Fair Haired Sprinklers in the Sun
Broken, my foot!
Para mi gran amigo, Rudy.
Era un extraordinario animal-agregó Ulises-, rápido, vivo; pero ya está viejo y las mujeres no le atienden, como pasa cuando el amo no está presente. --La Odisea, Canto decimoséptimo
I got my dog when he was a vulnerable, frail puppy. It was Spring when the valley flowers were blooming in the warm Southeast Idaho mornings. A farmer, my father's boss, had invited me to his farm to look at the litter. I don't know why I chose that mutt, perhaps because he looked so pathetic and miserable. Despite his imperfection, he had a mind of his own and did not take direction from his brothers and sisters. When I arrived his ears perked up as if he knew I was there for him.
I got out of my old seasoned Chevy and walked to the barn to a cozy corner where the farmer told me the litter would be. The sun was warm and I could hear the pups whining and squealing in their tiny voices. When I saw him I knew he was mine. I picked him up with careful hands and he stared at me with with droopy eyes, waiting for my decision. He was a Malamute-so I was told-but I could tell he had a bit of wolf in him. So I drove off with my new friend, back on the dusty road; me, my jalopy, and my puppy went home.
It was one of those Idaho years when cherry-red Chevy's were in, when the enchanting country wilds penetrated in every direction, and dogs could run loose in the wide-open spaces. There were few fences and my dog loved it.
We did many things together, he and I. I was young, not quite 15. And he grew alongside me. There was no end to our adventures, he was my trusted friend. In the mornings before I went to work in the fields, I could hear him yelping, wanting to go with me. But he was too young, yet a pup and inexperienced. But he grew fast and started catching up with me. In a matter of months, he was accompanying me on rabbit hunts, solitary strolls down dusty, late afternoon roads along the wheat fields and the rich green potato farmland. We were happy and nothing could separate our love and companionship. He was wild and restless but I-and only I-could settle his wild instincts and calm him down. He craved my warm hand caressing his back and my warm embrace. And the wolf in him yielded to his tamer cousin.
But the cold nights brought out his wilder side. I could hear him howl at the moon and answer his primitive cousins in the distant lava rocks. I could feel a change coming, ominous change for all of us.
And my dog had grown enough to know. Enough to sense the smell of wild rabbits, approaching storms, summer coming and summer going, falling leaves prophesying an early fall, and early winter snows. As the cold season approached, I could sense a sadness in his eyes. It is not ingenuous nor superstitious to admit a special trait in these animals. This was something I accepted as fact, something I acknowledged without question. The cold wind had ushered in a tragic coming, something my dog had known for weeks.
And it happened. It was an early winter morning, snow on the ground, wind blowing, fields bare and sleeping. My dog had known all along. His looks were those of his Spring puppy days when I first set eyes on him. "Take me," they were saying, but even he knew it would not be possible. The Migra pulled up before my family could do anything to hide. We were arrested like criminals, taken without our meager belongings, put in the paddy wagon, and driven off to a holding station in town to await our deportation.
Years passed and my only thought was to return to my old residence, the dilapidated boxcar where I lived in the country. I now had a young wife and child. And I returned to Idaho to the countryside where I used to live and where I had promised to return. The farmer was still there, as well as the boxcar and the fields; needless to say, the farmer was older and slower, the boxcar was barely standing and creaking in the wind, and the fields were showing their years. Nevertheless, not much had changed greatly. But I cared not about the land nor my ancient dwelling. Those were bad memories. I had only one thing in mind-my faithful dog, my precious possession, my only friend.
"Your dog?," exclaimed the farmer. "Oh yes, your dog. Well, he done stayed right next to the boxcar. He never moved, never ate, just howled at night, howled to his last breath. When he died, I took him to the lava rocks, but he disappeared. Strange, it's almost as if the wolves got him. You know, fella, I think he had a bit of wolf in him, which surprises me because he could have gone with them instead of starving to death here. He must of liked you mighty fine!"
And I went back to work on the farm. This time, I had gained my "legal" residency. I was in Idaho to stay, never to leave this farm, determined to buy it someday. I morally and respectably owed it to him.
And as the winter snows fall on the barren land and blend with the hair on my hoary head, I can still hear the howling in the distant lava rocks. I can still hear the beautiful symphonies, I can still hear him calling me to say it's OK, "you are without guilt, you are forgiven, rest in peace."
Our ship had just gotten to the gunline in South Vietnam in August of 1972 and we were very apprehensive about what awaited us. We were stationed 2 ½ miles from the coast; our war had begun. Our only solace during this ordeal was to go down to the room next to the sonar dome. The access to it was by way of a narrow ladder going down three stories to the depths of the bow. The sonar dome room had become a haven for us. Here, we could talk freely; we could be ourselves, and we could smoke ourselves into numbness, oblivion, and forgetful bliss. But why do this? Why try to forget? Why question and strike back at reality?
The answer was simple. The war was unpopular. We were there but had no support from the home front, no support from our friends, our relatives, our fellow countrymen and women. We were there but wondered why. So we found refuge in the sonar dome room. A smoke filled room of absent-mindedness and psychosis. We were abandoned, and we knew it.
One uneventful day-they were all the same-we were doing the usual in the room when I was called to the bridge for watch on the helm. The regular man on watch had gotten sick and I was called to replace him. There was not much to do since the ship was dead in the water, but the action was intense. "Who? Me? I'm supposed to report to the bridge?", I asked in a startled, paranoid way. I could barely talk and my eyes were red from smoke. "Why don't you go?", I pleaded with Wood, but he responded "I'm not Hernandez, you are".…relieved that he was, in fact, not me but he.
And so I went up to the bridge, shaky, bewildered, drenched in sweat and in a bloody state of mind. Outside, I could see the fiery fire-fights. The sun had barely set, and beneath the red clouds, I could see the tank battles in the distance close to the sandy shore. Our ship was not idle, either. Our gun turret was aimed at he NVA trenches near the beach. We fired from our 5 ¼" gun as if we could be proud of its terrifying effect. Our projectiles shrieked through the air as if they were heaving molten lava on the enemy, a message from hell to our adversary who must have been terrified at the demonic, terrorizing sounds of our fire. Up above the fire and screaming agony was the sky-blood-red from the setting sun and from the flares lighting up the heavens-which had turned topsy-turvy from the action below, from hell, itself.
But I was numb of any emotion, any feeling, any concern. In the distance, on the beach, I could discern a scarlet haze on the shore. The rat-infested trenches were overflowing with bodies, body parts, and blood onto the beach. The water splashing ashore in its ebb and flow, was sucking the life of the people, of the land, of the enemy and-ironically-of our own troops. It was slowly turning crimson, bleeding from the battles, from the bullets, from the incoming fire offshore. The world was slowly bleeding and I could see it but I could not feel it. I was insensitive to the suffering and the pain of it all. But as I said, I could see the bloody ocean creeping, hemorrhaging, pulling us in as if Moses' rod, itself, had turned the water into blood and had brought the monsoon winds out of season. The redness crept toward the ship and our captain, "Mad Wayne" as we called him, was undaunted and stubbornly stayed the course. "No retreat. Where the ship is stationed, there it stays! No quarter to the enemy!" And we stayed….the captain adamant, fighting for his medal, promising each of us a beer on liberty for every dead enemy soldier killed by our cannon. And we continued our fire even though our barrel was molten red, even though the bloody swirling sea turned bloodier, redder, angrier. We did not retreat.
And smoke filled the air. Smoke from our gun turret, smoke from the fatal shore, smoke from the clouds, smoke from the sonar dome room, smoke engulfing the ship, smoke everywhere, smoke and blood mixed with earth, wind, and fire…blood and smoke. But I did not care. I saw everything but felt nothing, cared for nothing, felt no pain. Kill was the operative word as closer and closer the redness crept our way. The rod was extended, the ocean was dying and I was aware.
I knew what was happening; it was so obvious. Closer and closer it came. The captain inflexible and obstinate, the crew numb, the ship coughing up its bloody message of destruction. I talked little, almost as if I knew it wouldn't be of any use. The captain intent on killing, and the sea intent on sucking us into the maelstrom of her death throes. I talked less and I knew more. I felt nothing but I saw everything. The smoke filled the bridge and the deafening noise was everywhere: the captain screaming orders, the officers pleading for retreat, the crew helpless, and the blood-red sea closing in. It was shear madness and I knew it.
Tired of the insanity, I closed my eyes and tried to imagine being home, being with Maria, being away, but these thoughts did not come. I closed my eyes but saw more. I saw volcanoes in the sky, fireballs raining down from other worlds; bleeding, screaming, dying. And I realized that our ship was lost at sea, lost in oblivion, lost in time and space in a monochrome world, engulfed, finally, by the bleeding wounds of man, of the creeping wounds, finally engulfing us thanks to a stubborn captain refusing to say "Withdraw!" And so it came to pass that our very ship became the knife that cut the ocean and the seas to shreds. Home was far away and hell so very close-all around us, smothering us, drowning us in its filthy vomit. The burning, intractable fiend commanding our ship had taken us with him to a smoldering, smoking Hades. And I realized that I was no longer of the deadly living…but of the living dead!
Rodriguez spent three grueling days at sea. Three stormy days of sea-tossed destruction. The ship had been aware that he was missing but he could not be found right away due to the savage weather. But three days later, he was found floating. Floating in the deep swells, floating unconscious; barely hanging on to life.
When we picked him up, he was more alive than dead and in the clutches of Poseidon. He spent a week in hospital in Danang, a week before he talked, opened his eyes, and said he was glad to be back. The doctors did not understand his language, his eyes saw other things, other images, other places. His ears heard other things, other voices, other sounds; and he spoke as if he knew what we felt, as if he felt what we knew. Rodriguez had changed.
When he returned to the ship, we welcomed him with open arms, a true naval welcome. We were glad to see him conscious, glad to see him alive, glad to have him with us. The ship's crew welcomed him with hurrahs and the ship's bell rang out three times to show the joy of our reunification. Rodriguz was lost but had been found. He had returned to us. And then he spoke….
"I was swallowed by a great fish, it kept me for three days until the ship disturbed its peace at sea, and its disturbance became my salvation. Thus, you have me here to help you, as a witness of life after death, of the joys of life, of the sea, of the world we live in. I am your salvation! I am your messiah!"
It was strange but what could we do? The ship was stationed in the South China Sea and could not leave the area. Rodriguez was with us and we fought to keep him. We lobbied to keep him on the ship and knew that he had only three years to retire before he could receive his pension from the Navy. Three years before he could go home and retire to his seaside home in California where he could rest forever. But if he were discharged now due to his medical status, he would not receive a pension and would be lost forever. So we won. The captain kept Rodriguez and we took care of him. Or did he take care of us? " Be that as it may, here he is as you see him!", my chief petty officer assured me. "Here he is, take care of him and he will take care of you."
With that explanation, I was very aware of Rodriguez' presence and respected him for what he was. In my early days on the ship I remember he entertained us with his prophecies, his words of wisdom. When we were depressed from so many days at sea without seeing friends, land, or female company, he would console us with tales of the sea. Tales of his adventures in the fish, with mermaids, fighting monsters, and befriending Poseidon, himself. His tales were a welcome diversion from our monotony of war, sea details, and loneliness.
But one day, he was gone. Another typhoon had attacked our ship. The sea was raging in anger as if the ocean, itself, was in its dying throes. There was no mercy for us. In our danger and anguish, we looked for Rodriguez to give us that consolation that everything was going to be ok. At least, we thought, a minute of levity would help us through the ordeal. But Rodriguez was nowhere to be found. He was gone, gone again. And this time, we waited for naught. He did not return. Three days came and went but he did not show. There was no fish to cough him up, no "sonar contact" of a body at sea. The binoculars gave us no consolation. He was gone.
And so life continued. Rodriguez did not finish his career at sea. He did not retire. Or, in a sense, he did retire. He retired to the sea. To the ocean that gave us life. From sea to sea, from ashes to ashes. And our lives continued, but there was a void. The war continued, but there was no levity, no one to assure us that everything was going to be all right. His life had ended and our lives continued. But our struggle continued in the war while his world was at peace. And our ship sailed on though our lives would never be the same.
As men, we are all equal in the presence of death. Publius Syrus, Moral Sayings
It was a cold, windy autumn day when I decided to visit Grove City Cemetery in my hometown. My mother was buried there, as well as many local residents, since the graveyard was established in 1890. As I entered the iron gate at the cemetery, I noticed the leaves from the cottonwoods falling gently on the headstones, like late autumn snowflakes tenderly descending on our fallen city folk so as not to disturb their rest.
I was visiting the cemetery to see my mother's grave but I could not recollect the exact location of her resting-place. Consequently, in my search for her grave, I had the opportunity to read numerous inscriptions on diverse headstones. Not only could I read the inscriptions on the stone slabs, but I could also take notice of the headstones' variety: some were obelisks, others columns; some pillars, and still others were sculpturesque memorials. There were large ones and small ones, wide and thin, tall and short, elaborate marble gravestones and simple wooden markers. They told me a lot about the city's departed. Some were rich, others poor; some were loved, others were probably hated; some were distinguished others were probably local ruffians who scourged the countryside and the town. But they were all gone and departed, some in the early 1900s, others as recently as days gone by. They were the local history of the town, and in the true sense of the cemetery's name, it genuinely had become the last home and residence of Grove City's inhabitants of the past.
As I walked around the narrow, weed-grown path, I notice a few epitaphs that intrigued me, to say the least. One of the epitaphs struck me as that belonging to a truly caring man, one who could very well have been a good revolutionary and social reformer, had it been in vogue at the time, but the deceased had died in 1895:
Under this monument lies a native son
Did well to many, hurt to none.
Abhorred the rich, relieved the poor,
Was good to most-could do no more.
This Grove City resident must have been a colorful figure, giving his possessions to the needy, to residents who probably never forgot his kindness and who loved him enough to place these words on his tombstone.
Then, I slowly continued my stroll through the windy, increasingly colder and darker leaf-strewn necropolis. Suddenly, I was caught by an interesting message. It spoke thoughtfully to me at that instant and I could here the voice ringing in my ears:
Imagine yourself by me
I was as you are now
And you in time shall be
Like me below the ground.
When I saw these words, I felt a strange presentiment overcome my senses as if these words were meant just for me and for that particular moment. I knew that we are but a flash in time and, as "from dust to dust", we will always return from whence we came.
As I read these inscriptions, I remembered reading in the local history books about the wild gunslingers and stagecoach robbers of the late 1800s in and near Grove City. This came to mind when I saw the next epitaph which elicited a wild Saturday night at the saloon:
Here's where Francisco resting lies
And by a gunfight he did die
On our very 4th of July.
There were a few bachelors buried in the necropolis and I noticed one particular headstone that stood out on that cold afternoon and that was in a dilapidated-forgive the pun-gravestone that spoke more on the subject of misogyny than on the love of animals:
'Tis true I led a single life
And ne'er was married in my life,
For of these dames I ne'er had none:
With my dog's love, who needed one?
By now, it was getting darker and colder. The breeze was turning into a piercing wind and the darkness was making it difficult to read. Consequently, I stumbled on a weathered gravestone from the turn of the century when Grove City was a budding community and poverty and the elements still reigned over this citizenry of homesteaders. Times were hard and influenza had attacked the populace with a vengeance. In order to save money, when more that one family "member" died, two would be fitted into one casket; this was usually a combination of adult and child. I can only assume that the wife-and mother-who wrote this epitaph was in much grief and haste and truly meant well in her time of sorrow, neglecting proper English and double entendre :
Not for his face my yearning begs
But what he has between his legs.
It appeared that love for her husband took a back seat to her tender affection for her child. As I said, I can only surmise that this young lady from the turn of the century was devastated by her loss. But, even then, I can still accept an ever so slight possibility that this woman was abused by her husband and transferred her bitterness to the tombstone: a scarlet letter the deceased man would carry forever. And her son? As I surmised before, she loved him dearly, for what can be stronger than motherly love?
By now, darkness had taken complete control of the graveyard. Late afternoon twilight had turned to night. I could not read any more epitaphs from this quiet city. The people would be there tomorrow; they had nowhere to go. And my mother? I knew she would also wait for me, somewhere hidden in this city of slab and stone...and faded markings on their walls. I felt my way back to the frozen gate and went home.
Idaho summer afternoons. What can one say about them? Sunny late afternoons in the Idaho countryside are without equal. Wheatfields, when they are golden colored by the summer sun, are like seas of blonde hair flowing in the breeze. Equally beautiful are the golden fields when they are watered by fair-haired sprinklers, fair-haired sprinklers colored by the flowing waves of yellow grain. These are the sprinklers that I remember from my youth, but they were much more than color. They were much more than the hypnotic ticking of the clock: the hypnotic ticking of time. Idaho summer afternoons were warm and memorable, long and timeless, endless and suffocating.
Why suffocating? Why hypnotic? Why at all? The fields were golden, the weather was warm, the time was memorable, but only memorable because of the incessant labor. The labor that it took to bring these fields to their level of beauty and usefulness took the blood, sweat, and tears of migrant workers. The migrant workers woke before the sun rose and moved the irrigation pipes that irrigated the fields so that the wheat and barley would grow. The migrant workers also moved the irrigation pipes that watered the famous Idaho potatoes so that this important staple could feed the rest of the country. Thus, although unheralded, the migrant workers worked long hours with low wages so that agriculture could survive in Idaho. Life was hard and thankless.
I remember these times, times of long hours in the cold mornings and hot afternoons. Hours of work with calloused hands. Hours of life and soul left in the fields. These were truly times that tried our souls. We were without identity, without rights, without equality. The sun was our timepiece, the rain was our drink, the unripe food from the fields was our nourishment. Idaho was our home and we had to make do with what God and el viejo provided us. We lived off the land and the land lived off of us. It seemed as if we were made for each other. We gave life to the land while the land sucked the life out of us.
And the fair-haired sprinklers kept their hypnotic ticking, ticking, ticking away; watering the land, keeping time for us; reminding us that we were enslaved, tied, indentured to the land, the land that meant so much to Idaho and took so much from us. It was the life of the migrant worker that was left in those furrowed rows, those golden fields, those beautiful fields that shown with such daring beauty but covered so much suffering; so much life and soul left in the substrata of the land, the land of the migrant workers!
---Amando Álvarez 2/9/01
I saw the sun rise as a child
And optimistically exclaimed:
"I'll change the world, it's all worthwhile."
And when the sun its zenith gained
I had done much to raise a smile.
But when the sun's descending flames
Were overshadowed by the night,
I realized no one's to blame
If what we gain is never quite
What we expected at daybreak.
The moral's what in morning light
We see, will change by end of day.
So even though the day is bright,
Remember it will go away!
Los hijos de Antonio Álvarez jugando en el campo. Idaho 1958
Sons of Antonio Álvarez playing in the country. Idaho 1958
I remember that evening very well as if it were yesterday. It was a typical Saturday evening on a typical Saturday in the countryside. The weather was rainy, misty, and the farm work ended early due to the inclement conditions. It was just as well; this meant we could prepare early for the dance. The dance, the one social activity that brought cohesiveness to our community. A chance to see what others were wearing, a chance to see new faces and old ones, as well. A chance to show off our clothes, our wealth, reaped from the land we worked, the land of the living and the dead.
We were dirt poor, but at the dances nobody could tell. We dressed better than the gringos at these dances. Our boots jingled with the sound of chains and silver spurs. We dressed to impress and to outdo everybody else. That was our goal. On that one evening, we were suddenly rich and our wealth knew no bounds. For one evening out of the week, we no longer knew the poverty of the boxcars and cinder block rooms where we lived, nor the hard work in the fields where our bodies were tested to the extreme. We were eminent members of society!
As we entered Mangum's dance hall, we were ready to dance, to drink, to light up the town, and, of course, to dance the night away. Seven days of frustration, repression, and oppression from hard work would be forgotten in one evening. But we were no different than sailors and their notorious wild, unhinged bashes with women and drink after 30 days at sea; nor were we different from cowboys' boisterous and rowdy celebrations after weeks on the cattle trail. We were no different, except for the fact that we really didn't have much money to speak of. We were poor, but we had to show a façade that evening, and we did.
There was also the question of conquests. Girls were at the dance for the same reason as the boys. They conquered in their own way. Their genius was their command of the situation, encouraging the boys to action, to prove themselves-leading to the boys' success…or failure. Our conquests only materialized at the girls' compliance-although they appeared meek and vulnerable, it was these very characteristics that gave them the real power. The real conquests were at their command.
The girls would sit at one end of the hall, backs against the wall. Beautiful girls, young and blossoming, like Spring flowers opening their bright new pedals at a debut. They wore charming, low-necked dresses, showing just enough to attract, to inspire, to mesmerize as the honey bee is attracted to such flowers by their fragrance and sensual color. In such manner we were spellbound by their charm. We were aroused by their eyes as they lowered bashfully but invitingly when we looked their way. We were aroused by their budding bosoms as they swelled abnormally to give us a glimpse of their womanhood, only to collapse pathetically under their clothing and back to their natural state-the girls could hold their breath only so long. Yes, there were sweet Spring fragrances in the air and daring, exuberant colors befitting the season. Flowers, blossoming Spring flowers permeated the evening!
But the dances were not all love and romance. They were also a place where a young man was expected to express his manhood-not only with women but against men. One way to conquer our women was to slay all the mythical dragons in our way, and those dragons were our opponents, our rivals wanting to take our women. Centuries of machismo tradition-both Aztec and Spanish-had taught us to be warriors; time had infused in us the belief that noble combat and warfare were chivalrous, a path to our women's hearts.
And in these dances Fernando lost his girlfriend's mother, while his girlfriend's father found another. Paco gained a stepfather while his stepfather lost his wife. Juan gained a wife by means of killing her old boyfriend. Eugenio gained a wife but found out that the child in her womb belonged to another and not him.
Even I came close to losing my life several times due to careless associations with girls who already had boyfriends. And several of us died from gunshot wounds, knifings and whatnot. Such was the traditional chivalry of the Mexican dances. We were proud to wear the scars of battle, the scars of fighting for our women and dying for a tradition-the machismo tradition. We were warriors in every sense of the word. We worked hard, played hard, loved hard, and died young. It was our custom, our way of life, our passage to a better world, a world without suffering, without pain, without despair. It was a badge of courage that gave us entry into the Seven Heavens of the Jihad.
Since those days, some of my friends have passed on. They have entered the "Seven Heavens." Some of us have stayed on in that same remote, unholy place-we have just gotten older. And those few of us who saw that narrow opening, that small window of opportunity, have walked through it to a better life: here on earth-not in Heaven. We have gone to college and studied the works of scholars; we have tried to reason why we did what we did, and some of us have understood. It was a way of life, like any other life-but a way of life. It was a tradition, slowly fading. It was a coming together-in a dance hall-of centuries-old custom in three short hours. And we are proud that we were of that tradition. And some of us have lived to tell about it, to write about it, to reminisce….
“Broken, my foot!”
It was a typical day on the gunline, January 11, 1973. Nothing seemed to change. We were in South Vietnam. I was aboard the USS Meyerkord DE 1058, captained by Commander R.J. Kerrigan. We were at Point Allison, Military Region I, just south of Danang. We had made full use of our 5” 54 gun. We started firing into the North Vietnamese trenches at 1548. The North Vietnamese were on the move through South Vietnam and we had to stop them. We bombed incessantly that day until 1605 when we ceased fire; a typical day on the gunline.
Nothing changed the monotony. We bombed in the daytime and re-armed at night. But something slightly different would happen that day—actually it was now late evening, well into the following day. We were tired, but we had to re-arm. The USS Flint AE-32 was our supply ship. It came alongside at 0120 to unload ammunition for our ship. We had to replenish for later on that morning. I was on the re-arming detail and ready to unload pallets of empty canisters for recycling and ready to load projectiles and full canisters onto our destroyer. It was typical, routine.
The only difference was that I would hurt my foot—not a monumental, historic event in Vietnam, although it seemed like it to me. I had inadvertently put my left foot underneath one of the pallets which was already high off the deck when the line broke and the pallet fell full force onto my foot. The safety officer was not expecting anything out of the ordinary, but there was an accident and I was the recipient of what seemed a very heavy load. It must have appeared humorous at the time: I hopped and hopped, favoring my injured foot—which swelled immediately—and I kept hopping till somebody helped me inside the skin of the ship.
All this happened between 0120 and 0140 of the early morning of the 12th. It was sudden. Once in sick bay, I was told there was a good chance that my foot was broken—“good chance” seemed an oxymoron. The report from the medic to my superior ST1 Rittenhauer read as follows:
Subject man was injured last evening during rearming detail. The left foot has been bruised and possibly fractured. He is being returned for light duty involving no lifting or prolonged standing or walking. Should the foot not improve he is to return to sick bay.
J.A. Baldwin, HMC USN MDR
I was told that I would be heloed off later in the day to a Danang hospital. But when the ship anchored at Danang Harbor at 0856, there was no helo to take me to the hospital. My foot popped when I put weight on it but our medic was now undecided. And so the indecision continued and I never visited Danang. Danang was so close but I never knew it. I was in the harbor but would never walk the streets of the city.
Finally, after much more naval gunfire support, the Meyerkord was finally given orders to leave the gunline, on January 25, two days before the cease-fire. The Meyerkord sailed to Yokosuka, Japan, where it moored on January 31. There, I had my foot examined and found out it was not broken—then, anyway—but it had time enough to heal although it kept on popping for a long time after that. It was a friendly reminder of my experience (or inexperience) on the gunline on board the USS Meyerkord DE 1058.
Finally, although I may be a bit old fashioned, and even though the ship was later designated a fast frigate, I will alway think of the Meyerkord as a destroyer escort. It was as a destroyer escort that I served on it, a ship full of memories; memories that come and go, but memories, nevertheless, that I try to save one way or another.
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AMANDO ÁLVAREZ HOME
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The Mexican Experience in Idaho
The Old Man
Juanito and the Library
The Coin (by Daniel Rodriguez)
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