Sunday, November 28, 2010

Down At Mrs. Woody's

Mrs. Woody was Sam's grandmother. Both Sam and his mother moved in with Mrs. Woody when they first came to Williston. Now, those of you who know anything about Sam can imagine how much he enjoyed living with both his mother and his grandmother even as a little boy. He loves them both dearly, but they never were the type to let you get away with a lot. Because of that we all spent a great deal of time at my house. My Dad would let us do pretty much whatever we wanted provided that it wasn't unchristian or overly dangerous. (Sam's mother, Ms. Pat, felt like Dad knew what he was doing, so if he let us do something she never said much about it.)

Of course there were days when we were simply sick of hanging around my house or when Sam was on restriction and couldn't go anywhere but could receive company. On those days we all ended up over at Mrs. Woody's. We would often play on the road right beside her house. At the time skateboarding was a big deal and half the neighborhood would turn out to hang around skateboarding up and down the road. When we did that we always had to be on the lookout for Mrs. Woody.

I never felt like she could see very well, at least when driving. Sam said that she could see perfectly and that she simply wanted to kill us. Whatever the truth was you had to watch out when she was driving around in the neighborhood. Her driveway was on a bit of a hill and she had to back up in order to get out on the road. Every time she went anywhere you would hear the squeal of tires and see the smoke of burning rubber billowing up above her car.

As soon as her car touched the road she would whip the wheel around and slam her foot on the gas. It was even worse if she was coming into the neighborhood from a trip to town. You wouldn't get the warning signs that got when she was pulling out. Suddenly Mrs. Woody's car would be there flying down the road at full speed making strait for her driveway. More than once I dove into the bushes at the side of the road to keep from being hit.

I'm sure she never noticed. She would park and start carrying in groceries or whatever it was she had gone to town to get without so much as looking in our direction. I wouldn't have let any three-year-olds play on any road she was going to drive on, but all of us were old enough to know to get out of the way. We didn't spend all our time playing in the road either, so most of the time it didn't come up.

Her trailer was actually setup on a piece of property that belonged to her son Mr. Elbert. We spent many childhood days running around in that yard. It was right beside one of Mr. Folk's cow pastures and Mr. Elbert had a pool we were allowed to swim in during the summer. He also had a giant spool setup in the yard that was like a table for us kids. He had gotten it from the electric company or something like that. Over the years the spool rotted away and became two giant wooden wheels.

One day we decided to put one of the wheels to use. We thought it would be a good tool with which to cure our boredom. The idea was that we would get the wheel rolling down the hill and then each one of us would kick it until it fell over. At first the game went well and each of us got a chance to knock it down. As each round of wheel knocking passed we let it roll further down the hill. The further it rolled the faster it got and the faster it got the harder it was to knock over.

The last round arrived and we let it roll. Josh kicked it and it didn't fall. I kicked it and it didn't fall. Sam kicked it and it didn't fall. It ignored our attacks and kept rolling down the hill increasing it's speed with every rotation. We declared a free for all and everyone began kicking it with everything they had. The wheel wobbled, but it didn't fall down. Sam attempted to salvage the situation with one mad flying jump kick.

The wheel had already outdistanced most of us, but Sam managed to run it down. He threw everything he had into a single beautiful kick. He hit it right at the the top and then fell onto the grass. The spinning wheel leaned over as if it where about to collapse, but then gyroscopic forces pulled it up again as it continued rolling down the hill. There was no way to stop it, it had gotten too far ahead of us. We could only stand and watch.

It rolled faster and faster and was headed strait toward Mr. Elbert's shed. We were all yelling for the wheel to turn or fall over or something, but it ignored us and rolled on. At the end there was the crunch of wooden siding being crushed as the wheel struck the shed and stuck into the wall. The game ended with a result that none of us had expected. The wheel won...

Sam knew we were in trouble, so he decided we needed to get to work immediately to fix everything. (Keep in mind we were ten or eleven at the time.) We pulled the wheel out of the wall and rolled it back up the hill. Then we took lawn chairs and bits of wood, whatever we could find in or around the yard, and piled it all up against the side of the shed. When we were done we felt very good. There was a five foot pile of junk leaned against the wall and the long gash in the siding was completely hidden.

We were all a little surprised by the fact that as soon as Mr. Elbert saw our pile he instantly looked behind it. It amazed us all that a pile of junk piled against the shed made him suspicious. Having made the discovery he gave Sam a few good ones with his belt and then called my Papa to advise him to do the same to us. (Josh and I had gone over there after we left Mrs. Woody's. The two trailers were about a hundred feet apart, but Papa had a small pine wood that separated the two properties.) For some reason Mr. Elbert's suggestion incensed Papa and, although he and Mr. Elbert were great neighbors and good friends, Papa told him to mind his own business. Lucky for us, we only got a verbal warning. Of course, that was enough we never did it again.

In point of fact we were never really up to any mischief. I mean to say that we never meant to be up to no good, we were just trying to find things to do. Had we imagined for a minute that we would have smashed a hole in Mr. Elbert's shed we would never have played with the wheel. Our real problem was that we didn't think far enough ahead.

My family knew this and, in general, let us pretty much do what we wanted. Sam's family was a little different. They always suspected us of being up to much more than we were. By the time Sam was a teenager Mrs. Woody began to suspect him of dealing drugs or something like that. She kept a very steady eye on him and checked up on him whenever possible. As Sam lived with her it was very possible most of the time. I know she was just looking out for him and trying to keep him out of trouble, but it got on Sam's nerves.

Finally Sam and Josh decided to put a stop to it. Every time Josh called Sam's house Mrs. Woody would put Sam on the phone and then go into a different room and pick up the other extension so she could hear what they were saying. Whenever Sam asked her about it she would say she hadn't been listening. However, her hearing wasn't great and she couldn't tell she was breathing loudly into the phone every time she was listening in. She thought she was as quiet as could be as she made a myriad of little noises in the other room.

This eavesdropping was the opportunity Sam intended to use for his humorous revenge. The phone rang and Mrs. Woody picked it up as usual. It was Josh calling Sam, so she handed the phone over to him and left the room. A moment later they heard the extension get picked up and Mrs. Woody's slow steady breathing on the other line. The stage was set and they began:

“Did it come in?” Sam asked with a certain urgency in his voice.

“Not yet, but it's supposed to tonight.” Josh replied

“Full shipment?”

“It's supposed to be.”

“Good. Who's bringing it in?”

“Same as always.”

“Excellent. We can meet them tonight and start breaking it up for distribution.”

“How are you going to get out of the house?”

“Sneak out, what else.”

“What about the old lady?”

“What about her?”

“I mean, what if she gets in the way.”

“I guess we'll just have to rub her out.”

Here they heard the phone in the other room slam down. Needless to say, Mrs. Woody never listened in on their conversations again. I know it seems cruel, but Mrs. Woody could drive people up the wall. As Sam himself pointed out, if she wasn't lying about being on the phone then they didn't scare her at all. It was some other eavesdropper who was having the heart palpitations.

It's only been a few years ago that Mrs. Woody went the way of all flesh. Now other family members live in the home that was once her own. They have no idea what wild adventures took place just outside their door, just as I have no idea what happened outside my own door a hundred years ago. The lives we live truly are like smoke. They can be seen for a little while and then they are gone. Although I know in time all these things will be forgotten it makes me feel good to know that they are not forgotten yet. You only have a little while to write things in the sand. Write something worth remembering.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm Thankful For Laughter

As most of you probably know this coming Thursday is Thanksgiving. Obviously, I wanted my story to be thank-themed as it were so I began considering all the things I am thankful for. Now, there are a load of things I could list that make me truly thankful to God. I could start with my wife and children then move on with more family and friends and continue with a long heart warming list. However, it wouldn't be very funny and would only interest a handful of people.

After a bit of mulling it over I decided that I should jot down a few stories about something that almost everyone is thankful for. Laughter is the only running theme in these few tales. It's something that makes almost everyone happy. I only say “almost” because of the few people out there who are determined never to find anything funny under any circumstances for any reason. The vast majority of us, however, should be thankful for laughter.

I am going to open this series of stories with a story that was told to me once while I rode along down the road with my brother, Jonathan Cooper and Chris Holland. We were discussing something (none of us remember what it was) when Chris decided to chime in with an amusing anecdote. As soon as there was a pause in the conversation he started.

“Yea, my uncle has a... no wait... he sold that...”

We all sat in silence for a perhaps three seconds. Then Josh, Jonathan and I burst out laughing in unison. By the time we had stopped making fun of Chris's story telling style (which took us a good twenty minutes) we asked what it was his uncle had owned, once upon a time, that had related to what we had been talking about. Sadly, he had forgotten what it was and we couldn't remember what we had been talking about before that. As a result whatever it was has been lost to history. However, we can feel good that I have recorded Chris's fabulous ten word story about it for posterity.

Chris has always been good at inspiring laughter, even if most of the time it's at his expense. Another member of our little group that was great at getting laughed at was Aaron Miller. I haven't described Aaron yet in these pages so I'll do my best to shorty sum him up. For the most part Aaron is a combination of every stand up comedian, funny movie and sit-com ever to be laughed at. I don't mean to say that he's that funny, I mean to say that he's seen them all and can repeat them like a parrot.

He would use the same joke so often that Joshua and I nicknamed him the Grim Jockey because, as the old saying goes, he would beat a dead horse. He would also occasionally say things that were original “Aaron”, but most of the time he didn't realize they were funny. For instance, one time Josh and he were walking through the mall and Josh spotted an attractive young girl. He tried to point her out to Aaron.

“There you go bro! There's a girl you could talk to. Look at her!” Josh said looking in the girl's direction.

“Yea. And look at her mom!” was his reply.

Needless to say we all got some good laughs out of that. Not that there is anything wrong with an attractive mother, I am married to one. However, as a teenage boy I wasn't looking for the mother of a teenage girl. Of course, Aaron made the whole thing funnier by trying to deny it later on. We still laugh at him about it from time to time.

Josh and I also loved to torment Aaron just because he would never see it coming. One winter it had snowed (As I pointed out in and earlier story snow is a big deal down here) and we decided to get out in it. There was an unusually large group staying at my house at the time. My cousin and some friends, including Mike Sanchez, were visiting and had gotten snowed in. We had walked out into a field that was very near my house and started rolling up a giant snowball as we were walking home. It had gotten to be over half my height and was getting to hard to push, so I decided I wanted to do something else with it.

“Josh,” I said as I stopped pushing the giant snow bolder for a moment. “I need you to do something.”

“Alright, what?” He replied looking me in the eyes.

“Well, it's very important that you do it immediately after I say it.”

“I can do that.”

“Speed is of the essence. You can't hesitate or think about it. You merely have to do it as soon as I have spoken.”

“No sooner said than done.”

Now, my cousin knew that when I said something like that out of the blue I was up to something. I think Mike was aware of it as well, but Aaron stood their like Gomer Pile without the slightest suspicion that something wasn't right. Having gotten reassurance from Josh I issued the order.

“Grab Aaron, throw him on the ground and hold him down.” I said with a smile.

By the time Aaron had managed to get a surprised look on his face he was on the ground, pinned. I asked Mike for a hand and we raised the snowball above our heads and slammed it right into Aaron's face. He got up covered in snow and laughing as loud as the rest of us. To him the funniest part was that he actually hadn't seen it coming in spite of the fact that we incessantly did things like that to him.

For another example of not seeing it coming I am going to go back to my early childhood. I was over at Marcus Stevenson's house. He lived right across the street from us and was four years older than me. Occasionally I would get to go over there and he would take me through the woods or fishing in the pond in his back yard.

On this particular day we had wondered around the in the woods and come out on the side of the pond that was opposite the house. Marcus's older brother Terry was out doing something in the back yard. Terry is considerably older than Marcus and was probably sixteen or seventeen at the time. I was somewhere between seven and nine. (I can't remember how much older Terry is than me) Marcus decided that since the pond was between us it would be safe to mock his older brother.

“Chunky Cheese!” Marcus cried out as loudly as he could.

“You better watch that boy!” Terry cried back.

At some point in time Terry had gotten the nickname Chunky Cheese. All the kids in the neighborhood would call him that if he was too far away to “get us”. As I said, he was almost a grown man at this point and I'm sure he didn't really care, but he would pretend to just for fun. However, with Marcus it was a little different. He wasn't just one of the neighborhood kids, he was Terry's little brother. Having been warned Marcus did the only thing he could and accepted the challenge.

“Chunky Cheese!” He yelled at the top of his lungs.

“I'm warning you, you better knock it of.”

“Chunky Cheese!” was Marcus's steadfast reply.

At this point Terry started to walk down to the edge of the pond. I am sure Marcus thought he was safe with the pond between us.

“Chunky Cheese!” again echoed across the pond.

Terry bent down near the edge of the water and started making a giant mud ball. Marcus didn't see this apparently and continued.

“Chunk...” was as far as he got that time.

Terry had thrown his mud ball all the way across the pond and hit Marcus right in the mouth with it. It hit him so hard that it knocked him down into the mud at the edge of the pond. Marcus jumped up and started yelling at Terry with everything he had as he brushed mud off of himself. Terry just laughed at him as he washed his hands off in the pond. Marcus's surprise helped make the situation funnier, but there was a fair amount of good old fashioned pie in the face humor. I can still see that giant, well aimed, ball of mud flying over the water. It always makes me smile.

Each of these brief tales make me laugh when I think of them even now. They say that laughter is the best medicine and I believe it. It's also one I have made it a point to keep on hand at all times. It's very akin to plain simple happiness and it certainly does a body good. In summation, this Thanksgiving I have decided to remember laughter with thanks and I would like to encourage you do the same. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tarzan Boy Scouts

The title of this story incorporates two themes that were mingled together in my childhood. The first is “Tarzan Boy” which is the title of an eighties song by Baltimora. The next is, of course, the Boy Scouts. Our Scout troop combined these two ideas. We seemed to be a group of wild boys that my Dad had caught in the woods and put into boy scout uniforms in order to show people how good the Scouts was at taming young men's wild instincts.

We were a wild looking crew. Shabby at best, but goodhearted and fun loving. We were also very good at all the activities that scouts were supposed to excel at, building fires and things of that nature. I remember one year we were at some regional weekend get together where a large number of scout troops were gathered to get to know each other and compete in a kind of scouting playoffs.

We were bottom of the pile when it came to inspection because of our disarrayed uniforms, but in everything else we took first or second place. The things we took second place in our webelos (Sub-scouts, the rank between cub scout and boy scout.) took first place. I have to mention that this wasn't true of the tent competition. Most of us could put a pup tent up in the dark in roughly thirty seconds. (That's not an exaggeration, Dad drilled us on it after dark and thirty seconds was the goal.) Of course, the rush did occasionally lead to mistakes. One time Jim couldn't find the hole for the tent peg in the dark, so he hammered it into the ground right through the side of the tent rather than slow down.

For the competition we had to take the extra step of buttoning both sides of the tent together before we put it up. This was something we never did with our tents. In the Army each man would carry half a tent. Then they would button the halves together and two men would sleep in the resulting tent. All our test runs had been done with an already buttoned up tent, so we hadn't had any practice buttoning as a team. As we all worked to get the thing buttoned together as fast as we could Jason realized that we were one button off. So, he grabbed both sides and jerked them completely apart so we could start over. That lost us enough time that we came in last.

Of course, Jason and Jim were always bad with tents. Once Jason's Mom bought him a flame resistant tent. So, the two of them kept decided to test it by holding lit matches to it just to see the thing resist the flames. The end result was easy to understand and very predictable, they finally caught the thing on fire and burned a big hole in it. They were quiet a team....

It was late one night during that same gathering that Dad was summoned from his tent by a strange sound. It's hard to describe on paper and even when Dad tries to imitate it now it doesn't sound like anything you would normally find in nature. It was this low growling kind of a sound, but it didn't sound like any animal he had ever heard. Both Jim and Jermaine's Dads had come along on the trip, so my Dad hoped to have a bit of backup when he decided to go looking for the whatever-it-was that had crept into camp.

Jim's Dad had also been awakened by the noise. I don't remember if he and Dad had been sharing a tent or if they both happened to come out of their tents at the same time, but they ended up heading out to search for the thing together. They didn't want to wake everyone up, because the whatever-is-was didn't sound safe or happy. It was also hard to tell exactly where the thing was by the sound it was making.

They decided it would be best to go wake Jermaine's Dad up as well. As they got closer to his tent they noticed that the sound was getting louder. Finally they had the sickening realization that the whatever-it-was had actually slinked silently into Jermaine's Dad tent. After a moment's hesitation Dad decided to rush in swinging and do his best to save the man from the dreadful sounding whatever-it-was.

Just before Dad made his charge Jim's Dad stopped him and told him to listen carefully. He asked Dad if he couldn't imagine anything that sounded kind of like it. After a moment Dad said he thought it almost sounded like someone snoring, but that he had never heard anyone that loud or growly sounding. They stood outside the tent for a little longer, just to make sure. Finally they made the decision that the whatever-it-was was, in fact, Jermaine's Dad snoring.

The next day all us boys got a good laugh out of the story as Dad described the cold sweat on his forehead and how he had wished for a better weapon than the stick he had found. If Dad had taken a moment to think he could have armed himself from Jason's backpack. He might have had several knives a machete or two and possibly an ax tucked away in there.

Jason's Mom often got him more equipment than he would ever need. We called him GI Jason now and again. Out of all of us he was loaded down with the most junk. Not that it wasn't useful, all of it was useful. It was just that most of it would be more handy if you were lost in the woods a hundred miles from civilization more than when you were merely hiking through the woods. He was also as full of questions about anything we planned to do as he was equipped to do it when the time came. This always got on Dad's nerves. I remember one time when Dad had decided to nip all these questions in bud. He began with:

“All right boys I have something to tell you. Please wait to ask any questions until after I finished. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir!” Was the universal reply.

“Good! Now we are going to take a trip...” Here Jason's hand shot up. “Yes, Jason.”

“Where are we going?”

“I was just about to tell you that. You see, that's why I want you to hold your questions until the end. I may answer them in the explanation. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir!” Jason replied.

“Good! Now, we're going on a camping trip.... Yes, Jason.”

“When are we going to go?”

“Jason son, I was going to tell you. When you ask a question it interrupts me and slows me down. I am going to tell you where we are going and when, but you have to give me a moment. After I've told you everything I'll ask if there are anymore questions...” Jason's hand had shot up again, while Dad was saying this. Dad stared at Jason. I think he was trying to figure out what, if anything, was going on in his head. With quiet resolve Dad said “What is it Jason?”

“How are we going to get there?”

“You see Jason! I was going to tell you that!”

“You said you were going to tell us where we are going and when, but you didn't say you were going to tell us how.” Jason looked up with complete innocence. It may be hard for a normal person to imagine, but he was being completely sincere.

“OK, Jason... I am going to tell you everything I can think of and then let you ask questions when I am finished. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Sir!”

“And that's alright with you?”

“Yes, Sir!”

“So, no more questions until I'm finished?”

“No, Sir!”

“Good! Now, as I was saying, we are going on a camping trip two weeks from now.” Here Jason's hand shot up, but Dad ignored him and continued on. Jason began to wave his arm around as Dad pretended not to see him. He stood up waving his arm back and forth and still Dad carried on. Jason was actually hopping in place before Dad cracked “What is it Jason?!?!?”

“What do we need to bring with us?”

“I give up!” Dad said, and that was exactly what he did.

The rest of the explanation he handled by letting Jason ask every question he could think of and then answering it. It probably took longer than it would have, but no one had any questions after Jason was finished.

Those were wonderful days for us. I loved the companionship and the sense of adventure we often got from the Boy Scouts. I've never gotten involved with them as a grown man, which may be surprising considering the fact that I have two sons at the moment. Still, every Dad does his own thing with his own sons. For Dad and his sons it was the Boy Scouts (and camping and a bunch of other crazy things), for me and mine it's other things. Of course, I have to admit there is something about taking your boys out into the wild. Remembering all these things makes me think that it may be time for me to buy my own tent. Who knows what wild snoring animal my sons and I might stubble upon.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

More War Stories

Later this week is Veteran's day, so I thought it only fitting to record a few more of the war stories I've heard for posterity. These tales are centered around my Granddad Ethridge and my Great Uncle Grover. Each of them had his own outlook on military service. My Great Uncle said he didn't want to be eaten by sharks, so he joined the Army. My Granddad said he wasn't going to die face down in the mud, so he joined the Navy. This difference led to very different war histories for each of them.

We'll start with my Granddad because I only have one war story for him actually. As I mentioned, he had joined the Navy. He had been made cook on the ship he was on and so was in charge of all the comestibles. He and the first officer didn't get along at all. Now, knowing my Dad as I do I would have known never to provoke my Granddad, even though I never met him. The first officer had never met my Dad, partly because he hadn't been born, and so didn't have the advantage I would have had in dealing with cook Ethridge.

The first officer continually annoyed my Granddad without thinking about the fact that this was the man that prepared his food. Now, my Grandfather was not the kind of man that would spit in someone's food or give him something he was allergic to, so in that way the first officer was safe. However, Granddad also liked vengeance and a bit of the old eye for an eye. In this case of course it was annoyance for annoyance.

A very special night arrived. An admiral was coming on board and the first officer wanted to make a good impression. He ordered that a side of beef be prepared and served for dinner. The time arrived and the food came in. Hamburgers were set on each plate and the servers withdrew. Needless to say the first officer was furious.

He stormed into the kitchen and demanded to know what had happened to the side of beef. My Granddad explained that it had been tainted and that, as a result, he had to throw it overboard. The first officer had a conniption fit, but there was nothing he could do. As ship's cook my Grandfather had the first, last and only word on whether or not food was fit for human consumption. The side of beef was gone and the testimony of the ship's cook was unassailable.

Now, we'll never know whether that side of beef was really tainted or not. I like to believe that it was and that it wasn't my Granddad taking revenge, but rather one of those ironic twists of fate. Whatever the truth was behind it we know what the results were. Cook Ethridge was transferred off the ship and out of the Navy. He was put in what amounted to the coast guard for the remainder of the war. I, for one, thank God for that. As I said, my Dad hadn't been born until after the war.

My Great Uncle Grover's history was a bit different. After having joined the Army he became a career soldier. He went from the Army to the Army Air Corps to the Air Force as that branch of the service was evolving. He ended up in both the European and Pacific campaigns and was awarded more medals than his chest would hold. As one could imagine my Dad was fascinated by Great Uncle Grover's war record and, like most young men, amazed by all his medals.

Of course, my Great Uncle wasn't a huge braggart and was more than willing to explain away his medals. He said that all he had done to become a “war hero” was to try to stay alive so he could come home. To him those medals represented times he had to run or fight for his life and that was all. From his point of view he had done no more than any man would have under the circumstances. If he had been right about his fellow men the world would be a better place.

Of course, in truth, he was a survivor. He wasn't particularly interested in medals, but posthumous medals absolutely put him off. Most of his stories were about his avoiding death and being given a medal for it. One such example took place after he had gotten separated from his unit and had been wandering around alone for a while. This actually happened several times. Great Uncle Grover said it was hard to stick together in a group during a war. Soldiers would be going this way and that and before you knew it you were all alone.

Having gotten lost or having lost his unit, depending on how you look at it, he would always join up with the next group of US soldiers he ran into. In this particular case he wound up in a group led by lieutenant who hadn't been in Europe long enough for his last US haircut to grow out. While marching from one place to another the lieutenant decided it would be best if they took shelter in the upper room of an old church building for a bit of a rest.

There were probably only around twenty of them and the church building had ample space. The upper room had a window looking directly out over the road at the front of the church and another overlooking a section of woods out the back. After they had been resting there for a while someone spotted a group of Germans heading down the road that went right past the church.

The lieutenant took a quick look and decided it would be suicide to fight. They were overwhelmingly outnumbered. I suppose it never occurred to him that the Germans didn't know they were there. It's possible that the idea of hiding out until they were gone completely escaped him. For all I know he was already tired of war and wanted to give it up. Whatever his motivations were, and before anyone could stop him, he was waving a white flag out the the front window as a sign of surrender.

Great Uncle Grover didn't say anything to him, he didn't hesitate a moment, in fact, I'm not even sure he took the time to blink. As soon as he saw that white flag poked out of the window he started running. Within a second he had crossed the room they were in a made a mad jump for the back window. He busted through and fell from the second story to the ground. As soon as he hit the dirt he was up and running through the woods surrounded by machine gun fire.

By the grace of God he wasn't hit as he serpentined into the woods and over the hills and far away. The Germans quickly gave up perusing him. It wasn't worth the effort to try to catch or kill one US soldier. My Dad asked Great Uncle Grover what had happened to the other men in the church. Uncle Grover replied quite honestly that he didn't know, but that they were probably taken prisoner. None of the others jumped out of the window and the white flag is a sign of surrender.

So, he used his instincts to avoid capture and live to fight another day. The same instincts served him throughout the war and allowed him to keep serving his country. My Dad asked him once if he had ever killed a man during all the fighting. He said that he didn't know that he had. Uncle Grover claimed that he did a lot of shooting, but that he never went to check to see what he had hit. Dad asked for a story about one of the times he might have gotten close. (Keep in mind that Dad was young and most boys go through a phase where they are fascinated by war before they understand what it means to take another man's life.)

Finally Great Uncle Grover decided to tell him about the closest he has ever gotten to knowing he had killed a man. It was near the end of the war in Europe and the group he was with at the time was very low on weapons and ammunition. They got into a situation where they needed to search a town for any remaining German soldiers, but they simply didn't have enough weapons to go around. So, they did the only thing they could. They drew straws. Uncle Grover said that he had been very fortunate when he got a flare gun, because it still had one flare left and a lot of guys ended up with nothing but a knife.

He took his flare gun in hand and started searching a section of the town with the rest of his fellows. He would kick the door in and call out for anyone inside to surrender and then make a quick search of the house. Door after door led to nothing. Still, he knew he couldn't let his guard down. If only one house in the town was occupied it could be deadly. He kicked another door in and cried out for surrender and again was greeted by silence. He stepped through the door to begin his inspection of the house and as soon as he was inside the door slammed behind him.

A German soldier jumped from behind the door armed with a bayonet. In a flash Great Uncle Grover raised his weapon and shot the German in the face with a flare. At this point in the story my Great Uncle grew silent for a moment. My Dad asked “Did it kill him?” Great Uncle Grover replied “Well, I don't really know. I ran for it. As far as I could tell he still had that bayonet and by my count I had only had one flare...”

So, yet again Great Uncle Grover lived to fight another day. He was a brave man, but not a fool. Having survived in Europe he made his way into the Pacific and was there during the storming of several islands right near the end of things. Once more he survived to do duty to his country and was rewarded with an every growing number of medals. However, as I said at the beginning he felt he wasn't a hero, he had just done what he needed to do to come home. That was what he felt every good soldier should do.

Our family was very blessed in the war. Both my Grandfathers and my Great Uncle went and came back again. Not all families are so lucky. It's not just the soldiers who sacrifice their lives for our freedoms that we need to remember. It's the families of those people who never come home. It is important to always remember what others have given up so we don't have to go without. We should be thankful to them for being willing to make that sacrifice. We should be thankful to God that their sacrifices haven't been in vain.