Hunting Buddies

submitted by: Alva Leon Matheson

When I finished pilot training in 1959, I was assigned to Wichita, Kansas to get checked out as a co-pilot in B-47s. The pilots got to pick their own co-pilot. Abe Kardong invited my wife and me to his house for dinner so we could get acquainted and to get an idea if we would be compatible on the crew. I guess I failed the test, as he chose someone else, but in the process of visiting that evening, we discovered that we shared a com- mon interest in bird hunting. Consequently we went pheasant and dove hunting several times and I saw to it that we always limited out. (Let them brag that can brag without lying)
I went with my new crew to McCoy AFB, Florida and Abe and his crew went to McDill AFB, Florida. After about eighteen months, we were both sent to Lincoln AFB, NE. Abe arrived before I did and had his shotgun cleaned and ready to go. This time we hunted in Superior, NE and shot 60 pheasants in two days, but Abe still didn’t want me as his co-pilot.
At the end of 1965 we went in separate directions. I went to B-52s at Minot AFB, and then to Vietnam, “ARC Light” with a PCS to Beale AFB, CA. Abe was assigned to B-58s in Indiana and then to SR-71s at Beale AFB. Well, as you may have guessed, we were there at the same time and spent many hours duck hunting together. Of course we always limited out, which was nothing new for either of us.
You would think that this would be the end of the story, but it isn’t. I was sent to DaNang AFB, Vietnam as the operations officer for the OV-10 side of the 20th TASS. My call sign was Covey 06. I arrived about 2130 hours on the 30th of June 1972. A jeep pulled up to the C-130 to take me to my quarters. The 20th TASS Commander–Abe Kardong, met me. We spent the next few hours reliving old hunting days.
The first mission is always flown in the back seat with an instructor in the front seat. Abe must have thought that God had something to do with us always meeting at a new base and hunting but never flying together so he took me on my first flight. He decided that it was safe to fly with me as an instructor, but not as a co-pilot.
It wasn’t long until we decided that hunting in Vietnam was something that we would both like to try. We called home and had some “bird shot” sent over, borrowed sawed off shotguns from the Air Police and proceeded to hunt for quail on the base. As usual, we did very well and bagged about 20 of them. However, hunting in grass that is four or five feet tall and that is known habitat for six-foot cobras is a real test of will, and resulted in some underwear “brown spots”. Abe had some connections at the Club on the base and we had a great quail dinner that night.
I belong to seven military organizations, one of which is the B-47 group from Lincoln AFB, NE. We had a reunion in Seattle in 1995. Abe was there and we sat and talked for hours about the great hunting trips we had over the years. He was diagnosed with cancer and died about a year later. I know that when we meet again, he still won’t want me as his co-pilot, but he’ll have his shotgun oiled and ready and we’ll be hunting buddies forever.