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 the 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 Korean Commies.
So, I had my choice of boarding 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 “gratis” 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.
My first year, Palmer Bazemore and
I bunked together in the Main Barracks and we went though
a endless hazing by older boys. The barracks was old with
no air-conditioning for those hot humid days and nights.
We could have a small fan. We used to sit at our room desk
during study period and we used to shoot paper clips at
the mice that came into the room on the overhead steam heater
pipes. The building was old and crawled with mice, rats
and roaches. I would lay in the upper bunk with a broom
and jab the ceiling when I heard a rat scuffle across or
smack the wall beside me when one worked its way down by
me inside the wall.
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 could not relate to them. They
were shallow. I quickly received the nickname of “Little
Way-Out” because I was perceived as different and
I guess I was.
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 separate waiting rooms and road in the back of the
bus. What was this shit? I was involved in removing 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, once he found out from my letters, 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 military surplus British 303 Enfield
rifle which I sporterized and I would shoot anything except
people. I used to shoot at the town’s water tower
from about half a mile away and listen for the ring as the
bullet hit it. Occasionally I would stand on a high river
bank and shoot way up the river into the water immediately
in front of blacks who were fishing off the river bank of
the river. They would jump back upon the impact of the bullet
in the water in front of them. 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 steel 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 small flexible rubber 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. When I could not afford the
bourbon, on weekends, for fifty cents, I would buy a pint
of “Grandma’s” concord grape wine at the
Piggly Wiggly grocery store down town and on those holiday
weekends when most of the students went home to their families,
I would chill the wine in the school’s fish pool and
then sit out under the stars in uppermost bench row of the
football stadium and proceed to drink that sweet wine and
day dream of all the great things I would accomplish...
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. For a while 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 until her father
broke it off. I was heart broken – used to mope around
and listen to 45 records on my dad’s record player
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 in my
Junior year, and you know, it took me years to get my act
together. I was a very late bloomer, spent 4 years in the
Army Security Agency in Germany which I loved. Met my first
“love” in my late 20's while in Germany and
lost her when she returned to the States and then after
I had mustered out of the service in ’69 later met
my “real” love, Pat a beautiful red-head 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