The Family Photos

From his earliest days of self-awareness, Ron loved the military. In two boot boxes, my mom and dad have stored all the black and white photographs from the days of our childhood. A recent examination of these pictures stunned me. The Bible is prophetic. So, too, are the family photos.

The Nocona boot box houses a likeness of Ronny at age three. He is riding on of those carnival airplanes that are suspended by chains and fly low in a circle. His big brown eyes reveal a sense of mission.

The Justin boot box treasures several more such revelations. Here, at attention, rigidly stands that young aspirant with a toy Army rifle. Here, he struts with a toy airplane held high in the air by extended arm. In this one, Douglas MacArthur could not have looked more arrogant than my brother decked out in an Army helmet. For those with an eye to see, the photographs foretold his future.

A Pilot Is Born

A proficient pilot must plan for any contingency. Parachute training is one such requirement for an Air Force flyer. That's common knowledge. My brother comprehended this when he was a mere five years old. He feared nothing as he readied himself for his own initial jump.

Ron had crafted what he considered an extremely reliable jumping mechanism. His logic informed him how to construct it. A bed sheet would drag enough atmosphere to slow his descent. Nylon ropes would serve nicely as a harness. Tie the four corned of the sheet on one end of the ropes. The aviator attached his person to the other. You didn't have to be a genius to figure that out.

The twin brother scoffed aloud when Ron, at what he called "a pilot's briefing," mapped the scenario for him. Don reckoned that his brother was either a moron or he was joking. The idea did cause him to cackle. He laughed only until he saw the self proclaimed trainee begin his ascent of the elm tree. This was no joke. His brother was a moron. A young boy could gain access to the top of our house by so climbing, and Ron was toting his apparatus.

Don foiled this exercise in military preparedness. He flew a beeline to the commander. He charged into the house. With a sense of urgency, he shouted rapidly, "Sir, Ronny is fixing to jump off the house. You'd better hurry."

My dad flung the sports page of the Odessa American across the room. He sprang off the couch like a champion boxer springs up when he unexpectedly finds his back against the canvas. He hustles outside with Neva shadowing him.

New orders were issued. "Get off that house, and now. You'll break your leg or something."

Rarely was Ron guilty of insubordination, nor was he on this occasion. What goes up must come down. He ascended via the elm tree. The descent was via the same.

My Brother, The General

My brother frequently organized many of the boys in the neighborhood. He structured us into a lean, mean fighting machine for military games. No one ever questions why he was always the self-appointed general. A neighbor, David Moss, was invariably the second in command. David lived three houses east of us. If Don played, he captained the battalion. Jimmy Wilson was out sergeant. He lived three houses west of us.

The general knew the make-up of a strong army. Not all the Indians could be chief. A stout defense required "grunts." Ron chose the youngest of us to perform this task. My cousin Gary and I felt honored to be dubbed "Private First Class."

Timely motivation invigorates the troops. My parent's firstborn was proficient in this area of leadership. When my brother perceived that Gary and I wearied of our lowly stature, he promoted us before we went AWOL. Pride enveloped us upon promotion to corporal. We played as long as he wanted afterwards.

A successful army must be properly equipped. The general understood this facet of soldiering. He encouraged his underlings to purchase needed supplies. He, himself, willingly spent a large portion of his fifty cents a week allowance at the Army Surplus store.

We had helmets, canteens, packs, pilot oxygen masks, and diverse other essential items of combat. The toy rifle was standard issue at Christmas. Later, BB guns authenticated our status as GI Joes.

Anybody who ever watched a war flick understands the need for officers to have a base of operations. Spartacus had one. William Barrett Travis at the Alamo had one. General Robert E. Lee had one. General Patton had one. Ronny had one.

Under his supervision, it was constructed of an old bedspread and worn-out blankets. These were draped over the clothesline. Clothes pins were utilized as fasteners. An ancient quilt provided adequate flooring.

Maneuvers were conducted regularly as befits a conquering force. When time was limited, we marched up and down the block in formation. At other times, we embarked on marathon hikes. Our moms packed out lunches. We filled our canteens. We followed our leader on an ardous journey of several miles. A trip in the country up the Carne Highway tested our resolve. Our return was marked by fatigue and a sense of accomplishment.

We had no real planes or actual sailing vessels. Transportation to the war-zone came by means of imagination. Mud substituted for blood.

A gallant hero died in every conflict. The side of the U.S.A. triumphed not in every battle, but in every war. Ron explained the necessity of this outcome. "The American soldier saluted with his palm facing his eyes. That signifies that our country has never lost a war. No other country salutes in like fashion. Every country but us has lost a war. They have to salute with palm turned outward."


Ronny loved to play soldier. He never stopped, not even after graduation from high school.

His Purpose

Ron was less effected by our geographical location on the Southside than was Don or I. Early in life, he had something that neither of us had acquired. My big brother had purpose. He had no time for self-doubt. A one legged man in a rear kicking contest could have been no busier. He stayed occupied trying to learn all he could about airplanes and about the Air Force. Uncle Sam's blood flowed through his veins.

Destiny called him.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Epilogue | Return to "Uncle Sam's Boy"