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While I gained my earliest invaluable work experience on Grandpa’s farm, in the spring of my senior year it was time to try my wings. Beginning part-time in April and full-time the summer after I graduated from high school in 1970 I began working for Cashway (now Carter) Lumber Company. The company was located—still is—on  the edge of town and the experience turned out to pay much more than a paycheck. For the next four summers I helped work my way through college slinging lumber and doing inventory (counting each piece of molding in the bin) for two weeks each Christmas break.

I made good friends there. And, believe it or not, I thoroughly enjoyed the physical work the first two years “in the yard,” tossing lumber off boxcars and helping customers fill their orders.

The last two years our manager—“Mr. Horne” to his face and “the Boss” when he wasn’t around—moved me inside behind the counter. I’m not sure why he did this. To my recollection he never said. I do remember he and a couple of other fellows tried to persuade me to opt for a career in lumber, but by that time I was thinking education.

Behind the counter I met more customers and learned more about the human race. I came to understand that most people are pretty nice if you pay any attention to their needs.

I also learned that a few people are jerks no matter or in spite of what you may do for them. Actually, I eventually figured out the jerks are often insecure and unhappy with themselves, not with you, so they’re never satisfied and it’s a no-win situation. For them you Get In, Get Out, and Get Away as soon as you can. Still true with people I periodically meet today.

Four of us lined up behind the counter to receive-all-comers/customers. Saturdays were the most fun because it was non-stop, wall-to-wall all day. I was placed second from the end, Tom on my left, Sherman on my right. Tom was a bit older than me, but young, smart, and on the way up. He later ran the outfit.

Sherman, or “Sherm” as he was called, was maybe 110, or at least it appeared so to me, a college kid. Sherm was skinnier than a telephone, no flag, pole. He knew every builder in six counties and he wrote left-handed, slowly, with precision on our B.C. (Before Computers) order pads. I used to pride myself in how I could process three customers to his one—until I figured out that I was filling orders and he was serving people. Sherm taught me customer relations and he taught me the lumber company business.

True story: Middle-aged man walks in one day and says to me, “I want to build a garage.” I say, “O.K.” He looks at me, I look at him. Then I say, “What do you need?” He says, “I want to build a garage.” That’s it. That’s all he knew. He wanted to build a two-car free-standing garage, and he wanted to purchase everything from foundation up that he needed to get the job done—but he had no clue what materials were what or how much (in truckloads) he was talking about. Now I could sell product but build a garage? My salvation was Sherm. He leaned over and said, “Can I help?” For the next two hours the Sherman-ator and I (mostly writing down what Sherm said) filled this guy’s order, tallied one of my largest sales, and sent the guy away happy. Great Sherm story with a moral that lives on.

Customers can be funny. And we’re laughing with them not at them. Of course we are.

Lady says, “I want to buy a board.” I say, “OK, what kind?” She says, “I don’t know. My husband just told me to come buy some boards.”

Another poor faithful spouse says, “I want to buy 10, 8-foot boards.” I say, “What kind?” She says, “I don’t know. Are there different kinds of boards?”

Back in the day before Map Quest or GPS, directions were even more fun. Customer says, “Tell the truck to go 4 miles down Old Barn Road off Route 20, then turn at the big tree.” Or, “You count 3 red barns and 2 white ones and turn left. Can’t miss it.”

I say, “What’s the name of the road on which the delivery truck should turn?”

“I don’t know. It’s paved.”


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


We attended high school during the peak of the 1960s counter culture. Scholars have since described our high school years as some of the most socially volatile in American history.

The Counter Culture Movement, generally dated 1956-1974, reached its zenith between 1965-1972. Our high school years were 1966-1970.

We were part of the post-War Baby Boom, among some 70 million teenagers in the 1960s. This many youth, this relatively affluent, and this able to access education was something the country had never experienced before. We were post-Sputnik (1957) teens, the older generation’s hope for defeating the Soviets and “godless communism.”

We witnessed the Space Race. In 1963, our own Col. John Glenn, who we proudly noted grew up in a village not far from Small Town, became the first American to orbit the earth. By the time we got into high school we watched with the rest of the world while Apollo XI orbited and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon July 20, 1969. Months later during our senior year we watched in tense anticipation as the “successful failure” of Apollo XIII played out on national television April 11-17, 1970.

We watched the Civil Rights Movement change society forever. We got to see and hear one of the greatest speeches ever delivered, Martin Luther King’s Jr’s “I Have A Dream,” from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963. We experienced the landmark passage of the Civil Rights Act, 1964, and the Voting Rights Act, 1965. We winced at pictures of violence during the Selma Marches and the Watts Riots in 1965. We grieved with the nation when MLK, Jr. was assassinated April 4, 1968 and RKF was assassinated June 5, 1968. In the midst of it all we learned to say “Black” instead of “Negro.”

Our years in high school were peak years, if peak is the right word, of the Viet Nam War. It was a difficult time not only for the American personnel lost—58,267 KIA, 303,644 WIA, 1,6711 MIA—but for our rapidly declining faith in the capacity of national leaders to tell the truth. We endured the back-to-back presidencies of Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon, two of the most morally shallow men ever to occupy the White House.

The military “Draft” still existed, ending later in 1973. It was a lottery that determined the order in which people could be called up for military service based upon when their birth date had been chosen.

In 1971, my number was 138. My cousin’s was 365. Go figure. Up till that point in time anyone with a number as low as 138 was going to get called. I was in college by then and wanted to stay there. Ultimately, I wasn’t called because I benefited from Nixon’s “Vietnamization” program, his process of gradually pulling our troops out of Viet Nam while turning over to the South Viet Nam military the responsibility for the war.

Viet Nam dominated the news while we were in high school. And it got worse. Just before the end of our senior year, May 4, 1970, members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of students on the Kent State University campus. In 13 seconds, 67 shots were fired, 4 students died, and 9 were wounded. This set off student protests across the nation forcing the closing of hundreds of college and university campuses and eventually influencing national politics.

A lot happened in those years that rank as stressful. Some things rank as silly. Mini-skirts, Go-Go boots, men’s hair getting longer by the week, wide collars, Nehru jackets, ever wider ties that eventually featured 5 inch wide bibs masquerading as ties, Afros, bell-bottom pants that got broader each year, Motown, Rock emerging from Rock and Roll.

Small Town escaped a lot of this, initially, but eventually change came calling.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


After wrestling with my conservative inclinations I’ve come to the conclusion the U.S. needs to get out of Afghanistan—the sooner the better.

To date, War in Afghanistan casualties include some 2,162 Coalition personnel, including 1,342 U. S. service members who've given their lives in Afghanistan. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for what initially was a justifiable military response to 9/11 but what has since become a mish-mash of objectives few national leaders can articulate with clarity or passion.

Beginning October 7, 2001, just weeks after 9/11, the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom. The goal? To find and capture or kill Osama bin Laden, the perceived leader responsible for 9/11, to destroy Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that sponsored 9/11 assassins, and to remove from power the Taliban regime that provided safe haven for bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

Within weeks the Taliban regime was deposed, Al Qaeda seemed to be on the run, and bin Laden had gone to ground. Now it’s nine years later and the situation in Afghanistan has not appreciably changed or improved. In fact, some would argue it’s worse.

It is true that the Taliban is no longer able to enact nationally its strict legal system and arbitrary punishments, including cruel and unusual ones in which people were executed publicly for a variety of religious offenses. It’s also true that bin Laden is no closer to being found and brought to justice.

At any given time civilian and military leaders in both the Bush and now Obama Administrations have communicated a vast array of convoluted, confusing, and at times conflicting objectives for the war effort. No one, even the President, can provide us with a clearly stated, brief “elevator speech” describing why we are there and what we are trying to do.

Nation-building, at first rejected by President Bush and his neoconservative staff, later emerged, sort of, as a goal for our engagement. Meanwhile, the U.S. has lost international credibility, continues to drain its economy, and cannot say when we’ll leave because we don’t know what it looks like to “win,” if indeed we’re trying to win.

Afghanistan is not Iraq in the sense that it is a country where tribal culture still persists. Consequently, a surge of troops will not necessarily result in less violence. Insurgency continues rooted in centuries of local politics.

In addition, the financial costs of the War in Afghanistan are staggering. We’re spending about $200 billion per year in direct and indirect costs. That’s $1 million per U.S. soldier or $3,947 per family of four per year, approximately $101 million per day.

It’s time to ask Why? Are we appreciably safer than we were five years ago? If the Taliban is now little more than a confederation of ill-equipped tribal groups and if NATO is willing to include Taliban leaders in peace talks, whom are we now trying to subdue? If, as many sources allege, bin Laden is in Pakistan, why are we fighting in Afghanistan? And none of these questions raise the specter of civilian collateral damage for which we are responsible, something we’re not willing to examine or admit.

The Soviets met their Waterloo in Afghanistan. I don’t want us to meet ours. President Obama won office largely on his claim he voted against the Iraq War and would end it if he were elected. Iraq was Bush’s war, so Obama could sling mud without fear of getting any on himself. Now, though, Afghanistan has become Obama’s war and he’s repeated many of Bush’s actions in Iraq.

Bringing U.S. troops home doesn’t equate with abandoning Afghanis to their fate. We’re involved financially now and could be involved in more targeted ways with financial aid in the future, at far less cost than we’re paying now.

It’s not that I’m against military action when it’s necessary and important. It’s that I’m weary of military action that has no goal. I think the majority of the American people feel the same way. We’ll fight when we need to and we’ll fight to win. But we don’t like to fight when we don’t know why we’re fighting.

For more on the Taliban, see James Fergusson's Taliban: The True Story of the World's Most Feared Guerrilla Fighters.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


My freshman year I served as a writer for our high school newspaper and yearbook. I don’t know how I got this job, except maybe that I could type faster than most boys and a lot of girls. Whatever it was I value the experience because it’s one of the earliest memories I have of participating “officially” in the writing craft. I loved to read and I loved newspapers then and now, so writing was an unplanned but logical next step. It wasn’t a lot, but it was a beginning.

This was pre-Internet and pre-everything else. We learned lay out by physical cut and paste, which was a better education in geometry than I got the next year in Geometry class.

I can’t remember my Geometry teacher’s name. Odd, isn’t it? This person who dominated my sophomore year and I can’t remember her name. I do remember that she was the kind of teacher we liked to make jokes about. She was smart and probably a fair teacher, but she was also extremely thin, talked with a squeaky voice, and had what to us were antiquated ideas about how to behave. All that is undoubtedly unfair to her but such is the mentality of sophomores.

Geometry was scheduled after P.E. class just before lunch. One day for reasons I yet don’t comprehend, at the end of P.E. class I changed clothes and I got locked in the Locker Room. Just me, locked in a stinky locker room. I spent the entire next period contemplating life in prison because either no one heard me yell or no one cared to liberate me. So I missed Geometry class.

With the coming lunch hour someone re-opened the Locker Room and I made my escape. I went straight to Geometry class and told Mrs. Thin where I’d been and why I’d missed class. She didn’t believe me and told me so. I did all the things one does in proclaiming ones innocence but to no avail. She eventually gave me a poor grade for that day and I had to like it or lump it.

If I ever needed therapy it wasn’t for being locked in a Locker Room. Maybe if it’d been all night in the dark, but it was 45 minutes in late morning. No, if I ever needed therapy it’d be because of Mrs. Thin's squeaky voiced lack of confidence in my moral compass. I got through that class but didn’t like Geometry then and don’t like it now.

High school offered different kinds of highlights. Us teens knew the best places to go to make out, which I won’t identify just in case these hideouts are still in use. Of course, back then, making out was about all anyone ever did, except obviously the one girl who got pregnant while we were in high school. She was a beautiful girl who hung out not only with the wrong guy—a loud-mouthed tough—but with the wrong crowd. She paid a sad price for her misjudgment, and sadder still, I’m not sure he ever paid any price. While she was permitted to remain in school until she "showed" this was still a scandal in those days, a far cry from the lack of concern, lack of shame, and lack of common sense that passes for teen sexuality today.

We were blessed to go through high school without hearing about our self-esteem, inner self, finding ourselves, being true to ourselves, or you owe it to yourself. We did, however, hear about selfishness and self-starter, the former bad, the latter good. Though it was the end of the 60s, Small Town high school was still insolated and thus insulated from the winds of cultural change that were blowing down establishment ideas and institutions across the nation. The Me Generation was yet to come. We still believed in individual responsibility and social consequences, and for this I am grateful.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


The successful rescue of Chile’s 33 miners late last evening is an all-too-rare good news story, this one of global proportions. Trapped a half-mile underground for 69 days, the fact their rescue was played out live on worldwide television made it even more dramatic.

The miners’ resilience and their families’ emotional welcome were moving illustrations of human resolve. The crew’s outstanding leadership and well-organized activities underground for the past two stressful months were inspiring. Both the responsiveness and effectiveness of the Chilean government were enough to give one hope that government really can get it right, sometimes.

And three cheers to the rescuers, including particularly the six who descended to the miners’ chamber to help them come back safely to the surface. Needless to say, the world wishes the miners well in their post-traumatic re-entry and healing process.

Of course there are those who find ways to muddy the story. Sure, the miners are human and they’re not necessarily all stand-up guys when it comes to family and fidelity. So with 33 men involved it’s not surprising to discover there may be both wives and mistresses in the mix. What’s more discouraging, though, is to see various world media trying to make some kind of cheap reality program out of whatever moral mess they can find or agitate.

Still, the story is a great one from which books will and should be written. These books will bear some similarity to the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914-17 expedition and ship, Endurance, which was trapped in Antarctic pack ice and crushed. Shackleton led his 27 men through extreme hardship to safety with no lives lost, earning for the captain, though mostly after his death, heroic status.

The extraordinary efforts put forth to rescue 33 miners reminds the world once again of the ultimate value of each human life. Everyone matters, everyone deserves dignity and liberty.

There are leadership lessons, as well as disaster prevention and response lessons to be learned here. There’s fodder for fictional plot twists and compelling documentaries. There’re religious and political morals to this story.

Here’s hoping these lessons are learned, stories are told, and these Chilean men go on to other achievements and an appreciation for a gracious God.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at


High school in Small Town was a series of highs and lows. Really highs and really lows. Or maybe this had more to do with being teenagers than high school.

Looking back one could say our ups and downs were not all that significant, but they seemed so to us. This was true in studies, sports, romance, and even teachers.

In my time in Small Town we benefitted from outstanding elementary and junior high teachers, a whole list of them in the day when teachers took their professional calling seriously. Every teacher to whom I was assigned from 1st Grade to 8th Grade did a remarkable job of helping us slay the dragons of ignorance. In most ways they may have been ordinary people, but they were in our lives extraordinary teachers because they taught and they expected us to learn.

Changing culture changed all that, and not for the better. We got the first inklings of this in high school. By the time we arrived in high school waves of education reform and counter culture were just beginning to weaken secondary schools. Teachers were still in authority and students were still expected to “obey.” But this was a quaint practice, one undermined a little more each month with news of university student sit-ins.

It wasn’t long before the academic establishment rejected the idea one could know truth about anything. All things are relative, the postmodernists said. The logical conclusion of this illogical idea is that nothing matters, particularly religion. Students weren’t long in picking up on the “nothing matters” part and education turned into a river of hedonism, narcissism, and nihilism that still inundates it today. Very soon, it was “Make Love, Not War,” “Flower Power,” and civil disobedience.

But in high school we were still blissfully oblivious to much of this. And we were blessed with a few excellent teachers, no question—Mrs. Burns, Mrs. Crevey, Mr. Farley, to name a few. But we had our share of bummers too. Having spent a career working in academia and knowing what I know now about education I can say without fear of exaggeration that at least four, maybe five, of these people should have been sent to find their real calling in life—it clearly wasn’t teaching.

I’ve mentioned before the broken-nosed former prison guard who masqueraded for a time as our Physical Education teacher. Then there was the Health and Physical Education teacher who mostly got by on charisma. We laughed a lot but didn’t learn much in his classes.

Our nominee for Inept Teacher of the Year would have to go to our Physics teacher. He was a former Presbyterian minister and if he gave as much to his ministry as he did to teaching I understand why people didn’t keep him in the pulpit.

There were about 8 guys and 1 girl in the class. We were all college prep kids so our grades were good and perhaps this is another reason the teacher let us off the hook. Mostly, though, I think he was treading water.

For two periods in Physics class, that’s a good chunk of the day, we did one of two things, or both. Every day four or five guys would gather around this girl, one who was attractive, smart, talented, and highly popular, and basically vie for her attention for two periods. I liked her too and joined the group a few times. But I can remember thinking I didn’t want to be part of the herd, so I chose not to be.

Mostly I played chess. That’s right, chess. For two periods every day our entire senior year a few guys, my friend Larry Yoho being one of them, and I held Physics class chess tournaments. We got to be pretty good at chess but didn’t learn much about physics.

Ridiculous. I look back now and think about the wasted academic time. I wonder why the principal never showed up and how the teacher got away with it. I wonder how a teacher as lazy and unmotivated as this fellow survived in the system. But there we were, flirting on one end of the room, playing chess on the other.

I mentioned Mr. Farley and I should give him his due. In my estimation he was under-rated as a teacher by his peers and his students. This lack of appreciation stemmed more, I think, from his quirky personality and mannerisms than from his teaching. But he was, in a word, an excellent teacher.

Mr. Farley lectured every day, required us to take notes, and administered challenging tests. He asked us questions in class and expected us to know the answers. He clearly loved his subject and was nothing if not diligent in his pedagogy. I sat in both his U.S. History class my junior year and his U.S. Government class my senior year. In both I learned a great deal and consider this experience one influence in my later opting in college to pursue both a Social Science and History major and a teaching certificate.

Mr. Farley nominated me for an odd-sounding award called the “I Dare You Award,” which I earned, probably in large part due to his affirmation. He presented it to me at graduation and, though the name is funny, the idea was to think big, think bigger in terms of ones potential achievements and contributions. It’s a great concept, another large lesson in a Small Town upbringing.


© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow Dr. Rogers at