I was 19 years old and had a low draft number. We got on a bus in Lampasas early in the morning for a trip up to Abilene for our physical, some time in the spring of 1972.
I had many reasons that made me think I wasn’t cut out for Military Life. First off I had been hearing back from my brother about how miserable life was in Vietnam. Secondly I had been watching the television news at night and they were saying what a terrible situation we were in over there and how there didn’t seem to be a good resolution to it all. Soldiers coming back were being given much respect that they really deserved.
Besides that I had just started into the contracting business and had a project in Burnet, had employees on the payroll and equipment I’d purchased that I was needing to pay for, and the Army wasn’t paying all that good. On top of that, the previous November the dream girl of my life and I had said our wedding vows and I figured she’d miss me if I was away for months at a time.
It’s not that I didn’t want to be patriotic and do my duty but there was no other positives that I could think of with going in the Army.
On top of that I had crushed my foot with a backhoe outrigger a few months before.
We happened to be installing a new water line right in front of Dr. Allen’s house when I got my draft notice. We enjoyed visiting, when he was home, as he would come out and talk to us. When I told him about the draft notice he told me to stop by and see him before I headed up for my physical.
He had treated my foot injury. I didn’t read the letter, that he sent along, as it was sealed up. But I figured it said that with my recent injury that I wouldn’t make a very good soldier……..
Besides having the letter in hand, I thought I needed a little additional insurance to substantiate my injury. So after talking it over with my two most trusted employees, Glenn Lewis and Jimmy Palmer we developed a plan. Jimmy would hold me, keeping me steady or keep me from running away, while Glenn got in my pickup and ran over my injured foot. All went to plan except in Glenn’s typical fashion he drove up on my foot and stopped when he felt the pickup jump up a little. I was begging him to roll on over it while Jimmy was on the ground laughing. He finally moved off of me.
As much as it hurt, I’m not sure it ever swelled any, but it sure was painful for a little while.
I walked in when we got to the appropriate place in Abilene with my envelope in hand. The fellow that appeared to be in charge was standing there, so I walked over and handed him my letter. He asked if anyone else had any letters, etc. I think one other fellow did hand him an envelope. He opened mine, looked at it an said “That’s a Fine Old Doctor you have”. Then he told me to go over and sit an a bench by myself. It was a long boring day sitting there.
The rest of the guys went through all their examinations, something that was talked about extensively on the way back to Lampasas that afternoon.
Dr. Allen had asked me to stop back by when I got back. The next morning after the guys were working I went over to pay my respects to the good doctor. June Despain, a Smithwick cousin was up front when I went in. She escorted me back to Dr. Allen’s office to wait until he was finished with a patient he was attending to.
He walked in a little while later and I told him how everything thing went. He said “I figured you’d be okay”, as he pointed on the wall for me to look at a certificate. It read something like Supervisory Board Physician of Medical Examination Corp, Abilene, Texas. (Not sure exactly what his title was, but it seemed very important and probably why the fellow up there said “That’s a Fine Old Doctor you have”.)
I’m not sure I would have gathered up the courage to even discuss the Army Draft with Dr. Allen if I had known he was actually connected.
As it turned out, I guess it was all for the best. I didn’t serve, to which I have carried some guilt. but I was around to help bring 5 sons into this world and more grandkids than I know what to do with sometimes. So far 3 sons and 1 grandson have volunteered to go serve this country and for that I am extremely proud.