The Rockport Miracles - Part 4: Episode 11: "The Ballad of Derecho Dan" Continues

Maynard Gridley wasn’t kidding. His tale about “Monsoon Charlie” was a real corker! So much so that Little Dan decided to close down the Gas & Lube so he could hear the whole thing without interruption. He told the three Joes that they could go home but, they chose to stick around. They wanted to hear the rest of the story, too.

Maynard was asked to pause his story so that his audience could go to the bathroom. As they waited for the three Joes to do their business, Little Dan asked Maynard a question. “Do you miss the army and Vietnam?”  Maynard’s saliva-laced reply was, “HELL NO!” He seemed full of anger as he walked over to the red squatty Coca-Cola machine and yanked out another ice cold bottle of the dark, mysterious liquid. Little Dan watched patiently as Maynard drank the entire bottle in one gulp and let out another nuclear belch.

“I’ll tell ya what I do miss,” Maynard said as he lit up a ‘Lucky’, “ I miss the uniform…no, not the one in a crawl space at my parents’ house. I miss the uniform that the politicians used to wipe their ass with. The one they shrunk down to nothing in the jungles of goddam Vietnam! The uniform worn during the first battle of the Ardenne and the last battle of Saigon. THAT uniform is gone forever, thanks to those lousy, stinkin’, coward politicians in Washington.”  Little Dan didn’t really understand what Maynard was talking about. He guessed that Maynard was feeling something only his fellow Vietnam Vets could understand.

Little Dan and the three Joes had finished with their personal business and lazily perched themselves onto the various cars and oil drums inside the Gas and Lube. Maynard continued the story he called, “The Ballad of Monsoon Charlie”:

“It was raining real hard and that was OK with us! It drove the VC and NVA deeper into their tunnels on the hillsides. The Lieutenant ordered a count of all the ammo on the base. That base was loaded for freekin’ bear! There were tons of Claymores, grenades, and, because of a supply snafu, a hundred wrong sized howitzer shells. The lieutenant kept yammering about Tesla’s theory about blowing up storms. We didn’t know what the hell he was talking about! How the hell do you blow up a storm?”

“Meanwhile, the small stream that ran through the base was getting worrisome. It had grown from a little trickle to a fast stream. We could see darkening skies in the distant valleys and hear a pounding thunder rumble through the mountains.”

“We had radioed the CP and asked for an ETA on the monsoon. The return message was garbled and all we heard was ’1700 hours.’ We took that to mean that we had six hours before ‘Monsoon Charlie’ would put an end to our worlds. I found out later that '1700 hours' was when the storm would end, not begin. It was getting’ kinda’ obvious that the storm would come sooner than later!”

“FOCUS YOU SCREAMING EAGLES!!!’ yelled the Lieutenant. ‘OK, we haven’t got six hours, maybe we only got one. Would you rather die crying about it or get to work?’ We all looked at each other and mumbled out affirmative soldier noises. ‘GOOD!’ said the  Lieutenant, 'So, we have got a hundred 75mm shells and enough Claymore mines to blow those VC bastards to freakin’ OZ! What else we got?’

Somebody said, ‘That’s all unless you want to throw in General Westmoreland’s inflatable hemorrhoid pillows!' We all laughed.  'Huh?-the hell you say?” asked the Lieutenant. The guy chuckled and said, 'Sir, I don’t know if it’s classified but, I guess the General has some pretty fierce piles! When they shipped in the wrong shells, they also sent a crate full of these donut shaped pillows for the General to sit on. The crates were deliberately mislabeled as 'DEHYDRATED BOLOGNA.' We play horseshoes with them!'

The Lieutenant just shook his head and asked, 'So how many of these ‘inflatable hemorrhoid pillows’ did they send you?’ The guy lit up like a light bulb and said, ‘We got THREE HUNDRED of ’em!...He must go through ‘em like Life Saver mints!’ We were all  laughing our asses off when suddenly the Lieutenant screams out, ‘EUREKA!-Life Savers!! That’s it!' 

“The Lieutenant ordered that guy to grab a couple men and start inflating all three hundred of General Westmoreland’s butt cushions. Then he turned to the rest of us and said, ‘Every last one of you grab a shovel or something you can dig with. We need a very wide and deep hole--FAST!' The rain had been coming down in cats and dogs. It was now raining elephants and rhinoceroses! Lightning bolts were everywhere with thunder that sounded like God dropping bowling balls on his feet!”

“The sky grew darker and our stream was turning into a river. I’d never saw a hole dug so fast in my life. We dug that thing until it was fifteen feet square and six feet deep. The Lieutenant wiped the rain from his eyes and proclaimed, ‘This hole will either be our salvation or our grave!’

Then he looked toward the blackness headed our way and screamed, 'Get the munitions over here. LOAD THE HOLE!'

* We dug that hole with spit and grit

And prayed we’d finish b’fore

The storm would hit

The work had made us

Tired and narley,

Just in time for Monsoon Charlie!

* excerpts from “The Ballad of Monsoon Charlie” by PFC Harvey Ridgewood, U.S. Army-©1968 FUBAR Records.

© 2019 Scott MacGregor-EOI Media Press Inc.

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Volume 15, Issue 12, Posted 2:52 PM, 06.19.2019