Saturday, December 01, 2007

Gas

We had steaks tonight with a sweet potato. Jilda wrapped small bundles of green beans with lean bacon and baked them in the oven until the bacon was nice and brown. It was a scrumptious meal.
As we ate we turned on the tube and Private Benjamin was showing. Goldie Hawn played Private Benjamin and just watching that movie brought back memories of my experience in basic training.
I was drafted in 1971 and I spent the summer at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Ft. Campbell is on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee.
The marching began immediately:
Ain't no use in goin' home
Jodie's got your girl and gone
It seemed like we marched all over Kentucky. We'd march a while and then we'd run a while. The Army gave me my first cooking class....well, you probably couldn't call it a class, but I did peal a truckload of potatoes and I cleaned the floor of the mess hall with a toothbrush. Apparently I was cleaning the floor much to fast with the regular brush so the Mess Sargent found me a tiny brush to slow me down.
We also watched a bunch of training films on the various kinds of gas that could potentially be used on us. Towards the end of the training, they issued each of us a gas mask and sent us into a bunker one at a time. We put on our gas masks and walked up to the Drill Sargent who was standing inside with his gas mask on. You couldn't really see that good because there was a dense fog inside, like a hot shower on a cold morning. "TAKE OFF THE MASK WATSON!!" he ordered. I was hesitant but I took a long breath, held it, and took my mast off. My face and eye began to burn. "How's it going Watson," he said casually. "Fine Drill Sargent," I managed to rasp out still holding my breath. "What day it is Watson?" Tuesday Drill Sargent. Now my lungs were beginning to burn. "Where are you from Watson?" Dora, Alabama, I managed. "What's your social security number?" As I started reciting my social, my lungs ran out of breath and I had to inhale about a gallon of tear gas. He then let me out of bunker. I was coughing and sneezing at the same time and stuff came out of my head that probably should have remained up there somewhere. The objective of the exercise is to familiarize you with tear gas. I have been familiar ever since. Believe me, that exercise prevented me in participating in any form of public protests after I got out of the Army, because the last thing I wanted was another snoot full of tear gas.
That's probably more information that you wanted, but seeing the Army movie tonight brought that memory back and I actually winced when it showed the scene with them coming out of the gas chamber.
The last think I remember hearing as I walked off the Fort Jackson, South Carolina when I was discharged in 1973 was a group of new recruits marching somewhere -

A yellow bird, a yellow bill
Landed on my window sill
I lured him in with crumbs of bread
And then I stomped his little head

2 comments:

  1. Ken Owens12:26 PM

    Ranger Rick,
    It's kind of funny, you learning to cook in basic. I took dance lessons. It was in 1966 and the craze (at least where we were) was "The Fort Benning Boogey".

    The Fort Benning Boogey,
    What a crazy sound.
    Picking'em up, and
    Laying'em down.


    It bothers me to hear about the circumstances at work. I feel bad for those that are gone and those that are left behind.

    Thanks for the memories your blog stirs in me. If I had known way back when, how important memories are, I would have made more of them.

    Life 101, I thought it was a writing class. It turns out to be a lot of history also.
    Keep up the the good work pal.
    Ken

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