November 23, 1963. I was working on a survey crew in western Montana when I heard about the JFK assassination. What I decided I knew for sure about it came a bit later. Not 50 years later, which it is today–November 23, 2013–but later.
It was not a dark and stormy night, as Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy, always starts his novels, but rather a gray and snowy day. Our three man crew was working to survey a stretch of land running mostly parallel to the railroad tracks west of Drummond, Montana, not that many miles from my parents’ ranch. As the junior rodman on the crew, I was low man on the totem pole, though working with the surveyor and the senior rodman had inspired me to consider going back to college for a degree in civil engineering.
Things didn’t work out that way after my discovery that college level math (calculus) would make me seriously work to learn it. However, that’s another story.
The boss had a Rambler station wagon we usually used as a crew car, but it was in the shop. The wagon had a marvelous Positrac rear end that could handle snow like nobody’s business, but it also had a bit of an allergy to staying in one piece for very long at a time. Bill, the senior rodman, didn’t even own a car since his ex had taken that as well as his prized hunting dogs in the divorce. That left us with just one running vehicle, my battered 1952 Chevy with its tan paint job except for one fender that had come black from the junk yard and had been promptly spray painted silver.
I’d turned 20 years of age just a couple of weeks earlier, with a two year tech college degree in auto mechanics, a sixteen year old fiancée in Deer Lodge, the Selective Service draft hanging over my head, and no real employment prospects for the long haul. I knew I didn’t want to turn wrenches for the rest of my life, and the surveying job would no more than get me through the winter. A 40 hour work week netted just over $50, enough to scrape by, but only because I was living back home with my folks, getting free room and board in return for helping around the ranch when I wasn’t working my day job.
All four tires on the Chevy were nothing but rubber rags, two spares always competing with 300 pounds of rocks loaded in the trunk for ballast during the winter’s slick-surface, deep-snow driving. The 1957 engine, a 235 cubic inch straight six, needed a serious tuneup if not a top end job.
The list goes on.
Right at high noon, though we could only tell that by our watches due to the chill, overcast sky, we trudged back from our last set of measurements and climbed into the Chevy for our lunch break. I fired up the engine, cranked up the heat, and turned on the AM radio to catch the news with one hand while reaching for my lunch bucket with the other.
The shooting in Dallas was the only thing on. It had happened 31 minutes before we’d reached the car.
We three just looked each other, and I turned up the volume. They weren’t officially admitting the President was dead yet, but we knew. We all knew. We sat there, staring out at the snow, listening to the thunderbolt announcement and all that came after, for exactly thirty minutes. By which time we’d consumed our sandwiches and were ready to get back to work.
The company wasn’t paying us to sit around. There was terrain to be surveyed.
What I Know for Sure
From the beginning, it was obvious to many of us, even way up there in Montana, that the shooting of Kennedy (as well as Texas Governor John Connally) had not been accomplished by the lone official suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald. That We the Dunces (as Big Government seems to view American citizens) were being fed a line of malarkey was obvious long before the infamous Warren Commission was ever convened. The first obvious stink unique to a high level cover up began permeating the airwaves the very next day.
Twenty-five hours after JFK was gunned down and his brains splattered all over the place, Oswald himself was eliminated by strip club owner Jack Ruby.
I did not get to see the live broadcast of Ruby blasting Oswald, but my future father in law did. He happened to be home at the time, watching the news, and he had a key bit of information for me when I drove to Deer Lodge that evening to see his daughter.
“They’ve been trying to tell us Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald didn’t know each other,” he informed me, “but they obviously did. When Ruby came busting through the crowd and pulled that pistol, Oswald yelled, ‘Jack, you sonofabitch!’, the instant before he was shot. But after that, when it wasn’t live TV, when they played back the tape, that part’s not in there. They cut it out immediately.”
My girl’s Dad was as sharp as they come, a self educated Texan who’d moved north decades earlier, gotten his GED in Montana, and produced the sixth highest GED test score the state had ever seen. He was racially prejudiced and proud of it, but he didn’t make stuff up and he didn’t get the news wrong.
If he said that’s what Oswald’s last words were, that’s what they were. Period.
But I couldn’t confirm it. As the years passed, I mentioned Ivan’s statement every time the subject of John F. Kennedy’s assassination came up. A lot of people thought it made sense, but no one had seen that original, live broadcast.
At a small local church social gathering in South Dakota, circa 1992–nearly 29 years after the killings in Dallas–I met a man some years my junior. We got to chatting, off to one side where the other folks wouldn’t hear; only the two of us had any obvious interest in politics and the violent demise of a politician, even if he was the President. Eventually, the subject of the JFK assassination came up. As usual, I told the story of my father in law’s experience on November 24, 1963.
“Yes!” My new friend literally jumped to his feet; he was that excited. “I saw that, too!”
“You did? Personally?”
“Yes. I was in the sixth grade, but we’d all been sent home early, just a half day of school that day. My mother told me to grab some cookies and milk and go watch TV or something, so that’s what I was doing. Oswald was brought out, handcuffed to a detective. Ruby made his move, Oswald yelled, ‘Jack, you sonofabitch!’, and then the gun went off. And like your father in law said, they never showed that part again.”
That’s Part One of what I know for sure about the John F. Kennedy assassination. The people in charge of the investigation started lying to us early on, and it didn’t get any better after that.
Why mention that here? Simply this: Oswald’s last words were never uncovered (or at least never admitted) by any news agency anywhere at any time. Not even The Enquirer, or if they did come up with it, they, too, sat on it.
Since that time, I’ve met at least two other people who saw that original, live broadcast. Both of them agree with my first two sources. Oswald knew Ruby, and he knew him well.
The other thing I know for sure about the Kennedy assassination is that the “single bullet theory” is bullcrap of the lowest order. Of course, that’s common knowledge; anyone with a lick of brain power knows the “magic bullet” theory put forth by the obviously corrupt Warren Commission (convened to “investigate” the evidence surrounding the assassination) is harder to believe than Captain Kirk of Star Trek having a baby with a Klingon.
Whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald fired a bullet or two at the President that day, he was clearly set up as the patsy. Eliminate the patsy, case closed, done deal, let’s get on with business.
Who had the most to gain by Kennedy’s death? On the surface of it, that would have been Lyndon Baines Johnson, described by many as one power mad sonofagun. Did he do it? That is, did he instigate and/or coordinate the murder of his boss?
Maybe, maybe not. A lot of people believe he did. A lot of people also figure the CIA was involved, plus maybe the FBI, the Mafia, Fidel Castro, and/or a few other “usual suspects” the Kennedy brothers (John F. and Robert) had managed to infuriate over the years.
Certainly, there was never any shortage of suspects with motivation.
Nor was there ever any shortage of murder. Over time, more than 100 people connected to the investigation of the JFK assassination–potential witnesses, photographers, folks who may have simply known too much–were violently eliminated.
Had Oswald indeed been the assassin, acting as a lone gunman, there would have been no need for any of that. While the huge number of murders did prevent the truth from seeing the light of day, those same killings also made it obvious to those with more than cheese between their ears that there really was a major conspiracy involved.
Add in the Zapruder film, which clearly shows one bullet slamming the President’s head forward and another one blowing it back…yeah, folks. They’ve definitely been lying to us, big time.
Do I have an opinion as to who did it? Nope. I do have a strong suspicion that Jackie Kennedy, JFK’s widow, was essentially enslaved, “sold” to Greek Argentine tycoon Aristotle Onassis, told in so many words,
“You know what’s good for you, woman, you’ll go with the Greek and keep your mouth shut. Otherwise, what happened to your husband could happen to you. After it happened to your kids, of course.”
No, I have no proof of that, nor even the slightest shred of evidence. But this is the part of the post where I let out my own speculation. The Enquirer claims that when Jackie Kennedy scrambled onto the back deck of the limousine, she was frantically grabbing for a piece of the President’s skull, which she kept in her hand as far as the Emergency Room where her man was finally pronounced dead. I’ve seen that film, and I don’t believe it. To my eye, she was doing her best to get the Hell out of Dodge until the nearest Secret Service agent forcibly shoved her back into the car’s rear seat.
Closing thought: The TV talking heads define the JFK assassination as an event that “changed America”. As for that, I call B.S.
The entire planet is a violent place, top to bottom, side to side, end to end. The United States of America is very much part of that. We were born in blood and death during the American Revolution. Wars, assassinations, common lowlife killings, brutality, man’s inhumanity to man–these are all part and parcel of our national history and our nature–as are many events at the opposite end of the scale. As many have committed unspeakable acts, so have many given their all for family, community, and country.
Thus, we are fueled by more or less equal parts of savagery and nobility. The scale tips a little from time to time, back and forth. When it’s showing 51% nobility versus 49% savagery, we do well as a nation. When it’s running more like 51% savagery versus 49% nobility, we see the downward slide, the slippery slope staring us in the face.
But we, as a nation, haven’t changed. Not in my opinion, we haven’t. We’ve just seen the pendulum at various positions during its endless swing, the tick-tock marked out by the Talons of Time.