FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Blind Mule and a Box of Medals

by The Time The Doctor Arrived, The Man Was Alert And Thankful.

“Do you know what your daddy did?” said the doctor.

“No, sir, I reckon not,” said Wilburn.

“He saved that man’s life. Your daddy knows a chicken’s body temperature is higher than a man’s. It drawed the poison out of his leg and into the chickens.”

Apart from the three dogs and some chickens, the family had only a blind mule, which had evidently memorized its way around the farm and could be sent up and down the lane with a load of kindling and find its own way home.

Maudie Vest, with her amazing green thumb, kept them in vegetables. Hunting and fishing provided most of the protein in their diet. During the Depression years Maudie would sometimes take blocks of government oleomargarine, apply a little coloring, and sell them in Decatur to unsuspecting townspeople as “good country butter.”

What meager wealth of farm-boy smarts and savvy Wilburn Vest drew upon to keep himself alive in war time, only he would ever know. He was pistol-whipped and put before mock firing squads in the Stalag. When he was finally liberated, he cried when the guard who had given him his crust of bread every morning was shot. A strapping youth who stood 6’1″ tall, he returned from Europe weighing 92 pounds.

Like most men and women who have actually experienced intense combat, Wilburn Vest never wanted to talk about it very much. He was proud of his POW medal when the country finally issued it, and observed that it was not an award for getting captured but an acknowledgement of “honorable service while a prisoner of war.”

His honorable service involved two escape attempts. On one of them, he made it into France, where a family hid him in the barn. The German army found him there and made him watch while they executed the entire family who had helped him. He never forgot their kindness and the two or three words they taught him, like “bread,” “water” and “thank you.”

After his discharge, he never owned or fired another gun or, to my knowledge, killed another animal of any kind.

The messages he had written in pencil on Red Cross postcards from the Stalag hadn’t reached Mildred. Unschooled in geography (he had only finished the sixth grade in the one-room country school), he had addressed them simply to “Huntsville” without specifying the state. They sat in Texas, undeliverable, until the war was almost over.

The gaunt soldier who returned from Europe found a wife who hadn’t been sure he was still alive, her still-grieving parents (who had lost their son to heart failure the month I was born) and a nearly two-year-old child with whom he had never “bonded,” as they call it nowadays. There is a photograph of him holding me as though he didn’t know quite what to make of the burden.

In the 1952 election he said, “I Like Ike, too, but I’m voting for John Sparkman.”

THE BLIND MULE THAT MEMORIZED MORGAN COUNTY

According to my father,
We had this mule one time
and it was blind
but it had Morgan County
memorized.

Well sir,
it knew which way town was
and who you was,
and where to take a load
of kindling wood.

One time it loped up
across the yard
where people stood,
having a picnic lunch
and pitching horseshoes,
and it kindly stopped.

And stood real still.

And Hubert Whitlow set
his ice tea down
and took about two steps
backwards before
he lit out toward the fence
which when ho got there
furnished him a post
to cling to
because that mule caught up,
clamped him on the knee
locked his jaws
and laid down
sideways like a dead
jay bird
except its legs was trembling.

“Godamighty, hep me”
Hubert said.

Directly someone hollered,
“Get an ax.”

The mule held on
and Hubert suffered while
they found an ax.

They had to take
the mule’s head off,
to get its jaws unhinged
from Hubert’s knee.

They made us take the head
and wrap it in a box
and mail it to Montgomery
where they run some tests?
and come to find,
that mule was crazy.

David Vest writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He is a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs.

He can be reached at: davidvest@springmail.com

Visit his website at http://www.rebelangel.com

Click here to read I’ll Never Get Out of this Band Alive, Chapter One in David Vest’s online memoir Rebel Angel.

 

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.

More articles by:
May 30, 2016
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail