Jerry’s rusty rifle - War Stories Ain’t All Alike - # 2
Jerry Lyons was an army recruit, apt and eager. He was of modest size as should be most of the Army’s recruits. This is for the good of uniform makers. What size Jerry had he filled with heart and a large measure of "guts." Those were not simply biological fillings encased by Jerry’s hide. Instead, they were the contents of Jerry that made all of the other parts and pieces work together as nicely as they did.
This is my weapon...
As army drill sergeants have preached seemingly since time began, rifles are for shooting. When a drill sergeant has preached that much, he then goes on to preach the virtue, no, the necessity of keeping one’s rifle spotless, inside and out. Drill sergeants tell recruits that clean rifles shoot forward, whereas dirty rifles may shoot backward or not shoot at all. This is the type of ranting on the part of army drill sergeants that has a certain foundation in fact. However, drill sergeants never get around to telling their men that the real purpose of maintaining one’s rifle clean and tidy is so that your rifle will pass rifle inspection.
Jerry Lyons, being the way he was, listened closely to his drill sergeant. Jerry pounced on each rifle-cleaning instruction with the enthusiasm that suited his last name – much like a lion would pounce on its prey. He quickly went to work on that greasy, grimy rifle issued to him by the army. Jerry utilized each instruction, not once, but over and over again. Overnight, Jerry Lyons became the possessor of the finest-looking, cleanest, most grease-free, non-gritty, de-rusted, unspotted, and forward-shootingest rifle of all of the rifles owned by the United States Army. Jerry may not have slept a wink during the preceding 24 hours, but he wasn’t tired. He was puffed-up proud.
Jerry popped into place among the other recruits in his platoon. It was time for their first rifle inspection. The day was Friday. Any recruit to be gigged for a default in today’s inspection would not only go without his off-base pass that weekend, he would spend the entire weekend on mess hall cleanup and potato peeling punishment duty - KP, as it is called.
Down the line came the inspecting officer with the clipboard-carrying drill sergeant tagging along. On command, Jerry presented his magnificent rifle to the officer.
The officer’s steel-gray eyes made a meal of Jerry’s rifle. Devoured in order were its right stock, breech, bolt, trigger housing, and barrel. Then came the ingestion of the leftside parts. Finally, the inside was sampled, much like a person might check for a sharp bone in a mouthful of fried catfish. Those gray eyes did everything short of X-raying Jerry’s rifle.
"Rust!" declared the officer, as he jammed the rifle back into the hands of an astounded Jerry.
Rust? What rust?
Now, Jerry was no troublemaker. Neither was he one to be foolhardy enough to make waves before learning how to swim in an ocean so obviously full of sharks. But – the guts took over. Jerry was mighty sore about that word, rust.
"No way," fumed Jerry, and off he went at a rapid trot in order to catch up to his drill sergeant once the inspection came to a close.
"Sir, please show me the rust on this rifle," pleaded Jerry.
"I don’t see any rust, soldier," reported the sergeant after putting the weapon through an inspection of the exacting sort one would see while watching diamond cutters at their trade.
As Jerry and his rifle climbed ever higher in search of an answer to the question, "Sir, where is the rust?" no place on the rifle was rust ever pointed out. There is, after all, inherent and long-lasting honor among recruit herders.
Jerry had to stay behind and stand his mess hall punishment duty, KP, that weekend. His rifle, though, now becoming quite an issue to those he had been pestering, kept right on moving up the chain of command.
Through with its business at Jerry’s recruit training company, Jerry’s rifle made its way from hand to hand at battalion and, from there, through regiment. Still without a speck on it, the rifle wound up over at division, staying there for a time before it left the post on its way to command. Command folks inspected and reinspected Jerry’s rifle, just as medics might search a specimen for a lurking gonococcus. Command gave up on the project, too.
Off to Aberdeen Proving Ground went Jerry’s rifle, now wrapped in plastic and accompanied by two military policemen, both with serious sidearms and "Don't mess with us" attitudes.
The Aberdeen scientists tested Jerry’s rifle with infrared spectrophotometers, with mass polaricopes, with ultrasound, and even with potentiometric ferritomes. They applied various radioactive isotopes to the rifle and put it through computerized nuclear analyses. The scientists did everything but boil Jerry’s rifle and sip the soup.
The scientists concluded – "no rust!"
Espionage it was
Jerry had been out of the military for a few years, enough time to have made it through college on the "GI Bill." Coming home from his day’s work as a metallurgic engineer, Jerry was reading the daily newspaper on the bus, as many bus riders like to do. There was a story on the second page that caught Jerry’s eye.
"Top Secret, Non-Rusting Rifle Missing From Army Weapons Laboratory Vault – Espionage Suspected"
Wistfully, Jerry thought, "Sure do wish I’d had that rifle when I was in the army!"
Copyright 2010 G. Kilthau