Question 1. At the end of WWII 
which group of pilots 
unnerved German infantrymen
so badly they were called the 
a. American Red Tails
b. British RAF
c. A group of barely trained
Russian women in crop dusters

And the answer is, drum roll please, barely trained Russian women flying wood and canvas Polikarpov Po2 biplanes originally intended for crop dusting.


Russian pilots preparing to scare the crap out of sleeping German infantrymen.

These planes were so bad that they would randomly stop mid-flight and the women would have to climb out on the wings to restart them. However they had a top speed below the stall threshold for a Messerschmitt, Germany’s all powerful fighter jet.  This meant Messerschmitt pilots couldn’t slow their planes enough to shot a Po2 down without stalling which was not a good maneuver for a Messerschmitt but the lowly crop duster could handle it.


These Russian pilots were called Nachthexen or Night Witches because they could cut their engines and glide silently over sleeping troops.  If anyone heard anything at all before the explosions began, it would be the eerie whistling of the guide-wires, a sound the Germans compared to witches flying overhead on their broomsticks.  (Apparently witches flew over small villages frequently enough for young German soldiers to recognize the sound.)

witchThe physical damage these women caused paled in comparison to the shame of it all.  The mighty Teutonic forces terrorized by women in crop dusters!  The mighty Luftwaffe, powerless to do anything!  Ach du lieber!

Rumors regarding these mighty women were at first dismissed by American pilots but soon came to be revered, most notably by the fictional Captain Wilhelm Umberto Grayson in FLIPKA.  Years after the war he would name his “mistress,” a Po2 biplane, after one of them and oh, the adventures they would have together.

After the war these women became one of the most highly decorated regimens in the Soviet army.  To this date they are still revered:

I think that’s cool, don’t you?

Win a Prize! Or take a ride…

The answers – along with links (in some cases) to more details.

1. At the end of WWII which group of pilots unnerved German infantrymen so badly they were called the Nachthexen?

Bi plane

WW II plane responsible for disrupting the sleep of German soldiers, the eerie sound of the guide wires as the planes glided over head, called “The Whistling Death.”

a. American Red Tails
b. British RAF
c. A group of barely trained Russian women flying crop dusters.
d. Aliens

2. Who owns 84% of Nevada?

a. Federal Government
b. The casinos
c. Howard Hughes’ estate
e. Aliens

3. Prostitution is legal in Nevada (this is a trick question).

a. True
b. False

Giant Red-haired cannibals

The Indians force the Giant Red-haired cannibals into the Lovelock caves and burn them alive. Image from

4. The legend of the Giant Red Haired Cannibals is no legend at all according to :

a. The journals of legendary scout  Kit Carson
b. Life Among the Piutes by Sarah Winnemucca
c. Mark Twain’s autobiography
d. Aliens

5. The Giant Red Haired Cannibals are theorized to have been:

a. Russians who migrated centuries ago across the Bering Strait and kept going south until they found a hospitable climate
d. Yetis (Big Foot, Sasquatch, etc.)
d. Aliens
e. All of the above

6. Halloween is important to Nevada because:

a. Pumpkins are its major cash crop.
b. On October 31,1864 Nevada was admitted to the union.
c. It’s Alien Appreciation Day in Nevada

7. Bat Guano is used in the following ways:

a. Fertilizer
b. Explosives
c. Laundry detergent
d. All of the above
e. What the heck is bat guano?


Learning Lakota

This post, from a few years back, is on my mind this Thanksgiving.

When I was a kid, every summer my father morphed into a stoic Sioux warrior whose job it was to toughen up his wimpy offspring so they’d become mighty braves. On weekends we were marched up mountain trails carrying heavy backpacks irregardless of the temperature.  Then we were told to catch a fish or go without dinner. Sleep was on mattresses we made of pine needles. My father would make statements like:  “When I become a burden to the tribe, I will walk out into the desert with only the clothes on my back and never return.”  Tribe?  Good grief.  You’d have thought he was really a Native American.  He was not.


Hand-painted dancer from Pine Ridge Reservation circa 1920.

He was the son of a man who ran Indian reservations throughout the Dakotas and Montana and thus spent most of his summers learning to hunt and fish and hide horses with the Sioux.  Both my father and grandfather wore elaborately beaded buckskin jackets and bolo ties made from arrow heads.

Peace Rug

Peace rug, age unknown

I can only imagine what it must have been like to be a Scottish man working for the Indian Service at a time when the Sioux still rode horses. From what I’ve heard, he tried his best in many bad circumstances but in the end the job killed him.  Or it might have been my grandmother.  She was not noted for her humanitarian instincts. She was noted for her prickly disdain for Catholics and all non-Norwegians. But, because she was an English teacher, Grandfather convinced her to tutor Native American children.IMG_0582Every now and then she’d send us a few Indian Life books like the one above which were used to teach the children to read english using their own folklore. My favorites were The Pine Ridge PorcupineThe Slim Butte Raccoon and The Grass Mountain Mouse.  In these stories every creature had its place and purpose in the world.  Even trees and mountains and streams should be respected and worshipped. The world, as the Indian knew it, was not owned by man; man was owned by the world.

Sadly only one of the primers survived my crazy childhood: Sioux Cowboy. 


Part of the Lakota alphabet as translated by Emil Afraid-of-Hawk

I tried to teach myself Lakota, fantasizing that if my grandparents ever invited me to visit them on the reservation I would be able to speak with the Sioux girls and boys in their own language.  I didn’t know that by the time I started getting the primers my grandmother had already left my grandfather at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and was living primarily with my great grandmother in Fargo.

So today, I’m grateful for the reminders I have of Native American culture.  I wish this was a day when Native Americans were thankful that their charity towards refugees from a far off land had been richly rewarded.  Maybe someday.

The End of Washington Street

I was raised in Reno Nevada:

…aka, the Biggest Little CIty in the World
…aka, Sin City North
…aka, So Close to Hell You Can See Sparks. Sparks is Reno’s sister city.

153018240_displayThis was the first school I attended in Reno: Mary S. Doten.  It was a roomy, spanish style building with lots of character.  However, after second grade a move to the end of Washington Street necessitated that I switch to a closer school.   In those days, the end of Washington Street was on the outskirts of town however today a housing tract has gobbled up the old cattle ranch where we used to ski in the winter and catch king snakes in the summer, often dodging the bullets of some old coot squatting in the tattered remains of a barn.  Yes, Reno was a little rough back then.

I have few memories of Mary S. Doten and now it is gone. Lovely old building though.

peavine7Here is Peavine Elementary.  As you can see a more modern building.  It also bordered on the aforementioned cow-dung, king snake infested cattle ranch. All through elementary school Sarah Jennis was my very best friend.  In sixth grade we practiced kissing in case we ever got boyfriends.  I suppose it was my first (and last) lesbian relationship.  But Sarah was Mormon and they have to get married and everyone knows you can’t get a man unless you’re in the popular crowd.  So just before entering junior high, Sarah Jennis dumped me for some ridiculous goon-ball with a duck-bill hairstyle who in turn she dumped when a better one came along and so on until she’d clawed her way up the slippery rungs of popularity one boy after another.  Along the way she changed her name to Sarah-Jo because the most popular girl’s name was Bobbie-Jo.  I refused to change my name to Janet-Jo and so I was out. In all other ways Sarah Jo was a smart girl and I hope she’s happily grandmothering to sixty-six off-spring somewhere in Provo.

When a best friend dumps you at age thirteen, your life is over. You’re passed down to girls who claim to be the daughter of Satan, girls who hate, hate, hate their mothers or smoke cigarettes stolen from the corner store. No one wants to be your friend.  You’ve been dumped.

school_home_defaultThis is the building I entered alone that horrible first day back at school:  Central Junior High.  It had wainscoted halls and narrow stairs leading between the floor.  The classrooms on the upper floors were dormers.  Because it had no air-conditioning, the large windows were often left open to the sounds of downtown.

Three things happened that year which I will never forget.  The first, on a cold day in November.  I was busy scooping mashed potatoes onto plates in the basement cafeteria (poor kids worked in the cafeteria in exchange for lunch).  I had a stupid hairnet on my hair and plastic gloves on my hands, trying to be invisible, hoping no one would recognize me when I started to hear the whispers.  No, it can’t be true.  Yes, he’s dead!  You’re a liar! You’re a liar – it can’t be true.  Then, as teachers gathered in the corner talking with their heads down, we began to realize something was horribly wrong.  The bell rang and anxiously we ran to our next period class.   The announcement over the PA system was brief.


The President has been killed. School is suspended for the next three days.

My history teacher – a hard as nails ex Marine – broke down in sobs.  Some idiot child of a rabid Nixon supporter cheered for which he came within inches of a broken nose.  We walked home dazed.

The second event of consequence happened just after Christmas break.  I was in MushMouth’s fourth period English class when a sound unlike anything we’d ever heard drifted up from the PE classes in the basement.  On Fridays, PE was reserved for dance lessons, generally polkas and waltzes but every now, (as a treat for good behavior) rock and roll.   I can still remember


MushMouth standing at the chalkboard diagramming his heart out, completely unaware that he’d lost us forever.  It was the Beatles.  Yeah, yeah, yeah!

The third event was JoEllen, the college kid who made me aware I never wanted to be


Janet Jo.  She is also the model for the Fi Butters character in FLIPKA.  And Nell in a yet to be published story.

Unfortunately Central Junior was on prime Reno real estate – only three blocks from the center of town, Harrahs, the El Dorado, the Mapes.  Real estate too valuable for the education of surly teens. The city tore it down and sold the land to Circus Circus.  Now there is a four story parking structure on the sacred spot where I first heard the Beatles.   Bad karma, City of Reno, bad karma.

The next school I went to, Archie Clayton Junior High, looked like a prison.  Brand new thus no landscaping … thus sitting in mud through most of the winter.  That’s the image I associate with that school.  Mud.  To add insult to injury, the school board hired the same principal most of us had in elementary school to run Mud School and he brought many of Peavine’s teachers with him.  I ended up with my sister’s favorite kindergarten teacher for Speech.   “Now boys and girls, I want you all to get up and give a speech about what you want to be when you grow up.

This last assignment (believe it or not) got me thrown into detention. It was the beginning of my Breakfast Club days and the first time I heard of Caliente, the girls‘ reformatory so remote, so dismal, so foreboding that girls set there never returned.  Rumors and legends about what happened to those girls haunted me for years, creating the settings and many of the characters in FLIPKA.  However, I hasten to point out, I was never sentenced to Caliente.  Close but no cigar.

Headlines from Planet Nevada

Today, dear followers, a sampling of articles from Planet Nevada…home of FLIPKA.

Let's hear it for the 
World's oldest profession!

We all need to do our bit to keep hookers in business and paying taxes so, fellow Nevadans – buy more books, more clothes, more toys, etc.  from Amazon. According to this entertaining article in Business Week, the more you buy, the less the ladies of the night have to discount their services and maybe, just maybe, we can afford to take care of our indigent mental patients instead of applying “Greyhound Therapy.”

You're never too old...

Good news all you post menopausal ladies! According to this same article in Business Week, you can become a prostitute at age 49 and rise to the rank of madam by the time you’re 63.

“Austin (63), who said she became a prostitute at 49 before becoming a madam, said the Mustang Ranch is seeing fewer clients than five years ago, though she wouldn’t provide figures.”

Just think, a new career opportunity awaits you, one in which you don’t have to be a former Swim Suit Model of the year but it won’t hurt business.  Benefits are, you can sleep in, you get weekly tests for venereal disease and, depending on your establishment, free room and board comes as part of the deal.

UNBM adds the study of louche delights to its curriculum...

In it’s efforts to attract quality athletes from all over the world, the University of Nevada Battle Mountain has added Sociological Repercussions of the Louche Delights Industry to its curriculum for the fall quarter of 2013.  Unfortunately most of the incoming football players ignored the course entirely as they don’t own a dictionary.  However, the professor, Dr. J. Allen Gooseman, was delighted to find his classroom full of be-speckled journalism majors all of whom were dead set on writing a Pulitzer Prize winning piece on the prostitution industry.

A sentence I wished I'd written..

“Flint has hedged his bet on fornication: He also owns Chapel of the Bells, a Reno wedding service, where his office is decorated with portraits of Napoleon.”

Ah Nevada…