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December 21, 2004


Tomorrow, last year.  A million years and miles ago yesterday in my back yard.

These two good men, close friends died tomorrow a year ago.

Mel was murdered by someone putting anti-freeze and ground glass into something he ingested.  Socorro, New Mexico.

Richard was killed by a delayed action fuse on something his Nazi superiors in the US Army experimented with and didn't tell him.  Port Lavaca, Texas.

Both worthy men, friends I'm blessed to have shared some life with.

Hoping for peace and sleep for dead men's not a bad thing.  There are no US Army officers in sleep.  No cops.




The man in this picture is my old friend Richard Sturm.

Richard died in December, 2004, in Port Lavaca, Texas.

Richard was a 100% disabled veteran of the United States Army. From 1964, until his death he spent his entire adult life in and out of Veterans hospitals. When he wasn’t in a hospital he was usually in a café somewhere drinking coffee and being friendly with anyone who’d give him the time of day.

Or he was with me, camping, fishing, seeing the sights, singing, passing the time. That happened less than he’d have liked, probably more than I’d have preferred. Richard wasn’t an easy man to be around.

Before he volunteered for the Army he was a patriotic youth, intelligent, dynamic, from a family of super-achievers. He graduated from high school with honors, well liked and respected by his teachers and classmates. A young man with a future. Then he joined the US Army.

In 1964, he was stationed in Massachusetts with the Army Security Agency. Without his knowledge or consent, he was selected for an experiment by the career military men who were his superiors. He was given a massive dose of LSD. He sustained permanent brain damage as a result.

Richard spent several months in a mental ward of an Army hospital, presumably under observation by the powers-that-be, to see what they’d wrought. Then they gave him is medical discharge, released him from service and from the hospital, and sent him home without confiding to anyone what the problem was and why it happened.

Several years later after he’d been examined, had his thyroid removed, given electric shock treatments, everything the puzzled medicos could think of to try and improve this mysterious condition, his brother, an attorney, came to suspect something of what had happened. The stories of events of this sort had begun to creep out of hiding and into the press.

A formal demand was made for release of his records, and finally the story came out.

Richard wasn’t injured defending his country. He didn’t get his skull fractured on some battlefield by enemies. He was betrayed by the career military men of his own country, officers and enlisted men, whom he’d given an oath to obey and defend. He served in good faith, and he was betrayed by his country.

Some have noted on the threads that I don’t have an automatic high regard for career military men. They’re correct. Richard’s just an extreme example of thousands of men who’ve been killed, injured, disabled by irresponsible, insane, and idiotic decisions by men who make a career of blindly following orders without thinking, weighing consequences, not feeling any remorse so long as they were ordered to do it.

Like good little Germans.





At 12:05 PM, four4me said...

Rip i am so sorry about your friend. My best friend was killed in VN by friendly fire he and some marine buddy's were playing quick draw with loaded 45's 2 days left to go before he was to return home to be married to his most beautiful fiance. He would never have went into the military if it weren't for her father who said no punk kid was going to marry his daughter unless he could prove that he was a man. So like his father in law to be suggested he went into the marine corps and bravely fought and served for our country. Only to be wasted by another punk kid trying to prove that only one of them was the fastest gun in the country.

On another note have you ever read or saw the movie "Jacobs Ladder" i can tell you several stories that are true in nature to this happening in the military.

At 1:11 PM, Rip Snorter said...

Thanks for the reply four4me.

Someday a historian will have enough distance from the 20th Century to write an honest history of it. When that happens, death and maiming of US men by friendly fire and similar matters during the incessant undeclared wars that dominated the last half of it will inevitably occupy a prominant part of the story.

Sorry about your friend, as well.

I've never read Jacob's Ladder. I'd look forward to the stories you'll have to tell.


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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Long days journey into night - Mel King

If I ever write another book, Mel King will have to occupy a few chapters of it.  I’ve mentioned him a few times on this blog, but mostly, I’ve not been able to write much about him at all.  I’m still digesting what happened to him.

On one of the threads recently the discussion drifted to the War on Drugs.  I suppose if I’d never met Mel I probably wouldn’t thought much about that issue, would never have bothered to form an opinion about it. 

But in many ways, Mel was a product of that war, from the time it began during the Reagan Administration, he was one of the adversaries.  It changed him from a small-time marijuana growing woods-vet to a wealthy man.  It involved him in a major felony arrest, confiscation of much of his property, the mysterious death of a police officer, repeatedly on America’s Most Wanted television series, and constant harassment by the FBI, State Police and local police for the remainder of his life.

They wanted to believe he killed a Mountainair, NM, police officer because it was the only construction of the facts that didn’t expose the rotten core of the War on Drugs.  Shortly before he was murdered in December, 2004, he showed me an anonymous, hand-written letter accusing him of killing the policeman and threatening to come balance it all.

It’s time I began writing down a few things about Mel King anyway.

Mel King was a major, financially successful marijuana grower and large-scale broker in New Mexico for many years.  During that time he was also a long-term heroin addict.  (He first became addicted to morphine while in the hospital recovering from wounds he got in the Marine Corps in Vietnam).  The only way Mel got away with what he was doing for so many years was by being considered a complete maniac, and by making certain the authorities got their fair share of the proceeds.  He drove around in a VW van with bullet-holes in the windshield from the inside

When he got busted in 1987, with 150 pounds in his house it was because he made himself too big a nuisance to be allowed to go on.  He was attracting too much attention.

But even so, he never came to trial.  That 150 pounds of high-grade vanished from the evidence lockers.  The empty bags with his evidence numbers on them were found in the home of the policeman who made the initial stop during his arrest.  But someone murdered that policeman, probably for the marijuana, which is how they happened to find the empty evidence bags.

While he was in jail awaiting bail, Mel resolved to turn his life around.  He freed himself from heroin and when he was released he started a successful furniture business, did his best to stay clean for the remainder of his life.  Succeeded in being a trustworthy, successful man and one of the best friends I've ever had.

During the years I knew him, Mel was a deeply spiritual man.  He was honest, guileless, hard-working, sincere, courageous, and in many ways, wise.  We prospected a lot of canyons together, talked of many things over campfires listening to the wind in the pines.  He was also my partner during Y2K.

Mel and I disagreed on many things, but he believed, as I do, that he knew what happens to a man when he dies.  He never feared death and he never believed he’d done anything in this life to give him any reason to fear it.

I believe he was right.




At 1:03 AM, LOTTOMIKE said...

i just got through reading at work a fairly long book on the failed war on drugs since the reagon administration during the 80's started its crackdown.there are many reasons it failed.i read some very shocking things.it seemed that most of the leaders of mexico and countries in south america were involved in making and selling cocaine for huge amounts of money and were kept in power by the people responsible for the drugs.a mexican high up in the mexican army was about to busted only to be warned by someone high up in the dea here in the US ahead of time because we needed him for more sensitive "information" later on in some other situation.every time there would be a major case about to come down on some high general in some foreign country in south america all the sudden it was dropped or that person got off the hook.all we succeeded in mostly was putting some guy on a street corner selling a couple dollars worth of dope in jail for a few nights.they never accomplished the goal of cutting these drugs off at its source and where it was coming from.look up mike levine he has a great book on this.he was with the dea for decades and saw firsthand how it failed.the whole thing got bungled and badly mishandled.

At 6:34 AM, LOTTOMIKE said...

ronald reagan i think was the first one to get real tough with his "just say no" thing he had going on back in the 80's.i remember being in school back then and having this stuff taught to us constantly.the ironic thing is i think its what first got me interested in "mary jane" lol.those days are behind me and i don't do those things anymore anyway.we all experiment and learn from our experiences.society needs to be more tolerant and give people chances to correct their mistakes.its sad that mel was looked at for his past instead of how good he had been doing......

At 7:36 AM, Rip Snorter said...

Hi Mike:

Mel wasn't a complainer. Took things as they came. I'd guess he'd just say, "It don't mean nuthun'" about all this. "It's just life."

He hated the war on drugs because he believed it was destroying this country, eating away at the bowels in a hundred different directions. What was done to him wasn't something abstract, such as a war. It was human beings acting consciously and deliberately.

It don't mean nuthun. It's just life.


At 11:00 AM, konane said...

You never know what dramas from a previous lifetime Mel and the others were continuing to work out, to fight as it were. From what you've written the next chapter will be available his next lifetime and so on until it's worked out.

Lots of question could be answered if we could easily time travel back to the root cause, dilemma or outright misunderstanding which precipitated through time to a present lifetime. Seems we all might benefit from that knowledge saving us all lots of drama on the way.

At 11:13 AM, Rip Snorter said...

Thanks for the comment.
Mel and I spent countless hours over campfires and coffeepots discussing those exact matters.
We were forever shocked with the repeated realizations of how parallel our lives had run, how similar we were in so many ways in our pasts and our challenges later in life. It was Mel who introduced me to the wonders of affirmations.

One of the things we were most puzzled by was the fact that our two lives, his and mine, seemed to differ so much from the lives of others. Crazy drama seemed to be forever breaking down the doorway and coming in guns blazing, uninvited and without a warrant. We examined this through a microscope, asking ourselves what we were doing to invite it and how we could stop it.

But for Mel, it's a closed issue for now. And I'm just hanging, doing my best to stay in the shadows and not give any impression that I've got any outstanding invitations waiting for uninvited guests of that sort.

Thanks again, amiga.

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