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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

February 22, 2017
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
Jordan Flaherty
Best Films of 2016: Black Excellence Versus White Mediocrity
Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail