Thurman P. Woodfork

(My Life’s Companions)

I wonder what they’re doing now,
Those friends from so long ago;
The ones who came to grace my days
When my hair was untouched by snow:

Mullen no longer patrols Michigan’s
Roads in his mighty F-86D;
He’s probably home in Texas again,
With his imagination not quite so free.

I’ll bet he’d be surprised to know
That, a few years later in Spain,
I met a guy named Hooker who also
Drove a Volkswagen fighter plane…

Then there was ‘Rat’, my amusing friend
With a wit that was rapier keen,
Who also was surprisingly strong,
Though his physique was whippet lean.

His nickname didn’t do him justice,
Curtis Mallory was his real name,
And I’m mighty glad he was around;
His humor helped keep me sane.

And clever, smooth-talking Corley,
Who was never at a loss for words,
I’m sure old Ray could solve Bush’s
Snafus with Shiites and with Kurds.

There was always a Corley or Curtis
Who somehow seemed to be near
Whenever life took a nasty turn,
Or the skies grew clouded and drear.

From Mississippi to Vietnam, on
The prairie or a high mountain top,
I had the great good fortune to find
The very cream of God’s own crop.

So, here’s to you, the cherished friends
I met from Cut Bank to Bangkok…
May the music of your lives play on
… May you Forever Rock

Woody, I can’t put my finger on it, but something about “My Life’s Companions” is appealing and familiar at the same time. It may be that we all wonder the disposition of old friends. If we think of them, do they think of us? I wonder, too, is it better just to have the memories--people change over time and they may not resemble the friends we embraced under circumstances different from now. I know you have continued contact with some as have we all. Anyway great poem: and the effect was profound. BTW, I knew a couple of Hookers.

Sans Peur
Terry (Terry D. Sutherland)
June 19, 2007

It seems another old friend pops up every month now, Terry. The latest, Rick Rogers, tells me that just recently, he has either seen me looking just as I appeared in ‘69 – ‘71, or one of my offspring. I assured him that I haven’t been caught in a time warp and I most definitely am not driving a UPS truck in Georgia at this time. I’m not sure if I have any children living there as I have no idea where my oldest son is. He’s the only surviving child I have that I know about. Rick says that he sees the man regularly, and the resemblance is so uncanny that he has hesitated to approach him, lest he discover it really is me, unchanged by the years.

Ed Mullen and I used to drive around in his Volkswagen Beetle just for the hell of it. During our adventurous road trips, Ed, who was a radar operator, would assume the dual roles of fighter pilot and intercept director, homing in on various enemy intrusions into our sacred air space. I don’t remember if an F-86D had a GIB, but that’s the role I filled. Those were more innocent times. Kids today would probably be driving around looking for somebody to carjack instead of pretending to be jet fighter pilots. As I remember Ed, the only civilian clothes he seemed to own were tee shirts and blue jeans. I suppose being from Texas had something to do with that.

‘Rat’ got his nickname because of a hilarious incident – as he told it – when he was accidentally left behind in Lethbridge, Canada, and had to hitchhike back to the radar site. Never depend on drunken friends for a ride home. In any case, Curtis spent a chilly night in an Amish farmer’s barn, jockeying with various livestock for position around a lone space heater. He swore a pig tried to ‘Bogart’ his coat. ‘Bogart’ was slang for achieving something without actual force by assuming an intimidating appearance. It comes from movie star tough guy Humphrey Bogart. Curtis claimed the hog threatened to kick his butt if he didn’t give up the coat, but mention of rashers of bacon and smoked hams scared him off.

By the time Curtis finally made his way back to us, he was a little the worse for wear. Curtis is, or was, a small, slender man, and one of our considerate friends kindly remarked that, in his bedraggled state, he looked like a homeless rat. He didn’t smell any too appealing, either. The nickname stuck.

The Hooker (upper case H) in the poem is the only one of my acquaintance, although I have had the pleasure of making friends with any number of the small ‘h’ ones at various stops on life’s journey. Happy times were had by all. The term ‘hooker’ supposedly came from the last name of Union General Joseph Hooker:

Popular legend has it that his name was permanently attached to prostitutes from his Civil War actions in rounding them up in one area of Washington. Wikipedia says: “Despite Hooker’s reputation as a hard-drinking ladies’ man, there is no basis for the popular legend that the slang term for prostitutes came from his last name because of parties and a lack of military discipline at his headquarters. Some versions of the legend claim that the band of prostitutes that followed his division was derisively referred to as ‘General Hooker’s Army’ or Hooker’s Brigade”. However, the term “hooker” was used in print as early as 1845, years before Hooker was a public figure. The prevalence of the Hooker legend may have been at least partly responsible for the popularity of the term.”

June 21, 2007