Monday, September 06, 2021

The Brown Bomber

In Memory of Ernest Alderete 

By Daniel A. Olivas

Pop’s chestnut skin glistened, tight and strong as he dove into Venice Beach’s foamy waves and then shot up like a mortar and yelled, “I’m the Brown Bomber!” This was his favorite beach line.

So, for years, whenever I heard the Brown Bomber mentioned, I figured everyone just knew Pop. I mean, he was brown and he fought in Korea as a Marine. He eventually admitted that other men were known as “Brown Bomber” including one who still lived in Monterey Park not too far from us.

The Brown Bomber: A war hero, my Pop said, who couldn’t wait for his amphibious vehicle to reach the cold, dark Normandy shore. The way Pop told it, the Brown Bomber liberated dozens of death camps almost single-handedly.

But the Brown Bomber’s second life, after the war, is what made my eyes widen and my teeth click with excitement. The Brown Bomber helped make a movie! And not just any movie. He’s the one who, through celluloid trickery, made the swarming black ants in Them! look huge – bigger than a house – so they could eat everything from El Paso to L.A.

But the Brown Bomber died at the dawn of the new millennium. Killed not by a bullet or giant ant, but by the ordinary course of time at a commendable, wintry age. His daughters sprinkled his ashes along Yosemite’s dusty hiking trails. Trails he helped build under the New Deal.

So, I guess Pop could borrow that moniker now. It’s free to use. I’m sure the real Brown Bomber wouldn’t care. Not really.

[“Brown Bomber” first appeared in the literary journal Muse Apprentice Guild, and is featured in Crossing the Border: Collected Poems (Pact Press).]

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