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  Tank Gunner is the pen name of a retired combat cavalry trooper, awarded a Combat Infantry Badge and decorated with a Silver Star, three Bronze Stars, one for Valor, and a Purple Heart. He served his nation with pride and honor for more than a quarter century as an enlisted soldier and officer. An award-winning author, Tank wrote and published Prompts a collection of stories at age 76, Prompts Too another collection of stories at 77, and Cookie Johnson, his Vietnam historical fiction novel, at 78. At age 79, Palomino is his Second World War historical fiction novel and fourth book. He and his wife live with Toby, 100 miles southwest of Palomino.

  © Tank Gunner. All rights reserved.

  First Printing ● September 2018

  ISBN: 978-1-54394-817-2



  a collection of stories



  another collection of stories









  (newspaper column)

  For Sylviane, Rich, Rob,


  for Terry, Chloe, Zak, and Toby


  This is my special salute to Capn Lee Sneath, a former newspaper editor, corporate communications executive, public affairs spokesperson, and a college instructor, word coach, editor, and patient friend.


  A grateful nod to Wayne Peterson – author of his hard science fiction trilogy Canopy of Hope, Canopy of Mystery, and Canopy of Destiny – a talented storyteller, colleague, and friend who shared his passion of the craft and provided ears, eyes, and reactions during the development of Palomino.

  Palomino Cover


  Lynsey Dreis

  This book is a work of fiction. While Palomino is a fictitious town, some scenes are based on locations that were familiar to the author as a youngster during the Second World War. Names, characters, or businesses come from the author’s imagination. Other than mention of historical individuals and events, any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental and unintended.



  July 1943


  April 1942


  July 1942


  January 1942


  June 1942


  May 1943


  August 1943


  November 1943


  August 1943


  April 1942


  August 1943


  August 1943


  November 1943


  August 1943


  November 1943


  September 1943


  September 1943


  December 1943


  December 1943


  December 1943


  December 1943


  December 1943


  December 1943


  December 1943


  December 1943


  Christmas 1943


  January 2024


  Sergeant Willow “Twig” Chestnutt

  Military Policeman

  Teresa Chestnutt

  Wife & Cafe Waitress

  Tina Chestnutt

  Daughter & Grade School Student

  Ruby Bostick

  Owner, Palomino Palace & the Porter House

  Major Clay Monroe

  WWI Hero & Cotton Farmer

  Casey Shipp

  Palomino Mayor

  Estelle Kerns

  Boarding House Madame

  Eliot Thurgood

  Palomino Tormenter

  Milton Douglas “M D” Draggert

  Petty Criminal

  Artemis “Arty” Canton

  Car Thief & Petty Criminal

  Franklein Rosser

  President, Red River County State Bank

  Judy Jones

  Vice President, Red River County State Bank


  Myrtle Sherman

  Vice President, Red River County State Bank

  Maybelle Winters

  Owner, Editor, Publisher of the Palomino Press

  Henrietta Draggert

  Milton Draggert’s Mother

  Martin Church

  Cotton Field Hand

  Odessa Church

  Daughter, Former Paris Jr. College Rangerette

  Dallas Church

  Daughter, Senior Palomino High School

  Preacher Adams

  Cotton Field Hand, Minister

  Waldo Sutherland


  Wolf Hunter

  Gas Station Owner

  Pearson Keenan

  City Meter Reader

  Caleb Joiner

  Gas Station Helper

  Carsey Belew

  Palomino Switchboard Operator


  Betty Crane

  Bogata Switchboard Operator

  Delilah Wheeler


  Ginnie Tyler


  Billy Don Owens

  Gas Station Owner

  Aubrey Roach

  Ranch Owner and Hunter

  Julius Watson


  Ethel Watson


  Kraus “Duke” Hopplendagger

  Wehrmacht Sergeant, POW

  Edwin “Eddy” Becker

  Wehrmacht Corporal, POW

  Wilhelm “Will” Weiss

  Wehrmacht Private, POW

  Deputy Logan Amesa

  Red River County Sheriff

  Deputy Walter “Pop” Crawley

  Red River County Sheriff


  Deputy Stephan Stanton

  Red River County Sheriff

  Deputy David Sunday

  Red River County Sheriff

  Deputy Mavis Raymond

  Red River County Sheriff

  Sheriff Billy Blake

  Red River County Sheriff

  Sheriff Jim Dudley

  Lamar County Sheriff

  Brainard D. Baldwin

  Attorney at Law

  Tonya “Tiny” Talbot

  Owner, Tiny’s Cafe

  Bobbie Jo Evans

  Manager, Jeeps Cafe

  Dora Kline

  Co-Owner, Kline’s Drugs

  Kingston Kline

  Co-Owner, Kline’s Drugs

  Nate Dulfeine

  Co-Owner, Dulfeine’s Grocery

  Margie Dulfeine

  Co-Owner, Dulfeine’s Grocery


  Martha Parker

  Council Representative

  Patricia Ann “Patsy” Parker


  Paula Pinkston

  Rayfield’s Mother

  Rayfield Paramore “Pinky” Pinkston, Jr.

/>   Son and Paperboy

  Jeannie Rider

  Nurse, Bogata Hospital

  Kitty Pratt

  Nurse, Bogata Hospital

  Doc Anson Bledsoe

  Doctor, Bogata Hospital

  Doc Garland Burns

  Doctor, Palomino Hospital

  Linda Thomas

  Nurse, Palomino Hospital

  Brigadier General Charles Pace, Jr.

  Deputy Commanding General, Camp Maxey

  Colonel Benicio Sardanna-Sanchez

  Provost Marshal, Camp Maxey

  Colonel R. J. Jones

  Administrator, Camp Maxey


  Captain Fred Morris

  Military Police Company Commander

  First Sergeant Kenneth Kinnison

  Military Police Company First Sergeant

  Henry Wilson

  Pie Shop and Domino Hall Owner

  Corporal Oliver “Ollie” Schultz

  Military Police Guard


  July 1943

  Largest tank battle in history in Kursk

  B-24 Liberators bomb Japanese again

  “German soldiers? Here? In Palomino?”

  “Yes, I’m afraid so.”

  “Are you sure, Maybelle? The enemy is going to live here?”

  “Yes, Henrietta. That’s what the special meeting is all about tonight at the schoolhouse.”

  “I had no idea, Maybelle. When Rayfield brought the flyer by, I thought the meeting was going to be about rationing. Goodness sakes. I had no idea. German soldiers, in Palomino.”

  “Mayor Shipp is going to make the announcement. Then Casey and the council members are going to Camp Maxey to meet with the Army. Casey and the council are going to represent the town, and Casey asked me to come along to represent Palomino as a member of the press. We’re going to talk about the arrangement for the Germans.”

  “Here? In Palomino? The enemy is going to live here — in Palomino.”

  “Henrietta, you do know there’s a war going on.”

  “Goodness sakes, Maybelle. You don’t have to be so mean. Of course, I know that. Rayfield delivers your paper every week, I listen to Edward R. Murrow over there, and I see the newsreels and Movietone News with Lowell Thomas at the pitchursho. My nephew, Oscar Fant, you know, Marline’s oldest boy, is flying bombers over there someplace. God knows where.”

  “These German soldiers are part of a new government program. You remember when those Liberty ships brought over five-thousand prisoners of war from North Africa to Boston? Well, about a month ago they were divided up and put on trains going to camps from Massachusetts to California.”

  “And there are some at Camp Maxey?”

  “Yes, more than a thousand, maybe two thousand. And a lot are going into another two dozen camps in Texas towns, too.”

  “Goodness sakes. What are they going to do here?”

  “Some are gonna work. They’ll do some of the jobs left open when our boys go into service. The war effort needs cotton and people need food. They’ll work on Bastion Albert’s farm picking sweet corn, watermelons, and beets, and for Major Monroe, picking cotton. And when all the picking is done, they’ll work with Bastion hauling vegetables to Paris. Or in Major Monroe’s gin to process and bale the cotton.”

  “They might kidnap and kill somebody.”


  “The Germans. I’ve seen the newsreels at the pitchursho. I saw how mean they acted with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. She looked so gorgeous, poor thing. I know she loved him and wanted …”

  “They might do, Henrietta. But they sure as hell ain’t going to escape. There’s no place to hide. They know that. All we got around here is fields and wide open country. They’d be hunted down, slaughtered, and hung up on a bob-wire fence if they hurt anybody.”

  “Well, I guess you’re right. I reckon one man wouldn’t have a chance even if he looked cross-eyed at a woman here.”

  “Well, it’ll be more than one, Henrietta. Casey said the figure was three available to come here. Maybe more, if we wanted them. Casey said the ones selected for local communities have gone through tough government screening. It’s called a residency program where prisoners are released to live and work in Palomino.”

  “My, my. Goodness sakes, Maybelle. Of all things. The enemy is going to live among us. Where in the world are they gonna stay? We don’t have a hotel.”

  “Well, that’s gonna be told about tonight. It depends on the agreement with the Army at Camp Maxey. If you ask me, I’d say they gotta stay at Ruby’s place. Either in her barn or the Porter House.”

  “Well, the Porter House is big. All them bedrooms. Her mansion is the biggest there is in two counties, as big as some I seen in Dallas.”

  “All the bedrooms are taken right now, but Edgar and Vincent got their draft notices so they’re moving out next week. Major Monroe wanted them to claim an exemption to pick and bale his cotton, but they said no.”

  “Instead of going into the Army, they told me they’re going to join the Navy, Maybelle. Vincent’s daddy was a soldier in the first war.”

  “When they leave, that’ll free two of the eight tenant bedrooms. Henrietta, you’ve been all through her house, you know how spacious those bedrooms are.”

  “They are nice. Ethel takes good care of Miss Ruby’s house. She’s a good cook and housekeeper.”

  “Teresa and Tina are there, they rent a room.”

  “And the two boys who work out at the Talco oil rig, Otis Bassett and Ernest Blackmon. Of course, they’ve been talking about moving out, to be closer to their work.”

  “Right, Henrietta. So, that leaves Caleb, Jake Little, and Pearson Keenan.”

  “Jimmy Madison left.”

  “Yes, that’s right. Teresa and Tina took that bedroom.”

  “Poor Pearson, working out there in all kinds of weather and all the while his wife is … Since Madison run off with Pearson’s young wife we don’t have a constable no more, neither. The Germans will have a free hand. They’ll be ravaging and raping all the women here before we know it.”

  “I promise you, Henrietta, you and I won’t let that happen. We still have The Calaboose if we need it. Anyway, we still have able men here. And everybody in town has pistols, rifles, and shotguns. The enemy don’t have any.”

  “Why didn’t Casey call the meeting for the pitchursho instead of the school gym?”

  “Gym seats more and the stage is bigger. We expect a lot of people to come since we didn’t say in the flyer why we’re gonna have a special meeting.”

  “Well, you better make sure Leon attends the meeting so he can write the story for your …”

  “He is, and I told Stan to bring his camera to the meeting to get Casey’s picture. It’s going to be a late night for us here at the paper. I haven’t published a special edition this important since December Eight, Forty-One. Tomorrow the Palomino Press will run front page, headline news.”

  “Everybody is going to be in for a big surprise.”

  “I think they’ll be more shocked than surprised, Henrietta. I’m going to print a special bulletin for the two counties. I’ll even send some copies over to Paris and Mount Pleasant and down to Fort Worth and Dallas. My headline will be a one-inch bold font above the fold, and shout — ENEMY COMING TO PALOMINO — or something like that.”

  “Goodness sakes, Maybelle.”

  At the front end of the school’s gym was a thirty-six-foot wide theater stage. Heavy maroon curtains hung stage left and stage right. Gray drapes formed the backdrop. A prairie dog, Palomino sports teams’ mascot, adorned the center of the white masking curtain above the opening. Plays, recitals, band performances, and community auctioneers used the stage. So an audience could see when those and other occurrences took place, the basketball backboard was raised. Out on the floor, Halloween booths and Christmas cakewalks were the town’s favorites.
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  Casey Shipp stood behind the town council table. From the school gym stage, he looked down at his flock. He held the gavel in his left hand, chest high, casually lifting it and letting the head drop into his right palm with the consistency of an oilfield pumper. Never once did he tap the small block of wood with the gavel.

  The packed space settled down, became hushed.

  In less than 12 seconds, calm rustling eased as the men ambling about found vacant folding chairs among the rows set up on the gym floor — in spite of basketball coach Floyd Byrd’s chagrin and fussing, and complaint that “you’ll scratch my damn floor”. Men paused and looked, searching for openings in the right or left side bleachers.

  Kids stood near the right and left double doors, six Boy Scouts acted as door handlers. To earn merit badges, four Cub Scouts volunteered as ushers for seating, and six Eagle Scouts offered arms as escorts for anyone, young or old, who acquiesced. The greater majority of girls and women sat in the more comfortable chairs while the boys and men high-stepped to mount the hardwood bleachers when a spot appeared. While there was talk and how-dos, everyone was respectful of the meeting and their elected council perched on the stage.

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