Your Ole Uncle Dudley's Japanese Soup Bone
Your Ole Uncle Dudley's Japanese Soup Bone
By Chuck RitenouR
I graduated from high school in June of 1971. On September 6, 1971, I was on a small, twin prop passenger plane leaving Richmond, Virginia headed for Nashville, Tennessee. In Nashville, I was herded onto a bus along with about 50 other young men. We were on our way to Fort Campbell, Kentucky for basic training. I'm sure most of you have seen movies or read books about the horrors of basic training so I won't go into great details.
When I got off that bus, I was a 5 foot 6 inch 190 pound weakling. Prior to basic training, I had been in few scrapes, winning a few and losing a few. I had attended a military academy and already knew a great deal about what to expect. During high school, I spent most of my time playing my guitar and enjoying the late sixties and early seventies. In my small town, girls became women at an early age and sex, drugs and rock and roll was the favorite past time. I had played in a very popular rock band and life had been my oyster.
After taking all the aptitude tests, I was given an appointment to West Point. It meant very little to me. At 19 years old, all I could think about was doing my two years and getting back to my life. I had been taught very early by my grandfather how to hunt, stalk animals and shoot accurately. I learned how to disassemble and then reassemble a M-16 blindfolded. I was an expert marksman hitting 100 out of 100 silhouette targets at a distance of 300 meter under day and night conditions from three firing positions. I did thousands of pushups, situps, ran miles and miles. I graduated basic training and was given a 5 day leave over Xmas prior to reporting to Fort Sill, Oklahoma for my advanced infantry training in army artillery.
My parents met me at National Airport in Washington DC and I slept as my Dad drove us 65 miles north to my hometown. Once home, I made a few phone calls and left within minutes. I stopped by our old hang outs, The Corner Shop and Kirk's Restaurant. Places where I had once felt at home, now seemed strange and smaller than I remembered. Many of my friends were still sitting in their favorite booths drinking cokes and talking high school basketball. I weighed 155 pounds now and felt very sure of myself. The confidence I had gained in basic training was to be my undoing though.
I spent that first night home in the arms of a girl. We had shared our bodies often during high school and she was as close to a girl friend as I had ever had. I hadn't thought to let my parents know I'd be out all night. I was all grown up, a man, a trained assassin expecting to be sent to Viet Nam after two months in Fort Sill.
I returned home around two in the afternoon. Mom was at work at the local IGA grocery store and Dad was sitting in his favorite chair reading a World War II magazine. He was a veteran and that was his war. I went into the kitchen and poured a glass of milk and went into the dining room. He got up from his chair and met me at the table. He said, " You know, your mother worried about you all night. She stayed up until 1 am, hoping you'd come home. It wouldn't have killed you to call."
I should have known better. My father had always been a quiet and peaceful guy. He never made a big scene and he never lost his temper with any of us kids. I said,"Jesus Christ, Dad I'm just home for a few days. You've been in the service, you know how it is."
He said, "My mother died when I was 13 years old. I quit school in the 6th grade to go to work and help pay the hospital bills. No, I don't know how it is."
I said,"just forget it. I'll be here for supper tonight."
He said, "so, you'll grace us with your presence at a meal your mother will cook after she's worked all day on a few hours sleep. Some man you're turning out to be."
Then, I said the last angry words I'd ever say to him. "Well, maybe you'd like to step outside and let me show the kind of man I am."
No sooner had the words escaped my month, I found myself hurling through the air, crashing into the refrigerator, sliding down to the floor and ending up on my ass. All the air had left my lungs. I could not move nor breathe. Dad had hit me so hard and so fast in the chest that I was done. He stood over me for a few seconds and when I had finally caught my breath, he helped me up. I sat at the kitchen table dazed and yes, confused.
Dad laughed in my face and shook his fist at me and said, "If you're going to war, don't expect a fair fight and never give one. And when you're at home remember never mess around with your ole uncle Dudley's Japanese soup bone."
Dad will turn 84 in March. I never forgot nor did I ever again mess with "my ole uncle Dudley's Japanese soup bone."