Chapter 1: The Early Years
This story has been very difficult for me to recite because this tells of my own life. I left home at eighteen and joined the service to get away from an abusive family life. I wandered in and out of real life for several years before I found something good. I found a woman that although most people would say was not a beauty, she turned into my salvation. She stood by me in thick and thin, like the vows say, 'in sickness and in health, for better or worse, till death do us part.' That was us. I'm an old man now looking back on my life and seeing that even in hindsight I had a good life, probably better than some, maybe worse than others, but I have to think it was a good life for me and my soul mate, Kathy.
Let me start out by giving you my name, well the name; I am going to us to describe my life. The story you are about to read is true, the names have been changed to protect the innocent, namely me. My name is James Lawrence Stickler. I was the first-born child of Frederick Giles Stickler and Mildred Mae Wright. I was born on September 10th, 1943, in a small town in western New York, and yes I was conceived about a year after the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor; the 'day that will live in infamy' according to our president at the time, FDR. Today I am willing to bet that nine out of ten children from age five to adults aged forty don't know what that day meant. Just like VE Day, VJ Day, and probably any of a dozen more dates like D-Day that I had to learn in school. They meant something to us kids born during the war years. A lot of the kids didn't have a father after the war, just like a lot of parents no longer had young men in their family either.
Somewhere between 22 and 25 million military men across the globe were killed, and another 40 to 52 million civilians were wiped from the face of the earth. Approximately, 2.5% of the world's population at that time was killed during that war that lasted from 1937 to 1945. Compared to other wars it was horrendous. My maternal grandfather fought in WW-I; my father and uncle fought in WW-II, and another uncle went to Korea, and they all returned different from when they left. I went to Southeast Asia during my time in the military, and I came back unlike I left too. I think any young man that is forced into war, comes home different. When the troops came returned stateside in 1945, they were treated as conquering heroes. When the troops came back from the Korean War in 1953, they were treated as returning heroes. However, when we were dragged into the Vietnam Conflict (1955 – 1975), and the troops started coming home from that place; they were treated like shit, we were labeled baby killers, and we were spat upon, hit with rolled-up papers and signs and in some cases bats and sticks. We were called all kinds of names; probably, the worst was traitors and baby killers. Those scars, both mental and physical are still carried today by most of the young men and women who came home from that war. Excuse me, it was not a congressional or publicly declared war so it was labeled a conflict, but it was war regardless. I'll probably get more into that time of my life later. You will have to excuse an old man with my rambling; it happens when you get old.
[Let me interrupt here and say that this story took me almost eight months to get all of it. It was a lot of time with seeing my friend slowly slip away from an older semi-hale man into the wasted flesh that occupied the hospital bed in his spare room at his death. There were a lot of false starts and hours that I just sat by his bedside waiting for him to wake up and go on with his narrative. However, I stayed because he was my friend. BR]
Okay, my early childhood. I lived with my maternal grandparents, and my mother until my father returned in 1945. My grandmother and mother were volunteer fire fighters. There is a picture of the three of us somewhere. My grandfather helped the war effort with his job by making ammo and other items as needed. I never really knew what he made, as it was all hush-hush. I remember living in several different places until I was about five. We then moved into a two-story house where my father's mother, Maude, and my Uncle Bill lived downstairs and our family lived upstairs. This was the Broadhead house and was where shortly after we moved in my mother turned up pregnant with my sister Maxine. We lived there about five years. I met and ran around with several of the kids on our street, and I guess I was about eight or nine when two things happened that kind of changed my life, or maybe it was just two things I remember clearly of my early life, other than the discipline.
First, was that we were running around in a vacant lot on our street playing cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers, I don't remember which, when the flapping sole of my shoe caught on a downed branch, and I fell face first on the ground. I ended up cutting my palm about two inches on a piece of broken glass. I ran to the house of my friend Johnny Allred, and his mother cleaned out the cut which was about a half inch deep and grabbed a pronged hair clip and closed my cut palm and wrapped a piece of gauze around it and called my mom. She rushed down to the house, grabbed me, and scolded me all the way to the hospital about six blocks away. Yeah, we walked the whole way because my dad was working and had our only car. Mom grabbed my arm, held it up in the air, and dragged me down the block yelling and screaming at me for the stupid thing I had done. I'm pretty sure she was swatting my ass a few times too, but a parent could get away with that kind of treatment then; it was called 'disciplining a child', not child abuse.
I had come home from elementary school, (RR Rogers Elementary) and changed into my play clothes, which meant my old shoes with the right sole hanging almost completely off and a large hole in the under sole. It was big enough you could see maybe an inch round part of my sock through the hole. I couldn't wear my school shoes, because they had to last me all through the school year. Hey, I'm not saying we were poor, but we didn't have a lot of clothes; we got new clothes either right before school started or before Thanksgiving, and they had to last us until summer when school let out for that year. What lasted the year became play clothes until we totally outgrew them. Anyway, I ended up getting butterfly clamps on my palm and wrapped again just like Marge Allred wrapped it before. These butterfly clamps were very similar to a hair clip of today, but instead of plastic teeth, they were made of aluminum and had teeth almost like a fine-tooth comb, but the teeth were staggered and meshed with each other to hold the hair in place when styling. Well, the hospital ones were very similar, but were smaller in size, made of stainless steel and had much finer teeth and a different angle, so they would hold the skin together and was better than stitches because they wouldn't leave as big a scar. Today I can't tell you which hand it was on. There is no scar at all.
The second thing that was of note was when Johnny Allred and I were fishing for bullheads, or more commonly known as catfish. They are tough skinned, and you need a pair of pliers to skin them, but they are good eating. I should mention that for as long as I can remember until I left home, we always added to our larder by fishing and hunting. When we moved closer to the lake, we would have sunfish, carp, northern pike and muskellunge or muskie. We also ate rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, bob white, quail, turkey, woodchuck, deer, and just about any other animal we could trap or hunt.
Anyway, Johnny and I were fishing along the river that ran through the middle of town. We were about nine or maybe coming up on ten. The Chadakoin River had several dams and weirs left over from when most of the town's power for the furniture factories came from the water wheels along the river. The river was pretty fast-moving and therefore, could be used to provide power for all the belt-driven machines. We no longer had the need for water wheels, but the dams, locks and weirs were still in the river. Johnny hooked something big and was trying to pull it in when he slipped on a muddy spot and went into the river. I tried to reach my pole down to him, but the current took him and pulled him away from shore. I almost panicked, hey who am I kidding; I did panic, and I ran to the nearest business. It was a barber shop on the street about a hundred yards from the river edge. I ran in there and said my friend was drowning and being swept over to the big dam. There were probably four guys there talking, and they took off running after me because their first words were 'Where?" I said, "Follow me!" and we all ran to the river.
One of the men saved Johnny, but I got a whipping and couldn't sit for a week. Why? I couldn't tell you because I never knew why, I was not once told. For the longest time, I thought it was because it wasn't me, and I should have drowned. Well, that is how I felt.
My next major event in my life was when my cousin, John, who was a year older than me, went hunting with a friend, and he shot him as they were climbing through a fence. This happened after we had moved to our new place that was not that far from the lake. They both had 22s; the gun dropped, and my cousin tried to grab it and hit the trigger and shot the other kid in the head. I was probably only eleven or twelve, and I didn't know the other kid. I remember that my cousin came into town to live with us for a while. It was probably only a month, but it really hit him hard.
Then when I was around twelve, I discovered my dad's porn stash and thought it was kind of curious. I'll get to the strange part in a minute. The next year I had sex with my cousin John's younger sister Susan. She was a year younger than I was and had a boyfriend who was three years older than her. He introduced her to sex the year before and during summer vacation that year, he had to be gone with his parents on vacation. Since my Aunt Gloria didn't work, except on the farm, my sister and I went to live with them during the summers. We played in the haymow and had built a fort out of the bales. One hot afternoon Susan and I were alone up there, and she asked me if I knew about girls. I had already learned that they were very different from boys, and what the differences were and how to have some fun. Well, it looked like fun from my dad's porn stash. He had several nudist books and a couple of 8mm movies and a whole bunch of pictures. That is when I found out that my parents were swingers. I saw pictures of both my parents naked with other people, so I could pretty much figure from them that they had a weird marriage.
Back to Susan, she took her clothes off and wanted me to finger her and be on top and put my wiener inside her. Hey, I'm no dummy, so I said sure and stripped off and fingered her hole and then stuck my four-inch dick in her and moved in and out. I even came, although it seemed to be clear and not milky as I had seen in some of the pictures my dad had. We had fun for about a week and a half until Susan's boyfriend Jason came back from vacation. Then I had to find a new outlet for my sexual urges.
Until we moved again just before my fifteenth birthday, not much happened. I tried some guy on guy with a friend, Craig Holder, but nothing serious; we were young, and experimenting since we couldn't get any girls interested in us. I think we tried out each other's ass maybe three times. We both had much younger sisters, but didn't want to get into that due to our parent's wrath and the age of our sisters. The rest of the time I just jacked off. Vaseline was my friend for quite some time then. Well, there was the time my cousin and I stump broke a calf, but that was only once. The calf was only about four days old and wouldn't stand still unless it was feeding from its mother. Hey, don't condemn me unless you have led a perfect and moral life.
During my time at this house on Fluvanna Avenue, I remember that we had an apple tree and several lilac bushes around a sunken garden area next to our house. At one time or another for infractions of god knows what rules, I was spanked or beaten with lilac switches or apple tree branches for bothering my sister or just anything I did wrong. My dad was the major disciplinarian of the family, there were a lot of 'wait until your father gets home' but my mother slapped me too, so it wasn't always my dad.
One incident I remember my dad used an old razor strop to beat me with. This time my sister was jumping on my bed and fell and cut her cheek open on the window sill. Man I really couldn't sit for days after that one. Another time we were eating supper, and I had gotten a 'D' in some subject; I really don't remember which one, probably English. Dad had the newspaper next to his plate, and he rolled the paper up and hit the side of my face on my left ear. I was deaf in that ear for over a month, but I never went to a doctor about it. I mean, how could I, my parents would have to take me and pay the doctor, right? Well, it didn't happen, so I suffered the result.
The only two times I remember I went to see a doctor because of injuries when I lived there had nothing to do with discipline from either of my parents. One was we were playing 'King of the Mountain' where I fell and cut my left elbow on a broken beer bottle. I ran home and was rushed to the hospital and waited for our doctor to get there. While waiting, I fell asleep on the table and when I woke up, the doctor had probed for glass and sewed up the cut. The doctor said that there was one small piece that he couldn't reach without causing more damage to my joint. I later learned when I went into the service I still had a hunk of the glass in my elbow and over the years, it slowly was worn away with the action of my bones against it, and it disappeared. Remember this was early in 1955 and modern medicine was not what it is today with micro surgery and arthroscopic for joints.
The second incident required a hospital stay of about three days. My friends and I made a bicycle racing track very similar to what motorcycle motor cross is like today. We had turns, jumps and everything. Anyway, we had been riding on this track all summer long, and it was late August when we heard fire engines racing to a fire at a car dealer down the hill from our track. We all tore down the lengthy hill from the track to Washington Street where the fire was. As we were going along on Washington, suddenly I was on the ground and moaning. The chain had come off my bike and somehow gotten caught in my front wheel, and I went over the handlebars landing on my face. My left wrist hit one of the large, round, concrete balls outside the hardware store and broke my ulna in two places. My face was one mass of blood, and I think I broke my nose too. Anyway, I got two stitches in my chin dimple, one between my eyes and one in my upper lip next to my nose.
My ulna was set, but the bone was twisted sometime after being set improperly by someone at the hospital. After a week, I was x-rayed again and the bone fragment was turned 90 degrees to where it should be so my cast was taken off. Then the doctor re-broke the bones and turned it the right way to, however, we later learned when the next x-ray was taken that the fragment was now 180 degrees from where it should be. My dad said 'leave it, ' so they did.
After we moved again we were in this trailer court on Garfield Road, run by another uncle besides the one who had the farm, although it was only about two miles up the road from Uncle Paul and Aunt Gloria's place. These were my Uncle Ken and Aunt Ida that ran the trailer court, and it was on land they had received from his father, my Grandfather Gordon. Grandpa Gordon was gone by now, and Grandma Emma was living with Ken and Ida. Emma was my mother's mother and Ken was Emma's brother.
This is when I started high school and met Bob. Bob's family lived about four miles down the road from us, and we became very close friends. My cousin John was a year ahead of us, and so we really didn't hang around much anymore. He was too busy with girls and 4H. 4H is a lot like FFA, but their main goal is to teach leadership and all around skills besides agriculture. Of course, Ag is a big part of it too.
Now growing up, our town had four junior high schools, but only one high school. I think it is still that way today, but who knows I haven't been back since I left home, except for funerals and very short visits when my parents were still alive. Anyway after meeting Bob on the bus home from school, we kind of hit it off, and we've been pals ever since. We went out with girls, and we worked on the farms around us for spending money and went to the square dances at the fire hall in the little Busti Township about ten miles away on Saturday nights. For us country kids; that was about our only outlet. We weren't welcomed by the city kids as most of them were the kids of bankers, store owners, you know the rich kids. All the poor kids lived all the way over on the other side of town from us, near where we used to live on Fluvanna. So it was typical of just about every high school, there is anywhere. There are the jocks, the important people (i.e. rich and popular), the bus kids, and all the rest. This was before Geeks and Nerds, so everyone was lumped into the 'rest of the kids' category. I don't remember there ever being a late bus, if you were going to extracurricular activities or in detention, you just missed the bus, plus most of the country kids had chores to do after school, so we had limited availability to hob knob with the upper crust of society at school. Only we farm kids and the poor kids who lived on the far west side of town by Washington and Fluvanna streets rode the bus.
This is when my sexual side came out in force. There were Mary Margaret Murphy, and Roxanne Thorpe, and Diane Christen and Joyce Heller. These were the girls; I really learned all about sex with. 3M was the first; we called her that even though we had never heard of the 3M Company up in Minnesota. She and I dated for well nigh a year, and it took almost nine months before we had actual sex, but boy howdy, did we have some great make out sessions. Mary was the first girl I knew real well that had developed boobs. She was fourteen when she just blew up from a flat chested girl like all the rest around us into these large grapefruit-sized honkers. Put that on a girl, five feet even and maybe 85 pounds and you can see why I loved her. I got to see those tits and got to suck, kiss, lick, and even fuck them later on. However, she was my first after Susan.
By now, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the female form and sex. I was fifteen and experienced, well I had sex with two different girls, and so I was experienced. Then, there was Roxanne or Roxie as I called her. She was my next conquest. She was in the school band and had a horrible problem with acne, but since she was a French horn player, she could give a blow job that I don't think I have ever had better, even from the whores in Southeast Asia (SEA).
Roxie and I went out for about eight months before she gave up her cherry to me in the back seat of my dad's 57 Cadillac. I had to be sixteen by then if I had my dad's car. Let's face it country kids learned to drive on tractors from age nine or ten so having a driver's license at sixteen was not uncommon. I went with Roxie until she broke up with me when she found Jason Root. He played trumpet in the school band, and he was a hunk, according to Roxie.
That is when I started going with Diane. Diane was kind of an enigma in that she professed to be highly religious but she and I really hit it off and were having sex inside of two months of our first date. We only dated for about four months since her family moved away then.
My last high school lover was Joyce Heller. I met Joyce at the square dances, and she went to another school outside of my home town. She was a year younger than I, and we danced a lot, especially the close ones. At the dances, the songs were about three square dance songs next three popular songs and then three slow songs. Remember this was back in 55 to 60, and most of the songs were leisurely ballads, rock and roll, or slow loving songs. However, the evening always ended with 'Unchained Melody', 'I Can't Stop Loving You', or 'Harbor Lights'. Of those three, I invariably loved Harbor Lights the best. You got to dance real slow with your girl and kiss since they turned the lights out except for the stage area. The dances were at the Busti Fire Hall, and it was more or less the whole community hall, and they had an actual stage and large dance floor that could be turned into a hall for community meetings. The only other building in the area was the Grange hall, and it would seat about 50 people, but the fire hall could hold three hundred easily when they drove the trucks outside.
Anyway, Joyce was my last girlfriend at home, and I really thought she was the one, you know the one you marry. We made out a lot, kissing and maybe feeling each other up but never went beyond the 'over the clothes' feeling. We were in love and when I came back from college, we would marry, well maybe earlier but not until after she graduated. I had never felt the way I felt with any other girl, so that is why I knew this was real. That lasted for about two years. Yeah I know two years with no sex, well that wasn't really true. I did have sex with girls other than Joyce when we were steadies. There were Molly Gardner and Angela Harker. Angela transferred from Bristol, PA and there was a song about a girl from Bristol. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the song; anyway, it was about this really beautiful girl from Bristol, whatever. There is a line in it that goes, 'The kids from Bristol are sharp as a pistol.' Her family moved into the trailer park, and we got together during the first summer she came there. She was of the fast crowd, and we had sex in our trailer many times that summer. I think that was summer of my senior year.
[The song was the Bristol Stomp by the Dovells. It was written in 1961 by Kal Mann and Dave Appell, two executives with the Cameo-Parkway record label, for the Dovells, an a cappella singing group from Philadelphia, PA. – BR]
My last year in high school was great; I finished up all the math classes, including algebra and calculus, and I had all my shop courses completed as well as a class on electricity – mainly what is now considered electronics. We built a crystal radio, a distribution system, circuit breaker boxes, and many other electric and electronic items. We studied transformers, long distant distribution lines, and a lot more. The senior prom was really anti climatic. I took Joyce, but we didn't do anything like you read or hear about today. It was held in the big downtown hotel ballroom, and some of the rich kids had rooms upstairs, but I did not. Joyce's mom came to take us home about 11. We kissed and made out on the way home, but that was it.
After graduation, I waited on answers from my college applications, but needed a job, so I worked on a farm some 20 miles from home. I lived there full-time and worked my ass off. The farm was owned by two sisters who were widows and had 15 dairy cows and about a hundred-acre farm. I milked 15 cows, morning, and night every day from June to September and even had to carry a new-born calf from the very back of the pasture to the barn as when milking time came that morning, there were only 14 cows waiting at the barn. I milked those 14 and then let them out to pasture and went looking for my lost cow on foot. I finally found her and her calf. I guess the calf had just been born, and her mother had licked all the mucus off him, and he still couldn't walk yet, so I carried the 50 lb calf about what seemed to be a mile and a half back to the barn, and by the time I got there and the mother inside the stall to milk her, the calf finally stood on its own and gingerly walked around getting in my way while I tried to milk his mother.
I had applied for several colleges, but hadn't received any replies, probably due to my English final. They had what was called a regent's test for finals, and you had to achieve a 65 to pass with a 'D'. Well, I had 'D's all year in English, and I'd received a 65 on the Regents, so I passed. My teacher couldn't flunk me, even if she tried. That may be why I hadn't heard back from any colleges by the time school started in September, so I decided to join the service. I went down to the recruiter in August and took the test; I think they called if an ASVAB, or something like that. It evaluated your knowledge in a whole lot of fields and gave a score in several subjects. I scored at least 85 in each subject except electronics, and I had a 95 in it. I was going to try for the Marines because I loved their dress uniform, and I was quite fit, but it was not to be because he was out to lunch and Bob was in talking to the Air Force recruiter, so we joined together.
Ably edited by WSV; proofread by prissy_35503. All errors, though are mine.