Kenneth, born and raised in the South, resides in Hamilton, Alabama. He enjoys sharing his unique perspectives on life through his writing.
This was Our Song in 1970.
For the most part, this is a True Personal Narrative that really hurts me when I wrote it because everyone mentioned in this piece is True. Even the high-level plans and thinking about the topic that you will soon understand. Enjoy while you are looking back into that time when You were in 1970. (Kenneth.)
This personal narrative is sad, somewhat depressing, and yet, so very imaginative—even if I do say so myself. In the hot summer of 1971, July to be exact, the one-hit wonder band, Mungo Jerry, recorded and released a song entitled, “In The Summertime,” and it was an instant anthem for us young people who when school was out for the summer, so were we. My buddies and I did what most teens in 1970 did: party, cruise chicks, go to rock concerts, and some poor souls had to get job so appease their dad so he would sign with them at the bank so this sad teenager could get a car of his very own.
One hot summer afternoon in 1970, my friends and next-door neighbors, Gary, Glenn and James Childers and myself, were sitting around killing time, if you want the truth. Doing absolutely nothing except talking about girls, cars, and money. Mostly about girls. And sometimes how to avoid being shipped to Vietnam. Those two subjects dominated our talks. They were fine topics, alright. Our afternoons were made much better by just flapping our tongues about what we would love to do with so and so girl and how easy or tough it would be for us to life normal lives “if” we could design a fool-proof way of skipping the Vietnam Conflict without going to Federal Prison. The latter was serious with us. Much like many young men in this time-frame.
Before you laugh, don’t. We were dead serious about this one very Secret Project and go as far as to sit quietly and whisper plans to each other and follow through while we had the time to build and design a fool-proof plan and make it work just so we four guys could live a normal life (sorta) and not be in trouble with the Defense Dept. and Uncle Sam. We had been researching almost ever aspect of the Vietnam Conflict—its cause, why it was being fought, and why so many young Americans were opposed to this war as opposed to World War(s) I, II and the Korean Conflict. We had not grasped it as we sat in the shade of one of the Childers’ giant Oaks and faced the awesome reality of “what if” we four would be snagged out of our homes and sent to war. This was growing to be a very serious question, and we were beginning to know it. Life was flexing its muscles and we could do nothing but hold on tight.
If you were an engineer in 1970 or studying to be one, or maybe a structural designer in this time, you will really appreciate the rest of this narrative. But you have to keep in mind that my pals and I were as American as any apple pie, the flag and Chevrolet could be. We were not rebels in any sense. All we were was scared to our souls. I mean, who in their right mind at age 15, was really persuaded in their hearts to sign their life away? The Draft scared us enough, so we determined that if we were drafted we would be walking in the jungles of ‘Nam and that my friends is much like crossing from life to the hereafter. Many nights I would not sleep, but sit up and stare at the ceiling of my bedroom listening to John Records Landecker at WLS-Chicago and hopefully let this monster radio station distract me from the soon-to-become a reality for me of facing bloodshed, mine, death by being shot by the Viet Cong or just shot by some Army wack-o who snapped. These were all banging through my mind.
So we made the decision in school one morning at break time to start making the plans for our “Haven of Secrecy,” that only our families would know about and drill them into NEVER breaking when interrogated by the ferocious F.B.I. agents who were experts at tracking Draft Dodgers. But we had all registered for the Draft, so we were not really Dodgers, but Draft Breezes. The DBs. We even started calling ourselves by these letters. The people in our classes at school were not only impressed at us being a member of something, but we had the look of four serious-minded guys—four guys who were bound and determined to NOT serve one day in Vietnam. Some older students were confused at how to say our name, “Dbs,” and their words ended up sounding like “Doobies,” not the Brothers, and I do not want to follow this pathway any further.
The logical parts of our plan consisted of the four of us working and using our own individual talents and abilities to get our project off the ground. Gary and Glenn Childers, were the youngest and smartest. These two guys knew how to compute mathematical equations and dimensions when it came to drawing a blueprint of our Freedom Haven, which was the name of our secret headquarters where we could live, relax, and keep ourselves free from being arrested and carried to prison. I’m telling you this got to be pretty exciting.
James Childers and I were the oldest and probably thought of by Gary and Glenn as the grunts who did the manual work like lifting lumber, beams, wheelbarrows, shovels and picks. What do you think right now that we were planning in order to enjoy our lives without having to dodge bullets fired by Charlie aka/ Viet Cong.
We four teen guys had sat our parents down and talked pretty straight about the great possibility of being drafted and we wanted to sell them on our idea of living free, but also being true to America. The Childers guys’ dad was a veteran of the Marine Corps and my dad was a veteran of the U.S. Army, but you would have felt a shock wave run through the house when both dads (and our moms) said, “well, we don’t want you guys to be shot at in Vietnam, but boys, we don’t want to have to visit you in Leavenworth Prison either,”and for this response, we shook hands with them for being so honest with us.
Before that very sincere moment faded, one of us said, “both you families will not have to worry about either of these cases—for we have a plan already formulated just ready to execute.” I think that I may have said that to our parents, but do not hold me to this.
The Childers boys owned several acres of land which was right up the road less than a quarter mile from my family and me so we decided on finding just the right piece of ground and even mark it off by marking it with wooden stakes to make the dig in a perfect square that would measure 24 feet by 12 feet and about 10 feet deep. In short, a huge pit, but a professionally-dug and designed pit that we would use as a cover and even have a secret chute out of the pit as to not disturb the ground that covered our project. We were going to haul several wheelbarrows of sod, small limbs, and grassy sections from the woods and when the pit was finished, cover it so Mother Nature would finish the grassy spots by rooting it over the pit by herself.
Inside the pit, we were going to smooth the walls—making them almost as good as our homes. We had access to tables, chairs, transistor radios, batteries, canned foods and water to live just in case our Draft numbers were up and we were forced to hide out for awhile. We had it all down PAT. No slip-ups. We even drilled our parents into saying truthful things like: “Where’s Kenny and his friends? Well, sirs, they told us farewell and headed out on foot toward Birmingham, Alabama due to them not wanting us to buy them a bus ticket to just prove to us that they were young men.” My mom who should have been another Ann “Miracle Worker” Bancroft, could have pulled this off with such ease.
Of course by our parents telling the F.B.I. some choice lies about our whereabouts, this meant that the F.B.I. agents were smart enough to execute a stake-out to watch my house and the Childers boys’ house to just be ready to arrest us for not showing up on time when Uncle Sam called us. We were not going to Vietnam. That much was certain.
I would say that the most ingenious area of this plan was when the Childers boys’ dad would have to feed his livestock each evening—which meant that Mr. Childers would be available for us to crawl into the deep woods that surrounded his house and give us valuable information about if the F.B.I. was still watching us or not and if our mom’s would be good enough to send us a plate or two of fried chicken and some coffee. When you are a member of the Draft Breeze, you have to eat in order to stay strong in the fight for your freedom.
Of course if all of our plans had went according to plan, we would not have to report for any job because being at work meant we were liable to be seen by the authorities and be taken to jail, so we had convinced ourselves to learn how to live on a little of nothing and get by with our wits and still when the Vietnam Conflict ended . . .April 30, 1975, we four would have already been graduated from Hamilton (Al.) High School, but if we were in the Draft Breeze, we would not need any diploma’s. We knew enough of the Three R’s to get us through most any adversity in life and in our cases, we were young men, so were only had to worry about Things That Worry Young Men. That was fair, right?
Time and patience. These were crucial to us succeeding as members of Draft Breeze. None of us four guys could cave in or give up like little girls . . .we were in this for keeps. Hey, when the heat was off and the F.B.I. learned that we were never coming home, we could slip to our parents’ homes and chat about how it was like living in a big pit in the woods, but when our parents, who were all human, began to worry about our lives being healthy and good, I had the perfect line just ready to spring on them: “Well, at least we are Free!” Joan Baez and her husband, David, two of the most successful Anti-War activists ever to roll down the pike couldn’t have said it better.
But as all plans, both big and small go, anyone who is involved with something as big and important as not being hauled to Vietnam knows that you always have to have a Plan B up your sleeve just in case a series of serious events start to come in at you and you need a place of solace. A place to hide-out and rest. Even Frank and Jesse James and their bud’s, The Cole Younger Gang had Plan B’s no matter how successful they were in the area of robbing banks in and around Missouri.
The James and Younger brothers staying free for such a long length of time can be attributed to them always having a Plan B. And my Plan B was exquisite, intelligent, and very useful.
If our Draft Breeze and our huge pit did not materialize, I had told the Childers boys that if we failed, they were on their own and to just disavow that they even knew my name and I would do the same for them. Inside my bedroom was a big bed that was the size of a Sherman tank and I give you my word that I kept all of my teenage treasures hidden underneath this bed—love notes, photos, my Rock LPs and other valuable things that I thought then that I might want to keep . . .so I thought why not let my mom and dad just let me slide underneath this huge bed and with her acting talent, no F.B.I. agent would ever know my whereabouts.
A win, win for everyone. All except the dust bunnies.
© 2017 Kenneth Avery