This story starts to the best of my knowledge in the fall of 1963 when a young man named John fresh out of high school joined the Army , as his father and his fathers father before him . As with previous generations he found himself defending his country by going to another . No one really knows how Vietnam changed him , he never said , but it did.
Upon returning to the family farm He used his savings to buy a brand new 1966 Chevy pickup , nothing fancy but practical for farm life . And life was good for a couple of years after he came “stateside “ as he would say .
Then it happened . He heard for the first time on our Motorola , the man with the upside down guitar , Jimmy Hendrix . John would leave the farm for days , sometimes weeks , as if nothing ever happened . His dad never asked and John never told , that was the way with country folks .
Around July of 1969 , John pulled in the lane and his truck was purple !
He explained that he painted it in honor to Jimmy Hendrix’s song Purple Haze and proudly left the top white to honor the eagle as a symbol our fighting men still in “ Nam” . Said he was going to Bethel N.Y to party on Yassers farm . His dad said “ well at least your farming “
The truck did make it to Woodstock that summer and back . John popped his last balloon the first of the following year , an over dose of chemical that to him erased what ever demons that remained’ He was buried with full military honors in the local Veterans Cemetery , His dad , saddened but proud , donned his own WWII uniform for the service ,first time since his own war , it would not be the last time .
Every year on Veterans day his dad would take Purple haze out of the barn , dust it off , put on his WWII uniform and go to town , sometimes for days , No one asked where he had been , that was the way with country folks .
For years I asked John’s dad if I could have the truck , and always the answer was the same , maybe next year . You could feel the pain , smell the grief ,and see the sorrow that surrounded him …. well like a haze .
Last Veterans Day the truck did not emerge from the barn as usual . John’s dad walked up to me and threw me the keys and said “ sometimes in a mans life it is time to look forward , not back . All these years I was celebrating a life , not death . It is your turn , you make of it what it is , not what it was “
He turned to walk away and I said to him with a voice barely audible …….
Thanks dad ….
John was my brother