statement of honor in preserving all those things.  But it wasn’t real.  Bronco Billy was just a movie character and the story was fictional.  When the shooting was done, the tent was scrapped, and packed away forever forgotten, except on film. Well, 35 years after that film became a favorite of mine, I’m in the strange position of knowing really the only people left in America who have the ability to put on a show like what Bronco Billy did in that film.  Gery Deer is the closest thing alive to Clint Eastwood’s fictional character in that movie and is the reason he and I have had a friendship that has went on for over a decade now.

The people in Gery’s shows are some of the most genuinely good people I have ever met and the gifts they have to offer the world extend well beyond the yearly shows at Annie Oakley’s festival each year in Greenville.  But you have to start somewhere and it would appear that the York Woods location is the perfect spot for such an audaciously American fantasy.  There were enough crowds at York Woods to fill the stands of a small circus tent and resurrect not in Las Vegas, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, or Orlando, Florida the lost arts of the cowboy, but Ansonia, Ohio the literal birthplace of Annie Oakley herself–one of the best trick shooters anywhere and a person all women should think of as a role model.  Annie Oakley used to say, “Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it.  No, not the first time, or the second and maybe not the third.  But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect.  Finally, you’ll hit the bull’s eye of success.”

I read those words on the back of the brochure the Annie Oakley Committee passed out to visitors of their festival as I watched our group perform their knife throwing exhibitions, and whip tricks and thought of the possibilities if firearms and other—more audacious elements could be added to the show in York Woods in the future.  And I couldn’t help but think of that Bronco Billy circus tent which has been bouncing around in my head for more than three decades now.  There is no reason to aim high in this case because we have the firepower at many levels of hitting this target—a new target that was presented through a change that could very well be for the better.

These days it doesn’t matter if a show is ten miles outside of a town that is already many, many miles away from the rest of civilization.  This is actually a plus, especially when the performers also have the ability of bringing the show to the rest of the world through “media.”  Gery is a television producer—and he is also the producer of the only real Wild West Show left in the world.  There are a few theme park types of acts out there, but nobody has the ability to pull the most talented people in the industry in for a real honest to goodness Wild West Show like Gery.  All he needs to pull off the chance of a lifetime is a circus tent and a few sponsors.

Rich Hoffman www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com 

The 2014 Annie Oakley Western Showcase: Bringing Lash LaRue off the silver screen into reality

As usual it was a marvelous weekend at our annual Annie Oakley event.  What started as a large group that originally met at Las Vegas each year is now just a handful of whip crackers, knife throwers, trick ropers and magicians intent to put a smile on the faces of young people and wow the adults who graced the grounds of the 2014 Annie Oakley Festival in Darke County.  The venue this year was moved from the usual fairgrounds in town to a more remote location just to the north.  It felt a long way out and even deeper into “God’s Country” but a very large crowd turned out and what they found there were shooting contests, fast draw contests from the Single Action Shooting Society, theater drama, and the 12th Annual Annie Oakley Western Arts Showcase accompanied by the many venders selling goods.  Most of the venders very unique with little booths set-up mingling among the trees of York Woods.  For over ten years now some of the best whip crackers in the country have gathered to meet with their own kind at the event and as usual it was a marvelous enterprise.

I said many times during the day which was absolutely perfect for July weather with mild temperatures and occasional rain bursts erupting just to the north and south painting a menacing sky at times across the vast plains of farmland extending out into Indiana—that my love of this event was yearly maintenance; it restored my faith in humanity.  The people who attend are some of the few people left in the entire world who do these kinds of things which used to be common place during Annie Oakley’s time.  A few are in long-term marriages which are inspiring, and most have spouses that they bring with them where they enjoy each other in a healthy way and it is just good to associate with people of that character.  I’ve said it before, but it is applicable, the people in our group are nearly identical to the characters shown in the Clint Eastwood film Bronco Billy—which is a favorite of mine.  They are a small group of people who are all that is keeping a way of life in America alive for the next generation.

There are many in the world who might say good riddance to classic American arts—particularly those residing around large metropolitan areas—which is why attending each year restores my faith in humanity.  It is so refreshing to spend time around genuine people who truly love something rooted in classic Americana.  But to lose these values, the whip cracking, the gun spinning, roping, and knife throwing—with vaudeville type shows conducted from corn fields in the middle of nowhere—U.S.A would be treacherous.  The heart of what it means to be an American is in those shows, I have now known the ring master of the Annie Oakley event—Gery Deer for over ten years and each year he finds new ways to change-up the show to always keep it interesting.  At first there were concerns over moving the Annie Oakley Festival to the outskirts of Greenville—but quickly those worries proved pointless.  Large crowds attended and the celebration was nothing short of inspiring.

It took me a while to get warmed up but by the time we got to the Speed Switch contest which allows bullwhip artists to strike at ten targets as fast as they could–first with one hand then with the other on the way back up the target row, I had hit my stride.  This year it was obvious that everyone was a bit smoother and had been practicing.  The times were faster generally for everyone which made for an exciting show for the people watching from the bleachers.  I had my fastest time ever on the Speed Switch—just a bit over 11 seconds which is fast for even the Speed and Accuracy contest so well-known to seasoned veterans.  I enjoyed the location, the vast open spaces all around the touring bus of the Brother’s and Company set up as a backdrop for the stage as a generator provided all the power needed for the show.  The crowd sat in the beginnings of the York Woods where shade gave them shelter from the sun which peaked out often around menacing storm clouds.  If anything pushed my speed a bit it was a combination of those elements.

Many of the same people who came last year came this time around again traveling from far away destinations to arrive.  Some couldn’t make it, but the beauty of the event is that each year there are opportunities to do it again and recharge their batteries from a punishing year.  It is punishing to stand behind these classic American art forms when the current trend is to run away.  Often the skeptics will stand on the outskirts of the roped off area and watch with curiosity as most of their thoughts were created by pop culture—but after a few moments, they can’t help but smile at the cheesy jokes and purity of the type of Western Showcase that Gery routinely puts on.  There is a playful innocence in it that is unmistakable and it doesn’t take long to reach into the inner child of the typical viewer to touch that part of themselves which has long ago been ignored—and suppressed.

I saw some of that at the end of the day when my wife and I went to the restaurant we normally gather at in Greenville to make reservations for the back half of the dining room.  The rest of our group was on the tour bus coming down from the York Woods location so we wanted to have everything set up for when they arrived.   As the manager arranged tables I saw some of that modern cynicism in the bar where my wife and I waited.  A corner contained a group of young twenty-somethings watching a baseball game and as I stood silhouetted in the doorway between the bar and dining room a young kid with his date looked my way and started texting his friends sitting next to him murmuring—it’s “Crocodile Dundee.”  I stared at the kid just to make him feel uncomfortable and to let him know that I could hear him, which he hadn’t expected.  He wanted anonymity from the security of his reality among his friends so I made a point to not give it to him.  This isn’t the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last.  On more than one occasion in that same bar we’ve encountered worse but quickly converted them over into fans.  One year Chris Camp took a skeptical woman outside and made her into a whip target stand in the parking lot in front of her husband cracking straws from her outstretched hands.  Moments before she had been similar to the kids in the corner, but after about five minutes was gushing all over herself at the coolness of having a weapon break the sound barrier right next to her face.  The only references modern people have toward such things outside of the type of events that Gery puts on, is music, movies, and television which has turned dramatically against the American Western, or any form of rugged individualism.

The clash of cultures is one where the values of two groups of people crash in places like that bar.  At the Annie Oakley Festival the context is already presented.  It is not unusual for members of the Western Arts Showcase to roam around the event in costume.  I typically wear my whips with me, and nobody bats an eye—they expect it because of the context of the show.  When our members used to attend the Fairlawn restaurant in years prior the strip of road separating it from the Darke County Fairgrounds was filled with people attending the festival.   This year there was no late night activity in town, because the Annie Oakley event had moved far to the north—so the Fairlawn was filled with regular people living their regular lives watching baseball games and trying to show how well they fit into the modern world of the big nearby cities like Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati to the south.  So for the kids in the bar they had no idea there was an Annie Oakley event in town as it had moved.  The boy who made the Crocodile Dundee comment likely hoped that his girl friend would be impressed by his remark and the laughs and giggles among his friends would earn him an honor of some kind, to prove that he was just as much of a douche bag as the next guy.  What kids like that don’t know, because it’s not part of their experience, is that the heroes of old, which the Ohio Western Arts group is dedicated to preserving are people like Lash LaRue, Douglas Fairbanks, and of course Annie Oakley—people they have no experience with.  If they did, they’d have a much more fulfilled life—their marriages would last longer, their lives would be richer, and they’d be generally happy people.  Some of the members of our group travel in trucks and vans that are twenty years old filled with stage props.  Often they sleep in a cramped back seat traveling from gig to gig in a hope that their sheer charisma might improve the lives of just one person with the kind of hopes and dreams born from the mind of America.  Most of the time they get paid decently, but are drained from the experience only to dust off the feeling and do it again weekend after weekend year after year.

I have never seen a young girl who didn’t melt away into butter when a confident whip handler removed a target from her lips.  If the kid wanted to impress his date—and I wanted to tell him this—the best thing he could do for himself is to learn the skills our group brought to the Annie Oakley Festival.  As our group arrived and filled the back of the room, the kid stood in the doorway wondering who all those people were sitting with that same guy in the Australian style outback hat.  His perplexed look was one of realizing that there was a group of people in the world functioning around him who were different from the patterns he had learned—that certain music was popular, certain modes of dress acceptable, and that there were people out there who considered non-conformity to be far superior to social conformity.  It is that trait that the Annual Annie Oakley Festival in Darke County, Ohio appeals to best, and the primary reason that so many make the yearly pilgrimage.

I certainly have a lot of experience with such things measuring public temperament.  Unlike the other attendees I have chosen a more controversial roll using my desire to preserve the Western Arts in a way that I think the real Lash LaRue would have done in his day—I have made it part of my political discourse.    I have fought higher taxes and known political corruption using the skills nurtured along over the years with the bullwhip to have the same effect the young guy in the bar experienced.  When it comes to traditional American art, I feel that the best ground to defend it is outside of the shows where viewers can watch comfortably from behind a roped off area.  I take great pleasure in bringing the show to the safety of the herd because it is there that they need to see it most.

At the end of the night there were jokes about how out-of-fashion we were as a group and pride was taken in being so out of style.  I remarked that all we needed to do was wait another 50 years and there will be hordes of people desiring deeply the traditional American arts displayed yearly at the Annie Oakley Festival—it will at that time become fashionable again.  But right now, especially with the failure of the Lone Ranger at the box office last year, nobody in movies or television is going to produce a film like Zorro or Lash LaRue in the jaded culture we have now.  But for those who still desire such things, the way we do who perform them, the yearly event of Annie Oakley is a real treat.  It recharges my batteries with meaning after a year of typical cynicism in a way nothing else does.  I typically wear my hat year round everywhere from Michigan to Florida and in every possible venue from wealthy to poor—so it is routine to get the kind of reaction I received from the kid in the bar.  But what is unique is that a horde of people dressed similarly who share my values don’t often come walking in behind me.  And while I might want to take Lash LaRue off the silver screen and plop him down into America in 2014 with my real life antics, it is the one and only time a year that I get more from everyone else than I typically give leaving me feeling uncharacteristically fulfilled.  In that regard, I hope that Gery gets the circus tent next year that he’s talking about—because that would be absolutely grand and a good next step to the new venue at York Woods marking of the start of a second decade in a long march toward eternity.

Rich Hoffman   www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com 

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The Nature of Productivity: Lessons learned from the 20th Century Motor Company

The following three videos should be listened to completely—for they contain the secrets to manufacturing success within them.  To understand the effects of positive GDP forecasts, or the growth of a manufacturing sector in a country—the following clips read from the pages of Atlas Shrugged contain the hidden knowledge that is required to comprehend the cause and reasons for any kind of productive growth or decline.  In the fictional 20th Century Motor Company as described in the classic 50+ year novel—an entire company is driven to ruin for some mysterious reason.  That reason would later be confirmed cryptically by the entire  real-life city of Detroit, General Motors, and hundreds of thousands of smaller companies who like the factory in the novel that were once thriving places of industry but soon found their doors closed and overtaken by plant life from abandonment, followed the same path.  The philosophy of productivity for good or bad is contained within these three videos.  Once understood all the books written about modern finance, management, or lean manufacturing techniques will become obsolete as the truth contained is undeniable.  No matter what one’s opinion of Ayn Rand might be—whether or not they agree or disagree with her politics of small government, pure capitalism, and  value based society represented by money—her understanding of economics and business in general is among the greatest minds over the last three hundred years.  Let me explain why.

As a young man I saw on a much smaller scale the same type of things talked about in the 20th Century Motor Company as narrated by a former employee in the presented videos.  One place that I worked at nearly right out of high school while attending college night school was a metal stamping factory full of tough guys born and raised nearly exclusively in unionized households where their parents worked for General Motors or large local paper companies which had gone out of business.  They had deep in their internal workings the same beliefs as the narrator describing the 20th Century Motors situation and I immediately came into direct conflict with them.  Lucky for me, my background included hard-working parents, two sets of grandparents who owned professional farms and my first work experiences where around members of the Chicago Chinese mob.  So I had the opportunity from a very young age without reading Atlas Shrugged to learn about what values money represented about people and learned about the nature of good and evil as related.  My job at the stamping factory was a clash of two worlds, one where a majority of the people thought just like the narrator in the Atlas Shrugged excerpts, and I.  At this factory there was a piece per hour rate that was established by management of 400 parts on average.  The presses had lines of workers who each operated a part of the process in making compressor housings for air conditioners, the first press would press out a rough shape from a sheet of metal, the second would trim the excess away, the third usually involved several workers who had to do a number of punch operations to make connection holes.  Each had a unique challenge to physical labor that had to be done quickly to even think of getting close to 400 parts per hour.

I learned without much time expiring to do well over that 400 part per hour rate and soon found that management put me on the lead at the start of the line to set the pace for everyone else.  Employees downstream on the line when they realized I was pushing to do more than 400 per hour would slow down and let the parts build up on the conveyors leading to their presses.  But having parts backed up would often stress them out forcing them to do more than they wanted anyway so productivity increased and the management was happy.  This of course led to many conflicts and parking lot fights.  However, with my background–some rough characters from my youthful enterprises, and my natural hobby with bullwhips as my primary exercise item, I never had to worry about handling myself against rough-neck employees and their labor union backgrounds.  Through conflict I earned their respect and even though they resented being pushed, came to like me well enough to not resist my wishes.

I never bought into the line of thought that believed workers should only produce 400 parts per hour if they could do more because it seemed wrong to regulate productive enterprise.  I learned quickly that no matter how hard I worked, a majority of the workers would gladly ride my coat tails without putting forth any effort, and if I wanted to produce excess—which to me felt natural, I had to learn to fix the line myself when maintenance issues arose, or other problems presented themselves.  Often I felt that I carried the manufacturing capacity of the place on my back alone by pushing the culture toward productivity. Eventually I would leave that job and they immediately went through a period of struggle.  The next company I went to had very similar manufacturing challenges but instead of metal, it was injection plastic.  Again, it was the same story, a part per hour rate, my desire to exceed it, and a company full of employees who wanted to fight me over it to protect their “rights” against “management.”  In this place I talked the management into letting me work double shifts every day of the week—(16) hours a day, and on the weekends I’d back off only working (8) hour days.  I worked (7) days a week averaging around 96 hours of work per week.  Many in management thought I would keel over but they wanted my efforts which essentially was outpacing around (7) of their hourly workers and I was doing it on 2nd and 3rd shifts which were hard to staff.  This was a big place and my average output alone outpaced much of the totals from their entire first shift because of the amount of time I spent in their building working.

I knew people were mooching off me both in my private life and professional by the droves and my response was to see how much I could carry.  I performed like that for nearly 2 years straight then left there to work at Cincinnati Milacron.  There I ran into extreme levels of the kind of behavior talked about in the 20th Century Motor Company.  There, I was doing a very individually based job which prevented my direct impact on the productive culture.  The jobs perished as a result—not just mine, but everyone’s.  The site where I used to work is now a shopping center.  The large campus of manufacturing at “The Mill” is now gone, and my job with it.  My next place of business to work was a unionized shop doing manufacture for Amazon.com distribution centers.  There I had many conflicts with the employees some of which have been discussed in detail, but I routinely produced 150% efficiencies over the manufacturing rate per day, as opposed to the normal rate of 40% to 60% that the union employees fresh off a strike were producing.  That company like Milacron soon was sold off from a company that was drowning in losses—so I lost that job too along with many others employed there.  The way that the employees were throttling the piece rate was that many of the manufactured units had a 4 to 5 hour time, and most of the union workers would milk out that time to produce one unit per day on an eight-hour shift.  I was routinely producing two which pushed my rate well over 100% on average.  In that shop a forklift had to bring supplies to build with, so I learned that when I was out of material not to trust the forklift operator sitting on his unionized butt to help me achieve my goals, I would grab a forklift on my own and get my own stuff.  Of course this enraged people—but I did it anyway the entire time I worked there.

The long story made short is that there is excessive truth contained in the video clips presented.  The evil talked about is an evil that I have fought without really knowing the definition for years.  I only knew at the time that I wanted to fight that evil, I didn’t understand why until much later.  When I had figured it out, I then read Atlas Shrugged to have that confirmation thought, but that has been within the last decade.  I figured out what made the 20 Century Motor Company fail by experience instead of being told by a book.  I am proud to look back on my life now never yielding to the pressures of the masses to restrict my outputs and thus prevented becoming myself a contributor to that evil described.  I never produced at such levels to get a pat on the back from management, or even to make more money—even though those things did come to me, I did them because there was something inherently right about it.  The culture I grew up with aside from my family, the mob, and the money laundering from a job I had before the metal stamping place (not conducted by me, but discovered), had signed up for the same evil that destroyed the fictional 20th Century Motor Company.  I luckily had learned the value of money from people who naturally possessed great value, and even learned a lot from a criminal class who clearly understood the benefits of capitalism.  Their crimes were against politics, not the morality of money—and this is something I learned very early in my life which was a real gift.  By the time my wife begged me to take up honest hard-working jobs that were clean of criminals, hit men, and money laundering, I had already met the worst that any factory thug could present, and I knew how to deal with them.  In this way I was never beaten down for doing too much, and never stopped from being productive.  And I was able to confirm the validity of Ayn Rand’s work through more than theory.  I saw it firsthand.  The difference between myself and Ayn Rand is that she developed her philosophy around removing her input through a strike—her John Galt quit the world and took the productive with him.  I on the other hand felt the challenge to carry everything on my back the way Hank Reardon did, but without ever breaking.  My life would have been easier if I had done things the way Ayn Rand suggested, but I chose to fight it instead, and I’m glad to this day that I did.  But whatever the position, she was right and the narrator who is speaking her words is spot on.  The thing that is killing our world of productivity is the evil described in these videos.  It is not a fiction; the evil is as real as the sun, stars and moon and cannot be trivialized no matter how much a collective mass of people wishes. Productivity is good when boundaries are pushed beyond their expectations because it is there that creativity resides.  And it is specifically in creativity that production springs forth.  If creativity is embraced, a company flourishes.  If it is stifled even in small ways, the way of the 20th Century Motor Company will spring forth and slowly destroy everything that the company stood for.  Profit isn’t evil; it is the natural by-product of excess achieved through effort, creativity, and honor.  I didn’t work those two years of straight 96 hour work weeks to arrive at any other conclusion—and I didn’t do it for the graces of management.  I did it because it was the right thing to do at the right time because the creativity which put the product before me to make needed that effort to deliver it to a market in need.  And because it was delivered, the owners were paid, and in turn I was rewarded for my efforts—and that is how it is supposed to be.

Rich Hoffman

 

 

www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com 

‘Adams’ the HBO Miniseries: “Lustrously ostentatious intellectually and overflowing with a visual history”

I’ve been to a lot of Tea Party events and know quite a few people on the inside of the movement and never did anyone bring up the magnificent miniseries done by HBO on John Adams as essential material for studying one of the greatest founding fathers in American history.  I assumed that the HBO produced event would be a typical progressive revisionist history that focused all too much on the hypocrisy of slavery and the general presentation as weak average men riding the coat-tails of history.  I assumed that since Tom Hanks produced the show that it would be laced with progressive references.  But……Laura Linney was in and was playing Abigail Adams—John Adams wife—so I put the series on a “to do” list for later.  I liked Linney in the Mothman Prophesies so thought I’d give the show a shot at some future time when I got around to it.  That time came six years later in 2014 when I saw that HBO was showing all seven parts of their mini-series on July 4th, so I set the DVR to record it which I eventually viewed a few weeks later when time allowed.  It was nothing short of lustrously ostentatious intellectually and overflowing with a visual history into the period which took great pains to be authentic. Without question some will attempt to question the accuracy of the work which is based on the David McCullough books, Adams and 1776 but to compress so much history and character into a relatively short period of time art had to bridge the gaps for the viewer which the series was marvelously successful at.  The set direction was monstrously good, the actors outstanding, but it was the writing that really overflowed with radiance.  The series covered in a scope I had never seen in a film or series of any kind the lifestyles and politics of France, England and the budding United States very accurately with costume design and makeup that I can’t imagine a more truthful attempt ever attempted.

John Adams is a 2008 American television miniseries chronicling most of U.S. President John Adams‘ political life and his role in the founding of the United States. Paul Giamatti portrays John Adams. The miniseries was directed by Tom Hooper. Kirk Ellis wrote the screenplay based on the book John Adams by David McCullough. The biopic of John Adams and the story of the first fifty years of the United States was broadcast in seven parts by HBO between March 16 and April 20, 2008. John Adams received widespread critical acclaim, and many prestigious awards. The show won four Golden Globe awards and thirteen Emmy awards, more than any other miniseries in history.

Part I: Join or Die (1770 A.D. – 1774 A.D.)

The first episode opens with a cold winter in Boston on the night of the Boston Massacre. It portrays John Adams arriving at the scene following the gunshots from British soldiers firing upon a mob of Boston citizens. Adams, a respected lawyer in his mid-30s known for his belief in law and justice, is therefore summoned by the accused Redcoats. Their commander, Captain Thomas Preston asks him to defend them in court. Reluctant at first, he agrees despite knowing this will antagonize his neighbors and friends. Adams is depicted to have taken the case because he believed everyone deserves a fair trial and he wanted to uphold the standard of justice. Adams’ cousin Samuel Adams is one of the main colonists opposed to the actions of the British government. He is one of the executive members of the Sons of Liberty, an anti-British group of agitators. Adams is depicted as a studious man doing his best to defend his clients. The show also illustrates Adams’ appreciation and respect for his wife, Abigail. In one scene, Adams is shown having his wife proofread his summation as he takes her suggestions. After many sessions of court, the jury returns verdicts of not guilty of murder for each defendant. The episode also illustrates the growing tensions over the Coercive Acts (“Intolerable Acts”), and Adams’ election to the First Continental Congress.

Part II: Independence (1774 A.D. – 1776 A.D.)

The second episode covers the disputes among the members of the Second Continental Congress towards declaring independence from Great Britain as well as the final drafting of the Declaration of Independence. At the continental congresses Adams is depicted as the lead advocate for independence. He is in the vanguard in establishing that there is no other option than to break off and declare independence. He is also instrumental in the selection of then-Colonel George Washington as the new head of the Continental Army.

However, in his zeal for immediate action, he manages to alienate many of the other founding fathers, going so far as to insult a peace-loving Quaker member of the Continental Congress, implying that the man suffers from a religiously based moral cowardice, making him a “snake on his belly”. Later, Benjamin Franklin quietly chastens Adams, saying, “It is perfectly acceptable to insult a man in private and he may even thank you for it afterwards but when you do so publicly, it tends to make them think you are serious.” This points out Adams’ primary flaw: his bluntness and lack of gentility toward his political opponents, one that would make him many enemies and which would eventually plague his political career. It would also, eventually, contribute to historians’ disregard for his many achievements. The episode also shows how Abigail innovatively copes with issues at home as her husband was away much of the time participating in the Continental Congress. She employs the use of then pioneer efforts in the field of preventative medicine and vaccination against smallpox for herself and the children.

Part III: Don’t Tread on Me (1777 A.D. – 1781 A.D.)

In Episode 3, Adams travels to Europe with his young son John Quincy during the war seeking alliances with foreign nations, during which the ship transporting them battles a British frigate. It first shows Adams’ embassy with Benjamin Franklin in the court of Louis XVI of France. The old French nobility, who are in the last decade before being consumed by the French Revolution, are portrayed as effete and decadent. They meet cheerfully with Franklin, seeing him as a romantic figure, little noting the democratic infection he brings with him. Adams, on the other hand, is a plain spoken and faithful man, who finds himself out of his depth surrounded by an entertainment- and sex-driven culture among the French elite. Adams finds himself at sharp odds with Benjamin Franklin, who has adapted himself to the French, seeking to obtain by seduction what Adams would gain through histrionics. Franklin sharply rebukes Adams for his lack of diplomatic acumen, describing it as a “direct insult followed by a petulant whine”. Franklin soon has Adams removed from any position of diplomatic authority in Paris. His approach is ultimately successful and was to result in the conclusive Franco-American victory at Yorktown.

Adams, chastened and dismayed but learning from his mistakes, then travels to the Dutch Republic to obtain monetary support for the Revolution. Although the Dutch agree with the American cause, they do not consider the new union a reliable and trustworthy client. Adams ends his time in the Netherlands in a state of progressive illness, having sent his son away as a diplomatic secretary to the Russian Empire.

Part IV: Reunion (1781 A.D. – 1789 A.D.)

The fourth episode shows John Adams being notified of the end of the Revolutionary War and the defeat of the British. He is then sent to Paris to negotiate theTreaty of Paris in 1783. While overseas, he spends time with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson and Abigail visits him. Franklin informs John Adams that he was appointed as the first United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom and thus has to relocate to the British Court of St. James’s. John Adams is poorly received by the British during this time—he is the representative for a recently hostile power, and represents in his person what many British at the time regarded as a disastrous end to its early Empire. He meets with his former sovereign, King George III, and while the meeting is not a disaster, he is excoriated in British newspapers. In 1789, he returns to Massachusetts for the first Presidential Election and he and Abigail are reunited with their children, now grown. George Washington is elected the first President of the United States and John Adams as the first Vice President.

Initially, Adams is disappointed and wishes to reject the post of Vice President because he feels there is a disproportionate number of electoral votes in favor of George Washington (Adams number of votes pales in comparison to those garnered by Washington). In addition, John feels the position of Vice President is not a proper reflection of all the years of service he has dedicated to his nation. However, Abigail successfully influences him to accept the nomination.

Part V: Unite or Die (1788 A.D. – 1797 A.D.)

The fifth episode begins with John Adams presiding over the Senate and the debate over what to call the new President. It depicts Adams as frustrated in this role: His opinions are ignored and he has no actual power, except in the case of a tied vote. He’s excluded from George Washington’s inner circle of cabinet members, and his relationships with Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton are strained. Even Washington himself gently rebukes him for his efforts to “royalize” the office of the Presidency. A key event shown is the struggle to enact the Jay Treaty with Britain, which Adams himself must ratify before a deadlocked Senate (although historically his vote was not required). The episode concludes with his inauguration as the second president—and his subsequent arrival in a plundered executive mansion.

Part VI: Unnecessary War (1798 A.D. – 1802 A.D.)

The sixth episode covers Adams’s term as president and the rift between the Hamilton-led Federalists and Jefferson-led Republicans. Adams’s neutrality pleases neither side and often angers both. His shaky relationship with his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, is intensified after taking defensive actions against the French because of failed diplomatic attempts and the signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts. However, Adams also alienates himself from the anti-French Alexander Hamilton after taking all actions possible to prevent a war with France. Adams disowns his son Charles, who soon dies as an alcoholic vagrant. Late in his Presidency, Adams sees success with his campaign of preventing a war with France, but his success is clouded after losing the presidential election of 1800. After receiving so much bad publicity while in office, Adams lost the election against his Vice-President, Thomas Jefferson, and runner-up Aaron Burr (both from the same party). This election is now known as the Revolution of 1800. Adams leaves the Presidential Palace (now known as The White House), retiring to his personal life in Massachusetts, in March 1801.

Part VII: Peacefield (1803 A.D. – 1826 A.D.)

The final episode covers Adams’s retirement years. His home life is full of pain and sorrow as his daughter, Nabby, dies of breast cancer and Abigail succumbs to typhoid fever. Adams does live to see the election of his son, John Quincy, as president, but is too ill to attend the inauguration. Adams and Jefferson are reconciled through correspondence in their last years, and both die mere hours apart on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (July 4th); Jefferson was 83, Adams was 90.

Cast

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Adams_(miniseries)

Stephen Dillane as Thomas Jefferson role was particularly well cast.  I have seen many attempts at Jefferson by actors, particularly the Sam Neil portrayal and this one had to be the best of all.  The writers could have focused more on the slavery issues and been all caught up in the temperament of our modern times the way the current employees at Monticello do—focusing on the Sally Hemmings aspect of Jefferson’s life as though the man was a raging sexual lunatic.   But these interpretations of Jefferson are assumptions based on the faults of modern man.  Jefferson was an aristocrat—America’s first—but not in the traditional sense where it was handed to him by his ancestors. Jefferson was just intellectually superior and individually motivated and became an aristocrat by his own choice to be so which is an important distinction.  The John Adams miniseries covers this in great detail.  I thought the scene of Adams, his wife, and Thomas Jefferson in France witnessing one of the first hot air balloons was particularly captivating.  Without the foursome, Adams, Abigail, Jefferson and Franklin there would not be an America today.  Even with all the other characters involved, Washington, Sam Adams, Thomas Paine and all the other heroes of the Revolution—it was in essence the polar opposites John Adams and Thomas Jefferson who philosophically molded America with Franklin and Abigail gently directing the two men with warranted criticism and reality.  If those four people were not a part of the process so profoundly slavery would still be practiced on earth as a common occurrence in developed countries, and America would have never gotten off the ground beyond the musings of an angry mob in Boston.

Even more so, Jefferson and Adams loved their wives.  This I always knew but the HBO series delves into this love in a very mature way that is completely missing from most television dramas.  I have now enormous respect for the way Adams loved his wife and wish with every bit of my own essence that such love and respect could return to our society—as I believe it is a fundamental building block of marital sanity.  Without Abigail, John Adams would have spun into a haughty lawyer too smart for his own good, and without Adams, Abigail might have closed in on herself from introversion.  The two complimented and built a life from friendship that was particularly respectful and free of controversy.  Adams in all his time in France never yielded to their flamboyant sexuality—his intellectual position prevented it—which eventually won them over into supporting America in the war with much needed supplies.

But what was most striking was the love of intelligence which both Jefferson and Adams had their entire lives.  It was their intellectual capacity and love of learning which launched the nation—not so much the acts of laws and men in times of war.  It was the strength of their minds which was evident right up until the time of their deaths that carried America on its back and into the future.  The HBO series never wavered from this and displayed it as honestly as possible without being disrespectful in the least.  One particular scene in the series was when Adams traveled to England to meet with King George III as the first Ambassador to the United Kingdom.  Of course the King was insulted and hostile toward the new nation—it was the first strike against his empire which would eventually crumble away. But when he heard Adams speak, he understood why America had formed and realized that the foundations of intellectual superiority had sprung in the New World and it was because of that—that he lost the Revolutionary War—and he was actually honored.  He clearly expected some barbaric heathen which Adams clearly was not.  It was a beautiful scene.

Adams was a Federalist while Jefferson was clearly not—he formed the first of the Republican Party of extremely small government minded politics.  Adams shared with Hamilton and Washington the notion of much larger government controls which ran contrary to everything they founded the Revolution upon, and the HBO series handles these philosophic conflicts honorably—and honestly.  Many of the same arguments permeate politics today, but the HBO series never picks sides—it just presented the information to the best of their ability—which again was quite good.

My opinion about public education—my anger at much of what we see in the world today is the failure of our governments and institutions to give people a proper understanding of history.  We have failed as a society to study history properly so that we might have more enriched futures.  We have allowed for the eradication and complete revisionism of history in many cases to protect religious belief, and political desire—so work like Adams on HBO are extremely rare, and important.  All I have ever wanted in any debate over public education or politics in general is to have the kind of intelligent discussions that Adams and Jefferson had in their lives for the betterment of our times.  The ignorance so worshipped these days simply retreats to mechanisms of control and manipulation to win an argument and get laws put in place that essentially steal from producers and give to the lazy—which is something both men would be appalled at.  Tom Hanks has done a lot of good work over his many years as an entertainer some of it I enjoy, some I haven’t.  He often takes up progressive causes—such as his work in Philadelphia and most recently Cloud Atlas—but in the end he might best be known as the producer of the HBO series Adams.  Previously, it might have been Saving Private Ryan, or his role in Forrest Gump or for me his portrayal of Jim Lovell in Apollo 13.   The HBO miniseries on Sam Adams will likely be the greatest chapter in the long history of Tom Hanks.  I can’t imagine something so good being done by anybody in Hollywood unless someone of his caliber put a lot of love into the project as a producer securing the $100 million dollar budget to pull it off for a cable station—and then pulling in such great actors that had to live up to the high bar he had already set.  I don’t think there is another producer out there capable of pulling off something like this any other way.  It takes extremely good talent on all sides of the camera to achieve, and Hanks has set the high water mark clearly with this series.

If there is an opportunity to see the HBO series Adams on Netflix or by purchasing it on Amazon—you’d be well suited to do so upon conclusion of this reading.  It is an essential part of our history and how America was formed and why.  Historians can argue the details but really it is picking fly shit out of pepper when such an epic performance is put on display for public consumption with all the love of people who really poured their heart and souls into a project that would have otherwise never happened.  I would go so far to say that not only should every American—child to senior citizen–see this series of movies, but every single member of the world—so that they can see the benefits of minds on fire that wish to only be quenched with freedom from tyranny and all the perils associated with it.

Here, I’ll make it easy for you:

http://www.amazon.com/John-Adams-Paul-Giamatti/dp/B000WGWQG8

http://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/John-Adams/70087091?trkid=163822

Rich Hoffman

 

 

www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com 

The Decline of Hueston Woods: Capitalism versus statism sponsored conservation

It had been a while since I had been to the Oxford area; the last time was to give an on campus speech last year, so it had been some time since I had made my way into Hueston Woods State Park.  However, for likely the 60th to 70th time in my life red lights were filling my rear view mirror and a patrol officer  was at my window telling me I was driving too fast—as determined by some cry baby, wimpy, leather faced, cheating whore of a politician afraid of riding the Merry-Go-Round at a summer fair.  I was being pulled over for going 40 in a 25 MPH zone.  My answer to the State Officer when asked if I knew how fast I was going was that I had no idea the speed limit was so slow.  For me, it was impossibly slow.  I can ride a bicycle faster than 25 MPH.  That is simply too slow for a long series of roads.  What are they protecting at the park with such a slow speed limit, turtles, rabbits and squirrels?  Worse yet, where I was pulled over was right at the entrance where fisherman and boaters were pulling in for some early morning access to Action Lake which is currently undergoing a $15 million dollar face lift at the damn.  The lake receives roughly 1.8 million visitors per year so Huston Woods still gets a lot of activity after many years but during my recent visit, it was easy to see that there was a lot more that they could do if they only had the right attitude.

I grew up with Hueston Woods so I know its history very well and am in a position to offer some criticisms that are needed if it wants to sustain itself into the future.  As a kid I spent many summers at camp there between Boy Scout groups, my church and in my teen years I was actually part of the chain gang that had to walk the entire park and pick up trash around the entire loop.  That is a long story but the short of it was that I was loaded onto a van from the Hamilton jail and driven with all the other juvenile convicts to the lake to spend the day performing “community service.”  I learned to hate the pompous over-weight delinquency officers who rode behind us in the van playing music as we picked up trash around the lake for everyone to gawk at.  I took the point position and walked faster than everyone else on purpose just to drive things along and put pressure on the people behind me.  I was yelled at a lot that day, and I noticed that the state employees seemed very comfortable at the park.  Our chain gang launched from the left side of the lodge and it didn’t take long to realize that one of the two guys in the van was having an affair with a woman who worked in the gift shop who was married.  So I had an opportunity to see the underpinnings of the park at a young age where the seeds of apathy had clearly been placed—which was reflected 30 years later in the visit I had with my family in the middle of a summer week.

I always loved the lodge and wanted to marry my wife there, but her parents talked me out of it in favor of the Becket Ridge Country Club, of which they were members.  For most of my youth up until that event with the chain gang I loved the lodge and used it as a base station for many adventures.  So it was a good pick for a wedding to my wife.  This time returning I was with my grown family and was introducing my grandson to the place—visiting the game room it literally hadn’t changed much since I had been a teenager.  In fact, it looks like the Ms. Pac Man machine was still in the same place.  Instead of the reunion with the lodge being something of reverence, it saddened me to see the place going downhill quick.  It was still nice, but had the tired look of a place uncared for.

Elsewhere in the park the marina looked wore out and the wildlife exhibit was in disrepair.  They still had a nice mountain lion on display and some large birds including an eagle, but the passion had obviously left the management of the area.  Hueston Woods has plenty of opportunity for revenue not directly related to tax payers; they of course have the lodge traffic year round which attracts many lodging dollars for people taking in-state vacations.  There are also cabin rentals, horseback riding opportunities, boat rentals on the lake and other similar activity—so the park should not look like it did—run down and tired.

Granted, since I was a kid my worldly vision had dramatically opened.  The lake used to look really big to me and it seemed impossibly large to walk the entire route around it as a member of the chain gang.  Now it looked small, I have walked a lot further for a lot less reason, and have seen places much, much nicer than the lodge in far away locations around the world.  As I played many video games from that lodge I used to wonder what kind of adventures I’d experience in life, but none of them seemed to have the capability to surpass Hueston Woods. But within a few years of my chain gang experience I quickly learned that just about everywhere was nicer which was sad, because there were opportunities in Hueston Woods that other State Parks simply didn’t have—particularly the proximity of Miami University nearby.  Students use the Hueston Woods beach as a natural sun bathing destination and place to play volleyball and study away from their congested dorm rooms.

So you’d think that the State Officer pulling me over would understand that sitting on the side of the road pulling people over for going 40 MPH under the guise of safety would understand how negative his presence was to financial investment into the area—which it badly needed.  The guy literally had nothing better to do than to sit in his squad car and pull people over all day so that their speeding cars might not run over some ducks.  In fact, elsewhere around the park are the typical greenie weenie messages that come straight out of the Al Gore handbook of progressive political discourse such as having people clean seeds off their shows before walking into a forest to minimize the transference of hostile plants that crowd out the sunlight to more delicate vegetation.  I took my grandson and daughter to the fishing pier which was a long walk for his little feet, but was perplexed by the message on the trail signs.  If state officials could make such statements about plant life then why couldn’t they make the same judgments about human beings—there are certain groups of human beings who behave just as aggressively as the plants they were talking about at the ODNR advisory board?  The same mentality could be declared in neighborhoods where welfare recipients’ crowd out private investment because they tend to present themselves as unkempt and destructive pushing out people who wash their cars, care for their lawns and generally try to improve their surroundings.  And as that thought crossed my mind it appeared that those same types of people were at Hueston Woods.  The lady in front of us at the nature walk was with a group of kids who looked like they climbed out of the trunk of a car covered in garage sale items.  She was a beat up woman who had a cheap shoulder-blade tattoo of some kind of flower and a bleeding heart.  It was hard to tell because she was about my age and the ink had smeared over time all running together.  As I looked around there were a lot of people like her there and a lot fewer of the type of people I remembered as a kid who had boats at the marina who would come to the park to go sailing on the weekends.  It appeared that the parasitic humans were crowding out the contributing humans and the park was suffering.  Yet the park rangers could make that distinction with plant life, but not with their human visitors—very interesting and much to their own detriment.

As I waited for the State Officer to return with my driver’s license and insurance card I couldn’t help but think of all the lost opportunities at Hueston Woods compared to a place like Disney World.  Both parks are roughly the same age but one looks as new as the day it was built and the other looks like it is a few years away from decaying away into nothing.  The difference really is the people, at Disney World the employees look happy to have a job and be working.  At Hueston Woods the employees give off the impression that they’d rather be watching afternoon tabloid television or sitting in a patrol car giving tickets so they could save some tree frog that might jump into the road—just because they have nothing better to do.  At Disney World there is plenty of wildlife and they reproduce robustly, and there are not unfriendly park rangers running around trying to issue tickets every five feet—because they want visitors in Disney World.  But at Hueston Woods the general impression is that humans are intruding on a natural habitat and that they aren’t welcome unless they follow certain parameters of rules.

High quality people look to have left the park or have gotten old and died off leaving behind the dregs.  The dregs were part of the Hueston Woods experience of my youth but with them were people who had new cars, boats, and were business professionals in their private life who enjoyed the recreation at the lake.  So both types of people were there, but these days, it appears that one type of person is coming far less than the other which is driving down the quality of the park.

Growing up I saw both types of people on a regular basis.  The criminals that I had to do community service with likely all grew up to be the dregs of society now.  It was easy to see them then, and now they were like that girl with a thirty year old tattoo on her shoulder which had sagged and become distorted with age.  And I went to Hueston Woods with my church groups and Boy Scout organizations where suburbanite parents at least attempted to care about the value of things.  Clearly one group was missing and the other had multiplied over the years—and Hueston Woods was suffering for it.  Making it worse was the patrol car discouraging me from bringing my family to Hueston Woods for the day because they guy had nothing else to do but sit in the grassy area off the side of the road by the mountain bike parking lot and pull people over.

My reaction to the State Officer was that I wanted out of the park as quickly as possible.  When we were done with each other I took the nearest road out and left.  Our day at Hueston Woods had concluded and it’s likely that I won’t return for another dozen or more years.  25 MPH is simply too slow for a car of any kind, and is not friendly to visitors.  The park and its employees gave off the impression that visitors were lucky to be there and that is simply the wrong attitude.  In response quality people are not visiting the park in the kind of numbers that can sustain it as the dregs are continuing to come because they have access to a free beach.  That problem is one of management where the effort into saving trees from hostile plants failed to take the same measures to preserve their internal economy leaving the place to devolve into a sad state of disrepair only to be devoured by the dregs of society and their parasitic nature.

Rich Hoffman

www.OVERMANWARRIOR.com