Ashlander recounts ‘Nam’ in book of misadventures

Ashland resident Earl “Buddy” Cousins has plenty of Vietnam stories to tell.

He collects his assorted misadventures and wartime photography in his first e-book, “NAM! The Hell If I Wanted to Go!”

Earl "Buddy" Cousins, author of “NAM! The Hell If I Wanted to Go!”

“It’s about a guy that didn’t want to go to Vietnam that was drafted and once there did the best he could,” Cousins said.

He self-published late last year through the Amazon Kindle store, and he freely admits that “the book is no masterpiece of grammar.”

“If you want that, read Hemingway. … If you’re looking for a fun story, this is fun,” Cousins said.

He said some of his stories may sound contrived, “but I’ll go on the lie detector for any of them.”

After he was drafted in 1967, Cousins started out in an infantry unit but soon got tapped to be the public information officer.

“I knew that it wasn’t all that I thought it was going to be when they said, ‘You take this 35 millimeter and shoot with that. We’ll take your weapon,’” he recalled.

However, one day he was told to carry a gun, and he picked a 45-caliber—a weapon he was never entirely comfortable with.

That got him in some trouble. He forgot he had the safety off and accidentally fired a shot, and a sergeant thought he was trying to kill him.

He faced some disciplinary action at the company level, but the sergeant didn’t think it was enough.

A fellow officer leapt to Cousins’ defense, telling the sergeant that if he wanted to kill him, he’d have just thrown a hand grenade under his bed—Cousins knew he couldn’t hit anything with a 45.

“I’m like, ‘Don’t laugh.’ It was funny as hell, but I said, ‘If you laugh, you’re done. Don’t laugh.’”

Another time, Cousins was taking pictures from a helicopter, and the chopper got hit.

During the commotion, a shell casing shattered his camera lens, causing him to drop another lens, which rolled out the open door of the helicopter.

While Cousins cursed the lens’s unfortunate fate, one of the pilots reminded him of a more pressing issue—namely that the helicopter was going down.

Ultimately, it wasn’t a dramatic or fiery crash, and it didn’t cause any injuries.

“It was fun to laugh, because nobody got hurt. You can always chuckle at those things. And it was just a series of things like that that I wanted to bring out in the book,” Cousins said.

The stories are varied. One involves a misunderstanding in a Vietnamese massage parlor. Another details an encounter with what at first appeared to be a cat. There are also anecdotes involving dogs at the camp.

After he wrote the book, an agent took an interest, but Cousins wasn’t interested in the contract presented to him. For one thing, it would have demoted him to a ghostwriter, essentially.

“[The agent’s] comeback was, ‘Well nobody knows you yet.’ My comeback was, ‘And if I do this, they still won’t,’” Cousins said.

Uploading the Microsoft Word document to the Kindle store didn’t pose too many problems, once he figured out the appropriate way to insert the chapter breaks.

The interior photographs proved more problematic. The files were too large and wouldn’t go through, and each question he posed to Amazon had a 24-hour delay. It all worked out eventually.

“If you’re doing the photographs, you’ve got to make sure you get the latest and greatest update from them for their specifications as to what you can do,” he said.

With the e-book completed and up for sale, Cousins is now working on writing screenplays.

“Scripts are far easier to do than a book,” he said. “The book is much more intense [to write].”

Posted on Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 12:32 pm