Category Archives: Snapshots of history

Randy Ford Author- PIKES PEAK Revised


by Randy Ford

As for their old Studebaker, Jack would always miss it. When people talked about the Studebaker they talked about it’s sleek design and advanced technology. As a mechanic, Jack’s father knew cars. He knew which cars got the best gas mileage and which needed to be lubricated less often and chose a Studebaker for those reasons. The sound of its motor reassured him. He couldn’t see how it could be improved upon. In order words, he wouldn’t have to tinker with it much. He hated tinkering with his own cars. He disliked it, though his love of cars was incurable. So he bought a Champion Regal Deluxe, hoping he would never have to do anything to it.

When on one Sunday morning (the year was 1948) the urge to get behind the wheel got too strong for him and the rest of the family was in church, Jack stole his mother’s car keys and went for a spin. This for someone with sticky fingers wasn’t difficult. And his father had taught him to drive, and Jack considered himself an expert. Then too he thought he could get the car back to church before the service was over, and no one would ever know. And he knew a back road where he could see how fast she would go. Roll the window down, and turn the radio up full blast, and put his foot to the metal: this seemed simple enough. And as an exemplary son, he could get away with it because no one thought he was capable of it. .

He thought about racing down Main Street and out of town. But U.S. 40 was probably not the best choice. It had too many stoplights and was the main drag. But more than that, he didn’t want to get caught speeding, when he intended to speed. Otherwise he would’ve taken U.S. 40.

So not wanting to attract attention, he drove south through town. A Champion Regal Deluxe Studebaker was very hard to drive around without people noticing it. Knowing this Jack drove at a snail’s pace, but he couldn’t have thought that he’d get away with it. The little fart was taken to the woodshed for lesser crimes.

Careful, no speeding! A superior engine was his worse enemy. For luck he patted the dashboard. His parents never understood him, and with this in mind he could’ve kept going.

Once he got his hands on his mother’s keys, the rest was easy. Power, speed, a smooth ride was what a Studebaker was known for. The car had style, attitude, individuality, and uniqueness. It was the first one in town like it. His father had special ordered it. And he took a chance, forgot the time, and wrecked it. And all of his skill couldn’t keep him from losing control of the car and running it into a ditch and a barbwire fence. It hurt to think that he couldn’t control it. It didn’t make him feel any better to have to face his parents, having said this, there was very little damage to the Studebaker.

“Where’s Jack?” Their minister calmed his parent’s hysteria by asking the obvious. He knew at once who the culprit was. Jack e couldn’t get away with anything. It was impossible because father, who owned a gas station on the busiest intersection in town, was everyone’s friend. What was the worse thing that could happen? He could wreck his father’s pride and joy and, while he was getting too old to spank, spanking turned out to be unnecessary.

From the cradle, Jack had been taught right from wrong. He knew Christ. He confessed his sins, but that didn’t give him a pass at home.

When he was very young Jack already had an urge to get behind the wheel, and it didn’t help that his dad ate and slept cars. Then when he finally learned to drive, he didn’t get to drive as much as he liked. He assumed his father would give him a car, but it didn’t happen. His father thought he shouldn’t be handed a car but should have to buy one. It meant that he had to work. The idea of working wasn’t foreign to him since he grew up around a gas station, but the thought of getting stuck in one never sat well with him. In other words, he couldn’t wait. Besides, he knew it really would be a long time before he could buy a brand new Champion Regal Deluxe Studebaker.

Once he experienced the freedom he felt behind the wheel there was no stopping him. He found it impossible to stay in one place for very long. And he made no secret of it and ran away more than once. And while his parent fretted and worried, they soon learned that there was nothing they could do about it. He was truly a riddle. So what if he faced an uncertain future. What did it matter as long as he got to experience as much of the world as possible?

Sitting under an oak tree, Jack weighed his options. He knew what would happen to him if he went home and knew he’d be restricted. He anticipated it before he took the car. His parents were consistent, if not anything else. There was a particular look he knew, and when saw it he knew he’d get punished. He stood back and looked at the Studebaker and studied the scratches along its side. It was obvious that he was in trouble, and there was nothing he could do about it. He’d have to face his parents. He supposed it could be worse. He knew very well that it could be worse. He could’ve totaled the car and gotten seriously hurt. Yes, it could’ve been worse. But he wasn’t about to stick around and find out. He judged now that he needed to hurry.

Now Jack could run, and people were used to watching him run. There had been times in his life when he out ran everyone in his class, and he was in pretty good shape. He also knew all the alleyways and shortcuts, and he could pace himself so that he could run all day. And for his age, he managed himself pretty well. But at this point, he wasn’t thinking ahead. He just wanted to get out of town as fast as he could. He’d worry about essential stuff later.

Graduation was fast approaching, and would Jack graduate? Graduation, the day of truth, and Jack was throwing it away. Yes, but he was prepared to make it up later. And at the same time other kids were getting ready for the life ahead of them. And he’d have to graduate to be highly respected. With graduation coming he’d soon be on his own anyway. He could work for his father and had in the past. With summer coming he was pretty much assured a full-time job, but he had never been sure what he wanted to do. He considered his options and thought about the prospect of working for his father, with the idea at some point of taking over the gas station, but it didn’t appeal to him. He saw what it did to his father.

Jack kept running. He had a few dollars in pocket, money he earned pumping gas. But he knew it wasn’t enough. Then why didn’t he turn around right then? And there were more reasons for turning around than simply not having enough money. There was the matter of a girlfriend and the plans they’d made, but that didn’t mean a whole lot to him. Keeping a girlfriend happy was an added worry that he already decided he didn’t need. Some of his buddies were getting hitched right after graduation. Good for them, but they could have it, as far as he was concerned. The idea of getting married, having children and living happily ever after didn’t quite sound right to him.

Jack was more independent than most, so he was used to going out on his own. And he thought that many of his classmates didn’t know what they were doing, so they were getting married and that seemed like the worst thing they could do. A light bulb went off in his brain, and Errol Flynn came to mind. He already idolized Errol Flynn.

Now Errol Flynn didn’t belong to a class of people that most of us would’ve wanted to emulate. Now the movie star became Jack’s hero the moment a Spanish teacher talked about meeting the actor once on a freighter bound for Marseilles. This stuck with Jack. Here was a citizen of the world, someone engaged in careless living, with an enormous drive for sex and money. It didn’t matter to Jack that he was a drunk and a bum. Flynn traveled the world, and it didn’t seem to matter to him whether was on top or not. Jack watched all of his movies at least twice. He marveled over how Flynn rebelled against God and country. Making movies was always a side venture for him. But what Jack didn’t know was Errol had some will-o-the- wisp desire to please his mother. He tried to placate her as much as he could, while they continued a lifelong feud. Stress the word feud. Whenever they were together, it was like a tiger and a lion in a cage. She tried to control him and treated him like dope. In this respect, even as a grown man, she treated him like a child. So ”cheers mamma and damn you too!”

Flynn who had by then entered Jack’s psyche served as a model for the young man, but the idea that they didn’t have a rudder was totally false. The two of them were simply a different breed. And Jack owed his mother more than he was willing to admit.
Both men felt impatient. They were always in motion. No shilly-shallying. Both of them believed that all they needed was a good head start.

Errol made bank, played with confidence, and his luck was better than most. How much better was it to win money than earn it? So, in Manila, he rigged cockfights. The bets were high; the stakes, higher. He was loaded with dough and could afford to lose. You could say he was lucky. Who wouldn’t mind winning that kind of dough? And both of them … Errol and Jack … knew that it didn’t do any good to fight a bad streak.

Jack stopped running and regretted that he hadn’t said goodbye. It wouldn’t have been a simple matter, and maybe they would’ve been able to talk him out of it. The questions would remain unanswered for a very long time.

The sun told him that it was around noon and that church was just getting out. He didn’t know how long it would take them to realize that he and the car were missing. Then the police would be called, but the police wouldn’t immediately do anything. But how long would it take for them to find the car and put together a plausible explanation for his disappearance. All of that bought him a little more time.

Jack had never been obedient, so they figured he’d come home by suppertime. They hung on, thinking he’d show up before dark. And the call to police didn’t amount to much until they found the car. Everybody supposed that Jack would eventually show up. Ordinarily they would’ve been right. But they didn’t know Jack very well. They knew that he was impulsive and ate and slept Errol Flynn movies, just as his father ate and slept cars, but they didn’t know how obsessed he’d become over the urge to be somewhere else. It was though he was released from prison. They never suspected he was running for his life, as he avoided the highways and roads like a fugitive … relied on his senses … avoided open fields and set a course through the woods. And when he heard a brook and said, “At least, I won’t die of thirst.” Well, there he was without food. It was then that he decided to condition himself by going without food for a week.

Some of his other ideas were more conventional. What else would you expect from someone determined to shake the dust off his feet? Shouldn’t he have followed the advice of his teachers, graduated and enjoyed commencement? If he wanted to impress someone, he would’ve gone a different direction. But there was no danger of him doing that. The last thing he’d do was try to impress someone. He had enough to worry about. If he stopped for moment to think, he would’ve been frightened, but he got pretty good at looking out for himself. And he wasn’t afraid to ask for help. Then if he knew he couldn’t do something, he simply wouldn’t try.

Two long days with nothing to eat, but wild berries … power of mind over body! But he couldn’t get his mind off food.

Since he hadn’t planned, he told himself that he didn’t believe in planning. He didn’t have a compass or a map, so he quickly gave up the idea of getting lost. And he never did, and never would. But something had to happen or else he would starve. He could get sick of course, but that was out of the question. He was never sick in his life, if you didn’t count the measles, the mumps, and the earaches he got as a young child, the normal things kids got before there were shots. So getting sick was one less thing he had to worry about.

So who doesn’t like fried chicken, smoked ham and potato salad like mamma makes? A spread that none of us ever forgot? Mamma’s chicken loaf … mash potatoes and white gravy and mamma’s chicken loaf. And the thought of never tasting mamma’s chicken loaf again made him want to run home. For he always loved his mother’s chicken loaf, ate and slept his mother’s chicken loaf, just as his father ate and slept cars. And at the same time he learned to sleep on the ground. He didn’t have a sleeping bag or any kind of patting and soon had chigger bites all over him. And there was but one person in the world who could fry chicken right and for whom chicken loaf was a specialty and that was his mother. But she didn’t raise a baby, and since she didn’t raise a baby he didn’t see any reason why he should turn back. But he already missed her, and missed his dad and sister too. This surprised him more than he ever imagined it would. For the first time he felt fortunate to have the mamma he had. Although it wasn’t enough to make him turn around, he craved her cooking.

All day long Jack marched along. He cautiously circled fields recently planted in corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, fields yielding a precarious living, and fields passed from generation to generation. Hay, cows, and horses, staying out of the fields, away from farmhouses, and as much as possible staying in the woods, Jack, never one to complain, thought about making a hog of himself. His stomach hurt, as he thought about making a hog himself, and took it for punishment. He deserved it, he told himself. It was harder than he ever imagined. He never experienced such desolation, and it was a lesson he never forgot.

From Richmond, an inner compass guided Jack to the Ohio River. Before he left them he was tired of the woods, though he appreciated the landscape. He took time to study everything, as if he were reluctant to let go and, without realizing it, was preparing to leave a landscape he loved … a landscape he knew all of his life. He noticed the little changes, the little things and the open expansions … the colors and smells, the color of clay, the sweetness of alfalfa, and the smell of silage. He would miss the fields of corn, soybeans, and wheat, the round hay bales, and most all the barns and silos. There was so much he would miss. Shooting the breeze with idlers at his daddy’s gas station and eating out at the Oasis Diner were still things that were sacred to him.

Only a week in the woods, but it seemed like a year. A farmer with a rifle and a fishing lantern surprised him as he was trying to sleep. Jack had to think fast. He didn’t want to get shot. “Damn!”

“What are doing out here? I could shoot you for trespassing?”

“I’m camping. I’m by myself.”

“By yourself?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Without a tent? Without any gear?”

“Yes, sir. I’m a Eagle Scout.”

“And I’m Daniel Boone. Now son …”

“I’m not joshing you. I’m an Eagle …”

“Eagle Scout? And you’re truthful, loyal, helpful …”


“Never mind.”

“On a survival course. So do you mind?”

“You from around here?”


“I don’t think so, but …

And of course the farmer saw through Jack. Yes, and probably because Jack wasn’t the first … nor the last … boy he saw on the road. There was no telling, but there was a good chance that the farmer, had he wanted to, could’ve told a few stories of his own. And some of them true. Something they had in common. Memories that lasted a lifetime. Tales so harrowing that they would raise the hair on the back of your head. About the west, wild Indians and wild animals. Notions about cowboys, about drunk cowboys, about singing cowboys. Cowboys in general who shot up towns for the fun of it. About mad dogs, windmills, and weather vanes. About the difference between the truth and a lie and how to keep the two straight.

“So long,” the farmer said. “I hope you have a good trip.”

And that was when Jack knew that the farmer knew that he wasn’t an Eagle Scout, and not even close to being one. But it never occurred to him that the farmer could’ve given him a few tips. And suddenly he began to wonder how in the hell he got where he was and started feeling sorry for himself. It was like he hadn’t learned anything. Every night was that way. Was he stupid or what? He wasn’t sure. And it kept happening over and over. Then something would happen, like it did that night when the farmer instead of shooting him returned with a plate of warmed-over leftovers. So it happened almost every time he began feeling sorry for himself. And those leftovers tasted better than his mamma’s chicken loaf ever did. The farmer also suggested that “roughing” it in his barn was probably more comfortable than “roughing” it in the woods. “And just in case it gets too rough I’ll leave the screen door to my porch unlocked.”

The barn was built so that the prevailing wind blew across the threshing floor. Jack never took it into account, and the creaking and the flapping, and the worrying made for a restless night. And as the night progressed, Jack felt more and more uncomfortable. He imagined the farmer getting on the telephone. It would only take one phone call. He knew by then that they were looking for him, because his mother would be worried and his dad wouldn’t stop searching for him. A search then meant involving the State Police. So he didn’t wait for the sun to come up.

Jack refused to backtrack and along the way learned many things. He thought he would hitchhike and learned how to choose a ride by making mistakes. There were some rides that he wished he hadn’t taken and there were some rides that he wished he hadn’t refused. There were no rules, or if there were he hadn’t learned them yet. He never knew what he’d run into. It was always a risk, but he thought it was a manageable one.

They circled back and passed him twice. You never know. He suspected they were okay because they were girls. Girls! Oh, goodness me. And they were stopping for him. Jack was thankful. It had to be his lucky day.

They liked to party. And they pretended they had nothing to lose but their virginity, which came about easily enough. With nearly a full bottle of Schenley left, they sang, “As Sunny says, praises to the quality whiskey that wins your favor, try Schenley’s sunny morning flavor.” Needless to say, the kind of girls these girls were was obvious.

As they drove by him the first time in their new, blue Mercury convertible, Jack heard the girls over the motor sing, “Sun shining, surely one little drive in the country won’t do us in” and he smiled. They were in the mood for love! Now they shouldn’t have picked him up. They didn’t know him. In those days it wasn’t proper, but girls were all different, though in some ways they were all alike. Girls that age were boy crazy, and they probably figured that there was safety in numbers. With four of them, he had his hands full, but what did he care: they didn’t know him, and because of this it didn’t matter. Driving along he soon learned that they were hot. This was not something he complained about, but it turned out that they were more he could handle. Hellzapoppin’, they were already bombed and bored and aimed to skip school. He was keen at first, and they were peachy keen, and oh-so peachy keen, and took a sportsman’s aim at getting laid. There were no Paris pin-ups in Indiana, and very few in America, but flaming red hair drove the young man mad.

Jack saw his last apple and banana in Richmond. How many days had it been since he said goodbye to Richmond? He asked himself that, as he eyed the girls’ sack lunches. For a second or two, in the back seat between two babes, he tried to contain himself. Then as the speedster drove down the center of the highway, Jack tried not to look. He liked where he was but tried not to look. Then something occurred that he’d never forget.

He preferred not to talk about it. It can be imagined what affect it had on a young boy not out of high school when she placed her hand on the inside of his thigh and slowly inched it up. And he pretended he didn’t notice. Later it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But hellzapoppin’, it sure was then when his zipper felt like it was popping open.

Why wait for introductions? And in spite of him smelling and not having a shower since Richmond … and yes needing a shave … the girls wanted to kiss him. And French kiss him too. Now he wasn’t particularly a good kisser. He hadn’t had much practice and believed that everyone along way was a better kisser than he was. And those girls seemed experienced sure enough. He had not seen such a wild bunch. The driver was the prettiest, he guessed, in the whole world, he reckoned, and he didn’t know just how pretty she was until she exchanged places with one of the girls in the back. Until then he didn’t know.

They all took turns before he escaped. And it wasn’t only kissing but exploring, as though they’d never get an opportunity like this again. There was intensity in the clutching. He went further with them than he ever went before. Each offered him something different, and he put his hands in places he never dared before. And he hadn’t the opportunity to brush his teeth, and they didn’t seem to care. .

So much for principles. Such was temptation. One of them even had a class ring around her neck. It wasn’t only the girls but the sacks also grabbed his attention. There were apples and sandwiches in those lunches. He immediately eyed them. He would’ve done almost anything to get his hands on them, and they interested him almost as much as the girls.

They offered him a swig, and it didn’t make sense that they picked him up. They were absolutely crazy, or acted like they were, but his hunger was overpowering. Later he would ask for what he wanted but first he had to overcome his Hoosier pride. The best approached was a direct one, but he hadn’t learned it yet. He played along, and you can’t say he didn’t enjoy it, but he kept his eye on the sack lunches the whole time, which was hard considering what they were doing. The best approach seemed to be an indirect one; but it wouldn’t have been easy. Since they should’ve been in school and shouldn’t have had anything to do with him, they should’ve treated him like poison ivy. This experience was new for all them. Only they never let him know it. It didn’t matter to them because they knew they wouldn’t see him again.

There were so many ways that this could’ve gone. On his home tuff he would’ve known what to do. He would be in charge, instead of the other way around. You shave and comb your hair. You want to make a good impression. You would know that they had steady boyfriends. They were dressed for school, but if they were schoolgirls would they French kiss a dirty stranger? They were barely old enough to drive. If he thought about it, Jack wouldn’t have accepted the ride.

So Jack dove into map-less territory. Some ten minutes later and ten miles down the road, the girls exchanged places again. They took him for a ride, played stupid 1948 games, of flirt and tease. He didn’t care. He was in heaven. Between kisses, they joked and laughed and fooled around. He didn’t know that they weren’t bad kids. It was fine. It was nice, but he was too hungry to take full advantage of them.

Instead he helped himself to their sack lunches. And why shouldn’t he? No sense in feeling guilty. They used him, and he took their lunches. Turn about was fair play. They left him alone in the car when they went to the restroom. That was their mistake. Then when they returned and he wasn’t there and they never gave him a second thought.

And he soon found himself on the banks of the Ohio River. It was Sunday because as he approached a landing he heard a church choir singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” It instantly reminded him of home. “Umph!” He still didn’t feel drawn back there. Every town had at least one church, and he avoided them as best he could. Now he was confronted with a whole congregation. Some them were shouting rather than singing. Shouting Methodist!

He wasn’t opposed to the church. It just bored the hell out him. Now it seemed like everybody in town was down by the riverside, and they spotted him. Jack grew up going to church twice on Sunday and on Wednesday nights. And he went along because he didn’t have a choice. And since it wasn’t on the top of his list, he now didn’t care rather he got involved or not. He liked the music but didn’t care for the persuasion.

The converts stood in line waiting their turn in waist-deep water. They seemed to think that the best water for baptism flowed down the Ohio. It wasn’t as muddy as the Mississippi. The minister dunked one about every minute. In the course of a day it meant he baptized a great many people, but just how many of them knew the meaning of their baptism? The scene reminded him of his own salvation and his guaranteed ticket to heaven. He had a pass and was thankful. The good news was that he could sin and still go. Go to a camp meeting or a Revival, and see for yourself. It was a joyful drama.

Sure enough the best water for baptism flowed down the Ohio. There were many reasons for shouting, both in English and in tongues. It was irresistible. But Jack was a backslider, and maybe the trouble was, why he didn’t turn right when he should’ve turned left was that he was afraid of what he’d face.

The water beside the landing wasn’t very deep, and since Jack needed a bath he waded in and splashed about. The preacher was taken aback. He was a gigantic man in a black-and-white gown and shouldn’t have been bothered. Jack never thought ahead. He acted on impulse, and wasn’t out to steal the show but did on this occasion. And among the things he did was holler “see the Glory-gate unbarred!” He couldn’t remember when he had so much fun. Thus it was that on that Sunday morning that something strange and wonderful happened, and perhaps it was a first for all of them. All of them believed in miracles, and all of them believed in the power of baptism … though they may not have known the meaning of it, and here was Jack splashing about.

Their reactions ranged from horror to jubilance. Digesting it didn’t happen immediately. Yet each of them was transformed in some way, and that was a miracle. At the same time Jack regarded it all as nonsense until he ended the day at a potluck supper.

The next day Jack wanted to get an early start and put as many miles between him and home as possible. He aimed for New Orleans. After the experiences he had so far, he didn’t give a damn anymore. This attitude felt good. This kind of life agreed with him. He liked it. Beyond that he’d have to wait and see.

The towboat slowly pulled away. He’d have to decide, decide to jump or miss a chance. He was over-interested in the river and towboats, and had been for a long time. Now he had the opportunity of a lifetime and almost missed it. When he finally jumped, and for the second time in two days, he landed in the water. He hadn’t intended to land in the water, but now he found himself having to swim. So much for gracefulness, but he caught someone’s attention. And it was a good thing too.

It was strange how they took Jack in, how the lady threw him a rope and hadn’t let him drown. Then there was the captain, who gave him a job in exchange for meals and comfortable quarters. He exemplified Wesleyanism. Jack felt so blue and miserable when she pulled him out of the water, and they gave him dry clothes. That got to him.

Jack had no money but intended to hitch a ride on a towboat. At first he felt uneasy and suspicious, but he knew he committed himself. He accepted the captain’s terms, and the terms weren’t bad. But why? ”Because,” said the lady, “he’s like that.”

But what about the pretty young lady? He never expected to find anyone like her working on a towboat, doing a man’s job and doing it well. How could she stand the smell of bilge, tar, and fertilizer and work so hard? Jack couldn’t understand why she wasn’t married to the skipper. Married! ”Nonsense,” said Jack’s new friend. ”You don’t understand. Marriage can be murder and children the penalty. Now, let me introduce you to modern thinking.”

The skipper caught them together, and the lady immediately stopped talking. He was a gallant figure and old enough to be her father. What thoughtfulness! The opposite of what you would’ve thought, but it would’ve been a mistake to misinterpret his thoughtfulness. You knew that it didn’t pay to mess with him. And if Jack had he wouldn’t have succeeded. Indeed, Jack never met a nicer man. But because of him the Ohio lost some of its romance. Nonsense! Jack expected something else and felt disappointed. Still what a man the skipper was. Made of granite, while he subjugated himself to the great rivers, silently as they moved along.

It was not unlike the skipper that he hardly said a word at the supper table. Taciturn had always been his nature, but under the gentleness there had to be a hard drinking river rat.

Jack was totally fooled. He would remember a gigantic man, a man who seemed the opposite of the stereotype. A man who gave Jack a chance when he didn’t deserve one. A man who was the opposite of the two-fisted, red-blooded, rowdy person he should’ve been. And without being half horse, half alligator, someone who could out-run, out-dance, out-jump, out-dive, out-drink, out-holler, and out-lick anybody, who ran a tight ship. Instead he had to adjust. Channeling of the rivers and the modern, diesel engine changed everything. Gone were rough and tough pole men, who had to be tough to survive. First danger on the river produced courageous men. They were strong, and privation made them resourceful. Still Jack was lucky that those days were gone. Not that he would agree.

On the long journey down the Mississippi, he spent a great deal of time just watching. He spent a lot of time sitting on the bow. He didn’t give anyone any trouble. It was so easy to let the day go by without doing anything until it became monotonous. That got him motivated. Nobody was paying attention to him when he took an interest in what kept the towboat humming.

One doesn’t have to be sensitive to learn something about towing – just observant, that was all. And if Jack hadn’t wanted to learn it would’ve been acceptable, but he couldn’t stand being bored. And he wanted to earn his way, so he helped out where and when he could. The place to start was with the lady of the towboat. She stayed busy all the time. Jack helped her with her numerous tasks, and he jumped each time she said to.

The captain sang and smiled and never gave an order nor suggested that Jack do anything. Our boy liked to coil rope, and he coiled it until he could coil it without thinking. Liked to help the cook and take the pilot chicory. He tackled all kinds of things. And he did things without being told and did things before people thought he could do them, and did it while watching for the slightest frown from anyone. To put it plainly, he tried to become indispensable. And as he became more indispensable, his duties became more critical. There was nothing he wouldn’t try, which was why he was given more responsibility. There were important things such as poking a flashlight into a little hole so that the engineer could fix a deck valve. Or help deckhands re-lash the tow. One day they let him tie up so that some of the gang could go duck hunting. He learned how to handle rope fenders and mooring lines during storms. The skipper even let him pull the engine levers, causing the diesels to throb and the towboat go faster.

With or without an education, many young men would’ve been happy with $275 a month including room and board and would’ve happily spent their lives living a dream. But not Jack. He had other ideas, and, as we see, a determined constitution.

While tied to a mooring and waiting for a load, the barge lady thought that she needed a break and that they should go tom-catting in a nearby town. “Raise some hell. It’ll do us some good.” Time to buy a Stetson and a pair of box-toed shoes. Jack planned to dance and showoff in front of girls. To him life didn’t get any better.

The towboat lady wanted to show him a good time but felt that she needed to watch over him like a hawk. Happily, she demonstrated that she could do without sleep, and she checked out each bar and acted like she was looking for a fight. She fought and swore, and never fought to lose and always won. She was a big girl, only little girls came home in tears. It was one thing Jack remembered very clearly … the one thing that stood out. Other things he couldn’t figure out. He never met anyone like her. He knew that he couldn’t force her to do anything that she didn’t want to do. And in many ways they were equal, except she was fucking nuts.

The lady leaned on the bar and yelled, “Set me up with a black eye or another set of teeth, please!” Then she swung first.

“By golly, gracious me! The bitch landed a good one!”

And there was Jack, who after only the slightest hesitation and totally drunk, defending the lady. This was a colossal mistake.

“The idiot,” thought the lady with approval, even affection, as she watched Jack hurl himself in front of her. She then popped the guy before he could hit her. Already known as a troublemaker (a compliment) the lady faced the dilemma of worrying about someone else more than she worried about herself. She hated feeling motherly. Cursing, she threw her arms around Jack and carried him out into the street. Somehow some of the men thought it was funny but didn’t smile. Behind her, instead of snickers, she heard smashing glass.

Jack was humiliated and hurt all over. Upset, he cried because the towboat lady saw his downfall. What made it worse was that he no longer trusted his instincts. The towboat lady surprised him. How could she be a Christian? And she said she was a Methodist. It seemed like she gave him permission to have thoughts about her that were immoral.

They hurried to the towboat where everyone was asleep and where to follow her to her quarters was dangerous. Right in front of his eyes she changed. He never forgot how much she changed … how she loosened her hair and pulled him to her. He felt her breast heave, as she gave him a wet kiss. Forgetting the preliminaries, he heard himself say, “What the hell!” And naturally wondered what his old friends would think. He never met anyone like her and figured he never would again.

A real buck-a-roo! Here was Jack, a hell seeker, cavorting with a rough Christian siren. Jack had but one thing on his mind, and she didn’t object. But naturally he worried about how well he performed and whether he satisfied her. It was as if he had a stick shift and she, an automatic transmission, and it wasn’t long before he felt like an asshole. But hell he couldn’t help it that the lady fell for him. Not content with viewing himself as an asshole, he said, “We could get married.” When in doubt, you could always get married. And he grew up thinking that marriages were made to last, but she came from a different world and considered the tryst an interesting triumph. Bragging to the boys, she said, “He’s cute” and something about having to draw him a diagram. A spitfire, she was salty. In those days no one referred to her in terms of her pussy for she earned the respect of the boys by referring to their dicks.

The towboat now pushed additional barges of grain and gravel toward New Orleans. Getting there still required sweat and tears. Rather than fool themselves about taming the river, men were happy enough to go with the flow. Jack proved himself and made friends with the crew; so when they reached New Orleans some of them gave him their addresses, where they had wives, kids and yards. He knew little about them though.

Saying goodbye took him a while because for a while he lived a dream. Saying goodbye to the crew was like saying goodbye to a family, and saying good-bye to his family was something he failed to do. As an only son, he gained a second father and would’ve been satisfied running the river for the rest of his life. It’d been a dream since Jack first heard of the Mississippi. There were memories of the river that he never forgot. And Jack clung to these experiences, as if his life depended on it: to the heavy fog and swift water, the blinding rainstorms and lazy bends. He took with him more than he hoped for then, a reason in itself for living.

He especially remembered the towboat lady: “Fasten your seat belt, and get ready for the ride of your life.” Oh, yes, everybody knew it by then. Didn’t she remind him of Betty Davis? ”A good spanking was too frivolous.” Thinking of her made him crave for more, and Jack smiled every time he thought of her. With a voice pitched between a taunt and a whine and obtruding eyeballs, she was no counterfeit, and Jack was amazed that sex never softened her. In comparison he was a pussycat. As often as she wanted she had her way with him.

The few dollars Jack saved gave him a few days in New Orleans. He saw the sights, watched people, got drunk, and went through his money. He loved the city from Bourbon Street to Congo Square and did as he pleased. Seduced by the crowds, pulled off the streets by the jazz and peep shows, the honkytonks and beer joints, he set out to prove that he was a man and couldn’t escape that he was still a kid. There were the stripping blondes and gyrating brunettes named Cup Cake and Tinkerbell. Taking it all in, he rode up and down Canal Street, caught a street car named Cemeteries, got off, ate red beans and rice, added smoked sausage and all for a buck. He tried to talk to the bouncy lady at the counter. Never got beyond a smile and “hi darlin’.” Starving as much for conversation as for pork chops. Didn’t think he’d like collards. He learned to talk to strangers, people who told Jack about high stepping and strutting. Poor Jack, he kept thinking about Betty Davis. Found the place where the pirate Jean Lafayette plotted to rescue Napoleon from the Island of St. Helena. Learned to love and eat chilled, salty Louisiana oysters.

Sex pumped him up. Constant foraging which verged on theft, promiscuity and a taste for wicked women, these experiences were new and different. Letting impulse guide him, he achieved with strangers a degree intimacy that he never enjoyed before. But Jack saw the dangers of having too much freedom.

No, not all of us have strayed into a Y without knowing anyone there. You know the YMCA and the good times that can be had there. Jack stayed the maximum time; but he wouldn’t have stayed so long had he not picked up an old, worn, dog-eared copy of Wendell Willkie’s ONE WORLD. Willkie also came from Indiana. ONE WORLD, a dollar book, sold a million copies faster than any none-fiction work ever had. Willkie loved bantering and loved long bull sessions. He was a politically inexperienced lightweight who ran for president. Willkie took a trip around the world, disregarding protocol by cracking stale American jokes and slapping the Shah, the King of Kings, on the back. Everybody loved it. He flirted with Madame Chiang Kai-Shek who flirted back, and became cozy with her husband. As for Madame Chaing Kai-Shek, Willkie said it was the only time he was in love.

He misunderstood, or misrepresented in his book, the truth about the Generalissimo’s army and said Chiang was fighting “truly a people’s war.” Jack didn’t know that Willkie’s dream of a New World order had already been damaged by Mao Tse-tung.. And Burma was falling apart. The Communist plan, laid down in 1920, was to create Communist governments in all of the colonies of the world. And about then McArthur declared, “I will defend Korea as I would my own country, just as I would California.”
Do you think Jack knew about the evils of the great agrarian awakening? Or about an international proletarian conspiracy? Willkie’s vision was perhaps best depicted in World War II movies, where the Brooklyn Jew, the Indiana farm boy, the Italian from Chicago, and the Polish emigrant from San Francisco all pull together to defeat the Nazis. And who knew who lost China? Or who allowed Manchuria to be turned into a hell? “Give General Cheng a stout rope and he’ll hang himself.” His obituary should’ve read, “Trust us, arm us and we shall fight the Communist bandits.” Lying in a grubby room at the Y, not far from the French Quarter, how could Jack have felt the blows amid the shouts of “Get down!” “Get down!” and “Free speech!” “Free speech!” or understood the havoc those words caused in China? He couldn’t have heard wicked bandits sing their bitter songs.

“Some say we’re Communist raiders.”

“Old Chiang, old Chiang, we feel sorry for you.”

With the possibility of becoming a river pilot, and maybe a skipper, why would he want to move on? He had to consider every opportunity. Accordingly, a particular bend, where the Mississippi was so majestic, spoke to Jack in a way that he could never explain. So there he sat for hours, sad and adrift, trying to make up his mind. Hadn’t he already made it up? It took him several days to turn away from the river.

Which way to go from there? Without much drive, he turned to the west. It was the West that first lured him away from home (a more palatable idea than being driven away). It was the West that would, perhaps, cure his sadness. The West where his passions would find expression. It was the West that was big enough for him to lose himself.

From New Orleans, Jack hopped a freight train heading west. His face got very dirty and was covered by a partial beard. He grabbed boxcar doors or ladders and swung himself up. Often challenged by railroad dicks yelling, “Where you goin’ boy?” “To the dogs, you fool!” became a pat answer, and it seemed to be what they wanted to hear. Often he shared a car with a bunch of bums who never worried about having a frying pan or nothing. His plan led him through Texas.

He learned to worry about nothing, except sometimes shacking up with a goddamn woman without protection, which seemed a hell-of-a-lot better than with it. It sounded good, but there were customs and attitudes that he knew nothing about. While Jack wanted to know about everything, he soon learned that he could get into trouble because he didn’t know something. He couldn’t escape every time … everything. How about hominy and grits or getting arrested with a gun? How about those guys who wear tin stars and are known as bulls? Some were natural-born, and some were not. And after bouncing an inch or so off splintery floors for days at a time, he was less inclined to worry about shades of difference. He tended to think that it really didn’t matter about most things. For smoother rides, he looked for gondolas or flat cars and was glad it wasn’t winter.

Summer had truly come, and he couldn’t drink enough water and roasted. Drank from Clorax bottles and roasted. No substitute for water except for a fifty-cent-wine drunk with fucked-up tramps, and when the heat and the wine burned them from inside out. Shirts did no good. When he was hungry, Jack ate almost anything. But it wasn’t hunger that dogged him the most. His good looks helped with that. It was the high incidents of accidents that plagued him more. So Jack learned about hard knocks the hard way. He learned that tramping was no snap, but still riding the rails got into his blood. It got where he didn’t want to stop, where he had to keep going; and where he didn’t give a shit where he was going as long as he was going because the things he was running from totally disappeared from view.

Friends on the road ate out of cans and heated beans on coals until they bubbled. They carried everything with them, frying pans, oleo, and eggs, except food never kept. So there was little waste and little to wash up. The only problem was that it made them feel righteous about how little they had. Jack liked listening to them talk, talk mainly about themselves. A want-to-be, he assured them that he wasn’t Jesus Christ. This surprised them because he looked like a choirboy or a Bible thumper. For sure he wasn’t telling the goddamn truth about being an atheist. When he paid lip service to something, his listeners seemed sympathetic. All of them sat around shooting the shit and acknowledged each other with nods.

Painfully away from a daughter and grandchildren (too ashamed to look them up), Tex called boxcars home. He was crossing his native state, close to home. As a vagrant, he felt guilty as charged. This should’ve satisfied him greatly; and Jack saw that perhaps it did. But instead of boots, the old cowboy wore worn-out shoes. And he had nothing to prove that he once rode the rodeo circuit but healed breaks that still gave him fits when it turned wet and cold. More and more it hurt him.

Jack didn’t know then just how close to the end of the road Tex was. At one time he was a successful horse wrangler, a character familiar to those who go to the movies and recognized as the ranch foreman, a person admired for his independence and detachment. But Tex left the ranch behind after a bitter divorce. Sad and bitter, he never picked himself up again and expected to die a lonely death, lonely and meaningless. After he experienced a breakdown, drunken wanderings, drunken moments, drunken memories of drinking, drinking half-serious and half staged on wobbling legs, Tex often spilt his whiskey.

Imagine Tex fighting an Apache with a rifle aimed at him. And he dives for cover. Then at the same time the tall cowboy spirals into a personal hell and feels bankrupt. No one can save him. Here was Jack’s West, a parody of the Western, where one man withstands the compulsion to shoot himself or stands in the line of fire of an Apache. Perhaps Tex was still waiting for the cavalry: Jack never knew.

Here was one man’s struggle made worse by the life he lived. Tex was a bum and had been most of his life. Still he lived by a code that came out of the frontier, a code that demanded that he stand tall and not sink into self-pity. But he still felt in his bones the barren and savage terrain, and was preoccupied with a dream of someday being taken seriously.

Tex, the same as Jack, always looked for a chance to break free. It was not hard for him to see himself as a lone rider, astride his horse, followed by a pack-pony trotting to keep up. He lost his bearings more than once. With his help, Jack entered into a labyrinth of rocks and saw the Apache. He got off his horse. Naturally he had a gun in his hand and got off the first shot. But in reality Jack couldn’t or wouldn’t shoot an Indian; while he was so keenly absorbed in speculation over rather he would or not, he missed a section of the film that would’ve shaped his destiny.

Jack began to think for while t that he had no guts. This was bound to get him into trouble. It took guts to do most things, and it took more guts than most people had to ride the rails. Sitting close to Tex, sitting close enough to touch him, he asked, “Have you ever shot anyone?”

“No my friend, I only carry a pocketknife.”

A pocketknife, a handy tool. There were many more things you could do with a pocketknife than a gun. If you had to choose between a gun and pocketknife, Jack saw why Tex chose a knife. But the legacy of frontiersmen included packing a gun. There were times when Jack wished he had one.

The bond between the two grew stronger. They had plenty of time to get to know each other, but Jack wanted to see the countryside, and Tex had been across there many times. Their ways had cross. Now they were beginning to feel responsible for each other. Jack listened while the old man, with only a few words, made a frontal attack on society. He wasn’t trying to convince Jack, but he was convincing. As often as he could he tried to include theory and chivalry. He said, ”The highest good can be a source of evil, and too often the hero dies an irrational death.”

Gone were the easy answers. “Idealism suffers in the face of evil,” or “we’re all lost.” “Sheriffs have to carry long rifles.” “And heroes are roped and dragged through fire.” But what did any of it have to do with Jack? Yet he knew exactly what Tex was talking about. The heat, the oppressive heat. The loneliness, the frightening loneliness. There were times when he succumbed to heat and loneliness, and that was why he always talked to people he met.

Now Jack sat in the open door of a boxcar, with the familiar click-clack, as he soaked up Texas. Now that may be hard to do, but he gave it a try. Never before had he experienced such an open and rugged landscape. Where buffalo roamed, he saw himself becoming a cowpuncher. And then a prospector. A man can’t pull a donkey if a donkey don’t want to move. Man against beast and lost on the plains with only a pocketknife, but no that was wrong. He never felt lost. Perhaps you may be like Jack and been on a great adventure and had time to ponder the vicissitudes of your fate.

“I’m mind of when I wuz young an’ roamed whar mountains riz on high,

An’ grassy prairies spread fur-wide a-neath a clean sky….

I’d nary care, nor tho’ it o’ fear, when youth wuz in my eye….”

How Tex sung, and Jack saw mist in his eyes. Fancy a life of roamin’ whar mountains riz on high and dreams of grassy prairies spread fur-wide a-neath a clean sky. But how big a lie was I’d nary care? Nor tho’ it o’ fear? Was youth ever in his eye? So much for raising hell!

Tex caught rodeo fever, which carried off many a good cowhand. He never won more enough than what it cost him for entry fees, travel expenses, and grub, but he couldn’t stop. So consequently he lost his wife. Thought he’d never give up bulldogging. “Yep,” he said, “for ten years I lived my life with most of my bones cracked or broken. Naturally Maggie didn’t like it. Shouldn’t she have understood?” Here his voice trailed off. Why hadn’t the pain vanished? He missed his kid and missed seeing his grandchildren. His kid was no longer a kid; still he missed him. Once or twice he sneaked up to front of the old ranch house at night, as close as he dared git, hopin’ a horse’s whinny wouldn’t give him away. “From another time until it was too late,” he said.

During uncertain times, he relived his errors, but it didn’t mean that he vacillated at all. He paid a heavy price, but it no longer mattered. He shared the only picture he had of his wife and kid and remembered the day it was taken. A look at a three quarter moon through a cracked window, when it was impossible to make love: that craziness, still not deciphered, occurred at a ranch in south Texas, where civilization only existed at the end of a long ride. It had its roots in endless isolation. O, bitter was his sorrow. One discovers too late what is important. Not until a love has been crushed does it come home. Still he said he wouldn’t have done anything different.

On the rodeo circuit, Tex chased every skirt he could afford, but he left at home the woman he loved most. At the same time he said he left her to find happiness. Yet he was always happy to get home, and through big, salty tears, he always apologized. Then from those he wronged, he sought benefits.

“Y’u know,” he sung. “How it is. The sanctity of marriage, and how Maggie was … But ‘pears they helt a quarlin’ spree, which haulted their romance; and jealous Maggie figgered she’d humble Tex, first chance! He that followed every rodeo skirt that he could corral. He’d hug ‘em an’ kiss ‘em. Yep! They’d kiss him right back. So, wa-a-l, y’u know the rest.”

A jealous Maggie was what he often had to contend with. Now there were a few joyful moments still. And it didn’t mean it happened all of a sudden either. If he’d seen it coming he might’ve been able to do something about it. It? A cold chill that settled in the ranch house proper when he was gone. It never warmed up after that. Let’s say he chose something different, and it confused him. He diligently tried to find what he lost and never found it. And he never came up with a satisfactory explanation to why he didn’t.

That was the reason Tex gave for drinking so much Black Velvet. Divorce. Jack, just like Tex, betrayed people who loved him most. He, just like Tex, was bothered by it. But very soon, both of them got arrested and detained for something else. It seemed a great injustice and gave Jack an excuse to run some more. Now you might think that he didn’t need an excuse, but by then he was getting pretty tired of the road. In addition, he needed a reason, and until then he didn’t have one. Up until then he never considered himself a criminal or a vagrant. Yet he and Tex got themselves arrested. It was simpler afterwards because he then had a record. Having a record, it seemed, gave him an excuse. It even carried with it a little prestige in certain quarters but certainly wouldn’t have pleased his parents. And there was something else he needed to prove, and that something was that he was quite capable of taking care of himself, or if he got himself in trouble, he could get himself out of it.

They found no mercy in a tiny west Texas jail. Held for a night behind bars Jack felt rage and expressed his rage in a way that only made it worse for him. He tapped a reservoir of anger that built up rather quickly after watching the arresting bull beat the hell out of Tex. The son-of-a-bitch picked on a weak, shaky, old man, a fellow Texan whom Jack had grown to like. The bull got madder and meaner with each blow. The son-of-a-bitch tried to kill the old man, as the train pulled away, making it impossible for Jack to escape. As the bull’s face turned red, Tex grew pale. While Jack stood nearby and did nothing, fury kindled laughter. The bull said he wouldn’t take “no shit from a goddamn bum!” Some people go crazy with a bat in their hands. The bull hit Tex with a bat over and over again. Fuck it! That’s how you get killed and earn the town’s hospitality. The bull threw them both into the back of his car when Tex instead needed an ambulance.

And yet Tex looked like he would survive. And he said he’d been through this before. And there was no reason not to believe him. Even though his head bled, the old man sat up, and as Jack tried to stop the bleeding with the old man’s shirt he saw swelling that spread to the left eye.

Silent they were to begin with because friends were often silent when strangers have to talk. An awakening was what it cost Jack. It was the nearest thing to Nazism that he saw. This was something that they didn’t want to relive.

Fucked up so much with so much to think about and even before Jack knew Tex wouldn’t make it. There are brave people who don’t make a fuss about anything, and cowards who let everyone know how tough they are. Jack could see that Tex was in bad shape when he spat up blood. Jack was no doctor but he could see that his friend was hurt really bad, and he was just as hurt when early the next morning they were shoved back onto a train. Only the day before Jack had been in his prime, while by the next morning he’d aged a hundred years. He wondered what they did to justify what was done to them when nothing justified it.

In pain Tex found dying a challenge and a friend in Jack. And this made him feel better. It was the first time Jack watched someone die. It scared him. Made him tremble. Where the Texan was going, he knew he’d follow. He could report this honestly and prayed, prayed his first honest prayer. He prayed and prayed and felt as if no one else gave a damn.

Then Jack made Tex mad when he said, “You can keep your fucking Texas!” Jack said “You can keep your fucking Texas” with all of the emotion he could muster. And Tex got real mad and tried to defend Texas. That was the worse part for Jack. He saw that he hurt Tex., when it was certain that he wasn’t talking about Tex’s Texas, or even the worst part of Texas. He was just talking about some people in Texas. And Jack had to admit that you could find bad asses anywhere.

“You bum, don’t die!” How could wanting to live be held against Tex? You couldn’t quarrel with his wantin’ booze to ease the pain. And as much as he loved his booze it was probably rotgut that killed him as much as anything. His injuries didn’t seem life threatening, yet he was dying. And what could Jack say about him that was nice? Was he a bun? No, he didn’t fall in that category. Of course, he drank, but he wasn’t a drunk with an unhinged brain or wild habits. It went deeper than that.

A monster lived while a gentle soul died. Nobody knew where he wuz. Nobody knew who he wuz with. Nobody, nobody ‘cept Jack. A monster out lived him in west Texas. No doubt he died of old age. There was no justice. He played cop, ruled the world, and made up laws as he went along. Mere necessity obliged men and women to follow them. All Tex ever carried with him was his social security card. His character was set before he knew it. And the way he lived was his business; and that was how he was, from one end of the country to the other. In the short time Jack knew him Tex revealed as much about himself as he ever revealed to anyone, and that wasn’t much.

A beating he didn’t deserve, jail time instead of medical treatment, and to lose his life because of it. It wasn’t right. Hell, no! He didn’t deserve it. No answer to why it happened. Jack never got one. It took tough men, hard working and hard drinking men in coveralls to run the trains; and contrary to what you might think there was little sympathy for bums. There was no changing it. They had no sympathy for men who repeatedly got their ass kicked, or needed to dry out. And they didn’t see that Jack didn’t belong there.

Jack asked himself what he could’ve done and if he should’ve stayed with Tex’s body. He didn’t have choice or did he? It wasn’t right. He couldn’t do it. And hadn’t Tex himself urged him to jump off the train before it reached a town or else face too many questions. He planned to stay on the train until it reached California, but he was too afraid by the time they crossed the Rio Grande. He listened for the return of the bulls for as long as he could stand it. It just wasn’t right to leave Tex’s body, but screw ethics. The thought of jail got in Jack’s way. .

Tex’s worst errors never amounted to much. He never committed a serious crime. He was generous to a fault and bore little malice. There came a time when he was too old to do hard work, and like most Texans were, he was full of bullshit. God loved him. His kid loved him. He surely did. Jack wished that they could remain friends forever. And learned from him about eating rabbit and rattlesnake. Which tasted better, rabbit or rattlesnake? Jack never knew if Tex knew his stuff when it came to horses and women. Could he have taught Jack how to tie a diamond hitch? How to rope a cow or how to aim straight? Or hunt mountain lion? He didn’t know that the scarred riding saddle that Tex once used now gathered dust. Tex often yearned for his old spread, which was sold after the divorce. Remembering the corrals, the house, and the barn were among his favorite memories.

Before doubting Tex … before kicking dirt on his ashes, and picking up cans he left behind, as Jack thought about jumping off the train, consider the direction the young man could’ve gone. He could’ve ridden the rails for the rest of his life. But forever was a long time and forget the idea that there were constants. Jack might say he was going to do something one day and do the opposite the next. The only thing certain about him was his inconsistency. It was likely that he would change and the terran he was going through wouldn’t appeal to him for very long. Distorted landscape. Nothing on the horizon. No way to judge distance. Nothing. Only sand and more sand. No shade. No trees. Only creosote and cactus. Not a cloud in the sky. And to think that some people thought it looked beautiful

And the last place he went through wouldn’t be the same place if he went back there. There was so much to see so why would he backtrack? And he would soon grow tired of the long, cold nights and surviving by canning … scavenging aluminum, copper, and brass … and instead of in a house some times sleeping in a cardboard box.

Tex learned the lessons of the rope and how to avoid a burn. Loosening his saddle girth gave him a chance to take one last breath. All of his life he enjoyed roping, because it felt good and because he was a good roper. Not into praying, Tex chose cursing instead. He took what life gave him. He wasn’t good enough to make the Hall of Fame, and instead of fame and money, he ended up anonymous and broke. This hour was his last, and he didn’t have much left but memories.

Give a steer the lead, lasso it with a rope; reach down and grab the steer’s horns and slide off the horse and plant your feet into the ground. It was magical. Give an old hand a rope and let him do his thing until his body no longer worked: that was what he deserved. And once the cowboy is finished, let him be it. While some died curzin’ and many died prayin’.

Hot. He saw white bones bleached by the sun. O wind and heat, and clouds without rain, no sign of water. Water was crucial. It hadn’t been a good day, and the worst was far from over. When he jumped off the train, he got into some cactus, or the cactus bit him. The cactus jumped at him and bit him. For more than twenty miles a basin, and it didn’t seem like he was making progress.

Jack pushed on in spite of being on the verge of insanity. Suppose he met Cabeza de Vaca, or an Yaque Indian. Imagine how he’d embrace them. For Catholic Spain and for God, the conquistadors were determined to succeed in this land or die trying. Jack could see why the desert near there had become a proving ground.

He finally reached a dirt track, and it so revived his spirits that he took off running. It gave him a false sense of hope. He scoffed at the idea that this was a road but felt lucky that it was something after so much nothing. He could’ve wandered for days, but now he had something to follow, and it led to Paradise.

He thought of his mother’s piano that she never played and a sewing machine she never used. Thought about Indiana and Blue Hole Lake near Brazil; and a train that left the trestle and with three cars and an engine plunged to the bottom. His own train seemed derailed. He thought of his dad and wondered what he’d be like without a track to follow. His father loved fishing at Blue Hole Lake. He missed the lakes and streams and roads and hills and hollows of Indiana, and always would. Thinking about catching bass, out of a hole or a sink, kept his mind occupied. Bob Ruby liked fishing Frog Pond better than Blue Hole Lake. Firewater drove poor Bob loco, while like every Hoosier he spoke his mind, while he planted lies and debated the weather. How could Jack forget the soldiers for Christ marching like an army with banners, while they lived wicked lives with impunity? Jack let his mind wander like this until he collapsed from the heat.

In Paradise, he slept between clean sheets. Whether he’d ever wake up seemed questionable. Did he dream of prospecting gold and of rough and racier times, when money was easy and life was gay? Of drinking, fighting, gambling, and whoring? Of when the promise of Paradise meant good men caught gold fever and the fever drove them mad? Imagine men with cyanide, sage, and silicate in their blood, and miners, promoters, and gamblers losing sight of everything else but gold. It was a crapshoot, when those who didn’t strike it rich lived or died for another chance.

Let’s suppose Jack dreamed. Let’s supposed his dream, which he enjoyed contained the voices of senioritis and their intonation of “no sabe,” or “quin sabe.” To be enjoyed. You couldn’t know how sweet it sounded without being in Jack’s shoes.

What was in store for him? Suppose he caught the fever, would he trudge around in the boiling and then freezing desert, searching abandoned cuts and tailing dumps and rocky canyons to satisfy his lust for gold? How would he conquer the urge? The old camp nearly died and was too far-gone to be revived.

Abandoned except for four women. They lived there alone and between them owned the whole town. There were those who thought they were well off. Then Jack entered their lives. Unceremoniously picked up and given supper, a bath, and a bed, after what he went through how could he turn it down?

It was Jack’s American face and his guileless nature that made Juanita’s heart skip. Was he the gringo of her dreams? Was he the young man of her imagination? Full of charm, would he make her day? Dreams that she couldn’t distinguish from reality. Waiting for him to wake up, two of the three women sat close by. On each side of the bed he was in. Happily, Juanita watched Jack smile while he ate his first cooked meal in days. Before she knew him, she liked his smile.

Juanita was from Mexico, part Indian, and worked most of the time. She had muscles where Jack expected flab, muscles she’d use to wash and mend him. She was shocked by Jack’s condition. He was filthy and exhausted from riding the rails and trekking through the desert. She knew from childhood what wearing dirty clothes meant. She fluffed his pillow, made sure his sheets smelled clean, gave him a razor and a toothbrush, and often checked on him while he slept. Nothing felt better to Jack than sleeping between clean sheets so he never wanted to get out of the king-size bed. Assuming she’d burned his dirty clothes, he let Juanita wait on him and was once again content. And while Juanita preferred a steady beau, his ideas fluctuated.

On the other hand, Hetty had nothing to do with him. She was an individual and was proud of it, and she got her greatest joy from digging and panning for gold. Never content, she hoped that some day her sweat and toil would pay off. But the blazing sun drove her silly. Heavens! Could this mighty fine looking woman have been a beauty queen? Could someone so hard and coarse have been? Someone who could work all day as hard as a man and who left behind the remains of a sewing machine and a kitchen stove. She looked like she was born with a pickax and a shovel in her hand.

Much had changed for her, but some things never would. There was still a woman inside Hetty. There were still dresses in her closet. But since Jack’s appearance, she worked the tailings all the time, with the wind messing up her hair. She was always the first to start digging and the last to call it quits. She also was attracted to Jack but felt that she didn’t have the luxury to wait for him. She was smart and thought while he slept that she should maintain her routine.

A widow, Lenora was a mestiza like Juanita. She had a white dad and an Indian mother. She had blue eyes, shiny hair, and expressed herself in a passionate way. There weren’t many women left like Lenora, who lived through hysterics, slurs, and banishment. Her eyes were a dead giveaway and a reminder of scandal. Her intolerance wasn’t appreciated. Life hadn’t been fair to Lenora; so she felt she had more of a claim on Jack than the others. Agony made it certain that she would tell him about her Anglo Saxon father.

“O, Juanita,” implored Lenora, “can’t you see that you’re not giving him room to breathe?”

But no one could stop Juanita from hovering over Jack, not even Lenora. Yet Lenora knew that she would prevail and immediately started plotting. She viewed each difficulty as a challenge. So she sat close to Jack’s head, while she engaged in a stupid struggle with her rivals. How many times would they repeat this?

Lenora suggested, “Maybe he’s coy and is pretending to be asleep.”

Juanita paid her no attention. She never considered the allure of Lenora’s blue eyes, and it all soon came to a head. They had a real snit, which had never happened before. It developed into a major rift that became impossible to bridge.

In charge of cooking, Christina was an excellent cook. A fifty-year-old widow, who marveled at changes in life, particularly changes in her body, she found her greatest joy in the kitchen. She often sang. Let her hasten from conflict to the joys of the kitchen, where she opened the curtains and escaped confusion. She couldn’t help herself, as she went back and forth.

Had Jack been a real prince, Christina would’ve done more to get his attention. A maid-of-all-work, she wasn’t shy. She still had a hint of pink in her cheeks from pinching them. Voluptuous, Christina had a supple body and had as much pride as a duchess. She kept her hourglass figure in spite of having two babies, gifts of love, once from a husband and once from a lover. Her pleasant demeanor covered up any defects.

She of all people became a Catholic and wore a crucifix of silver. She sang like an angel and often as she was singing thought of a good priest who gave her a special gift. It was with a loud voice that she proclaimed her happiness, for he gave her a child. Public exposure might’ve driven a lesser woman away from the church.

Christina got to a place where no one could hurt her. Cooking gave her sustenance; and Paradise was the only place she would live. Contrary to many women, she wanted to remain a widow, though widowhood was new and sad for her. Jack could’ve been her son, her miracle child; and he let her call him any name she wanted. He was just a boy, too young for her, a boy who came out of nowhere and reminded her of her husband. An American, who rode into her life on a horse, Christina’s husband followed an unbeaten path. Her Bill may have lived long enough in the West to call it home but unfortunately mistook a chorus of coyotes for laughter of madmen. You can imagine how Christina felt and how her feelings were misconstrued. And there was Jack, wide-awake now, but not out of bed yet feeling embarrassed. But how could he object to so much attention and kindness?

Then Lenora saw Juanita caressing Jack’s arm. Caught in the act, Juanita jerked her hand back. All she wanted she said was to make sure he felt comfortable. .

Excuses were made about the room, the bed, and the house; but there was no need for them. Lenora muttered something about Juanita being a bitch, about her shameful behavior, and a great deal more that remained untranslatable. She never had a reliable man; a reliable horse yes; but a man, no. Here was a possibility, young and trainable. Lenora, though, was not so sure. She was as ready as she was at seventeen; but how to proceed eluded her. “ You were sound asleep, beautiful sleep….” was about all she said. She could tell Juanita liked him too.

Christina protested that it wouldn’t be any trouble or would hardly cost them anything for the extra food and, without consulting Hetty, asked Jack to stay. Hetty felt abandoned, as she searched for a few flakes of gold. She pouted, cursed and picked through rubble at the end of Main Street near Piety Hill. Finding gold would’ve cured all of her pain. Gold enough to pay the mortgage and a few other bills. Hetty held onto the notion that Paradise hadn’t died. It didn’t matter then that men didn’t understand how she showed affection. Sober or not, she cursed all gringos.

Poor, misunderstood Hetty, unlucky Hetty, stopped several times for shade and water. Healthy, barring fevers, she suffered from gold fever, silver fever, and yet boiled inside over being left out. She had a problem with it and clung to the idea that tasks around there should be equally shared. She, however, avoided an explosion. She stopped thinking about fairness. Look, there was no excuse for it. After the ore played out and the ten-stamp mill shut down, everybody left Paradise, left the town to the wind that caught pieces of corrugated tin and made a terrible racket. The sound grated Hetty’s nerves until she nailed the tin down. She, unhappily, felt let down, but believed that her problems could be solved the same way as she stopped the flapping.

Jack never forgot the women’s hospitality. Whenever he thought of Paradise, he missed it and wondered what would’ve happened had he stayed. He soaked up all of the attention, and still young and essentially a boy among experienced women, he didn’t know what to make of it. He could’ve easily gotten used to it, but it wouldn’t have been long before he gotten lazy and rotten.

Pertaining to this fix, Jack rejected what he was taught by his folks. They were wrong about the idea that the amount of respect you receive was proportionate to the amount of respect you gave. He couldn’t explain why it didn’t work. He just knew it didn’t. He had three women waiting on him; and couldn’t explain it. He soon got in the habit of sleeping late. He also ate and drank too much, but instead of disgusting them, it amused three of his hostesses.

Mornings he wasted. Lounged around half-dressed, loitered, and sometimes never got out of bed. He insisted on hot water. Cold water wouldn’t do; but shaving hardly mattered. He often nicked himself and rarely shaved all of his whiskers off. Rising hours before he did, the women treated him like royalty. No wonder Jack felt guilty. Still the more he slept the more sleep he required.

Around noon he would walk around outside and feel like it was a mistake. His gut told him to watch out for Hetty. By noon he knew that the best part of the day was over, and he knew he would find Hetty sitting in shade. “Dama,” and he misused “Dama,” when he asked, “Find any gold?”

“Only fools gold” was her standard reply because she knew the first rule of prospecting was to lie. While at the same time she muttered, “Where the hell did he come from?”

Hetty had no plan yet; but resenting the intrusion, it would be only a matter of time before she had one.

She gave him a tour of the old streets, including the narrower side streets, flanked by crumbling foundations and decomposed lumber. However friendly these tours might’ve been it wasn’t long before it became clear that Hetty wanted to concentrate on gloom, i.e., stop at the old cemetery where she placed plastic tulips on graves and fixed up the fences around family plots. She showed Jack where so and so cut his throat during a fit of delirium. They walked streets of the ghost town and (as much as their imaginations allowed) relived dreams of the past.

All was quiet except for a hot breeze. There was no sign of the hustle and the bustle that was once Paradise. Two stores, a restaurant, two saloons, an assay office, and a butcher’s shop but just where was the post office? Hetty researched and identified each home and building, when someone less determined would’ve given up. She found old maps, records, and newspapers, but her main focus wasn’t history. Instead, she was more interested in gold. So the two toured Paradise, while the guide told blood-curdling and hair-raising tales and before the sun set she pretty much showed him the town.

Jack dreamed that he’d stumbled upon a lawless gang of women. Perhaps he should’ve armed himself. Clearly the lawlessness past of the West stirred his imagination. Now there was no evidence that connected these ladies with a crime. Or no reason for them to be hiding in Paradise. They didn’t look the part, and he found comfort in not having seen them with guns. Then Hetty brandished a shotgun. Was it, as she said, for shooting rattlesnakes or was it for getting rid of another kind of nuisance?
Casually Hetty pointed the shotgun at him. She ordered him out of bed and cautioned him not to say a word. But as they were going out the door, he caught a glimpse of Juanita with the saddest expression. Then the truck wouldn’t start.

Then Hetty ordered Lenora to saddle two horses, while Christina packed some grub and plenty of water. That left Juanita, who infuriated the others by nervously prancing around. Jack was forced once again into submission, yet questioned what was coming down. Things moved in slow motion until Juanita passionately grabbed Jack and kissed him on the lips. Under different circumstances, he would’ve enjoyed it. He appeared dazed, having been startled out of a deep sleep.

What was Jack facing? He soon found out that he wouldn’t be harmed, but Hetty wanted to make sure he didn’t come back. By then he looked pale; and Christina said to him, “Please, don’t judge us harshly. We all wish you could stay. No doubt Hetty has her reasons. And she’s angry with us and not at you. She’ll get over her pouting and this snit soon.”

Juanita stood by and waited for her cue. After Christina, she said “Because she doesn’t have an ounce of sympathy in her, Hetty has been bitchy and has humiliate herself. She hasn’t learned that friendship is reciprocal.”

Lenora flirted with Jack as she saddled the horses. To this day Jack remembers what was said and how quickly his life changed. But no one overruled Hetty. Jack might’ve stood a better chance had he been more useful and pitched in as he had on the towboat. But could he satisfy four women? From the beginning Hetty sized him up. Now she was going to run him off or escort him away.

It was the hottest place on earth. It seemed like it anyway. Once more Jack entered a furnace, and without water they would’ve died. On a horse for the first time, he cursed the critter. Whenever he got off, it felt like his legs were dismembered. Without a horse and a guide, he knew he’d perish.

And as the sun bore down, the glare hurt, and as the wind blew, they plodded through sand dunes and lava beds. They had to drink water sparingly, rationed it. Jack wondered what was going on. Why he was being tortured? Should’ve brought more water. The horses also needed water.

Hetty knew the way, and she maintained a steady pace, but how long could they keep it up? Jack, a greenhorn, in his borrowed hat? He asked, “Why am I going through this?” Hetty showed no sympathy.

She kept her guard up, or else she would have killed someone. She feared the most ridiculous things and covered it up the best she could. Hetty liked some men, particularly the way they smelled; but it wasn’t something she publicized. Now you see she’d been hurt and didn’t want every stray tom to see her weaknesses.

As she considered her next move, she felt the chemistry that she and Jack had. He was reasonably handsome. Suppose they weren’t about to say adios, could she bring him to his knees? While she imagined this, she prodded her mare up a wash that she discovered by luck, and so far thanks to her mare his horse kept up. The hot wind blew in his face, as if the wind were conspiring to make him blush.

“Come on, Jack, hold on; you can make it.” And that from a woman who would giggle if he whispered the right thing in her ear.

He tried to keep his mind off of his pain. His thoughts went from ruining his family jewels to standing in front of St. Peter. At the end of the day, he forgot about eating. As he lay on the ground, he worried about what still could happen. The chill alluded to how cold it would get. Morning wouldn’t come quick enough for him.

Meanwhile, Hetty thought about the young man lying next to her. All day she couldn’t clear her head. She couldn’t have been unattractive to him. The chill and his aches and pains opened an avenue for her. It was nice for him, nice in the sense that she helped him stay warm. He was clumsy, she was beautiful, and she wished she had resisted. Amateurs like Jack weren’t suppose to be very good.

By the end of the next day, they arrived at Crossroads. Here they would say goodbye, and with an onslaught of emotions, she admitted her mistake. She was forced to take stock of herself and felt really sorry. His age bothered her. She also surprised herself. And blamed herself. And she had been ready and willing and had given into romance and sentimentality and didn’t want the girls to know about it. Hetty reminded Jack of her address hoping that he’d send her a post card. PARADISE was easy to remember.

His parents would’ve liked to hear from him, if for no other reason than to let them know that he was still alive. And he’d gone through so much, but Jack couldn’t write home about any of it. He’d traveled across the country, experienced the good and the bad, but how much did he really see? Did he question who he was? Did he lose his perspective? America, would he ridicule her?

Jack stayed in the Crystal Palace until it closed and sat in the furthest corner from the door under a mounted buffalo head. It was very nice. It was why he stayed there so long. It was always a rule: if he liked a place he would stay there for a while. The spot chose him. He felt sorry for the buffalo. Having crossed the plains where buffaloes once roamed and then to end up in a crummy bar, “Christ!” he exclaimed. “Christ, what a pity and a shame.” Imagine taking aim for the hell of it. Imagine the immense herds, with hundreds of thousands of buffalo galloping all at once. Then you single one out, the last of a breed, and take a shot. It was a slow time and after midnight. ”Christ! What am I doing here?” He wasn’t from there, you see.

While he sat in a Texas jail, it all changed for him. Sitting in a Texas jail can make you feel small. Jack never got over it. And never got over Tex’s death either. He listened to Tex before he died talk about America the beautiful. The kid hadn’t reached the point of agreeing with him yet. Too much had happened to him, and he hadn’t settled in yet. There was too much to take in, and he was too much on the go to appreciate any one place. Did he miss a turn somewhere, or get the wrong directions? Why was he alone in a strange place? Why was he alone sitting in a dark bar under a buffalo head? Why did it seem inconsequential? He missed the Wabash, the Ohio, and the Mississippi as he soon missed San Diego, San Francisco, and LA. From the beginning of his journey, he had a sense that he was missing things. It got where he anticipated missing places before he got somewhere.

He went through spells of drinking a lot. He developed a familiar blind way of drinking. Once he got started he couldn’t stop. No stopping. And as long as he was drinking he didn’t have to think. He could hear his mother say never take that first drink. You’re bound to end up an alcoholic and a drunk, and at the same time he kept asking himself what he had to do with Tex’s death. He drank alone. He never drank with anyone else. There were intervals when he didn’t drink and learned that drinking didn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t think or keep him from thinking about how Tex died. Choose his poison … all of it was poison. Of course he realized that the bull was a cop, and the cop murdered Tex, and a judge sanctioned the murder. It then seemed fitting that Tex died in a boxcar. .

Jack spent his first days in LA walking around. He didn’t think about what to do. He wandered aimlessly. This allowed him to think. He wasn’t drunk and could think. He had no plan. Unable to sleep day or night, his situation worried him. Fear was inevitable. Fear was useful, except Jack couldn’t get beyond it. He felt nervous every time someone approached him, but he wasn’t going to give up, especially after successfully panhandling.

Wow, Hollywood! Follow the arc lights to Hollywood. Tinsel Town. Hollywood and Vine! The Walk of Fame roped off for the stars … gold rope! Wouldn’t stop a steer! You see people who have followed those lights all the way from their hometowns, though not always cognizant of it. Not sure of the price of admission, Jack wondered whether he’d be turned away or not, as he stood outside Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood Wax Museum. Inside he saw a cast of characters, including Errol Flynn. “See Errol half-dressed, wearing only boots, tights, and a belt.” Jack was glad he wasn’t wearing lace and ruffles and didn’t want to hear how his drinking affected Errol Flynn’s acting career.

Strolling west on Hollywood Boulevard, he walked over the stars of the famous, and came to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, with its Heaven Dogs. He wanted to take it all in and asked directions to RKO. He wanted to run into a star. Would he recognize one when he saw one? Who would recognize Ned Johnson, the eminent screenwriter, or Steinbeck, the novelist? What would he do if he saw Claire Trevor, who won the year’s nomination for Best Supporting Actress in “Key Largo”? As he slowly plodded along, he imagined the people he could possibly see. That was how he spent the day.

Someone sang “Mean To Me,” which was his favorite song. From behind him, he heard someone call, “Hey, you, yes you, that’s right you!” Was it a casting call? No! A cop with a billy club cornered him. Jack saw the irony of this. The policeman never changed his tone, only intensified it until he screamed like a lunatic. “Slime ball, what does this sign say? No Loitering! Look at me! Ain’t I making myself clear? No loitering! Soap and water are cheap; you hear me? Cheap!” And intimidated, Jack moved on.

Shaking, Jack tried to get on a bus. The driver took one look at him and yell, “Now, sir, please step back and watch it!” Jack did the opposite, and when he stepped forward, the driver dropped the please. “Off the bus, you stinking mother fucker!” Jack obeyed him and, as the bus sped off, felt stabbed in the back.

He talked to everyone, yet felt alienated. He dreaded tomorrow, felt shackled, and lost sight of the future. Wandering the same streets alone, he ate and slept where he could. This became his routine. He cleaned up at the Salvation Army, after he learned he had to stay clean.

He finally wrote home, sent an unsigned postcard. He couldn’t explain why he didn’t sign it. He said nothing about himself. No more specific than a few sentences about a buffalo head. All alone. Unable to write anymore, he could’ve written about how quickly he developed street sense, which meant he never took his eyes off his stuff.

Around the Greyhound station and Whelan’s drug store, he asked for spare change. By the end of the day he usually had enough money for a meal and a ticket for a show. On Main Street, old men in tattered clothing lined up for a burlesque show. Jack could be seen there too. Afterwards, he walked the streets thinking about the women of Paradise, of Hetty and Juanita, and of beauty and love. The thought of sleeping in the arms of Hetty drove him crazy. Time and time again, Jack went back to Main Street, but he didn’t expect much from it.

He listened to Girrls exchange dirty quips with the comic. Then standing in line for love, yes, there was love on Main Street. Catching Jack’s attention with a gesture from a second-story window, communicating with a forefinger, the lady offered herself. He hurried across the street, hastened through the door and up a flight of stairs. There was no need to knock. The lady was eager to take his money. Five in the afternoon imagine it. For both of them, it was serious business. So hurried, he didn’t notice that there weren’t any sheets to mess up and immediately afterwards asked, “Was that it?” The lady immediately answered, “More will cost you more.” He just got out of there then.

What happened next seemed to Jack too good to be true. For one day love seemed again possible. With a breath of spring and the smell of the sea, eternal hope once again gave him a reason to live. Almost instantly they connected. They were on a city bus; restrained their meeting seemed auspicious. For him a cosmic force seemed at work; and she should’ve known better. Next came a few awkward words from him about being new in town, which left him groping for something else to say. She took the opening, which then led to a long silence. Both of them had to catch their breath. Then he found out that she road this bus often, maybe as often as everyday.

On her way to school, she began naming the districts: “Vermont and Hoover and Franklin and Sunset.” Then with exuberance, she told him that she had only one class that day….”Beverly Hills, Bel Air, La Cienega, Venice,” and by this time, she became his tour guide. Pointing out where the movie stars lived, she smiled and gave him her name. Elaine. By then Jack could talk with strangers. In fact, he often felt closer to strangers than people he knew. If he didn’t talk to strangers he wouldn’t talk to anyone, so his conversations with strangers tended to be longer than conversations with friends.

Like a pair of cats exploring each other’s scent, they shared the essence of their lives. But Elaine, foreseeing where this might lead, tried to divert his attention. ”Everybody,” she said, “likes to go to Hollywood and Vine,” and he pretended he hadn’t been there and kept looking at her thoughtfully. This made Elaine feel uncomfortable, so she told him about her boyfriend. But what did Jack care?

To think they had a deep conversation, a surprisingly deep one, and he could lose her at the next bus stop. The bus stopped, turned there; and it was apparent that he didn’t know when it would come to the last stop and then turn around. She found him pleasant and the attention flattering. Impressed by his clean clothes and very neat haircut, she didn’t think he had anything evil in mind. She sensed his determination but never guessed how much his appearance cost him.

On and off Arroyo Seco, bumper to bumper, there was more time for them to talk because the bus went all the way to Pasadena. Optimistic, Jack hoped he could follow Elaine home. ”Hello,” he said for the fifteenth time, and Elaine repeated the word too. Neither one of them noticed any longer streets or other people on the bus.

On the verge of taking her hand, his mind suddenly jumped to other things. Having such thoughts bothered him, especially when Elaine seemed like a nice girl. But shucks, fuck! But so had the barge lady. He couldn’t help but think about how he scored before and felt screwed up. He slid the widow open and benefited from air.

“Such a nice girl.” It seemed for a minute like she was like the girl next door. It was if he were back in Richmond. He noticed Elaine had tiny breast, as he looked at her from head to toe. Her manner put him at ease and kept him from becoming tongue-tied.

Pasadena wasn’t far from LA; and before they knew it, they had to pay for a return trip. Elaine would have to reconcile missing her class and the madness of spending a day with a stranger. She tried to rationalize her behavior but couldn’t come up with an excuse for it. A crazy idea, it remained inexcusable. If he found out, her boyfriend would be livid. She planned to write in her diary about how cute Jack was. There was even a slight resemblance to Errol Flynn. Certainly Elaine had reservations; but their conversation seemed natural. Jack appeared lonely and seemed like he needed her. He wondered if she felt his manliness.

Before too long they were back downtown. The bus then turned onto Main Street and filled up again, requiring people to stand. Suddenly Elaine said, “Let’s get off.” Whoo, they felt pushed and crushed until pushing became like everything else. They felt trapped, though it didn’t matter to Jack.

“You look great.”

“So do you.”


But he doubted that she’d later remember him.

Elaine’s thoughts jumped around. It seemed strange that she skipped class.

He took her hand, continuing the drama of possibilities, and guided her through a maze of people. Maneuvering down Main Street, they passed the theater where he spent so much time. Having enjoyed a ghost town never came up. They could’ve explored a Monastery, where within fifteen minutes you can say you’ve seen it all or spent a whole day there. But of course Jack wouldn’t confess to a priest. He wouldn’t talk to anyone about his confusion and disillusionment or illusions, or how the death of Tex changed him forever. Somehow, until Elaine came along, it seemed like he had been robbed of life’s music.

After passing up a movie or eating burgers and fries (he didn’t have the nerve to ask for a kiss), she got so excited about going into a dress shop that she seemed to forget him. Of course, he didn’t have any money left and she wanted to spend. With money from her own purse, she bought blouses and a skirt, and drove him crazy by trying on the whole store. Doing that, Elaine ran out of time.

She almost broke her neck hopping off the bus. Jack hurried to keep up with her. If he lost her he wouldn’t know where she lived. Unhappily then, they ran into her boyfriend. He was waiting for her at her house.

Just being with Elaine had been super, super keen. Even considering she let him down, he still felt that way. The experience lifted him. Jack could now leave Main-street LA and take his chances someplace else.

Except he now needed a passport and knew nothing about visas. “One world or none,” Wendell Wilkie’s phrase stuck in his head. For good reasons he needed papers. At that moment in history, unknown to Jack but obviously placing him in good company, Bertrand Russell, Albert Schweitzer, Gandhi and Einstein shared this sentiment. On the spur of the moment, he decided that his chances for landing a job on a ship were better in San Francisco. On the spur of the moment, he found himself hitchhiking again; and on the spur of the moment, he started preparing himself to leave a country he just as suddenly decided he loved.

From San Francisco Jack worked his way over to Manila, serving as a kitchen helper. He did his job well, but was never respected. The purser ran the ship and never stopped his extortion. Jack found himself frequently the target. Most of the rest of the crew accepted him. The captain appreciated him, because Jack reminded him of when he first went to sea.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- Revised THE HUKS

THE HUKS 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-THE SMUGGLER

It was one of the most isolated places on earth, one of the least known, so isolated that the symbols of the modern and the primitive worlds in a practical sense merged in the sound of a single machine: an unreliable six-horse-power generator. It competed with the sound of cicadas, the crashing of monkeys and the whooping of gibbons, and for the majority of the people of this upland region the put-put of the one-cylinder engine implied civilization and falsely the existence of a medical doctor.

Only Europeans had generators, and most natives expected white people to have medicine. The years had changed nothing there, except at an out-station one would expect to find amenities that wouldn’t be found elsewhere, western comforts and luxuries, with the larger of these settlements boasting tennis courts and water systems designed to raise the level of hygiene. It may also in no way seem strange to find white women

Mr. Flint measured himself by how much influence he had and wasn’t afraid to be himself. Yet he knew his limitations, and what was acceptable depended on the situation. He had to know when to assert his authority and when to pass. He of course had to also always be on guard. It was also true that the Kelabit were genial, and he had learned to capitalize on it. In comparison to him, his wife had become querulous over having to live so far away from civilization, when she should’ve been accustomed to it.

There were no other white women, as far as she knew, in the district, and she wouldn’t allow Mr. Flint to forget it. She also hammered home the fact that she was an educated woman, who enjoyed music, dancing, and could speak two or three European languages, while he was not at all cultured. She liked to play on his sense of guilt by claiming that he tricked her into coming to Borneo. According to her, he lied about the conditions, which he couldn’t do and get away with it because she was highly intelligent. She surely knew what she was in for, yet nothing irritated her more than the heat and the clamminess she could only escape at night. There remained tropical fruits … only tropical fruits … mangoes, mangosteens, and a fruit called soursop … that she enjoyed and bragged about when she went home.

She would’ve preferred living in Aden, Ceylon, Penang, or Singapore, places where people didn’t bathe in the river or wouldn’t spy on her so much. Now she lived away from the world she knew and loved as a child (and also far from the royal gardens, peacocks, flowers and perfumes of her imagination) and was forced to live under primitive conditions. She found it hard to smile when she was expected to, and what she was expected to do wasn’t challenging enough for her. She would’ve changed places with her husband if she could have since he never complained. It infuriated her. She stood beside him, but she only did so reluctantly.

The Kelabit, however, weren’t totally primitive. Mrs. Flint had never expected to hear them sing and play with mandolins. When she heard them the first time she knew it was unique. There wasn’t another tribe on Borneo that loved Spanish music so much. Spanish? No, it wasn’t exactly Spanish, but it was certainly not primitive. The people there preferred to play and sing outside. And all the time, while they sang, they told stories, stories about themselves and their loves. But, in spite of the beauty of their music, Mrs. Flint wasn’t touched by it.

No one was given so much attention and disliked it as much as she did. No one could show so much disdain and at the same time have so many admirers. While appearing helpless, strangely enough she hated being helped. Born into the aristocracy, she got angry with her husband over not recognizing it.

How could she be faulted for missing her family in Moscow or friends in England where she met her husband? Or why she couldn’t reconcile living in Borneo when she gave up so much? Or why she missed Christmas and Easter, the Russian spring and painted eggshells? And she couldn’t forget the seaside dacha she lived in as a child. She yearned for London and wanted to return to Paris. So, after loving London and Paris, she made the biggest mistake of her life: she married Mr. Flint.

Obviously she didn’t consider it a mistake at the time. There was romance involved, but she had her reservations even then. Love isn’t something you can explain. Love may not be blind, but it’s intoxicating, and nothing is without its difficulties. Some mistakes seem right at the time, but with hindsight are obviously mistakes. She soon wished that she had never met Mr. Flint. With all of her heart she wished she had told him no, and especially after he mentioned the idea of going into government service.

As a government officer, Mr. Flint had to be a jack-of-all trades: a policeman, Chief of Public Works, Land Revenue Officer, magistrate, accountant, treasurer, and sometimes coroner; but the prestige of the job hardly matched the magnitude of the sacrifices that were called for. But this brave man thrived on change and loved adventure, so he jumped at the chance to join the Foreign Service.

Back in England, as a young man, he thrived on competition and excelled in sports such as cricket and polo. He seemed more interested in playing than having a career. But though he seemed to lack ambition, he obviously had qualities that would make him a good administrator. He was always sober, enthusiastic, and full of energy. Once he got started on something, nothing stopped him … the heat was less a factor than he expected, and he loved the uncertainty of the monsoons. He liked watching the clouds roll in, and the lightning excited him. Once he was assigned to Borneo … which he asked for …he could count on being shifted to almost every station except Brunei and Sandakan. Consequently he trekked through much of the jungle interior where the practice of head hunting had not been totally curtailed.

Thus adapting to an illogical and tortuous landscape, to snakes, leeches, and parasites, to the jungle, the cliffs, and the crevasses, he felt at home where few white men rarely went. At home in the small and remote villages, he was always honored with the best floor space.

Mr. Flint couldn’t imagine living in England. Twice he gave it a try, and twice he gave it up. He loved the wilds, and life away from them seemed too tame. And everywhere he went in Borneo he was treated like royalty and talked of nothing else. Everyone was welcomed in his home, sometimes in the middle of the night they would bring him their problems. And you know what he did? He always helped them. He therefore signed on for the duration and would be buried on the island in a small cemetery set aside for British civil servants. Mr. Flint was a great gentleman, a dedicated public servant, a loyal subject of the Crown, and a credit to the human race. He was one of many Englishmen overseas … united by regulations and policy … who helped the Crown maintain its valued empire.

They found themselves in a world that defied description and included the never faltering spirit of the falcon, the otter, and the rhinoceros. For Westerners these spirits didn’t exist. They had no time for them, yet these spirits were everywhere on Borneo. Whether fortunate or unfortunate, Mr. Flint wasn’t a true believer, but he’d been around long enough that it didn’t seem improbable. To the Kelabit everything was a sign, such as the cry of the hornbill or the sound of a falling rock. Then was it necessary to understand it? “The wild waters tremble lest the river turn to stone.” Was it necessary to understand this? Was it necessary to know for sure? There had to be something to it because the Kelabit rarely worried about anything, or so it seemed. They gain strength from an unspecific number of spirits, and they believed that as long as they were generous the spirits wouldn’t disturb the peace.

Before the war the Kelabit considered Mr. Flint a generous man, and they were pleased with him, just as he was pleased with them. And he was able to keep the peace.

There wasn’t much trouble because he was a generous man. From a small monthly allowance he purchased salt, tobacco, beads, and so on that he gave to them. They also gave him gifts. That was how he managed. Anyway, he felt obligated to accept their gifts of chickens, rice, and eggs (and perhaps a sword, a battle headdress, a sun hat, or maybe a mat). To refuse anything would’ve insulted them. He had to anticipate what they’d like. A mistake would’ve been disastrous. Of course he didn’t get it always right, but close enough usually worked. Nothing in England prepared him for this, but he soon found out that even people who weren’t advanced liked hair-lotion and scented-soap.

Hoping that the men in the big planes didn’t really care about them, the Kelabit often waved at the Japanese, while the Flints considered it unsafe. From the air the jungle canopy gave only the faintest hint of human activity. The Japs believed that this green hell was the last place they’d find Europeans. Given this assumption they didn’t search the jungle very much, and the Japanese couldn’t afford to waste men and time subjugating a few backward tribes, when they needed to concentrate on a growing headache.

For the first time during the occupation, the Japanese faced American air attacks. Also, around this time, the tempo of life around the long houses quickened because a “Z” Special Unit, made up of Australians, dropped into the island’s interior. This would be rightfully noted, along with Japanese errors, as to what change the course of the war. The Japanese showed utter contempt toward people living in the interior, but were the first to appreciate this mistake.

Had she been in her native Russia and part of the great Soviet experiment, Natasha wouldn’t have run any risks because she would’ve had her baby in a clean maternity ward. Mr. Flint didn’t know how to treat women. If he had, he would’ve sent her to a hospital to have their child. He would’ve insisted on it, regardless what she said. Before he brought her all the way out there, he should’ve made a few contingency plans. He knew she wanted children, and he was foolish not to plan for it. It was obvious that he didn’t know much about her. And she wasn’t sure that he really loved her. He was gone from their bungalow too much and rarely touched her. She would’ve been trouble if they never had sex. His excuse was that he was just too busy. She couldn’t understand it. She thought that there was something wrong with her.

Regardless where she lived in the Soviet Union, she would’ve given her son a proper named by naming her son after one of her papa’s relatives. And for all of her effort, she would’ve won a Motherhood Glory medal.

Had she not left Moscow, she would’ve been, as part of the Great Patriotic War effort, working in a factory, and having a baby would’ve earned her a grant and a monthly bonus. She knew nothing about working in a factory but felt sure she would’ve been treated better back home. The Soviet Union had a great interest in woman having babies. It was in fact a matter of Soviet pride, so if she had been back in the Soviet Union everything would’ve been different. And she would’ve been happy to live there, had she been given the chance.

By 1944, the Greater Co-prosperity regime of the Japanese had clearly gone back on its word. Perhaps they simply didn’t have the resources to fulfill their promises. They certainly didn’t in the interior of Borneo. But it wasn’t a bad thing for the Flints (or the “Z” Special Unit). It allowed them to go unnoticed for three years, and after the Flints gave birth to their only son, they hoped it would continue for the duration of the war.

But when they heard and saw a wave of Zeros overhead, they knew they’d have to flee their hiding place and leave behind the few comforts they had. Thus a bathroom, a study, and a sitting room were stolen from them. At the time she was suckling a child and became extremely depressed. She tried to abort the pregnancy, even though she wanted children, but not under these circumstances. At this point she blamed her husband for the war, blamed him for everything that went wrong, and most of all for the pregnancy. Of course the Kalabit knew what to do and would’ve helped her had she trusted them. She said to herself, “I will not be the victim of ignorance and superstition.” So she let nature take its course and her vanity gave way under stress. On the other hand, courage, pluck, and a Scottish sense of resourcefulness sustained her husband.

Besides the few things she could carry, she took with her a desire to somehow get back to civilization. If her husband wouldn’t save her life, she would find someone who would. She had tried once or twice to leave him, but never found the right opportunity to do it. To simply take off was far too risky. The jungle seemed too hostile. Even when they lived in Sandakan … even with the distraction of cards, dancing, and reading … she never liked living on Borneo. She felt the isolation more than her husband did. Few Western women of rank and fashion stayed on the island. Those with an adventurous heart sided with her husband. He enjoyed hearing the Kelabit sing “we have his head! We are so happy,” while Mrs. Flint hated it.

This Russian lady took special delight in her anger. She survived by becoming as combative and loudmouth as she could. She didn’t try to control herself. She might’ve tried had she been some place else. Why couldn’t she appreciate the wild splendor of the Tamabo range and overridden all of the hardships with a heroic notion? What happened to her adventurous side? If she had married adventure, maybe she wouldn’t have felt so betrayed. She hadn’t signed on for it. Maybe with the right attitude, though stuck in the middle of a jungle, she wouldn’t have complained so much.

Her original ideas about Borneo came from old pictures of the old days when English officials dressed in white uniforms and spiked helmets. From diaries of the period she read about music and dancing and bungalows the English built with true shingles, true gables, and true blinds. With the rustle of silk and silken draperies, bright rooms were highlighted by some of the colors of the flowers of the gardens. In that world, white women, except for servants, only associated with datus’ wives, other whites, and hosted garden parties.

She saw herself retaining a butler, dressed in a white jacket and a yellow and black sarong. If they could afford a butler, they could surely afford a maid to do the cleaning, the washing, and the ironing. A maid would give her company, and with the idea of having a maid came the idea of throwing parties, and it would’ve all been possible had her husband been assigned to a place like Hong Kong or Singapore. The parties she envisioned would’ve been large and given in a proper manner, with meals and table arrangements that would be much prettier than those in England. Where the right remark given at the right moment lightened the heart or thawed the ice. “Makan! la….Minum! la….Janga malu! (Eat … Drink … Don’t be ashamed!) ” Never mind the incorrect pronunciation. Etiquette was required. Knowing when to leave the room and husbands to their claret and cigars was essential. No wonder she felt betrayed.

But what she found on Borneo, even when she had her own home with a cookhouse and a boy to do the cooking, was nothing like she imagined. Irritations, such as the lack of privacy (since natives saw nothing wrong with peeping into their windows) got to her. This meant that they had to keep their shutters shut all the time, which made her seem unfriendly. As for friends, she had to leave all of them behind and was slow to make new ones, and when they ended up in a jungle village it became impossible for her. She had no one she could relate to. She was lonely and homesick, and her loneliness intensified as time went by. If only there were other white women around. Of course there were white women in the towns along the coast but socializing with them meant quite a journey (mostly by riverboat) and became impossible after the Japanese invasion. (Of course after the Japanese came she never heard from the white women in the coastal towns again. They were taken away to prison camps, and those who survived weren’t rescued until near the end of the war. She seemed to forget all this.) So she and her husband had very little in common. She didn’t like hunting or hiking and never joined her husband on hunting trips. Now she enjoyed looking at photographs of birds, which meant she became upset when husband shot green pigeons and snipe.

Natasha left her home in a land of neatness and order and exchanged it for a land without proper seasons. There, there were only two seasons, wet and dry, for Natasha wet meant that she could never get dry. And she never felt secure in houses with nipa roofs and that swayed in the wind. She never felt secure anywhere she went in the interior. She complained a lot to receive attention and complained a lot to receive sympathy, but the Kelabit never understood why she complained. And what did she have to complain about? From the way she walked down the gangplank you could tell that she felt superior. From when she first stepped off the ship, years ago in Sandakan, carrying a parasol and wearing sunglasses, she looked too fair for the tropics where the temptation was to avoid the sun completely. There were too many things that she’d have to get use to. Bathing in a river made her feel violated. The lack of privacy made her angry.

Who was she? Who was she really? She didn’t want to be defined by her husband. She never walked contently beside him. She didn’t like them. She thought they didn’t like her, though they mobbed her. Yes, it could’ve been that, but there were other things that bothered her more, nor could she remember all of the stupid little things that often got in her way..

Because of the monsoon, the rivers were flooding and the trails were impassable. Without sympathy from her mate, she endured sticky skin and water that made her sick. They both were tortured by bitters and were greeted by mangy dogs, but it didn’t seem to bother her husband because he seemed to be always in motion, whereas getting from place to place seemed futile to Natasha. But what discouraged her the most was the isolation, which overshadowed the beauty of the place. She spent much of her time staring off into space. You could see by looking at her that she was unhappy. She wondered if she’d ever loved her husband.

The natives thought Natasha came from a mouse deer, a very stupid animal; and the silly things she did amused them. Mimicry was a favorite pastime, and it drove her crazy. The men would laugh and cry, while the women often laughed so hard that they fell to the floor. Then, lying on their backs, they would kick the floor, while Natasha was expected to mask her revulsion. The famous female mouse deer had badly infected feet and had to ask for help.

“And at last the male mouse deer came carrying his wife on his back,
A sad man with a heavy burden, a burden which he wished he’d thrown off.”

Crockett’s old man masked his own feelings. He always gave a measured response or retired behind a curtain of silence. Rather than fight, he fled. And as Natasha’s discontentment grew, she became more certain that she didn’t love him. For a while she pretended that she did. It annoyed her, and she felt sad and grew accustomed to the sadness. The one thing she could rely on was sadness. Yes, the stupid mouse deer felt sad.

It all came from his coldness. He wouldn’t touch her. He seemed indifferent. She hated his correctness. He never said he was sorry, and when she asked him what the problem was he wouldn’t answer her. But she still tried. Inexplicably, he wouldn’t answer her. Then, too, his correctness in how he dealt with other people irritated her. Though his duties as related to her were clearly spelled out by the church, it always came down to which creed they would follow: the Church of England or Russian Orthodox. What? Maybe they should’ve concentrated on their similarities rather than their differences.

Sitting in a Kelabit long house with no privacy on her due date, her depression grew more acute. All around her were people who thought they lived in paradise. And her poor husband had hardly slept and because of the constant chatter never heard her say she wanted to kill herself. Wouldn’t it have baffled him had he heard it? He had no idea what she was going through. Tired, nervous, and in an angry mood, he couldn’t have taken much more. He could never stand hysterical women, and now his wife was having a baby, their baby, and she was in pain and was hysterical. In any event, out of necessity he didn’t show his true feelings.

Though she regretted having married Mr. Flint, Natasha wouldn’t have wanted to return the Soviet Union. One ought never wish for something unless they have some idea of what they really want. With the absence of phonograph records, she yearned to hear old Russians folksongs. She remembered in the winter she could jump in the snow and in the summer dip in the pond without fear of slime, but Natasha would’ve been surprised to learn that the Russia that she dreamed of no longer existed. She forgot that the friends she left behind were in prisons or in graves, after she fled the purges of Stalin and married an Englishman.

On Sunday, June 22, 1941, the Germans attacked Russia and Timur and His Gang inspired them to hold on. From the pages of a little book meant for children, for the sake of those fighting at the front, they learned to “live honestly, modestly, to study well, and work stubbornly” and, even during the fiercest battle, to stay “happy, proud, and calm.” Therefore, due to the effort of her children, Russia rose from the ashes. The boys and girls described in the book arrived with their tools and rushed off to work. They cheerfully worked gardens, minded babies, and gathered scrap. Not that Crockett ever knew about the industriousness of his forgotten cousins; but the connection was there. He inherited many of those traits from his mother.

The birth of a son gave Natasha something to live for. It gave her hope, and she felt it at the moment of conception. She and Mr. Flint made love so infrequently, she knew exactly when it happened. The natives believed pregnancy came from the discharge of hot blood during orgasms: they were partially right of course for the father in this case was hot and sweaty after he did the deed. Then look at it from Natasha’s perspective: she almost died and for a while wished he had. Her husband’s lack of participation … he left the house … didn’t help. It caused her additional pain, as the Kelabit celebrated.

Everyone except the mother drank rice wine and celebrated that the womb had been right and the blessed couple’s blood had properly mixed. Adam Flint felt very proud. And while drinking as much wine as he could as all the men did, he expressed his happiness. The Kelabit followed his example and got drunk. They also teased him about sex, about unsticking the womb, which distinguished it from being stuck to the backbone. They chanted “the bloods getting hotter and hotter until it all boils and turns to steam.” And he felt really, really embarrassed.

Natasha didn’t know why they were laughing. It would’ve disgusted her. You need to remember that many of the things they did disgusted her. How they went to the bathroom in the river was one example. Why her husband hadn’t done anything about this, she never knew. Now they were laughing. And she just had a baby, and she heard them laughing, and if she knew why she would’ve been disgusted. She would never know.

There hadn’t been time enough to send for a doctor, while during the dry season there would’ve been plenty of time. It was a silly mistake, since she knew her due date. It was easy for Natasha to blame her husband and accuse him of not caring enough, and blame him for the impassible trail. There were no telephones, and it was highly unlikely that they would have any service soon. He had a short wave radio. Why hadn’t he used the radio?

To assure future prosperity, Adam bought a buffalo, which they slaughtered and ate. It was a special meal, but it didn’t involve Natasha. In Russia, she wouldn’t have been ignored. Her family would’ve fussed over her. They would’ve waited on her and brought her caviar, an omelet, black bread, and tea. If she’d tried to get up, they would’ve stopped her. Now any acknowledgement would’ve meant the world to her.

The first sounds Crockett heard were the soft songs sung by a midwife. The songs calmed the baby and got him accustomed to his new home. The midwife took dried leaves, which had dropped from the jungle trees and applied them to Crockett’s forehead. She threatened the evil spirits. When they didn’t withdraw from the house, the child was subjected to another ritual and on it went. The midwife began to speak to him as if he were an adult. “He will be tempered like this iron in my hand! He’ll grow strong because the posts of his body will be made of iron!” The sacred rituals also involved chasing away spirits that could kill him. This amused Natasha. Yes, something amused her. While she didn’t believe in “such nonsense,” Christianity didn’t help her either.

Meanwhile, while celebrating, Adam had no patience for superstition. After the celebration, he’d be faced with the same realities that he faced before the birth of his son. To Natasha, he seemed more concerned about his position as a representative of the Crown than concerned about her. Something else…the couple felt that most of the time they lived in what they described as a fish bowl.

From the beginning, Crockett was treated like a little Rajah. The whole tribe adopted him. A little Rajah… the speaker listed many attributes to support this idea. There was no denying that it was because of his fair skin and length. He was the longest baby they ever saw. The midwife predicted that he’d be a powerful man and cited the length of his cord as a reason for it. She cut it long to make sure, and there was every reason to believe that he’d be healthy and strong. He not only grew strong but also was always treated differently because of his extreme height. Publicly honored, privately scorned, and always spoiled, he couldn’t have gone unnoticed. The slightest sneeze brought a tidal wave of attention.

As Natasha’s resentment grew, she retreated and paid less attention to her son. Of course, the boy didn’t understand. He missed his mother, but he had his friends and was cared for by the tribe.

As the war continued, the Aussies came. One day out of the blue they dropped out of the sky. Perhaps if they hadn’t come the war wouldn’t have come to the interior. And the Aussies, who wore khaki shorts and ran around with their shirts off, won it for the allies. Accordingly, as a British official, Adam helped out as much as he could, but still the Australians snubbed him. What else could he do then but wait for them to come to him? He knew the local dialect while most of them didn’t, and that proved useful when it came to negotiating. Natasha, then however, succeeded with them when her husband couldn’t.

Her existence delighted them. They hadn’t expected to find in the jungle a pretty white woman, who they could communicate with. What a delightful surprise! They felt lucky, but she was married, and they didn’t like that. But sometimes temptation is too great. It however wasn’t something that was easy nor was it something that would happened overnight because most of the Australians were also married.

Here was the attention she sought. Lonely people and lonely hearts were closely allied. To Natasha, British civil servants were so ridiculously stuffy while Aussies seemed so much more alive. Since she sometimes wondered why she stuck with her husband, she was tempted now in a way she wasn’t tempted before. Perhaps she only hesitated because there was no place for her to escape to. The jungle certainly didn’t offer her a sanctuary.

After the Aussies came, she had to deal with something inside her that she didn’t particularly like. She had to compromise when she didn’t like compromising. She however couldn’t remember the last time she had so much fun. “They like what they see,” she said and didn’t want to be put back on a shelf. Then for some reason she gained confidence, and one thing led to another.

She didn’t care anymore … didn’t care if she upset her husband when she picked out one of the men. The shortest one, with a protruding chin. His name was Roger.

Roger. It was Roger. And he was married for one thing. And she wasn’t sure why she picked him except he was the shortest one. And she considered herself lucky because he was a fine person. Her husband didn’t think so. They were both married, but neither one of them considered marriage irrevocable.

The Aussies were much more forward than the British. She enjoyed their flippancy. She believed Roger when he told her that he loved her. In what ways were the British restrained? Was it simply in their manner and appearance? Yes, they still talked about keeping a stiff upper lip, but as for Natasha, Roger, with his bare chest and perturbing chin, had them beat. It was simple though: he was also handsome.

Adam, of course, couldn’t control her. He never tried. And never talked about it. Of course, Natasha talked and needled him as much as she could. She also took great risks and laughed and sang with the men from Down Under. You could say that she was just no good. The Aussies would’ve said just opposite. Her tastes were indeed the opposite of Adam’s. His strictness sapped her energy. All buttoned up, he gained his authority by being trim and proper. He kept a stiff upper lip while his rivals boasted and ran around with their shirts off. The tuffs of hair on their chests delighted Natasha, and she’d say up until she died “Those Australians were a wild bunch. They were certainly appreciative of me and, when I needed salvation the most, they saved my life.” Such was the situation when Natasha felt trapped the most.

Natasha neglected her son Crockett. Without thinking about it, she gave his care over to her neighbors. Carried in a sling, he was cared for by three-to-six-year-old nurses, who lived and played in a three-to-six-year-old world. While carrying him in a sling, his nurses jumped up and down to the time of rice sifting, or threw stones by pushing them forward with a shot put like motion. Play kept the nurses occupied, while they babysat the white infant with a full head of hair.

It was May of 1945 now. The jungle had grown over the charred ruins of Sandakan, and you could see where American ships shelled and torpedoed the harbor and the town. Nor was it hard to forget the May Day massacre and the jungles were now dangerous because of fleeing Japanese. Now came the task of staying alive until the enemy finally capitulated.

Natasha waited with resignation. By then she had decided to leave her husband and join Roger in Australia. The uncertainty that came from hiding from a brutal enemy and being a white woman trapped in an unmapped, untamed jungle had taken its toll. She was giddy about hooking up with Roger again and hadn’t thought about the complications involved. It would give her, as she put it, her freedom. She didn’t intend to take Crockett with her. Crockett? She rightly associated him with savages, who until recently had been headhunters. Crockett? She did however recognize him as her son. Crockett? Sometimes her son frightened her. Sometimes she didn’t recognize him. So Natasha … a strong woman who appeared fragile … was persuaded to let go of her son, which she almost immediately regretted.

By this time Adam carried his son on his shoulders. It was always a tribute to him that he cared so much for the boy and that they were bonded. Together they went exploring. That was how the boy was exposed to the jungle, where people dripped with sweat and the trees dripped with rain. And it was always to his father that he attributed his love for Borneo. During his boyhood it was his father who influenced him the most, though there was a wild side to him that was never tamed. Then, too, when he thought of his mother and missed her, of course, he never thought of her failings. Yes, he missed her and planned to someday go see her. All right, all right, he hated his stepfather, the Aussie who didn’t like to wear a shirt. Who loved him more, a mother who sometimes protected him, or a father who exposed him to innumerable risks?

Under both the Chartered Borneo Company and the later Administering Government, Adam was a loyal civil servant, and a very good one. Only once was he derelict in his duties. But he could’ve been more influential. He stayed out in the jungle too long. He became an old man too early and in later years seemed to have lost his vision.

Growing up in the interior of Borneo, usually naked to the waist, Crockett learned to love the jungle his father loved. From an early age, the boy explored it on his own. He carried a spear. The jungle had become his home, and he was never afraid because he felt sure he could meet any emergency.

The Little Rajah never backed down. His father said “Crockett will someday carve an important niche for himself” and indeed he had many of his father’s traits. Thus there was a difference between him and the other boys that gave him an edge, and his skin color also gave him an advantage. The Little White Rajah … some said that he could be the next heir of James Brooke of Sarawak, though there were already heirs in line. Crockett retained his title not so much because he was a deserving boy but because of the valor he showed in mock combat.

He’d pick up a stick and hit his enemies with great delight. To earn respect, a Rajah had to be willing to die and defend himself with all of his might. He pulled his friends hair knots. He ran up behind his victim’s jackfruit head, and before he got caught he’d pull really hard. He always fought to win.

In their birthday suits, the boys would slide down hills on bamboo sleds. Then as the biggest, he’d start it. Insults and jibes then flew and teasing produced the desired effect. This always amused the adults. And Crockett always stood out, but his most salient quality was his empathy for the victims.

He looked up to his father. He saw his father at work, and his values, as prescribed by duty, came from his dad. Sometimes he wondered how his mother was managing. He knew his father missed her, or suspected he did. He watched his father assert his authority, enforce British laws, and do all he could to prevent head hunting.

For years the British government tried to abolish headhunting. It had been a full-time job, and even as late as 1951, the ritual survived in scattered pockets of Borneo; however as far as Adam knew, the killing had stopped in his area. Then while they had put a stop to human sacrifices, the ceremonial part with the dancing and the drinking lived on. But had any British official suspected that participants still sometimes coated their spear tips with poison, there would’ve been hell to pay. But far worse for Mr. Flint and more threatening was what happened with his son.

On occasion Crockett participated in these martial rites. He wanted to be a warrior. He dressed the part in a loin strap, a war-coat, and a helmet. Then as darkness fell he and a small war party left the village and spent the night beside the river. They stayed up all night getting ready for a mock battle. There was a ritual they followed. Everyone knew it, and normally it wouldn’t have amounted to much, and except for one reckless moment that was how it would’ve been … and if he’d been his father, Crockett thought, he would’ve been able to stop it.

The evidence was all in tact. Fresh blood, a severed head, a grim collection. And added to this a bloody knife and the rest of the corpse with puncture wounds to the heart. It had been a brutal murder.

Bloody and brutal and the whole war party participated. It was forbidden and against the law, and yet they didn’t try to cover it up. Instead they celebrated. Pretty terrible, and Crockett participated. He got his hands bloody. He joined in as they shouted and stomped their feet and jumped an unarmed neighbor from a village with which they were feuding. He hated things that were messy, yet he participated, and he couldn’t explain why he did. He wasn’t intoxicated. He knew what he was doing, yet couldn’t explain it. He became violent when the other boys had, and he took his turn with the knife. He couldn’t explain it and wanted to forget it, and it became a refrain he’d repeat the rest of his life. He saw another boy pick up the head. He was thinking, you see, it would’ve been better if it had been his head. He knew the position this put his father in … he was the police officer, and then he was the jailer, and the judge. He knew at once that he’d have to face his father, the police officer, the jailer, and the judge.

Crockett knew his father would kill him. Not that he would literally kill him because that would require more from his father than his father had. Murder was murder and required justice even if the murderers were boys. Murder was murder and required justice even if one of the murderers was your son. What unfolded in a matter of minutes hurt Crockett forever. Horrified, Crockett stood there. The whole party saw his face. Then he panicked. It went without saying that he would, didn’t it?

The refrain he was beginning to live with went like this: “I have killed a man. I am murderer. So then I should be sent to prison and perhaps even hanged. Justice requires it.” He had become voluble just as he became violent. He’d confess and pay the price, but it wasn’t up to him. And while the quickest and most honorable way out was a bullet. If he had had access to a gun he knew what he would do.

We have here a collision of cultures, of the old and the new. Oh, he understood what the consequences should’ve been, but he couldn’t understand why his father did what he did. He was disappointed. Could he believe he wouldn’t do anything? Of course, you know he’d have to make a report.

Murder is murder, and murder was a capital crime. Was that the refrain? Yes, of course, it was. Grizzly. Grizzly. Crazily, yes. It would be a long time before any of them would forget it.

While Crocket was alone with his feelings of guilt the other boys were engrossed in the business at hand. For a quarter of an hour the war party whooped and danced and paid little attention to Crockett. They made an offering to the Brahming kite and Spider Hunter and looked for religious meaning in what they had done. But the head as a trophy held no significance for Crockett. Instead he felt sick while his friends felt the reverse. As Crockett later recalled, “they sprung into the air, shouted, clapped, and laughed, as I was trying to let it out.” He was not crying for himself but for the person they had killed.

In times past the whole tribe would’ve celebrated the arrival of omen birds. Attended then were kites instead of a bastard form: instead of chicken flesh or goat meat: this time human flesh! Even small children participated.

They sprinkled themselves with blood to increase their strength as fighters. But now instead of blood of a chicken or a goat the blood of an enemy! And the martial rites and the offerings continued with the clanging of gongs.

The circling birds attracted unwanted attention. Adam, poor chap, went to the scene of the crime with some reluctance. It wasn’t that he dreaded what he’d find. It was that he knew that it wouldn’t be pretty, but he never expected to find that his son was involved. In his official report he wouldn’t mention Crockett, though when he arrived on the scene he saw that his only son was not only there but had blood on his hands. From this moment on, the civil servant only thought of one thing. He abandoned his principals and covered up the crime in order to save his son.

Water removed the blood, and he soon sent Crockett to Darwin to be with his mom. And he wouldn’t have gotten away with elsewhere. Had he lived in a major town, the crime would’ve required a more thorough investigation. Instead he had to think up something and put together something that satisfied almost everyone. No one wanted to admit that headhunting hadn’t been totally eradicated and because of it people were reluctant to talk. They were ashamed, and shame was a powerful thing. Ever see a grown man cry? This was one time Adam Flint cried.

As a direct result of the incident, the cat fight between two villages intensified. More blood flowed. Once the killing began, it was hard to stop. It spoke well of the British that they were able to stop the violence before it spread to other villages. The Chartered Company regained control by executing the leaders of the feud in Jesselton. With regard to head hunting, a connection between it and the feuding villages was never officially made. Then after a hearing, Adam gratefully accepted reassignment. Such gifts bunglers received when they were members of the same club. Though in this case, the motives of Adam’s superiors were unknown.

Meanwhile, in Darwin, Crockett attended a Catholic school, and it was only a matter of time before he screwed up. He was bullied as he walked through the halls, and it was only a matter of time before he exploded. That was when the redhead English boy learned what it meant to be a foreigner. Crockett discovered that his English, British English, wasn’t good enough. No longer a rajah, he paid a price for being different. Not only did his peers pick on him, but also sadly his teachers allowed it.

It was difficult and damn well shitty. And his mother couldn’t control him, so it was only a matter of time before he ran away. Perhaps he was listening to the refrain in his head. Or perhaps he simply wanted to be with his father. If he’d stayed in Darwin it would’ve been only a matter of time before he shot someone.

After the war, having to totally rebuild a mutilated land, people’s attitudes changed. There was a widespread distaste for traditional, old fashion Asian ideas, while the Colonial Administration didn’t radically alter the Chartered Company’s legacy. Then as the rebuilding continued into the 1950′s, Crocket moved into exporting (now illegally) everything from breakfast grains to trucks…shoes, refrigerators, furniture, tractors, cars, bicycles, etc. As far as he was concerned, he owned the territory and it came with the arrangements he made. In fact, he was a gentleman among smugglers and a lifeline to the whole Sulu archipelago, with some of his goods attracting customers in Manila.

By the late 50’s Crockett had slipped back into Malaysia but hadn’t bothered to look up his dad. No. But remember the trouble he’d been in. He changed his name. And hoped people wouldn’t remember him. And somehow he managed to curry favor with the politicians in charge and who were determined to make a new nation work.

The Tausug, and not the Gypsies, still lived in bamboo houses reached by a maze of shaky walkways built over the sea. Crockett descended on these people with his small army of boats. He was determined to raise their standard of living and make a profit from it. With pox Americana, the Tausug, by and large, had accepted American rule, but with Philippine independence that was about to change?

America introduced paper money proving how ready people of Sulu were for Crockett and his bargains. With a variety of goods to sale he always departed a richer man than when he came, and his ability to move around safely proved that he had the right connections. He started with one boat filled with chintz, chinaware, tea, drugs, and many other things; next a bigger boat and then many boats; and finally he established a monopoly. The poor chap made a lot of money from selling petrol, blue jeans and t-shirts, Guinness Stout and cheap parangs and upped ante when he added Cornflakes, Tide, and Coca-Cola and before long was living the life of a white Rajah. From the money he made he constructed a house made of white coral, and with hardwood floors and imported furniture, the house would’ve impressed the real White Rajah.

And as for his father, poor Mr. Flint, he was still on Borneo somewhere, but God knows where. It was a difficult situation for him because he lost his job when Malaysia gained its independence. If there had been some definite news from him … Crockett would’ve felt responsible … and would’ve surely taken him in. You could be sure of it. It was the least he could do. Though a bit improbable, or impossible for them both. Perhaps. You were saying? If he were still alive ….

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- Revised R&R

Randy Ford Author- Revised R&R

Jack went back to the temple where he saw a reclining Buddha lying down and welcoming death, and it seemed smaller than he remembered it. He rarely went back to tourist sites, but this site hadn’t been accessible since the war began. Still it hadn’t been neglected.

Jack hadn’t planned to go inside the temple because he hadn’t planned to be in the region, which said as much about his situation as anything. He never knew where he’d be sent. In the covert world of Laos he wasn’t even supposed to be in the country. He always said that he’d someday return to Laos as a tourist, but he knew better than to hold his breath.

Now he was in an isolated region of Laos, controlled by someone he only knew by his first name. Landed not far from there and wanted to see if the temple was still there. He had to do something to kill time. Because everything didn’t always work out smoothly he had time to kill.

Thinking about the time he’d spent in Laos, Jack couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t drawn the short stick. He was used to getting dangerous assignments, so he respected fear. And this was one of those times … when he was short everything … short of information, short of light, and short of a place to land and take off. But more than anything else he didn’t have control of the situation.

Now there were a few places that he was itching to get back to. They all had their appeal, and that was why he kept going back to them. So when he got back to Udorn he was heading for Bangkok. He hadn’t lost anything in Bangkok, but he certainly had in Manila. For obvious reasons, he preferred Bangkok to Hong Kong and Manila. It was time for a little R&R, past time, and he aimed to get some as soon as he got back to Udorn. Jack luckily didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission. He could just take off. But on this day he was more concerned about getting off a mountaintop.

He was killing time, when he didn’t have time to spare. It wasn’t his choice and as usual he was waiting on other people. He’d gotten used to it. People were rarely on time. Today, with a greater distance to cover than usual, timing was crucial.

Like all Ravens, American pilots, all volunteers, Jack carried no identification. So there would be no way of identifying him if he were shot down, which meant his family wouldn’t know what happened to him. So he had to be careful.

It was early afternoon, and he couldn’t wait to get back to Udorn. There was nothing particular waiting for him in Udorn, but he still wanted to get back. He loved flying, unrestricted flying, so he didn’t relish the thought of being stuck on the ground. He volunteered, knowing the risks and that he’d have to transport food and medicine and refugees, but there was nothing worse than coming under fire on the ground and losing a plane.

Back in Udorn Jack would sip cold drinks and swap stories with old cronies in khaki bush shirts and trousers. Although they were old hands (a lot of them fought in Korea), they always had new stories to tell. This year the dry season was unusually hot. There was no mistaking it, although Jack tried to remain cool. He was cool under fire: that was why he was recruited.

There was nothing special about the Buddha. It of course was a copy of a copy that hadn’t been inlayed with gold like other Buddhas he’d seen. They were basically the same everywhere. And he? Why had he taken time out to see it? He naturally felt restless and not in the mood for seeing the sites. He usually never left his plane. They were all big on security, so he didn’t get many chances to exercise. And too often he did parachute drops, which meant he didn’t get a chance then either.

He left the temple and jogged back to the landing strip. So far so good, for there was now activity around the STOL airplane. It wouldn’t be long now before he could take off.

Jack thought that the beauty of Laos was that it was small and its capital was manageable. It was beautiful from the air … with thick forests and rugged mountains, and a few plains and plateaus. You felt like you were in a tropical Colorado, with the highest peak higher than 9, 000 feet, and that’s high for the tropics. There was now massive bombing in Laos near the Vietnam border. Everything now depended on Vietnam, and Jack was often expected to come to the rescue of people trapped on mountaintops. So it was logical that he would be waiting for human cargo, and waiting logically because he couldn’t land on a nearby mountain.

He’d know more about the cargo once he saw the people. So he was glad to see that some of them had arrived, women, children, and elderly men mostly … he was glad he could help … and when he reached the edge of the airstrip he was relieved to see that his co-pilot was helping them climb onto the plane.

Jack was both astute and athletic, so he ran to the plane and helped his co-pilot. When they reached their weight capacity, there were still more people waiting to board. It was always sad when they didn’t have enough room, and Jack always hoped that it wasn’t too late for those he left behind. It was such a dicey situation that Jack never knew.

To be honest, Jack volunteered more for the excitement than for the money, and he wasn’t disappointed. From dodging bullets to dodging ridgelines, it never let up. Runways were rarely paved and never long enough, and Jack narrowly missed the top of trees this time. With the plane overloaded it was a miracle. Yet he would’ve felt like a fool had he crashed.

To connect scattered Hmong outposts separated by mountains, the CIA had built a chain of airstrips, and Jack had flown into each one of them. Some were better than others, but most of them weren’t very level because the people who built them didn’t have adequate equipment. Sometimes at mountain airstrips, they were refueled with buckets. It was unbelievable that there weren’t more crashes than they were. Near crashes loomed in his memory each time Jack took off from one of these landing strips. In many respects it was an unforgiving profession. The weather was often a significant factor, and there were no air traffic control or navigational systems. Yet Jack flew with confidence.

Moving among his Hmong fighters he could see that many of them were young boys and that many of them already bore scars. This was the army they relied on, and it seemed to Jack that they should’ve been in school instead of fighting in the jungle. These were the fighters who would come to his rescue if he crashed. They were also the ones left behind when the dominos fell and Jack and his colleagues were pulled out of Laos.

The Hmong weren’t the only ones left behind. Jack was caught up in the accelerated exit and he couldn’t pick up all of the pieces of his life or face ghosts that haunted him. It hit him like a thunderclap when someone he loved was taken away from him. He wasn’t ready and didn’t know if he’d ever be ready to accept responsibility for a child he left behind in Manila. How old would she be now? He didn’t want to think about her because when he did it brought back painful and sad memories of her mother.

She had to sneak off. Penny’s grandmother was very protective and wouldn’t have approved of her going to Ongpin Street. She knew the risks but considered herself a big girl. She was mature and didn’t have to dress provocative to look sexy. Neither was she careless in her dress or in the way she presented herself, because she didn’t want to be mistaken for a prostitute.

She went to Ongpin Street to talk to American GIs, Penny explained. There would be American GIs hanging out around Ongpin Street, there would be American GIs looking for women there, she rambled on as she explained why she went to Ongpin Street. Standing on a corner, she stood out because she didn’t look like a prostitute. As a young lady with fixed roots, she was curious about all sorts of things. She explained, “I won’t give up until I find him.”

But Penny didn’t know where to look for her father. Not because he was hiding from her … that wouldn’t have occurred to him … it was something far worse. He forgot about her because he was trying to put his past behind him. He didn’t want to be reminded of it, and it was just possible, if he acknowledged her, he’d have to acknowledge the part he played in her mother’s death.

“The real reason, sir, was that he didn’t want to be tied down with a child. You know how that goes?” He knew … had to have known because he was a responsible adult, but Penny didn’t know how he felt. What if he hadn’t wanted to fly? What if there hadn’t been a war? If Penny had stopped to think she would’ve realized that he left the Philippines before the war. She was going to be eighteen soon, which meant that she didn’t need to listen to her grandmother. She couldn’t wait to be eighteen when she’d be considered an adult. She was confident, very confident. There wasn’t any doubt in her mind about her ability to handle herself. It was only a question of her age, since she was mature and didn’t want to hurt her grandmother. It was her grandmother who raised her. Now she was going against everything her grandmother taught her, but if this stunned people, maybe they didn’t know there was a precedent. Penny’s mother was no angel.

This was never discussed. It seemed like her grandmother had modified the story for her benefit. And she never said anything about her disapproval of Penny’s father. What memories Penny had of him were pleasant, but then tragedy struck, and she was deprived of both parents. Now sitting in a cramped jeepney on her way to Ongpin Street she knew that she couldn’t turn back. She thought that she could find someone who knew her father and knew where to look for him. A hint of nervousness was detectable. She knew it wouldn’t be easy, but neither was remaining in the dark.

But she had to have been kidding herself. Out of all the GIs who came to Manila for R&R what were the chances of finding one who knew her father? And her father wasn’t in the military. Maybe she should’ve thrown up her hands before she wasted her time. He was dead for all she knew. There were thousands upon thousands of GIs, and she knew it. And many of those GIs would take advantage of a young Filipina, and she knew that too. She was prepared to be careless and wild, and she thought it would be worth it if there were a chance of finding her father. Anyway, she thought she could handle herself. She had been to Ongpin Street before (with her grandmother and on a scouting exhibition) and knew she that she didn’t have to commit herself if she didn’t want to. And maybe it was its seaminess that drew her to Ongpin Street.

Penny was the essence of carefreeness when she walked into a bar. Not that she was unconcerned about how she would be perceived. She never stopped to consider what she was doing, and there’s no doubt that she felt invincible. From out from behind the bar, the bartender approached her.

“May I help you?”

“I don’t think so.”

The bartender never left anything alone, and he knew that Penny didn’t belong in there. That didn’t matter. She was determined to follow through with her plan. There were other women who did belong in there, and they all looked at Penny. There was something unpleasant about the way they looked at her. But if she hadn’t gone in there, she wouldn’t have met her GI.

Yes, he saved her from the bartender. He almost didn’t come over to her table. He wouldn’t have noticed her had the bartender not given her a hard time.

GIs could choose to go to Bangkok, Manila, or Hong Kong for R&R. Colonel Schumaker began to explain it, as though by choosing Manila he had made a smart choice. Most of his buddies who had one thing on their minds chose Bangkok. He made it clear that he was looking for something else and that he could tell that Penny was a “nice girl.” It was as if they were meant for each other. They were both happy about it..

Yes, it was too good to be true. She also knew that he could be false. She’d disappoint him if he were. She wouldn’t sell herself, and he’d be disappointed, if he thought she would. But if she weren’t a prostitute, why was she there?

The chemistry was there from the start. He began by talking abstractly about America when she wanted to know specifics. She was full of questions. He could answer most of them, but he was more interested in her. He liked her. He knew it instantly.

She began asking him about the war. He didn’t want to talk about it. This was why she wanted to talk to a GI. He hated it. He never got away from it, so it was the last thing he wanted to talk about. So each time she brought up the war he grew more uncomfortable. Everytime he told her something, he felt disappointed that she didn’t see how it affected him. Otherwise they got along perfectly.

She knew that he couldn’t tell her anything specific about her father. She didn’t know enough to even ask specific questions about him. As far as she knew there hadn’t been any recent communication between him and her grandmother, and if there had been she wouldn’t necessarily have known it. She had no more to go on than his name.

He went along. He could see that she was obsessed. At that time it wouldn’t have occurred to him to say, “Penny, let’s talk about something else. I came to Manila to get away from the war,” which was the truth. He couldn’t say it because he was subject to the dictates of his desire.

And as they talked, with opposite agendas, they couldn’t avoid what brought them together. As for the war, peace was nowhere in sight … mistakes were being made, people questioned why so many boys were dying, and the lack of practice didn’t make Americans good losers … Colonel Schumaker noticed something about Penny’s mind that was the opposite of his. There was a singlemindedness about her that baffled him. He noticed that she wouldn’t easily let go of something once she got it in her head. Wanting to know everything about the war was one of those things. Another was, wanting to know about Indiana.

But the one thing that fascinated Colonel Schmaker about Penny more than anything else was that though she was a Filipina she reminded him of a girl back home. “You have fair skin.” This seemed unusual to him. Most Filipinas were darker. He’d always heard that the Philippines had beautiful women. Here was a beautiful woman, and she didn’t look like other Filipinas, and she had an American name. At first he didn’t allow himself to think that maybe she was a mixture. That would’ve bothered him. He didn’t understand. Maybe there was no such thing as a pure Filipina.

Penny never had to paint or powder her face like her grandmother did. Men found her attractive without her doing anything. It wouldn’t have been the case had she come from China like her grandmother did. In those days conversations were brief. Bargaining had to be quick. After having chosen someone on the spot, men had to then convince themselves that they had bought true love. In their mind there was an affinity between love and slavery, where love meant possessiveness. Then how many women surrendered and thought they were free? But in Penny’s case, here was a young lady who listened to her inner voice and didn’t have to worry about powdering her face.

He was disgusted with the way the war was going … defeat would look the same in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In October of 1974, Dr. Henry Kissinger said to a journalist, “It is difficult to win on the negotiating table what you have lost on the battlefield.” Lose! Time was running out for Penny’s search. Constant fog draped many of the jungle peaks; and perhaps fog obscured the war to such an extent that the young lady would never find what and who she was looking for.

“What are you trying to do?” he asked.

“I’m looking for an American pilot named Jack. There must be a million American pilots named Jack.”

They went over all she knew about her father, while she wasn’t optimistic about finding him. She didn’t have enough information. He was from Indiana. She knew that much. Colonel Schumaker eyed her with astonishment. Was she nuts? Out of all of the Jacks who flew in Nam, how could she expect him to know her father? She didn’t even know if he was still flying. And he wasn’t in the military. There was no way that he could’ve narrowed it down, and she should’ve known it. It bugged Colonel Schumaker. He didn’t need to be bugged.

“At 1430 hours, Fire Support Base 31 received an attack. Six airborne troops killed, three wounded and one bulldozer damaged. On the following day, towards noon, Fire Support Base 31 fell under an attack again. This time by 122-mm rockets. Killed two and wounded four.” Whenever he tried to forget the war, something reminded him of it. It had always been a balancing act: forgetting and remembering. Now he wasn’t thinking about himself. He wasn’t thinking.

She had every reason to believe that there had been a conspiracy to keep her away from her father. At an early age she was shipped off to a Catholic boarding school, where they assumed she’d find herself. A course was mapped out for her, but she had no interest in following it. There wasn’t much they could tell her. She had already made up her mind that she wanted to live in America with her father. And she considered herself more American than Filipina. People in America were rich. Six and she already had her sights set on America, and she was waiting for the age when she could claim her citizenship. When you’re six you’re easily impressed. This was even more so for Penny. She thought that she could find in America what she lost in the Philippines. Anything was possible in America. She had grandparents somewhere over there. And an aunt named Margo. Bits and pieces of information fueled her imagination. Fragments made up her world, and she no doubt enjoyed them. In this special American, everyone played basketball and everyone made lay-ups. In American there was a gas station on every corner, and her grandfather own one of them.

The war was hours away by plane. Getting totally away from it proved impossible. A little R&R he hoped would help. Then he chose a girl who wouldn’t let him forget it. He hoped that it would help him shed, even for a little while, his sense of terror. Killing dulled the soldier’s feelings.

“The V.C. enjoyed the underbrush and could disappear anytime. That meant that we were never safe. They were in every village; and we may have thought that we were tightening a noose, but we never knew when we were walking into a trap. More and more we relied on our fighting instinct. Superior soldiers have to respect a den of ants.”

They knew that they’d never see each other again. But why was this so certain? Perhaps it was because both of them knew the realities of war. He wanted to make a career out of the Army and enlisted; but neither basic training nor OCS prepared him for Vietnam. The top of his class, Colonel Schumaker came out of it all psyched up. He was not only considered a good officer but a damn good man.

Due to how he related to his men, he was command material. He was highly trained, a tough son-of-a-bitch. Unfortunately sometimes he acted as if the whole shooting match was his private war. In short, Schumaker was simply your-best-dumb-shit ever, because of his gung-ho attitude. But according to him, the son-of-a-bitching war turned his country into a nation of pansies. “Nobody gives a rat’s ass anymore.”

Penny continued to pump Schumaker for information. She listened for specifics, which might relate to her father. As far as she knew, her dad could’ve been dead, because she knew he risked his ass in enemy territory near the Ho Chi Minh Trail. She suspected a conspiracy of silence.

Alpha never showed. What now, Cisco? Why, how now!”

In a driving rainstorm, a chopper flew Schumaker out for R & R. In flight didn’t they trace the Laotian border and see the trail? He was sorry to have to tell Penny “no, he didn’t see the trail”. He really didn’t want to talk about the war but she kept pushing him until he exploded, and what he gave her was a cleaned up version of a noisy, dirty, dangerous hell.

Some veterans talked about Operation Ranch Hand and the effects of herbicides. Not that any of them could give Penny the information she wanted. “Many who thought they could closed their eyes looked in vain in the wrong direction. Throughout the war, if you to spent time in Charlie-Med, you wouldn’t want to see anymore.”

Schumaker said, “We do what we’re trained to do. But regretfully we can no more chase the enemy until we destroy him than he can overrun us. Can we win? Do we know how to do it? For some of us, joining was kind of a John Wayne’ thing to do.”

“All You Need Is Love.” It was a song that struck an accord.

Colonel Schumaker had just survived days of around-the-clock shelling and waiting for death. This from an enemy that was beaten into the ground by 35,000 tons of bombs. Giant B-52 Stratofortresses emptied their payloads every three hours, twenty-four hours a day. Consequently his nerves were shot. And Penny kept pushing him until he exploded.

Here was Schumaker trying to forget the war, as it was fought just six clicks from the Laotian border, when Penny kept pushing him until he exploded and Penny didn’t know that Schumanker and her father had been no more than twelve clicks apart.

He told her that Canada would’ve been a better option for him. “Considering the effectiveness of Agent Orange and napalm, there’ll be little left of Vietnam. It was no prize to begin with. It’s been like trying to save a dead horse.”

A dead horse … ”Penny Lane” was quite possibly the best song ever written. It became their song. “The pretty nurse was selling poppies from a tray, and felt as if she were in a play.”

The trouble with Penny was that she wouldn’t let go of something when she got it in her brain.

And then he plaintively sung, “I’d love to turn you on.” Against a backdrop of a diving plane, through his laughter he meant to say, “Look mom, no hands!”

Maybe her father would show up for her birthday. Or send her a card or something. What was wrong with hoping?

“Now tell me should we cheer?”

In the thick of it…. “Requesting permission to fire on 803513…. Receiving small arms and mortar fire…. Taking causalities….repeat, requesting permission to fire….can you send aircraft?”

“But it’s just a tiny Cessna.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- Revised NAM

Randy Ford Author- Revised NAM

And war is personal
And it hurts

As a writer, a poet, and a patron of the arts, Margo had long been a crusader. Then came a time when nothing was more important to her than expressing her opposition to the war.

She reinvented herself several times, while working through phases as they came along. This scared her husband, particularly after she decided to hold a colloquium at her coffeehouse on “Freedom and the Return to Paganism.” From her small stage, speakers led discussions about eroticism with emphases on body parts (for women belly, tits, and thighs and for men beards, balls, and muscles). Obviously each person had to make up their own mind, but the most prevalent ideas concerned freedom. When someone then asked what freedom meant, someone else yelled, “Make love, not war!” It wasn’t long before word got out and “Make love, not war!” became a rallying cry. .

Margo’s coffeehouse attracted a certain crowd, and this crowd tended to be against the war. And many people considered Margo a hippie, though she wasn’t one. She was more complex than most hippies but liked the label and used it as a marketing tool. When Yippies came in vogue she adopted them too. This enabled her to meet the Chicago Eight before the rest of the world did.
If you were looking for reasons why Margo opposed the Vietnam War asking her wouldn’t have helped. During the early years of the war she didn’t pay didn’t pay much attention to it, and she was against it before she knew why. One source could’ve been her brother. She heard from him from time to time, and by then he lived in Bangkok, but it just didn’t click that he was connected with the war. It wasn’t until she opened her coffeehouse that she was exposed to the protest movement.

She sympathized with the Vietnamese, though she couldn’t say where these feelings came from. She was too busy to keep track of what was going on. Yet it was through her business that she came in contact with bands and musicians such as Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. Or rather kids in bands that imitated Country Joe and The Fish and Moby Grape. And it was those kids, who stood up to the troops with bayonets and yelled, ”And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?”

There wasn’t a specific incident that turned Margo against the war (like the Tet Offensive of that year that showed that the American public was lied to). Nothing specific like what energized the five thousand women who rallied in Washington or caused Eartha Kitt to yell at Lady Bird Johnson. Margo never got overly concerned about the “credibility gap” or followed the Gallup poll that showed that 50% of Americans disapproved of Johnson’s handling of the war. Early on she identified with the “hawks.” Because of her husband, she almost had to. In those days there were “chickens” and “hawks,” and Margo’s husband couldn’t afford to be seen as a “chicken.”
Symbols such as the chicken foot were most useful and usable. The chicken foot was particular important to many GI’s because it was their symbol for draft dodgers. It didn’t matter that it was also a symbol for the peace movement. It wasn’t a big deal because many grunts were ex-hippies … only they hadn’t escaped the draft. So many of them drew chicken feet on their helmets.

Margo grew fond of a chicken foot medallion, given to her by a GI, but when there were still questions in her mind she didn’t wear it. It was around the time the Democrats chose Chicago for the site of its national convention. Then because of the riot, the violence, she began wearing the medallion around her neck. It reminded her of the GI who gave it to her and her brother, who ran away before the draft became a problem for him. Look! She didn’t know what her brother was doing in Southeast Asia. Didn’t know whether he was a chicken or a hawk.

The thing to remember is that Chicago got a bad rap. As Abbie Hoffman said “it was where flower children lost their innocence and grew horns.” In trying to explain what happened people said all kinds of things. For it is only when one collects posters, slogans, and medallions can one save something tangible. Regarding the overall scheme of things, it’s often all we have left.

It kind of went like this. “Cool” and “groovy” replaced substantive comments. Margo accepted this laziness. Dope was cool. Longhaired runaway kids were groovy. When saints were eliminated her eyes were opened by the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth. Well, it was cool and groovy. So Margo demonstrated, marched, carried picket signs, and got herself arrested. And it was cool.

Forget the same ol’ bullshit. Get involved. Do as much as you can. Stick it up whose ass? Nixon’s ass! What happened to LBJ? Every night at the coffeehouse, Margo offered theater and magic and madness. She never promised a polished work, or a logical argument, but insisted on the truth. War hurts, so without peace, she didn’t believe life was worth living.

Sing “Tommy Gun’s,” the repetitive phrases, the staccato fire and shatter glass. There was a suggestion of mayhem. Take the crowd trapped in front of the Conrad Hilton. Take the clubbing and the bleeding as spectators in the Haymarket Lounge watched and a feeling of uselessness hung over the scene. Here we were at war in American, as it was brought home from Nam. And as Janis Joplin breathed heavily into a mike, she warned us that “world ain’t pretty.” Of course the Mayor had to comment. “These are ugly times but I’m doing everything possible … An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The act of touching became a statement and a cause. Touching promoted expression. Orgasms signified life. Throw in screwing. Lincoln Park became a freak show, with kids yelling “we are the future” as they pissed on the grass. With contempt they cried for freedom, while Margo insisted that the description of universal promiscuity didn’t fit her.

To Margo’s parents, other people’s children seemed more adjusted than their own. Many of them were heroes, men and women serving in Nam. Now whenever these service men and women were honored, Margo’s parents wondered where they failed.

Now the levitation of the Pentagon was really something. It released energy somehow, and God knew it needed to be released. It also sent a clear message to the brass working inside the building. So this extraordinary event, the levitation of the Pentagon, couldn’t be poo-pooed. The clubbing and the shouting of “pig” couldn’t either. It meant that the war was closer to home than any of them thought. Mostly white, the protestors were called spoiled brats, yet they went to battle, or soon would. But for the grace of God they were fighting in Arlington and Chicago rather than Nam.

Many people remembered that Margo wore a chicken foot medallion. But for her sex, she would’ve been drafted and in spite of her feelings would’ve served her country. “Linebacker Two, this is your quarterback.” White and female and over thirty, she survived Chicago and had personal reasons for protesting the war.

Randy Ford

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Randy Ford Author- Revised HOME FROM THE LAND OF OZ

Randy Ford Author- Revised HOME FROM THE LAND OF OZ
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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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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