Father knew the meaning of holiday

Published 11:40 pm Saturday, December 22, 2007

During the early years of World War II, Camp Van Dorn was in operation at Centreville in Wilkinson and Amite counties.

The 99th Infantry Division trained there for service in Europe. The 99th Division was nicknamed the Checkerboard Division because its shoulder patch had alternating squares representing nine solid color and nine clear or empty squares.

They maneuvered all over the area and frequently their drivers trained by driving their trucks in precision and from our softball field in front of the Kingston Consolidated School, we watched them practice turning their Deuce and a half (2 1/2) ton trucks around on a two-lane gravel road. They were impressive to us kids as we “hung” to a barbed wire fence that enclosed our playground and admired those men of war learning how to show their stuff and go to war.

Email newsletter signup

On one weekend in early December a jeep pulling a trailer pulled up in front of our home and a sargeant and his driver walked up to the front porch.

My father inquired “What can I do for you men?” The sarge mentioned they were from Camp Van Dorn and these were many of the men who weren’t able to go home for Christmas. He asked permission to cut cedar trees along our fence on the pasture to decorate the “Day Rooms” at camp. My father readily agreed.

The jeep pulled out of our circular driveway onto the public road and into the pasture across from the house.

From out of sight of the house came two deuce and a half ton trucks that followed the jeep around the first field, then down the road to the western fields and when they were all loaded with big and small cedar Christmas trees, they yelled “Thank You” as they drove back towards camp some 30 miles away.

My mother inquired, “Hayward, if you had known they had all those trucks would you have given them permission?”

My father, with the memory of World War I still clear in his mind, simply stated “Honey those fellows are going to war. Anything for them is OK” He had volunteered to return to active duty and been told he was too old. He got a job at the Natchez Water Works on Brenham Avenue and took the night shift to keep the Buckeye Diesel generators running. He farmed all day and kept Natchez with water all night until World War II was over.

Merry Christmas. May Christ be your shepherd and light in your life!

Erle Drane is a Natchez resident.