For the Farm
Note and Disclaimer: We all know the drill. M*A*S*H will never be ours. Need I say more?
Some days, I feel sad that there is needless forfeiture. It does not necessarily equate to young children becoming my companions. Sometimes, it means that the little things in life are nevermore and that what you live for soon becomes a symbol of youth. This is what happened to Walter "Radar" O'Reilly.
Radar was all that his mother had left, after a string of miscarriages, stillbirths and dead children. He lost his father to a stroke when he was three years old. His sister was killed in a tragic accident soon afterward. Growing up, all he had was his mother and Uncle Ed.
Together, they cultivated a farm and tried to survive. That was what Radar could live for – that farm in Ottumwa, Iowa. To his many classmates and the town, it is what put him above the rest. Radar was born during the height of the Depression. In Ottumwa, that was pretty big. Owning a large piece of land made you to be rich.
Growing up, Radar always associated the farm to what his life was like. It was hard work, lots of animals and a Christian cultivation. Mrs. O'Reilly was not fond of Radar running off with his friends and being a normal boy. She tried to keep him as innocent as she could, banishing all alcohol and cigarettes. To her, it was the reason why her husband and children had died. She could not have Radar dying so soon too.
And this is how Radar became so naïve. While he was perspective and knew what people will say before they did and finishing tasks on the farm before his mother uttered a word, he still did not know much about the world around him. He was more concerned about being popular and having friends. However, even with having so much, he was disregarded so little by his peers. His pimples and glasses and his nature excluded him from all activities.
For Radar, this did not matter much. He still had the farm. It was his whole world. When things went wrong or he had a bad day at school, he was always able to go home and find his favorite animal or sit on his rock. There was a comfort in the stillness of the acres around him and the gentleness of the creatures he cared for. At least the land will give back to him.
Everything changed when Radar turned eighteen. Quickly, he was recruited to the Army. In the structured and strict military environment, Radar still thought of the farm. When he went through the toughest courses he had ever endured, his mind went to the farm. When his drill sergeant screamed at him about being incompetent, his eyes always saw the animals that needed his love. When he was promoted and sent to a base, he caringly wrote to his mother and told her not to worry. The farm will keep and he will make sure of it.
Nothing prepared Radar for the coming carnage. Before he could blink, he was sent overseas to Korea. He proved himself capable enough to be a company clerk. Under the care of first Henry Blake and then Sherman Potter, he began to really see the world. It wasn't just the war that changed him. It was growing up with men who knew more of sex, of the drinking everyone did and the constant stream of cigar and cigarette smoke above his head.
Radar memorized some new lessons and earned his wings. Korea taught him that the people you depend on aren't exactly gods. The people you love will die and it's not fair that they never went home. Then, there was understanding that being the guiltless party doesn't mean you are going to be free of any charges. Of course, there were also the zany antics that got him out of trouble. Radar soon became a whiz at obtaining anything the unit required, despite his initial shaky efforts.
All the while, what made life so special was the farm. He talked about it with his new friends. He told any patient he sat with about it. Even lingering in the Swamp with the doctors, he dreamt of life on that farm. It kept him from going insane and remembering that Korea was a war, not some trip to the beach. It also reminded him that there was something back home that depended on him. His mother and uncle were elderly. They were not going to be able to nurture that land themselves for much longer.
After his war, Radar was given a discharge and went home. It was difficult adjusting to civilian life and helping his mother out. But tragedy struck and the farm and all of its help was destroyed by a tornado. Radar and his mother had no choice but to sell the land and move. Eventually, they settled in St. Louis, Missouri. Radar became a police officer and soon forgot about the farm little by little. He only remembered it when he sought to remanence on all that had brought him to his new career. There was no turning back the clock anymore.
I am Death though…and there is always a way to me. Radar O'Reilly held onto his childhood farm as his anchor. For him, it was a way to sustain himself when the adult world could not be handled. However, even the bruteness of its end shattered him. He was no longer sweet and innocent. He was tough and resourceful and had become a man at last.