Maybe it is just getting old, or a touch of nostalgia, or just becoming senile. Who knows, but I found myself trying to look up old friends on the Internet. Let me tell you, that is no easy task. This is especially so, when so many years have past. I don’t know what has gotten me in this mood, but I just feel a need to reach out and connect with people I loved so long ago. Like those from my days at Little Rock AFB. When you are in the service you are sometimes more than just friends, but you become family. Now finding the guys is hard enough, but how do you find the women when many may have taken on another name?
I tell you there are many people who I have walked along with through my life. They remain in my memory and always will. Some, I remember their face, in one particular case, their shape, but forgotten their name. Some may have passed on like my good friend Reverend Purdie. I was spiraling down, drinking heavily, when that man helped me to name my demons and turn my life around. My Air Force career would have been ruined and was very close to being so, had he not sat me down. There was Carl, one of the other cooks, but I can’t remember his last name, and of course, Rose Marie Harris. All good people. My partner in crime, Mark Watts. We had such a great time together. I had one of the best teams with Mark, Mary Hernandez (engaged at the time to Oscar Ortiz), Yung Cho Healey, Candy Hart, Dottie Chavers, Mama san Chung, Aura Tyte ( I think that was how you spelled her name.) Candy was Dottie’s Daughter. Dottie and her husband Jim and I were friends after work also. Oh, and Blondie. I will always remember her as Blondie, though for the life of me can’t remember her real name. Others that I hung around with or teamed with every now and then, Dave Kristofferson, Clay Wickham. Clay, his wife Sue, and Karen Shadowens used to hang together. I still remember Noreen Malenga who was Karen’s roommate and whom I dated for a bit. My buddy Carl Bullock, who at first we were at each others throat and old Dusty Rhodes had to separate us, but in the end, we were the mobility team that went every where together. There was Ron Krank, and Manny Roman. Roger Samples did the crash kitchen. Bubba Brown and the Bubbettes. Bubba and Clay were from up my way as well as Ron. I remember the uptimes and the down times when we lost Washington in a plane crash. He had come through the line that night and Mark and I fed him, joked as we usually did. I got the call later that night that the plane went down and to alert mortuary services that they had bodies coming in. It still makes me cry to remember that night.
I remember Jim Chavers having to go in for a procedure, er um, down below. Dottie rolled when I stopped at Bayou Catfish Kitchen and brought Jim’s favorite. Beans with Jalepenos. I can still hear him when I shut his El Camino’s doors, “Take it easy Croft, this ain’t a Ford”. I had a Torino at the time. I had the hots for Candy, but then so did every other guy on the base. I used to go to her apartment and I think her roommate had the hots for me. She must have, she came out one time in a towel and just let it drop. I just wish I could remember her name. As it turned out, we had mutual relations around the third cousin level.
I tell you if it wasn’t for Reverend Purdie, I would have missed out on some great times and some great people. I just wish I could reconnect with some. I found Cruize on Classmates a few years back. I’ll never forget when a bunch of us jumped in Danny Stephens truck and drove up to Heber Springs to jump off the cliffs. We put a vodka bottle in the end of a watermelon and wrapped it in a towel. As we drop up the road with it cradled, it looked like we were giving vodka to a baby. The looks we got, but boy was that watermelon good. Of course, drinking and jumping off cliffs isn’t exactly smart and I got a broken toe out of the deal, but hey, young, stupid, yep, me.
Another time, Kristofferson and I took a bunch of people out horseback riding. Kris and I used to go to this place a lot and were familiar with the horses. I always took Red, he was on Whitey. One of the guys that came said he was experienced so they gave him Blue. Well, Kris and I trotted on up ahead of the others because the slow pace was killing us. When I came back to check on the others, they were pointing into the woods and told me that Blue took off that way. I told them to wait for Kris and took off into the woods. I got Blue and darn, I can’t remember his name, cornered in some brush. I told him to get off Blue and get on Red. He did and then started arguing with me about which way to go to get back to the others. He started off away from everyone, but heh, Red was trained, I whistled for him and he turned around with Ozzie cursing me. I got him back to the others and he had to listen to the ribbing. I guess not everyone from Oklahoma knows how to ride.
Of course there we were caught off guard. We pulled a twelve overnight one time and then took off to Heber Springs for the day. Got back in time to go back to work and pull another twelve. Dog tired by morning and ready to hit our racks when I got the call. Call your men in, this is an alert. Dang, so much for sleep. Wait until the next crew came in to relieve, off to the barracks, change into fatiques, grab duffle and head to the flight line, off to Missouri, set up camp, and then finally get to crash. I was wiped by the time we got back to base, but there was Fred Jenkins telling me I had to work, but sending Mark home. Well, he was married and his wife missed him. Dang, I hated being single at times.
I guess those days in the service will always stay with me. I was fortunate to be between wars. The closest I came was when the hostages were taken in Iran. We were mounted up and ready to go. With the team I had, I think we could have pulled it off. Had I not been stuck in Arkansas for my full hitch, I might have reupped. If they had given me England, I would have been there. Instead, I let my Irish get up and quit the service. Heck, I could have been retired by now.
So if any of you happen along Bossier City and run into Dottie and Jim, tell them I said hey! Last I knew, Mark was still in North Little Rock, though his wife Betty was from Memphis area. Manny is probably back in New York. Ron, maybe in Mass. Danny Stephens in Texas, and Jack Stephens in Illinois, I think. Mary may be back in San Antonio.
I guess I have rambled on for long enough. Let me leave you with something Jack Stephens used to say, “Can’t ya see, can’t ya tell, don’t ya know?” Man that guy could sing I’ve Been Everywhere better than anyone I know.
Good friends, good memories.
Thanks for listening.
Lost Friends and Days Gone By
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