Max Fly And The JFK Conspiracy

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The man in front of me was big with his hair clipped short on the side, military style. He was wearing a white trench coat and a brown hat, brown oxford shoes, white shirt, brown tie, and I assumed he had a government issued revolver on him somewhere.
He didn’t offer his hand and neither did I.
I was wearing my brown Dan Post cowboy boots, brown corduroy sports coat, Wisconsin Badger sweatshirt, Wrangler Jeans, and my silver belt buckle I won for being the runner-up all-around cowboy on the Texas Rodeo Circuit in 1937. I had my Colt .45 belly gun in its rig, situated snuggly under my left arm. I topped everything off with a white Stetson hat. I looked good.
I had a brandy manhattan in front of me and he had a Scotch and some change. He bought the drinks. It was his meeting.
“Thank you for agreeing to see me, Max. I realize you are a busy man.”
“That’s true but Harry said it was important. Something to do with national security?”
He ignored my question and asked one of his own.
“You and Lieutenant Harry Marshall pretty tight?”
“I guess. What’s this about?”
It was a Monday afternoon, 2:15 p.m. Central Standard Time, to be precise. We were sitting in the back of Rocco’s Pub, near the ladies room and close to the phone where I receive most of my calls. My friend and proprietor, Dan Ciorrocco, known as, The Rocco Man, was busy wiping down the bar and filling the cooler with beer, preparing for the evening crowd that would start arriving around 4:00 p.m. It was dark. I asked Rocco to keep the lights turned down and he agreed. This was a secretive meeting.
”Yes, well, I’m Colonel Jack Clarkston, I’m the Assistant Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.” He paused to let the importance of that set in, I guess. I stared at him.
He continued. “What do you know about the CIA, Max?”
I thought a moment and realized I didn’t know a great deal about the CIA, so I did what I usually do when I found myself lacking knowledge, I lied.
“Quite a bit actually. You are a bunch of weird spooks snooping around in everybody’s business trying to overthrow governments of small defenseless nations. How’s that’s for starters?”
He stared at me nodding his head.
“That’s fairly factual. Actually, we gather intelligence. We deal with two types of intelligence gathering. First, there is white intelligence which is information gathered from open sources such as newspapers and magazines and then there is covert intelligence gathering and this is what I am interested in hiring you for, to work directly for me outside the normal channels of the agency. I believe you are the perfect candidate.”
“Hire me? What for?”
Clarkston stared at me for an instant before pulling out a cigarette and lighting it. He blew smoke over his head and took a sip of his Scotch.
“Max, you have military and investigative experience. You don’t have a family. No siblings, your mother is dead and your father disappeared years ago, most likely died and buried in a pauper’s grave somewhere. Your history with women is shaky at best. You don’t have a wife or any kids, no attachments. You are familiar with the southwestern states as well as Mexico and South America and you cheat on your taxes. In other words, you are a perfect candidate for covert operations, this operation. We need someone outside the agency, someone we can trust. Are you interested?”
“And why should I do this?”
“Because you love your country and because we are asking you to do it. You don’t need any special talent or high intelligence. If intelligence, talent, and ability were hereditary, we would have to dig deeply into your family tree to find its source,” he said with a flicker of a grin, “and we don’t have the time to do that.”
I didn’t appreciate his failed attempt at humor.
“I don’t know. I’m making some pretty good money now. I would hate to give it up.”
“Max, we know what you are making and it isn’t what you have been reporting on your tax returns. We don’t care about that. We are willing to pay you twice as much as you brought in last year and we’ll lose the information we have on you so the Treasury Department will not get their hands on it. We don’t play games, Max.”
We looked at each other across the table.
I picked up my brandy and took a big swallow.
“Since you put it that way, I guess I’m your man.”
“Good, that’s good, Max.”
He took another drag on his cigarette and continued to look at me.
“We found over the years a man becomes a spy for different reasons, hatred, anger, political zeal, money, and sex and then some of them are coerced. You exhibit all these qualities. Hell Max, you voted for Senator Joseph McCarthy. In addition to theses qualities, you seem to have inner demons which could also help you be successful.This is an opportunity to do something special, something important for your country. Because of your tradecraft, and independent nature, we feel you would be a perfect fit for this job. There is no reverence in what you will do. I have to tell you, now that you are a part of this, there is no way out. You can’t fuck around with these people. They will break you and turn you into something awful.
“I’m just a private dick, Colonel. I’m not a Spook.”
“We’ll make you one and you will be one of the best. Hap Schultz will join you.
We want you guys to fly under the radar. When someone comes to us saying they have some information relating to this job, we want to send you and Hap, someone who cannot be traced back to us. You set up your network of friends you can trust. No more than ten people. We will train you and pay you well. Tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. you and Hap Schultz will meet me in Lieutenant Marshall’s office down at the Milwaukee Police Department’s 16th Precinct. Don’t be late. Hap is being briefed by another agent as we speak.
“Have you heard of a sleeper agent, Max?”
“No, I can’t say I have. What is a sleeper agent?
A Sleeper Agent is an inactive deep-cover agent. What we are about to tell you came from a sleeper agent. It is top secret and if any of this information leaks out, it could cause the death of many people and that will make me angry and you don’t want to make me angry, Max.
After you sign these forms I am going to tell you somethings and you cannot breathe a word to a soul. You are also going to meet some very powerful people who are going to pass along some top secret information to you and you are going to forget you ever met them. Do you understand?
I nodded my head. I figured I had already forgotten more than I know and forgetting more shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
“Good. Your cover will be that you are traveling and writing about life on the rodeo circuit throughout the southwestern United States, Mexico, and South America. We will assist you in getting jobs as a pickup rider at the different rodeo events. Those where we can’t help you, you will be on your own and will have to figure out how to maneuver around the event. We want you to mingle with the cowboys in the area as well as the people who are putting on the event. You will just be another rodeo junkie while you spook some really bad people.
“Since you are a writer and a former newspaper man your background fits.
“We will teach you a code and provide you with a code book.
“Dan Cirrocco will be your contact. You will leave your encrypted reports here at Rocco’s Pub with Dan. You will learn the code. Mr. Cirrocco will have no idea what the codes mean. He will hand them off to Homicide Detective Harry Marshall who in turn will get them to us.
“We will never leave you naked. We will have friends in the area at all times but you will never know who is covering you.
“Your code name will be Cheese Head.”
“Cheese Head? Where the fuck did you come up with that?”
“It doesn’t matter. All your correspondence will be signed Cheese Head. No exceptions. I’m going to leave now. A car will be out front in fifteen minutes to pick you up and take you to the Pfister Hotel. You will be meeting another Harry, Harry Truman.”
I stared at him in disbelief.
“President Harry Truman?”
“It’s the only one I’m aware of, the man who created the CIA, this Frankenstein I work for. This is big, Max, real big.
“Oh, and by the way, if asked, I was never here. We never talked.”

My First And Last Ride

 

 

bucking-broncI was about to enter my first competition in the Tri-Cities Rodeo Classic in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. The announcer introduced me to the crowd of nearly 90 fans who packed the Wood County Fair Arena that night.
“Next on his maiden ride, we have David Hesse, from Brookfield, Wisconsin. He’ll be riding #12, outta’ Wheatland, Wyoming, a bronc named Peaceful, but I can assure you, that little bronc is anything but peaceful.”
A shiver ran down my spine, was I really going to do this? I looked at Juan Guitterez, my coach and noticed he was smiling.
Nearly all the spectators were either standing or perched on the edge of their seats. Suddenly, the crowd grew eerily silent as they released my bronc into the chute, but it wasn’t the bronc I had drawn the night before. It was a big black stud named Black Smoke.
“Hey, what’s this? I drew number 12, the little buckskin bronc.”
“Yeah,” the handler said, “but he kicked out the side of his stall last night and cut up his leg. We had to pull him. This here fella is his replacement. I know he looks pretty mean, but he was rode last night by Ferrell Bannister who pretty much rode the buck outta him. You’ll be fine, pardner.”
“Joo sure joo want to do this, gringo?” Juan asked. “Joo might geet hurt, reel bad.”
“No, but I’ve come this far and can’t see myself backing out now,” I replied.
Juan spent the past six months teaching me how to ride saddle broncs and now I was ready to try it out.
“The first time eez alweez dee hardest, gringo.It geets“ better, I promeese,” Juan laughed.
I stared at him and couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just shook my head.
“Joo ain’t got nothing under joo hat but hair, gringo. You see how beegs that flathead eez? Heez goin’ to keel you, gringo. If joo” die, can I have joo saddle?”
I looked over at Juan as I climbed the chute and said, “Sure, it’s your’s Juan. I appreciate your vote of confidence. Coming from my instructor it gives me a positive feeling.”
“Ha, ha, joo crazy, gringo. Thanks for jour saddle.”
As I stood on the fence, I looked down at this big flathead horse wishing I had the little bronc I had drawn the night before.
I eased down into the saddle, holding the buck rein in my riding hand and bracing myself with the other hand on the chute. I put one foot in the stirrup that was easiest to get to. Then I gently moved Black Smoke over so I could get my other foot in the stirrup. He looked up at me as I eased my feet up to the front of his neck, and I could see the whites of his eyes and knew you could hurt your eyes trying to find any compassion in that face. I was careful not to touch him with my spurs as that might have caused him to rear over backward.
I didn’t make any noise or quick jerking motions, remembering what Juan had told me, “Don’t joo speek out loud joo sceer your horse in the chute.” So I kept my mouth shut, for once.
When my feet and riding hands were in position, I leaned back and down in the saddle and tucked my chin to my chest. If Black Smoke reared out, I could still keep my balance. Juan told me if I didn’t keep my chin tucked and the horse throws his head back, I would be thrown off balance, lose his swells, and miss spurring the horse on the way out of the chute. How well you spurred your mount was part of your overall score.
When I was finally sitting on Black Smoke, I looked down on his head knowing a horse had to follow his head; if he rears, his head gives you the clue first. If he ducks you’ll be able to determine it earlier than if you aren’t looking at his head.
Finally, I was ready and nodded at Juan to open the chute gate. The big ol’ horse was watching me,
Everyone thought I was gonna get bucked, and Black Smoke wouldn’t just buck you. If you didn’t get out of the arena, he’d camp onto you something fierce. Then he’d go wipe out the barrel. Both Juan and I were scared.
Then Juan flung the chute open. The ride started out well. Black Smoke bolted from the chute with four straight high kicks and I stuck like glue. Then the bronc lunged to the left and jerked the rope out of my hands. I hung on with the tail of the rope, shifting to the left with each whipping turn.
I was doing real good, raking his neck with my rowels; then right before the whistle blew, I found myself too far to the inside. He caught me off balance and turned me a flip and while still soaring through the air, I heard the eight-second whistle. My final thought before I landed all wadded up on my back, breaking my collar bone was, “You almost made it Hesse.”

The Great Blackout of ’63 – Game Cancelled

The Night The Lights Went Out In LaCrosse
The Night The Lights Went Out In LaCrosse

 

Before the Magic Flying Cannon of ’67, there was the Great Blackout of ’63, precipitated by some of the same characters of disorder involved in the Magic Flying Cannon Caper. This time, instead of transforming into Coyotes, they transformed into flying Ravens.
This was before the big flood of ’65, which they didn’t cause, but their shenanigans surrounding the recovery from that flood caused a couple of tricksters to take an unplanned and early leave of absence from their pursuit of a higher degree.
Who are these characters of disorder?
The Navaho call them mischief-makers, thieves, or tricksters. The Spirit Chief sends them to the land of dream visions to confuse people and they come in the form of a Coyote or a Raven.
The characters of disorder seem to have supernatural powers which help them perform their tricks. They live, die, come back, shape shift, perform all sorts of magic.
Reality is nothing more than an illusion.
The Raven was the first bird out of Noah’s ark. It just didn’t return. It didn’t feel the need.
The one-eyed Odin, the Norse Lord of War, Death, and Knowledge had two ravens, Huginn and Muninn. They flew around the world every day bringing back up-to-date information on Odin’s enemies.
The Ravens in question, these characters of disorder, lived in Hans Reuter Hall, a freshman dormitory at the University of Wisconsin – LaCrosse, named after a professor of physical education who was instrumental in the development and refinement of many teaching and coaching techniques. Hans was a master in the use of the Indian Club, the oldest hand apparatus used in rhythmical gymnastics. He also invented a back quiver for archers which could be used from a seated position, a pendulum timer that he used in his classes, and a moveable manikin, a model of the human body used in teaching anatomy. Reuter received multiple university and community awards, including the naming of this campus residence hall in his honor.
The dormitory is located next to the university football stadium and the characters of disorder had to walk past the gridiron every day on their way to classes, or bars. At night, the lights in the stadium would be on to illuminate extra-curricular activities, not only on the weekends but during the week. This bothered the characters of disorder as the lights lit up their room and interfered with their sleep. So, they decided to do something about it and these mischief-makers didn’t always play by the establishment’s rules. They decided it would be in the best interest of those living in the dormitory if they turned off the lights – for good!
Exceptional thieves never leave a trace of their existence, so, to that end, they would have to possess something to carry away their bounty, but what could accommodate everything they apperceived they would procure? They decided on a suitcase, a large suitcase!
The caper went down at sunset on a Thursday when no evening activity was planned at the stadium. The late afternoon sky was afire with contrasting yellow, orange, and red clouds that streaked along the west side of the stadium.
The characters of disorder were in place and would wait for the sun to set. They had staked out the surrounding area of the football stadium to ensure no one was there. Students who spent the evening downtown would wander in at all hours, but the thieves weren’t troubled by them as they would be more concerned about keeping their balance and watching where their feet were going than they would be in their surroundings.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, it was time. The characters of disorder ducked limbs and slipped between the trees on their way to their destination.They flowed as if they’d been born in the wild. Their faces were streaked with black and one called out in a cry similar to the wolf.
The first Raven carried the suitcase and dragged himself up and flew across the open parking lot and up to the main entrance of the stadium. He turned his ankle  upon landing and the pain was excruciating, but his survival instincts forced him to move out to another hiding place higher up the entranceway. Soon the remaining two characters of disorder were by his side and it wasn’t long before all three flew over the fence and onto the playing field. They skirted across the fifty-yard line to the visitor’s side of the stadium. That is the side they started on. Two tricksters picked the light tower they would attack first and flew to the top, reaching the box that contained what they wanted. They dropped the items on the ground where the third trickster gathered them up and placed them in the suitcase. They continued around the field until they disabled every light tower surrounding the football stadium. When they finished, they had everything securely packed in the suitcase. It was very heavy and they took turns carrying it as they headed out of the stadium back to their dormitory.
The three characters of disorder decided it was best to leave town that weekend. So, in order to document the activities, they planted a colleague at the Saturday night football game to observe what transpired.
Their comrade told the tricksters that as the visiting team’s fans, as well as the home team’s fans, were entering the stadium, total pandemonium broke out when the switches were turned on to light up the field and nothing happened.
Officials called both football coaches out of the locker room and onto the field, along with the referees, to inform them of the problem.
“What are we going to do?” asked the visiting team’s coach?”
“I’m not sure,” replied the head referee. “Isn’t there someone here who can fix the lights?”
The maintenance men were unable to determine the cause and they sure didn’t want to climb forty feet up each light tower to continue their investigation. That was an electrician’s job and there wasn’t one working on a Saturday night.
When they informed the coaches and referees that they were unable to locate the problem, the stadium announcer came on and enlightened the spectators of their only course of action, “Game called – due to darkness!”
The fans were in total confusion. How could this be? What happened?
The mischief makers had confused and flimflammed the fans and officials.
That Friday, before the game, the characters of disorder didn’t have a smooth departure as they fled the scene of their latest exploit. The generator went out in the car, a 1959 Ford, they used for their escape and they had to make an emergency stop in Sparta, Wisconsin. They found themselves short of money to pay the garage for a replacement generator, but, the tricksters, being the wily magicians that they were, struck a deal with the garage owner. They would leave one of their suitcases with him as collateral and when they returned that Sunday night, they would have the money and would swap it out for the suitcase at that time. The garage owner agreed.
That Sunday, when the mischief-makers returned, the garage owner remarked, “That suitcase sure is heavy, what do you have in it?”
Well, the mischief-makers couldn’t reveal that there were two hundred fuses taken from the university’s football stadium lights in LaCrosse, so, in staying in character of confusion and disorder, they told him it was filled with bones from the anatomy laboratory that they took home to analyze.

My Chet and Melvin Bernstein

 

I’ll never forget that day when Melvin Bernstein arrived in Cambodia. It was our first day over the fence. We were attacked by the NVA and the smell of death, mixed with cordite, napalm, crispy critters, and human waste was oppressive.

Before we arrived, we had been operating around the Song Be area in Vietnam and the Viet Cong rarely moved in groups larger than four or five soldiers. Once inside Cambodia, we were in for a surprise as they moved in groups anywhere from 20 to 100. The NVA were in the thousands.
It was the beginning of Monsoon season and it rained constantly with the humidity over 90% and the temperature at 96 degrees with a heat index of 130. We were dusting off a lot of guys due to heat exhaustion.
By that afternoon, the rains started to lift and the sun sparkled off the green vegetation surrounding Brown. It almost had the appearance of a well-kept golf course, almost.
Captain Smedley had ordered an RIF, Recon in force, at first light and we had finished field stripping our weapons. We were drenched in sweat from just walking across the firebase.
Sarge finished his meeting with the Captain and was starting to field strip his M16 and clips and had the pieces and springs spread out on his poncho and we were passing the time away by talking about a CBS News correspondent we met in Saigon a few weeks back who was walking around in his correspondent’s suit, what he considered his combat zone attire, trying to impress all the Red Cross girls and, of course, about going home.
“What’s it now, Sarge?” We didn’t have to say what “it” was, he knew what we meant. We all knew.
“Fifty-two and a wake-up.”
“What’s the first thing you are going to do when you get back to the world?”
He thought for a moment before replying, “I’m gonna fill a tub full of hot water, as hot as I can stand it, and dump a full bottle of my little sister’s lilac bubble bath into it and I am going to lie there smoking a cigar and sipping whiskey and count my toes.”
“You’re going to need someone to help you count all them toes, Sarge. Take me with you?” Robbie our RTO, Radio Operator, said.
“Hell, I got someone else in mind to help me do the counting, and it ain’t you, Robbie.”
“Hey, look at the boot. I do believe our turtle has arrived,” Walter Wilson, our 60 grunt said, pointing in the direction of a small GI covered in sweat, walking across the firebase wearing new fatigues and a steel pot. His M16 was pointed toward the ground and he was bent over from all the gear he was carrying on his back. “No way that cherry boy can hump a 60. Shit, no relief for me. Wish the Black Mamba was still here. That beast carried everything and never broke a sweat.”
The FNG, fucking new guy, stepped in front of Sarge with his head down and in a soft voice said, “I’m PFC Melvin Bernstein, sir. Captain Smedley told me to report to you.”
“What did you call me? Don’t you ever call me sir again, those ring knockers back there,” Sarge said, jabbing his thumb back toward the direction Bernstein just came from, “It’s them you call sir, not me. You call me Sarge, dick head, or whatever, but don’t call me sir. You understand, Private?”
“Yessir, I mean, Sarge,” he mumbled in a voice so soft we could hardly hear him.
“You a Heebee?” Wilson asked.
Melvin didn’t look up but nodded his head.

“Damn, I guess that makes us one big melting pot. We had us a real live Apache Indian and a couple of blacks, Swenson is a Swede, Perone is an eye-talian and Jablonski is a Polack and now we have us a Jew,” Wilson said.

“Shut up, Wilson, where are you from, Melvin?” Sarge asked.
“Maryland.”
“You go to college?”

“Yess.., Sarge, Georgetown.”
“Ewwwee, we got us another college man too, Sarge. What’s your degree in?”
“Political Science.”
“That’s good. It will help you survive your little vacation here.”
“Why don’t you get Melvin here settled in, Robbie?”
“ Come on, Melvin, I’ll show you around Palm Beach. Did you take your big orange CP pill?”
“Big orange CP pill? What’s that?”
“Birth control, Melvin. If Charlie catches you, he is going to get your cherry and you don’t want to end up pregnant. We got good docs here, but none of them has any experience delivering little baby sans.”
Berstein stared at Robbie, with his mouth open.
“It’s a malaria pill, Melvin.  Don’t listen to him,” Wilson told him. “Get your shit together and get back here most ricky-tick. You’re a boonie rat now, Melvin. You are going to earn your CIB, combat infantryman badge, but you better hide that if you ever get back to the states. Those assholes back home hate us almost as much as the slants hate us here.”
Robbie took Melvin around introducing him to all the squad members. When he got to Frankie Perone, Robbie warned, “He’s a double veteran. He went dinky dau so just keep your distance.”
“What do you mean, a double veteran going dinky dau?”
“FNG, you don’t know shit, do you? Double veteran is a crazy mother fucker. He killed a woman after he fucked her. Sarge was real pissed. She was a VC. Perone’s Dinky dau- crazy man, don’t you know? Stay away from him. This place is in his head, man. If he makes it out of here, his mind will stay here. Ain’t right in the head,” Robbie said, tapping his right temple.
We all had a lot of fun at Melvin’s expense. We did everything we could to disrupt his morning rituals. He began each day by sitting up and placing one hand under his chin and the other at the back of his head and he would twist his neck until it would make a popping sound. Next, he would pluck any nose hairs that he could see protruding from his nostrils and then he would squeeze out a strip of toothpaste exactly the diameter and length of his toothbrush and brush his teeth. After a few minutes of vigorous brushing and swishing of mouthwash, he would slowly and deliberately shave his face of all facial hair. He was the only member of our squad who did not sport a mustache.
“Come on, Melvin, Mr. Charles awaits us. Quit your fuckin’ around and let’s go!” Wilson yelled.
After all his preening, Melvin still looked like shit and we let him know it every day; every day that is until Sarge got it. Sarge was at 39 and a wake-up.
“No boonie hats, guys. Put on the steel pots and your frag vests.”
“Aw, come on Sarge, really? Those fuckin’ pots are heavy.”
“You heard me, Smedley’s orders and each of you pack five frags. Also,we’ll be wearing two bandoliers each with seven clips. Put only nineteen rounds per clip. I don’t want any jams. Make every fourth round a tracer. If you are upset about wearing your pots, you’ll love this. Everyone will be wearing a bandolier of 60 ammo. M16’s don’t fire through this bamboo and we are going to be in the middle of it. Wilson, do you think you can carry a thousand rounds for the 60? We’ll be shootin’ a lot of sticks before we can get at Charlie.”
“I got it, Sarge.”
“Swenson, you got the thumper, the M79 grenade launcher, and the extra barrel for the M60.”
Swenson wiped the sweat from his face and nodded his head. The sun wasn’t up yet and we were already sweating.
“Okay then. Kit Carson will join us today. Perone, you got a Thumper too and you take point with Kit and Melvin, you’ll be walking slack. Make sure we don’t leave no evidence, no footprints, no tall grass pushed over, no litter on the ground, no nothing, you got it?”
“Yes, Sarge.”
Be ready to move out at 0500 hours. That’s it get outta here and saddle up.”
“Fuckin’ A, Melvin, we are going to mix it up with Charlie again today. It looks like it’s beans and dicks for dinner again,” Robbie laughed.
At first light, we were already humpin’ it looking for signs of Charlie or the NVA. The temperature and humidity were over ninety degrees and it had been raining all night and all morning with no sign of a let-up. We were all covered with black leeches that seemed to be everywhere.
Our Kit Carson Scout was worth his weight in gold. He was a former VC guerilla who changed sides and was trained under the Chieu Hoi, open arms program. He was on a vendetta. He wanted revenge. He was a committed warrior. He was familiar with the terrain in Cambodia and understood VC tactics in setting ambushes and bobby traps. He also knew what VC bases and assembly areas looked like and where they might be
We crossed a red ball, what looked like a main road, and followed a blood trail to a spider hole and Sarge turned to our Kit Carson and said, “Didi mau,” – go quickly, and take the mighty mite and shoot some gas down that spider hole before you drop in.”
Our Kit went in. Soon we heard a burst of M16 fire and Kit emerged, dragging out a dead VC.
We booby-trapped the body with a couple of finger charges and left it lying in the middle of the trail for when his buddies came back for him. We moved on.
The jungle was very thick, a triple canopy; nothing compared to Vietnam. Sores and bamboo cuts were all over our bodies and feet and sweat continued to pour
into our eyes. We tried to stay off the trails but the thick bamboo kept forcing us back to the well-beaten paths.
“I can’t take much more of this,” Robbie said. “Please God, get me out of here alive.”
“Cradle your M16 and flip the safety off just in case,” Sarge commanded in a harsh whisper, as we slowly and deliberately moved forward. We hit a gully that ran next to a river and we continued to the top of a knoll. Then we all froze. Up ahead, just a few yards, we saw what looked like a small footbridge over a creek. There was a sign that looked like it had been written in blood. It read, “My Chet.”
“What does that mean, Sarge?” Melvin asked.
“GI’s Die.”
It wasn’t long before we made enemy contact and found ourselves in a cluster fuck, a real ballgame, and we really had to buckle for our dust.
Sarge pointed to sandal tracks that slid into a gully. The gully wasn’t that big about an eight-foot drop down a muddy trail. It ran about fifty feet to where it went back up a hill on the other side.The river was on our left. Robbie radioed a report back to Captain Smedley in the command post that we encountered a gully and there is a blue line (river) on our left with a boat load of fresh sandal tracks all over the gully”.
Frank Perone said we shouldn’t enter the gully, but Sarge didn’t listen to him. By the time we started to slide down into the muddy gully, Sarge was struggling in the mud to get up the other side. We noticed an enemy bunker across the river facing right at us. Frank Perone put up his hand to stop the squad from moving further. Robbie dropped back and called Captain Smedley to let him know we discovered an enemy bunker across the blue line pointing directly at us. Then two eight-round-bursts of automatic fire shattered the stillness. Everyone dove to the ground, into the mud. At the first sound of gunfire, you get that sick feeling that grabs you deep inside your stomach while your knees turn to butter and you feel yourself growing weak. Then you make a quick assessment of your body to see if you are hit.
Sarge struggled in the mud to get up the other side of the gully and was unable to survey the area. He turned to lend a hand to, Wilson who was humping our 60 and a thousand rounds of ammo up the hill behind him when an enemy soldier shot Sarge through the back of the head and hit Wilson in the butt. There was total silence. Not another shot was fired for several minutes. During that time we hoped the NVA were running away. They weren’t. They formed a banana shaped ambush, completely covering the gully pinning us down.

Before we could call in support fire, our Kit Carson grabbed Wilson and helped him get back up the other side of the gully where our medic began first aid. Wilson told us he saw eight or nine NVA soldiers on top of the other side of the gully and saw one of them shoot Sarge in the back of the head, He confirmed that Sarge was dead. Everyone was quiet. Sarge was a good friend to all of us. He looked out for us. He spoke of his younger sister often. Even though he appeared older, he was only 21 and barely needed to shave. A sick feeling enveloped everyone. The harsh reality that Sarge was gone hit us hard. We were numb.
It was then that Melvin did something that logic couldn’t define. One of the things you learn in battle is that the difference between a hero and a coward is an extremely thin line; just because someone was a hero once didn’t mean they would be again. Whatever decision they made, they made in a split second with no regard for their own welfare and often without thinking of the consequences. Melvin became a hero. He looked like John Wayne with his M-203A1 on fully automatic he fired a burst and ran to a log and came up behind it firing again. Then, without regard for his life, he threw down his own weapon and ran to Wilson’s machine gun that was left halfway up the hill. Melvin knew we needed an M-60 to get out of there. Sarge was dead and Melvin was going to retrieve our M-60 to get the rest of us back to safety. He didn’t make it. Just as Melvin went to grab the machine gun a North Vietnamese soldier reached down the hill grabbing the M-60 leaving Melvin weaponless. Melvin dove away from the hill and tried to find cover. There was none.
We looked up along the ridge line and realized that the NVA could have killed us whenever they wanted. They were on the edge of the gully above us and we had nothing to hide behind. Shooting up from the gully did not give us a decent shot at them. The few soldiers that we had on top of our side of the gully were still administering first aid to the wounded and Robbie’s radio was jammed.
So the NVA played with us. They started with Melvin. They shot off his trigger finger, then his middle finger on his right hand. Then they started picking away at the side of his face.They took his jaw off, from the ear to the bottom of the mouth.This was over the course of several hours. We thought Melvin was dead. If he wasn’t, he should have been. Melvin made us all proud that day.
Robbie finally got through on the radio and was pleading for an M-60 then for a react, a unit to come to our aid. He finally called in our coordinates so they could rain down holy hell on the NVA and us all in the form of mortar fire.

Finally, the snakes came, the Cobra Gunships, and they took care of business

We ended up with two walking wounded and one wasted, Sarge, and one possible expectant, Melvin, and one with a million-dollar wound, Wilson. He would be going home. We called for a dust off and soon popped some smoke to let the chopper know he was coming to a hot LZ.

The sound of the slick, a UH1 Huey, approaching brought a feeling of relief over what was left of our squad. We loaded our wounded and dead and headed back to Brown.
The next day Sarge would have been at thirty-eight and a wake-up, but he went home early, in a box and he took a part of us all with him.

The Big Black Mamba and The Cobra Gunship

 

220px-ah-1g_cobra_vietnam“Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, who shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, here am I, send me.” Isaiah 6:8

They promised a ceasefire after Nixon agreed to stop bombing Hanoi and the next day Old Nixon got a taste of the little pastry chef, Ho Chi Minh’s, shit donut and got pissed. The North Vietnamese broke their word and launched a mini-Tet Offensive into South Vietnam and now we were going after them.

We crossed the Rach Cai-Bac River that separated Vietnam from Cambodia and set up a firebase FB. The air was full of dust from the hovering Chinooks and incoming Eagle flights. They started dropping more troops off at 010:00 hours and gave us our big orange pill for malaria as we continued setting up our firebase. By midday, they had dropped Charlie and Delta Companies.
We had just finished setting out our claymores and getting ready to settle in for the night when a dark shadow fell over me.
The largest and blackest man I ever saw dropped down beside me. He was blue-black. Strapped around his massive body were two ammo belts hooked together, each belt had one hundred rounds for the 60 he carried that looked like a small .22 caliber rifle in his massive hands.
“Hey honky, I’ll be bunkin’ with yo tonight.”
I looked down at his feet. “What size are those boots?”
“Fifteen and a half; I wear sixteen but they don’t have sixteens, so I took fifteen and a half. Said I could wear track sandals if I don’t like it.”
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Johnny Mack Thompson, that’s with a P, but you just call me Mamba, everybody does. Big Black Mamba, from Quitman, Georgia,” he said, flashing an enormous grin, exposing large white teeth.
“Well, Mamba, why don’t you go setup your Claymore and get your ass back here before it gets dark. We are in for a long night.”
Soon he returned and dropped back down beside me and immediately started talking. I was on the verge of learning more about the Big Black Mamba then I cared to know.
“Don’t yo love it here, man? This is my home. The jungle. Don’t make no difference to me, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Africa. This is where I am from and this is where I belong. This is my third tour. Yesterday they issued me a bayonet, man. Did you get one? It’s the first time they issued bayonets in Vietnam. Are they expectin’ some crazy ass shit, or what?”
“Yeah, I got a bayonet. Third tour? Damn man, are you crazy? I’m a short timer. I ETS in three months and no way I’m coming back to this hell hole.
Mamba let out a big laugh, shaking his gigantic head he said, “I ain’t crazy, but I sure am purty and my mamma is the ugliest woman you ever wanna see. I’m tellin’ ya. She beautiful on da’ inside but, yew-eee, she one ugly woman on da outside. That’s why I’m so pretty, ya know? Ugliness skips a generation. It’s a fact. You ever see Mohammad Ali’s momma? She ain’t pretty and Mohammad is so pretty he could be my brother. Shit’s the truth man. I’m 100% pure black and proud of it.
“Yessir, I was here before, playing in Chuck’s backyard. My first tour I volunteered for a couple of them Daniel Boone Missions. I was assigned to the 1st Cav’s LRRP., Long Range Recon Patrol. Only five of us, three of you honkies and two brothers. Man, we were tight. All five of us alone in the middle of all them Lao Dong; they dropped us off in the Fish Hook a couple of clicks off Pich Nil Pass. You wouldn’t believe some of the rabbit trails I been down. We lived on the sharp end of the spear, man. Yep, I know what it’s like to be on the sharp end of the spear. We lived on Nuouc Mam and rice every day for two weeks. If we was lucky, we got some fish. I hate that shit man. We killed a pig one day and we roasted it. Best damn BBQ I ever ate, for sure. We had to call in one of them Cobra Gunships to get us out, man. They had us surrounded. We were on the tip of that spear, honky, the tip of the spear.

Man, they sprayed the shit outta them gooks with them two mini guns and 79 launchers. A site to see, my man, a site to see. And fast? Just like a Cobra. Fttt… and then they gone. A hunnerd and seventy they say they go. Yew-ee. We loved to see that snake comin’.
“Let me tell you, honky, we are on the tip of that spear right now, and none of y’all know it yet. Yep, two missions with the 1st Cav’s LRRP and I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that we is in for some real shit, man. There are more NVA and Chuck in Cambodia than there are in Vietnam. I saw ‘em, man. Scared the shit outta us. Hell, you wouldn’t believe the truckloads of supplies and shit the NVA were just driving into Vietnam. That and on barges across the river? Shit,man, it was crazy I’m tellin’ ya. There were thousands of ‘em and we couldn’t do nuthin’ about it. Rules of fuckin’ engagement, man.
It’s too quiet out there, honky. I’m tellin’ ya, there are some Sappers nearby. I can feel it. It won’t be long and we is going to be in for some real shit. We need them Cobra’s man, send in the clowns is what I say, send in the fuckin’ clowns.
I hear Nixon says we can go in about nineteen miles and then we gotta stop. Can’t go no further. More rules of fuckin’ engagement, honky. What kinda shit fightin’ is that? You have some boy come in your backyard and give you some shit, you gonna bust his ass wherever he goes, even in his own backyard. You white boys don’t know how to fight, man. Nineteen miles, shit. That will take us just south of the Neak Luong. I been there before. Bunch of shit happenin’ there, man. I’m tellin’ y’all in for some real down home fun.”
“Well, I want to get this over. I’m ready to leave this jungle home to you, Big Mamba. You can have it.”
He laughed that big laugh. Everything about him was big. “You seen some shit, honky?”
“I was at LZ X-Ray, Ia Drang Valley. We chased the bastards right up to the fuckin’ Cambodian border and had to stop. Not pursuing them into Cambodia violated every principle of warfare. Rules of engagement? I agree, Mamba, who fights a fuckin’ war with a rule book? Not the Viet Cong, I can tell you that. Not the NVA. The bastards are gettin’ it this time. On that, you can bet the farm.”
“What farm, honky? I live in the city of Quitman. Nearest farm is ten miles away. Here they come, honky.”
“Okay, Big Mamba, let’s pray and spray.”
We put our weapons on full-automatic and opened fire. They wore the green and brown uniforms of the NVA and they came at us in wave after wave. I looked over at Mamba and the barrel of his M60 was white hot and the empty shells were piling up around his massive feet. As I was staring at all the brass, I saw his right foot explode and bits of flesh and blood flew over both of us. I looked up and saw the left side of his face was blown off and he was covered in blood. Mamba didn’t even let out a moan. All he said was, “Shit. Now where am I gonna find another fifteen and a half boot in fuckin’ Cambodia? Look at all these little gooks. They got little feet.”
I threw a grenade over the bunker. It landed about ten yards in front of us and we could feel the concussion as it exploded.
I told him to hold a compress to his foot, a medic, who was making his rounds, should be by soon. I slapped in another clip and resumed firing. When emptied I ejected the clip and inserted another one. I saw Mamba rise to his feet. He was quivering as he stood. He placed his left hand on the ground as he tried to gain his balance and move towards me. He took his right hand and smiled and flashed me a peace sign. All I could see through the red blood were his white teeth and the peace sign. He started talking, “My mamma makes socks. Them tube socks at the hosiery mill in Quitman. She gonna be mad at Big Mamba for losing his foot. Now I can’t wear them socks she makes for me. She gonna be mad, honky. She gonna be mad at Big Mamba.”

The Magic Cannon

 

220px-chancellorsvillebattlefieldmodernThe  Cannon That Could Fly

We weren’t robbers, we were thieves. There is a difference. A thief is a trickster a robber takes something for its value and to have it. A thief doesn’t want to have it. Robbers go armed. A thief doesn’t have to. Thieves are always laughing. You don’t want to joke around with a robber; robbing is serious business.
Stealing is an art. A thief has to be able to carry whatever he takes. He’s got to be able to hide it.
Like magic! Diamonds are magic. That is why women wear them on their hands, as a sign of the magic of womanhood. Even though we aren’t women, we are magicians. Or, as the Navajo say, a character of disorder. We are coyotes, the mischief-makers, tricksters. As one story goes, the Spirit Chief sent the mischief-makers to go to the land of the dream visions.
“You will be known as the Trick-people,” Spirit Chief said. “Do good for the benefit of your people.”
And that is just what we did!
A good thief makes a person believe, for the moment, that even a cannon can fly.
Trick-people confuse people and confusion is a funny thing. It makes it harder for people to do anything.
At every home football game, two fraternities, Tau Kappa Epsilon(TKE) and Phi Sigma Epsilon(Phi Sig’s), set up, each in their separate corner behind the end zone, their respective noise maker that they set off in celebration of a touchdown. The TKE’s had a bell that they rang and the Phi Sig’s had a cannon they fired. Everything was fine until…
The bell went missing. Nobody had any idea what happened to it until the TKE’s received a note from the Phi Sig’s stating they had taken it and if the TKE’s wanted it back, they would have to find it. They continued to mock the TKE’s publicly for weeks on end and to make matters worse, the TKE’s couldn’t make noise in the end zone on the rare occasion our football team scored a touchdown.
Well, the tricksters weren’t too happy with another group trying to meddle with their province of the unexplained, so they decided to assist the TKE’s in their quest to have their bell returned.
It began one autumn evening. Darkness had fallen on our calm city, LaCrosse, Wisconsin, a small college town and home of Heilman Brewery and Trane Company, located on the Mississippi River in Northwestern Wisconsin. A town of forty-five thousand people, or was it forty-eight thousand? It was a cool, dry Saturday evening in mid-October. The leaves had already turned colors a few weeks earlier and now had fallen, leaving the trees that lined the streets surrounding the campus, dark and barren, appearing like ghostly apparitions with stick arms reaching into the inky evening sky.
They were a group of six tricksters dressed in dark clothing and sneakers with carbon black from charcoal briquettes, smeared across their faces, gathered around a table in the dining room of their house. A group of tricksters, that enjoyed confusing different groups on campus. They were going over the plan one more time. Everyone knew what they were going to do. The tension in the room was high. They were hoping for a night with no moon. They needed the darkness of the night to pull off their magic. They had been planning it for weeks and tonight was the big night. They all agreed, drinking and stealing don’t mix. Tonight there would be no alcohol.
A friend of two tricksters from their high school was an officer in the organization, the Phi Sig’s, the organization they were going to confuse. Unknowingly, this officer provided them with inside information. Information such as, where they stored their cannon!
The Phi Sig’s, as usual, were having a party with a sorority and the music and noise would provide the tricksters with the cover they needed to get away with this heist.
The object of their mission, the Phi Sigma Epsilon cannon, was stored in a shed just outside the frat house and this is where the heist would take place. The distance wasn’t that great between the shed and the house, so they would have to be careful and use caution when approaching the target.
The house was located on a cobblestone side street just off State Street, about a block from a girls dormitory on the edge of campus. The cobblestones were of some concern to the tricksters as the wheels on the cannon were metal and would make a loud noise that would echo on the cobblestones while they rolled it away.
The tricksters had discussed this problem over the past few weeks and decided the best remedy would be to wrap towels around each wheel. So, that night, each person held a handful of towels.
It was eerily quiet that fall evening. The nearby campus seemed to be deserted. Students most likely downtown celebrating another weekend.
The night sounds seemed to be magnified as the tricksters walked out of the back door of the house. The tricksters proceeded quietly down Seventeenth Street to the frat house they were planning on stealing the cannon from. Some tricksters excitedly spoke in hushed whispers, the level of which continued to rise as their excitement grew. A “shhh” sound came from their leader, quieting the group down one more time.
When they arrived at their destination they stopped to listen for a sign of anyone that might be around. The only sound was that of the partygoers in the house behind the shed. It sounded like they were having a lot of fun.
The group split up. Two split in different directions from the rest of the group and went to their observation points behind large trees in the backyard while the other four proceeded to the wooden shed that had once been a garage.
The two wooden doors were closed and held together by a metal clasp, but no lock. The tricksters knew there wasn’t a lock. They had been by the shed at least a half a dozen times during the past few weeks. This was a well-planned caper. The doors were difficult to open and scraped on the ground as they pulled them apart. The noise from the doors made the tricksters stop for a moment to make sure nobody was alerted to their presence. After confirming all was clear, they walked inside and there before them was the ominous dark shadow of the reason of their escapade. The Cannon!
“Quiet, someone’s coming,” one of the tricksters at the observation post whispered.
It wasn’t long before they heard a couple of voices approaching in the dark. They were laughing about something that they thought was funny. They stopped a few feet away from the shed by some bushes. They unzipped and took a leak.
When they finished they turned around and walked back to the party without noticing a thing.
The tricksters were safe. They were lucky those two didn’t take the time to look into the shed and check on their prized possession.
The tricksters proceeded to wrap the towels around the steel wheels. As they rolled The Cannon forward, the wheels squeaked. The noise seemed louder than it actually was and this added to their anxiety.
The tricksters had to roll this heavy piece of artillery over a half a mile through campus to their destination.
It was heavy, over 1000 pounds. Two tricksters were on each wheel and one at the breech of the cannon and another in front. They had to slow it down and stop it from rolling when they approached an intersection in case a car might be coming. It would be difficult to explain if they hit an oncoming car with a thousand pound cannon.
The slope into the basement of the trickster’s house from the road was steep and they had to make sure the cannon wouldn’t get away from them and smash into something in the house causing structural damage.
When the cannon was safely secured in the basement, the trickster’s laughed. It would be held for ransom and an elaborate ransom note would be sent, consisting of cut out letters from a copy of Life Magazine to the Phi Sigs. It would read, “Return the TKE bell or you will never see your Cannon again.”
All around campus, people were asking, “Who took The Cannon? Where was The Cannon being held hostage?” Nobody knew.
The campus was abuzz with speculation. “I bet the TKE’s took it as revenge for the Phi Sig’s stealing their bell,” some students thought.
The TKE’s denied having anything to do with it.
“I think the Phi Sig’s have it and are just trying to get publicity and pin the blame on the TKE’s saying the TKE’s are retaliating against them for stealing their bell,” others said.
The Phi Sig’s were blaming the TKE’s while publicly mocking them, “Not very imaginative of the TKE’s. You’d think they would be able to come up with something a little more original than that. Why copy us? I guess they just wish they were as cool as the Phi Sig’s and this is their way of getting attention.”
Everyone was wrong. Nobody but one person outside the tricksters had a clue who took The Cannon and even that person had no clue where The Cannon was being kept and that person was the insider, the unknown co-conspirator.
After a couple of weeks of threats and pleadings, the Phi Sig’s realized the TKE’s really didn’t have their cannon and it was not going to be returned until the TKE’s got their bell back, so the Phi Sig’s gave in and returned the bell.
It wasn’t long after that and The Cannon mysteriously appeared, like magic – ON the roof of the library, next to the main hall on the university campus. Now, how would the Phi Sig’s recover their cannon from the roof of the library? They had no clue!
One of the tricksters approached a group of students as they stood around the building looking up at the cannon.
“Who put it up there?” One young man asked no one in particular. “How in the world are they going to get it down?”
“How do you suppose it got up there?” The young girl, obviously a freshman, standing next to him asked.
“I don’t know. It surely didn’t fly up there,” he replied.
“Are you sure?” The trickster asked.
“Well, no; but have you ever heard of a cannon flying?”
“Not before today,” the trickster replied.
For over forty-five years the secret has never been revealed and if you think this trickster is going to reveal the secret now, you are mistaken. Tricksters never reveal the magic of their illusion.

The Kentucky Rain Story

Kentucky Rain's home for over a week
Kentucky Rain’s home for over a week

“There are six times that I can recall fearing for my life and two of them occurred when driving over the mountains in Tennessee.”  Mustang Dave, June 19, 2011

 

On June 9th, 2011, we were contacted by Ashley Clark of the Daviess County Animal Control in Owensboro KY. (Daviess is pronounced “Davis”), who said they had rescued a mustang mare from the flooding Ohio River. It took four volunteer firemen and two Animal Control Officers over four hours to bring her into safety. Below is what Ashley told us:

“Well…I wish I could say that she was friendly but from what I have seen of her she has never been handled.
We initially became involved due to the flood we had here back in April/May.  Her owner had her in a makeshift pen for at least a couple of years.  He was not home and when the water rose she was left with no food and forced to stand in chest high river water for days.  I am really surprised she made it.  She was underweight and very weak when we were notified of her.  It took four hours to get her to dry land due to the amount of flood water we had to take her through. We actually had to push her to deeper water so we could get the boat up next to her to put a halter on to hold her head above water.
She is now in a temporary home as a favor to me.  The people keeping her just provided her a place to go after the flood water went down because we had no way to catch her.  She actually found them and jumped into their field with their other horse. She has been there about a month.  They called this week and said she had to go.  I am very fortunate they helped her this long.
I thought originally she was older but according to her brand if I read it right she is only about nine.”

We replied stating that we would try to find a home for this horse. We had been talking to David Herrin, Director of Heavens Happy Hooves, a horse rescue in Cartersville Georgia. He mentioned that they were looking for a wild mustang to work on gentling and I told him about the one in Owensboro Kentucky. David said they would take it if we could arrange for transportation to get her down to Cartersville. We put out the word and many people responded generously to make the trip possible.
So, my wife, Jacqui, and I hooked up the horse trailer and headed north to Owensboro Kentucky. Owensboro is the largest city in Daviess County, with approximately 95,000 residents, and is known for its’ International Barbeque Festival, held every second week in May, and the home of the International Bluegrass Music Museum. It is a farming community whose main crops are soybeans and corn, with a little tobacco thrown in as well. Its major employers are Owensboro Milling Company, which processes the corn and soybeans, and Barton Distillery, which, I assume, uses the corn to make its bourbon. We were told that Ezra Brooks Distillery was about to reopen again as well.
After we sent out an email about going to pick up the mustang mare, we received some responses to our request for suggestions as to what to name her. We thought the name High Tide was pretty good and we were leaning toward that name over others such as Esther Williams. Needless to say, the guy who suggested this name is older than dirt and we immediately dismissed it as the younger folks would have no clue who she was. The next suggestion was Stuck In The Mud, which was cute, kinda, but just didn’t seem to rise to the occasion. Please pardon the pun. Finally, as we were fighting to keep the truck on the road when a gust of wind picked up during a rain storm, a suggestion came in via email from Greg Dorfmeier that resonated as the perfect name. He said she should be named after Elvis Presley’s song, Kentucky Rain. we liked it immediately. So that’s it. The contest is closed. Greg wins the prize which is to be the first to ride Kentucky Rain. Congratulations Greg.
Well, by the time we got our affairs in order and pulled out of Roswell it was already 11 a.m. We made pretty good time driving straight through, only stopping for gas. The exit off I 65 for Owensboro is twenty miles north of the Tennessee/Kentucky border. After driving over three hours through the Tennessee Mountains, it was a relief to get onto the William H Natcher Highway in Kentucky. The Natcher, as it is referred to by the locals, is a flat four-lane highway with very little traffic; in fact, very little of anything. After awhile we were concerned about running out of gas before we saw anything besides the miles and miles of soybean and corn fields.
We called the Daviess County Animal Control office to let Ashley Clark know we were close and to find out what time we were going to meet in the morning. We were told Ashley took the day off, but they gave us her cell phone number. We called and got her voicemail and left her a message to call us back when she got our message.
As we approached Owensboro, it started to rain and the wind picked up blowing the rain horizontally across the road. It was a fight to keep the truck on the road as the wind was gusting pretty hard. Ahead of us, we noticed plumes of light gray smoke drifting across the highway in front of the black sky. Something was burning and whatever it was, it appeared to cover a large area. It turned out that farmers were burning their fields clean of debris left from the flooding of the Ohio River in May. We were told that all the farmers’ crops were ruined and that all the roads, except one, were underwater. It was the worst flood they experienced since the flood of 1997.
The Natcher came to a dead end and emptied into Highway 60 on the outskirts of Owensboro. Highway 60 turned into West 2nd Avenue, which is where our motel was located. We picked a good motel to stay in as it is about five miles from the farm where Kentucky Rain was being kept in a stock trailer inside a tobacco barn. She had been in that trailer for a week as they were unable to find anyone who would allow this mustang in their pasture. She had jumped the fence where she was temporarily being held and got into the farmers’ soybeans. They wanted animal control to take her off their property immediately, which they did.
Ashley Clark returned our call around 4:30 p.m. and said she had to pick up a prison work detail tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. and that she would meet us at the motel at 8:30 a.m.
We woke at 5:00 a.m. to the sound of thunder and rain slapping against the motel room window. It had been raining hard for thirteen hours and it didn’t appear that it would be letting up anytime soon.
Around 8:30, Ashley called to say she was going to drive out to the barn to make sure it wasn’t too muddy to drive in to get the horse. By this time, it had been raining for sixteen hours straight and we were more than a little concerned about getting stuck out in the middle of a tobacco field.
Ashley called and said it appeared safe and that she was on her way to meet us.
We followed her south out of town and turned onto a small rutted road that stretched for close to a half mile through the middle of two tobacco and cornfields before we came to a dilapidated old tobacco barn. Water was standing close to knee deep along the side of the barn and the muddy cornfield ended about thirty feet from the front doors where we would be backing the trailer to load Kentucky Rain. We opened the doors to the barn and we were surprised at how dark it was inside. At the back of the barn was parked a stock trailer with a canvas top and inside the trailer was a terrified little mare. She had been kept in that trailer in the dark for a week and we could only surmise the fear she must have been experiencing as she wondered what her fate would be.
We backed our truck up as close as we could get to her trailer. We then opened our trailer door and went and secured two fence panels, one on each side of each trailer. We did this to keep her from getting loose when we opened the door to transfer her over to our trailer. We closed the doors to the barn just in case she spooked and knocked over the fence panels and got loose.
I entered her trailer through the escape door in the front and gently tapped on the floor with my carrot stick to get her to move out. We didn’t want to get her too excited as that would increase the possibility of her knocking over the side panels. Just my presence in the trailer was enough to raise her excitement level and she started to snort and prance around before stepping down on the ramp and out on the ground. She snorted a few times and put one foot in our trailer before spooking and running back into the trailer she knew as home. She turned her haunches toward me and pinned me against the front of the trailer. A place you don’t want to be. I decided to ease out the escape door and let her calm down for a few minutes before trying to move her again.
This time when I entered the trailer she moved out right away and decided to step up into our trailer. Jacqui pushed our trailer door shut from outside the panel where she was standing and we secured it and that was that. What we anticipated to be the most difficult part of our trip actually turned out to be the easiest.
We opened the barn doors and drove to the Daviess County Animal Control office to pick up the Coggins papers.
When they first rescued Kentucky Rain from the raging waters of the Ohio River, they took her to Dream Riders, a hippotherapy riding stables. They allowed the Daviess County Animal Control to use one of their stalls. They were able to find a veterinarian who sedated Kentucky Rain with a dart gun. They put on a lead rope and pulled a Coggins on her. As she started to come out of her stupor, she wouldn’t let them get close enough to remove the lead rope so she is still wearing it. They rushed through the paperwork and got it back within forty-eight hours. Now we didn’t have to worry about being stopped driving back to Georgia without proof of her being up to date on her Coggins. As it turned out, that would be the least of our worries.
We left Owensboro around 11:00 a.m. and were hoping to get out of the rain, which had been falling for eighteen hours straight. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be the case. Not only did we drive all the way back to Atlanta in rain, but in severe thunderstorm conditions with winds gusting between fifty and sixty miles per hour. At one point, about thirty miles north of Chattanooga, we pulled into a McDonald’s to eat, when thunder and lightning struck, causing them to lose power. The manager yelled out “Lock the doors, lock the doors”, but there was no way I was going to be locked in that place with Jacqui and Kentucky Rain stranded in the trailer outside. So I ran out and was hit by a gale force wind and rain that nearly knocked me off my feet. I could see poor Kentucky Rain nervously pacing back and forth in the trailer as the wind and rain blew through the slats, soaking her to the bone. I couldn’t help thinking about everything this little horse had been through the past two years and how brave she is.
The truck was only about thirty feet from the door of the restaurant but I was soaked by the time I reached it. Since we were parked facing the direction the wind was blowing, we decided to stay in the parking lot and wait until it let up.
After about ten minutes, we left and headed south on I 65 toward Chattanooga. It wasn’t long before we were in another severe weather pattern. This time we could feel the wind lifting the trailer off the road so we pulled behind some eighteen wheelers that were parked under an overpass. We waited for about fifteen minutes before we pulled onto the highway again hoping that the rain wouldn’t be with us all the way home. It was a good thing we did, as we encountered numerous trees blown over along the side of the interstate and one actually fell across the right lane forcing traffic to merge into the left lane in order to get around it.
We called David Herrin when we crossed into Georgia to let him know we had been delayed by the storms and to ask him if it was raining in Cartersville. He said it wasn’t yet, but they were expecting it to be there soon. We could only hope we would beat the rain there. David assured us that we would be able to drive the truck and trailer into the round pen he had set up for Kentucky Rain even if it was raining. Again, our concern was getting stuck in the pasture trying to unload the horse.
We finally pulled into the Heavens Happy Hooves pasture around 6:30 p.m. which was close to the time we originally expected to arrive. David was there along with his four burros, Annabelle, Buttercup, Earl and Eeyor and one mini horse, Dancer, a quarter horse, Storm and Chaslie, a mustang mare he had adopted from us the prior year. The horses noisily greeted one another as we pulled in and all the burros came out to see what the commotion was about. As promised, the round pen was situated on high ground, so we had no problem driving in and unloading Kentucky Rain.
She didn’t say anything, but we are sure Kentucky Rain was happy to finally be on dry ground as she lazily grazed on the clover and grass. Three of the burros followed us around the pasture like big dogs and stood with us gazing in at Kentucky Rain, their new pasture mate. Her eyes are so soft and gentle that I am convinced that eventually, she will make someone a great horse, hopefully before Greg gets on her.
The condition of her hooves caused us some concern as she was standing in water for quite a long time. We hope that she won’t have hoof problems as she has been through more than her share of trials and tribulations.
She has a bold face and appears to be a Paint. It is rare to find a Paint mustang east of the Mississippi as most of them are adopted as soon as they are rounded up.
Again, the MWHR of Georgia would like to thank everyone who assisted in the rescue of this mustang. Believe us when we say she is very happy to be where she is today and it wouldn’t have been possible without the love and support from people like you.
America’s Living Legends, the mustang horse!
Let ‘Em Run!

David Herrin called to say that the next day Kentucky Rain busted out of the round pen to frolic with the donkeys. They have been staying in the barn to get out of the heat and all seems to be going well.

A Professional Diplomat

author-at-golden-colorado-copy

I grew up in the border town of Brownsville, Texas. I had me a woman and she got it on like an Easter bunny. She rocked me, swept me away. She carried me along to places I’d never been and made me strong; until one night I came home and she told me to fix my own supper and she ran off with the Fuller Brush man. That woman rode me into misery. After she left, I didn’t care about tomorrow. To me, tomorrow was just another day.
I don’t understand the things I do. I was still a dumb kid who couldn’t see farther than the end of his dick. I hated my parents because of my old man. He was making every effort to drink the town dry and he left outta here like his dick was on fire. The last thing I heard him say was, “I’m going to ride the cold wind high and free and this will be the last you will see of me.”
He was right. Three months later his body was found floating in the Rio Grande, the truth of his evil deeds silenced forever.
I spent some time in Matamoros, a little border town in Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, where I blew my money on a gal with big brown eyes and bigger tits who swore she loved me long enough to get me drunk and in bed. Next morning, she and the money were gone, and I was hungover and broke. So I walked back across the border into Brownsville and I joined the army.
Two years later I finished my stint with Uncle Sam and, like a bad penny, I returned to Brownsville. Times got rough and cotton wasn’t selling and I figured all we get is the chance to play the game, not make the rules, so I went into business for myself. While I was away I learned how to kill and I learned it well. I could shoot the eyes out of a snake at one hundred yards.
I found out there was a dark side of our society that had a need for the skills I had and I wasn’t shy about hiring myself out. I help people make peace or make war, it don’t matter which as long as the money makes it into my account. Business was good. I spent a lot of time in South America assisting our government in removing undesirables from positions of power in countries we needed to control.
I didn’t know my old man had made enemies and that they were looking for something he had and they thought I had it.
It wasn’t long before they found me and left me bleeding in an alley behind Lucky’s Bar. Two armed Mexicans in civilian clothes rushed around the corner, charging toward me. One was tall and thin and the other one was taller and muscular. He’s the one that hit me with his revolver. I guess I should be happy he didn’t shoot me. They said they would be back and I had better have their pharmaceuticals. They must have thought they worked for Merck or something. Pharmaceuticals? These beaners couldn’t even spell the word. They told me I wouldn’t be leaving Brownsville alive if I didn’t have it for them by the end of the week. They hit me two more times to make sure I got the message. That was a mistake.
I wasn’t going to let these strong-arm deuces come into my town and try to play rooster and beat the crap outta me. I couldn’t let ‘em get away with it, pharmaceuticals or no pharmaceuticals.
So, a week later I set a trap and sprung it on them.
Late Thursday evening, I watched as a stolen van, the sides advertising a nonexistent plumbing company, pulled to the curb alongside Lucky’s Bar. One block away, I watched the two men who were sitting in it smoking cigarettes. They were studying the third-floor window across the street from Lucky’s as I studied them. A lone figure was visible moving around the apartment. It was my apartment, I liked to live close to where I spent most of my time, Lucky’s, and that figure belonged to Ice Malone, my long time friend.
Soon, the two goons exited the van and walked across the street and into the alley that ran behind my apartment.
I took a deep breath and vaulted through the door into the alley. Crouching I looked up and down the thin strip of dirt and saw them near the rear entrance. There was a commotion at the north end, the river side of town. A figure emerged like a phantom from the dark enclosure and took two quick steps behind them, and swung his club with everything he had. The blow knocked the big guy forward, sending him crashing into the sidewalk with a large gash on the back of his skull. It turned out he was the lucky one that night because we caught up with the second scum bag before he could make it back to the van. He lost a couple of teeth and a lot of memory, and from the beating he took, his own mother wouldn’t a recognized him.
Ice and I hogtied them and threw them into the back of the plumbing van and drove them over the border, south of Matamoros. We gagged them and pinned notes on each one of them, in case they weren’t given a chance to talk. The notes said the next time they showed up in Brownsville, we would send them back in a body bag, cut up into little pieces.
I also left my card in case they might be in need of my services at a later date.

Saving A Wild Mustang

Mustang Stallion
Mustang Stallion

Saving a Wild Mustang

I pulled in and drove down the driveway and into the pasture. I stopped at the corral where the Department of Agriculture Agent was waiting. She waved and undid the chain holding the gate and pushed it open.
I backed the trailer in and shut the rig down and stepped out. I walked to the back and knocked up the lever holding the trailer door shut. The door swung open. I reached in and threw a flake of hay on the ground by the back entrance to the trailer.
Then I pulled the paneling in, securing them to the sides of the trailer. This was routine. I had done it many times before in the fifteen years I had been rescuing and starting wild mustangs. I looked across the corral at the bay colored gelding. He stood off on the other side of the corral, not scared, but wary of me watching him. I didn’t like what I saw.
I ambled over and put both hands on top of the gate, placing my chin on the back of my hands and one foot on the bottom rail while I observed the mustang. The Department of AG Agent approached the corral and said, “I’m not sure this one is going to make it, what do you think?”
“I’ve seen some pretty sorry looking mustangs, but this one has to be the worst. It looks like someone stretched some horsehide over a skeleton and is trying to pass it off as a horse. This horse is close to starving to death. Look at his legs, they’re wobbling. He’s so weak he can barely stand up. He may die before I can even load him, and look at his feet. They haven’t been trimmed in at least a year and by the look of his coat, it looks like he has the mange. Where’d he come from?”
“We ain’t sure. We got a call from the guy that owns this pasture saying he found the horse wandering around down the road. He couldn’t get near it to halter it, so he coaxed it into his pasture with a bucket of oats. He sold his land and has to get the horse off and that’s why he called us. We didn’t know how bad his condition was until we came out and saw him. We noticed the neck brand and figured it’s a wild mustang from the BLM, Bureau of Land Management, so we called you. You think you can get him in that trailer? We can’t get near him.”
“Oh, I’ll get him in there; just don’t know how long it will take. I don’t want to get him worked up, it will only make the job that much harder.”
“You got a rope?”
“No, just this carrot stick.”
“No rope? How are you going to catch him, if you don’t have a rope?”
“I’m not going to catch him. Some people think they have the right to touch a new mustang, but they don’t, not without their permission.”
“You’re kidding me, right? You have to get its permission?”
“If you want to have him trust you, and believe me, you do.”
“You are going to get that horse in the trailer with just that stick? How are you going to go about doing that?”
“Well, first I’m going to observe him before entering the corral. I want to know as much as I can about him. A wild horse in a corral can be trouble, even one as weak as this one, You can make a mistake with a person, and you can explain it. With a horse, you have to live with it or start over. In my experience, there has never been a time when a mistake was made that one of these two things didn’t occur. He’ll appraise me and I’ll appraise him, I know where I want to get him, but he’s the one that knows how to get there. Every horse is different. I know for this to work I have to get this horse calm, focused and confident and to accomplish this I have to be calm, focused and confident. These mustangs can spot a faker before he even opens the gate. I have to speak confidently with him using his body language. It can’t be an act, it has to be real. I’ll need your help.”
“Okay, what do you need me to do?” She asked.
“I want you to walk slowly into the corral and go to the trailer and hold onto the trailer door handle. When the horse goes in, I need you to close it as fast as you can. He may not want to come out once he goes in, but in most cases, they come out faster than they go in and if we can’t secure him in there the first time, it may be a long afternoon.”
“But aren’t you supposed to slowly introduce the trailer to the horse and do a step by step training process when teaching them to load?”
“We ain’t training this horse to load. We are here to save its life. We’ll train it later. Once we are in the corral with him, I am going to start out by tapping the ground slowly with my carrot stick. When he moves, and he will, I will start to cut down the distance between me and him and stop tapping as long as he goes in the direction of the trailer. If he stops at the back of the trailer to eat the hay I dropped there, I will stop tapping and let him relax for a few minutes. Then I’ll start tapping the ground with the carrot stick once again. This will agitate him and he will either go into the trailer or around the corral to get away from me. He can’t and I’ll continue the tapping until he gets to the back of the trailer again. Simple, huh?”
“It sounds simple, but I doubt it is,” she said.
“We’ll see. Why don’t you go in there now and secure the trailer door and I’ll come in about five minutes later?”
“Okay,” she replied, and slowly entered the corral and walked over to the trailer while the horse cautiously watched her out of one eye while keeping the other on me. After a few minutes, I opened the gate and strolled casually to the horse, speaking softly. All I had with me was my carrot stick. I got about fifteen feet from him before he turned and bolted away on those wobbly legs. His hooves barely cut into the earth and his legs lacked power. He continued to trot back and forth along the far fence, watching me, head raised, nostrils flared, and ears pointing in my direction. He quit roaming the perimeter of the corral and settled into a side away from both me and the trailer, not agitated, just alert and ornery. I could see his sides twitching. Sweat had formed on his underbelly and on his chest. His breathing was more labored than it should have been for the short time he was running around. He was nervous and in very bad health. I thought there was a good chance this horse had a respiratory problem to go along with all his other health issues. After about fifteen minutes of this routine, I guess he decided it would be easier on him to climb into the trailer than to continue to trot around the corral.
The empty trailer clanged with the sound of the horse’s hooves as he burst in. The Agent quickly closed the door. I ran up to assist her in securing the door handle and we were ready to roll. The trailer was rocking back and forth as the horse moved around inside.
“I learned something today,” she said. “That was pretty amazing.”
“Well, if you consider the horse,” I replied, “you will find out they are pretty amazing.”
We walked around and entered the side of the trailer through the escape door and stood and watched him adjust. He stomped and turned around a few times before calming down. He looked at us and blew his breath out against my face. The grainy earth smell was intoxicating.
“That’s right, boy,” I said, “it was pretty easy, wasn’t it? You’re going to be fine. We’ll fix you up.”
At the time, I didn’t have the confidence that we could. I knew it was easier said then done.
“Come take a look at this fresh manure pile,” I called to the AG Agent after we left the inside of the trailer. “It’s filled with worms. My Lord, I have never seen so many worms in a pile of horse manure in my life. There have to be thousands of them in there.”
She looked at the pile and shook her head in amazement, “I doubt this horse has been wormed for a couple of years. You’ll have to take it slow and easy on the de-worming as well as the feeding or he will die on you sure as we are standing here.”
I nodded, “It’s a damn shame what humans do to defenseless animals. We need your agency to crack down on some of these folks.”
“I wish we could, but we don’t have any teeth. If we see something bad, we have to get the Sheriff in on it to make an arrest or a confiscation. Hell, if they are arrested, it’s a misdemeanor and they get a fine and a slap on the wrist and they are back doing the same thing a month later. It breaks your heart.”
“I know. All we can do is keep saving one horse at a time. I better head back. It will take me a couple of hours and I want to get him settled in before dark.”
“Ok, I need you to sign some papers, the government you know. It’s just saying you are legally taking custody of government property.”
When we arrived at the barn, the sun was barely peeking over the tops of the trees in the west pasture. In the distance, it looked like our horses rose out of the earth, first their ears then the shape of their heads and necks. They lifted their heads and their ears pointed in our direction. Then they took off and the earth trembled under the movement of their hooves as they ran to the fence line to meet the new member of the Mustang Rescue’s family of unwanted horses. I knew it would be a long time before this horse would be turned out with the herd. One kick that landed on this poor fellow, while they went through the ritual of determining herd hierarchy, could kill him.
I backed into the barn and opened the trailer. He tentatively stepped out on wobbly legs and headed down the aisle of the barn to the paddock we had set up for him. We had the water trough filled for him and a couple of flakes of hay waiting as well.
I stayed with him awhile that evening and at one point I reached out and he allowed me to touch him and I stroked his side. I promised him I would help him.
Softly I spoke to him,“Cages are everywhere. We all have them, don’t we boy?”
He nickered and I touched his flank and his hoof flashed up.
He just set the boundaries.
With the coordinated efforts of many of our great volunteers, three daily feedings, lots of love, and multiple vet visits to help him regain his strength his progress was nothing short of miraculous. He overcame equine lice, a bout of colic, and intestinal parasites to transform into the happy and healthy mustang.
He was adopted by a ten-year-old girl who was instrumental in nursing him to health. She is currently riding him and continuing his training in Woodstock, Georgia.

The Young Apache Who Could Fly

 

The Young Apache Who Could Fly

We met in Nam in 1969, He came home sporting a hundred dollar habit. I heard there was something in the chemical makeup of Indians where they couldn’t handle alcohol, well, evidently they can’t handle drugs either. He couldn’t get away from the White Rabbit.
“Before Nam,” he said, “I had a dream that I could fly. Did I tell you that, White Eyes? So I jumped off a cliff and flapped my arms like a bird. I did fly until I lost altitude and crashed into the rocks. I broke my wing in two places. When I was assigned to the 101st Screaming Eagles, I told them about me flying and breaking my wing. Sergeant McGuire told me I should have used a parachute. Hell, before I was drafted, I never heard the white man’s word, parachute. Apaches do not have a word for parachutes. Sergeant McGuire asked me once if Indians celebrate the 4th of July? He said it’s not like you were set free or anything. Sure we do, I said. Yeah, we do. My dad died in the Philippines, fighting for this country, the same country that tried to kill him for years. Then I went to fight for this country and now it’s killing me too. Ha, nobody told me my senior trip would be to Vietnam, White Eyes, nobody told me.”
“I know. We were so young when we arrived in country, our balls hadn’t dropped. We were still boys chasing Charlie in the swampy rice paddies in the Mekong Delta while the rich college guys were running around campus chasing skirts.”
“Ha, they did not know they were missing out on all the fun, did they White Eyes?”
“I guess they didn’t.”
“Ha, we went in boys and left men, is that not so, White Eyes? At least those of us that left.
I dream, White Eyes, do you know that?”
“Yes, I do. You always did. You told me some of your dreams while we motored along the Mekong River on our way to Laos. I remember.”
He saw a small bag of grass sitting on the counter next to a dirty coffee pot, with an inch of thick, black, coffee, scorched from being left on all night, coagulating on the bottom. He got up and walked over and grabbed the grass and looked around for rolling paper.
He found some and rolled a joint. Bending over, he lit it from the pilot light on the gas stove.
“Yeah man,” he said dreamily as he slowly took a toke and held his breath. A few seconds later he gasped and the smoke exploded from his mouth.
“Now they’re giving tours down that river, into those swampy rice paddies,” I told him.
“Hmmm, why would white people want to travel through that swamp? Remember Danny? Danny McGuire? What an asshole, eh?” He nodded his head dreamily.
“Yeah, he was an ass,” I replied.
“I think I’ll call Danny but what will I say? He’ll ask what’s new and I’ll say nothing what’s new with you? Nothing much he’ll say.”
I looked at him standing there in his dirt stained t-shirt and noticed something under his left sleeve. I pulled the sleeve up and saw the picture of a naked woman tattooed on his arm.
“Who is that?” I asked.
He stared at the tattoo and tried to concentrate. He squinted his eyes, crinkling his forehead.
“Damn, that’s my best friend, Eagle Feather’s, wife. Shit, she had her friend do that. I remember it hurt like hell. Eagle Feather will not be happy.”
“I don’t suppose. Are you all right?”
“The tat hurts a bit.”
“No, I meant you. You know, do you think you can come out of this?”
He looked at me and took a deep toke and sat down on the floor.
“I need to get my wits about me before I try to stand, White Eyes. How did you know where I was and that I was so fucked up?” he asked, as he stood and shuffled into the kitchen scratching his balls and rubbing his stubble of hair on the top of his head. His hair looked like it was cut off with a knife.
The last time I saw him, he had long black hair. He looked like an Apache. Not now.
“I heard on the wind, from the birds, and felt it in the sunlight,” I said.
“Ha. White Eyes. you are not Indian. The wind and birds do not talk to White Eyes, only to Indians.”
“And your sister called. She said the only talking you did was to dogs and old tractors.”
“Ha, I thought my sister might have something to do with it. My sister, how does she know you?” He took another toke, holding his breath before expelling another puff of smoke. The joint was burning down to the clip.
“She said she got my name from some of my letters that were scattered on the floor. Unopened, by the way.”
“Ha. Shit, White Eyes, it smells like rain and feels like hell. Where do I belong, man?”
“I don’t know brother, but I don’t think it’s here.”
I looked at him closely and noticed his face was gray, sagging like wet paper. His eyes were yellow and rimmed in red and held up by multiple bags. It looked like he lost all of his muscle tone. He was an old man at forty.
I noticed the hole in his left arm where all his disability check goes. I watched him last night climbing walls while he sat in a chair and I tried to keep him awake.
He told me when the sun comes up he gets a little spark like he used to but he is running out of time, he just doesn’t know it. I know that any day could be his last. Damn, time goes by so fast.
He’s an Indian, an Apache. He says his home is the hills and the trees around him and the sky is his ceiling that holds the stars and moon above him.
Grass and heroine temporarily take all his troubles away, or so he says, until the evening comes to take him home; but it has also taken his life away.
I wanted to get him to talk to me. Talk about his old life. The Apache ways, the life he loved before the White Rabbit destroyed him.
“Are you a Shaman,” I ask, “or whatever you Apaches call a man who has visions?
“Yeah man, last week I had this vision. It told me to go to Phoenix. I went and stood on the bridge, waiting for a vision. What river is that, the Gila?  Pale Moon came by and asked me what I was doing there. I told her I was waiting for a vision and she was my vision. She took me home and we smoked and I shot up again then she said I was not an Apache no more and she cut my hair.”
His eyes started to well up with tears and soon they were running down his face
“Then we got naked and she held me while the shakes took me where I did not want to go.
I messed up White Eyes, Pale Moon gave me her soul. She tried to love what was left of me but I would not let her. There is nothing left to love, White Eyes. She left me now.”
I felt sorry for him. He started to ramble, a sign he was losing his hold on reality maybe what was left of his life.
“I am not sure of nothing no more just that old folks grow lonesome. I am old White Eyes. When did we ETS? It seems like so long ago. Man, I hated Laos, more than anything. Hot LZ’s, C4, smell of that shitty country still is in my nose. Ha, you would think with everything I snorted up there it would be gone, but it is not. It is like we are still there. I can hear those two M60’s firing from the choppers as they come into the hot LZ. It hurts White Eyes. My head. It hurts.”
I saw his beaded and fringed deerskin jacket lying on the floor. What looked like vomit coated the front and a big cigarette burn on the left sleeve ruined it. He showed that jacket to me a few years ago. He took pride in wearing it. He told me his mother spent hours putting on the beads, so he would have a beautiful Apache jacket to wear to events. He said that was when he still wanted to be an Apache.
“White Eyes, do you remember the song “White Rabbit” by The Jefferson Airplane? They say that rabbit makes you feel ten feet tall. I often wondered why they didn’t sing about how it felt when you fell ten feet. The fall is hard, White Eyes.”
Today he smelled like death. What happened in Nam, took all the fun out of his life and left him with horrifying memories and his long lost dreams.
“White Eyes, I am on fire and this freight train is running through my head. I need the White Rabbit.”
I light my cigar and watch him as he shoots up. It won’t do any good to try to stop him. I stare at his ancient hollow eyes and want to say, “Hello in there, hello, but I knew it was too late. I would stay with him to the end. It wouldn’t be long now. He was wasting away. He lost so much weight. He wasn’t eating and when I could get him to eat something, he threw it up minutes later. I could hear him in the bathroom.
In a few minutes, he staggered into the room. I noticed he was soaking wet. He’s running out of time, I thought, but he believes there’s a lot more standing here than what he sees live each day.
“White Eyes, I am ready. When the rooster crows, I will be gone.”
I want to say, “Come on, brother, you gotta fight this,” but I don’t. I know it’s no use.
“I am overmatched and just plain tired, or maybe just too damn old,” he whispered.
We both searched for words. He spoke first.
“Hey, White Eyes, did I tell you I write poetry?” His voice was beginning to get scratchy and it was losing volume.
“No, you didn’t.”
“Here, listen to this,” he said walking back into the room with a sheet of yellowed paper.
“I call it A Soldier’s Cry. I think it is pretty good. Let me know what you think, brother,” he said as he sank into the couch.
He began to read it to me.
Every night when all is still
I feel a paralyzing chill
I lie awake consumed with fear
Waiting, for those eyes to ‘ppear
I lock and load and wait alone,
On this piece of land I own
Those shining eyes that are so still,
Staring at me from on that hill

Every night they call to me
Taunting me to lose my will,
I vow to fight with my last breath
I’ll fight them ’til my certain death
I close my eyes and see them still
Staring at me from on that hill

All my brothers who dropped and fell,
They lost their lives in this living hell
They were some of America’s best
Those shining eyes put them to rest
They disappeared in this burning pit
And I vowed to them I won’t forget
Never to be heard from ever again
They were some of my best friends

I watch those eyes as they come for me
But I stand fast, I won’t flee
I will battle them to my last breath
As did my friends, as bullets ripped their chest
They were some of America’s best

They kept their loved ones safe and sound
swallowing bullets, round after round
But here they come those eyes so still
Staring at me from on that hill
I lock and load and wait alone,

Sitting here in fear’s cold sweat
Knowing they won’t get me yet
Lord, I pray, I’m not done
I pray for one more morning sun
As he finished, the paper dropped from his hand and floated to the floor and his eyes rolled up into his head and he gasped his last breath.
“Don’t quit on me, dammit, don’t quit on me! You damn Indian, why’d you have to start on this stuff?”
Now tears were rolling down my face. I angrily wiped them away.
I realized through the poem, he was finally able to express the anguish that had been haunting him since 1969.
I took a deep breath and picked up his deerskin jacket and covered him with it, hoping his friend, Eagle Feather, wouldn’t see the tattoo of his naked wife.
I reached down and picked up the paper and looked at it. It was blank. He wasn’t reading anything.
He had that poem written on his heart and it died with him. As it should, I guess. He suffered long enough.