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At 15, Otha Holmes joined the Marines and saw much of the world. Now, 60 years later, Holmes is content to put down roots in Evansville and attend church in Henderson, Ky.

(Reprint from CourierPress.com, September 29, 2008)

Early to bed is motto of blues man and former Marine

"I could stay up all night long and go to work all the next day," 75-year-old Otha Holmes reminisced from the front stoop of his apartment at The Arbors in Evansville. "I can't do that anymore."

These days, the old Marine feels like hitting the sheets at 7 in the evening.

Holmes was born in Louisville, Ky., but spent a lot of time in Evansville as a kid.

"I had kin people here, and when school was out, I would come down here for the summer," he said. "I used to come out here and hunt all the time. This place was all wooded around here. If you look at it now, you wouldn't believe it."

Howlin' Wolf's harp cut through the silence on the late September afternoon. His big voice boomed from the small speaker in Holmes' RadioShack mono cassette player. The player sits in the basket of his Go-Go 3-wheel travel scooter. A guitar player most of his life, Holmes is a blues man.

When Holmes was only 15 years old, he decided it was time to get out on his own.

"I couldn't find no work, and I didn't have no money or nothing, and I went down to join the Army and (the recruiting office was closed)," he said. "I looked over to the Navy, and they were closed. Right down the hallway was the Marine Corps, and they were open.

"When we first got to boot camp they said, 'All you guys from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, take them knives and pistols outta your pockets,'" Holmes said with a grin.

Holmes was promoted to warrant officer before retiring after 22 years. These days, he's a member of the American Legion Post 354 in Evansville. Right down the street from the post, and on his list of places to go, is the Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic.

"I've got to go down there and get some blood work done," he said. "Every time I go down there, they take my blood pressure and heart pressure and everything, and it's good.


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