It was early April and the cold weather of
winter was giving up its hold on the land. But, the most pleasant part of the arrival of
spring meant that our tour of duty was finally approaching an end and we were expecting
orders to go home to arrive any day.
Bolinger, the mail clerk, came through my office and dropped my mail on the desk.
"Did you hear the news?" he asked.
extended us draftees another three months. We're now in for 21 months and won't be going
home this month."
doesn't surprise me in the least. They will just keep extending us three months at a time
until the war is finally over. The way things are going, we may be here for ten
through my mail. There were two copies of the hometown newspaper, both over a month old
and a letter from my mother, which contained much more up to date news in the form of a
small clipping from the hospital report column. "Born to Mr. and Mrs. Bucky Groves on
April 1, a 7 pound, 11 ounce baby boy."
I looked at the
date and counted up the months since I'd last seen her. Well, how about that! No wonder
Janet wasn't worried about getting pregnant at Lake Tahoe, she was already nearly three
months along. One thing for sure is that a nearly eight pound baby certainly wasn't
premature, so it couldn't be mine. There's also a pretty good chance that it isn't Bucky's
either. You might call the baby Bucky's April fool present. Old eraser beating Bucky was
always so stupid that he'd believe that babies can come along in as little as six months.
Janet probably gave him a little nookey one night and then suggested that they run off and
get married. Whether he knew it or not, he's the kind of person who'd jump at the
opportunity to marry the prettiest girl in town, no matter how pregnant she might be at
the time. Two things for sure is that she didn't save it all for her wedding night and I
wasn't the first one to get in her pants.
Billy Bob, who
was now in charge of the whole maintenance section at the motor pool, and I were both
promoted to Master Sergeant on the same orders, so we decided that it was high time that
we do something to celebrate the occasion.
suggested, "Let's get in Old Paint, go to Pusan and see what kind of trouble that we
can get into."
"That is a
good way to lose these new stripes," I replied. "We have been in Korea for
nearly six months and are far overdue for an R&R to Japan. Let's ask the old man for
about a week off."
idea," replied Billy Bob. "I've never been so tired of nothing but Australian
mutton, busted equipment, rain and mud in all my life. Let someone else have the headaches
for a while."
for myself, I'd give almost anything for a real Texas-size steak, some fresh vegetables
and a glass of milk."
eggs that come right out of a shell and aren't served in little cubes," added Billy
We pulled our
wrinkled dress uniforms out of our duffle bags and took them into the village to get our
new stripes sewn on and have them cleaned and pressed. The village, which was situated
just outside the gate, was typical of what could be found just outside every military
installation in Korea. The bigger the base, the bigger the village. There was always a
laundry and cleaning shop, a bar called Rosy's, a curio shop and the ever-present
whorehouse. The village outside K-1 was no exception.
businessmen were famous for their signs, which displayed disclaimer messages in both
Korean and English. Unfortunately, some of the English translations weren't always in what
might be known as the proper King's English. This laundry had a huge sign which warned one
and all, "THE MANAGEMENT OF THIS CLEANING INSTITUTION IS TOTALLY IRRESPONSIBLE IN THE
EVENT OF FIREMEN OR THIEVES".
Dressed in our
genuine Army best, and clutching our precious R&R orders, we hopped a ride aboard a
truck bound for K-9 Airbase where we could catch an Air Force airplane to Tokyo. A few
hours later, we were winging our way eastward across the Sea of Japan with seven whole
days of anticipated wine, women and song.
Since we were
Master Sergeants, we were offered very nice individual rooms at the Air Force Base to use
during our stay, but as Billy Bob put it, "That is still too much like being in the
Army. They probably blow bugles or something every morning."
We caught a taxi
to downtown Tokyo and checked into one of the better hotels located right on the Ghinza.
Search as we would, we couldn't find a single restaurant which served real steaks. "I
suppose that when in Rome, do as the Romans do," said Billy Bob and we settled for
eating in a very nice looking Japanese restaurant. We removed our shoes and were escorted
to a low table with cushions to sit on.
The menu was all
in Japanese, so we asked the waiter, who spoke fairly good English, to bring us whatever
he recommended. After a small salad, thin soup and some fishy-tasting snacks wrapped in
seaweed, he brought on the main course. It was a typical Japanese dinner, mostly
vegetables with bits of meat. Two or three bites later, I found something in my mouth
which looked, felt and tasted like the strap from some hippie's flip-flop. Laying it on
the side of my plate, I asked the waiter what it was.
He smiled, bowed
and said, "You are lucky, you got squid."
remained on the side of my plate while I carefully ate the remainder of my dinner.
We bought a few
trinkets, some dishes which we had shipped home and stopped off at one of the many dance
halls. The music was loud, the girls only moderately attractive and the drinks very
expensive. I looked at Billy Bob and asked, "Well, Billy Bob, are we having fun
When we returned
to the hotel, we asked the manager for some suggestions of what to do while in Japan. He
replied, "I get you nice girls, all virgins, no VD."
thanks," I replied.
matter?" he asked. "You no like virgin girls. I get you virgin young boys. You
don't want boys either. We just want to see or do something while we are here," I
what you can do," said the man. "You can climb Fujiyama. There is old saying in
Japan. There is no greater fool than the man who has not climbed Fujiyama."
up Pikes Peak," I said. "So I might as well climb Fujiyama while I'm here. I
certainly don't want to be known as a fool because I had the chance and didn't climb
arrangements, which cost us ten dollars, were made and we boarded a train the following
morning for the fifty mile ride to the base of the 12,000 foot mountain. The day was
clear, the air was balmy and we were ready to begin our assault on the peak. The only
problem was the fact that one must do certain things before he is allowed to scale
If you think
that you have seen tourist traps here in the United States, then you ain't seen nothing
when it comes to extracting money from the tourists who come to climb Fujiyama. First, you
must go into a shrine where you are prayed for, blessed and anointed with some sort of
smelly oil; to the tune of about ten bucks each. Then, we found that we still could not
climb the mountain until we bought a genuine prayer flag and a bamboo walking staff, which
went for another five dollars each.
We were now
blessed, anointed, equipped with prayer flag and had a walking stick but there was more.
"You must have a guide so you do not get lost during your climb," we were told.
think that we will get lost," I told the man. "We will just follow the
"But it is
the law. You cannot climb Fujiyama without a guide," he told us.
much?" I asked.
States Dollar," he said with a deep bow.
for each guide. One guide for each person," he replied. "It is the law," he
getting to be a little ridiculous," I told Billy Bob. "Shall we scrap the whole
thing and go back to Tokyo?"
already fifty bucks into this thing, so we might as well go ahead. It can't cost us much
more," he reasoned.
guides," I told him.
He trotted out a
couple boys, neither of whom could have been a day over twelve years old, and told us that
they would guide up to the resting place. I should have picked up on that last statement
about the resting place, but we were anxious to get started. I did notice that neither of
our young guides were equipped with the required prayer flag and walking stick. I suppose
that prayers and sticks are only necessary for tourists.
Ready to go? Not
quite! Seems that we have to wait until there is a group of sufficient size to go up and
the group must have a senior guide to lead them. Cost of the senior guide; another dollar
for each person in the group.
the price is getting cheaper," said Billy Bob.
necessarily," I replied. "Just spread out over more people."
The Senior Guide
led his group of fifty people along a well-marked trail on their trek up the mountain. Our
youthful guides spent most of their time racing ahead and playing with other equally
youthful guides. This was probably the main source of employment for all of the boys in
We had walked
four or five miles up a very gentle trail when we came upon a large building, where the
Senior Guide announced that we would stop for lunch. After three or four other groups
arrived, we were served box lunches, to the tune of three dollars each. After lunch, the
Senior Guides announced that it was rest time and we would resume our climb in one hour.
"This is as
bad as the Army," said Billy Bob. "This climb is nothing but hurry up and
It was around
four in the afternoon when we came to the 8,000 foot level of the 12,000 foot mountain.
There, we found a huge hotel, complete with a restaurant and a large staff. The Senior
Guide announced that we would stay here for the night.
I asked him why
we were stopping so early and he replied, "To allow the guides time to return to the
bottom of the mountain so they can go home before dark."
returning tomorrow morning?" I asked.
"Yes, with a new group which will be climbing the mountain."
be guiding us the rest of the way?"
need more experienced guides for the second half of the climb," he replied.
We spent the
night at the hotel, which cost about twice what we were paying for our room back in Tokyo.
Following breakfast the next morning we were assembled and told, "Prayer time."
that I've had all the prayers that I need to get me all the way to the top," I told
must have the prayers for today. Yesterday's prayers no good for today. Prayers good for
only one day in Japan. Without new prayers, evil things will happen to you."
keep trying to pry money out of us, evil things will happen to you," I replied.
Soon, there was
a new man there, telling us that he had guides for hire so we could continue our climb.
that we will just follow the Senior Guide," I told him.
"But it is
the law that each person must have a guide," he protested. "You will not be
allowed to continue without one."
much?" I asked.
dollar each," he replied.
give you two bucks for two guides, not a cent more," I told him.
guides get five U.S. Dollar," he protested. "It is the law!"
you and the law. Take it or leave it."
He shrugged his
shoulders and took our two dollars. Soon, we were joined by the same two kids that had
been with us the day before. "Papasan say that you GIs cheapskate bastards,"
said one of them.
should have been hoss-trading with these high-binders on their prices all the time,"
said Billy Bob.
We had climbed
to the 9,000 foot level by noon and the Senior Guide announced that it was time to stop
for lunch. As soon as we had eaten our box lunch, which cost four dollars each this time,
he pointed to a different trail and told us "Climb over, take this trail back to the
bottom of the mountain."
aren't all the way to the top," I protested. "I wanted to go all the way to the
"This is as
high as tourists are allowed to go, too dangerous," replied the Senior Guide.
We looked around
for our guides, but they were nowhere to be found. We walked down the well-marked trail
and Billy Bob remarked, "You don't seem to need a guide to get back down, do
When we added up
all the costs associated with climbing Fujiyama, we found that we had been taken for
nearly a hundred dollars each. Billy Bob came up with an addendum to the old Japanese
saying, "There is no greater fool than the man who has not climbed Fujiyama, unless
it is the man who had climbed it twice."
most of our available money climbing Fujiyama, we decided to check out of the hotel and
catch the train back to the Air Force Base where the free rooms had been offered to us
when we arrived. Being Master Sergeants, we were welcome at the "Rocker Club"
which was for the upper three enlisted grades. We had huge steaks for a buck each and
mixed drinks were only two bits.
While staying in
the NCO quarters at the Air Force Base, we visited the biggest and best stocked PX that
either of had ever seen. I bought a Japanese copy of a German Leica camera and Billy Bob
bought a Japanese copy of a Japanese record player.
week was over and we were flying back to the mud, rain and mosquitoes of K-1.
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