Parade Rest

Crewsie Cut, Crewsie Cut,
Wilt thou be ours?
Thou shalt wash dishes,
And GI the showers;

And sit on a fart-sack,
And field-strip a rifle,
And face a Court Martial
For each little trifle.
Uncle Sam Needs You!!!

The Serpent Woman,  otherwise known as my Wicked (not) Stepmother — still only six months younger than I am; the poor dear will never catch up, I fear — found some more manuscript in my late, pack-rat, I-have-no-daughter father’s file cabinets.

I remember when he wrote this — I’m pretty sure on the old Smith-Corona manual typewriter that I learned to type on, before I wrote a really bad poem that won a prize in a contest and became the curator of a modern electric that he liked to borrow. I had told him, after hearing his Army stories for years, that I thought he had a memoir on his hands and I would help him write it if he liked, by reviewing the manuscript and functioning as that second pair of eyes that every author acknowledges somewhere in the opening pages for tireless critique of the manuscript yada yada. I even came up with a title for him.

I was probably about seventeen.

He wrote a half-dozen pages. I am really sorry he didn’t persevere.

***

It was a bitter cold night in November, 1943, and I was walking guard around an unlit grouping of dull yellow barracks at Ft. Logan, Colorado. I had lapsed into an “Is this really me?” frame of mind, a mood which occupied most of my free time since reporting for active duty a few days before. Clad in ill-fitting, shelf-wrinkled OD’s, I trudged my post, damning the powers that routed me out of a warm cot in the middle of the night to protect government property, armed only with a billy club.

A figure appeared from nowhere, and I shouted at it with ersatz authority, “Halt! Who goes there?”

“Sergeant of the Guard,” came the reply.

“Advance and be recognized!” I countered bravely.

It was  the sergeant of the guard, I finally discerned, as our noses met In the darkness.

“You’re relieved, soldier. Go back to bed.”

I thanked him, and ambled sleepily off in the direction of my new home, checking my trusty Westclox Wrist Ben to find that I had been replaced an hour ahead of time. Evidently the sergeant felt some compassion for recruits, a quality I had not expected.

********

This whole thing had started about a month before, in mid-October at Ft. Warren, Wyoming, when I held up my hand and incanted after a young commissioned officer, “I, —– ——- ———, do solemnly swear – ,” and went on to agree to defend the United States of America against all her enemies, everywhere. I had that morning completed the classic Army physical with all its ignominies (“Bend over and spread your cheeks” and “Now, milk it!”), and fresh from a mess hall noon meal of baked beans and hamburger, I was beginning to feel violent stomach cramps, brought on, no doubt, partly by the food but more by the nervous strain of being wrested from my comfortable home life to become a draftee.

Army dad

To be continued…

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