Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Unforgettable Mr. Reardon

WARNING! WARNING! The following paragraphs and scans contain offensive language! Some of it has been excised for the reading pleasure of those in this society who are, increasingly, offended by everything!

Ya know, throughout history "naughty" words and gestures helped many a man and woman suffer the agonies of war without going stark-raving mad. Uttering some epithet into the darkness often worked out far better than diverting one's rage into, oh, I don't know, maybe killing everybody around you? During Air Force basic training, I learned a plethora of offensive words and phrases (maybe not as many as the ladies in the women's division of basic training, but I was close -- those female training instructors, I've been informed, could curse up a storm when dealing with the ranks, far surpassing male counterparts), and don't think I didn't find them useful throughout my military time.

World War II veterans, like many others, frequently carried this colorful language into civilian life, and there was a time when "blue" words served a purpose in our lives. Don't get me wrong -- they still do, but nowadays everybody is just soooooooooo offended by words, and they'll rant and rave about it, they'll sue you or commit homicide over -- words.

Sometime in the early 1980s, I started to receive correspondence from a man in South Carolina named Russ Reardon. I'm trying to remember the circumstances, and they probably related to something I had written for Pursuit, journal of the old Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained (SITU). Before long, we began writing back and forth and now, after all those years, I can easily say that my files bulge with more letters and miscellaneous enclosures from Russ than from any other source. He was particularly fond of clipping cartoons and other humorous (or downright strange) items from newspapers and magazines and stuffing envelopes with them almost every time he wrote me.

In the early nineties, his letters became fewer and eventually stopped altogether. I'm quite sure, knowing of the illness he experienced in later years, that Russ is long deceased by now. Nor was he a youngster, for Russ was a World War II veteran and boasted a long history in broadcasting that went back to some affiliation with early TV shows that I'd never even heard of before. In his later years whilst corresponding with me, he even got a small acting part as an extra in one of those cable or network TV movies (a two or three-parter, as I recall) about the Civil War; I don't remember the title and have no reference source nearby as I write this entry today.

Russ was also very much into the UFO subject and had a tendency to pursue specifics and people to the ends of the earth with his queries. I wasn't always content with some of his contacts, but he usually knew when he was being deceived.

On one occasion, he journeyed South of the Border and allegedly and covertly did something very, very -- well, let's just say he did something in his quest for truth and evidence to either satiate or obliterate the "ancient astronauts" crowd, but therein lies another of those situations where I'm just not going into details. This is a tendency of mine which annoys some researchers horribly, thus confronted with the issue of whether I'm being honest or confabulating. Actually, I've no reason to lie; life is just so blissfully unencumbered when you don't add details that raise question after question after question. Hate it when that happens. Why hang yourself from the gallows when such a significant portion of society is already willing to accomplish the task for you?

Many folks in the UFO research area knew of Russ, because he was the driving force in discovering the knowledge he craved, and if it took a wealth of postage stamps to write a source for information, he was your man. I liked Russ and revered him for his World War II service, his humor and for his knowledge about many things. That's why I really wanted to share a little bit of him with you today.

First, (see) here's a brief letter he had written at some point to a newspaper down South (Russ was a prolific letter-to-the-editor correspondent, and I know he wrote at least one article for a phenomena-related publication) when gasoline prices were on the rise and a shortage loomed. Next, one of his famous cartoon clippings, source and artist unfortunately uncredited, but typical Russ material.

I've saved the best for last: Part of a letter from Russ shortly after his near-annihilation from a stroke. This is funny -- though tragically funny -- stuff from an irrepressible World War II vet whose attitude about the medical establishment and smoking rivaled that of many amongst his fellows of those war years. As you know, maybe, I detest censorship in most of its stifling forms, but in a contemporary society that wishes to make daily life appear flawless to avoid litigation and/or embarrassment, I've taken my red computerized paint and disguised the F and S words and other things that can threaten entire blogs these days. I think most of you can figure out the words, anyway, but I sure wish I could feel comfortable showing Russ censored. Especially knowing that he fought a war to preserve our freedoms, and one of them was that First Amendment. Which reminds me of a frequent question he both asked and answered himself frequently at the end of his letters over the years: "What does it all mean, Bob? It don't mean sh**!" So valuable the wisdom, so few the words.