Life lessons

“Walk heel to toe. That’s right… no, slow down. Keep your head still and your eyes moving. Carry your weapon like this. Look down, goddammit, watch where you put your feet. Easy now, don’t step on that stick, it’ll break with a snap. I said watch where you step, you’re fucking up.”
I was getting exasperated. “How can I look all around and down without moving my head?”
“Watch me. Do it like this” and he demonstrated how it’s done. “Your ears are every bit as important as your eyes. Use all your senses, especially the sixth sense. Look, listen, and feel. Go slow, take your time and you’ll live. Get in a hurry and you’ll fucking die.”
I slapped a mosquito. “That just got your ass killed. Let him live, he won’t drink much.”

I was 7 years old and Pops had just come back from his time with the Cav in Vietnam and he was teaching me how to patrol on point. I had been looking forward to that camping trip but now I was beginning to wonder. Sure, I got to carry my little Stevens 22LR, but damn, man….. I’m fucking 7.
He had me doing that shit all weekend long. Sure, we did some fishing there at Sawmill Lake up on Engineer Bluff, but after that I was doing my lessons and then he had me patrolling just outside ‘the perimeter’ (I had to ask what a fucking perimeter was) while he sat around drinking beer. If he pointed at me while I was patrolling that meant he heard me and I was a dead motherfucker.
By the time the long weekend was over I could walk all the way around the campsite without being pointed at and enter behind Pops without him knowing which earned me a big grin and a hit off his beer.
I swear, I was the only kid in my class that knew you don’t walk trails but if Charlie still blows an ambush on you charge it instead of hitting the ground. Fire low and catch that little bastard in his spider hole. My teacher was seriously concerned for some reason.
I’m on the near side of 60, never saw combat and I still feel like I’m fucking up if I’m walking a trail.

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14 Responses to Life lessons

  1. skybill says:

    Hi Kenny,
    You are a lucky Man to have had that Man to be your Father!! ….My People…My Father, several Uncles and Grandfather (Father’s side) were “Seafaring Men” I learned the ways of the “SEA!!” Lots of similar lessons!!! Only on a different plane…..when yer’ a “Sittin’ Duck playin’ hide n’ seek with a U-Boat!!! I remember Dad tellin’ the tale one summer night when aunts and Uncles were down from Chi town visitin’ way back ….bottom of the early 50’s (Before we got a TV set!!) about gettin’ “Torpedoed!!” down in the Florida Straights!! The “BAJA CALIFORNIA!!” went down like a Hooker on a five dollar blow job!! Fortunately the U Boat didn’t pursue them like they usually did and machine gun the survivors!! My mom remembered when they got home…all he and my uncle Marcel had was their last change of clothes on their backs and their “LIFE JACKETS!!! I found them later and me and my brother put them to good use in the Boat (12’9″ Runabout”) We built before dad died….we made sure those ‘jackets would get a “Full Life !” Dad just smiled!!

    • AlmostAnonymous says:

      Seconded. You had a good man for a father it seems. My old man used to teach me hand-to-hand that he learned while he was in the army. The guys who taught him were the guys who fought in Korea and Vietnam.

      Never had to use it, but it’s nice to know it was there.

  2. warhorse says:

    my dad had a scout leader that was part of Merrill’s Marauders. he taught those kids a lot of stuff that wasn’t in the boy scout manual. there was always an implied “don’t tell your mom about this”.

    I guess it kept a lot of them alive through their military careers later on.

  3. anonymous says:

    Man, that is some tough love from your Dad, but he was training you for developing skills for staying alive on the battlefield. Good on him. My Dad wasn’t nearly as hard on me developing skills like that. My brother and I had to learn it the hard way (staying quiet in the woods). It has got to the point where normal talking out there is almost like shouting in some cases.

    Some other camps I’ve been at, making noise seems like the point – loud music, laughing out loud, etc. Jeez man – the deer have left the county with all that damn racket!

  4. Glider Rider says:

    You don’t want me walking the woods with you. I’m not quiet and can be clumsy.

  5. Papa Ed. says:

    THAT is a lost skill and knowledge forgotten if you can’t pass it along to at least one young 7 year old before you die.

  6. Steve says:

    I wish my skills were that good. I remember in my platoon in basic we had a guy who was Navajo. He could move without a sound and at times it seemed like he materialized out of thin air, I nicknamed him “Ghost”. He showed me a few pointers on how to move silently through the brush and I improved my skills, but nowhere near the level of expertise he had.
    I wish I could find a tutor like that now.

  7. joh234 says:

    Don’t have to worry about that shit in the desert.

  8. The Old Man says:

    I learned the same lessons as Pops -the same way. Situational awareness and self-control are something everyone should have.

  9. Andrew says:

    Learned from my dad (Air Force Pilot, top of his class in survival training) about how to deal with punks. No matter what the country was, play to their egos, then break their knees, take their shit, kill them and get away fast. Go down fighting, you have nothing to lose.

    Strange, but I found it worked pretty much the same (except for the killing) on the jerks in school.

    Miss my dad.

  10. Inbred Redneck says:

    Some lessons are only learned the hard way. First time I walked point for my squad I found the booby trap, the hard way. Been lookin’ for boobies ever since.

  11. Robert says:

    “Keep your head still and your eyes moving”
    So, no looking to the side or behind you? I understand not needing to look back.
    Could you expand on that, please?

    • Wirecutter says:

      That’s what your slack man behind you was for. You cleared the path in front of you while the slack checked your immediate flanks. The rest of your squad/platoon following watched your rear. Remember, he was teaching me how to patrol, not stalk through the woods myself. Pops was big on small unit tactics when he got home from Veetnam, being in the Cav and all.

      • Robert says:

        Ah. Makes sense. Thanks for the clarification. When I go hiking, I find myself “checking six” despite any apparent need to do so. Just paranoid, I guess. And I carry a stick. And stuff.

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