The invitation arrived in my email. I’d been invited to a reunion of my unit from Vietnam. We would stay just a few miles outside of Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Thoughts of Mother Rucker (I had been one of her offspring) came rushing up from inside like a bad burrito.
It had been over 37 years since I’d been to Alabama. It was a colorful period then with colored water fountains, colored sections in restaurants, and colored sections in movie theaters; back when the South was full of Dixiecrats.
I’m pretty sure those are the days that most Southern Conservatives refer to as the “good old days” just as I’m sure that to them, the good old days for us Northern Liberals were before our tails fell off.
Yes, the good old days: BI or Before Integration.
Previous to receiving the invitation, I would have sworn that nothing short of nuclear holocaust could get me to visit Alabama again, but these were the guys I’d flown with in Vietnam and Mother Rucker had taught me to fly the Huey and how to stay alive. It had been some 35 years since I’d seen any of these guys: the pilot who broke me in on the Cobra, the crew chief who kept my aircraft in the air, and the scout pilots and observers I’d covered on so many forgotten missions. Oh yes, and the commanding officers; I just had to see what they were like years later.
I accepted the invitation, and as the day approached, I prepared by ordering special labels for my printer. Labels that I could use to make bumper stickers.
The first bumper sticker I made read: I’M ALREADY AGAINST THE NEXT WAR.
Then I created my own version of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot’s Association. Theirs had a silhouette of a Huey. I erased that and replaced it with a Cobra on a rocket run, and placed it in my back window. Directly below, on the bumper, I placed: Caution: Driver Breaks for Flashbacks.
On the far right of my back window I stuck: Ex Republican: I’ve seen the darkness.
Two more: Homeless Iraqi Vets? Way to go Washington! and Haliburton: Are you finished raping Iraq? went on the back bumper.
Finally, I had to balance out the back window with Feingold For President.
I then printed up some more bumper stickers that I planned to give away as gifts (to fellow liberals), rolled them up, and put them into the glove compartment.
Yes, I was making a statement, but only an addle-brained, half-witted, chauvinistic red neck could possibly challenge my patriotism.
I hadn’t been inside Alabama more than an hour before I would meet that addle-brained, half-witted, chauvinistic red neck. He was driving a cop car. He was on my bumper. His lights were flashing.
I pulled over, turned down the stereo, but kept the car running to keep the air conditioning on (it was 98 degrees out there), rolled down the window, and put my hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel.
“Do you know how fast you were going?”
“I was doing 63.”
“I have you on radar doing 64 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone.”
“Hmmmm,” I said to myself. I know that one should never argue with a cop. I also know that when someone is a head taller, has a six inch reach advantage, and is bulked up like a steam roller on steroids, his first name is probably Sir.
“Yes, Sir,” I said, “I must have been doing 64.”
I looked into the rear view mirror. His partner stood between their vehicle and mine; I could see only up to his chin in my mirror. He stood arms crossed, shaking his head, ominously.
The officer in my window leaned down and stuck his head inside. “Is that the Dixie Chicks I hear on your radio?”
I’d not turned it all the way down. Bad mistake.
“I know that no self respecting radio station in my state plays the Dixie Chicks. You must have that on CD. I suppose you have those lesbian girls too.”
“Indigo Girls? Yeah, I have them in the back seat.”
“Keep your hands where I can see them, Sir.”
He stood up and looked back at his partner who was still shaking his head. He walked back and talked with him. I could see their chins wagging in the rear view mirror.
He returned and said, “So, you flew in Vietnam, eh?”
“And you break for flashbacks, eh?”
“I’m having one right now, Drill Sergeant.”
“What kind of name is Feingold?”
“Yeah, them northern Jews are all liberal Democrats.”
“Well, Lieberman’s an exception.”
“And you used to be a Republican, eh?”
“And you’re already against the next war.”
He looked back at his partner. There was a long, Pinter pause. And then he opened my door saying, “Sir, step out of your vehicle. I’m going to give you a sobriety test.”
He motioned me to the front of the car and took a few paces backwards as he pulled an American flag out of his shirt.
“Sir, I want you to walk towards me, heal to toe, with your hand over your heart while reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.”
I blinked, put my hand to my chest, and began walking.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands . . .” I paused.
“One nation . . .”
“Under God . . . with liberty and justice for all.”
“You can get back in your vehicle, Sir.”
As I turned, I could see his partner writing out a ticket.
The first officer popped his head inside my window, stared me in the face, and said outright, “You know, we don’t appreciate subversives down here.”
I said nothing.
“If you had just one more left wing sticker on your vehicle, I’d gladly arrest you for treason.”
“Well, I do have some in my glove compartment,” I said pushing the envelope.
“Oh? Let me see.”
I pulled out the stickers rolled up, pealed the top one off, and handed it to him. He began reading it, aloud, slowly.
“President – Bush – has – never – gone – to – bed – hungry, – but – then – I’ve – never – gone – to – bed – stupid.”
The officer hung his head and let out a groan that sounded like he’d been punched in the stomach.
“Sir,” he said looking up, “put that back into your glove box and don’t even try putting that on your vehicle till you’re north of the Mason Dixon Line. I will personally have you brought up on charges of treason if I hear there’s a vehicle in my state with that sticker on it.”
His partner handed him the ticket. He looked at it, and told me, “For violating the speed limit laws, you owe the state of Alabama $35.00. Do you have a credit card, Sir?”
I’d been prepared. I handed it to him.
He went back to his vehicle and returned with a receipt for me to sign.
Being Sicilian, I looked for the tip line, but wasn’t about to share this tidbit with Officer Bubba. I signed and took my copy.
“You have a nice day now, Sir, and try to maintain the posted speed limits.”
While they were completing their paperwork, I backed up my car to a few feet from theirs, but instead of getting back on the highway, I hopped out and went up to the driver’s window. They both looked up at me, and then finally rolled down the window. I asked if they knew of a good place to eat around here. They turned and gave each other a look. The driver then turned back to me saying, “The next exit. There’s a barbecue two miles west.” I smiled, thanked him and headed back to my car.
But first, I popped the trunk, grabbed a backpack and tossed it over my shoulder, but then let it drop to the ground. As I bent over to pick it up, I placed a magnetic ribbon in the shape of a question mark onto their license plate. It read: Question War.
I closed the trunk, hopped in my car, waved, and took off. I did take the next exit, but went east instead and stayed on back roads till I got to my destination.
The reunion was an emotionally draining experience. We had to drink a lot of beer to refill our tear ducts. I’ll not soon forget my trip to Alabama, and I’ll always remember how I did my part for the war effort.
Copyright © 2006
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