May 31st……...”ON THIS MEMORIAL DAY, DID YOU KNOW OF SOMEONE, FROM YOUR HOMETOWN OF KIESTER, MINNESOTA THAT DIED WHILE FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM’S CAUSE”?
Bulldogs exploded in every sweaty direction possible!!!
But before you say, “Who let the dogs out”? I’m talking about Kiester High School Wrestling Team “Bulldogs”, that is!!! 😉 All our coach had to do was put us with a fellow teammate on the mats below us, blow his whistle and the male mayhem erupted into a chaotic clenching of collegiate clobbering as we’d try to pin our buddy’s shoulders to the mat for points and the approval of our adult mentors.
The school year of 1966 – 1967 was chock-full of fun for all of us under the great coaching of Mr. Parker and Mr. Koenck. We were all young bucks and full of spunk for learning the skills of wrestling and burning off youthful energy at the same time.
There, in that subterranean wrestling chamber, I got to know a fine upper classman that you just couldn’t help but like. On February 22nd of 1949, a fellow, local Norwegian farm family saw the birth of a son, Daryl Ray Garvick enter their world. Full of the zest for life and all the joys within it, Daryl possessed a personality that I easily gravitated to. He, and his younger brother, Dale, rode our school bus each day and I can still see long-legged Daryl make a leap for the school bus steps and launch up inside that metal, “yellow banana” looking for his buddies at the back of the bus. His searching eyes spied his pals in the back seats, but he always found time to greet this underclassman as he flew past my bus seat each day.
As that 1966-67 school year moved farther into Fall, I made sure to sign up for being on our school’s wrestling team. Reflecting back on those days, I ponder now on who, what or why I was inspired to seek a place on the “Bulldog” Matmen’s team. But, there I was, and glad to be a part of the testosterone-laced atmosphere as we all poured out sweat like a faucet while writhing in tense, tangled training on the spongy mats in what appeared to have been a former Boy Scout/Cub Scout meeting room there at Kiester High School.
We ate up the adventures of being a team and striving for the same goal of scoring the highest points and winning against any and all school rivals from our southcentral Minnesota area.
Daryl, being the gracious upper classman he was, would make the quick hike with me, up to Kiester Food Market on those out of town wrestling meets, so that I could stock up on a box of “Chicken In A Biscuit” crackers and a big bottle of Mountain Dew to wash those snacks down as we’d race back to the bus in time to enjoy traveling to a nearby farming community to gain another victory in wrestling by our “Bulldogs”!! 😉
Being that I was only 12 years old in 1966, I was still not quite with the times as far as closely following the media about the growing conflict in a part of the world known as Vietnam. Oh sure, our father, Russell, watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite nightly, but, for myself, what I knew of that escalating military engagement had not yet really gained a foothold on my young mind’s focus or understanding.
With the wrestling season now past, Daryl went his way in our school days at Kiester, and I went mine. Oh sure, we’d still jostle each other and joke in the hallways when we’d meet. Our quick antics made me to feel that I was still a viable part of his more grown up world of what would be the Class of 1968. Little did I know, at the time, that he would not live to see graduation with his fellow “Bulldogs”.
That summer of 1967, my family was busy in getting our farm ready for sale, which happened in late July of that year. Turns out Daryl was busy too, that summer, but for my tall, strapping wrestling teammate, he was making himself ready to serve our nation in the United States Army as an infantryman in the country of Vietnam. So, as our family bade goodbye to Minnesota and traveled to the far west, Daryl bade goodbye to his family and Kiester and traveled to the far east.
There’s an old saying that goes…..”You can take the boy outta the farm, but you can’t take the farm outta the boy”!!! That served my family well, in that we missed our family and friends, back home in Minnesota, and wanted to stay in touch by having our hometown “Kiester Courier” newspaper delivered to us at our new home in Battle Ground, Washington.
One day, as I was reading news from “back home”, my eyes locked onto an article with a photo of Daryl Garvick that left me absolutely dumbfounded!!! My mouth dropped open in disbelief!! Could it possibly be? My upperclassman wrestling pal was GONE!!!??? Tears welled up within my now 14 year old eyes as the Vietnam War had suddenly come painfully home and personal as I learned that Daryl had died from wounds sustained in combat in the Phong Dien Province.
Although never officially declared a “war” by our government, that whole war now had a different aura and solemnness to it in that a fine young friend of mine had paid the ultimate price in hopes of gaining freedom for the South Vietnamese people and their forces that he fought alongside in that war.
Very carefully, I took my scissors and cut out the article about Daryl. As was customary, in the days before technology gave us its digital wizardry’s of saving information, I taped the sobering and sad article about my friend into my scrapbook. Over the decades since Daryl’s death, I have thought of my “Bulldog” buddy countless times; either in passing past this old article or seeing a documentary about that harrowing time in our nation’s history. Needless to say, on every Memorial Day since that time, I have given a prayer of thanks and honor for the memory of Daryl Ray Garvick who was so kind to this farmer boy and served our nation so valiantly in behalf of this Norwegian Farmer’s Son.