A Taxing Day—15 April ‘63
Looking into that black ominous barrel of a Python jammed into my face was traumatic to say the least. But, more on that later.
I had just recently graduated from USAF Electronics School, received my orders of deployment and my Top Secret Clearance Status and 21 days of leave. I jumped in my car and headed home to see the folks. Leaving Biloxi after 14 months of schooling was a great relief.
Home to Dalton was a welcome respite. I thoroughly enjoyed my return to normality with a loving family and familiar surroundings. Visiting with mom and dad and my younger sister Karen was sheer joy. Later, I went around town looking for friends that I had been missing. But, alas, they all were busy somewhere else living their own lives.
It’s funny how one’s mind takes in information, then processes that data in otherwise strange fashion. I had told my folks of my sealed deployment orders and what they entailed. As with most mothers, she heard what she wanted to hear. Mom had told everybody that I was being sent to Des Moines, Iowa, which pleased her, for it was close by and not too many miles from Dalton, Ohio. In actual fact, it should have been Boise, Idaho. Evidently there is no difference between Iowa and Idaho in the minds of easterners. My directions were goofy, but I figured Uncle Sam knew what he was doing. Anyway, the handheld information said, ‘After reaching Caldwell, Idaho, call Mr. Vale at this posted number. Caldwell is just west of Boise and is a suburb of Boise’. Upon my arrival in Caldwell, I immediately called Mr. Vale only to find out it was a place not a person. Vale, Oregon was the site of the RBS Radar installation. After all this confusion was rectified, everything thereafter ran smoothly. I was billeted in a rental house along with two other Airmen right here in river city, ‘bug-town USA’=Caldwell. I fell in love with this country almost immediately. The high desert plain is perfect for me.
What was not perfect was my travel time from Dalton to Caldwell. While my passage through the countryside heading west should have been a piece of cake, it was not. I was running into violent storms and had to change directions in my course many times. When I hit Omaha, tornadoes hit me. Red mud out of Texas rained down covering my windshield, blinding me to the point that all I could see was a great part of Texas dirt in, on and around my car and a slurry of mud on the roadway. The winds were horrendous. A Trail-Ways Bus, that I was following as a guide through the storm, headed under an overpass and when exiting from it’s lee, the high wind tipped the bus up off of it’s left set of wheels. I could see a foot of daylight under the wheels, if you can call it daylight. The bus hung there at a rakish balance point for awhile before slamming back down for the duration. When the storm’s center swung to the east, we, the bus and I, must have thought the same in thinking, ‘feet don’t fail me now’, and boogied off back in a westerly direction. By the time I had reached Wyoming, the storms had abated and the sun came out. It was a welcome sight. I proceeded on while looking for a gas station. Boy, Wyoming is desolate country and gas stations few and far between.
Piece de resistance;
The progression of my adventurous journey would soon come to an abrupt end if I didn’t find a service station that was open. I had been running on fumes since passing the last station. Coming off the mountain east of Rock Springs, I spied a large sign which read GAS. It was a small station with two pumps on the left side of the highway. I pulled in, filled up, grabbed a couple of ‘Slim-Jims’ and cashews. Being low on cash, I asked if it was ok if I cashed a $50 Travelers Check to pay the bill. The young man studied the check for a very long time, than said that it was alright. I once again headed west while chomping down on my ‘Slim-Jims’. I had traversed only a short distance when I first saw them. ‘Them’ being COPS. The patrol car coming towards me, slid sideways in front of me, blocking my path. Two patrol cars came up from behind. One stopped at my rear bumper and the other pulled alongside. I was completely hemmed in. That 357 Colt Python that I mentioned earlier was thrust through my wind-wing and placed up close to my temple. I thought I was dead! “Shut up and get out of the car”. I didn’t have the chance to get out, they dragged me out. I started to ask again, “shut the H— up’! Two of the cops held me at bay while a third placed hand-cuffs on my wrists behind my back. I was thrown into the back of one of the patrol cars. Not escorted into, but thrown into the back seat. Incidentally, there was no back seat, and I landed hard onto the drive line hump.
One man, a civilian ride-a-long, came over from a squad car and asked if I wanted him to drive my car into town. Of course, I said yes, for everything I owned was in that car. I surely didn’t want it sitting alongside the highway out in the middle of the desert. Once in town, they hustled me into the police station, two men under each arm and the third officer dragging me by my shirt. They took everything from my pockets, my belt and my shoes. There was a cage in the middle of the room that looked as if it was made for containing a dog. If I remember rightly, it was 8x8x8 ft. in size and with a chain-link top. My hand-cuffs remained on as they placed me inside that box.
The officer in charge would not answer any question that I put forth. He only locked the kennel and proceeded to leave. I asked to see the local Recruiting Officer and to please remove the handcuffs. He told me to shut up once again. On his way out of the police department, I asked to see the Post Master. He slammed the door on his way out of the building. Hours later they came and released me from the cage and the handcuffs. They sat me down at a desk and asked their questions. I told them that I was traveling under military orders and demanded to contact the Post Master. They told me to shut up once again. They placed a tablet on the desk and I was to write my name multiple times. No exaggeration, I think I wrote my name 50 times that day. When I was finished, one man perused my hand writing ability for a moment, then handed my stuff back to me. I replaced my property back into my pockets, replaced my belt and shoes. He handed my car keys back to me and said,”you can go now!” No apology or explanation was forthcoming, just heads hung low. I hot footed my way out of there. Once outside, I was met by the lone civilian who brought my car into town. He, and he alone gave an explanation to what had transpired.
That ignorant young man working at the service station had never seen a travelers check in his sheltered life. As soon as I had left the premises, he called the police and told them that I had forged a check, stole a tank of gas and some food.
This is a good and true story of how I spent my summer vacation.