During wartime when my workload was very heavy, my boss picked me to go to the non-commissioned officers academy in Florida for the five-week course where only the top 5 percent of Air Force personnel are sent. He said it would look good on my record.
After I printed my orders, one of my printers asked me for leave and wanted me to drop him off at his home in Ashland. He said he would help me drive.
During this time I was into old, classic cars. I thought my 1954 Buick Roadmaster would make the trip without any trouble, so Airman Dunn and I left Travis Air Force Base, California about noon. We would drive straight through to Ashland and drop him off, and I would drive to Jenkins to spend two days with my parents before driving on to Florida.
I drove until about midnight. Dunn kept bugging me to let him drive, so I changed places with him. I had to ask him a few times to slow down.
About 3 a.m. the next morning, somewhere in Kansas, a deer showed up in our headlights. I yelled at him and the deer hit the front of my car. We checked the damage and we only had a small dent in my right fender. The deer was nowhere in sight.
Of course, I took over driving. It was raining when we hit Illinois and my windshield wipers went out. It took me half a day to find a part for a 1954 car because of its age.
Everything went smoothly the rest of the way.
After I got Dunn home, his folks asked me to have something to eat with them. I then drove on to Cane Branch, and my parents were very glad to see me.
Two days later I’m driving through the state of Georgia. It was getting dark and a highway patrol officer pulled me over just outside of Atlanta.
He said, “Sergeant, we’ve had riots in the city and people have thrown rocks at cars. I will escort you through the city.” Which he did.
I asked him to let me buy him a cup of coffee. We pulled up to a little café. He tells me that he was in the Air Force for four years, and took his basic training at Sampson Air Base, N.Y., where I was assigned for four years during the Korean War. We had a lot to talk about.
When I got to the academy, the commander had served overseas with me. He told me that I would be in charge of Air Force One’s crewmembers, who were said to be the smartest and sharpest airmen in the Air Force.
That’s another story.
Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.