When my brother lit a shuck out of West By God, we first ended up down in Virginia where we knew there was a good chance of getting some work. We found a hotel that needed some serious maintenance work and we offered to do some work for them in exchange for a place to stay for a short spell.
The next morning, we went on down to the offices of the Excavating firm that we had heard would hire us.
When I walked in the door, the first one to speak to me happened to be the brother of the owner. He asked me if I could run a scratcher and like a fool, I asked what it was. Had he asked me about operating a backhoe I would have been more than happy to demonstrate my skills, but I had never heard the term scratcher before … so I got stuck running a twenty-five ton DJB … basically a great big dump truck with a swivel middle and a tendency to roll the backend anytime somebody cuts any bad road or it rains too hard.
All fair enough I suppose, and any work sure did beat none, so I went to work the next morning. However, as I have previously noted, I do have a tendency to get fired when I try to work around “normal” people … and I suppose it was only a matter of time anyhow.
After we got our first paycheck, we moved up from the Hotel we had been staying at to a boarding house … well, after a few days sleeping on the job sites because I did not yet have a car. One of the first people I met was a fellow by the name of Bluto … and he did, for all the world, look just like Bluto from the old Popeye Cartoons.
He was a good sort though, and ran one of the fuel trucks for the same excavating firm. He and I became fast friends because we had a running bet going about which one of us was older than the other … as apparently, we both looked much older than our relative years in actual age. At the end of the day, it turned out that he was indeed a whole three days older than me … and though we were both in our early twenties, people often figured us to be in our thirties.
This set us off from day one on a course to compete with one another in virtually everything we did. One day he comes in to work all beat to hell and starts talking about he wished I had been with him the previous night. When I inquired as to why, and where had he gone, his only reply was “jail”. While we all likely ended up in jail at one time or another, generally merely for being careless more than criminal, this still took me a bit by surprise, though not as much as grabbing me up by the short hairs.
It would seem as if Bluto had discovered a bar that had a two pound hamburger … and you could even get it for free if you could manage the whole plate at a single setting … and now I was intrigued, having every bit the love for food that Bluto had and being equally capable of putting down the groceries when they were available. Thus it was that I vowed to go there with him the next time we would have a day off.
Now I still do not know what had landed him in jail, but that thought had disappeared at the onset of any discussions about two pound hamburgers slathered with pepperjack cheese, a seemingly healthy (large) side of fries … and beer to wash it down with! Somehow or another, the idea of ending up in jail got lost somewhere in all the talk about good grub.
We each even offered to pay for the meal of the other in case the other one should fail in his obligations to consume this all-American feast. When at last a day off arrived, we hit the bar and ordered two beers … which for us meant two sixty-four ounce pitchers … glass? Why would we need a glass? They just served us a beer in a right big glass, why would we want to dirty any more dishes than we had to?
As it turned out, neither of us had to pay for a meal, and we had a new favorite dinnertime ritual anytime we would have the occasion to show up, but we did have to pay for the beer we consumed … and the other beer we consumed … and the beer after that … and one thing led to another and I still for the life of me do not know who it was that started the fight.
The only thing I know is that I was turning around to see what all the ruckus was about, somebody was hitting me … so I struck back. Now my normal tactic in a bar fight is pretty simple really. Make for the bar. Generally you can reach a point of relative safety if you are behind the bar … and there may even be a drink or three sitting along the bar which, when emptied out can help to ease the pain when you get hit, and once emptied, can be used as an effective projectile to prevent anyone from unseating you from such an excellent vantage point.
I never touched any of the change still sitting on the bar … just for the record … but I figured the beer pitchers and glasses were just going to get busted up in the brawl anyhow, so I figured that they were fair game.
Once again I would love to brag about my prowess and strength and the heroics of my actions, but once again, I seemed to have slept through the better part of it. Brian eventually woke me up and I was back behind the parking lot, in the car … a might worse from wear and tear but it seemed as much from the additional quantities of beer that I had consumed during my stint behind the bar as much as any real whooping.
I had enjoyed a couple of fine dances with some willing strangers during the ruckus, but I do not remember ever getting knocked out, so I am just going to blame it on the beer … at least mostly. Someone had managed to bust me in the head hard enough to give me a black eye and that perturbed me greatly. I had come out marked and scarred and looking for all the world like I had taken a worse licking than Bluto had … and that was just not going to stand for me.
Thus it was, I sought the means for my own salvation and at least some means to gain a little in the way of redemption and quittance.
The next time I had a day off, I went back to that bar … mind you, we had not gone to jail, so I could not imagine that our actions were too far out of the ordinary at that location … but when I walked back in I was dead sober … and all of a sudden things started making a little bit more sense to me. I walked up to the bar and there was no mistaking the bartender … this man was a sergeant and you could just tell that much from looking at him.
He was not just A sergeant, he was in every sense, the proverbial sergeant … still, with him being in civilian clothes and all, I had managed to call him sir, but also let him know it was not meant in a disrespectful tone or manner. He was grateful for that … but as I looked around, I could not help that virtually every one in that place was military in one fashion or another.
Even the old guys up along the bar itself had that look and you could just tell … even if you could not really lay your finger on exactly why you knew, but you knew.
I put a twenty dollar bill down on the bar, which in those days was more than enough for two of those fine burgers and more than just a couple of sixty-four ounce pictures. I explained to him in the most respectful and almost contrite way as I could, that someone had taken a chunk out of my butt the few weeks prior, and I sought to retrieve that handful of flesh and regain a little of my pride.
I explained that I was more than willing to pay for the first round for both me and my opponent, and even toss in one of those fine burgers to boot soon as we had the chance to wander out back and settle that missing chunk of arse. I further explained that, having been slightly impaired before my arrival the last time, it had not been altogether fair and I was just seeking justice in the place of injustice and a chance to right a wrong.
He obviously remembered me, as did a few of the other people in the bar it would seem. However, when I got done with my spiel, he had laughed. It would seem as if he appreciated my spunk and as it turned out, this guy was a former Gunny Sergeant and this was in fact, a favorite hangout of the other Jarheads … Marines … from over in Quantico.
Before everything was said and done, a group of fellows was drawing straws to see who would have the privilege of returning my pound of flesh to me. After all that was said and done, the rules were laid down, and a whole host of us ended up in the back parking lot, some taking bets, some just watching, and it looked like one or two must have felt sorry for the fellow who had drawn the short straw because they seemed to be preparing a makeshift first aid kit.
When the rules were laid down, it turned out that whoever lost would be responsible for buying the first round, but not the burgers if we could still finish them in a single setting … along with the fries and the healthy helpin’ of cheese!
If I had been scoring that fight by the card, I may have been forced to concede defeat to that brave lad, though I would scarcely ever admit that in public, but we did go round for quite some time. That fellow did manage to toss me pretty quick the first couple of times we closed up tight. It was not long before I saw what he was doing and figured a way around that and we had a right good dance that lasted for quite some time.
Finally the Gunny called it a draw and actually bought and paid for the first round himself … as even as the bar owner I know it still cost him something … but after that, Bluto and I were always greeted with cheers and even a bit of excitement as they would start drawing straws to see who was going to dance with us on any given occasion when we would show up.
As long as we went out and got the fighting out of the way before we commenced to drinking, we usually did pretty well at holding our own … even against the US Marine Corps … though they should never be underestimated. Semper Fi my friends, I miss you!
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