STORY BY STEVE RICHEY

VAN AND THE 104

 

Van was the company barber. He hated the army as most of us did. He was drafted as a lot of us were..and couldn't wait till the day he was released from his term of indentured servitude to return to his wife. His job, and the only job I ever knew him to have, was to cut hair. How he got it, I don't know, but he was the company barber.

Someone had made him a little barber's shop. It had a tin roof, some screen wire on the sides to keep the bugs out, had a plug for the electric clippers, and somewhere, someone had found a barber's chair. It was old, but it was a real barber's chair with a hydraulic lift, just like back home.

Each day Van would cut hair and hate the Army. He'd be civil enough when you were getting your hair cut. There was only one or two cuts he was allowed to give...short and shorter. Often guys from other units would come over and they'd get their hair cut also....and then Van would bitch and moan about it to us in the hooch at night. They weren't from our company, why should he have to cut their hair?

We had little sympathy for him. He never left the company area and went out to the bush, so those of us that did go out, felt Van had a really good deal going, but not Van. About 6 months into his year, he was really getting down. He'd got mail from home, his wife was ill and he wanted to be there with her. He was just a gloomy guy and getting worse.

About this time, someone had found several pallets of plywood and the word came down, if we wanted to, we could get a couple pieces of plywood and build our own bed in our hooches. We'd been sleeping on cots. Beds did seem like a better deal, so most of us frog marched ourselves over and got our two pieces of plywood.

Van decided he'd build himself a super bed. He'd have a nice set up for his mosquito net, a book case at both the head and foot of the bed, and threw himself into making his new bed. He was really into it...hammer and saw, pounding nails, really doing a good job.

He worked all day on it...and long after the sun went down, he was putting his finishing touches on the bed. He put mosquito netting on the bed and set his fan, with no safety wire shielding the blades near the head board, and then announced he was going to take a shower and get some decent sleep in his new bed.

The lights were out when he came back from the showers...and I heard him over there rustling around, getting ready to get into his new bed...and finally, I heard him ease in...and then there was a few moments of silence and I heard him mumble, "It's too short..." In an instant, I knew he'd built his bed too short and now, had to bend his knees to sleep in it. Then I heard, "Spranggggg." There was a pause and I heard it again..."Spranggg..."and then I heard the crash.... a big crash.

We turned a light on and Van was attacking his fan. He had reached out to turn it off and stuck his hand in the fan blade...twice...and then, just lost it. He hated the Army, had just spent the day making a bed that was too short and he couldn't stretch out in, and the damn fan had raked his knuckles twice...and he lost it...

He was up now, ripping his mosquito netting off, which he had become entangled in when he fired out of bed and was attacking the fan that had he had just stuck his knuckles in twice...that was the "Spranggg" I had heard. He was on it...throwing it on the floor....kicking it, picking it up again, throwing it on the floor again, kicking it, and then he opened the door and threw it outside...and that's when the 104 camera popped out of the bookcase at the foot of his bed, and became the next object of his fury. He picked up the little 104 camera, and with all his might, threw it on the floor...and that camera was one tough little 104. It ricocheted over into Chase's bed.

Now, ole Doug Chase, probably 22 or 23 years old, didn't hear all that well and was just waking up to the noise that had everyone in our hooch and 4 hooches around us fully awake. The camera had landed on Doug...and as he came out of a deep sleep. He saw a crazed Van, coming at him... Van was after the camera...but Doug didn't know it. Doug's eyes got as big as saucers...

Van quickly snatched the 104 off Doug and slammed it on the floor again..then began kicking up from one end of the hooch to the other. He was really wound up.

He was flailing around on the other end of the hooch. I could hear guys getting up and cots being shoved around.. Van began making his way back to our end, railing at the Army and kicking and stomping the 104, totally berserk. As he got to the door at the foot of my bed this time, he grabbed the 104 and with a mighty heave, flung it out the door and right into the dirt filled barrels outside, shattering the 104 into tiny pieces...

This had been going on for several minutes...and just outside the door, on the other side of the barrels, was the Company Commander and the First Sergeant... they had come to investigate the commotion, but had chosen to hang on the other side of the barrels, until the commotion had at least toned down a little.... I don't blame them...if the commotion had been in some other hooch, I wouldn't have gone in there...too many crazy guys and they all had guns...

Well, with the 104 being sacrificed to the gods of war and the Captain and First Sergeant seeing Van had no gun in his hand, they came on in. Van got a grip and sat down on his new, short bed. The Captain and First Sergeant took his guns away for the night, gave him some BS little talk, ...and then we turned the lights out again. It got quiet for a while...and then someone laughed...and then someone else laughed...about the "104 attack"..."mean little Kodak camera"....and "did you see that thing bounce?"...and "how many times do you think Van kicked it?"....and one guy accusing the other of jumping in bed with so and so to avoid Van and the camera...and even Van got to laughing. We began laughing louder and louder..and then you could hear the other hooches begin to laugh.

From then on we just called it the Night of the 104 Attack.

Van made it through OK.... an incoming round blew the hell out of his barber shop a few weeks after he left...vaporized the whole building and everything in it....and the last I heard from Van, he was back in Emporia Kansas, hanging out at the country club...

 

 

Originally posted on 1st Cavalry Association Guest Book
by, and included here with permission from Steve Richey.

ęSteve Richey, 2003-2009, All Rights Reserved.

E-Mail to Steve Richey: d9dozer@verizon.net