Jesse James Part III

This story is faction.  Most of it is made up.  If you think you are the subject of the story, get a life. This is a continuation of my story that is entirely fiction about the people.  there is a little fact sprinkled in but mostly it is just a story.

As I looked out the door of the chopper flying into the Au Shau Valley, my mind wandered back to a time as I grew up on the East Side of Wichita on a block just full of kids.  My dad had been gone to the War and I was his welcome home present to my mom.  I didn't know of the term Baby Boomer until I was much older.  Mom had worked at Beech Aircraft during the war and she was glad to let Dad have his job back and for her to stay home and fill our home with the laughter of children. 

I wish I had a dollar for each hour I sat and watched as dad took things apart and fixed them. I don't think it was because we were so poor, mostly he wanted to know how to fix things.  There were a few things he took a apart and threw away because the parts to fix it were so expensive or it was broke beyond repair.  I think I got my love for tools from dad.  I loved to get his tool box out and see what nuts and bolts on one of the old bikes needed repaired.  I also learned the manly way of discussing and cussing tools from my dad.  "Bring me that little open ended mother fucker"  Shit, this is a box end, bring me an open end."  I knew he had mostly Craftsman wrenches and I was a little confused when he told me to bring that Crescent Wrench.  I did learn the hard way that if you took the tool box out, you had pretty damn sure put it back up especially if it was going to rain. If you think my dad hated to see me misuse tools, you ought to see how mad he got when he found his toolbox full of rain water and rusty tools.

I was one of the shortest kids in my class but I wouldn't let those taller guys get away with anything.  I could out cuss, out fight, and damn sure outrun any of them that started anything.  I was also known as the little guy that would hit you in the face with his first punch if you started it.  I damn sure would kick you if you were down and wouldn't get your ass back up.

One of my most treasured things in life was my series of bicycles I had over the years.  There was always a little brother or sister to take over riding the old bike about every two years so I got a lot of new or newer ones.  Even the used bikes generally got a coat of new paint and new tires.  Heck, I had the first bike in the neighborhood that had a generator that powered the lights.  There was no back up battery so the lights would vary from very dim as I rode slow to way bright as I rode down the one hill near our house.  If you saw me on my bike, I'll bet you saw the smile on my face.  I loved to feel the wind and who ever heard of wearing a helmet on motorcycles let alone bikes? 'Cides, a helmet would just make my crew cut look stupid and i worked hard to keep that waxed front standing up.  None of that Brylcream shit for me.
My mother was a good cook but she had to feed a bunch of us.  I think she worked hard to make as many meals in one pan as she could.  One of my favorites was the pork chops fried in the electric skillet and then she would make Spanish rice on top of them.   I think my second favorite meal was Mom's ham and beans made in the pressure cooker.  She would also whip up a batch of cornbread that was so good it was as golden as its color.  About once a week, Mom would make a big batch of chili because it was Dad's favorite.  Mom would send me down to the local grocery store to get a six pack of Pepsi on those nights.  In spite of the gall bladder problems Mom had, I never heard her complain about heartburn after a Pepsi and chili night.

There was never a need for a swing in our yard.  We lived only a block from the local elementary school and we would spend hours down there playing on the bars, swings and slides.  They had one of those monkey bar setups and it was just on dirt.  None of that sissy sand or sawdust crap for us.  There was even one of those small merry go rounds and at least once a week someone would go round and round to the point they would throw up.  It was a double bonus thing as the little girls were grossed out by that. 
One of my most favorite things was Cub Scouts.  We had those cool blue shirts and golden kerchiefs that made us look like the US cavalry.  Not Calvary, cavalry.   We killed Indians not Christ.  Because I was named Jesse James, there were a lot of Bank Robberies and trains blown up  I think every kid on my block had at least one cap gun and BB Guns were the rifle of choice.  I think every mother in the neighborhood watched us to make sure that real BBs were not in our play.  One lady on our block told us that we were welcome to shoot sparrows  but we were to leave the song birds alone.  I think it was Danny Rex that shot a robin on her porch and she wrapped his Red Ryder BB gun around a tree.  Danny tearfully told her he was going to tell his mother.  She told him that he had better run home as she was going to call his mother and have them beat his butt for not obeying the rules. "You could put out an eye with those damn things." 
Because my dad worked at Beech, he belonged to the employees club.  They had a little league ball park built up by their lake.  It was only about three blocks from my house and I walked to most of my games. I did ride my bike a time or two but you had a lot further to go on a bike instead of just walking across a field.  I loved to play short stop but we didn't have a good catcher that first year.  We had a pretty good pitcher but our catcher stunk up the joint.  My team was the Meadowlarks and we had a pitiful green shirt with a picture of some damn bird on it.  It was black so it was hard to tell what the hell it was.  We all had a number but no names on the shirts.  As much as I hated to admit it, we didn't win a single game our first regular season.  It wasn't until the tournament that our coach tired a lineup that just worked. Denny had been in the outfield and hit well but didn't get a lot of business out there in the outfield.  Coach brought him in and made him the catcher.  Between him at catcher, me at short stop, Monty pitching and the only other kid that could catch playing first base, we darn near shut out every team we played.  It was a double elimination tournament and we got beat by one run early by the eventual winners.  In the final game, we were playing that team again and only by a lucky hit that cleared the infield did they again win by one run.  We scored more runs in the tournament than we did all year.  

I don't know why, but I seemed to make a lot of D's in school.  I just thought it was because I D was dumb. I was just sure that the teachers gave me D's so they wouldn't have me again the next year.  I would read every text book the first couple of weeks and then never read them again.  The only book I got out was that damned math book and that was because the teacher had us do daily work out of it.  Then, about half of that would just get rat holed in my desk and never get turned in.  

In the second grade, we got a new elementary school. the class rooms were all new and the desks didn't have carvings or names written on them.  It was the coat closets that was just funny.  the doors pivoted on a hinge in the middle and they all opened at one time or they were all closed.  There was a gap at the top and the bottom of the door so light and air could get in.  One of my teachers thought it was funny to put me in the closet.  That lasted about a week when one of the rich kids mothers complained that someone was eating parts of her son's lunch.  I found out that you could eat a whole apple, core and all if you had to hide the evidence.
My one passion above all else was reading.  I found the Biography section in the library and  read about every General in every war.  The teachers found out that I loved to read and if they made sure I had a book, I would sit there and read.  I probably was overactive except when I had a good book to carry my imagination to faraway places. 

Because we lived right near the Beech Aircraft plant, when the shift change happened at 3:30, you had better have your butt off the road.  Those guys would just rush down out sandy and gravel streets like there was no tomorrow.  We all laughed that there were no old stupid dogs in our neighborhood,  Get out in the road and Bam, you were dead in the ditch where you laid.  I'll bet every family there had lost at least one dog to that traffic.  One day my friend Denny came to school crying.  The teacher asked him what had happened.  He said, " One of those cars came down our street an hit my dog in the ass."  the teacher corrected him, "No Denny, hit him in the rectum"  Denny tearfully replied, "wrecked him hell, Killed him." 
I went to high School  but because I was supporting a car a girl friend and a full time job in a gas station I managed to graduate in the bottom 25% of my class.  I got lots of A's and lots of D's but not much in between.  I tried out for the football team my freshman year but got hit and hurt a lot because of my size.  When wrestling started, I went out my first year.  I was short but stocky and did well at 140 lbs.  I got my first job right after wrestling ended that first year and never went out for it again.  'Cides wrestling with my girl friend in the backseat of my car was a hell of a lot more fun.   Thank god she had a thing about her virginity.  Me, I would have just made babies right then and there but she didn't so we didn't.  

When it was time to go to college, I started over at the Junior College in Eldorado.  It was about a 45 minute drive on the Turnpike or just over an hour on the highway.  I made straight C's my first semester and my car broke down about the time it was to start second semester.  It was a tough decision, I needed to spend the tuition money on the motor or pay tuition.  The car won and I spent the second semester working to save up enough to pay the tuition for the next year. I did go to summer school and had managed to just pay my tuition that fall.   The one thing i wasn't prepared for was the fact that the Junior College had reported me as not enrolled for the second semester and the Draft Board put me on their list to get a Pre-Induction physical on my 19th Birthday.  It didn't matter that I was going to school or not by then.  One semester of not going and I was going!  I got the letter from Draft Board 69 about the time I got home from the Pre-Induction Physical.  I soon found out what all those 1's and A's meant on the physical.   About the time I was going to sleep on the bus headed to Kansas City, Bamn, a sound woke me up to the fact that I was again in Vietnam.



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