The Cannon Ball Run

This could be ‘Home for Christmas’ as well.

It was a few days before Christmas 1970, I was stationed at Camp Pendelton California, four months into my second year of a 3 year hitch with the USMC.

I should have been in Vietnam but an old injury as a teenager had side lined me and I was given a secondary MOS as a truck driver while I self healed.

When I signed up I was surprised to learn that the Marines had folks who were non combatants, logistical support and paper pushers. I joined to carry a rifle so ‘Grunt’ or MOS 0311 was what I had planned on; your basic rifleman.

The fall of 1971 I had my second set of orders for Vietnam and was on my way when I was derailed in Okinawa and put to work there; evidently going to Vietnam wasn’t in the cards for me.

Just the same, back to December of 1970.

I was the proud owner of a 1957 Chevy 2 door Hard Top. It had never been to Idaho but I was pretty sure it’d make it. Topped off with gas, a pocket full of cash and 10 days leave, I was on my way home for Christmas. I hadn’t told my folks I was coming so it was going to be a surprise. The surprise was that I wasn’t stranded somewhere in Nevada off of Highway 93.

Leaving the Los Angeles basin I blew a heater hose and pulled into a gas station and had it repaired. This was back in the days when the guy pumping gas was a mechanic as well.

Repaired and on the road again I headed to Las Vegas. Just outside of Las Vegas I turned North on Highway 93 heading to Ely Nevada and eventually Idaho.

It was dark by now and that is a damn lonely road, day or night.

I stopped in Ely and fueled up and grabbed a bite to eat. Heading north I wrapped another wool blanket around me, my heater wasn’t exactly Nevada winter certified. About half way between Jackpot Nevada and Twin Falls Idaho I stopped to help a stranded vehicle.

It was two couples headed to Jackpot, I don’t recall  if they were broke down or had slid off the road. The guy’s were pretty drunk but the women had their whit’s about them still.

I offered to haul them to Twin falls but they were pretty insistent that they needed to be in Jackpot. If it had just been the two guys they’d been on their own but as they had their girls with them I decided not to make a scene of it and hauled them to Jackpot. I didn’t owe them that and am not sure they appreciated it.

Heading north once again I turned East on I 84 towards home. Not far down the freeway a State Trooper pulled me over; evidently my tail lights had gone out. We chatted for a few minutes and he let me go without a ticket or a written warning. I guess huddled in my blanket half frozen whether my story was believable or not he thought me pitiful or foolish enough to give me a break. It could have been that he appreciated a young country boy from Idaho serving in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam Era.

I don’t recall what time it was when I stopped in front of my folks place but the sun had not grayed the eastern sky yet.

I rang the front door bell and  my mom came to the door holding a hand gun. “Get the hell off of my door step”!

“Mom don’t shoot, it’s me, Brian”.

She dropped the gun and ripped the door open and bear hugged me; I was one happy Marine home for Christmas. I was glad the pistol didn’t go off when she dropped it; I’m not sure it was even loaded.

The next day I found out the story behind the handgun. One of the neighbor ladies was a ‘Drama Queen’ and had been making up stories about men coming into her yard and stealing gas and threatening her. It was a dang poor area for such behavior as all of the farmers on the North side of Rupert Idaho were WW2 Veterans and most all had seen combat from North Africa and Europe to the South Pacific and the Hump in India. Loaded M 1 Garandes chambered in 30-06, Jap Arasaki’s in 6.6 or 7.7, or a German 8mm Mauser was to be found in every household.

I had a great 10 days at home but was unable to drive my 57 Chevy back to California. The guy who repaired my car neglected to put anti-freeze in it and only added water; the heads froze and broke.

The following spring I was home again for a few days and drove it back to California. My older brother was pretty handy and he fixed it and got it running again; he fixed the heater as well.

There were a couple of really cool things that happened to me that spring trip home of 71; I met my future bride whom is  still with me after all of these years and in the trunk of my car, headed back to California with me was two bushel baskets filled with what was left of a 1966, 650 Bonneville Triumph; I don’t have the motorcycle anymore, my bride was a better bargain. Both of those stories will have to be told at a later date.

2 thoughts on “The Cannon Ball Run

  1. I love this. I’m grateful you didn’t make it to Vietnam, but I understand the calling of a serviceman…you sign up for the fight, the battle, and the line. It cracks me up to think Grandma met at you at the door with a pistol. I’m thinking she had it loaded, but we’ll never know. Please keep up the stories. Love you all and Merry Christmas ❤️

    1. Thanks Noemi
      I’ve always had mixed emotions about not going to Vietnam. I joined prepared to go but as the years have rolled by I know that it was a lost cause for so many reasons. I’m thinking you’re right about the gun, wouldn’t be mom’s nature to carry one that wasn’t loaded. Love you too and hope you had a great Christmas and a wonderful holiday

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