Monthly Archives: April 2016

Randy Ford Author- BLINK


by Randy Ford

I am an invisible man. I want to be seen, but I’m now a walking skeleton. I think I am ignored.  I know I am ignored.  I have been ignored for most of my life.  I have felt as if I have always been ignored.  And I am an old man, a very old man, by anyone standards a very old man.  My body doesn’t work very well anymore.  I carried too many crosses.  I drove too many nails.  I climbed too many ladders.  I fell once or twice.  Before Christmas, I fell once or twice.  Since Christmas, I fell five times and broke both shoulders.

I lost my wife.  My children have their own families.  I want them to have their own families.  I wouldn’t want them to live alone.  I wouldn’t want them to be invisible.  I wouldn’t want them to feel ignored.  Everyone grows old.  It’s what we all have in common. Yes, I am old, a very old man.  I am not sure how old I am.  I have never wanted to keep track of my age.

My body may not work very well anymore, but I’m not frail. I think I am healthy. I’m not frail.  I am not frail.  I may look frail, but I am not frail.   I still have my senses.  I can think.  I remember things.  I live by myself in a small apartment.  I live alone in an efficiency apartment.  I have a table and chairs, a sink and a bed.  I share a bathroom down the hall.  Sometimes it is inconvenient, but I don’t mind sharing a bathroom as long as it is clean.  And I have no friends. I’m not sure I want friends. I’m happy living alone. Besides, I don’t think I could live with anyone else, so I live alone.  I think I am sufficiently independent to think I can safely live by myself, but they seem to think it’s unsafe for me to live alone.  They?  I’m not sure who they are, but they think I can’t live by myself.

They’ve already taken me to court.  (It felt as if I was arrested for something.) No, sir, I refuse to leave my apartment. I refuse to go into a nursing home. I refuse to allow anyone make me or take me.  I refuse to allow anyone to take care of me.  I refuse to allow anyone to take my liberty away from me.   No, no, I refuse though I know I am running out of time.  Time.  Time.  Within the blink of an eye, time, time, time has gone bye-bye.

Well, I understand why people who don’t know me would be concerned. Naturally there are people who need to be in a nursing home. Naturally I can’t explain why I am so against it. I know perfectly well what people think, and I know what my family thinks. I know they worry about me. I know perfectly well I am not being fair to them. Maybe it isn’t fair, but I know what is best for me. I know better than anyone what is best for me. I am not going to harm myself or anyone else. So let me live.  Let me have my liberty.  Let me be free.  Freedom!  Freedom!  Free … Whoa, that took my breath away.  Too many cigs.  Too many cigars.  I guess … no!  Freedom!  And yet, if I am not safe … No, I don’t want to think about it.

I have been living alone for a long time … a very long time. Or what seems like a long time. Now I must be in my eighties. Surely I am not in my nineties. I don’t feel like I am in my eighties. I used to be a public servant. I retired long ago. I live on Social Security. Thank God for Social Security. I fought for Social Security. I fought for many things.  I fought for my rights.  I was a public servant, a servant.   I considered myself a good public servant. I always listened to people and took my job seriously. After all, I believed in helping people.  I believe in people. I believe in Social Security.  I believe in social programs.  I believe social programs make a difference. Where would we be today without social programs?  Where would we be?

I remember back when there were few social programs and back when there was ramped malnutrition. I remember back when people went away hungry and went away empty handed. I remember when there weren’t any educational or employment programs. Before Social Security, I remember what it was like for old people like me. Most of them had been hard-working. Most of them worked hard all their lives; but there were also cheats. There were always cheats, cheats who took advantage of other people or any opportunity to cheat.  And cheats were those who gave everyone else a bad name.  I generally got along with my co-workers.  I generally got along with everyone, but there were always people that got under my skin. I battled with them over everything. There was no need for it, but bickering never stopped. This, however, wasn’t the rule. It was a long time ago. Yet it seems like yesterday. Where did time go? I blinked, and it was gone.  Now I’m here.

But do you know what I missed? I’m not sure what I missed. I’m not sure.  I’m not sure what I could have become had I chosen a different path. I’m not sure.  I’m not sure what I could have done.  I’m not sure what I could have done differently.  I’m not sure what more I could have done. Why, the whole point, the vilest point, is that I think I could have done more.  Let face it, I didn’t do much.  I didn’t do much with my life.  I don’t know what I would’ve done differently, but I could’ve done more.  And I’m constantly aware of how little I’ve achieved. But I am not at all an embittered man. I may sound like an embittered man, but I am not. That is, I wasn’t embittered until recently. I’m not sure when I became embittered. I’ll likely calm down before I die. Indeed, I am more disappointed than embittered, though I suffer from insomnia.

I haven’t been honest when I questioned where time went. I wasn’t honest because I don’t like to think of when time stood still. I am aware of when time stood still, but I am not aware of when it moved along.  I am aware of when time didn’t move fast enough and when it stood still but not when it move along. moved fast enough.  It moved too fast, too fast, and it was gone.  I am aware of when things didn’t go right, when things didn’t go right between me and my family, and particularly me and my wife. I remember difficult times … difficult times … very difficult times.

There were secrets.  There were secrets between us, between me and my wife, things we kept from each other, things we never talked about, things that swarmed inside me, things begging to come out … things … I wouldn’t want to go further into it.  This tormented me.  This torments.  I felt ashamed.  I feel shame.   Why couldn’t we talk?  Why couldn’t we talk about it? We never talked about it. We never talked. Until the end, we never talked. Never talked!  My wife and I never talked.   By now you perhaps think I am seeking sympathy from you when I am not, I am certain you think so. But I assure you I don’t care what you think.

I could not accuse you of something.  I could not. I could not be mean.  I could not hurt anyone.  I could not say anything that would hurt anyone.  I would not hurt anyone.  I wouldn’t.  I couldn’t.  And I now that I am living out my days alone, asking myself what else I could do and feeling totally useless. In the end, only a fool would ask for more.  I guess I’m a fool.  I am a fool.  Yes, I’m a fool.  And yes, sir, we live in the twenty-first-century, and I don’t feel like I belong in the twenty-first-century. I am an intelligent man, and I don’t feel like I belong. I don’t understand so many things, so I feel limited. But does it matter? At my age, does it matter? Why, it has taken a lifetime to get here, and it doesn’t matter.  Now tell me, honestly, who would like to live like this? I could live to be a hundred. Wait! I don’t want to live to be a hundred.

You might imagine I am trying to sell you something, that I have an agenda and I am trying to convince you I am right. Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong!   I am not trying to sell anything. I am past trying to sell anything.

I live simply because I am living. I eat because I have to.  If I don’t eat I will die.  I pee.  If I don’t pee, I will die.  Maybe I don’t want to die.  I sleep.  I sleep and eat.  I sleep and eat and pee.  And I sleep more than I used to. I have enough money. I have all the money I need.  I live on Social Security and have all the money I need.  I’m not worried about money. I have a small apartment, an efficiency.  It’s not very much. I’m told I shouldn’t be cooking. I cook anyway.  I am told I shouldn’t smoke.  I smoke anyway.  I am told I shouldn’t have a shot of whiskey every night before I go to bed.  I drink anyway.  They tried to place me in a nursing home. I don’t know who they are. I am told I shouldn’t be living alone.  I am told I am a danger to myself.  I don’t think I am a danger to myself.  I’ve lived with myself for a long time, and I should know I am not a danger to myself.  I know.  I know.  I know it.  I know it better than all those wise guys.  I don’t want to move.  I refuse to move.

I want to tell you why I think I can live alone. I want to live alone. I have lived alone a long time. But if I wasn’t allowed to live alone, I swear I wouldn’t live anyplace else. I don’t know if I’m making sense, but I’m certain I couldn’t live anyplace else.  I am certain I couldn’t live with anyone else.   And every day I live alone I consider a victory.  Except I’m running out of time.   I am running, running out of time, and I can’t stop it.  I can’t stop, and I can’t stop it.  Yes, I am old man.

I’ve lived a good part of a century, and now I am living in the twenty-first-century, a man, more-over, who doesn’t like what he sees. Not that the previous century was ideal. Hopefully, the twenty-first-century won’t be as bloody. In some ways I have the misfortune of still be living. I haven’t a choice, since I don’t want to die.  I don’t want to kill myself. It would, for instance, be quite all right to have died with my wife. But for some reason it wasn’t to be. Like I’ve said my children have their own families. Now that I think about it: I think I lived so long because I lived an active live. I got involved.  I got involved and tried to make a difference.  I made a difference.  I think I made a difference.  You may think I’m bragging. It may sound like I am bragging, but bragging for me at this point would merely be an exercise. But who would brag about things that don’t exist anymore.  I made a difference, and you may think I’m bragging.

What am I saying? Everyone toots their horn from time to time. I haven’t done it enough.  I haven’t done it often enough.   And why not? There were accomplishments that I was proud of. And I do, though few people remember them. Few people remember I was involved in such and such. Remember in the beginning I said I was invisible. I used to say pride was a disease. I still stand by it. Pride is a disease.  As many other things, pride is a disease.  But it’s sad when we see we didn’t make as much progress as we thought we had. Tell me, now: why the majority of people in this country don’t think like I do? Why the majority has settled for less? When once upon a time they could look forward to a bright future … no, not all people. It has never been true for all people; yes, at those very moments I was … no, I won’t brag. I worked in a small office.  Once upon a time I worked in a small office.  I worked in a small office in a poor community, a very small community.

We had few resources.  Once we said “once upon a time we had nothing.  Nothing.  We had nothing.  Nothing.” Before I entered social services, I was keenly aware of what was going on around me.   And the more aware I was, the more I felt I had to do something; and more likely I was to be overwhelmed by it. But the main point is that it seemed like I was called to do something. I knew I had to do something. And as though this were normal for me to do rather than a compulsion, so I devoted my life to it. It became my mission, and I became righteous about it.

And how I struggled!  Most of my life I struggled.  I took on weight of the world.  Weight of the world: imagined how much it weighed.  Imagine the load.  How heavy it was.   I had to solve everyone’s problems, everyone’s problems and my own and obsessed on it.  Imagine.  It was me.  I got stuck.  Stuck, I got sick.  I am still sick from it.  I ended up in a hospital and ended up with a major illness.  A mild stroke.  I thought it was my heart.  Thank God it wasn’t my heart.  I knew something was wrong. It frightened me. It frightened me enough for me to seek help.  Until then I tried to ignore the problem.  I tried to ignore stress.  I tried to ignore the problem.   I ignored it, ignored it until it was almost too late. I’m now acutely aware of my health problems.  Thank God it was not my heart.  It’s about time.  I know my capabilities.  So see! People have nothing to worry about.  I am capable of assessing my situation.  I feel pleasure in proving everyone wrong. What will happen will happen. There is no use tearing yourself apart over it. In the end, it’s the same: no cares, no pain. Yes, no cares, no pain. We’ll all end up the same.

I don’t need to explain it, explain it to you or anyone else.  We know this. We ask the same questions Only our answers differ.  Where we differ is what we believe happens afterwards, after death. I don’t have inside information, any inside information about it. I hope my wife is in a good place. I trust she is in a good place.  I would like to join her.  Yet I cannot be sure, be sure I’ll join her.   Some people say they are sure.  I’m glad they think they are sure while I can’t be sure.   If there were still time for me to change, I might try to change, might try to find out. I say might. I say might because I’m not sure. I’m not sure I want to change.  I might wish to do nothing. The reason I brought it up was because I’ve wanted to know what happens to us when we die. I wanted a definitive answer, but maybe there isn’t a definitive answer.

And then my search, my search or whatever you want to call it, whatever you want to call it comes from normal and fundamental curiosity and fear of the unknown; hence people like me will keep searching for answers.  Some people have easy answers.  Some people have taken an easy path.  Some people have faith (and believe) they have answers.   And so some of us continue to search and have to find answers for ourselves.  Then it is easy to think we are hoodwinked, hopelessly hoodwinked and a fool. But enough … enough … enough.  Where has it gotten me? Perhaps there isn’t an explanation. Will I ever get to the core of it?

Well, I am egoist. I am a grouchy, old egoist and think I have a reason to be grouchy, but I have a tough skin. I’ve had to have a tough skin. And I am bent over, and can’t see, and yet there have been moments, when I am reminded, I clearly see and stand up straight. Naturally it would be wonderful if it weren’t such an effort.  It would be wonderful if it weren’t hard.  It would be wonderful if there were an easy path for me.  Naturally it would be wonderful.   I hurt. At my age I expect to hurt, but then it is when you hurt that you find the greatest relief … naturally, it would be relief after experiencing so much pain, particularly when you’re most aware of pain. And if you fall you get up. If you’re knocked over you pick yourself up. You dust your pants off, pick yourself up, and continue to walk, if you can. But the main thing is, you stay active.  You continue to walk as long as you can.

The worst thing is that you continue to age, by natural law you continue to age.  No, no, no, I am happy.  I feel happy.  I feel happy and joyous, joyous about my life.  But I have seen too much. I have lived perhaps too long and seen too much. I have always considered myself perceptive and would you believe I’ve often wished I were not, were not perceptive.   At any rate, it has been easy for me to be critical. It has always been easy for me to be critical of myself and other people and even cynical. And I am at fault because it hasn’t served me well. In many ways I am my worst enemy. For it has held me back. I’ve wondered what I would’ve been had I been more open. For I’ve considered myself a good person and I’ve been the happinest when I was helping people. I was miserable when I hurt people, when I didn’t help people, and held it inside. It still rankles. I could’ve done more to help people.

Take people who are a ghost of their former selves. Take people who are old, very old and filled with self -pity. How do they stand it? If, let’s say they are filled with regret and self-loathing. Such a man or woman will feel like he or she has lived too long. Most of them would’ve outlived friends and family. These people won’t have a reason to live. These people will want to die. Only they can’t find the will to die. Incidentally they haven’t given up. Dying would be simple, but for some reason they refuse to die. They continue to breathe. No matter how hard it is they continue to breathe. No matter how much they suffer they continue to breathe. And people who think this is easy are kidding themselves. While they continue to breathe, they look for a pretax to live. They refuse to take their own life. They continue to breathe.  They may try to hold their breath, but they will stop before they kill themselves, And to them thinking of death is calming. It’s final, so it’s calming

Well, then, in my view, what I’m going through now is normal. It is true and normal. It is part of being human and what every human being has to face. I envy a man or woman who can face it gracefully. I envy such a man or woman up to a point, He or she is fooling him or her selves. And how do we know how it will end? How do we know how we will die? We all know we will die, but do we know if we’ll die peacefully or not? And what makes me ask this? So far it hasn’t been easy. With the death of my wife it has been hard. I miss my wife. I loved her very much. I loved my wife.  I loved my wife very much.  I suppose I could give up completely. I suppose I could vegetate and cut short a lap of nature. I suppose I could starve to death, but I couldn’t kill myself. In that respect I am a coward … and so on and so forth.

And the main thing is that no matter what happens to me I have to wait. I’ll have to wait and see. Waiting is hard for me, and that’s an important point. Waiting has always been hard for me.

Let’s take a look now at this process. Let’s suppose, for example, that a person has been successful (or has almost always been successful) and longs to compete. He or she will have more pent-up bitterness than someone who has been a failure most of their lives. A nasty, mean desire to compete will rankle when he or she can no longer do compete because of failing health or some chronic illness and cannot view it as no more than natural.

And finally, we come to death itself. There are more questions about it than answers. There are many ideas about it, but are their answers? There are more questions and doubts than answers, so many that it’s hard to know, hard to choose, so we rely on enlightened people who stand above other people, and if we are wise we try to avoid judges. Maybe it’s better to shrug it off … shrug off the whole business and accept what happens. Like I said, my wife died. I knew she was going to die. We all knew. She wasn’t sick for very long. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. I didn’t think she was old. I didn’t think she was sick. We didn’t know she was sick. If she was sick she kept it to herself. She was a private person, a southern private person, a proud lady. She acted like nothing was wrong, and then she died. She was gone. She disappeared.  She was no longer there.  She was no longer there for me.   That was when I learned that it is easy to disappear. I was sad. Really sad. She just checked out. Completely.  Now I want to check out, check out completely, but I can’t stop breathing.   For a while, nothing mattered any more. I loved her. Love her still. And I got very angry. It’s easy to disappear. That was when I learned it was easy to disappear.

And there is in it hatred, a black hole and hatred, malice, for the rest of your life malice. For many years, more years than I can count, malice to the last shameful moment of death. So I haven’t taken care of myself. I’ve abused myself. It ate me up. I didn’t want to live. I don’t eat.  I don’t sleep.  I can’t sleep.  I don’t need to get into the shameful details. You would pay less if you moved on because on your death-bed you remember what you missed.

But it is precisely in this state of despair and malice, in this self-loathing, in this insidious self-destruction and hopelessness that you’d find pleasure. Pain and pleasure like hurting yourself. It is so incomprehensible that some people enjoy hurting themselves. And it doesn’t matter how. It may be difficult to grasp without considering these people insane. It may be hard for people who haven’t been there. And perhaps you may add, “it will not happen to me. And it will never be understood by people who have never been there.” and thus reminding me that I’ve hurt myself for pleasure. I wager that you’re thinking he is insane. I may sound insane, but I can assure you I’m not. I know insane. I’ve worked with insane. I also used to work with people who hurt themselves, who hurt themselves for pleasure and who are not insane. But enough of this, not another word about this subject.

I will continue calmly about what I see and about what I don’t understand. Although there are many people who take sides and bellow about this or that …. who think they know how this or that works and takes sides, there is a larger population who say nothing. But many people … maybe most people have given up in face of impossibility. Is this because of the loss of a dream? I’m not sure. Well, of course – they hear their dreams are still possible. Perhaps they are, but I’m not sure. If people prove to you that it is possible, then you’re sure. But there is no point to fight it, accept it as it is. Your life is too precious to sweat it very much. And the lives of millions of people are too precious to fight it unless you’re fighting for them, unless you have them with you. And the rest of the rot and nonsense doesn’t matter. There is nothing to be done unless people rise up. There is nothing to be done because world is too complicated for most people.

“My, my,” they’ll say, “do you hear what you’re saying … the world is too complicated for most people. It madness, madding, but true. People don’t give a damn for you, whether you live or die. You must accept it, accept that people don’t give a damn. It’s true. Indeed, it’s true. And so on and so on. But what do I care. At my age what do I care. I know I used to care. I know I ought to care. I’ve spent years assuming I cared. So now? I don’t like it, but what can I do about it? I don’t have the strength to fight it. I wish I had strength. I used to be strong. I wish things were different, and I had strength. Of course I’m not getting any younger. I’m aging.  At my age, I am aging.  How long will I live?

As though old age is a confront, knowing I don’t have much time left helps me make peace with it. Knowing I don’t have much time left, helps. How absurd it is to anticipate death, to be aware of it, each day waiting for it, and yet refusing to reconcile yourself. Why be afraid? Why be afraid of the most revolting conclusions when an alternative could be the opposite? And it is obvious that no one is to blame but yourself. So why cry out when you don’t have anyone else to blame? That all of this is simply part of life. And yet, despite all the uncertainties, you’re still in pain.

Some people find pleasure from jumping from airplanes. Other people enjoy jumping from bridges. A few people jump from bridges to relieve pain. I understand it. I’ve been there. I know. In such situations, of course, they don’t nurse their pain silently, though sometimes it’s not seen or heard, though often it’s missed. That’s unfortunate. It’s always unfortunate. Often silence says as much as a cry for help. It’s louder.  Silence is often louder.   Often silence expresses a sufferer more directly than a cry for help. It expresses your pain more than anything else, and when someone tries to break through you clam up even more. It begins with your awareness of your pain, your recognition of it, which of course you deny. You deny everything. You deny humiliation you’ve felt. You deny having a problem. You deny everything. Nevertheless, you’re suffering. And to realized that there’s no one to blame but yourself doesn’t help. You feel you are a victim … a victim of your pain, and you only wish your pain will go away. You wish. It seems like it will go on forever, and if you won’t wish it won’t go away, what you can do then … the only alternative … is jump.  Jump.  Jump! and nothing else.

Well, then, this is not an alternative. I’m not suggesting it is an alternative. I’m only suggesting something bold like jumping from airplanes. Like I implied, some people make a practice of it and find pleasure. They make a mockery of pain by jumping out airplanes. I ask you to listen carefully to people who suffer quietly. Maybe on a different day when you least expect they will cry out differently. Maybe they will cry in a way you’ll see and hear them. Maybe you’ll understand. And maybe it will be like something you’ve felt. His or her pain maybe is like your pain, or similar. And yet both of you realize complaining doesn’t help. You both know that crying out won’t do any good. People today say we all have choices, and we have lived with the choices we make. People who say this acquire a kind of nastiness. They become mean and malicious, and harden their hearts. And they close themselves off from the rest of the world. They refuse to listen. They refuse to see. They refuse to debate. They cut themselves off. And they know better than anyone else what’s right and wrong with the world. Then at some point people stop listening to them. All right then! Who am I talking about? Do I know them or not? Have I met them?

I can see I am disturbing you. As if to say, I am intentionally disturbing you. Well, then bear with me. I want you to feel what I am feeling. Now I am not as disturb as I tried to convince you I was at first. Now I am no longer trying to convince you but I am delighted I got your attention. I am delighted that you see through me. And I am delighted you’re still with me. All right then! I’m glad you’re not sick of me. If you were sick of me I would understand. I would feel the same way if I weren’t me. Good, then let me sicken you.

You’re still left out. You don’t understand. You think you’re understanding me, but you’re not. Perhaps I expect too much. Perhaps the joke is on me. Perhaps I’ve been trying too hard. But that, of course, is because I’m not sure of myself. Can anyone with any intelligence continue to listen to me? Why do I insult you?

Can a man really find pleasure in pain? If I say yes, I speak from experience. I’ve even craved it. I’ve asked for it, and I’ve gone out of my way to find it. And how I’ve pushed people! As if on purpose, I have gotten myself into trouble when it was unnecessary. And the worse thing of all is that I have hurt people to achieve it. Yet, again, I’ve tried to repent. I would repent, if I could. I would ask for forgiveness if there were anyone I could ask. I would cry out if I were sorry. I can’t be dishonest. At this point, I can’t be dishonest. It’s not within me. Even if it were possible I don’t think I would want to. It’s terrible to say this, and was terrible when I lived it. It makes me angry, angry to recall it.

You may ask why I’m wringing my hands like this. The answer: I don’t know.  I hope it is not a waste … a waste of precious time, time I don’t have. Really that is it. Nothing else, it is it. Really, that’s how it is. And I don’t know where it’s going.  I know I don’t have much time left, and I don’t know where it’s going.  I should have made more of life, and I thought I had. I created the life I had, so at least I had something. I had a family, have a family, a wife and two children.  How many times out of the blue did I hurt them? How often did I neglect them? I know they resented it. And in the end I got what I deserve. And I brought it on myself.

I could never control myself. I’ve always been compulsive. And I suffered because of it. I assure I have. I suffered. It’s cost me. Deep down you know what is going on. Yet you can’t help it. I’m jealous of people who can control themselves. I am jealous. I am beside myself. I can do nothing about it. And all because I’m restless. I’m crushed by restlessness. I often think of running, running away. It wouldn’t matter where I went. My wife put the brakes on it. I’ve spoken of this before. I loved her. I love her still. I love her though she is gone. I repeat I limited myself. I limited myself because of her. And it puts my mind at ease to blame her. How can this be explained? Maybe I don’t need to explain it. It was a limitation I had, a limitation. Maybe I ignored the real cause. Maybe I didn’t have it in me and blamed her … blame her. Blaming her puts my mind to ease, and that after all is what I need now. What else do I have to lean on? Putting aside my age, we’re back where we started. I am a very old man, who lives alone. Why the same things again and again?

I assume you could call it vengeance. It would be easy for me to call it that … vengeance. Now I could easily take revenge. I know why. Look at me now. And it’s not simply a matter of sour grapes. To me it’s justified. I’m convinced it’s justified, but what’s the point? It wouldn’t do any good, so I won’t do anything. Anger could, of course, outweigh everything, and I could die an angry man, an angry broken man. Precisely, except it isn’t a way to live. But what I am to do if there isn’t any anger in me? Would I have a reason to live? Why live then? And maybe it is part of the process of aging. And maybe it will go away. And what happens if you throw up your hands and give up because you haven’t found a reason to live? But try to live on, try to live past your time, try to find meaning, so you don’t sit around with your thumb in your mouth. You’ll be where I am now. I don’t mean to be filled with self-pity, self-loathing.

Randy Ford


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Filed under short story



by Randy Ford

It wasn’t what the congregation expected as they waited with great expectation. Some of them looked around, and while others looked up at the empty pulpit, others were about leave. It was Frau Seffield who stepped forward and in a good voice began to sing. Not bad, but it didn’t satisfy the worshipers. Frau Seffield was not a great singer, though she won the StaatsSangerfest four times. Yes, they were disappointed. After having come to see the new minister, they were disappointed. He wasn’t on time … wasn’t where he was suppose to be. An awful start (he must’ve been involved in an accident. Why else would he not be there?. If not killed, why was he now late?). Many of them didn’t think he could ever recover from this. Very awkward.

Then, eventually, finally, someone started banging on the church door. He did it loud enough to startle everyone … woke everyone up before they knew what the crap was going on. “What’s this?” exclaimed a deacon. It sounded like someone had hit the door with a baseball bat. Actually, he hadn’t: he’d used a board to make an impression, and sure enough had. Then, however, by the time the deacon reacted and opened the door, no one was there; but someone had been there. Everyone had heard it.

It would be the only time he’d ever get everyone’s attention. He said it was worth it even if it upset some of them and even scared some. If it woke them up!

He thought he was a cut above most ministers just out of seminary (thought he knew his business). “First of all, brothers and sisters in Christ,” he said, emerging from the congregation (no one had seen him come in). “Allow me to catch my breath.”

He grinned, as the congregation stared at him. That made them wonder what he was up to and how in the world he could be in two places at once. He was either an illusionist or had an assistant. Oh yes, he had a wife. Those were the two things about him. He had a wife, and he was a showman. You could see that, all right, as he milked the moment for all it was worth.

When some of them started to leave, he said, “Wait!” He didn’t have to raise his voice. With that as an introduction, he plunged into his first sermon.

It was sort of a challenge for them, which he understood. He was never boring … he made sure of it. It was as if he felt like he had to pull off some sort of stunt to keep them coming back. Yet he had to consciously tone it down or risk offending them.

He started out by telling them, “I understand that many of you speak Plattdeutsch. My deutsch, therefore, may be too pure for you and my English not yet good enough. Give me a little time. Give me that much. Yes sir, I’m from Vienna. Well? My wife and I intend to stay here. We’re not interested in becoming transients. I know that most of you came from somewhere else. We’re like many of you in that we left where we came from because it was getting bad over there. I met my wife Louise after I came to America at a Kindermaskenball. But I don’t intend to get into that now.”

“The ‘dramatics.’ The ‘knock at the door’ refers to Matthew, chapter seven, verse seven. ‘Ask, and it will be given you, seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.’ It seems to me that Jesus isn’t asking for much…’knock and it will be opened to you.’ Sounds easy, doesn’t it? You see … He doesn’t require much. Knock. What else? Be open. Receptive. Yes sir. Of course, I need scarcely suggest that to yo’aw. Christ hears you. I can swear to it. He hears each one of you.”

They’d always remember his first message, the stunt actually, his knocking and being in two places at once. They talked about it all week. All the time he was talking about their Plattdeutsch and his imperfect English, they were thinking about it. His message said something, but they weren’t sure what. They also talked about Frau Louise, something they felt that they were required to do. And they felt they knew her after seeing her once. How great a masterstroke (and the symbolism) was the new minister’s knocking at the door? As if it saved him the embarrassment over being late! They still gossiped. Which of course, he knew they would.

Then at home he never had to remind his wife of her place. He had her well trained. She cooked his meals, never neglected the house, swept and was obedient, faithful and wasted naught, nor did any injury. She was the perfect wife, except she was nosy. He wouldn’t call her smart and really felt superior. Her devotion could be summed up in how she approached marriage and in her belief that true happiness was found in children, the church, and the kitchen. “For sure, but…” And he’d get carried away and say, “And let us have children, beautiful children.” And know that he had the means to carry out the threat.

He was always running her down, though it wasn’t what he preached. He clearly had problems, and too often his problems became her problems. Unkind? No, he wasn’t exactly unkind. There were times when he could be helpful. He might put a roast in the oven, but he wouldn’t take it out. She’d get very angry with him, which she hid. She’d say to herself, “Forget those old notions about Kinder, Kirche, und Kuche, or else I’ll let the roast burn.”

Here was another example of challenging what was once considered sacred. Meanwhile older people complained about this, and some of them complained very bitterly. They celebrated the old times and remembered with fondness what they went through. But too often their perception contradicted the way things really were.

The new minister and his wife were part of latest wave of German-speaking immigrants in that part of Texas, and they wouldn’t have come if German settlers hadn’t paved the way. And if it hadn’t been for Major Neighbors and Chief Buffalo Hump there wouldn’t have been room for them. The new minister of course heard about Major Neighbors and Chief Buffalo Hump.

For a long time the German’s situation was tenuous. Publicity had brought them to south central Texas, and it would take a while for it to live up to its promise. For starters the land didn’t belong to them. It belonged to the Indians, and their chief was Chief Buffalo Hump. It was not that they had anything against the Indians, except the Indians owned the land. And it would take someone like Major Neighbors to negotiate a deal. And without someone like Chief Buffalo Hump it wouldn’t have been possible either (though he wasn’t expected to do what he did). It had to happen; it had a kind of inevitability; therefore there must’ve been something to the idea of Manifest Destiny. So the German immigrants were bit players in a much larger drama.

It’s hard to know now who deserved the credit. Major Neighbors extended the handshake, and Chief Buffalo Hump possessed the peace pipe. Until then the Indians hadn’t threatened the German settlers. Both men acted prudent and circumspect.

And all this against the background of the invasion of the white man, which Major Neighbors began to apologize for and the chief dismissed. Chief Buffalo Hump, of course, could see what was happening and knew he couldn’t stop it … he didn’t have to be told. But he seemed determined to profit from it. Major Neighbors couldn’t really tell what the chief was thinking when he tried to read him. Maybe the chief fooled him when he expressed affection for German people, uncommon affection. And Major Neighbors was genuinely fond of Indians, (he felt this way before he met Chief Buffalo Hump) and respected them more than any other people of the world. Could this be true? Nothing ever stopped him from trying to convince people that it was true, but who really knew. It was like he’d become an ambassador, though he couldn’t speak the Indian’s language (not one of the major Native American languages, but one that was about to become extinct). The major tried to learn it and tried his best but never got very far, while the chief excelled in foreign languages. Because the chief knew it, they always communicated in English, and they spent long hours talking… meaningful talk.

By then the Indians had been betrayed time and time again. Which made the chief suspicious of white men … more than suspicious, but that wouldn’t become obvious until later. And imagine how he acted around the ladies, the German ladies, dressed in their stylish European dresses and dressed fit for a ball. With veils over their ribbon-tied hats, they felt agitated when they were introduced to the red man, but they relaxed when they saw how Chief Buffalo Hump and Major Neighbors treated each other. And the chief spent as much time around them as he possibly could. He was always coming up with an excuse to be around them, and they were gracious enough when they got to know him. So when the chief suggested that they have a powwow, the ladies were included.

So precisely at sunset they gathered around a fire. They sat in a circle down by the river and the river, where two streams met, later named Barons Creek and Town Creek, reminded the settlers of the Rhine … oh, the river … it seemed like a picnic, only it wasn’t. And where they’d sit in the circle hadn’t been worked out in advance, so the chief turned to the women for the answers. The women settled the matter. But it was his show. He came self-assured and told the tribe that he’d deal with the Germans alone. He talked a lot and Major Neighbors responded and listened when it was important for him to listen because he knew that they’d have to reach a deal.

Chief Buffalo Hump seemed in the best of health and spirits. Perhaps he was trying too hard. People would later wish that they had had a camera. On taking his place, the chief smiled and bowed to the ladies. Yes, of course, he was trying too hard. He then welcomed everybody. It was his powwow. Overwhelmed by a sense of honor and happiness, the chief acted as if the whole world was watching. And they were getting along as well as temporary friends could.

Now his squaw came forward with a peace pipe and handed it to her husband. It showed her vanity. Handing it to her husband instead of smoking it she in turn was in the spotlight. And in the firelight beside the river, where the two streams met, she was so sure of herself that no one could mistake her for anyone other than the chief’s squaw. But the other thing that was paramount was that everyone could see that the chief delighted in her because his face lit up in a way that showed his pleasure. What a night! There was the chief smiling, when there was something about him that the white women despised. They were prejudice, of course. Prejudiced in spite of the smiling. They were all smiles. But who got the last smile?

Then after the powwow Major Neighbors talked privately with the chief, who finally got to express his dismay (indeed his indignation) over the approach of civilization. He’d been waiting for this opportunity all night. The chief could’ve spoken up sooner. Like he insisted on having a powwow. He said now what he couldn’t say in front of all the other people (they agreed to forget the peace pipe). He didn’t beat around the bush and said what he was thinking. Everything. Said everything that was on his mind, and Major Neighbors was impressed. He said, “Now I see more than ever the necessity for war. The sound of the axe spelled the end of us.” Chief Buffalo Hump then talked about the theft of his land, and even his birthplace, according to him a sacred place.

The major heard what he said and remembered why he left Germany. He wasn’t smiling any longer. He thought about why he came to Texas; and now he was losing a friend over it. He considered the chief a friend. Had since the day they met each other. Without question a friend. Now they were on opposite sides of the fence. Thinking about it he couldn’t sleep a wink that night.

The next day workmen began building the chief a large house when before then he only lived in a teepee. To Major Neighbors it was a slap in the face … he didn’t know but thought perhaps he should say something. And he was there, watching the chief build a house, and it ticked him off.

By this time people throughout the state thought Major Neighbors had gone soft on Chief Buffalo Hump. Rumor had it that he came and went and put his arms round the chief.

As soon, therefore, as it could be arranged, the president and the vice-president of the “Deutscher Verein fuer Texas” (German Society of Texas) came to Fredericksburg to pay their respects to the chief. Their arrival took the major by surprise. It also angered him. But the chief didn’t seem to mind. Flattered, he welcomed the committee into his new home. As a tribute, the chief was inducted into the Sons of Hermann Lodge, a secret German order that up until then had been open only to white men of good character.

It was the best thing that could’ve happened to the chief. These educated men played on his weaknesses, and he congratulated himself for somehow getting on the approved list, something very unusual at the time. Obviously, they were after his land and were looking to double their holdings.

From the beginning, the major questioned the delegation’s motives. What could one deduce today from his reaction? For one thing, he hadn’t received the honors that they bestowed on the chief. He couldn’t help but resent it. And personal interests: he had his eye on some of the tribal land, a section or two, preferably river bottom land to rocky hills (480 acres wouldn’t have been much of a spread in those days.)

A treaty and greed: difficult to separate. It wasn’t something one hurried into. Stalling…tough negotiations was required. Bluffing was not unexpected, and bluffing caused considerable delay. “But pertaining to such matters,” as the good-natured president observed “I have never seen such patience.”

With a treaty finally signed (people seem to forget that there was one signed), a celebration began, days of celebration, an excuse for drunkenness. This was before temperance was a virtue. It must be remembered that men outnumbered women then. Men roamed the streets. And a few women. It was daring for the women. From one end of town to the other, men acted like boys and boys like Indians. There was shouting, yelling, and beating on old washtubs. Cowbells replaced church bells. The tooting of horns part and parcel symbolized everybody’s mood.

It must be remembered that this wasn’t the first treaty that the white man made with the Indians and it wouldn’t be the last callow attempt to steal their land. The truth was that the chief was more experienced. And he was no fool. He knew what was happening, but he didn’t know what to do about it.

First came the town council, with the burgomaster in front. The pecking order was well established. The order in which they spoke indicated their status. The chief’ made promises, which were received with great joy: “We can count on him. His word is gold. His signature shows his friendship. If he can handle his people we can surely control ours.”

All of the settlers also thought that they had to watch their backs. Also thought that the Indians couldn’t be trusted any more than they were trustworthy.

Now council members tended to be verbose. They were honored, each separately. Deep down they knew that they didn’t deserve the adoration, all the fuss they’d grown to expect. Next came the farmers, the carpenters, the stone masons, wagon makers, machinists, blacksmiths, cabinet makers and artisans of all kinds; each with a token of their appreciation, which they each gave to the chief. Each thanked him. They each also made a request. The farmers asked for the most fertile land, near the river, where there was abundant water. The carpenters, with the cabinetmakers, asked for timber. Cobblers leather. Blacksmiths iron ore. Or for something that would benefit everyone. The coifurists were modest, indeed too modest in their demands. They limited their request to asking for business but while making it clear that they weren’t interested in scalps. The clergy were content, but they knew complacency wouldn’t win them many converts.

In an attempt to be accurate and fair it must be said that both sides were trying to profit from the negotiations. They were all far better off than they’d been before there was any contact between them. There were many reasons for them to feel proud of themselves and Fredricksburg. They had also endured many hardships and learned to expect the unexpected such as the rigors of climate. The drought, the fires, the hail and the destruction of crops. But God’s wrath was preferred to an indifferent God. And when there was great adversity, men and women filled the pews when they otherwise wouldn’t.

Perhaps no one asked for more than the bankers did. They would, in fact, usually ask for more dollars to cover their loses than what they could lose. They took consolation from seeing what the money they lent did for the community. It was the cattle barons who had the most to gain and who complained the most and whose overgrazing had been greatly criticized by the local newspaper. It was therefore the cattle barons who called for the censorship of the newspaper, while the editor of the newspaper pleaded for unlimited freedom.

You know what Chief Buffalo Hump was like and how he felt funny about all of the attention. He never acted like a big shot. It was never anything personal with him. There was something about him that everyone liked, and yet he stood in the way of progress. So he had to be reckoned with.

Everyone wanted a piece of the chief. What did dimly occur to him was that he would never regain what he had lost and that white people would never consider him an equal. The idea that he’d ever be happy living in a house in a town was absurd. And he hated it when people mobbed him. The major told the mob that the Indian wasn’t used to it and that he was worn out by all of the attention. But few of them saw it.

So Major Neighbors decided to take things into his own hands. He had an idea that no one thought of. In the midst of the mob, he circulated a rumor that the chief carried smallpox, and that the person that he caught it from had already died. There was no way to then stop the panic. Farewell then to all propriety.

Night came. It was past dinnertime. It had been a huge meal with many interruptions. By then there had been a major shift in everyone’s mood. Gloom set in. And they had hoped … had high hopes. It was a white lie, since Major Neighbors knew that Chief Buffalo Hump didn’t have smallpox. And they all knew how insidious smallpox was and how it had killed off the chief’s tribe and how fast it spread, and they all blamed Major Neighbors. That also led them to conclude that the only good Indian was a dead one. Partly for that reason they watched the chief closely.

Here, then, was food for thought, something for those embroiled in the debate over the Indian problem to think about. Among them, in spite of himself, was Major Neighbors. He felt responsible and to everyone’s astonishment made a public apology. He made no bones about how he felt. His sense of fairness outweighed everything. That was why he chastised them more harshly than he intended to.

Major Neighbors stood up and shouted, “You Germans will pay dearly for this!” This didn’t mean he excluded himself because he also chastised himself. It was he who upset things, while he sincerely wanted to help. But before he had a chance to talk to him, the chief fled the town. The chief had more or less given up trying to pacify everyone and felt that he had to teach the settlers a lesson. That was also when Major Neighbors realized that he couldn’t rely on kindness or old friends. He gave way to his fears and knew the Indians were enraged and that they could expect war.

Shortly after this Waldrip and his gang road into town. There was an element of absurdity in how the gang thought that they wouldn’t be recognized. Then the shooting began almost immediately. Right off Waldrip murdered John Joy and Tom Doss. The Fredericksburger Wochenblatt documented the killings and how this desperate and dangerous gang rode roughshod over the unarmed and defenseless people of Gillespie County. There was a lesson here for all of them to learn. How long had Chief Buffalo Hump lived among them without anything like this happening? Chief Buffalo Hump, and with all of his faults.

By then Major Neighbors had given his allegiance to the Confederacy and was too busy chasing whitewashed Yankees to defend Fredericksburg. “Those poor son-of-a-bitches!” To hear him tell it the whole war was a picnic. Smiling with too much complacency for most people’s liking, the major explained his role by saying; “We ended up chasing the will-o’-the-wisp and nothing more.”

“And nothing more!” exclaimed the town’s burgomaster. “When you left the town to the Waldrip gang….”

“Yes sir, that will-o’-the-wisp didn’t turned out to be Yankees but Mexicans, who on foot resembled bullfrogs. On horseback they looked like a hoard of Sancho Panzas. And there were no Yankees at all. Very distressing. Truly disappointing … to be sent on a wild goose chase.”

“Distressing! Awful! And meanwhile, we’ve suffered! Waldrip and his gang raped, killed and burned at night and hid like varmints in the daytime.”

“You don’t have to tell me,” interrupted the major, frowning sadly, “but you can rest easier now. I’m back.” The major didn’t have to say anymore. There was no cheap dime novel nonsense about him.

Early the next morning they took off after Waldrip and his gang. Their experience then with the gang showed them that there were situations far worse than an encounter with a few Indians. Living with an Indian hadn’t been anything like putting up with Waldrip and his gang. They didn’t have a simple explanation why it hadn’t worked out.

And what ever happened to Chief Buffalo Hump? They never saw him again, and by this time the people of Fredericksburg had more to worry about than him.

A few years back, an immigrant from Vienna, with a little luck and great expectations, came to this town on the Pedernales River. He and his wife formed a strong attachment to the place. Early on he used Chief Buffalo Hump’s story in a sermon. Underneath there was a moral to it, but he didn’t hit them over the head with it. The mayhem that Waldrip brought to the community was never forgotten; neither was Chief Buffalo Hump’s generosity. They didn’t like being told what they should’ve known. What they all knew was that there were no longer any Indians living in that part of Texas. In spite of everything they could still sing Das Deutsche Lied (the German song).

Fredericksburg still talks about Chief Buffalo Hump and his generosity. Ninety-nine-year old Mrs. Feller remembers when the chief came to town, promising everything under the sun in exchange for a peace treaty. Then a white gang came to town and instead of an honest exchange for meat and hides all hell broke loose. “The rascals had a habit of taking whatever wasn’t tied down.” With respect to the various petitioners, the bakers, the carpenters, the hairdressers, etc., they all felt cheated; whereas Mrs. Feller just felt disappointed. .

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- HOME FROM THE LAND OF OZ Snapshot of history April 2016


by Randy Ford

On his way back to the United States, Jack thought about his father and could see him working himself to death. If he’d still been in Laos, he would’ve been too busy to think of his old man. In Vientiane he hadn’t kept up with events in Richmond. Now he was going home, a place he’d hardly recognize.

He knew he had changed and knew his perspective had changed too. He’d been thinking about his hometown since he heard about the explosion and fire that destroyed practically all of it. And he knew about the bypass and the Interstate … which is to say he expected changes. Dead, his father had died of a heart attack, and Jack didn’t have an opportunity to say goodbye to him.

Since he’d been gone so long, he was surprised by his reaction to the news. Now the gas station would have to be sold. He knew his mother couldn’t/wouldn’t run it. About the changes along I-70 his father could’ve said plenty. He had lived those changes. But now he was dead, and life goes on.

It was something he thought he could always count on. Richmond, blown off the map! A good place to raise a family, or so his father thought. Jack could feel the boy inside him, and from this perspective he had judged and misjudged his father. He now had that to fall back on. He knew that his father earned a good living. Was respected. Reliable. Religious. Righteous. Made mistakes. His father had made mistakes with him. Who didn’t make mistakes? He assumed that his father regretted his mistakes, but how could he know for sure?

Yes, he loved his father, if conditional love counted, but his father’s countless customers knew him better than Jack did. It was his mother’s contention that if he hadn’t put his heart and soul into the station, he wouldn’t have stayed in business. Especially after the Interstate, the bypass, and the fire. But that didn’t mean that he didn’t make mistakes.

How like his dad was Jack? Perhaps he was more like him than he liked to admit. Jack’s taste these days included Hank Williams, and he knew that his father liked Hank Williams. He pictured him dying singing “Arkansas Traveler”. Later his mother asked him, “Would you consider me a traitor if I told that I don’t care for Hank Williams?”

It was all coming back to him now … you need a place to call home, but first you have to go away to realize it, he thought, as he sat on the plane. He was on an indirect flight to Indianapolis, during the final approach of the flight. Normally he wouldn’t be looking out the window. Indiana; the entire state, absorbing the landscape, basically flat. Farm land, farms. US 40 linking Greenfield, Indianapolis, Brazil, and Terre Haute. Hurrah, hurrah, yuck! Why Richmond Indiana? Jack didn’t know why his parents chose to live there.

Most of the destruction of the town came from the fire after the explosion. Fourteen blocks leveled, and Jack viewed the devastation differently than the rest of his family did. He had seen more of the world than they had. He had seen war, the devastation of war, and viewed the devastation of Richmond from that perspective. They’d soon be landing, and where had he come from? Oz. All the way home from the Land of Oz. From the Land of Oz to Richmond Indiana. And what could he tell them? Nothing. Luckily he wouldn’t be expected to say much. The timing was wrong, and perhaps it always would be wrong. And officially, he wasn’t working in Laos.

Subterfuge has its virtue. He’d have to make up some things. A man with a talent for subterfuge was valuable in his line of work, and he was considered one of the best. He looked for ways to explain what he did for living without giving away too much. As far as they knew he worked for an import/export firm and lived and worked in Bangkok. There was logic to this. It gave him cover and a place to come and go from.

Jack didn’t understand why he hurried home. He caught the first flight he could after hearing about his father’s death. Was it so that he could see his father’s lifeless body, someone he hadn’t seen grow old? He normally wouldn’t have responded with such haste. Normally he would’ve taken his time and done things right. There was no time this time. There was no thinking involved. He just had to let his boss know and buy his tickets. He forgot his toothbrush.

Should he rush some more or relax while he could? He’d have to rent a car and decided to take old U.S. 40 instead of Interstate 70. He knew everyone was waiting for him. He felt testy, impatient, and soon gave up on U.S. 40.

When was it ever worse? When you’re heading somewhere you don’t want to go to but you don’t have a choice. You always have a choice, don’t you? It was not the loss of his father that bothered him; it was the lack of communication with him while he was alive that hurt the most. Would people have nice things to say about him, as nice as the things he was sure they’d say about his father? He hoped he’d be remembered. He hoped to see a few old friends.

Oh, dear, bitterness was to heighten the family’s grief. Somebody was responsible. Heart attacks have causes. “Dear friends, the main dangers we face lurk in our hearts. Pray, where has this man’s soul gone? Do we know? Was he as much a churchgoer as his wife was? The Holy Ghost anoints men of God and doesn’t speak at all to others. Let us think about that.” Did it really matter? Not all of them found the minister’s sermon appropriate.

Now out of the blue Jack’s father died from a massive heart attack. The few moments that Jack stood in front of the fancy draped casket certainly didn’t add up to much when he considered how long it took him to get there. He was glad he came though because of his mother.

Against this backdrop the minister praised the man who dedicated his life to a gas station, namely how he bucked a trend and pumped gas, checked oil, fixed flats, and did mechanical work. Yes. As if it had been God’s work. Supposedly you couldn’t find a more under-appreciated man. Luckily he had a heart attack, and the day never came when Jack’s father couldn’t work. Who could ask for more?

The more time Jack spent with his mother the more awkward it became. And while he was in Richmond, he made the rounds and saw a few old friends. To see how they hadn’t changed was as devastating as anything else. He was careful not to say anything that would upset them. He had learned to be careful. But he could see that they weren’t interested in where he’d been or what he had done. No, it was if they had never heard of Laos … and shouldn’t he have considered it a good thing considering? Yes, he had to be careful even when people didn’t seem to give a damn about what he was doing. A grasp of what was going on was more than he should’ve expected. He’d learned to lower his expectations and had also learned to keep his mouth shut. He couldn’t say that he was working in Laos, when Vientiane was a cheap tourist destination, on the Mekong right across from Thailand. He couldn’t talk about the great French food or the massive US Embassy.

God knows why it mattered when they didn’t know what was going on in Laos and when they were preoccupied with the war in Vietnam. They were either for or against the war. Maybe they would have heard of the Plain of Jars but putting it all together would’ve been a stretch for them.

Too often when he thought about his job, Jack brooded upon whether he was doing any good or not. He was beginning to think that much of his work hadn’t amounted to much. Flying planes through the night to remote places would’ve offered some excitement if it hadn’t become so routine. Aspects of it were dangerous. Missions failed like engines did. He’d lost friends. That was the reality he faced … the cost … and it was the great secret of a world that relished secrets.

Was it fair to ask who made up the rules? “Made up” … made-up rules seemed like an apt way to put it. Most of the isolated villages could only be reached by air or on foot. To end up in the wrong camp was often disastrous. There was no protocol. People were often confused … confused by design …and error and treachery were the norm. The beauty of the operation was that it hadn’t cost much … comparatively. In proportion to the number of Americans working in the Land of Oz, the number of American causalities hadn’t been great. It was important to stress that there was never a full accounting. President Kennedy was dead, and LBJ’s photo was now hanging in the U.S Embassy. People who thought policies would change were sadly disappointed. If anything, activity had increased. For instance, the clasped-hand symbol of the U.S. Aid Mission to Laos found its way on everything from ceiling fans to gasoline cans.

The chore fell to his airline. Dressed in blue jeans and frequently armed with only a plastic badge, Jack had to use his wits to get himself out of trouble. It was well known that the imperialists were a heroic bunch.

Out of necessity information about Jack’s missions had to remain sketchy. He accepted that. He believed it. They weren’t supposed to be in Laos. But, then he wondered how big a secret it really was. Secrets couldn’t be compromised. The one thing that could be said was that we weren’t talking about child’s play. Concerning the children, he regretted the stories of massacres and the squalor of refugee camps. For a man who later stood helplessly by, there were personal reasons for signing on.

The money was good. He could say he chose the work for the money. He never in his wildest dreams could’ve imagined making so much money, and for that kind of money he would’ve gone to bed with almost anybody. So he took the job. Then instead of the money, he became addicted to adrenal, and it became his drug of choice. It was what kept him going back for more. By every conceivable measure, he was hooked.

He had worked for the last year and half, therefore, flying over invisible lines, landing on mountaintops and in jungle clearings … in the most dangerous places imaginable … to save the world from communism. That was what the brass wanted him to believe. Extracting a reliable explanation was difficult, but there had to be one or why else was he involved? Forget the money.

Now, after the Americans came, killing had become necessary in The Land of Oz. Yet it was impossible to dislike the place or it’s people. Jack would never forget the friends he made there and would later feel guilty for abandoning them. These feelings would become part of his makeup.

When he saw his old high school buddies, he heard the worst about the war in Vietnam. It was all over the news and divided the country. Yet he couldn’t tell anyone that he was part of it. He had a long talk with his mother. She said what he expected her to say. She said she hoped he wasn’t involved in drugs. He reassured her that he wasn’t. He wasn’t sure she believed him. He saw that in the way she looked at him. As far as she knew he lived and worked in Bangkok. He couldn’t tell her that his worse crime was transporting refugees. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt if he did because everyone knew there were refugees in Thailand. But he didn’t work in Thailand.

His sister Margo asked him more questions than anyone else in the family. She wanted to know if he had a girlfriend. Let’s say he disappointed her. He wasn’t into LSD, and her long absent brother couldn’t risk having a long-distance relationship. Why would he want to risk it? And his sister didn’t really want to hear about his sexual escapades in Bangkok. It just wasn’t something you talked about with your sister. The whole time Jack wished that he were back in Vientiane, where over a good French meal he could complain to his buddies about absolutely nothing. They were forbidden to talk about their missions. But they loved to complain, so they complained about nothing. Absolutely nothing. And in their line of work they knew to avoid strangers and to avoid wearing their hearts on their sleeves. In the Land of Oz, it varied how long someone stayed in country. Those who wore Rolex and Secko watches and gold heavy chains usually stayed longer than military personal.

Jack couldn’t believe that there were still a few battered souls like him left … that they all hadn’t been replaced by twenty-one year old recruits … or why he stuck it out. There seemed to be a likely connection between that and why he ran away from Richmond when he was boy. Or why whatever it was transcended ideology. Margo couldn’t have understood this. So he avoided certain topics with her.

His mother was just happy to have both of her kids home and didn’t say anything to spoil it. Result: a lot of silence. Yet she saw the wrinkles in her son’s brow and asked him why he frowned all the time. He wasn’t aware that he frowned and tried to smile. But he didn’t quite pull it off.

The more he thought about it, the more he realized that the Indiana he preferred was the Indiana before the interstate and realized that he’d been away too long to appreciate it in any other way. You see, he wasn’t like his father, who had a place where he belonged a place no one could take away from him. It didn’t matter to him that the interstate bypassed the town and hurt his business. He needed to slow down anyway, as he grew older. Then he was stopped in his tracks by a heart attack and the worst of it was that Jack had been deprived of an opportunity to set it right with him. No good for understanding why he ran away in the first place.

Tears didn’t come easily for him. He was like his father in that way. So he didn’t cry. So. So he didn’t listen to his old man. He wasn’t at liberty to say what he did for a living … that he’d learned how fly … that he now flew … and worked with refugees. If he allowed himself he’d be in a world of hurt over feelings he wasn’t supposed to have because he was like his dad and never learned how to cry. There was something there, but he wasn’t quite sure what it was. He swore that he wasn’t into drugs, but he wasn’t sure if his mother believed him. Not into drugs, and home from the Land of Oz. Where?

They placed his father in the finest hardwood casket. Nothing else would’ve satisfied him. Friends and neighbors brought food to the home, casseroles and pies, etc. Now the question arose what to do with all that food.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- THE HUCKS


by Randy Ford

Well, what would justify planting rumors that an asuang lived near a HUKs’ camp? If we weren’t at war with them, there would be no justification for it. It was a tactic we used, and it worked. Called psychological warfare, it was an operation calculated to capitalize on Filipino superstitions, all for the sake of liberty … all because of the atrocities of the HUKs. It was the business of this office, and the freedom of the country depended on it.

Our brashness often shocked our native counterparts. We were often blunt. I know it put them off but … yes, but … no buts and no excuses … and they didn’t like it when we raise questions about their competence, but … as far as these matters were concerned if we weren’t here you could kiss the Philippines goodbye. Without our help, there would’ve been anarchy and chaos and misrule and misery. And once you’ve broken the veil of courtesy that exists here you’ll find that they don’t really like us very much.

Everyone’s aware of how much they owe us. If they don’t know it they should. And I’m sure they don’t like some of the things we tell them, but we feel we have to be honest. We liberated them from the Japanese and the Spaniards and then granted them their independence and we continue to help them. That’s something they shouldn’t forget. We’re still here … helping out. Our tenacity is the one thing I have faith in. And our goodness and generosity is what makes us unique. They can count on us then. They may not appreciate everything we do … our sacrifice. Let’s hope that they understand that we’re fighting a common enemy.

It was the job of the Civil Affairs Office to make sure Filipinos believed, contrary to fact, that the HUKs let the Japanese run all over them. Back in the States, few people had heard of the People’s Army Against Japan, HUK the Tagalog acronym, while those who had (influenced perhaps by the New York Times) called the Hukbalahap movement a communist rebellion. It doesn’t matter whether they were or weren’t communist… there may have been good ones and bad ones: I didn’t care. What’s important was that they were trying to overthrow the government. That was justification enough for our involvement. What would you have us do? Ignore the situation? And there were communist out there, and we didn’t want to face … like we did in China … losing the Philippines.

Had we not been here … let me just say the HUKs came close to winning, but they’re largely contained now. It was very serious, and to think that they thought that a Maoist system would work in the Luzon countryside. But there’s still much to be done. It’s still very much a work in progress. Everyone though can now breathe a little easier. Thank God for it. Thank God the peasants didn’t buy into the Maoist worldview. They didn’t listen when they called us imperialist … listen to all the propaganda about us … about how we caused this and that … caused graft and corruption, overspending and fraud …. caused poverty, unemployment, and exploitation, and were the reason why the rich were getting richer and poor were getting poorer! Most of them had great admiration for us.

The HUK movement was in full swing. The propaganda was relentless. Except the peasants never bought it completely. And faced with an obvious communist threat we had to make sure our brown brothers didn’t lose the gains they made. We’ve never considered it meddling. All we were seeking was peace, so it then became our job to convince the Filipinos that as a piece of real estate we didn’t need or want their country.

Our bases, however, were extremely important to us. The Filipinos kept their promises, and we’ve kept ours. The communist tried to make the case that the bases should be shut down, and it’s easy to see why they would want us out of here. It would be crazy to give them up. From them we launched air and sea strikes against Korea and China, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Speaking of real estate, we’ve been accused … or our corporations have been accused of God knows dreadful things, such as dominating strategic sectors of the economy: petroleum, chemicals, tires and rubber, mining, drugs, soap and cosmetics, banking, insurance, and the list continues on and on. Yet I think the HUKs should’ve been more riled up about the Lopezes, the Roxas, the Aranetas, and the Akyalas. Now you didn’t hear me say that.

But would the world’s greatest defender of democracy, the undisputed leader of the Free World, let Central Luzon fall into the hands of stooges of the international communist conspiracy? We weren’t about to be walked over. And they needed to be wiped out, just as all such groups should be.

There were many things to test you. There were many things to get hysterical over such as flies and misquotes, and unsafe water and broken toilets. Throughout the Philippines, there were Americans who loved the Philippines except for the flies and misquotes and the unsafe water and broken toilets, but most of us learned to cope or overlook these things. There will always be those who’ll complain about everything and focus only on unpleasantness. Jack wasn’t one of those. Instead he loved the food and spent a great deal of time exploring Filipino restaurants.

Of all of the restaurants in Manila, not counting the ones in Makati, my friend Jack chose the one he thought would impress his eighteen-year-old date the most, and the young lady wasn’t afraid to go out with an American and risk having people think that she was a prostitute. She acted quite grownup as they walked into a Cantonese restaurant on Mabini Street. She’d been there and knew what to expect but didn’t let on that she had. She acted in a reserve way when she was not, and Jack liked her, though he wasn’t prepared to say he did. He liked her a lot and felt that the best way to show it was to take her to a good restaurant. And apparently she thought it only proper to show as little interest in him as possible, though she wouldn’t have gone out with him had she not been interested, and by then it was clear that they were playing a game.

“I told you already that I promised your dad that I’ll get you home safely, and I will,” he said. And she had nothing to fear because of the relationship Jack established with her father. He’d been living in their home long enough for all them to feel comfortable with each other. Mere accident brought Jack to her family’s home, something in any case that was too ludicrous to explain.

Everything depended on someone’s upbringing, and that was especially true in Anna’s case. She could say with some pride that she was given a good education. She grew up in a household where current events and politics were discussed around the dinner table so she knew who was who. She was alert, kind, fun, and full of playful mischief. She was also reliable, knew how to take care of herself, and could stick with something until she got what she wanted. She took after her father in many ways, idolized him just as he was idolized by almost everyone who knew him. But such adoration hadn’t turned his head.

Jack felt pleased that he had been accepted into the Ramos household. Remember he was an American and was working for the Civil Affairs Office and normally wouldn’t have been living with a Filipino family. And he should’ve known it would cause him trouble, or at the very least place him in an awkward position that he could ill afford. But he and Dr. Ramos had become friends. Dr. Ramos and his wife Cecelia treated him well. They appeared to love Americans and loved and valued Jack’s friendship. Unmistakably, they were friends, and Jack should’ve been leery. He should’ve had access to enough intelligence to know that Dr. Ramos was being watched by the government … that maybe that was why the professor was so friendly … he sympathized with Red China … he enjoyed listening to Russian and Chinese music … but shouldn’t Jack have been more alarmed? Maybe, or maybe not. Yes, maybe, but on the other hand it was an ideal place for an American working (a new-hire) for the Civil Affairs Office to live if he wanted to have access to information about the communist movement.

Jack had not succeeded in getting Dr. Ramos to admit to anything that amounted to treason, and really never expected he would. The stories he told about resisting the Japanese during the war were true and thus made him a hero. He had been a member of the People’s Army Against the Japanese (HUK) organization but said after the war that he dropped out to get his Ph.D. It’s hard to believe that this didn’t catch Jack’s attention.

He said they listened with hope to every promise, promises that were elusive at first, while looking for justice and a vision that gave everyone a fair share of the harvest. They were all young. Never suspected of being disloyal to Elpidio Quirino, who became president after Roxa’s death in 1948, Dr. Ramos turned out to be disloyal to the president. Maybe he couldn’t help himself. The youngest, and perhaps the smartest in his class, he assumed a position on the faculty that allowed him, because of academic freedom, the freedom to study various political movements from around the world. He could take any side, debate any argument, and win. In a sense, he was biding his time, but he was ready, though specifically he didn’t know what he was ready or waiting for.

Intensity and pride punctuated the professor’s words. He regarded himself an educated peasant patriot and talked to Jack about the peasant movement. He spoke of how large landowners treated their tenants as slaves and that the majority wanted to become owners of the land they cultivated.

Glad to have someone to show him around Manila, Jack tried not to act like a tourist. He let Anna take him places that Anna and her father thought he ought to see like the Quiapo Market to inside the walls and ramparts of Intramuros and Fort Santiago. The destruction of the old city in 1949 was still evident. Where thousands were trapped and the Americans bombed and the Japanese refused to surrender, three centuries of Spanish history was destroyed in a few days. You may recall Rizal’s short stay in Fort Santiago and his execution in the Luneta.

With the help of the Americans the center of the city shifted away from Intramuros and the moat around the walled city was transformed into an eighteen-hole golf course. They attempted to turn Manila into an American city. Jack saw evidence of this transformation. Here and there it stood out. But in spite of all of their effort it hadn’t turned out the way they wanted. He didn’t know that recognition of particular facts had become a political act.

It was on one these excursions that he was introduced to the opulent world of the Manila Hotel. It so happened that Dr. Ramos belonged to an elite club there, which also gave him and his family access to the Manila Yacht Club. The US Embassy sat between the hotel and the yacht club, which made it easy to frequent each place. While many people working at the embassy felt it incumbent on them to socialize at the hotel and the yacht club, it surprised Jack to learn that Dr. Ramos was among them. It seemed odd. Before Independence only Americans belonged to the yacht club and the Manila Hotel was MacArthur’s headquarters. By now it had changed. Now by playing rich men’s games such as horseracing, sailing and tennis, the wealthy often copied the elitism of their former colonial masters. These people were in the minority; but that didn’t seem to matter to Dr. Ramos.

The Ramos family rented Jack a room just large enough for a bed, books and a desk. Though small this space met his needs and was important to him. It gave him a place to study, because like Dr. Ramos he had an exceptional appetite for knowledge. Whether Tolstoy or Dostoevski, Nietzche, or Shakespeare, he randomly chose books in English from bookstalls. This appetite seemed to come out of nowhere. While doing things and going places, he asked many questions like “what are those islands over there?” Corregidor and Caballo Islands were examples of places he asked about.

There were a number of reasons why Jack should’ve mistrusted Dr. Ramos, and he should’ve seen a conflict coming, as the two became inseparable. Nothing was said about Jack’s job with the Civil Affairs Office, just as the American didn’t seem alarmed over the professor’s socialist leanings, while both men weren’t naïve. Dr. Ramos knew what Jack was about; perhaps was more aware than Jack ever knew. And while both men were often self absorbed, they found time for each other. It didn’t take long for them to realize that they were intellectually equal, and that was what attracted them to each other. They talked about everything from politics to religion, and as Jack struggled with his own sentiments (first his love for country and then his love for action), Dr. Ramos created his own reality.

Witness Jack’s willingness to do classified work, first in the Philippines and later in Laos and Cambodia. Vowing to never go home except for short visits, he found himself faced with contradictions. Concerning home, his was a love/hate relationship that would last a lifetime. Then came a marriage that he couldn’t avoid; the death of his wife, and a daughter he raised. This world, a domestic one, merged with another world filled with gangsters, rabble-rousers, demagogues, and politicians. And he’d die as he lived and without questioning whether his counter-subversive activities were justified. Freedom and democracy were precious to him, or else he wouldn’t have gone to the Philippines in the first place. Not many people can say, like he did, that he died the way he wanted to die, while knowing his fence-building paid off and earned him a great deal of gratitude from a succession of administrations.

The family he left behind didn’t understand him, didn’t understand why he stayed away, but were ultimately proud of him, though he never told them what he did. They never knew what he did for freedom and democracy. They only knew he worked for the US government and didn’t know that until after he was gone and read letters of commendation. But one can’t honestly tell this story without remembering the ruthlessness of the enemy.

Unimpeachable patriotism didn’t come easily for Jack. In 1950, a conversion seemed unlikely. Back then his sympathies placed him somewhere in the middle. There wasn’t a satisfactory explanation for why he accepted the risks.

Jack soon became Dr. Ramos’ son-in-law. He hadn’t anticipated it. Before he knew it he found himself in over his head and hadn’t realized how much was assumed when he and Anna started touring Manila alone. Jack didn’t know Filipino customs, Filipino mores, nor anything about his own feelings. Unsuspectingly he walked into a well-laid trap.

Thus Anna couldn’t resist his charms. She misinterpreted his smiles, but Jack’s feelings never equaled her romantic intensity. Holding hands to her meant one thing and to him something else. Nor did he ever suspect that in the public eye he had her father’s permission to marry her or that they were already sleeping together. Great Scott, Jack, with his sex drive, didn’t stand a chance! Then as Jack congratulated himself, she took his friendliness for love.

He thought that she expected him to make love to her, but never thought of marriage. Instead, he took pride in his sexual prowess. Her constant attention and her response to his touching were definitely flattering. Then he and Dr. Ramos had their talk. With plenty of camaraderie, he found himself engaged; all because of Anna’s condition, which Jack admitted was entirely his fault.

A marriage hastily was arraigned. Because of his sense of integrity, Jack married Anna. Rather than shame her and her family, he married her. And then Anna perished before Jack fully appreciated her.

On March 29, 1950 the HUKs created havoc by launching simultaneous raids on two towns and fifteen barrios. A hundred of them swooped down on San Pablo City, killed an army officer, looted stores, and raised the hammer and sickle. On the same day, Manila was strewn with propaganda leaflets describing the collapse of the economy. Free trade had caused a massive federal deficit; that and a lack of economic development led to a deteriorating economic situation.

With his father-in-law’s approval, Jack went to Central Luzon, with no other credentials than his marriage to his daughter. He still worked for the Civil Affairs Office and knew that if the HUKs found it out that he could lose his life. With his bosses unable to guarantee his safety, it was clear that he was willing to take great risks. He wanted nothing from them. He had that special quality. He initiated the mission and got their approval only after he agreed to report back to them when he got back.

There were significant omissions on the printed list of US government activities in the Philippines. Some things only the Ambassador knew. The activities of the Political Section were never listed. Jack was hired by an attaché he met in a small corner office on the second floor of the embassy. They first talked over glasses half-filled with rum, but Jack thought the small talk they engaged in was unnecessary.

However, the small talk was useful to the attaché, who used it to size Jack up. He told Jack that he came from Cleveland, a great capitalist center. He explained how it was the home to a lot of working men and women, and how the Russians adored it. The Terminal Tower there, with its spire of neo-Gothic design and fifty-two stories, reminded Russians of the tower of Moscow University. Had the communist party in 1934 not held its convention in Cleveland it wouldn’t have attracted the attention it did in Moscow. Then the attaché explained how the HUKs were trying to do what the Russians did in the Soviet Union. “But look at Russia, a so-called democracy ruled by a dictator. Take the average worker over there. Do you honestly think that they can afford a washing machine?”

In an arrogant way, the attaché slouched in his chair. With a red face from drinking too much, he reminded Jack of an Ukrainian peasant (though he’d never met an Ukrainian peasant), as they were “forced to sow the fields with the aid of hoes and baskets made of bast.” He looked more like one than an embassy attaché. He sat there rough-hewn, formidable, calculating, or like a member of the Moscow gorkan and enjoyed his position as much as having a winning lottery ticket.

Beating around the bush might’ve been more appropriate at some other time. They spent more time discussing the fate of the Cleveland Indians than talking about business. This didn’t bold well. It became pretty clear to Jack that he’d have to pretty much operate as a lone wolf.

Everything said then would soon be irrelevant. Jack would be culpable, but he was never ashamed of what he did. He never had to walk around with his head down. He always walked with confidence. Never brand him in the same way that you would brand anyone else. He always knew where he was going and how he would get there. But at anytime he might’ve jumped over to the other side. Then why would he choose to risk everything?

Did Jack see then that the HUKs would soon be on their knees? Because of his report there was every reason to be optimistic. From then on the government had the momentum, while the morale of the rebels diminished.

With the help of his father-in-law, Jack infiltrated the heart of Huklandia. He wasn’t easily discouraged and gave a full account of his travels.

Two hours north of Manila, he entered the insurgent zone. He traveled dusty roads where naked children played with chickens, pigs and goats. He made a beeline for the jungle-covered slopes of Mount Arayat and kept pace, step by step, with his guide. Early milestones encouraged him and led him to believe he lived a charmed life.

Crowds greeted him. By nature Jack was gregarious, but while enjoying the crowds, no one was fooled. With little difficulty, Jack joined a small group of men heading for the hills, fifty or so who were still willing to give up farming. They were also willing to die, while other, coming the other way, were worn out and just wanted it all to stop.

Always on the move the rebels spent most of their time avoiding government troops. They didn’t waste ammunition and if their time came hoped their deaths would mean something. Determined to avoid capture, experienced guerrillas knew that the government couldn’t be trusted, that the articles of war wouldn’t be adhered to, and that they would be tortured, if captured.

How much of this did Jack know about? He saw the excitement he caused, as a rich Americano going through poor villages where children yelled, “Hey Joe!” The same children often touched him. Generally people smiled, people who were polite to everyone. They seemed to forget that they were living in a war zone.

Sooner than later, rain made Jack’s life miserable, and the misery brought the rebels’ situation home. But what could he say about it? “Oh dear me, between Cecing’s surrender, Legasipi’s death, and Mabini’s wounds, all old friends,” said the Huk commander, “a little rain isn’t worth mentioning.” Would you believe that they got so hungry that they fought over scraps of food? That is, ate anything to stay alive, even grass and rats. Those were American planes and pilots dropping American bombs, and the insignia on the wings were painted over to hide it.”

“Where did the others go?”

“What others my friend?

“You might as well get use to leeches, our blood-sucking friends.”

Initially ignorant of problems of exploitation and poverty, Jack was also ignorant of the significance placed on these conditions by the HUKs. To the insurgents Jack seemed naïve and foolish.

After lengthy debates about the need for collective action and social justice Jack remained unconvinced. Not that they expected to have him for a friend. He shook his head as a sign of regret and wished the situation could’ve been different. Over all there was a feeling of uncertainty. Some of them called for restraint; others didn’t. Many of these men were considered criminals, even killers, by the government. It would’ve been unrealistic to expect Jack to support the Hukbalahap.

He and the guerrilla leader had a long talk on the porch of a nipa hut. Jack told him that his father-in-law sent him in order to educate him. The commander chain-smoked and never appeared hostile. The rebels Jack got to know never gave up their claim to the masses. He admired their bravery and ability to strike and retreat and strike again, and how they then melted into the countryside. They justified their robbing American arsenals and ambushing government troops by saying that they were leading a populist revolt. However their enemies viewed them as an incarnation of the Red menace. Many of them honestly, however, didn’t know what communism was, or why as disciples of Marx they subsequently had to be wiped out or forced to surrender.

On March 4, 1936, two American teachers by the name of Sutherland and Miles brought their baseball teams to Manila to play each other for the championship of Rizal. Both teams practiced long and hard. Dr. Ramos remembered that they spent more time on batting and tricks than catching and sliding. Tricks were added to make the game more interesting. Mr. Miles didn’t relax until his team learned to anticipate curves and drops and mastered batting. Often frustrated he never seemed satisfied, and the hardest practice always came immediately after a lost. Amazingly Mr. Miles somehow survived his own harshness. Even in this country where smooth interpersonal relationships were so important, his students loved him. Early on it convinced Dr. Ramos that he could get along with Americans.

Perfection on the practice field carried over into the classroom. Young Ramos aced all of his examinations and earned the right to play baseball. And before Mr. Miles allowed them to play a game, they practiced for almost four months. But winning made it all worth it; and in the end the players forgave their coaches and accepted harsh treatment as part of their lessons. Though he often instilled terror in them, Mr Miles was very kind to those who were serious about the game. These two teachers, Miles and Sutherland, missionaries of goodwill, captured the love and sympathy of their students. Their coaching and teaching left an indelible mark. Feelings of appreciation for them lingered over the years.

Dubbed an Amboy, he was sent by Mr. Miles to a Texas college, where he joined a fraternity, played more baseball, and went to football games. He dated American girls and became as American as any Filipino could. He could recite Hamilton, Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry, Lincoln, and with the Gettysburg Address as his absolute favorite. For him American history was an intellectual excursion.

His old teacher started him on this journey. More often than not, the conversations between the two continued well after the bell. Who would’ve suspected a benign American schoolteacher? Mr. Miles was critical of U.S. colonial policy, but by all accounts loved his country. How could that be? How could an American have something good to say about communism?

Everyone knows what happened when the Japanese invaded the Philippines. The teachers were dragged out of their beds and separated from their families and interned in concentration camps. With the loss of liberty, they learned to survived and learned to hate. Who were these captives? Wasn’t the war incredibly long for them? And why did Dr. Ramos risk seeing his old teacher?

As Japanese flags went up in front of Fort Santiago and Malacanang palace, officers of the Imperial Army began canvassing Manila for American and British citizens. An order went out for people to report to designated places for registration; but instead of simply recording names, they detained them. The Japanese wanted to create an Asiatic Asia but were astounded and irked by the loyalty and affection Filipinos showed Americans.

Among the crowds that formed just outside the iron picket fence of Santa Tomas Internment Camp, in the heart of Manila, stood young Ramos. Wanting to hear of his former teacher, he wasted no time getting there. He brought bedding and food and shouted out Mr. Miles’ name, which was permitted at first because the guards didn’t know how to stop it. Ramos later went inside, in through the front gate with packages, but couldn’t find his former teacher.

Continuing his search he volunteered for the Philippine Red Cross. He was one of hundreds of volunteers needed to supply various camps. Soon he found himself in a truck loaded with medical supplies heading for the mountain town of Baguio. None of these supplies were allotted to the camps. A small amount however went to a camp hospital and was tagged in such a way as to show Japanese benevolence.

By the time Ramos found Mr. Miles communication between people on the inside and outside of the camps had been suspended. When caught passing a note, Ramos said, “I couldn’t ignore my old teacher. And there isn’t anything you can do to me to make me regret it.” The Japanese stuck Ramos in a tiny cage in Fort Santiago for passing this note to Mr. Miles: “In the last few months, you’ll be pleased to hear that we’ve had a socialist marriage and various baptismals. Unfortunately the ceremonies were sparsely attended but the authorities must’ve known about them because they have spies everywhere. I helped out where I could.”

Jailed in Fort Santiago with four others in one of eighteen cages in a completely darkened hanger-like building, Ramos was treated like a traitor. He spent five months there eating a daily diet of rice with a fish head thrown in every once and while. He survived by quoting Hamilton, Jefferson, Paine, Henry and Lincoln, especially Lincoln.

And when did he make the quantum leap to Marxism? When did Ramos memorize the following quote? “If a man is simply a worker, and as a worker his human qualities only exist for the sake of capital, what is his value? If he exists only as a worker and not as a human being, he might as well let himself be buried and starved.”

When he was interrogated and tortured, Ramos said nothing. Make the little Filipino traitor confess and give him what he deserves. He was hung by his thumbs and repeatedly flogged. Indispensable was this continued torture, without it the criminal would forget that refusing to talk was a crime. Now the Japanese knew that communists who joined the guerrillas were responsible for most of the resistance in the provinces.

Delirious, Ramos saw his friend Mr. Miles everywhere. The teacher might’ve been killed because of the student’s stupidity and his trying to gain a few extra points.

The torture administered by a more and more exasperated colonel couldn’t have been more expertly done. The colonel was a professional. He had no equal and became more and more savage. For a crime that didn’t seem very serious, Ramos received a broken nose, a cracked skull and a blood filled mouth. But they never broke his spirit. Then why were the Japanese so relentless? Nothing was certain except the certainty of their suppression. Afterwards Ramos rarely talked about his war experiences. He saw that it was impossible to escape, so he tried to convince his jailers that they needed his cell for a more valuable criminal.

Anna’s intense, romantic and sentimental passion for Jack was theoretically permissible after he took hold of her hand. Seen was a rare sense of bliss, and that was likely to continue for as long as she lived.

Jack wanted to make the best possible impression, so he tried to impress Dr. Ramos with what he knew about the ocean. Anna watched then as her father challenged him with information about the currents, winds, clouds, waves, temperature, and etc. She felt ashamed of her father for it. When it came to showing off their intelligence, they both were relentless. She listened with interest and was fully aware of the putdowns. Frustrated with her father and perplexed by Jack’s amicability, she thought she’d go nuts. Anger fostered more anger and naturally cast a shadow over an otherwise happy occasion. She thought, “Nothing is settled by side stepping something.” But all of the unpleasantness evaporated every time Jack had Anna to himself.

They rode jeepneys all over the city and drank tuba from coconut shells. In many ways their courtship was no different from any other. They frequented the Manila Hotel because it had a dark bar where they could drink and smooch. After kissing her Jack couldn’t possibly escape. The woman knew before the man that they were heading for matrimony. Nevertheless when he asked her it surprised her.

The Philippine Constabulary gave the HUKs two choices: unconditional surrender or annihilation. With the end of amnesty, Jo-Jo (identified by authorities as an American and recognized as a threat) found himself in the thick of it. Jo-Jo pledged loyalty to his childhood friends and that in return for their continued friendship. Hence he shared their fate.

His parents were known as kindhearted and honorable, for they had been Methodist missionaries in Pampanga for as long as anyone could remember. When he joined the rebels, Jo-Jo told his parents not to be disappointed in him and hoped that they’d respect his decision. He talked to them about social justice, giving examples of how Philippine Independence hadn’t rid the country of injustice. This only scared his mother. The last time he was at home, they talked about violence in the province. They agreed both sides were guilty of it. On the whole, while his parents never liked their son’s communist connection, they conceded that something had to be done for the barrio people they knew and loved.

A long and bitter struggle now lay ahead. As government interdiction increased, the HUKs strengthened discipline and increased their influence over a wavering population. Those who sat on the fence often received handouts from both sides. In the mountains, and in key areas where they found support, the rebels established camps and, whenever fighting was unavoidable, put up a good defense.

Jo-Jo thought he could help the most by supervising educational and propaganda work. This he took over when he reached Mr. Arayat. Once there he renewed old friendships. But why was he there? He said he wanted to serve mankind, as Christ commanded. He had to act, and anything less wouldn’t have been like him. Remember the emergency policy, the main links and key tasks? Even if it was too little too late.

Welcome appalling difficulties. Jo-Jo proved he could take it. They called it a first installment. But here’s how they were tested, and how Jo-Jo was tested. To use Stalin’s words, “Communists are people of a different mold.” During sessions of criticism and self-criticism, each person was subjected to a roasting and had to confess their weaknesses. Then having been condemned and severely criticized, they’d often wept and expressed their shame in acceptable ways. The long discussions gave an opportunity to ferret-out potential opportunists, or actual traitors, some of whom were executed for crimes against the revolution.

They all knew the need for revolution and the problems that came with living the old way. Jo-Jo used riddles and questions to challenge fellow comrades. “What would happen if American capitalists no longer made a profit?” The tiger shark symbolized the American capitalistic imperialist. This analogy served its purpose but never totally worked, anymore than totally embracing Marxism did. But formalities broke down when old friends recognized each other and indoctrination was put on hold.

Jo-Jo liked to sit on the high ridges of Mount Arayat, which dominated Central Luzon. It gave him a view of busy Clark Air Base. From these heights, he also saw rice and sugar-cane fields, a vast sea of green broken only by a network of roads and towns. The American airplanes that came and went fascinated him; but he knew that neither the planes nor the base assured peace to the only home he ever knew.

His parents were the ones who gave him a social conscience. His mother took him with her throughout Pampanga as she called on the sick and delivered babies as a midwife. Faith helped them survive the war and the political seesaw that followed.

In the mountainous forest, Jo-Jo collected edible ferns for meals. It was impossible to imagine the hunger and the other hardships they endured. The rain always made for a night of misery. Tom fools in the rain and always wet, stabbed by thorns and bitten by leeches, their feet were raw and swollen. Everyone was weak and numb to the bone. Faced with attacks, often backed by air raids, they were always on the move. The forest didn’t offer them a sanctuary. It became the same as a sieve, and government troops pour in at will, and the government had its informers. And some rebels died from fighting among themselves, the same as children fighting over rats and snails.

The sheer will power it took to survive, the unexpected capacity to endure, this test gave them strength to hang on. It took more than courage. It was tenacity and knowledge of having made it before. The struggle kept the revolt going. In swashbuckling fashion, they clambered up huge boulders and this for them was the same as joining the people of China in their fight against capitalist dogs. The truth emerged when they looked at America, touted as a showcase, and saw how America masqueraded as a benevolent society. Most HUK cadres would say “cut an American down to size and what’s left is a conquistador in jockey shorts.”

HUKs had their most precious possessions…. life, honor, children and wives….wantonly desecrated. The government should’ve anticipated a reaction. Its scorched-earth policy of looting and burning created hatred and drove affected peasants into the arms of the rebels. The HUKs organized barrios in an area of over 40,000 square kilometers, which extended across the borders of four provinces. People pretended loyalty to the government while they secretly worked for the liberation movement.

Fighters attacked from the mountains and slipped around during the night. Villagers were willing to take considerable risks, and close friendships emerged. Of course, no leader could stop their men from having love affairs with local women. None really tried, though they knew that men needlessly died because of carelessness.

Jo-Jo asked nothing for his participation and didn’t want to be treated differently than anyone else. Had he not objected, his friends would’ve made his life easier. He, who should’ve been rejected, was soon given rank. Determined not to shirk his load, he picked up a rifle, but it shouldn’t be assumed then that he shot Americans. He unavoidably, however, became entangle in precisely the cruelty and the ruthlessness he deplored. The ruthless demands of the struggle hardened him. Rotten to an extent, it was glorious in other ways.

Jo-Jo made the HUK struggle his war. He wouldn’t be able to extricate himself from it, nor did he ever repudiate his socialist convictions. His flirting with communism was his way of grappling with the problems he saw. Friends of his since childhood had clearly been victimized, and he saw and understood it, understood imperialism from the Filipino point of view. He hated imperialism and saw how it affected everyone.

The army used trench mortars and 75-mm. guns to soften the resistance. Before they entered an area, people knew what to expect. The villages were caught in the crossfire. Shelling peasant houses preceded each assault. They covered up their mistakes and blamed the looting and the burning on the HUKs.

There was panic everywhere. Few people stuck around; and the army rarely captured anyone. Generally guerrillas couldn’t easily be identified. Peasants (who never had enough for themselves) supplied the army with rice, vegetables, and cigarettes, and so on, hoping then wrongfully that they’d be left alone. Whether they called this stealing or called it taxing, it amounted to the same thing: highway robbery.

The success of the spectacular attack of San Pablo City made the HUKs think that the tide had turned in their favor. They thought that they had the government on the run. But soon victory led to defeat, because Manila engineered a dazzling coup. The revolution soon suffered many setbacks. Many HUKs were killed.

Jo-Jo never understood their defeats. To fight discouragement, he told the men the Russians or the Chinese were coming. No one really believed him. Instead the peasants were afraid that their landlords wouldn’t let them back on the land. As uneasiness grew many of them obtained permission to return to their families. To avoid shame, no request was denied. Had they asked for the moon, they probably would’ve gotten it.

Government troops controlled all of the water holes. Water had to be collected drop by drop from stems and vines. With artillery, armored cars, and foxholes, a ring of steel left few gaps. Clashes were inevitable. Jo-Jo insulated himself by falling for a communist gal.

This aristocratic beauty served as a courier between the mountain and Manila. Intelligence gathering required freedom of movement, so they kept her on the move. Faced with ever-present danger, Jo-Jo’s communist girl was perfectly willing to have sex with him. Following revolutionary concepts, she engaged in sex without attachment or love. But Jo-Jo with his Christian upbringing had a problem with this. He had a hard time. His sense of decency got in the way. Rather than accept human nature, poor Jo-Jo became angry when she gave herself to several other men. Yet he believed in the communist dictum that said only class enemies try to mold women into preconceived niches and a profession of love often is a form of slavery.

Jo-Jo slowly moved forward with the men. They broke camp before daybreak. Intuition was all they had to go on. The decision seemed risky, but they stuck to the plan. Danger was ever present. No one balked. In hope of somehow breaking through, they left the hills and tried to cause pandemonium. They learned from experience. There was no rhyme or reason why one person died and another lived. One could never explain why he or she was spared when a grenade exploded a few feet away and blew away a comrade or two, or why some lived only to surrender and spend ten years in prison.
Jo-Jo’s eulogy could’ve been repeated for every friend he lost. “Our cause is so deeply compromised and our struggle so far from over that the Philippines might’ve been better off if we’d simply loved one another.”

“Are you aware of the plight of the peasant? How they’re victims of oppression? About a system in which the people own only nine percent of the land who work it? About a people who have to borrow rice from their landlord … rice that they planted and harvested in order to feed their families? It had to have been bad for them to abandon a legal, parliamentary struggle. President Roxas relied on an iron fist policy.”

“Then came insults, and at the same time the US played a role. And meanwhile, this idealist who some call a fool sits in a maximum-security cell and is aware of his crimes. If convicted, whether he’s judged fairly or not, he could be sentenced to death.”

“But if you weren’t there how would you know? If you hadn’t seen friends suffer and die…. recognized the indignity of a mass grave…. and summoned to this…. back to our camp and the fresh grave of a lover, of those who never had a chance once we abandoned them…. will anything I say ease the pain? The real injury was, that some people interpreted my dissention and my hostility to mean that I embraced communism, worshipped as an idol Marx, but nothing could’ve been further from the truth.”

“We needed to keep close track of our enemy’s movements. We were in the middle of the darkest days of our struggle. More than anything else it was the support of the people that kept us going. What were the mistakes that led to the loss of friends and orphaned children?”

“My girl’s death was only one of many deaths. Filomena died during a fierce fight in a sugarcane field. Even before the full impact of the loss hit me, I had had enough. And yet I didn’t dare surrender. To give teeth to discipline, before I could surrender, I was shot.”

“We had to compromise people who weren’t directly involved. While hiding in a barrio, they entertained us in a way that was impossible to conceal. We bought bread and other things and paid the poor for all the rice, the vegetables and the fruits we could carry. We knew we exposed law-abiding and peaceful citizens. It not only cost them their freedom but crops, houses, and property, and too often also their lives. It was a policy of madness that led to an all out war.”

“As an American (since I still describe myself as one), I’m critical of my country. Long ago I stopped being an observer. I’ve seen human heads bobbing in rivers. Sirs, many of my comrades were shot in the back. The government, while announcing that I was dead, kept looking for us and warned people not to aid any bandit without risking execution.”

“Evidence at the camp confirmed what we heard on the radio. We found, however, little evidence of the resistance we all expected. We dug graves by hand. I grieved as I dug. I was knocked off my feet by the outrage. After burying the remains, we said a few words and sang the Filipino national anthem as a commemoration.”

“Oh my love, hear my cry, without thee….”

Instead of complaining, Jack accepted his bride. He came to adore Anna for her beauty and poise. He thought he made a good husband; and with emancipation Anna blossomed. She wore a veil and a long white dress with a train ten yards long.

Now that she could do what she wanted, Anna set out to prove that her husband couldn’t tie her down. She felt equal to him. The dowry Jack paid the bride’s mother was smaller than what he gave her father. He compensated them both for raising Anna.

Jack never intended to make trouble for his wife or her family. “I can’t bare to think that I could’ve been even partially responsible.”

Letters written to his parents in 1957 describe the tiny love of Jack’s life. He also wrote about his relationship with Filipinos. ”The more I’m with Filipinos the more aware I am of my arrogance. They’re too docile and imitate us too much. Nothing beneficial can come from it.” And he wrote about keeping busy but omitted most of the details. ” I know you pray for me. Mother, if I didn’t like the people here, I wouldn’t stay. So don’t worry.”

His hope was, “that the impossible was indeed possible: not that the world would ever be ready for universal fairness. That will never occur until all men and women receive the dignity they deserve.” And then he ended with a plea for understanding.

Who would’ve thought Jack would take such a stand? It was pretty clear that he never sided with the masses; but how could he betray his father-in-law? There came a point when he had to act; but did he ever hold himself accountable. Jack definitely believed in democracy. How could he have opposed his country then? Neither Jo-Jo or Dr. Ramos could indoctrinate him.

During the time they spent on the mountain together, Jack and Jo-Jo became close friends. They had more in common than they expected. A shared love for basketball was one important factor. Everybody knew that come March nothing stopped a runny-nosed kid from Indiana from shooting baskets and getting all juiced up over someday playing for the U. Suppose Jo-Jo lived on the margins of society in the Midwest and owned a motorcycle he loved to ride or suppose Jack grew up under the thumb of missionary parents in the Philippines, how different were they really?

So thoroughly they shared experiences, life in Indiana and life in Central Luzon that barriers that might’ve existed broke down. Sharing assured their friendship. Not a HUK, but a fellow American was what Jack saw, when he allowed himself to forget where he was. A welcoming smile helped him forget that he had entered the enemy’s lair.

But how could you compare Indianapolis with Cabanatuam? Clean, paved streets to dusty, dirt ones? The Indy 500 was not just an automobile race, not just speed and danger, but a huge television event. Jo-Jo couldn’t have known how it felt being a spectator and becoming tearful when thirty-three amazing machines battled for position going into the first turn.

Talking about General Douglas MacArthur, as to why he sailed with the fleet during the Inchan invasion and how he never intended to let his six sitting-duck destroyers retreat. “If not victory, yet still hopeful; if not absolutely defeated, yet realistic, and counting the days….” this was how Jo-Jo tried to explain how he felt. He said that he would never give up. He could yet bask in idealism. Ideas often dismissed as rhetoric kept hope alive. His stubbornness, from the “pacto de retroventa” to the dispossessed peasants wasn’t bullshit to him. But the discussions pointed them in opposite directions.

Jo-Jo’s keen interest in the United States and Jack’s never ending questions about the HUKs seemed inconsistent with each of their orientation. It illustrated confusion that too often led to mistakes. While foraging for food in torrential rain, what did Jo-Jo want to talk about? ”From where does Marlon Brando get the courage to play a role without a script? ’On the Waterfront’ (another example)…. tense and tough….in that story lurks a overbearing sense of wrong.” Conversations that were for Jo-Jo essential. Popcorn and bubble gum, as part of the movie going experience, had long ago reached the bigger cities of the Philippines. Hollywood shaped many of Jo-Jo’s ideas about America, and checking them out became an obsession for him. In the Paramount picture “The Lawless,” a mob wrecks Carly’s presses. For both of them, this journey was never completed; nor did they ever have a coherent picture of each other.

It was unknown how many people died as a result of Jack’s activities. The deaths of Capadocia in Panay, Nick Pamintyan in Manila, and a whole group of commanders who were undergoing training in a cadet school, probably none of these deaths could’ve been attributed to him. For the role he played in his wife’s death, Jack felt riddled with more guilt than he’d ever admitted. One thing was for sure though: counterrevolutionary work was messy.

Did Jack acquire and turn over to handlers documents from the Secretariat? And did he give the names of his father-in-law’s frequent guests, as members of the Politburo came and went? Some of these members were already preparing themselves to become governors, mayors, councilors, and chiefs of police. And did he do all he did without the HUKs catching on? And when did Dr. Ramos realize that many of his guest and comrades were unfortunately captured within a few weeks after visiting his home?

But there was more. Jack’s wife, who was so smart, always sat next to her husband and helped him reconstruct it all. If she ever suspected Jack she never let on. She knew her role. Whenever they had guests, she and her mother were expected to be gracious hostesses.

Many of the guests were obsessed with themselves and obsessed with power, toke to heart the Chinese Communist maxim “the people are water and we are the fish.” Jack listened as they planned attacks on all the major installations in the city and realized the folly of thinking that they could catch everyone sleeping. They were inspired by the victorious revolution of their comrades in China. They used quotations from Lenin and Stalin. To the Marxists sitting in Dr. Ramos’ living room, the revolutionary crisis had certainly arrived, but the big question was were they ready to lead? Had Dr. Ramos known of his son-in-law’s duplicity, he would’ve turned him over to the party’s discipline committee.

Unfortunately, instead of Jack Dr. Ramos attracted the attention. His opponents realized that he was one of the few ideologues in Manila to have charted a mainstream course and survived. He consequently made many enemies. They were suspicious, and characterized him as a villain with a smile. But there were those who also worshipped him.

The assassin team struck without warning. Tommy-guns and Sten-guns were fired at Anna even after she appeared dead. Her father remained conscious but was unable to speak. Wanting to be mistaken for government solders, the assassins were dressed in green khaki. Witnesses got the number plates of the get-away jeeps. These, it was true, belonged to the army but had been stolen. The police were already looking for them.

A break in the case soon came. It was an essential lead that came out of the blue. From an unexpected source, it was also a break that the investigating team couldn’t have come up with on their own. Such breaks police count on. But don’t belittle their efforts. Cases of this magnitude were often complex, and the people involved…. the police, the judges, the witnesses, and the accused….all become involved in high drama. And the press doing its job echoed the clamor of the public for answers. The public then decided the guilt or innocence of each assassin based on the evidence and corroborated by various witnesses.

Jack found himself tormented with grief and guilt. No one knew what he was going through, how he was involved, or how he felt. Or the unfairness of the tragedy, or that he bore any blame for it.

To right the wrong Jack went after the killers himself and turned to Jo-Jo. Together, among antagonist, they represented a link between foes, a link that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. But given the circumstances, was it treason or heroism? If caught, either one of them would’ve face death. They both struggled; but regardless of their differences, they helped each other out. Friendship overrode other obligations. However framed, friendship was paramount to men who fought on opposite sides of the war. Each of them paid a terrible price.

Around noon, on February 12, 1952, the murders occurred on Roxas Boulevard, near the Rizal Monument and not far from where Rizal died. Newspapers ran the story on the front page. ”Murder Hold-Up” was one headline; and accordingly all of them, except the respectable Manila Times, went with the presumption that the murders were the work of a gang of hoods. Fiction seemed real; facts were deliberately distorted. What the Philippine public hungered for was a mixture of exaggeration and fact. Photographs of the bodies took precedent over the printed text; and the number of wounds (13) Anna received greater play than descriptions of the assailants. Government involvement would’ve been less sensational because of daily arrests and killings associated with the protracted rebellion.

Facts challenged the publicized version. None of them ever forgot that morning or the bullets that shattered the windshield. No one would say whether or not guerrillas were suspected. All of the witnesses, however, said all of the killers wore bush hats. They remembered the hats but not the jungle green uniforms. A young Filipina lay dead in the front seat, not some whore, but a person of good repute. The gray-headed man behind the steering wheel was wounded, but all of his injuries weren’t apparent yet. This was wrong, all wrong, and it tied up traffic for a long while, as honking intensified and became unbearable. It was stop and go all the way down Roxas Boulevard, but it was nothing when compared with the violence hundreds of people saw that day.

While the constabulary and the police followed every lead, Jack began his own inquiry. For him it was part of the healing process. He wanted to catch the killers himself. The constabulary and the police were too slow for him.

The jeeps that carried the gunmen were found abandoned near the scene. Fingerprints didn’t match any known criminal. It seemed silly to dust for prints, when the attack had obviously been meticulous planned. Even petty crooks knew not to leave prints. Any fair person would’ve been perplexed by the arrest, by a rough count, of some 800 suspects. Though as passions cooled, most of them were later released.

Secret memos and documents in the U.S embassy revealed who orchestrated such a huge roundup. It was clear that the killings were more than a murder holdup. For the first time one was faced with an admission that Jack, or the victims (or someone close to them) were valuable assets of the U.S government. It was at this point that the constabulary and the police were given reasons for using their authority to the fullest.

On page three, of the trial transcript, case number 02125212, the record showed that the police picked up empty cartridge shells and spent bullets from the pavement near the victims’ vehicle. Forensic experts matched them with guns taken during a raid of a safe house. Other incriminating items were seized there too. The transcript went on to say, “but the prime suspects were long gone.” It was remarkable that the constabulary and the police had information that led them to the correct house.

Brick by brick, the case was built. Once caught, the mastermind was shown no mercy, nor were any of the others who took part in the crime. No doubt they were brave men. But they had to face the consequences. Yet the constabulary and the police showed an affinity for them. The assassins wanted to make people believe that they would’ve rather spent more time with their families, but trying to make themselves seem more human didn’t help them. Whether they had families or not was immaterial.

Even before any arrests were made, the police prepared a list of seventy-eight witnesses. Hearsay was certainly admissible; but with as busy a street as the crime scene was securing it was impossible.

Could the suspects be identified? Would their confessions stand up? Mistakes were obviously made, but none of the mistakes made a difference. Perfection was impossible. But the main problem with so many mistakes was the loss of time, and the more time that was lost, the more the trail to the killers cooled.

There were many questions left unanswered. Was there a connection between the killings and Dr. Ramos’ connection with the HUKs? How well known were his activities? Was there a conspiracy? How many people were involved? There were men posted with radios in front of the professor’s house who gave the trigger men last minute instructions. They weren’t worried about how they would stop a moving vehicle. Why didn’t they strike at the professor’s home? Obviously, they were after headlines and killed the innocent along with the guilty. They raised the anti by striking in the heart of the capital. Before then traitors were quietly executed.

The public demanded revenge. No one accused the constabulary and the police of mistreating the witnesses. They quieted the uproar by detaining so many people and forcing some of them to confess. The long interrogations gave each suspect ample opportunity to confess. There were many discrepancies. The constabulary and the police were able to crack the conspirators. But honor and a fidelity oath sealed their lips, which made their confessions seemed inconceivable. The success of the investigations depended upon trickery, which the Americans had taught their Filipino associates.

It was hard to imagine a more desperate group. To assassinate, to gun down, to decapitate, to stab, in other words exterminate their enemies, inside or outside their organization, to mitigate with vengeance all the wrongs of the past, was a tall order. The very principles of the HUK struggle (not merely their words or deeds but their heart and soul) gave them strength. Yet they reportedly begged for mercy.

Most of the contagion in Greater Manila could be found within the colleges and the universities. In them professors and students engaged in doctrinal disputes. They often connected with Maoism. Being at odds with authority was attractive, but don’t call them leaders of the movement. With the assassinations their loyalty was put in question. Weak, ineffectual, squeamish, stripped of their slogans, and altogether disillusioned by the sudden turn of events, some of them subsequently betrayed comrades.

There were breaks in the case that led to the arrest of a tall man and a short one, who witnesses pegged as leaders. With Jack’s help, the constabulary and the police seized important exhibits: as mentioned, weapons and then disguises traced to a specific market vendor. Immeasurable grief and pain galvanized Jack even more, and he couldn’t have stood the ordeal had he simply sat idly by. He couldn’t disguise his bitterness and the hatred that he shared with mothers and wives, fathers and husbands, brothers and sisters, and orphaned children who also suffered the loss of love ones. He couldn’t cry. He would if he could; only he couldn’t. Given his grief, the opposing forces within him weren’t surprising.

In the middle of the rainy season, Jack trooped through Kandala swamp and up Mount Arayat. He knew his picture had been printed on leaflets and distributed throughout the region. Similar notices spread falsehood about Jo-Jo, who pleaded his case to his parents in a letter. He told them that he finally decided to surrender. He said he hadn’t foreseen the rash of crimes that followed in the wake of Jack’s appearance and damaged the movement beyond repair. Why couldn’t they stop the hemorrhaging? On a long list of crimes, betrayal ranked high; and given the chance, both sides practiced it.

Given the confusion and passions following the assassinations, the blame couldn’t be placed squarely on anyone. Jo-Jo never supported the policies of his country, much less her imperialistic agents. Therefore, his betrayal was based purely on an emotional response.

Enduring foul weather and trudging barefooted through knee-deep mud, the two friends were drenched and with each step their feet became heavier. In the mud, discouragement came easily. In the mud, Jo-Jo realized his reputation was destroyed. Never in his life had Jack seen so much rain, causing so much mould, mush, rust, and mildew and then, revulsion. A few days of rain would be followed by several hours of steam. Nothing escaped the ooze. On the other side…. scolding, cursing, and threatening to kill one another….there were men stalking the two Americans who were completely at home in the swamp. The highest ranking rebel leader, Jose de Leon, offered a thousand pesos for their capture. The Secretariat then held an emergency meeting and more than doubled it. A peso equaled a half a dollar, which would’ve been the preferred currency. In those days a thousand dollars represented a small fortune. Many men tried to cash in. During their trek through the Candaba Swamp, Jack would’ve given his friend anything. But all they had to swap were stories about growing up.

Surrender then! It was made possible; and surrender to Jack’s horror led to the maximum sentence for his friend. No one was going to let the crimes go unpunished. Even though Jo-Jo helped solve Dr. Ramos’ and his daughter’s murders, they insisted that he plead guilty and told him that his conviction was just a formality. They evidently didn’t appreciate the sacrifice he made for a friend. He expected too much; and even so, he had few regrets.

After his surrender, for security sake, Jo-Jo was placed in a solitary cell with a heavy steel door. He was sent to the New Bilibid Prison in Rizal, some miles outside of Manila. It was a tough place. Murder and riot were common. Here was incarcerated a son of a couple, who lived with the HUKs and taught them and never acted unkind, or expected special treatment. Recently returning from fighting, these peasants loved Jo-Jo’s parents as if they were family. Their boy now couldn’t come home. In order to protect him, Jack was frequently moved around, but officially the U.S. embassy never helped him.

The two friends sadly joked about squandering their lives away for filthy politics. Nothing seemed right except the status quo. Fighting for democracy where even the birds and bees voted seemed to require repression and toughness. All the king’s men couldn’t fully explain why these two boys ever chose sides.

Jesting took over. The two friends searched for something embarrassing to say about each other. The last thing they did together was to sit and wait, as their time ran out. Braving the flies and the mosquitoes, they sat on the seawall that night with two smiling women. In particularly Jack displayed anguish. The murderers were caught; but with the confusion in the country, some of them were soon set free.

Both of them lived to regret Jo-Jo’s surrender. In order to publicize the impending collapse of communism, the right-wing press widely covered the American’s duplicity, while the left wing denounced Jo-Jo as a traitor and a class enemy. For the sake of peace, national unity, and reconstruction, Jo-Jo was promised amnesty but was instead given a life sentence by a court influenced by a skeptical public. (See court documents for the judge’s rationale.)

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- VIVA EL REY

Viva El Rey

by Randy Ford

Yes, it was good news. And it spread fast and pleased the crowds. Except they were afraid to hope for too much. “Long live the king!” sounded so sweet. Except he disappointed them before. It was a brief moment, so full of memories. Moreover a lot of people didn’t believe it was true, since information they received was often faulty. Church bells pealed. Rockets went off. Then there had to be something to it.

Could it be true? Were the French defeated? Was Bonaparte living in exile, perhaps on a pension? What they heard wasn’t necessary accurate. If you needed to be sure you had to see the king with your own eyes. And if you didn’t see him, what then?

“Viva El Rey!” people cheered. Euphoria mixed with pain over having lost loved ones. It was a short but fierce struggle. Memories of it were still raw. Cannons were necessary. Now cannons were fired at random and in the dark. Well, at least the king was alive and well. The king still had his dying to do. “Long live the king!” Open doors and let air in because now they had something they all agreed upon. Hopefully, there will be no more intrigue. El Rey had survived seven long years of exile.

He thought it hadn’t been so bad. He accepted Napoleon’s hospitality and enjoyed many perks once he accepted the reality of his situation. However, he would have preferred to spend the time in Madrid, or that was what he always claimed. No question, he would’ve preferred to spend the time in Spain.

He always remembered how much he enjoyed the carriage ride over the mountains and how he fell for Napoleon’s ruse when he accepted accommodations at the Hotel Dubrocq. And how the trap was set for him. He was always vain, so it was easy to entrap him. So many ways to entrap him … flatter him … flattery helped. Then whether it was entrapment or not, it was clear that His Royal Highness wasn’t totally duped. Still he had no alternative, and perhaps it stemmed from a desire to patch things up with the Emperor. Who knew? But there was no doubt that Napoleon had one thing in mind and that was to take the Spanish throne away from an ally.

But his intentions at first weren’t clear. So conceivably there were alternatives, but the reception Ferdinand received confused the king. Bonaparte was an excellent host. He spared no expense, catered to the king’s every whim and served great food, French food, better than the king ever had before. Was it the food that did the trick? Hardly. Bonaparte knew a lot about the king. He knew his weaknesses, not that he liked playing parlor games. Then after such a reception Ferdnand hadn’t expected the Emperor’s trickery. He couldn’t believe it. It puzzled him. Of course no one knew then how ambitious Bonaparte was. Imagine removing the Boubons (a brutish, bad lot) from Europe and sending the king of Spain to Mexico; imagine Bonaparte ruling the world, and imagine Ferdinand living in exile. Imagine. Imagine both of them living in exile. Ferdinand was still king; yes, a Boubon king. And he wasn’t ready to give up his throne, yet he did. He wouldn’t have gone had he known.

Going when Bonaparte was so preoccupied, Ferdinand still got a special reception. They were civil, as they should’ve been. Bonaparte enjoyed mocking him, while Ferdinand took it for flattery. It was about time that the old reigning families of Europe gave way to a hero to whom the continent owed everything. And the only way out for the king was to accept the Frenchman’s hospitality. This was after the king crossed the border. What a friend he had in Bonaparte. And this was in a world where power was tied to perception, and when the visitor couldn’t see what he was in for. It led to him abdicating, and it was over before he realized it. Afterward, he returned to the Hotel Dubrocq, sunk in an armchair and moped all day.

King had to mope before he could have fun. He was sorry, sorry for himself and for his country, but he was determined to have fun. Thankfully he wasn’t shot and could spend the rest of his life living in France as a “free” man. Yes, he was finally free. Free and annoyed at his benefactor. Yes, he had had his fun, and there was no reason why he couldn’t have more of it. So shouldn’t he have been grateful? Yes, grateful for the generosity shown him and the kind of liberty that sometimes made him smile up until his death. And the whole thing … the adoration of his people, then disgrace when he abdicated. Except he felt relieved. It was madness, yet he knew that he could’ve happily spent the rest of his life in France and done without his throne.

He had the deepest respect and almost fondness for his benefactor, feelings he stupidly (some would say disgracefully) expressed. Now he could go to Talleyrand’s Chateou de Valencay where Madam de Talleyrand entertained with four or five other ladies. Never before was he allowed to walk in gardens without written permission from his father, or ride or hunt freely. Everything was different for him, so why would he want to go back to Spain? The throne never mattered to him, and mattered even less after he got his freedom. He could thank the emperor for it, all of it, and much to his people’s horror, he wrote his benefactor thanking him. But by then Bonaparte had moved on.

Long distance communication wasn’t easy in those days, if it existed at all. And it was rarely private, so everyone knew about the handsome pension the monarch received from the emperor. Though he didn’t always receive it on time it made people nervous. It was called bribery. If bribery wasn’t the right word for it, it was close enough. Especially since the king gave up the crown. He was a Boubon, and the Boubons were in charge for a very long time. Europeans understood Boubons, but they couldn’t understand why Ferdinand gave up without a fight. It raised questions, and the questions never went away. Like could the king ever be trusted again? Could he be forgiven? Some people seesawed back and forth, and were as unpredictable as the weather. Later all they could do was hope for the best. What more could they wish for from a person whose character was at best weak?

In any case, people wanted him back. Without restraint, there was delirium in Madrid when the king was restored … salvoes and fireworks, only his majesty didn’t like fireworks. It reminded him of a battlefield.

To just catch a glimpse of him … El Rey! God bless him! How many kings get a second chance? It was then, as now, almost unheard of. It required luck to survive long enough. Who else had enough? One caught a glimpse of him, and may have wondered. Yes, yes, it was good news … yes, yes, yes, too good to be true. He rode his great white horse, a rather dumpy, crafty looking character on a great stallion. He rode with one hand, and with his other hand raised high above his head. The crowd loved it. He was the old king. He was his old self. First came the handsome, well-polished carabiniers, then the cuirassiers, the hussars and the turbaned Turkish mamelouksm, and then him up the Gran Via. “Viva El Rey!” It was a sight to see.

Sticklers for etiquette, the Spaniards out did themselves that day. Something that didn’t go unnoticed. Here was the future, many of them said. Such an unforgettable sight. For many it was the happiest day of their lives. For many it was like a wedding; it was that festive; he was an ineptly timid Royal prick, yet they welcomed him. They yelled, “Viva El Rey!” Because they waited seven long years for him. So many years for him. It didn’t matter that his attitude stunk. It didn’t matter that he had an ugly face. Who noticed his rounded knees, his tubby figure, or heard his soft, delicate voice? So he was quite unintelligible. So he was dishonest, and a giggle often betrayed him.

Yes, indeed, it was nothing short of a miracle. In every sense of the word, a miracle! Curiously enough, with more thought they wouldn’t have thrown their capes in the air, or mantillas and flowers under his horse. Or fought for a look. Arrogant he seemed, and in every way arrogant he was. From such a superior individual it wasn’t unexpected, and if he hadn’t been arrogant he would’ve disappointed them. Having the advantage of riding a great horse, he looked down on his subjects and enjoyed their veneration. So he took full advantage of his royal status. For after all, he was their king, and he took full advantage of the power it granted him, power he neither earned nor deserved.

Neither was there much required of him. He didn’t have a brain. He didn’t even have to speak. There was no education called for or views expected. He didn’t read much. He didn’t need to do anything because he was already in the history books. There was no reason to expect brilliance, and no one expected him to be vital. He could be an old filthy man; it didn’t matter to the crowd.

The king had this moment. This moment was his destiny, his moment in the sun. He would remember it, how the people cheered for him. He looked regal, just as the crowd expected him to look. And just as he would look on many occasions, riding on his great horse or in his grand carriage. His people needed him, and amazingly enough they didn’t feel jilted after seven years. You can appreciate how they felt, after living under the thumb of a Frenchman for seven years. They had known tyranny. Ruthlessness was nothing new to them. They never thought that they were in for more of the same. For the moment, they weren’t thinking about the future.

However, they hadn’t expected cold, cruel scorn, and they didn’t consider Ferdinand a despot. ”Oh, my lord, grant them happiness for one day.” Oh, lord, he couldn’t be a tyrant. Then you must put your fears behind you. He couldn’t be worse than the Frenchman. If so, it was still better than living under the thumb of one. But don’t contradict yourself. You hate tyranny. Against all terrors of the past (for the majority, living memories) they weighed a new sense of hope. Moreover what did they have to lose? And he spoke Spanish. Make the king communicate and answer in Spanish. French would never due.

But in spite of the adoration and the pomp and circumstances, his Majesty couldn’t wait to get back to his billiards, draughts, and card games. Then he’d feel at home. And to him if he hurried he’d make mistakes. If urgent, it could wait. But back alone in his room, a mirror filled salon, reflecting velvets, brocades, satins, and dreams, doing absolutely nothing, he missed the wild, wild nights of exile. However what did he achieve in France? He could always say that he wasn’t allowed to achieve anything. His subjects watched and waited and described themselves in terms of their expectations.

`Would he take another wife, always something he had to lower himself to do? His union with Maria Antoineta, though prudent hadn’t been satisfying. Instead of a son, she gave him a miscarriage. (Little blood flowed. “The foetus was smaller than a grain of aniseed and the umbilical cord, as thin as a cobweb.”) She could do better than that, he thought. Was it the main thing? Could it have been him? Made her queen, and what did he get for it? Sex? Pleasure? He didn’t have to marry her for that. Oh, what a wretched deal! What was he dealing with here? Did he ever know the truth? That she considered him beastly and ugly? Could it be condensed down to that? Why she withheld herself, and why he delayed abolishing the People’s Cortes and Salic law so that his daughter Isabel could reign after him? But perhaps there were other reasons for his reluctance. Maybe he had a brain after all.

Once again, bleared-eyed, with his dressing gown hiked up, he got up from his mother’s privy, a canopied mahogany throne and straightened himself up on a red, velvet footstool, for after all he inherited his mother’s character. Was he really a despot? He could be generous. Of course, he was rich, and he hated despots. Remember kings weren’t judged by common standards. This king was a case in point. A cloud (he lived under many) that caused him great pain came from his plotting to kill his father. It was plain that he struggled with criminality as he plotted to overthrow his parents. On several occasions he went on to betray co-conspirators. He also connived with the troops and masterminded a revolt. In other words he triumphed through deceit. It wasn’t his finest hour. But when his mother accused him of being insensitive, didn’t she see herself in him?

Brooding, this king entered the Royal Pantheon alone. He walked down dark, narrow steps into the royal tombs to speak to the bones of kings and queens, bones buried in niches and broken in pieces and packed closely in order to fit. He had privileged access. He wanted it that way. In the middle of the night, he crept down there to listen and entered darkness to find light, or inspiration. This led to more intrigue. It never occurred to him, even later as the Supreme Inquisitor, that he was committing heresy, and that one day because of it he would be denied purgation.
And “for the good of the kingdom, he restored the tribunal and commissions, formed for the purpose of maintaining the nation and the faith according to ancient fashion and used his royal omnipotence to sentence his enemies to severe torture and death. Execution by manifesto, a Holy enterprise; or in grand style, and for lessor offences, petty indeed, exile to African presidios and convents.” Exile! Ah, the memories of exile!

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- THE LONG RIDE

  The Long Ride

by Randy Ford

To reassure herself on a hot day Pat told Sid to pack an energy bar and extra water. As she watched her husband get ready for a bicycle ride, she thought he looked so healthy and so strong. Even though he’d been involved in a few silly falls, she generally didn’t worry about him
“Why don’t you come along?” he asked. “I’ll let you lead.”

“No thanks, you go ahead,” she answered. There’d been a time she would’ve joined him. Many times she’d enjoyed riding with him.

Looking back on it, she remembered thinking something wasn’t quite right with him, and when he didn’t return within the hour he’d set, she began to worry. Indeed, had she’d known of the chest pains, she would’ve prevented him from going. She kept coming back to that.
And now what? Sid’s heart attack and death hit her hard. It happened when she wasn’t there, during a bicycle ride that she refused to go on. It struck without warning, or so she thought, because she never knew about the chest pains. Now she’ll have to live alone.

He died within sight of a summit and without anyone else around. She knew the view from there, a view that extended for miles and miles. Why did he have to spoil the view for her? She didn’t feel ready to go there to lay a wreath, build a shrine, nor do something else. To even go to her husband’s funeral was a struggle.

Well, around the house unable to stop crying she puttered and moped and avoided opening his side of the closet. She didn’t know yet what she’d do with his clothing. She tried not to think about it because it hurt too much. She tried to gather all the things around the house that reminded her of him and place them in his study. She didn’t know if she could give any of it away. She threw away a few things, which caused her great pain. All she could see ahead of her was a long dreary road. She didn’t know what she would do next, nor if she could get on a bicycle again. It was funny how she couldn’t follow her own advice and adopt a cat. It was way too soon, too soon for many things.

Feeling puny and putrid she didn’t feel like eating, and she listened for Sid’s voice…wanted to hear Sid’s voice. Ached and missed him more than anything. Yearned to feel his arms encircling her again and then cried. Broke down in the shower, broke down in the car, and when she cried it embarrassed her. Broke down when she suddenly found herself in the middle of an intersection too. She couldn’t help herself. And felt like she’d never be happy again. So she cleaned, cleaned the windows, clear and cleaned both porches, kept the bathroom sparkling, and pulled all the weeds in the yard. And as she worked herself to death, she kept recalling this and that about Sid. Oh, the memories. They were so painful.

There were days when she couldn’t get out of bed. Sometimes she couldn’t answer the door even for friends. She resented unsolicited advice or help. No one understood when everyone thought they did. Their assumptions were bull. It got where it didn’t make any difference who was around and who came and went. She just wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Die and be with Sid.

Be brave. Don’t cry. Jesus wept. According to the Bible, God saves our tears in a bottle. Talking to her son helped. And as he came around more, accepting the help became easier for her.

It was harder and lonelier at night. That was when she would listen for Sid’s voice. Barking dogs would irritate her. If only she could hear his voice and know he was there. Damn him! When she wasn’t paying attention, she burned herself on the stove. Horrors! She laughed about it.

Yet may she not still have a life, even after what she’s faced? Why did she need such a big house? What if she sold it? Each room held memories. Ah, sure, she loved the house, but why did she need so much room? But she didn’t move right away. Too soon for it too. .

So now what? From a catatonic, shattered state she began to emerge and began a search for a new beginning. As the fog began to lift, she began to see that she might have a future. Maybe she could get closer to her son and spend more time with grandchildren and friends.

Sid should’ve told her about his chest pains, so that they could’ve done something about them. But Pat knew that she couldn’t go back. That last morning they read books while they ate their breakfast, all absorbed, him about God and the universe and her about crime and mystery. When they spoke, it was about the news of the day. “But see!” She exclaimed, thinking about him. “See what happened to you!”

Now go in peace. It was all very private. Funny how she didn’t go riding with him! Peace! She knew that she needed to move down the road. Get on a bicycle again. Peace. Peace. Only she wished that there were a way to soften the blow.
But she knew that her life would be tougher and rougher without Sid. She’d just have to find her confront zone.

Randy Ford

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Judith Kerman Poet- ALEPH, BROKEN poems from my diaspora

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