By John-Paul Marciano
“Wake him up!” Sgt. Jim Hanson demanded. “Throw a rock in his hole and wake him up! And make sure he’s got his damn shoes on!”
“What’s the big deal, Sarge?” Bird Dog called out. “Ain’t no harm in a guy catchin’ a few winks.”
Mordecai Jones was a big strapping farm boy from Iowa who pitched in the Federal League before the war. Learning Mordecai played for the Chicago franchise during a night of heavy drinking, Jim started calling him “Chicago” and the name stuck. Now Chicago fumbled around in his hole blindly searching for a rock and came up with one about an inch in diameter. He flung it toward Hillbilly’s hole.
“Hey!” Hillbilly whined and shot up in his hole. “What the heck’s that?” Hillbilly asked drowsily.
“Wake up you idiot,” Chicago hissed. “Yer snorin’s gonna git us all killed. An’ Sarge says ta git yer dang shoes on.”
“They hurt my feet,” Hillbilly replied.
“Quit yer bellyaching and do what Sarge says,” Chicago shot back. “And do it quietly.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Hillbilly retorted as he felt around the hole for his shoes. “If God wanted us to be awake at this hour he’d a given us head lamps!”
“Jus’ git yer dang shoes on an’ stay awake,” Chicago spat.
“Gitch yer dang shoes on,” Hillbilly mimicked under his breath while putting on his shoes. H.B. McCall, a.k.a. Hillbilly, was a brawny, 19-year-old West Virginian with a fourth-grade education who stood 6=foot-6 ½. One evening during basic training someone asked him what H.B. stood for. When H.B. responded with a blank stare, Jim couldn’t resist and said he thought it might be Hillbilly.
Jim slid under his shelter-half and lit a cigarette. He glanced at his watch before blowing the match out. It was 2:30 a.m., another hour and a half until day break. He was hungry but didn’t want to risk breaking any teeth on his hardtack, the only rations he had left. So he just lay there smoking his cigarette while listening to his empty stomach grumble. He figured it would take about half an hour to slow crawl back to his original hole; no rush.
The division was supposed to be relieved last night but, just after sunset, a runner from HQ came around and informed them the relieving division needed another day. Jim told the guy it was no big deal because he didn’t have any plans anyway. Not knowing how to reply, the runner just crawled away and moved down the line to the next hole. Soon after Jim crawled out of his hole to where he was now.
Jim took a final drag off his cigarette and buried the butt. He packed his shelter-half, grabbed his rifle, and took a deep breath. After gathering himself he made the sign of the cross and slithered out of his hole, beginning the slow crawl back to his original position.