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Memories of Earl's Brothers & Sisters

The following stories were writen by my brothers and Sisters,
Dale, Kenneth, Kerry and Gale.
 

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The story below is from Dale Johnson's book titled, Views of Viernam. It is about his Viernam war experiences. Copies of the book may be obtained from Dale.

The pictures in the book (and the photo above) tells it all. I’m by a machine gun post. It's early morning on Hill 689 looking over the Kheshan Valley. From one side of the hill you can see Kheshan base camp and from the other side you can see Cambodia, Lios, the Ho Chi Min Trail and a place called Death Valley.    

That darkness on my face is not expensive paint to hide in the dark --- that’s dirt. I hadn't had a bath in over a month. One of the guys hadn't had a bath in over 3 months. Water was rationed to a canteen a day unless you had patrol, then you gathered it from a creek, but don’t stop, gather it as you cross.

Those little round things in the ground are bomb craters and most are bigger than a house. 689 was a hot LZ and choppers would DE drop a water bladder or worse let it go on the side of the hill to roll down about half way and crash into the trees and burst losing all but about 40 gallons in the enemy’s lap. Men volunteered every two or three days to fetch water. A five gallon can in each hand can get pretty heavy by the time you get up there. Some of the guys that went to the bladder, did not make it back.

I was in Lima Company, and not long after that picture was taken we went on patrol down the finger of the hill. All of us had a bad feeling about it. On patrol we usually didn't take the easiest path. Sure enough before we hit the valley we walked right into a horseshoe ambush. They let the 1st squad in and then opened up on them. They had a machine gun nest in the belly of the horseshoe and riflemen on the sides. The 1st squad was nearly wiped out. I was in the 2nd squad and helped pull out the wounded and the dead. We called in air support and soon a Phantom M-16 jet came. They dropped napalm on our smoke and burned the tall grass down to the ground; the gooks were dug in good. They dug straight down and had bamboo reinforced doors called spider traps. They could raise it, fire, drop it and were invisible again. I crawled through the black that was still warm.

Finally, I saw the trap blown apart and it looked like it was just begging for a grenade. I had laid down a lot of cover fire earlier and had only one grenade left. Starting down the hill at a fast pace, I could not imagine why it had not gone off yet. I turned around and lucky I did, the gook had found the grenade in the dark hole and threw it right at me. At that moment I was Superman, Batman, and Burt Lancaster; I took a flying leap off the side of that ridge. I was in mid air and the grenade went off behind me in mid air too. I took a brodie down that hill, tumbling and rolling; my rifle was near me so I grabbed it and went down the saddle back to borrow a grenade from the 3rd squad. A medic came up to be and told me that my leg was bleeding and put a battle dressing on and said to get in a chopper.

I met my good friend Tennessee; he had a piece of shrapnel stuck in his gums between two teeth. We helped each other down the ridge; both of us were a little weak from blood loss. From nowhere comes a full bird colonel and said, "Where do you think you’re going?" We told him we were out of ammo and the gooks were throwing grenades back at us. "You don't need any ammo, I want you two to spot those holes for the 3rd squad." So back we went; Tennessee went one way and I the other. I had three men with me, one stood guard and the others threw grenades after counting to three. I begged them for a grenade but they wouldn't; they told me to DE up that hill as the last chopper was loading up.

I made it to the chopper and squeezed in. I looked around and saw Tennessee lying on his back, his eyes were closed, and he had three battle dressings on his belly. The chopper was really noisy. “Are you ok man?" He opened his eyes and said, "Give me a cigarette." I lit one up and put it in his lips. He puffed and puffed, but no smoke came out of his mouth, then I looked at his dressing and smoke came through the gauze on his belly. I went to Dang Ha to get stitches and Tennessee went to a hospital off the coast. My leg was throbbing, but I didn't care, I was going back to the rear, with the beer and the gear; that was the last time I saw Tennessee. By that time had 4 months in the country, with only nine more to go.

The following stories were written by Kenneth Johnson, Earl’s brother, about things that happened when he and his siblings were growing up.

My Dog Jigs

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Kenneth wrote, “When I was born Jigs was two years old. As a kid I thought he was my brother; once he even saved my life. Daddy, Jigs and I were at the Old Place (that’s what we called the land we rented from Granny.) Daddy was plowing with the tractor and it was getting late. He told me to get Jigs and go to the house. We took a shortcut through the meadow; the grass was over my head and I got scared and started to run. I came upon a spot about ten feet around and fell head first right into a pit of snakes, hundreds of them. Jigs grabbed my arm and pulled me to safety. He was so smart.

Jigs also saved my daddy from a pack of wild, vicious dogs. Daddy and Jigs were in the woods

Kenneth & his dog Jigs

when a pack of wild dogs circled him, and he climbed a tree. The leader of the pack was huge, twice the size of Jugs but Jigs attacked him fiercely. Jigs was getting the better of him and soon the entire pack started to run away, but Jigs held on to the big dog’s tail. The dog drug Jigs until his feet were raw and bleeding. Then he ran back to Daddy; Jigs could do anything.

Jigs was known all over Lake Creek for his hunting and fighting skills, and for his many tricks. One day Jigs went to the cotton gin with Daddy and he and his crew were working on the roof. One of the men said, “If that dog is so smart, get him to climb up this ladder!” Daddy called him and he climbed up to the very top. The men gave him a standing ovation. They had to get a rope to get him back down; I guess he was better at climbing than going down. Jigs has been dead for over forty years and I still think of him often and miss him. I loved him because he was my four legged brother.” (1998)

Smoking Caper

“Jerry and I went to the store and asked the man for cigarettes. Jerry was about ten and I was about eight. The man looked at us with suspicion and said, “Your daddy doesn’t smoke!” “Yeah, he does sometimes.” We ran from the store and hid in some tall grass and smoked them--big time! I guess you could say we had a smoking good time.

When dinner time came we hid the cigarettes but we knew Daddy would smell the smoke on out breath. So we pulled some onions from the garden and ate them. Then we washed our hands and sat down at the table. Daddy looked at Jerry then at me. “Well boys, have you been smoking?” It took forever for me to figure out the onions gave us away.”

Scotty the Bull

“Daddy bought a calf that had a spot on him that looked like a Scotty dog, so we named him Scotty. Daddy had bought him to fatten up and sell for a profit, but to Jerry and me------it was a pet. We rode him, brushed him and treated him like a regular pet. As time passed we forgot what the inevitable fate of old Scotty would be.

Then came the day when Daddy told us he was going to sell Scotty. Jerry and I were deeply hurt and I cried. He tried to console us by saying, “If I get a good price from him I will buy each of you a new baseball glove.” At the same time we cried out, “What! Made out of Scotty?” ---Guess we weren’t cut out to be farmers.”

The Foxhole

“Daddy would take Jerry and me to the movies nearly every Saturday night; a good shoot-em-up, or an occasional war movie. We would get to the movie theater early and watch Mr. And Mrs. Sparks walk down the street; celebrities once removed. They would open the doors and soon the smell of popcorn greeted everyone. Well, this one Saturday night was a great Audie Murphy movie, and he was in a foxhole; we loved it.

Now Daddy had told us not to dig holes because Granny was old and might stumble into them, but he never said anything about a foxhole. It was a beauty; took us all day to dig it. It was big and deep. We realized the need to conceal the foxhole from Daddy so we could play with it again the next day. We gathered twigs and branches, and the foxhole disappeared. Beautiful! Later, we were all sitting on the front porch, well--everyone except Granny. We were laughing and talking when we saw Granny walk toward the clothesline and disappear off the face of the earth. In a flash, she was gone! Daddy started toward the foxhole. Have you ever gotten your britches whipped while shoveling dirt back into a foxhole? Thank goodness Granny was fine. And thank goodness the next Saturday night movie was, Gunfight at the OK Corral.”

The Cotton Caper

“Sometimes Daddy would go down south to work at the cotton gins as they paid better wages. This one summer he went and left Jerry and I in charge of our cotton harvest. One day we were looking at the cotton in the wagon when a big limb fell from a tree and landed on the cotton. To our amazement, the cotton swallowed the limb as it fluffed up the cotton. Hummm! The cotton surely weighs more now, and the pile of cotton was bigger. Anyone who has ever picked cotton or pulled bolls knows one thing, ---the more it weighs, the more you get paid. Everyone weighed their own sacks of cotton when their sacks were full and recorded the amount in a logbook and totaled it at the end of the day. Everyday we picked less cotton and added more stuff. We doctored the books and fluffed the cotton. (I think this kind of record keeping was what did Al Capone in, and was our downfall.) However, we knew not to add too much stems and such, so we put our second plan to work, fluff it up to look like a full bale. Day after day we fluffed the cotton and doctored the books. When the wagon looked full we fluffed it up one last time. “What do you think, Jerry?” “It looks like a bale!”

B-Day was here; we hooked the tractor to the wagon and hauled our ‘bale’ to the gin. It took about thirty seconds for the ginner to bring our caper to a screeching halt. I remember him saying something about it could have ruined thousands of dollars worth of equipment. And worst of all, “When your daddy gets home I need to speak to him!” B-Day busted. I was ten years old and Jerry was twelve. I can’t remember what Daddy said, I must have blocked that out.”

Illegal Weapons Charge

“Jerry had owned his 22 rifle for some time, and my BB gun didn’t have the fire power I desired. Daddy was off ginning and Jerry and I had been picking cotton for Uncle Happy and had saved our money. We were looking in the Sears Roebuck catalog and they were having a sale on 22 rifles. I asked Jerry if he knew how to fill out an order. He pointed to the lines where you put in your name and address and then list the items to be ordered. It was simple so I told him to order that 22 for me. He said, “If Daddy finds out it will be belt city!” But daddy had gone down south to work at the gin.

So the order was sent, and we both waited for the postman every day. Finally, a long, narrow box was delivered to Granny’s mailbox. Granny was busy in the house so we grabbed the box and rain to our clubhouse.

It was great to go hunting along side Jerry, my brother, and we burned a lot of shells at each hunt. We both became good shots. Granny got a letter from Daddy saying he was soon coming home, so Jerry told me to leave my 22 at our hideout. When Daddy drove up we ran to him for hugs.

As we were walking back to the house Daddy said, “Hawk, I heard you have a 22.” Well, I froze in my tracks; my eyes looked at Jerry for help. Jerry looked at Daddy and said, “Daddy, he’s a good shot; I showed him how to handle a gun safely, like you taught me.” Daddy was kind of quiet for a moment, then he said, “Let’s go hunting.” I ran out to our hideout (which was a tree house that Jerry, I and the Goolsby boys had built) and brought the rifle to Daddy and off we went.

He drove us down to the Old Place, into the hay meadow. Daddy let us ride on the car fenders, Jerry on one side and me on the other. It was like riding a bucking bronco as we bounced along. We were going about twenty; it was Disneyland and Six Flags rolled into one, and we were having a ball. A big jackrabbit jumped up and Jerry yelled, “Shoot on three; one, two, three.” We both fired at the same time and the rabbit fell dead. Jerry jumped off the fender and brought the rabbit to Daddy. “You both hit him!” He showed us two holes in his back. “Good shooting,” he said. He put his arms around us as we walked back to the car. “I guess you were ready for that rifle, Kenneth!” He never punished me for the sneaky way I got the gun.

I remember his hugs and the rough whiskers on his face, and the salty sweat on his khakis. I remember the way he cocked his hat to one side, and I remember my first 22 rifle and that day at the meadow.”

My Siblings

“I am proud to be a brother of Earl, and I have always looked up to him. He was the only person I ever knew who could make a canoe. Carved it from a tree. Natural scout and woodsman. He has surprised me lately with his wonderful, warm writings of our family history. When I thank about Earl I remember that canoe and other things he has made, like the little birdhouse that sits in my pecan tree; it looks like a chapel. The most puzzling thing about Earl is-----he got one of the prettiest and nicest girls in the world to marry him.

Jerry was everything I wanted to be; an athlete, cheerleader and good looking. He married a smart and pretty girl too. I miss him very much.

Kerry is my sweet, older sister. When I think of her I think about her sewing. She is the only person I ever knew who could make a suit. She can sew clothes better than a professional tailor. Imagine, being able to make a man’s suit. Her husband Bill, is one of the finest men I’ve ever known. People don’t say Kerry, they say, Kerry and Bill.

Gale and Dale are the twins. Gale is pretty, and a professional hair stylist. She never had kids but she is a wonderful mother and grandmother to the ones she was lucky enough to get when she married her husband. I always think of kids around Gale. She lives in Tennessee now, the only one of us who lives out of Texas.

Dale is my baby brother; a veteran of the Viet Nam war, a decorated Marine, and unfortunately, even received the Purple Heart. A true hero in my eyes. A gifted artist and knife maker, actor and builder. He has a wonderful wife, Alda and a lovely family.

Growing up, we were poor but rich in many ways. We had cows, chickens, mules and horses. Life on the farm was hard. I think we all turned out pretty well.”

Kenneth Johnson

The following story was written by Kerry (Jenkins) Johnson, Earl’s sister, of how she remembers her siblings and some of the fun times.

Kerry wrote, “I was born January 20, 1938, during the hard times caused by the great depression. Jerry was born September 19, 1940. Since I was only about two and a half years older than Jerry, I don’t remember when he was born; it just seemed he was always there. He was my brother and good friend for forty two years, not nearly long enough.

One of my first memories of Jerry was in 1943 when Big Mama was in the hospital, just before she died. When we visited her, I remember we had to climb some stairs. I don’t think Jerry or I had ever seen stairs before and it was a big deal getting to climb them. A few weeks later Mama and us kids were shopping in Paris in a store that had stairs going up to the mezzanine floor. Jerry pulled loose from Mama’s hand and ran toward the stairs yelling, “I’m going to see Big Mama.”

Earl ran after him and brought him back. He didn’t want to come back, he thought for sure he had found her. We all loved and missed Big Mama, even Jerry, as young as he was.

Kenneth was born that same year, he was so sweet. He was the first baby I’d ever held. Mama told me to pull my little red rocking chair up next to her bed and she placed him in my arms. I was so proud and felt so grown up Then in 1948 I got to hold and take care of two more babies, Dale and Gale, but back to Jerry and Kenneth.

It wasn’t long until I started to school and that left two little boys at home with Mama and Daddy. Those two played together and became very close, and always remained that way. Back then western movies were popular. Since kids play the things they see, cowboys and Indians became their favorite game. Sometimes I played too. I remember borrowing Jerry’s toy guns and holsters and took them to school to play cowboys with the school kids. I know those were Jerry’s favorite toys but he was kind and always free-hearted.

Earl was our older brother and we looked up to him, believing just about everything he said. Jerry had a nickel and Earl told him if he would plant it, it would come up and grow into a nickel tree. Then the tree would produce lots of nickels. So Jerry, being about four at that time, goes out and plants the nickel in the cotton field. That’s where Daddy plants cotton; right? Anyway, by the time he found out that Earl was teasing him, Daddy had plowed the field and he never found his nickel. None of us ever planted any more money.

I always thought of Jerry as strong and brave; he wasn’t afraid of anything. When he got the chance to ride one of Daddy’s mules, he just jumped right on him. Ole Bob had a mind of his own and went right under the clothesline. One end of the clothesline was tied to a long pole with a birdhouse on top. The middle of the clothesline was propped up with a pole that kept the line from sagging but it didn’t hold it quite high enough. When that mule went under the line, it caught on the saddle horn, stretching the line until the pole snapped. Both the pole and the birdhouse came down, barely missing Jerry, and hit the horse on the back, just behind the saddle.

That mule took off dragging the clothesline, the pole and the birdhouse; we did not know he could run that fast. Well, Jerry hung on until the mule came to a fence at the other side of the cotton field and turned real sharp but Jerry still hung on. Finally, after making a few circles around the field, the mule came back to the house and stopped. As soon as the mule had come to a complete stop, Jerry fell off. He wasn’t hurt so we all had a good laugh and said to him, “Why did you fall off after you stopped? You were doing so good!” We told him that we were very impressed with his ride.

Jerry and Kenneth would go down to the cow pasture to a place where erosion had caused several deep ditches; they called this their mountains. They would play there for hours on end, playing cowboys and Indians; sometimes I played with them. It was really a neat place, and the memory of those days will stay with me forever.

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We also played getting married; Mama gave me an old lace curtain to play with. I would put it on my head and use part of it for the veil. The rest I would let hang down my back for the train. Sometimes Joyce Ann would come over and we would go down the lane and play under the trees; this was our wedding chapel. We would take turns getting married; so when I was the bride, Jerry was the preacher. At times I made Jerry dress up like the bride. He was so short we found a wooden box for him to stand on to make him taller. He took it pretty well; back then we didn’t have a lot of choices of ways to play.

When Jerry was about eight he became fascinated with basketball. I doubt if he ever got to touch one at school but he knew what it was all about. He nailed a metal ring up on the side of Daddy’s shop building and used my volleyball to shoot hoops. He was doing pretty good until he hit a nail, then I came unglued and we went around

Kerry & Joyce Ann

and around. But Daddy took his little hot-patch machine and patched it and aired it up. That was the way Jerry started out to play basketball. After we moved to Granny’s house he and Kenneth had a goal and ball. They would spend hours out there shooting hoops. I understand that both of them were good players in high school, by then they had moved in with Mama in Dallas, and I never got to attend any of their games; I wish I could have. Jerry was one of my nice, and best looking, brothers and always a good friend. He married a pretty girl named Pat. They had two good-looking, wonderful children named Paul and Jere.

I remember the last time Jerry and Pat came to see us; they were on their way to Beavers Bend and stopped by for a short visit. He was wearing a white shirt, black pants and carrying a black cane; I thought he looked like a dancer.

Jerry died of cancer October 18, 1980 at the young age of forty. If you have never lost a brother, then I can’t tell you what it’s like. He left an empty place in our hearts that can never be filled. I miss him so much and think of him every day. But our family bonds have strengthened because of our great loss, and my brothers and sister are much closer.”

Kerry (Johnson) Jenkins

The following story was written by Joyce Gale (Johnson) Pritchett, our baby sister, of stories told to her by her mother, about her older siblings. Gale, a twin to Dale, is the youngest and the baby of the family.

Gale’s Memories

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“As a child I would ask Mama (Nell ‘Casey’ who was now married to Cil Watkins) to tell me about when my siblings were young, and she told me many stories.“ She said, “When my first child was born we didn’t know what to name him so we called him Sonny (till this day I still do) for a long time. We lived with Granny, and our neighbor that lived on the east side of us was named Lloyd,

Mama & Cil's house in Rylie, Texas where Dale & Gale grew up. If you look close you can see Dale & Gale on the porch.

and the one who lived on the west side was named Earl, so we decided to name him Lloyd Earl. Granny did not agree because she wanted us to name him Eddie Peterson, after Wes Tom’s father. One day the Census Taker came by and asked me for all our names. I told him we didn’t have a definite name for the baby, and to go next door to the cotton gin and ask Wes Tom, and whatever name he gave would be his name. I was really worried that he would name him Eddie Peterson, and was really relieved to find out that he named him Lloyd Earl.” 

Mama said, “Next I had a girl; I got the name Kerry, out of a dress catalog. (I told Mama she lived up to her name because she makes pretty dresses.) Next, I had a boy and named him Jerry because it rhymed with Kerry. His middle name Thomas, was after his daddy. My next child was a boy and I named him Kenneth Gary. Kenneth was from my father and Gary was from my mother. Her middle name was Gray, so I just switched the letters, r - a, around.”

Mama said, “When you twins were born I already had your named in my head. But my sister, Moze, said that if the baby was born on her birthday, she would get to name it, and I said okay, but I never thought the baby would be born on her birthday. She sent me a one cent post card with a boy and girl name, Royce Dale and Joyce Gale. That just happened to be the same names I had picked out, so she thinks she named you.”

“When Dale and I were thirteen years old Mama took Rene, who was six weeks old, to live with us. Rene’s mother is Ruth, Cil’s sister. When we were fifteen years old Mama took Ruth’s child, Tony, who was six days old. When we were eighteen years old she took Ruth’s child Lori, who was eight days old. I called them my little sisters and brother, and still do until this day.”

“When Dale and I were eight years old, Daddy died and Jerry and Kenneth, who had been living with Daddy at Granny’s house, came to live with us. They said that they had never seen a TV, so Dale and I felt really big telling them all about it. Jerry was sixteen and Kenneth was thirteen. In high school, Jerry was a baseball player, basketball player and a track runner. After he graduated from high school he attended college and was a Cardinal Cheerleader. He lived with us until he married Pat. They had one boy Paul, and one girl, Jere.”

“Kenneth graduated high school, being a baseball player, basketball player and track runner. He lived with us until he went into the Army, and was sent to Germany. After he got out of the service he married Sara. They had one boy named Brandon. A few years later they divorced and he married Bettye. She had two children when they married, a boy and a girl. When Brandon grew up he married Pressie, Alda’s sister. Alda is Dale’s wife.

Dale graduated high school with high Honor Rolls, perfect attendance, General Education. Then he joined the Marines and was sent to Viet Nam. After he got out of the service he married Mary and they had one boy named Dale Jr. A few years later he got a divorce and married Alda. They have one girl named Angie and one boy named Jonathan.”

“I graduated high school with perfect attendance. Then I went to Beauty College and graduated in 1967. Also that year I started working at Daisy and Rudy Beauty Shop. I was nineteen years old. Llana had been working there for one week; she was seventeen years old. She was married to Ronnie, who had his own barber shop. After we had worked there for thirteen years, Llana bought the beauty shop. I worked there from 1967 until 1993. I married Gary Pritchett, in 1986 when I was thirty eight years old. We moved to Tennessee February 10th 1993, I had worked in the shop for eighteen years. Michele, Machelle’s boy, was two years old.

From 1993 until 2007 I worked at Day Care. For six years I had the infants. The rest of the time I had the Terrible Two’s.

1994, Michelle had Christa.

1995, Michelle had Bryan.

2000, Michelle had Jeremey.

In 2000, when Jeremey was three months old, Jon married a girl named Tanny. They now live in Boise Idaho. She had one ten year old son named Brandon.”

God bless all of you,

Joyce Gale (Johnson) Pritchett

Go to: Cousins Reunion 1996 & 1999

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