Category Archives: Political commentary

An Earlier Rail Strike’s Close Call


Labor contract negotiations often come down to a game of chicken. Negotiators on both sides go as close to the deadline as they dare until someone blinks. The higher the stakes, the closer to the edge each camp is willing to go. They can make the Cuban Missile Crisis look like child’s play.

We were reminded of that with this week’s narrowly averted rail shutdown. Less than 48 hours before passengers and freight trains were scheduled to grind to a halt, threatening to cripple an already battered supply chain still reeling from the pandemic, a tentative deal was reached. November’s looming midterm elections played no small part in the urgency as well.

It was dramatic stuff. Yet it was nothing compared to the decisive (and almost theatrical) role a president played in an even more ominous rail strike 76 years earlier. Continue reading

Grandma Gatewood’s Excellent Adventure


I’ve been getting into shape recently. But my progress pales compared to what a remarkable senior did nearly 70 years ago.

Emma Gatewood’s life was hard. Born in Ohio in 1887, she was one of 15 kids in a family that slept four to a bed. Her father lost a leg in the Civil War and spent the rest of his life drinking and gambling. Though her formal education ended in the 8th grade, she kept learning by devouring encyclopedias, Greek classics, and books on woods and wildlife. Continue reading

The Woman Who Kissed Hitler


We’ve all done something impulsive at one time or another. A spur of the moment decision that, when you thought about it later, wasn’t such a good idea. Nearly 90 years ago an American woman acted rashly, and her action involved history’s worst monster. Here’s the story of the woman who kissed Hitler.

In many ways, George and Carla De Vries were typical American tourists vacationing in Europe. The Norwalk, California dairy farmers did what many of their countrymen did that year and seized on the upcoming Summer Olympic Games as the perfect opportunity to see the Continent. Continue reading

How I Escaped a (Near) Riot: a 19 year-old survivor’s tale

FergusonThis week’s horrific rioting in Ferguson, Missouri brought back memories. Believe it or not, I was swept up in a near-riot myself 34 years ago, and consider myself lucky for living to tell the tale.  Here’s how it happened.

It was the summer of 1980, and I was a 19 year-old kid from Joplin, Missouri who had just finished my first year in college. Wide-eyed and eager to taste life, I secured a summer internship on Capitol Hill in Washington. In a bit of good luck, my childhood best buddy Chris also landed a job in DC that summer, so we pooled our meager resources and roomed together. Continue reading