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PREPARING FOR THE RAIN ON IWO JIMA ISLEThe true story of the battle of Iwo Jima survivor, Marion Frank Walker, Corporal, United States Marine Corps
By Marion Frank Walker Becky White
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Marion Frank Walker and Becky White
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMY BEGINNING
When I came into this world on July 9th, 1925, my little town of North Salem, Indiana, didn't order a big parade, but my mother and dad and four year old sister were just as proud. My only sibling was my sister, Ramona, who was named from the book "Ramona" about an Indian girl. Mom and Dad gave me the name of Marion Franklin, the same name as an itinerant preacher by whose demeanor they were smitten. My mother's name before marrying my dad was Grace Dexter Booker, coming from a little town in Jackson County, Indiana, called Medora. My dad was from a family named Walker who settled in North Salem in Hendricks County, Indiana. Our Walker ancestry dates back to Sir Frances Drake in age old England. My grandmother and grandfather settled in North Salem, Indiana, and that little town has become a pivotal point in my life. Back in those days, it had a population of 511, plus or minus a very few. According to the census taken in 2000, the population was 591. Apparently in the 75 years following my birth, there has been a population boom of 80 people! For me, that town has become the Alpha and Omega of my life,in that it was my beginning and will be my end. In remembering my past, I am reminded of an age-old poem:
Backward, turn backward, o time in thy flight, Turn back a century just for tonight. Turn back the cycles of months and years, That all may see glimpses of joys and tears, Of sorrows, of struggles, of pleasures and care, Let's look friends and neighbors at what's written there. Let's view this brave struggle, and God give us grace To preserve and to cherish what time would efface. Backward, turn backward, O time in thy flight, Turn back a century just for tonight, Their mark of events let us view with one mind, With prejudice, envy and malice behind. Let's glean from it lessons of friendship forsooth, The lessons of kindness, of unselfish truth, Let's think of ourselves in time's measureless span, As only a part in a God-given plan. -Grace Duckworth
The generations of today hear our stories about Americans living through the "Great Depression" during the 1930's, and seem to wonder in near disbelief how we survived those years. It seems many of our new "affluent society", who have been given everything both by government and family, can't quite understand the wealth of soul and character that is so often formed through hardships. We, who are now in our 80's, tell about taking our Saturday night baths in a large pan behind a pot-bellied stove. In hindsight, that bar of Life-buoy soap could do wonders! We describe the "outhouse" with the good ole Sears and Roebuck catalog. When we talk about our two room school (sometimes only one), they wonder where we sat the computer!! The thing this new generation does not seem to grasp is that those were in many ways the richest years of our lives, and laid a solid foundation in preparing us for the rain which was bound to come.
I grew up knowing that helping to care for the five acres that my family owned in the country out from Seymour, Indiana, was part of my responsibility. Every square foot that wasn't gardened was used to either raise hogs or chickens. These were the Depression years when we grew most of our food, and never was anything thrown away. As a young boy, I spent hours straightening crooked, rusty nails because they could be used later (and they were!)
During the springs and summers, my sister and I, along with Mom and Dad, would hoe, plant, seed and cultivate our garden until dark. In the late summer and early fall months, the four of us would work side-by-side harvesting, cleaning, and canning our produce on our old woodstove. Then about midnight we would fall into bed so my mother could go to work at the Reliance Shirt Factory in Seymour. She made 38 cents an hour. My dad, who worked as a carpenter and paper hanger, would paper an entire 15 square foot living room for $4.00. Even though people had very little money (even the bankers were broke), they could always find the $4.00 to help give their lives a glimmer of sunshine in their home. Incidentally, the charge of $4.00 back then would cost about $150 to have it done now.
I must tell you about Porky the pig. This pig deserves more than an honorable mention because of his personality.
I grew up understanding that God had made all living creatures. This particular being found himself at a great disadvantage early in life because his mother (the sow) had only so many faucets and poor Porky was left out. But he, being very clever, rolled his eyes up at my dad and said, "Mr. Walker, what can I do? Can you help me?" Of course Dad, who had a way of communicating with animals, somehow spoke in piggy language, "Yes, I'll help." That pig grew up never knowing he was a pig. In his mind, he was one of us! Porky followed us wherever we went - in the garden, on the porch, even in the kitchen, oinking up a blue streak! He received a bath every other day in a tub on the back porch and enjoyed every moment of it. My sister, Ramona, thought this was so disgusting, but we loved that guy. Dad fashioned a home for him out of an old washing machine tub. Every night Dad would go out and set this "house" on top of him. But as Porky began to grow, we would look out the kitchen window and see that house moving across the yard. Seems Porky had outgrown the door of his house. One of us would go out to rescue him and that guy pig always said "Thank you" with his oink-oinks. Can you not help but love this character? Finally, after about three years, we perhaps had overfed him and he passed away. But he would always remain in our memory.
And then there was Billy Whiskers, the goat. Probably most who are reading this have never raised a goat. If you have, you will surely agree that their minds are much like a human's, and I dare say maybe even better. They, by nature, are mischievous and always show it. Billy Whiskers was Dad's goat because Dad was the only one who could control him. Billy was strong!
Dad had built a red two-wheeled cart with a harness that Billy loved to pull behind him. Now Billy had one major flaw of character: he had a foul mouth. Where he picked up this language, we never knew; but he always used it to his advantage. His accentuated "Bleep, bleep - BLEEP, BLEEP", along with his adamant body language led us to understand his curse words, which he knew how and when to use.
When we were all going to be away, we had a metal stake driven out in a grassy area where he would stay until we got home. This one day he jumped up and ran in circles around that stake, let out a few cuss words and looked mad, then laid down on a burlap sack. After a few minutes, he performed the same scene all over. Finally we went out to see why Billy was acting so berserk. We knew the guy had no hard liquor or anything. What we discovered was a large battalion of red ants underneath that sack; and that was what was causing Billy to loose his Christianity!
Dad had built a garage and had lined the entire south exposure with Model-T Ford windshield glass from a local junk yard. The glass pieces were all of equal straight dimensions and his work bench was placed inside under the glass. Billy had the run of the five acres, and whenever he wanted to, he would climb up on the bench in the sun and go to sleep. One time Dad took a flat board and came down hard on one end of the bench. Billy jumped out and said, "Son of a bleep!" and took out every one of those eight pieces of windshield glass. After all that was happening to him, every time one of us would pick up a board, Billy would shuffle his feet and let out his familiar "Bleep, bleep" saying, "You're not going to do that to me again!"
So what ever happened to Billy Whiskers? There was a family named Hallett about a mile away who had several boys, and they were even poorer than most of us. So Dad gave Billy to that family for company. Today, all these years later, Louis Hallett and I remain good friends. He has survived the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and we see each other from time to time at Walmart in Seymour. You may wonder what happened to our beloved Billy Whiskers. These were Depression years and they butchered him for meat. Enough said!
In most rural communities in America, there can be found people who become very dear to your heart. This is the legacy of Mertie and Tom Covert, two tremendous individuals.
To begin with, Tom had a severely profane mouth, and when excited, he used it freely. Now Mertie, his wife, was in the Ladies Aid Society and was involved in every club and well-doing project the church had to offer. They lived about 800 yards behind the church. To Tom, that church should have been torn down and, in his words, "Maybe, just maybe, the new building could be filled up with 'good people' and not hypocrites." Then his mouth would spew out all of the usual familiar curse words and even some he had made up.
You might think that everyone would despise him, but that just wasn't the case. Everyone loved him. If anyone needed anything, Tom was there. He was a very giving person, not because he had to be, but only because he wanted to be. That was what made Tom.... Tom.
Now Mertie was another kind of individual. To be around her even just five minutes was an unforgettable experience. If you were feeling as low as a cat's belly, you would be laughing within five minutes with her. She acted as mid-wife to so many young women who found themselves "in that way." Her favorite thing was to bake bread and have Tom take it around to those she knew would need it. You could smell the wonderful aroma coming from her kitchen for a mile away.
One day Mertie decided she was going to learn to drive. Their transportation was an old Model-T Ford pickup truck. For those of you too young to remember these classic old automobiles, you must understand that to drive a Model-T you needed to be double-jointed, know what made the thing move, and make sure you went to the bathroom before you began your journey. In other words, it was an experience!
So Mertie got in (I should say got on), and had Tom crank it up. If the thing would backfire, it would throw your shoulder out of place for a week. Ah yes, those were the days!
She pulled down on the spark lever, and of course this breathed new life into that old machine. You could almost see blue flames coming out of the rear end that would be similar to a dinosaur getting ready for a sexual encounter. This ole truck was READY! She took her foot off the brake and it shot forward! The first thing in her path was a stack of straw. She hit that pile head-on and all you could see was straw flying through the air! She emerged on the other side still hanging on and yelling, "Tom, get out of the way! Shut this darn thing off!!"
Tom was spewing chewing tobacco out of his mouth and trying to come up with another cuss word. The next thing in her path was the hen house. She hit that ole building broadside and the whole thing collapsed. She hadn't gathered the eggs yet and it became a slippery mess. Most of the eggs landed on her bosom. Chickens were flying through the air and lost their feathers en route. She made a big circle around the house with poor Tom behind trying to catch up. He never made it and Mertie was aimed at a big pile of watermelons in the front yard that were for sale. This old Ford just kept gaining new life because she had the spark lever all the way down. She hit those watermelons square on! You can imagine how she looked covered with broken eggs and watermelons. By this time, Mertie had lost her Christianity and she picked up some of Tom's profanity. Poor guy, he could not catch her.
She found herself aimed at the dilapidated fence where they kept the hogs. She ripped a hole in it (which was easy to do) and the next thing in her path was a lean-to used as a hog house. The hogs, who were busy eating, saw her coming and began to scatter. Even those pigs had developed Tom's cuss words. She missed them all, but their house was on the ground, demolished! The noise and racket was unbelievable! By this time, she had lost the fenders and the rotten bed on the truck which by now looked like a skeleton. She had hit one of their geese and completely de-feathered it!
Next stop ... the old barn which housed a mule that had seen its better day. Mertie hit that barn and one side of it fell down. That old mule took off - he hadn't traveled that fast for years! We located him in the cemetery 1/4 mile away. He probably thought, "If I'm going to die, it might as well be in a cemetery!" And from that point on, he would pin his ears back and glare at Mertie every time he saw her!
Well, there was only one building left and that was Tom and Mertie's house! They had a cistern in the backyard from which they pulled water for their livestock. The poor old truck hit the cistern at a glance, fell in, and one wheel broke off. The ordeal was finally over and Mertie climbed out of her seat and declared, "I believe we need a new truck!" Tom was sick from swallowing his "chew"
Mertie came over to the restaurant and told the folks there of her adventure. Within hours, their place was a beehive of activity with men from the pumping station and neighbors to rebuild what had been ripped asunder in a matter of a few minutes.
Tom wound up getting a Model-A Ford and Mertie, with help, learned to drive. For those of us who were connected to them, even after many years, it was so good to talk about that unforgettable incident.
Is it any wonder that Mertie and Tom Covert were very special to the people who knew them?
Bill Richmond, the local preacher, declared the next Sunday that if Tom and Mertie had been Christians, this incident would never have happened to them. Bill had implored Tom to come to church, but made it clear that before he did he needed to straighten up his mouth. Tom thought that over and told him (in his usual colorful language), "I wouldn't be caught dead with you there!" It so happened that Pastor Richmond did not last long after that. Wonder why?
Life was so good and so simple as I was growing up. Throughout my adult life I have often looked back with amazement at the ability of my mother and dad as they went through life, and in most cases, they went through life with ease. Why? They learned early in their life that you make the tomorrow - today. They had learned you never wait until the next day when a calamity might happen. They were always prepared for the next day before it happened. And this ability to cope has certainly followed me as I have gone through life.
My father never went beyond the eighth grade in school. This was not uncommon for boys growing up in that generation. So he didn't possess any great degree of "book learning." But somehow he could take an ordinary carpenter's square and tell you within one minute how long the rafters would have to be (in building a house), what the angle would be as two rafters met each other, what the angle would be as that rafter formed the correct fit onto the plate of the house, and how many inches the roof would be from the "comb" of the roof, down to and including the eave extension. All of this information was coming from that carpenter's square. This information didn't show on that square, it only had inches indented into it. Now how he did it, I do not know. He had explained it many times to me, but I was unable to pick it up, even though math was my better course in high school. The amazing thing about this is that he never missed. He was always correct.
Consider this ability with the carpenters of today. Their rafters are pre-cut, assembled at a factory, and shipped in by truck. In Dad's day, the studding and rafters were made of hard oak, cut only with a hand saw. Now an electric cutoff saw is the norm. They were 2 x 4's, and not a cut down version of the same. Is it any wonder that my dad stood a mile high in my estimation of him? His intelligence and ability came from experience and not off the internet or a calculator which do the thinking for you. Dad's entire life was an example of using the intelligence that God had given him. And because of this, I grew up with nothing but the greatest respect for him and Mom. They were the example, and my sister and I learned from them every day.
Excerpted from PREPARING FOR THE RAIN ON IWO JIMA ISLE by Marion Frank Walker Becky White Copyright © 2009 by Marion Frank Walker and Becky White. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsCHAPTER ONE My Beginning....................1
CHAPTER TWO Pauley's Camp And The Indian Mound....................15
CHAPTER THREE America's Wake-Up Call December 7th, 1941....................21
CHAPTER FOUR My Enlistment....................29
CHAPTER FIVE Boot Camp, San Diego Style....................39
CHAPTER SIX Camp Pendleton....................46
CHAPTER SEVEN Waimea and Camp Tarawa, Hawaii....................63
CHAPTER EIGHT Iwo Jima....................77
CHAPTER NINE Back to Camp Tarawa and On To The Occupation of Japan....................110
CHAPTER TEN The Aftermath of War....................128