Freedom Beat Across America: In Search of America's Heartbeat

Days 7& 8!

Dottie and Sally

Spent the weekend with family and good friends (either-or-both). Saturday we arrived in Durant, Texas, and had lunch with Dottie’s son, Thomas. Then we went on to a tiny town, where the only store is a Dollar General that sells groceries and anything else you can name. We descended on Don “Pappy” Papin and his wife Sally. All of us immediately got a crush on Pappy, who is six-foot-something with a deep voice and a twinkly eye. We also fell in love with the two bitches – not to be confused with “broads”, folks, I’m talking about a pair of female dogs. Ushia is a sleek and gentle blonde German Afghan hound who immediately made me think of Celine Dion. Lure-lang is a puff-ball Pomeranian who made sure we all knew when anyone went in or out of the door. Who knew such a noise could come out of something the size of a racing lure? Pappy was the only male in a house chuck-full of females, and he seemed to alternate between being a bull in a herd of heifers, and the proverbial long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Pappy is state captain of the Oklahoma Patriot Guard Riders. He talked to us for hours and gave us many insights into how the PGR works and what their mission is. With reservations and cautions, he arranged for us to have breakfast Sunday morning with three of his compadres. Like Pappy, they avoid publicity, preferring to have the cameras and attention on the veterans themselves. But they allowed us to film them for our documentary, and the four of us broads, plus Sally, sat around the table reveling in everything they had to say.
“Leatherneck” is, of course, a Marine vet. He came back from Viet Nam with a wooden leg and one knee-replacement and is more than able to empathize with our military today who come home in much different condition than they left. Among other patriotic and worthy causes, Leatherneck is a member of BACA, “Bikers Against Child Abuse”.

Leatherneck's colors

Just Talkin'

“Chief” is a Navy vet, soft-spoken but expressive. I believe he would’ve been happy to sit quietly and let the others speak, but when we asked what drew him to Patriot Guard, his answers were eloquent and moving.
“Judge” doesn’t have a military background himself but his family has a military history. He feels deeply that veterans deserve much more than they are getting, and wants to do whatever he can to honor, assist and protect them and their families.

Chief's colors

Pappy taught me a lot about the MIA (Missing In America) which tries to find the remains of vets who had no family to claim them.  MIA makes sure they get buried with full honors, and there is no one there but the people of MIA.  Doesn’t matter — they’ve honored a forgotten vet.

There was so much we learned from them, so many notes taken, that it cannot be fitted into one post, but I will be referring back to it throughout our trip. And of course much of it will be a part of our documentary.

Pappy's colors

After we left on Sunday morning, we again saw more of Texas than we’d planned, or at least more of Dallas, since I had trouble spotting the separate signs for the highways. Thank heaven we stopped at a Cracker Barrel and checked the maps over meat loaf, or we’d probably be in Mexico by now. Actually, Melissa seemed quite happy to do a complete circuit of the city and get plenty of skyline photos. Skylar put her earphones on and did whatever with those pad-things kids have today. For once I was happy to see a kid zone out.
I have to say they are real boyscouts in Texas; I mean, really prepared. We spotted a large store with a big sign that said “Condoms to Go”. Next came a billboard extorting us to forgo pornography, which was — intentionally, I’d bet — right next to a store selling adult videos. I guess there’s nothing wrong with covering all the angles.

Time to take off


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