CHAPTER III - Pvt. Gimbels has an unusual dream.

by Jonah Begone - Illustrated by Paul Rogers

The Friday night drive to the reenactment after the traditional TV viewing of "Tour of Duty" was long and uneventful, and this combined with the normally tedious day of unit newsletter article writing Pvt. Gimbels did at work caused him to be somewhat tired when he and his Pard pulled onto the campsite. It being dark they accordingly looked for a spot for their tent.

Their tent was a common double shelter half, being perfectly suited to the "Why pack all that crap along?" mentality of the light infantry impression they had by now so perfectly adopted. In fact, they had long since abandoned the idea of even bringing poles to events, choosing instead to swipe them from unsuspecting fellow reenactors, or by venturing out into the woods and cutting down small trees like youthful George Washingtons. The one concession to comfort was well hidden within the strands of cotton canvas that made up the tent: a thorough coat of Scotchgard, which caused the rain to bead and run off the tent in a fashion that amazed all. "Candle wax" they explained, mysteriously.

It being a cold night and Pvt. Gimbels being an old hand in sleeping out in such temperatures, he rolled around and finally settled down to sleep in his full uniform, brogans and all. His greatcoat was the upper insulator, and he threw the cape over his head for added warmth. With a cheery "Goodnight!" to his pard already asleep next to him, Pvt. Gimbels started counting sheep.

The Thirty-Third's campsite was far from optimal, for next to them in the company street was the 116th "Hibernian Celts Brigade," who had a well-deserved reputation for outrageous conduct, controlled substance abuse and miserable first person impressions (their battle cry was "Always after me Lucky Charms!"). In fact, the communal Doobie was well lit and a gentle night breeze carried the fumes all through the camp. With rebreathing his own carbon dioxide from sleeping with his head in the cape of his greatcoat and the drug fumes making their way into the tent it should come as no surprise that Pvt. Gimbels started to have a most remarkable dream:

It was hot, very hot. And humid. There were large sweat stains under his arms and on the chest of his camouflaged frock coat, and the oppressive jungle wetness caused him to occasionally lose grip of the M-16 he carried. Wait a minute: Jungle? What was he doing in the jungle? This looked nothing like the usual second-growth forestry at Virginia reenactment sites!

He looked around at his comrades, noting that all were lean and edgy, with nary a full-length Victorian-era beard to be seen. Somewhere a tinny transistor radio was playing a song that he could remember as being a hit back in 1966 by a guy in the (real) Army named Sadler, but this time the words were oddly different: "Sleeping soldiers 'neath the sky/who reenact and wonder why/to join a fight they have to pay/the brave men of the blue ke-pay (kepi)/Trained to seek the Shave Ice stands/they'll duck combat hand-to-hand/they never mean just what they say/Living Historians of the blue ke-pay."

The sound was broken by the sudden "pop pop" of small arms fire. The Sergeant yelled "Down! L.T., we gotta call in Arty!," and Gimbels returned fire. (Odd, being able to fire without having to use a ramrod!) After a minute or two of ducking around and shooting at people wearing pointed straw hats it occurred to Pvt. Gimbels that he was at that rarest of things: an exciting event. "You guys do this reenactment every year?" he called out to a comrade, "It's great!" "What's a reenactment?" someone replied. Just then blood and brain matter from a man next to him were dashed across Pvt. Gimbels' face. "Wow, they really go all out when they take hits at this one!" he thought. After a time the firing subsided and the men got up to pursue those who had ambushed them.

When they arrived at the village the order was given to search the hooches for weapons. Pvt. Gimbels entered one and noted the many fine reenactment wares the sutler had on display. He selected a particularly nice Corps badge for his hat: a skull surrounded by a snake with the motto "Let God Sort 'Em Out!" "How much?" he asked. The oriental girl in the hoopskirt answered "Na dong ne quan how." Pvt. Gimbels was about to make a terse comment about how ignorant Southerners were when a familiar face became apparent, about two inches away from his and peering at him. It was his pard, Pvt. Stark. "Hey knockit off - you're makin' too much noise! You woke me up, you hammerhead!"

Gimbels looked around. It was dark and oddly smelly, like burning hemp ("Must be a candle burning a tent rope somewhere," he thought). Off in the distance he could hear a tinny sound: "Stamped brass horns upon their caps/these are men who love their naps/one hundred men we'll drill today/and every one wears a blue ke-pay."

NOTE: This is based on an actual dream I had, in which I was a Civil War reenactor in the middle of a Viet Nam firefight. For those of you too young to remember, "Tour of Duty" was a TV show about Viet Nam, and Mal Stylo's lyrics for "The Blue Ke-pay" are meant to be sung to the immortal SSgt. Barry Sadler tune, "Ballad of the Green Berets." I know this chapter is weird, but I've always been proud of it - Jonah