Tuesday 06 Dec 2016

Riding in a Jeep
AJ Robinson

The other day, I was riding along, with my wife, and I saw one of the newer models of Jeeps cruising on down the road. It got me to thinking, the Jeep was developed as one of the work horses of World War II; the vehicle saw a lot of action from the beaches of Normandy to the jungles of many Pacific islands. As it happened, my dad had an old army Jeep as one of his first cars, once he got back in the states, following the war.

By the time I came along, the old Jeep was long gone. Dad sure missed it. He would have loved to have another one, but with a wife and five boys, a Jeep was hardly what you could call a "family vehicle." Yet, thinking about a Jeep always reminded me of a certain story my dad told about his time in North Africa during the war.

Back then, dad was a WO, that's a Warrant Officer. As such, he got the use of a Jeep, and a sergeant to act as his driver. My dad was an easygoing person, he didn't want the sergeant to have to drive and, to be honest, he loved to drive. He usually drove and he and the sergeant would just "chew the fat," as they say.

One day, a young "Second Louie," which is Army Speak for a Second Lieutenant, was going to be riding with them. As my dad said, this was one of them young hotshots straight out of OCS, that is, Officer Candidate School; he was all book learning and no experience. The "kid" looked to be all of about twenty, actually, my dad said he acted about twelve, and he was a strictly "by the book" type.

The Second Louie sat in the back, the sergeant drove and my dad was in the passenger seat. Now, this was Tunisia, in North Africa, which is not the most-developed country, especially during the war. The roads were mainly dirt, and most of them had potholes the size of a tank - due to the land mines and bombings! This meant they were anything but a smooth ride. Yet, the lieutenant elected to pass the time cleaning his .45 pistol. My dad warned him about the dangers of cleaning a loaded firearm, but the young fellow assured my dad that he had the safety on.

Famous last words, as we often hear.

The Jeep hit a bad bump, the lieutenant ended up in the front and the gun went off. Blam! The bullet went right through the seat in front of him, the Sergeant's seat. From there, the bullet continued into the sergeant's seat, literally. Yeah, that's right; the poor man shot in the behind.

The Sergeant reacted. He screamed and literally stood up in the Jeep. His foot, well, think about it: his foot went down. He floored it; the gas pedal driven down, the Jeep shot forward, and the sergeant obeyed the Laws of Physics: he fell over backwards on top of the lieutenant.

At this point, the Jeep was going at its top speed, and there was no one driving. As a result, it bounced and jostled across the countryside. The men in back struggled to disentangle themselves, while my dad grabbed the wildly spinning steering wheel. The Jeep swerved and careened about, and my dad finally managed to switch the engine off. It took a few minutes, but the Jeep finally coasted to a stop.

After that, my dad sort of, well, I'll be polite here and say, took charge. He got the first aid kit out, put a bandage on the Sergeant's backside and laid him out, on his stomach, across the back of the Jeep. He "asked" the lieutenant to sit in the passenger seat and press down on the bandage, and he then drove them back to town. He was tempted to show the lieutenant a new place to holster his pistol, but he figured, why create another pain in the - behind?

From that day forward, people said several things about my dad. One, he always drove his Jeep. Two, all firearms remained holstered while his Jeep was in motion, and three, any officer younger than him tended to keep their mouth shut around him - no matter their rank!

Oh, and the sergeant, he recovered and he got the Purple Heart, the medal awarded to soldiers wounded in combat. You have wonder; did he tell his friends and family where he got shot, and all the details of the event?

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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