On one flight, I was sitting on the left side of the plane, and there was an extremely attractive woman sitting in a middle seat one row ahead on the right side of the plane—kind of a pocket princess. So I kept glancing over at her. Sitting to her left in the aisle seat was a man who I took to be a Persian. During the whole flight, he kept digging his finger into his ears or nose, scraping out what he found, looking at it, and then wiping it on his pants. When we landed, I got off the plane as quickly as I could, hoping to get one last look at her in the debarkation area, but she was gone. She must have sprinted away.
On another flight, I noticed an older woman up toward the front of the plane up on her knees on her seat looking over the plane with an excited expression on her face. I suspected that she might have been a first-time flyer. A while into the flight, she got up to go to the bathroom at the front of the plane. She hadn’t come out for a while, when another female passenger got up to also use that bathroom. This passenger reached for the knob and opened the door. She then fell backward against the opposite bulkhead. I always wondered what she saw.
On a different flight, I was sitting in an aisle seat on the right side of the plane. Directly in front of me was a young woman probably in her late teens. A little before we were on final approach, the young woman pulled out her cell phone and made a call. Sitting directly across the aisle from me were two women about 60 years old. These women started waving for the flight attendant and yelling that the young woman used her phone. This prompted the young woman to pretty much go nuts. There was cussing and screaming and crying. It was a huge commotion and nobody was sure that physical violence wouldn’t break out. The flight attendant came back but couldn’t calm things down. Eventually, the co-pilot came back and stood beside the young woman’s seat until the plane had landed. The thing was that these two older women WOULD NOT leave it alone. If they had just reported to the flight attendant and then just stayed silent, the episode would have blown over. But no—every time it seemed that the young woman might calm down, these two would stoke the fires again. I was amazed at their persistence in doing something that was causing a lot of trouble.
On an international flight, I was in a window seat and considered myself lucky to have scored two pillows, one for my head and one for my back. I visited the restroom, and when I came back, I noticed that I only had one pillow whereas the woman in the middle seat now had one. I asked her if she had taken my pillow, and she admitted it. I asked for it back, and she refused, saying it was tough luck for me.
Another time, I was sitting in an exit row after having been irritated at TWA for having put people had put people who couldn't possibly have operated the emergency exit in that row in flights before. This time, I was in a middle seat in an exit row, with a teenager (seeming) whith a cast on her wrist in the window seat next to me. "Here we go again," I thought. I asked her where she was coming from. "I just graduated from Marine Corps boot camp." me "."
I joined the Air Force in August, 1962. I went to basic training at Lackland AFB and to tech school at Sheppard AFB to be an intelligence specialist. I was then assigned to the Strategic Air Command HQ at Offut AFB outside Omaha, Nebraska. There, I was assigned to be a target analyst, specializing in nuclear and POL facilities in China. I pretty much enjoyed my time there, although I detested the restrictions on my personal freedom (probably why I’m a Libertarian now).
When I had a year left to go in my four-year enlistment, I was sent to Vietnam. I (and a planeload of other guys) left from SEATAC airport in a four-engine jet on a flight to Manila. We stayed in a barracks at Clark AFB to get final injections and indoctrination. A stand between two of the barracks buildings had cold San Miguel beer for ten cents a bottle. We stayed there for a week or two and then flew on to Tan Son Nhut airbase just outside of Saigon. I was assigned to a reccetech (reconnaissance technical) unit on base. When I got my job assignment, I was disgusted; I thought it was quite a comedown. I was essentially a packing and shipping clerk for intelligence materials (mostly overhead photos) going out to units in the field.
I worked the night shift, going on duty at 11 p.m. and going until whenever. Although I didn’t like my job, I had to walk by the morgue on the way back to the barracks. (The morgue didn’t have enough capacity, so it had been expanded using a tent.) When I walked by, I could smell the distinctive smell of human flesh decaying, and then I wouldn’t feel so bad about my job. I had to sleep during the day with helicopters flying low over the barracks and jets taking off under afterburner on a nearby runway. But the worst was the food. When I went to the chow hall before work, they had already started serving breakfast, and when I got off, they were still serving breakfast. The menu was mainly creamed chipped beef on toast and reconstituted eggs. The creamed chipped beef on toast was some kind of ground meat in a strange tasting gravy on bread of a consistency such that it might have been made with cement instead of flour. It hurt my gums to bite into it. (This was always strange to me, because some of the best bread in the world is made in Saigon.)
Anyway, I got so I couldn’t stomach the chow hall food, and started going elsewhere for sustenance even though I had to pay for it. I even went so far as to buy C-rations so I could have something decent to eat. I used to go the Mount Fujiyama restaurant in Cholon, the Chinese section of Saigon. When I saw what the Vietnamese ate, it almost turned my stomach; e.g., crunching up the bottom of a chicken leg, claws and all. To this day, I haven’t been able to go to a Vietnamese restaurant.
I didn’t consider that I had too bad a time of it in Vietnam. However, about a month before the end of my tour, I began having horrible nightmares. I would dream that I was insane, and, because of this, couldn’t associate with other people. When other people were having gatherings, I would stay a distance away. Plus, I had a hole in my forehead, and, when I got too close to someone, cockroaches would come pouring out. It’s hard to describe the sick horror of these dreams, but they affected me greatly.
Just in time, I got back to the US, although I wasn’t really myself. I was 6 feet 4 inches, and when I left to go to Vietnam, I weighed 205 lb. When I got back, I weighed 165.
skreidle recently published a link to the Ohio Department of Aging Great Depression Story Project. In reading those stories, I was reminded of my teen years during the 50’s in the Missouri Ozarks. We had been living a fairly comfortable existence in Overland Park, KS, when my father died. My mother decided to move me and three younger brothers down to live in a three room cabin in the woods and we would all live on her Social Security check.
We had a living/dining room, a kitchen, and a bedroom. In the bedroom, there was a standard size bed for mother and bunk beds for us four boys. We had no TV, no phone, no indoor plumbing, and only a hand pump on the kitchen sink pumping water from a cistern for running water, although we did have electricity. If we wanted to make a phone call, we had to walk a quarter of a mile to a neighbor’s house, and use the crank phone there. The water in the cistern always had a slight brown tinge and a taste of tannin from the oak leaves on the roofs that drained water into the cistern.
We lived on top of a bluff overlooking the Gasconade River, a truly beautiful spot. In the spring, summer, and fall, after breakfast, we boys would usually disappear into the woods and down to the river and be gone all day. When it started to get dark, my mother would start to get worried and go out on a point of rock sticking out of the bluff and yell for us.
We always had enough to eat, but usually it was navy beans and cornbread; to this day, I can’t stand navy beans and cornbread. Often today people will serve me cornbread thinking it is a treat. I will choke down a few mouthfuls, but I can’t eat very much. But sometimes my mother would fry up some bacon hard and then crumble it up and then put it in the mix for the cornbread. This made it fairly acceptable. Also, we never had any fresh milk; it was always powdered milk. Cornmeal mush was a staple for breakfast.
The winters were rough. The only source of heat in the house was the fireplace in the living room. When we went to bed, we would bank the fire and then go through the kitchen into the bedroom. It got pretty cold in the bedroom; often in the mornings we could see our breaths in the air. We had a little dog, and we boys would argue over who got the dog that night. There were some tomato juice cans that we boys could pee into during the night—and my mother had a chamber pot under her bed—but if you needed to do anything else, you had to get up, put some clothes on and trudge out to the outhouse. The outhouse faced west, and if the wind was from the east it would come up under the outhouse and freeze your bottom.
My next younger brother and I were responsible for getting wood for the fireplace. We would go out into the woods with a two-man crosscut saw and cut some wood. The saw didn’t cut very well and jammed up in the cut often. Sometimes we only came back with a day’s wood. Later, a neighbor examining the saw said that the teeth didn’t have any “set.”
In the winter, I had to leave to go to high school in the dark, and it was dark when I got home. My mother said she felt sorry for me. I had to walk about 1.25 miles to the bus pickup point. Other kids waited there also, and sometimes we built a fire to stay warm until the bus got there. The bus was a 1947 International Harvester and vibrated like crazy. I always felt like the vibration was good for me, like a massage. The bus ride was an hour and a half; I won’t go into the stuff that happened on the bus. Then I got to high school and my class of 45. I never felt that I was bad off, but I saw some of my classmates that I felt sorry for.
The safety people had required that we wear some clumsy boots and safety glasses, and the safety glasses affected my depth perception. When I started to step up into the LOS pipe (a very high step), I misjudged the distance and fell forward, hitting my shin on the pipe. I thought, "Wow, that hurts," and then forgot it and got into it and walked down to see the blast door, which was indeed very neat.
Subsequent to this, we had lunch at a little building outside the tunnel. When we got back on the bus, we were supposed to next visit the underground laboratory, which I really wanted to see. However, I looked down at my leg and noticed that my sock was soaked with blood. I notified the tour director of this, and a small panic ensued. They got all the first-aid kits at the site and in the vehicles, and they were all so out of date that they were useless. So it was decided that they would call the medical facility at Mercury (the very small town at the entrance to the NTS), and have someone meet us at the nearest point between us and the next visit site (this was like 60 miles; the NTS is BIG). When we got there, we found two ambulances and a fire truck waiting for us. The tour director got out of the bus and into a shouting argument with the fire captain (I think). Anyhow, I ended up in an ambulance and rode a long ride to Mercury. When I got there, the Physicians Assistant there was delighted. He fitted me all up like a surgical patient and worked on my shin. He told my that I had actually chipped the bone. He did an excellent job on my shin though.
Later, I learned that they had had the Life Flight helicopter in Las Vegas standing by for me. Through some miscommunication, the medical people understood that I had severed my femoral artery and was bleeding out. I didn't get to see the underground laboratory, but now a step up into the LOS pipe is named for me.
As I was driving home from the animal shelter, I was trying to think of a name for her. My brain wasn’t working very well, and all I could come up with was Sister Mary Elephant of Cheech and Chong fame.
Last January when I left to go to town, all six dogs were standing in front of the garage watching me leave. When I got back, there were only five dogs. I never saw or heard anything of Sister again despite papering the two nearest towns with posters and many other efforts.
Sister was about a year old when she disappeared. She appeared to be a mix of Yellow Lab and German Shepherd, and she grew to be a big, beautiful dog. She had zero aggression either to humans or other animals. She sometimes wanted very badly to play with Freda, my older German Shepherd mix dog. Freda didn’t want to play and would snarl and act aggressive toward Sister. Sister would act submissive in front but would be upright in back. It was hilarious to see her galumphing around with her front end on the floor and her back end in the air.
Here are some more pictures of Sister.
Sister had a collar with tags when she disappeared and was chipped. She was such a beautiful and nice dog, that someone may have stolen her. That’s my only hope: that sometime a vet will read the chip and I’ll be notified. That’s why this eulogy is labeled tentative,
I lost two dogs in January. I'm still not over it.