About Charlie Hudson

Off with my combat boots and onto writing best describes Charlie my two careers. Born in Pine Bluff, Ark., and raised in Louisiana, I count myself as a military veteran, wife, mother, freelance writer, and author. What was intended to be a quick two years in the Army became a 22-year career instead, and somehow in the process, I discovered that I was an inadvertent pioneer by serving in several positions that had previously been held only by men. By the time I was in Desert Storm and later Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, women in leadership assignments was more widely accepted. My love of writing never left me though whether it is a short article that highlights an animal rescue group, penning the stories of a female police detective in the Florida Keys, or presenting issues about aging that Baby Boomers need to address, or working on a corporate proposal. When my husband, Hugh, also retired from the Army, we relocated to South Florida where we can both enjoy the underwater world in dive sites all around Key Largo. We do break away though to still travel, and especially visit the Washington, D.C. area where son Dustin is a professional dancer and lives with his wife, Samantha.

Not A Holiday Movie….

As much as I love a couple of the holiday movies and have posted about them in the past, the other day, the original “True Grit” was on. It was such a quintessential John Wayne role in his older years and while there are only a few lines I really enjoy, there is one scene in particular I have quoted from for a variety of situations. In the event someone hasn’t seen the movie or it’s been quite some time, a very young Robert Duvall is bad guy Ned Pepper. He has a small gang and a young girl, Maddie (Kim Darby), has engaged the services of the older, very gruff Marshall Rooster Cogburn (John Wayne) to help bring Pepper to justice. Much of the story line is about having adequate True Grit to handle someone like Pepper and his gang and the unlikely pairing of Maddie and Cogburn. Cogburn has a patch over one eye, a fondness for whiskey and few kind words for anyone.The duo becomes a trio when Glenn Campbell joins them as a Texas Ranger also on the trail. There are of course many challenges to face.

Deep into the movie, Cogburn is on horseback across a meadow from Ned Pepper and three of his cohorts, also on horseback. Pepper had previously kidnapped Maddie and was using her as a bargaining chip to get away. In learning Maddie is safe, Pepper makes the case Cogburn should move aside because one against four isn’t good odds and the girl is okay. Pepper calls out, “What are your intentions?”

“I am to kill you in one minute or take you back to Fort Smith to hang at Judge (something or other)’s convenience. What do you have to say to that?”

“I call that bold talk for a one-eyed, fat man.”

Cogburn sits straighter in his saddle, draws a second gun and shouts, “Fill your hand you son-of-_____!”, and charges forward.

It’s not a totally happy ending which I won’t get into, but there have been times in my career or other endeavors when I have made decisions to tackle something that falls into the category of, “bold talk for a one-eyed fat man”. And there were times when the odds were not favorable and things didn’t work out well. In other cases it did. The words, however, have held special meaning since I saw the movie all those years ago.

Those Amazing 50ths…..

There is good reason to celebrate when a couple makes it to a 50th anniversary. (Yes, I know 50 years doesn’t mean it’s a great marriage, but those aren’t the couples I’m talking about.) Both sets of grandparents had their Golden Anniversaries, although I was only able to attend one of them. (Neither quite made it to their 60th) Some friends will be at their 51st tomorrow and another couple had their 50th yesterday. At the moment, I can’t recall how many of my aunts and uncles ticked over that mark, but it’s definitely more than one pair. I’m not sure what my sister has in mind when they reach their 50th in a couple of years. One other couple is planning something big for their upcoming 60th.

There are thousands of sayings about marriage – what it takes, what makes it work; all kinds of advice. Few marriages are without some degree of conflict and whether a couple can smooth them out varies a great deal. “We refer to them as our practice marriage,” one couple says of their respective first spouses. Then there is the couple who married, divorced, re-married, divorced, and re-married. I lost track of them after that and am not certain of the ultimate outcome. I have, as I’m sure everyone has, know those who have been on the brink and then something happened to cause them to step back and be glad they were able to do so. Health is the factor that can’t be controlled of course as with my parents. So for all that have passed, or are approaching, the milestone of 50 years of marriage – congratulations!

 

Another Memory Triggered……

I don’t recall exactly what show we were watching the other morning when the subject turned to the oil well fires set in Kuwait as the Coalition advanced during Desert Storm. After Saddam Hussein had control of Kuwait – which he did quite rapidly – he didn’t know for certain how firmly that proverbial “Line in the Sand” would be drawn. Without getting into a lot of details, the King of Saudi Arabia opened his country to allow the initial forces to enter in a defensive posture. That was the Desert Shield portion. As plans were being drawn up for the offensive action to re-take Kuwait – that was the Desert Storm part. In the midst of many terrible atrocities Iraqis were committing, orders were given to dig trenches in the oil fields and fill them. Among the other threats, Hussein said he would torch the trenches and the oil wells. According to a source I trust, the Emir of Kuwait said something like, “I can rebuild my country once I have it back.”

And so, early one morning as the lightning fast attacks of Desert Storm were pushing the Iraqi military back, the threat was carried out. I think the number of wells set on fire was around 700 and I don’t know how many trenches were. The headquarters I was in was at least 150 miles away (probably more) and the sky was as dark as if twilight was setting in. It was incredible to see and an environmental disaster of staggering proportions. The sky was affected throughout the day and may have been longer. I also don’t recall the number of special crews they brought in (many American of course), but if you watch the old movie, “Hellfighters”, it’s a good depiction of what it was like for months on end. The fires were set the latter part of January and early February and the first ones weren’t extinguished until early April. The effort took until November to complete. Like so much of what happens in war, it accomplished nothing other than to inflict deliberate damage. It didn’t stop the advance of troops or provide a negotiating point. In situations like these, this is why you demand unconditional surrender.

Friends Gathered Around….

Despite our efforts to gather “loose” friends for Thanksgiving, I just found out we missed one. It was a situation where both individuals had to work, but their schedules were such they couldn’t celebrate together and I didn’t realize that or we would have certainly issued the invitation. We did have a lovely dinner though with a beautiful fried turkey and all the trimmings you could ask for. I really have to get the recipe for those sweet potatoes au gratin. Which brings up an interesting point. Later, when we were down to four, we were talking about the sweet potatoes and it turned out none of us like the sweet potato casserole topped with marsh mellows. Hubby and I prefer strictly savory, and one person prefers pecan and brown sugar topping. Oh, and speaking of toppings, I was successful in doing the low-carb green bean dish only to discover Hubby really wanted the traditional. I have leftovers though and will get some of the famous crunchy onion topping and make him a special dish.

I have two friends who couldn’t attend and I will be delivering leftovers tomorrow to each of them. I will be sure to make turkey soup this coming week. Last year after Christmas, I messed up, didn’t get to the soup in time and therefore wasted a lovely turkey carcass. I haven’t decided yet on the final turkey dish, but there are several we enjoy. Pot pie is always easy of course.

Although rain had been threatened, it held off and we were able to dine outside. With more than six, it’s our best option and we can fit up to ten at that table. It’s a bit tight and does work better with eight. We can set up for more inside, but it requires rearranging furniture and is a bit of a pain.

Reminder of Holiday Emotions….

It’s been a while since I posted about this and I was in a conversation the other day with a friend when the topic came up. I do enjoy the holidays (especially after the cleaning lady has been here to help prep) and try to keep them from being too hectic. My success rate for that one is up for debate, but we always manage to get through them fairly intact.

The sad fact though is holidays can be extremely difficult emotionally for people who have suffered the loss of a loved one, economic set-backs, a relationship that has come apart, family estrangement, and numerous other problems. In most cases, reaching out to the individual is absolutely the right thing to do. Your offer might be declined and that’s when it can get a little tricky. The initial “no” could be for several reasons. The temptation is often to try to urge with the, “You really don’t want to be alone, do you?”; or “Come on, it will be good for you.” Notwithstanding good intentions, it’s hard to know when to press and when to back away. What I tend to do is say something like, “I understand and we’d love to have you, so consider it an open invitation if you change your mind.”

It has been a long time since I’ve spent a holiday alone and back in the day it was a mixed bag of when I really was okay with being alone and when I appreciated being included in others’ celebration. In any case, I hope all of you have a Happy Thanksgiving in whatever form that takes.

Not Exactly Bucket List….

It’s NASCAR Championship weekend again which means the largest influx of tourists we have at one time every year. (As in thousands) Helicopters buzz in and out to bring VIPs directly into the Speedway. The truck championship is tonight, the Xfinity Car is tomorrow night, (I think it’s a night race), and the Monster Energy is Sunday afternoon. As I have previously posted, I did go with Hubby to the races twice and then gently and lovingly explained to him that now having had the experience, it really would make more sense for me not to go. He loves everything about it – the pre-race events, the entire race, and so forth. By this, I mean getting to the Speedway at like 10:00ish in the morning and staying until the race is over. He simply can’t have as good a time if I am with him. I have something good to eat for when he comes in and we both enjoy our weekend more. The past few years, he’s taken photographs for the newspaper and for his own pleasure.

This year is special though. The newspaper arranged for him to have actual press credentials which are much more tightly controlled for this weekend than for the rest of the year. This allows him access he normally can’t have and it’s perfect for him. He has all these new lenses and what have you and is even planning to have a second camera with him for tomorrow and Sunday. Quite honestly, I don’t know how he lugs all that around at one time for hours on end, but it’s part of the whole deal. As we discussed this morning, it’s a “bucket list” type thing even if he doesn’t have the $10,000 camera lens to go with it.

Remaking the Green Bean Casserole…..

We usually travel to GA for Thanksgiving, but circumstances are such this year we will be staying here. We’re planning to host for a few friends, but it will be evening instead of afternoon since Hubby will be working. He wants to get the turkey in time for 24 hours of soaking in a brine, then we will plan to fry it if he actually makes it home in time. If he’s going to be delayed he’ll call and the bird will go into the oven. Notwithstanding the fact you aren’t supposed to count calories or carbs for Thanksgiving or Christmas, one of our guests is diabetic with increasingly restrictive diet warnings from the doctor. I’m considering how to lighten up the classic green bean casserole. My thoughts at the moment are to caramelize onions, cook the beans in ham flavoring until they are very tender, then combine them in a skillet to blend the flavors for maybe ten minutes. The final step will be to put a fair amount of grated Romano cheese on top and pop it in the oven for like another ten minutes.

Neither Hubby nor I like sweet potatoes sweet, but we do a savory version with cheese and some chipotle pepper in adobe sauce (just a little). Not much I can do about cranberry sauce or rolls and I do have to think of everyone else. With a couple of carb friendly  dishes though it should be workable. I do a diet cranberry cocktail juice and diet ginger ale served in a festive martini glass as well. I don’t see how I can manage any sort of really low carb dessert although I am definitely open to suggestions. There will be a dessert of course and we will keep it to one so there isn’t this tempting array that requires way too much will power to resist.

Well, There Was This One Time….

With Veteran’s Day approaching, I was invited to speak to a group on Wed about my “Inadvertent Pioneering” time in the Army. I am usually asked about why I haven’t written my memoirs yet. I think I’ve mentioned in previous posts it isn’t time for me to do that yet. I do capture bits and pieces and occasionally do a post here about different incidents. One amusing vignette had to do with the .45 pistol I had when I was in command of a large unit at Fort Campbell, KY (I think I’ve posted about that.) For those who aren’t familiar with the .45, it’s the same pistol you see in war movies from WW II through Vietnam. It was replaced with the 9 mm. Anyway, for reasons that aren’t terribly important, an individual convinced me I should be able to field strip and reassemble my pistol with my eyes closed and I ought to be able to do this in under 1 minute. I decided to develop this skill and so, when I was at my desk with enough spare time, I would check my pistol out of the arms room and work on this. As usual in the office configuration, my First Sergeant and clerk were in the outer office that led into mine. They became accustomed to this and the First Sergeant would time me.

At this point, the fact that I had one of the largest company-sized units at Fort Campbell and was the first female to do so was still somewhat of a curiosity. One day I was going through the pistol field strip and reassemble with my eyes closed. I called, “Time?” to my First Sergeant and opened my eyes to see one of the other company commanders from a different unit standing in my doorway. “There was no way I wanted to interrupt you,” the visitor said. (I was under a minute by the way). The gentleman had come to introduce himself because our units did have occasional interactions, but it was fairly obvious what he was really doing was checking out the “female” aspect as much as anything. It wasn’t a bad first impression to make.

Back and In A Whirl…..

The trip home went fairly well until close to the end when a wreck slowed traffic to a crawl and rain pounded for a while. Both situations were manageable and we literally swung into the house to drop bags off, then went to catch the last hour of early voting and proceeded to the annual Rib Fest. The organization, This Is For The Kids, does the Rib Fest and it was founded by a local man who was also later elected to City Council. Each year in leading up to the Fest, they ask for nominations of non-profits that focus on children. It has grown over the years and I ordinarily cannot attend because it’s usually held the same weekend that I travel to Louisiana. That’s how it was scheduled, but it was another of the events re-scheduled due to Hurricane Irma. We didn’t stay long, although did bring ribs and roasted corn home for dinner. In fact, since we wanted to sample from all three rib places, we had leftovers we enjoyed last night as well.

Sunday was a totally full day with yet another rescheduled event, the one-man play “Gospel of Mark”, at the Seminole Theatre. It was first done in the Middle Ages when the all-powerful Church felt religious plays were what the populous needed. The drama of this particular play was such that it actually provided a degree of entertainment and inadvertently laid the foundation for modern theater as we know it. The way it was explained to me is because plays began to be “too secular” and the Church sent them beyond their walls. With less restraint, religious themes gave way to others. This play endured as a piece of theater history and has been done on Broadway and in London by notable actors such as David Suchet, who played Inspector Poirot in several movies and the television series.

I have my usual commitments to take care of and am helping out a friend who is in the hospital so not much downtime is planned for the next few days.

A Rousing Success…..

The big dive trade show we are at is set up like most with a mix of exhibits, seminars, and different programs. I had submitted Richie Kohler as a speaker even though he fell into the “other” category compared to the industry/business side. Marketing, inventory management, etc., are all unquestionably vital to business. He crafted his presentation, “Forty Years of Shipwreck Exploration”, to speak to the “heart and passion” of diving which is at the core of the business since other than the industrial/engineering aspect, it is absolutely a discretionary expenditure for people. If you can’t spark and retain the passion for diving, the business dissolves.

We had no input as to when he was to be scheduled though and the show planners put him into the 8:30 a.m. slot this morning. Considering that two of the largest social events were last night, there was a fair question about how many people would show up. He was set up in the large room although I hadn’t checked to see how many seats were available. When I arrived a few minutes after 8:00 to coordinate a couple of last minute details, there were already a few people seated. As the room filled to capacity, more squeezed in. It was a long presentation of a little more than an hour while Richie took everyone from his beginning days of teen-aged diving through his numerous transitions of both advances in technologies and opportunities he had never dreamed of coming his way.  Spontaneous applause broke out twice when he touched on subjects of special poignancy. The only way to describe the morning was indeed as a rousing success. By the way, even though we chronicled many of his adventures in Mystery of the Last Olympian: Titanic’s Tragic Sister Britannic, his website of http://www.richiekohler.com has far more than we included.