REBELLION IN A CURIOUS WAY by Jodey Bateman
 

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ABOUT ME, DALE FIELDS

 
          It was June 22, 1967. I was the Regional Traveler for the Student Freedom Organization – we just called it the Organization, mostly. I was paid $10 a week from the National Office, sometimes $20, a lot of weeks nothing, when the National Office couldn’t pay it’s bills. 
I hitched back a thousand miles from our national convention. I didn’t even hitch with a sleeping bag in those days. All I had was an extra shirt tied around my waist by the sleeves and an armload of newspapers I had picked up at the convention, plus my trusty notebooks which included my diary and whatever information I thought was important to jot down for the Organization – though there are some things I couldn’t forget if I wanted to. 
          I had to walk back into town about three miles from the interstate to get to Clu Proctor’s house. She was the head of the Independent Committee to End the War. I stayed in a room on her second floor. The Committee meeting was supposed to be at six that evening, but as I stumbled off the road into Clu’s living room at four thirty in the afternoon, some people were already there.
CHAPTER ONE
          Clu had just come in from the kitchen. She had light brown hair that flowed down her back and she was wearing the  embroidered crimson peasant skirt she had bought in Romania. She was carrying a bowl of strawberry ice cream and she bent over a girl named Hope Vann, wearing jeans and a boy’s shirt, who was sitting on the floor, and put a big spoonful of ice cream into Hope’s mouth. 
          When Clu heard the screen door slam behind me, she turned around and cried out, "Dale! Moy mannsbild! My hunk of man!"...in the mixture of Russian and German she sometimes used with me. She came charging towards me with her arms outstretched, holding another heaping spoonful of ice cream, headed for my mouth. 
          "Clu, I don’t like strawberry ice cream!" I protested. 
          "Dale, comes the revolution, everybody will have strawberry ice cream!" Clu said – the old left-wing joke. "And you will like it!" 
          I opened my mouth and ate a small bite of the big spoonful as she smiled. 
          Clu was a member of the Vanguard, which was one of several Vanguards hoping to lead us at that time. Her Vanguard and its rivals thought that groups like the Organization weren’t organized enough – too undisciplined, too uncertain of what we really believed. And they were going to provide us with efficiency and a clear set of principles which we lacked. Unfortunately there were several Vanguards and they fought each other for the right to lead us. Meanwhile most of us in the Organization and the larger movement it was a part of, went our own way. 
          After I gulped down the ice cream, I sat down on the floor next to Hope. She was the youngest person in the room – she would be eighteen in a couple more months. I was twenty-three, much too old for her. I was also still shy – scared to death of romance. But we were good friends and liked to talk things over with each other. She had what our friend Evie called April-colored hair – long and golden orange. She had large pale-blue eyes, but she had once cut her upper lip when she fell onto gravel and it healed back with one half bigger and wider than the other. I thought her face made her look like she had something wise and deep to say. She was short, skinny, and pale except for her pink cheeks. I was tall and skinny in worn-out jeans and old cowboy boots. 
          In a second we were holding hands and grinning at each other. "Hey Hope," I said, "when the meeting’s over I’ll tell you something this guy at the convention told me about Leon Trotsky." 
          I was talking under my breath because Clu was already trying to start a discussion, because so many people had showed up before the Committee to End the War meeting. Just then, somebody knocked on the screen door. 
          I looked up and saw three young men on the porch. Clu went to let them in with a majestic sweep of her peasant skirt. As the men entered the door the first thing I noticed was how short their hair was. I don’t have mine down my back, or even as long as the Beatles—neither did most guys active in the Organization, but it was growing higher and thicker off the back of my neck, and the hair on the sides was creeping over the tops of my ears, and my forelock kept falling into my eyes. These guys—their forelocks were no longer than the width of three fingers, and the sides and backs of their heads were sheared almost down to the scalp. 
They were all three in cheap polished cotton slacks – chinos is the word for them now, I think. Two of them had on madras shirts, but the one in the middle had a tent-like old greenish T-shirt, stretched way out of shape. His skin was burnt dark red-brown and the forelock of his hair was faded nearly  white by the sun. I had been tanned with sun-faded hair the same way when I first came back from working in the civil rights movement in the Deep South. He had an angry puckered-up pink scar that twisted from right below his neck across his collar bone and down into the shadows of his T-shirt. On his T-shirt, stenciled in red letters was: G’O DEN MUON NAM! 
          He was the first one to speak. 
          "My name is Will Orry," he said, "and this is Pete Yoder". He pointed to the short man on his left. A man with a face that looked childlike except for the crooked teeth that showed when he smiled, shyly, looking at Clu with wide blue eyes. She was as tall as he was. 
          "I’m Stan Bennet," the man on Will’s right said. He had red hair and was taller than Will. He had a carefully clipped mustache and wide heavy shoulders. 
          "We’re from Fort Clay - G.I.’s," Will went on. "Next week I’m going to be court martialed for giving out anti-war literature." 
I looked up quickly. A month before, I had read a letter from Will to the editor in the GUARDIAN, the newspaper of the whole left-wing family. I had been planning to hitch the 70 miles to Pronghorn, the big town outside Fort Clay, to see if any of my friends there could put me in touch with the anti-war G.I.’s. Wow! they were dropped right on me, I thought. 
          I went across the living room in three or four steps and I was standing by Clu as she was shaking hands with the soldiers. When I shook hands with Will, I noticed the sharp contrast between his sun-darkened face and the intense green eyes with yellow flecks. His eyes looked like they had stared a long time at something unbearable and learned to bear it. 
          "Move back, Dale. Give them some space to sit down," Clu said, pushing my shoulder with her fingertips. 
          They sat on the floor facing Hope. I was standing with the last few stragglers into the meeting when Clu said, "Will, get up and tell your story now." 
          Will stood up and pointed to the words on the front of his T-shirt. "Those words mean BLACK HILL FOREVER!" he said. That’s where I was in Nam with my blood brothers. When I went over I didn’t have any reason not to believe what the TV and newspapers said about the war. But by the time I had been there seven months, me and my buddies, we saw through the lie. All that was going on was people on both sides being destroyed while we paid the Michelin Tire Company more money for damaging one of their rubber trees than we did to a family that had a mother or child killed. Once I went to Saigon on leave and saw the Bank of America was putting up a new office building and I realized in some way that’s what the war is about - making those people rich. So our little bunch at Black Hill - we tried to stop the war." 
          Hope looked up with surprise and curiosity, "How could you all stop the war?" she asked. 
          "We just wanted to stop it at least where we were," Will answered. "I may tell another time just what we did. But we couldn’t even make peace there. Before we were all split up - we had a big birthday party for one of the brothers and we said if we got back to the real world, we were gonna tell the story of what’s happening there. That’s what everyone around us - Vietnamese people, American people, said to do- tell the story. Then I got wounded and shipped to Fort Clay and met up with these guys. They’ve never been to Nam. 
          "So we wrote a letter to the GUARDIAN asking for people to send us anti-war stuff: leaflets, newspapers, posters, whatever...." 
I interrupted..."I read the letter! I wanted to go to Pronghorn and bring you all literature but I never got around to it." The words rushed out of my mouth. 
          Will held his hand up like, "Stop. Never mind", and continued. "People did send us stuff. We put up the posters on our barracks walls. The MP’s tore them down, but we kept putting more back. Finally I got called in by Colonel White, the battalion commander. He asked me who was putting up the posters. I wouldn’t answer. Next day Sergeant Caldwell got ahold of me and told me the colonel wanted the literature I had in my footlocker. 
          "Hell, Sergeant Caldwell already had a key to my locker! He had already moved my locker into the orderly room! I told him I wanted time to think about it, and I went to a friend of mine and he gave me the lock from his locker. Late at night I went in the orderly room and put the new lock on, like sneaky." 
          There was some laughter in the room. 
"So any way," Will went on, "next day  I was ordered to appear in front of Lieutenant Henry Hogue. Big Dude! We called him the Hog. The Hog ordered me to open my locker. I said that under Army Regulations 389-135 I had the right to keep any literature I wanted, so his order was illegal. Then the Hog pointed to the lieutenant bar on his shoulder and said, "That makes it legal!" 
          "I said something like, ‘Fuck if it does!’ Beg your pardon," Will added quickly, looking around the room, but people were laughing. "Then he told me if I refused again, I’d be court martialed. I refused. The Hog called in Sergeant Caldwell and we went to the orderly room. Caldwell had an axe. He ordered Stan to stand guard at the door." 
          The big G.I. next to Will spoke up, "Caldwell must not have been told that I was in on the literature. I winked at Will, and stood around outside the orderly room." 
          "Then the Hog ordered Sergeant Caldwell to break into my locker. Caldwell brought the axe down on top of the locker - it’s wood. There was a loud crash. The Hog took the literature and went through it for two hours. He took it all away. Shit, he even took my high school newspaper! All that was left was letters from my family. The Hog took them and threw them on the floor and ordered me to pick them up. 
          "So that’s why I’m here. I called the GUARDIAN and asked for them to help me find a civilian lawyer, anti-war. They found one and I want you people here to come to the court martial to show the G.I.’s there that we’ve got support on the outside." 
          "I can do more than that," Clu said. "I can get some very active anti-war people to come down from New York. Just give me a date." 
All of us in the room were looking wide eyed at Will and his two friends and we all wanted to come through for them. 
          "Five days from now," Will said, "nine a.m. next Thursday." 
A few people clapped when Clu said she was bringing in help from New York. I didn’t. I knew she meant she was bringing in people from her Vanguard and I was a little worried about what the soldiers would think of them. Still, I knew the Vanguard had hard working people and the cause was so important, I felt sure I could overlook my differences with them. 
So we all left the meeting and walked a couple of blocks to the Corner Grill, right across from the State University campus. We usually adjourned every Committee meeting to the Corner Grill. We called it the ‘Victory Party’. This time with the three anti-war G.I.’s it really did seem like a victory party. It was one of those perfect evenings that occurred often in the summer of ’67 - dark blue sky with pale pink light still in the west, a gentle breeze rustling the thick green foliage of the elm and cottonwood trees in front of the old rooming houses, the heat of the day giving way to a nighttime that would still be comfortable in shirt sleeves. You could hear the mockingbirds loud and clear from blocks away making their last call before the day was over. Hope and I had twined our fingers together and we were walking along with our joined hands swinging loosely. 
          We put together some tables and one of the guys ordered two pitchers of beer. A tall heavy-set middle-aged waitress came with the pitchers and said to Hope, "Honey, Vern got after us last week about you." Vern was the owner of the Corner Grill. "Vern says you’re underage and you can’t sit at a table where everyone’s drinking beer." 
          Hope and I moved into a booth. "It’s my mother," Hope said. "She probably talked to Vern. She doesn’t like me being around the committee." I was pretty sure Hope was right. Teenagers drinking beer were not unusual sights at the Corner Grill. 
          "OK, sure," I said. "Anyway I was going to tell you what this guy at the convention told me – how when Trotsley was living in New York, he..." 
          "Look, Dale, I think I ought to go," Hope said. "It’s getting late and my mother..." 
          "What about the court martial?" I asked. 
          "I’ll get around to Clu’s Thursday morning. Even if I don’t go I’ll be there to see you off. You just be sure and go for me." She got out of the booth and smiled and blew me a kiss across the palm of her hand and hurried on out of the Corner Grill.

Complete novel  ~  to Jodey  ~  to Moongate