Monday, May 16, 2016


There was one guy  -  I'm leaving
him un-named because it won't
matter  -  who had just come back
from Vietnam. It was a tour of
duty there that he had reveled in,
and let everyone know that. I
didn't know him in any way
before his Vietnam duty, and
only met him as he returned,
after his military time. A complete
loser, in my eyes, immediately.
He reveled in the details and the
methods of each kill, and let
anyone he met, or who in any
way seemed to care or ask, of it.
Before his military duty, he had
been a restless and troublesome
sort. As in so many of the local
families, he'd faced that awkward
situation of being the younger son,
after the old son had already taken
over the family house and farm  -
which happened a lot. There was
a sort of 'primogeniture' at work
thereabouts, a form of property
turnover somehow, an ancient
code actually, in which the eldest,
or first son, gets everything  -
carries on the family farm,
takes ownership of the family
homestead, establishes room
and care therein too for the aging
parents (and sometimes buried
them in the yard plots I've
mentioned, when that time came).
Daughters, in turn, were just
expected to marry out and join
in the very same process within
their new, married-in family set.
All of which left the younger son,
or sons, out of luck, as it were  -
rootless, listless, and facing a
pick-it-up-for-themselves scene.
It worked in many different ways
some cut a portion of the large
farm, and granted the younger
son his own hundred acres or so,
a house for them would then be
built in proximity (thus the often
off mix of fine, grand old farmsteads
with small, square and boxy little
homes right nearby), others were
picked up as tenant farmers,
working with and on their older
brother's farm and process, at that
point perhaps a joint-family
business-venture, or whatever.
It worked in various ways, and
not always successfully. Like a
Hollywood script, there were
left behind disjointed or angered
brothers, seething men with little
more to do, men with a mission
to get back or take back, foul men,
men who'd become vicious. The
sort who'd begin shooting blackbirds
off of clotheslines, restless, rootless
types. Angry, they'd go away, move
other places, the small, grubby cities
like Elmira, second-chance towns,
fall-out places for fall-out men. A
few would venture to larger cities,
itinerant and rootless. Industrial jobs,
strings of women, nasty tales and
stories, criminals. It's an ageless
American, and Human, tale in all
cultures. A Cain and Abel twist.
You can name your own, I'm sure.
Ronnie, the fellow here I'll call so,
was tough, proud, bombastic and
forward. A pugilist, in your face
type  -  bad language and bad
manners. He'd worked previous
at the Sylvania plant, a vast and
sprawling lightbulb factory about
30 miles away, or more, towards
Towanda   -  another catch-all
basin for those in need. Work.
Job. Pay. Menial stuff.
Second-tier jobs for sure, almost
the equivalent of, today, working
a fast-food schmuck job. There
weren't any then. He drifted a bit,
and then joined the military, for
Vietnam. When he returned, he
hired himself out for farm work,
around, and eventually got a job
on the local, Troy, PA police
force  -  driving around, mostly
nabbing travelers on Rt. 6 as it
went through town, and writing
speeding tickets and such. More
on that in a bit. It all kind of
fit him, walking around fully 
armed and all that, but it didn't
say much  -  in my opinion  -  
for law enforcement and the
standards of. Yet, these were
all little, hick towns on the 
farm roads to nowhere. Any 
real trouble, the State Troopers 
were called in, Towanda Barracks. 
If Ron (actually his real 1st name),
needed backup anyway, it would 
probably have been for a massacre 
he started. 
Have you ever seen a really 
dumb or ferocious-looking 
security guard, or maybe even 
a mall cop? Well, that was the 
appearance Ronnie gave off, but
with a real gun or two attached, 
and a radio contact thing to 
Headquarters, and handcuffs and 
all that. He was a real cop. The
mall cop who looks dumb you
can laugh off. Ron you couldn't.
Besides all the murder stories of
Vietnam (he was a Sergeant, desk
or not)  -  I'm telling you the
truth, this guy was a murderer - in
cold blood, forget the 'wartime' 
excuse. He'd somehow been set 
loose in Vietnam enough to be a
one-man killing crew  -  he'd a
penchant for telling his story of 
how (supposedly) he'd pull over  
all the beautiful blonds, or any
female  -  pulled over on Rt. 6
because he liked their looks  - 
and how he'd try to 'scare' them 
into a form of cooperation to 
keep out of a ticket, and have it 
it work too, his 'traffic stop.' I 
really, really, never knew what 
to believe, and I can imagine 
that any 'Authority' is scary 
on an unknown roadway, but
some of his stories were insane.
Coercing someone to show their
breasts and stuff like that, sure,
sure, tell me another one, but 
past that point, give me a break.
Sledgehammer shithead. That's
what I called him, to myself.
Nobody ever turned him in, or
I don't think. Although one 
morning, just like that, no 
more Rick, no more Rick's 
family. Mae, his wife, and 
Jennie Ann, or something, his
small kid, just gone. I never
asked, and no one ever told 
me a thing, but traffic down 
there seemed to run a lot 
He also used to talk some gory
bad scenes in Vietnam.  Not
battlefield stuff  -  he wasn't
there, exactly, he was in some
town or village location and 
every 'gook' to him was a 
VietCong waiting to kill him.
Perhaps it was like that, I don't
know. But the graphic aspects 
of his stories were disgusting. 
I will tell one, and then I'm 
done with this. He would have
sex at will, any village gook 
would do. He be finished, she'd
be done, he'd take her by the 
neck, twist, and throw her 
down the flight of stairs. As 
she was at the bottom, crumpled
up, he'd shoot her. I heard that
same story, in variations of
plenitude, more than too many
times. Using Army parlance, 
they were all enemy-actives, 
not deserving to live on past 
one-use. I was stunned the
first few times I heard this 
crap, after that just nauseous
from disgust. You need to
remember, I'd just come from
a concentrated dose of lower
eastside antiwar activism, in
which we'd taken lots of bad
chances, lost a few souls, moved
many more along their way to
Canada, acted illegally often
to get things done, and took lots
of chancy steps. So this shit
could come home and be a 
policeman? You could probably
smell my disillusionment setting
in, even over the wafting headsplit
of manure's finer odor. No honor
among thieves; or killers either.
Does this sound perplexing to you?
Not real? Well sit back, it's real.
This is the same yokel who I'd see
punch a cow in the face or head,
a real, nasty, human punch, to get
its attention or move it along on
its recalcitrant way. He was foul. 
He treated his own wife worse 
than the cows. It was just sad, 
and insufferable that the modern 
era of that time could cast up an
individual, a product of time and
place and general schooling, and 
of Army service, acting for and 
'promoting' American ideals, and
seriously call him a man.

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