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Karl Lindholm: 'Thank you for your service'

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Posted on September 28, 2017 |
By Karl Lindholm



s Karl Lindholm col Buzzell PSCC.jpg
RICHARD BUZZELL

A golf story, more or less:

On the way down to the 13th hole, Buzzell poked me and said, “Watch this. Let’s have some fun. Play along.”

We had been dispatched by the Caddy Master to “relieve” a foursome estimated to be about at the 13th in their round, judging from when their group had teed off.

This was the way it worked. At noon, boys who were available relieved those out on the course for a few holes so they could get some lunch at the “zoo,” the employee dining hall.

I still have a vivid recollection of Buzzell’s performance on this day, many years ago now. His suggestion, “let’s have some fun” concerned me.

I was 15 and in my third year at Caddy Camp; Buzz was 16 and was also a three-year vet at Poland Spring Caddy Camp, a 10-week overnight work camp at the grand Poland Spring Hotel, mostly for boys from the Boston area.

He was known to be something of a character, in the main a positive presence but a wiseguy, a tough Irish kid from Arlington, Mass., who could enliven your day.

When we reached the foursome and the other boys ran off to the zoo, Buzzell introduced us to their golfers, hotel guests, with extravagant formality:

“Greetings, Gentlemen. My name is Richard and this is Karl and we will have the pleasure of being your caddies for a few holes while these lads go off for some lunch.”

This was well in advance of today’s service conventions. Caddies might mumble their name to their golfer, if asked, but that was about it: we were meant to be seen and not heard.

Buzzell’s golfer was first on the green at 13, so when my golfers were also safely on and had their putters, I gave Buzz their drivers and took all four bags out to forecaddy on the next hole, which had trouble on the right.

On the 14th tee, Buzzell asked the golfers if they wanted their golf balls washed (always golf balls) which he undertook with exaggerated vigor. He held the ball up between thumb and forefinger as if it were the Hope Diamond: “Here you go, sir, clean as a whistle and ready for a long flight!”

The job of the caddy on the tee is to indicate with arm signals to the forecaddy the direction of any errant drives — right arm thrust out for a ball headed for trouble to the right; left arm outthrust for one in that direction; arm straight up for a dub off the tee.

With every successive drive, Buzz’s signals became more flamboyant, with circular motions and up thrust fists and a variety of other ridiculous pantomimes: he gave a good drive in the fairway an arms-straight-up “touchdown!” signal.

When the last golfer had teed off, he raced out to me as fast as he could run, to recover his bags. He sprinted from one of his golfers to the other, scooting like a duck, hands over the club heads so they wouldn’t rattle, knees bent, back straight.

He then stood at rigid attention while the golfer selected his club (“Oh, very good, sir, four iron, just the right club”).

This act was repeated on the next hole. I was sure he would be reported for this foolishness, and I would be implicated, but that didn’t happen.

It was a great performance — Bill Murray comes to mind.

LIEUTENANT RICHARD BUZZELL while serving in Viet Nam.

After graduating from Arlington High School in 1961, Buzz joined the Navy. Once in the service, he decided he wanted to attend the Naval Academy. He secured an appointment from the Secretary of the Navy, contingent upon a year of preparation at Bainbridge Academy in Maryland, the prep school for Annapolis.

He finished 663rd in a class of 841 at Annapolis. His academic deficiencies were compensated for by the personal qualities he possessed that make a good soldier. His final evaluation by his company officer was positive indeed:

“Buzzell will be one of the more successful of his class, I believe. He has an excellent manner of dealing with people, and can motivate the most stubborn to accomplish any task.”

Lieutenant (JG, Junior Grade) Richard Buzzell was in his fourth year of active duty and his fifth month in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in the Mekong Delta, when he was killed in action, along with three crew members, just a few days before Christmas in 1970.

You will find his name on the “Wall,” the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, on Panel 6W Row 131.

Buzzell has been much on my mind as I have watched, nearly every night for the past week and a half, Ken Burns’ riveting video documentary “The Vietnam War.”

I have been thinking too of another Caddy Camp friend, Al Schofield (Panel 43W Row 9), who overlapped with me for five summers. He had been in Vietnam only one month as an infantry platoon leader when he was killed in September 1968.

And my Middlebury College friend Bayard Russ (Panel 34E Row 45).

They are just three of the 58,318 American lives lost in Vietnam — and untold hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese dead.

What a waste.

The Vietnam War.

Karl Lindholm Ph.D. is Dean Emeritus of Advising at Middlebury College. He taught a Vietnam War class, “Telling a True War Story: Vietnam,” in the American Studies Program.

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