Thursday, November 10, 2011

Best Friends

It's funny how a chance encounter can form a relationship that may affect lives for generations. Sixty one years ago, as the Korean Conflict was heating up, Piney born Jackie Sanderson became acquainted with the Redlick raised Harvey Sanders when they were inducted into the U.S. Army and stationed at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. 

From the initial processing center's various tests, physicals, and immunizations and further continuing with their bunk and duty assignments, chow lines, and inspections, their names alphabetically linked them throughout their stay at Chaffee.  A bond was formed in those early Army days that has lasted a lifetime.

Harvey is second row and second picture from right.
Jackie is lower left
Jackie was an amiable, easy going, and good natured young man who had led a somewhat sheltered life along the Arkansas River. His mother had been quite ill most of his childhood and he had been primarily raised by his twelve years older sister, Sylvia. 

Harvey, an outgoing, quick witted, and fun-loving man with a slight build and a balding head, was always good for a joke - even at his expense. Once during a field inspection, an equally hairless General, patted the top of Harvey's head and said, "Now there's a good man." Pals always and sometimes accomplices, Jackie and Harvey completed their tasks and missions as assigned yet never missed an opportunity for a little mischief. 

Sitting around the base one afternoon bemoaning the fact they did not have a pass to go home, Harvey declared they would just leave without one. As Jackie was a little less likely to defy authority, he questioned how they would get past the guard shack without being seen. Harvey just grinned as he grabbed his friend, hopped a passing bus, and out  they went, wrinkled uniforms and all. The guards waved them through the gates without question and the guys rode the bus to their parked cars.

Even if at times unconventional, a real buddy is always there when you are in a jam. Jackie was driving his 1941 Ford Sedan home one night when he ran out of gas. Following behind him in his 1944 Hardtop Coupe, Harvey stopped to help. The ever resourceful cohort, cut a length of barbed wire from some poor farmer's roadside fence and attached it to both bumpers. Jackie said his old car careened from one side of the road to the other as Harvey dragged him down the back roads looking for a gas station. 

It's surprising the police didn't catch on to some of their shenanigans. Well, there was that one time they were caught on Highway 23 passing a bottle back and forth between their speeding cars.

After completing their basic training, Harvey was shipped out two weeks before Jackie departed camp. A sea of unknown faces greeted the homesick for the Piney Woods boy as he arrived in Seattle, Washington before his embarkation for Korea. 

After cleaning up and changing clothes, Jackie noticed he had lost the keys to his duffel bag. After searching his bag, through trash cans, under lavatories, and in shower stalls and toilets without success, Jackie cinched his bag the best he could and went outside for a smoke. Feeling lost and forlorn, he looked up to see Harvey strolling up with that big grin on his face. Harvey said, "I knew that was you by the way you roll that cigarette from one side of your mouth to the other." They caught up for a few minutes when Harvey handed Jackie a key chain he had found. They were Jackie's lost keys.

They had little time together before Harvey headed to his base station in Alaska and Jackie was sent to an artillery unit in Korea. Although he still had his comrades, Jackie was separated from his buddy.
A comrade is considered a friend or an ally in a military situation. A comrade is one who, when the troops are under heavy gunfire, hitches a jeep to a loaded ammunition wagon and pulls it away from the men in the trenches. It was not until many years later that James E. (Jackie) Sanderson received a Bronze Star for his valor in Korea.

Jack's gun in Korea

Must be where Janet got her love of animals

Harvey's bus in Alaska

Jack in Korea

After his return from Korea, Jackie married his black haired and blue eyed sweetheart who, despite getting a switching with a broom from her Mama for going out with a several years older Army man, had waited a year for his return.

They moved into a duplex apartment with her brother and sister-in-law, who were my Daddy and Mama.  

I was just a baby when Mama would sit night after night playing checkers with her afraid-to-go-to sleep brother-in-law. Although they spoke of nothing significant, my Uncle Jack remarks how simply talking and playing checkers calmed his nerves during his transition back to civilian life. Virginia was his friend.

Upon their return, Jack and Harvey resumed their friendship as if not a day had passed since they had last spoken. Harvey also married his sweetheart and they had three pretty little girls.

Harvey's girls.
Despite having a family, his daredevil streak continued. This led to a motorcycle wreck coming off of Ozone mountain that, as he put his leg out to scotch his slide, shredded the sole of his boot and tore a hole through his sock, yet left his skin unscathed. He laughed about it as he sat on his porch, showing off the grated boot and sock. 

Jack says Harvey loved his girls and one of his most vivid memories is how happy Harvey looked as he squatted in the front yard watching his first grandchild play in an aluminum dishpan filled with water. The proud grandpa let the baby pour cupful after cupful of water back and forth in the warm summer sun as she giggled and splashed.

Harvey's daughter, Janet, was pregnant with her last child when she received word her daddy had been killed when the semi he was driving was hit by a train. She named her son Harvey.

To this day, Jack says he cannot believe the best friend he ever had will never again step up on his front porch as he had done countless times over their many years together.

Jack Sanderson says Harvey Sanders was a brother to him. He says he was a true friend. A friend in a time of need. A friend you can count on. A friend without question. A friend regardless. His best friend.

Years later, Harvey's grandson, Harvey, met and married Virginia's granddaughter, Laura. They have a son named Blake Sanders Cowell. Blake is my little Blakey Boy - my only grandson. 

Uncle Jack wants to play invisible checkers.

Blake is thinking, "Something's not right about this."

Blake has figured out he may not win at invisible checkers.

My Uncle Jack and Harvey's great grandson used to play checkers together. All because of the love that formed over 60 years ago.


  1. An incredible story and I enjoyed your pictures so much.

    Hope you have a nice weekend.

  2. Oh my, I'm glad I read this. What a wonderful, heart-warming story. That your Uncle Jack can look across the generations and see his friend in that sweet little boy - well, it brought tears to my eyes.

  3. This was worth the wait! What an amazing story. I just feel as if I know the two of them. They were wonderful buddies and I am so glad you shared their story with us on this Veteran's Day!