Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ONE MORE VISIT TO CALDERWOOD

Click on Photos to Enlarge The sun was hot, even at this early morning hour. It had been a long week in the delta and they felt filthy and nervous. But, today found them here, on the flat roof of a French Villa enjoying two days off. At last; nothing to do and no where to be. Just languish here in this hidden place a top an old mud brick and tile building. It was a long climb up the spiral stairway that wrapped around the building to the roof. They carried beer. Lots of beer. Four cases of beer. Falstaff beer. Today they would forget duty and just talk--------and drink. They built a tall pyramid with the empty cans. It grew upward to a perilous peak over four feet high. A magnificent accomplishment! Sal fired up a smoke. The smell was familiar and he watched his friend become insensitive to the surroundings. Their shirts were open, boots unlaced and in general; totally disheveled. The siren blared. It had to be a warning siren to be audible at this hour. All three snapped their heads toward each other with an inquisitive look on each face. Sal seemed to snap out of his stupor. It was a normal reaction to this alert. It meant to reform. It was a call to return home to the unit. Looks of disgust replaced the joy on the faces of the three twenty year olds as they stood and collected their equipment and tied their boots. Chuck addressed Sal with the statement "they can never let cha be. Never!" As they started to walk across the roof to the stairway, Sal exclaimed "look out there. Those damn Marines play war games even during a war. Why do we have to be involved in their damn game?" What Sal was looking at was a battalion size group of soldiers running toward the North side of the city. It was then that the first wave of gun ships passed overhead. Twelve Huey choppers bore down toward the men on the ground and opened fire. The three on the roof stared in amazement. Solid streams of what appeared to be orange molten metal flowed from each chopper and fell upon those miscreants on the ground. More choppers were on the horizon to the East and moving in quickly. They seemed like mosquitoes dancing lightly on the air flitting in all directions. The molten metal poured from them continuously. Off to the left of the roof in the slum area of the city, orange flashes could be seen among the roof tops of the shacks. What appeared to be a large red spark with a gray trailing tail could be seen snaking skyward in a long arc only to fall on some building in the center or the other side of town and explode. Rockets! These barbaric contraptions lacked accuracy but did command attention. The three on the roof decided to stay and watch the carnage on the ground in front of them. A week ago rumors indicated that a massive North Vietnamese push was underway to capture Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam. They weren't substantiated and furthermore, it sounded ridiculous to think that the dinks could pull off such a bold strategy. But, there they were, not five hundred yards away. And they were taking a hammering from the Marine and Army choppers. The three's arsenal consisted of two M16 rifles and one M14 rifle. They would remain alert, and hopefully safe, up here on the roof. They crawled low and peered over a solid ledge that ran around the perimeter of the roof. Chuck said "look at this. Would ya look at this!" A rag tag skinny looking man was running along the comb of the roof on the building beside them. His sandal covered feet slipped with each foot fall onto the tile roof cap that covered the very top edge of the roof. He seemed determined to get to the other end. There was an old flag pole mounted there and nothing more. They watched as the thin figure in black pajama uniform pulled out a flag of his own. He fumbled with it as he slipped along the roof at a perilous pace. Sal said "he's got a North Vietnam flag there." As he finished the statement a loud crack came from behind them and the skinny figure toppled off the roof instantly. Chuck lowered the M14 and nonchalantly shook a Camel cigarette from the pack and placed it to his lips. Just another day; sort of........ Yes; it was 1968, Republic of Vietnam, and the South Vietnamese New Year. It was the Tet Offensive that nearly was successful for the North. Saigon came close to falling, and so would have gone the war. Another time; another place; a lethal place for young men to play. Point is that our boys and girls are living through life/death scenarios daily in our current war. Stand behind our boys and girls in uniform. No matter what our current government does or says. Stand strong in support of their patriotism. Revel in their gallantry and successes and weep heart felt tears over their losses. They all are our heroes, and in the end; they will be the final line of defense and salvation of this great nation, which even now is eroding from within and being weakened by political stupidity and mediocre efforts from those astute politicians who know about everything and are expert at nothing. I came back to this blog next morning after writing it and wondered if I should delete the little story above. It is just one small piece of yarn in a stitching of memories that pulled loose from the blanket. I think about a lot of things alone floating out there on lakes. It seems lately that old memories are some of them. Not sure this is the proper forum to talk about it. But, the point is that politicians, being what they are, serve their self interests as well as their constituents and in many cases wealth, power and greed are motivating factors. Wars are fought to win. Men and women are trained to win battles. Generals guide their forces to win. Commanders in the field command to win. The key word is win! Win. The idea is not to battle the bad guy until he is pushed back to point A. Or follow a political directive that indicates a soldier cannot return fire when fired upon. Soldiers are not trained to be policemen. Soldiers are not prison guards. Soldiers are trained to enter the fray and end it victoriously. The politicians dictated the moves in Vietnam. Look what happened. The politicians are now directing the military maneuverings in the current war. What do you think will happen? The politicians will not even listen to their own Commanding General in the field. But then, politicians know best. I agree when Mr. OBama states that too many men and women are dying over there. The answer to that is "Let them Win the War." Soldiers are used as political pawns these days. These same super knowledgeable, highly experienced, honest, know everything about everything politicians are now working on our national health care. Give you two guesses what will happen to that. Sorry for the rant. Sometimes the past just comes to mind and it's so easy to apply occurrences of the past to the present. Why can't politicians do that? I'm leaving the story up there. Calderwood Lake is quiet today, as usual. It would appear that all the wild otters are sleeping in. I did see a pretty little face peering at the Gheenoe from behind a rock over on the shoreline. Can you see the little guy in the photo above? The little raccoon couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the boat slipping along the shore line. I really wanted to photograph the otter and the eagle one last time before Winter. But all I could find today were some of the lesser creatures. Squirrels were gathering forage for the cold that soon would set in at Calderwood. Can't see him in the shot below, can you? Enlarge it. I made some adjustments to the camera while at home so I would be ready for any photo opportunities with otters. Just as I throttled the boat up I caught a movement to my left and slightly rear. It was a young eagle. A young bald eagle. This bird was a yearling. Bald eagle youths are dark, dark brown for the first year of life. No white markings. I swung the camera around and pressed the shutter. The eagle took me by surprise but the camera was set, WRONG! Man; I had taken it off speed setting to photograph the squirrels. A quick adjustment and click away. The water had been lowered during the week. I wonder if the old train tunnel would more visible. I can see clear through. I wish I had the canoe. I would paddle on in. I really want to go through there. Douglas and I traveled down the lake toward the dam at the lower end. I pulled the Gheenoe into a cove I had not been to previously and there was another primitive camp spot. The Forest Service has really been busy this summer. This is a great site too. A little brook flows directly behind where one's tent would sit. What a way to fall asleep! I scouted about and Douglas swam in the cold Calderwood water. This is just simply a fabulous morning. I beached the Gheenoe on a rather muddy landing. Normally this is covered with water and is a more pleasant place to set the boat. But, it is what it is. Douglas will drag mud in the boat but I don't care. It washes off. This camp site is one of the finest I have ever seen. Maybe I have that opinion because it appears that no one has used it yet. Humans have a way of trashing things. But, there are no paths in to this lake, other than down at Slip Rock Creek, and that requires about a seven mile hike from Cheoha Dam. Douglas and I hiked up a narrow animal path directly to the rear of the site. Wonder what wanders down that path at night? Anyway; off we went. I had hoped to stumble onto some wild flowers so that I might try out the macro lens of the Elph camera under the low light conditions under the trees. Gorgeous flowers! So tiny yet magnificent. I wonder how many species of mushrooms there are? Guess thats what I do; wander and wonder. This is an interesting ravine. I shall camp here next time on the lake. But for now; I better gather up my golden boy and get the boat back up the lake. When I left home at 5AM this morning; the weather forecast indicated a storm was coming. I don't want to deal with it. I am always amazed at the crystal clear, calm, mirror like quality of this water. It is a pleasant change from the lakes down below that support the tourist and pleasure boats. It seems that people have left the chaos of the roads and cars and transposed it to their boats on the lakes. I wonder how long before they find a way up here to this blessed place. Route 129 South, the infamous Dragon, runs along the mountain far above. I can see people standing along a roadside pull off looking down at the lake, and me. Thank heaven there is no way down here from that high place. Even with the 400 mm lens; they appear far off. The lake is guarded well by the vertical cliffs. The leaves are slow to change this year. They are changing but it seems like a slower process than previous years. This lake is a kaleidoscope of color in Fall. We better get back Douglas. Ducks! Wow, they are so little! I'll have to look these up in the guide when I get home. As usual; I'm not ready for them. They shot out of a cove like rockets. I've never seen ducks fly this fast. I'll do my best with the camera. These little guys are really moving out! What speed! That's about it for this entry. There is a little movie of Douglas to follow at the end of this paragraph. He loves it out here.. It's obvious. Watch him run happy laps to nowhere. He is euphoric.