Thurman P. Woodfork

OLD FRIENDS, GOOD TIMES(?)

An acquaintance mentioned he’d been looking for friends for some years, and had only managed to find a few. Another said that he’d come to feel that he’d just as soon not see his old friends. He preferred to remember them as he’d known them, young and vital, and not showing the inroads of advancing years.

It made me wonder about my own ’Boys of Summer’, to steal a phrase. I’ve been contacted by several of them, thanks to my web site. I didn’t recognize quite a few of them, not having seen some of them for over forty years. Others I talked to on the phone, or corresponded with without seeing a current picture. It’s funny, faces change, but voices don’t seem to change that much.

One did demand to know what ‘Minnesota accent’ I was talking about when I mentioned that he still had one. Of course, that’s not surprising since he was born, raised, and still lives in Minnesota. Except that he doesn’t think he has an accent.

I suppose it is a little hard to reconcile balding, paunchy senior citizens with the slim, muscular youths I used to ‘run the alleys’ with back in the good old bad days when we were all still immortal. I’ve wandered through ‘Pig Alley’ in more than one country, in my time. We could drink half the night, still get up on time to go to work, and be just about fully recovered by lunch time.

And I remember all the times we called a cab and made a run for the Alleys in Figueras late at night, whether we had to work the next day or not. Mercy Snakes!! And those sudden, impulse trips to Barcelona on the spur of the moment. I recall one impromptu trip where my friend, Hooker, was piloting his Volkswagen Bug while I manipulated the gear shift. I’m not sure why I was shifting – maybe Hooker couldn’t remember where the gears were. Quite possibly, he had a bottle of champagne in one hand and needed the other to steer. Somebody had to change gears. Ah, Youth.

Speaking of youth, it’s really stunning to see how some of my old buddies seem to have aged while I’ve managed to retain that aura of youthful vigor. I do occasionally wonder why I think I’m shaving my father when I look in the mirror, though. And all that wavy black hair has definitely thinned out and changed color.

So what if I find it necessary to walk with a cane from time to time? I can still run up a flight of stairs. I just don’t make it to the top as quickly as I used to, like when I was responding to a trouble call from Operations in Spain. The radar maintenance room was on the ground floor, and Ops was on the second floor.

And, naturally, I need glasses to see what I’m typing now, and I can’t write with those tiny little letters like I used to do. I once enjoyed seeing how small I could write and still keep the words legible. Of course, I had 20-15 vision then. I don’t think I’ve got 20-20 now, even with the glasses. However, I’m told that they make me look rather professorial, so it’s a trade-off.

A couple of times, I took leave and drove from Lewistown, Montana to DC – and back, of course. I usually took a short sleep break at a truck stop somewhere in Wisconsin. When I arrived back at the radar site after one such trip, a bunch of the guys wanted to go to Billings. If I remember correctly, I had the only car in the group at the time. Anyway, I wasn’t all that tired, so I obligingly drove them to Billings and back. What was another couple hundred miles or so after the trip I’d just taken? I finally went to bed about four that morning. I’d like to see me try that now. I probably couldn’t get from here to Ohio without a quick nap. Like I said: Ah, Youth!

Hooker and Gary Carter
Hooker and Gary Carter: Photograph ©Copyright by Thurman P. Woodfork

Author’s Note: Hooker is the sleepy-eyes gent on the left, Gary Carter on the right. I believe they’re in a place called ‘Granny’s Bar’. Granny was a rather large Englishman; I’ve forgotten how he got the name. I think Hooker is now tooling his VW Bug around the Pearly Gates, and nobody has been able to locate Carter. I last saw him in Billings, Montana, the town I mention in the story. He was stationed at a different Montana radar site than I – Kalispell, I think. I ran across three other of my old Spain friends while I was in Montana; that state must have been the designated NORAD dumping spot for us returnees from Spain.