ABOUT ME, DALE FIELDS
It was June
22, 1967. I was the Regional Traveler for the Student Freedom
– we just called it the Organization, mostly. I was paid $10 a week
the National Office, sometimes $20, a lot of weeks nothing, when the
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
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
I had to walk
back into town about three miles from the interstate to get to Clu
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
to be at six that evening, but as I stumbled off the road into Clu’s
room at four thirty in the afternoon, some people were already there.
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
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
"Clu, I don’t
like strawberry ice cream!" I protested.
the revolution, everybody will have strawberry ice cream!" Clu said –
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
that time. Her Vanguard and its rivals thought that groups like the
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
Vanguards and they fought each other for the right to lead us.
most of us in the Organization and the larger movement it was a part
went our own way.
After I gulped
down the ice cream, I sat down on the floor next to Hope. She was the
person in the room – she would be eighteen in a couple more months. I
twenty-three, much too old for her. I was also still shy – scared to
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 –
and golden orange. She had large pale-blue eyes, but she had once cut
upper lip when she fell onto gravel and it healed back with one half
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
In a second
we were holding hands and grinning at each other. "Hey Hope," I said,
the meeting’s over I’ll tell you something this guy at the convention
me about Leon Trotsky."
I was talking
under my breath because Clu was already trying to start a discussion,
so many people had showed up before the Committee to End the War
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
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
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
kept falling into my eyes. These guys—their forelocks were no longer
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
in the middle had a tent-like old greenish T-shirt, stretched way out
shape. His skin was burnt dark red-brown and the forelock of his hair
faded nearly white by the sun. I had been tanned with sun-faded
the same way when I first came back from working in the civil rights
in the Deep South. He had an angry puckered-up pink scar that twisted
right below his neck across his collar bone and down into the shadows
his T-shirt. On his T-shirt, stenciled in red letters was: G’O DEN MUON
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
blue eyes. She was as tall as he was.
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.
Fort Clay - G.I.’s," Will went on. "Next week I’m going to be court
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
I had been planning to hitch the 70 miles to Pronghorn, the big town
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
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
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
at something unbearable and learned to bear it.
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
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
When I went over I didn’t have any reason not to believe what the TV
newspapers said about the war. But by the time I had been there seven
me and my buddies, we saw through the lie. All that was going on was
on both sides being destroyed while we paid the Michelin Tire Company
money for damaging one of their rubber trees than we did to a family
had a mother or child killed. Once I went to Saigon on leave and saw
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
little bunch at Black Hill - we tried to stop the war."
up with surprise and curiosity, "How could you all stop the war?" she
"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
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
"So we wrote
a letter to the GUARDIAN asking for people to send us anti-war stuff:
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
out of my mouth.
Will held his
hand up like, "Stop. Never mind", and continued. "People did send us
We put up the posters on our barracks walls. The MP’s tore them down,
we kept putting more back. Finally I got called in by Colonel White,
battalion commander. He asked me who was putting up the posters. I
answer. Next day Sergeant Caldwell got ahold of me and told me the
wanted the literature I had in my footlocker.
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.
at night I went in the orderly room and put the new lock on, like
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.
Hog ordered me to open my locker. I said that under Army Regulations
I had the right to keep any literature I wanted, so his order was
Then the Hog pointed to the lieutenant bar on his shoulder and said,
makes it legal!"
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
again, I’d be court martialed. I refused. The Hog called in Sergeant
and we went to the orderly room. Caldwell had an axe. He ordered Stan
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
"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
away. Shit, he even took my high school newspaper! All that was left
letters from my family. The Hog took them and threw them on the floor
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
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
"I can do more
than that," Clu said. "I can get some very active anti-war people to
down from New York. Just give me a date."
All of us in the room were looking wide eyed at Will and his two
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
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
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
a victory party. It was one of those perfect evenings that occurred
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
trees in front of the old rooming houses, the heat of the day giving
to a nighttime that would still be comfortable in shirt sleeves. You
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
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
middle-aged waitress came with the pitchers and said to Hope, "Honey,
got after us last week about you." Vern was the owner of the Corner
"Vern says you’re underage and you can’t sit at a table where
Hope and I moved
into a booth. "It’s my mother," Hope said. "She probably talked to
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
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..."
I think I ought to go," Hope said. "It’s getting late and my
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
and blew me a kiss across the palm of her hand and hurried on out of