There’s a large stretch of land, in West Fargo, North Dakota, it belongs to the Wheelers, and they’ve lived on it since the old man (Mr. Hugo Wheeler, moved there with his father back in 1928 (Mr. Wheeler was born 1920). His oldest son, Edward, was born 1945, and his second son Lee was born 1947, and his third son Larry was born 1949, and his only daughter was born 1953. Mrs. Wheeler, died when she was thirty-three years old, the year Anna Maria was born, double pneumonia, she was born in the cold winter months. The boys promised their mother on their dying bed they’d take care of her, make sure nothing would happen to her, until her last breath, and they meant it.
The farm was 200-acres, and they had a hardware store along side of the road, that Hugo’s wife use to care for. And so for the most part, they lived well, in a six-bedroom house, in the middle of the farm land, and they had a 1949-Ford pickup truck.
(1966) This was a most callous year for Edward, Anna Maria, and Hugo, it was the year he slept with his sister Anna Maria, the year, the first year she was noticed by everyone she was developing, she was thirteen years old, Edward, was 22-years old. They said they’d keep it a secret, but Lee found out, and so did Larry (Lee being 18-years old, and Larry 16, at the time). And they all followed pursuit of their sister; and they told her what their mother had said, and they promised to care for her, and they treated her right, respectful in all manners, Larry saying,
“We know you the best of all the females Anna Maria, so it seems so natural for us to love you the way we do, perhaps it doesn’t sound so.”
Anna Maria had no bad words for this, she accepted it as it was, and grew found of the boys that year in her love making, and it came to pass that winter, her father, Hugo died, it was a severe cold winter in the Dakotas and Hugo had some heart ailments, and thus, Edward became the head of the house, after they buried the old man. This was when the Cookie jar came into play.
Edward came home one day with it, came right in the kitchen with it, January 2, put it on the table, it was big, I mean very big, and looked like pig, he said with a stern mouth,
“We will put 10% of our money in here, and this is the protection money for our little sister, Anna Maria. And you Anna Maria are never to look into it, to see how much there is; you are never to know just how much there is. We boys will use it as we need to insure no trouble befalls you. Anna Maria was shy in a stern way, and agreed to the promise and life went on.
(1967) There was a war going on in Vietnam, and now Edward was 23-years old, he knew he could get out of the draft, being the head of the house, and Anna Maria now 14-years old. But he left; he was gone for two years, until 1969, when he returned as a Buck Sergeant. He had seen much action, he was infantry. But he never much talked about Vietnam, and the first day back he checked the cookie jar. He counted the money, and the notes that were in it for its usage. Their was $3750 out of $4000-dollars in there, and the note read, $250-dollars used for expense to insure Ralf Coddon did not pursue their young sister. Well, he had asked Lee and Larry what exactly took place, and Larry said:
“Lee asked that Ralph Coddon kid, to stop talking to Anna Maria in the Grocery store in town, and he didn’t, and so as a gift, Lee bought him an old Studebaker (car), he had his permit to drive, and was working on getting his license, and so we wanted to help, and yet give him a message, he’s a year older than Anna Maria and we didn’t want him to take advantage, and so when he tried to get her in the car one night, we followed him, and took Anna Maria out, and got him drunk, and he fell to sleep, and the car rolled over the cliff, and he can’t remember exactly what took place, but he broke a lot of bones in his body, he will not be driving or walking or anything for a long spell.”
“Hum…mm,” said Edward, “I like those old sturdy Studebakers, where’s the car now, maybe we can rebuild it?”
“No,” said Lee, “The guys in the neighborhood where Ralph lives, set it on fire one drunken night!” (And they all started laughing.)
Well, Anna Maria came out into the kitchen, said with welcoming arms again to her brother, “It is nice to have you home, have you boys settled your business and if so I can have lunch ready. Lee takes care of the store with me, and then I go make lunch usually for everyone, and Larry takes care of the little farming we’ve been doing, we’ve been getting your checks from the Army, didn’t need the money so we just put it in the drawer in the dinning room.”
“Larry,” said Edward, “Get the money and take 10% of it out, and put it in the cookie jar, and the rest we’ll divide here and now among us.”
Edward explained he was only making $94. a month when he started out as a private, but by going to Vietnam, he made sergeant, and there was no tax on his money, and was making $350 a month, with hazard pay, as he referred to it, divided. Thus he made about $5000, in those two years, and sent home $3000 of it, and $300 went back into the cookie jar, and $2700 to the four, or $675 a piece.
“I’m going to buy dresses and earrings tomorrow,” said Anna Maria, and that night Lee and Larry slept in their own bedrooms, as Edward visited his sister, and all returned to how it was, used to be before he went off to war.
It came to pass in the year 1970, Anna Maria being close to 18, fell in love with a young man named Gordian Anthony Walsh, he was twenty-one years old, handsome, tall, all a young girl would wish for. And he came courting her, even came to speak to Edward about his intentions, saying:
“I’ve seen your sister a church a thousands times, and she catches my eye, and we have briefly talked, and I’d like your permission to visit her?”
He looked like a nice person to Edward, and Larry sat listen with Lee on this Sunday afternoon, and Anna Maria somewhat hid behind the archway going into the kitchen and dinning room, holding her breath. Lee looked at his sister, saw hope in her face, and then stood up to ask her a question, but before he could, she whispered,
“Nothing will change Lee, let Edward and Larry know, it’s ok, he will have to come here and live with us, if he wants to marry me.”
Lee smiled, and nodded to Edward, whom had seen him get up and talk to his sister, Larry also so everything that was happening.
“Ok, Gordian,” said Edward, “but do you remember Ralph and that old Studebaker (he nodded his head yes), and you know I’ve had a bit of jungle training in Vietnam (he nodded his head yes), and so we understand one another I hope, and if you have sex with my sister before marriage, you’re dead!”
It took Gordian a moment to swallow, then for the third time nodded his head. Then said Edward, looking at his brothers and sister, “You have all our permissions to date her, but be careful, you’re treading on thin ice my friend.”
The biggest smile in the world came over Anna Maria’s face, and that started the ongoing romance between
It would seem by appearances all was going well with the romance of Gordian Anthony Walsh, and Anna Maria Wheeler, and in 1971, they became man and wife, but it was too late for Gordian to avoid the draft, the law had stated if you were married prior to 1965, you’d not be drafted into the Military, and thus, it was too late. They had been married going on three months when Gordian got his induction papers, and showed up for his physical and other Army tests.
It wasn’t long after Basic Training, and Advance Infantry Training, he was in the war in Vietnam, matter of fact, it was October of 1971, and he stepped on the ground in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. There he was assigned to an infantry unit, and was in the bush before you could say, what day of the month it was.
Edward during this time, talked to his other two brothers, decided to go to Vietnam, as a visitor, not telling Anna Maria, and he’d wait for Gordian, in Saigon, him not know it though, but Edward knew he had a furlough, coming, and would use it there, so he told Anna Maria, and he had his outfit.
It was in the month of January, 1972; Edward arrived in Saigon; went to a local hotel, and visited an old friend at Tan Sun Nhut, air base there, Staff Sergeant Hightower, whom was ahead of the records department, and assignments. Asked his old friend to let him know when Corporal Gordian Anthony Walsh got into the city, on his thirty-day leave and he did just that.
Upon his arrive into Saigon, Edward found out where he was staying, and dressed up as if he was a European visiting the city, he had been there twice before. And so his charade started. He followed Gordian around, from bar to bar, and back to his hotel. He did this for twenty-seven days, and for twenty-seven days he had a new girl in his hotel room each of those days.
(Back in West Fargo, North Dakota, Anna Maria, did something she normally would not do, but not hearing from her brother, and knowing two years ago they had close to $4000-dollars in the Cookie jar, and assuming there was a two year period now, it should be $8000-dollars. And so when Lee and Larry were off working, she looked, almost panicking, and there in the cookie jar was but a dime. She knew now where he was, and why.)
Edward knew, Cam Ranh Bay was a deep water bay, and perhaps one of the best bays in the world, a peninsula overlooking the South China Sea, a jewel for the US Navy and Air force presence, and a place for rest and relaxation for many of the South Vietnamese, as well as combat American soldiers. It was although run over, in 1969, the Sapper Attack, thus for a while anyway, the recuperation for soldiers there was disturbed, again in 1971, it happened when Cam Ranh Bay got mortared and slammed by 107 MM rockets, hitting all three ammo dumps, and killing one soldier that evening. Well, Edward had seen enough, and went back to talk to his friend, SSG Hightower, and gave him a cigar box full of money, there was $5000 in it. Take care of the problem he said, I never want to see my brother in law again.
Thus, the SSG, wrote out orders for Da Nang said in private to Edward, you know there this war is a contiguous conflict to say the least, it has hit all of Southeast Asia, to include Laos and Cambodia, it’s all a battleground, is it not, I hope soon this Indochinese war comes to a stop.” And Edward saw that his friend was writing down Laos and Cambodia on the top of these orders.
It was but two months later, when Anna Maria got a visitor at the house, it was a Captain Smiley, whom was originally from North Carolina, stationed at the 5400-acre, Air Base near Grand Forks (with a population of around 5000-soldiers, the air base opened in about 1957, between 1971, and 1974, much of it was inactivated), but the orders came through there, and the captain had no choice but to take the call. He informed Anna Maria, of her husband’s death, and like in most cases, she was told he was a hero, but in essence, he was shot in the back by one of his soldier friends, in Laos, where no American soldiers were though to have been of course. And soon after she received a check for $10,000-dollars, his Army insurance, and she put $8000. of it in the cookie jar, and distributed the rest out to her brothers.
Note: Part of an awakening dream (morning of 3-11-2008). The author spent much time in Fargo, and West Fargo, and Fergus Falls, Minnesota, all pretty close together, in the early 1980s; and spent time in Vietnam (1971), so the roots of the story was constructed from this perhaps, or at least it seems, if only a thread here and there. In addition, part of the idea of the premise of the story comes from a young man, he met in Germany, 1976 (perchance emerging in his dream) who had a long affair with his sister, and as he told the author, “I regret nothing, and still love her (in a marriage kind of way).” Thus, comes the center of the story, can something that seems so natural be natural, whom do we know better than our siblings.
The author does not agree with this life style, but it is happening, like it or not. And in time will become more exposed to the public (and will be a debated issue in times yet to come). During the author’s career as a counselor he did not find this so unusual to hear, among many other things that we think are taboo, and because we are not in it, we think it is not going on around us, which is false. Because of the sensitivity of the issue, the author took care in presenting this story as respectful as he could. The author also spent time in Grand Forks, North Dakota, thus, this is where the airbase near Grand Forks, (a 5400-acre airbase) come into handy for the story.