The Tractor Seat
by Johnny Hutcherson

I use to drive a tractor back when I was a kid. Then one-day I got this here letter to report to a place where these doctors looked me over real good. I had to take a test to see if I knew a hammer went with a nail, screw, or a snake. There were some other questions like that on this test. Then, I was told to go home.

A short time later, I got this here card in the mail. It said that I was 1-A.  I guess there was just one "A" made on that test and I made it. Now, that there stood to reason, because I had gone to the tenth grade twice. I never did finish the tenth grade cause I think the teachers liked me too much and wanted me to stay in their class. However, I got this here job that paid $1.00 per hour driving a tractor, so I had to move on in my life and leave them teachers. Later, I got a job that paid $1.25 per hour shoveling concrete.  That was hard work, but I learned how to judge weight by shovels of concrete.  Later I got my job back driving a tractor.  I liked driving tractors better.

Now after I got that card with my 1-A, it wasn't long before I got a letter from my friends and neighbors.  They had selected ME to serve in the arm forces of this here United States of America.  I thanked all them people for selecting me. However, they acted, as they didn't know what I was talking about.  I thought that was all full nice of them, being humble like that.

Soon, I was on an airplane headed to Fort Polk, Louisiana.  Now, I had never been on an airplane or out of the state of Texas in my life.  We landed at some place then got on a bus.  This here bus took us to Fort Polk.  Fort Polk was called Tiger Land.  When we got there this here man with a nice hat got on the bus and he sure was hard of hearing.  Cause that man screamed all the time and kept saying I can't hear you!  In fact ever one at Fort Polk that had them nice hats must have had a hearing problem.  Cause they all screamed
a lot and said, " I can't hear you!"  Soon, I found out they was called Drill Sgt. This was cause they worked for a living. I learned that cause sometimes I called them Sir. They didn't like that!  However, my Momma had told me to call all men older than me Sir.  I guess she was wrong.

I say one thing. The army sure was nice to us. We all got new clothes and two pair of boots.  I had never had so many new clothes in my life or two pair of boots. Plus, every thing was green but the boots and they were black.  Now, we had to keep our new boots polished but I had always done this at home, cause my grandpa said they would last longer. So, that was no problem for me.

We also did a lot of running and singing songs.  We would sing about this man named Jody.  I don't think that too many people liked this man.  Cause Jody was going to steel your girl friend, but there was no man in my hometown named Jody. So, I didn't have to worry about that.  We sang about this man named Charlie, too.  I don't know why, but I wasn't going to ask. Cause I would get screamed at by the Drill Sgt.

We learned that a gun was a rifle. Now, Roy Rogers and my Daddy had always called these rifles, guns. Roy Roger was a cowboy I watched on electric TV. I guess they were wrong, too.  We learned a lot of things. Like stand 5 meters apart at supper time.  Now I didn't know how long a meter was till a friend told me it was a little over one yard.  If that Drill Sgt. would have told me to stand just a little over 5 yards, he wouldn't have had to scream
at me so much.  Cause I knew how long 10 yards was. Cause I was on the chain gang at the High school football games.  I would have liked to been on the football team, but the coach decided I was better on the chain gang.  Not every one had the ability I had to estimate yards.

After about 9 weeks at Fort Polk I was on my way to Fort Rucker, Alabama. I sure was glad I was leaving Louisiana, because that state had so many trees I couldn't see far at all. Back home in Texas I could see for miles.  We didn't have too many trees in the Panhandle. I also missed the smell of natural gas and feed lots.  But Alabama was the same way.  Too many trees and no gas refineries or feed lots.  A feed lot is where you feed these here cows a lot of feed so they could make lots of cow manure.  At Fort Rucker, I was to learn how to fix and be a helicopter crewman. I think I got this job cause I did so good on my test. I knew that a hammer went with a nail, not a screw or snake.  Plus, I had worked on many a tractor in my life.

Now at this helicopter school, they taught very few things I didn't already know. The instructors did call things different names. As bailing wire was called safety wire. Some people had to be taught how to tighten a nut. They had to use a torque wrench. Now, I knew to tighten a nut you turn it as far as you can by hand, them kick the wrench with your foot.  This makes it very tight.  In fact I had learn, as a kid growing up you really only need a few tools.  One is a large hammer and the other being bailing wire.  We didn't have duct tape back them or that would have been one of our tools also.

After six weeks, I was finished with helicopter school. A lot of other men had to go on to other schools to learn more. But I guess my instructor knew my background of working on tractors and figured I could not be taught much more.  Someone must of known of my ability to shovel concrete, because soon I was given a job to shovel coal in these here stoves.  These stoves kept heat plus hot water for the troops. This was a very important job I had been selected for. I felt very honored! However I never did figure out why they just didn't put in gas heaters as we had in the panhandle.   I did this important job for a short time.  Then I was given orders to report to Vietnam.  This is where them men named Charlie lived that no one liked and we sang about at Fort Polk. I didn't know any of them men named Charlie, so I didn't know if I liked them are not.

Before I got to Vietnam the army gave me some more new clothes and boots.  I tell you the army sure wanted us to look nice.  These clothes and boots was a little different.  The tops of the boots were made from canvas and the clothes had bigger pockets.  But the color was still green.  The army liked green!  We also had to take a lot of shots.  Some of these shots made me feel bad but I was told they kept me from getting real sick.  So I trusted the army cause they was nice to me. Sometimes they screamed at me and called me names, but that was OK.

When I got to Vietnam they must of been having a heat wave.  Cause it sure was hot and it rained all the time. I had never seen so much rain in my 19 years of life. It rained more in 2 days than it rained in one year in my hometown.  But it was all full dry in the Panhandle of Texas.

I was assigned to D troop 3rd of the 5th air cavalry 9th Inf. Div.  We were at these places called Bear-Cat then later we moved to Dong Tam.  My troopwas a helicopter recon unit. Recon means we looked for these men named Charlie.  At first, I had this job of shoveling sand in these bags.  That was because of my shoveling abilities.  I also had a job of burning human manure.  That was because I grew up around all these feed lots and didn't mind the
smell at all.  In fact, I got home sick at times doing this job.  Sometimes, I had to rake around the big bosses office.  He was called 1st. Sgt..  I heard him tell some other Sgt. that he thought I was missing a few items from my duffel bag.  They would both laugh! I checked my duffel bag but every thing was there.  He also said he wasn't sure what to do with me, but he wasn't going to let me work on the helicopters.  I guess that was because I had so much knowledge he didn't want to waste it by putting me in the wrong job.

Then one day I heard an officer tell him to make me a door gunner.  This way they wouldn't have to worry about me too long.  Soon, I was a helicopter door gunner.  The army gave me this hard hat that had a radio in it, a vest that stopped bullets. Now this here vest weights about 2 shovels full on concrete.  It was all full heavy.  I got an M-60 machine gun to.  So I guess Roy Rogers and my Daddy was right.  There were guns, not just rifles! Like that Drill Sgt. said.  And the pilots were called sir. So Momma was right, too. These pilots were very smart.  I guess they had finished the eleventh grade.

As a door gunner, my job was to shoot at people and get shot at.  Now the people that shot at me were named Victor Charlie.  That's what the pilots called then anyway. We would drop these men off in a place called a rice paddy.  These men were called Doughboys. They must of put that a hammer goes with a snake on the test we took.  Cause it took a brave person to hit a snake with a hammer and these men were all full brave.  A rice paddy was full of dirty water and little green grass looking things growing in it.  When we dropped these men off it would be about 100 yards from a tree line.  That tree line is where Victor Charlie was.  At that time is when all these bullets was shot at us.  Some of these bullets were green; they were all full pretty.  I would shoot at the tree line with my M-60.  Sometimes my bullets were red.  We got a lot of holes in our helicopter and sometimes men got killed.  That made me feel sad, cause they were my friends.  I knew their Mommas would be very hurt.

One time, this man got a Deer John letter, he was very sad.  I don't know why cause I would have liked to get a letter from my John Deer tractor.  Maybe his tractor was mad at him, cause he had been gone so long?

After one year in Vietnam, that heat wave never did break.  Then I was told by the 1st. Sgt. that I could go home now.  I would miss all my friends from D troop, but I wanted to go home.  I still missed the smell of natural gas, them feed lots and my tractor.  These nice men told me bye and said good luck I was leaving, they was the ones who needed the luck. Cause luck is the only way a man lives through war.

I landed at this airfield in California on July the 4th 1969. There were all these here poor people that had patches on their pants and needed a hair cut there.  They were so poor I seen one of them rolling his own cigarette and they was all real skinny.  I wish they had been selected to be in the army.  We got good food!  The food came in these like green cans.  I Like the Lima beans and ham best.  Cause we always had a lot of beans to eat at home. I also seen this one man burning the American flag.  He must of let it touch the ground.  Cause if the flag touches the ground you have to burn it.  I learned that in the army to.

We soon were taken to a place and gave a new army uniform.  These uniforms were real nice and had these little bars on them over the left front coat pocket.  I don't know what them bar was for but one man said that this purple and white one showed I had been shot. The yellow and red one said I had been to Vietnam and the others were for doing things to help my friends in Vietnam.  That made me feel good knowing I had helped my friends.

I got out of the army and return to the Texas Panhandle.  It sure was good to smell the nice air and see as far as my eyes could without seeing a tree.  My friends at home all had good jobs that paid good money.  I couldn't get a job at first but soon I got a job loading these here trucks with cow feed.  Them bags of cow feed were heavy!

I want to thank all you for taking the time to read this here story I wrote.  I don't know why I named it The Tractor Seat.  I don't know why I wrote it.  Maybe cause I still like tractors.  I made a bench out of two tractor seats to put on my front porch.  But my wife said I had to put the bench in the back yard.  I put my bench in my little room in the basement.  That way all my friends can set on it. One seat is saved for you!


Copyright 2003, Johnny Hutcherson.  All Rights Reserved


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