Sunday, March 10, 2013

Repel Boarders

Las Pulgas Area, 1980something

It's a Friday afternoon, it's a beautiful spring weekend in Southern California, I have money, a hot car, and a hot girlfriend less than an hour's drive away.

Except despite being the most senior NCO in grade, I'm also the newest NCO in unit, meaning when the duty roster came out, guess who drew Duty NCO?

Saigon. Shit. I prayed for a mission, and for my sins, they gave it to me.
And after this one, I'd never want another one.

Battery Gunny pulls me aside after Friday liberty call formation, and says to me, "Corporal, the Skipper and the First Sergeant have a problem. The Battery office space is infested by a bunch of free-loading mice. I got some traps and some bait, and I want you to get rid of those mice while you're Duty NCO. Clear?"

"Aye aye, Guns. I'm on it. Consider it done."

Strapping on my shiny and well-utilized cartridge belt, with suitably flawless polished eagle, globe and anchor insignia, I strut right into the company offices, and relieve the lucky SOB sergeant who gets a full weekend off. He hands me the log book, duty roster, and a paper sack, courtesy of Guns.

"The mice are probably coming in through here," he points to a hole in the drywall, about the size of a dime, at the floorboard. "Good luck, and good hunting."

Full disclosure: I'm a city boy. Big yard, lots of time in the woods, but the only mice I've seen are either white, for snake food at the pet store, or black, large, and supervising festivities about 50 miles north, at a big castle next to the Matterhorn in Anaheim.

Number one, this is a new barracks, Steel, and concrete. So I'm wondering WTF a bunch of mice are doing in a brand new building.
Number two, that hole is way too small for a mouse. I know this because I know nothing about mice except a lifetime of Tom and Jerry cartoons, and how in real life they're the all-time ninjas of the home. Especially when the home is built on the middle of 200 square miles of fairly pristine Southern California chapparral and scrub oak environment. With a decided lack of housecats or snakes in the building to winnow their numbers.

Ours not to reason why, I look around the offices, sans CO or First Sgt. If I'm going to "take charge of this post and all government property in view," by God, I'll do it right!
I move a couple of filing cabinets, and lo and behold, there's two more holes, one of them with mouse turds and freshly nibbled sheetrock around it. Gotcha, you little rodents!

I open the bag left by Guns.
Half a dozen Victor mousetraps, and a packet of MRE peanut butter. "Geez, that stuff kills grown men. Why bother with the mouse traps, that's just piling on." I think to myself. But orders are orders, so I deploy my weaponry, applying a squirt of (government alleged) peanut butter to the triggers, and place my little Claymore minefield ambush around each hole, two traps per hole, one on each side.

I go back to the phone in the front office where the Duty is supposed to sit, knowing that this'll never amount to anything, and why doesn't Guns know that mice eat cheese, so he should have gotten me

I go back to the Ambush Zone, survey my trap line, and sure enough, smacked asunder, sits one fat stinking mouse. And the little sumbitch didn't even get any peanut butter. I unspring the trap, dropping his dead carcass into the trash, reset the catch and redeploy my M1 Mousetrap as per before. I flip the lights off, sit back down in my chair and open the duty log to

WTF?! I get back up, turn the lights in the back room on again, and sure enough, note two more casualties, one still reflexively twitching. Another trip to the trash, plus replacing the displaced bait, and back down they go. I figure this ought to do it for the night, three holes, three mice, so now I can make a quick trip to my room to fetch that new Tom Clancy novel about the submarine I've been meaning to read

Okay, someone's f*****g with me here. Back to the kill zone, and amazingly, four sprung traps, three fresh kills. Either one got away, or one of them tripped two traps for the price of one body.
Back to the trash, then the bait, then reset.

I make it out of the office this time, get the book, and come back.
Just to be safe, I check the trapline, but everything's still set.
Checking my watch, I note it's near the hour, so I make the obligatory entry in the book, noting the details of conditions and results for future generations. Normally, this amounts to a terse and straightforward block-printed entry like
"1700. BATTERY AREA ALL SECURE." which repeats endlessly back in time and presumably, through volume after volume, at every command Marine Corps-wide, since they wore tri-corner hats and carried flintlocks on sailing ships.
But not today. I make my notations, and go back to my novel.

The night wears on. Every hour I make a circuit of the area, to make sure the concrete building hasn't been stolen or burned down. Every 4 hours I check on the Armory guards, the Supply warehouse, the parking area, etc. Swap visits to chow with my similarly screwed assistant, a lance corporal. And, with a random regularity, answer the decreasing but steady patter of trap snaps.

All goes to plan, trading duty back and forth with my assistant, and checking my ambush zone, until I hand the whole deal over to the guy stuck with the next day's duty, at 1600 Saturday.

I enjoy my abbreviated weekend, and return safely back to base. After standing formation Monday, word is passed that I'm to report to the Battery First Sergeant ASAP.

"Reporting as ordered, First Sergeant."

Standing at ease in the prescribed position of parade rest, my hawk-eyed peripheral vision detects that the First Sgt. has the duty logbook in front of him.

"You had duty Friday night and Saturday, Corporal?"

"Yes, First Sergeant."

"You maintained the duty log during that time?"

"Yes, First Sergeant."

"And what about all that?"

"First Sergeant, the Battery Gunny told me that you and the CO wanted the mice in the office spaces gone."

"Yes, so we did, and so they seem to be. So you were the one who recorded, among the other similar entries, quote '0600 - AMBUSH SUCCESSFUL, 27 GODLESS COMMUNIST MICE KIA, NO FRIENDLY CASUALTIES, ALL WEAPONS DEPLOYED AND OPERATIONAL, WILL REQUIRE BAIT RESUPPLY BEFORE DUSK, BATTERY AREA ALL SECURE.' unquote?"

"Yes, First Sergeant."

"Well done. They were shittin' all over the office and messin' up my paperwork and reports. Really pissed me off. That's some funny shit too. But the CO reads the logbook every workday, and the Colonel looks all the logs over once or twice a month. Don't ever do that again. Understand?"

"Aye aye, First Sergeant!"


And that was all that was ever said about the Las Pulgas Mouse Massacre.
I figure it's been long enough that the federal statute of limitations on crimes against the legions of Mousitania has expired, but if I'm mistaken, and they drag me in, I'm pretty sure to the best of my recollection that I was acting on direct telephonic orders from CIA Director William Casey by way of Lt. Col. Ollie North.

But never underestimate the power of MRE peanut butter to inflict casualties.


Anonymous said...

Just a quick note, been reading through your archives, especially med equip supplies. Came over from Tam's. Coban is nice, but for half the price vet wrap does the same thing. Got real familiar with it after an unfortunate incident re. a circular saw / thigh intersection. Sutures are great but abdominal bandages and vet wrap keep you from leaking all over.

I'll be checking back, keep up the writing.

Aesop said...

Coban is pricey, but there are generic equivalents for the same price as vet wrap.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm advocate of stockling up on pet antibiotics (in case I ever get an aquarium and a parrot, of course), and the ketamine I use weekly for sedation in the ER was originally developed as a horse tranquilizer.
In fact, for a couple of decades, it wasn't even listed in the PDR (the Bible of U.S. drugs) because it was never run through the FDA gauntlet, despite the fact we were using gallons of the stuff on people.

Thanks for checking in.