How we got to Midland twice!

By Gere Gaige

Arrived pre-school age in Midland first in 1949, with my geologist dad (Magnolia Oil Company in those days, with “Pegasus”, its flying red horse) moving us from Illinois to a red-brick duplex on Nobles Street, not far from Big Spring Avenue, Johnny Henderson’s grocery and the Spudnut shop next door.  

Dad ordered an FHA financed house to be built by James Chestnut’s dad a bit further west on Nobles (616) closer to the “A” Street Park. That house backed up to the cemetery (spooky) and its dirt alley was a great place to find horned toads, jump away from rattle snakes and chase blowing tumbleweeds. Started first grade there (North Elementary) and lasted through some of the fourth – with a big interruption of budding friendships in the middle. (Explains why most of you did not know me in those years.)


Midland to Moscow-and back

Listen to Dorogoi Dlinnoyu “By the Long Road” while reading this story! Click the arrow below.

Written by Gere Gaige

In Midland I spent three years of elementary school, and three years of high school before leaving for Texas Tech and a pre-med Chemistry degree.  My parents lived there a bit longer before Mobil Oil transferred my geologist father to Houston.  So I had ten total years connected to the Midland water, before entering the U.S. Air Force in 1968 to become an instructor and spin demonstration pilot until our national “conflict” ended in 1973.  Those ten Midland years were to be followed a bit later in life by 15 years working and living in Russia helping to form the new real estate market in the changing post-Soviet economy. 

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Honoring Veterans

From the Blog Admin:

Please accept my sincerest apologies for not submitting these wonderful photos from Gere Gaige (see below). Gere remembered those soldiers that have died during military service last weekend in honor of Memorial Day 2022. Although we were late in posting the photos, it was a timely and appreciated submission from our longtime pal (and one of the founders along with John McElligott) of the blog. Thank you, Gere for remembering those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

The Midland Water Drinkers will also be recognizing Cpt. John L Barker (RIP) on June 10, 2022 at 12:00PM in Midland. If you are in the area, please join us for the celebration at:

American Legion
501 Veterans Airpark Lane
Midland, TX 79705

Lunch will be provided. All are welcome.

Join us at 12:00PM for food, fellowship and a presentation of military medals to the surviving family of Cpt. Barker in honor of his dedicated service during the Vietnam Conflict. If you need additional information, please contact Dr. John McElligott (

Read more about Cpt. John L Barker here:

Submitted by Gere Gaige

Appropriate honor symbols at our gate… for this important weekend.  Hwy 126N, just north of Gassville, Arkansas.

Here is my wish:
May those of us who do know – continue to honor the warriors who went before us….
…may those of our countrymen who do not know – somehow come to appreciate all that has been done for them with the lives of those who know.

All American Relay Team 1962- Midland High School

Lt to Rt John Braun, Star Man (John McElligott), James Dunn, Rocket Man (Gere Gaige) 
This is the relay team that won the 1962 Texas Relay event. We were in the 7th lane since we qualified last for the finals. Thanks to Rocket Man turning on his boosters and passing a little gas at the finish of his back stroke.  Never seen Gere go so fast.

Just a bit more information… none of us knew that we were All Americans until Harry Miller told us almost a decade later. WOW.

Bill Bearden (RIP) and Tinkerbelle

Click below and listen to “Paradise by The Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf

Tinkerbelle?…. first thought, “the Peter Pan fairy”.  But not in Midland, Texas.  In Midland Tinkerbelle is the beloved puke-green Ford Falcon piloted by Bill Bearden.  There is no telling how many things happened between the doors of that well-exercised car, but I know some of them.  

 That Ford Falcon was driven all hours of the days and nights for a variety of purposes; from carrying Bill to work on weekends with his dad’s floor refinishing company; to an epic cross-country trip with Nugent Brasher and me.  Three young and not so smart teenage boys, starting out I think over some holiday period (I don’t remember the timing), with a trunk full of cold drinks and frozen TV dinners.  A trip of the century, financed with cash from deposit returns on collected empty Ozarka water and soft drink bottles. 

 An ambitious undertaking that included Carlsbad Caverns, Roswell, (NMMI), Ruidoso, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, El Paso, Garner State Park and Monahans before cruising back into Midland.  At least that’s my memory of the itinerary.  Go Tinkerbelle.

 Bill was the master of the highway, although he allowed Nugent and me to “spell” him in irregular shifts.  We didn’t have enough money for motel nights, so we slept in the car, or just stayed up all night…. except for an extravagant and luxurious evening or two when we checked-in for showers and a soft bed.  We saw a lot of real estate, but that Falcon brought most of it by pretty quickly as we slowed down only enough for the towns with major attractions where we spent a few hours.  A major attraction could be defined as cruising the main street, and cool-looking drive-ins trolling for girls.

 Safely back in Midland, with lifelong secrets in each of our minds, Bill resumed his romance with Carole Scrivner, Nugent kept on cheerleading, and I returned to the swim team. Speaking of that Scrivner romance, it turned into real love and a permanent marriage for Bill which he parlayed into a remarkably successful sales and management career, two wonderful kids, and a happy retirement in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  

 Since that trip and MHS graduation, Bill and I shared time at Texas Tech, one MHS reunion, a couple of group retired-guy trips for “fishing” (spelled d-r-i-n-k-i-n-g)  and a brief visit near Mountain Home, Arkansas where he and Carole with friends over the years had enjoyed Gaston’s Fishing Resort on the White River.  In total, my time with Bill was relatively short, but the connection was genuine and spanned these almost 60 years. 

I learned from Carole today that Bill passed away this month, leaving us all with the memories we shared.  I don’t know what ever happened to Tinkerbelle, but I am proud to have known Bill, admired his relationship with Carole, and am lucky to have shared the adventures we lived.  I will miss him, but will enjoy the memories.  Thank you, Bill.                   

Jimmy Mac and the Water Boys from Midland Texas. By John McElligott (AKA Star Man) and Gere Gaige (AKA Rocket Man).

Click the arrow below to listen to “Rocket Man” by Elton John while you are reading.

By John McElligott (AKA Star Man) and Gere Gaige (AKA Rocket Man).

I first met Jimmy McClendon  in the 7th grade at Austin Junior High at football practice. Other members were Eddie Shirley, Bill Cumbie, Robert Samford, Billops (lived at the Billops gas station out by the Texan Drive in Theater), Bill Walker, John Walker, Harvey Kennedy and many others. So, if you remember go down to comments and tell me who I left out. Jimmy was tall, fast, and played quarterback along with Harvey. 

I don’t remember the coach’s name, but i do remember he made all of us roll in the grass in order to get the stickers off the field and into our uniforms. Now getting the stickers out of the uniforms was a job, and Eddie Shirley came to practice the next day with sticker wounds and sores all over his hands and buttocks. 
Now there is more to come on Jimmy since he was a good football player and fearless on the field. I don’t think we won many games, if any, but we kicked ass against Cowden’s 7 grade team in a scrimmage with quarterback by Doug Barker. Needless to say Jimmy Mac and Harvey (with the help of Bill Cumbie) got put in on the Cowden’s team and I was really impressed by Jimmy’s calm, cool play calling. 

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The Military

Military… join or get drafted or go to college and still get drafted anyway!  Or.. not pass the physical. See the stories that follow from those who made the most of a stent or two in the military.

I spent 7.5 years in the Navy; 3 years 8 months and 2 days with the Marines as a Corpsman. If I could go back in time,  I would have never left the service.  I made E-5,  and was offered a commission to reenlist.


A Christmas Story from Vietnam 1967 and 1969

This one was worth repeating. Merry Christmas to all! Hope your day is filled with love and peace and surrounded by those you love.

Christmas Day 1967
by John McElligott

 Christmas Day 1967,   I spent drinking Tiger Piss (a Vietnam Beer that turned your nose blue). I was caught in a firefight hiding in a grass hut bar waiting for the shooting to stop so we could get another beer. No holiday turkey… just C rats left over from the last war in Korea. Never thought I would get back to the world, aka home, that day. So crawled over and ordered 2 more Biere Larues (tiger piss beer)  Alcohol was available at the numerous jungle bars around most military bases.  Much of it was of local production like the famous Biere Larue better known as Tiger beer. I was just hoping we would get back to base. Little did I know this was the beginning of the TeT offensive that lasted till February of 1968. Saved by lying low and drinking Tiger Piss!!

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Gere Gaige ( shared a very interesting article/story written by a Marine about Christmas Dinner 1969 in Danang, Vietnam (You can check out the Marine’s story below).  Enjoy!

Christmas Dinner In Vietnam

by Darcy Vernier
Christmas 1969, south of Danang, South Vietnam

They hadn’t taken much fire that day, not much when you consider that the previous weeks had been filled with “wading in the deep stuff.” Still, there had been a few hits through the rotor blades when they had gone in to Firebase Ross, but the gunships had jumped in and hosed things down pretty well and it was no big deal. Maybe the Vietnam Christmas Truce was going to work.

They were flying turkey dinners to the grunts in the field, part of a mission with two other CH-46s and two Cobra gunships and they had been at it for nearly 10 hours, two hours more than the limit insisted upon by the 1st Marine Air Wing. The dinners were prepared in a field kitchen that had been flown in by a big CH-53 to LZ Baldy, and the finished products turned over to the CH-46s for delivery. Christmas dinner and a show were scheduled back at Marble Mountain, but it looked like they were going to miss it.

“The cockpit was an oven.”

The weather was hot and crummy and the crew could see the humidity trail as it came off the rotor blades where they meshed together like a Mixmaster. Their flight suits had soaked through hours ago and, for the two pilots, the cockpit was an oven in spite of the thousands of horsepower of fan directly above them.

In the back, the gunners would watch over the long barrels of their big .50 caliber machine guns during the approaches. The rest of the time they were relaxed and chatted together with lip-reading abilities developed over long hours of flying in an environment where the sounds of radios and engines and rotor blades killed normal conversation. The crew chief, LCpl Boyd, usually rode leaning in to the cockpit and then standing exposed in the door as he guided the pilots in to the zones.

The grunts on the ground never understood how the “fly boys” could comfortably fly around, exposed, barely above the ground, just asking to get shot at. For their part, the aviators never understood how the grunts could comfortably live on the ground in the mush and the goo, just asking to get shot at.

Earlier that day Boyd and the co-pilot had picked up a dozen cases of Bud and smuggled them onto their bird. Boyd had a raw-boned cowboy look about him, although he was from New Orleans. His flight suit was usually dirty and his hair a bit long for a Marine, but you could eat off the engine on his aircraft. Many nights he worked straight through the night, repairing battle damage to be ready to fly the next day. The pilots would say it was better to have a grimy crew chief with a clean aircraft, than the other way around.

Boyd had gotten a bunch of cotton from the hospital tent and rigged a beard under the chin strap of his helmet. As they delivered the dinners to the really remote observation posts or small units stuck out in the bush, he would toss down a couple of 6 packs to the Marines on the ground. The dirty, tired Marines would run up to the cans, waving and smiling and chug the warm stale beer like it had been perfectly chilled and served at their favorite bar “back in the world.”

This is how Christmas was delivered for many grunts in Vietnam.

Around sunset, LZ Baldy called and released them. Christmas or not, no one wanted to risk aircraft and crews to deliver turkey dinners. The tower asked Boyd’s pilot to wait a few minutes to take a couple of “walking wounded” to the hospital ship in Danang harbor, so, as their wingmen and the gunships left for home, they taxied to the side of the runway and shut down to wait. Dinner and the Christmas show at Marble seemed less and less likely.

LCpl Boyd disappeared and then reappeared 15 minutes later with five cans of Korean War-vintage C-rations and five cans of Coke, just enough for the two pilots, two gunners, and him.

Boyd said not a word but went straight to his work and, giving a nod, asked the pilot to start the #2 engine. He then flattened a cardboard box, punched holes in the tops of the C-ration cans with his K-Bar, and opened the engine access door. The door swung down from the overhead, exposing the pumps, wires, and plumbing of the General Electric T-58 engine and, on this occasion, food warmer. Boyd slid the cans on the cardboard into the engine compartment like a pizza chef. Four minutes later he removed the feast and opened the cans the rest of the way, holding each with a pair of pliers. The aroma of boiling turkey filled the back of the helicopter, mixing with and almost covering the smell of hydraulic fluid, fuel, and sweat that defined the interior.

He distributed plastic forks, sprayed the cans of Coke with the fire extinguisher to chill them, and served Christmas dinner. For the pièce de résistance Boyd opened a can of peaches he had secretly hoarded and passed it around to the crew. Each speared one peach half and gratefully took a swallow of the thick, sweet juice.

Back “in the world” people were sitting down to turkey at grandmother’s house and snow was drifting mistily beyond frosted windows that reflected the flame-shaped bulbs of hanging wreaths. In Vietnam it was hot and humid and sticky as the four Marines sat in the troop seats and looked gratefully at Boyd. He raised his Coke to each in turn, “From my house to your house,” he said. “Merry Christmas.”

It was Christmas dinner, 1969, and it was good.

Flying veterans and families

Written by Gere Gaige

For worthy causes, perhaps these days our veterans are the fastest growing group in need of help – both in numbers – and in the variety of needs they have, especially the younger ones.  These wounded warriors come home to us with everything from PTSD to bodies maimed and with missing limbs. 

The Veteran’s Airlift Command is a nationwide network of more than 3,000 volunteer aircraft owners and pilots that use empty seats in their airplanes (corporate or private) to transport veterans and their family members when there is a need.

Typical missions are travel from VA rehab facilities to family homes for weekends of rest and visitation, or transport of families to visit veteran members in VA treatment facilities.  Many of these flights include the service dog assigned to the veteran.  Pilots are given the “Hero Flight” callsign to use during the missions and the FAA traffic controllers honor the veteran’s service by giving the highest priority when they can.  Fuel sellers at airports where we land provide VIP parking and a fuel discount for the pilots.  It is always a satisfying experience to host a veteran or his family aboard your airplane.  

My most memorable flight took place on a dark winter night when the call came to my area for a veteran in the VA rehab facility near Atlanta GA.  The grandmother who had raised him was dying in North Carolina.  I dispatched from my South Carolina airport and picked him up in Atlanta about 2000 (8 p.m.), three hours after the call had come in.  About 2300, we touched down at the Rock Hill Airport in North Carolina on a moonless night.  The airport was closed, all fence gates and building doors locked and no way for us to get him off the flight ramp and to his relatives waiting in the parking lot.  No way to climb the razor wire topped fence either.  

A call to local 911 brought the sheriff to open the gates, and in less than an hour, he was at his grandmother’s hospital bedside.  The call to return him to his rehab after the weekend found me picking him up one sunny morning on a much better day.  He told me his grandmother was awake when he reached her, and he was able to say goodbye just a few hours before she passed.  The weekend was spent properly grieving and celebrating her life with other family members.  He was so grateful that his military service – and his injuries keeping him in Atlanta – had not kept him from saying farewell and being at her side when she died.

After dropping him back in Atlanta that day, during the flight alone back to my home airport in South Carolina, I reflected on this Midland boy – drinking the water while earning his pilot’s certificate at Midland Air Park and Terminal airports in 1965.  Now, after more than 50 years of flying, including the dust and winds of those early days, USAF fighter-trainers, 2,000 hours as an instructor pilot and more than 6,000 hours flight experience – no flight had more impact on me than that one.  I felt our wounded warrior and his family had the same feeling about the “Hero Flight” we had just shared.