I first wrote the bulk of these thoughts 12 years ago, and since their message is both timely and poignant, I thought I’d revisit them this week.
When I was a young whippersnapper — the tender age of 60 — I was hanging with my boys in some honky tonk bar on Foothill Boulevard. We were throwing down shots of Jose Cuervo. From the corner of my eye I noticed these big ol’ boys walk in who must have been 9 feet tall. I could tell by their dress they were cowboys and not the drugstore type, if you know what I mean.
They left their iron horses, all named Harley, outside. As they sashayed up to the bar I kept them in view. My peripheral vision has always been keen. I have eyes in the back of my head, a skill developed from spending too much time in the jungle.
They brought a chill in with them. I sensed something was about to happen and it wouldn’t be good. I hadn’t felt that way since I was in Lucy’s Tiger Den in Bangkok.
I told my buddy to get the one on the right and I’d take out the one on the left.
Well, one of the big guys walked up the bar and in a grappled voice and an eye on me said, “Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses.”
You could’ve heard a pin drop.
I felt a cold stare and slowly began to reach for my pistol until I realized I had none. Since we were out-gunned, I pulled an old trick I learned from reading about Davy Crockett. When confronted by a grizzly, he grinned the “bar” into submission. This was our only hope!
I stared right back with a big old grin wider than the Atlantic Cable. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, the tall guy smiled back.
“Are you Dr. Joe?” he asks.
I pulled a line from a John Wayne movie: “Who wants to know?”
Our stares were locked. Neither of us backed down. Suddenly, he extended his hand and said, “Thanks, Dr. Joe!”
“I’m Staff Sergeant Ramos, 3/5 (3rd Battalion 5th Marines.) Thanks for all those Girl Scout Cookies your scout troop sent us; I recognized you from the Valley Sun.”
I could not believe what I was hearing.
“When the cookies arrived in Iraq, the morale of the Marines went through the roof,” he continued. “When we saw that the cookies came from children, we knew why we were there. You’ll never know what a great impact it had on us.”
He slammed a $50 bill on the bar. “Barkeep, a round for these boys!” He raised his glass: “Here’s to us and those like us.”
Instinctively I answered, “Darn few left!”
His movements were cat-like. He got up, extended his hand once more. “Thanks again, Dr. Joe.” And then with a smile, he added, “Captain.”
“You’d do it for me, Sgt. Ramos.”
He and his boys left and never looked back. They got on their horses named Harley and rode off into the sunset. Only the story remained.
The Girls Scouts of La Cañada and La Crescenta are selling cookies. Lots of local girls are making their rounds. Please buy an extra box or two and donate them to the “Gift of Caring” program, which are in turn delivered to Operation Gratitude and the USO as well as the L.A. Regional Food Bank and other entities.
Through this program, many boxes of cookies are sent to the troops. Make it happen. You’ll never realize the impact a box of Girl Scout cookies will have on the spirits of our soldiers. If you can’t be there with them, this is the next best thing you can do.
Over the years, Ramos and I have become fast friends. He struck it big in the West Texas oil fields. I recently visited his ranch called Dark Horse in Alpine, Texas. He has four daughters, all of whom are Girl Scouts making their rounds through the Texas communities of Marfa, Fort Davis and Alpine, selling cookies.