Saturday, October 29, 2005

Nothing New

Bane brings to mind that not much has changed when it comes to the American Soldier. For more than two hundred years, it has been de rigueur for the veteran soldiers to give the “fresh fish” a hard time.

“We were actually there for nearly a week, now, as I recall, maybe a little more, and those poor slobs suffered, as most of the time we were being blasted by a bad storm off the ocean, and these guys had no real woodcraft to speak of. Tim and I peeped out of our tents at them, as the storm hit, and the wind and rain began sweeping away their tents, and their gear. We would, between bouts of helpless laughter, and stopping to mix another drink, yell out helpful tips and encouragement to them.

"Fix that shitty fucking tent!" he would holler. Inspired, I yelled "You guys in the motherfuckin Navy? Cuz that sure looks like a fuckin sail, baby!" Then he would yell "Sure looks cold out there!"

”And so on.

”And we, warm and toasty, in our underwear, because it was nearly too hot inside, actually. We each had a candle light; that was something like a telescoping aluminum tube with a big white candle in it, and when you pulled it open, it exposed a glass window that had magnifying properties, and really lit up the tent so we could read one of several books we'd brought. And those candle thingies put out some heat, too. We hung them from little chains, over our respective areas.

”Then, at times, we would each pull out our respective cookware, our Sterno folding stoves and fuel, our spices and condiments, and prepare a feast. We each had a dozen eggs in plastic egg carriers, as well as several cases of C-Rats they'd dropped off with us, and a couple boxes of MRE's, and we feasted like kings. The smell of our cooking would waft down to those boys, and you would hear groaning. Their cook tent had become some fucked up, and getting hot meals in a hurricane, on flappy paper plates, is problematic. The smell of cooking...fresh eggs, bacon, and pan-biscuits, or pancakes, must have driven them to the edge of madness.

”They didn't mess with us because, well, we were grunts, and they knew it. Unless you've been around an active duty grunt, at the peak of his training, you might not understand. I never really got it myself, because I were one, and we all looked fairly normal to me, but others were scared shitless of us. Well, we'd have hurt or killed them for looking at us wrong, but really, we put our knife in one hole at a time just like everybody else, so I don't see the big deal.”

Nearly 150 years ago, during our own Civil War, the old guard acted pretty much the same (re: Wilbur Hinman, Corporal Si Klegg)

”The 200th was to lead the brigade that day, and as it marched past the old regiments the boys made the acquaintance of those who were to be their companions in camp and field… Listen to those ragged and depraved old soldiers as the men of the 200th Indiana, with their fresh faces, clean new clothes and burnished arms, go tramping by:

‘Here’s yer mules, boys! Look at the loads they’re packin’’

‘Fresh Fish!’

‘Thar ain’t no dew fell on ‘em yet.’

“… Si’s feelings were outraged. He wondered why men who were so lost to all decency were not court-martialed and shot. He straightened himself up and cast upon his tormentors a look of utter scorn. Sharp words of retort flew from his tongue, but they were lost in the chorus of wild yells of derision that greeted him.

“Better dry up, Si, said Shorty, them chaps is too many for ye. Wait till ye git a little more practice ‘fore ye try to talk to sich duffers ‘s they be.”

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