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1965 was a tamultous year for jack, he would experience many firsts. First Thanksgiving away from home, first hang over, first love, and all without a rule book.
Jack was headstrong maybe even a rebel, his life was closing in on him. His options were limited. The recruiter convinced him the US Air force could change his life. What did he have to lose? ROTC was a cake walk; Basic training sounded like more of the same. Without knowing it, he had jumped from the frying pan into the fire, and basic training was a bitch. Tech school was tough and Vietnam was a wakeup call. It was no longer Jack against the world; this was a team effort against an enemy with no concern for the rules of engagement. The enemy could be anywhere, any age and either man or woman, with no respect for human life. They could even be beautiful, as Jack would come to realize.
It was late April in 1965, the early summer sun was hot on his face and the smell of fermenting rice permeated the jungle air. As Jack Brass sat at the concrete picnic table in the cantina patio drinking a coke and eating a hamburger that was most probably made with water buffalo, he could see the mid afternoon storm as it raced toward him tumbling over the mountains, in the distance. It was the beginning of the rainy season in South-East Asia, and you could set your watch by the afternoon rain. Nancy Sinatra was singing “These Boots Are Made for Walking” on the Juke Box and Jack couldn’t help but think of how much he wanted to walk right out of South Vietnam and back to the life he had left behind just a few short days ago. Moments later the torrents began to pelt the surrounding cantina the temperature dropped, and it felt soothing as the huge drops splattered on his hairy arm. It would only rain for a few minutes, and the hot muggy air would soon return. However, for now he would enjoy the cool comfort the storm provided.
As the deluge increased Jack stood up revealing the only dry spot on the bench and moved under a narrow thatched roof to get out of the main thrust of the storm. The rain predictably lasted 10 minutes, and by the time he got back to the barrack, he would be reasonably dry, or at least as dry as it is possible to get this time of the year with a daytime high of 90+ with 100 percent humidity. Just then a squadron of F105 Thunder Chiefs roared over head on their way to their designated target in the north.
Walking down the main street in Takhli on his way to the bus stop he came across what the GIs affectionately called Howard Johnsons. It was a brightly-colored push cart with bicycle wheels in front and 2X4 supports in the rear next to the handles with a red and yellow umbrella over the top. The vender sold all kinds of interesting things to eat; Jack glanced at the vender's wares as he approached the cart. Something different peaked his curiosity, and he asked, “what are those 5 small sausage looking things on the long tooth pick?” “Ling-nong” was the food vender’s reply. Jack had eaten at the establishment once before, and the vender made a delicious desert resembling a torte-a. He wasn’t really hungry but in his endeavor to try all kinds of local quiescent Jack said, “I’ll try some." Plus they weren’t much bigger than an olive and there was always room for something new. The vender took the long tooth pick in one hand and dipped the sausages into a pot of boiling oil. After about a minute the vender pulled the wooden pick from the boiling oil and wrapped the sausages in a small piece of palm leaf and handed it to Jack, Being careful to hold the palm leaf so the hot oil wouldn’t drip on his hand. He gingerly put the end of the sausage laden toothpick into his mouth and using his teeth slowly pulled one of the sausages from the tooth pick being careful not to burn his lips. Holding the sausage between his teeth Jack exhaled over it to cool it down a bit before allowing it to come in contact with his tongue. They actually tasted pretty good Jack thought, as he continued his walk toward the bus stop. There would be a lot of other things he would wish he hadn’t eaten from that cart over the next year, but for now all was well with his world.
The breaks screeched as the buss came to a stop, and Jack got on board. As the bus made its way toward base, it stopped along the way to pick up other GIs heading back to base. A distinguished looking gentleman walked to the rear and sat in the seat next to him; Jack didn’t recognize him, but he had the look of an officer. “Evening sir, back to the grind?” Jack said, “No, I just need to get something to eat, and I don’t trust the food in town, this is actually my day off” replied the gentleman. “I just had some sausages on a stick, they weren’t too bad. Actually, they were pretty good.” Jack continued. “What did they look like?” asked the older man. Jack described them to which the gentleman replied “ah, Monkey Balls, never tried them.” Jack could feel his completion turning green as his stomach rumbled. “By the way, way my name is Doc. Mallory, and if you find yourself in need my services I am at the dispensary all day tomorrow.” The Doctor smiled and turned his gaze back towards the front of the bus. Those small olive-sized monkey balls were getting bigger by the minute.