May 3, 2011
I'm driving down the road toward
the town of Cutbank, cruising along about seventy.
My buddy, Rat, is seated beside me weaving a
fantastic fable about a daredevil stunt bird named
Charlie who is chasing my car and recklessly diving
in front of it to the warning shrieks and cries of
his feathered buddies who are watching this whole
improbable event from aloft.|
I'm laughing so
hard at Rat's imaginative fabrications that I'm in
serious jeopardy of having an accident myself.
Finally, to frantically chirped cries of, “Pull up,
Charlie! Pull Up!” the inevitable happens and
Charlie dives to close to my hurtling grill. There's
a muted “Thump!” and poor Charlie goes the way of
the dinosaur. He's performed his last avian stunt.
All this came about because a bird actually did fly
in front of my speeding car, setting Rat's
imagination off and running...
I slowly come
back to myself; instead of sitting behind the wheel
of my brand new ‘63 Ford Galaxy 500 cruising down a
lonely Montana highway, it's 1966 and I'm perched on
some sandbags looking toward a horizon where flashes
of light in the muggy night sky gives evidence of a
distant firefight. I've been ‘watching the war'.
There's a different Charlie performing tonight, and
Rat isn't around to make light of his activities.
This time the guy sitting beside me is named
Richard “Larry” Moore, not Rat, but in his own way,
he's just as talented as Curtis “Rat” Mallory. Larry
plays the guitar and sings, and he's pretty good at
both. Larry and I would sometimes sit for what
seemed like hours on the sandbags surrounding a
mortar pit near the radar shack. We talked about
everything and nothing. Rat had made the isolation
of the remote Montana radar site bearable. Larry was
now doing the same thing here in Vietnam.
Well, back to the present: It's been many years
since I saw either man, right around forty for
Larry, a year or so longer for Curtis, but I have
never forgotten them. Each, in his own way, touched
my life at a time when a friend was very much
needed, whether I admitted it or not. They made me
smile when times were not the brightest, and when
they went on their ways out of my life they took a
little bit of the light with them.
me laugh at times when I truly felt like killing
some really shoddy people. Larry set my heart at
ease at a time when somebody had it in mind to kill
me. Totally different men with different
personalities and outlooks on life; but they were
just what I needed at the time I met them. Curtis
was Air Force, a telephone/teletype repairman gifted
with a Richard Pryor-like, ribald wit; Larry was an
Army Green Beret and a talented musician. They were
nothing alike: I mostly listened while Curtis
talked; with Larry, I did a lot of the talking.
I never told them so, but I am forever grateful
that God saw fit to allow them to intersect my life
at those different times for the brief months that
we were together. I hope they both knew that I loved
them; though I doubt it I ever showed them much
evidence of it. I hope they got as much out of our
friendships as I did, although I suspect that they
did not, as I am rather reserved and they were both
outgoing. I wish I could tell them now how grateful
I am for having had the opportunity to know them.
Thurman P. Woodfork
Thurman P. Woodfork (Woody) spent his
Air Force career as a radar repairman in places as disparate as
Biloxi, Mississippi; Cut Bank, Montana; Tin City, Alaska; Rosas,
Spain and Tay Ninh, Vietnam. In Vietnam, he was assigned to
Detachment 7 of the 619th Tactical Control Squadron, a Forward Air
Command Post located on Trai Trang Sup. Trang Sup was an Army
Special Forces camp situated about fifty miles northwest of Saigon
in Tay Ninh province, close to the Cambodian border.
After Vietnam, Woody remained in the Air Force for nine more years.
Thurman P. Woodfork's site for more information
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