IN ITALY, February 21, 1944 – The company commander said to me, "Every man in this company deserves the Silver Star."
We walked around in the olive grove where the men of the company were sitting on the edges of their foxholes, talking or cleaning their gear.
"Let’s go over here," he said. "I want to introduce you to my personal hero."
I figured that the lieutenant’s own "personal hero," out of a whole company of men who deserved the Silver Star, must be a real soldier indeed.
Then the company commander introduced me to Sgt. Frank Eversole, who shook hands sort of timidly and said, "Pleased to meet you," and then didn’t say any more.
I could tell by his eyes and by his slow and courteous speech when he did talk that he was a Westerner. Conversation with him was sort of hard, but I didn’t mind his reticence for I know how Westerners like to size people up first.
The sergeant wore a brown stocking cap on the back of his head. His eyes were the piercing kind. I noticed his hands – they were outdoor hands, strong and rough.
Later in the afternoon I came past his foxhole again, and we sat and talked a little while alone. We didn’t talk about the war, but mainly about our West, and just sat and made figures on the ground with sticks as we talked.
We got started that way, and in the days that followed I came to know him well. He is to me, and to all those with whom he serves, one of the great men of the war.
Frank Eversole’s nickname is "Buck." The other boys in the company sometimes call him "Buck Overshoes," simply because Eversole sounds a bit like "overshoes."
Buck was a cowboy before the war. He was born in the little town of Missouri Valley, Iowa, and his mother still lives there. But Buck went West on his own before he was sixteen, and ever since has worked as a ranch hand. He is twenty-eight, and unmarried.
He worked a long time around Twin Falls, Idaho, and then later down in Nevada. Like so many cowboys, he made the rodeos in season. He was never a star or anything. Usually he just rode the broncs out of the chute for pay – seven-fifty a ride. Once he did win a fine saddle. He has ridden at Cheyenne and the other big rodeos.
Like any cowboy, he loves animals. Here in Italy one afternoon Buck and some other boys were pinned down inside a one-room stone shed by terrific German shellfire. As they sat there, a frightened mule came charging through the door. There simply wasn’t room inside for men and mule both, so Buck got up and shooed him out the door. Thirty feet from the door a direct hit killed the mule. Buck has always felt guilty about it.
Another time Buck ran onto a mule that was down and crying in pain from a bad shell wound. Buck took his .45 and put a bullet through its head. "I wouldn’t have shot him except he was hurtin’ so," Buck says.
Buck Eversole has the Purple Heart and two Silver Stars for bravery. He is cold and deliberate in battle. His commanders depend more on him than on any other man. He has been wounded once, and had countless narrow escapes. He has killed many Germans.
He is the kind of man you instinctively feel safer with than with other people. He is not helpless like most of us. He is practical. He can improvise, patch things, fix things.
His grammar is the unschooled grammar of the plains and the soil. He uses profanity, but never violently. Even in the familiarity of his own group his voice is always low. He is such a confirmed soldier by now that he always says "sir" to any stranger. It is impossible to conceive of his doing anything dishonest.
After the war Buck will go back West to the land he loves. He wants to get a little place and feed a few head of cattle, and be independent.
"I don’t want to be just a ranch hand no more," he says. "It’s all right and I like it all right, but it’s a rough life and it don’t get you nowhere. When you get a little older you kinda like a place of your own."
Buck Eversole has no hatred for Germans. He kills because he’s trying to keep alive himself. The years roll over him and the war becomes his only world, and battle his only profession. He armors himself with a philosophy of acceptance of what may happen.
"I’m mighty sick of it all," he says very quietly, "but there ain’t no use to complain. I just figured it this way, that I’ve been given a job to do and I’ve got to do it. And if I don’t live through it, there’s nothing I can do about it."