Missing in Action

by: Kate Matthews

Ye Ol’ Disclaimer: Characters such as the Dukes, Emma Tizdale, and Cooter Davenport belong to their creator – the genius – Gy Waldron. However, any other characters (ie. Earl Jennings and Jake Whittley) are mine and permission must be asked before using them and all other future characters that I can crank out of my ever-active imagination.You can reach me, or tell me what you think of my stories, by e-mailing:Kmatt81@hotmail.com Or Kmatt@home.com

March, 1975…It was a bright, beautiful, Friday afternoon in Hazzard County, and
everyone in town was gathered at the Boar’s Nest. Every Friday, the Hazzard County Post
Office hands out special mail at the Boar’s Nest, overseas mail from the men fighting in
Vietnam. Now the reason for this mail being delivered at the Boar’s Nest, instead of the
post office, was because it was delivered directly from Military Services in Atlanta.
Everyone in Hazzard knew when the standard Army green jeep would come into town,
and everyone would try to pile into the Post Office at once, eager for letters from their
kin fighting in the war. It got to the point of overwhelming for postmistress Emma
Tizdale, so town council to decided it was best to distribute any overseas mail in a bigger
place, like Hazzard County’s local watering hole.
The Boar’s Nest was pack, as usual for Friday afternoons, and the Dukes were
settled at a table close to the bar, with neighbors of theirs, the Jennings’.Bo Duke, who
was weeks shy of his eighteenth birthday, literally sat on the edge of his chair as people’s
names were called to pick up their mail.
“Take it easy, Bo.” Jesse called to his nephew. “Luke’s letter ain’t goin’ nowhere’s,
so just settle down.”
“But Uncle Jesse,” Bo looked towards Jesse with bright, eager eyes. “We ain’t
heard from Luke in weeks, and his tour of duty should be up soon. Maybe this time we’ll
be able to find out when he’s comin’ home for good.”
Jesse let out a small sigh. He hoped his younger nephew was right, that Luke
would write this time, and say when he’d finally come home. It had been three long years
for the Dukes, since Luke was drafted into the Marines. Jesse prayed every evening,
before going to bed, for his eldest nephew’s safe return. He loved his nephews and niece
Daisy as if they where his very own, since he raised them from the time they were all just
little tikes.
“I’m hopin’ to get word from my boy too.” Earl Jennings told Jesse. “He ain’t
writtin’ in almost two months.”
“I’m sure everything’s alright with Virgil,” Jesse reassured, “sometimes mail gets
lost, or sent to the wrong place. I once got a letter from Luke that was four months old.”
“Must have taken ten years off your life, eh Jesse?” Earl smiled.
Jesse nodded. “I admit to countin’ grey hairs, every time I’ve had a close call with
Luke, but Bo en’ Daisy take it even harder. It ain’t been easy on the kids, since Luke left.
Bo was nearly fifteen at the time, he felt like he’d lost his best friend. Daisy…she don’t
like to talk much about Luke, almost as if she’s frightened to. With Daisy, some times it’s
as if she’s a tryin’ to forget Luke ever existed.”
“It’s been tryin’ for Marge,” Earl nodded. “We’ve already lost two boys.”
Jesse patted Earl’s back, as his friend swallowed a lump that had formed in his
throat. Jesse remembered the time when Earl and Marge lost two of their four sons,
during the Polio epidemic, twelve years ago. Jesse remembered also that they had nearly
lost Bo then, too, but thankfully he recovered fully.
Jesse was lost in thought when Emma Tizdale, the Postmistress, called out their
name.
“Duke!” Miss Tizdale called out into the crowd. Bo bailed out of his chair so fast
he nearly knock it and his cousin Daisy over, who had been sitting right next to him.
“Take it easy, Bo!” Daisy called out after him.
Bo made his way through the noisy crowd and picked up two pieces of mail. The
handwriting on both envelopes was easily recognizable as Luke’s. Bo’s eyes lit up as he
gave out a laugh and weaved his way back to his family’s table. Bo began tearing into the
envelope that had been addressed specifically to him. Luke always sent two letters,
addressing one to Jesse and Daisy, and the other to Bo. That’s because Luke told more
personal things that he could only tell to his younger cousin. Daisy and Jesse knew how
the boys shared things with each other that they never would with another living soul.
Even now, when Luke was out east, he and Bo still told each other their most private
secrets.
Jesse was halfway through the letter addressed to he and Daisy, with Daisy
impatiently reading over her Uncle’s shoulder. Suddenly, Daisy’s eyes watered with
fresh-breaking tears, and a huge smile spread across her face. “He’s comin’ home!” Jesse
cheered happily. Daisy laughed out loud for what felt like the first time in three years, it
had surprised her Uncle and younger cousin.
“My letter doesn’t say that,” Bo frowned.
“Don’t worry, honey” Daisy reached out and hugged Bo, “he probably wrote your
letter before he found out, or he forgot to mention it, seein’s how he wrote it in ours
already.”
“How could he forget about comin’ home?” Bo still frowned
“It don’t matter, Bo,” Jesse waved a dismissing hand. “All that matters is that
Luke’s comin’ home, and that atleast we all know about it.”
Bo shrugged. “You’re right, Uncle Jesse.”
Jesse chuckled as he read some more. “And it looks like he should be home in
time for your graduation too, Bo.”
Bo smiled as he carefully folded his letter from Luke and put it back in the
envelope. He hadn’t finished reading it yet, but was too excited at the news to continue.
Bo would read it later before he went to bed.
Just before leaving the Boar’s Nest, Jesse turned his attention back to Earl
Jennings.
“Earl?” Jesse asked.
Earl looked up with sad old eyes. “Nothin’, Jesse…I still ain’t heard nothin’ from
Virgil.”
The smile faded from Jesse’s face, as he had been about to tell his friend the good
news about Luke.
“I’m sure everythin’s fine, Earl,” Jesse tried to sound confident.
“Now I gotta go home en’ tell Marge,” Earl muttered as he drank to the bottom of
his beer glass in one gulp. Earl wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and picked up
his hat. Standing up to his full height to meet his friend’s gaze, he asked,”What am I
gonna tell Marge this time, Jesse?” Earl put on his hat and slowly made his way to the
door.
Jesse was left standing there, with no words, his niece and nephew stood quietly
behind him, waiting to leave.
“By the way, Jess,” Earl stopped before heading outside. “It’s good to hear about
Luke. You all have a good afternoon now.”
The door closed behind Earl Jennings leaving the Dukes exchanging somber
glances.
The Dukes returned to their farm near suppertime, and were surprised to see their
mechanic friend, Cooter Davenport, waiting by his tow truck in front of the farmhouse.
“Hey there!” Cooter smiled.
“Hey Cooter, guess what!” Bo called out as he leapt out of Jesse old pickup.
“Good news?” Cooter asked.
“Yeah, Luke’s comin’ home!” Bo laughed as he jumped all over his friend. Cooter
and Bo engaged each other in a massive bear hug. “Yeeeeeeeeahooooooo!” Cooter
Yelled.
“C’mon you three!” Jesse called out to Cooter, Daisy, and Bo “Let’s have us an ol’
fashioned Duke celebration. I’m gonna make up some of my homemade crawdad bisque!”
“We’re right behind you, Uncle Jesse!” Daisy replied as all three followed Jesse
into the house.
Jesse, Bo, and Daisy were eager to get to church that Sunday; in order to put in a
prayer of thanks before services began. Parishioners of the Hazzard Southern Methodist
Church began to file quietly into their pews, as the organist played soft, cheery church
music. Bo and Daisy were already seated, but Jesse waited outside a bit longer for the
Jennings’. He hadn’t heard from Earl all weekend, and worried something might have
happened. Organ music, signaling the start of Sunday service, had begun to play so Jesse
headed inside to join Bo and Daisy.
After church, Jesse caught up with one of his friends, Jake Whittley. Jake lived
closer to the Jennings, and Jesse wanted to know if Jake had heard anything since Friday.
“I saw Earl that night,” Jake sighed as he told Jesse of what became of their
friend. “I heard that there had been no word on Virgil still, en’ I wanted to go en’ talk to
Earl.”
“Well did you?” Jesse asked, his eyes narrowing on Jake. ”
I didn’t get the chance to, no.” Jake frowned. “That’s because when I reached the
property, there were a man dressed in military greens, standin’ on Earl’s front porch. I
heard Marge just sobbin’ away, nearly screamin’ like a banshee. I knew that the fella
standin’ on the porch wasn’t there makin’ a house call.”
“Dear Lord…” Jesse stood there in shock. “First Elias en’ Sy, now Virgil…”
“Their family done-just about all fallen apart, Jesse,” Jake replied. “Earl took
Marge en’ Davis out to Marge’s sister’s place in Orange County, early the next mornin’.
They said they couldn’t stand to be in that house a minute longer. God only knows when
they’ll be back.”
“En’ here I was,” Jesse began, “thankin’ the good Lord for soon sendin’ Luke home
to us, en’ prayin’ for Virgil’s safe return.”
Almost makes you feel like it ain’t worth it no more.” Jake replied.
“Not me,” Jesse growled, “Prayin’ is all I can do, while Luke and the other boys
from Hazzard are out there, fightin’ that terrible war. And I believe that God answers
them prayers…one way or another…”
“Well I beginin’ to think other wise for the moment, Jesse,” Jake began. “See I’ve
been down this road before myself. I was just like young Davis Jennings, during World
War II. All my brothers went off to war at the same time, but none of them came home,
even after all the prayin’ I did. God sure does have a funny way of answerin’ them
prayers, Jesse.”
Jesse was left standing on the church steps, a little agitated, while Jake, equally
agitated, headed off down the street.
Jesse was quiet as he drove his niece and nephew home from church. At first,
Jesse was thinking of what Jake Whittley said, about losing all his brothers, just like
young Davis Jennings had lost all his brothers. Jesse had lost brothers of his own. The
Dukes were once a proud family of nine boys and two girls, born to Joseph and Minnie
Duke. Out of Jesse’s eight brothers (him being the middle of the boys), only three others
now lived, plus his two sisters, Lavinia and Elizabeth. The other five brothers, including
Bo, Luke, and Daisy’s father’s, died from either accidents or illnesses. Jesse too
remembered how he prayed for all of the brothers he lost, only to be rewarded by
attending their funerals.
“Uncle Jesse?” Daisy asked, breaking the silence. “What happened between you
en’ Mr. Whittley this mornin’?”
Jesse kept his eyes on the dusty dirt road ahead of him.
“Yeah, en’ what happened to the Jennings’? I didn’t see em’ in church,” Bo added
“That’s because Earl took his wife and son out to his sister-in-law’s, out in Orange
County. That’s what Jake Whittley en’ I were talkin’ about. ”
“What happened?” Daisy asked.
“Virgil Jennings won’t be comin’ home, baby…” Jesse replied somberly
A small gasp was heard from Daisy, “Y-you mean…”
Jesse nodded. Bo closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. “When did they find out?”
Bo asked.
“Sometime after Earl left the Boar’s Nest, last Friday.” Jesse replied. There was
silence the rest of the way home.
Two weeks later, Jesse went into town to do some grocery shopping, and saw Earl
Jennings coming out of Rhubottom’s Store.
“Earl!” Jesse called out as he strode over, with an armload of groceries.
“Hey Jesse…” Earl smiled weakly. “I’m glad I got the chance to find you here.”
“It’s good to see you back, Earl,” Jesse smiled. “How’s the Mrs.?”
Earl shook his head. “Not too good, Jesse. Marge had a nervous breakdown, ’bout
three days after we arrived at her sister’s.”
Jesse’s eyes widened in shock as Earl continued. “Anyway, what I wanted to talk
to you about, Jesse, is that I don’t reckon Marge en’ I will be returnin’ to Hazzard.
Atleast…not for a long time.”
Jesse just nodded. “There’s somethin’ you want me to do?”
“Yeah,” Earl replied. “I need you to keep an eye on the place, atleast until Marge
is well enough to decide what’s best for us to do next. Right now, she don’t wanna come
home because she says there’s too many bad memories. Me en’ Davis will be by, now and
again, to pick up a few things.”
Jesse nodded sadly. “Don’t worry, Earl, I’ll keep an eye on your place. You just go
take care of you kin.”
“I really appreciate this, Jesse,” Earl smiled faintly. Jesse patted his friend on the
shoulder. “You know somethin’, Jesse, what the hardest part about this is?” Earl asked,
just as Jesse was about to leave.
“What’s that, Earl?”
“It’s been two weeks, en’ they ain’t even sent my boy’s body home yet. Until then,
we ain’t got nothin to lay our son to rest…” Earl slowly walked back over to his car, got
in, and drove away.
Jesse gazed up at the blue afternoon sky, and wished that Luke would come home
sooner.
April, 1975…
Bo woke up rather early this morning and did his chores. He had them done just
before his Uncle started to make breakfast.
“What’s gotten into you this mornin’?” Jesse asked his nephew, as he sipped his
coffee.
“Have you forgotten, Uncle Jesse? It’s my birthday today.” Bo grinned lop-sidedly.
“No, I ain’t forgotten, Bo.” Jesse smiled. “It’s just that I usually have to put a stick
of dynamite under you to get you movin’ in the mornin’. You don’t ever do your chores
this early, not even on your birthday.”
Bo took in a deep breath and let it out again. “I dunno, I just feel like something’s
gonna happen today, like maybe something from Luke.”
Jesse glanced at the calendar and saw that today was a Friday. “Well don’t let that
distract you from your school work,” Jesse cautioned. “Birthday or no, school comes first,
then mail call at the Boar’s Nest, then beer with your friends afterwards.”
“Yes sir,” Bo smiled widely, as he realized that his eighteenth birthday meant he
was old enough to drink beer at the Boar’s Nest now.
Jesse called Daisy to the table, and once she was ready, Jesse served up breakfast.
“Eat your breakfast,” Jesse chuckled as he put a plate of fried eggs and ham in front of his
nephew.
With Bo off at school, and Daisy in town to pick up some feed, Jesse was left to
tend to the animals. Daisy returned in time to make lunch for her and her Uncle, and just
as they were about to sit down and eat, Jesse heard a vehicle coming up the main road.
“Sounds like we’ll be gettin’ company.” Jesse muttered. Daisy nodded and got up
to look out the kitchen window above the sink. What Daisy saw coming up the road was
not just any ordinary company, and it made her heart beat thunder like the hooves of
stampeding horses.
Bo counted down the seconds until the clock in his history class read ‘three
o’clock’. The bell rang, Bo gathered all his belongings, and he and a bunch of his friends
made a beeline for the door. Bo and his friends got a ride to the Boar’s Nest, which is
were Bo usually headed most Fridays, meeting up with Jesse and Daisy who were usually
already there. But they were not there today.
“Wonder were Uncle Jesse and Daisy are at?” Bo frowned. “They’re always here
for mail call.”
“Wouldn’t worry about it too much, Buddyro.” Cooter walked over, handing Bo a
glass of beer.
“Thanks Cooter.” Bo smiled. Cooter raised his glass. “That one’s on me. Happy
Birthday.” Bo raised his glass and smiled before taking a sip.
Bo was only a little concerned when he didn’t see Jesse or Daisy at the Boar’s
Nest. Again, he was disappointed when no mail had come from Luke, and still no sign of
Daisy or Jesse. After two beers and two games of pool with Cooter and some other
friends, Bo decided to call home.
“Hey, Uncle Jesse, where you en’ Daisy been at?” Bo asked as his Uncle answered
the phone.
“Bo, I think you should come home now.” Jesse’s voice sounded tired and weak
on the other end.
“Uncle Jesse…what’s wrong?” Bo asked, the sense that something was terribly
wrong, gnawing at his stomach.
“Me en’ Daisy were gonna wait ’til you got back to tell ya…we didn’t wanna ruin
your birthday gathering with your friends.”
“Uncle Jesse…what’s happened?” Bo asked again, more frightened than ever.
“It’s best you come home before I tell you – ”
“No!” Bo cut Jesse off. “Uncle Jesse, I ain’t a kid no more, now tell me what’s
wrong.”
There was silence on the other end of the line, as Jesse tried to put it all into
words for his youngest nephew. “Bo…there ain’t no easier way to tell you this…we was
visited this afternoon by an officer of the United States Marine Corps.”
“Luke!” Bo’s voice caught in his throat.
“Luke’s been reported missin’ in action, Bo…I’m sorry…”
Bo felt numb all over, and all time seemed to stop. Luke was not only his favorite
boy-cousin, but also his best friend. Bo even went so far as to think of Luke as more of a
big brother. “M-missin’…” Bo repeated as if he hadn’t heard the first time.
“Bo…” was all Jesse could say
“I-I’m comin’ home,” Bo answered softly, and hung up the phone.
Bo was still numb from shock as he went over to where Cooter was sitting, with
the rest of their friends.
“Hey birthday boy! Where you been?” Cooter asked. Then Cooter saw the look
on Bo’s face. “Hey Bo, everythin’ alright with Jesse en’ Daisy?”
Bo still wouldn’t answer.
“Bo? You okay, you look like you’ve seen a ghost?”
“Um…Cooter, c-could you take me home, please?” Bo asked trying to maintain
his composure.
“But the party’s just started…” Cooter protested.
“Cooter, please!” Bo snapped.
Cooter downed the last of his beer and stood up. “No problem, buddy.”
“Hey y’all,” Bo called out to the rest of his friends, “sorry I have to leave, but
thanks alot for been’ here.” Bo’s friends all nodded and said ‘good-night’ as Bo and
Cooter left. On the way home, Bo told Cooter everything.
Somewhere in the Vietnam jungles…
Sergeant Luke Duke had never felt so miserable and helpless as he did at this
moment. He and his platoon had been ambushed in the jungle, just outside of a small
village. The ambush happened in the dead of night, Luke led his men in to take over the
village. Luke was so sure he had everything figured out, but in the cover of darkness, the
enemy struck out with rapid gunfire. There were close to thirty men under Luke’s
command, with reinforcements on the way, but they were too late. Now Luke and fifteen
surviving members of his platoon were prisoners of war.
There were close to fifty P.O.W’s in the tiny cell that Luke was in. And more men
were held in other crowded cells through out the camp. Muffled noises and soft moans
emanated from wounded soldiers. The rank odor of blood, vomit, and feces assailed
Luke’s nostrils as he sat huddled, by himself, in a corner. Luke sighed and tilted his head
back, he was covered head to toe with mud, and his combat fatigues were stained with
the blood of one of his soldiers…that soldier had been a boy-hood friend of Luke’s from
Hazzard. Luke sighed again as he gazed up out of the cell at the stars above him. Luke’s
mind wandered to a different place…home. Many a night, Luke would stay out late at
night with Bo, gazing at the bright stars from the hayloft in their Uncle’s barn. Tears
began to fall as thoughts of Hazzard, Bo, Daisy, Uncle Jesse, dear friends and neighbors,
flashed through his mind. Luke then looked about him, at all the tired and beaten
soldiers, finding it hard to believe that three years earlier he was just a young, innocent,
country boy. Luke fought desperately to hang on to the pleasant images of home, but the
images of the horrors of war, from the past three years, kept interfering.
Luke finally broke down, loosing all hope of ever going home to his friends and
family. This was suppose to be his last assignment for the Marines, before being
discharged. He was suppose to go home…he’d promised Bo, Daisy and Jesse he’d come
home. Now he was a helpless prisoner, surrounded by death and carnage in a jungle,
thousands of miles from home, with only his memories and muffled sobs as his
companions.
Back in Hazzard…
Sunday service at church proceeded as a slow grind for the Duke family. An
entourage of well-wishing neighbors and friends offered their prayers and support, but Bo
would have nothing of it. The mear mention of Luke, or the war, sent Daisy off in an
emotional tiff on several occasions through out the day, with Jesse running off after
her. Later that afternoon, Bo went to the fishing hole at Hazzard pond, where Luke
had first taught him how to fish. Bo had brought his rod and reel, but didn’t catch
anything. Mostly, Bo was lost in his memories of he and Luke, and all the things they did
together. One memory, however, stuck out painfully like a rose thorn pearcing the skin.
**He found Bo up in the hayloft, sobbing quietly, with his knees drawn to his
chest and his face buried. The news of Luke’s draft notice into the marines had sent a
rippling effect of anger and fear through his family. But no one took it as hard as Bo
did. Luke sat next to his youngest cousin and tried to put his arm around his shoulders.
“Go away!” Bo’s head popped up suddenly.
Luke nearly jumped out of his skin.”Take it easy, little cousin. I just wanna help,”
eighteen year old Luke replied.
“I don’t want you to help me!” Bo sobbed “I don’t ever want to be near you,
EVER!”
Bo’s words cut through Luke’s heart like a serrated edge.”You don’t mean that – ”
” – Yes I do!” Bo snapped, staring directly at Luke, with pain clouding his dark
blue eyes.
“C’mon, Bo.” Luke answered sternly “You KNOW you don’t really mean it. You’re
scared and angry, and I want you to tell me about it.”
Bo kept staring at his older cousin in silence. Luke knew that his being drafted
into the Vietnam War effort had struck a devastating blow for his fourteen-and-a-half
year old cousin.
“I don’t want you to get close to me no more…” Bo whispered.
Again, Luke felt the pain of rejection from his beloved little cousin.”Why…?”
Luke was close to tears himself
“Because,” Bo sniffed, “If you go off to war…en’ you don’t come back…”
“D-don’t say it, Bo” Luke broke down and grabbed Bo into a fearce hug.
“I’d just die, Luke!…” Bo began to cry hard this time.
“No you wont!” Luke replied stubbornly “I ain’t gonna let you do a fool thing like
that, cause I’m gonna come back. Do you hear me, Bo James Duke?!”
“Luke, I -”
“Do you hear me?!”
“Promise…” Bo mumbled, having buried his face in the folds of Luke’s flannel
shirt.
“I promise, Bo…I’m gonna come back…”**
“…You lied to me, Luke…” Bo broke down in tears. “…Why did you lie to me…”
Two weeks had since passed, after Luke had been reported missing in action.Life
at the Duke farm continued, Jesse and Daisy tended to daily chores, and Bo went back to
school. Hardly anyone talked about Luke at all, because it was too painful for them, but
every night, Jesse continued to pray for Luke’s safe return.
That Sunday, a memorial service was held for young Virgil Jennings. The United
States Military had finally brought the boy’s remains home to be laid to rest; and Earl
Jennings brought his wife and remaining son back to Hazzard, for the service. A wake
was held afterwards at the Jennings’ farm.
Bo sat outside in the afternoon sun, under the shade of an old oak tree, out front
of the Jennings farmhouse. He had been unusually quiet through out the service, and
Jesse had grown a little concerned. Daisy had finally come out to talk to her cousin.
“I don’t wanna be here,” Bo whispered.
“I know,” Daisy answered. A light breeze rustled the leaves of the big tree they sat
under.
“Why did Uncle Jesse ask us to come here?” Bo asked
“‘Cause Virgil was our friend,” Daisy replied. “And he was Luke’s friend too.”
“That’s why I don’t wanna be here,” Bo muttered. “Through out the service…I kept
thinkin’ it was Luke they were talkin’ about.”
“Bo, don’t say that!” Daisy snapped.
“Why not?” Bo asked, “He ain’t comin’ back…”
“Stop it!” Daisy wailed. “Stop it, Bo, Luke’s gonna come back, I just know it!”
“Really!” Bo’s voice was on the rise. “Well tell me where he is, Daisy? Do you
know what happened to Luke?”
Daisy broke down and buried her head in her arms. Jesse came outside to find out
what had become of his niece and nephew, when he caught wind of Bo’s last comment,
and saw Daisy crying. “What’s goin’ on out here? We’s suppose to be payin’ our respects
to Virgil’s family. En’ you two are out here chewing each other out.” Jesse replied.
“I ain’t goin’ in there,” Bo answered defiantly.
“You best watch your mouth, boy,” Jesse replied firmly “You ain’t so big now that
I can’t still take ya over m’ knee en’ whoop ya!”
“I don’t wanna go in there.” Bo burst out crying.
“Bo, stop this nonsense!” Jesse ordered.
Bo could tell that his Uncle’s temper was on the rise, and it was wearing thin, but
he was too angry himself to care.
“Uncle Jesse,” Daisy sobbed, “Bo’s talkin’ like Luke’s not comin’ back.”
Jesse’s eyes flashed in anger. “BOY!”
“IT’S TRUE!” Bo screamed his own temper flailing. “You know it is. First Virgil,
and now Luke!”
Jesse moved forward as if he were going to grab hold of his nephew, but Bo up
and bolted from underneath the tree and kept running. “Bo!” Jesse yelled after him.
Bo ignored his Uncle and kept running. He wanted to just run forever, and leave
all his pain behind him.
After the wake, Earl told Jesse that he was going to sell his farm and move to
Orange County, where his sister-in-law lived.
“We can’t stay here, Jesse,” Earl said sadly. “Marge can’t take livin’ here no more,
she needs to be with her family. She says that with Davis beein’ all that we have, she’s
afraid somethin’ might happen to him here. And there’s too many bad memories in this
house for us to stay on.”
“I understand.” Jesse nodded taking a sip from his glass of shine.
“What happened to Bo this afternoon?” Earl asked. “I hear he took off runnin’ like
a scalded cat, after havin’ some fight with Daisy.”
Jesse frowned .”Bo’s angry, Earl.” Jesse began, “Luke bein’ reported missin’ has
been pretty hard for the family to take. It’s been especially hard on Bo…he believes Luke
ain’t comin’ back.”
Earl sighed and shook his head.” I pray that ain’t so, Jesse. Luke’s a good boy. Me
en’ Marge were gonna tell you, before we left, our prayers are with you.”
Jesse smiled faintly. “Thank you, Earl. You know I don’t know what I’d do if I’d
loose any of those kids of mine. Martha – God bless her – and I raised them three, as if
they was our own, since we wasn’t blessed with any children. But when my brothers en’
their wives passed, I was thankful that they chose us to look after their children.”
Earl smiled, “You en’ Martha did good, raisin’ those youngin’s, Jesse.”
“I hope so.” Jesse replied
Bo never came back to the farmhouse that night, instead, he was hidden away up
in the hayloft, in the barn. Jesse, Daisy, and Cooter searched for him, had called friends
and neighbors, but couldn’t find hardly a whisper.Bo was gazing up at the stars from the
hayloft, the sounds of crickets and other night crawlers filled the air. He had actually
returned to the farm hours earlier, but never bothered to come out and tell anyone, while
they went up and down the road, calling his name. Bo just lay up there, still in his Sunday
clothes, talking to himself as if someone were there.
“Sure is a beautiful night.” Bo whispered quietly. “Remember how when we was
kids, en’ we use to come up here en’ stare at the stars, all the time?” Bo sighed” I guess
you ain’t lookin’ at the stars tonight, are you Lukas?”
Jesse had come outside to stand out on the porch before turning in, hoping to see
any last minute sign of his missing nephew. He was tired and worried, and he was sorry
for having been angry with Bo, earlier. He knew how much Bo was hurting, but didn’t
want to admit how much he hurt himself. Jesse instantly regretted chasing Bo off, but his
temper had gotten the best of him. Jesse smiled as he thought of Bo, being just as angry
at him.
“Must run in the family.” Jesse muttered to himself. “His father was like that himself…at
one time…”
Jesse smiled fondly at the memory of his youngest brother, Bo’s father. Jesse was
about to turn in when he heard voices coming from the hayloft in the barn. Jesse quietly
climbed up the wooden ladder and felt tears spring to his eyes, when he found Bo, lying
on his back in amongst a pile of hay.
“That you, Bo?” Jesse whispered. Bo startled at the sound of Jesse’s voice. Jesse
then came and sat next to his nephew, who was now sitting with his knees drawn to his
chest. Bo’s jacket lay crumpled up in a ball, when he used it at a pillow. “I’ve been
worried sick, boy. Where you been? I had half of Hazzard lookin’ for you.”
“I’ve been up here.” Bo frowned
“We was lookin’ all over, beatin’ the bush for you, en’ the whole time you were up
here?”
“Yes sir…” Bo muttered, “I’m sorry. I just needed time on my own, is all.”
“Don’t do it again.” Jesse grumbled. Jesse’s eyes then softened as he patted Bo on
the back. “I know you needed time to yourself, Bo.”
Bo took in a deep breath and slowly released it out again, before apologizing to
his Uncle. “I’m sorry about what I said…about Luke not comin’ back…” Bo paused. “I
wanna believe, with all my heart, that Luke will come home, but Virgil Jennings’ funeral
made me feel like he wasn’t. And I was angry at you for makin’ me go.”
Jesse wanted to kick himself, he had no idea what effect Virgil’s funeral would
have on his kids. “I should be the one apologizin’, ” Jesse began, “I should have realized
how hard it must have been for you en’ Daisy to be there, especially with what’s happened
to Luke. Truth is, Bo, I felt the way you did too. I should have been more sympathetic to
your feelings. It’s just when Daisy told me what you had been sayin’ to her, I wanted to
deny the whole thing, and about how I really felt.”
Bo’s lower lip began to tremble, and Jesse drew him into his arms. “Uncle
Jesse…what if Luke really don’t come back?”
Jesse started rubbing Bo’s back, gently rocking him back and fourth, the way he’d
done when Bo was little. “We’ll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it.” Jesse’s
voice began to break, not wanting to think about Luke never coming home. “But for
now…we still gotta keep prayin’ ”
After ten minutes, Bo stopped crying, and Jesse got him to come down from the
loft and in the house to bed. Both Jesse and Bo fell into an exhausted sleep.Tomorrow,
they prayed, would be a brighter day.
Some where in the Vietnam jungle…
The sound of propeller blades had brought Luke out of a deep sleep. He had been
dreaming that he was back home in Hazzard, talking to Bo, but was disappointed when
he awoke back in his prison in the jungle.But something was different.
“The Marines have landed!” some body shouted in the distance. “We’re going
home!”
Luke scrambled to the bars and saw four or five Apache helicopters landed in a
clearing, off to the side. The propellers making soft thumping noises, and the rush of air
from the swirling blades, caused the tall grass surrounding the craft to flatten to the
ground. Luke could see U.S. Marines leading their Vietnamese prisoners to the otherside
of the camp, forcing them to kneel with their hands on their heads.
“Sergeant?” A young Marine called out to Luke. Luke looked up into the eyes of
the young man, freeing the P.O.W’s from their cramped cell.”Sergeant, it’s time to go
home.” The young Marine smiled. Luke wiped away any evidence of tears and smiled
back at his rescuer.
“Let’s get out of here.” Luke grinned numbly, “I gotta make it home in time for my
cousin’s graduation.”
The Marines freed all their captured comrades and airlifted them back into allied
territory. As Luke’s helicopter lifted off the ground, he said a silent prayer to the powers
that be, and whispered, “Hang on, Bo. I’m almost home…”
Things seemed to be progressing well, back in Hazzard, over the last few weeks.It
was June, and time for Bo’s Highschool graduation. Bo sat on a raised platform with his
classmates, as the Master of Ceremonies delivered a speech to the graduates. Bo was
dressed nicely in his Sunday cloths, smiling at Jesse and Daisy, who looked on from the
gathered audience of parents, friends, and family.
Bo had desperately wanted Luke to be here to see this moment. To see his little
cousin, all grown up, on this important day, but Luke had been missing still for two
months. Bo closed his eyes and sent a prayer out to his older cousin, wherever he was.
Luke stared widely at the town of Hazzard as the bus that had brought him here
pulled away from the depot. He was home. After three, long, difficult years, Luke was
finally back in the one place he’d only dreamt of seeing again. Luke let a few tears slide
down his cheeks before shouldering his duffel bag, and heading off in the direction of
Hazzard High. Bo Duke walked nervously up to the podium to receive his diploma, and a
handshake from his teacher. The afternoon was clear and sunny as the assembly, gathered
on the football field, clapped when Bo was handed his certificate.
Luke arrived in time to see Bo retrieve his diploma, and nearly cried at the sight,
as everyone started clapping. Luke put his bag down and joined the applause, fiercely
proud of his younger cousin. To Luke, Bo had changed alot. When Luke left, Bo was
nearly fifteen, skinny, and awkward. Now Bo was a grown man, handsome, muscular,
and a whole lot taller than Luke remembered. Taller even than him, Luke guessed. But
Bo still had that unmistakable mop of blonde, curly hair and that silly grin that use to
annoy Luke. Now Luke only laughed.
Bo returned to his seat and waved to Jesse and Daisy. He didn’t even recognize
the young man, standing in the back in his Marine dress Uniform. It wasn’t until the
ceremony was over, and the crowd began to disperse, that Bo realized who had been
standing there. At first, Bo blinked, thinking he just imagined what he was seeing. After a
second glance, Bo found himself bolting towards the individual. Luke saw Bo barreling
towards him at full-tilt, but all he could do was smile.
Jesse and Daisy were a little surprised to see Bo just take off the way he did. It
wasn’t before long, though, that they realized why.
“LUKE!” Bo cried as he threw himself upon his cousin. “Luke, you’re alive!”
The force of his younger cousin momentarily winded Luke. Indeed, Bo had gotten
alot bigger in the last three years. Luke was then engaged in a long brotherly hug with Bo.
“I promised you I’d come back, didn’t I?” Luke smiled. Luke let go of Bo when he
saw his Uncle and Daisy approach. Neither of them had really changed much, except
Uncle Jesse’s hair was almost white now, and Daisy was a healthy, slender, and beautiful
twenty-year-old. Daisy reached Luke and threw herself upon him the way Bo had, and
bombarded him with many kisses.
“Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.” Luke smiled at Daisy.
“Oh Luke! I’m so glad you’re back.” Daisy wailed as Luke lifted her off the ground
in an enormous bear hug.
“I’m glad to see you too, darlin’.” Luke whispered to Daisy.
Jesse stood several paces behind Daisy, with tears running all down his cheeks.
“Uncle Jesse ” Luke said, carefully putting Daisy back down.
“Come here,” Jesse opened his arms. “Come en’ give your ol’ Uncle Jesse a
hug…” Luke moved forward and embraced his uncle, hard. Jesse continued to cry,
believing this to truly be a miracle. Luke squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to give into
tears, but he lost.
Soon friends and neighbors from all around had gathered to welcome Luke home.
Some people cried, and others told Luke how good it was to see him alive and well.
After nearly two hours, the entire Duke family, along with Cooter Davenport,
went back to the farm to celebrate. In the evening, while folks dropped by to see Luke,
Bo went outside to the barn. Luke had managed to slip out, finding Bo in the hayloft,
where they always use to hide as children.
“Well look at you” Luke called out to Bo who was sitting, looking up at the
stars.”I never thought I’d leave behind a boy, only to come home en’ find him a grown
man.”
Bo looked up and smiled at Luke, who had long since changed into a pair of blue
jeans and blue plaid flannel shirt.
“Alot has changed since you left.” Bo replied, then smiled mischievously. “I’m
allowed to order a beer at the Boar’s Nest now.”
Luke chuckled and sat down next to Bo, rolling up his shirtsleeves. The sound of
crickets chirping, the light of the stars and the moon and the smell of the breeze. All
things Luke had never believed he could miss so much, as he did his family. “I never
thought I’d see all this again.” Luke began as he gazed out at his Uncle’s property. “Being
locked up in that camp for the last couple of months sure had me thinkin’ a whole lot.”
Bo flinched. He didn’t want to be reminded of the pain he’d felt in those last two
months. “Doesn’t that bother you?” Bo asked, “You talk about it as though it don’t matter.
I’ve often heard that some people come home from the war, not quite the same as when
they left.”
Luke sighed, “Oh…there have been plenty of things that bothered me through out
the war, and I know I ain’t the same as when I left. But I can’t change the things I saw or
what I went through. I’ve seen some pretty horrible things, Bo, but now that I’m home, the
magnitude of it all ain’t quite sunk in yet; but I do know when it does, I’ll have my family
there to help me through it.”
“You bet.” Bo smiled. But Bo’s smile faded as quickly as it came.
“Are you alright?” Luke asked, concerned.
Bo shrugged.
“Bo?” Luke put a hand on his cousin’s shoulder.
“I’ll be alright.” Bo muttered.
“What’s wrong? You know you can still tell me things, right?” Luke asked, hoping
Bo would talk to him the way they use to.
“I thought you were dead…” Bo whispered. “I thought you’d broken your promise
about comin’ home.”
Luke frowned. He’d never imagined the effects that his absence would have on his
family. But through Bo, he was beginning to see the first signs of the damage that had
been done.
“Well I ain’t dead, Bo,” Luke tried to sound reassuring. “And once I make a
promise to my family, I stick with it.”
“I was scared, Luke…” Bo mumbled.
“…So was I…” Luke replied softly. “But I’m proud of you, Bo.” Luke continued.
“I’m proud of how you, Jesse, en’ Daisy have held it together, I’m proud of y’all keepin’ up
with the farm; en’ I’m proud of the man you’ve grown up to be.”
Bo smiled. “Thanks Luke. You don’t know how long I’ve waited to hear your
voice. It’s better then all those letters you sent.”
Luke chuckled.
“I’m proud of you too, Luke.” Bo continued.
“For what?” Luke asked.
“For serving your country,” Bo replied. “For being who your are.”
Luke was touched. Not alot of people said those kinds of things to returning
soldiers from Vietnam. Most people were disgusted or angry, but Luke was relieved to
know that his own kin didn’t feel that way.
“Everything’s gonna be alright now, ain’t it Luke?”
“You bet, Bo”
“Hey, Luke?”
“Yeah?”
“Wanna come racin’ with me, Cooter, Brody, en’ Dobro on Saturday?”
“You drive now, too?”
“Yep. Best there is.”
“We’ll see about that, little cuz.”
“HA! I ain’t so little anymore, Luke. I’m bigger than you now.”
“But I’m still older.”
“You got a point there, Luke.”
“It’s gettin’ late, Bo. We should head in, we got chores tomorrow mornin’ ”
“Not yet, Luke.”
“Okay.”
“Hey Luke?”
“Yeah Bo?”
“Stars sure are pretty tonight.”
“They sure are.”
“Hey Luke?”
“What now, Bo?”
“It’s good to have you back.”
“It’s good to be back…Hey, I just heard Jesse callin’ us in.”
“Well let’s go.”
“Right behind you, Bo.”

THE END

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *