Way back long time ago and far, far away, Mr. C was stationed at Ramstein AFB, Germany. It was a great time to be a GI in Germany as the Dollar was so strong against the Mark that even a lowly enlisted man had plenty of change rattling around in his pocket to allow him to live pretty good on the local economy and enjoy the sights and nightlife. Occasionally, the Enlistedman's Club would sponsor things like boat tours of the Rhine River. They were nice excursions on large boats with full bars and food and music and stops at beautiful sights along the way.
|On the cruse. Mr. C 2nd from left. The old sarge 3rd from left.|
I was very lucky in my duty assignments while serving my country. I was a photographer who trained for six months in Denver, Colorado and then served three years in Germany, a place and people I came to know and love. I picked up enough of the language to be mistaken for a native by anyone who wasn't German and became fast friends with two locals, Norbert and Rudi. We soon became inseparable and hung out together every time I had time off. It was the perfect storm. I had cash and a car. They knew the territory, and we explored every inch of it together.
|On a Bavarian excursion. Norbert, Mr. C, Rudi.|
Late one evening, returning from a night of revelry, I lost control of the car on a patch of ice and did a slow pirouette into the gate of a farm house. We all piled out of the car to assess the damage as the farmer, dressed in nightshirt and stocking cap, emerged from his house carrying, I swear, a blunderbuss shotgun. You know, the kind where the barrel flairs like a trumpet. I thought that I had somehow slipped into a magic snow globe and traveled back into an 18th century fairytale. The damage to both car and gate being minimal, we paid the old gentleman $20 and were on our way.
I would spend the holidays with their families and loved to jest with Norbert's grandfather, a grizzled old veteran who had fought in both world wars. I would bring him a bottle of vodka and after a few swigs he would be ready to start the war all over again until his daughter, Norbert's mother, would tell him to shut up and sit down, that he had already lost twice, whereupon he would begin laughing and all of us with him. Like all foot soldiers in war, he was conscripted and had no choice but to serve and was horrified at the end of the war to learn of the atrocities committed by his country. Naturally, it was a sore subject and one we avoided.
Both Norbert's and Rudi's fathers died in the war and their mothers were left to raise and protect their children alone. Norbert's family was particularly hard hit as his father was blue collar and they had few resources. Rudi's father was a doctor from a family of some means, plus they got some kind of government allowance. No matter, it was rough going for the civilians who simply got caught up in it.
But for me, being with the family and exchanging gifts on Christmas eve was one of the richest experiences of my life. Sadly, I have lost track of my two old friends over the years and despite multiple internet searches can't seem to find them. I believe I'll just hire a detective agency one day to track them down.