11 January 2010

The Indian Chief - Part II

Hammond Hills, Ft Bragg   1966 -  The woods are in the background

Special Forces Camp A-223,  1966 - Vinh Than is in the foreground

The voice was a low rumble that crept out of green overgrowth and bushes.

I was playing in the woods behind quarters for senior enlisted men. Dad was a captain but Vietnam was keeping Ft Bragg hopping and officer's quarters were on a wait list. I wonder today if I would have heard that voice in the woods behind the officers billets. Maybe.

I was playing alone so it must have been a Sunday. We didn't go to church but everybody else did. I had a Man from U.N.C.L.E. attache case. The one with the secret camera and shoulder stock P-38.  I had asked for a trench coat that Christmas but would make do with a navy turtleneck and long blonde hair while working on a Illya Kuryakin accent.

"I am a great chief," the low rumble said. Not thirty feet away. Maybe less. I looked up from my brief case. "What?" I said, looking for the voice. "I am a great Indian chief and I'm looking for brave warriors to fight for my people." I turned to the voice and faced the bushes to my right and up a slight hill. I was calm. I was curious. I answered back. "What people?" "My tribe is out west - many moons away."

Out west? I was born in South Dakota and had lived most of my eight years out west: Ft Bliss and Ft Sam Houston, TX, Ft Sill, OK... I knew the west.

"Where out west?" I said putting my brief case down and folding my arms. "My people moved many times - many years." I nodded my head, "Me too. Where did you go?" "Many places," he replies. I remember as a kid hearing my father saying 'horse shit' a lot. I always wondered what the big deal was about horse shit but something was telling me this guy might have some.

I yelled to him, "I've lived  in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and I was born in South Dakota. Do you know those places?" There was silence. Then, "Yes. We were in those places many times."

My father had left Ft Bragg and was in Vietnam. I had dreams of him in his camp spurred on by John Wayne in The Green Berets. My grandmother had taken me to see it. I also had the record that inspired the movie, "Ballad of the Green Berets" written by Sgt Barry Sadler, a neighbor and someone my grandmother thought was a, "pretty big honcho." My father thought he was a Staff Sergeant and not a very good one.

My dream was always the same. My father's camp is being attacked by Viet Cong. My father is giving orders to his men and I walk up carrying an M-16. He looks at me and yells, "What are you doing here!?" I shrug my soldiers. He points me to a position and I join a circle of men surrounding him. We aim our weapons at the charging enemy.

I ask the Indian chief, "Where were you in all those places?" "Come to me, brave warrior and I will tell you."

I looked down at my PX French Shriners and kicked at some dirt that looked just like the dirt at Ft Benning and Ft Jackson. I don't remember being scared. If anything, I thought this 'chief' was probably a high school kid who was teasing me in front of his buddies. He wasn't very convincing and I was getting bored.

"Come to me, brave warrior. I will take you back in time where many buffalo..." "Nice try." I thought. I waved goodbye to the bushes and walked the ten feet or so out of the woods and up a hill to our cul de sac. I jumped in a dumpster next to the car port and played astronaut and then I walked some fifty feet home.

I have no idea who the Indian chief was although I do wonder how lucky I was. I never mentioned it to anybody. Bigger things were going on. The army was kicking us off post since my father was in Vietnam. Another move --  but this would be the first time on the other side of the gate


ELS said...

Sinister. Clever. fabulously written as ever and deliciously constructed.

Please keep going...

tintin said...

ELS- This needs a lot of work but thank you. It means a lot coming from you.

Ben said...

Glad to see you're posting here still!

ELS said...

First time I read this, I was struck by your mad bravery - arms folded, spy briefcase.

Second reading, am struck by the pathos of the little boy alone, and the touching juxtaposition of those photos of you and your dad's respective domains.

It may feel like pulling teeth to you, but I could read pages and pages of your writing.

That's QUITE enough mutual-admiration-shite for one night, thank you.

tintin said...

Ben- Things will be picking up around here thanks in large part to ELS.

ELS- I feel like I'm on the Merv Griffin show.

ELS said...

Tintin - I had to google Merv Griffin and am still not much wiser. Keep your cultural references international or provide links for the ignorant English.

Slushy, grey and gloomy - am REVELLING in misery.

Ben - I do hope that's a good thing...

Buffalo Soldier 9 said...

Keep telling that history; read some great military history.

How do you keep a people down? ‘Never' let them 'know' their history.

The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. Read the novel, “Rescue at Pine Ridge”, and visit website http://www.rescueatpineridge.com