I was thirteen and Mom and Dad called me into their bedroom and after I sat down on the end of their bed they expressed how happy they were that I had graduated from eighth 8th grade. They asked me where I wanted to go to school in the United States.

Now, to put things in perspective, I had been raised in a small oil camps where I had spent the better part of my adolescent years growing up with very close friends of mine. The list of childhood friends seems endless. We were in my mind a "family". We did not date one another; instead we "hung out" together. Sure we would sneak a kiss – maybe a "French kiss" and a hug and if we could get away with a little "searching" or what we boys later referred to as a "dry f____". We did that and that was about it but it was exciting nonetheless. The girls kept coming back so I know they were into the excitement as well.

I remember my first "French kiss". I had just finished a Snickers candy bar behind the new Tia Juana club movie screen and my mouth was full of peanut bits from a Snicker Bar and I French Kissed (?) who following my kiss spent considerable time spitting out the bits of peanuts I left in her mouth. Not too classy you think but it was a start!

Well, you see, I loved hunting and I loved "War" of any kind because I followed it in the comic books and I knew a lot about it. I read every Tarzan book that was published – over and over. I wanted to have my own gun and I wanted to shoot "gooks" which at that time were North Koreans Commies.

So, I had my choice of schools and I selected Georgia Military College, Milledgeville, Georgia. That was where John Schobal and Doug Bazemore went to school. Doug was the older brother of Palmer and Tony Bazemore. Palmer was a long childhood friend of mine and their parents were likewise friends of my parents.

I wanted a military school so I could get my hands on a real rifle and I did -- even tried to steal a 30 cal. machine gun from the school armory--but they kicked me out of the armory before I had all the parts.

So, there I was at the Maracaibo Airport and my mother was in tears, and my Dad patted me on the back and I had a tag attached to my shirt for the Creole Rep in Miami – "save our poor boy" and I was thirteen. I said goodby to my little sister, Cris, (The "brat") and my parents and I climbed the steps into the DC 7 and away I went.

Landed in Aruba and had my first of several Cuba Libres and then slightly intoxicated landed in Miami and the Taxi took me to the hotel "Colombo" where vaguely I remember being assigned a ticket on a train to Sylvania, Georgia where the Bazemore family met me. From then on it is vague, except that I finally ended up at GMC (Georgia Military College) where I went through a major conversion. (My father kept every letter that I wrote home and which I have to this day). Boy was I naive!! I believed everything that was told to me.

Palmer Bazemore and I bunked together in the Main Barracks and we went though a endless hazing by older boys. The barracks was old and we used to shoot paper clips at the mice that came into the room on the steam heater pipes.

What I eventually learned was that I had absolutely nothing in common with the other boys at the school. They were
essentially "Dorks" in today's terminology. I had nothing in common with them and could not relate to them. They were shallow. I quickly received the nickname of "Little Way-out" because I could not relate to them in any way.

I had never experienced discrimination in my life and here I was in the center of Georgia in the middle of the "movement". I would go to the court house and see white and black water fountains, black and white restrooms, bus stations where the "niggers" sat in the back. What was this shit? I was involved in removing two burning crosses from our campus that the KKK had placed there and I was threatened by KKK with shotguns for removing their hatred-filled literature from the windshields of cars in town. Dad, called me via radio-phone telling me to keep a low profile – that the KKK was crazy. I knew that!!

So, I what I ended up doing was purchasing a shotgun and I would load up a bandoleer of shells and I would head out through the "black" community to the swamps down by the Ochicochee River. I would spend many hours walking through the swamps where I felt at home. Later, I purchased a 303 Enfield rifle which I sporterized and I would shoot anything except people. That was more like it. I
bought an Italian switchblade and sewed a pocket for it along the stripe of my Confederate Grey military pants where I carried it for years...

I recall standing before the Commandant of Cadets who threatened to send me home for stealing a dime except that the school could not afford the airplane ticket. I spent 300 hours in the first year walking off discipline hours on the "bull-ring". I had to have my shoes re-soled several times and I added taps to the toes and heels to stave off the wear. I eventually could walk the ring with my eyes shut. I attended GMC for 6 years – through Jr. College.

I used to swig the worst tasting bourbon during classes through a small flexible plastic tubing from a flask that I kept under my trousers and I flunked American History because I was "Out of it" most of the time. Never got caught.

Every summer I returned home to Tia Juana, then Lagunillas and then Tia Juana. Oh, heaven!!! I had a crush on Shari Norsworthy which consumed me for years after her father broke it off. We wrote each other every day while in school and I once visited her and her sister Sandy at their Aunt's home in Louisville, KY and our grades suffered and her father broke it off. I was heart broken – used to listen to 45 records for hours on end about love lost—it was painful. My father was heartless; he used to say I was "cow eyed" moping around the house day after day. I met Shari at the San Antonio reunion after so many years and it was like yesterday. Such a lovely person – still spunky. Happily married with grown kids. Such a loss for me……. What can I say – that is life.

I guess, I never adjusted. Even after I went on to College at the University of Maryland, and you know, it took me years to get my act together. I was a very late bloomer, spent 4 years in the Army in Germany which I loved. Met my first "love" in my late 20's and lost her and then after I had mustered out of the service in '69 later met my "real" love, Pat and we were married after a short courtship. Pat, learned quickly that I still had the drive to follow every trail to the end, no matter what the condition early in our marriage and you know, I still have it today.

Today, I receive a great deal of pleasure as I flip through the albums of pictures that I took and those of my parents when we lived in Venezuela and read the stories each of you share. They are wonderful!!

I will never trade the memories for anything else…

 

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