by Randy Reynolds (written 1/26/11) 

My mother's brother, Ensign Bobby Cecil Appling was the first official “rocket scientist” in our family. Bobby wanted to be a fighter pilot, but flying made him dizzy and he became a rocket scientist instead.

We've had lots of other military men in the family--though, to be honest--not that many "rocket scientists." ...........................

General Zachary Taylor, (related to both my father's and my mother's clans,) was the hero of the Mexican War, became President and died in the White House after overeating in July, 1850. My mother's ancestor Colonel Daniel Appling, (for whom a county was named in Georgia,) was a hero of the War of 1812. Other kinfolk fought in the Civil War, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan. ..........

But this is not about them. This is about me and why I didn’t serve.
There was never any question about whether I believed in the war. If the U.S. was in it, I was for it. I believed in Johnson. I believed in Nixon. I believed we had to fight in Vietnam or we'd be fighting "over here." .................

When I was a teenager Lyndon Johnson bombed North Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin "incident." As my dad and I listened to news of the attacks on the car radio, Dad predicted "We'll bomb them back to the stone age. This war won't last two weeks." This concerned me greatly because I didn't want it to end before I was old enough to fight.

Not to worry. It was still going strong when I turned 18. But I didn't volunteer because I had one little problem: military physicals required blood tests; and though I fancied myself to be unafraid of bullets, bombs and the Vietcong, I was deathly afraid of needles. ......

When the nurses came to Lee Road School to give polio shots the last year before we started getting our vaccine on sugar cubes, I got lucky: they didn't call my name. I was sitting in Mr. McKee's History class reflecting on my good fortune when Beverly McClain (who was always so theatrical) came back from the nurse's station rubbing her arm. I fainted dead away and fell out of my desk. Mr. McKee picked me up and carried me to the teacher's lounge where the smoke gradually brought me back to consciousness.
I was so scared of needles that I refused to enter the doctor's office when my fiancee and I went to get the blood tests required for a marriage license. As Sherry was getting stuck, the doctor asked who the lucky man was. She said, “Randy Reynolds.” He said, “Oh, I know him. He doesn’t need a VD test.” And he signed the papers verifying that I passed the test. .....................

I accepted his help avoiding the needle and I got married and didn’t go to Vietnam and we lost the war. ........

Ps. I became a hero anyway--at least to the nine grandchildren who eagerly watch me stick my finger with a needle to draw a drop of blood, which I have to do each morning before my first cup of hazelnut coffee. .........
And now I'm a "rocket scientist," too--at least to these nine, who think I have all the answers. (And who am I to tell them any different? ).......................................

return to: http://reynoldswriter.blogspot.com/


by Randy Reynolds

Highway 23 north of Gainesville,Georgia, seems more remote than it actually is for a nighttime driver in 1942.  In the small civilization at Rabbittown some folks have electricity and the convenience of porch lights. Further along, in the less electrified community around Springway Baptist Church about the only light a driver encounters is from passing traffic and that is sparse in these gas-rationing days of World War II.  
........Rounding a curve hidden from the longer stretch of road by a bluff, the driver sees the girl for a split second as he passes. Simultaneous with man-chemicals flooding his brain and clouding his judgment, he hits the brakes and manhandles the Chevy Coupe to a screeching stop. He angles his rear-view mirror to see if there's anyone else around and sees no one but the girl, back-lit by moonlight, more enticing now than at first glance.

He twists in his seat, straining for a direct view through the small rear window.  Her hair, which he is sure is beautiful, is obscured by a headscarf.  Her makeup is gaudy, and that’s a good sign—it marks her as the kind of woman he wants her to be.  He says aloud, “Look at those jugs!”—little realizing that they ARE jugs on a boy’s body, braced beneath the billowing blouse.

As the “girl” hikes the skirt to mid-thigh, the driver jerks the gear into reverse and passionately works the clutch and accelerator. The car fishtails backward and he leaps out to grab this dream come true.  “She” jumps the ditch, with him in hot pursuit. “She”  climbs the slope and he follows. “She”  enters the kudzu field just barely out of his reach.

Like some big bad wolf in a fable, he intends to catch this sweet young thing. When “she” discards the jugs in the heat of the chase, he realizes he's been tricked.  Anger replaces lust and he keeps up the chase.

This boy with the pretty face whose sister and a friend had a blast dressing him in a woman's clothes, jewelry and enough make-up to embarrass Jezebel, thinks the big old grunting, yelling, cursing man is going to give up at any moment, but he doesn't. Scared now, the jokester races desperately across the kudzu field, through a patch of woods, across a rutted road and into a cotton field, trying to make it to the safety of his grandmother's house. 

She hears them coming, grabs her straw broom for a weapon and opens the door. Her grandson, in skirt and blouse, rushes past her.

Any other grandmother might have asked, “Why are you dressed like that?” or “What’s going on here?” But Gene Reynolds’ grandmother doesn’t need to. She knows about the jokes he plays on unsuspecting drivers on Highway 23, how he or his friend Joel Taylor sometimes dresses like a girl and flags down cars while other youngsters watch from across the road, giggling behind their hands; and how the boys sometimes place a purse filled with the absolute freshest available cow dung in the middle of the highway to lure some driver into stopping to pick it up and drive off with it, leaving the farm boys of Highway 23 laughing so hard their stomachs hurt while taking turns enacting the poor sucker’s probable reaction to sticking his hand inside the purse while driving.

Grandmother Chesty Reynolds is a gentle soul about most things, but she can summon unexpected fierceness when protecting her brood. 

“Get on out of here and leave this boy alone,” she says to the gasping man in her yard.

He points at Gene, smiling in the doorway.  “But she—he—you don’t understand, Miz Reynolds—he was on the highway dressed like a—“

No big bad wolf is going to touch her precious grand-young’un, son of her eldest son, no matter what had happened down yonder on the highway. Grandmother Reynolds raises her broom and takes a step forward, like shooing chickens out of her rock garden.  She does it twice before the big bad wolf turns on his heel and retraces his steps through the cotton patch, the woods and the kudzu field to the main highway where his car should still be idling if Gene’s friends haven’t driven it off somewhere and hidden it.


By Randy Reynolds

 I don’t know if Mr. Landry had a hangover or what, but he obviously didn’t feel like teaching American History that day in the Spring of 1967 when he burst into his Covington High classroom and said, “I want each of you to write down your one-year, five-year and ten-year goals and I don’t want to hear a peep from anybody.”

Without further clarification, he settled down behind his desk and tuned us out.

I knew nothing then about the powerful magic of goal-setting, so I had to wing it.

One year goal?  That was easy.  “Marry Sherry.”

Five year goal?  My God, five years is an eternity!  Who knows what they’ll be doing five years from now?  Oh, well, there’s no right or wrong.  Just gotta write something down.  Anything.  How about TV Anchorman?  Yeah, that’s good.  “TV Anchorman.”

Ten year goal?  Now that’s absurd! How am I supposed to imagine ten years from now? I’ll be middle-aged if I’m still around.

I looked at the paper of the girl beside me—one of the Ridgeway blondes—but she covered up her answer.  I wondered if she’d still be blonde ten years from now, or would her hair be turning brown or gray by then?

I beat my eraser against my desk, waiting for a thought to enter my head… and it did!  Like the scene from Ghostbusters (17 years later) when the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man popped into Dan Akroyd’s head, the future me popped into my head:  Novel!  Ten years from now, I would “Write a novel!”

Writing a novel is no big deal.  Anyone can write a novel.  What I really wanted was to be rich and famous, so I shouldn’t have written that goal as merely “Write a novel.”  I should have phrased it as “Write a bestseller.”  Or at the very least, “Publish a novel.”  But at that time I knew nothing about the magic of goal-setting, so I left it at “Write A Novel.”

Assignment completed. Now back to contemplating what that secretive Ridgeway girl was writing on her paper.

Two years later, my one year and five year goals had been accomplished—I had married my high school girlfriend and I was a TV Anchorman.

I went  from that Covington High School history classroom of 1967 to the anchor desk of WJXT-TV  in Jacksonville, Florida  in 1969 with no education, no training, just –bam!—I was a teenaged radio reporter, got caught up in a big-city riot and someone liked my reporting and gave me a little part-time TV job and somebody liked the way I did that and—bam again!—they promoted me to fulltime weekday reporter and weekend anchor; not just anchor but also Weekend Assignment Editor, responsible for four 30 minute newscasts per weekend with a staff of twelve.

If I’d known more about the magic of goal-setting, I would have written that goal that day in Mr. Landry’s class as:  “become a HIGHLY PAID TV ANCHORMAN”  because I had achieved the goal, but the pay was low and it was hard to make ends meet.

Similarly the ten year goal that I had pulled out of thin air should have been more complete:  the goal was “Write a novel.”  And so I did. Several, in fact:   A BAD CASE OF SUICIDE, THE GHOSTS OF FOUNTAINBLEAU, ROCK JOCK, THE ELVIS SYNDROME, “ THROW ME SOMETHING, MISTER”  and several others.  You won’t find them in your local library or down at Books-A-Million. They didn’t get that far.  Each one received one or two rejection slips and now they’re stashed away, but come clean my closet so that we can get to them and I’ll let you read them.

The goal should have been: “Write a bestseller.”  Or, at the very least: “Publish a novel.”

But, no, that’s not the goal I set.  I knew nothing about goal-setting and so I just wrote for my ten year goal: Write a novel.

Now that I know more about the magic of goal-setting, I’m going to give myself a re-do on at least one of those 1967 goals.  Not the one about marrying the girl.  I got that one right the first time. Nor the one about being an anchorman--been there, done that, too. But the novel thing--maybe I'll word it a little better, as in "Write a #1 Best-Selling Novel," and then work as hard as I did on the early ones and see what happens. 

Sherry Reynolds and Jimmy Carter taught me a few things about goal-setting…


by Randy Reynolds

“The number one thing we need in a salesperson is looks—we want a sales force of good-looking women,” said the Harvard MBA that a Bear-Sterns-financed group called Opus sent to run the multiple radio stations they bought in Alexandria, Louisiana, in 2004. 

Although I disagreed, I could see his point. What car dealer or furniture store manager wouldn’t be tempted to invite a drop-dead gorgeous radio sales rep into his office to see what she had to offer?  And once she got her Manolo Blahniks or Christian Louboutins in the door, voila!, she could use her talent and training to close the sale.  That might work. To a limited degree. In the short term.

But my way was better. The number one thing I looked for in a salesperson was the willingness to “Do The Right Thing Everyday. No matter the result, just Do The Right Thing Everyday and the result will eventually take care of itself.”

And the Right Thing, no matter where a salesperson ranked on the 1-to-10 scale of physical beauty, was to be persistent. Do The Right Thing Everyday. Keep trying. Do The Right Thing Everyday.  Never give up. Do The Right Thing Everyday.  Don’t worry about results—the results will take care of themselves if you  Do The Right Thing Everyday.

The best salespeople I’ve ever worked with could never have gotten a foot in the door at a station with Opus’ hiring philosophy—and I mean no disrespect for the young and beautiful for they can be great salespeople, too, if they can Do The Right Thing Everyday.   

The greatest salespeople I’ve ever worked with included the bald and the blind, the old and the wrinkled, the overweight and the rumpled, the Abraham Lincoln profile, and the guy that drooled constantly as an after-effect of shooting himself in the head back in the day when he didn’t know that he didn’t have to worry every day about success and failure, immediate results, temporary setbacks, and goals that were beyond his control.  He would never have fired that shot into his own brain if he’d just known to Do The Right Thing Everyday and let the results take care of themselves.

His name was Henry.  Luckily for Henry, I wasn’t committed to hiring just young, beautiful women.  I hired Henry and gave him a track to run on that required nothing more than to Do The Right Thing Everyday. I helped him keep his focus on that and eventually great results came cascading in!

Epilogue: My disagreement with the Opus hiring plan mattered little because, unbeknownst to me, my ticket out the door had already been punched, with my salary slated to return to the bottom line.  When the boss-to-be broke that news to me in a late night phone call saying, ("Paying your salary is not part of our business model so don't come to work tomorrow"), I didn’t know what I would do next, but I was confident that if I did the Right Thing Every Day, the result would take care of itself.