Stand Tall


“Fall in line!” roared the huge Sergent.  His words carried up the hill and through the massed thicket of spears.  He diployed his veteran subordinates among the raw recruits.

“Stand Tall,…DAMN YOUR EYES…you Potts Pull your fockin’ self fockin’ up like a MAN!”

Private Potts was overwhelmed by the forest of spears sprouting from the tall black Zulu warriors.  This body o warriors surrounded the English fighting position.  The perceptible hate of the black men and the over-whelming odor from the massed bodies left the Private feeling doomed.

A huge gnarled hand plucked Potts from the ground and gave him a vicious shaking.  The Master Sargent knew if he could not replace the soldiers fear of the Zulu with a greater fear for the huge full-throated Sergeant, then the man would be of no use.

The red-coated Sargent growled to Potts, “You may live, or you little pisant ass is more likely-you will certainly die-but you will die as a man or I shall blow your face away meself!!

At that point the warriors began a cadenced chant emphasized by pounding the butts of their spears into the ground.  With each chant they moved forward a foot or so.

The Crown’s men stood as best they might in the poorly defended little fortress and knew their shrinking world and ever-shortening life,  Now the dust mingled with the unnumbered and unwashed bodies.  Part of the encircling warriors were soon obscured but still heard.

The huge Sargent and his Officer stood in the middle of the formation in readiness to assist in any direction.  They encouraged and tried to inspire the men.  Blooded veterans knew what to expect and stood stoically awaiting their fate yet knowing heated battle could provide opportunities.

Dawn came swiftly over the rolling grass hills.  The scavengers screamed and attempted to secure their piece o meat for the day.   Far away a steady drumbeat signaled a great Zulu victory.


The Frenchman(Remembrance of a man out of place, out of time)

He traveled to us out of the long past age of empires. An enduring farewell from a golden age of romance. The Frenchman roamed a war-torn land with only a cloak of enchantment. Walking daily amongst death and nightmares a mantle of kinship to all men protected him.

A little background: On firebases (FB) someone was having a beer bust at almost all times. The principal occupations were arty and infantry. Some big wig had decided long ago that we should have a little bit of down-time. If not everybody might just pick up their toys and go home.

This particular FB was set up astraddle a little road to some little village. The in/out points had a checkpoint but most passed though with little trouble. Two 105’s straddled the road at each end. One on each side of the road as there was no berm to fire over should we need to drop them all he way down. The main attraction to our location was the empty and unclaimed old chow tent beside us.

No idea where the tent came from. It was there when we set-up and there when we left. It served as a common party tent. Make shift benches & chairs along with 3 large used wire reels set on their sides. Having a party there whenever we had time off was great. We also had to keep the place cleaned as it sat in our AO (Area of Operations).

Now, there are always mysteries going on if you know how to look. Our mystery was Mike. I cannot remember his last name & no one was sure if that was his first name. Mike came by and partied with us often & would also stop to talk now & again. Who knows from whence he came?

Mike decided he wanted to join our battery. He was a Spec 4 and I assumed he had little control over his future. I was wrong. One morning he reported for duty & the chief put him to work. It was strange, but I liked the guy.

Mike had wavy natural blond hair & was a nice looking man. He was the type that upon entering a big room with lots of chicks he would be like a magnet to them. He talked and laughed getting along with everyone without exception. He and I were drinking, smoking & listening to Dylan tunes one night.

A little guy nicknamed “Bullet” stopped by to listen. Out of nowhere Bullet made a dumb statement (which he was prone to do ’cause high was his normal state).

Mike stood-up, took Bullet by the arm & escorted him out from under the party tent. What followed amazed me. Bullet standing looking at him. Mike proceeded to slap the krap out Bullet three times in rapid succession..

Then he leaned over & whispered something to Bullet & released him. Bullet then said, “Thanks Mike”, turned & left.

All the locals like to see and say “Hi” to Mike. The women were always fawning over him. The curious thing is they all called him “Sit-tem” which passed for Steve. When I asked him one day about this he just said it was another name, no big deal. Patrols generally blew the normal ones in place. Double-rigged or over-sized explosives got EOD attention.

Which is where the Frenchman came into the act. Mike encountered a middle-age surveyor one day . The wandering Frenchman worked for Pacific Architects and Engineers (PA&E). He provided services to the US Military. Of course the EOD guys invited the curious surveyor and his two helpers to, “come by & throw back a few,” with us.

Here is a story summary gleaned from this odd old wanderer.

To protect the innocent (and because I just don’t remember) I’ll call the Frenchman Jean. Jean was an amazing character in Vietnam: A survivor. He was born and raised in the North. The son of a plantation overseer (not an owner), Jean had survived. He survived the communists and the WW II occupation by the Japanese.

Jean and his aging parents had fled the family home in front of the Japanese advance. They fled into Cambodia and on to Laos avoiding the Jap invasion. He lost his parents to Asia and Jean fled to France to start a new life. He found himself an outsider and considered “suspect” by the natives of post-war France.

Returning to Vietnam he found work with the French then locked into a war with the communists under Ho Chi Mihn. The French taught Jean the art of survey. He practiced the skill until it become obvious the French Army would lose this fight.

Jean joined the flow of displaced Southern Vietnamese seeming contradiction of common sense. They fled into the North.

Aside: The first time I heard of this practice struck me. We had a hired old papa-san to help with some carpenter tasks putting up a new bunker. Asked where he was from he said , “Hanoi.” He had ventured into the south for high-paying work with the Americans.

Further, his family remained in some village outside of Hanoi & had no plan to follow him south. He sent most of his money back to them. To top it all off he claimed he would go back because it was “peaceful” there. Well, there was an education for a young American man-of-the-world grunt!

This much of Jean’s past flowed in ease with his telling. The rest seemed halting and sporadic report . It remained full of holes and vague, not spoken, facts. The French are craftsmen of the artistic shrug. “Ah, oui…..” Our Mike was an excellent under-study. He was able Jean’s movements with a limited French vocabulary.

Jean seemed quite open about his two helpers. Both young Vietnamese were health and of obvious Viet Cong military age. Jean opined at lease one and perhaps both were communist spies. Shrugging in true style he added, “I did not hire them.” I assumed that he would be dead if this were not true.

The Frenchman visited once more, never seen again, at least, by me. He took an empty bunk each visit with us. His helpers slept in unnoticed under a corner of the party tent. Jean was engaging, gracious and genial . We did not seek his relationship with the communists.

Where most Europeans died by communists hands, Jean and Co. survived. All three carried their PA&E employee cards displayed in open display. Laboring to establish new villages for those natives relocated they often moved about.

Looking back across the mountain of years there were many loose ends and big questions. It reads a little like the dust jacket on an old war novel. In retrospect, Vietnam itself now seems an unreal experience.

Trump the Bringer of Fire


“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”

― Thomas Jefferson


He was speaking a little more ‘grass roots’ than just upper levels of government. Jefferson, Washington and probably a mojority of our Founding Fathers advocated an actual citizens revolt should the government over-step the bounds of the Constitution. At the time of the quote they had all fought and won a bloody rebellion.

Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech was quite literal. Those ol’ boys back then drew lines in the sand & killed anyone foolish enough to cross them. We are seeing a little “rebellion” in this election cycle. Established politicians are getting creamed by 3 people with no political experience…and no ties to government. We need to bleed a little pressure off: a large mountain of debt along with a future ocean of cash for unfunded mandates. We probably are going to need just tiny bit more than planet Earth would bring at auction.

Our stock markets are overdue for a big deflation which could well set-off other events. Our cash has been grossly inflated to the point savings have evaporated. Retirement funds are capable of paying a minuscule portion of what was promised.

Strangely most people have little to no understanding of our economic situation nor how our economic freedoms impact our actual freedom and liberty. Many people living in big cities have already lain down so many privacy rights they do not actually understand what their loss is.

Back to the rebellion; I doubt we have another huge north vs south type blood bath. I can easily envision groups of states breaking-off and forming autonomous regions. Maybe I’ll bet in on the writing of a new constitution…

The High Art of Cursing

My Uncle Veston was assigned to teach me not only a couple of curse words but the absolute definitive use of them.  For all of the three summers or so I worked with him hauling freight I practiced the correct usage, pronunciation, inflection and tone.  Uncle Ves would critique my every use of the words until I was I began to be a better curseologist than many old men.  Of course my family realized I would adopt these words and resolved that I be well pepared.

I never realized how words (some of which are not even real words) can carry such an extensive meaning.  The exact same word can bring a sparkle of humor to someone’s eyes…or…reduce a large man to tears of shame…or…precipitate a magnificent brawl.

I pity poor children who lack a member of their family to initiate them into the finer things of life.