As an Army brat, we were stationed in some places that were left much to be desired. In 1972, as he was finishing up his second tour in Vietnam, my dad was asked to complete a form listing his preferred assignments and in all three spaces he wrote Florida. The Army gods were smiling on him that day and off we went to Key West.
Yes, paradise! Laid back, perfect, never locked the car doors – heck, we never locked the house! I’m not sure if it was the island itself or the fact that we lived just inside the base with it’s chain link fences topped with concertina wire, but we were never afraid.
While we were in Key West living the good life, the state of Arkansas was being represented in Washington by Wilbur D. Mills. For 17 years, Mills chaired the House Ways and Means Committee and was called the most powerful man in Washington. Late one October night, Mr. Mills was stopped by US Park Police for driving without turning on his headlights. Not only was he drunk and his face battered, the happily married Mr. Mills was not alone. Famed stripper Fanne Fox was in the car with him and had, indeed, beaten him about the head and shoulders.
When the police made their stop, Fanne jumped out of the car and into the Tidal Basin. Mills tried to as well, but was taken home by the park police.
Also late one October night, my sister Karyn was walking on the beach across the street from our house when something startled her. She picked up a big piece of coral for protection and brought it home with her. We named that chunk of coral Wilbur D. Rock and it became a doorstop.
Just as the Army gods giveth, the Army gods taketh away. Daddy received a call from his dispatcher asking if things were going well. Daddy replied in the affirmative: wife was happy, kids were happy and he loved his job. Two weeks later he had orders for Germany.
It was quite a change, going from the sunshine and sand of Key West to the gray and cold of Wurzburg. We were all homesick for the island. After being in country for about six weeks, our household goods finally arrived and there, in the middle of a box, was Wilbur D. Rock, who had been packed along with the other things in the living room.
A much needed taste of home.
Wilbur D. went with Mother and Daddy to Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, then to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Mother gave him a place of honor in the flower bed where he remains to this day.
At least I hope he’s still there.
I’d hate to think he’s found his way to the bottom of a tidal pool.