LINDEN, Texas - It was wartime all over the world, and American troops were headed for the killing fields in Europe and the South Pacific. It was 1943, and I daily met the troop trains in Imlay, Nev., to sell newspapers to the troops. The newspapers were fifteen cents, and every soldier gave me at least a quarter and said keep the change.

It's been about a thousand years ago, but I still remember some of those soldiers faces well. Whenever I talked to one of the troops, I was always wondering, will he come home alive? Will he be one that's cut down by a sniper? Will he lose an arm or a leg, or his life?

What made it doubly troubling to me was the fact my older brother, Jess, was already in Europe fighting the crazy one and his armies.

Jess was an Army infantryman, a machine gunner, and we were very concerned about his safety. Would he ever come back to Imlay safely? Our worries were constant, and I realized that every soldier on those troop trains had loved ones at home waiting for the wars end, and the safe return of their hero. Every soldier was someone's hero.

When I sold a paper, the soldier always wanted to talk. They asked about Imlay, about me. Did I have any pretty sisters? Did I have family members going off to war? Every window of every passenger car was open, and the openings were filled with troops.

Then I met the one troop that is stamped on my mind indelibly. For starters, he was extra special good looking. He was like an identical twin of Tyrone Power. You young'uns don't know about Tyrone. Just ask an older lady, and watch her swoon. But mainly, he had a sad sad look on his face. Like, almost in tears. I brightened his face by asking, are you Tyrone's brother?

That got him to talking, and he never let me leave until the train pulled out. He said, you remind me of my younger brother. I said you remind me of Tyrone Power. He asked if I had anyone in the service. I swelled with pride as I stated my older brother is over there whipping up on old Adolph. Hey, that's where I'm headed. The both of us together will whip up on the old boy real good.

He told me he was from Chicago, lived with his mother and younger brother, and had just finished high school. Said he played football and baseball.

The train's engineer blew the whistle to leave, and he said, give me a paper. He bought the Nevada State Journal, Reno's morning paper, and I said, I'm sorry, I can't break that five dollar bill. You can just have the paper. No, he said, you keep the five. I want you to have it. I'd probably just lose it playing poker anyway. Besides, it's like I'm giving it to my kid brother. Good luck, young man, he said, as the train started moving.

I watched as he went out of sight, the passenger car went out of sight, until the train disappeared off into the distance, headed, for some of the troops, to eternity.

I often reminisce about the troop trains moving through Imlay during the War, about the troops that I came in contact with, and about Tyrone's "brother."

I hope he made it home alive, and lived a long and happy and healthy life. Hey, I just thought. He could still be alive. I have friends that are WWII veterans. Anyway, I remember him well, and not just because of the five spot, which burned a hole in my pocket all the way to the "Beanery."

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What's your pet peeve? One of mine is watching a movie in the movie theater, and having someone ask, did you see that? No, I didn't see anything. I just paid ten dollars to stare at the floor.

Roy Bale can be reached via email at

Roy Bale is taking a short break from his column-writing duties. This column originally appeared in the Review-Miner in June of 2012.