My friend JulieBug at Another Chance Ranch conjured up a wonderful idea called Thankful Thursday. I'm not sure what the 'rules' are. Does it matter? My best bet is that we are supposed to post about what we are thankful for. This is my first go-round with Thankful Thursday. I can think of many things I'm thankful for...my health, family, and friends to begin with.
This particular post was developing in my head before I knew about Thankful Thursday. In fact, the post just happened before my very eyes. There are many posts I set out to create, but not this one. It just occurred.
theHansMan (prounounced thuhHahnzMahn) and I took an impromptu, overnight trip to here...(Any ideas where this is ?)
Just one of those times where we walked out the door and jumped in the car with the dogs. I was sitting inside here, waiting for breakfast while theHansMan discussed the importance of cathodically protecting buried propane tanks with the maintenance guy for this place. Their conversation took them out the door leaving me alone with my coffee cup and my thoughts.
As I sipped my coffee, I watched him walk through the door. He was a local for sure because he knew which door was open and which way to turn the massive handle to gain entrance. Everyone else struggled trying to open it. I watched him take his place at the bar and order his "usual" breakfast, I knew he was a walking history book. After several minutes of listening to him cajole with the waitress, it was too much for me to just to sit at that table by myself.
I introduced myself and ask if I could join him. His blue eyes glittered and he smiled all over.
"Of course, young lady, belly up to the bar with me. I'm having my "usual breakfast." I have two of these every morning, right here. His hair was still wet from his morning shower and slicked back very neatly. A fresh scent of Ivory soap floated in the air.
I noticed the bolo tie made of braided leather with sterling silver aglets. The decorative piece was the design of a scorpion. A deadly scorpion. Two of which he had caught in the Nevada desert. He was very proud of the tie he had designed and made himself.
His leather jacket lined with sherpa wool was well worn and shiny at the elbows but immaculately clean. He was quick to point out where he had bought it. "It only takes 10 hours to drive there and they let me have a very nice room for $28.00."
My coffee was beginning to taste like muddy water as I watched him sip on his ice-cold breakfast. I asked the waitress to bring me what he was having. When she sat the pilsner glass in front of me with foam dripping over the top, he giggled and asked, "You having one, too, young lady?"
At this point he noticed my camera and asked, "What's your story, where are you from, what are you doing 'roun these parts, and what are you taking pictures of?"
I told him I was from Grand Junction, my husband and I just drove down for a 24-hour stay and explained that I always took my camera with me just in case I needed to take a picture of something.
Then I asked him, "What's your story?"
"Well, they got me right out of high school. I did my basic training, went on to be a paratrooper, and spent a lot of time in and around Japan."
He asked me if Johnson Island in the South Pacific 'rang a bell.' That he had spend some time there.
I looked at him and saw the face of a young boy, a teenager who missed the days of being carefree and the nights of being adventuresome. Instead he saw fighting and death because he answered a call that succeeded in winnning a war that saved the world.
He told me he learned to speak Japanese almost fluently and then proceeded to rattle off a string of words that were only sounds. Sounds foreign to my ears. He grinned knowing I didn't have a clue what he had just said, so I asked him.
He said he had just asked, "Where the hell am I?" That in order to survive, once you jumped out of a perfectly good plane, it was important to know where you were. So, he would hide undercover until nightfall, then find the house of an older couple, who most generally would answer his question.
The bar-keep entered the scene and the conversation turned to the present. Fishing became the topic. Catfish to be specific. Scarface to be even more specific. Scarface is an 11-pound catfish that seems to elude his hook most of the time, but has on a couple of occasions 'broke my tackle.'
The bar-keep asked him where he fished.
"On the river," were his not-so-specific directions.
When asked what will you do with Scarface when you catch him, he replied, "Let 'em go, of course. Any fish that has lived that long and grown that big deserves to be free and not eaten."
I asked why he named the fish Scarface and he explained that when the hook pops out of his mouth and hits you in the face, it leaves a scar.
Below, he is demonstrating the technique he will use this spring to catch Scarface with perch bait.
theHansMan entered on the scene at about this time and was, of course, mesmerized with the stories. Stories about living in Alaska three times. Stories about living in Saudi Arabia for a eighteen months. Stories about living in Mexico for seven years. Stories about living in Arizona. Stories about working in Nevada. (Those stories were classified and his audience wasn't privy to them.) Stories about catching poisionous scorpions. Stories about killing a bear when he was 16 and regretting it ever-since. Stories about being a medical administrator, a bookkeeper, a surveyor, a uranuim miner.
Stories about his pet boxer, Cindy, who ran away from home and was gone for several weeks. He could see her from the plane as they flew over the desolate area below but, of course, they couldn't land anywhere to pick her up. She was running with a pack of coyotes. When Cindy finally came home, she was covered in porcupine needles which he pulled out one-by-one. He said she stayed very still to let him remove the quills which had caused numerous infected sores on her face and neck. Several weeks later she produced a litter of half boxer-half coyote puppies.
theHansMan was proud to shake the hand of this real-life hero.
Bill will be eighty years old next month.
I asked him a not so original question: "What is your recipe for a good life and being happy at seventy-nine years old?"
Without hesitation Bill grinned, "Be a vagabond, don't drink whiskey, and have two beers every morning for breakfast."
He gave me permission to take his picture, use his name, and tell this story. I regret that I can't re-tell it the way he told it. And if I've left something out or not explained something exactly right, I apologize. But I think you get the gist of the idea here.
As I drained the last sip of my breakfast out of the glass, he asked, "Young lady, you going to be back 'roun the parts again?"
I assured him that I would if I could go fishing with him.
Oh, how his face lit up and that impish-like grin spread all over his face.
"It's a deal. We'll go get 'old Scarface, you and me. On one condition."
"What's that, Bill?"
"That you leave Hans at home."
"If we are to heed the past to prepare for the future, we should listen to these quiet voices of a generation that speaks to us of duty and honor, sacrifice and accomplishment. I hope more of their stories will be preserved and cherished as reminders of all that we owe them and all that we can learn from them."
I hope that in some small way I have given tribute to this man who helped to give us the kind of lives we have today. For him, and all those who have served and are serving our country, I am thankful.
Message from the Emergency Swampcast System: UPDATE...
1) We were HERE.
2) Bill will celebrate his 80th birthday on February 25. If you have a message for him, please send it to swampwitch06atgmaildot com
I will print them and mail them to him.
E-mail me at the above address if you would like to send a card. I'll give you my USPS address and mail the cards to him. If possible, I will hand deliver them to him.