Monday, July 18, 2016

A Man of Men Roams These Mountains Part 2

 For Part One of This Story Please Continue Scrolling Down

Welcome back to Part Two of the life and times of my friend, Robert Lane Street. I am always honored and blessed when you choose to 'read my voice.' 

Referring back to the earlier note of R. L.'s daily target practice, I came to learn what a sharp shooter my buddy really is. As I have said in this space before, I am acutely aware that every family who lives up here in these hollows has weapons in their homes, fully loaded, Tony and I included.

Honestly, though, R. L. brings owning and firing his firearms to a whole new level. A sizable portion of his back acreage is dedicated to his passion. There is a long range shooting range, a pistol range, and a skeet range.

Long range rifle shooting is my bud's forte. He has eight by eight-inch targets pinned on his office wall (for his eyes only- his competition is against himself) showing shots taken from 150 yards away, and the bull’s eyes have shots in them with double shots right on top of the original shot.

I am always amazed as I watch him in action. He makes me think of those old Western TV shows starring men like James Arness, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood. Those heroes in their TV roles were deadly accurate with their weapons and determination to right wrongs.

A few days ago R. L.’s brother Larry who also lives in his own hollow down the road, my friend Berta and I trekked up to the ridge for some target practice.  R. L. had recently purchased a Browning A-Bolt .280 rifle, and I had been hounding him to let me shoot it.

My buddy balked. I could not figure out why R. L. was uncharacteristically giving me push back. If this was a straw man debate, I intended to win. His new rifle was too heavy he said, it would be too loud for me and the kick, if the butt was not secure on my shoulder, could possibly black my eye. Hogwash.

Well, all of my assumptions for why he didn't want me to shoot his rifle were finally put to rest when he let it be known he simply did not want his friend to get hurt. He is, and I do not find this at all offensive, a gentleman from the old school of thinking in matters such as this.

I finally soft-soaped him into letting me take aim, though, and I was pumped. A target was set up at the 80-yard mark for both of us though Jerry, Berta and I also noted a tiny white dot up at the 150 mark.

Here is a video that was taken of R.L. as he is preparing to fire his rifle. Note his humble comment wondering if he can hit his target.

With that shot that son-of-a-gun hit that white dot 150 yards away! R. L. told us it was a small plastic bottle filled with water. His audience was thrilled to see the result of his talent. R. L., disregarding our compliments, solemnly let us know that is what happens to the body of a human or an animal when hit with a rifle like that. His message? While guns should be enjoyed, they are nothing to fool around with. Period. 

Here is a slow motion video of the two of us firing our pistols on his pistol range...

Now, if anyone is interested, here is the video of this gal, wearing the ‘R.L. required’ shoulder pad and taking aim with ‘The Rifle.'

And here is the target I shot from that distance of 80 yards. I was so thrilled with my accomplishment, I had Berta, Jerry, and my dear ole buddy R. L. all sign and date it on the back. 

Well folks, that pretty much scratches the surface of the life of someone who roams up here in these mountains where we live. There’s so much more I could share wit... “Robert Lane! You nitwit! I am going to choke you!” 

Just as I am putting the wraps on this post, I hear R. L.'s soft, unassuming Southern drawl, “Hey, did I tell you I made the finals playing tennis in the Tennessee Senior Olympics four or five years ago?"

"Yeah, I came within a hair of winnin’ the state championship in my age group. I'd never played my whole life, but I thought it looked like fun, so I started watchin' tennis a lot on TV. Then I got some manuals and started readin' up on it and bought a racquet and went to a tennis court and started hittin' some balls. From there I started playin' with some people and then ended up in the Tennessee Olympics. But I got beat out at the very end by a tennis coach...he deserved to win, he was a great opponent."  

And then my buddy shyly showed me his tennis racquets and medallion.

Someone once said, "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get." That, my friends, is what life has been like since I have been blessed to know Robert Lane Street. 

Lane, my brother in Christ, I told you this story would be about you, but I also told you I would dedicate it to you. I struggled to find the words. A trip to the barn recently gave me my dedication as it hung below Trig's stall. It seemed to embody the essence of you, my friend.

Below is a story R.L. wrote after arriving back from Vietnam. I photographed the paper where he typed it on an old Remington typewriter. The story follows, unedited.

November 18, 1965, dawned clear and hot as had every other day during the past three months.  I, along with specialist, Joe Campbell, had been attached
to the 21st artillery, 1st bn. Cavalry Division, South Vietnam.  Our job on this mission was to supply the 21st artillery with Balistic Metrological Data. 
     The 21st was bivouacked a few miles south of Ira Durang Valley with orders to standby and support the 1st and 5th battalions which had been sent out into the jungle in search of the Viet Cong.  It must have been approximately 3 or 3;30 P.M. when a Mayday call from the Fifth came in over the radio.  They had made contact with and were pinned down by an overwhelming number of Viet Cong Regulars, and needed help fast.

       My outfit was immediately loaded aboard helicopters and flown into the battle area.  We had landed and were preparing to launch an attach on the Viet Cong, when we were attacked from the rear by a large contingent of enemy soldiers. (Reports later show we were outnumbered by a ratio of three to one.)  Apparently the Viet Cong unit that attacked us had been on their way to re-enforce their comrades when they spotted us. We were soon trapped between these soldiers and elements from the regulars who had by now, overrun the other company.  (Artillery and air strikes from supporting units finaly drove the Viet Cong away after a fierce fifteen hour battle.)

       I don’t remember the exact time when I was hit by shrapnel from an emeney mortar round, but it was dark when I regained consciouness.  Sometime during the night, Joe who also had been slightly wounded reached me and dragged me to the shelter of an aid station that had been set up by the medics.

       By the time I had fully regained control of my thoughts, a nauseating fear began to creep into my guts.  I could only lie there helpless and listen to the whine of machine gun bullets overhead, and hear the “whump’ of enemy mortar rounds exploding close by.  A cold chill ran down my spine as I wondered where the next  round would strike.  It was then that I noticed a medic walking erect among the wounded, undaunted by the bullets screaming past him. I watched him and thought, “My God this man is out of his mind.”  I could see him talking to the wounded soilders, as he stopped here and there to administer first aid to one.  He started walking toward me, and I shouted, “Get down, man, or you will surely get hit”. A little grin wrinkled his war-strained face, as he replied in a calm southern drawl: “What the Hell? You only die once.”  He then turned and walked away, and I saw that he too was wounded.  I must have passed out then because I don’t remember anymore. 

       In the hospital, a few days later, I learned that a medic had been killed while giving first aid to a fallen comrade.  He had been wounded three times, and could have saved himself, He instead had sacrificed his own life for another.  I’ll never know for sure whether or not this was the same medic I had talked with that night.  But I will always believe it was.  I do know that whenever I feel the fangs of fear, I remember that night, and the medic who said; “What the Hell? You only die once”.  

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