Firing from the Lip

A collection of thoughts, stories, tall tales, half truths and opinions from the Heartland of America.

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Location: Missouri, United States

An irreverent but loving grandfather of five and father of three, I enjoy writing of family, love, life, and the never ending fascination of it all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Little Beatles Fan

How many four year olds can sing Beatles songs to you? Much less tell you who they were and what happened to them. Brendan came in from Head Start this afternoon singing 'Yellow Submarine', he remembers his Mama singing it to him when he was a 'little boy'. He's four now, and he'll readily tell you he's a 'big boy' these days. I got tickled as I listened to him tell his Mama about how John Lennon was shot, George died, but Ringo and Paul are still alive. He knows more about them than I do, and I'm just a tad older.
I like to talk to my grandson because he renews my faith in people. He knows he's in a home full of love and we're all deeply committed to making his life as warm and happy as we can. I only wish every child had the same. There would be a lot less hate in the world and we'd all be better off.

Flags of our Fathers

Six men immortalized in a photograph that has come to symbolize the very essence of the United States Marine Corps. In a chance millisecond atop a volcanic outcrop known as Mount Surabachi, a photograph breathed new life into a war weary nation in the closing months of World War II.
We've all seen it, the Marines struggling to raise the flag as the wind catches it, the powerful emotions it brings forth in each of us, the pride in our nation, the memories of a 'good war' in which America was united.
Flags of our Fathers takes us inside the lives of the six men in the photograph. Five United States Marines and one Navy Corpsman. They hailed from the Arizona desert, the woodlands of Kentucky and Wisconsin, the plains of Texas, Pennslyvania steel towns and New Hampshire textile mills. Three of them would leave Iwo Jima alive. Three would be buried there along with nearly 7000 other Marines. In a battle that lasted nearly a month and during which Admiral Chester Nimitz said 'Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue' the Marine Corps suffered 26,000 casualties.
It is a heartwrenching story of these young men, teenagers really, boys barely out of school who found themselves caught up in a bloodbath of epic proportions. Their courage is awe inspiring and their sacrifice humbling. More than once as I read I would find my breath catching in my throat and tears in my eyes. The tale is told without any false pretenses, without any reference to the 'glory' of battle. It was not glorious to serve on Iwo Jima, it was blood and pain, it was young men dying far too soon. Facing an enemy that would not surrender, the Marines fought the ultimate battle of kill or be killed, all the while suffering the pain of watching their buddies die and wondering if they were next.
These Marines depended on one thing. Each other. The espirit de corps of the USMC leaps off the pages and the Corps Values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment are given human faces during the battle. One Marine, having lost both feet to a mortar attack, fought the Corpsman trying to evacutate him. 'I can't leave now, my buddies need me'!
Jack (Doc) Bradley, Navy Corpsman and father of the author, served with distinction on Iwo Jima. A dedicated caregiver, Bradley would be awarded the Navy Cross for heroism during the battle. An award he would never speak of and that his children would learn of only after his death many years later. For those unfamiliar with this award, it is second only to the Medal of Honor in prestige.
The book follows the men in the famed picture from childhood to the end of their lives. Their training, their sense of humor, their love for their families, their dreams of going home. One comes to know them as you read and the deaths of the three hit you hard, and make you realize the price paid for the freedom we enjoy.
It is as much a love story from son to father as it is a tale of war. Mr. Bradley's pride in his Dad and his brothers on Iwo is evident, as is his dedication to getting the story right. It's a wonderful, if sometimes difficult, read and I highly recommend it.
On the gate of the 5th Division cemetary on Iwo Jima shortly after the battle ended an anonymous Marine wrote these words.
When you go home
Tell them for us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today.

'Grandpa's Outhouse'

Grandpa Lindsey had an outhouse, and every Halloween it would get tipped over as a prank. Grandpa saw nothing funny about it! He was ready to cut loose with a load of rock salt into the kids behinds if he ever caught them.
He tried everything to keep that privy upright. Stayed up and kept watch, put the dog out, you name it he tried it, to no avail. "Those dang kids! I'd like to tan their hides!' I thought the whole thing was funny as all get out but I sure didn't let grandpa know that!
Dad would just sit there and listen to the old fellow. 'Yes sir, Mr. Lindsey! Sure is a shame. Doggone kids got no respect, and that's a fact.' Grandpa would grumble 'I got my shotgun by the door, Chimp. A dose of rock salt oughtta calm those little hellions down!' 'Yes sir! That should do the trick.' Pop laughed.
The next morning poor grandpa called, and asked Dad to come help him set his outhouse back up. He was mad as a hornet! 'I must have dozed off, and around ten I heard a thud.' 'They was gone by the time I found my glasses.' 'Decent kids should be abed at that late an hour!' My dad was sure trying hard not to laugh. But as he lifted that outhouse off the ground I could see those big, old shoulders shaking. He sure didn't let grandpa see him.'Chimp! Take me to Pirtle's Hardware! 'I'll show em', yes sir, I got me an idea that will fix their little red wagons!' We hopped in Pops old 56' Chevy pickup and off we went. Gramps bought eye bolts, clamps, guide wire, and several bags of quick mix cement. He was gonna' tie that sucker down!
Mr. Pirtle grinned as grandpa piled his stuff on the counter. 'Kids still knocking your privy over, Marvin?' Pop chuckled, and grandpa stared. I just bit my lip and tried hard not to laugh.
After grandpa got himself 'supplied up' as he put it, we shot back to the house and he called Uncle Jim on the phone. 'James Davis? Are you busy? I'd like you to help me and Chimp set my outhouse.' 'Why sure, Mr. Lindsey! I'd be glad to help!'
Well, my daddy and Uncle Jim, under gramps' watchful eye, spent the rest of the day digging post holes, installing eye bolts, and stringing cable. They'd put pipe sleeves in the post holes and filled them with cement. That old outhouse was tied down tight. Gramps' cackled and said 'knock her down now, boys!' He sure was proud of himself.
All was well that first night, and grandpa had his morning coffee on the back porch. Watching the glow of the rising sun reflect off his shiny, new outhouse cables.
I stayed the next night at grandpa's house. Pop drove me over and dropped me off. 'You be good, son. I'll see you in the morning.' 'I will, Pop. See you then.' My old dad sat in his truck til' I'd reached the door, then pulled off with a smile and a wave.
Along about nine, as we got ready for bed, we heard a loud thump from behind the house. 'No! It can't be!' Grandpa yelled, and ran to the door. Sure enough, there lay his outhouse, door open to the sky, with it's shiny, new cables lying limp around it. 'Damn kids!' Grabbing his shotgun, grandpa shot out the door determined to administer a little down home punishment on their behinds with his load of rock salt.
That's when things really went downhill fast for the old man. Not only had those 'mean kids' knocked it over, but they'd pulled it up the hill, and thrown a dark, wool blanket over the hole. Well, gramps found that blanket, and as he fell in he pulled both triggers and that old shotgun roared into the night! Every light for blocks around came on, and every dog with an ounce of self respect started barking and howling furiously!
My old grandpa was kicking and screaming, and threatening to shoot anyone and anything in sight as he pulled himself out of that hole!
I was fit to be tied! I'd never seen anything this funny in my life! Grandpa is yelling, 'take that damn flashlight and look around, boy!' 'Find em'! You hear me? Find em'!' I walked to the alley, grin getting wider with every step, as the old man raged and fumed behind me.
I was about to turn around to go back to the house when I heard a stifled laugh! It was coming from the culvert across the alley! Well, I headed that way, and as I got near I could hear 'shh, shh, they'll hear us' followed by hysterical giggling!
Shining the light into the culvert, I got a shock! There, lying down trying to hide, was my Dad and my Uncle Jim! Pop saw me, and waved his hand back and forth, for me to keep quiet. As he and Jim giggled and shook, I almost busted out laughing. That would have given them away for sure!
They'd spent the whole previous day working their butts off. Digging and tying that old outhouse down, just to sneak out in the dark and turn it over.
'Do you see anybody, boy?' Grandpa yelled. I looked down at my Dad and my Uncle, laughing so hard they were in tears, and called back 'No sir, nobody's up this way anyhow!'
Grandpa gave up after this, and Dad installed indoor plumbing for him. I'll never forget what my grandfather said after Dad had tightened the last bolts on his shiny new commode. 'Well, what do you think Mr. Lindsey?' 'My luck Chimp, some fool will knock it over.' My Dad laughed, and, blue eyes twinkling, winked at me.
My grandpa never found out the truth about that night. And sometimes, as he'd tell the story and everyone laughed, my Dad, my wonderful, fun, Uncle Jim and I would look at each other and smile.
Seeing the fun, playful, sides, of my big, hardworking Uncle and father only made me love them more.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

'Get Off My Porch!'

My grandfather Clarence died several years before I was born. My grandmother, Della Belle Starr Marler, loved and missed him until the end of her days. Grandma was a little old short thing, she might have been five feet tall, but not by much.
She lived next door to us. Daddy had built our house right next to grandma’s so he could ‘keep an eye on her.’ I think he did it because she made good biscuits, and Pop sure did love his biscuits. I can remember laughing as a child, seeing my father sticking his head out the door of his shop and looking toward Granny’s house because he smelled her cooking, and was getting awful hungry.
I thought Granny was a nice looking lady, and I asked her once, ‘Grandma, why didn’t you ever get married again?’ She looked at me, dusted off her apron, sat down at her table and said, ‘come here son, sit by me.’ I did, and granny told me about my grandfather who she called, ‘my Clarence.’ ‘The Lord gave me my Clarence, and we were happy for a long time, Donnie. He was the best man I’ve ever known. He was kind, gentle, and loving, and I just know that someday I’ll be with him again. God gave me the perfect man, son. Why would I want anyone else?’ Well now, I thought that was sweet!
There was an older gentleman here in town that took a decided interest in granny. He was an insurance man, and he found cause to stop in now and then, to try to sell Pop a policy, and eyeball granny.
This wasn’t lost on my father. He would cock his eyebrow, and look at that old boy like ‘what are you thinking?’ He teased granny about her ‘boyfriend’. Man, she didn’t think that was funny at all!
Before long granny began receiving flowers and whatnot, left on her porch with little notes, from this old insurance man. Well now, my daddy thought this was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He’d tease that old woman until she was ready to take him out behind the woodshed. ‘You better hush Bill. I don’t like that old fart sending me flowers and such and you know it!’ ‘Well Momma, you must be doing something to let him know you’re interested?’ Pop said, with his devilish little grin, ‘He sure does like you, Momma.’ ‘I’m warning you boy, you hush, or you’ve ate your last biscuit at my table.’ My mean old daddy would just cackle.
Not long after that, a few days maybe, the truck from Greene’s Florist pulled up and granny got an awfully nice bouquet of flowers. She didn’t look all that happy to me, to get them. My Pop giggled, and it was funny to see that big old body, giggling and shaking, while granny stared at him. Me? Well, I was the mercenary sort, looked out for myself, you know? I just hoped when granny cut the old man off the biscuits, she’d keep making them for me! That’s all I was worried about! Anyway, granny slammed those flowers down in a chair on her porch and went inside in a huff. Before long, here came the old dandydressed to the nines, every hair in place, what few he had, with a little carnation in his lapel and his hand full of more flowers for granny. He rang the doorbell and stood as straight as he could, waiting for her. He got more than he bargained for, far more. The old lady jerked the door open and proceeded to tell him she was not interested in having dinner with him! Not today! Not tomorrow! Not any day! Didn’t this fool know she was a Christian woman? Not some hussy? She felt moved to accent every word with a nice swing of her broom! She was whacking that poor old man with a broom! The old goat was trying to get back to his car in one piece while the old lady administered a stern rebuke of his advances. I almost felt sorry for him! She was flat laying down the law! My daddy heard me laughing and came to see what was up? I’ve never seen my father laugh so hard! We were hanging onto each other, and about to fall apart. My poor Mom was standing on our porch, with her hand over her mouth taking it all in. Granny got rid of that old suitor, and before we knew what was going on she was whacking daddy with the broom! ‘That will teach you! Laughing at me!’ Dad was helpless, all he could do was hold his arm up to try and keep the broom off his head and laugh. I was giggling and laughing myself, and when granny turned around,and saw me, she gave me a whack on the behind with her broom! I laughed, and she winked at me. She turned and told Dad, as she went back inside, ‘You’re going to get awful hungry for biscuits, boy!’ ‘I’ll make them for Donnie! But you ain’t eatin’ nary a one!’ It took Pop a few days but before long she was laughing right along with us about the whole affair. She was a beautiful lady, and I think of her often as I grow older. I hope my grandchildren think I’m half as wonderful as I thought granny was. Pop and I still laugh when we remember those long ago days, and granny yelling ‘get off my porch!’ with every swing of her broom.

'I Wonder?' A Tribute to Gold Star Parents

Sitting alone in the dining room late one night I thought of all the parents who have lost their children in the War on Terror. As the father of a US Marine I have had the honor of becoming friends with some of these wonderful people. I am constantly amazed at their strength, their courage, and their loving concern for the ones who fight on. May God hold them in the palm of his hand, may the rest of us hold them in our hearts.

I woke to another beautiful morning, the sky was so bright and vivid! Each color stood out as the rays of the morning sun danced on beams of streaking light.I love it here, everyone's so nice, and goes out their way to make you feel welcome. Even so there are times I'd just like to sit with Mom and Dad for a few moments.I sure do miss Mom, she made the best chow in the world, and always teased me about drinking milk straight from the carton, or not taking off my shoes before I stomped in out of the rain. And Dad? Poor Dad couldn't let me out of his sight! I used his tools and didn't put them back. I drove his car on my first date. I fought with him, while all I wanted was to be just like him. They were wonderful parents, and I miss them so.I haven't been here long, only a year or so. It seems like I'll be here forever some days. That would be alright with me. It's good duty, a lot of my buddies are here and we laugh and talk about our old DI's, and how we didn't think we'd survive boot camp. Shoot, even a few of them are here! I guess nobody gets to be a DI forever.We talk sometimes about the war, places we served, places we can't forget, with names like Fallujah, Baghdad, and Ar Ramadi. Funny names for an American boy, but what happened there wasn't funny.We fought, we were scared sometimes but we fought hard, me and my brothers, my Marines. Some fell, some went home, some are still fighting. I pray for them every day. I am so proud to be a United States Marine, and I know they are too.I dreamed of my mother last night, it was so real I felt like I was holding her in my arms! It sounds crazy but I wondered if maybe Mom felt me hugging her from here? I hope so.Shoot! The CO is coming up the hill! I guess I got to get busy. I'm just kind of whiling away the day, hiding under this old shade tree. 'Good Morning, sir!' 'Yes sir! I'll get a few Marines to help me with that.' Well, I gotta go. We've got a new Marine coming in and the CO wants a few of us to meet him. 'Make him feel welcome, show him around a bit.' 'Aye Aye, Sir!'Ah', there's my buddies! They look like they're having a good day! Someone must have given them a heads up! Look at them in their Dress Blues! Those boys, they just love it when they can show the Blues and strut around.'Hey, Justin!' 'Matthew!' 'Byron!' 'Chris!', C'mon Marines, we've got to welcome a brother aboard!'I have to go now. If you see my Mom and Dad tell them I love them, I miss them, but I'm alright. Heaven's an awful nice place.

Monday, August 28, 2006

'We'll Take You Home'

This is one of my favorite memories of my Dad. It illustrates the kind of man he is, and reminds me of how very lucky I am to call him Dad. I love you Pop.

‘We’ll Take You Home’
In the early afternoon of a hot, muggy summer day, my dad and I were driving down Main Street on the way to Flat River to pick up our order at Lead Belt Auto Supply.
Pop had been working on putting a new motor in a lady’s car. He’d run into a lot of problems with this one, and for one of the few times I can remember my dad was in a foul mood. He didn’t have much to say, and was in a hurry to get our stuff and get back home.
I was around ten or so, call it 1971. The war in Vietnam was raging but I didn’t know much about it. I watched the news with Mom and Dad, and I felt sorry for the poor soldiers who were getting hurt.
As we drove, I looked up and there, walking along the shoulder of the road, was a soldier. He looked tired, wrestling with that big old duffle bag. Pop pulled over and waited for the soldier to reach our truck. He sure was hot! His face was streaked with sweat, and he looked plumb worn out.
I remember thinking how young he looked. I figured he was 18 or 19. That surprised me! I thought soldiers were older than that? ‘Where you headed, son?’ Asked my father. ‘Potosi, sir. I’m headed home.’ the soldier replied wearily. ‘Hop in. We’ll take you home.’ Well, that soldiers face lit up like a firefly! He smiled the brightest, happiest smile I’d ever seen. He thanked Pop, tossed his bags in the bed of the truck, and climbed up into the cab.
I scooted over next to dad and listened as they talked. I was surprised to learn this baby faced soldier sitting next to me had been in Vietnam. He was too young! He was far too young! He was just a kid himself! They spoke softly and every so often the soldier would look out the window at the pastures and hills rolling by like he couldn’t believe he was there.
They talked a little about the war, the soldier said it had been rough, and several friends of his had died. He told Pop they’d got some pretty mean treatment from some folks on the way home. I sure didn’t understand that? Why would you be mean and hurtful to someone willing to fight for you? That didn’t make any sense to me at all. Looking at my dad, I saw he didn’t get it either, but he sure didn’t like it.
We were getting close to Potosi, and that soldier was sure getting excited. Dad asked, ‘where in Potosi, son?’ ‘You’ve brought me a good way, sir. You can drop me off at the city limit, I’ll find my way from there.’ ‘No sir,’ my dad replied, ‘you tell me where, and me and the boy, we’ll take you to your door.’
He thanked Pop again, and we found his street. We were just a few blocks from his parents home when I heard a funny sound from the soldier. As I looked at him I saw his chin quiver, and he bit down hard on his lip. I don’t know why, but it made me cry, and I scooted over and hugged him and told him I was glad that he was home. As he put his arm around me and hugged me back I felt his tears fall on my face.
I’ll never forget pulling up to his parents home. He shook Pop’s hand and tousled my hair. ‘I don’t have the words, sir’ he said, gripping my fathers hand. Dad smiled and replied, ‘welcome home son, and thank you.’
As he turned away we heard a yell, from someone looking out the window. We waited, the door burst open and a boy ran onto the porch. He was jumping up and down, yelling, ‘Momma! Momma!’ We saw the soldiers mother and dad, as they ran down the walk to their son. I cried happy tears as he lifted his mother in his arms and swung her round and round, held tightly to his chest. We saw him bear hug his dad, and kneel down to lift the leaping little boy high over his head.
As my father pulled slowly away, the soldier waved goodbye. Driving down the highway, headed home, I looked over at my father. His dark mood had lifted, and there was a slight smile on his face.
‘That sure was good of you, Pop!’ ‘Taking that soldier home like that!’ Laughing, I said, ‘Hey Pop. You went fifty miles out of your way to get him home!’ My dad looked at me, and after a moment replied, ‘yeah son, I guess we did. But he went 16,000 miles out of his way, for us.’ ‘Promise me son. You’ll never forget it.’ ‘I swear Pop. I’ll remember.’
To all the veterans of Vietnam who came home only to be called foul names, spat upon, and ignored. There were many like my Dad and I, who honored your service, and were glad you made it back. Thank you.
Welcome Home

Take His Keys!

This is a little tale of my mother and I when I was a teenager.

My mother was deathly afraid of going fast in a car. Why I don’t know, it just kind of went along with her fear of everything. When I say ‘fast’, I mean over 20 mph. My poor Dad would putt along in his old Dodge with traffic lined up for three blocks behind them, flashing their lights and honking their horns. I don’t know how he did it. I couldn’t, as this little tale shows.
We were working in the shop getting a car ready to paint. It was hot and I wanted to be anywhere but where I was. Pop would just look at me and chuckle, ‘what’s the matter Luke?’ ‘You don’t feel like working today?’ I just stared at him and didn’t say a word. I wasn’t telling him the girl I was dating wanted to go swimming and was mad because I couldn’t go. ‘I don’t know why you have to work?’ ‘None of the other boys are working, maybe one of them would like to be with me?’ Go for it! I hope you both drown. I was not in a good mood.
About this time, Mom stuck her head in the door and yelled ‘Bill’ at the top of her lungs. It didn’t matter that Pop and I were only ten feet away, I guess she wanted be sure she was heard. She was heard all right, I think old Mr. Womack across the road heard her. Mom had a voice that Grandma said, ‘carried’, it sure did. You could hear that woman for five blocks when she yelled, and she yelled a lot.
‘I need to go to Pop N’ Quik, Bill.’ Pop N’ Quik was a little country store about 2 miles from our house. Pop looked up and said, ‘damn Mary, I’m busy, I’ll have the boy take you.’ ‘What?! Me?! Awww, I don’t want to take Mom! She’ll drive me nuts! ‘Slow down, you’re going too fast!’ Hell, I ain’t even out of the driveway yet! Well, as usual Pop won and I headed for the car with Mom chattering all the way. ‘You better not go fast, I’m telling you now, I’ll have Dad take your keys if you don’t drive just like I tell you.’ ‘Yes mom, I’ll go 2 miles an hour, just like you want.’ I knew this was going to suck.
We hopped in my 1969 Plymouth GTX and took off. The GTX had a blown, balanced, and blueprinted 440 Magnum engine. It got 6 mpg highway, 3 city, and it ran like a scalded dog. That old car shook when it idled from the power and it did not like to barely move. It was hard on it you see, to dog it around. Made carbon build up and it didn’t run right at less than full throttle. I made it to 15 mph before Mom started talking, ‘I told you not to go fast!’ ‘Fast? I’m barely moving!’ ‘You better slow down boy, or you’re gonna’ be walking wherever you go!’ Ohh, I knew this was gonna’ suck! Well, I slowed down and we were chugging along at about 10 miles an hour when a tractor trailer got right on my bumper. I looked in the mirror and all I could see was grill. I thought ‘oh boy, this ain’t good’ and I sped up a little to get him off me. ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I didn’t tell you to speed up boy!’ ‘Mom, there’s a big truck right behind us, if I go your speed he’s gonna’ hit me!’
I was going 25 mph by this time, and Mom was going berserk! ‘Slow down!’ ‘That’s it, your keys are gone when we get home.’ ‘Do what?’ ‘Why?’ ‘For going fast when I told you not too!’ Fast huh, fine, you want my keys for going fast do you? Well By God, let’s go fast. I decided I wasn’t going to Pop N’ Quik! I was going home and I was going express! I hit the floor with the accelerator and that old GTX came to life! We hit the parking lot of that old store, and I spun the damn car around and went right back up the road, with poor Mom screaming her head off. We hit our road at 105 miles an hour and I was going for more. Mom had her nails dug into the dashboard and was still screaming. I gave that car all it had, and didn’t slow down until I slid it sideways into Mom and Dads front yard.
Mom was running around the car with her arms in the air, still screaming, when Pop came to see what was going on. ‘Take his keys, take his keys!’ Pop said, ‘Donnie? What the hell?’ I told him the whole story and tossed him my keys. ‘I can’t go 5 mph, I ain’t ever taking that woman anywhere again, and I ain’t sanding no damn car today neither!’ ‘Don’t get too full of yourself boy.’ Mom was in the house by this time, calling down every curse she could think of on my fool head.
My Pop looked at the house, listening to Mom, then looked back at me. ‘So, how’d she take it when you floored that thing?’ ‘Not good, I thought she was gonna’ jump out!’ ‘Luke, you know better than that.’ ‘Yes sir I do, but Pop, she was driving me nuts.’ ‘Hell boy, I’ve been there! I have to take her everywhere!’ My Dad started laughing, and said ‘you best get your ass in the shop, where I can protect you when she comes calling, and she will when she calms down.’ Made sense to me, and I decided I’d better do what Dad said, seeing as how I’d pushed my luck enough for one day.
A few minutes later my Mom charged into the shop with a flyswatter, and she wasn’t hunting flies neither. My Dad laughed his butt off while she wore me out with that flyswatter. I was laughing too, I couldn’t help it! Poor Mom smacked me with every word! ‘If you ever do that again I’ll kill you in your sleep!’ I was 17 when this happened. My mom never rode with me again, if she could help it.