SCARWAF
by Jim Foreman


CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO


                I had been up at K-44 Airbase, an emergency landing strip which we were building near the front lines, for about a week and had just returned to Headquarters. Before going to my tent or my office, I decided to drop by the runway project to see how progress was coming along. As I drove up, a bulldozer operator stopped, pulled his throttle back until the engine slowed to a clattering idle and came running over to my Jeep.
                "Where the hell have you been, Sergeant Foreman," he yelled above the noise of working heavy equipment. "Everybody and his dog has been looking for you."
                "Who was looking for me?" I asked.
                "Arthur Arthur Arthur was looking everywhere for you yesterday and Sergeant Ryder was out here this morning," he replied. "Major Parker was in the mess hall at noon and said that if anyone saw you, to tell you to get to his office immediately."
                I found it to be very odd that those particular people would be trying to find me, but I suppose that I'd best see the major first. As I drove toward Battalion Headquarters, Billy Bob, who was wearing his dress uniform, came bounding up behind me in a Jeep.
                He leaned out the door of the Jeep and shouted, "Where the hell have you been? You got exactly thirty minutes to be ready to leave."
                "Leave for where?" I asked.
                "Home! You dumb bastard. We are going home!"
                "But this is only September 16th," I replied. "I didn't expect to see any orders until after the first of October and then they would probably be to extend my enlistment for another three months."
                "Are you going to sit there and bitch about getting to go home early, or are you going to get you ass in gear and go with us?" he shouted as he roared away.
                I doubt that there was ever anyone who packed in less time than I did. Clothing was dumped out of my locker and crammed into a duffle bag. I ran over to S-3, grabbed my portable typewriter and a few personal items which were in my desk and went next door to say goodbye to Major Parker.
                As we shook hands, Bobby Ward stuck his head in the door and said, "Foreman, I have picked up your records and orders at Battalion Headquarters; your duffle bag is already aboard the truck and it's leaving for Kimpo in about two minutes, whether you are on it or not."
                "I have to turn in my gear and clear supply," I replied.
                "Never mind that," said Major Parker. "I'll take care of those things for you. Get on that truck or you will probably be here for another six months before they can get you on orders again."
                The truck was already moving when several hands reached over the tailgate to help me aboard. As we bounced out the gate I looked around to see who was in the truck with me. There sat Red Ryder, Bobby Ward, Lester Price, Billy Bob and Arthur Arthur Arthur, all grinning like idiots.
                "OK, when do you bastards yell Surprise! and tell me that this is just another cruel joke?"
                "It's no joke," said Bobby Ward, handing me a stack of orders. "Read them yourself. We are really going home!"
                "Well, it looks as if we came into this thing together, and we are leaving it together," I remarked.
                "Only one person is missing, Obert Filpot," replied Red Ryder. "But he was always a couple bales short of a full stack."
                "Wonder what ever came of him after they shipped him off to the funny farm?" asked Bobby Ward. "I sort of liked him. I suppose that was because I wanted to be a veterinarian and deal with animals, that's the only reason that I can think of."
                "Probably promoted him to a Lieutenant," I joked.
                "Lookie here what I got this morning," said Billy Bob as he hoisted a brand new boot up for me to see.
                "How 'bout that. You finally got new boots after only 23 months, and on the day that you leave for home. What happened to your old green stovepipes, give them a proper funeral?"
                "Got them right here in my duffle bag," he answered. "Me and them old boots have been through too much together just to throw them away. I've worn out the soles four times and they must have got me at least a barrel of free beer. I'm going to take them home, have them bronzed and hang them on the rear view mirror of my car.
                "About going home, Billy Bob, will you be going on down the road with the rodeo circuit when you get out?" I asked. "And speaking of the rodeo circuit, what became of Old Paint?"
                "Kim Luck, who owns the whorehouse in the village, wanted to buy it from me. He offered five hundred dollars in Korean money for it. I couldn't think of anything that I could do with that much Korean money, except spend it at his place. I couldn't stand five dollars worth of his ugly whores, much less five hundred. I decided to give Old Paint to the nun who runs the orphanage. I figured that it would be more useful to those little kids than hauling a bunch of whores around. As far as what I am going to do when I get out, I haven't the slightest idea, other than that I damn sure ain't going to start riding bulls again."
                "How about it Ward, are going back to school and finish up your degree and become a veterinarian now that you will have the GI Bill to pay for it?" I asked.
                "No, I think that I'll go into politics," he replied.
                "Politics," snorted Billy Bob. "That means that you will change from doctoring complete horses down to just dealing with horses asses."
                "Perhaps," said Bobby, "But my uncle is sure to be elected to Congress from Oklahoma and wants me to go to Washington with him as his aide. He said that he would show me the ropes and give me a lot of help. No matter what happens, anything will beat the hell out of selling dog food for a living."
                Red spoke up, "I'm going back to New Jersey where I went to photography school and marry the prettiest girl in the world."
                "What's the matter, did you knock her up while you were there?" asked Billy Bob.
                "Hell no, I didn't knock her up; you crude bastard, I met her at a USO dance and decided the very next morning that I was going to marry her. We saw each other every night for the rest of the time while I was in school and have written every day while I was here." The wedding is planned for Christmas Day."
                "You have my congratulations," I said. "I thought that a certain little twat and I had a hot and heavy thing going and I was all set to marry me when I returned. I found out that she hadn't been totally true to me when she sent me a picture post card from El Paso to let me know that she was on her honeymoon. Six months later, my Mother sent me a clipping out of the paper, announcing that she had just had a baby. I suppose that you could say that somebody had it in for me while I was away."
                "Was that the one who came to see you at Beale?" asked Red.
                "Sure was. As it turned out, she was already a couple months pregnant when she came to see me. She tried to talk me into marrying her while she was there, but luckily I didn't."
                "Did she ever get married?"
                "Less than a month later. She married a 4-F little dipshit with flat feet."
                 "Are you going to stick with photography after you get married?" asked Arthur Arthur Arthur.
                "Probably not. Her dad owns a construction company and wants me to go to work for him."
                "What are you going to do when you get out? Go back to flying airplanes and the spraying crops?" Red asked me.
                "I sold my airplane and truck shortly after I was drafted and I'm not sure just what I'll do," I replied. "I'd have to start all over from scratch and I understand that the spraying business has changed a lot, and for that matter, so have I."
                Lester spoke up, "I'm going to go to school on the GI Bill and become an Electrical Engineer. Things will happen in electronics that we cannot even imagine today. The electronic equipment that we have today will be considered to be junk in ten years. I understand that Japan is making a thing called a transistor, which is about the size of an aspirin tablet. One of them will replace a whole vacuum tube."
                "Hell, I figured that you would stick with blowing up things," said Red.
                "No way!" replied Lester. "You guys never knew it, but I was scared shitless the whole time that I was working with explosives. I never want to get near anything more powerful than a firecracker again. At times, I would be so scared that I'd go out and throw up after setting charges."
                "Why didn't you ask for some other job?" I asked. I'd have done something for you if I had known how you felt about explosives. I always thought you liked blowing up things and that was why you slept in the building where they were stored."
                "Demolition was my job and I was going to do it come hell or high water. I slept in that building because I knew that if I ever got away from all those explosives, even for a day, I wouldn't have the courage to go back," said Lester.
                "How about you, Art. Are you going to keep painting until you become famous?" asked Red.
                "I already have a job lined up with a movie studio in Hollywood," replied Arthur Arthur Arthur.
                "Bullshit!" said Billy Bob. "What are you going to do, shoot old Gregory Peck or Jimmy Stewart out of the saddle?"
                "No," replied Arthur Arthur Arthur. "I'll to be drawing animated cartoons for the movies. Do you realize that it takes 24 separate drawings for each second of showing time. I mailed back a signed contract a week ago and the job will be waiting when I get there."
                "Can you make a living doing that sort of thing?" asked Billy Bob. "I'd figure that you could make more money by painting signs."
                "I don't know about signs, but my starting salary is going to be three thousand."
                "Three grand a year ain't all that bad," said Billy Bob. "That is nearly sixty a week; a lot more than you're making in the Army as a sergeant."
                "That's three thousand a month," replied Arthur Arthur Arthur.
                "Holy Shit!" shouted Billy Bob. "One of my uncles is a crooked bail bondsman down in Fort Worth and the other a shyster lawyer, and neither of them brings in that kind of money."
                We had an hour to wait before the plane left for Japan, so I went to the rest room and changed from my fatigues into a dress uniform. When I returned, they were talking about Korea.
                "I'm going to miss Korea," said Red.
                "I'll miss it about like I'd miss a boil on my ass," replied Billy Bob.
                "Since we have spent nearly a year there, it became almost like a second home," I replied. "There have been a lot of good things happen to us here and I'm sure that we will remember those far longer than the bad ones."
                The airplane which would take us across the Sea of Japan was an aging C-119 Flying Boxcar. It deserved such a name because the body was nothing more than a bus-size aluminum container with a wing sitting on top of it. The pilot's compartment was perched right in front of the wing and was reached by climbing a ladder running from the main body through a hole in the cockpit floor. A huge, oil-dripping engine hung from the wing on either side of the body. The C-119 was mainly used for transporting litter patients and fold-down bunks were stacked three deep on either side. The upper two were folded up and the lower row was used as seats when hauling passengers. Passengers sat sideways, facing one another across a aisle.
                The pilot climbed down the ladder from the cockpit and told us before we took off, "You will all be wearing parachutes and life jackets while on this flight. If I open the back doors and give the order to jump, shove the life raft out first and everyone go out behind it as fast as you can. You can pull your rip cord as soon as your feet leave the ship. Inflate the life jacket after the chute opens. If this plane has to ditch in ocean, it sinks in about ten seconds, even quicker if the water is rough!"
                "Boy, that is a comforting thought," said Billy Bob. "Here we spend a year in Korea without getting our asses shot off and now we will probably drown on the way home."
                The big, round engines on the airplane began to whine, shake, sputter, cough and finally came to life in a cloud of blue smoke. After a certain amount of coaxing, the pilot was able to get both of the whirling masses of machinery to spinning smoothly and we taxied away from the terminal.
                Lined up with the runway, the engines roared with power when the pilot shoved the throttles to the wall. We surged down the runway, the plop plop plop sound of the tires striking the expansion joints in the concrete getting faster and faster. With a shudder, the nose lifted and the tires spun free in the air. Electric motors hummed and the huge tires slowly folded out of sight into gaping holes behind the engines.
                We watched the world tilt and the familiar landscape of Korea fell below as the pilot began a turn to the left. "Goodbye, Korea!" shouted Billy Bob above the roar of the engines.
                "I'm going to miss it," I shouted back.
                "What?" yelled Billy Bob.
                Rather than try to shout against the noise of two big engines, I simply shrugged my shoulders.
                The late afternoon sun was behind us as we made our way eastward and the coast of Korea disappeared in the evening haze. The pilot banked to change course, and we were able to get a glimpse of the reason. A towering cloud, situated directly in our path, was spitting arrows of lightning toward the churning waters below. We checked the straps on our parachutes and tightened our seatbelts.
                Rain began to pound on the aluminum skin of the ship with such force that its noise even exceeded the din of the engines. The air was becoming rougher all the time and the bright orange life raft, which was not secured, began to roll back and forth between the seats at the rear of the airplane.
                I shouted to the people seated on either side of the raft, "Put you feet against the thing and try to keep it from thrashing about!"
                The airplane was pitching with such force that the life raft floundered about like a whale beached in rough surf. The eight men seated at the rear of the airplane, four on either side of the raft, grabbed onto whatever they could find in order to control it. Someone evidently pulled on the wrong thing and the raft seemed to become a living thing. It writhed, twisted, flopped and grew in a terrifying manner. The men, who had been attempting to control the errant raft, scrambled forward to escape its clutches. When the orange whale finally grew silent, it was so large that it completely filled the rear portion of the cabin.
                The Co-pilot came tumbling down the ladder and saw the inflated raft. It was impossible to hear a word that he was saying, but his rapidly moving jaw and red face were enough to convince us that he was not particularly happy with the situation.
                Then, just as suddenly as the rough air had grabbed us in its fury, it spit us out the other side into calm air. Soon we began our descent for a landing in Japan.

                The next two days were filled with the endless processing which takes place when one has a permanent change of station. Records were checked, physical examinations given and forms filled out. The Chaplain cautioned us that when we returned home, to be careful about using certain words and phrases which had crept into our vocabulary. A Captain from personnel gave a rousing speech about the future that continued military service had to offer and suggested that we consider an enlistment for three more years. His speech had even less effect on us than that of the Chaplain. Last, but certainly not least, in our processing was the famous short-arm inspection to be sure that we were not taking some social surprises home with us.
                Interspersed between those endless sessions were trips to the bulletin board to see if our names had appeared on the list for air transportation back to the states. The list, which was changed about every two hours, would begin with Generals and descend through the ranks as long as space was available. It usually ended somewhere around the rank of Captain, which meant that lowly Sergeants had little or no chance of going home by air. After four days of waiting, our names appeared on a long list of people who would board a ship which would take us to San Francisco.
                When we entered the ship, we found a carbon copy of the one which had brought us to Japan a year before. The main changes were that this ship was spotless and the food much better. Boarding the ship was much simpler too, as we were allowed to walk aboard through the dock-level door instead of climbing the gangplank.
                Once aboard, a Navy officer came to our compartment to see Billy Bob and me. "You men are the ranking NCOs in this compartment so you will be in charge of KPs for cleaning the dining deck. You will divide the men in this compartment and alternate days cleaning up after meals."
                We called the men together and told them of the detail which was assigned to us for the voyage. Since there was about one hundred men in the compartment, there certainly was no need for fifty at a time to be on KP. We made up a roster of four squads, with a Staff Sergeant in charge of each group of twenty-five. By doing this, each person would have to pull KP only once every four days. In addition, we had the easy part of KP. The dining deck was always a lot easier than working in the kitchen, especially if you drew pots and pans.
                After Billy Bob and I had inspected the mess deck, we returned to tell the men, "The job will be simple and if everyone pitches in, we can have it done within an hour and you will have the rest of the time off. There will be no need for you to hang around after it is clean." This was almost unheard of in the world of KP.
                One of my groups was on duty during the first meal. When the mess line began to thin out, we started routing people to one side of the deck while we began to clean the other. By the time they had finished eating, half of the tables were clean and we could whip out the other side in a matter of minutes. As soon as it was done, I told my men that they could leave and I waited for the arrival of the Chief Petty Officer to inspect.
                When he walked in, he demanded, "Sergeant, where are the KPs?"
                "I inspected the deck and released them," I replied.
                "You can't do that," he stormed. "I am in charge of this mess hall and I will decide when to release them."
                "I'm in charge of the KPs and if there is any problem, take it up with me," I replied.
                "I'll have you know that I am a Chief Petty Officer with twenty-three years of service and I'll decide when they can go," he blustered.
                "I'm a Master Sergeant with twenty-three months of service and the same rank as you are," I replied. "I was placed in charge of the KPs and when the place was clean, I told them that they could go."
                "Suppose that I am not satisfied with the job?" he demanded.
 Then tell me what you want done and I will handle it with my men," I replied.
                It finally dawned on him what I had said about how long I had been in service and he remarked, "You mean that you are a Master Sergeant and have been in service for only twenty-three months. It took me eighteen years to make Chief. You must have kissed a lot of ass."
                "Not really. If a person does his job properly, that is all the time should take. " I replied. "You must have fucked up a lot to have taken you eighteen years to get six stripes."
                I told Billy Bob about my session with the Chief and between the two of us, we probably gave the man more ulcers during that single trip than his whole twenty-three years had before.

                After fourteen days at sea we arrived in San Francisco, where all Air Force and SCARWAF people were shipped off to an Air Force facility located on Yerba Buena Island, midway across the Oakland Bay Bridge. Here, the SCARWAF troops were told that we would be released from our assignment to the Air Force and transferred to Army bases near where we lived for discharge.
                When the orders came out, we found that Billy Bob and I were to report to Fort Hood, Texas for separation. Lester Price would be discharged at Fort Sam Houston and Bobby Ward and Red Ryder would receive their separation at Fort Sill. Arthur Arthru Arthur had requested that he be discharged from a base in Southern California, but he hadn't received his orders.
                "I'm heading straight for Fort Hood and get my discharge in my hand before I even go home," said Billy Bob.
                "I think that I'll go home and report there one day before my discharge date," I replied. "That way, they will have to process and let me go without any delay. That will prevent some shavetail Lieutenant from putting me on a shit detail while I am waiting. I've found out that even Master Sergeants get put on details."
                "Since most of us ship out for home tomorrow," said Arthur Arthur Arthur. "It is very likely that we won't ever see one another again. I think that we should have one last party."
                "This has to be a party to end all parties," said Lester.
                "Great, let's rent a car and drive up to Yuba City and go back to that place where we ran out on the check," said Red.
                "We shouldn't push our luck," said Billy Bob. "There's probably a warrant out for our arrest up there."
                "How about Fisherman's Wharf?" suggested Bobby Ward. "I've heard about that place all my life but have never seen it."
                "I'll vote for that," said Lester. "This is Friday night; think that we should call ahead for a reservation?"
                "Hell No," said Billy Bob. "We are returning war heroes and they aren't about to refuse us service."
                We stood before the Air Force Corporal who informed us, "Men going through processing are not eligible for passes."
                "What do you mean that we are not eligible?" Red demanded. "This is our last night together and we want to go into town for a little party."
                "I'm sorry, but I will not issue passes to anyone who is in processing, especially you Army people. If I give you passes and you aren't back here in the morning, my ass will be in the sling," protested the Corporal.
                "Billy Bob put his nose about an inch from that of the Corporal and said very slowly, "Son, I don't like that crack of yours about the Army. Now, would you mind counting just how many stripes there are on all these sleeves and compare them with those two puny little stripes of yours. Your ass ain't never been in a sling like it is going to be in about ten seconds if you don't hand over six passes."
                With passes in our pockets, we climbed the long flight of stairs that led from the island to the station on the lower level of the bridge. Soon we were on a train which deposited us at the end of Market Street, one block from the teeming kettles of boiling shrimp and crabs along Fisherman's Wharf.
                "You can really tell where we are," remarked Red.
                "Smells like a whorehouse exploded," replied Billy Bob. "Which restaurant do we go to?"
                "That looks like the biggest and fanciest one around," replied Bobby Ward. "Let's go whole hog on this last party."
                "Do you have reservations?" asked the oily little character behind the desk.
                "What do you mean, do we have reservations?" demanded Billy Bob. "Do you have any idea who you are talking to?"
                "Oh shit! here we go again," I whispered to Red.
                "We are the six sergeants who raised the flag on Hill-186 in Korea," said Billy Bob, referring to the pile of rocks that we ground up into gravel while building the runway at K-1. All of the hills and mountains in Korea were numbered and those numbers corresponded to their height above sea level.
                "I know about the Marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, but I never heard about this Hill-186 in Korea," replied the host.
                "That is probably because it was a secret operation," replied Billy Bob. "Sergeant Price, here, blew up more explosives on that single hill than on any other one in all of Korea. Now, how about a table before we have to call the manager?"
                "Please be seated in the bar. It will be about thirty minutes before I can have a table for you six gentlemen."
                "See, baffle them with bullshit, works every time," said Billy Bob.
                "What will you men have?" asked the cocktail waitress who had far more than ample tits and far less than ample blouse to cover them.
                "Double Martini on the rocks, with an olive," said Arthur Arthur Arthur.
                "Double Bourbon and Branch Water," ordered Billy Bob.
                "Since everyone is going for doubles, make mine a double Martini like his," I replied.
                We sipped our drinks and watched the returning fishing boats nuzzle their way into position against the docks. "Looks just like the fishing boats coming into Pusan harbor," said Red.
                "Yeah, but it certainly doesn't smell the same," I replied.
                Glasses became empty and the cocktail waitress returned, "Another round," she smiled.
                "You are the most beautiful damn woman that I've seen in a year," said Billy Bob.
                "Thank you, you big tall stud," she replied. "I get off at midnight and for a hundred bucks, you can have me for the rest of the night."
                I've seldom ever seen Billy Bob at a loss for words, but all that he could reply was, "Just bring me another Bubble Dourbon."
                Just as our second round of doubles disappeared into empty stomachs, the oily host informed us that our table was ready. "I'll add your bar tab to the dinner check," he said as he led us to a window table overlooking the bay.
                "I'm going to have a steak that takes about half a steer to make," said Billy Bob.
                "You don't order steaks in a seafood restaurant," I said. "Unless you don't care what kind of steak you get."
                "We just received a special shipment of extra large lobsters from New England," suggested the waiter.
                That seemed to be as good an idea and any other, so we placed our orders for lobsters. Billy Bob added, "Tell Tits, out there in the bar, to bring us another round of what we have been drinking."
                Tits arrived from the bar with our drinks and as she handed Arthur Arthur Arthur his Martini, she offered a toast.
                "Of all drinks made with gin,
                I like Martinis the most,
                After two, I'm under the table,
                And three, I'm under the host."
                "Give the lady three Martinis," shouted Billy Bob, attracting the attention of everyone in the restaurant.
                She smiled, patted him on the shoulder and whispered, "OK, but it's still going to cost you a hundred bucks."
                Salads and bread came. Arthur Arthur Arthur picked up a piece of bread and cut off some butter with his knife. The dulling effects of two double Martinis must have reached all the way to Arthur's fingers and as he talked, the bread slipped out of his hand and onto the table while he carefully buttered his palm.
                In a few minutes, the waiter brought some cloth bibs which he fastened around our necks to protect our clothing, then he brought our lobsters. They were so large that their tails hung over one end of a large platter and their claws over the other. These crustaceans had lived long and careful lives in order to grow to their present size, but they had made one last and fatal mistake when they entered a trap to munch on the bait. First a plunge into a tub of boiling water and then onto our table as a last supper before we parted.
                "May I suggest a nice California white wine to go with your lobsters," said the waiter.
                "Whatever you say, Clyde," said Red. "If it is good enough for Californians, then it is probably good enough for us."
                Billy Bob looked at his lobster and remarked, "Biggest damn mudbug that I ever saw."
                "The biggest thing like this that you Texans ever saw was a crawdad. No wonder these look big to you," said Red.
                How do you get into one of these damn things?" asked Arthur Arthur Arthur.
                The waiter supplied each of us with a small hammer and demonstrated how to crack the shell in order to get at the meat in the tail. Arthur Arthur Arthur, holding his hammer in his buttered hand, swung at the lobster, missed and broke his platter in half with the blow.
                Without the slightest indication of irritation, the waiter supplied a new platter and suggested that he open our lobsters for us. Soon, well over a pound of delicious white meat was exposed. "When you have finished with the tails," he said. "I'll help you with the claws."
                Even with a huge lobster fighting for control of our senses, the effects of three doubles still caused everything to swing and sway as if the restaurant was afloat. The waiter returned to our table, "May I suggest a Brandy Alexander as an after-dinner cocktail?"
                "Hell yes, bring on old Randy-Brandy," said Billy Bob. "He can't make us any drunker than we already are."
                The drinks arrived and Billy Bob remarked after his first sip, "Hell, this ain't nothing but a fancy little milk shake."
                "I think this is what all the queers out here drink," said Red. "These California fairies can't take real booze."
                "Your check, gentlemen," said the waiter as he placed a tray containing what looked like a small leather-bound book on the table. "Since this is a party of six, I placed the customary fifteen percent gratuity on the check."
                "Did it take a whole book to write out our check?" said Red as he picked it up. He opened the book and squinted at its contents. "Two hundred forty bucks!" he shouted. "That is as much as the check that we walked up in Yuba City."
                "Think that we ought to try to walk this check?" asked Billy Bob.
                "No, and you aren't going to get away with your fainting act again either. It comes to forty dollars each," I said. "We are in a fancy place and should expect to pay fancy prices. Get out your wallets and let's pay the check."
                "Be sure that Tits gets her share of that tip," Billy Bob told the waiter. "And, can you call a taxi to take us back to Yerba Buena Island."
                A few minutes later, a taxi pulled up in front of the restaurant and all six of us piled in. "Drop us off at the gate to Yerba Buena Island," Billy Bob told the driver.
                "I ought to take you bastards out to the middle of the bridge and dump your asses into the bay," replied the driver.
                "Damn, what did we ever do to you?" asked Red.
                "Well, first you dirty bastards tried to kill me and then you set me on fire; that's what," said the driver as he turned on the dome light to allow us to see his face.
                "Well, Son of a bitch, if it ain't Shoat Filpot," shouted Billy Bob. "How in hell did you wind up out here in San Francisco driving a taxi?"
                Well, it's a long story," replied Obert. "The Army sent me to the loony bin up in Denver. Every time that they asked me a question, I'd just laugh at them and fart. It didn't take me long to convinced them that I was crazy as a peach-orchard boar, so they gave me a disability discharge and a pension for life."
                "I knew that only the Army would do a stupid thing like that," said Lester.
                "Then some doctors found out that I was hooked up wrong on the inside, so they operated on me. Now I don't fart any more."
                "That is amazing," said Billy Bob. "Old Red Adair down in Houston couldn't have capped a gas well like you."
                "I came out here where I thought no body would know me and started back to school," continued Obert. "Then I ran onto Goldberg, who now calls himself Chang Goldfarb and claims that he is a Chinaman. Funniest looking Chink that I ever saw. Anyway, he owns a bunch of taxis and gave me a job driving for him. He came out here to hide out when he heard that the FBI was looking for him jumping the train in Oklahoma City. I go to school during the day and drive a taxi at night for a little extra money. It don't pay much, but added to what I get from the Army every month, I live real good."
                "That just goes to prove that the Army pays a lot more for crazy than they do for smart," said Bobby Ward as Obert pulled to a stop next to the gate leading down to Yerba Buena Island.
                "This is as far as they will let taxis go," said Obert. "Nice seeing you fellows again."
                We made our way down the long stairs and staggered into the barracks singing "The Yellow Rose of Texas" to the loud protests of those who were already asleep.
                We were having breakfast in the mess hall when the loudspeaker blared, "Sergeant Foreman, report to the Orderly Room."
                "What do they want now?" I wondered. "We paid the check last night and didn't break anything except the heart of that cocktail waitress."
                "She should have gotten a least a fifteen buck tip," replied Red. "I doubt that her heart was too badly broken."
                I walked into the orderly room and the Corporal behind the desk said, "Here are your orders, an airplane ticket to Amarillo by way of Los Angeles and bus fare on to your home. Your bus to the airport departs in thirty minutes."
                "What about the others who are with me? We came into this thing together and we would like to go home together."
                "Their orders will be along later today, but you are leaving right now," he replied.
                I returned to the mess hall and told them, "It looks as if the time has come for a parting of the ways. I have my orders to leave in half an hour, but you won't get yours until later today." I shook hands all around.
                "Damn, we can't just shake hands and walk away from two years together," said Arthur Arthur Arthur. "We have to get together again. How about a reunion?"
                "When and where?" asked Billy Bob.
                "How about a year from today, at that restaurant where we were last night?" asked Red.
                "One year is too soon to have a reunion," replied Bobby Ward. "To be a real reunion, it should be at least ten years."
                "OK, ten years from today will be October 12th, 1962. Let's meet at the main gate of Fort Leonard Wood." suggested Lester.
                "What the hell would we do after we met at the main gate of Fort Leonard Wood?" asked Billy Bob. "There is certainly nothing to do in Waynesville. How about right here."
                "I'll be living in New Jersey," replied Red. "That would be an awfully long way for most of us to come."
                "How about the Clover Club in Amarillo," suggested Billy Bob. "I'll bring a ham and a jug and it will be just like the time when we met there to drive to Beale."
                "That place will probably have burned to the ground by then, or else closed down by the board of health," I replied.
                Well, we all have each other's home addresses," said Red. "Why don't we keep in touch by letter or at least exchange Christmas cards. We can plan the place when the time comes."
                The driver was blowing his horn as I shook hands once more, grabbed my duffle bag and ran to catch the bus.


Index | Epilogue