MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: November 2007

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I am preparing to leave Vietnam - still attempting to sweep out the corners of my mind. However, I have few documenting photos left to illustrate my memories. Just thoughts, wispy memories of things I saw and that will always be there waiting to be conjured up by some déjà vu phrase, smell, or shadow.

I remember receiving myVC Kill Card” upon arriving at Da Nang. Col. Phillips made sure each Security Policeman carried one and could recite it by heart! I think it was pride he tried to instill by insinuating that the SPs were somehow better than the Marines…’cause if the VC got through them…they were dead!

I remember witnessing real missing man” formations of flights coming back from missions north, and how the F-4 engine can be so throttled back that it barely hangs in the air, yet moans the grief felt by its pilots, as it crosses the length of the flight line and then around west so that the sound echoes off Hill 327. It was almost as if the plane itself mourned the lost of its sister ship!

Maybe the next day the normal sounds of the base would be broken by a low flying jubilant pilot who had moments before scored his first, or maybe his fourth MIG! The screaming sound overhead causes you to nearly squat then look skyward as the F-4 pulls straight up at full afterburner, rolls to the right, and disappears above the clouds just as his wingmen fly overhead in a staggered formation. The celebration of proud yells from their ground crews begin just after the event is punctuated by the double clap of the victor breaking the sound barrier on his decent from the clouds.

The entire base stops and revels in the moment…a moment it seemed to share. We had not flown the mission, but we worked on the craft, refueled it, loaded its weapons, and fed the crew, or guarded the plane. It was all our victory!

I remember a proud red-headed pilot with a huge handlebar mustache, that a few hours before had rumbled by my post and saluted me by tapping two gloved fingers to this helmet, but was now sitting with both elbows on the sides of his cockpit, as if he sat on a throne, turning into the revetment area waving to his friends.

He was a flamboyant pilot that I remember personally armed himself, reminiscent of George Patton, with an ivory handled .38! He was Da Nang’s resident “hotshot,” scoring his third before going home.

I remember champagne being waved and a guy with a stencil and a can of red spray paint running out to apply the fourth badge of courage to the side of the F-4. What a glorious day that even I remember with pride!

And so it was – there were good days and there were bad days, but we all made the most of it.

We all fought our own demons of fear and loneliness, but we made it. I do, however, remember an instance that took me to the edge of sanity. I can only think that God pulled me back and changed the situation for me.

There was an inconsiderate pilot, who, I have no doubt saw me, that stopped his F-4 one night just twenty yards from my extreme south end post, that was nothing more than a foxhole, and ran his jet up and down for what seemed like forever. His bright front wheel landing light was on and blazing a hole right through me. I just knew that “Charlie” could see me plainly, and was at the moment ringing my head with crosshairs of his scope. I was getting angrier by the second!

I began to make “turn if off” motions by drawing my hand across my throat, but he ignored me. In reality, he was probably going through countless points on his pre-flight check list, but to me he was doing it on purpose.

My blood pressure rose and my anger heightened until I found myself raising my M-16 and pointing it right at the blinding light! By this time I was screaming for him to “TURN IT OFF YOU SON OF BITCH,” but of course my voice was being drowned by the engine noise.

I remember pulling the slide back on the M-16 and taking aim…I would have fired, I am quite sure, in a few more seconds, had he, for whatever reason, not cut the light.

I sat down on the ring of sandbags and cried from the terror of the moment. It bothered me that I had almost lost it, but mostly if bothered me that it was the first time I had admitted my anxiety on post. All I know is that I wanted to make it home and this “asshole” could have ended it for me…at least in my mind.

Why I wasn’t reported I cannot image, unless of course, he never saw me at all.

I remember not eating or sleeping well during the last 60, then 30 days. It was too close and yet too far away. I became paranoid and would not eat in the cafeteria, for fear the “gooks” would poison me! I ate only beanie weenies, potted meat, or whatever I could buy at the BX…nothing more, and little of that. I arrived weighing around 180 and would arrive home just under 150 – so thin my mom did not recognize me, and swore I had been in a “concentration camp!”

I also did not sleep well, lightly if anything. It was paranoia at its worst.

MONDAY…I do survive…at least physically!

Monday, November 26, 2007


It is hard for me to come to terms with the fact that it has been over forty-one years since I left Vietnam (at this writing – Nov. ’07). If I may borrow a few lines from Bob Seger:

Twenty(forty)years now
Where'd they go?
twenty (forty)years
I don't know
sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they've gone

And sometimes late at night
When I'm bathed in the firelight
The moon comes callin' a ghostly white
And I recall

When I think back over all that has happened since then, I start to realize, at least a little of where the time has gone. There sure has been a lot of water over the proverbial dam, but damn how quickly it flowed.

I am preparing to leave Vietnam now, although, something inside me is not quite ready to give it up. Oh, I longed, back then, for that day to come, like an inmate awaits his freedom, but now, there is a lump deep within, and I cannot put my finger on it.

So, before my last post on the subject, I am attempting to sweep out the corners of my mind where something might be hidden, something yet untold, but do not get your hopes up that you will find something written within this post that is awe inspiring, or that a secret will finally be revealed – I am afraid that will not happen. However, let us continue to walk down this path and see what happens.

The very first time I came “under fire” was not from Viet Cong or from North Vietnamese Regulars. Nope, it was from the South Vietnamese Army!

On March 10, 1966, South Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Cao Ky removed LtGen. Nguyen Chanh Thi from his position as ARVN I Corps commander. As a result, there were a series of strikes and much political unrest especially within I Corps which saw a succession of I Corps commanders well into June of 1966. Much of the heaviest unrest was in the Da Nang sector.

Ky saw himself as a hotshot air force pilot and this unrest pitted him against Colonel Dam Quang Yeu who lead a large army contingent near Da Nang. Therefore, it was the South Vietnamese Air Force against the South Vietnamese Army for about three days.

Things almost escalated out of hand, as evidenced by this article in the April 22, 1966 issue of Time Magazine.

What the history books do not tell is that shots were actually fired!

I remember standing post in the Alpha Area, south end of the airbase, and watched A-1A Skyraiders rollover, dive, and strafe army positions between the base and the city of Da Nang over this little political disagreement. The grrrrrooowll of the radial engine in a power dive, punctuated by the deep rattle of its four 20mm cannons was very frightening, especially to a young troop just fresh off the plane!

The Vietnamese Army returned fire with either tank or cannon fire (it was never clear to me), which meant they were firing straight up into the air with the airbase as the unintentional target!

I watched as one of the Area Patrols high-tailed it past my post and on down past the last revetments at the extreme south end of the base. I got word through the field phone, again from Boyce, who was working the switchboard that particular shift, that a tank or artillery shell had landed just feet from one of our post. The shell was a “dud” (unexploded), but when the Security Policeman turned and saw the shell sticking in the ground just feet from him, he passed out cold! Hell, who could blame him?

Then there were the two nights I pulled Area Patrol in the “bomb dump” and had to deploy on what was reported by the South Vietnamese as “intruders!”

In the first deployment I was designated as the “high eyes” for the mission into the area suspected of being infiltrated. I pulled myself up through the tall grass to the top of one of the dirt berms, which covered an explosive vault, and hunched over trying to sneak along unseen, and watching ahead of the route being traveled by the six-man team below. Without prior warning, someone popped a hand flare that lit the area and exposing my position on top. One of the Security Policeman and two of the South Vietnamese guards quickly swung their “locked and loaded” weapons on me. There was no doubt in my mind that they were going to fire on me!

I hit the grass and before I could stop myself rolled all the way down the berm and lay at their feet. There were a few seconds of fright that crossed their face, as they realized they had almost shot a “friendly,” before everyone broke down laughing. Damn it, I was so pissed! In the beginning, my mind had seen this whole operation as my “John Wayne” moment – something to tell the grandkids. Instead, here I lay the object of a joke! I wanted to kill them all! How could they be so damn stupid,” I thought?

I do not think it was more than a week later that I understood. This time, someone else, unbeknownst to me, was deployed to the high line, while I inched along in the dark, safety off, selector on full-auto, finger along the trigger guard, waiting to encounter my worst nightmare. When suddenly someone near me popped off a flare, I caught the figure of a man, a Vietnamese troop at that, out of the corner of my eye. I came up, finger on the trigger, and aimed square in the middle of his chest! Damn! It was close, but I suddenly realized the real stupid one was the NCO who had failed to let everyone know his plan of action.

These were the things that I thought about as I sat in the hooch, or outside in the fresh air, before reporting to Guard Mount. What would the shift bring? What would the night bring? How many days remaining?

It begins to weigh heavily on you as the days, nights, and shifts go by. The closer you get to that “short” date, the more you worry, become paranoid, and begin to analyze everything. The first days are long and hard on you because it is new and scary, but as you become experience they drop off one by one until one day you realize you only have a hundred days left.

As you visit Ms. FIGMO and begin marking off the days, they again slow down. Every minute is an hour, every day a month, and every month a year – or so it seems.

So that was what was in one corner – no, it was not much, but something is still hiding, something wants to be found.

I think it is just that it was so long ago, so deep into my youth, so entwined in my conscious and subconscious that the experience will never let me go. It will always be there. It will be in that next hot humid day, in the next mortar shots for the next Fourth of July fireworks show, in the slamming of a trunk, or in that next sixties song. It will always be with me, and I don’t really care.

The lump leaps to my throat when least expected - the playing of the National Anthem, watching war footage or movies, hearing the brave words of heroes about losing friends, when visiting The Wall, in my grand babies’ eyes, a lyric from a country song, and hell yes, even when I read my own posts. There it is again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007



We drove through the first snow flurries of our season to get to Intercourse, Pennsylvania in Lancaster County, and the home of 29 covered bridges! We quickly realized that if we spent 15

minutes at all the bridges there that we would be short a few days on our allotted schedule! So, we

only visited a few.

All the way up and now on the way back south we had followed “Maggie Magellan,” but Ron could not take one more “toll road!”

Where she takin’ us now?” he asked angrily over the walkie-talkie.

We’ll soon be on I-81,” Gary explained. However, Ron wanted to check his Atlas against the way points on the GPS system.

If there are two things you need to trust in life it’s your compass and your navigation system. We were soon back on the road, and luckily we only paid one more toll before making it on into Lancaster, otherwise, Ron may have parted company with us in short order!

Finally, we were unloaded at the Country Inn and soon sitting in the adjacent bar and restaurant, cooling off with a Yuengling.

The next morning we took a tour at the Amish Village and learned a little about the local culture. Unfortunately, we sent a couple of Amish guys to hell by taking their photos before learning better!

I would have loved to spend a little more time in the area, but you can only see so many Amish farms and covered bridges in couple of days. Everyone enjoyed walking around Intercourse and touching all the craft merchandise. While the Dragons did a little more of this than we could stand, us Knights drove around until we found a sign advertising cheese for sale.

We learned during the lecture at the Amish Village that most of the Amish cheese was made in Ohio, but the guide thought we could find some locally too. So, we finally saw a sign and drove up past the barn to a little out building marked “Store.”

Inside there was a nice young Amish teenager helping a customer in his stocking feet. He was very friendly and looked nice with his “bowl-cut” hair cut, suspenders, and multi-colored plaid shirt.

Got any cheese?” Ron asked.

Oh yes, we have plenty here in the refrigerator (gas powered naturally).”

Did you all make it? Ron asked.

No sir,” he answered.

Was it made in Ohio?” I asked.

Oh no, we buy down at the store,” the young man said without shame.

We bought a pound each and it was good, although it was not authentic Amish cheese!

After passing road killed deer number 50, we finally saw the Tennessee welcome mat. It was good to be back home. After all, if you have ever visited East Tennessee, you know that the country in West Virginia, Virginia, New York, and Pennsylvania is not that much different. The only difference I could find was that the hills are just a little further apart!

We also have a “shopping Mecca” like the Pennsylvania Dutch Country – it’s called Pigeon Forge here! The difference here is that Dolly Parton will greet you wearing less traditional outfits!

Be sure to click to enlarge these shots, and/or visit my Flickr page for more photos.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


As you can seeKetchup Boy” (a.k.a. Steve the Knight) just couldn’t handle the festivities Thursday! After cleaning up the turkey, the associated fixings, and sampling the pecan, chocolate pecan, pumpkin, and coconut pies, we settled in for a little football. Steve made the first score…I mean snore!

The Dragons swarmed him while he slept as Gary and I clicked off the shots – he slept on!

You see, Steve has long advocated that “naps are for sissies!” He has always looked up to his manly man heroes, like John Wayne and Jeff Cooper, but, as I’ve pointed out, most all of history’s great men were “nap takers,” including The Duke!

It’s always been important for Steve to be a “manly man,” even if it was just in his head, so when he succumbs to the ravages of an “older age” we don’t let him forget it. After all, “Ketchup Boy” is just another good ol’ boy like the rest of us – and we love him just the way he is.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving…we did…but Steve don’t remember!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Slowly we turned…and arrived in Niagara Falls, Canada about sundown Wednesday and immediately began snapping photos with all the Japanese and other tourist already there. It was almost like the Beatles movie “Hard Days Night” – a snap, snap here, and a snap, snap there. Actually, we nearly had the whole town to ourselves!

I caught the pink sunset light against the mist of Horseshoe Falls from our eleventh floor room in the Marriott. We left the small roll-out window open both nights we were there and we slept like big fat babies. It was so soothing and covered what little noise we heard. The rooms were great and looked right out over the Canadian falls, and the price included bus transportation from the hotel to the various sights around the city, both morning’s buffet breakfast, and $75 toward our last evening’s meal in the luxurious dining room.

It turned out that this was the best hotel package we got during the trip, which was so surprising due to the high cost of everything else. A 12 ounce draft beer in the hotel was $8 and a glass of house wine $12!

Thursday was spent at the falls doing the Journey Behind the Falls and experiencing the awesome spectacle of over 100,000 cubic feet of water crashing down 13 stories to the basin below every second. Elevators take you down 150 feet through bedrock to tunnels that lead and to the Cataract Portal and the Great Falls Portal which is one third of the way behind the massive sheet of water, then on to the Upper and Lower Observation Decks at the foot of the Falls. From these portals, lights change colors shine on different sections of both the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls after sundown until about 2 AM.

Of course, the primary focus people have is getting couple or group shots with the falls as a backdrop. I have included a store bought one and one I created using three separate photos. The store bought is much simpler!

In the restroom I saw this little tub for washing feet…I assume. Does anyone have a clue why these are there? My thought is that people my go into the tunnels barefooted in the summer, but I really don’t know.

We then traveled over to the Skylon Tower. The tower stands 520 feet high and makes seeing a panoramic view of the entire falls area a cinch! I have included a few panoramic merges I created from shots I got. These shots include both The American and Horseshoe Falls. On the far side of the falls is Niagara Falls, New York.

We all had passports, so going back and forth was simple, except for the traffic jams. The Canadian Guard asked me if I had any weapons and I said “No, the website said to leave them at home.”

Oh, do you normally carry a gun?

Heck yeah,” I replied matter-of-factly. He just looked at me and handed our passports back.

After dark, the Dragons proceeded to the Hilton Fallsview Casino, and Knights held up in The Falls Frikin, also within the Hilton complex, and indulged in black and tans. To our surprise, my Dragon won $280 playing the nickel slots!

I have to mention Johnny Rockets (inside the casino complex), where we had lunch. It is an authentic retro-setting of a ‘50‘s diner. Some of us enjoyed their juicy old fashion hamburgers, while others selected the delicious hot dogs and a creamy shake!

Next, in Part 3, we're off to Pennsylvania to visit the Amish!

Be sure to click to enlarge these shots, and/or visit my Flickr page for more photos.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Suldog beat me to it (‘cause he’s sharp that way), but I had actually planned on beginning this series of post with a reference to the famous routine by the Three Stooges!

Anyway, I had intended to only post one item on our trip to and from Niagara Falls, Ontario, but I took so many “blog-worthy” photos, I have decided to do this in three parts.

The road trip began last Monday morning at the crack of dawn. Judy and I dropped our baby dog Baylee off at Charlotte and Gary’s kennel and loaded our huge suitcase into their Tahoe. We then rendezvoused at the Cracker Barrel in Strawberry Plains, TN with Neena and Ron.

Gary had purchased a Magellan GPS navigator system for his pheasant hunting trip the week before, so we were in good hands with “Maggie Magellan,” as he called the voice on the system!

Our first scheduled stop was in Lewisburg, West “By Gawd” Virginia! That afternoon we walked around “downtown” Lewisburg. Shopping was not on the Knight’s agenda, so we quickly spotted the Irish Pub on Washington Street! Man, was that ever lucky!

Ron Dog, his call sign on the walkie-talkies for the trip, and I were soon half way into an authentic black and tan, with Gary pulling on a Heineken draft. The owner was a true Irishman, and we listen closely through his thick brogue, as the gave us the “old country” tale of how “black and tans” were born.

The next morning we headed out for the New River Gorge State Park to see the colors, and, of course, the famous bungee/base jumping New River Gorge Bridge we had seen many times on Discovery.

Well, the color was there, but it was subdued by a slight drizzle and dense fog hanging in the valley. We decided early on “it is what it is,” so this did not keep us from getting out and seeing the sights. As you can see, the photos were still there and we had a great time walking to the overlooks and touring the visitor’s center.

A tour bus arrived and unloaded, but they were told they could see nothing from the overlook, so they soon loaded up and left. The old people will never know what they missed at the end of the rainbow!

Another place we all wanted to visit was The Greenbrier. The Greenbrier is located in White Sulpher Springs, just outside of Lewisburg. During the cold war a secret bunker was constructed beneath the resort for members of Congress to wait out a nuclear holocaust! It is a very interesting story, so click here to read all about it.

However, with a price of $30 a head, we opted to browse the Christmas Shop across from the main gate. It was lovely too, and free!

That evening we dined at the wonderful Food and Friends restaurant on Washington Street. The experience was fantastic except for the idiot that was describing his deer hunting trip that morning on his cellphone. To top it off, he walked off and left his cellphone on the table. The phone began ringing and everyone was looking around when the asshole came back in and picked it up and began talking as if he had been there the whole time. Ten years ago I would have probably tackled him, but nowadays I am a little picky about who I tackle – lucky for him!

It’s so good to be back! Although we had good accommodations, I sure missed my bed. I did not move the entire night last night. I slept like I needed it and I did. We drove a total of 2100 miles, 650 of it on the last day, and I was bushed!

Oh yes, I missed blogging too, but I was not about to pay the kiosk prices ($5/10 minutes) just to open Mushy’s Moochings and then log off! Won’t someone buy me a laptop for Christmas?

Sorry it has taken me so long, but I had over 200 photos to thumb through, clothes to unpack, and groceries to buy.

I still have not caught up on your blog posts, but I promise to make the rounds. I may not comment, in order to get up to speed quickly, but I’ll be back in the swing in a couple of day…well, with Thanksgiving coming up…maybe longer! I have two “boys days out” coming up this week, so things may remain spotty for some time.

See ya.

P.S. Be sure to click on the photos for larger sizes, or go to my Flickr page to see more of them.

Next…Part 2…Niagara Falls!

Saturday, November 10, 2007


...and praying of those that did!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Four of us (my Dragon and Ron’s Dragon) took a nice short hike at Frozen Head State Park yesterday. Ron and I got several nice shots with beautiful fall colors in them. The last two are Ron's (click on them to enlarge)…aren’t they great with all those rich colors reflecting in water!

The first one was taken after Neena thought she saw a frog along the path. Since it was in the 40’s she couldn’t understand what this frog was doing out. On closer inspection she realized it was really a leaf that resembled a big green frog!

The panorama was taken on the road leading past the Brushy Mountain Correctional Facility to Frozen Head. This is such a beautiful area and just about 10 miles from my house. They call this area “God’s Country” around here, but it’s really just Morgan County near Wartburg, Tennessee.

Why is it they always call places where sunlight is piped in and moonshine out “God’s Country?” It must have something to do with the isolation and the surrounding nature. It is pretty, but I’m satisfied to live 10 miles down the road.

We have been totally surprised at the fall colors this year. We are still over a foot behind in annual rainfall, and I expected the color to either be burnt off by the drought or by arson by now! There is always some idiot lurking around with a “jones” for wildfire when the forests get this dry. Well, it ain’t over yet!

We, well, I am glad the cool weather has finally arrived. After the hike and the feast at the local Mexican restaurant yesterday, I took the couch throw out on the back porch and took a nap. It was cold, but only my nose was exposed. Soon, both Baylee and I were snoring away!

Of course Judy was toasty on the couch with Dr. Phil lecturing in the background.

Ah, retirement…still highly under-rated!

More shots a Mushy's Flickr!