by Jim Foreman


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 it there.
       Even though 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 would say.
       Rather than 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 anything."
       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.
       Bucky always 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 pulled.
       "The cheeks 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, Oink--Fart, Fart".
       "Get that 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 Center.
       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 army!
       "Git yore 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 window.
       "I ain't going into the army with you. I flunked the physical and they are sending me back home," he replied.
       "How come, you fail the eye test?"
       "Nope, I 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?
       The one-stripe 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.

       "Reveille, you 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.
       "Jesus 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."
       "Everyone drop and give me twenty-five," shouted our martinet with the whistle. "I'll teach you bastards to talk back to a superior NCO."
       Twenty-five 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.
       "Rat Face! 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.
       "What the 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."
       "At ease 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 Wait".

       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 drive nails.
       "How far did you get in school?" asked the interviewer.
       "Clean through the sixth grade, Snort, Snort--Oink, Oink," replied Obert, who was going through the process right in front of me.
       "What kind 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?"
       "I have four years of college," I replied.
       "What kind of work did you do in civilian life?"
       "I'm a 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.
       The interviewer ran down his long list, shrugged his shoulders and checked the last box, "SPECIAL CATEGORY".
       "You mean 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!"
       "If what 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.
       "Whut are these damn things," asked Obert when they tossed him several pairs of size 48, olive green boxer shorts.
       "Underwear," replied the astonished clerk.
       "Never wear 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.
       "I hear 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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