Archive for November, 2007

empty stairs….

November 27, 2007

empty stairs-drawn by jay herron 2006
Originally uploaded by jayfherron

It will be three weeks tomorrow that I met with a judge to describe the way my life has been since I was raped and sexually assaulted when I was an enlisted sailor in the Navy – I was 18 years old.
I’m 56 now.
Since then I lived an erratic life-I became dependent on alcohol and drugs and lived most of my life on the edge.
The things that happened became my hidden secret-but yet at times I felt a person could look right at me and know…yet the ones that could’ve mattered never knew.
As I’ve written before-I wrote a letter to the mental health clinic at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Gainesville Florida and complained and explained that the ‘anti-depressant’ drugs they prescribed made me feel as if I was high on something-so I dumped them. My point to them was it had taken me a long battle to learn that drugs and drinking was not going to eliminate the memory of what has happened to me-so I quit…and then the answer the mental health clinic has is to give me a medicine that makes me feel up beat by chemicals….???
The letter prompted nearly three years of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) treatment by a therapist that was especially trained in MST (military sexual trauma). These therapy meetings explained to me for the first time why I was the way I am-and why I fear such things as simple as going into a building,or worse yet-a restroom…and myriad patterns in my behavior that I knew existed but not exactly what to do to deal with them…but for most of my life did. All be it-drunk or sedated by some form of lets get high.

Through these three years at some point the wheels began to turn in regards to justice and validation…stuff that occured to me would ever be possible-that it could ever be so that something from my past so long ago that ate at me for all these years would once again be of interest to anyone. But here we are…and three weeks ago I sat in front of a judge from the Veterans Administration and told him my story.
I have to say this…there is no way I can put my life down into another persons heart in two hours-there is nothing I can explain about my past 37 years-almost 38…to any one in just two hours.
So I have no idea how to comment.

As you can appreciate-by the years of silence being turned around to the past three years of expressing this has been a different ride that has made several changes in me. I felt at one point it was well enough left alone-it became an issue full time…it has always been an issue full time for me,but now it is an issue for many others.
I was told in order to begin to heal I had to challenge this thing and hold the Navy accountable for what had happened.
To do this the order of things in the process as set up by the government is that a veteran who has a claim against the military-one must appeal to his local ‘veterans service officer’.
In my case this was a retired ‘gunny’ who had only the concept of being wounded in battle-but not wounded by sexual assault. This mans ignorence and blend of bigotry not only assaulted me…but made me angry to the point I decided to take this by the horns and hand hang on til its all over.
It was quiet and my personal miserable memory alone-the ‘veterans service officer’ made me want to cower like I did when the officer who saw my condition back the day it happend-he chuckles a laugh and says ‘get used to it’…my gunny reminded me of that.

A study done in association between in service sexual harrasment and PTSD among Department of Veterans Affairs disability applicants-the study was done through the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis Minnesota which its conclusions were published in an article in PSYCHIATRIC TIMES and also in MILITARY TIMES in Frerurary 2006….
(Mauren Murdoch,Melisa Polusney,James Hodges,Diane Cowpar)
….these researchers did a national cross study of 4918 eligible veterans with an effective return response of 3337 of those (a response of 68%) 6.5% combat veterans and 16.5% non combat veterans reported an in service sexual assault.
The conclusion of this report was that reported rates of sexual assault were considerably higher among veterans seeking Veterans Affairs disability for PTSD than historically reported.

Now I’m not going to break all this down further other than to say the numbers broke down to the surveys participants were 1654 men and 1683 woman.
Survivors-we know there are numbers of us…It is not right that those of us who seek validation-and justice should have to begin the wheel turning by going to the office of a former ‘gunny’ who understands little to nothing about what survivors of sexual assault are going through.
The system for many of us is not in place-it works for many others but we are kept in our box because of the shame and guilt that goes along with the way we’ve been victimized-and over and over again…it is impossible to trust and find the way out of that box-but for us to become stronger…and to begin to heal-we need to!
If this judge decides my points are strong enough to decide in my favor….I don’t see it as in my favor at all. I would have never started this on my own-going to a veterans affairs office and file a complaint.
Its too late in my life for compensation to do anything worth while…how can you pay someone and replace what has been taken?
But interestingly-to stand up to the man and say “you got to hear me” makes you feel a little more confident about yourself….whew,if you’d have told me five years ago-ten years ago?? I have said thats a dream. Now it feels like a dream…
If the judge see’s it my way it will be favorable to all of us-because it will pave the way for others to start the process for themselves….it will say we can fight against the way we were violated-against those who violated us.
I gave in a long time ago…but this time I’m not going to give up.
We need to change the way its done….we need someone sensitive and special to seek the way justice starts….no more gunny’s.
If we win this we will be boosted into another level of how to find the way to make a change for the countless other veterans that deserve confidential support to lead the way…we need to do this!

the USS Vulcan and Alice’s Restaurant…

November 20, 2007


Originally uploaded by jayfherron

It’s not difficult to look at back at the late 1960’s and realize there were some hard times going on. The civil rights of many Americans were crimped and controled – the Viet Nam war was prominant in most every American home-and the hippie movement was digging in its heels and getting the attention of the entire world.

I was stationed on the USS Vulcan in the fall of 1969. I was 18 years old and life was a new page on the boat and in the military. It was my first ‘holiday’ away from my family-and I guess that added to the mystic sense of being adult,or just sprouting wings of one.
We were raised in those days to really revere the holidays-Christmas ( crixmix ) still meant something and began the day after Thanksgiving instead of the day after school starts like it does now.

It was kind of an interesting sense being on the Vulcan during the holidays. It was a large ship-something like 880 men from one end to the other,so when we were divided up into three sections for off duty during the three holidays the ship was notably empty of a lot of sailors,and it seemed more relaxed.

My holiday off was New Years. So my holiday for Thanksgiving was spent on ship-so was ‘crixmix’-but Thanksgiving was much different than any I’ve ever known because families came on board and there were wives and children all over the galley and mess…we even had a Santa guy and a tree set in the center of the mess deck. It was a different sense of the season-watching this as just a teen growing into manhood.
Another memory of that Thanksgiving was ‘Alice’s Restaurant’…the movie of the day. We usually had a movie of the day on Sundays-I guess this was for the holiday…in the mess deck a two way movie screen dropped down from the overhead-and the guys would sit on either side to watch the film.
How ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ was chosen is a curious thing….an anti-war movie on a United States Navy vessel-during a war,but there it was…all about burning your draft card and mixing LSD with Thanksgiving turkey. It was quite a film-based on a long song by Arlo Guthrie about a van load of hippies that try to dump some trash on Thanksgiving day-and in that trash was the draft card of one of the dumpers-illegal dumpers. Pete Seager was even in the film-by these days he had become a leader in the anti-war movement.
Here we were-watching this on Thanksgiving on board the USS Vulcan…during the Viet Nam war.

I really don’t know how the film got there-if it was done as a joke…or some mistake…or even a protest of those against the war who dwelled with the rest of us on board the Vulcan. I really don’t know. I do know it was so amazing to finally see the movie on board ship-while in the service….while it was’nt a real hit in the theaters-the song was heard all over and it would take a total idiot not to realize its content was not pro-military.

It’s funny how stuff never leaves you….every time I hear a bar of ‘Alices Restaurant’ sung…it takes about three notes of the song to begin and my mind goes right back to that mess deck and watching that film…and I remember Thanksgiving on the USS Vulcan,1969.

under the overpass…

November 17, 2007

US 1sign

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

It is hard to wake up on a morning like this and not think about the homeless.
Winter is’nt even here and in Florida we have already had our first freeze this morning-my room was 26 degrees Farenheit,not the record of 23 from last year…but enough to be reminded.
Heater? Well,yes there is a heater…but for those of you that have no knowledge of the hazards of a space heater-mine has to be shut off at night during sleep. They are just too dangerous.
Its just me and a pile of blankets and two chiuaua’s trying to stay warm together.

I have this desperate hate for the winter-the older I get the worse it becomes. I think I’m reaching a point where I’m too tired to have to bring on the extra energy it requires to get up from under all those blankets and try to do a ‘mad max’ to get clothes of some kind on my body and plug that heater in at the same time.
Its really bad to have to poop…to huddle on a toilet seat under a blanket and hope the cold seat does’nt scare everything back inside. There’s actually a slight sheet of ice on the shower floor. I’m just glad it ain’t raining.
Hmmm,well why not turn on the ‘central’ ?
Well…this place has a history of being a bit more open air then others might find comfortable. There is no ‘central’.

It could be worse-it once was and has been.
The beginning of this ‘camp’ of mine was done on the bare dirt. Bare dirt means-there was nothing here. I was younger then-more healthy then I am today…more adventure then I have a desire for now. Plus…we had no choice-we were homeless and had to set camp.

That was over 30 years ago.
I still can remember waking up and feeling the stiffness of sleeping on the ground…the rapid motions to get a fire going to warm my hands.

I am grateful for this lifestyle. It has helped me to survive and have faith in a life better then what life is like around here. It has helped me to see the bigger things out of small things…but importantly it has given me a wisdom to be thankful for what is what and how it is is how it is.
I’ve waken up in camps set up behind a highway billboard. That was a long time ago-but I remember the emptiness my body felt along with the emptiness my stomach was feeling as I held my thumb out for the hope of a ride.
I remember trying to hitch north to my grandfathers funeral-sleeping under an over pass. Breakfast was raw corn from a field across the way.
And I am grateful for what the power of being so far down on the dirt being with out a home did for me…it made me have to do something to get up out of it for the sake of my then toddler sons. We had to survive,and we did.

I hate it sometimes when I gripe about my living conditions. I’m inside…there is a heater…and running water,until the electric gets cut-and all that goes. But even then I’m richer than most…I’ve got a place to huddle,no fear of my gear being stolen. I have a stove to cook up rice and black beans…I have rice and black beans.
Life ain’t so bad after all.


November 11, 2007

me wanting to be a sailor-with my brother Frank
Originally uploaded by jayfherron

The young boy on the left is me proudly and with as much imitation as I could muster-standing next to my brother Frank.
I can tell by the stripes on his sleeve that he was just a ‘seaman apprentice’,which means he had to just come home from boot camp.

I dont really know my exact age. It was a time of pureness and the era where boys my age absorbed every thing that was going on around them.
Even in this photograph-I did not know my brother Frank very well. I have very vague memories of him being home through our earlier life with him being in high school and me being in elementery…we did’nt do too many things together big brother little brother.
But he sure was something when he came home from boots and on his shoulder was the huge green sea bag that carried all he’d ever need in life as a sea going man.
I was happier than at Christmas time when my brother pulled out the hat for me-and a handfull of patches to sew on my sleeves.

At this age in my life I was still innocent to more bigger things in life. Our family lived on a quaint street in Charleston West Virginia and the biggest worry was beating Darla Cowan in hop-scotch then knowing that on the other side of the world the Viet Nam war was really just beginning to bring a major change to our innocence.

It could’nt have been much later then this photograph was taken that a television show began. It starred Vic Morrow as Sgt.Chip Saunders. As my boyhood pal Randy and I would immitate the great missions Sgt.Saunders had gone on to rid the world of nazis and kamakazee fighters-we would have to take turns being Sgt.Chip Saunders.
It could’nt have been much longer after this photograph was taken that we all witnessed John F. Kennedy assasinated (over and over) television took us there and the scenes pushed our patriotic spirit to tears, just like 9/11.

I did’nt know much about Viet Nam until our family moved to Washington DC.
In West Virginia television was limited power -technology had not advanced enough to send clear signals across the tops of the hills. So , it was’nt until we had television full time from the nations capital city that I became aware of Viet Nam.

Things had changed from living in Charleston and the peace of the 1950’s. In our new home area I came to learn that there was a war going on and it was’nt like playing Sgt.Saunders and pretending there were troops of nazis in the woods behind your house.
Every night on television news there was a moment when the days casualties were shown in their old high school photographs-all lined up in rows. Then we would see the lines of caskets on the tarmac in Dover…to pay respects these lost are due,unlike what we are unable to do today.
Turmiol of sorts was moving through the country. Some young men fled their home land to the safety of Canada to keep from going to Viet Nam.
Black men who had returned from the war and had already served a tour of thankless duty returned to the same segregation they had left when they were sent to the same suffering their fellow troops were sent to.
I can still see all of the civil rights marches in my memory-how ‘fellow Americans’ were treated by being herded by dogs and hosed away with the waters from fire hoses…all by ‘fellow Americans’.
Our television showed the scenes from rice pads in Viet Nam and white and black were there-soldiers in combat. And after those scenes it was the way those black veterans were treated along with thier families and neighbors-the terror of not being able to understand.
When the television would show those photographs each evening-white and black were there.
I have a friend-he was born in a Japanese internment camp in Arizona. His family were taken there before he was born-a family born in America,but because of the attacks in Pearl Harbor the families of American born Japanese were herded up and locked behind fences-the possesions they earned through their lives were taken. My friend was born in a prison,more less.
He went to Viet Nam.

It’s very hard to imagine all of the ways men sacrificed themselves to become a Veteran.
Lieutenant Leon Crane is one who comes to mind-his greatest feat in service was to survive an airplane going down in the mountains of Alaska-the mission was to find the easiest route to Hiroshima and to test the airplanes carburators ability to take the cold altitudes.
Lt. Crane survived the crash and spent 84 days wading through waste deep snow in sub-zero climates to find himself to safety. He had bailed out of the plane with out his gloves-but managed to keep a pack of matches.
And then on the other page are the Navajo code talkers who led our troops through safety by the use of a Native American tongue that no white man or Japanese could decode. Some of these things done by this kind of Veteran should be on the front page.

It is really hard to define a Veteran. There are so many kinds and from so many walks of life-where we can understand that some have endured more than others but yet they all have a sense of brotherhood between all-brothers and sisters…how many ever think about the woman who went to the various wars-the nurses in Korea and Viet Nam,and now woman serving in combat in Iraq.

A Veteran is somebody very important and very special. It’s a shame there are so many homeless Veterans and so many in need of help from the land that sends them to defend it.
I recall so well the way the hippies jeered and cursed the returning Viet Nam Veterans…and yet most of them had been drafted and taken away from their own innocence.
The truth how the Veterans of World War One were treated and the events of Hooverville…along the Antacostia River in Washington DC.

It may be you are like the rest of us and feel that war is wrong and it should never be. To be really honest-there are many who are in the front zones of war and many in the back parts too who have the same feeling. People choose to enlist in military fields for various reasons-in todays war in Iraq there are many who are there just for the hope of becoming a citizen of the United States.
Thats what its all about-wanting freedom.
You should thank a Veteran today,you should thank one everyday.

the victim…and the judge

November 9, 2007

me on the USS Vulcan

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

The ways to connect the story which happened to me in 1969-70 are legion. Indeed as one can tell from reading the past years worth of work written in this forum-the story is complicated to put together,it tells of a complicated life.
The young sailor in the photographs is me. My age in these pictures is just a few months into 18. I weighed around 120. I was a naive young man-really just a boy-not ready to make majestic decisions…still trying to figure out who I was and what I was going to do in my life.
In these photos,one can see the youth in my face-you can see how skinny I was.
I was in just a short time going to have my life changed…forever.

My crime was nothing. There was no crime…only innocent choices-my choice was the mistake I made by trying to go home and wish my family ‘happy’ new years…
It is all so complicated-yet it is all so simple…
The events this new years week end-so you understand my crime-are thus…I worked a job on the ship which allowed me every night off. Our ship was entering the holiday seasons-Thanksgiving,Christmas-and New Years. The ship was divided into three groups for time home-my group had the new years weekend. I had a liberty pass for that weekend beginning Saturday morning and ending Monday…that year Monday was new years eve. And yes-I had that Friday night off too-only required to be in an attendence call first thing Saturday at 0700.
A dumb idea stirred in my head that I could catch the liberty bus to Washington DC and rush home to surprise my family and turn around and get the return bus-go to roll call…and turn around and get another liberty bus to Washington and remain through the rest of my liberty at my parents home just out side of the city.
It snowed-a blizzard to intense it made the record books. I was stuck at the Greyhound station in the city center. Nothing was going to be moving-bus…it was stuck.
I did the proper thing-I reported myself to the military liaison at the bus station and they telephoned the ship and explained that I was stuck-and because I had a legal liberty pass I was given the go ahead to continue on and enjoy the holiday….everything-all my bases-were covered.

I have no true idea how things went so wrong.
My brother was sent to arrest me-he arrived at our parents home the next day. I was stationed on the same ship with Frank…he never liked that idea.
By the time the weekend had ended I found myself in a detention barracks…there I met my attackers and there my life was forever different-changed by the assaults on my young body.

For all of the years I suffered with the memory of barracks D-I never imagined anyone would ever be interested in sorting out the truth-I lived being considered a liar by my family-as well as a failure. Never did they ask for my side of the story.
I can tell you-I never thought it would ever be of interest to anyone ever again.
I lived with it in silence-although it raged inside of me loud and clear.

For my crime I was subjected to daily humiliation-for nearly two months I was ‘shared’ by my assailents…made to do what they forced me to do-traded me for cigerettes and soda money. I was made to pretend I was a girl-and forced to do things in a feminine way…crime and punishment.

After the Navy discharged me-with an ‘honorable’ discharge…I was not given an open door at my family home. I failed and was considered a trouble maker-an influence I suppose my parents did not want to expose my younger brother to…so I made my way to Florida and to the rest of my life trying to understand the confusion in my mind.

I am an older man now. It is 37 years since then….the officer that I reported this to-the rapes..told me to ‘get used to it’.
That never has happened.

By some strange twist of fate-my story came to the attention of the local veterans hospital near my home. Things grew from that-and it was suggested I seek justice. I never thought that could be possible.
Now-after three years after I filed a claim with the local veterans office…I have seen a judge.
I had worked in my head over and over in anticipation the way I was going to tell my story…it has been my life every day-so it is not something that can be compressed in just two hours time. It is about two months of tortured humiliation and 37 years of torture because of how the events in barracks D changed me. How can I put it into understanding to another in just two hours?
The judge asked me what had changed…I could not get it out that each time I need to go to a restroom I felt such fear that if someone was in there too I chose to live with discomfort-holding my bladder or my bowels until some other time. The deja vu of being assaulted in a urinal enters my senses each time a restroom door closes behind me. I could not get it out that each time a stranger approaches me I feel the sensation of someone putting thier hands around my neck and squeeze the ability to talk out of me…all the things I wanted to say came out so fast and jumbled I am not sure if I made sense.

I was driven to my hearing by a woman who works with children who suffer from PTSD. She is a mental health therapist. We sat in front of the judge with my attorney. If these two people had not been with me I would not have had my time spent wisely…the things I needed to say would have never gotten out. I was too concerned about the welfare of the woman who drove me-afraid some terrible thing would happen before we returned home to safety-and concerned that I was taking too much of my attorneys time,after all…we had to travel so far to get to this hearing. I kept myself concerned over the welfare of others…
Now that it is over…now the hearing date has come and gone-I am thankful for them being there for me. My life was explained to this judge to full understanding the way the time in barracks D crippled me-forever.

I was asked what I wanted. I told the judge that money was never going to change anything-ever. I asked for a letter to be written to my father…my father who soon will be gone-lost to his illness of cancer,who will one day die not knowing I was not the failure he concluded I must have been. My father who only heard one side of the story.

I was told yesterday that two hours was unusual. I was told these hearings usually lasted about twenty minutes,or at best a half an hour. The judge heard me through my attorney and the therapist who went as my friend and supporter.
I was able to tell the judge that this-if victorious…would be a victory for others who have endured the pain and fear and struggles a sexual assault survivor lives with. It will be a victory to show others that it is possible to battle those who hurt us and take back our power-which we had lost the moment we were attacked. Hopefully it will encourage other survivors to come forward and seek justice too.

Money is never the replacement. There is nothing that can give us back what we lost. I know the letter to my father is way over due. If it arrives in time before he dies…it will not give us back what all of us lost as a family,it will not give me a relationship with a man who I wanted so much to prove myself to. My father.

I do not have an end to this.
It will most likely be several months before a final determination is made…then,as the complexity of government works-slowly,a rejection notice will come-and an appeal process will begin-that should take many months more. I never will be able to replace the relationship with my Dad-his letter might come one day…but doubt that he will be able to read it is certain.
So there it goes.

48 hours…

November 5, 2007

shiprock new mexico

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

The view in the photograph is a natural monument known as ‘shiprock’. The native Americans believed this formation of solid rock was sent by the spirits to save the nation in which they lived-basically explained-when the nation was in jeopardy of being attacked the spirit led all the people to this point and the earth lifted them up out of reach of danger and away from their enemies-and upwards to safety.
The Navajo named this Tse Bi dahi translates-the ‘rock with wings’-but the settlers that purged west saw this in the distance and thought they had reached the Pacific Ocean and that this was a ship at sea…and so it seems the white settlers name made better sense than the original peoples name for this sacred place.
The legend of this place sends thrills down my spine.

In 48 hours I am going to be standing in front of a judge (of some sorts) to hear my claim that I was assaulted in the United States Navy detention barracks D.
In all honesty-I have no confidence in the hearing that is to take place.I have been given a season of evidence that confidence is shakey at best…who can we trust?
I was building trust with Charlotte at the VA hospital in my area…Charlotte was my therapist for post traumatic stress disorder,she specialized in military sexual trauma (PTSD and MST) and over a period of nearly three years she earned my trust,but it took time.
In my writings one may be aware-the therapy abruptly ended in August…no word,no warning,not even a slightly offered explaination. At least-one a person could believe.
If it was’nt for Charlotte-we wouldnt be writing and going through all the explainations of what had happened to me….she instilled a confidence that made me bold enough to confront this-to give me the knowledge that I could appeal for the sake of my discharge from the Navy-one that I have always been ashamed of. I certainly would have never come to a place where I was going to hold the Navy accountable for what happened.
But,in 48 hours I have that opportunity.
I have had contact-final contact-with Charlotte,her last day conversation that explained the hazard that caused the seperation-certainly not anything that makes us veterans of MST a party of guilt to her actions…which were to help one of us get out of a place of confinement,her only concern was for the veterans welfare. It blew up on her-and us…we are all victims.

For the three years I was seeing Charlotte-she became my ‘rock with wings’…a harbor of safety. I grew to trust her and looked forward to each Tuesday almost religously-never had anyone offered understanding and desire to listen,and help…never before her.

When we had our last conversation she wept. So I know it is not her personally that has abused my trust. She did what is easy to understand-she offered compasion to a veteran who suffers from this horrid malady known as PTSD. This showing of compasion does not fit the Veterans Administrations definitions of healing…they told her she spends too much time with each of us,which shows me they had more on thier plate of anger towards her than just that one incident,they wanted to get rid of us anyway….I think they want to get rid of her-she was actually doing something for us,not what the VA typically does.
Never the less…the three months silence took every good Charlotte did for me (and the others) and destroyed it. The trust? It is gone…never do I think ever can there be another who is trust worthy-I told her things no one knows…things I thought held no interest to anyone else,except me.
Now I am going to stand in front of a judge. They tell me this is not a judge…but then,I know it is-for a fact.
A month or so ago a federal prosecutor added to the tainted activity of Senator Larry Craigs own disgusting activity…seeking sexual contact with another in a airport mens room;the federal prosecuter flew from Florida under the impression he was going to meet the mother of a five year old girl-so he could have sex with the child. The sick chap couldnt even face his own filthy guilt…he hung himself in his jail cell.
I look at this and see these men as men who are supposed to show us confidence in higher officials-men who atre supposed to give us the resemblence of trust and leadership and of moral judgement. You can appreciate why my confidence is so below the surface of trust…my feelings about 48 hours from now are of fear. I feel that the formality of a hearing is just going to add to the lack of of trust. I will be looking at this ‘judge’ and in my mind will be a senator rubbing his hand along a mens room stall trying to attract the attention of a simular worm as he…I will be seeing the federal prosectutor who sat on a bench which stands for morals-truth-trust…and I will be thinking of these incidents which seem almost fitting for the time frame. I lost Charlotte-someone I believed in…and in that same time frame I read the disgusting reports of these two men. Say..the one who still lives (Larry Craig) is continueing to rub it in the faces of all Americans,he refuses to quit-or to even go to the hardware store and buy enough rope to join the sick deviant federal prosecutor.

Shiprock…Tse Bi dahi,the rock with wings. I believe in this…I believe that once upon a time there was a society-a Nation…of peoples who were’nt as infiltrated with the conditions we have today-although eventually this Nation came to realize the future held misery because the very men who came and said ‘trust us’ stole and murdered and ravaged this Nation of people…
I am not wanting to suggest my past is one to compare with that of the original people who held this land sacred. I am trying to say it is almost impossible to trust…
So,in 48 hours I urge the spirits to fly me high on a rock with wings-lift me up above and away from those who are not on my side-lift me up towards the heaven where trust and truth is always known-and just.

Sir and I

November 2, 2007

Sir and I

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

We called my grandfather ‘Sir’….
I certainly have no idea why,but my grandfather was always refered to as this. I have always regarded him as my favorite of my grandfathers. He was quiet-rarely ever said a word and often times kept to himself. I never thought about it,but Sir must of been post traumatic from serving in the trenches in World War One.
Sir never just sat  me down and explained things-I was too young a boy,for one,and we were not always around one another throughout the year…but often times when I look in a mirror I sense him and see him and somehow I understand him. Sometimes I believe it goes further than that-I feel I see things my great grandfather had seen. He was sea captain who sailed the tall ships….this was not Sirs father-but my grandmothers.Never the less-there’s a mix in there.
It is very odd to me to think that once upon a time I held the hand of a man who was born the same day the state of Washington became a state. Still a land hauled by wagons and horses.
I was never told by Sir that there was love for me-but I realize that there was by the things he did for me. He came to me when I was around ten years old and told me the the next day I was to go to bed by four in the afternoon and get some sleep. He never anything else-just that. Of course-it was hard for me as a boy to follow that kind of command so I tossed and turned and waited and watched the daylight through the shades. He came and got me right after supper that night and we caught a bus to the downtown part of DC. Sir was an iron worker and he had been working on the museum of Natural History-a part of the Smithsonian Institute. We went and sat up by the Washington Monument and ate dried hard boiled eggs-Sir had a packet with salt and pepper and we rolled the eggs in that for flavor.All of a sudden Sir says ‘here they come’ and we could see the flashing lights of police cars blinking up in the dark and we headed down the hill towards them.
What we saw was the truck hauling in the railroad locomotive that sits in the bottom floor of the museum today.
The place where we stood you could see the rigging and the cranes and men everywhere-some knew Sir and spoke to him.
I’ll never forget that night.

I often would go to a window on the fifth floor of the VA hospital here where I live. From that point I can see across to the campus of the University of Florida and I can see several buildings including the south end of the football stadium-all which I had a part in building. The football stadium was the project I hauled most of the structural steel to. I was at that place nearly every day of its construction.

I can stand at that window and think about Sir and think about how proud he would have been to know that by taking me to that site and seeing all that rigging eventually would be something I was surrounded by the rest of my life.

He died when I was about twelve. He erected steel until he was forced to retire at an ripe age of 75-I think he was still able to go.
He came and stayed with us a while when we still lived in Charleston and up town they were building a hotel. Sir and I would go on the bus to watch the construction-sitting on a bench across the way watching the cranes move concrete and the dump trucks clearing the hole. I remember him saying to me…although I think he was just saying it out loud to himself and I was just hearing it…he said that making him retire was going to take his life away,work was all he had.
He died when I was about twelve.