An Infusion of Color
In letters home the first week, I kept commenting that the food was good, a vast improvement over Fort Leonard Wood. The first meal I had, once I got into the permanent barracks, consisted of “...the biggest and best-tasting meal I had had in two and a half months. We had our choice of steak, ham & cheese on toast (hot!) and pork. I took the sandwich and I also had salad, potatoes, corn, bread, some celery, pears, jello, cake and fruit juice.”
Later we found out that this particular mess hall served as on-the-job-training for a company of recruits, being trained as cooks. There were two hundred recruits in this company, and at all times, there was a large contingent of them working in our mess hall. These trainees would have been just as anxious to put their best effort into their classes, so as to be able to move on, as the guys in my company. The result as that there was a wide variety of chow available, so the the trainees could acquire experience with all different available meals, and we were the unwitting beneficiaries of all of that preparation, being in the right place, at the right time.
What was going on here? First, I got assigned a lucky MOS; then I got assigned a three-man room; then the three-man room ended up being on the first floor, instead of the third; finally, the chow is not only palatable, it was downright tasty. Equally important was the fact that we were given enough. a great deal of my unhappiness in basic, was simply because there was inadequate amounts of chow provided for the demands of the physical program we were in. It’s hard to double-time out to the firing range when you are still hungry from breakfast.
All of this discussion about the chow hall, prompts me to relate the details of one glorious Sunday morning breakfast, when the three of us bounced into the chow hall the minute it opened, because we were going hiking out in the boondocks of the base, to check out some of the lakes that were reportedly sprinkled around the base everywhere. We had just taken our seats, with our trays stuffed with breakfast goodness, when we heard shouting and the sounds of running feet.
Before we could even assess what was happening, these two hippies came racing across the chow hall toward us and all of those in the chow line, shouting and laughing, and jumping high in the air. They were clutching a handful of pamphlets each, which they were trying to distribute to all of us war mongers. I have to hand it to those hippies-they were certainly an infusion of color into our olive drab green world.
Both had flowing locks of hair, EVERYwhere. One was a carrot-top, with a million freckles, and a red beard that looked so much like my own red beard that I had arrived at FLW wearing, that it made me immediately jealous. He was dressed in a red blazer with flowing yellow pants, cottony and billowing out around him. He was barefoot. He had multiple necklaces on, including one of sea shells, and one of flowers.
The second was a blond, with a straggly, wispy beard, and hair down to his waist. He was dressed in Levis, with a blue work shirt on, that had been embroidered with a huge sun on the back, its rays extending out all across his shoulders. He was also barefoot, a fact that was emphasized when he raced down the empty counter that divided the enlisted men’s section, from that of the officers. He was quite quick.
I say the hippies were trying to distribute the pamphlets, because the second they burst upon the scene, every non-commissioned officer in the place started chasing them with the intent, I am certain, of whipping a little old-fashioned hurt upon them. We were of the opinion that the hippies thought it was all a big game of dodge-the-mad-bulls, but the non-coms saw it as an affront, and they were willing to pursue the matter.
They did manage to thrust several of the pamphlets onto our table as they raced past, enjoying our pleasure to the max. We were cheering them on as the carrot top winked at me as he raced by, and though I was desperate to snag one of those brochures, the non-coms pursuing them, were snatching them up from the tables, chairs and floor, wherever they were tossed. I saw enough to learn that they were promoting a peace demonstration in front of the base, to be held the following weekend. The pamphlet urged all of those “who opposed the brutality being heaped upon our brothers and sisters in South-East Asia, to join our protest and force the war-mongering, talking heads in Washington DC to curb their bloodthirsty palates, and bring the curs of war home, permanently.” I liked that poetic touch of bringing the curs (dogs) of war home or, if you please, the “curse of war” home.
It was all so much fun. Of course it was over too soon, and the last we saw those characters were dancing outside the chow hall, jumping over planter boxes, benches and tables. In evaluating their performance, we gave them two thumbs up. I ventured to guess that this was not the first, nor the twenty-first time they had been on this site, judging from the alacrity and determination demonstrated by the pursuers. Besides, the timing was right, early, and their evasive tactics looked as though they had run this course before. Buddha bless them and their peace-loving efforts. We sure did.