As I leaned on the sandbags, watching the road on the other side of the trees,
I saw the old pick-up. It was moving erratically and the camper shell was open
in the back. Then I saw the weapons sticking out of the windows, like a bunch
of Mid Western dove hunters. At that time I knew that all of the training we
had received was going to be tested. Someone sounded the alarm and the whole
group of us prepared for the oncoming assault. I adjusted my bulletproof vest
and my Kevlar helmet and then took a defensive stance as I released the safety
on my M-16. The guys in the truck started firing their weapons at us and we
proceeded to return fire. I remembered how the range instructor told us to fire
in short bursts, 3 to 4 rounds at a time. As I squeezed of the short bursts
I felt a rush of excitement. Soon the truck disappeared up the road and everything
returned to a level that we called normal.
This short combat scenario was being carried out at a small base in central Wisconsin. Fortunately, for all of the participants the weapons were loaded with blank ammunition. The Air Force calls these sessions an Operational Ready Exercise. It is a practice operation to prepare us for the Operational Ready Inspection. Besides the flak jackets and Kevlar helmets, we wore full chemical protective gear. This consisted of a very thick, and consequently hot, pants and jacket along with heavy rubber gloves and boots. When the alarm goes off for a chemical attack we get to don a protective mask with a thin rubber hood attached. All of this gear was pretty warm, even though it was only early June in Wisconsin. We were practicing for the ORI that was scheduled for mid August in Mississippi.
As I reset the safety on my weapon, I told my supervisor, standing next to me, that I was getting too old for this kind of thing. I also realized, at that time, that I really did not want to experience Mississippi, in a Chemical suit, in the middle of August. I had earlier learned of a way to retire early from the Air Force and my Civil Service job, so I decided to follow up on that option.
This meant that we would have to leave Colorado Springs, since the cost of living was too high for our fixed income. We had previously been looking at possible retirement areas, so we had some good options.
During that spring, I found that I was not the only cross dresser in the world also. I had started attending a TG support group in Colorado Springs and was starting to get to know Jamie Renae better. Since I no longer had to worry about my security clearance affecting my job, I was much more comfortable getting out around town, while dressed as Jamie.
I got to know several ladies of the group and we were having some really fun meetings. When my wife and I decided that we would move to Arkansas, for retirement, there were lots of “I am so sorry that you have to go live in Arkansas”. I did not know what faced us there either.
When we went to visit and look for a place to live we found that the North West section of the state was very scenic. We found a small unimproved acreage and purchased it. After we returned to Colorado we continued to receive the “Akie” comments. I was apprehensive anyway, so the comments tended to aggravate the situation. I was afraid that I was going to lose some of my new found freedom.
It took us all of the summer and most of the fall before we cleaned up all of our responsibilities in Colorado. With the house sold and goodbyes said we packed up our belongings and moved them to the Fayetteville Arkansas area. It was mid November and we had cleared enough of our land to park our motorhome at the front so that we had a place to live. Everything else was in storage, so Jamie had a very small wardrobe available. It turned out that Jim was so busy clearing more brush and working on the new house construction that Jamie was pretty well kept inside. It was almost a year before the house was finished and we moved in. At that time my wife and I had found part time jobs to help augment our retirement income and purchase appliances and other large items for the house. It was also a time that Jamie could become more active.
I had built a website and had been conversing with other Sisters in the area already, so when I found the time to venture into the public once again I had a friend to go with. She was a cross dresser, with the same priorities that I had. We both just wanted to get out, as women, and enjoy ourselves. I have to admit that I was very apprehensive as I drove out of my driveway, dressed as a woman, in Arkansas. I soon realized the same thing I had discovered in Colorado. Driving down the road, people don’t have time to look and discover that you are a guy in a dress. Now, getting out of the car was a different story. My first visit was to a local, gay, drag club. I got there after dark and had no problems with the patrons in the club. I had met Trixie outside and we walked in together. After that night I became more and more confidant that I could visit the Gay bars and stay relatively secure. I did learn what most women have had to learn over the years. I started to park in a well lit parking lot and always had my keys ready. I was able to recall some of my military experience of keeping aware of my surroundings too.
As time went on I got more and more comfortable with letting Jamie get out in public. I guess the biggest advance was that winter. I decided to let Jamie do the Christmas shopping. I had been out on short trips and was pretty confident, but a Saturday morning at the Mall was going to be a challenge. I got the car parked and entered Dillard’s through my favorite side entrance. I had been browsing the sale racks for some time, when I approached the women’s fitting room. Sitting in the “husband’s” chair was a coworker. He looked straight through me and I just kept moving through the racks. I continued on with my shopping and had a great time. It was actually a first in other ways. This was the first time I was dressed as Jamie and was shopping for clothes in the Men’s department. Talk about foreign!!!
The day ended and I was home safely. In retrospect I came to realize that I was not going to be recognized when I was out en femme. This gave me an added confidence. I started to get out to other places of business dressed. I work part time so I have Fridays off. I often use this time to go to town and get whatever I need to get done, from visiting local department stores to home improvement centers.
On one evening, during this time, I had been to the drag club and had driven our newly purchased car. Arkansas has a 30 day grace period to enable you to drive a vehicle without license plates, during the title process. All you have is the registration receipt. I left the club around 1:00 am and drove home. Since I don’t drink and drive, especially in girl mode, I was just driving carefully. As I drove through the small town I live in a local police officer evidently noticed my lack of license plate. He followed me for a short distance and then his lights came on. I thought to myself, this is going to get interesting. I pulled over and turned on my interior lights. I got my license and homemade TG ID card out of my purse. With the window lowered, I greeted the officer. He asked for my license, insurance and registration. I gave it all to him as well as my TG ID card. He took the collection back to his patrol car. He returned shortly with all of my papers and said that he just wanted to verify my registration. His curiosity in that subject was satisfied. As he handed my papers back he commented that the extra ID was a big help, that he would not have recognized me otherwise. I thanked him and said goodnight. We parted ways and I felt a great relief!!! This was what I had feared most about being in this part of the Country. I was very pleasantly surprised with the actions of the officer. He was courteous and very professional. I was starting to feel much more comfortable living in this area.
Since that time I have started to get out in public with much more confidence and comfort. I had another run in with law enforcement, concerning an inoperable headlight. This was in a different small town, but the experience was very similar. Jamie was treated with respect and courtesy.
I am currently involved with many facets of Transgender support, so I am often in Fayetteville talking with hotel managers, restaurant personnel, and all kinds if sales people. With each of these, I have had nothing but positive treatment and feedback from everyone I have dealt with. I do admit that I notice some people reacting as I am walking in the Mall or in a restaurant, but I have never been subjected to any kind of negative comments or actions. I do feel that a look of confidence, the proper outfit and a big smile go a long way to let us blend in with the rest of the world.
Some time ago I came to the realization that this area, North West Arkansas, has a very free thinking and open minded population. I feel that it is due to the University being here as well as the basic concept of ‘you do your thing and I’ll do mine” of the rural population that is all around. I know that there are places that would be hazardous to go to, but you can find those everywhere.
In retrospect; I can feel comfortable in visiting my friends in Colorado and telling them that they were in error with their comments. I have found North West Arkansas to be a very friendly, as well as a beautiful, place to live.
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