A homeless man's answer to fate
It would be easy to think of this man as homeless. He had no permanent address. He wandered across America for over forty years. During the last portion of those years he lived in a hidden shack near an isolated bend of Beaver Creek in Bristol.
It was during those last several years that this man called Lu became somewhat familiar to many local Bristol VA residents. He could often be seen moseying along barefoot, side-by-side with one or more of his dogs near Exit 5 in Bristol VA.
I visited with Lu many times over the several years that he called our good town his temporary home (he told me that Brisotl was the “friendliest place I’ve found in all America”). He became kind of a city landmark in that part of town, up until he passed away one spring day about thirteen years ago.
Having long ago served in the Vietnam War, Lu returned to America with what we now call PTSD (post-traumatic shock disorder). He quickly became disillusioned with “normal” civilian life and wanted to see the country. The easiest way to do that, he decided, was to hitchhike along and live off the land.
Lu drew a monthly check for his service disability, so he wasn’t as penniless as he appeared. In fact, he paid cash for a truck just a few months before he died, so he could drive himself to Johnson City to the Veterans Hospital - to be treated for the cancer which had begun to ravage his body (almost certainly induced by Agent Orange from the war, he was told).
One Saturday morning I took several of my students whom I was teaching at the time to go visit Lu. He had often told me how much he had grown to love America while on his travels, so we brought him a whole slew of American flags.