It was 1970. I’d served a tour of duty in Vietnam and come home in 1966 with plans to help my dad with our family farm in Minnesota. Maybe go to college and find a career. Instead…I drifted. No reason. Just a vague sense of unease.
Vietnam had left me with nightmares. I was in an artillery unit, the so-called kings of battle. Sometimes our maps were wrong and we ended up shelling our own guys. Once, we accidentally hit a South Vietnamese militiaman. He died alongside his pregnant wife.
I tried to blot out the horrible memories with alcohol and marijuana. Then I tried to outrun the thoughts by moving around. My nine older siblings lived all over the U.S., and I hitched from place to place, finding work on farms or in construction. California, North Dakota, Alaska, Missouri, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada. Wherever I was, I wanted to be somewhere else.
Now I was broke and attempting to get back to Minnesota to see my dad before he died. Can’t remember why I thought it was a good idea to walk along this empty highway in a snowstorm. There’s a lot from that time I don’t remember well.
I’d been walking all day. I’m sure I looked awful. Long, scraggly hair and beard. Dirty clothes. Probably smelled like whatever I’d drunk the night before. I hadn’t eaten all day.
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October - November 2019