October flew by and I attempted to put all of
my affairs in order. I managed to sell both the crop spraying airplane and the truck which
was used to service it. There was certainly no reason for me to keep something like that
sitting around for the next 15 months until I returned. I decided to keep the car under
the possibility that I would be stationed at a base someplace in the states and could take
Janet and I were sort of officially engaged, our nightly petting sessions consisted of
nothing more than lots of heavy breathing and frustration. "Just wait until we are
married in June and I will give myself to you with the greatest enthusiasm," she
departing in a torrent of tears, I bid Janet goodbye on the night before I was to leave
and asked my dad to take me to Borger to catch the bus to the induction center in
Amarillo. He had been the soul survivor of a machine gun company during World War One and
just before I boarded the bus, he gave me one last bit of advice about getting along in
the army, "Keep your bowels open, your mouth shut and don't volunteer for
The bus ride
from Borger to Amarillo was a quiet one. Obert had the whole seat across the back of the
bus to himself. He sat there, happy as a clam, looking at comic books, snorting, oinking
and farting. As we got off the bus in a part of town where I wouldn't normally venture
without a gun, a guy with a clip board began to read off our names. Filpot came right in
front of Foreman and as usual, I was found myself following Obert. Right behind me in the
line was Bucky Groves, who had always sat right behind me all the way through school. He
was a weird little guy who wore thick round glasses, ate his own buggers and got through
school by copying answers off my paper. Often as a joke, I would write down an answer so
silly that no one would ever believe it, allow him to copy it and then change it before
turning in the paper.
Bucky, whose dad
owned the local Helpy-Selfy laundry where two bits rented a Maytag for an hour, was the
total teacher's pet. From his first day in school, he was always the one who got to beat
the dust out of the erasers. He was usually so covered with chalk dust from pounding the
erasers that he looked like a ghost most of the time. When he got into high school, he
graduated from erasers to running the movie projector. It was an ancient Keystone which
was about the same size and weight as a Buick engine and had to be moved around on a table
with little steel wheels. You could hear him pushing the projector up and down the halls,
with those little wheels squeaking like a thousand mice in heat.
wanted to be the big athlete and went out for football in the fall, basketball during the
winter and baseball in the spring. He was so totally uncoordinated that in order to keep
him out of the way, the coaches would make him the equipment manager. Being the equipment
manager meant that he was the one who kept the socks and athletic supporters clean. He
would haul a big pile of them down to his dad's laundry each night and return them
spotless the next morning. I can still remember what I wrote in the yearbook when we
graduated. "Here's to Bucky Groves, the best damn eraser pounder, projector operator
and jock strap washer in Texas."
Once inside the
frigid barn that was being used as an induction center, we were told, "Remove all of
your clothes, roll them in a bundle and form a single line." It didn't take Obert but
about two seconds to shuck his clothes because all he ever wore was a filthy shirt,
overalls and clodhopper boots without any laces. He never bothered to wear things like
underwear or socks. It was at this point that I realized that Obert not only had short,
hog-lie hair all over his body; but he was also covered with what appeared to be scales.
One by one, we
stepped through a door where we were told to, "Bend over and spread your
cheeks." Obert bent forward, grabbed the cheeks on either side of his face and
of your butt, you simpleton," muttered the doctor, who was seated on a short stool
which placed him in the proper viewing position. "Jeez, would you look at all that
shit," he said as Obert separated his fat hocks.
Obert turned his
head and replied, "Whut'd you 'spect to see, ice cream? Snort, Snort--Oink,
filthy bastard out of my sight," yelled the doctor as we were being hustled along to
the next station. What an awful job that must be; asshole inspector at an Army Induction
The remainder of
the physical went along at about the same rate of speed as had the butt inspection,
"Stand on the white line, read between the red and green lines, turn your head,
cough, piss in the bottle, raise your right hand and repeat after me." We were in the
clothes back on and git yore asses in line, you somzabitches; yore in the army now,"
shouted a fat, pimply-faced kid wearing a blue arm band, emblazoned with a PFC stripe.
There is nothing lower in the army than an acting PFC. "Git yore asses on that bus
out front, I ain't gonna wait all day fer yew."
I noticed that
Bucky Groves was no longer in line behind me and as we boarded the bus, I saw him standing
off to one side. "Hey, Bucky, better get on the bus," I yelled at him out the
going into the army with you. I flunked the physical and they are sending me back
home," he replied.
you fail the eye test?"
got flat feet, flatter than a duck," he replied.
Our second bus ride of
the day, which carried us from Amarillo to Fort Sill, was even quieter than the first one.
I suppose that it was the shock of realizing how, in only a few minutes, one can be
converted from a happy, carefree civilian to something even lower than an acting PFC.
Obert shared his
back seat on the bus with the acting PFC who went along to see that none of us escaped on
the way to our next stop. The acting PFC didn't seem to mind the cloud of Obert's swine
smell as they brayed, snorted, oinked and farted away the whole trip. Perhaps he had been
an Obert before he joined the army and being around him was like old home week.
It was almost
midnight when we staggered off the bus in front of the only lighted barracks building in
Fort Sill. A real PFC, not an acting one like the Obert clone who had escorted us there,
stood behind a truck loaded with blankets, pillows and sheets. Handing each of us two
blankets, a pillow and two sheets, he yelled, "Pick out a bunk inside and make it in
a military fashion. I'll inspect them in fifteen minutes." Who on earth ever heard of
having to make up a bed and then have it inspected before you were allowed to unmake it
and get into it?
martinet strode into the barracks exactly fifteen minutes later, ripping beds apart and
ranting that we would stay up the rest of the night unless we were able to make our bunks
in an acceptable military fashion. It was obvious that he had to stay up all night and had
every intention of making us do the same. About an hour later another bus loaded with more
new recruits pulled in so he left us in order to abuse the fresh bunch of arrivals.
miserable bastards!" screamed the PFC of earlier that night, rending the air with
blasts from his whistle and beating on a trash can with an adapter used for stacking cots.
"Drop your cocks and grab your socks. Fold the blankets, stuff the sheets into the
pillow cases, roll the mattress to the head of the bunk and fall out in the company street
in fifteen minutes. You got a long day ahead of you."
A long day
ahead! What the hell did he think yesterday was, a vacation? We stumbled into our clothes,
wadded the bedding and rolled the mattresses as ordered.
Christ," someone yelled, "It's only five in the damn morning. We've only been in
bed for three hours. It ain't even daylight yet."
drop and give me twenty-five," shouted our martinet with the whistle. "I'll
teach you bastards to talk back to a superior NCO."
pushups later, we were standing in the dark street. "Stack the blankets in the truck,
throw the sheets to the front and fall in." ordered the PFC, punctuating it with more
blasts from his whistle.
F'wrd March! HUP, Two Three Fo!" We must have stumbled along for half a mile or so in
the total darkness before we came to a mess hall. There were lights inside and aroma of
food, which we hadn't tasted since the sack lunches we were given on the bus the day
before, beckoned to us.
hell do you want?" shouted a voice from inside the mess hall," in answer to our
tormentor's pounding on the door. "We don't open till six."
men, smoke 'em if you got 'em, and no talking." ordered the PFC. For the next hour
and a half, we stood like idiots in front of the mess hall, waiting for it to open. This
was our first lesson in the famous military operation, called "Hurry Up and
Things began to look
up a bit after we had a good breakfast and the sun had risen to drive away the chill of
the night. The PFC herded us off to a building where we took some tests designed to
evaluate the intelligence of a primate. The most intelligent question was, "Which of
these tools would you use to drive a nail?" The illustrations showed a saw, a hammer,
a square and a brick. Obert picked the brick, because that was what he always used to
did you get in school?" asked the interviewer.
through the sixth grade, Snort, Snort--Oink, Oink," replied Obert, who was going
through the process right in front of me.
of work did you do in civilian life?" asked the interviewer.
Raised hogs and
took people's money to dump their trash, Snort, Snort--Oink, Oink," said Obert. The
interviewer ran down the long list of occupations on the form. Finding none which matched
with feeding hogs, he checked the last box, "SPECIAL CATEGORY".
It was now my
turn. "How far did you get in school?"
four years of college," I replied.
of work did you do in civilian life?"
pilot and owned my own business, a crop spraying service." I must be making quite an
impression on the interviewer after what he had heard from Obert.
ran down his long list, shrugged his shoulders and checked the last box, "SPECIAL
that you have classified me in the same category as that fat idiot right in front of
me?" I asked. "I have four years of college and that guy barely got half way
through grade school. I fly airplanes and he feeds hogs!"
you did in civilian life don't match any of the occupations on this list, you go into
Special Category," said the interviewer. "Next!"
Next for us was
an official army haircut. There were no barber chairs and no cloth around your neck to
catch the clippings. You stepped between two barbers who were standing on pop cases to
bring them up to the proper elevation for shearing. There was a race between the two
barbers to see who could finish his side first. The haircut part of the induction process
took only about twelve seconds as clippers whirred and hair flew until all that remained
was short stubble. The barbers had to stop and clean their clippers twice before they
could finish mowing their way through Obert's greasy hair.
We were then
herded into the final stage of our induction, where I followed Obert through the issuing
of uniforms. They weren't too careful about measurements, simply handing us clothing from
one of three piles; Small, Medium or Large. "Swap around among yourselves until you
come up with the right sizes to fit you," we were told.
these damn things," asked Obert when they tossed him several pairs of size 48, olive
green boxer shorts.
replied the astonished clerk.
them," replied Obert as he tossed them back. "They jist git in my way, Snort,
Snort--Oink, Oink--Fart, Fart." I never knew what they got in the way of and
certainly wasn't going to ask.
By the end of the day,
several hundred men had been processed and their future assignments in the military rested
in the hands of the lowly clerks who had interviewed them. Men were assigned to the
Infantry, Armored, Signal, Chemical and other units until all that remained were those
classified as "SPECIAL CATEGORY". "What do we do with all of those Special
Category people?" asked a clerk.
that there is some sort of a National Guard outfit up in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri which
is called SCARWAF. I'm told that it means Special Category Something or the other;
supposed to have something to do with the Air Force. Since that is a Special Category
unit, send all of the Special Category people there," replied the Captain in charge.
"Good place to get rid of them."
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