Highlights of The White Sheep
I was born on a farm in Blaine County,
Oklahoma in 1921. I was the youngest of seven children: three girls and
four boys. I have wondered many times why my parents had to have
seven children. Why couldn't they have settled for only
I can barely remember one Christmas when
I received a sack of candy. I can recall a few times when we would sit
down at the table to eat, and dad would ask the blessing. They did
teach me a little prayer that I would say after he had finished,
although I said it in German. When translated it went
something like this: "Help us God, all the time, Amen." These
were the only rare occasions I can recall hearing Dad pray when I was a
small boy. As for Mom, I do not think that I ever heard her
say a prayer, although I am sure that she did. They did teach me a
little prayer that I would say after Dad had finished his.
Isaid it in German, and when translated it went something
like this: "Help us God, all the time, Amen." Other
than this, there were no spiritual activities in our family.
As a youngster, I had to share a bed
youngest brother, Harvey, who was about six years older than me, and
for some reason he never did like me. He would always curse
when we were out where Mom and Dad could not hear. He would
me about all that he could think of except a little brother and a human
being. He would curse me if I pulled a little too much cover
turned over too many times or maybe let my feet touch his. It
seemed as though no matter what I did, he just did not like
would have liked to have had a brother who loved me, but he didn't
treat me in love.
I suppose, as the youngest of seven
the family, there just wasn't enough love
around, so I had to be
I guess this is one of the
things that I enjoyed as a boy, and I am glad to have those memories in
my heart. However, those days now seemed to be gone forever
I could no longer go to his house or ask him over to mine.
I had to lie to my
friend. I don't recall what I told him but I do know it had
a lie. I will always think that he already knew what it was,
I am sure that his dad knew what was going on over at our
I will never know for sure whether he knew or not. It's
impossible for me to ask him because he died with lung cancer about ten
years ago, and since that time his dad also died. Whether or
he knew that I lied to him is not the question then or now. I
know that I did and it leaves a bad memory.
It was just the beginning of a miserable eight
of shame and disgrace to this little boy who had so much love in his
heart for all of his brothers and sisters.
had an old wagon which was kind of dilapidated. Two wheels
worn out or broken, and Harvey had replaced them with wooden
wheels. I was looking forward to playing with my wagon on the
sidewalk in town. However, when I mentioned it I was told
they "would not be seen with that old thing." I suppose that
than point on, I felt a little ashamed of my wagon, but it
all I had, so what was a boy supposed to do?
With Dad in jail, we were faced with a
that year--harder than I could have ever imagined. There were
times when we did not have very much. However, we had plenty
water gravy. I am sure that there were a lot of other
who had to eat some of the same, but with our family separated, it made
things seem much worse to me.
One night I walked out the door and
there on the
step was a large sack full of groceries. I do not remember
everything that was in it, but I do know that it had some
black-eyed peas in it. This was probably the first time I
any but I learned to like them. On another night, someone
unloaded a couple of tons of coal for us to use for heat. I
learned where this came from either, but I always thought that maybe it
was left by some of the people who went to church
where Mom and Dad had
attended, and they could not let it be known that they were
helping a family who had turned out to be as sinful as ours had, or
they might be put out of the chruch
they were found out.
was not a Christian attitude from my perspective today.
Later in the winter, Reuben
borrowed a car
from a friend one day, and he took me to the county seat where Dad was
in jail... Since it had been a long time since we had seen each
I was really glad to see him, and I know he was glad to see
Reuben visited right in the jail with him. It was nice and
in there, and I know that he got three meals a day, so he may have more
fortunate than the rest of us. Still it was hard to leave him
when it was time to go. I didn't see him again until he came
By this time, Dad had served
his time and was
a free man again, but he had to go looking for a job. Luckily
got on again at the gypsum plant where he had worked several years
before. However, this didn't help my situation concerning
spending time with him because he stayed in the bunk house out on the
job, and I only got to see him on weekends.
arrived (home), I
found myself all alone in the house with no food. At noon, I
began to get hungry, and I looked for something to eat. When Mom was home, she
sometimes did laundry
for the people who ran the bakery. Instead of being paid with
money, she had to take day-old bread and rolls. I always
these very much, even though they were hard and dry. On this
when I searched the house for food, I found a cinnamon roll in the
bread box which had been one-day-old when it came from the bakery, and
it must have been in the bread box at least a week, so it was
especially hard and dry. However, I was hungry enough, so I
it, and I can truthfully say that it was good, but that there just
wasn't enough of it.
That evening at supper time,
there was still
no one at home, and I was beginning to get pretty hungry. I
my best to clean up, then I went to town, hoping that I would see
someone who would help me get something to eat. I suppose I had a
little too much pride to ask for a handout. Maybe I was too
or maybe I just didn't have the nerve to let anyone know that I was
hungry. As a result, on this Saturday night, at the age of
can truthfully say that I was hungry as I walked down the main street
of my home town.
I roamed the streets with an empty
night, not knowing what to do. I began to believe that it
have been better if I hadn't been born. Then, in the deepest
moment of my despair, I got lucky. As I was sitting in front
store, a car pulled to the curb, and Harry was in it. He was
on bond. The town bootlegger was in the car with him, so I
suppose Harry had been making whiskey for him. They
what I was doing up town alone that time of night. I told
was hungry, and asked for a dime so that I could buy a sandwich or
something. They gave me a dime and they went on their
I went to the cafe, where hamburgers only cost a nickel.
that night I ate in style. I ordered a ham
lady brought it and I gave her the dime, not realizing that this may
not have been enough, but she took it and never said anything, so it
must have been. I will never forget how good that sandwich
looked, and it tasted even better. I felt much better after
eating, so I went home alone and went to bed.
It seems rather strange to a boy how a mother can go into
kitchen that does not have anything in it to eat, and with a little
flour, salt, pepper, sugar, and maybe a few other small items, she is
able to stir up something that's fit to eat. I don't remember
what it was that day, but it filled up the empty place in my
As I approached the depot, I saw a man coming
the other side of the street, and I thought I recognized him.
least I was hoping that I did. As he got closer, I could see
I was right. It was Dad. He had been released from
hospital in the city. None of us knew that he was coming
home. Mom did not even know. I ran across the
greet him, and I will never forget how he grabbed me and how glad he
was to see me. I was really happy, and it was wonderful just
think that we would all be together again.
Dad spent a lot of time working away
from home on
different jobs, usually on farms where he wouldn't come home at night,
and sometimes not even on weekends.
I don't know if he agreed
let Mom and Harry sell whiskey or if they just didn't care whether he
did or not, but that's what they did. They began
whiskey in our house, and we were now known in our town as
bootleggers. It wasn't much of a home anymore. With
coming and going anytime of the day or night, there was no privacy
whatsoever. Some would come in and buy a bottle and just take
along with them, never taking a drink while they were there.
Others would come in and take a few drinks, feeling a little high when
they left. Still others had been drinking or were already
before they even arrived at our house. These were the worst,
because they would come in and drink some more, with no respect for
anyone. They would curse, tell dirty stories, and sometimes
get sick and vomit. Worst of all, they wouldn't
make it out the door before they got sick, and they would vomit on the
floor. To me it was sickening, but this was the place that I
supposed to call home.
Harry was drinking even more.
be hard to believe, but some days he would drink as much as one
half-gallon of moonshine from the time he would get up in the morning
until he went to bed at night. It is needless for me to say
he was drunk nearly all the time. Some days he would sober up
more than others, but this wasn't always good either. It
to me that the more sober he was, the less respect he had for me, his
little brother. I don't think he cussed me quite as much as
Harvey, but he was always telling me how worthless and dumb I was, and
how he should have me sent to the boy's reformatory at Pauls Valley and
where they would "learn me some sense." However, when he
get drunk, some of the goodness would show up in him and he would treat
me like a little brother again. I really do not know why
disliked me so much. I guess I should have been born a dog,
maybe I would have gotten a little more loving.
Sometimes (my brother Harry) would offer me a drink but I would always turn it
down. It was getting late in the night and he had drank
for it to take effect on him and I suppose he realized that he
shouldn't have brought his little brother out there for an operation of
this kind. Toward morning, he finally told me that I should
away from the fire and walk down the creek because he was afraid the
sheriff might come out near daylight, and he didn't want me to get
caught here with him. He said if they caught me out here they
would probably send me to reform school, and he didn't want that to
happen to me. I hated to move away from that fire
because it was
just a little cool in the grass, but I was going to do what he said
because I didn't want to go to reform school. It even made me
feel good to hear him say this because he never talked this good to me
when he was sober.
inside, I was building up a feeling of my own--one that is hard to
describe. Maybe it was a feeling of pride, although I didn't
anything worthy of pride. All I had was a lot of shame and
disgrace, and a life full of disappointments.
There were times when mom would try to get my
quit his drinking and try to live and do better. She would suggest that
maybe he should go out and get a job. But he would only curse, drink,
argue, and make her cry. This was kind of hard for me to take. This did
not happen just once, but very often. So I made another promise to
myself that I would try to live a better life - a kind of life that my
relatives would not have to be ashamed of. I also promised myself that
I would never argue with my mother or do anything to make her cry.
Oh, how badly I wanted something that I could be
of! I wished that I could throw my chest out, hold my head up high, and
tell the whole world that these two men were my brothers, but I could
not. I was so ashamed as I walked down the street. I was feeling low,
kicking at rocks on the street, wondering why things had to be the way
they were. It seemed as though that was just the way it was, and I knew
I better stay prepared to face the ugly consequences. Still, I could
always hope that tomorrow might be a better day.
One night Harvey had to make a trip for my parents
to a little town about twenty miles west for some supplies for their
business. I wanted to go along because it was nearly the Fourth of
July, and I knew that firecrackers were sold all year around in that
town, but they weren't yet available in our town. Mom said I could go,
but Harvey wanted to take his girlfriend along. I didn't care if she
went, but he said that if I went, he wouldn't take her along. Since I
was intent on going, he took me and left her at home. During the course
of that evening, he cursed me and called me everything except a little
brother. I got my firecrackers, and we came home. I was glad the night
was over, but it just didn't seem like there was ever anything very
good for me in life. I got my firecrackers, but at what cost? I also
got a cussing, so why should I be happy?
By this time, the pressures were having a serious
on Mom and Dad, and they were not getting along very well with each
other anymore. I recall a big argument they had in the kitchen one
evening. Harry sided with Mom, and I thought they were going to resort
to a physical fight. I was torn between all of them, and trying to keep
them from it. All of a sudden, Dad grabbed a butcher knife from the
table and said he was going to kill himself. He was standing up, and he
was feeling his throat with his left hand to locate the spot where he
wanted to jab the knife. He held the knife in his right hand,
it was ready. Just then I jumped in front of him, grabbed his strong
arm that held the knife, and said, "Papa, don't." I took hold of the
knife, and he released his grip. Then I took it from him and put it out
of sight. I know that he didn't want to kill himself, but I'm sure that
at that moment he was unhappy enough and upset enough to have done so
if I hadn't tried to stop him.
Harry only said, "Why didn't you let him go. He
have the guts enough to do it anyway." Dad went outside and walked into
town. Mom and Harry also left. The place was kind of lonesome and
deserted, yet quiet.
During the Depression, we were always hearing or
in the paper about outlaw gangs, led by famous bad guys such as Machine
Gun Kelly, John Dillinger, Clyde Borrow and Bonny Parker, and Floyd and
Raymond Hamilton. I always had a little fear of these outlaws, although
I don't think they were quite as wicked as they were portrayed in the
tales that are told about them. However, there was one outlaw that I
actually admired. He was known as Pretty Boy Floyd. They said he would
take from the rich and help the poor, and also that he worked a lot by
himself. I always thought that maybe I would grow up to be like him, or
maybe someday I'd get to be in a gang with him as the leader. However,
I was still too young, except to daydream and wonder what the outlaws
would do next.
When Leland came home, I heard Leah tell him that
sick again. He must have been more concerned about me than I realized,
because he immediately came upstairs to see about me. He sat on the
edge of my bed, and placed one hand on my shoulder as he talked to me.
He asked where I felt sick, and he wondered if there was anything he
could do for me. It was a wonderful feeling having him sit there and
talk the way he did. I guess I hadn't realized that anyone really cared
that much for me.
One day as I lay in bed, I heard Dad talking to
sisters in the other room. I suppose they thought I was asleep, but I
wasn't. They were afraid that maybe I was not going to get well and
that I would die. They thought that maybe someone should go see Mom and
see if she would want to come home for a while, but I wouldn't have
asked them to do that if had been up to me. Nevertheless, Leland went
after her, and she came home. I will always think that it was against
her will, but she came.
One day while I was lying in bed listening to the
the program was suddenly interrupted with a news bulletin. They
announced that Pretty Boy Floyd had been shot, and they soon followed
up with a report that Pretty Boy Floyd was dead. This was a terrible
shock to me since I admired him so much. Of course I realize now that
this again goes to show that crime doesn't pay, and sooner or later it
will catch up with a person. My recommendation is to play it safe, and
walk the straight and narrow path. It might seem like the hard way, and
it may take a little longer, but earn what you get. Later in life, you
will be able to be proud of what you have, and you won't ever have to
One Saturday, I went to town to spend the weekend
parents. Mom told me that her sister had planted a fall garden. She
said that some of the vegetables were just about ready to ripen when I
got sick. However, she had to come home to take care of me, so now she
wasn't going to get to eat any of those ripe vegetables. She said that
if it hadn't been for me, she could still be with her sister, eating
her share of fruits and vegetables from the garden. I assured her that
it wasn't my idea to have her come home, and that I thought I was
getting along fine with things the way they were. She never mentioned
it again, but I was never able to forget what she said, knowing that
she thought more of a garden than she did of me.
When Harry walked to the chair at the witness
took the oath, and then he turned and faced the judge. There was a
railing about shoulder-high where he stood, and he placed his left
elbow on that railing, and his head was bowed downward as he stood
before the judge. The judge picked up his gavel and banged it lightly
on his desk, but it seemed terribly loud to me. I think I could hear my
own heartbeat. The silence was broken when the judge asked Harry if he
pled guilty or not guilty. He did not have the money for an attorney,
so he had to plead guilty. Then the judge said, "I hereby sentence you
to serve one year and one day in the state penitentiary at McAlester."
By now, the courtroom seemed awfully quiet and I was choked up. The
judge then broke the silence again by saying, "However, since this is
your first penitentiary offense, I will give you a suspended sentence
for a period of one year." As I sat there in the courtroom, I was happy
to hear what the judge had said. I had to try hard to squeeze back some
tears and not show any emotion. I watched Harry, still standing before
the judge, with his head hanging quite low. Maybe he couldn't believe
the last few words that the judge said. Then he slowly moved his arm,
and said in a low voice, "Thank you, judge."
Harry walked very slowly back toward me, and I
was the only time I ever saw him come close to crying, because he
wasn't one to shed tears. As we left the courtroom, we were
relieved, and much happier than when we arrived. On our way
we decided to stop by my Reuben's house and tell him the good news. It
was a little out of our way, but that didn't seem to make any
Neither one of us thought about Mom, who was home
for me to bring Harry's car. As the day went by and I didn't show up,
she began to worry. We stayed at Reuben's longer than we should have,
but we finally started for home. It was nearly dark when we arrived, so
again Mom scolded me for not coming straight home to tell her the news.
After a few moments of griping at me for causing her some worry, she
finally decided that she was glad that her boy didn't have to go to
prison. That was worth something, but I still felt bad knowing that it
wasn't my fault we were late. However, when taking everything into
consideration, I suppose it wasn't meant for me to do anything right,
so why should I even try or care?
One day at school when the bell rang for lunch
whole class was marching out, this friend of mine hollered at me for
everyone to hear, "Hey bootlegger. When you come back from lunch, why
don't you bring us all back a drink of whiskey so we can all get
drunk." As I rushed away from school that day with a sad and heavy
heart, I didn't know what to do. All I knew was that I never wanted to
go back. When I got home, I told Mom that I wanted to quit school. I
said that I was not learning anything and I would not pass anyway,
which was true, but that wasn't the main reason. I couldn't tell her
the main reason, but I think she knew. As a result, that day turned out
to be my last day of school. I didn't even bother to go back to get my
About two weeks later, Mom wanted me to take her
an elderly couple that lived about a block from school. I took her
there and waited in the car for her. It just happened to be at a time
when some of the kids were out on the playground, and I was watching
them when Mom came out. She asked me if I was lonesome for school and
wondered if I wanted to go back. I told her I wasn't lonesome for it,
but I was. I wanted to be there, if only things could be different at
our house. Although I wasn't in school anymore, I never stopped
learning. Most of my learning came from experience. If I found
something that interested me, I studied it. However, no matter how much
I studied and learned, it didn't help if I didn't have that diploma or
On the day of the hearing, Mom, Dad, Harry, and
of us kids all went to the courthouse to see what the outcome would be.
As we were waiting for the time for us to go into the courtroom, I'm
sure that Mom and Dad thought about how bad it would be for us kids to
have to witness seeing our mother being sentenced to jail. They hadn't
told us younger kids much about what was happening, so we didn't
realize the possible outcome. Mom pled guilty to the charges, so the
judge sentenced her without even going to trial. I think she did this
to make it a lot easier for us kids, which it did. At least that is one
scene that I don't have to picture in my memory. I had already sat in
one courtroom with my brother, and that leaves memories that are sad
enough, so I'm glad I didn't have to see my mother sent to jail.
That was a sad day--much sadder than Mom ever
rest of us had to go home and leave her there to serve her time. When
we got home, the house seemed empty. There was someone missing. It was
like coming back from a funeral. The thought of it all was just killing
me until I finally broke down and cried. For some consolation, I
reasoned that at least I didn't have to go to school and face all the
kids. I could already imagine what they would be calling me now.
I went to
the recruiting office and enlisted in the United States Marines Corps.
My sister Helen, who is two years older than me,
washed and ironed my clothes for me, and she cooked me many meals.
Since I was going off to war and she had always been so good to me, I
wanted to give her something to show my appreciation. I went to the
jewelry store and bought her a wristwatch. The girls in the store who
sold it to me asked if it was for a girlfriend. I told them that it
wasn't, but that it was for my sister, and they could hardly believe
The folks had a dinner for me the Sunday before I
went away. Reuben
and I went for a ride through town in his car. He asked me if I was
really doing what I wanted to do, and what I thought was right. I told
him I would be drafted into the Army in a few days anyway, and that I
always thought I'd like to be a Marine. When we got home, he gave me
five one-dollar bills. The bills were new and crisp, and the serial
numbers on the bills were consecutive. I decided to try to save two of
these bills and carry them through the war if I could.
Reuben then went back home, and it was hard for
me to say
good-bye. However, the most difficult good-bye came when Leah and
Leland were ready to go home. Leland went out and waited in the
car--I'm sure that this really made it easier for both him and me. Leah
held me in her arms and cried on my shoulder. When I told her not to
cry because I was leaving, she told me she wasn't crying because of
that. She said that she was very proud of me for what I was doing.
Those words she spoke, I will never forget. I couldn't remember anyone
in my life ever telling me before that they were proud of me. The next
morning, I bid the rest of my family good-bye, and that wasn't easy
either. I was then on my way to Oklahoma City, where I was sworn into
the Marine Corps on August 18th, 1942.
While serving in the Southwest Pacific, I was
several times for not having a high school education. Still, I was
always respected by most of the men. One day, our staff sergeant had to
go to the hospital, and I had to take charge in his place. I overheard
two men talking about me. They didn't think that I should have that
responsibility because I didn't have a high school education. This made
me feel unhappy and unwanted. It seemed like things just always turned
out this way for me. I served thirty-one months in the South Pacific,
returned to the states, and received my honorable discharge on November
A few days after New Year's Day in 1950, I read
in the paper where a young man had killed a family of five in eastern
Oklahoma. He had thrown their bodies into an abandoned mine in
southwest Missouri. He had then fled to California, where he killed
again, and he was finally captured. Shortly after this, he was put to
death in the gas chamber, and his body was then sent back to Oklahoma
for burial. An article was published in the newspaper telling about
this man's childhood. It said that he didn't have much of a home, and
he had to wear worn-out and ragged clothes. He had been shoved around
and criticized by people that he knew. He didn't have any friends, and
he learned to hate, and his hate led him to kill.
As I read this story, my mind wandered back to my
boyhood days. I was reminded of myself when I was a boy, and how I also learned
to dislike certain people. It scared me to think that this could have
happened to me, and that someone else could have been reading something
like this about me. I am sorry that this had to happen to that man, and
I'm very thankful that I had other ways of looking at life. I always
tried to live the kind of life that some people said I couldn't live. I
had made a promise to myself when I was a teenager that I was going to
whip a certain man when I got old enough and big enough. Years later,
when I inquired about the whereabouts of that man, I was startled to
hear that he had died a few years back. I was a little sad at heart,
because I realized that I didn't want to whip him. When you whip
someone, you have to hurt them, and it just isn't in me to want to hurt
anyone. I was sorry that he died. The only thing I can say is that I
hope that he was a Christian when he departed from this earth.
You can see from my
experiences that an education is of vital importance in this day and
age. I say to the youth of this country and throughout the world that
as you graduate from high school and prepare to go to college, set
goals that you would like to reach in your life. Remember that you have
the most important years of your life ahead of you, and what you do
with them depends entirely upon you. Imagine an eagle sailing slowly
through the air with his wings spread wide. Picture yourself as being
able to look down from there, where you could see the whole world
spread out far below--a world full of opportunities just waiting for
someone like you. But remember this one thing: this world is also full
of evil and temptations. Set some good goals and standards for living,
and then strive to reach the goals you have set. If you should happen
to fail and fall short of those goals, don't hesitate or be afraid to
start over again. It is far better to try and fail than never to have
tried at all.
As for Harvey, he's living in California, but I would
have to say that he has completely wasted his life. It's hard enough to
know that he's known as an alcoholic, but he's also known as a wino. He
uses most of his money to buy cheap wine. When I look at his life, it
appears to me as though he just wasted it away. It's easy to look at
him and see that he hasn't done any good for himself, but I do hope
that back along the way he did some good that I know nothing about. I
also hope that there might still be some miracle performed in his life,
but the way things are today it makes me sad at heart to know his
condition. It hurts just a little more to know that he's my brother.
I'd like to leave a few words of wisdom to anyone who thinks that the
bottle is the only way out. "He who tries to drown his troubles by
drinking finds that he only irrigates them."
I don't know what Harvey thinks of my life today.
I have to believe that I was put here on earth for some reason, and also to do
some good. That reason still seems to be eluding me. I try to do some
good each day, either for someone else or myself, or do something that
might be helpful to someone else, either today or in the future.
Sometimes in these days, I feel as though I have
been a total failure. Yet, when I take time to look around, I find that I have
things that money couldn't buy. My wife, Grace, may not be the best
woman in the world, but she is certainly one of the best. When I think
back to what the man said in the lunchroom about being a millionaire, I
suppose I can say that I am worth three million dollars, plus another
million or so. We have three children--two girls and a boy. Tessora and
Clarissa are grown and out on their own, and Owen is already a
sophomore in high school. I like to think back to the days when they
were small. At night when I would come home from work, they would come
out to meet me—sometimes to carry my lunch pail, or maybe I
would pick them up and carry them into the house. But those days are already
in the past.
However, today there is someone else who
adds a lot of sunshine to each day—our little grandson, Shane. He
sometimes crawls up onto my lap and gives me a soft tender kiss and then presses
his cheek up close to mine as he slips his little arms around my neck
and says, "Grandpa, I love you."
Those words should fill a man's heart
with joy. It makes my mind wonder back to the day when I was a teenage
station attendant, and the young minister walked into the station early
one morning with a smile on his face. I can see now that he had
something to smile about when he greeted me with a "good morning." I
had asked what was so good about it, and now I have to agree with his
answer. Yes, it is good just to be alive.
by Owen Weber
Despite Dad's claim of being "a total failure,"
Weber was no failure. Although he never received a standing ovation,
his life was a raving success.
Dad was a Christian. He took his family to church
every time the doors were open. I can't be sure of the extent to which he
studied the Bible, but it lay next to his recliner until his dying day.
He was also an honest man, and everyone knew it. He always did what he
thought was right, regardless of what anyone else did.
Dad was a good man. In the way that this is meant
here, it is no small accomplishment, because I haven't met many people with
an unexplainably and inherently "good" quality. I can make this claim
knowing that anyone who knew Dad and who reads these words will agree.
Yet, it is beyond my understanding how he overcame the bitterness from
his childhood and became a nice and giving man. He never did accumulate
wealth, and I believe it is because he gave it away before it could
Dad was a gentle giant. He was about six feet
tall, and he weighed over 200 pounds. He always worked extremely hard physically,
and he was never mistaken for a white-collar worker. He was stronger on
the day he died at age 71 than most men ever are. He could lay on his
back, lift a transmission with one hand, and thread the bolts with the
other. As a young boy, sitting next to him at church, he would
sometimes reach over and place my hand in his. I marveled at his
gigantic hand as it lay in my lap. It was strong and as hard as a rock
from blacksmith work. As I played with his hand to pass the time, I
couldn't imagine anything ever hurting me, knowing that Dad would
protect me. He gave me security. We never had much money, but I never
went hungry a day in my life.
Dad was smart. Having never overcome his shame of
lacking a high school diploma, he received his GED at age 65, but his
intelligence was not a result of any formal education, or lack of it.
Indeed, Dad was a dreamer and a visionary. He could look at a piece of
land, envision a house, a shop, and a pond on it, and then build them
all with his bare hands. He could look at a house, envision a
remodeling job, and then perform it with those same strong hands. He
invented a boat with its own trailer, and then he built it. He could
do nearly anything he pleased, but he seldom had the time to do so.
Most of his time was spent simply working hard, trying to earn enough
money to provide a meager life for his family.
Dad was a U.S. Marine. His military training gave
him discipline and pride, although he harbored many horrific scenes from
World War II in his mind, and these were a source of nightmares and
nerve problems throughout his life. Nevertheless, since he was so proud
of being a marine, I believe that a fitting close for his book is a
tribute to his military career. I had the privilege of writing the
following eulogy and delivering it at his funeral on October 15th, 1992:
On August 8th, 1942, at the age of 21,
Clarence Weber enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He left immediately for
Boot Camp, traveling by train to San Diego, California. On January
10th, 1943, after completing Boot Camp, the 1500 men of his battalion, the
12th Defense Battalion, left San Diego by ship for Hawaii. They arrived
at the island of Oahu, and spent three months in Hawaii, including some
time at Pearl Harbor.
In May, 1943, they left Hawaii and traveled to
Islands, then on to Australia, arriving at Townsville. Next they went
to New Guinea, then on to Woodlark. At Woodlark, they suffered heavy
bombing from the Japanese, in their defense of the airstrip, which had
been built there by the Sea Bees. In this defensive effort, Clarence
served as a Director on the 90-millimeter anti-aircraft artillery.
From Woodlark, they went back to New Guinea,
spent Christmas of 1943. They then moved on to New Britain Island,
where they spent the first six months of 1944. In July, 1944, they went
to Guadalcanal, and then on to Bonika Island.
Their next stop was at Peleliu, where they
of the most heated fighting of World War II. The infantry of the 1st
Marine Division and others, and the anti-aircraft defense of the 12th
Defense Battalion combined to provide a slow but decisive victory for
the U.S. It was this victory by the Marines at Peleliu that allowed
General Douglas MacArthur to be able to keep his promise of returning
to the nearby Philippine Islands.
Next, the 12th Defense Battalion went to Okinawa,
and on to Guam. They then returned to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and then set out
for the U.S. mainland, thinking that they were only returning to the
U.S. for a short rest and a well-deserved furlough. It was during this
leg of their journey that the U.S. dropped two nuclear bombs on the
mainland of Japan, and the Empire of Japan formally surrendered to
MacArthur on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The marines returned to San
Diego on August 20th, 1945, after 31 months overseas. Clarence soon
traveled by train to the state of Virginia, where he received his
Honorable Discharge from the United States Marine Corps on November
27th, 1945, at age 24, after 39 months of faithful service to the country
that he loved,
as a veteran of war.