Fort Benning Blues

Texas A&M University Press
1
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If you've never even been to Southeast Asia, can you be a Vietnam veteran? In a novel that captures the life and times of a generation, Mark Busby takes us on a journey through an era of hippies, the shootings at Kent State University, integration, and Woodstock. Fort Benning Blues tells the story of Vietnam from this side of the ocean.

Drafted in 1969, Jeff Adams faces a war he doesn't understand. While trying to delay the inevitable tour of duty in Vietnam, Adams attends Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia, desperately hoping Nixon will achieve “peace with honor” before he graduates. The Army's job is to weed out the “duds,” “turkeys,” and “dummies” in an effort to keep not only the officers but also the men under their command alive in the rice paddies of Vietnam. It doesn't take long for the stress to create casualties.

Lieutenant Rancek, Adams' training officer at OCS, is ready to cut candidates from the program for any perceived weakness. He does this, not for the Army, but because he wants only the best “. . . leading the platoon on my right” when he goes to Vietnam.

Hugh Budwell, one of Adams' roommates, brings the laid-back spirit of California with him to Fort Benning. Tired of practicing estate law, he joins the Army to relieve the boredom he feels pervades his life. About Officer Candidate School, Budwell states, “If I wanted to go through it without any trouble, I'd be wondering about myself.”

Candidate Patrick “Sheriff” Garrett, a black southerner, spends a night with Adams in the low-crawl pit after they both raise Rancek's ire. Expecting racism when he joined the Army, Garrett copes better than most with the rigors of Officer Candidate School.

Busby uses song lyrics, newspaper headlines, and the jargon of the era to bring the sixties and seventies alive again. Henry Kissinger is described as “Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove” and Lieutenant William “Rusty” Calley as “Howdy Doody in uniform.” Of My Lai, Busby says, “At Fort Benning everybody took those actions as a matter of course.”

As America continues to try to comprehend the effects of one of the most transforming eras in our history, Fort Benning Blues adds another perspective to the meaning of being a Vietnam veteran.
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About the author

Mark Busby is an English professor and Director of the Center for the Study of the Southwest at Texas State University–San Marcos. He is the author of books on Larry McMurtry, Ralph Ellison, Lanford Wilson, and Preston Jones and has edited several books, anthologies and journal articles about the Southwest and its writers. His stories can be found in New Texas Short Stories and Texas Short Stories II. Busby is currently secretary-treasurer of the Texas Institute of Letters and editor of Southwest Literary Review and Texas Books in Review. He completed OCS at Fort Benning in 1970.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Texas A&M University Press
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Published on
May 31, 2013
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Pages
206
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ISBN
9780875655406
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Literary
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The Trans-Cedar lynching is an infamous tale buried deep in the subconscious of rural Texas history—although it made front-page headlines in the Dallas Morning News and even in national newspapers from May through November of 1899. This horrifying event is at the center of a compelling novel by author Mark Busby. He has not only researched original documents but has used family oral histories to probe the mysteries that still shroud a lynching that is as horrifying and baffling now as it must have been over a hundred years ago. The "War of Northern Aggression" was still fresh in the memory of those who lived through it; hog-stealing, moonshine, secret meetings, and the lore of the Texas Rangers were part of the fabric of country life, and there were many who refused to believe the war was really over. Against this backdrop, a running feud between the Humphries and the Wilkinsons exploded into a triple murder.

When young Jefferson Bowie Adams II is given an assignment for a college course in 1964, President Kennedy has just been assassinated, the movement for civil rights is beginning to stir, and developments in Vietnam barely make the back pages of the newspaper. Setting out to record a story from his family's history, Jeff discovers—sitting in his grandfather's hideout while Pampaw smokes a forbidden cigar--a story that is as mesmerizing as it is shocking: the tale of a triple lynching in Henderson County in the late spring of 1899, an event Pampaw himself witnessed. Even as the scene of the crime is slowly being submerged by the filling of the Cedar Creek Reservoir, Jeff struggles to uncover the truths of what really happened that fateful night in 1899. Through the various recollections of his aging kin, Adams begins to uncover a web of relationships and a love story that ultimately leads him to a missing girl, a country graveyard, and a realization that he and his family are part and parcel of the stained history of the South.
The Southwest has attained a mythical status, yet images of picturesque desert geography sometimes overshadow the remarkable variety of cultural contributions that originated in the region, which includes Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas. Architectural styles range from adobe constructions to the Santa Fe style to Frank Lloyd Wright's landmark Taliesin to Las Vegas casino kitsch. Regional dialects show the influence of Spanish-English hybrid speech as well as a multitude of Native American languages. Border music thrives in the region, while legendary musicians Leadbelly, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Stevie Ray Vaughan all contributed to the Texas blues genre. Writers such as Zane Grey and Cormac McCarthy have invented and reinvented the Southwestern tale, while such films as the seminal The Last Picture Show have painted indelible images of Southwestern life. Meanwhile, the American wildlife preservation movement has roots in 19th century Southwest lands and to this day maintains an especially imporant role in Southwestern sports and recreation. Mark Busby, director of the Southwest Regional Humanities Center, presents an authoritative reference on the unquestionably diverse and vibrant aspects of regional cultures in the American Southwest.

The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures is the first rigorous reference collection on the many ways in which American identity has been defined by its regions and its people. Each of its eight regional volumes presents thoroughly researched narrative chapters on Architecture; Art; Ecology & Environment; Ethnicity; Fashion; Film & Theater; Folklore; Food; Language; Literature; Music; Religion; and Sports & Recreation. Each book also includes a volume-specific introduction, as well as a series foreword by noted regional scholar and former National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman William Ferris, who served as Consulting Editor for this encyclopedia.

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