Louis Campbell continues to refine his myriad of talents while living in Granbury. His experience includes storytelling, theater and dance to name a few. Campbell has penned a multi-part series of short stories titled “Notes from Paradise,” which are being published in the Hood County News.
Leta Mae was turning eight when she met Alonzo Kapochipak, from the Navajo Indian Nation, who was at the Columbine Convalescent Home. The difference was that Alonzo was just turning ninety-eight! They shared a common birth date, November 11.
Miss Cook, the spinster local librarian, was always looking after old people. They were her extended family. In cahoots with several others from Paradise, she would stage special occasions for folks. Most of the people at the convalescent home either could not hear or did not see too well and were just bewildered by any commotion, even if they were the celebrity guest.
Mr. Kapochipak was different. He had a keen sense about him, and all his faculties were as sharp as Leta Mae’s curiosity. He was just hitting his stride when the second World War broke out. Eager to participate, to fight the foreign forces that seemed to rage all over the place, he volunteered, and the Army had a special place for him.
Now, his cronies and friends were all gone, progressively dropping of old age and infirmity. He continued and actually seemed to grow stronger with age. His step was a little slower and his teeth were all gone. He said it was from not chewing on all that stuff they called food at the Convalescent Home. Everything was mashed and squashed so that teeth were extraneous.
Leta Mae arrived with her family at the reception area in the nursing home, to celebrate their common birthday. The old Indian sat in a wing-backed chair facing them as they entered. He was in formal military dress adorned with a number of medals and ribbons.
The old man was not predisposed to just sit there. Other things were on his mind, and he was eager to share them with Leta Mae and her family. The cake and ice cream would keep just fine. Together the whole group left the building and walked slowly down the two blocks to the cemetery tucked back along Little Creek. Mr. Kapochipak held hands with the little birthday girl who walked beside him. They paused for a moment when he bent to fasten her strap on her little dress shoes, then obediently and slowly continued.
As they arrived at the cemetery, the old Indian removed his billed military cap and stood as Miss Cook unfolded a tattered sheet of paper and began reciting a list of all service people interred there.
Together the little cluster of people included Leo Sutton, whose aunt and uncle owned the Watson Floral Shop. They had received the order of delivering a large volume of Colorado columbines in bloom. Like a military attache out of uniform, Leo stood beside Mr. Kapochipak and at the completion of the names being read, and a brief biography recited from memory by the old veteran, a cluster of columbines was placed on each grave.
It was a simple step made arduous by the huge volume of graves that represented the honored dead. No one was in a hurry.
Leta Mae looked up at the old man on several occasions, her face was in open admiration for him. It was as if he knew all these people.
Of course, he didn’t but he made it his responsibility to find out all he could and commit it to memory, so that each one was individually remembered for the sacrifice that they had made.
After over two hours of oral prodamation and distribution of little bouquets of columbines, the old man knelt down and Leta Mae knelt beside him. They were there for several minutes in silence. The others obediently and respectfully stood by.
Then he stood up and helped the little girl next to him stand, brushing the grass from her white and purple dress.
Everyone knew what had happened there. Veterans Day had happened again, not because the government legislated it to be on a certain day, but because it was Mr. Kapochipak’s birthday and as he maintained, he had another birthday directly because of those he honored.
The flowers of remembrance were a bright and fragrant reminder of their sacrifice. Leta Mae hugged his leg.