Bend In The Branch

The personal opinions of one among many.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween

Visits from a soldier, a bride, a princess, a dragon, a vampire, an angel, a ninja, a puppy and a pumpkin, just to name a few, were made to the resident witch and bumble bee tonight.

Monday Mutt Shot

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Welcoming Them Home

from The Item:

MANNING — More than a thousand people lined the streets of Manning on Saturday morning to welcome home the National Guardsmen from Charlie Battery, 1/178th Field Artillery unit.

The soldiers of Charlie Battery returned home Sept. 17 from a yearlong deployment in Iraq, Kuwait and neighboring Middle Eastern countries, but the community waited until Saturday to show its thanks with a parade, special ceremony and luncheon.

Before the 10 a.m. parade made its way to the Clarendon County Courthouse, 86-six-year-old Harriet “Granny” Brown of Manning stood in front of the courthouse wearing a red visor and waving an American flag to welcome the soldiers home.

“I’m just so happy they’re home safe,” Brown said. “I’m going to stand right here and wave my flag as they come by.”

Jonathan Shively, a member of the 1st Aviation Group at McIntire Air National Guard Station, was in Manning to support his brother, Pinopolis resident Wally Matkovich, who serves in Charlie Battery.

“I’m so proud of my brother,” he said. “I’m here today to support him.”

Veterans in the crowd saluted while others applauded and cheered as the members of Charlie Battery marched down the parade route in front of “Welcome Home” banners and signs saying, “Thank You.”

Following the parade, mayors and dignitaries from eight municipalities and counties announced the names of soldiers from their locales and thanked the guardsmen for their service.“You did a marvelous job,” said Manning Mayor Kevin Johnson. “And because of God, you are home safe.”

Johnson used Bible scripture to reinforce his remarks.

Citing John 15:13, Johnson said, “‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’ You did that for us. Thank you.”

Hanahan’s mayor traveled from the Lowcountry for less than two minutes at the podium. After reading a single name, Alan Pile, Mayor Minnie N. Blackwell waved to the soldiers and said, “God bless you and God bless the U.S.A.”

John Howard, a Lancaster council member and former guardsmen, thanked the soldiers and their families before reading the names of those who served from his county.

Paul Taylor, president of Vietnam Veterans of America No. 960, presented the unit with a certificate thanking it for its bravery and service, and Clarendon County Council Chairman Dwight Stewart presented the unit with the 1/178th banner that flew over the Clarendon County Courthouse during the unit’s deployment.

Major Gen. Harry Burchstead, a former commander of Charlie Battery, called the unit the Guard’s “newest heroes.”“What a great day to be a soldier,” Burchstead said. “And, what a great day to be an American in Manning, South Carolina.”

Burchstead gave the crowd its first glimpse at how daunting a job the unit had.“This unit offered security in some of the most dangerous territories in the region,” Burchstead said. “While they were over there, escort units logged more than five million miles protecting our convoys, and one-third of those miles were logged by the 1/178th, these soldiers.”

Col. Brock Clary, commander of Charlie Battery, thanked the families for the cookies, care packages, newspapers, cards and letters.“You took care of us,” he said. “Thank you.”

Clary said Charlie Battery escorted 90 percent of the cargo sent to the region, including shipments of ammunition, fuel, equipment and food.

“These were vital supplies and they had to get to their destination,” he said. “Charlie Battery got them there.”Clary said soldiers faced mortar fire and roadside bombings on more than 100 occasions and not one soldier was injured.

Clary, who told the crowd he had never been to Manning before Saturday, thanked the crowd for its events.“You’ve treated me like one of your own,” he said. “Thank you.”

At the end of the program, Burchstead leaned off the podium and chatted with the director of the 282nd Army Band from Fort Jackson, and within moments the strains of “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” were heard.

The familiar anthem brought the crowd and the soldiers to their feet.

Following the ceremony, Shoney’s of Manning served up a picnic lunch for the soldiers and their families to welcome home the soldiers of Charlie Battery.

Darren Hawfield and Jonas Piester of Newberry and Jason Watkins of Columbia, all members of the 1/178th, traveled to Manning to take part in the celebration.

“I feel the support here in Manning,” Hawfield said. “I don’t know anyone here, but the community has made me feel validated, and that’s really nice.”

Friday, October 28, 2005

Vying for an Insanity Defense?

Stephen Corey Bryant was arrested Wednesday, October 13, 2004, for a week-long crime spree during which three men were killed and a fourth wounded by shots fired from the same .40-caliber handgun:

_ Christopher Burgess, 35, was found by a hunter shot to death along a muddy gravel and dirt road in Sumter County at least three miles off state Highway 261.

_ Clifton Gainey, 36, was found dead, shot in the chest and neck along an isolated dirt road. His home caught fire soon after.

_ Willard Tietjen, 62, was shot in the head, chest and hands at his home. Burning candles were found around the body. A note saying "Catch me if you can" was found at the scene, and the victim’s wife’s call to his cell phone was answered, "this is the prowler, I shot your husband".

_ Clinton Brown, 56, was shot in the back while fishing along the Wateree River. He drove himself to the hospital and survived.

In a letter written to The Item on March 11, 2005, Bryant made allegations of abuse and neglect on the part of detention center employees, declared his innocence,

[I’m] “not the real killer, I can prove it with evidence and facts”

and vowed not to eat or drink until his complaints were addressed

“I’ve got a very strong will, and the way I see it they just might as well take me to the hospital so the doctor can stick a tube in me to feed me…I will not eat anything no matter how long it takes.”

Recently, Bryant threw urine on a fellow inmate and attacked a guard

Happy Birthday

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Puppy Personals


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


An attempt to deliver an innocent newborn to capable hands was vilified for failing to adhere to the provisions of "Daniel's Law.

Compassion however, has prevailed.

The Commute

The commute to and from next-door-to-nowhere is generally uneventful. Of late, however, there have been some disconcerting moments.

This morning, a truck with no taillights, perhaps no brakes, and transmission troubles (a safe assumption, since it didn't exceed the speed of 25 mph), failed to stop at an intersection and coasted in my lane of travel.

The presence of more than one law enforcement officer was noted during the afternoon drive today.

The need to enforce the caution pleaded, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Identified Falling Object

Plane part pays uninvited visit.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday Mutt Shot

Is it my turn yet?

Sgt. James Lathan, Jr.

He needed a wheelchair ramp.

He's getting a new home.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Floating Objects: Not Always What They Appear

Remembering Jon

Memories etched in stone by his comrades.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Playing the Odds

1 in 146,107,962.00.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Chicken Run

"...there were chickens everywhere...”

An Escape Attempt?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Monday Mutt Shot

Hide 'n Seek

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Abhorrent Architect

The spider constructs an elaborate facade, a deadly design invisible until those drawn to it become snared by its intricacies.

I suppose many humans possess the same architectural ability.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Serving and Protecting

Wolf Spider

SWAT Team Captures Spider

In Memory

Sgt. Donald Furman, Burton, South Carolina.

I See, You See, We All See

SEE is failing.

Enrollment at Benedict College is lower than expected and employees are suffering, facing a 5% reduction in salary.

I imagine the employees find no comfort in the revelation that they may have faced a 10% pay cut; just as I imagine parents don't want to pay tuition for a degree awarded on the basis of attendance.

Updated: Protests highlight additional financial woes.

PFC Terrill Stewart

On Friday, Stewart, a mother and grandmother from Paris, Idaho, fulfilled her dream and became asoldier, graduating from basic training at Fort Jackson.

Her oldest son, Spc. Garrett Good, 20, a member of the 1st Cavalry Division and an Iraq veteran, was on hand for the occasion along with Stewart’s husband, Reid, owner of a construction company.

Also attending the event at Hilton Field was Gen. Richard Cody, vice chief of staff — the Army’s No. 2 commander.

Cody, whose presence was more a matter of timing than planning, praised both mother and son.

“This is a great American story and a great story for the Army,” Cody said.

The morning graduation ceremony turned out to be a Mother’s Day celebration for Stewart, who is now 40 and has two other children, three step-children, and two grandchildren.

At one point during his speech, Cody referred to soldiers like Stewart’s son and saluted their bravery and courage.

Stewart, who stood at parade rest, fought back tears when she heard her son’s name. She may be a soldier, she said, but she also is the proud mother of a soldier.

During the 45-minute ceremony, Stewart also led the 800 soldiers in her graduating class in reciting the “Soldier’s Creed,” a statement of the Army’s values.

Her son, wearing his green dress uniform, joined Stewart at her side.

When finished, she turned and faced him.

There was an awkward moment, unsure of what to do next. Her son’s appearance was not scripted.

First, Stewart reached to attempt a handshake, but then mother and son embraced.

Good said he had permission from the command sergeant major to hug his mother.

Despite being twice the age of most of the soldiers in her unit, Pfc. Stewart managed to hold her own during training.

A former police officer, Stewart had the top score on the physical fitness test for female troops in her company, notching 299 out of a possible 300 points.

She also was named Delta Company’s “soldier of the cycle” for the nine-week training period.

The entire story can be found here.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Just Wondering...

Always mindful of my manners, and very aware of the eccentric proclivities of a chosen few (them that "ain't right"), I remain perplexed by

The Conglomerate Combover

and The Mama Mullet

A Mother's Instinct

Dog welcomes squirrel into litter

The Associated Press

SEATTLE -- Animal lover that she is, Debby Cantlon didn't think twice when someone asked if she could take in an orphaned newborn squirrel and nurse it back to health.
It also was apparently a no-brainer for Mademoiselle Giselle, her pregnant Papillon.

The black and white pooch with long-haired butterfly ears dragged the squirrel's cage to her bedside - twice - before she gave birth to her pups on Sept. 9.

Cantlon was concerned at first, but ultimately decided to allow the squirrel out, then Giselle actively encouraged the little rodent to join her litter.

Since then, cameras have captured images of the squirrel nursing right alongside his canine brothers and sisters.

His name: Finnegan. "As in, 'Finnegan, begin again,'" Cantlon said.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

State Fair

My Future Farmer went to the SC State Fair today.

I'm pleased to report no Spitters were spotted.

Remembering Jon

(Columbia) October 12, 2005 - A memorial service is planned for law enforcement officers that have given their lives while serving in Clarendon County.

Trooper Jonathan Parker was killed in an accident in May when a fleeing suspect hit his cruiser. Clarendon County will hold a ceremony to honor Trooper Parker and other officers killed in the line of duty.

The event takes place next Friday, October 21st at 10:00am on the Clarendon County Courthouse grounds. The ceremony will be closed by a 21 gun salute and taps given by the SC Department of Public Safety's Honor Guard.


and the Spit Patrol

South Carolina's Gentleman Politician

Alex, pronounced "Aleck", and known as "Bubba" to his closest friends and family, will be sorely missed. He never forgot those he represented and was available to all.

Godspeed, Alex.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Gas Gangstas

The State of North Carolina ranks third in the nation for highest gas prices.

While there may be valid reasons high gas prices, conspiring to take advantage of consumers is not one.

Monday Mutt Shot


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Buff Burglar

A Darlington man is in jail after police say he tried to rob a business naked.
Police say Michael Gilbert tried to climb through an air conditioning vent and rob the "Check and Go" on Pearl street in Darlington.

For Darlington Police, the incident was not your average wake-up call.

"Usually when you come to an alarm call at night you expect to find a broken window or something like that, but in this case, we found someone hanging from the ceiling," said Lt. Danny Watson of the Darlington City Police.

Authorities say that someone was six-foot-two, 175 pound, Michael Gilbert.

Police say he came up with the idea to burglarize the "Check-and-Go"... at one in the morning... in the pouring rain...naked.

The business doesn't even have any cash on the site.

Police say Gilbert entered through a small hole in an air conditioning vent in the ceiling. When he discovered he couldn't get into the store, he broke through several ceiling tiles in the building and eventually ended up dangling from an electric cord.

When police arrived on the scene, they say Gilbert was not without an alibi...even it if wasn't exactly sound.

"He had a charming story to go along with it though, he said somebody threw his keys on the roof and that's why he was up there...he kind of got a little fuzzy on the "taking all his clothes off and sliding in the store" part." said Watson.

Contrary to what one might think, police say that Gilbert was actually not even intoxicated.

They say he was simply a man on a mission. One for which he packed no clothes, did no homework on the business, and was not very successful.

In fact, Darlington police say they could use more suspects like Gilbert.

"We'll take all the dumb criminals we can get personally," said Watson.

Police say the business took steps to help out before the incident took place.

One of the main things that aided their effort was an alarm system that allowed police to respond immediately.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Fuzzy Wuzzy


In Afghanistan

While “T and A” in the States has decidedly sexual connotations, the phrase refers to something very different in Afghanistan. Nearly all Afghan women can be seen in cities and villages wearing the traditional burqa — a full-body-length gown that covers just about every bit of female skin. The only parts of the women’s bodies left exposed are their toes and ankles. When you hear the phrase “T and A” in Afghanistan, it’s in obvious reference to “toes and ankles.” Get your mind out of the gutter.

Guilty Plea

The web of corruption revealed in July appears to be unraveling.

Oct 4, 2005
Morning News

Former Lake City Police Officer pleads guilty to federal drug charge


A former Lake City Police lieutenant pleaded guilty Monday to federal drug charges.

William Webb, 40, of Olanta pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine in federal court in Florence as part of a plea agreement he made with the U.S. government, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alfred “Buddy” Bethea confirmed.

That agreement requires Webb to cooperate fully with the ongoing federal investigation into corruption and illegal drug activities in the Lake City area. As is standard with federal plea agreements of any kind, if Webb fails to be truthful or forthcoming with the government at any point, the agreement becomes null and void.

Webb was arrested in February by agents of the FBI, the State Law Enforcement Division, and the Florence County and Williamsburg County sheriff’s offices as the result of a joint investigation into corruption and illegal drug activities in the lower Florence County area.

From 1994 to last year, while employed with the Lake City Police Department, Webb routinely took payoffs from Lake City drug dealers in exchange for protecting their drug deals and sold cocaine from his Lake City Police patrol cruiser.

In addition, Webb gave drugs he confiscated through his police duties to a drug dealer who disbursed the drugs to several others to resell on the streets. In turn, a portion of the proceeds were returned to Webb. Sometimes, Webb would confiscate the drugs a second time, then give them back to the original dealer to sell.

Webb also tipped off drug dealers about police activities in the Lake City area so that the dealers would not be arrested or caught with drugs in their possession.

Between 1995 and 2003, one dealer alone paid Webb about $75,000 for drugs.

Webb worked for the Lake City Police Department in the early 1990s, then left for a few years before he was rehired in 1999. Webb was suspended from the police department after his arrest, but Lake City Administrator George E. Simmons did not return telephone calls seeking comment on Webb’s employment status Monday.

Lake City Mayor LaRue Alford also did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Webb will remain out of jail on bond until his sentencing hearing, which will be scheduled after the U.S. Probation Office completes its standard pre-sentencing report. Typically, those reports take about 30 days to complete.

Webb’s arrest sparked a string of controversial events including the firing of then-Lake City Police Chief Kenneth McCaster.

McCaster was fired by Simmons after the chief reported the polygraph results for three officers, including active officers Shanita McKnight and Maurice Ponteau, who were interviewed in connection with the Webb case and the federal task force’s ongoing investigation into corruption and drug activity in Lake City.

The day after he was fired, McCaster issued a public letter to the citizens of Lake City in which he attacked the workings of the city’s administration, calling Lake City “a thug-run city” and “a society of illegal administrative practices, sexual relations at work, political favors, nepotism, voter fraud, election fraud, intimidation, bad judicial (court practices), ticket fixing mixed with political pressure and favoritism and defiance and arrogance concerning other law enforcement agencies.”

But in a July interview with the Morning News, Simmons defended his decision to fire McCaster and his handling of city business, saying McCaster was fired because he tried to go over the administration’s head.

Less than a month later, McKnight was arrested by State Law Enforcement Division agents and charged with multiple crimes ranging from accepting bribes from drug dealers to obstructing justice to protect a family member’s illegal narcotics operation. The charges against McKnight are still pending.

To avoid any possibility of a conflict of interest for the 12th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, 12th Circuit Solicitor Ed Clements III said he turned McKnight’s case over to the S.C. Attorney General’s office for prosecution.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, no court date has been set.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Little Hardware Store

Having lived long on a tight budget, I harbored distaste for the Little Hardware Store with cluttered, dusty, over-priced wares until that which I sought could not be found in the Land of Roll Back Prices.

I warily entered what I believed to be a haven restricted to men and was relieved- surprised- when informed not only was that which I sought in stock, but its exact location in the jumbled store was known to the clerk I inquired of.

A ladder appeared from nowhere and within minutes my purchase was brought forth, wiped clean of dust, and paid for. Then the offer was made to assemble and test the appliance.

I have been reminded: you get what you pay for.

Monday Mutt Shot

Keeper of the Kibble

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Tattling Teddy

A warm teddy bear helped lead Clarendon County deputies to a man wanted in an armed robbery and carjacking.

Officers went to a Manning home Wednesday night after they received a tip Gregory L. Mouzon was inside.

One of the investigators saw a pile of clothes in a closet and picked up a teddy bear on top that was unusually warm, Chief Deputy Joe Bradham said.

Other officers, including Investigator Tommy Burgess, started picking up the clothes and found Mouzon under the pile.

Mouzon “stuck his head up and said, ‘Hello, Mr. Burgess,’” Bradham said.

Deputies had been looking for Mouzon for about 18 hours since, authorities said, he went into a gas station, robbed the clerk, then carjacked a 1996 Ford Taurus from an acquaintance who had driven him to the store.

— The Associated Press