MY SECOND DRIVING LESSON
My first wife tried to give me a driving lesson before I went to overseas and I just about wrecked us while trying to pass another car on a hill. My second driving lesson was in South Vietnam.
Because we were short of drivers, it was decided that I should learn how to drive .
So here we are, on the Chulai desert, an area south of DaNang. There were three of us in two vehicles; Sgt. Burns and myself in a mighty mite jeep, and Radke driving a personnel carrier, a military style, four-wheel-drive, field pickup truck. We drove south of the Brigade CP for about 30 miles. At this point we stopped and took a break and Sgt. Burns put me behind the wheel of the mighty mite. The mighty mite was a three-quarter sized jeep, that was introduced to the Marine Corps around 1965 or so.
" That pedal on the left is the clutch, the one in the middle is the brake and that long pedal on the right is the accelerator. Now, engage the clutch.", he said. Then grabbing the gear shift knob and pushing it up and to the left he said," this is first, this second, this is a third, and reverse is over here down and to the right." While touching each in turn, he pointed out the ignition, headlight switch, choke, speedometer, gauges and horn.
" You're now heading north. That's where the CP is. To your right is the South China Sea, on your left and to the rear are the V.C.." Now while he's saying this, he's walking toward the PC, climbing in and closing the door, leaving me sitting behind the wheel of the Mighty Mite.
"Seeya", and off they go!
Now here I am, in the middle of the desert, at about 1700 hours (for you civilian types, that's five p.m. and for you sailors the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the five) and I've gotta get back to the CP, about 30 miles if you'll remember, before dark! After about a half-hour of bouncing myself and this jeep all over the place, and not going anywhere, I finally realized that Burns hadn't told me about engaging the clutch before turning on the ignition! So, now I've got the damned thing going and grind about two pounds of gears trying to find first! Then by God, the son of a bitch dies when I let out the clutch! It seems, that you have to let the clutch out slowly and press the accelerator at the same time. Unfortunately, the engine races really, really fast and the rear wheels spin and spin and spin until the next thing you know the damned thing is buried up to the axle! Luckily, (or unluckily as the case may be), there was an entrenching tool in the back. (For you non-military types, an entrenching tool is a small folding shovel used for any job that requires digging; it can also be used as a weapon, I know.) So after digging small, progressively shallower trenches in front of all of the wheels, I get back behind the wheel. Lo and behold! What's that big red button on the dashboard that says" 4WD"? I'd heard about this, and I knew it had something to do with four-wheel-drive.
So, here we go! Engage the clutch, turn on the ignition, start the engine, pull out the big red button, grind another two pounds of gears to find first, let out the clutch while sloowly pressing the accelerator... what the hell! I'm moving forward!!! Damn! I'm good!!! I'm a Marine!!! I am, however, a very sweaty, lookin' at the Sunset, Marine!!! Oh my God! The sun's goin' down! It's gonna be dark soon! And I've traveled a whole hundred fifty may be 200 feet! But at least I'm moving! I could probably walk faster, but I AM moving! Now, if I can (grind) just (grind) find (grind, grind, grind) second gear (griiind)! I can't even see the gear layout on the knob; I can't even see the sand in front of me! Oh shit! Oh yeah, headlight switch! Damn! They must be broken! There sure isn't much light! I can't see diddly shit! Let me get out... 0h shit! I guess you have to turn this thing off to get out of it. Let me look at the front of this thing. Well hell, no wonder I can't see anything, the headlights are covered... There's only little slits about an inch high... oh, yeah, blackout lights! Okay, back behind the wheel, engage the clutch, turn on the ignition, start the engine, grind another four or five pounds of gears (gonna grind them away to nothing pretty soon) let out the clutch, depress this accelerator... engage the clutch, grind my way into second, let out the clutch, depress the accelerator, now we're moving!
Boy, the water's pretty. And look at those stars ! I've never... What's that noise!!! Oh shit! It's the V.C., and I can't get this fucker out of second gear!!! ( Griiind grind grind) I'll never get back to the CP at this rate!! I don't think I'm going any faster than 10 or 15 mph! What time is it? Aw shit, its 2000 hours (8 p.m.)!!! I'm only getting two hours per mile!!!
Damn bugs! (Griiind griiind griiind) where the fuck is third gear??? What's that up ahead? A little to the right? Damn, I wish these headlights were brighter! If I could only..." Halt! Who goes there!"
" Oh hey, it's me, Cpl. Greene! I'm just..."
" What's the password?"
" What's the password???" Oh shit! It's nighttime, and I don't have the fucking password! That asshole Burns didn't give me the PASSWORD!!!" Uh, I don't know, I..."
" GET OUT OF THE VEHICLE, PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD, AND GET ON YOUR KNEES"
AW fuck, they're pointing M14's,.45's and who knows what all at me, and I don't have..." call Sgt.Burns! He knows who I am! He's the one who left me out here! He'll get this straightened out!"
" Well Greene, we thought the Cong gotcha! Where the hell you been?" Said Burns.
Not wanting him to know that I couldn't get it out of second-year, I said, " Well shit, Sarge, you left me out there 30 or 40 miles away and it took me a long time to drive that far."
" Greene, you couldn't get it out the second, could you?"
" Oh no, Sarge, it was just a long way to drive. I mean, fifty miles or so is not just around the corner, you know."
" Hey, NUMBNUTS, you were only out about five miles, don't try to bullshit me! You couldn't get it out a second gear! Come on, I'll buy you a beer; just between you and me and that tent to post, NOBODY can get a Mighty Mite out of second gear the first time around. Hell, it took me a damn week!!"
"There's A Funny Side To This War Also or Four Years, Six Months And Two Days In The Life Of A Marine"
Copyright 3/16/1995 by Robert Greene and Toni Greene
All rights reserved. No portion may be reproduced without written permission
Website copyright 02/2002 by the owner. No portion of this website or it's contents may be reproduced without written permission.