Bobby Dan Davis Blocker was born in 1928 in De Kalb, Texas, to Ora “Shack” and Mary Arizona Blocker. He attended military school as a child and excelled at football. Blocker played ball in college as well. The fact that he was 6’4” and weighed 320 pounds didn’t hurt his gridiron prospects.
While in college Blocker parlayed his immense size into jobs as both a rodeo performer and a bouncer in a bar. Despite his intimidating habitus, friends described him as good-natured and soft-hearted. Upon his graduation from college in 1950 Blocker received a letter from Uncle Sam.
Bobby Blocker Goes to War
Bobby Blocker was drafted in 1951. He took his basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and was there molded into an infantryman. He spent another nine months honing his craft in Sapporo, Japan. In December of 1951, Blocker deployed to Korea with F Company, 2nd Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division—the Thunderbirds. He served in-country through August of 1952.
Blocker landed at Inchon and by Christmas was in the thick of the fighting. In short order, he found himself near Chorwon in what is today North Korea. The series of fortifications that Blocker’s regiment manned was called the Jamestown Line. He remained in combat for 209 days.
The Jamestown Line was a series of trench systems. Where much of World War 2 had been a war of mobility, Korea frequently devolved into a bloody stalemate fought in foxholes and static trenches more akin to those of the First World War. Add to this the bitter cold and penetrating wind and you had a recipe for misery on a scale most modern folk cannot imagine.
Opposing units seesawed back and forth assaulting hills and taking fortifications in a war where success was measured in yards. Allied troops designated the dominating terrain feature Old Baldy, a distinctive promontory that held a commanding vantage over the entire area. The most critical piece of dirt in the area became known as Pork Chop Hill.
Bobby Blocker’s part in this sordid bloody production was simply the opening act. The Thunderbirds seized Pork Chop Hill, so named because of its geometric similarity to the familiar porcine comestible, in May of 1952. A seriously bloody fight took place between Allied troops and the Chinese the following year.
In April and July of 1953, some 347 Americans died against an estimated 1,500 Chinese dead. The two major battles for Pork Chop Hill gained notoriety due to their apparent utter pointlessness. Men bled out to hold terrain that had little significance in the real world. This fight unfolded while the UN Command was negotiating with the leadership of China and North Korea over the Korean Armistice Agreement. Both sides wanted the hill as a bargaining tool. Of all the reasons a man might have to die in battle, this was a really crappy one.
Back when Bobby Blocker called this desolate scrap of real estate home things were still plenty horrible. Blocker was acting First Sergeant on May 25, 1952, when his company manned positions on Hill 200 near Outpost Eerie. In the frenetic combat that followed six Americans were killed and a further 21 were wounded. At the same time, 132 Chinese soldiers fell.
Gordon Abts, an American grunt who earned the Silver Star for gallantry in May of that year, served under Sergeant Blocker. He later said, “(Blocker) was a great guy. He was very strong. He could take a beer can between two fingers and crush it. He was very athletic. He was loud, but very friendly and got along with everybody. He was a great leader.”
SGT Blocker was wounded rescuing his men under fire. He was credited with saving the lives of several members of his unit during combat. At a time when most Chinese attacks occurred at night, Blocker and his men fought gallantly against the infiltrating Communist hordes.
Blocker’s 179th Infantry Regiment was taken off the line in July of 1952. Only then was SGT Blocker finally evacuated to a hospital. The Thunderbirds went into reserve, and by the end of the summer Blocker was headed home. When he left the Army he had been awarded the Purple Heart, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Service Medal with two bronze campaign stars, the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, the United Nations Service Medal, the Korean War Service Medal, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
When he returned to the US the gigantic combat veteran taught high school English and drama before taking over a sixth-grade classroom at Eddy Elementary School in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Now married to his new wife Dolphia, the couple eventually moved to Los Angeles.
Blocker had a Master’s degree in drama and began pursuing his doctorate at UCLA. Blocker was from Texas and typically dressed the part. At one point he was standing in a phone booth arrayed in his typical Texan attire when the casting director for a television western spotted him. Things got busy from there.
One of his first credited roles was as the Goon in the Three Stooges short Outer Space Jitters in 1957. He made the playbill as Don Blocker for reasons that have been lost to history. At the same time, he was cast as the blacksmith in two episodes of Gunsmoke. Small parts in Colt .45, The Restless Gun, The Sheriff of Cochise, Cheyenne, The Rifleman, Cimarron City, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, Wagon Train, and Have Gun Will Travel followed. This was the Golden Age of TV Westerns, and Bobby Blocker rode the wave. Throughout it all Blocker parlayed his impressive size into screen-filling characters alongside most of the major actors of the day.
In 1959 Bobby Blocker landed his dream job. He was cast as Eric “Hoss” Cartwright in the hit NBC Western series Bonanza. He by now marketed himself as Dan Blocker professionally. Blocker played the iconic role through 415 episodes.
When interviewed about the unique combination of power and compassion he poured into the character of Hoss Cartwright, Blocker said he tried to channel Stephen Grellet, the prominent 18th-century French-American Quaker missionary. Grellet once wrote, “We shall pass this way on Earth but once, if there is any kindness we can show, or good act we can do, let us do it now, for we will never pass this way again.” This was Hoss Cartwright’s mantra.
The Rest of the Story
While Hoss was by far Blocker’s most famous role, he logged a little time on the big screen as well. He starred alongside Frank Sinatra in the 1963 comedy Come Blow Your Horn and again five years later as a seasoned tough guy with Sinatra in Lady in Cement. Potentially his most thought-provoking Hollywood encounter involved the esteemed director Stanley Kubrick.
Kubrick was casting his bizarre anti-war film Dr. Strangelove and needed somebody large and menacing to play Major TJ “King” Kong. Peter Sellers carried the film playing multiple parts, but he felt that the role of Kong should be a standalone character. Blocker’s agent perused the script and refused to allow him to read for it. The iconic part subsequently went to Slim Pickens. Dr. Strangelove would have had an entirely different flavor had it been Hoss Cartwright riding that thermonuclear bomb while maniacally waving his cowboy hat.
Blocker worked regularly into the 1970s on projects as disparate as The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County and The Flip Wilson Show. Along the way, he was gifted partial ownership in several Bonanza Steakhouse restaurants in return for his service as the chain’s commercial spokesman while in character as Hoss.
Dan and his wife Dolphia had four children. One son, Dirk Blocker, became an actor of some renown in his own right. Dirk’s most familiar role was that of Marine pilot Jerry Bragg in the awesome 1970’s-era TV epic Black Sheep Squadron. Black Sheep Squadron was a staple of my childhood. Looking back on it I can see the family resemblance. Dan’s son David became an Emmy-winning TV producer. One of his twin daughters was a visual artist.
Dan Blocker was a great fan of high-performance automobiles. He maintained a 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Z-16 as well as a 1965 Huffaker Genie Mk 10 racer he christened the Vinegaroon. The Vinegaroon raced for Chevrolet in 1965 and 1966 as part of the US Road Racing Championship series as well as the 1966 Can-Am championship.
In May of 1972 Blocker went into the Daniel Freeman Hospital in LA to have his gallbladder removed. A cholecystectomy is a common surgical procedure that should have been fairly routine. The hulking combat veteran who played the lovable Hoss Cartwright suffered a pulmonary embolus post-operatively and died both suddenly and unexpectedly. He was only 43.
In an unprecedented effort, the writers of Bonanza wrote Hoss Cartwright’s death into the show’s narrative. More commonly when a major character died during the production of a TV show the writers and producers would simply gloss over it. In the later series Bonanza: The Next Generation it is explained that Hoss drowned saving a man’s life.
Bonanza sputtered on for one more year without Hoss, but it never was quite the same. That 14thseason wrapped in January of 1973 and has been the least popular of the show’s protracted run. Dan Blocker–actor, war hero, father, and cowboy–is buried in the Woodmen Cemetery in De Kalb, Texas, alongside his father, mother, and sister. His is a fairly unassuming grave for a truly outsized guy.
I glanced at my buzzing phone between crises at work. There was a kid with an ear infection screaming in Room 2, and the elderly man with chest pain in 3 was very likely having a heart attack. The lady in 4 was sobbing hysterically. Her husband of three decades had moved out the night before, and she had no place else to turn. It was, in short, a fairly typical day at the office.
The message read, “Can I borrow a .22 rifle to chase squirrels? My old hunting buddy and I got access to a nice piece of woods, and we’d like to go walk around a bit. Dad.”
Everybody has a father. I am blessed with a dad.
Role Model, Inspiration, Hero
My father is an indispensable part of my success today. He and mom sacrificed when I was a kid and loved me even when I was unlovely. He lived the example of the Southern Christian gentleman and showed me what it meant to be a man. I never once heard him curse. If everybody had a dad like mine the planet would be a much more peaceful, respectful and productive place.
Dad was a football star in college and even earned a spread in Sports Illustrated. I take after my mom and apparently didn’t inherit any of that. He could have handily beat up everybody else’s dad. However, short of protecting his family I could not imagine anything provoking him to violence.
He and I split the cost of my first Daisy BB gun when I was 7. He gave me my first .22 rifle and 12-gauge shotgun. He taught me the basics of rifle marksmanship and wing shooting as well as how to talk to turkeys.
By the time I left for college, 13 wild turkeys had fallen to my Browning Auto-5 while hunting at his side. Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners were seldom without one. The musty sweet smell of the Army-issue field jacket he wore on hunting trips when I was a kid is burned indelibly into my memory. He would undoubtedly push back at the characterization, but if I took a clean piece of paper and designed the perfect dad he would look like mine.
Dad already has a splendid .22 rifle—a gorgeous Winchester 63 with a tubular magazine in the stock he got for Christmas when he was a kid. The gun shot straight enough for my mom to use it to clip sprigs of mistletoe out of towering Mississippi Delta oak trees for use as Christmas decorations back in the day. A closely held family secret was my mom was always the best shot in the family.
I borrowed his rifle for an article a couple of years ago, and, oddly, it never found its way back home. Dad could have just admonished me to give him his gun back. Instead, he just asked to scrounge one of mine. That’s the kind of guy he is.
After a literal lifetime spent squeezing triggers for fun and money I have tasted both the good stuff and the bad. However, this time was special. Here was my excuse to build my dad the ultimate Information Age counter-squirrel rifle.
A sound suppressed Ruger 10/22 rifle is the ideal Information Age counter-squirrel weapon. The stainless steel
construction combined with the indestructible carbon fiber stock from Archangel make the gun essentially weatherproof.
Naturally the chassis is a Ruger 10/22. This classic, simple, ubiquitous self-loading .22 rifle is reliable and customizable unlike anything else on the market. It is also surprisingly inexpensive. Ruger makes so many of them mass production keeps the costs down. Spare parts and aftermarket cool-guy stuff are everywhere. In my dad’s competent hands, the Ruger 10/22 would be pure death to tree-dwelling rodents.
Standard Ruger 10/22 stocks are not bad, but this is for my dad. I want it to be perfect, so I looked to Archangel. Archangel produces a bewildering array of indestructible carbon fiber aftermarket stocks for an equally bewildering array of disparate weapons. For the old standby 10/22, their options run the gamut. They can transform your humble 10/22 into the spitting image of a German HK G36 combat rifle or set you up with a heavy target stock sporting multiple adjustments.
As this rifle was to be toted operationally in the field I opted for the midrange version. This stock incorporates a handy thumbwheel adjustment for length of pull yet remains sufficiently lightweight for easy carry. The stock free floats the barrel for accuracy, is festooned with sling sockets, and also includes a handy carrying compartment for a few spare .22 rounds or some emergency M&M’s.
I mounted glass on the top without a fuss. Neither Dad nor I have quite the visual acuity we once did, and a proper optical sight sure makes it easier to drop rounds on target. All Ruger 10/22 rifles come equipped with a sturdy sight rail, and the receivers are drilled and tapped from the factory.
Magazines range from standard helical feed 10-rounders up to 50-round drums with banana mags of various capacities liberally interspersed. New 10/22 rifles come standard with extended magazine release levers. Modern 10/22 fire control groups and barrel bands are polymer, but you will not wear out these components.
In a timeless tribute to the innate toxicity of testosterone, my dad and his best friend, both well into their 70’s, were recently hanging out at their hunting camp when an armadillo had the poor grace to make an unscheduled appearance. Dad produced his Ruger .22 Magnum revolver and, 6 rounds later, both my dad and his buddy were well and truly deafened. The armadillo, naturally, escaped unscathed. After some vigorous admonishment by his physician son, Dad now keeps a pair of muffs in his pickup truck.
A lifetime’s exposure to gunfire and chainsaws has already taken a toll on Dad’s hearing. You only get so much, and every time you are exposed to excessive noise you lose a little. It is imperative you safeguard every bit of it.
Hearing protection can be tough to manage when in the field hunting, particularly when there are multiple hunters involved. Sound suppressors are the obvious answer. Regrettably, however, civilian ownership requires the same onerous paperwork and $200 transfer tax fully automatic machineguns and grenade launchers might.
Sound suppressors should really be sold over the counter in blister packs at your local Shop-n-Grab. In America you are statistically at greater risk of succumbing to a shark attack or toothpick injury than a criminal assault with a suppressed weapon. (No kidding. I looked it up.) The only place Bad Guys use sound suppressors is on the screen at your local movie theater. However, there is a way to optimize this labyrinthine process.
If you transfer a sound suppressor to yourself as an individual then no one else may legally possess the item. However, if you form a trust it is possible to include more than one person as trustees. Details are available online, and the process is not particularly difficult or expensive. As such, I created a trust for both Dad and me allowing us to share legal possession of a .22 caliber can. The processing time takes about forever, but the resulting convenience makes the wait worthwhile.
The AATS1022 stock from Archangel sports an easily adjustable length of pull to accommodate different shooters.
The stock is functional and lightweight for optimal use in the field.
The resulting optimized squirrel rifle will easily keep its rounds within a tennis ball out to 50 meters or more in Dad’s capable hands. He used his Winchester 63 to drop swamp rabbits on the run when I was a kid. Dad’s the one who taught me to shoot, after all.
When stoked with subsonic ammo Dad’s squirrel gun is easy on the ears and even allows multiple shots at the same rat. With the can in place the bullet may agitate the squirrel, but the source of the shot is all but impossible to ascertain. The rifle is lightweight enough to tote long distances, and the Archangel stock allows the gun to be adjusted to fit your particular anatomy. While not just dirt cheap, this rig still remains within the means of most American shooters.
There is indeed a great deal wrong with our nation today. Among our many resplendent social ills, one of our greatest shortcomings is how few American men these days are signing up to be good old-fashioned dads. The job is grueling and the pay sucks, but the unfiltered adoration from a job well done makes up for the suffering.
Dad invested his life in me. As a result, I understood the value of hard work, discipline, good citizenship, and character in a world rapidly becoming bereft of same. Everybody has a father. Lamentably, fewer modern Americans have a real dad. Dad, enjoy your new rifle. The tree rats won’t stand a chance.
SALISBURY, Maryland – Firefighters in Maryland say an 11-year-old boy suffered minor burns after racing back into a burning apartment building to rescue his 2-year-old sister.
The blaze broke out Tuesday evening on the second floor of a two-story apartment building in Salisbury, which is in Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
According to the state fire marshal’s office, the boy fled the building when smoke alarms started going off, but then he realized his sister was still inside. That’s when he went back up to the burning second floor to rescue her, suffering a minor burn to his arm in the process.
Salisbury Fire Department photo
The boy’s injuries were so minor that he did not need to be treated at the scene. His sister, meanwhile, was not hurt.
The children’s names were not released.
Salisbury Fire Department photo
Salisbury firefighters had the blaze under control within 10 minutes, but two of the eight apartments were left uninhabitable as a result of the fire. The Red Cross was helping the displaced residents.
Investigators ruled the fire accidental, blaming an “unspecified electrical event” in a second-floor bedroom outlet.
Spending the holidays on deployment is a tough part of military life. On top of being separated from friends and family, the soldiers of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) were deployed to the infamous FOB Shank during Thanksgiving 2012. The Forward Operating Base, located in eastern Afghanistan, was one of the most heavily rocketed in the country during the war. To bring some holiday cheer to their deployment, 5-101 held a Thanksgiving Day Parade at the FOB: a “Shanksgiving” Day Parade. Special thanks to the The War Murals project for pulling this all together on Reddit!
Here are some pictures from the iconic 2012 Thanksgiving Parade at FOB Shank Afghanistan:
Team America UH-60 & Taliban Turkeys
This float sums up Thanksgiving at FOB Shank quite nicely. The CAB flies the UH-60 Black Hawk, depicted here in Team America livery, as well as the CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache helicopters. Also depicted are Thanksgiving-themed Taliban turkeys launching footballs from a mortar tube. Indirect fire, or IDF, was extremely common at FOB Shank. Whoever came up with this float found some serious creativity at the bottom of a Rip It can.
B Co., 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment brought the King to FOB Shank with their float named “Elvis Lives.” If the sign on the side and the figure in front weren’t enough, one soldier dressed up as Elvis himself with a white rhinestone jumpsuit and guitar. For good measure, the Bearcats strapped two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to their float.
There’s a lot to unpack with this float. First, you have Santa on a .50-cal reminding everyone that Christmas is right around the corner. Behind him are what appear to be a Pilgrim and Native American, representing the Thanksgiving theme. The helicopter float overall appears to be a hybrid of a CH-47 in front and UH-60 in back. However, the keen-eyed viewer will note that the iconic 101st Airborne Screaming Eagle depicted on its nose actually reads “Screaming Gobblers,” maintaining the Thanksgiving theme.
Snoopy and The Peanuts Gang
No Thanksgiving Day Parade is complete without America’s favorite cartoon Beagle, and FOB Shank didn’t disappoint. F Co., 6th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment topped their float with Snoopy in his WWI Flying Ace persona piloting his doghouse. The float’s sides depict other Peanuts characters including Charlie Brown, Lucy, and Woodstock.
The summer of 2012 saw the release of the first Avengers movie. With their first big on-screen collaboration, characters like Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk and Black Widow saw an explosion in popularity. Naturally, the 101st CAB included the Avengers in their Thanksgiving Day Parade, topped with Santa hats to keep the festive theming.
B Co., 96th Aviation Support Battalion’s float was a simple yet impressive representation of the famous Mayflower, the ship that brought the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620. The float is even marked with the company’s nickname, “Big Ugly.”
With this Santa-themed float, the Screaming Eagles depicted Saint Nick in a sandbag-fortified four-wheeler. With all the IDF that FOB Shank received, even Santa Claus could use the extra cover. Still he didn’t forget to bring presents for the troops deployed there. This float was actually named the champion of the parade.
In addition to the parade, FOB Shank transformed its stores into a Black Friday shopping center. Favorite retailers from back home like Target, Walmart and Best Buy were depicted as overlays on the existing storefronts. While there weren’t any doorbuster sales on TVs or gaming consoles, the added taste of home was a nice touch to round out Thanksgiving 2012.