Learning to take responsibility


After my father was killed in a traffic accident when I was 8 years old, I went to live with my paternal grandparents.  We lived in Eastern New Mexico, 20 miles from the nearest town, and grew much of our own food in the garden along with beef taken from culled cattle, along with pigs and chickens.  There was no electricity until 1948.  Our recreation was in the outdoors, with the animal population. We hunted rabbits and birds for the table, so that carrying a rifle or shotgun was as natural as breathing.  The gun was a tool, nothing more or less.  We had dogs and cats– they lived outside with rudimentary shelter from the cold wind that blew down from the North in winter.  Their job was to keep away varmints – jackrabbits and coyotes -- and rodents, which comprised most of their food. 


The adults joked that the only thing between us and the North Pole was a couple of barbed wire fences, with all the barbs turned the wrong way.   We observed the weather always – it was our livelihood to make sure that we had done everything possible to conserve the precious moisture that came so seldom.  Without it and constant care of the land, there would be no food for the cows in winter.  In January through March or April, the wind came often as sandstorms, which caused the sand to blow almost horizontally and leaked through any small crack in the house.  We would see those sandstorms coming up as a dark wall in the Northeast, and Grandma would do the equivalent of “battening down the hatches”, making the house as sand-proof as she could.  She raised 5 boys and a daughter there in the 35 years before I came to live with her, and 3 grandsons lived with her at various times during the last 15 years she lived on that place. 


As an 8th grader growing up on the farm, I had chores to do night and morning.  With the assistance of the father of a Spanish American family that lived in a house on the complex,  I milked the 120 cows twice a day – we had a grade A dairy barn with equipment that would be laughed at now, but was pretty up to date in 1947.  Vacation days were few and far between, since the cows didn’t know that it was a holiday, and if you neglected milking them, they would be physically damaged and their milk would dry up until the next time they had a calf. The Fairbanks Morse engine ran a vacuum pump to provide the necessary vacuum for the milking machines.  The vacuum lines ran along the milking hall where the cows came in from one lot, went into the stalls where we had put out their feed, and we would lock their neck bars to keep them from leaving when they finished the feed and would have just decided to go.  We then washed their udders with a chlorine solution, hung a belt over their backs to suspend the milking machine, and placed the udder cups on the individual teats.  The machine alternately squeezed and released the teats, applying vacuum to whisk away the milk into the bucket, which was part of the suspended machine.  The combined milk and machine weighed about 25 pounds.


Full of milk, the machine had to be lifted from under the cow, the belt removed and hung up in its place to wait for the next time it was used.  We kept four of these machines going. The milking machine had to be carried into the milk room, a sanitary room where we poured the milk over the cooler to run into a ten gallon can. We carried them in pairs to keep it balanced. We would then rinse the milking machine cups with chlorine water from a tub we kept full, and take it back to place on the next cow in succession.   As each can filled from the heat exchanger, I carried it to the cooler room where I lifted it over into the cold box to sit in the cold water.  There it waited till the milk truck came to take it away.  After all the cows had been milked and turned out to pasture, we washed down the milk room and all the equipment with disinfecting chlorine solution and scrubbed the milking room floor in preparation for the next milking cycle.  The runoff from these operations carried away the manure, which composted naturally, and once a year or so we carried much of the product to fertilize the garden.


The driver of the milk truck lifted each 85 pound can from the cooler, placed an insulated cover over the can, and drove 90 miles to the dairy processing company. There they weighed it in and processed it, putting the milk into containers for sale, made cream, or ice cream, or chocolate milk. If the milk had too much bacteria in it, it would be made into cheese. The dairy would pay much less for that milk than it would for the Grade A, of course.  We shipped about 120 gallons per day of the Grade A milk; The lady down the road from us made her pocket money by shipping 3 gallons per day, worth about $1.50.  Her husband was not much of a farmer, it was known throughout the community.  He tended to procrastinate when it was time to plow or harvest, so much of his land was covered in blown sand.  They finally moved to town, where he became the county sheriff.


Sandwiched between all the chores, I rode the school bus about 15 miles to school graduating second in my class of 25 – 8 boys and 17 girls.  Many of the boys dropped out before graduation because of the need to help their parents’ farms, and they got behind in their studies.  I was lucky in that I was a voracious reader, so never needed to study outside of class.  I am now retired after a successful career as an electrical engineer and naval officer. I focused on the capabilities and technical aspects of computers starting in 1967 at Navy Postgraduate School at Monterey, California.  I see that I was extremely lucky to have learned the habit of taking on responsibility when I was young. That habit has served me well, and my luck has persisted in that my wife and I have a family of four who have never been involved with drugs, unwanted pregnancies, or so many of the other problems that plague today’s society.  Of course it helped that I was wise enough to pick the right wife. Jean and I have been married for more than 50 years. 


Jean had an upbringing similar to mine.  She lived almost 30 miles away, and we happened to meet the first time at the weekly skating party in the old converted gymnasium of my school building.  I spent the next two years figuring out how to get the pickup or the car so I could visit with her and take her to the movies or skating or whatever, get her back home in time for curfew, then get home myself and catch a little sleep before getting up to start the chores.  After I graduated from high school, I worked on the farm for a while, but my overriding passion was to get my education and get married to my lady.  So we got married in January 1952, and I joined the Navy in April to get an education and get away from the farm.



Entered US Navy April 1952

Became Communications Technician  after 13 months in school, first at ET school on Treasure Island, then at Napa, CA, Skaggs Island.

From there, I was assigned to Imperial Beach Communications Station.  We lived in a studio apartment on the beach, and got to settle in at home for almost 7 months.  Then I received orders to go to Kami Saya, Japan

            Rob born while I was overseas  November 1954

Bremerhaven, Germany

            Tanya born there  January 1957

            Selected for the NESEP

Located West Lafayette, IN

            Studied for Electrical Engineer

            Studied  for MS in Electronic Systems

                        Minor in Physics and mathematics

            Took BSEE and MSEE at the same time in January 1963

Went to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned June 1963

Went to Bremerton, Washington, where we commissioned the USS Reeves, DLG-24.  This was then called a frigate, but the type later was called a guided missile cruiser

We completed Reeves and moved to Long Beach Naval Shipyard in October 1964

Training and missile exercises occupied us until April 1965, when we got our invitation to join the 7th fleet in the Gulf of Tonkin, offshore from North Vietnam.

Deployed until November, 1965

Six months later, it was our turn again;   we were assigned to be  home ported in Yokosuka, Japan.

            I expected to end my tour on board shortly after that, but I was gone almost a year. 

Brent was born in Clovis while I was gone.


Selected for Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California, where I started 15 months of school in April, 1967.  This time I was in the Master’s curriculum for Computer Systems Management.


Michael was born in April 1968 in the Army Hospital inm Seaside, California, and I completed this curriculum in December, 1968.  I had overreached by selecting advanced math courses, so missed getting my second Master’s  -- a bad mistake that would plague me for the rest of my career.


Assigned aboard the USS Albany, which was being refitted in Boston Naval Shipyard.  I became Fire Control Officer in charge of the surface to air missile (SAM) batteries -- Tartar and Talos – which were being fitted to be guided by digital computers.  This was to prove the concept of using digital computers instead of the older technology of analog computers to guide SAM’s.  Shortly after that I was promoted to Lieutenant Commander, and became the Missile Systems Officer, assistant to the Weapons Department Head.


My family and I were assigned family housing at Mayport Naval station, Florida, close to Jacksonville. 


With my previous experience, I had been promoted early to missile systems officer.  We went to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for training, then deployed to the Mediterranean in August, 1969 for six months, then back to florida for six months, then deployed again for six months in August 1970.  I left the ship in Malta in January 1971 and was assigned to the Pentagon, to the Office of the CNO for Automatic Data Processing.  Here we were building a management system that would receive the operational reports from all Navy units and incorporate them into information for the Planning sections of CNO staff and operational data for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


We moved from Mayport, Florida to Alexandria, Virginia, where we lived in our own house for the first time, from February 1971 until we came to Texas in August 1977.

In Texas I worked for Rockwell as a system engineer for 3 years, then went to E-Systems, again as a system engineer. I retired from E-Systems in 1991 after 10 years. I attempted to sell computer systems, but this was not successful.  After 4 years, I secured a position with Microsoft in telephone support and worked to Microsoft until February 2000.