Episode 29 - April comes like a fool, babbling and strewing flowers.

The snow storm left, leaving us with a lot of things to do. Base camp turned into a mud pit, tents full of dirt, no fire wood, no clean clothes. We spent this week recuperating from two weeks of snow and basically "spring cleaning" around Camp Kowal. Patrols around the pond were again back to normal. I got up early this morning. Private Harvey and I had a lot of fire wood to collect. Growing up, we only had a wood stove for heat at my house, so I got to chop wood quite a bit as a kid and true enough, as a Marine, chopping wood never bores me. Quite frankly, swinging an axe can make a man pretty strong. So while the rest of the team prepared themselves for a full day of work, I picked up my axe and took off towards the Abrams River trail with Brian. Professor Evgeny and Roy were schedule for pond patrol. They left right after us. We heard from Corporal Padalino, our radio guy in Twentynine Palms, that Ben was arriving this afternoon. With no set time for his arrival, Sergeant Palmer and Dr. Johnson would stay at Base Camp on standby. Brian and I worked hard. We had only one axe, so we set up two chopping stations by the bottom of Kinder Scout Hill. One would collect the wood, while the other had the axe. Then when one of us got tired we would switch positions. I found myself holding the axe a lot longer than Brian. The poor guy just couldn't keep up. We heard our helicopter flying by a couple of times. - It must be Ben! - said Corporal Harvey. I picked up my radio and turned it on to our helicopter frequency. - Pond Patrol Hotel, this is Little Bird One, I have a special delivery, do you copy? - I heard Jill say it, through the crackling of the radio waves. Brian and I were about done with the chopping. We filled up the rest of the wood into our backpacks and made our way to Base Camp. While stacking the fire wood in the shed, I heard a woman's voice coming from the camp site. I walked up to my tent to find Ben, Jill and the sarge sitting at the table sipping coffee. I was surprised. I later found out that Jill had asked permission to the sarge to spent the afternoon at Camp Kowal. Ben looked real good. He seemed rested and even a little overweight. We greeted each other with our fire team secret hand shake, which always makes me laugh. He then told me how the sarge almost lost his recon cap at the helicopter landing site. I tried to sit by the table like everyone but the sarge could not stop playing with his pistol. It made me really nervous. So I asked Jill if she wanted a tour of the place (of course the pond was off of limits). I felt a little uncomfortable at first but then I noticed the handbag I gave her for Christmas sitting by the side of her seat. We walked for about an hour. We talked, we laughed, she held my hand. We even saw an otter creeping behind Roy's tent. It was getting dark and it was time for her to go. We said goodbye. I started to think that my letter to her wasn't such a bad thing after all. After Roy and I dropped her off at the landing site, we went back to Base Camp for a game of cards with Ben and Brian. A warm breeze blew from the east. Thank God spring has arrived.

by Corporal John Harris, March 30, 2006