Redneck Tale # 16 - The Swamp Girl
The Swamp Girl
She was tall, rangy, big-boned, red-headed, and from the farm in Nebraska. Odell was her name, but we all called her plain, old "Del."
Del was a three-stripe WAF; that is, she was one of the Women in the Air Force. Del had the right way of looking at things.
She worked hard by day, and played hard by night, the latter feature of Del’s overall philosophy being carried over to include weekends, too.
Del’s idea of play centered on the drinking of vast quantities of beer at a place called Cliff’s Home Acres, a beer joint near the base, populated by Cliff, Cliff’s wife, an occasional lost civilian, off-duty airmen, plus Del, at all times after duty hours.
The lady captain in charge of the WAFs did not believe that Del’s idea of play was the best thing for Del or for the image of the WAF contingent of which Del was undoubtedly the most visible member. She counseled Del and insisted the Del must find better things to do than drink Cliff out of beer whenever Del had a free hour or a free day. The alternative mentioned by the captain was extra duty.
Del did not need a second counseling session to convince her to act on the advice.
Swamp Girl Lost and Now Found
Del promptly joined the base Nature Club. After all, the Nature Club would certainly have outings and picnics and other outdoor activities during which beer would be served. So much for that, but Del joined the Nature club with enthusiasm.
Del’s first outing with the Nature Club took her, along with about thirty other members, to the Montezuma Naional Wildlife Refuge, a very large, very swampy federal game reservation some 20 miles from the base. Del tagged along with the group as they all slogged through the swamp.
Unlike many of the members of the club, Del did not overly admire swamp plants, croaking frogs, or the large gnats that buzzed around her ears. She longed for the farm in Nebraska, high and dry. That desire soon became overwhelming such that Del lagged behind the group so far that they soon became lost to Del’s sight and hearing.
Now on her own, Del struck out through the bog until, at last, she saw brighter light through the trees up ahead. Sure enough, there was higher ground, bone dry, and the barbed wire fence surrounding the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge.
Del climbed through the three strands of the barbed wire fence. quick as a wink. On the other side of the fence was the concrete of State Highway 31, the road that went right by Cliff’s Home Acres.
Up went Del’s thumb, and off to Cliff’s she rode, all the way praising the kind driver on his ability to drive so fast and so smoothly.
Into Cliff’s Home Acres vaulted Del and, before everyone there had had their turn to shout "Howdy" to her, she downed her first pitcher of beer.
You could not possibly imagine how good that beer tasted unless you, too, had just dragged yourself out of a swamp.
After several hours and several more pitchers of beer, Del went out the back door of Cliff’s Home Acres and straggled back to the WAF barracks on the base. She climbed into her bunk and slept like a baby for the rest of the night.
In the meantime, the nose count of Nature Club members who were then being loaded onto the bus for the return trip to the base did not tally with the nose count taken of those who had journeyed to the swamp.
Missing and unaccounted for was WAF Odell.
The leader of the group whooped and hollered, as did the others, but only silence rewarded their "Where are you, Odell?" calls.
Now then, the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge is a very large piece of real estate, if that is what one calls a huge swamp. The tour leader imagined a bony arm and a hank of red hair sinking into the quicksand and other styles of muck. He panicked, as would any leader, and ordered the bus driver to get him to the nearest pay telephone in some sort of a hurry.
Through the long and mosquito-filled night, searchlights probed the depths of the swamp at the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge. A contingent of Air Police and hundreds of basic trainee volunteers from the Air Force Base, plus the local sheriff and his deputies, game wardens, and a crowd of volunteers from nearby towns held hands with Nature Club members as all of them slogged through the dank, dark, and scary swamp, whooping and hollering, "Odell, Odell, Odell" until the sun rose in the east.
Del found out the next morning that "a WAF was lost and presumed drowned while on a Nature Club outing." She wondered if it could have been anyone she knew.