"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The veteran I knew best--Memorial Day thoughts

Because my Dad lost his leg jumping a freight train in Tucumcari in 1932, he did not serve in World War II. But three of his brothers did. Rex, Mike and Champ. Rex and Champ were in the Army, Rex in England, and Champ in the Aleutians. Mike joined the Navy.
It's uncle Mike who became my favorite uncle, me carrying his name as my middle name. He was the bachelor, the traveler. He sent me a balsawood, battery operated PT boat from Japan while he was serving in Korea. He taught me how to kick a football in Fort Worth. From me, he caught the mumps when we lived in Albuquerque. He showed slides of his travels to Machu Picchu and other places, working for the state department teaching English in Ecuador, Libya, Iran, Mali, Tunisia. He settled in Santa Fe, teaching at the famed Institute of American Indian Arts until retirement, making friends on all of the pueblos. Then as the years passed, we lost touch, until about 15 years ago  when I needed him most, his Santa Fe home becoming a place of refuge. 
Uncle Mike, Susan and I at La Fonda a few years ago
From him I learned much about my Dad and uncles I'd never known, in our long talks at the foot of the Sangre de Christo Mountains as the setting sun turned them purple and red, viewed from his porch. Sailor's tales of WWII and Korea added to my knowledge of history and family. We'd "run up the rooster," as he would say. A former signalman, the semaphore flag for cocktail hour was a rooster. Rum and coke, "Cuba Libre," would add to the flavor of the evenings.
Now his ashes are buried in Santa Fe National Cemetery. We buried him Nov. 10, 2011 in the place he had called home for 30 some years, just across the highway from his home, and within sight of the Sangre de Cristos.
I know this about veterans on this Memorial Day...all of them have rich stories, all of them affect more lives than they ever know. Saludos a los todos veteranos. Muchas Gracias!
Mike's view of the Sangre de Christos

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