Sometimes you stumble into a character that just makes you stop and take a note or two.
He’s Gary. He runs a salvage yard in North Mississippi. He’s in charge of about 5000 cars, trucks and piles of junk.
Gary’s not a big man, maybe five-seven or five-eight. It’s cold this week, so he’s wearing one of those knit caps with green camouflage on one side and hunter’s orange on the other side. He’s wearing tan insulated coveralls, unzipped to the waist.
I’d bet he got new boots for Christmas. They’re too clean. It’s hard to keep clean boots in a junkyard.
He could use some serious dental work.
Oh, and he chain smokes, one right after the other. I spent a half hour with him, he had a cigarette in his hand the entire time.
The little office has a gas heater on one side and a blue haze of tobacco smoke floating around everywhere else. He keeps his cigarettes in a silver case with a picture of Elvis on the top.
Now, here’s the bizarre part. Gary and I are just talking, using up the time of day while I’m waiting on a worker to find me a part that’s somewhere out there with the 5000 cars, trucks and junk.
Gary asks me if I served in the military. I didn’t. Gary says “I’m 57 and just retired. I spent twenty-seven years in the Army. I was a full colonel.”
I sincerely thank him for his service to our country. I’m proud to know men and women who served in our military. I think we should all thank them for their service and sacrifice.
“I had a sergeant who told me I’d never make it. There were 200 of us, and I’m the one who graduated. When I made colonel, I found that sergeant and reminded him of what he said after he saluted me.”
I’m started to get impressed with this man “Gary.”
“I’m one of 100 men the President depends on. I have THE code word. I can use it and get in to see the President. I can go to the White House today, give them the code word and they’ll let me in. They won’t stop me. I worked for every President back to Nixon. I reported directly to Nixon when he was president. Reagan, Carter, Ford, Clinton, the two Bushes, I worked for them all.”
It’s thirty degrees outside, I’m sitting in a cloud of blue smoke, in a plywood shack, listening to the hiss of a butane heater and just starting to think there’s some smoke I can’t see being blown towards me.
“You’re looking at the man who rescued the 200 American soldiers from North Korea. I went in there and got every one of them out, alive. They wanted to give me the Medal of Honor for that job, I turned it down.”
I want to thank him for his service, but somewhere in my southern upbringing a little voice was saying “Bless Your Heart, Gary!”
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