By FRANK DESORBO
Our lives nowadays are made up of watching TV, surfing the web and browsing social media. We are older, and old TV programs have become popular again. We should realize there are things we can learn from TV. Winston Churchill once said, “I am always ready to learn, though I do not always like being taught.”
We sometimes have a life’s experience recalled from an old TV western. The Old West was glamorous, exaggerated, humbling and many times our teacher. I recently watched the western “High Chaparral.” The episode had a platoon of Buffalo Soldiers assigned to a town that had become corrupt and unruly. I reminisced about a WWII Buffalo Soldier Veteran I met one evening about 5 years ago.
The OTB on Central Avenue by Shop Rite held a Tuesday night free Texas Hold-em poker game with regular crowds of about 90 players. One night, I commented to a friend and he confirmed that a man there looked like Joe Lewis. He was a big elderly man, about 86 years old, with a body of a boxer. The evening concluded at about 10:30 p.m. and only a few stayed until the end. When I left, I saw this man walking toward the only car in the parking lot by Shop Rite, but he did not get in the car and kept walking. I then drove up to him and said, “I saw you playing poker. Where are you going now?” He said, “I have to catch the 11 p.m. bus at the corner of Central Avenue and Allen Street.” I responded that he was not lucky at poker tonight, but he was lucky as I offered him a ride home.
We talked and I mentioned that he looked like Joe Lewis, and he told me in his younger days they said he looked like George Forman. I knew many WW II Veterans as I did many things for D-Day Revisited. The conversation turned to his experience in WWII. He said he was a paratrooper, but he never went overseas. He was assigned to California and did not serve long. He told me he was a Buffalo Soldier and their insignia was the Triple Nickel. His service was to jump from planes to fight fires in the forest. He told me Japan was sending balloon bombs that they hoped would create wildland fires.
The next day, I used my computer and searched for “Buffalo Soldiers” and “Triple Nickel insignia” and realized my education did not include Buffalo Soldiers. I have a folder deep in my cave of the experience with Rabu. This was his last name as he was known to many. My WWII buddy Angelo knew him from years ago. They both liked OTB and the horses. I took Rabu to other poker nights since he did not drive. He went to one of the Carolinas to visit a relative and subsequently I lost track of him. I learned from him and the High Chaparral western that left me with a nice memory and story.
My education of the Buffalo Soldiers, their insignia and Rabu was a lasting learning experience that God sent me that night. When I reached his home down by the old St Joseph’s School in Albany, he was very thankful and said, “I met my guardian angel tonight.”
The author is a Capital District resident and freelance writer and guest speaker. Contact him at [email protected].