Magazine Cover Shot! by Josh Trudell

Today’s lesson: Don’t be afraid of taking on something that’s going to push you – it can lead to some really good things.

Such as the magazine cover above – my first magazine cover shot, hitting stores in the next week or so.

Late in the fall of 2013, I was asked if I had any ideas for this issue. I pitched five ideas, hoping they would pick one. Instead I discovered they were a bit short on copy – and they wanted all five – plus a sixth - with photos.

Three months of interviewing and photographing later, I had a phone full of stories and memory cards full of images. I’m really looking forward to seeing it all in print.

Even though each piece in the magazine runs well over 2,000 words (in some cases too far over, the inner editor says), there were some anecdotes I had to leave out, either because of length or because they didn’t speak to the story I was writing.

John Clark of the Lone Star Motor Vehicle Preservation Association was one of the people I spoke with. Standing in his garage as he carefully rebuilt a 1949 M-38 Jeep, John shared some of his experiences in the Air Force and then rebuilding old Jeeps and trucks at his home.

This is one of his stories – it’s one I couldn’t use in the magazine, but it is a good story about a good deed, and it was worth sharing.

(Edited lightly for clarity)

“There was a World War II veteran named James Priddy from over in Lockhart, Texas. He was really a good friend of mine. He and his wife did a lot for the community of Lockhart. They were up in their 80s.

Mrs. Priddy had passed away…this was a couple of years ago.

We were at a memorial service for Mrs. Priddy. And I said to his daughter. “You know we put our military vehicles in the Chisholm Trail Roundup Parade, and I want to ask your dad if he’ll honor us with his presence.”

And at the time, Mr. Priddy was about 84, he was getting dialysis three times a week, he was suffering from the frostbite he had gotten on his feet in World War II, he had everything in the world wrong with him, but he was just the kindest, gentlest, most cheerful man.

No matter how bad he felt, if you asked him how he was, he’d say, “’Bout fair to middlin.’”

His daughter talked to him and she said, “Yeah, Daddy would kind of like to be in the parade.”

I said, “Well, I’ve got to talk to him first and let him know what we’re going to do, because going from a wheelchair to riding in one of those M-37s on a 100-degree day is not easy, especially for someone in his condition.

I went to him in the nursing home and said, “Mr. Priddy, what do you think about riding with us in the parade. You think you can do it?” and he said, “Well, I will if I can.” I knew when he said that that if it was at all possible, he was going to make it.

I had just finished redoing that blue truck (an Air Force truck for one of the other members). And I was talking with Priddy’s daughter and she said, “This isn’t going to work.”

“What do you mean this isn’t going to work?”

She said, “Daddy was in the Army. He wasn’t in the Air Force. He’s not going to want to ride in an Air Force truck.”

And I thought, Oh, no. After all this we went through, which was nothing compared to what he went through.

But I called Danny (Kaiser, another member of the Lone Star Motor Vehicle Preservation Association) and I told him what the problem was. He said, “What’s the problem?”

I said ‘Danny, we’ve got to have an Army truck.’ ”

And he said, “Well, Madison’s got an Army M-37. And Saturday morning at 9 o’clock, it will show up in front of the nursing home to pick up Mr. Priddy.”

I went with Madison (Hughes, another Lone Star MVPA member), and we pulled up in front of the nursing home, and sure enough, there was Jim sitting there in his wheelchair, ready to go, with his VFW cap on.

We got him in the truck, and I said, “Mr. Priddy, I’m afraid I’ve got bad news for you.”

He said, ‘What’s that?”

I said, “Well, I wanted to find you a nice blue Air Force hat to wear in the parade, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. The only thing I could find for you to wear is this old black hat.”

He’d take that cap off and run his fingers across that US Army World War II emblem and then he would look way off in the distance – I don’t know where he was going, but he was way out there somewhere.

I pulled out a new black cap that said US Army: World War II. He put the cap on.

“Mr. Priddy was sitting there in the truck, waiting for the parade to start. He never complained or anything. He’d take that cap off and run his fingers across that US Army World War II emblem and then he would look way off in the distance – I don’t know where he was going, but he was way out there somewhere.

I didn’t disturb him, and he’d just look off in the distance for three or four minutes, then he’d look down at that hat again, and turn it around and put it back on his head.”

He was riding in the passenger seat of that M-37 with signs on the truck that said Jim Priddy, U.S. Army, World War II, and I thought, ‘What if nobody cares? What if they’re just sitting there and say, ‘There’s another parade vehicle.’

Big mistake on my part. The people started cheering. One old guy was in a wheelchair, and stood up, and saluted. That sure makes it all worthwhile.

I got a feeling that that parade – well, his daughter called it, “Daddy’s Big Day.”

I had known Mr. Priddy for years, had known he was in World War II, but didn’t know anything about it.

I got a feeling that that parade – well, his daughter called it, “Daddy’s Big Day.”

I was talking to a friend of mine, and he said, “Jim and his wife were over in our house the other night, and did you know, Jim was in some big battle in World War II. I think he might have been on Normandy Beach or something.”

That got me interested in finding out what he’d actually done. He was a Purple Heart veteran, and nobody knew it. He was at the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded there Dec. 24, 1944 in the Ardenne Forest. He never talked about it much.

What people knew about Jim Priddy and his wife, they were very active in the Lions Club, He was in the Masonic Lodge, and he had run a feed and grain store in Lockhart for several years.

Anytime people needed help in Lockhart with any kind of civil program, they were always ready to step up and help out.

That Saturday, the people of Lockhart saw the whole story.

Two judges stands, one in the middle of the parade, and one that the end. When we got to the first one, they made a special announcement, “This is our Jim Priddy, from Lockhart.” Everybody cheered that day.

His daughter said, “With the state he’s in, I figured he’d be dog-tired and sleep for a week. I never saw so lively and animated and feeling so good as he did that day.”

He passed away six months later.

He never had a chance to see the World War II memorial in Washington, DC, but he had his day in Lockhart.

Note: James Priddy passed away in January 2012.