The .45 was in the box it’d come in when the commanding general of the base at Quantico had awarded it to me. My wife had put it up, and as far back on the top shelf of our bedroom closet, as she could. She and Pat had taken Julie to the shopping center for some things I hadn’t been informed about. I pulled the box down and opened it. An eight-by-eleven shiny picture of the general handing me the automatic was the first thing I saw as I opened the special box. I carefully removed the Colt from the red velvet interior of the oak wood box. The words “Clark Custom, Shreveport, La.” burned once again into my forebrain. They were carved into the metal in cursive, not like the printing underneath that described the weapon itself. The Marine Corps Association had paid a lot of money to have the weapon specially accurized. I knew that because my dad had been in charge of the Coast Guard Pistol Team for years when I was younger. A Clark .22 or .45 was prized over all other accurized pieces for use in competition.
I sat with the Colt in my lap. It was the only weapon I’d touched since leaving the A Shau Valley. My right hand slowly, almost all on its own, curled around the grip. The gun was loaded with factory ball ammo since hollow points wouldn’t explode effectively at the relatively slow speed a .45 bullet travels. Possessing the Colt once more made me feel warm and secure, but, as I sat there breathing carefully in and out, I knew there was really no truth in that. Not for the place I’d returned to. There was no security in having a gun if using the gun would almost certainly involve going to prison, not to mention adding another to the many dead who haunted my waking, as well as nighttime, hours. I thought of the slime ball in the ward, who’d insulted both my wife and me. I’d shoot him in less than a heartbeat, and I’d shoot him several times, I knew. But I could not. I wasn’t in the A Shau anymore. I was a training command Marine who would shortly not be a Marine anymore at all. I looked at the front door, closed against the middle of the living room wall across from me. My bullet placement would be perfectly executed if that man came through the door under threatening conditions.
I slowly tucked the unfired beautiful piece of collected metal shapes back into the box. I left one round in its chamber, just like I’d kept my .45 in the A Shau. The slide safety locking tang was stuck up into the slide locking safety notch on the side of the slide itself. I clicked the safety off, just once, and the sound seemed to echo through the whole living room before I re-engaged it. I was drawn to it, the sound, the automatic, the need to again experience the satisfaction of using it with great precision and application. The Colt was calling me back.
I closed the lid on the box, taking one last look at the photo of the general grinning, and me returning a grin. The photo hadn’t aged, the gun hadn’t aged, and neither had the box, but I was so many years from where I’d been only seven months back, at the time the award was made, that it seemed like light-years. I couldn’t go back without being back, and I wanted nothing ever to do again with the A Shau Valley or any situation that even distantly resembled the place or any of what had happened there. I put the box back exactly where my wife kept it, knowing that one day I would have to take it down to clean the automatic, but that day would not be now. The Colt knew it was there, waiting, and I knew the Colt was there, waiting. I was determined that it would wait a long time. If violence was to come out of my current environment, I was going to have to find another way of dealing with it.
I decided that there was no rush in heading over to M&M since Mickey would be doing whatever he was going to do to the GTO. I was window dressing, as I could do almost nothing to help him physically.
The fog lifted just before mid-day, so, after eating as much leftover pork as I could possibly take in, and working to fool with the ridiculous mess changing the colostomy bag turned out to be, I got fully dressed, changed my bloody abdominal four by four bandages, and headed for the garage. I limped along in the cold aftermath of the lifting fog, the sun beginning to shine and warming things up but not at a very rapid rate.
When I arrived at the station there was a customer waiting by a gas pump. I secretly hoped that the man, standing by the open driver’s door of the vehicle might want new tires, as the twenty I’d gotten the day before meant so much to my wife when I’d presented it to her. I walked around the pumps without encountering the man, and into the shop through the open bay door. Mickey was leaning over one fender of my open-hooded GTO while another man leaned over the other.
“Pump the damned gas,” Mickey said to me, without any hello or other salutation, “unless you can sell the guy a set of tires.” Both men laughed.
I went out to pump the gas, wondering if I was ever going to be treated with respect in my life at all. I’d thought, during Marine Officer training, that I would have automatic respect when that training was done, at least from Marines of lesser rank throughout the Corps, or certainly from those in any command, I served in. That had not turned out to be the case. Now, without money and without a running vehicle, I was once more like a freshman in college. I was the FNG, although I didn’t have to walk the point, as in combat, or wear a beanie or do some other totally dumb stuff as I’d done in college, to prove I knew nothing.
I took the eight bucks the guy paid for his gas back into the garage. I held the money out to Mickey, but he pointed at the office, before going back to talking to the guy on the other side of the car, the guy wearing a big weird-looking curly-brimmed cowboy hat and smoking a cigar. The office was empty. It took me several seconds to figure out how to open the money drawer on the register. When it sprang open I was amazed. The slots were filled with cash of all denominations. I carefully put the five and three ones in their proper places, very much aware that the slots for ten and twenty-dollar bills were pretty much stuffed. I frowned, closed the drawer, and went back out to the mechanic’s bay, wondering if I was being tested. Who leaves cash like that laying around and sends somebody almost unknown to check it out?
“This is Smokey,” Thompson said, staring down into the mess the engine bay of my GTO had become. It was like the entire engine had been taken apart, and then the parts heaped back into the open space where the whole assembled engine had been.
I stared down, ignoring the smoking man, noting in the back of my mind that there was no smoke in the garage or coming from the man’s cigar, even though it was in the guy’s mouth.
“Engine’s shot, from one end to the other,” Mickey said, his tone analytical and seemingly uncaring. “The block’s cracked, the crank’s toast, and the heads can’t even be milled back into shape. I don’t have an engine for this thing, not that’ll be allowed under E-Stock rules at the NHRA event. You take this thing anywhere to get an estimate before talking to me?”
The question surprised me. I almost said no, then remembered the failure of a phone call I’d made to the Sears and Roebuck garage. I told Mickey about it, and the hopeless part wherein I had to admit that I had no money or almost none. I did have the twenty Mickey’d given me from the day before. I didn’t bother to admit my wife had gone shopping with that twenty only hours before, however.
Mickey and Smokey looked at one another for a few seconds, saying nothing.
“What is it?” I asked, wondering what was on their mind. The guy at Sears had said he wouldn’t do it without the money.
“I’ll call him,” Mickey said, ‘unless you want to,” he went on, obviously speaking to Smokey.
“Nah, they’re sponsoring one of my cars,” Smokey replied, taking the cigar from his mouth, and tapping it on my GTO’s fender as if the cigar really had any ash to be tapped off of it. “I don’t want to appear taking advantage.”
“What are you going to call about?” I asked, having no clue what the two men were getting at.
“Listen and learn,” Smokey replied, as Mickey headed for the office.
I trailed along. Smokey took one of the three chairs while Mickey pulled a rotary phone from under the counter, which was too small for anything other than the big metal cash register that sat atop it.
It took minutes for Mickey to come up with a number from information, never bothering to ask me whether I still had the number, which I didn’t, anyway.
“This is Mickey Thompson,” Mickey said aggressively into the phone after dialing. “Yes, that Mickey Thompson,” he went on after a slight delay. “Let me talk to what’s his name, the shop manager there, I’ll hold.” Mickey clutched the phone to his chest, smiling over at Smokey broadly. “See, they’ve heard of me, not like you,” he said.
“To their embarrassment and chagrin,” Smokey replied.
I noted that Smokey’s southern twang or accent was totally out of character with the words he used when he spoke.
“You got a Marine, shot to shit in Vietnam, recovering from his wounds and his GTO won’t run,” Mickey said into the handset, to my complete surprise. “You said you could rebuild his engine but he needed six hundred bucks so you turned him down. How in the hell is that story going to play when Smokey and I get to Half Moon Bay and run at Winter Nationals?”
“How big of you,” Mickey said. “How about twenty bucks a month, first month due the last day of next month?” Mickey clutched the phone to his chest once more and turned to me. “You can afford twenty a month by the end of next month, right?” he whispered.
I nodded. My pay, plus expense money for living off base, came to about four hundred and fifty dollars, dependent, of course, on my pay records catching up with me.
“And he needs one of those CLC credit cards you guys give out like candy,” Mickey said.
I had no idea what Mickey was talking about. I just stared at the man without being able to say much of anything.
“Fine, how about four hundred dollars in credit, the twenty percent Sears discount and take the first twenty bucks out on the rebuild?’
I knew I was inside a game wherein I didn’t know the rules. Mickey was making decisions for me that I knew had the patina of good news but I couldn’t be certain. All of a sudden, it came to me. He was like the Gunny. Somehow, I was being tossed about decisions to make that I had no choice in making the way he wanted me to. I had no experience or data to ground anything, and I was being given no time.
“When the Marine calls on you, make sure you require that he bring his wife with him,” Mickey concluded. “She wears the shortest skirt in all of San Francisco.”
He hung up the phone and started to laugh. Smokey laughed with him, pulling the unsmoked cigar from between his lips, and taking his cowboy hat off for the first time.
“That true?” Smokey asked. Both he and Mickey looked over at me.
“Is what true?” I asked back
“That your wife wears the shortest skirt in all of San Francisco?” Smokey said.
“Where do you guys get this stuff from, some kind of late-night comedy routine?” I asked, nervously, because, afraid to alienate the only people who seemed to be helping me. I was still suffering some discomfort from the treatment the inmate in the ward had given my wife and me.
The two men stopped laughing.
“What’s a CLC card?” I asked.
“That’s a revolving credit card that gives you twenty percent off anything you buy at Sears, although the shop isn’t really part of the organization,” Smokey replied. “The shop’s a contract place, but it all works fine. Your new card will only work at Sears stores or contractors of Sears who agree, so ask first.”
“Why did you mention that we might be taking advantage of Sears?” I asked, Smokey’s comment sticking in my mind.
“The engines shot,” Mickey said. “We got an Isky racing cam, some solid lifters, and a bit more, but the car’s engine needs a new block, pistons, heads, radiator, and probably a generator to boot. That bill alone will come to just under a grand, at least, not counting labor, guarantee, and whatever, before you get it back and we take it apart to make it go faster.”
“So, Sears is getting stuck with a pig in a poke, all for taking care of some wounded veteran?” I replied, not feeling very comfortable.
“Smokey?” Mickey said, turning to look at his friend.
“They make a fortune in advertising off of Mickey and me, and many of our friends. They only pay by doing us favors and giving us stuff they don’t want anymore or can’t sell. It’s an even trade, pretty much, but if there’s an imbalance, believe me, it’s in their favor.”
My mind raced. My wife and I were getting a four-hundred-dollar credit card from Sears, a twenty percent across-the-counter discount there, the GTO repaired and guaranteed for twenty dollars a month we didn’t have to pay for quite some time and there was something else, I realized. I wanted to work with Mickey and Smokey if I could. I had nothing to cling to except the inside of a small apartment, a lovely daughter too young to really know me, and a wife who was going to grow tired of me hanging around only to be cared for. Mickey and Smokey stared at me, neither man saying a word. I realized, after a moment of silence, that they were waiting.
I could get the car back from Sears and then disappear, I knew, but I couldn’t do that. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go to the track, watch the car work being done and live again. I would pump gas or do any other menial chores to be a part of that.
“Okay, I’m in,” I finally said, wondering if it was the right thing, the thing they were expecting.
“We knew,” Mickey replied, smiling.
“How did you know?” I asked, surprised, not at me being in but why they might have doubted, given all that seemed to be getting done for me, that I might not be.
“Mickey talked to me,” Smokey said, taking the cigar from his mouth. “What choice do you have?”
“And you’re a Marine,” Mickey said, “when do they want you back on full duty?”
The question came from nowhere. I hadn’t and didn’t want to think about the coming heavy-duty surgery, going back into that hospital or entrusting my life to people I didn’t want to be around, much less allow to decide whether I lived or died.
“Plenty of time for that, I presume, or you’d be telling us,” Mickey said, somehow sensing my inability to want to come to terms with the answer. I’ll pull the goat in the morning and haul it over there. Got a wrecker down at my yard. You’ll have to go in later in the day to get your card. You can use the 442. You got a driver’s license, by the way?”
“I do,” I answered, not sure I did. I hadn’t looked at the Virginian license I’d gotten while at the Basic School since returning home, but I presumed it hadn’t timed out in little more than a year since it was issued.
“You’ll need the license to get your card, as I’m not sure they honor military identity cards.”
I was once again surprised at just how much Mickey seemed to know about everything. The Gunny had been like that.
“My wife…” I started, but Smokey cut me off before I could get out another word.
“You don’t have to take your wife, that was just Mickey and me playing with you,” he said, “having a beautiful wife should always be a wonderful benefit but everyone doesn’t see it or use it that way.”
“Stay and work for a while so I can get these cars out of here,” Mickey said, looking over at me while moving away from the edge of the counter he’d been leaning on.
“I’ve got to get rid of these cars promised to people before I can run the GTO inside, and go to work on it. It’s gonna take a few days for Sears to put that mess together, so we have time. The race is in three weeks, so there’s that, as well.”
“What are you running Smokey?” Mickey asked.
“Just along for the show, this time around,” Smokey replied.
“A little advice here and there wouldn’t hurt, before the big day,” Mickey said.
“I’ll check in, you know that,” Smokey replied, then got up and went out to his car, which was a Chevy Camaro.
I was surprised. The car seemed just like a regular car, yet the man had the aura and knowledge of a racer, especially given that Mickey seemed to hold him in very high regard about advising him on making the GTO go faster.
There wasn’t much work to be done. I tried a few times to approach Mickey while he worked in the garage but he didn’t want to talk while he worked. Mostly, I sat in the office and watched the traffic go by, or when someone came in for gas tried to spend as much time talking to the customer as I could.
I left in mid-afternoon, after calling my wife several times on the under-the-counter phone. No calls ever came into the station. I wondered if, should they, would Mickey even answer them. It was another mystery with no solution I could think of, and it wasn’t worth bothering Mickey about. The man was wonderful in some ways and a terror in others. I did not have the CLC card, the car back, or anything without Mickey Thompson, and I wasn’t about to screw getting those things if I could help it.
The walk home was exhausting. I’d changed bandages several times during the hours I’d been gone, but still, the blood seeped through to my shirt, only my Marine green sweater holding it back and giving me the appearance of being okay. I was hungry again, and that made me feel good. I was gaining strength but didn’t really have it yet, not in full, anyway.
Once home I worked to get up the stairs, one at a time, one foot up, and then raising and setting the other next to it, and so on. My wife heard me coming and opened the door, but she didn’t come out to help, guessing that I needed to navigate on my own all I could.
Once inside, I went straight to the bathroom to take care of the bag on the side of my belly. The pork had processed through and I wasn’t happy about the result. Although I was afraid of the coming surgery I also wanted it to come as quickly as possible. I knew I couldn’t live my life with the bag. I wouldn’t live the rest of my life that way.
I talked to my wife about everything that’d transpired. She took it all in. I even told her about the joke Mickey and Smokey made about her wearing mini-skirts. She didn’t laugh, which didn’t surprise me, but what she said next definitely did.
“We get the car back, repaired and in good shape, and have to pay twenty dollars a month after your pay starts again,” she said, finally. “We get a Sears card for four hundred dollars, plus a twenty percent discount from them, and you get to spend some time walking back and forth to that gas station. I’d wear whatever kind of skirt they wanted me to for all that.”
I looked at her. She wasn’t smiling. I started to smile though. I’d married a very special woman and it was only really beginning to become clear to me the depth of her intellect and her drive to make our family work.
My daughter crawled across the rug and pulled herself up on the small table in front of the couch where I sat. She stood, looking very seriously at me, before saying “Da,” which I’d come to know as her word for me. I wasn’t at all sure that someone so young could understand what was being said, but both she and I seemed to understand. I held out one hand, and, rocking unsteadily, she took it.
My life was changed, and the changes for the good were just beginning to become evident to me. Everyone had decided some time back that I was going to live, but I hadn’t made that decision for myself, until sitting where I was in that place and time at that exact moment.
Wonderful! That’s all for this chapter.
Probably, unknown to you, your Dad’s support of me is as meaningful as you seem to feel my support of him is.
He’s the real deal. He is one of those non-combat guys who really understand. He does not have to believe me.
It’s deeper than that. He accepts me and that helps me keep going because I have my bad, terribly bad, days too.
You calling me ‘uncle’ makes me smile every time I see it too.
Thanks for that. My real nephews and niece have no use for me whatever as they came to believe that I was nothing
more or less than a cold-blooded killing machine.
Hi James I have not commented on any thing for a while, not because of you by my health has gone down a good bit in the past months. My hand have bad RA in them along with my back. I read all of 30 Days and it was very interested in the outcome. God had to be with you all the way. I thank you for way you and a lot of others for what you endured over there. I am now reading The Cowardly Lion and enjoy the reads. You are a very talented writer and enjoy how you say things. I am glad that you made it out of the Valley even though it sounds like you were really messed up at the end. I am glad you got the help you needed even though some of the medical places were the best in the world. I enjoyed the last chapter a lot. Its is good that you are coming along. The part about you GTO is amazing. James you talked a little in the comments about “TLC” is that a book you have written? I cant find anything on you web site about it. Please give me some info about it. Cant wait for 14. Al
TCL is the three letter descriptor for The Cowardly Lion. Thanks for the wonderfully written and expressive comment.
Not to mention the inherent and obvious compliments. Much appreciated.
another great read L T . mickey thompson was my boyhood hero, you were so lucky. will there be more from The Cat story? I was really into it.
Another great chapter. Thank you. What is the trophy beside the .45?
Thanks for the compliment, Tim.
The trophy is for the Grand Aggregate championship in the pistol category won at the NRA Nationals held at Camp Perry in 1972 (firing the .45 Colt, accurized).
It’s the only trophy that the NRA awarded, at the time, made of Sterling Silver.
Yes that’s one of Jim Clarks baby’s ,even has one of bob bomars rear sights on it. Love the 45, brings back a lot of old memories semper fi Jimmy Bradley 68-69
I would imagine that such a weapon today would sell for thousands, not to mention the fact that they only gave those .45 awards for a few years before stopping all that.
How it was presented and the records with it might be great for some future collector.
It seems like a true welcome home moment has arrived. Outstanding !!
Wow, Smokey Yunick & Mickey Thompson! Smokey’s exploits are legendary.
I came home from Nam on a stretcher in a Starlifter c141 through the Army Hospital system Via Japan after nearly 11 months as a line Medic in a mech infantry Btln in the Fall of 70. Mortar shrapnel. I ended up at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. Reading your last chapters brought all those dim memories back to me. After a few weeks on a surgical recovery ward I was granted a home leave for Thanksgiving. Everything moved so fast when I left the hospital- the cars on the Freeway, People moving everywhere. Everything just seemed too big and too fast. The Car lights as it got dark really got too me. On the way home( my Mom had picked me up from the hospital in the car I had left behind- a 1966 Ford Mustang- she drove) During the ride home I started getting the shakes. Nerves. I was getting really shaky. I asked her to stop. We were in a highway diner getting “a cup of coffee and a slice of pie”. I couldn’t hold the cup of coffee steady in my hands, both hands. They were shaking involuntarily. Coffee dripping onto the pie plate below. I thought it was the colder weather. But it wasn’t. The Waitress came up to the table and looked at me hard. She looked over at my mom- who was starring at my shaking hands. She looked like she was going to cry. I was in Civilian clothes- But the waitress looked at me and then said to her- “He looks like he just got back from Vietnam. They all look like shit. Poor boys.”
A day or so later I had met up with some high school/college friends. It was broad daylight and we were all walking across a parking lot towards an apartment building. Somewhere a loud !!bang!! happened- like the sound of something heavy dropping sharply to the ground. I immediately dove for cover and was low crawling to get near a wall. Then looked up at my friends- all standing a few yards away mouths agape. Starring at me in dumb surprise. None of them had been in the military. They all said they were shocked at how I looked- the wild look of fear one guy said.
I realized I was different and had an inner Nam self that had to be pushed back into my head- That people around me- unless it was another vet-they just didn’t understand what the world looked like from my point of view. It took a long time to come back. You never really fully do. I had a lot of love and help along the way. But we know that other me is back in there somewhere. Hopefully stays just a shadow memory. I am glad you were lucky enough to have help too. You are a fine writer- Keep it up. Glad you survived.
I cannot thank you enough for laying out your history about when you came home. It was the same but entirely different too for all of us,
but a lot of it depended upon what you were into when back in country. I never have reacted to loud noises. In the Valley of the Shadow a loud
noise usually meant you were already hit, or your own guys were firing or whatever…since visibility always sucked. I never once saw my whole company
together! I get the part about everything moving so fast. We went into an ‘all ahead slow together” mode after we were hit. The intensity of our
necessity to go inside ourselves to rebuild the power of survival within our own bodies…and on.
So, first Mickey and then Smokey, too. Wow! I go back to almost the beginning of both of their careers. I live not far from where Smokey had his shop in Daytona. I’m beginning to think it shouldn’t be The Cowardly Lion but The Charmed Life. But I sense that you have much more to tell us. As for Gunny not wanting to have anything to do with you, I am baffled. If I recall, you wrote that he fought in three wars. Maybe some really bad crap happened after you were wounded and he finally had enough. Just speculation, of course. Thanks for another great chapter.
I never knew which three wars the Gunny was talking about, because we didn’t have chummy discussions over our coffee.
Vietnam, Korea and then where? He was about ten to twelve years older than me which would put him in his late eighties if
he were still alive, which I doubt but don’t know. Yes, Mickey the down in the pit ruffian working mechanic and then Smokey,
the elegant cowboy philosopher, if you will. What a mix of men…including the unknown part of the equation…me.
James, the chapters keep getting better and better. Semper Fi!
Mickey and Smokey and you. You really came up smelling of roses, LT.
Quite an interesting chapter this time, and glad that some things are going your way for a change.
Helluva writer, for sure – always enjoy reading you, even though sometimes, like now, it touches me so hard.
Thanks so much Craig, I much appreciate the depth of your compliment. Yes, like can turn, and it did, although plenty of
land mines of life were still waiting up ahead…strewn about in places impossible to detect or avoid.
Are we going to meet your family before this story is over?
You are meeting my family, although you are not fully aware of that yet…
Blessings on you James. Keep on healing and writing, I’ll be looking for the next chapter.
Thanks Raymond, I am on chapter 14 as I write this…
The kindness is some people’s hearts is amazing. God truly blessed you when you needed it the most back in Vietnam and the States.
Somehow, God was that all the time, mostly invisible to me though…
Semper fi, my friend,
I’m enjoying your running description of the personality of Mickey Thompson, hard spoken, big hearted. Also sorry to hear about the Gunny being unable to come terms with your shared terror in the Ashau. But glad to hear your wife stuck with you through it all. I came back whole, but lost my wife, as did several guys in my tent. She has to be a special lady.
So many wives could not stick it out. I was assuredly extremely lucky…and good at guessing. I just knew from that first contact so long ago that she was the one.
What happened with the gunny?
You’re a good man Jim. That’s why you draw good people to you that want to help you. Most of us that came back weren’t blessed to have someone to lean on or a caring ear to share our memories with. My leg injury was a splinter compared to your injuries and was basically hidden and unknown to most. God bless Mickey Thompson!🇺🇸🚁
Thanks for that great comment and compliment Cary. Means a lot to me this day…
Jim, thank you for continuing to write your story. I’ve been here since the early chapters and anxiously await each new drop.
Please forgive my attempt at correcting your work of art but a light year is a measure of distance, not a length of time. Many people make that mistake and your intended meaning comes through clearly as it is written.
Blessings to you and your family
thanks for the help Ed!!!
Another great chapter. I was wondering about the GTO engine. I had a 64 and that 389 was almost indestructible. Was was yours so bad so quick?
james…..want to send a personal note advise how to…..
email@example.com James. My address for snail is 507 Broad Street, Lake Geneva, WI 53147
James, thank you for sharing your experience in the Nam with us. I have been following since the first 10 days, but have not commented. Your story draws me in, reminding me of those days so long ago. I was in Danang in ‘65. Things had not got too hot, at least until Starlight Operation. I deeply appreciate your words and your willingness to speak them. Keep writing and we will keep reading. I am going to purchase 30 days as well as TCL. God bless and have a great day!
Thanks Jim, much appreciate the encouragement and support here, as well as in reading and then buying my books.
This has been harrowing and beautiful. Glad you are back, then and now. Welcome Home.
One nit pick. Most photos are 8 by 10s rather than 11 inches.
Yeah, didn’t measure it, just guessed. Thanks for the correction…
LT, from your remarks about the Gunny, it sounds like after meeting up with you, his mind took him back to the Nam and it began to stress on his marriage. I get the impression that his wife and he had worked hard to bring him back to the world again and it was no disrespect to you.
I took it badly at first, but came to understand over time that we are not alll the same.
He had saved me and for a variety of purposes but, even in country, and given your ‘band of brothers’ kind
of thing, we were most definitely not brothers.
I understand much better now.
Semper fi, and thanks for the kind words.
Another great chapter, James. I was Regular Army from ’71-’74 although I was never sent to southeast Asia. Certainly had several friends who were, and not all came back. One of my best friends was a Marine there around ’68-’69 or so. He still refuses to talk about any details. I was getting worried after you hadn’t posted a chapter for a while, but the wait was worth it. Still as riveting as ever, even though SF isn’t quite the A Shau Valley.
One tiny nit-pick…in the paragraph where you take the Colt down from the closet, you mentioned receiving it seemed like “light-years ago.” A light-year is actually a measure of distance, not time. Perhaps centuries ago or eons ago.
Looking forward to the next chapter. Sorry to hear that Gunny didn’t want to meet you. I’m sure his memories weren’t any better than yours.
You are most accurate about the speed of light comment Clay, but I was using it as an understandable figure of speech. I realize that sometimes
I am just rambling on in whatever jargon crosses my mind. I, thankfully, have editors like you who keep me on my toes.
Such a great read. If I ever get up to Wisconsin I’d love to meet you and your wife.
Great chapter. Good to see you on the mend and to see you finding the reason for and the will to carry on!
Another entertaining chapter to say the least. You have meet to interesting characters to say the least. Smoky Yunick was also a military man who flew bombers at one time. His understanding of aerodynamics gave him an advantage in the stock car world of racing back in the day. How you are managing to get around in your condition is unbelievable. Your wife has to be a very special person. Lucky man.
Wow, Mickey Thompson and Smokey Yunick, two of the best damn mechanics in town. You’ve hit the proverbial jackpot!!
Brilliant self-taught guys and very interesting to be around at all, even if I was only on the
My heart swells with the goodness coming your way. Respect comes in many forms and you have earned every bit of it. So many of us here shAre your experience and marvel at your courage and perseverance. I’m looking forward to having that cup of coffee in Lake Geneva as soon as we get over the lockdown.
I had the privilege of meeting Smokey Yunick in Daytona where he had a shop in the late sixties. Quite an interesting gentleman
Too much pain and truth. God bless you and all you have gone thru.
Thanks Cary, much appreciate the care and expressing it on here…
James, Some great writing here. it’s good to see your life coming together. Also witnessing
the thought process of the new person you are becoming. Your life is blessed with two very special ladies, Mary and Julie.
Some minor editing suggestions follow:
adding another of the many dead who haunted my waking,
Maybe substitute “to” for “of”
adding another to the many dead who haunted my waking,
at least from Marines of lessor rank throughout the corps
“lesser” rather than “lessor”
Maybe capitalize corps
at least from Marines of lesser rank throughout the Corps
I took the eight bucks the guy paid for his gas with back into the garage.
Maybe “with” seems extra
I took the eight bucks the guy paid for his gas back into the garage.
Smokey said, taking the pipe from his mouth.
Maybe “cigar” instead of “pipe”
Smokey said, taking the cigar from his mouth.
I’ll pull the goat in the morning and haul it over here.
Maybe “there” instead of “here” – with “there” meaning Sears
I’ll pull the goat in the morning and haul it over there.
Welcome home. Blessings & Be Well
As always you are number one, Dan.
Noted and corrected.
Thank you so much.
Semper fi, Jim
I know exactly how you felt about that bag. I felt the same way about the one I had.Happy for you.
Thank God, they usually close those things up. What a mess of a way, and embarrassing, to go through even a short period of this
That “Smokey” wouldn’t be Don Garlits?
I can feel your body and life heal while your soul is still on hold. Still being digested by leaches in the mud a long way away physically.
Smokey Yunick, as it turned out…brilliant down home spun man….
Great story. I have the first two books of 30 days and need to order the third. It is all great reading. One thing and I hope I’m not being disrespectful but they’re are a few people that I don’t know what their fate was and it has left a gap in the story for me, I feel like I know the answer but Im still curious, you don’t have to answer. Great read, keep up the the good work and I pray all is well.
More revelations will occur as the story proceeds so stay tuned…
And thanks for wanting to know more.
After you agree to being in you have Smokey taking the pipe out of his mouth.. switch from cigar??
Mickey talked to me “Smokey said as he took the pipe out of his mouth” What choice do you have.
A hell of a read these chapters.. can’t imagine having lived it.. Glad you made it through and able to write it to show others the horrors you and too many others went through..
I remembered him smoking a pipe but then read he smoked cigars so changed it, but did not do
a good job editing. thanks for helping out here…
Nice chapter, Smokey started with a cigar, finished with a pipe?
Look forward as you move along with your life.
Semper Fidelis Marine.
You caught it.
Noted and corrected.
Fantastic! Good people helping you find a new beginning. I so look forward to find out what happens in the next chapters! Thank you LT for sharing all of this. One question. Did your wife know about any of your Nam experience before you starting writing 30 days or did she find out what really happened as you wrote it.
My wife knew very little. We almost never discussed any of it. She has only read a bit of 30 Days, but she’s reading TCL and is stunned by much of that
too. I just did not think to tell her certain things. like being send to the wrong hospital in Japan or any of that. Some stuff bothers here because I never
She reads and critiques TCL though and can be quite demonstrative about her own role in it.
Quick on this one JAMES And very good as well. Thank you for letting us join you on the journey!!!
That was beautiful man, got my eyes a bit moist on the end of the chapter. So there still is good in the world, even back in those troubled times. It’s beginning to sound like your home!!
Ye, the adaptation took some time, and is still taking some time!
Thanks for the compliment and the concerting comment.
I love you James. I love your .45. I love your GTO. I love your wife. What an incredible turn of life events.
Can’t wait for the next chapter. Better and Better.
Wow, now that’s a wonderful comment to make and I much appreciate the outpouring of care and real emotion.
You help keep me going…
I couldn’t help but smile at your recovery and good luck
Smokey Yunick…. more of legend in my mind than Mickey
LT I was just wondering if you ever heard from or know what became of Gunny?
Yes, the Gunny lived and went home to a small town in New Mexico. He worked there as an assistant bank manager.
I ran across him, or him me, by accident. We were going to get together and have lunch in the following week.
He didn’t show. Went to his home but his wife said he couldn’t see me or have anything to do with me.
That was in 1985. Never saw or heard from him again.
truly you are a blessed man, Mr Strauss! i was in the nam, army, down south as a “field illumination specialist” (searchlights) so my war was quite a bit different than yours. thank you for your service and god bless!
Thanks so much guy, and I’m glad your service was a lot different than my own…as I am glad for so many who made it through.