Posted by: johnhourihan | January 28, 2013

Children may just need a little normal

At a time when individuality and “specialness” is what we teach to our children as the most important attribute to have, let me say something in defense of normalness.
The important thing here is not that the “Inner Union” was a rock band. It is where that rock band was flourishing. And how difficult it sometimes was to get home from a gig.
In 1968. Buddy Branch, Phil Leclare , Keith George, Dave Mitchell, Rod Ball, John Guidoni and myself were the Inner Union.
At night, after work, we would load amplifiers, microphones, drums, guitars and an organ into the truck and head out to play a singular brand of rock and roll.
Buddy once played with the Hollies. He was our organist. Dave was reputed to have been the stand-in drummer for the first recording of Rockin’ Robin. Keith was a solid rhythm. Phil was base, and Rod was lead. I sang.
Guidoni, well he didn’t play or sing, but it always felt great to have along a guy who beat Mike Quarry in the ring.
On this one hot and dry night, we were playing about five miles from our neighborhood.
This particular night we ended early and slung everything into the back of the truck, Keith and Rod got up front, and the rest of us piled into the back with the equipment, laid down low on the bed, Buddy banged on the plastic window separating us from the cab, and the deuce-and-a-half lurched onto the road.
We had been at the Fifth Special Forces camp to play that night, over by Dragon Mountain, and we had to drive straight through Pleiku in order to get back to Engineer Hill and home.
What made this night a little more dangerous was the camp we were playing at had been attacked earlier in the evening. We had been right in the middle of  “I want to go home.”
A Sergeant blew in through the door. He jumped in stride up onto the stage at the club just as we got to “By day I make the cars,” and took the microphone from me. We stopped playing.
“There has been an attack at the West Wall, It seems to be over. We aren’t going on alert, but everyone be ready. .. You guys can get going if you want.” He said looking at us as he replaced the mic and vanished back outside.
Rod wagged his head “no” and smiled. Without a hitch we picked the song up exactly where it had ended, as if we were some sort of human juke box.
“By night I man the west wall, if only they could read between the lines.”
There was a roar of appreciation from young men who spent their days in small patrols outside the wire.
Now it was near midnight, and we were rumbling into the small and dusty city of Pleiku in a canvas-covered truck named after the devil.
There was a crackling sound in the distance, and we heard a few thuds against the side of the truck. Keith shut out the lights, put the gas to the floor, and we bounded  and bounced in the back of the truck trying to keep our heads below the metal sides and the equipment from being tossed out onto the street.
It was about 12:30 when we pulled into our company area. It was dark. Too dark.
The company was on alert.
We parked the truck outside the enlisted men’s club and headed to a bunker.
There were a few mortars, and a Spooky gunship emptying its mini-gun near our wire like a dragon burping fire.gunship
After a few hours, the all clear yawned and we headed into the morning sun in Southeast Asia and to our tents.
We had a few hours before we had to be at the operations compound for work.
When we unloaded the truck that afternoon, Buddy looked for bullet holes.
I don’t remember if he found any. I didn’t really want to know.
There was a reason the Army let us play our music during off hours in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
In war you cling to anything that seems normal, and you become oblivious to anything that might remind you that you may not make it home.
We were just offering up some normal in a state of insanity.
I think we could use a little of that right about now.



  1. Just a little before they forget what it looks like, sounds like, FEELS LIKE.

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