Commentary from the boondocks. If it makes any sense, it is just by chance. email@example.com
Tuesday, June 01, 2004
This is the second in what I hope is a series of interviews of ordinary people. Since this is the week of Memorial Day, I think an interview with a Veteran is called for. Mack is an old friend and high school classmate. I’ll let him tell this in his own words.
I grew up on a farm in a valley that was named for my Mother’s family. We had been there since before Alabama was a state and had done pretty well farming bottomland that got flooded most ever Spring. By the time I was born, we were down to growing a few acres of corn and cotton. Our farm provided enough food for us to eat and some crops that Daddy sold to get the little cash we had. My Grandmother lived with us in the old family home and we had the three generations until she passed away after I was grown. I played basketball and baseball in high school and went to the state tournament in Basketball both my junior and senior years. We were pretty good at baseball, but never got out of the county in competition. I drove a school bus my last two years in high school and I still think it is funny that I had fewer problems on my bus than any of the adult drivers. I was bigger than any of my passengers and let them all know that if they caused me trouble on the bus, I would fix it later. The Principal could never understand why I didn’t have any discipline problems and even tried to put spies on the bus a couple of times to see if I was just not reporting them, I bet that there would be heart attacks all the way to Washington if someone tried to have a student bus driver these days.
I lived at home until I was drafted in 1967. I could have gone to college but I didn’t see any good reason to. I had a scholarship offer from Auburn but I decided that since I wasn’t the greatest student in high school, I might not be any better in college. I got a job right out of high school and worked until I was drafted. I spent a couple of years being pretty footloose. You asked if I participated in the sexual revolution and I have to say that I did as enthusiastically as I could. The years before and after I was drafted were quite an adventure. I guess the after years were more so as I was older and more cynical. Anyway, I guess that is what it was.
As I said, I was drafted in 1967 and went to basic training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. I was the top shooter in my basic training company and got a three-day pass for hitting every target. I didn’t think it was much of a contest since the targets were so big and the rifles so much better that Grandpa’s old .22 I used for squirrels. After basic training, I was sent to AIT (advanced individual training) at Ft. Gordon, Georgia where I was trained to be a telephone lineman and installer. I thought it was kind of funny that they gave me the pass for being the best shooter and then made me a telephone installer. I was promoted to E-4 at Ft. Gordon and expected to go to Vietnam when I graduated, but instead I got orders for Korea. I got to Korea in the spring of 1968 and was promoted to Sergeant E-5 before I had a year in the Army. I guess it was because I didn’t mind telling people to do their jobs since I had been doing that kind of thing since I was 14 and started running the farm. A few months later, I was offered a promotion to Staff Sergeant if I would re-enlist, but I turned it down. By then, I had figured out that re-enlisting meant a quick trip to Vietnam. I left the Army in 1969. We had a few cross-border incidents while I was in Korea, but nothing big. Fortunately, I never got shot at. I have a friend who says only a damned fool regrets not getting shot at while you were in the Army. I agree with him on that. I spent a lot of time playing in country music bands and got to see a lot of Korea because we played a different club just about every Friday and Saturday night. I still find it funny that I got off work to play in Army clubs and made as much money in the band as the Army paid me. . We were pretty good. I was the singer. At the time, I had a big range and could sing just about any country song from Johnny Cash to Gene Pitney. I guess you could say I was a singing lineman for the Army.
I got out of the Army in 1969 and came back home. I got a job and an apartment of my own and for the next few years, I really had a good time. I got in a local country band and we were really good. We opened for big acts coming through Alabama and made good money playing in clubs and for VFW dances all up and down the Tennessee Valley. I worked on the loading docks during the day and played in the band at night. You asked about the sexual revolution. Well, I don’t know about any revolution, but there weren’t many nights when I didn’t have someone staying with me, usually a different girl every night. I put a mattress in the back of my pickup, went to the local hangout and asked any girls I saw if they wanted to go have sex with me. My success rate was about 25%. I am still amazed by that. I am not the best looking guy in the world, so it must have been just the idea that I was so blunt in my approach. Most of the time, I didn’t even know their names. I’m not proud or bragging, just telling it how it was. A buddy of mine got home from work one night to find his trailer door open and two naked women waiting for him. They were two of his high school classmates and their husbands were out of town. This was in a little country town where everybody knew everybody and I think that kind of thing went on all the time. I don’t really think it was sexual revolution, just the way people are.
In 1972, I saw a woman at work and told a buddy that I was going to ask her for a date. He bet me $10 that I could not get her to go out with me. It took several tries, but I finally won the $10. I would never have asked her a second time if it had not been for the bet. We have been married 30 years and I still think she is the best woman in the world. I gave up the band a few years after getting married and got a job as a supervisor at a local plant where I worked for until retiring a couple of years back.
I have gotten back into music and play several times a week but not for the public. I really don’t want to do that again. The groups I play with play what we want as many times as we want. You can’t do that when you are getting paid to do it.
I have never been really political. I was raised a Democrat, but then everyone was around here in the 50s and 60s. My Mama and Daddy thought that Republicans had horns and tails and wore red long handles. I'm not sure there were any Republicans in the county when I was growing up. I vote for the one I think will do the best job. I am not crazy about the selection we have for President this time but as it stands right now, I’ll vote for Bush. I don’t think he has done a real good job over all, but I have less faith in Kerry. The Presidential race is about the only one there is this election since no one is running against my Congressman. There are a few local races and I know who I will vote for. Politics don’t really interest me, but they definitely affect my life so I pay attention.
I don’t pay a lot of attention to sports, but I guess I favor Auburn over Alabama. If I had gone to college, it would have been to Auburn so I kind of pull for them.
I learned in the Army that what is important about people is if they will do their job when they are supposed to. I did not meet a black person until I went to work after high school and never really got to know one until I was in the Army. I quickly learned that they were really no different than white people. You have your good ones and you have your bad ones. I wish we could put the whole race thing behind us, but I don’t see it happening in my life. I think things are pretty good here around Huntsville. The subdivision just across the road from me has several black families and everyone seems to get along just fine. I had people from all backgrounds on my crew over the years and never saw that race had anything to do with how they worked. The same was true when I was in the Army. My First Sergeant in Korea was black and he was a really great guy and helped me a lot. When I was promoted to Sergeant, he told me he was looking for someone to get the job done and he didn’t care how long I had been in the Army.
I am a Southerner. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I like the climate, the people and just about everything about the South although I wouldn’t mind being somewhere else come August. Maybe I’ll just go fishing.