The Rockport Miracles - Part 4: Episode 8: "The Ballad Of Derecho Dan" Continues
Maynard Gridley came to help.
After Wilmena’s younger sister heard what happened, she rolled her son off the couch and said, “Go help Little Dan and the Gas & Lube!” Like many in Big Dan’s and Wilmena’s extended families, Maynard was an expert mechanic. He was an expert in mayhem also. Had Wilmena known what her sister was up to, she never would've agreed to allow Maynard near Little Dan or the Gas and Lube.
Unfortunately, Wilmena wasn’t in a position to do or know anything. She was still in Rockport Hospital, covered in tubes, bandages and doped up on morphine. It would be days before she learned that her troubled nephew had come to town. By then, it was too late. Little Dan had eagerly welcomed him into his life. Maynard's non-conforming attitudes and lifestyle were drenched in outlaw charisma. Little Dan was in awe of the gringo cousin that he’d heard bad things about all of his life.
Maynard Gridley was born in 1949 and grew up during the seemingly inconsequential Eisenhower era. He attended his schools faithfully and always went to church on Sundays. He played sandlot baseball in the summer and intramural football in autumn. As was the way in those times, soon after his 18th birthday, he'd been drafted into the military industrial complex.
They assigned Maynard to the 101st Airborne and he did his basic training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. After basic was over, he came home for a visit. It would be the last time anyone met up with the old Maynard. Soon thereafter, he shipped off to Vietnam and arrived just in time to experience the eye-popping charms of the Tet Offensive. Maynard had fought bravely during his tour of Vietnam and took a bullet in his leg and some shrapnel in his ass.
They sent Maynard home after that, just one of many who came back wounded, confused, and out of sync with an America that had changed while they were away. He thought he’d left the shit show behind when he boarded the plane in Saigon. Instead, a whole new episode was just starting.
Maynard’s re-entry back into civilian life was epic in its failure to achieve anything. The Army had taught him how to drink Wild Turkey from the bottle and it wasn’t long before he was single-handedly keeping the Wild Turkey Distillery in business. He sought solace in drugs, girlfriends from hell, and, of course, his beloved motorcycle. In 1971, a book by Jack Kerouac and the TV series, “Then Came Bronson,” inspired Maynard Gridley to take his “Then Came Maynard” show on the road.
After only a few months, Maynard then came limping back to his parents’ house in Parma, Ohio. He was burping along on one cylinder and had earned the distinction of being banished from three western States and the entire Yucatan Peninsula. He stayed on a couch and the bottle in the basement of his parents' house until Storm 5.4 nearly killed his Aunt Wilmena and brought uncertainty to the future of his cousin, Little Dan.
Meanwhile, back at the Gas & Lube, Joe, Joe, and Joe, the three Italian bricklayers that were building a wall around the station, had turned lunchtime into an everyday Feast of the Assumption. Once they'd told their mothers and grandmothers in Cleveland’s Little Italy about Wilmena’s encounter with a tornado, the women flew into action and kept the Gas & Lube catered with some of the finest Old World Italian food to be found anywhere off the toe of Italy. It was during these lunchtime feasts that Maynard would open up and tell chilling stories about his Vietnam experiences.
“You boys think the storms here in Rockport are bad, HA!” scoffed Maynard. The remark offended one of the Joes. “What you mean?!” he demanded. “If our storms not bad--why is Little Dan’s madre lying in hospital with tubes and morphine?” Maynard stuck out his arm and chuckled, “Cool your jets, Giuseppe-Boy! It’s just that you pukes ain't never heard about ‘Monsoon Charlie'"
Little Dan and the three Joes let out a collective gasp and looked at each other with shrugged shoulders. “WHO?” asked Little Dan, “Who is Monsoon Charlie?” Maynard's face went pale as he pulled out the Lucky Strike cigarette he’d tucked behind his ear. “Monsoon Charlie ain't a 'who,' he replied, "but, maybe if I tell you the story, you idiots will learn how face up to storms instead of building stupid walls that won’t do dick.” Once translated, Maynard's remark upset all three of the Joes. They threw what was left of their eggplant Parmesan into the trash and grumbled back to work.
Maynard took a long drag on his cigarette before dropping it into a half drunk bottle of Coca-Cola. Then he jumped off the Pontiac he was sitting on and pointed his finger straight at Little Dan. “You ever heard ‘The Ballad of Davy Crockett’?” he asked. Little Dan quickly nodded his head. He was a huuge Fess Parker fan. “You ever heard, ‘The Ballad of the Green Berets’ by Sgt. Barry Sadler?” Again, Little Dan nodded. He knew that song by heart, too. “Well, I got a story that beats ‘em all," said Maynard, “I call it, 'The Ballad of Monsoon Charlie'…"
©2019 Scott MacGregor-EOI Media Press Inc.
©2019 Illustration by Greg Budgett
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