Nuelle and the carriage had been cleaned and polished as if for inspection. Griffin was amused by the care the trio of young angels, sent to help him, put into their work. Griffin took a look at the name in the book. His entourage chattered about his background as they worked.

Griffin watched his fare approach. He and Nuelle stood by the curb outside the Washington National Cathedral. The young man wore crisp Navy whites. His shoes were spit shined and his eyes sparkled like his naturally friendly smile. When he approached the carriage, he slowed and admired Nuelle. “I see you are wearing your Navy whites also," he kidded and gave Nuelle a pat on the cheek. “You are a beauty.”

Griffin retrieved an apple and handed it to John. He produced a small pocket knife and quickly cut the apple into four pieces. He fed two to Nuelle and handed a quarter to Griffin, who smiled and ate it in two bites.

“You look like a military man,” John said to Griffin.

Griffin again smiled, “Yes that was a long time ago.”

John acknowledged that fact with a smile. “When I was a boy, I thought I had it tough. My father was a Naval Aviator, and he was strict, to say the least. He expected big things from me. I was just a kid like all the other boys. I never went hungry and all-in-all had a good home life, so I never complained. The older I got, the more I appreciated the lessons my father taught me. They helped me a great deal. After High School, I went off to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. This was right after the Korean conflict. The culture of the United States was changing. Many of the younger generation, my generation, were restless. Since then they have been labeled, ‘The Beat Generation.’”

“Some of that spilled over at the Academy. I thought those days were pretty rough. There was a regime to be adhered to. Up before the sun. Grueling physical training, and the classes were never ending. I was ‘yes sir-ing’ from dawn to dusk and beyond. My Father was an Admiral by that time and some days I thought that helped, some days the other cadets really laid into me. Yes, sir, I thought those were some pretty tough times. I made some friendships there during that period of my life that lasted until their dying breath. You look back on your life and wonder just how you managed to get through it all.”

Griffin leaned against the wheel of the carriage. He got comfortable, not wanting to interrupt John telling his story.

John continued, “I came out of the Academy, then was sent to Pensacola where I trained to become a Naval pilot. We were all hot shots, or thought we were. We were warriors. We were invincible. We flew the fastest planes, always had the best equipment the taxpayers could buy. Basically, we were the kings of the world; the elite in a military hierarchy still struting from the victory of World War II. The Cold War was raging, and we were the eyes in the sky. I got married to a model from Philadelphia.” He paused, reflecting those times. “The training was never ending, we prepared for war. Then our war came. I learned many valuable lessons during that time, in both my personal life and my career.”

“Being a pilot was great duty. Compared to the guys on the ground, a Naval Aviator ate hot meals, slept in his own quarters on board. On board we had access to hot water. Then one day, I am assigned a bombing mission called Operation Rolling Thunder. That mission changed everything for me. Flying over Hanoi, that’s a city in Vietnam, my plane was hit and I went down. I survived the crash and was taken as a prisoner of war by the enemy. Understand, that I was not famous, but my Father was a big shot in the Navy, so I was offered my freedom. It did not take me any time at all to refuse the offer of going home early. Many fellow officers were suffering it what was known as the Hanoi Hilton, where we were housed.”

Griffin said, “Just before my men and I were killed, stories about a place called Andersonville were circulating among the officers. The last place any of us wanted to be was held as prisoners of war.”

John looked at Griffin. He was aware of Andersonville from his studies. He wondered about this man to whom he was telling his story. “I was held by the enemy for five and one half years. It was 1973 when I was released. Luckily, I missed the protest marchers in the streets, which angered me, the Kent State shootings, which angered me more, and I damn near missed miniskirts. I thought those were tough times.”

“You pulled some pretty tough duty that is for sure.” Griffin tossed in, doing some reflecting of his own.

“The war injuries I endured slowed me down. They reduced my swagger. That feeling of invincibility was gone. I lost my assuredness about things. My first marriage fell apart about that time. I retired from the Navy with a drawer full of medals and no direction. I sure felt like those were tough times, but the lessons I learned helped me.”

“I headed out to Arizona, got married, to a fine girl, and looked around for something to do. My new father-in-law advised that if I had no civilian talent, then I might be perfect for politics. So, I ran for a seat in the House of Representatives. I made a lot of friends, but it was much different from streaking through the sky at 695 miles per hour.”

Nuelle whinnied hearing the number.

“My time in the Senate is where I feel I did the most for the country. There is a good deal of infighting that goes on, but over time you begin to know the people. Just like all walks of life, there are good people and bad. By this time I had a truly unique perspective on life. It seems I had been kicked around the block plenty of times, so I was oft times unwilling to kick someone else or whole portions of the population, just because I could.”

“To tell you the truth,” he paused. “I didn’t get your name.”

“Captain Griffin Chaffey,” he smiled, I am here to take you anywhere you want to go.”

“You mind if I call you Griffin?”

“Not at all.” Griffin answered.

“To tell you the truth,” he began again. “Each phase of my life prepared me for the next stage. Each time, ‘that happened’ I thought, OK, what’s next. My father was strict, that made me tough enough for the Academy. The Academy was so tough, that I survived the war. The war was so tough I survived the House of Representatives, and the House prepared me for the Senate. The Senate prepared me for brain cancer. So, you see, I was a character of fate. I got out of life what I put into it.”

“You certainly did. Now do you have an idea of what you would like to do next? Have you given it any thought?” Griffin asked.

“You’ll take me wherever I want to go?”

“That’s right.” Griffin liked this man. His heart knew about both love and happenstance.

“I can go somewhere and then at a later time go somewhere else?”

“That is correct.”

“Then take me where you took Aretha Franklin. I bet it is the best jazz club in the universe.”

John Sydney McCain III climbed aboard.


John McCain funeral: Renee Fleming performs 'Danny Boy'

International Jazz Day at the White House - Aretha Franklin Performs "A Song For You"

© 2018 mckbirdbks


mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 07, 2018:

Hello John - Thanks. John McCain was a politician who showed, at times, that he was willing to think for himself. That is pretty rare in U.S. politics.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 06, 2018:

This was great, Mike. I read John McCain's farewell epitaph and it was touching and heartfelt. He was a man of integrity, something lacking in most politicians. This was a fitting tribute as part of the Carriage Driver series.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 06, 2018:

Genna – Thank you. I view John McCain, as the last republican. A group is still using the name, but the group has no character. Oliver Stone said it better than I can, ‘they have openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat, in order to attain that [cause].. The Untold History of the United States

I appreciate your compliment. I certainly hope that John McCain would appreciate the respect. And I certainly hope he his sitting in a seat of honor at the best joint in town.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on September 06, 2018:

I may not have agreed with the good Senator on certain issues, but I always respected and admired him. He was a fighter, a gentleman of courage, and one who understood the benefits of compromise when it was essential. He will be missed, greatly...especially when one sees what remains, roaming the Senate halls that he so loved, and the chaotic turmoil that has become synonymous with the White House. Now, he is listening to the ethereal Aretha...smiling, as she sings, "A Song For You." A meaningful, lovely tribute, Mike, and one I think Senator McCain would have liked very much.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 06, 2018:

Hello Martie - John McCain accomplished much in his life, but it cannot be said that he had an easy life. Just like the rest of us. He dedicated his life to service of the country and is rightfully honored by the people who matter.

I appreciate the comment and compliment.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 06, 2018:

Hello Peg - It is likely we all have that philosophy, we just don't voice it. Our tragedies give us as much pain as all the others. We all experienced some victories an some loss.

It is too tough to think about the supposition of McCain winning in 2008. Had he served two terms, it is not likely the country would be in such an awkward and unhealthy position that we find ourselves. Plus the country would have missed out on a great statesman in Barack Obama.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 06, 2018:

Hello Bill - The social mores changed over out lifetime, but not, as I witness, for the better. John McCain held a set of beliefs such much like the majority of our generation. A good deal of what we see now is a new set of rules. People have been left out of the equation.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on September 06, 2018:

RIP, John Sydney McCain. Condolences to all who had enjoyed his presence in their lives.

“Each phase of my life prepared me for the next stage...." I can say exactly the same.

Thanks, Mike, for another touching episode of the Carriage Driver.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on September 06, 2018:

Beautifully told, Mike, that John McCain saw stages in his life as preparation for the next phase. That sounds like a good philosophy.

Sort of makes me wonder where we would be if he had won the Presidency with his running mate who would be in charge now.

He sure picked a great place to go next.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 06, 2018:

McCain was a throwback politician; he came from the school where compromise was understood. It wasn't necessary for me to agree with his political stands to respect his love of country and his willingness to do what he thought was best for his country. And oh, yes, of course I loved this story.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 06, 2018:

Hello Pamela - Thank you. We lost two greats. Basically people we grew up with. We heard about John McCain regularly and we all are aware of Aretha's talents. We all lost a little something with their passing.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 06, 2018:

It is so interesting that John and Aretha died so close to the same times, as they are both so very well known. This was and interesting and lovely tribute to two people that will be missed. And, the fact that they both died from cancer is sad.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Ruby - Good to see you. After I published I thought of a little joke, but it was too late. The joke was, John saying, "I spent several hours wondering what brain cancer was preparing me for. So, glad to see you Griffin and Nuelle." I am also sure he is dancing at the best jazz club in the universe.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Paula - So glad you came by today. John McCain dedicated his life to honor, country and I presume God. He carried those values with him and did not let anyone else tell him how or what to think. You cannot ask to much more of a man.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Randi - Yes these are uncertain times. To attack a war hero that has the misfortune to contract brain cancel takes a special kind of blind ambition. It was good to see the nation, for the most part, come together to honor a fallen hero.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Patty - I did not know that, yet it does not surprise me. He was taught values, and once taught he took them to heart. He defended them for all he was worth. You are right, not many like that.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on September 05, 2018:

I felt sure that you would give John a ride in the Carriage. I think he was a good man that somehow got into the wrong party, but he helped pass some great bills that angered some. I watched his funeral and cried unashamed for a real hero. This was a great send-off and I know he and Aretha are having a good time. They both will be missed. Her music will live on and his courage will never be forgotten. I loved your video choice. Well done Mike!! I can't keep from thinking he's dancing and arms reaching for the sky......

Suzie from Carson City on September 05, 2018:

Mike....Thank you for this beautiful Farewell to Senator McCain, a good man, fair politician, beloved husband and father...Dedicated Patriot and Courageous War Hero. Peace, Paula

Randi Benlulu from Mesa, AZ on September 05, 2018:

This gave me chills! What a sweet tribute! In this time of political unrest, I have bern so saddened to see people smear his nane and character even while his family is grieving

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 05, 2018:

I was also impressed that John continued to support his first wife and children financially up to the present day and I bet that he made arrangements for them in his will. How many would do that?

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Shauna - Thank you. John McCain dedicated his life to the service of his country. He had resources available, where he never had to do a days work, yet he gave freely of his morals, energy and optimism. He had the fortitude to make it work.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello mar - John McCain's daughter Meghan gave a truly inspirational eulogy of her father. He was shown all due respect from a country that recognizes his service. I certainly hope he takes some time to relax before he begins whatever service he choices on the next legs of the journey. This was surprisingly easy to write once I figured out the thread.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 05, 2018:

Beautiful tribute, Mike. I love that McCain has chosen to share Aretha Franklin's musical eternal spot.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on September 05, 2018:

The timing of the death of an American Hero and the Queen of Soul is poignant and meaningful. Both services brought me to tears, as does this installment of The Carriage Driver.

I believe with all my heart that John is finally kicking back and listening to some of the best Aretha ever - I can hear the music and laughter, in fact.

A true inspiration - thanks, Mike - this was right on time. Hugs, mar

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Ann - John McCain served his country from the time he left High School until he was called. Thinking about all he had been through we can all feel better about our lives knowing we had men of his caliber standing up for us. He raised his family, served his country and never forgot he was an American.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Alexander James Guckenberger - It seems we agree. Thank you for stopping by and reading my presentation regarding John McCain.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Shy - Thank you. I watched John McCain's funeral and it says a lot for the man that two Presidents delivered eulogies. In my opinion he earned the respect from the country he spent his life serving.

Thanks for the blessings.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Patty - I don't think I could have written this, if I had not thought about how tough John McCain's life had been. He grew up privileged, but for him he set out to be deserving of that privilege. Maybe there is a lesson there for all of us.

mckbirdbks (author) from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 05, 2018:

Hello Verlie - Thanks. Though my politics differ from those of John McCain, I always appeared to be his own man. He was an individual. Tough I would not vote for him, I saw him cast a vote for the people.

Ann Carr from SW England on September 05, 2018:

Absolutely brilliant! Such a gentle and informative story. John McCain always seemed a modest man to me, though I didn't know much about him - now I do! I love it that he wanted to go to the jazz club like Aretha Franklin. So good that men like him have given so much to his country - such a contrast to some of the present 'big-wigs'!

Well done, Mike!


Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on September 04, 2018:

John McCain is an American hero.

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on September 04, 2018:

Mike, this is an amazing hub and I must admit after hearing the eulogies at John McCain's funeral I gained a lot of respect for the man and I am so happy that you sent Griffin and Nuelle for him.

Blessings to you always my friend.

p.s. I too love the song "Oh Danny Boy".

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on September 04, 2018:

I agree with Verlie, and also like the connection of each tough phase of life preparing John for the next one. I wish we could all have that perspective - perhaps people will read this and develop that habit.


Verlie Burroughs from Canada on September 04, 2018:

Fine tribute to John McCain Mike. The Carriage Driver has had a busy week. I'm happy to see you posted the 'Danny Boy' performance, so touching.

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