As you are well aware, your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker respects all of those who serve our great country. It takes a very special patriot to sign their name, in blood, with the U.S. Military. This contract can become “due and payable,” with that soldier’s life, at any time or place. A soldier’s loyalty to our great country is one of tradition, passed on from generation to generation, since we fought the British Crown in the Revolutionary War. And while this Grey Beard respects all soldiers, active and retired, he has a very special place in his heart for those who have been awarded the Medal of Honor – the highest military award our country bestows on its heroes.
A regular feature of The Grey Beard Biker is the Profile of Courage. This is dedicated to a soldier who has shown bravery, above the call and duty. Today’s Profile of Courage post is about Sergeant 1st Class, Paul Ray Smith. Smith was the first soldier awarded the Medal of Honor for service in the Iraq War.
Sgt. 1st Class, Paul Ray Smith – Profile of Courage
Unit: Company B, 11th Engineer Battalion, 3rd I.D. Hometown: El Paso, Texas Date of Birth: September 24, 1969 Date of Death: April 4, 2003 Place of Death: Baghdad Airport, Baghdad, Iraq Final Resting Place: Arlington National Cemetery
Medal of Honor Citation:
Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division “Rock of Marne,” and the United States Army.
Thank you Sergeant 1st Class Smith! Your bravery, intrepidity and devotion to country are an inspiration to the people of this great country. May you rest forever more along peaceful shores with the a warm sun at your back. You have done your duty, to the highest level, and this Grey Beard Biker salutes you, sir!
These days are quite divisive. They never fail to make your ever-lovable Grey Beard Biker take pause – and inventory – of the things which are important to us. Specifically, the 1st and 2nd amendments. Freedom of Speech and the right to “Keep and Bear Arms” are central to the founding and long-term health of the United States. Today, the liberal Mainstream Media (MSM) and many leftist congresspeople would like to take action to restrict both amendments.
First, let’s look at some of the assaults on the 1st Amendment – specifically its clauses which provides us Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Assembly. We see blatant disregard for this from the MSM and liberal politicians.
The left is constantly trying to restrict Freedom of Speech. It is done by squashing conservative speech on social platforms where Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are throttling conservative free speech. They restrict who can see our posts and even our search results on Google, Yahoo and Bing. They do not want our message getting out.
Today’s press is highly aligned with liberal and socialist ideologies. When breaking news which does not fit their narrative takes place, you will hardly see a mention of it in print or any major network (NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN Et. Al.) – a good example of which is the recent mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. None of the supposed “unbiased media” mentioned that the shooter was a YUGE supporter of Elizabeth Warren.
Freedom of Assembly is being trampled on constantly by politicians, hate groups (Antifa) and social justice groups like the Women’s March. These groups will counter protest against non-violent assembly of conservatives at every turn. Antifa, specifically, will resort to violence against groups they do not agree with, as witnessed recently in Portland, Oregon.
Liberal legislators continually attack Trump, and his supporters, as being Racist Xenophobes, to try and extinguish our message. This is pure hatred and is used to suppress our voices.
Red Flag Laws Are Harmful to the Second Amendment
The latest feel good “commonsense” gun reform, being proposed regularly, appears to be so-called Red Flag Laws. These are also known as (AKA): Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs). They are being positioned as a regulation which the majority of law-abiding gun owners support. This is pure hogwash. Once you understand more about these ridiculous laws, no law-abiding gun owner – especially those who partake in Concealed Carry – would ever support these laws.
Several states have passed ERPOs including Vermont, Washington, Illinois, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, Indiana, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Colorado, Maryland, Delaware, Hawaii and Florida. What’s most surprising about this list is that several of these states have been considered very Pro-2A: Nevada, Indiana and Florida. Florida enacted their Red Flag Law in the wake of the Parkland Shooting.
So, what specifically do most of these Red Flag Laws attempt to do? In the event that someone you know considers you a danger to yourself, or others, they can go to a court and seek an ERPO against you. If the judge grants the motion for the ERPO, law enforcement will come to your home, unannounced, and remove all of your guns. This may seem “commonsense,” but it is anything but. The biggest issue with these laws is what talk radio host, Dana Loesch (Dana Radio) calls, “inverted due process.” These ERPOs are granted Ex Parte. This means that you are not able to be there to represent yourself. Hell, you won’t even know it’s going on until they come for your guns. If you were aware this was taking place you would have the opportunity to hire an attorney and defend yourself against what is nothing more than an illegal seizure of your personal property. Making matters worse, in some states, is that an ex-spouse/lover, neighbor, acquaintance or even someone who barely knows you can make such a claim – not just someone very close to you. This is a total perversion of another one of our Bill of Rights: Amendment IV, regarding unreasonable searches and seizures.
The last pitfall of these laws is that in most cases, besides being “guilty until proven innocent,” you have very limited recourse to repossess your improperly seized property (guns). Most of the states with these laws require you wait a specified amount of time to petition the court to remove the ERPO. Plus, there is a cost to do so, as you will probably have to hire an attorney to represent what should be an inalienable right – the right to keep and bear arms – a right which the 2nd Amendment says, “shall not be infringed.” Obviously, the leftists do not care about this amendment.
Act today. Contact your state, local and Federal legislators and let them know you do not want them to support Red Flag Laws!
This past weekend, your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker, and Miss Tracy, made two lunch dashes on the big shiny beast. Both of them will be reviewed, but Saturday’s dash to Shaffer Farms Texas BBQ was especially awesome – and #GreyBeardBikerApproved!
The best part of Saturday’s lunch dash was the food, but the ride to Shaffer Farms Texas BBQ was also quite exceptional because it included the best part of the Natchez Trace Parkway – the northern most end. For those of you who have never been to this National Park, it traces the original Natchez Trace, which runs 444 miles (yes, this park is 444 miles long), from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. The trace was originally used by Kaintuck Indians, European settlers, fur traders, slave traders and soldiers.
The Food is what brings ‘Em
This was our first visit to Shaffer Farms Texas BBQ. We arrived before noon and the place was already starting to get busy (by the time we left the line was out the door and around the side). Due to some quick thinking by our fellow riders, we were able to save an indoor (it was a muggy-hot Tennessee day) picnic table to spread out the vast quantities of food we would soon partake in. Originally, I had decided to eat somewhat healthy and have the smoked turkey sandwich. But once I saw the brisket, I quickly changed my mind. It was literally its own food group!
The Grey Beard loved the smoked brisket, to say the least. The combo portion was significant enough for any big biker (like yours truly) and both of their homemade BBQ sauces were great – my favorite was the spicy vinegar. For sides, I had the corn-on-the-cob and the ranch potatoes. Those ranch potatoes are their specialty with a combination of potatoes, cheese, jalapeno peppers and some other secret ingredient – you have got to have them!
If you live in Middle Tennessee, northern Alabama or Mississippi – or if you’re just traveling through – make plans to stop at Shaffer Farms Texas BBQ! You will not regret it!
Earlier this year, your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker, and an awesome group of friends, rode to south central Texas to ride the Twisted Sisters – A.K.A. The Three Sisters. The “Sisters” are made up of four ranch roads: RR 335, RR 336 and RR 337. This “triangle” of roads run through Texas Hill Country and is one of the highest rated motorcycle rides in the United States based on MotorcycleRoads.com – where it is currently rated #1.
We left middle Tennessee on Friday, April 5 and rode the first day to Texarkana – a ride of 500 miles. The second day, we pushed on to Kerrville, Texas – our command post for riding the Sisters – another 500 mile ride – with nearly two hours of rain in the Dallas metroplex. And I will tell you, it was not fun riding in Dallas traffic in a downpour.
Texas Hill Country
The Hill Country of Texas sits roughly west of Austin, extending south to San Antonio, and west to the border with Mexico. It features unique terrain for Texas with plenty of canyons, streams, escarpments, wide open valleys and cliffs. There are also some very cool cities and villages here, including my favorite: Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is an old German town that has great restaurants – with plenty of German food – an awesome main street to walk and the National Museum of the Pacific War. This museum is a must see and will take you several hours to adequately see. Are you wondering why such a significant World War II museum would be located here? It’s because Fredericksburg is the home of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz.
We specifically planned our trip for early-mid April because that is when the blue bonnets are blooming. People drive (we ride) from all over the country to see these beautiful flowers blooming. Their under-appreciated redheaded stepsister – the Indian Paintbrush – is equally as stunning and bloom at the same time. A great place to see the beauty of Texas Hill Country is the Willow City Loop. The flowers are spectacular there – as are the plateaus with endless views of the Hill Country.
Riding the Twisted Sisters
The Twisted Sisters was a new experience for Grey Beard. He has ridden all over this great country, but spends most of his time riding in Tennessee, North Carolina and Kentucky. The roads in eastern Tennessee are mountainous and have one curve immediately followed by forty more – some of which are switchbacks. Riding through Hill Country, and the Twisted Sisters, was different. There would be several great curves followed by four or five miles of fairly straight highway – albeit with stunning views. If you are not careful, you can become somewhat complacent while riding here and the tight, technical curves will sneak up on you. Do not let this happen. If you were to have an accident, you are a long ways from nowhere and the cell phone service is spotty – at best!
The roads were all nicely paved, with few potholes. However, there were plenty of spots where gravel would wash across the road. This was most common when crossing dry creeks where the bridges are barely above the creek beds. I’m guessing that these normally dry waterways are busting at their seams when the rains come and wash the gravel across the road.
There were a couple switchbacks on RR 337, which were quite enjoyable. But the best part of riding here is the small towns and little dive bars you would come across. Everyone was very welcoming, the beer was cold and the Rebecca Creek Texas whiskey was extremely good. It should be noted that you should not drink Rebecca Creek whiskey when you are riding… It is so good, you might drink too much.
Would I ride 2,000 miles, roundtrip, to do this again. The answer is YES. I am not sure that I would rate it higher than the mountains of East Tennessee, but it was top notch! We had an amazing time with terrific biker friends!
Middle Tennessee has a plethora of great eating establishments. Fortunately, for us bikers, it also has tons of awesome motorcycle roads. And us bikers are a unique breed. Very few people will ride 130 miles, round trip, for lunch. But that is exactly what your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker did today.
For those of us bikers fortunate enough to call middle Tennessee home, it is not uncommon to head out U.S. Hwy 79 to Stewart County – and the Paris Landing area. It is there that several good marinas/restaurants sit on the shores of beautiful Kentucky Lake. There are also several very scenic routes that will get you to Paris Landing including the Woodland Trace – which runs through Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area – and my favorite, Tennessee Highway 232 – lovingly called the Baby Dragon by us locals. Today, we rode the latter there and back.
Lunch at Fat Daddy’s
Our destination was Fat Daddy’s Resort. Sitting on the water of a bay on Kentucky Lake, this establishment has been a regular destination for old Grey Beard for quite some time. Having heard they had new owners, we decided to give it a try today.
Fat Daddy’s Resort is the perfect spot for bikers this time of year. It is a blast to ride to, with scenic winding roads scaling the steep bluffs along the Tennessee River and Ken-Lake. If you are coming from the north, on Hwy 79, or from the south, on Hwy 147, you will turn on Hwy 232. Take 232 to Lower Standing Rock Road and turn west. This road is quite narrow and winds through local farms. Bikers need to be careful as there is often loose gravel on this country road and you will cross a very narrow one-lane bridge before the road turns into Driftwood Shores Lane – which ends at Fat Daddy’s.
Arriving at Fat Daddy’s Resort at noon today, we walked out to the floating restaurant. It looked the same as in years past, but the atmosphere was totally different. You could tell the servers were glad you were there. Sitting down, we ordered some beers and lunch. I had their 1/3 pound burger and Tracy had the buffalo chicken wrap. Both the burger and the wrap were very tasty (I had half of her meal) and the beer was ice cold. Chasity was our server and she made sure we were never low on our beers and checked in often to make sure the food met our expectations.
At 1:30 PM on weekends there is live music. Today, it was the Memphis Yahoo’s. Unlike in years past, the music was loud enough to hear, but not so loud you could not talk with your friends. This makes it much more enjoyable to stay awhile, and if you are like Grey Beard Biker, you can enjoy a cigar and beer while enjoying the music. Besides great food, music, cold beer, wine coolers and soda, Fat Daddy’s Resort also has a marina, boat fuel and a campground.
The most impressive part of our visit today was when one of the co-owners, Mike, came by and introduced himself, making sure we were pleased with our visit. Mike and Mike (both owners are named Mike) will make sure you are pleased with Fat Daddy’s – which is not common in this day and age. Fat Daddy’s is definitely #GreyBeardBikerApproved!
Grey Beard Biker
For those of you who have never ridden the Baby Dragon, here is some GoPro video GBB shot in February 2016.
Having been born and raised in Central Illinois, but living the majority of his adult life in Missouri and Tennessee, your old bearded pal has a very unique take on what southerners call the War of Northern Aggression – a term I do not embrace. While sympathetic to the south, as someone who has adopted the southeast United States as home, my views on the Civil War tend to be more pragmatic. The North had the manufacturing and manpower to bring the South to her knees, but the Rebel armies had a certain elan which was admirable. During the last thirteen months of the war, the two most well known commanders, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee would face each other in a fight to the death. These men were vastly different – but also quite alike in many respects. While Grant never was beaten in any campaign he commanded, R.E. Lee was known for his daring on the battlefield. Let’s take a brief look at each general.
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee was born in 1809 in the tidewater area of Virginia. His father was “Lighthorse” Harry Lee which would be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because Henry Lee was a celebrated hero of the Revolutionary War, but a curse because he left his family terrible amounts of debt. He would graduate from West Point at the top of his class and serve as an engineer and a cavalry officer. He earned a great deal of respect for his courage on the battlefield during the Mexican War. Lee would serve as superintendent at West Point and would finish his service in the U.S. Army as lieutenant colonel of the vaunted 2nd Cavalry.
After Abraham Lincoln‘s inauguration, and the secession of several southern states, Lee wound be offered command of the Union armies arriving in Washington, D.C. to protect the capital. After the firing on Fort Sumter, in Charleston bay, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion. This would be the final straw for Lee, who’s home state of Virginia promptly seceded. Lee would resign his U.S. Army commission and take a role as President Jefferson Davis‘ military advisor.
Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in an Ohio River town in southern Ohio in April 1822. His upbringing would be vastly different than R.E. Lee’s as he did not have the family name or the connections Lee would benefit from. He was an excellent equestrian and enjoyed reading. What he did not like to do was spend time in his father, Jesse Grant’s tannery. He could not stand the sight of blood and was disgusted by the smell. Unlike Lee, Grant was never particularly close with his mother.
Jesse, knowing young Ulys did not desire to follow in his footsteps, secured him an appointment to West Point. Unlike Lee, Grant would not graduate at the top of his West Point class. While he wanted to join the cavalry service, he would instead be assigned to the 4th Infantry Regiment and head to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. While there, he would meet Julia Dent, sister of his fellow classmate, Fred Dent, whom he would later marry.
During the Mexican War, Grant would be assigned quartermaster’s duties for his regiment. Inevitably this would help him later in his career, when he was responsible for large armies. Not wanting to be away from the fighting, while in Mexico, he would volunteer to help along the infantry lines and was cited for gallantry. After the Mexican War he would be sent to upstate New York, where he could enjoy Julia’s company. But that would be short lived, as he was soon transferred to the west coast where it would be too difficult to have his family with him. Missing his family desperately, he would resign his commission and move to St. Louis where he would scratch out a living on the Dent family’s farm.
By the time of Lincoln’s election, Grant had moved his family to Galena, Illinois to work in his father’s store. As secession was taking place, Grant offered his services to the U.S. Army, but received no response. He would end up helping organize volunteer regiments in Springfield and would eventually earn a commission as colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry. Through well placed friends in Washington City, he would quickly be promoted brigadier general, volunteers and would earn a reputation as an aggressive fighter at the Battle of Belmont (Missouri).
As mentioned previously, Grant would never lose a battle or campaign during the Civil War. He became a celebrity after capturing forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee – which would open both the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers. These battles would earn a promotion for Grant, to major general, volunteers. He would go on to win battles at Shiloh, Vicksburg and Chattanooga before being brought east to command all Union armies. This move brought him promotion to lieutenant general in the regular army – a rank not given since George Washington received it.
It is said, that after the fierce fighting a Cold Harbor, Mary Lincoln called Grant a butcher. Yes, Grant was aggressive. He would send his infantry to attack prepared positions. He would hammer away at entrenched lines, always looking for a weak spot. He did this at Donelson, Vicksburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor and to a degree, at Petersburg. But Lee was also very aggressive, often dividing his army in front of vastly larger forces. He would also hammer at entrenched lines in several battles: Malvern Hill, Gettysburg and Petersburg come to mind. Did Grant deserve the moniker, “butcher,” or was Lee’s aggressive fighting more deserving of this title?
There is much which can be learned by these overall numbers. First, they contain all casualties for each belligerent: killed, mortally wounded, wounded, captured and missing. After taking command of all Union forces, Grant made his headquarters with Meade’s Army of the Potomac near Warrenton, Virginia. While later in the fighting in Virginia, he would become involved in tactical decisions, early on he let Meade manage the fighting. And thus, he advised Meade, “Lee’s army will be your objective point. Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also.” While strategically quite sound, this mandate would inevitably cause much bloodletting.
By the spring of 1864, Lee’s situation was extremely precarious. He had suffered tremendous losses at Gettysburg, retreating to Northern Virginia to lick his wounds. Over the fall of 1863 and the winter of 1863-1864, his Army of Northern Virginia would also bleed losses from desertion. Simply put, the Rebel soldiers were becoming aware of the inevitability that the Union juggernaut doomed their cause – they did not want to die for a doomed southern independence. So, the diminishing numbers of troops fit-for-battle required that Lee keep his army almost exclusively on the defensive. While he would try to take advantage of offensive opportunities – especially in the Wilderness – for the most part he would keep his army in fixed positions behind entrenchments.
Grant was much wiser than his naysayers gave him credit for. Going into the Overland Campaign, he knew Lee’s army was suffering from severe attrition and that the key to winning the war was constantly hammering the Army of Northern Virginia. And so the blood flowed heavily throughout the Overland Campaign and during the initial attacks against Lee’s lines around Petersburg and Richmond. But what the raw casualty numbers do not reflect, on face value, is that Lee’s overall strength during this time was 1/2 that of Grant’s. With his Army of Northern Virginia behind very heavy earthworks, especially starting at Spotsylvania Court House, Lee would still suffer a higher percentage of losses than Grant with one glaring exception: Cold Harbor. Lee’s desperation led to his high losses. Grant’s realization that the Civil War had become a battle of attrition led to his high losses. The Union’s ability to replenish their forces and Lee’s inability to do so made it thus.
One last analysis of Grant’s overall losses during the entire Civil War bears some examination. Grant would suffer 153,642 total casualties compared to 190,760 Confederate losses. Much of the lopsidedness of these losses were because Grant captured three complete Confederate armies at Donelson, Vicksburg and Appomattox. But based on raw numbers, especially with the never ending manpower reserves of the North, Grant should not be considered the “Butcher.”
In closing, your ever lovable Grey Beard Biker greatly respects the generalship of Robert E. Lee. He proved himself cunning, brave and willing to risk his Army of Northern Virginia when the potential outcome was worth the risk. Grant, undoubtedly is one of the United States’ premier generals. Without his leadership, the Civil War would have at least dragged on much longer. He recognized early on that the war was not a war of capturing territory, but rather a war of annihilating the Confederate war machine. Both of these generals should command respect.
Grey Beard Biker
Note: Besides referencing Bonekemper’s book, this entire post is primarily written from memory. Any mistakes are fully the responsibility of your bearded author.