Saturday, January 31, 2009


Whatever your perspective on sports performance and acceptable behaviors on that supposed field of honor, we have either reached the abyss of political correctness and height of hypocrisy or we have evolved into another whole ethereal life form. I think that we occupy space in that middle realm as we would certainly like to have it both ways. There are no doubt formidable adherents that occupy both extremes.

The recent 100-0 drubbing by the Dallas, Texas’ Covenant School’s girls varsity basketball team over the winless (for four years) Dallas Academy girl’s team has once again revealed another opportunity to take a look at the culture of sports in our society and speculate what’s really important. Do we embrace a Victory at any cost mantra or should any Victory be secondary to moral and ethical considerations? The question begs: Why do we engage in sports at all? It would be nice, though surprising, if something positive – and lasting - were to result from this embarrassing and revealing episode.

There are foundations, organizations and academics that monitor this question and offer ever evolving perspectives on sport in our society (I wonder if they ever played sports?). It’s too bad that more parents and coaches don’t contemplate the consequences of their actions. So many seem to faux spiritually embrace ancient Greek philosophies of sport at least on paper only to forget them in the heat of competition. Bottom line: Most fail to apply them in their everyday lives. Like snow in North Texas, you never really get a lot and it doesn’t last very long…

By the way, I don’t totally blame former Covenant coach Micah Grimes for what happened even though the situation got out of hand while he was on point. He mostly did what he was paid to do and we suspect that it was only his very public rejection of Covenant’s hierarchy that prompted his firing. In an employment-at-will state like Texas an employer can release you for seemingly mundane reasons so long as they don’t break any laws. We may not have seen the end of this chapter of the Micah Grimes Saga…

As a side note we can find some solace in the Dallas Academy boy’s Varsity basketball team victory over their Covenant counterparts later that same night. The girls team lost their next game 41-8 and then in a long overdue action, appropriately opted out of their league and started scheduling games with more evenly matched opponents. Covenant has since publicly flagellated themselves, forfeited the game and apologized for their “embarrassing and shameful” victory. Some local citizenry have opined that Covenant looks almost too contrite… (smile please for the cameras).

No doubt that a lot of folks failed in this sad episode and that especially includes the parents and the administrators of both schools. The so-called lessons learned from this incident will soon blow over and become a footnote in a Wikipedia article. While we understand that some Dallas Academy parents and supporters were shocked and dismayed, we wonder what would have happened if the shoe were on the other foot. It appears that their Covenant like signs were wildly enthusiastic and not in a charitable mood when the game was being played. One reporter reported the Covenant temperament and mental state as, “Giddy with the mushrooming lead, excited parents, players and coaches realized, we could win this by 100! – a fabulous, unheard-of victory.” And so it went, in a piranha crazed atmosphere to hit the infamous century mark.

Let’s try and put this whole issue into a historical perspective. One of the more infamous sports blowouts was Georgia Tech’s 1916 lopsided football victory over Cumberland by a score of 222-0. History records little compassion directed towards the hapless Cumberland team, rather amazement at the ability of Georgia Tech to have scored that many points in forty-five minutes. Yes, the second half was cut short by fifteen minutes! Tech’s “level of success” of their athletic program has boasted of that victory. Times sure have changed…

Tech went 8-0-1 in 1916 and the Yellow Jackets’ coach was none other than the iconic and legendary John Heisman who is reputed to have deliberately run up the score against Cumberland in revenge for Cumberland running up a 22-0 score against Tech’s Heisman-coached baseball team a year earlier with a team mostly composed of professional players. From 1915 to 1917, Heisman's teams were undefeated, outscoring opponents during the 31-game winning streak 1,599 to 99. The Yellow Jackets won their first national championship in 1917.

We should note that Heisman while football coach at Clemson University in 1903 defeated Georgia Tech 73-0 so he already had a propensity for running up the score. Needless to say, Heisman’s reputation never suffered as the next year he was coaching at Tech and is now enshrined in the National football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame. The Downtown Athletic club of New York City annually presents the highly prestigious Heisman Memorial Trophy to the season's best nationwide collegiate football player and remains college football’s highest individual honor for a player. I would say that he was properly rewarded for his performance though it was a different place and time (no stigma here).

In 1968 the University of Houston football team defeated the University of Tulsa 100-6 with little resulting fanfare or controversy.

Most recently (October 18, 2008) we can look at the University of Southern California’s 69-0 (41-0 at halftime) victory over the University of Washington on the Huskies home turf at Martin Stadium in Pullman, WA . How sportsmanlike was that victory? Instead of apologizing an elated USC coach Pat Carroll stated, “Our guys had a ball playing football today, from the locker room on out," Coach Pete Carroll said. "Right from the start, we wanted to find that focus that we really hadn't had yet." I don’t see any humility or embarrassment in that statement if, indeed, that would have been appropriate.

Former Oklahoma basketball coach Billy Tubbs was notorious for running up scores. Among many examples, Tubb’s Oklahoma team scored 97 points against less than formidable US International University (now Alliant International University) ultimately winning by a 173-101 rout. When asked about his tendency to run up the score against inferior opponents Tubbs replied, “If they don't like it, they should get better." OK…

When the Oklahoma State Cowboys easily defeated Northwestern State by their largest margin of victory ever in a basketball game 82-36 last new years eve, there was nothing but a party atmosphere and elation on the team and certainly from their fans. It was a celebration… and a great feeling of accomplishment. Head coach Sean Sutton was nothing but laudatory about his team and their performance.

When the University of South Carolina defeated the Citadel in 2007 by 61 points (103-42) there was elation everywhere save on The Citadel side where USC “dumped the Citadel in historic fashion”. The crowd in a less than charitable mood when with 30 seconds left in the game and USC with 99 points they were chanting, “We want 100!” Indeed they got their century mark and then some. The relentless Gamecocks never showed any mercy and were rewarded with praise by their coach and fans while they anticipated their next game with, yep, Southern California who defeated the Gamecocks 85-75….. Goes around, comes around…

Now I know that golf ain’t basketball but why did Tiger Woods have the temerity and lack of sensitivity to defeat his competition by fifteen strokes in the U. S. Open in 2000, the largest margin of victory in a major championship? Couldn’t he just win by one stroke? Frank DeFord the iconic Sports Illustrated reporter commented on Woods’ dominance of the game by citing his “sheer determination” enough to justify naming Woods for an unprecedented second time, the SI Sportsman of the Year.

Methinks that J.D. Edgar, should be tarred and feathered for his sixteen stroke 1919 Canadian Open victory, the largest margin of victory in professional golf.

How did those girls on the Duncanville, Texas ChristWay basketball team feel losing to Arlington, Texas Oakridge 103–0 at the Arlington Christmas tournament in 1998? Well, probably not great though we never experienced this tempest in a teapot before.

We need note that the history of sport abounds with references of the absolute glory of dominating victories. We have deified our better performing athletes rewarding them with star like recognition and absurd mega bucks. We promote a winning at any cost mentality that promotes dishonesty on and off the field (see the He didn’t really catch that, did he? Might of Right Blog, Sunday, November 4, 2007), sometimes demeans the game and compromises the quality and integrity of our shared lives. So where do our student athletes and coaches get this attitude? Well, they get it from us – the parents and fans who live vicariously through their kids or favorite players and refuse to acknowledge those most human values of honesty, decency and humanity. They live for the moment and for the almighty dollar. These folks will debate that this is where we need to go in our life’s lessons whatever the venue: to take a hard and calculating approach to life with the victor taking all the spoils, whatever the margin. We at the Might of Right think that we can have it both ways.

The failure of most schools and athletic conferences/leagues to adopt a mercy rule (many have and even Heisman did) whereby a game is suspended when one team gains a predetermined and insurmountable advantage may seem a travesty to some including this writer. But there is another whole side to this issue.

Dan Lebowitz, executive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University, offered a right-on analysis of the situation. "Sports should involve three things – cooperative spirit, healthy competition and sportsmanship." Agreed. Athletics have always been an excellent way to get and stay in shape (how fat can we get?), develop new skills and habits and most importantly, build character, self-esteem, sportsmanship, ethics and a sense of community. Sports competition does not generally (and shouldn’t) recognize class differences, how much money your parents have or your race, creed or culture or any other such criteria. The playing field should be equal and level for all with the final outcome of any contest being determined by the better performing athletes, period. As the Olympics have proclaimed since 1924, “Citius, altius, fortius”. (Swifter, Higher, Stronger).

What we must all demonstrate in our lives is a humanity tempered by the logic and common sense of our times. We need to address the question: How do we motivate our athletes to appropriately power down and not perform after we have instilled those disciplines and attitudes in them? Conversely by playing and bending to those well intended but blindfolded citizens who in a sick Kum By Ya angst would focus only on the “savaged feelings” of the losers of any contest, we lose sight of another valuable lesson. They end up empowering this lack of good sportsmanship and creating another generation of emotionally scarred, entitled citizens. However, it looks like the Ladies of Dallas Academy are having none of that.

Following their defeat Dallas Academy Athletic Director Jeremy Civello told his girls basketball team that they have learned a, “lesson in sportsmanship that will last them a lifetime.” Here, Here! So the lesson here is that failure/defeat and how you deal with it are equally important components of life experiences. It’s apparent that the members of the Dallas Academy Varsity girl’s basketball team have a firm perspective on what may be a low point for them. They will use that experience to gage their responses when dealing with more serious issues. I suspect that they will also know how to offer compassion and humility when confronted with similar circumstances in later life… As some wise folks have been want to offer, “You don’t have a firm perspective until you know where your bottom and top are…” Maybe, just maybe, these kids will evolve into the more responsible parents that will stop all this nonsense.

Players and coaches alike on teams that fail to honor the best tenets of sport that include honor, respect, integrity, et al will suffer the slings and arrows of indignation and either become professional athletes or CEOs of Wall Street Financial firms. Of course those are occupations that currently do not appear to embrace any high ideals thereby offering those industries a bountiful supply of candidates…

But seriously, how do we realistically deal with this situation? I got to thinking…. While a student at Ole Miss my fraternity (Sigma Phi Epsilon) sponsored a D Stocker racer, the Sig Epic, a 1964 Oldsmobile Cutlass, at the drag races at the now defunct Lakeland Dragway/International Raceway in nearby Memphis, Tennessee. The sanctioning body was and is the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) who came up with the answer for handicapping racing vehicles in and out of class (Handicapping you say?). That answer was an electronic starting system that consists of a series of vertically-arranged lights known as a Christmas tree. The Christmas tree has a column of lights for each driver/lane consisting of staging lights and below that three large amber lights, a green light, and a red light. The tree in each lane depending on your handicap would flash faster or slower ostensibly giving the advantage to the lower rated competitor (getting the picture?).

Now our vehicle was a perennial winner and several times competed for the overall Top Drag Eliminator Championship at Lakeland. We always seemed to race another perennial winner, an M Stocker, a 1949 Studebaker coupe that would always be spotted close to one eighth of a mile on that quarter mile track. We never quite caught up or beat him though once we came as close as the nose of our Cutlass. This became the stuff that legends are now made of and prompted us on to greater and greater heights…. It motivated us to work harder in order to be better and entertained us in the process.

So, while we have precedent and an answer for our conundrum and it has been among us for many years, how to apply it? Good Friend and preeminent Dallas radio historian Bob Schumann collaborated with this writer and we have developed a modest and humble proposal (move over Jonathan Swift) that should eliminate individual and team competitive sprit thus reducing the sport of basketball to even lower and more manageable levels via a handicapping system.

We sincerely recommend the adoption of the Schumann Smores Quotient (SSQ) whereby underdogs or more appropriately PC motivated “Challenged” teams would receive points when the heavily favored, opposing handicapped team scores. For example, one aspect of this system would have the challenged team receiving an automatic three points when their opponents score two and matching points scored by their superior opponents at the foul line. Points scored by the “challenged” team would not be so reciprocated. Three point shots would be eliminated save for the last two minutes of each quarter though the challenged team would also automatically receive two points to their opponents three. The motivation, then, would be to not score using regular offensive sets, rather condensing the scoring opportunities to just a frenetic eight minutes of each forty minute game. Note that evenly matched teams would initially play the game without the Smores handicapping system though it could be invoked at any time by the Smores Referee [also inown as The Overseer (TO)] should a game get out of hand.

A critical aspect of the SSQ is the automatic awarding of “grace” points to the challenged or handicapped teams (fifteen for men and twelve for women) for each quarter played. Challenged teams would be able to keep their opponents in a losing mode should they try to play the game as Dr. Naismith intended. Some critics have opined that this might change the game though Schumann and this writer point out that there will be only winners and no losers or hurt feelings as the outcome of the game would always be predetermined and never in doubt. Thusly, the status quo and precedents as interpreted and administered by the Dallas, Texas Independent School System (DISD) would be maintained. Isn’t it nice to keep all these good feelings here at home?

So where do our Christmas tree lights enter the picture? Well, aside from the concept of handicapping the competition, when grace points are awarded one of four amber lights will be lit on the scoreboard at the behest of the challenged team coach who can receive the points at a time of his/her choosing or just let the points be awarded by quarter per the “tree”. For example, a challenged boy’s team could conceivably choose to take all their sixty points at the beginning of the game or in a grand manifestation of coaching strategy request them at critical moments in the contest.

Should a superior team prevail despite all the attempts to level the playing field the referee would be empowered to engage the red light signifying a mercy disqualification of that team for being too competitive. A continuously burning green light would signify that the game is being played under the SSQ. Honk if this sounds a little like Carousel in the 1976 cult movie Logan’s Run where society is managed and maintained in equilibrium in that case by requiring the death of everyone who reaches the maturity of twenty-one years. Hmmm…

As reporter Jacquielynn Floyd of The Dallas Morning News eloquently wrote the other day, “The Covenant School surely knows they lost this one. Why keep running up the score? And secondly, the whole point of this little morality play is to show a little mercy, to avoid using the advantage of the moment to crush your opponent to smithereens.” Well stated by Floyd who points out that we are wielding a two-edged sword.

Let’s leave well enough alone, adopt a mercy rule and encourage coaches and players to conduct themselves honorably, on and off the playing field, for once and forever. That failing, we will always have the Schumann Smores Quotient...


Ned Buxton

Saturday, January 24, 2009


In a ghastly turn of events the three time champion and heavily favored Scots Chivas Team was defeated by arch rival and “auld enemy” England and their Air Tusker Team in the World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA) World Championships at Tiger Tops in the Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal in early December, 2008. The Scots have dominated the sport winning the Tiger Tops World Cup in 2001, 2004, & 2005 as well as the King’s Cup in Thailand in 2004 and 2005 and playing in the Pachyderm Polo Super Bowl the last three years.

This is not surprising when you consider that Scots co-invented the sport in 1982 in the persons of Scot James Manclark, international polo player, former Olympian and British bobsled champion and A. V. Jim Edwards an English expatriate and Father of eco-tourism who settled in Nepal and owns the host Tiger Tops resort. The ingenious Manclark is, no doubt, proud of his achievement which puts him in the exclusive company of Scottish inventors who have literally changed the face of our planet. This invention probably had more to do with the consumption of that fine blended spirit, Chivas Regal than anything else.

We should note that the ranks of elephant polo players have included the likes of one of my great heroes, the late great explorer and first conqueror of nearby Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary; Scotland’s own, the 13th Duke of Argyll; Michigander actor, martial artist, singer and producer/director Steven Seagal; tennis great Bjorn Borg; Liverpudlian and ex-Beatle Ringo Starr and many, many more.

The always right-on American CBS Sunday Morning TV show recently featured the world tournament by following the underdog American team, the thirty-something New York Blue who had prepared for the match sans elephants by practicing swinging at little white balls with clubs improvised from plumbing piping whilst strapped to the roofs of two SUV’s negotiating the challenges posed by a deserted New York Atlantic beachside parking lot. While The Blue were ultimately outclassed by their much more experienced competition in the WEPA tournament, they did earn the undying if not tongue-in-cheek admiration of all they encountered. But, more later – back to the, uh, game…

Despite the motivating and charismatic presence of the great Highland Bagpipes, Scotland's Chivas were defeated by the Sassenachs by a six to one score that appears lopsided though the Scots, who have dominated the sport since its inception in 1982, were the aggressors throughout the match.

The Scots put themselves in an early hole in the championship game and because of defensive lapses not so faintly reminiscent of the recent collapse of the incredibly talented (on paper) NFL Dallas Cowboys, were down early four goals to none. England from that point played a defensive game with Scotland managing only one score from that point. Attack after attack was made on the English goal with shots marginally errant reminding this American with an historical perspective that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s spirit had to be around given the futility of their effort and their apparently superior force. It was Culloden all over again. In recognition of their team strengths the Scots retained their number one world ranking despite the loss. Would that Bonnie Prince Charlie have allowed Lord George Murray to lead, we would all have a Scot’s burr…

The Chivas Scots captain, Torquhil Ian Campbell, well known and beloved in the American Scottish Community as the "MacCailean Mòr" (Son of Great Colin), Chief of the Clan Campbell and the 13th Duke of Argyll has long been a sponsor of this event proving once again that he and the Campbells have a sense of humor and carry on to this day despite the everlasting disgrace of the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe (lest we forget - not a cheap shot – their burden).

Not so coincidentally the 13th Duke is the highly respected Asia-Pacific manager for Chivas Brothers. Ltd., the whisky company that counts Chivas Regal as its main blended Scotch brand and sponsors his Elephant Polo Team and elephant polo worldwide. Chivas is owned by French spirits giant Pernod Ricard (the auld alliance lives!) who also manufactures Jameson® Irish Whiskey, The Glenlivet® Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Wild Turkey® Bourbon (one of my Kentucky favorites), and many other world famous premium spirit brands.

The world’s best elephant polo player and prolific goal scorer is one Peter Prentice, an expatriate Englishman and VP for Chivas Brothers in Asia Pacific who is player manager for the Chivas Team and one of its major inspirations. Peter is the former captain of the Chivas team who puts this whole affair in proper and honest perspective by admitting that his best performances have always been, “At the bar orchestrating tidal waves of Chivas Manhattans for any unsuspecting opposition.” No doubt that this is a huge marketing commitment for Chivas which has developed their Chivas Regal brand into the top world player. Their 18 year old remains my favorite Scotch blend (along with the Low Flyer - Famous Grouse) and that almost consumed 2007 Christmas present from son Geb Buxton. Also, lest we forget, the elephant polo event has raised thousands and thousands of dollars and pounds for less fortunate populations that reside in that part of the world. We say, well done and continue with the show! Back to the Game…

The BBC reported Scottish Captain Campbell’s bravado and rhetoric following the defeat, "Albeit we are disappointed to once again be at the wrong end of a final, we remain hugely proud of our historic success in this incredibly demanding sport. We are also delighted to have successfully reconfirmed our status as Number One in the official WEPA World rankings thanks to making it to the finals – no mean feat in itself!” ”Indeed, there are not many sports in which Scotland enjoys global leadership and with our recent record, no one can deny that Scotland is now one of the world's true sporting heavyweights”. Right?

It is with great suspicion that we note that among other elephant polo players two members of the New York Blue, Bill Keith and Chip Frazier, as, well as the captain of the English Air Tuskers Team, Robert McKenzie, and players like McDougal, McMillan, MacKay, Anderson, Currie and others have names that conjure much more Scottish than English connections. We also note that the 13th Duke of Argyll is the only Scottish member of the Scottish Elephant Polo Team? What’s going on here? We again embrace an historical perspective noting the English Duke of Cumberland had in his 1746 Drummossie Moor ranks a substantial Scots contingent including the Clans Campbell, Gunn, MacKay, Sutherland, Munro, Ross, Grant and others. So, it goes that when the Scots weren’t fighting others, they were fighting amongst themselves… It is good to note that while the 13th Duke of Argyll’s ancestors were fighting on the wrong side in 1745 they are now on the “correct” albeit losing side. A manly consolation…

All this nationalist posturing aside, it certainly appears that the success of any team rides solely on the shoulders of the elephants and the mahouts, the mostly native trainers and handlers who also ride on the elephants and direct them via of verbal commands and by applying pressure to the back of the elephant’s ears with their bare feet. The player communicates to the mahout where he wishes to go - which is easier said than done considering that most of the mahouts, and ALL the elephants, only understand Nepali. The teams swap elephants and mahouts at half time so that no one team has the advantage of superior handlers.

Speaking of advantage, it was noted that the Chivas team tended to wisely refuel their mahouts with Cokes whilst in their service while other teams resorted to other fortified beverages which ultimately put their teams at a disadvantage. Aha, a strategy is born!

While this is, no doubt, a charity event, it would appear to be a premier social event and playground for the rich and famous and as one observer noted, “The opportunity to hobnob with friends you haven’t seen since the quail-hunting season”. One competitor in a fit of honesty validated the strategy of Chivas team manager Peter Prentice by openly proclaiming that it was his ultimate goal to, “win in the bar”.

But, back to our own New York Blue team who despite taking the favored Nepal Tiger Top Tuskers to overtime, had to settle for the silver medal in the amateur Chivas Olympic Quaiche Finals. Consistent with other American teams in the past The Blue were gifted with the very popular and coveted ‘Best Dressed Team Award’ which was attributed to Blue sponsors and haberdashers Levi Strauss and Converse. We also note that one member of the New York Blue, Ricky Smith from Wisconsin, made history by being the first ever American to win the much exalted ‘Dominic Monaghan Oscar Award for the best off-field performance’. One reporter noted that, “Smith remained a beacon of charm & flair throughout the tournament.” Nobody’s talking though someone recently speculated that it recognizes the emulation of the capacity of former Hobbit (Meriadoc Brandybuck) Monaghan’s great ability to make everlasting friends…

In closing we invoke the passion and memory of one Robert Mackenzie, captain of the winning Sassenach Air Tusker team who in true Scots obligatory tradition downed a large dram of Chivas (no doubt from a Quaich) in appreciation of his adversary’s Scottish spirit. We suspect he was also saluting his own indomitable pedigree and would that we could lure him to the Chivas Team!

For all you American Scots out there please note that Polo America is organizing an American team to compete in the 2009 World Elephant Polo Championship at Tiger Tops in the Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal. Individuals interested in playing on the USA Elephant Polo Team should contact Polo America at (760) 777-8081. No experience necessary save a sense of adventure, a charitable spirit and a high tolerance for Chivas Regal (drink responsibly, please). See you in Nepal...


Ned Buxton

Saturday, January 17, 2009


It’s tough to follow Tad Sims' passing with any subject as all would be mundane and inconsequential in comparison. Methinks Tad would gleefully approve this post as she loved all animals and especially anything Scottish.

As all of my Friends and many of my acquaintances are aware, my affection for Scotland and all things Scottish borders on the extreme to even manic proportions. That extends to our Caledonian canine Friends and basically to the thirteen breeds that originated in Scotland. These include some of the most famous and most brave, tenacious and intelligent dogs in the world. Yes, they surely mirror the most common attributes of the average Scot.

Recent examples of Scottish breeds with major public personas include the magnificent Scottish Deerhound named Cleod who plays the character Padfoot in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Who can forget the awesome Scottish Deerhound in John Boorman’s 1981 Le Morte D’Arthur classic, Excalibur? Lest we forget, in ancient Scotland only those with at least the rank of Earl could own a Deerhound. King Robert the Bruce of Scotland kept Deerhounds as did Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott, who described his Deerhound Maida as "The most perfect creature of heaven". They are now together, forever, in the Scott Monument in the Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh.

Many forget that Collies (aye, Lassie), Gordon Setters and that American favorite, the Golden Retriever, are all Scottish in origin. I have been told that Goldens can learn up to 240 commands, words and phrases and are renowned for their patience with children. For the record, this capacity greatly exceeds the limits of this writer and many of my Friends.

If you have been to any Dog Trials like the now famous Rural Hill Sheep Dog Trials in Huntersville, NC presented by the Catawba Valley Scottish Society you know that they are a perfect example of the intelligence and perseverance of the working Scottish Border Collie. You have got to see these dogs in action… The sheep industry in Scotland and around the world could not have survived without the Border Collie.

As a sidebar, remembering The Clearances, they were probably part of the Sassenach conspiracy to replace people with sheep. Read James Prebble’s The Highland Clearances and you will understand. Even to this day the infamous Sutherland factor Patrick Sellars conjures contempt and disgust.

But, we pay homage today to the wily and highly intelligent Cairn Terrier, native to the Highlands of Scotland and the Isle of Skye. The son of Mary Queen of Scots, King James VI of Scotland & James I of England referred to these prized terriers as “earth dogges" and gifted them to Friends.

Originally bred as hunting dogs they remain working dogs on farms where they ferret out furry pests and vermin like rats and mice. Despite their diminutive size they demonstrate what are seemingly to most - delusions of grandeur. They appear fearless - unafraid of anybody or anything. One soon learns that the Cairns are fully prepared to back up their bark with the appropriate response. The Cairn in more politically incorrect times helped to hunt burrowing prey like badgers, foxes, and weasels almost gleefully crawling into their dens and forcing these unwanted animals out. The irony is that this Kennel Club of Great Britain (KCGB)/American Kennel Club (AKC) breed may have been named last but genetically is probably the closest to the original terriers working the Scottish Highlands.

Cairns developed into fierce, independent protectors, a trait they still own and demonstrate in backyards around the world as they stalk and chase real or imagined prey (why am I doing this?!) usually to the chagrin of birds, rabbits, possums, armadillos, squirrels, pets in the neighborhood, delivery people of all genres and unsuspecting neighbors walking their pets down the sidewalk. The courageous cairn was incorporated into home and hearth early in its history where it even now reposes as a loyal companion and ever vigilant watchdog.

Vancouver psychologist Stanley Coren, one of the world’s leading experts on dog behavior, has written, The Modern Dog, a collection of anecdotes and reminiscences that center mostly on his own Cairn Terrier, Flint, who was gifted to him by wife Joan. This is a must read for any dog fancier.

Flint is a bundle of brown brindle fur who despite a checkered and insubordinate past would eventually earn obedience champion honors in Canada. Despite these awards Coren appropriately compares Flint with another gift his wife gave him - a 12-gauge shotgun. Wife Joan remains exasperated and far from enamored of Flint and mostly because of Flint’s favorite game, “The Barbarians are coming!”

It seems that Flint routinely transitions peaceful and tranquil times to pandemonium and chaos. A passing automobile, the slightest wind gust or shaft of sun/moon light can initiate endless and frenzied staccato barking and jumping displays of herculean proportions. Nothing, however, could compare with Flint’s reaction to a movie that featured an attack of giant rats. As Coren relates in The Modern Dog, Flint, “launched himself off the sofa and attacked the wooden stand on which the television stood. Growling, barking, slashing, chewing—he desperately tried to grab hold of the table leg and shake it to death. Meanwhile the rat scene had drawn to a close. The squeals were now gone and no rodents were visible any longer on the face of the tube. Flint backed off and looked up. He snorted once or twice through his nose, then with tail erect and legs stiff, proudly walked out of the room, pausing only once to glance at the TV to make sure that his job of saving us from the onslaught of vermin was truly finished.” This outburst would appear to be the norm rather than the exception for Flint and Cairns in general. The above was found on, Canada’s only on-line national weekly news magazine. We heartily recommend.

While a resident of Atlanta I had a great relationship with a Cairn Terrier named Skye who belonged to my next door neighbor, uncommon good Friend and harpist extraordinaire, Jan Pennington. Skye was Jan’s constant companion and protector who provided great Friendship to The Pennington Family. Skye and her extended Family and Friends were rewarded by her longevity of fourteen years.

Skye had what they call a wheaten color (aye, just like it sounds), as opposed to the more common brindled (black with gray/silver). The Cairn’s weather-resistant outer coat can be cream, wheaten, red, sandy, gray, or brindled in any of these colors.

Skye was protective of all her Friends including this writer and adopted a credible Highland persona. Word was that Jim Pennington was even able to teach him how to play the great Highland Bagpipes!

Cairns have had their movie successes including that most famous of Cairns, Terry, a female terrier who played the role of a male Cairn named "Toto" in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz (TWOZ) where she was Judy Garland’s constant companion, on and off the movie set. The reality is that the whole plot of TWOZ revolved around the little Cairn Terrier whose antics get “him” in trouble landing he and Dorothy into the Kingdom of Oz. Bottom Line: Terry was in almost every scene in the movie. The rest is history.

Even before The Wizard of Oz Terry was already a star and eventually made a total of fourteen movies. She also worked with her favorite actress Shirley Temple as well as Joan Crawford, Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, among many others.

Other Cairn Terriers also appeared in other big Hollywood movies to include Rusty who played Mrs. Muir's dog in the 1947 classic, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir alongside Rex Harrison, Gene Tierney and my personal favorite, Natalie Wood. Since then cairns have played great roles in movies and on the small screen. We might also mention that US President (and Friend to my grandfather, Colonel Buxton) Teddy Roosevelt’s son Jack had a Cairn affectionately named Kermit Roosevelt. The dog was named for one of Roosevelt’s ancestors, not the Frog - or vice versa.

Like many of their Scots owners, Cairn Terriers have an endearing quality – they can be quite verbal. This does not mean that they are always problem barkers, but they will "talk", and grumble, and will mostly communicate with sharp, staccato barks that can sometimes peel the label off a tomato can.

I have a good Friend, a brindle (black and silver) Cairn Terrier named Willa who rules the roost at one very special and magical North Dallas household. When motivated Willa will sit down (or stand unsupported on her two hind legs) in front of you and looking straight in your eyes and with strikingly animated head and lower jaw moves, “talks,” seemingly emulating humans, emitting a wide spectrum of from high to low pitched mostly groans and yawning noises (mouthing sounds). These encounters and vocalizations which can last for a few seconds to a few minutes are Willa’s way of requesting to be let outside, plea for bathroom facilities, play, affection or requesting a biscuit or that ever coveted Greenie®. Her vet says that she is a, “talker.”

I have seen some cute clips on U-Tube where some dogs were trained by their owners to yowl and groan on cue. The difference is that behavior was part of a training regimen where the payoff was a treat (Pavlov) and not a “sincere” motivation that came from the animal. Willa’s voice appears to be some sort of attempt at socialization and communication with humans, a premise backed up by the theories of canid/animal researcher and behaviorist Dr Dorit Feddersen-Petersen of the Zoological Institute at the University of Kiel in Germany.

Dr.Feddersen-Petersen reflects that canines have learned many nuances ofcommunication during the 14,000 years they have lived with humans, "Some of the more modern dog species like the terrier and sheep dog have a wide barking spectrum which is intended as a means of communication with man." Why is it that the Scots Breeds only, “get it?”

Willa also remains a key protector of her owner though her attentions are generally directed at a submersible pool cleaner rechristened Nessie that makes its rounds several times a day on the bottom of the pool. That movement and the occasional spray of water are sufficient to entertain and keep Willa occupied for hours to the understandable chagrin of her immediate neighbors. Reflections of the moon and even the occasional ripple on the surface of the water appear to elicit the same response of DNA-driven territorial imperative and thoughtless angst/engagement with a stiffened aggressive posture and that always predictable intense staccato barking. Nessie always retires to her slumber on the bottom of the pool, no doubt because of Willa’s defensive ministrations. Having defeated the monster Willa, like Coren’s Flint, not knowing its primal attribution, proudly surveys her victory, snorts, aggressively scratches the ground with all fours and then with head high looks for praise (undeserved or not) from her hooch mates.

So the frisky, determined, independent and devoted bundles of energy we know as Cairns continue to hold their own and protect us from the madding crowd and despite a few frustrating, selfish moments, provide us with an uncommon joy. Now it seems that they are also even trying to communicate with us at a higher level (Planet of the Cairn Terriers?).

You will have to excuse me now as Willa has requested an audience and a debate of Robert Burns’, The Twa Dogs. Seems that Willa is infatuated with fellow quadraped and Burns’ Border Collie, Luath, and would like to reflect on the contrast between the life of the rich and poor in 18th century Scotland, a contrast that Burns and Luath experienced firsthand. Should be a winner. If I could just get her to teach me how to splay…


Ned Buxton

Saturday, January 10, 2009


In the early AM hours of January 7, 2009 the Heavens opened up and welcomed another special soul, this time the person of one Patricia “Tad” Sims, Daughter to Beverly, Sister to Charlie, Wife to Mike Wilson and Friend to all that met her. Tad was one of those special people that come along every generation or two though unfortunately their light all too often shines only briefly, though long enough to have a profound affect on the lives she touches. To know Tad was to validate the sure presence of a Supreme Being and the might of good.

Tad had been ill for some time, disabled by a congenital heart condition that as doctors cautioned, had the potential to take her from this earthly plane before she was thirty. She beat the odds makers and with the help of an internal tenacity and modern medicine, extended her maturity to 52 years (9-15-1956 to 1-7-2009). Those last twenty-two years shone like a beacon in the wilderness for this writer. Tad and husband Mike are my best Friends.

Tad was a member of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Asheville, NC and not surprisingly had been to their Theophany (Epiphany) Service commemorating the Baptism of Christ and the divine revelation of the Holy Trinity just hours before her passing. She returned home with the always predictable giant headache from driving those ninety-two miles to Asheville and back that prompted her to take her meds and lay down for a while. Tad never woke up.

Seems appropriate that one of her last acts was to partake of the Eucharist and have a long heart-to-heart with the Reverend Father Demetrios Iliou, Rector of Holy Trinity. After notification of her passing a shocked Father Iliou praised Tad and her presence at Holy Trinity that day as a tangible gift from God and that Tad had been a positive example for all she touched.

Tad had aggressively and lovingly researched and choreographed her transition from the Anglican Church to Greek Orthodoxy. As is the custom in the Greek Orthodox Church Tad appropriately adopted the persona of the Celtic Saint Hild(a) (614 to 680), the iconic Abbess of Whitby who the great theologian, author and scholar - the Venerable Saint Bede - enthusiastically praised as one of the greatest women of all time and the adviser of rulers as well as of ordinary folk. Yep, that was Tad… Hild means “battle” in the old Norse language and seems most appropriate for Tad as she waged a war against any injustice she perceived, not to mention the pain she experienced every minute of every waking hour…

Father Iliou recently reminisced about Tad and their meeting in September 2004 at which point he reflects that he and Tad became very close Friends, where Tad became not only his spiritual daughter, but a sister to him. Father Iliou continued, "Hilda was always full of the Spirit, smiling and rejoicing in the Lord. I still can not believe that she is gone, but I thank the Lord that she was at church on Holy Theophany on January 6th, and received Holy Communion. We talked in my office for a while after services, and she left our church for the last time. I know she is in heaven, and now rejoices with the Angles and the saints. I will miss her until my time comes. May her memory always be eternal in all our hearts and souls. God bless you Hilda!" Now isn't it just fitting and natural that Tad became a Sister to us all...

As husband Mike knows, I have been in an earnest platonic love with this Lady since I met her in 1987. Mike, a retired police officer from Adrian, Michigan was her special and singular Man, Tad’s soul mate with whom she was able to draw her inspiration and motivation. Mike’s kilted swagger attracted Tad whilst they were in attendance at the always majestic Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in 1988 in Linville, NC. Tad had been introduced to the American Scottish Community and ultimately to Mike “Mad Dog” Wilson by Chip Walters, also of Greensboro, NC. I was at those same Scottish Games, knew both Mike and Tad and the details of their meeting that had Mike warning off all other potential suitors and proudly barking that he had finally met that special other half that would make him whole. The rest was history with Tad beaming and holding on tight to her like sign. They never let go of each other.

Mike & Tad were married in 1989 in the Chief’s Tent at Grandfather Mountain in some “Blue Ridge mist” that had wreaked havoc in western North Carolina blowing and washing away homes, trailers, tents, etc. Father David MacBeth Moss, Captain-Chaplain to the 78th Fraser Highlanders, officiated though along with chalice bearers Randy Cline and this writer, overestimated the wine required for this moderately high Episcopalian Eucharist ceremony. Though a credible and enthusiastic crowd was in attendance (many from The Kingdome of Raknar), the severe weather kept many more expected guests from attending. To the amusement of most in attendance Randy, Father Moss and I spent much post nuptial time consuming the remaining consecrated wine as there was no sacred well. That mission accomplished the challenge was then pursuing and recovering some degree of sobriety. Amen. I don’ think I drank wine for a couple of months following that episode.

Tad, like Mother Beverly (Big Red to some), was a nurse from Greensboro (with Fairfield, Iowa origins). She attended the University of Iowa, Guilford College in Greensboro before finally earning her degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Tad eventually earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and her Masters from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. She worked at the VA Hospital in Michigan and later transferred to the VA Hospital in Johnson City, Tennessee in 1990 where she was involved in Nursing Education and performed admirably as an adjunct professor at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.

Tad loved life and all her Friends. Her allegiance never wavered and she held all around her to a higher standard. The ever captivating Tad was also known to close Friends (and even herself) as “Tadpole” a name given by Mike; borrowed from his Father’s pet name for Mike’s sister. Though her pain was at times excruciating, Tad always maintained her composure and dignity and was always first thinking of others and their health and well being.

Tad along with piper husband Mike were active in several Scottish Clan organizations to include Tad’s own Clan Fraser, Mike’s Clans Gunn and Keith and the legendary Kingdome of Räknar - that Scots-Norse Family where both held iconic status, Lady of the Kingdome Tad as the Countess of Calm and Mike as Duke Olaf of Unicoi, High Constable of Erwin. Tad was especially proud of her status as a Lady of the Regiment for the 78th Fraser Highlanders, New Inverness Garrison. The Gentlemen and Ladies of The Regiment adored her. Tad never veered from her unabiding love of Mother Scotland always proclaiming that she would someday retire to the auld sod.

Tad was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) of Greensboro, NC and, interestingly, the Towne Family Association. Her interest in history and genealogy found her a descendant of William and Joanna (Blessing) Towne who came to America from Great Yarmouth, England and settled in Salem Village around 1635. Three of William and Joanna's daughters, Rebecca (Nurse), Mary (Esty) and Sarah (Cloyse) were all victims of the Salem Village Witchcraft Trials in 1692. Rebecca and Mary were executed (hung not burned as is often erroneously reported). The witchcraft trials ended nine months after they began when the Colonial Courts recognized the hysteria and their grave error in the execution of these and other innocent citizens. The 1985 PBS airing of Three Sovereigns for Sarah which chronicled this tragedy, opened another door for Tad and I. It seems that one of the original complainants that started that mess was one of my not so august ancestors, John Buxton. We both recognized that sinister part of our nation’s history (lest we forget) though Tad would take an occasional jab at this writer by reminding me (with a faux stern gaze) that one my ancestors had hung one of hers. And so it went.

Mike and Tad lived in a cabin in a hollow surrounded by tall trees near the top of Spivey Mountain at around 3,500 feet in elevation in Erwin, Tennessee where their most frequent guests were some feral cats, raccoons and several black bears that developed an affection for cat food though still respected the sanctity of the Sims/Wilson home. Tad always joked about their lack of a view, stating that they preferred to be, “part of the scenery.” Indeed, they were part of the flora and fauna of a very special place. They were able to find solace in the peace and quiet of the east Tennessee mountains where this very computer literate pair rejected computers, cell phones and to the frustration of this writer, even telephone answering devices. Their one concession was their TV and VCR where they could watch special programming and movies like the Scots classic, The Blood is Strong which they gfted me. Mike and Tad were in control of their environment though their spring-fed cistern and front yard stream were their only sources of water and would occasionally remind them that they needed to keep civilization close by. A full blown drought or even a dry summer meant shorter showers and a trip down the mountain to do laundry.

Oh, I will miss our regular and entertaining conversations punctuated by Tad’s always sage counsel and her incredible sense of humor. I will forever remember her deep and sincere laugh that was the reward of a joke well told or just plain celebratory gusto. Mike always made her laugh often and well. Tad was a fearless egalitarian who loved life and made us all the better by her participation in this great exercise. Tad and Mike helped shape me, my ideas and attitudes, methinks all for the better.

As many of you are aware the Buxton Family lost our Matriarch, Ellen Buxton Salander on December 23rd, so an already anxious time for us and me personally was heightened (understatement) with Tad’s passing. In addition a recent small flood made part of my home uninhabitable and limited my time in Richardson. Fed Ex had been trying to deliver a package for a couple of weeks and I arranged to pick it up today (1-10-09). I went to Fed Ex, asked who it was from and was told – yep – Patricia Sims. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Tad would have really appreciated that irony and timing and may well have choreographed the whole scenario. I immediately called Mike and thanked him for his great Friendship and the gift of an absolutely beautiful gift basket with lots of quality chocolate, cheese, crackers and two really good bottles of Chardonnay and Merlot. The note read, “Have a Blessed Merry Christmas! Much Love, Tadpole & Mikey.” Would that I could share it with them… True to form Mike called back about an hour later asking if I was OK...

While I grieve over the loss of this exceptional Lady, I do celebrate a precious person and a life well lived. I dedicate this blog to her memory and hope that I can capture her matchless spirit, embrace her example and legacy and do her justice. My love and sincere condolences are extended to Beverly, Mike and Charlie and all her Friends and to those unfortunates who didn't get the chance to meet her.

So what do we do from this point? We need to reject Auden and dare not stop all the clocks, silence the pianos or muffle the drums. Instead we will unleash the great Highland pipes and drums and play them loudly and long. Tad like John Gillespie Magee, Jr. has slipped the surly bonds of earth and is enjoying endless pleasures, a reward for her good deeds. She dances, laughs, soars and chases the wind. “And, while with silent lifting mind she trods the high untrespassed sanctity of space, puts out her hand, and touches the face of God.”

Well done, Tad. Sleep well...

Love, Aye


Tuesday, January 6, 2009


It would appear that at least some State of Illinois Democrats are trying to shoot themselves in their private parts given their unprecedented delay of the impeachment of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. No, this isn’t another Duke Lacrosse case, rather a situation where Blagojevich was apparently caught with his hand (please, smile) in the cookie jar.

It’s unfortunate that some of the details of conversations Blagojevich is alleged to have had with at least one representative of a potential senatorial suitor were made public. They are, however, apparently just the tip of the iceberg of the evidence contained on the many audio tapes that constitute a preponderance of first hand (not hearsay) evidence that allegedly outs Blagojevich as an influence peddling, corrupt politician. The fact that Blagojevich has never denied making the statements does it for me. While it isn’t pretty, I really don’t see a lynch mob mentality here. The legal question becomes - is saying and using bad judgement the same as doing? The Governor's words appear to be bad enough to question his integrity as the top office holder in the State of Illinois.

To many he is now a disgraced caricature of a corrupt politician (“Mr. Unpopularity”) who can only say that he did nothing illegal. I guess that by Illinois standards this pales besides the Chicago Land political shenanigans of the previous century. Apparently Blagojevich has nothing to do now except stir the pot. He will probably have nowhere to go (except jail) if a jury of his peers finds him guilty.

We need to be fair and note that knowing that he had been under investigation for corruption charges for going on three years, Governor Blagojevich even issued an invitation, "I should say if anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it.” He continued, "Whether you tape me privately or publicly, I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful and the things I'm interested in are always lawful." Is this an exercise of Nixonian arrogance or truth? We shall see…

There is no doubt that he will find little solace with his constituency given that his ratings are lower even than those of President Bush who along with most other Republicans of national note are mostly keeping their heads down while laughing out loud in their wash rooms. One recent Chicago Tribune poll reflected a 71% disapproval rating by Illinois voters. reported only a 7% approval rating after the recent allegations were made against Governor Blagojevich.

Then in the middle of this whole mess Governor Rod Blagojevich named 71 year old former Illinois Attorney General Roland “Trail Blazer” Burris, the first African American to win statewide office in 1978, to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the US Senate. This not so surprising move came after state and national Democratic leaders criticized the prospect of Blagojevich proceeding with any appointment process. Most notable of those in protest were Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois (D) accompanied by all of the Senate’s Democratic Leadership.

Blagojevich’s latest delusional attempt to deflect from his own alleged peccadilloes is laughable and needs the immediate attention of the national Democratic hierarchy to right their ship. Their problems and challenges are legion. US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) comments in last Sunday’s Meet the Press (1/4/2009) demonstrated a strong Democrat Party resolve and his strong desire to block the Blagojevich nomination and quickly move to insure legitimate representation for the state of Illinois. It’s politics folks and this wind will soon shift direction. Even as of this writing negotiations continue that will guarantee Burris' seating.

Comes now the less than articulate U.S. Representative Bobby Rush, (D) from Chicago and former Black Panther who played the race card in recent public and mumbling statements by likening critics to the Blagojevich-Burris appointment to former segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace, who fought school integration in that state?

In an absolutely absurd and obscene statement Rush stated “The recent history of our nation has shown us that, sometimes, there can be individuals and there can be situations where school -- where you have officials standing in the doorway of schoolchildren.”

His reasoning is that since the U.S. Senate doesn’t have any Black members he didn’t believe that anyone would want to go on record opposing Burris?

In a fit of OJitis the sadly comical and racist Rush would have us accept this heinous appointment for no other reason than Burris is Black no matter the circumstances of the appointment. Rush would have you believe once more that the end will justify the means, however sinister. Sadly, several other African American representatives espoused a similar tact. Thankfully, many more African Americans including President elect Obama have opposed the appointment.

On a personal note, though I anguished long and hard, I voted for Barack Obama because I felt that he was and is the best candidate for The Country, at this time. I didn’t vote for him because he was from a particular racial or cultural group. Many of my Republican Friends who did likewise feel the same way.

Even with these extraordinary circumstances it would appear that many Illinois Democrats are now shying away from a special election because they are now afraid of losing that seat to the Republicans. So much for democracy…

On Monday Burris in an exercise of unprecedented and grandiose political theater and characterizing himself as the “Junior Senator from the State of Illinois,” presented himself to Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson who predictably and politely rejected his certification. Burris with an entourage of policeman, staff, and media from all corners of the world then held a news conference and declared, "I am a United States Senator. They can't stop me from doing my senatorial duties." Of course, he is not a Senator and will not be until he is administered the oath of office. On Sunday in a show of Christian bravado Burris invoked the Almighty, "We are hoping and praying that they will not be able to deny what the Lord has ordained." Geees!

Of course, the Lord didn’t ordain Burris’ appointment, Blagojevich did. While Burris has been cordially treated, his appointer has not. It appears to this writer that Burris will probably be seated on technical grounds though the motivation for his appointment remains highly suspect, even foul. Blagojevich played to the egocentric Burris who would appear to be looking for some more creative and impressive credentials for his memorial in Chicago's Oak Woods Cemetery. All under the great seal of the state of Illinois, Burris has listed his accomplishments and has apparently left room for United States Senator. Wonder if they can erase the Illinois seal and replace it with the great seal of the United States of America?

But back to the Guvner… Most of the reactions against Blagojevich and his senate appointment have been less than subtle and not cordial at all. One anonymous blogger stated, “I have no words for the fact that this arrogant shit for the ages went ahead and made this appointment with the ink not yet dry on his complaints for conspiracy, fraud and soliciting bribes. It goes beyond hypocrisy and greed into delusional alternate reality.” Steve Brown, Spokesman for Blagojevich political foe and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan (D) maintains, "It (the appointment) hasn't happened. That's only happened in some dark corner of the governor's mind.”

I disagree and give the embattled Governor Blagojevich more credit than that. However undisciplined he may be I believe that this is a carefully crafted strategy (perhaps even a bad joke?) and that Blagojevich is having a ball. He is in his element stirring the pot once again with an ever increasing fervor. Blagojevich has lived a life characterized by confrontation.

One Illinois voter recently classified Blagojevich as a “Narcissistic, sociopathic, remorseless bully.” I say from afar that he appears to be an egomaniac that thrives on attention of any type and is flipping off those who don’t cop to his agenda or point of view. What’s worse? The even more delusional and smiling pseudo appointee Roland Burris who is now circling the high eccentric former planet Pluto. Talk about fantasies… Why in God’s name would anyone want a representative who would accept an appointment under these circumstances? Just ask US. Rep. Danny Davis, an African American Congressman from Chicago who declined Blagojevich’s first offer.

Let Blagojveich have his fun and his day in court. While it may get expensive, the People of Illinois will probably have the last laugh…


Ned Buxton