It is that time of year again, AMC are having another Fourth of July The Walking Dead marathon and this year it has the very catchy title of Dead White and Blue. This event, which is rapidly becoming an institution of sorts on the network, allows TWD fans the chance to watch every single episode of the show since it began.
Before I moved to the ‘haunted’ house and after I had just moved off the base, I had to hitch-hike to and from the base. Daily rides to work were easy. Most of the folks I worked with drove right past my flat on the way to work, it was an easy thing for them to pull over and pick me up.
Weekends and ‘off-duty hours’ were a different matter entirely.
The main reason I went to the base on weekends was to do laundry initially and later to work with an amateur dramatics society on the base. The theatrical attendance was also quite easy to do because lots of the society members again drove right past my flat, or I could catch them on the road by ‘thumbing it.’
I myself had stopped picking up hitchhikers years ago, while I was still married to my first wife. I’d had a rather alarming episode with a long-haired man and a knife that resulted in me pulling a pistol and throwing him out of my pick-up truck in the pouring rain. After that little heart-stopping event, I swore to never pick up a hitchhiker again.
But my whole first year in England, I did not own a car. I had to, like a male version of Blanche DuBois, rely on the kindness of strangers. This did not always work. I remember quite a few times where, laden with a mobility bag full of dirty clothes, I had to walk the five mile stretch in the pouring rain. I usually got lucky once I got to the Laundromat on base, I could just about always find a ride back.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t use the ‘local’ Laundromat in the village, it is because there wasn’t one.
But, I had enough kind people stop and give an airman a lift, especially easy if you were in uniform, that I wanted to return the kindness shown me by picking up folks who were having to ride their thumb.
I did eventually have to stop though. We were getting briefings about a group of young women who were ‘hitching’ and when they got picked up by a lone male, would accuse him of touching them up. We were warned that if we didn’t know the individual who had their thumb out, to pass them by.
I decided that if the hitcher was in uniform that I would take my chances. That decision led to two of the strangest car rides I’d had since being in the United Kingdom and my cessation of giving strangers a ride.
The first ‘girl’ I stopped for was in uniform. At first glance she looked like she was in the USAF green fatigues that most airmen wear daily. She was of medium height and had very tightly curled hair. She sort of looked like a grown-up Shirley Temple but with reddish brown hair.
It was pelting down rain that stung your skin when it hit and I felt bad about anyone having to endure that for the five mile walk from the base to the village.
When she got in, she extended a sopping wet hand and introduced herself. “I’m Julie,” she said, “Thanks for stopping.”
I said my name was Mike and that I was only going as far as the village. She stated that would be fine as she was trying to track down her fiancée who was supposed to be in one of the Pubs there. Then absolute silence for the remainder of the five miles.
I stopped by the first Pub that was in the village square and let her out, as she got out of the car she leaned back in and again thanked me for the ride. She paused for a moment and them asked, “Do you live in the village?”
I said, ” Yes, as a matter of fact I do. Why?”
She leaned into the car a bit further. “You don’t know Staff Sargent Thompson do you?” Her eyes had taken on a glittery look that made her look a bit mad.
“No-o-o-o. I don’t think I do.”
She reached into a pocket of her uniform that I realised belatedly was not a USAF fatigue uniform at all. It was Israeli. I found this out when she pulled a knife out of her pocket and sat back down in the car.
“Are you sure? I know how you Air Force bastards back each other up. Now think hard, Staff Sargent Thompson, he’s about your age with black hair, he just got back from Israel where he was on a ‘mini’ Kibbutz. We met there and he told me he was stationed here.” She paused for a moment. “He’s got a huge cock. He said his nickname was Horse.”
I sat stunned and just looked at her for a minute. I finally lied and said that I’d only just arrived in country and that she’d be better off checking with someone who had been here longer.
Running her finger along the knife’s blade, she looked intently at my face, apparently trying to decide if I was lying or not. After what seemed like an eternity, she nodded and started to again leave my car. As she went to close my passenger door, I stomped on the gas pedal and left rubber for at least six yards on the road.
When I got home I decided that I wouldn’t be going out that night in case I bumped into her in my local. I didn’t pick up another hitchhiker for ages after that.
Then on Independence day, I was driving past the market square when a young very pretty black girl flagged me down. I stopped when I saw she was in green fatigues and I saw she was an Airman First Class by the two stripes on the arms of her uniform shirt.
She ran up to the drivers side and gave me a big smile. “Hey! You stationed at Mildenhall or Lakenheath?”
She pouted and asked, “You wouldn’t be going to the Fourth of July party at Lakenheath would you?” Realising that this gorgeous creature was asking in a very round about way if I’d give her a lift, I said yes.
“Great! Wait here for a minute, will you?”
Before I could answer she went sailing into a shop. In about a minute she came back out with a plastic bag. The girl was, if nothing else, prompt. She hopped into the passenger seat of my car and said, “I just had to buy a clean shirt. My uniform shirt is all sweaty, I had a late night last night. You know what I mean?”
Before I could say a word she’d whipped her uniform top off and revealed that she did’t wear a bra. She also had nothing to be embarrassed about in the breast department. She was easily a 36 C and very perky with it. She then sat there topless and proceeded to rummage through her bag.
I grabbed her discarded top and threw it at her. “Quick! Put that back on! You can’t get changed here!” My eyes were darting all around the immediate area looking for my girlfriend and the police.
Pouting again she put the uniform top back on and did up one button. “Well where can I change? I don’t want to go to the party smelling like this.”
Thinking quickly I said, “Look, my flat is right around the corner, I can wait while you get changed in the bathroom. I’ll even leave the flat door open so you won’t feel uncomfortable.”
This proved to be acceptable and we made our way to my flat. I didn’t have to bother about showing her where the bathroom was or leaving the door of the flat open. The second she went through my door, the uniform top was whipped off and she started rummaging through that bag again.
She had about five different blouses in the bag and she kept putting on one and looking in the tiny mirror over my bedroom sink.
She’d then whip that top off and try on another one. About halfway through, she stopped and turned to look at me. Her breasts were still very perky and I didn’t know what to do with my eyes.
“You aren’t in a hurry are you?” She asked.
My face flaming and blood rushing into places it had no place being, I answered with strangled no. Sweat was streaming down my overly hot face and I just knew that my girlfriend was going to walk in at any minute. When the girl came over to have me light her cigarette, I started believing that this was some kind of test.
I decided that my girlfriend had set me up to see how I’d react to this half naked vixen in front of me. After cupping my hands with hers while I lit her cigarette, she kept hold of my hands and dragging deep on the now lit smoke, she looked into my face. “Are you sure, you don’t have to be anyplace…special?”
My nerve broke then and I pulled my hands back and started for the door. “Damn! I just remembered I have to meet somebody at the party and I think I’m late. We’d better get going.”
I stood just outside the door and waited while she finally decided on what blouse she liked best. Practically pushing her to my car, I set the world record for the shortest drive possible to RAF Lakenheath. When I stopped the car at the area set aside for the Independence Day celebrations I said, “Go on and get out, I’ll just park the car and I’ll join you after.”
“Okay Honey.” She leaned over the gear shift and kissed me on the mouth. She tasted of cigarette smoke and bubble gum. She also smelt ever so faintly of marijuana. “I’ll see you in a little bit.”
I drove off and didn’t go back to the festivities.
Later that night my girlfriend came over and she never even asked me if I’d done anything special that day. I decided two things after that nerve wrecking experience with the topless tootsie.
I decided that my girlfriend had not been trying to ‘set me up’ and that it would be a cold day in hell before I ever picked up another hitchhiker.
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The USAF sent me to the United Kingdom in 1982. It was not problem, I had volunteered to go. My first marriage had died a pretty messy death and the airbase I was at held too many harsh memories. My unit commander had suggested I put in a transfer request. He said that he happened to know there was still a place or two left open in England.
Alamogordo Air Force Base in New Mexico was my first assignment in the Air Force. I had just changed jobs and my new commander was a “re-tread” an officer who had been promoted from the enlisted ranks. He was one hell of a guy.
He had been stationed at RAF Mildenhall years before and had loved it. His idea was to get me away from the memories that were making my life a misery. I put in for a transfer and got it. We were a small career field so it was a bit easier to get ‘choice’ assignments.
I drove my immediate superior’s car to Dover AFB. She was being reassigned to Germany and wanted to ship her car. On my way I stopped by and visited with my son, my parents and the rest of my family. Sad, bitter thoughts kept me from enjoying anyone’s company too much and I was anxious to “get going” and start forgetting.
I flew into England via the “Freedom Bird.” The Freedom Bird was usually a stretched commercial aircraft, stretched meant that it had moved the seats closer together so they could fit more military personnel on the flights. It was cramped and uncomfortable. This commercial aircraft was dubbed the Freedom Bird because it, or another one like it, would be the aircraft that would take us back to the USA when our assignment was over.
The minute my feet hit the tarmac in England I fell in love. Instinctively I felt that I this was the place I had always been looking for. I had conflicting emotions running through my head. I was excited, relieved, expectant, and sad all at the same time.
I was also jet lagged.
England was a welcome change for me. I got the chance to ‘live’ my life again. After a few years I fell in love with a girl from Cambridge. We tied the knot and we moved to The Netherlands for four and a half years. While we were there she gave birth to our beautiful daughter. And we made plans to move back to England when our stint in Holland was over.
Then I got out of the Air Force in 1993 (under the downsizing drill in 1992) and made England my home. I became a British citizen and my visits home had to stop due to lack of funds.
Fast forward to 2011. My second marriage was over. Thankfully for different reasons than my first one, I’d learned that much at least, but it lasted a lot longer than my first marriage. The first thing I knew I had to do was to go home and visit.
My daughter and I flew over for a two week ‘rest period’ and as luck would have it, we would be in the USA over the Fourth of July.
We spent the holiday at my brother’s house with his family. He went all out for my daughter’s first 4th of July in America. She saw her first baseball game and saw her first firework display at the ripe old age of 21. She fell in love with ‘live’ baseball and America. She will be coming back to live and work there.
She also saw her first Rodeo and got to see a lot of the places I’d lived and visited when I was a whole world younger. She also got to visit family she’d either never met before or she’d only met when she was too little to really remember.
Something else happened on that flight home. Something important.
It started on the flight over. I sat (watching one of the in-flight movies) and my eyes started watering and I got a lump in my throat. I was going home. I hadn’t been there since 1990. It was a little overwhelming. The culmination of this feeling came on the 4th itself.
As we sat watching the brilliant firework display put on by the town of Coppell, Texas tears ran down my face as I ‘taped’ the colourful explosions. I suddenly remembered that I was an American.
It was like being reborn.
I had spent so many years ‘overseas’ that I had forgotten what I was, where I was from, and who I was deep down. I had begun to think of myself as a citizen to of world and of course I was an British citizen as well. I think that visit helped both my daughter and me a great deal.
We still live and work in England but life has changed. We both discovered our ‘roots’ last year. My daughter for the first time and I got back in touch with mine. So while I’m setting here writing this, I am reliving last years 4th of July celebrations. The smell of the popcorn and other delicious foods at the ballgame and the sounds and smells of the fireworks.
So even though I was born in September, I was reborn on the 4th of July.
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