Thursday, April 3, 2008

Vietnam memories

My friend had been in a reform school called the Castle, The Preston School of Industry in Ione, California. Since I too had been in Reform School (read my book, Abominable Firebug), we had a lot to talk about during our journey across the country. I met him when he was thumbing a ride from a truck stop in Oklahoma City. He had just completed Army basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and I had just finished my duty in the Navy and was driving to a new job in Albuquerque. His family lived in Volcano, California where he would visit and return during his ten days leave. It was impossible. I decided to take him all the way. I could return to Albuquerque after I left him in Volcano. Besides, I had never been to California. It was an adventure.

In Volcano, I was introduced to his family and a Thanksgiving diner. After spending the night, I left for my long trip back across the mountains from California to New Mexico. This should have been the end of the story.

About a year later, when I was moving to New Jersey, I received a telephone call from my friend’s sister. He had been killed in Vietnam. The family was devastated, and she asked if I could come back to California and visit. I guess I had no choice. The family had made a memorial out of my friend’s car. The front seat contained a framed boot-camp graduation picture, another picture from High School, his guitar, and a few other personal items including one of his teddy bears which his grandmother had secretly kept. The family wanted me to move in with them to somehow replace their son since I had been one of his last friends to see him alive. I declined, paid my respects, and went away.

Four years later, I was living in Sacramento. On one Saturday I drove to the old homestead in Volcano. It had been abandoned and was run-down. In the side yard was the same memorial with my friend’s picture proudly displayed on the front seat. I was starting to see it now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I suddenly remembered a grade school chum and put his name into a Google window. I wondered what had happened since I last saw him. Perhaps he was a famous author, a musician or, maybe a scientist. I remembered him wanting to be all of those things at one time or another. Perhaps his dreams had come true. The last time I saw him, he was on the way to boot camp. The Hampshire County Draft Board was decimating all the small towns, leaving the big cities intact. Soon, all the draft-age boys from the villages would be sent off to war, while the children of the prominent city businessmen would remain secure. It did not seem fair, but that is the way it was in the sixties.

I scanned the names and information returned from my Internet search. Too many with that name had already died. Many were killed in Vietnam. I searched another page then stopped. I did not want to go on. I could not bear the thought that he might be dead as many of my other childhood friends. It would be better for him to remain alive in my memories than to be shown dead by the Web. I closed the window. He will remain alive forever.

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