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Toppers
cover artwork 2006 Kurt Ozinga.

 

 

Tall tales or not (and they claim they're not), you will find yourself going along for the ride as Darrell Bain narrates the beginning of an electronic friendship between himself and Will Stafford. The two Vietnam veterans hit it off immediately when they run across each other on the web. Darrell is promoting his first novel, Medics Wild and lists it under Military humor. Will finds it there and asks what it is about.

 

Chapter Excerpt

 

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Toppers

humor

 

Darrell Bain and Will Stafford

 

 

 

Introduction

 

I met Will Stafford over the Internet a couple of months after the publication of my first novel, Medics Wild, a fictitious, humorous rendition of behind the lines escapades by a bunch of zany medics during the Vietnam war. Vietnam was such a traumatic national experience and is still such a touchy subject today that I wasn't sure how Medics Wild would be received, especially from Vietnam Vets--many of them I've talked to see no humor at all in the subject.

On the other hand, it's been many years since the war and I decided that maybe it was time to lighten up a little. Medics Wild was well received and sales were going great until the publisher ran into troubles. Before this happened, though, I began to search the Internet for some Vietnam Veteran's groups who might like to read about some of the funnier sides of the war--and that's when Will came along.

Will Stafford is a natural comic, one of those people who can turn even the most mundane subject into a hilarious skit. As our electronic conversations progressed, my wife Betty began reading them and soon she was hanging over my shoulder, waiting on Will's next missive with pent-up anticipation, just as I was doing whenever his name popped up on the screen. Eventually, she suggested that our correspondence ought to be turned into a book so others could share Will's unique brand of humor. He even looks funny. No, wait, I didn't mean it that way. He looks jolly, sort like an off duty Santa without the beard. And his wife, Karin is pretty, with a twinkle in her eyes suggesting that anyone who takes Will seriously ought to have their head examined.

Will tends to make fun of himself, his job, his childhood and especially his exploits in Vietnam, Don't let that fool you, though. He is really an authentic hero, a former sergeant who went to helicopter school, got a Warrant Officer's rating and then a battlefield commission, though the way he describes that event it is more like Sgt. Bilko getting run out of the NCO club for palming an ace during a poker game.

Will has told me so many stories that sometimes I have trouble deciding which are tall tales and which are true. You will have to decide for yourself. Personally, I believe almost everything he has said, with the possible exception of proclaiming himself to be lazy. Anyone who's done all the things described in this book couldn't possibly be lazy--other than a tendency to avoid exercise, which he equates with medieval torture chambers occupied by muscle-bound hulks just smart enough to come in out of the rain.

When we exchanged pictures over the Internet, it was easy to see why. The disparity in our relative sizes caused him to claim I was undernourished and he was underheight.

Will doesn't just tell war stories. Any subject I bring up reminds him of some escapade or another, so many, in fact that just editing and picking the ones to relate starts me laughing all over again. It's a wonder I ever got this book edited.

***

As Will and I corresponded, a few coincidences popped up. It turns out that he's from Arkansas, the same state where all my folks originated. We both have some Cherokee ancestry. His cousins played intramural basketball with my cousins. We both spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, and both chose Hong Kong for R & R. We both like to read and neither of us have much respect for politicians. We both--Oh, shucks. I'm getting ahead of myself. Let Will tell his own stories.

***

My agent got me into writing humor, with some small success, but I have to sort of force it. Not Will. He writes as if he were a stand-up comic performing for an audience already primed by Jay Leno. Personally, I think he missed his calling. His stories are so funny, his humor so natural that regardless of what I write, he always comes back with a rejoinder of outrageous humor which I can only admire. Hence the title of this book, Toppers. I look forward to the day it is published and we're invited to appear on The Tonight Show. Will can start another career then, because Jay Leno will be out of a job and Will Stafford will be inaugurated as the new host.

***

Someday I want to meet Will in person, split a bottle of good rum, and just spend the evening laughing with him and at him until my ribs are too sore to continue--which wouldn't take all that long!

***

And now, here's the best of Will Stafford (and a bit of me). Enjoy!

 

CHAPTER ONE
The Elusive Combat Infantryman's Badge

 

It wasn't until later that I asked Will what he was doing listed under Vietnam Veterans, Humor on the deja news site. Maybe the ghosts of Red Skelton, Milton Berle and The Kingfisher surreptitiously planted his name there for me to find. Actually, it was pretty easy since there weren't many listings under that category. I plucked his e-mail address from the site and wrote:

Will--

--If you are interested in some real humor from Vietnam, try "Medics Wild" by Darrell Bain (that's me)--

As mentioned, I was trying to drum up interest in my first published novel, like a kid showing off a new puppy that's not quite house-broken. Will wrote back almost immediately, pretending like he had never seen a puppy before and was inordinately curious about its pedigree.

Darrell--

--Where did that come from? Yes, I'm interested in humor. I doubt there could be anything more comical than the United States Army sending me to Vietnam and thinking I would be able to help win anything. The NVA and VC always knew where I was during my tours because I left a trail of snot and tears everywhere I went. The army even named a piece of metal we use to strap on our chests after me. I'll look in the local bookstore at lunch. Send me more info about your writing--

Wow! Someone was interested, unlike the many unappreciative editors I dealt with before finally finding a publisher. Where did he come from? I wrote back immediately.

Will--

--I was a medic for two years in Vietnam. The book is based on some germs of truth but I'm not about to admit which is fiction and which fact. Not until I check on the statute of limitations and put a lot of distance between me and combat veterans of the war anyway.

You can get a personally autographed copy from me for $7.50, only a couple of dollars more than from a bookstore. What do you do now? Tell me more about yourself--

Well, you can't say I didn't ask for it! Will replied:

Darrell--

-- Since I am basically a lazy outfit I will send you the bio I wrote when I joined the Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network. It is a little long so if the urge hits you just reach up and hit the delete key. It is a pretty summarized version of my 57 years, leaving out only the formative grade school and juvenile delinquent high school years.

I started playing Army back in the late fifties. In 1966 I was a Staff Sergeant in Germany teaching small arms subjects there. A specialist who worked for me was trying to get into flight school and asked me if I would drive him to Augsburg to take the written test. A couple of joes who were supposed to take the test didn't show up and the Sergeant there asked me if I wanted to take it or just sit there and bullshit with him. I said sure, it was a better time killer than trying to top the stories he was telling. My guess factor must have been working overtime that day because I passed the test and the kid I brought up didn't. When I got back I told my wife I was going to submit an application for flight school and what did she think about it? She said if it would make me happy to go right ahead and what was flight school anyway? Somehow I got the feeling she was patting me on the head and telling me to run outside and play. So, with that I put in my application and when I left Germany I went to Fort Wolters to learn how to fly.

Primary flight training at Ft. Wolters proved what Abraham Lincoln said is true: "You can fool all the people some of the time." Thank heavens Wolters wasn't longer because I'm sure they were beginning to catch on to the fact that I kept the helicopter aloft with luck, voodoo, blue smoke and mirrors.

I got a leave after Wolters because my son has cerebral palsy and was scheduled for surgery, which went fine, then I reported for advanced flight training at Ft. Rucker. Again I held the wolves at bay and managed to graduate without a pink slip until my last dual flight. This was serious stuff because now I am supposed to be a pilot. Not only do I have aviator wings on my chest, but I'm beginning to really believe I can fly a helicopter.

Untrue, because on my first assignment in Vietnam at Ninh Woa they find out I can't really fly and stick me in the gun platoon where pilot technique isn't necessary. Well, only during takeoff and landing and if you dump most of your ordinance landing is no problem. I bored lots of holes in the sky and shot at people and things but probably didn't hit much except the ground. The people shot at me boring holes in the sky and were better shots...twice...I think the Warrant Officer Protective Association held a meeting and decided I was giving Warrant officers a bad name. They arranged for me to get a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant, Armor branch and that way when I screwed up it was perfectly acceptable.

My second tour in Vietnam was as a commissioned officer and to stop me from sniveling so much about going back so soon they gave me a Chinook transition in route. Now I've got something really big I can't fly and I'm going to have to do it for the 101st Airborne in Phu Bai. I discover I don't like Chinooks. They're big, they leak, they smell bad and they don't have rocket pods and they want you to fly until your buns ache. Their only socially redeeming quality is now you can steal big things like jeeps, 20,000 gallon water storage tanks, kitchen equipment and such. So, in the grand scheme of things, being a hook pilot wasn't all THAT bad after all.

After the second tour I did the normal commissioned officer stuff. Commanded a couple of companies, was a battalion exec, went to the advanced officer's course and then off to college to finish a degree in mechanical engineering which I had been working on it seemed like since the beginning of time. More staff assignments, some promotions and more schools. In 1980 I could no longer pass the flight physical even with glasses so I hung up my wings. Army Aviation and FAA breathed a collective sigh of relief and I went off to Germany to be a Brigade Operations officer. In 1985 at Ft. Knox, General Electric came looking for armor officers who could spell engineer to work on their Army simulation programs. GE made a good offer, it was a great work place and the Army was near to figuring out I had no earthly idea what I had been doing the last 26 years so I retired and became a GE subsystems engineer. My first program was a very successful precision gunnery simulator. I stayed with GE until 1992 when it finally dawned on them that the only way to get rid of me was to sell the entire aerospace and simulation business to Martin Marietta. I continued with Martin Marietta until they moved operations from Daytona to Orlando. We planted roots deep here and short of a hurricane my wife of 33 years said we're staying put. The company I'm working for now was started in 1988 by three retired GE engineers who I worked with in the old days. I do exactly the same thing now I was doing for GE and then Martin Marietta so I guess I've only had two real jobs in my life. I am just about to figure out what I am doing so it must be time to retire--

I never have quite figured out what I'm doing at any given time so there was no way I could top Will's Horatio-like biography. I just gave him the basic facts. I wrote:

Will--

--Sounds like you had an interesting career. Of course getting shot at and missed (mostly) always makes a body appreciate waking up the next day. I skipped most of school past the seventh grade by playing hooky in the public library, telling the librarians I was there doing school reports. I guess I was a good fibber because the truant officer only nabbed me twice until I dropped out of school completely, having almost got to the ninth grade. The Air Force must have been impressed at all my knowledge about libraries because they made me a medic, a surgical technician first then drafted me into helping deliver babies. The little demons always peed on me first thing after they were born, causing me to quit the Air Force and join the Army after a short stint of chopping cotton in California. Alas, the Army connived with the Air Force and I found myself still a medic, this time passing out pills as a pharmacy tech. Not all bad: I learned all about he curative powers of penicillin for those dread social diseases but it was boring as hell. One day a friend let me look through his microscope and it gave me delusions of becoming a second Louis Pasteur so I re-enlisted for Laboratory training, and in the meantime managed to pass the High School GED test. My guessing factor must have been on a par with your flight school test because the Army was so impressed they sent me off to college after lab school. Unfortunately, my old hooky-playing habits resurfaced and I flunked out. It made me so mad I volunteered for Vietnam so I could shoot somebody. I did, too--with hypodermic syringes. Anyway, I spent two years in Vietnam running dispensaries and laboratories and stayed out of trouble because there weren't any libraries over there. When my wife ran off with a millionaire I got out and went back to college and got a BS Degree in Medical Technology by closing my eyes every time I passed the library. I bumped into a lot of things but finally did graduate (I think--I was too drunk at the time to realize what was going on, got out of line and messed up the whole ceremony. I think they gave me my degree just to get me out of the way so the rest of the candidates could proceed with the graduation exercises).

Being a medical technologist involves handling a lot of yucky body fluids so naturally I immediately nosed my way into the administrative end where all I had to do was shuffle papers and pretend I was running things. That got boring, too, except for a year in Saudi Arabia shortly after marrying my present wife, so I changed professions again, becoming a Christmas tree farmer, an occupation I recommend only for those who can live on wages of approximately ten cents an hour. Fortunately, my wife continued working, supporting both me and the Christmas tree farm and all my bad habits, including the delusion that one day I would get rich by becoming a writer. That $7.50 for an autographed copy of my book will be a start--

Will wrote back:

--I couldn't find your book at Barnes and Nobles or Walden's and anyway I would prefer the autographed version. I know you said $7.50, but what is the shipping charge? Let me know what the total is and I'll launch a check your way. It might be a good idea to wait to send the book until the check clears since you are the only person I know who is gullible enough to take my check.

Your bio is interesting. Sounds like you stepped in it a couple of times with golf shoes before straightening things out. A good woman is often the catalyst for guys finding a straighter path, or at least that's what my wife tells me...often--

I told Will that the $7.50 included shipping and he replied:

Darrell--

Your check is in the mail. I've always wanted to say that. I look forward to reading the book and know it will be fun if I can just learn to read before it gets here--

 

 

Toppers Copyright 2001. Darrell Bain and Will Stafford. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.

 

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Author Bio

Darrell Bain is the author of more than three dozen books, in many genres, running the gamut from humor to mystery and science fiction to humorous non-fiction. For the last several years he has concentrated on humor and science fiction, both short fiction, and suspense thrillers.

Darrell served thirteen years in the military as a medic and his two years in Vietnam formed the basis for his first published novel, Medics Wild. Darrell has been writing off and on all his life but really got serious about it only after the advent of computers. He purchased his first one in 1989 and has been writing furiously ever since.

While Darrell was working as a lab manager at a hospital in Texas, he met his wife Betty. He trapped her under a mistletoe sprig and they were married a year later. Darrell and Betty owned and operated a Christmas tree farm in East Texas for many years. It became the subject and backdrop for some of his humorous stories and books.

TTB titles:
Alien Infection
Doggie Biscuit!
Hotline to Heaven
Laughing All the Way
Life on Santa Claus Lane
Savage Survival
Shadow Worlds with Barbara M. Hodges
Strange Valley
The Focus Factor with Gerald Mills
The Melanin Apocalypse
Warp Point

Series
Human By Choice with Travis 'Doc' Taylor. Book 1 Cresperian series.
The Y Factor with Stephanie Osborn. Book 2 Cresperian series
The Cresperian Alliance with Stephanie Osborn. Book 3 Cresperian series.

Medics Wild - Prequel to the Williard Bros. Series
Post War Dinosaur Blues - Book 1 of the Williard Bros. Series
Bigfoot Crazy - Book 2 of the Williard Bros. Series

Author web site.

 

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