BY: JOHN CHARLES
History class. During his summer vacation on August 4th, 1964 he reads about an “incident” in the Tonkin Gulf involving US destroyers and North Vietnamese PT boats. This “incident” announced by President Lyndon Johnson, later proves to be a half-truth, but Congress gives Johnson power to retaliate. No war is declared, yet it explodes into one anyway.
Will graduates in 1965, and scrambles to find a college for the fall term. Things go against him and he is excused in December of that year, losing his 2S student deferment from the military draft. In July 1966, Will enlists in the Navy three days before his 19th birthday, his draft notice arriving four days later. Trying for the Sea Bees, he finds the occupation full, and the Navy sends him to Catapult/Arresting Gear “A” school.
The next thing he knows he’s on a plane to Manila, PI, and then a long journey by bus through the jungles down to Subic Bay Naval Base to await his Attack Aircraft Carrier USS Dangerous. Will is on his way to the Tonkin Gulf to launch “angels of death” onto the North Vietnamese.
Bitter and resentful about the politics and realities of war, Will and his shipmates relax by smoking Cannabis after flight ops are over each day. Released from the Navy in the Spring of 1970, he takes a road trip to NY to see his girlfriend at her college.
He arrives May 4th and learns about the Kent State Massacre. This event polarizes the country, and he finds himself driving to Washington D.C. with his girlfriend and three other students protest the war and march on Nixon’s White House. From that day Will’s life takes a new path.
CANNABIS has been used successfully and safely by many civilizations for thousands of years with its significant medicinal and industrial value properties. There are two primary plant varieties—Indica and Sativa. Both plants were widely used in the USA.
INDICA is a broad leaf plant, smaller and bushier with big flower buds, containing cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the latter with psychoactive properties in high concentrations up to 40%.
SATIVA, also known as HEMP, is a slender, taller plant with fewer leaves and without THC. It’s grown for its fiber, and oils, and is used in hundreds of products by various industries—bio-fuels, building materials, clothing, paper, food, etc.
The name MARIJUANA is a Sonoran Mexican colloquialism, originating by those who dried the buds and leaves of the Indica plant for tea or smoking. Between 1910-20, some 890,000 Mexicans entered the United States seeking refuge from the carnage of their civil war. So, Cannabis/Marijuana became an immigration/racial issue at the beginning of the 20th Century.
In 1913, California banned possession of extracts, tinctures, or other narcotic preparations of “loco weed” which marijuana is not. Other states followed suit including: Wyoming (1915); Texas (1919); Iowa; Nevada; Oregon; Washington and Arkansas (1923); Nebraska and Louisiana (1927); and Colorado (1929) passed the first laws criminalizing cannabis.
Over the decades hybridization of the two types of Cannabis plants has resulted in beneficial medicinal qualities. Today’s Cannabis/Marijuana are variations of Indica and Sativa. They are hybrid combinations for specific uses such as anti-cancer pain relief, appetite enhancement, glaucoma pressure control, general well-being/recreation.
As of 2019, regulated recreational/medicinal Cannabis/Marijuana is now legal in ten states, for those 21 and older, and is medically legal in another twenty-three states, a total of thirty-three states. About two-thirds of the population supports total legalization, but the United States federal government continues to outlaw cannabis as a Schedule 1 Narcotic.
Thus, the “blue laws” against Cannabis have ruined millions of lives, incarcerating those caught cultivating, possessing, or selling a God-given plant with medical and industrial benefits.
This book is about a young man thrown into the Vietnam War, rebelling against injustice, and leading a life of rebellion against a central government that wielded unimaginable powers the founding fathers had railed against in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.
To put people in prison for smoking weed, or growing it, or possessing it, and then confiscating all their property to sell and use the proceeds to create a bigger and bigger police state in America is truly “cruel and unusual” punishment.
Everyone’s right to their “pursuit of happiness” as far as this plant goes was undone with the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 for the personal gain of those Globalists invested in timber, oil and big pharmaceuticals.
The muzzle flash from the .38 Special was silent like a lightning bolt out of a steel blue sky. Will Johnstone felt nothing as he fell to the floor. Then came a sharp CRACK and the smell of cordite. Will’s left leg was numb. Somewhere in another room a voice was yelling something about a rip-off. Will tried to understand what was happening. He attempted to get up off the floor but could not. The person holding the gun standing before him started to yell in slow motion:
“WTF man? Are you crazy? Why did you do that? I have a gun and you tried to attack me with your briefcase!” Will gathered his thoughts. A few minutes ago he was standing at a table in the living room waiting for the deal to go down and counting the money in the briefcase. In 20 minutes this will be over. They’ll show me the weed, then they’ll count the money while I weigh it on the bathroom scale. We’ll put the kilo bricks in the back of the pickup and leave the city…which might as well be called RipOff, Arizona, just north of the Mexican border.
A sudden sharp pain in his left leg jolted Will into reality. “Holy shit,” he thought, “I’ve been shot by this fucker.”
* * *
The loud thunderclap was reverberating in Will’s head as he awakened in his brass bed. He opened his eyes. It was afternoon, sunny and warm. He was at his cabin on the lake fifteen hundred miles from where the gunshot had been fired two weeks earlier. He was aching as he looked down to see his left leg, plaster-encased from knee to foot except for his toes.
He reached for a coat hanger to relieve an itch under the cast. Down it went and it felt good. But the pain was worsening so he reached for his pills. “Stay ahead of the pain,” his pal John had told him. He took two hoping to fall back to sleep. What a sorry state of affairs. He knew something wasn’t right about that deal going down, and now the moneyman was driving a thousand miles to get the full story. “Well, he thought, “it is what it is, and that’s that.”
There was a knock on the back door. “Yeah!” “It’s me, Bull.” “C’mon in.” His Native American partner in Cannabis came in and shut the door. After greeting Will and asking how he was doing, Bull went to the grow room. He watered and pruned the plants and returned. “As soon as you’re able, let’s go down there and get your money back. We’ll pay those rippers a visit they’ll never forget!”
Will just stared at the ceiling. He was tired, tired of it all. What the hell would that accomplish even if they could find those jerks. The pills began to work, and the pain eased. “No, Bull, I think not, my friend. Their action will reap an equal and opposite reaction without us. We don’t have to do anything except forgive them. This shit will always go down in a country of power and greed. I’m going to choose to forgive and I hope you do as well. We’re done with the big deals and you might as well get used to that.”
As Will drifted off to sleep he heard Bull say, “OK, then, see you later.” The door opened and gently shut. And Will was in the clouds.
* * *
In the mid-fifties, his friend Greg lived on the southeast corner of an intersection across from a vacant lot full of bushes and trees. We would play with his brothers Billy, and little Bobby, and cleared out a wooded corner of the lot into a maze of trails and hiding places perfect for make-believe war games. We were teams of two, one the Americans, the other the Germans or Japs. We also played cowboys and Indians within the same layout. After the play time we’d go to Greg’s house for cookies and milk.
We’d go to the basement to look at his dad’s dramatic photos of WWII. He had been a Marine in the South Pacific and fought in some brutal battles. One foto was of several Marines each holding a severed Japanese soldier’s head by its hair. Others were of Marines using flamethrowers to rout the Japs from their tunnels, or just sitting, exhausted on their helmets in the jungle.
At the same time, in the year 1955, the Audie Murphy film “To Hell and Back” came out, starring the man himself. He was awarded nearly every medal for valor the Army issued in the so-called “good war.” Audie was our hero and we went to see the movie three or four times. At one point, Murphy was atop a burning tank in France using a machine gun to hold off the advancing German forces. His bravery was so compelling we’d return to our “battlefield” and act out what we had seen on the great silver screen.
After the war Murphy enjoyed a twenty-one-year acting career making war movies and westerns. His 1949 memoir entitled “To Hell and Back” was the basis for the movie. But Murphy was a tortured soul and suffered from “shell shock,” know today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He slept with a loaded handgun under his pillow and sought relief in opiate-based sleeping pills. So Audie Murphy lived in his own private hell.
In 1958, Greg and his family moved to a ranch high in the Colorado Rockies. Perhaps Greg’s dad, suffering his own PTSD, was seeking peace and tranquility in the mountains and valleys. We wrote to each other about getting together, and I remember sitting on the stairs looking west across the fields to the setting sun thinking about my friend in the mountains.
When I visited Colorado the summer of 1961, it was the most amazing, enlightening experience of my young life. It was my first trip alone and I wanted to stay awake for the entire twelve-hour ride in the vista dome car. Greg and his grandmother met me and as we drove high into the Rockies he told me our plans for the next two weeks. I knew then that I would never live east of the Mississippi and would stay away from urban areas.
It was a magical two weeks. We did the ranch chores—milking cows, collecting the chicken eggs, cleaning out the stalls in the stables, and putting out the hay for the horses. Done with the chores, we’d saddle two horses and go for a ride armed with his dad’s guns for target practice. One venture was a two-day outing with bedrolls, and saddlebags of food, and cooking gear. Greg’s mom gave us last minute instructions on gun safety and how to cook our meals.
It felt like I was in my own western movie. I had no idea how vast those high valleys were at 10,000 feet with peaks up to 14,000 feet. The cloudscapes changed continuously from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, from soft, fluffy cotton-balls to dark, ominous thunderheads. Then it would rain with lightning and thunder, followed by the warm sun drying the landscape, releasing the heavenly scent of sagebrush and wildflowers. Sitting around the campfire we told stories about all the fun we’d had in the 50’s—remembering playing “war games cowboys and Indians” in our wooded corner lot.
At night near a flickering campfire, we slept on the ground in bedrolls using our folded clothes as pillows. Before falling asleep we’d lie there looking up at the ink-black sky and Greg would point out the planets and constellations. The night sky at that elevation is like being in heaven. I’ll never forget those two weeks to visit my childhood friend that cemented my future in the west.
One day with two of his Dad’s shotguns we were shooting clay pigeons taking turns throwing and firing. Thunderheads were building up about us but we did not take heed. The wind picked up and we could hear thunder in the distance, but we kept shooting. All of a sudden a big white flash and explosion knocked us to the ground. We survived the lighting strike but the box of clay pigeons was melted. I still to this day do know how we escaped the lightning bolt.
Back at the ranch house Greg noticed his dad napping on the couch with one eye half open, and with a smile whispered, “Watch this.” When he got close, his dad’s arm grabbed him suddenly, and Greg asked him to tell the WWII story of waking up next to a fellow Marine whose throat had been slashed. Frank always slept on alert. The two weeks went by like an afternoon thunderstorm and soon it was time to depart on the Denver Zephyr back to Chicago. We both were sad and vowed to stay in touch.
My high school freshman year began in September. High School compared to Junior High was as institutional as being in a prison. During the next two years Greg and I lost touch, and began leading our own lives, mine in the city and his in the high country. Then came November 1963, and the murder of JFK, as the wheels of the military-industrial complex were turning to create a war in Southeast Asia where Greg and I both would end up.
Greg joined the Marines like his Dad did in the 1940’s. I went into the Navy and we both ended up “over there.” So I say this to my friend Greg: “Together we flew to battle, hearts, and blades pounding, sharing pain and fear. Parted yet together we faced the unknown. You death, I the future.” (Viet Nam Memorial, Missoula, Montana)
* * *
Will awakened from his reverie with tears streaming down his cheeks
©2020 by John Charles