This past weekend here in Knickerbocker, Texas, we received a nice rain after many months of drought. While looking out the window watching the rain and listening to it drum against our metal roof, it brought back an incident that happened to me in the Nam. This was in ’68 and I was with C 1/327. We were working in the higher elevations in the 1st Brigade area, exactly where I don’t know but it was high in the hills and it was during the dry season.
Recall if you will how hot and dry and uncomfortable it could get. This is one of the few stories I tell, especially when talking about unexplained events and so forth. Some people believe me and some think that I am BS-ing but none the less it is true.
I grew up on a ranch here in Texas and as many people are aware, the summers here in Central Texas are extremely hot and dry. Many times as a teenager, my dad and I, when riding the range would stop at one of the windmills, take a cool drink of water and let the horses drink. Since the water source is extremely deep, when the water comes out of the ground it is extremely cool and on a hot day, the water is very satisfying and very pleasant to drink.
Dad and I would always enjoy a few tin cans full of cold water. A wonderful experience if you’ve never had the pleasure. Anyway, at this particular time, our company was out of water to the extent that I remember one man offering another man $20 for a canteen of water but to my knowledge no one had a canteen full to use much less sell.
As the evening set in, we set in our perimeter and night fell on us. I remember sitting with the other four men in my positing, checking my canteens several times, turning them upside down and trying to shake out any water that might have remained. I checked my ruck for any fruit cans to drink the juice out of but I had none. In a desperate act of stupidity, as I pondered what I might have that was moist, it hit me! Toothpaste! As quietly as I could, I opened my ammo can, pulled out a tube of Crest, put it to my lips and squeezed a big gulp.
The pain was instantaneous! If you may recall, Crest and Colgate use to have a very sharp sting to them when you brushed your teeth. Remember? I gagged on it. I could not come up with enough saliva to try and expel it, I remember licking my shirt sleeve trying to remove the toothpaste from my mouth. It was extremely painful.
In turn, we four guys in our position took our turn sleeping, one man on guard. Late into the night, in my sleep, I dreamed that I was with my dad at the ranch and we were at one of the windmills, enjoying a cold drink of water. Right at this moment, the man on guard woke me up for my one hour shift. He gave me the wristwatch we passed around and he laid down while I sat up to stand watch. I sat for a few minutes thinking about my dream and then, because I was desperate for something wet, I reached to my ruck and shook my canteens hoping that I would hear the slosh of water.
Now, believe me or not, I have no reason to lie, but one of my canteens was completely full! I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all my canteens were empty when I laid down, none of us four guys had water, and yet after dreaming about my dad and I at the windmill, when I was woken up I had a full canteen. I woke up the other three guys and we shared the canteen.
I have always believed that my father, knowing that I was in trouble, willed me a canteen full. I cannot prove my story, I don’t remember who the other three folks were so they could confirm it. It happened. For some reason I never told my dad the story, I don’t know why. At times when I have tried to tell this story I have been unable to finish because it is painful. Maybe because I never told my dad.
I apologize for the long prelude to a short story. I wonder if any of the other guys had an incident happen to them that is beyond the scope of our common understanding of black and white. You don’t have to post any of my ramblings Jim. I don’t normally tell war stories because I have always believed that if the listener was not on the ground with me he/she would not understand. For all those grunts, different time, different place, who were in a similar situation this story may not sound so unbelievable.
Anyway. I have always wondered why I didn’t tell this to the one person who might have understood, my dad.