John Mahoney's Free-fire Zone
John Mahoney
John Mahoney
is editor of the Log Cabin Chronicles.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 11.27.17
Fool's Hollow, Quebec




[1959 ~ In my studio]
OCT 28, 1935 ~ NOV 16, 2017

They buried my old friend Pete Burlton on Wednesday, November 22 in the Vermont Veterans' Cemetetry in Randolph, Vermont. He had turned 82 on October 28 and died on November 16, following a lengthy illness.

John Hector Burlton was born in 1935 in Newport, Vermont. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Claire Messier of Newport Center; his three daughters -- twins Lisa and Laurie, and Lani, and their husbands; 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; and sisters Eleanor and Joyce.

Pete graduated from Newport High School in June 1953, and on September 17 at age 17 he and I, along with buddies Ed Rhodes, Dale Ellsworth, and Johnny Heath enlisted for three years in the U.S. Army.

In May 1955, Pete and I found ourselves back home in Vermont on 30 days leave -- we were both on orders to ship out for Cold War duty in Europe. We sailed on the same transport ship, but parted ways at the repple depple in Deutschland -- Pete stayed in-country and drove tanks, I ended up driving a desk in an anti-aircraft brigade in England.

But before we sailed, we had a month of late morning lemon-bromoseltzers and late evening beers up in Rock Island, Quebec -- just across what was then the friendliest border in the world.

Neither of us had wheels, but Pete's generous, good-hearted Dad Albert did. We'd pick it up most every day down in the South Yards where his Dad worked for the railroad. He'd hand over the keys to Pete with a smile, and ask:

"Where you boys preachin' tonight?"

And off we'd go, to hold our own kind of worship services, up in Canada. We certainly did have some fine, if not very healthy, times back in our young soldier days.

Pete was Best Man at our wedding in 1959. He drove a large covertible in those days. When he and I sat down in the front bench at the church, I asked him about the weddings rings. "You never gave them to me," he said. We raced back across town to my aunt's house where I was living and retrieved them. On the way there we passed Jane and her Dad driving to the church. They didn't notice us driving away from the church. Thank the Lord for small favors.

We started our families in 1959 and had our children at about the same time in the early Sixties -- both Claire and Jane had twins (ours were boys). Between us we had seven children and 24 grandchildren. It all seems like just yesterday.

Pete, if on this next stage of your journey you hear the faint sounds of a bamboo shakuhachi, that will be me wishing you safe passage. I won't soon forget you.