One by one they begin to surround my table; I am quickly glancing around looking for a different spot within the coffee shop. Within five minutes the final person arrived to the group’s table. The early Saturday morning conversation of five men began. “How is that new gun you bought” one fella barks to another. “Oh my”, was my thought. Pointing to a building about 150 yards away, “I can pin down a deer from here to that corner,” the man replied proudly. One of the men, seemingly knew of every gun range in the area, while yet another of them had his bible out as if he was prepping for Sunday School class in the morning. “Bible and guns,” I thought. “Gotta blow those leaves from the yard” said another. No, I am screaming inside my environmental conscious head, enough already!
Another asked about the Detroit Tigers upcoming playoff game. “Go get em” came a reply.” Another man asked, “How bout those Lions” and the conversation turn, pessimistically hopeful. “Gotta tell you,” the older of the group said, “last week those lions did figure out how to close a game” looking sheepishly for support that never came. Well, said one man trying to break the silence, “Did Caledonia win, did Lowell win? referring to two of the local high school teams. At this juncture the conversation took a noticeable upbeat tone. I imagined that the thought of grand kids and alma maters brought warmth to this group. “No, they lost” was the comment regarding another high school team. “Those Darn country boys are hard to beat,” came another reply. At this point I knew I was getting a real close up on middle America, in some circles referred to as hicks, hillbillies, redneck Americans. It was as if I were watching reality TV, live and in person. Is there a hidden camera I asked myself in jest.
Furthermore, in listening to some of the language of these men, I was moved to disgust. I questioned to myself, what kind of group is this.
Near the end of the gathering the conversation made an unexpected pivot. One man began to talk of lying on the cold ground quietly as footsteps were all around his head. One man stated that the termites began to eat at his face as he felt the cold ground, but dare not move, or else be discovered by the enemy. Another mentioned hearing gunshots from every direction as he laid frozen in fear and in survival mode. Another talked of pulling a wounded comrade from the line of fire…silence came..”Damn Cambodian country “ he uttered ever so lightly. Immediately, I began to take note of not only their words, but their faces began to speak to me. I noticed wrinkled, harden, determined, kick butt tenacity on each of their faces. “Wow, I am audibly saying as the tears appear. I am in the presence of WAR HEROES. My thoughts quickly moved from what kind of group is this to how privileged I am to be in their presence. No, not hicks , no, not hillbillies, no, not rednecks, no, not fly over country citizens, no, no, no. These are great men you see, they fought for ME!