May, 2007:

Forty years ago this month, I was student teaching in Waseca, Minnesota  In the afternoon, while I was listening to the radio in the car, I heard the news of the death of my high school buddy, Gary McCue, who was a Marine in Vietnam.

He had a wonderful sense of humor and a zest for life.  I had no car when we worked for the Jolly Green Giant, so he’d pick me up every morning and bring me back every evening after our 12-hour shift at the pea viner...  His death still moves me forty years later.

Several years ago, my family and I took a trip east.  One of our stops was Washington D.C., and a visit to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall.  It was a very moving experience, and I looked up Gary’s name...


Gary F. McCue

I held back tears when I went to the Wall...
The Wall so large, the names so small.
I held back tears for one I knew--
His name was Gary F. McCue.
All through grade and high school, life so fresh and new,
My buddy was Gary F. McCue.
In Blakeley, Minnesota, our friendship grew,
Me and Gary F. McCue.
4-H Club, Scott County Fair, too,
Me and Gary F. McCue.
At the Green Giant pea viner, we worked the summer through,
Me and Gary F. McCue.
84 hour weeks, as the pea stack grew*,
Working and joking with Gary F. McCue.
Graduated at Belle Plaine in '63, the whole world in our view,
Me and my buddy, Gary F. McCue.
I went to Mankato State College, and he did too,
Me and Gary F. McCue.
He joined the Marines, among the "chosen few";
‘67 saw the death of Gary F. McCue
I think the world is a darker hue,
Without Gary F. McCue.

So many names, they're all gone too,
Just like Gary F. McCue.
I held back tears when I went to the Wall,
The Wall so large, the names so small.
When Gary and I worked for Green Giant at the pea viner, we worked 12 hour days, 7 A.M-7 P.M, 7 days a week...only a big rain that kept the trucks out of the field would cause work to be canceled or delayed.

All of the pea vines, after the peas were removed in big drums with beaters, went up a conveyor belt to a very large stack of pea vines. This grew bigger and bigger, and there was a tractor at the top of the stack to spread the vines in a nice flat stack as it grew higher.