Was a forester by education, and worked my way through forestry school with a private forest consultant firm.  They paid the bills and I ran tree-planting crews, hired college kids to do timber stand improvement, mist blowing, timber cruising and logging.  Quit college between my junior and senior year to spend two years hitch-hiking around the world.

Worked for the Austrian Forest Service then hitch-hiked across Asia.  Ended up living with a band of nomads and rode camels across Syria and Iraq. Ended up in my first fights for life in the slave markets of Iraq, and escaped aboard a Pilgrim Ship bound for India.  Sold my blood, sold liquor licenses to the Moslems, and turned into an outlaw smuggling packages between India and Ceylon.

Ended up broke and sick.  Was a bag of bones, but eventually got out of Asia on a banana boat headed for Australia.  Landed in Darwin totally broke and in the country illegally stayed for some nine months.  First hitch-hiked across the Aussie outback.  Ended up living with hobo types in Sydney, then hitch-hiked up to Queensland, and got a job with their Forest Commission. Fought fires and did some real outback type stuff.  Later hitchhiked to Victoria and was an Assistant Park Ranger with their National Parks Authority.  Finally the Immigration people got on to me, and gave me two days to leave the country.  I ended up in New Zealand and talked my way into another classic job.  I was a deer culler.  A professional hunter.  My only task was to kill as many deer, pigs, Chamois, Thar, and goats as I could. Deer were the most important of the animals hunted.  I'd shoot anywhere from two to twelve deer a day.  For sport the government hunters would run down wild boars and kill them with only a knife. 

It was a great period and I made some life long N.Z.friends who would one day come up to visit me in Alaska when I'd work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and shoot some mighty big moose.

Then one day in the wilds of New Zealand, a helicopter came in to deliver mail, basic foodstuff and ammo.  A letter saying I was selected to start smoke jumper training in Oregon was in the mailbag.  It was then I had to make a fork in the road type decision.  My New Zealand hunting pals told me to stay.  My partner said, "Troop you go back to America, you'll end up getting drafted, and have some dumb asshole tell you to go die needlessly in that Vietnam thing".  It was 1966.  The option I considered other than smoke jumping was to go to New Guinea and hunt crocodiles.

The ice was forming on the edges of the New Zealand Rivers making them very dangerous to cross.  So, I ended up in Oregon, as a rookie smokejumper. Then I decided to go back east to finish my last year of forestry school. As spring came the Army sent me my, "come and get your draft physical", letter.  At the physical they told me to expect to get drafted on June 7th 67, because I was graduating from college on June 6th.  I was all signed up for my second season of smoke jumping.  I told them that I didn't mind getting drafted, but could they draft me in September?

Anyway the only way to beat the draft was to join some military service that agreed to let me have a delayed entry date.  The marines were the only ones willing to do this.  Hence my first good deal.  I got to jump the summer of 67 and entered the crotch that fall.

There is no way I would have just gone down and joined the Marine Corps.  It took the furry of the sixties, and complete ignorance of anything about Vietnam. It was a blind trust, that the U.S. Government was a good outfit, and must know a hell of a lot more about what they were doing than the college kids with big cars and well-rehearsed opinions.

Well, it ended up being the most interesting of all my life's experiences, even though I really did have a great life.  After the war I went back for 25 years of smoke jumping, some 524 smoke jumps, and I built ten log homes.

Most, looking at my lot in life would probably conclude, that I haven’t amounted to a hill of beans.  However, I feel like I never did do a days work in my whole damn life.  It always was a great adventure, and of all the folks I know I honestly think no one laughed more or ever had more fun with all the strange characters, that I got to hang out with.

I'm presently married to a young South East Asian lady, 30 years younger than myself.  We have a great little boy; 18 months old.  I guess this is my favorite of all times in life.  I thank her each and every day for marrying me, and she is such a sweetheart.  She appreciates everything, and we laugh hard every day. In four years of marriage, not one bad day yet.

As far as Platoon Commanders go:  Lt. Wayne Halland was the head of the 2nd Platoon when I got there.  Lt. C.V. Taylor was the Skipper.  Both those guys were good and the troops really respected and liked them.  Wayne Halland was a little rock of a guy, tough as a nail and really a marine's marine.

Lt. Encinata was the Plt. Cmdr. of the 3rd herd before I got there.  The troops used to tell me how they tried several times to frag him.  They really didn't tell me this for quite some time, so I don't think they were trying to tell me a big story or lay out warnings for anything or me like that.  It was always a funny story, and the whole platoon roared when they'd tell me the stories.  He was gone before I got there, so I really would have liked to meet him, but never did.

S/Sgt. Millsap was my Plt. Sgt. and he was the Plt. Cmdr. just before I showed up.  He was certainly the real leader of the Platoon.  Sort of a tough, but look out for the guys, old mother hen type.  I was just out of the Basic School and was certainly nothing to write home about.  In fact I graduated either 3ed or 9th from the bottom of a class of some 300.  So I was real doubtful.  S/Sgt Millsap was a great molder of officers.  For whatever reason he assumed I must have been smart or was at least what the Marine Corps had screened to be an Officer, and he treated me as an officer. I liked and respected him and we sort of ran the platoon together.  The troops liked the way we were together, and I think that everyone felt comfortable.  It was a very easy on me type situation.

When Sgt. Millsap left, I remember I really felt lonely, and worried a bit about things for a while.  But!!! Tom Millsap had trained me well and I actually felt like an officer after two months with him.  After a month or so I got another great Plt. Sgt..  S/Sgt. Joe Dean McKnight.  He became a very, very good friend of mine and the Platoon was a very at home place to be.  He eventually made Sgt. Major.

After Wayne Halland left Lt. Phil Messer took over the 2ed Platoon.  Lt. Sam Meale had the 1st. Plt.  What few men realized is that both Sam and Phil were All State basketball players during their high school days.  Both great, great friends of mine who I treasured each minute with.

When Phil Messer got wounded, Lt. Doug Bergeron took over the 2ed Plt.  Lt. Bergeron was killed fairly quickly.  A Corporal Watkins took over the 2ed Plt., and I must say he handled that Platoon as well, if not better than any officer I ever met.  I took him aside one time and literally begged him to put in for the officer program.  If anyone ever should have been an officer  it certainly should have been him.  Phil Messer came back and took over the 2nd. Plt. after he healed up from his wounds.

Lt. Mike Brock took over the 3rd herd after I left.  Then a Lt. Gardener fairly soon after that.

Phil Messer became a Marine Jet Pilot after Vietnam, then stayed in the Reserves, and ended up A full Bird.  Mike Brock stayed in and was a Lt. Col about ten years ago, and may have made full bird.

Sam Meale, as you know has had a very successful career with the DEA.  When I had returned to be a smokejumper some fed came and asked for a reference for Sam.  He was trying to get on with the Alcohol, Tobacco, and firearms folks in 1970.  Easy to see how that guy was so successful.  He was just smooth and a darned straight shooter.
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