Episode 57 - Experience is a different name we can give to our mistakes

I woke up this morning to find a beautiful sunrise outside the cave. The weather had been favorable in the past few days. But if I was right, the sunlight today indicated that the weather was about to change again for the worse; this time bringing perhaps snow back to the Ridge. I was still spending a huge part of my days hunting. Food was still scarce and there’s only so much goose meat I could eat. And with the snow coming, my chances of finding food were almost none. I figured if I went far up north, I could use my guns instead of trapping. I would be far enough from the other Marines and they wouldn’t hear the gun shots. Besides, I could stock up on rations for the coming cold days and even get me a fur blanket. It sure would be nice to encounter big game, like deer or elk. I left Penn’s Cave around 700 hours and mirrored the logging road up north while hiding in the woods. Sure enough after an hour of steady walking, I noticed clouds slowly rolling in from the west. I had to hurry. A few meters ahead stood an old Silver Maple. Its bark was silver-gray and shaggy: a sign that this tree was a producer of high-quality syrup. Although the sap from a Silver Maple is not as sweet or as abundant as that of the Sugar Maple, I could still harvest some syrup to make sugar. Using my compass, I logged the tree’s position on my map. Suddenly, the roar of a Willis Jeep took over the road. It was heading north as well and going quite fast. I ducked behind a dried blackberry bush and watched. Several yards ahead the Jeep came to a stop. Because of the distance I could barely see what was going on. I waited for a bit and then slowly, I walked up to a large boulder behind the parked jeep. From there I could see the burly Marine, who had taken my place on the mission, standing by the Jeep. Rodrigues was securing the perimeter. Malloy and Redman, wearing their winter gear seemed to be receiving instructions from the husky Marine. I figured Mission Control was sending them on a recon mission during the coming snow storm. I tried to listen to the conversation, but unfortunately I was too far away. I caught part of the heavy built Marine’s name: Gilman. By what I understood he was probably just a Corporal. After the usual hand shakes, Redman and Malloy took off heading east, walking really close to where I was. They didn’t look too happy. Corporal Gilman and Rodrigues stayed by the Jeep watching Malloy and Redman’s departure. I stayed put behind the boulder. Soon after, Corporal Gilman ordered Rodrigues to get back in the Jeep. - Nothing to see here - I thought to myself. Ready to continue my trip up north, I careless stepped on a fallen tree branch that laid across the way. Snap! Immediately, the two Maries, who were already inside the Jeep, became alert. - Great…! - I whispered sarcastically. Trying not to make the same mistake, I quietly hid behind a thicket at the end of a ravine. Meanwhile, the two other Marines were closing in. - Damn it, John! What were you thinking? - I told myself. I was hungry and that was a fact. Mistakes happen… but this one was going to be hard to forget. I sat tight and peeked through the tall grass: Corporal Gilman took a left, while Rodrigues kept coming towards me. I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t shoot Rodrigues, neither the beefy Marine. Well, I could: but not in these circumstances. As far as I knew they were totally clueless about Dr. Johnson’s dealings. Before I could come up with a decent plan, Rodrigues got really close. Leaning against the ravine’s side he prepared to advance, little did he know that I was only a few feet away. - Rodrigues, it’s me John... - I whispered hoping that he wouldn’t make too much of a commotion. He looked across the ravine’s wall. I could definitely tell he was scared. - Shhh! - I said, putting my index finger across my mouth. - It’s ok soldier, I was just passing by. Can you keep a secret? - I asked him. Rodrigues looked over his shoulder and nodded at me. He was about to turn around when he realized Corporal Gilman was right behind him. - What’s wrong kid? Are you scared of the woods? - Gilman asked Rodrigues with a thick Texan accent. - No…no Sir! It’s all clear on this side. I mean…Sir! - said Rodrigues stuttering. - Corporal Gilman took a look around and said: - Alright. We better get back to Base Camp soon. The snow storm is getting pretty close. Within minutes they were back at the car. Corporal Gilman stood outside the Jeep for a minute or so and then finally drove away. Back at the end of the ravine, I was finally breathing normally. - That was a close one, God bless Rodrigues - I thought out loud. I couldn’t help to think what was on his mind. Perhaps I had more allies than I imagined. I took my hat off and wiped the sweat pouring from my forehead. I could tell I needed a bath. My hat stunk.

by Corporal John Harris, November 16, 2006