by Rebecca Willman Gernon
Many years ago there was a TV program on Saturday morning titled H R Puffnstuf. I assume this program was for young children or perhaps for people using mind-enhancing drugs. To say the show was bizarre is an understatement. The cast included a real boy named Jimmy who was shipwrecked with his magic flute, Freddy. Witchiepoo, a demented, jerky-moving witch had lured Jimmy to the island to steal his flute. A large dragon, a person in a cheap costume, and a host of other bizarre characters completed the cast. I watched the show with my young son and remember very little about it except that the witch sang, ” Oranges, poranges, ain’t no thing that rhymes with oranges.” Why I can remember this ditty after 40 years, but can’t recall where I left my sunglasses is another unsolved mystery of how the human brain works or doesn’t in my case.
For years, orange was the ugly stepsister on the color spectrum, used primarily for roads construction cones and clown wigs. Now orange is the trademark color of several well-known businesses and orange has become the new black. In Louisiana, owning an orange jumpsuit suit should be a requirement for all candidates seeking public office, as many of our politicians move directly from their public service careers to a life behind bars.
But the real orange villain in this blog is Agent Orange a super-toxic blend of chemicals that makes Roundup look like a glass of Kool Aid. For the young or uninformed reading this airplanes spread Agent Orange over the jungles of Vietnam to defoliate trees while our troops were on the ground. Its use did nothing to hasten the end of this miserable conflict, but has hastened the death of countless military personnel who took a shower in this poisonous rain. The latest being my friend Leroy, a Marine, who Agent Orange killed by inches.
Due to circulatory problems caused by Agent Orange, Leroy lost both of his dancing legs above the knee many years ago, but he never lost his smile or love of teasing people. Whenever we met, he never failed to remind me that I was MUCH older than he. (A mere 9 days.) When a tornado destroyed my home, as soon as his shift as an EMT ended, he was at my home or what was left of it. Our problems were shared over countless cups of coffee at the Village Inn.
Leroy was the brother I never had. We celebrated our joys and sorrows together. When life separated us physically for many years, he was still in my heart and thoughts. Thank you Leroy, for your service, for giving your legs and cancer-riddled body for our country. I miss you and always will.