There was a snap in the air that morning; I say, it was deep winter in the foothill region of the Colorado Rocky Mountains. I stood there outside the field mess tent waiting for some hot anything to be served up. I was quite positive that I had donned every stitch of cold weather gear for the cold snap that was in the air. I had on everything I owned, or so I did fancy.
The “combat training” exercise turned out to be zero combat training and 100% just staying alive. We deployed to the field, to this frozen-like-a-son-of-a-bitch terrain with every combat vehicle we had. The commander even ordered that all broken vehicles were to be towed to the field and fixed there. He was after a bullet on his conduct report that read to the effect:
“Returned from field training exercise with more operational vehicles than he deployed with…”
It for sure was a unique bullet to have on such a report — I gave him that, but he was whipping the dog crap out of our poor Battalion mechanics. I thought of them every time I thought I would go mad from the cold, which was frequently.
I stood so, the mummy that I had become, as another mummy approached me to wait for hot stuff:
“Who we got here, mate?”
“Rabon… Judas Priest, I swear I’ve got on every thing I own and I’m still flippin’ cold!”
We were all stuck right where we were at because only one of our four Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) would start up, and it stopped starting at the start of sundown the night before. The oil in our APCs was just too cold and the engines wouldn’t turn over. It was a helluva way to fight a war, I tell ya.
Two other mummies joined us who revealed themselves to be Harold and Timmy-Tim:
“I swear to God I’m wearing every stinking thing I own — every stinking thing!”
“But you’re still cold.”
To say that it was cold was a verbal short-coming. It was so cold the fluid around our eyes froze if we kept them open too long. I didn’t even think that was possible. It was so cold an alien life form from Pluto walked by and tried to bum some of my hand-warmers. It was so cold I saw a penguin blowing on a canteen cup of hot apple cider.
Cold is what it was.
Most of mummies were there in line now wearing everything they owned and waiting for some hot anything to be dished out. The day prior, Albrecht Einstein dispatched a mammoth M-60 battle tank from a nearby armored company. He though it would be a swimmingly-good idea to tow our APCs across an open field, get up some speed, throw’er in gear, and fire up the engines that way.
Two problems with that breast-stroking idea: First, we were absolutely, utterly gassed by the exhaust from the tank’s engine in our position to the rear of the tank. We couldn’t keep our eyes open or stop from coughing and gagging. Second, when we did drop the tranny in second gear, the tracks and wheels locked up and we fish-tailed violently across the field.
So there we stood in line just surviving. From across the draw where we stood we observed the last mummy emerge from our tent. He surveyed the scape, hesitating to follow the track of the much longer route to the mess tent we all made, or just cut a new path straight to the mess tent through the draw and get it over with. Making up his mind, he plopped a foot in the snow straight toward us.
“Who is that?”
“That’s cheese Eigel — he’s the only one not here yet — I WOULDN’T GO THAT WAY IF I WERE YOU, CHEESE!”
“Meh… he can’t hear you, man — he’s wearing everything he owns.”
Cheese Eigel was a spectacle of pain, post-holing his way through nearly knee-deep snow. Then he fell for the first time to a low groan from the boys and me who felt his pain. He struggled to finally get up. His breathing was so powerful that we felt the draw of freezing air rushing by us.
“Man, he’s a-huffin’ n’ a-puffin’… all that cold air can’t be no good for his pulmonary pleural linings.”
“If you say so, Daktari.”
Daktari was our Company Medic; he was from Tennessee and always liked to wow us with his knowledge of physiological terms that we didn’t care about. Cheese Eigel fell for the second time.
“This is too painful to watch!” Lamented Rabon who turned around to wait facing the other way.
When Cheese Eigel fell for the fourth time it was bordering on unbearable.
“Lord, this is unbearable… it’s like watching Jesus drag his cross through the street during the crucifixion!”
“Really, Timmy-Tim, you really have that visual reference to compare it too, because you’ve seen our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ dragging his cross though the street?”
“No, dick… it’s just what I imagine it must’ve looked like.”
At last Cheese Eigel was among us, bent over at the waist just a-huffin’ n’ a-puffin’.
“Christ… I’m wearin’… every… goll-dern thing… I own… took me damned-near… an hour… to get stinkin’ dressed!”
“And yer still cold, right?”
“Hell no… I’m sweatin’… like a… whore writin’ a… check in church…”
It was loosely in the general vicinity of that moment that most of us heard a muffled rumble erupt from Cheese Eigel’s trousers. Though I was joyed to admit I scant detected it, I was loath to confess I indeed heard it. Cheese Eigel stood erect in that moment bearing an expression of utter despair for many moments that it seemed astronomical in scale.
“Oh, no… oh, no… no…” he lamented quietly, “I done crapped ma dang britches!” He looked longingly at the distant tent, yet he remained.
“Hey, hey now, Cheese… you’re not comin’ in this mess tent with crapped drawers — you need to go change.”
“But I’m already wearin’ everything I own!” he bawled.
“Well, you need to at least go shed that inner-most layer and clean yourself up.”
Cheese Eigel slowly turned and stepped onto the straight line trail he had just forged in the knee-deep snow.
“I wouldn’t go that way if I was you, Cheese…”
By Almighty God and with honor, geo sends