Thursday, June 12, 2008

I Spied A Spy ...

Did you ever know a spy? I mean a real honest to goodness spy? I did. In fact, I still do. Allow me to start at the beginning.

1945 was a significant year. That year, World War II came to an end and Dale Priest came to a beginning. Someone may ask, “Who?” Dale Priest, born February, 1945, to Gene and Edna Priest of Beaumont. So why was the birth of Dale Priest such a significant event? I’ll tell you.

I was ten years old when Dale was born so our paths did not follow along the same lines. However our paths did manage to cross from time to time. One day in 1957 while I was home from college for the summer I sang in a quartet made up of some Beaumont buddies.

One day we were rehearsing in one of our homes. I was playing the bongo drums and the group was singing away. There entered into the room a boy who must have been all of 11 years old. He started banging out some rhythms on the dining room table. Well, the group had to stop their song. When you have a bongo player and a dining room table beater going at the same time, the beat most likely will get sloppy. In other words, when the downbeat gets on the upbeat, you are going to have problems.

One in our group said, “Hey the kid’s pretty good. We ought to sign him up.” One of the others responded, “Naw, he’s too young.” That kid was Dale Priest. Although I saw Dale at church all of the time, the dining table rhythm episode was our first personal encounter.

A few years later after finishing college, serving in the U. S. Army, and getting married, I was employed by the First Security National Bank in Beaumont and assigned to their internal auditing department.

One day at the bank I received a phone call. The caller identified himself stating that he was with the U. S. Secret Service. I wondered, “What have I gotten into now?” The man asked, “Do you know a Dale Priest?” Then I wondered, “What has Dale done now?” The man explained that Dale who now was in the Army had applied for a Top-Secret Clearance so that he might qualify to handle some sensitive assignments for the U. S. Government.

I assured the man that I knew Dale and his family and that they were good solid American citizens. Then the man asked me more specifically what I thought of Dale. I said, “I would trust Dale Priest to transport personally one million dollars in cash from Beaumont to California with no paperwork involved. I can assure you sir that the money would be delivered on time and as directed.”

The SS agent then wanted me to come up with at least one thing that might go against Dale’s character. I recalled that for years, Dale had dated one of the very nice young ladies at church so I said, “Well, sir … maybe he likes girls too much.” The man said, “You can’t hold that against a guy can you?” I replied, “No sir, guess you can’t.”

Some years later, I saw Dale in a Beaumont restaurant. I joined him at his table and we enjoyed a really great visit. We exchanged some stories of life and I discovered that Dale indeed had been a spy. In fact, he remains fluent in the German language.

And today? Dale, having completed his PhD. at Rice in 1979, continues to serve as Dr. Dale G. Priest, Professor of English, Lamar University.

And I still am so proud to know a real honest to goodness spy.

Winston Hamby


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