Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Henry Arthur Taliaferro, Jr. - RIP

I learned Sunday that I lost yet another of my childhood friends, Henry Arthur Taliaferro, Jr.

On formal occasions, he was known as Henry Arthur, but when formality isn't necessary, we called him HAT.
Somewhere around age 14 the friendship expanded to 'buddies.'  That kind of relationship meant that we hung out together a lot.  He lived just down the street from me.  The fact that he had a Willis Jeepster made being buddies even more fun because we could put a quarter's worth of gas in it and head to Hawthorn's Creek where there was a wonderfully cool swimming hole.
And sometimes we would even go to Jonesville where we could shoot pool in a real pool hall.  He always won and I didn't care.  He was my buddy.
Small town life went on and the two of us found ourselves as college students at Northeast Louisiana College in Monroe.  It was my first real 'away-from-home' experience.  We both liked to have fun so our academic efforts didn't pan out well.  
But I had joined the ROTC and really enjoyed being a Soldier, such as it was on a college campus. So we came to the conclusion that maybe we would be better off going into the Army.  Next thing we knew we were in Shreveport getting physicals and taking day-long tests.  We both scored high on the tests and the recruiter wanted us to fly to Dallas to speak with his boss.  That's where we learned about the Army Security Agency, the Army's version of the National Security Agency.  We liked what we heard and within hours we were on a bus headed north to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for basic training. It was February 29th, 1960.  There was snow on the ground as we crossed into Oklahoma and all the way to Fort Leonard Wood.  There was still snow on the ground when we completed Basic Training eight weeks later.
We had joined the Army on the 'Buddy Plan.' We learned later that the Buddy Plan was some fictitious recruiting tool the Army used with great success. 
The two of us went back home to Louisiana to say our goodbyes one last time. Then we caught a train to Boston and a bus to Ayer, Massachusetts, near Fort Devens, ASA's training base.
A couple of days later Henry Arthur was given orders to Arlington Hall Station, ASA's Headquarters near the Pentagon where he would become an MP. He served there until his enlistment was over in 1963. I remained at Fort Devens and completed 058 and 055 schools before our entire class was sent to Fort Bragg in late 1960.
I only saw HAT one time while in the Army.  It was during the Summer of 1960 when I hitched a ride down from Fort Devens to DC and met him. He gave me the tour of the small, campus-like base. I was envious to say the least.
We never really got to see much of each other after that. We returned home after our enlistments were up in February 1963. He eventually took a job at the bank, married and settled into a comfortable, small town life. I decided that small town life just wasn't for me so I joined the Navy in December 1965 and was eventually ordered to the Philippines.  I remained there until I was discharged two years later.
I think Henry Arthur and I may have seen each other three or four times after that.
It was sad to learn that he died. He was only 76 years old. 
In my mind he was still my 'Buddy' in spite of the miles and years between us.

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