Remembering Bryant, Don and Bill

Published 8:02 pm Thursday, March 6, 2014

My first cousin Bryant Harrill dropped out of college when WWII began to join the Army Air Corps, where he was trained as an airplane mechanic. When he learned he would be assigned to a flight crew, he decided that if he were going to ride in a bomber, he wanted to be flying it. He applied for pilot training and flew B-17s for gunnery training after getting his wings.
He soon was made airplane commander of a B-29 crew, raiding Japan from Tinian Island. Bryant was recalled to active duty during the Korean War, flying B-36s out of Carswell AFB near Fort Worth, Texas.
I was in the Air Force, stationed at Waco Texas at that time, and spent many great weekends with Bryant in Fort Worth. Once he took me aboard his airplane for a complete tour. He also let me ride his motor bike, which he always hung on the bomb shackles of the B-36 so he could be on his way soon after they landed.
Bryant was my favorite cousin even though he marked me for life. I went to live next door to him in Wateree, S.C. when I was about 4 and he 12. He made us a “soap box” car and we played together a lot that summer. One day he decided to climb up between two buildings, wedging two pipes between them in succession as he climbed. Of course, I was underneath taking it all in when a pipe slipped out and conked me on the head. I still have the crease in my skull.
Another time Bryant picked up a large frog between two sticks and came at me with it. If he had picked it up with his hand, I would have taken it, but since he would not touch it, I wouldn’t either. When I turned and ran, I tripped and fell on a wooden stake, which opened a hole in my cheek. When I put a finger through the hole and felt my teeth, and found plenty of blood on the finger, I ran home screaming. I still have that scar, too.
My friend Don Pattie earned his Navy wings of gold before WWII started. I met him when he stayed overnight with my grandparents en route to a new assignment. Don forever endeared himself to this 10-year-old by letting me use his big 7×50 Navy binoculars to look at airplanes flying overhead.
Pattie flew carrier-based TBF torpedo planes in sub patrols along the Atlantic coast and SBD dive bombers over the Mediterranean. He was written up in a book called “Hunter-Killer” for sinking a German U-boat with depth charges from his TBF – when the sub’s bow came out of the water, he put three rockets in it for good measure.
Don wrote several books himself, notably one about his WWII service called “To Cock a Cannon,” so named because most of the men who fought were innocent of the weapons and ways of war. He also published a volume of poetry, in addition to a philosophical one reflecting his more than four score years of living.
Don and wife Marguerite’s main residence is in Zephyr Hills, Fa., but they had homes here in Columbus and in Green River Cove. Marguerite would always prepare a sumptuous feast for their friends whenever they were in town. Don and his late sister Mary Trucks were dear friends of my late Aunt Mildred Rippy and of Fran and me in turn. Their father built the Pattie building in Columbus, which now houses Southern Manners restaurant.
I will also miss Bill Sherlin from his fortress-like jewelry store in Tryon. He kept our fine watches running and batteries in our lesser ones while he lived. He thought I was my brother Bill when I retired, but he hid his disappointment well and always welcomed me with a smile and good humor.

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