Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Friend Jocko

I got a letter from my friend Jocko Crawford today. I haven't heard from him in some time but his letters are always a joy to read. We were in the Army together in 71 and went through radio school at Fort Monmouth New Jersey and later to Panama (Canal Zone).
We worked night shift at the transmitter site near Fort Clayton just outside of Balboa. It was a backup site so we rarely did any real work other than swat mosquitoes and answer an occasional phone call from the First Sergeant. He would call now and then to make sure someone was there who was sober enough to answer the phone.
We spent most evenings sitting on the concrete porch in the thick humid tropical air watching the stars and talking about home.
Jocko came from Atlanta. His father worked for the New Yorker Magazine and someone said they lived near the governor's mansion. I don't know that for sure because I never asked and he never said.
He was an unassuming person, deep in many respects but with a sharp wit that slid by most draftees. I always got the feeling that he had lived more than me even though we were the same age. He is the only person I have ever met that was actually at Woodstock in 1969. He said he wandered around the crowd of 500,000 people asking "where's the music dude?" The folks there would always point in one direction and say "it's over there man and it's far out."
He introduced me to John Prine and Crosby, Stills, and Nash as well as Jimi Hendrix. I had played guitar for several years, but I had always been a hack. Jocko could actually play....well. I learned a great deal from him.
I took Spanish at Balboa College when I was at Fort Clayton, but Jocko got a girlfriend and actually learned to speak the language.
I got transfer papers after I had been at Fort Clayton for a few months and the talk was that we were all shipping out to Vietnam but in the end I was transferred to the other side of the Canal Zone...Fort Sherman which is about 50 miles away.
Jocko helped me pack on Friday and we rode the train over to Colon. As evening slipped upon us, we both sat on the steps of the caboose and dangled our feet off the platform as the train ambled through the verdant tunnel of lush vines and banana trees. We talked some, but mostly just sat and listened to the rhythm of the clacking wheels on steel rail.
We were collected at the train station by some friends who were in the class ahead of us in radio school in New Jersey. When I got settled in we all met in the day room and played guitars and drank cheap Panamanian beer until we forgot about home.
Once out of the Army, we all scattered like marbles on a hardwood floor, but a few of us have stayed in touch. I am thankful that Jocko did.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jason, Thanks for the kind words. I do appreciate my life. It is a gift. I have kept a simple journal for many years and I go back and re-read them from time to time. I get to relive experiences time an again so things stay fresh in my mind.
    I have made a conscience decision to be happy. That's not to say that bad things don't happen to me. I think I've had my share. You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you react.
    I plan to continue writing. I found that I get lost in the words and for me that is fun. Again, thanks for your comments.


Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required