THE AMBULANCE DRIVER
Jiggsboy called a couple of hours ago and told me about the PBS historical account of the early years of our previous century.
As he spoke, he sparked memories of Horace Dixie Broom, the man who became my father, replacing Robert Lee Oakes Senior, my birth-father, who had left me in charge of my baby brother and my mother Esther Mae Gettings Walton Oakes. He was already in uniform and I was now the Man of the house.
I was two and a half years old at the time and the Japanese had destroyed Pearl Harbor only two days before.
As Jiggsboy (John) returned to continue watching PBS, so did I.
And the things that I had forgotten of my knowledge of the GREAT WAR decades before my birth, returned now to consciousness,
Horace Dixie Broom was my father from 1941 until his death in 1976. Never in all those years did he speak a single word about his memories of that war, but there were stories told to me by my new Mom, his wife, my Great Aunt Sadie Hannah Marie Oakes Broom.
And there were hundreds of photographs of this brave young man who like hundreds of others from countries everywhere found their own way to Paris France to head off the German soldiers who were destroying everything in their path.
There were no enlistment offices because officially there was no war.
H.D. Broom at age twelve took over the family farm near Bonham TX when his three older brothers and his sister, the only teacher in Bonham, had gone their way.
Soon after this adjustment Dixie was offered yet more decisions when the town physician, his father Dr William Broom, died.
He assisted Mother Broom in selling the farm and took what money he needed to get to Paris. It was young people from everywhere who gave this war its name.
Dixie’s experience as the youngest son of a Doctor Farmer Scholar suited him somehow to be stationed at the reins of a mule – drawn covered wagon-ambulance which made dozens of daily trips to the front lines and back to an open air hospital for days months weeks and yes, years, or so I am told.
Though I can’t be certain of his age he was born in 1898 and when he died he was five and a half feet tall. When I finished high-school and left home at age fourteen, I thought often of Daddy Dick, Father, Lovey, the man who as a boy must have looked lie a mere babe and who carried the injured and the dead to relative safety.
What must it have been like for this child-man with no gun at his side, the man who lived to tell about the horrors of war but never did.