Monday, August 3, 2015

Up Front

I still remember the first time I read Up Front by Bill Mauldin. I was about twelve. Maybe thirteen, not sure, but anyway, our house had this special closet. It was filled with my father's 'don't you dare touch it things,' and it smelled wonderful.

When I'd crack the door, even just a bit, there was the scent of leather, Hoppe's Number Nine, and wool blankets - but I loved best that deep sweet smell of dusty books.

His books were piled high against the far wall, wonderful books. Books bound in leather and cloth, and here and there were jumbled piles of paperbacks.

One day I slipped inside in search of old copies of Field & Stream. I wanted to research the fine art of bass fishing, and if not bass, at least learn the art of bluegills. Instead I came upon a copy of Bill Mauldin's wonderful book.

I still own my father's copy of Up Front. It's a first with the original dust jacket now torn and crumbled and it barely clings to the binding but that's fine - its mine. Or, should I say, my dad's.

Sorry, Dad.

Willie and Joe became my childhood friends. At such a tender age I truly didn't understand all Bill's jokes, nor the implied sadness. By the age of fifteen or so I'd read the book at least a dozen times.

Last night I found and read Up Front again for the first time in over forty years, and understood. War is hell. The horror forever occupies space within those deep recesses of our minds. This scar is seldom, if ever, allowed the light of day.

If you too have a copy dig it out dust it off and read it again.

We owe it to Willie and Joe.



My morning routine is simple, after I park my truck I unlock the shop door then run through my setup for the days business - which leaves the difficult task of trash. 

Every night of the year critters drive by and throw their damn empty beer bottles, fast food bags, used condoms, crumpled cigarette packs, spent shell casings (really) out their car windows onto my shop's lot. Which leaves me, plastic bag in hand, a ticked off sanitation worker.

After I've policed the grounds I normally drop the mess into two large trash containers, blue bins. Couple of weeks back I opened the lid and found a very nice old Vornado fan. It was a small unit, heavy with brass and aluminum with its original electrical cord, and at first glace seemed perfectly fine, but on closer inspection I found the fan bent just ever so slightly.

It was mine.

Back in the shop I flipped her over and wrote down the model number. Quick Google search dated the fan's manufacture date between 1955 and 1958.

I adjusted the fan blade, took a screwdriver to her six support screws, topped off her two oil wells with twenty weight and connected her to a bit of electrical juice. She hummed like the day she was born.

Someone had dropped her. The little Vornado fan now has a place in my family room. Isn't it amazing the treasure we find in unexpected places.