All That Lingers


By Justin Murphy News21 / Syracuse University

Even after you get to the swinging front gate — across the gravel bridge over Bolster Creek, half a mile down a rumbling, rutted driveway, cheatgrass stabbing through the car windows and magpies rattling along a barbed wire fence — Jerry Middleton’s house is still out of sight.

a young John Wayne

A young Jerry Middleton, photographed by a friend in Vietnam

john wayne, the american cowboy
you can be him too, chant the troops,
follows the boy, still wishing for more than stubble
on his baby-soft chin.

pull up your boot straps, boy
towering over, says father
to war, you go, now is your duty

but rumbling streets, and white-brimmed hats
filled with beautiful young things
that only visit in the night
can't fight the feeling
nor the terror that lingers
when it's over.

touch the earth, young son
press your weathered face to my ground
rush, deep dirt, fill the holes
clothe him in the whispers
that run through the trees

Introducing Chewekah Middleton

Photo by: Juliette Lynch

Thursday was the fourth visit Juliette and I made to Jerry's house, but the first time we've met his son, Chewekah (chew-EE-kuh).

The younger Middleton is 30 years old and lives in a cabin he built himself a few hundred yards from his dad's. Jerry wanted to find a Native American name for his son, and liked the sound of Chewekah, a creek in Washington‚ when he heard it mentioned.

Wired in the woods

Photo by: David Miller

It has been a challenging week here at Fort News21 (a.k.a the K Diamond K bunkhouse) outside of Republic, Washington. Our fellows have been meeting with people in towns all over the state, recording video, conducting interviews, attending town meetings and memorial ceremonies and learning as much as they can about veterans' issues, in state and nationally. It has definitely been intense.

Justin Gets a Ringer

Photo by: Juliette Lynch

When Juliette and I rattled up to Jerry's yard Sunday for our second visit, we found him spending his Sunday afternoon as they're meant to be spent: playing horseshoes with his brother and cousin out in the sun, with two overgrown puppies racing around the yard. "We don't know all the rules, so we just play country horseshoes", Jerry admitted, taking a pull of water from a brown bootleg jar.

The beginning

Photo by: Juliette Lynch

After almost a week of traveling, unpacking, cleaning, chasing goats, and making about 6 one-hour trips to Walmart, the ten of us went to meet up with our stories for the first time. With left, right, left directions to Jerry's house, Justin and I wove our way through Republic, Wauconda, Chesaw and the abandoned mining town of Bolster. Our drive was a bit like "through the woods to Grandmother's house we go," as we round through all the road's twists and turns until the path opened up into a lush, green valley between hills dotted with evergreens.

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