Might as Well Go Back to Ohio

Might as Well Go Back to Ohio

Told by Cort Willoughby to Garland Davis who rewrote and embellished

Officer Cort Willoughby was standing a turn on Index Hill, West Liberty, Kentucky next to the State Prison. West Liberty was around the hill. The road Cort was monitoring was the best route to the west side. It was a lonely boring 0200 until his Radar unit went snake shit!

Some dude zippin’ right along in a 45MPH speed zone. The malefactor was hitting 79, moving right smartly. Now Kentucky law says that moving more than 20 over the limit is an arrestable Reckless Driving offense. Cort hit the blue lights and the dude pulls over. After doing the License, Registration, and Proof of Insurance dance Cort strokes the dude with a ticket.

Cort noted that the dude was from Ohio, which was another good reason to fit him with a set of bracelets. Cort didn’t mind the paperwork of an arrest but seldom hooked one up for a speed offense unless there were other more serious mitigating factors.

Cort presents the dude with the ticket and explains his options. The guy looks at the citation, Cort’s unit number and the name of the citing officer. He looks at Cort’s name tag and asks, “Damn, how many Willoughby’s are there around here who are cops?”

“Why,” Cort asks.

He pulls out a citation from Kentucky State Police, unit 790. Kevin Willoughby, Cort’s son, had stroked him about 25 minutes earlier.

“Where are you going?” Cort asked

“Salyersville.” the dude says.

Just to spin him up, bullshitting, of course, Cort says, “You haven’t learned yet, My brother is High Sheriff of that county, My cousin is the Chief of Police in the town and my Pop, a retired State Police Captain, is the Justice of the Peace.”

The dude said, “Damn, I might as well just turn around and go back to Ohio. Willoughby’s everywhere with a fuckin’ badge.”


Midnight at Sea

Midnight at Sea

From Glenn Hendricks

So…getting off the 2000-2400 watch. Still a little wired from too much coffee and midrats. Not really tired. Steaming between Sasebo and Subic, 1974.

It’s a balmy night, we’re making turns for 16 knots. There is a full moon out, lighting up the ocean surrounding us like a cold white searchlight. You could almost read by the light. All but the brightest stars are washed out by this incredible moon.

I stand on the lee side boat deck on the O2 level next to the motor whale boat and under the Captain’s Gig and light up a cig. Watch the ocean sweep past and listening to the breeze against the superstructure and the distant hum of the forced draft blower intakes on the stack. I toss the butt into the drink and wander aft then down the ladder to the main deck. I turn the corner and walk forward toward the fo’c’sle.

I climb the ladder and walk past the 3 inch twin mount, across the anchor chain and up to the bow. Standing there you can watch the stem cut the water into twin curls, hypnotic in their unending stream.

I look back at the bridge. Only the red and green running lights are showing. The glass is dark. I know lookouts are posted but no movement can be seen. It’s as if I’m the only one aboard. A ghost ship sailing toward the unreachable horizon.

I duck down and light a cig. Standing there I gaze off, listening to the water, the breeze in the rigging of the M frames, the faint murmurer of machinery and contemplate what my future might be. I’m 19 years old.

I toss the butt into the ocean. Consider having another, then decide I need to hit my rack. I turn away from the bow and make my way down to Engineering berthing. Quietly I take my boondockers off by the light of the red night vision lamp, stick them between the AC vent duct and the bulkhead. Put my dirty dungarees into my laundry bag clipped to my bunk and turn in.


Oklahoma Woodstock

Oklahoma Woodstock

By Robert ‘Okie Bob’ Layton

Byars, McClain County, Oklahoma


My Uncle Jess had rolled into town from Turkey Texas, driving a two-tone, pink and black, chromed out, 1958 Oldsmobile Super 88, man-o-man what a beauty!

Uncle Jess had outfitted the vehicle with a “Desert” canvas water bag hanging off the front grill, and on the passenger side, he had installed a “Thermador” window swamp air cooler. The car was equipped with rear speakers for the radio and with all that excess chrome, it sure-enough qualifies, as an early version of a pimpmobile.

Now Jess liked to drink and be chauffeured around while reminiscing about his youth. Sticking by my family’s rules, about no drinking while driving and motivated by my desire to drive. I eagerly volunteered to drive Uncle Jess around, at the ripe old age of 13.

I guess Jess was quite the “ladies man” in his day. When he came to town, he would have me take him to see some of his old girlfriends. He would often be greeted at the door with hugs and kisses. I meanwhile would wait out in the car playing with the unique “trans-portable” radio while Jess did his calling. After a little bit, Jess would come out, get back in the Olds, and down the road, we would go, to the next old flame.

I never gave it a second thought about what Uncle Jess was up to, for I knew nothing about these older women and my naive immaturity possessed no suspicion.

I eventually came to a realization one day. Jess had me stop at a very popular hamburger joint. I went inside with him and as he cleverly distracted me with a burger and fries, Jess inquired about the whereabouts of the owner. The owner came out from the back, a beautiful mature redhead lady. A person we all knew from my teenage body of friends.

Jess and her greeted, hugged, laughed and joked. They chit-chatted for a bit, while I munched on my burger and fries— tuning out the elderly conversation.

That was not what revised my way of thinking, once we left is what did it!

As I backed the Oldsmobile out of the parking, Uncle Jesse’s old girlfriend came to the entrance, opened the door, smiled, while beckoning an affectionate looking farewell.

Jess grinned and waved.

As we pulled away, he then said to me “You know back in the day she was my favorite”

“Girlfriend” I prodded

“I guess you could say she was my girlfriend”

“Boy-O-boy We use to go at it like rabbits”

“What” I blurted out

For I was stunned, as a teenager, my virgin ears had never heard, any adult talking in sexual terms!

Hearing Uncle Jess say that he used to have sexual relations with this respected mature woman! Why it changed my whole perception. It was like learning your mom and dad had sex to have you! It was an adolescent revelation!

My teenage hormones craved for more stories of old-fashioned passion!!!

“Jess you really did—-did– do her?” I squeaked out

“Yep every chance we got” He proudly announced

He further stated, “She was really something!”

Every chance “WE got” I thought they BOTH had consensual sex!!!!!

I was under the impression only boys took pleasure in sex. My innocent image of adult relations had just zoomed up.

Jess pointed east down highway 19

“Head on out of town and take us to Byars, I got something to show you” he declared

As I headed for Byars Jess position the large brass Santa Fe railroad spittoon. That he kept on the passenger floorboard.

“You see this here spittoon,” he asks.

“Yes sir”

“I took it off a Doodlebug train about 45 years ago”

“I was headed for Byars lake at the time and when the train stopped I just took it with me”

“What was going on at Byars lake?” I ask

“That’s what I’m going to show you”

On our drive to Byars Uncle Jess began to tell me about how they used to meet girls back in the 1920s.

Jessie Harold Brunson [Uncle Jess] was born in Erath Co Texas Dec 20, 1900. He grew up in rural Oklahoma and Texas, coming from a large sharecropping family of 13 kids, they all worked hard and played harder!

He said they lived out by Rosedale in the 20s. They would go to Byars Lake to party.

Now back then going thru the town of Byars were two major railroads that intersected in the town. East to West was the Oklahoma Central and North and south the Santa Fe.

The lake was Built by the Santa Fe railroad to provide water to the steam engines. It was hand dug out using mule teams. The main Santa Fe railroad track ran parallel to the lake going into town and in between the railroad track and the right-of-way was a little strip of land, about a hundred yards wide several hundred yards long.

In this field was a little grassy area that was kept mowed and cleaned.

We pulled up to Byars lake.

The Significance of the sight eluded me. For in front of me lay an overgrown cow pasture with a shallow moss covered lake. I was reminded of a dull worn out penny who’s previous worth had passed with time, no longer relevant to the present and whose value was pertinent only by the holder of the past.

Uncle Jess started talking, pointing to bedraggled areas of the landscape.

“You see that over there, that’s where they had picnic tables”

As he looked out over the overgrown field you could tell It was all coming back into his recollective vision, he started to identify the phantom spots of old.

“Over yonder was a small Pavilion, Gazebo, and a little bandstand” he reflected

“The lake had a pier with rowboats and swimming area,” he added

“The young people would pitch tents and camp out.”

“The town of Byars had a brass band that would perform concerts.”

“People would also bring guitars, fiddles, and banjos, and generate their own entertainment.”

“All that happened here?” I ask

“Yep it was the place to be back then” he proudly informed me

Jess said there was plenty of beer and alcohol and the young people would sing, dance, and play music way into the night.

In the nineteen-teens and twenties, this become a major attraction for young men and women to congregate, to meet people of the same age.

It was the backwood remoteness, away from the etiquette of the Victorian era, that accommodated the Hedonism, being ushered in by the flappers of the roaring twenties.

It is historically noted that up to 5000 young people would come on a weekend, let me tell you any time you get 5000 young people camped out in a remote area away from adult scrutiny you have a happening. In other words, It was the Woodstock of the day

They even built outhouses!!

Because of the two main railroads that intersected in the town of Byars, kids would come from all directions. From the north college kids from Stillwater, Oklahoma A&M.

From the east Ada which was East Central College.

From Norman Oklahoma University they would go down to Purcell and get on a train and then catch a branch line over to Byars

From the south, they would come up out of towns from the main line to Pauls Valley, switch trains and catch a ride to Byars lake.

Jess said that on a good weekend there would be hundreds and thousands of young people camped at Byars Lake and doing what young people do.

During the day they swam and rolled boats on the lake, listened to band concerts, toyed with badminton, played lawn croquet, tossed horseshoes and eventually paired off taking little strolls away from the crowds.

As evening approached People would sing and dance around the campfires and eventually off they go, taking their blankets/quilts. With the Moon and outdoors setting the mood so they went to frolic in the grass and woods.

Fifty years later the youth of 1969 Woodstock were doing nothing new that the kids of 1919 had not already done.

Once the word got out that there was a place, a happening, a rendezvous to go. All the kids wanted to go, to use today’s vernacular “hookup”.

Now all this was was done because there was a means for young people to travel back then—– Trains!

A lot of the small towns were connected by rail. As the railroads expanded they would often branch off of their main lines and interconnect smaller towns one to another. The railroads were helped out by the Federal Government and since they were going to build these Branch lines under government assistance, the government required that they provide public transportation and mail service on these Branch lines on a daily basis.

So it was mandated by law that these railroads had to provide some type of Transportation on a daily basis.

The railroads knew that it was not economically feasible to operate steam Engines up and down these Branch lines on a daily basis. Their solution was motorized coaches that were powered by small gas engines and gear system.

The railroads called the motorized coaches “Doodlebugs”.

The Doodlebugs were Something like the bus routes of today. The routes joined the smaller towns one to another.

They could haul passengers, mail, and limited cargo. A farm boy or girl could flag down the Doodlebug anywhere on the track and hop on board and catch a ride into town. It only took one man to operate it as a bus.

Doodlebugs were quite prevalent on these Branch lines throughout the rural areas and they were found basically all over the United States.

Back in my Uncles day in central Oklahoma, they provided a means of transportation for young people to get on and ride them to Byars Oklahoma and get off at the park.

I can remember riding the Doodlebug from Pauls Valley to Byars in the early fifties with my mother on a trip to visit my Aunt Sudie.

In 1958 the government rescinded the requirement of having to provide transportation on these Branch lines and the railroads quickly took them out of service.

Those last existing Doodlebugs brought an end to an Era of small town rail travel. Something that will never be seen again.

All that remains of the old railroads are the raised right-of-ways, next to fields, clear-cut paths through dense Crosstimbers that now act as highways for deer. No longer are their steel rails drawing lines through the countryside like ribbons through tangled hair. Gone are the sounds of the steam the shrill of the whistle the clank of the engines the laughter of the youth, the songs and music of the era.

Gone are all the great railroads that connect the small towns. The rails providing passage of life the venerable umbilical cords from one town to another.

As for Byars lake, all that remains is a shallow moss-covered lake and overgrown Park. Skirted by an abandoned railroad right away, down the road there are remnants of an old ghost town with dilapidated brick buildings run down houses and empty lots where once people lived and thrived.

As for the railroads, all the tracks a have been taken up the debris from a few old earthen raised right away, Bridges, trestles, testify to the grand days of the railroads. They have been replaced by state highways and County Roads that interconnect a nondescript destination with no distinction.

But there was a time a hundred years ago—– when kids defined their own generation—-adopted their own culture—Long before the hippie movement of the late ’60s

It all happened at Byars Lake—rural Oklahoma—where a century ago we had our own Woodstock.

Thanks, Uncle Jess!


Time Bomb

Time Bomb?

By John Petersen

36 years ago on my 1st trip to Japan (USS Proteus AS-19), I managed to not only smuggle this little gem aboard ship but get it all the way home upon my transfer back to the states from Guam (kept it well hidden..). After all these years, it sits, as yet unopened, in an inconspicuous corner of the bookshelf in the living room.

Unopened. 36 years. Have been married 30 years. My oldest child is 30 years old. I am actually apprehensive of even thinking of popping the tab, for only God himself knows what may spring forth from its sudden release. What happens to simple Japanese beer after all those years contained in airtight confines? Does it become lethal? Does it breed microbes that, if unleashed, overtake civilization in the scope of the black plague? Should I report it to the CDC as a potential bio-hazard?

It has a decent layer of dust on it and it’s surrounding area on the bookshelf as the wife, my self, and pretty much every other family member is afraid to touch it, fearing to do so may set off an explosive reaction. It, therefore, reigns supreme over our darkest fears and anxieties. The wife suggested I ‘give it a little shake’ to see if it still sounds like a liquid. I’d rather pull a pin and hold it close to my chest (is she trying to delete my presence?).

An exceptional wine, bourbon or whiskey improves with age, this is known and accepted with anticipation. This simple little barrel-shaped can, most likely un-lined with whatever they line beer cans with these days, would be the ultimate exception.

A 10.1 fl oz can of what used to be a good, refreshing beverage for a liberty hound Asia sailor, now holding supremacy over an apprehensive lower-middle-class family. This will be endowed to my kids in my will, for they will be forced to suffer the unknown horrors of life that the little shits continuously presented to me during their upbringing.

Maybe one of ’em will have the fortitude to open it…


In Waters Deep

In Waters Deep

By Eileen Mahoney

In ocean wastes no poppies blow,

No crosses stand in ordered row,

Their young hearts sleep… beneath the wave…

The spirited, the good, the brave,

But stars a constant vigil keep,

For them who lie beneath the deep.

‘Tis true you cannot kneel in prayer

On certain spot and think. “He’s there.”

But you can to the ocean go…

See whitecaps marching row on row;

Know one for him will always ride…

In and out… with every tide.

And when your span of life is passed,

He’ll meet you at the “Captain’s Mast.”

And they who mourn on distant shore

For sailors who’ll come home no more,

Can dry their tears and pray for these

Who rest beneath the heaving seas…

For stars that shine and winds that blow

And whitecaps marching row on row.

And they can never lonely be

For when they lived… they chose the sea.


In Flanders Field

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly


Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.



A Sailor Died Today

A Sailor Died Today

I have seen this poem around as “A Soldier Died Today” and as “A Veteran Died Today.”  I took an author’s license to change it to “A Sailor Died Today.”

Our shipmate Dave Petersen crossed the bar last week.  Save me a seat at Fiddlers Shipmate.

Image may contain: Dave Petersen, eyeglasses and closeup

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the FRA,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And ‘tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew whereof he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
For ol’ Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer
For a Sailor died today.

He won’t be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing,
‘Tho a Sailor died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell their life stories
From the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Sailor
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician’s stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Sailor,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever waffling stand?

Or would you want a Sailor
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Sailor,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Sailor,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his likes again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Sailor’s part,
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he’s here to hear the praise,
Then, at least, let’s give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:




Battle at PIRAZ

Battle at PIRAZ

‘Battle at PIRAZ.’

The hostile engagement between North Vietnamese MIGs and USS Biddle, a US guided missile DLG/CG, on July 19, 1972. Five MIGs attacked the Biddle. Two were shot down and three chased off by the ships Terrier AA missiles and guns.

Thanks owed to Mr. J Treadway, for his suggestion and advice on this work.

Prints will soon be available www.marineartbydale.com

Don’t Fiddle With the Biddle

As of 18 July 1972 no North Vietnamese aircraft had attempted to attack a ship on PIRAZ duty, even though the ships were positioned only about 30 miles off their coast. This was probably due to their desire to avoid the ships’ surface-to-air missiles, not to mention the barrier combat air patrol (BARCAP) fighters always circling near the PIRAZ ship. This situation was about to change, however. USS Biddle (DLG 34), under the command of Capt. Edward W. Carter, was on PIRAZ station that night, and even though bad weather resulted in few U.S. flights over North Vietnam, Biddle’s CIC crew noted lots of NV air contacts. Sometimes Biddle was tracking up to 15 MiGs simultaneously, and they seemed to be practicing at a probable dive bombing range.

The guided missile frigate USS Biddle (DLG 34). U.S. Navy photo

The following night, the 19th., started just as quietly. It was totally black outside with no moon and a high overcast. Again there was no U. S. air activity over North Vietnam except for the flight of one carrier based A-6 Intruder ground attack aircraft that had made a bombing run and was returning – damaged and copilot wounded. Commander Task Force 77 told one of the two BARCAP fighters to escort the damaged A-6 back to the carrier Midway. With half of the BARCAP gone, Lieutenant Ralph Muse, Biddle’s CIC Ship’s Combat Evaluator, radioed the Seventh Fleet command center aboard the carrier Kitty Hawk to ask that two ‘alert’ fighters be launched to fill in the gap. Seventh Feet replied back that the next flight of regular BARCAP fighters were to be launched within the hour, so the alert fighters would not be needed. The Seventh Fleet watch officer noted there was nothing going on that night anyway. That left the Biddle CIC crew feeling a little more vulnerable to air attack and heightened their lookout for suspicious air activity.

Most PIRAZ ships carried a detachment of U. S. Naval Security Group translators whose job was to constantly monitor NV voice radio communications and let the PIRAZ ship’s CIC crew and Seventh Fleet know what they were hearing. They were universally called ‘spooks.” Lt. Muse called the spooks and asked if they were hearing any unusual NV voice conversations. Their reply was, ‘check the area south of Hanoi on your radar.’ Muse told his ship’s weapons coordinator (SWC) to check the area and he immediately picked up two oncoming targets that could only be MiGs. They were over the water, moving fast, and headed straight for Biddle. While on PIRAZ duty, guided missile frigates normally had two Terrier missiles loaded on the launcher rails and ready to fire. Biddle was ready. Within seconds the SWC had the two Terrier radar directors locked on to the leading MiG.

The MiGs were into less than nine miles, and a warning signal went off telling the CIC crew that the ship was being painted by MiG fire control radar. Lieutenant Muse passed the word on the ship’s general announcing system, “Captain to the CIC please,” but he knew he was going to have to take action before the CO could get there, and he definitely did not have the time to radio the Seventh Fleet watch officer to get permission to fire. He was going to have to “bet his bars” that they were MiGs, and fire the missiles. His next command was on the general announcing system, “Clear the Fo’c’sle” – where the Terrier launcher was located. Next commands were: “Fire One” and “Fire Two, ” after which he called for the ship’s general quarters alarm to be sounded.

Next, Muse ordered the launcher reloaded, and the fire control radars shifted to the second MiG. The launcher was ready again within thirty seconds, and by that time Capt. Carter had arrived in the CIC. Almost simultaneously the bridge watch saw an explosion on the horizon and the lead MiG disappeared from the radar. The missile kill apparently convinced the second MiG pilot it was pointless to continue the attack, and the eavesdropping spooks confirmed that the pilot had radioed his controller that he was returning to base.

The destroyer escort USS Gray (DE 1054) was Biddle’s ‘shotgun’ PT boat destroyer during their Battle at PIRAZ. U. S. Navy photo

About fifteen minutes after the second MiG had turned away, Biddle’s NTDS surface search operator called out that three targets were approaching Biddle ‘on the deck’ at 500 knots, and only seven miles out. Seconds later the operators of both air search radars detected the targets, and the lead target was assigned to a Terrier fire control radar. At the same time Capt. Carter radioed their escorting ‘shotgun’ destroyer, USS Gray, and told them they were relieved of motor torpedo boat protection duty, and to protect themselves from the MiGs. The MiGs were so low that the Terrier fire control radars were having difficulty getting a lock on.

Capt. Carter ordered a turn so that the MiGs would be broadside on the port and ordered the five-inch gun mount at the stern and the port side three-inch gun amidships to fire at zero degrees elevation. It was called ‘barrage’ fire. Finally, they got missile system radar lock and two more Terriers were fired at the close-in MiGs. There is some question whether they scored a hit because by that time five-inch and three-inch projectiles were exploding to port, triggered by their radar proximity fuses. The spooks called the CIC and told them one of the MiG pilots had radioed his controller that he had the ship on his fire control radar and was going to ‘kill’ it. The five-inch gun crew fired 54 rounds without pause until the cease-fire was given. The three-inch gun fired an estimated 28 rounds before jamming.

It is possible the Terrier missiles accounted for one of the three MiGs and likely that a second MiG was brought down by barrage gunfire. In any event, all participants agree that the third MiG passed directly over the ship – but there was no explosion. One can only conjecture why. Possibilities are a wounded pilot, a pilot distracted by intense gunfire, he was over the ship before he could react, or the bomb was a dud that landed nearby in the darkness but did not explode. Crewmen on the shotgun destroyer Gray told them that watching Biddle in action was like the fourth of July – with the huge flashes of missile launches, gun muzzles blazing, and projectiles exploding out over the water.

For a complete account of Biddle’s ‘Battle at PIRAZ’ the reader is referred to James A. Treadway’s book Hard Charger! – The Story of the USS Biddle (DLG-34), published by iUniverse, Inc., New York, 2005, ISBN-13: 978-0-595-67313-1 [Author’s note, Jim Treadway was an NTDS data system technician aboard Biddle at the time of the Battle at PIRAZ.]