A collection of short stories
Once-upon-a-time …. No, not once-upon-a-time – this is not a fairy tale, it is only a story.
Army life, compulsory army life, was what was on life’s menu in the year when a youngster turned eighteen years old.
Nine months of training, to turn a weird assortment of young men into Soldiers.
Weird is not an understatement, considering the CV’s some of the individuals that were drafted. They started at ‘no formal schooling ever’ to ‘super-grades’, with a few years of basic schooling to hard-bearded young men who have already spent a year or two as a stoker or train-driver or some other trade.
You could have started working as a trainee train stoker/driver at the age of sixteen and for some strange reason almost half of this call-up was from the railways. This situation backfired on the railway so badly, after about six weeks of basic training, all the train drivers and stokers were returned to their jobs as there were too few staff without the ‘volunteers’. They were given the balance of the training period ‘as served’ and were never again called up for active duty.
As this was the September intake, most of these young men have already started a work or trade, it was practice that most employees would compensate or augment the salaries that was earned by the ‘volunteers’ at the time they were called up.
A few of the youngsters were already married, these were not many and army life was really hard on them, especially the fathers found it more difficult even if they were this young. Love, marriage and fatherhood sometimes start very early for a few youngsters and years later – when people say that they were married too young, my personal thought is “ nope, not too young, to the wrong person”.
A few of the weird young men are worth a mention. I use the word ‘weird’ loosely here, as there is not another word I can think of, you be the judge.
He got off the train. Let us call him One. About a hundred pounds of trouble, five foot six, in blue tattered jeans, bare-feet and a fairly off-color white t-shirt, with one of those small brown cardboard suit-cases which was used for the first school year those years.
It was later found that the little suitcase was One’s supply of the best ‘weed’ available. That was the one thing the army did not issue the soldiers with and there were many who partook of the ‘weed’. It does make some sense that One came prepared.
One went AWOL on the first weekend and promptly sold all his kit. The Army could have forgiven him, then he sold his rifle as well and he got civilian jail after a dishonorable discharge from the army. Rifles are not to be sold, after-all this is your new ‘wife’. One parade that makes you realize what a dishonorable discharge is, not a pleasant affair. This took a while because the Military Police had quite a job trying to catch One.
From the same town - in olden days, I suppose the correct word would have been the ‘village idiot’ Again, you be the judge.
I did not see him in the beginning. Let us call him Two. There were many bungalows which housed us and Two stayed in another bungalow.
Every bungalow housed twenty four beds, twelve on one side and – yes- twelve on the other side, a little cupboard for each between beds. That was home -sweet –home for three months of basic training.
The first time I saw Two, he was picking up things, I do not know what things yet it is what Two picked up all day long while we were being drilled, shouted at, abused, misused and turned into the finest soldiers ever seen. ( each and every in-take thinks that)
We had a khaki two-piece suite that was our daily dress, the top was a coat type with brass buttons that always shone brightly, I spent so much time on cleaning those buttons, more time than what I spent on anything else in my life.
Anyway, Two picked up things, in the Army all areas are clean, spotlessly clean and Two was cleaning them more.
I found out what Two’s story was from my next-door neighbor in bed number eleven, number ten was my bed. Two came from the same town as Number Eleven and he knew both One and Two quite well.
Two had never been to school in his life and how the army drafted him was beyond any explanation. Here he was, not knowing his left foot from his right foot, could not read nor write and they wanted to make an infantry soldier out of him?
When they issued us with our ‘kit’ (assorted clothing, unmentionables, eating utensils, sports-wear, running shoes, uniform and boots. Never forget the boots, the army moves in its boots and crawls on its stomach. This is the infantry.) We were informed - in no uncertain manner … “ If it does not fit you, swap it with someone else, till you find what you like. IS THAT CLEAR !!!”
“YES, SARGEANT !!!”
And when Two offered to swap his rifle for a pair of running shoes, this was reported to the Sargeant, then it was found out that Two had swapped all of his kit for running shoes. The correct size, mind you! He had his whole kit-bag full of running shoes. The Army eventually discharged him and sent him home, believe it …. with his kit-bag full of running shoes. Now, who is the idiot now ?
“Again - you do not swap, sell, give or in any way whatsoever ... get rid of your rifle.
........IS THAT CLEAR !!!” (so much for clear and concise orders.)
“YES, SARGEANT !!!”
Now what has this got to do with lions? Wait a while. There is more to come. Please be patient. Almost one thousand words.
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#3. MORE THINGS lll - The male and all.
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#1. Lions and other things ll
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