I was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angleo, Texas for my six month Technical Training courses after Basic. A month or so in, I was allowed a vehicle, so I drove down my 1968 Dodge Coronet 440. One day, I had just pulled into parking with my roommate in the car when an official Air Force vehicle pulled behind me...and stopped! My buddy said, "I think he's looking at your tags. I'm outta here." And he promptly exited the vehicle and took off. I got out and came around the back of the car. A Tech Sergeant said, "You want to sell your bumper?" I looked at my bumper, and back at him. "Why?" I asked. Come to find out, this guy had a 1969 Dodge Coronet 440, and the bumpers were identical. His had a dent in it, and he was restoring his car. He gave me directions to his house, told me to stop by sometime to look at his, and he would pay me for my bumper and swap them if I wanted.
Me, atop my car, at Goodfellow AFB, 1990.
Dreams of cash filled my head. I thought on this, and the following Sunday, stopped by his house. I told him he could have my bumper if he could fix my carburator, as it had been running rough. I popped the hood, he adjusted the carb, and we talked engines for the next hour or so. He swapped bumpers (it was only a small dent in his) and he ended up working on my carburator for the next 15 years.
My time in San Angleo wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without him there. He took me everywhere, and showed me everything. Before him, San Angleo was just a dusty little town in West Texas, now it's one of my favorite places. Of course having a Tech Sergeant as a friend was pretty cool too, as he outranked most of the staff at the barracks. When he'd show up at my door in his blues, with that stack of ribbons and all those stripes, the Airmen parted like the Red Sea. Sometimes he'd show up on his bike and we ride until curfew. Once, years later, both of us drunk on tequila, we hit 110mph on his Yamaha V-Max out on the country roads. Talk about dumb.
After my six months of training I shipped off to Germany, then England, but came back to GAFB for four months for some highly specialized training. It was damn good to see him again. He was all but in charge of Civil Engineering by that time, having written most of the contracts for the entire base, and overseeing its completion. We spent every single day together. It was during this time that we were moving every component of my vehicle into another chassis, so he let me drive his Mustang while my car was down. It was the loudest thing on base, something about solid rocker lifter arms.
Robin's 76 Mustang II
That was, until he realized he was spending a fortune in gas. Then he took that back and gave me his truck. This was something like a 72 Ford, spray painted black, with one of those tiny steering wheels which made it difficult to turn with no power steering. No worries, because the chassis sat on some squat, fat, tires, and was powered by a Chrysler 383. This thing could run flat out. He carried one of those 'voice pagers' where you could dial the number and leave a voice message, which was later transmitted to the device and heard aloud. Very aloud. Which is what led me to leave him very embarrassing voice messages when I knew he was standing in line at the grocery store, for example.
The four months we spent together was such a memorable and fun time. We did everything together, including visiting some of our old haunts again and playing catch & release with the ladies. When I left this time, it was with a heavy heart, and and gave me two items: A pure silver dollar, to always carry with me, and his squadron coin...The words imprinted on that coin meant a lot to me, coming from him.
The 3498th Civil Engineering Squadron
"Nothing is Impossible"
I ended up going back to Goodfellow about once a year. It was always a good time. He got older, I got older and everything he told me about life came true. Once, I was there for a couple of weeks down from USSTRATCOM in Nebraska. I ate Mexican food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day for two weeks. The last time I saw him it was to haul my 68 Dodge to Blue Ridge, Texas. It had been sitting in his yard for 13 years. It was good to see him, but as time marches on, I never know when I'm going to make it back.
He's still working on his master project, turning his Charger into a Daytona:
The Daytona Project