Of his tour of duty of Vietnam from 1966 to 1967 (Marine Lance Corporal E 3) “Mickey” James Milton Gover says, “Keeping your mind focused is better than losing that focus and dying. Rules are different in a firefight. Those out there want you dead.”
Before joining the Marines, Gover led a life that was not as focused as it might have been, but it certainly is interesting and typical of some young boys.
A drag racer, he was in and out of courtrooms on speeding violations and reckless driving arrests as he was the proud owner of a 1951 two-door Ford coupe with a V-8 engine. He had a cousin who was a state trooper, so he avoided even more arrests by lying low when his relative was afoot in the neighborhoods of Pulaski County.
With his love for cars, Gover worked at the Cooper Brothers Standard Oil Service Station pumping gas, changing tires and spark plugs and doing tune ups.
At the time Gover was a teen, Pulaski was a dry county, and Gover had a lucrative business selling cold beer from the special compartment that he built in his second car, a 1953 Chevy convertible, in the place where the convertible top is stored. The business was going great guns until he sold an undercover deputy sheriff a quart of cold beer and that was the end of the venture. His cousin Pauline decided that he should move to Lexington, live with her and “stay out of trouble.” He worked for Pauline’s husband, Jerry, and another cousin who owned a nursery.
Pauline had friends in very high places, and Gover’s record was expunged.
He, however, went home one weekend to Pulaski County where he and his friends rolled a car two or three times on Ringold Road. When the state trooper asked,”How fast were you going?” they responded. “35 miles per hour.” The trouper was furious and Gover decided it was time for him to join his father in Piqua, OH, and go to work at Miami Industries.
His father, a grain and cattle farmer, went to Ohio after his property at Sardis, was flooded to create Lake Cumberland. Gover reports, “Losing the farm was traumatic for dad, but I was too young to see the gravity of the situation.”
In Piqua, Ohio, Gover went to work with his father at Miami Industries. Of that time, he says, “God knew I needed someone to shake me up.” That’s when he met his wife, Shirley, who initially refused to date him. She relented, and they recently celebrated their fiftieth anniversary.
But back to Vietnam. Gover had been married to Shirley for two years when he received his draft notice from the U.S. Army. He indicates, “Vietnam was heating up, and they
needed warm bodies. When I went to the post office in 1966 and told the recruiter I had always wanted to be a Marine, his response was ‘Come right on in.’”
First, it was boot camp at San Diego Recruit Depot and then on to Camp Pendleton for infantry and jungle warfare training. At Pendleton Gover says, “I volunteered for machine gun training. Everyone in Kentucky had guns. My oldest brother, Oakley, put a shotgun in my hand when I was seven or eight, and dad gave me a 22 rifle when I was 12.
“ I loved my M-14. It was everything a soldier could want in a high-powered rifle: accurate, reliable, and I could hit a small target at 500-700 yards. It had a smooth, sweet action. I could walk through a river or lie in the mud, and it would still work.”
“At 22, I was one of the oldest guys when I landed in Da Nang. That was an experience because before we went into landing mode, we were instructed to buckle up tight because of the landing (dive bombing and flattening out, all very quickly) and the possibility of small-arms fire. There was none, but we were mortared in the Quonset hut my first night there.”
He was assigned to Golf Company Second Battalion Ninth Regiment, and it was off to Dong Ha in a C-130. His mood changed rapidly, “This was a sobering experience and for the first time I paid attention. I took training seriously.”
He tells of a particular event in north country around Camp Carroll. The gunny told the platoon they were going on a mission on the DMZ, leaving at midnight and expecting to be at the target by morning. They were also told to be on the alert for gunfire at any time.
They walked in pitch dark with the normal weight of 60-pound gear, and each member of the platoon carried 100 rounds of machine-gun ammunition.
They arrived at daylight and found themselves being ambushed by Vietcong who were positioned in a swale in trenches behind hedgerows. At 50 feet from the hedgerow, the squad leader, a corporal, was shot in the neck. It took the entire day to clear the hedgerows, but no American soldiers were killed, not even the corporal who survived the gunshot and had a second tour of duty in Vietnam.
Gover says, “When a bullet goes past you, if it’s close enough to your ear, you hear a snap. We were only saved because the enemy did not know exactly where we were.”
He laughs as he says, “I had traded for two cans of beanie weenies which were prize items in Vietnam, worth cigarettes and several cans of lima beans. Both my cans of beanie weenies were ruined by rifle fire.”
When he enlisted in the Marines in 1966, Gover neglected to tell the recruiters at the post office that he had bleeding ulcers. They acted up again toward the end of his tour of duty in Vietnam, and his new job was to go into the field to see what the soldiers needed. A typical response was, “The guys want some beer.”
And his response was “Tough s—-, so do I.”
When his two-year enlistment was up, he had quite a little bankroll and he wanted a new car. He ordered a 1968 Oldsmobile 442 convertible from a Piqua dealer. He went in every day to see if it had arrived until one day the owner/manager Dick Crumback said, “You’re here every day. You might as well come work for us.”
He did. He became a partner, then an owner and in 1985 sold the dealership.
His next work was for a period of 12 years in a non-profit for children and families. He reports that the work was important and gratifying and when he eventually sold
it, he believed his work life ad come to a close.
That was not to be. One night in 1998 his only child, Jim Jr., called him at 1 a.m. and said, “A Harley-Davidson dealership is up for sale, and we have to buy it.” There’s no doubt Jim Jr., had heard his dad talk about the old 1940 Harley which was his first motorcycle, a bike that he worked on and rode until it quit then pushed home, worked on it some more and rode it – with no license- until it quit again.
They bought the dealership, and Gover has lots of stories about that from the generosity of tattooed biker types with arms as big as oak trees to the first-time owner who is naïve enough to think that a few turn around the parking lot and he’s good to go on the open highway. Gover rides a Heritage Softtail Classic, “the greatest bike in the world.” He says, however, “I’m not a biker. I’m a businessman who owns a motorcycle dealership.”
Gover says, “My mom and dad were both people of great integrity and taught me well. I drifted some before I woke up and realized what it was all about. I looked death in the eye both in Vietnam and when I suffered a heart attach in October of 2013. God kept me here for a reason. Hopefully, I can help others as I travel the road of life. My wife, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter are such an inspiration to me, and I am truly blessed.
In closing, I’ll say, check his dealership out on the web. It’s fantastic. www.goverhd.com
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