by Jim Foreman


One of the rumors floating around every military unit during the early months of the Korean war was that everyone would be home by Christmas. The only problem was that they didn't bother to say which Christmas, and from the way that things were going in Korea, it obviously would not be Christmas of 1950.
       The UN forces were in full retreat down the Korean peninsula, dumping tons of equipment and supplies as they went. The Chinese troops were hot on their heels and making use of the abandoned supplies in order to keep their advance going. By doing this, they could outrun their supply lines and still function. In fact, the equipment which the we were dumping was a lot better than what they could get from China.
       By Christmas Eve, the UN forces had managed to push the North Korean forces all the way back to the original line which separated North and South Korea at the beginning of the war. But the bad news for the US was that General Walker, Commander of the 8th Army had been killed. He was driving northward from Seoul to visit a British Unit when his Jeep collided with a South Korean Weapons Carrier.
       Meanwhile, back at the 1903rd, Captain Sanders was making an announcement concerning our chances of going home for Christmas. "Half of the unit will be given five days leave for Christmas and the other half will receive the same number of days for New Year." Several of us from Texas and Oklahoma were hoping that we would be off at the same time so we could travel home as a group.
       When the orders were issued with the names for each holiday period; Lester Price, Goldberg and Arthur Arthur Arthur were on the Christmas list while Red Ryder, Billy Bob, Obert and I were scheduled for leave time at New Year. We decided that since we couldn't be at home for Christmas, we would save our leave time and not go at New Year. Janet was going with her parents to visit relatives and wouldn't be at home anyway, so it was no big loss for me.
       Billy Bob made a deal with Arthur Arthur Arthur to stop by Fort Worth and pick up his car, which he referred to as Old Paint, and bring it back to him. Since I had no idea when or where I would be going, I decided that the wise thing would be to leave my car at home.
       "Ain't that a bitch," said Billy Bob. "That damn little Jew gets to go home for Christmas and his kind don't even celebrate it.
       "Not only that," said Red. "He ain't even here and he gets put on the Christmas list.
       "I suppose that comes from all those faultless inspections he has stood," I added. "If we had let his area go to hell, one of us might have been going home instead of him."
       A few days before Christmas, we went out in the woods behind the company area and cut down a small pine tree. We set it up in the middle of the barracks and decorated it as best we could. Even though we had the trappings of Christmas and there were a few presents under the tree, it was awfully hard to get into the spirit of the season. I had three presents under the tree, one from my parents, one from Janet and one from her mother.
       "We've been in this stinking place for almost two months and none of us have had a drop to drink," said Billy Bob. "I say that it is high time that we threw ourselves a real, old fashioned Texas Christmas drunk."
       There was about a dozen men in the barracks who were not allowed to go home for Christmas, so we took up a collection, with Red putting in the most of the money since he was still flush from winning the bet when he punched Lt. High in the nose. Billy Bob caught the bus into Waynesville to obtain a supply of Christmas Spirits of the bottled variety.

       We were never able to figure out how Billy Bob managed to get aboard the bus back to the base with two gallon jugs hidden inside grocery store shopping bags and then smuggle them into the barracks without being caught by the Military Police. It was strictly forbidden to bring liquor onto the base, much less into the barracks, but evidently the guards weren't looking for anything that large and obvious.
       "The liquor stores were all closed by the time that I got to town," he announced, "But I got a great deal on a couple gallons of moonshine from some guy who was selling it out of the trunk of a Buick in an alley. He let me have his last two gallons for only ten bucks so he could get home to the wife and kids. He guaranteed that it is good stuff. I already sampled it and it goes down as smooth as a vanilla milkshake."
       We broke out our canteen cups and Billy Bob produced a brown, one gallon jug from one of the sacks. It still bore a label which indicated that it had at one time contained Coca-Cola syrup. Red Ryder, having furnished most of the money for the Christmas Spirits, was given the honor of the first drink. He took a good belt, and gasping for breath, said, "M'God, I've been poisoned!"
       "Shit, Red, you're just a pansy," said Billy Bob. "If you can tame rattlesnakes, you sure ought to be able to tame a little bootleg hootch. Down where I come from, this stuff would be known as Waco Wahoo, the kind of moonshine high school kids drink under the bleachers at football games. The really potent moonshine down around Fort Worth is called Trinity River Stump Blower."
       "Trinity River Stump Blower?" I asked.
       "Sure; it's called that because it's made in stills along the Trinity River and that's the way that we test the stuff. We dip a corncob in it, stick it under a stump and light it off. If it don't blow the stump out, it needs to be cooked some more. They say that the tadpoles in the river water are what gives it the special flavor."
       "Damn," said Red, wiping tears from his and peering into his cup. "This stuff is turning my aluminum canteen cup black!"
       We had made a sizeable dent in the first jug when Obert came walking through the barracks. "Hey Filpot, care for a little Christmas Cheer," asked Billy Bob, holding up the jug.
       "Don't mind if I do," replied Obert, smacking his lips. He took the jug, sniffed it and turned it up. Once, twice, three times the jug gurgled before he came up for air. "Purty good hootch," he said, wiping his mouth on a dirty sleeve, "But Pa makes better."
       "Hawg makes moonshine?" I asked.
       "Shore does, best stuff in the Panhandle," replied Obert. "The still is hid in a cellar under the barn and we feed the used mash to the hogs. The smell of the pig shit covers up the smell of the still; Snort, Snort--Oink, Oink. Nobody would ever think of looking for a still at our place."
       "Well, I'll be dipped," I replied. "Who would have ever thought that Hawg was a moonshiner."
       "Jist goes to show that you don't know everything that goes on around Stinnett, Smart Ass," said Obert. "Grampa Filpot set up that still back during prohibition, about the time I was born, and it has been dripping prime moonshine ever since."
       We had a couple more rounds and Obert got up to leave, bidding us a Merry Christmas by lifting his leg and giving us a parting fart.
       "I'd rather hear a fat man fart than a pretty woman sing," said Red.
       "That's 'cause you're queer as a three-dollar bill, you damn Okie," replied Obert.
       "Hey, Filpot, you reckon those stinking farts of yours would burn," asked Billy Bob as he flipped open his Zippo.
       Obert had long prized his gastric discharges, for both quality and quantity, but had never considered them as a pyrotechnic. "Jeez, I dunno if they will burn or not. After I eat a good bait of onions or peppers, they'll shore 'nuff burn your eyes."
       "How about working up a good one and let's see if it will burn," said Billy Bob as he thumbed his lighter.
       "Human farts are composed mostly of carbon dioxide and won't burn," said Bobby Ward. "The only kind of farts that will burn are ones made up of methane gas. Methane farts only come from animals which eat grass or hay."
       "You claim that my horse's farts will burn but Filpot's won't? What makes you such a damn authority on farts, anyway?" asked Billy Bob.
       "I went to Panhandle A&M up at Goodwell, Oklahoma for three years, studying to be a veterinarian, before I ran out of money and had to start working for the dog food company. They taught us things like that there," replied Ward.
       "Bullshit," said Billy Bob. "I got five bucks that says that you don't know what the hell you are talking about."
       "That sounds like a fair bet to me, but where are we going to find a horse around here to test."
       "Hell, who needs a horse when we got Filpot," said Billy Bob. "He can fart better than most horses. I'll bet five bucks that his farts will burn. Anything that stinks that bad is bound to be flammable."
       "You're on," said Ward. "Drop your drawers Filpot, and give us a good one."
       "What's in this for me?" asked Obert. "If I'm going to fart so you bastards can see if they will burn, I want something out of it."
       "Just give me a fart that burns and I'll split the five bucks with you," said Billy Bob, flipping the lid on his lighter.
       Obert dropped his dirty fatigue pants to his knees, exposing his naked ass. He bent over and strained as Billy Bob thumbed the wheel on his Zippo. A foot-long tongue of blue flame shot from between Obert's fat hocks and a plume of white smoke from burning hair rolled upward in a mushroom cloud.
       Obert let out a squeal and leaped into the air, jerking up his pants. An involuntary second fart followed the first, which was still burning. Blue flames shot through the seat of his fatigues as an area the size of a dinner plate glowed red and disappeared in another cloud of rancid smoke.
 Obert was leaping around the barracks, squealing and feeding the flames by blasting off one fart after another. Ward and a couple others grabbed blankets and were trying to wrestle him to the floor so they could put out the flames.
       "Fer Chrissakes, Filpot," yelled Billy Bob, "Stop farting and the fire will go out."
       Someone finally grabbed a buttcan, which was filled with water and soggy butts, and doused the leaping Obert. The whole seat of Obert's fatigues was burned away and his fat hocks were blistered and as red as a baboon's rear.
       "Hey, Filpot," said Billy Bob. "With that red ass, you are all set for Christmas. You look just like Santa Claus."
       "Santa Claus, my ass," yelled Obert. "You bastards are always trying to kill me. First, you give me a bath and now you set me on fire. I'll get you sumbitches if it's the last thing I ever do."
       "The blisters don't look too bad," said Ward, giving his professional opinion. "But you'd better get down to the Orderly Room and see if they have something for you to put on your ass. If they ask how you got burned, just tell them you backed up against a hot furnace."
       Obert was gone for about half an hour before he returned, carrying a tube of the white ointment which the army uses for just about every kind of wound. "They gave me some white greasy stuff to rub on my ass," he said. "You bastards tricked me and set me on fire, and now I want my part of the bet."
       "What the hell, Filpot. You can have the whole five bucks. The show that you put on was worth twice that. Have another snort," said Billy Bob, holding up the jug. "Merry Christmas!"

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