I did more push ups on my first day in the Army than I had my entire seventeen years prior to that cold January morning in Louisiana. The Army has a different name for the push up. It is lovingly referred to as the “front lean and rest,” though I am uncertain how one can call the push up a rest position. The Army used the push up for lots of reasons and nowhere else more frequently than during basic training. The front lean and rest was imposed for any and all reasons. Following below is a list of reasons (that I can remember and will admit to) for which I was assigned to “assume the position.”
• The most common reason was some infraction regarding my uniform. After crawling through all manner of dirt and muck, if I had a pocket unbuttoned, I was allowed to “knock out twenty.”
• I spit on a tree once, the punishment being twenty of my best. I also had to hug and apologize to the tree afterwards.
• I passed by one Drill Sergeant who decided that my every existence was offensive to him. For consuming oxygen, I had to stay in the front lean and rest position until “he got tired.”
• I made the cardinal sin of falling asleep in a class on something or other and got to do twenty. This time though I had my hands on one table and my boots on another. I had to remain in the position, again until the Drill Sergeant got tired. There was nothing to rest my old belly on this time. I can remember the pain even to this day.
• The Army had a rule about meals (called chow in my day). Take all you want but eat all you take was the maxim that we were required to live by. It is on the level of blasphemy to attempt to take food out of the chow hall for later consumption. Drill Sergeants have food radar and they quickly found the roll I had stashed in my shirt. I had the “privilege” of eating that roll in one bite while simultaneously doing push ups. After that, I had to apologize to the cook for stealing his food and then he gave me even more push ups to knock out. I have never stolen anything since.
• There were days when the Drills got real creative and used the “inverted pushup.” This is when you lie on your back and stick your hands and feet in the air and remain there the allotted time (when the Drill gets tired – always when the Drill gets tired, and he never tires). I had the honor of doing this “character building exercise” twice as punishment for sleeping.
• Other lesser reasons included an untidy bed, messy locker, or looking at somebody when you should not. I still do push ups everyday. Somewhere, there is a Drill Sergeant that is not tired.
If all is not lost, where is it?
I cannot say with any confidence that I am a fan of mowing lawns and I can say without doubt that I never will be. You see, lawnmowers do not like me. Actually, it is only two mowers that don’t like me.
I have had a particular green one for almost twenty years. It was used when I bought it and I estimate that it is really closer to thirty years old. That’s pretty old for anything. This lawnmower is just plain old and it’s ornery. It fights me when I start it and continues its sputtering ways until it decides it wants to go ahead and do its job. That usually takes five to ten minutes. It will make up any excuse it can to quit and force me to drag it back to the barn. This year has been no different.
I drug the beast out of the barn a couple of days ago, much to its disappointment. It fought me tooth and nail as it managed to hang itself up on anything in the barn that it could. I finally got it out after busting my knuckles a couple of times but only after threatening to dismember it. At this point it decided to toy with me.
To my surprise, it fired up after only ten or so pulls on the starter rope. I got about half of the lawn mowed when it tricked me into thinking that I needed a glass of water. I bit on his trick and shut the mower off while I got my water. In my absence, the mower decided that it was just not in the mood to finish what it had started (as ornery as it is, I am thinking he may be a she). As soon as I pulled the rope to fire the thing back up, it decided it had had enough. The starter rope broke off in my hand. Hah! Nice try, I thought to myself. I’ll just pop down to the local hardware store and buy another rope.
I did just that too. I got back home with the mind that this was, at worst, a five minute job. You know, there is a reason why I don’t work on my own cars or lawnmowers. The process, had I been able to figure it out, was more complicated than balancing the U.S. Government’s budget. This all occurred on Tuesday and it is now Thursday. The lawn mower sits, unrepaired, in the garage, laughing at me. I have threatened to replace but it knows I am too much of a tightwad. Besides, I have a second mower.
Mower #2 was bought on a whim by yours truly some time ago. It was during one of those times that gasoline required a mortgage to buy. I decided I would do my part to reduce our dependence on foreign oil so I bought a manual lawnmower. I used it for the first time this year today. I am getting “old green” fixed as soon as I can.
I was raised in the Texas Panhandle on the outskirts of Amarillo. We lived on the edge of town and were next to a lot of really large empty fields. I and my 10 or so buddies spent our childhood in these fields. Girls, by the way, were not allowed to be there. It was against state law I think. I only remember seeing one girl on those fields and that is a story I am not going to tell. Ever
Anyway, Amarillo sits on a caprock and the ground is very flat with few trees. Rainwater drains off pretty quick. When it did rain, the water in the gutters flowed real fast. When that happened, the roads alongside the fields would be full of really fast moving water.
Well, now, we would get a number ten plastic jug that restaurants would buy mustard in. We would get one of those jugs and stick it down in the water. It would fill up and we could usually catch a bunch of snakes and maybe a mud puppy or two. Sometimes we would catch a couple of horned toads. (side note: NEVER, EVER let a horn toad lose in anybody’s kitchen – not a good thing). We caught mostly snakes though, and they weren’t but one or two feet long. They were just old water snakes. We would fill that jug up and put the lid on it then we’d walk around with this jug full of snakes and who knows what else and scare girls with them. We’d dump them out after somebody’s parents got after us. We’d go fill it up again and repeat the process. That was my first strategic partnership.
This one time, I had the jug and put it down in the water while about seven other ten year olds gathered around to watch. I was holding the jug down in the water when I felt something hit the bottom of the jug real hard. I figured it was a rock or something and paid no attention to it. The jug filled up and I put the lid on it to pick it up It was a might heavier than normal but, you know a rock would be.
Now, you could just barely see the snakes through the plastic jug. I figured we had about twenty or so in there. There was something else though. There was some old nasty brown thing in there. All I could see was a little patch of brown but it was big. I thought it might be a big lizard or something. Well, me and the fellows decided to dump that jug out right there and see just what this thing was. We all gathered around and I took the lid off and dumped the jug’s contents out onto the ground. Now, get this picture. Seven or so ten year old boys gathered in a tight circle about to dump a jug full of snakes and who knows what else out on the ground. A whole bunch of little water snakes came out of that jug and took off to get away. That trashy old brown thing come out of there and hit the ground with a thump! THUMP! It curled itself up and stuck his head up ready to fight. It was a water moccasin and he was looking to bite the first thing he could get to and that was me. Liked to scare me slap to death.
Now, I am here to tell you the gospel truth that I set a land speed record for running home. I think I ran a couple of my buddies over in the process.
I got jumped on because I did not post this week. The truth is I took the week off. I have one project that commands all of my attention for the next few days. I was told if I do not post something by Monday, I will be arrested and carried away to a dark room in an old house (preferably haunted they tell me) and forced to write until I catch up. I do have a story about a large snake that I will put up soon.
Back to normal next week. I promise. Please don’t cut my tires or anything.