Bobby Watkins was a wild hair that refused to be tamed. He joined the Army knowing the draft was coming to get him anyway. As most men do before going off to war he hurriedly married my Mother. She was a teenager at the time but this wasn’t unusual in the South. Especially among poor folks. Girls became women rather quickly. My Mother’s plight into the adult world happened so fast that my Brother attended her high school graduation.
While my brother was yet a little tyke my Mother and he were shipped off to Germany to be closer to my Father. Daddy was fighting in Vietnam by that time so the world of a fishing/hunting country boy was turned upside down. He had never finished high school since his family was so large it was necessary for him to quit school early to help support all of his siblings. This was not an unusual occurrence then either. Boys grew up to be men without time to figure things out.
While in Vietnam the pressures of war took their toll on his mind. He made some really bad decisions and narrowly missed being booted out for his wild behavior. He tried to escape the mental anguish of war with Wild Turkey. No, not the one you hunt. I suppose if you ever want to see a mean drunk, feeding them a bottle of Wild Turkey is probably the best way to accomplish that. I guess one of my favorite pictures of him is one while we were in Germany and he was sitting in a chair picking a guitar. He was feeling no pain and sporting a shit eating grin as he sang some country song to the top of his lungs. It may seem odd that I am fond of a drunk picture of my Father but I see a man coping with war the only way he knew how and still smiling through it.
While still in Germany I birthed myself in the back of an Ambulance. Patience has never been a virtue of mine. I came into this world running and have been doing so ever since. You would think my Mother would be happy with a labor that only lasted a few minutes but yet, she insists I should have waited. She’s such a silly woman. My Father was so thrilled by my birth that he bought my Mother a full set of crystal glasses rimmed in silver. This may seem like an odd gift but remembering the world he came from this was a rich person’s possession so he was quite proud to give it.
Though my Father was thrilled that I was born he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the birthing process. I’m not sure if they stopped the ambulance for my Mother’s sake or for my Fathers. Granted he jumped out of airplanes for a living and killed people as he was instructed but seeing the birth of a child was not something that he could handle. While I was birthing myself and my Mother was trying to get an ambulance driver to help her, my Father was behind the vehicle losing his previous meal. Possibly the one before that too.
My Father’s life finally slowed down and he began to find “normal” in Killeen Texas. As an adult now, I look back and I know why my Father was so very strict with me. He didn’t really have a normal guideline to lead his family by. He jumped into the world too young and hit the ground running.