P.O.W. Stories – The One with the Nurse and the Two Needles

needle 2 partially blurredMy dad–Russell Kingston–was one of the longest-held prisoners of war during the Korean Conflict, which lasted from 1950 until 1953. The conflict (it was never a declared war) lasted for only three years, yet dad was a P.O.W. for 33 months. Dad has shared many stories of his time in the camp with me. As you can imagine, most of them were harrowing. Here is one of his many memories of that time in the North Korean camp.

“…In the meantime, while I was there (in the camp), I had malaria fever twice. I had my tonsils removed by the Chinese in a little makeshift hospital they had. I had one tooth pulled with no Novocain, and I won’t even say how many times I was forced labor, this, that, and the other, because I don’t even know whether people would believe that I done forced labor or not.

When I had malaria for the second time, they carried me up to this little ole Chinese building. They left me in there three or four days. Then they gave me a little shot in the arm, which was–I don’t know–probably sugar water or something like that, I don’t know.

To show you some of the hardships, uh, it was early spring and it was still kinda cool. Well, I got to feeling better and I got up and I walked outside and the sun was shining on the side of this building. So, I walked over to the side where the sun was shining, and when I walked over to the side of the building there was a G.I. standing there with no clothes on whatsoever. And I said, “Buddy, what’s wrong with you?” Continue reading…


On Turning 60

Today is my last day to be fifty-something. Tomorrow–October 14, 2014–I will turn 60. At 8:15 pm to be exact, which I suppose means I’ll still be 59 during the daylight hours. (I can hold on if I want to).

Now that I am six decades old, I find I don’t have any particular wisdom to pass on.

Other than this:

When I reached my first decade, I thought I knew more than my dad. We argued a lot during the sixties, especially after the evening news. I was always completely sympathetic to the civil rights movement, women’s liberation movement, and just about every other social cause. Dad was more like Archie Bunker–slow to accept the inevitable.

When I reached my second decade I thought I knew more than everyone else. After all, I had read many books, spent time in college, and had a wide circle of enlightened friends. You couldn’t tell me anything.

When I reached my third decade, I was absolutely certain that I knew everything. At 30 I had spent four years in college, worked at least 7 jobs, and had traveled all over the lower 48 states. I had bought a house, a car, and had befriended Debbie Reynolds. What else was there to know?

When I reached my fourth decade I had a few days of panic. I wasn’t quite sure how it had arrived so quickly. I had to do and re-do the math to make certain, but yep, I was 40. I fell into a slump there for a few weeks, questioning everything I thought I knew, and wondering what the heck to do now. Realizing it was time to get serious, I changed direction and got a degree from college.

When I reached my fifth decade (which seems like 20 minutes ago), I had an even greater and more powerful episode of panic. I tried not to show it. I went back to college and got yet another degree, this time an MBA. Still, I wasn’t quite satisfied.

Now I’m on the cusp of my sixth decade. And you know what? I’m actually taking the attitude of “been there, done that.” I guess it has taken me this long to realize that aging, however it causes us to panic, reflect, or second-guess ourselves, is just a fact of life.

I don’t feel any older today than I did this time last year. I keep working to improve my mind and body. And I know I’m a kinder, gentler person. Everyone says so anyway.

No, I won’t panic tomorrow, or enroll in yet another college course. I won’t second-guess where I am or where I need to be. Instead, I will be grateful, for there are far too many others who never made it this far.

And let’s face it: Aging certainly beats the alternative.






The Path Not Taken* – A Cautionary Tale

*With apologies to Robert Frost, whose poem “The Road Not Taken” has long been a favorite.

This may be a cautionary tale, though it’s perfectly true. It’s about two paths. One path led a dear friend to destruction, while my own path quite possibly saved my life.

When I lived in Atlanta–and for many years afterward–I had a really good friend with whom I shared many good times and small adventures. He was a trusted friend, and yet he ultimately went down a path I could not follow.  Out of respect for his family I will not name him here, nor share his photo. I will call him “Tom.” Continue reading…


When will I see you again?

Have you ever parted with someone, only to realize later it was for the last time? Sometimes when we say good-bye it’s for good.

I had a good friend throughout my youth who was smart, quirky, and interesting. I liked her a lot. She lived near my grandmother on Pea Ridge, so I saw her occasionally after we graduated. Then she disappeared on me–up and joined the army. The next thing I knew she had died on the Autobahn in Germany. Gone while still a teenager. I think that was the first time it hit home that people could disappear so abruptly.

On a lighter note, sometimes people disappear but don’t die. I had another friend from high school, and we ran into one another on the quad at Murray State a couple of years after graduation. We started dating, but it only lasted a few weeks. I was young and pretty stupid, and I didn’t always do or say the right things. One Saturday evening after our date I said something thoughtless (I’m fairly certain of it) and it angered her. After leaving, she returned to yell obscenities at my door and throw rocks at my window. I thought she would cool down and we would talk it over, but I haven’t seen or spoken to her since. That was 29 years ago.

Then there was the girl I had taken to the senior prom. She and I had similar tastes in art, music, and movies. She coaxed me into going to see my first “R” rated film (Carnal Knowledge), though I was only sixteen years old at the time. We got reacquainted at MSU. She was dating a film major from Michigan, and one evening she stopped by my apartment. It was late summer. We ordered pizza and talked about where we were with our lives and what we had planned. If you had told me that would be the last time I would see her, I wouldn’t have believed you. I remember her shining blonde hair–how she had let it grow all the way to her waist. We were 22.

Sometimes, regret definitely plays a part after someone’s disappearance. I was a restaurant manager in Virginia some years later, and I had an employee who was clearly troubled. Everyone liked him, and he did good work when he was there, but the crowd he ran with began to affect his attendance. I hated to, but I had to fire him. We had strict rules about not showing up for work, and he was clearly in violation of all of them. A few months later I read that he died of wounds received in a knife fight. No doubt it was over something stupid. When something like that happens, and you’ve been in a position of authority over a person, it makes you re-examine your relationship. Could I have counseled him better? Would it have made any difference? Probably not, but you never know.

I’ve written about how my boss and mentor was killed. His disappearance was another that couldn’t have been foretold. I last saw him before Christmas and wished him Happy Holidays, not knowing we would never work together again. Life can be so abrupt, so cruel.

Sometimes people disappear and we more or less expect it. How many times have we said of someone, “There’s an accident waiting to happen.” And then it does, and no one is surprised. Or, if they are they don’t say it. It’s also more or less expected when we lose our elders, especially the ones who are frail and in really poor health.

But it’s the unexpected ones–the ones we don’t have closure with that tend to stick in our minds. What would we have said or done differently had we known we would never see or speak with them again?

And does it change how we say good-bye to people today?


© Wade Kingston

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The Miracle of You

The miracle of you is that you exist at all.The miracle of you is that you shouldn’t even be here. Not if you consider the odds.

I had an excellent statistics teacher at Murray State University. A couple of them, in fact. One of the first things he did was show us the folly of playing the lottery. He patiently explained the basics of statistical mathematics so that we understood completely how small our chances of winning the big prize is. And how casinos use long odds to build massive amounts of wealth. As he put it, and as we all inherently know, “The house always wins.” And that’s true. The house always wins, even when it loses. (Because a huge payout inevitably garners publicity, which draws even more poor schmucks in to play the wheels of fortune.)

The odds of winning the lottery, or in Vegas, are usually calculated to be somewhere in the millions. Often it’s compared to the odds of getting struck by lightning. But consider this: the odds that you are alive here on this planet are so large as to be almost incalculable.

Let’s go back 250 years in our example. (The further back you go, the higher the odds that you would never have been born).

First, you have to consider the odds that one of your ancestors would survive, much less procreate. Then you have to figure out the odds that they would conceive of a child. (It’s one in several million for each try). Then the odds that their child would survive. Then you have to figure out the odds that their child would survive and procreate and the offspring live, etc. and on and on. All the way down to you, continuously, in an unbroken or uninterrupted line.

If you go back 10 generations (250 years) the chance of you being born at all is  at most 1 divided by 6 x 10100 or 1 in 6,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

I don’t even know what you call that number. Maybe bazinga-trillion? Whatever it is, the odds put your chance of being here at essentially ZERO. (Even lower as you go further back in time.)

I’m sure you have read all your life about how we are miracles of creation. This proves it.

Are you feeling lucky now?


© Wade Kingston

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Nuts over Basketball in the Bluegrass State

Nuts over basketball in the Bluegrass State


Yes, we are nuts over basketball in the Bluegrass State. But it can’t be helped.

I’ve enjoyed reading all the tweets during the NCAA tournament. One in particular last night read, “I am SICK, SICK, SICK of always watching Kentucky and Michigan teams in the NCAA.”

Sorry about your luck, buddy. Continue reading…


Kentucky vs. Louisville – Why the Data Doesn’t Matter

You can’t predict with any degree of certainty who will win when Kentucky meets Louisville on March 28.

And the reason you can’t has to do with something called unknown variables.

Statisticians love to work with numbers. Batting averages, free-throw percentages, average yards thrown–they all mean the same thing. Someone, somewhere sat down with a long list of numbers and came up with a statistical average, sometimes weighted, sometimes not.

Before last Sunday’s game featuring Kentucky vs. Wichita, I read seven “expert” opinions about who was going to win. ALL OF THEM chose Wichita. What they were looking at were statistics. But pouring over a long column of numbers and coming to a conclusion often ignores the rather unpredictable nature of sports. There are a number of factors which, by their nature, do not show up in the numbers.

1–An injury during the game. They can’t be predicted, and they can be serious. Not only for the player, but for the morale of the team.

2–Illness. It could be something as innocuous as a bad meal the night before, or something serious like food poisoning. It could mean a cold or the beginnings of a flu, both of which could seriously undermine a key player’s ability.

3–Disruptions. Weather is unlikely to be a factor, but it’s not impossible that a game could be interrupted due to inclement weather. A disruption in the crowd, a technical foul, faulty equipment (a broken backboard perhaps), may all seem unlikely, but are not impossible. They’ve happened before. It’s their likelihood that can’t be accounted for, therefore they can’t be calculated in the statistics.

4–Attitude or outlook, by either team. Attitudes can be caught. Sometimes teams get “fired up,” and conversely they can be discouraged. It could even be something catastrophic to do with a key player’s family, causing them to worry or lose focus. Those types of things simply can’t be forecast with any certainty.

My point? There are probably dozens of unlikely but possible scenarios that could genuinely affect the outcome of any game. Just because a player has shot 65% from the free-throw line all year doesn’t mean they won’t go suddenly cold in a championship game. We’ve all seen it.

It’s the unpredictability that makes for the excitement of watching two well-matched and determined teams.

At this point, however much I may want one team to win over the other, it could honestly come down to one point.

That’s when my grandpa would have said, “It might as well have been a million.”


© Wade Kingston

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I Wish It Was All on Tape

I wish it were all on tape - my baby chick

Baby Chick

I wish it was all on tape*, my life and everything in it. Memory is a tricky thing, and I’m told we often remember things incorrectly.

Have you ever recounted a story from your youth, only to have a family member dispute it?

“That’s not how I remember it,” they say. “What really happened was…” Continue reading…


If I Had a Time Machine

If I had a time machine there are many places in the past I would like to visit.

According to scientists, time travel is theoretically possible, but only if we move forward in time, and only for very small increments.

Still, it’s fun to think about the places one could visit if traveling backwards was an option. Let’s play a game. Let’s assume we had a time machine and that we could travel backwards in time to any location and at any point in history.

Let’s put a few conditions on it as well. Let’s agree to the following:

  • We cannot be harmed. 
  • We can return whenever we like.
  • We cannot be seen or heard.
  • We cannot interfere with the past.
  • It has to be before your own lifetime. (Otherwise we would be spending all out time in the past with relatives).


I think that covers all the bases. Now, where would you go? I can think of five times/places right off. Continue reading…


Time to Mow the Wild Onions

Time to Mow the Wild Onions

Oh merciful Heaven! Wild onions! Get the mower, quick!

It’s time to mow the wild onions, I suppose.

Last week, on our first warm day after the latest round of sleet, snow, and freezing rain, I was out for a long walk. I passed a house where an older gentleman had apparently decided he would be the first in the neighborhood to mow his lawn. Never mind that there were piles of snow still melting against his house. There were wild onions out there, and they had to go! I could smell them before I even heard the riding mower. Continue reading…





Grandpa’s mule was sick.

Sam watched as the pitiful old animal walked around in a never-ending circle. “Toby” had been walking for days, plodding steadily through the hot sun and humid nights.

When Grandpa first discovered Toby making his circle, he called to the animal. But Toby’s ears did not turn toward Grandpa as they always had, nor did he falter in his gait. The big animal did not alter his steadfast plodding, even when Grandpa laid a strap across his broad back. Grandpa had not the heart to continue beating the faithful animal, so he let him be after that. The veterinarian told Grandpa to just shoot Toby. Grandpa told him thanks, that he would do that. But when it got right down to it he couldn’t. Grandpa told Sam, “Toby will come to his senses. You just wait and see.” Continue reading…


Why I am a Proud Kentuckian

The reasons I am a proud Kentuckian are many and varied. They have nothing to do with the ridiculous stereotypes outsiders often assign the Bluegrass State.

I have been fortunate enough to travel far and wide in these United States. I’ve visited all of the “lower 48″ states, some of them many times. All of those states had many things to commend them beyond their stereotypes. Continue reading…


Ten Things that Cheer Me Up

Here are ten things that cheer me up – all the better when they are unexpected.

Ever notice how you can be having a “down” day, or just a ho-hum day, and all of a sudden have it brightened by something unexpected?

  1. Finding unexpected money. It could be when you run your hand into a pocket on a jacket you haven’t worn since last winter, or a pair of jeans with a couple of laundered bills. Either way, any unexpected money at all brings a smile to my face. And that includes finding coins on the pavement!
  2. When my cat does something ridiculous. Callie can do some rather silly-looking things, particularly when she’s grooming herself. At other times she can be startled into making what I call the “manic cat jump.” You know the one, where a cat is startled into jumping straight up in the air. It’s always hilarious and makes me wish I had been filming her.

    Ten Things that Cheer Me Up - Callie's favorite grooming position

    Callie’s favorite grooming position

  3. When the weather is better than expected. You know the day. Forecasters called for mostly cloudy and cool, but the sun has other ideas, shining brightly and warming everything. Always a treat.
  4. When you hear a song you forgot all about. Sometimes when I’m flipping through the radio I’ll hear a song I hadn’t thought of in decades (yes, I’m that old). One of those oldies that you love to sing to, and I do.
  5. Chocolate. ‘Nuff said.
  6. A ride/walk/drive in the country. You can’t beat getting out in rural Kentucky, especially in the spring.
  7. Getting a Facebook “like.” It may be shallow, but I’ll take what I can get. Everyone wants to be liked.
  8. Getting on the bathroom scales and seeing a lower number. Oh yeah. Nothing like it. Talk about a boost!
  9. Arriving at a matinee to discover you are the only one in the theater. I love having the auditorium to myself. I can sit wherever I want, prop up my feet. It’s like having your own personal movie theater. It doesn’t happen often, which makes it even more special.
  10. When mom calls out of the blue. She’s always saying things like “I don’t want to run up your minutes,” and I’m always explaining that I have plenty of minutes. Nothing cheers me up more than seeing her number flash on my phone as an incoming call.

What cheers you up?


© Wade Kingston

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A Valentine for Poodle

A Valentine for Poodle, my sister.

I was almost six when Wilma Jean was born. She was the first baby I can remember. She didn’t cry much at first–just lay quietly between two pillows in the middle of the bed. Despite warnings from relatives not to bother her, I couldn’t stop sneaking into the bedroom. She was pink and pudgy, with a full head of red hair.  She stared upwards out of blue eyes and gurgled.  It was still very warm that September, so her legs and arms were bare. She waved her limbs about as a warm breeze rustled plastic patterned curtains. I was mesmerized. Continue reading…


Life with Grandma Gola Kingston

Life with Grandma Gola Kingston, for me anyway, was flat out fun. And though she died 19 years ago this January, my memories of growing up around her are as fresh as the prize-winning vegetables she grew.

Life with Grandma Gola Kingston - Grandma in the mid-1970's

Life with Grandma Gola Kingston – Grandma in the mid-1970’s

Grandma Gola Kingston was one of those people who, the more you learned about them, the more you wanted to know. My fascination with her began when I was very young, and it never really ended.  By anyone’s reckoning this woman, who raised 12 children on a farm during the Great Depression, led an interesting life. Continue reading…


Kentucky Native Helped Land Atlanta Olympics

Kentucky Native Helped Land Atlanta Olympics. While I certainly had a lot of help, I like to think I did my fair share. Heaven knows there was a whole lotta pandering going on.

The Olympic Games, whether summer or winter, are a huge undertaking. It takes years of planning, a fortune in time and money, and real dedication to turn the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) head in the direction of your city. I know. I was there when Atlanta began its successful bid to host the 1996 Centennial Olympic games.

I was working at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta in 1989. I don’t remember who told the hotel employees that Atlanta was making a bid to host the summer games. It was probably our general manager. But we were made aware of the seriousness of the situation. Continue reading…


12 Things I Do Not Want to See on TV

12 things I do not want to see on TV–all of it negative. It comes in many forms, like stories of war atrocities, mass shootings, weather disasters, animal cruelty, child abuse, rape, or murder. It has long been the policy of our media that “if it bleeds, it leads”.

What does that say about us? Have we lost the ability to appreciate and enjoy the good things? Don’t the good things outweigh all the evil in the world? If they do, you wouldn’t know it when watching or reading the news.

Continue reading…


Super Bowl Sunday Snowstorm Western Kentucky 2-2-2014

Super Bowl Sunday Snowstorm in Western Kentucky.

A number of things happened on Sunday, February 2, 2014. It was Groundhog Day and he certainly did NOT see his shadow in Paducah. Not that anyone thought this messy winter was going to end anytime soon, but we can hope.

The talented actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, was found dead in his New York apartment–another cautionary tale about the dangers of drug abuse. Oh, and the Seattle Seahawks absolutely dominated the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl 48 by a score of 43-8.  I will let wiser heads write about Mr. Hoffman and the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, we had another little event to deal with here in Paducah and surroundings. Continue reading…