Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Elephant in the Room

In the 1960s we lived in northeast Indianapolis, a few miles from the gate of Fort Benjamin Harrison.  Fort Harrison was the home of a number of army schools as well as the finance center for the entire army.  The schools lasted anywhere from a few weeks to months.  Because of that, there was a constant number of soldiers moving in and out.  Because Fort Harrison was in our ward boundaries, it was not unusual to see unknown soldiers show up at church.  Many times, church times coincided with meal times for the soldiers, so going to church meant missing their meal on Sunday, so Mom and Dad routinely gathered up any strangers who showed up for church and brought them home for Sunday dinner.  We never knew how many people would appear for dinner, so Mom kept busy on Saturdays making salads and desserts to go with whatever ham or roast she planned to serve.  Eight extra dinner guests were not unusual.  The most was probably the two Sundays when a National Guard unit from Utah came to Fort Harrison for their annual training.  They commandeered a military bus to attend church and then parked it in front of our house during Sunday dinner.  There were about 30 of them.  No matter the number, Mom made sure there was plenty of food for all.  After dinner, the basketball hoop in the driveway was a great lure.




For a time, there was a vindictive sergeant who wanted to make sure soldiers couldn't attend church on Sunday, so he would wake them up at 5AM for KP duty.  One Saturday the soldiers were alerted that the sergeant planned to grab them the next morning, so a number of them left and showed up at our house about midnight.  Mom welcomed them and made them beds on various couches and the living room floor.

Most of the soldiers were destined to go to Vietnam.  Many of them remembered the kindness of my parents and kept in touch for many years.


One day, our family made a day trip to Turkey Run State Park where we had fun hiking.  As we returned and pulled into the driveway of our L-shaped house, I noticed something odd in front of our front door, which was somewhat recessed.  Nobody else in the family noticed.  "Look!"  I said.  "There's an elephant by our door.!  I got some funny looks from my parents, who I am sure thought I was hallucinating, and a very sarcastic "sure there is" from someone else, but I was right.  There WAS an elephant by the door.  One of our soldier friends, Jim Bondurant,  had mailed it from Vietnam.  He decided to ship it without a box, reasoning that if the shipper could see that it was fragile, they would be more careful with it.  It came with just a shipping label.








His reasoning worked pretty well, as the only damage was a small corner broken off the top.  Mom  patched it up and soon the damage was barely discernible.



Over those years, we met many new and wonderful friends.  I always felt we were fortunate that none of them were lost to us in Vietnam.  As for the elephant, it has been in my parents' living room ever since.  It made a wonderful plant stand.

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