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Author: Subject: Back from Nam
Baja Bernie
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[*] posted on 3-16-2007 at 03:31 PM
Back from Nam


Don was definitely not a handsome man. His head was way too large for his body, which was substantial. His ears were too large for his head; his nose was bent and did not fit his face. His face was always sunburned and it never to turned to a tan. His eyes were normally bloodshot, and he always had an astonished, wide-eyed look about him.

No one knows exactly how or when he arrived in camp. He was just ‘suddenly’ here. We do know that he left the Marine Corps as a Gunny Sergeant in late 1968 after two tours of duty in Vietnam and a total of 12 year’s service in the Corps. Don spent the first couple of weeks sleeping on the beach with his dogs, one black and one red, nasty Chow dogs. No one could go near either of them. They slept with Don and guarded his camp while he was drinking at the Cantina.

Apparently, as with a lot of guys who returned from the jungle, he had a whole lot to try and forget. His answer to this was to drink, drink, and drink some more. After a couple of weeks his drinking slowed down a bit and he became almost human.

The next thing we knew he had built himself a “Hooch” on the property that is now considered to be Father Porro’s. What is a Hooch you ask; ‘well it is a cross between a slit trench and a ‘home away from home’. It is what our guys in Nam lived in while at the ‘front.’ For a further, more in depth, description just ask any guy who served there. Don’s hooch was about five foot deep and large enough for four or five grown people. It had a roof about two feet above ground level and a shelf dug into the side for his sleeping bag. By the time he moved into his ‘home’ he had three more dogs, a German Shepherd, and two just plain ol’ mean camp dogs. All five dogs slept, with Don in the hooch and guarded it with bared fangs. No one, in his right mind, went anywhere near it.

As Don settled into camp life it was interesting to see the effect he had on many of women in the Cantina and around camp. Like I said he was NOT good looking but many women found him irresistible. He was a ‘mucho macho con tipo’ and they loved him. Ok, it means he was a very manly, but a crazy, guy. Soon he and Shirley got hitched and fought each other for the next several months until they split up and went their separate ways.

Don was the guy who supervised the construction of the house for Chuck Schwartz who later sold it to Frenchy Theberge. Don caused the house to be partially built on McLaren’s property. Not really a great problem, only the kitchen fell outside of the property line. None of us could understand how he got away with building houses in Mexico. He was obviously a gringo and he had none of the required papers to even remain in Mexico much less act as a contractor. He built that house and another one for Father Porro who lived in it until his death several years later.

Don eventually moved back across the border and no one, not even his ex-wife, knew what happened to him. One guy claimed he re-enlisted in the Corp and returned for another tour in Vietnam. In spite of his relatively short stay in La Salina Don is still remembered by most of the people who knew him then. He marched to a totally different drummer; a guy who made life move just a little quicker whenever he was around.

Shirley, his ex-wife, commuted back and forth between Los Angeles and La Salina in her small motor home. She christened it the “La Salina Shuttle” and everyone knew when she hit camp. You would always see it parked in front of the Cantina for several hours after her arrival. Like they say, ‘it was a dry and dusty trip’.




My smidgen of a claim to fame is that I have had so many really good friends. By Bernie Swaim December 2007
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Lee
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[*] posted on 3-17-2007 at 09:21 AM


Think you nailed these characters, Bernie. You're an excellent writer -- and thanks for posting this for everyone to read.

:cool:




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Baja Bernie
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[*] posted on 3-17-2007 at 12:51 PM
Lee


Thanks for the feedback. I agreed with Mr. Nomad to post the stories from my first book here to share some of what has gone on in Baja in the recent past........Add flavor if you will.

Comments like yours make me think that it is a worthwhile thing to do with my time.

Other of my chapters are posted on BAJA LOOKING BACK in case you have missed them.




My smidgen of a claim to fame is that I have had so many really good friends. By Bernie Swaim December 2007
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Iflyfish
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[*] posted on 3-17-2007 at 02:47 PM


Great character description, makes me want to know more about this character and to generate that interest takes good writing. Thanks,

As to the quote:

"A point to ponder........If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free! -P.J. O'Rourke"

That is a very good point for the 48 million Americans without health care to ponder, indeed.

Here is another point to ponder......."Let them eat cake." Marie Antoinette immediatly before the French Revolution when told that the people had no bread. She, like O'Rourke are true to their social class.

Iflyfish
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Ken Bondy
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[*] posted on 3-17-2007 at 03:22 PM


Bernie that was delightful. Funny, sensitive, thought-provoking. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed that passage from the book, thank you for reminding me. ++Ken++
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[*] posted on 3-17-2007 at 04:59 PM


Lump me in with the rest of the Bernie Fans.


Gracias mi amigo

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Sallysouth
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[*] posted on 3-17-2007 at 06:45 PM


Another gem from the Gentleman Bernie! You paint your characters so colorfully that I feel like I could almost see them! Gracias Amigo, once again you made my evening just that much better! Sally



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bajamigo
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[*] posted on 3-18-2007 at 09:04 AM


Great story, but the important thing is that it didn't go untold. I've lived in Punta Banda "full-time" since May, but I've heard so many fascinating stories about the characters --- gringo and Mexican --- who populated this place. Wish we had a Bernie here.



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Baja Bernie
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[*] posted on 3-18-2007 at 04:52 PM
Thanks Bajamigo


I wrote this a million years ago and am still trying to figure how I can use it....................."Stories and characters dot Baja like a thousand lighthouses-- bright beacons in an otherwise drab brown environment."



My smidgen of a claim to fame is that I have had so many really good friends. By Bernie Swaim December 2007
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[*] posted on 3-19-2007 at 02:43 PM


Don probably needed some Baja- time, to recover - before moving on. Like many of us ! Thank's Bernie >f<
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