Dr. Randall Rogers

Why I Think I Can Understand What War Vets Think

I remember
a party
where
we teenagers
attacked a hippie
camper who had pitched his tent some ways away from our teenage bonfire keg party
when I arrived the guy was bloody and on his knees begging
Moss said to him like Billy Jack “I’m gonna drop this beer bottle and kick you three times in the face before it hits the ground”
he got about two kicks in
as the guy fell over on his side
we were all standing around watching
the guy got kicked pretty bad
blood gushing from his face he then got up and ran
ran as fast as he could
in his underwear cuz they made him strip down
through the woods
left his tent and backpack all his belongings
behind

bad part of his journey across America
coming across us
then Cole told Moss “What the fuck are you doing?
That’s uncool, man”
and Moss swung and smashed a beer bottle over Cole’s head
then Cole wrestled Moss to the ground and proceeded to throttle
him with repeated punches to his face
bloodied him up pretty bad before Moss said he’s had enough and Cole let him up

Later, when we were sayin’ “right on! Cole! Thanks man, that was cool.”
and we were calling out for the bloody camper to come back
after the rowdy element was gone back to the keg party and bonfire, and we were trying to gather the guy’s scattered belongings together
Shit,” Cole said, “the fucker hits hard” as he gently fingered the streaming gash in his head
He hit you with a beer bottle Cole!”
we told him but I think he was a little brained and he didn’t believe us
But man, he was our hero
Sort of a small man he was
the bully group was made up of small people, too
I imagined this bad group in high school
to be a bit like Quantrell’s Raiders in the US Civil War

I had another run-in with them too, the same group
one day coming to school
I always picked up Gary and took him to school with me
and we almost always smoked a joint on the way to school
one day we arrive at school
find a place to park
and start walking toward the school
we see a big crowd of people
a circle of people around something happening
so we go look
a freshman had whistled at one of these small thug’s girlfriends
so one of the small thugs, this time Reiner
– when I got there the kid was on his knees –
Reiner was holding him up by his hair
kid’s face was streaming blood
and Reiner was trying to kick his teeth out
I actually think he had booted in the kid’s front four.
Gary and I couldn’t let this go on; we were seniors too
Most of the kids in the circle watching were younger, afraid of these thugs
we were seniors and sort of bad men like the ruffians perpetrating this crime
when we arrived on the scene one of the younger kids did try
to rush in and separate or restrain Reiner from killing the kid
but the other ruffians like the Hells Angels at Altamont grabbed him and wouldn’t let him near the “fight” as they called out “let them fight!”
The little killers kept everyone from helping the blood faced kid
Then me and Gary arrived.
And we don’t fuck around.
We good guys.
Do a lot of drugs and alcohol
but no strangers to a fight.
We not known to be fighters
but relish a good one
we used to practice fist fighting with one another with padded ski-gloves on
and Gary carried a big piece of wood with him
it was his woodshop project he just happened to have with him
to get to the point, we intervened
we pulled an intervention
I’m small too
It was a joy fighting this group of about five
versus Gary and I
Gary made good use of the woodshop project
and my fists sting and cut cuz my hands is small and my punches is sharp and fast
They gave up and walked away after we bloodied ’em up
then we helped the kid, he was in bad shape

Three months later I saw the camper
working at the Big Boy restaurant of all places
as a bus boy
he said he had severe throat damage from the kicks
but it was getting better now
he said he had to stay here and work to get enough money to pay for the medical expenses resulting from the incident

As for Moss and Reiner,
the leaders of this group of thugs, you know
they used to throw pool balls
across the basketball court into the stands of the opposing team
especially when it was an inter-city rivalry game
they would go to the red Indian projects neighborhood of town with BB guns and shoot Indians
Moss finally went too far; he used brass knuckles and sucker punched
the tuba player filing off the field following their half-time performance,
knocked him out and broke his acial bones in six places
fellow was in the hospital a week
Moss was expelled from school for that
But his rich Dad got him back in.

I sometimes wonder what those guys are doing now
and what they now think about their past actions some forty years later
And I too think seeing what I saw
I can see how much worse this kind of activity would happen in conditions such as US forces faced in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan
And I try to understand Vets
of all wars,
including personal ones.

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