In the last month, things just keep popping up about my past, back home, the Navy days, and the Southwest corner.
On Saturday, for some unfathomable reason, I recalled a story my father told me about a trip to Atlanta. The four men went down for what I remember as being an introduction to a new model of Pontiacs. Unfortunately, I did not ask my father what year this occurred.
The three men who went for a week to the big city were Jim Horn Hankins, H.M. Byars, and Frank Baddour. I understood why Mr. Hankins, H.M. and my father were there, but I just couldn’t grasp why Frank joined them. But as my father related the story I realized the four of them were best of friends, not just business partners. The other three men played significant roles in the growth of Lebanon. Yet the overriding theme of my father’s tale was how the four of them had a great time in Atlanta laughing with each other and just having a good time being together.
When he told me the story, I found it hard to imagine those four men as being that close.
Show’s what I know.
With what has happened to my family in the last nine months, many memories have flowed, and many photographs have embellished those memories. There are many photographs of me in the neatly filed albums in the big bookcase in my parents’ dining room. Except those taken on Sunday before we headed to church, none show me before ten years old wearing shoes.
From May through September except for school and church, I went barefooted and played outdoors most of the time. I suffered a number of bee stings, stubbed my toes a couple of times and had a few cuts on my feet. But barefoot was the ruling fashion for children outdoors back then. Such carrying on’s today would likely land a parent in hot water.
Children in Lebanon lived outdoors then with no baby sitters, no other monitors, no coaches. We just played outside, even at night. During those evenings, there were these wonderful meteor showers of lightning bugs. We would catch them and put them in jars
Of course, there also were mosquitoes. The great American Legion outfield influx of mosquitoes has been mentioned here before. Mike Dixon, Alex Harlan, and I killed 18, 19, and 21 mosquitoes respectively in consecutive innings in the summer of 1961 – Funny: I don’t remember anyone in the infield getting bitten. We didn’t worry about mosquitoes so much back then. We got bit, scratched, and our mothers would put alcohol on the whelps.
Now, fear of some pretty terrible stuff from mosquitoes produces pure panic when someone is bitten. So we have infiltrated the atmosphere with mosquito-killing stuff. The stuff also kills lightning bugs. I’m always disappointed when I have my Southwest Corner wife and daughter back in Lebanon, and there are very few if any lightning bugs to show them.
I’m not sure wiping out mosquitoes is worth wiping out lightning bugs.
About six years ago, I wrote here about meeting the Navajo “Code Talker” Carl Gorman. I played chaperone for a number of senior foreign military officers on a public relations trip through the Southwest, including a dinner at the Navajo capital of Window Rock, Ariz. I ended up at a table with Mr. Gorman and his daughter Zonnie.
I learned of his involvement as one of the volunteers who created the code used successfully in World War II to thwart the Japanese and the Germans from decoding our radio transmissions. He revealed his son was R.C. Gorman, the artist the New York Times tagged as “the Picasso of Southwestern Art.”
As Carl and Zonnie told amazing tales, he was drawing on a yellow, lined sheet of paper. I thought he was doodling. When dinner was over, he handed me the sketch of Navajo warriors on horseback. Being me, I put it in a special place when I got home and soon forgot where that special place was.
This past week while once again trying to get a handle on my immense no-file system, I ran across the long lost sketch. It brought back memories of a magic evening far from my little corner in the Southwest and far from Lebanon.
Jim Jewell, a retired Navy commander lives in San Diego but was raised in Lebanon. His book, A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems, is now available through Author House, Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Jim’s email is email@example.com.