Tuesday, October 02, 2007


One thing about being in the military, you do get to change scenery quite often, and I was accustomed to moving around from the years my dad followed electrical construction work with TVA.

By the Christmas season in 1965, rumors began about a large number of orders coming down in early ’66. The orders were all to be for that strange and distant place we had began hearing about on TV – Vietnam. However, at this point, none of us knew enough to be afraid, but I knew enough to know I needed to try to make it home for Christmas that year, but I was running short of funds.

Just two weeks earlier, I had phoned home late one night from outside the “back gate,” sobbing like a little boy (in part, because I ran out of beer money), telling my dad how broke and lonely I was. He felt sorry for me and wired me twenty bucks, which, in those days, was a whole paycheck! However, now I was nearly broke again and did not have the money for a bus ticket home. I had to find another means.

Strangely enough, David Hillberry and I were talking about the up coming holiday on the next shift. He began telling me about how he was going to load up his VW and head to West Virginia just as soon as he worked his last shift before the 12-hour shifts began. One thing led to another, and before long, he had invited me to ride along with him and his family.

Heck, we’ll go right through Harriman on the way up man, why not?

I was so homesick, and worried about the upcoming orders that I did not even give it any thought. Had I thought it over much I would have realized how long and cramped the trip would be in a VW. I just wanted to get home and see my momma!

The day we left was the first real thought I had given the circumstances. Hillberry stopped by the barracks where I stood with bag in hand. There, taking up over half the backseat was a bassinette! I considered backing out right then, but Hillberry had already grabbed my bag and somehow found room for it under the hood (If you aren’t familiar with VWs of the day, the trunk was under the hood and the engine was in the trunk!). His wife got out, I got in and squeezed into what was left of the backseat, and we were off!

I do not remember what the speed limits were in those days, but I do know that we did whatever speed the particular semi we were following did! David was proud of the fact that he could save gas and go faster longer if he “drafted” a tractor-trailer! Why he was worried about saving gas in a VW, I do not know, but he must have practiced the procedure many times.

At seventy or eight miles per hour, tucked up within twelve to eighteen inches of the back of a truck, the pucker factor is off the scale! I kept thinking if the trucker hits his brakes we are goners!

Therefore, there we were all the way to Harriman and back, or so it seemed, literally being sucked along the highway, saving gas, with the VW pushed into neutral!

And me? I had to learn to change diapers occasionally so Hillberry did not lose the draft! We’re on a schedule,” he kept reminding us.

Having survived the holiday trip, I returned to Keesler to receive my new orders. I was to become part of America’s plan (formulated in November of 1965) to increase U.S. troop levels in South Vietnam from 120,000 to 400,000, in order to escalate operations to neutralize North Vietnamese and the NLF (Viet Cong) forces.

I returned to Harriman sometime near the middle of February to begin a 30-day leave before reporting to my new duty station called DaNang, South Vietnam. Where it was, what it was, what was ahead was completely unknown. I probably knew more about the dark side of the moon!

What I did know was that there was a growing knot and emptiness deep within me, and a strange tightness in my chest and throat, but I knew I had to hide those feelings from my parents, and especially my little brother.

Anyway, I end this by posting a photo of Wayne Spainhour and Frank Boyce, and one of me, on the day we waited in the barracks for our ride to the commercial airport in Gulfport. We were all going home to say goodbye to our families before embarking on the experience of our life times.

Frank and I would see each other again at DaNang, but this was the last time I ever saw Wayne. It was time to lose what remained of that “little boy innocence” and to move on to the unknown!


Becky said...

Is that you in the first pic with the cigarette? That's pretty cool that you still have pictures that are from back then. I should start scanning mine into the computer, in case anything happens to the hard copies.

Chuck said...

I always love coming to your blog and reading your stories. You write so well I can actually visualize the story and the words are like your voice reading the narrative. Kinda like Earl Hamner used to do on the Waltons. Of course I've never heard your voice so I just have to imagine!!

BRUNO said...

I'll be here for the duration of this trip. I might get a knot or two in my stomach---similar to those YOU had during that damned Volkswagen ride, drafting that tractor-trailer---but I'll ride it out, all the same!!!

So, I'll keep my mouth shut this time, and let YOU tell it YOUR way...!

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Yep, what Chuck said. Things are movin' right along. There's sort of a hole there in the middle though. What did you do when you got dropped off at home in the VW? And I can't friggin' imagine that trip. I mean, mine was tedious enough, but Drafting behind trucks, sucking in diesel fumes, and baby ass fumes. Jesus!

Mushy said...

FHB - Yep, there's a hole...'cause, and I know you want believe it, but I don't remember. It's what I did on the 30-day leave that screwed things up for the future...well, with the exception of one important thing.

Becky - Who are you? And yes, if you have old slides or photos, you need to scan and save them. Both media fade badly!

Chuck - Thanks guy...I really appreciate that, and I sound just like my brother! Oh, you don't know him either! Come to Wild Wings one day in K-town and you'll see.

Bruno - Stay tuned!

Lin said...

Mushy, now don't be stressing Bruno out, ya hear? At least not until his docs let him loose with a clean bill of health (and no money left).

Can't wait for the next installment!

Buck Pennington said...

The orders were all to be for that strange and distant place we had began hearing about on TV – Vietnam.

So there I was... ;-)

It was September of 1963 and my basic training flight had just finished running the obstacle course at Lackland (which was a joke, in retrospect). We're sitting on the ground in a large circle, dirty, wet, out of breath, and all that, while this LARGE SSgt TI is bellowing at us. He said, in part, "You GURLS better remember this part of your training...coz you're gonna NEED it if you get sent to the WAR!"

I looked at my buddy next to me and said "War? What war?" The TI overheard me, unfortunately... He stood me up and began yelling at me, personally...very personally... all about "VEET-Nam, BOY! VEET-Nam!!"

Little did I know...

Looking forward to the next installments, Mushy!

Suldog said...


This is (I know I've said this before, but...) a great series of posts. I'm going on vacation in the next day or so, and will have no internet access, but I'm looking forward to the fact that I'll have six or seven or maybe eight more installments of yours to read, all waiting for me when I get back.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

"well, with the exception of one important thing"... Dude, you're SUCH a tease. Can't wait to read it.

Chuck said...

Man, next time I'm in Knoxvegas we've got to down some beer and wings. I'll be driving through next weekend, but won't be stopping. Heading to SW Virginia for a little r&r at the old family homestead. But we will have to meet sometime before this year is over...mmmm...I can already taste the wings...gotta love their lowcarb goodness!

BRUNO said...

Oh, go tell LIN to wash her underwear on a creek-rock, and stop actin' like an old-woman, worryin' about us!

Oh, eh---hello there, LIN....!!!

Mushy said...

Buck - You have been there done all this!

Suldog - You sure make me feel good...from someone who impresses me, that's a compliment!

FHB - That thing is Corey!

Chuck - That would be great!

Bruno - Maybe I'll wash them for her!

My PC is on the I may be late with posts this week guys!

Sarge Charlie said...

Yep, I remember those days, mine was 1967 but same crap, another day. I thought I was the only one that would draft an 18 wheeler, or a grayhound.

Les Becker said...

Wow! "Tractor-beamed" by a transport? That's the coolest thing I've ever heard! Mind you, I'm surprised you all weren't turned to tin foil, too.

I'm nervous about where the rest of this is going, Mushy. Just so you know...

phlegmfatale said...

boy, you were a young thing in these photos, weren't you?