The Real Mr. Rogers
by Leroy B. Vaughn
I walked into the American Legion post for breakfast one morning and the regulars were already seated and into the days discussion. You never knew what the topic for the day was, except that it was usually something about conservative politics, or war stories.
The former force recon Marine was grilling Hank about an article that Hank had written in that months Post magazine. The retired Air Force N.C.O was listening to the discussion while the ex-C.I.A. man who claimed to be an agricultural advisor in Afghanistan read the story in the Post magazine.
“Gentlemen,” I said as I sat down. “What’s going on?” I needed to know.
The Force Recon man told me that he had just finished reading the Mr. Rogers story that Hank had written and he wanted to know if I thought it was true.
“Haven’t had a chance to see this month’s magazine yet.” I told him as he pushed a copy towards me.
“Old Hank here says he met Mr. Rogers in San Francisco a few years ago, and Mr. Rogers confirmed that he was a Navy Seal in Viet Nam. He also claims that Mr. Rogers had the highest number of confirmed kills in Nam.”
“Are you talking about the Mr. Rogers that had the kiddie show on television back in the seventies and eighties,” I asked.
“That’s the same Mr. Rogers that we’re talking about,” the ex- Air Force man confirmed, while the retired C.I.A. man who thought everybody believed he was really some kind of farm specialist, signalled the waitress for more coffee.
I told Hank the writer that I had heard this story before, but I assumed that it was another urban legend. I ordered breakfast and ate while the two former Marines continued to discuss Mr. Roger’s war record. The C.I.A. man pushed his copy of the magazine over to me and I read the Mr. Rogers story, while I ate my eggs.
Hank swore that he had met Mr. Rogers during a tail-hook convention in San Francisco and that Mr. Rogers was wearing a Seal t-shirt, showing the muscles in his arms, as well as all of the Navy style tattoos that covered both arms.
“That’s the reason you always see Mr. Rogers wearing those goofy looking sweaters that zip up in the front on his television show to cover the tats,” Hank informed the group.
The ex-Force Recon marine told Hank that Mr. Rogers was an ordained minister and on top of that he was a frail looking person.
“Yeah he might not look real strong today, but remember he’s been out of the Navy for a long time. A man could get real soft doing a kid’s television show, don’t you think,” Hank replied as he announced that he was through discussing Mr. Rogers.
“I’m standing by my story, whether you guys believe it or not. I met the man.” Hank said as he stood up to leave.
I talked with the boys for a while longer and then told them I was heading home. I had some research to do. They knew me as an amateur de-bunker of urban legends and I did not have to say anything else. I did my research at home and found that Mr. Rogers was born on March 20, 1928. This would have made him thirty five years old at the time the Navy Seals were first deployed to Viet Nam in 1963. A thirty five year old sailor would most likely be a career man, putting in at least twenty years in the Navy. The Navy Seals were formed in March, 1962. Mr. Rogers was in the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary at that time. He graduated in 1963 from the Seminary. Upon graduation, Mr. Rogers was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. Mr. Roger’s biography states that he never served in the military. His television show, Mr. Rogers neighborhood started in 1968.
Does it seem logical that a thirty five year old minister would go into combat as a Navy Seal sniper, after spending countless hours in tattoo parlors. Were the alleged tats done during or before the time he was in the seminary or during the time he was married and raising two sons? The internet states that the sweaters worn on every television show by Mr. Roger’s were hand knitted by his dear old mother, and he always wore them on his show as a tribute to her.
I was back at the breakfast table at the post the next morning with my notes. I waited for the usual crowd to file in and greeted a female member of the Legion as she joined us.
Hank looked like he was waiting for the flak to start, so I jumped right in. I gave the crew a full report on Mr. Rogers, while they read their menus.
Eyes rolled and the Force Recon man punched Hank on the shoulder before he responded, “Stick it up your asses boys. I’m sticking to my story. I met Mr. Rogers and you clowns didn’t. No offense to you Judy, you just got here.”
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Leroy B. Vaughn
Leroy B. Vaughn’s short stories, both true and fiction have been published in eight print magazines, eight e-zines, one newspaper, four pod-casts an anthology and another writers book. He is a retired law enforcement officer living in Arizona. He will make one of his short books on smashwords.com free to readers of The Flash Fiction Press. Use coupon # ZU62P for “The Free Lancers.”
4 thoughts on “The Real Mr. Rogers”
Great story! Nicely paced. My brother-in-law swears he saw Fred Rogers on Long Island once, coming out of a liquor store smoking a cigarette and carrying a six-pack of Bud.
Mr. Rogers sightings do not seem to be as common as Elvis sightings, but they seem to occur before former Marines or Navy Seals get together.
Thanks also Peter and Alvin. My next project may be the de-bunking of myths surrounding psychoanalysis.
Got me. You created a need in me to find the truth.
I liked the setting and the lingo. Perhaps unduly, I was put off by inconsistent capitalization and minor punctuation glitches. Introducing the author as a character whose role is exposing urban myths didn’t quite fit for me, blurring the “bunch of regular fellas” setting that is such a nice feature of the piece. AGB