C4….Combat Casualty Care Course….and…Military Treasure

Today is Veterans Day. A lot of guys,and women, have some military stories to share, war stories that is. I did some time in the military uniform, but don’t have any exciting war srories to share. I don’t march in Veterans parades because I think other guys who were in the line of fire deserve to be there marching. I will share what I did try to contribute. It still means a lot to me personally, but like I said, it pales in comparison to the sacrifices of others.

The other day I was cleaning out my file cabinet and came across my, “I love me book.”  The one where you put all your certificates of completion for courses you have completed, letters of appreciation from supervisors, promotion notices and so forth.  If you live long enough, as I have, it will look pretty impressive.  Trouble is, no one is ever going to see them.  After all, mine are stuck in a file cabinet as are everyone else’s.  Besides, to some degree they have little to with the personhood of someone, if you know what I mean.  I think that is basically why I tuck them away rather than hang them all over the office walls.  By law you have to hang certain diplomas.  I think those are the only ones I hang.  I like pictures of the family, oil paintings, and maps.  I love looking at maps, so I like hanging those in my office.

As I shuffled through the pages one popped out at me.  C4 training.  The Combat Casualty Care Course.  That was no weekend training seminar or review course in an air conditioned hotel.  I had heard it was very challenging.  I knew it would be extremely challenging for me.

I was in the reserves for the military in the spring of 1990 and received some correspondence encouraging all health care providers to attend a training camp for casualty management.  There were a number of dates to choose from.  My two week time was scheduled for August of that year.  Early that summer I received some material to be reviewed before arriving.  I was intimidated to say the least.  It was basically a book on how to triage and manage casualties in a combat setting.  I am a dentist by training, not a physician, not an emergency room nurse, not an orderly.  I don’t work in a hospital.  I took a deep breath and collected myself.  I had extensive training casual management in the early 80’s while stationed in Germany as an Air Force Dental Officer.  Those training sessions were not easy but this sounded a bit out of my realm.  I had heard not everyone passes the examination, in fact a number do not.  Frankly, I had my doubts I could either.  Nevertheless, I committed myself to doing my best.

I studied the book every day for over a month.  I figured I wouldn’t have much of a chance passing a written test but consoled myself by remembering that any knowledge gained could perhaps someday save a life.  While studying I reminded myself to remember what you learn may actually apply in a real life situation.  That helped provide some motivation in what was a long month of study.

Upon arrival I was assigned to a tent full of surgeons and emergency room nurse corpsmen from all branches of the military.  Twelve to a tent, about six tents in all.  I was out of place and it showed.  I think one of the quieter individuals was a mental health care practitioner and I assumed he didn’t do a lot of emergency medical stuff either, at least not the blood and guts.  I knew in real life his skills would be quite invaluable in a war setting. The mental health professionals are unsung heroes.  I did not exactly enhance my military look when it came time to prepared our bunks.  In the early 1980’s while I was on active duty I had done this tent thing many dozens of times and had realized I just do not sleep well in a sleeping bag.  I chose instead to bring some sheets to put over my cot.  The only small sheets I could find were some of my sons that had dinosaurs all over them.  When I rolled those out I collected a number of giggles.  When the commander came through he pretended he didn’t see them but I could see the amused look in his eyes.  I didn’t care, I needed what little sleep I expected to get.

The physical part of the course was not challenging to me.  I’ve always been in good shape.  On our hikes I choose to carry the radio.  I have never felt comfortable with how you are supposed to do the Roger, over and out, Charlie, Delta, etc.  I figured this was as good as a time as any to learn.  It was also a good time to brush up my compass reading skills.  Going out at night on patrol was no big deal either.  The  obstacle courses were quite doable, even when carrying patients .  Heights can bother me some and I was a little uneasy with repealing and crossing ravines with rope ladders or swinging across on a pulley.  The training was in Texas so the August heat bothered a number of the people.  I was living in Texas at the time so I was expecting that, although I admit I do not sleep well in the heat, especially with insects buzzing around.

In the time slots between doing some physical training such as hiking or casualty retrieval in the woods with your compass and radio we listened to many a lecture on how to manage trauma.  The physical part may have been easy for me but this part was hard, as I expected it would.  A number of the physicians looked tired upon arrival and when we sat still for any length of time they would doze off.  I’m sure they were more familiar with the material than I would ever be, and besides I’m sure their regular jobs were demanding and they could use any I rest they could get.  As I said before, I was challenged by the amount and content of the material, so I had to keep close attention.

After several weeks you get to know your tent buddies.  Directly across from me was a doctor named Jerry.  He had an Army Ranger patch on his uniform.  He slept as if we were going to be attacked, prepared to move in an instant.  He knew I was out of place but always treated me with respect.  On my left was a Navy corpsman who knew more about saving lives than I ever would.  He was also more military than I would ever be. I don’t think he liked me much.  Probably wondering what I was doing there.  I didn’t blame him.  He was chosen as one of our tent leaders along with another doc who had a good military presence.  In the corners of the tent were some quieter individuals like me.  And then there was the witty one.  I can’t recall what kind of doc he was in real life but he was sharp.  He could tell a joke and be off to the next before I even got the first one.  My anxiety level heightened as to how out of place I felt.  In a room full of doc’s you had better have a good sense of humor which I don’t have.  To my right was a young Air Force emergency room nurse who sensed my unease.  When the jokes were told he would blurt out laughing, nodding and  looking towards me as if to give a queue.

One evening the clever doc heard someone talking to me about chess, something I have been good at since a child.  Across the tent he yelled , “pawn to king 4.”  I replied, “since you moved first, your white (white always moves first in chess), “pawn to king 4.”  He then said, “king knight to king bishop 3.”  I reacted with, “queen knight to queen bishop 3.”  The tent got awfully silent as we played a game in our heads.  I had learned to do so while on the chess team way back in high school.  The next day some of the docs told me they were damn impressed with anyone who could play a game of chess in their heads. I would have gladly traded my chess skills for their knowledge on how to treat wounded personnel.

That same day our instructors pitted the Army, Navy and Air Force all against each in a timed exercise as to where to station a mash unit in an emergency field setting.  Each team was given maps and scenarios.  The Air Force had the smallest team and for some reason they quickly selected me team leader.  I don’t act like a leader, so i assume no one else wanted to take charge at the moment. I used what training I had learned in Europe and was pleased our team won.  That night the doc’s were gracious in their compliments.  I knew the important thing was the real testing to follow.

They bused us to a military installation and had us take a written test in the morning.  It took all morning.  After lunch we broke into groups and lined up for the mock training.  We each would be called in individually to a room full of dummy casualties. The physician that exited the room just before I entered had a concerned look on his face.  The room was full of surgeons.  One of the surgeons handed me a card specifying the type of wounds this soldier has and what should I do to keep him alive.  The surgeon could challenge you at any time.  I had studied hard, I had had some training in Europe, but I wondered if I could apply my knowledge correctly.  I reminded myself to do just do the best I could and I was hopeful the surgeon was not out to make me look silly.

How would you stabilize this one?  How about this head wound? If you cannot get a breathing tube in, what would you do?  Why is the blood pressure dropping on this patient who seemed stabilized?  The oral examination was quite intimidating to me as you can imagine. I also endured a series of questions explaining which patients I would triage to be treated first.  Would this patient be immediate or delayed? Chopper or ground transport?  What are the chances of this burn victim surviving?  Only 2 of these 4 patients can be air-evaced, pick the two. I had worked hard and tried to pass, but wasn’t sure.  The important thing was I done all I could to prepare myself in the event of ever being called up during war.  The chances of that were remote but if I ever were, and if I ever was able to help even one wounded soldier, then my efforts were worth it.  I think most health care providers feel the same whether in uniform or not.

The next day we were lined up in formation and received sealed letters.  My document read:     written exam: pass       oral exam: pass      C4 training: graduate.

had pretty much been isolated for two weeks.  When I got home in late August 1990 the news was talking about Iraq invading Kuwait.  In January 1991, on a Sunday, my wife had a look of concern as she handed me the phone, “it is the military and they will only talk to you.”  The next day I began to close down my practice and send letters to my patients.  Eight days later I reported to duty at a hospital unit.  The Gulf War started a few weeks later. I never did make it overseas and instead was assigned to a dental unit stateside. I was extremely busy doing dentistry,getting reserve personnel dentally qualified to travel overseas. No hero stories for me, just a lot of hard work. I returned and had to rebuild my practice. By the way, the oak tree in my front yard did not have a bunch of yellow ribbons, but it did have one huge yellow ribbon. At the the front door was my pretty wife with her endearing smile. I will always treasure that remebrance. I’ll call it my military treasure.

State Champs



I grew up in South Texas but have now lived most of my life in West Texas. I can assure you that football is very important here. High school football has a rich and storied tradition.

I live in Abilene, and a couple hours drive west are the towns of Midland and Odessa. All three cities of about 100,000 each are home to strong football programs that have claimed their share of state football titles. It is hard to win a state title in football in Texas because of the competition. In the last 50 years the Odessa Permian Panthers have developed quite a reputation that extends beyond the borders of Texas. The book, movie and subsequent TV show called Friday Night Lights based on the book by H. G. Bissinger comes from his research while living about a year in that city. The vast majority of schools in Texas will never win a state title in football. Permian has won six. A team from Midland won three titles in a row at the turn of the century which is also an extremely difficult accomplishment.  Another team in Texas had done it in the mid 50’s, and that was a team from Abilene.

The Abilene Eagles are home to the oldest marching band in Texas and also one of the proudest football programs. They won three state titles before the 1950’s and then three in a row from 1954 to 1956. And then, ……….a drought of over 50 years before their opportunity for another state title.

Abilene High had been in the playoffs for a number of years but in2009 in December we were in the state title game. My son and I made the four hour drive to San Antonio where our team from Abilene would meet the Katy Tigers from Houston. The Tigers were a storied program competing for their third straight title. A school well coached and disciplined steeped in tradition such as the Katy Tigers would present quite a challenge.

The night before the big game we enjoyed a meal on the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio.  the next day we arrived early at the Alamodome and watched another good football game that was played prior to our title game. I anxiously watched the teams warm up. I wanted the Eagles to win so bad I could feel my demeanor becoming extremely focused. The Katy Tigers had had their share of titles in the last 15 years; now it was time for Abilene.

On the very first drive the Eagles got their running game going and took an early lead. They scored again, and then again. Yet the Katy Tigers would not succumb. They slowly came back in the second half and threatened to make the score close until the Eagles eventually took command of the game. It was needless to say a thrilling experience. A lot of time, effort, and energy is put in by the players, the band and the parental support to bring about such an accomplishment. My kids were all out of school but it was fun to be a part of this experience. It was one of my all time favorite football games.

It is now playoff time and the Eagles are on the march again. They got beat last year in the playoffs while competing in the new Jerry Jones Cowboy stadium which was also a good time. I am not sure how far they will get in the playoffs, but I am greedy. I want them to go far, and I want them to win another title. I will treasure my memories of that trip to San Antonio. I want to collect another state title. That would be treasure to me.



Maximilian’s Loot

Emperoe Maximilian

The American Southwest has many, many stories of lost Spanish fortune from Louisiana to Southern California.  Most involve lost gold and silver from the hundreds of mines the Spanish operated with slave Indian labor over hundreds of years from the 1500’s to the early 1800’s.  I love reading about these tales of lost treasure.  However, there is one story of lost wealth in West Texas that captured my interest because it did not involve the Spanish but rather the French.  Also, it was not just lost gold and silver ingots that had been mined but rather gold and silver coins, plates, utensils and candlesticks.  And, in addition the lost loot included jewels. The story also takes place long after the Spanish are gone, actually during and shortly our Civil War.  It is the tale of Maximilian’s treasure.

In 1862 Mexico defaulted on some loans to France.  Napoleon III was wanting to expand the French empire and used the excuse of Mexico’s loan default to invade.  Neither Britain nor Spain offered protest and of course the United States was embroiled in conflict.  The invasion and defeat of Mexico took over a year and in 1864 an Austrian named Ferdinand Maximilian was placed as Emperor of Mexico.  His rule would not last long.  During his short reign the upper class of the Mexican populace lavished him with expensive gifts which he seemed to have a never ending appetite for.  The American Civil War ended shortly after he gained his throne and it was obvious the United States wanted the French out of Mexico.  He realized his time was short and that the Mexicans may not let him get out of the country alive much less with his wealth.  In 1866 He devised a plan to transport his riches by way of Texas to Galveston and form there back to France.  

        The loot was hidden among barrels of flour on fifteen wagon loads as it crossed into Texas near present day Presidio.  I live in West Texas and have traveled it extensively and let me tell you Presidio is way out in the middle of nowhere.  It is west of Big Bend National Park and east of El Paso. 
A very remote area, and a long, long way from San Antonio, much less Galveston.  The wagon train had the ill fortune of meeting a group of renegade Confederates on the way to Mexico.  The Confederates reported seeing Indians so the Austrians hired the Confederates to protect them on the long journey from Presidio to San Antonio.  During the trek the Confederates noticed the Austrian guards were over protective of the flour.  As they headed east somewhere near the Pecos River the curiosity of the Confederates got them to spying into the flour barrels.  After discovering the hidden treasure, you guessed it, they killed everyone who had traveled from Mexico. They buried the jewels and most of the loot and made the wagons look like they had been attacked and destroyed.  They then decided to carry with them as much of the coins as their saddlebags would carry, anxious to get to San Antonio.  They would of course return later to retrieve the buried riches.  One of them fell ill and was thereafter shot and left behind to die in the Texas sun.  He survived only to catch up with the others who themselves had been killed by either Comanche or outlaws, empty saddlebags strewn about.  This lone survivor of Maximilian’s expedition was picked up by some horse thieves who were then arrested by a sheriff.  They need to make a movie about this if they have not already. 

        The wounded man placed in jail told his tale to a doctor and an attorney shortly before succumbing to infection from his gunshot wound.  He drew them a map on where to find Maximilian’s treasure.   Several years passed until the Indians were pushed further west before the doctor and attorney used the map to try and locate the loot, and once again as you probably guessed they found nothing.  Supposedly, the whereabouts is somewhere along the Pecos river south of Odessa.  Sounds easy enough but that is still a big area, even if the tale is true.  I suspect there is some truth to the story but then again Texans like to tell tall tales. 

        As for Maximilian, he never did get out of Mexico, and was executed in 1867.  So there you are, a little bit of history entwined with a treasure tale.  Those are some my favorite to share.

Texas Tea III


               When I was creating the board game TreasureTrove I wanted to touch on our imagination as to various treasures that have been lost, discovered or sought after since time began.  For one person that may be sunken treasure.  Someone else my envision pirate treasure.  Diamonds and gold may be what others dream of acquiring.  I found it necessary to include oil because in reality oil is the greatest natural treasure ever discovered.  No other commodity comes close to its value in terms of wealth.  Players travel the world in search of fabled riches.

            The following is one of the situation cards that gives the player an option to travel to one of several destinations throughout the world in search of oil.

Those points of destination on the game board are shown below.



Please visit our website at www.TreasureTrovegame.com

Texas Tea II


           The backyard to our home in West Texas has open skies with beautiful morning sunrises and colorful sunsets.  I love to sit on the back porch and watch God’s nature.  I also enjoy catching the morning stars before sunrise.  I had a scare in the fall of 2010 when I thought someone was putting an oil rig in the open field directly behind us.  It sure would have messed up our view. (Please see Texas Tea I)  Fortunately, no oil derrick went up and our cherished view remains intact.  The silly hopes of my wife and I thinking about drilling for oil was just something to lighten the moment.  We wouldn’t have the money, and besides I don’t think you can drill for oil within city limits.  I see some pump jacks bobbing up and down as I drive around town but I dismiss the thought I would ever own one. 

             Nowadays,  I see those wind turbines going up all over the place and stretching for miles.  I don’t know exactly what people are paid to allow even one of those on their land but some of the wind farms I have seen a mere 30 miles from my house are quite extensive.  Some of those same land owners are growing cotton and have pump jacks on them as well.  I don’t own any land so I don’t think about it much.  That was,………….. until a few weeks ago when my wife asked to speak with me for a few minutes.  If you’re like me, you hesitate when your spouse asks for a few minutes.  Does one of the kids need help?  Did the transmission go out?  Are we invited to a party we would rather not go to?  You know all the thoughts that race through your mind.  I took and breath, sat down, and opened my ears. 

               “You know that land in far West Texas near Lubbock on my mother’s side of the family that I sometimes mention.  “Yes, the one that the family no longer owns but supposedly owns the mineral rights to,” I responded.  I added, “the one that we have not heard about in decades and the one we wondered if you were even a part of since your mom passed away almost eight years ago.  The one that possibly could have gone solely to your surviving uncle since her death.”   She smiled and nodded her head as she replied, “Yes, that one.”

            I sarcastically responded, “you mean the one that is the piece of land next to someone else’s land that has had pump jacks bobbinng on it for years.  If there is any oil there, those nearby pump jacks have sucked it all out.  Didn’t your mom say there were some pump jacks right near the fence line and they have been there for years.  If there was any oil it is probably mostly gone by now,” I added. 

            “Could be,” she said.  “My dad said he will be sending a check in the mail soon because an attorney called representing an oil company that wants to lease the mineral rights.”  Her dad is 91 and wants to split the money between my wife and her sister.  He doesn’t need the money.  “Any idea of how much I asked?”  “Probably not a lot,” she giggled, “by the time you divide it up between my uncle’s family and my mom’s.”  I added, “You didn’t answer my question.”  “About eighteen hundred dollars,” she said.  “It won’t be much.  “Is it annually I asked?”   “I think it is for a three year lease,” she said.  “Oh well, still fun to think about,” I told her.  I told her to keep the money and spend it herself.  I know she gives it away to good charities anytime she receives money.  She turns it into a blessing for others.   “By the way, if oil is found do you even get any of the proceeds?” I asked her.  I actually didn’t think she would get any.  To my my surprise she responded, “Yes.”  

          Really?” I asked, with my eyes and ears opening wide at this point.  “Yes, but it doesn’t sound like much,” she admitted.  “The oil company gets 80% of any barrel, and the family gets 20%.  My father would get 37.5% of that and I would get 50% of that.”  If my calculations are right,  and oil is selleing at $100 a barrel, I am guessing  it would be about $3.75 a barrel to my wife.  I have no idea how many barrels are pumped daily but I doubt much will ever come of it.  Still nice to hope though, isn’t it?  It would also be nice to say I own some west Texas crude, excuse me,………….Texas tea.


Texas Tea I


             It was about 10:30 p.m. as I lay in bed waiting for my wife.  The room was quite as I reflected on the past workday which had gone rather uneventfully: that is good.  I was ready for some sleep.  Suddenly, I thought I heard a boom and a discernable vibration.   I heard rumbling and there was indeed some definite vibration, yet nothing out of the ordinary.  Probably one of the B-1 boomers doing a training run from the nearby Air Base.  They can generate a lot of noise.  My son had two college friends visiting earlier in the TV room and maybe one was showing off a boom box in his car.  The sound was not too strong and it could not be from the train that runs a number of miles away which I can hear but would never shake the house.  The weather had been fine so the tornado possibility was slim.  “Oh well,” I thought, “time to go to sleep.”

            My wife entered the room with a concerned look.  “You need to open the blinds and look outside.”

            Not another fix it problem at bedtime I thought as I arose to open the blinds.  Click……………. “What the heck, the sky is orange,” I said in a confused voice.  I turned slowly around with a concerned look as I faced her.  “That is one big huge flame,” I said.  “I thought I saw some activity behind the trees in the distance yesterday but I wasn’t sure what was going on.  Let’s go outside and take a look.”

            “You don’t think they struck oil do you?” she asked as we stood at our fence.  “No,” I replied, again with a concerned voice.  “There is no way they could have drilled that deep, they would have to have a derrick.  Maybe they hit a gas pocket in their initial drilling.  There goes our West Texas view,” I continued.  “I never dreamed they could drill this close to city limits. That is actually less than 300 yards away and if there is oil, maybe we can drill in our back yard. That is one big ball of fire.  I can even feel the heat.”

           “Well,” she said, “some of our friends in the country have learned to adjust to those huge wind turbines so maybe we can learn to live with this.”  There was a sad look on her face.  She added, “My dad always wanted a pumpjack in the family.”  She was trying to be cute:  I was trying to smile.  We both love our backyard view of Texas sunsets and morning sunrises.  I went inside to grab the camera.

            After a few minutes of gawking and listening to the hiss of the burning gas I ventured, “I’m going to walk over there.”  I was somewhat concerned about rattlers.  Our next door neighbor had been bit by one last week and spent a night in the hospital.  I thought to myself, if I were a snake, I would be scooting away from there and towards us as fast as I could.  “Are you sure you wnt to walf across that field?” she replied.  I responded, “On second thought maybe it would be better to go for a quick drive over there.”

            There was the usual line of big pickups you would expect as we approached the flame.  Actually there were three tall pipes dispensing a flame.  I exited the vehicle.  As I approached in my shorts with camera in hand it was quite obvious I was not one of the working crew.  One of the hardhats asked me if I was OK.  “Doing fine,” I sheepishly retorted.  I then quickly realized this was no drilling rig but a crew laying a gas pipeline under the highway.  All was safe and under control.  No one hurt.  A sense of relief came over me.  I knew I would have my view back in a couple of days.  As we drove home I wondered just where that pipeline would be going. 

            The unfortunate reality is the possibility of a subdivision of homes may soon be going up.  If so, I will learn to adjust.  In the meantime I told the Lord, “I sure am going to enjoy the open skies while it lasts, along with a glass of iced tea.”  I guess I have to wait another day to hit my gusher of black gold, that is, Texas tea.

           Footnote:  Please follow up with Texas Tea II