West Virginia Panhandle, September 1948
The dark-haired girl in the simple drab sun-dress leaned up against the window.
The mighty machine-age industrial heartland of Northern West Virginia flew by in a mysterious scramble and tangle of walkways and smokestacks of the factories and power plants, that were belching delicious, healthy, black smoke.
Then something moved in her and she stood up in the aisle of the Bluehound Bus.
“Ees dees Ohiwo? Ees dees Ohiwo?”
“Nah Missy, this ain’t Ohio, this is the West Virginia panhandle.” Said a big sailor with close-cropped blond hair.
“I’m from Ohio though, I’m from Akron, haven’t been home in five years. Been on the U.S.S. Minnesota.”
“I’m from Ohio too”, said a teenaged black girl in a polka-dot summer dress.
“My name is Janelle Thompson, born and raised in Cleveland. My whole family come up from the South. I was the first one born in Ohio. I love me some Ohio.”
She turned around in her seat to address the strange foreign girl.
“Hey miss, what’s round on both ends and high in the middle?”
“I don’t know.” she said staring quizzically at the black girl.
“Ohio!, you get it? Round on both ends and high in the middle!”
Everybody on the bus laughed. The foreign girl blushed.
“I don’t to have been speaking the English so good. I learn from American soldiers when I in refugee camp. One person was to have been speaking English in Oeswicziem, but the guards, they killed him, I theenk.”
A white-haired, but strong looking older lady looked at the foreign girl. “You seem most excited about going to Ohio, young lady.”
The foreign girl looked around at the other passengers and she clapped her hands to her chest.
“My name is Raschcziewl. I dream of Ohio for so many years. I had a friend who knew someone who had family that move to thees Ohio. I see pictures. Ohio grow biggest corn and wheat, everybody have food, nobody ever hungry. Ohio have beautiful big cities where everybody happy, like the ZciwnZciwnattee and the Creefroo and dee Coloomboos. Everybody rich, drive big cars have big house and beautiful apartmeentz. My friend in Buda-Pesczwct – he geeve me postcard and I always keep. Even when they send me away to concentration camp, I keep postcard, I hide from Nazis. When they kill my family, I hide postcard. When I go to refugee camp I hide postcard. When I come over here on boat I hide postcard. Ohio was my dream, it was a magic place where everybody happy and everybody get along good and no-one hurt anyone else and no-one hate anyone else. For two years, I say a hundred times a day – I have to live, I have to go to Ohio. I have to live, I have to go to Ohio…”
She held up the tattered card and she burst into tears.
“You see in the letters are beautiful scene from all over the wonderful Ohio. You see lake and boats and towers and farms and bridges. Sometime thees postcard only theeng to keep me alive. I had to believe in something and that was Ohio. And now, I so close.”
The passengers were stunned. They were mostly Ohioans. Some were also moved to tears. One by one they stood up and told stories about Ohio.
A huge young man stood up. He wore an Ohio State Letter jacket.
“My name is Rocky Zaliewsczkiew, I play football for Ohio State. I was born in Marietta. All I ever wanted to do was play football so I could make the pros and get the heck out of Ohio. This summer my dad got me an internship in New York. I like New York, but I never realized how much I could miss Ohio.”
The old lady stood up. She patted the foreign girl on the shoulder. Don’t you be afraid young Miss, you’re in America now and better yet we are just a few miles from Ohio.
“My name is Anna Mae Grant and I come from Chillicothe. I am 90 years old. I was born in 1858. When I was a little girl, my daddy went off to fight for the glorious Union in the great Civil War. Those shitty, murderous, secessionist, slave-holding, godless, bearded rebel devils took my daddy prisoner in 1863 and they tried to starve him to death and and they tried to beat him to death, but he survived those shitty, satanic, savage mongrel-stooge-serpents and he come back to me. I was seven years old and I remember it like it was today. We had a big old house right on Main street and I was setting with my dog Jakie and I saw a solider come up the street in the beautiful blue uniform of the glorious Grand Army of this sacred Republic. I believed that when he went to go join the holy blessed fight against those Beelzebub-loving, flag-trampling, god-hating, filthy, demons from the hottest fires of unholy hell, that I would never ever see my daddy again. I just reckoned the man up the street was some random soldier. He was limping mighty bad, but then he looked up and he seen me from all the way down by the church and he throwed down his cane and he ran and ran and ran like the wind and he jump up on the porch and grabbed me up, and sure as beans it was my daddy. And that’s my favorite memory, and that’s why I love to come back to Ohio.”
A short red-faced blond-haired fat man in an expensive suit stood up next.
“My name is Elson Thurwilliger and I come from Conneaut. I made it rich in the shipping business up on the Great Lakes. I’ve been all over the world and I’ve started a dozen other companies. But there is nowhere in the world like Ohio. Anyone can get rich here if they try hard enough and have a little luck. I will always love Ohio. The land of opportunity.”
The black girl’s grandmother stood up she put her hands on the girls shoulders and looked her right in the eye.
“You safe here honey, ain’t nobody gonna hurt you no more. My name is Prissy Thompson and I was got born in Purlington, Mississippi. I come up here in 1890. I was 18 years old, didn’t have no people and didn’t have no money. I worked for these people up in Shaker Heights by Cleveland. I ain’t had no home but they had a room for me. I worked hard and in 19 aught 3, I started a little business too, renting out apartments, then homes. I done good up here, my little business is a lot bigger. And the whole time I been in Ohio, ain’t nobody ever called me no n%$#@$.”
A tall thin somber-looking man stood up.
“I am the Reverend Carl G. Hammerschiemer. I was born and raised in Cincinnati. When I was young I resented Ohio. I thought it too rural and too provincial. I though I was better than Ohio. I went to Divinity School in New England and I was a pastor at some very old-line blue-blood churches. I thought I was happy, but I was missing something. Within ten years, I came back to Ohio, not just to teach the gospel, but to regain my humility again, like our Saviour. When I hear these people, on this bus, to whom Ohio means so much, I know I made the right decision coming back.”
The driver was listening the whole time. After they crossed the river. He pulled the bus over on the side of the road in front of a huge sign that said “Welcome to Ohio! This is Steubenville!”
The foreign girl ran to the front of the bus. She climbed out and got down on the ground and kissed the earth. Everyone on the bus got off and formed an arc around her and watched in reverent silence. She stood up and faced the people. She raised her hands in the air and she yelled: “OHIO!”
Forward Observation Position, France 1918, Near Metz, east of 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division Sector
The Colonel poked his head through the floor of the old bell-tower. He was from the 150th Corps Artillery, out of Lexington, Kentucky.
He looked up at the Lorton brothers.
“Marijuana, do you smoke it?” Asked the Colonel
“What?” Said Paul Lorton
“Reeferstick, do you inhale it?” Said the Colonel, becoming a bit agitated.
“Huh?” Said Ian Lorton
“Hemp, do you enflame it?” Shrieked the Colonel.
“Come again?” Said the Lortons both at once.
“Do you roak the schmiee!” Yelled the Colonel, his fat, enraged pink head poking up through the floor.
“We only smoke cigarettes. 28th Division policy. No inhalation of Hemp, marijuana, cannibis sativa, weed, pot or other non-masonic satanic substances, Sir. On the Mexican border last year or whenever, everybody was roaking the schmiee, Guadalajara Green, I think, so the Division Commander said enough, no more roaking the schmiee!” Said Lieutenant Ian Lorton.
“Ah, yes. I don’t think they will ever make hemp illegal, do you?” Asked Paul Lorton looking at his brother.
“Hell no! Said Colonel Fonetenot. I’m from Kentucky and that would dang near put the whole state out of business! You idiots know where the hell we are?”
“Well sir, you fricking found us here, where the hell do you think we are? We are just south of Metz. You can see the Cathedral from here, if it ever stops raining for two fricking seconds, please take a look through my binocularus.”
“Wait Lieutenant, are these Czech Binocularus?”
“Only the best from Prague!, sir.”
“You better say Sir, you wise-cracking ass-wipes. Where are the rest of the Artillery observation teams from your units?”
“They were nailed with counter-battery from the rail guns. We had an Artillery Observer meeting called by Army Group. We were supposed to learn to direct aerial attacks. I was the with the FO team from 28th Division Artillery. One round killed almost everybody. Hit the Arty tent. They had run me to Corps HQ to deliver a message, I wasn’t gone ten minutes when it hit. I’m it. I’m what’s left and they let me borrow my little brother, so I’d have another spotter. He’s gonna be a writer if he ever gets out of this rat-hole alive.”
“I wondered why they assigned me here. I’m supposed to be the new Corps Artillery Commander for 28th Divarty.”
“Sir!” Shouted Ian Lorton jumping to attention and cracking off a crisp salute.
“If I would have known you were my new commander I would have been more polite!”
“You are one ignorant stupid son of a bitch, but I like you!”
“Cigaretteaux, sir? It’s a Strasbourg blend, fine tabac!”