Hot Shot Pilots and Freckled Face Kids
In 1955 Chase Field Naval Air Station, Beeville, Texas was a training base for fighter pilots. Whenever jets tumbled through the sky dog-fighting, most town folk paused to watch the acrobatics.
The high school boys, however, detested those “Swabbie” pilots. The girls were attracted to them like bathing suits to a swimming hole. Grrr. You couldn’t blame the girls. But don’t say that to a boy with preened peach-fuzz under his nose that can’t get a date. Jealousy is a powerful emotion.
Those young pilots were some of the Navy’s best and brightest. Earning officer’s pay and driving sporty cars, girls were easy pickings for a ride in a shiny top-down MG or Triumph convertible.
We drove rust-scabbed cars, brush-scraped pick-ups or pedaled bicycles and walked a lot. Date-money for more than an occasional movie with cokes and fries was hard to come by.
Tension was building day-by-day. Those anchor-clanker hot-shot pilots, fishing in our pond, needed to be taught a lesson. And then it happened as it can in a small town. When the grapevine screamed that the Navy was going to kick our butts on the south end of town, a significant number of high school boys eagerly responded. We intended to send the Navy packing.
Combatants were closing the gap when two police cars arrived and skidded to a stop between the groups, scattering pea-gravel and a cloud of dust. Warriors flushed like quail in every direction.
Scrambling beside me in the loose ballast beside the railroad tracks, Wayne grabbed my arm and pointing yelled, “There!” We ducked right, tumbling through perfume to land belly-down on the grass behind a hedge of agarita in bloom. A sailor dove after us. Dealings with the police weren’t on our agendas.
In a whispered conversation we demanded to know why the Navy wanted to whip-up on us. “You have it wrong”, he said. “The word is you guys were going to teach us a lesson.”
Donald turned out to be a really decent guy. We managed introductions and hunkering down behind the hedge, enjoyed hashing over our shared predicament. When the coast was clear we gave him a ride into town in the back of Wayne’s pickup.
Later that evening the truth came out. A loud-mouth midget freshman had started the affair by fabricating a tale. We had eagerly taken the bait and showed up at the appointed time to send the Swabbies packing. The Navy, hearing we were out to get them, had arrived to defend their honor.
The encounter behind the agarita bushes changed my mind about those guys. We had much in common. We loved our country, liked the same girls and we backed our buddies. That sailor dodging the law beside us was the kind of guy you would like to have as a friend.
So, heck! Truth may be uncomfortable but it gets you on down the road. What girl would want to ride to the prom on my handlebars anyway?
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