Tuesday, October 09, 2007


You never know when you will find someone. It seems to happen when you are not really looking. So it was with Corey’s mom.

Woody just happened to be home on leave the same time I was there waiting for my deployment date to roll around. It was a good thing too – I needed someone to talk to about the real possibility of not coming home. That is just something you do not talk to your mom or even you dad about.

Woody and I hit the old spots, but especially the little “quick stops” that would sell us beer in high school. Our favorite was a little grocery/gas station in a remote area called Bitter Creek. The store is still there today and only a few miles from where I live today.

It is strange how boys are always old enough to fight and die for their country, but not old enough to drink or vote. Makes no freakin’ sense whatsoever!

One evening Woody asked me to accompany him to Connie’s. I did not know her but I knew her best friend Betty Anne, and Woody’s sister. I do not remember if Woody was trying to date Connie, or if they were just best friends, but after that first night, Connie and I spent almost every waking moment together.

She was fun loving and seemed to enjoy my wicked sense of humor. We also shared a love for music, but it was a much more tranquil taste in music than I developed in later years. We loved Dylan, the Mamas & Papas, The Righteous Brothers, Johnny Rivers, Bob Lind, Percy Sledge, Simon and Garfunkel, Ray Charles, Temptations, Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, Aretha Franklin, and of course, the Beatles and Elvis.

I think it was the mood that set the tone for the songs we liked. We both knew I was leaving and that a “sad goodbye” day was coming soon. So, we did not listen to the Stones, the Byrds or the Yardbirds, Paul Revere & the Raiders, or groups like the Beau Brummels – much too upbeat.

But one stupid song still resounds in my head, but it says more about the time than I could ever write. The chorus from Bob Lind’s “Elusive Butterfly of Love” goes:

Don't be concerned, it will not harm you

It's only me pursuing somethin' I'm not sure of

Across my dreams with nets of wonder

I chase the bright elusive butterfly of love

In any other state of mind, I would have hated that song, but it reflected my inner feelings at the time. I did not know if I was falling in love or if I was just holding on to someone because I was afraid I was about to die. She comforted me in my hour of need. The other question that puzzled me was it her, or just because she was there.

Nonetheless, we filled up each of the thirty days I had with dimly lit quiet times in each other’s arms, listening to soft moody music.

Another song that still rattles in my brain from that uncertain time was “Monday, Monday” from the Mamas & Papas. It seemed to hauntingly remind us each time that there was a Monday coming that we dreaded:

Monday Monday, can't trust that day,

Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way

Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be

Oh Monday Monday, how could you leave and not take me.

Monday finally came and it was time to go. I had said my goodbye to Connie the evening before, and now it was time to tell my mom and dad not to worry. “I’ll be okay…I’ll be back before you know it!”

My dad and I posed for a shot the day they took me to Knoxville. It was one of the few times he and I actually hugged. Most of our affection was displayed through wrestling matches in the living room floor, where he usually pinned me and tickled me until I almost cried!

On the way we stopped at Shoney’s in Oak Ridge and had a last meal together. The concern they had for me was obvious in their eyes, but we actually said little to each other that morning.

All the time I was offering these words of brave support, I knew inside why I could never dream forward in my life. This was the reason I could never imagine myself with a nice car, a pretty wife, and children. It was destiny playing out, and so I left for Vietnam with the thought in my mind that I was never coming back.

A month after arriving The Stones released their “Paint It Black,” which to me was prophetic:

I see a line of cars and they're all painted black

With flowers and my love both never to come back

I see people turn their heads and quickly look away

Like a new born baby it just happens ev'ry day

I look inside myself and see my heart is black

I see my red door and it has been painted black

Maybe then I'll fade away and not have to face the facts

It's not easy facin' up when your whole world is black

Obviously I made it, but until I arrived home a year later you could not have convinced me otherwise. I lived one day short of a full year under this mental anguish. Monday has always had a bad connotation for me, and even today when I hear the word, I think back to that Monday in March of 1966, and how hard it was to walk away and toward my perceived destiny.


Sarge Charlie said...

Where did our youth go my friend. This is your best post, just so you know.

Hammer said...

Great songs anbd great post. I've heard similar sentiments from others of your generation.

Buck Pennington said...

Well said, Mushy. And supported very well by the music you selected.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

We're startin' to mesh now my man. We moved to England in the summer of '66 and I remember all this music from that time. Of course, as a kid, I had no idea what was going on outside my own little world. In stead of memories of Vietnam on the TV, I have memories of the crap in Northern Ireland. British TV didn't spend a lot of time on Vietnam, I guess. Love the shot of you in that blue uniform. I grew up seein' my dad in one every day. Always thought it was beautiful.

Yep, that was a great post. Great videos punctuating the story. Wild how music is so important to our generations sense of time and place. Simon and Garfunkel and the Doors will always be the 60s to me, more than any other music.

Les Becker said...

Wow. The music punctuating the Vietnam war has always meant a lot to me, I guess partly because my older brothers and sisters listened to it constantly.

I had a great big long comment written here, but I won't post it. I was such a little kid, then, and from a different country - I remember watching the news every night, and not quite understanding everything that I was seeing and hearing.

I'm so glad you came back, Mushy. I can't imagine what it would be like to not have you for a blog buddy, now that you are.

Mushy said...

You guys are going to keep on until I cry!

pat houseworth said...

I think I left on a Saturday from the Dayton(Ohio) Airport, and returned 366 days later on a Tuesday(would have to get out one of the century calenders)...either way It was all pretty sureal for me...I'm just glad I went to Nha Trang(for the first 6 months) before heading to Saigon for my final 189 for Da Nang in the early days of Air/Security Police in the war?.....not a pretty place, from what I hear and plenty of stories about Da Nang and death at the VSPA web site...

But we made it back brother, the Air Force was still the way to go.

Debbie said...

So many good songs, so little time. That's my kind of music.

BRUNO said...

I was 99.9% certain that you'd get "Paint It Black" in there somewhere!

Wasn't a very "supportive" type of song, but unfortunately, it pretty much summed-up the reason for that queasy-feelin' we all got, way-down deep in our guts, when we traded in our Class A's for the sweaty, green BDU's.

And you got 'em filthy-dirty and all discolored, as soon as possible---so you could lose the tag of "N-F-G" that was stamped on your forehead...!

Mushy said...

PAT - Yep, two killed just before I arrived and two while I was there, however, the last two were from rockets and not zappers. I'm not sure which I feared least you might get your own licks in on the latter. Rockets were more like fate.

Bruno - God forbid you that you remained the NFG more than a month!

Lin said...

I can see that choice to put the thoughts of any future on hold. So glad that you came back to fill in the spaces between the dots! You certainly made up for the lost time and dreams put on ice.

Debbie said...

Different Debbie here. Just found your blog. Best post I've ever read anywhere.

I haven't heard "Butterfly of Love" in 30 years. When I was little, 3 of my uncles were sent to Viet Nam. My parents and brother and I were the ones who drove each of them to the bus station in Omaha. I didn't understand what was going on but I remember everyone was very quiet.

I can't help but think about all the men and women being shipped off to Iraq.

Shrink Wrapped Scream said...

Wow mushy, that was a powerful post. Kick me if I ever dare to whine about my youth. You are my hero. ((x))

Mushy said...

Lin - ME TOO!

Debbie Does Nothing - Thanks you for stopping by and leaving the wonderful comment. Flattery will get you everywhere!

Carol - I love being your hero...thanks for the X!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, cousin! And, as per usual, you've made me homesick for our youth and family gatherings as your Mom and Dad are always some of my favorites. Thanks for including the pictures of Uncle Ernie and Aunt Tene and the one of you and Uncle Ernie as well! Belton Belle

Scott from Oregon said...

You sure brought back some memories of our times in Mississippi and Memphis growing up...

My pops was a wrestler not a hugger too...

Ever ask yourself what Vietnam would be like if we had "won" the war?

My guess is it would be very similar to the way it is now...

Mushy said...

Sadly, you are correct Scott! What a waste.

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