We had killed more than we should have but that’s the way it usually was. In truth I should say that Roger did most of the killing. I did a lot of the shooting. Not to say that I was a bad shot…I was average on most days and a little better on some but Roger never missed. And that fact led to his demise. So right up front, this story doesn’t have a happy ending.
Roger and I were friends. Not the type that hung out together to do just about anything anytime; we were huntin’ buddies, and that’s about all. Other than our desire to spend most mornings before school and every weekend in the field, we were polar opposites. Roger had little if any known interest in girls, fishing or cars and could have cared less about cruisin’ the strip. So we went hunting. From the 1st of September and the opening of dove season, through the end of goose season in January, Roger and I were armed and dangerous. Dove, quail, pheasants, turkey, ducks and geese, deer, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes and all manner of furry or feathered creatures would have done well to lay low. Roger was a hunter.
His parents were older than mine, in fact, if told they were his grandparents no one would have doubted. His dad was retired Air Force and was a very quite man. His mom was even quieter. They had moved to Tulsa upon retirement after a long tour of duty up in the Maine woods where Roger cut his teeth on .22’s and scatter guns. Roger and I were juniors in high school when we met.
Many weekends during duck season we would travel out to the Great Salt Plains in Roger’s Scout. We would drive the perimeter of the refuge looking for ponds and puddles. Situated well in the Central Flyway, the place was thick with waterfowl of every variety and every pond or puddle was sure to hold a few of them. Setting out a raft of decoys would have worked of course, but Roger was into stealth…so it was spot, park, crawl and shoot…and shoot, and shoot and shoot again.
It usually went something like this: Rising up over the bank we’d spook the ducks. Up they would go and down they would fall. I would empty my gun and figure that I hit a couple of them. Roger would do the same and know that he hit a lot of them. Ten shots and thirteen birds between us were not unheard of. It was that way all the time. Roger never missed, and out of kindness he would always give me credit for hitting a few…whether I did or not.
We hunted together through our senior year. Every species, every season…building memories almost daily. Time passed, we hunted some more and then it came to an end. We graduated from high school and Roger volunteered for the Army. I got a few letters from him. He had gone 82nd Airborne and was as gung-ho as anyone you ever knew. After setting every marksmanship record for every type of hand held weapon the Army had, he was shipped off to ‘Nam as the shooter in a two man sniper unit.
In March of 1968, while I was going through training in the Air Force I was called to the commander’s office. Word had come down that while on patrol in the Thua Thien Province of South Vietnam, Roger had stepped on a land mine and he was gone.
I had wondered about how he would reenter the world when the Army had used him up. I had wondered if he could do it. Would he still hunt? Would we hunt together again?
I found his name on The Vietnam Wall a few years ago. That tragic black wall with over 50,000 names on it. Not all were like Roger…some were supply sergeants, some were medics, some were whatever. But all were heroes. I thought about the lost lives and the waste. I thought about the times and the differences and I wondered who remembered. I remember Roger.