First person: Labor of love

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson Donald Bird plans to repaint the Duster at Veterans Park in May. He served in Vietnam, and said the weapon saved his life numerous times.

Donald Bird considers the M42 Duster a life-saver, and probably as close to a friend as a machine can get. But he doesn’t consider it a tank, as it is often mislabeled.

“Automatic weapon self propelled,” said Bird, 61.

The Anadarko, Okla., native and Vietnam veteran spent his combat days in a similar M42 Duster, a line of weapons known for the slogan “First to fire, last to leave.”

When he saw the one at Veterans Park, he said he wanted to cry due to the years of neglect. He volunteered to re-paint the Duster, using city-supplied paint, for no charge. The city will also allow him to add his personal touch — battery designations from a Duster he rode in Vietnam.

Bird said there’s no altruistic aim for his work; he simply wants to see the Duster in its best possible condition. He plans to start his effort after May 1, whenever the wind relents.

Military time: I enlisted in the military in ’68. Served in the Duster in ’68, ’69, ’70 and ’71. If they didn’t have this thing welded up, I could show you a bunch of things.

On coming to Clovis about 10 years ago: I had a son here. I came out to meet him; I hadn’t seen him in many years. I just liked the place.

The job: It’s not just a paint job, It’s a labor of love. I figure, at most, three, maybe four days. I’ll bring my pressure washer out here. get it clean first. If I need to, I’ll use some Bondo.

Recreating a memory: Right here on the front (of our Duster), we had a design. It was a naked lady, breasts showing. It didn’t go really big with the city; (they’re) going to put a city logo on instead.

— Compiled by CNJ staff writer Kevin Wilson