A Very Strange Bird Is The Pelican


On the road… again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek


A Very Strange Bird Is The Pelican

Having a short name with only 6 letters didn’t limit the number of ways his family name was mispronounced or misspelled. In junk mail, in particular, it showed up as Pell, or Pelle, or Pellik, Pollock, Pallek, Pelleck, or Pellick.  When he was a candidate for the military draft after graduating college, the recruiters managed to mess up his last name in such a way that the story about what happened sounds like it was made-up.

At that time, the Footloose Forester was renting a post office mailbox in a small town in California that was chosen because it was at the crossroads where he passed on his way to different consulting jobs.  He didn’t have a permanent residence, so a rented post office box in Grass Valley, California became his official mailing address.  And he only checked his mail there about every 2-3 weeks. The mail piled up while he was “On the road…again!”

It so happened that all of the recruiting literature from the military services had arrived while he was on a long consulting trip. When he finally emptied out the overstuffed box, he realized that everybody military was interested in talking with him.  Yet, when it came to getting his last name right, the Navy spelled it one way; the Army recruiter spelled it a different way, and the Air Force recruiter spelled it a third way—but all of them spelled it wrong!  Only the official letter from the US Army—the one with his draft notice enclosed—got it right. 

Surnames aside, the nicknames he remembers are the links with the past that have personal connotations that were bestowed by family, friends, classmates and Army buddies. A few were irritating at the time, but he learned how to overcome the irritation and to laugh at himself.  Thus, to this very day, he recalls that, “A very strange bird is the pelican; its bill can hold more than its belly can.”  That label of Pelican goes back to grammar school.





At home, it was always Dick, except when his mother was miffed about something. Then it was Richard, including a cold stare.  At school, a few friends clung to Rich.  In the Army, the first alternative moniker was proclaimed by a voluble GI buddy who decided that “Pegleg” was going to be the new call sign.  Pegleg stuck until it was time to move to another post.  The last of the nicknames was also created by Army buddies who shared our workspace in the basement of a former Luftwaffe base in Germany. Since the Footloose Forester was a happy guy who was not embarrassed to sing aloud whenever and wherever he wanted, the guys labeled him Perry (for Perry Como) Pellek.  Even the Company Commander called him Perry.





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