Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Rebecca Bunny, R.I.P.

About ten years ago I bought Kristine a bunny for Easter. She named it Rebecca. For a number of years I kept the bunny in my office, but there was a sanitation problem that caused me to finally put her hutch outside. I was afraid the winter weather might do her in, but she did fine. In the summer we'd put her in a pen in the yard on sunny days, and sometimes we'd let her in the house, as we did during a recent spate of cold weather. If you want to know what it's like to stroke a heavenly cloud, pet a bunny some day.

Yesterday the bunny was listless, and today when I came home I found her dead. Not really a surprise, but a sad thing to bear nevertheless. I hope she was happy here, just as we were happy to have her as part of our family for so many years.

Two smaller disappointments rounded the day off. I learned that I won't get my new, sportier glasses in time for Left Coast Crime, and the library on the Air Force base where I work has no funds and can't buy any new books, including mine.

The good news is that I wasn't nominated for Civilian of the Quarter for our squadron. Every single nominee from the old six-two lost, including the military people.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Free At Last, Free At Last...

On this day in 1969 I walked out of the gate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, with my Army discharge papers in hand. What a glorious day for me. I didn't mind the Army for most of my hitch, but the last few months were terrible and fraught with trouble. When I applied for a hardship discharge in September of 1968 it was approved in two weeks. It took almost four months for the actual discharge to happen.

Oddly enough, I recently made contact with a guy who was the company clerk of my outfit in Nam, the 595th Engineers. To backtrack a bit, I was in Nam when I was notified there had been a death in the family. I went back to the states, applied for a hardship discharge, and was attached to the HQ COmpany at West Point. The people in that unit did a lot of idiot jobs on the post: worked the rifle range, drove brass around, and clerked in various offices. Not exactly a front line fighting outfit. I was there with about five other strays and we were given a series of lowly jobs which we screwed up as often as possible. Eventually we were called The Outlaws. None of us gave a damn about the Army by then.
Now, 38 years later, I discover that the reason my discharge took so long was that the people in charge of our 201 files--without which nothing administrative can be done--lost them. Not just mine, but the files for a whole battalion. Guys whose rotations were up were held over in Nam because their files were lost. There was a huge dust up, the Inspector General started an investigation, and when the files were eventually found in a mismarked conex the personnel officer was court martialed. None of which made my life any easier during that long, long time I waited to return to civilianhood and get my life going again. And of coutse Uncle Sam can't compensate me for messing up my plans and putting me through a couple or three months of agony, but after all this time I know the reason for that unconscionable delay.
I hope they shot that damn personnel officer.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Back From the Forest

Back from Tankon. I returned to civilization on the 31st, as indifferent to New Year's Eve as possible. I've always thought it was a pretty stupid holiday. Anyway, Tankon was mostly good. The isolation, the fellowship, even the friendly arguments are fun. This year I was put off by a non-regular who showed up for two days, talked non-stop about how wonderful he is, and left. Never again, I vowed.
That aside, it was fun to see the dusting of snow on the first morning, to plunk at cans with my Daisy BB gun (I'm a hell of a shot, BTW), watch 10 movies and two cartoon series, read two books, eat, sleep, write, and leave the world behind. While we were there two ex-leaders died--Saddam and Gerry Ford--and because one of them died I got the day off today. A nice perk if you're a federal employee.
Thanks again, fellows, and especially to our gracious host, Frank Denton.

Earlier today I had the idea of doing a Net search for my old Army outfit (at least the one I was with the longest), the 595th Engineer Company (LE). I found an old e-mail from a Joseph Short. Hmmm, Joe Short. That name rang a bell. Later on the bell clanged loudly. A picture of Joe Short came into my head and then I remembered him well. Not that we hung around a lot, but we worked close by when he was company clerk at one end of a tent and I was operations clerk at the other end. He was coming in a few months before I faded out or we would have spent more time together, I'm sure. For one thing, all of us support guys were in one hooch.
Anyway, I e-mailed Joe and he e-mailed back saying he remembered me plus a few others I named. He also told me about LE (pronounced Lee--the LE in our outfit's name stands for Light Equipment, even though we had heavy equipment like dozers, scrapers, graders, dump trucks, etc). LE was a mule and our outfit's mascot. He lived on a patch of earth across the road from our tent and was tethered to a stake by a 50-foot rope so he could graze. He was the meanest jackass you could ask for. I have some 8mm movie footage of him chasing the sergeant who fed him. I also recall that LE was promoted to E-4 ahead of me. In '68 he was shipped back to the US. Joe told me LE died last year at Fort Riley, Kansas. He must have been about 40 years old. I hope his transition to stateside duty improved his disposition.

Tomorrow I return to work after nine days off. Luckily it's my normal Friday so I only have to work one day before my weekend rolls around again. Then it's time to settle down and get some real work done.