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The Great Possum-Squashing and Beer Storm of 1962: Reflections on the Remains of My Country Paperback – December 5, 2000
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"Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It"
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About the Author
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After the war I lived as a navy brat here and there--San Diego, Mississippi, the Virginia suburbs of Washington, Alabama, what have you, and briefly in Farmville, Virginia, while my father went on active duty for the Korean War as an artillery spotter. I was an absorptive and voracious reader, a terrible student, and had by age eleven an eye for elevation and windage with a BB gun that would have awed a missile engineer. I was also was a bit of a mad scientist. For example, I think I was ten when I discovered the formula for thermite in the Britannica at Athens College in Athens, Alabama, stole the ingredients from the college chemistry laboratory, and ignited a mound of perfectly adequate thermite in the prize frying pan of the mother of my friend Perry, whose father
was the college president. The resulting six-inch hole in the frying pan was hard to explain.
I went to high school in King George County, Virginia, while living aboard Dahlgren Naval Weapons Laboratory (my father was always a weapons-development sort of mathematician, although civilian by this time), where I was the kid other kids weren't supposed to play with. I spent my time canoeing, shooting, drinking unwise but memorable amounts of beer with the local country boys, attempting to be a French rake with only indifferent success, and driving in a manner that, if you are a country boy, I don't have to describe, and if you aren't, you wouldn't believe anyway. I remember trying to explain to my father why his station wagon was upside down at three in the morning after I had flipped it at seventy on a hairpin turn that would have intimidated an Alpine goat.
As usual I was a woeful student--if my friend Butch and I hadn't found the mimeograph stencil for the senior Government exam in the school's Dempster Dumpster, I wouldn't have graduated--but was a National Merit Finalist.
After two years at Hampden-Sydney, where I worked on a split major in chemistry and biology with an eye to oceanography, I was bored. After spending the summer thumbing across the continent and down into Mexico, hopping freight trains up and down the eastern seaboard, and generally confusing myself with Jack Kerouac, I enlisted in the Marines, in the belief that it would be more interesting than stirring unpleasant glops in laboratories and pulling apart innocent frogs. It was. On returning from Vietnam with a lot of stories, as well as a Purple Heart and more shrapnel in my eyes than I really wanted, I graduated from Hampden-Sydney with lousy grades and a bachelor-of-science degree with a major in history and a minor in computers. Really. My GREs were in the 99th percentile.
The years from 1970 to 1973 I spent in largely disreputable pursuits, a variety that has always come naturally to me. I wandered around Europe, Asia, and Mexico, and acquired the usual stock of implausible but true stories about odd back alleys and odder people.
When the 1973 war broke out in the Mid-East, I decided I ought to do something respectable, thought that journalism was, and told the editor of my 327
home-town paper, "Hi! I want to be a war correspondent." This was a sufficiently damn-fool thing to do that he let me go, probably to see what would happen. Writing, it turned out, was the only thing I was good for. Using my clips from Israel, I argued to the editors of Army Times that they needed my services to cover the war in Vietnam. They too let me do it. Editorial bad judgement is a valuable resource.
I spent the last year of the war between Phnom Penh and Saigon, leaving each with the evacuation. Those were heady days in which I lived in slums that would have horrified a New York alley cat, but they appealed to the Steinbeck in me, of which there is a lot. After the fall of Saigon I returned to Asia, resumed residence for six months in my old haunts in Taipei, and studied Chinese while waiting for the next war, which didn't come. Returning overland, I took up a career of magazine free-lancing, a colorful route to starvation, with stints on various staffs interspersed. For a year I worked in Boulder, Colorado, on the staff of Soldier of Fortune magazine, half zoo and half asylum, with the intention of writing a book about it. Publishing houses said, yes, Fred, this is great stuff, but you are obviously making it up. I wasn't. Playboy eventually published it, making me extremely persona non grata at Soldier of Fortune.
Having gotten married somewhere along the way, I am now the happily divorced father of the World's Finest Daughters. Until recently I worked as, among other things, a law-enforcement columnist for theWashington Times. It allowed me to take trips to big cities and to ride around in police cars with the siren going woowoowoo and kick in doors of drug dealers. Recently I changed the column from law enforcement to technology, and now live in Mexico in Jocotopec, near Guadalajara, having found burros preferable to bureaus. I now share my existence with Violeta Gonzales, who was what God had in mind when he created women but just hadn't quite perfected the idea until recently.
My hobbies are crawling South America, scuba, listening to blues, swing-dancing in dirt bars, associating with colorful maniacs, and writing seditious columns.
My principal accomplishment in life, aside from my children, is the discovery that it is possible to jitterbug to the Brandenburgs.
Top Customer Reviews
Fred Reed's collection of columns has a way of politely tapping you on the shoulder, saying "Excuse me, but would you look at that?" and then scooping you up into an entertaining, mind-nudging look at how the social re-engineering of America affects us all on a daily basis. These are serious topics presented with such enthusiasm, humor, and clarity that even the most politically apathetic or under-informed reader can't help but smile and mumble "Well, that's the damned truth!"
I bought one for myself and two for friends who also wonder why we might be perceived as P.I. for working hard, opening doors each other, and enjoying gender differences. This is the stuff that the vast majority of us admit to each other. Finally seeing it in print is validating and exciting!
And after you've read it, you can give it to the neighborhood feminist and then take bets on how far she'll be able to read before going into anaphylactic shock.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Reed is exactly who he is, nothing more, nothing less. His honesty and morally slanted insights make sense. Fun read.Published 1 month ago by James S. Reed
It was even better than I expected. Great articles on subjects covered as only Fred Reed can cover them.Published 18 months ago by Robert D. Hepburn
This is a collection of Fred's early newspaper columns. As always Fred is irreverent and un-PC. My kinda guy. Great reading.Published 21 months ago by Henry F. Smith
Wry and insightful Nockian take on where we are in the U.S. and where we might well be headed.
Interesting analyses of what we've lost by becoming too crowded together and too... Read more
Fred, Love the viewpoint from a man who was once on the inside but now outside looking elsewhere for the truth somewhere. Read morePublished on February 15, 2013 by John Focer
It seems like an eternity that I have been reading Fred's extremely amusing and frequently enlightening Fred on Everything online essays. Read morePublished on September 10, 2012 by The Pompous Git
"The Great Possum Squashing" didn't have any connection to actual possums. But it was an interesting and at times hilarious treatise on the observations of Fred Reed. Read morePublished on June 25, 2012 by Clever Glever