Wheels

“My legs went one direction, my life another.” – Bob Wieland
Have you ever chugged beer out of a friend’s prosthetic leg? No? Well, I have and I can tell you it’s an experience like no other.
I recall that first day we saw our friend after he returned from Vietnam. He drove up in a brand-new Cadillac and parked in front of the Popcorn Bar, one of our favorite bars in college because of the owner, Fitzpatrick, known to us as Fitz. He provided free popcorn to his patrons which many evenings was our dinner. Fitzpatrick was a good-natured old Irishman who actually liked college students and we made him our honorary father. He would be part of our group of guys while we would sit at his bar drinking beer.
Our friend got out of his car with two canes, one attached to each forearm and he dragged his legs as he walked in the Popcorn to a raucous cheer and no one cheered louder than Fitz did, welcoming home one of his “boys.”
“Welcome home, Bob,” we all cheered. Bob Wieland, Wheels, was finally home.
Fitz had his bartender set a fresh bottle of Chivas Regal in front of Bob that was his for as long as he came in the bar. Fitz told Wheels, “As long as I’m alive, this bottle will never be empty,” and it never was.
To show his appreciation, Wheels removed one of his legs and had the bartender fill it with Old Style beer and he passed it around to all his friends to share. The beer was on Fitz that night too.
No one in our group of friends was free from friendly ridicule and it was no different for Bob upon his return. We called him Wheels because most of the time he would get around in a wheelchair, but today he’s called “Mr. Inspiration.” His real name is Bob Wieland. You can google him to find out more about this amazing man, www.bobwieland.net. He has accomplished more than most people ever will.
When I first knew him he was in high demand. He was a very good baseball player and the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team was interested in having him join their farm system but so was Uncle Sam and Uncle Sam won out, sending him to Vietnam where a member of his unit stepped on a mine. Wheels, a medic, rushed to give first aid but he too stepped on a buried mortar round, designed to destroy tanks. It severely damaged his legs; they had to be amputated above the knee.
Wheels is best known for his walk across America on his arms. In 1986, he completed a 3000-mile walk across America on his arms to pay tribute to his fallen comrade. That journey took him 3 years, 8 months and 6 days. He had wooden blocks with a strap going across the back to put on his hands and he wore leather pants. I forget how many blocks and leather pants he wore out on that journey, but it was a lot.
How he accomplished this feat in itself is quite a feat. He started with some friends in California who would jog along with him and drive his car. But eventually, they tired out and could no longer stay with him. By the time he reached Nevada, he was on his own.
He would drive his car to the point he wanted to get to by the end of a particular day. Here he would drop off his wheelchair. Then he would drive back to his starting point and begin his journey. When he arrived at where he had left his wheelchair, he would get in and roll it back to his car and then drive back to where he had stopped walking that day. Amazing.
Since that time, he has traveled across America using his arm-pedaled bicycle.
A few years ago, a mutual friend of ours who was also living in Atlanta at the time, told me “Wheels” was going to be in town. He was scheduled to give a motivational speech to local high school football teams at Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta Georgia. He wanted to know if I wanted to join him in surprising Wheels.
“Hell yeah,” I said.
Well, when Wheels came out to speak, his entrance was like none I had seen before, He came running into the auditorium from the back, on his hands and literally jumped on the stage.
His speech was pretty inspiring but he knew he had to do something special to really make an impression on a group of testosterone laden teenage boys.
He put a set of weights and a weight bench on the stage and put out a challenge to all the young men in the audience to come up and do as many bench presses as they could and when they finished he would match them and do one more rep than they did. You see, Wheels had just set a world record in the bench press but was disqualified because he didn’t keep his feet planted on the floor. It didn’t matter that his feet were lying in some rice paddy in Vietnam.
Bob did beat everyone who took his challenge and there were a lot of conversations going on by the audience as they left the auditorium that day.
We visited with Wheels for awhile after his speech, talking about Fitz and the guys, before he had to leave for another engagement in another city.
What an honor it is for me to be one of the few guys to know such a great American and get to drink out of his prosthetic leg so many years before.

Max Fly In Buenos Aires, Argentina

The phone rang.
“Rocco’s Pub.” It was Bubba, Rocco’s three hundred pound bouncer
“Hey, Bubba, is the Rocco Man there?”
“Just a moment. Rocco, it’s the Cheese Head. Can you talk?”
“Yeah, give me a moment. I’ll get to my office. Hang up the phone after I pick up.”
I could hear laughter and chatter in the background and then Rocco was on the line.
“Okay, I got it, Bubba, thanks.”
I heard the extension click as Bubba hung it up.
“Cheese Head, you still there?”
“Still here, whatcha got?”
“The connection’s good, like you are on the south side or something. Okay, I got this from Harry last night. The magazine rented you an apartment. It’s the one they told you about. The first-month rent has been paid and the key is where you would expect to find it. Inside you’ll find more detailed instructions.They want you to write an article on the Buenos Aires Cowboy Fair, La Feria De Mataderos. It’s a weekly fair with folk dancing, handicrafts, and food, as well as gaucho demonstrations.”
“I’ve heard of it.”
“Do they do the polka down there?”
“Don’t think so. At least I haven’t seen it yet, but there are a bunch of Krauts walking around. Anything else?”
“That’s it.”
“Thanks, Rocco, I’ll be in touch.”
It was a studio apartment in the Puerto Madero district where rusting ships and decaying warehouses littered the area. I walked in and cleared off space on a bookshelf and set down my bottle of brandy. Now I was moved in. I found my instructions. They were from my handler.
He said to go to La Capilla, a boliches, a nightclub, in downtown Buenas Aires. It had been dry-cleaned and I would meet a deep cover agent, an agent of influence, a raven who had been working Buenas Aires the past three years. She had been briefed and was waiting for contact with me. She was in her late 30’s, about 5’ 4” and 110 pounds with black hair and brown eyes. Her codename was Snake. She knew my code name and had more information about the Nazis and what happened in Poltava, Ukraine.
When she walked in the La Capilla it was already after midnight and the bar was still crowded. She was wearing jeans that hugged her like they meant it and a crimson T-shirt stretched tight across her breasts. She had on an open leather jacket, and tennis shoes and wore a holstered and belted six-shooter, a .357. She walked to the bar, turned, and stood with her elbows on the counter and her ankles crossed. Her eyes were as cold as hung beef and her mouth pitched at an angle that made me squirm in my seat as if I had a diaper rash. She promised trouble. She was my contact and damn if I didn’t know her. Medusa, still tough as nails.
She ordered a drink and took a sip and then looked around. Our eyes locked on each other as I walked toward the bar. Her eyes lifted from mine. They were blank, clouded, lost somewhere in the long roll of her life.
“Hi, I’m a Cheese Head from America, the state of Wisconsin. Names Max, may I buy you a drink?”
“Sure, you can call me snake, I’m from Georgia.”
After the drinks arrived, she thanked me.
“You’re welcome,” I replied.
“I see you are still walking on the green side instead of lying under the brown side, Max,” Medusa said.
“I am. Guess I’ve been lucky. How long have you been in this racket?”
“A long time.”
“I was told you would have some information for me?”
She laid an index finger against my lips. “Shhh, quiet my love. Not here. If you want to hear my story, you must have patience. Are you hungry, Cheese Head? The fresh pasta, calamari, and Patagonian wines are particularly good, as are the desserts. Perhaps you could buy me dinner after we finish our drinks?”
“I’m always up for a late night snack,” I replied.
“I know you are,” she replied with a smile. “I see you are back to writing once again. The vaqueros down here are an interesting breed. Very tough and manly. I have enjoyed myself while here.”
“I can only imagine.”
“Yes, please, imagine. It gets el toro raging in you, Cheese Head. I like you best when el toro is loose and running free in your mind,” she smiled.
I looked around and noticed a fat man in the far corner of the bar, eating a sandwich and drinking a beer. Later he was still sitting there. His sandwich was gone but his beer was untouched. He was looking in our direction.
“You notice that fat man in the far corner?”
“Yes, he’s been watching me for awhile now. He hasn’t touched his beer.”
I got up and gestured for Medusa to get up.
“Let’s go over there,” I said. “A little more privacy.”
She picked up her purse and I led her around the corner to a booth in the back.
I was facing to the front of the bar so I could watch the movement of the fat man with the sandwich and beer. He didn’t appear.
“Look,” I said turning back to face her. “The man who has been following you may have killed one of my assets, Selena, so you have to be careful. I am trying to be patient but I need you to answer my questions about Poltava.”
“Everyone wants to eat but only a few are willing to hunt, Max.”
I knew what she meant. Medusa wasn’t afraid to hunt and she was damn good at it.
She reached into her bag and removed a brown manilla envelope and began to unwrap the string holding the flap closed. She removed a sheath of papers about one inch thick. The cover sheet was marked, “STRENG GEHIEM” in bold red letters.
“What’s that mean?”
“Top Secret.”
“Is the whole report in German? I can’t read German.”
“That’s okay. That’s why you have me.”
I looked at her smiling face.
“I thought I have you for other reasons.”
“That too,” she replied with a coy smile. “This report has been very difficult to get. Nobody in law enforcement gives anything away for free, pissing matches over pride and turf too often leaving everyone with nothing to show for it except wet shoes,” Medusa said with a frown. 
“I had to be very creative,” she smiled that knowing smile.
I nodded my head acknowledging her hidden meaning.
“Let’s finish our drinks and go to my apartment. I have a bottle and you can translate what you have there.”
“I thought you would never ask.”

It took us about five minutes to walk to my new apartment. We were pretty sure the man with the sandwich and beer didn’t see us sneak out but we retraced our steps, just in case.
We didn’t see any sign of him.
I opened the door and ushered Medusa in.
I poured a hook of brandy in each of our glasses and sat down next to Medusa on the well-worn couch. She took a solid drink and reached into her bag and took out her report and began to read.
“Have you heard of Konstantin Ivanenko?”
“No, I haven’t. Who is he?”
“A Russian ufologist.
“Ufologist?”
“Someone who studies UFOs. Ivanenko was an expert, Max.”
“An expert on UFO’s? Is that like an expert on looney tunes?”
“Before you cast aspersions, Max, listen to this report.
According to Ivanenko, the Nazis established a German base in the Muhlig-Hofmann Mountains in Antarctica. It was discovered in 1938 by German Captain Alfred Ritscher. The area was renamed Neuschwabenland, New Swabia and was known only as Station 211. The Richter expedition’s scientists used their Dornier seaplanes to explore the area and discovered ice-free lakes that were heated by underground volcanic fissures and they were able to land on them. It is believed that the expedition was to scout out a secret base of operations. and the facility is known only as Base 211.
Now, if you had been a Wehrmacht soldier at the railroad station in Poltava, the Ukraine, during the summer of 1942, you may have seen a very strange-looking military unit. The unit consisted of women, all of them blond and blue-eyed, between the ages of 17 and 24, tall and slender, with sensational figures.
“My favorite kind.”
“Every kind is your favorite kind, Max. Each woman wore sky-blue uniforms and Italian-style garrison caps with the insignia of the SS. You might have thought the SS had recruited a platoon of high-class call girls, but the truth was far stranger than that. You would have been looking at Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler’s latest brainstorm The Antarctic Settlement Women or ASF. The secret Fatherland of the new 1000 year Reich.
Ten thousand of the racially most pure Ukrainians were transported in 1942 by Martin Bormann to the German Antarctic Base 211, in the proportion of four Ukrainian women to one German man.
If true, this would mean that Himmler transferred 2,500 Waffen-SS soldiers, who had proven themselves in combat on the Russian front, to Station 211 in Antarctica. This may be the source of the myth of the Last SS Battalion.”
“Are you trying to tell me that Nazi’s are living under ice in Antarctica?”
“I’m trying to tell you it’s possible and that it’s possible that life actually existed there long before the Nazi’s got there. There is strong evidence that Antarctica was charted long ago by unknown people when temperatures were much warmer.
In 1947, Admiral Richard Byrd went to Antarctica on Operation Highjump. They said the reason for the operation was to test military hardware under extreme conditions, the suggestion that it was a combat operation aimed at dislodging Nazi troops from their secret Valhalla has always floated in the air.
But that wasn’t all: Vice-Admiral Byrd had apparently stumbled into a magnetic anomaly that messed up his navigational equipment and his radio. He radioed back reports of seeing a completely different, verdant landscape under his aircraft.
It is believed the observatory contains vast crystals which put forth a certain kind of magnetism, which is used as a guidance system so that large spaceships could land at that location.”
“Where did you get this information?”
She was smiling in the mirror.
“South America, Buenas Aires, in particular, is crawling with ex-Nazis, including Richard Gehlen and Otto Skorzeny, Hilter’s former bodyguard. These pigs still like young women and have a difficult time keeping from bragging. Más loco que una cabra con pollitos”, they are crazier than a goat with chicks. It isn’t hard getting information out of them.”
I stared at her.
She smiled, “It’s a job, Max, and I’m damn good at it. “Echar un polvo, I get paid to fuck,” she smiled again.
“What do you think? Would you like to visit Antarctica?”
“I don’t think so, but thanks for asking.”
“Ok, well, I’m tired.”
“If you would like to make an old timer happy one more time, I sure would like you to spend the night with me.”
“ Max, you are more a survivor than an expert when it comes to women. I planned on staying.”
I woke to an empty bed.
I started some coffee and filled a cup. I walked to the little refrigerator and pulled out a carton of milk and added a couple of fingers to the steaming hot liquid and sat down on the couch, and thought about the evening before. If Medusa stayed on my calendar, I didn’t think I would make it to the end of the week. She sure had some unusual information on the Nazis living in Antarctica and I was trying to see how this all tied into the tragedy that happened on November 22, 1963.
There was a soft rap on the door. I picked up my revolver and went to see who was there.
It was Medusa. I let her in.
“I just got word from your handler. Your shadow has been thrown in jail.”
“What? When?”
“Last night. We have to go.”
There was blood on her chin and some on her hands and a spattering of blood on her shirt.
“What happened to you?”
“That fat man from last night? He followed us. I had to take executive action.”
“He’s dead?”
“What do you think?”
I felt like the glue that was holding the world together, was finally letting go.

Super Warriors: Drugged Up GI’s

HOME:

I felt the liquid creep through my veins and the tension and fear leave my body. I was mellow.
I was trying to escape all the ears in the walls. Every night it was the ears, always the ears.
Yesterday silence was the only friend I had. I thought the bottom was the only place I’d been but I wasn’t there yet. No matter how hard I tried I was always behind.
Tommy got into a fist fight. He didn’t fare well. His right ear was almost severed and he re-broke his nose and dislocated his ring finger. I didn’t know if we would be able to remove his wedding band without cutting it off. I fixed him up the best I could using my wife’s sewing kit to sew on what was left of his ear.
Thanks, Doc,” he whispered.
That night I watched the needle take another man and silently I cried.

Chinese Premier Chou En-lai told the president of Egypt in 1965: “Some American troops are trying opium, and we are helping them. We are planting the best kinds of opium especially for American soldiers in Vietnam…Do you remember when the West imposed opium on us? They fought the war with opium. We are going to fight them with their own weapons.

VIETNAM:
I fell in love with a Saigon butterfly of the night, a whore named Kim Lien and she kept my plumbing clean. She looked like a bottle of cheap wine and worked on Tu Do Street and swore in English like a sailor. But she was mine and I was hers. We had a need and we filled it for each other.
She told me she was a hired wife for a CIA agent in Saigon. “He had a lot of money, money to burn. The CIA was accountable to no one in the United States government. Congress did not have a clue what money they had or how they spent it. That the CIA was its own government with its own set of rules. He didn’t care what happened to his money. He said he could always get more. The mother fucker kicked me out because I could not cook his stew properly. I was not a good housewife, he said.”
She told me she started working in tea houses when she was 10 and now she only worked for her father on his Flower Boat, a sampan, and for her brothers who pimped her out on dry land.
She informed me she was 19 but I don’t think she was a day over 16.
That night I held her hand for the first time in the bottom of her father’s sampan. I kissed her for the first time five minutes later and it was then that I gave her father 300 piasters so we could spend three hours together. I gave him another 100 piasters for some opium. We smoked it before she cleaned my pipes.
I told her I loved her in front of a bar on Tu Do Street with her brother standing on a nearby corner.
I proposed to her in front of the Meyerkord hotel, ranked #11 by the GIs, #10 being the worst and #11 being beyond the call of duty.
We were wed by a Buddhist monk on her father’s Flower Boat.
We spent our romantic honeymoon in a hooch I rented for 1200 piasters a month.
I delivered our first child in that hooch two months later. A boy. He didn’t look anything like me.
Lien told me, “In my village, they call our son bui doi (“dirt of life”). I am shamed.”
I held her close to my chest as she sobbed. We shared a joint and made love.
“Don’t worry, Lien everything is going to be all right. Let’s live life like there is no tomorrow because for us, there may not be. Let’s make love all afternoon. I don’t have to be back until this evening.” We shared some opium.
HOME:
I wept at night as I thought of her and my son and what fate had in store for them. I feared my bui doi boy more likely than not, was forced into prostitution along with his mother.
I still meet her in our secret meeting place and our small son joins us. In my mind, miracles can happen. I need miracles.

VIETNAM:
It was 1969, Saigon, South Viet Nam and it was raining, again. It rained every day since we got in country.
“Name’s Pappy Smith,” he said, holding a half-empty bottle of Tiger beer which he told us tasted better than the Viet Cong Bia Hoi.
He had skin like leather and welcomed us to Viet Nam, “You are in for a helluva fight. The average age of a ground pounder over here is 19 years old. The average age of a ground pounder when he is sent home in a body bag is 19 years old. I’m 35 and I have spent three tours in Nam and three years in Korea when I was younger than you are today. I went along with General MacArthur, chasing those fuckin’ slope heads right to the Yalu River before Mr. Truman and the rest of those fuckheads in Washington stopped us. If they woulda’ let us finish business back then, you boys wouldn’t be here today.”
He stopped his orientation long enough to finish off the rest of his Tiger beer.
“You may not believe this, but the sun does shine here once in a while. You boys just missed all the fun, the big Tet Offensive. Of course, it was a huge surprise to the folks back home, and the reporters claimed it was a victory for the NVA even though we won. We set the NVA back quite a bit killing millions of the little Gooks. But you would never know it reading the Washington Post and the rest of the American press. Obviously, to our newspapers, black is white.
“You are all fresh meat, our new Cherry Boys, and I’m your caped superhero and you always trust your caped superheroes, not one of them butter bars back there,” he said jabbing his thumb over his shoulder referring to the gold bars on the shoulders of the new second lieutenants that just arrived and were being processed in behind us.
“I’m telling you up front even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there. So always be doing something positive. Be alert it could mean your life and more importantly, mine.”
We knew now when he was around we never sat down.
“Okay, shitheads, let’s saddle up I’m going to show you how to ride the skids. You Cherries will sit in the middle and watch this time. After that, I don’t give a fuck where you sit. Just don’t sit in front of them Door Gunners.”
“Hey you,” Pappy said, pointing in my direction.
I turned around and looked at him and replied, “What, Sarge?”
“You our medic?”
“Yep,” I replied.
He looked at me a bit and finally said, “I don’t know what they told you in doc school back in the states, but here is the real story. You and me go out on the first unsecured insert and stay out and return with the last pickup. You and me are on call 24/7, 365 days a year until you either rotate out or you buy the six-by-three farm. I do it because I get the big bucks, you do it because you are the most important man here. We all need you. Now, di di mau, haul ass, and get your shit together.”
HOME:
I dreamed of Lien and our son again and woke up crying.
My wife asked me if I was okay. I wanted to tell her “Fuck no. What do you think? I’m fucking nuts. I’ll never be okay. But I told her, “Yes, everything is fine. I just had a spell.”
My wife takes me in her arms and rocks me. She’s a good woman and she loves me and I love her too. She thinks it’s PTSD that makes me cry. I don’t tell her. She wouldn’t understand.
“When do you see your grief counselor again?”
“Tuesday.”
“Do you think it is helping?”
“I think so,” I lied.
“That’s good. Do you want to go with me to pick the kids up from school?”
“I looked at her for a moment and said, “No, I think I’ll go see what Tommy is up to.”
“Please don’t do drugs again, please. The kids haven’t seen you straight in over a week. They are scared and so am I. Please, please don’t go.”
I grabbed her and pulled her close. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t lie to her, not anymore. I felt the warmth of her tears soaking my chest. I knew I was going to shoot up with Tommy. “I love you,” I said.
I felt like a shit when I left.
VIETNAM:
Our squad consisted of Bizo, Bug, Cotton Top, Dizzy, Doo Rag, me and Pappy Smith. We didn’t know each other’s real names and never did. To all of them, I was just Doc.
We were quiet as we contemplated what we were about to do and talked in hushed tones about our families and loved ones, and what we were going to do after our tour was over.
We packed our rucks, drew fresh ammo, cleaned our weapons and filled our Canteens and tied them on the back. For me, being the medic, I made sure my Aid Bag was packed and that I had enough dressings and meds for the next 10 days. Everyone was nervous about what was about to happen.
I passed out twelve Dexedrine to each man. We would be alert!
Then Pappy yelled, “Saddle Up and climb the hill to the pad the birds are on the way.”
And then we could hear them, that distinctive sound of the Huey’s as they approached the firebase; the chopping sound of their blades getting louder and louder the closer they got. It was at that moment as they were about to descend to pick us up that the adrenaline started to kick in. We got up, crouched over, and ran with our hundred pound rucks, weapons, and ammo toward the birds. We turned around as we got there and jumped on board. We sat with our legs hanging out of the bird; we were no longer Cherry Boys. We talked about the times we went out on recon and how we forced the “Cherries” to sit in the middle.
Once the Huey’s arrived and we were situated the bird ascended and the firebase receded as we banked and headed for our LZ.
As we approached the LZ we could see all the activity around it, the smoke and artillery fire and then the final dusting by the Cobra gunships flying down below us.
Then it was our turn, the 1st Bird, we made our way down. The Crew Chief and the Door Gunner unleashed their weapons spewing rounds on the LZ and perimeter.
We rode the skids in so we could get off faster and then we made our way to the perimeter to watch and wait until the last bird dropped its load.

HOME:
The needle goes in and I can feel it relieving the pain. I smile and look over at Tommy. Is he dead? I laugh. I don’t know why I laugh because I am sad.
I start to shake and my mind goes back to Nam. Then I silently cry.

VIETNAM:
While in Nam, Dizzy would shoot up and get high and we would ask him, “How’s the war going, Dizzy? He’d respond saying, ‘real smooth. Today we’ve got ourselves a real mellow war’.
When Dizzy was killed, we tried to convince ourselves that he was just high, in a higher place, that he had taken so much dope that he was up there floating in the clouds somewhere. To help us believe this, we all smoked what was left of Dizzy’s dope.

HOME:
I was catching bass and getting drunk the day I found out I was being sent to Viet Nam where I learned to hate my brother. Viet Nam robbed me of my liberty and I realized that I wasn’t going to live forever and then I realized that I was as free as I would ever be. You do what you do. It don’t mean nuthin’.
VIETNAM:
The bombs started falling pounding my brain and all I wanted to do was disappear.
I couldn’t see the bodies for the clouds of dust. It made me wish I was in Wisconsin drinking Mad Dog 20 20 not caring where I was or what I was doing. I was just a poor boy. Many times I walked away from trouble but I couldn’t walk away from this.
My dad told me to do what I could do and do it well. Shit, I don’t think this was on his list.
I was holding Pappy Smith’s body close to mine while pressing a field dressing against the gaping wound in his stomach, hoping his intestines would stay in. We were waiting for the last bird to drop its load and come back for us. This is why Pappy got the big bucks.
The bird finally arrived. It came with the dust and left with the wind and took the rest of our wounded and Pappy from us. This time Pappy didn’t make the last pickup. I was alone.
I tried to shut my eyes and get him out of my sight, but I couldn’t.
VIETNAM:
I stared down at the man I killed, more a boy, really. There was a star-shaped hole where his left eye was. His face was bloated. He hung upside down from a branch in the tree he used for his sniper position. Strips of skin were missing from his face; he was thin, like a woman with a concaved chest. His straight black hair was streaked with blood and hung toward the swampy ground below him. I felt nothing, absolutely nothing.
HOME:
I saw Kim Lien standing in the heavy mist ahead of me on the dock by her father’s Flower Boat.
“Lien, where are you going?” I sob.
“I’m going to find Tommy. Do you wish to come along?”
“Yes,” I cry.
She yells at me calling me pretty boy and to hurry. “Di di mau, dep trai.”
She beckons to me with her hand before turning and walking to the boat
I put the needle in my arm one last time and smile before calling to her, “Lien, please wait for me. I can’t make it alone.”
WAR:
You pay for your sins and this war was filled with more than enough sins on both sides.
The Vietnam War was many things and among them, it was a pharmacological war.
A 1969 investigation by Congress found that 15-20 percent of soldiers in Vietnam used heroin regularly and that over 40,000 soldiers returned from Nam as drug addicts.
The armed forces issued over 225 million tablets of stimulants to our troops, mostly Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), an amphetamine derivative that is nearly twice as strong as the Benzedrine used in WWII.

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.”

Historic Red Mill, Elm Grove Road in Brookfield Wisconsin Is Haunted!

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When we checked into our motel in Brookfield, Wisconsin, Jacqui wanted to find a good fish fry, seeing as it was our last night in the Badger state, home of Ol’ Abe, the original War Eagle. She went online and Googled “Best fish fry’s” in the Brookfield Wisconsin area” and came up with the Historic Red Mill. Its official name is Butch’s Red Mill Pub & Eatery but not to its regulars, it’s still the Historic Red Mill.

The Historic Red Mill isn’t a restaurant, it’s a SUPPER CLUB and it opens at 3:00 p.m. We arrived  at 3:07 p.m., not as promptly as I wanted to, but we were driving a Toyota Yaris, which scared the bejeezus out of me every time we drove on a highway.The only people present were Joe the bartender and Jackie the bar manager. So, after ordering a well-brandy, which was the 5 Star Brandy, for which we received an apology for the second time in two days from a bartender who served it. We told him we didn’t care, we were just happy to be able to get brandy wherever we went in Wisconsin because many places in Georgia don’t carry it. I am told that the Wisconsin Synod of the Lutheran Church sometimes substitutes wine with brandy for communion. That rumor hasn’t been confirmed yet. We told Joe and Jackie we were visiting from the Atlanta area and that I grew up in Brookfield and my Jacqui was one of the former 14,000 busy beavers from Beaver Dam, but we both had left before the invention of the gas engine and were amazed at how much the Brookfield area had grown from a rural community when I lived there, to where it now appears to be an extension of the city of Milwaukee.

It wasn’t long before the “regulars” started to mosey on in and sit down around the bar. Joe was kept busy slopping brandy in glasses while Jackie the bar manager, not to be confused with my Jacqui, kept up a lively conversation with all the patrons sitting at the bar. We found out one lady had just purchased a 2016 Chevy Camaro. I asked her what she had under her hood and she thought I was referring to the car as she replied, “485 horses with a six speed because my son can’t drive a standard transmission.” But I meant was she crazy for buying a General Motors product not the size of its engine. She told us she only had it for a couple of weeks and hasn’t had a chance to drive it “wide open.” She got up to 120 mph before she backed it down, afraid she might hit one of the many orange traffic cones that litter the side of Interstate 94 outside of Milwaukee.

When I grew up, I don’t think there was a young man around that didn’t know how to drive a standard transmission, but I have to admit, 6 speeds may get a little confusing. I might lose count of what gear I was in once I passed 3rd while winding that monster out.

Among this eclectic crowd were two octogenarian ladies who had just finished moving out of their house into a condominium. As they walked through the door, Joe the bartender, prepared their drinks, a Rose wine on the rocks and a vodka tonic. I was the fortunate one as they sat down beside me. They were regulars, obviously, at the Historic Red Mill, as were the others at the bar and Jacqui, my Jacqui, and I felt like we were sitting in a private home in a family recreation room as the family members brought each other up to date on what they had done since they were last here. In a few cases, some only left at 1:00 a.m. that morning. These were the ones with red noses.

It wasn’t long before everybody started to tell us about the history of the Historic Red Mill.

The building dates back to 1847 and is one of the oldest buildings in the area. It started out as a farmhouse with over fifty acres of farmland and then became a home to an intriguing variety of other businesses, including a general store, a stagecoach station, and even a brothel. It has been a restaurant, off and on, for the past 80-plus years but what local residents may not know is that it is haunted.

Evidently, one of the original owners named Ellen experienced a miscarriage and died and she is the one whose spirit is unsettled and is wandering around the house.

Jackie, the bar manager, not to be confused with my Jacqui, the brandy drinker, told us that on a couple occasions while she was closing up, she would turn around and all the bar stools would be turned around in the opposite direction of where they had been previously. She said it wasn’t just her, other employees experienced seeing an apparition in the mirrors while they were closing. When something like this happened to me in years past, I just  assumed I had too much brandy in my belly, but now I’m not sure.

I was getting a little nervous so I ordered another shot of 5 Star.It was 4:30 p.m. the time the kitchen was supposed to open but the cook still hadn’t arrived, agitating Joe the bartender. We heard him utter a few good Wisconsonite words aimed at anyone who doesn’t respect their job enough to arrive at the designated time agreed upon when they were hired.

Finally, the cook showed up and it wasn’t long before some patrons headed to one of the dining areas, and those who decided to eat at the bar so they could keep a close eye on the 5 Star Brandy, started to receive platters of fried perch and fried cod. By this time I had caught on to my Jacqui’s ongoing attempt to clog my arteries by forcing me to eat all this fried food, so I ordered baked cod. It was awesome! It didn’t taste like fish; it didn’t even taste like chicken. It tasted like good old Wisconsin butter. Every time I bent over my platter, not a wimpy plate like you get at a regular restaurant, a platter, I was overwhelmed by the aroma of that wonderful Wisconsin butter.

We said our goodbyes to all of our new friends, including Ellen, in case she was listening, promising a return visit when we were back in the area.

 

THE CLEANUP HITTER By David Hesse

The well-dressed man standing in the window was admiring his manicure when he saw the young man walk across the parking lot toward the building. He shook his head in disgust and hoped he wasn’t making a mistake. He could see a cigarette stuck behind his ear. The young man was wearing a black leather jacket that had zippers all over the front and on the sleeves. It was open in the front in spite of the cold December day exposing his black t-shirt . His black pants were tight and high and he was wearing white socks and black loafers. He had his hair slicked and oiled back in what was the fashion of choice by all the punks. He was late.
The well-dressed man went behind his desk and sat down waiting for the young man’s arrival.
When the young man opened the office door he saw the man he was scheduled to meet sitting behind a large cherry wood desk. Against the wall was a matching credenza. Above the credenza was a large window overlooking the parking lot and the Wisconsin River. The young man took in the office and its surroundings. He looked out the window and noticed ice had started to form along the far bank, the current in the center of the river was too strong for any ice to form, at least until after the temperature dropped well below zero and it would have to stay that cold for quite some time. More likely to happen the end of January or sometime in February, if at all. It was only December 1st.
The desk was bare except for a black phone and one 9”x 12″ brown manilla folder that he assumed was meant for him.
He could tell the man behind the desk was a big man even though he was sitting. His head was large and bald and he was sporting a Fu Manchu mustache that traveled down the side of his mouth and around his jaw bone. It was a white blond. His skin was an alabaster white and his clear blue eyes were ringed in red, an albino he thought. He took a deep breath.
The well-dressed man squinted as he looked up at the young man.
“Close the door,” he commanded.
He did.
“What took you so long?”
“Traffic.”
“Fuck, ain’t no traffic.”
He didn’t say anything he just stared at him.

The big man asked him, “What’s your name?””My friends call me The Cleanup Hitter.”

“My friends call me The Cleanup Hitter.”

“So, I should call you the cleanup hitter?” The big man asked.
“I guess,” the young man replied.
“Okay then, let’s get to it.” He stood up and handed him a gun.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“It’s a .25 caliber” he replied.
“I don’t need it. I got a .357. Should do the job.”

“You need it. That fuckin’ .357 makes to much noise and will draw attention to you. Plus it’s messy.The .25 caliber is a hitter’s gun. You take it when you know it’s going to be a head shot.
“It’s a worthless gun,” he said. “I know a guy was shot on a Saturday night with a .25 and was back at work on Monday.”
“Yeah, well, you ain’t goin’ to no shootin’ match with this one. You are going to place the barrel up against the back of his skull and then pull the trigger. The slugs will ricochet around inside the head. It’s like putting the victim’s brain in a blender. When you finish you can drop it or take it with you. They can’t trace it. But, if you drop it, make sure it’s wiped clean. Make sure you get all your brass, though. Many guys got nailed by leaving partials on the brass.”
The young man looked at him and nodded okay.
“All right, then,” he said, handing the young man an envelope. “This has a picture of the guy along with his home address and where he works. Joey followed him for three weeks and we got every place listed that he went to. He’s got a little lady that works at Dinah’s Tap off Carson Street. You know where that is?”
He nodded his head again as he removed the contents of the envelope. There was an eight by ten picture of an overweight older man wearing slacks and a Hawaiian shirt along with three sheets of notebook paper documenting his daily routine for the past three weeks and $2500.00 in cash, all in twenty dollar bills.
“Who is this? I think I recognize this guy.”
“You don’t need to know. Just take care of business. The cash is yours. That’s half in advance and once it’s done, you’ll get the rest as we agreed upon.”
The young man nodded again. “So, this .25 caliber gun won’t attract any attention?”
“No, it won’t. I make more noise when I fart. Just get behind the bastard and pulled the trigger. The slug will do the rest. I’d pop ‘im again, just to make sure.”
The young man nodded again. “What did he do to you that you want him gone?”
“It’s none of your business. Your business is to take care of this. Make it clean, you understand?”
“Okay,” the young man replied as he put the $2500.00 in his pocket and picked up the .25 caliber. “I guess I better get this over with then.”
The young man placed the barrel of the gun against the big man’s head and quickly fired two shots at point blank range into his skull.
The large man fell forward over his massive desk. His eyes were open with surprise etched on his face. It was turned to the side and blood was pooling around his neck and down the back of his suit.The young man said, “You were right, this little gun is real quiet and that second slug just to make sure was a good idea.”
He bent over the body and said, “I think I can hear them slugs ricocheting around in your head cocksucker.” He stood up and looked at the .25 caliber gun. “I think Joey will be surprised to see this, don’t ya’ think?” He chuckled as he put it in his jacket pocket while grabbing the cigarette from behind his ear and popping it in his mouth.
“Damn, I forgot my lighter,” he said as he walked to the door.
The young man stopped and was about to open it when he turned back and said, “Oh, I almost forgot, the brass, and by the way, my pa said to say hello. He wanted his picture back.”

Auburn War Eagle? I don’t think so. University of Georgia War Eagle? Hardly.

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For over 100 years now a battle has raged between these two schools as to which school originated the war eagle cry. But they are both out in left field because it was in Wisconsin where the true War Eagle originated. One that actually saw combat, albeit, he showed some of his chicken heritage as he feared artillery fire and took off whenever the big guns began to fire. But then, who doesn’t? In fact, he was actually wounded in battle, well, maybe not in battle, but he did injure his leg during a hurricane.

My Auburn University friends say they are the originators of the “war eagle” yell, but I know this isn’t true. I have read that there are three or four different theories on how the Auburn Tigers seized the War Eagle sobriquet and a couple of them have ties to football games against the University of Georgia. My favorite one is when the bird takes off in flight and screams, igniting the fans to scream, ‘war eagle,’ and the Auburn offense to score the winning touchdown. Immediately after the score, the eagle performs a kamikaze act, taking a nose dive onto the football field where it dies. Can you believe that? I can’t. In fact, some of the stories claim Auburn actually stole the war eagle cry from Georgia. Another one claims a Carlisle player was named War Eagle and they would call out his name during a game. But, listen, I’m here to put this silly argument to rest. Whatever side you support on the War Eagle debate, you are wrong. The cry “War Eagle” originated in Wisconsin. In fact, many cries originate in Wisconsin it’s so damn cold up there, plus Lutefisk and bratwurst both produce a case of indigestion that can cause any man to whimper in pain.

The true story of War Eagle began many years ago, a Wisconsin Ojibwe, Chief Sky, one of five sons of Thunder of Bees, Chief of the Flambeau band of Chippewa Indians, part of the Anishinaabe tribe, called the first people, during sugar making time about 125 miles outside the city of Eau Claire, chopped down a pine tree containing an eagle’s nest with two eaglet’s nestled inside. One died. Chief Sky, gathered up the other one and, evidently, not learning from the 1626 bead transaction his brothers conducted with the Dutch for selling Manhattan, sold the eaglet to a Dan McCann from Eagle Point, Wisconsin, for a bushel of corn. Actually, the bead transaction story is also a farce. The Canarsie Indians sold Manhattan to Dutch settlers, but not for some worthless glass beads, but for iron kettles, axes, knives, and cloth. The kicker to the story is that the land that they took payment for didn’t even belong to them. But, I don’t think all the kettles and other gadgets involved in that transaction come close to the $2100.00 per square foot that vacant land is currently selling for in Manhattan.

Now back to Wisconsin’s War Eagle. Dan McCann eventually sold the little eaglet to the commanding officer of the Eau Claire Badgers militia company. Typical of Wisconsin, a tavern was involved in this purchase when tavern owner, S.M. Jeffers, pitched in to help defray the exorbitant selling price of $2.50.

When the eagle was sworn into service, he was adorned with a breast rosette (rose shaped ornament) and a red, white and blue ribbon around his neck. They named him Old Abe.

While in Madison, a dog joined the regiment. Abe and the dog, Frank, tolerated one another because Frank provided rabbits and other small mammals for Abe to eat. Unfortunately for Frank, one day he ventured a bit too close to Abe’s meal, bringing an end of their relationship.

During “Old Abe’s” service, the 8th Wisconsin militia participated in many battles, expeditions, and pursuits of Confederate forces during his namesake’s Mr. Abe Lincoln’s war. Among these were the battles of  Corinth; Island Number 10; Big Black; Champion’s Hill; the Red River and Meridian expeditions; and the Battle of Nashville. “Old Abe” was there every step of the way. In many battles, he would circle the smoky battlefield as the enemy would be closing in and the bullets flew. He would rise high in the sky, all the while screaming at his assailants. After the battle, upon seeing his bearer, he would descend like a shot and fly into his arms. “Go War Eagle!”

Old Abe so infuriated Confederate General Sterling Price he was said to declare that he would rather “capture that bird than a whole brigade.”

Old Abe entered his last battle in the Great Rebellion, also referred to as the Civil War, as well as with many other names, at Hurricane Creek, MS. The war eagle’s shrieks could be heard clearly and distinctly above the victorious shouts of the Eau Claire Badgers militia. Abe seemed to have protected his bearers and dodged the bullets of rebel sharpshooters who had failed to kill them.

Old Abe died on March 26, 1881, of smoke inhalation in the loving arms of his handler when, it has been said, he was reminiscing with his old militia pals while smoking a fine cigar and sipping a brandy. I might be distorting the truth here a bit but it was reported that one time he did get drunk on some peach brandy that was left unattended in his presence. “Go War Eagle!”

Today, a likeness of Old Abe, the original War Eagle, can be found at the main entrance to University of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.

And that my friend, is the true story of the one and only War Eagle!

Go Badgers!