Have we forgotten that the police were the chief enforcers of segregation at the height of the civil rights movement 50 years ago? They weren’t very nice about it. Arrests, beatings, even murder were the order of the day.

Could anyone forget Bull Connor and his dogs? Three civil rights workers were killed in Mississippi and six Neshoba County Deputy Sheriffs were convicted of their killing. Or rather they were convicted on federal charges of violating the civil rights of the three after local and state officials refused to try them.

Times have changed. Segregation laws are gone from the books. Sit-ins and Freedom Rides are long gone. Race relations have never been better.

But now events in Ferguson remind us we still have a long way to go. The police in Ferguson act as if nothing has changed in 50 years. They concentrate more on keeping blacks in their “place” rather than performing normal police duties. Their response to mostly peaceful protest has been totally out of place. There is no justification for riot gear, smoke grenades, and rubber bullets under the circumstances. The only riot has been a police riot.

Attorney General Eric Holder must have talked some sense to the authorities in Missouri. The police seem to be quieting down now. But it will be a long time before this is over


copyright Robert C Hargreaves

More Drug Rehab


Gary was different from the others in the drug rehab center. Unlike the others he wasn’t an addict himself. He was referred for drug possession but was actually a dealer. I suspected he stayed in the program to hide from other dealers who were after him.

He was educated and didn’t need my services, but came to my class anyway for something to do. He helped with the other students.

When he learned I was a chicken doctor he told of his weekly visits to the bank to deposit a big roll of cash. “Where did you get all this cash?” the teller asked. He leaned over the counter and whispered “Chickens!”

copyright Robert C Hargreaves

The Dash Diet

Recent trials at Penn State University found that using the DASH diet including meat was heart healthy and useful in controlling blood pressure. “This evidence suggests that it is the total protein intake, not the type of protein, that is instrumental in reducing blood pressure as part of a DASH -like dietary pattern”, the researchers said. DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Developed by the National Institute of Health and recommended by the American Heart Association, it includes:

* whole grains (6 to 8 servings a day)

*vegetables (4 to 5 servings a day)

*fruits (4 to 5 servings a day

*low fat or fat free dairy products (2 to 3 servings a day)

*lean meats, poultry and fish (6 or fewer servings a day) *nuts, seeds and beans (4 to 5 servings a week)

*fats and oils (2 to 3 servings a day)

*sweets, preferably low fat or fat free (5 or fewer a week) *sodium (no more than 2,300 mg a day)

Bon apetit!

copyright Robert C Hargreaves

Lessons in Learning


I majored in Agricultural Education, but I learned more about teaching in he U.S. Army Reserves than I ever did in school. We met two hours a week for instruction and everyone took turns teaching.

The most popular instructors just told jokes and old war stories. Lesson one: Use jokes and stories to keep your students’ attention.

When my turn to teach came I ran through an hours’ lesson in thirty minutes. No one cared – they just filled in with jokes and old war stories. Lesson two: always prepare more material than you expect to use.

More lessons: stay connected with the class and check for feedback.

Everyone was supposed to file a written lesson plan, but no one ever did. Because of my major I was assigned the task of straightening out the lesson files. They didn’t need to be used, just on file for inspections. By the time I finished I was a pro at both preparing lessons and presenting them.

copyright Robert C Hargreaves

The Weekend Warrior


As I entered high school in 1953 there was a 50 per cent chance of being drafted into the military after I graduated, even with no war on the horizon. No one could have foreseen that the draft begun in World War II would continue for another 30 years through the Cold War, Korea, and Vietnam. By the 1950s it already seemed to be a permanent fixture on the American scene.

There were college deferments, but that was just putting it off. They didn’t draft you if you got married, but I didn’t have any near prospects for that. Towards the end of the Korean War the army got so desperate for soldiers they were cancelling college deferments and drafting people right out of college. My uncle Richard got drafted out of graduate school. The war ended before he had to fight, but he was still in for a miserable two years at Fort Ord.
Another alternative was to join the Army Reserves. That meant six months of active duty in the army, three and one half years going to weekly two-hour training sessions, two weeks summer camp each year, then four more years on standby, when you could still be called up but didn’t have to do anything.

That sounded the least disruptive to my own plans. In my junior year in high school in 1956, I joined a military government company in San Bernardino, CA. Their mission was to restore law and order in occupied countries, get the garbage picked up, and get a civilian government running again. I was assigned as a clerk-typist. That summer, we went to a two-week summer camp at Camp Roberts, near San Luis Obispo, CA. We got some training in the use of firearms, but most of the two weeks was spent in the classroom studying about the government. Use of the “f” word was everywhere. At the end of camp, my captain came over, put his arm around me and said, “Now remember, when you get home, stop saying, ‘Pass the fucking butter.’ ”
I returned from summer camp to a new home in Bakersfield, CA, where my father had just got a job with the Kern County Agricultural Commissioner. I transferred to an engineering company in Bakersfield that built Bailey bridges, prefabricated bridges that could be built at the battlefront and pushed across a river in two hours or less. The company had a model set of all the parts and we practiced putting it together. We called it our “tinkertoy set.” We had to learn the names of all the parts, where they went, how much each weighed, and how many men it took to carry it. Half the people in our company were oilfield workers and I picked up a lot of their jargon about mud, slantstock drilling, etc. Our captain was an oilfield engineer with a disfigured face from an oilfield fire.
When I graduated from high school in 1957, I went to Fort Ord for my six months’ active duty. The first eight weeks were basic training in how to use a rifle, bayonet, etc. They tried to get me in physical shape too, but that was a lost cause. I had never been good at sports and eight weeks wasn’t going to make up for it. I couldn’t even throw a hand grenade far enough to avoid getting hit by the blast myself.
At the end of the eight weeks, there was a big graduation ceremony where we were presented for inspection on the parade ground. Before the ceremony the sergeant sent me with five others on a detail to brigade headquarters. When we got there, we were told they didn’t know anything about a detail. The rest of the guys immediately took off, but I hung around for a couple of hours before it dawned on me that we were all misfits they didn’t want at the ceremony—the “Beetle Baileys.”
For the rest of the six months, I was assigned to the Quartermaster Corps for training as a clerk-typist. But there I was told they didn’t need any clerk-typists and was put to work stocking shelves in the commissary, the base grocery store.
I soon learned that the army used the Quartermaster Corps as a place for misfits; that and cooks. Cooks didn’t have to attend daily inspections because of their hours, and didn’t usually carry a rifle. The army has better ways to deal with Beetle Bailey than beating him up. They offered to make a cook out of me but I turned them down.
The quartermaster unit I was assigned to was full of interesting characters. One had gone through a six-month course to be a jeep mechanic, but now he was assigned to sewing up pillows. Another had lost most of his left heel in an accident. He requested a discharge but was turned down. His official duty was in graves registration, but with no new graves to register he was put to work putting together footlockers.
The six months was soon up and I was back in Bakersfield. I started at Bakersfield College in 1958 and was back in my Bailey bridge outfit. That summer we built a real bridge at Camp Roberts. It took us two days to do it. We did better the second time.
Then the army changed tactics to smaller, more mobile units using helicopters, and decided they didn’t need Bailey bridges anymore. We were changed to an engineer construction company and taught how to build roads. They also spent some time teaching demolitions (blowing up things). That summer, we built a road at Camp Roberts and I was made a dump truck driver.
In the spring of 1960, I transferred to U.C. Davis and changed reserve units once more. The only army reserve unit in Davis was an infantry company, commanded by a young veterinarian in private practice, Dr. George West. Dr. West later went to work for the state, and was in Sacramento most of the time I worked for the state. I was still officially a clerk-typist, even though I had never done any clerking or typing. I was majoring in agricultural education, so Dr. West assigned me the task of straightening out their training records and lesson plans. There was supposed to be a lesson plan on file for everything taught at our meetings. Most of the instructors didn’t bother using a lesson plan, though, and those who did use one didn’t do a very good job. I kept busy writing new lesson plans. It didn’t matter if they were used or not; they just needed to look good for inspections. I did get my turn at instructing, and learned what a real lesson plan was supposed to do.
The training sessions were changed from two hours a week to one eight-hour session a month on Saturdays, and we were dubbed “weekend warriors.” They were still talking about the time before I arrived when the company took some blank ammunition home from summer camp to use in their training sessions at Davis. Someone cut loose with a machine gun blast just as a Greyhound bus came around the bend. The terrified bus driver called the sheriff, and the company had a lot of explaining to do.
The next summer camp, in 1960, was combat training. We were sent off with a map and a compass and told to find our way back. An airplane bombed us with flour sacks while we were traveling in convoy. Umpires designated who had died. We dug foxholes and slept in them. For the grand finale, another unit came charging up the hill firing blanks at us while we fired back. One person got carried away and started throwing rocks. Then we all loaded up on the buses and headed back to Davis.
My four years in the active reserves were up at Davis, and I stopped going to training sessions. I still had four more years in standby but forgot all about it. My enlistment finished in 1964. Employers began asking for proof of discharge, but when I inquired about it I was told there had been a fire at their records center, and they had no record of my ever having been in the army! I sent them copies of my own records. A year later, they said they had found my records at another location. I finally got my discharge papers in Saigon, where I was helping Vietnamese raise chickens.

copyright Robert C Hargreaves


Stem Cells

Robert C Hargreaves



I volunteered to be a guinea pig in a heart stem cell study, referred by my new heart doctor after a heart attack a year ago in December.

What a fright that was! I woke in the middle of the night to crushing pain in my chest. I couldn’t even sit up. Fortunately my phone was right there and I called 911. They rushed me to the hospital, but the hospital was full. They put me on a gurney in the hall for several hours before they could get to me. The hall was lined with other patients waiting to get in. When my turn finally came, they sent me in for x-rays and further tests before they started treatment.

When I woke the next afternoon they informed me that both coronary arteries were plugged up and my heart wasn’t getting blood. They did the standard ream and clean with a balloon catheter and installed wire mesh stents to keep the arteries open. The pain was gone, but I wasn’t feeling much better. I still couldn’t get out of bed. I rapidly improved and was released two days later. It took a month before I could walk around comfortably, and I still couldn’t lift more than ten pounds.

I had read that stents frequently plugged up again. The opportunity for stem cells looked like just what I needed. I was already familiar with stem cells. As a veterinarian I knew that stem cells were used to treat arthritis in dogs. The procedure can be conducted in the veterinarian’s office using stem cells extracted from the dog’s fat.

The heart stem cell study was proposing to use stem cells to replace the damaged muscle of the heart. They had already conducted a study in dogs and were proposing two studies in people, the first to establish safety and the second for efficacy. I didn’t consider safety much of an issue. The study didn’t use embryonic stem cells. Instead, they used cells extracted from adult heart muscle.

Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles sent me the five page proposal and two pages to sign agreeing to participate. Then they told me I would have to go through two full days of testing, one week apart, before I could participate in the study. X-rays, cat scans, blood tests, some I had never heard of. They assigned two nurses to accompany and direct me around the huge hospital complex. It was easy to get lost. The ten-story buildings covered two city blocks. I never would have made it without the nurses and my daughter who accompanied me. I was instructed to bring a driver because the tests would incapacitate me. But I got separated from my daughter and couldn’t get her on my cell phone. The walls were lined with lead to protect from x-rays and blocked the cell phone. I finally stepped outside and contacted my daughter again.

After all that, they called and said I was accepted. Could I be there Tuesday at 11 A.M.? I got there early. They thawed out the stem cells, put me under anesthesia, and began the procedure. When they finished and I woke up they told me they weren’t able to inject the stem cells after all. My arteries were clogged up again. They did the ream and clean again, but their protocol said the stem cells couldn’t be used if the coronary arteries were blocked. Even after you unblocked them? Yes even then. That’s what our sponsors say, and they pay the bills. Sorry, we might still get you in later.

I forgot that guinea pigs were disposable.

copyright Robert C Hargreaves

The Wild Ducks of Venice


The city of Venice in Southern California was built around a network of canals that drained into the ocean in imitation of the Italian Venice. No palaces, just ordinary tract homes. Naturally the canals became a magnet for migrating wild ducks. Families started feeding them and many of them became pets. Non-migrating domestic geese were introduced as well.

In the 1980s thousands of ducks and geese in Venice suddenly started dying. Once they got sick they would die in two or three days. The disease was diagnosed as duck plague, a disease that only affects ducks and geese.

This was one case that my department, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, didn’t get involved in, at least at first. The nearest duck farms were fifty miles away and weren’t involved.

The California Department of Fish and Game attempted to depopulate the wild birds in Venice and sent a small army of game wardens to catch and kill them. They used cannons to shoot nets over the birds to catch and kill them. The Venice homeowners were furious and did everything they could to stop the game wardens. Fish and Game shouldn’t have been surprised at the response. They had encountered a similar public uproar when they depopulated wild ducks for duck plague in Northern California a month earlier. Very likely the outbreak in Venice had come from escaped birds from Northern California.

But the outbreak in Northern California had been in public parks and no one could stop Fish and Game. In Venice the homeowners opened their gates to the ducks and geese and refused entry to the wardens. Fish and Game got search warrants, but by then the birds had been spirited away.

A month passed and the disease outbreak was over. All the remaining birds were healthy. The virus in the canal water was gone. The homeowners petitioned Fish and Game to allow their birds back on the canals. But Fish and Game insisted that the remaining birds were potential carriers of the virus and continued insisting that they be depopulated to protect other migrating ducks.

A private veterinarian offered to test the birds to prove they didn’t have the virus, but Fish and Game said they would only accept test results from a state veterinarian. Any unofficial test could be from chickens for all they knew. I was the closest state veterinarian to the secret location in Ridgecrest and was asked to go take blood samples and swabs. Ridgecrest is in the Mojave desert, hundreds of miles from the nearest wild ducks. This would have been an ideal place to quarantine the birds. The place was a horse stable with 300 geese. Geese? I thought it was ducks. Oh, well.

I brought along a crew to help with catching, holding, and wing banding. The wing bands were for individual ID in case we found some positives

I was asked to keep the location a secret, but a secret from whom? Shortly after I arrived a helicopter landed with a news crew from a Los Angeles TV station. They followed my every movement with their cameras. So much for secrecy.

After we spent the morning taking blood samples and swabs, the owner of the stable served a spaghetti lunch in her home. Over lunch the news anchorman peppered me with questions off camera. I tried to explain that I wasn’t with Fish and Game and had nothing to do with the decision to depopulate. I did say that healthy birds can sometimes be carriers and spread the disease. He asked me if I would be willing to speak on camera. I hesitated, but he assured me it would be just the same as what we had already talked about. What a mistake! As soon as I got in front of the camera he hit me with “Why are you trying to kill these poor defenseless birds?”

“I’m not trying to kill anything!”

“I suppose you didn’t chase these birds out of Venice.”

“That’s right.”

He had his teeth in me and wouldn’t let go, so I walked away from the camera, saying, “This isn’t what we agreed to talk about.”

I don’t get LA TV in Bakersfield, but my friends told me I was included on the news. They didn’t say whether it was favorable or not.

Thirty per cent of the geese tested positive and the virus was isolated. These birds were indeed carriers, Typhoid Marys.

The University of California at Davis offered to take the birds for a study. Duck plague wasn’t commonly available to study, and no one knew how long the virus would persist in carriers. Outbreaks of duck plague on the Mississippi River had run the course and disappeared without any depopulation efforts, so the possibility existed that the carrier state was just temporary.

But before anything could be done, Fish and Game obtained a search warrant, took the geese, and killed them all.

Rumor had it that the ducks were hidden at two other locations, but after the events at Ridgecrest nobody was talking. In the spring, wild ducks returned to Venice on their usual migration. Were the captive ducks returned as well? The public, and Fish and Game, will never know.

copyright Robert C Hargreaves

Food Fads

Food Fads


Remember when eating yogurt was supposed to make you live longer? A yogurt eating tribe was discovered in the Caucasus where everyone lived to be over 100. But feeding yogurt to other people never produced the same results. Then oats were reported s heart healthy. Cheerios even advertised this for their product. The FDA made them retract their claim as unproven. The worst was the belief that margarine was healthier than butter. Then we finally discovered the trans fats in margarine was killing us.

The latest nutritional fads are olive oil an coconut creme. Re these any better? only imd will tell. the pale diet, soy hot dogs – there’s no end to new food fads.

Modern nutrition is less than 100 years old, beginning with the discovery of vitamin A in the 1930s. We still have a lot to learn.

copyright Robert C Hargreaves

College Hi-Jinx


In my undergraduate days at U.C. Davis, the guys in my dorm kept dreaming up tricks to play. Not that I ever did anything like that. One time they jacked up a student’s car and put the rear wheels on blocks. When he put it in gear nothing happened. Someone told him his driveshaft was stolen and he ran up and down the dorm shouting, “Who stole my driveshaft? Who stole my driveshaft?” It took him several days to figure out what happened.

Another time someone came into our dayroom and announced “I can lift 10 people at once!” Immediately challenged, he had the largest guy in the room lie down on his stomach, stacked three people across him, then three across them, then three more on top. Turned out it was a trick on the guy on the bottom. He couldn’t move. They pulled his pants down and spray painted his butt blue, then sprayed his face with whipped cream.

We had a rivalry with another dorm, Bixby Hall. They put a wild duck in our bathroom, which created a lot more fuss than it deserved. Afraid of a wild duck? You’ve got to be kidding. Then we went and stole all of their toilet paper. They came back and moved the plastic tubing in our toilet tanks so it pointed out and squirted whoever flushed the toilet. Then we got some sheep from the school farm and ran them through their foyer. We left them there overnight and let them figure out what to do with them. But that was the last of the hi jinx. The sheep had been fed radioactive tracers and everyone involved was in deep doo doo if they ever got caught. They never did, but that sobered them up enough to think twice about any more mischief.

copyright Robert C Hargreaves

Put yourself in their shoes

published in the Bakersfield Californian, July 13, 2014

Put yourself in their shoes

Ten years ago, I visited villages in Central America populated with nothing but women and children. All of the men had gone north to the U.S. for employment. There were no jobs at home and the rocky hills didn’t grow enough food. This was only in the poorest areas. In areas with better soil and rainfall, the men stayed home and grew coffee and bananas.

Mail is unreliable. The poorest villagers depended on return visits for support. Now recent border surveillance has made this too risky. Faced with starvation at home or a long perilous journey north, what would you do?


Robert C Hargreaves

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