Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nose for a Fight

Determining three months ago that he was turning himself into a bipedal food blister, the Colonel took corrective action and placed his sorry, not-so-slim self on an indefinite weight control and personal appearance program.

By the end of two months, the Colonel had shed eleven pounds. 

A much needed haircut helped him accomplish his goal of twelve pounds lost in 60 days.

During the next thirty days, the Colonel discarded an additional eight pounds off of his rapidly trimming frame, two pounds of which were lost just yesterday.

This morning, the Colonel's rather prominent proboscis is sporting a rather impressive collection of lengthy lateral lacerations, from which the Colonel estimates he lost at least two pints of blood -- at slightly more than one pound per pint.

Here's how it happened.

The Colonel and his trusty red tractor, Semper Field (not to be confused with his boat -- Semper Fish, nor his sawmill -- Semper Filet, nor even his rusty red pick-up -- Semper Fillit) were bush-hoggin' one of the many far-flung fields aboard the Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.  The Colonel and Semper Field had completed cutting about half of the field when out of the corner of his eye the Colonel caught movement at the other end of the cleared expanse.

As the Colonel watched in amazement, onto the freshly-flayed field sauntered the biggest, orneriest, longest-fanged, sharpest-clawed bobcat in three counties and half of a fourth.

The Colonel brought Semper Field to an idling halt and gave the fierce feline his rapt attention.

The Colonel trained his finely calibrated Mark I, Mod A starboard eyeball on the cat and whistled low to himself -- the beast stood at least two and a half feet at the shoulder, with a head the size of a youth-league basketball.

A youth-league basketball?  Well, it weren't quite as big as a regulation basketball, and the Colonel ain't gonna be made out a liar over a stupid basketball.

The bobcat had spots as big around as one of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's dessert plates and yellow eyes the size of half-dollars.  

And the yellow eyes were fixed on the Colonel.  

The Colonel's been in enough scraps to know when he's being called out, and this bad cat was clearly calling the Colonel out.

The Colonel ain't backed down from a fight, ever.  And, the Colonel ain't afraid of nuthin' nor nobuddy -- exceptin' the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.

The Colonel took Semper Field out of gear and turned off the engine.  As the diesel rattled to a stop, the Colonel could clearly discern, even with his infantry weapons firing-depleted and tinnitus-afflicted hearing, the cat's low menacing growl, despite the fact that a good 100 meters separated cat and Colonel.

The Colonel climbed down from Semper Field and advanced on the bobcat with his vocal chords vibrating a growl of their own.  

The cat's eyes fairly gleamed as he trotted toward the Colonel.

The Colonel broke into a trot of his own and as the closure rate increased and the gap d' clash decreased, the Colonel's last few remaining cognitive cells lying fallow in a forgotten cranny of his bony brain-housing group jostled together just long enough to allow a synapse to fire and send a tiny charge to his low-judgement warning light.

The problem with his low-judgement warning light is it always flickers on well past the point at which the Colonel's low judgement level will allow him to do anything about it.

The thought did flash briefly across the cavernous expanse between the Colonel's ears that this cat might very well be capable of putting that last entry in the Colonel's health record -- Semper Final, if you will. 

But, the faintly blinking low judgement warning light and the last flashing thought of possible passage to his eternal reward were blotted from the Colonel's muddled mind by the searing pain attendant with punching the bobcat in a claw with his nose.

The Colonel's nose, with ample target area for even the most casual of area weapon engagements, split open in three places like a ripe tomato swiped by a..., well..., a bobcat's clawed paw.

Blood poured forth from his lacerated schnazz at a rate that the Colonel estimated would result in complete emptying of his body's hemoglobin reservoir within minutes.

As much as the Colonel was deeply enjoying the catfight, his low blood-level warning klaxon cut through the snarlin', growlin', screechin', and screamin' that emanates from any good tussle with a wildcat and the Colonel, despite the previously mentioned light-warned judgement deficit, summoned enough discretion to effect a not-so-valorous fighting withdrawal and eventual break in contact with the bobcat, long enough to rip off the remains of his shredded t-shirt and apply it with direct pressure to the grievous wound...

Not buying it?

Okay, here's what really happened.

The Colonel and his trusty red tractor -- Semper Field -- were bush-hoggin' one of the many far-flung fields aboard the Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere when the Colonel was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the killer cane of the most robust blackberry bramble in three counties and half of a fourth.

Said killer cane was thirty-seven and one-half feet long and as big around as the barrel of the Colonel's trusty deer rifle -- Semper Fire.

Thirty-seven and one-half feet long?  The Colonel could have just said thirty-seven or thirty-eight feet, but he ain't gonna be made out a liar, or exaggerator, over a stupid blackberry vine.   

Not only was the blackberry cane in question lethally long and pointedly potent, but it was heatedly hostile and mobile to boot. 

The Colonel and Semper Field were half a field away from the killer blackberry cane's bramble.  The killer cane's bobcat claw thorns fairly glistened as it leaped from it's bramble and raced toward the Colonel's nose...

That's the Colonel's story, and he's stickin' to it.                      

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Barfoot's Burden

Eva Russo/AP
"Even as a nonagenarian, Col. Barfoot awoke every morning to hoist the American flag. At dusk, he lowered and folded the flag, hugging the triangular bundle to his chest as he walked back inside."
T. Rees Shapiro, The Washington Post, March 5, 2012

One of the Colonel's pantheon of personal heroes passed to his eternal reward last week.  To the last he demonstrated the gritty determination, exemplary leadership, and principled patriotism that carried him from the cotton fields of Mississippi through three wars and a career in the Army of the United States that spanned the better part of four decades.

Van T. Barfoot was born on June 15, 1919, in Edinburg, Mississippi, a still-unincorporated community in the geographical heart of the state.  He voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army more than a year before Pearl Harbor.

In January of 1944, then-Technical Sergeant Barfoot landed with the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division at Anzio, Italy.  He was already a seasoned combat veteran of landings and subsequent operations in Sicily and at Salerno, neither of which were pleasant.

Anzio was particularly unpleasant.

A general's failure to capitalize on the Anzio landing's operational surprise -- the main German defensive lines had been flanked and the road to Rome lay wide open -- allowed the enemy time to reorient and surround the beachhead.   Bitter stalemated fighting ensued for the next four months as the Americans endured constant enemy shelling from the surrounding heights while dug in on the pestilence-ridden lowlands of the coast.

On the 22nd of May, 1944, the Allied force, preceded by a massed artillery barrage and heavy close air support, broke through the surrounding Axis lines and advanced on Rome.  Technical Sergeant Barfoot's unit advanced on the town of Carano, and, at the end of the day, went into temporary defensive positions.  Barfoot led a patrol that night to scout the German defenses at Carano.

At the vanguard of his company's attack on those defenses the next day, Barfoot led a squad into the attack of the key German positions.  The ferocity of the fight that ensued can only be imagined, as the dry military prose of official accounts of the battle fall way short of describing the horrific nature of close infantry combat attendant with the certain knowledge of one's mortality.

Barfoot fought like a tiger.

His Congressional Medal of Honor citation follows:

 "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty on 23 May 1944, near Carano, Italy.  With his platoon heavily engaged during an assault against forces well entrenched on commanding ground, 2d Lt. Barfoot (then Tech. Sgt.) moved off alone upon the enemy left flank.  He crawled to the proximity of 1 machinegun nest and made a direct hit on it with a hand grenade, killing 2 and wounding 3 Germans.  He continued along the German defense line to another machinegun emplacement, and with his Thompson Submachine gun killed 2 and captured 3 soldiers.  Members of another enemy machinegun crew then abandoned their position and gave themselves up to Sgt. Barfoot. Leaving the prisoners for his support squad to pick up, he proceeded to mop up positions in the immediate area, capturing more prisoners and bringing his total count to 17.  Later that day, after he had reorganized his men and consolidated the newly captured ground, the enemy launched a fierce armored counterattack directly at his platoon positions.  Securing a bazooka, Sgt. Barfoot took up an exposed position directly in front of 3 advancing Mark VI tanks.  From a distance of 75 yards his first shot destroyed the track of the leading tank, effectively disabling it, while the other 2 changed direction toward the flank.  As the crew of the disabled tank dismounted, Sgt. Barfoot killed 3 of them with his tommygun.  He continued onward into enemy terrain and destroyed a recently abandoned German fieldpiece with a demolition charge placed in the breech.  While returning to his platoon position, Sgt. Barfoot, though greatly fatigued by his Herculean efforts, assisted 2 of his seriously wounded men 1,700 yards to a position of safety.  Sgt. Barfoot's extraordinary heroism, demonstration of magnificent valor, and aggressive determination in the face of pointblank fire are
a perpetual inspiration to his fellow soldiers."

Barfoot recieved a battlefield commission to second lieutenant in the days following his heroics at Carano. 

Told he was to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions, Barfoot asked that the award, normally attendant with great fanfare and ceremony (often presented by the President), be presented in the field at the front, instead.  Barfoot, ever the consummate leader, wished to share the honor with his men.  

Colonel Barfoot finished his outstanding career of military service to his nation in 1974, adding the wars in Korea and Vietnam to a record of great sacrifice and devotion that needed no addition. 

For the next four decades, Colonel Barfoot lived in well-deserved peace and quiet in rural Virginia.  

Then, he moved into the suburbs of Richmond.

Barfoot erected a flagpole in his front yard and faithfully attended to the daily duty of flying the colors of his beloved country correctly and reverently. 

This Colonel never met that Colonel.

But, this Colonel knew, and was led by, many like him.  They, like Barfoot, were never flippant about flying the flag of the United States.  If the flag couldn't be flown correctly, with the honor due the sacrifices made under it for the great nation for which it stands, it was not flown at all. 

When the idiot so-called leader of the homeowner association in  Barfoot's suburb demanded that the flagpole be removed, Barfoot quietly refused.  

The story got national attention, not by Colonel Barfoot's initiative, but by the actions and words of others who knew Barfoot and understood the heart of an issue for which the idiot so-called leader of the homeowner association had no earthly clue. 

Barfoot continued to fly his flag correctly and reverently until his death.

Our nation was made greater by Colonel Barfoot's sacrificial devotion and service to it, and will be less without him only if we forget his legacy.          

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Hail March!

The loud, celebratory music emanating this morning from the ecologically diverse environs of the Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere is in recognition of an annual calendar event hallowed by all the voting citizens of the Tallahatchie Free State -- namely, the Colonel.

The scourge of the Julian and Gregorian Calendars, the month known as (the Colonel loathes to even give it mention by name) February, is dead and buried; its page on the calendar ripped clear and cast into the smokey fires of Gehenna like the clothing of a plague victim.

Named for the Latin term februum, meaning purification, [the month the Colonel loathes to even give mention by name] was called Februa for the ancient Roman mid-winter full moon ritual of atoning for sins. 


The Romans elevated sinful excess to an art form and [the month the Colonel loathes to even give mention by name] is, in the Colonel's not-so-humble opinion, the most miserable month of the year; and, therefore, entirely fitting as a calendar setting for rumination and reflection on one's imperfection.

But, [the month the Colonel loathes to even give mention by name] is dead for another ride 'round ol' Sol.  It shall receive no more attention.

The loud, celebratory music referenced in the opening lines of this missive is not so much for the deceased, as for the arrival of a new month pregnant with promises of rebirth and victory.

The name of this wonderfully manly month is March, aptly named for Mars -- the Roman god of war.  Spring begins in March, and with Spring came the start of the traditional Roman military campaigning season.  

Mars..., Martial..., March. 

Pardon the Colonel for a moment while he pauses to beat his gnarled fist upon his hoary chest and utter monosyllabic grunts signifying reconnection with the long-slumbering, war-like sliver of his soul hidden deep within the shrivelled lump of barely viable tissue formally known as his heart.

The Colonel also feels compelled to extend his pause in this paucity of purposeful prose to ensure that the 'Bama and LSU grads are keeping up with the rest of the thousands of you who loyally lap up literary libations ladled out in posts hereon.

For you T-town pachyderms and Red Stick kitties who may have stumbled upon this blog in your continuing search for hounds-tooth hats and Mardi-Gras beads, respectively, the above use of the term "martial" is not a reference to the inhabitants of the Red Planet.

March, beyond the martial references above, is also a favorite of the Colonel's for the following reasons:

1.  It is not [the month the Colonel loathes to even give mention by name].

2.  It contains the beginning of the turkey season.

3.  It contains the beginning of Spring Football (or at least the close approximation of that sport played by the Ole Miss Rebels). 

4.  It contains March Madness.  Make no mistake, the Colonel is no fan of that girls' game.  The sooner March Madness begins, the sooner it ends.

5.  The crappie (please pronounce with a short "a" or the Colonel will hurl anti-yankee epithets in your general direction) start biting.

6.  Did the Colonel mention that it is not [the month the Colonel loathes to even give mention by name]?