Midnight Chicken

Saraland Alabama: 10:30 PM, give or take 30 minutes. I’ve gotten off work at Hart’s fried chicken and am back at my parents’ house where I live.

I’m 17 years old.

Before I leave work, whichever manager is working sells me the remaining chicken from the warmer. The price is anywhere from $0.10-$0.50 a piece. Like I said, it depends on the mood of the person working whether I get a great deal or just an OK deal.

This was my first job. Well, besides digging that 200-yard long waterline for one of my dad’s friends in Citronelle.

Every day after school.

For two weeks.

And getting around $2.00 per hour.

If you count that. But I’m not bitter. Just a word of caution teenagers: get it in writing before you start digging.

Anyway, when I pull into the crumbling cement driveway and see my dad’s work truck, I know he’s home. I open the front door and he’s lying on the couch, half asleep. But he wakes up at the smell of chicken.

Who wouldn’t be happy?

In my opinion, the chicken is best after being in the warmer for a few hours but probably less marketable for the restaurant.

Which is good for us.

I reek of the smell of a fried chicken joint and plop down on the chair in the living room and offer my dad some chicken.

His back is pretty much shot at this point and he sleeps on the couch a lot to help with the pain.

I also think the chicken helps a little. Fried chicken helps everything.

We start in on a bucket of chicken around 11 PM. The TV is on Black Sheep Squadron and dad is reliving his war years with each enemy shot down on the small screen. I’m not sure if he ever saw combat because he enlisted after the official close of World War II, but I like the stories.

He did make it in time for Korea however, but I still don’t know if he ever saw any combat there. I wish I had simply asked him when I had the chance.

All I have are a few copies of dad’s Army records and a few pictures.

Oh, and an awesome memory I wouldn’t trade for all the chicken in the world of watching TV reruns of with my dad as he expounds on the brashness of Pappy Boyington, and the war in the Pacific, and Corsairs fighters, and ‘man, was that a great airplane.’

Chicken is sounding really good for tonight.

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The 511th Airborne Infantry Regiment Company K

This is a picture of my dad’s jump school class at Camp Campbell, KY in 1950. Sixty-five years later, I would make my way to this same happy place on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. I never once considered jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. I am currently studying the Korean Way and the Cabanatuan Raid in the Philippines, which occurred in January of 1945.

I spend a lot of time scouring the internet for pictures of my dad’s unit. If you know someone in the picture, please leave a comment. You’ll also notice that my dad’s photo is crisper than the other photographs. The reason is that I also have the 8×10 of my dad. The photographer just compiled all the students’ 8x10s and made this collage. I just placed the better version of the photo over his picture.

One more thing, you’ll notice that some of the men are “x’ed” out. In the late 1970s, dad was looking for surviving Army buddies who could corroborate his military injury to help with his application for VA disability. The men with the X had passed away by that time. I don’t think he was able to contact but just one or two former classmates. Dad injured his head in a jump in Germany, which required a metal plate in his skull. I always knew he was hard-headed.

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